fitness

A trick to combating fat and obesity that works…

I may have to retract things I have said in the past. I can’t recall if I’ve ever explicitly stated it in this blog, but for a long time I’ve been a follower of the idea of “If It Fits Your Macos” (IIFYM) dieting.
IIFYM is often summed up in an over simplified manner as ever calorie from every carbohydrate source has the same value to your bodyweight no matter if it’s from rice, grains, sugar, poptarts or icecream. 500 calories of carbs from ice cream has the same weight gain potential to your body as 500 calories of whole-wheat bread.

Now there’s evidence that not only is this untrue in the immediate short term digestion, but over time you can alter the way your body responds to calories and gains weight, even combat obesity. This suggests that obesity might not be solely the result of over eating.

Mounting evidence suggests that the microbiome of the intestines, that is the bacteria in our large intestine that help us digest our food, are responsible for how our bodies respond to intake of certain foods. We have four primary families of bacteria but the most important for our purposes are the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes.

In those with obesity we see a decrease in Bacteroidetes and an overgrowth of Firmicutes. This may be something they were born with, brought on by environmental factors, or it could be caused by long-term bad diet.

Recent evidence suggests that growth and death of different gut bacteria is in response to our food intake. Firmicutes thrives in a diet high in fat and sugar. Bacteroidetes however feeds on complex carbohydrates, starches and plant matter as well as our intestinal mucins when in a state of starvation. This is a good thing for those looking to control their weight which I’ll explain shortly.

So how can I apply this to weight loss?

There’s a few things you can do to help rebalance your gut bacteria in favor of healthy Bacteroidetes populations.

Eat more starchy fruits and vegetables

This includes potatoes, plantains, green bananas, to name a few. Overall though, there’s not really a wrong answer here. Fruits and vegetables are healthy sources of complex carbs, vitamins and minerals and the more of these you eat the less junk food you’ll have room for.

Fasting:

Bacteroidetes is more resilient to starvation that its counterpart. In a fast bacteroidetes can consume intestinal mucins to stay alive where other bacteria will gradually starve out. I’m not advocating long term starvation diets or water fasts, but healthy intermittent fast for 16 hours a day, or fasts with only green drinks or restricted zero-carb dieting for large portions of the day, even up to 72 hours could potentially effect the balance of bacteria. Remember though, our intestinal bacteria is very resilient and changing it is a LONG TERM plan, so any diet you choose needs to be sustainable. You can’t hope to crash diet your bacteria into the way you want. As soon as you go back to eating sugary, fatty food you’ll go back to the way things were.

Eat LESS junk food

This shouldn’t really need explaining. Junk food feeds the bad bacteria, it’s high in empty calories, low in satiation, and it’s bad for your long term health. Simply reducing your daily intake may not be enough for those with advanced weight gain problems. You need to commit to a lifestyle change for the long term if you want to reap the benefits.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/

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A New Pathogen Enters The Stage

Last post I discussed MAP bacteria as a possible cause or causative factor in Crohn’s disease. What I’m learning now helped expand my understand to show a bigger picture.

While MAP may be causative in many of Crohn’s symptoms, it seems Crohn’s also comes hand in hand with another pathogen. Associated Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli. A strand of E. Coli bacteria that gets into the macrophages where it’s hard to kill or treat, then sends out requests for an inflammatory response from the body, triggering the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease.

Why do Crohn’s patients have it when other people don’t?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25809337

In short, genetic predisposition. The genetics associated with Crohn’s disease are in alleles directly linked with handling of intracellular bacteria.

Discussion http://www.crohnsforum.com/showthread.php?p=861697

Your immune system is weak because of a genetic defect allowing bacteria like MAP and AIEC to thrive within its macrophages, as a result, they cause an overactive immune response in the form of inflammation – so this is where we see both a weakened and overactive immune system explained.

How this effects treatment compared to MAP doesn’t change much. Eliminating the harmful bacteria is key, but how do we prevent it from coming back if we’re already genetically predisposed to it? I haven’t found an answer for that on my web searches yet.

Magic Fat Loss Tricks

Any time something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Fat Loss Supplements

The unfortunate truth about most fat loss supplements is that they’re rarely effective, and if they are, they’re rarely safe or legal.

Two of the current popular fat-loss products are green tea / green tea catechins and green coffee extract.

The truth is that neither has had sufficient testing done to prove that they have a significant fat burning effect.

Tests were performed on mice using green coffee extract (GCE) showing a loss in fat, but the mice were fed 1% of their total diet in green coffee extract. I’m guessing most people aren’t looking to make green coffee a staple in their diet. The more you eat, the more coffee you’ll have to consume to make 1%, and chances are for an obese individual, that’s a lot of coffee.

Human testing was rarely performed by independent tests. Tests were influenced by the industry, and in most cases this means variables are tweaked and conclusions are misread to produce a favorable outcome in order to sell the product.

The fact is that any connection to fat-burning is weak at best. It may simply be the caffeine and chlorogenic acid naturally present in all coffee is responsible for the fat loss caused by GCE. This means GCE is no better at burning fat than the coffee you already consume – in fact if you’ve already developed a resistance to caffeine, the benefits of GCE will be further diminished.

Green tea has shown similar results. Though in-vitro testing suggests enzyme interactions caused by ECCG, a catechin in Green Tea Catechins, the in-vivo testing shows unreliable at best results. Once again it could simply be the caffeine has a fat-burning effect on those who are not accustomed to consuming it.

We know caffeine has fat burning properties, however the amount you need to consume to see significant results would be inadvisable.

Overall the fat loss caused by these products pales in comparison to simple diet and exercise.

Gluten Free and Gimmick Diets:

Gluten free dieting is a trendy way to lose weight. The theory is that gluten is inherently bad for you and makes you fat, bloated and inflamed, however I still haven’t seen significant evidence to suggest that gluten is unsafe to individuals who can safely digest it. I may not be one of these individuals, but that doesn’t mean I think wheat is evil.

One problem with Gluten Free diets is people following it often move on to pre-made gluten free products. These products are often even more calorie dense than their counterparts made with wheat. Whether it’s cookies, bread, or noodles, you’ll find they buffer the undesirable taste and texture with higher amounts of fat and sugar.

If gluten is truly having a toxic effect on your body, you should be losing weight due to starvation, not gaining it.

Carb limited diets can have detrimental effects as well, which I’ll discuss further in the next section.

Fasts and Starvation Diets

Fasting (not to be confused with intermittent fasting, a safe and effective body fat management diet) and starvation diets are another unsafe way people try to lose weight. It ignores the very mechanics of the body in the pursuit of quick results. The body doesn’t like to lose fat, fat is one of its primary survival resources.

When you fast your body still needs energy.  While your muscles can consume fat or glucose for energy, your brain needs glucose. Since your body doesn’t store glucose, and can’t readily convert fat into glucose, it needs to go through some chemical reactions to feed the brain. These reactions break down muscle tissue and produce ammonia. You’re now losing muscle tissue, which means your body’s daily caloric consumption declines causing you to hold weight easier, and you’re flooding your body with toxic ammonia.

The same occurs in a low-carbohydrate diet with high activity levels.

When your body enters a starvation state, it becomes more covetous of calories, and once you come off your fast and start eating again, you’ll quickly put on weight to make up for this.

Extreme diets are NEVER the answer.

Take a natural approach to fat loss instead.

Step 1: Control Your Appetite

Controlling your appetite is a matter of some dietary changes that can help reduce hunger, so you have less cravings. Protein has a higher satiation effect per calorie than fat or carbohydrates. Think lean meat to curb your appetite. Chicken, and tuna fish are a good choice in this department.

Fiber is also an effective appetite suppressant. Grab a salad, but skip on the dressing. Dressings are usually loaded in fats and sugars, and may make that salad more calorie packed than a cheeseburger.

Limit your sugar intake. It’s been suggested that high glycemic-index carbs and simple sugars may stimulate the appetite of individuals whom already have problems controlling it.

Step 2: Increase Your Activity Level

Strength training is the best way to burn fat. Muscle consumes calories, and can also improve your body’s interaction with insulin. Building muscle can be just as, if not more effective than cardio in burning off the pounds quickly. Look at performing compound movements using the most muscles per movement you can, and don’t skip leg day!

Step 3: Balance Your Diet

Use a calorie calculator to find out how many calories a day you need to be eating to maintain your goal weight. Find out how many calories you are eating now. In order to safely reach your target weight with minimal loss of muscle, you want to slowly diet down to that calorie range by reducing your daily intake by 50-100 on a weekly basis. So if you are eating 3000 calories now, and your target weight only requires 2000 calories, eat 2900 calories each day for the next week. The following week eat 2800, and so on, meaning you will be on a 10 week program. This will also help your stomach to adapt to slightly less food each day, so hunger isn’t as much a problem. Your stomach will adjust to less food given time.

Balance your diet between about 35-40% protein, 40-50% carbs and 15-20% fats. More details on dietary basics can be found in this post.

Conclusion

Remember, fat loss isn’t complicated, it’s all about dedication. Find a program that’s safe and effective, and expect to do it slowly. A diet you can stick with is more likely to work.

Resources:

http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/03/ketogenic-diets-2-preventing-muscle-and-bone-loss-on-ketogenic-diets/

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ammonia.htm

http://examine.com/supplements/Green+Tea+Catechins/

http://examine.com/supplements/Green+Coffee+Extract/

Feeling Sick While You Workout?

As a Crohn’s Disease sufferer, often times while working out, my stomach begins to act up. It’s usually in the form of an annoying burning sensation, similar to acid reflux, coupled with gas.

For the longest time I made no connection between the actual physical activity and my response until reading some information about Exercise Induced Intestinal Permeability. While exercising, the increased temperature of your body, coupled with dehydration, causes your intestines to more readily allow substances to pass through them into your blood stream. This can result in a multitude of negative effects on your body.

One commonly known interaction is between Aspirins and exercise. Due to the increased permeability, it’s inadvisable to take aspirin during or immediately after intense workout.

Crohn’s patients, who likely already deal with leaky gut syndrome and food sensitivities need to be especially aware of this.

How can I combat EIIP? 

Studies have been done to try to reduce intestinal permeability during workout and reduce symptoms. They’ve given us some clues on how we can better manage leaky gut while still engaging in healthy activity levels.

Step 1 is to remain hydrated. Drink plenty of water leading up to, and during your workout. A drink with a low concentration of carbohydrates can help limit the permeability and may increase water and sodium uptake. I suggest sucrose (Table sugar) or a high-glucose sweetener as many Crohn’s patients may also have Fructose sensitivity. Fruits like cherries, figs, plums, kiwi, fresh and dried apricots, dried prunes and bananas are your best bet for higher glucose carbohydrates, try sweetening your drink with home-juiced fruit juice in your water.

When hydrating it’s important to remember the risk of electrolyte imbalance through over-hydration. This is why sports drinks contain sodium. Try making your own by adding about 1/2 tsp salt to each 1.5-2 liters of water.

If you plan on exercising a time spam greater than 60 minutes consider supplementing potassium or adding banana or other high-potassium fruits or vegetables to your juice. Potassium loss is another complication of extended exercise and over hydration.

And most importantly, avoid Aspirin before and immediately after an intense workout.

Sources & Additional Reading:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190328/

http://jap.physiology.org/content/90/6/2075

http://leakygutresearch.com/leaky-gut-syndrome-and-exercise/

Make your own Electrolyte drink

Build a Mindblowing Tricep Horshoe

The ‘horse shoe’ shape of the tricep seen in the monstrous, cut and dry bodybuilders is one of the iconic symbols of good arm definition many seek out.

You go to the gym and hit your arms with bench press, cable pulls, kickbacks, and overhead pressing, but all of this neglects an important part of your triceps!

The long head of the tricep functions in a way that we frequently overlook. It ties in to our torso across the scapula and works synergistically with the lats to pull a weight from behind our head, primarily in a lying position.

Try lying tricep overhead extensions with a barbell or ez-bar to hit your triceps in a way that all your pressing motions are missing.

Mark Rippetoe explains this in more detail.

For a quick video watch this

Part 3 of My Story

When I left off at the end of part 2, I was still in college, and my abscess problem had become frequent and recurring. Throughout the rest of my ordeal, I continually had them lanced, both under anesthetics, and fully awake.

Toward the end of my 2 years in college my gastro-intestinal issues had also begun to get worse. I was dealing with sporadic stomach upset, that as far as I could tell was unprovoked. I got through college with manageable symptoms however, and began looking for work.

I was still eating a fairly normal, albeit unhealthy diet. Lots of coffee, lots of microwaved chicken nuggets, burritos, and frozen french toast sticks, oreos and chocolatey sweets etc.

As time went on I experienced more stomach upset, frequent bathroom trips, cramps, and sleep loss. Things just kept getting worse as time went on. I went from looking for active jobs to narrowing my job search to just those where I would be sedentary and be able to sit for most of the day.

I did some free lance graphic design work, but nothing I could pay the bills with. I was in a very tight spot where I wasn’t quite sick enough to get on disability, but not healthy enough to go with whatever job I could get.

I was switched from Remicade to a drug called Humira but it didn’t seem to have any difference in my symptoms.

Then things finally hit the fan, it was slow and gradual, but my symptoms hit a point where I was incapable of being active. Everything I ate gave me problems. It would start with bloating, like the food I ate wasn’t going anywhere. Then pain would swell up in my stomach, crippling terrible pain. I couldn’t stand upright because of all the abdominal pressure I was experiencing. The pressure would continue to build up and get worse until either I would vomit, or force myself to in order to stop the pain.

I wasn’t able to sleep well due to my overactive stomach. I was sleeping in bouts of 3-4 hours, multiple times throughout the day, and I’d constantly have to get up to use the rest room, then I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. This takes a horrible toll on you both mentally and physically. I had no focus or energy. I was constantly tired, weak and shaky.

Often times I experienced chest pain and shortness of breath. I didn’t know what was causing it, I was afraid I might have cardiovascular issues on top of all my other problems, but I didn’t have the will to get it checked. I thought that maybe after so much time being sick I was simply falling apart. I would lay down to go to sleep, close my eyes and just hope they would open again in the morning.

My doctors were throwing tests at me and put me on prednizone but my symptoms never seemed to improve and all my tests were inconclusive. I was losing faith in their ability to help me.

I didn’t know how food linked to this, but I knew that if I didn’t eat I felt better, so sometimes I’d choose sleep over eating.

One of my cousins was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease and it got me thinking about how food can cause gastro-intestinal  symptoms. I was hesitant at first, I had tried cutting foods before but never had a night and day effect. I went ahead and cut all wheat out of my diet.

Immediately the vomiting was gone. I still had problems with my stomach, but I was finally sleeping, and not experiencing the severe pain and bloating. I was still running to the bathroom all the time though, I believed this was just something I had to live with.

Over time, however, my symptoms came back.  Now I knew that it had to be a food, so I started scouring my diet, eliminating anything that caused a reaction. I identified peanut  butter, canola and corn oil as foods that would cause the bloating and pain in  my stomach.

Potato would cause slow digestion and gastro-intestinal upset for a long period of time.

My troubles with low energy and frequent bathroom trips went on for a while until one day I was doing well and bought a bag of sour patch kids. Within 45 minutes I lost all my energy, had an unquenchable thirst, and it was hard just to walk. I realized it was the high-fructose corn syrup having an adverse effect on me.

I cut my diet down to just meat and dairy. I was eating chicken, tuna, eggs, cheesy, and milk as my entire diet. I finally began to gain weight. I was once again about 100 lb.s when I finally figured it out. I was able to get back to about 110 on just meat and dairy.

For the first time in about two years, I remembered what it was to feel hungry, to go about your day without constant pain, and to sleep a full night uninterrupted. There was a day I remember that I realized that stomach cramps had become such a part of my life, I accepted the fact I may never be without pain, and forgot what it was like. It was great to be able to look back on that day and think, “I’ve found a way to live without pain, here I am without cramps or suffering.”

I stopped taking my medications, because I realized they never helped, and the long term side effects weren’t worth it for a drug that did nothing. I went back to my doctor and told them about how my diet made everything better. They gave me an endoscopy and told me how much better my gut was. They tested me for celiac’s but it came back negative – if you don’t eat gluten for the week previous to the test it will show negative. My reaction was too severe to do this.

They told me they didn’t believe food was the cause because the symptoms were too severe. They couldn’t explain my recovery. I decided I wouldn’t be coming back. I don’t recommend this approach for everyone, but for me, I simply decided I gave them too much of my money for nothing in return, and I walked out.

I had finally fixed myself, by myself, and that was something to be proud of. But my troubles were not all over.

Stay tuned for part 4…

What I Learned by Being 99 lb.s

This is a condition few people will face in such an extreme in their life, but I think it was an enlightening experience in just what it means to experience severe muscle atrophy.

At the height of my Crohn’s disease, I had withered away to less than 100 pounds with a 5’11” frame. That’s far below the roughly 150 pounds you would expect in a healthy individual at that height.

When your body doesn’t have sufficient musculature to support itself your posture goes completely out of whack. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, bad posture leads to weakness, and pain. The negative effects radiate outward from the point at which they occur, so if the weakness is in your torso, you can experience pain and weakness all the way to your hands and ankles.

Because of this you learn to do everything wrong. Due to my extreme lower cross syndrome I couldn’t properly activate my glutes, I walked by swinging my leg forward using mostly my hip flexors and to some extent my quads (frontal leg muscles), then pushed off my my toes to get my rear leg going forward, in an awkward shuffle. This led to me having trouble activating any of my thigh muscles on demand. I remember early into my recovery I tried running, and it was as if I literally forgot how to run. My muscles wouldn’t let me do anything beyond a ‘speed walk.’ Descending the stairs became painful and dangerous, because I lacked the agonist / antagonist interaction in my thighs to keep myself stable while lowering myself to the next step. I had to walk down bow-legged while gripping the hand rail tightly.

When it came time to rebuild my muscles, I was learning to squat, and my knees were in constant pain. They would collapse in on me at the bottom, and I was constantly wobbly. I knew that squatting would help, but there had to be a more painless way to get there!

My shoulders would be in pain from my slouch, my hands were shaky, and I had trouble externally rotating to grab and hold cups and mugs.

I found some simple exercises to help rehabilitate a sedentary body from atrophy:

First we want to fix the posture, this is important because without good posture, our leg and arm operation will already be broken. The legs start at the hip, and everything down the line will suffer, and the same is true of shoulders and elbows for the arms.  This will lead to hip, knee and ankle pain, and weakness throughout.

Supermans: Superman is a stretch position that targets the low back. It will help a weak individual build their low back and teach them how to properly activate those muscles. Lay face down on the ground and extend your hands above your head. Raise your upper torso off the ground so your hands come up off the ground in front of you, until you can look forward – like Superman flying. Do as many as you can, rest, repeat for 3 sets.

Planks & Crunches: Often your lower back becomes tight due to a slouched posture, like lower cross syndrome. If it’s weak and tight, you need to work it, but you also need to counter its tightness by strengthening the opposing muscle group. Planks are performed by getting into a pushup position but resting on your elbows and forearms. A lot of people do planks incorrectly in that their butt sticks up and their belly rounds. This disengages the abs and compromises the position of the low back. Make sure you tuck your butt in, suck in your gut and flex your abs during this position. Hold for 60 seconds, rest, repeat for at least 3 sets.

Rows & Rear-Delt Flies: Whatever weight you can handle is what you would use.

Many Row tutorials show the individual leaning on a bench. Do NOT do this; I want you to be strengthening your back and core throughout the lift. Use as light a weight as allows you to do this, and perform with both arms at the same time. Remember the superman position, tighten up your back muscles so you have a strong arch, tighten up your abs to create thoracic stability, stabilizing your body, then perform the rows and reverse flies. Row with your hands close to your sides, pulling to the hip/belly button region. Perform the flies with your arms parallel to the shoulder.

Leg Extensions: If you don’t have a machine simply sit on a chair and hold a dumbbell between your feet. Perform only the top 20% of the lift, as it’s easier on the knees. Bring your legs up to full extension, lower and repeat. Perform as many as you can for 3 sets. The importance of this is less so to build the muscle, and more to remind your body how to activate the quads. I found slightly rotating my feet outwards at the toe, and imagining I’m pressing weight through the heels of my feet reduced knee pain.

Glute/Hamstring Raise: Get down on all fours, remember the superman position for your back, and tight abs! Now lift and extend one leg behind you. You can add ankle weights for this as you get better.

Pushups: It’s okay to do these on your knees. The primary goal I want you to focus on during these is, once again, the superman position of your back and keeping your abs tight. At the bottom of the pushup I want you to fully retract your shoulders, pull your shoulder blades together like you’re trying to pinch a tennis ball between them, and puff out our chest. At the top of the pushup I want you to push your shoulders forward, like you’re trying to bring your two shoulders together. This will strengthen your Serratus Anterior, which will help prevent “Winged Scapula,” a condition caused by muscle weakness that causes the shoulders blades to protrude excessively. If you are sedentary you most likely have this.

If you are too weak to perform pushups you can just go to the top position of the pushup and raise and lower yourself at the shoulder to work the serratus.

Include these steps with cycling, stretching and a yoga routine to help rehabilitate a sedentary body before engaging in more intense workouts.

Supplements for Crohn’s and IBD

I am not a medical professional and this advice is not meant to treat or cure any condition. It is not meant as a replacement for pharmaceutical medications or seeing an actual doctor. If you have Crohn’s disease I urge you to speak with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist about your health and any medications you are on before taking any supplements.

OTC supplement have a lot of mixed reviews. Supplements generally have a similar logic – Scientists find organic substance that has beneficial effect on the body. They refine the source down to an extract of just the active ingredient, put it in a pill, and sell it to you.

In theory it should work as intended, but results may vary. For one, not everyone responds the same to a supplement. Much like some people have rare, adverse reactions to aspirin or cold medicine, some people may experience little to no benefit from taking supplements. Another possibility is that their body simply isn’t deficient in whatever they are supplementing so it has no positive effect on them.

The thing about Crohn’s and IBD is, you’re most likely deficient in a lot of things because of poor absorption and limited diet.

Common deficiencies:

Vitamin D: This is probably the most common deficiency worldwide, but it’s especially true in Crohn’s disease. Vitamin D3 is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. Most people in today’s world work indoors, we do not get the required 6-8 hours of sun exposure we need to produce a natural amount of Vitamin D. If you’re sick all the time, you may not be keen on spending a lot of time out in the sun.Taking Vitamin D3 skips the requirement of sunlight, and is directly available to the body. Blood tests can tell you how deficient you are, but taking 1000 iu’s daily is usually a safe bet.

Vitamin C: Most people with Crohn’s are highly sensitive to fiber, so they aren’t eating their fruits and veggies. On top of that they have a weakened immune system, both from the Crohn’s and likely the medications they are on. Vitamin C is a necessary part of immune function, and you need it to fight off harmful bacteria. Taking 1,000 mg daily is recommended.

Vitamin B12: Crohn’s patients frequently have deficiencies in B12 due to their poor absorption. B12 is an important part of the body’s ability to convert food into energy.  Many Crohn’s patients suffer from low energy and B12 is part of the reason. You can pick up a B12 supplement, B-complex or a multivitamin with B12 at your local supermarket or drug store, but if you are truly deficient you can also get B12 injections from your doctor.

*Vitamin K: The importance of vitamin D in Crohn’s patients is growing increasingly well studied, however supplementing large amounts of vitamin D comes with a risk of toxicity. Vitamin K helps to regulate vitamin D and prevent toxicity.

Iron: Crohn’s patients may suffer from anemia due to blood loss in their intestines, poor absorption of iron from food etc. Iron is important for red blood cell health. You can supplement iron in a pill form, or consume black-strap molasses.

Other supplements for Crohn’s I recommend researching

Turmeric:  Turmeric is a spice that’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, both great for Crohn’s disease, and healthy individuals alike. You can use it to season your food, or buy it in capsules. It has a mild flavor, and turns food yellow.

Zinc: Zinc is an immune booster and also functions in testosterone production and cortisol reduction(more on this later.)

L-Glutamine: L-Glutamine has two-fold benefits for Crohn’s. First off it’s the primary amino acid used in repairing the intestinal wall. It also has muscle-preserving effects when the body is in a starved or fasting state. It can be expensive and often contains additives like maltodextrin, or comes flavored which is not advisable for those with IBD, try to find it in a pill form with as few added ingredients as possible.

L-Theanine: This supplement helps with mental relaxations and can help with sleep. It’s a general quality-of-life supplement, and it’s safe and easy to take.

Crohn’s, Cortisol and Testosterone / Hormone Balance:

For a multitude of reasons, Crohn’s can lead to hormonal imbalances in both men and women. The first, most obvious one is malnutrition preventing your body from having the resources it needs to produce hormones. Hormones use cholesterol as a base, and the body needs to be consuming a certain amount of fat to produce adequate hormone levels.

The second is Cortisol production. The video linked in this article will give you more details, but to over-simplify it, your body’s hormones get to a room with two doors. One door leads to Cortisol and the other leads to Testosterone and Estrogen. It can only take one door. When you have a chronic disease, coupled with inflammation and high stress, your body produces more cortisol to deal with this, so it has less resources to divert to healthy hormonal balance.

This can lead to symptoms like:

-mood swings

-low energy

-loss of libido / sex drive

-depression and feelings of inadequacy

-loss of motivation

-loss of muscle mass

Hormonal imbalance is a nasty business.
For this purpose I suggest a few supplements linked to higher testosterone production and better balanced of estrogen and testosterone:

DHEA: If you watched the video in the link above, you know DHEA skips the part of the step at which the cholesterol can be turned into Cortisol, this means it can go straight down the pathway to Test/Estrogen.

DIM: Dim is linked to better balance of testosterone and estrogen. Sometimes supplementing for testosterone can lead to an undesired increase in estrogen (usually only if you’re supplementing with already healthy levels.) Dim can help prevent an imbalance.

Zinc Piccolonate: Zinc is linked to reduced cortisol and higher testosterone levels.

Resveratrol:  Resveratrol may be linked to higher testosterone production, however it’s usually expensive and not provided in quantities necessary to see a noticeable change in hormones.

You could also talk to your doctor about pharmaceutical options for your hormonal balances. Explain to them your condition’s effect on cortisol, and any depression or psychological and physical problems you believe may be the result of it.

Sources and further reading:

http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/chrons-biologics-14/vitamins-crohns

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20562810,00.html

http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/supplements/6-reasons-to-supplement-with-resveratrol

Could it be Candida?

Can’t focus? Undiagnosed aches, pains, and cold-like symptoms? Having problems making progress in the gym? Chronic bowel irregularity or digestion issues?

There’s a buzz in the online health community about Candida. You may have heard the word before, you’re probably familiar with yeast infections, but maybe you didn’t know that you can Candida in your digestive system.

How common is it?

It’s believe that up to 60% of people could carry candida, though show no symptoms. Often times tests fail to diagnose the problem, and at home spit tests may be little more than a marketing scheme. The best way to be sure would be to see a doctor if you have symptoms and ask for blood, urine and stool test.

The fact is that candida can manifest itself in a multitude of ways, and can be caused by many risk factors.

Cause

Taking anti-antibiotics can upset the flora of the gut and pave the way for overgrowth of harmful bodies. Consuming too much sugar, or alcohol can feed existing candida. Having taken immuno-suppressant drugs can weaken your body’s ability to fight of candida, giving it the leg-up it needs to grow out of control. Even birth control has been known to cause candida infection.

Symptoms

Symptoms may be manifest in less noticeable ways like seemingly unprovoked headache or fatigue. Surface manifestations like rashes and fungal infections of the skin and mouth are common. They may show up as gastrointestinal upset  such as bloating, cramps, gas, nausea and diarrhea, or they may show up as mental manifestations like brain fog, short attention span and depression. These are the signs of your body fighting an invasive body, and being deprived of the nutrition that the candida is robbing it of.

How do I treat it?

A doctor can write you a prescription for anti-fungal medicines. Candida can also be treated with various over-the-counter solutions. Your first priority should be to cut simple sugars from your diet and limit carbohydrates to complex carbs and grains for the duration of your treatment. Next there are several supplements you can take. One is coconut oil, which contains caprylic acid which can help weaken the candida so your body can naturally eliminate it. Caprylic acid can also be bought in an isolated form if you don’t want to have the high calories and saturated fat contained in coconut oil.

OTC medications like Nyastatin are also available for fighting off candida. Taking a probiotic supplmement can help your gut to repopulate good bacteria that may have been lost due to the candida’s weed-like effect.

Visit your doctor if you believe you have the symptoms of candida and get yourself tested.

Sources:

http://owndoc.com/candida-albicans/spit-test-candida-diagnosis-unreliable/

http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/candidiasis

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8376/10-signs-you-have-candida-overgrowth-what-to-do-about-it.html

What is the best routine?

A controversial topic among weightlifters and bodybuilders alike, what is the best routine for the fastest strength or muscle gains?

The problem with this is studying anything regarding muscle building from a truly scientific approach is hard. There are just too many variables for one to compare two, five, or even ten individuals with any level of accuracy, and large scale studies are few and far between. One would have to control the food intake, daily activity levels, genetic disposition to gaining muscle, testosterone levels, and use of PEDs, just to name a few things, to accurately compare fitness data. Most of what we know is either anecdotal or comes from professional trainers who say, “I’ve had all my trainees do this program for 20 years and it worked for them.”

The truth is at this point there is no ‘best’ program, but simply good and bad programs. Not all programs are created equal, and a lot of what works for you is what you will enjoy, and stick to.

All good programs should follow a few basic logical rules. They should work the entire body, emphasize compound lifts to hit multiple muscle groups and chains at once, while optionally employing isolation lifts to polish up neglected muscles. The programs should take into account rest days, and some will include de-loads programmed in. I think that a smart lifter can just as well judge when they need to de-load, but following a routine with them is a good measure. Most importantly all programs should use progressive overload (using heavier weights or more sets to increase your strength over time).

Rather than try to refute any particular program, or put one on a pedestal, I’ll simply describe the pros and cons of some of the best programs, and let you decide for yourself.

The Body-Part (Bro) Split:

This is the most commonly seen split in muscle mags, online articles, and most likely the majority of gym goers. It devotes each day to a particular body part.

For example:

Monday: Chest

Tuesday: Back

Wednesday: Arms

Thursday: Legs

Friday: Shoulders

The theory is that by focusing a day on a single body part, you can do more reps without the accumulated fatigue caused by doing multiple muscle groups on the same day. These programs are built on the idea of high-volume. For example an arm day might look like:

-Wide grip Bicep curls: 10×3

-Narrow grip bicep curls: 10×3

-Reverse grip curls: 10×3

-Tricep cable pulldown: 10×3

-Tricep overhead extension: 12×3

-Close grip bench press: 10×3

In theory all this extra volume stimulates higher hypertrophy. Whether or not this works in practice is debatable.

The con to this is we know protein synthesis only lasts about 24-48 hours after a workout, so once 2 days have passed your muscles have gained all the growth they can from a single workout, and you’ll need to work them again to continue growing. On this program, however, you will not directly stimulate the same muscle for another week. The shoulders and arms will be hit repeatedly by chest and arm day, but your legs and chest will most likely only see stimulation on the days you devote to them. You’re sacrificing potentially higher gains that you could be seeing with higher frequency.

Some people will still swear by body-part-splits. If it works for you, and you enjoy it, then by all means continue as you are.

Push-Pull-(Legs)

Push-pull and push-pull legs are two variations of the same split, with one difference by personal preference. Some people find working their legs is very taxing on their cardiovascular ability and central nervous system and prefer to do them on their own day, this is fine.

PPL hits all muscles twice a week. With what we know about protein synthesis, this should theoretically give us a higher potential for rate of gains than a body part split.

Push-pull splits muscle groups based on whether they’re used for pulling a weight toward the body of pushing it away. A bench-press is a push, a barbell row is a pull.

Legs are technically used only in pushing force. Though a deadlift is a ‘pulling’ motion the weight is actually  being born as if it was atop the shoulders and being pushed away, like in a squat.

A push-pull split would look like:

Day 1:

Bench: 8×3

Squat: 8×3

Overhead press: 12×3

Calf Raise: 10×3

Day 2:

Row: 8×3

Curls: 12×3

Shrugs: 12×3

Good Mornings: 12×3

Weighted situps: 12×3

Since leg work has fairly little impact on your upper body (don’t get me wrong, deadlifts will definitely hit your lats and traps, but not as a focus) you can put the leg work on either day, or give it its own day.

So you’re either looking at Push-pull-rest-push-pull-rest-rest for your week, or push-pull-legs-push-pull-legs-rest. Both will hit your muscle groups twice a week, and neither in my opinion is strictly superior. It really comes down to whichever you are most comfortable with, and if you are okay working out 6 days a week versus only 4.

Full Body Workout

The final program is 3 day full body workout. You spend the least days in the gym, but hit your muscles the most frequently.

A 3 day FBW is great for both amateur and advanced lifters alike. The core of it is very simple. Every day you do a variation of squat, bench, row, and optionally deadlift. Due to the high workload and stress on your central nervous system, you’ll likely work at lower volumes, but this is okay. Because you’re working out more frequently, you should, in theory, be making faster gains and stimulating more growth.

The other benefit of this program is that you’re doing your core lifts more frequently, so you have more practice and should master the form and movements more quickly.

It’s a very simple program, most lifters on a FBW go to the gym monday-wednesday-friday, and on the remaining days they either rest or do cardio.

Ultimately the difference between the progress you’ll see on each should be minimal. Personal comfort and fitness levels may play a huge part. If you don’t have the juice left after squats to also bench and row at your best, you may not make as much progress on a FBW as you could. If you don’t enjoy fighting every last rep for over 100 reps per body part, a body-part split might not be your thing.

Try different routines and find the one that best suits YOU!