Cholesterol Is Good For You

Despite what you have been led to believe cholesterol isn’t really all that bad for you. In fact, cholesterol is pretty good for you in more ways than one, and if your body suddenly lost all the cholesterol in it you wouldn’t actually live very long.

Cholesterol is important for a number of reasons. It is a structural component in all cell membranes and plays an important role in cell permeability. Cholesterol also helps the liver to form bile acids to break down fat in digestion, and is a precursor to steroid hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and helps form vitamin D.

When doctors talk about how bad high cholesterol is for you they don’t necessarily mean that cholesterol causes heart disease but that it is a risk factor of potential heart disease. (In scientific terms this is the difference between correlation versus causation). Heart disease is caused by a large number of factors often working in conjunction to ultimately cause someone to have a heart attack or stroke. Stress, family history of heart disease, smoking, diabetes and/or obesity all can play a role in causing heart disease.

Fun Facts About Cholesterol:

  1. Having a total cholesterol level of 150 mg/dl is considered good while a total cholesterol count of above 240 mg/dl is considered bad.
  2. When we measure cholesterol in the blood we are actually measuring lipoproteins. This is because cholesterol molecules (lipids) are not soluble in blood and need to be attached to a protein to be able to be transported through the body.
  3. Doctors will often refer to “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. Bad cholesterol is called LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and is responsible for taking cholesterol out of the liver and transporting it to various cells around the body. Good cholesterol is called HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) and is responsible for taking cholesterol out of the cell membrane and transporting it back to the liver for disposal.
  4. Recommended levels for LDL are below 130 mg/dL, preferably 100 mg/dL and HDL should be above 40 mg/dL.
  5. Triglycerides are also measured in standard cholesterol tests. While cholesterol is a “building block” lipid, triglyceride is an “energy” lipid. Generally speaking, the more total carbohydrates and fat you eat the more likely you will have increased triglyceride levels.
  6. Cholesterol levels can swing widely by hour, day, week, and month. That is one reason why doctors recommend that you fast for 12 hours before taking a blood sample for a cholesterol test. A wise doctor will not recommend any cholesterol lowering drugs until the patient has had at least 5 different cholesterol tests over a significant time period.
  7. Lifestyle modification (i.e. healthy eating, regular exercise, healthy body weight, quitting smoking, etc.) is the best way to lower your bad cholesterol, increase your good cholesterol, and lower your triglyceride level

Remember that high levels of cholesterol are considered risk factors that have a correlation with heart disease, but not a causation with heart disease. (Correlation vs. Causation). And there isn’t even a correlation at all with dietary cholesterol and total blood cholesterol. 80% of blood cholesterol is synthesized in the liver, not taken from dietary cholesterol. So yes, you can still eat your high cholesterol foods with abandon.

Think again what cholesterol is used for and I bet you can figure out what makes “excess” cholesterol go away rather quickly.

For starters, quite a few studies have shown that people with higher vitamin D levels have lower cholesterol levels. Could it be that getting enough sun exposure uses up cholesterol to make vitamin D thereby lowering overall cholesterol levels? Yep.

How about eating fat? Cholesterol helps make bile acids which break down fat. Those same bile acids also help in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin E has actually been shown in some studies to prevent or delay coronary heart disease because of it’s antioxidant properties. Does this mean a low fat diet could actually be hurting you more than helping you? Yep.

The key of course is to eat the right kinds of fats in the right amounts. More on this later, but for the time being you should avoid all “trans fats”. These are fats produced when polyunsaturated fats from corn, soybean, and other oils are exposed to heat and hydrogen gas to make them solid. These trans fats simply don’t exist in nature and are created by an industrial process. You might know them better as the hydrogenated vegetable oils found in a large variety of foods.

Lastly, Testosterone and Estrogen both decline as we age. Also cholesterol rises on average as we age. Correlation or Causation? You get to decide.

At the end of the day, there are more important things we can be discussing about health than cholesterol, but with all the hype surrounding cholesterol it is good to be educated on the facts.

This is our 14th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , |

On Taking Vitamins (The Problems With Pill Popping)

As the title suggests, there may be a downside to taking all those vitamins you are taking. Recent studies are now showing that taking too many vitamins may actually increase your risk of certain diseases including cancer.

Forbes actually did a article talking about this recent study and what it means for us called “A bad week for the nutritional supplements industry.”

The overall message was a good one… “Don’t waste your money on supplements”

While this may be true, the writer spent little time on his last statement… “Supplements are only needed if you have a demonstrable deficiency.”

His advice is solid when he says to eat whole fruits and vegetables to get your micronutrients and vitamins, but there is obviously more to be discussed about this issue.

Quite a few years back there was some controversy over multivitamins and the amount of iron they contained in them. Iron toxicity is a potential problem, especially for men, because it causes increased oxidation in the cells of your body which in turn increases potential for disease.

Now this is just one of the many things that are found in multivitamins and the nutritional industry responded by providing multivitamins that are “iron free”.

This is the problem with a pill that tries to provide everything. When you try to solve everything at once you often get less than you expected.

The key here is to focus on actual problems, actual deficiencies that you have that are proven through blood tests and other means. A blood panel could cost you less than $100 which is about a year’s supply of multivitamins, but it could help you so much more.

We get nearly everything we need from the foods we eat, and if we are lacking in something then it might be wise to eat food rich in that vitamin instead of taking it in pill form.

Now before I throw the baby out with the bath water, I do want to mention a few exceptions.

Magnesium, Calcium, B Complex Vitamins, Vitamin D

Every single one of these can be had in your diet besides Vitamin D which is primarily synthesized from the sun. So here are the exceptions.

The B Vitamin Folic Acid should be supplemented for pregnant women.

Vitamin D should be supplemented for those with inadequate sun exposure.

Calcium should be supplemented for those that do not do weight-bearing exercises, get inadequate foods that contain calcium such as dairy and green leafy vegetables, and those that drink too much soda and/or coffee which leaches calcium from the bones. The downside to calcium supplementation is that it has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease because it plays a role in “calcifying” the plague in your arteries thereby making it harder to remove.

Magnesium should be supplemented in a 2 to 1 ratio with calcium because too much calcium blocks magnesium. (You shouldn’t take either if you get it in your diet). Again, eating plenty of green leafy vegetables and other foods with magnesium should give you an adequate amount.

So if you aren’t a pregnant woman you should simply do weight-bearing exercises, eat your leafy greens, and get some sunlight, and you won’t need to supplement at all.

Occasionally people will have certain other deficiencies, but these are the most common ones. The important thing to note is that you can get an adequate amount of all of them through diet, exercise, and sun exposure. And no one should really be wasting their money on supplements unless they have had a blood test and it is recommended from a doctor.

This is our 13th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , |

Focus On Fat Loss, Not Weight Loss

When people are trying to lose weight they normally step on a scale to measure their progress. While the scale may be good to measure overall progress, it is not the best thing to use when you want to lose a little or a lot of weight.

The reason is that there are many ways to lose weight, and not very many of them are healthy.

For instance, a lot of athletes that need to make weight take some drastic measures to shed their water weight. This may help them compete in a weight class lower then they should, but it backfires a lot in terms of losing strength and energy because they are so dehydrated.

The best way to lose weight in terms of being healthy is to shed the fat while maintaining or increasing your muscle mass.

You can lose muscle mass in a number of ways…

  1. Aging – Different people say different things, but generally we lose about 5% of our muscle mass after age 30 if we don’t do any kind of exercise to maintain it. As we lose our muscle mass our daily calorie requirements also drop, so we need to also eat less as we age so we don’t put on weight in the form of fat.
  2. Endurance sports – If you focus too strictly on endurance sports your body will strip away as much as possible to give you the ability to go those really long distances. Many marathon runners are slim overall, but have a little pot belly (their energy source) which is caused by that lifestyle. Mixing in weight training will help alleviate that problem.
  3. Lack of Protein – Your body needs dietary protein to build and maintain muscle. No simple way around it. If you lack protein in your diet you will lose muscle mass.

How can you focus on fat loss, instead of weight loss?

  1. Mix in Weight Training – Even if it is just a bodyweight exercise routine, doing just a few pushups, pullups, and squats everyday will do wonders for helping you retain muscle mass, and lose the fat.
  2. Eat Protein- Again, eating protein helps you to retain your muscle mass, and maybe more importantly, it provides double the satiety of fats and carbs. This means it keeps you feeling full twice as long as anything else.
  3. Eat and/or Drink Your Fiber – Eat your vegetables, take fiber tabs, or add fiber to your protein shake. Fiber is another thing that makes you feel full longer and helps aid in the digestion of your foods. Better digestion = a better functioning body = better fat loss.
  4. Measure Size, Not Weight – Start any dieting program (or lifestyle change) by taking all your measurements. Chest size, arm size, leg size, waist and hip size. etc. I love the easily done but very inaccurate pinch test. But you probably want to just go with the somewhat accurate mirror test. But at the end of the day, is your waist skinnier by an inch?
  5. Sleep – A lot of studies have been coming out lately about fat loss and sleep. One of the main reasons people can’t lose weight is because of stress. Namely the hormone cortisol which comes into play in many areas of the body. Focusing on getting better and more sleep may be the final key to losing the weight (<---I meant fat) that you want to lose.

Focus on those five things and let the fat loss journey begin…

This is our 12th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , |

Weight Lifting and Workload

It hurts me every time I read about a new weight lifting protocol and the person talks about nothing except the correct number of repetitions and sets you need to do.

Again it comes back to goals, but generally you want to have low reps with high weight to gain strength and higher reps with lower weight to build muscle. This isn’t rocket science.

However, an even better way to look at your weight lifting program is to consider your overall workload.

No matter how many repetitions or sets you do, and no matter what weight you do them at, they all add up to a total workload for that exercise.

For instance, one person can do a bench press with 3 sets of 8 at 150 pounds. This gives us a total workload of 3 x 8 x 150 = 3,600 pounds.

Another person can do a 5 x 5 (5 reps and 5 sets) program with 150 pounds and have a total workload of 3,750 pounds.

Who has the better workout program? Who is the stronger one?

I would argue that they are practically the same thing and neither one is stronger than the other. With that being said, when taken from the viewpoint of total workload capacity rather than reps and sets numbers, the numbers become almost pointless.

People ultimately error on both sides…

The guy wanting to build muscle mass bangs out tons of repetitions because he hears that is the best way to build muscle mass, but ultimately never increases the weight he puts on. And then fails to gain any muscle and possibly even loses some if he goes too far.

The guy wanting to get stronger keeps putting more weight on the bar, but never increases his reps. He also fails to get any stronger.

The guy that increases his sets, but lowers his reps also gets into trouble because the example above shows that he is accomplishing the same workload as the guy who does less sets but more repetitions.

All the best scientific experiments only look at one variable. It is the same with weight lifting. To get the results you want you have to change one thing at time.

So maybe you have been struggling for awhile to add a measly 5 pounds to your bench press. Well what about busting out just one more rep at your current weight? It may not seem like much to you, but that extra rep increases your workload. You may also want to think about taking out a few repetitions, but add on another set. This also increases your workload.

And of course, you can always increase the weight to increase your workload, which is the ultimate goal for powerlifters, but not necessarily the goal for bodybuilders.

Focusing on workload will do a lot for you. It will give you back control. You get to decide the appropriate amount of weight, sets, and reps based on what your muscles can handle that day. But that doesn’t mean you get to slack off. If your normal workload is 3,600 pounds as mentioned above, then you still want to have a weight, rep, and set combination that brings you up to or above that workload.

By working on slowly increasing your workload you are pretty much guaranteed to be bigger and stronger than before. You may have other more specific goals you are trying to achieve so by all means do the workout protocol that you think will be best. But for those that simply want to get bigger and stronger, there is nothing like focusing on total workload. It gets you results.

This is our 11th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Exercise This Way

As I mentioned in the article Eat This Way, there is not a “one size fits all” way to eat, and it is the same for exercise, there is not just one way of doing things.

When it comes to exercise you more or less want to try and stay in an optimal range that maximizes your performance and minimizes any damage to your health. Contrary to popular belief, exercising too much can be very destructive to your health. Over-exercise can decrease your performance, cause injuries, and weaken your immune system enough to cause sickness.

First you need to start with your goals. What are they? A person trying to “get in shape” or lose weight has very different goals from someone training to run a marathon or become a world class weightlifter.

Once you have your goal in mind you can start working toward it. I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do without knowing your exact situation, but here are some general guidelines to think about as you begin any type of regular exercise program.

  1. Leave Some Gas In The Tank – This simply means you don’t need to run yourself to zero every single workout. While some people will struggle with not working out hard enough, the more damaging problem is working out too hard. You spend all that type in the gym or pounding the pavement and you get zero results. Worse still you could see negative results by working out too hard. You could injure your shoulder weightlifting or your foot by running too much and/or too hard. ALL training should be “progressive”, meaning that you start where you are at, and SLOWLY work up to where you want to be.
  2. Go Slow – The main reason to go slow is for injury prevention. The fastest way to NOT reach your goals is to go fast and get injured. Any injury can set you back months and even years in reaching your goals. Injuries stop some of the best athletes from reaching the big leagues. Going slow has other advantages too though. Going slow when running helps you to build up your total mileage. Going slow in weight lifting helps you to learn how to fire all your muscles. Going slow in any sport helps you to master the technical expertise you need to perform at your best.
  3. Fuel Properly – What you eat definitely affects your performance. If you are trying to lose weight by working out, but eat too much, you won’t lose anything. On the flip side, if you work out really hard and eat like a mouse you will feel weak and pretty crabby most of the time. There is a balance. The most general guideline I can give you is to eat more protein to help rebuild your body after it is broken down, and eat more fiber (vegetables) so you feel full and won’t eat as many calories.
  4. Get a Coach/Partner – This whole exercise thing becomes so much easier when you have someone there for support. A running buddy or a friend who can spot you in your lifts is worth a lot to have. Likewise, having a coach who is knowledgeable enough to help you reach your goals is priceless.
  5. Know That Some Days Are Better Than Others – Sometimes we have great days where we beat all of our own personal records, and some days we wonder what is going on with our bodies. That is just the way it is, and all the greatest minds in exercise and nutritional science have yet to figure it out. The body is a complex thing so learn to go easy on yourself when you don’t perform at your best.
  6. Make It Easy On Yourself – No one is going to convince me that it is easy to go work a full day at work, go straight to the gym for an hour workout, and then try and come home and attend to everything you need to do at home. Sooner or later you are going to burn out. I suggest that you find a way to shorten your exercise sessions and still get the same results. Think about having a few weights at home or try using DVDs (kettlebell, P90x, Yoga, etc.) to reach your fitness goals. Not having a gym membership is a poor excuse for not reaching your fitness goals.
  7. Have Fun – Many people choose a workout routine and hate every minute of it. I simply don’t understand those people. I know that I like certain workouts and hate others. Guess what? I do the ones I like and avoid the rest. I may love deadlifting and hate running, but you may feel the exact opposite way. With so many ways to stay physically active no one can tell you which one to do. Do what is fun and do what you like to do best.

Remember that these are general guidelines, but they will work for just about an exercise program out there. At the end of the day remember to stay safe, work slowly toward your goals, eat great food, find an awesome workout partner or two, and have a lot of fun!

This is our 10th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Move Around Every Day

Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates (Greek Physician 460 BC – 377 BC)

Most talk about health revolves around two concepts: diet and exercise. It basically comes down to a series of inputs and outputs that add up to what kind of shape you are in.

While there are obviously other factors that play into your total health (genetics, environment, etc.) exercise is a big one. For the sake of discussion purposes the word exercise will be used to describe any physical action you perform during the day. In other words, exercise should technically be thought of as work, applying a force over a certain distance.

We literally exercise every day whether we realize it or not. Exercise isn’t simply going to the gym or running around the block a couple times. It is walking down the aisles at the store, and cleaning up your house.

Good health implies that you are are able to do many things adequately well. In old age people often need others to help take care of them, but a person described as healthy will be able to perform the duties of daily living by themselves. And exercise helps enable you to be that healthy person in old age.

Good health is having the strength (power) to do a certain task for the full amount of time needed to complete the task (endurance). And so we have our basic breakdown of the fitness world today: weight training and cardiovascular training.

Many people will become dogmatic in their thoughts about exercise, but ultimately you need to have both power and endurance to accomplish the tasks that life throws your way.

The thing about exercise is that your daily activities contribute to doing those same daily activities better again the next day.

Walking on a daily basis helps you to walk faster and further the next day.

Lifting heavy things on a daily basis helps you to lift heavier things and more things the next day.

Sitting on the couch helps you to sit longer and harder on the couch again the next day.

At the very least, doing what you have always done will give you the results you have always had.

So you have to think a little bit about your current condition and where you want to be in old age. As they say, we aren’t getting any younger. You always have to fight against the degradation of your body.

If you want to be able to walk in old age, it is good to do plenty of walking in your younger years. If you want to be able to pick your grandchildren up and carry them on your shoulders in old age, you should be lifting something at least that heavy on a regular basis. If you want to enjoy the great outdoors and hike the highest mountains in old age, you should do plenty of that when you are younger.

Of course, if all you want to do is sit around and watch tv in your old age, you can do that in your younger years as well.

The idea here is that we should move around a fair amount every day so that we can age well and still be fully or mostly functional in old age.

Some people want to run marathons and some people want to be able to lift hundreds of pounds of iron effortlessly, but most people I imagine just want to be able to function well in their day to day living. They want to be able to get from point A to point B without the use of a wheelchair or walker. They want to be able to cook, clean, and take care of themselves and their homes without too much effort. Sure people have accidents and old age catches up to them sooner than they think, but we know that it is possible to live healthy and well into old age.

We just need to make sure we move a little and lift a little each and every day.

This is our 9th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

On Food Intolerance & Allergies

Many of us walk through life with something constantly weighing us down. Not having the same energy levels or the same level of health as other people. That silent nuance that could become a silent killer is a food intolerance and/or allergy.

Food allergies come in many different forms, but there are some that are more common than others. The FDA requires that food manufacturers list the top eight food allergens that could be in their food. The top eight food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

If you have a food allergy the symptoms may be minor, but if you notice that any particular food gives you trouble then it would be wise to be tested for an allergy to it.

A food intolerance is actually totally different from a food allergy. An allergy by definition requires an immune response that produces antibodies against a chemical substance found in that particular food item. Meaning that you body basically thinks that it is a virus or bacteria that will make you sick. The allergy is the response your body gives against the assumed threat much in the same way that your body will produce a fever when it thinks it is sick.

A food intolerance is usually associated with an inability by the body to properly digest a certain food. One of the most common, especially in children, is a lactose intolerance. This is where the body is unable to digest the sugar in milk known as lactose, and exhibits symptoms ranging from bloating to nausea.

Once you discover that you are actually lactose intolerant the problem becomes avoiding it. Lactose is found, not just in milk products, but in all kinds of foods ranging from processed meats to breads and cereals.

Another intolerance that has been getting major press these days is gluten intolerance. This is the protein found in wheat and other related grains. Just like lactose, gluten has been used as a food additive for a wide assortment of processed foods, and is somewhat difficult to totally remove from your diet.

The best way to discover if you have a food intolerance or not is to totally remove the suspect food for at least 30 days and measure the results. You can do the same for a food allergy, but allergies are more easily diagnosed through fairly easy allergy tests. Food intolerances on the other hand are fairly difficult to test for with any certainty.

If you have a symptom that has been chronic for any length of time such as migraines, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), heartburn, nausea, or any other symptom that could possibly be food related, it would be wise to look for the likely culprits through testing or food elimination diets.

This is our 8th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Reboot to a Healthier Lifestyle

I think one thing that is great to do every once in awhile is to reboot your lifestyle. And perhaps this is most important in regards to your health.

Has your house or apartment ever gotten to the point where everything is just a mess? Clothes scattered on the floor. Papers covering tables. Things are dirty and need cleaned…

It doesn’t feel too good does it?

Then you spend an hour or two cleaning everything up. Putting everything back in place. Running the vacuum. Disinfecting all the surfaces, etc.

After it is all done you feel a little more at peace. It is so nice to come home to a clean house! Very relaxing as it should be.

Now think about how you can clean up your own life in the same way…

Doing all of the above can improve your health, certainly your mental health just from peace of mind, but what other ways can you reboot your lifestyle for health?

  1. Clean out your cupboards and refrigerator – Get rid of all the expired stuff. Throw away foods you just aren’t going to eat. Dump all those unhealthy foods in the trash. Then replace them with good clean healthy foods you will eat on a regular basis. (Not healthy foods you are also going to let expire because you don’t like the taste of them)
  2. Refresh your bed – Clean all the sheets and pillow covers. Perhaps buy new pillows? Flip the mattress over. Maybe move your bed to a better spot in your room? Or just organize things on your night stand better. Anything that helps improve your sleep environment.
  3. Schedule a day to relax – And I mean really relax. Precook you meals. Turn off the tv and avoid the internet. Take a walk outside. Read a book. Chat with a loved one. Just a day where you avoid all the usual distractions in life and you let your mind be a peace.

And those are just a few things you can do. So sit down right now and make a list of things that would help you to reboot your lifestyle to be healthier and happier. What would those things be? Then set out to accomplish those things one at a time. Break it up into small bits and you will be amazed at how all these little lifestyle changes add up to one big change!

He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. -GOETHE.

This is our 7th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Benefits of Fasting

Ask yourself this question…

When was the last time you felt hungry AND allowed yourself to be hungry for a significant amount of time. This is by far the simplest way to describe fasting.

Now you might be asking yourself…

Why in the world would I consciously choose to go without food? The simple answer is to improve your health, but there are many physiological reasons to fast.

Reasons to Fast

  1. Disease Prevention – Animal studies have shown that fasting can help with disease prevention from various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Human studies aren’t as inclusive but have significantly proven that fasting improves numerous blood markers of health.
  2. Weight Loss – Many individuals who practice fasting have shown the ability to lose weight and keep it off with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is simply an approach to calorie restriction that doesn’t require such extremes as going a whole 24 hour period without food or permanently limiting your calorie intake by a certain percentage.
  3. Detoxification – After many years of eating all the various foods we eat every day we eventually build up a lot of toxic substances in our bodies, with the majority of them stored in our fatty tissues. When we fast, the body uses energy normally reserved for assimilating food in our bodies to purging our bodies of everything unnecessary. This helps use to get rid of all the heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins that have built up over the years and helps our bodies run more efficiently.
  4. Improved Energy & Mental Clarity – A little bit of hunger makes you feel more awake and alive. This is your body’s natural signal saying it is time to hunt for food. Once you have eaten a large meal you feel tired. This is your body’s natural response to a large meal because energy is diverted to the process of digesting all that food. If you get the midday “blahs” consider skipping those snacks and/or drinks you have been going to get more energy.
  5. Improved Athletic Performance – Fasting has been shown to increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and improve protein synthesis. These two factors help your body repair itself after it has been damaged. The quicker your body is able to heal itself after a workout the faster you can improve your performance. It is that simple.

So what are the downsides to fasting? Well it is tough for some people, especially those that have developed some serious sugar cravings. However, your body will adjust with some practice. Just take it nice and easy. Maybe skip a single meal at first and see how you feel. Then eventually progress to what people call an 8 hour feeding window. Meaning you can only eat food between noon and 8pm, or whatever time frame works best for you. This translates into a 16 hour fast.

Some people also have problems with how their body feels from an extended fast. For instance, when your body is detoxing your blood fills up with all the toxins your fatty tissues are releasing which can cause a feeling of sickness, grogginess, or just general malaise. You can combat this by shortening your fast, drinking double the water you normally do, or fasting with some type of food such as fruits and vegetables in small amounts.

There are many different ways to fast.

  1. Single Meal Fast – This is where you pick a single meal out of the day and abstain from it. Many people naturally abstain from breakfast because it doesn’t feel right for them to eat first thing in the morning.
  2. Intermittent Fasting (IF) – This is where you fast on a regular, perhaps daily basis, for a certain time period. The most common IF fast uses an 8 hour feeding window. This can be increased to a 12 hour feeding window or decreased to a 4 hour feeding window depending on the person’s goals and preferences. A feeding window is simply the time period where you eat the majority (90-100%) of your calories.
  3. Periodic Fasting – This is where your fast for a determined day and time. Maybe you fast once a week or once a month. This can be by choice or by circumstances. This fast can be for any time period, but is usually from 24 to 48 hours at a time. And during this fast you normally only drink water or small amounts of tea.
  4. Juice Fast – These fasts are very popular because they give you tons of energy and help people lose weight. Two very visible results of fasting. A juice fast is where you combine fruits and vegetables in a blender and drink the resulting juice, pulp and all. Drinking juice you buy at a store is not recommended because it is lacking in the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber you get from whole fruits and vegetables, and because they normally have a higher sugar content then is desired (thereby providing you more calories than makes sense for a fast).
  5. Salad Fast – This is one of my personal favorites because I know it to work well. I personally started eating salad for breakfast and it helped me lose some fat around my mid section and gave me improved energy levels. You can either replace whole meals with a salad or try and eat nothing but salad (perhaps with eggs, cheese, or chicken on top?) for a few days up to a week.

Fasting has many great benefits along with some difficulties in getting started, but with a little practice you will start to see your health improve. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying some sort of fasting, so think about what you might like to try and go for it!

This is our 6th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Get Some Sleep

There is nothing in this world like some nice long restorative sleep. Great sleep keeps us alert during the day. It helps us remain alert. It helps improve our memory. It evens helps us lose weight and prevent cancer. Sleep is not to be underrated.

For much of human history, we more or less went to bed shortly after nightfall and awoke with the rising sun. With the advent of electricity and the light bulb we are staying up much later, and therefore we need the help of another electronic device, the alarm clock, to help us get up in the morning.

We can do a lot to improve our sleep and thereby improve our health in general.

Not many people realize that sleep is more a habit then anything. The time you go to bed, the time you wake up, and the total amount of time you sleep is highly trainable. People have all kinds of different sleep habits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set up a good solid sleep routine. Go to bed the same time every night, have the same pre-bedtime ritual.

It is also good to consider what type of person you are. While it may be slightly difficult to find out for certain, there are people who are definitely early risers, and people who are definitely late risers. It comes down to two hormones in your body. Cortisol is what helps you become truly alert after you wake up in the morning, and Melatonin is what helps you to feel relaxed enough at night to go to bed. Each of these is based off your circadian rhythm.

It is good to experiment a little and see when your optimum hours of sleep are. Some are better off going to bed later, some are better off going to bed earlier. Some need a little more sleep and some need less, but most people do well on 7-8 hours a sleep a night.

Some other ways to help yourself get better sleep at night is to avoid any kind of excessive stimulation. Exercise, large meals, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, bright lights, especially the ones coming from your computer screen, all prevent your body from relaxing enough so that you can go to sleep.

Reading a book, making your bedroom quiet and dark, and lowering the temperature to 65 degrees are all ways to help you get better sleep at night.

There are many tips and tricks to getting a good night sleep, but it is mostly about becoming relaxed and going to bed when your body tells you it is time to go to bed.

Speaking of bed, I think my pillow is calling me right now. Here is to a good night’s sleep! :-)

This is our 5th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Personal Health Tagged , , , , , , |