Your True Biomarkers

I got to thinking about biomarkers of health the other day. Someone was watching me eat my chocolate EXO cricket protein bar by breaking off chunks, tossing them into a jar of ghee, and eating with a spoon (highly recommended). They asked what the yellow stuff was. I said It's ghee! He asked what that was. I told him It's clarified butter. "So you're just eating butter?!" Yep! "How's your cholesterol level?" Great! Then the conversation pretty much ended. I didn't want to drag it on by explaining how little dietary cholesterol intake has to do with blood levels of cholesterol. I wasn't in the mood. I was eating. (By the way, this was a doctor I was talking to.)

But I got to thinking: A one-time blood cholesterol reading is just a snapshot at a particular time. It doesn't tell you how it fluctuates or even what that cholesterol is doing. It could have been higher or lower a few hours ago. Is it cleaning things up? Helping form new cells? Or is it getting lodged in your arteries and you're one breath away from a heart attack and impending doom?

Then: Cholesterol isn't even a good marker for heart disease. Most of us know that inflammation is a better predictor of heart disease. So if we really want to know how likely we are to get heart disease, we should be looking at inflammatory markers: CRP, ESR, omega 3:6 ratios, blah blah. (None of this is new information. These are thoughts I've had many times; and gathered from many sources over the last few years.)

But who wants to go through and look at all those levels? After all, those would be just other markers in time. You'd need to draw levels every hour or so for a week or two to get a true indication of how much your body is inflamed. And that would get pretty expensive (plus you'd have a lot of holes in your skin). 

So no more labs?! I believe that for the average, relatively healthy person (read: no chronic diseases), blood levels of these biomarkers are of little value. Now, I'm not saying never get checked, or that they're useless. Obviously if your cholesterol levels come back crazy high (or low), you need to do some further testing and work with a smart health-care team to help figure out what's going on. But if you're generally healthy, I wouldn't even bother getting most of these labs done (I am NOT a doctor!!).

So what's a better way to tell if you're inflamed? Just live life, MAN! Keep an awareness for the true biomarkers of health and life. I believe they are:

  1. How are you feeling? Yep. That simple (to start with). At this moment. Do you feel good? Or rundown and tired? If the latter, start thinking about other questions you should be asking.
  2. Are you generally happy and energized? Many things can cause you not to be happy. It's individualistic. But some issues to consider: Are you passionate about life? Do you have a passion for something? Do you have fun hobbies? Do you play and laugh? How's your social life? Do you have family and friends that inspire you and make you laugh? Or do they make you sad and depressed? (If the latter, avoid them. "Unfriend" them. Whatever. That includes family members. I've had to do that.)
  3. Do you sleep soundly and wake up refreshed? Prioritize sleep. It's magical. It's invigorating. It's wonderful. If you're not sleeping well, look for info to help, I won't go into all the details here. I just want to emphasize how powerful sleep is for your well-being.
  4. How do you handle stress? Stress is going to happen. Bad things happen. But it's how you deal with it that will determine your general wellness. Do you let stress meander on for a long time? Or do you acknowledge it and deal with it? Acceptance is what's important here. If something bad happens, accept it and figure out how to handle it. Meditation helps. It has changed my life drastically. Try a daily meditation practice. Read about stoicism and how the stoics handle stress (acceptance).
  5. Do you eat clean? Now we get to food. That's because those four items above are more important than the food you eat (to an extent). Eating cleanly means not eating junk food. We all know what's junk food and what's not. Again, not going to go into the details here. Just don't kick yourself if you slip up occasionally. Do the best you can the most you can. Stressing about the food you eat will cause heart disease faster than the food you eat (to an extent. I firmly believe this).
  6. Do you get outside? Do you get sunlight? We're not meant to be cooped up all day. Move! (See #7) You have to get out and get some sunlight and get in nature. Go for a hike. Swim in a lake. Camp out under the stars. Just get out there and enjoy our planet!
  7. Do you move? That means exercising, for some people. Or just getting off the couch for others. Everyone is different. But you have to MOVE! Walking is magical (like sleep). You don't need to do CrossFit six days a week (actually, that's a terrible idea unless that's what you do for a living and the five items above are in check). Find some activity you enjoy and do it. If it's lifting weights, great! But it shouldn't feel forced. You should genuinely enjoy yourself. If you're ever dreading it, you should think again. Just don't overdo it (because that will cause crazy inflammation).

To paraphrase Robb Wolf: How do you think, look, feel, perform, and sleep?

This is not all-encompassing. My point is that a lab value is not a good indicator of your health.* It doesn't tell you what's really going on. Unfortunately, our Western medicine treats those markers. A great doctor would be asking you the questions above before looking at any lab value. Maybe one day.... I have hope. The message is spreading. It's up to all of you to help spread it and enlighten others. That's the point of this blog (and I hope others) anyway: to spread knowledge, thoughts, and ideas, and help inspire others. I want to form a community of like-minded, healthy, happy people.

What are your thoughts? Did I miss any other important TRUE biomarkers of health?

*Learning about biomarkers and how hormones, vitamins, minerals, etc function in the body is fascinating! I love learning about physiology. But there's a big difference between learning all of that and relying on them too much to indicate your health.

 

 

Posted on December 9, 2015 .

Time Shift & the HumanCharger

If you don't know, I'm in the military. Being in the military we are required to deploy sometimes. I got tasked with a deployment to the Middle East earlier this year. I knew that "moving" nearly half way across the planet would wreck my circadian rhythm so I wanted to employ all the strategies I know in order to reduce the negative effects and adapt quickly to my new environment and daily rhythm.

On the trip over, we took multiple flights. It took about 30 or so hours total to get here. I was worried about getting on a proper sleep schedule with my destination's daily rhythm on the way over. I just tried to take a few naps on the plane rides when I could. I knew I was going to be tired and it would be stressful, so I just accepted it. I think that's a big part of dealing with jet lag: just accept that you're going to be thrown off your rhythm and deal with it. Don't overthink it. I believe it's best just to grab a nap or two when you can. I knew I'd be tired when I got here, so I'd just be sleepy until it was time to sleep that first night (and I slept pretty good that first night).

Of course, the biggest influence on circadian rhythm is light. I made sure that once I got here (to my deployed location), I was going to get outside in the bright light first thing in the morning. Bright light in the morning tells your body (in particular, the pineal gland) that it's daylight and it's time to be awake. Bright light shuts off melatonin production and lets cortisol build up. I also wanted to be sure I was blocking blue light at night. Blue light suppresses melatonin more than any other wavelength of light. So a few hours before I want to go to bed here, I always wear my blue-blocking, amber glasses. This is especially important while looking at my phone or laptop or in a room with bright lights. So wearing the glasses will help my melatonin build up and allow me to go to sleep faster, sleep deeper, and stay asleep longer. (For more info on light exposure and circadian rhythm, see my talk at PaleoFX from earlier this year. Oh right...it's not posted yet because PaleoFX is slacking! I guess you had to be there.)

Now, on to the HumanCharger, which is a device used to help set your circadian rhythm and reduce jet lag. I first saw this on Ben Greenfield's website. You can read his post for a full description of the device and some nerdy info. But to summarize: the brain can detect light that has been beamed through your ear and ear canal. Fascinating! So with Ben's help, I got hold of the company and told them about my upcoming deployment and how this would be an opportune time try it out. I got it before leaving and tried it out back at home in the states. All you do is put the earbuds in your ears and press a button. Session times are set to 12 minutes. The device counts down and you're done!

The first time I tried it, I noticed I felt really good and generally more awake while using it. Like I'd been outside for a bit. I tried it a few more times in the mornings while back home. Ben had used his while traveling within a few time zones in the states. But the ultimate test would come traveling halfway around the world.

I did NOT use it as has been suggested by the company: to do sessions before you leave when it's morning in your destination (they have an app you can download to help guide you on when to do your sessions). I was worried it would mess up my sleep too much before I left and didn't want to have a bad night or two of sleep. So I didn't use it until I got to my destination. We arrived at around 0700 here. I got to use it shortly after landing once, but due to how busy we were getting in-processed I couldn't do it more often that first day. But I slept pretty good that first night all-considering (I was pretty worn out from the little sleep I had the previous 30 or so hours). Then the next morning I used it again when waking and continued to use it. I can say that I haven't had much trouble sleeping since getting here (6 weeks at time of this posting) and I feel like I adjusted very quickly with little jet lag. Only a few nights here and there have I not slept well, and that could be from other factors of course. 

I use it at least once every morning shortly after waking. Sometimes I'll use it again a few hours later. Now, I have a very open mind. But also a very scientific one. I realize that it all could be partially placebo. But the studies Ben linked to in his article are convincing. And I definitely have not noticed any negative effects using the HumanCharger. So I'm going to keep using it. There's a chance I could be going to night shift here. If so, I'll use the HumanCharger to help reset my rhythm again, along with getting some sunlight and using blue-blocking glasses at night. And then I'll use it when going back home next February. I'll update this post after then.

So definitely check it out if you'll be doing some traveling. It could really help with your jet lag and make your time at your destination way more manageable.

Posted on September 6, 2015 .

2015: A Year of Not Saying "I Can't"

 

Negativity is one of my biggest pet peeves. Being around people that always complain and whine is really draining. I try my best to avoid negative people. And if I'm unable to avoid them (like at work), I try to make them happier by smiling and being silly. I think it works for most people. And if not...I tried!

One part of negativity I find the most annoying is people that say "I can't". I hear it mostly in reference to diet choices: "I can't give up cookies" "I can't give up bread" "I can't eat paleo/primal because I love food too much" That last one is especially annoying. My reaction to that one is:  "I love food too! That's why I eat good, quality food and cook it myself...because it tastes better [than the garbage you're eating]."

I also hear "I can't" in reference to exercise. People talk about how they don't have time for working out or just moving in an efficient way, like going for a walk. Then there's cooking their food: "I can't. I don't have time!"

I believe a healthy goal for 2015 is to go the entire year (then onward) without saying "I can't". In reference to diet choices, it's not that you can't give up a food, or you can't not eat a donut someone brought into work. You choose to eat it or not eat it. What you put in your mouth is always a choice. No one is forcing you to eat or not eat something. Of course we can dive into the discussion of food addiction and the neurochemical pathways of wheat and sugar addiction in your brain. But it's still a choice, and the addictions go away the more you say no to junk food and start eating healthier.

It's easier to go without saying "I can't" in reference to diet choices. It's a bit harder with other things. Saying you can't cook because you don't have time is a priority issue. I understand life and family get busy, but you have to find the time to cook. Meal prep on the weekends, get the kids and rest of the family involved, make large dishes and eat leftovers. If you have time to watch television, you have time to cook.

As far as physical stuff is concerned, you might have to use "I can't" every so often. For example if a coach tells me to do a ring muscle-up, I have to say "I'll try". Substitute "I'll try" for "I can't". Obviously there are some things you know you can't do. But as long as it's reasonable, you can try. Things that are not reasonable and you can absolutely use "I can't" include: squat 500 lbs, go run a marathon (with no training), etc. But if you can give something an honest effort with little risk of injury, then try!

So do your best to rid the phrase "I can't" from your vocabulary this year (and onward). And correct people when they use it. Ask them: "You can't? Do you mean you choose not to? Or you won't?" Encourage them to try and help them (and yourself) reduce the negativity. You might think you can't do something, but you can keep trying and say to yourself "I will!"

Post your experiences with this experiment. In what other ways do you hear people saying "I can't"?

Posted on January 1, 2015 .

Happy Introverts

There seem to be a lot of introverts in this community.  I consider myself one.  I don't get out much.  I don't think it's agoraphobia (fear of public places).  I don't have a problem being in public; as in, I don't get anxiety.  I just get annoyed about loud things.  I don't like loud music where you can't hold a conversation with someone (a concert is an exception, because I'm going there to see and hear the band play, not converse).  I don't like loud, drunken people who act like idiots and can't hold an intelligent conversation. 

The latter is an important point:  I enjoy being around people who I can have an intelligent conversation with.  That's why I like going to events like PaleoFX, Ancestral Health Symposium, and other conferences and workshops where I can be around smart, like-minded people.  I believe it's important to surround yourself with positive people.  That's why I don't hang out with most of the people I work with.   It's because they're so negative and depressed at work, I feel like they would be like that outside of work.  I'm around enough depression and negativity at work (I work in a hospital), I don't need to be around it outside of work. 

I've recently been focusing on getting rid of negativity in other areas of my life too.  I don't watch the news and try my best to avoid it where it pops up on social media.  I occasionally see something on facebook or twitter about a big story.  That's enough for me.  I usually don't read it.   I get news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but that's usually light-hearted and funny (though sometimes The Daily Show gets too serious for me).  Seems to me that most people who watch or read the news tend to have more anxiety in their daily life than someone who doesn't.  Does this mean I'm a jerk for not hearing about the problems of the world?  No.  I know there are lots of problems with the world.  I just choose not to focus on it because it's not good for my health.  I care.  I just care about my health more.  Selfish?  Probably.  But if you don't take care of yourself first, you can't help others.  I want to get into helping my community more.  I should.  But I don't need to hear about all the chaos going on on the other side of the world if there's nothing I can do about it.  After all, we're living in the most peaceful time of our existence.  If you don't believe me, check out Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist. 

This all doesn't mean that I only watch comedies on TV and read happy books.  I enjoy a good thriller or drama.  But I know it's not real and it's for entertainment.  There's a time and place for these.  If I want to have a good cry, I'll listen to Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" and ball my eyes out thinking about my father.  It's healthy sometimes to have a good cry. 

Speaking of family, that's another unfortunate source of negativity.  Sometimes I talk to my family and it seems to be nothing but who's sick and how stressed they are.  I'm sympathetic.  I'd like to help.  But there's only so much I can do from a distance.  And it's always the person's decision to make changes.  I just hate hearing all the negativity.  I recently called a relative I hadn't talked to in a long time.  After the initial greeting, I told him the one bit of bad news, then immediately said "That's the only bad news I have.  Let's talk about some happy stuff."  And we proceeded to laugh the rest of the conversation.

So enough rambling.  My point is that I'm an introvert depending on who you ask.  If you ask a "typical" person who spends their free time going out to bars and clubs, then yes, I'm probably an introvert to them (because I don't like to do those things).  But if you ask a lot of people in this health community, I'm not.  I just like doing things that make me happy and feel good.  I'd happily go out with people who want some good food and good conversation.  Or someone who wants to get active outside.  Unfortunately, I haven't found many of those people here (though I probably haven't looked hard enough).

Surround yourself with positive people and positive entertainment (most of the time), and you'll be more positive.  This conversation can go on and on.  What do you think?

Now excuse me while I go read and watch a movie.

Posted on May 8, 2014 .

Cold Showers and Auschwitz

I'm currently reading Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. It's a very inspiring book about the author's experience at Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp and his ability to psychologically handle some of the most horrifying events anyone has ever experienced. One thing he mentions is embracing suffering. He talks about how being able to suffer is a gift in itself. It means that you still have something to live for. He discussed how some prisoners had given up and weren't even able to experience suffering. How apathy had consumed them when they realized there was no point in living any more. The book is incredibly inspiring and humbling. It goes on to discuss how important it is to find your own meaning in life.

But how the F does this relate to cold showers?! Well, it's a form of suffering...in a way. Experiencing things that make you suffer can make you stronger. Nietzsche said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." I think that's true to an extent. You could get an injury and be crippled for life. That wouldn't make you stronger. Not literally. However, you could argue it could make you mentally stronger. Touche Nietzsche!

Hormesis is a concept that a low dosage or exposure to harmful toxins or stressors will produce favorable biological responses. The most common example of this would be weightlifting. You put a stressor on your body and it rebuilds and gets stronger. But too much and you can get injured!

Cold showers are another example. Taking a cold shower makes it easier for you to handle cold environments. You can get into some incredibly in-depth scientific info about cold thermogenesis at Jack Kruse's site. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the biological science behind it all. I don't understand it all. It might be all BS. Or he might be entirely accurate. I honestly don't know. I prefer Anastasia's take of hormesis.

So HOW do I do this? I don't take a bath as Jack Kruse recommends. Maybe one day I'll get into that though. For now, it's just cold showers. The biggest obstacle is to get over the flinch (a book on that I have not read here). You just have to turn on the shower and jump in. The important thing is to get your face in the cold water immediately. If you inch your way in...you're just prolonging the inevitable and thinking to much about it. DON'T THINK! Just get in! Embrace it! Embrace the suffering! Smile! It helps. I scrub off with a loofah (I don't use soap or shampoo), then I stand there facing the water and take 2 deep breaths. Turn 90 degrees and take 2 more deep breaths. And repeat back around. Then I'm done!

I feel invigorated after a cold shower! It feels incredible! I've even done it before going to bed and I've slept soundly, contrary to what you'd think. There are some people that will tell you it helps move white fat into brown fat and slim you down. Perhaps someone smart like Bill Lagakos can weigh in. Here's his post about Brown Adipose Tissue.

So embrace suffering. It's good for you. If a guy living in a Nazi concentration camp can embrace suffering and find a meaning in life there, surely you can handle a cold shower.

Posted on February 20, 2014 and filed under Uncategorized.

Book review: The Paleo Manifesto

John Durant is the reason I started eating paleo and following this lifestyle. I saw him on The Colbert Report in 2010, bookmarked his website, started following him on twitter, and slowly began to inquire more and more about the hunter/gatherer/paleo lifestyle. Then I went all-in at the beginning of 2011 and haven't looked back. So I've been looking forward to his book for a long time. Manifesto: "a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer from" - Merriam-Webster's dictionary

I didn't know what to expect from John's The Paleo Manifesto. My original thoughts were "Oh, great. Yet another paleo diet book. How many times/ways can we talk about the paleo diet?" But I was quite relieved while reading this book and finding out that it was not another diet book. As John has discussed many times during his interviews, he did not set out to write another diet book. He wanted to write a book about the paleo lifestyle. He has said that he hates reading diet books. I'm beginning to feel the same way; so this book is a welcome relief from those.

The Paleo Manifesto is divided into 3 parts: Origins (the past), Here and Now (the present), and Visions (the future). After Chapter 1 - where he tells the story of "Becoming the Caveman" including his appearance on Colbert - he starts Origins by discussing the health and behaviors of captive gorillas, comparing that to modern day humans being kept in a "zoo city" away from our natural environment. Then in the Paleolithic Age chapter, he tells about his trip to Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where he got to hold a skull from 80,000 years ago. He tells about the changes our Paleolithic ancestors went through leading up to the Agricultural Age. Chapter 4 is mostly a discussion about disease, cleanliness, and the rise of cities. A great, notable quote from that chapter: "It took a few thousand years for scientists to catch up with the book of Leviticus."

In the chapter on the Industrial Age, John discusses the rise of modern society and medicine: "we learned how to not die." I really liked the discussion about habitat features in that chapter: "features that were constant (e.g., gravity), features that were cyclical over a certain period (e.g., day and night), and features that were varied within certain bounds (e.g., temperature)." This reminded me of Nassim Taleb's Antifragile which I read recently. The last chapter in Origins is on the Information Age, titled "Biohackers." Here he talks about all the new technology and information we have, and how people use it to "hack" their health. "Hackers don't try to avoid failure; they embrace it."

In Part Two: Here and Now, John does give the obligatory discussion of food but not in a typical, boring way we've read in diet books (sorry diet book authors!). A few great quotes here to whet your appetite (pun intended): "The advice to 'eat fewer processed foods' actually means 'Eat fewer industrial foods.'" "It's a shame that dietary 'fat' is referred to by the same word used to designate someone as being overweight. Encouraging modern women to eat more fat is about as easy as selling them a makeup called Ugly." "Plants are the source of the vast majority of medicines, poisons, and psychoactive drugs." "Killing an animal is hard; digesting one is easy. Killing a plant is easy; digesting one is hard." "Apparently soybeans grow best in bullshit."

John goes on to discuss topics like counting calories, eating earth/clay/dirt, cannibalism, and fasting ("Breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day; breaking a fast is."). Then he moves on to a chapter about movement (exercise). He tells of his experience with CrossFit ("CrossFit was revolution in motivation") and MovNat, and about humans needing the proper motivation to exercise. Then a brief chapter on barefoot walking and running with a cool sidebar of authors who wrote standing up. I found the chapter on Thermoregulation very cool! John writes about his experience as a part of the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim Club; taking a swim on New Year's Day in the Atlantic Ocean! In contrast, he mentions the benefits of sweat baths and saunas. This is stuff I'm really looking forward to experimenting with. He ends Part Two with a discussion of circadian rhythm (Sunrise, Sunset). This is an incredibly important chapter with good info about SPF levels of sunscreen lotion and vitamin D.

In Part Three, John talks about the future of the paleo movement and our evolution. He tells about his first experience hunting and discusses the arguments vegans and vegetarians make against the paleo lifestyle, including sustainability. An important quote: "...one can have a far greater impact by contributing money to start-ups that are doing it right than by abstaining from buying products from established players that are doing it wrong."

This is definitely an essential book for everyone who eats and/or follows this paleo lifestyle. It's very well-written and fun to read. It's more of a beach book than a text book, for sure. My overall "feel" for the book is that it's more of a why we should live this way. But not necessarily the in-depth science behind why; more of the evolutionary, anthropological reason. Get it! Read it!

Posted on September 16, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Book Review: Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore

Cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL OH MY!! Confused already? Jimmy Moore's new book Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is wrong with my numbers? is an extensive discussion about all of these important markers and much more. He calls on 29 experts in the field of heart disease; from cardiologists to dieticians to health writers/bloggers. Jimmy has gathered tons of info from these experts and quoted them throughout the book. It's like attending a discussion with 30 (Jimmy included) experts and soaking in all the glorious, fatty, cholesterol-laden info! The book is 21 chapters deep on topics like inflammation, statins, vegetable oils, the vegetarian myth, what doctors say about specific indicators and why, and how we got into this mess...amongst many others.

Cholesterol Clarity is written for the layperson. It's for anyone who is curious about cholesterol numbers, statins, and the REAL cause of heart disease. If you've had a cholesterol blood screening, get your numbers out and sit down (or walk in a treadmill or pace the hallways, like me) with this book. If your doctor is trying to prescribe you a statin, read this book and buy him/her a copy. Any layperson will learn a great deal from it and probably change their minds about cholesterol.

However if you're not new to the paleo/primal/real food/ancestral/Weston A. Price/low carb scene, you probably won't learn a lot. I started reading the book already knowing a lot about this subject. But I'm a nerd and read Chris Masterjohn's blog so that's expected. I'm not saying it's all old info for me; I DID learn some cool stuff about the cholesterol markers and a few other tidbits. It's just not super science-y (which is good!).

This is definitely a book that needs to be shared with any of your loved ones who are still scared of cholesterol and fat-rich foods. The book will help shed some light on the dark subject and hopefully change some minds (especially physicians' minds).

Posted on September 6, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Goodbye Crossfit

Yes, it's time for me to quit crossfit (mostly). The reason? It's dangerous. Those high reps and that intensity for that long of period leaves people highly prone to injuries...more than almost any other sport. This post over at Spartan Fitness explains the injury statistics in detail. It's an extreme sport, as they say. And I'm not interested in doing an extreme sport. Some can and want to. Good for them. If that's your thing, do it! Just know the risk of injury is high! Certainly WODs can be scaled for not-so-extreme athletes. But a lot of newish crossfitters work too hard at the WODs at too great of intensity to keep up with the higher level athletes. This leaves them prone to poor form leading to injuries. I've been injured twice during my year and half of crossfitting. And I KNOW it was from improper form. I'm not blaming anyone but myself, of course. I should have been more careful (used a lighter weight or less reps).

I'm very grateful for my time crossfitting. I learned a lot about myself and what I can handle. I also built a great foundation for the lifts (Olympic and power lifting). I'm very grateful to all the coaches at my gym for what they've taught me. But it's time to move on. I still do crossfit-type of workouts. When I go to the gym, I usually do some strength based lifts (deadlift, squat, weighted pullups, presses) at my own pace. The I'll do a short metcon lasting no longer than 10 minutes. It's usually 4 or 5 movements, 4 or 5 sets, 5-10 reps depending on weights. Simple. If I need to break the metcon up in half and take a little break in the middle, I will. I don't keep the intensity up for long periods.

I'll probably go to my crossfit gym every once in awhile if the workout isn't too crazy. I will definitely miss the friends I've met there and the encouragement from them. I'm not saying NO ONE should do crossfit. I just think that if you do, you need to not be afraid to go light in weight and not do all the reps in the WOD. Form first! Always! It's really okay if you don't do it all. No one is going to call you a wuss. And if they do, they're a bunch of dumb assholes! As long as you push yourself, don't get hurt, and learn something, then you had a good workout. But if you feel any kind of pain, stop! No matter what! Pain is your body telling you you're doing something wrong.

So that's my reasoning for quitting crossfit. I've learned a lot, but it's time to move on. I hope other crossfitters can keep these ideas in the back of their minds as they decide to quit or continue with it. Good luck!

Thanks to Jamie Scott over at thatpaleoguy.com for keeping it real.

Posted on July 26, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Strategy for night shift workers

All over the paleo community, we hear about how detrimental shift work is for your health. Wolf, Sisson, Kresser...all of the bloggers and authors stress how important it is to sleep at night and be outside in the sun during the day. Wasn't there a recent post about how shift work is a carcinogen?! Well some of us have no choice and have to work nights at some point. I'm a nurse. We switch between days and nights every 3-5 months at my hospital. Luckily for me, there's that much time in between changing shifts. Some people aren't so lucky and switch every month or even less. So if you HAVE to work nights, there are some strategies you can use to limit the harmful effects. First, I'll cover transitioning to night shift. You have to change your sleep incrementally. I stay up a little later each night leading up to my first full night shift. If you don't have the luxury of getting a few nights to do so, you'll just have to tough it out; maybe take naps to curb your sleep schedule to a later time. The idea is resetting your circadian rhythm. You have to flip your cortisol and melatonin levels. It might take a week or more to fully adjust. You'll just have to suck it up and deal with the consequences until you get your sleep schedule right. Just keep at it!

Speaking of sleep, black out your room! I have reflective foam I bought from Lowe's stuffed into my bedroom window. Then I covered the cracks with duck tape and have blackout curtains over those. I still get some light in, but it's not too bad. Luckily, my apartment doesn't get direct sunlight at any time during the day. I sleep in a cold room (just like when I'm on day shift) and use a fan to drown out "noise of the day" around my apartment complex. I put up a sign on my door that says "Do not disturb. Night shift worker." It may seem tacky, but it works. Keeps the damn Jehovah's witnesses from annoying me.

When I wake, I go for a short walk in the sunlight without sunglasses to wake up my body (think hormones, reducing melatonin) and get some vitamin D. After that, I treat the "day" just like a normal day shift. I make coffee (I've been doing one caffeinated cup and one decaf lately) and get ready for work. If I'm off that day, I'll go for a longer walk in the sun and workout a few hours after waking.

I supplement with vitamin D drops during night shifts also. (Actually, I supplement it some on days too. I'm indoors while the sun is out!) I adjust depending on how much I'm able to get sunlight and how much vitamin D-containing fish I'm eating. I try to get a vitamin D blood level towards the beginning of switching to nights and keep track periodically (it's easy when you work in a hospital...sorry!)

Once I'm at work I use a light therapy device for 30-45 minutes while I'm sitting at a desk. These are used for seasonal affective disorder and can help shift workers. It does NOT give off UV light, so you will not produce vitamin D with it. But the bright light reduces melatonin. I just make sure I'm not using it too late in my shift; only in the first few hours.

I'm also sure to do the usual healthy stuff we all know we should be doing: eating real, nutritious foods, standing up often, walking (if it's a really boring night, I read while pacing the halls slowly), do some lacrosse ball rolling, do some squats, push-ups, or even pull-ups (we have a door-mounted pull-up station), maybe even meditate using my HRV monitor.

On my way home from work, the sun is already out. You don't want to get direct sunlight before going to bed. It will reduce melatonin. So I wear Solar Shield UV blocking glasses. There are more stylish ones you can search for. Check out Chris Kresser's post about how artificial light is wrecking your sleep.

It's important to stay on the same sleep pattern while on nights. Many people change their sleep schedule on days off: sleeping for a few hours and then getting up to do things during their usual sleep time. It's imperative you don't do that. Try your best to stay on the same schedule. It's hard to resist spending time with friends/family on your weekends off. But you have to do your best not to adjust your sleep schedule too much. Remember, it's all about the hormones!

I think this is a topic that's been lacking in our community. People need to figure it out. Maybe Paleo Hacks has some tips. I don't know...I don't get on there. What tips do you have for night shift workers?

Posted on July 1, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Book Review: Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha

I finally finished Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha. It took me awhile because I was engulfed in the new Dan Brown book Inferno (so good!). Man 2.0 has some good points. The authors discuss the important role of hormones in fat loss and muscle building, and they lay out a detailed program for doing so. Insulin reset is by far the most important factor in transitioning from an unhealthy diet to a fat loss and muscle building one. The book covers in detail how to determine your lean body mass, daily amount of calories, and even breaks down how many grams of fats, carbs, and protein you should be eating daily. Every phase of the program has a different focus with each phase having a detailed workout plan and diet.

I agree that this book will immensely help anyone who is eating a standard American diet of processed crap, not sleeping, not exercising (or exercising poorly). If you have the time to go through all of these calculations, measure all your food, and track every calorie entering your body, then do it! I think you would see some amazing changes. I think I would see some changes if if I were able to implement the program. But I don't have the time nor energy to do so. It would take A LOT of work.

Before the authors get into the program, they discuss hormones and general life improvement tips. They repeat themselves many times on the same topics. It starts to get pretty mundane after awhile. Very repetitive.

And that's pretty much the extent of the review. I have no doubt that people could (and have) benefit from the program. But the amount of time it takes.... I just can't do it with my work schedule and lifestyle. I believe it's better to focus on eating real food, sleeping, exercising, walking, getting sunlight, having sex, reducing/managing stress, playing, laughing, smiling, and whatever else you do as your life permits. And I'm sure the authors agree with me. It's just not practical to count every calorie and perform long calculations to figure out your daily required protein intake. Just live life man!

Posted on May 31, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.