Saturday, October 27, 2007

Whole Grains and Half Truths

If you knew about a product that could reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes, aid your digestion and manage your weight while allowing you to eat MORE – would you buy it?

You bet you would. And you’d be smart to do so. Whole grains have tremendous health benefits. They are rich in phenolic acids, phytochemicals, antioxidants and good stuff that’s harder to get from fruits and vegetables such as fiber, iron, magnesium, and vitamins B and E.

The downside? Food companies are falling all over themselves to offer you something that appears to be whole grain, but in truth may be far from it. They’d love to continue selling you the same old crap under a different name.

So how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Best case scenario is to look for foods bearing the “100%Whole Grain Stamp” from the Whole Grains Council. If you can’t find these foods, then you’ll need to read the labels more carefully. Most importantly, look for the word “whole”. Words like “durum”, “wheat”, “organic” and “multigrain” may sound good, but are pretty much meaningless without those five magic letters
“W-H-O-L-E” – so read carefully. Secondly, once you’ve found a bona fide whole grain, make sure it’s first up on the ingredients list. If it’s listed second, the product could consist of as little as one percent whole grain - and you’d have no way of knowing.

So pay attention to your labels. If you don’t, you might not be buying whole grain, you might be buying a lemon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Creeping Crud

My Consumer Reports "On Health Magazine" had a cover story this month on the rising cases of staph infections in gyms and health clubs around the country. Another good reason to workout at home. My guess is that the ropes, rings, pull-up bars and parallel bars at the beach where I workout aren't thoroughly cleaned every day, so I thought that maybe it was time to bring some hand cleaner to the beach on Sundays. Turns out that dangerous bacterial infections are on the rise all over the place. A whole new batch of antibiotic resistant strains of these little buggers also laugh at penicillin. I suppose if I read less I'd be less paranoid, but Doctors warned of this some 10 years ago when we all started using alcohol based "anti-bacterial" hand sanitizers. The experts said that the bacteria and viruses would mutate to build immunity to the very medicines and cleaners that are supposed to protect us. The over use of antibiotic medications has caused these little suckers to mutate and figure out new ways to infect us. Now there are super virus' and bacteria that are smart; they mutate the moment we stop taking the drugs to control them, thus making those drugs obsolete. (aids patients who stop taking their prescribed medication, even for one day, must start over in their medication regimen because the virus figures out how to circumvent the medicine in 24-48 hours and renders it obsolete)

There are several schools of thought, mostly in the psychiatric field, however, that we are genetically predisposed to illness. All the case studies I have read could be interpreted as a direct result of environment and behavior effecting our genetics. In the few physical illness articles I was able to find, doctors and scientists are somewhat divided and unclear. For instance, some sheep farmers in Britain are genetically effected by the chemicals they put on their sheep, and are unable, due to a genetic mutation caused by said chemicals, to fight off the damaging effects of the very chemicals they use to protect the sheep. Spraying pesticides to control West Nile Virus, does very little to control the virus, but has a very adverse effect on people, plants, and animals. In a study in northern Idaho, the town was sprayed with Malathion, the accepted pesticide for mosquito control. It did very little to control the bug population, (it is the larvae that needs to be killed, and you do that most effectively by not providing a home. e.g.. stagnant water) but caused some people in the region to stop producing a natural enzyme which allows them to fight off neuro toxins in the body. Thus, creating a bigger problem than the one or two cases of people getting sick from the virus itself.

In 2005, the American Thoracic Society released a study citing that children living next to highways and who have certain genetic backgrounds, are more likely to suffer from asthma than those living farther from the road. Uh, duh... I would think that if you live next to a major highway, you are certainly more likely to suffer from the effects of the pollution produced by living next to the road. And they failed to study whether or not the genetic alteration was caused by the parent living next to the road in the previous generation and passing that genetic code on to the child. Chicken or the egg? I'm not an expert but, I guess what I am saying is, we are constantly bombarded by virus' and bacteria and pollution, always have, always will. That bombardment has increased exponentially in the industrialized era. In a society that views the band aid as the fix, we need to remember we cannot take a pill or use a lotion to fix this. We need to take the actions necessary to increase our immunity naturally in order to survive. I believe the answer involves getting back to basics, what we put in and on our bodies and how we treat our bodies, exercise, diet, stress, etc. is a direct cause and effect.

We should remember, our own immune system is the best first defense we have and we should do everything in our power to make it as strong as possible. Naturally.

I'm just sayin...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Strength Training - More Than Just Getting Ripped

We know that strength training is an important part of a Power 90 or P90X routine. Why? It makes you stronger, and I'm not just talking about the shape of your biceps or the size of your pecs. Resistance training strengthens bones, ligaments, and tendons as well as your muscles. All together, a well oiled internal machine improves your balance and power, while shortening recovery time and risk of injury.

The difference between a full spectrum workout like Power 90 or P90X and an all-aerobic workout regimen is huge. People who perform aerobic only routines run the risk of overuse injuries and their fitness is imbalanced. Runners for example work their calves and hamstrings hard, but the quads and upper body get off easy. It’s important to strengthen all the major muscle groups for overall fitness balance and reduce injury risks. No matter how careful they are (varying their workout intensity, the terrain, wearing good shoes, etc.), runners who do not balance with strength training are likely to suffer from some kind of running related injury sooner or later.

Strength and power start at the core. Your core strength, which comes from your abdomen, back and trunk is the center for most of your power, agility and balance. That’s why we bust out the crunches, lunges, and squats. Strengthen the core and you’ve got a lot more umph to rock out the outer, sport specific muscles. Another major benefit to muscle training is creating muscle density. The denser your muscles, the higher your metabolism – and you know what that means. You can consume more calories without gaining weight. Now that’s incentive!