Archive | July, 2014

Energy Leaks: Fixing Your Flat Tires

31 Jul

Energy Leaks: Fixing Your Flat Tires

Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

“The bird that learns to fly must also learn to land. She flies far but never forgets her nesting place. She travels far, yet understands her boundaries. One who flits about seeking peace forgets to look in her own tree.” – Haven Trevino

As I was filling up one of my car tires with air over the weekend, I got to thinking about the concept of energy leaks. You see, there’s a nail in one of my tires, which is causing a slow air leak, and I have to fill it up every so often—about once or twice a week—to avoid a complete flat, damaging the wheel, etc. Of course, I could just hire a mechanic to patch up the tire, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it…but I’m “too busy” for that.

Putting this into perspective, I realized that this is a major energy leak, which I’m addressing reactively, that is having a fairly significant negative impact and much further reaching implications than I give it credit.

Sure, it only costs a dollar to fill the tire up with air, but after three or four weeks (it’s actually been a few months), that adds up. What if I don’t have proper change? What if the air machine at the gas station where I stopped is out of service? How is this affecting fuel efficiency? Clearly, there are time and financial resources being drained.

What about the additional anxiety it causes? While I don’t think about it when I’m working, I’m concerned about a potential blowout when I’m driving on the highway. What about the incessantly annoying blinking light telling me that my air pressure is low? Duh.

Obviously, a simple leaky tire isn’t so simple: It’s an energy leak that’s rearing its ugly head on my resources. While I shared some examples of how this problem was specifically draining my energy (literally), the tire leaking air itself is a figurative metaphor for the energy leaks—both big and small—that we incur daily.

All of this got me thinking about how energy leaks may be impacting my sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency. In addition, it is a good reminder how important it is to take a more proactive approach.

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Although somewhat abstract, energy is ubiquitous, yet our energy capacity is finite. That is, we only have a limited amount of energy, although we have many different “buckets” in which we invest it. Thought of differently, proper energy provision affects and is impacted by our environment, relationships, finances, health and fitness, mental and emotional health, and much more.

In this way, stressful thoughts and feelings, incomplete tasks and to-dos, negative relationships, etc., can all be energy leaks that have a negative impact on the achievement of our goals and visions.

In his book Stress Management Through Ancient Wisdom And Modern Science, Umesh Sharma lists the following categories as potential “energy leaks“:

  • Unfinished business (e.g., conflicts with family, friends, co-workers; financial debts; overdue assignments; incomplete projects at home or work; incomplete tasks/to-dos)
  • Physical environment (e.g., is your home/work environment congruent with your beliefs, intentions, etc.; is there clutter everywhere you look; is your form of transportation clean and in good condition)
  • Support systems (e.g., do you give and receive energy from your spouse, friends, and family in a healthy way; do you know where to get help and how to ask for it when needed)
  • Physical health (e.g., do you eat in a way that optimizes your health, fitness, and vitality; do you get routine physical exams; do you exercise regularly; do you get enough sleep; do you rely on drugs/substances to “give” you energy)
  • Mental/emotional/spiritual health (e.g., do you owe an apology; do you practice mindfulness; do you meditate; do you challenge yourself mentally; are you interested and engaged in your line of work)

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We are all prone to energy leaks, but the most important factor may be identifying them and addressing them proactively. It may be challenging to plug some of these energy drains and some—like that “thank you” note you haven’t written—may seem superficial. However, these are all tied back to you and are zapping your energy.

What are some of your energy leaks? I encourage you to identify yours, and once you do, you can start explore ways you can close them. At the same time, you may think about your “energy gains,” or those things, activities, people, etc., which bring you great energy. Ultimately, “fixing your flat tires” will leave you feeling more energized and healthy, and you’ll be ready to focus on the big things that matter most.

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Stress management can be tricky, but things like yoga, meditation, mindful breathing, physical activity, managing finances, and healthy relationships can all contribute to healthy stress levels. While herbalists have known this for centuries, more and more research suggests that certain herbs (i.e., adaptogens) may be helpful in combating cortisol and improving stress levels.

As a matter of fact, scientists recently found that daily supplementation with a combination of Magnolia bark extract and Phellodendron bark extract (i.e., Relora®) reduces cortisol exposure and perceived daily stress, while improving a variety of mood state parameters, including lower fatigue and higher vigor, which suggests “an effective natural approach to modulating the detrimental health effects of chronic stress in moderately stressed adults.”

Thus, while you’re prioritizing and learning how to best manage your stress, you may be able to at least put a “patch” on the leaks and lessen the damage.

[Author’s Note: I wrote a portion of this as I was waiting for my tire to be repaired.]

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References:

Talbott SM et al. Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 7;10(1):37.

Thirthalli J et al. Cortisol and antidepressant effects of yoga. Indian J Psychiatry. Jul 2013; 55(Suppl 3): S405–S408.

Turakitwanakan W et al. Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 Jan;96 Suppl 1:S90-5.

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Taking Probiotics with Food

22 Jul

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Question: It is frequently recommended that probiotics be taken on an empty stomach. If we take them right before we eat, won’t many of them die by being in the stomach with the food?

Answer: There are a few reasons why it’s recommended to take Pro-X10 with food. First of all, foods typically contain fermentable substrates that can help nourish probiotic organisms as they transit through the GI tract. In addition, many probiotics actually secrete certain enzymes that aid in the digestion of foods. What’s more, the original delivery mode of probiotics was via fermented foods.

In addition, Pro-X10 contains the kiwifruit extract Actazin, which is rich in an enzyme called actinidin that helps support the breakdown and digestion of proteins, including gluten. As a matter of fact, recent research suggests that the actinidin enzyme can enhance the digestion and breakdown of gluten by over 300%. (This further augments the compatibility between Pro-X10 and AbsorbMax, which forms quite the dynamic duo when it comes to digestive health.)

Believe it or not, the fasting pH of the stomach is actually lower (i.e., more acidic) than when a meal is administered. Generally speaking, in the fasted state, the gastric pH (i.e., stomach) is between 0.8 – 2, which on the acidic side. Gastric pH following food intake typically ranges from 4 – 7, which is exponentially less acidic.

Despite popular belief, this is yet another reason to take your probiotics with food. That is, it is a common misconception that the pH of the stomach is less acidic when it is empty; hence, the rationale for taking probiotics on an empty stomach. However, this is a false misconception, which ultimately leads to a greater die-off of the living organisms. Here are some additional references on the topic:

Should probiotics be taken with food or on an empty stomach? (Article)

Should probiotics be taken on an empty or full stomach? (Video)

Of course, all probiotics are not created equally. The probiotics in Pro-X10 are protected by microencapsulation technology that wraps these volatile microorganisms in a lipid layer, which protects them from the harsh environment of the stomach. What’s more, two of the non-microencapsulated strains (e.g., Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus subtilis) thrive in an acidic environment. As matter of fact, research investigating this very technology has found that it is 5 times more effective at delivering probiotics to the gut than traditional probiotics.

Clearly, taking probiotics with food, even a relatively small amount, seems like the ideal option. With that in mind, taking your Pro-X10 up to 15 minutes before a meal, during a meal, or up to 30 minutes after a meal would be considered an ideal time frame for administration.

Of course, if you understand the value of probiotics and the significance of gut health and the far-reaching implications of the gut microbiome, then you likely also know how important digestive enzymes are to digestive system function and overall health. Whereas probiotics provide the foundation for GI health, digestive enzymes are the “keys” that unlock food’s potential.

They are charged with the responsibility of breaking down the foods we eat into their constituent nutrients. That is, while we eat foods, the body needs the macro and micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc., that are contained within foods. In the absence of adequate digestive enzymes, food goes undigested. This means missing out on important nutrients, but perhaps more importantly means chronic inflammation, difficulty losing weight, gas, bloating, and more.

With that in mind, the addition of AbsorbMax, a full-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement, may be helpful in optimizing digestive system function and health—and all areas of physiology that it affects. AbsorbMax contains an array of proteases, lipases, and amylases, which serve to fully break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates, respectively.

Even more, AbsorbMax contains specific digestive enzymes that may help with the breakdown of soluble and insoluble fibers found in vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods:

  • Alpha-Galactosidase
  • Beta-Glucanase
  • Cellulase
  • Hemicellulase
  • Pectin

These enzymes assist with the breakdown of difficult-to-digest plant-based fibers, also known as non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs), which contain a variety of resistant starches, glycogen, and related polysaccharides. Food preparation, chewing, a healthy population of gut microbes, and you guessed it, supplementation all assist in proper assimilation. It’s when these fibers go completely undigested that the carbohydrates are left to ferment and create undesirable symptoms like gas and other digestive discomfort.

These same digestive enzymes may also help release other nutrients (e.g., polyphenols) that may otherwise remain “trapped” in cell walls. AbsorbMax also contains the phytase enzyme, which helps inactivate phytic acid, often known as an anti-nutrient because of its affinity to bind to minerals (e.g., zinc, iron, etc.) and reduce their absorption.

As Dr. M. Mamadou says, probiotics and digestive enzymes are two partners that are neither to be confused nor separated.

Meal Frequency: Does It Matter?

15 Jul

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

You’re ready. Whether it’s doctor’s orders, an upcoming high school reunion, a New Year’s resolution, a significant other (or, potential significant other), or that pair of skinny jeans staring at you in the closet, you now have the motivation that you need to get started on your weight loss journey. You’re going to sign up for a personal trainer at your gym. You’ve got all of your BioTrust supplements. You’re ready to take on the dreaded d-word: The Diet.

One of the first questions that’s bound to come up: When it comes to body composition and fat loss, does meal frequency matter?

Sorry if this hits you like a ton of bricks, but the conditional answer is that meal frequency probably doesn’t matter. It’s conditional because it does hinge on the much more important factors of food choices and portion control. That is, when calories and macronutrients are controlled, meal frequency doesn’t matter. Better said, if you eat the right types of food (i.e., food choices) in the right amounts (i.e., portion control), meal frequency becomes a matter of personal preference.

Thus, if you do a better job of eating more metabolism-boosting protein and health-promoting vegetables over the course of six meals, then that may be the best strategy for you. However, if you do better with a few larger meals, then go for it.

There are some downsides to each approach. Starting with smaller, more frequent feedings, it just doesn’t bode well for many people for some of the following reasons:

  • It typically requires significant meal planning and preparation.
  • Many people “watch the clock” either waiting for the next meal or making sure they don’t miss one.
  • You spend a lot of time eating.
  • Many folks tend to schedule their days around their meals.
  • This population tends to be more apt to get HANGRY.

Likewise, there may be some pitfalls to less frequent feedings:

  • Some folks have a much harder time with portion control.
  • Likewise, some people will find it more challenging to include as much nutrient-dense food in a shorter period of time and/or fewer feedings.

That sounds convincing, but is there any research that actually compares meal frequency?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there is quite a bit of research on the topic. Researchers from Purdue recently performed a meal frequency experiment where they divided overweight men into multiple groups. One group of men consumed six meals per day, evenly spread out every two hours. Another group of men consumed precisely the same total number of calories in three feedings, which were separated by five hours. Both groups were following a calorie-restricted diet, but the scientists noted no significant differences in weight loss as a result of meal frequency.

Interestingly, the authors of the study did find that those subjects who ate fewer, larger meals experienced greater late-night fullness, which could potentially reduce the chances of snacking. Furthermore, the researchers noted that there were more compliance issues with the group assigned to eating six meals per day. On top of the meal frequency portion of the study, the scientists found that, compared to a normal-protein diet (i.e., 14% of calories), a high-protein diet (i.e., 25% of calories) collectively led to improved appetite and satiety and lower late-night urges to eat as well as reduced preoccupation with food.

In another study that appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists again separated subjects into high meal frequency (i.e., 6 meals per day) and low meal frequency (i.e., 3 meals per day) groups. Both groups of subjects followed a reduced-calorie diet, and at the end of eight weeks, the researchers found no significant difference in body weight, fat mass, lean body mass, or body mass index. The authors concluded that increased meal frequency “does not promote greater body weight loss.”

In a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the US Department of Agriculture, researchers questioned the notion that, despite its commonality, “three squares” (i.e.,three meals per day) is optimal for health. The scientists separated subjects into two groups. One group group consumed three meals per day while the other group consumed only one. The groups both consumed an equal number of calories daily, which were assigned at maintenance level (i.e., not a calorie-restricted study). After eight weeks, the researchers found that reduced meal frequency (i.e. one meal per day), without a reduction in calories, led to a significant modification in body composition including reductions in body fat, as well as a significant decrease in cortisol.

Perhaps most important, the renowned International Society of Sports Nutrition, one of the world’s top authorities on sports nutrition, recently released their position stand on meal frequency. It should be noted that, when an organization of this magnitude issues a position statement on any given topic, it’s typically regarded as solid evidence—the closest to the truth as we know from science. In said statement, the organization concluded that increasing meal frequency does not appear to favorably change body composition.

What about the idea of “stoking” the metabolism with smaller, more frequent meals?

As you’ll see in our Critical Elements of Fat Loss Training article, there are several components that make up one’s metabolic rate (i.e., energy expenditure). This particular argument rests on the notion that eating more frequently will increase the element of metabolism known as the Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF), which refers to the amount of energy that the body uses to digest, absorb, and assimilate all of the nutrients we consume (from food).

Sure, it makes sense. If you eat more frequently, there will be more increases (i.e., pulses) in metabolic rate due to the TEF associated with each meal. However, do more pulses mean a greater overall response? Nope. As a matter of fact, the most extensive review of studies performed on TEF and various meal frequencies, ranging between 1 – 17 meals, concluded:

“Studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging.” [NOTE: This is NOT an excuse to gorge oneself; rather, it is to make a point regarding TEF. This is a completely other issue in and of itself.]

Furthermore, the researchers also negated the notion that meal frequency has an effect on weight loss and concluded that “any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation.” Hmmm…that sounds a lot like food choices and portion control.

Surely, if you miss a meal, the body will go into starvation mode, right?

Not so much. Efficient adaptation to famine was no doubt a significant metabolic consequence during evolution (See: Understanding leptin). A decrease in metabolic rate during times of starvation was actually a good thing, as it increased the likelihood of living until one perhaps found some sustenance. However, it’s important to delineate starvation from missing a meal or even fasting for 24 hours. The idea that skipping a meal or implementing a short fast or intermittent fasting (IF) results in a reduced metabolic rate is not substantiated by science.

As a matter of fact, the earliest that scientific research has noted a decrease in metabolic rate in response to fasting is after 60 hours, which resulted in an 8% drop. Other research has shown that a dip in metabolic rate does not occur until 72 – 90 hours of fasting. Even with more pronounced IF protocols that implement daily fasts, the longest time without food is typically about 36 hours, which may actually have the opposite-than-expected effect on metabolic rate.

Ironically, there is frequently a short-term boost in metabolism with fasting. Studies have shown an increase of 4 – 10% in metabolic rate with fasting up to 36 – 48 hours. This likely is the result of increased catecholamines (i.e., epinephrine and norepinephrine), which serve to provide more energy and sharpen focus. This can be seen as desirable as the body is now in somewhat of a “fight” mode to find food. At some point—as mentioned above—this would be counter-productive, and the body would have to decrease metabolic rate in order to simply survive.

With all that being said, the best approach, in terms of meal frequency, may be the one that best works for you. That is, as long as you choose the right types of foods and eat them in the appropriate amounts, then meal frequency doesn’t matter.