Metabolism Boosting Tips to Optimize Your Weight

Some Great Tips Here:

By Dr. Mercola

Do you feel like your metabolism is stuck in first gear? Is your body refusing to let go of that stubborn extra body fat, in spite of making good dietary choices and exercising? Fear not—there are a few simple tricks you can try that are backed by solid nutrition science.Your lifestyle can be “tweaked” in a variety of ways, from what you eat to when you eat, how and when you exercise, and other daily habits such as sleephygiene and stress management. ALL of these play a role in your metabolism

People today move much less and consume more inflammatory foods than they did hundreds and thousands of years ago, and this takes a toll on your metabolism.

A recent article in Time1 makes some excellent metabolism-boosting suggestions, and we will take a look at several of these in detail. But first, let’s examine one of the most common causes of metabolic sluggishness: chronic inflammation.If Your Metabolic Engine Has Stalled, It Could Be Inflammation

If your metabolism is stalled

—or stuck in reverse—it would be helpful to look at what might be keeping your body in a state of low-level inflammation. It’s well established that weight gain is often a sign of chronic low-level inflammation, and frequently this is related to the foods you are eating.

Food sensitivities can lead you down the road toward insulin and leptin resistance and can seriously hamper your metabolism.2 When you have a food sensitivity or allergy, your body feels “attacked” by a food rather than nourished by it.

Inflammatory molecules are then produced and circulated to protect you from your body’s perceived threat, causing you to decrease insulin and leptin sensitivity. Your body is under stress so it uses its resources differently. This is typically accompanied by a gut dysbiosis, an imbalance in the microorganisms in your digestive tract.

In addition to food allergies and sensitivities, inflammation can be caused by a number of different factors, including poor sleep, environmental toxins, stress, and other factors. Even overexercising may stall your metabolism by triggering inflammation, pain, water retention, etc.

The foods most likely to be pro-inflammatory are junk foods and highly processed foods, grains, foods high in sugar (especially fructose), and GMOs. For help with dietary strategies, please refer to my Optimized Nutrition Plan. However, many people have food sensitivities to what would normally be consideredhealthy foods, such as gluten, nuts, and dairy products.

It’s important to not rule out the possibility that you may be having an unhealthy reaction to a “healthy” food. These food sensitivities can be very subtle, so they can sometimes be challenging to identify, requiring some trial and error.

Whey Protein Fuels Muscle Growth and Repair

The featured article suggests that whey protein may be effective for kicking up your metabolism, and I couldn’t agree more. According to Paul Arciero, a professor in the Health and Exercise Sciences department at Skidmore College:

“Whey protein increases calorie burn and fat utilization, helps the body maintain muscle, and triggers the brain to feel full.”

Protein in general has a tendency to rev up your metabolic engine due to its thermogenic effects—meaning, it makes your body produce more heat and in turn, burn more calories—but whey is particularly effective for this.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fat oxidation and thermogenic effects are greater with whey than with soy or casein.3

Consuming a high-quality, rapidly absorbed, and easily assimilated whey protein concentrate, not isolate within about 30 minutes of resistance training may maximally stimulate muscle building in young healthy individuals, but this is equally important, if not more so, for the elderly.

People tend to lose muscle mass as they age. The leaner you are, the better your metabolism will be, regardless of your age. There is only about a two-hour window after exercise for optimal muscle repair and growth, and supplying your muscles with the right food at this time is essential—and whey is among the best.

Read More

V Art of Wellness 3rd Feature in DEPARTURES Magazine

Chris and Tracie Vlaun referred to as “The Power Couple” In Departures City Confidential.

Flexibility: More is not necessarily better.


Juan Carlos Santana, MEd, CSCS

If you ask coaches or trainers why their athletes or clients should stretch you will get a myriad of different answers. You will hear that it increases range of motion (ROM), prevents injuries, it prepares the body for work, it creates balance between opposing muscle groups, it relaxes you and its fun! Well I suppose that all of these reasons are true to some degree. However, they are not all true, to all individuals, at all times. The reasons to stretch and increase flexibility are individual as your clients.

I have seen stretching nightmares in every gym I have ever been in, trainers doing the same stretches with all of their clients – some right out a torture handbook. The worst and most common offender is the “client on his/her back, knees to the chest, back rounded, butt off the floor, and the 200 lb trainer pushing down on the legs – asking for submission” stretch. Many times it resembles more a pinning combination from professional wrestling than a stretch. Even within the scientific literature, I have rarely seen a real practical and organized approach taken when it concerns flexibility. It is a simple case of “everyone knows that flexibility is good – so more must be better”.

One of the problems with delineating protocols and recommendations is the ambiguous use of terminology. Many times, stretching and flexibility are used interchangeably. The assessments used are also many times inappropriate and do not provide accurate information about specific muscles. Therefore, it would be prudent to start by drawing a distinction between flexibility and stretching.

Stretching is the practice of elongating soft tissue. Flexibility can be defined as “the range of motion possible around a specific joint or a series of articulations”. This definition implies that the body, or joint in question, is at rest while the range of motion is being measured or expressed. This is why it is also termed “static flexibility”. However, motion is an important factor when it comes to flexibility. The consideration of motion into the flexibility equation allows us to draw a distinction between “static” and “dynamic flexibility”.

Dynamic flexibility is the most “functional” (i.e. flexibility you can use). Outside of certain sports, such as gymnastics, flexibility is expressed dynamically and fluidly. Dynamic flexibility also requires control over the entire range of motion at any given movement. This control comes only through a perfect blend of mobility and stability (i.e. functional flexibility and strength). Gary Gray and Vern Gambetta call this blend “mostability”. Gary defines mostability as the “ability to functionally take advantage of just the right amount of motion, at just the right joint, in just the right plane, in just the right direction, at just the right time”.

Practicing stretching will certainly improve flexibility. However, just because you stretch does not mean your are “functionally flexible”. I, along with many of my colleagues, have trained with many elite athletes who practiced stretching regularly and only acquired moderate flexibility levels. Flexibility is very individualized and it is influenced by several factors. These factors include joint structure, tissue mass, age, gender, activity level, training protocol and motion. Joint structure will greatly dictate the flexibility of a joint.

High levels of flexibility have been typically associated with improved athletic performance and reduced incidences of injury. However, scientific research does not unanimously support this notion. Data from several military studies indicate that the most, and least, flexible recruits displayed higher incidences of injury when compared to recruits with “normal” flexibility. There is also a strong body of sports research that shows no correlation between flexibility and improved performance, or injury prevention. Furthermore, many of the injuries that we regularly attribute to lack of flexibility are actually related to neural inefficiency in stabilizing structures. For example, the work by Hodges, et. al. clearly establishes the relationship between lower back pain and inefficient muscular stabilization of the trunk (e.g. transverse abdominus). Lower back pain is just one of the many symptoms that is regularly attributed to lack of flexibility and nothing else.

Flexibility should be seen like any other aspect of physiology and flexibility training should be addressed as any other training component, individually. Would you demand that your tennis player look and move like a middle-linebacker? NO. Then why would we want to make our tennis player as limber as a gymnast? Flexibility, and its development (i.e. stretching) should be specific to the individual and the activity. Activities that require fast changes of direction (e.g. power-dominated sport and manual labor) require stable and firm joints. A hyper-mobile joint, due to “too much” flexibility, is a definite liability in these activities and a sure sight for an injury. However, the same hyper-mobile joint may be seen be an asset in any activity requiring extreme ranges of motions (e.g. gymnastics and dance). “Not all flexibility is created equal.”

Assessing flexibility is another concept we have managed to distort from what is logical and practical. Standard flexibility, and corresponding “norms”, have been developed by the medical and fitness industry. They are used to assess ROM during rehabilitation and screening, and more importantly, provide objective numbers to insurance carriers, patients and clients. For the healthcare industry, this insures payment by the insurance companies. In the fitness industry, it allows trainers to screen clients and track progress. However there is a problem – “these numbers” for the most part don’t mean anything when it comes to functional flexibility. The “sit and reach”, shoulder rotation and trunk rotation tests are all static tests that don’t really correlate to muscle function or performance. These tests do not accurately describe the strength or control of any joint musculature through the range of motion. This is the essence of functional flexibility.

Now, lets talk about flexibility protocols and their particulars. Although I may offer a look at some of the stretching/strengthening exercises I use, I will not offer “one size fits all” protocols. As we alluded to before, stretching and flexibility needs differ from person to person. Therefore, it becomes impossible to offer a single stretching protocol.

Next in line is the big question, why stretch? In my opinion, the primary reason for stretching is to prepare the body for work. A combination of proper warm-up and stretching allows a host of physiological reactions to occur that are conducive to proper function. These processes include:
– Warms up muscle tissues and joint fluids
– Prepares the neurological system for movement
– Increases heart and respiratory rates
– Turns on processes necessary for accelerated energy production
– Psychologically prepares the individual for work

All of these factors may play an important role in injury prevention, improved performance and prolonged athletic careers. However, they are more associated with proper preparation rather than chronically elongating tissue.

There are some instances where the stretching protocol goes beyond preparation for activity. One circumstance would be acquiring an extreme ROM for successful participation in some sport/activity. This situation would obviously be encountered in wrestling, ballet, and gymnastics. Another situation would be to chronically elongate muscles, which in their shortened state negatively effect the proper movement of a structure. This is often found in individuals who perform too much bench pressing. Their shoulders (i.e. shoulder blade) become so protracted (i.e. shoulders rounded), they compromise the function of the external rotators of the arm. This condition would lead to an injury if the individual tried to partake in any overhead activity, especially involving external rotation. A third instance would be to correct a flexibility imbalance between a pair of muscles. This condition exists in one-sided, repetitive sports such as weightlifting, golf and throwing events. In either of these cases a stretching protocol, conducive to chronically elongating specific muscles would be appropriate.

There are four primary categories of traditional stretching exercises. Although a detailed description of each category is not possible, we will provide an abridged description here with some recommendations on their use. The four categories fall under two major groups, active stretching and passive stretching. Active stretching is where an individual’s own muscular force provides the force for the stretch, that is, with no outside assistance. In passive stretching, a partner or outside force provides the force for the stretch.

The most common type of stretching is “static stretching”. It is easy to learn, it’s effective and results in minimal soreness. Static stretching involves complete relaxation while the muscle is elongated. Each stretch is held to the point of minimal discomfort for 10-30 seconds and repeated up to three times. Each stretch should yield a larger ROM than the previous. A slow toe touch, with a 20-second hold is an example of a static stretch. These are the best stretches for a post workout cool down. They are appropriate for all populations. To use them in the warm-up, precede them with 3-5 minutes of light aerobic activity.

The next category of stretching is “dynamic stretching”. This category uses some momentum to create a greater stretch. The stretches are usually functional movements used to prepare for training or competition/activity. The speed of the stretch is kept under control as not to violate safe ranges of motion. This type of stretch is the most popular amongst athletes, especially during the warm-up for explosive, power dominated events. It wakes up the nervous system and really gets the cardiorespiratory system going. Dynamic stretches are not only effective at increasing sport specific ROM, they also serve as biomotor skill training. High knee running is an example of a dynamic stretch for a sprinting athlete.

Ballistic stretching is very explosive, high speed stretching. Although very effective at increasing ROM, it emphasizes the eccentric loading, resulting in a high rate of “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS). It is discouraged for most individuals due to the high risk of the activity. The difference between dynamic and ballistic is one of speed, and more importantly, control over the ROM. Many times the two categories are combined into one, making semantics a cumbersome obstacle when communicating on this subject. The take home message on movement speed and stretching, “is keep it under control and within a safe ROM.
The last category of stretches in “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation” (PNF). This type of stretch has about three permutations. It combines a cycle of stretching, contraction and relaxation. Although this stretching method is the most effective at increasing ROM it carries some risk of injury if overdone. The reason for this is that the cycle of contraction and relaxation, of the muscle being stretched, essentially allows us to override the protective receptors we have that safeguard us against over-stretching! PNF is usually partner assisted. It is imperative that the partner be experienced with PNF techniques to keep the risk of injury low. This stretching is best used after the workout, when muscles are very pliable and elastic, to chronically increase ROM.
Now, there is another way to see stretching and flexibility – functional flexibility. I try to incorporate most of my flexibility training in my functional strength program. If a special corrective approach has to be taken, I’ll refer my client to our director of physical a manipulative therapy. I learned from Olympic weightlifters that resistance training can dramatically increase range of motion in the absence of stretching. These athletes are among the most flexible in the Olympics and do very little stretching. However, they train to full ranges of motion. Therefore, I train my clients and athletes to control the ranges they will encounter in their environment. If this means picking up a napkin in a semi-lunge position then that becomes the ROM and stretch I use. If a client who golfs presents a lower cross syndrome and complaints of lower back pain, I may suspect a tight soas. Therefore, I’ll use some golf-related stretch to functionally address this dilemma. Regardless, I personally choose not manually stretched my clients, although I understand they love it and it’s a great “feel good” and marketing technique.

When to stretch, is by far the most agreed upon issue amongst conditioning professionals. Since we have already established that stretching helps prepare the body for work, it is common practice to make it part of every warm up. Since muscle has many of the elastic qualities of rubber, higher temperature increase its pliability and elasticity. Therefore, it is recommended that some light aerobic activity be used to increase muscle temperature prior to stretching in the warm-up session. A post workout (i.e. activity) stretching session may also be included to address the various aspects of structural function targeted for improvement. If you need to elongate the muscle for any reason, this part of the workout offers the best response to the stress of stretching. The increases in muscle temperature and reduced neural inhibition create the optimal environment for prolonged static stretching resulting in chronic muscle tissue elongation.
In conclusion, stretching is an effective method of increasing ROM. Active (no partner) and passive stretching (partner assisted) are two ways to approach a stretching session. Active stretching is the most popular and efficient. The main purpose of stretching is to prepare to body for work, and thus static or dynamic stretching should be part of every warm up. The warm-up, stretching session should proceed a 2-3 minute aerobic warm-up. Stretching can also be used to chronically elongate muscle tissue for specific purposes. For this application, post-workout stretching is the most effective. Passive, static and PNF stretching are the most effective, however, careful attention must be paid to not over-stretch since our protective neural mechanisms are over-ridden. Although the jury is still out on the efficacy of increasing flexibility, assessing it, or developing it, we should re-evaluate our past tendencies to want to turn ALL of our athletes and clients into gymnast or contortionists for the sake of improving their performance or reducing their risk of injury. Most important, remember what my colleague Vern Gambetta says, “stretching has a very specific purpose and its not to win a flexibility contest!”

Natural Sun Protection From the Inside Out

April 13, 2012 by Katie@wellnessmama

As summer approaches, sun-protection is definitely something that must be considered, but as with many other things Paleo, the best solution may not always be the conventional one.

If you’ve read this blog or others like it, I’m sure you are well aware that diet plays a pivotal role in overall health, energy levels, digestive health and weight. Logically, diet also is an influencing factor in skin health and sun protection.

The conventional method of sun protection is much like the conventional method of many types of illness: Treat the symptoms or prevent the symptoms from occurring.

In the case of sun exposure, the general idea is to prevent the sunburn (or all sun exposure) rather than address why the skin is burning in the first place.

In the paleo-sphere, we are well-aware of the importance of Vitamin D, and we are capable of producing the amounts our bodies need through our skin. Unfortunately, even low-SPF sunscreens can block almost all Vitamin D production.

As links have been found between low-vitamin D and skin cancer (among others), the cure may be more dangerous than the disease in this case!

It’s also interesting to note that while rates of sun exposure are decreasing, skin cancer rates are steadily rising and melanoma rates are getting worrisome.

There are theories that the chemicals in most sunscreens can be as damaging or more so than sun damage itself. Either way, I use the same rule with sunscreens as I do with foods and beauty products: If I can’t pronounce an ingredient or buy it without a chemical license, I don’t use it.

The Role of Diet:

Sunburn is a type of inflammation. It is caused by an external factor, but a lot of internal factors come into play as well.

Inflammatory foods like grains, sugars and vegetable oils (especially those!) can cause inflammation in the body and make the skin more prone to inflammation (burning) as well.

In the same way, anti-inflammatory foods can help prevent inflammation in the body or on the skin from sun exposure.

If you’ve been Paleo for a while, you might have already noticed an increased sun tolerance, or that you are tanning better. It isn’t your imagination. In fact, Mark’s Daily Apple addressed natural ways to prevent sunburn, and all of the suggestions were diet/supplement related.

The most problematic foods for your skin when it comes to sun-exposure are: processed foods, processed grains, sugars and vegetable oils (no surprise there!).

The most beneficial foods for your skin when it comes to sun exposure are: healthy saturated fats, green leafy vegetables, omega-3 rich foods like fish, and antioxidant containing foods like berries (and dark chocolate). No surprises there either!

I’ve also found that some key supplements can increase sun tolerance even more. The combination of these supplements (which I’d recommend anyway) and a Paleo diet let me go to the beach all day last summer without burning (a first) and come away with a golden tan (also a first!).

The Supplements:

Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend (also great for remineralizing teeth)-Probably the most important supplement for sun protection. I take double doses during the summer and the kids take it too. Since adding this and the coconut oil daily, none of us have burned. It’s also great for digestive and oral health. (Amazon finally has the capsules back in stock)
Vitamin D3 (I take about 5,000 IU/day)- Emerging evidence shows that optimizing blood levels of Vitamin D can have a protective effect against sunburn and skin cancer. I highly recommend getting your blood levels tested prior to beginning Vitamin D supplementation and talking to your doctor, as too much can also be a bad thing. Also, not needed if you are getting at least 30 minutes of sun a day.
Vitamin C (I take about 2,000 mg/day)- A potent anti-inflammatory, and it is good for the immune system too.
1/4 cup coconut oil melted in a cup of herbal tea per day- the Medium Chain Fatty Acids and saturated fat are easily utilized by the body for new skin formation and are protective against burning.
Astaxanthin- A highly potent antioxidant which research shows acts as an internal sunscreen. It’s also supposedly an anti-aging supplement. I don’t give this one to the kids though.

Natural Homemade Sunscreen:

I’m definitely not suggesting that you do anything that could lead to sunburn, which is harmful! For prolonged sun exposure past your sun-tolerance, protective clothing is best, but for times you’ll be out in the sun for long times and don’t want to wear long sleeves (the beach), you can make a natural homemade sunscreen that doesn’t have the chemicals of most sunscreens.

Here’s the recipe I use. You can also use plain coconut oil on the skin for shorter times, especially if you’ve already built up a tan.

Your skin, like the rest of your body, will benefit from a healthy diet and a few key supplements. Rather than turning to chemical laden sunscreens- give the natural versions a try! You might be pleasantly surprised!