Archive | January, 2011

Vitamin D: Can it Prevent Everything from Certain Cancers, the Common Cold, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis or Even Autism?

28 Jan

I usually do not like to write about a single vitamin or supplement. It seems too boring for me to have to research and for you to have to read. Usually, something like a general vitamin description would be easily accessible on the Internet and I see no reason for me to regurgitate what you could easily find elsewhere.

However, there is some very interesting research regarding vitamin D that can benefit our society on an assortment of levels. Unfortunately, the research into vitamin D’s potential is in its infancy: spurring many questions and theories with few answers thus far, and spurring controversy in the realms of the RDA’s recommendations. What’s all of the fuss about? Lets see…

The Sun Vitamin

It is summer time again, and that means barbecues, beaches, gardening and/or just spending more time outside. Many people are aware that with our increasing sun exposure comes an increase in the production of vitamin D in our skin. This is very beneficial for us as this is the optimal way our bodies can utilize vitamin D.

However, the media reminds us during this time of year that with an increase in sun exposure comes an increase in diagnoses of skin cancer because many do not protect ourselves enough from UV exposure of the sun. Recent research is now starting to suggest that although skin melanomas are certainly a danger with increasing unprotected-ultraviolet B exposure, the lack of vitamin D we would normally produce is just as dangerous. For example, since the 1980s, scientists have recognized that the risk of developing and dying of breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, and many other cancers is increased in relation to living at higher latitudes and being more prone to developing vitamin D deficiency.

Biologic Function

Before we dive in any deeper to what vitamin can do, lets understand what it is. The primary function of vitamin D in humans is to maintain intracellular and extracellular calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D refers to two biologically inactive precursors – D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and D2, also known as ergocalciferol. The former, produced in the skin on exposure to UVB radiation (290 to 320 nm), is said to be more bioactive. The latter is derived from plants and only enters the body via the diet, from consumption of foods such as oily fish, egg yolk and liver.

Vitamin D made in the skin or ingested in the diet, however, is biologically inactive and requires obligate hydroxylations first in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), and then in the kidney to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D). 25-Hydroxyvitamin D is the major circulating form of vitamin D that is the best indicator of vitamin D status. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is the biologically active form of vitamin D.

Regulation of Vitamin D

Ever heard of somebody dieing from vitamin D toxicity because of too much sun exposure? No. That is because the production of vitamin D and its metabolism are tightly regulated by the body. Once vitamin D enters the circulation, it can be stored in fat cells for later use or metabolized in the liver to 25(OH)D. This hydroxylation step is feedback regulated, meaning that if there is too much 25(OH)D present, our body will store the vitamin D. If there is not enough, more 25(OH)D will be produced.

This fat-soluble hormone interacts with its specific nuclear receptor in the intestine and bone to regulate calcium metabolism. It is now recognized that the vitamin D receptor is also present in most tissues and cells in the body. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, by interacting with its receptor in non-calcemic tissues, is able to elicit a wide variety of biologic responses. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D regulates cellular growth and influences the modulation of the immune system.

There is compelling epidemiologic observations that suggest that living at higher latitudes is associated with increased risk of many common deadly cancers. Both prospective and retrospective studies help support the concept that it is vitamin D deficiency that is the driving force for increased risk of common cancers in people living at higher latitudes.

Most tissues and cells not only have a vitamin D receptor, but also have the ability to make 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. It has been suggested that increasing vitamin D intake or sun exposure increases circulating concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which in turn, is metabolized to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) in prostate, colon, breast, etc. The local cellular production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D acts in an autocrine fashion to regulate cell growth and decrease the risk of the cells becoming malignant. Therefore, measurement of 25-hydroxyvitamin D is important not only to monitor vitamin D status for bone health, but also for cancer prevention.

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January Client of the Month Spotlight – John Chang

26 Jan

John Chang
Age: 41
FIT member since: 10/2009

John’s goals starting his fitness program at FIT: I wanted to lose some pounds and inches.  I also wanted to get stronger.  In a word – get Fit!

John’s results: To date, I’ve lost 20 pounds of fat, definitely getting stronger – can actually see a muscle or two in my arms and shoulders!  It’s amazing the difference in situps, push ups, assisted pull-ups (at least for now they are still assisted!).  There is still a lot more to do…

Q. How did you feel about your fitness and physique before starting your exercise program at FIT? How do you feel about your fitness and physique now? I felt like I had let myself turn into a tub of goo.  It was harder to compete in sports, my injuries took longer to heal and I’ve had some back and neck issues over the last few years.  Now – I’ve lost 3 inches on my waist, 20 pounds of goo and have a lot more energy overall.  I do feel stronger and look forward to continued progress!

Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to maintain your commitment to fitness? I travel a fair amount for business – which means missed workouts and dinners with customers…  I have to admit I’ve missed more than one wake up call for the 6:00am workout!

Q. What would you consider the keys to your fitness success? I think it’s been absolutely key to have workout partners.  I don’t want to let Josh and Karen down by not showing up and going through the pain together!  They keep me motivated, as does our great trainer, Jen.  Jen keeps things interesting by mixing things up and pushing us.  Lastly, commitment to making workouts a routine has made it easier.  It’s finally getting to the point that I miss it when I don’t work out!

Q. Want motivates you through your workouts? And what motivates you to come back each day? The goal of getting healthier / my trainer / my partners.  The results I’ve seen motivates me to keep on going.  It’s amazing how many people have noticed – and I have to admit it’s nice to hear the compliments.

Q. Are there any exercises you enjoy: Squats, kettle bell work, slams, any kind of stretching

Q. Are there any exercises you dislike: Decline situps!  Clean and jerk – haven’t figure that one out yet. That fourth set of rowing!

Q. What is your favorite healthy snack? Greek yogurt with blueberries and raspberries

Q. What is your favorite non-gym physical activity? Road cycling and volleyball.  Does golf count as a physical activity?  ☺

From John: I’ve really enjoyed the FIT community.  The support from the various trainers and early morning regulars is great.  We keep it going for each other.  Thanks!

From his Trainer – Jen: If I remember correctly, after an initial invitation it took about 6-12 months for John to make the decision, or should I say commitment, to come to FIT.  Around his birthday I received an email with all these overweight cartoon characters struggling to lift weights: he said he was ready to come in.

If you’re in the gym at 6am on Monday or Friday, you have met/heard John Chang!  He is always joking around, laughing or yelling about whatever exercise is coming up next.  Some would say we have way too much fun in that hour but Josh, John and Karen just make working hard as fun as it can possibly be.  John is always ready for a challenge and I think what is most admirable is that he is always trying turn a weakness into one of his strengths.  Whenever he comes to me with a new goal, it is not about improving something he is already good.  Rather, it sometimes involves his least favorite exercises.  It’s the things he sees value in improving and he is willing and ready to dive in and tackle them.  John has a very busy lifestyle (as does the rest of his workout crew), however he has made his health and fitness a priority, and has made huge lifestyle changes that I truly feel are permanent.  John is committed to his workouts and eating healthier in and outside of FIT and on and off the road.  Congrats to John and all his hard work!!

Resolutions Are One Thing-Solutions Are Another

11 Jan

The new year is typically marked by a period of reflection and planning.  Often resolutions are the result of this thought process.  Since becoming a parent, I find that I no longer solely ponder the areas of my life that require my attention but also how that shift in the balance of time will affect my family unit and whether the benefit will outweigh the cost.  Like most people, taking better care of myself by exercising more and eating a bit better tops my list.  The nice thing about these goals is that efforts in this direction directly benefit the whole family, not merely the beneficial affects of exercise such as mood enhancement and stress reduction, but also by setting an example and helping to inspire loved ones to adopt healthier practices as well.  How to be most efficient, or better yet, impactful with these efforts is a better question.

A few facts for parents to consider:

•   A study in 2000 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that Americans gain on average .4 to 1.8 lbs per year throughout their adult life with about 1 pound of that weight gain occurring during the winter holiday season.

•   Upon establishing The Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2005 jointly with the American Heart Association, former President Clinton, representing the Clinton foundation, stated “Without proper prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, our current generation could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.

•   Dr. David Katz of the Yale Preventative Medicine Research Center stated that ‘poor diet in kids is more dangerous than alcohol, drugs, and tobacco combined!’

•   The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese.

However, this is a new year and the start of a new year is typically, and should be, characterized by optimism and hope.  Keeping that in mind, I encourage you to think beyond 2011 and look 5, 10, 15 years ahead for you and your family.  What do you hope your life will look like at that time?  What activities do you hope that you and/or you children will or will be capable of participating in? What aspects of your family lifestyle need to be adjusted in order for those goals to be attainable?  What changes would you need to make this year to turn over a new leaf and embark down the path of your above stated goals?

If you are like most people I speak to, you hope to age gracefully, maintain a good quality of life, and uncover the ‘secret’ to sustainable health.  You hope that your children will acquire the skills to attain lifelong vitality.  These sound like lofty goals, and I do recommend setting more specific short term goals; however, the key to all of this is learning to take time out and prioritize and commit to physical activity as well as mindfulness surrounding your nutrition.

The key to the message above is commitment.

Resolutions are one thing, solutions are another.  Here are a few tips to help ensure an active, healthy and happy 2011 for the whole family.  Pick one or a few to start with and go from there:

•   Schedule it.  Very few people ‘have time’, you have to ‘make time’.  You have to schedule your activity times otherwise they just won’t happen. Sadly, it’s always easier to not do something than it is to do nothing.

•   You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.  Cut out or cut back on processed foods and attempt to consume a diet that’s rich in vegetables, quality animal proteins and good fats.

•   ‘It takes a village’.  Ask for help and support from other families and friends.  Plan active outings.  Try new activities.  Ask to be held accountable.

•   Commit to consistently participating in activities you already enjoy as a family or commit to trying out the activities  that are enjoyed by each family member.  Incorporate some body weight strength training (push ups, body weight squats, sit-ups, for example).

•   Seek out expert advice.  Muddling through the quagmire of what’s good and what’s not can be daunting and intimidating.  There are experts available for all of it: personal trainers, nutritionists, life coaches… You name it and there is someone who can help guide you.

•   Be realistic, be gradual, be forgiving.  If you are starting from ground zero, 1 or 2 hours per week is a big improvement and is more likely to build on itself than shooting for the moon.  You may get off track but don’t be discouraged, you are making a gradual shift in the right direction over a lifetime.  Try to make every day, or week, or month a little bit healthier than the last.

•   Enjoy the journey!  As with most endeavors, attitude is everything.  Whenever motivation wanes, or life gets in the way, gently remind yourself and your family that your healthy future together is worth the effort.

Why FIT CrossFit – Guest Author Ilana Sharaun MA, MFT

11 Jan

Living fully has always been my way. Building a family, finding an occupation I love, and contributing to my community have all been deep sources of meaning and happiness. So, when it became obvious that the stamina and energy I took for granted were not as plentiful as they used to be, I knew it meant making new choices in the way I live. This meant that I must become aware of what affects my well-being, and find the right balance that would result in feeling more alive and vibrant.

A Journey Toward Greater Wellness

This journey toward greater wellness demanded that I address all aspects of my life, and among the most important was exercise. All the studies I have read show that physical activity is directly linked to well- being, but the amount, intensity, and frequency of exercise were not clear. Therefore, I looked for a regimen that will allow me to experiment. I wanted a challenging program with variety, scheduling flexibility, and some form of accountability. Most importantly, I wanted to have fun, which (for me) meant working out with other people.   FIT CrossFit delivered what I was looking for. My life is super full, so having the choice of three sessions per day, six days a week is a huge benefit. The daily routines are flexible and adaptable to each person’s fitness level, not a one sizes fits all program. The trainers are very knowledgeable, supportive, and motivating. The group dynamic is invigorating and encouraging. We all know that the toughest part of Crossfit is just getting started, and the biggest obstacle is believing that you can do it. This personal challenge is what I find most invigorating, and I always leave with more energy than I came in with.

How has my fitness level changed since joining CrossFit?

On a recent hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park I was astonished to find myself charging up mountains and flying down the steep slopes. I experienced a joy of movement in a way I never have before. I trusted my body and released myself to the experience without fear.

Living fully means that balancing and rebalancing my life is an ongoing process. The daily strength, stamina, and confidence that I get from the FIT CrossFit training program helps me stay balanced and focused on the priorities I value most in my life.

Your Body is Not a Sports Car … YET

11 Jan

So the New Year is upon us, and as it has become common tradition, it is time to lay down some goals for the upcoming year.  Maybe you want to take up a new hobby, or possibly become more financially competent.  Probably the greatest enthusiasm for New Year goals is seen in health and fitness.  We experience a rush of people joining our ranks for the first time – or simply revamping and reinvigorating a stale and stagnating workout routine.  Unfortunately, these well-intentioned thoughts can often lead to more disaster than success.

For those just beginning an exercise routine (or for the first time after an extended layoff) it would be prudent to begin slowly.  Not only may you be unfamiliar with how to safely perform different exercises, your body’s internal mechanisms are also unfamiliar with the new amount of stress you will be placing on it.  When starting a new exercise program, muscles that have not been used for some time – if at all – cannot produce the amount of contractile force you may be asking of them.  This may lead to a significant amount of soreness in the hours and days following the workout as your body tries to remove metabolic waste and repair tissue damage in the exercised muscles.  Additionally, the hormonal and enzymatic pathways are not significantly developed in order to perform the exercises with the efficiently or intensity required to initiate desired changes.  While it only takes hours after first beginning an exercise program for your body to start improving and enhancing the physiological pathways (increased oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, improved nutrient uptake into muscle cells from the digestive tract, etc.), it take time for these mechanisms to reach a level that can sustain the workload you maybe asking of your body.

While the objectives and goals of improving your health and wellness are laudable (in whatever form those goals may take – losing some body fat, improving your blood/lipid/cholesterol numbers, increasing activity to keep up with kids), it would be wise to follow the advice that luxury car dealers give their clients when driving off of the lot in that new cherry red speed demon: “Take it easy for a while”. This advice is given because the engine and suspension have not covered enough miles to withstand the stress of high speeds and quick cornering.  Similarly, your body needs time to prepare for the stress and intensity of a demanding workout.  If you have never exercised before and have been generally sedentary for quite some time, just moving at a casual pace for thirty or more minutes at a time may be enough work to start with.  If, however, you haven’t exercised in quite some time, but are relatively physically active – walking the dog, a job that requires a lot of movement or lifting/carrying things – a comprehensive bodyweight resistance-training regimen may be just what your body needs to “prime the pump”.   Using bodyweight exercises, such as lunges and push-ups will increase the strength and circulatory capacities of the connective tissues that support muscles and bones, and ultimately provide greater joint integrity (where most injuries from drastic changes in activity or routine occur).

In closing, I want to applaud all those that are making their health a priority in this New Year.  Just remember that there is no harm in starting slow, learning to listen to your body, and enjoying the process for the long haul.  Just like that nice car that you enjoy driving down winding roads on a sunny afternoon, wash weekly, and ensure proper maintenance, your body needs careful attention and gradual tweaks to keep it roaring at full speed.

Three Months and 5000 Handstand Push-Ups

11 Jan

During this past Fall my co-worker Danielle was inspired by the Burpee Challenge to do a handstand push-up challenge.  The purpose was to improve her strength and stamina and see what other benefits might occur.  I happened to be doing some handstand push-ups with her, and I decided join the challenge. 

The Challenge

Danielle and I agreed to start with ten handstand push-ups (HSPUs) and would continually add one everyday until we achieved 100, thus a Handstand Push-up Challenge. Unfortunately, Danielle had to drop out because she developed a cyst in her hand and needed surgery.  I decided I would continue the challenge.

I was rather hesitant to agree to this challenge.

I was rather hesitant to agree to this challenge.  I have had tendonitis in both of my elbows and for the past year-and-a-half have been taking measures to allow it to heal.  To put things in perspective, here are a few of my stats:
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 209-215 lbs. throughout this challenge
Arm Length: 24”

After three months of finding my legs against a wall and over my head, here is what I learned:
1) My elbow tendonitis continued, but did not worsen.  I made it a priority to have a massage at least once a week during the last month to help alleviate pain and improve recovery.
2) During the last month, the number of HSPUs I was doing consumed my upper body routine.  In the midst of several workouts, my elbows would flare up.  Therefore, I stopped doing most pulling movements to allow my elbows to recover.
3) I did not notice much improvement in my upper body size.  However, I felt stronger and had more stability while performing overhead movements, such as overhead squats, jerks and push press. Unexpectedly, my 1 repetition max (1 RM) bench press (which I avoided for most of the HSPU Challenge) did not decrease.  In fact, it might have improved, but I do not know for sure because I did not test my 1 RM bench press prior to starting the challenge.

Then, there were the unexpected discoveries of the Challenge:
1) I could complete 25 HSPUs in the midst of changing my clothes; a great time saving skill.
2) I could impress friends, and sometimes embarrass them, by performing HSUP at parties and other social events.  There is only so much time in a day to complete 80+ HSUPs.

I have been asked if I would do it all over again? I am not sure if it was totally worth it, but it was fun.  It feels good to say I did 5000 HSPU’s in three months, and you can impress a number of strangers at casinos, or while waiting for elevators with HSPUs. Perhaps allowing for more recovery days would have been beneficial, or may be I did not have to perform as many HSPUs to achieve the same benefits.  I realize that I do not do enough overhead movements in my own training and that may be one of the reasons the benefits were so impressive to me.  Again, are 5000 HSPUs needed to achieve greater upper body strength and stability?  I do not believe so, intelligent training would certainly create the same benefits and perhaps with less tendonitis in my elbows.  That is the art of to training: creating the most optimal results efficiently, without injury.

Stability and Mobility: Keys to the Proper Golf Swing.

11 Jan

Stability: The ability of the body to remain unchanged or aligned in the presence of external forces or changes.

Mobility: The ability of the body to perform movement.

These two words are the key to developing a proper golf swing.  During the golf swing your body is continually changing from a stable joint to a mobile joint.  These changes are what help provide the mechanics for the best golf swing.  Stability and Mobility can also be classified as strength and flexibility, which is why making sure you are both strong and flexible will not only improve your golf swing and score, but will also lessen the likely hood of injury.

An exercise to improve strength and flexibility:

The lunge stance with rotation is one of many exercises that can be performed using cable machines.  In this exercise, instability is created with a lunge stance, and trying to maintain that position while performing trunk mobility helps improve stability.  If you don’t have the stability to get into a lunge stance immediately, start by putting your feet into a wide squat stance and work yourself into the lunge position.  Check this link for a video of the movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JjOBGdjyZc

Winter Minestrone

11 Jan

Overflowing with vegetables and brimming with nourishing and wholesome fats, this winter Minestrone makes for a nutrient-dense supper during the darkest days of the year.

Ingredients for Winter Minestrone
•    1 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over – optional
•    1 tablespoon cider vinegar
•    1 cup dried brown rice macaroni noodles – optional
•    ¼ cup lard, bacon fat or ghee
•    1 yellow onion, finely chopped
•    3 garlic cloves, minced
•    3 carrots, chopped
•    3 celery stalks, chopped
•    2 tablespoons dried basil
•    1 tablespoon dried oregano
•    1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
•    2 quarts homemade roast chicken stock or homemade beef stock
•    1 cup pureed or crushed tomatoes
•    1 bunch Swiss chard, de-veined and sliced into 1/2 –inch strips
•    Unrefined sea salt to taste
•    Unrefined extra virgin olive oil, Italian flat leaf parsley and parmesan cheese to serve

Method for Winter Minestrone

If you choose to include the cannelloni beans in the soup:

1.    The day before you plan to serve the soup, prepare the cannelloni beans by completely submerging the beans in a mixture of very warm and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar.  Cover and place in a warm spot to soak for approximately twenty-four hours.

2.    After the beans have soaked for one day, drain and rinse them. Boil them in water until they’re tender and soft. After they’re thoroughly cooked and tender, about 60 to 90 minutes, remove them from heat drain, rinse and set aside.

If you choose to include the brown rice pasta in the soup:

1.    Boil the brown rice pasta until tender, but somewhat firm and set aside.

Directions:

1.    Heat lard, bacon fat or ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium-high flame until melted and sizzling.
2.    Add chopped onion and fry until fragrant and translucent.
3.    Add minced garlic, chopped carrots, chopped celery and cubed butternut squash to the onion and fry until fragrant.
4.    Stir the dried basil and oregano into the vegetable mixture .
5.    Pour two quarts chicken or vegetable stock into the pot, taking care to stir and scrape the pot with a metal spatula to dislodge any flavorful bits of vegetables that may be stuck to its bottom.
6.    Stir in crushed or pureed tomatoes.  Freezing retains more nutrients than canning, and avoids the risks associated with BPA, which is a plasticizer with endocrine-disrupting effects.
7.    Simmer the broth, pureed tomatoes and vegetables together for thirty minutes or so.
8.    Remove the minestrone soup from heat.  Stir in the cooked cannellini beans (optional), cooked brown pasta (optional) and sliced Swiss chard.
9.    Season to taste with unrefined sea salt.
10.    Cover the soup allow it to sit (removed from heat) for approximately five to ten minutes, which melds the flavors and allows the Swiss chard to wilt slightly.
11.    Serve with chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, unrefined extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan or Asiago cheese.

YIELD: Approximately 8 to 12 servings
TIME: 24 hours (soaking) plus 2 hours (preparation and cooking time)

NOTES: This recipe is fabulous with or without the brown rice pasta or cannelini beans.  If you choose to include them, brown rice is very low in phytic acid; an antinutrient that binds minerals preventing their full absorption, which is why I’ve included brown rice pasta in this recipe. For this reason, do not substitute whole wheat pasta unless you prepare it yourself using a sprouted flour or a recipe for sourdough noodles. I encourage you to cook the beans separately and add them to the soup later because doing so improves the flavor of the soup.

Recipe adapted from The Nourished Kitchen (www.nourishedkitchen.com)