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A Whole9 guest post by Emily Deans M.D., a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the gut that can lead to cramping, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s symptoms often come hand in hand with chronic anxiety and depression, so as a psychiatrist, I see lots of patients with IBS symptoms. While some people take the idea that “people with IBS have lots of anxiety” to mean that the mysterious gut issue is “all in the head.” I think it is more likely that in many cases, the same problem is causing both the symptoms of irritable bowel and anxiety/depression.
What is that problem? In general terms, it’s likely an issue with the microbiota, those hundred trillion little beasties who live in our guts. In more specific terms it involves an intolerance to dietary FODMAPs (that’s fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols so yes, just say FODMAPs.) Some people might have a genetic issue as well, fructose malabsoroption, that allows too much fructose into the large intestine, leading to a feeding frenzy by the microbiota there perhaps causing IBS symptoms. If your microbiota have too much of a taste for FODMAPs, eating these fermentable oilgosaccharides and polyols can lead to inflammation (which can likely cause several systemic problems, including depression and anxiety). In addition, it’s possible that fructose and fructans (fructose-like molecules found in some some foodstuffs like wheat), if not absorbed in the upper gut, degrade and diminish the amount of the amino acid tryptophan that gets absorbed. Why does that matter? Well, the neurotransmitter serotonin is made from tryptophan, and we need plenty of tryptophan to make serotonin to maintain a happy, non-anxious mood state.
Common FODMAPs in the diet include high fructose foods like soda, fruit juice, watermelon, apples, and peaches, foods made from wheat like bread (particularly commercial breads made with high fructose corn syrup), onions, garlic, cabbage, lactose-containing foods such as cow’s milk, and anything made with sugar alcohols (like many sugar-free gums). Many people who find intestinal or even mood relief with a gluten-free, dairy-free diet may be responding to switching to a relatively low FODMAP diet in comparison to the standard diet they were eating before.
If you have IBS symptoms, whether it is associated with anxiety and depression or not, it may be worthwhile to try a low FODMAP diet for six weeks to see if there is any improvement in your symptoms. Stanford has a very good online instruction manual here. After six weeks, however, it’s important to try to add back your onions, avocados, watermelon, and the rest (at least of the whole, nutritious foods…the processed garbage and cola you can go without if you like), to see which ones you can tolerate again. Dietary changes are followed rapidly by changes in the microbiota… starving them for a short period can resolve gastrointestinal symptoms, allow other microbiota to grow in and replace them, and you may not have to restrict the diet for all that long.
Ultimately, the oligosachharides and fermented foods are prebiotics, meaning they feed the gut, and going entirely low FODMAP for the long term might not foster the healthiest type of microbiota. The health of the gut is something of a moving target, and Dr. Grace Liu of the colorful blog Animal Pharm uses the term “seed and weed” when it comes to fixing gut issues. In terms of FODMAP-sensitive IBS, that means weed out the offending microbiota (those beasties that go nuts and cause bloating and discomfort when eating watermelon) through a low FODMAP diet, and then using certain probiotics (or very careful, small, slowly increasing amounts of fermented foods such as water kefir) to seed the gut with different populations of microbiota. Eventually, the new refurbished gut microbiota should be able to tolerate a bit more FODMAP without you having symptoms.
Evidence suggests many folks with depression have a dietary intolerance to fructose, fructans, and lactose, and in those that do, going on a low FODMAP diet did relieve the depressive symptoms by 65%. Ultimately the gut that supports human health including mental health is fed by a healthy, natural foods diet.
Emily Deans M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She writes articles about nutrition, lifestyle, and mental health at Psychology Today. You can also find her on Twitter at @evolutionarypsy. (Please note: she can’t give medical advice over the internet, so please don’t request it.)
A Whole9 guest post by Skyler Tanner, an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer with an MS in Exercise Science.
Have you ever wondered why Dallas and Melissa titled their book It Starts With Food? If the “perfect diet” was the only thing that mattered, they could have called it “It’s Just About Food”, or “Food: Alpha and Omega.” However if you’ve been following the Whole9 for a while, you know that diet is just one part of a larger lifestyle, built on 8 other considerations (hence the “whole” 9).
Maybe you think that this is something untested or just a wacky idea that certainly came from Dallas. My goal for this article is to illustrate how powerful the lifestyle picture is and how your goal should be doing “well” in all aspects, as that leads to better health payoff than does being “perfect” in one narrow area.
Public health and health education used to rely feelings, rather than data to drive intervention action. That changed in 1965, when a researcher named Lester Breslow started a study in Alameda country, California that examined the health habits of 6,928 people, with an eye toward 7 health habits he deemed most important (which is why the study is referred to as the “Alameda 7″). Their behavior was examined over intervals of up to 20 years and the data was parsed with quantitative analysis (which was novel in longevity studies). As a result, Breslow found that a 45 year old who followed at least 6 of the 7 habits had a life expectancy 11 years longer than that of a person who followed 3 or fewer. And these were good, strong, functional years free of major disease or complication, because what does it matter that you live longer if you can’t do anything with it?
What were the habits? Here’s his original list of the Alameda 7:
…That’s it. You were expecting some sort of lifestyle calculus? Something only the “chosen few” could accomplish? There’s nothing sexy here and that’s the point: what is done consistently, albeit imperfectly, is what makes changes in the long term. Interventions require rigidity and high effort; lifestyles do not.
Don’t believe that this one study was enough? The good news is that the research has been followed and examined many times over the years. More recently, Dr. Jeff Housman (one of my graduate school professors) and colleague put together a review of the data that came from the study and subsequent reviews. Check this tidbit:
The linear model supported previous findings, indicating regular exercise, limited alcohol consumption, abstinence from smoking, sleeping 7–8 hours a night, and maintenance of a healthy weight play an important role in promoting longevity and delaying illness and death.
So really the “Alameda 7″ is the “Alameda 5,” meaning that 1-5 on my list above are the big lifestyle “tricks” you need to attempt to do in order to set yourself up for a longer, stronger life.
So what happened to Lester Breslow? He died quietly in his home in 2012…at the age of 97. Maybe there’s something to this stuff after all?
The Blue Zones is sort of the 500 pound gorilla in the room of modern lifestyle interventions. The main thrust of the Blue Zones starts with a study, known as the Danish Twin Study. This study followed 2872 Danish Twins born between 1870 and 1900. After all of these pairs had died, statistical analysis was performed and determined that ~25% of the variance in longevity can be attributed to genetic factors. Later studies give a slightly larger range, from a high of one-third to a low of 15%. So if we’re pessimistic, only one-third of our longevity is related to genetic factors, thus the remaining 70% is due to lifestyle. This was the thrust of the Alameda 7 study: follow some simple habits and you’ll gain quality years of life.
The book is based on the work of Michel Poulain, who identified a mountainous region of Sardinia where men lived longer than women, but both live longer than the rest of Sardinia. Fun fact: it’s a “Blue Zone”because that’s the color they used to identify the region. Really, take a look:
After the statistical analysis was found to be accurate, that there was in fact a positive longevity outcome, the search for more of these places around the world began.
So after digging and intense statistic analysis, these 5 zones have been confirmed:
From there, the authors attempted to “tease out” a de facto longevity formula, which is this:
Now I won’t spend time unpacking those, but I would suggest that they’re directionally accurate and very similar to what was found in the Alameda 7 study. If you were able to follow the above list regularly, then you’d likely be in a good place to maximize your longevity free of chronic diseases.
That said, I have some problems with the conclusions derived from the Blue Zones. Not enough to throw it out (it’s really a great piece of work) but to bring attention to things that I feel are worth reducing the importance of when compared to the authors of the book:
Going back to my point about isolating small variables and attempting to control them, remember that our bodies aren’t these time-dependent output machines. That is, an input will not always give you the same output, in the same amount of time…there’s a constellation of variables all in flux that affect the final outcome.
This is the problem with any self experiment: humans tracking inputs into our biology leaves all sorts to be desired…the margin of error is just too much for any sort of meaningful information to be derived:
So just live all Dionysian and attempt to not control anything? No, but you must understand that the inputs are signals…they are stimuli. The stimuli is directionally accurate and dose-dependent. Further, the dose will have varying outcomes depending on the state of your physiological milieu at the moment of input. You can be sure ingesting protein will lead to new amino acids being available for protein synthesis, but the standard deviation of the response will vary depending on a variety of factors that you can never hope to control.
Further, the body is directionally set by the stimuli…it doesn’t care nearly as much by the context of delivery as much as by the quality of the content. This is especially true in the “paleo” community, with the idea that “Caveman X was on the savanna, therefore only could lift heavy rocks and get thorns in their ass when they screwed. I must mimic this for maximum health!” Here’s the thing:
The body doesn’t care about concepts; it only cares about stimuli.
The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demand) referred to the type, quantity, and frequency of a stimuli. So while our hunter-gatherer ancestors trained their posterior chain by hauling an animal, we might dead lift or use a good lumbar extension. The stimuli is similar, no hauling required. The mismatch was never “we’re not hauling bison out of a ditch and eating mongongo nuts;” it was “we’re never exerting to a sufficient intensity while eating lots of processed garbage.” You mimic the stimuli while reducing the risks.
Why mention all of that? Well I think the above is largely the root of why people get hung up on a single dietary variable like meat (for instance). Never mind that so many studies lump meat in with, say, “fatty” foods like potato chips and ice cream (really!); the food stuffs are just one variable in a larger picture, going back to the title of this post. If the totality of the lifestyle is in order, the inputs hold less weight because the whole spinning plate is much more balanced.
Example: Seventh Day Adventists are often credited for their longevity, which is always reduced to diet, which often touches on the near-vegan component of said diet. However, the most thorough studies never claim it’s just the diet: they’re always looking at the total lifestyle to draw their conclusions.
What’s the difference? Well, Mormonism doesn’t explicitly restrict red meat (or any meat) consumption explicitly, though encourages eating them “sparingly,” whatever that means is up to the individual. Now it’s important to note that this isn’t a comparison between groups… or rather, it’s between one religion and the average Californian of the same age. And the statistics used in each study may be slightly different (like which inputs & variables they found most valuable, etc. I have no interest in unpacking them). The point is that if a single variable, meat, was a keystone/linchpin/cornerstone in the longevity equation, then the statistics should indicate some change. And since it’s often cited as “the” culprit, the statistic should jump out and punch you in the face, the same way cancer rates in those who smoke isn’t a tiny statistical anomaly.
Here’s the point: all of the nerding-out in service of the big picture, the lifestyle, is great. A regular sanding of the details leads to a better overall picture. However, nerding-out in order to replace the big picture is a fools errand, a big distraction that keeps one focused on a “big secret” that simply doesn’t exist.
Skyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science. He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.
A Whole9 guest post from a mother-daughter duo who are passionate about prenatal nutrition. Emily Rydbom CN, LE and Dr. Leslie Stone are founders of GrowBaby®. Read their other Whole9 guest posts here.
It’s an all-too-familiar picture, a tip-toeing parent, holding their breath, willing their child to sleep. The pattern never stops, the child doesn’t sleep, so the parents don’t either. I have to admit, my mother was the one who cheerfully mentioned, “Oh, yes, well as a new mother I didn’t feel normal until you were all 4 years old.” Four! No thanks. I vowed then that I would work toward creating a healthy sleep environment for myself and my son. We both had to survive this and my heart was set on it. I imagine many mothers and fathers have the same grandiose idea of training their child to sleep, but then life happens and they have to adjust. So, in the spirit of adjustment, and sanity, here is GrowBaby’s approach to helping parents work through their sleep challenges.
The recommendations below are for babies over 18 lbs who do not have autism spectrum disorder. In the case of any spectrum disorder, there are more than likely multiple specialists included in their care. Please address the individual needs of the child with all who are involved.
You’ve tried it all; sleep routines, playtime outside, diet changes, and nothing helps. This is where questions arise for us regarding specifics surrounding poor sleep and diet change. In order to make the inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin and the co-factor to make melatonin (which helps you sleep) you need B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, L-tryptophan, and balanced gut health. Why? The largest site of serotonin production happens in your gut, not your brain.
You can help to improve serotonin production in your child by addressing their gut health using the 5R approach.¹
Protein, vitamin, and mineral intake impact your child’s sleep and by addressing this, you may improve sleep for your child.
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a key component of melatonin, which is critical for restorative sleep. Vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, and the mineral magnesium work to convert L-tryptophan into melatonin. However, overemphasizing specific nutrients can lead you to overlook other important complementary nutrients.
In this case, L-tryptophan needs help from specific nutrients. Choose foods that are high in B vitamins like dark leafy greens, brewer’s yeast, squashes, cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers, and protein. Choose foods that are high in vitamin C like citrus, bell peppers, romaine lettuce, pineapple, melon, strawberries, and kiwi. And finally, choose foods that are high in magnesium. This not only improves cellular energy, but encourages relaxation. Some magnesium-rich foods include: spinach, squashes, sesame/flax/pumpkin/sunflower seeds, cruciferous veggies, and green beans.
The first thing that we need to address with all parents is this: stress is a crucial part of life. Focus should be on allowing your children to experience positive stress response (brief and intermittent and mild-moderate in magnitude) vs. toxic stress response, (strong, frequent, or prolonged activation of the body’s stress response systems in the absence of the buffering protection of a supportive, adult relationship).³ Helping your child learn how to sleep is a positive stress response and one that has a lifelong impact for their sleep hygiene. It also allows their natural stress response to occur.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says this: “when buffered by an environment of stable and supportive relationships, positive stress responses are a growth-promoting element of normal development. As such, they provide important opportunities to observe, learn, and practice healthy, adaptive responses to adverse experiences.”
Some parents choose to co-sleep with their child or cry-it-out method with their child. It is not our job to judge which methods of sleep training are the right ones for you and your child, and we want to move past the quick judgments that all parents can make, and put the stress of sleep learning in context. What can you do to support and respect your child as they learn to sleep through a positive-not a toxic – experience?
Instead of listing out ways to teach your child to sleep, our encouragement is this: you will not ruin your child. Stress and crying is not always accompanied by increased cortisol⁴, especially when paired with the comfort that you bring as a parent. That means that the transition that you make with your child from co-sleeping or crying it out to independent sleeping will bring challenges; however, it will not bring lifelong damage. Remember that you are providing a safe opportunity to let your child experience stress in a healthy way – tears and all.
Despite your best effort to trust that all is well with your sleeping child, there may still be some worry in the back of your mind. This is such a common problem for parents. The adrenal (stress) response that results from worrying and stress can sabotage good sleep. “I slept fine until my baby was born and now I have insomnia. I can get to sleep, but I can’t stay asleep.”
This is the classic “tired but wired” phenomenon. How do you solve it? After all your hard work to get your child to sleep, it’s time for you to relearn to sleep. You come by insomnia honestly. After only 10 minutes of stress, your gut barrier can be compromised, leaving you susceptible to immune suppression and low serotonin production. (The more severe the stress the more stress hormones affect your intestinal environment, and the harder it is to maintain healthy bacterial balance and gut integrity).
Colicky babies have altered bacteria in their gut – an imbalanced system. Just like we addressed foods to improve gut health for your child, we encourage you to do the same for yourself. Addressing your B vitamin intake, vitamin C, magnesium, and L-tryptophan intake will improve your sleep as well, helping you to stay in a deep slumber.
There are certain foods that help you make inhibitory neurotransmitters. Choose foods that help you make serotonin and GABA (made from glutamic acid), whose primary roles are to reduce excitatory neurotransmitters (like dopamine) from over-stimulating your body. We’ve covered tryptophan-rich foods, but foods that supply precursors for GABA are abundant in a healthy diet as well. Some foods rich in glutamic acid include tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, and animal protein sources.
Why is it not important to emphasize GABA precursors for children? Because in the mature brain, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, but in the developing brain it is an excitatory neurotransmitter.5 This does not mean avoid all rich foods for your child, but it does mean, pay close attention to dinner and pre-sleep snack choices.
Herbal therapies have known associations with the promotion of sleep. We suggest implementing herbs into your sleep hygiene, as long as you are not breastfeeding. If you are interested in using herbs while breastfeeding, check with your healthcare provider. The following are the herbs most commonly known to promote sleep and decrease anxiety: hops, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, motherwort, passion flower, kava kava, skullcap, and valerian root.6 You can find individual or combinations of these herbs in teas that are praised for sleep promotion.
We don’t want parents to expect utter sleep deprivation with each new family member. With consistency and balance, you will be able to find the right answer for you and your family.
Remember that sleep is a nutrient. We have to choose and nourish it, just like we choose and gain nourishment from whole, real, and healthy food. Be willing to adjust and then be consistent. You will find what is right for your child.
Have a happy and healthy day,
Emily Rydbom & Dr. Leslie Stone
Emily Rydbom is a Certified Nutritionist and Lifestyle Educator who works with Dr. Leslie Stone in a functional family practice clinic. Emily specializes in facilitating lasting healthy lifestyle behavior change for all ages. She has received training in functional medicine, functional nutrition, first-line therapies, food as medicine, and holistic nutrition. Her passion is empowering and equipping expectant mothers with proper nutrition and nutrients during preconception, gestation, and postpartum/breastfeeding to help decrease the risk of chronic disease for generations.
Dr. Leslie Stone, Family Practice, OB is a specialist with 30 years of experienced practice in obstetrics, women’s health, and family medicine. She specializes in the area of women’s health and healthy childhood development. Over the years, she has developed functionally unique practices, providing high-quality healthcare to women. Dr. Stone works on early recognition of health issues with early intervention to correct imbalances that can lead to chronic illness. She has helped women of many nationalities and cultures deliver babies. Leslie has delivered well over 4000 babies since 1982.
1: Institute For Functional Medicine, 5-R GI Support Program, www.functionalmedicine.org, Federal Way, Washington, USA.
2: Bowden, Jonny, 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth, Fair Winds Press; Pap/Com edition, January 1, 2007.
3: American Academy of Pediatrics, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/1/e232.full.
4: Gunnar, M.R., J. Connors, and J. Isensee. Lack of stability in neonatal adrenocortical reactivity because of rapid habituation of the adrenocortical response. Dev Psychobiol. 22(3): p. 221-33. 1989.
5:Excitatory Actions of GABA during development: the nature of nuture http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v3/n9/full/nrn920.html.
6: Romm, Aviva, Botanical Medicine For Women’s Health, pg 491, Table 19-9, Churchill Livingstone: St. Louis, MI.
A Whole9 guest post by Emily Deans M.D., a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
It’s obvious that mental problems such as depression or anxiety are directly linked to stress. All of us encounter stress in our daily lives, sometimes far more than we think we can handle, but the key to moving on and bouncing back is stress management. Usually when we think of managing stress, we think about yoga classes, other exercise, or squeezing stress balls. However, eating real, whole foods is also a big part of stress management and resiliency. What we eat has a huge impact on our moods.
How could that be? Your meals, after all, seem to be in an entirely different realm than family history of depression, or a tragedy in the family, or a fight with a coworker, or a traumatic experience. All these things can have a big impact on mental health, leading to symptoms such as a pervasive low mood, shortness of breath, headaches, worrying, panic attacks, insomnia or oversleeping, and all sorts of other signs of a mental health problem. Repeated, overwhelming stressors can cause your body’s natural “fight or flight” reaction system to go haywire and more or less break down, leading to mental health issues. Genetics make some people more vulnerable to this breakdown than others.
Where food enters the picture is how the brain works. Our brains are enormously complicated, energy-gobbling masses of cells made mostly of fat and with the consistency of a fine custard. Brains make up 2-5% of our body’s mass, but the process of thinking and all the unconscious tasks the brain does, like managing appetite, coordinating breathing, digestion, etc. takes up 20% of the energy we use every day. This high energy usage and the way the brain works means it needs a ton of raw materials all the time.
Certain amino acids, minerals, vitamins, cholesterol, and, in particular, long chain omega 3 fatty acids are vital to the structure and function of the brain. Without all the right components, the ability of the brain to keep up its high energy output and clean up metabolic byproducts breaks down, leading to inflammation and toxins that can build up and even destroy neurons. The brain is hungry, and needs just the right sort of nutrient-rich fuel.
Another important aspect of brain health is neuroplasticity. That is the ability of neurons in the brain to adapt to new requirements and tasks. Both chronic stress and lack of raw materials can lead to decreased neuroplasticity. One of the cardinal features of depression is problems with memory and concentration, in part caused by poor neuroplasticity and inflammation leading to an inability to respond to normal daily mental tasks, such as listening to your boss in a meeting, or paying bills online without making errors. Add poor nutrition to general life stress, and all the sudden you have a recipe for poor resiliency leading to mood and anxiety problems. On the other hand, good nutrition will help your brain cope much better via neuroplasticity, efficient energy usage and cleanup, and enhanced cellular repair mechanisms.
Our brains evolved to work with the raw materials provided by whole, minimally processed foods. Processed foods will interact poorly with the brain in two basic ways:
While a number of factors work together in keeping our brains healthy and happy, providing the noggin with whole, unprocessed foods is absolutely vital for good mental health. Grain heavy processed diets will tend to be low on some of the most important brain nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin B12, and the long chain omega3 fatty acids. Lack of these specific nutrients will, in a relatively short period, lead to neuron death and serious mental health issues. However, each of these nutrients works with others (other B vitamins, other minerals and fatty acids and cholesterol), so, in general getting nutrients from whole foods is better than supplementing just one vitamin unless you know you are acutely deficient.
In the future, I’ll discuss exactly how some of these nutrients affect mental health, and how specific disorders seem to relate to deficiencies, but for now, know that every time you eat a meal of whole, mostly unprocessed food, you are supplying your brain with a lot of goodies it needs, without the toxic byproducts and overabundance of energy of modern processed foods. The Whole30 meal planning template (a palm size of good quality protein surrounded by vegetables cooked or dressed with healthy fats, along with a bit of good starchy tubers and fruit) will take you a long way to making a firm, strong base for good mental health.
Emily Deans M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She writes articles about nutrition, lifestyle, and mental health at Psychology Today. You can also find her on Twitter at @evolutionarypsy. (Please note: she can’t give medical advice over the internet, so please don’t request it.)
Whole9 guest post by Coach Rut, who participates in the sport of weightlifting and is the current Kansas State Champion and the 2006, 2013 and 2014 National Master Champion at 94kg.
Having spent half my life in the health, fitness and performance industry, I have observed a number of consistencies. One that constantly stands out is the lack of program structure that exists with the daily workout routine.
I’m not talking about long term training structure. That’s another story and an industrial sized can of worms.
What I’m referring to is the daily workout structure. That period of the day when we can all get in touch with our inner athlete and pump some life into our now civilized DNA.
My observation and impressions reveal that a grab bag approach to training takes place. Do a few jumping jacks, run around the block, stretch a little and then start in on whatever strikes your fancy. This leads to potential injury, poor results and most importantly it is an enormous waste of time.
The daily training structure I’ll share with you today is intended for that individual working out in his own gym. I’ll assume that if you are going to group format strength and conditioning program that you are receiving a structured approach. Let’s hope.
This daily structure has been a successful recipe for many hundreds of athletes looking to gain multiple physical qualities necessary for athletic performance and endeavors. I’ve coached these individuals in person and via other means. There are a few variations to this theme, but you should find this approach more than adequate at improving the 10 General Physical Skills outlined by Jim Cawley and popularized by CrossFit.
General Warm Up
The objective here is to elevate the core temperature and signal the nervous system of the upcoming stress. Jumping jacks, rope skipping, and jogging are good examples. Then there’s my favorite: the Concept 2 rowing ergometer.
Movements are performed to “fix” what is wrong with your mobility. This is determined via a functional movement assessment or screen (FMS). There are any number of resources for this. I’ll leave to you to track those down. This is also a good period of rehabilitative movements prescribed by a medical authority.
This period is dedicated to development of absolute strength. There are multiple training templates and approaches. Literally hundreds of books exist on the topic. For our purposes this is express via the ‘lift of the day’ and the rotation of total body, lower body and upper body. Incorporating the money moves like deadlift, squats, presses and if capable the olympic movements.
The Conditioning Period
This can be expressed via any number of means but should fit with your goals and objectives. In general, a mixed mode or CrossFit approach yields the best results in the shortest amount of time and is the most enjoyable. This is the period can bring out the competitor and should have an element of play and enjoyment. In my practice we prefer a maximum of 15 minutes for most conditioning designs. Combining functional movements that fit well with the strength training move of the day is something that improves with practice. Use your internet connection and GOOGLE CrossFit workouts. You’ll die before you exhaust the conditioning options.
Direct Core / Posterior Chain Work
It is the opinion of this author, that significant amounts of direct core training should be reserved for the later stages of the training day. Placing this focus in the early stages of training could pre-exhaust the midline and unnecessarily expose an athlete to injury. A well constructed program will condition the midline and (PC) but certain individuals need the additional assistance. The big three for us include RDL, Nordic Hamstrings, and Good Mornings.
Post Stretch / Myofascial Release
Time to hit the major muscle groups and the bothersome spots. Again, many books and many experts. More isn’t necessarily better. Some have taken this to an extreme and over do this period. The other fault is in taking the roller and using it as a backrest. Get your work down and get moving.
Assuming you have an hour for training the budget will look something like this:
|0-5||General Warm Up|
|5-10||Corrective Moves Practice|
|10-30||Strength Focus (Rotating Total Body,Lower Body,Upper Body)|
|30-45||Conditioning and/or CrossFit Mix|
This configuration should provide the structure you need to yield you 80% of your potential with a three times per week practice, but your mileage may vary.
Michael Rutherford (a.k.a. Coach Rut) has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience including working with competitors from the ranks of international, Olympic, collegiate, high school, middle school and elementary school aged athletes. Coach Rut also has worked in hospital wellness environments and rehabilitation clinics. All of these experiences have allowed him to bridge the gap between the needs of the competitor and those of the man, woman and child seeking enhanced personal health and fitness. Coach Rut’s Boot Camp Fitness program is the area’s largest and most established group exercise program and his training services have assisted thousands of Kansas City residents over the last two decades. Coach holds academic degrees in biology and physical education, and Master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics. He is a certified Club Coach by the United States Weightlifting Association and is a CrossFit level III certified coach.
This is a Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years.
I don’t know of any experienced kettlebell practitioner that doesn’t utilize other tools and gain from their various benefits as well. However, kettlebells can provide certain benefits that nothing else can and are a great tool to include in your regular workout routines.
It is my goal to help continue the authentic teaching of the kettlebell while also providing some insight as to why it is great for just about anyone. I would like to note that many other tools can provide you with excellent results, such as bodyweight, dumbells, and barbells, when used as a full body tool.
You may have already seen some of the other posts I’ve provided for specific kettlebell instruction here on the Whole9 blog. So far we have covered Kettlebell Training For Beginners and The Four Basic Kettlebell Movements. Now, I would like to discuss why you should go out there and start kettlebell training.
The biggest obstacle I encounter in my career is people who think they are too old or injured to train with a kettlebell. There seems to be an overall assumption that kettlebell training is only for athletes. A lot of people think that as they age sticking to the machine based training is the safer way to strength train; nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that as you age, or after you have recovered from an injury, this type of training is far more appropriate for you than machine based training.
The exercises involved in kettlebell training are the basis of human physical interaction with the real world. Think of muscle isolation exercises and intense cardio sessions, commonly performed in gyms, as specialized training designed for bodybuilders. Kettlebell and other functional training is training for people who want to move better in the real world without tightness.
These are the basic concepts behind kettlebell training that I would consider to be the most beneficial:
This is one of the reasons that this kind of practice becomes more appropriate as you age. As you age, the functionality of your joints become far more important to you than the size of your muscles. Your flexibility, balance, and stability are the key components to avoiding injury and being able to move gracefully as you get older. This concept of lifting with your legs rather than your back helps teach your body how to pick anything up off the ground properly.
A study recently performed by ACE (a personal training certification) received a mention in Time magazine sharing that “Kettlebell classes led to 70% more core strength than training without them.” I am not entirely sure how they came to this conclusion, however, I can attest to kettlebells unmatched potential at developing core strength after ten years of practicing and teaching. Every kettlebell movement engages your entire core to stabilize and you are therefore constantly getting a core workout, as well as working the rest of your body, all at the same time!
Tightness in your hips is the biggest cause of back and other chronic pain due to improper posture and motor patterns. Kettlebell training is about gradually developing the flexibility in your hips and shoulders to make you stand straighter and get rid of chronic joint pain.
You will constantly be developing and fine tuning your motor patterns as you learn how to use your body more efficiently after each kettlebell session. After you have taken the time to master a certain lift, you can progress to a more challenging one and continue to learn and grow. When you are kettlebell training your mind is being forced to think about moving your body properly. This is something that most modern day exercises, such as running on the treadmill or bicep curls, don’t do for you.
Full body weight lifting puts a significant demand on your ability to supply oxygen to many working muscles. You can increase or decrease this effect based upon your goals and abilities. By moving from one exercise to another you can train higher cardio and by taking short breaks you can turn your training into interval training.
Unlike many activities or exercises that allow you to develop a greater degree of strength on one side of your body than the other, kettlebell training develops you evenly. Generally speaking, as we age we will see a bigger variance in our range of motion (and therefore strength) from one side of the body to the other. One hip, or shoulder, becomes much tighter than the other causing all kinds of compensations. This ultimately leads to chronic pain and a diminished quality of life. Kettlebell training will prevent this, and can go a long way to help reverse it if it has already begun.
One thing is for certain about functional weight lifting of any kind, it is something that you must learn and continue to learn with every practice. I always tell people you are never actually kettlebell training, you are only practicing. You must experience kettlebell training to fully understand the benefits it can provide. I urge you to take the time to try.
Keep in mind that you are not alone if you initially feel intimated by kettlebells. I assure you that kettlebells may look a lot more challenging than they truly are. I have worked with and taught hundreds of people how to kettlebell train and almost 90% of the time my clients tell me that it was nothing like they expected. I currently have a 61 year old client who works with me on a regular basis and has been for the past year. She is now able to swing a 35 pound kettlebell and deadlift 106 pounds.
Of course this took time and practice to get her to where she is today, but the benefits she has seen are tremendous. After five years of not being able to play tennis without shoulder and knee pain she is able to play pain free on a regular basis. That is only one of the many examples of kettlebells changing peoples lives and health. I can’t recommend them enough. If you follow the basic progressions, the deadlift, the swing, the clean&press, and the snatch, you will undoubtedly see the immediate benefit.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
(Photos supplied by the author.)
Welcome to Ask Whole9 Canada, where Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden answer all of your health and nutrition questions. In this week’s episode, Summer and Sarah discuss how to manage food restrictions in social settings.
Sharing food amongst friends and family is part of our social culture. It’s something that brings us together and connects us. However, it can feel like we are inconveniencing others when we refuse food based on our food sensitivities and we see lots of clients who decide to suffer the physical consequences of a reaction versus the often over-exaggerated emotional consequences of refusing food.
In this episode of S&STV, we give you the best strategies on managing food sensitivities in social settings.
Also, check out our video on how to deal with unsupportive people.
What are your strategies for dealing with food restrictions in social settings? Tell us in the comments below!
A Whole9 guest post by Dr Sult, medical doctor, medical educator, inspirational speaker & the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health.
Looking to lower your risk of heart disease? Conventional wisdom says you should exercise regularly, eat well and keep your cholesterol levels in the recommended range. Sounds simple, right?
Not so much. Cholesterol is actually a lousy predictor of whether you’re going to have a heart attack. In fact, lowering cholesterol has been shown to reduce your risk of heart attack only if you’ve already had a heart attack. If you haven’t, lowering cholesterol as a whole doesn’t affect your risk. Instead, we need to look more closely at cholesterol levels to determine what they can—and cannot—tell us.
Cholesterol itself isn’t a bad thing. It is a waxy, fat-like substance naturally found in all human cells. It helps make hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that help us digest food. Although our bodies make cholesterol, it is also found in foods, such as fatty meats, saturated fats like butter, and trans fats, which are often found in crackers and cookies.
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in carriers called lipoproteins. Two kinds of lipoproteins provide this transportation, LDL and HDL. LDL is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol because too much of it results in a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to squeeze through and deliver oxygen to the cells. HDL, or “good” cholesterol, acts like a garbage truck: it brings cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver, where it leaves the body.
The higher the LDL or bad cholesterol, the greater the chance of getting heart disease. The higher the level of HDL (the cleanup lipoprotein), the lower the chance of getting heart disease.
So it’s not just your cholesterol level that makes a difference in your risk of a heart attack—it’s the numbers inside.
For many years, the medical community has focused on advising patients to decrease the LDL or bad cholesterol. But newer studies have shown that it’s more important to have a high level of good cholesterol than it is to have a low level of bad cholesterol. In his article “Forget LDL—Think HDL,” cardiologist Stephen Sinatra says that even when heart patients have tremendously lowered their LDL, they are still at significant risk for heart problems. In addition, he says that many patients who have coronary artery disease have low HDL levels, and that a higher level of “good” cholesterol could help keep the “bad” cholesterol moving on out of the body.
The typical blood test that tells you your total cholesterol level will not give you enough information to understand how LDL and HDL are operating in your body. If you’re concerned about your risk of heart disease, stroke, or your level of cholesterol, talk with your doctor about getting one of the new-generation lipid tests that delve deeper to look at LDL and HDL numbers, as well as LDL particle numbers and size.
Although finding out your individual cholesterol levels is helpful, it’s even more important to look at your actual cardiovascular function. Many functional medicine doctors can measure the compliance of the “cardiovascular tree” in the office, determining the elasticity, or compliance, of the veins and arteries. The buildup of plaque or cholesterol can make the arteries stiffen, increasing the risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, angina and other coronary diseases, as well as kidney disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that one in six American adults has high cholesterol levels, meaning high levels of “bad” cholesterol. Most people who have it don’t even know it, because few symptoms may precede a cardiac event, such as a heart attack.
By consulting with a doctor to get the inside story on your cholesterol levels and cardiovascular function, you can understand what risks you might face, and develop an effective strategy to improve your health.
Tom Sult is a medical doctor, medical educator, inspirational speaker & the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health. Board-certified in family medicine & integrative holistic medicine, Tom is on faculty with the Institute for Functional Medicine and maintains a private practice in Willmar, MN. Join Tom’s crusade to change the way doctors treat their patients at www.justbewell.info. For more information on Tom’s practice please visit the 3rd Opinion website.
Welcome to Ask Whole9 Canada, where Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden answer all of your health and nutrition questions. In this week’s episode, Summer and Sarah discuss the importance of defining health versus performance goals.
Having clearly defined goals is important to achieving the success you desire. When there are multiple goals, you risk having to sacrifice one area to achieve the greatest potential in the other. We can bucket the most common goals into three categories: health, performance and vanity.
While you may see improvements in all areas when you initially make changes to your nutrition and lifestyle, they often require specific protocols that will prevent you from optimizing two things at once. For example, training for a marathon (performance) and healing your digestive issues (health) will likely require different nutrition and lifestyle changes. You may need to trade-off improvements in one area to truly succeed in the other.
In this episode of S&STV, we talk about the importance of defining and prioritizing your goals to ensure success.
Getting injured is a very common issue, both at the general population level and the elite level. An injury can be a major sideline to your fitness progress. Injuries are expensive when you consider the money and time spent going from one pain-relief appointment to the next. Plus, injuries have been shown to decrease your total happiness quotient over time (not surprising).
The vast majority of injuries are not “freak accident” occurrences. Often, when I meet with clients who are walking in the door already injured, these folks were simply doing (or not doing) things in their training that could have prevented the injury in the first place. They just didn’t know.
What follows is a list of the top things you can do to prevent exercise-related injury. Reduce your injury risk by implementing these into your life today.
The most efficient path is sometimes the longer one. There are short-cuts in fitness that you can take, but, they come with very real concerns. For example, box jumps are one way to increase your leg strength and tone; so are squats (which keep your feet firmly planted on the ground throughout). Many think that if squats are good, box jumps are better.
But, if your calves, feet, and achilles are tight and limited in their mobility, box jumps can cause a devastating injury if any of those soft tissues decide the pressure you’re exerting against them is too much and they break.
By working on your body’s mobility alongside your goal of strength, physique, or sport, you expand the repertoire of ‘things you can do safely to reach your goal.’
Injuries support zero fitness goals, and they extend the process of achieving any of them. Improving your body’s mobility allows you to train better, longer, and with less risk.
The value of “warming up” has been battled back and forth for a long time. But here’s the reality: warming up gets not only your muscles and tendons ready for what is about to happen, your central nervous system also appreciates that warm-up time.
Have you ever had to make a mad dash out of bed once the alarm has gone off? You tend to stumble and bumble around a bit in those first few steps into the kitchen or your kids’ room. You’d never walk like this later on in the morning after your brain has been dosed with sunlight, caffeine, and a bit of time to get its’ bearings.
Your brain would appreciate time to get its’ bearings to prepare for what movements its going to be called upon to do in the workout ahead so that it can respond with strong, organized, muscle-recruitment.
Do a warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and movement prep drills that mimic movement pathways you will be following. You want your brain to know “glute work is coming!” and respond accordingly with increased muscle activation of the glutes.
The glute activator squat is one of my favorites for a day that includes squatting. Watch this video to see how it’s done.
Repeated stimulus gets remembered. Often, injuries that have shown up are the result of months, if not years, of soft tissue that had lost mobility. This doesn’t just cause muscle aches & pains. Whatever joints or bones were attached to that soft tissue got pulled with it, causing unnatural grinding and rubbing of those joints.
Spend a few minutes every day using a mobility tool on the areas of your body that need better soft tissue quality. (Lacrosse ball and 2” wooden dowel are my favorites, but use what you have. Got a rolling pin? You’ve got a mobility tool.)
You could dive deep into the study of what soft tissue to use your mobility tool on, but here is a simple action that practically anyone would benefit from.
Leave your lacrosse ball or a wooden or PVC stick near your bed (but not anywhere you’ll trip on it in the middle of the night!). When you first wake up, stand up and press your foot down into it, rolling and pressing as you rub all of the tissue on the under side of your foot down into the tool. Starting the day with feet that have better mobility sets you up for better walking, better standing, better everything.
The well of ‘soft tissue work’ is much deeper than we can cover here today, but the takeaway is this: a little bit, done every day, goes a long way.
Keeping a workout journal is incredibly helpful because it ensures you avoid the common mistake of repeating too much movement that fatigues the same part of the body too many days in a row.
Your head space is much better filled with things that focus on the rest of your life and trying to keep a photographic memory of exactly what you did in your last workout doesn’t have to be one of them.
Often, an exercise-related injury can happen when someone performs a workout that is very low-back taxing one day, then promptly does another workout in the day or two following, that also is very taxing on the low back.
In the 2nd workout, the low back is already fatigued, and it’s being asked to give more. It will either do so until it simply can’t anymore and you feel immense discomfort, and eventual injury, in that region. Or, you’ll begin to recruit other muscles to assist, leading to compensatory movement patterns that become a part of ‘how you move’, which also can lead to injury.
Write down what you did, and when you come to the gym the next day, look back at the last workout or two and pick exercises that don’t further fatigue what you just were working in those last workouts.
Don’t want to “plan” your workouts? Cool. But, you must do this one tip if you want to avoid injuries that seem to “pop up out of nowhere” (but that were actually lurking around earlier, you missed the warning sign).
Write down what you did and if anything was notable about it. If you look at my workout journal, you’ll see small notes written next to some of my rep numbers that I’ve written down; notes like, “technique needs work,” “felt myself cheat on last one, too much low back,” “way smoother, yay,” and “weird, R low back got really tired.”
Those little details that you jot down will remind you in the future when you decide to do that exercise again, what you were feeling and experiencing at that time.
Continually missing the technique for a movement is a way to eventually become injured. There have been times I’ve written down notes and looked back and realized I’d written almost that exact same note the last 3 times.
So this now becomes an opportunity to go research a bit as to why you’re not feeling on-point in that exercise. While the internet is massive and must be searched through with caution for ridiculousness, it’s also an amazing place to search for other people who have experienced something similar and found a solution that works.
Even if you want zero planning at all in your workouts, write down a few details on the things that stood out to you when you’re done. You’ll be glad you did when you reference back to them later on.
It’s not nice to put such high expectations on your body that it’s impossible to ever reach them. If you’re working on improving your stress and starting a new healthy habit, it’s ok to not be the person in your group workout who is hitting personal best’s on every single workout.
Having too many fitness goals on your plate means “rest” isn’t getting a big enough portion of your fitness plate. Health and performance are both enhanced when proper rest is a part of your program.
Workouts work because of the breakdown that happens during the workout, and then the soon-to-follow repair happens which is where the gains are made. Every person will have a unique ‘sweet spot’ of volume & intensity of training+ rest where the best gains happen and the body feels the best.
Find out where your personal tolerance level for workouts is, and accept it. Your friend might thrive on four days a week of hard workouts. But if every time you bump up to four days of hard training you end up excessively fatigued, and feel aches and injuries creeping in, then four days a week isn’t your sweet spot. You’ll make better gains and get less injuries if you hang out in your sweet spot.
Injuries can be prevented more times than not. Getting smarter about how you handle yourself in your workouts will reduce your injury-risk and keep you on the workout path for longer. And staying on the workout path means not only better fitness, but also better quality of life.
Kate Galliett is the creator of Fit for Real Life where she brings together body, mind, and movement to help people become highly-charged and fit for real life. She coaches clients in-person, online, and through her foundational strength & mobility program, The Unbreakable Body. She holds a BS in Exercise Science and has worked as a fitness professional for 12 years. Her secret ingredient is always smoked paprika.