Bare 5

Reconnecting to health and wellness

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Welcome To Bare 5!

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We all have within us the potential to feel great, be strong and love life. The simple approach that can get us there: reconnect to being human. By honoring our natural instincts and connection to the world around us we can optimize our lives. Make the most of every day by taking your life back and reconnect to your true human nature.

Most of us have been getting more disconnected every year as life, technology and constant stress pulls us further away from our roots. More now than ever before, we need to reconnect. Reconnect to human nature: our true selves, the food, movement, rest, nature, friends, family, happiness and joy that makes life amazing. We are marvelous creatures with incredible potential. Bare 5 exists simply as a resource for connection, an outlet for people to plug back in to health. This blog is dedicated to sharing info, thoughts, resources and links that will help people take their future into their own hands and reconnect to being human, gaining health and wellness and to loving life.

If you’re new to natural living, there’s no better time to start than now and no better way than to kick off your shoes and let your Bare 5 toes reconnect with the ground and get some sunshine on your skin. We can all benefit from the simple acts of reconnecting with being human, from the way we walk, to what we eat, to how we move, sleep and even to how we connect with the earth itself and one another. The more we follow our naturally designed path, the better our lives will be.

Every week I try to add new links, info, resources and thoughts so take a look around, explore, browse and let me know what you think!

If you’re here for the Vibram Five Fingers toe shoes, check out the links on the right…
Or check out the Bare5 Barefoot Headquarters.

If you’re here to explore your health, browse around or check out the Resources or FDN pages.

If you just want the basics, take a look at the Bare 5 Elements and look for the Bare 5 Bottom Line, my synopsis of each post.

Thanks for reading, have a great reconnected day!


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Cholesterol and That Time of Year

Did you know cholesterol levels are higher in the winter than summer?

Just like our recently discussed buddy testosterone, cholesterol has a rhythm expressed both both daily and annually. Although several things can acutely impact cholesterol and cause fluctuations, two important cycles to keep in mind are its daily and yearly rhythm. On a daily basis, cholesterol is highest in the middle of the day and lower in the early morning and evening. On a yearly basis, cholesterol peaks in the winter (Nov-Jan) and is at it’s lowest in the summer (Jun-Aug). This variation ranges from a 3-5% difference, up to 15-20% difference, depending on several factors, although the reasons for why this is observed has yet to be established. It has been hypothesized that blood volume, due to seasonal temperature changes might explain some of this but I think there’s a bit more biological nuance in play.

For the people interested in a bit more detail, read the entire article. For the people who just need the basic concept, know this: There is some seasonal variation and it is seen a bit more in women and high cholesterol populations, although lower cholesterol populations see more percentage/relative change. If you get your cholesterol tested in the winter it might be anywhere from a bit higher to considerably higher than if tested in the summer and it’s likely to be a bit higher in the middle of the day than in the morning or evening. This is helpful for general knowledge since many people are “borderline” high cholesterol (it may simply be a winter peak) and is even more important for retesting. Make sure your variables of time and season are controlled if you’re looking for if a change has taken place.

For most people that is really all one need know. For the others out there like myself that tend to dive deeper, here’s a bit more on the annual rhythm (I only expanded on yearly changes because I think that it’s more well studied and impactful and daily cholesterol fluctuations are less well established and are likely impacted by too many variables to tackle here)…

Cholesterol Annual Rhythm Research

The seasonality of cholesterol levels has been noticed for some time and studied relatively extensively. Although a few studies haven’t shown statistical significance, most research points toward a noticeable difference between winter levels and summer levels. As mentioned above, the reasons for this is yet to be discovered but hypotheses have included dietary changes, temperature variations and activity changes. In looking around at some of the research I came across two studies I wanted to share.

Seasonal Variation in Serum Cholesterol Levels (2004)

A pretty simple study done about 10 years ago looked at Total Cholesterol, LDL, HDL and Triglycerides for both men and women. Here’s the results:

Not tremendous variation but definitely noticeable and statistically significant in several measurements, with the most difference seen in women and people with “high” baseline (>240) cholesterol*. The authors concluded that although this was less variation than most similar research has shown it is still enough to warrant acknowledgement when screening for cholesterol. The explaination offered is that seasonal variations are likely due to changes in blood volume, which would concentrate the blood’s contents more in the colder months, therefore raising the blood test scores. This, as they referenced, has been seen to register up to 100 point differences in extreme weather climates such as Finland.

*Note: most research finds women to have higher cholesterol than men on average, this study found the opposite. However, they found that the greatest differences were found in high cholesterol folks and women, who traditionally have higher cholesterol. Nothing groundbreaking here but thought it was a very straightforward look at the question that provided good visual representation of the data. Additionally, it reinforced the idea that the people most likely to be measuring, tracking and managing cholesterol are the ones who have the most variation during a year.

The study that really peaked my interest was this:

Influence Of Dietary Intake And Physical Activity On Annual Rhythm Of Human Blood Cholesterol Concentrations (2001)

A group of German researchers set out to determine the influence of diet and exercise on cholesterol annual rhythms. They found that diet and exercise weren’t the controlling factors in cholesterol annual rhythm. In essence, cholesterol was higher in the winter and lower in the summer regardless of diet or exercise variation. Although this was interesting as a broad finding, the details were what I found intriguing. Here are the groups they studied over a two year period:

Group A: Vegetarians
Group B: Athletes
Group C1: Control group young (age 20-26)
Group C2: Control group older (age 40-48)

The basic cholesterol data, using the universal mmol/L measurement is below. American testing uses mg/dl so I did some basic conversion for ease of comparison. A total cholesterol of 5.5 mmol/L translates to about 215 mg/dl, 4.5 equals 175, 3.5 equals 135. Every 1.0 is about 40 points. 
Some quick observations: Women had higher cholesterol across all groups by about 20 points. The older control group had the highest cholesterol averaging ~215, followed by athletes (~185), young control group (~165) and vegetarians (~140). Nothing terribly surprising there but looking at the annual rhythms and group differences a few things started to stand out. Chart 1 is the men, Chart 2 is women:

 All of the groups had almost identical rhythm, just higher or lower on the cholesterol scale. Regardless of gender, this is a very consistent finding among all groups.

Men
Looking at the men, the 3 non exercise groups are virtually identical in blood cholesterol change, regardless of if they were high or low baseline cholesterol. That means the older control group and vegetarians both saw the same absolute change seasonally (about 20 points), despite the fact the vegetarians cholesterol was considerably lower (about 50 points). This means that the vegetarian group actually experienced the biggest relative/percentage change from season to season of all non exercisers. The male athletes experienced the biggest change both absolute (40 points) and relative (20%). This is likely explained from the following graph:


HDL increased considerably more in the winter in these male athletes and explains the added seasonal change seen in the overall cholesterol score.

Women
Going back to overall cholesterol in the women, what stands out is how similar the rhythm of each group, even the athletes. Second is how different the cholesterol numbers are between the higher and lower groups. The female athletes and older controls had cholesterol numbers ranging from 200 to 250 while the vegetarians had a range from 125 to 150 and the younger control group was somewhere between the two. So hypothetically you could have a vegetarian friend test their cholesterol in the summer and get a score of 125 and another friend who was an avid exerciser who gets their cholesterol tested 6 months later and gets a 250. Both could be healthy and one would have cholesterol double the other. One would be commended for their “great cholesterol” and the other, that I would argue is potentially healthier, would be having the unhealthy high cholesterol discussion with their doctor. Even if the vegetarian tested in the winter and got 150 and the athlete tested in the summer at 200, that’s still a tremendous difference.

Let’s look at the HDL scores to see if that’s part or all of the difference:


More tightly grouped with a little crossover of groups, unlike the men that were spread out more and had almost no crossover. Vegetarian and older women had lowest HDL while young controls and athletes were higher.

What can we take away from these two studies, the second one in particular?

Nothing for certain since these are just two studies and nothing in this health world is absolute but it does appear that it’s a good idea to keep the concepts in mind they discuss or suggest in mind?

What can we take away from the bigger picture of cholesterol research?

Cholesterol fluctuates seasonally, with a natural pattern that develops and is consistent across different populations but how much variation we might see probably differs from population to population and individual to individual. As always, there’s continued need to explore further but I think this hints at some deeper biology that, when we fully understand it, will likely clear up much of our confusion surrounding cholesterol and many other biological substances and processes.

For now, I would stick with this: Don’t take a cholesterol test on a summer morning and then compare it to a followup test taken on a winter afternoon. You just may be looking at a statin prescription. :)

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

P.S. Find it interesting that cholesterol is high the same time of year as testosterone??

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Why I Started Drinking Soda Again

Several months ago, after going a few years without drinking soda, I started to drink soda again. Why? Pretty much because I really like soda and I wanted to enjoy it again.

The reintroduction of soft drinks into my life, upon first glance, appears to be counter to just about every thing I feel about reconnecting to nature and natural things. You’ll likely see that what follows is not my attempt to argue the health promoting features of soda (which is an actual argument) but to simply describe how I think about things and how they may or may not fit into my life. Yes, it is a way to rationalize my own behavior but, in the end, that’s about all we try to do with everything we do in our lives anyways…

Me and Cherry Coke

Not different from many people out there, I’m a fan of soda. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things. I didn’t drink beer in college, I drank soda. It was a big part of my life for quite a while until I started looking into nutrition and found it was possibly one of the worst things I could do for my health. High fructose corn syrup, caffeine, artificial colors, flavors and more, these liquid sugar & chemical bombs were universally and unanimously labeled as a health disaster and one of the biggest reasons behind the rise in obesity and diabetes. Since they certainly aren’t very natural either, I was pretty sure they didn’t have a place in my life so I gave up drinking them. Life went on. 

Fast forward a couple years. I got more interested in holistic well being and less focused on nutrition as the main component of health. I started to open my mind to challenging my dogmas and began experimenting with bringing sugar back into the mix a bit more, particularly in the context of management/fueling of both stress and my athletic realms. Naturally, it was a journey that eventually led me to start reevaluating my condemnation of soft drinks.

I believe it was a Cherry Coke in the refrigerator at my wife’s parents house that got me thinking… “Why am I avoiding soda?”

So I took a step back, literally and figuratively.

Looking at this random can of Cherry Coke sitting on a shelf in the fridge I asked the question: Is drinking this going to kill me? No. Of course not.

Would I enjoy drinking it? Yes.

So is it worth any anxiety over it? No.

I subsequently drank it and enjoyed it very much. I like Cherry Coke a lot. I always have.

Now I have a soda about once or twice a week, love it and have no worries about it affecting my health whatsoever.

My Thoughts on Soda

Although it didn’t necessarily happen overnight, I started drinking soda again for two main reasons:
1. I don’t think it’s as bad for you as we think it is.
2. I really like drinking it.

That really could be it on the matter but since I like to overthink things, I’ll expand on my thought process a bit…

The Sins of Soda

When people criticize soda it’s for two main reasons: too much sugar and/or the chemicals (coloring, flavoring, preserving).

Sugar – Looking at the sugar content of a soda, it’s a decent amount (typically about 50 grams) but isn’t so much that it makes that much of a difference in a day much less a week, particularly if you start to look at all the sugar people manage to eat without really thinking about it. As a quick example, a yogurt a day ends up contributing the sugar equivalent of 3 sodas a week. I dont think there’s a need to avoid sugar and I would argue that it is a good thing for us from time to time and something that shouldn’t be avoided entirely.

The problem doesn’t lie in the sugar unless the volume grows high (which can often happen) and is a different legitimate discussion (how do we know when sugar is too high?), but isn’t the issue here. The sugar in a soda for me is not a worry and may actually be a benefit from time to time.

Chemicals – That brings us to the added colorings, flavorings and preservatives found in soft drinks. I don’t think they’re good for you, plain and simple. I don’t think they’re going to kill you either, particularly at low levels, which is what I’m talking about when considering to have a soda now and then. Just like sugar, I think that we need to keep our total load of additives/chemicals from all sources in mind. How much exposure to these things do we get every day? Are we worried about the chemicals in soda but not considering everything else?

Consider this: What has more chemicals, Coke or your shampoo? Sprite or your deodorant?

Coke: carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

Shampoo (TREsemme):

Sprite: water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate

Soap (Dial):
Active Ingredient: Triclocarban Inactive Ingredients: Soap (sodium Cocoate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Palmate*, Sodium Tallowate), Water, Talc, Coconut Acid, Palm Acid, Tallow Acid, Palm Kernel Acid, Peg-6 Methyl Ether, Fragrance, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Sodium Chloride, Pentasodium Pentetate, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Titanium Dioxide.

What’s a bigger chemical load to your body on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis? When you look at all the chemicals we can and do put in and on our bodies the amount in a soft drink is pretty trivial, particularly in just one or two a week. How many other things are laden with sugar and chemicals that we take for granted or don’t critique? Is my ingestion of a cherry flavored soft drink any worse than those other things? Particularly since I don’t do most of those other things?

“It’s Just Not Good For You” 

This is what I used to say and have heard many people say for a long time. The argument that sodas just are not good for you. How do we know for sure? Why are we making universal statements about things? Why are we applying morality to food? This is an important discussion which I wrote on a while back (Food Friends, Morality & Chocolate Chip Cookies). Not only do we not know anything for certain, there’s no such thing as universally good or bad, and we need to stop labeling things good or bad while ignoring the situation or person it’s being applied to. There are too many variables, including the meaningful concepts of quality of life and personal preferences, not to mention bio-indivuality and personal context.

Just for fun, however, let’s say sodas are bad for you. Is is still bad to have them from time to time? Are they worse than other bad things we do on a daily basis?

A Little Bit of Radiation Never Hurt Anyone…

People drink alcohol, beer and wine all the time and most of us don’t blink an eye. Many of us any claim that drinking a glass or two of alcohol a day is good for you, and although we don’t really know why, people often cite a couple reasons: a little toxic challenge to the system makes us stronger or it enables relaxation and/or enhances the communal aspect of eating. Is soda any different? What if you don’t drink alcohol? Could soda fill the same role in life? Are they pretty much the same thing? I don’t know but just asking a question that needs to be thought about.

Taken a step further- If drinking soda is as bad as smoking as often stated lately, then here’s my thought: Is that really true? Is drinking soda as bad for you as smoking? If so, how about this question: Is smoking bad for you if you have one cigarette a day? How about 2-3 a week? One a week? One or two a month? A couple times a year? How do we know?

And would it still be bad for you if everything else you do is “healthy”?

People wear shoes, many of which have a heel and/or smash your toes together and don’t allow for much range of motion in the foot. I could argue that wearing something like high heels is much worse for someone’s health than having soda. I’ll put a soda up against high heels any day.

The poison is in the dose and context. And those are very difficult to get a handle on.

I don’t drink very much but when I want a soda I drink one. I don’t think anything about it either. I live and eat pretty well most of the time so I feel that soda fits into the realm of occasional enjoyment* that provides more benefit than harm. If I were to be drinking 2 or 3 (or more) a day and wasn’t living a pretty good life in other arenas (including being quite active) then I would have a much harder time rationalizing the risk/benefit outcome. Or, if I had a bunch of other “indulgences” then soda might be adding to the problem instead of adding to my overall health.

*I do think we need to be careful about this line of reasoning because it can be a slippery slope… “Well, since enjoyment is a part of life and I really enjoy soda I’ll have some. You know, I really enjoy hamburgers and fries too. And I love adding a milkshake when I go out. And pancakes are such fun…” Indulgences should be occasional, not regular, and should never come close to outweighing the good and more natural behaviors in your life.

I think many people, in the attempt to be super healthy, lose some of life’s enjoyment. Being healthy doesn’t mean giving up all your indulgences. Being healthy means knowing how to indulge without letting them take over.

I live a life based on natural principles and believe that should form the foundation of everyone’s health platform. I also am a human with several flaws and one of them happens to be soda. I enjoy life much more now that I feel able to have a soda when I want one. Avoiding them out of fear did me no good, even if it provided a slight health benefit.

How do things fit into your life? Are they really that bad for you? How much do you like them? How often do you do them?

If we do the “good” things most of the time it gives us the latitude to have a few “bad” things mixed in to life and they may end up being good for us as a result.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

P.S. Are the super healthy people missing out on challenges and building stronger bodies because they don’t expose it to bad things?

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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Guys and That Time of Year

It is well established and commonly understood that women have regular and predictable hormonal cycles that govern much of their biology and behavior but did you know that men’s hormones also cycle? Most specifically testosterone, the primary male hormone that makes men men, has two important cycles that govern much of their biology and behavior..

Daily Testosterone Fluctuations 

Testosterone has a diurnal rhythm (a daily/circadian cycle) marked by peak levels in the morning and a low at night. It looks like this:

 This means men wake up with their highest daily testosterone levels circulating through their blood, which typically helps drive them to start the day strong from both an energy and libido perspective. Subsequently, they are typically most charged first thing in the morning and the first half of the day. As the day goes on testosterone declines steadily with the lowest levels appearing at night, ranging 25-50% lower than the morning peak*. This daily pattern often dictates much of how driven a man is as the day goes on and particularly at night.

Sleep then restores testosterone levels as the body rests, recovers and builds. After a good sleep, testosterone has built up over night and is again at peak levels the following morning, providing the energy and masculinity for the upcoming day. The crucial role that sufficient overnight rest plays means if men don’t sleep enough (or well enough) they can’t restore their testosterone and build up as high of a reserve and peak, leaving them starting off at a deficit. This is not a big deal after a night or two but it can have an understandably huge impact over time. One of the reasons men lose testosterone as they get older is due to chronic sleep deprivation. Many other factors contribute but sleep is the trump card that helps even the most stressed out, poorly fed and out of shape guy keep testosterone at respectable levels. This is also likely tied to why men can fall asleep just about any time and are so quick to fall asleep at night. If running low at the end of the day or perpetually depleted, sleep is one of the body’s main avenues for restoring the substance that fuels much of a man’s biology. The sleep-testosterone relationship is also why it’s important to limit exposure to bright lights at night. Bright light postpones/blocks/prevents the brain’s release of melatonin, a powerful hormone that signals the sleep sequence and subsequent testosterone production.

When testing for testosterone, it is important that daily rhythm is taken into account as morning samples will naturally measure higher than afternoon or evening samples and that a few days of sleep deprivation, if not the norm, could also dramatically alter test results. Ideally, any testing should be done under normal conditions and retesting should be done under similar conditions.

*Noticeable is the difference between young and old men on the testosterone daily rhythm. Although this is yet to be fully explained it is a widely observed difference and is often used to discern how “youthful” a man might still be. Men who feel substantially vital in the morning and considerably less so at night are representing a normal and youthful male hormonal pattern.

Yearly Testosterone Fluctuations 

While daily hormone rhythms are an important part of understanding male behavior and function on a day to day basis, an equally important cycle to be aware of is annual/yearly/seasonal testosterone changes. On an annual basis, testosterone reaches a peak in late fall and a low in spring. It looks like this: 

As you can see, testosterone is at its highest in the fall and lowest in the spring. This little talked about (and little known) picture of the male hormone is extremely relevant when looking at men’s health and behavior. This means, from a biological perspective, men are at their most manly in the fall and least manly in the spring. Although there is debate over why men have this seasonal pattern, this cycle can help explain much of male behavior from a bigger picture approach. Men can expect to have much more masculine energy, libido, drive and command during some of the year and much less during other parts of the year, for no reason other than seasonal variability of their primary masculinizing hormone. Subsequently, any hormone testing or evaluation needs to be done with this pattern as background. Getting tested for testosterone levels now (May) would likely show most of us lower than we actually are, giving a false low test result. Similarly, getting tested in October would be getting a measure of the highest levels we can produce (but only do for a month or two), giving a false high score. More troublesome is when a man gets tested during a high or low season and then retested 6 months later at the exact opposite of testosterone season and then it is concluded that something (often an intervention or drug) has had a positive or negative impact. All that was really learned is the man’s hormone range, not a hormone change.

Managing Male-ness

There are a thousand different opinions on how to manage hormones, testosterone in particular. The scope of this post isn’t concerned with increasing male hormones (although I think I will put together a little something on simple things we can do to help optimize testosterone). More generally the goal was to simply to bring awareness to these two important and often very helpful male cycles and leave you with a few things to keep in mind when analyzing how you (or the men in your life) feel and perform.

  • Testosterone peaks in the morning and lowers throughout the day, bottoming out at night. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if and when masculine energy is a bit low at night. *Women: this is thought of as the best time to ask for something. **Men: this is when to be very aware of what women are asking if you.
  • If a man doesn’t exhibit daily fluctuations it is a sign of a problem.
  • Sleep restores testosterone. Lack of sleep = lack of testosterone.
  • Testosterone is at its highest in the fall and lowest in the spring. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if there’s less drive, libido, energy and confidence in the half of the year with lower levels, particularly the spring months. *Women: Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit more attention paid to you in the fall and winter- this is why the busiest season for babies is July-Sept. Sperm count is reflective of testosterone levels.
  • If a man doesn’t experience seasonal variations in testosterone or masculinity it’s the sign of a problem.
  • Testosterone is a reflection of the health state of the body. Healthy men have healthy testosterone levels and cycles. Suboptimal levels and/or cycles is a reflection of poor health. 
  • Any testing should keep both daily and yearly rhythms in mind. This is a neglected component that can vastly alter how to interpret test results.

Men are biological creatures and we need to keep that in mind. So if you find yourself reading this article on a spring night it might not surprise you that you (or your man) are pretty tired and have been just a little off in general lately. That’s just part of being a man. But so is waking up full of macho bravado on a fall morning so keep that in mind come September.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

P.S. These dates presented here are for males in the Northern Hemisphere as the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

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What I Tell People In A Week Part 2

Four years ago I wrote Part 1, which I found to be a neat little exercise. Since I’ve been sharing archived posts lately I read through it and marveled at how much similarity exists in the things I tell people now. I thought it would be interesting to repeat the same experiment and so here is what I talked to people about last week…

Sunday

Guys have a much harder time just eating one cookie.

Be consistent but don’t overdo it. That’s when progress happens.

Cardio isn’t necessary. Do your exercise well and “cardio” happens by accident.

Monday

It’s amazing that something as complex as a car needs to be so carefully taken car of yet the human body is a thousand times more complex and we keep wanting to simplify it down to “just eat well” or do this or do that and think it’s going to work.

Tightness can’t be fixed overnight. Move as often as you can. Hips get tight as an adaptation to how we live. Move them through as much range of motion as you can as often as you can. The problem is being static. Breaking the static, even for a second, is where you encourage change.

There’s a big difference between moving your body and moving with intention. They are and result in two different things. Moving your body is step one. Paying attention to how your body feel when it moves is step two. Both are important but moving with intention and connection is the best way to change your body and how it moves.

The rotator cuff is very complex. It’s a group of muscles designed to protect and control the shoulder. Bad posture puts it into a bad place. Good posture helps it work how it’s designed.

Body position matters. Pay attention to yours.

When you stretch a complex it’s the tightest link in the chain that gets stretched.

Movement brings out emotion. That’s ok- it’s a good thing. Feel your exercise, don’t disconnect from it.

Tuesday 

You’re only as bright as you dress.

Breakdown your 8 headed monster. What are your demons that prevent you from making change and living well. The ones you can see tight away (the usual or immediate suspects) are often just along for the ride while the biggest offenders (the ones pulling all the strings) are usually hidden until you flush them out- just like a last minute twist in a movie. YOU were behind this the whole time??

Blood work explanation with triglyceride detail and liver function: 

 Neck pain is posture. So is back pain. Conditions usually don’t develop overnight and/or quickly. They progress slowly but that allows you to realize it if you pay attention.

Pre workout drinks are tricky- be careful with them. Do we need pre workout drinks? If your body isn’t brimming with energy to expend in a workout what are you doing forcing it to work out? Isn’t that the opposite of the signal your body is giving you?

Much of exercise is skill. Don’t practice for a while? Expect to be rusty. Most of its neuromuscular so think about practicing if you want to be better. Also, the better you practice the better you perform.

Wednesday

Make sure you move. Even if it’s for a minute, try not to be in the same position for too long.

Movement is is your diet- get everything in your palate. Even healthy movers can be nutrient deficient.

Thursday

You’re only who you are. Don’t live in someone else’s shoes or expectations. That’s a recipe for disappointment and frustration.

Pain is a warning signal. Think of it as an alarm to impending damage or a threat. Listen to it. Something I have failed to do in the past… :)

Friday

Movement is nutrition. How diverse is your “diet”? (Different person, same basic conversation as Wednesday)

Take care of yourself. Seriously.

There is no magic formula for exercise. Just do your best.

If you can’t step up without back pain something’s going on. That’s not a good thing and shouldn’t be ignored.

Wrapping Up

So what stands out? A couple things: I talked a bunch less (which is always a goal) and there was lots of movement talk and very little nutrition talk. Not sure if there was even much chatter about it at all which is a lot different than four years ago. Maybe that’s because I’ve had all the nutrition conversations already or maybe I’ve just been paying attention and studying movement more lately. Or maybe it’s just the week. Certainly I have diet and nutrition discussions much more around the holidays and pre-summer time so I’m sure it won’t be long until I have a week filled with what people should be putting on their plates. Whatever the case, it is always interesting to take a step back and see what I’ve been busy telling people in a week. :)

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

P.S. Found this from Nature as I was double checking the diagram I created. Glad to know I was pretty close…

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Alkaline Water, Sodium, Dieting and Olivia Pope

 This started off as a post called Don’t Hack Your Health. Basically it was my thoughts on people who try to find ways around the body, find shortcuts and trick the body into getting what they want. People have been trying to change and manipulate the human body for a long time but lately a growing realm/world called “biohacking” has developed that has both intentionally (and often unintentionally) promoted the idea that we can hack the body. Whether it’s through behaviors, supplements, exercises or fancy gadgets a whole lot of people are finding ways to outsmart the body. I have no problem with working with the body to change it for the better. I have a problem with trying to hack it.

Don’t try to hack your health, try to restore it. Restoring your health or reprogramming your health is fine. Trying to find shortcuts and trick the body is a recipe for disaster. If you are trying to hack your health, you’re thinking about the whole concept wrong and probably doing something ineffective at best and damaging at worst. People who hack their health either don’t achieve what they want or do but end up paying in the end. Just like a computer system, mess around with the programming too much and the system will either freeze, crash or get completely wiped out. Once your body crashes after a hack it can take a while to rebuild. Take the time to do it right in the first place.

The body is smarter than we are. By far. Do not forget this basic concept no matter how clever we might think we are, how much we think we figure out or how convincing a new doctor/trainer/health guru might sound. Maybe one day we will get a little better at understanding it the body in all its adaptive marvel but we are not there yet.

So whether you are doing something simple like trying some supplement or medication to force insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol or reduce blood pressure or doing something that seems a bit more extreme like strange diet tricks or trying to get by on less sleep via tinted glasses, brain wave training or sleep window manipulation, anything we “pull off” or manipulate is temporary at best and is likely going to be fixed by the body.

Olivia Pope

*If you don’t watch the show Scandal, you may not know what I’m talking about but hopefully this will all make sense. 

The body is like Olivia Pope. We create a mess and the body comes in and fixes it- whether we like it or not and in a way that we may or may not be happy with. Sometimes in front of us but often behind the scenes, just like she restores order in Washington DC, the body restores order/homeostasis without messing around much. Like Olivia, the body is ruthless, does what it knows is best and doesn’t sugar coat anything.

Enter alkaline water, sodium and dieting…

These aren’t necessarily the popular biohacks going around the health-sphere but serve as good and simple examples of how we think we are doing something that ends up not quite working in the way we assume and might end up working against us. 

Alkaline Water

Alkaline water (and diets) are a big thing right now. The idea behind them is that our body is healthy when slightly alkaline and unhealthy if acidic. Therefore our logic says doing something like drinking lots of alkaline water will make our body more alkaline.

Unfortunately this doesn’t really pan out for a couple of reasons. First, this water (with a pH of 8 or so, compared to tap water at neutral ~7) goes into our stomach which is extremely acidic (a pH of somewhere between 2-3). Any alkaline substance is immediately turned more acidic. The only thing it accomplished was to make our stomach acid less acidic, which for most of us results in digesting food less well. Alkaline water is usually filled with minerals, which might be a good thing but only if those are what your body needs. Additionally, the body regulates its blood ph very tightly to keep us alive and functioning well. If we were actually able to influence it by simply drinking alkaline water we would fall apart physiologically at best and die at worst. It’s actually a good thing we can’t chug alkaline water and change our bodies chemistry.

Sodium

Many people are familiar with sodium’s impact on water retention and/or blood pressure. The common belief and practice is that if you eat too much sodium you’ll get bloated and high blood pressure so if you want to get rid of water or lower your blood pressure you cut back on your sodium. Sounds simple but the problem is that it only works like this some of the time and very briefly.

Sodium levels in the blood/body are also very tightly regulated because our health depends on it. So much of our cellular interactions need to happen in a very narrow body that when things change to alter that the body kicks in to fix the problem pretty quickly and effectively. So when we do something like cut back on our sodium to reduce water retention or blood pressure it might work for about a day or two until the body, sensing the stress of dropping sodium (a.k.a. a change in homeostasis), does a clever thing: increases production of the hormone aldosterone which signals the kidneys to reabsorb sodium and water while secreting more potassium. All of this adds up to an increase in water retention and increases in blood pressure and blood volume. So when we think we are getting the body to one thing it’s making a few behind the scenes adjustments to make sure we stay right where we were in the first place. Keep trying to force the issue (super low sodium diets/intakes) and it will get even more drastic.

Dieting

The biggest hack of them all and the kind of job Olivia likes best: intense, complicated and urgent. When a diet comes to town, the body gets it Pope gloves on and gets ready to some serious fixing.

When you look at what a diet is attempting to do it’s seems like a very simple invention. We are trying to manipulate/coax/force the body to change from it’s status quo. How do we do that most typically? By reducing energy in and increasing energy out. Another simple approach that seems like it should work based off what we think we know about the body.

In an attempt to survive, reproduce and maintain homeostasis, the body is constantly fixing what we do it it. Usually they’re pretty minor things and we never quite realize they’re even happening. If we start trying to limit it’s incoming energy and pair that with increasing the outgoing energy we have created a nice little metabolic disruption. In the short term the body pulls out a little fat and stored carbohydrates to make up the energy difference and makes it through a day or two with simple adjustments. If everything goes back to normal, the body is happy. When you keep this problematic behavior (diet) going it starts to want to fix things. Just like Olivia Pope, the body has some gladiators (fixers) and they get things done.

If you’re going to run in an energy deficit, Olivia sends Mr. Hunger in. If you don’t listen to that straightforward suggestion she gets a little more subtle and puts Mrs. Energy Efficiency to work. She pulls a few strings and every cell in your body starts running more efficiently and requires less energy resulting in you expending a lot less and no longer running at a deficit. Still don’t listen? Mr. Fat Blocker comes in to slow fat cells from releasing fat and brings Mrs. Fat Finder along to encourage all the hormones and processes that store energy more efficiently. Still not taking the hints of hunger, fatigue, slowed/no fat loss and stubborn fat? Mr. Muscle Burner comes in and starts breaking down your precious, hard earned and metabolically costly muscle tissue, leaving you with an even slower metabolism and less muscle to exercise with. End result is you’ve caused a mess and the body fixed it and set things up to protect it from you in the future. Congratulations, you’ve just been Olivia Poped.

This may not seem fair but it’s how things work. This is why it can be so hard to change the body. This is why trying to change our cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes or weight is so tough. The body fixes it right back. Sometimes you get the body to respond to something like weight loss but it’s usually because you allowed your body to lose weight and it was in a comfortable place to do so which means you didn’t hack your weight loss, you got healthier. Some people can (and do) outsmart or stay ahead of Olivia Pope for a while but those are typically the ones who end up really getting burned in the end. My advice: know that she’s out there and she pays close attention to everything you do. It’s going to be really hard to get away with anything because she and her gladiators fix nearly everything you try to get away with. Get to know her, make friends with her and her team and get them working with you because in this crazy world it’s good to have the body on your side.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

P.S. I’ve covered this concept before, here’s one of my favorites: a The Marvel.


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My Exercise Program

 “What do you do to stay in shape?”

This question comes around quite often and is asked in the context of me being one or more of the following things:

– a guy a couple years from 40
– a dad, particularly of 4
– a lifetime/former athlete
– a personal trainer
– obstacle course connoisseur
– ninja warrior trainee
– generally active human
– lover of all things playful and fun

The shortest and simplest answer to how I stay in shape is “be as active as life allows.” The much longer but far more descriptive answer is “I move around a lot, play often, challenge my body in new ways, strive to conquer new things, let my creativity guide me, listen to my body, learn from kids, try new things and try not to hurt myself while generally being as active as time, energy and life allows.”

Part 1 – My Exercise Philosophy

I am a lover of almost all things exercise, sport, play and fitness oriented and incorporate many different things into my weekly, monthly and yearly physical fitness approach. Often the season or different exposures or awarenesses will guide my specific training approach or focus but typically I move in as many different ways as I can. I’m not married to any exercise routine, realm or dogma and I think that variety is the spice of life, particularly when it comes to exercise, fitness and movement.

Before going any further, a few things need to laid out that provide background and foundation to my philosophy:
– I have been active my whole life.
– I have played sports since the age of 5.
– I have a long history with exercise and am an advanced mover.
– I have worked out in gyms and with weights since the age of 20.
– I have tried just about every exercise and movement discipline out there.
– I have never been out of shape.
– I work in an active profession and have a schedule that allows for exercise.
– I have been a personal trainer for almost 15 years.
– I have trained hundreds of people and studied thousands of people move.
– I have had a long time passion for learning about and developing my knowledge of human movement and performance.
– I love the human body and movement.
– I am a big believer in taking cues from nature and our historical human behaviors.

With those things in context, here are some notes on my exercise philosophy…

I don’t have a exercise/fitness program. I live an exercise/fitness life. I exercise when I can and feel like it but most of my staying in shape these days is a result of playing, trying new things and incorporating active things into my life.

I have no set exercise schedule. Some days I exercise for an hour and a half, others it’s for 5 minutes. Some weeks I’m active almost every day, others it’s just a day or two.

I very rarely work out inside a gym or with weights. Almost everything I do involves bodyweight training and is done outdoors. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve worked out inside this year.

I want to move and feel well, this is more important than looking good. I am as vain as the next guy but as I get older and spend more time studying myself and others move the more I value performance and function over aesthetics.

I am a movement jack of all trades, master of none. I appreciate mastery of movements/styles/skills but would rather be good at multiple things. To me, specializing in things is fine for the short term but leads to more risk, despite the reward.

I look at movement like nutrition. Different movements disciplines activities are like vitamins. In order to be healthy you need a well balanced diet that includes many different and nourishing movements.

No two workouts are ever the same. As I mentioned before, variety is key for me. I want to experience something new almost every time I move. I’m always open to trying new things and experimenting with new ways of moving my body.

I try to have fun when I exercise. To me, fun = functional. The best way for me keep movement part of my life is to enjoy it. That means I spend a lot of time at playgrounds and trying to find fitness in all sorts of strange places. I’ve found some of my best workouts are when I’m playing, being creative and generally just goofing around.

Exercise and training are two different things and they’re both different from moving. Some times I exercise, sometimes I train (ninja warrior) and sometimes I move.

I believe in working in as often as working out. Keeping restorative movement that brings energy in (working in) instead of out (working out) is a big part of my life helps me stay balanced and not overtrain.

I very rarely run or do cardio. Unless I get inspired to go for a run I think it’s a waste of time to do so. I don’t have a problem with running/cardio per se but think it’s held on a pedestal and applied very poorly all the time. Running is like bread. Good for some, bad for others. Good if eaten a part of a balanced diet, bad if that’s all you eat. I like my running short and sweet. I like to sprint and run fast. Every once in a while I’ll feel like running low and slow so I do. The rest of the time my “cardio” takes place as a result of my movement.

The biggest problem our society has is not lack of exercise it’s lack of movement. Exercise is a stopgap but doesn’t make up for not moving our bodies regularly and variety. I feel that some exercise makes things even worse, not better. This is a whole issue that I will write on sometime.

Part 2 – My Exercise Program

My exercise philosophy generally dictates a very dynamic, varietal and unstructured exercise program which subsequently makes it very difficult to give concrete examples of how I stay in shape. As an example, last week I “exercised” 3 times. Monday I went to the park and played around on the playground for about 45 minutes with no structure or routine, I just did whatever came to mind. Swung on the swings, climbed things, went down slides, hung from things, crawled around and generally improvised movement. Tuesday I went to the park and did an entire workout with a couple picnic tables where I jumped, pushed, crawled, hung, pulled and played for an hour. Thursday I went to another playground and exercised/played for a while. Add in a quick family hike today and that was a pretty normal week for me.

Since just sharing these general descriptions can’t quite convey specific examples of what I actually do while at the playground, on picnic tables, park benches, etc. I created a couple other avenues of sharing. The first, which I started a couple years ago, is my Bare 5 Fitness blog, where I try to post almost all of my fitness/workout/active/play sessions. What I’ve found over the years is that it used to be really easy to list what I do for exercise but as I move away from structured gym workouts it’s really tough to describe what I do. So lately I’ve moved into the second realm of K2 fitness sharing: creating little video montages of the kinds of exercise that I do. This has quickly become the best way to describe my current exercise program. From playgrounds to open grass, balls to rings, bars to bike racks and park benches to picnic tables, this is what I do to keep in shape…

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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Trying Out Cannabidiol (CBD)

As most of you know I’m a big fan of nature. Subsequently, for better or worse, I like to think that the natural world can provide us with much of what we need to be healthy. I’ve spent most of my time as a health practitioner  focusing on the basics of natural food, movement, sleep, connection and enjoyment to reset human potential. As time goes on I have begun to get more interested in some of the more fringe nature based/traditional practices. One of the areas that I have been exploring is the realm of using plants/herbs/botanicals and other flora for health promotion or recovery. This is an area I’ve only waded into and want to take slowly so I’ve really only experimented with some adaptagenic herbs/flowers in a few different substances, supplements and foods.

Something that’s been in the back of my mind is the world of cannabis/hemp and its family of products. Many people swear by the numerous benefits of these plants and the medical community is starting to acknowledge what many people have been saying for a long, long time. I’m not interested in smoking marijuana but am interested in what makes it so effective for pain management and health promotion.

As is often the case, when I’ve been thinking about something (remember the cricket story?) the universe reaches out and says hi. Enter CBD. 

One of the main compounds in hemp/marijuana is Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD. I hadn’t heard much about cannabidiol until I was contacted by Dose of Nature, a company specializing in CBD and making it available and user friendly to the mainstream public. When most people think of hemp or marijuana they think of the stereotypical pot smoking situation/user. As such, most people are familiar with THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana that gets most of the criticism and is responsible for the high and many of the other stereotypical effects of marijuana use. Conversely, CBD (which makes up about 40% of the cannabis plant extract) has been gaining steam as a therapeutic remedy for a number of health related conditions and is being actively studied for its healing and health promoting effects. It appears that cannabidiol is the part of cannabis/hemp/marijuana that may be the reason for its medical efficacy and general belief that smoking pot can be healthy and or good for you. Two of the biggest areas of interest for application of Cannabidiol are in brain function (seizures/deterioration) and cancer, with some very promising results, particularly in the anecdotal realm.

I am interested in all things natural so after a little research I became intrigued and thought it would be nice to trial their Redstrap CBD in Hemp Oil and see what happens. As I’ve written before, my philosophy has been a bit hesitant of isolating things from the whole but  I also have found it helpful to keep an open mind. Cannabidiol seems like a substance worth investigating so I gave it a shot…

I’m only 4 days into using it and must say I’m starting to like it. Here are my thoughts so far:

– It has an earthy quality (taste/smell) that I like. It may turn some people off but I like it.

– I have noticed a nice little energy bump from it, but it’s mild and I don’t necessarily lack energy as a general rule.

– Mental clarity seems to have been on point, but once again I usually do pretty well in this realm normally. 

– Libido seems to be a bit higher. Could be coincidence but don’t have a problem with that. 

– Doesn’t mix well with water but I’ve found a way around that by dropping the oil together in a couple ounces of water and then just shooting the whole thing in one gulp.

So on the whole I’ve liked my short term experience with CBD. It seems to be a little boost to a few things in my life so I plan on continuing for a little while longer and expanding my research in this realm. I’ll keep you guys updated on what my thoughts are down the road. 

If you’re interested in more info, head on over and check out Dose of Nature

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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