We can be eating a perfectly healthy diet – and hitting the gym regularly, but if our stress levels are out of control, then our metabolism is not working optimally.
A little stress is a normal part of life, but so many of us are stuck on the proverbial “hamster wheels” today – we are just going and going and going. High stress levels are a recipe for metabolism melt down and can lead to weight gain, and in some cases weight loss.
When we are under stress all of the time, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on – that means that our body is stuck in the fight or flight state – so that means that our heart rate, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure is elevated, while, our digestion, elimination, immune system, and reproductive system all go dormant – “ain’t nobody got time for that when we are running from a sabre tooth tiger!”
A steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex, cortisol is often referred to as “the stress hormone,” because during times of stress, the body pumps out more cortisol. During a normal day, our cortsiol should be slightly elevated in the morning, to give us that “get up and go”, and it should be low at bedtime to help us settle down to sleep. But sometimes, when we are under a lot of stress, and fueling up all day with caffeine and carbs, our cortisol levels can get out of whack. Feeling “tired but wired” at bedtime is a classic symptom of a messed up cortisol rhythm. Or needing 3 cups of coffee to get the engine running each morning is another. Cortisol issues can also show up as weight storage in the midsection – because of the chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin it causes. Chronically elevated cortisol can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which means the body is not able to use carbs to energy, and it is storing carbs as more fat.
Over time, chronic stress can mess with our sleep, raise cholesterol levels, contribute to dehydration and blood pressure issues, and eventually it can cause our other hormones to get out of balance too – causing things like estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and adrenal fatigue. Stress can be a trigger that sets serious diseases like heart disease and autoimmunity in motion too.
What do hamsters do when they are not running like mad on those wheels? They are resting and recovering. We need to take a cue from them and get off those wheels occasionally. So although it might seem impossible to get off the hamster wheel – we have to remember – that we have a choice. There are a number of things that we can choose to do to reduce stress levels.
Many people can benefit from supplements** that can help us to reduce our stress hormones and activate our calming neurotransmitters so we can get those stress hormones back in a normal rhythm:
Chronic stress can be the “switch” that turns on disease and slows down our metabolism. In order to have a healthy metabolism & a healthy life – we need to prioritize getting our stress levels under control. Chapter 7 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan is dedicated to strategies for lowering stress and improving sleep.
* this quote is attributed to a number of people including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Diane Schwarzbein, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
** If you are currently taking prescription medications or under a doctor’s care, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements or herbs.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
Ho Ho Ho!! It’s holiday time – which means celebrating and merriment and gift giving!
Do you have someone on your list that you really care about and want to get them the best gift ever?
What better gift is there than the gift of health?
I have rounded up some of my favorite healthy holiday gift ideas for 2015 to help you get your holiday shopping done! And don’t worry if you missed out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – several of these companies are offering special holiday deals right now!
Note: raffle has ended.
Give the gift of glowing & beautiful skin!! For someone who deserves to be pampered!
Chapter 5 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan encourages people to reduce the amount of toxins in our lifestyle – because toxins can contribute to stubborn weight gain & higher disease risk. One sneaky way that chemicals are getting in – are through our skincare products. So cleaning up our personal care products is important!
That is why I love Annmarie Gianni Skincare products – their products are organic and completely non-toxic, and smell great. I have been using them for about a month, and every time I wash my face – I feel like I have been to a spa. And what can I say about their coconut honey mask – it makes my skin feels as soft as baby’s bum.
Anne Marie Gianni has gifts for all budgets!
ps. Don’t forget to order something for yourself!!
Give the gift of healthy digestion, moods, and immunity.
Studies show that eating fermented foods can support a healthy gut – which is linked to many health benefits ranging from better digestion to weight balance, improved moods, better immunity – and more!
I love Kraut Source fermenting jars – because they are designed to keep the veggies under the brine which is important when making fermented foods. They also have a lot of really good recipes and videos on their site too!
Give the gift of sparkling clean teeth, fresh breath and detoxification!
Did you know that studies show that coconut oil is an effective way to combat tooth decay? Read this BBC article to learn more! Oil pulling is also a great way to detoxify – and has a rich history in Ayurvedic cleansing traditions. This uniquely formulated oil protects tooth enamel and dental fillings while it removes plaque, freshens breath, and whitens teeth, naturally. Skinny & Co also offers high quality cold pressed alkaline coconut oil for cooking and eating, and wonderfully silky and decadent coconut based moisturizing skincare items too.
Give the gift of über healthy coffee – superfood mushroom coffee!
The ‘fun guys’ at Four Sigma foods are bringing you the superfood powers of fungi (mushrooms) combined with coffee – to make a delicious superfood drink. They are in convenient on-the-go packets, so you can take your superfoods on the road with you!! Mushrooms are adaptogenic – meaning they adapt to meet our bodies needs to best support our health – such as reducing stress and boosting immunity.
For the person on your list that wants to be beaming!!
Walk into one of the 6 Beaming Superfood stores in Southern Cal – and you will instantly know that you are going to be taken care of with the highest quality clean juices, smoothies, superfood salads, soups and yummy muffins and snacks! Everything they do is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants – and also super delish! I love that their cleanses are not just juice cleanses, and they know the importance of healthy fat to manage hunger hormones and boost the metabolism. So don’t worry about doing their cleanses – you will NOT be hungry. Maybe someone one your gift list deserves a 1 day reset, or perhaps they are needing a 21 day reboot!
Give the gift of relaxation and rejuvenation!
Do you know someone that loves yoga, or has been wanting to give it a try? Or just needs to de-stress?
Give him/her the gift of relaxation, flexibility, strength and more !
The 6 in Yoga Six refers to the 6 results of a consistent yoga practice: Stronger, Leaner, Calmer, Clearer, Braver, Further. With 4 beautiful studios around the San Diego area – and more locations in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – Yoga Six is a great place to de-stress your life and support a healthy metabolism! They offer hot yoga, flow deep stretch, boot camp, meditation, and much more!
Give the gift of (BPA free) hydration and protect the environment at the same time – with beautifully designed Mizu!
I encourage all my clients to stay hydrated throughout the day. And one key way to do that – is to carry your water bottle around with you. But I don’t recommend drinking from plastic – because plastics can interfere with hormones and is terrible for the environment. Plus – it is just way more expensive too!
Mizu makes reusable products to hold your drinks – which are designed to help reduce the over abundance of single-use plastics produced and discarded each year. Hot or cold drinks – wine, coffee, and water – Mizu handles it all with ease and beauty! Plus -their insulated bottles will keep your cold beverages cold for 24 hours! This is a practical gift – that anyone can use!
If you have shied away from reusable water bottles because you don’t like the taste – Mizu uses only the highest quality 18/8 food grade stainless steel (has 18% chromium and 8% nickel) – leaves no metal taste and is durable, easy-to-clean and corrosion resistant.
For the person that wants to rock some rock hard abs – and exercise smarter, not harder!!
I don’t know about you – but I am not a fan of abdominal crunches – and neither is trainer Ben Greenfield (who I interviewed for The Metabolism Summit – coming Feb 1). Check out what his Huffington Post article has to say about crunches (to summarize – they don’t work).
The hot new trend now is to exercise smarter – not harder. So if you want to rock some rock hard abs in just a few minutes at a time – try out the Ab Carver Pro. A bonus – it also works your arms and back at the same time!
Help the athlete in your life recover better!
Also when I interviewed Ben Greenfield on The Metabolism Summit – he had just finished the Tough Mudder – which is 24 hours of extreme endurance exercise. I asked him what he was doing to recover from that, and he told me that he spent an hour that morning on a foam roller – to help his muscles loosen up and recover! The GRID foam roller is uniquely designed with a ‘Distrodensity” three dimensional surface which replicates the feeling of a massage therapist’s hands.
For the endurance athlete that needs the ultimate fuel.
Have you heard of SuperStarch? It is a complex carbohydrate (derived from non-GMO corn) that stabilizes blood sugar so you avoid crashing. It helps you perform better while using fat for fuel. It was discovered to help a boy named Jonah, who had a rare disease, where he could not store carbohydrates – so he needed to eat every 2 hours to live. With SuperStarch he can go 8 hours. It is an all-natural, slow-releasing carbohydrate that provides steady energy and blood sugar levels.
Generation UCAN helps to sustain energy, without a crash – or inhibiting fat-burning. Whether you’re running a marathon, climbing a mountain, competing on the field, or live an on-the-go lifestyle, UCAN is ideal for maintaining steady energy. Try it as a pre-workout snack, a post-workout shake to optimize recovery, between meals to control cravings, or a meal replacement shake.
Use code: HealthyHoliday to save 15%!
What better gift could you give someone that the gift of a healthy metabolism?
Okay – yes, I wrote this book. So I probably am a little biased – but wrote it because I know so many people are struggling with their weight and health – and doing everything they have been told to do like counting calories, cutting fat, exercising more and eating less – and are frustrated because it is just not working. Believe me, I’ve been there too (I share a lot of my story in the book).
But the truth is – many of these approaches to weight loss simply don’t work, and they could even be making your metabolism AND YOUR OVERALL HEALTH worse!
One tip from the book that might help this holiday season with sugar cravings – and that is to put coconut oil in tea!
Dark chocolate to satisfy your sweetheart’s sweet tooth!
One of the treats that I recommend to clients that are trying to break free from sugar addiction – without feeling deprived is dark chocolate. It is good to have especially this time of year – because you can have a square of dark chocolate when you get tempted by the cookies and treats. But don’t be fooled by beautiful packaging and expensive pricing. Check out this article written by The Food Babe about how even the most expensive chocolates can be made with cheap GMO ingredients and use artificial flavorings!
So – scurry on past the expensive brands with the beautiful gold packaging and red bows – and grab some Cocoa Parlour instead – a great stocking stuffer! Check out the ingredient list on a Cocoa Parlor bar – and you might be surprised to see just 3 ingredients for many of their bars! Unlike many of the chocolate bars on the market – these are made with simplest ingredients – and do not put any soy lethicin into their bars. They also sell raw chocolate bars – which is even better – because it is higher in antioxidants!
I have tried many different brands – and I have to tell you that Cocoa Parlour comes out on top for me. My absolute favorite is their Popped Quinoa bar. I also like their salted almond dark as well – salt, chocolate and almonds – the perfect combo.
High-quality protein-dense gluten-free snacking.
Not all jerky is created equal – or gluten free. Kiva bison jerky is gluten free, antibiotic free, contains no added hormones, is high in protein, contains no nitrates or nitrites, and tastes great.
Stuff the stocking with some snack bars that aren’t too sweet.
Are you frustrated with bars that are too sweet, or have ingredients that you are trying to avoid like soy, gluten, or dairy? So was I – that is why I created the ReFuel bar! Just the right hint of sweetness (6 grams – from dates), 8 grams of vegan protein (from pea and hemp), and 9 grams of fiber (from chia seeds and a prebiotic fiber – which is food for the probiotics – keeps your tummy bugs happy and fed).
I am giving away over $600 worth of healthy holiday gift sets!!! Enter to win below!!
Would you like to be the lucky winner of one of these awesome gift sets?
The Home Spa Gift: Value $190 value
The Healthy Metabolism Home Chef Gift: $102 value
The Work Out Smarter Not Harder Gift: $110 value
The Stylish Yogi Gift: $210 value
Please note: Includes shipping within the U.S. If a winner outside the U.S. is chosen – shipping costs will need to be paid by the winner, or they may forfeit the prize. All attempts will be made for gifts to arrive before Dec. 25th, but it is not guaranteed. Must be 18 to enter.
Don’t forget to sign up for The Metabolism Summit – coming Feb 1st!!
Note: some of the above links are affiliate links – meaning Sara Vance will earn a small commission for referring you.
It is an interesting story. I write extensively about the history behind the “Low Fat Myth” in Chapter Two (“Fix Your Fats”) of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan. I also I highly recommend this fascinating must-watch documentary featuring a number of doctors and experts that discusses these “dietary villains” – The Heart of the Matter – this is part 1 (approx. 30 mins long).
The long-standing recommendation to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol has just recently been officially lifted from the nutritional guidelines. This is huge, and has been a long time coming. Despite being told that there was good scientific evidence to back it up – the scientific studies actually did not show a causative link between dietary cholesterol and heart attack! One study looked at 130,000 people and found that nearly 3/4 of patients hospitalized for heart attack had what was considered to be normal cholesterol numbers. In fact, research shows that in the elderly population (over age 81) – lower cholesterol levels actually raised the risk of mortality, and equated to lower memory scores.
Dr. Mark Houston, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Heart Disease says that “elevated cholesterol is not a sure sign of heart disease, any more than low levels are a sure sign of heart health.” Dr. Houston says in his book that heart disease begins with endothelial damage or dysfunction, which progresses through 7 different pathways (inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmunity, dyslipidemia, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and obesity). The good news? Many of the above pathways can be affected by nutritional and lifestyle factors. I highly recommend Dr. Houston’s book if you want to understand how to get control of your heart health naturally.
Experts are also calling into the question the recommendations on saturated fats – because like cholesterol, there is a lack of scientific evidence linking saturated fats to heart disease. But the push to remove the saturated fat limit is still being met with a lot of resistance, so it will likely not be changed in the official nutritional recommendations until the next time they are changed – which is in 5 years. Don’t believe me about saturated fats not being bad for you? Read this Time Magazine piece titled “We Were Wrong About Saturated Fats.” (Notice that is Ancel Keys on the left hand cover).
Another exciting development that happened recently – is the FDA finally took a stronger stand against trans fats. Back in 2013, they removed the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) classification, because of the link between trans fats and coronary artery plaque formation. And just last month they took it a big step further – they banned the use of trans fats in foods entirely. This is great news, but since there is a 3 year grace period for compliance – we all need to be aware of all the places trans fats are hiding in the meantime. Basically – the majority of trans fats in our diets come from “convenience foods.”
Trans fats are liquid fats that have been altered by partially hydrogenation, making them solid/more stable at room temperature. Trans fats extend the shelf-life of a product, so that is why manufacturers love them. An interesting historical note is that Crisco – which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – was brought to market in 1911. Check out this Illustrated History of heart disease for other interesting facts and historical notes (from 1825-2015).
Just because a label says “no trans fats” does not mean it doesn’t contain them. That is a label loophole, and just means that there is less than half a gram of trans fats per serving. Just know, if it says “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list – it has trans fats.
There is a lot of really exciting research that has been happening about the human microbiome (the bacterial cells in and on our bodies). With some new research linking the heart to the microbiome in the gut. Check out these articles to learn more about the connection:
There is emerging research to support a link between autoimmune diseases and heart disease. It is well-known that there is a link between chronic/systemic inflammation and heart disease. So it makes sense that having an autoimmune disease, which leads to chronic and systemic inflammation – could be one potential underlying cause/contributing factor for heart disease. Because of this, it is a good idea for anyone with heart disease to be tested for celiac disease/gluten sensitivity (especially if there are other potential symptoms of autoimmunity – such as psoriosis, eczema, or other skin conditions/rashes, sun sensitivity, thyroid disease, chronic aches & pains/arthritis, stress fractures, slow wound healing, low white blood cell count, etc).
There is a lot of overwhelming evidence pointing to poorly controlled blood SUGAR.
Although not likely the whole picture – excess sugar increases inflammation, and is linked to increased risk of heart attack and death. Chapter One of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan goes into detail about how sugar impacts our metabolism and health – and all the sneaky ways it is getting into our diet.
AHA Recommends Added Sugar Limits
Because of the link between sugar and heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to less than 9 tsp for men, and 6 tsp for women. But with 75% of all packaged foods containing added sugars – this is not easy to do. Sugar is sneaking into our diets all day long – even in seemingly healthy choices like cereals, yogurts, salad dressings, sauces, snack bars, etc. You do not have to eat one cookie, one spoonful of ice cream, or one soda to get more added sugar than the recommended limit. It is no wonder that the average American gets about 3 times more than the recommended amount every day (and I personally think that number is underestimated).
Skip the Sodas & Sweet Drinks
One of the fastest way to get too much sugar is by drinking it. One 12 oz. soda has about 10 tsp of sugar, and a 9 oz. frappuccino has about 8 tsp. One medium FruiTea (organic green tea from Wendy’s) has 18 tsp!! That drink alone is 3 times the amount a woman should have all day long!! And before you run out to buy diet sodas – know that two or more diet sodas a day has been linked to a 30% increase for a heart attack (read this article to learn more).
Read these articles for more info:
One way to stay on top of our heart health is to get some tests run. But which ones? Contrary to popular belief – just knowing your cholesterol levels is not enough – as more than half of all heart attacks happen in people who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels.
The Spectra Cell Cardio Metabolic test is a comprehensive test to help you assess your risk of metabolic syndrome. Learn more about the test here – or ask your family doctor or cardiologist to run these tests for you.
There is an exciting opportunity to learn from over 30 of the top experts in the area of heart health next week! The Healthy Heart Summit (begins on July 13 and it is free!!). Register here today, and attend each day for free.
In addition to attending the Summit, I also highly recommend the following books:
This article is not to be construed as medical advice. I highly recommend that you discuss the information presented in this article and at the Healthy Heart Summit with your medical provider.
Being a mom is one of the most rewarding jobs of all – but it also requires a lot of giving and sacrificing, which can mean that mom frequently ends up at the bottom of her own priority list. Overtime, this can end up taking a toll on her health. And although this situation is common with moms, it can really happen to anyone, especially if you are a:
We know ‘em and love ‘em. Doers are the ones that we can count on to just get stuff done. They just “show up,” and do the work. Important members on any committee, they are the top performers in a sales department, and often are very compassionate people who enjoy contributing and making a difference in the lives of others. This is all great! But just remember:
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield. Author of The Wise Heart
You see, the more you do and give, the less energy you have left over to take care of yourself. Overtime, this can cause your health to slide. This is one of the most common reasons that people come to work with me actually! Because allowing work, life, school, extracurricular, and family commitments to push our health off the list of priorities can eventually show up years later as – weight gain, lowered immunity, an aching back, mood imbalances, digestion issues, adrenal fatigue, headaches, and even an increased disease risk.
Some Signs You Could be “Giving” Your Health Away:
Five Tips to Get Your Health Back on Track:
Prioritizing your health doesn’t mean that you still can’t be a doer, a giver, or an overachiever – it just means that you need to remember to save some time and energy for yourself – so you don’t end up in the midst of a health crisis. When we prioritize our responsibilities, and invest in our health, we take better care of ourselves, and we can be more effective in all areas of our lives.
Are you one of the millions of people that is doing everything you have been told to do to lose weight, but nothing seems to work?
Or maybe you can manage to lose a few pounds, but just can’t seem to keep it off for the long term?
We wouldn’t put a broken arm in a sling without resetting it first, so why should we try to lose weight without resetting the metabolism?
And when the metabolism is out of whack – our willpower, hunger hormones, insulin, and cravings are all working against us. It is an uphill battle. Just like we need to reset a broken arm, the real secret to lasting weight loss is to get to the root of the problem –and reset the metabolism.
I wrote The Perfect Metabolism Plan because I knows so many people are working hard to get healthy, they are counting calories, cutting fat, eating less and exercising more. And they are blaming themselves when it doesn’t work. But the truth is – many of these approaches are exactly the opposite of what we need to do to reach/maintain a healthy weight, and are very likely making our metabolism AND OUR OVERALL HEALTH worse! I was there myself too –for years I felt like a failure because I just could not control my weight or cravings.
The Perfect Metabolism Plan provides the information you need to get to the root of the issue and get your metabolism working for you again. It is organized into 10 keys that are needed to reset and reboot the metabolism (plus an extra chapter with some “hacks”).
The Perfect Metabolism Plan also includes over 50 recipes and a plan for putting it into action. It bust the myths that have gotten so many of us into a state of low energy, poor health, and weight gain – and teaches people what really works to reach and maintain a healthy weight and improve their overall health.
– It’s the Hottest New Sports Nutrition Drink!
Athletes looking to gain energy, speed, endurance, stamina, improve bone density, and speed up their recovery time, might want to consider drinking the hottest new sports nutrition drink – Liquid Gold, or more commonly known as bone broth.
Did she just say bone broth? Yep, bone broth is all over the news lately – The Today Show, The New York Times, Mens Journal, and ESPN – just to name a few. Everyone from athletes to executives seem to be filling up their coffee cups with this glistening golden liquid slowly simmered with organic chicken or beef bones.
So what exactly is bone broth? And what is so magical about it anyway? Bone broth is made by simmering organic chicken or beef bones in water with some stock vegetables, and a tablespoon or two of raw apple cider vinegar for 12-24 hours. Doing this creates a deep golden liquid rich in collagen and gelatin – which can give it a little bit of a gelatinous feeling – but is incredibly healing to the joints, connective tissue, and gastrointestinal tract (plus as a bonus, offers amazing anti-aging benefits to the skin). Simmering bones in broth for hours also extracts important vitamins and minerals – including calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and chloride (yep – smart athletes will recognize those as important electrolytes that need replenishing after a long, hard training session). And the broth is also rich in amino acids – important for muscle building, detoxification, and recovery. Season it with some high quality Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, and you add in sodium and additional trace minerals – all important for hard working athletes, and healthy adrenals.
Why is this slowly simmered broth so popular? Just ask Kobe Byrant – who according to this article from ESPN, has been drinking bone broth daily for about 3 years. Kobe has learned how important high quality nutrition is for his performance as he has gotten older. But the question is, does Bryant think drinking bone broth helps his game? “It definitely contributes,” Bryant said to ESPN. “I think it’s a balance of a lot of things, but I think doing the small things all together, it makes a big difference.” Bone broth devotees say that it gives them energy, boosts immunity, improves recovery, digestion, and much more.
But not everyone is jumping on the bone broth bandwagon – this Today Show contributor tried it for a week, and will be happy to never sip or smell the stuff again. Maybe one week is not enough? I say if it is important enough for the Lakers to have bone broth waiting for them in every city that they travel to – then it might be worth a try!!
So what can you do if you want to give it a go, but you don’t have 12-24 hours to make bone broth? There are bone broth windows cropping up in New York City, and you can even buy organic chicken broth by the cupful at Jimbos Natural Grocery, or in the freezer section at Jimbos or Seaside Market, which is made right here in Carlsbad by Lance Roll, also known as “The Flavor Chef”. You can order his broth online at the Brothery.com too. You can also find slightly less expensive boxed bone broth sold in the cooking stock area of Whole Foods from brand Pacific Foods, which I like to use in recipes that call for stock. Besides sipping, bone broth can be used to make rice, quinoa, and can be transformed into other soups – like this delicious Creamy Broccoli soup (also dairy free).
So what do you think? Will you give bone broth a try? Not sure? Read this article from the Wellness Mama to learn more – she also includes her recipe for chicken bone broth (yep – hers includes the feet for extra collagen and gelatin, but if you aren’t sure about the feet – you can start with just the other bones first and work your way up to the feet)!
I just watched the Showtime documentary Stop at Nothing the other night, this powerful film profiles Lance Armstrong’s obsession with winning, fame, and power.
Watching that film got me thinking about the one thing that all serious competitive athletes have in common is – they have a very powerful desire to win. In order to win, an athlete knows they need to set goals, train hard, and that means that they need to be able to push through pain and overcome adversity. Often they have to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to truly commit to their chosen sport.
The better an athlete gets at their sport and the tougher the competition gets – the harder it gets to stay on top. I understand the immense pressure Lance Armstrong and other serious athletes are under to win.
Unfortunately, Lance chose to take the illegal and unethical path of using banned substances to gain an unfair edge. It eventually cost him everything – his Tour de France titles, all his lucrative contracts, and the respect of the world. His actions and choices led to disgrace. I hope one lesson that young athletes can learn from Lance’s mistakes, is that it is not worth compromising your character to win, and that trying to rely on the “quick fix” might come back to bite you in more ways than one. Because even some of the legal substances that athletes think will help them gain an edge can potentially lead to deficiencies in other areas of performance or recovery, and potentially even serious health trouble (ranging from dehydration to cramping and even organ dysfunction). Just because a product might make your muscles look bigger, does not mean that they are necessarily stronger, or will make you be able perform better.
The good news, is there are a number of natural and healthy ways for athletes to gain a competitive edge today. One area that all too often gets overlooked is the power of using foods to improve performance and recovery. And the cool thing about nutritional approaches? Beyond the performance & recovery benefits, they can also offer other health benefits ranging from disease prevention to brain function and balancing mood. The first step is simple –
Just get the junk out!
Realize that the majority of people (yes, even athletes too) are eating way too many processed foods and getting too much sugar (read about what happened to a man who ate 40 teaspoons of sugar a day in just 60 days – which is a little more than the average teenage boy gets). The more processed foods in your diet – the more energy the body has to expend on detoxification, the more bogged down the body will become, and the less energy you will have for your training. Processed diets are nutritionally deficient – and athletes need nutrients to perform and recover. Another thing that happens to the body when the diet has too much sugar or processed ingredients – inflammation. An athlete’s enemy, inflammation leads to swelling, pain, and can degrade performance, range of motion, flexibility, and recovery. Inflammation raises our risk of overuse injuries, asthma, and almost every major disease. Simply cleaning up the diet and staying properly hydrated, and getting more plant-based foods, high quality grass fed or organic proteins, and cutting out the junk – will give an athlete an edge over the competition.
Got a clean diet and ready to take it a step further? Check out these superfoods to see if they can help to take you and your performance to the next level.
5 Performance-Enhancing Superfoods:
Although not typically the first thing that comes to mind when talking about athletic performance, mushroom’s are one of nature’s most powerful superfoods – and could be an athlete’s secret weapon. Mushrooms are a type of fungi, or bacteria that can offer a wide range of health benefits ranging from immune-boosting to performance-enhancing effects. They have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years. Although you will get health benefits from adding a few button mushrooms into your omelette, for performance enhancement, athletes will want to look to medicinal-grade mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi, turkey tail, and lion’s mane. An ideal way to incorporate them into an athlete’s diet is with certified organic mushroom powders, which can be added to things like smoothies, soups and drinks. Interested in seeing how mushrooms can boost your performance?
A local company called Mushroom Matrix, offers organic mushroom powders, and have extended a 10% off coupon for me to share with you, enter: rebalancelife at checkout to get your 10% discount. Some Mushroom Matrix organic powders to try:
Make sure to choose organic when purchasing mushrooms or mushroom powders/supplements.
2. Beetroot juice or powders
Google beetjuice and performance, and you will find a plethora of articles touting the benefits – “beets are like legal blood-doping” and “like taking performance enhancing drugs.” At the Olympic training center in London – athletes were eschewing the brightly colored sports drinks and downing bright pink cocktails of beet juice, pineapple, ginger and orange juice instead. The benefits of beet juice come from their high content of nitrates, which are converted in the body into nitric oxide – which causes blood vessel dilation, and improves energy production and usage – which makes the body more efficient, and supports the heart to do it’s work. You can juice whole organic beets, or buy a beetroot powder. I recommend if you do incorporate beets/use a powder, to make sure it is non-GMO or organic. Add some spinach, chard and celery to your drink too – as they also are high in nitrates. One example of a organic beet powder to try is Superbeets organic beet powder, just 1 teaspoon is equivalent to eating 3 organic beets.
One thing to point out with beetjuice – it can change the color of your stool and urine. So don’t freak out the day after trying beet juice when your toilet water looks pink.
3. Chia seeds
From the book Born to Run: “In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone.” An ancient Aztec superfood, chia seeds may rival mushrooms as one of the oldest performance-enhancing foods. Chia seeds gave the ancient Aztec warriors the long-lasting energy and endurance they needed to go into battle. Chia seeds boost endurance, energy, hydration, focus/attention, and reduce inflammation. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and are also high in fiber, protein, and have a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all important for athletes. Omega 3s are shown to lower inflammation – critical for recovery and injury prevention. Unlike flax, chia is rich in antioxidants, which means it will not go rancid after grinding, and helps to prevent free radical damage. Chia seed are uniquely hydrophillic, so when they come in contact with water, they form a gel-like substance. This chia gel slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to level out bloodsugar and maintain energy/endurance. Chia gel also holds on to water, which helps to maintain hydration – very important for an athlete. Always make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water or liquids to prevent dehydration, I like to soak the chia seeds for about 5 minutes before consuming to ensure they are hydrated. Add chia seeds to your smoothie, or make chia pudding.
4. Virgin Coconut Oil
Medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) which are found in coconut oil have been known in the body building industry for a few decades as a superior form of fat. Medium chain fatty acids are more readily converted to energy by the body, so it is also less likely to be stored as fat. Coconut oil is more easily digested, so it is less likely to cause stomach upset than other fats. Taking coconut oil in the morning helps to train the body to use fat as fuel, instead of glucose. If an athlete can get their body out of sugar-burning mode – that can be a key advantage over the competition. I recommend adding a teaspoon or two of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, chia pudding, or oatmeal. A 1978 study also found that coconut oil increases the body’s production of hGH within 30-90 minutes of ingesting it. Coconut oil has some other key advantages – first, it is a m
5. Goji berries
Another ancient superfood with a rich history, the goji berry is a small red berry that has a slightly tart flavor. Also known as wolfberries, they can be eaten raw or made into a tea. Goji berries are known to naturally increase the body’s production of human growth hormone – which is known to improve performance and also has anti-aging effects.
Using nutrition is a healthy and ethical way for athletes to improve their performance, endurance, and recovery.
Note: although some foods can impact performance immediately, others will take longer to build up into the system – so allow up to 4 weeks of consistently taking them to reach the full benefit. Also, some people might notice a difference/benefit from adding superfoods, while others may not.
The other benefit of adding superfoods to your diet – is that they can offer many benefits beyond just performance and recovery enhancement – ranging from immune-boosting to disease-prevention.
A final word of advice to gain an edge? Don’t undervalue recovery. Like all things in nature, the body has a yin and yang, and in order to perform at your best – you need to be allowing your body the time to recover in order to perform at your best (read: The Yin and Yang of Sports Recovery and Are you Headed for Performance Burnout?).
Some links to studies/articles:
You know the feeling that you get when you are nervous? Like there are butterflies in your stomach? Have you ever had that “sinking feeling” in your gut after you made a big mistake? Sometimes we have those “gut reactions” to situations – where we can’t really explain it, but we just feel like something seems amiss. It is totally normal to experience some nervousness, anxiety, fear, and even panic occasionally. In fact – we should learn to listen to our gut, because sometimes, our gut feelings can guide us in ways that our brain can’t.
But what about when these feelings start to become chronic, overwhelming, and negatively affect someone’s life?
Whenever someone tells me that they have a lot of anxiety or a related mood disorder – my first question is “how is your digestion?” The typical response is, “terrible – but what do my digestive issues have to do with my anxiety?” It is all about the second brain.
Our Second Brain
Our gut and our brains are connected so closely that Dr. Michael Gershon coined our gut “the second brain”. Lined with a complex and extensive set of neurons, called the enteric nervous system, “gut reaction” helps to explain what our second brain does – it guides our feelings, moods, certain behaviors, and reactions.
Our enteric nervous system/gut is responsible for manufacturing important neurotransmitters that play a role in our mood and brain function. So when there has been a gut imbalance or a leaky gut, there often can be mood imbalances and neurological manifestations, because the gut is no longer able to effectively absorb nutrients or convert them into these important brain chemicals. For example, over 90% of our serotonin, often referred to as “the happiness hormone,” is found in our guts. Low serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood imbalances. Other neurotransmitters that can be involved in anxiety include GABA, dopamine, and epinephrine. So you can see how gut issues can affect our emotions.
Digestive Issues Very Common
The trouble is – gut imbalances are rampant – 1 in 5 Americans regularly suffers from digestive complaints. They are so common that we often just suffer through them, thinking that is just “normal” for us, and that there is nothing that we can do. But it is important to not ignore digestive issues because the gut is the foundation of our health. If allowed to continue, gut health issues can develop into other problems – affecting the brain, mood, joints, skin, thyroid, immune system, and more.
Digestive troubles over time can lead to poor absorption, which can develop into nutrient deficiencies, imbalances in neurotransmitters and amino acids – all of which can drive depression, anxiety, mood disorders; and other problems like ADHD and even addictions.
Although this may not work for everyone, there are a number of things to try if your second brain is causing you anxiety:
Heal the root cause, the gut:
Get some relief from the symptoms:
Until the gut is healed, it might not be effectively making neurotransmitters, which can cause someone to feel imbalanced, unfocused and anxious. Often, this is one reason that can drive people to abuse drugs and alcohol – they are trying to correct or self-medicate these imbalances. It is possible to test the neurotransmitters and take supplements that can help the body to produce more of the depleted neurotransmitters to feel more balanced.
The Gut & the Immune System
The gut is also the foundation of the immune system, so someone that frequently gets colds or infections, might want to look at improving their gut health to boost their immune system. One food that heals the gut and boosts the immune system is organic bone broth – so there is truth to the Old Wives Tale that chicken soup heals a cold (also helps to prevent one too).
This is a very in-depth topic. If you are interested in learning more about how the gut affects the brain, mood, and other areas of health, here are some additional articles:
Our gut is the foundation of our health. As Hippocrates so wisely said over 2,000 years ago:
“All disease begins in the gut.”
Please note: If you are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety or overwhelm – please seek out help from a mental health practitioner right away. The national Suicide Hotline can help you to find the necessary resources if you are in a mental health crisis: 1-800-273-8255.
The other day I drove into a Rancho Santa Fe gas station, and just as I was about to jump out to go pump my gas, the nice attendant came up and asked me “I’d be happy to pump your gas for you. Premium fuel today?” Yes, please, I respond and get back in the drivers seat. “Wow, they have good service at this gas station,” I say to my son. I glance back at the pump and notice that they also have 100 octane fuel, I had never seen that before, and boy is it expensive – over $6 a gallon! I think to myself, that must be the super premium fuel for all those Ferrari’s and other high performance cars that you see zipping around Rancho Santa Fe all the time. It stands to reason that the higher performance car you have, the higher quality of fuel it needs.
That stop at the Rancho Santa Fe gas station got me thinking about sports nutrition. Athletes are kind of like high performance cars. Just as we expect sports cars to perform better than an average car, athletes put higher demands on their body and seek superior performance. Putting the wrong gas into a Ferrari can mean lower performance, and overtime could land it in the shop for repairs or even create damage to the motor/inner workings. The same is true for young athletes – if they are choosing lots of junk food, they might not end up with optimal performance, or over time could end up with chronic inflammation and be plagued with injuries.
Endurance and elite athletes burn a significant amount of calories, so they can and need to regularly eat a lot of calories to replenish their energy reserves. But just because they can polish off a box of donuts or a large soda and a couple 20 piece nuggets and still not gain weight, does not mean that they should. Just like a Ferrari, athletes should consider putting in the best possible fuel if they want peak performance.
Because of the extra demands they put on their bodies, it is important for athletes to consume a diet rich in plant-based foods, high quality (ideally grass-fed) protein sources, plenty of healthy fats, and limit nutrient-deficient and inflammation-causing foods (foods that contain a lot of sugar, trans fats, or too many omega 6 fats – found in vegetable oils, soy oils, etc).
One of the best foods an athlete can add to their training regime are superfoods. Superfoods are highly nutrient dense foods that provide an abundance of nutrition and can potentially improve performance and overall health…kind of like “super premium” fuel.
At the top of my list of functional foods for athletes are these 15 superfoods.
15 Superfoods for Peak Performance:
Halloween is over, so while is your sweet child acting like a little monster…?
In the weeks that follow Halloween parents might notice that their child:
Don’t worry – it could be the Halloween candy!
Between all the sugar and artificial colors, it is no wonder our kids’ aren’t their usual selves. All that candy has them on the Sugar Rollercoaster!
What is the Sugar Rollercoaster?
When we eat sugar, it goes surging into our bloodstream, giving us a burst of energy. But that energy is short-lived, and followed by a crash. So naturally, we tend to reach for more of what gave us the burst of energy, and the cycle happens all over again. I call this the “sugar rollercoaster,” and it is easy to get stuck on it! The blood sugar crash causes moodiness, increased hunger, low energy, and can even lead to shakiness.
Sugar and Immunity
Sugar also lowers our production of white blood cells, which reduces our immunity, not what we need this time of year when colds and flu season is coming into its’ peak.
More Addictive Than Cocaine?
A recent study found that sugar was more addictive than cocaine, so it is not surprising that once you get started, it is hard to stop.
What about the Artificial Colors?
In addition to the sugar, one packet of Skittles contains 9 (yes NINE) different artificial colors. Many parents might not realize the impact that all those colors can have on their kids. Artificial colors has been shown to negatively affect behavior and attention in certain susceptible kids. Europe has recognized this, and all products with artificial colors must contain warning labels. So most brands use natural colorings in Europe, while they use the brighter and cheaper artificial colors in the U.S. Watch this Halloween Candy Controvery segment on the Today Show to learn more.
So how much sugar does Halloween really add to the average kids’ diet?
Did you know that the average kid collects about 100 pieces of candy on Halloween night? Well, they are just fun-sized candies – so it is no big deal right? Well, a fun sized packet of Skittles contains 11.4 grams of sugar, which amounts to just under 3 teaspoons of sugar. Two packets of fun sized Skittles, and your child has already met their recommended added sugar intake for the whole day!! That leaves no room for the added sugar that is coming in their yogurt tubes, cereals, sports drinks, snack bars, fruit juice, flavored milks, or the barbeque sauce they dip their nuggets into (a surprising number of BBQ sauces’ first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup)!
It Really Adds Up
Let’s assume that on average, each fun sized candy has about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, and if a kid brings home 100 pieces, that will add up to 250 teaspoons of sugar or 3,700 calories of pure sugar! The average teenage boy already eats over 500 calories a day of sugar on average (not considering Halloween candy in the mix). So just 5 fun sized candies each day will add an extra 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (that is 1/4 cup!), which is an extra 187 calories of nutrient-void candy. If they are eating 5 pieces a day, it will take them 20 days to eat the 100 pieces – so that is an extra 3,700 calories of sugar in less than 3 weeks!!
What’s a Parent to Do?
American kids already are getting way too much sugar in their daily diets. But trick or treating really takes them over the edge. So what is a parent to do about all that candy laying around?
© copyright 2016 Sara Vance