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What To Do About Coronavirus? (Part One)

Potential Diet & Lifestyle Factors To Consider

You can’t log in to social media or watch the news these days without hearing about the coronavirus outbreak. Pretty much everybody everywhere is worried and wondering what they can do to protect themselves against infection.

The recent coronavirus outbreak also referred to as COVID-19, is a respiratory infection that appears to have been previously observed in bats and has recently made the jump to humans as detailed in this report released by the WHO and posted to Reddit.

The fatality rate for those infected appears to be about 2% overall; slightly higher for men than women and highest in those with pre-existing medical conditions (which is normal for any infectious disease).  Although 2% in absolute terms is a pretty low number, it’s still about 20 times as lethal as the common flu.

The CDC estimates that 34, 200 people died in the US during the November 2018 to February 2019 “flu season”. Extrapolating from that number could mean that we see more than 200,000 – 500,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 in the next year, which works out to as much as 1.6% of the entire population. As it currently stands, pretty much everybody will know somebody who dies from the coronavirus this year.

In theory, I should already be in the lowest risk group, as is everyone in my household, but I’m still thinking about what I can do to minimize my chance for infection or the severity of the symptoms in the event I am infected. This article from The Atlantic places the chance of infection as high as 70% and points out that a vaccine is most likely years away.

That means, at least for this year, we’re on our own.

Disclaimer

In this post, I want to lay out a few thoughts I have on things I think everybody can do to possibly help protect themselves from coronavirus.

Before we go any further, I want to point out the blatantly obvious: this post does not constitute personal medical advice, and you should always consult with your physician before pursuing any diet or exercise program.

Best Practices

The absolute best things everyone can do to help stop the spread of any infectious disease are to

  • Thoroughly and frequently wash your dang hands!
  • Stop touching your face in public, especially your nose

Full stop.

Since, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, hand washing has been all the rage on social media lately, most likely you’re already aware of the above, so what else can we do?

The following are things I already do on a regular basis and are things I think may help me see the best possible outcomes when it comes to coronavirus.  I feel that the evidence is fairly solid in each case, but could be deemed to be anywhere from “educated guesses” to “wildly speculative”. I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself.

What Else Can We Do?

Getting enough natural light in our eyes each day helps to synchronize our circadian biology as well; that has a massive impact on our mood, sleep, hormones and brain chemicals, all of which have downstream effects on our overall immune function.

Get Outdoors More Often

Get as much natural light as possible.  This might be more of a challenge than you realize, or at least might be a significant change to your current lifestyle, but spending as much time outside as possible and getting your body in sync with the natural cycle of light and dark is a cornerstone of the Lean, Strong & Healthy approach for a reason.

The CDC estimates that the average person spends 90% of their time indoors and out of the sun, yet it’s well established in the scientific literature that exposure to sunlight has many benefits to our health.

Take a look at this graph on the right that shows deaths from all causes peaks during winter months when exposure to natural light is lowest (note how the curve is essentially flat in equatorial regions where sunlight is relatively constant all year long).

Or take a look at this graph below that compares the rate of death from all causes in study participants over 15 years with their levels of time spent outdoors in the sun.

Source: http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/38/2/1173/F1.large.jpg

In both graphs, we see a clear relationship with the amount of time spent outside in the sun and lifespan.  The more time you spend outside in the sun, the better protected you are from disease and the longer you tend to live.

As often as possible I take my coffee outside and get 10-15 minutes of full sun before I do anything else for the day.

Beyond Vitamin D

The benefits of time outside and in the sun very likely have nothing to do with vitamin D (which I want to deal with separately in part two).

Why do I say that?  For one, there are studies like this one that show that when it comes to vitamin D, people respond differently to their time in the sun and many don’t produce enough vitamin D despite “adequate” sun exposure. Darker-skinned people produce less vitamin D for the same amount of time spent in the sun for example, and there may be other genetic causes as well.

For another, producing vitamin D is not the only thing that happens in your skin when exposed to sunlight.  Nitric Oxide is also produced, which acts as a potent vasodilator, relaxing your blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, which means all of your organs and tissues get better blood supply.

Getting enough natural light in our eyes each day helps to synchronize our circadian biology as well; that has a massive impact on our mood, sleep, hormones and brain chemicals, all of which have downstream effects on our overall immune function.

How Much Is Enough?

  • To synchronize our circadian clocks, 2-10 minutes as soon after waking as possible should be enough
  • Another 2-10 minutes in the evening as the sun is setting also seems to help signal our brains to start winding down for the day
  • Most people will need at least 10-30 minutes to max out vitamin D production, more if you’re darker skinned or if you live further north or if it’s winter
  • Other research shows that we need at least 120 minutes a week outside/in nature to see a positive effect on our health

All in all, getting around 30 minutes of full sun on most days; making sure you get some light in your eyes (i.e. no sunglasses, never look directly at the sun!) first thing in the morning and again in the evening is a reasonable place to start. Everyone’s tolerance is likely to vary and some medications can make your skin more vulnerable to UV radiation, so check with your doctor if you’re on any prescription medications.

I would also speculate that there are many other things happening that haven’t even been discovered yet, either because we haven’t thought to look for them, or because we lack the technology to measure them.

Wild Speculation?

Will spending more time in the sun protect us from coronavirus? It will likely be years, or decades before we have enough data to know whether or not getting plenty of sunlight would reduce rates of infection the way it looks to with other infectious diseases like the flu.

In the face of what looks to be the biggest infectious disease outbreak since the flu of 1918 and considering the data we have on the negative impacts of avoiding the sun, making every effort to make sure we get at least a minimum effective dose seems like a safe bet; especially considering there’s currently no vaccine on the horizon. Optimizing our own individual health is currently our best, and only bet.

Either way, in my mind, the benefits to our health from spending enough time in the sun are cut and dried.  Getting lots of sun as a protective measure against disease, in general, is a no brainer in my book.

Tired of going it alone and not seeing the results you really want? Are you ready to get lean, strong and healthy for life? If you’d like to find out more about how we can work together, no matter where you are in the world, drop us a message below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

Together We Can Do More

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The Secret to Losing Weight Without Counting Calories

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Your purchase helps support this blog.

Whole Foods vs Processed Foods

A new study published in the journal Cell lands a knockout punch in favor of whole foods.

In the study, 20 volunteers were locked in a “metabolic ward” for a month. In other words, they were stuck in a lab for 28 days while researchers tracked every mouthful of food and all activity.

They divided the volunteers into two groups; for the first two weeks, each group was provided with access to different types of food and allowed to eat at will. One group had access to only whole foods, and the other group had access to only highly processed foods. Many of the foods provided were widely considered “healthy” like yogurt and granola bars.

After two weeks, the groups swapped diets. This is known as a crossover study and crossover studies are important to help establish causality and not just the random chance you got a bunch of folks with big appetites in one group or the other.

As a result, when folks had access to highly processed foods, they ate more of it. 500 calories more of it! That’s an extra meal a day.

“If you’ve been struggling with your health, or your weight, the very best place to start is by removing as much processed food from your diet as possible.”

Change Your Diet

The entire premise of Robb Wolf’s book Wired To Eat is based on the “hyper-palatability” of ultra-processed foods. They taste really good, which naturally makes us want to eat more. Food chemists for “big food” have put a lot of research into making them that way. (The amount of energy it takes to digest these foods is also much lower, which leaves more left for us to absorb, so it’s kind of a one-two punch really). If you’ve been struggling with your health, or your weight, the very best place to start is by removing as much processed food from your diet as possible. Eating a whole food diet will naturally help you eat fewer calories without having to actually count calories, plus they much more nutritious. That’s a win/win.

If you’re not sure what makes something highly processed or not, a good rule of thumb is to stick to the produce and meat department and buy very little, or no food items off the shelves. If it doesn’t spoil without refrigeration, or if it comes in a bag, box, wrapper or plastic container it’s highly processed.

Wondering which which diet is the best for losing weight & feeling great? Read my article all about it here!

Together We Can Do More

Tired of going it alone and not seeing the results you really want? Are you ready to get lean, strong and healthy for life? If you’d like to find out more about how we can work together, no matter where you are in the world, drop us a message below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

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Just How Much Fruit & Veg Should I Eat?

The 800g Challenge

Join me for the 800g challenge! That’s at least 800g of plants per day. If you prefer low carb, stick to veg and less fruit. I’m active enough, and carry enough muscle mass that I can eat around 100g of net carbs per day and stay in low level ketosis. That leaves me some room for things like an apple, and a few dates.

A recent article by CBS News pointed out the results of a new review that showed the most benefit was reached at 800g per day. “It’s no secret that most of us could probably stand to eat more fruits and vegetables. Now, there’s more incentive than ever to do so, as a new analysis finds that eating more than five servings of fruits and veggies per day can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death.

The researchers found the greatest benefit came from eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. They estimate that if everyone ate this amount – equivalent to about 800 grams, or 28 ounces – approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be prevented.” Science is just beginning to discover many of the bioactive compounds in real, whole foods. “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health,” he said. “This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements (which have not been shown to reduce disease risk).”

“Science is just beginning to discover many of the bioactive compounds in real, whole foods. ”

Focus On Whole Foods

The researchers found the greatest benefit came from eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. They estimate that if everyone ate this amount – equivalent to about 800 grams, or 28 ounces – approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be prevented.” Science is just beginning to discover many of the bioactive compounds in real, whole foods. “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health,” he said. “This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements (which have not been shown to reduce disease risk).”

Shown here is my lunch for the day weighing in at just under 800g by the time you count the lime peel which I won’t eat, and the weight of the container (~60g) and then I’ll eat at least another 100g of veggies with dinner.

Although I put a lot of emphasis on including lots of nutrient dense animal products in my social media posts (I eat ~1lbs, or 500g daily), by weight almost 2/3 of my daily diet is plants.

Together We Can Do More

Tired of going it alone and not seeing the results you really want? Are you ready to get lean, strong and healthy for life? If you’d like to find out more about how we can work together, no matter where you are in the world, drop us a message below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

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The REAL SECRETS To Losing Weight & Feeling Great (Without Counting Calories)

Which Diet Is The Best For Losing Weight & Feeling Great?

VEGAN? KETO? PALEO? WHICH DIET IS THE BEST?🤔🤔🤔

I’m sure at some point you’ve heard that at least one of the above will get you sexy, cure your nearsightedness and all while making you feel like a million bucks.

Oh, and you can also eat as much as you want on that diet and still lose weight…

So which one is really the best?

According to research: none of them. Or, all of them. It depends on how you want to look at it. Some research gives a slight edge to vegan, other research gives a slight edge to keto. Even more research shows they’re all about the same. It depends on which markers of health you want to look at.

I’m going to lay it all out for you: the five secrets you need to know if you want to finally lose weight and feel great.  They’re organized, starting with the most fundamental at the base (every house is built on a good foundation), and working up to less important in the image below, which I like to call the “hierarchy of nutrition”.

Here’s the rub:  none of these “secrets” are actually secrets.  They’re not sexy, and you’ve probably heard all or most of them before.

When it comes to getting (or staying) lean, strong and healthy, one “ring” rules them all:

ENERGY BALANCE

When you look at the research as a whole, the message seems to be pretty clear; at the end of the day, calories are king.  However you want to manage them, as long as you’re eating at a deficit (eating less energy, or calories, than you’re burning) you’ll lose weight.

This is good news because it means you can eat whichever menu appeals to YOU most, without all the hand wringing and guilt about whether or not you’re eating carbs or animal products.

A calorie is not exactly a calorie; 100 calories of broccoli is not the same as 100 calories of sugar or steak, and age, hormonal status, and activity level will all affect how food impacts you, but as long as you’re focusing on WHOLE FOODS, you’re pretty much good to go. 

A recent study showed that when people eat highly processed foods, they ate more of them each day, even when those foods were “healthy” options like yogurt or granola. Just cutting out processed foods from your diet will go a long way towards getting you back into energy balance for general health and wellness without counting calories.

If your goals are a little more ambitious, like single digit body fat, then calorie counting is going to become more of a thing, but for regular people who just want to maintain healthy body weight, practice eating whole foods, slowly and mindfully and try to stop when you feel 80% full.

MACRONUTRIENTS

Once you’ve gotten the hang of getting into energy balance, or into a deficit if weight loss is your goal, then you can look at getting your macros on point.

Start with meeting your protein goals first. 

Multiple peer reviewed studies have shown that focusing on getting at least ~1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight leads to better body compositions. (i.e. more muscle, less fat).

How do you know how much 1.6g per kilo looks like? Start by using your hands: for most women eating one serving of lean protein about the size and thickness of your palm at each meal will get you in the ballpark. For men, double it (two palms). This is just a place to start. If you’re very active, or very muscular, you may need more. Very few should ever eat less.

After you’ve met your protein goal, you can look at carbs and fats. Neither one is evil, but TOO MUCH of BOTH in your system at the same time can be a problem. (Go back to energy balance, if you’re in a deficit, it’s probably not an issue, but if you’re eating at maintenance or a little above, things can start getting ugly.)

Fat is like diesel, while carbohydrate (glucose specifically) is like gasoline. The body is flexible and can run on either, but you don’t want a bunch of both types of fuel floating around in your blood together.

The body will burn glucose FIRST, so while you’re busy using up all your blood sugar, the fat (triglycerides) starts accumulating in places we don’t want.

This, by and large, is the biggest problem with processed foods; they tend to be very high in calories (energy) from both fats AND refined carbohydrates at the same time, which makes them super tasty, which makes us eat too much…

This is why, regardless of whether you prefer high carb or low carb, vegan, etc. you should focus on eating a whole food diet. Whole foods tend to generally be pretty balanced unless you’re adding a whole bunch of butter to your rice, or vice versa. 

MICRONUTRIENTS

For fat loss alone, micronutrients are less of an issue. Several research studies have shown that you can lose weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure eating nothing but junk food as long as you’re in a calorie deficit (the so called 7-11 diet), but (and this is a very BIG Kardashian butt),  long term it’s not a good strategy for health and wellness.

Everything (including fat loss) just works better when you’re eating a diet high in micronutrients like omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.  

Once again, as long as you’re focusing on whole foods first, vegetables in particular, you should be good to go.  For long term maintenance of the body, we need to get our micros in to build new cells properly and stay in good health. #focusonwholefoods

SUPPLEMENTS

Although it’s technically optional, once your humming along nicely with regular meal prep of whole foods, pretty much everyone can benefit from SOME supplementation to optimize our nutrition. 

A few words of caution here: 

  • supplements are not substitutes
  • and do your homework! 

The supplement industry is not currently regulated by the FDA (both good and bad), so many supplements are “dirty” and may be contaminated with either anabolic or banned substances, or toxic metals like lead, and have little to none of the actual ingredients you want.

With that being said, even a good whole foods diet can have some blind spots (we’re all prone to eating the same foods over and over again or avoiding foods we don’t like). 

The modern food system has interrupted our ancestral eating patterns and many genetic polymorphisms exist that interfere with how we deal with micronutrients, and even the very best vegan diet will be deficient in compounds that can ONLY be found in animal products. 

I will deal with a more detailed supplement strategy in a future post, but pretty much everyone can benefit from supplementing with vitamin D3, B12, and omega-3s for a good start. #supplementsarenotsubstitutes

MEAL TIMING

While everyone can benefit from some period of daily fasting for at least 12 hours, if you still had coffee and a danish for breakfast, a fast food burger with fries for lunch, and a pint of ice cream after dinner, you don’t need to worry about making sure you get that protein shake after your workout. Go back and focus on the base of the pyramid.  

Get your energy balance right, and take care of your macros and micros by eating a whole food diet, and supplement where needed.

Once you’ve mastered the skills of preparing nutrient dense, whole foods every day, you can start looking at meal timing to take your health and body composition a little further towards an ambitious goal.

Some research shows that eating most of your calories early in the day seems to be better for us, or targeting most of your carbohydrate intake for the day around your workout times can help edge you closer to elite levels of leanness or performance.  Most people will never need to worry about this, unless your sleep is disrupted, in which case shifting to early eating might help to improve your sleep. 

Many coaches might place meal timing ahead of supplementation, but in my opinion, the average person is going to get a lot more mileage out of a good fish oil/vitamin D3, or B vitamin supplement than they will time restricted eating (although many people find TRE a great option to get into energy balance without counting calories).  Additionally, I find it hard to meet my protein goal if I’m reducing my eating window too much.

So that’s it, that’s everything you need to know about eating to lose weight and stay healthy. To summarize

  • Calories are king.  Eat slowly and stop when 80% full. You’ll eat less without counting calories.
  • Prioritize protein.  You’ll thank me.
  • Focus on whole foods to help eat less without counting calories and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.
  • Supplement wisely, but not in lieu of real food.
  • Fast for at least 12 hours per day if possible and eat the bulk of your food early in the day. Avoid eating too close to bedtime.

Yes, these “secrets” are all pretty simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.

If you need help eating better, improving your health, and getting the body you really want, consider joining our coaching program and get the support, guidance, and accountability you need.

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Does Drinking Beer Help Prevent Dementia?

Are you a beer drinker? Tired of your uppity wine drinking friends hogging all the glory? Well, there’s some good news for those of us who love beer!

A new review paper, called “The Nutritional Components of Beer and Its Relationship with Neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s Disease” published in the journal “Nutrients”, looked at the potential role moderate levels of beer drinking plays in preventing cognitive decline in our later years. (Moderate means ~1-2 drinks per day)

It’s been known for some time that light to moderate drinkers tend to have better brain health and function in their older years, compared to those who drink heavily or not at all.

Beer is full of antioxidants which seem to help in several ways. Here are just a few:

Heineken 0.0 beer

Reduces Plaque

Drinking beer helps to prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Autopsies performed on 125 men who all died of sudden causes, showed that those who were moderate drinkers of beer had less plaque in their brain. While some recent research seems to show that beta-amyloid plaques don’t play the role scientists have previously thought, most

Alcohol!

The alcohol itself seems to help with preserving the brain’s memory centers. Moderate drinkers had a bigger hippocampus, while light drinkers had improved episodic memory.

Hops

Hops contain many plant-based chemicals called polyphenols which suppress inflammation in the brain and improve cognition. Hops are also a source of resveratrol! Resveratrol can help increase insulin sensitivity, protect against heart disease and can help increase testosterone and control estrogen in men.

Silicon

Whole grains like barley and wheat are high in silicon, which also acts as an antioxidant in the brain, perhaps most interestingly by blocking the action of aluminum in the brain. Aluminum is a highly toxic substance. The silicic and orthosilicic acids in beer reduce the bioavailability of aluminum (meaning we absorb less) and increase the amounts of aluminum excreted from our bodies. Win/win!

Melatonin

While most people know melatonin as the hormone that helps you sleep, it also acts as an antioxidant, and you guessed it; beer is a great source of melatonin as well.

If you’re on a low carb diet, or maybe you’re pregnant and can’t drink regular beer, there’s still great news for us! The researchers looked at non-alcoholic beer as well and found that NA beer was also effective!

When it comes to non-alcoholic beers, I’m a HUGE fan of the new Heineken 0.0!