Halloween candy and children: dispelling the myths


With Halloween just around the corner, kids of all ages are more than ready to trick or treat and bring home a large variety of colorful and sweet stuff – after all, candy has long been an integral part of Halloween.

And while a lot of adults may easily justify their children’s unlimited indulgence in what seems to be several month’s supply of colorful sugary treats (”oh, come on, let kids be kids!”) – you really should know better, because this practice is not as harmless as you  may think – and the way you handle this today may have a huge impact on their health and development in the future.

Halloween is surrounded by myths, superstitions and misconceptions.  But today we are not going to talk about the typical urban legends, like razor blades in candy, or Bloody Mary.  Today we will be talking about other myths – the myths around Halloween candy – which are probably no less scary, when you know and understand the details.

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Why you cannot lose weight

cannot lose weight

Let me start with some bad news – you cannot lose weight by following most of today’s conventional advice around what makes the best exercise to lose weight.

Most exercise tips to lose weight these days focus on aerobics (often referred to as “cardio”) as the best way to tackle the problem.  They suggest that you should try walking to lose weight, endless running or any combination of demanding fitness activities that will have you sweating buckets and panting like a dog on a hot day.

The reality, however, is that – despite following that advice and engaging into endless jogging, elliptical machine training, Zumba and other “fun” activities – the majority of people cannot lose weight and keep it off.  You too might have tried some semi-esoteric “fat burning exercises” found in many glossy magazines or sweating buckets trying various DVD aerobic workouts – all to no avail.  But that’s not your fault – what you have been told so far might have all been very wrong – the reason why you cannot lose weight is because the best exercise to lose weight is not aerobic training.  This article will explain why – and will also teach you how to spend significantly LESS time exercising and get MORE results.

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The ban on triclosan (and on being too clean)

Triclosan in hand sanitizer

Triclosan – what you need to know

On September 9, 2016, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned triclosan – a chemical originally registered as a pesticide in 1969 and used since early 1970s in a very wide variety of anti-bacterial products – including, but not limited to soaps, shampoos, mouthwashes, toothpastes, deodorants, as well as household cleaning products, clothing, toys, bedding, trash bags and others.

In its statement, FDA notes that “…companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections…” Moreover, as noted further, “…some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.
(Triclosan, by the way, is not the only anti-bacterial agent used in consumer products, but FDA has deferred rulemaking for one year on three additional ingredients used in consumer wash products – benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol (PCMX), so antibacterial products containing these ingredients continue to be marketed).

As good as this triclosan ban sounds, many people feel that it’s a little too late – we are talking about a chemical, the use of which has been so widespread over a number of years that some studies (like this study of expecting mothers from Brooklyn, NY, done by Arizona State University) have demonstrated its presence in 100% of urine samples and 51% of cord blood samples of the population tested). Because triclosan is used a lot In healthcare (in surgical scrubs and hand washes, as coating in surgical sutures and as a method of decolonization of patients whose skin carries methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA), doctors and nurses have blood and urine levels of triclosan several orders of magnitude higher than other people.

Triclosan is the chemical which, because of such widespread use, ends up in municipal water supplies, where it cannot be sufficiently degraded and removed to the extent necessary and, thus, can be potentially re-introduced into your drinking water.

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5/3/1 strength program: how to get consistent results

5/3/1 strength training

In this article, we will explore the 5/3/1 training program.

Strength training is almost an art.  Sure, you can pick up heavy weight in any shape or form and move it around – and (because moving any weight requires muscle power and repetitive heavy weight training leads to adaptation that makes any muscle stronger) you will, no doubt, get some results.  Those results may be especially impressive if you are just starting out – at that point you may not even care much about how structured your exercise is.

But, remember – we are not after just any gains at any cost.  We are after the best possible gains we can get using the least amount of effort and time in the safest way possible.  Inevitably, then, after most people settle on which specific exercises to do – they start wondering how exactly to structure their training sessions.  The number of sets, reps and weight increments are all very important variables that serve a specific purpose.  They are somewhat interdependent, but finding the right equilibrium for your specific goals is key to making sure you keep improving.

This is why you might want to follow tried and true protocols created by people who understand how tweaking each of the variables influences your results.  You, on the other hand, do not necessarily need to understand why or how they work – you just need to find an effective protocol and apply it to your training.

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What to bring to the gym: 10 gym bag essentials for better exercise

10 gym bag essentials

As a gym-goer, you may worry about many things – what to wear to the gym, whether it’s easier to exercise at home, how to stay motivated.  etc.  But if one of your dilemmas is what to bring to the gym – with our list of 10 gym bag essentials below you can now have one less thing to worry about.

With so many gyms offering so much equipment and additional services – why would you ever bring anything other than a change of clothes?  Well, the items listed below – despite their affordability and usefulness – are typically not offered widely at commercial gyms, although there may be some exceptions.  Some personal trainers may have and use a few of these with their clients, but if you do not have a personal trainer – you may be out of luck.  Most of the time any of these 10 gym bag essentials – because they are small, personal items – have to be purchased by you.  The good thing is that they are easy to get from your local sporting goods store or online – and relatively inexpensive.

These 10 gym bag essentials are not absolutely crucial for getting results.  You can go your entire life without them and still progress notably.  If you ask me, however, rather than worry about color-coordinated trendy clothes or some latest fitness shoes (most of the time these are useless for serious lifting anyway), or worse – what expensive wireless headphones you show off while you exercise – I would rather worry about these basics, as they can significantly improve your experience and give you that slight edge.

Keep these items in your gym bag all the time – and you will always be ready for the best workout.

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How to get back in shape: the ultra-simple diet and exercise plan

how to get back in shape

“I have never exercised in my life – how do I start?” – this is the question a lot of people ask when what they see in the mirror becomes unflattering and they start wondering how to get back in shape.

We all know – life happens.  You grow older, get married, have kids, get a desk job, settle down, and get busier with life, but less physically active, nevertheless.  You quickly grab whatever food is convenient and quick as opposed to what is good.

Modern technology makes basic tasks that previously required active participation (like shopping for anything you can imagine) possible with a tap on the screen of your smart device.  Machines removed the need for physical labor.  Social media often serves as a substitute for outdoor activities where you might meet (and play with) real people face to face.  Figuring out how to get back in shape (and stay in shape) under these circumstances may be difficult.

Even if you were fit at some point as a teenager, the question of how to get back in shape becomes more and more relevant as you grow older.  Current statistics, highlighting sedentary lifestyles and less than stellar dietary habits, are not very reassuring – more than 80% of adults in the US do not meet physical activity guidelines.  More than one third of US kids – who often carry their habits into adulthood – are getting a significant proportion of daily nutrition from fast food.  In Canada only 17% of men and 14% of women engage in the recommended amount of physical activity and about 69% of Canadian adults are sedentary. Europe is not far behind – 6 in every 10 adults above 15 years of age rarely or never engage in any sport and more than 50% never engage in any physical activity, with the trend going down, not up. European Commission reports that 52% of European adults are overweight or obese – mostly as a result of the same bad dietary habits.

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Are Separate Arm Workouts Worth It?

Strong arm workouts

Why arm workouts are so popular

No matter what objectives you have with your training, arm workouts consistently remain a popular topic for weight lifters, bodybuilders or competitive team athletes.

This is because having muscular and strong arms is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally beneficial.  Not only are large arm muscles pretty much synonymous with strength and masculinity (one of the first things an amateur gym enthusiast does is start doing biceps curls to look better in a T-shirt), but well-developed and strong arm muscles assist and provide stability in larger compound lifts and help in various sports.

Understandably, arm workouts are very popular among athletes of various degrees of experience.  How do these fit into the philosophy of big lifts and mostly compound body exercises?

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Skinny Fat: When Losing Weight is Not Good

skinny fat parade

The very first time you hear “skinny fat” – it almost sounds like an oxymoron.  Except – it isn’t.  It actually describes a condition that is quite common, especially among young individuals.  Sure, there is a medical term for it that you might prefer – MONW (Metabolically Obese Normal Weight), but “skinny fat” is a term that, like a harsh wake-up call, shakes you out of the blissful ignorance and actually highlights everything that is wrong with this condition, instead of hiding behind scientifically sounding terms.

So what is “skinny fat”?  Simply put, it describes a body type that is slim and “low-weight”, but with high proportion of body fat to lean muscle tissue.  On the outside, the problem is not very visible (unless you know what to look for) – skinny fat people can fit into normal-size clothes, eat small portions of what they consider “healthy food” and display no obvious signs of obesity you would typically expect – such as large flabs of body fat, big baggy clothes and heavy mass – so everything seems just fine.

But, generally speaking, “obesity” is a condition where a person has accumulated so much body fat that it might have a negative effect on health – and for the skinny fat, given the relative proportion of such body fat to bone and muscle mass – the definition still holds true.   And even if super skinny people may look healthy, atrophied muscles and low-density bones – coupled with other negative metabolic effects of their chosen lifestyle – significantly elevate the risk of chronic diseases.

Are you skinny fat?  Do you know how to spot the signs?  Let’s see why this is so bad and how to fix this.

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Building muscle after 40 (Part II)

building muscle after 40

Although you cannot change your chronological age, you can control, to a large degree, your biological age – which reflects how well you feel, how well your body functions, how resilient you are to common ailments and the overall quality of your life, including continued ability to participate in the activities you participated in when you were 19. The best way you can do that is to work on building muscle after 40.

In Part I, we saw how detrimental muscle loss can be.  But how do you prevent it?  Should you just accept this and slowly wait for your physical (and mental) demise justifying it by “normal process of aging”?

Not at all – sarcopenia may be a common symptom, but common doesn’t mean “natural”.  And although you may not be able to completely eliminate it, you can – and should – have a big impact on its rate by building up (and maintaining, as much as possible) sufficient reserves of functional and strong muscles.

Even though some evidence suggests that loss of muscle mass may affect even active adults, when you have more muscle mass and better muscular strength to start with –you are in a much better position, because you could, technically, afford to lose more without it affecting your day-to-day function (that’s not to say that you should).  A person like Arnold Schwarzenegger – even with 60% loss of muscle mass accumulated before late 20s – will still be much further ahead than an average adult.

So how do you keep (or even start) building muscle after 40?  Let’s look at a few contributing factors individually.

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Fit at 40 and beyond – Part I (losing muscle mass)

Fit at 40

Can you afford not to be fit at 40 and beyond?

Can you still be fit at 40?  How about 50?  How about when you are older?  Not only you can, but you should – perhaps even more so than during your younger years.  After all, science says that by the time you turn 40, your body starts losing muscle mass and muscular strength, as a result of a condition called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss.  Annual rates of muscle wasting and strength loss range from around 1% at 40, to as much as 2.5%-4%, as you approach the age of 70.

Given that the overall body weight often does not change (while the body composition does, as it accumulated more lighter-weight fat and sheds less heavier muscle), the loss of muscle mass is often hard to notice – until it’s too late.  That, by the way, is one of the reasons why you never measure success in reshaping your body in terms of “weight” and focus instead on size and muscular strength.

The true mechanisms of sarcopenia and age-related loss of muscle mass and muscular strength are somewhat unclear and probably include such factors as mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, a pro-inflammatory state, metabolic inefficiencies, changes in levels of hormones and vitamin D – but physical inactivity is probably the most important contributing factor.

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