Sauna benefits: get stronger and live longer

sauna

Sometimes, there is only a very slight difference between high performers and those who just spin their wheels.  The latter often do most of the things high performers do, but still fail to achieve the same results.  This is because high performers know about and implement little tricks that may seem unimportant at first but which, in combination, make a significant difference.  Each incremental effort, each little detail can provide that slight edge and lead to greater results.

One of such tricks that can make you stronger, healthier, leaner and more resilient is quite simple, but yet –little known to most people.  We are, of course, talking about hyperthermic conditioning, more commonly referred to as “sauna”.

When it comes to the goals listed above, sauna is typically not on most people’s list.  Some enjoy the process – especially when it involves some social element, as well (in many cultures sauna is a place to spend time with friends and socialize), some use it for all the wrong reasons (yes, there are still many misconceptions and myths surrounding sauna use), yet some others (especially those who don’t do it right) don’t really care about it – but few people really think of sauna as some superhero-lab-level procedure and performance enhancer.

Which is unfortunate, because – with healthy individuals who have no pre-existing medical conditions that would restrict sauna use – it is a wonderful and grossly underutilized tool that can help on many different fronts.

Let’s look at what intense heat can actually do for you – and how to use it properly (heads up: sauna benefits have very little to do directly with sweating and flushing out the mythical “toxins” as a result, as many gurus would have you believe – the mechanisms involved are actually much more interesting).

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Is red meat bad? (Part II – IGF-1, risk of cancer and more)

Is meat bad for you

Let’s continue our discussion that we started in Part I and see if there really is any association between meat and cancer.

It’s different if you already have a pathology

It is often implied that high-protein diet causes damage to your kidneys by “overloading” them with nitrogen by-products of protein digestion (that they naturally metabolise and excrete) – but as a healthy individual, you will have difficulty overconsuming protein, since your body has natural regulatory mechanisms that drive the desire for protein-containing foods.  So you are unlikely to ever eat too much.

But is it correct to say that eating any amount will put a strain on your kidneys?  Should you specifically reduce protein consumption to avoid damaging them?

The answer is – very unlikely.  If you already have a kidney disease – increased protein consumption can definitely contribute to their pathology.  But if you are healthy – you probably don’t have anything to worry about (read this article by Chris Kesser).

Methionine

Meat contains a complex array of several amino acids.  One of these amino acids is methionine – and recent studies have suggested that it’s this specific amino acid that may be responsible for increased oxidative stress and the ultimate link between meat, IGF-1 (see below) and cancer.

If you recall our discussion on organ meats – you will remember that methionine is balanced by glycine – another amino acid contained in large amount in bone broth, gelatin and organ meats – which helps your body metabolize and neutralize potential harmful effects of methionine. What follows is that if you balance your intake of methionine with your intake of glycine (by consuming collagen/gelatin, organ meats, bone broth, etc.) – potential harmful effects of overconsuming muscle meat can be greatly reduced.

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How to live longer, slow down aging and feel awesome

Slow down agina

I often look at pictures of some people I grew up or went to school with and get scared.

Because, looking at me from the screen, are weathered, aged, overweight and tired individuals who look way beyond their biological age – and I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s true that none of us is getting younger with time.  Whether you like it or not – aging is an inevitable and natural biological process that affects every single living creature.  And although there seems to be some break-through in the field of anti-aging technologies – at this point you cannot reverse aging or stop aging completely.

What you can control, however, is how quickly you age and the quality of life you enjoy as you get older.  You can absolutely extend the span of your younger years and continue to look, feel and perform your best way beyond your 50s and 60s.  You can absolutely extend your life expectancy by eliminating bad habits and introducing good ones.  And the best part is – It’s not that complicated.

If you ask yourself what aging is – you will probably narrow this generic term down to a few indicators – wrinkles, forgetfulness, grey hair, limited mobility and a plethora of diseases.  But all of those are just visual and/or subjective manifestations and symptoms – not the root cause.

Nobody dies of just “old age”.  The majority succumb to disease “common” for and associated with old age – because their weakened bodies lose the ability to fight it off.

Your genetic potential probably allows you to live up to 120 and even beyond (the oldest documented age is 123).  But the average life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization does not exceed 73, with the highest being around 83 (generally, women live longer than men) – and in some countries life expectancy currently much less.

Why such a huge discrepancy?  Because the way you age – and your life expectancy – has little to do with your genetic potential and a lot to do with epigenetic external factors, as most recent studies confirm.  Your bad (or good) habits, diet, environment, activity and stress directly affect which genes get expressed or supressed – so, over the course of your life, cell-activity regulators get added to or removed from genes, dialing their activities up or down. As these changes accumulate, our muscles weaken, our minds slow down and we become more vulnerable to diseases.

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Supplement selection pitfalls – and things to keep in mind

Herbal supplement bags

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to check out and comment on a certain supplement stack she found online.  This supplement claimed to contain about 200 different active herbal ingredients and, as a result – cure what seemed to be every malaise possible under the sun.  Fatigue, too much body fat, too little muscle mass, bad sleep, depression, slow metabolism, hormone disruption – you name it.  All of this was delivered in a convenient size and was claimed to be “super-concentrated” at a somewhat affordable price.

Seems like a great deal, right?

But, however tempting it sounds, we are not going to discuss this particular one supplement.  Instead, we are going to have a bit of a more general discussion about how to sort through claims made by supplement manufacturers and separate truth from fiction.

If you don’t know how to do this – you will be paying MEGABUCKS for supplements that are questionable at best – and often detrimental in the worst-case scenario.

So let’s look at a few important considerations when picking a supplement from a health store.

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Get better sooner: what to eat when you’re sick with cold or flu

man sick with cold or flu

Ah, that miserable feeling when you’re sick with cold or flu…  Sore throat, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, fever, cough, stuffy nose and perhaps nausea – and no desire to do anything other than lay in bed…

Not fun at all.

If you are lucky (and, generally, diligent in strengthening your immune system to prevent viruses and bacteria from taking you down) – you don’t get sick too often.  But whenever you do – it feels terrible.  A common question that is often asked is, then – what to eat when you’re sick.  Are there foods and supplements that help you get well quicker?  Today we will take a closer look at what you should eat, drink or take when you are sick with cold or flu – and why some conventional methods of overcoming the disease do not work that well.

But first – let’s get the basics right…

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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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Nutritional Ketosis, Part III – Health benefits: ketogenic diet, cancer and more

ketogenic salmon recipe

Let’s revisit health benefits of ketogenic diet.

In Part I and Part II you learned how effective ketogenic diet can be in shedding extra body fat and making you perform better – both mentally and physically.  You have also learned that although it does not make you hungry like some calorie-restricted diets do, strict ketosis is, nevertheless, difficult to maintain because it eliminates some of your most favorite foods and leaves a limited number of ingredients that you can safely consume without shutting down ketogenesis.

So why would you subject yourself to this seemingly restrictive practice if you do not need to lose weight?

The answer is – because ketosis has several profound therapeutic benefits.

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The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals – Part V (Selenium, Zinc and Iron)

Minerals (selenium, zinc, copper)

(Continued from Parts I, II, III and IV)

SELENIUM

Benefits of Selenium

Selenium supports efficient thyroid hormone synthesis, and protects from oxidative stress.

It is responsible for regulating the delivery of zinc (see below) to zinc enzymes throughout the body for proper zinc metabolism.

Selenium also supports cognitive function, immune system and fertility for both men and women. Studies have confirmed strong positive correlation between selenium and testosterone levels in males (good for both muscle building and sex drive).  On top of that, selenium increases sperm count and enhances sperm quality.

Severe selenium deficiency in adults is pretty rare, though minor deficiency is common and can have some unpleasant effects on our health.

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