Assess your health, your strengths, as well as your problems and bad habits, and look for (ask yourself and take time to listen) the causes or basis of each concern. What are your issues? It’s best to ask for this deeper information and healing in your quiet, meditative place or before sleep to ask your dream imagery to come forth. (Review my Staying Healthy Tips on The Nature of Healing.) This is a time to work on solutions.

Make a list of your goals. What are you willing to work on, work out, and achieve? Do you need to lose weight; have more energy; or find a new doctor/practitioner to help you resolve a problem or illness? Or would a therapist or intuitive be more helpful? For example, you could assess your teeth in January, schedule a Thai massage and an acupuncture or chiropractic session in February, and a five-day health retreat in March. First assess your health budget and see what is covered by insurance if you have it, but also look at what you are willing or able to invest into the health of you and your loved ones.

Review your SNACC habits (sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals). These are common substances that undermine most people’s health, and dealing with them is often the beginning of life improvement. Clearing the daily use (even temporarily) of these habits/abuses/ addictions that takes your vitality is often my first step in the Purification Process (see my book, The New Detox Diet). January is a perfect month to take a vacation from these habits. You may also choose two or three habits to get started. Rather than attempting too much at once, do what you know you can. Step by step still gets you along the health path.

Next, look at your food habits and what you may be overusing that stresses your body and causes reactions. Is it breads and baked goods, refined sugars, or a dependency on drinking cow’s milk or eating cheese? You may not be able to tell this unless you take a break and re-check your response again later. Most of us aren’t fully aware of how specific foods or meals effect us, but we know when we don’t feel fully alive or well, or maybe we want to digest better or reduce some aches and pains or sinus congestion, or just lose a few pounds. Here then, the ideas of The False Fat Diet book can guide you in this important process. A reminder is that this process is more difficult with a stress-filled schedule; thus, you may need to carve out some time both physically and mentally. I like starting my program on a Friday to have the weekend to adjust to the new plan.

Exercise your body, keep it moving! Just because it’s winter, don’t get lazy. Get your activity, but get your rest and sleep as well. Stretch that body and don’t let it get old, get it pumping, and tone those muscles. Cleanse and brush your skin daily as well. Inner clean creates outer sheen. Stay fit and stay healthy.

Do some positive therapies. There are many that can be of help, such as massage and other body therapies; acupuncture, counseling, or a personal reading for guidance. Sometimes merely a walk and talk in the trees with a good friend is all you need to set things right. Try something new or go back to something you liked. New experiences are helpful to growth and healing.

What is your spiritual practice? This may be prayer, religious studies, or meditation. We all come from different backgrounds and beliefs. Our reverence for life, our own and others, is the basic premise for a spiritual life. Treating our body as a temple of Living Spirit provides a motivation to treat ourselves as special and thus feed and care for ourselves in a loving and healthful way. It’s the base and the beginning of a healthy life.

Your career or work is often a core area for your well-being. Are you doing something that is important to you? Do you have a plan for life? Some jobs are what you wish for, others are on the way to somewhere else, and still others are there just to support you and your family. These are all important reasons. If you are not pleased with what you are doing, ask why and what can be done differently. Do you need to review this with a professional counselor? Do you need more education and training? Or will a shift in attitude help you to feel better about your work?

What can you complete this year? What’s been on your mind or sitting around your house? Make a list of a few or more areas that could use some of your valuable energy. (Add these to your list of goals.) This may involve old health habits, a messy room to clean up or rearrange, stuck areas in a relationship, or letting go of old patterns at work. Don’t be afraid to go for it this year.

Make your resolutions and commitments. Begin by looking at the key areas of your life. Health and personal habits, love and relationships, and career or work. And if LOVE moves into all those areas, that’s all the better as you’ll care for yourself and your life, plus your relationships in a positive way. Make more room for love to fill your daily life, and let it be the higher Love. Human love is temporal for many, yet love in the Spirit is everlasting. We are all blessed to share this garden, this Earth, which needs our love and protection. We must take the time to nurture nature, to nourish and flourish.

For Sports and Health

Most readers who have heard of ketosis and ketogenesis likely associate the concepts with dieting and the works of Dr. Robert C. Atkins (Dr. Atkins’ Health Revolution, 1989; Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, 1992) that launched a bit of a movement in the 1990s. Much less well known is the role of ketosis in sports and the importance of being able to enter ketosis as an aspect of metabolic flexibility, meaning the ability to rapidly and easily shift between carbohydrates and fats as fuel substrates to match, on the one hand, dietary sources of calories and, on the other hand, particular physical demands for energy. In fact, the health implications of metabolic flexibility are significant and are related to the body’s degree of insulin sensitivity and thereby to the components of the metabolic syndrome. The latter condition often is defined as being based on insulin resistance and associated with abdominal (central) obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. This way of looking at matters makes ketogenesis and metabolic flexibility major determinants of health. One does not need to be diabetic or even pre-diabetic for these issues to be important, a point that Harry Preuss, MD and various coauthors, including myself, make in a recent article intended for practicing physicians, “Importance of Fasting Blood Glucose in Screening/Tracking Overall Health.”1,2

Not only athletes for reasons having to do with competition, but also non-athletes for reasons of health likely would benefit from some form of supplement protocol or other approach that can achieve ketogenesis and maintain metabolic flexibility without depending entirely on the diet. Indeed, achieving ketosis via diet alone is hard to maintain over the long haul for a variety of reasons. Eating mostly protein and fat may sound like a treat at the beginning, but highly restricting all sources of carbohydrates quickly leads to a boring diet and even limited social interaction because few social events are built around ketogenic snacks! It also means avoiding many or most sources of phytonutrients, not eating adequate fiber for gut health and bowel regularity, probably inadequately eliminating toxins via the bile route in the stool, and even ramping up production of the hormone cortisol.3 Extreme ketosis leads to unpleasant breath (acetone breath) although this is not an issue with moderate and healthy ketogenesis.

Background on Ketosis and Ketogenic Diets
There are only two primary sources of energy, carbohydrates and fats. If needed for energy, protein can be broken down to yield a carbohydrate component, not a fatty acid component. Ketosis refers to the state in which the body meets its energy requirements largely through the oxidation of ketone bodies. These build up in the blood when glucose is not being used for energy and even the brain can run on ketone bodies. Glycolysis is the opposite number to ketosis in that it refers to the oxidation of glucose, for which all carbohydrates ultimately are a source, for energy. People sometimes associate ketosis with diabetes, but ketosis is a nutritional process whereas in diabetes the body either lacks sufficient insulin or cannot respond properly to insulin and therefore builds up ketone bodies due to a failure of metabolism while at the same time not properly harnessing fats for fuel. There is plenty of evidence to the effect that ketogenic diets can be healthful. Traditional Eskimo diets consisted almost entirely of raw meat and blubber (fat) and yet the Eskimos did not exhibit diabetes. Similarly, for certain neurologic conditions children are raised from early life into their thirties or later with completely normal physiologic and mental development without eating any carbohydrates at all.

Athletes and some "paleodieters" speak of keto-adaptation, which means simply moving the metabolism to preferentially accessing stored fats as fuel sources rather than depending on glucose. The body has quite limited stores of glycogen or "animal starch" stored primarily in the liver in contrast to virtually unlimited calories stored as fats. A quite standard assessment is that there may be 400 grams of glycogen in the liver and another 100 grams in the muscles. Glycogen is associated with water on a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio. A major problem in achieving keto-adaptation by diet alone is that most individuals who have been raised on Western-style diets can take six months or more to make the shift and this shift becomes ever more difficult as we age. Studies examining the role of carbohydrates in the metabolism with roughly 30 year old males in good physical condition have revealed, for instance, that even transitioning from a high glycemic index diet to a low glycemic index diet while maintaining the same ratio of carbohydrate, fat and protein can take more than four weeks. Shifting to fatty acid metabolism for energy can be difficult.

High fat diets were employed at the turn of the century to treat Type I diabetes, the form that begins in childhood with the destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Since the body can and will produce its own blood sugar from protein in order to feed the brain, there is always some role for insulin in the body regardless of the diet followed. Needless to say, those with juvenile diabetes almost invariably died young until the discovery of insulin.

In adult-onset or Type II diabetes, which typically begins fairly late in life and with those already overweight, diet and exercise often can completely control the problem. This and other clues have led a number of researchers to suspect that excess weight gain is related to insulin production either directly or indirectly, as discussed briefly above. Dr. Robert C. Atkins was one of the first to popularize the notion of dieting by bypassing the insulin mechanism through eliminating most carbohydrates from the diet while continuing to consume both proteins and fats. Atkins' Diet is both high in protein and high in fat.

High protein, low fat/very low carbohydrate diets have been common for some time, but not with the particular justification that they bypass the insulin mechanism. Generally the justifications have had to do with energy production, or rather the lack of it on these diets. In the Stillman Diet, for instance, it was argued that protein molecules are so large that they use up extra energy as a food for the body. This diet calls for the drinking of at least eight glasses of water a day, which truly is necessary to remove the waste products of excess protein consumption and from the oxidation of the body's own fats.

Very similar is the famous Scarsdale Diet, designed for use for only two weeks at a time. Both strictly limit carbohydrates and, somewhat less strictly, fats. Both do reduce weight in the short term, but such large amounts of protein are hard on the body. In contrast to these, the Dr. Atkins' Diet allows for unlimited amounts of both proteins and fats, but for restricted amounts of carbohydrates according to the theory that a faulty insulin mechanism is the cause of excess weight. A more limited form of this ketone-based diet popularized at about the same time as the Atkins Diet is presented by Dr. Calvin Ezrin in The Endocrine Control Diet (1990).

Athletes long have experimented with ketogenic diets. For instance, during the 1990s a number of top bodybuilders in the World Bodybuilding Federation adopted a diet similar to the one Atkins uses (roughly 40 percent of calories from protein and 60 percent from fat) in order to cut body fat and build muscle. These individuals were all undertaking extremely hard physical labor, so the diet itself cannot be a source of fatigue, but must in fact supply considerable energy.4 Nevertheless, even major competition class athletes ultimately generally give up on strict ketogenic diets. As admitted by Ben Greenfield, a serious triathlete who was tested with regard to the ergogenic benefits of a ketogenic diet, "after the study at University of Connecticut, I personally quit messing around with ketosis and returned to what I considered to be a more sane macronutrient intake of 50-60% fat, 20-30% protein, 10-30% carbohydrate."5

Ketogenesis with Supplements
Can ketogenesis be achieved using a more normal diet with the help of supplements? The answer appears to be "yes." Nevertheless, there are important considerations, among which are the following:

  • The diet should not be high in simple sugars, fructose or refined carbohydrates. For non-athletes and those looking primarily to increase metabolic flexibility, the diet should resemble a modified Sears Diet, meaning approximately 20¨C 30 percent protein, 30¨C40 percent carbohydrate and 30¨C40 percent fat. For athletes and individuals who seriously want to initiate and maintain a fat-adapted diet, Ben Greenfield's suggestion is more in order: "50-60% fat, 20-30% protein, 10- 30% carbohydrate."
  • It is helpful to support fat metabolism directly such as through improved transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria for oxidation.
  • Insulin sensitivity must be improved and maintained and insulin levels kept low.
  • The release of fatty acids from fat cells likely is less important than is disinhibiting fatty acid metabolism. The first is accomplished with caffeine, yet often with a downside such as increased cortisol levels, hence alternatives to caffeine and other similar stimulants are needed.
  • Inclusion of substances that actively promote fatty acid oxidation is important to help kick-start the body's ability to metabolize fats.
  • Excessive gluconeogenesis by the liver (creation of glucose from glycogen in response to the release of glucagon) should be inhibited to promote fatty acid oxidation as the alternative.
  • With diets that are heavy in alcohol and fat, potential "reverse" effects must be prevented.

A small number of supplements, especially if taken together, may fulfill the above requirements and actually have been tested successfully in a pilot case. The subject in question was able to consume a normal diet, indeed one that included quite a bit of alcohol, by relying on only four supplements to remain in moderate ketosis during much of the day: hydroxycitric acid, wild bitter melon extract, sesame lignan extract and green coffee bean extract. The sources of these supplements were not generic and this should be kept in mind because different production methods lead to different products with different results. Published comparative trials, for example, with hydroxycitric acid have shown this definitively.

Potassium-Magnesium Hydroxycitrate
The key component in supplement-support ketogenesis is (-)¨Chydroxycitric acid (HCA). That some forms of properly manufactured HCA can be used to encourage ketogenesis has been known at least since 2000. In that year, Ishihara published that HCA ingestion for 13 days increased fat oxidation and improved endurance exercise time to fatigue by 43 percent compared to a placebo in mice.6 Over the following few years, three studies by Lim and others in trained athletes demonstrated that ingestion of HCA enhances endurance performance via increasing fat oxidation and sparing glycogen utilization during moderate intensity exercise. In fact, in trained athletes HCA ingestion for five days shifted fuel selection to fat oxidation at both 60 percent and 80 percent VO2max during exercise.7 Lim further demonstrated a number of significant findings. First, using mice as his model, he showed that chronic HCA ingestion alters fuel selection rather than the simple release of fat from stores as is true of lipolysis, i.e., mechanism for HCA is not the same as with caffeine, capsaicin, etc. Second, Lim's review data that showed that the combination of HCA plus L-carnitine improves glycogen status in liver and various muscle tissues versus placebo in exercised-trained rodents. Since the publication of Lim's papers, this finding has been repeated more than once with human athletes. Although L-carnitine improves the effect, it is not necessary.8 Third, Lim in his studies employed a pure synthesized trisodium hydroxycitrate salt rather than commercial calcium or calcium-potassium HCA salts, which did not yield his results. As is true of many herbal products, the benefits of HCA are highly dependent upon how the item is prepared. The acid must be stabilized by the addition of high pH ions (basic or alkali), such as those of potassium, magnesium or calcium. Using the wrong stabilizing counter-ions results in little or no activity. In the case of the acid derived from Garcinia cambogia and related sources, adding any calcium at all reduces some desired benefits and blocks other benefits entirely.9 This fact has been verified by more than one comparative trial.

Another benefit of HCA that supports ketogenesis is its impact on insulin sensitivity. At the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American College of Nutrition for the first time it was reported that the potassium-magnesium HCA salt in an animal model gave the same blood glucose regulation as found in the control arm of the test while almost literally cutting insulin levels in half.10 The same study demonstrated that this salt dramatically improved glucose clearance from the blood, lowered systolic blood pressure and also lowered several key indicators of inflammation, including C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). In contrast, the potassium-calcium salt exerted no effect upon insulin and blood sugar regulation and only very poorly influenced blood pressure.11 In the areas of insulin metabolism, glucose regulation and blood pressure, the proprietary potassium-magnesium salt was between five and seven times as active as the potassium-calcium salt of the fruit acid. A paper just published this year also indicates that HCA may help to regulate thyroid hormones and promote muscle protein synthesis.12

Wild Bitter Melon Extract and Sesame Lignan Extract
As indicated above, HCA appears to be extremely useful in freeing the body's metabolism regulators to allow a shift towards preferentially oxidizing fatty acids for energy. Increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels removes one of the primary brakes on fatty acid metabolism. A complement to these actions is direct activation of fatty acid oxidation. Both wild bitter melon and sesame seed lignans help to do just this. Bitter melon previously has been discussed in these pages under the title, "Going WILD with Bitter Melon for Blood Sugar Support."13 As noted in that article, it has been found that extracts of bitter gourd activate cellular machinery to regulate energy production (technically, AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPK) and the way that fats are handled by the liver. These components can account for as much as 7.1 g/ kg of the dried wild material.

The sesamolin lignan found in sesame seeds (but not in most extracts) likewise increases fat metabolism. As pointed out in an important study, the "[e]ffects of sesamin and sesamolin (sesame lignans) on hepatic fatty acid metabolism were compared in rats. Sesamolin rather than sesamin can account for the potent physiological effect of sesame seeds in increasing hepatic fatty acid oxidation observed previously. Differences in bioavailability may contribute to the divergent effects of sesamin and sesamolin on hepatic fatty acid oxidation. Sesamin compared to sesamolin was more effective in reducing serum and liver lipid levels [with]sesamolin more strongly increasing hepatic fatty acid oxidation." "Sesamolin rather than sesamin can account for the potent physiological effect of sesame seeds in increasing hepatic fatty acid oxidation observed previously."14 "...gene expression of hepatic enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation [was] much stronger with episesamin and sesamolin than with sesamin¡­[serum] half lives of 4.7±0.2, 6.1±0.3 and 7.1±0.4 h for sesamin, espisesamin and sesamolin, respectively...15

Green Coffee Bean Extract
After meals, up to 70 percent of the glucose from food is stored in muscle and other lean tissues. However, moment-to-moment regulation of blood glucose typically is handled by the liver. It does this via two processes, both of which are highly regulated. Gluconeogenesis generates glucose from certain noncarbohydrate carbon substrates, including certain amino acids and lipid components, such as triglycerides. Glycogenolysis is the freeing of glucose from glycogen stores. In the liver, but not the muscles, the hormone glucagon is involved. The liver also uses the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase. With aging and as the metabolic syndrome develops, regulation of these two processes becomes impaired. Dysregulation is a particularly significant issue in diabetes.

Coffee, especially green coffee extracts, supply chlorogenic acid, which inhibits the glucose-6-phosphatase enzyme.16,17 Chlorogenic acid also inhibits glucose absorption from the intestinal tract and thus reduces after meal blood glucose spikes.

Ketogenesis requires that the body preferentially use fatty acids for fuel. This cannot happen if either gluconeogenesis or glycogenolysis is not under proper control.

L-Carnitine and Astaxanthin
L-carnitine is a nutrient that, among other things, helps to shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria for oxidation. In the discussion of HCA above it was noted that the combination of HCA and L-carnitine greatly improves the replenishment of glycogen stores after exercise. Unfortunately, tissue levels of L-carnitine are highly regulated and difficult to elevate to the extent necessary for ergogenic benefits in athletes. HCA improves L-carnitine metabolism by increasing uptake.HCA is an insulin memetic as well as an insulin sensitizer. HCA also shifts the body towards metabolizing fats, which makes L-carnitine's job easier. Another approach is to supplement with astaxanthin. Astaxanthin (≥4 mg/d) has been shown to reduce lactic acid accumulation during exercise, improve fatty acid oxidation and maintain better blood glucose levels while improving endurance. The mechanism may involve carnitine palmitoyltransferase I.18,19

Studies have demonstrated the importance of metabolic flexibility for maintaining cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of developing metabolic syndrome components. Likewise, studies have shown that the related ability to enter ketosis as needed for athletic purposes can render rich ergogenic rewards. Nevertheless, enabling ketogenesis or keto-adaptation, however desirable this might be, through dietary measures alone under modern circumstances in Western countries is not only inconvenient, but downright difficult. Fortunately, it is possible to enable keto-adaptation through the use of appropriate supplements. These include properly manufacture HCA salts, wild bitter melon extract, sesame lignans and green coffee bean extracts. L-carnitine and astaxanthin are two more supplements that fit into this schema.

  1. Preuss HG, Mrvichin N, Clouatre D, et al. Importance of Fasting Blood Glucose in Screening/Tracking Overall Health. The Original Internist. 2016, March:13-15,17.18.
  2. Bjornholt JV, Erikssen G, Aaser E, et al. Fasting blood glucose: an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular death. Results from a 22-year follow-up of healthy nondiabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1999 Jan;22(1):45.9.
  3. Sears B. Anti-inflammatory Diets. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34 Suppl 1:14.21.
  4. Mauro DiPasquale, M.D., "Let the Fat be with You: The Ultimate High-Fat Diet," Muscle Magazine International (July and September 1992); "High Fat, High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diet: Part I," Drugs in Sports 1, 4 (December 1992) 8.9.
  6. Ishihara K, Oyaizu S, Onuki K, Lim K, Fushiki T. Chronic (-)-hydroxycitrate administration spares carbohydrate utilization and promotes lipid oxidation during exercise in mice. J Nutr. 2000 Dec;130(12):2990.5.
  7. Lim K, Ryu S, Suh H, Ishihara K, Fushiki T. (-)-Hydroxycitrate ingestion and endurance exercise performance. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2005 Feb;51(1):1.7.
  8. Cheng IS, Huang SW, Lu HC, Wu CL, Chu YC, Lee SD, Huang CY, Kuo CH. Oral hydroxycitrate supplementation enhances glycogen synthesis in exercised human skeletal muscle. Br J Nutr. 2012 Apr;107(7):1048.55.
  9. Louter-van de Haar J, Wielinga PY, Scheurink AJ, Nieuwenhuizen AG. Comparison of the effects of three different (.)-hydroxycitric acid preparations on food intake in rats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Sep 13;2(1):23. See also notes 18 and 19.
  10. Clouatre, D., Talpur, N., Talpur, F., Echard, B., Preuss, H. Comparing metabolic and inflammatory parameters among rats consuming different forms of hydroxycitrate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2005;24:429 Abstract.
  11. Clouatre D, Preuss HG. Potassium Magnesium Hydroxycitrate at Physiologic Levels Influences Various Metabolic Parameters and Inflammation in Rats. Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research 2008;6(4): 201.10.
  12. Han N, Li L, Peng M, Ma H. (-)-Hydroxycitric Acid Nourishes Protein Synthesis via Altering Metabolic Directions of Amino Acids in Male Rats. Phytother Res. 2016 May 4. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5630.
  14. Lim JS, Adachi Y, Takahashi Y, Ide T. Comparative analysis of sesame lignans (sesamin and sesamolin) in affecting hepatic fatty acid metabolism in rats. Br J Nutr. 2007 Jan;97(1):85.95.
  15. Ide T, Lim JS, Odbayar TO, Nakashima Y. Comparative study of sesame lignans (sesamin, episesamin and sesamolin) affecting gene expression profile and fatty acid oxidation in rat liver. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Feb;55(1):31.43.
  16. Henry-Vitrac C, Ibarra A, Roller M, Merillon JM, Vitrac X. Contribution of chlorogenic acids to the inhibition of human hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase activity in vitro by Svetol, a standardized decaffeinated green coffee extract. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):4141.4.
  17. Bassoli BK, Cassolla P, Borba-Murad GR, et al. Chlorogenic acid reduces the plasma glucose peak in the oral glucose tolerance test: effects on hepatic glucose release and glycaemia. Cell Biochem Funct. 2008 Apr;26(3):320.8.
  18. Malmsten C, Lignell A. Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance; A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students. Carotenoid Science. 2008;13:20.22.
  19. Aoi W, Naito Y, Takanami Y, Ishii T, Kawai Y, Akagiri S, Kato Y, Osawa T, Yoshikawa T. Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory effect of oxidative CPT I modification. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Feb 22;366(4):892.7.

Often times after summer, we fall out of the fitness mentality and into the warm comforts of autumnal bliss. Sitting in front of the fire, we forget to move, and the idea of body awareness, movement and breath falls out the window. Instead of playing sports, we begin to watch them.

This fall, what can we do differently? How can we break our habits and increase our mindfulness, and mind-body relationship with itself and our environment?

Below are several ways to keep fitness at the forefront of your mind and body this fall with mindful meditation, exercise for the brain, body and breath.

Each morning, wake up 10 to 15 minutes earlier and spend a little extra time with yourself, focus on your breathing, how the breath enters the body, how it makes you feel as you breathe, and how it exits the body. Pay attention to what happens to the rest of the body as you continue to breathe and continue to do the exercises, playing with the lengths of the inhales and exhales. Make it an enjoyable experience, So that it is an opportunity to learn more about your breath, your body and yourself. There is always an opportunity to expand our mental, physical and emotional selves. And this is one of them.

Meditation is exercise for our brains. The central nervous system, which is run by the brain, controls our body and how it functions, making it a crucial element of our fitness regimes.

Taking care of our brain IS taking care of our body. A study led by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, found that meditating for only eight weeks actually changed the brain’s grey matter. Grey matter is associated with processing information as well as providing nutrients and energy to its neurons. This is why it is said that mediation has shown to improve memory, empathy, sense of self and stress relief.

When school is in session, mental acuteness is just as important for the parent as it is the child. Meditation is proven to sharpen the mind’s focus, lower stress levels and help manage anxiety for the student and teacher, and ultimately the parents. Meditation is key to prepare and react to your children’s energies. When sitting in the car line to pick up the children from school, arrive 20 minutes early to prepare mentally for the sprightly youth to jump into cars with inquisitive and ever-so exuberant minds and bundles of energy bouncing off the walls and in the car seats. Meditation lowers our stress, raises our endorphins and prepares us for anything that will ensue.

For those that require more of a structured schedule to hold us accountable, one can begin a yoga practice. It is a great mental and physical exercise that improves balance. Yoga, meaning union of the breath with the body, brings self-awareness, acceptance and peace with our body-mind relationship, and with our body and mind relationship with it’s surrounding environment. One can begin to practice at home or in a studio with others. The beauty of yoga and life is that the choice is ours. Yoga provides us the freedom to practice it anywhere: outside, inside, by ourselves or with others. And, it all begins with the breath. Yoga begins with the relationship of the breath and body. We clear our minds on the mat and nothing else matters nor does it have to even exist. Only the here and now matter with our body and breath. This form of meditation is a beautiful practice synchronized with movements, certain “asanas” or poses that have specific benefits, depending on what we need during that moment. Yoga is a mental, physical and even for some, spiritual exercise that provides balance for our habitual imbalances, whether that imbalance is in our bodies or minds.

The beauty of yoga is that there are different kinds for different people. The type of yoga that is most fitting at that moment is the type that works for the individual. There is no right or wrong answer. There is what is right now. We are blessed being of this technological age where knowledge is literally overflowing at our fingertips. With the touch of a button, all our questions can be answered. However, with such over saturation and access to knowledge, we can often get overwhelmed and weighted down with all these external stimuli being thrown at us. Which type of yoga is most fitting for us, for me, for you? There is meditative, spiritual, physical, hot, Bikram, Iyengar, Kundalini, power, restorative and many, many more. Thus, we stop searching and go within. We go back to the breath. Let’s keep it simple to keep us moving forward. Keeping it simple is essential moving forward. "One breath at a time" is an inviting and achievable place to start; it is a great motto to adapt so that we can reach our goals and keep moving, keep living and keep breathing. With the breath we remember that, although it appears simple, the benefits greatly outweigh it’s simplicity. Remember that breathing keeps us happy, lowers our stress, focuses our mind, and energizes our body. It is an empowering notion. So much can come from so little.

So this fall, sitting in front of the fire, we can gaze into the golden embers, get lost in their glow and begin to focus solely on our breath and body. As we cherish the relationship with our mind, body and breath, everything else fades away and out of existence. We can ignite life in our bodies, blood cells and brains by a single breath. The only constant in life, that ever present ebb and flow of air, we can begin to improve our relationship with ourselves and those that are around us by beginning a journey of mindful meditation. Exercising our brains and bodies, we fall in love with the mindful meditation, our mind, our bodies and ultimately ourselves. Thus, this fall we begin our fitness journey and the rest of our lives with one breath at a time.



Athletic training is based on principles such as physical overload, meaning that the body is taxed to near its limits and then allowed to recover with the expectation that recovery will be quicker in the future for the same level of exertion and that the body will over-compensate at recovery and thus allow even more exertion upon the next challenge. This demand-and-response model clearly taxes bodily reserves. Some supplements, for example, protein, are aimed mostly at recovery and super-compensation. Others, such as creatine, also provide super-physiologic levels of substrates, in this case a substrate for the replenishment of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), allowing the muscles to go beyond their normal physiologic capacity. There is not much question but that both of these objectives can be achieved to some degree, meaning that supplements can be valuable for supporting and increasing physical performance and, used properly, can reduce the risks of injury.

There is no one size-fits-all in supplementation, however. For instance, although it clearly is the case that supplemental amounts of certain antioxidants can help to maintain health and improve recovery, it also is true that the type, timing and amounts of antioxidants can exert other effects. Indeed, the physiological adaptations to exercise may be blunted when local oxidant production in the muscles is suppressed by supplemented antioxidants. Some aspects of muscle supercompensation in response to exercise challenges depend directly on the local formation of oxidants and free radicals.

The king of muscle building proteins probably is whey protein because of its high content of the branched-chain amino acid L-Leucine, which can induce muscle synthesis, but only if there are sufficient other nutrients available to sustain the creation of new muscle tissue. Whey protein is a favorite of most authorities and has the additional virtues, if it remains largely "natural" in its structure, of supporting the body's production of glutathione.

Because protein sources are digested and absorbed at different rates, one of the more interesting findings of recent years is that a mixture of proteins with different rates of digestion and assimilation is superior to single protein sources. In this case, adding casein and soy protein to whey protein in human trials, especially in the recovery phase, appears to improve results. Clinical finds thus suggest that multi-protein blends, properly constructed, may trump any single source of protein for supporting athletic performance. Pea protein recently has attracted a great deal of attention.

It is generally agreed that nutrients taken immediately after exercise are readily taken up into the muscles. Some studies have reported improved physical performance with the ingestion of carbohydrate-protein mixtures, both during exercise and during recovery prior to a subsequent exercise test.1 Consuming simple carbohydrates and carbohydrate-only supplements, even prior to workouts, has fallen out of favor.

Also, it should be borne in mind that the initial meal of the day may play a large role in setting the flexibility of the metabolism for the rest of the day. A higher ratio of protein and fat at breakfast tends to make the metabolism of fat for energy easier throughout the day whereas excessive refined carbohydrates will have the opposite effect.

Pre- and post-workout supplements generally involve a considerable volume of ingredients. The tub-versus-bar option is really only about convenience. Tubs will deliver protein that is much less expensive gram-for-gram and not necessarily have a ton of fillers. Protein bars almost of necessity will include sweeteners and binders because these are required to make the bars palatable and to hold them together. On a gram basis, as long as the same quality protein source(s) is being used, there should be little difference in efficacy between these two deliveries.

Workout supplements often involve tradeoffs. For instance, why would an athlete have to take creatine if they are already supplementing with a protein? Are here any additional health benefits to a person that takes both?

Creatine and protein do different things. Creatine primarily repletes a precursor to ATP to greater levels than can be accomplished under normal physiologic conditions. Creatine itself is not a "building block" for muscle tissue. Refined protein supplements seldom are sources of this compound. Although it is possible by taking extremely large amounts of arginine to provide the body with a means of increasing its own synthesis of creatine, this is not efficient. Some sources of protein, such as red meat, themselves can supply small amounts of creatine. However, again, this is not an efficient means of increasing muscle creatine levels compared to consuming creatine monohydrate directly. Athletes who benefit from creatine supplementation, therefore, should consume creatine for its particular benefits and protein for muscle repair/recovery/ augmentation.

Creatine has well established ergogenic benefits for strength and greater performance in a number of areas of athletics, primarily events that are short term and explosive in nature as opposed to being oriented towards endurance. For those individuals who train heavily, there are obvious benefits. Body builders who desire the greater bulk similarly may find the muscle edema to be acceptable for aesthetic reasons. Nevertheless, it is true that creatine supplementation that is not coupled to training primarily will lead to a certain amount of muscle edema without other benefits. Likewise, most endurance athletes will not find the weight issue to be counterbalanced by sufficiently enhanced performance to make supplementation beneficial for their sport.

Nutritional regimens in sports often are planned with specific goals in mind because different goals strongly influence the roles of carbohydrate, fat and protein in supplements for athletes. For instance, building muscle mass is a goal with requirements different to those for getting lean or maintaining balance in terms of muscle and bodyweight. Caffeine is a common ingredient used by most athletes despite the fact that caffeine does not seem to be an ergogenic aid except for those who do not routinely consume it via coffee, soft drinks, tea, etc.

Pre-workout supplements, which usually are consumed 30 ?60 minutes prior to working out, are designed to increase energy during workouts and provide accessible calories to spare glycogen and thus extend time to failure. Common nutrients include nitric oxide precursors, such as forms of L-arginine and L-citrulline as well as vasodilating herbs. Some formulators suggest the addition of ribose, but others prefer to use ribose either after workouts and/or during workouts. Rhodiola, ginseng and astaxanthin are other supplements used to increase endurance, the latter for its role in improving the ability to metabolize fats for energy. Pre-workout energy drinks based on only carbohydrates or carbohydrates plus caffeine have not fared well in tests.2

Post-workout supplements are intended to take advantage of a 30?60 minute window of opportunity following workouts during which cells are especially open to absorbing and utilizing nutrients for recovery, including replacing glycogen and restoring lean muscle that often is lost in endurance training. The focus of these products typically is on carbohydrates to replete glycogen and, to a lesser extent, protein quality and quantity. A favored approach is based on replacing glycogen as the key to athletic recovery and therefore pushes high glycemic carbohydrates as primary via ingredients such as waxy maize, maltodextrin and starches from potato and rice. Ribose is another ingredient often seen in these formulas. It should be kept in mind that the wisdom of chronic ingestion of high glycemic index carbohydrates has been challenged by a number of health authorities. Micronized protein increasingly is added to increase insulin response and muscle uptake of nutrients. Taking a good quality hydroxycitric acid (HCA) supplement during recovery has been shown to significantly improve the replenishment of muscle glycogen.3 A proper HCA supplement can be very hard to find?the most thorough research in the area of sports performance had to use a synthesized trisodium hydroxycitrate to achieve results.4 Similarly, a relatively pure potassium HCA salt is more efficacious than a potassium-calcium salt.5

During (Intra) workout supplements are now common. Over the past decade, it has become more popular to consume nutrients during workouts and not just prior to workouts and after exercise. However, there does not appear to be a consensus as to whether intra-workout supplements should focus on carbohydrates alone or on combinations with small amounts of easily absorbed protein. Many products contain both. Common ingredients aside from the carbohydrates already named are branched-chain amino acids, glutamine, creatine and betaalanine. In recent trials, drinks that supplied less carbohydrate and replaced these calories with a moderate amount of protein led to significantly improved endurance performance in trained long-distance cyclists. It turned out to be the case that fewer calories with a lower level of carbohydrate and more protein worked better in extending time to exhaustion, reducing muscle damage and improving post-exercise adaptation to the challenge of exercise overload.

Caffeine is another contentious topic. Caffeine has numerous natural sources, including coffee beans, tea, cocoa beans (chocolate source), kola nut, guarana and yerba mate. However, caffeine does not tend to improve athletic performance unless used in quite large amounts and only during competitions. Alternatives include specialized ginseng extracts, L-tyrosine (may increase blood pressure in some individuals), schizandra berry extract and ashwagandha extract. Astaxanthin has been shown to increase endurance performance.

Endurance athletes in particular should pay attention to the issue of electrolytes. Although there are some unfortunate examples of excessive hydration in athletes, generally speaking, athletes can easily lose enough fluid to lead to reduced performance. Electrolytes, if nothing else, are necessary to bring ingested fluids to the isotonic molarity that will allow them to be readily absorbed by the body. Betaine, which is used in the manufacture of food and beverages, is well studied as a hydration agent. Betaine is an organic osmolyte that helps to stabilize metabolic functions in the face of dehydration and overheating. The usual electrolytes lost in sweat, of course, are potassium and sodium. Increasingly popular in Europe in this area is a combination of salts including potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium in the form of glycerophosphates. Whether electrolytes are necessary beyond their role in promoting proper hydration remains highly debated.

Supplements can play important roles is exercise. The pure carbohydrate products in favor a few years ago, however, no longer are the best supported by research. Protein, protein/ carbohydrate mixtures and combinations of proteins from different sources now are favored. Similarly, athletes who are looking for performance enhancement rather than merely a psychological lift increasingly shy away from simple caffeine and other stimulants. Supplements should be picked for the sport (body building or endurance, for example) and keyed to the expected benefits.


  1. Sports Med. 2010 Nov 1;40(11):941?59.
  2. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 May;28(5):1443?53.
  3. Br J Nutr. 2012 Apr;107(7):1048?55.
  4. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2005 Feb;51(1):1?7.
  5. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006 Jul 17;3:26.

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