Transform your stress with lifestyle choices

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Recognising and acknowledging that you are stressed is the first step in the transformation process. What you don’t know, you can’t change. In most instances, the mere fact that you have taken stock and accepted that you’re stressed also allows you to see reasons why. You may not have that magic wand to sprinkle fairy dust and make it all go away, but you can certainly use a range of lifestyle choices to ease some pressure and give yourself some breathing space. Here is a selection of powerful stress-busting techniques to choose from:

Getting your beauty sleep

Whether you’re a lark or a night owl, sleep is not a luxury, nor is it something to be caught up at weekends, or saved for holidays. Sleep is probably the most powerful, but natural, stress transformer we have – and it’s free!

Without banking sufficient sleep hours into your ‘account’, not only is your body unable to regenerate but, more importantly, your brain winds down, hindering your ability to think clearly and keep your emotions balanced. We are meant to spend around one third of our lives asleep and yet it’s the first activity we sacrifice when the pressure is on. Why? Healthy sleep is one of the sure-fire ways of maintaining youthful, resilient, vitality of both body and mind and allowing us to cope better with stress.

But how much sleep is enough? If you’ve been scrimping on your sleep for whatever reason, it’s time for a re-think. Adults, regardless of gender, typically need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night for optimal brain and body function. Under-sleeping by even one hour every weeknight amounts to a monumental 5 hours of sleep debt by the time the weekend arrives – impossible to recoup. But, just like your bank overdraft, sleep debt has to be repaid. All too often the price is your health and spiralling stress levels as you increasingly lack the resilience to adapt to the pressures of life.

Positive self-talk

You are what you think. The orientation of your self-talk can mean the difference between super hero or super zero. Our thoughts underpin our beliefs and beliefs quickly become self-fulfilling prophecies. What we believe determines what we do, so if we believe we can’t do something, or clog up our mind with negative thoughts, we will remain stuck in our unhappy stressed-out state. Negative thoughts can seriously limit our experiences and quality of life.

Conversely, if our self-talk is positive, even if that means consciously reframing a negative thought, our behaviour and life experience follows suit. As part of the re-framing process, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • What else could ‘this’ mean?
  • Is there a positive flip side I can reach for?
  • How else can I think about this?

Use a notebook if you need to in the beginning, but note your negative self-talk and change it. Negative thinking is a luxury we can ill afford.

Grounding in green spaces

Do you feel better when you’re outside in nature, barefoot on the green grass, under a sunny blue sky? Doesn’t everyone? Well it’s not all about the sunshine. It’s a lot to do with electrons. The Earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. So when you’re in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth’s surface) the earth’s electrons are conducted to your body, which synchronises us to the same electrical potential. Living in direct contact with the Earth grounds your body, inducing favourable physiological and electrophysiological changes that promote optimum health eg. proper functioning of the immune system, circulation and synchronisation of biorhythms to name just a few. This electron exchange during grounding is also deeply relaxing and stress-relieving.

These positive effects from ‘grounding’ aren’t surprising because throughout our evolutionary history humans have been in constant contact with the Earth. It’s so simple — next time you’re on the grass, a beach or the earth, take your shoes off and synchronise a little.

Releasing your inner recreational ‘drug’

Cannabis isn’t the only source of ‘feel-good’ cannabinoids out there. Your brain can make them too! Cannabinoids may be responsible for cannabis’ classification as an illicit drug in many countries, but you can become your own legal dealer just by working out a bit more. For many years endorphins were thought to be behind the post work-out euphoria or ‘runner’s high’, but actually we now know it’s down to cannabinoids – endocannabinoids, because we make them in our bodies. It’s fascinating to find that there are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are receptors for other well-known brain neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and ten times more than the opioid receptors. We also have cannabinoid receptors in our digestive systems and reproductive organs. Getting physically active on a regular basis not only brings you a lean, fit, healthy body, but also a serene antidote to stress. Not only that, endocannabinoids also protect your brain’s neurons from early death, which is hugely important in maintaining cognitive function as we age.

Committing to the present moment

Easier said than done. When we’re stressed, part of the reason for the stress is not knowing what to do to get out of where we find ourselves. It seems like a mountain of steps have to be taken all at once if we are to stop ourselves from drowning. Life feels out of control and it’s a natural impulse to keep looking outwards at all those steps in front of us that feel so overwhelming. But it’s actually the step right in front of us, in the here and now, that holds the key to release. All we need to do is stop looking into the stressful future, take a breath and connect fully to the present moment.

Change always begins with one step. Only one. So, try doing what our ancestors did: look to the sky and find your guiding star. Go out into the night sky. Sit in peace. Look up at the stars. Relax a little and take a moment to get away from the stress of your life and all those overwhelming steps in front of you. In the space and the quiet, in the relief and the stillness, you will regain focus. And you will feel the one step that’s in front of you. Have the courage to take that first step and commit to a daily practice of immersing yourself in the present moment – even if it’s just a fleeting 30 secs in your busy day.

You have time now to practice some of these lifestyle transformers before the next blog in this ‘Quit Stressing’ series. Next time, Rob will outline what a stress-busting nutritional toolbox should look like and why you definitely want Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff and Clean Lean Protein in it.

Quit stressing! But why?

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Most of us know stress is bad for us. But turning it off isn’t always easy – it’s not just a simple switch you can turn on and off at will. What’s more, stress isn’t always bad for us – in fact, some of you will be pleased to learn (if you didn’t know it already) that we’re actually designed to function with some level of stress. Importantly, there is good stress and bad stress, or positive and negative stress. If we’re interested in being the best, most vital and healthy beings we possibly can be, we need to ensure we’ve got the right amount of positive stress, combined with as little negative stress as we can muster.

What kind of stress are you under?

Dr Hans Selye, the widely acknowledged ‘father’ of stress research, devoted an entire book to the subject of ‘stress without distress’ . What’s clear from more than half a century of research on the subject is that we all have different levels of stress tolerance. Some people are able to cope with much higher levels of negative stress than others, and one person’s positive stress might be another person’s negative stress.

Stress is a reaction caused by a stressor of some sort. It might be excessive hours of work, a series of seemingly unrealistic deadlines, or a tyrant of a boss. It could be exams or a bully at school, a poor diet, or an under-par immune system that’s struggling to ward off infection. It might also be pushing yourself to the limit in a given sport or overdoing it in the gym. As Dr Selye said, “a painful blow or a passionate kiss can be equally stressful” — at different times, or to different people. He also reminded us that “complete freedom from stress is death”.

The nature, duration, severity and, in particular, our response to stress, are what determine whether stress is ultimately going to do us good or harm. And don’t forget, you can suffer negative stress that also does you good. An example of this is being caught in traffic on the way to the airport and then running late for a plane. The psychological and physiological stress response that causes you to run to the check-in juggling all your bags, and then through the terminal feeling as if you want to bowl over any slow-moving passengers or over-zealous security officers isn’t good for you. Your nervous system is on red alert, your heart has nearly punched its way out of your chest, and your adrenals are spent. But, although severe, it’s short-lived. Once you are seated in the aircraft, the relaxation that comes over you allows you to recover quickly. Ultimately it was your stress response that got you on the plane and, as unpleasant as it was, it might well have put you in a better and healthier position than facing the consequences of missing your flight. In evolutionary terms, you’ve successfully escaped a sabre-tooth tiger and that’s why the ‘flight-or-fight’ response remains with us today.

The stress response

Psychologists have come to define the stress response as the biological and psychological response to a threat that we don’t feel we have the resources to cope with adequately. That of course relates specifically to negative stress. Multiple systems in the body come into play, from the endocrine (hormonal) system, the nervous system, the immune system and the digestive system.

When confronted with a threat or potential stressor, the first thing we do is evaluate it with our senses. Our ability to do this very quickly helps us to survive as a species. If we decide the threat is real, and that we need to act quickly to reduce its impact, we trigger a cascade of events affecting multiple systems in our body, including three key endocrine organs – the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in our brain, and the adrenal glands that sit atop our kidneys. This is known as the ‘HPA axis’ and is a key part of what is sometimes called the psychoneuroimmunological (PNI) or—wait for it— psychoendoneuroimmunological system, owing to the multiple systems affected. More recent work suggests the gut and the gonads are also involved in the stress response; as a result, some functional medicine practitioners find themselves referring to the system as the HPAGG axis.

The key ‘stress hormones’ released from our adrenal glands belong to a group of steroid hormones called the glucocorticoids, the most important actor of which is cortisol which is synthesized from cholesterol. Cortisol and the HPA axis operate a complicated negative feedback system to control the stress response with hormones like adrenaline, and also to bring it quickly back into balance once the stress or threat has subsided.

What happens if you over-stress your body?

Typical stress responses include elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, elevated blood sugar levels (caused by cortisol triggering glucose production in the liver), decreased digestive activity, loss of appetite and a suppressed immune system. It’s not hard to see how this system that was designed primarily to help us survive more severe and short-lived threats and stresses, starts to create havoc with our bodies in our modern world where chronic stress, even though less severe, is so common. If our bodies are not given the chance to get back to our unstressed balance point things often go awry.

Gaining weight, developing ‘cortisol tyres’ around the mid-section, suffering gastrointestinal problems or regular infections, a failing memory, and losing our capacity to tolerate ‘normal’ levels of stress, are all examples of symptoms of chronic, inadequately managed stress.

The good news is there’s lots we can do to transform negative stress into something more positive, as well as supporting the body nutritionally so it can cope better with stress. And that’s going to be the subject of the next three articles in this series.

 

Healthy Weight Management Lean Protein

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If you’ve read the preceding 3 blogs in this series you’ll now know the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’ regarding healthy weight management. This final blog is all about the ‘How’ – in 10 easy steps, because it’s really, honestly, not complicated. And I can say that because I’ve done it. After 25 years of trying to find a solution to my own health and weight management issues, these are the steps I took which led to both my professional aha-moment and my personal weight management salvation. What’s more, it didn’t take long to make huge changes that have now become permanent.

Here you go…

  1. Start by working out a weekly menu plan that incorporates three meals per day, with no snacks or drinks in between, other than water. Prepare to be on this for 8-10 weeks. Leave at least five hours in between meals to let your digestive and immune systems rest and recover. Some scientists uphold that our digestive tract typically receives more immune challenges in a single day than our whole body does in a lifetime. That’s because food, which comes from outside our body, generates an immune reaction because it needs to be screened and responded to accordingly to make sure it won’t harm us. This is why resting your digestion for extended periods between food or drink is so important.  Grazing through the day puts your immune system on continuous red alert, saps your body of energy and leaves it in a permanent state of low-grade inflammation, all of which predisposes you to a significantly higher risk of chronic disease, let alone upping the number of calories you’re eating that aren’t offset by your activity level.
  1. Include good quality protein at every meal and make sure you get at least a gram of actual protein (not simply protein-containing food) for every kilogram of body weight (that about 2 oz for every 10 lbs of body weight). For instance, 100 g of chicken breast contains about 20 g of protein, 100 g of beef, typically about 25 g of protein and 100 g of legumes averages between 7-9 g of protein. Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein is a perfect choice for meals on the go or for a cost effective way to increase your daily intake of protein. It’s particularly useful for vegans and vegetarians who may well be getting insufficient protein. Make sure you’re mixing it with Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff if you’re using it as a meal replacement to feed all 12-body systems with targeted nutrition.
  1. Drop your fears about fat, including saturated fat, and make sure you’re getting enough of the right kind, but avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats and fats damaged by high temperature cooking. That means including some good quality, organic butter (exclusively grass fed cows where possible – as long as you’re not sensitive to dairy. If you are, use coconut, avocado, olive oil or another healthy fat instead), extra virgin coconut oil, avocadoes, tree nut oils (e.g. macadamia nut oil), olives and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. Clear your cupboards of common vegetable oils e.g. rapeseed (canola), sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn etc. It’s the protein and higher level of fat that keep you fuller for longer and give you better fuel for making energy so that you won’t crave sugar and refined carbs.
  1. Keep your portions sizes modest and if necessary eat off a breakfast rather than a dinner plate. Eat mostly whole, real and unprocessed food.  Minimal processing of some foods is OK, but always avoid ultra-processed and highly refined foods. Check out the Alliance for Natural Health’s Food4Health plate to get some guidance about how to balance your protein, carbs and fats, along with key pointers on food preparation and eating habits.
  1. Make sure you’re eating all the six main colour groups of vegetables and fruit on a daily basis (green, orange, red, yellow, blue/purple/black and white/tan/brown). We call this eating a rainbow every day. Plates of colourful food every day help you ensure you’re getting the full phytonutrient spectrum into your diet. Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff is loaded with phytonutrients to bump up what you’re getting from your food because they are Nature’s best (and safest) medicine. Try to introduce a new vegetable that you may not have had before every week.
  1. Remember that not all carbs are created equal. For the ominovores among you, in order to optimise your fat-burning metabolic pathway, try and remove all refined, starchy carbohydrates (e.g. refined grains, pizza, pasta, pulses/legumes, quinoa, amaranth, bread, cakes, biscuits, sugar and bagels etc) from your diet. Instead of starchy carbs, use a diverse colour range of vegetables as the carbohydrate base of your meals. These not only provide complex carbs, but also all-important phytonutrients. For vegetarians and vegans, keep the pulses/legumes and quinoa in your diet (as these are important protein sources), but do cut out other grains and all refined, starchy, sugary carbs as above. Vegetables and fruit are great sources of complex carbs and, eaten in sufficient quantity, they provide an ample intake of carbs for most people’s energy requirements. For those who have particularly high energy requirements, such as athletes, rice, especially brown rice, and coarse oats, in small to moderate quantities according to need, alongside other protein and vegetable sources, are the grains least likely to cause adverse inflammatory or immune reactions in most people.  Always try to source certified gluten-free oats if available.
  1. Fruit, whilst full of good stuff (phytonutrients), is also full of sugar, so limit yourself to no more than three fruits (or a handful of berries instead of one fruit) a day – eaten with or immediately after a meal, where possible. Remember, no snacking!
  1. By increasing your vegetable content, with some fruits, you will naturally increase your fibre levels, both soluble and insoluble. Fibre is essential for the healthy functioning of your digestive tract and isn’t something you can scrimp on.
  1. Recover the lost art of chewing! The slow, methodical, mechanical chewing along with the release of associated salivary enzymes is actually the first stage of digestion and is really important for gut function and general health. Try chewing each mouthful of solid food 30 times before swallowing.
  1. Where possible and when available, buy certified organic, biodynamic or sustainably produced meat, poultry, dairy, vegetables and fruit. Where you can’t, check out the US’ Dirty Dozen list of the foods most likely to be pesticide-contaminated, and the Clean Fifteen that are likely to contain no or harmless levels of pesticide residues if sourced from ‘conventional’ production.

If you’re a meat eater and once you’ve established this eating pattern for 8 – 10 weeks, you’ll probably find that you’re ready to drop one meal of the day to naturally create a longer fast. Whilst each of us is different, many people find that they want to drop breakfast and fast through from dinner the night before till lunch the next day. But you may also want to keep breakfast and drop one of the other meals. This is a perfectly natural progression – or I should say regression – back to a more evolutionary norm given that we’re built for famine and not for feast. Intermittent fasting also has the benefit of calorie restriction because you eat less in a day, so trust your body and go with flow. If you’re vegan or vegetarian this will likely be more difficult to achieve without using a protein shake like Clean Lean Protein, as you’ll have to eat more carbs in order to get sufficient daily protein.

Lastly, if you feel like you’d benefit from starting this journey with a more personalised, tailored program, supported by others and able to ask questions of myself and other experts, then check out www.bitethesun.org. It’s a member’s club with a wealth of information, an interactive personal dashboard and an integral social hub.

Burning Fat Efficiently With the Right Training and Nutrition

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We’ve learned that fat burning is a system we’ve developed to allow us to use energy over long distances. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, whose genes we share almost unchanged, would roam their environments on the hunt for food for hours or even days on end. We would not be around today if they cold only hunt successfully if they could refuel on bags of potato chips or cans of coke every few hours. They would genuinely be running on empty, using fuel that they had previously stored. Someone who gets lost in the desert and is unable to hunt successfully will die, usually after a few days without food and water. But it’s not the lack of food that causes death, it’s the lack of water. Most of us can function, given water, for well over two weeks without food. That’s because we burn first of all our fat reserves, and then we that runs out, we start burning protein as muscle tissue. What’s ingenious about it is that we also generate another fuel when we burn fat called ketone bodies. These ketone bodies – or ketones for short – are actually are brain’s favourite fuels. If you keep burning fat, and continue to not eat over many days, the levels of ketones in your system can get so high they kill you. That’s why for many years ketones were thought of as bad compounds because they were known to occur at very high levels in people who were starving to death. To keep ketones as low as possible, you need to shut down your fat burning system. The best way to do that is by taking in lots of carbs.

Now, think about all those overweight people in the gym who you’ve seen working out on treadmills and cycling machines who never seem to lose weight. Chances are they’re working out for under an hour at a time and they’re also downing glucose- or sugar-laden energy drinks or energy gels to keep them going. Their diets might also be low fat and high in refined and processed carbs like white bread, pasta, pizzas and white rice.

What we now know is that we need to back off eating carbs to encourage our bodies to burn fats. This is one reason that there’s been so much interest in law carb diets, as well as ones that increase the amount of healthy fats. These kinds of diets are often referred to as Low Carb High Fat or LCHF diets. But it’s not just a question of what you’re eating, it’s also about how much and when you’re eating.

When we start exercising aerobically our bodies normally rely on the most readily accessible fuel. It’s actually not fats, carbs or protein. It’s a compound called glycogen that’s stored in our liver and muscles. If we’re replenished with glycogen from a good meal with plenty of complex carbs from vegetables, starches or grains the night before, most of us will have a reserve of some 500 – 800g of glycogen. This will be sufficient to act as our main fuel for around 60 to 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. So if you’re going to do some aerobic work in the gym and stop after just 30 minutes, you will have barely started to burn your fat reserves, irrespective of whether the machine in the gym tells you you’ve been in your fat burning zone for that half hour. You’ve burned part of your glycogen reserve that will be replete if you down an energy drink or another carb source after your workout.

What the fat burning zone inscribed on your treadmill, stepper, rower or gym bike is telling is however is right if you’re prepared to stay in this low to moderate heart rate zone for some time. This fat burning zone is approximately 60-70% of your maximum heart rate, which is roughly 220 minus your age, although it can be considerably higher than this if you’re very fit. But how many people can manage over an hour of aerobic work in the gym. Three or four times a week. Not many as it happens.

That’s one reason why, when it comes to burning fat, getting outdoors and doing a long walk or cycle ride makes a lot more sense for many people. But it requires time – something not many of us have in abundance. But perhaps you can manage this once or twice a week if you really try, ideally not on consecutive days.

Such is the flexibility of our bodies’ systems that there are also other ways of burning fat. Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways of getting there. It’s a somewhat fancy term referring to a pattern of eating that involves eating both less as well as less often than a normal Western person might typically eat. There’s actually nothing odd about this way of eating – our ancestors almost certainly ate this way. They certainly didn’t eat three meals a day with snacks in between. They would go through cycles of feast and famine – and it’s important to realise we are supremely well-adapted to famine because if we weren’t, we’d not be here today. And bizarrely, it’s now the excessive feasting that’s much more likely to kill us than the famine…

One of the most useful rules with intermittent fasting is to try to cut down on your meal frequency by avoiding eating within five hours of your last meal. Another point involves cutting out snacks between meals, as well as all refined and processed carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta and white rice. Doing a couple of training or exercise sessions on a completely empty stomach (other than water) will also help you shift towards being a better fat burner. As will engaging in very short bursts of high intensity exercise, with rests of the same or double the duration in between. This is called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT and you’ll find plenty of information about it on the internet, such is its popularity given its proven role in triggering mitochondrial function and fat burning. Depending on what your fitness goal is, you can adjust the pattern of your HIIT sessions to deliver different results.

With a personal trainer with extensive experience in HIIT, there are even HIIT regimes suitable for people with serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It may seem a bit tough, but think of it as short and sharp, with good rewards. Get it right and your metabolism will become super flexible, using whatever fuels are most efficient. You’ll generate ketones at low levels (nutritional ketosis) to keep your brain super sharp and you’ll even burn fat while you sleep!

When you’ve finished a bout of training over 20 or 30 minutes, make sure you consume around 20 grams of good quality protein to help your body recover and your muscles to grow stronger following the exercise trigger you’ve delivered to them. It’s a good idea to get this protein in within a 30-minute window of completing your activity. If the activity has involved long periods of endurance, you might also want to add some complex carbs and branched chain amino acids to the mix, as well as a good quality multi-nutrient product with plenty of good quality vitamins and minerals, botanicals, probiotics and other micronutrients that help support your multiple body systems.

How Your Body Uses Energy and How good Nutrition Helps

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Energy is the stuff we generate from burning fuel. It runs all the processes in our body, effectively keeping us alive. We sometimes think of food as energy, but it’s really an energy source rather than energy itself. We can get energy from any of the three groups of macronutrients, namely fats, carbs and protein. As you’ll be reminded when you read the Nutrition Facts on the back of food labels, fats yield over twice as much energy as the other two groups. A molecule called ATP (which stands for adenosine triphosphate), is actually the body’s key fuel and we have microscopic energy-producing factories in our cells, especially muscle cells, that exist specially to provide us with all-important ATP that can be generated from fats, carbs or proteins. These are called mitochondria (Fig 1).

While we need to eat food to give us energy so that we can go about our lives, it’s important to realise that food is so much more than an energy source. Food is actually better thought of as information for the body. In it are a gamut of other compounds and molecules that help a bunch of different pathways in the body to work properly. For example, if you don’t have sufficient levels of particular micronutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, iodine and biotin, your body finds it difficult to create energy from food. More than that, we need compounds from colourful pigments in plants so that our immune systems can work effectively, our gut bacteria have the resources they need to work on our behalf and to scavenge and neutralise free radicals produced through the body’s normal activity.

Unless you are paralysed or severely ill, nearly every one of us has the capacity to move very quickly, at least for very short periods of time, be this for a few seconds rather than minutes. (Yes, even the world’s number one couch potato has this capacity!) This ability is gifted to us through evolution and it’s what made us capable of the ‘flight and fight’ response that’s been essential to our survival. This response requires healthy lashings of adrenaline combined with readily available ATP from a compound we all have in our bodies in small amounts called creatine phosphate. This ATP, delivered through what is known as our creatine phosphate (CP or phosphagen) system, gives us enough energy for immediate but very short bursts of activity lasting just a few seconds.

If the couch potato were to find his house on fire, the chances are he’d run out the door pretty quickly rather than face being toast because he didn’t feel up to moving. The CP system would rip him off the couch and get him flying in the direction of the exit and then when that immediate energy source was burned, some five or six seconds later, he’d have to rely on one or other of his other two energy systems; this is exactly the same process used by our ancestors when confronted head-on by a sabre-toothed tiger.

If we need to keep going for more than a few seconds, we need to rely on a different energy system. As alluded to above, we have two main options: we either burn fats, carbs or proteins without oxygen in a series of reactions called anaerobic glycolysis. Or we burn our fuels in the presence of oxygen in a process we refer to as aerobic respiration. The former is effectively our short-term energy system, as distinct from the CP or immediate energy system we spoke of above. The latter is our long-term energy system. If you want to run a marathon, long-distance cycle, mow the lawn or vacuum your house, you’ll be using your aerobic system. Having good aerobic fitness is about burning fuel efficiently at moderate levels of intensity, and still being able to put down reasonable power but not incurring an oxygen debt that pushes you above your aerobic threshold. Your anaerobic system is different in that its purpose if for shortish bursts of high intensity activity. You can only use it for a few minutes at a time because you can’t sustain the oxygen debt for too long – and lactic acid build-up in your muscles, a side effect of this energy system, tells you to back off.

The anaerobic system yields a bit of energy as ATP and requires adequate amounts of readily accessible fuel, especially as glucose, a simple unit of carbohydrate. By contrast, your long-range endurance system, aerobic respiration, is there for you to keep going, as long as your overall fitness can manage. If you’re well trained, you can literally function in aerobic mode all day long. While you’re at it you can still deliver occasional bursts of energy in anaerobic or even CP mode, but you’ll soon want to back it off to a more moderate pace if you’re planning on walking, running, rowing or cycling for most of the day. The aerobic system relies on ATP being produced in your mitochondria, which hang out especially in muscle tissue. Bigger, stronger, leaner muscles have more mitochondria and mitochondria of greater volume. People who are frail have fewer mitochondria and weaker muscles. Aerobic respiration produces creates around 17 times more energy as ATP through reactions within the mitochondria called the Krebs or citric acid cycle and the Electron Transport Chain than the aerobic glycolysis that takes place in the muscle tissues outside the mitochondria (Fig. 1).

The body’s fuel of choice for the aerobic system is fat. It delivers, as I said above, over twice as much energy as compared with burning carbs or protein. The reason we all have a tendency to put on fat around our middle and under our skin (adipose fat) is precisely so we can use it as a fuel when we need it. The trouble is, many of us have lost the ability to burn fats efficiently and this is increasingly thought to be one of the reasons why overweight and obesity have become such a problem in so many societies. More on that in our next article.

Why Do Most Diets Fail and Would Protein and Nutrition Shakes Help Them?

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Are you of fuller body but wish you were leaner? Try as you might are you constantly tempted by foods that you know aren’t helping you? Do you feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle? If you answered yes to those questions — relax — you’re perfectly normal. It’s a natural part of our evolutionary hardwiring to want to feast on today’s high calorie foods. Foods made from grains, bread, pasta, chips, pizzas and sugary confectionary can seem tantalisingly seductive.

In hunter-gatherer days we didn’t come across sweet foods very often, so when we did, we needed to gorge ourselves and store the excess calories to get us through leaner times. Most of us still have those same urges today. It’s one of the reasons why we crave sugary, starchy and fatty foods and why it can be so hard to stop eating once we start. Unfortunately, these days we rarely face times of famine and the majority of us are nowhere near as active as our hunter-gatherer predecessors. The effects of which are mirrored in our bulging waistlines and spiralling rates of chronic disease.

This genetic evolutionary survival mechanism is one of the reasons why sugar is like a drug to us and becomes so addictive. If you’ve ever gone told turkey and stopped eating sugar for any length of time you’ll know how your palate changes and your body finally stops being tempted by it. But like an alcoholic that takes a drink after a period of abstinence, give in to sugar again and it’s doesn’t take long before the regular need for it overwhelms your will power once more.

Being genetically coded to survive times of famine rather than feast, it’s hard for many of us to maintain a lean physique when we’re faced with overstocked kitchens and high calorie foods tempting us on every street corner. Diets today are often full of refined carbohydrates that force the body into an over-production of insulin, also known as our ‘fat storage hormone’. Insulin’s responsible for maintaining a balanced blood sugar level, which in turn maintains our energy levels and acts as one of our main metabolic hormones. When insulin is imbalanced, the result can have negative consequences for our health, and our waistline. One of the main ones being that it switches the body over to burning sugar predominantly for energy instead of fat. More on this in the next two articles though…

For now, let’s stay with insulin for a bit longer.

Insulin allows blood sugar to enter the cells to supply the body with energy, but continually choosing foods – and drinks – high in sugar, combined with being overweight, has a strong effect on the delicate balance between blood sugar and insulin levels. This is why insulin balance is at the root of so many common illnesses and disorders. Given that our bodies are built to deal with sugary foods as a rarity rather than the norm, a condition called insulin resistance develops when we consistently eat foods high in glucose.

Under such circumstances, the pancreas is forced to pump out more and more insulin to try and regulate the excess sugar (glucose). Unfortunately, the body can only sustain a limited number of insulin receptors on each cell. Consequently, insulin receptors are continually activated and over worked and can’t successfully bind to the overwhelming amount of insulin. Working under such pressure insulin receptors, over time, lose their sensitivity and become ‘resistant’ to insulin, creating a danger zone when blood glucose is starts to rage out of control.

The knock on effect is that the body is literally unable to extract the glucose from the blood to power the muscles and they become starved of energy. Despite the excess of glucose in the blood – with more being consumed daily – the brain kills the desire to be active because the muscles have no energy. High glucose in the body is also toxic. If it rises too high, the liver is the only organ in the body that can get rid of it because the liver doesn’t require insulin to process glucose. But this comes at a high price in terms of weight management.

The liver converts excess glucose to triglycerides (fatty acids) and packages them up in fat cells for safe storage in adipose tissue (a community of fat cells, more commonly experienced as a bulging waistline or extra unwanted pounds in hard to shift places). Here the fat cells are rendered harmless to the body and left in storage until they may be needed as a future fuel source – not an easy source to access if you continue to flood the body with sugary or fatty refined carb foods on a daily basis. The higher the glucose levels, the more fat cells we need to create, generating a vicious, perpetual cycle.

The good news is that the cycle can be broken. Shifting your fuel sources and re-establishing some evolutionary norms allows the body to return to balance once more. One of the first steps being to start burning fat instead of sugar for energy, which in turn allows the desire to be active to flourish once more.

And there’s a clue for article number 2 in this series…!

Tips From an Industry Leading Expert on Lowering Your Toxic Burden

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Have you ever considered what your toxic body burden is?  Does that mean anything to you?  If it doesn’t, hopefully this series of articles will help you to ‘lighten your load’ if necessary.

The term body burden refers to the level of environmental toxic load our bodies are carrying whilst still attempting to function normally.  By environmental toxins we mean things like heavy metals from air pollution, pesticides ingested in or on our food or leached into the food supply through soil and water, hormone-disrupting chemicals in our personal care products and plastics or chemicals like fluoride that are added to the water supply.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Every day we are also bombarded by chemicals from industry, waste incinerators, air travel, household cleaning products, building materials, cigarette smoke and way more.  You get the picture.  We might have a lot more convenience, but we also have a hugely increased health risk from the wide-spread use of new-to-nature molecules.

Here are 5 top tips to help you unload or avoid some of that burden:

  1. Food and Water – clean up your survival staples.
    1. Go organic where you can to lower your exposure to pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilisers, antibiotics and a host of other chemicals that find their way into our food supply. Check out the Dirty Dozenfor produce you really don’t want to eat if it’s not organic and the Clean Fifteen, for produce you can
    2. Ensure that your meat is either organic or pasture-reared/grass-fed and free range to lower the quota of hormonal by-products from stressed animals on top of other contaminants
    3. Reduce the amount of food you’re consuming that comes wrapped in plastic, because certain plastics (particularly the soft, bendy ones) leach oestrogen-like mimicker molecules (xenoestrogens) into our bodies that play havoc with our hormonal balance
    4. Reduce your exposure to tap water by installing a good quality filter at home, particularly if your municipal water is fluoridated. Try not to buy drinking water in plastic bottles as it may be full of xenoestrogens, particularly if you live in a hot climate.
  2. Personal care toiletries and cosmetics – cleanliness and vanity, but at a price. Switch your brands to those derived from natural ingredients that are free of hormone-imbalancing and potentially cancer-causing contaminants.  From heavy metals like lead and mercury in our mascara and lipsticks, to hormone disrupters in our shampoo and body wash and known carcinogens in hair dyes, our personal care products can be a toxic soup that’s in contact with our skin day in and day out. And our skin is the largest organ in the body — what goes on it, goes in it!
  3. Household chemicals – get rid of toxic vapours.
    Much like personal care products, our homes should be places of rest, recuperation and recovery. But building materials, fire retardant and stain removing fabrics, deodorisers and cleaning products create a noxious environment of toxic vapours that put your family and pets at risk.  Say no to as many optional extras as you can and switch your household cleaners to natural alternatives or return to the traditional cleaning agents of yesteryear like vinegar, lemon juice and washing soda.
  4. Air pollution – support the most important survival staple of all!
    From cigarette smoke to car fumes in inner city living, we are surrounded by air that’s full of less than wholesome particulates. If you live in the city try to have foliage near windows to ‘soak’ up the air pollution. Cycle through parks when you can and walk on pavements/sidewalks as far away from the road as possible. Amazing that research is showing that walking even 1m away from the road on the pavement decreases the amount of inhaled particulates.  It’s not so much the heavy metals anymore but nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that are causing distress.
  5. Rest and movement – Nature’s natural healers.
    Make sure you have adequate sleep for maximum regeneration and recovery. That means 6-9 hours a night in a totally darkened room to allow your pineal gland to produce melatonin – the regenerative, ‘mopping-up’ hormone!  But just as you need sleep, you also need movement.  We are designed to be active beings engaging G-force on a regular daily basis to stay healthy and support our biotransformation/detox pathways.

References:

US Centers for Disease Control Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

What is Your Toxic Burden and How to Reduce and Manage it?

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Our bodies do remarkable things every day to manage the load of chemical toxins to which we expose them. Some of these we produce internally, being products of our digestion and metabolism. But we also get exposed to a plethora of toxins in our external environment, absorbing them in the food we eat and the water and beverages we consume or wash in. We inhale them in the air we breathe and we absorb them through our skins each time we shower or bath. Our bodies are very well adapted to the toxins we produce internally—because they’ve had millennia to adapt and develop ways of getting rid of them, often in a modified, detoxified or partially detoxified state. It’s the chemicals we absorb from our external environment that have changed so much in recent times—especially over the last 50 years which is just a whisker of time in evolutionary terms.

Environmental Medicine is a rapidly expanding field that looks at the interplay between our bodies and genes and the complex mixtures of synthetic, as well as natural, compounds to which we’re exposed daily. Most of us are exposed to a cocktail of around 20,000 new-to-nature, industrially manufactured chemicals each day. If we’re in good health, eating and hydrating properly, many of us can handle this assault, with our on-board detoxification systems doing a great job ‘biotransforming’ toxins and getting rid of their metabolites in our urine, faeces or sweat. Some fat-soluble compounds, such as dioxins, which can be found in chlorine-bleached tampons, nappies and some municipal drinking water, aren’t readily excreted. They may be ‘biotransformed’ into compounds that are more toxic and much of it gets dumped in our fat. If we then burn fat, we risk releasing these fat-soluble toxins into our circulation. More of the 10 trillion or so cells that make up an adult body then get re-exposed.

We’re rapidly learning that most of us benefit from reducing our toxic chemical burden.  Since most forms of cancer are environmental, this is a good idea to help reduce your long-term cancer risk. But there are often other benefits like less fatigue and fewer jangled nerves.

The first step to reducing your toxic chemical burden is finding out more about your sources of exposure. You can then remove these entirely or substitute for safer, less toxic products. This process will take time, but think about swapping out at least one product in your home or office every week for something safer. Studying the US website of the Environmental Working Group is a fantastic place to start.

An Experts Guide to Low-Tox Living and How Additional Nutrition Helps

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By now you’ll understand there are two main strategies we need to use to get clean and green.

The first involves doing everything you can to minimise your sources of toxic environmental chemical exposure; you’ll find 5 top tips in our last blog. Every little bit counts as it’s your body’s overall burden, over time, that can end up over-taxing your innate detox systems. That means cutting out as many nasties in your life, whether you’re putting them your mouth, on your skin, or inhaling them deep into your lungs.

The second strategy, the subject of this blog, is to make sure your own, onboard detox system is in tip top condition and has all the resources it needs to function to the best of its ability. Remember that our capacity to detox varies between one individual and another. Since gene sequencing technology became a key part of the medical and health sciences around a little over a decade ago, we now understand a lot more about the importance of genetic variations. We’re discovering that people who struggle most with their exposure to environmental chemicals are more likely to have genetic variations that reduce their capacity to detoxify or biotransform particular chemicals. These genetic variations are rarely spotted or tested for by general practitioners who are simply not trained to look for them.

We’re now going to focus on some of the things you can do with your diet, your physical activity and your lifestyle that will help you get the best out of your detox system.

Diet 

  1. Make sure around half of every plate of food you eat is comprised of non-starchy vegetables, especially cruciferous ones from the cabbage family such as broccoli, kale, pak choi or bok choi that are rich in compounds that help our liver’s to detox.
  2. Each day, ensure that you consume vegetables and fruits that represent all 6 of the phytonutrient colour groups, namely green, red, yellow, orange, blue/purple/black and white/tan
  3. Avoid charred, burned or even heavily browned foods, especially meats or carbohydrate sources, be they barbequed, fried, grilled or toasted, as these contain compounds that are recognised carcinogens
  4. Consume at least 2 litres of clean fresh water every day (more if you’re exercising in hot weather), preferably between meals
  5. Consume a daily multi-nutrient food supplement product such as Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff that includes a host of vitamins (e.g. vitamin B1, niacin, methylfolate, methylated B12), minerals (magnesium, zinc, selenium), plant-nutrients (e.g. broccoli sprout, turmeric and green tea extracts) and other nutrients (e.g. alpha lipoic acid, n-acetyl cysteine, resveratrol) that enhance our detox capacity, as well as others (e.g. milk thistle) that protect the liver, our main detox organ

Physical activity

  1. Be active moderately active for at least one hour every dayincluding, depending on your level of fitness, shorter periods (say 30 minutes) of more intense activity at least twice a week

Lifestyle

  1. Avoid smoking or inhaling second-hand tobacco smoke and if you consume alcohol, don’t consume more than 2-3 units on any one day and include at least 4 alcohol-free days a week
  2. Sleep as much as your body needs, but not in excess of 9 hours each night. Make sure your room is darkened completely to ensure maximum output of the hormone melatonin and that you are away from electronic gadgets for at least an hour before bedtime. Also, turn off any electrical devices close to your bed and turn-off wifi (if you have it) overnight.

How to Help Your Detoxification System with Good Green Stuff

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You might wonder why governments allow so many chemicals to be released into the environment? Why are there so many chemicals in our food, water, clothes, toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products? Are the pesticide residues in our foods really safe?  And what about the indoor or outdoor air we breathe, the water we drink, or the plastic containers we store our food in, or put our kids’ school lunches in?

What about those artificial flavours, preservatives, colours, sweeteners or technological additives that are laced through so much processed food we find in supermarkets? Then there’s the chemicals released from vehicles, factories and power stations.  The list is seemingly endless. While some industrial compounds have been evaluated for safety, the majority haven’t. Where safety has been evaluated, the studies are always based on individual chemical compounds, studied in isolation, often on animals or bacteria. The fact is, we’re human, and we’re not exposed to these chemicals in isolation, but rather as highly complex mixtures that are almost impossible to study. Not only is each one of our exposures different, our genetic ability to handle these exposures is also different. That’s why some of us react very differently to others.

The harsh reality is that more of us are not coping well with this chemical assault. This may be seen by high levels of certain liver enzymes that are doing their best to work overtime to detoxify our bodies but have been overwhelmed. Chemical overload can manifest in a multitude of ways and can lead to, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety or disturbed sleep patterns, among many other things.

Apart from reducing your chemical load as far as you can, you can also help support your detoxification system. This means making sure you eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet, drink at least 2 litres of spring, mineral or filtered water daily (more of you’re exercising intensively, especially in hot weather) and taking some supplementary nutrients. A daily serving of a broad spectrum ‘supplemented food’, such as Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff, with it’s powerpack of 77 ingredients that feed all 12 of your body systems—including your detoxification, digestive and immune systems—is a great place to start.

We hope you enjoy your low-tox living journey. It makes perfect sense in an increasingly toxic world, and it’s the way of the future.