Low Back Pain and Dysfunction… Back Pain Part 2

You can derive a few clues about the source of general dysfunction or even pain related to kinetic chain dysfunction just by looking at an individual’s static posture. The way a person stands(or sits) while in a rested state in many cases can begin reveal which areas of the core are weak and which areas may be overactive(tight). The two main systems that determine static posture is the skeletal system and the muscular system (the nervous system is also important but it is the resting length of the muscles and their attachment to the bones that we are focusing on for our purposes). The skeletal system is the framework of your body. The muscular system is, for all intents and purposes, a series of pulleys and levers that moves that frame around by pulling on the attachment points at the joints and on the bone through the shortening and lengtheningen (flexion and extension) of individual muscles or muscle groups causing them to make simple and complex movements to occur. When “at rest” (static posture), there is a default length that the musculature should maintain. When it’s not, it is the initial cause of many postural problems. Continue reading

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Welcome Back (literally)… Back Pain Part 1

My clientele usually fall into 3 categories of fitness: very active, moderately active and sedentary.

The very active individuals are usually young athletes or weekend warriors who have good mobility and posture and normally show few signs of dysfunction in their kinetic chain unless they are recovering from acute injury. The goals of these clients are performance-oriented and the techniques I apply to their training is designed to get their bodies to move as efficiently as possible, which enables them to become faster, stronger and more explosive. Continue reading

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Reset Part III: It’s All About Timing (Well, A lot about Timing)

One aspect of eating for fat loss that isn’t talked about nearly enough is determining the ideal times to eat certain macronutrients. When you eat, your body breaks down and uses that food for different functions and the way the body uses it is based on what type as well as when that food is eaten. This is called nutrient partitioning.

In my last post in this series, I advocated a simple but strict low carb approach for 2 weeks to prime the body for pretty rapid fat loss. If you have completed this step, congratulations. Your reward, for 6-8 hours on that 14th day eat as many carbs as you want- the starchier the better. I personally pick relatively clean carbs such as rice and potatoes, and stay gluten-free but this is the time to really get crazy if there’s something you’ve been craving. (Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t taste as well as you remember or if you don’t want that much of it ). Enjoy your night.

As you wake up from your carb-induced coma, you have some choices to think about in how you want to structure your eating habits. Depending on your goals, you can choose between 3 basic ways of eating. (these categories can be further broken down but we will keep it simple for our purposes)

  1. Eat a sensible, low carb diet keeping macronutrients(protein, carbs and fat) the same daily. If you have some weight to lose but don’t want to worry too much about the ins and outs of carb cycling, keeping your carbohydrates in the 75-100g/day range should keep the weight loss steady. As I’ve written about before, eat adequate amounts of good fat and keep the processed foods and drinks out of your diet. Your food should be whole food proteins and vegetables. Your carbohydrates should come from one serving of starch a day- preferably at the last meal- and 1-2 pieces of fruit during the day. The strength of this approach is that it’s fairly simple and once integrated into your routine, there’s not a lot of thought that needs to go into it. The only drawback is that if you start to backslide, you may not notice immediately because it will most likely be occasional cheats that become more frequent. If a cheat meal is needed, I recommend planning ONE meal once every 2 weeks.
  2. Cycle carbs every 2-3 days on after a workout. This particular recommendation is for people who are working out 3 days or more of week with strength training or another high intensity workout. On the days that you don’t work out, eat 30g or carbs or less(meat and vegetables). Following the evening workout on days, eat 100-300g of carbohydrate from starch. The amount of carbs here are dependent on the intensity of your workout. This will be beneficial for fat loss as well as athletic performance. To learn more about this approach, John Kiefer is the expert. While there are many people who eat a lot of junk during their carb-loading phase, I recommend that this carb-loading is kept relatively clean with occasional splurges once a week.
  3. This option is basically going back to what you were doing in the first phase for 6 days and on the 7th day at 3pm begin a 6-8 hour “carb up” or refeed. The refeed is mandatory because it has the function of raising your leptin and thyroid levels so that you don’t lower your metabolism and hit a plataeau. As before, keep your carbs 30g or below for 6.5 days. On the back half of the  seventh day have a great time. The next day, restart the cycle. The strength in this approach is that it is simple and it works very quickly. The challenging aspect of it is if it is not adhered to, the results will be limited- if there are any at all.

So which one of these fat loss approaches is right for you? Any of these approaches will work but some are better tailored than others for certain individuals.

  • If you have a lot of weight to lose and/or are sedentary, option 1 and 3 are more suited for your purposes. Option 3 will work quicker but strict adherence is required. The strict adherence is rewarded on a weekly basis with a “carb up”. Option 1 is a bit more lenient on a daily basis but the weekly half-day carb-ups that last several hours in option 3 are replaced with a more modest cheat meal once every 2 weeks. Pick the one that you are more likely to adhere to. Exercise is recommended for mobility and other health benefits but not necessary for fat loss with these approaches.
  • If you have a 10-30 lbs to lose and performing strength training or high intensity exercising at least 3 times a week, option 2 is a good choice. It allows you to replace glycogen used during exercise efficiently. Option 1 or 3 can also be used but performance may not be optimal. This approach is not recommended for sedentary individuals.

So, these are basically plans to stick to while in your fat loss phase. If your activity levels change, you may want to consider switching to a more appropriate option. On all of these plans, the protein levels are the same (.7-1g of protein/lb of body weight). If hunger is an issue, raise the amount of protein.

 

 

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Complementary Corrective Exercise

When under the care of a chiropractor there are exercises that are very complementary to the adjustments performed. These exercises can speed up and maintain the progress made via the adjustments the chiropractor has made to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.

Muscle Inhibition- Self-myofascial release

Most of the global muscular system- the muscle groups responsible for the major movement of the body- have insertion points in the lower lumbar spine. Consequently, when adjustments are made, if the muscles that attach to the lumbar spine are overactive or “tight” then it will be more difficult for the adjustments to hold- if they can be made at all. These tight muscles- and the weak antagonist muscles- cause muscle imbalances leading to kinetic chain dysfunction such as back, knee and hip pain. These overactive muscles need to be inhibited. Continue reading

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Reset Pt II: Prepare Yourself. Summer is Coming.

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A week or so ago, I was joking with a client about how it was about 100 days until Memorial Day- the unofficial start of summer for most people. The funny thing to me is that most people won’t begin the “winter weight” panic until late March, early April when New Year’s resolutions have long been forgotten and the first stretch of relatively warm days start to coax those heavy coats, cardigans and chunky sweaters off to reveal the manifestations an awesome holiday season that happened several months prior. That’s when the terror sets in, the gym crowds become unbearable and everybody is crash dieting with the latest ill-conceived plan they found in a magazine while waiting to check out at the supermarket.

This won’t be you.

There are roughly 12 weeks until Memorial Day is upon us and that is ample time for major changes in body composition to happen. The first reset post I wrote shortly after the new year may have been too broad for some, so this one will be the unabridged version. What I am going to lay out here is details of a fool proof diet plan that should work for everyone who is not suffering from a major hormonal issue. (Trust me, that’s not you) The initial phase of this plan is not easy in the beginning and it takes effort. It’s not for everyone. However, some people do need to go through this phase to better transition themselves for long-term success. You should probably go through this phase if

  • You have a lot of fat to lose. This will help your body learn how to burn fat efficiently and regulate the hormones which determine appetite and satiety.
  • You want to lose fat quickly. This will be the quickest, safest manner to lose fat while staying properly nourished.
  • You have a craving of a certain food (or drink) that you’re having a hard time shaking. If you truly want to break the habit, exercising some willpower initially with this phase will help you break that addiction by regulating food reward pathways in your brain.

I’ve read a myriad of books, studies, articles, blogs, etc. on weight loss, diets and related items. I’ve also lost 100+ lbs and kept it off. My recommendations are based on science and experience- not something a trainer told me at a gym or what I overheard at the barbershop. The choices of foods that I recommend are heavily influenced by Dr. Paul Jaminet’s book The Perfect Health Diet, which I highly recommend. The diet macronutrient timing is influenced by Lyle McDonald and John Keifer’s work on ketogenic diets and carb cycling. There are also elements of Stephan Guyenet‘s food reward theory thrown in also. There are many ways to lose weight- and to lose it quickly- but there aren’t many ways to do it in a safe and healthy way, so that’s where this diet comes in.

This diet is very similar to an induction phase of a low carb diet. The difference is that I am going to insist certain foods be included in the diet to keep it nutritionally replete. This initial phase is going to last at least 2 weeks. I say at least 2 weeks because if one has a lot of weight to lose(50 or more lbs) and your body is comfortable in this phase then you may want to ride it out. Here are the parameters.

  • Carbohydrate intake is limited to 30g a day, almost exclusively from green vegetables
  • Protein intake should be roughly .5-1g per pound of body weight.
  • Healthy fats should make up the majority of daily calories.
  • It should go without saying but, cook all of your own meals.

So far so good. Pretty straightforward low carb induction. Now let’s get to the brass tacks.

  • 4 oz of liver should be eaten once a week(my liver night is Tuesday)
  • High quality eggs(pastured or free roaming are best) should be consumed regularly
  • High quality yogurt or fermented vegetables such as kim chi should be consumed regularly for probiotics
  • 100-150 calories worth of high quality 70% or above dark chocolate 3 times a week.
  • Butter should be used often as possible. Pastured butter (and cream) is highly recommended.
  • Make stocks and cook with them regularly.

Following these steps will go a long way to replenishing any nutrients you may be deficient in (some theories suggest that nutrient deficiencies may be one of the causes behind insatiable hunger), keep you from becoming nutrient deficient while dieting, and begin cultivating a healthy gut flora. You can get started without having introduced all of these into your diet, but eventually it will greatly benefit you to incorporate them.

So what does a typical day’s meals look like? It really depends on your eating habits. Some people eat breakfast, some don’t. Some people eat heavier earlier in the day, some like their biggest meal at dinner. It depends. A typical breakfast could possibly be 3-4 eggs(any style), several strips of bacon, sausage or other meat. Lunch would be a meat and vegetable. Dinner would be the same. Coffee and tea with cream is okay, choose sweeteners carefully. If you feel hungry and need to snack between meals, eat one handful of nuts the first time it happens. The next day eat a heavier breakfast until the point where you don’t feel the need to snack between meals.

This diet can be boring and repetitive(this actually is considered a good thing in some food reward circles) but it doesn’t have to be. Take the time to learn several different ways to cook different meats. Try different cuts of meats, vegetables and other permitted foods you haven’t tried. If you don’t have the time for all that, then just grin, bear it and comfort yourself with thoughts of a better looking you this summer.

 

Next post will be on transitioning out of this phase while keeping fat-burning going.

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Greener Pastures Part 2

In our last post, we discussed animal products- mostly meat- and the considerations that should be made when choosing the types and quality of beef, chicken and pork that is consumed. In this post, I want to deal specifically with dairy. Before I start, if you think you may suffer from an autoimmune disorder(this could range from serious nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis to skin conditions like psoriasis) dairy- or some types of dairy- may not be appropriate in your diet. To read more about autoimmune issues and how the diet affects it and ways to treat, read the excellent blog Nutrisclerosis.

Most dairy that we consume comes from the milk of ruminants such as cows and goats. It includes milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and butter. Dairy is safe for most people in its most basic forms, particularly dairy from exclusively grass-fed/pastured animals. When people do have issues with dairy it is usually because of adverse reactions the milk proteins in dairy(whey and casein) that are indicative of a possible autoimmune issue, or they have an intolerance to lactose which is the sugar found in milk.

Luckily most of the good stuff found in dairy is found in the fat, which is the least problematic part of milk. Like grass-fed meat, the fat from grass-fed butter and cream(which consist of mostly dairy fat) contains many beneficial vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin E, K2, betacarotene and omega 3 and has these nutrients in a much more bioavailable form(easily absorbed into the body). The nutrition in pastured butter far  exceeds that found in conventional butter so I highly recommend that you travel to your local farmer’s market or high end grocer to obtain it. Organic Valley, Smjor, and Kerrygold are good brands of butter to look for. If you have access to a farmer’s market that has a creamery, ask about if their cows are grass-fed/pastured(they usually are). If you don’t have access to grass-fed/pastured butter or cream, purchase the highest quality of pure butter that you can- no blends. The same goes for cream.

Milk protein is also very beneficial for those who don’t have reactions to it. Easy sources of milk protein are traditional yogurts and cheese. Milk is also a good choice(always buy whole) but comes with a significant amount of sugar and is very calorically dense so if one is trying not to gain weight, be very wary of milk. High quality, preferably grass-fed yogurt(and kefir) is a great addition to the diet. First of all, it’s a great source of protein. If you’re not big on meat and have a problem getting the minimum amount of protein in during the day, then a serving or two of yogurt goes a long way to getting adequate amounts of protein into the diet. If it was just protein, I would still recommend it as a great food, but it has the added benefit of probiotics which help populate the gut with healthy bacteria which aids in digestion, the immune system and overall health. The fermentation process also gets rid of most of the sugar. Also, the full-fat and 2% versions of yogurt have the added vitamins and nutrients that cream and butter have.

I recommend that high quality yogurt be purchased plain, and whatever fruit and or sweetness that one prefers be added by you. I highly recommend that if you want it sweetened, sweeten it with raw honey which has a myriad of health benefits. Also, add your own fruit being that the sweetened and flavored ones  out of the store don’t use the best ingredients and has high amounts of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Brands I recommend are Fage, Stonyfield Farm and the house brands from Trader Joe’s and Whole foods. There are also many small companies that make high quality yogurt. Try to get the traditional or 2%. The 0% fat is less desirable.

Cheese is also a great source of protein from dairy- mostly casein. With cheese, look for the highest quality cheese that you can purchase and go more toward the hard cheese like cheddar and only occasionally indulge in the softer ones like brie. Do not purchase low fat cheese since it is highly processed and may contain ingredients that may not agree with many people.

Dairy can be beneficial to one’s diet if it is tolerated. The basic rules are to buy the highest quality and lean towards the cream and butter with yogurt and cheese being very good for those who have no issues with milk proteins.

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Greener Pastures Part 1

I’ve made many recommendations on what to take out of the diet. Today I start making specific recommendations on what you should put into your diet for optimum health. A couple of terms you will hear me use- sometimes interchangeably because there is some overlap- is pastured and grass-fed.

Pastured(Free-range can be used also) and grass-fed are terms that are used to describe the way in which animals are raised. The term pastured or free-range refers mostly to chicken and pork that have allowed to forage around and eat bugs, grass or whatever they would eat in a natural habitat. They are usually given hay and grains to supplement their diet. By comparison, conventional pigs are fed grains(mostly soy), and alot of food that is not traditionally in a pig’s diet such as Twinkies, candy and whatever else they can feed them that is low(or no) cost. Conventional chickens are fed exclusively grain, mostly soy.

The result of the vastly different diets of pastured chicken and pork is that the nutritional profiles between conventional store bought pork and chicken and pastured pork and chicken is stark. The difference in the nutritional profile comes down to the content of the fat. Pork and chicken are already high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats(PUFAs) when compared to ruminants such as beef and lamb. The Omega 6/3 ratio goes through the roof in conventional chicken and pork(particularly the fatty pieces) and it is lacking many of the nutrients pastured pork offers such as vitamin E(which is actually protective against inflammation that the high o6/o3 ratio would cause), CLA, and beta carotene. Conventional pork and chicken is vastly inferior to pastured pork and free range chicken and should eaten in limited amounts, if consumed. 

Grass-fed ruminants(beef, lamb, deer, etc) are raised on grass and hay their whole life. Conventional ruminants- mostly beef- are raised on grass but finished on grains. Grain-finishing ruminants drastically alters the the nutritional profile of ruminants- but not as much as it does chicken and pork. Most of the fat in ruminants is saturated, but it does contain some PUFA. The nutrient profile in grass-fed ruminants have better Omege6/3 ratio, CLA, Vitamin and other benificial nutrients that conventional ruminants do not have. But since most of the fat is saturated, conventional beef does not have the same ability as chicken and pork to drastically alter the intake of the PUFA because it’s inferior to grass-fed ruminants because of what it is lacking, not what it is adding to the diet. Grass-fed ruminants have a better overall nutrient profile, however, conventional ruminants are an acceptable staple. 

The pricing of grass-fed and pastured meat is prohibitive for many people. Though the benefits of grass-fed beef are very attractive, most people can’t afford to go to local farmers or upscale grocery stores and purchase. (Besides the nutritional profile of grass-fed vs grain-fed, the issues of antibiotics and hormones in conventional meat is also an issue as well as the conditions that feedlot animals are raised.) There are several ways to get the benefits of grass-fed meat in your diet.

1. Shop for the cheapest cuts. Farmers usually sell “beef bones” for 2-3 dollars a pound and despite the name, they have plenty of meat on them. They make great stews and the bones are good for stock(a post on this is coming very soon). Also at the high end grocers, cuts such as ground, shank and bottom round can be found for $6-7/lb. Also, ground goes on sale for $5/lb occasionally also. Stock up when it does.

2. Purchase lamb from your neighborhood grocer if it’s from Australia or New Zealand. Most meat from other countries do not run feed lots like they do here in the United States. Though most of the beef sold in this country is domestic, most of the lamb is from Australia and NZ, and therefore grass-fed(check the labels for country of origin). The lamb bones will run $2-3 a pound. Lamb shoulder and other cuts usually run about $5-6/lb.

3. Use Pastured Butter. The main knock on conventional beef(outside of antibiotics and hormones and the inhumane treatment found in most feedlots) is that it lacks the nutritional profile of grass-fed beef. This is quite easily rectified by cooking with and using pastured butter. If grass-fed beef is not affordable for you, then head to your high end grocery store and pick up grass-fed/pastured butter. Domestic butter such as that sold by Organic Valley will say pastured or grass-fed on the label. Some European butter that is grass-fed does not say it. Brands to look for are Kerrygold and Smjor. All of these can be found at Whole Foods. Also many farmer’s markets have vendors who sell grass-fed dairy.

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