The Earthing Movement (Part 1): A Natural Means to Reducing Inflammation

There is a growing movement among humans realizing the natural health benefits to be gained from spending a greater amount of time in closer contact with the earth’s surface. For centuries, Eastern civilizations that practiced meditation have believed that staying closely connected to the Earth helps to restore and synchronize biological rhythms – thereby reducing physical stress and inflammation. Similarly, supporters of earthing (or grounding) claim that increased time spent nearer to the earth’s ionized surface helps to mitigate an uncontrolled release of free radical electrons as part of the body’s inflammatory response. Earthing advocates also point out that we are bioelectrical beings (“human batteries”) comprised of a brain, heart, and other tissue organs that function via charged electrical signals. Humans today are inundated by electrical devices such as phones, laptops, headphones, etc., and so many of these devices produce their own electrical energy that can harm or disrupt our bodies’ innate rhythms when not in a grounded state.

Since the invention and mass production of synthetic rubber some 75 years ago, some 95% of humans now rely on rubber soled shoes of some sort (more on this to follow in Part 2 of this blog). Grounding advocates believe this to be one of the main reasons that chronic inflammation rates have skyrocketed in developed nations. Before this time, even leather animal hides used for undersole and upper materials in boots and shoes was more conductive to the ground than the rubber and foam cushioning blends seen today. Animal hides (or straw) were also used as ground covers for sleeping amongst ancient civilizations, not unlike so many members of the animal kingdom that prefer to sleep on “nature’s bed” – or a cleared patch of ground. In his book Earthing, grounding pioneer Clint Ober speaks of instances of miraculous healing for animals and humans alike when most of the bodies surface area has been surrounded by earth’s soil.

In terms of sleep quality and physical recovery alone, I personally notice better recuperative rest whenever I’m able to sleep on a thin mat near the earth’s surface – as compared to softer, ultra-cushioned modern plush beds elevated well off the ground. Some research has examined the notable health and longevity of prior civilizations who lived in close contact with the earth: such as nomadic Native American tribes, African Bushmen hunter-gatherers, or the ancient Kandahar warriors of Afghanistan. I think about all the past generations of midwestern American farmers that I’ve observed living well into their 90’s; so many of them having spent every day out on their farmland – despite diets high in cholesterol and saturated fats!  Some cautious critics may object that the FDA has yet to endorse the grounding phenomenon; however, less than 10% of medical devices get approval from the FDA. Furthermore, many devices that have been approved operate by increasing amounts of radiation – significant quantities of which is derived from the earth’s surface to begin with!

Although first labeled as quackery among scientific medical communities, now at least 20 scientific, peer-reviewed articles can support the health claims of this earthing phenomenon: with improvements such as a reduction in blood viscosity, decreased pain and inflammation. Improvement in a variety of conditions such as arthritis, sleep apnea, PMS symptoms, and many more cases of chronic inflammation have been discovered. Grounding technology has also been used to help athletes recover and heal from injury much faster. Clint Ober and other earthing ambassadors suggest incorporating barefoot walking, sitting or lying on the grass into your daily routine. If you do use grounding mats or bed covers – which include a grounding rod, wire and electrode attachments – use a voltmeter to determine the difference in electrical charge from the earth. At the very least, I suggest taking off your shoes more often – walk, sit, or meditate on the grass during your lunchbreak or exercise time. In Part 2 of this blog, I will go on to share my own experiences with barefoot running. As such a naturally simple (and inexpensive) health intervention, I urge you to give earthing a shot – what do you have to lose?  Especially when considering that a longer, healthier life may be yours to gain.  – CHRIS BORGARD

America’s Food System: The Problems With Our Plate

PART 2
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM : HOW TARGETED CORPORATE MARKETING AND GOVERNMENT LOBBYING AFFECTS OUR FOOD SYSTEM

Big junk food companies spend nearly 12 billion a year in marketing efforts aimed primarily at children.  Some 80% of American schools have contracts with soda companies.  As discussed in Part 1 of this blog, over 15 million children and adolescents in the US are not just overweight, but obese! Conditions related to obesity (even among adolescents) include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems.  Current childhood obesity rates (average ages 6-18) are fast approaching 22% in the US. In our country alone, some regions (ex: southern states like MS, KY, and LA) or ethnic populations experience even higher obesity rates.  In fact, obesity prevalence is 26% among Hispanic children, 25% among Black children, and 29% among Native American youth.  Two-thirds of the world’s obese population live in low or middle income-class countries; this is reflected in America’s slums as well.  The populations in these “food ghettos” are preyed upon hardest by junk food companies’ marketing; in fact, big food companies often time their junk food marketing to air right before SNAP benefits are released each month.

“U.S. minorities are losing more kids to the sweets than the streets; drive-throughs ARE NOW MORE deadly than drive-bys.”

In my travels across many isolated Indian reservations, I’ve been appalled to see an abundance of cheap, sugary, or fried foods packing the only grocery stores in tribal towns, while the few healthy fruits or veggies in supply cost three times as much! Truth be told, there is a long-running history of our government subsidizing junk food to relocated tribes.  As natives who historically grew corn and lentils and hunted buffalo and deer for many years, many tribes were accustomed to storing limited amounts of body fat over long periods of time in order to survive long seasonal droughts when crops or game were scarce.  But upon being newly introduced and bombarded with white refined flour, confectionery sugars, and alcohol in the early 1800’s – and having no metabolic enzyme adaptations in place for their digestion – the Indians quickly gained excess fat, and their health began a long downward spiral that continues today.

So how do we move on from being a fast-food nation?  How can our federal trade commission (FTC) allow Big Food to market billions worth of junk foods that cause weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver? With more and more Americans dying earlier from poor dietary habits than ever before, wouldn’t it make more sense for us to go after the predators rather than the consumers?  It requires a cautious approach.  For example, at least 35 countries now have a federal soda tax – some tiered based on each beverage’s sugar content.  But these sugary drink taxes are often regressive (i.e., they hurt the poor most in the wallet).

Another dilemma is that the food industry spends just as much on nutrition research (over $12 billion each year) as they do on marketing.  This becomes a problem when companies promote false science by tainting the design or analysis of their study…which happens more often than we’d like to believe.  If CEOs don’t like the study’s results, they retain the monetary rights to keep it from being published.  Furthermore, faculty researchers and health professionals are constantly accepting gifts, meals, and additional funding by industry reps of Big Food, Big Ag, and Big Pharma – contributing more pressure to skew the results in their favor.

 In the last decade alone, Big Food companies have spent over 50 million lobbying to fight laws requiring labeling of GMO containing foods.  Public health groups designed to protect us (like the ADA, AHA, and AAP) are still accepting millions in strategic donations from food industry giants whose products continue to poison the American people.  This needs to stop.  We need regulations to make sure that researchers have full independence to publish study results – while allowing companies to contribute less directly to research efforts.  And instead of regressive taxes on hard-to-eliminate junk food or drink, we must instead incentivize food producers so we can lower the prices of healthy foods.  Giving everyone access to them.  To better America’s food system, before we can get to our preferred destination, we need to begin taking steps in the right direction. – CHRIS BORGARD

CHRIS’ TOP 5 FOOD SYSTEM BOOKS :

  1. FOOD FIX (by Mark Hyman)
  2. FAST FOOD NATION (Eric Schlosser)
  3. THE END OF FOOD (Paul Roberts)
  4. FOOD POLITICS (Marion Nestle)
  5. THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA (Michael Pollan)

America’s Food System: The Problems With Our Plate

PART 1
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE FOOD SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES?

Once upon a time, our country was largely supported by small, local agricultural farms that would grow fresh produce, wheat, and other healthy commodities to feed neighbors.  Those days have vanished.  Our government has failed the farmers, ensuring that it is hardly profitable to grow real, nutritious foods.  Meanwhile, it instead subsidizes farmers to grow a surplus of unhealthy “foods” on unfertile lands – and then gives additional support to giant companies like Monsanto that aim to control crop fields with dangerous GMO seeds (genetically modified organisms).  In fact, only 2% of American farmland is used to grow fruits and vegetables.  And just 1% of US-grown corn is sold and eaten whole – most is used to feed livestock, converted to biofuels, processed as cornstarch, high-fructose corn syrup, or unhealthy cooking oils.  Much of the healthy produce that is grown gets contaminated with toxic, cancer-causing pesticides or herbicides.  Meanwhile, 70% of Americans are overweight, 40% are obese, and half of our adults are at least pre-diabetic (1 in 4 teens).  By 2030, approximately 85 million Americans will suffer from 3 or more chronic diseases – which will incur a projected $95 trillion cost burden on the US government in the next 25 years.  All virus fears aside, 11 million people die every year from a bad diet…but does anyone seem to care?

The US government has established far-reaching welfare programs to ensure that none of its citizens go hungry, thus solving the calorie problem.  But what about the empty calorie problem?  SNAP (food stamp) users qualify for an average of $120/month in food benefits, but there are no nutritional qualifiers for what foods they can buy.  Indeed, 75% of food-stamp purchases are ultra-processed junk foods – including a whopping $7 billion on sugary beverages!  (Coca-Cola alone made $30 billion total in 2018 on its sugar-water sales).  Laws requiring nutrition labels to list ingredients first by amount can be side-stepped, with sugary junk food companies listing many different chemical variations of sugars to deceive shoppers.  Since residents in low-income areas are most likely to be surrounded by unhealthy (and cheaply-priced) empty calorie foods, this creates a vicious cycle of metabolic disease (more on this topic in Part 2 of this blog).  To make matters worse, our health insurance system will pay for the expensive associated hospital stays…but no money is ever awarded for healthy food consumption that could save billions in health care costs.  And if all that doesn’t scare you: even our national security is compromised when more and more young people are not physically fit for military service…and our schools are partly to blame.

HOW COULD WE REMEDY  SOME OF THESE PROBLEMS?

Many of these problems start with our jaded Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA must set the example by first promoting transparency in nutrition labeling and better regulating products that are GRAS (generally recognized as safe – yes, they actually use that term at the expense of our health); all while decreasing the amount of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock feed.  We need to introduce salad bars in schools; and establish local farm-to-school food programs – making sure that pizza is no longer classified as a vegetable just because big food corps pressured lawmakers.  We can’t support govt subsides for “crops” like HFCS which  hurt people’s health.  Instead, we could levy a 25% tax on processed foods – or their distributors – and use that money to pay for subsidies; or to incentive SNAP users to purchase healthy produce, nuts, and whole grains…all of which would also benefit farmers.  And what about Food Savings Accounts?  Similar to a HSA, money could be stored tax-free and used to purchase healthy groceries.  Research providing nutritious meals to those chronically ill has been found to cut their medical bills in half – thereby realizing food as a source of medicine all its own.

These are big problems, with some big aspirations to resolve them. But we must each do our part to improve our own diets, and then educate those around us…until one day enough people have had enough of our broken food system and its disastrous effects.

-CHRIS BORGARD

CHRIS’  TOP FOOD SYSTEM DOCUMENTARIES:

  1. Fed Up
  2. Food, Inc.,
  3. King Corn
  4. Supersize Me

The Power of Proper Breathing

The POWER OF
PROPER BREATHING

The average adult takes over 25,000 breaths each day, despite spending nearly all of that time in a tidal breathing phase which activates only 10% of total possible lung capacity.  A single human body contains over 1,500 miles of tubes to transport air (such as bronchioles and capillaries), and the heart circulates over 2,000 gallons of oxygenated blood daily.   However, most people utilize less than 20% of the contractile range of their diaphragm, the largest ‘breathing muscle’ in the body.  This occurs in spite of the fact that a person’s lung capacity is expected to decrease by over 10% on average between the ages of 30-50.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS

Costal (chest) breathing becomes shallow and frequent, and does not originate from the lower abdomen.

Mouthbreathing (inhaling more exclusively through the mouth) for long periods of time can contribute to sleep apnea, ADHD, and increased blood pressure.  It also has a dehydrating effect, and often leads to periodontal disease.

Anemic hypoxia is caused by a reduction in hemoglobin (the protein that binds to oxygen within red blood cells)

A lack of physical activity (sometimes due to sedentary occupations) can contribute to poor posture and underdeveloped core support system in the body, leading to constricted airways and weak respiratory muscles.

 – CHRIS BORGARD

“For most people, simple learning to activate and strengthen their respiratory muscles while breathing properly are a most effective means of improving their health”

The human nose contains a network of canals (lined with turbinates and cilia) that work to filter and clean air while also heating and moistening it, helping to create around 15% more efficient oxygen absorption into the bloodstream.  Regardless, a clear majority of polled Americans report breathing primarily through their mouth even while at rest – a likely cause for many of the 20 million domestic cases of sleep apnea.

Ancient Chinese and Native American civilizations were aware of the benefit of nasal breathing, and some tried to train their children with these habits from birth.  The very first forms of yoga over 5,000 years ago in Central Asia focused solely on enhancing breathing at rest (pranayma).


The diaphragm is responsible for 75% of max air volume moving into the lungs, while intercostal core muscles contribute the remaining 25%.  During expiration, several trained muscles must work together to help force the diaphragm up in order to empty the lungs. Indeed, the destructive lung condition known as emphysema is less linked to restricted inhalation than the failure to exhale stale CO2-laden air.  For most people, simple learning to activate and strengthen these respiratory muscles while breathing properly are a most effective means of improving their health.  Techniques like nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) may hold additional health benefits.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS

Nose-breathing (inhaling primarily through one or both nostrils) can help reduce sleep apnea causes like snoring and sinusitis.  It boosts nitric oxide levels and bolsters the immune system, while helping to reduce toxins and inflammation in the body.

Diaphramatic (belly) breathing is a great rehab technique that emphasizes slow, measured inhales and long, forced exhales to activate deep respiratory control and postural support muscles.

Include more iron in your diet in order to help boost red blood cell production (foods high in iron include red meats, fish, dark poultry, eggs, beans, dried fruits, whole-grain fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, peas, lentils, most nuts).

Steam inhalation, or boiling natural ingredients like frankincense, peppermint/eucalyptus oils while deeply inhaling for around 10 minutes can help open up respiratory pathways.

 

Chris’ favorite breathing book: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art (James Nestor)

Chris’ favorite website for breathing: www.oxygenadvantage.com 

Hydration and Heath

GUIDELINES FOR FLUID REPLACEMENT

PRE-COMPETITION:

Drink 32 oz. two hours prior (including 16 oz. during last half-hour before activity)

DURING EXERCISE:

Drink 8 oz. every 15 minutes (at least 32 oz. per hour)

POST -EVENT:

Drink at least 20 oz. for every pound of body weight lost during activity


Hydration & Heat: boiling down the importance of staying well-hydrated in a hot environment

Summer is now officially upon us, with temps heating up all over the U.S. and the globe.  It’s common knowledge that hot ambient conditions require more water consumption, but why is it so critical for humans?  To what degree should we look to replace water and other fluids while exercising or competing in the heat?

All the factors listed lead to a decrease in performance and time to exhaustion, and further increase the risk for heat illness and muscle cramping.  While heat cramps and darker-colored urine can be initial signs of fluid imbalance, this can be quickly followed by heat exhaustion – characterized by dizziness, vomiting, and changes in pulse, blood pressure, or core temperature.  If not addressed rapidly, it can transition into heat stroke, which can be fatal.

The key electrolytes lost in sweat (sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride) are vital to muscle function and must also be replenished along with water.  Some sports drinks, fruits, and other snacks can be helpful to maintain electrolyte balance while exercising in hot environments.  Caffeine consumed in large amounts can act as a diuretic and pull water away from working muscles, but in small amounts may be advantageous for athletes.

For more tips on how sports drinks, snacks, (and even caffeine) can be used strategically by athletes to aid performance, check out the link to my Practical Sports Nutrition Guidebook below:

  • It’s important to know that during intense activity, fluid losses can equal > 2-3 liters/hour. Since a high sweat rate reduces blood volume (less oxygen carried to muscles), performance can quickly drop in a dehydrating body.
  • Hypo-hydration can also elevate catecholamines and the stress hormone epinephrine, potentially leading to inefficient cardiac output. For each L of sweat lost, HR increases 8 bpm, while total cardiac output decreases 1 liter/min.
  • Dehydration impairs evaporative cooling  (i.e., sweat response); which is how the body releases 80% of heat generated by exercise.
  • Hypo-hydration causes in earlier onset of blood lactate accumulation & other metabolic wastes; and it also decreases glucose metabolism.

– CHRIS BORGARD

Sleep Effect on Performance

    SLEEP: THE NEXT FRONTIER

Sleep – so essential to our overall health and performance, and yet so neglected and overlooked by many Americans… athletes included.  An estimated 2/3 of the global adult population fail to achieve the WHO recommended standard 8 hours of sleep – which has negative consequences on all the body’s tissues over time.  Here is why it’s important:

Sleep and overall health

For starters: immune system suppression.  4-6 hours of sleep a night supports just half of the bodies’ production of virus antibodies (think COVID-19).  Adults who average just 6 hours of sleep or less each night are 3 times as likely to suffer cardiac arrest or stroke in their lifetime.  For middle and upper-age adults, increasing amount of normal uninterrupted deep NREM sleep has been found to delay the potential onset of Alzheimers disease or dementia by 5-10 years.  And it’s not just adults. Early school start times (often dependent on parent’s early work shift hours) are completely out of phase with the circadian sleep rhythms of adolescent bodies (ex: ages 14-20), and may be linked to ADHD and even mental illness onset.  Even teenagers need closer to 9 hours of sleep during puberty.  Early school and work start times also lead to a sharp rise in emergencies during the afternoon ‘danger window’ without parental supervision, including drowsy driving fatalities.

Sleep and athletic performance

Just as athletes need more calories than most people, they also need more sleep (both REM and non-REM for overall recovery).  Poor sleep elicits lower levels of testosterone and other growth and recovery hormones, and also reduces the threshold for pain.  Sleep studies on Stanford athletes have proven greater amounts of sleep to yield faster sprint times across multiple sports, along with significant increases in time to exhaustion.  Along with athletes, NASA has realized the power of on-duty naps with their astronauts since the early 90s; and the U.S. Army now advocates daytime naps as part of their new Holistic Health & Fitness programs.  Even naps as short as 15-20 minutes have been found to increase recovery growth hormone production, and restore physical awareness and motor memory function.

Tips to improve sleep (STAY AWAY FROM SLEEPING PILLS!)

  • Limit alcohol intake, which has more of a sedation effect – causing multiple REM sleep disruptions which leads to poor recovery along with more fatigue and memory loss the next day
  • Sleep in a cool environment between 57-67 F after a hot bath or shower before bed; allow head, hands and feet to protrude out from underneath covers and use a fan if necessary
  • Avoid evening exercise and caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime, both of which often delay the onset of sleep
  • Reduce exposure to blue LED (short-wave) lights, which suppresses melatonin levels in the body, delaying sleep onset and reducing REM recovery sleep
  • Nap at every opportunity – even before an athletic competition (ex: 90 minutes before).  This will encourages Stage 2 REM sleep that also accelerates learning and motor memory function

NOTE: Be sure to read our earlier blog on Sleep at: https://workoutstructure.com/blog/sleepandexercisetiming/

CHRIS BORGARD

CHRIS’ Top 3 Reads on SLEEP

  1. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Ph.D. (and Director for the Center of Human Sleep Science at Cal Berkeley)
  2. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
  3. Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls

New Workout Structure Website

WELCOME TO OUR NEW SITE!!!

Welcome to our new and updated Workout Structure website!  After saying goodbye to what was a very challenging year for us all in 2020, we hope that many of you have learned the value that staying healthy and strong can offer for the body’s immune system and overall physical well-being.

Since our launch in 2017, many resources for sports nutrition, injury prevention and recovery, sport-specific strength training, speed, conditioning and agility, and rehabilitation (‘prohab’) exercise resources are now available – with various levels of customization.  My ‘TOP’ priority is a series of programs designed especially for the military special operators, firefighters, law enforcement agents, and first responders that sacrifice daily to protect and defend our freedoms and liberties in the USA.  However, many different athletes (and other active individuals) can also benefit greatly from this site’s resources.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, and I thank you for visiting and evaluating your own Workout Structure!


“As we move forward with our new site and a host of recently improved wellness and training products, I want to personally invite you to build (or repair) your body’s foundational structure by discovering several workout resources that I have constructed over the last decade and beyond while working with the bodies of hundreds of athletes!”

– CHRIS BORGARD

T.O.P. PROGRAM LOGO

Exercise and the Immune System

EXERCISE AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Amidst the lockdown and shut-down restrictions imposed on Americans during the 2020 COVID pandemic, along with fearful doom-and-gloom news headlines about infection rates and casualties, this quarterly blog will focus on a topic you have probably never heard mentioned during these trying times…the power of a healthy immune system to ward off a potentially harmful virus.

THIS JUST IN:  Regular physical activity and/or frequent structured exercise diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases, including viral and bacterial infections.  Sounds like common sense, right?

THE PROBLEM

In the 80s and 90s, some research – which has since been contradicted with new evidence – found that periods of very vigorous bouts of aerobic exercise could increase cortisol levels while suppressing immune activity, leading to the “open-window” theory causing concern about compromised immune response in the hours following exercise.  Yet very few of these self-reported symptoms (many on issues such as the common cold) were confirmed by laboratory testing, and many could be attributed to allergies and or asthma on a race day.

The most abundant immunoglobulin in mucosal secretions is called IgA, with its principle role is the inhibition of invading pathogens.  Early studies had reported a 20% decrease in IgA secretions post-exercise, but a major research review in 2018 of some 250 articles determined that, in Lehman’s terms, exercise to exhaustion has an “effect on the quantity of saliva, but not the quality of saliva.” (1)

The authors acknowledged that lymphocytes levels dip in the 1-2 hour “open-window” period immediately following exercise.  But their study suggests that these immune cells are redeployed to peripheral tissues like mucosal surfaces, as well as the gut, lungs, and bone marrow.

WHY IT MATTERS

The body’s immune system is its first line of defense from such threats: it’s outer walls and gates fortified by the largest organ in the body (skin).  In their comprehensive review, the above researchers cited data from at least 8 vaccine studies exploring the effects of regular physical activity or frequent exercise training on the immune response to vaccination.

The authors provide robust support for the argument that exercise enhances, rather than suppresses immunity, stating “strong evidence implies that a reduction in the frequency and function of lymphocytes (and other immune cells) in peripheral blood in the hours following vigorous and prolonged exercise does NOT reflect immune suppression. Instead, the observed lymphopenia represents a heightened state of immune surveillance and immune regulation driven by a preferential mobilization of cells to peripheral tissues.”

They concluded that exercise “does not heighten the risk of opportunistic infections, and that exercise can, in fact, enhance immune responses to bacterial, viral, and other antigens in living persons.”

Another recent and relevant study by MXM, a technology and data transfer company specializing in fitness industry member tracking, found that out of more than 49.4 million health club visits over three months, 0.0023 percent tested positive for COVID-19, which is more than 500 times less than the current estimated U.S. national average (2)

“Regular physical activity and/or frequent structured exercise diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases, including viral and bacterial infections.”

(see sources below)

WHO is AT RISK?

The general assumption is that elderly individuals are far more susceptible to bacterial and viral illness.  And yet a sedentary lifestyle without exercise (and its accompanying excess weight gain) is well-known to introduce a host of problems with one’s health and well-being.

It has been found that among both the young and elderly, an active lifestyle is generally linked to higher numbers and proportions of naïve T cells in peripheral blood at rest. In their systematic review, the researchers took it a step further by suggesting that “alterations in tissue-resident cells with advancing age are very likely a result of adipose tissue accumulation and dysfunction that also occurs in parallel with aging.” Indeed, obesity has been linked with impaired lymphocyte proliferation as well as oxidative stress, and several inflammatory cytokines are produced in adipose tissue.

So why are we closing gyms and health centers?  Whether you view it as a medically-justified preventative measure, or merely as an overreaction by folks with their heads in the sand – the facts remain.  Gyms and recreation areas are an essential part of keeping – and staying – healthy

– CHRIS BORGARD

Sources:

  1. FROM FRONTIERS in IMMUNOLOGY (APRIL 2018). Campbell, j.P. & Turner, J.E. “Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan”
  2. This study tracked member check-in data from May 1-Aug. 6 at 2,873 U.S. health clubs and studios compared to self-reported infection rates. Participating clubs included Anytime Fitness, LifeTime, Planet Fitness, and Orangetheory.

The Problem with Low-Carb Diets

keep the carbs. lose the Fat!

Why low-carb diets are not the best solution

For much of the last generation, carbohydrates have been demonized as the main culprit behind unnecessary weight gain by proponents of fad dieting. Their basis is the tired, antiquated carbohydrate-insulin obesity model – which assumes that hyperinsulinemia leads to a surplus of calories in fat cells overriding lean tissue metabolism.  In the last few years, Dr. Kevin D. Hall and researchers at the NIH have flipped these theories upside down using studies that measuring the weight loss of subjects who experimented with isocaloric diets restricting both carbohydrates and fats. Hall and his associates found that while the reduced carb groups (RC) lowered RER and insulin as expected, it was the reduced fat (RF) who lost more body fat and maintained a higher metabolism (total daily energy expenditure).

In a follow up study over a longer term, subjects tried more extreme versions of each diet (RC and RF) while being permitted to consume as many calories as they needed.  Once again, the RF group had much higher levels of glucose and insulin, but ended up consuming 700 kcal/day less than the RC group (every single subject ate less when on the reduced fat diet vs the reduced carb diet) and dropping more bodyweight and fat.  The same research confirmed that long-term low-carb dieters (10% or less from CHO) have quickly gone into a state of ketosis, where the body uses it’s amino acids (muscle) for gluconeogenesis (energy), resulting in a decreased nitrogen balance (muscle loss).

Dr. Hall and his team also performed a research review of over 30 similar studies experimenting with CHO and fat restriction, and their findings reaffirmed that diets reducing fat instead of carbohydrates maintained a higher energy expenditure (~150 calories per day) with greater losses in body fat.  One must remember that in addition to its role in maintaining a healthy skeletal frame, muscle is more metabolically active and burns more calories.

In summary, it can be concluded that patients who already have type 2 diabetes can benefit from low carb diets that help keep insulin levels controlled, whereas other people who are overweight or obese should instead focus on reducing fat and highly-processed food from their diets; while remembering that carbohydrates have their place in promoting high levels of metabolic energy, preventing nutritional deficiencies, and promoting healthy brain function.                                                      

– CHRIS BORGARD

Sources:

  1. KD Hall et al. Cell Metabolism. 22: 427-436 (2015).
  2. Hall & Guo; Gastroenterology. 152: 1718-27 (2017).

Strength Training for Hiking

STRENGTH TRAINING FOR…HIKING?

As the current global COVID-19 pandemic closes gym facilities and cancels group exercise sessions, many people are turning to outdoor hikes as a means to stay healthy.

While jogging produces 3-5  times the normal ground reaction forces (GRF) of walking, hiking (especially if downhill) can easily produce twice the GRF of normal walking.  The majority of these forces end up getting transferred into the knees, so it is very important to keep the quadriceps AND hip abductor muscles strong (the latter act to limit unhealthy excessive internal rotation of the femur).

In particular, steep downhill hiking also produces a physical effect called DOMS (delay onset muscle soreness) because of intense eccentric muscle-lengthening contraction that can last for 48-72 hours.

Long, super steep half-day descents of over 5 miles losing well over a mile in elevation can absolutely wreck your lower body (ex: Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon, Sol Duc Trail in Olympic National Park).

The author seen above hiking Wedge Mountain in British Columbia

When hiking uphill, it is very important to have strong glutes and adductor (groin) muscles to contribute to climbing efforts – especially if there are large steps or stone stairs on the trail.  (ex: Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, Grouse Grind in North Vancouver, B.C.)

Making sure the lower leg stabilizers (soleous, gastrocnemius,  tibialis anterior, posterior tibialis, etc) muscles are strong and well-conditioned to fatigue is extremely important too…these muscles act as your shock absorbers and function to decrease the ground reaction force transmitted into the joints further up the kinetic chain.

Strong hamstrings help reduce the risk of knee ligament injury during a slip or fall, and a sturdy abdominal core/lower back help to safely bear the weight of a heavy pack over long distances.

– CHRIS BORGARD


Chris’ top 5 Hikes

  1. Salkantay Trek (Strenous)
    Machu Picchu, Peru
  2. Ewoldson Trail (Moderate-to-Strenous)
    Big Sur, CA
  3. Mist Trail/Nevada Fall Loop Trail (Moderate/Strenous)
    Yosemite NP
  4. Skyline Trail (Moderate)
    Mt. Rainier NP
  5. Golden Canyon (Easy)
    Death Valley NP