The 7 Most Important Benefits Of Deadlifting by Jacques James

muscle strenght guide

The deadlift is the most manly exercise you can perform. To simply put it, there is no other exercise that provides as many benefits to the male body as does deadlifting. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll go over the seven biggest reasons why you should start deadlifting right away if you aren’t already doing so.

If you want to gain strongman strength and build an attention commanding physique, you can’t skip deadlifting. The benefits to risks ratio makes this exercise a no brainer for anyone who is serious about his overall fitness (strength, power, aesthetics, cardio, etc). This monster movement covers all the corners.

Sadly, it’s avoided by most people because it’s not a comfortable movement to perform, it can be risky, and it’s associated with loud, grunting musclemen who like to disturb the whole gym. Most chain gyms don’t even have a deadlifting platform, they discourage it and some goes as far as banning it in their gym.

[Tweet “The deadlift is one of the few exercises than can turn boys into men, wussies into warriors.”]

But don’t  let that stop you, if there is a will there is a way. Do what you have to do, grab a bar from the bench or squat rack and get to work. Avoid dropping the weight which can cause floor damage and unpleasant disturbance to others. And please don’t  scream like a pig getting slaughtered, it’s cliche and does nothing for your strength and the results you get from the exercise. Grunting is fine and it’s ok to let off a quick scream at the end of your set.

All of  this is unnecessary and will only draw unwanted attention to you and ruin it for other deadlifters if you get the exercise outlawed in your gym with your antics. There are gyms that cater to this behavior but they are the exception and few and far in between.  Ok enough with the etiquette lesson, let’s get down to business.

How to get the most of out the deadlift

First, before we go any further, you should know how to make sure you get all the benefits from deadlifting. The simple act of deadlifting itself doesn’t guarantee any results. You need to follow certain protocols and techniques to get the results you want. Let’s quickly go over the main things you need to do pay attention to.

Fix your deadlift form

One of the reasons why the deadlift is not more popular is the risk of injuries associated with it. Because it involves so many muscles, the chances of injuring yourself are greater than most other exercises. Also the posture you have to be in to perform the movement puts your spine in a vulnerable position. But with the right form, you can get all the benefits and avoid all the injuries.

The most important aspect of your form is the shape of your back. Avoid rounding your back as this will put your spine and back muscles under extreme tension. When you round your back, you wind up putting the majority of the load on isolated areas of your back.  The right way is to keep your back and spine straight all the way up to your neck. Neck and back should be aligned.

Your grip should preferably be shoulder width apart. Don’t fully extend your arms at the elbow to avoid placing too much weight on your elbow joints. Slightly bent elbows will distribute the weight throughout your arms and body without placing to much strain on the joints.

Lift Heavy For The Real Benefits

While doing light deadlifts is better than not doing any at all, to get the most out of it, you need to do them with heavy weights. What’s light or heavy depends on your current strength level and body weight. But a good indicator that you’re lifting heavy is that you’re only able to do eight reps per set at the most. If you find you’re able to continue after 8 reps, increase the weight.

6-8 reps using heavy weights with good form will yield amazing results given that other aspects of your health and fitness are in order.  In fewer words, to get the best results from deadlifting, you need to lift heavy with good form. Now that you know that you need to do, let’s go over the seven  most beneficial reasons to incorporate this exercise into your workout routine right away.

1) Muscle Growth

This tops the list of benefits for very obvious reasons. Most guys want bigger muscles and there is no better exercise for overall muscle growth. When you deadlift the right way, you use almost every single muscle in your body. You get a rigorous full body workout. And when you combine that with heavy lifting, you naturally release growth hormones that induce muscle development.

2) Strength Gain

If you want fast strength increase on all the exercises that are part of your workout routine, deadlifting is your solution. It increases your grip and core strength like no other exercise can. Want a bigger bench? Stronger squat? Crazy curling strength? Pullup power? Easy fix, just deadlift heavy.

3) More Powerful

Power while sometimes used interchangeably with strength is actually different from it. Power is the ability to exert great force and a short period of time. While strength is the ability to move or support heavy objects sustainably for a longer period of time. Power is useful for athletic performance. A football linebacker tackling a an opponent, a tennis player returning a serve, a basketball player dunking over opponents etc. If you play any sport, deadlifting will make a big different in your performance.

4) Testosterone increase

What guy doesn’t want more testosterone? It makes you more manly, more attractive to the ladies, more upbeat about life and you just want to get shit done. Resistance training itself can increase your testosterone level, but add heavy deadlifts to the mix and you’ve got a natural test booster with only positive side effects.

5) Better Overall health

Stronger, more testosterone, more positive outlook on life equals better overall health. It’s simple. Doing deadlifts also improves your cardio. And as you know, good cardio is important for overall health. You also build joint strength and your immune system gets stronger. Most Compound exercises will do these things but the one thing that makes the deadlift stand out is that it does this for your entire body. It’s a true full body powerhouse.

6) Positive Effect on other exercises

When you combine the above benefits, what you get is increased strength and flexibility on all other exercises. When you do heavy deadlifts, you are actually doing heavy lifting using all the major muscles in your body, back, chest, legs, arms etc. So when you do isolation movements or other more specific compound movements, you will notice an immediate strength gain.

7) Fat burning

Because of the exertion involved during the deadlift, you recruit more muscle fibers, burn more calories and than you could with other movements. The result is increased fat burning.  If you’ve read my other articles, you know that compound movements are the best exercises for fat loss. And the deadlift is the king of compound exercises so you get the idea.

Now get off the computer and hit the gym for a nice deadlifting session.

We Debunked 5 Common Bacon Myths to Prove It’s Actually Healthy

You know what they say about when you assume...

Photo courtesy of @f-eedme on Instagram

My mom had been paleo for a while because it lowered her risk of developing diabetes. I decided I’d officially had enough with the stress eating was causing me, and wanted to try something different. I cut out grains and replaced them with delicious fatty meats. Butter and bacon were my new best friends. I felt better mentally and started losing the excess weight I had gained from stress-eating during the college process (we’ve all been there). Here are 5 reasons why bacon is actually a great diet food:

1. Bacon is high in calories

Photo courtesy of giphy.com

A lot of people assume bacon is extremely high in calories, but it only has 30 calories per slice. This is great for people who are counting calories or looking for a easy ways to add flavor to their dishes.

2. Bacon is naturally loaded with tons of preservatives

Photo by Alison Plourde

Many bacons contain sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. These are used to kill bacteria in meat and prevent it from spoiling. Unfortunately, they can also affect oxygen circulation and increase one’s risk of developing cancer. To avoid this, you can buy nitrite/nitrate-free bacon such as Applegate.

3. Bacon directly causes high cholesterol

Photo courtesy of giphy.com

Foods containing high amounts of cholesterol do not actually cause high cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, whole grains have a major connection with raising cholesterol while cholesterol in food does not. So please do not blame my BFF bacon.

4. Bacon fat makes you fat

Photo courtesy of giphy.com

Yes, bacon has a ton of fat in it ,but that does not make it bad for you. It honestly makes me sad when people make fat the enemy. Eating fat has so many health benefits and it can help you lose weight. In a bunch of head-to-head studies those who ate more fat lost more weight.

5. Since bacon tastes good, it must be bad for you

Photo courtesy of giphy.com

Nothing makes a better diet food than great taste. I mean, come on, who can resist the amazing taste of bacon? My mouth is watering just thinking about it. So feel free to have a few extra slices because there is no shame.

"To Bean Or Not To Bean?"

What is Wrong with Legumes on a Whole30 or Paleo Diet?

 What is wrong with legumes?

When you learn what is wrong with legumes, you won’t want to eat them anymore either.  I love peanut butter as much as the next person, so when I heard that legumes were “not allowed” during my Whole30, I was a little sad and confused!  And I thought that beans and soy milk were good for me, so what gives?  Well, I also thought that whole wheat bread was good for me, so let’s just say that I learned a thing or two.

Why You Should Avoid Legumes

Legumes are typically grouped with grains, so chickpeas and lima beans are considered the same group as rice and oats. That may seem incorrect since many legumes are consumed different than many grains, but when you look at the structure of each food, you realize they are similar. Grains are seeds from a particular family of grains, and legumes are seeds taken from plants in the pea family. In some cases, legumes may contain the pods as well as the seeds.

The Nature of a Seed

To understand why legumes aren’t the best food source for your body, you have to understand why plants produce these seeds. Every living thing wants to ensure its survival for many years to come. Animals procreate, spreading their seed from one generation to the next through natural mating routines. Plants want to spread their seed as well, but they aren’t as mobile as animals.

Plants create seeds that are spread through the food chain. Tough seeds designed to withstand the digestive enzymes of animals are consumed, digested and eliminated by animals. These seeds are deposited in new locations after elimination, allowing them to take root and create new plants for more animals to consume.

In order for this process of survival to work, plants must create tough seeds that don’t break down easily inside the body of an animal. Humans are animals, and that means legumes are created to withstand human digestive enzymes. This is why many humans have difficulty processing them, and they may not offer the nutritional sustenance that you expect from your food.

What’s Wrong with Legume Proteins

Peanuts are Legumes

Legumes and grains contain special proteins that are essential to the growth of plant seeds. Lectin is one of the most dangerous proteins. These plant proteins bind to carbohydrates and make the seeds less attractive to insects. These proteins are considered dangerous for those living with autoimmune disease because they can increase permeability of the intestines.

This may lead to leaky gut syndrome and cause other problems which the human body sees as a threat. That triggers the immune system and leads to inflammation. When legumes are consumed on a routine basis and the body recognizes them as dangers, the result is often autoimmune disease. If you already have autoimmune disease, these foods can worsen the condition even if you are working hard to combat inflammation and digestive issues.

Many of the legumes consumed today are genetically modified. This is why you see so many foods now labelled “GMO free” if they contain legumes. Genetically-modified legumes are far more likely to cause inflammation and other dangers after consumption.

Some legumes carry their own risks for the human body, such as the phytoestrogens naturally found in soybeans. These estrogens can interfere with the balance of hormones in the human body, causing a variety of potential health problems.


Examples of Legumes

Now that you know what legumes are, which foods are actually included in this category? The list is too lengthy to be contained in this space, but here is a starter list of some of the legumes more commonly consumed today:


  • Chickpeas
  • Soybeans
  • Beans (lima, black, etc.)
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts

You probably eat at least one of those foods on a daily basis, or at least did in the past before changing your eating habits. Peanuts are common snacks while beans and lentils are often combined with rice and other grains to create vegetarian meals. For anyone living with autoimmune disease or fighting internal inflammation, these foods are among the most dangerous food options in the grocery store.

Are Legumes Hiding in Your Kitchen?

The list of legumes above is fairly straightforward. If you eat beans and rice for dinner, you know that you are consuming a grain and legume. One of the biggest problems for those trying to cut legumes out of their diet is assuming that it really is that simple. Unfortunately, there are ways that legumes can get into your diet if you consume pre-packaged, pre-cooked or heavily processed foods.  Even try to find a can of tuna without soy and you will find it difficult!

There are some convenience foods which contain legumes, even when they are not the star of the dish. For example, some frozen meal starters may contain beans in addition to vegetables, noodles, rice and other ingredients. You may think you are eating healthy by picking up fresh hummus, but hummus is made from chickpeas. Some dips and sauces may also contain legumes.

If you suffer from autoimmune disease or notice that you have digestive problems when you consume legumes, it is important to read labels carefully when selecting foods that are pre-packaged or pre-cooked. You may want to stick with fresh foods in their natural state so that you maintain complete control over preparing them for consumption.

It takes more work to process raw foods into complete meals, but it is worth the effort if you can completely eliminate foods that cause discomfort or even endanger for your body. Legumes are designed to fight against digestion, so it is easy to see why your body may fight against them as intruders when they disrupt the digestive process. Cut them out of your diet for a month to see what difference their absence makes to your digestive and autoimmune problems.

What Experts Say about What is Wrong with Legumes:

According to Whole9, “Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts) have similar issues as those with grains; they are carbohydrate-dense and have significant amounts of inflammatory lectins.  Additionally, soybeans (and all processed soy products) are dense sources of phytoestrogens, which cause disruption of the normal, delicate balance of sex hormones in both men and women.  Soy is also known to disrupt thyroid function.”

Need more?

Robb Wolf, in his book The Paleo Solutionsays: “In simple terms, dairy and legumes have problems similar to grains: Gut irritating proteins, anti-nutrients, and protease inhibitors.”  YIKES!

Also, when compared to a diet high in grass-fed beef, chicken, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, a legume-heavy diet simply cannot stand up.  Aside from the fact that legumes have all the negative effects mentioned above, it just makes sense to choose the foods with the highest nutrient levels.  Fruits and vegetables are far more nutrient-rich (yes, even fiber-rich!) than the beans in your chili, or the peanut butter in your smoothie.

Control What You Consume

Losing fat has just as much to do with what you put in your belly as all the workouts you’re doing to flatten it. Which is why more people are paying closer attention to the quality of food they’re consuming. And so should you.

Healthy shopping seems like it should be pretty simple, right? Load your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good sources of protein and fat. Boom! You’re done.

If only it were that easy. Pick up a can or bag of anything in your pantry, and take a glance at the nutrition label on the back. What’s the difference between calories and calories for fat? Is sodium good or bad? Should you really be concerned about the Total Carbohydrate count? Is there enough dietary fiber — or too much? What the heck are Daily Values anyway? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one confused.

You don’t need a masters in nutrition science to decipher food labels. Here’s a simple cheat sheet to help you make the healthier choices in the supermarket aisles, without making your head explode.

Serving Sizes: That bag of chips you inhale in two seconds may actually be two servings, not one. By paying attention to serving sizes of your packaged food, you’ll know exactly how much you’re consuming.

Calories: Food labels show you the total calories per serving from all sources — fats, carbs, and protein. Most now also show you the calories just from fat. Calories from “bad” fats like trans-fats and carbohydrates can result in weight gain. Calories from good fats rich in omega-3s such as nuts, avocados and olive oil rich, however, can help you feel fuller (so you snack less) while boosting your health and energy. But that’s for another post.

Sodium: Our bodies do need sodium (salt), but in moderation. Consuming too much sodium can increase chances or hypertension, kidney and heart disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises a salt intake of 2,300 mg a day for those without health risk factors.

Carbohydrates: Carbs (as they’re affectionately called) include sugars, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. A quality carbohydrate should have at least 1/6 of its weight in fiber — for instance, 20 grams of carbohydrates should have around 3-4 grams of fiber. Try to avoid carbohydrates with zero fiber.

Sugars: Sugars include fructose that naturally occurs in fruit as well as lactose in dairy products — not just sucrose (table sugar). Sugars are basically carbohydrates that contribute empty calories, meaning you don’t get a lot of returns from eating them. Look carefully at the sugar content in food labels; it’s often surprisingly high and often time hidden as high fructose corn syrup, etc..

Protein: Protein is key for muscle, cell, organ and gland function, growth, and repair. As long as the other items on the food label are OK, you shouldn’t be too concerned with a high protein count. However, you will probably do well to keep your protein intake around 0.8g to 1g of protein per pound of lean mass.

Nutrients: Good nutrients to look for include fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.

Daily Values: Food labels include the % of Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients for a typical 2,000-calorie daily diet. If the food you’re about to purchase has a lot of items on the label under 5% of the Daily Value, consume with caution. If the labels show 20% or more of Daily Values for its nutritional content, you’re probably good to go.

Ingredients: After you check out the nutrition label, look at the actual ingredients. The ingredient listed first is the most prevalent in the product. So if the first ingredient reads “sugar,” you might want to put it back. The ingredient list can also help you find hidden ingredients, like added sugars and trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), you’re trying to avoid. Choose food items that have very few processed ingredients or whose ingredients you actually recognize as real food.

27 Things You Didn’t Know About Probiotics


Not all of us walk around aware that there is a living, thriving, non-human colony of organisms that resides in our digestive tract. Our large intestine is home to four pounds of beneficial bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome.

 For perspective, consider that the liver, one of our largest organs, typically weighs 2-4 pounds. The microbiome consists of thousands of different strains of bacteria, totaling up at around one hundred trillion cells.

Bacterial cells outnumber human cells by a whopping ten to one ratio. They provide innumerable functions for us, many of which are likely undiscovered as of yet, but include digestive, absorptive and assimilation functions. The microbiome influences the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Probiotics are a supplemental form of beneficial bacteria that can be used to bolster the microbiome, balance immunity or to be used for specific conditions. So much research is pouring out into the media regarding probiotics and the microbiome it is hard to keep up.


It turns out that there are a lot of good reasons to consider probiotic supplementation:


  1. Probiotics help regulate bowel function, improving both constipation and diarrhea
  2. Probiotics aid in the digestion of proteins to free amino acids
  3. Have lactose intolerance? Probiotics aid in the digestion of lactose, improving intolerance
  4. Inflammation is a cornerstone of many digestive and functional disorders, and probiotics reduce intestinal inflammation
  5. Probiotics optimize intestinal pH, creating an unfriendly environment for pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and other harmful organisms
  6. Short chain fatty acids are a major fuel source for the cells in the gastrointestinal tract. Their source of manufacture? You guessed it: probiotics and the microbiome
  7. Probiotics aid the microbiome with the manufacture of the B vitamins and vitamin K
  8. Probiotics “humanize” certain plant compounds such as flavonoids so that they can be used by our cells
  9. Probiotics slow diarrhea
  10. Probiotics prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  11. Probiotic supplementation is (should be) a cornerstone of IBS treatment
  12. Probiotics buffer against food poisoning
  13. They also buffer against toxins released from bacterial, yeast or parasitic infection
  14. Supplementation with probiotics aids in the treatment of urinary tract infections, yeast infections and thrush
  15. Probiotics don’t just help with bacteria, yeast and parasites. If you catch a cold or have another viral infection, probiotics can help with that, too
  16. Probiotics optimally activate and support the immune system
  17. Following in that thread, they can help prevent autoimmune conditions
  18. Probiotics help break down and rebuild hormones
  19. The microbiome serves a role in body composition, altering leanness and fatness
  20. Probiotics recycle bile acids, indirectly boosting digestive fire in yet another way
  21. In those with liver disease, probiotics reduce ammonia levels in the blood
  22. Have allergies or eczema? Probiotics are an oft underutilized tool in their treatment
  23. Even your heart loves probiotics, which aid in cholesterol balance and help lower triglycerides. Some research shows they help lower high blood pressure, too
  24. Probiotics help reduce gas and gas pain
  25. They help protect the entire gastrointestinal system, starting at the top by keeping teeth and gums healthy
  26. Mamas-to-be who take probiotics have babies who have optimal body composition and fewer ear infections, eczema and allergies
  27. Mamas-to-be who supplement with probiotics return to their pre-baby weight faster than their non-probiotic taking counterparts

As you can see, probiotics can thus be used for a wide variety of health conditions, encompassing virtually all gastrointestinal conditions and complaints, and spanning to autoimmune, allergic and infectious diseases as well.


What to look for in a probiotic

As a healthcare provider that focuses on digestive health, this is one of the most common question that I hear not only in the office but also on my blog and social media. There are so many probiotic products out there on the market, it can be tough to wade through them all.

I have a few criteria that I suggest to those looking for a good probiotic.


  1. Make sure it has  Lactobacilus and Bifidobacter strains in it
  2. Look for one that has at least 20 billion CFUs for general use, closer to 100 billion CFUs for those with GI complaints or conditions. If you cannot tolerate probiotics, consider bacterial overgrowth, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) or dysbiosis
  3. A lot of probiotic products try to be everything at once – they have enzymes, prebiotics, veggie powders etc in them. I have found these to be not as effective/well-tolerated as straight-up probiotics. When looking for a probiotic, make sure it ONLY has probiotics in it. For the most part, these are better tolerated and get the job done.
  4. If you have a dairy sensitivity, make sure you look for a label that says “hypoallergenic” that is free from milk and other allergens. Probiotics are often grown on a dairy medium so beware!
  5. Find a probiotic without dye in it. Align, a common and popular probiotic peddled by gastroenterologists, has blue dye in it. Sigh. Additionally, it only has one strain it (albeit a good one for IBS) at a very low dose. You can do way better
  6. Did I mention stay away from prebiotics? Prebiotics often are what make people say they can’t tolerate probiotics. If you eat vegetables, you get plenty of prebiotics and don’t need to supplement with them. Prebiotics include FOS and inulin.
  7. Don’t worry about your stomach acid getting in the way. Many probiotics are marketed as being able to withstand the harsh stomach environment as if they are special or different from others. They only way people are inoculated with beneficial bacteria is through consuming them. From an evolutionary perspective, these beneficial bacteria can withstand the low pH of the stomach to colonize the large intestine.

For over the counter brands of probiotics, I recommend Jarrow, Mercola and VSL#3 (the latter is the priciest by far). For brands that you can only get from a healthcare provider, I recommend Klaire Labs, Designs for Health, Pharmax and Xymogen.

You can get specific if you want

Certain strains of probiotics work particularly well for unique conditions and symptoms. You can match up if you’d like, and understand that it is more important to get the probiotics in your body than it is to delve into the nitty gritty details. Think big picture - You’ll notice that much of what is covered here is covered already in the above section for general recommendations

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Bifidobacter lactis, Bifididobacter infantis, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, microscopic/lymphocytic/collagenous colitis): Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacter breve, longum and infantis, Streptococcus thermophilus

Pouchitis: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacter breve, longum and infantis, Streptococcus thermophilus

Diarrhea: Lactobacillus acidophilus

Antibiotic-associated/travelers diarrhea: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces Boulardii, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei

C. Dificile infection: Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacter infantis and longum

Yeast infection: Lactobacillus reuteri and acidophilus

Colic/Cradle Cap: Bifidobacter infantis

Eczema: Bifidobacter infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus

Yeast Infection: Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus and reuteri

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Lactobacillus acidophilus and reuteri


What about probiotic containing foods?

Truth is, modern day humans eat far fewer probiotic-rich fermented foods than our ancestors did. Foods like kimchi, kombucha, soy sauce and sauerkraut should certainly be rotated into the diet several times weekly. I have noticed in particular a surge in fermented drinks, with kombucha “breweries” popping up all over the place, and the addition of kefir water products in places like Whole Foods and other natural markets.

For those without GI disturbance, a concerted effort to get these products in on a regular basis would be beneficial, without additional supplementation necessary. In those without issues to dairy, small amount of yogurt or milk kefir can be considered, but should be second to fermented veggies and drinks.


All things considered…

Probiotics are pretty incredible, and the microbiome residing inside us even more so. We are at the threshold of understanding the multilayered and seemingly infinite functions these guys provide for us. It makes one wonder who is steering the ship….


Sleep Hacking: 5 Methods for Getting More Sleep, More Often

By Jon Gilson

Lack of sleep sucks. After just one night, you become a groggy mess: short-tempered, uncoordinated, unable to concentrate. Your willpower plummets, and you perform poorly at work.

You turn to stimulants, downing coffee and Red Bull to get through your day. Your brain calls for glucose, and your diet goes out the window, everything in the vending machine now fair game. You make simple cognitive mistakes, and you drive like you’ve had a few. 
It’s a bad scene.

Luckily, it’s avoidable. With just a few changes to your routine, you can sleep better: falling asleep quickly, staying asleep, and waking up refreshed.

Below, your guide to making it happen.

Hack 1: Ride the Sleep Cycle

Your level of wakefulness is characterized by brain wave activity. During the day, our brains produce beta waves when we’re most alert, and alpha waves when we’re relatively relaxed.  

When we sleep, we go through two theta wave phases (light sleep) and then progress through two delta wave phases (deep sleep). We then cycle back up through the phases and end the cycle in a unique phase of sleep called REM (“rapid eye movement”) sleep, during which brain wave activity closely resembles wakefulness.

The entire cycle lasts about 90 minutes. As you go through multiple cycles, duration of delta sleep decreases and duration of REM sleep increases (1). If you’re woken during the deeper stages of sleep, you’ll be groggy. If you wake during the lighter stages, especially out of REM sleep, you’ll be more alert.  

Therefore, timing is everything. To wake up refreshed, plan your sleep in 90-minute increments. Aim for nine hours (six full cycles), and if you can’t fit it in, aim for seven-and-a-half hours (five cycles). You’ll sleep long enough to get the benefits of deep sleep and you’ll wake up ready to go.

Hack 2: Control your Circadian Rhythm

We are incredibly sensitive to the biological effects of light. Its presence or absence controls our circadian rhythm, impacting when we wake and when we sleep.

The circadian rhythm is our innate 24-hour clock, the timing mechanism that controls our level of alertness. It is driven by melatonin, a hormone secreted by our pineal gland in response to light levels. During a “normal” 24-hour period, we experience peak wakefulness in the mid-morning and evening, with dips in the early a.m. hours and at mid-afternoon (34).  

This natural ebb and flow is disrupted by light exposure during odd hours.When we expose ourselves to light at night (especially blue wavelengths), we suppress melatonin production, creating alertness just when we should be getting sleepy (5).  

Therefore, controlling light is a key factor in getting to sleep quickly.  First, darken your bedroom: install blackout curtains, cover your alarm clock, and remove any remaining sources of ambient light.  Then, limit pre-bedtime screen exposure (a huge source of blue light).  Phones, televisions, and their like should be shut off well before your planned sleep time, allowing your body to produce the necessary melatonin to put you to sleep.  Put simply, limit your light to maximize your sleep.

Hack 3: Harness the Psychology of Habit

Getting in bed should be a cue for only two things: going to sleep or having sex. Nonetheless, we use our beds for all kinds of non-sleep activities: watching television, reading, snacking, scrolling through social media, having conversations with our partner.

When we do this, we’re conditioning ourselves to stay awake. Instead of a place for rest, bed becomes associated with intellectually- and physically-stimulating activities. Our bodies respond to this association by elevating alertness and physiological readiness upon entering bed, making us hyper just when we should be winding down.

To avoid this, omit non-sleep activities from the bedroom. Your brain will begin to associate the bed with rest and sleep, and respond in kind by bringing down your level of arousal. You’ll fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Hack 4: Drink Smart

Alcohol may be great for putting you to sleep, but it’s not good for keeping you there. Going to bed right after drinking puts you into deep delta wave sleep, but it also elevates alpha wave sleep (one of the waveforms associated with wakefulness). The delta and alpha waves interfere with each other, creating a tug-of-war of deep sleep and alertness that fragments your night and limits the restorative benefits of sleep (6).

You’ve likely experienced this after a night out: falling asleep quickly only to wake up a few hours later, tossing and turning for the remainder of the night.

To avoid alcohol-induced sleep disruption, plan to stop drinking a few hours before you go to bed. This will give your body time to metabolize the booze, freeing you from fitful sleep. Also, limit your consumption. On average, we process a drink’s worth of alcohol every hour, so the more you drink, the more likely it is you’ll go to sleep with unprocessed alcohol in your blood stream, creating fitful sleep.

Booze isn’t the only thing to avoid pre-bedtime. If you want a truly restful night, stop drinking caffeine and other stimulants six hours before attempting sleep. This will ensure you’re back to baseline and ready to rest.

Hack 5: Plan and Meditate

There may be nothing worse for sleep than thinking about tomorrow. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, we get worked up. We ponder the decisions to be made and the battles to be won, and we’re unable to sleep, heart rate elevated and blood pressure higher.

Combat this sleep killer by short-circuiting the thinking loop. Sit down an hour before bed and write out tomorrow’s to-do list: what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. When it’s out of your head and onto paper, you’ll relieve your mind of the need to consider possibilities, and you’ll rest easier.

Once your to-do list is done, take ten minutes to meditate. Breathing deeply and remaining still, you’ll slowly turn down your arousal level until you’re relaxed and ready to sleep.

Sleep is a three-step journey: you want to get to sleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed. To maximize your success, follow the five hacks:

  1. Allow for 90-minute sleep cycles, getting either 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep every night.
  2. Minimize light exposure in your bedroom and limit pre-bed screen time.
  3. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex, and keep other activities outside.
  4. If you drink alcohol, give it time to metabolize before bed, and be sure to stop caffeine intake six hours before trying to sleep.
  5. Write tomorrow’s to-do list so you don’t ruminate, and follow up with a calming ten-minute meditation.

You’ll sleep better, and the benefits will filter into your waking life: more energy, less irritability, increased willpower, improved coordination, and more intellectual capacity.  It’s a win that works twenty-four hours a day.
What do you do to sleep better? What works when all else fails?  Post to comments and help the insomniacs amongst us get a better night’s sleep (and be sure to read the comments to get additional sleep tips from other readers).

Rethinking the Placebo Effect: How Our Minds Actually Affect Our Bodies

The startling physiological effects of loneliness, optimism, and meditation.

In 2013, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted a mind-bending debate on the nature of “nothing” — an inquiry that has occupied thinkers since the dawn of recorded thought and permeates everything from Hamlet’s iconic question to the boldest frontiers of quantum physics. That’s precisely what New Scientist editor-in-chief Jeremy Webb explores with a kaleidoscopic lens in Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion(public library | IndieBound) — a terrific collection of essays and articles exploring everything from vacuum to the birth and death of the universe to how the concept of zero gained wide acceptance in the 17th century after being shunned as a dangerous innovation for 400 years. As Webb elegantly puts it, “nothing becomes a lens through which we can explore the universe around us and even what it is to be human. It reveals past attitudes and present thinking.”

Among the most intensely interesting pieces in the collection is one by science journalist Jo Marchant, who penned the fascinating story of the world’s oldest analog computer. Titled “Heal Thyself,” the piece explores how the way we think about medical treatments shapes their very real, very physical effects on our bodies — an almost Gandhi-like proposition, except rooted in science rather than philosophy. Specifically, Marchant brings to light a striking new dimension of the placebo effect that runs counter to how the phenomenon has been conventionally explained. She writes:

It has always been assumed that the placebo effect only works if people are conned into believing that they are getting an actual active drug. But now it seems this may not be true. Belief in the placebo effect itself — rather than a particular drug — might be enough to encourage our bodies to heal.

She cites a recent study at the Harvard Medical School, in which people with irritable bowel syndrome were given a placebo and informed that the pills were “made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes.” As Marchant notes, this is absolutely true, in a meta kind of way. What the researchers found was startling in its implications for medicine, philosophy, and spirituality — despite being aware they were taking placebos, the participants rated their symptoms as “moderately improved” on average. In other words, they knew what they were taking wasn’t a drug — it was a medical “nothing” — but the very consciousness of takingsomething made them experience fewer symptoms.


This dovetails into recent research confirming what Helen Keller fervently believed by putting some serious science behind the value of optimism. Marchant sums up the findings:

Realism can be bad for your health. Optimists recover better from medical procedures such as coronary bypass surgery, have healthier immune systems and live longer, both in general and when suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia.

What researchers are now realizing is that positive beliefs don’t just work by quelling stress. They have a positive effect too — feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out fine, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself…

Optimism seems to reduce stress-induced inflammation and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. It may also reduce susceptibility to disease by dampening sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter governs what’s called the “rest-and-digest” response — the opposite of fight-or-flight.

Just as helpful as taking a rosy view of the future is having a rosy view of yourself. High “self-enhancers” — people who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.

Marchant notes that it’s as beneficial to amplify the world’s perceived positivity as it is to amplify our own — something known as our “self-enhancement bias,”a type of self-delusion that helps keep us sane. But the same applies to our attitudes toward others as well — they too can impact our physical health. She cites University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo, who has dedicated his career to studying how social isolation affects individuals. Though solitude might be essential for great writing, being alone a special form of art, and single living the defining modality of our time, loneliness is a different thing altogether — a thing Cacioppo found to be toxic:

Being lonely increases the risk of everything from heart attacks to dementia, depression and death, whereas people who are satisfied with their social lives sleep better, age more slowly and respond better to vaccines. The effect is so strong that curing loneliness is as good for your health as giving up smoking.


Marchant quotes another researcher, Charles Raison at Atlanta’s Emory University, who studies mind–body interactions:

It’s probably the single most powerful behavioral finding in the world… People who have rich social lives and warm, open relationships don’t get sick and they live longer.

Marchant points to specific research by Cacioppo, who found that “in lonely people, genes involved in cortisol signaling and the inflammatory response were up-regulated, and that immune cells important in fighting bacteria were more active, too.” Marchant explains the findings and the essential caveat to them:

[Cacioppo] suggests that our bodies may have evolved so that in situations of perceived social isolation, they trigger branches of the immune system involved in wound healing and bacterial infection. An isolated person would be at greater risk of physical trauma, whereas being in a group might favor the immune responses necessary for fighting viruses, which spread easily between people in close contact.

Crucially, these differences relate most strongly to how lonely people think they are, rather than to the actual size of their social network. That also makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, says Cacioppo, because being among hostile strangers can be just as dangerous as being alone. So ending loneliness is not about spending more time with people. Cacioppo thinks it is all about our attitude to others: lonely people become overly sensitive to social threats and come to see others as potentially dangerous. In a review of previous studies … he found that tackling this attitude reduced loneliness more effectively than giving people more opportunities for interaction, or teaching social skills.



Paradoxically, science suggests that one of the most important interventions to offer benefits that counter the ill effects of loneliness has to do with solitude — or, more precisely, regimented solitude in the form of meditation. Marchant notes that trials on the effects of meditation have been small — something I find troublesomely emblematic of the short-sightedness with which we approach mental health as we continue to prioritize the physical in both our clinical subsidies and our everyday lives (how many people have a workout routine compared to those with a meditation practice?); even within the study of mental health, the vast majority of medical research focuses on the effects of a physical substance — a drug of some sort — on the mind, with very little effort directed at understanding the effects of the mind on the physical body.

Still, the modest body of research on meditation is heartening. Marchant writes:

There is some evidence that meditation boosts the immune response in vaccine recipients and people with cancer, protects against a relapse in major depression, soothes skin conditions and even slows the progression of HIV. Meditation might even slow the aging process. Telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, get shorter every time a cell divides and so play a role in aging. Clifford Saron of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues showed in 2011 that levels of an enzyme that builds up telomeres were higher in people who attended a three-month meditation retreat than in a control group.

As with social interaction, meditation probably works largely by influencing stress response pathways. People who meditate have lower cortisol levels, and one study showed they have changes in their amygdala, a brain area involved in fear and the response to threat.

If you’re intimidated by the time investment, take heart — fMRI studies show that as little as 11 hours of total training, or an hour every other day for three weeks, can produce structural changes in the brain. If you’re considering dipping your toes in the practice, I wholeheartedly recommend meditation teacher Tara Brach, who has changed my life.

But perhaps the most striking finding in exploring how our beliefs affect our bodies has to do with finding your purpose and, more than that, finding meaning in life. The most prominent studies in the field have defined purpose rather narrowly, as religious belief, but even so, the findings offer an undeniably intriguing signpost to further exploration. Marchant synthesizes the research, its criticism, and its broader implications:

In a study of 50 people with advanced lung cancer, those judged by their doctors to have high “spiritual faith” responded better to chemotherapy and survived longer. More than 40 percent were still alive after three years, compared with less than 10 percent of those judged to have little faith. Are your hackles rising? You’re not alone. Of all the research into the healing potential of thoughts and beliefs, studies into the effects of religion are the most controversial.

Critics of these studies … point out that many of them don’t adequately tease out other factors. For instance, religious people often have lower-risk lifestyles and churchgoers tend to enjoy strong social support, and seriously ill people are less likely to attend church.

Others think that what really matters is having a sense of purpose in life, whatever it might be. Having an idea of why you are here and what is important increases our sense of control over events, rendering them less stressful. In Saron’s three-month meditation study, the increase in levels of the enzyme that repairs telomeres correlated with an increased sense of control and an increased sense of purpose in life. In fact, Saron argues, this psychological shift may have been more important than the meditation itself. He points out that the participants were already keen meditators, so the study gave them the chance to spend three months doing something important to them. Spending more time doing what you love, whether it’s gardening or voluntary work, might have a similar effect on health. The big news from the study, Saron says, is “the profound impact of having the opportunity to live your life in a way that you find meaningful.”

A Thank You and a Warning
You don’t do sloppy work at your job, do you?
If you’re an airplane mechanic, you don’t just spray some WD40 on a malfunctioning engine and then say, “That’s all I can do. I hope this sucker holds together.”
If you’re a paramedic, you don’t give an aspirin to a screaming car accident victim and then go sit down to have a sandwich. 
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you don’t lie on your couch and watch soap operas while your kids pee in the sink and fire a crossbow at the neighbor’s dog. 
The answer to all of this is NO (I hope). So, having said that, why would you perform the Olympic lifts with sloppy technique?
The reason I’m asking this is because I see plenty of people in my YouTube travels who are doing snatches and clean and jerks like they have a death wish. I’m obviously not going to mention any specific names or organizations, but I have seen some technical displays that make it seem like these athletes made a special Christmas list where they begged Santa for SLAP tears, concussions, and hyper-extended elbows. These people are doing the Olympic lifts with dreadful technique, and they’re also loading up the bar with maximum weights. You can practically see the Grim Reaper floating in the background of the freaking video clips.
Now, make sure you understand that I’m not a snobby weightlifting elitist who dumps on the technique of every lifter I see. I think we should say that there is a difference between “sloppy technique” and “developing technique.” “Developing technique” is what you see with an athlete who is still in the learning progression. When you see these athletes, it’s obvious that they have either been taught by somebody competent or they’ve at least taught themselves with a solid level of discipline and precision. Most of the people I see who post their videos on the Catalyst Athletics forum and ask for help have developing technique. These people need a lot of fine-tuning, but they’re already doing some things right because they’re working really hard to perfect their skills.
“Sloppy technique” is a whole different ballgame. These cats are doing the Olympic lifts with all kinds of massive, freaky errors in their form. Enormous swinging arcs with the barbell, rounded backs, duck-walking all over the place, elbows ricocheting off the knees in the bottom of a clean, extreme pressouts on every lift, etc.. When you see these lifts, you know what I’m talking about. And as you might have guessed, almost all of these people are trying weights that are too heavy for them. Every failed attempt looks like it’s right on the tightrope of total disaster. They’re going too heavy, too fast, with not enough time spent on proper technique development. 
If any of you who are reading this are sloppy technique people, make sure you understand that I’m not insulting you. No disrespect meant, but you need to be told that you’re doing these lifts the wrong way because you’re rolling the dice with your health and you’ll never lift really big weights if your technique sucks. Some of you big guys might be arguing with me right now by saying, “Bulls***! I’ve got sloppy technique and I can clean 300 pounds! That’s more than everybody in my gym!” Listen pal, there are 130 pound women in this world who can clean 300 pounds. Keep everything in perspective.
Many of you have less-than-perfect technique, but you’re looking for good coaching and you’re putting a lot of focus on your form. Allow me to express my gratitude to you. You’re doing the right thing because you’re trying to get better. And trust me, you’re the ones who are going to eventually come out on top in this sport. 
For those of you who are using sloppy technique and not really making much of an effort to fix it, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.    
Eat Clean!

Kettlebell Kitchen wants to be your secret weapon to developing overall health and fitness; we believe that the foods which have nourished humans for millions of years – lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds - are the best tools to help your body rebuild and recover optimally. Our meals rely on traditional ingredients to minimize intestinal inflammation so you can better absorb nutrients and fuel the hardest working machine you know – your body! For our professional and high-performance athletes, we also develop performance meals with optimal macronutrient ratios to support training.


• 100% cutting-edge ingredients, cooking techniques and worldly cuisines crafted by our team of 5-star chefs.

• Performance based nutrition for athletes, clean food for fitness enthusiasts, and urban dwellers looking for convenience.

• We emphasize high quality pastured proteins, veggies, and healthy fats and oils.

• A la carte ordering system— this means customers can pick what they want! No subscriptions or monthly commitments.

• All of our food is gluten free, dairy free, and soy free. www.kettlebellkitchen.com

• 4 week meal plans tailored to active lifestyles, weight loss, and performance goals.

• 8 new specials added each week on top of a core menu that changes seasonally to ensure variety.

• Meals are prepared in a commercial kitchen and delivered 2x a week in our refrigerated vans to ensure maximum freshness and taste.

What Will You “Look” Like on June 27th?

Just for a minute consider something…

Consider who you want to be on June 27th.

If you were at the very top of your health and well-being, what would you feel like? What would your family members and friends say about you? How much energy would you have?

So fast-forward and paint yourself a picture: What do you look like on June 27th?

That’s what the Whole Life Challenge will do for you when you join our team and make a commitment to replace a few bad lifestyle habits with good lifestyle habits. (You can learn more about the Whole Life Challenge by watching the two videos on this page of our website.)

Once you watch the videos, you can join our team here:


. For eight weeks, starting on May 2 and ending on June 27, we’ll work on all the areas of our well-being—like nutrition, stretching, exercise, for starters.

The Whole Life Challenge is basically a game that challenges us to “try on” a whole life of health and fitness for eight weeks. As a team, we can win points and lose points (hopefully we’ll win more than we lose). And the prize is … Well, it’s who you are on June 27th.

I hope you’ll watch the videos and join our team. In fact, I WANT you on our team!

To watch the videos: https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/what-is-it/

To join our team: http://www.whole.lc/wlcmay15/pt/cfdumbo

Our Team’s name: CrossFit Dumbo

The 10 Things That Will Happen When You Begin CrossFit


This week marks three months since I began the most intense workout regimen of my entire life, CrossFit.

What led to me beginning CrossFit was a realization that, if left to my own devices, I would never push myself hard enough to truly make the changes I needed to in order to get in shape. Occasional jogs and going through the chest-and-biceps motions of a traditional gym simply weren't going to get it done. I also knew that there was no shot that I'd be able to stick to a diet if it didn't coincide with something more offensive, like physical training of some sort that demanded I take in more nutrients and less garbage.

And so on July 21st, at 258 pounds and sick of seeing my giant moon-face on TV every day, I walked into the CrossFit Lighthouse in Wantagh, Long Island and submitted to a long-overdue comeuppance. I marched my Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-frame into a firefight I wasn't truly prepared for. It's 90 days later and I still have a long way to go to get back to the old me. But I'm happy to report that for the first time in years I feel like I'm back in control and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day I get closer.

For those who are thinking about trying CrossFit and rewriting their own futures, below are the first ten things that will happen.

1. You will find out how truly out of shape you are. It is likely that your first few sessions at a CrossFit gym will consist of stretching and basic instruction. You will likely sweat like a pig and require numerous breaks to catch your breath even during this relatively easy phase. This is because you are engaging and stretching muscles that have been dormant for years. You will also be sucking at the air for every molecule of oxygen you can get. It will be a week or two before your lungs are really open, prepare to gasp like a newborn taking its very first breath.

2. You will realize how fat you and other regular people are compared to real athletes. This is because your certified instructors will have the physiques of comic book superheroes. You will weigh 40 percent more than them but they will be somewhere between 50 and 150 percent stronger than you. It will make no sense that such "little" guys and girls are that much more powerful than you; it'll be rather disorienting, especially if you're a big guy like me who thought he was "strong" walking in. The instructors are not huge or freakishly jacked like traditional body builders, but I wouldn't want to bet against them in any contests of strength. The idea is to be able to lift heavy weights but in as efficient a manner as possible, and then to be able to run a mile while the old school body builder huffs and puffs behind you. And you, big guy, are not strong. You are fat and incidentally may be able to lift some weight up. You will learn about real strength very soon.

3. You will begin learning the lingo and using it without feeling like a dork:

    • W.O.D (or WOD): Workout of the Day, this is the combination of exercises, prescribed weights and time allotment that will be the law of the land from the first class to the last. Typically a WOD will consist of one gymnastic move (pull-ups, ring rows, sit-ups, etc.), one aspect of cardio (rowing, running, jumping rope, etc.) and one Olympic power-lifting maneuver (back squats, clean & jerks, dead lifts, push-presses, etc.).


    • RX: When one does the prescribed amount of weight and reps, one is said to have RX'd (as in, he or she followed the prescription).


  • Box: CrossFit centers are not called gyms, they're called "boxes" and many of them resemble just that. Typically they'll be in warehouse-like spaces with cement walls, exposed rafters criss-crossing the ceiling and nought but a black mat covering the length of the floors. There are no smoothie bars or aerobics studios in one's peripheral vision, just the iron bar you'll hang from, the weights you'll thrust up above your head and the ground you'll drip your perspiration and occasional tears into until you feel as though you've become a part of the place. This is your box. There are thousands of CrossFit boxes across the country, but this one is yours.

4. Your friends and family will start Googling the term CrossFit and giving you warnings. "Oh, you're doing that Cross thing, I think I just read something about that..." They will come across a rare disorder wherein people push themselves past the exhaustion point until their muscle fibers begin to break down and slip through the bloodstream into their kidneys. They will also come across stories about injuries and the like associated with CrossFit search terms. The reality is that these types of injuries can and do occur with any kind of training if taken too far and under the wrong type of supervision. You are equally likely to be injured while ice skating, lifting weights alone, horseback riding, surfing or doing any other type of strenuous activity if you are engaging recklessly and not taking the proper precautions. I would also note that there is an ongoing fear-mongering campaign being waged by the traditional fitness clubs and gyms. They see the proliferation of the CrossFit movement across the country as a massive threat to their membership rolls. There is no possible way that a guy doing his usual leisurely circuit around the same 12 or 15 machines in a gym is ever going to get the intensity of a workout at a CrossFit box.

5. You will get insanely good at counting. Everything in CrossFit is about reps. 20 clean & jerks followed by 10 box-jumps topped off with 30 sit-ups, then repeat five times and compete for time. Think about the counting, the counting down, the mental division of large quantities of reps into small, more manageable-seeming blocks. "Okay, let me get five more then take a breath and then just three more and then only two sets left until I'm three fifth's of the way through the five rounds." This is the kind of conversation you're carrying on with yourself in the heat of the W.O.D. and you'll become very proficient at counting backward as well -- "seven more...six, five more, c'mon, four..." Whatever it takes to get you through.

6. You'll begin to respect endurance and stamina. When you're a kid, your idea of strength revolves around how much one can lift, what someone's arms and chest look like, etc. If you haven't yet grown out of this idea, you will upon beginning CrossFit. You will begin to be much more amazed at things like quad strength and lower back strength. You'll be blown away by the ability of others to do hundreds of airsquats or hold various static positions (holding one's body in a plank six inches above the ground or half-squatting with one's back against the wall, with thighs perpendicular to the ground and a 20-pound medicine ball pressed to one's chest. When you can barely get through 30 seconds in these positions but you see someone hold them for 4 to 6 minutes, all of your ideas about what being strong means will be out the window.

7. You will gain weight at first. The most frustrating part of my first month at CrossFit was the weight gain. Simply stated, because you are using muscles that have been out of the game for years, you will be building those muscles rather rapidly, and muscle weighs more than fat. So while you will definitely be shedding water weight puffiness and sweating like you've been on a scavenger hunt in a rainforest, the scale will be ticking up not down. This will drive you f***ing crazy. And then, all of a sudden, you will hit that tipping point where the muscle you've been adding is burning enough calories each night to have you start to drop pounds. Then you'll start to see your clothes fit better and your face shrink. All downhill from here provided you keep going.

8. You'll notice an uptick in energy, even when you're dead sore from CrossFitting. This new-found energy bounce comes from the fact that you're dragging less fat around with you all day and you're breathing easier. You're putting less wear and tear on your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and the dividend is you can keep up with your kids and accomplish more each day. The confidence and happiness that comes along with this is self-explanatory. Wait til you see the little and unexpected ways in which these peripheral benefits creep into your daily routine at home and at work!

9. You will learn about your mental weakness. My box, the CrossFit Lighthouse, posts the Workout of the Day on their website each morning. Three weeks in, once I had learned all the various exercises, I found myself hitting up the site and deciding based on what the W.O.D. was whether or not I was going to attend that day. One day I logged on and saw that there were 3 sets of 20 burpees included, which immediately triggered an inner dialog that went something like this: "I just did burpees on Tuesday and I'm still sore, maybe tonight will be my rest night and I'll go tomorrow and Friday instead." I realized that I was picking and choosing the workouts like they were on an a la carte menu, "I'll do this but I'm skipping that because my ankle is acting up." Once I realized this about myself, I stopped going to the site. I learned what a bitch I could be, and then I learned to deny myself the opportunity going forward. This is one example of many revelatory moments that have allowed me to get to know myself much better and make the appropriate adjustments.

10. You will learn a lot about your mental toughness. You will find that you barely knew yourself at all before beginning this adventure. That you didn't have a clue about what really made you tick, your own elemental motivations and desires. In the heat of battle, when your head is soaked in sweat and there is nothing but the clanging of metal and the grunting of others around you, you will reach inside of yourself and go to that next level. When you realize that you are 80 percent of the way through a particularly punishing workout, you will dig deep and find what you need to get through to the other side. It's there, and maybe you haven't had to access it in years -- decades -- but when you finally do...my god. There is an apotheosis underway. And on the other side of an experience like that (or a series of them), you are a lot less hesitant to step into the breach. You have gained a knowledge (or in some cases, a remembrance) of yourself and what you're capable of. I pity the person, in life or in business, who dares to face off against you once this has taken place. It won't be fair to them in the least.

In my first three months of CrossFit, I came to grips with who I truly was, how out of shape I had let myself become and what kind of impact a steady and compounding list of physical achievements could have on my daily life. Now I find myself fleeing from the city after work each day at top speed just to make it back in time for a class. I find myself declining virtually every opportunity to drink at happy hours and eat lavish dinners and the like. Anyone who knows me will tell you how out of character all of this is.

But I've found a new addiction, something that both takes everything from me -- physically, emotionally and mentally -- and then gives me back even more than I had before. I'm hooked, and now all I want to do is keep getting better at it.

By: Joshua M. Brown




Many fitness junkies find the idea of taking a day off as a device of Satan, meant to help us fall off track and regain all those little things we were trying to get rid of. Whatever your reason for working out, we all need a day off sometimes and here’s why:
Rest days are actually implemented in many professional training plans, even those of Olympic athletes, in order to allow the body time to recuperate. As we work out, we place greater strain on our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints. Our immune system is activated when there are muscle tears or joint strains, but if the body doesn’t come out of continual practice, this system doesn’t have the time to catch up and start patching everything back up. Thus, if you’re building muscle, you should take a day off from lifting the same region so the body has time to repair the muscles you’re working. 

If you decide to not have a rest day, you run a greater risk of injury. Say you take part in a high-impact sport such as running; running puts stress on your joints and lower extremities to a level that has the ability to crack bones and tighten muscles. When you don't take a day off here and there, your tight calf muscles or tendons of the feet can lead to bone spurs, shin splints, muscle tears, tendon shearing and so much more. Also, when the immune system is responding, it floods overworked areas with fluid to help cushion those areas. While this is admirable, the problem lies in the fact that fluid retention can alter the proper movement of joints and create further injury. Thus, by taking a day off, you’re not only allowing your immune system to help “fix” you, but you’re also keeping it from hurting you.

Rest days depend on the type of athlete you are. Mind and body athletes (think Pilates and yoga) may want to take a day off altogether, whereas bodybuilders may only want to take a day off from lifting, but still do a little cardio. It also depends on your level of fitness. If you’re just now starting out in the fitness world, your rest day should probably be a real rest day in which you do not do any activity at all. A more seasoned athlete has a greater tolerance for continuing to do some light activity during a rest day.

The other big idea about rest days is to not eat the way you would on a fitness day. In no way am I condoning calorie restriction, but you probably do not need all those carbohydrates if you’re not exercising as much. Stick to your nutrition plan, but make it a light day. This will be different for everyone and your body will probably hit a point where you feel ravenous because your metabolism has shot through the roof as you work out more regularly. Just remember to eat well, eat right, eat on time and drink lots of water.

Give your body love and attention and know that every single athlete in the history of time does this, too. Take your day of rest to reflect on how far you’ve already come and acknowledge and be grateful for your body, willpower and dedication.

by: Sarah Gibson




Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you're sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Physical Health

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. 

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you're normally awake.

You can't control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.

Even if you're not driving, microsleep can affect how you function. If you're listening to a lecture, for example, you might miss some of the information or feel like you don't understand the point. In reality, though, you may have slept through part of the lecture and not been aware of it.

Some people aren't aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they're sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

For example, drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet, studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It's estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Drivers aren't the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and assembly line workers.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents.


Paleo Pumpkin Pie with Cranberry Topping

Prep time: 15 mins.               Cook time:  75 mins.

Servings: 6-8

- 2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 large egg, whisked
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

- 1 cup pureed pumpkin
- 1/2 cup coconut oil or ghee
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 2 large eggs, whisked
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 3 tsp. vanilla extract

- 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen - allow to defrost  first if using frozen)
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey (or more to taste)
- 2 tsp. arrowroot flour

- 9 inch pie plate
- Medium mixing bowl
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Hand mixer
- Aluminum foil
- Oven Mitt
- Medium sized saucepan
- Whisk
- Stirring spoon



1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Place almond flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the egg and coconut oiland pulse until the dough forms together.
3. Combine the dough together and wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes. 
4. Take your pie plate and press the dough into the plate until the bottom and sides are covered. You can try rolling it between pieces or parchment paper, but I have the best luck molding it in by hand. Pierce the crust with a fork a few times to prevent the dough from bubbling while baking. 
5. Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before adding filling.


1. Place all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until filling is smooth. Pour filling into the cooled pie crust.
2. Wrap aluminum foil around the crust edges (this will prevent them from getting too brown). Place the pie on a center rack and bake the pie at 350F for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pie aside to cool.


1. While the pie is cooking, you can make your cranberry topping. Place the orange juice and arrowroot flour in a medium sized saucepan and whisk to combine. Add the cranberries, orange zest and raw honey and stir to combine. Place over medium high heat and allow to come to a light boil. 
2. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and additional raw honey if desired. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 


1. Pour the cooled cranberry topping over the pie and slice.
Serve and enjoy!
Paleo and Anti-Aging

A hypothetical ‘fountain of youth’ has long been a sought-after commodity.1 Researchers have looked at elements as disparate as vitamin D,2 DHEA,3 and telomerase4 among many others, in order to try and prevent nature from taking its course.5

New and exciting discoveries in the scientific field aside, it is important to note that a healthy lifestyle is the number one way to prevent both disease and aging.6 In fact, oncologists found of all cancer-related deaths, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet.7

Anti-Aging Figure 1

Cancer deaths (%) linked to diet as reported by Willett

Many mechanisms induce the process of aging,8 including the gene, TAp63, as a possible critical element.9 Described as a ‘master transcriptional regulator of lipid and glucose metabolism,’10the theory has merit.

Anti-Aging Figure 2

(A) TAp63 maintains adult stem cells (ASC) by transcriptionally activating p57 and repressing Ink4a/Arf, preventing premature aging. (B) In the absence of TAp63, p57 mRNA levels are low, leading to hyperproliferation of ASCs (shown in pink), and Ink4a/Arf levels are high, resulting in a concomitant senescence of ASCs (shown in blue) and a premature aging phenotype in TAp63 deficient mice. The interplay of the p53 family, including TAp73, ΔNp73, and ΔNp63, remains to be elucidated.

High docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content combats the aging process, placing wild-caught fish near the top of the list.11 One anti-aging mechanism via which omega-3’s (such as DHA) operate, is through nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2).12 Nrf2 is a master transcriptional factor for antioxidant genes,13 and vital for many processes in the body.14

Interestingly, researchers found that DHA, but not EPA, markedly increased intracellular 4-HHE, and nuclear expression and DNA binding of Nrf2.15 This lends further support to evidence DHA’s superiority to EPA.16 DHA has also been shown to have neuroprotective effects,17 increasingly important in neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.18

Anti-Aging Figure 2

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and its neuroprotective properties. Affect on amyloid plaque formation and aggregation, improves cerebral blood flow and reduces inflammation.

Researchers also identified dietary flavonoids as important activators of the Nrf2 system.19Flavonoids are present in large amounts in citrus fruit, berries, olive oil, apples, red wine, tea, grapes, chocolate, and cocoa.20, 21, 22

Anti-Aging figure 3

Schematic representation depicting some of the various cytoprotective proteins that are upregulated by Nrf2. Flavonoid-mediated protection from ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke, traumatic brain injury, and/or other neuropathies may result in large part from Nrf2 regulation of these pathways.

Anti-aging figure 4

Schematic representation depicting the potential mechanisms by which flavanol-mediated Nrf2 induction leads to activation of cytoprotective pathways after stroke, traumatic brain injury, and/or other neurodegenerative diseases. Flavanols may induce Nrf2 through binding to receptors seated on the plasma membrane and subsequent initiation of intracellular signaling cascades. Alternatively, passive diffusion or active transport through the plasma membrane may permit direct cytosolic dissociation of the Keap1/Nrf2 complex or activation of second messengers that regulate Nrf2 translocation into the nucleus. Upon nuclear translocation, Nrf2 binds to AREs on the promoter regions of cytoprotective genes to regulate heme/biliverdin, glutathione, NAD(P)H, and/or other protective pathways.

Fasting and caloric restriction activate Nrf223, 24 as well. Since Nrf2 has been shown to help with longevity, metabolic regulation and also responds to nutritional input,25 its importance in anti-aging cannot be overstated.26

Anti-Aging Figure 5

Model: Nrf2 as a convergence point for stress, metabolic, and longevity signals

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have also been studies that show consumption of alcohol and caffeine actually alter telomeres.27Telomeres protect chromosome ends from degradation and play crucial roles in cellular aging and disease.28 This is further proof that a Paleo lifestyle can help protect against aging.29, 30

Out of all aging-related mechanisms, the most interesting may be a protein named GDF11, which appears to cause a reversal of many signs of aging.31 GDF11 normally declines with age, but when levels are restored, GDF11 shows benefits to multiple tissues.32 The idea of a novel approach to not only reverse muscular aging, but also brain aging, is tantalizing.33

But remember, while scientific advances are exciting, they are still years away from being proven in humans, and/or are limited in implementation. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle is still the number one way to prevent both disease and aging. A Paleo Diet, which is by nature high in flavonoids, low in inflammation and rich in nutrients, is a great choice. A Paleo lifestyle, with regular physical activity, fun, and high quality sleep, will keep you looking and feeling young, for many decades to come!


12 Signs You Need to Eat More Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient. We can’t make it. We can pull it from our structural tissues – our muscles, our tendons, our organs – if we’re in dire need of amino acids, but that’s not a healthy long term strategy. For all intents and purposes, we need to consume protein to stay healthy, fit, happy, and long-lived. But we need to consume the right amount at the right times. And since I’ve already talked about how much protein certain populations should be eating on a general basis, shown you how to identify when you need more carbs, and explained how to tell if you need more fat, today’s post will cover 12 situations, symptoms, and signs that indicate a direct need for more dietary protein.

Let’s jump right in:


You’re older than you used to be.

For years, the elderly have been told not to expect anything from their bodies but decay and decrepitude. They can lift weights if they want, but they’re not going to get very strong and if anything they’ll just improve “tone” and “balance.” Well, that’s nonsense. The elderly absolutely can get stronger and even build muscle and improve their bone mineral density by lifting heavy things. Maybe not as easily as a 22 year old. Maybe not as much as when they were younger. But they can do it. There’s just one caveat: they need more protein than their younger counterparts.

The elderly aren’t as efficient at processing protein. To maintain nitrogen balance or tip the scales toward lean mass accrual, an older person is going to need more protein than a younger person – all else being equal. That goes for resistance training oldsters, puttering around the garden oldsters, and taking an hour to walk around the block oldsters. More protein is better than less.

You’re always hungry.

Of all the macronutrients, protein is the most satiating, and high-protein diets (which are usually also low-carb) consistently result in the greatest inadvertent reduction in calories. You don’t consciously stop eating. You’re not fighting your desire for food. You simply don’t want it. That’s the perfect antidote to insatiable hunger.

Just try it. Make a point to add an extra 20 grams of protein each meal. A few ounces of steak here, a chicken leg there, a piece of salmon, a few eggs. You’ll be fuller, faster.

So if your stomach resembles a bottomless pit, try increasing your protein intake.

You’re cutting calories.

Traditional calorie-restricted dieting certainly can help you lose body weight, but it also causes the loss of lean muscle mass. That explains why so many people who simply reduce calories to lose weight end up skinny-fat. Luckily, increasing the amount of protein you eat can offset some of the muscle loss caused by calorie restriction:

  • In weightlifters, a low-carb hypocaloric diet with 2x the RDA for protein resulted in greater nitrogen balance than a high-carb hypocaloric diet with RDA protein.
  • In women, a low-calorie, high-protein diet was better than a conventional high-carb, low-fat diet at promoting lean mass retention, even in the absence of exercise.

If you’re reducing calorie intake, you’d better increase the absolute amount of protein you’re eating. As an added bonus, the satiety from increasing protein will make the cutting of calories – an infamously onerous task – much easier.

You’re lifting heavy things.

Lifting heavy things changes how your body processes protein. On the one hand, resistance training makes you more efficient at protein utilization so that you actually need less protein to maintain your muscle mass. If maintenance is your goal, you probably don’t need extra protein.

However, resistance training also pushes your anabolic ceiling higher so that you can leverage higher protein intakes into more muscle mass and greater strength gains. The more protein available, the greater the response.

You’re exclusively eating plant protein.

For the most part, plant proteins are less efficient than animal proteins. They’re often missing essential amino acids. And in the case of something like soy protein, it’s just not as effective as an animal protein like whey:

  • Following resistance training, soy protein blunts testosterone production in men.
  • In both the young and the elderly, whey promotes greater muscle protein synthesis than soy protein.
  • Compared to milk, soy protein results in less hypertrophy following resistance training.
  • Women who consume animal protein have greater muscle mass than female vegetarians.

The easiest thing would be to add a whey protein supplement or start eating pastured eggs from happy hens (or raise your own to ensure their quality of life), but if you’re not going to do that at least increase your overall protein intake to make up for the inefficiencies of plant protein.

You’re engaged in chronic cardio.

As much as I caution against chronic cardio, people are still going to do it. I stuck with it for many years, even long after I’d realized the damage it was doing, because I was addicted to the rush of competing. So I get it.

If you insist on endurance training, you’re going to need more protein to stave off the loss of muscle. Even though you’re not necessarily eating less food when you exercise – maybe more, if anything – your caloric expenditure is greater and the net result is a negative calorie balance. A higher protein intake can stave off the lean mass losses associated with negative calorie balances, whether they stem from lower calorie intakes or higher expenditures.

You’re craving meat.

A lot of people get mixed up trying to interpret cravings because in our modern food environment, real nutrient deficiencies often masquerade as cravings for junk food. Sometimes, though, a craving is correct. And animal research suggests that a specific appetite for protein exists in mammals. When mice are protein deficient, they tend to seek out protein-rich foods and ignore protein-poor foods. I know when I haven’t had a good piece of meat in awhile, or I’ve just finished a heavy lifting session, I get a primal (small “p”) urge for it. I’ll almost salivate at the smell of a cooking steak.

So if you’re craving meat, give into it. Don’t ignore the craving. It’s probably right. There’s really no mistaking a desire for a delicious slab of animal flesh.

You’re eating lots of muscle meat.

Wait. What? The consumption of a potent source of animal protein raises the requirements of protein? How does that work?

Muscle meat is a rich source of methionine, the amino acid that the life extension crowd is always railing against as carcinogenic, inflammatory, and anti-longevity. They’re onto something, but there’s evidence to suggest that you don’t need to eliminate, or even reduce your methionine/muscle meat intake as long as you balance it out with another type of animal protein: gelatin.

Found in bones, connective tissues, gristle, cuts of meat like oxtail, neck, and shank, or gelatin supplements, gelatin is a protein composed primarily of amino acids like glycine and proline. Animal studies show that “methionine toxicity” can be countered by glycine supplementation. In fact, one of the primary mechanisms of methionine toxicity is glycine depletion. My favorite way to balance out methionine and glycine is to supplement with oxtail stew.

You’ve got achy joints.

In the previous post about fat requirements, I explained how my first response to achy joints is to increase my omega-3 consumption because that quickly curtails inflammation. But if that doesn’t work – and even if it does – I then turn to gelatin. Gelatin is connective tissue; it’s made of the stuff we use to repair and build our own cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. A few studies indicate that eating gelatin can improve joint pain:

A novel collagen type II supplement (a fancy gelatin supplement) improved pain, range of motion, and stiffness in women with severe joint pain and patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

You’re on bed rest.

Bed rest eats at lean muscle mass. It makes sense from your body’s point of view; since you aren’t using it, you don’t really need it. Placing individual limbs on bed rest also has the same effect. Wearing a cast on your arm and preventing it from performing simple, everyday contractions will initiate the atrophy process within days. In effect, unused muscle on bed rest becomes less responsive to protein/amino acids, or “protein resistant.” The answer is not to throw up your hands (if you can even move them) and give up. The answer is to increase your protein intake to mitigate the inefficiency.

Increasing protein during bed rest will slow down (but not completely halt) the breakdown of lean mass and improve muscle function.

You’re experiencing chronic stress.

Stress hormones are catabolic; they increase muscle and tissue protein breakdown. If you’re experiencing an acute stressor, like a tough workout, this catabolism is normal and necessary and gives way to anabolism. That’s how we get stronger, faster, fitter, and more capable. But if that stress becomes chronic, and the stress hormones are perpetually elevated, the balance tips toward muscle catabolism. Until you’re able to get a handle on the stress, eating more protein should mitigate the damage and might even reduce the stress itself.

You’re coming off surgery, recovering from burns, or trying to heal a wound (or all three).

Traumatic damage to your tissues requires more protein to make the necessary repairs and recovery.

In wound patients, protein deficiency is common and impairs the healing process. Wounded rats placed on protein-free diets also take far longer to heal than wounded rats eating protein-replete diets.

After surgery, which is pretty much a controlled wounding, protein intake is probably the most crucial aspect of the patient’s nutrition and subsequent recovery. Many doctors even recommend that surgical patients take whey protein isolate for a couple days after a procedure.

After a severe burn, your metabolism goes into hyperdrive. Stress hormones and inflammation skyrocket, leading to accelerated tissue breakdown, lean mass reduction, and overall body weight reduction. To counter this, “early and continuous” high-protein enteral feeding has become part of standard care for severe burn victims. Adult burn victims need at least 1.5 g/kg bodyweight; kids need up to 2.5 g/kg.

Most research focuses on the importance of protein intake after severe injuries, burns, and surgeries, but the same principles should hold true for recovery from minor stuff. This is also a good time to increase your gelatin/collagen intake, as those are the primary proteins used to rebuild new skin and gelatin is also a good source of arginine, an amino acid that promotes wound healing.


Sit Less, Live Longer?

A must read for those of us at CrossFit Dumbo who spend hours sitting.  Share this article with your fam and friends that need a little motivation as well. 

Thanks for sharing the article with us Blake!


If people need motivation to get up from their office chairs or couches and become less sedentary, two useful new studies could provide the impetus. One found that sitting less can slow the aging process within cells, and the other helpfully underscores that standing up — even if you are standing still — can be good for you as well.

For most of us nowadays, sitting is our most common waking activity, with many of us sitting for eight hours or more every day. Even people who exercise for an hour or so tend to spend most of the remaining hours of the day in a chair.

The health consequences of this sedentariness are well-documented. Past studies have found that the more hours that people spend sitting, the more likely they are to develop diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, and potentially to die prematurely — even if they exercise regularly.

But most of these studies were associational, meaning that they found a link between sitting and illness, but could not prove whether or how sitting actually causes ill health.

So for the most groundbreaking of the new studies, which waspublished this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists in Sweden decided to mount an actual experiment, in which they would alter the amount of time that people spent exercising and sitting, and track certain physiological results. In particular, with this experiment, the scientists were interested in whether changes in sedentary time would affect people’s telomeres.

If you are unfamiliar with the componentry of your genes, telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands. They shorten and fray as a cell ages, although the process is not strictly chronological. Obesity, illness and other conditions can accelerate the shortening, causing cells to age prematurely, while some evidence suggests that healthy lifestyles may preserve telomere length, delaying cell aging.

For the new experiment, the Swedish scientists recruited a group of sedentary, overweight men and women, all aged 68, and drew blood, in order to measure the length of telomeres in the volunteers’ white blood cells. Then half of the volunteers began an individualized, moderate exercise program, designed to improve their general health. They also were advised to sit less.

The other volunteers were told to continue with their normal lives, although the scientists urged them to try to lose weight and be healthy, without offering any specific methods.

After six months, the volunteers all returned for a second blood draw and to complete questionnaires about their daily activities. These showed that those in the exercise group were, not surprisingly, exercising more than they had been previously. But they were also, for the most part, sitting substantially less than before.

And when the scientists compared telomeres, they found that the telomeres in the volunteers who were sitting the least had lengthened. Their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger.

Meanwhile, in the control group telomeres generally were shorter than they had been six months before.

But perhaps most interesting, there was little correlation between exercise and telomere length. In fact, the volunteers in the exercise group who had worked out the most during the past six months tended now to have slightly less lengthening and even some shortening, compared to those who had exercised less but stood up more.

Reducing sedentary time had lengthened telomeres, the scientists concluded, while exercising had played little role.

Exactly what the volunteers did in lieu of sitting is impossible to say with precision, said Per Sjögren, a professor of public health at Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study, because the researchers did not track their volunteers’ movement patterns with monitors. But “it’s most likely,” he said, that “sitting time was predominantly replaced with low-intensity activities,” and in particular with time spent standing up.

Which makes the second new study of sedentary behavior particularly relevant. Standing is not, after all, physically demanding for most people, and some scientists have questioned whether merely standing up — without also moving about and walking — is sufficiently healthy or if standing merely replaces one type of sedentariness with another.

If so, standing could be expected to increase health problems and premature death, as sitting has been shown to do.

To find out whether that situation held true, Peter Katzmarzyk, a professor of public health at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and an expert on sedentary behavior, turned to a large database of self-reported information about physical activity among Canadian adults. He noted the amount of time that the men and women had reported standing on most days over the course of a decade or more and crosschecked that data with death records, to see whether people who stood more died younger.

The results, published in May in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, are soothing if predictable. Dr. Katzmarzyk found no link between standing and premature death. Rather, as he writes in the study, “mortality rates declined at higher levels of standing,” suggesting that standing is not sedentary or hazardous, a conclusion with which our telomeres would likely concur.


How Foam Rolling Relieves the Pain of Working at a Desk

Roll it out guys!!  Many of us at CrossFit Dumbo sit at a desk for hours and hours at a time. Take a look at this article, try it out and let us know how it works for you.

Thanks to Holly M. for recommending the article to share.


If you work at a desk and typically sit for extended periods of time during the day, you may be suffering from more than just a case of the afternoon yawns. Sitting can leave you feeling exhausted, sore, and unmotivated at the end of a long day at the office, but it can do much worse.


mobility work, how to do mobility work, doing mobility work wrong, foam roller


Over time, sitting in the same position can negatively impact your natural posture and the way your body is intended to move. Sitting is excellent for resting from activity, but the body’s posture is more natural when standing or lying down. Our bodies are designed to be in motion, not static all day sitting in a swivel chair. Even if your desk is completely ergonomic, your body is still going to be locked in certain positions during the day.


In any of these scenarios, you are going to slowly but surely reset your natural posture to accommodate the posture you maintain at work. On its face this doesn’t sound that terrible, but resetting your body in this way can wreak havoc on your muscles and joints.


How Perpetual Sitting Destroys Posture

When your muscles are stuck in the same position for hours on end, day after day, they begin to resize themselves to accommodate these habitual, long-term sitting sessions. Let’s take a snapshot of how working in a seated position for years has taught your body to semi-permanently alter itself:


  • Your back and posterior shoulder muscles are overextended from having your hands placed on a keyboard or writing on a desk.
  • Your chest muscles and biceps have learned to remain contracted from having your hands and arms out in front of you.
  • The low back and shoulders have rolled forward, which can cause low back pain and increase your chances of shoulder injuries.
  • Your hip flexors and quadriceps have tightened from staying locked at or near a ninety-degree angle.


All of this causes uncomfortable knots in the muscle groups that have been contracted while you are sitting (pectoralis, anterior deltoid, abdominals, and hip flexors, to name a few).


So What Does this All Mean?

Are you familiar with that uncomfortable, hunched over look that most of the older executives, bosses, and managers at your company have? Terrified of the back, shoulder, and knee joint pains that your bosses complain about around the water cooler?


mobility work, how to do mobility work, doing mobility work wrong, foam roller


Take a good look, because that is going to be you in a few years if you don’t do something about it. I’ve found that the majority of my friends and clients (age ranging from mid twenties to early thirties) who work at desks during the day are already beginning to have postural changes, aches, and pains. The majority of them experience shoulder issues and injuries, low back pain, tight hips, and poor form when bending and lifting, which can lead to knee injuries and exacerbate existing back pain.


Altering natural muscle lengths affects posture and strength, and can also decrease circulation to certain muscle groups and areas of the body. So how can we start correcting these problems and work on preventing further postural deviation and injury?


Benefits of Foam Rolling and Self Myofascial Release (SMR)

Foam rolling and other methods of SMR are excellent ways to alleviate pain, help muscles return to their normal lengths, increase circulation, and decrease your chances of injury in both work and activity.


Think of it this way: the muscles that are contracted all day while sitting at a desk have developed knots in them. These knots (or adhesions) limit the range of motion of your joints and muscles, which also decreases circulation. Imagine it like a tangle or knot in a Slinky. Putting pressure on those knots with a foam roller or other SMR tools like a lacrosse ball will help massage the knot out so the muscle group can return to its intended length.

mobility work, how to do mobility work, doing mobility work wrong, foam roller

Rules of Thumb When Rolling

Some key areas to roll to help correct posture and alleviate pain include the quadriceps, trapezius, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, inner thighs, and calf muscles. Here's how you go about it:



  1. Using a foam roller or ball, roll over the belly of the muscle group until you find a trigger point or pain point.
  2. Avoid rolling on or close to your joints.
  3. Apply pressure to that point for at least ten to fifteen seconds, but no more than 45 seconds if you are just starting out.
  4. Rest as needed, and repeat this process for the rest of the muscle group.


Keep in mind that the rolling itself is only used identify the knots in your muscles. The static pressure you apply to that trigger point or knot is what flattens it out.


Take It to Work

One of the best features about foam rollers and other SMR devices like lacrosse balls is that they are inexpensive and portable. Bring them with you to work and leave them in the office.Try to take ten to twenty minutes during your workday or lunch break to roll out your trouble areas.



What makes CrossFit special? What separates CrossFit from other sports? The number one answer that comes to my mind is sportsmanship. Simply put, no other sport out there exhibits the camaraderie between athletes that CrossFit does. Sure there are moments that come to mind where other sports show a special bond between competitors, but in it’s short lifetime you’d be hard pressed to find a sport that has had as many of these moments as CrossFit.

Every year the CrossFit games makes a point of rewarding people who encompass the spirit of CrossFit competition. These names include athletes such as Annie Sakamoto, Kristen Clever and Chris Spealler. This is one of the most important, if not the single most important reward of the Crossfit games. Without role models like these people, the atmosphere that draws thousands of people to watch the Games every year would cease to exist.

Have you ever been at an event and seen the last athlete of a heat struggling to finish until they’re met by fellow cheering athletes and spectators, all of a sudden they lifted up and against all odds finished the workout in style? It is one of the best things to watch.

The same thing happens in CrossFit gyms around the world. This it what defines the community in the gym, it brings on camaraderie between members and gives the people battling through the workout one last push. When fellow members are cheering people struggling, it gives them a massive boost to get the job done. Everyone’s been there no matter who you are, with so many skills to master it’s a certainty that you will struggle one day. I’ve experienced it first hand, battling in a workout, slowing down and wanting to give up when a group of people come by and start yelling at me to finish what I started. In my head I want them to go away, but at the same time they give me a new found energy store and a lot more determination to finish the job.

So next time you finish your workout, despite being a sweaty mess lying on the floor pick yourself up and cheer on your fellow athletes, it could easily be you out there.

This is a MUST at CrossFit Dumbo. Cheer your fellow Herd Members on.....it means the world and pushes us all to be better athletes.

CrossFit Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY 
Plantar Fasciitis Relief

Many of us at CrossFit Dumbo struggle with this.....read up. I hope this relieves some of your pain.

Thanks for the article idea Theresa A.

If you have stairs or a sturdy box in your home and a backpack, timely relief for plantar fasciitis may be possible, according to a new study of low-tech treatments for the condition.

Plantar fasciitis, the heel pain caused by irritation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, can be lingering and intractable. A recent study of novice runners found that those who developed plantar fasciitis generally required at least five months to recover, and some remained sidelined for a year or more.

Until recently, first-line treatments involved stretching and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or cortisone. But many scientists now believe that anti-inflammatories are unwarranted, because the condition involves little inflammation. Stretching is still commonly recommended.

But the new study, published in August in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, finds that a single exercise could be even more effective. It requires standing barefoot on the affected leg on a stair or box, with a rolled-up towel resting beneath the toes of the sore foot and the heel extending over the edge of the stair or box. The unaffected leg should hang free, bent slightly at the knee.

Then slowly raise and lower the affected heel to a count of three seconds up, two seconds at the top and three seconds down. In the study, once participants could complete 12 repetitions fairly easily, volunteers donned a backpack stuffed with books to add weight. The volunteers performed eight to 12 repetitions of the exercise every other day.

Other volunteers completed a standard plantar fasciitis stretching regimen, in which they pulled their toes toward their shins 10 times, three times a day.

After three months, those in the exercise group reported vast improvements. Their pain and disability had declined significantly.Those who did standard stretches, on the other hand, showed little improvement after three months, although, with a further nine months of stretching, most reported pain relief.

The upshot, said Michael Skovdal Rathleff, a researcher at Aalborg University in Denmark, who led the study, is that there was “a quicker reduction in pain” with the exercise program, and a reminder of how books, in unexpected ways, can help us heal.

by:Gretchen Reynolds
Quick & Easy Paleo Pancakes
Makes about 7 small pancakes

2 eggs
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup nut butter (cashew/almond/macadamia, etc. – not peanut butter!)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup gluten-free baking mix
Coconut oil

Mix all ingredients (except the coconut oil) in a bowl. Stir well, until you have a uniform batter. Next, use a bit of coconut oil to grease a pan/skillet. Pour batter into pan just like you would when making “normal” pancakes and cook over low/medium heat. Flip after about a minute, being careful not to burn them.

Topping ideas:
Unsweetened applesauce
Warm berries
100% pure maple syrup
Chopped apples & cinnamon

Adapted from Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution
CrossFit Dumbo
Know Your Numbers CrossFit Dumbo!


There is an epidemic that is sweeping through boxes all across the globe, leaving countless fatalities in its wake. For those foolish enough to incur its wrath, there is no salvation—only great peril in striving to return to the CrossFitting state they once held. Worst of all, this great disease has not been conjured by nature or the CrossFit gods in their infinite power. Oh no, our own hands have forged this monstrosity. I’m talking, of course, about people not knowing their numbers.

The whole concept behind CrossFit—and almost every other training program—is that you can measurably track your progress by recording the amount of weight you lift, how many times you can lift in a certain time frame, or how quickly you can finish a workout with it. Tracking these numbers every time you workout allows you to see how and where you’re progressing, and gives you an idea of what areas need more attention. So why, oh why, would you not keep track of them?? Every time you open your workout notebook, app, or carrier pigeon, you’re getting valuable information that can help you progress as an athlete. What’s more, it allows you to see how far you’ve come since you first started, which is probably one of the best reminders that CrossFit is indeed working—in case you’re ever feeling down about the whole thing.There’s nothing quite like seeing where you started with your back squat, your deadlift, your Fran time, and being astounded at the progress you’ve made in a relatively short amount of time. It gives you hope for the future, while simultaneously making you proud of your efforts. Why would you want to deprive yourself of that joy?

Of course, tracking your numbers has a more practical application within the WOD itself. Right now, at some box in the world, there is a coach writing this on the whiteboard: 5 x 5 at 70% of 1RM back squat (or something like that). Be honest with yourself, how many times have you had to take an ‘accurate guess’ as to what the percentage of your 1RM for any lift was? I hope you realize the folly behind this ‘method’. It’s not accurate, you probably aren’t lifting what you’re supposed to be lifting, and it’s not making you a better athlete in any way. I hope that it only took you one or two sessions of guesswork lifting to realize that.

When it comes to the workout itself, athletes are generally left with two guidelines as to what way they should be using: RX or scaled. These are good markers with which to gauge what weight you should be using for a particular workout, but I would argue that it’s not conceivable that every athlete will fall within two levels of performance. In fact, a lot of coaches now program their WODS without listing RX, scaled or any other weights, as it allows for an athlete to determine a weight that is suitable for them. Keep in mind that ‘RX’ and ‘scaled’ are there as guidelines, they are not mandatory. If you want to add weight or go lighter then so be it! The point is to make the workout as challenging as it can be for you. Of course, you’re not going to know what a challenging weight is IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR NUMBERS!!!

When you’re armed with this knowledge, you can look at the WOD and understand how the weight you choose is going to affect your performance. I understand that CrossFit is about the unknown and unknowable—but there are some things that you just need to have a lock on. Knowing your numbers is one of them.


                                             Know your numbers CrossFit Dumbo!

Dairy Free, Nut Free Chocolate Shake

Thanks to CrossFit Dumbo's own "Foodie", Holly M., we bring you this awesome recipe.  

Check it out......I assure you, it's definitely worth trying! 

Everyone knows by now that avocados are a great source of healthy fats. They are excellent in salads and guacamole, providing a rich, silky texture that is perfectly paired with lemon or lime. But avocados can also be served in sweet dishes. It's common in some places to serve avocados dusted with sugar or alongside chocolate as part of dessert.

In addition to their nutritional attributes, avocados are versatile and can act as a chameleon when blended with a strong flavor like bitter cocoa. They can easily hide and add great texture to dairy free versions of desserts like pudding, cream pie and mousse as well as beverages like this chocolate shake. 

Dairy Free, Nut Free Chocolate Shake
serves 2


 2 cups water or coconut water

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6-8 medium dates, soaked in 1/2 cup warm water to soften
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or to taste)
Add ins and options
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • switch out water for almond milk if you eat nuts



Blend all ingredients until completely smooth and creamy with no flecks of date or avocado. You can stop here and serve the shake over ice.

But if you have a powerful blender like a Vitamix or Ninja, you can add ice and blend until frothy and creamy.

You can add also less liquid to make a thick, delicious "gelato" - like treat (like I do!) and eat it with a spoon. YUM.

Skip the cinnamon and vanilla if you're a real chocoholic :)


 Thanks Holly!
The Art of Scaling

Whether you're an athlete or coach here at CrossFit DUMBO, you think about this question regularly: How am I going to scale this workout  today? Meeting the needs of every individual — regardless of ability — is part of what CrossFit is designed to do, and it is a careful art to figure out the line between “too hard” and “too easy.”

Scaling: The idea is to challenge yourself with all the exercises, neither holding back on a strength nor pushing too hard on a weakness.” -Clea Weiss

Scalability and Applicability

One of the most important tenets of CrossFit is that it is universally scalable for anyone, as described by Coach Greg Glassman:

The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance, the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

So how does one scale a workout for someone trying to achieve “functional competence” so that s/he achieves the same training stimulus as someone trying to achieve “functional dominance”? How does one scale a workout for someone trying to achieve “functional dominance” when the current training stimulus no longer produces a favorable adaptation?  Before we answer these questions, let us look at the role technique plays in scaling a workout.

Technique Is the First Priority

Emphasizing technique is essential to making athletic gains. 

Technique – like its cousins mechanics, form, and style— is not at odds with intensity but is in fact essential to maximizing power and thus fitness. Proper technique is the mechanism by which potential human energy and strength are translated into real work capacity.

The work and power output calculator on the Catalyst Athletics website shows that a 5-foot-10, 180-pound athlete who completes Fran with 95 pounds in nine minutes has a power output of 98.2 watts. If the same athlete scales the weight down to 75 pounds and completes the workout two minutes faster, his power output actually rises to 115.7 watts. So using less weight can sometimes be better.

“Beginner athletes should aim for a number of reps that will be as challenging for them as the prescribed workout would be for an intermediate athlete.” – Clea Weiss

Technique, as it turns out, is not the enemy of intensity; rather, it is a very close friend. For the beginning athlete, or whenever an athlete is learning a new or unfamiliar movement, this is an important thing to consider in scaling. By scaling down the workout in order to focus on learning proper technique, the athlete actually increases work capacity by maximizing his/her power output.


A Few Simple Guidelines

Here are examples of scaling using CrossFit benchmark WODs (taken from “the Girls for Grandmas “ section of the CrossFit Level 1 training manual):




For time:

For time:

Clean 135 lbs

Clean 25 lbs

Ring Dips

Bench Dips

21-15-9 reps

21-15-9 reps

So how was this workout scaled for a beginner?

  • Prescribed weight was decreased
  • Gymnastic movements were modified to decrease resistance

Here are some examples of other basic, bodyweight movements that can be modified for a given athlete’s skill level:

Original Modified Purpose
Push-ups Pushups off the knee For an athlete who doesn’t yet have the upper-body strength to perform a strict pushup
Air squats Box Squats For an athlete who doesn’t yet possess the flexibility to reach below parallel at the bottom of a squat.

The common theme with these movement modifications is that they are modified so that the lower body can assist the upper-body.

So how much should you scale down the rep scheme, prescribed weight, or movement itself without making the workout too easy?

Here's a simple measuring stick for scaling to consider:

If you aren’t doing a WOD Rx then you shouldn’t be able to do all the reps in a given set or round unbroken. If this is the case then you scaled yourself too much.

Summary: Scaling = A Thoughtful Art

Scaling is as much art as it is science. In order to scale effectively, a coach (or the athlete him- or herself) has to take into account the athlete’s current work capacity as well as any issues they may have in terms of injuries. The ultimate goal is to achieve a potent training stimulus that makes the athlete better, stronger, and faster — but also does so safely. Athletes have to be challenged in such a way that they are pushing the limits of their work capacity without going over the edge; this will look different depending on the skill level of each athlete. For a coach, scaling is definitely a skill requiring much practice but results in huge benefits for the athlete when done well.

Happy Scaling!!

For Your Paleo July 4th Holiday!

Creamy Margarita Pops

1¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 8 limes), plus 3 limes to slice and place on top of paper cups
3 tablespoons raw honey
1 (14 ounce) can of full fat coconut milk
3/4 cup water
¼ cup tequila
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (about ½ an orange)
coarse sea salt, to sprinkle over limes

Pour lime juice and honey in a pitcher, or a bowl with a spout. Whisk until the honey is fully incorporated into the juice. Add coconut milk, water, tequila, and orange juice, whisk until combined. Pour into 12 (3 ounce) paper cups, I used Dixie brand, making sure to fill almost to the top. Slice the 3 reserved limes into 12 thin slices, about ¼ inch thick. Poke a popsicle stick through the center of each lime slice and place on top of cups. Freeze for, at least, five hours. When frozen, cut the paper cup off and sprinkle the exposed side of the lime with salt.

*If serving at a party, place on a platter of crushed ice. This recipe easily doubles, or triples.