Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a phytochemical found in several vegetables, that has anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and even brain enhancing effects. While broccoli sprouts are one of the best sources of sulforaphane, it is also found in broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and other green leafy veggies.

Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce obesity by facilitating the oxidation of fat and improving gut flora so that more efficient digestion and absorption is possible.

The many cognitive and neurological benefits to sulforaphane are the main reason to get down on some broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane offers protection against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and even mood disorders such as depression. One study showed the NRF2 pathway has significant impacts on depression, suggesting that sulforaphane helps reduce symptoms. Aside from the neuroprotective benefits, sulforaphane also helps people to recover from traumatic brain injury (TBI). A study with mice immediately following a TBI showed memory enhancements with only sulforaphane.

Due to its antioxidant and immune boosting properties, sulforaphane is also beneficial for cancer reduction and prevention. Sulforaphane can reduce risk of prostate, colorectal, and a host of other cancer types. While it is more effective at reducing risk of cancer, it can help to reduce symptoms if the cancer has already formed.

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You are what you eat

I get asked a lot about what to eat before working out. A pre-workout meal doesn’t have to be the same thing every time or exactly what I eat. It does, however have to meet some requirements to be beneficial for your overall health and your workout.

Some goals for a pre-workout meal (courtesy of Coach Poliquin):

Hydration.

As I’ve covered in a previous post (https://www.instagram.com/p/BW0TeAwFfAu/) is vital to performance. It takes more than just water to stay hydrated; proper amounts of sodium are needed for the body to stay hydrated and for muscles to be ready for growth.

Digestion.

Real, whole foods are best so I always tell people to leave about 90 minutes between their meal and working out, or 45 minutes at the minimum. Some workouts will be a little taxing on the body, like leg day, so I usually space the meal and workout further apart for those.

Focus.

You’re not going to have a good workout if you’re not focused on the task at hand. What you eat can help you get there. The brain uses acetylcholine and dopamine for drive and focus. The meat and nuts meal, which is also covered in a previous post (https://www.instagram.com/p/BW-imlaFhCZ/), provide both of these vital neurotransmitters. Carbs have been shown to decrease IQ by up to 20%, which is never a good thing, but especially not before working out.

Insulin and pH.

During a training session higher Cortisol is beneficial for growing muscles, so insulin must be kept low. To keep insulin low avoid carbs pre-workout, they aren’t needed pre-workout as the body utilizes stored glycogen. A slightly elevated pH helps during training due to anabolism being triggered by inflammatory processes.

Chew Your Food!

You’ve heard it before. Chew your food, don’t just swallow it whole. Chewing definitely affects digestion and absorption. But adequate chewing can also affect caloric intake, improve mood and focus, and improve gut hormones.

Digestion and absorption definitely benefit from chewing more. The more you chew food and break it down into smaller pieces the more easily it is broken down and absorbed. This also leads to feeling satiated (full) sooner and with less food. This can lead to a caloric reduction, or at the very least reduce overeating. Chewing more also allows you to taste more of your food which increases satiety and overall meal satisfaction.

A study on chewing found that an increased number of “chews per bite” resulted in an increase in beneficial gut hormones. The same study also found that the increased level of chewing reduced hunger for prolonged periods after a meal. Chewing is known to help with maintaining focus, as it’s often used in learning situations, driving long hours, to prevent sleepiness, etc. Study participants scored higher on intelligence and alertness tests with increased chewing. Stress was also reported to be lower in this study. While the mechanism is not totally understood, it is thought to be a combination of factors including “increases of cerebral blood flow and brain activity, cerebral blood flow, cardiovascular system, ascending reticular activating system, glucose delivery, and flavors.”

One simple way to chew more without even thinking about it is to eat away from screens. No tv, no phones. Eat with another person. Or looking outside or even at a piece of art you like. Having your meals away from screens will slow the pace of your meal and your chewing allowing for all of these benefits.

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Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythms are very important in mammals. There are many clocks in your brain and body, but they are all controlled by the master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Circadian rhythms and clocks, the SCN, and what affects them is only recently starting to be understood. The findings so far are fascinating.

 

Light plays a big role in regulating your circadian rhythms. Humans evolved with activity governed by nature, which means our exposure to light. The brain starts to boot up with its first exposure to bright light, and begins its shutdown sequence around 12 hours later, when the human body assumes is nighttime, and dark. Many other internal clocks are tied to this system and gene expression with them.

 

The timing of meals is another big factor in circadian rhythms. Again, looking at early humans explains why. At the end of the day the body will shift hormone production in preparation for sleep. Basically, the body will switch modes, from active to rest. Digestion will slow, metabolism slows, etc. At the same time, melatonin increases, which aids in sleep quality. So following a time-restricted eating (TRE) schedule will benefit your energy levels, fat loss, lean mass, sleep quality, and more.

 

It’s not all bad. There are things you can do to stay in rhythm, so to speak. As far as light goes, try to dim all lights, screens, etc. as you near bedtime. If you can get LED lights that can be set to specific colors: harsher, cooler (i.e. bright blues) colors in the beginning of the day, and warmer, dimmer (i.e. reds/oranges) as the day becomes night. As for timing your meals, TRE is relatively easy to do. TRE is not the same as intermittent fasting. With TRE, you basically follow the natural flow of the day. After waking up, once you have your first meal, about 12 hours later, should be your last meal. This should line up so that you’re eating an hour or two after waking and before going to bed.

 

This is a very dense topic, so this post barely skimmed the surface. Here are some good places to read more:

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