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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Supplement Focus: Vitamin D

Along with magnesium, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. It is a common misconception that getting regular sunlight will provide adequate amounts of it. Even living somewhere where it’s always sunny, you will most likely not absorb enough vitamin D from just sunlight. This is where supplementation comes in.

Higher levels of serum vitamin D (the amount found in blood) are associated with a lower level of all-cause mortality. Higher levels of vitamin D are also associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

Aside from those health benefits, vitamin D is also beneficial for sleep, mood, and memory. A gold standard (double-blind, placebo controlled) research study found that the group given vitamin D supplementation had significant effects on sleep quality. “…improves sleep quality, reduces sleep latency, raises sleep duration and improves subjective sleep quality…”

Vitamin D and fish oils are great for mood enhancement through increasing serotonin. Vitamin D upregulates the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects “mood, decision-making, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and social decision-making.” There are also many neurological disorders, from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, to depression, that are linked to low brain serotonin.

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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.

Supplement Focus: Amino Acids

The term can be a bit ambiguous to many. For the sake of time and post-space, amino acids are what makes up proteins; when your body breaks down protein it becomes amino acids. There are many different types with many different purposes. For the most part, amino acid supplements will be branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and less often essential amino acids (EAA).

BCAAs are made of 3 amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. With many reported benefits, they are used and recommended often. Some alleged benefits are: increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS), decreased muscle breakdown (catabolism), enhanced recovery, and improved immune function. While there are many conflicting studies, mostly due to poor study design, the consensus is that while beneficial in some aspects, they are not as great as manufacturers and retailers would have you believe.

MPS is not significantly affected by bcaas, nor is catabolism. The reasoning for this, in simple terms, is that absorption of amino acids into muscle is a natural process (with up to 70% of catabolized muscle being reabsorbed naturally) and can only be enhanced to a certain degree.

While pure athletic performance has yet to be observed in a quality clinical trial, recovery from exercise has been observed along with better immune function. Bcaas boost recovery by increasing peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferation, which basically means that cell damage caused by intense exercise is mitigated with bcaas. Bcaas also change the way cytokines (signaling proteins) are produced post-exercise which reduces the stress placed on the immune system.

One caveat to the above: most studies on bcaas look at the combination of amino acids listed. There are a few studies showing that leucine alone, in higher doses than found in most bcaas, can be beneficial to performance and recovery. Another amino acid that is overlooked is tyrosine. While not as important for athletic performance, tyrosine is essential for production of L-DOPA, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Because of this tyrosine can help with depression, acute stress, and narcolepsy; general mood improvement can be expected with tyrosine.

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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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