Leg exercise is critical to brain and nervous system health

New research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells. The groundbreaking study fundamentally alters brain and nervous system medicine — giving doctors new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.

Source: Leg exercise is critical to brain and nervous system health: In a new take on the exercise truism ‘use it, or lose it,’ researchers show neurological health is an interactive relationship with our muscles and our world — ScienceDaily

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Studies: Huntington, Crohn’s, Eggs, and Aging

Vol. 10

Eating Schedule and Huntington Disease

Huntington disease (HD) is an inherited progressive disease that can cause involuntary movements and psychological problems. Symptoms of HD appear in adulthood and worsen over time. Children with at least one parent with HD have a 50% chance of developing HD. As of now, HD is thought to be caused by the buildup of mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT) and there is no known cure. HD is linked to a problem with autophagy (cell death). The University of British Columbia (UBC) published research involving a mouse model of HD. Mice were restricted to a 6 hour eating windown, which prompted autophagy in the mice. There are practical applications for humans utilizing intermittent fasting, or a fasting mimetic diet.

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Eggs and Infants

Eggs. They are good for you, this much is made more and more obvious every day. Recently though, the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, published research stating that eggs are beneficial for infants as well.

Starting at 6 months of age, infants were fed eggs (whole eggs) as part of their diet. The infants, aged 6-9 months, were fed 1 egg per day. Eggs, being high in choline precursors, DHA, vitamins A, B12, selenium and other fatty acids, are vital for brain development.

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Artificial Sweeteners and Crohn’s

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University found artificial sweeteners (splenda, maltodextrin, and sucralose) worsened the symptoms of people with Crohn’s disease. Accorfding to the research, the artificial sweeteners increased the presence of proteobacteria and myeloperoxidase. Both of these are involved in inflammatory and autoimmune responses in people with Crohn’s. Researchers did not find the same reaction in people that do not suffer from Crohn’s.

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Exercise Slows Aging

Yet another reason to regularly exercise. The University of Birmingham and Kings College, London conducted research regarding exercise and aging. The study consisted of 125 participants, aged 55-79, 84 males and 41 females. Excluded from the study were smokers, heavy drinkers, and those who had high blood pressure. A control group of 75 non-exercisers was measured as well. The treatment group, the exercisers, had no loss of muscle mass or strength, no increase in body fat or cholesterol and their testosterone levels remained stable. The immune systems of the exercisers was also comparable to a younger person. One reason for this, according to the researchers, was that exercise prevented the shrinking of the thymus, which normally begins around age 20.

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Deload

Deloading is a common aspect in many training routines. During a deload training is reduced in frequency, intensity, volume, or a combination of these dimensions. A deload will most often last a week.

 

Why

There are a few reasons for a deload period. The most common reasons are:

  • Avoid a plateau in performance: The concept of a deload is based on the principle of supercompensation. Simply put, the body is always trying to adapt. So after a certain amount of time/stress put on the body, it will begin to adapt and gains in strength or performance will plateau.
  • Avoid aggravating recurring injuries: If you have a past injury a deload week may be necessary to avoid another injury. A deload week is much better than months lost to injury
  • Physical and/or mental recovery: Physical recovery is an obvious reason for a deload. Recovery from fatigue is vital to improving strength, performance, and hypertrophy. Mental recovery is often overlooked. Pushing your body daily or even several times a week is draining on mental resources. Without proper recovery, those resources will deplete. A routine for improving strength will tax the nervous system even more so, so a deload week will help to maintain steady progress with these types of routines.
importance of deload for mental and physical recovery
Deloading allows for mental and physical recovery

When

For the most part, routines will have a deload week built in around the fourth or fifth week. Depending on your goal or the purpose of the routine (hypertrophy, strength, etc.) when the deload is scheduled may be different. However as a main reason for deload is to avoid injury and avoid plateaus, if you feel that you need to deload at week 3 so be it. And if you’re at week 5 and feel great, don’t feel you have to deload simply because the routine says so. Trust your body.

 

How

The way you deload matters on preference, goals, and how much you feel you need to deload. The different dimensions that can be manipulated during a deload are:

  • Frequency: Simple. If you normally exercise 5 days a week, reduce the number to 2-3 sessions a week.
  • Volume: Use the same weight and number of reps, but reduce the number of sets performed by about 60%.
  • Intensity: Using the same set/rep scheme, but with weight reduced by 40%-60%.
  • Exercise selection/modality: If you’re a hardcore weightlifter, try a week of cardio (running, swimming, biking, etc.) or vice versa. Body weight circuits is another good alternative to your usual lifting routine. Even exercise selection is a good way to deload. If compound exercises are your thing, try a week of machines, make a circuit out of it.

 

Another effective and fun way to deload is to try a whole different method of activity. For example, I discovered hot yoga during a scheduled deload last year, and have been going to yoga ever since. Get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to try something new, you’ll be better for it. And when you do get back to your routine, you’ll appreciate it that much more and maybe have a new passion as well.

 

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Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

I’ve written about the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) before and a modified version, the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). The cyclical ketogenic diet, like the TKD is another variant of the keto diet, with an emphasis on athletic performance.

Cyclical keto (CKD) is similar to the TKD in that carbs are used to enhance performance and maximize hypertrophy. The CKD however, uses “carb ups” or “carb loading” as opposed to targeted ingestion of carbs around workouts. A “carb up” or “carb load” is a dramatic increase in the amount of carbs you’re eating 1 to 2 days per week. The amount of carbs depends on the person and your non-carb up amount of carbs. Generally, 50 to 70 percent of your daily calories will be carbs on your carb up/load days. As with most things, a strict schedule or plan is essential for best results. This is especially true when optimizing nutrition for performance. The CKD is difficult to implement without a somewhat strict workout schedule.

To implement a CKD, you would begin to carb load about 5 hours before your last workout of the week. Anywhere from 20-50 grams of carbs can be eaten in this window. An hour or two before the workout consume another 25-50 grams of carbs ideally from glucose and fructose, as fructose will replenish liver glycogen. If you are very active and perform very high intensity exercise, you may benefit from 2 carb up days. If this is the case, during the first day calories should be about 70 percent from carbs (15 protein and 15 fat), preferably high glycemic index. The second day reduce to about 50 to 60 percent of the days calories from carbs (25 protein and 15 fat) and switch to low glycemic index sources.

The time it takes to get back into ketosis (a fat burning state) will vary by person, body composition, and how long you’ve been on a keto diet. There are some tricks to speed up the process though. The first day after a carb up, get back to a SKD, with fewer carbs than normal (0 to 2 percent). Also, implement a time-restricted eating schedule; basically don’t eat after sundown. The second day it’s best to do fasted HIIT or even a fasted high intensity weight training session, first thing in the morning. On the third day upon waking, while fasted, do some medium intensity cardio or weight training. Not too light, but less intensity than the previous day. Carbs should stay be the 3-5 percent range. After these few days, fat burning should be re-established and liver glycogen should be depleted.

Keep in mind, the CKD is not for the average person. Or even an active person. If you’re active, even daily you can make great improvements with your fitness, strength, and even muscle growth with a SKD or a TKD. The CKD is for optimizing muscle growth and performing daily, very high intensity workouts. Like any method that allows for muscle gain, fat gain though slight, will occur.

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Meditation

Fitness and strength are not only physical attributes. They are intangibles of a person as well. In order to achieve anything difficult, challenging, truly meaningful, one must be fit and strong where it counts most: your brain.

There are various strategies to achieve and maintain strength in your thought processes, interpretations and the like. One great technique is meditation. Just the word meditation evokes many different things. It can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. For some, 2 hours a day is needed others need only 10 minutes. The goal is the same: clarity, calm, relaxation, focus.

With so many benefits coming from regular meditation and the fact that it can be done anywhere, with no required equipment, there is no reason to not at least try meditating. Studies continue to be published demonstrating the many positive effects of meditation. On a physiological level, mediation appears to reduce inflammatory processes, boost the immune system, reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, promote cortical gray matter regrowth (regrow your brain), slow and prevent neurological aging, and improve focus and attention. That’s quite a few benefits from something you can do outside for 20 minutes a day for free.

How do I meditate? You may be asking. It’s simple, but not easy at first. It is generally advised that when first going about developing the habit of meditating you should try for twice a day, for shorter amounts of time, 10-20 minutes. The goal is to achieve total relaxation, clarity, and calmness. Both inside and outside. Your body, your thoughts, everything needs to be aligned, and calm but focused. Meditation is a skill and like any skill, it needs to be developed. You’re first day at the gym wouldn’t be a 2 hour workout, so take the same approach with meditating. Work your way up to it, with shorter more frequent periods. As you get more used to the process, you will “go under” more easily and in less time. Your goal is to “go under” and stay there for as much time as necessary. At first it may take time. In 20 minutes, you may only spend a few minutes “under.” That’s ok. Keep at it.

As with eating, exercise, and so much more: what works for you is the best method. I wake up as early as necessary, to get my 20 or so minutes every morning. I feel better the rest of the day for it. The types of meditation are vast and can all be beneficial, transcendental, kundalini, heart-rhythm, mindfulness, and so much more. Research a few, try a few. Ultimately though, do what works.

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