Category: Health (Page 1 of 2)

Can We Go Deeper When Dealing With Depression In Athletes?

This last week after the passing of my friend and former rugby colleague Dan Vickerman has been mournful and reflective. Many articles have come out regarding the implications of suicide and depression among professional athletes, even prompting several fellow rugbymen to step courageously forward  and share their own struggles both during and post career. It also pleases me  to see a number of high profile individuals come together to spark campaigns of support, encouraging sufferers of mental and emotional anguish to speak up seeking help.

However, I can’t help feeling  that many of the points being raised and calls to action in the name of suicide prevention, still fail to address a deeper issue and in my opinion the most important with regards to mental health problems in elite athletes, especially upon retirement.

This is an issue close to my heart, because I am seven years into my retirement after a 12 year professional rugby career. While I am fortunate to say that I have managed to navigate my way around any cause for deep depression, I have certainly stood at the edge of the slippery slope into those depths.

The dark period I refer to occurred shortly after breaking my neck in a professional match in France, from which I was extremely lucky to walk away, but it ended my career and left me with an arduous road to recovery. I was wrought with fear and uncertainty, and immediately felt a loss of identity, causing bouts of depression and anxiety that led to excessive alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism.

061208 - Toulouse v Newport-Gwent Dragons Marc Stcherbina is treated for a neck injury © Huw Evans Picture Agency

061208 – Toulouse v Newport-Gwent Dragons
Marc Stcherbina is treated for a neck injury
© Huw Evans Picture Agency

I was definitely comforted however, by the fact that I had saved enough money, combined with a career ending insurance policy to not have immediate financial concerns. But it was the lack of identity factor that lingered, and which I believe is a deeper, often neglected layer when considering causes of depression for retired athletes.

Athletes are often warned of the potential hardship associated with retiring from sport. Perhaps they are not as readily and forcefully communicated as they could be, but there is by no means an absence of information. From early in my career, I received plenty of advice from various sources about preparing for life after sport, such as the need to consider having a career back up plan and even some form of financial safety net to endure the inevitable decrease in salary. I felt that Rugby organizations and player unions for the most part were considerate of player welfare in terms of physical care, nutrition education, media training and networking opportunities to cultivate business relationships which could become useful both during and post career. I even recall a member of the police department giving a presentation to the team about legal implications and appropriate action when confronted with compromising situations in public bars. Players also had access to sports psychologists to coach them on how to develop their mental skills in order to optimize performance on the field.

But among all the tools provided to the players to ensure we performed and behaved up to expectations while being clever with our finances, in hindsight there was a glaring omission. There was no form of emotional intelligence or self-awareness education, in a unique environment of extremes that can provide great joy and opportunity, yet can also lead you down a dark alley.

Let me explain further…professional sport can develop an unhealthy relationship with the ego. There are not many professions where tens of thousands of people turn up to watch you “work”, children wait for hours just to get your autograph or shake your hand, and you see your face in the newspaper or on TV on a regular basis. Let’s not forget the free products, VIP access, the recognition from strangers, police escorts to games. etc. etc.

It’s quite easy for players to become attached to exterior sources of validation, and even addicted to the hedonistic perks that come with this newfound status and increased wealth. What’s worse, is they also tend to define themselves by it, even developing a sense of entitlement.

I myself battled with this notion throughout my career, which in some ways was my eventual saving grace. What I mean is that I was never completely comfortable with the ego boosting spoils and often didn’t feel deserving of them. While I enjoyed the challenges of building character, pushing my body to the limits and the intense camaraderie forged with team mates in high pressure situations, I was still searching for my purpose, and never fully understood what it meant to play sport for money. Even now I am still transitioning, or in life coaching jargon, searching for my “why”, and I do believe that my self awareness and curiosity about emotional development has made it easier to detach myself from the professional athlete identity, and I have learned to enjoy the journey of reinventing myself.

For others, this is not necessarily the case, especially for the Dan Vickermans of the world, who played on a much bigger stage than me for a decade, exposing him to even greater highs, which can lead to crippling lows when those highs become a thing of the past.

depressed-sportsman

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting this was an underlying reason for Dan Vickerman’s decision to take his own life. Rather, I am theorizing that this may be the case for many high profile athletes and am merely using Dan’s tragic circumstances to raise awareness of these possibilities.

So yes, there needs to be a more concerted effort in creating a safe environment for those suffering from mental illness to talk about their problems, but I am proposing that there should also be an educational component involving emotional intelligence and mindfulness. Where players are introduced to and encouraged to contemplate topics such as:

– Positive and negative aspects of the ego and self esteem.

– Seeking self worth and validation from within and not exterior influences.

– Considering and possibly re-evaluating ones metrics for success.

– The stigma of what it means to be a man in the intensely aggressive contact sport environment.

– The origins and management of fear based thoughts.

– Humility, gratitude and the art of giving.

In the seven professional organizations for which I played, there was not one which properly assessed or provided extensive coaching in the above subjects. Most coaches were well versed in character building, leadership skills and enhancing team culture, but rarely did they communicate lessons about vulnerability, emotional attachment and self-identity, and neither is it necessarily their job.

Just like our physiotherapists and trainers prescribed “prehabilitation” programs to help us avoid physical injuries, why shouldn’t the same be done for the mind?

I believe there are a number of ways organizations can introduce some of the aforementioned topics. For example:

1) Yoga classes – not only is it great for prevention of injury and increased movement potential, but classes which include the spirituality element can start players on a positive path to self awareness, the mind-body connection and the meaning of happiness.

2) Player led discussion groups – one hour per week can be devoted to talking in groups about various topics pertaining to the emotional aspects of being a professional sportsman.

3) Influential Guest Speakers – Several motivational speakers were invited to talk to my various teams throughout my career, but it was almost always in an effort to inspire us to win the big important game that weekend or pull us out of a form slump. Why not have leaders in philosophy and/or mental health address the team?

4) Book or podcast of the week – why not have players taking turns in recommending their favorite audiobook, podcast episode, or even just movie scene which provides insight into mastering our thoughts and emotions (perhaps combine it with point #2). My life turned around when my teammate Xavier Rush recommended I read “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and set me on a relentless crusade for self-growth. With regards to regulating our thoughts and emotions surrounding fame, fortune and happiness I also recommend the following, to name just a few:

– The Consolation Of Philosophy by Boethius

– The subtle art of not giving a f#*k

– Tim Ferriss podcast episode 221

5) Meditation – This is becoming increasingly mainstream, with many leaders in business acknowledging regular meditation practice as a key to their success. Professional Rugby can be a highly stressful vocation, therefore calming the mind and achieving clarity should be just as important for athletes as lifting weights, and will also benefit the process of approaching retirement and beyond.

6) Volunteer work – It is wonderful that teams can be seen devoting their time for various charity work within the community, such as visiting the local children’s hospital or attending fundraising events. But I feel it would be even more beneficial for the player’s personal growth if they tried to also give back with total anonymity, rather than under the guise of a celebrity, or just fulfilling an obligation as a contracted player.

By incorporating such practices into the team’s regular playing and training schedule, the issue of mental health management will be seen as more “normal”, and hopefully will result in players being less reluctant to express their own struggles. Furthermore, it will cultivate a more informed, empathetic audience upon receipt of those difficult, vulnerable confessions.

Another huge factor that I haven’t addressed and should not be discounted, is the correlation between head injuries and depression. However, I will save that can of worms for another discussion and give it the proper attention it deserves.

The passing of Dan Vickerman has left us all in a state of shock, sadness and in search for answers. We must not let the death of Dan, and the many before him under similar circumstances be in vein. Let us keep discussing, but more importantly implement measures that empower our elite athletes to take control over, and comfortably communicate their thoughts  from a stable place, rather than letting it become a desperate plea of hopelessness, or in my young, fallen friend and colleague’s case, irrevocably worse.

How A Training Journal Saved My Neck

Ok, so the title may be a little misleading in the hopes of getting your attention, but there is an element of accuracy to it and a great sentiment behind it. So let me explain…

During my professional rugby career, I was required to train hard and often. My weekdays were mainly spent doing speed work on the track, strength training in the gym, or skill work on the field.

It was the norm that we used training diaries or journals to log the results of the activities prescribed by our Athletic Trainer, especially from our weight training program.

I found using a diary both helpful and a hindrance, and my commitment to writing down my performance after each exercise was inconsistent. While it was handy having previous scores written down as a reminder of where I was and a what to improve upon, I didn’t always remember to keep track, or on some occasions bring my diary to the gym at all!

The obvious benefits of using a training diary became apparent to me when I broke my neck playing rugby. After a successful surgery, I faced a long, hard road to recovery, and little did I know that the humble training diary would become my best friend during this difficult period.

keeping-a-training-journal_02

Stepping Stones

When the fusion of my fractured C4/C5 vertebrae was strong enough, it was time to embark on my neck rehabilitation. I suffered extensive nerve damage to my right arm also, which now resembled that of a 6 year old child due to the muscle atrophy which had occurred.

Despite the risks and my new infantile physique, I was determined to play rugby again. At 32 years old however, I knew that I would have to cross my ‘t’s and dot my ‘i’s if I was to return to the field while I was still young enough to perform.

So I made myself a training diary, which included a “Goals” section in the back of the book, and the first thing I wrote in the diary was my long term goal – “MAKE STARTING TEAM FOR FIRST GAME OF NEXT SEASON”. That gave me 9 months.

I would then set a series of shorter range goals as stepping stones to the Long term goal. This was important not only as an indicator of whether I was on the right track, but makes the long term goal seem less overwhelming. If you’re climbing a mountain, it can be too daunting and discouraging to keep looking at the summit, so setting your sights on each base camp will seem more achievable and hence more motivating.

looking-up-at-the-mountain

Keeping your discipline

When trains become derailed it can have disastrous consequences. This was my mindset when it came to sticking to my rehab program. The programs that my neck specialist and Strength and Conditioning Coach gave me were the train tracks which were laid down for me, and my training diary would ensure that I stayed on the tracks, otherwise my life was in danger if I attempted to take the field again with an under-strengthened neck, shoulder and arm.

This sentiment helped me remain disciplined and focused. Disciplined to remember my diary. Disciplined to stick to my program and write down my scores. Disciplined to review my performance and assess the achievement of my short term goals.

When you write down your performance in a training diary, you now become accountable to yourself, and the numbers don’t lie. The great US Olympic track sprinter Michael Johnson says in his book Slaying The Dragon that he ensures he doesn’t “blur the edges” of his training program. If it says do 10 reps, you must do 10 reps, not 9.

michael-johnson-victory

Listen to your body through your diary

Just as it is important to be strict and work hard to achieve your goals, it is equally important to be aware of any signs of overtraining, and take measures to prevent any illness or injury as a result.

Your training diary can provide valuable information about any plateaus in performances, which are prime indicators that overtraining may be occurring, in which case a reassessment of the training program may be necessary.

In my training diary, I also include a scale of how I am feeling before and after training, and be sure to make a comment of things like muscle soreness, lack of energy, quality of sleep etc. which can all be valuable indicators that I need to back off.

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What kind of diary?

Your diary can be as simple or elaborate, as large or small as you want. A simple blank notebook is better than nothing. I recommend however using a diary that has a clearly set out format making it easier to write down info and clearer to read and compare when you review sessions.

Some people don’t mind having a large and bulky all-in-one folder with compartments in which programs and other information can be kept. Others prefer a more discreet pocket sized version which more easily transported and less obnoxious. Bear in mind though that these can easily be misplaced, so I tend to go for something in the middle.

To ensure that I get in and out of the gym in a timely fashion, I like to fill in as much of the session as possible in my diary before the workout, especially if I am transferring info from a separate training program.

There are some good training diary apps out there too which obviously negate the need for pen which is desirable. I recommend JEFIT Workout and Fitlist apps.

However, I like to keep it old school with a paper booklet and pen for a few reasons, but mainly to limit the use of my phone and temptation to be distracted by apps, texts and emails which can deter the quality of my workout. So unless you’re a doctor on call or an Instagram influencer, leave the phone in the car and grab your training journal and pen to optimize the quality of your session.  Where can you find a good diary you ask? You can order the very diary I used for my neck injury rehab and still use myself and give to my clients today. Just click the link below to order.

diary example for blog post

Add A Cleanse To Your New Years Resolutions

It may not have been included on the checklist of the previous Yog Blog article, but it certainly would be a good idea to add a detoxifying cleanse on your “to do” list, and one in particular which will have a huge impact on your health, is a colon cleanse.

If I had a dollar for every time people said that they were ‘on a diet but not seeing results’ I would be – well richer than I am now. Analogies are my go to so here is one: When it is time for an oil change you cannot just keep adding oil in your car year after year because you are mixing new with old and this simply will not make for a vehicle running at its optimal best. Our bodies work the same. Simply going on a diet or changing the way you eat is just not enough. You need to clean your pipes first.

Man Sitting On Bed And Feeling Unwell

Humans can carry up to 40 extra pounds of toxic build up in their colon alone. This not only puts a dampener on that summer body but more importantly is a breeding ground for disease. A colon cleanse is simple and just takes dedication, a few inexpensive ingredients and 10 days out of your year and I recommend doing it once a year.

Below are two different recipes. The first is for a single serving of the master cleanse lemonade. The second will make 6 servings.

#1 (single serving):

2 Tablespoons of organic lemon Juice (about 1/2 a Lemon)

2 Tablespoons of Organic grade B maple syrup or agave

1/10 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper powder

Ten ounces of filtered water

#2 (60 oz. daily serving):

60 ounces of filtered water

12 Tablespoons of organic grade B maple syrup

12 Tablespoons of organic lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

healthy-colon-toxic-colon

There are a couple important things to remember when preparing the lemonade.

For one, the lemon juice must be fresh squeezed and organic.

Also, the maple syrup must be grade B maple syrup, not the sugar filled syrup that gets drenched on pancakes!

The cayenne pepper helps to break up mucus and increases healthy blood flow. It is also a good source of B and C vitamins.

While you are cleansing, drink 1 teaspoon of unrefined non-iodized sea salt in a small glass of water to help flush out your system. Do this first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed.

The most common question is whether you can eat any solid food whilst cleansing. The answer is ideally no but some people struggle to get through the entire 10 days. If you absolutely must eat a little bit then stick to light foods like salads and vegetables or drink one green juice per day. Absolutely no meat, dairy or gluten.

After day 10 incorporate fresh squeezed orange juice and light meals. Stay away from meat, dairy and gluten for 3 days after the cleanse so that you don’t jump straight back into stressing the digestive system.

retro surfers

Some herbs that you can add to your nutrition plan once you are finished the cleanse are:

– Psyllium – which is a soluble fiber that is found in many over-the-counter products for keeping the digestive system regular.

– Flaxseed – This herb seed is also a bulk-forming fiber that works by adding mass to waste matter in the intestines, helping to ease bowel movements

Good luck! Actually good dedication! You are going to need it!

BF

(Dr. Bruce Fulford D.A, C.N, Ph.D is a leading expert in Alphabiotics and certified clinical nutritionist. For more info about his work visit Alphabioticbalance.com)

 

Your New Year Checklist For Dominating 2017

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here’s a checklist of the 11 top things to do right now to help ensure you make the most of 2017, and set you up for a future of success and YOGness.

  1. Download a time management app

For most of us, many hours went to waste in 2016 due to poor time management. As our lives get busier and more distractions emerge around us, we develop an even greater propensity to procrastinate or misspend our precious time.

Having an organizer that can help you plan and complete your daily “to do” list is a valuable productivity tool.

There are many apps out there for this purpose, but I like to use the Wunderlist app which allows you to set tasks and sub tasks within projects and sorts them into a daily or even weekly to do list while sending you reminder notifications.

wunderlist-eg

2. Buy a large water bottle

There is no doubt about the necessity of water for survival, so it should be no surprise either that there are countless benefits of water to our health, function and even maintaining a youthful appearance. After all, we are comprised of up to 80% water.

The minimum recommended intake of H2O for adult males is 2.7 liters, and we normally get 20% of that through food. It can be difficult to remember to drink the other 80% we need, so investing in a large stainless steel or glass bottle to carry with you everywhere is my recommendation.

Treat yourself to a 40oz stainless steel bottle from Mobot, which also doubles as a foam roller, and aim to drink two full bottles per day to meet your minimum requirement.

If you want to take your health to the next level, then invest in an alkalizing water filter. Our friends at Life Ionizer will sort you right out.

mbot-thumb

3. Buy a group fitness membership

I know, the fitness kick from January 1st vibe is so cliché, but no harm in playing along. Problem is, so many people buy new gym memberships, or commit to finally using the one they already have, then inevitably end up just donating money monthly to their respective fitness boxes as soon as February rolls around as life becomes hectic again.

This is partly why I recommend a group fitness membership instead. Your motivation is likely to remain higher in an environment where other people are contributing to the overall energy and a good trainer is keeping you honest while sweating safely. The social aspect and sense of community in group sessions is also likely to keep you wanting to come back for more.

I recommend places like Training Mate, Soul Cycle or even sign up for a team in a semi-competitive sports league like mixed flag football or ultimate Frisbee. This way, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re also letting down others by choosing to stay home overdosing on ESPN instead of lacing up the trainers for the real deal.

training-mate-01-600x450

4. Block out 1 weekend per month for a road trip

I am speaking mostly for Angelenos, but the vast majority of major cities around the world have great weekend or day trip destinations within a few hours drive, or at the most, a 60 minute flight.

Getting away from the rat race is important not only for achieving balance, but also enriching our character, and it need not be any more than loading up the car with a tent and surfboards, or hiking shoes and a picnic basket.

If taking a domestic flight from LAX is a bit steep, then a road trip to any of California’s great National Parks such as The Sequoias, Big Bear, or Joshua Tree should be high priority.

Don’t feel like driving? Take the train down to San Diego for an overnighter, or maybe just to San Clemente for a Sunday Funday.

cali-road-trip-1

5. Prepare for Yoga and meditation

This may seem like two checklist items, but these go hand in hand. If you’re not convinced about the benefits of yoga for your daily life, refer to our article about Yoga for YOGs HERE.

In L.A.,  yoga studios are as prolific as plastic surgery, but if I had to choose, Yoga Works normally provides a great experience for all levels in several locations, and there are often good deals on Groupon to help give you the extra push to sign up.

While Yoga helps quieten our minds and center our energy, it isn’t enough to rely on as your sole dose of meditation. Seeking more meditation practice will help you dominate 2017 and execute all aspects of your life at a high frequency.

Guided meditation sources are popping up everywhere, and the Headspace app is leading the charge. Start with just 5 mins per day and build up to as long as you’re comfortable with.

headspace-cartoon

6. Simplify your HQ

Over time, we accumulate lots of stuff, especially over a whole year if we don’t de-clutter regularly. When we have more stuff, we have more stuff to manage which can be overwhelming and stressful. Start with your home. Clear your bedroom of objects you simply don’t need to free up some space. For inspiration, watch “Minimalism” on Netflix immediately. If you have a home office, aim for a completely object and paper free desk. Downsize your wardrobe by donating any clothes to Goodwill that you haven’t worn in a year. Watch the documentary “The True Cost” for extra motivation.

You can also spring clean your phone by deleting contacts, unused apps and social media followers or “friends” . Go through these lists and unfriend/unfollow anybody you don’t know well or doesn’t have a positive influence on your life. You’ll be surprised how liberating this can be.

cluttered-desk

7. Create a “live life to the fullest” reminder

I shared my most recent and powerful “life’s short” trigger in our last article How I really feel about turning 40. It could be a quote that you frame and hang in your bathroom where you’ll see it first thing every morning, or even make it your smart phone wall paper. By constantly reminding yourself that you have one chance at this life, and time is ticking away ever so quickly, it will hopefully allow you to eradicate your fear based thoughts and go out to chase your dreams.

carpe-wrist

8. Get rid of your TV

I know this may sound a little extreme, but your television set is often the source of many non-redeemable hours of life disappearing into a black hole of waste. The way I look at it, ridding yourself of your TV is similar to taking junk food out of your fridge. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. I prefer to have a Netflix account on my laptop, which is similar to having a corner store where you can still buy junk food, but you’ll only make the trip if you can be bothered or have something you really want to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, a little entertainment media is a good way to help us switch off our brains after a stressful day or provide some much needed laughs. Just try to be disciplined and avoid binge watching consecutive seasons of popular fictional shows for hours on end, and make an effort to balance it out with uplifting and educational documentaries.

no-more-tv

  1. Buy an Audible account

Read more books this year. And if you’re like me, whose only time to read is bedtime which normally lasts 5 minutes before falling asleep, then audiobooks are for you. Audiobooks can be handy when stuck in traffic on the way to work, cooking your evening meal, or even working out at the gym.

For a reasonable monthly fee of $15, an Audible account offers discounts and 1 credit for any purchase per month, which can accumulate up to 6 credits at any time.

audiobook-headphones

10. Put a nutrition plan in place

We all say we’re going to eat healthier this year, but how many of us even devise a plan, let alone stick to it?

Improving our nutrition will also require some education on better food choices and also meal preparation. It’s a constant, fulfilling practice. For education, there are many great documentaries out there such as Food Matters, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Sugar Coated to put you on the right path.

Too busy to prepare and cook your own healthy meals? Meal delivery services can be an excellent way to ensure you’re putting the right stuff in your body to suit your lifestyle.

I like Fresh n’ Lean which delivers pre-cooked, vacuum packaged goodies using organic, vegan ingredients that you can simply heat up on the stove. Stack.com also has a useful list of meal services for you athletes out there.

The best way to put you on the right nutrition path however is consult a reputable nutrition specialist. If you’re in Los Angeles, Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Bruce Fulford with prescribe the right diet according to your metabolic type.

fresh-n-lean

11.  Create a work vs play diary

Did 2016 seem like all work while your friends were all out doing cool, fun stuff? Or was last year fairly unproductive overall due to your social FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?

The work:play ratio can be difficult to manage, especially if you have kids or you’re trying to get that business off the ground. It can also be challenging staying totally present when engaged in either of the two, for fear of the other one suffering.

So it can be useful to not only schedule your leisure time, but evaluate it at the end of the day. Simply keep a diary where you rate your work productivity and quality of social activities and the reason for the rating. You will soon see whether the time is being misused. Setting goals for your work and play time will then give you more control over your quality of life.

play-vs-work-balance

 

Okay there you have it, well done for sticking it out up to this point, this tells me you’re keen for a good start to a big year. This checklist could have gone on, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. You should have a great basis here to use the month of January to get your shit together to start 2017 on the right foot, and maintain these good habits throughout the year and beyond.

Now go get ‘em Tiger!!

 

M

 

 

 

Saving Lives Through Facial Hair

I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer. I was 18 years old at the time. When you’re 18 you believe you’ll live forever. Common worries of a healthy 18 year old include passing a driver’s license test,who they’re taking to the prom and which college they’ll get into. Being diagnosed with cancer is generally not on the list.

Seeing how much physical and emotional pain my Gramps suffered during his final weeks have forever haunted me. And now that I am well beyond my teenage years, my “it will never happen to me attitude” is increasingly waning, especially after learning that 5 -10% of prostate cancer diagnoses are hereditary.

So in an effort to keep the big “C” at bay, I do my utmost to choose sound lifestyle habits, fueled by a career in Health and Fitness, and also do my part to promote and contribute to organizations that are leading the way in funding research and practices for the treatment of prostate cancer.

One such organization at the top of my list is The Movember Foundation.

What started as a fun idea to bring the moustache back into fashion and raise money doing so by two mates (Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) in Australia, has now turned into a global phenomenon raising USD $710 million and funding 1,200 men’s health projects since it’s humble beginnings.

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A constant concern of mine with charities is whether the donation money actually reaches its intended area of need. The great thing about the Movember Foundation is that they address these and similar concerns of its donors and claim to have ultimate control over the funding of the projects they invest in.

I urge you to play your part this Movember. If you are follicularly challenged of the upper lip, then participate in one of the many great Movember events on the calendar for the rest of the month or even host your own event.

movember-poster-copy

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, look no further than the event I’m hosting through my company Rugby Method, which involves an outdoor bootcamp style group fitness session, followed by a tackle bag challenge for a chance to win some great prizes, while getting some aggression out and reversing the regret of eating/drinking so much over Thanksgiving.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids For Building Muscle

Many YOGs and wannabe YOGs approach me about the preferred uses  and dosage of protein when it comes to building muscle. The following article provides a few tips to get you started…

Amino acids are split up in 2 groups: Essential and Non-Essential:

Since Non-essential amino acids are produced by the body I will not discuss them in this article. Instead let’s focus on the what to feed ourselves in order to get the most out of our workouts.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids. Namely valine, leucine and isoleucine. They are essential which  means we must get them through diet as our bodies do not produce them. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein and have multiple functions related to energy production before  and after workouts. Therefore, they are needed during the ‘rebuild window’ and the correct amount is vital.

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Make sure you are getting your Amino Acids from a trusted source and keep them as pure as possible. Most protein powders will have BCAAs however, absorption is key so just another reason to get a pure protein powder. I personally use a pea protein free of all the chemicals a lot of ‘meathead’ stores sell. Remember that 36g of protein does not mean your body will accept all 36 grams.

Uses:

Branch chain Amino Acids have long been used to prevent fatigue and improve concentration, but the most common practice of taking BCAAs is to improve exercise performance and reduce muscle breakdown. Some practitioners have even used BCAAs to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease, brain conditions due to liver disease and cancer patients. Not only do BCAAs promote muscle recovery, they play an important role helping regulate the immune system which can be weakened after intense or prolonged exercise.  Another notable use is that BCAAs spare muscle glycogen, or energy stored in muscles.

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Dosage:

A balanced diet with adequate protein provides enough BCAAs, even for the strenuous exerciser. It is noted that no amount above 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight is beneficial. The key is trying to get them into your diet through meat, fish, eggs and legumes. Dairy is another option however due to the rising intolerance of casein (the main protein in dairy) I would suggest minimizing it. For those of you that are loading up with higher doses of protein, make sure you stay very well hydrated as water loss can be increased from nitrogen excretion during protein breakdown.

 

 

B

Insomnia sucks!

No, I’m not talking about the 2002 thriller starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. That was quite good actually. I’m talking about the real life, common problem of struggling to get some good quality z’s. Let’s take a look at some causes, and some relief from insomnia…

It will come as no surprise that stress is often at the root of insomnia. However, stress  is not always bad, but what matters is how we deal with it. For example, a new project at work can be intensive and exciting especially if you are passionate about what you do. This can cause a stress response in the brain, and can cause many sleepless nights. As someone who has suffered from chronic insomnia, I can attest that mine often came from over excitement which lead to not being able to switch off. Learning to manage that stress became important in dealing with the underlying cause. On the opposite side of the coin, lies a much more frustrating symptom. Worrying about school, work, bills, family etc can be a lot harder to shake and always needs some sought of treatment plan.

Stressed out at work

Some treatments that can help stress related insomnia include:

  • Alphabiotic Alignments. This reset of the nervous system lowers adrenal stress and brings a calming effect allowing for a better nights sleep.
  • Accupuncture. Bringing balance to the meridians calms the brain and has helped people find a better sleep pattern.
  • Massage. Who doesn’t love a relaxing massage? A little pampering is important in these times of stress.
  • Reiki. If you are not a fan of needles then give reiki a try.
  • Meditation. This one is free and can done daily. A 10 minute session every night before bed will go a long way towards a better night sleep.
  • A hot bath with epsom salts an hour before bed can be just what the doctor ordered. The magnesium helps to relax the muscles and calm the brain. Doing your meditation in the bath will bring even better results especially when the lights are off and a candle is lit.

The above suggestions will help anyone deal with their insomnia but for some it’s not enough. I’m talking about a melatonin imbalance. The pineal gland drives your sleep patterns and a lack of melatonin production from the pineal will not only cause sleepless nights, but drive up your morning cortisol levels, creating an imbalance on all other hormones in the cascade.

Insomnia 1

Let me explain. Low melatonin creates a poor sleep cycle even if you are not suffering from insomnia. You will however, notice fatigue or low energy and feel a need for a jump start in the morning. Most people grab for caffeine at this point or they struggle to make it through the day. Caffeine then puts further stress on your adrenals as well as your brain.

Caffeine buzz

Stressed adrenals also cause an imbalance in another vital hormone called DHEA. DHEA leads to the production of androgens and estrogens (male and female sex hormones). So you see how the entire cascade of hormones become affected. Being that I focus on bio-identical hormones in my office, I make sure that  not only do the numbers come back within range but most importantly the ratio between all the hormones. The reason why I jumped a little deeper into hormones other than melatonin, is because when they out of balance, bed time becomes a stress as apposed to a healing cycle.

Finding the right melatonin supplement can be a challenge, so stick to a sublingual form. Tincture or powdered dissolving tablets will do the job. I usually recommend a slow release so that it helps you stay asleep. One tip I will leave you with, is to only take it for a month at a time or your brain will get lazy and rely on you to feed it. Take it for 30 days and then if you don’t feel any change then you’ll want to do a full stress profile test to see if your cortisol levels are high at night. If this is the case then that will need to be dealt with separately.

woman sleeping

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A Life-Changing Lesson For All

One of the most common epidemics infecting the world, particularly the developed world, is known as Taking Life For Granted. Sadly, it often requires one to experience tragedy, either directly or indirectly in order to pay more attention to, and show more gratitude for not only the precious breaths we breathe, but all the wonder that this universe has to offer.

So if we compare this wondrous life to, say, a large flowing river, then our body is surely the vessel that helps us navigate the waters, moving us forward in exploration, and aiding us through constant challenges.

Now ask yourself “What would I do if the boat broke down? Or worse still, if the boat sank?”

While this analogy may not be perfect, hopefully you still get my drift (pun intended), in that how important our body is for daily function, and how easy it is to take it for granted, and not keep it well maintained.

However, no matter how well maintained one’s vessel is kept, misfortune can still cause malfunctions, such as debilitating disease like ALS, or worse yet, Spinal Cord damage due to serious injury.

This is the case for 22 year old Welsh International rugby player Owen Williams.

Owen is currently in hospital recovering from significant damage to his cervical vertebrae and spinal cord sustained while playing rugby for his Professional Club team the Cardiff Blues at a tournament in Singapore in July.

Owen Williams in hospital

While he is making positive progress, the full extent of his likely recovery is still unknown, and the support from family, fans, and fellow rugby players from all over the world has been “overwhelming”.  A charity has even been set up in his honor using the hashtag #StayStrongForOws to help raise awareness through social media.

Not knowing if he will ever regain full use of your limbs again is a terrifying thought, and can stir up a myriad of emotions. Even though Owen, being a professional athlete must already have a mental toughness and determined nature that helps him remain positive while recovering from injury, there must still be moments of worry and even panic as he resides in the unknown and contemplates his odds of a full recovery.

I know this, because I’ve experienced just that. I also broke my neck while playing rugby and was paralyzed from the neck down for a good amount of time before being transported to hospital for emergency surgery, ending my rugby career.

that was a fun day

With a lot of luck, a great surgeon, and some determination, I have made a near full recovery, and I expect the same fate for Owen. The ordeal has been a life changing experience for me, in that I learned very quickly how important my arms and legs were, when I was faced with the reality of never being able to use them again.

To this day I vividly remember the emotional rollercoaster of being momentarily paralyzed, which serves as a constant reminder to be grateful for a fully functional body, and to celebrate the fact by using it as much as possible and challenging its capabilities.

One way I like to do this, is whenever I come across an elevator or escalator with a nearby option to take the stairs, I will take the stairs. This is not only a way of displaying gratitude for my working limbs, but keeps me fit too.

escalators or stairs?

I urge you all to practice celebrating your body more by taking the easy option less. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Hike to places where cars can’t reach. Ride your bike to work instead of driving.

A further display of gratitude for your mobility could be in the form of volunteering for or donating to causes such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

The #StayStrongForOws campaign is selling wristbands for the cost of a Budweiser. This is a great way to remind yourself constantly to appreciate your health, while supporting a young star in the making as he fights to get back on his feet…literally.

StayStrongForOws wristband

For those of you who struggle to relate to the possibility of damaging your spinal cord while playing a professional contact sport, perhaps the story of James Gribble will inspire you. James set up The Puffin Magic Foundation after becoming a quadriplegic when he feinted and fell off a stool while waiting to go on a fishing trip in Africa.

James Gribble

Moral of the story? Make the most of the amazing vehicle that is your body. Challenge it to reach it’s full potential. You just never know when the privilege could be taken from you.

 

M

Former Rugby Star Turns From Blob to YOG

I had a smile like a split watermelon when I saw my old rugby team mate make a major life changing decision, and shed the weight that basically made him famous.

Matt Dunning try vs Argentina

I played with Matt Dunning at the NSW Waratahs from 2000-2002 (that’s me swimming in the number 13 jersey above) and he was certainly an anomaly. Despite his 125kg (275lbs) robust, yet slightly Mr Stay Puft type frame, he was one of the quickest, most skillful players in the forward pack.

Mr. Stay Puft

Not only was he a great player, but he was an entertainer. Nicknamed “Tucky” after Friar Tuck from Robin Hood, he was more like a cartoon character than a rugby player and he soon became a crowd favorite with his lovable personality and unlikely rugby playing ability. It was as if his body shape defined him and certainly set him apart from the rest, particularly in the eyes of the fans and media.

Matt Dunning wallaby training

Yet since retiring due to a career ending injury, his super-sized physique no longer served him the way it did during his Professional Rugby days. Furthermore, he was no longer carrying the same kind of muscle thanks to the lack of a rigorous daily training schedule in his heyday.

And now at 35, the commencement of his YOG years, he decided enough was enough.  Perhaps the YOG blog inspired him, perhaps not, but I’m sure it secretly did…either way, he found the strength to embark on a personal journey of self improvement and life enhancement. He decided to become the YOG he was destined to be.

Watch the following video and see his amazing transformation for yourself.

I asked Matt for some more information on how he achieved this amazing feat. His diet initially consisted of a combination of low calorie meal replacement drinks, meat and veg, and 4 cleanse days a month.

Matt Dunning diet

Matt admitted that he wasn’t always able to stick to the caloric guidelines, but a big part of his weight loss was the 4 cleanse days, as they “get rid of impurities and toxins from our bodies. We store fat to protect ourselves from these so getting rid of them allows us to shed more fat.”

He still maintains the 4 cleanse days, although he has increased his calorie intake to between 2000 and 2500 per day.

He said one of the hardest thing to do was giving up his beloved Diet Coke for the first 4 months. However when I asked if he gave up the booze he said “mate I drank like a fish for the first 5 months! Haven’t drunk for last 3 months. I’d already lost 36kgs of 41kgs when I gave the booze a break.”

He also said despite wanting to quit coffee, he still drinks it because he “enjoys the social side too much”.

matt dunning skinny

Matt at day 180 

This goes to show that a balance can be achieved between making sacrifices to achieve your weight loss goals, yet still enjoying yourself and the guilty pleasures in life.

Obviously his metamorphosis would not have been possible without exercise. Being an ex-pro athlete meant that Matt could devise himself a program which he knew would work for him and also have the ability to execute with proper form and discipline.

What’s surprising is that he didn’t start his training program until about the halfway mark, which looked something like the following:

dunning training program

So as you can see, this wasn’t a flash in the pan Hollywood quick fix regime, nor was it a socially crippling, soul crushing strictathon. Matt Dunning is essentially still Matt Dunning…just with a new wardrobe and cheekbones.

M

 

 

Tips on Avoiding Prostate Cancer

If you are man over the age of 30 you need to maintain a healthy prostate. However, these tips are for men and women, as inflammation is at the root of many of our health challenges!

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, and here are a few staggering statistics released by the American Cancer Society:

  • A quarter of a million new cases are expected this year.
  • About 30,000 men will die from prostate cancer alone this year
  • 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime

This is pretty bleak, but keep reading because a preventive system is vital to escape this terrible disease. I talk about the effects of acidity in the body and once again it is at the forefront in my opinion. Cancer does not grow in an oxygenated/alkaline environment there fore it is absolutely vital to constantly alkalize your system. A common denominator with prostate cancer patients if osteoporosis, which is when the bones break down and calcium gets released into the blood stream which creates arterial calcification and can promote prostate cancer cell growth.

At the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology, findings were released about natural compounds for prostate cancer. A 63% reduction in PSA (prostate specific antigen) numbers were shown with granate seed, broccoli, green tea and turmeric alone.

Here are some more foods to incorporate into your diet, not only to prevent cancer but for overall wellness for you too ladies:

Flaxseed – rich in fatty acids.

Boron – Men with the highest boron intake showed a 54% decrease in prostate cancer.

Vitamin D affects over 200 of our genes so it is vital whether naturally from sunlight – According to the New England Journal of Medicine; cancer is the accumulation in genes, which mean they occur over your lifespan. Vitamin affects over 200 of our genes so it is vital whether naturally from sunlight, through food or supplementation. A minimum of 2,000 and as much as 10,000 iu’s per day should be used for prevention.
Curcumin – It is the active ingredient in turmeric and is the top of the list when it comes to fighting inflammation. It also impairs cancer cells’ ability to respond to the negative effects of testosterone.

Coenzyme Q10 – You might know for heart health, but studies have shown it lengthen the survival of prostate cancer patients.

Avocados – their healthy fats and vitamin E are essential.

Lycopene – is a carotenoid found in tomatoes. In a compelling study, healthy men with high lycopene levels showed a 60% reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

Selenium – Only small amounts of this mineral are needed for its detoxing effects. Low selenium is common in men with an enlarged prostate.

Zinc – Only 15 milligrams daily are needed for prevention.

Milk thistle – a powerful antioxidant.

Saw palmetto – Saw palmetto is promoted for relieving some of the symptoms of BPH, which include difficult and frequent urination. Chemicals in saw palmetto berries called sterols are said to interfere with the ability of hormones such as testosterone to cause prostate cells to grow.

Resveratrol – Found in grapes and of course wine but don’t drink the whole bottle ;). In one study, resveratrol showed an 80% reduction in PSA numbers. It is also known to fight free radicals and inflammation.

Ginger – Another powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer cell proliferator.

Grapeseed extract – Showed a 62% reduction in prostate cancer risk. 100 milligrams daily can be used for prevention.

This article is not meant to heal, treat or cure your cancer. It is about prevention and it is highly recommended to have your PSA numbers checked annually.

B

 

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