The first health & fitness digest for 2016!

Happy New Year high performers!

It’s been a while since my last blog post! I really needed the break over the holidays to recharge the batteries!

Oh, and stay tuned for some major and exciting announcements coming your way in January, and which I guarantee will take your performance to the next level!

I obviously also kept up with my reading and research, and here are the most interesting bits and pieces I came across over the past few weeks.

Study reveals that the less children sleep the fatter they get

Those with young children should read this: an excellent study was conducted in Denmark to assess the impact of sleep on health of 8-11 year old children. The results were not surprising: the less sleep children got, the more body fat they gained, the higher their blood pressure was, and the more they ate overall. And remember: developing insulin resistance at a young age (clear sign of obesity) is virtually guaranteed to lead to a variety of serious health problems later in life, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Clear evidence that nuts reduce risk of mortality

I’ve always recommended the (moderate) consumption of raw nuts for general health. Various studies have also linked nuts to lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks. This latest metastudy involving more than 467,000 people led to clear and statistically significant conclusions: “we found that higher nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, total CVD, CVD mortality, total CHD, CHD mortality and sudden cardiac death.” My favorites would be walnuts and almonds, which I consume daily. I’ll occasionally eat brazil nuts, an excellent source of selenium (critical for thyroid function). Remember: always buy raw nuts fresh and keep them in the freezer or fridge as they can easily oxidize and cause more harm than good if left outside.

Dark chocolate will make you stronger on the bike!

As if I needed more excuses to enjoy my nightly ritual of organic dark chocolate! A new study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition revealed that chronic ingestion of dark chocolate by trained cyclists led to improvements across the board, including: higher VO2max, short TT performance, reduced oxygen cost at moderate intensity (dark chocolate for Ironman??), higher gas exchange threshold (better metabolic / fat-burning efficiency). Aim for a minimum of 75% dark chocolate, chose the ones with the lowest sugar content, and ideally chose organic (cacao beans are some of the most highly sprayed crops).

Antidepressants during pregnancy significantly increase risk of child autism

I’ve always hated anti-depressants, mainly because most studies indicate that they actually don’t work: they “numb the pain” but leave people with no reason to live, which is why a significant number of people on anti-depressants end up committing suicide “calmly and without much thought”. New evidence published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that mothers who use anti-depressants while pregnant significantly increase the risk of autism for their unborn baby. There are many natural compounds which can help deal with depression, in addition to a number of psychological exercises. It is recommended that you reach out to a professional if you suffer from depression and exhaust all natural options before accepting a prescription for antidepressants.

If you want to get smarter, then focus on HIIT

I often advocate the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) as a necessary part of any training regime, whether you’re a long distance endurance athlete or someone just trying to get fit and lose weight. One of the major benefits of exercise is of course brain function: exercise increases blood circulation and nutrient delivery to the brain, leading to improved brain function and lower risks of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. dementia). A new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology revealed that HIIT leads to higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) when compared with steady-state cardio. Higher levels of BDNF means faster processing ability in the brain, improved learning and memory abilities, and improved health and longevity of neurons (brain cells). In addition, BDNF is found in higher concentrations in areas of the brain which control eating, drinking and bodyweight. By the way, another advantage of HIIT over steady-state cardio is that the latter causes much bigger hunger and cravings post-workout when compared to either strength training or HIIT.