MAXIMIZE YOUR FITNESS NOW WITH BEN'S FREE IPHONE & ANDROID PHONE APP  HOOK ME UP!

Mint-Chocolate Water, Upper Lip Peppermint Sniffing, Peppermint Fat Bombs & More: How Peppermint Can Enhance Performance

peppermint

I’ve been on a bit of a mint kick lately.

For example, I put a few drops of peppermint essential oil in my daily SodaStream carbonated water that I make to keep my appetite satiated between meals. Occasionally, if I really want to feel like I’m “drinking Christmas”, I’ll throw in a few drops of chocolate stevia to make mint-chocolate water. I don’t know why this makes me feel like it’s Christmas-time, but it just does. So there.

But there are other ways I’ve been using mint too.

For example, because of research that you’re going to learn about a bit later in this article, I’ve been dabbing a little peppermint essential oil on my upper lip prior to hard workouts, and also when I need a “wake-me-up” boost of focus while working on books, articles, etc.

And then of course, there’s my peppermint fat bomb, which also happens to go quite well with chocolate flavored substances. To make this, I blend or vigorously stir 4 ounces of BPA-free full fat coconut milk with a few drops of peppermint essential oil, a tablespoon of alkali-free dark chocolate powder and a few chunks of very dark, dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate. I then throw this in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes and…voila! A healthy and extremely satiating peppermint fat bomb.

You’re going to learn why I like peppermint so much in today’s article, written by guest author and naturopathic physician Sarah LoBisco, who you may recognize from the podcast episode “Everything You Need To Know About Essential Oils For Fat Loss, Performance, Smart Drugs, Scar Healing, Detoxing And More.

 

———————————–

Peppermint 101

There are over 25 species in the genus “mentha“, some existing as pure species, some existing as hybrid species, but by far the most important, useful and popular being peppermint, which is a cross between water mint (M. aquatica ) and spearmint (M. spicata). The majority of scientifically validated mint studies to date have focused specifically on this peppermint version of herb.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a perennial herb that grows in moist, temperate areas and blooms from July through August.1 The plant grows about 2-3 feet tall and sprouts tiny purple flowers. It is native to Europe and Asia, though some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia. Today, peppermint has been nationalized to much of Europe and North America.

Peppermint is one of the most popularly consumed single ingredients used in herbal teas, which are brewed from the peppermint plant leaves. The leaves contain the phenolic constituents of rosmarinic acid and several flavonoids, including eriocitrin, luteolin and hesperidin. The essential oil of peppermint has been used in traditional medicines3 as well and, commercially, the oil of peppermint is used as a fragrant component in personal care items such as soaps and cosmetics.Peppermint oil consists of many components, including menthol menthone, menthyl acetate, menthofuran 1,8 cineol and pulegone. These compounds act in synergism to give peppermint a wide array of applications,3 and it is even used quite widely as a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals and the food industry.1

The therapeutic use of peppermint, however, far surpasses its enticing minty smell and has many impressive benefits, perhaps the most well-known being peppermint’s long history of supporting the digestive system.1-2

——————————–

Digestive Health

If you’ve ever sucked on peppermint when you’ve had a stomachache, drank peppermint tea for bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, or even sniffed peppermint oil or dabbed it on your upper lip to control nausea, morning sickness or motion sickness, then you were on the right track.

Peppermint oil has been proven in several randomized trials to improve symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome.4-9 A 2005 literature review of 16 different trials concluded that peppermint oil may be a first choice option “in IBS patients with non-serious constipation or diarrhea to alleviate general symptoms and to improve quality of life.” 9

Peppermint oil also has been studied and found to be supportive for other digestive issues such as esophageal spasms, 10-12 assisting with stomach emptying, 13 general digestive discomfort in adults and infants, 14-15 and feelings of queasiness.16-17

 A review article in Phytotherapy Research also supported the use of peppermint leaves in tablet or encapsulated form to improve gastrointestinal symptoms as compared to placebo.

——————————

Other Uses for Peppermint & Menthol

In addition to enhancing cognitive focus during your workout, peppermint oil may also help open your lungs or reduce nasal congestion pre-workout (or at any other time you want to breathe better during the day) and has been shown to be helpful in supporting the respiratory system. 22-23  Rats with nasal symptoms were given peppermint leaves and stems and fractions containing luteoin-7-O-rutinoside, a flavonoid, seemed to suppress sneezing of these rodents.

Peppermint oil has been shown to support the immune system and has been studied for in vitro activity of inhibition of unwanted critters. 18-21

If you’re traveling to an area affected by radiation, such as Japan or sections of the Pacific ocean, you may want to bring along some peppermint. Several animal studies have shown positive results using mint for protection against radiation. 24-25 In an in vivo study, mice were given either double distilled water or leaf extract of M. piperita orally for three days. Following their final dose, they were exposed to 8 Gy of gamma radiation. Animals pretreated with the leaf extract of peppermint and exposed to 8.0 Gy gamma radiation exhibited a significant increase in the activities of the powerful antioxidant glutathione.

This led the authors to conclude, “The results of the present investigation suggest the antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of leaf extract of M. piperita are the likely mechanism of radiation protection.”

But the free radical scavenging and antioxidant benefits of peppermint don’t stop with protecting you from radiation. An in vitro comparison study to assess the phenolic and antioxidant scavenging power of peppermint preparations evaluated the following: light petroleum (PE), dichloromethane (CH2Cl2), acetonitrile (ACN), ethyl acetate (EtOAc), methanol (MeOH), n-butanol and water (H2O) extracts. The EtOAc, ACN and H2O-soluble peppermint extracts demonstrated the most potent iron(III) reductive and hydroxyl free radical scavenging properties. The PE, MeOH and H2O peppermint extracts demonstrated moderate iron(II) chelating activity.

And here’s an FYI for you guys out there: another study on the antioxidant capacity of peppermint is entitled, “Protection against radiation-induced testicular damage in Swiss albino mice by Mentha piperita.” Peppermint also plays a potential role in prostate cell health, with an in vitro trial supporting menthol’s role in modulating prostate cell health via a complex mechanism with the active form of vitamin D. 30

Women: don’t feel left out. A 5 day study with 21 women experiencing hirsutism, which is an abnormal growth of hair on a person’s face and body, especially on a women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), demonstrated positive hormonal benefits after ingesting steeped spearmint tea. The women were assigned to consume the tea twice a day during their follicular phase of their menstrual cycle. The authors reported a significant decrease in free testosterone and increase in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol with no significant decreases in total testosterone or dehydroepiandrostenedione sulphate (DHEA-S) levels.

There’s a reason peppermint is in your toothpaste or toothpowder too. Peppermint oil may help with dental health, plaque 26 and decreasing dental biofilms.27

Then there’s one of my favorite aspects of peppermint for hard-charging folks who need to think better or want to exercise harder: the cognitive support and smart-drug like benefits. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over design study with 32 healthy subjects found that a “combination of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol increased cognitive performance and had a muscle-relaxing and mentally relaxing effect…” 28

Another study with 44 participants showed benefits of the aroma of peppermint in relationship to memory tests and alertness.29 In a cross-over study with 133 individuals who were assigned to chew mint or fruit gum, researchers noted that:

“Chewing gum was associated with greater alertness and a more positive mood. Reaction times were quicker in the gum condition, and this effect became bigger as the task became more difficult. Chewing gum also improved selective and sustained attention. Heart rate and cortisol levels were higher when chewing which confirms the alerting effect of chewing gum.”  

Note: stay away from aspartame in gum – I know that this B-Fresh Vitamin B-enriched xylitol peppermint gum brand is the stuff Ben Greenfield chews.

—————————

Can Peppermint Oil Damage Your Gut?

American guts are in trouble and athletes especially can be more prone to issues if they aren’t modulating the excessive inflammation and cortisol that can result from strenuous training. This leads many to reach for quick relief such as acid reflux medication and proton pump inhibitors. According to Medscape, Nexium earned $15,298,228 for its stock holders, giving it fourth place for top pharmaceutical sales during April 2014-May 2015. You know that’s bad news if you read the BenGreenfieldFitness article “Why Kill Your Stomach Acid”.

Due to all the powers of peppermint, you may be wondering about the safety of using peppermint oil for digestion compared to these dangerous heartburn medications. In this article, I discuss the 3 major factors involved in common sense use of peppermint oil and I take a critical look at toxicity reports. The bottom line is this: essential oils have a very safe track record and the herb peppermint, when used as directed, has very few side effects as well.

However, if you are taking medications such as heartburn medications for digestive distress, there is a potential of their interaction with peppermint oil, due to peppermint’s ability to modulate motility of the digestive tract in vitro and in vivo. Drugs that decrease stomach pH, such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors, could potentially cause enteric coated capsules of peppermint to dissolve earlier (the enteric coating is used in capsules to prevent premature absorption in the stomach).

The Natural Standard Database also reports a potential peppermint interaction with medications that metabolize through a specific liver enzymatic pathway. However, this is also more theoretical evidence and has not been demonstrated in humans. 36-38

Ultimately, if you’re avoiding things like heartburn medications, you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to using peppermint oil for digestion. Hopefully, you’ve been following Ben’s advice about how to naturally heal your gut with diet and supplements and don’t need to worry about this. Rather, you can consider peppermint oil as a potent tool to put in your water in order to enhance your health and support digestive wellness.

—————————

The Exercise-Boosting Power of Peppermint

Peppermint oil has also been studied for its benefits in athletic performance.31-33 One recent study showed an immediate effect of peppermint oil on athletic performance.

The study included 30 healthy male university students randomly divided into an experimental group of oral administration of peppermint oil (50 ul) and a control group. The study aimed to determine if ingestion of peppermint oil modulated physiological parameters and exercise performance after 5 minutes and 1 hour. The authors measured maximum isometric grip force, vertical and long jumps, spirometric parameters, visual and audio reaction times, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathe rate. The results revealed significant improvement in all of the variables following peppermint essential oil consumption. Specifically, the authors reported:

“Experimental group compared with control group showed an incremental and a significant increase in the grip force (36.1%), standing vertical jump (7.0%), and standing long jump (6.4%). Data obtained from the experimental group after five minutes exhibited a significant increase in the forced vital capacity in first second (FVC1)(35.1%), peak inspiratory flow rate (PIF) (66.4%), and peak expiratory flow rate (PEF) (65.1%), whereas after one hour, only PIF shown a significant increase as compare with the baseline and control group. At both times, visual and audio reaction times were significantly decreased. Physiological parameters were also significantly improved after five minutes. A considerable enhancement in the grip force, spirometry, and other parameters were the important findings of this study.”

The researchers explained that the improvements in the spirometric measurements (FVC1, PEF, and PIF) could relate to the effects of peppermint on bronchial smooth muscle.31

Another study examined the response of 12 male students after 10 days of supplementation with peppermint oil (.05ml) in water. The trial supported the effectiveness of peppermint essential oil on the exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate in the young male students. The authors also concluded that, “Relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increase in the ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, and decrease in the blood lactate level are the most plausible explanations.” (1 ounce is 2 TBSP or 30 ml) 32

Finally, a third study in 2001 demonstrated that the impact of peppermint odor during exercise in 40 adults improved running speed, hand-grip strength, and number of push-ups verses the non-odor exposed control subjects.33

In another interesting study, menthol’s cooling effect was assessed by evaluating cycling performance in 12 males in a tropical climate. The athletes “drank 190 mL of either aromatized (i.e., with 0.5 mL of menthol (5 gr/L)) or a non-aromatized beverage (neutral temperature: 23°C±0.1°C, cold: 3°C±0.1°C, or ice-slush: 1°C±0.7°C)…” They concluded, “Cold water or ice-slush with menthol aroma seems to be the most effective beverage for endurance exercise in a tropical climate.” 34

Some people ask me for the references behind using peppermint to cool one down when the body is too hot. There is actually some basic science behind this. Specifically, one major active constituent of peppermint is menthol, and menthol directly effects your thermoreceptors via something called “TRPM8″. Think “icy hot!”

Check out the full menthol section of this study if you want to geek out and explore the fascinating world of thermoreceptors. This may explain why some people report a relief in discomfort with peppermint oil application, via the “gate-control theory.” 35

———————————–

Summary (a final word from Ben)

I’m grateful that Dr. Lobisco helped me dig into the peppermint research that you’ve discovered above, because mint really is one of my favorite natural compounds that I use every day.

But I don’t overdo peppermint.

I simply use it a few times per day in water, in gum, in my mint-fat bomb, or on my upper lip, but I’m not constantly chomping on peppermint gum, the mint-fat bomb isn’t a nightly ritual and it’s only one bottle of peppermint water that I drink each day. Just like anything (and as referenced in this recent fascinating peppermint/athletic performance video at the NutritionFacts website), you can have too much of a good thing. Frankly, in the case of peppermint, too much of it can lower libido.

So yeah, don’t smear peppermint all over your body on date night.

But if you do want to use peppermint, I’d recommend these thre sources:

Peppermint essential oil

B-Fresh Vitamin B-enriched xylitol peppermint gum

Organic heirloom peppermint seeds for your garden (mint is extremely easy to grow)

And that’s it! Leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and either Dr. Lobisco or I will reply. Happy mint-sniffing.

———————————–

References:

  1. Natural Standard Database. Peppermint Oil. (Professional Database-Subscription Required).
  2. Peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center.Umm.edu.
  3. McKay, D. L. and Blumberg, J. B. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother.Res 2006;20(8):619-633.
  4. M S Alam, P K Roy, A R Miah, S H Mollick, M R Khan, M C Mahmud, S Khatun. Efficacy of Peppermint Oil in Diarrhea Predominant IBS – A Double Blind Randomized Placebo – Controlled Study. Mymensingh Med J. 2013 Jan ;22(1):27-30. PMID: 23416804
  5. Cappello, M Spezzaferro, L Grossi, L Manzoli, L Marzio. Peppermint oil (Mintoil) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Dig Liver Dis. 2007 Jun;39(6):530-6. Epub 2007 Apr 8. PMID: 17420159
  6. H G Grigoleit, P Grigoleit. Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome. Phytomedicine. 2005 Aug;12(8):601-6. PMID: 16121521
  7. R M Kline, J J Kline, Di Palma J, G J Barbero. Enteric-coated, pH-dependent peppermint oil capsules for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in children. J Pediatr. 2001 Jan;138(1):125-8. PMID: 11148527
  8. H Liu, G H Chen, H Z Yeh, C K Huang, S K Poon. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol. 1997 Dec;32(6):765-8. PMID: 9430014
  9. Mayo Clinic. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. http://www.webmd.com/ibs/features/irritable_bowel_syndrome?page=2
  10. Pimentel M1, Bonorris GG, Chow EJ, Lin HC. Peppermint oil improves the manometric findings in diffuse esophageal spasm. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2001 Jul;33(1):27-31. PMID:11418786
  11. M J Sparks, P O’Sullivan, A A Herrington, S K Morcos. Does peppermint oil relieve spasm during barium enema? Br J Radiol. 1995 Aug;68(812):841-3. PMID: 7551780
  12. T Asao, H Kuwano, M Ide, I Hirayama, J-I Nakamura, K-I Fujita, R Horiuti. Spasmolytic effect of peppermint oil in barium during double-contrast barium enema compared with Buscopan. Clin Radiol. 2003 Apr;58(4):301-5. PMID: 12662951
  13. Masahiko Inamori, Tomoyuki Akiyama, Keiko Akimoto, Koji Fujita, Hirokazu Takahashi, Masato Yoneda, Yasunobu Abe, Kensuke Kubota, Satoru Saito, Norio Ueno, Atsushi Nakajima. Early effects of peppermint oil on gastric emptying: a crossover study using a continuous real-time 13C breath test (BreathID system). J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul;42(7):539-42. Epub 2007 Jul 25. PMID: 17653649
  14. B May, S Köhler, B Schneider. Efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil in patients suffering from functional dyspepsia. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Dec;14(12):1671-7. PMID: 11121917
  15. João Guilherme Bezerra Alves, Rita de Cássia Coelho Moraes de Brito, Telma Samila Cavalcanti. Effectiveness of Mentha piperita in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Crossover Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012 ;2012:981352. Epub 2012 Jul 12. PMID: 22844342
  16. Anderson, L., Gross, J. (2004). Aromatherapy with peppermint, isopropyl alcohol, or placebo is equally effective in relieving postoperative nausea. Journal of Peri-Anesthesia Nursing, 19, (1), 29-35.
  17. Z Tayarani-Najaran, E Talasaz-Firoozi, R Nasiri, N Jalali, Mk Hassanzadeh. Antiemetic activity of volatile oil from Mentha spicata and Mentha× piperita in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Ecancermedicalscience. 2013 ;7:290. Epub 2013 Jan 31. PMID: 23390455
  18. Silke Nolkemper, Jürgen Reichling, Florian C Stintzing, Reinhold Carle, Paul Schnitzler. Antiviral effect of aqueous extracts from species of the Lamiaceae family against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Planta Med. 2006 Dec;72(15):1378-82. Epub 2006 Nov 7. PMID: 17091431
  19. A Schuhmacher, J Reichling, P Schnitzler. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(6-7):504-10. PMID: 13678235
  20. Liang, R. et al. Physical and Antimicrobial Properties of Peppermint Oil Nanoemulsion. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2012, 60 (30), pp 7548–7555. DOI: 10.1021/jf301129k
  21. Peppermint, cinnamon bark and lavender essential oils may be useful as antibiotic resistance modifying agents. Phytomedicine. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23537749
  22. T Inoue, Y Sugimoto, H Masuda, C Kamei. Effects of peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) extracts on experimental allergic rhinitis in rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Jan;24(1):92-5. PMID: 11201253
  23. V A Shkurupi?, O A Odintsova, N V Kazarinova, K G Tkrachenko. [Use of essential oil of peppermint (Mentha piperita) in the complex treatment of patients with infiltrative pulmonary tuberculosis]. Virol J. 2009 Jan 20;6:8. PMID: 17128800
  24. Hanaa A Hassan, Hani S Hafez, Mona S Goda. Mentha piperita as a pivotal neuro-protective agent against gamma irradiation induced DNA fragmentation and apoptosis : Mentha extract as a neuroprotective against gamma irradiation. Cytotechnology. 2013 Jan ;65(1):145-56. Epub 2012 Sep 21. PMID: 23011739
  25. Ravindra M Samarth, Meenakshi Samarth. Protection against radiation-induced testicular damage in Swiss albino mice by Mentha piperita (Linn.). Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2009 Apr;104(4):329-34. PMID: 19320637
  26. Shojaedin Shayegh, Iraj Rasooli, Massoud Taghizadeh, Shakiba Darvish Alipoor Astaneh. Phytotherapeutic inhibition of supragingival dental plaque. Nat Prod Res. 2008 Mar 20;22(5):428-39. PMID: 18404563
  27. Iraj Rasooli, Shojaedin Shayegh, Massoud Taghizadeh, Shakiba Darvish Alipoor Astaneh. Phytotherapeutic prevention of dental biofilm formation. Phytother Res. 2008 Sep;22(9):1162-7. PMID: 18729251
  28. Göbel H, Schmidt G, Soyka D. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia. 1994 Jun;14(3):228-34; discussion 182.
  29. Mark Moss, Steven Hewitt, Lucy Moss, Keith Wesnes. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):53-62. PMID: 18041606
  30. Eun-Jung Park, Su-Hwa Kim, Byung-Joo Kim, Sung-Young Kim, Insuk So, Ju-Hong Jeon. Menthol Enhances an Antiproliferative Activity of 1alpha,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D(3) in LNCaP Cells. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009 Mar;44(2):125-30. Epub 2009 Feb 28. PMID: 19308266
  31. Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2014;4(1):72-78.
  32. Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-15
  33. B Raudenbush, N Corley, W Eppich. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 2001. 23: 156-160.
  34. Riera F, Trong TT, Sinnapah S, Hue O. Physical and Perceptual Cooling with Beverages to Increase Cycle Performance in a Tropical Climate. Hayashi N, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(8):e103718. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103718.
  35. Simon J Davies, Louise M Harding, Andrew P Baranowski. A novel treatment of postherpetic neuralgia using peppermint oil. Clin J Pain. 2002 May-Jun;18(3):200-2 PMID: 12048423
  36. Dresser GK1, Wacher V, Wong S, Wong HT, Bailey DG. Evaluation of peppermint oil and ascorbyl palmitate as inhibitors of cytochrome P4503A4 activity in vitro and in vivo. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Sep;72(3):247-55.
  37. Natural Standard Database. Peppermint Oil. (Professional Database-Subscription Required).
  38. Goerg KJ, Spilker TH. Effect of peppermint oil and caraway oil on gastrointestinal motility in healthy volunteers: a pharmacodynamic study using simultaneous determination of gastric and gall-bladder emptying and orocaecal transit time. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003; 17: 445–451.

 

How To Biohack Your Green Smoothie (And Can High Speed Blenders Really Damage Your Food?)

B all four

Last week, I released the podcast episode with Dr. Richard Aiken entitled “How Blenders Can Destroy Food, Why I Eat 20-25 Servings Of Vegetables Each Day, The Vegan-Paleo Debate & Much More

During the show, Dr. Aiken explained the potentially damaging effects of high-speed blending on food and referenced a recent experiment he performed on bananas.

Today, Dr. Aiken was kind enough to send me the complete results of that experiment, published in their full, scientifically nerdy details below. Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below!

—————————————-

How High Speed Blenders Affect Your Food

There has been some concern as to the effect of high-speed mechanical blending on the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables.  The main concern is that rupture of the cell walls and organelles within the plant cell releases nutrients, but also  vigorously exposes them to atmospheric oxygen with potentially damaging or nutrient deactivating oxidation reactions.

Before jumping into the experiment that I conducted to determine whether this oxidation actually takes place, it’s important to understand exactly how most popular high-speed mechanical blenders work.

There are two primary physical processes that work to mechanically break down the cell wall of plants:

1) shear forces

2) cavitation

Shear forces are created by the high-speed impact of the food with the blender blades.  This includes direct cutting by the blade itself as well as shearing by application of high kinetic energy of the particulate matter moving through surrounding medium and striking other particles and the container.

Cavitation is caused by the Bernoulli effect – the same principle behind air flight – planes and helicopters and why boats can sail faster against the wind than with the wind.  The speed of the blades in fluid cause a decrease in pressure above the blades equal to the vapor pressure of the fluid, similar to boiling. Bubbles form on the blades (assuming a fluid component), are flung away and implode, causing very powerful shockwaves that further break down even the smallest of remaining particles.

———————————-

The Importance Of Polyphenoloxidases (PPO)

The enzymes in the class Polyphenoloxidases (PPO) appear to reside in the plastids of all plants and are released when the plastid cell membrane is disrupted. PPO is thought to play an important role in the resistance of plants to microbial and viral infections and to adverse climatic conditions.

Phenolic compounds are responsible for the color of many plants and impart taste and flavor.  They are important antioxidants. In the presence of oxygen from air, the enzyme PPO catalyzes the first steps in the biochemical conversion of phenolics to produce quinones, which undergo further polymerization to yield dark, insoluble polymers referred to as melanin.

This is the same melanin that determines darkness of human skin and hair. In plants, melanin forms barriers and has antimicrobial properties that prevent the spread of infection in plant tissues. Note that enzymatic browning is considered desirable for the color and taste of tea, coffee and chocolate.

There are many phenolic (or polyphenolic) compounds in fruits and vegetables. Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases [1].

Polyphenols can be divided into many different subcategories, such as anthocyans  and flavonoids. Flavonoids are formed in plants from the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Tyrosine also synthesizes DOPA (3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) that forms dopamine.

Many plants synthesize dopamine to varying degrees. The highest concentrations have been observed in bananas, levels of 40 to 50 parts per million by weight.

Acidity, temperature, and chemicals can all affect PPO activity. When it comes to acidity, the optimum pH for PPO activity has been shown to be 7 (dopamine substrate). However, the enzyme displays high activity between pH 6.5–7.5 and the activity rapidly decreases at more acidic pH values [2].

Temperature also affects PPO. Heating at 60 degrees for 30 minutes reduces the enzymatic activity by 50%; heating at 90 degrees C completely destroys the enzyme.  The optimum temperature for maximum activity is 30 degrees C (86 degrees F).

Finally, some chemicals affect PPO. It has been shown that complete inhibition of PPO activity is found with as low as 0.8 mM ascorbic acid [3].  Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, acts as an antioxidant because it reduces the initial quinone formed by the enzyme to the original diphenol.

Citric acid also can inhibit PPO activity, although not as strongly as ascorbic acid [4]. Citric acid exists in much greater than trace amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably citrus fruits.  Lemons and limes have particularly high concentrations of the acid; it can constitute as much as 8% of the dry weight of these fruits. The concentrations of citric acid in citrus fruits range from 0.005 mol/L for oranges and grapefruits to 0.30 mol/L in lemons and limes [5].

———————————

The Banana Blending Experiment

Organic bananas (PLU-94011) at ripening stage 5 (yellow peel with green tip) were used for this study. Dopamine has been reported as the major natural occurring substrate in banana pulp and the fastest and most important reactant in the production of melanin (darkening) [6]. PPO activity was determined by visualization of browning on a scale 0 – 5, where 5 is darkest noted and 0 is no noted darkening.

Direct blending high-speed one minute

The first trial involved blending three bananas directly in a Vitamix blender, first at slower speeds, then when mixed, at high speeds for 60 seconds. A significant vortex formed.

The results are shown below.

Note this picture was taken within 15 seconds of the end of the blending.  Already a browning is seen.  I will assign a darkness scale of 4 to this, where 5 is the darkest of any of the trials at prolonged time scales.

B first high speed

Blending with water shield low-speed short time

The next trial used two bananas with a water shield (room temperature).  It was attempted to keep the bananas under water during the blending and the vortex was mechanically disturbed. The mixture was blended for about 30 seconds on an intermediate to low setting.

The result, just after blending, is shown below on the left, compared to the first trial, now after about 15 minutes.

B first and second

I shall assign a darkening scale of 2 to this mixture.

After about a half hour, the two trials have the following appearance.

B first and second later

The first trial remains at a score of 4 while the second trial has darkened to a 3.

High-speed blending at cold temperature and with lime juice

The juice of a single lime was added to ice cold water. Lime was chosen as the pH of lime juice is quite low (2.0 – 2.4) and the ascorbic acid content is  high. Bananas were then introduced. The mixture was then blended at high speed for about 60 seconds.  The result, appearing on the far left in the picture below indicates a “0” on the darkness scale.

B all three

The first trial is in the middle and has reached a score of “5”, while trial 2 is a “4” after about an hour and a half.

Further high-speed blending with ice water and lime

The last trial was the same as the third except the mixture was further subjected to an additional 90 seconds of high speed blending (for a total of 150 seconds).  This trial appears second from the left in the picture below.  The third trial has now begun to separate after about a half hour but there is negligible browning.

B all four

Taste and flavor

Trial #1’s taste was bland; also a scum formed on the top of the glass.  Trial #2 tasted much better initially but lost taste with time.

Trials #3 and #4 were far superior – strong banana taste but the citrus was evident and tangy.  This remained the case after several hours.

The browning (oxidation) results are summarized on the table below:

Elapsed time after blending, minutes 0 30 90
Trial type                 Darkening score
1. high-speed blending, 60 sec 4 4 5
2. low-speed blending under water, 20 sec 2 3 4
3. high-speed cold water blending with lime, 60 sec 0 0 1
4. prolonged high-speed blending with lime, 150 sec 0 0 1

————————————

Conclusions & Practical Takeaways

There is a significant amount of oxidation that occurs while blending bananas.  The oxidation reaction is slowed somewhat by blending at slower speeds, but even then significant oxidation occurs. Reduction of the temperature, an increase in acidity and particularly the chemical influence of ascorbic acid apparently stops the catalysis of DOPA (dopamine) by PPO and therefore its oxidation.

Although this experiment was specifically performed on a fruit with the major phenolic component dopamine, the results could probably be extended to other phenolic-containing plants.

So I recommend that to minimize oxidation and damage to plant nutrients that prior to blending your plants (such as you might do when making a green smoothie), that A) you pre-blend and use as your blending “liquid” a cold water solution containing a fruit with a high ascorbic acid content and low pH (e.g. a lemon, orange or lime) B) you then blend your plants in this solution at a high speed and C) don’t worry much about the time spent blending if you use this approach (e.g. not much difference between 60s and 150s in terms of oxidation).

—————————————-

Final Note From Ben

So, based on this information, am I going to change the way I make my morning big-ass green smoothie (recipe here)?

You betcha.

And it’s quite simple. What I’ll do as the very first step prior to tossing my smoothie materials into my blender is to use that same blender to blend about 4oz of cold water mixed with the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime. That’s it. Then I’ll go about making my smoothie as usual, and simply use that cold water + lemon/lime blend as my liquid medium for making my smoothie.

And a big thanks to Dr. Richard Aiken for sacrificing his bananas to make us all healthier. Leave your questions and comments below, and let me know if you too plan on altering your smoothie preparation process.

—————————————-

References

[1] Pandey, K. B., and Rizvi, S. I., (November 2009), Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease, Oxid Med Cell Longev 2(5), 270–278.

[2] Chaisakdanugull, C., and Theerakulkait, C. (2009) Partial purification and characterization of banana[Musa (AAA Group) ‘Gros Michel’] polyphenol oxidase, International J of Food Science and Technology 44, 840-846

[3] U ̈ mit U ̈ nal, M. (2007). Properties of polyphenol oxidase from Anamur banana (Musa cavendishii). Food Chemistry, 100, 909–913.

[4] Purification and characterization of polyphenol oxidase from banana (Musa sapientum L.) pulp.

  1. P. Yang, S. Fujita, M. Ashrafuzzaman, N. Nakamura, N. Hayashi

J Agric Food Chem. 2000 July; 48(7): 2732–2735.

[5] Penniston KL, Nakada SY, Holmes RP, Assimos DG; Nakada; Holmes; Assimos (2008). “Quantitative Assessment of Citric Acid in Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Commercially-Available Fruit Juice Products” . Journal of Endourology 22 (3): 567–570.

[6] Palmer, J. K. Banana polyphenol oxidase: Preparation and properties. Plant Physiol. 1963, 38, 508-513.

How Gluten-Free Beer Works & How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap.

Omission Beer

Mmm…beer.

I drank crap loads of the stuff in college. And in this case, I literally do mean crap loads because the morning after a night of partaking in frothy, hoppy brew, I could easily decommission any bathroom in sight.

Of course, I always chalked the gas, bloating and other digestive distress that ensued from beer consumption to lack of sleep, a hard night of partying, and possibly the enormous post-midnight pizzas or burritos that I inevitably consumed  after the drinking was done.

But then, post-college, the problems with beer continued, even in the absence of beer-induced debauchery. 

For example, I found that even a normal, sane pint of beer consumed at a backyard barbecue could easily set off heartburn, or a bit of gas, or indigestion, or simply a post-drinking fuzzy head or urge to nap. Sure, a quality microbrew tasted oh-so-good, but still seemed to still set off some kind of gastric or nervous system dysfunction.

So for years, and until quite recently, I simply quit beer. 

And this was frustrating, because, as you learned in the recent podcast in which I discussed “The Effects Of Beer On Hydration“, a cold brew after a hot summer’s workout ranks right up there with burgers, sweet potato fries and watermelon on my summer cravings list.

What exactly is it about beer that can leave you feeling less than stellar, especially in the brain or gut department? You’re about to discover the answer, and you’re also going to learn how gluten-free beer works and why you may want to consider trying gluten-free beer, even if you don’t have full-blown celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

————————-

The Problem With Beer

Let’s start here: in the podcast “8 Scary Beers You Should Stop Drinking Now“, I introduce you to all the hidden assailants in the average cheapo brew, from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Bud Light. In that podcast, you learn about everything from BPA to high fructose corn syrup to GMO ingredients to a host of other hormonal disruptors and potential carcinogens in beer.

So let’s now operate on the assumption that you’ve committed to drinking high quality microbrews made from holistic ingredients without any of the frankenfuel ingredients I discussed in that episode. In other words, you’re turned into a full-fledged beer snob, or at least you like to think that you make the healthy choices when it comes to beer.

But there’s still one glaring and damaging component of beer that even the good stuff contains…

…gluten.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know by now that gluten can be found in many common cereal grains, such as barley and wheat. Even in small quantities, glutens from barley and wheat (specifically the glycoproteins “hordein” and “gliadin”, which do indeed sound like tiny little fart-inducing demons) can trigger serious gut inflammation in those who suffer from celiac disease, and in people who don’t suffer from celiac disease but are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, these same proteins can cause brief bouts of everything from constipation to bloating to brain fog to sleepiness.

Now of course, if you are a savvy, modern, somewhat nutritionally informed beer enthusiast who has read articles like this recent one in the New York Times entitled “The Myth Of Big Bad Gluten“, then you would probably argue the levels of gluten in beer are really only a concern for those with diagnosed celiac disease, and that for the rest of us, gluten intolerance is either all “in our head”, it’s simply following the latest food craze, or that any gut discomfort is not induced not by gluten, but by other issues such as leaky gut syndrome, the consumption of fermented foods that often accompany gluten, or simply excess carbohydrates.

And while I’ll admit that the gluten-free craze is absolutely blown out of proportion, especially with the gluten-free label getting slapped onto everything from water to licorice, if you think that gluten intolerance is really only an issue for those who have celiac disease, you’d be wrong.

For example, Dr. William Davis, author of the book “Wheat Belly” and a previous podcast guest, had this to say in response to the recent New York Times article suggesting that gluten intolerance is all in our heads:

“There are plenty of other components of wheat and grains for which we have no adaptations. What about tolerance to those phytates in the other 90% of people who continue to have iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium absorption blocked? What about tolerance for the people who are susceptible to the mind and emotional effects of the gliadin protein that cause paranoia in schizophrenics, mania in people with bipolar illness, behavioral outbursts and abbreviated attention spans in kids with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder, or 24-hour-a-day food obsessions in people with bulimia and binge eating disorder? What about adaptation to the central nervous system damage inflicted by the gliadin protein that is responsible for deterioration of the cerebellum resulting in cerebellar ataxia, or peripheral neuropathy (50% of unexplained peripheral neuropathies have now been associated with wheat gliadin), or temporal lobe calcification that results in “absence” seizures, or the recently described “gluten encephalathy,” i..e, dementia from wheat? How about majority of people who, regardless of number of AMY1 genes, still experience high blood sugars from wheat and grain consumption? How about the direct gastrointestinal toxicity of wheat germ agglutinin and the endocrine disruptive and inflammatory effects it exerts when absorbed in microgram quantities? What about adaptation to common wheat and grain allergies manifested as skin rashes, asthma, and gastrointestinal distress?”

Geez.

Allow me to translate that for you. Basically, what Dr. Davis is saying is that even if gluten doesn’t cause you to blow diarrhea out your butt in the bathroom, and even if it has absolutely no effects on your gut whatsoever, it can still wreak havoc on your nervous system, your brain and your ability to absorb precious vitamins, nutrients and minerals from your food.

Yeah, but how much gluten is actually in beer? Isn’t it only present in trace amounts?

It is certainly true that beers brewed from cereals such as millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn, all of which do not contain gluten or contain very trace amounts of gluten, do not trigger an autoimmune response in celiacs. In most countries, this technically classifies these type of beers as gluten-free beers.

However, I’m not sure if you’ve partaken of these forms of beer made with non-traditional ingredients, but in my quest to discover some kind of beer that agrees with my tummy and my nervous system I certainly have. I distinctly remember sitting one day outdoors at a pub in the sunshine ordering lunch when my eyes settled upon a seemingly brilliant new addition to the menu: gluten-free beer. Eureka!

I ordered up a bottle, rolled up my sleeves and took a swig. To my dismay, I discovered that, similar to gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta and gluten-free baked goods, beer not made from traditional ingredients like wheat and barley tastes like…

…liquid cardboard.

And, again similar to other gluten-free foods, the gluten-free beers that actually do taste decent taste that way because they’ve had a bunch of post-fermentation sugars added such as honey and maltodextrin.

No, thank you. 

Of course, when it comes to the more traditional beers made with wheat and barley, the glycoprotein hordein found in barley and the glycoprotein gliadin found in wheat are types of gluten that can absolutely trigger nasty symptoms in sufferers of Celiac disease or in people who are insensitive to gluten.

And while many brewers will even argue that the hordein in barley, and even some of the gluten in wheat, is converted into non-harmful amino acids during the fermentation process, I certainly haven’t found that my gastrointestinal tract or post-beer bathroom experience or fuzzy post-drinking head agrees with that statement. This is likely because the barley hordeins in a barely-based beer may not actually be detected, but smaller pieces of these proteins, known as peptides, can remain and be toxic for celiacs.

Then there are “hybrids” like Corona. According to tests done by the Argentine Coeliac Association (ACELA) and the Swedish National Food Agency, Corona contains less than 20 ppm, making it legally gluten-free (FYI, around the world standards of “gluten free” vary – for example, in the European Union a beer with less than 20 parts per million gluten (20ppm) is “gluten free”, while in Australia only beers with no detectable gluten can be described as gluten free). This is because Corona, like most pale lagers, contains rice or corn in addition to the malted barley. But because it still has barely, it still has the gluten – just less of it. So  if you’re sensitive to gluten or you have Celiac disease, then these type of beers are no good.

Finally, in August of 2013, the U.S. FDA released updated regulations on gluten-free labeling. The FDA maintained the widely accepted global gluten-free standard (set by the CODEX Alimentarius commission in 1978) of less than 20ppm of gluten. But unfortunately, at the time of the ruling, they did not rule on fermented products like beer, and so as a result the “TTB”, which is the organization that governs malt beverage labels and generally follows the FDA, did not adopt any new labeling regulations. Basically this means that even a gluten-free beer may not only taste like crap, but may not even be gluten-free at all.

So for years, I have simply avoided beer. 

But recently, I have once again begun partaking of the occasional frosty brew. My refrigerator is actually now full of gluten-free beer. In the same way that I delved into a healthy alternative to wine in my article “Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink“, I’ve now discovered that there actually is a way to drink gluten-free beer that doesn’t taste like…well, the term I’m about to use below.

————————-

How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap

Yeah, the title of this section kind of sums it up: how do you actually get rid of the gluten in beer without making beer taste like crap, horse piss, cardboard or any of the other affectionate terms often used to describe the taste of gluten-free beer?

To make a gluten-free beer that tastes good, you cannot, as I mentioned earlier, start with bland, tasteless ingredients like tapioca, rice and corn. Instead, you have to begin with the basic ingredients used in the process of creating any great craft beers: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast.

But here’s where things get different. Once the beers are ready for the fermentation tanks, you add a special brewing enzyme that can break apart and detoxify the gluten protein chains. The form of brewing enzyme used by “Omission” the gluten-free brand of beer I’ve been drinking is called Brewer’s Clarex.

Yes, I agree: Brewer’s Clarex sounds like a horrible chemical that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your frosty brew.

But the fact is, it’s just a fancy scientific title given to a natural protease enzyme that I first mentioned back in podcast episode #319, in which I discussed brand new research about a potent gluten-digesting enzyme isolated from a mold called Aspergillus niger. Turns out that this enzyme is sold commercially under the Brewer’s Clarex name by DSM Food Technologies.Brewer’s Clarex is sometimes generically abbreviated “AN-PEP” which is an acronym for “Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease”. OK, now you understand why they call it Clarex? Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease sounds frighteningly complex and unmarketable in comparison.

Anyways, the target of this enzyme’s action is an amino acid called proline.

Why proline? There are several forms of gluten depending on the source grain, including beit wheat, barley, and rye. Some folks also lump oats into the gluten containing grain category. However, no matter which type of gluten-containing grain, each one is extraordinarily rich in proline, and the proline amino acid can be found repeating often and throughout gluten molecules. The way that Brewer’s Clarex works is by breaking one of the two bonds surrounding proline. The end result of cleaving the protein chain is a boatload of small peptide fragments that each have a proline on one end.

Stick with me here.

Imagine a protein as a string of white beads in which each bead is one amino acid. But on that string of white beads, each time a proline appears it shows as a blue bead instead of a white bead. So what you’d see is a very long beaded chain with a blue bead occurring for every small handful of white beads. When treated with Brewer’s Clarex, the single long beaded chain would now be a bunch of much smaller white bead chains that each have a blue bead on the end. So the chain breaks where ever there’s a blue bead.

Brewer’s Clarex was initially developed to combat “beer haze”, which, it turns out, is a result of gluten proteins reacting with other beer constituents to form a precipitate which eventually gets big enough to form what is called a haze particle. That makes foggy, nasty-looking beer. Since the gluten molecule has been rendered into tiny pieces as a result of Brewer’s Clarex action on proline, the other active beer ingredients can no longer bind to proline to make these haze particles.

But beyond disrupting haze locations on the protein to help make beer clear, the fact that Brewer’s Clarex digests gluten into small fragments is of obvious importance for people with gluten sensitivity. Along their length, gluten proteins contain sections of certain specific amino acid sequences that trigger immune reactions in celiacs and anybody else with gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

These toxic peptide sequences in a gluten molecule are referred to as epitopes, and they are the very specific sections of gluten that trigger reactions to gluten. In fact, most of what makes up gluten are inert sequences of amino acids (non-epitopes) that periodically border one of these toxic epitope sequences. But since these epitopes contain proline, they are broken apart by Brewer’s Clarex into smaller pieces, which (chemically speaking) don’t resemble their origins and which behave differently when consumed by a human. Research has shown that epitopes lose their toxicity as a result of being broken apart into fragments.

OK, so going back to our beaded chain concept: let’s imagine an epitope involves red beads and is defined as a repeating, alternating structure of three red and three blue beads bound together (yep, that’s a total of beads) In this case, Brewer’s Clarex would break apart the alternating red and blue sequences at the blue binding points and the six bead structure would no longer exist. So the epitope is gone. Vamoose. Bub-bye. Essentially, the parts do not equal the sum, and the toxicity disappears.

Boom. I shall now remove the propellor hat.

So, has this special enyzmatic treatment been proven to actually work? 

In 2013, Mass Spectrometry research was conducted by an independent lab which validated that the Omission Lager and Pale Ale are totally devoid of any known barley “toxic epitopes”, which are the specific peptide sequences and reactive sites in gluten molecules that cause deleterious reactions in the human small intestine. No epitopes, no nasty epitope poopies. Jackpot.

The beers were also tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA and were found to lack any measurable gluten content.

R5 Competitive ELISA?

Yeah, that’s what I was wondering too.

R5 Competitive ELISA is an internationally validated form of testing for gluten-based peptides that was recognized in 2013 by AACCI and the American Society of Brewing Chemists for testing fermented foods and beverages to determine whether they conform to the required threshold of less than 20mg gluten/kg (that’s the same as 20ppm) in total gluten for gluten-free products. While it is not a routine protocol to test beers with this protocol, Omission beers have also been tested using the A1 Competitive ELISA, the G12 Competitive, and a G12 LFD, all variations of this ELISA test.

None of these three tests were able to quantify any gluten in the beers.

Hooray.

After the special enzymatic treatment, the Omission beers are then packaged in a closed environment to eliminate any cross contamination risk. This is because the beers are brewed at breweries that also brew traditional gluten-containing craft beers. So Omission has to take precautions in the brewing and packaging facilities to ensure that you get a consistent product that meets the 20ppm or lower gluten-free standards. Samples from every batch of beer are tested internally for gluten content before packaging, and then the packaged samples are sent to an external lab for testing before being released from the brewery.

In addition, the Omission beers are the first beers to be packaged after the packaging lines have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and during the packaging process the facility is locked down to prevent any cross contamination. 

So they’re going through some pretty calculated steps here to ensure you don’t mess up your nervous system or decommission any bathrooms.

———————————

Summary

And that, my friends, is why the only beer I’m now drinking is Omission gluten-free beer.

This stuff is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Oregon and by the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and really is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients specially crafted to remove gluten.

You aren’t going to find Omission beer on tap, but you can use the website FindOmissionBeer.com to hunt down a bottle near you. The reason they don’t package Omission in kegs is to avoid any cross-contamination risks and the possibility of you being accidentally served a pint of beer other than the Omission that you ordered.

But you can always grab a frosty pint glass to accompany your bottle, and then simply close your eyes, take a sip, and pretend it came straight from the tap.

Here’s how they describe their beers (and yes, I’m a crappy beer-describer, so I’m using their exact description rather than my own, which would be something along the lines of “brown, cold, tastes good”).

Lager: Omission Lager is a refreshing and crisp beer, brewed in the traditional lager style. Perfect for a variety of beer drinking occasions, Omission Lager’s aromatic hop profile offers a unique, easy-drinking beer for those looking for a lighter and approachable beer style. 

MALTS: Pale
HOPS: Sterling, Mount Hood, and Hallertau
IBU: 20
ABV: 4.6%

Pale Ale: Bold and hoppy, Omission Pale Ale is a hop-forward American Pale Ale, brewed to showcase the Cascade hop profile. Amber in color, Omission Pale Ale’s floral aroma is complimented by caramel malt body, making for a delicious craft beer.

MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Honey, Dark Munich
HOPS: Cascade
IBU: 33
ABV: 5.8%

IPA: Omission IPA is a bright, hop forward Northwest Style IPA produced in the spirit of the original IPAs shipped from the UK to India in the late 1800’s. The heavy-handed use of Cascade and Summit hops give it notable pine, citrus, and grapefruit aromas and flavors. The bitterness is what you would expect of a NW IPA but this beer is balanced and smooth due to the perfect level of malt sweetness. The finish is crisp, clean, and refreshing – it’s a true IPA lover’s IPA.

MALTS: Pale and Caramel 10°L
HOPS: Summit, and Cascade
IBU: 65
ABV: 6.7%

Is your mouth watering yet?

It likely is, unless you’re my wife, who still hates beer, even with our refrigerator full of Omission. Ah well. More for me.

Finally, in case you were about to ask the big GMO question, Omission beers are not brewed with any genetically modified ingredients. Just malted barley, hops, water and yeast. That’s it. Oh yeah, and it’s in glass, so no BPA-in-your-can issues either.

Bon appetit. Drink up, guilt-free. No beer farts, no beer brain fog, no post beer sleepiness. Check it out at FindOmissionBeer.com.

So, do you have questions, comments or feedback about gluten-free beer? Do you have your own favorite brands of gluten-free beer to add? Have you tried Omission beer? Leave your thoughts below!

Can Exercise Cause Depression?

10917331_935509383149522_4913861917789502526_o

Meet Wesley Chapman, pictured above.

He was abandoned at 1 by his father, then at 6 1/2 by his mother. 

He tried to commit suicide 12 times before his 16th birthday.

Wesley was on 25 meds a day for 10 years.

His liver failed at age 16 and he was given a 20% chance to live.

But for the past 19 years, Wesley has been studying health, the brain and alternative methods to failed treatments for depression, and today, we specifically discuss the shocking link between exercise and depression.

-How Wesley detoxed off 25 different medications and healed his liver…

-The little-known link between your colon and your brain…

-How exercise can make you depressed, even if you’re not “overtrained”…

-Why pharmaceutical companies have been writing Wesley angry letters…

-What types of physical activity and exercise can actually make you depressed…

Resources from this episode:

-“The Human Project

Coffee enemas

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about whether exercise causes depression? Leave your thoughts below!

Four Scary Facts About Gyms & Why You Should Get Fit Outdoors Instead.

Tireflipping

I’ve recently been exercising outdoors far, far more than I ever have in my life. As a matter of fact, these days I’m in the gym about an average of once every two to three weeks. This stands in pretty stark contrast to the years when I was a bodybuilder, spending 1.5-2 hours in the morning pumping iron at the gym, typically followed by another visit to the gym later in the afternoon or early evening, or the years when I was a personal trainer spending about 5am until 9pm most days at the gym.

So yeah, I’ve been a gym rat before.

And don’t get me wrong: if the only thing that keeps you physically active, exercising, and motivated to train or live healthy is a gym membership and a regular visit to your health club, then that’s far, far better than laying on the couch eating twinkies and watching Game of Thrones.

But at the same time, the reason I’ve personally begun avoiding the gym is not simply because it’s summer and the weather is nice or because I’m training for outdoors, muddy obstacle races. Instead, I’ve become increasingly aware that there are some big problems with gyms and some big benefits to being outdoors that you’re going to discover in this article.

Keep reading, because you’re going to learn about four problems with health clubs, gyms and tight indoor spaces where lots of people are exercising, and you’re also going to learn about the potent fixes that nature can provide. Finally, rather than keep you hanging in desperation about where you’re going to exercise, I’ll also give you plenty of tips to exercise outdoors, no matter where you live.

——————————

Scary Fact #1:  Machines

In my article “How to Use Weightlifting Machines”, I talk about how to use several popular machines at the gym. But rather than taking this as a blatant endorsement by me to use weight machines, I’d rather you consider it as advice for weightlifting beginners who need the guidance of a machine to move through a specific range-of-motion without risk of injury.

Unfortunately, once you’re out of the realm of lifting light weights and doing very basic exercise, machines are not your best bet. Just because an exercise machine is at a gym or health club does not mean it’s safe or designed with proper biomechanics, and while poor form on any machine can turn an otherwise safe move into a risky activity, there are some machines that you should completely avoid, even if you can do them with good form.

In no particular order, the machines you should absolutely avoid at the gym are:

  • Machine Side Raise
  • Machine Abductor (legs out)
  • Machine Adductor (legs in)
  • Cable Pulldowns Behind Your Neck
  • Seated Abdominal Rotation Machine
  • Seated Crunch Machine
  • Smith Machine Presses or Squats

For more details on why I’m not a fan of these machines at all, and to get alternatives to these machines, read my article “Top 7 Exercises To Avoid”.

In my opinion, unless you’re a complete beginner, the only time you should really be using weight machines is for something like a Doug Mcguff Body By Science-esque extremely super slow workout, which I’ll occasionally do if I’m stuck at hotel with no free weights and I want a good resistance training routine. You can learn why I favor this approach in the podcast “Does Weight Training Count As Cardio”.

————————————–

Scary Fact #2: Spinning

I used to be a “spin nazi”.

I taught spin classes nearly every day at my local gym, and each class was structured with specific, focused intervals designed to enhance aerobic or anaerobic energy systems, such as 5×5 minutes at tempo pace and RPM of 90 with an increase of heart rate by 3-5 beats for each successive 5 minutes, and 2.5 minute recovery periods; or a ladder of 10 seconds, 20 seconds and 30 seconds at 120RPM with 60 second recoveries after each. Most of the attendees were triathletes, cyclists or athletes, and we didn’t do anything that remotely resembled the dance-class nature of many spin classes these days.

In contrast, the average spin class at a gym involves a high number of squats, hovers, push-ups, gyrations, hip thrusts, and other ridiculous dance moves that are not meant to be performed while pedaling a bicycle. These can not only put your shoulders and knees at a very high risk of injury, but also train energy systems that just aren’t very efficient to train on a bike. In other words, if you want to do push-ups and squats, then get off the bike to do them.

No indoor cycling certification programs condone this type of activity, but these methods are still used by certified instructors at many health clubs. If your spinning class makes you feel as though you can’t simply sit and pedal correctly for more than 15, 30, or even 60 seconds without having to flap your arms like a muppet or jump up and down while singing the chorus to an Abba song set to techno, you should find a new class. Click here to see two shocking videos that show the type of spinning classes to avoid.

——————————————

Scary Fact #3: Smoothie Bars

News flash: just because a food is sold at a health club does not mean it’s healthy. The average protein bar contains many unhealthy ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, fractionated palm kernel oil, artificial sweeteners, wheat, rice, or other refined sugars, and high amounts of gut-wrenching sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol.

Many of the smoothies prepared and sold at a gym are made from sugar concentrates combined with highly processed protein powders and vegetable oils – and are typically dumped into a 20-24oz cup that can let you suck down 600-1,000 calories in just a few minutes. So a dutiful gym-goer can slave away on a treadmill for an hour, then grab a smoothie on their way out the door that contains nearly twice the calories they actually burned during the workout.

If you need to grab a smoothie, then look for minimal ingredients, such as water, nut butter, protein powder and a banana (as opposed to oodles of fruit concentrate and sugar). If you need a protein bar, choose one with minimal ingredients (such as fruits and nuts), raw nuts and seeds, or hypo-allergenic carbs such rice crisps rather than wheat or soy. And only use these foods as a quick snack to tide you over until you can get a real meal, or to keep you from “bonking” at the gym, and not as a staple or a stand-by in your diet.

———————————–

Scary Fact #4: Pollution

OK, this next one is a biggie. I hope you’re sitting down.

Recent studies (a full list is provided at the end of this article) have highlighted the fact that there are concerningly high levels of carcinogens in the air of the average fitness center, as well as significant amounts of harmful bacteria on the surfaces of fitness equipment such as treadmills and weight training machines.

I’ve addressed the problem with air pollution in my article “Is Exercising in Pollution Bad For You?”, and the takeaway message from that article is that, compared to skipping exercise altogether, it’s still better to exercise even if you’re in a polluted area. But at the same time, the CDC, the EPA, and plenty of medical journals have found that exposure to air pollutants in urban areas is linked to higher rates of asthma and abnormal heart rhythms, and increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and all causes. What this means is that if you actually do have the choice between, say, exercising in your backyard or a nearby park or forest versus exercising in the gym, you’d be far better off with the former.

And then there’s recent data showing that the indoor air quality in some fitness centers may be just as harmful to health as the air pollutants in urban areas. For example, one study last year in the journal Building and Environment found unacceptably high levels of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particle pollution in multiple indoor fitness centers.

Next, there’s carbon dioxide (CO2). Since expiration releases CO2, its levels significantly rise when there are lots of people huffing and puffing in a room, especially if that room is poorly ventilated. So, the more folks you cram into an indoor space running on treadmills, rowing, riding bikes, lifting weights, and jumping around, the worse the quality of air in that space. This is why I’m a bigger fan of home gyms than commercial gyms, and also a fan of getting in and out of a gym quickly by utilizing a strategy such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

One study showed the highest levels of CO2 in an interior room used for indoor cycling spin classes. I’m not saying that these CO2 levels are toxic and going to kill you, but they’re not completely harmless either. This is all the more concerning when you consider the fact that most building owners (gyms often lease from building owners) save money by recycling used air instead of heating or cooling fresh air from outside.

And then there’s the issue with mold. My friend Dave Asprey just released a documentary called “Moldy,” about hidden sources of environmental mold that deleteriously affect the health of more than 100 million people worldwide. Indoor mold can be even more damaging than well-known pollutants such as asbestos and lead, and unfortunately, mold is common in gyms, locker rooms, swimming pool areas, and saunas because they are full of bacteria and moist air. These inhaled mold toxins can be just as harmful as mold that you eat from a piece of old food.

I’ve worked at plenty of gyms and health clubs and know for a fact that the cleaning procedures at many, many facilities are less than stellar, and that mold is often ignored or left to hang out for long periods of time (a good test for the cleanliness of your gym is to leave a small piece of chewed gum in a corner, ledge, crack, space, etc., and see how many days it takes to disappear—you’d be shocked!) So, if your gym or the locker room area in your health club is somewhat humid, smells like sweaty socks, or has frequent puddles or pools of water that are there throughout the day, there are likely mold and fungus issues.

Next, there’s the problem with something called “particulate matter” in indoor spaces such as gyms. Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets such as nitrates, sulfates, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust, and they can come from rubber mats, metal plates, and dumbbells banging together, and even dead pieces of skin from other people working out (ew!). The problem is that these particles are small enough to pass through your nasal cavities and enter your lungs, especially when you’re breathing hard in an indoor exercise environment.

Unfortunately, over a quarter of the gyms in the study I mentioned earlier exceed the indoor limit for these kind of particles. It is true that HEPA air filters and a good gym cleaning protocol can help out quite a bit in this situation, unless the cleaners are made of toxic chemicals, which can then enter the air and get recirculated. Even school gymnasiums have been found to contain significantly high levels of particulate matter, such as dust, soil, and bacteria that can trigger immune, asthmatic and allergic responses in susceptible children.

Next is the issue of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exposure to VOCs in high levels can cause skin irritation, neurotoxicity, and hepatotoxicity (toxicity of the liver). The scary fact is that over eighty percent of the gyms that have been studied exceed the acceptable level of unsafe VOCs, which include compounds such as formaldehyde, fire retardants, acetone, and other substances that off gas from carpeting, furniture, cleaners, paint, among others. Levels of VOCs tend to be higher in gyms with newer equipment, and also in spaces that have been recently cleaned (due to the cleaning chemicals used).

Finally, there are all those synthetic fragrances, colognes, and deodorants that your fellow gym-goers have plastered all over their bodies and that are filling the air around you. I address these type of hormonal and endocrine disruptors in the episode on estrogen dominance, but these can also be a serious issue that, frustratingly, can be out of your control unless you have the courage to ask the woman running on the treadmill next to you to slather on a bit less perfume.

————————————-

What To Do Instead Of Hitting The Gym

There’s no doubt that going to the gym is a great way to stay fit and to get motivated. Even if you have a home gym (which I also do), a health club or gym offers a variety of equipment, classes, personal trainers, and people to inspire and teach you that you just won’t be able to replicate at home. Plus, gyms often have perks such as child care, a spa or sauna, personal trainers, contests and competitions, and other helpful ways to help you get fitter faster or stay motivated.

In other words, don’t stop going to the gym if that’s all you’re able to do to get yourself motivated to be fit. And don’t stop going to the gym if a gym is your job (e.g. you’re a personal trainer). But perhaps you could print this article and give it to your gym owner. That’s a thought.

But I’m still convinced that you shouldn’t rely on the gym as an absolute must for your workouts unless you live in a complete urban oasis with absolutely zero access to a park, an outdoors trail or your own backyard or patio. This is because the list of benefits from exercising outdoors dwarfs the benefits of exercising indoors.

For example, in my podcast episode, “Forest Bathing, Sleep Hacking, Cell Phones & Water: The Underground Guide To Lowering Cortisol When Nothing Else Seems To Be Working,” my guest Evan Brand and I discuss the amazing research that shows that something as simple as spending time in the trees, walking in forests, exercising on nature trails, and hiking outdoors exposes you to tiny particles and phytochemicals that plants release, and this in turn helps decrease salivary cortisol, depression, and anger.

Also, in the article “How To Use Cold Weather To Lose Weight“, you learn that stepping outside the constant comfort of air conditioning and heaters, and instead getting frequent exposure to temperature fluctuations such as cold air, snow, rain, sun, heat, and other environmental variables can increase stress resilience, burn more calories, increase cardiovascular performance, and get you more fit quickly.

Now, a new article, “Natural environments, ancestral diets, and microbial ecology: is there a modern “paleo-deficit disorder”?” highlights research from as early as the 1960s, which shows that early-life experience with microbiota and other bacteria found in outdoor situations, along with environmental stress, can actually positively influence longevity and health outcomes. The author recognized the co-evolutionary relationship between microbiota and the human host. The article points out the fact that there is lower health, more anxiety and depression, and increased incidence of immune-related disease in developed nations that have become too sanitized—specifically too sanitized with respect to not being outside around dirt, trees, animals, and other natural areas of “microbial ecology” (which, by the way, is far different than manmade bacteria and synthetic toxins and chemicals in gyms.

In a 2010 Japanese study of shinrin-yoku (defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere, or forest bathing”), researchers found that elements of the environment, such as the odor of wood, the sound of running stream water, and the scenery of the forest, can provide relaxation and reduce stress, and those taking part in the study experienced lower levels of cortisol, a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

This should all really come as no surprise. Scientists have long known that sunlight can lower depression, especially depression from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A 2007 study from the University of Essex found that something as simple as a walk in the countryside reduces depression in 71% of participants. These same researchers found that nature therapy, also known as “ecotherapy,” and spending as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, can improve mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

Other health care professionals are also finding that being in a natural environment has numerous benefits for kids, and can combat the obesity, anxiety, depression, and other health issues that arise with “nature-deficit disorder.” For example, in an article at WebMD, nurse Stacy Bosch of the Clark County School District in Nevada is cited as seeing many students who are overweight or have type-2 diabetes, and she notes that, more often than not, these kids spend very little time outside. To get the kids and their parents away from the TV or computer and increase their physical activity can help control weight and blood sugar, Bosch writes a prescription for the entire family to go to one into nature areas and simply take a walk.

———————————–

How to Exercise Outdoors

So now that you know that constantly being indoors in a gym may not be the best thing for your health, and that being outdoors in nature provides you with a myriad of benefits, what are some ways you can start exercising outdoors? Here are a five quick tips:

1. Walk More

Consider walking the kids to school or the bus stop in the morning, hoofing it to pick up a bag of groceries or run errands at lunchtime, and walking the dog or taking a stroll after dinner each evening. Want to step it up a notch? Grab a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, heavy backpack, or other weight and challenge yourself to walk 1, 2, or 3 miles (Just like I have my “Kettlebell Yoga“, I also have my “Kettlebell Walks”)

2. Find A Park

Anytime I’m traveling, I use Google maps “find nearby” function to find the nearest local park where I can go do dips and push-ups on park benches, jog or run on the park trails, do yoga in a quiet grassy area, or even do skips, hops, bounds, and sprints on a wide open section of grass.

3. Build A Backyard Gym

In my article “Strongman Workouts for Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, and Performance,” I give you plenty of backyard and outdoor gym ideas, including:

-Make A Sandbag: I made my sandbag in about 30 minutes by purchasing a couple military duffel bags off Amazon, then putting pea gravel into plastic contractor bags, and putting the gravel-filled plastic bags into the duffel bags. Here are some good sandbag instructions. Or you can buy pre-made sandbags from a website like Onnit.

-Get A Tire: I pulled into my local tire store and asked them if they had any old heavy tires they didn’t need anymore. They gave me four of them for free, and even offered to help toss them into the back of the pickup truck for me! Afterwards, I realized that a true Strongman probably would have put the tires into the truck himself.

-Hunt Down A Tree: Whenever I go on a hike, I make it a goal to find at least one log and carry it for a little while, either overhead or clutched in my arms or on my shoulders. But the past couple times, I’ve taken the heavy logs home so that I have them in my garage for easy access.

-Find A Rock: My nearby river has some nice big rocks that I also took home to my yard. These kind-of-big river rocks are smooth and don’t give you as many scrapes and cuts as some of the rougher varieties.

-Push A Car: Have a manual car or truck, and a driveway or access to a big empty parking lot? Simply put your vehicle into neutral and get ready for the workout of your life.

Want even more? Check out my Cropfit newsletter, in which I talk about how a nineteenth-century farmer would be pushing, pulling, lifting, hoisting, bending, twisting, and moving all day long. While you may not have a farm, and you may not have a desire to build a giant wooden barn, you can certainly inject a little extra fitness in your daily routine with activities such as:

-Going to your local hardware store, buying a rope, attaching it to a tire or cinder block, and practicing dragging an object in your driveway or backyard.

-Planting a small patio garden and going outside (moving!) to water, pick, plant, and care for your plants.

-Going to a park that has a safe and sturdy wooden fence and climbing over fences, under fences, or even balancing on top of fences.

-Finding a heavy river rock and carrying it up or down a hill, or (more practically) building a wall, firepit, gardening area, etc. in your backyard with large rocks.

You get the idea. Last tip? Listen to my podcast interview with Zach Even-Esh, where he talks about even more “underground” ways to get fit outside without using standard gym equipment.

4. Hike

Hiking is also a great sport to do with friends or family, since it generally allows you to talk and explore while you’re doing it. With a little research about your local area, you can often find short hikes that offer good scenery without too much difficulty or special equipment. More difficult hikes with weight packs, boulder scaling, elevation training masks and even stops to do burpees or to carry heavy rocks or logs can provide you with an extreme fitness challenge that’s just as tough as any intense class you might take at a gym.

5. Find Water

From swimming to kayaking and canoeing to paddleboarding, swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean gives you the benefits of cold thermogenesis, a non-weight bearing form of exercise, and exposure to even more elements of nature – without all the chlorine and mold issues I talked about earlier. You can easily combine workouts that involve sprints, burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers, lunges, and squats can easily with forays into the water for freestyle and underwater swimming.

—————————-

Summary

Again, I must emphasize that if all you have access to is a gym, then that’s usually better than nothing.

But it’s very, very rare that I run into a situation where I simply can’t get fit unless I enter the hallowed doors of a health club. The world and the great outdoors can be your gym, and your natural movement skills will progress by leaps and bounds once you realize this.

I encourage you to figure out how you can hack your environment to make that switch happen, and to leave your comments, questions and feedback below!

—————————-

References

http://www.epa.gov/airnow/2014conference/Plenary/Monday/Boehmer_NAQC_2014_final2.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25712593

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200012143432401#t=abstract

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132314002856

http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=31

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457336

http://www.epa.gov/pm/

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc2.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132314002856?np=y

http://ibe.sagepub.com/content/12/6/427.full.pdf+html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935111000934

The Nitty-Gritty Underground World of Supplement Ingredients, Sports Nutrition Frankenfuels, Illegally Laced Compounds & More.

supplements

My guest in today’s podcast, Shawn Wells, MPH, RD, CISSN, has probably forgotten more about supplements than most people will ever know. His brain contains an extremely unique blend of time spent in the science trenches and a formal education in the fields of performance nutrition and supplementation.

Shawn attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning a Master’s degree in Nutrition and minor in Exercise Science. His education also includes credentials of Registered Dietitian, Certified Sport Nutritionist (CISSN), and board member of the ISSN. His role as CEO of Zone Halo Research, a consulting group for supplement formulations, and CSO of Biotrust, along with extensive experience in formulating supplements for big companies (likely some of the ones you’ve tried in the past few years) distinguish him as an expert in sports nutrition and supplementation.

If you’re into supplements, you will love this interview with Shawn Wells. We discuss:

-How Shawn went from being a practicing Chief Clinical Dietitian to being in the thick of the supplement industry, and some of the most helpful books he read along the way…

-The most important factors that differentiate a high-quality supplement manufacturer from a low-quality one…

-The deceptive practice of “fairy-dusting” and why many, many supplement manufacturers do it…

-How to know if taking different supplements together (e.g. stacking) can be dangerous, or on the flipside, more efficacious than taking one at a time…

-Why a supplement can rapidly degrade as soon as you put it into your refrigerator or pantry…

-Why everything from solubility to flavor additives can make or break the absorption and efficacy of supplements like whey protein…

-Why you could be getting 600mg of caffeine (6 cups of coffee!) in an average “energy” supplement that says it only has 100mg…

-The surprising development that Shawn things is the next big thing in the world of supplements and nutrition…

-And much more!

Resources we discuss during this episode:

-Book “Optimum Sports Nutrition by Dr. Michael Colgan

-Book “The Four Agreements

The Examine Research Digest

Behind The Scenes Of How A Supplement Is Made

My podcast interview with the folks at LabDoor “The Crazy, True & Scary Facts About The Supplements Industry”

BioTrust supplements

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to know supplement ingredients or anything else Shawn and I discuss? Leave your thoughts below.

How to Make Your Own Smart Drugs, Natural Nootropic Stacks, My Brain-Enhancing Compounds of Choice & Much More!.

SMART-DRUGS_2685989b

The word “nootropic” or “smart drug” (yeah, there’s a slight difference between the two, as I discuss in this podcast) is quickly becoming a household name, especially due to all the recent media hype and interviews that have disclosed how popular smart drugs are among Silicon Valley CEOs and college students.

That, along with the smart drug movies “Limitless” and “Lucy“.

Although you can easily purchase synthesized smart drug and nootropic supplements from a variety of online retailers, I also think it’s a bit intriguing to consider the possibility of creating your own perfect blend of smart drugs customized to you.

But unless you’re a redneck living in a trailer park and you’re comfortable blowing up your home (or you’re willing to go to the extent that I do in my How To Make Your Own Smart Drugs video) it may not be quite safe to try to synthesize piracetam blends or any of the other commonplace smart drugs in your kitchen. However, when it comes to natural nootropic herbs, it’s a different story, and you can certainly take steps to blend up some of the naturally occurring nootropics that offer similar benefits.

In addition, with what you’re about to learn, you can also stack a variety of different smart drug and nootropic supplements together to achieve some pretty cool results. Happy blendin’.

————————-

Synthetic vs. Natural Nootropics

There are numerous synthetic smart drugs that are utilized nowadays by people from all walks of life, from CEO’s to soccer moms. For example, Piracetam was one of the first lab created compounds specifically designed to enhance cognitive performance, and although it is a synthesized chemical (with chemical name 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide) it is generally regarded as being safe. The vast majority of people can take this supplement without needing to worry about suffering from any major side effects. However, there are also many notable natural and herbal nootropics (listed below), and some of them offer benefits that are similar to the synthetic, lab created options, which is good news if you want to completely steer clear of chemicals.

Or you can have the best of both worlds. The reality is that you can mix and match a blend of herbal, natural or synthetic nootropics to help yourself with a long list of goals, ranging from memory improvement to a reduction in anxiety. And if you don’t have the time or you’re not comfortable making your own smart drug stack out of synthesized or natural supplements in bulk powder form, you can still easily find enough alternatives in this article to reap the rewards associated with nootropics and smart drugs.

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, if you’re still confused about the difference between a smart drug and a nootropic, listen to this.

——————————

Notable Natural and Herbal Nootropics

Before you can begin putting together the perfect stack to fit your needs, you should be aware of which natural options are available. It is also important to learn about the scientific research that verifies their cognitive enhancing properties. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular choices that you see popping up as ingredients or featured components of most popular smart drugs stacks these days:

1. Huperzine-A

Many people classify Huperzine-A as a natural nootropic because it is derived from the Chinese club moss plant. There is some laboratory manipulation that takes places during the creation of this nootropic, but it appears to be extremely beneficial because the final result is a highly purified substance. Medical studies have concluded that Huperzine-A has minimal to no side effects and no toxicity, which makes it generally regarded as safe for human consumption. Research has also determined that this supplement can provide significant memory improvements in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients. There are also generous amounts in the adaptogenic herb complex TianChi.

2. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is an extract from the Brahmi plant. According to WebMD, Bacopa is used for a wide variety of purposes, including as a supplemental Alzheimer’s treatment and way to reduce anxiety. Evidence suggests that this natural nootropic is effective at improving memory and hand-eye coordination. There have also been some studies that link Bacopa with a reduction in anxiety, insomnia and concentration issues. In one study, 300 mg was given daily to participants for 12 weeks and there were reported improvements in thinking ability and memory.

3. Lion’s Mane

This edible mushroom can be found in gourmet food stores, and it is also available in a supplement version. Just like many other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is believed to offer benefits that go beyond nutrition. In fact, there have been several studies conducted in an attempt to discover Lion’s Mane’s full potential, and the results are very promising. For example, 750 mg daily gave test subjects a significant boost in their cognitive functionality. A small clinical study showcased the possibility that this nootropic can offer reduced anxiety and depression. I also discuss the potent Lion’s Mane dual extracted mushroom tea in my podcast with foursigmafoods.

4. Ginkgo Biloba

Leaves from the Ginkgo Biloba tree have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Mayo Clinic did an analysis of each of the medical purposes that this nootropic is used for, and they determined that there is a good amount of scientific evidence to suggest that Ginkgo Biloba is useful for improving cognitive performance and reducing anxiety.

5. Artichoke Extract

This supplement is made from the leaves of artichokes. There is a lot of evidence that strongly suggests artichoke extract supplements offer neural antioxidant properties. Additionally, several nootropic user reviews have mentioned enhanced memory in relation to taking this product. Tim Ferriss talked about this one a bit in my most recent podcast with him, particularly referencing it’s presence in “CILTEP“.

6. Tryptophan

You are probably most familiar with this essential amino acid because it is in turkey and people (erroneously) believe that it makes them sleepy. However, tryptophan is also available in pill format, and it is most commonly taken as a non-prescription aid for depression. Tryptophan works by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. When used for this purpose, it is typically taken three to four times per day for a total of eight to 12 grams. Additionally, there has been at least one study that links this natural nootropic to a reduction in memory deficits.

7. L-Theanine

Theanine is found naturally in green tea, and it is an amino acid. When taken as a supplement, L-Theanine is believed to offer a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Studies also suggest that drinking green tea or taking L-Theanine in a pill format can help reduce neurodegeneration. Many nootropic enthusiasts stack caffeine and L-Theanine because of reported benefits such as enhanced attention and cognition without the issues that often accompany large quantities of caffeine. One example of a combo like this is the “pink powder packet” delta-E.

8. CBD

Due to their properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, cannabinoids, specifically the cannabidiols derived from CBD that I first introduced in my article “A 100% Legal Way To Get All The Benefits Of Weed Without Actually Smoking Weed”, plays a key role in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain found in Alzheimer ’s disease, as well as other forms of dementia, depression and neurodegeneration.

Components of CBD can inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques that form in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s and dementia. And finally, if you do happen to smoke weed and you’re concerned about the potential memory-damaging effects of THC, then it’s important to know that CBD can counteract these effects, especially when taken in conjunction with marijuana.

This list is by no means complete, but it offers a good overview of the natural options that are generally considered “go-to” ingredients in most modern smart drug and nootropic compounds. When you consider all of the cognitive benefits that have been scientifically linked to each of the previously listed nootropics, it becomes easy to see how you can potentially build your own stack without necessarily spending money on pills and packaging (note that most synthetic nootropics are generally regarded as safe, so choosing to stick with natural options may simply be a personal preference or N=1 experiment, and is not something I’m influenced to recommend because of any serious safety concerns I’ve seen in research).

————————

Two Natural Nootropic Stacks

The purpose of stacking compounds is to “stack” together a variety of ingredients to get the best possible synergistic combination of each supplement’s purported benefits.

For example, one of the most popular stacks of smart drugs is a blend of Piracetam, Aniracetam and Oxiracetam, all of which you can purchase in bulk powder form here. This is also known as the “PAO” stack, and the approximate ratios for suggested doses are a 2:1:1 ratio of 1500 mg Piracetam with 750mg Aniracetam and 750mg Oxiracetam. These synthesized compounds are well-known to help improve multiple cognitive functions, and by taking them together you can enhance the overall cognitive boost compared to taking just one. I discuss stacks like this in detail in the podcast episode “What Are The Best Brain Supplements And Smart Drugs To Shut Down Brain Inflammation And Make You Smarter?” with Steven Fowkes.

But if you want to steer clear of lab derived compounds, you can take the same approach with nootropics instead of smart drugs by simply stacking with natural and herbal supplements instead of chemicals. In fact, one of the most popular “beginner” stacks utilizes two natural nootropics: caffeine and L-Theanine. Let’s take a closer look at this stack, along with another natural nootropic option that can offer a nice blend of cognitive benefits.

1. L-Theanine & Caffeine Stack

L-Theanine and caffeine have been shown during medical testing to boost concentration and energy while also reducing anxiety symptoms. Caffeine can be very potent in high quantities, but it also often leads to headaches and jitteriness. Many people find that adding L-Theanine to a caffeine mix reduces or completely removes these negative side effects.

For these purposes, a good ratio is four parts L-Theanine to one part caffeine. For example, one of the most common dosage amounts is 400 mg of L-Theanine stacked with 100 mg of caffeine. However, you may want to start off with a lower dose to test things out, such as 50 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of L-Theanine, and then work your way up from there. The company Natural Stacks makes a stack of caffeine and L-Theanine in a good ratio, and call it “Smart Caffeine”. That or the pink powder “deltaE” are two good, done-for-you options in this category, unless you opt to buy bulk from a company like Peak Nootropics and make your own.

2. Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri & Lion’s Mane Stack

If you are looking for a natural stack that is reported to boost focus, memory and learning, then you can turn to the combination of Lion’s Mane, Bacopa Monnieri and Ginkgo Biloba to help you achieve the desired results. The studies I listed earlier point out that these supplements offer a nice mixture of nootropic effects, including better cognitive performance and relief from some of the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

Reviews about this stack indicate that it can boost alertness for approximately six hours at a time. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that users have reported a delay of up to 12 weeks before this stack reaches its full potential. In other words, this is not a natural nootropic stack that is likely to provide you with “instant results”.

As with any other stack, you need to be cognizant of your stacking choices. After all, putting together the same dosage of each component that you would take individually is not typically a wise choice due to the way that each supplement blends together. For this stack, most folks use the following daily combination, and you can find most of this stuff in bulk on Amazon.

After 12 weeks, if you are not experiencing positive results, you may need to adjust the dosages in your stack. Start with small increments such as increasing each dose of the Bacopa Monnieri to 150 mg. This is a game of patience, as these increases could take an additional 12 weeks to achieve optimal results.

———————————

Three Stacks That Come In Pre-Packaged Formats

It is not always necessary to purchase each component of your stack separately. Instead, you can turn to combination pills that take out all of the guesswork. One of the biggest perks associated with these natural smart drugs is the fact that you will not need to portion out the specific dosage of each supplement in your stack. It can also be more cost-effective to take advantage of this format.

1. CILTEP

When it comes to natural stacking, CILTEP is by far one of the most frequently utilized and discussed options. Originally created in 2012 by a nootropic and neurochemistry enthusiast, this blend’s popularity quickly soared after users, including Tim Ferriss, began reporting positive results. All of the ingredients in the CILTEP pill are natural, so people who wish to steer clear of synthesized products can easily do so. The main base ingredients for this particular supplement is artichoke extracts and forskolin.

Each CILTEP pill also contains vitamin B6, L-phenylalanine and acetyl-L-carnitine. The creators recommend two to three capsules at the beginning of each day. It has been suggested that skipping one to two days per week will offer better results. Although CILTEP itself has not undergone medical testing, the individual ingredients have all been proven to be beneficial for the human body and brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that CILTEP has found a big audience. In fact, one of the biggest proponents of this natural nootropic blend is Martin Jacobson, who reportedly utilized CILTEP while becoming the 2014 World Series of Poker Champion.

I interview CILTEP creator Roy Krebs in this podcast episode.

2. Alpha Brain

This combination product is touted as containing all earth-grown ingredients, which earns it a spot on the natural stack list. Just like CILTEP, Alpha Brain (created by the company Onnit) combines all of the components for you into a single pill for easier usage. According to a clinical trial that was conducted by the Boston Center for Memory, this product has demonstrated a notable increase in cognitive performance for healthy individuals.

Alpha Brain contains Alpha GPC, AC-11, Bacopa Monniera and Huperzine-A. Medical testing has shown that Alpha GPC has the potential to boost the memory and learning capacity of users. AC-11 is derived from a rainforest herb, and studies have found that it may be able to help people in a variety of ways such as slowing the growth of cell cancers due to its reported DNA repairing antioxidant properties.

Reviews of Alpha Brain suggest taking two to three capsules per day. It has also been pointed out that this supplement appears to work best if you keep taking it daily for at least two weeks. Most people indicated that the effects associated with Alpha Brain become more pronounced over time, so you need to let this nootropic blend build up in your system for a while before you judge its overall effectiveness.

3. TianChi

The list of herbs and ingredients in TianChi are way to long to list here, but you can read them in full detail here. I also snapped this photo below of the box in my refrigerator:

IMG_5413

I think “Huperzine” supplements have been flying off the shelves since Tim Ferriss mentioned them in his popular “Four Hour Body” book. Huperzine is an “acetylcholinesterase inhibitor”, which means you get more of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine rushing around in your brain. You call these type of compounds “cholinomimetics“.

Acetylcholine is a very important neurotransmitter that is found in many nootropics, and the foundation of several smart drugs is to simply halt breakdown of acetylcholine, or maximize production of acetylcholine (also known as aceytlcholine agonists).

Studies have shown that Huperzine supplementation has neuroprotective effects and enhances cognitive function in animals and humans, but what most people don’t know is that there are natural herbal sources of Huperzine. For example, in Chinese herbal medicine, an herb called “Club Moss” is used slow progression of Alzheimer’s. Guess what the active ingredient in Club Moss is? That’s right – Huperzine, and it’s one of the primary active ingredients, along with over 30 other ingredients, in TianChi.

Every herb used in TianChi is far more pure and potent than typical old, ineffective and often dangerous or nasty-ingredient laced nootropic herbs on the market. Very few products contain 100% whole herb extracts. On average the herbal extracts are at least 10:1 yields, meaning it takes 10 pounds of raw herb to produce 1 pound of pure extract. Most manufacturers start with pure yield and cut them to concentrations of 4:1 or 5:1 by adding filler. This produces a cheaper, but less effective extract. Imagine buying a 5:1 extract that originally was 45:1.

In contrast, the herbal extracts used in TianChi yield 12:1 or greater, and there is even one herb in TianChi that is a 45:1 yield. In other words, you would have to take 9x as much herb from any other source to equal the potency in TianChi. And you would be getting mostly filler, harmful ingredients, and very few results. All of the herbs in TianChi are Non-GMO, Kosher Certified and non-irradiated. They are extracted in purified water and test free of heavy metals, and the creator, a Chinese herbolist based out of Oregon state, use only wild crafted herbs, which are herbs found in their natural state, free from pesticides and exposure to pollution.

I interview TianChi creator and Chinese herbologist Roger Drummer in this podcast episode. The stuff has trace amounts of fructose in it, so I recommend taking it on an empty stomach in the mid-morning. Strangely enough, I’ve found it’s effects to be even more enhanced with consuming with a beet juice or beet powder, probably due to the vasodilation effect of the beets.

—————————

Tips For Making Your Own Stack

Natural and synthetic stacks that have been used frequently by other people are a good way to get started because you can rely on a lot of data to determine which option is best for you. However, you can also make your own perfect smart drug stack by studying the research associated with each natural supplement and experimenting with multiple blends. For example, during my podcast episode with Roy Krebs, the creator of CILTEP, he describes how took a close look at the various components he chose and made sure to select nootropics that were likely to blend well together.

You will also want to carefully consider what your exact needs are. After all, if you want to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression but do not necessarily care about enhancing your cognitive performance, you may wish to stick with a single nootropic that affects dopamine product, such as tryptophan or dopamine brain food. Or you could add Bacopa Monnieri to either of these if you also wanted to improve your memory. Then, for longer term cognitive performance that lasts the whole day, you could add Piracetam, and if you begin experiencing headaches, which is often due to choline depletion during the use of a racetam, you could add Alpha-GPC to this stack.

As you can see, the sky’s the limit, and you can chose based on your specific needs exactly how you are going to stack a nootropic combo, a smart drug combo, or both.

————————————-

Choosing the Best Options for Your Lifestyle

You can easily purchase bulk synthetic, natural and herbal nootropics online. The powder option will save you money in most cases, but it can be more difficult to work with because each dose will need to be weighed out.

The stacks that are blended into one pill could be built by acquiring each individual ingredient. This will give you more control over exactly how much of each component you take, but it will also be a much more labor-intensive and time-consuming process. In my opinion, the convenience and time-saving factor of taking a single pill or packet generally outweighs the potential benefits of perfecting a stack. However, if you are committed to making your own smart drugs, it probably makes the most sense to invest in each ingredient so that you can stack according to your own specific needs.

If you go this DIY route, you’ll primarily need:

A) bulk nootropics and smart drug ingredients;

B) a digital kitchen scale and / or digital spoon scale;

C) capsules and an encapsulation machine

Be aware that even natural, herbal products can cause some side effects. Most of the issues that are experienced with natural nootropics are mild and not very common. Synthetic smart drug supplements usually have more noticeable side effects, but many of these side effects can be alleviated by putting the right stacks together. This is, for example, the primary reason that people add choline to a racetam stack.

Finally don’t forget that some nootropics minimize the effect of the other pills that they are stacked with. A good example is that L-Theanine can remove the negative aspects of caffeine, but it may also give you a reduction in the overall anticipated energy boost as a result. This is yet another compelling reason to study the effects that each component has on the human body and experiment with multiple supplements to find your perfect smart drug stack.

—————————–

Summary

Ultimately, the burning question I get most often is:

What do YOU use Ben?”

To be honest, I fluctuate. I’ve used everything you just read about, from CILTEP to Alpha Brain to TianChi to mushroom extracts, and also made my own blends of L-theanine and caffeine and blends of piracetam, aniracetam and Alpha-GPC.

Currently, when I travel, which is quite often, I tend to take something that is easily portable, and it’s usually capsules of CILTEP or Alpha-Brain. I do not rely regularly on these, but I do use prior to speaking on stage or heavy bouts of writing.

And when I’m at home, I tend to stick to a big cup of mold-free black coffee early in the morning, TianChi in the mid-morning on any very cognitively demanding or sleep deprived days, and mushroom blends like FourSigma Lion’s Mane in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s usually cannabidiol via NatureCBD for relaxation, and occasionally when I’m playing music, at a party, or writing THC/CBD combinations either vaporized or in edible form. To maintain my sensitivity and avoid building up any tolerances, I switch to decaf coffee 1 week out of every 3 weeks, and also completely cut out any smart drugs, nootropics or cannabis-based products 1 week out of every 3 weeks.

And finally, just prior to releasing this article, I experimented twice with the following stack: 3 capsules of Alpha-Brain and 2 capsules of NatureCBD. Both times I used this stack I was short on sleep (operation on about 5 hours of sleep) and both times I was as productive as a madman from about 5am to 1pm. I then fell asleep both times for about 1 hour, then woke up in a pile of my own drool, feeling incredibly refreshed and like a new man. So at this point, although I can’ t say I’d recommend this stack unless you have the option of a nap, it is probably the most powerful blend I’ve experienced yet.

IMG_5561

So that’s it! I hope that was helpful. If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out two chapters that formed important elements of the mental section my Beyond Training book:

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 1

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 2

And be sure to leave your questions, comments, feedback, preferred smart drug stacks, tips and other thoughts below!

The Blood Test Your Doctor Won’t Order…

blood_2438637b

I get dozens of calls, podcast questions, and emails each week from people who ask things like…

“How can I optimize my health and longevity?”
 
“How can I live a long time and feel good doing it?”
 
“What supplements should I take for peak performance?”
 
“What should my ideal diet look like?”

Honestly, without any data about you, I have no idea.

This is because unless you know what your blood looks like under a microscope, there is no way for you to identify with 100% confidence what steps you should take to eat the right diet, to take the right supplements, to protect your health, to enhance your well-being, to perform at peak capacity, and perhaps most importantly, to live as long as possible with as high a quality of life as possible.

But sadly, most annual medical check-ups that the average physician orders are simply routine, old-school blood tests that don’t even test for the most important markers of disease risk, and that are simply designed to make sure you’re “not dying”. They aren’t designed to optimize longevity or to ensure your body is completely primed to perform at peak capacity. 

However, what most people don’t realize is that you can skip your physician and simply manage the entire process for getting your blood work done yourself.And if you want to test absolutely every little thing that affects your organs, your energy, your hormones, your health and your longevity, then you should definitely keep reading.

Working closely with WellnessFX, America’s top laboratory for concierge blood testing and online access to all your blood testing results, I’ve developed the”Greenfield Longevity Blood Testing Package”, which is the most complete blood testing package that money can buy.

When you click on the link above, you’ll see that there’s one package I specifically designed for men, and one for women. Here’s an example of what the men’s longevity panel covers:

  • 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D
  • Apolipoprotein A-1
  • Apolipoprotein B
  • Blood Lead
  • Blood Mercury
  • Cardio IQ Lipoprotein Fractionation, Ion Mobility
  • Complete Blood Count w/ differential
  • Complete Metabolic Panel
  • Copper
  • Cortisol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Ferritin, serum
  • Fibrinogen
  • Folate
  • Free Fatty Acids
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Homocysteine
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • IGF-1 (Growth hormone surrogate)
  • Insulin
  • Iron, TIBC
  • Lipid Panel
  • Lipoprotein (a)
  • Lipoprotein-associated Phospholipase A2
  • Luteininzing Hormone
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • RBC Magnesium
  • Reverse T-3
  • Selenium
  • SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin)
  • T-3 Total
  • T-3 Uptake
  • T-4 (Thyroxine)
  • T-3 Free
  • T-4 Free
  • Testosterone + Free Testosterone
  • Thiamine
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies
  • Thyroid Peroxidase AB
  • TSH
  • Uric Acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc
  • Estradiol

And the women’s longevity panel includes:

  • 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D
  • Apolipoprotein A-1
  • Apolipoprotein B
  • Blood Lead
  • Blood Mercury
  • Cardio IQ Lipoprotein Fractionation, Ion Mobility
  • Complete Blood Count w/ differential
  • Complete Metabolic Panel
  • Copper
  • Cortisol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Ferritin, serum
  • Fibrinogen
  • Folate
  • Free Fatty Acids
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Homocysteine
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • IGF-1 (Growth hormone surrogate)
  • Insulin
  • Iron, TIBC
  • Lipid Panel
  • Lipoprotein (a)
  • Lipoprotein-associated Phospholipase A2
  • Luteininzing Hormone
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • RBC Magnesium
  • Reverse T-3
  • Selenium
  • SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin)
  • T-3 Total
  • T-3 Uptake
  • T-4 (Thyroxine)
  • T-3 Free
  • T-4 Free
  • Testosterone + Free Testosterone
  • Thiamine
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies
  • Thyroid Peroxidase AB
  • TSH
  • Uric Acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc
  • Estradiol
  • Progesterone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone

As you can see, this is by far the most comprehensive blood testing package that exists, and I created it for the health enthusiast, biohacker and anti-aging individual who wants access to the same type of executive health panel and screening that would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars at a longevity institute.

You can check out the new longevity blood panel here. If you have questions, simply leave your comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Backpacking, Bowhunting & Shooting Tips From A Natural Born Hunter.

Will Bradley
Last weekend, I competed at the TrainToHunt event in Northern Idaho.
And on the day this podcast is released, I’m competing at a second TrainToHunt event in Southern Idaho.
If you have absolutely no idea what a TrainToHunt event is, then I’d highly recommend you listen in to my previous TrainToHunt podcast with Kenton Clairmont. In it, Kenton and I discuss why bowhunting is probably the most appropriate example of ancestral athleticism and functional fitness that exists, and why I’m personally getting more and more into the bowhunting scene.
I also talk quite a bit about hunting fitness in the episode “How To Build Primal Fitness And Endurance By Hunting: An Interview With A Bowhunting Triathlete.”
Today, I interview Will Bradley (pictured above), fellow podcaster, TrainToHunt director and host of the Natural Born Hunter podcast.
Will was born and raised in upstate New York, where the concept, image, and ideas of hunting are deeply rooted in the culture. Although Will wasn’t “born” into a hunting family, his love for nature and the outdoors has always run through his blood. He spent many hours upland bird hunting and fly fishing with his grandfather in Adirondacks in his youth, and in 2012, Will took this passion for the outdoors to the next level, as he purchased his first bow. Will is a passionate bow hunter, and an avid CrossFit athlete, and as the paths of fitness and bowhunting began to intersect, Train to Hunt became the obvious choice for Will as a way to express and share his appreciation for the sport.
Here’s Will’s take on being what he calls a “hunter athlete”:
“My whole life, I have always had a desire to take on new challenges and push myself out of my comfort zone. Being a hunter athlete is a never ending challenge, where the word comfort is seldom used. You have to always push yourself past your limits physically and mentally to find success. A hunter athlete must go farther than others have travelled before and push themselves well outside the boundaries of what is thought to be conventional hunting. It is on the edge of these limits that we define our sport. There is no offseason and there are no breaks. Becoming a hunter is one of the best decisions I have made in my life.”
In this episode, you’ll discover:
-How a construction worker from upstate New York got into bowhunting…
-Why Will thinks sitting in a tree stand for your hunting still requires a fit body…
 
-Whether this whole TrainToHunt and hunting fitness thing is a passing fad…
 
-What Will’s workouts look like, and what he eats…
 
-The biggest mistakes people make when getting ready for something like TrainToHunt…
 
-The best way to estimate your yardage when shooting…
 
-How to fill a pack  the right way… 
-And much more!
Resources we discuss during this episode:
This podcast was brought to you by Onnit, where you can save boatloads of money on things like sandbags, kettlebebells and walnut butter. Do you have questions, comments or feedback about Train To Hunt, hunting fitness, shooting, packing, or any other topic Will and I discuss? If so, leave your thoughts below…

How To Make Your Penis Stronger With A Private Gym

dog

OK, let’s start here: the article that you may be about to read is a bit explicit. If you are an astute reader, you have already gathered this by reading the freaking title.

I’m really, really not kidding.

In this article, I acknowledge the existence of your pelvic floor muscles, I discuss Kegel exercises, I use many different words to describe the male anatomy, I talk about why I think pornography can destroy your brain, and I even discuss the sexual relationship between me and my wife.

If these topics make you uncomfortable or make you upset or make you turn red in the face, or if you are reading this article at a public place such as your office, I would recommend you either stop reading now or you wait until you are in a more private place.

At the same time, we’re mostly all adults here, and considering the popularity of my “How To Get Fit For Sex” podcast episode, and just about every other article and podcast I’ve done on libido, sex, etc., I’m not going to shy away from a topic like the one I discuss below.

Here is a very, very brief synopsis: I experimented for 30 days with a magnet resistance device for the male anatomy called the “Private Gym” (the same device my dog Blitzen is suspiciously sniffing in the photo above), and I give you the full, nitty-gritty details below.

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll blush.

Enjoy.

P.S. Yes ladies, there’s plenty of good advice for you in here too.

P.S.S. Full disclaimer: I got my Private Gym for free. They gave me a trial version. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it was not a refurbished model.

——————–

Day 1, Part 1:

OK, I’ll embarrassingly admit that prior to unboxing my Private Gym, I hadn’t realized that the thing is literally a gym. For your privates. Duh.

Up until this point, as I held the Private Gym box in my hands and walked up the driveway from my mailbox, I was envisioning some kind of highly portable, fold-out, mildly clandestine contraption designed for a quick, cutting-edge full-body workout. You know. My own private gym. Chest, abs, biceps, calves, quads, hammies…the works.

Ahh…such a cute and innocent expectation, Ben.

Instead, as I stand in my kitchen holding a resistance ring and weighted magnet in my hands, I realize that the Private Gym is indeed, as advertised, “a patented, FDA registered weighted penis ring and magnetic weight to maximize pelvic muscle growth and strength”.

Woo, boy. So much for 7-minute abs. I now have the promise of 7-minute gonads.

Well…

…I’m a reasonable guy. I test out a lot of fitness devices for their efficacy, ease-of-use, and efficiency, so I might as well treat this the same way. Yet another muscle training device. A very, very potentially awkward muscle training device.

What the heck, I figure I’ll give it a shot.

The instructions are as follows:

“The resistance ring is easy to use and ergonomically designed for men of all sizes. To start, simply place the adjustable ring around your erect penis and follow the guided Private Gym Program exercises. The weight is lifted up and down by squeezing and releasing your pelvic muscles. This movement places resistance on your pelvic muscles, resulting in full muscle growth and strength.”

OK, this seems straightforward enough. Considering myself a pretty intuitive guy, I toss aside the accompanying DVD. I never watch DVD instructions anyways, and this is no exception. After all, it can’t be rocket science (pun.) to wrap something around your dick and then contract, right?

The Private Gym instructions also strictly warn that “the resistance ring should only be used after completing the first four weeks of basic training, which is included with this program”. That means I’m not supposed to use the resistance ring for the first four weeks. I also ignore these instructions.

See, ever since I interviewed my friend Jordan Gray on the podcast “How To Get Fit For Sex”, I’ve included things like kegel exercises when I’m sitting in a car or airplane, front planks and side planks with a focus on deep abdominal contractions, and even the occasional “wet towel” lift workout (listen to the podcast episode to hear what I mean, or just use your imagination).

Plus, the thing weighs only 2.5 ounces. According to the Private Gym website: “Placed on the erect penis and lifted up and down, the super-soft, “resistance ring” weighs only 2.5 oz, not a lot but enough weight to dramatically strengthen and grow the pelvic muscles.”

So yeah, I can crawl under freaking barbwire in a front plank position for 10 minutes. I can swim for hours at a breakneck pace. I can flip really heavy tires. So I figure I can strip off the training wheels and jump straight into using this resistance ring with the special weighted magnet thingy.

Based on that, the following is to be my workout for the first week:

IMG_5326

Easy enough. Compared to burpees and squats, this should be a cinch. Not only that, but maybe if I do this three times per week as directed, I can achieve all the testosterone boosting benefits of sexual stimulation in the absence orgasm (another thing Jordan talked about in our episode).

OK, let’s do this. Day 1, Step 1…deep breath…and…get an erection! Go!

Fail.

Now here’s the deal fellas. I’m not a “porn guy”. Moral oppositions aside, I’m convinced that frequent exposure to erotic imagery of an unlimited number of ready-to-mate females is a fast track to short-circuit your dopamine production. You can read all more about how you can totally screw yourself (heh.) biologically with porn by visiting YourBrainOnPorn.com. So I’m not going to use porn for my Private Gym training.

And my attempt to close my eyes and use sheer will to force myself into a giant erection? Well, any hot-blooded male knows how well that works.

So I go to my secret weapon: erotic, sexy, mouth-drooling photos of…my wife. Yeah, she doesn’t read my articles, or else she’d probably be red in the face right now. If you do read this, then sorry babe. It’s for the sake of science. I won’t publish the photos.

OK, photos ready. Boom. Erection complete. Resistance band with weight attached. Ready for lift-off.

Woo-hoo! Contract, release…contract, release. Yeah, cowboy.

Damn.

My erection is quickly fading.

It’s actually much, much harder than I thought to focus on reading workout instructions, contracting and relaxing my pelvic floor, attempting to ignore the fact that there’s a miniature weighted vest on my penis, maintaining an erection, and staring at photos that are supposed to maintain my erection all at the same time. And as you can imagine, the resistance band doesn’t really jive well with flaccidity. It’s like trying to keep a straw on a wet noodle.

So I need another plan.

Sure, I’ll ask “the experts” during my introductory educational call with the good folks at Private Gym next week, but time is not to be wasted. So I hatch a plan…

…let’s just say I could rope my wife into helping me for 10 minutes, three times a week, to “maintain” an erection during my Private Gym training . I’m literally thinking something like: foreplay, then stop to do the exercises, start again, stop again, and so on. Kind of like tantric sex combined with Rocky Balboa-style grunting and lifting. What woman could resist such a proposal? I can’t guarantee a “no orgasm” approach with this technique, as I’m not sure I have that amount of willpower, but there’s my idea. Don’t laugh.

So tonight, I shall propose to my wife over a glass of wine, and a tiny weighted band. Romantic.

——————–

Day 1, Part 2:

She said yes.

And things progressed pretty quick from there, really.

We finish our wine.

We get kids to bed, fast. Done. Night kids, here’s your earplugs.

Run to bedroom, with about the same amount of excitedly teenager-like anticipation as the last time we tried something new (*cough* handcuffs and whipped cream *cough*).

Music, check. Disrobe, check. And from there, you can pretty much use your imagination.

Actually, don’t. I don’t want you imagining me and my wife doing a Private Gym workout together. That’s not comfortable for me.

Instead, I’ll give you the basics.

First we get all hot and heavy, then stop to put on resistance band. Next I start round one of my training: contract, relax, contract, relax, five rounds done. 20 rapid flexes, done. 20 second hold, done. My penis quivers (oh geez, did I just write that?) under the weight towards the end, but it’s totally doable. We make out while I’m doing the workout round. Then back to more hot and heavy foreplay during my one minute rest.

We repeat for another round. And then one final round. This is kinda fun actually. In a “I’m working out while we have sex” kind of fun way.

Then, after my three rounds of Private Gym training are complete, we finish love-making in our traditional way, with the giant clown-suits, leather balls, and dwarf goats. Heh, kidding. We finish with an orgasm. The no-orgasm approach isn’t something I’m quite sold on yet.

So anyways, that’s the end of Day 1 of my Private Gym training. I collapse into deep sleep, the first of the next 30 days of my manly exercise complete.

——————–

Day 2:

I wake up.

Penis mildly sore? I can’t tell. Maybe just placebo. Pelvic floor feels good. Maybe a little fatigued, but not like I’m uncontrollably incontinent and peeing my underwear or anything like that.

The resistance ring is still sitting on the nightstand. It’s supposedly “body safe, hypoallergenic, DEHP-free, completely waterproof and compatible with all body safe lubricants”. Whatever. I clean the heck out of the thing with soapy water. Twice.

Of course, I have no Private Gym training today. I don’t want to get overtraining and adrenal fatigue, you know. I’ll stick to three training sessions per week. My wife is on board. Fist-pump for that. Pun.

——————–

Day 3:

I was supposed to do Private Gym training tonight. My wife knew about it because I “warned” her. But instead, I fell asleep. Long day.

However, on a more helpful note, I did get a chance to talk to one of the head honchos at Private Gym, a guy named David. So I asked David my one burning question: how does one maintain an erection in between the “rest periods” during the training?

In a nutshell, “self-stimulate” is the politically correct answer that he gave me. Makes sense, and it’s kinda what I figured. Interestingly, David also brought up the topic that if you have a hard time getting an erection in the first place (heh), then you can “work backwards” into the Private Gym training by using something like Cialis or Viagra to get an erection, then do your training with a little help from pill chemistry – with the end goal (of course) of not needing the erectile dysfunction pill once you’ve finished your month of training.

Interesting idea. But I’ll personally stick to beet juice.

——————–

Day 4:

Got another training session in tonight, and I must admit that it’s mildly awkward to stop in the middle of sex to do my special workout, and then keep going. At least I think so. My wife, on the other hand, seems incredibly excited about the whole thing and the tantric anticipation of starting, then stopping, then starting, then getting close to climax, then stopping again.

So if anything, this whole Private Gym thing is at least: A) enhancing my love life; and B) tricking me into tantric sex. Sneaky.

——————–

Day 5:

I’ve realized that there could be a slight hiccup in my Private Gym training: today I’m headed off to a 5 day wilderness survival course. We’re talking grunting men gathered around a campfire chewing on charcoal-encrusted chunks of elk meat. I can’t exactly sneak my wife into camp, and there’s no way I’m going to get a boner in a tent in the middle of the wilderness, especially considering I’m sharing said tent with a bunch of other dudes.

So for the next 5 days, I’m shifting to my backup plan, a plan endorsed by the folks at Private Gym as an option for when you want to do your training without an erection and without the weighted magnet attached to your little guy. It’s really just a fancy, structured version of Kegel exercises (again, without the weighted penis magnet), and here’s how it goes:

-Squeeze pelvic muscles as hard as I can and hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds

-Release slowly and relax for 1-2 seconds

-Perform 50 repetitions

-Next, perform 20 “Rapid Flexes”

-At the end of each set, hold the contraction for 20 seconds.

-Rest 1 minute.

-Perform 3 sets.

Rapid Flex? OK, I realize some of the terminology may be confusing, so here’s a snapshot of a page in the Private Gym instruction manual:

IMG_5397

——————–

Day 6:

Wilderness penis training complete.

——————–

Day 7:

Off day.

I’m wondering if they make tiny foam rollers I can use to enhance recovery of my pelvic muscles. I’m also curious if a post-workout protein shake could enhance results. Blood doping perhaps? There’s got to be all sorts of ways you can biohack your Private Gym training. Maybe even one of those elevation training masks to make breathing more difficult.

Just wondering.

——————–

Day 8:

As I lay in my sleeping bag before drifting off to sleep, I do another set of Private Gym exercises. I’m sure that with my dedication to these Kegel-style moves, I would be a great pregnant mother. After all, physicians frequently prescribe these things to women for childbirth preparation.

——————–

Day 9:

Last day in the wilderness, and another recovery day.

——————–

Day 10:

Back home to my lovely wife. After a glass of wine, I jump right back into my weighted training.

And here’s the deal: both orgasm and ejaculation are significantly stronger and better today. It could be the fact that I’ve spent the past 5 days getting blue-balled in the wilderness while hanging out with seven other guys in a macho sausage-fest completely devoid of sex opportunities, or it could be that this whole Private Gym thing is actually working.

Either way, I’m not complaining.

——————–

Day 11:

Well, it has happened: yet another disruption in my Private Gym training. In retrospect, I probably should have planned out a period of my life containing one unbroken period of 30 days to truly devote to making my penis stronger.

Instead, I hopped on a plane today to fly to a 4 day speaking gig, once again wifeless, but still just as devoted as ever to completing some semblance of Private Gym training.

So I decided to join the mile-high Kegel exercise club during a Spokane to Phoenix flight by completing my entire training session quietly in my airplane seat, squeezing and releasing, squeezing and releasing over and over again, as the lady sitting next to me sat blissfully unaware that her seat mate was engaged in a hard and heavy reproductive muscle training session. Aside from a very small bead of sweat that formed on my brow, I managed to covertly finish up my training at 30,000 feet elevation (sans erection and sans magnet, of course).

delta

——————–

Day 12:

I’ve had a breakthrough. Today I combined my Private Gym training with grip training. No, no, no…it’s not what you think. I’m not going to go blind or get hairy palms.

Instead, here’s what I did: I own a bad-ass, super difficult 150 pound steel grip trainer called “Captains Of Crush”. And what I’ve discovered is that if I combine each pelvic muscle contraction with a hard and heavy squeeze on my grip trainer, and I can not only squeeze my pelvic muscles even harder, but I can also train my fingers, hands and forearms at the same time I train my penis (yeah, yeah, that was an awkward sentence to write).

As a self-proclaimed biohacker obsessed with efficiency and getting the most out of every workout I do, this is an appealing concept: now I can train two body parts simultaneously. Sure, this method probably won’t work during my Private Gym training with my wife, but for my solo, erection-less and magnet-less efforts, this is pretty dang cool.

——————–

Day 13:

I am breaking the rules and perhaps overtraining my genitalia, but since I’m still at this conference, I did another session of grip training combined with Kegels today. I will keep very close note if anything turns blue and falls off, or if I come down with some strange case of penile rhabdomyolysis…

——————–

Day 14:

Long flight home today.

After two hardcore days of training, I’m taking the day off of Private Gym, even though I’ll still admit that I have yet to experience any pelvic floor muscle soreness. Rather, it’s as if I have a greater sense of awareness of everything “down there” because I’ve been contracting it so much. It feels as though I’m building some kind of mind-muscle connection or an enhanced neuronal network connection into my crotch.

I’m pretty sure this is a good thing.

——————–

Day 15:

Hooray. After being away from my wife for most of the week, I get to have sex tonight, with *real* Private Gym training, erection and all.

Mayday, mayday…there seems to be a problem. I’m having a hard time getting it up. Seriously. This hasn’t happened since the days of Ironman triathlon training when I used to spend 3-4 hours in a bike saddle. But for some odd reason, I’m a little…flaccid. My wife is pretty good-natured about the whole thing, and even though I eventually get it up enough to have a little fun, my poor little guy can barely support the Private Gym magnet weight.

What’s going on? Have I overtrained my pelvic floor? Did I ruin something?

This is exactly the opposite of what’s supposed to happen with this new training regimen. I’m supposed to be getting stronger, not weaker. Not that I expect to turn into some kind of sex god, but at the same time, I’m going to throw the towel in on this whole Kegel thing if the final result is erectile dysfunction.

I fall asleep, a little disappointed.

——————–

Day 16:

I’m taking the day off of training. I’m a bit nervous. Perhaps my muscles just need some recovery after last night’s disappointing performance. Maybe it was just a fluke, and totally unrelated to the Private Gym training. Maybe it was just all the airline travel. Who knows. Either way, I don’t feel like training.

——————–

Day 17:

I’m back, jack.

I made it halfway through the day today, and just couldn’t take it any longer. I had to find out if day 15 was a fluke.

And herein lies the advantage of having a home office. Day 17 was a definite highlight of the entire Private Gym experience. Most of you gentleman have probably used this strategy at some point in your life, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it: I hunted down my wife while she was taking a shower, and used the sneak, surprise strategy. An average, hot-blooded American woman just can’t seem to turn down a naked, wet, soapy, lathered-up dude, and I took full advantage of the fact. Absolutely no cold shower was involved for me on this one .

I was fast. I was furious. I was definitely not flaccid. And while I didn’t take my magnet in the shower for an actual training session, I didn’t really care. My crotch most definitely got a workout.

——————–

Day 18:

So yet another new development has occurred and yet another valuable Private Gym learning experience could be right around the corner. I’m hopping on a plane to head across the country to speak, but this time, I’m bringing the whole family with me, wife and all.

Yep, that means I’m packing a penis magnet.

What will TSA think? Will it trigger an explosive alarm as pass through security? Will I be branded as a national security threat due to the mysterious object in my carry-on bag. I mean, I obviously won’t be *wearing* the thing, but at the same time, I can’t imagine that genital exercise devices go through the security scanner all too often.

I’m happy to report that no alarms sounded. My Private Gym workout equipment made it safe and sound on the plane. Now, let’s just hope we don’t have a noisy, squeaky bed at our lodging.

——————–

Day 19:

Nothing notable to report. I made it safely across the country and settled into a rented home with the family, and no chance yet for a Private Gym training session, but I am of course, every day, continuing with the hand gripper + Kegel exercise routine

…getting strong like bull…

captains of crush

——————–

Day 20:

Here’s an interesting observation: I noticed that the PrivateGym website discusses the concept of how your pelvic muscles power “everything below the belt”.

So technically, all this pelvic floor training should:

1. Make me a better pooper.

2. Make me a better runner.

3. Make me a better lover.

So based on this, I believe that “Poop, Run, Love.” would be a great tagline for a Private Gym promotional campaign. But seriously, I actually have noticed what seems to be better “control” of my bathroom muscles when I’m squatting on the toilet. Since I never before peed myself while running, I can’t say that has improved, but I would imagine for someone who has any type of running incontinence, this could come in handy.

——————–

Day 21:

This was the one day of our vacation on which I actually was able to attach the magnet to myself and get in training during an actual lovemaking session. I’m very, very proud of myself for transporting a weighted penis trainer across the entire country, and then actually using it. Hooray for me.

——————–

Day 22:

Now that I’ve trained for 3 weeks with the Private Gym, I’m finding myself subconsciously doing Kegel exercises and pelvic contractions at completely random occasions, including standing in line at the grocery store, typing e-mails, making a smoothie, and reading books.

You could say that randomly contracting my pelvis has become as natural as breathing.

Whether this is a good habit or a bad habit, I’m not quite sure, but unlike the natural act of breathing, I have become consciously self aware during my pelvic contractions that curious bystanders may be able to see my butt muscles contracting through my shorts or jeans, or worse yet, see my pelvis quietly rocking back and forth, like some kind of Elvis wannabe.

Oh well, you know what? If you have nothing better to do that stare at my twitching crotch, then fine. Do your thing. I’m confident with my Kegels.

——————–

Day 23:

My wife made my day today.

We had sex (which, as a fun byproduct of this whole Private Gym thing, has been a very regularly occurring theme of the month), and as we finished, sweating, breathing hard, and collapsing into each other’s arms, she commented:

“You know, I can actually feel that you’re doing those exercises.”

Really?

“You feel kind of bigger. It’s like your muscles grew down there.”

Cool. I fall asleep smiling. It’s working. I was never too worried about incontinence, prolapse, pelvic floor disorder, or any of those other medical-ly things – I just wanted to get into this Private Gym training to perform better in the bedroom. And so far, the experiment is working fantastically.

——————–

Day 24:

Today I published an article about Kegel exercises at QuickAndDirtyTips.com. If you’re this far into reading and still scratching your head about how the heck Kegel exercises work, why to do them, the research behind them, the myths about them causing pelvic floor disorder, and even the skinny on special barbells, weights, springs, or cones designed to be held in a woman’s anatomy, then read it.

And of course, inspired by my wife’s compliments last night, I Kegel-ed the heck out of myself today.

getfitguy

——————–

Day 25:

I delved into studying something interesting today (that I alluded to a bit earlier when I mentioned that the Private Gym could potentially make you a better pooper): Kegel training can actually help with constipation.

Here’s how: people with a weakened anal sphincter (the muscle around the anus) or people with certain nerve problems in their pelvic floor muscles may not recognize the sensation that their rectum is filling and they need to have a bowel movement. Other people can actually sense that they need to have a bowel movement, but no matter how long a time they spend on the toilet or how hard they push, they just can’t seem to be able to relax their internal sphincters to “let go”. In the latter situation, this is kind of a big deal, since it can cause a rectal prolapse. Google that. It’s not cool.

Biofeedback, also known as neurofeedback, is a training technique in which you squeeze and hold the muscles in the pelvic area as hard as you can (for example, for 30 seconds), then you *completely* relax those muscles while gently breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth (for another 30 seconds). This type of biofeedback helps you to recognize and and control the function of your sphincter.

I was inspired to look into this after realizing that 25 days into Private Gym training, my pooping function seemed to be enhanced. Now I’m not saying that Kegels are the only thing you should be doing if you’re constipated (I have plenty more pooping tips here), but they’re definitely worth it for learning how to train your anal sphincter muscles.

Anyways, kind of a rabbit hole, or more appropriately, a human hole, but it’s still pretty interesting, isn’t it?

——————–

Day 26:

I had another weighted workout tonight, and this time I noticed that the 2.5 ounce weight is definitely getting lighter. I guess this makes sense. After all, I’m turning into a seasoned penis weightlifter. My body is morphing. Perhaps I need to wear an elevation training mask or something to make this more difficult.

However, upon inspecting the Private Gym website, I see that I can actually enhance my workout by ordering additional weights. There’s an add-on package that includes 2 additional magnetic weights that each weigh 2.5 ounces. Turns out I can even choose “orange” or “charcoal gray”. True to my hunches, the website says “you will need these additional weights as you continue to strengthen your pelvic muscles and maximize pelvic muscle growth and strength”.

I didn’t actually order the extra weights. Yet. I think I’ll finish my 30 day trial before I decide if I really want to turn my pelvic floor into the incredible hulk.

——————–

Day 27:

As I get closer and closer to the end of my 30 day experiment, I’ve found myself more frequently on The Private Gym website, especially the FAQ section.

One of the claims they make is that…

“The Private Gym is specifically designed to work in conjunction with erectile dysfunction medications. The Private Gym exercises are designed to help reverse the onset of erectile dysfunction resulting from pelvic muscle weakness, which may ultimately reduce the need for future medication.”

So if I understand correctly, one could enhance results by popping Viagra prior to their training session? I guess since weightlifters take nitric oxide, beta-alanine, niacin and other blood flow enhancers prior to workouts, it does kind of make sense.

Problem is, as I outline in the article Four Natural, Pill-Free Alternatives To Spending $9.52 On A Viagra Pill (And One Potent Libido Tip For Ladies), there are some serious problems with Viagra, including priapism (click here to see what that very unpleasant thing is), severe drop in blood pressure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), abnormal heart rhythms, stroke, and sudden hearing loss – resulting in a complete lack of ability to enjoy that Barry Manilow you have piping through the bedroom. In clinical trials, common adverse effects of Viagra include headache, flushing, heartburn, nasal congestion, loss of peripheral vision, extreme visual blurriness and impaired eyesight, ironically including seeing tinted blue colors (also known as cyanopsia).

Yikes.

But tomorrow night, I plan on trying the following natural alternatives to Viagra (I discuss these and many more in the article I mention above):

-Pre-dinner: Red Wine (the good stuff of course)
-Main dish: Buttered oysters over a bed of ice, with Fresh Watermelon (add sea salt and cayenne pepper to the watermelon)
-Side dish: Roasted Red Peppers with Black Pepper & Garlic
-Dessert: Dark Chocolate

Everything listed above acts very similarly to Viagra, but is of course entirely natural. And of course, I’ll throw in my usual testosterone booster “Aggressive Strength” that I take every day anyways.

I’ll keep you posted on the results.

oysters

——————–

Day 28:

OK, another important Private Gym FAQ, and a potentially sensitive questions:

Q. Does the Private Gym Resistance Training Equipment fit all penis sizes?

A. Yes. The Private Gym Resistance equipment is expertly designed to fit all penis sizes. The flexible ultra-soft silicone band opens and closes to gently grip the shaft of the penis.

So there you have it. All sizes welcome.

By the way, I’m sure you’re wondering if my nutrition hack worked tonight.

Despite having to fight away my children so that I could at least harvest a few tiny shreds of leftover watermelon, and despite being forced to share half my dark chocolate with my wife, I consumed more than my fair share of oysters and roasted red peppers.

And yes, throbbing vascularity ensued.

I have been waiting this entire article to write that phrase. I may never get a chance to include that in my writing again, so I’m savoring every moment. Throbbing vascularity. There, I did it again.

——————–

Day 29:

My wife, my neighbors and my housekeeper are all accustomed to me getting very strange packages in the mail, and half the time, they’re the ones opening the packages, not me.

So I’m pretty used to getting raised eyebrows when I receive everything from coffee enema equipment to EMF blocking underwear.

But your life may not as embarrassingly and shameless public as mine, so if you’re concerned about everything from what appears on credit card statements to what shows up on the doorstep of your house, then have no fear, because the Private Gym FAQ boldly states:

Q. Is the Private Gym shipped in discreet packaging?

A. Your privacy is guaranteed. The Private Gym is shipped in discreet packaging and appears as “gym fee” on your credit card statement. More importantly, any personal information provided to The Private Gym is kept confidential and is never shared or sold.

And I will admit, the box actually is pretty discreet. It is not a giant penis shaped, guitar-case size contraption that will arrive on your doorstep. And that part about “gym fee” is pretty sneaky, if you ask me. But I suppose it will generate fewer raised eyebrows from your accountant compared to “penis magnet”.

——————–

Day 30:

Wow. I have arrived at Day 30.

I made it through four grueling weeks of hardcore training (possibly the most appropriate use of hardcore I’ve ever written).

I may celebrate today by Kegel-ing myself into a pile of sweaty exhaustion. Or perhaps I’ll just take the wife out for a bit of wining, dining, and one more Private Gym training session.

But this does actually have me thinking…what’s next?

Do I need to continue this protocol multiple times per week? Do I need to Kegel on every airplane flight and whip out the magnet on every lovemaking session?

So I contacted Andrew, my special concierge helper at Private Gym and the guy who sent me the magnet in the first place, and I asked him:

“So after 4 weeks of time on the resistance program, what’s next? Do I go into some kind of maintenance mode? How fast will I “lose it”?”

Here is his reply:

“Use it or lose it. The pelvic floor muscles-like all skeletal muscles-are highly adaptive to the stresses and resistances placed upon them…or not. Once the adaptive process has resulted in increased strength and endurance, maintenance training should be pursued. This requires the same level of intensity, but practiced less frequently, once or twice weekly usually being sufficient. In the absence of continued resistance, there will be a slow, but inevitable loss of strength and tone.”

So what’s my plan?

I’ll continue to do Kegels at least once every couple days, since I can do them anytime, anyplace, and they work well with the whole hand grip training thing. And I think a full-on Private Gym weighted magnet lovemaking session is something I (and my wife) could continue to handle every week or two.

So I’ll keep the special little magnet in it’s designated place in the nightstand drawer, waiting for action.

——————–

Summary:

So there you have it.

I’ve managed to shamelessly reveal the results of one of the more embarrassing self-experiments I’ve conducted, and hopefully you’ve learned a few valuable things in the process.

Ultimately, my personal observation is that the Private Gym works, and it’s not a gimmick.

My erections have gotten better, my orgasms have gotten stronger, I’ve dramatically increased my ability to “control” my pelvic muscles and ejaculation during sex, and apparently, although it was never an issue before, I’ve bulletproofed myself against incontinence and pelvic floor disorder. Perhaps I’ll appreciate that last one when I’m 80 years old and saving money on diapers.

If get a Private Gym and you don’t like it, you can return it at any time within 60 days of purchase for a full refund. You can click here to get one, and yes, that’s an affiliate link. I went through a great deal of heartache and hard work with this experiment so you might as well put a few nickels in my hat if you get one of these bad boys for yourself.

Leave any questions, comments or feedback below, and happy training (heh, phone not included as you can see).

pg-complete-product-main

 

 

How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.

cretanrunner

I just finished reading what I consider to be one of the best books of 2015: Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.

In the book, best-selling author Christopher McDougall, today’s podcast guest and a guy who you may recognize as the same author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen travels to the Mediterranean, where he discovers that the secrets of ancient Greek heroes are still alive and well in the razor-sharp mountains on the island of Crete – ready to be unleashed in the muscles and minds of casual athletes and aspiring heroes everywhere.

In the story, Chris recreates an amazing true tale of a band of Resistance fighters in World War II who plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. He  makes his way to the island to experience firsthand the extreme physical challenges the Resistance fighters and their local allies faced, and on Crete, the birthplace of the classical Greek heroism that spawned the likes of amazing physical specimens such as Herakles and Odysseus, McDougall discovers the tools of the heroes, including skills such as natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition, skills that are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today.

If you want to be a modern-day athlete who can hone ancient skills to be ready for anything, then this podcast episode is for you. Prepare to get inspired to leave the gym and take your fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to your own heroic feats.

So who is Christopher McDougall ?

Trained as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, Chris covered wars in Rwanda and Angola before writing the international bestseller, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. His fascination with the limits of human potential also led him to create the Outside magazine web series, “Art of the Hero”, and then most recently, the book Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.

During this audio interview with Chris, you’ll discover:

-How Chris combines a life of immersive journalism and juggling family life with a study of extreme sports…

-Why the tiny island of Crete was such an important part of World War II, and how the Cretans developed such amazing athleticism…

-How to manipulate your body’s own fascia to generate huge amounts of force, to run faster and to master natural movement…

-The only form of hand-to-hand combat that you should learn if you really want to learn to fight as efficiently as possible…

-Why Chris studied Parkour to prepare for his trip to Crete…

-How the mighty Cretan runners ran dozens and dozens of miles on virtually no calories, and how you can learn to do it too…

Why it’s a myth that running a marathon killed the first person that did it…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

ParkourGenerations.com

Wing Chun

My podcast with Barry Murray on becoming fat-adapted

Chris Mcdougall’s Amazon author page

ChrisMcDougall.com

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or Chris? Leave your thoughts below and one of us with reply.

What I Eat: 19 Of My Go-To Foods For Stocking A Healthy Pantry.

bg-large-2

My buddy Mark Sisson recently published his top 50 essential healthy pantry foods for establishing a shelf-stable pantry that will stand the test of time, dozens of recipes, and course, a zombie apocalypse. From cricket bars to kombu, here’s his list.

Darn it, Mark.

50?

OK, granted – despite looking like a Greek god, Mark is a touch older than me (twice as old?), but nonetheless, I’ve obviously got some catching up to do, because when I venture into my pantry it’s difficult to hunt down 50 different items.

However, I recently spoke at Nourish Vermont’s Traditional Food And Health Gathering about “Fueling The Ancestral Athlete”, and during that talk, I was at least able to identify 19 foods that do indeed appear as staples in my diet.

So enjoy these 19 discoveries…and stay tuned, because…

…at the end of this post, I’m going to give you a link to another article that I wrote which shows you how to use these foods to make quick and easy recipes, and also, because I know that quality ingredients and products like this aren’t always affordable (especially if you’ve ever shopped at markets like Whole Foods AKA “Whole Paycheck”), I’ll show you exactly how to stock your pantry with all these things (and more) at 25%-50% off retail prices you’d pay at a normal grocery store or fancy market.

———————————–

bone broth1. Bone Broth

Nearly every traditional society boiled bones of meat-giving animals to make a nutritive broth. Bone broth is an extraordinarily inexpensive food, especially for its nutritive value. Beyond its culinary uses and economic benefits, bone broth is remarkably healthful, deeply flavorful, incredibly versatile and can provide a handy base for soups, sauces, gravies, as well as providing a cooking medium for grains and vegetables.

As the bones from bone broth cook in water, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals and nutrients leach from the bones into the water. The minerals in broth are easily absorbed by your body. Bone broth even contains glucosamine and chondroiton, which may help mitigate the deleterious effects of arthritis and joint pain. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin, which is an inexpensive source of supplementary protein that helps to support the connective tissue in your body, and also helps the skin, fingernails and hair to grow well and strong.

You can knock yourself out with just about everything else you need to know about bone broth in this bone broth podcast episode I recorded with chef Lance Roll.

My top tip for bone broth: I drink a cup of bone broth (I drink it hot or cold, and don’t really care which) as a nourishing, nutrient-dense low-calorie substitute for a meal when I’m in a hurry or watching my calories. It can also be used a healthy substitute for a sports drink, as I discuss with my podcast guest here

———————————–

eggs2. Free Range Eggs

Free-range eggs are eggs produced from birds that are permitted outdoors for at least part of the day. The term “free-range” may be used differently depending on the country and the relevant laws. Eggs from hens that are only indoors might also be labelled Cage-free, Barn, Barn-roaming or Aviary. I’d personally prefer to eat eggs from chickens who have only eaten organically and who have been allowed to roam as much as possible.

Egg protein is classified as a complete protein. For a protein source to be considered complete, it has to have all the nine essential amino acids present. The amino acid content of eggs is well studied and their value as an excellent source of protein is pretty widely known. Beyond the nine essential amino acids, there are other kinds of proteins in eggs that are considerably beneficial. Ovalbumin, for example, is one type most abundant in the egg white (interestingly, it has been used as a treatment for heavy metal poisoning).

There is also a wide range of B vitamins and adequate amounts of vitamins A, D and E found in eggs. One of exceptional abundance is the B-complex vitamin choline. This nutrient plays important roles in maintaining cell membranes, transmitting nerve signals, and protecting your liver from fat accumulation. Some of the B vitamins, such as niacin, are mostly found in the egg white. The fat soluble A, D and E vitamins and most of the beneficial cholesterols are all in the yolk. There are also about 109 milligrams of omega-3 essential fatty acids for every 100 grams of eggs (essential because they’re crucial to normal physiology but the human body doesn’t produce them)

The advantage of raising poultry in a free range organic way is that the eggs produced have more of these benefits. For example, a free range chicken with access to clean pasture is likely to lay eggs with better nutritional quality. Free range eggs have been found to have higher A and E vitamin content, and double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to eggs from conventionally raised poultry.

My top tip for eggs: for an impressive, citrusy surprise, cut an orange in half, remove the flesh, then cook the egg inside the orange peel “bowl” by baking, broiling or grilling until the egg is bubbling. Serve with sea salt, black pepper and olive oil.

———————————–

sweet potatoes3. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, despite their name, are only distantly related to white potatoes. In the United States, this vegetable is known for its starchy and sweet-tasting flavor, although its shoots and leaves are eaten as greens in other parts of the world. Americans’ consumption of sweet potatoes used to be significant. However, in the mid-twentieth century, this habit waned because the sweet potato got associated with “hard times” and a “poverty food” as it was used as one of the go-to crops during war and famine. Though sweet potatoes are also viewed rather negatively due to their carb content, this vegetable is actually one of the healthiest ones out there, and a big staple in my diet.

Sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins, pigments responsible for the array of colors in crops. Sweet potatoes, specifically the variety with purple flesh, have been studied extensively and it has been found that the purple pigments have hepatoprotective properties that reduce inflammation and induce antioxidant enzymes in liver. The purple anthocyanins also act as scavengers of free radicals in the body and guard against acetaminophen toxicity as well.

The purple pigments have been found to alleviate brain inflammation in rats, and this may prove instrumental in the creation of therapeutic approaches to inflammatory brain diseases. Rats on a controlled high-cholesterol diet and fed purple sweet potato flakes showed increased glutathione levels in the liver, leading researchers to conclude that purple anthocyanins minimize oxidative damage to the liver caused by a high-cholesterol diet.

The purple variety of sweet potatoes aren’t the only ones packed with goodness. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are touted for the potent vitamin A content as well, with one cup of this tuberous vegetable capable of providing more than four times the RDA for Vitamin A. In fact, orange sweet potatoes have been used to address the vitamin A and serum retinol deficiency in young children in Africa.

Also, type 2 diabetes patients fed the extract of white-skinned sweet potatoes showed increased levels of the anti-diabetic protein hormone adiponectin in their blood. So ironically, despite their carbohydrate content, eating sweet potatoes may be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes as well.

My top tip for sweet potatoes: Boil ’em. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, this method of cooking sweet potatoes influences it glycemic index (GI). Boiled sweet potatoes had the lowest GI, while baked, fried, or roasted ones had comparitively high glycemic indeces. Boiling aids in the removal of oxalates as well. When boiling sweet potatoes, fill the cooking pot with water enough to cover the thoroughly washed sweet potatoes and boil until the tubers are tender. Adding healthy fats to your boiled sweet potatoes boosts vitamin A bioavailability and uptake as well, so for a mashed sweet potatoes recipe, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil for every cup of this boiled vegetable.

———————————–

avocado4. Avocadoes

The avocado is quite known for its high fat content. This is perhaps the reason many weight-conscious and fat-phobic individuals steer clear of this fruit. And sure, avocado does have considerable amounts of fat, but these fats do some pretty cool things. For example, monounsaturated fats, which the avocado has in great abundance at as high as 30 grams per fruit, are actually hailed for their ability to lower the levels of triglycerides. People such as diabetics who have high triglyceride levels in the body may see their triglyceride levels fall by as much as 20% by eating a serving or two of avocado daily.

Avocado is a potent source of folate as well, with one avocado providing as much as 28% of the daily recommended intake. Aside from ensuring optimum brain function and health of the nerve endings, folate is also hailed as very important for pregnant women, since the vitamin helps prevent abnormalities to the brain and spine of a developing fetus.

Potassium is another nutrient that’s abundant in avocado. Functioning as an electrolyte in the body, potassium is essential for optimal muscle contraction, and properly balanced potassium in the body helps prevent high blood pressure as well as osteoporosis, especially in elderly women.

Avocado has shown potential for preventing or alleviating depression as well. In a study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, it was found that patients suffering from depression showed improvements after being fed a diet high in tryptophan, a type of amino acid. Avocado is certainly rich in tryptophan, much like organic cottage cheese, bananas, and seafood like wild salmon, trout, tilapia or flounder.

Research has shown that nutrients are mostly abundant in the dark green portion of the avocado meat near the skin, so to maximize your intake of the fruit’s healthful goodness, first slice the avocado lengthwise with a fruit knife and then separate the halves to take out the seed. Slice each of the halves afterwards and peel the skin like you would a banana.

Also, it’s always best to immediately use all the avocados that you slice and peel. If this is not possible, squeeze some lemon juice onto the avocado and put it in an airtight food container or zipper storage bag before putting in the refrigerator to minimize discoloration.

My top tip for avocado: make a fast, go-to avocado bowl snack by chopping an avocado in half, filling the pit with olive oil, sprinkling with sea salt, and…eating.

———————————–

nori5. Nori

Nori is a type of seaweed that is most popular for it’s use in making sushi. Made from porphyra and/or enteromorpha species of algae, this seaweed variety grow in shallow and cold water. Nori often comes in thin sheet form and has a black-purple color which turns a deep green when toasted.  Though nori’s popularity in the United States is only fairly recently, this seaweed has been eaten for centuries in Asia, specifically in China and Japan.

This unassuming seaweed packs a big nutritional punch. Nori appears to be the only vegetable that has been studied and confirmed to contain Cobalamin, a type of vitamin B12, in the form that’s actually bioavailable to humans. In a study conducted by the Sapporo Medical University in Japan, nori made from the Porphyra tenera algae has been found to contain biologically active Cobalamin. In a subsequent study done by Kochi Women’s University, the research was expanded to include green and purple nori from the enteromorpha and porphyra species, respectively, and it was established that the Cobalamin in nori can indeed be absorbed by humans. It is crucial to note that animal products like meat and eggs are the traditional sources of bioavailable Cobalamin, so these findings prove especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians.

In the same study, it was also found that nori has the lowest dietary iodine among all seaweed products. This makes nori a more suitable choice for those who need to watch excessive intake of this mineral, such as individuals who have thyroid conditions.

Nori made from the porphyra species of algae contain porphyran, a type of sulfated carbohydrate that appears to have cancer-preventive properties. In a Korean study on gastric cancer cells, porphyran was found to induce cancer cell death, as well as inhibit the spread of malignant cells.

The porphyran in nori has been found in another Japanese study to have anti-allergenic properties as well. This capacity of porphyran to inhibit contact hypersensitivity in laboratory rats may prove useful in finding therapeutic approaches for allergies later on, or for downregulating autoimmune issues in folks with lots of food allergies.

Nori can be added to soups to provide a salty and tangy taste. You can toast nori to bring out its flavor before sprinkling it on soup or other dishes. To toast, turn a gas burner to low or find another source of fire/heat, and holding the nori with tongs, pass the sheet back and forth atop the flame for about 30 seconds or until it becomes crispy.

My top tip for nori: Fold a nori sheet in half, then gently unfold, and brush the inside half sheet lightly with olive oil or avocado oil using a pastry brush. Sprinkle some salt on the inside half. Fold, press, and cut into bite size strips. Place in a baking sheet, making sure the strips are arranged with intervals so as to avoid sticking. Put the baking sheet inside the oven preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and toast the strips for 15 minutes or until crisp. Take out and place the crispy strips in a cooling rack and repeat the process for the remaining nori sheets. To store, place in an airtight glass jar

———————————–

brazil-nut6. Brazil Nuts

Amazon’s dense forest contains several unique plant species such as Brazil nuts and acai berry, plants that can be found tough to find anywhere else on the planet earth. Native Amazonians cherished the delicious Brazil nuts for ages, because the nuts provided them with much-needed protein, fats, and other essential nutrients. Some of the common names in local dialects are castanha-do-pará, castania, para-nut, cream-nut, and Castaña-de-Brazil (chestnuts of Brazil).

100g of Brazil nuts provide about 656 calories. But their high caloric content chiefly comes from their high levels of fats, and much of this fat content is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like palmitoleic acid (16:1) and oleic acid (18:1), which helps raise HDL levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids offers protection from coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

The nuts are also a very good source of vitamin E, and contain about 7.87 mg per 100 g (about 52% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from free radical damage.

Brazil nuts also have exceptionally high levels of selenium, with 100g of nuts providing about 1917 µg or 3485% recommended daily intake of selenium, rating them as the highest natural source of this mineral. Selenium is an important cofactor for anti-oxidant enzyme, glutathione-peroxidase. Just 1-2 nuts a day provides enough of this trace element. Adequate selenium in the diet help prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers.

Additionally, these creamy nuts are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin (51% of RDA per 100 g), riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and folates. Altogether, these vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism inside the body.

In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts have very high levels of other minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Copper helps prevent anemia and bone weakness (osteoporosis). Manganese is an important co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

Brazil nuts can be available raw (unshelled or shelled), roasted, and salted in most stores. Since the nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, they may turn rancid and deteriorate rather early if they get exposed to air, humidity, and sunlight. So I recommend you purchase unshelled nuts, keep them in the freezer or refrigerator, and shell them as and when required to enjoy their edible meaty kernel. Buy whole, brown color nuts that feature full, compact, and heavy in hand. Avoid shriveled and damaged Brazil nuts, as they may be affected by fungal mold.

My top tip for Brazil nuts: At the very, very end of making a smoothie, I toss in 3-5 brazil nuts and blend for about 5-10 seconds with the other smoothie ingredients to get a chunky, nutty flavor.

———————————–

oyster-426796_6407. Oysters

Oysters are unusual and delicious mollusks that provide your body with a number of unique nutrients and minerals. The nutrients in oysters can help with weight loss attempts, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, balance healthy cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve your immune functions, aid in wound healing, and promote healthy growth. Furthermore, they are considered a powerful aphrodisiac, can improve blood circulation, and increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis.

Edible oysters have been a part of the human diet for at least 700 years, but have likely been eaten in raw or cooked forms for much longer. The edible components are the meat inside the oyster, and once the shells have been cracked, you can cook this meat in a variety of ways, but they can also be eaten raw, and is often preferred in that way.

The impressive health benefits of oysters come from their vast stockpiles of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds. In fact, some minerals, such as zinc, are in their highest content in oysters. Oysters also include very high levels of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium, along with high levels of niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Finally, oysters are a huge source of beneficial cholesterol, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and water. These elements of oysters make them an extremely healthy food that can seriously boost your body’s overall function and health.

As an aphrodisiac, oysters can help increase sexual performance and libido, primarily in men. Like I mentioned, the zinc content of oysters is unbelievable, and oysters contains more than 1500% of the daily requirements of this essential mineral in a single serving. Zinc has also been closely linked to sexual dysfunction in men, while impotence and erectile dysfunction are closely associated with zinc deficiency. Therefore, eating oysters can give men their sexual edge back and increase feelings of masculinity.

Oysters represent one of the most nutrient packed foods, with very low calories versus the volume of serving size. This means that people trying to lose weight can keep their body packed with the nutrients it needs, without adding too much weight on their frame. Compared to an equal serving size of chicken, oysters have nearly half the calories (pretty cool, considering chicken breasts are often turned to for low-calorie, protein-rich meals). A single serving of oysters provides nearly 1/3 of the daily requirements for protein.

Oysters can positively impact heart health in a variety of ways, primarily via the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids. This ca help reduce the content of oxidized cholesterol in the blood stream and inhibit cholesterol from binding to blood vessel and artery walls. In this way, oysters can reduce the chances of plaque accumulation and a variety of health complications, including cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the high potassium and magnesium content of oysters can help to lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels, thereby increasing circulation and oxygenation of the blood and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system. Finally, the vitamin E in oysters increases the strength and flexibility of cellular membranes, which is a third level of protection against heart disease.

Oysters are also a very impressive source of iron, with more than 90% of our daily requirements in each serving. Iron is a key component in the formation of red blood cells in the body, and is the primary defense against anemia, also known as iron deficiency, which can lead to fatigue, cognitive malfunction, stomach disorders, and general muscle weakness.

The mineral content is also quite impressive in oysters, and this can be a major contributor to the strength of your bones. The high levels of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium all contribute in their own way to increasing bone mineral density and durability, thereby protecting you from developing conditions like osteoporosis.

Boosting the immune system is yet another health benefit of eating oysters. The vitamin C and vitamin E content in oysters, as well as various other minerals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helps you defend your body form free radicals that are byproducts of cellular metabolism which can attack healthy cells and mutate DNA into cancerous cells. These free radicals can also cause heart disease, premature aging, and general body disrepair wherever they lodge themselves, but the antioxidants and various vitamins in oysters can help control free radicals and boost immunity.

My top tip for oysters: Since oysters do absorb much of the nutrients from the areas where they grow, it is possible that some oysters contain pollutants and certain toxins, so only eat oysters from a trusted source. These smoked ones are really quite good and importantly, BPA-free.

———————————–

fermented soy8. Fermented Soy

Every region’s traditional cuisine has its own set of fermented food. Miso, tempeh, tamari and natto are examples of the various ways Asians have traditionally fermented soybeans, allowing a food that can traditionally wreak some health havoc to instead be a dense source of nutrients. Fermented soy sources are quite diverse in flavor, form, texture and culinary properties. This is due to the particular methods or stages of fermentation each of these products undergo.

Miso and tamari are used as sauce or as flavoring in the preparation of other dishes. Tamari is actually a byproduct in the manufacture of miso, and is the liquid that accumulates as the miso continues to mature. There are various types of miso, depending on which types of soybeans or grains are used, and tamari is derived from miso made almost exclusively from soy.

Then there’s tempeh and natto. To make tempeh, the soybeans are ground and formed into large patties. But for natto, the individual soybeans are used, albeit in a quite soggy and sticky form that resembles snot, and natto also has a very pungent odor that makes this dish an “acquired taste”.(but hey, I still like it with some mustard and nori and sushi rice!).  Tempeh is actually of Indonesian origin, while natto as well as miso and tamari are part of Japanese cuisine.

Like most beans and legumes, soy is an excellent non-meat source of protein. The bacteria introduced during soy fermentation helps break down these proteins into constituent amino acids. This results in easier absorption during digestion. Here is a list of the total proteins per 100 grams for each of these four types of fermented soy food:

Miso – 11.69g

Tempeh – 18.50g

Tamari – 10.50g

Natto – 17.70g

Leucine and glutamic acid are two amino acids that are consistently abundant in all four forms of fermented soy. Leucine helps build muscles while glutamic acid is used by your body for neurotransmission, especially in the cognitive areas of the brain. Tempeh and natto are notable for having high amounts of proline and serine amino acids. Proline is crucial in the production of collagen for connective tissues and skin, and serine is a structural component of various parts of the nervous system.

Proteins aren’t the only compounds broken down by fermentation. Soy’s oligosaccharides, known to cause gas and indigestion, are also reduced via fermentation. Another thing that is lowered is phytic acid, a phytochemical that tends to be higher in grains but also contained in some legumes like soy. It can block some absorption of minerals and nutrients, but fortunately fermentation eliminates most of the phytic acid in soy, enabling you to absorb the iron, calcium and other minerals found in these soy products.

Miso soup is the most popular Japanese dish for the miso form of soy. The other necessary ingredient for a good miso soup is dashi or fish soup stock. Typically you only need 1.5 tablespoons of miso paste to flavor 13-14oz of soup. The paste and soup stock form the essential base, and then additional vegetables or spices added really depend on your preference. Usually dried seaweed, mushrooms and tofu are included.

But since tofu isn’t usually fermented, tempeh can work as a substitute for tofu. Take note, there are differences in texture, as the latter is made by curdling soymilk. Tofu is soft and spongy while tempeh is firm and chewy, which usually makes tempeh more appropriate for frying. Traditionally, before it’s fried, sliced tempeh pieces are soaked in brine.

If you care to have some soy with your soy, you can use tamari as a dipping sauce for your fried tempeh. Tamari is almost like soy sauce, only a little thicker and less salty. Another advantage tamari has over conventional soy sauce is that no wheat is included in the fermentation process. So it’s safe for people sensitive to gluten.

The slimy fermented soy product natto is usually eaten as is, after you take it out of the packaging. Typically, it is topped on a hot bowl of steamed rice. In Japanese cuisine, natto is also sometimes used in other dishes. It can be added in miso soup, prepared as sushi (natto sushi), or used as one of several ingredients in okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese pancake.

And in case you’re still totally freaking out about even going near any form of soy at all, you should read this truth about soy.

My top tip for fermented soy: serve a few heaping tablespoons of natto over sushi rice, wrap in a nori wrap with your favorite kind of mustard (I prefer Dijon).


———————————–

coconut oil9. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a type of edible oil made from either the meat or kernel of matured coconuts. Long included in the diets of populations living in the tropical regions of the world, coconut oil has extensively been introduced in other cultures as a home remedy for a manifold of health maladies.

Coconut oil has been for decades incorrectly viewed as an unhealthy type of edible fat. But a growing body of research continues to establish the goodness that coconut oil offers to human health. For instance, it shows potential as a dietary therapy for abdominal obesity in women and men if included in a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and low-protein diet. It appears that the fatty acids, specifically the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil, helps curb appetite and subsequent food intake as well. MCTs have also been found to improve energy expenditure and to help the body become more efficient at burning fat.

The MCTs in coconut oil encourage the increase of ketone body levels as well. Ketone bodies have been noted as a promising substitute energy substrate for the brain. It is crucial to note that the brain utilizes some amounts of glucose as “food” to function normally. But especially in individuals with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the brain’s glucose metabolizing function is impaired, starving the organ of nourishment and subsequently resulting in typical AD symptoms like memory loss. Increasing ketone bodies by implementing an MCT-rich, low-carbohydrate, and low-protein diet has shown potential for treating cognitive disorders, as evidenced by studies published in 2004 and 2008.

Coconut oil appears to have heart-protective properties as well. Coconut oil’s phytosterols, polyphenols, and vitamin A and vitamin E have been found to be responsible for potent anti-oxidant activity by preventing the oxidation of LDL.

As a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, coconut oil can be used as a topical beauty product. For instance, coconut oil can be applied directly onto the armpits to serve as a deodorant. It can be used as an all-around moisturizer to prevent skin chafing or to manage the skin condition called xerosis as well.

Coconut oil can be utilized as a mouthwash to treat halitosis and gingivitis, or just to improve or maintain overall oral health, too. It has been proven useful for preventing hair damage and so can be used as a pre-wash or post-wash hair grooming product as well.

My top tip for coconut oil: need a quick, satiating bedtime snack that doesn’t spike glucose and insulin levels? Just put a tablespoon of coconut oil onto a spoon, top it with a touch of almond or nut butter and lick this “fat bomb” off the spoon.

———————————–

coconut milk10. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is the thick white liquid extracted from mature coconut meat. Known for its characteristic creamy texture and sweet taste, coconut milk has gained popularity as a wholesome, appetite-satiating drink among health enthusiasts and athletes alike.

Coconut milk and other products from coconut (like coconut oilhave long been villified for their high saturated fat content. While indeed true, it’s crucial to note, as I mentioned earlier in the section on coconut oil, that the type of fats present in majority in coconut milk and other coconut products are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and not long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Unlike the latter, MCTs have a simpler molecular structure, making them more soluble in water and easier to transport from the small intestines to the liver for conversion to ketones, which your muscles (and diaphragm, liver, heart and more) then utilize for energy. Because this is the case, your body’s energy expenditure is improved, and because the MCTs get pretty much used up, very little is left to deposit in fat tissues.

Just like coconut oil, coconut milk consumption may be beneficial for individuals with cognitive disorders as well, since providing the brain with an alternative energy substrate in the form of ketones has shown preventive and therapeutic effects.

One problem is that the majority of coconut milk brands are packaged in cans. These cans are lined with the synthetic compound bisphenol A (BPA) to prevent corrosion. BPA then leaches into the packaged food. The more acidic or fatty the packaged food (the latter being the case with coconut milk) the higher the levels of leached BPA.

It’s scary that 93% of US adults have been found to have measurable levels of BPA in the urine, since BPA has been associated with the development and subsequent worsening of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

High urinary BPA levels in American adults have been consistently linked to peripheral arterial disease, too. Continued exposure may also lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus because of its capability to bring about insulin resistance. BPA is also associated with childhood obesity as well as early onset of menstruation in American girls.

So be sure to opt for coconut milk brands packaged in cartons or BPA free cans to minimize your exposure to BPA, or use a BPA-free canned variety. Alternatively, you can extract coconut milk from coconut flakes with the use of your trusty blender and some cheese cloth.

Also, coconut milk contains specific carbohydrates or sugars that may cause stomach upset. I’d advise individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or fructose malabsorption and who follow a Low FODMAP Diet to steer clear of coconut milk consumption.

My top tip for coconut milk: I blend it with chocolate stevia, stir in unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut, then freeze to make a low-sugar ice cream.

———————————–

chia seeds11. Chia Seeds

Fuzzy green novelty Chia Pets may be the first thing you think of when you hear the word chia, but these tiny superfood seeds are the reason Chia Pets get their lush coating. Nowadays, chia is becoming better known as a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber, and fortunately, it’s an easy food to add to your diet.

Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family that’s native to Mexico and Guatemala, and history suggests it was a very important food crop for the Aztecs. Chia remained in regular use in its native countries, but was largely unknown in North America until researcher Wayne Coates began studying chia as an alternative crop for farmers in northern Argentina nearly three decades ago.

Human trials on chia are limited, but the anecdotal evidence of chia’s positive health effects include boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion, and lowering cholesterol. The tiny seed, which comes in either white or a dark brown and black color, also has a powerful nutritional profile. It contains calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, and is a great source of healthy omega-3 fats. As an added benefit, chia seeds can be eaten whole or milled, while flax seeds have to be ground before consumption in order to access their health benefits.

Chia is being studied as a potential natural treatment for type-2 diabetes because of its ability to slow down digestion, probably due to the gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids, and the ability of this gel to help prevent blood sugar spikes. Chia’s stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance, which can be tied to an increase in belly fat

Just a 28-gram or one-ounce serving of chia has 11 grams of dietary fiber – about a third of the recommended daily intake for adults. Adding some chia to your diet is an easy way to make sure you’re getting a good amount of fiber, which is important for digestive health.

Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, with nearly five grams in a one-ounce serving. These fats are important for brain health. With chia seeds, there’s a little better conversion of omega-3 fatty acids into the plasma or into the food than with flax seed.

A serving of chia seeds has 18% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which puts your well on your way to maintaining bone and oral health, and preventing osteoporosis. 

Manganese isn’t a well-known nutrient, but it’s important for your health: it’s good for your bones and helps your body use other essential nutrients like biotin and thiamin. One serving of chia seeds, or 28 grams, has 30% of your recommended intake of this mineral. With 27% of your daily value for phosphorus, chia seeds also helps you maintain healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also used by the body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.

Chia seeds also make a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. One 28-gram serving of these super seeds has 4.4 grams of protein, nearly 10 per cent of the daily value. Tryptophan, one amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. While tryptophan is blamed for that strong urge to nap after a big Thanksgiving dinner, it also helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while improving your triglyceride to LDL cholesterol ratio…all good news for your ticker!

When you’re buying chia, both the white and black seeds are good choices, but be sure you’re getting a good quality product by avoiding red seeds (immature chia seeds), or black seeds that are smaller than regular chia seeds (these are called “weed seeds”).

You can add chia seeds to everything and anything. The seeds are relatively tasteless so they won’t significantly affect the flavor profile of your food. They can be sprinkled whole on top of salads or toast or added milled to smoothies, and you can even sprout and eat them that way too!)

My top tip for chia seeds: put 3-4 tablespoons in an 8oz glass of water, soak for 1-10 hours in the refigerator.

———————————–

quinoa, amaranth and millet12. Quinoa, Amaranth & Millet

While these three grasses and grains are known for having an almost complete array of proteins, a fact that sets them apart from other more common grains, they also provide a host other nutrients and benefits.

Manganese is one mineral that these three grains all contain in relatively high amounts.The body may need only trace amounts of this mineral but it plays several important roles. As support against oxidative stress, it’s one of the substances that compose the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD). In the area of physical growth, it’s needed in the production of connective tissues and bones. Other roles include normal nerve function and fat and carbohydrate metabolism. One cup of cooked millet can supply about 23% of the body’s daily need for this nutrient. Quinoa is even higher with a 58% daily value. The really abundant source is amaranth, providing more than a 100% per serving.

As whole grains, quinoa, amaranth and millet are naturally rich in dietary fiber. In 100 grams of either quinoa or amaranth, there are 7 grams of fiber available. Millet is a bit more variable and depends on the type. Barnyard millet seems to be highest, with 10 grams fiber for every 100 grams of millet. Whole grains, including these three, are typically considered as heart-protective because of the significant presence of soluble fiber in them. This is the kind of dietary fiber that can regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, and packs way, way less of a sugar-spiking wallop compared to something like whole wheat bread or pasta.

Sprouting is a highly recommended preparation for grains and legumes, including these three. The process of germination at the initial stages of sprouting is able to reduce the amount of antinutrients inherent in these types of grains and grasses and thus improve their nutritional profile. Sprouts have more of many vitamins compared to seeds, and minerals become more bioavailable too.

Soaking grains such as organic quinoa, amaranth or millet is a middle ground, a compromise between sprouting and cooking the grains unprepared. Soaking is less effective in making the grains more nutritious and safer but at least you don’t have to plan your meal days in advance (depending on the grain and other environmental factors, sprouting can take more than 24 hours) Then, there’s the periodic draining and rinsing involved with sprouting. Yeah, it can be a little bit of a pain.

Soaked grains are still nutritious but they don’t have all the advantages of sprouts. However, soaking mitigates (but to a lesser degree than sprouting) some inherent substances in grains that prevent the body from fully absorbing nutrients or are potentially harmful. Lectins are on example. Lectins are found everywhere in various forms: plants, animals and the human body. In plants, they’re found in significant amounts in the seeds or grains and serve the purpose of keeping them intact even when consumed by animals. The danger to the human digestive system lies in the fact that lectin can irritate the intestinal lining and hinder the natural repair mechanism of the gut mucosal cells.

The negative effects of lectins can range from irritable bowels to a full-on autoimmune response that results in brain fog and organ damage. For some individuals who are highly sensitive to grains and the lectins they contain, soaking them might not be a good enough safety measure compared to sprouting.

After soaking and rinsing, (and if desired, sprouting) properly cooking organic quinoa, amaranth or millet can further reduce the harmful substances in them. To make things more convenient, you can always use a rice cooker, but just make sure you use the appropriate water-to-grain ratio, with 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, 2 – 3 cups water to 1 cup amaranth and 2 cups water to 1 cup millet.

My top tip for quinoa, amaranth and millet: in South Asian cuisine, millet is often ground to flour and used to make several types of flatbread, a staple in that region. To turn soaked millet grains (quinoa and amaranth work for this too) into flour, you need to dry them. Just stick them into a dehydrator or in the oven after rinsing them from the soak. Once dry, ground the dried grains into a fine powder through a coffee grinder or food processor. From there, you can proceed to make bread, waffles, pancakes or any other relatively gluten-free but nutrient-dense and protein-packed baked or grilled goodie. 

———————————–

sushi rice13. Sushi Rice

The short-grain rice used to make sushi is of course called sushi rice and sometimes also called Pearl rice, Glutinous rice or Japanese rice. It is available now in many markets, not just Asian grocers. Only sushi rice has the right balance of starches (amylose and amylopectin) to allow the rice to stick together and keep the final product intact from plate to mouth. Try to eat medium or long-grain rice with chopsticks and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

I’ll admit that brown rice, wild rice, black rice, etc. can be more nutrient dense, but sushi rice just burns very, very clean and is tolerated by most people’s guts. When first picked, all rice is brown. Then, following the removal of the outer husk and the top germ layer of the grain, rice becomes white. The grains are then polished before they are packaged and sold as white rice. Brown rice has had the husk removed but retains its germ, which is the nutrient-rich layer that white rice has had “scrubbed off”. Wild rice grains are kept in their entirety, with both the germ and the husk intact.

For sushi rice, it is best to use the instructions on the package of rice when cooking it, but generally you use equal parts rice and water. Prior to cooking, the rice should be rinsed in cold water until the water runs clear, a step now becoming less necessary as talc (used to prevent the rice from absorbing water and sticking together during storage) is slowly being replaced with another type of starch, which is fine to cook with. But you never know and the package often won’t tell you what the company used as a coating. Remember that one cup of uncooked rice will yield approximately two cups of cooked rice. Store your sushi rice at room temperature covered with a damp towel. This will keep it from drying out.

Exercise physiologist and Feed Zone Portables author Allen Lim swears by a rice very much like sushi rice as clean-burning source of fuel for athletes, and you can check out a few of his go-to recipes in my article “What To Eat Before, During & After Workouts“. In their books and videos, Allen Lim and his co-author Biju Thomas actually use “Calrose” rice. It is a medium grain, only a little longer than a true sushi rice, but plenty sticky. It’s also cheaper and widely available, and what you usually get in Japanese restaurants (the brands Nishiki and Botan are easy to find in any grocery store and make great rice cakes and onigiri, or Japanese rice balls). Take a handful of rice, put a dab of miso or umeboshi plum paste in the center and wrap with nori. Stuff ’em in your jersey pockets and train hard!

My top tip for sushi rice: I make “lazy sushi” by preparing my sushi rice per package instructions, cooling, then wrapping in a nori wrap with a few sliced avocados and sardines.

———————————–

cacao nibs14. Cacao Nibs

The cacao tree produces seeds that can be dried, dehulled, roasted and minimally processed into what is essentially raw chocolate, AKA, raw cacao nibs. The nibs can be used to produce different grades of commercial chocolate, and they are often used as snacks. They are slightly bitter and may be sweetened with honey or used in baked goods. Cacao nibs and the dark grades of chocolate they produce can provide important benefits to your intestinal regularity, heart and blood vessels and blood sugar level.

For example, cacao may help to keep your bowel movements regular. A single ounce serving of raw cacao nibs contains 36 percent of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, or 9 grams. Adding as little as 6.6 grams of cacao fiber per day to your diet may improve your bowel habits, according to a clinical study appearing in “Nutrition and Metabolism.” Subjects in this study were given cocoa powder supplemented with high-fiber cocoa bran in a semi-skimmed milk drink twice daily for two four-week periods, separated by a three-week period in which cocoa was not consumed. The frequency of bowel movements increased and feelings of constipation decreased during the periods when cocoa powder was consumed.

Cacao nibs appear to be heart-healthy as well. One of the main health benefits of cacao is for the arteries in your heart and brain. Eating cacao foods such as chocolate several times per day may decrease your likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack, according to clinical studies published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” and the “Journal of Internal Medicine.” In both studies, the frequency of stroke and heart attack in human subjects declined with an increase in chocolate intake.

Many of the health benefits, including cardiovascular benefits, of cacao nibs are believed to be due to compounds called polyphenols. The cacao polyphenols are made of 37 percent catechins, 4 percent anthocyanins and 58 percent proanthocyanidins. Cacao polyphenols may improve the health of your heart and brain arteries by serving as antioxidants and inhibiting blood platelets from forming a clot. If your blood cholesterol is somewhat elevated, cacao polyphenols may also lower your low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol levels.

The fiber and polyphenols in cacao may work together to help control your blood pressure and blood glucose levels.  Blood pressure and blood glucose have been shown to be lowered by a cocoa-fiber-rich product providing 12 grams of dietary fiber and 283 milligrams of polyphenols per day during the eight-week study period. At least part of the beneficial effect of cacao on your blood sugar level may be due to slowing of starch digestive enzymes by polyphenol procyanidins in your small intestine.

My top tip for cacao nibs: after you finish making a smoothie, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of these on top for a satisfying, nourishing crunch.

———————————–

sardines15. Sardines & Anchovies

When thinking of sardines or anchovies, you’re likely to picture small fish packed in a can or bottle. It’s said that sardines were actually the first type of fish to be canned. This happened in France during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was also during this period that the canning process was first developed as a food security solution for both the military and the general populace.

But these types of fish have long been part of the human diet, even before the advent of canning or bottling. During the time of the Roman Empire, for example, citizens enjoyed a kind of fermented fish sauce made from anchovies called garum. This is not really surprising, as fish in general are an cheap and readily attainable source of fatty-acid rich protein (as opposed to the type of protein that makes me cringe when I hear recommended by fitness professionals: “lean proteins”). A 1 ounce serving of sardines (around 2-3 small pieces) provides almost 7 grams of protein. This is actually comparable to a similar serving of beef steak. Tryptophan is one of the more abundant essential amino acids found in sardines. Your body needs this substance to synthesize serotonin, a neurotransmitter substance that regulates sleep and mood.

Compared to sardines, the same serving amount of anchovies contains even a little more protein at about 8 grams of protein. Besides also having lots of tryptophan, anchovies are also an excellent supply of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid. The body uses this to create what are known as glutamates, a class of neurotransmitter compounds that play a very crucial role in cognitive functions such as learning and memory.

Sardines and anchovies are commonly canned or bottled. Avoid eating versions that are contaminated with bisphenol A (BPA) which is present in many canned goods, as it is one of the compounds used to make the inner resin lining of cans. You should also avoid the added sodium and other artificial preservatives that come with canned fish products that use brine or tomato sauce.

Canned sardines and anchovies are pre-cooked and ready to eat. This makes them an easy ingredient for salads or sauces. For salads, just add and toss the fish along with the fresh vegetables and spices. Vinaigrette is probably one of the more compatible dressings you can use for such a salad dish. For sauces, you can simply ground the sardines or anchovies into a sauce while it’s simmering on the stove, or add the fish afterwards whole.

My top tip for sardines and anchovies: easy. When I need protein on my lunchtime salad, about 95% of the time I’m grabbing a can of fish and dumping it over a bed of vegetables, often using a nori wrap like a burrito to shove the veggies and fish into my gaping maw.

———————————–

Turmeric16. Turmeric

Turmeric is a rhizome. That means the part of the plant we mainly consume are its rootstocks, so some big ol’ ugly roots of turmeric have a place in my pantry, along with powdered orange turmeric.

Turmeric is really a type of ginger. The roots of turmeric, however, are more elongated and the color can range from yellow to deep yellow-orange. The plant is native to the South Asian region and thrives only in tropical climates with a lot of rainfall.

Those who like curry have no doubt tasted this spice as it is a main ingredient in most curry mixes. As I mentioned in my article on CBD oil, turmeric also has significant medicinal value, as it has long been utilized in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.

Most studies attribute the spice’s medicinal value to the active component curcumin, which is the major phytochemical compound in turmeric. This substance also gives turmeric its particular yellowish color.

Research has shown that turmeric as an anti-inflammatory can be almost as effective as pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories. But the spice has the added advantage of not producing any toxic effects like NSAID’s and other drugs. It can alleviate bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, and researchers think that this is because curcumin can inhibit inflammatory agents in cells.

Turmeric has also been found to help reduce joint pains such as those caused by rheumatoid arthritis. This is due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics. Antioxidant substances can capture free radicals in the body, and inhibit cell damage, pain and inflammation, including that associated with arthritis.

The list of turmeric benefits goes on. Turmeric can also increase some detoxifying enzymes in the liver and enhance detox pathways in this organ. It can prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and as a result reduce plaque build-up in veins and arteries. It can correct the genetic defects that causes cystic fibrosis. It can inhibit the mechanism in genes that triggers the growth of cancer cells. There are studies that show curcumin combined with the phytochemical quercetin from onions can be effective against colon cancer. While in combination with phenethyl isothiocyanates, another type of plant substance abundant in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, curcumin can stop prostate cancer cells from growing.

But setting aside its medicinal value, turmeric is a nutritious root too. Vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, manganese, and iron are some of the nutrients you can acquire from this root.

There are actually curcumin capsules available which you can take as concentrated supplements in order to take advantage of turmeric’s  health benefits. But if you have an adventurous or curious palate, you should also turmeric powder or fresh rootstocks of the spice. Here are just a few ways to prepare turmeric:

-Chop the rootstocks just like ginger and add it to stir fry, soup or salad dishes.

-Also, just like ginger, you can run fresh turmeric through a juicer and get a concentrate. Use this juice to cook an Asian rice recipe like java rice or knock it back like a tonic drink. If the latter, mix in some raw honey and lemon juice, because it really has a strong taste.

-Make your own stock by boiling, drying and then finally grinding fresh turmeric. From there you can concoct your own curry mixes or use it in any curry-based recipe.

-Mix the ground or powdered form in virgin coconut oil to make a paste. This can then be topically applied to areas with inflammation.

One thing to keep in mind when dealing with fresh turmeric is that the juice can quickly stain surfaces and it gets quite sticky as it dries. Turmeric is in fact also used as textile dye. So quickly wash any kitchen utensils with water and detergent if you don’t want them to have yellow colored spots and smudges, and careful not to get this stuff on your clothes.

My top tip for turmeric: for a muscle anti-inflammatory and general health tonic, juice turmeric with lemon, ginger, and carrots, then add to the finished juice a splash of olive oil and sea salt. Add stevia to take some of the bite away, and add garlic too if you’re brave.

———————————–

ginger17. Ginger

As I mentioned in the section on turmeric, ginger has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies have looked into it and reveal how certain compounds found in the spice are able to do this.

For example, gingerol is the main volatile oil that gives fresh ginger its pungent aroma and spicy flavor. This substance makes ginger an effective anti-inflammatory because it can stop the formation of nitric oxide into peroxynitrite which is a harmful free radical.

Another pain-relieving action that ginger provides is to inhibit inflammatory substances internally produced by your body, specifically cytokines and chemokines made by the cells in the joints and joint cartilage. So ginger can successfully alleviate much of the pain that comes with arthritis and other types of muscle pain and soreness.

Other studies on gingerol have also identified antipyretic (fever reducing) and antibacterial qualities. One exceptional research on cancer has shown the volatile ginger oil to be able to wipe out ovarian cancer cells, and these cancer cells went into cell death when exposed to ginger extract. Tumors associated with colorectal cancer are another set of cells that ginger was able to successfully eradicate.

Ginger is also commonly known to prevent nausea, vomiting and dizziness. It is in fact often used as herbal remedy for morning sickness by pregnant women and by those who are susceptible to motion sickness. Similarly, gastrointestinal relief is an additional benefit to taking some ginger. The spice is said to stimulate the production of saliva, which facilitates easier swallowing. The digestion process is improved because the spice enhances gut motility in a process called peristalsis. So ginger doesn’t just calm down a stressed stomach and alleviate indigestion but it can also treat constipation.

To get your ginger, you can turn to conveniently prepared ginger powder or to raw ginger. The former tends to have a stronger aroma and taste because drying and heat converts the gingerol into another volatile compound called shogaol. Which of the two common forms of the spice you use depends on how you plan to use your ginger.

For medicinal purposes, fresh raw ginger will likely give you the most benefit.  The simplest preparation is turn it into tea or juice. To do this, peel the skin off the ginger root, cut thin slices, and boil in water to make ginger tea. Then run the peeled root, cut into appropriate sizes, through a juicer to make ginger juice. You can drink the juice (or ginger tea) after meals, or take the juice after a particularly grueling exercise to ease some of the joint and muscle pain.

Here are other ways to prepare ginger:

Ginger herbal tincture – Soak ½ cup of chopped fresh ginger in 1 cup of vodka for two weeks. Use a tightly sealed glass jar. After the 2-week period, strain the ginger and store the remaining tincture. Just a few drops in water will do for therapeutic relief.

Powdered ginger – After peeling the fresh root use a grater to cut it into small thin pieces. Place these on a baking sheet lined with wax paper on the bottom then cover up the pieces with more wax paper to keep it from getting contaminated. Let the grated ginger dry up on its own in a cool and clean area of the kitchen. Once dry, run the pieces through a coffee grinder.

My top tip for ginger: lazy man’s ginger tea for everything from nausea to muscle pain – just chop up a crap-load of ginger, put in a pot, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

———————————–

olive oil18. Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the most versatile oils because of its function as food, beauty aid, as well as home remedy for a host of physical maladies. Olive oil used to mostly come from Mediterranean Europe. However, even the United States now has its own olive oil production (but you gotta be careful with some hoaxes behind that).

Olive oil has long been known as a potent antioxidant, and that’s not just because of its high vitamin E content. As it turns out, olive oil’s polyphenols protect against oxidative damage, and olive oil appears to be effective at guarding against stroke and heart disease as well. A diet rich in olive oil has been found to help promote healthier blood pressure in men. Olive oil also protects the heart from metabolic changes brought about by obesity, according to one animal study.

Olive oil may be a suitable cancer-preventive food as well. In one Belgian study, it was found that those with moderate to significant intake of olive oil had lesser odds of developing bladder cancer, compared to those whose source of dietary fats were primarily comprised of animal products.

Olive oil has been proven effective at managing weight too. In a study published on the Journal of Women’s Health, overweight breast cancer survivors were made to follow a standard lower-fat diet and then also a diet rich in olive oil. Results showed greater and more sustainable weight loss in the olive oil-rich diet compared to the traditional lower-fat diet, signifying a promising weight management potential from consuming this fat.

Olive oil, much like coconut oil, appears to also have a profound effect on cognition. In a French study, elderly subjects who were given moderate to significant amounts of olive oil, and during the entire course of the research showed improved visual memory as well as verbal fluency. Further studies have to be conducted, though it’s great to know that olive oil may just be a healthy preventive and possibly therapeutic alternative to addressing the cognitive deficit and decline characteristic of Alzheimer’s.

As one of the most versatile oils out there, it comes as no surprise how olive oil can have so many uses. It is of course a popular ingredient in salad dressings. Homemade pizzas can be made healthier by substituting the usual oil you use to grease the pizza pan with olive oil instead. You can also add olive oil to smoothies or vegetable juices for a healthy fat addition to your drink.

Olive oil as a beauty aid has manifold applications as well. You can dab a few drops directly to your skin for a chemical-free moisturizer. You can concoct your own lip gloss by combining organic beeswax with olive oil as well. Olive oil can treat gingivitis and halitosis or be used as an agent for maintaining oral health by using olive oil daily for oil pulling. It can also be used as a base or carrier oil for any essential oils you use for therapeutic massages.

My top tip for olive oil: when I’m traveling and don’t want to use the nasty hotel lotion, I call down to the hotel restaurant and have them deliver olive oil to my room (make sure it’s extra virgin). I then smear it on my face as a moisturizer during the rest of my travels.

———————————–

stevia19. Stevia

The stevia plant is a shrub, and there are actually more than 200 species of it. The particular one that’s frequently utilized as a sweetener is Stevia rebaudiana. Not surprisingly, some common names for this species of stevia are sweetleaf and sugarleaf.

Stevia leaves have been used as both food and medicine by indigenous peoples in South America for around more than a millennia. The Western world first encountered it in the 16th century through Spanish physician Pedro Jaime Esteve (the genus Stevia was in fact derived from the Latinized form of his surname).

Setting aside the phytonutrients that naturally come from any food or root taken from a plant, the one very apparent quality of stevia is that it has all the sugary goodness you may desire, but none of the health risks of elevated blood sugar.

The fresh whole leaves of this plant are 10 to 15 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. This is also true for herbal powdered stevia, which is the most commercially available form. If that isn’t enough sweetness for you, the refined and concentrated extracts can actually be up to 300 times sweeter. But despite it’s exceptional sweetness, stevia has very little effect on blood glucose levels. So this plant is probably the best news any diabetic or anyone on a low-carbohydrate diet can receive.

Steviol glycosides are the sugar compounds found in stevia leaves. The two major types identified are stevioside and rebaudioside A. Studies on these compounds have shown that it is the latter type that is sweeter and exhibits less of this plant’s characteristic bitter aftertaste (the aftertaste is comparable to that of licorice and because of genetics, tends to be more noticed by some people, usually people who don’t like the taste of stevia for this reason).

Studies have also revealed that stevia adds zero calories, but doesn’t cause digestive problems like other artificial sweeteners such as sugar alcohols. The metabolic byproduct steviol passes through your system completely undigested, without leaving any toxic residues in the kidneys or liver.

If you’re gifted with a green thumb, you can simply purchase stevia seeds and start growing them in the garden. You can then cut leaves as needed and put them in teas and other beverages for flavoring. With a thriving stevia shrub in your yard, you can go further and harvest more leaves to make your own supply of stevia herbal powder. You can either sun-dry them for around 12 hours or use a small home dehydrator. Then the dried leaves can be ground either with mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.

There is also a way to make home-made liquid stevia extract. Allow a portion of fresh crushed leaves to soak in water or in pure USP grain alcohol for 24 hours. Afterwards, simply filter the leaves out of the liquid and use that resulting syrup as a sweetener. The alcohol method is able to extract more of the glycosides, but to remove the alcoholic taste the liquid extract will have to be slowly heated (do not boil) until most of the alcohol evaporates.

Stevia can basically be used as a substitute for most recipes that use sugar. Just be aware of the extreme sweetness of stevia. A single tablespoon of powdered stevia is more or less equivalent to a cup of ordinary table sugar. Another thing to note is that this sweetener doesn’t caramelize, so it won’t work for recipes that call for such an effect.

My top tip for stevia: I make my kids lemonade by adding a squeeze of half a fresh lemon, a pinch of sea salt and a touch of stevia to a glass of ice water. They dig this (and so do I) on a hot summer day.

———————————

More Tips On How To Use All This Stuff

Now I realize that this list is by no means “comprehensive”, but if you were to go out and at least get the 19 items listed above into your pantry, and then supplement those foods with some healthy, organic meat and some fresh plant matter, herbs and vegetables, you’ll have a cooking and meal prep arsenal that is more rock solid than 99% of the population in this country, guaranteed.

If you want to see how I actually craft many of these foods and ingredients into actual meals, you should take a look at my article 40 Easy Meals For Busy Athletes: How To Fuel Your Body With The Thousands Of Calories Necessary For Endurance and Extreme Exercise Without Completely Destroying Your Metabolism, or go delve into the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle, in which my wife and I share many more family recipes and go-to meals (and also check out the free cookbook I’m giving you at the end of this article).

———————————

How To Get Healthy Pantry Items Cheap

OK, now let’s jump into the part where you save boatloads of money on all this stuff, and many other natural, healthy products (yes, if you really don’t want to step outside your house, Amazon Prime works for some of the fresh stuff like sweet potatoes and avocadoes, but for the packaged stuff, even Amazon is far less comprehensive and affordable than what I’m about to show to you).

It’s called “Thrive Market“.

Growing up with a single mom and seeing how hard she worked to make healthy choices, my friend Gunnar Lovelace vowed to find a way to make wholesome food affordable. So when when his mother remarried a man who ran a health food buying club from an organic farm in Ojai, California, he saw a way forward: a modern, online version of a health-food co-op. And this is where the idea for Thrive Market was born.

Thrive Market is a socially conscious (more details on that in a moment) online marketplace that gives you access to over 4000 organic, non-toxic and natural products ranging from food, to supplements, to home cleaning and laundry supplies, to bath and beauty products, all at 25%-50% off the regular retail prices you’d find elsewhere.

As my friend and Paleo author Robb Wolf  says…

… “if Costco and Wholefoods got all liquored up at a rave and had a kid, it would look a lot like Thrive Market.

Or as Chris Kresser says…

….”think Whole Foods products at Costco prices, with the convenience of Amazon“.

Shopping at Thrive is not only cheaper than fancy upscale markets like Whole Foods, but it often matches or even beats prices at discount online retailers like Amazon and Vitacost. Check out this comparison chart:

comparison chart

So not only are the Thrive Market products cheaper, but if you’re stuck in an urban oasis, working in a big city, or don’t have access to fresh food from a garden or farmer’s market, you don’t need to spend gas, time and money to hunt down quality ingredients.

————————————

How Thrive Works

Here’s how Thrive works: you sign up for a membership that is less than $5/month ($59.95 annually) and you can then can shop the thousands of products offered at Thrive, place an order, and receive that order right to your front door. Orders larger than $49 receive completely free shipping. Currently that free shipping applies only to the continental US, but Thrive is now working on adding international orders too.

If you’re not sure if this type of online healthy food ordering platform is for you, no problem. Thrive offers a one-month trial membership for those interested in experiencing the ease of healthy shopping before making a monthly commitment.

But the beauty of Thrive doesn’t stop there, especially if you’re a socially conscious, sustainably-minded, dirt-worshipping healthy hippie.

First, every paid membership to Thrive is matched with a free membership for a low income American family. That means your neighbor down the street who you know needs healthy food but simply can’t afford it now has an outlet to be able to conveniently get it. Getting low income families access to discounted healthy food and natural products is going to be a huge game-changer for reversing chronic disease and obesity in our country and beyond.

Second, Thrive Market is a 100% environmentally responsible and sustainable business. All their packaging, boxes, and inserts are made from recycled paper and are recyclable. They are also committed to supporting other sustainable businesses by working with eco-friendly vendors and suppliers who share their values. They are 100% carbon neutral through carbonfund.org. I have even spoken on the phone with Gunnar in detail about Thrive, and gone so far as to invest my own money in the company because what he’s doing is so darn impressive.

Third, the CDC estimates that over 90 percent of chronic disease is caused by diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. This means that eating fresh, organic, nutrient-dense food and using green, non-toxic cleaning and personal care products is absolutely crucial for maintaining your health, maximizing your physical and mental performance, and extending your lifespan.

——————————-

How To Get A $1000 Healthy Pantry Shopping Spree

So here’s the deal: from June 15 to June 21 (that’s this Monday through Sunday), Thrive Market is generously giving away a Grand Prize of $1000 of cold, hard cash to spend at Thrive, along with twenty place prizes of a 1 year membership ($59.95 value) to Thrive. All you need to do is click here anytime between now and June 21 at midnight to check out Thrive and get in on the giveaways.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm PST on June 21, so don’t miss out!

And if you really are keen on this whole “stocking a healthy pantry” thing, you’re going to find that you save more in your first, single purchase than the cost of an entire year’s membership to Thrive.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and click here to check out Thrive Market as a convenient, trustworthy one-stop shop to stock your healthy pantry.

Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink.

sulfites

I’m a big wine guy.

I’ve actually discussed this habit before on podcasts, but nearly seven days a week I finish up my afternoon or early evening workout with a glass of red wine.

Why?

Three main reasons, really.

First, I love the taste of wine, but I’m also well aware that alcoholic drinks and the fructose and other sugars therein can make you fat if you consume them in a fed state, so I instead consume my daily glass of wine in a “fasted” state post-workout (vs., say, having a big glass of wine during dinner or after stuffing my face with dinner). In this post-workout situation, the fructose sugars in the wine simply help to replenish my liver glycogen stores (muscles do not contain the enzyme to store fructose as glycogen, but the liver does), and the glucose and sucrose sugars are far less likely to spend significant amounts of time in my blood stream. You can read up more on sugar content of wine here. Finding out how much sugar you’re consuming is hard to tell, since most countries don’t indicate sugar content on the label, but here’s a basic breakdown of wine types and how much sugar they contain:

Dry: 4 grams per liter.
Medium dry: 4-12 grams of sugar per liter – or about 0.5 to 2 grams per glass.
Sweet: More than 45 grams of sugar per liter – or about 6 grams per glass or more.

Second, wine is actually only “heart healthy” if combined with physical activity. In a study called In Vino Veritas (In Wine, Truth), researchers introduced wine into people’s lives and tracked the effects on their bodies. By itself, drinking wine did not significantly affect cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides, or levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. But among those who worked out twice per week and also drank wine, there was significant improvement in health variables after a year of wine consumption, no matter whether it was red or white.

And third, I’ll readily admit that post-workout with an empty stomach, I’m a complete cheap date. That single glass of wine serves to spin a few dials in my brain, chill me out, and serve as a relaxing way to end a day’s hard work.

So yeah, I drink wine and I drink my fair share. But before you rush out to buy that fancy Bordeaux or the cheapo box of Franzia, you should know a few very important things about wine, including some dark and dirty secrets of the wine industry, four ways to ensure the healthy habit of regular wine consumption doesn’t elevate your body fat or destroy your metabolism, and the kind of wine fit and healthy people should be drinking.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

————————–

Why You Should Choose Your Wine Carefully

You may have seen last month’s headlines including “California Winemakers Sued Over High Levels of Arsenic in Wines” and “Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s”.

Basically, a class action lawsuit that was filed in California against some of the country’s top winemakers over the high levels of arsenic in wine. The lawsuit claims that some of the most popular wines have “up to four and five times the maximum amount of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for drinking water.”

The fact is, there are basically no federal requirements to tell you what’s really in the wine you’re drinking, and one big reason for this is that the wine lobby is constantly fighting government action to require alcohol companies to label what’s in their wine. But in this recent arsenic wine scandal, a Denver laboratory called BeverageGrades started running tests to uncover the calorie counts in bottles of wine.

While the tests were simply setup to investigate calorie count, the actual results of the tests on 1,300 bottles of wine were a bit shocking.  Nearly a quarter of the bottles had levels of arsenic higher than the EPA’s maximum for drinking water. The lower the price of the wine, the higher the levels of arsenic were. For example, Trader Joe’s famous Two-Buck Chuck wine had three times the EPA’s limit, and that affordable box of Franzia Blush wine had five times the limit. The lawsuit alleges that the contaminated wines are cheaper because their producers don’t implement the proper methods and processes to reduce inorganic arsenic.

Since arsenic is highly toxic even at a parts per billion level, this is pretty disturbing. Some of the wines contained levels of arsenic up to 500% or more than what is what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit. Put differently, this means that just a glass or two of an arsenic-contaminated wine a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity.

Curious if you’re drinking any of these arsenic contaminated beverages? Here’s a list of the wines that are included in the lawsuit:

Acronym GR8RW Red Blend 2011
Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel
Almaden Heritage Moscato
Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel
Almaden Heritage Chardonnay
Almaden Mountain Burgundy
Almaden Mountain Rhine
Almaden Mountain Chablis
Arrow Creek Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Bandit Pinot Grigio
Bandit Chardonnay
Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon
Bay Bridge Chardonnay
Beringer White Merlot 2011
Beringer White Zinfandel 2011
Beringer Red Moscato
Beringer Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
Colores del Sol Malbec 2010
Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012
Concannon Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
Cook Spumante
Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio
Corbett Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon
Cupcake Malbec 2011
Fetzer Moscato 2010
Fetzer Pinot Grigio 2011
Fisheye Pinot Grigio 2012
Flipflop Pinot Grigio 2012
Flipflop Moscato
Flipflop Cabernet Sauvignon
Foxhorn White Zinfandel
Franzia Vintner Select White Grenache
Franzia Vintner Select White Zinfandel
Franzia Vintner Select White Merlot
Franzia Vintner Select Burgundy
Hawkstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
Korbel Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
Korbel Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
Menage a Trois Pinot Grigio 2011
Menage a Trois Moscato 2010
Menage a Trois White Blend 2011
Menage a Trois Chardonnay 2011
Menage a Trois Rose 2011
Menage a Trois Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Menage a Trois California Red Wine 2011
Mogen David Concord
Mogen David Blackberry Wine
Oak Leaf White Zinfandel
Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2011
R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
Richards Wild Irish Rose Red Wine
Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Simply Naked Moscato 2011
Smoking Loon Viognier 2011
Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Sutter Home Gewurztraminer 2011
Sutter Home Pink Moscato
Sutter Home Pinot Grigio 2011
Sutter Home Moscato
Sutter Home Chenin Blanc 2011
Sutter Home Sweet Red 2010
Sutter Home Riesling 2011
Sutter Home White Merlot 2011
Sutter Home Merlot 2011
Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2011
Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2012
Sutter Home Zinfandel 2010
Trapiche Malbec 2012
Tribuno Sweet Vermouth
Vendange Merlot
Vendange White Zinfandel
Wine Cube Moscato
Wine Cube Pink Moscato 2011
Wine Cube Pinot Grigio 2011
Wine Cube Pinot Grigio
Wine Cube Chardonnay 2011
Wine Cube Chardonnay
Wine Cube Red Sangria
Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Wine Cube Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

If any of these look familiar as staples in your pantry or cellar, I’d go ahead and gift them to someone you don’t like.

But the problems with wine don’t stop with arsenic.

For example, the article “Why You Shouldn’t Drink Cheap Wine” was written in response to an article on Slate arguing in favor of not being one of those “expensive wine snobs”. Here’s a very interesting anecdote from the Cheap Wine article:

“…I too am disgusted by the salesperson who steers you towards a $30 bottle when a $10 bottle of Cabernet would suffice, and I am still slightly intimidated by the salesperson who suggests three wines that are all in the $20 plus price range when I really just want a glass of wine not an education. But I refuse to fill my store with wines based on price alone.

Wine is an agricultural product and just like carrots, milk, or meat, it costs money to grow grapes, especially if you are interested in growing your grapes organically or even sustainably. To paraphrase Michael Pollan; if you are concerned about the environment, or the workers health, or your own, you should be drinking wine made by winemakers, not corporations.

When you see a $4 bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s or Costco, think about it for a minute. Is it really possible to grow grapes, ferment them, bottle them – often in glass bottles with corks – ship them to various parts of the world, and then have them retail for $4? Yes, if you are spraying your vines with chemicals, yes, if you are underpaying your vineyard workers, and yes, if you are unconcerned about the end product and only concerned about your bottom line.

Wine is a luxury item, as much as I hate to remind you of that fact, and as such I think you should be interested in buying the best possible luxury item. We buy organic cotton t-shirts, organic chocolate bars, locally grown apples and meat with a verifiable chain of production, not to mention Heritage Turkeys and glass baby bottles, so why should you buy crap mass produced wine? So, yes you are often shown bottles of wine that are almost $15 when you are shopping at Vine, and yes, I don’t blame you if you cannot stomach spending more than $8 per bottle , if I am invited to your house for dinner I will in no way judge you. Instead, I will either bring my own wine to share with you, or abstain from drinking any of yours.”

The article “The False Promise Of Cheap Wine” expounds on the chemicals, underpaid vineyard workers and lack of sustainability in commercial wine production:

“…there are many other low-end bargain brands, including Gallo’s Barefoot, which at around $7 a bottle has become America’s biggest wine brand. Typically, any wine like this is sourced from industrially farmed, inland vineyards that grow grapes worth just a few hundred dollars per ton, a price that’s barely breakeven for most farmers. It is no surprise that many San Joaquin vineyards have come under corporate control, just as the only way for much of the Midwest’s corn industry to survive has been consolidation under companies like Cargill and ADM.

Whether that sort of farming is sustainable is a matter of debate, although the occasional hint appears about the unintended costs of growing cheap wine grapes, not the least of which is a potentially diminishing San Joaquin water supply. Seeing a similar trend, the Australian government encouraged growers to pull out their crops rather than continue draining water supplies to make cheap wines that, it’s now widely accepted, cost Australia much of its reputation as a producer of fine wine.

At best, the result from vineyards that produce 10 or 15 tons per acre of grapes is neutral wine that requires significant manufacturing (wood chips, Mega Purple and so on) to approximate flavors that wine drinkers claim to like. And that, ultimately, is what the “Drink Cheap Wine” brigade is advocating: industrial wine that is the equivalent of a Big Mac or Velveeta. When you reach for the $1.99 (or $2.99, or $3.99) shelf, that’s what you’re getting.

If the farming can be done sustainably, there is nothing wrong with cheap wine. But ultimately the wine industry has hurt itself by portraying cheap wine as fancier than it is. It has created the illusion that $5 wine is fancy enough that you don’t need to spend a cent more.”

So from extremely toxic levels of arsenic, to an irresponsible lack of sustainability, to underpaid vineyard workers, to drained water supplies, it’s looking like crap, cheap, mass-produced wine is not going to do your body or the environment any favors.

Now I’ll fully admit that this is all recent news to me, and up until this point in my life, all I’ve really paid attention to when drinking wine is whether or not the wine is organic. But even organic wine can have issues not just limited to those listed above, but also headaches from the sulfites in wine, boatloads of sugars, high pH levels that increase the possibility of contamination by unwanted organisms, a less than stellar taste, and the plastic polyethylenes present in the organic boxed wine I’ve been chugging until recently.

So what’s a wino to do?

Below are my four top tactics for ensuring that your wine is actually healthy, including how to reduce sulfites in wine, a method to make just about any wine taste better, why I’m OK with boxed wine, a trick to limit the portion size of wine you drink, and the exact brand of wine I’m now drinking,

————————————-

Four Ways To Make Your Wine Tastier And Healthier

#1. Purify Your Wine To Get Rid of Sulphites

Purifying your wine is especially good idea if you get headaches from the sulphites in wine, and this trick can be a lifesaver if wine consumption results in headaches, migraines, or brain fog for you, especially the day after. If you pay attention to #4 below, you probably won’t need to use the purification method, but nonetheless, it’s a good strategy to have on hand.

Purification is necessary because preservatives have been used in the production of wine for many decades, for three primary purposes:

1. To control undesirable microbial growth;

2. To inhibit browning enzymes;

3. To serve as an anti-oxidant (grape juice behaves like any other fruit in that when it is exposed to air, it begins to deteriorate due to oxidation).

So to preserve the fresh fruity flavor of the grape (and hence the wine), winemakers add preservatives immediately after the grape skin is broken in the making of the wine, and these preservatives are continuously used throughout the winemaking process until the final bottling. The most commonly used  preservative is added either as a sulphur salt such as potassium metabisulphate (which releases sulphur dioxide gas) or sulphur dioxide gas itself, which unfortunately is well known as an undesirable pollutant.

Exposure to sulphur dioxide gas is very unpleasant even at quite low concentrations, and typical reactions to exposure to sulphur dioxide are headaches, shortness of breath, sneezing, watery eyes, weezing, sinus congestion and dizziness. Asthmatics are particularly susceptible to sulphur dioxide, and the level of free sulphur dioxide in most wines at bottling is definitely high enough to trigger a reaction.

Unfortunately, the use of preservatives (particularly sulphites) has been a concern for food consumers for many years and many producers have removed them from their products. But it is nearly impossible to produce high quality wine without their use.

Enter purification. A few years ago when I was competing in a triathlon in Thailand, one of my Australian friends introduced me to Pure Wine, which is available mostly in Australia, but something you could get shipped anywhere. After you add five drops of Pure Wine to a glass of wine, the level is sulphites is dramatically reduced, but the wine stays nice and fresh for up to 24 hours after opening. Pure Wine basically produces a blast of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that eliminates the active wine preservative of sulphur dioxide gas, without sacrificing the taste and quality of the wine.

And by the way, I do indeed realize that there are sulphites in other things too, such as broccoli, prunes and other vegetables, but as this article from Lifehacker points out, it’s really a combination of the sulphites, the sugar, and another addition called “amines” in wine that make sulphites in wine such a particularly big problem for many folks compared to sulphites in vegetables.

#2. Beat the Sh*t Out Of Your Wine To Improve The Flavor

Let’s say you use some of the tips in this article to get healthy wine, but you just want more freaking flavor. Then read on. Full credit for this trick goes to Tim Ferriss, who introduced this method in the article “Age Your Wine 5 Years In 20 Seconds”. Tim learned it from Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, French chef, and creator of the iconic cooking encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine.

You may be familiar with decanting wine, and beating your wine is essentially based on a similar concept, specifically the idea that exposing your wine to more air than the wine gets exposed to in the bottle with improve the flavor of the wine. But decanting can take hours and hours.

Pour 1–2 glasses of the wine into a large mixing bowl, a wine glass, or a carafe. Leave plenty of room at the top. The first time you do this, take a sip so you can see what the wine tastes like before. Then, lower an immersion blender or a latte frother into the bowl and blend the wine for 20-30 seconds. Tip the bowl, glass or carafe or move the blender in circles to enhance the foaming effect.

This aeration exposes more of a liquid surface area to air, and increases the number of flavorful molecules that reach your palate and your smell receptors. If you do this correctly, your wine should now have a nice heady froth on it, just like Guinness beer. The froth will disappear in about 1-2 minutes.

If you have kids, they’ll love this trick. These days, I actually have my twin boys pour and froth my wine for me. Yet another useful reason to keep children around.

#3: Use A Small Glass

I have to admit that the video below, which comes from my article “5 Powerful Calorie Control Tricks To Help You Eat Less Food” makes me feel a little old. When I watch it, I realize that I’ve been podcasting, producing videos and writing articles for nearly eight years, and the video is certainly dated. Notice the cool, green-screen background effect. But it’s still chock full of good advice.

In the video, I show you how the size of the bowl, plate, or spoon that you use can significantly influence how much food and how many calories you consume. In the study “Ice cream illusions bowls, spoons, and self-served portion sizes”, 85 nutrition experts who were attending an ice cream social were randomly given either a smaller (17 oz) or a larger (34 oz) bowl and either a smaller (2 oz) or larger (3 oz) ice cream scoop. After serving themselves, they completed a brief survey as their ice cream was weighed.

Even when nutrition experts were given a larger bowl, they served themselves 31% more without being aware of it. In addition, their servings increased by over 14% when they were given a larger serving spoon.

In another study from University of Pennsylvania, psychologists conducted an experiment in an upscale apartment building in which they left out a bowl of the chocolate candies with a small scoop.The next day they refilled the bowl with M&M’s, but used a much larger scoop – and when the scoop size was increased, people took 66 percent more M&M’s!

And then there’s the infamous bottomless bowl of soup study. In this study, using special self-refilling soup bowls, researchers examined whether visual cues related to portion size can influence intake volume without altering either estimated intake or satiation. Participants who were unknowingly eating from magical, self-refilling bowls ate way more soup than those eating from normal soup bowls. However, despite consuming 73% more, they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls. The takeaway message is of course to use smaller plates, bowls and utensils, even if somebody laughs at you for eating your soup with a teaspoon.

As a matter of fact, my wife often gives me a hard time when I grab a small plate for dinner and awkwardly try to place just the right amount of food on my tiny plate. Of course, for the same reason, I typically grab a very, very large bowl for vegetables and salad, and – you guessed it – a reasonably sized glass for my wine (although for special few-and-far-between occasions I will still employ my fancy, fish-bowl size wine glass).

#4: Drink Biohacked Wine

This is something I’ve never written about before, but is a very recent development in my wine chugging career: biohacked wine.

There are actually steps that a winemaker can take to make wine “fit”.

The first wine biohack is elevation.

When grapes are grown at a high elevation, specifically at 2000 feet or higher elevation, the grapes get a deeper exposure to the sun, while still at cooler temperatures, which helps elevate the resveratrol and polyphenols in the grapes.

The second wine biohack is extended fermentation.

To further concentrate these antioxidants, a winemaker can do an extended fermentation of 10-15 days, versus the standard 1-2 days fermentation that most wine companies use. With this one-two combo of high elevation and long fermentation, a wine can be concentrated to have up to 10x higher levels of resveratrol and polyphenols.

The third wine biohack is to appropriately adjust the pH of the wine.

The acid-alkaline balance, or pH of the wine, dictates the taste, texture, body and color of the wine. If the pH isn’t balanced, the taste of the wine can be just a bit skunky, but rather than adjusting pH, many wine companies simply add sugar to sweeten and balance out an improper pH. We make sure our pH levels are at optimal levels. For example, the optimum pH for a Cabernet (red) is 3.4. The optimal pH for a Chardonnay (white) is 3.2. If this pH can be achieved during the winemaking process, the end result is a great tasting wine that doesn’t need additional sugar added. A winemaker can do this via a process called malolactic, secondary fermentation, which not only lowers pH, but also helps keep bugs out of the wine. Lower pH levels in wine also reduce the possibility of contamination by unwanted organisms, and give the wine greater stability to retain flavor and color.

Next comes filtration.

A proper filtration process can significantly reduce the sulfites in wine, especially if the starting grape is a pesticide-free grape. Most wines have sulfites that range at around 50 parts per million (ppm). But if a wine is cold stabilized and chilled to drop out impurities prior to filtration, then filtered with extremely tight filters like diatomaceous earth and micron pads, sulfites can be cut significantly, down to as low as 35ppm. With lower sugar and lower sulfites, the risk of blood sugar swings and headaches goes way down when this kind of filtration process is used.

The final biohack is to reduce both calorie and carbohydrate levels without lowering alcohol content.

A typical cabernet ranges from 130-170 calories per 5oz glass, and a typical chardonnay ranges from 130-200 calories. But by avoiding the addition of residual sugars to the completed wine, then using a Brix scale, which is a special scale for measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature, the sugar content of the wine can be significantly decreased. For example, a cabernet without added residual sugars is just 95 calories and 12.55g of carbohydrates, and a chardonnay just 90 calories and 5.9g of carbohydrates.

In summary, by using grapes raised at elevation, lowering sulfite levels, using optimum pH levels, using a malolactic, secondary fermentation along with tighter filtration, and avoiding the addition of any residual sugars, the end result is a clean, tasty wine with lower sugar, lower sulfites, lower impurities, superior taste, and just as much alcohol.

That’s the exact wine that I’m now drinking and endorsing. It’s called “FitVineWine”, and it satisfies all of the criteria above, from pesticide-free grapes grown at a high altitude, to superior filtration, to a secondary fermentation, to lower residual sugars.

CabernetDoubleThe good folks over at FitVineWine sent me one bottle of Cabernet and one bottle of Chardonnay to try, and both absolutely explode with flavor (even without the latte frothing trick).

The Cabernet is described as:

Classic Cabernet nose of cassis, lavender, black licorice and a hint of new oak. Rich but soft tannins wrap around flavors of cedar, boysenberry and coffee, chocolate with a hint of leather. Beautifully balanced in a light style.

And the Chardonnay:

Aromas of pears and lemon custard, citrus swirls and a hint of vanilla. A full bodied dry wine with a long crisp finish. Pairs well with fruit and cheese, seafood and pasta in creamy sauces or roast chicken with a little jerk seasoning.

Better yet, my wife has been able to drink FitVine with none of her normal post-wine headaches, I dig the fact that I can get just as much alcohol with far fewer sugars, and you click here to get a bottle of red or a bottle of white at FitVineWine.com with 10% discount code BEN10 (assuming you’re 21 years of age or older).

ChardonnayDouble

——————————

So that’s it!

Since it was only a week ago that I told you how to use weed to get healthy, I figured why not dive right in and get you all equipped to throw some wine into the mix, too! I hope you enjoyed this article, and I also hope that you’ll think twice before pouring a typical cheapo bottle of non-organic wine into a giant glass.

If you want more, then you’ll be pleased to know that when it comes to alcohol, hangovers and striking the ideal balance between healthy living and booze consumption, I’ve covered this topic before in other articles including:

Why You Get A Hangover, And How To Get Rid Of A Hangover As Fast As Possible With The Best Natural Hangover Cures

Three Semi-Healthy Drinks to Have If You’re Partying and Want To Do As Little Damage As Possible to Your Body

How To Fix Your Gut

The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey) – Part 1

The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey) – Part 2

What kind of wine do you drink? Would you try FitVineWine? Do you have other tricks that you use to make your wine healthier or tastier? If you have questions, comments or feedback about wine, then leave your thoughts below!

2014-11-08 06.10.15

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Strength Training For Endurance Athletes.

cycling

A quick discussion at the starting line of a triathlon or other endurance race, a review of any forum devoted to endurance sports, or an article in any running, cycling or triathlon magazine tends to expose you to the same standard strength training advice over and over again…

sport-specificity dictates that endurance athletes don’t need to be lifting heavy stuff…

do high reps, low resistance for endurance and low reps, high resistance for strength…

…strength training will make an endurance athlete bulky…

…there’s no evidence that strength training makes you faster…

…show me one professional endurance athlete who lifts heavy weights and is successful…

…and a host of other comments that my podcast guests and I delve into on today’s show.

My first guest, Caleb Bazyler is one of the lead authors of the article Strength Training For Endurance Athletes: Theory To Practice. This up-to-date treatise of the latest, well, theories and practices, inspired me to get Caleb on the show, along with his sidekick Jacob Goodin, who helped create the plan in the article and edited some of the manuscript.

Caleb is currently completing his PhD at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science in conjunction with the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education. Jacob designs and implements programs for middle and long distance runners and is finishing his master’s degree at ETSU. Finally, my third guest on this show is Chris Taber, who is the strength and conditioning coach at ETSU.

In our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why there’s so much conflict among coaches about the role of strength training for endurance athletes…

-The exact mechanisms via which strength training could theoretically lead to enhanced endurance performance…

-Was the length of endurance performance taken into account in the studies you found (e.g. Ironman vs. a 5K run)…

-The important difference between two different types of strength training for endurance: HFLV and LFHV, and the effects of each on endurance training…

-The kind of strength training that you should do if you don’t want to get bulky or gain too much muscle mass…

-What the ideal strength training workout scenario for an endurance athlete should look like…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Weight Training For Triathlon: The Ultimate Guide (book by Ben Greenfield)

Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education Facebook page – a non-profit organization committed to service, research and coach education. We are also a designated Olympic Training Site.

-This episode is brought to you by Sheer Strength Labs, where you can get everything you need to enhance performance in both the bedroom and the gym – from nitric oxide, to creatine, to testosterone booster. Click here and get an automatic discount.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about strength training for endurance athletes? Leave your thoughts below!

Diving With Giant Squid, Slaying Dragons & Becoming A Starved Savage With Adventurer Monty Halls

Monty Halls

Monty Halls is a former Royal Marine BBC TV presenter, marine biologist, travel writer, public speaker and diver, Monty also conducts courses & trips from his shop in Dartmouth. Exploring the local environment.

PICTURE BY MATT AUSTIN

07519 647890
maustinpics@gmail.com
www.mattaustinimages.photoshelter.com

copyright Matt Austin.

I’ll always been a fan of gritty adventure, survival, wilderness exploring and even TV shows like Bear Grylls, Survivor Man, and yes, occasionally even Naked & Afraid.

So after I returned from a week long wilderness survival immersion at Twin Eagles Wilderness School, I jumped at the chance to get adventurer Monty Halls on the podcast.

Monty is a broadcaster, speaker, naturalist, formal Royal Marine, marine biologist, travel writer and leadership specialist with experience covering over two decades of leading teams in some of the most remote environments on earth for wildlife and adventure documentaries like Great Ocean Adventures and Lost Worlds (which is currently a new series on the Discovery Channel). He’s also written adventure books like Dive: The Ultimate Guide to 60 of the World’s Top Dive Locations (Ultimate Sports Guide), The Fisherman’s Apprentice, Adventures On The Wild West Coast and Adventures On The Atlantic Coast.

In today’s episode you’ll discover:

-What Monty’s life was like leading up to that point that got him head-hunted as a competitor in the flagship show Superhumans, a test of elite performers, competing in a series of challenges devised by the QinetiQ testing centre in the UK

-What it was like to dive with a giant squid…

-Monty’s philosophy on combining sleep with adventure…

-What it means to be “seven meals away from a savage”…

-When you first encounter a strange or new environment, how you can accelerate your learning process or chances of survival…

-How Monty manages combining adventuring and survival trips with managing a family life…

-Monty’s take on exercise, dieting and biohacks…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Diving and adventure books by Monty Halls

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about Monty Halls’s adventures or anything else in this episode? Leave your thoughts below!

A 100% Legal Way To Get All The Health Benefits Of Smoking Weed Without Actually Smoking Weed.

muliti-use

Allow me to begin by clarifying a very important thing: I am not a pothead, a stoner, or a recreational drug enthusiast.

Never was.

Growing up, I was originally a fantasy-fiction writing, World Of Warcraft dominating geek in my early years, and later in high school and college was a clean-living, well-shaven jock athlete with a substance abuse problem that consisted primarily of copious amounts of creatine, caffeine and canned protein shakes.

Until recently, unless you count smoking a very small number of joints at a few random parties in college, about the closest I’ve come to what might be considered “fringe” substance use has been via occasional use of nootropics and herbal extracts like packets of concentrated Chinese herbs, smart drugs like piracetam, anirecatam and alpha-GPC combinations (see my white powder on a kitchen scale video here) and vaporizing nighttime sleep extracts of melatonin and L-theanine (yet another creepy video here).

Of course, if you’re a regular podcast listener or you read my recent article on the “The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?“, then you already know that subsequent to the legalization of weed in my home state of Washington, I’ve been experimenting with edible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for exercise performance, and also experimenting with vaporizing indica-rich strains of marijuana for creativity, relaxation and sleep.

So there: now I’m a bonified druggie. But let’s move on, because in this article, we’re going to delve into a 100% legal derivative of the cannabis plant family that has some pretty massive payoffs for balancing your endocrine system, relieving anxiety, modulating chronic stress, shutting down inflammation and chronic pain, decreasing blood sugar, decreasing appetite and lowering abdominal obesity.

In other words, you’re going to learn about a form of cannabis you can get anywhere, order via mail, and use 100% legally in all 50 states and most countries in the world, with none of the psycho-active, paranoia inducing effects of regular weed, and all of the benefits.

————————————

Weed 101

So let’s say you didn’t grow up in the 60’s, never had stoner parents, have lived a relatively clean life, or simply smoke joints without ever thinking too hard about what’s happening chemically. Here’s a bit of “Weed 101″.  

When people talk about marijuana or use marijuana, they’re usually referring to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). What’s THC? It’s the part of the hemp plant (AKA the cannabis plant) that induces a euphoric state. Or an annoying state, mildly schizophrenic state, depending on your perspective. We can at least say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it makes Family Guy episodes way, way more funny.

And of course, THC is what most recreational weed users are looking for, which is probably why botanists have figured out since the 1960’s how to increase the amount of THC from around 3% to 5% in the 1960s to as much as 28% in our current decade. So yes, it’s true that we’re not smoking the weed our parents smoked, and one draw on a typical joint these days would probably knock your mom on her ass.

As you learned a little about in my article on the effects of THC on exercise performance, THC fits into a site called the CB1 receptor in the cerebral cortex of your brain, and this is what causes you to experience a cerebral high, and if you fill in too many of those CB1 receptors, a very, very long time sitting on your couch.

512px-Cannabidiol.svgAnd then there’s cannabidiol (CBD), pictured right, which is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is a major part of the cannabis plant, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s total cannabinoid extract. Due mostly to its safety and legality, CBD has long been researched for a much wider scope of medical applications than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We’ll get into the most relevant of those medical applications later.

But first more Weed 101 – specifically, how the CBD is actually separated from the THC. And to understand this, you need to put on your straw hat and for the next 60 seconds become a hemp field farmer.

See, hemp fields are simply fields of cannabis plants that grow under conditions in which the male plants have been allowed to fertilize the female plants. When you separate the male and female plants, the females can’t be pollinated, so they produce lots of THC (in what is known as “resinous THC form”) as a result. But when the female is allowed to get pollinated, she barely produces any THC. In fact, the happily sexed up female produces less than 1% THC.

So to gain a higher production of THC in a field of cannabis plants, you simply take away the male plants so the females can’t be pollinated, and to lower THC production, you keep the male and female plants together. Plants used for CBD oil or CBD capsules or hemp oil or hemp protein or your hippie neighbor’s tie-dyed hemp headwear meet the international standards of less than 1% THC. And this CBD is totally legal and available for you to order by mail just about anywhere in the world.

——————————–

The Wonderful World Of CBD Chemistry

Screech.

Back it up!

Why on earth would you want to dump a bunch of CBD into your body with none of the fun, psychoactive properties of THC? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. There are some very, very good reasons.

But first, it’s important for you to understand what’s going on inside your body when you consume this CBD stuff from those happily mating male and female plants.

You already learned that THC attaches mostly to CB1 receptors. On the other hand, most people will tell you that CBD fits into a different receptor, the (…drumroll please…) CB2 receptor, thus magically minimizing the effects from the CB1 receptor and providing all the medical benefits without the psychoactive high from THC.

Sigh. I wish it were that easy.

CBD actually has a very low affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors but acts as an indirect antagonist of their agonists. Woo-boy. Head spinning? All this means is the following: all the things that would normally activate the CB1 or the CB2 receptors are turned off or turned down by CBD.

For example, CBD can increase CB1 receptor density so that there’s just too many CB1 receptors for THC to bind to, thus taking the edge off the potential psychoactivity of weed, while still retaining all the opioid-like painkilling effects. In case you are concerned about this meaning you have to buy more weed or take more hits if you’re using CBD oil, you should also know that CBD can extend the duration of the effects of THC by inhibiting the cytochrome P-450 enzymes that would cause you to more rapidly metabolize THC.

So your plasma concentrations of THC increase when you’re using CBD, resulting in a greater amount of THC available to receptors and increasing the effect of THC in a dose-dependent manner (which means the more CBD you use, the more THC becomes available). But along with this increase, CBD also acts as an antagonist at the a cannabinoid receptor called GPR55 in the caudate nucleus and putamen sections of your brain, reducing paranoia-like effects or heart-beat racing from weed.

Yes, I know. Eyes glazing over.

Blah, blah, insert Ben Greenfield geek-speak drone sounds here. Place propellor hat on head. Tuck in shirt and gently put pocket protector in its place.

Wake up!

Here’s what I’m getting at: the magic of CBD is not really based on its action on CB1 or CB2 receptors, unless you’re using CBD to specifically elongate the effects of THC or to take any unpleasant psychoactive edge off THC. Which works just fine, by the way.

As a matter of fact, if CBD did indeed attach to CB1 and CB2 receptors it would have the same addictive potential of THC. But since its mechanism of action is not dependent on receptors associated with addiction, CBD is not addictive or habit-forming in any way. So while the receptor explanation is conveniently simple, it’s not quite accurate.

Instead, CBD acts as an agonist on an entirely different receptor called the 5-HT1A receptor, and this is how CBD actually works as an antidepressant with anti-anxiety and neuroprotective effects. It also serves as what is called an “allosteric modulator” of your opioid receptors, which is how it works to remove pain and reduce the effects of chronic inflammation. Other positive medical effects of CBD (there’s over 60 of them, if you care to read up on them here) are due to increased intracellular calcium release and agonism of another receptor called the PPAR-γ receptor.

So let’s put this into real world context.

As you may know or as you may have forgotten (ha!) short term memory problems are really common with THC. That’s why the extremely funny, laugh-snorting joke you told last night is impossible to remember the next morning. Don’t worry, it probably wasn’t as funny as you thought it was last night. But a 2010 study found that CBD eliminates any memory loss problem from weed. In the study, researchers used plants bred for high CBD and low THC plants, and attributed this attenuation of memory loss to CBD’s role as a CB1 antagonist.

Here’s another interesting fact for you: CBD has really strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due primarily to its effects on your adenosine receptors and cytochrome P-450 and 2C enzymes. When this was first discovered, the US government insisted that cannabis had no medical benefits, but at the same time, they took out patent 6,630,507, which gave them rights to the antioxidant properties of cannabis (which they ironically still claim don’t exist). Incidentally, that patent was not extended to actual oil or capsule extracts of cannabis, so the good ol’ US gummint missed out on some pretty good business opportunities, if you ask me.

It’s also nearly impossible to overdose on CBD. Kind of like water, dark chocolate, and steamed kale, it has an unusually low level of toxicity. In the last 6,000 years, CBD hasn’t killed anyone via overdose, which is particularly impressive when you compare it to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, advil and tylenol, which can wreak havoc on your gut lining, liver and kidneys. Or aspirin (salicylic acid) which kills over 1,000 people every year. Or alcohol, which kills over 110,000 people a year. No one’s ever died from CBD.

As a matter of fact, leading up to this article, I’ve used very high amounts of CBD (100+mg) with no ill effect, aside from extreme feelings of relaxation, calm and the impression that if my home caught on fire I probably wouldn’t care (OK, so maybe that’s an ill effect).

CBD

—————————–

A Very Brief History of CBD

Now of course, you could stop reading here and scroll down to fill yourself in on all the benefits of CBD oil, and the specific conditions for which it can come in handy. But I actually find the history of cannabis quite fascinating, especially given America’s persistent widespread disapproval and/or fear of its use. It’s not like this stuff just popped up like Red Bull energy drinks, ecstasy, lunesta, or adderall. Instead I’d kinda clump cannabis right in with organic vegetables and essential oils.

About 2,700 years ago, in Persia, a spiritual teacher named Zoroaster penned a sacred text of about 10,000 plants. As you can read about in this more incredibly detailed history of cannabis, Zoraster interestingly included hemp at the tippy-top of his compendium. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, also recommended cannabis extracts.

Cannabis also has links to Christianity – specifically through the Ethiopian Coptic Church, which is held to have been established by St. Mark (the guy in the New Testament of The Bible) in AD 45. The Copts claim that the use of marijuana as a sacrament descended from a Jewish sect called the Essenes (the folks who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). According to the Coptic Church, cannabis played an important role in early Christian and Judaic rituals, specifically as a sacrament burned in tabernacles, to commemorate important occasions such as communication with God on Mount Sinai by Moses, and the transfiguration of Christ.

Tell that to your Sunday School teacher.

Later, Queen Victoria’s physician and one of the world’s leading doctors of that era, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed medicinal cannabis for the Queen’s menstrual cramps, for which CBD still works fantastically for today. When writing about medical marijuana in the first edition of the British medical journal The Lancet, Reynolds proclaimed that cannabis is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Another widely hailed physician at the time, Sir William Osler, used CBD for migraines with excellent results.

The father of French psycho-pharmacology, Dr. Jean-Jacques Moreau de Tours, used the cannabis plant to treat depression, another condition still widely treated with cannabis in the modern era. Later, during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid with cannabis, and presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged farmers to grow more hemp to produce more rope and paper, as well as clothing and ship sails (which dates back to the Egyptians using hemp sails on their Nile boats 3,000-4,000 years ago). During WWII, American farmers were also asked to grow as much hemp as possible. Last time I checked, the US government isn’t politely asking farmers to grow hemp anymore, although corn and grain subsidies are booming.

Anything that can be made of plastic can also be made from hemp, which can reduce exposure to phytoestrogens and other chemicals in plastic and other synthetic compounds. Hemp plant fibers are long and tough, and can be woven into a soft cloth that wears well and has fewer of the herbicides and pesticides associated with other modern cloths like cotton. Even copies of the Declaration of Independence used to be written on cannabis paper, since it doesn’t yellow with age like other papers do.

As you’ve probably already heard, the hemp plant itself is is a highly useful plant, and every part of it has been used to make a wide variety of products, including biofuel and medicine. Biofuel made from hemp seeds is far less expensive and more effective than ethanol derived from corn. If there weren’t so many federal restrictions, growing hemp would highly benefit any agricultural state, but unfortunately most states must pay an absurdly high premium to import hemp seeds. And of course, as you’re probably aware, both THC and CBD seem to be immersed in a constant struggle of medical legality that I simply don’t have the time to address in this post.

Nonetheless, when it comes to CBD oil and cannabidiol, people seem be getting more aware of the fact that you don’t need to be a pothead to get all the medical, relaxing, hormone and metabolism-balancing properties of weed. Not that the image below is based on hard scientific epidemiological data, but a quick glance at a Google trends profile of searches for “CBD Oil” speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

screenshot_1120

————————-

Is CBD Addictive, Unsafe or Illegal?

So if CBD oil is so freaking magical, there must be a downside right? Addictive potential, perhaps? Toxicity and lack of proven safety? Illegal? Although I touched on the absence of CB1 and CB2 receptor binding earlier in this article, let’s delve into the addictive or unsafe potential of CBD just a bit more.

First, there is zero evidence anywhere that CBD is addictive. This is because CBD does not act on any receptors in the brain that would produce addiction. You already learned about the science behind that whole receptor thing.

There, that was easy, huh?

But if you want more details then click here to read some of the writings of Dr. Tod Mikuriya, former national administrator of the US government’s marijuana research programs, was quite outspoken on the subject of addiction. The late Dr. Mikuriya stated that no other single drug or substance has as many therapeutic benefits as cannabis, and he never discovered any evidence of cannabis addiction.

Now don’t get me wrong – some will indeed claim that cannabis is addictive. For example, the Boggs Act of 1951 established mandatory sentences for drug users and also claimed that cannabis was addictive. But since then, testimony given by Dr. Harris Isbell, Director of Research at the Public Health Service hospital in Lexington, Kentucky exposed this as false, explaining how cannabidiols from marijuana are not physically addictive.

But Dr. Isbell’s research was mostly ignored, and instead overshadowed by the argument that the plant inevitably is the stepping stone to heroin addiction, and the calling for harsh penalties against offenders of the marijuana laws. But the concept of marijuana as a “gateway drug” remains completely unproven.

In over 6,000 years of usage in Oriental Medicine, there have been no cases of addiction reported (although Emperor Fu Hsi referred to cannabis as a popular remedy as early as 2,900 BC).

In the early 1900s, as part of the Prohibition movement, cannabis was claimed by many to be addictive. But this was not based on research, and ironically the recommended treatment for cannabis “addiction” in most cases was the use of heroin.

An actual long term study, Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1975, showed zero concerns with addiction, even after patients who had used cannabis for decades had stopped. The 1980 study Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study in Chronic Marijuana Use backed this up. Most interestingly, studies like this are not finding any addictive potential even in the presence of THC along with the CBD!

In the early 1990’s, rehabilitation facilities did indeed experience a significant surge of patients who were “addicted” to cannabis. But a survey done at that time noted that nearly all of them had come from the court system, where judges gave convicted criminals the choice between entering into treatment for addiction or entering prison, which was probably a pretty simple choice for most.

Later in the 1990’s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research that had the goal of proving that cannabis is addictive. But instead of identifying any biochemical pathway that could cause addiction, any research defined addiction by the presence or absence of some degree of withdrawal, with no specific parameters for withdrawal actually defined. In other words, if you’re thirsty, this NIDA-funded research could argue that this means you are addicted to water.

As a matter of fact, here’s what this article reported about NIDA.

The ugly truth is that the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world’s research on controlled substances, is on record stating that its institutional policy is to reject any and all medical marijuana research. “As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use,” a NIDA spokesperson told The New York Times in 2010. “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”

Bummer.

And how about the safety of cannabis?

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, spent the majority of his professional life studying cannabis, from the 1960’s to 2000’s. The result was “Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine“. As you can see, Dr. Grinspoon didn’t find one single case of death, stating that

“There are no deaths from cannabis use. Anywhere. You can’t find one.”

There are dozens of other doctors and similar studies, too many to list here – but you can certainly delve in at ProjectCBD website. On September 6, 1988 Francis Young, an administrative DEA judge, took medical testimony for over two weeks, and at the end of it, he said,

“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

Once again, even when talking about the THC combined with the CBD, and not the isolated, non-psychoactive CBD component, marijuana is shown to be both non-addictive and safe.

But when it comes to pain management, one of the primary uses for CBD oil, deaths from drug overdoses and drug poisoning continue to rise. Deaths from opioid analgesics – one of the most universally prescribed pain management drugs – increased from 4,030 in 1999 to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010. In 2010, 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs, and opioid analgesics showed up in about 3 of every 4 of those pharmaceutical overdose deaths. That confirms the predominant role that research has shown opioid analgesics to play in drug-related mortality. Opioids are nasty, brutal drugs with side effects nearly as bad as the conditions they’re taken for, and although deaths from opiods are common, they’re still one of the most turned to bandaids in modern medicine.

CBD in proper dosages gives nearly the same pain reduction compared to opioid prescription drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are examples, and when combined with these drugs, allows you to use far less of the actual prescription, thus reducing the toxic load on your liver and kidneys. And of course, as you already know, these benefits come without the proven addictive or unsafe nature of opioid drugs.

Considering the complete non-addictiveness and safety of cannabis, Dr. James Hudson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, has said that pharmaceutical companies have an enormous incentive to chemically recreate the natural compounds in marijuana and somehow sell a drug from it. You probably already know this, but pharmaceutical companies can’t patent a natural compound, but if they can make a synthetic compound that mimics ingredient from cannabis, they can formulate that as a drug and potentially make a lot more money off of it.

To get an idea of the medical benefits of CBD (again, I need to emphasize to you that this is not medical marijuana or anything illegal, just the completely natural form of CBD that you can buy anywhere and have mailed to you), just take a look at video of CBD oil helping with a form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The first use of CBD for Dravet’s syndrome was given to a patient who was having 300 seizures a week. I first talked about this video last year Is Weed Healthy? The Controversial Truth About The Science Of Marijuana

Do you see that? The form of epilepsy in that video usually kills the child.

Here’s a nearly identical video of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) who was given CBD…

…and cerebral palsy. When you watch the video below, it becomes even more ironic that the government once created a prohibition of cannabis, declaring that it “has no medical usage”.

You get the idea, and now you probably also have a pretty good idea of why pharmaceutical companies would want to patent some chemical-ized version of this. So I’d suspect that we’re not too far away from an enormously overpriced cannabis-like chemical produced in a pharmaceutical factory. But in the meantime, you can get the identical effects, 100% legally, from entirely natural sources of CBD. Let’s take a look at what some of those most relevant effects would be.

As for the legality, here’s the skinny for my home country of the USA (original source here):

“The drug Schedules list “Tetrahydrocannabinols” and “marijuana” both as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, however cannabidiol is unlikely to be considered as a Schedule I drug on the basis of being covered by the listing of “Marijuana” or by the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” under Schedule I of the CSA.

  • “Marijuana” has a DEA Drug Code of 7360 (distinct from cannabidiol’s Drug Code of 7372) and is defined by the CSA as “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” Exempted from regulation under the definition are “the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”
  • A DEA Interpretive Rule published in 2001 states that the “definition of marijuana was intended to include those parts of marijuana which contain THC and to exclude those parts which do not. … The legislative history is absolutely clear that Congress meant to outlaw all plants popularly known as marijuana to the extent those plants possessed THC”. Cannabidiol isolated by extraction from marijuana sources does not contain THC, and synthetically produced cannabidiol does not contain THC either. It therefore stands to reason that cannabidiol is not covered under the prohibition on marijuana.
  • “Tetrahydrocannabinols” listed under Schedule I of the CSA are unlikely to include cannabidiol. Tetrahydrocannabinols are defined as follows:

Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation, which contains any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, or which contains any of its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation (for purposes of this paragraph only, the term “isomer” includes the optical, position and geometric isomers):

  • (31) Tetrahydrocannabinols (DEA Drug Code: 7370)
    • Meaning tetrahydrocannabinols naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis (cannabis plant), as well as synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the cannabis plant, or in the resinous extractives of such plant, and/or synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to those substances contained in the plant, such as the following:

Furthermore, cannabidiol was not placed into Schedule I when The Controlled Substances Act was amended in July 2012 with the US Congress‘ passing of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 (SDAPA) (which came into effect on January 4, 2013) to ban various cannabinoids, cathinones, and phenethylamines. The part adding to Schedule I various “cannabimimetic agents” which include molecules more closely resembling so-called “classically” structured cannabinoids reads as follows: Since cannabidiol is chemically not a tetrahydrocannabinol (nor indeed a “cannabinol” of any kind) and cannabidiol has a DEA Drug Code of 7372 (distinct from Tetrahydrocannabinols’ designated Drug Code of 7370), it stands to reason that cannabidiol is not considered one of the drugs placed into Schedule I under the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” in the CSA.

(d)(1) Unless specifically exempted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents, or which contains their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation.

(2) In paragraph (1):
(A) The term “cannabimimetic agents” means any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist as demonstrated by binding studies and functional assays within any of the following structural classes:
(i) 2-(3-hydroxycyclohexyl)phenol with substitution at the 5-position of the phenolic ring by alkyl or alkenyl, whether or not substituted on the cyclohexyl ring to any extent.

Cannabidiol, while being a more “classically structured” cannabinoid (not like the much more recently discovered cannabinoid receport agonists with indole rings such as many of the JWH- and AM- named series), was not on the list of specifically newly banned cannabinoids (even among those with a more so-called “classic structure”) and it does not fall into the category of unlisted cannabinoids which are caught by the definition above for several reasons. Primarily, CBD is not a CB1 agonist; it is a CB1 antagonist. Also, unlike CP 47,497‘s homologues and similar synthetic “classical structured cannabinoids” which the above definition was written carefully to include, the cannabidiol molecule has a cyclohexene ring where the amended law requires a cyclohexane ring, and further cannabidiol does not have the required 3-hydroxyl moiety bonded to its cyclohexenyl functional group where the law requires a hydroxyl moiety bonded to the 3- position of a cyclohexyl functional group.”

OK, yes I’ll admit. That part hurts my head. But in a nutshell it simply means that cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a far different chemical than cannabinol or THC, and because of that, can’t fall into the class of being a controlled drug.

Of course, it’s extremely important to draw a distinction between cannabidiol from medical marijuana vs. cannabidiol from industrial hemp. The first form of cannabidiol is extracted from medical marijuana plants grown to be high in CBD and low in THC. It’s often sold under the title “Charlotte’s Web” and is a Schedule I controlled substance. It is only sold to licensed dispensaries and prescribed by doctors for particular conditions in places where marijuana is regulated, such as the USA. Marijuana-based CBD oil like this is only legal in states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted medical marijuana laws.

While medical marijuana is grown to be high in CBD for the treatment of specific ailments, the THC content can vary dramatically, sometimes getting as high as the CBD content. The other problem with medical marijuana (besides the possibility of getting a strain that is high in THC) is that it’s not currently legal everywhere. In the United States, you must be living in certain states and obtain a prescription from a doctor to receive medical marijuana.

On the other hand cannabidiol oil that comes from industrial hemp plants are a different story. The FDA considers hemp oil (and it’s derivative CBD) to be a dietary supplement (not a medication), since it is made from industrial hemp plants. If you live in the US, this means you don’t need a prescription and can legally purchase and consume hemp-based cannabidiol in any state. The water soluble CBD I use called “BioCBD” contains less than 0.001% THC, which is far below the legal threshold of 0.3% set by the DEA. Because of this unusually low amount of THC, this also means that a CBD source like BioCBD will not cause a positive drug test.

Unfortunately, outside of the United States the legal status can be confusing. Since regulations can vary for each country, I’d recommend that if you want bulletproof confidence that you are completely within the bounds of legality, you reach out to your specific country’s customs department. Ask if you can import dietary supplements from the USA. If you are allowed to do this, then you can order CBD from hemp-based products.

Now…how about if you’re an athlete concerned about CBD use being considered “doping”?

No search of CBD Oil or Cannabidiol turns up any results on the World Anti Doping Association’s (WADA) prohibited substances list, and the article “Why should Cannabis be Considered Doping in Sports?” explains why:

“The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2013) establishes a 15 ng/mL urinary 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) threshold; urine analyses involves THCCOOH-glucuronide conjugates cleavage, which significantly increases free THCCOOH concentrations and detection time. Urinary THCCOOH concentrations above the 15 ng/mL threshold are considered Adverse Analytical Findings and may be interpreted as a violation of anti-doping rules (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2009). Studies showed that even occasional and single cannabis smoking might yield a THCCOOH positive result (≥15 ng/mL) for up to 5 days (Huestis et al., 1996). Thus, consuming cannabis even weeks before a match may imply a considerable risk of being detected in a doping test. In light of this considerable risk, some users started using a new preparation of herbal smoking blends named “Spice.” Such substances are highly potent cannabinoid analogs, with unknown and potentially harmful toxicological properties that may cause prolonged intoxication. These substances mimic or worsen cannabis’ toxic effects provoking cognitive and motor impairment (UNODC, 2011).

The non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) is anxiolytic in humans following a single dose (Zuardi et al., 1993; Bergamaschi et al., 2011); decreased anxiety and fear memories extinction after oral CBD intake may enhance sports performance with no “violation” of the Code, as no THCCOOH is detected in urine. One way to protect athletes’ health and to promote health, fairness, and equality in sports is to include any illicit drugs, their constituents and analogs in the anti-doping program. The sports may assist to create educational program for youth and athletes as an alternative to keep them away from drugs and to preserve the intrinsic value about the “spirit of sport.””

The US Anti Doping Association (USADA), is a bit more cautionary, and in the following statement sums up the fact that you should probably make sure you get any CBD you use from a “clean” source:

“Athletes need to be aware that while some papers show that the likelihood of testing positive from a hemp product (at least in workplace testing) is very low (1), there are at least two peer-reviewed articles that show it is possible to sometimes detect THC in the urine of people who have consumed hemp products (2,3). Athletes who choose to consume hemp products may be at risk for a positive anti-doping test, even though many of these products claim not to contain THC. Thus, the risk of testing positive from hemp is low, but nonetheless it may be possible. Because athletes are strictly liable for what is in their systems, irrespective of how it got there, it is very important to be aware of this possibility.”

And then there’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). To confirm a positive test for marijuana in NCAA testing, the level of THC in your urine would have to exceed 15 nanograms per milliliter. This is impossible to attain with a CBD oil derived from a hemp plant, and the only forms of cannabis that appear on the NCAA banned drugs list are marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and synthetic cannabinoids such as spice, K2, JWH-018, and JWH-073.

Finally, if you want to be 100% informed on legality of CBD or any other substance both in and out of competition, you simply cannot beat the Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO) search engine, which allows you to search for any substance, in any sport, in any country, from any nation of purchase.

————————————-

The Effects Of CBD On Hormones

Anyways, now we’re about to get to the good stuff, specifically things that I figured health-minded readers like you would actually find helpful, such as hormone balancing, de-stressing, enhanced sleep, fat loss, etc. But if you want to simply stop reading now, and take a side-track to go peruse the more than 20,000 articles published in peer reviewed journals that show the medical efficacy of CBD for a variety of other conditions in addition to what I’ve listed here, then knock yourself out.

Let’s begin with your endocrine system and hormones. Here are the studies:

Your endocrine system consists of glands throughout your body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism to sex drive. One major function of this system is to produce excitation in response to stress, which is of course necessary for survival, but when it gets out of hand it can be a source of excess stress. One big effect of cannabidiol in the endocrine system seems to be to protect against excess stress by reducing susceptibility to stress-induced activation in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. CBD significantly decreases plasma cortisol levels, and this is actually why I started using CBD in the first place – to reduce my cortisol.

But CBD has other effects on your endocrine system, particularly your appetite. You may simply think that marijuana produces the munchies and therefore makes you fat, and although this makes logical sense, science has shown that it’s not the case that marijuana makes you fat, especially when CBD is present.

Here’s how it works…

Your pancreas secretes the hormones glucagon and insulin to regulate blood sugar by signaling your liver to break down fat into sugar (glucagon) or to store sugar as fat (insulin). These hormones work as a pair to maintain homeostasis, and they stimulate the release of each other through a complex feedback mechanism. While THC primarily increases glucagon and blood sugar, CBD lowers insulin levels, and it is this CBD action that helps to explain why marijuana users tend to eat more calories but do not gain any extra weight, have less obesity and have lower rates of type II diabetes than non-users, and is also why some diabetics find that marijuana makes it easier to manage their blood sugar.

Type II diabetics (whose pancreas still functions) tend to have very high levels of insulin, but the liver is unable to use that insulin, so blood sugar stays high, and the pancreas eventually damages itself by trying to continually produce more and more insulin, eventually leading to organ failure if the diabetes is unmanaged. By lowering pancreatic insulin release, CBD may alleviate or prevent the progression of type II diabetes and blood sugar disorders. Cannabinoid antagonists such as CBD have been shown to reduce obesity, and not only do rodents given these antagonists eat less, but they also lose more weight than their reduced feeding can account for.

So the summary of the biggest effects of CBD on the endocrine system? Lower cortisol and better blood sugar control. Let’s move on.

————————————-

The Effects Of CBD On Anxiety & Stress

You’ve already seen the data on the big cortisol-lowering effects of CBD. But when it comes to anxiety and paranoia in general, a THC-rich strain of marijuana will actually increase not decrease stress unless there is enough CBD present to balance out the stress-increasing effect of weed.

Studies in humans, including many of those cited below, have demonstrated that CBD dosage reduces anxiety (once again, compared to the increased levels of anxiety that THC produces), and that when you combine CBD with THC, it takes the anxiety edge off THC. This is due to the action of CBD on 5HT1A and TRPV1 receptors, both of which are involved in mitigating the anxiolytic, panic and fear responses to stress.

Here are the studies that have specifically investigated CBD’s role as an anti-anxiolytic:

When it comes to stress, which is of course significantly related to anxiety, the host of studies are just as impressive:

This is just a small sample of the research showing the role that CBD plays in reducing stress and reducing anxiety. I’ve found that as little as 10mg CBD vastly lowers my anxiety at the end of the day, and have dosed with as high as 100mg CBD to be as calm as a baby during trans-Atlantic plane flights, nights sleeping in hotel rooms, and other situations where I have difficulty sleeping or tend to be stressed out. The stuff works like a charm, and saves me from having to hunt down an unhealthy, addictive alternative like valium or diazepam.

———————————

The Effects Of CBD On Inflammation

You can pretty much consider inflammation to be the freaking bane of our modern, fast-paced, industrialized lifestyles. Of the ten leading causes of mortality in the United States, chronic, low-level inflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of at least seven, specifically heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis.

But from joint pain to irritable bowel syndrome to diabetic retinopathy, CBD has been shown to modulate both acute and chronic inflammatory issues via several different mechanisms, and from the research I’ve seen and cited below, it’s even more powerful than many of the commonly recommend natural remedies for inflammation, such as curcumin, fish oil, resveratrol, anti-oxidants, protelytic enzymes, Vitamin C, etc.

For example, cytokines are the signaling proteins synthesized and secreted by immune cells upon stimulation. They are the modulating factors that balance initiation and resolution of inflammation. One of the mechanisms of immune control by CBD during inflammation is stopping cytokine production by immune cells and lowering cytokine production by the T-helper cells Th1 and Th2 (which are interestingly the same cells in which overactivity can contribute to autoimmune issues and food intolerances). The inflammatory compound interleukin-6 (IL-6) can also be decreased in the presence of CBD.

In one interesting study, researchers decided to test the effect of CBD on four cell signaling or mediating molecules associated with intestinal inflammation and oxidative damage to the gut. Their findings were as follows:

  1. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) – CBD reduced the overexpression of iNOS in response to colitis. iNOS overexpression is well correlated with disease activity with colitis, and inhibitors of iNOS lead to improvement in experimental models of IBD. iNOS results in high-output production of NO, which results in oxidative damage to the intestine via reactive oxygen species (ROS).
  2. Interleukin-1β – levels significantly increased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to decrease levels. IL-1β is shown to have potent pro-inflammatory activity and thus heightens the inflammatory response that leads to intestinal injury. IL-1β amplifies the production of inflammatory leukocytes (immune system cells), resulting in an increase of inflammation.
  3. Interleukin-10 – levels significantly decreased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to restore levels. IL-10 has anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Restoration of IL-10 activity is critical to intestinal health.

The reduction of iNOS and reactive oxygen species by CBD, along with the reduction of lipid peroxidation, shows the important therapeutic action of CBD in reduction of colonic inflammation by indirect reduction of oxidative damage. In addition, the dysregulation of the interleukins IL-1B and IL-10 is a well-known disruption caused by irritable bowel disease (IBD). The restoration of these interleukins to normal behavior by CBD, although the specific pathway is unknown, is another important therapeutic action that CBD has on reduction of colonic inflammation.

Many of the folks I coach and do consults with have always struggled with a “sensitive gut”, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation and other signs of gut inflammation, and being able to use CBD to reduce gut inflammation could be a game-changer for these people. But from the joints to neural tissue, CBD has a variety of other natural anti-inflammatory effects. Here are just a smattering of the studies done on cannabidiols and inflammation.

Interestingly, the connection between CBD and inflammation can be highlighted using professional sports as an example. From MMA fighters to NBA basketball players, cannabis use is widespread among hard charging professional and a growing number of recreational athletes, specifically for shutting down the extreme amounts of joint inflammation and pain from constantly pounding the mat or the court and for helping the body relax and sleep at night after a day of stress combined with hard and heavy training. Many NFL athletes are now experimenting with cannabis extracts to manage post-head injury symptoms and to reduce the chronic mid and post-career aches and pains.

I’m sure that if these same athletes realized they could get all the same anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and sleep effects from CBD, without having to worry about THC testing by their athlete’s federation, they’d likely leap at the chance.

————————————-

The Effects Of CBD On Metabolism & Body Fat

Bet you never thought you’d hear somebody recommending a weed derivative to lose weight, but it’s true. Earlier in this article, you learned how CBD can help to stabilize insulin levels, regulate appetite, and decrease cortisol – all of which can have a profound effect on your body fat levels.

As I mentioned earlier, cannabidiol is known to counteract some of the effects of THC like the “munchies.” Just as THC can significantly increase your appetite, CBD can suppress your appetite, which is ideal if you’re watching your figure. Here is a great two minute video that sums up how marijuana can help obesity and body fat:

In the video, you learn about one study in which researchers found that pot smokers had lower levels of obesity than people who do not smoke pot, and another study that found that a brain chemical with a structure similar to one of the active compounds found in cannabis might actually help people lose weight. The findings are just the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that marijuana may be useful in countering issues related to obesity.

The researchers leading many of the studies on marijuana extracts and obesity are affiliated with the UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes me cringe that pharmaceutical companies are going to make some kind of very expensive CBD-based weight loss drug.  But regardless of motive, in these studies, the researchers found that the two compounds, THCV and cannabidiol, boosted metabolism, and reduced levels of liver fat, and blood cholesterol. These same compounds also made mice more sensitive to insulin, protected the cells that produce insulin, and increasing metabolic rate – all while suppressing the appetite. Nice.

————————————-

The Effects Of CBD On Sleep

In the United States, approximately 70 million people suffer from insomnia, insufficient sleep or another sleep disorder. CBD extracts have been mistakenly described as sedating, but I haven’t found that to be the case with my own use and neither has research. Although it’s true that if you take a bunch of CBD (I’ve found 30g+ of a good, absorbable CBD will do it for me) you will fall asleep like a baby, in modest doses, CBD is mildly alerting, and simply provides a calm, relaxed focus.

Cannabidiol actually activates the same adenosine receptors as caffeine, which is technically a stimulant. But patients with sleep issues report that ingesting a CBD-rich tincture or extract a few hours before bedtime has a balancing effect that facilitates a good night’s sleep, and I’ve certainly found this to be the case.

Here are the studies on CBD and sleep.

In sum: smaller doses of CBD provide you with a calm and relaxed focus that comes in handy during everything from writing to music to parties to workouts – very similar to what you would experience with THC, but without the psychoactive or paranoia properties. And if you combine these smaller doses of CBD with common natural sleep-inducing compounds like melatonin, magnesium, or lemon balm, then you can get yourself into an even more relaxed state. But larger doses of CBD (which are going to range based on the actual absorption of whichever CBD blend you are using) can be used all by themselves to enhance sleep or combat insomnia.

Speaking of dosage, in most clinical trials, you’ll see CBD dosing ranges from 10-800 mg of CBD a day (although to treat schizophrenia, I’ve seen doses as high as 1,300mg). But as with everything from whey protein to creatine to magnesium, everyone is different and you’ll likely need to experiment with a dosage range that works for you. The CBD capsules I personally use contain 10mg in one capsule, but based on the absorption (an important variable which you’re going to learn about next), I need to use far less CBD, about 1/10 the amount, compared to other CBD tinctures, extracts and capsules I’ve tried.

Why Most CBD Isn’t Absorbed & What You Can Do About It

OK, so there must be a catch here, because at this point you’re probably under the impression that I think CBD is some kind of cure-all magical tonic that ranks right up there with Belgian chocolate, Bordeaux wine and kale smoothies.

But problem is, CBD oil, capsules, powders, etc. are not easily absorbed by your body. They can spoil and become contaminated. They smell bad. They often taste bad too. And they’re not water soluble.

The water soluble thing is a biggie.

Your body is composed of over 60% water, and this means that you’re going to either A) need to take way, way more of a non water-soluble CBD product if you actually want to feel the effects or B) smoke or vape your CBD, which is logistically annoying and not something your kid or your pet can do (and yes, both kids and pets can enormously benefit from CBD usage).

This is why most CBD hemp oil products have an extremely poor bioavailability and most people simply don’t experience or feel any of the effects of the CBD they take.

So how can you make CBD absorbable?

Enter turmeric, the same flavorful spice that I mix with black pepper on my salads every single day of the year.

Turmeric comes from the rhizome in the turmeric plant, and the rhizome can grow up to 3 inches in length. The rhizome is then harvested and dried before being ground into a yellow powder, the very concentrated form of which is also known as curcumin (yes, the same curcumin that is currently the darling of the “natural anti-inflammatory” industry).

Kind of like cannabis, humans have been cultivating turmeric for a long time – over 4,000 years. The Ayurvedic medicinal herb was originally used as a medicinal herb in Southeast Asia, where turmeric also carries significant religious significance. Turmeric was a highly sought after commodity in the ancient spice trades that swept across China and Africa, all before the end of the 9th century.

India is the main cultivator of all the world’s turmeric crops and consumes 80% of the world’s supply. Due to the high content of the main bioactive component in turmeric (curcumin) Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world for medicinal purposes. The Indian city of Erode, located in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, is the trading hub for turmeric in the Eastern hemisphere. Erode is so well known for its turmeric production that it is referred to as “Yellow City,” and “Turmeric City” (similar to the way that my living room couch is covered in yellow stains from my frequent turmeric sprinkling on most of the dinners I eat).

And here’s why turmeric plays such an important role in CBD absorption…

…when the cannabionids and terpenoids in CBD are mixed with the the isolated curcuminoids of a high-curcumin containing turmeric plant, the bioavailability of the CBD absolutely explodes. This means that if you’ve used CBD oil before in the absence of a curcuminoid blend from turmeric, you probably only felt about 1/5 to 1/10 of the actual effects of the CBD, since CBD by itself is very poorly absorbed.

For you aspiring Bulletproof Coffee drinkers out there, this is a similar concept to the idea that you simply never get to feel several of the bioactive, wakefulness and focus-enhancing terpenoids in coffee until you have actually introduced fats and triglycerides into the coffee to help these terpenes cross your blood-brain barrier – hence the butter and coconut oil blended with the coffee.

Using an extraction process called “hybrid-nanoengineering”, which basically involves a combination of CBD with turmeric herbal extracts, it is actually possible to get a completely bioavailable and absorbable form of CBD. The way that hybrid-nanoengineering works is that the cannabinoids and terpenoids are extracted from the cannabis herbs and then blended in a lab with curcuminoids to create CBD particles that are on the nano paricle size level. Nano particles (1/100 the width of a human hair) are easier for your body to absorb and transport to where they are needed within your body. This means that a hybrid-nanoengineered CBD is over 10x more bioavailable in the body than any other oil based CBD, CBD tincture or CBD capsule, and it means that just 10mg of a nano particle CBD is the equivalent of taking at least 100mg of oil based CBD.

The result of hybrid-nanoengineering with turmeric is a raw oil that is high in CBD, virtually free of THC (less than 0.001%,) and complete with a full spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically to make CBD even more effective. The oil is then encapsulated, and…

…voila…

…you’ve got an extremely absorbable CBD capsule, along with all the benefits of curcumin. Here’s a video that demonstrates the absorption difference between water soluble CBD that’s been hybrid-nanoengineered, compared to regular, non-water soluble CBD.

—————————————–

Summary

Whew. Congratulations, you made it.

You now know:

  • CBD is the 100% legal and non-psychoactive form of marijuana, and can actually combat unpleasant effects of smoking weed, such as paranoia or over-excitability…
  • CBD acts on completely different receptors and enzymes than THC, resulting in significant effects on anxiety, depression and stress…
  • CBD is completely safe and non-addictive…
  • Pharmaceutical companies can’t patent CBD unless they turn it into a synthetic chemical first…
  • There are shocking demonstrations of the potency of CBD for several serious neurological conditions such as epilepsy, MS and cerebral palsy…
  • CBD can also be used to balance hormones, reduce anxiety, lower inflammation and chronic pain, combat metabolic syndrome, and reduce obesity…
  • It is very difficult for your body to absorb CBD, unless the CBD has been blended with curcuminoids and made bioavailable in a nanoparticle size… …
  • You can legally purchase hemp-based CBD anywhere in America and in most countries of the world…

After spending the past year researching everything you’ve just read about and experimenting extensively with CBD oil, I am now (full disclosure folks) an investor and adviser to the only company in the world that has patented the nanoengineering of blending curcuminoids with the cannabidiols and terpenoids in CBD.

I would never endorse anything that I don’t use and benefit from myself, and I can honestly say that this is the most absorbable form of CBD I’ve ever used, it allows me to get all the benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, and it is exact stuff that I personally purchase for myself and that now lives in a special place in my pantry.

In addition to my morning and evening multivitamin and fish oil, I’ve now added two of these CBD capsules to my early evening protocol, specifically to lower inflammation from exercise, to lower my stress and anxiety, to help me to have more creative focus for writing, and to cause me to fall asleep much, much faster at night. Since I travel frequently, I can – unlike weed – take this CBD through any airport, anywhere in the country, and also unlike weed, CBD is not banned by any governing bodies of sport like USADA, WADA or the NCAA.

Three other things…

The hemp used to make this CBD oil is extracted from a special variety of sustainably raised, organic hemp that is specifically bred to contain naturally high concentrations of CBD, while still containing all of the natural cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds of the original plant. The resulting oil then is strictly tested for cleanliness, and has zero pesticides or heavy metals.

The starch “filler” is from non-GMO brown rice grown in the fields in India, which is also where the organic turmeric comes from. The hypromellose vegan capsules contain no soy, no nuts, no sugar, no yeast, no gluten, no dairy, no chemicals, no artificial flavors, no artificial coloring, and are lab tested to be free from toxins and other solvents.

And just to enhance the peaceful, calm, focus that NatureCBD gives you, I’ve also added to this unique custom formulation two big de-stressing and focus enhancing agents…

1. Ashwagandha

This is an exotic Indian herb with remarkable stress-relieving properties comparable to those of powerful drugs used to treat depression and anxiety. 

Scientific studies support ashwagandha’s ability not only to relieve stress, but also to protect brain cells against the deleterious effects of our modern lifestyles. For example, in validated models of anxiety and depression, ashwagandha has been demonstrated to be as effective as some tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs. Specifically, oral administration of ashwagandha for five days showed anxiety-relieving effects similar to those achieved by the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam (Ativan®), and antidepressant effects similar to those of the prescription antidepressant drug imipramine (Tofranil®).

Stress can cause increased peroxidation of lipids, while decreasing levels of the antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. When ashwagandha extract was administered by researchers one hour before a daily stress-inducing procedure, all of the these parameters of free radical damage normalized in a dose-dependent manner.

Premature aging associated with chronic nervous tension is also related to increased oxidative stress, For example, in a remarkable animal study, examination of the brains of sacrificed animals showed that 85% of the brain cells observed in the animals exposed to chronic stress showed signs of degeneration. It is this type of cellular degeneration that can lead to long-term cognitive difficulties. Amazingly, when ashwagandha was administered to chronically stressed animals, the number of degenerating brain cells was reduced by 80%.

In one of the most complete human clinical trials to date, researchers studied the effects of a standardized extract of ashwagandha on the negative effects of stress, including elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results were impressive, with participants showing increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being…

…along with a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%!

Using a validated model of damaged nerve cells and impaired nerve-signaling pathways, researchers have that demonstrated that ashwagandha supports significant regeneration of the axons and dendrites of nerve cells along with the reconstruction of synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate with other cells. This means ashwagandha extract helps to reconstruct entire networks of your nervous system, and has huge implications for any athlete using CBD to manage head injuries or chronic pain.

Researchers have also found that ashwagandha helps support the growth of nerve cell dendrites, which allow these cells to receive communications from other cells, and that ashwagandha helps promote the growth of both normal and damaged nerve cells, suggesting that the herb may boost healthy brain cell function as well as benefit diseased nerve cells. So we’re talking a “nootropic” smart drug type effect. 

Most ashwaganda supplements have failed review by ConsumerLabs, so I opted for a 100% water-soluble bioavailable formulation of ashwaganda, using the same nanoengineering technique as the CBD… 

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, AKA “Melissa Officinalis” was dedicated to the goddess Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, and as a cure for toothache, skin eruptions, mad dog bites, crooked necks, and sickness during pregnancy, and as a medicinal plant, lemon balm has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting.

Because it provides the body with a calming effect, lemon balm is also used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms. It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea. Because of its calming effect without the potential to create the side effects of a sedative, lemon balm is also widely used to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. This ability, along with lemon balm’s antiviral and anti-autoimmune characteristics have also made it useful for the treatment of thyroid issues chronic fatigue syndrome.

Recently, lemon balm produced an unexpected result: it greatly increased the ability to concentrate and perform word and picture tasks. In a study at Northumbria University in England, students were tested for weeks while using either lemon balm or a placebo. The students did significantly better on the tests after taking lemon balm and continued to post improved scores for up to six hours after taking the herb. The students taking lemon balm were noted to be calmer and less stressed during the tests.

Similar to the ashwaganda, the NatureCBD only contains lemon balm that is 100% bioavailable. Nanoengineered? Yeah, you guessed it.

So the total ingredients of NatureCBD are…

Hybrid-nanoengineered CBD – 10 mg
Curcumin 100 mg
Magnesium 100 mg
Lemon Balm 90 mg
Ashwagandha 100 mg

Pretty cool little formulation, huh?

To go along with with all my other hippie sounding stuff at Greenfield Fitness Systems, like NatureFlex, NatureColostrum and NatureCleanse, the name of this nanoengineered, turmeric blended, ashwaganda, lemon-balm blend is “NatureCBD“. Here’s a comparison of NatureCBD to other CBD products:

table

NatureCBD also comes with a “feel the difference” money-back guarantee.

That means I’m so confident this is going to be a game-changer for you if you’re stressed, anxious, have difficulty sleeping, need to lower inflammation, control appetite or get any of the other benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, that NatureCBD has an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

I get it.

Many people are (and should be!) skeptical when they hear what a new product might do for them, especially when it’s a politically charged, controversial plant extract like CBD. So with this guarantee, you have the opportunity to experience the same peace, calm, focus, relaxation and sleep benefits I’ve already enjoyed, with no worries.

If you don’t feel a difference after 30 days or you’re not happy with your results, simply notify me up to two full months after your purchase and I’ll make arrangements for you to receive a 100% refund (less shipping, if applicable). No questions asked. No annoying hoops to jump through.

Oh yeah, one other thing…

….I’m giving you a 10% discount on any NatureCBD autoship. You just sign up to get it automatically delivered to you, and you get killer savings. It’s that easy. You can click here to now to instantly save 10% on any autoship order of NatureCBD.

Do you have more questions, comments or feedback about how to use CBD oil? About the NatureCBD formulation? Do you have other questions about THC, cannabis or marijuana? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to get you an answer!

How To Get All The Health Benefits Of Weed Without Actually Using Weed.

weed

A few months ago, I had a party at my house, and one of the guys in attendance – my friend James Sol Radina – handed me two capsules of something called “CBD”, also known as cannabidiol. This was actually right before we left to go play a giant game of laser tag in America’s largest laser tag arena, in which he and I came in first and second place. 

But this podcast, in which I interview James, along with his Indian scientists sidekick Dr. Mewa about what CBD really is, isn’t really about how to get drugs at parties that help you win at laser tag.

Instead, it’s all about the science and the practical ways to use CBD, which is the completely legal extract of the cannabis plant that many, many people are now turning to for everything from enhanced focus, to decreased stress, to lower inflammation.

So what is CBD exactly?

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a prominent naturally-occurring cannabinoid component found in cannabis that comprises up to 40% of the plant. After THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – which is the psychoactive component of cannabis most often associated with marijuana – CBD is by far the most studied natural cannabinoid, especially when it comes to medical benefits and addressing issues such as insomnia and anxiety. According to many researchers, CBD may be the single most important cannabinoid ever discovered.

Despite popular perceptions of marijuana, cannabidiol is a cannabinoid devoid of any type of strange psychoactive effect (although it can help with cognitive performance, memory, focus, etc.). In other words, unlike THC, CBD won’t get you “high”, CBD can actually help to counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC (taking any paranoia edge off of marijuana) and it’s 100% legal everywhere in the world, which means you can order it online, you can carry it on airplanes, and you can use it anywhere you’d like.

In today’s episode, James, Dr. Mewa and I discuss:

-The difference between THC and CBD…

-Why you would want to use CBD by itself, without any THC…

-How you can use CBD to “take the edge” off THC…

-Whether CBD is addictive, unsafe or illegal…

-The role that CBD plays in both acute and chronic inflammation…

-How you can use CBD to decrease anxiety and stress and to improve sleep…

-Why most CBD oil and CBD capsules are not actually absorbed…

-How Dr. Mewa uses “hybrid nanotechnology” to make molecules more absorbable…

————————————–

Resources from this episode:

The Effects Of Weed On Exercise article

The Science Of Weed documentary

NatureCBD

** NO CBD10 OR BEN10 CODE REQUIRED FOR AUTOSHIP DISCOUNT. PRICE IS ALREADY 10% LOWER THAN SINGLE BOTTLE PURCHASE! **

CLICK HERE FOR CBD AUTOSHIP

————————————–

About the guests:

James Sol Radina, CEO & Chief Visionary Officer

As Chief Visionary Officer, James is the driving force behind Bio Hemp CBD’s socially responsible model of donating CBD products to those who cannot afford them, and he is the inspirational force behind the company’s beliefs and marketing strategy. After partnering with Dr. Mewa Singh, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Bio Hemp CBD, James has built the best team in the industry. James is passionate about improving the human experience and has been a long time contributor to a number of charitable organizations. James co-founded S.P.I.N. (Spreading Philanthropy Into Networking), and then went on to co-found another endeavor, SEVEN, which focused on bringing together leaders in the Greater San Diego Area focused on personal development and philanthropy. James acted as Marketing Director and an Advisor on the Strategic Partnerships Committee for the Jeans 4 Justice Charity, a nonprofit that provides education to raise awareness for the prevention of sexual assault.

Dr. Mewa Singh, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer

As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Singh is responsible for leading all research, product development, and product testing. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Singh is the inventor of Hybrid-Nanoengineering™, the technology and process behind nano-ized CBD* and Ayurvedic herbs. The discovery of Hybrid-Nanoengineering™ is possibly the single biggest advancement in nutraceuticals. An expert in the biotechnology and product development, Dr. Singh has spent almost 30 years successfully developing and launching products for diagnostics, vaccines, nutraceuticals and nanomedicines. He has previously served as Director of Research & Development, Chief Scientific Officer, Chief of Operations and Chief Executive Officer for companies such as Chembio Diagnostics, Medical Services International, J N International and Meda Biotech, LLC. Dr. Singh holds a Master’s of Science in Biochemistry, a Master’s of Philosophy in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, and a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Singh has worked to develop over 145 different nanomedicines for use as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about CBD or cannabidiol? Leave your thoughts below and either James, Dr. Mewa or myself will reply. You can click here to get NatureCBD.

THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.