Controlling Blood Sugar

Given that I now have a high carbohydrate sensitivity (as mentioned in my first blog post), I have to constantly watch my carbohydrate intake. I am doing this very rigorously by eating a low-carb diet (almost borderline keto diet). I bought a blood glucose monitor to help me see which foods tend to raise my blood sugar too much. This is really helpful to get a clear picture of what is okay to eat. No one should have to wait to have diabetes in order to do that. When I eat something slightly sweet, right away it makes me want to eat more. So I really stay away from anything containing too much sugar at this point. Healthy fats are way more satisfying anyway!

To help you get a better handle on monitoring your blood sugar levels, there are different strategies that you can implement. Ben Greenfield highlights these in Boundless. Here are four of them:

Strength Training

Strength training helps lower blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity, which also means less of a chance to store sugar as fat. Simple bodyweight exercises can be enough, such as: push-ups, lunges, and air squats. Squats are my favorite, since they’re easy to do throughout the day whenever you have a minute or two.

Pre-breakfast Fasted Cardio

According to research, exercising in the morning in a fasted state (meaning before you eat anything) can really help to keep your blood sugar in check.

Walking Right After Having your Meal

Short walks (20-30 minutes) right after eating are highly recommended too as they have been shown to lead to lower fat concentration in the blood.

Staying Physically Active During the Day

If walking after your meal is not always possible, then standing is the next best option (as opposed to sitting) in order to lessen post-meal blood sugar spikes. You can also switch between standing and sitting every 30 minutes or so. The main thing is to keep moving throughout the day, as mentioned in my two previous posts: 5 Simple Leg (&Hip) Stretches and Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable.

In Summary

To help with maintaining desired blood glucose levels, the above approaches are simple habits to take on. As always, it doesn’t have to be challenging. Just one or two small new changes at a time in the right direction. Which strategy will you implement first?

Until next time!

Reference

Greenfield, Ben. Boundless : Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2020, pp. 166–68.

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The Importance of Daily Movement

As I mentioned in my previous post, Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable, it is said that when we have to sit for long periods of time, we should get up to stretch and walk around every thirty minutes or so. The same goes for if we are at a standing workstation. It is important to incorporate movement throughout the day to nourish our cells. A few squats or other simple exercises can be nice little breaks throughout the day. That way, going to the gym after work can be optional.

As a matter of fact, if you think that going to the gym for one hour can make up for a long day of sitting for hours, that is not the case. We want to shape our daily life so that it is as similar as possible to how it was during hunter-gatherer times. And when it comes to movement, it has to be varied motion throughout the day. Taking short walks in the morning, at lunch, or after dinner, whenever you have a few minutes can be a great addition to your daily movement regimen. Start trying whatever fits your schedule best and be sure to only implement one change at a time in order to ensure adherence to it. 

Each day, I do a certain amount of stretches. Stretching is a habit most of us can benefit from, no matter what our fitness level is (Just make sure you get the okay from your personal physician before starting any new exercise routine). What follows are 5 simple leg (& hip) stretches that can easily be done every day.

Calf Stretch

  • Stand facing a wall 1 to 2 feet away.
  • Place your hands on the wall.
  • Keeping the right foot in place, position the left foot 1 to 2 feet behind the right foot.
  • Bend the right knee and lean towards the wall as you are keeping the left heel on the floor, 2 to 4 feet away from the wall. 
  • Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Quad Stretch

  • Stand upright with weight balanced on the right leg (hold on to something if needed).
  • Keep the right foot pointing straight forward and the right knee almost straight.
  • Bend the left knee by grabbing the left foot or ankle tightly and pulling the left heel backward and upward without over flexing the knee. Also, do not let the left knee go out at the same time.
  • Push the hips forward by doing a slight pelvic tilt.
  • Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie flat on your back. Place a yoga strap over and around the toes of the left foot and grab both ends of the strap firmly with your hands. Slightly activate the core muscles.
  • Slowly raise the left leg (pulling on the strap) until you feel a stretch in the back of the left thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Psoas (Hip Flexor) Stretch

  • Step forward with the right leg and bend the knee at about a 90-degree angle. Keep the right knee positioned above the right ankle. (If you have any knee issues you can instead put the right foot on a stable chair or couch, for instance, and bend the right knee. In that case, the left leg will not lie on the floor, of course). Hold on to something if needed.
  • Extend the left leg behind the torso and touch the floor with the left knee. The lower leg lies on the floor. 
  • Move the hips forward (doing a slight pelvic tilt and activating the glutes), pushing the right knee in front of the right ankle. Make sure to keep the right knee pointing forward. You should feel the stretch in the hip area on the left side.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Piriformis (Hip Rotator) Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with the left leg extended.
  • Bend the right leg and place the right foot on the outside of the left knee.
  • Bend the left arm and place the outside of the left elbow against the outside of the upraised right knee.
  • Put the right arm on the floor near the right hip. 
  • Push the left elbow against the right knee, twisting the trunk as far as possible to the right. Maintain enough pressure with the left elbow to keep the right knee in a stable position. Do not arch the back or bend forward at the waist.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

So, which one is your favorite stretch?

Until next time!  

Reference
Nelson, Arnold G, and Jouko Kokkonen. Stretching Anatomy. Champaign, Il, Human Kinetics, 2007, pp. 78–9, 98–9, 104–7, 130–1.

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Why Boosting Mitochondrial Function is Important

Being that I am now 50 years old and that I want to keep my energy levels up as much as possible, anything related to how we can boost our mitochondrial function is of interest to me. The mitochondria truly are the powerhouses of the cells. They are little organelles within the cells that produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the energy that our body needs each day in order for us to do anything. In Head Strong, Dave Asprey mentions: “From age thirty to age seventy, the average person experiences a 50 percent decline in mitochondrial efficiency.” So whatever we can do to strengthen our mitochondria, especially as we get older, is a big plus. I am devoted to red light therapy (as mentioned in 4 Easy Steps to Start the Day), grounding, and cold showers.

12 Actionable Steps to Strengthen your Mitochondria

These steps are highlighted by Dr. Frank Lipman in How to Be Well:

  • Quit eating sugar. Mitochondria don’t like using sugar as food.
  • Adopt a grain-free diet to further limit the amount of sugar in your blood.
  • Eat more vegetables to gain more nourishing phytonutrients.
  • Consume plenty of healthy fats. These are the preferred fuel of mitochondria.
  • Eat clean. Pesticides and toxins damage mitochondria.
  • Practice intermittent fasting.
  • Develop a routine of high-intensity interval training. HIIT has been shown to make more mitochondria.
  • Get strong. There is more mitochondria in lean muscle mass than in fat.
  • Practice better sleep hygiene.
  • Soak up some sun. Sunlight is a powerful mitochondrial booster.
  • Avoid electromagnetic radiation.
  • Start your day with a cold shower. Cold exposure, in short bursts, helps trigger the production of new mitochondria.

In Summary

The above steps are a great starting point in building new habits for improving mitochondrial health. Always check with your personal physician first, of course. Just focusing on one or two of these steps when starting this habit is fine. You can always progressively add a few more as time goes on. Eating primal may help in choosing the right foods for your mitochondria. Then you can later implement the other steps gradually according to what works best with your schedule. To better energy levels no matter what your age!

Until next time!

References

Asprey, Dave. Head Strong the Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster – in Just Two Weeks. New York Harper Wave, 2017, p. 41.

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 168-69.

You can also find me on Instagram.

More Vegetables for Better Health and Wellness

The bulk of any Primal/Paleo meal should be vegetables. As stated in my article about the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, your vegetables should be diverse and of many different colors. You want to “eat the rainbow,” as they say. These various colors of fruits and vegetables are a result of the chemicals held within them. They give us an array of nutrients with high antioxidant values. So each day, we want to provide our bodies with a “rainbow” of micronutrients! What follows are 5 ways to eat more vegetables every day, as explained in How to Be Well, by Dr. Frank Lipman.

Shop and Prep your Vegetables

After buying your vegetables, set some time aside to wash and chop/slice them up for the week ahead. That way you can make colorful salads and stir-fry veggies in no time, and have a variety of healthy snacks on hand every day.

Roast your Vegetables

On your prep day, you can make one or two batches of roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, squash, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) with a healthy fat for the days ahead.

Make a Soup

Blend steamed vegetables with your homemade broth and have that in the fridge for the week.

Replace Pasta with Spirals and Strands

Dr. Frank Lipman explains: “Make noodles from spiralized zucchini, winter squash, sweet potato, and more….You can also roast a spaghetti squash and scoop out the strands….While you’re at it, replace rice with the cauliflower kind – it also stands in as the basis for pizza crust.”

Stock your Freezer

It is easy to have different bags of frozen organic vegetables in your freezer, ready to be used. If you make a large batch of vegetable soup, you can freeze some of it too.

In Summary

Keep in mind that some vegetables may not work well for everyone. It is up to you to experiment and see how your body responds to each food you eat. It is better to buy locally grown fresh produce and organic. To know exactly how to pick vegetables, you can check my blog post on What to Buy Organic. A great book to read on how to select and prepare vegetables (and fruits) is Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, by Jo Robinson. How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables, by Dr. Thomas Cowan is an awesome read too!

Happy 4th of July!

Reference

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 58–9.

You can also find me on Instagram.