Sceptically Fit

26/11/2011

Months of thinking – lots of links

Due to a multitude of life stress going on I’ve really feel behind on this site. So in an attempt to catch up I’m going to just link to all the stories that have caught my eye over the last few months.

Vitamin C supplementation may aid recovery from intense exercise in the cold. Is honey even honey any more? Why do we keep messing with our food.   Are our agricultural staples trying to kill us? A look at which nutrients are essential for healthy mitochondria. Can you eat too much liquorice? Yoghurt doesn’t work the way we thought. A look at the effect of a paleo diet on testosterone. The evolution of lactose tolerance and how to use it if you have it. An interview with Dr Loren CordainWholegrain pasta offers no benefit over refined pasta. A look at preparing traditional grains. Are eggs the answer to weightloss? Here’s seven more reasons to eat them.

Meat doesn’t rot in your colon – grains do. Another study shows that grass-fed red meat is healthier. A diet high in fat is not fattening. A ted talk on using diet to stop angiogenesis. And a diet high in carbohydrates is linked to cancer. So while low carb seems better for reducing cancer and heart disease, its best to keep it high in vegetables.

However, is it just a matter of  eating whole foods that’s more important than individual nutrients. The Perfect Health Diet offers a food apple guide, and lifehacker suggests how to begin eating ancestrally

Are you always aware of what you eat – a look at how your subconscious mind affects your diet. The link between  omega3  imbalances and depression and how increasing your omega3 levels can reduce inflammation and anxiety. How to balance your omega 6 vs omega 3 ratios. A guide to cravings and what your body might actually be needing.

Mark Sisson talks about the idea of gateway foods and helpfully provides a delicious sounding recipe for pumpkin pie. How about paleo egg-cupcakes? On the low-carb front – if you’re missing burgers how about a recipe for an oopsie bun. When the winter colds hit – here’s some suggestions for healthy comfort food. And now you’re inspired – here’s a big recipe roundup.

Letting children’s playground be fun results in less accidents then those awful safety playgrounds. A look at the differences of American-European values. Interesting how a respect for individual rights plays out when the people are women. Alas offers a simple primer to evaluate the anti-women’s health arguments. Another reason to damn the development of agriculture. Sam Harris looks at how to be safe in a world with a propensity for violence.

Weightlifting for women is starting to hit the mainstream. A guide to dynamic stretching. Does muscle really burn more calories? Its important to pay attention to muscle imbalances.  Is chocolate milk the best post-exercise drink? Exercising on an empty stomach may not be a good idea. Why cardio is not the best way to lose fat. How exercise can you become more sensitive to feeling full when eating. What ever you do – just stop sitting  down!

Cycling can be dangerous – the Florida Dept of Transport says riding 4-5 ft from curb, not wearing spandex, being a woman all cause cars to move further over in the lane when passing you. And its shown to be cheaper to build cycling infrastructure than not.

Seven ideas to improve your running, and how to improve your mileage.

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05/07/2011

Muscle Cramps – Why?

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:45

The big causes of muscle cramps are dehydration, electrolyte deficiency and muscle overuse/tension. Electrolyte deficiency in potassium, magnesium and/or sodium can be caused by unbalanced diets or natural digestive inhibitions – in my case it seems to run in the family regardless of our very varied diets. The imbalances can be caused by weight loss, especially on a low-carbohydrate diet which comes with significant loss of water weight initially.

While I attempt to keep to a paleo/low-carb-ish diet, my adherence is poor and regularly interrupted over a ‘cheat’ weekend. What this usually means is that about  Tuesday or Wednesday I go through a mini-reset period where my body loses its weekend bloat (I can drop 2kg between Monday’s weigh in and Wednesday). While supplementing with magnesium and potassium normally prevents cramps (and for magnesium specifically – restless leg syndrome), I regularly forget to up my sodium intake when I drop my carbohydrates.  What a surprise – my attempt at swimming was interrupted by increasingly debilitating cramps in my feet.

Advice on starting a low-carb diet include supplementing with chelated magnesium and potassium; liberally using sodium – preferably non-treated sea salt that retains all its minerals; drinking bone broth to replace minerals (recipe on the link – I have never tried this); drinking a lot of water and avoiding caffeine. Now, obviously he’s insane if he thinks caffeine isn’t proof of some kindly god’s existence* so that last point isn’t going to happen.

With my problems cramping up while swimming, I decided to look into this a little more. Hydration tops the list, but as I drink constantly I don’t think its going to be an issue. So lets look into the fatigue side of things. Now, I know I’m not in great conditioning for swimming, but its not as though I’m not in decent shape when it comes to weight-lifting, cycling and running. But is it also the way that I swim:

The problemwith pointing your toes as a deliberate (or even unconscious) action, however, is that it remains the primary reason behind the cramp that many triathletes experience at swim practice. The fact of this matter is that if we simply allow our feet to flick around as we kick, the ankles will actually pull back into this correct position automatically. And even more importantly, when relaxed the toes will pull the foot back into the correct position without tension, ie correct kicking action, less energy.

Stand on one leg on dry land trying to perform small kicking flicks with the foot. Aim to let the ankle simply flick around like a leaf in the wind as you shake the leg quickly up and down (just a small movement – 1ft). If you can honestly see that your ankle IS relaxed and does flick around as you move the rest of the leg, then this is a good sign. For most of us however, you will realise that you are in fact tensing the shin to pull up and then pointing down in order to move the foot. In this case, you have some major relaxing to learn in the water. This confirms the reason why cramp will be occurring – you are not relaxed through the ankles when kicking.

Involuntary muscle tension is an issue for me despite (or because of) my hyperflexibility. It is actually difficult to stretch out muscles effectively because my limits are much greater than a lot of the normal stretches – in some cases to the point that you can’t bend any further without the rest of the body getting in the way So for the itb its pretty much massage and foam rollers for me. So another suggestion to prevent over-use cramping is a foot massage – so where is my tennis ball?

An Australian Embarassment

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 20:10

As part of my plan for total liveability (a concept that’s a work in progress and will be expanded on later) I want to become a good swimmer. I used to swim a lot as a child – I was never anything noteworthy but I was strong enough to swim out of moderate rips and in general felt confident in the ocean as well as the pool.

Then I hit my teens and stopped swimming – sure I’d lark around in the family pool (which we only got when I was thirteen). But it was a small round above-ground – ideal for cooling off in, making whirlpools and just hanging around in for ages in the shade of a tree in summer, but not so ideal for maintaining swimming strength.

Fast-forward a few years and I could count up on one had how often I hit the water in about ten years. It seems breaststroke is like the apocryphal bicycle – I have no problem swimming for hours with that. Its freestyle that’s the problem. I feel awkward, I seem to be gasping for breath every stroke – and I’m pretty sure I’m pausing for the inbreath too. And I can barely make it 25 metres (British public pools tend to be small…).

The plan is that I will continue to try and swim about once a week. I’m sure I could get better more efficiently if I devoted more time to it, but this is part of a fit and healthy lifestyle which means it has to fit in with my life. My biggest concern is my feet cramping up while swimming. Even if I’d had the lung capacity to swim more (how can I be able to run 20km but not swim 25metres?) I pretty much had to stop each lap to stretch out my feet.  I would have liked to have stayed another ten minutes or so but the cramping was starting to spread to my calves.

Why was this happening? I do have a bit of a family history of muscle cramps and restless leg, and I take a magnesium supplement daily and a potassium supplement after a workout. Should I be looking to do that a couple of hours before swimming? Is it something I’ll grow out of – it kind of felt like my muscles were tensing to swim, but they weren’t meeting and resistance so just kept going and cramped.  Is this just something my body has to relearn after getting used to running over the last few years? Or have I completely made up this theory with no scientific basis at all?

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