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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Answer to Unemployment, Global Warming and Dull Hair

Protein shakes are a staple in my diet. I really tire of actually eating protein so being able to gulp down a small shake loaded with protein goodness is my alternative. And when you are looking at getting 100 or more grams of protein per day in your diet, you might need a little smoothie help.
I’ve gone from just grabbing the cheapest shake mix, to grabbing the more “natural” mix with less sugar and crazy ingredients. But still, have you recently looked at the ingredient list on a container of protein mix? It’s crazy long. Why is that? And is it the best thing to consume all those altered ingredients on a very regular basis? I don’t like it for myself. I try to keep things as whole and natural as I can without moving to crunchy town but I keep inching closer and closer to that zip code. 

Recently I ran across a recipe for a home-made protein shake from Primally Inspired. It sounded very interesting so I thought I would give it a try. It basically took the bulk of its protein from gelatin. Yeah, like “see it jiggle, watch it wiggle…” kind of stuff. Except this gelatin was the unsweetened unflavored version. There were around 5 or 6 ingredients in this shake and I could pronounce every ingredient and I even had them all in my kitchen with the exception of the gelatin. You can get the recipe here

So gelatin it turns out cures everything(insert mild sarcasm)! From bad hair and nails, to insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. One source even cited improved stroke recovery from the glycine found in gelatin.
Gelatin is packed with amino acids, such as Arginine and Glycine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition refers to Arginine “as one of the most metabolically versatile amino acids. “ Another study showed Glycine as a vital actor in wound healing.  If you want more detailed scientific information, a very thorough article can be found here on the Weston A. Price Foundation site. One article referred to hospitals back 100 years ago feeding gelatin to patients as a medical supplement to ease digestion. It’s my guess that is why we still see lots of jello and broth served in hospitals today, part tradition, part ease of digestion.

You know I don’t want to get too technical with all of this because that is not my forte. But when you think about a protein source that can give you 6 grams of protein per tablespoon with zero carbs and 25 calories versus popular protein powders with many more calories and ten plus ingredients of chemically manipulated stuff, well my decision gets pretty easy. I like to keep my food as whole as possible and well Gelatin is now my protein drink of choice. 

Here is a little recipe I put together. Primally Inspired’s recipe was good, but not a flavor I want to drink every day.  And if you wanted to get real crazy, which I do, add a handful of spinach leaves to the recipe below.

Choco-Berry Protein Smoothie
Handful of frozen blackberries
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup water
2 TBLS. Gelatin
1 tsp. raw Honey
1 TBLS. Cocoa Powder
Little pinch of salt
I dump everything in a large cup and use a stick blender to thoroughly blend smooth. You may need to add a little more water or honey depending on your tastes.
This comes out to around 250 calories, 18 g. of protein. Lots of carbs from the honey but that is at least a good healthy source of sweetness, not to mention the benefits of raw honey. You could omit the honey or half it and use stevia to sweeten it further.

The gelatin I used I ordered off of Amazon. It was Great Lakes Gelatin. It is a grass fed hormone free source. The container has 62 servings and was $20. That is cheaper than the last container of protein mix I bought. 
I am not saying I will never consume store bought mix again because I would be lying. If I’m traveling or out and about, you better believe I will pack the store bought stuff. But when I’m at home and have access to a kitchen, I will make my shakes.
Will gelatin solve all our problems and make you popular? Doubtful. However the price isn’t bad and its versatility of use is a bonus. As with anything, I like to keep an open mind and try the natural approach as much as possible and if I benefit in the process, well then goody for me!

Ray PEAT, Gelatin, stress, longevity -
Arginine: beyond protein 1–4 by Sidney M Morris Jr.  Am J Clin Nutr February 2006 vol. 83 no. 2 508S-512S
Minuskin,M et al. 1981, Nitrogen retention, muscle creatine and orotic acid excretion in traumatized rats fed arginine and glycine enriched diets, Journal of Nutrition, 1981, III, 7, 1265-1274.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No Regrets

There is no time like the present. At the end of the day are you excited about what you have accomplished? If not, start the next day with determination to set your course straight. 

Then engulf your life with the motivation to make it happen. 

With each breath you have the potential to start over. So keep at it!

Friday, November 22, 2013


About a month ago I heard about a new business that sounded interesting. It was called FitBox. Every month a box shows up in your mail that contains items related to health and fitness. The items change every month and you never know what you might get. It sounded pretty interesting so I signed up and received the inaugural box yesterday.

It included a couple of protein bars, Fig Bar(which I love!), Athletic greens, Fighter Fix which is a massage oil, a cool suction cup holder thingy(which got cut out of the picture), Alergen losenges(also cut out of the picture) coupons, a training plan, a couple of recipes and a Hand X Band.

I think the Hand X Band is a winner. It is suppose to increase your grip strength which I need help with. I'm also wondering if it might be beneficial for the RA symptoms I have in my hands. Time will tell.

FitBox is a cool concept that I think will grow. I won't be a long term subscriber since the cost is $30 a month but it is kinda fun anticipating what might be in the next box. Might make a neat Christmas gift.

You can check 'em out at and on Facebook of course. And no, they are not paying me. That would be cool, but not happening. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Exercise Buddy, Chronic Disease!

(Hands and Feet, Rheumatoid's favorite target)

Exercising when healthy can be a struggle. But try regularly exercising when you have a chronic disease. It can be down-right maddening.
I speak from experience. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease. Before I was diagnosed and definitely before I had an action plan, I struggled between two extremes. One of feeling good and therefore overdoing it and the other of feeling like a broken down mess.
It took me several years to figure some of this out but through trial and error I have arrived at a pretty good place.
So here are a few of my suggestions on navigating fitness when you have a chronic disease.
1.       Talk to your doc! Let them know what your goals are.  If you have a good specialist, and I hope you do, they will do their best to help you figure out how to achieve your goals. If you have a negative doc that just bashes your dreams and leaves you with no hope, then turn and run out of that office and find a new doctor. I wanted to run a half marathon and spoke to my doc about it. She supported me and told me that she wanted me to live a happy and fulfilled life. Now this meant that I would have to run/walk the half. I would not be able to run straight up distance anymore. But my doctor in no way belittled me or made me feel stupid for dreaming big.
2.       Listen to your body! When my doctor supported my goal of a half marathon, she spoke straight with me about listening to my body. If I felt pain, I needed to heed its warning. Pain may be over-looked in a healthy individual as muscle soreness but in a chronic disease sufferer it can spell the start of a flare-up. It could also mean an injury due to a weakness in a certain area. So keep these things in mind:
·         Have you felt similar pain before or is it a new sensation.
·         Is the pain in a commonly affected area?
·         Do you have other symptoms such as swelling, discoloration, fatigue, fever or any other systemic symptom you find familiar to your disorder.
·         When in doubt, check it out.

3.       Slow your roll. Especially if you are starting a new fitness regime, slow down. There is no need to run a marathon in 2 weeks and it is crazy to think you should deadlift #350 your second week in CrossFit. Slow your pace and take your time. It may be that you need an extra rest day or two every week. When I started CrossFit, I had already spent a good 10 months gradually working up to high intensity training. And guess what, I needed more time acclimating. So for the first month, I only worked out 3 days a week. That second month I was able to go 4 days. Had I pushed too hard too fast, I may have thrown myself into a major flare-up.
4.       When you’re tired, rest! Fatigue can spell disaster. Not only can you injure yourself from sloppy form due to fatigue, but you are also not getting the most from your workout. Where exercise might invigorate someone else, it may deplete the chronic disease sufferer. Take a day and rest up, then hit it hard the next day. I didn’t take my own advice a month ago. I was so fatigued for over a week that every area of my life was affected. If only I had taken one more day of rest.
5.       Eat as healthy as you can for your body’s needs. I really don’t believe in one diet for everybody. Truth is, you need to find what works for you. I experimented around with different ways of eating to find my optimum intake. I’m still a work in progress but I tried going Vegan for 6 months, then Paleo. Now I’ve settled into a happy medium of whole foods, very little processed stuff and very little sugar. What is good for me and my disease may not be good for you. So experiment until you find that sweet spot.
6.       Roll with it baby. What’s the Serenity Prayer quote, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is a hard one for sure. Just when you think you have things all figured out, your system changes or your medication needs change. You cannot control it all, so control what you can. Make adaptions to your training if needed. Smart trainers can always find some kind of work-around to help you stay as active as possible. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
7.       Stay positive. It really does help to set your intensions on a positive course. Stress from repetitive negative thoughts can sink your mental game faster than you realize. Yes, sometimes things suck, but set about solving problems and not simply magnifying them in your mind. Research alternative therapies, food plans, and medications. Surround yourself with positive friends and or support groups. Write your feelings out. Pray or meditate. Set about formulating a plan of things you can do and stop the negative script of things you can’t do.
Chronic disease can be a tough row to hoe no doubt, but it may also open up opportunities for you to shine. Your firsthand knowledge may help others navigate a new diagnosis or lift another sufferer’s spirits. Who knows, you may be the encouragement someone needs to try to travel down the road to fitness or at least dream again of possibilities.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.   
~William James

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sometimes the road to fitness seems so long that it is overwhelming. And if you have never been fit, then you really can be overwhelmed with the thought of the unknown.

The key is one foot in front of the other,  one step at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time until you look up and lo and behold you have arrived.

Short cuts are temporary, but lasting change comes from forming good old habits. It's hard work but it is so worth it. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Good For What Ails Ya!

When people find out that I weigh 150 pounds they are generally shocked. "Well, muscle weighs more than fat," is a phrase I've heard several times. I've probably even said it myself. I understand what they are saying, but the truth is, a pound is a pound.

However mass is a different story. Muscle occupies a smaller space than fat. I like to think of a marble vs. a marshmallow. The marble is dense and compact where the marshmallow is more airy and expanded. So my muscular 150 pounds translates into a size 8 pair of jeans.

(Cue my mantra, “Scales are stupid!” And while I'm at it, so is BMI)

Aesthetics aside, there are many great things about muscle and strength training in general. Let's take a look at just a few. 

What about calories? The great thing about muscle is that it burns more calories than fat. There is some debate on how much more, but the fact is, it does burn more. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.

Also, according to research, the more muscle mass you have, the more insulin sensitive you are. Basically that means the better you are able to regulate your glucose which translates into less chance of developing diabetes. 

For years studies have pointed to the benefit of resistance training on bone density and reduction in risk of Osteoporosis.  So listen up women who are approaching menopause. You are at a greater risk of Osteoporosis due to hormonal changes. And if you are older and already have Osteopenia or even Osteoporosis, a fall can have serious consequences. Forget about aesthetics, if you want to age well and keep active and reduce the negative impacts of falls, resistance training is the answer

Now let’s touch on mental benefits of strength training. Studies that I looked at showed significant benefits to elderly individuals with regards to depression. Over-all quality of life improved with less pain, increased mobility and vitality. I’m middle aged (wow that sounds weird) and I know that my personal strength training has greatly boosted my mental well being. I am more confident, outgoing and in general just happier. I deal with less pain due to Rheumatoid Disease and just seem to bounce back faster than I did prior to resuming strength training. 

I could go on with the benefits of strength training, but alas, my time grows short as does your patience.
Here are the takeaways:

  • ·         Muscle is compact – lean and trim physique
  • ·         Scales are stupid
  • ·         Muscle burns more calories
  • ·         More muscle fights diabetes 
  • ·         Strength Training builds bone
  • ·         Strength Training boosts mental well being

The short and sweet of it; LIFT HEAVY THINGS = LIVE WELL! 

Sources: - Insulin Sensitivity - Resistance training and bone density
Cussler, Lohman et al. 2003. Weight lifted in strength training predicts bone change in postmenopausal women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 35(1):10-7