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Welcome to Health Hacks

Please take the time to read through all the posts, which are neatly arranged for a fluent build-up. Understanding why you do what you do is a great motivator. We compiled all the information our meal plan and training program is based on so you can make informed decisions about your health. It’s never too late to learn something new!

You can start at the top and work your way down.

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Help protect our marine life

Fishing is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations. Catching fish is not inherently bad for the ocean, except for when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish, something called overfishing.

Overfishing occurs in domestic and high-seas fisheries where politicians, managers or the industry fail to set, implement, or enforce appropriate catch levels. Some Illegal fishing includes fishing that takes place over and above established catch limits.

Overfishing can impact entire ecosystems. It can change the size of fish remaining, as well as how they reproduce and the speed at which they mature. When too many fish are taken out of the ocean it creates an imbalance that can erode the food web and lead to a loss of other important marine life, including vulnerable species like sea turtles and corals.

scenic photo of coral reef
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

Subsidies, or support provided to the fishing industry to offset the costs of doing business, is a key driver of overfishing. Subsidies can lead to overcapacity of fishing vessels and skewing of production costs so that fishing operations continue when they would otherwise not make economic sense. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two-and-a-half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.

Tuna is one of the most popular fish species to eat. Many tuna stocks worldwide are under great pressure. Though, eating tuna in a responsible way is possible! Always make sure to buy tuna that is MSC-certified and is caught by pole and line. 

POLE AND LINE CAUGHT TUNA

Pole and line fishing is environmentally friendly and a selective catching method. This technique guarantees that bycatch and damage to nature are close to zero and that other ocean creatures remain unharmed.

By catching tuna with pole and line, the fishermen ensure that fish stocks remain healthy. With pole and line it is impossible to fish large amounts of tuna at once. This in contrast to large boats that use nets to catch tuna and thus empty large parts of the ocean.

If it doesn’t have the blue label on it – DON’T BUY IT!

MSC certification is one of the best ways for fisheries to protect marine resources. Certification can give fisheries access to supply chains that require MSC certified seafood. The MSC program is the most robust certification scheme for wild-capture fisheries in the market.

By choosing seafood with the MSC blue fish label you’re helping to protect oceans, livelihoods and fish for the future.

Why choose MSC?

Our oceans need to be protected

Our oceans are home to an amazing variety of life and support the livelihoods of 1/10 of the world’s population. But marine ecosystems are under enormous pressure. Unsustainable fishing is threatening fish populations, ocean habitats, coastal fishing communities and economies. 

The MSC provides a solution

By choosing seafood with the blue MSC label you are supporting independently certified sustainable fisheries. Their good management practices help ensure fish stocks and habitats are healthy and fishing community livelihoods are secure.

Sustainability is based on science

To be MSC certified, fisheries are independently assessed by scientists and marine experts to ensure they meet our standard for environmentally sustainable fishing. Annual audits ensure that they maintain these standards.

You’re helping to protect a whole ecosystem

It’s not all about one species – MSC certified fisheries minimize their impacts on the whole marine environment to ensure healthy, thriving oceans for the future. 

You can buy with confidence

Processors, retailers and restaurants must ensure MSC certified seafood is not mixed with uncertified product. This way you can be sure that the product is correctly labelled. 

There’s plenty to choose from!

You can enjoy sustainable seafood all over the world. Just look for the blue label – it appears on tens of thousands of products in more than 100 countries. 

There’s a choice for every budget

Products with the blue MSC label range from pickled herring to luxury caviar.

You’re helping to create change

Your purchases of MSC labelled seafood create an incentive for more fisheries, retailers and restaurants to produce and sell certified sustainable seafood.

You’re helping to keep it wild

You can enjoy your seafood knowing that tomorrow there will be plenty more where it came from.

It’s difficult to decide what you can and can’t eat sustainably – especially when you’re faced with fresh fish or a restaurant menu and aren’t able to check the labelling or get details on where it is from. Here are a few tips to help you always pick sustainable seafood with ease:

Setting Yourself Up for Success

To achieve your physical goal, you must have a clear understanding of the essential components which influence your body: your mind set, nutrition, physical training and recovery. The most important factor is a proper mind set. Everything flows from there.

Bad habits interrupt your life and jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. But it’s important to realise that bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, so it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them.

Breaking bad habits takes more than willpower. If it was as simple as telling yourself “just don’t do it” we’d all be in excellent shape. The easiest way to kick a bad habit is to replace it with a new one that feels good.

Research has shown that it takes approximately 21 days of repetition to create a new habit, while it takes 90 days to break an existing one.

Everyone wants to be happier and healthier. That’s a great goal, but a goal without a plan is just a wish! Without a plan, people can’t reach any goal except by blind luck. Healthy-Harmony gives you all the information you need to understand what your body needs, along with a personalised, detailed plan to reach them. If you are mindful and stick to the plan, it will become a habit and you will see and feel results within just 21 days. Keep going for 90 days and you will have replaced your bad habits with excellent new ones. It’s really that simple!

If you’d like to know more about the science of habits, this TED talk by psychiatrist Judson Brewer is a good place to start.

Why You should Eat for your Goal Weight

The number of calories you should be eating on a daily basis is entirely based on your goal weight, in other words, if you currently weigh 70kg, and your goal is to weigh 60kg, you need to consume the number of calories your body would need to maintain your weight at 60kg. 

To lose fat, you need to create a caloric deficit. Meaning, you need to be BELOW your calorie maintenance level so that you end up burning more calories than you consume. When that happens, your stored body fat will be burned for energy instead.  In other words, by eating the ideal number of calories for your goal weight (which will be less than your current weight), you will create a calorie deficit.

To maintain your current weight, you need to be AT your calorie maintenance level so that you’re consuming and burning the same number of calories.  When your primary goal was to lose weight, and you have been consuming the right number of calories daily for your goal weight, once you reach your goal weight, you will stop losing weight, as you will now be at your maintenance level.

To build muscle, you need to create a caloric surplus. Meaning, you need to be ABOVE your calorie maintenance level so that you’re consuming more calories than you burn. When that happens, your body will have the extra calories it needs to create new muscle tissue. To create the ideal calorie surplus for muscle gains without gaining fat, your goal weight must be higher than your current weight, ideally 5kg for women and 10kg for men. 

If you set your primary goal on gaining muscle before losing your excess body fat, your muscle will grow in size underneath a layer of fat, making you look even fatter. For this reason, the right approach is to first trim away all excess fat before you shift your goal towards muscle gains.

To ensure that you primarily loose fat and NOT your precious muscle, it is important to achieve the correct macronutrient balance. More on the importance of a healthy balance between protein, fats and carbohydrates (macronutrients) in my next post…

The Importance of a Balanced Macronutrient Ratio for a Healthy Metabolism

Every physiological process in the human body requires energy to function. The energy is produced from calories, or units of energy, which the body extracts from carbohydrates, protein and fats. These nutrients work in synergy to fuel your body’s vital health and levels of physical performance.

Every second there are thousands of chemical reactions occurring within the body that require the correct ratio and amount of these nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water. If there is an imbalance or deficiency in any of these areas, your metabolism will be unable to function as it should and this will effect your body’s ability to perform the way you want it to.

A healthy metabolism is the key to good health. When your metabolism is unable to function as it should, disease follows. Your metabolism can either work for you, or against you, depending on what you eat, when you eat it and how much of it you eat.

The Role of Fat in your Diet

Why are trans fats bad for you, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats good for you, and saturated fats somewhere in-between?

Fat is a major source of energy. It helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals and is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. For long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle.

1. Trans Fat

Trans fat has been shown to raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels and must be eliminated from your diet. Trans fat is normally found in fried foods, fast food, typical snack foods (chips, cookies, etc.), doughnuts and various pastries.

2. Saturated Fat

While saturated fat may be pretty bad for the average person who isn’t very active and eats too much junk (or just eats too much in general), it may actually not be too harmful (in small amounts) for fit and healthy people who eat right and exercise regularly. High levels of saturated fats are found in red meat, dairy and coconut oil.

3. Monounsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fat, which is most abundant in foods like nuts and various plant oils like olive oil, will most often end up comprising the majority of your total fat intake. Research shows that monounsaturated fats may help lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.

4. Polyunsaturated fat

Omega-6 and Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fats. They are your essential fatty acids, and that means your body REQUIRES them in order to keep you alive and functioning properly. And, since your body is incapable of producing them on its own, it’s up to your diet to supply a sufficient amount of it on a regular basis.

The omega-3 & 6 fatty acids, which is most abundant in fish, fish oil supplements, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados, basically improves your body’s ability to do just about EVERYTHING (build muscle, lose fat, lowers your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, raises your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and reduces inflammation etc.

Also worth mentioning now is that it may also help with calorie partitioning. Meaning, when in a caloric surplus, calories will be more likely to go towards building muscle rather than being stored as fat. And when in a caloric deficit, your body will be more likely to burn fat instead of muscle.

What You Need to Know About Carbohydrates

While carbs definitely DO play an important role in your diet for various reasons and for various goals (especially building muscle, increasing strength or improving performance), they are the least important of the macronutrients. Carbs Are Extremely Useful, but not essential.  While protein and fat (specifically the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) are essential to your body, carbs on the other hand are not.

Despite the fact that the glycemic index was originally created for diabetics as a way of figuring out which foods would be best for them, it quickly became used by bodybuilders, athletes, and regular people who just want to look good and be healthy.

Why? Because the glycemic index allows us to maintain steady blood glucose levels throughout the day by choosing the right types of high carb foods at the right time.

This of course is useful for many reasons, the most important of which are controlling hunger, maintaining energy levels, improving the way our bodies look/perform and preventing a variety of health/medical issues associated with frequent and sustained spikes in blood sugar levels (like type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

A carbohydrate with a high glycemic index (high GI) breaks down quickly during digestion and therefore releases glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, while a carbohydrate with a low glycemic index (low GI) breaks down more slowly therefore causing a much slower and more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream.

While complex/low glycemic foods should comprise the majority of your carb intake, your post workout meal is the one time of the day when simple/high glycemic foods may actually be the better choice.

What You Need to Know About Protein

In terms of the overall health and function of the human body, protein is essential for building and repairing things. Your organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, bones and certain hormones are all made up of some amount of protein. It’s an absolute requirement for sustaining life and proper function.

When dietary protein is in short supply, the body tends to take protein from skeletal muscles to preserve more important tissues and body functions. As a result, lack of protein leads to muscle wasting over time. Amino acids (found in protein) consumed in excess of the amounts needed for the synthesis of nitrogenous tissue constituents are not stored but are degraded; the nitrogen is excreted as urea, and the keto acids left after removal of the amino groups are either utilized directly as sources of energy or are converted to carbohydrate or fat.

Protein will help you lose fat, build muscle, and generally get your body to look and perform the way you want it to look and perform.

Your goal is to get your body to burn nothing but fat and leave all of your pretty muscle alone.  Eating a sufficient amount of protein on a daily basis is the key dietary factor in getting your body to preserve your muscle and burn fat instead.  In addition to preserving muscle, building muscle has two dietary requirements, a calorie surplus and eating a sufficient amount of protein on a daily basis.  Protein is the “building block” of muscle. Without enough of it, your body just cannot (and will not) build muscle.

Another major role protein plays in losing fat revolves around its thermogenic properties. Protein is the macronutrient with the largest thermic effect.  Therefore, eating more protein on a daily basis will actually lead to more calories naturally being burned by your body.

What is plant based meat?

To put it simply, plant-based meat is meat made from plants. It is created and manufactured to appear, feel, and taste like conventional meat from animal products. 

There are multiple forms of this veggie-based alternative, such as nuggets, sausage, burger patties, and much more. But not all plant-based meats are made the same. 

Some of the most common ingredients in plant-based meat are the following:

vegetable protein, vital wheat gluten or seitan, coconut oil, beans, spices, soy, beet juice extract and rice.

 Regular meats are mass-produced in animal agriculture, as compared to plant-based meats which are developed on a way smaller scale, which makes it more pricey. Plant-based meats also contain a variety of whole foods, such as produce and spices, which are generally more expensive. Therefore, Plant-based meat is usually more expensive compared to the same quantity of animal-based meat.

Is plant-based meat healthy? 

Yes, plant-based meats are generally healthy when eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet – a healthier option compared to meat

For context, here is the nutritional breakdown of regular meat compared to their most popular plant-based alternative: 

Plant-based meat vs. regular meat

Click on the buttons below to see data for the different categories: 
Beef   Chicken 

GROUND BEEF (4 OZ)BEYOND MEAT BURGER (4 OZ)
Calories 340260
Protein 17g 20g 
Saturated fat 12g 5g 
Sodium 75 mg 350 mg 
Iron 1.8 mg 4 mg 
Cholesterol 95.2 mg 0 mg 

What the research says: A small 2020 study examined the health effects of plant-based meats versus animal meat. Researchers found participants who ate at least two servings of plant-based meat for eight weeks lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease compared to participants who ate the same amount of animal meat — primarily beef and pork — for the same duration. 

Red meat, in particular, is tied to an increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs also increase the risk of stomach and bowel cancers. 

However, plant-based meats are far from perfect. “They typically have higher amounts of sodium, usually in an attempt to make it more palatable and shelf-stable. Too much sodium can cause adverse health effects, including high blood pressure and stroke. 

Plant-based meats are also highly processed and filled with less healthy ingredients such as refined coconut oil and modified food starch. Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that processed foods cause people to consume an extra 500 calories a day and ultimately gain more weight.

Plant-based meats can fit into a healthy diet when eaten in moderation no more than a couple times a week, but do not make it your only source of protein. 

How Much Protein Does Your Body Need Daily?

Your daily protein requirement refers to the amount of pure protein your body needs on a daily basis, not only to maintain normal bodily functions but also to prevent muscle wasting and to increase lean muscle mass.

The most recommended go-to is 1g of pure protein per pound healthy body weight.

Pure protein refers to the amount of protein found in food, for example;  there are 30g of pure protein in a 100g portion chicken breast compared to 14.4g pure protein in 100g of Original Jungle Oats.

Calculating My Daily Calorie Needs and Macro-Nutrient Requirements

I have done all the nutrient calculations for ideal Goal Weights from 40-90kg, and you can access it here. We encourage you to read through all the informative posts that will allow you to understand why our plans are formulated as they are. Then simply click on Free meal plans and receive a complete, balanced meal plan that will ensure you reach your goal weight and achieve optimal health! No need to count calories! Simply weigh and measure your food portions! It’s easy, it’s highly effective and you will learn exactly what your body needs on a daily basis. Plus it’s FREE!

If you are curious about how I calculated it, continue reading…

Calculating my daily protein requirement 

The most widely recommended amount of pure protein your body needs on a daily basis, to maintain normal bodily function, prevent muscle wasting and increase lean muscle mass is to aim for 1g of pure protein per pound of your ideal Goal Weight.  

Lets do the math:

  • Goal weight:  60kg
  • Convert goal weight into pounds: 60 x 2.2 = 132lb or 132g of pure protein per day

Calculating my daily calorie intake

First, lets calculate how many calories there are in 132g of protein. There are 4 kcal in in 1 gram of protein, so we multiply 132g by 4 = 528 kcal 

For effective fat burning and generous lean muscle gains, it is recommended that 40% of your total daily calorie intake comes from protein. Therefore, with 528 kcal derived from protein, we can easily establish your target, total calorie intake by applying the following calculation: 

528 (kcal from protein) is 40% of what? = 1320kcal

How to factor fats and carbohydrates into your total daily calorie intake

With a total daily calorie intake of 1320 kcal and 528 kcal derived from protein, the remaining balance must come from fats and carbohydrates. 

1320kcal – 528kcal = 792kcal

It is recommended that 20-30% of your total daily calorie intake should come from fat. Fat allows you to feel fuller for longer and promotes fat loss, and since healthy fats are an essential macronutrient and carbohydrates aren’t, it makes sense to aim for the maximum of 30% fat, with carbohydrates making up for the remaining 30%.

Therefore we simply divide 792 kcal by 2 to establish how many calories must each come from fats and carbohydrates. 

792kcal divided by 2 = 396 kcal

Now let’s take a look at what we have so far:

  • Total kcal: 1320kcal
  • 40% Protein:  528kcal
  • 30% Fat: 396kcal
  • 30% Carbs: 396kcal

Next we are going to convert the number of calories to grams for each macronutrient. We have already established that 528 kcal equals 132g of pure protein, now let’s do the same for fats and carbohydrates. 

Just like protein, carbohydrates also contains 4kcal per gram, therefore we simply divide 396 by 4 to know how many grams of pure carbs you need to eat on a daily basis.

396 / 4 = 99g of carbohydrates

Fat on the other hand contains 9kcal per gram, we therefore divide 396 by 9 to know how many grams of pure fat you need on a daily basis.

396 / 9 = 44g of fat

So there you have it:

  • Total kcal:   1320kcal
  • 40% Protein:  528kcal/132g
  • 30% Fat: 396kcal/44g
  • 30% Carbs: 396kcal/99g

No need for you to do the work, as I’ve already done it for you!

For your nutritional needs, go here. For a complete, balanced meal plan based on your nutritional needs, go to Free meal plans. You really have nothing to lose! Just try it! It’s FREE!

Creating the Ideal Calorific Surplus for Muscle Gains

When your #1 goal is to build muscle, there are two things that need to be kept in mind when creating a caloric surplus:

  • Maximizing muscle gains
  • Minimizing fat gains

There is a limit to the amount of muscle the human body is capable of building (and the rate at which it can be built). There is also a limit to the number of calories your body is capable of using to build muscle.

If you supply your body with more calories than that amount, those extra calories will always be stored in the form of fat, not muscle.

For that reason, we need to avoid making the calorie surplus TOO big.

At the same time, if the caloric surplus is TOO small, muscle will either not be built at all, or it will be built so unbelievably slow that progress will go unnoticed.

So the goal here is to get the surplus just right. Here are my recommendations for most people, most of the time…

  • Ideal Caloric Surplus for MEN: 250 calories per day.
  • Ideal Caloric Surplus for WOMEN: 125 calories per day.

Additional calories above this amount would cause too much fat gain, and fewer calories would likely slow down muscle growth to nonexistent levels.

The caloric surplus above will usually produce the best results possible in terms of maximizing muscle gains and minimizing fat gains for the majority of the population looking to build muscle.

It is also ideal because it will cause you to gain weight at the ideal rate. So, just what is the ideal rate of weight gain when trying to build muscle?

  • Men: On average 1kg per month
  • Women: On average ½ kg per month

When you start training, muscle gains occur more rapidly in the first 3-6 months, thereafter it will slow down. To reach a head-turning fitness physique women need to gain on average 5-6kg of lean muscle and men 10-12kg. That means you should reach your goal within 1 year, if you are consistent. 

You can monitor your progress based on what your weight is doing from week to week by doing the following:

Weigh yourself once a week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or, weigh in every morning and take the weekly average.

Are you gaining weight at the ideal rate? If so, congrats. Keep eating this number of calories each day and make sure you’re using an intelligent and effective exercise program and the best possible muscle building results are sure to follow.

Are you training but losing weight or just maintaining your current weight? If so, your surplus is too low (or it just doesn’t exist at all) and therefore needs to be increased. Just add 250 calories for men and 125kcal for women to your current calorie intake and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks. 

For simplicity, you can simply download the “Eat for your Goal Weight” chart below.  To create the ideal calorie surplus for building muscle, choose a Goal Weight higher than your current Goal Weight. Just make sure you are training to build muscle or you will just get fatter with the extra calories!

  • Men: plus 10kg
  • Women: plus 5kg

Most people don’t eat enough protein, therefor I highly recommend that you start by using the meal plan calculated for your ideal weight. You will gain lean muscle mass, especially during the first 3-6 months. Only increase your goal weight once you have achieved your desired fat percentage and if you have reached the point where you have completely stopped gaining. This is a good place to start increasing, but keep an eye on your progress because not everyone’s metabolism is the same nor does everyone exercise at the same intensity and adjustments may be required. 

Pre & Post Workout Meals

Your pre- and post-workout meals are considered your two most important meals of the day. If all else fails, at least ensure that you get these two meals spot on.

Your PRE workout meal is the last meal you eat before your workout, ideally 1 hour before. What you eat before your workout is crucial for fueling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout.

The primary goal of the PRE workout meal is to accomplish the following:

·  Reduce muscle glycogen depletion.

·  Reduce muscle protein breakdown.

·  Reduce post workout cortisol levels.

Your POST workout meal is the meal you eat immediately after or within 30 minutes after your workout.

What you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process (which basically begins as soon as your workout ends) and ensuring that your body has all of the supplies it needs in order to recover, adapt and improve the way you want it to.

The goal of the POST workout meal is to accomplish the following:

·  Replenish muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout.

·  Reduce muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise.

·  Increase muscle protein synthesis.

·  Reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.

·  Greatly enhance overall recovery.

·  Reduce cortisol levels.

To make all of the above happen successfully, your body needs 2 things:

·  Carbs

·  Protein

What this means is, your biggest goal with your PRE and POST workout meals is to consume a significant amount of both carbs and protein shortly before and after your workout.

Something to consider when choosing your pre- and post-workout meals is the duration of your workout and how long your meals take to digest and start supplying your body with fuel, as well as the duration of energy supply your meals will deliver. A solid meal for instance takes at least 1 hour to start releasing fuel and will sustain your workout for up to 3 hours after consumption, whereas a liquid meal takes only 30 minutes to supply fuel but will only sustain your workout for up to 90 minutes from time of consumption. What’s important is to ensure that your body has fuel readily available throughout your workout and for an additional 3 hours post workout. I personally prefer to use a combination of both.

So how much protein and carbs do you need to consume pre- and post workout?

You need an equal amount of 0.25g of both pure protein and carbs per pound goal weight for both pre- and post-workout.

Let’s do the math with the following example:

Goal weight:  60kg

Convert weight into pounds: 60 x 2.2 = 132

132 x 0.25 = 33g

This means you will need to consume 33g of pure protein and carbs pre and post workout.

Pre-workout meal recommendation:

In order to power through your gut-wrenching, muscle-fiber-tearing workout, you need a premium source of fuel that will provide a gradual release of energy while you exercise. This is why it’s fundamentally important that you consume a moderate digesting source of carbohydrate one hour before.

In addition to your carbohydrate, a sufficient amount of protein is equally important. As the building block of new muscle growth, protein (composed of essential and non-essential amino acids) is needed for maintaining a positive nitrogen balance necessary to stimulate maximum protein synthesis. Obtaining the correct ratio of amino acids is vital to achieving an anabolic state and the best way of achieving this is by consuming complete protein sources such as egg whites, chicken or white fish.

Not only will they provide a source of energy, thereby preventing your body from tapping into muscle for energy, but will sustain you throughout your entire workout.  Portion control and timing is very important when it comes to your pre-workout meal. If you consume an overabundance of protein and carbs or consume them too close to your workout, your body has insufficient time to metabolize the food. This results in blood being redirected to your working muscles rather than being reflowed to your stomach to aid in digestion, causing stomach cramps.

So, now that you have a slower digesting carb source (as outlined above), it is also beneficial to have a small but sufficient source of fast-digesting carb to kick-start your workout.  Fruits, such as berries, oranges, apples or bananas make an excellent addition to your pre-workout meal. As for protein, splitting your pre workout protein between solid food and a protein shake has it benefits as you avoid having a large and heavy meal.

Post-workout meal recommendation:

Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. Protein powder with Dextrin pure carb makes an ideal post workout meal when taken immediately after your workout.

For a prolonged supply of fuel for recovery after your workout, consume a medium to high GI carbohydrate such as fruit and an easily digested solid protein like egg whites with your protein shake.

Foods that Speed up the Ageing Process

There are two main culprits that accelerate the aging process of our skin: sun exposure and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Let’s first take a look at what is AGEs

AGEs – Advanced glycation end products, forms when protein or fat combines with sugar. AGEs accelerate skin aging and wrinkle formation, by accelerating the shortening of telomeres, which increases cellular aging.

1. Fried foods

Foods fried in oil at high temperatures release free radicals that can cause cellular damage to the skin. Exposure to free radicals accelerates the aging process due to an action called cross-linking. Cross-linking affects DNA molecules and can weaken skin’s elasticity.

2. Refined carbs

When refined carbs integrate with protein, it causes the formation of AGEs.

Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, can cause inflammation in the body, which is directly linked to the aging process.

3. Sugar

Apart from the most obvious reason why sugar should be avoided which is heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and inflammation, high-sugar diets can also increase androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which can raise your risk of developing acne.

Sugar contributes to the formation of collagen-damaging AGEs. When our sugar levels are elevated, the AGEs process is stimulated. It speeds up even more if sunlight is involved.

4. Margarine

Margarine is worse than moderate amounts of real butter due to the fact that it’s high in partially hydrogenated oils. These trans fatty acids make skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation, which can damage skin’s collagen and elasticity.

5. Processed meats

These meats are high in sodium, saturated fats, and sulfite, which can all dehydrate the skin and weaken collagen by causing inflammation.

6. Dairy

For some, dairy may increase inflammation in the body, which leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the main causes of premature aging.

Diets low in dairy products may protect sun-exposed skin from wrinkling.

7. Alcohol

Alcohol can cause a host of problems when it comes to the skin, including redness, puffiness, loss of collagen, and wrinkles.

Alcohol depletes your nutrients, hydration, and vitamin A levels, all of which have a direct impact on wrinkles.

Vitamin A is especially important in regards to new cell growth and the production of collagen, ensuring that skin is elastic and wrinkle-free.

8. Salt

Consuming too much salt can draw water out from the skin and lead to dehydration. That may make your skin more prone to wrinkling.

9. Concentrated sources of fructose

High concentrations of fructose breaks down collagen much quicker than regular sugar, which can speed up wrinkle formation. Foods high in added fructose include sauces, salad dressings, sugary drinks, yogurt, honey, dried fruits, fruit juices and fruits.

Why Wheat Should Be Avoided

Wheat raises blood sugar levels, causes immunoreactivity problems, inhibits the absorption of important minerals and aggravates our intestines.

Much of this may stem from the fact that wheat simply isn’t what it used to be. Hybridized wheat indeed! Today’s wheat is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago. Back in the 1950s, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it harder, shorter, and better-growing. This work, which was the basis for the Green Revolution – and one that won U.S. plant scientist Norman Borlaug the Nobel Prize – introduced some compounds to wheat that aren’t entirely human friendly.

Today’s hybridized wheat contains sodium azide, a known toxin. It also goes through a gamma irradiation process during manufacturing, and contains novel proteins that aren’t typically found in the plant, some of which are difficult for us to properly digest.

The gliadin and glutenin are acting as immunogenic anti-nutrients.  Grains create an immunogenic response which increases intestinal permeability, thus triggering systemic inflammation by the immune system, which can lead to any number of autoimmune diseases, including celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The gliadin degrades to a morphine-like compound after eating, what creates an appetite for more wheat; therefore, wheat actually has an addictive quality to it.  The glycemic index of wheat is very high and raises blood sugar.  It contains amylopectin A, which is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than just about any other carbohydrate, including table sugar.

Why You Should Not Be Eating Diary

Despite the hype, cow’s milk actually robs our bones of calcium. Animal proteins produce acid when they’re broken down, and calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer.  So, you can see where this is going. In order to neutralize and flush out the acids, our bodies have to use the calcium that the milk contains—as well as some from our own stores. So every glass of milk we drink leaches calcium from our bones.

Milk and other dairy products are the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fat.

The consumption of all types of dairy “products” was linked to an increased prevalence and severity of acne in both boys and girls.

Cows are often pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive to produce milk in filthy factory farm conditions which is linked to the surge in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When humans are infected by these superbugs, antibiotics at best have decreased effectiveness and at worst are powerless.

A study of more than 12,000 children showed that the more milk they drank, the more weight they gained—and skim and 1 percent milk actually appeared to lead to more weight gain than drinking 2 percent or whole milk.

Infants and children produce enzymes that breaks down lactose, a sugar found in breast and cow’s milk, but as we grow up many of us lose this capacity.

Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond their natural age of weaning or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months—sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they’re 2 years old. Cow’s milk does not suit the nutritional needs of humans, so it’s no wonder that consuming it and its derivatives causes us so many health problems.

Toxins and Why it’s Important to Detox

Why We’re Overloaded with Toxins

Your body’s detoxification system is powerful. But in our modern age, it’s also likely under considerable pressure.

Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, chemicals, and stress can all strain your natural detoxification systems. It’s like one person is mopping the floor while another is stomping around the kitchen in muddy boots.

Stress can also play a part. It diverts energy and other resources from the detox process. The physiology of stress is rooted in the “fight or flight” response. The body interprets this as signaling a clear and present danger to our continued existence. But because most of our stressors are mental and emotional (financial worries, relationships…), the body can under-prioritize detoxification even when it’s the most useful thing it could be doing.

Does “Detoxing” Help?

The term “detox” has many different uses.

Because “detox” has become such a massive health buzzword, the term is, unfortunately, used to sell a lot of products and services with no basis in science.

Some detox programs recommend using laxatives or diuretics, going into “starvation mode,” going overboard with unsustainable exercise routines, popping unproven (and expensive) supplements, drinking diet sodas sweetened with dangerous chemicals, or even going on a grapefruit diet. None of these approaches prove to help in the long run. The best and safest way to detox is to eat real, healthy foods. Regular short intermitted fasting such as a weekly 16-hour fast once a week is also highly beneficial.

Unlike many of the popular “detox” programs and supplements out there, i approach detox as a way of life. I aim to exclude foods that contribute to toxin buildup such as wheat, dairy, sugar and red meat and I eat foods that enhance detoxification. In addition to that, I incorporate a 16-hour fast once a week by eating my last meal of the day before 6:00pm and delay my first meal the following day till 11:00am.

Daily Detox Drink

Also known as the flat belly drink.

Health Benefits:

Cucumber – Aid balanced hydration, digestive regularity and lower blood sugar levels.

Lemon – Supports weight loss, reduce skin wrinkling, and aids digestion.

Ginger – Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Mint – Improves IBS & helps relieve indigestion.

How to prepare:

– bring 10 mint leaves in a cup of water to boil and set aside 

– add 750ml water to your blender 

– add 1 medium or half a large cucumber peeled to the blender 

– add a knob of fresh ginger peeled to the blender

– add the juice of 1 lemon to the blender 

– remove mint leaves and add mint water to the blender

– Blend and enjoy throughout your day!

You will visibly notice how your skin appears more hydrated and digestion improves within 2-3 weeks of drinking this daily.

Excellent Add-Ons to your Daily Water Intake

Most people don’t need to consciously think about their water intake, as the thirst mechanism in the brain is very effective. However, certain circumstances do call for increased attention to water intake.

Mild dehydration caused by exercise or heat can have negative effects on both your physical and mental performance.

Drinking water can cause mild, temporary increases in metabolism, and drinking a glass of water about a half hour before each meal can make you automatically eat fewer calories. Avoid drinking cold water and rather opt for room temperature.  A cup of hot water with each meal will further enhance digestion and boost your metabolism.

The following are excellent add-ons to your daily water intake:

1.  Celery juice

Celery contains high levels of vitamin K and good amounts of vitamin A, vitamins B-2 and B-6, and vitamin C. Celery is also a good source of the following nutrients:

·  folate

·  potassium

·  manganese

·  pantothenic acid

·  dietary fiber

The celery plant and its seeds both contain chemicals that nutritionists call phytonutrients. These chemicals have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Every morning, drink roughly one cup of celery juice on an empty stomach. Make sure it’s fresh, plain celery juice with no other ingredients. Wait at least fifteen minutes after drinking your celery juice before consuming anything else.

2.  Green tea

Green tea is packed with antioxidants known as catechins that are believed to fight stubborn belly fat. A lot of studies have shown that drinking green tea regularly helps in shrinking your belly. Catechins increase the release of fat from fat cells in the belly and also speed up the liver’s fat burning ability.  Aim to drink at least 2 cups of green tea daily.

2.  Cucumber + lemon + mint + ginger

Lemon: Lemon water makes for a powerful detox drink; lemon juice helps to cleanse and alkalize the body. Add one thinly sliced lemon to a large pitcher, or squeeze fresh lemon juice into your glass.

Mint: Mint adds a touch of sweetness without the sugar to your water, and it also helps settle your stomach and aids in digestion as well.

Cucumber: Adding a few slices of cucumber to your water makes for excellent rehydration, contains anti-inflammatory properties and promote healthy skin.

Ginger: The spicy root helps cleanse out your system, aids in digestion, and settles your stomach.

3. Simply add flavor

Strawberries, grapefruit or any fruit of your choice ads flavor to your water. Just add a few slices.

Collagen

Collagen is a special type of protein that makes a big difference in the health and appearance of your hair, skin, nails, and joints.

Under normal circumstances, your body produces its own collagen stores by breaking down the protein you eat into usable amino acids. However, as you get older, the amount of collagen your body produces starts to decrease.

Your body doesn’t require any less collagen, so you must either begin supplementing with it, add more collagen-rich foods to your diet, or consume foods that increase your body’s natural collagen production. 

Eating foods that contain collagen will add to your body’s collagen stores. But your body needs the right mix of ingredients to make more collagen on its own.

Amino acids and specific vitamins and minerals, such as copper, zinc, and vitamin C, help your body naturally produce more collagen.

Foods that boost collagen production:

Wild salmon, sardines, citrus & tropical fruits, strawberries, avocado, sweet red & yellow peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, chia, pumpkin and flax seeds.

Consider using collagen supplements; they’re a convenient and easy way to hit your  daily collagen targets. This will give you a solid baseline of collagen, and anything you eat above that will put you in a better place.

When choosing a collagen supplement, look for collagen from grass-fed or wild-caught sources. And make sure it’s free of chemical fillers too. 

Health Supplements

While this billion-dollar industry is built primarily on lies and deception and the least important part of your overall diet plan, it’s probably the area with the most questions in need of answering.

Truth is, everything that is truly needed in order for your goal to be reached can be provided through a combination of a proper diet and workout program.

Most supplements are complete and utter garbage that don’t do anything no matter what they claim.  Are there any that actually ARE useful in some way? Sure, and I’ll tell you about them in a minute.

There is no legal supplement that will cause fat loss. There is no legal supplement that will build muscle. ONLY a proper diet and workout program are capable of making these things happen. Once you’ve set up both and effectively put them into action, supplements can, at best, only help at that point. Why? Because no supplement will work in the absence of a proper diet and workout, and no supplement will make up for a poor diet and workout.

The truth is, the key to losing fat, building muscle, or just improving your body or health in any way is a combination of a proper diet and workout program. The best supplements in the world won’t do a thing if you don’t get the important stuff right first.

Any supplement I ever take or recommend MUST meet the following 2 requirements:

·  They must be scientifically proven to be useful or beneficial in some way.

·  They must be safe.

I am WAY overly cautious about supplements and what I put into my body in general. So, if it’s even remotely dangerous or unsafe when used properly, then I’m not interested at all.

The following are health supplements that I personally use and I will explain why.

1.  Multivitamin

Making sure you take a high-potency multivitamin/multi-mineral formula may help ensure the presence of those essential nutrients necessary for thousands of metabolic reactions. Bodybuilders, athletes, and people that lead active lifestyles need even more nutrients than the average non-active person.

It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, young or old, bodybuilder, football player, or everyday gym rat. Your multi should be the first supplement you take every day.

2.  Fish oil

Fish oil is extracted from cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and cod. It contains a blend of omega-3 fatty acids made up of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are essential for such basic bodily functions as muscle activity and cell growth. Our bodies can’t make these omega-3 fats, so we have to take them in through foods or supplements.

Fish oil may provide numerous benefits for bodybuilders largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

As you age, it becomes more difficult to maintain and build muscle, partly due to a decreased response to both resistance training and protein intake.

Interestingly, the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil may enhance your muscles’ sensitivity to protein and resistance training, allowing for greater gains in muscle size and strength as you age.

3.  Calcium & Magnesium

The relationship between calcium and magnesium in our bodies is complex. They work together in many functions, such as regulating heartbeat, muscle tone and contraction, and nerve conduction. At other times, calcium and magnesium seem to compete by binding competitively to the same sites in the body.

Most calcium and magnesium supplements contain a ratio of two or three parts calcium to one-part magnesium. Magnesium, however, is either used up or excreted and must be replenished on a daily basis. So, even though the daily need for calcium is greater, we are much more likely to become deficient in magnesium.

Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions, all necessary for optimum health. Magnesium plays a vital role in digestion, energy production, muscle contraction and relaxation, bone formation and cell division. In addition, magnesium is a key nutrient in the proper functioning of the heart, the kidneys, the adrenals and the entire nervous system.

4.  Vitamin D

Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps build bones and keep bones strong and healthy. The parathyroid glands work minute to minute to balance the calcium in the blood by communicating with the kidneys, gut and skeleton. When there is sufficient calcium in the diet and sufficient active Vitamin D, dietary calcium is absorbed and put to good use throughout the body. If calcium intake is insufficient, or vitamin D is low, the parathyroid glands will ‘borrow’ calcium from the skeleton in order to keep the blood calcium in the normal range.

5.  Probiotic

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system.  We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

When you lose “good” bacteria in your body, for example after taking antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them and maintain a balance of your “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.

6. Collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles.

Collagen has many important functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones.

In recent years, collagen supplements have become popular. Most are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen has been broken down, making it easier for you to absorb. Consuming collagen may have a variety of health benefits, from relieving joint pain to improving skin health.

Taking collagen is associated with a number of health benefits and very few known risks. For starters, supplements may improve skin health by reducing wrinkles and dryness. They may also help increase muscle mass, prevent bone loss and relieve joint pain.

Although several foods contain collagen, it is unknown whether the collagen in food has the same benefits as supplements. Collagen supplements are generally safe, quite easy to use and definitely worth trying for their potential benefits.

Sport Supplements

When it comes to sport supplements I use the absolute minimum.  Here’s some guidance on the basics.

1.  Vegan protein powder

People commonly use protein as supplementation, alongside resistance exercise, to help improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean muscle mass.

After training, your body uses protein to help repair and rebuild muscle fibers. Protein powder is easily digested in the stomach, meaning it provides a fast delivery of protein to muscles. This is especially important immediately after training, when the muscle has been broken down.  It can also be taken first thing in the morning or before training.

2.  Creatine

Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids. Your body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

About 95% of your body’s creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in your brain, kidneys and liver.  When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP.  ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise.  Creatine also alters several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength and recovery.  Creatine is most beneficial before and after your workout.

You can supplement with creatine in one of two ways. You can follow a loading protocol followed by a maintenance dose, or you can skip the loading phase and take the maintenance dose for longer.

Creatine loading

The standard way to take the supplement is through what’s known as creatine loading.  Creatine loading involves taking 20–25 grams of creatine, split into 4–5 equal doses for 5–7 days.

The purpose of loading is to saturate your muscle cells with creatine quicker so that you can experience its benefits sooner. To experience the effects of creatine, your muscles must be fully saturated with it, which typically takes 5–7 days of loading.

Following loading, 3–5 grams (30 mg/kg) per day is necessary to maintain your muscle stores of creatine.

Maintenance dose

Skipping the loading phase and taking the maintenance dose of 3–5 grams daily is the other way to supplement with creatine. This method is just as effective as creatine loading, but it takes much longer — typically 28 days — to experience the same benefits.

3.  BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the human body. Nine of the 20 are considered essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine.

While BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, they can’t do so maximally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources.   Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.

BCAAs can also help prevent muscle wasting or breakdown. The best time to take your BCAA powder is before exercise (as/or alongside) your pre workout supplement. Taking BCAAs post workout or throughout the day will not boost performance or recovery to the same effect.

4. Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin Carbohydrate (fast absorbing complex carb)

Highly-branched cyclic-dextrin carbs are a soluble form of carbohydrate that’s perfect for pre- and post-workout, powering your training and supporting the recovery of your muscles after exercise, making 100% Cyclic-Dextrin Carbs a popular post-workout supplement.

Choose Vegan Protein

The following information was derived from an article in Men’s Health 

With the majority of sports supplement brands now stocking vegan counterparts to their whey protein products, there’s never been a better time to go green with your supps. Below, we talk you through a bunch of benefits that will come thick and fast once you do. Dig in.

By Switching to Vegan Protein, Your Skin Could Become Clearer

If you’re going to the gym regularly and looking after your fitness, it’s safe to assume that you’re concerned about your appearance and your confidence. Ironically, though, your attention to correct nutrition could be slipping you up — and it’s got nothing to do with your muscles.

Instead, whey protein intake has been connected with acne breakouts, as it increases the production of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. Similarly, whey protein can cause an imbalance in blood sugar production, which can inflame your skin. Go green for a smoother appearance.

You Can Digest Vegan Protein Easier

Compared to the often-questionable ingredients list of whey protein powders, vegan protein could be significantly kinder on your gut. Peas, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are all common ingredients in vegan protein, with healthy levels of fibre that can improve digestion while culling signs of gas and bloating.

You’re Getting an Added Hit of Antioxidants and Phytochemicals

Plant-based and vegan protein powders are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential to optimum health and are abound with phytochemicals — compounds produced by plants — that can boost your health. On the flipside, some whey proteins can contain added hormones and antibiotics. Time to go natural, perhaps.

Is Whey protein vegan?

No, whey protein isn’t vegan. Whey protein is derived from milk, which contains both whey and casein proteins. Vegan protein, however, is made using a variety of protein sources including pea, rice, hemp and algae.

Is Vegan Protein as Effective as Whey Protein?

Put simply, yes vegan protein is as effective as whey. A study that looked at the effect both whey and pea protein had on body composition and exercise performance found that whichever protein men opted for there was little to no difference in their body composition, muscle gain, performance or strength.

What to Look for in Your Vegan Protein Powder

It’s important to know what’s going into your vegan protein powder. Below, explore three of the most important ingredients to look out for, before you invest.

Pea Protein: Pea protein powder is made from field peas — which are nearly four times higher in protein than sweet peas — helping pea protein powders pack up to 80% protein content. Handily, pea protein is allergen-free too, meaning it’s suitable for vegans and those with food allergies, alongside being free from dairy, egg, and soy.

Soy Protein: This vegan protein has been used for decades and comes from defatted soy flour. After processing, it can contain up to 90% protein content and has a neutral flavor, meaning that it’s suitable when mixed into smoothies, shakes and other protein recipes.

Hemp Protein: Suitable for those trying to follow a diet plan rich in whole foods, hemp protein contains 20 amino acids and provides healthy omega fatty acids and fiber. Hemp protein has also been found to improve heart health, cull sugar cravings and bolster your immune system.

Know the Difference Between Various Plant Protein Powders

Despite some claims, most plant proteins aren’t complete, meaning they don’t contain optimal levels of all the essential amino acids to support protein synthesis in your body. However, this isn’t a problem if you regularly eat eggs and fish which are complete proteins. 

As you explore vegan protein powders, you should compare prices by weight, such as per ounce or per 100 grams. Protein powders from grains and legumes generally are about half the price of powders made from seeds.

Here are 9 preferred vegan protein powders and their nutritional highlights.

1. Pea Protein

Pea protein powder is rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. Preliminary research suggests that it’s as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle gain. It may also help you feel full and lower your blood pressure.

2. Hemp Protein

Though hemp protein powder has more moderate levels of protein and is low in the amino acid lysine, it packs a lot of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and ALA omega-3 fat.

3. Pumpkin seed protein

Though low in the essential amino acids threonine and lysine, pumpkin seed protein powder is very nutritious, supplying high amounts of several minerals. Its beneficial plant compounds may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

4. Brown rice protein

Though not a complete protein, brown rice protein powder is rich in BCAAs and may be as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle growth as part of a weight training regimen. Choose a brand that tests for arsenic contamination.

5. Soy protein

Soy protein powder is a complete protein source rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. It may also help lower cholesterol levels. Due to potential safety concerns, you can buy non-genetically modified soy protein and avoid using it every day.

6. Sunflower seed protein

Sunflower seed protein supplies BCAAs to support muscle growth and repair. It’s low in the essential amino acid lysine and therefore sometimes combined with quinoa in protein powder supplements.

7. Sacha Inchi Protein

Isolated from a Peruvian seed, sacha inchi protein powder is a good source of all essential amino acids except lysine. It also provides compounds that promote heart health, including arginine and ALA omega-3 fat.

8. Chia protein

Chia protein is nutritious but not complete, as it’s low in the essential amino acid lysine. Though you can eat chia seeds whole, its protein may be more digestible when isolated in powder form.

9. Plant protein blends

Many vegan protein powders contain blends of different and typically complementary plant proteins to ensure you get adequate amounts of all essential amino acids. Sprouting or fermentation may enhance nutrition as well.

The Bottom Line

Vegan protein powders can help supply your body with the essential amino acids it needs to support protein synthesis in your body, including that needed for muscle repair and growth.

Grains, legumes and seeds are typical sources of plant protein in powders, which are made by removing most of the fat and carbs while isolating the protein components.

Common vegan protein powders are pea, hemp, brown rice and soy. Seed protein powders, including pumpkin, sunflower, chia and sacha inchi, are becoming more available.

Except for soy and quinoa, plant proteins are typically low in one or more essential amino acids. This is not an issue if you regularly eat a variety of plant foods or buy a powder that contains a blend of complementary proteins.

Keep in mind that nutrition information varies by brand, so be sure to check the package labeling.

Vitamin B12 & Iron

VITAMIN B12


Our bodies need on average 1.5mg of Vitamin B12 per day and is stored in the liver.

I highly recommend that you eat sardines at least once a week.

Here’s why:
• high in omega-3 fatty acids
• excellent source of Vitamin B12
• excellent source of Calcium
• high in Vitamin D which aids the absorption of calcium
• great source of collagen (in the skin and bones)
• source of protein
• packed in minerals

Preferred choice: Wild caught sardines packed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

NOTE: Avoid eating sardines if you suffer from any kidney disease or gout!

IRON

The daily recommended iron intake for men and women is:

Men: 9mg per day
Women: 15mg per day

Examples of foods that contain Iron:

  • Fish (Tuna, Haddock, Mackerel, Sardines, Salmon, Trout) * Eggs
  • Leafy greens & broccoli
  • Potatoes & oats
  • Black beans / kidney beans / Chickpeas / Green peas
  • Nuts & seeds

To maximize iron absorption, consume legumes with foods high in vitamin C.

Mercury – Is it safe to eat fish everyday?

Mercury is a natural element that is found in very small quantities in air, water and all living things. Mercury can find its way into food in a number of ways including: natural recycling, volcanic activity, burning of fossil fuels, and pollution. There has been an increased concern about mercury in seafood over the last decade which has caused unwarranted alarm about all seafood and general confusion about what is safe to eat. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish is not a health concern.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends consuming a daily maximum of 0.1 micrograms of mercury for each kilogram of your body weight. Mercury levels in fish are measured as parts per million (ppm).

  • Salmon: 0.022 ppm
  • Trout: 0.071 ppm
  • Hake: 0.079 ppm
  • Atlantic mackerel: 0.050 ppm
  • Sardines: 0.013 ppm
  • Tuna: 0.128 ppm

According to Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, eating fish every day is perfectly safe, provided you stick to variety and choose fish low in mercury.

Different Forms of Exercise and their Purpose

Functional training

Functional training improves your body’s ability to work efficiently as one unit. By training multiple muscle groups at the same time, you are helping your body function better as a whole.  It also improves coordination, balance, and body awareness, which will help you avoid unnecessary injuries.

I recommend that you commence your training with our 4-week functional training program.  This will not only prepare your muscles for bigger loads as you progress into hypertrophy and strength training, but more importantly to help prevent injuries.

Muscle Hypertrophy training basics – increasing lean muscle mass

Muscle hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells.  There are two essential components necessary for the growth of muscles—stimulation and repair.

Stimulation occurs during the contraction of the muscle, or during the actual exercising of the muscle. Each time that a muscle is exercised, contraction occurs. This repeated contraction during a workout causes damage to the internal muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are broken down throughout the course of a workout. Once damaged, these fibers are then ready to be repaired. This is where muscle growth occurs. Muscle fiber repair occurs after the workout while the muscles are in resting mode.

Progressive overload plays a big role in achieving muscle hypertrophy, therefor increasing the load with moderate reps is ideal to achieve increased intensity.

To do this effectively, paying close attention to reps, load and rest periods between sets is important. For hypertrophy 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps and 1 min rest between sets is the standard go-to per exercise.

So how do you know when it’s time to increase the load?

Once you can perform 12 reps for the full number of sets you are aiming for (3-4 sets), it is time to increase the load.

It is ideal to stick with a set program to allow you to keep track of your progress on a weekly basis. You can use the same program for 4-6 consecutive weeks, and then ideally switch to a strength training program for 4 weeks before switching back too hypertrophy training.

Strength Training

When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being, including increased bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and toughness. Training commonly uses the technique of progressively increasing the force output of the muscle through incremental weight increases and uses a variety of compound exercises to target specific muscle groups. Strength training is primarily an anaerobic activity and requires heavy load, low reps and longer rest periods.

Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues, and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.

Anaerobic exercise is a physical exercise intense enough to cause lactate to form. It is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power; and by body builders to build muscle mass. Muscle energy systems trained using anaerobic exercise develop differently compared to aerobic exercise, leading to greater performance in short duration, high intensity activities, which last from mere seconds to up to about 2 minutes.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts should be done by giving 100% effort for 15 to 30 seconds. This is the optimal amount of time for an anaerobic workout (your body is “deprived” of free oxygen) before a 60-second rest period. Doing any less might mean you won’t see the results you want, and doing any more is too much on your body.

When your body works anaerobically, it produces lactic acid because you can’t get enough oxygen to your muscles to keep them working properly. Basically, your body supplements that oxygen with the lactic acid. When lactic acid is produced, adrenaline comes with it, which helps move fat throughout your body and creates that fat burn and muscle buildup you’re looking for.

Hours after the HIIT is done, your body is still burning fat because your metabolism is on a roll trying to replace nutrients that were lost during the HIIT workout, such as carbohydrates and electrolytes. Your insulin sensitivity is at its best, so your body won’t store glycogen as fat. The effects of a HIIT workout can impact your body up to 48 hours after the workout.

For best results, SPC (Steady Pace Cardio) performed immediately after an intense HIIT session will not only help with recovery, but will also allow your body to utilize the fat that has been released into your system during HIIT. Double up the amount of time you’ve spent on a HIIT session with SPC, for example, if you only have 30 minutes to perform cardio, you can do 10 minutes of HIIT immediately followed by 20 minutes of SPC.

In contrast, aerobic exercise includes lower intensity activities performed for longer periods of time. Activities such as walking, long slow runs, rowing, and cycling require a great deal of oxygen to generate the energy needed for prolonged exercise.

Flexibility

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. … That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

It’s a good idea to stretch before you exercise. Do light stretching as part of your warm-up, but wait until after your warm-up or for your cool-down period to do more aggressive stretching. Research shows that holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds provides the most lasting benefits.

Dynamic stretches are meant to get the body moving. The stretches aren’t held for any length of time. Dynamic stretches include movement; such as lunges with a torso twist. Dynamic stretching can be used before the start of any exercise routine.

Static stretches, on the other hand, are where muscles are extended and held for a period of time. The best time to perform static stretches is when your body is warm, after your workout as part of your cool down.

The Effects Various Forms of Exercise have on Bone Density

Exercise programs are classified as follows:

  • static weight-bearing exercises e.g. single-leg standing
  • high-impact weight-bearing exercises e.g. jogging, running, dancing, jumping, and vibration platform
  • low-impact weight-bearing exercises e.g. walking
  • high-impact non-weight-bearing exercises e.g. progressive resistance training
  • low-impact non-weight-bearing exercises e.g. swimming

Prolonged aerobic training, e.g., swimming, cycling, and walking is widely beneficial to all body systems, but there are clinical evidences suggesting that none of these activities provide an adequate stimulus to bones. Since high-impact weight-bearing exercise is not always suitable for older adults due to the risk of musculoskeletal impairment in this population, low-impact non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming has been recommended in this population. However, non-weight-bearing aerobic exercise applies no or very low impact on bones, and shows lesser osteogenic responses than weight-bearing aerobic exercise in older adults.

Regular walking, which is frequently prescribed to prevent osteoporosis, also has little or no effect on prevention of bone loss. This could be attributed that low-impact loading force applied during walking does not elicit loads of a sufficient magnitude, rate, or distribution to stimulate bone cells to lead to an adaptive skeletal response. Thus, despite the benefits of regular walking on aerobic fitness, adiposity, and other cardio metabolic factors, walking alone is insufficient to optimize the musculoskeletal health.

Other physical exercise programs including moderate- to high-impact or multi-directional weight-bearing activities have been shown to maintain or improve the hip and spine areal bone mass density.

Exercise for Fat Loss

Fat loss

You may see cardio and weights as two distinct types of exercise, but when you put them together, you have the most powerful combination for fat loss success. One of the perennial questions about exercise for weight loss (fat loss) is whether to concentrate on aerobic exercise (cardio) or resistance or weight training exercise. Let’s settle this right up front: You should do both, concurrently, for the best outcome. It makes sense, and it is what most healthy people do to get a lean body with muscle definition.

Strength and resistance training builds muscle. Muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat so having more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate (energy expenditure) a little compared to having more body fat. However, the differences are not dramatic.

Even so, in a weight loss program, weight training is important to help maintain muscle. When you lose weight it tends to be a combination of fat and muscle. You want to lose the fat but hold onto the muscle for the reasons described above. Weight training helps you achieve this, and has many other benefits for health and performance, besides building extra muscle.

High-intensity exercise, even if only in short bursts, may rev up the metabolism and get that fat mobilized in the post-exercise period. However, don’t overdo it, because burning fat is a long-term project and you don’t want to get ‘burned out’.

Combining Resistance Training with Cardiovascular Training

The standard advice is to do cardio and strength workouts in separate sessions or on alternate days. A sample program would have resistance training workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and cardio training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can also combine your cardio days with yoga or stretching.  Alternatively, you can do your cardio in the morning and strength training later in the day.

But if you have trouble making time for exercise each day, combining cardio and strength workouts in one session is an option. There have been studies and debate over whether to do cardio first, followed by strength training, or vice versa. There isn’t conclusive evidence for an advantage of one sequence over another, whether your goal is aerobic fitness, fat loss, muscle hypertrophy, or gaining lower body strength. I personally prefer to perform 10-15 min HIIT after resistance training followed by low intensity SPC (Steady Pace Cardio) for 20-30 minutes.

What may have an impact is the amount of cardio you do in combination with your primary goal.

Fat burning:  3 times a week | 45 minutes | 15min HIIT/30 min SPC

Muscle hypertrophy training:   2-3 times a week | 30-45 minutes | 10-15 min HIIT/20-30 min SPC

Strength training: Twice a week | 30 minutes | 10 min HIIT/20 min SPC

Increasing Load for Resistance Training

There are many suggested training regimens that vary the load weight, the number of repetitions, and the rest intervals between sets. While each has its proponents, the end results may depend more on your dedication to your workouts.

The weights workout for muscle hypertrophy should be vigorous, with the number of repetitions kept at the low to medium end of the scale between 8 and 12 repetitions. (The RM is the repetition maximum, which means the most weight you can lift for this number of reps before fatigue.) If you go higher than this, say 15 to 20 repetitions to a set, or more, you are getting into the range where you would probably be better off doing cardio because the return on effort – the energy burn, is better spent jogging, cycling, stepping or rowing. At that number of repetitions, you won’t build much muscle either, so very high-repetition training with small weights has minimum value.

For the sake of simplicity, we apply some basic rules that will allow for safe and effective results.

Reps & load

Choose a load that allows you to perform the maximum reps recommended for that exercise on your first set. On your second, third and fourth set you are likely to perform less reps, which is perfectly fine. Each week you will feel stronger than the week before and perform more reps per set. Once you can successfully perform the maximum reps and sets with that load, it is time to pick up a bigger load the following week.

Rest periods

The importance of training with a stop watch to monitor your rest periods cannot be emphasized enough. The reason why it is so important is to allow you to accurately increase load as and when needed. The longer you rest the more recovery time you give your muscles between sets. This will make it impossible for you to determine your strength gains accurately and increase your load accordingly.

Applying the Correct Breathing Technique During Exercise

It is important to note that various muscle groups are recruited during the breath cycle to assist in respiration.  This fact should be taken into account when dictating a breathing pattern while performing an exercise to maximize desired muscle recruitment and offers the following benefits:

·  Oxygenate the blood and nourish the body on a cellular level

·  Improve circulation

·  Calm the mind and body

·  Encourage concentration

·  Recruit the appropriate muscles for the movements

·  Provide an “inner” rhythm for the movement

The breath cycle:

The action of the diaphragm:

Inhalation – the diaphragm lowers during contraction, enlarging the thoracic cavity.  This action results in the pressure inside the lungs being lower than the pressure outside and air is drawn into the lungs.

Exhalation – the diaphragm relaxes, causing a decrease in the volume of the thoracic cavity and an increase of the pressure inside the lungs.  To equalize the pressure to the outside, air is forced out of the lungs.

During “Lateral breathing” or “intercostal breathing” an effort is made to emphasize the lateral expansion of the rib cage. Part of the reason for using this mode of breathing is to facilitate and maintain abdominal contraction while performing exercises, particularly pertinent during inhalation. In an effort to maintain the abdominal wall pulled inward, emphasis is placed on lateral breathing with consistent inward pull of the abdominal wall.

As a rule of thumb, always inhale when lengthening (relaxing) the muscle and exhale when shortening (contracting) the muscle. For example, when performing squats, inhale on the “down” phase and exhale on the “up” phase and with a biceps curl you will inhale while extending your arm and exhale when you bend your arm.

Sleep Well – Be Well

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping.  Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health.

Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.

Longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.

Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.

Sleep affects your body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase your risk of disease recurrence.

Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene. Try to keep the following sleep practices on a consistent basis:

Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 15 – 20 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.

Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.  Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.

Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.

If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

Benefits of Cold Showers, Baths and Swims

Cool showers actually offer benefits to the body and could help improve health in a dozen ways, from relaxing the mind to improving the skin and to reducing fats.

Here are 12 reasons to embrace the cold to enjoy the benefits of a cool shower:

1. Promotes fat loss

Cool showers activate brown fat, which generates heat around the body. The increased activity of the “good fat” burns calories to keep the body warm. Research showed that cold temperatures can boost brown fat by 15 times higher than the normal amount.

2. Improves immunity

A study in England showed that regular cold showers trigger an increase in the metabolic speed rate and the amount of white blood cells in the body, which then help fight diseases.

3. Gives better circulation

An improved circulation means better overall cardiovascular health. Among the benefits of taking cold showers is a good blood flow. It allows the blood to rush down to organs to stay warm.

4. Drains lymphatic system

Cold showers help boost the activity of the lymphatic system, which works to carry out waste from cells. This then reduces the risk of infections.

5. Promotes emotional resilience

A study showed that cold showers can help develop a nervous system that is resilient to stress. The effort alone serves as a small form of oxidative stress, which the body would adapt overtime and teach the brain to prepare for stress.

6. Lowers stress

As the brain learns how to deal with stressful situations, cold showers could also help cut the levels of uric acid and boost glutathione in the blood, which help reduce stress.

7. Lowers chances of depression

Cold showers have been found to relieve symptoms of depression by stimulating “the blue spot” on the brain that releases noradrenaline, a chemical which plays a role in alleviating depression.

8. Increases testosterone levels

For men, even a small amount of heat can affect the DNA, RNA and protein synthesis in the testes. One study found that 15 minutes of increased heat in rat testes led to a significant decrease in testosterone. Which then suggested that cold temperatures could reverse the effect.

9. Improves fertility

Cold showers have been found to boost sperm count and increase fertility. Researchers said that it could also reverse the effects of hot baths that have been considered to be an effective male contraceptive.

In a previous experiement, men who took a half hour of hot bath every other day for three weeks became infertile for six months.

10. Promotes faster muscle recovery

A 2009 study showed that an ice bath after intense training improves circulation and helps remove some lactic acid, which could speed up the body’s recovery.

11. Enhances skin and hair

The benefits of taking a cold shower not only give better health, but also make people look better. Ice cold water can help reduce the risk of losing too many natural oils on the skin and hair.

It also helps make the hair appear shiny and strengthens their grip to the scalp.

12. Ensures better sleep at night

A 10-minute ice bath could help people get incredible sleep at night, according to a book titled “The Four Hour Body.” The book states that taking a cold shower gives elephant tranquilizer-like effect that will put you straight to bed.

Pig factory farming

Intensive pig farming, also known as pig factory farming, is the primary method of pig production, in which grower pigs are housed indoors in group-housing or straw-lined sheds, whilst pregnant sows are housed in gestation crates or pens and give birth in farrowing crates.

The use of gestation crates for pregnant sows has lowered birth production costs; however, this practice has led to more significant animal cruelty. Many of the world’s largest producers of pigs (US, China and Mexico) use gestation crates. The European Union has banned the use of gestation crates after the fourth week of pregnancy. Intensive pig farmers often cut off tails, testes or teeth of pigs without anesthetic. 

Globally, mother pigs are reared in intensive, barren factory farms where they are confined in steel cages – sow-stalls – for their entire pregnancy. … In factory farms, piglets are ripped from their mothers at just three-weeks of age. 

Pigs are highly intelligent, charismatic and social animals. They have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs, says Dr. Donald Broom, a Cambridge University professor and a former scientific adviser to the Council of Europe. Pigs can play video games, and when given the choice, they have indicated temperature preferences in their surroundings.

These facts should not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time around these social, playful animals. Pigs, who can live into their teens, are protective of their young and form strong bonds with other pigs. Pigs are clean animals, but they do not sweat as humans do, so they prefer cool surfaces, such as mud, to help regulate their body temperature.

On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 75 million pigs on factory farms, and 121 million are killed for food each year.

The majority of mother pigs (sows)—who account for more 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates. These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals even to turn around. After giving birth to piglets, sows are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies but not big enough for them to turn around or build nests for their young.

Piglets are separated from their mothers when they are merely 2-4 weeks old. Once her piglets are gone, the sow is impregnated again, and the cycle continues for three or four years before she is slaughtered. This intensive confinement produces stress- and boredom-related behavior, such as chewing on cage bars.

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After they are taken from their mothers, piglets are confined to pens and barns over the span of about six months, fed until they weigh upwards of 280 lbs and are ready to be sold as meat. Every year in the U.S., millions of male piglets are castrated (usually without being given any painkillers) because consumers supposedly complain of “boar taint” in meat that comes from intact animals. Piglets are not castrated in the U.K. or Ireland, but the practice varies in the European Union from country to country.

In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behavior such as cannibalism and tail-biting, so farmers often chop off piglets’ tails and use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth—without giving them any painkillers. For identification purposes, farmers also cut out chunks of the young animals’ ears.

Early weaning leaves the piglets with a weakened immune system and makes them susceptible to disease and infection. Because of this, routine antibiotics are used to prevent disease in the overcrowded conditions associated with industrial scale farming. In the UK, approximately 50% of all antibiotics created are used for agriculture and 64% of this total are used on pigs as they are often in more crowded conditions than other animal factories. Concerns arise when humans begin to show antibiotic resistance to once effective medicines, putting us all at risk of serious harm from conditions that were once treatable.

In addition to this, the large number of antibiotics ingested by pigs creates another issue. Pigs produce ten times as much fecal waste as humans so with thousands of pigs in one shed there is a lot of waste to consider. In some countries, pig waste is sprayed on agricultural fields. Although animal manure has been used for millennia for fertilizer, spreading waste from animal factories is not quite the same. This waste is full of antibiotic resistant organisms and the quantities are too vast to be useful to any farmer’s field. When the ground becomes saturated, the waste either leaches through to the ground water or runs off into local lakes and streams. The high levels of nitrogen can also lead to algae blooms in the water system suffocating aquatic life.

So why do I care about pigs? I can’t say I even like them; I don’t know any pigs. I care about them because it’s infuriatingly unfair what we do to these innocent beings. I care about them because of the change of consciousness that is in the air: a building recognition that we are dependent on animals and nature, not in charge of them. Caring about them brings some hope of reversing the catastrophic environmental impacts that are built into the factory farming system.

When I see fridges stacked with meat in supermarkets, I see the hubris that is destroying our natural world. I see the destruction of rainforests, the extinction of species, the degradation of oceans, the pollution of soil and water, and the irreversible damage to our climate, all exacerbated by a factory farming system that can only be described as wholly depraved.

In that meat I see the distillation of human arrogance—a mindset that places human power at the center of the universe and views nature and all other beings as tools to be used for our benefit. It is the antithesis of what we need to learn: that our true self-interest aligns with the health of our ecosystem. Indeed, caring about pigs has opened my eyes to the importance of this moment in the Earth’s history as we struggle to find a sustainable way of life on a planet of incredible beauty, amazing diversity, and limited resources. Can we recalculate our role before tragedy overtakes us?

The natural world is not ours. Animals have meaning and worth apart from us. If we can summon an attitude of respect and humility, there’s a brighter world awaiting. Though first we must find in our hearts compassion for pigs … and for all the other animals with whom we share the Earth.

Cow’s Milk: The hidden truth behind industrial dairy farms

Given the chance, cows nurture their young and form lifelong friendships with one another. They play games and have a wide range of emotions and personality traits. But most cows raised for the dairy industry are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic desires, such as nursing their calves, even for a single day. They are treated like milk-producing machines and are genetically manipulated and may be pumped full of antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. While cows suffer on these farms, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments.

Calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. They are fed milk replacers (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthdays. After giving birth, they lactate for 10 months and are then inseminated again, continuing the cycle. Some spend their entire lives standing on concrete floors; others are confined too massive, crowded lots, where they are forced to live amid their own feces. 

Cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.

Male calves are often taken away from their mothers when they are as young as 1 day old to be chained in tiny stalls for three to 18 weeks and raised for veal. Calves raised for veal are fed a milk substitute that is designed to make them gain at 2 to 3 pounds per day, and their diet is purposely low in iron so that their flesh stays pale as a result of anemia. In addition to suffering from diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness, calves raised for veal are terrified and desperate for their mothers.

Environmental Destruction
Large dairy farms have an enormously detrimental effect on the environment. Overall, factory-farmed animals, including those on dairy farms, produce 1.65 billion tons of manure each year, much of which ends up in waterways and drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that agricultural runoff is a major cause of polluted lakes, streams, and rivers. The dairy industry is the primary source of smog-forming pollutants; a single cow emits more of these harmful gasses than a car does. Two-thirds of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food or to grow grain to feed them. 

The cruel cycle on dairy farms

  1. Cows produce milk for the same reason why humans do – to nourish their young.
white and brown cow on brown soil
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

2. To keep the milk flowing, cows are artificially inseminated every year.

3. Nine months later, their calves are born, and a strong bond instantly forms between them. But they won’t have much time together. The whole thing isn’t painful for the cow, it’s more of an uncomfortable experience that takes about a minute. The simple fact that a cow is being manipulated and used for the gain of humans is unethical.

4. Typically, after one to three days, their babies are taken away from them, which causes both cow and calf extreme distress. They will never see each other again.

5. The male calves are usually sold to the veal industry. There, they are kept in tiny crates to keep their flesh tender, They will be killed after just a few miserable months of life.

6. The female calves will likely follow in their mothers’ footsteps in the dairy industry. But first, they will be dehorned. Dehorning is a procedure in which cows have their horns removed by means of saws, sharp wires, hot irons, guillotine dehorners, or caustic chemicals.  It’s extremely painful.

7. The cows will spend the rest of their lives as milk machines, forced to produce 4.5 times what they normally would for their calf. But cows used for milk are usually slaughtered for low-grade meat when they’re around 4 years old. That means four years of repeated artificial insemination, udder infections, and having their calves traumatically torn from their side shortly after birth.

When you buy dairy products, you’re supporting this cruel cycle.

When not on a factory farm, cows can live to be 20 years old.

As a mom and an animal advocate, I can’t help but think of all the mother cows imprisoned in factory farms, forced to endure so much pain and suffering behind the closed doors of the dairy industry. Their newborn calves ripped from their sides within days. Their milk, meant to nourish their young, stolen from them.

These mothers must repeat this cruel cycle, ultimately slaughtered for meat long before their natural life spans should end. With your help, we can break this cycle of abuse.

Be part of the solution – reduce the global demand for dairy by minimizing your consumption. Together we can make a difference!

Chicken Egg Farming

Chickens are sociable, intelligent animals. Their natural behavior includes living in stable groups of 30 or so that employ a social hierarchy (the origin of the term pecking order). The chickens in a given flock all know and recognize each other. Their communal activities include scratching and pecking for food, running around, taking dust baths, and resting. They crow and chirp in a range of some 30 meaningful vocalizations. Chickens also have a strong urge to nest, and, like most animal mothers, they nurture their young attentively and affectionately. A hen carefully tends her eggs in the nest, turning them up to five times an hour and clucking to them; remarkably, the unborn chicks chirp back to her and to one another. 

Through the 1950s, even chickens raised for eventual slaughter were kept in traditional small coops of no more than 60 or so birds, with free access to the outdoors; they could nest, roost, and share space according to their natural behavior. But modern large-scale farming practices (“factory farming”) give chickens no opportunity to behave according to their nature. Quite the contrary—the reality of the life and death of factory-farmed chickens, both those raised for meat and those used to lay eggs, is shocking.

As in all factory-farming industries, chicken production is designed for maximum efficiency and maximum profit. With these goals, regard for the welfare of the animals involved is a luxury that reduces profits unless the extra costs can be passed on to the consumer (as on the much-publicized but less frequently seen “free-range” meat and egg farms). The results are overcrowding, disease, high death rates, and observable unhappiness for the animals involved.

The birds raised for meat, called “broilers” by the industry, are the product of genetic manipulation that has drastically increased breast and thigh tissue (the most popular parts of the animal) and produced a very rapid growth rate that outstrips the development of their legs and organs. Broilers raised in this way are supposed to reach “slaughter weight” at just six or seven weeks of age, but the death toll is very high. The growth of abnormally heavy bodies causes crippling and painful skeletal deformities, and the overburdening of the birds’ underdeveloped cardiopulmonary systems often causes congestive heart failure before they are six weeks old. Some broiler chickens who do not succumb to these problems still die of thirst, because they are physically unable to even reach the water nozzles in their sheds. Other common causes of death pre-slaughter are heat prostration, cancer—in an animal less than seven weeks old—and infectious diseases.

Broiler-chicken facilities tend to be extremely overcrowded, with tens of thousands of birds crammed into a single closed broiler house. Each chicken is given less than a square foot of space, so hardly any floor is actually visible. The birds are unable to roam, to scratch, or, indeed, to avoid each other at all. Their instinct to live in a hierarchical community is thwarted, and social tension results. Chickens living in these stressful conditions will peck and fight with each other, which has led chicken producers to the “solution” of debeaking chicks shortly after they hatch in order to minimize damage. This debeaking process, like much else in factory farming, is run assembly-line fashion, without anesthesia; the chicks are placed beak-first into an apparatus that quickly cuts the tips off the beaks with a hot blade.

Once the chickens have attained slaughter weight, they are loaded into crowded trucks that offer no protection from extreme temperatures, and many birds die as they are shipped to processing facilities. The most efficient of these facilities kill some 8,400 birds per hour, the result of a high degree of automation.

Machines run by humans automatically stun the birds, cut their throats, and scald and pluck them. First, human workers strap the live chickens into leg shackles on a moving rail, from which the birds hang upside-down as they move on to baths of electrified water, which stuns them. This is ostensibly for humane purposes, in order to render them insensible before their throats are cut, but some observers believe it is done merely to immobilize them to a degree sufficient to make further processing easier, not to desensitize them. The stunned birds move on to a mechanical blade that cuts their throats. After the chickens bleed out, they are plunged into a scalding bath that removes feathers. Unfortunately, this high-speed assembly-line process contains potential missteps. The voltage in the electrified bath may be too low, resulting in the rapid recovery of the chickens, who are then well aware of the throat-cutting machine as they approach it. The blade misses many chickens, so they consequently are boiled alive in the scalding bath.Chickens are exempted from the USDA’s Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which mandates that animals be rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. 

Egg-laying hens

As bad as conditions are for chickens raised for meat, they are even worse for birds in the egg industry. 

There are about 300 million laying hens just in the United States; of these, some 95 percent are kept in wire battery cages, which allow each hen an average of 67 square inches of space—less than the size of a standard sheet of paper. For perspective, a hen needs 72 square inches of space to be able to stand up straight and 303 square inches to be able to spread and flap her wings. There is no room even for the hens to perform self-comforting behaviors such as preening and bathing. Hens are usually kept eight or nine to a cage; long tiers of these cages are built one upon another in sheds that hold tens of thousands of birds, none of whom has enough room to raise a wing. Excrement falls from the top cages to the lower ones, causing the same “ammonia burn” problem as in the broiler houses. Like chickens raised for meat, laying hens are de-beaked as chicks. The hens are deprived of the ability to create nests for their eggs, which instead drop through the wires of the cage for collection. This inability to engage in instinctive behavior causes great frustration.

The methods used to maximize production include manipulation of lighting to change the hens’ environment and hence their biological cycles; unnaturally long periods of simulated daylight encourage laying. Periodic forced molting creates an additional laying cycle: during this time, the hens are kept in darkness and put on a “starvation” diet (reduced-calorie feed) or starved altogether for up to two weeks.

Caged in this way, hens are unable to exercise, and constant egg production leaches calcium from their bones; these two factors cause severe osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones and great pain for the hens. The syndrome is called Cage-Layer Fatigue. Additionally, the wires of the cage injure the feet of the chickens, as the hens must sit in essentially one position their whole lives with their feet pressing into the wires. They rub against the sides of the cage, which causes severe feather loss and skin abrasions. In essence, hens who would normally be able to use their whole bodies and have lives as full as those of any other animal in nature are reduced to immobilized egg-laying machines, existing for that one purpose only.

The hens live like this for about two years or less, until their bodies are exhausted from the stresses of constant laying and their egg production decreases. At that point, they are shipped too slaughter to be turned into animal feed or sometimes human food or are simply discarded.

A sad side effect of the egg-production industry is the wholesale destruction of male chicks, who are useless to the egg industry. These chicks are not used in the meat industry either, because they have not been genetically manipulated for meat production. Male chicks are ground up in batches while still alive, suffocated in trash cans, or gassed.

What about free-range eggs and meat?

Many people, distressed by learning about these conditions, pledge to eat only “free-range” eggs and meat, which they imagine come from chickens that have free access to the outdoors and fresh air. There are some facilities like that, but in reality, there is no uniform standard for the free-range designation. No regulations exist that describe the size of the outdoor area or the number of birds allowed in a single shed, for example. A free-range chicken facility need only be cage-free and provide “access” to the outdoors through a door. In practice, the facilities may be windowless and as overcrowded as any other, and only a few chickens may ever be able to reach the door at all. Further, the breeds used are likely to be the standard ones used in non-free-range operations: free-range broilers are, like other broilers, bred for such high meat production that the birds are unable to move about freely even if they want to, and both broiler and laying hens are susceptible to the same life-threatening conditions of heart failure and osteoporosis as any other agribusiness chicken. Free-range laying hens, like all other laying hens, are killed after about a year or two when their egg production drops. They are usually slaughtered under the same conditions described above. Like battery chickens, free-range chickens come from hatcheries that kill the male chicks.

Higher welfare alternatives for hens

In the UK, free-range systems are the most popular of the non-cage alternatives, accounting for around 50% of all eggs produced, compared to 4% in barns and 3% organic.

Shed

In barn systems, hens are kept in sheds using the floor space only, but those with several levels of platforms or perches are called aviaries. In Europe, the maximum stocking density is 9 hens per square meter. This allows the hens much greater freedom of movement than is possible in cage systems. They can stretch, flap their wings and fly. They can also perform other natural behaviors such as pecking, scratching and laying their eggs in a nest.

Free range and organic systems

These systems offer high animal welfare potential. They provide access to daylight and fresh air and hens can perform their natural behaviors such as walking, running, roosting, dust-bathing and foraging for seeds and insects.

Barn

In free-range systems, hens are housed in barns or aviaries but they also have constant daytime access to an outside range with vegetation. In the EU each hen must have at least 4 square meters of outside space (in non-rotational systems).

Organic free-range

Organic systems also provide free-range access. Organic farms certified by the Soil Association, must provide additional space; each hen has a minimum of 10 square meters of outside space, and do not allow beak trimming. EU organic regulations limit stocking density inside the shed to 6 birds per square meter.

The USDA doesn’t have stringent requirements for egg farming in free-range or organic settings. Yes, they’re required to allow laying hens access to the outdoors, but they’re not required to provide a minimum amount of space per hen, nor do the requirements specify the quality of food, water, or veterinary care.

Indeed, according to PETA, free-range birds often experience the same abuses they endure in factory farming operations. They get de-beaked and declawed. They’re left to wander in their own waste, they can’t socialize as they would normally do, and they don’t have enough space to take dust baths.

These atrocities can occur even when the egg farming business labels their “products” as free-range or cage-free or organic. Don’t let the labels fool you.

What’s the Best Response to Egg Farming?

People have eaten meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, and other animal by-products for centuries. Industrial animal agriculture created ways for the meat industry to hasten production and reduce the quality of life for laying hens as well as many other animal species.

It’s easy to put your hands over your ears and turn a blind eye to what’s really going on at egg farms, but the humane thing to do is embrace it. Realize that it’s a broken industry — one that was broken from the beginning — and that egg farming contributes just as much to animal suffering as poultry farming, dairy farming and similar enterprises.

That doesn’t have to continue. In fact, it shouldn’t. We’re evolved enough as human beings to recognize suffering when we see it and to endeavor to stop it. It’s our moral obligation to speak up on animal matters and make humane choices no matter what.

Become a conscious eater. Research different brands and be informed about where the eggs you buy are coming from, because it matters! 

Deforestation

Sometimes we have the tendency to focus only on the details that are in front of us, and we forget to see the bigger picture. The rapid decline of our forested land is not about losing a few trees here and there, but the major impact this is having on us and generations to come. Don’t just look at the tree but see the whole forest.

As we are aware, trees are crucial for sustaining life on Earth; unfortunately, our forests are being destroyed. It is estimated that 42 million acres of forested land in Asia, Africa and Latin America are being destroyed annually, along with it we lose over 135 species of plants and animals with the loss of their habitats.

WHAT’S THE CAUSE OF DEFORESTATION?

One of the driving forces for deforestation, especially in the Amazon, is the animal agriculture sector. The livestock industry is reaching profits that are approximately 100 billion USD a year in America alone, sparking farmers around the globe to want in on the profit.

With increasing demand for meat, dairy and eggs over the last decade, it has increased the pressure on farmers to grow more crops to be used as feed for the livestock.

If this continues with our population growth along with the demand for more animal products, it is estimated that this will almost double the amount of crops we grow in the next 30 years; at the expense of our forests.

Forest destruction is caused by clearing forested lands and converting it into crops to grow feed for grazing, livestock and housing; even though the forested land may not be appropriate for farming. The negative effects of deforestation is increasing at an alarming rate globally. In the US, roughly 260 million acres+ of forested land has been cleared to make room for more crops, most of which will solely be used to grow feed for livestock.

Peru

These crops could be used to feed people around the world. One thing I can do to make my carbon footprint on the world smaller is to reduce my intake of animal products. Imagine a world where everyone ate fewer animal products? Hard to believe, right? We could send those crops that would typically feed livestock directly to people who would otherwise starve.

Each year 70 billion farm animals are raised solely for our food. Intensive animal farming also known as Factory Farming is on the rise. This method of farming is to produce vast quantities in a short amount of time. Case closed, nothing else matters except profit. Whether it be the negative impact this farming method has on our ecosystem and environment, or the cruelty and poor living conditions these animals suffer on a daily basis. 

While the undeniable truth remains that animal agriculture has increased the availability of animal products at more affordable prices, we cannot deny the fact that this is at the cost of our environment, our animals and our overall health.

Each person can make a difference in the fight to save our forested lands; now the question becomes, how do we do this?

It’s simple. Consumer power.  As everyday consumers we have more power than the major corporations let on. If consumers demand change, then we take control of the market.

Earthlands

Climate change – The biggest threat to our oceans

Climate change arguably presents the greatest threat to ocean health. It is making oceans hotter, promoting acidification, and making it harder to breathe in them by reducing dissolved oxygen levels. Imagine how poorly a fish in an aquarium would fare if we turned up the heat, dripped in acid, and pulled out the oxygen bubbler. This is slowly but surely what we are doing to our oceans.

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise, threatening coastal population centers. Many pesticides and nutrients used in agriculture end up in the coastal waters, resulting in oxygen depletion that kills marine plants and shellfish. Factories and industrial plants discharge sewage and other runoff into the oceans.

We can each reduce our own carbon footprint and help decelerate climate change by making smart choices about what we eat. With 7.6 billion people on the planet, these decisions add up.

Rising temperatures correlate almost exactly with the release of greenhouse gases.

Before the 18th century, when humans in the industrial west began to burn coal, oil and gas, our atmosphere typically contained about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Those are the conditions “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

Wind is blowing pollution from a coal burning power plant.

Now, as the use of fossil fuels spreads through the world, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is skyrocketing — we’re now well over 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Fossil fuel companies are taking millions of years’ worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. In 2019, CO2 concentrations crossed 415 ppm in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 2.5 million years.

Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the most important step we can take to prevent further climate change.

Consequences of the way we eat on climate change

At the same time, the rapid growth in demand for animal-based agriculture by wealthier countries has seen other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide rapidly rise. The contribution of agriculture causes about 15% of global emissions. 

The way we currently eat is damaging both humans and the planet, and we have to act before it’s too late. One might think that we cannot do a lot about this because we all need to eat food. But we could feed more people while drastically reducing emissions and land-use caused by food.

Soy beans for animal feed

Animal products are especially harmful to our climate

So what is causing the environmental footprint of food to be so large? By rule of thumb animal products usually cause more greenhouse gasses than plants. This is because additionally to keeping the animals you also need to grow plants to feed them. This results in much higher emissions than just eating the plants directly. Every day forests are cut down to grow animal feed and create new grazing land. Beef and dairy products are especially bad for the climate because cows produce large amounts of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

Greenhouse gas emissions per 1000 kilocalories

Beef (beef herd) 36.44 kg

Beef (dairy herd) 12.2 kg

Fish (farmed) 7.61 kg

Cheese 6.17 kg

Pig meat 5.15 kg

Eggs 3.24 kg

Rice 1.21 kg

Oatmeal 0.95 kg

Potatoes 0.63 kg

Nuts 0.07 kg

As countries became more wealthy their meat consumption also increased drastically. According to research by Greenpeace the EU is currently spending around 71% of its farmland to feed livestock which is only possible because animal agriculture is subsidized with over € 28 billion per year. 

As seen in the graph below we can drastically lower the carbon footprint of food by eating a vegan or vegetarian diet. But even lowering meat and dairy products can have a great impact and at scale can be more effective than a few people going vegan. Currently a diet harmful to the climate is incentivized more than a climate friendly diet. 

Average daily CO2e-emissions of different diets:

Meat lover: 7.19 kg CO2e / day

Low meat diet: 4.67 kg CO2e / day

Vegetarian: 3.81 kg CO2e / day

Vegan: 2.89 kg CO2e / day

Lab-grown meat could be a game changer

In addition to improving our current ways of producing food there are also some innovative and potentially game-changing solutions that think out of the box. One example that could have a huge impact is lab-grown meat.

Lab grown meat

Lab-grown meat is a real animal muscle being grown without having to grow the animal around it. While it sounds a bit weird at first producing it on large scale would allow us to stop wasting land and energy and forcing animals to grow up in horrible conditions while still being able to eat a product that is exactly the same as meat from an animal. Just recently the Singapore Food Agency was the first authority to approve a lab-grown meat product as safe for market While lab-grown meat will be much more expensive when it starts being sold (likely in 2021) the price will rapidly decrease as larger amounts are produced and more competition enters the market. According to GCFGlobal Lab grown meat is significantly more climate-friendly as it requires 45% less energy, 99% less land use, and produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

For more info on Lab grown meat you can listen to Bruce Friedrich podcast.

https://pca.st/episode/3a713cf1-699d-4354-9e51-11cdee1b9114

Plant based meat

“A few years ago, the base of most plant-based burgers was vegetables, oat, or beans. Now, with plant-based foods gaining more popularity, there are many more options. Two of the most popular brands, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, utilize pea protein or soy protein concentrate in their burgers, both of which closely mimic the texture and taste of real beef,” says Rhyan Geiger, RDN, a registered dietitian. 

Alternative meats have skyrocketed in popularity due to a rise in overall awareness about meat’s impact on the environment and overall health.

If every American replaced all beef, chicken, and pork in their diet with a vegetarian option, that would save 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — or roughly Ohio’s entire yearly emissions. Decreasing animal product consumption also prevents water scarcity as more than 50% of Americans’ freshwater use is for livestock production. 

For more info on plant based meat please visit our extensive Health Hacks.

We need scalable solution to reduce emissions from food in time

Making changes in our personal life makes a difference but we don’t have time to wait for a cultural change of behavior to happen. We need to get active beyond the scope of our personal lives and support innovative climate solutions. Only by spreading the most effective solutions we have a chance to stay under 1.5 °C temperature change by 2030.

Let’s work together on fixing our planet!