Resources

Why You Are Likely Dehydrated…

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Let’s talk water and hydration! Did you know that most Americans are living in a state of constant dehydration?! Not only do caffeinated beverages, including energy drinks and sodas, make up a disproportionate amount of our fluid intake, they are diuretics. Fun (geeky) fact: I always thought that a diuretic just made you urinate more, and therefore made you less hydrated. While this is true, did you know it’s because it slows the reabsorption of water by the kidneys? So essentially, what would normally be moving back into your bloodstream, is instead excreted (via urine). I found that pretty interesting.

SOFT DRINKS

PSA on soda – remember when we discussed the role of minerals on the last post, and how proper digestion is critical to proper absorption of minerals? Well, the phosphoric acid in soda impedes the production of stomach acid (HCl) which impacts the absorption of calcium! Therefore, chronic soda drinkers could severely impact their long-term bone health. Time to switch to sparkling water!

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SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION

Given that water makes up 55-60% of our total body mass, I’d say its pretty darn important! And a drop of only 2% can cause early signs of dehydration. Early signs include:

  • Fatigue (most common symptom)
  • Thirst
  • Dry Mouth
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Dark urine


If this deficiency is chronic, it can lead to a host of health issues like:

  • Heart burn
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation
  • Colitis
  • Exercise induced asthma
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ROLES OF WATER

If you want to feel (and look) your best, water is your BFF! Did you regularly experience aches and pains in your body or just feel tired all of the time? Try increasing your water intake. It really could be just that simple! As related to physical activity, water cushions our bones and joints – its actually like lubricant for your joints, prevents tissues from sticking (dehydration actually makes you less flexible), and even regulates your body temperature. These are all key components to performing at your sport or just generally feeling like a rock star.

HOW MUCH

There are a number of formulas that can be used to determine your necessary water intake. Many people use the ‘drink ½ your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water’. This is a pretty good quick guide. Keep in mind that many conditions affect your water needs. How much you exercise, age, pregnancy and lactation, and medications consumed. Here is one guideline called Adequate Intake or AI:

https://www.nal.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fnic_uploads/water_full_report.pdf

For physically active folks, there are some additional guidelines I’d like to cover. The American College of Sports Medicine has guidelines for intake which I have summarized below. These are for males, so keep in mind that females will need slightly less. Intake will also depend on the length and exertion of the activity. For longer activities, or if you have sweated a great deal, you should add electrolytes to your water because water alone cannot fully hydrate you. Alternatively, you could add a more high quality sea salt to your recovery meal.

WHEN AND HOW TO GET IN YOUR WATER

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  • Start your day with a glass of water.
    I like to squeeze ¼ of a lemon and a pinch of sea salt to mine. It’s a great way tostart the day off!
  • Drink at the first sign of thirst.
    Or if your tired, tense, had a headache or can’t concentrate.
  • Drink more if your urine is dark.
    You want it to be light yellow or straw colored. Note that vitamins can often darken urine, this does not mean you are dehydrated.
  • Drink before, during and after physical activity.
    Use the guidelines above as a starting point

IN SUMMARY

Unfortunately, most people are not able to recognize signs of dehydration. Our modern lifestyles are so full of distractions that its easy to forget to drink. Try carrying a nice glass or stainless-steel bottle with you everywhere you go – in the car, in meetings, at your desk. This is a great way to ensure you always have it on hand and it’s a great reminder to sip throughout the day.

For more support in your efforts to improve hydration click here!: Let’s work together!

Resources

Mineral Balance For Performance and Recovery

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So far, we have discussed a number of topics including digestion, blood sugar regulation, and fatty acids. Today I want to talk all about minerals and why they are so important. They are always important, but as we approach summer, they become crucial to sports performance. Let’s start with the basics – what are minerals?

Minerals are broken up into Major and Minor Minerals, based on their levels in the body. The Major minerals include Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, and Sodium. Calcium is the most abundant in the body amounting to 40% of the total mineral mass (only 1.5% of total body mass). Having balanced mineral levels are key for everyone, but they are particularly important for physically active adults. Too much or too little can really throw your entire system off!

The simplified mineral interaction chart below shows how some minerals interact with each other. Though this looks complicated, let me explain how to read it. If a mineral has an arrow pointing to another mineral, it means a deficiency of that mineral (or interference with its metabolism) may be caused by an excess of the mineral from where the arrow originates. And some pairs work in both directions – such as magnesium and calcium. If you have too much calcium, you may not be absorbing the magnesium you are consuming and vice versa.

Minerals serve a number of roles including: contracting and relaxing muscles, maintaining proper nerve function, regulating tissue growth and providing functional and structural support (think strong bones here).

An example of a mineral imbalance would be when an athlete gets leg cramps during short high-intensity or endurance type workouts or events. Without the proper balance of calcium and magnesium, this can happen easily since calcium regulates muscle contraction and magnesium regulates the muscle relaxing.

Even the microminerals can have a big impact on how you feel. For example, if you’re looking for peak performance (or just want to feel your best), you need to have proper levels of iodine. Iodine is essential in the production of thyroid hormone, which affects everything from metabolism to sexual hormones. Iodine is also key in nerve and bone formation which affects muscle memory and recovery.

Aside from performance improvements through better mineral balance, minerals directly affect your immune system. For example, most people are aware that zinc can support the immune system, but did you know that zinc is also important in the creation of stomach acid?! Since minerals are essential cofactors in creating enzymes which then convert fatty acids into prostaglandins (inflammatory regulators) – you can better understand why proper digestion is key. Isn’t it amazing how everything is truly connected in our bodies! Psst…If you haven’t been reading along, my last post on fatty acids discussed prostaglandins and how important they are for managing inflammation.

So now you might be wondering, “How do I balance my minerals? Do I take a supplement?” The short answer is – “It depends”. Many Functional Practitioners and some M.D.s will run tests for vitamin and mineral levels. If you have a known deficiency, talk to your Doctor or Practitioner about supplementing. Regardless of your mineral status, the best way to get your minerals is through your food. This is why variety matters! Eat all different colors of veggies, types of meat and seafood, and a variety of leafy greens. This will give you a full spectrum of minerals from your food.

Mineral rich foods include:

  • Shellfish
  • Cruciferous veggies (kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, arugula, etc.)
  • organ meats (try making a chicken liver pate!)
  • Eggs ( WITH the yolks!)
  • Avocados (more potassium than a banana)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fatty fish (sardines, herring, salmon)
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And if you are going to hit a hard workout, you should consider adding electrolytes to your water. A simple pinch of high-quality sea salt is the cheapest method and is just as effective as the $20 sports electrolyte powder without the added sugar or sweeteners. (Note – there are some decent ones on the market now DM me for some recommendations)

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Remember though that digestion is Queen in this cascade and if your digestion is not functioning properly, you may not be absorbing the minerals you are eating. It all starts with digestion!

Something else to look at is if any prescription or over the counter medications could be causing deficiencies of some minerals. This is very common, so ask your Pharmacist or Doctor about this when you start any new meds. And finally, times of high stress can also cause depletions, and some minerals are more prone to depletion from stress than others. Magnesium is a big one that is depleted with stress (physical and emotional). This is where supplementation can help support your system. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can also help evaluate ways to help you functionally support your body through food and/or supplements. If this is a concern for you, let’s talk. I’m here to help!

For more support in your efforts to improve digestion and mineral balance: Let’s work together!

Resources

Still Struggling with your New Year’s Goals?

I promise I’m working on a new recipe post and its coming soon! But Im just taking a minute to promote my Nutritional Therapy Practicioner (NTP) services. 🙂 Last year I was certified through the Nutritional Therapy Association as an NTP and have slowly been taking on 1-on-1 clients. It is something I truly enjoy!

If you are feeling sluggish or less energetic than you used to…you get moody when you don’t eat every 2-3 hours, or you are you struggling to get through your workouts and/or recover from them…let’s talk! As a former semi-pro cyclist, and someone who has struggled as well, I feel your pain! But trust me when I say, its possible to feel optimal again!

female cyclists
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I use a whole-food based approach to wellness and work with clients to find the root cause of their struggles and find a bio-individualized solution. I spend hours (literally) digging into your health history, current symptoms, nutrition gaps, and supplement needs. I can make supplement recommendations and I always check counter-indications for any medications or health conditions. We deep dive and collaborate to identify short-term goals to slowly step you into your long-term goals. Here is what my process looks like for the “Performance Package” which I recommend for the best deep dive to set you up for long-term success!

  • I send you a detailed Health History Questionnaire, Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire, and 7-day Food and Mood Journal to fill out.
  • We schedule a 1-on-1 virtual 90-minute meeting to review any questions I have on your paperwork. During this call we also collaborate on long- and short-term goal creation.
  • After the meeting I send a detailed recommendation form that lists the agreed upon steps to reach your short-term goals. I include resources for any products we discuss and/or recipes and food recommendations as well as any lifestyle recommendations.
  • If desired, I also make supplement recommendations.
  • I provide ongoing email/text support and accountability. I usually touch base once a week to make sure you have the tools to keep you on track.
  • Every 4 weeks we will meet for 45 mins to review how you are doing and add more/different short-term goals to keep you moving forward!

I am currently running a promotion of 50% off for the next 3 clients through the end of March 2021! See all of the details on my Work With Me page. But here is a quick summary of offerings. If you don’t see a package that is right for you, please reach out so we can find something that works better for your needs!

fatty acids in nuts
Resources

Why Fat is so Crucial to Your Health and Recovery

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Let’s talk dietary fat, yep the fats we eat. For decades the media has demonized fat, telling us that too much fat would give us a heart attack and make us gain weight. Well, it turns out they based this on limited studies and inaccurate statistics. The truth is that processed carbs are the bigger player here! But this post is not addressing processed carbs (I’ll save that for a later post). In this post I’m going to explain why our body actually needs fat in order to properly recover from hard workouts, optimize our metabolism, hormones, and our overall health.

Fats play a number of roles in the body, but here are three key roles that I think are most applicable to active adults:

  • Fats provide a source of energy, especially for endurance type (low heart rate) exercise
  • Fats act as a building block for cell membranes and hormones which help to regulate inflammation
  • Fats aid in absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K – all which support immune function

There are three types of fatty acids – saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – and we need all types, yes, even the saturated fats! In fact, saturated fats should be around 30% of total fat intake. Monounsaturated fats (Omega 9’s) should be the highest consumed at ~60%. And Polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 & 6) should be around 10% of total intake. Saturated fats are those mostly found in animal fats as well as tropical oils. Monounsaturated fats are avocado and extra virgin olive oil as well as nuts like almonds, cashews, and pecans.

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Despite (ideally) being the smallest percentage of our total fats, polyunsaturated fats deserve a little more attention. These fats are often identified as Omega-6 or Omega-3 fatty acids and the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should ideally be consumed in a 2:1 ratio. Unfortunately, in today’s world of processed foods and inflammatory oils, we can see ratios as high as 20:1! Read those labels on your crackers, cookies, cereals, and even “healthy” products. So many are using canola, soy, or corn oils – and its actually quite hard to avoid them if not making a conscious effort. Corn oil has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 46:1!!! Remember, your average ratio should be 2:1! Read on to understand why this is so important…

Some Omega 6 & 3 fatty acids are actually good for you. Here are some examples of healthy Omega 3 and 6 oils:

  • Omega-6: sunflower oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil
  • Omega-3: fish oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts or oil, pumpkin seeds or oil

These oils should be produced from organic sources and cold pressed; not by using high-heat industrial processing which cause these oils to go rancid before they even hit the grocery store shelves.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

A balance of all three fatty acids help to control inflammation throughout your body because they are all precursors to the production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. There are two anti-inflammatory and one inflammatory prostaglandin, and you need all three to heal from various stress and injuries since they control inflammatory function.

Its worth noting that in order for fats to be properly converted into these important prostaglandins and to do their job, your digestion, liver, and enzymatic function all need to be working properly. This is why my last post was dedicated to proper digestion.

Inflammation is something that I think most physically active folks understand well. Anyone ever feel sore after a hard workout?! That’s the body inflaming an overworked area to shuttle more blood flow there to allow for healing to happen faster. After the initial inflammation, the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins come in to help calm the system. This is the cycle of healing.

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So you are probably wondering where to start? If you are like many who think the low-fat diet is the answer to health, but you are still struggling to lose weight and feel your best, its time to try something old. Yes, I said old, because this is going back to a more ancestral approach to eating which utilizes a mix of fats in the diet!

Here are a few easy ways to incorporate some healthy fats into your meals without following recipes or meal plans:

  • If you typically steam veggies, rub them with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or melted tallow and sprinkle with salt – roast them in the oven at 375F until lightly browned and tender
  • Opt for chicken thighs over chicken breasts (skin-on is even better)
  • Make your own salad dressings or mayo using avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • Fry your eggs in grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Snack on nuts and seeds

Try eating this way and see if you feel any different. Do you feel satisfied for longer after a meal? Do you feel like you recover faster after big workouts? How is your mood and digestion?

Speaking of digestion, be sure to start slow. If you eat a very low-fat diet right now, your body will need some time to adjust, so take baby steps. But I think you will find yourself reaching for those frequent snacks less often and will feel more balanced!

Need more support in your efforts to improve digestion and get more fat? Let’s work together!

blood sugar regulation
Resources

Why is Blood Sugar Regulation so Important to My Health?

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This is part 2 of a series of educational nutrition topics that I’m putting together. This time, we are talking blood sugar regulation. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason people have losing weight and keeping it off!

In the past few years, as low carb diets have gained in popularity, blood sugar regulation has gotten more attention. I think this is in part because more of the general population have realized just what a big deal it is to our overall health and weight loss goals. It seems crazy that people can drop hundreds of pounds and heal their bodies in numerous ways all through better blood sugar regulation! It just goes to show how powerful this particular function is in bringing our bodies back to hemostasis (balance).

Have you ever wondered what parts of the body make this magic happen the way it should? If so, read on because its about to get a little nerdy! First, the brain and central nervous regulate our blood sugar using some key organ systems that can be remembered using the acronym “PAALS”. This stands for pancreas, adrenal glands, adipose tissue, liver, and skeletal muscle. The part of the brain that starts the communication chain related to blood sugar is the hypothalamus which is the control center for our autonomic nervous system (unconscious body functions) . The hypothalamus communicates with another part of the brain called the pituitary. The pituitary is often referred to as the “master gland” (medicinenet.com) since it produces hormones and sends messages to other glands in the body as well as the PAALS. The graphic below does a great job of summarizing the various functions of the PAALS and giving you a visual as I talk through the rest of the organs.

NTA (2020)

The pituitary communicates with the pancreas in regulating the creation of two key blood sugar hormones: insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar levels are too high, the pancreas releases insulin which lets glucose and fat into our cells to store the excess energy. When blood sugar is too low, it releases glucagon which lets glucose and fat out of our cells to release stored energy for the body to use. As a side note, on top of this critical function, the pancreas also performs functions to aid in digestion (secreting pancreatic juice and digestive enzymes).

On to the 1st “A” of the PAALS – the adrenal glands. These little glands are responsible for producing a number of hormones. Most notably are epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, as well as a few others like our sex hormones. In relation to blood sugar regulation, cortisol is a key player. When blood sugar gets too low (or if stress is high) the adrenals release cortisol, a steroid hormone. Cortisol acts in much the same way as epinephrine but with a slower response time. Epinephrine is that flight or fight hormone that triggers when you are under acute stress – folks like to use the ‘chased by a tiger’ analogy because it’s a good one. When epinephrine is released it stimulates glycogenolysis, lipolysis, and gluconeogenesis in the liver. These are all big words to say that your body pulls out stored glucose from your cells, and creates glucose from non-carbohydrate sources into energy in order to prepare your body to run FAST!  Well, its crazy to think, but when your blood sugar drops, your body sees this as a similar type of stress and therefore it triggers the same processes.  As blood sugar rises back up, signals are sent back to the hypothalamus and pituitary to regulate and back off the release of these hormones.

The adipose tissue plays a part in blood sugar regulation as well by secreting a number of hormones, along with a key hunger signaling hormone – leptin. Leptin hinders hunger signals (higher leptin means less cravings). If you want higher leptin levels and fewer cravings, blood sugar regulation is key!

Finally, the skeletal muscles help regulate blood sugar a few key ways. When the body receives excess glucose (you eat too much sugar or carbohydrates than you are burning), in order to prevent high blood sugar, the body converts the glucose into glycogen and then stores it in either the liver or your muscles. On the flip side, when you blood sugar is low, your body can pull the stored glycogen from the muscles and convert it back to glucose to be used for energy. This is why you can tolerate more glucose when exercising, because your body is utilizing it right away. If you eat a bunch of sugar and then sit at your desk, its going to get stored. If this is a chronic scenario, it can lead to a host of health issues.

As you can see, the PAALS are a symphony of organs and glands which all work in harmony to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. By balancing your intake of all of the macronutrients, you can keep your blood sugar more even so if you graphed it, it would look more like rolling foothills and not the peaks and valleys of a mountain pass! Every time your body sees those high peaks (spikes) in blood sugar, it sees it as a stressor and your hormones react accordingly. Over time this stresses your HPA axis and can cause dysregulation. This is why finding a macro balance that feels good to your body is key to long term health.

If you want to learn more, Im currently taking clients and I’d love to help you with your nutrition goals! See my Work With Me Page for more information!