Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Carrot Cake Protein Balls

In honor of National Carrot Cake Day tomorrow and CNC’s 9th blog birthday, it’s only fitting that I share a Carrot Cake Protein Ball recipe! 🙂 I actually created it for an Instagram takeover with Whole Foods Market Hingham a few weeks ago, so you might have seen it already, but, if not, I think you’re really going to love it!

Carrot Cake Protein Balls 2

These Carrot Cake Protein Balls taste just like the real deal, but they’re made without flour, so they’re naturally gluten-free. They’re also loaded with protein and healthy fats, thanks to a serving of white chia seeds. If carrot cake is your thing, you will LOVE these protein balls! Enjoy!

Carrot Cake Protein Balls

Carrot Cake Protein Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder of your choice (I used SFH)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp white chia seeds

Directions: Combine ingredients in a food processor. Roll batter into 1-inch balls. Store protein balls in the refrigerator or freezer.

Makes 15 balls

Macros (per ball): P 4 C 9 F 1

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Where Do I Start? The Big Picture on Tackling Primal Challenges

Inline_Where_Do_I_Start-2Earlier this month, a reader posed a fantastic question that prompted today’s post. It was long, so I’ll give the choice bits rather than quote the entire thing:

Where do I start? I’d be interested in seeing your opinion on the relative impact of various primal lifestyle changes… Eating “clean” would be a 10, etc… but what about subtler things like sprinting, IF, quality sleep, sunlight, and play… So I guess I’m asking you to write on a 30,000ft level, how all these things interplay and what their relative contributions are to overall wellness.

Where does one start indeed?

Most people familiar with the Primal Blueprint are also familiar with the pecking order within each Primal law. I’m sure the reader is one of them. If you’re not, I’ll give a couple examples.

The foundation of the Primal Blueprint way of eating is:

  1. Eliminating grains, especially gluten grains.
  2. Eliminating processed sugar and excess carbs (carbs you haven’t earned through physical activity/pregnancy/nursing/etc.).
  3. Eliminating processed seed oils high in omega-6 PUFAs.

Do those three things, and you’re most of the way there. You can tinker around the edges, sourcing only grass-fed meat, giving up nightshades for a spell to see how it affects you, forgoing dairy, eating liver once a week, eating lots of colorful fruits and veggies—but doing the first three will usually get you the most benefits. And you’ll probably start doing the other things naturally.

The PB way of training can be boiled down to:

  1. Lift heavy things.
  2. Move frequently at a slow pace (walk, hike, low-level aerobic activity).
  3. Run (or bike/row) really fast once in awhile.

You can try different movement systems, go high-volume/low-intensity or high-intensity/low-volume. You can try CrossFit, or MovNat, or P90x, or strongman, or Olympic lifting. But the basic prescription is the most important.

But is there also a pecking order to heed when choosing which Primal Blueprint lifestyle intervention to tackle first? Should you do diet, exercise, sleep, or any of the others before the rest?

Okay, outlandish scenario time. Guy holding a gun to your head says “Choose one Primal Blueprint lifestyle intervention to enact. Only one.”

What do you choose?

That depends where you’re starting.

For me, it was a tossup between diet and training. The two were inextricably linked. I accumulated a ton of mileage and wear and tear thanks to the gargantuan infusions of grain-based glucose, which allowed me to keep up my excessive training while increasing its inflammatory effects. When I changed, I dropped my training volume and the carbohydrate-based eating style. They begat each other. They both had to go.

After that, my stress resilience improved (less training left more in the tank to deal with life’s trials and lowered my cortisol), and I started sleeping better (fewer late night training sessions and early morning wake-ups, plus not being in “go go go” mode all the time). I suddenly had time to grow my businesses and devote attention to my personal relationships. I began playing more, actually enjoying the physical activity I now had time for. Everything else unfolded once I fixed my training and eating.

Say you only change your diet.

What happens if you adopt a Primal way of eating and start losing body fat but do little else? If you’re overweight or obese, your first step should be changing your diet. Not only will this help you lose body fat and weight, it will lead to improvements in other areas addressed by the PB.

  • Your sleep gets better. Low-carb diets tend to improve sleep in overweight and obese people.
  • You suddenly want to exercise. Losing weight also improves energy levels, so you actually feel like exercising. That’s much more effective than forcing a sluggish, overweight body to train when every natural impulse opposes movement. Weight loss also makes higher-impact training like sprints safer.
  • Avoiding junk food, grains, sugar, and seed oils might not directly reduce stress, but eliminating them eliminates many of the foods we binge on during stressful periods. They’re “off-limits” and thus harder to rationalize eating.

Say you only fix your sleep.

You get natural light during the day, avoid artificial after dark, wear those ugly orange goggles, toggle nightmode on your phone, and get in bed by 10 or 11 at the latest for a solid 7-8 hours. What will happen?

  • Your cravings will diminish. Junk food doesn’t look so appealing after a good night’s sleep. Eating healthily will get easier.
  • You won’t be so insulin-resistant. You’ll lose fat more easily and handle carbohydrates better.
  • You have more energy during the day, which translates into better productivity, better workouts, and a renewed zest for life.
  • Your cortisol levels drop. One bad night’s sleep increases cortisol levels; a string of nights with good sleep will do the opposite.

Not bad for a little extra sleep.

Say you decide to focus only on your exercise and leave everything else intact.

You start lifting 2-3x a week, running hill sprints, and walking 5-6 miles a day. What happens?

  • You get more insulin-sensitive. Training clears glycogen from the muscles, giving you an opening to eat some carbs and refill them without adverse impacts to insulin levels (and fat loss).
  • You build lean mass.
  • You increase fat oxidation. You become a fat-burning beast, with new and better-functioning mitochondria to boot.
  • And while people talk about out-exercising a bad diet, intending to use training as a free pass to eat whatever junk they want, I have a different experience. When i’m training really consistently and effectively, my cravings for junk vanish. It’s almost like I switch over into health mode, the training stimulus creating a desire for greater nutrient density to further my gains.
  • You’ll get more fresh air and sun. Particularly if you exercise outdoors.

The boring but true answer is that everything matters. Even the “small stuff” isn’t small stuff and affects the bigger stuff. And everyone can tackle multiple interventions simultaneously. No one has that proverbial gun to their head.

It sounds daunting. Overwhelming, even. Trust me, though: it’s the best part of the Primal approach.

The flip-side of everything affecting everything is that changing just a single aspect of Primal health reverberates through the rest of your lifestyle. Starting almost anywhere works, each intervention having a measurable impact on the other facets of Primal health.

But don’t stop there. Sleeping like a champ might allow you to only eat half the French fries you normally would, but imagine the results if you didn’t eat any of them. Training consistently can build muscle on any diet, but imagine the gains if you swapped breakfast cereal for bacon and eggs.

That’s it for today, folks. Now I’d love to hear from you. Where did you start on your Primal journey? What would you do differently, if anything?

Thanks for reading!

phc2_640x80

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Home Neat Home: Inbox Housekeeping

My inbox is as uncluttered as my kitchen counters, but it takes more effort to keep it that way! You might think I am going to recommend complicated tags and categories, but really I think keeping it simple is the best way to tackle email flow. Over the years I have created several hacks to help me manage the hundreds of emails that I get every day. Here are some of the basic ways I stay on top of emails so that when I go to bed at night my inbox looks like this:

*not a dramatization. a real life inbox was used in this demonstration! 

  1. Keep it empty. Your inbox is just that – an inbox. It’s not a storage vault. Don’t keep 1,000 read emails in your inbox. You need to be able to see what’s important and tackle it. If you’re saving tons of emails with things like future flight info or an address you will need in the future, you need to move that information to another space to store. Consider using the notepad on your computer or your Google Calendar to make the information pop up on the date you will need it.
  2. Keep it simple. Tags and categories only make it complicated and harder to find the things you need to respond to. I really have only two categories of emails: things I can respond to right now and things I need to address later. Any information I need to save I move to another area of my computer, as mentioned above, like notepad or my calendar.
  3. Unsubscribe. Reduce before you organize. It’s a tip that organizers across the globe are following, whether you’re talking about your kitchen drawers or your closet. If you want a neater inbox, reduce the number of emails you get. I unsubscribe from something nearly everyday. It is always annoying to click through, but I know the reward for each click is one less email tomorrow. If I need to know about a Pottery Barn sale, I’ll go to PotteryBarn.com. I don’t need an email to pester me.
  4. Snooze. When you’re out and about and check emails on your phone, you need a way to quickly sort through your emails. I either quickly respond (if it makes sense to do so on my phone), delete/archive because I have absorbed the information and decided it’s not important, or snooze for later by flagging and then archiving the email. It leaves my phone inbox and I am ready to receive and sort the next batch in a few hours. When I get back to my computer, I have all of the flagged emails waiting for me in a separate area called “Flagged” using the Gmail multiple inboxes feature. That’s the only category I use. (Learn more about multiple inboxes in this video I made years ago! Man, my inbox used to be so…colorful!)
  5. Check in a few times a day to minimize responding time. And finally, I rarely go to bed with emails in my inbox or even in my flagged area. To be honest, they just bother me too much! It’s like leaving dishes in the sink. Blame that on my type A personality. Unless I receive something late at night and know it needs some focused attention in the morning, I generally deal with everything over the course of the day. If I’m away from my desk all day long then that is usually not possible, but on a normal day it is. Also consider this: if an email is going to take you a really long time to respond to, why not just make a phone call instead? You’ll save yourself the typing time and you’ll be able to multitask, perhaps by calling the person on your walk home or while emptying the dishwasher (I realize this doesn’t work for all professional jobs, but it does in the context of my life).

So there you have it – a clutter free email system. I’m curious to know if any of you use similar techniques?

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A Biomechanical Analysis of the Squat: Valgus Collapse (Knees Caving In)

Written by: Kevin Cann

The knees caving in on the squat is a very common technical breakdown of the lift. It is also why the “knees out” cue is a very popular cue on the squat. How much do the knees caving in (valgus collapse) even matter? Does it increase our risk of injury or decrease our performance?

We typically only see valgus collapse on the squat. It is very rare we see it on a conventional deadlift, and those that pull sumo tend to have an easier time keeping the knees out on the deadlift than they do on the squat. Why is this?

A big difference between the squat and the deadlift is the eccentric portion. The squat has one, but the deadlift does not. We need to control gravity during the eccentric portion of the squat to give us the best chance of lifting the weight.

Gravity is pulling us into hip adduction and hip internal rotation. This is also what happens when we see the knees caving in. We need to counter this with hip abduction and hip external rotation. This is done by our glute medius along with some other muscles of the hip.

gluteals-and-piriformis

The problem with this is that the glute medius tends to be weak in a lot of people because we sit down for long periods of the day. At the bottom of the squat, the glute medius has the least amount of leverage to abduct and externally rotate the hip. However, with a little bit of internal rotation, they regain some leverage.

This may seem great, but regaining leverage comes at a cost. The internal rotation at the hip actually gives our glute max less leverage to extend the hip. However, this may not be a big deal biomechanically and there may be a reason why we see some of the best squatters on the planet demonstrate a valgus twitch when they squat.

Our adductor magnus is the largest of the hip adductor group. It is the second largest muscle in the human body behind the glute max. The adductor magnus has a strong hip extension moment arm. The adductor magnus has an even stronger hip extension moment arm than glute max when the hips are flexed. That is right, in the bottom of the squat the adductors have more leverage to extend the hips than the glutes.

Adductor Magnus

They also have more leverage in this position than the hamstrings. Remember from a previous article that a hard contraction from the hamstrings at full depth makes it harder on the quads to extend the knee. The adductor magnus only crosses the one joint, making it more effective because there is no cost associated with contracting it.

When we see the valgus twitch we may just be seeing the adductor magnus acting as the primary hip extensor over the glute max. Oftentimes people will attempt to make their squat stance narrower to fix this issue. However, research doesn’t agree with this change.

Studies have looked at stance width, and even wearing a belt for a squat, and effect on adductor magnus activation. Neither stance width nor wearing a belt changed the activation of the adductor magnus. This makes sense, as the adductor magnus does not cross from one hip to the next. Perceived tightness in the adductors is usually caused by some type of motor control issue and not a short and tight issue.

There are some anatomical variations that make the valgus collapse more prevalent. Firstly, being female makes keeping your knees out more difficult. This is due to the increased Q angle. The Q angle is the measurement between the anterior superior iliac crest (ASIS) and the patella tendon. The greater the angle, the more difficult it is to stabilize the knee joint. This is why women are more prone to knee injuries than men.

Pelvic width and how the femur sits in the acetabulum of the pelvis also can make our ability to keep the knees out more difficult. There is nothing you can do to correct these anatomical variations. You just need to focus harder on strengthening the important musculature that we have mentioned.

To correct this valgus twitch we need to strengthen the glutes in hip flexion. Exercises like good mornings and reverse hypers are great for this. Also strengthening glute medius in this position is important as well. I have added in clamshells with various degrees of hip flexion into my warmups as well as the warmups of a few of my lifters.

You may be wondering if this valgus twitch is dangerous. In most cases a little valgus twitch is not dangerous. In order for injury risk to increase with valgus collapse we need the knee to collapse inward further than the hip. This is where risk of ACL injury increases.

This is why assessing jump landing in athletes is important to gauge injury risk. A famous example is Robert Griffin III during the NFL combine. Upon landing from a broad jump he experienced significant valgus collapse. He then suffered some major knee injuries in the NFL.

Here is a still frame of his landing. You can see the knees in valgus collapse beyond his hip

2012+NFL+Combine+lzDpiFBKoEnl

This is also why I believe that squats are important for knee health. There are still people out there that believe that squatting is bad for their knees. This could not be further from the truth. I would argue that not squatting is bad for knees.

Every time that our foot lands we need to counter gravity pulling us into hip adduction and hip internal rotation. This increases by 4-6 times our bodyweight when we run. This is even more important to know as a female because of the greater Q angle. Those forces are more difficult for females to control.

Getting stronger in the squat can help teach us to counter gravity and keep us safe during other activities. Those coaches that do not squat with their athletes are missing a critically important piece to keeping them resilient to injury.

This does not have to be a bar on the back and squatting. However, progressively loading some variation of the squat is very important to preventing knee injuries. What if someone already has a current knee injury?

I still stand by my decision to squat. We can change the mechanics a bit to make it a little more knee friendly. Box squats are one way. Really pushing the hips back and keeping a vertical shin are a great way to limit shear force on the joint. Also, the box helps cue people to push their knees out over their toes.

We can limit depth on the squat to just above where the person experiences pain. 90 degrees of knee flexion puts the most stress on the knee joint. Raising the squat a tad higher than this can help someone squat pain free. Over time lower the squat to strengthen the knee through the full range of motion. Let pain be the guide here.

Valgus twitching is not inherently dangerous, however, it may be a sign that the adductors are stronger than the glutes at extending the hips in hip flexion. Strengthening the glutes will add pounds to the squat and help increase overall muscle mass and resiliency to injury. If your knees are caving in past your hips you are at a higher risk of injury. Learning to squat properly and strengthening the pattern can help alleviate those risks. If you have knee pain currently, find a squat variation that is pain free and train it. This is the fastest way to a healthier knee joint.

References:

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Your Guide To Cabbage

Your Guide To Cabbage

CABBAGE IN THE KITCHEN
Cabbage is fabulous stuff. If you aren’t a fan, I’d be willing to bet you’ve never had it cooked properly. Honestly, this lovely veggie is delicious in the right recipes.… Read more →



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