Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Join Me and Melissa Hartwig This Saturday

expowest_meetAre you headed to the Expo West this weekend? Join me this Saturday, March 11th, from 12:00-1:00 P.M. PST when I’m teaming up with my friend, Melissa Hartwig of Whole30®, for a full hour of Meet and Greet (booth H1013). And just to add to the fun, the first 50 people who show up will walk away with a free Primal Kitchen® Whole30® Approved item.

And no worries if you can’t make it to the Expo. Join Melissa and I on the Primal Kitchen Facebook page for a Facebook Live chat at 11:45 A.M. PST this Saturday, when we’ll talk about the show and my brand new Whole30® Approved products—Egg-Free Mayo as well as Green Goddess and Caesar Dressings.  You won’t want to miss it.

I’ll look forward to meeting the Primal crowd this Saturday. Grok on, everybody!

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10 Uncommon Exercises For Maintaining Strength, Agility, and Power With Age

Inline_Moves_AgeThe older you get, the more important strength, agility, power, and lean mass become—and the greater the risk of their decline. This isn’t how most people approach old age. They expect strength and all the other trappings of physical capacity to degenerate, and so they do. It’s what happens all around us, every day. Seniors are feeble, right?

The weight room is scary for a lot of people. Hell, even able-bodied youngsters in the prime of their lives shy away from lifting heavy things. So, first things first: Seniors should definitely strength train. If you’re unsure of your form and capabilities, find a trainer who works with older folks and ensure your safety. Just get out there.

But it’s not the only way. If, for whatever reason, you can’t or won’t do traditional strength training, or you just want to diversify your training arsenal, I’ve come up with several uncommon exercises and activities to help you stay strong, agile, fit, and powerful as you age.

Let’s go:

Taking the Stairs

Stair climbing performance is a powerful predictor of resilience in the elderly—how well they bounce back from health incidents. In older adults undergoing abdominal surgery, stair climbing performance is the single best predictor of peri-operative complications. Same goes for postoperative cardiopulmonary complications, complications following lung cancer surgery, and many others.

Unlike some other, more isolated performance tests used to indicate health or mortality risk (like walking speed or handgrip strength) stair walking is a robust, compound movement that requires coordination, balance, and strong  glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Training the stairs will likely transfer over to the health conditions it associates with, whereas increasing grip strength or forcing yourself to walk faster probably doesn’t.

In chronic stroke patients, regular stair training (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks) improved postural control and balance.

You can start by taking the stairs whenever possible. Skip the elevator. And if you get overly tired with a few flights to go, you can hop over to the elevator and finish out your ascent.

Consider adding weight when regular stairs get too easy.

Dancing

Dancing isn’t just fun. It can be a potent training tool, too. And everything seems to work. Whether it’s Turkish folk, traditional Thai dance, Scottish country dance, or line dancing, dancing can really incease functional capacity and even strength in older adults.

It may even build muscle. An 8-week ballroom dancing regimen led to minor leg hypertrophy in older women.

There are tons of ways to incorporate dance. Take a class and learn to really dance. Put on your favorite playlist in the morning and rock out in your kitchen (that’s my favorite). Play one of the motion-sensing dancing video games with a grateful child.

Jumping

For most older people, jumping is a huge hurdle. Many have long ago accepted that they’ll no longer jump. Steps become looming obstacles. The prospect of jumping up onto, over, or—heaven forbid—down from objects is difficult to fathom when you’re worried about breaking or tearing something.

Turns out that facing those fears and engaging in jump training can actually improve strength and functional capacity (rising from a chair) in elderly women.

Hopping

It really doesn’t take very much, especially if your starting place is little to no exercise. Hopping in place, just enough to leave the ground, for 20-40 reps is enough to strengthen elderly bone and muscle while improving balance and general agility. I’m serious, by the way: not even an inch off the ground works. Just take a look at this video for a visual. Grandma/pa can absolutely handle that.

An 11-week bilateral hopping program with progressive intensity improved neuromuscular function in older men, allowing them to jump higher and absorb impact more efficiently.

Tai Chi

Go to a park at 6:30 A.M. in any city with a sizable Chinese population and you’ll probably see dozens of senior citizens doing tai chi. It’s beauitful to watch, and regular practitioners of tai chi have stronger legs and more muscle endurance than non-practitioners, but that doesn’t mean the tai chi is responsible. Can it build strength?

Yes. Tai chi has been shown to prevent age-related declines in lower limb strength in older men, improve bone density and muscle strength in older women, and increase muscle strength and torque in older men.

That said, tai chi is a subtle way to train. Improvements accumulate across months, not days or weeks. If you want to use tai chi to get stronger, you’d better be in it for the long haul.

Superslow Training

Superslow training actually began as a safe way to treat osteoporosis in elderly women, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: lifting and lowering weights at an extremely slow, deliberate pace. The concentric portion (lifting) should take around ten seconds, and the eccentric portion (lowering) should take four.

The definitive book on the subject is Dr. Doug McGuff’s Body By Science. Several years ago, he penned a guest post for the blog that serves as a great introduction to superslow training. Frankly, it’s probably enough to get most people started. I also came up with a quick (well, not too quick) bodyweight workout using superslow principles.

Superfast Training

If you feel comfortable with your lifts, superfast resistance training is another option for older people. It’s also what it sounds like: moving the weight as fast as you can while maintaining good form and crisp technique (don’t “throw” or heave the weight).

In one recent study of older women, both superfast and superslow resistance training improved functional capacity, muscle performance, and quality of life, but superfast resistance training produced greater improvements in muscle power and functional capacity.

Medicine Ball Slams and Throws

Medicine balls slams are fun to do. They’re hard, but because you’re slamming a sturdy sphere into the ground with all your might, you forget the work and focus on the sensation. Older folks don’t really get many opportunities to express the full brunt of their power like that. They should. It’s liberating (I’ve seen it happen), and just a single session of medicine ball training improves postural control, balance, and stability.

It’s a good strength-building workout for them. As part of a training regimen that including a little strength training and jumping, high speed medicine ball training (with a 1.5 kg ball) increased muscle strength and power in elderly women.

Head over to Amazon and pick up a basic medicine ball for under $30.

Hill Sprints

I know, I know. I sound crazy. Hear me out.

I’ve always recommended hill sprints over flat sprints for people with bad knees because hills are easier on the joints. When you run uphill, you hit the ground more softly and you don’t “fall” as far. I maintain that all else being equal, hill sprints are safer for older adults than flat sprints.

Sprinting is relative, remember. I’ve taken older folks out to hills, and their “sprints” might look like fast walks or quick jogs. The key is going as hard as you can as safely as you can.

Don’t do it very often. Sprints require a lot of recovery time. Once a week is enough to improve muscle power in older men.

Seniors who do manage to make sprinting work will probably enjoy stronger bones.

And although this isn’t “strength” or “fitness,” per se, sprinting seems to counteract the damaging effect of aging on glucose regulation.

Play Sports

Playing sports. Most sports are dynamic, meaning you’ll have to react, respond, and move through multiple spatiotemporal planes and domains. That makes sports somewhat risky, but it also means they can build general physical adeptness like few other activities.

Research supports the idea of older folks playing sports, particularly soccer. For example, soccer training improved basically every health and fitness biomarker they measured in middle-aged women. A year of soccer improved blood pressure, fat mass, bone density, sprint time, endurance, and blood lipids in mildly hypertensive middle-aged women.

I see no reason seniors wouldn’t be able to get similar benefits playing other sports. Raquetball, tennis, basketball, Ultimate frisbee all require—and train—quick movements, good hand-eye coordination, explosive power, and endurance.

After reading all this, if you’re still not sure how to get stronger as an older or aging person, I don’t know what to tell you. It all works. It’s all right there. Most of the exercises and activities I describe are downright fun, especially in the right company.

So, get out there and start doing them. Or tell someone you know and love who needs them to go do them.

What’d I miss, though? There’s always something. Older folks: how do you like to work out? Younger folks: have the older people in your life let themselves go, or do they model lifelong fitness (and maybe give you a run for your money)?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

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Secrets To Eating More Salads

Happy Registered Dietitian Day!!

Geez, that picture feels like forever ago, and why was I wearing a seashell necklace from the 90s?! Hahaha. It’s been seven years since I passed the RD exam, and even longer since I went back to school. Never would I have imagined that this is where I would end up when I set out on that path! I am thrilled to be dipping my toes back in the field with Designed To Fit Nutrition, and I’ve been loving helping clients find creative ways to enjoy real food while meeting their nutrition needs.

My goal with KERF has always been to answer the question “How do you eat real food?” Most people know the why and the what. If you asked 100 people on the street “What should you eat to be healthy?” I bet SALAD would be one of the top answers. I try to eat at least one salad every day. Sometimes it’s a big meal-sized bowl packed with all kinds of things, and other times it’s a simple side salad while I’m out, just trying to get something green in my dinner. And sometimes it’s blended into a smoothie! Greens (and all vegetables) should be the foundation of our diet, so here are a few ways to eat more of them.

secrets to eating more salads // katheats.com

Think outside of the salad box. When someone says “eat more salad”, I’m sure that the first thought of many people is a bland iceberg lettuce bowl with some gross prepared dressing. Maybe with a few mealy tomatoes and some croutons thrown in. The exact kind of “meal” that would leave you hungry 30 minutes later. Remember, salad doesn’t have to mean boring, and food bloggers will let you know that you can put anything atop of greens and make yourself a meal : )

Check out Brittany’s post on 12 meal-sized salads for lots of great ideas!

Have a well-stocked fridge. You are only as healthy as your fridge. It’s hard to have a great meal-sized salad for lunch if all you have in your fridge is wilted mixed greens. You’ve got to do a little bit of planning to make sure you have the right ingredients. Consider these prepared salads as quick toppers for your greens too: sardine salad, tuna salad, salmon salad, egg salad, chicken salad, lentil salad, hummus. Y’all know I love some leftovers over greens too ; )

Have a kick ass dressing already made. I happen to be super picky about bottled dressing. I had one Caesar dressing I loved from Whole Foods, but I can’t seem to find it where I used to buy it. They either moved it or it’s gone! That’s really it – anything shelf stable I find tastes too oniony or something. But the good news is that you can make your own dressing super fast. Or, if you’re on a roll, make it in advance! This is my all-time favorite creamy dressing, but most often I just go with some olive oil, lemon juice and honey drizzle, or even a drizzle of prepared pesto.

And here’s a fun little graphic I made years ago:

Garnish with a great rich topping. This is absolutely key for me. If I have a salad that just has greens and veggies, I am left feeling a little empty (unless it’s a side salad). In my opinion, great salads need a sprinkling of good stuff: cheese, avocado, nuts, croutons. Even roasted vegetables take it to the next level. So don’t assume that if you’re having a salad you have to skip the blue cheese crumbles. Just be mindful of how much you add.

Mix up your greens. As in, don’t always use mixed greens, which can get soooo blah. I tend to buy one type for a month, get sick of it and then switch things up. I go on kicks with arugula, kale, and crunchy romaine. Here are three of my favorite kale salad recipes: Easy Summer Massaged Greens, Tropical Kale Salad, Pesto Kale Salad.

Procure quick proteins. To really make your salad into a meal, you need some protein and fat to sustain you. Here’s a list of my go-to toppings:

  • Chicken
  • Shrimp
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Steak
  • Beans
  • Tuna
  • Fried egg
  • Cottage cheese
  • Veggie burger
  • Chicken sausage
  • Smoked Salmon

But, of course, this goes back to #2 – if you don’t have these in your fridge (and hopefully already prepared!) you’re outta luck. I am always planning my dinners so I can reserve a little extra in the fridge for lunch salads the next day. But when you’re really in a pinch, canned fish and fried eggs are ready in minutes.

I wrote a post a few years ago about The Perfect Salad. I’d love to hear what yours would include!

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An Often Overlooked Piece of Recovery

Written by: Kevin Cann

As a coach understanding how each lift affects recovery is also important when writing programs. The bench is the easiest to recover from, the squat is the next easiest, and the last is the deadlift. What makes the deadlift a tougher lift to recover from then the other 2?

I think it lies in the biggest difference between the deadlift and the other 2, it requires grip strength. The hands are very unique. The small muscles of the hand contain over 200,000 neurons. We use our hands to learn a lot about our environment.

The hands are one of the densest sites of neurons in the human body. This means that we get a lot of strong reflexes coming from the hands. For example, if we touch something hot we will pull our hands back quickly before the pain is even felt.

Once we experience that reflex, we learn that the thing that we touched can be hot and we know to proceed with caution in the future. This allows us to travel through our environment safely. There is a major benefit to keeping our hands healthy.

One thing that deadlifts do more than the other lifts is they rip our hands apart. They cause physical damage to the palms of our hands, right where the majority of those neurons are located. This is going to send a signal to the rest of our nervous system that we need to rest and recover.

Our nervous system is not going to be happy doing a lot more work. Our body is going to want to shut things down so that we can recover. Attacking another intense workout the day after ripping our hands apart is going to be difficult, especially if we need to hold onto things. This is the nature of the beast for the strength athlete, but there are a few things that we can do to minimize the damage to our hands.

For one, we want to make sure we are gripping the bar correctly so that it will not roll in our hands and take some skin with it. We should grip it in our palms just below our fingers. Our hands will be tighter around the bar in this position and less rolling is likely.

We also need to make sure any calluses we have are level with the skin. A nail file can file them down and get them at the skin level. This leads to less chance of the callus getting caught and torn off. Lastly, the bar that we use can make a difference.

I have a Texas Powerbar with some really bitey knurling. I do not use this bar deadlift with as it tears my hands apart. Instead I use a slightly thicker bar to work grip strength, and one with less intense knurling. I feel that this has helped my recovery from deadlifts and have made my following training day that much better.

On top of the deadlifts tearing our hands apart, they also tire out our grip and this is a big deal. Grip strength is a good indicator of stress levels. In fact the research has shown that grip strength is actually correlated with testosterone to cortisol ratios. The better our grip strength, the better our hormonal profiles. The weaker the grip strength, the higher the oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been identified as a key contributor to muscle atrophy. At the end of the day it is this oxidative stress that ages us and eventually leads to our demise.

This reason is probably why grip strength is a good indicator of mortality. The weaker the grip strength the higher the chance of death. These are all important reasons why everyone should be doing deadlifts and carries in their training programs.

I am not a big fan of powerlifters using straps because you cannot use them in competition and grip strength is usually a debilitating factor in the deadlift. This is why there are more 1,000lb squats than there are deadlifts. Grip strength becomes a limiting factor.

However, there may be times when using straps may be appropriate. For example, this came up in conversation with one of the lifters at TPS. This lifter has a 700lb deadlift at 198lbs. His program often calls for him to work up to a heavy single, double, or triple, and then to perform some back off sets.

Perhaps in this situation he would work up to the heavy set for the day without straps and then perform the back off sets with straps to save his grip, which in turn would save his nervous system a bit for the next training day. When you squat and pull over 700lbs at 198lbs saving your nervous system becomes important.

If you have a bodyweight squat and deadlift I would not suggest using straps. As a novice lifter it is unlikely you are truly draining your nervous system in training. Youi haven’t learned how to engage maximal motor unit recruitment yet and building grip strength is very important.

The moral of this story is to take care of your hands. If your hands are torn up from a previous training day it may be best to not deadlift again. Use a bar that isn’t super aggressive with knurling and make sure the bar placement in your hands is correct. From there monitor your grip strength for recover



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