FRIDAY CROSSFIT WOD

Holy schlofogomus it was hard to get out of bed this morning! But as I was arguing with myself, discussing reasons to pull out, I thought: I will never regret getting up and going for a run, but I will almost always (unless I’m sick) regret if I don’t go for a run. Which is so TRUE!! Although very sore from the boxing session I made it to last night, I managed to give the run a good go. I even managed to do a CrossFit WOD consisting of 3 exercises:

  1. Sprint 25 metres x 5
  2. Jump pull-ups 5-5-5-5
  3. Air squats 10-10-10-10

Still need to work on my pull-ups and it’s definitely one of my goals to be able to do them strict or kipping without jumping. Strrrrong!

FROM REST TO CROSSFIT WOD

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Some people say it’s good to rest your body. I say sure, but not too long.

This morning was euphoric for me, to get up early and take a run in the chilly air, not a person around. Just me and my dog and the sound of my shoes pounding the pavement. The feeling and happiness is undescribeable.

Somebody at work commented yesterday on me looking different. I never thought that my involountary rest period would be so noticeable, but I suppose the lack of energy in my eyes could have given it away. Exercising makes me feel alive. And rightly so! I have never understood people who exercise below or just up to the limit of what they think they can do, when they can improve and reep the benefits so much more by pushing themselves a little bit further.

This morning together with my run, I did a Crossfit Workout Of the Day, or a WOD. I found an old tire, weighing about 12 pounds, in the field where I usually do some exercises, and I decided to use it for my drills:

10 push-ups
10 squat w tire press
15 one-arm tire throws
10 full range burpees
20 bicycle crunches

All these exercises x 2 as fast as I could without rest in between.

I’m totally sold on Crossfit. I love the intensity, the near death experience of fatigue, every cell in your body doing their best to make it work, and the pride when you complete it. Love it!

Now some Zzz’s before the alarm rings at 05:20. Nite!

SPRING RUN

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After weeks of back injury, doggie paw injury, and 2 weeks working on the road, my pants are feeling a teeny tiny tight to say the least. So after being able to sleep in my own bed and not in a hotel or a train, I woke up well rested, saw the sun and got my running clothes on. I thought I would be in much worse state than what I actually was. Happily surprised! Haha. And Murphy was the happiest out of us two, jumping around thinking he had turned into a rabbit. 🙂

Best way to start a Friday and this coming weekend!

WHY YOU SHOULD EAT OR DRINK DARK CHOCOLATE CACAO

Yes, I know, I know. That title isn’t exactly comforting. I hate giving you guys bad news, seeing as how you make this website possible, and I hate making unpopular recommendations like “eat more butter” or “get some sun” or “drink a glass of red wine,” but I have to stick to the truth here, even if it hurts. And the truth is that you should probably be eating dark chocolate on a semi-regular basis because the stuff is pretty dang good for you. Before you log out, never to return again, give me a minute to explain myself:

You were kids once. Your parents probably forced you to finish your overcooked, mushy, bland veggies or wash your hands and finish your homework – or some other routine unpleasantry – “for your own good,” and that’s what I’m doing here. Dark chocolate is healthy. It may be awful, terrible, and disgusting, but it contains some really good things that have some remarkable effects on various markers of health. So, yeah, eat your chocolate. Finish your raw cacao powder. Choke down that homemade hot chocolate. Hold your noses if you have to, but get it down and done.

I’m kidding, of course. There’s no arm twisting required when it comes to chocolate. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the Primal community can suck down some high quality dark chocolate. Don’t think I didn’t see how quickly that chocolate disappeared at last year’s PrimalCon. And why wouldn’t it? Dark chocolate’s great, the perfect storm of flavor, flavonoids, and fat. It tastes really good, comes loaded with polyphenols, and cocoa butter is a great source of saturated and monounsaturated fat. High-cacao dark chocolate, then, is quite literally a healthy candy bar. What’s not to love?

I’ve discussed my favorite dark chocolate in the past. I’ve even provided chocolate-choosing tips. But until today, I’ve never really explained why we should be including high-cacao dark chocolate in our diets. I’ve never explicitly outlined the myriad health benefits that cacao offers. Well, let’s get to it, shall we?

Dark chocolate contains healthy fats.

Cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cacao bean and incorporated into most reputable dark chocolate bars, is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. And because most of that saturated fat is stearic acid, widely known for having neutral effects on LDL, even avowed lipophobes can happily and heartily gobble up cacao fat.

Dark chocolate contains lots of polyphenols, particularly flavanols.

When it comes to polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity, cacao trounces the “superfruits” acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry and whatever else your annoying friend who always falls for multilevel marketing schemes is hawking this week. The most studied polyphenol in cacao is epicatechin, a flavanol. Although last week’s post on the benefits of polyphenol consumption centered on pigment-derived antioxidants, cacao’s polyphenols are also quite potent and potentially healthful.

What happens when the rubber hits the road, though? Or, somewhat more literally, what happens when the square of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate melts on the tongue, is swallowed, digested, and incorporated into the body? What are the actual health benefits of consuming high-cacao content dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate and blood pressure.

Epidemiological studies pretty consistently show that dark chocolate consumption is related to lower blood pressure readings. In Jordan, among Kuna Indians living in Panama, among pregnant women, and among elderly Dutch, this holds true. That’s all well and good, but it’s just an association. We need controlled studies:

One found that fifteen days of eating dark chocolate, but not white chocolate, lowered blood pressure (and improved insulin sensitivity) in healthy subjects. The main difference between white and dark chocolate is the polyphenol content; both types contain cocoa fat. Cocoa consumption also improved arterial flow in smokers.

Some studies suggest that the flavonoids are key. In one, flavanol-rich dark chocolate consumption improved endothelial function while increasing plasma levels of flavanols (which indicates the flavanols had something to do with it). Another study used flavanol-rich cocoa to increase nitric oxide production in healthy humans, thus inducing vasodilation and improving endothelial function. In another, the highest dose of cacao flavanoids caused the biggest drop in blood pressure. Still another found that while dark chocolate did not reduce blood pressure, improve lipids, nor reduce oxidative stress, it did improve coronary circulation.

Or maybe it’s the soluble fiber. In “spontaneously hypertensive” rats, cacao-derived soluble fiber lowered blood pressure, perhaps by reducing weight gain.

It’s probably both, in my opinion, although the polyphenols undoubtedly contribute more to the cause than the five grams or so of soluble fiber you’ll get in the average serving of dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease.

You’ve heard of the cholesterol-fed rabbit; how about the cocoa-fed rabbit? If the former is an effective vehicle to study the negative effects of poor lipid clearance, the latter is a testament to the inhibitory effects of cocoa polyphenols on lipid peroxidation. We also have similar findings in rodents. Feeding hypercholesterolemic and normocholesterolemic rats polyphenol-rich “cocoa fiber” (defatted, sugar-free chocolate, basically) reduced markers of lipid peroxidation in both groups (PDF). It also seems to work quite well in test tubes.

In humans, both with normal and elevated cholesterol levels, eating cocoa powder mixed with hot water lowered oxidized LDL and ApoB (LDL particle number, which, if you remember my post on lipid panels, you want to lower) counts while increasing HDL. All three doses of high-flavanol cocoa powder – 13, 19.5, and 26 g/day – proved beneficial. If you’re wondering, 26 grams of powder is about a quarter cup. It also works if you drink it with milk (and no, Hershey’s syrup doesn’t work the same).

Given the effects of chocolate on lipid peroxidation, we can probably surmise that it will also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. And indeed, epidemiological studies suggest that this is the case. In a sample of over 2200 patients (PDF), chocolate consumption was inversely associated with progression of atherosclerotic plaque (determined by calcium scoring). What’s incredible is that the association held for chocolate in general, and I don’t think it’s likely that everyone was consuming 100% raw cacao powder brimming with polyphenols. A study from this year from the same group got similar results: chocolate consumption was inversely associated with prevalent cardiovascular disease.

While most cacao research focuses on vascular function and heart disease risk, there are other, less intensively-studied benefits. Here are a few of them:

Dark chocolate and insulin resistance.

For fifteen days, hypertensive, glucose-intolerant patients received either 100 daily grams of high-polyphenol dark chocolate or 100 daily grams of zero-polyphenol white chocolate. Diets were isocaloric, and nothing differed between the groups besides the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate improved beta cell function, lowered blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved endothelial function, while white chocolate did none of those things.

Dark chocolate and fatty liver.

Rats with fatty liver evince higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, but cocoa supplementation partially attenuated these pathological changes – even in choline-deficient rats. While cocoa wasn’t enough to fully resolve fatty liver, the researchers concluded that cocoa may be of therapeutic benefit in “less severe” forms of fatty liver.

Dark chocolate and UV damage.

Resistance to UV damage is commonly measured by MED – minimal erythema dose. A higher MED means greater resistance to UV rays, while a lower MED indicates lower resistance. High MED, good. Low MED, bad. One study found that feeding high levels of dark chocolate to healthy people over twelve weeks doubled their MED; feeding low levels of dark chocolate had no effect on the MED.

Similarly, another study found that a high-flavanol-from-cacao group had greater resistance to a given UV dosage than a low-flavanol-from-cacao group (who actually saw no benefit at all) over a six and twelve-week period.

Those interested in a fairly comprehensive compendium of chocolate research can check it out here. I tried to stick to in vivo research, but there’s more theoretical stuff out there too.

Seeing as how most of chocolate’s benefits stem from the polyphenol content, and most of the studies that saw large effects used “high-flavanol” dark chocolate, you should be gunning for chocolate with high polyphenol counts. Dutch processed, or alkalized, chocolate lightens the color, removes some of the bitter compounds, and gives it a milder taste. Awesome for Hershey’s Kisses, but awful for the flavanol content. Those “bitter compounds,” you see, are the flavanols. Without the bitterness (which I think of as complexity), you’re missing most of the beneficial polyphenols. It might taste good, but it won’t perform all of the aforementioned physiological tasks. To quantify the extent of the degradation, check out the results of this study on the flavanol contents of cacao powders subjected to various degrees of alkalization:

Natural – 34.6 mg/g
Lightly processed – 13.8 mg/g
Medium processed – 7.8 mg/g
Heavily processed – 3.9 mg/g
Once you’ve got a lead on some good chocolate with high cacao and lower sugar levels, eat a few squares a sitting. Exercise restraint, however, as it is still candy and it shouldn’t make up a large block of calories. Treat it like a condiment, or even a medicinal adjunct to an otherwise solid diet. If you’re sensitive to stimulants, avoid chocolate too close to bedtime.

If you get your hands on some high quality cacao powder (raw – which is actually fermented – or roasted, but never Dutch processed), try making coconut cacao milk. Mix half a (BPA-free) can or carton of coconut milk with a couple tablespoons of cacao powder. Heat on the stove until almost simmering. Add sweetener to taste and, if you’re adventurous, a bit of cayenne, cinnamon, and turmeric. Enjoy!

Anyway, that’s it for today. I think I’ve presented the case for high-cacao dark chocolate – not that you were exactly a tough crowd or anything! Thanks for reading and be sure to give your thoughts – including quality sources and recommended methods of ingestion – in the comment section!

Text taken from the app Mark’s Daily Apple.

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BODY SCAN RESULTS

Today I got to do a body scan to see if my physique is good enough and also to see where I can improve. Although I keep a good diet and I train well, I was a bit nervous to see the results. I got a lot of test results back, but the one I was the happiest about, considering I have been skinny, then FAT, and now I have a fairly normal body size, was that my abdominal fat was a 4 on a scale of 1-12 in the normal range (then the range continues 13-59 for overweight people). Yay! But that also proved the fact that a lot of my belly pudge is excess skin stretched out and not bounced back from my years of having been a big girl. Bummer. Oh well, I will have to learn to live with that. Other test results:

  • I scored 45, out of a max of 50, in my diet and training test. Boo-Yah!
  • My bone density is way above normal for my weight. Excellent!
  • My metabolic age is below my biological age. Heck yeah!!!

So all in all, I was quite pleased with myself, but it can always get better… as soon as my back is feeling better, which I have decided is in exactly 2.5 weeks! Haha! I am taking it easier, and have been for a few weeks now, but would love to step it up and concentrate more on building muscle again. But for now, 8 hrs sleep, then tomorrow, teach 3 group training classes. Bring it! 🙂

A LETTER TO THE WEAK ME

When I was at the Arnold this weekend, I heard so much feedback about something I wrote a long time ago. I wrote it so long ago, I didn’t even have it saved on my computer! But luckily a friend of mine sent it back to me so I could share it on this page.

I wrote this one day when I was exhausted from working my butt off, sick of dieting, and just plain exhausted. I remembered that when I’d woken up that morning, I felt strong and eager to eat healthy and work out that day, but as the day wore on, I got exhausted and lost my motivation. So here’s the letter from the strong me to the weak me — I hope it can help you!

*  *  *Dear Weak [enter your name],

I get it. You’re dying for a piece of candy. Maybe it’s not the candy (or the pastries, or whatever), maybe you’re bored, you’re hungry, you’re tired of thinking about the candy all day and you’re just saying screw it. One bite, one piece, one serving/helping, and then i’m done, I’ll go to the gym, I’ll go home for the night, I’m still on track.

You’re bored.

This is absolutely the stupidest reason imaginable to throw yourself off track, feel disappointed in yourself and your lack of self-control, give yourself a belly you’ll have to work off for four days, screw up the carb deficit that I work hard every single day to create, feel cranky, avoid plans with friends or your boyfriend, dread the weekend, add stress to your already stressful life, etc. Remember, you never get bored of accidentally discovering how slim you are, whether it’s in the fitting room, when lining up progress pictures, in the locker room at the gym, when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a window as you walk down the street, when someone calls you “slim” or “toned” or “fit”. THOSE THINGS never get boring. Focus on how fun and exciting that part of the process is and ignore the rest. For my sake.

You’re hungry.

Go drink four glasses of water right now. Back? OK. Are you still hungry? If so, email someone you can confide in. Or eat a protein bar, or go microwave some broccoli. You know that will fill you up and do good things for your body and your goals. You don’t want the broccoli? Then you’re not hungry.

You’re saying “Screw it.”

If you want to quit this journey, decide to quit and then you can eat pizza and drink beer every night. You an go out with your friends and eat hors d’oeuvres all night long. you won’t feel good, but at least you will be free.

So…is it the freedom that you really want? No. You’re having a momentary lapse. Well, think about me. The one who preps all her food for the week on Sunday night, the one with abs, the one who’s going to stand up on stage in front of 10,000 people and turn her back and stick out her butt. I’m the one who feels awesome in her clothes, the one who prances around the gym like she owns the place, the one who drags herself out of bed to do early morning cardio, the one who inspires her family, and friends. Think about what you’re doing to ME, Strong [enter your own name], when you let a momentary “oh screw it” overtake and overcome all of the hard work I put in every single day, every time I go to a bar and wave off the waiter when he asks what I want to drink, every time I skillfully assemble a healthy, trap-free meal at a restaurant while everyone else orders fries and a third (or fourth…) beer or regular Coke.

And you know very well there’s no such things as “Just One Bite.”

Every single time you tell yourself you can handle having one taste of something, you’re wrong. Is it because you’re literally powerless in the face of sugar, is your insulin really swinging that hard that you can not resist? You know that you have a ton of self control. EVEN YOU (I obviously do). This isn’t about saying no; by the time you’ve had the first bite of sugar, you’ve given UP on saying no. You’re saying “yes,” and you will continue to do so until it’s time to go home or there is no more freakin’ candy left in the bowl (did you REALLY want a Mounds yesterday? They’re VILE!) So don’t ever let yourself cross over into saying “yes” to junk. Say “NO” for HEAVEN SAKE!!

A message from me to you.

I love you (even though you are the weak version of me) because we are the same person. You have a ton to be proud of and you should love the process and love how far you have come. You can go even farther, and you will be around less and less as time passes, you won’t have to read this letter as often. You are strong inside, this is only temporary, and it will pass. Now go get a cup of water and get back to kicking ass.

Love,

Strong [enter your name]

P.S. I’ll be back tomorrow morning when you wake up.

Text from Rachel Mac‘s Facebook Notes.

FRIDAY CROSSFIT CHALLENGE

Good morning JumpingJaxers! Here’s your Friday Crossfit Challenge. Try to do this circuit as fast as you can without losing form. If you have any questions about the exercises, ask me. Good luck!

50 push-ups
50 kettlebell/dumbbell swings
100 mountain climbers
25 full range butterfly sit-ups
25 full range burpees

Rest for 1 minute and repeat!

Music recommendation: SCOOTER!

Now, Just Do It!

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