Get Cold, Get Hot, Get Fit
You probably already know that shivering in the cold is good exercise. It uses a lot of energy to generate enough heat to keep your core body temperature at an acceptable level.
Even better, though, is getting cold without shivering. Decades ago NASA scientists, and their equivalents in the former Soviet Union, discovered how the generation of body heat from exposure to cold provides health benefits akin to exercise. It gave astronauts and cosmonauts a leg up on staying fit in space. On top of that, adaptation to cold temperatures not only enhanced their fitness, it simultaneously diminished their appetites.
Research on this topic now comes under the umbrella terms ‘cold thermogenesis’ or ‘non-shivering thermogenesis’ – i.e., the generation of body heat by getting cold. The amount of heat released can be phenomenal. For example, when you get cold-adapted, exposure to sufficient cold for about 3 hours (to skin temp of 50-55 F) can burn around 3800 calories. Compare that with running a marathon (26.2 miles) that burns about 2600 calories.
Adding all this up, you can get cold, get hot (burn more calories), get fit AND eat less. What an unbeatable combination of outcomes!
How is this possible? This is where we look to see what happens in two kinds of fat cells: White fat (white adipose tissue, WAT) and Brown fat (brown adipose tissue, BAT).
WHITE FAT VS. BROWN FAT
WAT is the most familiar type of fat. That is what accumulates in and around the abdomen, thighs, hips, arms, and elsewhere. Its main function is storage. It is the fat of obesity.
BAT, on the other hand, consists of a small amount of dark-celled tissue around the neck and shoulders. It can also be found in the chest and down the spine. BAT is brown because of a high density of mitochondria, the little furnaces in cells that generate energy.
The neat thing about BAT is that it can be activated to harvest storage fat from WAT and turn it into heat. The main activator for BAT is … drumroll please … exposure to cold. Yup, BAT burns WAT!
Newborn babies have the most BAT. They are basically little butterballs of BAT. As adults, women generally have more BAT than men. Furthermore, leaner people have more BAT than the obese.
The good news for the obese is that, even though they may have little or no detectable BAT, they can build it back up by slimming down. The more they slim down, the more BAT builds up, the more effective cold thermogenesis becomes for the metabolism of even more fat.
KEY FEATURE OF BAT FOR FITNESS
One of the most amazing features of BAT is that developmentally it is related to muscle tissue. This means that BAT and muscle tissue share certain aspects of metabolism, one of which is activation by exposure to cold. This explains the observation that activating both BAT and muscle goes hand in hand in the cold.
It also explains why the effects of cold exposure during exercise can boost fitness beyond a room temperature workout by itself. Athletes in winter sports have known about the performance enhancing benefits of cold exposure for decades. More recently, combining exercise and cold exposure have become the ‘secrets’ of such world-class athletes as Michael Phelps and Lance Armstrong. Athletes in professional sports of all kinds are now sitting up and taking notice of what this combination can do for their fitness and performance.
GETTING SUPERFIT IN THE COLD
Wouldn’t you know it, at least one company has developed a fitness program around cold exposure. The company, Vasper Systems LLC, offers a program for high-level athletes and other super-serious fitness folks. It combines cold exposure with working out. You can truly get superfit with it, although it might be a bit pricey for most of us.
Fortunately, you can achieve everything the pros do right in your own home, at a fraction of the cost. You can swim in a cold pool or in the ocean if it is cold enough. Barring that, you can wear a vest with big pockets full of ice packs while you spin on a stationary bike.
If your winter provides cold enough weather, you can work out outdoors in minimal clothing.
However you do it, cold exposure is a boost to fitness all by itself. Exercising in the cold is like putting your fitness program on a rocket.
HOW TO GET COLD
The key to getting cold is doing it safely. This make take some adapting to increasingly lower temperatures over a few weeks until you can handle it without getting frostbite or other skin damage.
How low can you go? A slow adaptation over time can help you develop tolerance to ice baths lower than 50 F. In fact, the target temperature for best results is to get your skin temperature to 50-55 F, as measured by an infrared skin thermometer. Many folks have found that ice baths down to 45 F are not only tolerable, they are invigorating and enjoyable.
If you really want to see what is possible, run a Google search on Wim Hof (aka, the ‘Iceman’) to see how long a man can sit in pure ice.
Of course, you don’t have to be extreme, you just have to get cold.
Power Up With Intermittent Fasting
Eating too often undermines health and fitness every which way from Sunday. Based on that knowledge, over the past couple of decades science has been looking into questions about the potential benefits of eating less often. Specifically, this topic is often referred to as ‘intemittent fasting’ – i.e., periodic bouts without eating.
It is no surprise that at least some of the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) overlap with those of calorie restriction (CR). CR typically means cutting back the amount of food you eat by as much as 30 percent at every meal. As you can imagine, this is not very appealing for most people. Even those who practice CR state that they are always hungry.
IF, on the other hand, provides benefits from fasting as little as once a week for 18-24 hours at a time. Research on how often and how long fasting should be varies. At the very minimum, fasting from dinner one evening until breakfast the next morning, 12-14 hours total, is a bottom-line must for getting any benefit at all.
SUMMARY OF RESEARCH RESULTS
A short list of the effects from IF in research studies includes the following array of benefits:
Reduces body fat and body weight
Helps build and maintain skeletal muscle mass
Reduces blood glucose levels
Reduces insulin levels
Increases insulin sensitivity
Increases lipolysis (fat breakdown) and fat oxidation
Increases Uncoupling Protein-3 mRNA (leads to burning more calories)
Increases adrenaline and noradrenaline levels
Increases glucagon levels
Reduces chronic systemic inflammation from food-related stress
Increases cellular cleansing
Increases growth hormone levels (the biggest benefit of all?)
The very first item, reduction of body fat, highlights one of the key differences between IF and CR. Intermittent fasting actually boosts the metabolism of fat more efficiently than does CR.
Some of the above items may seem a little technical. However, they show how important IF is in health research. Scientists do not do research just for the fun of it. They choose subject material because of its importance as reflected in the grant money that they can get for doing it. In other words, IF is big.
BIOLOGY OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Scientists are geeks by nature, so they have been looking into how IF works. So far what they have come up with what has become one of the hottest topics in scientific research over the past couple of decades. It loosely entails what we think of as our cellular garbage collection and disposal system.
Cells come and go. Proteins, hormones, even DNA itself, and other products of normal metabolism come and go. The cellular garbage collection and disposal system makes sure that everything that is old and worn out gets removed so that it doesn’t hamper the ongoing building processes for new stuff. If too much garbage hangs around too long, then cells are unable to function properly. Such cellular dysfunction is the foundation for virtually all modern diseases.
Scientists, of course, are too nerdy to call this system something in English. They have a technical name for it instead: autophagy. This is a great term, because it means ‘eating self’. Pretty cool, huh?
Like any garbage handling process, autophagy can get overloaded. Overload happens as a consequence of eating too often. This is where fasting (IF, as well as proper meal spacing between dinner and breakfast) comes to the rescue. It allows autophagy to work the way it is supposed to.
The bottom line is that autophagy gets gummed up when you eat too often; intermittent fasting fixes it. In other words, a long, healthy life depends on it.
Let’s hear it for better autophagy through IF!
ONE MORE THING
Unfortunately, autophagy, like everything else, loses efficiency as you age. Food digestion, immune system, brain function, muscle mass, bone strength, organ function, fat metabolism … anything and everything that you can think of drops off with diminishing autophagy.
The challenge is to make sure that your health drop-off is not any faster than it should be. Eating right, which includes IF, is of crucial importance for doing so.
Here is the kicker: It appears that the value of doing IF increases with aging. The older you get, the more frequent your fasting days should be for staying healthy. Folks in their 20s or 30s can benefit from IF just once per week. However, those in their 60s and beyond will benefit the most from IF when it is done 3-4 times per week, or the equivalent of every other day.
To Beard Or Not To Beard – That Is The Question
As incredible as it may seem, beards are the subject of intense research. Indeed, they have attracted attention in scientific circles at least since Charles Darwin, who in his 1871 book, ‘The Descent of Man’, suggested a possible evolutionary role for beards in sexual selection. Modern biologists have reaffirmed this role, going so far as to conclude that a majority of females find men with beards more attractive than men without beards.
The study of beards has risen to a level of such significance that it merits its own name: pogonology. Can you imagine growing up to become a pogonologist? Apparently that is what some scientists do.
We’ve come a long way since Detective Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) brought the scruffy look into vogue in ‘Miami Vice’ during the 1980s. (Just how did he maintain a 3-day beard every day?) Celebrity hirsuteness is now a given, from Brad Pitt to Hugh Jackman to Denzel Washington and Pierce Brosnan (No! Not James Bond!).
Why do men have beards in the first place? You may think you have one for fashion reasons, or for looking manly. Pogonologists have other ideas. As early as 1982 an article in ‘Science’ suggested that bearded men are advertising their healthy immune systems. A man with a beard, as the reasoning goes, has to be free of bed bugs and sand fleas. He just has to be. No kidding.
If that’s not why you have a beard, then how about the 1997 book, ‘The Handicap Principle’, which proposes that beards are a signal of male competitive ability. Supposedly a beard is a handicap during battle, because it can be easily grabbed by an opponent. Having a full beard advertises confidence in its bearer, basically saying that ‘I can beat you even with my beard handicap. Take that, Wimpo!’
Maybe in the 21st century men don’t need beard so much as an edge in battle or for showing the world that they are bug-free. That’s fine with pogonologists. They have lots of other reasons to sport a beard, based on some fascinating studies. A brief list of recent research results includes the following:
- Beards provide shielding from UV light (beards grow more than 50 percent faster in summer)
- Bearded men seem more aggressive (in case you see that as a good thing)
- Bearded faces are perceived as more masculine than clean-shaven ones (NOTE: This was based on a survey of women)
- People think bearded men have higher social status
- Beards can make men look older (mostly important for the baby-faced younger guys)
- Beards are perceived to make men more attractive (another survey of women – are you paying attention?)
That last point is a bit controversial, though. Samoan and New Zealand women, for example, ranked men as more attractive when they were clean-shaven. Keep that in mind in case you ever find yourself bar-hopping in downtown Samoa.
One more thing. At least one survey revealed that women’s favorite amount of facial hair was ‘light stubble’.
Lots of other factors play into the subject of whether to beard or not to beard – religion, culture, and Hollywood celebrity status are just a few. The bottom line is that your facial hair grows constantly, night and day. What you do with it each morning is up to you.
Perks of Shaving
The majority of men are clean-shaven, at least in the Western world. That means that a hairless face has more appeal for the bearer than does a hairy one. For those who decide to keep the facial hair off, one of the true joys of doing so is using skin care products that make your face look and feel wonderful.
We are not talking about any of those well-known commercial products, which shall remain unnamed here, that are advertised on TV. No, we are talking about herbal formulas that nourish your skin, such as the formula that makes up Shave, the Lubricating Shave Cream at Tao of Man.
Using that on your face every morning is plenty of incentive to ignore all that noise coming from pogonologists and stay clean-shaven. If you insist on a hairy face, though, you can still get the shaving experience on your legs. But that’s another story.
Bulletproof Your Food
Okay, that seems like an odd way to think about food. It started with the concept of bulletproof coffee, a term coined by Dave Asprey to describe a particular recipe for high-fat coffee. It has fostered quite a movement, still headed by Dave, calling himself the Bulletproof Executive.
The basic recipe is simply black coffee to which you add butter and MCT (‘medium-chain triglycerides’) oil. MCT oil comes from coconut oil or other tropical plant oil. Variations on this basic recipe abound on the internet. Yup, they abound!
The driving force behind bulletproof coffee is its health benefits. It also tastes great and is super smooth. If you blend it well, it surprisingly isn’t even oily.
Healthwise, bulletproof coffee is one component of a high-fat diet that promotes weight loss and cognitive and athletic performance. The key to such benefits requires that bulletproof coffee is not the only high-fat intake in your regular diet. Everything hinges on what else you eat throughout the day.
The movers and shakers behind Bulletproof Coffee have even placed its entry onto Wikipedia. One interesting link in the references at the bottom of that page draws Dwight Howard (at that time with the LA Lakers) into fray. The main point of the linked article is his switch to a high-fat diet, although it didn’t specifically mention bulletproof coffee.
If you extend the concept of bulletproofing, from coffee to everything that you consume, then it simply means a high-fat diet. To be clear, it also means high-protein, or at least low-carb.
If carbs seem like the whipping boy for bad health, then it is with good reason. Of the three food groups, carbs are the one that drives the development of all of the diseases of the Metabolic Syndrome (i.e., obesity and the typical abnormalities associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes). Fats and proteins don’t do that.
Bulletproofing your food, therefore, means following a diet that is high in fat and protein. Bulletproof coffee is just a start on the fat part. Combining it with bacon and eggs, or any and all other sources of fat and protein that you can think of, makes for a truly bulletproof diet.
A breakfast of bacon and eggs is just one example of a bulletproof way to start the day. The easiest high-fat, high-protein breakfasts to make when you are in a hurry in the morning consist of bulletproof leftovers from last night’s bulletproof dinner: liverwurst, sardines (NOT in vegetable oil of any kind!), oysters, avocados, pork rinds, cream cheese, macadamia nuts, steak (well-marbled), pork ribs, chicken (dark meat with skin), salmon (wild caught only), tuna steak, and even occasionally beef tongue (deliciously fatty!). Throw in some pork rinds if you are really feeling adventurous.
Please note that none of these includes vegetable oils (aka, liquid fats). The main commercial vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower) are godawful junk. Olive oil, cold-pressed and extra-virgin, is just about the only acceptable oil of the common ones at the supermarket. Of course, coconut oil is even better.
Why Bulletproof Your Food?
Where to start? For one thing, all of the benefits that Dave Asprey ascribes to bulletproof coffee apply: mental acuity, physical performance, weight loss. The health benefits are seemingly limitless. Indeed, if you suffer from any of the Diseases of Civilization (including the Metabolic Syndrome), you will see improved health eating bulletproof food.
If you start your day with as much bulletproof food as you can eat – no limits – you will also discover that you won’t be hungry for hours. You won’t feel the need for lunch. Eating three meals a day is a modern phenomenon that doesn’t make sense for human biology anyway. And if you happen to be following the common advice to eat lots of small meals a day, or to throw in between-meal snacks, good luck on being healthy. That is an inane recipe for health disaster.
One more thing is that eating exclusively bulletproof food is also super-tasty.
By the way, if you are still afraid of fat, then it is time for you to realize that the low-fat diet craze is a health scam that is guaranteed to make you fat and ruin your health.
Phytoestrogens – No Worries, Mate
The word ‘estrogen’ seems to conjure up fear in men who are afraid of so-called feminizing hormones. It is an unwarranted fear, since everyone – men and women – require estrogens for good health. Simply put, without them you’d be dead. The same goes for testosterone in women.
Our bodies make about 150 different steroid hormones. It’s just that testosterone and estrogens (yes, there are more than one) get most of the press. Healthy maleness depends on a balanced array of all of them. An imbalance, such as too much estrogen, has feminizing effects on men. Scientists have even come up with names for some of these effects, such as gynecomastia – man boobs (‘moobs’).
Worries about hormone imbalance underlie the scariness of herbal ingredients that are called phytoestrogens. The ‘phyto’ part just refers to estrogenic compounds that are made by plants. However, they are decidedly not estrogens. True estrogens, which are steroids that our bodies make, are not made by plants.
What Are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are so-called because they have effects on how our native estrogens work. In general hormones are synthesized somewhere in the body, released and transported to somewhere else, get ‘received’ onto special sites called receptors, and then finally cause some sort of action once they arrive. Phytoestrogens can influence any step along this complicated signaling pathway.
The actions of the most well-known phytoestrogens comes from sitting on estrogen receptors. The plant substances actually attach to receptors where estrogen molecules are supposed to go. The effect is to block the action of the normal estrogen and substitute it with the ‘signal’ of the phytoestrogen. Such signals are most often much weaker than the signal of actual estrogen.
Effects of Phytoestrogens
Let’s get right to the main question. Do phytoestrogens influence testosterone levels? Relax and take a deep breath now – they do not. Soy foods, the most common dietary source of phytoestrogens, have no effect on testosterone levels. Neither do soy foods or supplements containing soy phytoestrogens have any effect on sperm concentration, sperm count, sperm motility, or testicular or ejaculate volume. There – feel better now?
By the way, all this worry and study of these issues came from sheep farms in the 1940s. It seems that sheep eating a diet mostly of red clover (high in phytoestrogens) didn’t make as many lambs. Nobody thought to point out that men are not sheep (!) and that red clover has never been a popular salad veggie.
The bottom line is that phytoestrogens have weak estrogenic effects in humans. These effects may even oppose the effects of our own estrogens.
This is good to know, because if you were to worry too much about your dietary intake of phytoestrogens, you would have a long list of plants to avoid. Phytoestrogens seem to be everywhere. The short list of common plants includes soy, flax, wheat, oats, barley, beans of all kinds, rice, apples, carrots, pomegranates, coffee, fennel, and anise.
Oh, and if you were to worry about the most potent phytoestrogen yet found in the plant kingdom, you would have to cut out beer. Yup, the hops plant that is used in making beer produces a substance called 8-prenylnaringenin, a name that only a chemist could love. It trumps all other phytoestrogens by a wide margin.
So who wants to cut out beer?
Guys – Are You Using Your Nuchal Ligament Properly?
Admit it – you probably never heard of this ligament, right? Nevertheless, it is crucial for something that humans (men and women) evolved to do. That activity is running. The nuchal ligament is never going to be in the news like the ACL or the MCL, ligaments that are so well known because they rupture in athletes and weekend warriors alike.
Using the nuchal ligament properly means running properly. This is where folks fail to benefit from this ligament in two major ways. Either they don’t run at all, or they run with improper form. Yes, there is a proper form for running. Before we get into that, though, let’s take a look at this ligament so you can understand what it does for you if you use it right.
The Nuchal Ligament
Medical people are so imbued with jargon that their description of this ligament is obscures its importance. Get a load of this:
“The nuchal ligament extends from the external occipital protuberance on the skull and median nuchal line to the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebra in the lower part of the neck.” (Gray’s Anatomy for Students, 2005)
Translating that into English, this means that it hooks the back of your skull to your spine.
Knowing what and where it is doesn’t immediately tell you why it is so important. Its value is explained by how it works to cushion your body as you run. In fact, it is merely the topmost ligament in a series of support structures that begin in your feet and extend to your head.
In other words, the nuchal ligament is the crowning component of a body that is built to run. If you didn’t have one, your head would move almost uncontrollably during running (or walking, for that matter). You would be a real-life bobblehead doll.
Most of our mammal friends, including all other primates, don’t have a nuchal ligament. Or if they have one it is merely a shadow of what we have. This a main reason why you will never see chimpanzees or gorillas running like we do. Gorillas are never going to slip on their Nikes for a quick 5-miler at lunch. They are not built to run like we are. (That four-legged foot-and-knuckle scooting they do is not the same.)
Before you start to feel too special about having a nuchal ligament – you know, that old ‘we are at the top of the evolutionary tree’ thing – you should know that we are not the only species that has one. Animals that can run fast have a nuchal ligament – dogs, cats, horses. In contrast, pigs do not have one, and they are terrible runners.
Getting the Most Out of Your Nuchal Ligament
Your entire support system, from head to toe, is adapted for you to run barefoot. Barefoot running makes you run on the balls of your feet, where the cushioning begins. If you haven’t heard about the barefoot running movement, then it is about time you found out about it. This running style is not just a recent fad. It is how humans have been running since, well, since there were humans.
In scientific circles, the leading researcher on this topic is Professor Daniel Lieberman at the Human Skeletal Biology Lab at Harvard University. He has done a lot of research on running styles. One of the most significant findings that he has discovered relates to the common running style since the 1970s vs. the barefoot running style since forever.
When you run in a typical 5-star running shoe, you are compelled to strike the ground with your heel first. Barefoot running more typically leads to a forefoot strike, on the balls of your feet. What’s the difference? A heel-first foot strike creates an instantaneous force that is 1.5 to 3 times your body weight, depending on your speed. That kind of impact causes undue stress on ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
In contrast, a forefoot strike has no such instantaneous impact. The cushioning system, from feet on upward through joints, dissipates the force of impact more slowly. That is what is supposed to happen when you run.
Running Barefoot with Shoes
If the soles of your feet are too sensitive to run barefoot, shoe companies have come to the rescue. They have come up with running flats with thin soles and no arch support. Modern shoes with elevated heels and arch supports, which only serve to weaken your natural running anatomy, are out. Barefoot running shoes are in. Some companies even have shoe ‘gloves’ – referred to as ‘five-finger’ shoes that cover each toe one at a time, like a glove.
The old-fashioned advice to ‘stay on your toes’ is more important than ever, at least when it comes to running correctly – and getting the most out of your nuchal ligament.
Oh, and if running is not part of your fitness routine, then why not? Get with the program, guys. You were born to run.
Green Tea – Good Inside and Out…
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. The plant species, Camellia sinensis, is also known for producing ingredients that provide a variety of health benefits. PubMed, the U.S. national medical database, lists nearly 2,000 research articles on this herb and its components.
Although green tea is well-known for its benefits when taken internally, it is equally important when directly applied to skin. Indeed, herbal skin care formulas often include green tea as one of their many ingredients that support good skin health.
Science has also begun to document the beneficial effects of green tea for healthy skin. Indeed, of all the articles about Camellia sinensis that are listed on PubMed, more than 70 of them are directed at its actions on skin cell metabolism. This herb is clearly beneficial, inside and out.
Key Facts About Green Tea
The scientific name, Camellia sinensis, refers to the source plant for green tea. However, not all teas from this source can be called green tea. The two other most popular teas made from this herb are black tea and oolong tea. They differ in how they are prepared. Green tea is treated such a way that it maintains a richer array of antioxidants in comparison with black tea or oolong tea. This means that green tea leads the way among these three popular teas in regard to health benefits.
Although green tea contains a variety of natural products that have antioxidant properties, one substance stands out for its diverse actions on human metabolism. Chemists love the tongue-twisting name for this antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate. Although that name means something to scientists about its chemical structure, the rest of us are better off just using its abbreviation, EGCG.
EGCG is such a powerful antioxidant that it has been the subject of more than 3,000 research studies over the past quarter of a century. This substance is absolutely the most important component of green tea.
Green Tea for Skin Health
A quick scan of recent research on green tea and EGCG for skin health reveals what scientists have been finding out about this amazing herb. In the past few years alone, studies have shown that green tea and EGCG have the following effects:
- Antimicrobial activity against wound infections
- Anti-aging activity against skin damage by UV light
- Prevention of vitiligo (loss of skin pigmentation)
- Protection against ionizing radiation
- Treatment of genital warts
- Prevention and treatment of skin cancer, including melanoma
- Protection against chemically-induced DNA damage
- Protection against peroxide-induced oxidative damage
- Prevention of MRSA (staph) infection in burn wounds
- Treatment of cold sores
These are just a few examples of the latest research this topic, covering the most recent four years. The full list from 25 years of research is quite extensive.
One of the most important considerations for green tea in herbal skin care products, however, is whether its components can be absorbed into skin. Fortunately, cosmetics scientists have repeatedly shown that EGCG and other antioxidants do, indeed, get absorbed from topical application.
Tea Bags for Your Skin?
You can, of course, brew up a nice cup of tea and smear it on your skin. Or you could steep a tea bag briefly in hot water, cool it to the touch, and apply it wherever needed. These strategies, however helpful, may be a bit inconvenient. Heading out the door for work with a tea bag strapped to your face might give pause to your carpool mates.
The simplest way to get green tea antioxidants into your skin is by using a good herbal formula that contains green tea extract. The formulas will include a variety of herbs that provide additional health benefits for your skin.
Herbal formulas from Tao of Man offer green tea extract in every product. Starting out the day with Shave – Lubricating Shave Cream, followed by a quick application of Daily Skin Defense, is a much more effective and convenient way to getting the benefits of green tea for your skin every day.
Shorter Workouts Boost Endurance
In an ideal world, you would be able to take an hour or two every day to head to the gym or track for a nice long workout. Welcome to the 21st century, when that kind of exercise program has become obsolete. It turns out that those long, medium-intensity workouts that you have come to know and love are just not very efficient.
The great news, especially for everyone who is pressed for time in the hurly-burly of everyday life, is that truly efficient endurance workouts are much, much shorter. In fact, research shows that you don’t really need more than about a half-hour of workout time, three times per week, to reach peak fitness. Furthermore, that half-hour includes only about 10 minutes of actual exertion.
This sounds like heresy, doesn’t it? Old coaches are probably rolling in their graves. Nevertheless, this subject has been studied extensively now for more than a decade. The lead researcher in this area, Prof. Martin J. Gibala in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, has very clear results in numerous studies. The overall finding is that you can build endurance better by working out less. Old-fashioned long-duration endurance training is becoming a thing of the past. Running, swimming, or cycling for an hour or more at a time, every day of the week, is out the window.
The ‘New’ Workout
The key feature for short, efficient endurance workouts is intensity. Specifically, this means high intensity. As an example, a typical workout would consist of sprinting for about 30 seconds, followed by a 1-2 minute low-intensity or rest period. Sprinting intensity is defined as the effort that brings heart rate to about 80-100 percent of maximum. The total workout would be 5-10 of these intervals. You can add a pre-workout warm-up of 3-5 minutes and a post-workout warm-down of another 3-5 minutes.
Doing the math, the maximum time of actual exertion for a 10-interval workout would be about 3 minutes. Add in 10 rests of 1 minute each, and the total workout, including warm-up and warm-down is under 20 minutes. That’s it! That is all you have to do, 3 times per week, to maximize your workout efficiency.
Timeframes can vary somewhat as long as the workout fulfills the main requirement of high-intensity exertion for short intervals. In fact, the term that has been used by Prof. Gibala and other researchers to describe this approach is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Although Prof. Gibala’s research focuses on cycling, HIIT workouts can include any kind of sprints (running, swimming, stair-stepping, etc.).
What Can You Expect from HIIT?
Scientists generally look for multiple ways to measure endurance. One of their favorites is maximum oxygen utilization (i.e., VO2max). In every instance where HIIT has been compared with old-time long-duration training, VO2max improves faster with HIIT. In fact, this key indicator of cardiovascular fitness can significantly improve with HIIT in as little as 6 weeks.
Of course, the most obvious way for making comparisons is measuring endurance directly. Although it seems counterintuitive, HIIT again provides a superior boost to endurance as measured by a decrease in the amount of time it takes to complete an endurance test (e.g., distance cycled or run). Yup, short workouts improve results in endurance performance tests.
Other informative measures of endurance entail changes in enzymes associated with fitness. This kind of testing gets a little gory for the everyday fitness nut. It often involves taking muscle biopsies — i.e., actually sticking a needle into muscle tissue and taking a chunk out — usually from the calf or quad muscles. Only the most dedicated volunteers (graduate students?) need apply. Fortunately for the rest of us, sacrifices by those volunteers show that a whole bunch of fitness-related enzymes get busier with HIIT than with traditional endurance workouts.
On top of all that, muscles respond to HIIT with a higher rate of forming new mitochondria, too. Mitochondria are the little powerhouses in every cell. They generate the energy that makes everything go. When it comes to mitochondria, the more the better.
Surprise Bonus for Men
Once in a while, when researchers take the trouble to compare men and women, results reveal a surprise or two. This is the case when comparing the responses to HIIT by one particular protein, called GLUT4 (short for ‘glucose transporter type 4’). Men showed a 6-fold higher level of GLUT4 after HIIT compared with that of women. Wow!
What does this mean for guys? For starters, it means that men seem to use glucose better after HIIT than women do. In other words, men are more efficient in getting work out of their muscles from harvesting the energy of glucose. Even if that sounds a little esoteric to most guys, it seems like a good thing.
4 Ways That Men’s Skin is Different From Women’s
All the various textures and colors of skin among different people obscure the fact that there are two main types: men’s and women’s. Most differences between men and women in anatomy and physiology are obvious. However, it may come as a surprise to those of us who have a ‘Y’ chromosome that we also have significantly different features in the structure of our skin.
Traditional cultural views often depict men as the stereotype of a rough and tumble lumberjack, athlete, sailor, or other macho character, with tough skin to match. The contrasting stereotype for women brings to mind a porcelain doll with oh so delicate skin. These stereotypes are probably due to Hollywood more than anything else these days. However, when it comes to skin they are not too far from reality.
It turns out that testosterone and other androgenic steroids (i.e., ‘male’ hormones), underlie skin structure as much as any other male attribute. Just taking a look at the main features of men’s skin reveals that there are four main traits that distinguish ‘ours’ from ‘theirs’.
Having a beard may be an obvious difference, but what does it mean for skin? Right out of the chute, it means that all those extra-strength hair follicles provide a substantial structural component to the skin. The net effect is that the facial skin of men is less prone to wrinkling.
Our cultural drive to shave our beards also provides a benefit to our skin. As you scrape the razor across your face, you remove tiny pieces dead skin that form naturally during skin recycling. This is a wonderful practice for keeping pores from getting clogged, which prevents the formation of blemishes and ingrown hairs. Women go to a lot of trouble to exfoliate their facial skin, using all kinds of skin care products that are designed for that purpose. The only thing that men have to do is shave with real blades (i.e., not electric).
Testosterone is especially important for building thicker skin. In fact, on average men’s skin is 25 percent thicker than women’s. This is a huge difference. Thicker skin provides a greater defense against photoaging and other environmental damage. It also provides more resistance to wounding, which is important if you scrape a sharp blade over your fact on a regular basis.
Testosterone in men is one of the many hormones that has its peak production at about 25 years of age. Thereafter it’s levels drop every year. One of the consequences of this dropoff is thinner skin. As you pass from your 20s into your 30s and beyond, you may notice that your face cuts more easily when you shave, bleeds more readily, and take longer to heal.
Such effects of aging, however, are not all doom and gloom. Using the right natural skin care products can invigorate the underlying structure of your skin by addressing the third difference between men’s and women’s skin: the collagen density.
Collagen literally holds people together. It is the main structural protein of connective tissue, including tendons, ligaments, and skin. Collagen is also abundant in muscles, corneas, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, spinal discs, and even dentin in teeth. All this adds up to making collagen the most abundant protein in our bodies.
Collagen is obviously pretty important stuff. The bonus for men is that we have naturally higher collagen density in our skin than women do. A higher collagen density imparts an anti-wrinkling effect, meaning that men’s skin looks younger. In fact, a woman’s skin typically looks about 15 years older than a man’s skin of the same age.
In spite of the fact that our skin gets thinner as we age, we can slow down the aging process by boosting our skin’s collagen network. This is easy enough to do by using herbal skin care products instead of synthetic chemicals on our faces. Antioxidants and other natural ingredients in herbs typically either enhance the production of collagen or inhibit its breakdown by UV light. Either way, herbs support healthy collagen.
Sebum is the slick oily stuff that comes out of our pores. Men produce more of it than women. The benefit is that more sebum provides better defense against infection, better skin hydration, and even a little bit more vitamin E in the upper layers of facial skin. The downside is that guys are more prone to clogged pores and their consequent blemishes.
The use of astringent herbs, such as angelica root, in an herb-based formula is a key to keeping pores open and free from excessive oil buildup.
Key Herbal Formulas for Men
Cleanse – The Daily Exfoliating Cleanser at Tao Of Man is ideal for keeping pores free of oily buildup, especially on your forehead and neck, where you don’t normally shave. Also check out the Daily Skin Defense for an herbal formula that will quickly and easily keep your collagen network as healthy as it can be.
Real Men Do Not Poison Their Faces
If modern advertising is to be believed, real men use certain brands of shaving cream because … well, because that’s what the ads say they do. Sports broadcasts and men’s magazines target their advertising to guys the most. We are supposed to imagine our studly selves in the bathroom mirror, faces covered in white foam, getting the best and most comfortable shaves in human history.
Such advertising makes a strong emotional appeal to our manliness. The macho message is cinched when a nice looking woman appears to approve of the results. Whatever the brand is, it has to be the best shaving cream for men, right?
Let’s take a look under the hood, so to speak, and examine those magical ingredients that make up a typical so-called best shaving cream. Using one typical brand as an example, a quick internet search comes up with the following list of ingredients, usually in this order: Water, Stearic Acid, Triethanolamine, Isobutane, Laureth-23, Propane, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Fragrance, BHT, Butane.
Those are the substances that are supposed to go on your face. Most of them are unfamiliar to the everyday non-chemist, so let’s see what they really are.
Water: needs no explanation
Stearic Acid: natural fatty acid from plants
Isobutane, propane, and butane: flammable gases used as propellants in pressurized cans
Triethanolamine: a strong base made industrially by reacting ethylene oxide with ammonia
Laureth-23: a surfactant (i.e., helps spreadability) made industrially by reacting ethylene oxide with a lauryl alcohol
Sodium Laureth Sulfate: a sudsing agent made industrially by adding a sulfate group to a chemically modified form of lauryl alcohol
Fragrance: who knows?
BHT: butylated hydroxytoluene; a common antioxidant preservative added to many, many food and skin care products
BONUS: What is not shown in the list of ingredients is a contaminant, 1,4-dioxane, that forms during the production of sodium laureth sulfate. You get this at no extra charge. Unfortunately, this contaminant has received a “high hazard” rating from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews. It is believed to be carcinogenic and it is toxic to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. Other than that, it is alright.
By the way, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews also has a little to say about the toxicity of sodium laureth sulfate. It turns out that this sudsing agent is known as a skin and eye irritant and a toxin to various organs. In spite of all that, it is one of the most common additives in many personal care products, including almost all of the brand-name soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes.
Please excuse the technical dive into a bit of chemistry. However, this is the kind of information that should make you realize that using these kinds of products is like poisoning your face.
What is a real man to do instead? Clearly, reading and understanding something about a product’s ingredients is important. Now that you know what to avoid, what should you look for that is good for your skin? This is where the plant kingdom comes to the rescue. Herbs are chock full of goodies that soften your beard and promote skin health at the same time.
The right combination of herbs, such as you find in the Tao of Man Lubricating Shave Cream, is what to should look for. Isn’t an ingredients list that includes ginseng, angelica root, magnolia vine fruit, and aloe vera a lot more appealing than a list of industrial chemicals?
For real men, of course it is.