Is It Time To End Weight Cuts in Combat Sports?

Weight cutting through dehydration may not only increase risk of concussions, it may lead to long term neurological deterioration affecting athletes in more areas than previously thought

(see article below for details)

In the realm of combat sports, athletes are paired off against opponents of the same size. This is obviously done for fighter safety. Having a 220 pound wrestler grabbing and throwing a 140 pound opponent would be dangerous for the smaller athlete. Hours before competition (in jiu jitsu and wrestling tournaments) or a day to a day and a half before competition (in kickboxing, boxing and MMA fights) athletes have to be weighed in order to make sure they are at their competition weight (or below, but never above). Theoretically this keeps fighters safe.

Unfortunately, this may not be true. As can be expected, athletes are doing anything they can to shrink their body weight as low as possible in hopes of fighting other athletes that are smaller than them. This is usually achieved by dehydrating the body severely in the days leading up to a weigh-in. Fluids can be replaced rather quickly and therefore, the athlete who can drop the most water in a short time will be the more muscular and heavier athlete in competition. In a real sense, there are two events happening: a weight cut competition and a fight.

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Diabetes Type 2 – is there a cure?

Please understand that this article is focusing on Type 2 diabetes resulting from middle aged obesity. Type 1 and juvenile diabetes are genetic and not to be treated the same way as lifestyle-caused Type 2 diabetes.

If your family doctor has diagnosed you with Type 2 diabetes as a consequence of being middle aged, sedentary and have a high sugar diet, this article is for you. Follow your medical doctor’s advice regarding medication. Until you are able to implement dietary and exercise strategies for a prolonged period of time, it is wise to be on medication. However, I highly recommend commencing lifestyle changes immediately to minimize the amount of time your body is medication dependent.

Run any and all advice in this article by your family doctor before implementing it. It is crucial that your doctor be a team member in every decision you make in this regard.

The main problem with diabetes Type 2 is when someone has one of the following issues:

1. The pancreas stops producing insulin

2. The pancreas produces too little insulin

3. The body develops a resistance to its own insulin

One theory regarding the link between obesity and diabetes is that the fatty tissue developing around the pancreas interferes with its normal functioning. Therefore obesity can alter proper insulin production. Another theory states that eating a diet rich in high sugar foods causes the pancreas to trigger far too many insulin “injections” into the blood stream and the body eventually reacts by developing a resistance to its own insulin. Unfortunately, because insulin allows the body to absorb blood sugars (removing them from the blood stream and storing them in muscles, fat and organs), being non-responsive to it prevents the body from clearing sugar out of the bloodstream. Too much blood sugar causes serious health side effects. Hence the need to store blood sugar in body tissues and therefore the dangers of becoming resistant to your own insulin.

Here is a basic approach to necessary lifestyle changes if you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:

1. Stop smoking: As if we needed anymore reason to quit smoking! However, because of the artery-hardening effects of smoking, the diabetic cannot smoke. Heightened blood sugar also increases arterial hardening and this is a deadly combo.

2. Start exercising: One of my favorite go-to prescriptions for Type 2 diabetics is swimming. Because many of these patients are over-weight, swimming prevents body mass from causing joint injury. Treading water, deep fit aqua fit classes or just plain swimming 4 to 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. This is perhaps the most important aspect of a diabetic lifestyle. It seems to truly help regulate blood sugars.

3. Clean up your diet: Heavily restricting foods that have high glycemic indexes (e.g.: potatoes, processed sugars, etc) is the number one dietary “law” of diabetes recovery. Replacing these with lean proteins and high fiber foods (e.g.: fruits and vegetables) is a sure-fire way to help alleviate diabetic strain on the body. There is a more aggressive way to tackle the dietary challenges of Type 2 diabetes and this involves a short term use of the Atkins diet. One of the few scenarios in which I approve of the Atkins Diet is in the case of Type 2 diabetes. The “low to no carb” rule of Atkins can be great if done for a 6 month period. During Atkins, the body is receiving too little carbs and must therefore generate energy by purging the body’s existing sugar stores (which is overloaded in overweight individuals) and then, when the stores of carbs are depleted, the body breaks fat down into fatty acids and ketones to substitute for carbs. This helps not only alleviate high blood sugar but decreases body fats as well. Again, please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes in this article with your medical doctor before embarking on them.

4. Get good sleep: Although the exact link is poorly understood, poor sleep over a prolonged period of time has been linked to increased risk of many diseases including diabetes.

5. Eliminate alcohol: Alcohol has a very high sugar content and should therefore be avoided.

Once you have made the following changes to your lifestyle for 6 months or longer, you should begin to see a significant improvement. It is possible to eventually have your fasting and post meal blood sugar levels in the normal ranges simply due to lifestyle changes. At this juncture, you can begin discussing changing your medications with your medical doctor.

A healthy lifestyle is a cure to many, many chronic ills. Best of luck!

Combining Crossfit with the Paleo Diet – is this a good idea?

paleo 5In the world of fitness, people are constantly trying to push the envelope and get faster, stronger, leaner and simply reach for superhuman status. In the 1980’s people were content with aerobics and few dumbbell exercises. Not so in today’s world. The hot new trend is the hyper-intense exercise style known as Crossfit

Crossfit is a system in which, several times a week, proponents perform high intensity exercises, back to back. Explosive gymnastic moves, olympic weight lifting, sprinting and other body weight exercises are utilized to cause significant fatigue in a short amount of time. Crossfit routines change every time you show up to the gym in order to avoid stagnation and to maximize your body’s strength and endurance increases.

A typical routine may include jumping on and off a 3 foot high box 20 or more times then throwing a heavy medicine ball high up against a wall for several reps only to have 15 chin ups waiting for you. Then, without resting, you start from the beginning and don’t stop until you’ve either run out of time (which is usually set at 15-20 minutes or less) or you’ve achieved the total number of rounds prescribed by the gym that day.

Heavy weightlifting exercises such as squats, deadlifts and olympic (overhead) lifts are utilized as well. The uniqueness of Crossfit is that it demands heavy muscular efforts that are usually done with a lot of rest between exercises. Yet Crossfit takes away the rest time and keeps the body performing as though the exercises were low demand, high endurance tasks (such as running 5 km in 20-30 minutes). This forces the body to “find a way” to perform these very difficult demands. And proponents of Crossfit love the results. Because all of the body segments are utilized, Crossfitters are well developed and tend to avoid disproportions as is common in typical bodybuilding gyms. paleo 6Further, because of the high demand of Crossfit, proponents tend to have a good muscle mass and little body fat. In a sense, this resembles sports such as wrestling and water polo where high explosiveness is performed over and over again for long durations and utilizes all body segments in an ever changing series of fluid movements.

Some warn that performing complex heavy weight lifting movements such as squats when you are fatigued will cause an individual to risk disc herniations or other injuries. When you are too tired to lift properly but you are willing to do anything to get the weight up, this is when people get sloppy and then injured. Another concern is that Crossfit causes so much break down of muscle tissue that the kidneys can actually get clogged by protein. This is called rhabdomyolysis and has occurred enough times in Crossfit proponents that the organization officially warns people of the symptoms of onset and even created a character known as Uncle Rhabdo.

I personally am not against Crossfit if the individual keeps their technique from getting dangerously sloppy and if they keep their Crossfit activity to 3 or less times weekly. Some proponents attend Crossfit gyms up to 6 times per week. Unless they vary their intensity, they will almost certainly either injure themselves or overtrain.

Interestingly, a recent trend has been to combine Crossfit with the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is a fad movement that seeks to recreate the typical diet of a caveman living in the Paleolithic Era (ending about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agricultural society).

Roaming hunters of this period ate a lot of meat — as much as they could find — as well as wild berries and plants. Because we had not become primarily farmers we did not have access to large amounts of fruits and vegetables or legumes. Legumes are specific plant or plant products such as beans, peanuts, lentils and peas. By removing most fruits, vegetables and all legumes, the Paleo Diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake.

paleo 4

Wild berries were the extent of most “cavemen’s” fruit intake.

When an individual has too few carbs in their system, they have to burn fat instead of blood sugar for fuel. Ketosis is the process by which the body breaks fat molecules down to smaller units of fat as well as the simple sugar glycerol. As a result, these shorter fatty acid chains and simple sugars can cross the blood-brain barrier and keep your noggin’ fueled. One of the by-products of ketosis, however, is the production of ketones. Ketones are hard on both the liver and the kidneys.This is the biggest question mark hanging over the ketogenic diets such as Paleo. What are the long term effects of ketosis on the liver and kidneys? We don’t really know.

For a Crossfit proponent to go on a Paleo Diet does present some additional problems. First, the high-intensity nature of Crossfit alone will deplete a normal person’s blood sugar stores. Further, it has been shown that when compared to long duration, low intensity exercise, high intensity, short duration exercises not only burn more calories during the exercise session but also increases the body’s metabolism for several hours after a workout. Thus creating an “afterburn” effect that keeps on burning fat and carbs for 3 or more hours longer than a high endurance, low intensity exercises would. Therefore the carbohydrate demands of a Crossfit individual are higher all around. If this individual is also on a carb-restricted diet the body will be in high ketosis which is a form of mild starvation.The long term benefits of being in starvation mode are questionable at best.

paleo 2Further, the muslce breakdown caused by excessive Crossfit is hard on the kidneys. As we saw above, so is the Paleo Diet. The big question for the Crossfitter who is considering the Paleo Diet is whether or not they want to gamble with their health 10 years down the road simply to maximize results in the gym. Paleo Diets are attractive to Crossfitters because they are certainly effective at cutting fat stores. That coveted “shredded” look can be easier to attain on a ketogenic diet. Some also believe they will be healthier overall by using a ketogenic diet.

As we saw above, ketosis produces a lot of Ketones, and these are excreted through urine and through the breath. So if you have that metallic taste in your mouth and your breath is rancid, you are most likely in a state of ketosis. You will want to purchase ketostix and self-administer a simple urine test to see if you are mildly, moderately or severely ketotic.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. As a culture most of us are definitely too sedentary. But we may have created a minority of people who are finally pushing the boundaries on the other side of the playing field. The jury is still out on Crossfit and the Paleo Diet’s long term effects. At this juncture, I simply advise moderation.

Gatorade VS Water

water gatorade 1

photo by Marek Otolski – click image for more

Gatorade was invented in the 1960’s at the University of Florida. For nearly 30 years it was mainly used as an electrolyte supplement for their athletes — known as the Gators. In the early 1990’s, Gatorade signed an endorsement deal with mega-athletes such as Michael Jordan and the world became introduced to the sports drink phenomenon that is still with us today.

But, is Gatorade a legitimate product and is it better than just plain water?

I am not a supporter of the energy drink phenomenon and have discussed this in a Dr. Parenteau T.V. video. However, sports drinks are not the same as energy drinks. The notion behind sports drinks is to replenish athletes with not only the water they lose through sweating but the sugars, salts and electrolytes lost through sweating and the physiology of muscular and neurological effort.

What About Water?

Water does not contain significant amounts of salts, sugars or electrolytes. Therefore it is not an adequate source of these elements. Yet water loss is the primary effect of intense exercise. So water is very adequate for replenishing… well, water loss. But it is actually possible to drink too much water. Over-hydrating with pure water can actually trick the kidneys into suppressing the hormone vasopressin. This then triggers the body’s urination process and initiates water loss. If you are engaging in exercise under one hour in duration, keep water drinking to about 500 mL. Over hydrating with pure water during high endurance training such as marathons can cause a dangerous dilution of the body’s fluids and cause severe muscle spasm and in worse case scenarios, death.

Water is not an adequate, stand-alone fluid for exercise that lasts one hour or more or is of extreme intensity.

There is simply too much sodium, sugar, potassium and magnesium lost through ultra intense exercise (e.g.: wrestling, MMA, the 1 mile sprint, etc) for water to be effective as a performance agent.

Gatorade is Better than Water?

Only for activities that deplete our electrolytes (i.e.: potassium, magnesium, sodium, etc). The ingredient list for Gatorade shows that is only a source of potassium, sodium and sugar. If you purchase the Gatorade gel packs, they also come with an assortment of B vitamins. I don’t have a big problem with Gatorade if used appropriately. However, I am not a fan of the artificial ingredients used to color this drink such as water gatorade 2brominated vegetable oil (BVO). BVO is a synthetic product that has flame retardant properties. Gatorade apparently has begun to pull this ingredient from its products since public concern went viral in 2013.

Further, not all of its sugars are the best. For example, Gatorade uses maltodextrin, a processed sugar-like chemical that is used not only for its easy and quick absorption but for the pleasurable “mouth feel” it creates. Maltodextrin is a very common additive to beers and candy bars. Rule of thumb: stay away from processed chemicals.

All in all I prefer people use natural electrolyte and carbohydrate sources. Gatorade is also very pricey compared to home-made sports drinks. We’re talking about 50 times more expensive. Gatorade does not contain as much recovery chemistry as natural, home made drinks and Gatorade also adds artificial or processed chemicals to your body.

Not worth it in the end. Although pricey in its own right, and with some artificial items itself, coconut water is a better source of potassium than Gatorade.

Home Made Sports Drink? Yes!

For about 50 times cheaper — literally — you can make a 100% natural and superior recovery drink right in your own home. You will need the following items:

  • a 250 mL bottle with filtered water
  • a table spoon of raw apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a table spoon of either raw honey or unprocessed maple syrup
  • one full orange juiced and added
  • one half of a lemon juiced and added

Mix these together and you will have a perfect sports drink with zero negative side effects and for very, very cheap. The apple cider vinegar has potassium, pectin, malic and acetic acids, calcium and ash (an alkaline product) as well as a host of B and C vitamin complexes in their natural form. Gatorade only has potassium to compete with raw apple cider vinegar. No match.

The sea salt in this home made mix is less processed than the sodium used for sports drinks and the honey or maple syrup provides pure carbohydrates. Much preferrable to the known — and unknown — ingredients of processed, manufactured sports drinks.

Another must do if you are wanting full performance is to maintain a diet high in fruits and vegetables before and after exercise.

photo by Vera Kratochvil - click image for more

photo by Vera Kratochvil – click image for more

Even a perfect sports drink cannot save you from the depletion effects of having a poor diet. Fruit smoothies made in a blender — not a juicer — will retain the fiber and all ingredients of fruit but allow you to consume more fruit than you perhaps usually would.

If you inform yourself, your athletic performance will improve naturally and for a lot less money.

Best of luck!