Are Greens Powders Worth the Money?

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There is little to no evidence that greens powders are important for good health. But, this doesn’t mean they are worthless. Before you take anything, ask yourself, “what do I hope to achieve by taking this and, is there a better alternative?” If you don’t eat greens, figure out a way to eat them (check out the last paragraph here). If you are really stubborn and refuse to eat greens, a greens powder might make a difference. There’s little to no good research to tell us it will help you. But, it might help and it probably won’t hurt (unless you are on a blood thinner that warrants eating consistent intake of vitamin K rich foods). If you love your greens supplement, try mixing some into meat patties when you are grilling or cooking (read on to find out why).

Health Benefits of Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are good for us. They are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as plant-based compounds that protect our body from harm. Leafy greens are part of the MIND Diet, a diet associated with better brain health and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to the DASH diet or a Mediterranean style diet. As part of the MIND diet, eat at least 6 servings of greens per week. (1) A diet high in green leafy and cruciferous vegetables significantly reduces the incidence of several types of cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels). (2) Greater intake of fruits and vegetables is related to lowered risk of cognitive impairment, lowered risk of a number of types of cancer and lowered risk of death from all causes. (3, 4, 5, 6)

Greens Supplements

Greens supplements contain some vitamins and minerals (all of which you can get elsewhere). Some contain fiber, others do not. For most greens powders on the market we don’t know if the beneficial compounds in greens are actually found in the finished product. While greens contain antioxidants and other plant compounds that are important for good health, some of these are destroyed upon exposure to high heat and processing. At times cooking (boiling and steaming) improves the antioxidant content of vegetables (7). But, we don’t know if this holds true for greens supplements.

I found one good study on dried powders (a wide variety of veggies including beets, broccoli, carrots, celery and more were used) that found several different powders (the kind used by food scientists) improved oxidative stability of turkey patties while decreasing the formation of potentially toxic compounds formed during cooking. In this study the greens powders used clearly contained bioactive compounds that can positively impact human health. (8)

Here’s how to add more leafy greens to your diet:

  • Freeze greens that are about to go bad and blend them and shakes. Very sweet fruits such as mango (I use frozen mango), pears and apples will overpower the bitterness in some greens.
  • Blend leafy greens into red tomato sauce or other sauces
  • Coat your favorite leafy green such as kale with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.
  • Blend them into pesto.
  • Incorporate leafy greens in your favorite bowl.
  • Pile pizza with leafy greens.
  • Add greens to sandwiches and wraps
  • Add greens to soups (cut finely).
  • Use greens in stir fry dishes (bok choy is a favorite here).
  • Massage curly kale with olive oil (yes, massage with your hands) and add a little salt. You won’t believe how good this is!
  • Cut greens into fine strips and add to pasta dishes.
  • Make a meal from a baked potato with cheese or cottage cheese, leafy greens and nuts or seeds
  • Use lettuce wraps instead of bread.
  • Add greens to your omelets, burgers, casserole, pie (dinner pie not dessert pie) and meatloaf.

References:

1 Alzheimers Dement 2015;11(9): 1015-1022.
2 JRSM Cardiovasc Dis 2016 Jan-Dec, 5: 204 8004016661435.
3 Front Aging Neurosci. 2017; 9: 18.
4 Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1126-34.
5 Ann Oncol. 2016 Jan;27(1):81-96.
6 BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490
7 J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (1), pp 139–147
8 Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1241–1252.

Collagen for Strong Tendons and Ligaments

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collagen for stronger tendons and ligamentsCollagen (or gelatin) + a good source of vitamin C can make your tendons and ligaments stronger. This may help you return to play faster. Take this combination 60 minutes before activity. It takes 30 – 60 minutes for the amino acids in collagen (namely proline, glycine, lysine, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, which are building blocks of collagen, the primary protein in ligaments, tendons and bone) to peak in your bloodstream. This way they will peak right when the pumping action of joints (from physical activity or physical therapy) delivers blood and therefore nutrients including these amino acids and vitamin C to your tissue. You need vitamin C to build collagen. A glass of juice or an orange delivers plenty of vitamin C. You don’t need a supplement. Large doses of vitamin C are not beneficial for muscle and can delay the process of building new proteins in muscle after resistance training.

Building Healthy Tendons

Training with fast, explosive movements builds stiffer tendons. Stiff tendons make athletes explosive (I think of it like a pogo stick; anyone else play on these when they were kids?). Tendons connect a soft tissue, muscle, to a hard tissue, bone. Therefore, tendons must be more pliable near the muscle and stiffer as they get closer to the bone. Stiffer tendons have more molecular crosslinks connecting collagen to fibrils. This ability to stretch near the muscle helps protect the muscle from injury by absorbing shock. Tendons that are too stiff are more likely to be injured (think of an old rubber band that is stiff, pull it too much and it may break).

If you have a tendon injury, your physical therapist or strength coach might have you do slow movements (eccentric movements – lengthening the muscle, like the downward phase of a biceps curl; isometric holds). These movements increase collagen content but decrease collagen crosslinking in the part of the tendon closest to the muscle making it more pliable and therefore less prone to injury. Take collagen / gelatin + a source of vitamin C beforehand to further benefit collagen production in tendons.

Building Healthy Ligaments

Ligaments connect bone to bone. They need to be stiff to resist injury. Collagen synthesis in ligaments (and bone) is maximized by intermittent bouts of up to 10 minutes of activity separated by 6 or more hours of rest. Your physical therapist or rehab specialist may have you performing < 10-minute bouts of activity targeting the injured tendon or ligament separated by 6 hours before another bout. Be sure to take collagen or gelatin + a source of vitamin C 30 minutes to 1 hour beforehand to improve collagen synthesis even more.

There are huge differences in a person’s response to collagen hydrolysate and gelatin. Expect more coming out soon from Keith Barr about this.

Heating destroys vitamin C so, jello won’t do the trick (unless you already have a sufficient amount of vitamin C in your body).

Vegan? Try soy but, you need a lot more to get higher doses of these amino acids (around 58 grams of soy protein has the same proline and glycine as 15 grams of gelatin).

Interesting tidbits: Lack of physical activity makes tendons stiff. An athlete with a boot on his leg may feel very explosive once that boot comes off. In women, when estrogen is high during the menstrual cycle there is decreased crosslinking of collagen in ligaments leading to decreased stiffness of ligaments and greater chance of ligament rupture (ACLs etc.).

Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105(1):136-143.
Sports Med 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11.

Are NSAIDs Safe for Cartilage and Health?

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NSAIDsNSAIDs can help decrease inflammation and pain from musculoskeletal injuries, menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis and more. However, they come with some major potential side effects.

NSAIDs can Destroy Cartilage

NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and indomethacin may speed up the breakdown of cartilage in osteoarthritic joints. They might also inhibit tissue repair. But, not all studies show NSAIDs damage cartilage. It may depend on the specific NSAID. The best study I’ve seen to date (and also published in a very reputable journal) found older adults (a group that commonly has osteoarthritis) who used NSAIDs including diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen and piroxican for an extended period of time had higher risk of cartilage defects and nonsignificant loss of cartilage compared to nonusers.

Osteoarthritis is very common (athletes, older adults, those who are overweight, those who have been very active their whole life) and is “wear and tear” arthritis; symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

If you have mild osteoarthritis look for other solutions including curcumin, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and boswella serrata AKBA.

NSAIDs Can Lead to Major Side Effects:

In most cases the increase in risk is statistically significant but very small (see below in blue).

  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Risk increases even with short term use (1 week) and increases more with higher doses of NSAIDs used for a longer period of time.

The increase in risk is about 20 – 50% higher if using NSAIDs vs. not using them. What does this mean? If you take NSAIDs the risk of heart attack is about 1% per year. 

Aspirin does not increase risk.

  • Heart attack and stroke risk is greatest in those who already have heart disease though people without heart disease are at risk.

“Patients treated w/ NSAIDs following a first heart attack were more likely to die in the first year after the heart attack compared to those not treated with NSAIDs” (FDA).

  • Increased risk of a bleeding ulcer in the stomach or intestines. Bleeding often comes without symptoms. Bleeding could lead to death. Risk increases in those who drink alcohol, smoke, take corticosteroids and anticoagulants, those who are older and people in poor health.
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage; very low risk
  • Anemia; when used for a prolonged time due to wearing of the stomach lining and therefore decreased absorption of iron and / or an increase in bleeding.
  • High blood pressure
  • Central nervous system issues headache, fatigue
  • Asthma attacks in those with asthma
  • Risk of bleeding
  • Hives

Safer Use of NSAIDs

Lower your risk of harmful side effects from NSAIDs by doing the following:

  • Take the lowest effective dose.
  • Take your NSAID for the shortest possible time.
  • Don’t take more than one NSAID at a time!
  • Find other solutions for pain (see my previous and upcoming posts, especially on Instagram).
  • If you notice any other symptoms including black tar like poop, skin rashes, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes, nausea, feeling tired, swelling or vomiting, call your doctor ASAP.
  • Call 911 ASAP if you experience any heart attack, stroke or allergy symptoms including but not limited to shortness of breath, pain in chest, arm or neck; difficulty speaking, headache, blurred vision, droopy face, swelling in throat or face.

Tylenol may be a better option though it can cause liver damage if taken in doses > 4 g per day

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) might be okay for very short-term use if you have:

  • No bleeding history
  • You are well hydrated, healthy and without renal issues.

Types of NSAIDs:

There are many different NSAIDs on the market and each one has a generic name and sometimes several trade names.

Types of NSAIDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind, NSAIDs are not a long-term solution to pain. Also, most NSAID safety data is not from athletes.

References:
FDA
Br J Clin Pharmacol 2010;69(6):689-700.
Ther Clin Risk Manag 2015;11:1061-1075.
Eur J Rheumatol Inflamm 1993;13(1):7-16.
J Prolotherapy 2010;(2)1:305-322.
Arthritis Rheum 2005(52):3137-3142.
Inflammation 2002;26:139-142.
Am J Med 2009;122(9):836-842.
World J Gastroenterol 2010;16(45):5651–5661.

NSAIDs Can Help Decrease Inflammation and Pain but Impact Muscle Gains

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NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) including ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib and indomethacin can decrease pain. Take them for the shortest possible time as they can be harmful.

Should you use NSAIDs? If you must get back to work ASAP then consider the risks vs. benefits. Talk to your pharmacist and physician (MD).

NSAIDs can help decrease inflammation and pain

NSAIDs can Help Decrease Pain from:

  • Acute ligament sprain – use for < 5 days. NSAIDs reduce pain and swelling so you can return to activity faster.
  • Osteoarthritis (cartilage wear and tear)
  • Delayed onset muscle soreness. When taken for several days before muscle damaging exercise, NSAIDs may reduce soreness. Take with caution as they can wreck your strength gains (see below).
  • Muscle bruise (contusion). Short term use can decrease inflammation with no adverse effects on healing.
  • Tendonitis – reduces inflammation and helps recovery. NSAIDs may do more harm than good for chronic tendon issues.

How NSAIDs Impact your Strength Gains

  • Short-term low dose (400 mg ibuprofen) use may have no real impact on muscle strength or size.
  • Longer term, higher doses (1,200 mg ibuprofen) may compromise muscle growth and, when training was preformed with all-out max reps, strength gains were also compromised.
  • The elderly may benefit due to a decrease in inflammation from taking NSAIDs. Chronic inflammation, which is not uncommon in the elderly, impairs strength gains. NSAIDs help tame inflammation.
  • After muscle injuries, NSAIDs can help reduce strength loss, soreness and muscle markers of inflammation, particularly when lower body muscles are injured.

Why do NSAIDs Impact Training (Strength) Gains?

NSAIDs work by blocking COX enzymes. COX enzymes alter prostaglandin synthesis, mediators of inflammation and pain. Prostaglandins have other actions in the body including regulation of muscle protein metabolism. Decreases in the prostaglandin PGFare associated with decreased protein synthesis and reduced muscle fiber size. In one study, 1200 mg ibuprofen blocked protein synthesis after resistance training. Other studies show signaling responses in muscle are decreased for hours or days after resistance training when NSAIDs are used.

References:
Arthritis Res Ther 2013;15(Suppl 3):S2.
Annals of Phys and Rehab Med 2010;278-288.
Am J Sports Med 2004;32(8):1856-9.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002;282(3):E551-6.
Acta Physiol (Oxf) 2018;222(2).
J Physiol 2009;587(Pt 24): 5799-5800.
Am J Sports Med 2018;46(1):224-233.

 

Supplement Testing for Banned Substances

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Banned substance testing

You can’t guarantee your supplement is completely free from banned substances. However, choosing a supplement that has been 3rd party tested (tested for banned substances by an outside company) provides added safety. Just because a supplement passes 3rd party testing this

doesn’t mean the supplement is safe for you. A sports dietitian with experience can determine if a supplement is safe for you. They will take your medical history, medications, health status, diet, training and other factors into account. It is also a good idea to double check supplement ingredient and drug interactions with your pharmacist.

  1. No testing company tests for all substances banned by MLB or WADA (World Anti-doping agency). Check out the WADA list by clicking here.

No certification program covers all banned substances for any sporting group. Why not? None of these lists are finite – they are always changing. Almost all sporting bodies (MLB, WADA, NFL etc.) include language that drugs with ‘similar biological effect or similar chemical structure’ or ‘including but not limited to the examples below’ are banned. These means drugs not listed may be banned. MLB says the list is a ‘non-exhaustive list’.

At this time, testing companies such as NSF, BSCG, Informed Choice and Aegis Shield fall short on testing for peptide hormones on the MLB list. The digestive track breaks down these drugs (such as HGH or IGF-1) when taken orally,  rendering them useless. So they will not likely have an effect if added to a supplement and taken orally (though they will if injected). MLB would like 3rd party testing companies to add peptide hormones to their tests. NSF and BSCG test for some though not all SARMs (selectiveandrogen receptor modulators). SARMs are tissue-selective (designed to decrease the progression of sarcopenia, the slow progressive decline in muscle mass and strength that occurs with age starting when a person is in their 40s or 50s).

    1. No testing company ensures a product meets 100% of its label claim (this isn’t a FDA requirement). For instance, a supplement may say it contains 20 grams of protein. However, it may actually contain 16 grams (or less because no testing company takes amino spiking / nitrogen spiking into account).

Click on the link below for a thorough snapshot of the most popular 3rd party testing programs:

Supplement Testing Programs

How do banned substances get in supplements?

Spiking supplements with banned substances can make the product “work.” Banned substances may also contaminate a supplement during processing. As an example, let’s say a production line (bottling line) bottles pharmaceutical weight loss drugs. A dietary supplement uses the same line to bottle their products. It is important to clean the machinery thoroughly after the weight loss drug is bottled and before the supplement is bottled.

You can’t be 100% sure your supplement contains no banned substances. However, you can go the extra mile by choosing a 3rd party tested supplement.

Are you in the NFL, NHL or MLB? You must use supplements that are NSF Certified for Sport only.

References:
1 FDA Guidance on Labeling. 
2 NSF for Sport. 
3 Informed Choice.
4 https://www.aegisshield.com/file/4839211-certification/GQ-6.Flooid.Green-Apple.216152.pdf
5 NSF 306 Guide 2016. NSF International Certification Guideline for Certified for Sport Program.
6 They spike compounds into formulas and run the formulas through analytical tests to ensure their tests will pick up banned substances within a supplement or food matrix.
7 The Aegis Shield app reviews products for banned ingredients listed on the product label. The app is not an assurance of safety as products listed on the app have not been through 3rd party testing.
8 This includes drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and other banned substance lists like the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, PGA, LPGA, CrossFit, UFC and other related programs.
9 This includes drugs that are on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and other banned substance lists like the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, PGA, LPGA, CrossFit, UFC and other related programs.

 

 

Summertime Entertaining Recipes that will Delight Your Guests

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What should you serve when it’s close to 100 degrees outside and you have guests coming over? Though it may be tempting to run to the store and buy prepared dips and potato salad, I have a few fresh ideas that will impress your guests.

Cool down with seasonal beverages

Individual sun teas with fruit come in beautiful colors and flavors to quench your guest’s thirst for something unique. Tea (black, green and oolong) is calorie free yet packed with health benefits. Regular tea drinkers have a low risk of developing heart disease. Adding fruit – orange slices, blueberries, and sliced peaches lends flavor and a healthy touch.

POM Princess is one of my new all time favorite drinks. Find the recipe here. The color pops and it’s refreshing + pure pomegranate juice also boasts polyphenol antioxidants, which are plant compounds being studied in the areas of athletic performance, memory and cognition, gut health, and more.

Pack Plant Foods into Mini Dishes

Plant-based mini dishes add eye appeal, flavor and great nutrition. Cucumber egg salad mini sandwiches are a good source of protein thanks to the eggs. Plus, using cucumbers as the bread helps you get more vegetables in your diet and lends a crunchy and pleasing texture on the outside of the creamy egg salad.

Who doesn’t love cheese Tortellini? Well this version, tortellini with pistachio basil pesto, is even better thanks to pistachio basil pesto. This pesto is easy to make and packed with good nutrition. Pistachios contain good for you fats. In fact, nearly 90% of the fats found in pistachios are the better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated type. Plus, they provide a good source of protein and fiber, for a trio that can help keep you fuller longer.

Baked cauliflower bites are super easy to make and so tasty even those who claim they don’t love vegetables will fall for this dish.

Give them a Sweet Treat

No party is complete without dessert and I love summertime desserts because they’re typically lighter and refreshing. Plus you can provide small portions that are inviting and satisfying. For mini portions – I love individual key lime cheesecakes.

 

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SpringTime Entertaining Ideas that will Delight Your Guests

What should you serve when it’s close to 100 degrees outside and you have guests coming over? Though it may be tempting to run to the store and buy prepared dips and potato salad, you can wow your guests in no time with these ideas from registered dietitian Marie Spano.

 

Me: If you are thirsty for new ideas, I’m sharing a few new twists on Summertime entertaining.

 

Cool down with seasonal beverages
I have a few drinks that your guests will love! Individual sun teas with fruit are full of beautiful colors and flavors to quench your guest thirst for something different. Tea drinkers have lower risk of heart disease and the addition of fruit lends an added healthy touch.

 

Pom Princess is a flavor-packed drink made with POM wonderful 100% pomegranate juice, lemon juice and sparkling water. The color pops and it’s refreshing + pure pomegranate juice also boasts polyphenol antioxidants, which are plant compounds being studied in the areas of athletic performance, memory and cognition, gut health, and more. Each 8 oz bottle contains the juice of two whole pomegranates– no added sugar, fillers or preservatives.

 

Peanut Butter Whey Protein Bites

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Protein Bites are easy to make and packed with good nutrition – including fiber and protein. Plus you can alter this recipe based on the flavor or texture you are looking for (see below for ideas). Here are two basic recipes:

Protein Bites

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats (use quick oats for a smoother texture)
  • 1/2 cup whey protein (vanilla, chocolate or plain)

Change the flavor by adding any of the following:

  • Vanilla powder or sugar
  • 100% maple syrup instead of honey
  • Any nut or seed butter instead of peanut butter
  • coconut flakes
  • chocolate chips or cacao nibs
  • orange peel (use honey and walnut butter instead of peanut butter)
  • caramel

Decrease the sugar and calories by using part VitaFiber and part honey.

Directions
Add all ingredients to a KitchenAid mixer or other high powered mixer and blend until smooth. Shape into bars.

Almond Protein Bites

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup whey
  • 3 Tbsp agave syrup

Directions:
Bake at 320°F for 30 minutes.

Here is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try (and add protein powder too) because it looks amazing: Margarita Energy Bites

All Weight Loss Diets Work

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Every single weight loss diet works, if you follow it. All diets help you eat fewer calories so you lose weight. So how do you choose one that is right for you? Ignore the hype from your friend who lost 20 pounds. There is no one “best” diet. Pick one you can stay on.

Research shows the #1 factor that determines weight loss success and keeping the weight off: sticking to the plan

Weight Loss Diets

While cutting calories is the key, some diets aren’t nutritionally sound or socially convenient. Over the next few days I will explore the pluses and minuses of popular diets and help you examine if you really need to be on a diet. In the meantime, here’s a brief lowdown on each:

  • They are a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach. Getting your clothes tailored ensures the best fit. Likewise, tailoring a diet to suit your needs ensures it will better suit you. After all, cookie cutters are good for one thing only, cutting cookies.
  • Elimination diets take decision making out of the equation.  Making decisions is emotionally draining. The ketogenic diet, Whole 30, raw food diet, and low carbohydrate diet are “eat this, not that” approaches. The decision is either yes or no. There’s no measuring, counting or weighing. There’s no split second indecision wondering if you can have just a small piece of cake and walk away.
  • Counting keeps you accountable.  Weight Watchers, myfitnesspal (and other apps), meal plans and IIFYM (if it fits your macros) all involve counting. Though calorie counting is not 100% precise (more on this later this week), counting keeps a person accountable. After all, you can’t claim your metabolism is slow when your food log shows 2 hotdogs, bags of chips and beer.

All diets require some effort. After all, you can’t keep doing what you are doing now and expect different results. The key is finding the one that is easiest for you. Stay tuned….

The Chocolate Taste You Love with Added Health Benefits

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#AD: Dark chocolate has been sold as a health food for years. Even I wanted to believe this. Unfortunately, not all chocolate is created equally. In this video I share the lowdown on the health benefits of cocoa, including the beneficial plant-based nutrients known as cocoa flavanols, which can be found in @CocoaVia cocoa extract supplement. I’ll show you what to look for and how you can get that deep dark chocolate taste and health benefits with CocoaVia-inspired recipes. For more recipe inspiration, visit CocoaVia.