Stronger core, back pain no more

What’s up everyone. I took a week off from blogging (will most likely do that sporadically). I am back and this post will focus on injury prevention, specifically the spine.

As some may know I have had a pretty ridiculous and random spurt of injuries over the past 18 months, which started with poor posture while spending hours upon hours doing academic work compounded with my necessity to lift big or go home without proper warmup dynamic stretching. Now most people who workout will likely say “ya bro I stretch” and then proceed to just do some leg kicks and arm circles. I am here to tell you that is not nearly enough. I stretch for around 10-15 minutes prior to workout and hit every part of my body with controlled movements. I also warm up on the elliptical or bike at moderate intensity for 5-10 minutes. I wish I was doing that all of my life, but one often doesn’t consider prevention until injury occurs. Someone once told me that an ounce of prevention protects from pounds of injuries. This is 100% correct, I understand when we get to the gym or wherever we workout we want to get in, get started, kill it and leave. I promise you though if you go in with this mentality without properly warming up your MIND AND BODY you will succumb to the injury bug at some point. If you love working out and exercise and cant imagine not doing it, well, forever than I suggest you read the following sections seriously.

These next few paragraphs will focus on the importance of protecting from spinal injuries by working your core (which is vastly different from “abs”). In fact if you wok your core hard you will get abs (but keep in mind, abs are made from the food you put in your body).

When I first injured my spine and therapists’ and specialists told me I need to strengthen  my core, I looked at them like they were crazy. I was in the best shape of my life, I was strong and proportioned, and I had “abs”. I figured my core was strong enough how could it possibly get stronger? I was mistaken, your core muscles are in the front AND back, the stronger your core muscles are the better they can protect your back and spine in general from injury.

We live in a society where we sit at work, school, driving, eating and the list goes on. We sit far too much. When we sit for extended periods the discs in our spine start to compress and when they compress you are at high risk for an array of disc injuries and other spinal problems. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, YOU DONT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU, if you can do anything for prevention, start right now and strengthen your core. If you do any type of exercise and cant imagine a day without it start taking stretching seriously and hit your core hard. If your spine is healthy you can lift and workout for a long time consistently and pain free, however it starts with paying attention to core and posture.

I do a ton of core exercises like pelvic tilt (this exercise works other body parts to), a variation of planks, supermans V-Ups and cat cow. Click those links for directions on how to do the exercises, these are not the only exercises that help strengthen the core but are some very popular, easy and effective ones. Also to loosen up your low back make sure you stretch your hamstrings, tight hamstrings can cause a tight low back and the problems will compound on each other. The cool thing about the body is that it is truly all connected,  every part works in some correlation with other parts. Failure to identify weakness and neglect all parts will create imbalances leading to minor to serious injuries.

Posture is extremely important to protect not just your back but your neck. Like I previously stated, we sit too much and we are always staring downward at our phones or awkwardly looking at a television or computer screen. Poor posture leads to rounded, slumping shoulders which will shorten your bicep head and not only cause shoulder problems but potentially bicep problems (see how the body is all connected!). When sitting try to keep your core tight, tighten it up as if you are fitting into some tight jeans. Keep your neck in a neutral position and pull it back slightly creating what might resemble a double chin. It is important to remember here though that your not bringing your neck down, but rather bringing it straight back. (this ensures that the neck is sitting properly on the spine, getting used to this is a bit cumbersome but easy once you get the hang). Keep your shoulders back pay attention to how they hang from your sides. Many lifters create shoulder imbalances and postural imbalances by focusing too much on pressing movements like flat barbell and dumbbell while neglecting the part of the body you cannot see easily in a mirror…the back and rear parts of the shoulders. It is important to train all parts equally to ensure all muscles are equally contributing, warding off other muscles compensating and creating injury. Once you have one injury more seem to all fall like dominos, injuries are your body’s way of saying “ahhh too many imbalances” (one way at least).

A strong core and correct posture will ensure health for life. Don’t skimp on core and stretching. If you are addicted to exercising like me, than it will be difficult to imagine life without it for an extended period of time. DONT LET THAT HAPPEN. Take posture, core strength and nutrition seriously. Not just for people who exercise, but for everyone. Pain isn’t fun do what you can to avoid it.

Why Juicing Will Help you Take Back your Health…No Needles Involved

Hey Everyone,

One thing I have noticed recently whether it be at the gym, work or in public I always seem to run into people who state that they either eat a ton of fruit and vegetables or they don’t eat an adequate amount. Here’s the deal–if you want to maintain long term health,build muscle, burn fat, conquer the world or pass your economics class fruits and vegetables will help. Fruits and vegetables have TONS of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help brain function, circulation, blood pressure, joint health, inflammation and the list goes on. This may seem obvious and in reality it should be, however despite how obvious it seems we as a society are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. In reality, who has time? Corporate America gets the best of most of us and with family and other obligations we often put our health on the backburner. The key is to understand that if your health suffers that will hinder other areas of life. I am going to repeat that because it is something we all might be aware of, but are simply desensitized to that notion. IF OUR HEALTH SUFFERS THAT WILL HINDER OTHER AREAS OF LIFE. Get it? I believe it was Ghandi who suggested that “Heath is the real wealth”. That phrase is so powerful, and overlooked. We are getting to a point in history in which we think work, work, work and forget to take care of ourselves. So this is the foundation of this post, one simple way to make sure we are putting our health first that is quick and easy and mostly cost effective. This doesn’t come in a shiny box, or a late night infomercial. The solution? Juicing (and no, not that type of juicing *needle emoji*).

Juicing fruits and vegetables.

By juicing (or blending) a variety of fruits and veggies you get a ton of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and some fiber. First it tastes great, I juice all kinds of dark leafy green vegetables (potent cancer fighters) and sometimes those aren’t the best tasting however mixed with 4-5 strawberries you cannot even taste the green veggies. Juicing lets you consume a ton of fruits and vegetables at once, you can probably meet the minimum daily recommended value by having one or two juices a day. It is extremely easy from start to finish it takes me about 8-10 minutes to assemble my juicer, wash my fruits and vegetables, clean and disassemble my juicer. Everybody is busy but everyone has 10 minutes, really 10 minutes to be healthy? It truly is that easy and there is no late night 1-800 number to call. There are a multitude of benefits for juicing but some of the main benefits include:

  1. increase immunity
  2. increase energy
  3. feeling of fullness (less binge eating)
  4. faster recovery from workouts

Some of my favorite things to juice are Kale (cliché’ but a powerhouse vegetable) and dandelion greens (great natural diuretic and also very good for arthritis pain and prevention). I also always juice Beet’s which boost the body’s nitric oxide levels (for my bro’s THAT MEANS MORE PUMP! MORE VASCULARITY)! Increased nitric oxide production is great for reducing blood pressure and is beneficial for those with high cholesterol. I also use a variety of fruits as a base (to mask the taste of those veggies). I vary my fruits (and juices in general) but usually I use oranges (great free radical fighter which is necessary post workout) strawberries (great for the brain and prevention of Alzheimer’s) or an apple. A little fruit goes a long way to mask the taste of the vegetables. Cucumbers are something I juice regularly as well which are great for ligament and tendon health as well as skin health (they contain a natural source of silica which is essential for healthy tendons and ligaments).

I don’t do one specific juice I try to do a different mix weekly this keeps your taste buds guessing and provides the body with a diverse mix of nutrients that we are certainly not getting from the standard American diet (don’t even get me started). If anyone is interested in juicing check out this great and easy to follow recipe site. Also check out the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Died it is on Netflix and it is highly popular, it changed my life forever, maybe you will gain some insights as well.

Your health matters, remember that, its all you have. Take control of it.

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P.S I did mention this blog would tackle edm, indie and alt music so I will do a post about that soon here are  a few songs/bands I am listening to very regularly.

St. Vincent-Teenage Talk (I don’t know she is growing on me, this song is so simple its addicting) check ‘teenage talk’ here

Day Wave-Drag (and all the rest of his stuff) If someone asked me to describe indie music I would play them this song. Check ‘drag’ here

Lany– 1) Made in Hollywood 2) I Don’t Care.- I discovered this group a year ago forgot about them and rediscovered, I am pretty sure, soon they will be a household name. check ‘made in Hollywood’ here, check ‘I don’t care’ here

the 1975-robbers (been obsessed with this forever I don’t know its powerful and filled with emotion, that’s what music should be right?) The 1975 will go down as a timeless band. check ‘robbers’  here

Jack Moy and Gloden-24- (saving the best for last, this song blew my mind I haven’t heard anything like it in a long time its so energetic with deep undertones, its liberating to listen to, its fucking amazing), check ’24’ here

Why i decided to ditch animal products

well what can I say? Yes, I totally ditched meat and most animal products. Most of my friends think I am crazy for doing so especially given the lifestyle that I lived up until I ditched the meat (I was the stereotypical “bro”). I ate a ton of protein, took a bunch of supplements, and spent more time in the gym than I did my home. So why the huge change in lifestyle?

…Injuries and research.

I mentioned in a past blog post about the absurd injuries that seem to happen all at once to my back, neck and shoulders. My back injury was a pretty standard injury to those in the lifting community. I had a bulge disc in L5 and a protruded disc in L4 (it still pains me to discuss today). My neck injury occurred randomly non-lifting related and my shoulder injuries occurred because I stopped lifting to heal my back and because I didn’t exercise for months my shoulders got weaker and I developed some atrophy (what a mess).

These all happened sporadically over the past 18 months and during my initial back injury I started looking at ways to heal the body naturally (because pharmaceuticals don’t HEAL THE PROBLEM they simply mask the problem). Upon my research I came across a “plant based diet”. I watched documentaries on this lifestyle, I did loads of research, talked to numerous people who have already adopted this plant based lifestyle and finally decided this lifestyle was best for me (and the planet if anyone still cares about that).

so why would a typical “bro” give  up his beloved chicken, red meat, turkey burgers etc. etc.? Easy. Meat and other animal products are highly  processed foods. To keep it simple the more processed foods you put inside your body the more acidic your body becomes (your body works hard to keep a balance of alkaline vs. acidity). Most processed animal products will increase the acidity levels in your body. The more acidic your body is there is an increased risk of inflammation. Animal products have the ability to “wear down” our gut and intestinal health. Our gut helps remove toxins and only fully digested food can pass through however if the gut is damaged more “gunk” can get through and it becomes harder to filter out. If the body cannot filter out “gunk” effectively then that puts us at an increased risk for auto-immune disorders (which are attributed to leaky gut syndrome i.e. damaged intestines/gut through toxins, diet, stress etc). There are a slew of auto immune disorders, these disorders are essentially your immune system turning on itself and attacking the body from the inside. After realizing my diet consisted of mostly animal products, well forever, I figured my susceptibility to all sorts of health problems down the road were greater. I also wanted to do whatever I could to heal my injuries faster so I could get back to doing what I loved (working out) and I realized I would have to make some large changes both to my workouts and my diet to help prevent future injuries down the line…and just live a healthier life. Therefore I adopted a diet that is mostly plant based (soon I hope I can say fully).

That is just a minor glimpse into theories on animal products…however in the early stages of my injury I was probably consuming 6-8 chicken breasts a week, 4 turkey burgers a week, and 5 or 6 pieces of fish per week. I was highly skeptical about this plant based diet. I was raised on meat! How would I build muscle and get stronger without it? Meat and bodybuilding the terms are synonymous–my world was indeed shaken.

It took me several months after my injury to make the switch. I watched documentaries like Food Inc and saw how bad the quality of our chicken really is. I watched without bias other documentaries on plant based nutrition such as “Forks over Knives” and I read  documents on the Gerson method (curing disease, specifically cancer with proper diet) and other documents on  plant based nutrition by T. Colin Campbell* (who is probably the most widely recognized and respected figure in the evidence based medicine community on plant based nutrition). I finally made up my mind, I cut animal products in an attempt to heal my body faster in the present moment and protect my body in the future.

Most people ask me, what about protein? I get plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals via a plant based diet. The key is to just find out other types of foods that can accommodate your protein needs. For example, lentils, a type of bean usually pack around 10 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving. Now, I don’t just sit and eat lentils all day there are a variety of foods that can give you a ton of protein on a plant based diet, you just have to get creative and expand your boundaries.

Since switching to a plant based diet my recovery time from my workouts has increased dramatically compared to when I was eating mostly animal products. I also have all day energy, rarely do I feel run down by 3pm anymore. The whites of my eyes have really cleared up (a cool trick to see if your body’s PH levels are off is to look at the whites of your eyes, if they always look red there is a good chance you are more acidic than alkaline…although if you wear contacts it might be hard to decipher if you find your contacts are always irritating your eyes). Most importantly since switching to a mostly plant based diet in April my injuries have healed so much faster and my body feels so much better in the 4 months I have been practicing this lifestyle than in the previous 14 months when I was injured and was not practicing this lifestyle.

is it easy? absolutely not. Change is never easy especially when it revolves around ones diet. I have my days where I ask myself why I am doing this? However never once have I had the slightest thought or temptation about giving it up. I am working out just fine on a plant based diet and it is not impossible to build muscle or make gains on this diet. The point is you can still reach whatever goals you have on this diet (and diet in the sense of way of eating, not the “calorie restricted” association that many people confuse the term diet with). Many athletes and professional bodybuilders have already adopted this plant based lifestyle to improve their performance. Check some out here.

Right now the only animal products I eat are cage free eggs and wild salmon. Eventually I will stop consuming those products when I get a bit more comfortable into plant based meals and lifestyle. I am still in the early stages of adopting this lifestyle but as I previously mentioned am already seeing a large difference.

Going plant based also helps the environment out tremendously by reducing our carbon footprint.

No matter what type of diet you choose, choose it because you want to and for nobody else. I never thought in my lifetime that I would give up meat and other animal products. I did it to help heal from an injury. After all the research and questions answered by people who have already adopted this type of lifestyle, I made my decision and it just seemed right, for me. This post is not meant to degrade those who eat animal products (I still eat salmon and eggs once a week when I am in a pinch). The point of this post is to give people an option if they are looking for a diet change or are looking for a way to recover faster. This lifestyle has helped me tremendously and I hope it makes readers curious enough to do some research and decide for themselves on what diet is right for them. Eat what you want–just make sure you know why you are doing it and are happy doing it. That’s all that matters.

*Also I should mention this is what I am currently doing, five years ago I couldn’t imagine giving up meat and I did, five years from now I cant imagine giving up plant based nutrition but I also cant predict the future. This is a personal decision I made and I don’t see it changing but who knows, life is interesting. The point? Just do what makes you happy but always research and be curious and not close-minded.

For more info on plant based nutrition check out:

  1. T. Colin Campbell (respected and cited in all fields of medicine)
  2. The China Study
  3. Robert Cheeke (vegan bodybuilder)
  4. Brandon Brazier (triathlete)
  5. Forks Over Knives (documentary)
  6. The Gerson Method
  7. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/