What It’s Like Living in “The Zone”

The Zone is a popular diet designed by Doctor Barry Sears. It was originally produced to reduce heart disease through its effect on inflammation but also showed great weight loss results in the patients put on the diet that it became popular in wider circles and is now considered a weight loss diet.

The basic premise of the Zone Diet is to consume 40% of you daily calories in the form of carbohydrates, 30% as protein and 30% as fat. Generally, people are encouraged to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks on the Zone Diet eating plan.

The author claims that the calorie distribution helps control the amount of insulin produced in the pancreas, which he asserts is the major cause of obesity and weight gain in modern Western society. By controlling the amount of carbohydrates in the diet and there limiting insulin production the Zone Diet helps with weight loss.

The reason the Zone diet is controversial is people argue that it is high protein, which it really isn’t, and that it is high fat, which it certainly is compared to either protocols. The benefits of the Zone come from the encouragement of eating healthy fats on a regular basis and limiting high glycaemic carbohydrates.

I really like the Zone template as a good starting point for eating ratios. For some people, particularly if you’re very over weight, the 40% carbs is too much but all in all it is a solid model.

Get More From Your Running

runningMany people love to run but find it very laborious. Unless I have a specific goal in mind like training for an upcoming football season or looking forward to a trekking holiday in the Himalayas I find it very hard to motivate myself to just go out for a run.

What I find helps is having a running buddy or training partner. This keeps you accountable and also adds a social aspect to the session. You can also push each other to improve your running times by adding a bit of healthy competition into the mix. There are various running clubs and groups all across the country so if you’re not able to find your own running buddy go online and find your nearest running club- they are often free!

A great way to keep you motivated throughout a running programme is to vary things up. Not only can you change distances and terrain but you can switch from indoor runs on a treadmill to cross country runs in the park.

You can also change the types of running you do. Instead of just staedy state distance running you could try interval training or Fartlek runs. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions have become very popular recently and can be used to spice up a running programme.

What Carnitine is Useful For

weight lossCarnitine has mistakenly been called an amino acid but due to the fact that it doesn’t have an amine group it is in fact very unique. It has a very similar chemical structure to choline, a B Vitamin, but carnitine is not a vitamin either. Carnitine is unique in that it transports fats to where they need to be burned in the human body and it also helps your mitachondria work more effeciently.

Carnitine can help on a weight loss diet in tandem with a low carbohydrate eating protocol. Carnitine is the gate keeper of fat burning – it transports fats to the parts of the cell that utilise it for fuel. It is found predominantly in red meets like beef and lamb and also wild game. But it is found in all protein foods and the supplement form is made from a synthetic form. All sources of carnitine have a strong effect on weight loss through the fat burning effect we’ve discussed.

Carnitine is also renowned for increasing energy levels and is therefore great for athletes or people who need improved stamina. In doasges of up to 4 grammes a day athletes have reported feeling more energetic and performed better on endurance tasks. it also reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in athletes post workout which is an added bonus.

The Acetyl -L form of carnitine is very good for brain health and may one day be shown to aid with conditions like dementia and Alzheimers disease. Along with DHA, carnitine should be part of any brain nutrient rationale as we age.

Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

Coconut is a fat but is it a healthy fat? After all coconut is made up of saturated fats. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) which is considered good for your health. Even though this type of fatty acid is “saturated” it is chemically different from the fatty acids found in meat and dairy and this is the important point – not all fats are the same.

The shorter chain triglycerides are more easily broken down and absorbed by the body. Once absorbed by the gut they are transported to the liver where they are used as a primary fuel source. Because of this mechanism they don’t contribute to increasing body fat mainly because they stick around long enough!

Coconut oil is packed full of antioxidants and is also known to be ani-bacterial and anti-fungal also. The Lauric Acid found in coconut oil is highly effective against Candida Albicans which is a proliferative type of yeast which can cause all sorts of problems if left unchecked.

The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D research has progressed massively in the last 10 years. It is a Vitamin that is now considered to be much more important for human health than was once thought. There are numerous studies coming out every year about the health benefits of Vitamin D and it is an exciting area of nutritional research.

sunshineVitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin but a type of pro-hormone and it is produced when UV rays hit cholesterol in your skin. It is then released into the blood where it travels around in general circulation performing its array of functions.

For a very long time people thought that Vitamin D was only really responsible for keeping your bones strong through its relationship with calcium. Doctors discovered that the disease rickets was caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D. However, research over the past couple of decades has shown how Vitamin D is highly influential on many forms of cancer, heart disease and auto immune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It is very interesting when you see a map of the globe with heart disease rates and cancer rates distributed across it. It becomes blatantly obvious, and further research has proved this, that the further away from the equator you live (there are more sunshine hours at the equator) the more likely you are to suffer from a heart attack and many forms of cancer.

It also has a huge effect on mental health and depression and a similar pattern exists again in that the further away from the equator the more likely you are to suffer from depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

One of the key discoveries was that many of the organs in the body were found to have the enzymatic capacity to convert the inactive form of Vitamin D to the activated form in their cells and weren’t reliant on the limited amount of activated Vitamin D produced in the kidneys. This breakthrough discovery allowed scientists to really understand why Vitamin D has such a profoundly positive effect on a wide range of disease states.

There is a lot of controversy as to how best to get the optimum amount of Vitamin D each day as it is not commonly found in food. There are small amounts in salmon and certain types of mushrooms but most people don’t get a great deal of Vitamin D from their diet. Certain governments have been fortifying foods with Vitamin D for several decades and you can of course get Vitamin D as a supplement. However, the guide lines for daily dosages in supplement form are woefully inadequate so the first thing I recommend is to up your intake from the 200-400 International Units (IU) to around 1000-2000 IU each and every day. This will keep the optimum amount of Vitamin D circulating in your blood to provide all of the health benefits we’ve already looked at.

Now contrary to what dermatologists and most doctors, in fact, will tell you exposure to the sun isn’t bad. Over exposure to the sun is bad. In fact, under exposure to the sun could be worse for you then over exposure as many scientific studies are now showing. The best way to get a natural shot of Vitamin is a small amount of daily sun exposure to encourage your skin to manufacture Vitamin D and send it around your body where it is needed. Your body has a built in mechanism that makes it impossible to over produce Vitamin D using sunlight which is why natural Vitamin D production is preferable to supplementation. Depending on your skin type exposing your torso to the suns rays for as little as 10 -15 minutes can produce up to 20,000 IU of Vitamin D. Of course, if you stay in the sun beyond this you’ll need to cover up or put on sun screen in order not to burn, which is where the real danger of too much sun exposure lies.

So there you have, Vitamin D does a lot more good things in the body than many people thought. You’re unlikely to get it from food but supplementation or safe sun exposure will give you more than enough to benefit your health and help you stay free of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is often referred to as the master molecule. Its main responsibility is to regulate our biological clocks but it also has several profound health effects. Melatonin is made in the pineal gland which is a pea sized gland at the base of the brain.

Melatonin is a tiny molecule consisting of a few oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen atoms and the human body produces around 30 micrograms each day. Our biological rhythm is controlled by the secretion of melatonin. As it gets dark and less light hits the retina in the eye the pineal gland secrets melatonin to make us drowsy and induce sleep. As the sun rises again the light hitting the retina shuts off the production of melatonin and we begin to feel lively and awake again.

Scientists have shown with experiments on mice that it is not the amount of melatonin in the blood per se that is important but the rhythm of secretion in any 24 hour period that matters the most.

Melatonin has several large health benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant and voracious free radical scavenger and also regulates the immune system. This is one of the reasons that you often get sick if you miss out on sleep for a few days. The lower levels of melatonin due to the lack of sleep mean your immune system is not as primed as it normally would be to ward off attacks by cold and flu viruses.

Scientists have discovered that the main organs of the immune system, namely the thymus and the spleen, have numerous receptors for melatonin so when there is sufficient levels of melatonin in the blood stream the melatonin molecules attach themselves to the organ receptors and stimulate the immune system.

retinaFree radicals are everywhere and we produce them in our own bodies. They are toxic and can often lead to diseases such as cancer. Melatonin helps to neutralize free radicals and is the most powerful neutralizer of hydroxyl radicals ever detected. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can therefore help reduce the risks associated with heart disease and cancer. Both of these diseases are considered conditions of aging and melatonin production declines with age which may go some way to explaining its benefit.

Melatonin can be found in certain foods such as bananas and oats but it is predominantly made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. It is converted into serotonin which is a neurotransmitter in the brain before it is converted into melatonin. The conversion rate is aided by the vitamin B6.

Melatonin can be taken as a supplement and some Doctors prescribe it in doses up to 100 milligrams per day. There are no long term studies on humans as to the effects of taking melatonin as a supplement, however, it is generally regarded as safe when taken at prescribed dosages.

Melatonin really is an amazing molecule. It controls the human circadian rhythm and can have profound health benefits when produced at optimal levels and timings. It is also available in supplement form and is generally considered safe if taken sensibly as prescribed by a physician.