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How to Protect and Optimize Your Evolutionary Code

Today, February 12th, is "Darwin Day". Darwin Day celebrates birth date of Charles Darwin (born 1809). Darwin was a naturalist and biologist and is known as a pioneer of the science of evolution. Evolution states that species change over time through genetic variation and natural selection. Incremental mutations and adaptations over thousands of generations have resulted in an evolutionary "code" each of us carry with us. Think of this code like a computer program specific to each of us containing everything about us. This unique program defines our anatomy, our physiology, and our genetics (all our inherited characteristics, like eye color, body shape, brain size, genetic markers for diseases, etc.)

Much of this evolutionary code is beneficial to our existence, some is indifferent or neutral, and some of it can also be detrimental. Most of us have evolutionary code that protects us from infections, disease, injury, and untimely death. Alternatively, some of us have a code that makes us more susceptible to certain disease states, such as diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's, certain cancers, and more.

The evolutionary code each of us carries is an accident of birth. We cannot go back in time and replace the code handed down to us through time. However, just like a computer program can be hacked or infected with viruses that cause it to run improperly or crash altogether, our evolutionary code can also be hacked and damaged by external factors which can result in injury, illness, disease states or even death. Computer programmers develop robust code, optimize it's performance with the best hardware and software platforms and protect it with anti-virus software and other tools. Likewise, our goal for our personal evolutionary code should be optimization and protection in order to thrive and maximize both the quality and length of our lives.

What external factors can impair and even damage our evolutionary code? Improper diet, smoking, excessive alcohol or drug use, lack of adequate sleep, lack of proper exercise, inadequate activity levels, and excessive stress can all hack our code and cause problems. A few specific examples:

-Lack of quality and/or quantity of sleep interferes with the conversion of short term memories into long term memories. Poor sleep also causes chromic elevation of cortisol, the stress hormone, and depression of growth hormone, which contributes to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

-Lack of proper muscle strengthening exercise results in a gradual atrophy of our skeletal muscles (about 1/2 pound per year starting in our twenties). This loss of lean muscle mass contributes to injuries, osteoporosis, and to lowering of our metabolism which contributes to obesity and diabetes.

-A diet too high in caloric intake (especially one high in sugars) elevates blood sugar levels, with a cascade effect of chronically high insulin and cortisol levels. This leads to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes and can even contribute to Alzheimer's.

What then are some actions we can take today to optimize and protect our evolutionary code?

-We must eat food that is concordant with our evolutionary biology. While we do not have to recreate the diets of our paleolithic ancestors, we must stick with modest amounts real foods with limited ingredients, preferably locally or organically grown or raised. Additionally, human bodies tend to thrive when occasionally stressed by intermittent fasting (skipping a meal or two once in awhile).

-We must move around more than the average 21st century person. I recommend walking a minimum of 3 miles per day, throughout the day, in addition to alternating standing with sitting. Regular recreation is also critical to our physical and mental optimization. Hiking, golfing, biking, gardening, etc. are all great ways to get outside and move around.

-We must get adequate sunlight. Too little sunlight has caused epidemic proportions of Vitamin D deficiency in our society. Ten to Thirty minutes per day of sun exposure or supplementing with vitamin D when weather does not allow being outside are critical to our health.

-We have to strain our muscles once in a while. Weekly weight training sessions which safely stress our muscular, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems to the point of stimulating change is critical to our wellbeing. Injury prevention, mobility, flexibility, insulin sensitivity and many more positive benefits accrue from lifting heavy things occasionally.

-We need to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night (preferably 8 or 9). Improved sleep quality and quantity can decrease our chances of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and dementia, and much more.

Charles Darwin's discovery of evolution by natural selection enriched human understanding of biology and genetics. We know we have inherited our evolutionary code from our parents and through them back millions of years to distant ancestors. Knowing this can help us understand actions we can take to best optimize and protect our specific code and therefore improve the quality and perhaps even the length of our lives. There is not much in the world more important than that!

Happy Darwin Day!

Posted February 12, 2018 by Tim Rankin

If your fitness coach recommends any of these activities, run far away!

It is a new year. You have every intention of getting in better shape. The challenge is, which fitness program do you undertake? Every gym, personal trainer, yoga instructor and well meaning neighbor has their ideas for what you should be doing. Everyone wants to be your "fitness coach", whether it is a professional or a friend. The best advice I can give you regarding picking a great program for your needs is this: Run far away from any fitness coach who recommends any of the following:

-Military style boot camp: For goodness sakes you are a 40 year old mother of two, or maybe a 55 year old father and husband, not an 18 year old marine at Paris Island Basic training. Military training is as much for breaking young soldiers down mentally and physically and then molding them into order-taking fighting machines as it is for physical fitness. You are risking injury, immune system degradation, and mental anguish. Run away!

-High force, high speed plyometrics, calistenics, etc. Unless you are planning to try out for a gladiator TV appearance, you do not need to climb ropes, jump up on boxes, or any perform any other high force, high speed activity. See boot camp section above for inury potential. I have many clients who came to me after injuring themselves at one of these programs. Run away!

-Head stands, pole dancing, hyperflexbility movements, etc. in the name of exercise. Fun? maybe. Injuries? Yes. Fitness? I seriously doubt it. Run away!

-Mimicking professional athlete training or movements. You are NOT a professional athlete. Even if you were, you are not 23 anymore. Plus, many of the exercise programs athletes embark on are based on non-scientfic habits and rituals they learned in high school or college. Much of this activity passing as exercise is actually "make work" made up by coaches trying to fill the hours that athletes cannot legally be on the field practicing (due to NCAA rules, etc.). Run away!

-Lifting and/or throwing tires, chains, ropes, medicine balls, telephone poles, etc. Seriously? Run away!

-Group running, sprinting, nature runs, etc. If you want to take a jog around your neighborhood, that is great, although the negatives may outweigh the benefits. However, group runs lack proper care, supervision, and appropriate level of intensity (could be too much or too little for each individual). Walk away :-)

What do all these activities have in common? They are not safe. They are not progressive. They lack proper individual attention and supervision. They are not efficient. Could your fitness level improve with some of these activities? Yes, possibly. However, would you rather drive without brakes along a cliffside for ten miles to attempt to reach a destination, or drive in a safe vehicle two miles on a straight, flat road to reach the same spot?

So, if you see or hear any of the above recommendations, run far away! If, on the other hand, you want to reach your fitness goals in a safe, efficient and effective manner, then exercise smarter and get "Total Results".

Posted January 12, 2018 by Tim Rankin

Alzheimer's Antidote - a book review by Matthew Romans

Many people have loved ones or friends with loved ones that are suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, or some other form of cognitive decline. Most of us are at least familiar with some of the outward symptoms of the disease: memory loss, personality change, depression, and decline in physical capacity. The emotional effects of this disease can be devastating, both for the patient and the people entrusted as caregivers. What causes Alzheimer's disease, and what can be done (besides the typical course of medications) to treat it? A new book has been released that provides some answers and hope. The book, "The Alzheimer's Antidote" was written by Amy Berger, who holds a master's degree in human nutrition and is a certified nutrition specialist and nutritional therapy practitioner.

It is very important that we understand causes and contributing factors to Alzheimer's disease. Recent medical literature points to Alzheimer's as a largely metabolic problem. Certain parts of the brain are no longer able to receive sufficient energy from glucose, thus leading to problems of communication between different areas of the brain. This is what leads to the confusion, personality changes, and memory loss so often associated with the disease. The traditional Western diet, which contains large amounts of grains, sugars, and other processed foods, can play a large role in the development of Alzheimer's. The more carbohydrates are present in the diet, the more the pancreas must release insulin in order to get nutrients into the cells. The result is a decreased insulin sensitivity that is not unlike what is experienced in type 2 diabetes. Both type 2 diabetics and Alzheimer's patients can experience chronic pain, low energy levels, and fatigue; in fact, many researchers now refer to Alzheimer's disease as "Type 3 Diabetes." So, Alzheimer's disease is really the brain being starved of nutrients; while the brain is only two percent of the body's weight, it may use up to twenty percent of its glucose and oxygen. Have you ever wondered why it's hard to concentrate when you're extremely hungry? It's because the brain needs a lot of glucose in order to function at peak capacity. Imagine feeling that way all the time, and that gives you an idea of what this disease is like.

Now that we know what can contribute to Alzheimer's disease, what can we do to slow down or reverse the effects of the disease? Bear in mind that if the disease is far enough advanced or if the patient is old enough, much of the damage may be irreversible. While damage can begin as early as one's twenties or early thirties, physical evidence of decline may not be evident until later in life. That being said, there are a number of things we can do slow down or reverse the damage.

1. Implement a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets are made up largely of good sources of fat, with a modest amount of protein and very minimal carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and some fruits. Severely restricting or eliminating grains and sugars from the diet stimulates the body to produce ketones, which are produced when insulin levels are very low. Ketones are by-products of both dietary fat and stored body fat, and can be used by the brain as a fuel source. This way, you are utilizing fat instead of glucose.

2. Exercise. High intensity weight training is important for building and maintaining muscle, but also for helping to maintain insulin sensitivity. Regulating exercise dosage is the key: not enough exercise provides little benefit, while too much exercise has a toxic effect. One or two weight training sessions (like we recommend at Total Results) is the ideal dosage.

3. Practice Intermittent Fasting. This typically involves condensing your daily feeding window (time between your first and last meals of the daily) into 8-10 hours, and then fasting for anywhere between 12-16 or even 18 hours. This keeps your insulin levels low and stimulates the body to produce ketones. It can also increase the brain's capacity for plasticity and self-repair.

4. Get enough sleep. Negative consequences of chronic sleep debt include decreased insulin sensitivity, hormonal disregulation, and elevated cortisol levels. Try to get in the habit of going to sleep and waking up at a consistent hour, and minimize access to electronic stimulation and artificial light an hour or so before bed time.

The idea of falling prey to Alzheimer's disease is terrifying, but now there is a reason for optimism. Educating ourselves is critical. We know that the disease does not manifest itself overnight; it can take years or even decades before physical symptoms are visible. We now know more about the science of Alzheimer's and we can implement the strategies recommended in The Alzheimer's Antidote to help ourselves and our loved ones slow and even reverse the damage that this dreaded disease can cause.

Posted January 10, 2018 by Tim Rankin

Three Simple Steps to Feeling Great this Holiday Season!

The holiday season is here! December is a great time to get together with friends and family, sample delicious holiday fare and enjoy breaks from work and school. We celebrate the winter solstice (days finally start getting longer!), New Year's Eve and Day, and a host of religious traditions. Unfortunately, many of us spend the holidays feeling tired, sick and depressed. These feelings are due in large part to a trifecta of factors that greatly affect our health and well-being: lack of meaningful sunlight, lower levels of physical activity, and poor nutrition.

How do these factors cause us to feel terrible and what can we do about it?

First, the length of our days are very short, with only about 9 hours of daylight. Most of that daylight is during work or school hours, so the quantity of sun exposure is low. The quality of vitamin D absorption is also very low this time of year since the extreme angle of sunlight entering the atmosphere blocks most UVB rays. This lack of quality sunlight often leads to a gradual drop in our internal vitamin D levels. Once vitamin D levels are too low, you can feel tired, achy, and be prone to frequent infections. Low vitamin D may also play a part in depression, incidence of flu, cognitive impairment and much more.

Second, due to short days and cold weather, most of us significantly curtail our outdoor physical activity. It is too uncomfortable to take a long hike, play tennis, or even walk the dog. When we cut back on day to day physical activity, many of us let our intentional exercise (high intensity weight training) slack off as well. This drop off in physical motion and exercise can lower our metabolism, lower our level of mood improving, stress lowering endorphins, and negatively effect circulation, heart rate, blood pressure and more.

Third, during the holiday season, we are all tempted by holiday food and drink. While this is ok for most of us in moderate amounts, we usually end up over-indulging in sweets, alcohol, and holiday snacks and overconsuming calories in general. We all know about New Years resolutions to exercise and eat well. Well, resolutions exist because we overdo it in December! This humorously reminds me of the quote from the movie Animal House when Dean Wormer is addressing the members of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity and says "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son!"

What can we do to avoid these health and nutrition pitfalls of the holiday season? Below are three simple steps we all can follow so we can feel healthy, strong and energized througuout the rest of the year.

1. Supplement with Vitamin D. I prefer Carlsons 2000 IU softgels, but do some research and find something you like. The Vitamin D council recommends 5000 IU per day, much more than the 600-800 IU the Food and Nutrition board recommend. I typically take 2x2000IU per day for 4000 IU total.

2. Overemphasize physical activity. Yes, you should keep doing your weight training workout through the holidays, but as importantly, you have to get out of that office chair and off that family room couch. Bundle up in multiple layers and get outside every morning and/or evening for a long walk. Take a hike on weekends. Restack your firewood, rake your leaves, help a neighbor with their decorations, throw a football around, or play fetch with your dog.

3. Severely reduce/minimize sugary food and drink. Small samples are fine, but no one is better off eating a huge portion of cake or other sweets, or drinking heavily sugared drinks. Instead, eat plenty of protein at your meals. Protein is very satiating so your appetite will decrease for other food.

Follow these three simple steps over the next few weeks and you will feel (and look) better during the holidays than you have in years. Your energy will be up, your mental focus will be improved, and your mood will be brighter. Good luck and happy holidays!

Posted December 15, 2017 by Tim Rankin

Book Review by Matthew Romans - "Undoctored" by Dr. William Davis

Prescription medication and insurance costs are skyrocketing, yet the bureaucracy and quality of health care seems to be worse than ever, and the prevalence of diseases of modern civilization (such as diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions) is increasing. What is happening?

Is it possible that the traditional western diet, the current health care climate, and big pharmaceutical companies are actually making us sicker? Dr. William Davis, a board-certified cardiologist and author of the book "Wheat Belly" has written a new book called "Undoctored - Why Health Care Has Failed You and How You Can Become Smarter than Your Doctor." In this book, he advocates several simple strategies to take back control of your health and to get you out of the health care sinkhole.

One strategy Dr. Davis recommends is to educate yourself. With information freely accessible online, you can learn about the nature of diseases and medical conditions, understand the side effects of certain medications associated with these conditions, and in the process you can become your own best advocate. This will allow you to work most effectively with your doctor.

Another strategy Dr. Davis prescribes is the elimination of grains and corn from the diet. Dr. Davis explains how the genetic modifications made to wheat over the past half century have contributed to a drastic spike in the rate of occurrence of colon cancer, obesity, and even skin rashes. If we return to our more primitive roots of nutrition (such as eating more fat, animal protein, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and nuts) we can reverse many of the common health problems that are affecting us.

Finally, Dr. Davis supports the practice of regular supplementation of a few essential vitamins and minerals to correct deficiencies. Many essential vitamins have been removed from modern processed foods, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. Insufficient levels of iodine can lead to thyroid issues, and most of us living a modern lifestyle don't spend enough time outdoors to meet our daily requirements for Vitamin D intake. He also advocates supplementation of iron, fish oil, zinc, and magnesium for optimum health.

All of the above strategies are very much congruent with our philosophy at Total Results. In the chapter that discusses sleep, exercise, and weight loss, Dr. Davis talks about the importance of regular strength training to increase muscle mass and bone density. He recommends one or two 15 minute sessions per week.

This book is essential reading for anyone that is interested in taking control of their health. Applying the simple and cost-effective strategies advocated in "Undoctored" can and will make a huge difference in how you look and feel.

Posted December 05, 2017 by Tim Rankin