Category Archives: Exercise

Amped-up plyo

Hop outside, get your heart rate up, and strengthen your entire body.

Most plyometric exercises will help improve your speed, power, and reaction time. But this new workout from Dan Daly, a Tier X coach at Equinox Columbus Circle in New York City, takes the explosive moves further.

Daly incorporated single-leg training to enhance your balance and core stability, lateral movement to get you comfortable working in multiple planes of motion, and extra resistance to create more force, increasing the power-building benefits.

Plus, the routine hits multiple muscle groups. “People often default to lower-body moves, but this technique is really useful all over,” says Daly.

Start with a 10- to 20-minute warm-up. First, roll out your muscles with a foam roller, then do a light stretch and perform some dynamic exercises, slowly upping your intensity until you feel fully prepped.

Then, complete all the reps of the first exercise at a high intensity, followed by 1 minute of active recovery; repeat 3 times, and then move on to the next move. Once you’re finished, stretch out the muscles you just worked.

For best results, you should perform this workout no more than twice a week.

Ball slam with lateral shuffle

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of chest, elbows bent by sides. Lift ball straight overhead, stretch, and then quickly slam the ball down to the ground as you shuffle to the left and back to center just in time to catch the ball. Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Lateral hop to chest pass

Stand with feet hip-width apart and staggered (left foot in front of right), knees slightly bent, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of you, elbows bent by sides. Quickly hop out to right with right foot, moving left foot behind you, as you lower ball to outside of right hip. Immediately pivot and hop left foot out to left, as you rotate torso through center and perform a forward chest pass, tossing the ball over to your left. Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Kettlebell Clean to Forward Lunge

Kettlebell clean to forward lunge

Stand with feet hip-width apart and staggered (left foot in front of right), knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell in front of your right shoulder, elbow bent by side, left arm extended out to side. Bring left arm forward, then back as you hinge forward from hips, swing kettlebell between legs, and then explode off your right foot into a forward lunge and clean (swinging kettlebell back up in front of shoulder). Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Single-Leg Lateral Depth Jump

Stand on a low step (or box), with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended by sides. Bend knees slightly, and then hop sideways to the left off the step, landing on your right foot, with left foot lifted. Immediately bound out to left, landing on your left foot, with right foot lifted behind you. Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Lunge Pivot to Chest Pass

Stand to the right of a step (or low box) with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a medicine ball in front of chest, elbows bent by sides. Lunge forward with left leg, immediately pivot and turn toward step, then lunge forward with right leg, placing foot on step, as you use both hands to pass medicine ball to someone in front of you. Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Plyometric Push-Up Kick-Through

Ball Slam with Lateral Shuffle

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of chest, elbows bent by sides. Lift ball straight overhead, stretch, and then quickly slam the ball down to the ground as you shuffle to the left and back to center just in time to catch the ball. Do 5 reps; switch sides and repeat.

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Dairy: Is it good or bad for you?  Exploring the pros and cons of this controversial food group.

We’re often asked whether dairy is good or bad. Short answer: It depends. In this article we’ll help you make sense of the research — and the wildly different opinions — sharing everything you need to decide if dairy is for you.

Is dairy “good” or “bad”?

For most of us, milk was our first food.

As a species, we’ve consumed dairy (in some form or another) for millennia.

For centuries, milk has been seen as “good for us”. “Milk: It Does A Body Good” was even the tagline for a series of ads in the 1980s. Google “vintage milk ads” and you’ll see that promoting milk’s health benefits has a long history.

Nowadays, people aren’t so sure. Some say milk is full of “bad” fat, unhealthy chemicals, hormones, and impossible-to-digest proteins. That it’ll harm your GI tract, cause acne, make you a mucus-y mess, and increase your cancer risk.

How can you decide what’s right for you?

Good news: There’s lots of research on milk and dairy.

Bad news: It’s complicated.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll look at what research says about dairy, what it doesn’t say, and where it’s undecided. Then, based on that scientific evidence, YOU can make a choice that aligns with YOUR goals and needs.

Here’s what we’ll cover.

  • What’s actually in milk?
  • Are some forms of dairy healthier than others?
  • What does the research really say about how dairy affects your health?
  • How do farming and processing practices influence milk’s nutritional value?
  • Is dairy a necessary part of a healthy diet?
  • Is dairy right for you as an individual?

How to read this article.

This article is comprehensive. Like, really comprehensive; nearly 10,000 words. If you’re not that interested in a deep dive into dairy, but still want the important take-home messages, you can easily navigate as follows.

Want to know how dairy will affect your health and fitness?

Want to explore which types of dairy are healthiest?

If you’re a health and fitness professional:

Want to know the bottom line and make a decision about dairy for yourself?

Let’s get to it.

All dairy is not created equal.

Let’s start with an important point:

Just as the category of “meat” includes everything from wild-caught elk to hot dogs, “dairy” is a pretty large group of foods.

In North America, most of the milk that creates our dairy products comes from cows, although you might see goat and sheep milk products such as cheese and yogurt in your grocery stores.

(Goat and sheep milk products are more common elsewhere in the world. Buffalo milk mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) has long been a staple in Italy. If you’re in rural Mongolia, you might find yak milk and butter on the table. And if you’re on the Central Asian steppes, you can enjoy the slight buzz from the alcohol in fermented horse milk.)

In its natural form, milk is a mix of water, proteins, sugars, minerals, and vitamins. Its nutrient content reflects the type of animal it comes from (Fun factoid! Seal milk is over 50% fat!) as well as what the animal was fed.

How dairy is processed — whether it becomes skim milk, cheddar cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, ghee, etc. — will influence the percentages of water, proteins, fats, and other nutrients in the final product. We’ll look at this more below under “How do dairy types differ?

In some places, dairy must be pasteurized — heated to kill dangerous pathogens. In other places (such as France), dairy may be unpasteurized in some forms, such as raw milk cheese.

Here’s a quick calorie comparison of a few dairy products:

And here’s the percentage of calories from fat, protein, and carbohydrate in each source:

All people are not created equal (in their ability to tolerate dairy).

As we’ll see in a bit, whether dairy is “nutritious” (or not) is only one part of the puzzle.

People vary in their ability to digest and tolerate dairy, whether because of genetics, age, or digestive health and intestinal microbiota.

Additionally, folks may choose (or avoid) dairy depending on taste, food preferences, culture and heritage, choices about consuming animal products, sanitation, or a variety of other criteria.

So even if dairy is theoretically “good”, depending on your unique makeup, it may or may not be “good” (or the right choice) for you.

What’s in dairy?

Since the first job of milk is to nourish a growing mammal, it’s a rich source of many beneficial nutrients, including:

  • fatty acids such as:
    • saturated, monounsaturated, and unsaturated fats
    • CLA, aka conjugated linoleic acid
    • trans-palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid with diabetes-protective properties
  • carbohydrates such as:
    • lactose
    • galactose
  • proteins such as:
    • casein
    • whey
    • immunoglobulins
  • minerals such as:
    • calcium
    • magnesium, a mineral needed for many body processes and bone health
    • phosphorus, which also plays a role in bone health
    • potassium, which helps your nervous and cardiovascular systems function
  • fat-soluble vitamins such as:
    • vitamin A
    • vitamin D
    • vitamin K2, an essential vitamin for bone and cardiovascular health that also helps regulate gene expression
  • B vitamins such as:
    • riboflavin, which supports energy levels and a healthy metabolism
    • vitamin B12, which promotes nerve and blood cell health
  • iodine, which is needed to make thyroid hormone

Let’s look at a few of these.

Fatty acids

While all fresh dairy contains a variety of fatty acids, exactly how much fat is in dairy, and what that fat is made of, can vary depending on many things:

  • which animal produces the dairy;
  • which breed of a given animal (such as a cow);
  • the animal’s diet and grazing patterns;
  • the animal’s stage of lactation;
  • what season the milk was collected;
  • the altitude at which the animal lived;
  • the sunlight it was exposed to;
  • and so on.

Since ruminants convert feed into fatty acids during digestion, an animal’s diet can drastically change the fatty acid composition of its milk.

For example, cows that are grass-fed have significantly more beneficial fatty acids than conventionally fed cows: about two to five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and about 62% more omega-3 fatty acids.

How the milk is processed (after it’s collected) will also determine fat content. The fat content in skim milk (virtually zero) is quite different from the fat content in Brie cheese or whole milk.

Proteins: Casein

One of the biggest benefits of dairy is its high protein content. In cow’s milk, about 80% of that protein is from the casein family of molecules.

Casein is a slow-digesting, high-quality protein that’s often recommended for gaining muscle and losing fat. It may have antioxidant effects and immune boosting properties; it may reduce triglycerides and high blood pressure.

On the other hand, casein has been associated with lymphoma, thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and constipation/GI distress. These are associations, though, not proven causal relationships.

For nutrition nerds:
A1 and A2 beta-caseinAs with fats, different breeds of animals produce different subtypes of casein molecules (notably, A1 beta-casein & A2 beta-casein). Some research suggests that the different types of molecules may have different health effects.

For instance, a small amount of observational research (mostly in animals) suggests that A1 beta-casein may be involved in the development of type 1 diabetes and heart disease. There’s also some evidence that milk containing A1 beta-casein can cause bigger digestive issues compared to milk containing only A2 beta-casein.

You may have also heard that dairy is addictive thanks to something called casomorphins. As the name implies, casomorphins are opioid peptides derived from A1 beta-casein. These compounds may have mildly addictive properties and influence gut health and bowel motility.

Yet other studies don’t find any these connections between casein / casomorphins, disease, and/or addictive behaviors, especially not in humans.

In the end, if we look at the reward potential of foods, the most “addictive” foods aren’t dairy foods but highly processed foods that contain a mix of refined starch/sugar, fat, salt and other flavor/texture enhancers (e.g. pizza, chips, cookies, ice cream).

Bottom line: There isn’t enough evidence to blame type 1 diabetes, heart disease, digestive issues, or your cheese obsession on A1 beta-casein. It’s certainly more complicated than that.

Proteins: Whey

Whey, the second type of protein in milk, is perhaps the most well-known protein. If you’ve ever had a protein shake, you’ve probably had whey protein powder.

While often used as a muscle-building supplement, whey protein can also:

  • lower triglyceride levels
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve the function of our blood vessels
  • improve insulin function
  • improve glucose control
  • sometimes (but not always) lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, and
  • increase total antioxidant capacity (by increasing glutathione levels).

It may also protect our liver (or help it heal when damaged). The two main whey proteins (alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin) seem to improve innate immune function, and whey tends to cause fewer allergies and intolerances than casein.

There’s also some conflicting evidence about whey protein and cancer, though a lot of the research on this topic has been done in rodents or as observational research on humans.

Some evidence suggests that whey protein can prevent cancer development and inhibit tumor growth of existing cancers. Yet some evidence suggests, in some cases, that whey might accelerate growth of existing tumors.

Overall, more research indicates anti-cancer properties than cancer promoting properties. In addition, if well tolerated, whey protein provides a host of other potential health benefits that other proteins do not (mostly due to its high cysteine content).

For most, the known benefits of whey likely outweigh the possible risks.

Minerals: Calcium

Aside from playing a role in bone health, calcium also enables our muscles to contract, our blood to clot, and our nerves to transmit messages. Getting enough calcium is important, but calcium retention is even more important. (For more on that, read all about bone health.)

While dairy is an excellent source of calcium, and is often the main source of calcium for people in North America, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

In many parts of the world, cow’s milk is a very small part of the average diet, yet diseases associated with calcium deficiency (like osteoporosis) are uncommon. Instead, people get their calcium from leafy greens from the cabbage family (especially if cooked), calcium-set tofu, beans, some nuts and seeds, fish with bones, and even some seaweeds.

Interestingly, in certain cases, heavy dairy consumption can increase calcium losses. For example, when too many vitamin-A-fortified dairy products are consumed, it can weaken bones. That may be one reason not to go beyond the recommended three servings of dairy per day.

Fat-soluble vitamins: A & D

Traditionally, the milk of ruminant animals (such as cows, sheep, goats, or reindeer) eating grass and other foliage would naturally contain vitamins A and D.

With the advent of industrial agriculture and processing, as well as growing awareness of nutritional deficiencies, milk is now fortified with added vitamins A and D. This is less crucial in affluent countries like the United States or the UK, but important in poorer regions of the globe where malnutrition remains a real concern.

Yet, as with calcium, there are other ways to get these nutrients.

Sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D, but eggs, mushrooms, and fish liver also contain small amounts of vitamin D. If those aren’t enough, you can also supplement with vitamin D.

For vitamin A there are lots of options:

  • Plant-based retinoids and carotenoids in plant foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, as well as those same cabbage family leafy greens that supply a good dose of calcium (mustard greens, collard greens, turnips greens, and kale).
  • Animal-based retinol (a readily absorbed form of vitamin A) in organ meats (like liver) and egg yolks.


Yes, there are hormones in milk. Even in organic milk. Let’s talk about those now.

Naturally occurring hormones

Most of the time, to produce milk, a mammal must have been pregnant. Dairy animals are thus in various stages of pregnancy and lactation, which can affect their milk’s hormone content.

For example: Pregnant cows may have hormone levels 20 to 30 times higher than milk from cows that are not pregnant and lactating.

That sounds scary, especially since higher blood levels of estrogen have been linked to some types of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, as well as recurrence of those cancers.

So researchers put it to the test (in mice, not humans). They gave mice 100 times more estrogen than was found in the milk of pregnant cows and it caused no increase in blood estrogen. Nothing at all. Only when the mice were given 1000 times the levels found in milk did they see a rise in blood levels of estrogen.

This is because steroid hormones are broken down by the liver after they are absorbed, which means they only increase blood levels when intake is incredibly high. (This is also why people who use steroids typically inject them rather than take them by mouth, to bypass the liver.)

While the mouse studies haven’t been replicated in humans, other human research has found no association between estrogens in milk and cancer incidence, or cancer recurrence.

On the other hand, preliminary research suggests that even small increases in blood levels of estrogens and their metabolites may negatively impact development of children during their most sensitive time periods — in the womb and around puberty. But the data here are limited.

In the end, dairy definitely has estrogens in it. Yet we don’t have convincing evidence that these estrogens enter our bloodstream or that they negatively influence health or development when consumed in milk or dairy.

Supplemental hormones

Some conventional (non-organic) dairy farmers also use a hormone called bovine growth hormone (bGH) or somatotropin (bST) to increase milk production.

This, like the estrogen conversation above, has caused concern. Similarly, though, while those hormones appear in the milk, they don’t end up as hormones in humans. Instead, they’re broken down into peptides (smaller protein chunks) and never make it into our bloodstream.

In other words, your body process these hormones the same way it processes other types of protein.

In addition, these hormones have no biological activity in humans. And even if they did, they are present in minuscule amounts (about 1/1000 of a gram per liter of milk), with about 85-90% of that destroyed during pasteurization.

Hormones that we make ourselves

IGF-1 is a hormone that supports all types of growth in the body — muscle, bone, and other tissues. And consuming dairy does seem to increase IGF-1 levels in humans.

So, unlike the estrogens and growth hormones above, which are present in milk but don’t make it into the human bloodstream when we drink milk, IGF-1 is a hormone that we naturally produce, and it goes up when we drink milk.

On the one hand, growth is a good thing. For instance, if you’re building muscle (or want to keep the muscle you have) or trying to increase bone density, you may benefit from the anabolic (building) effects of IGF-1.

On the other hand, uncontrolled growth is not a good thing. Some folks worry that IGF-1 could cause cancerous tumors.

This makes sense in theory, but milk consumption produces only a small rise in IGF-1 (about 2-10% above fasting levels). And it doesn’t appear that IGF-1 is a cause of tumor development.

It’s theoretically possible that higher levels of IGF-1 help existing tumors grow more rapidly, but research here is conflicting, and is mostly correlational or done in petri dishes (which don’t reflect the complex reality of the human body).

Interestingly, some research has shown that the intake of low-fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer in people with high levels of circulating IGF-1. Which does not align with the idea that milk increases IGF-1 levels, increasing cancer development.

And all protein-rich foods, plant or animal, increase levels of IGF-1. So this isn’t an issue unique to milk.

Thus: Dairy’s IGF-1 connection to cancer is not consistent or strong.

Likewise, fears that “milk’s got all those nasty hormones” isn’t a scientifically backed concern.

How do dairy types differ?

Most of us intuitively suspect that eating a container of cultured yogurt is a little different from downing a pint of ice cream. (Let’s be honest: Has anyone ever chosen a glass of skim milk to drown their sorrows after a breakup?)

Dairy types differ based on:

  • their percentage of various macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) as well as micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals, specific fatty acids, etc.)
  • their type of processing
  • their bacterial content
  • how digestible they are, and how quickly they digest
  • their fluid to solid ratio

You can have everything from pretty much pure fat (ghee, which is butter fat from which the milk solids have been removed) to almost entirely protein (e.g. casein and whey protein powders).

And of course, you can have dairy to which many ingredients have been added — sugar, salt, emulsifiers, flavorings, and so forth.


For most of us, breast milk is our first food. Milk effectively delivers water and important nutrients that we need to grow.

And, for many groups of humans, milk has been an important agricultural product. If your ethnic heritage included dairy farmers, you might benefit from milk and continue to be able to digest it (if you choose to consume it).

Adding milk to a calorie-deficient diet might help to increase muscle mass, decrease body fat and improve intake of important nutrients (protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin D). Although adding milk to a non-deficient diet doesn’t seem to have nearly the same effects.

Because of its relatively high water content, milk can be an effective way to replenish fluids, electrolytes and amino acids after workouts. And, at a population level, there’s no clear link between milk consumption and any diseases or health problems.

That doesn’t mean milk will always be healthy (or unhealthy) for everyone, all the time. The evidence is mixed, and probably confounded by the fact that various humans respond differently to milk.

The verdict:

  • Some folks can tolerate and benefit from milk, and choose to drink it. Some can’t, and don’t.
  • If you choose to consume milk: As with all foods, it’s probably best to have milk in moderation, noting whether it causes any symptoms and discontinuing it if it bothers you.

Yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy products

If milk is left unrefrigerated, naturally occurring species of bacteria will ferment it. Humans figured this out a long time ago, and now purposely encourage milk to ferment to create products such as yogurts, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, skyr, quark, and aged cheeses.

These bacterially fermented / cultured products seem to be the most health-promoting, least risky, and best-tolerated, and differ substantially from uncultured dairy.

They contain:

  • an abundant supply of probiotic organisms (which seemingly make our gut happier and healthier)
  • bioactive lipids (fats) produced by the probiotic organisms
  • lower levels of lactose (since the bacteria tend to digest the sugars)
  • more easily-digested protein
  • higher quantities of some beneficial nutrients (like vitamin K2)

Some research that’s found increased risks with certain dairy products often finds that the reverse is true with fermented dairy, which often decreases risk.

For example: Consistent yogurt consumption (along with other cultured and fermented dairy) seems to decrease risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease by improving the health of our GI tract, decreasing bodily inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, improving both innate and adaptive immune function, and being a satiating food (thanks to higher protein).

The verdict: Evidence strongly suggests that cultured and fermented dairy products provide many health benefits. Include them in your diet, if you want.


Findings on cheese have been mixed, but we know one thing for sure: Type of cheese matters.

Some cheeses are bacterially fermented/cultured and aged, and contain a lot of this friendly bacteria in their final form. They have a similar healthy nutritional profile as yogurt.

Other processed cheeses (e.g. American, nacho cheese sauce, cheese products, etc.) don’t. Many of these cheese types have other additives, such as soybean oil and artificial colors and flavors.

The verdict: Aged and cultured cheeses likely provide some health benefits. Enjoy processed cheese as an occasional treat, if you want.

Butter and ghee

Butter is a mix of butterfat and milk solids, while ghee is butterfat from which the milk solids have been removed (which makes it better for high-heat cooking, as there are no milk solids to burn).

While containing mostly saturated fats, they’re also about one-quarter monounsaturated fats, with about 4-5% polyunsaturated fats.

Although saturated fat isn’t the monster we once thought it was, that doesn’t exonerate it completely or give us free license to eat pounds of butter. (Sorry, BulletProof coffee lovers.)

Additionally, because of the churning process, butter is low in something called milk fat globule membrane compared to other dairy foods. This membrane encloses the fat and seems to prevent it from negatively affecting our blood cholesterol and lipoprotein levels.

Since butter only has half the membrane levels of cream, it can negatively affect blood lipid health, whereas cream (or other high-fat dairy that hasn’t been mechanically emulsified) doesn’t seem to do the same.

You may have heard a wine’s taste described as “buttery”. The taste comes from butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid compound that is a byproduct of bacterial fermentation, which is found in all fresh dairy products and makes up about 3-4% of butter.

Butyrates have many known health benefits, such as improving metabolic health, inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells, and regulating immunity.

However, again, this doesn’t necessarily mean butter is a miracle supplement. Since our own intestinal bacteria also make butyrates from fermenting carbohydrates, it’s more likely that a high-fiber diet will give us the most benefits of butyric acid.

The verdict: While a little butter is definitely okay, it is certainly not a superfood. Enjoy in small to moderate amounts, if you want.

Ice cream and frozen desserts

You can probably guess that ice cream and frozen dairy-based desserts are less healthy than, say, fresh cultured kefir.

Although some may have a bit of protein or other nutrients such as calcium, they’re typically processed foods that contain sugar, salt, flavorings, oils, emulsifiers, and other things that make them tasty and hard to stop eating. (You can blame your brain for that.)

The verdict: Enjoy as an occasional treat, if you want.

So, how does dairy affect your health?

The short answer about dairy and health is:

  • It depends.
  • It’s complicated.

Health (or the lack of it) comes from a complex interaction between many factors — our overall diets, our activities, our lifestyles, our environment, our genetics, our age, and so on.

Additionally, nutritional research can be complicated.

Bear this in mind as you read the next section.

There is no “magic food” or “demon food” that will be the single factor determining your health, fitness, or body composition. Dairy is one small part of a much bigger picture.

Losing fat or maintaining a healthy weight

In general, dairy consumption seems to help people lose fat, or maintain a healthy weight. Yogurt and cultured dairy seem to help the most.

This is probably due to:

  • the high-quality protein in dairy, which can be satiating (so we eat less overall)
  • nutrients such as calcium and magnesium
  • other unique compounds in yogurt and cultured dairy in particular, which may improve metabolic health, gut health, and other things that contribute to a healthy body composition

The verdict: If you choose to eat dairy, it can be a helpful part of a fat loss or weight management program.

Gaining muscle and athletic performance

Dairy is especially helpful for folks looking to gain or maintain muscle mass.

It is a rich source of whey and casein, two very high-quality proteins. Both have been shown to be among the most effective proteins to promote muscular growth as they are incredibly rich in essential amino acids — the ones we can’t make and need to get from our diet.

Plus, dairy can be a good source of extra energy if we need additional calories to add mass or recover from hard workouts.

The verdict: If you choose to eat dairy, it can be a helpful part of a muscle gain or athletic recovery program.

Osteoporosis and bone health

Bone health isn’t just about minerals; it’s also about getting enough protein and stimulating metabolic signals that tell bones to stay dense.

Dairy is a rich source of many nutrients that are important for bone health:

  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • protein
  • magnesium
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin K2

The vast majority of the research over the past 40 years indicates that dairy consumption improves or maintains bone health, while helping to prevent or slow bone loss. This is especially true for people who are active and eat a generally healthy diet, as these elements work together to build and maintain a strong and healthy skeleton.

While dairy helps bone health, we don’t necessarily need it for bone health.

You can have a strong and healthy skeleton with or without dairy, so long as you ensure adequate intake of important bone nutrients (calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, protein, etc.) and provide a bone-building stimulus, like resistance training.

Conversely, you can have low bone density even with dairy intake, if you eat poorly in general and don’t exercise (or if there are other factors involved, such as hormonal issues).

In other words, dairy doesn’t have to be make-or-break for bone health. (See what we did there?)

The verdict: In general, dairy consumption can help bone health. But you can get enough calcium and other bone-friendly nutrients without dairy.

Cardiovascular disease

Recent research indicates that there’s no significant association between the intake of dairy products and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke.

Often, dairy is associated with a slightly decreased risk (especially for stroke). That includes full-fat dairy, which in countries that regularly grass-feed their cows (such as Australia), is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. This relationship is inconsistent in the US, however, likely due to different agricultural practices.

The fatty acid profile of dairy probably affects its behavior (and health effects) in our body. Since an animal’s diet dramatically influences its fatty acid content, and cultured/fermented dairy seems to behave differently than non-cultured, the relationship between CVD and dairy probably depends a lot on what animals were fed, and what type of dairy people eat.

The verdict: If you are active and eat a well-balanced diet, moderate dairy consumption is unlikely to put you at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke, and might decrease risk (depending what dairy you choose).


The recently-updated reports from the World Cancer Research Fund International and American Institute for Cancer Research provide the most comprehensive compilation of research on the associations between dairy foods, red meat, and processed meat and various cancers.

The conclusions provide further confidence that dairy products and milk are associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and that high intakes of milk and dairy are not associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Previously, it was suggested that dairy intake was associated with breast cancer, so this is an interesting update.

Dairy intake also does not increase the risk of bladder cancer or gastric cancer, and is not associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or lung cancer. They found the evidence for prostate cancer risk is inconsistent (which agrees with other evidence we’ve cited).

It’s important to note that the vast majority of research here is observational, and therefore can’t fully predict true cause and effect relationships.

And it’s also important to note that even when dairy is associated with an increased risk of cancer, the overall calculated contribution from dairy to cancer risk is very small. Dairy is dwarfed by much larger contributors, such as smoking, obesity, alcohol, lack of activity and sun exposure.

The verdict: Current research indicates that overall dairy intake does not pose increased risk of several types of cancer, but this is certainly an area where we need more research.

Dairy-related allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances

Some people simply can’t tolerate dairy. If you’re one of them, you might already know. But dairy allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities aren’t always so easy to identify.

Here’s what each one is, how to know if you have it, and what that means for you and dairy.

Dairy allergy

An allergy is defined by a particular immune response that is rather immediate.

If you’re having an allergic reaction to dairy, you’re most likely not going to feel it in only your digestive system, but also elsewhere: skin, respiratory system, mouth and throat, etc. Think: itching, swelling, hives, and potentially difficulty breathing.

If you’ve had a reaction like this to dairy, consult with a doctor to get allergy testing done. You can also try an elimination diet. Dairy allergies are most common in children, but can also occur in adults.

If you have a dairy allergy, you should avoid dairy.

Lactose intolerance

Milk contains simple sugars such as galactose (a monosaccharide) and lactose (a disaccharide of glucose and galactose).

Some of us can digest these sugars well, some of us can’t.

In order to do so, we need to produce lactase and galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase, the enzymes that break down lactose and galactose, respectively. This depends on:

  • our age (we’re more able to digest milk sugars when we’re younger);
  • our intestinal health or microbial environment; and
  • the friendly bacteria in the dairy products themselves (if they’re fermented).

If we can’t digest lactose properly, it passes intact into the large intestine. It then ferments, producing gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Fun times.

If we can’t digest galactose properly, we may have a genetic disorder known as galactosemia. This is more serious, and newborn babies may be screened for it.

As biological organisms, humans have consistently evolved to meet the demands of their food environment, and many groups of people worldwide have independently evolved the ability to digest lactose (known as lactase persistence). In most cases, these populations (such as northern Europeans or East Africans) have traditionally been dairy farmers.

Some people who are lactose intolerant can, however:

  • digest non-cow dairy (such as goat milk);
  • digest fermented dairy (such as kefir);
  • digest low-lactose dairy (such as cheese); and/or
  • digest dairy if they take probiotics or lactase supplements.

There are also lactose-free dairy products available.

The best way to tell if you have lactose intolerance is to keep a detailed food log that tracks your symptoms, or try an elimination diet.

If you are lactose intolerant, you can experiment with different options to see what you can tolerate. If your symptoms are persistent, avoid dairy.

Other types of dairy sensitivity

Some people are sensitive to dairy but lactose isn’t the problem. Instead, they may be intolerant or sensitive to something else in milk, like casein, whey, or other immunoglobulins (types of proteins) in milk.

When our immune system reacts to some component of milk, we can have digestive symptoms along with other food intolerance symptoms, such as inflammation, skin rashes and acne, irritated respiratory passages, and so forth.

The process for determining dairy sensitivity and intolerance is the same as for lactose intolerance: Keep a detailed food log that tracks your symptoms, or try an elimination diet.

Ultimately, only you can decide if the occasional slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream is worth the potential digestive discomfort. Make the decision with your eyes wide open, aware of the tradeoffs, and based on your goals and values.

If you have another type of dairy sensitivity, you can experiment with different options to see what you can tolerate. If your symptoms are persistent, avoid dairy.

How do dairy farming and milk processing matter?

Organic versus conventional dairy farming

Many people assume that organic means better.

In some ways, that can be true.

Organic dairy usually comes from cows who are fed better, as it comes from cows receiving only organic feed and getting at least 120 days of pasture grazing yearly, providing at least 30% of their food during that grazing period.

Keep in mind that organic doesn’t require that cows are only fed grasses and hay. They can still be fed grains and other feed, as long as they are organically produced. Still, the majority of organic dairies report that at least half of the animals’ food comes from pasture.

Why does that matter? As we’ve seen, diet strongly affects dairy quality.

The amount of pasture that cows have access to can influence the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of the milk. The most nutritious dairy comes from healthy animals that spend most of their time outdoors on fresh pasture eating lots of grass supplemented with hay, root veggies, and grains.

Organic dairy will also come from cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics.

The concern with antibiotics is that the drugs some farmers use to prevent infections in cows are also used to treat infections in humans. Antibiotic resistance is a significant problem as it is, so consuming trace amounts of antibiotics in milk might make the problem of resistant bacteria worse.

As we covered earlier, bovine growth hormone (bGH) is sometimes used by conventional farmers to increase milk production. Though this hormone is not shown to have adverse effects on humans, it’s regarded as inhumane by organic farmers and animal rights activists due to the fact that it forces cows to produce more milk than they’re meant to, and can increase the risk of infection, which means they need antibiotics.

Remember, though, that although it may contain smaller amounts, organic milk does have hormones in it. All milk does (including human breast milk).

Pasteurization and homogenization

Raw milk goes through processing to keep it safe for human consumption. It ferments unless refrigerated, and bacteria and viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans in the course of handling.

Pasteurization heats milk in a vat to temperatures that microorganisms cannot tolerate, killing them in the process.

Homogenization crushes milk fat globules so small that they cannot rise to the surface and form a cream layer. This helps mix added fat-soluble vitamins such as the vitamins A and D.

As far as health implications go, processing milk can sometimes result in higher amounts of lactose. This is one of the reasons raw milk is promoted by some, although the risk of milk-borne disease increases substantially when milk is kept raw.

Importantly: The risk of bacterial infection from raw milk, in general, outweighs any speculative health concerns about pasteurization. Before the advent of modern food safety measures and pasteurization, raw milk routinely killed people, especially children, via infectious diseases.

Nerdy fact: Homogenization didn’t gain acceptance until the 1930s when cardboard and opaque milk containers were introduced. Before then, the cream line was visible through glass bottles and used by consumers to gauge the richness and desirability of the milk.

Environmental and ethical concerns

Some people choose not to consume dairy for environmental and/or ethical reasons.

Livestock production around the world is complex. Generally speaking, animal products require more inputs (water, feed, energy, etc.) than crop products like tubers and legumes, and tend to produce more harmful outputs (waste, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.)

Now, this isn’t always the case, as a lot depends on what type of land is being used for livestock grazing and feed production. Still, in developed countries, most dairy products come from concentrated animal feeding operations (farms where animals are raised in confinement) which can be environmentally harmful, and are regarded as inhumane by animal rights activists.

This doesn’t mean non-dairy alternatives are necessarily “good” though — for instance, some concerns have been raised over water depletion from almond farming, which of course is used to create almond milk. Some non-dairy “milk” options are more sustainable than others. (For an in-depth examination of this, see Andrews R. Eating to Prevent the Apocalypse April 2017).

In short, environmental and ethical concerns are legitimate reasons to abstain from dairy if you feel passionately about them, but make sure to also research the alternatives if you’re seeking truly ethical and/or environmentally sustainable options.

What does all this mean for you?

Start by asking yourself a few questions.

1. What matters most to me?

In making food decisions, you may be focused on longevity, or gaining muscle mass, or clearing up a health issue, or sustainable agriculture, or finding a convenient snack the kids will eat, or any number of other values, goals, and priorities.

You may like cheese so much you’ll eat it even if it gives you a stomach ache, because you’ve decided that life isn’t worth living without a good Camembert.

There’s no “right choice”. There are only choices that work more or less for you.

2. What works for me as an individual?

Your body is unique. Your life is unique.

You may tolerate dairy, or not. You may like it, or not.

It’s your call.

3. What fits into my routine and daily life? What do I enjoy?

Whether you’re feeding yourself, or an entire family, whether you’re a road warrior or homebody, whether you’re a hard-training athlete or couch potato, your routine and daily life will shape your food choices.

Greek yogurt may stack easily in the office fridge; whey protein might be a convenient and portable sports supplement; a latte may fill you up when you’re on the go and can’t get solid food; goat cheese or Parmesan might help you enjoy a salad more, and so on.

There are many ways and reasons to consume dairy… or not.

4. What am I noticing about myself?

If you think you may have a dairy intolerance, start keeping a food symptoms journal. Observe as much as you can — what you ate, when you ate it, what physical signs you’re experiencing, and so forth.

Over time, look for patterns.

5. What’s reasonable?

Be sane. Don’t get all spun up about finding the “perfect” choice or “following the rules”.

Simply try to find better choices (however you define them), where you can, and let the rest be.

If you can tolerate and enjoy dairy, moderate consumption (1 to 3 servings daily) is probably fine, especially if one or two of those servings are yogurt or other cultured/fermented dairy products, and if you consume that dairy in the context of a generally healthy diet.

Here at PN, we think of food choices as continuums rather than “dos and don’ts”. Here’s what it might look like for dairy:

If you DO choose to eat dairy:

Understand the differences between dairy products.

If you want to keep dairy in your life, get to know the wide range of dairy types available, and experiment. Try products made with goat or sheep milk (or give that Mongolian yak butter tea a shot).

Consider choosing fermented / cultured dairy more often.

Bacterially produced products such as yogurt, kefirskyrquark, aged cheeses, and other fermented and cultured dairy products seem to be the healthiest options.

Read labels.

Many types of dairy are highly processed and contain lots of sugar, salt, and other stuff you don’t necessarily want lots of. “Frozen yogurt” might sound healthy, but in health terms, it’s pretty much the same as ice cream.

Keep things in perspective.

Eating healthy — and even meeting your goals — doesn’t require perfection.

So if you decide you want to keep eating dairy, remember that while some types of dairy may be more health-promoting than others, indulging sometimes is okay — even good for you.

If you decide to give up dairy and then slip up, don’t sweat it.

Either way, have that ice cream, cheddar cheese, or whatever else you want to splurge on. Enjoy it, and then get back to your usual routine.

If you choose NOT to eat dairy:

If you have a dairy allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, you have ethical or environmental concerns about dairy, or you simply don’t want to eat it…


You don’t need dairy in order to be healthy.

Get the nutrients you need from other sources.

Plan your menus to get enough protein, minerals, and so on from other foods.

Get help if you need it.

If you need more guidance with uncovering and exploring food sensitivities, with shopping and reading food labels, with planning a menu that accommodates your choices, or any other nutritional question, consider getting coaching (and/or consulting your health care professional as needed).

If you’re a coach with clients or patients asking for advice on dairy:

As the evidence currently stands (read: not yet definitive), the known health benefits of dairy most certainly outweigh the suspected harms, on average.

But individual people are not research averages. Each unique person needs to see how dairy makes them feel, and determine if it’s right for them. That’s a good thing. People need to feel in charge of their own journey.

Don’t engage clients in theoretical debates, give them strict “rules”, or scare them. Instead, coach them through the discussion respectfully. Encourage them to keep a food journal and learn to be their own scientist.

Look to deepen your coaching relationship and understand your client’s perspective, while helping them feel in control of their choices.

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that eating well (whether you eat dairy or not), regular movement, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

For full article please visit

How I quit weekend overeating.  5 surprising strategies that helped me ditch the bingeing,  the guilt, and the extra weight.

In my world, weekend overeating (and over-boozing) was ‘just what people did.’ It felt good to let loose… until I got sick of the regret, guilt, bloating, and extra pounds. That’s when I discovered the surprising *real* reason behind my Friday-to-Sunday gorging. Here are the 5 strategies I used to ditch the habit (and the weight) for good.

I used to overeat like a boss.

True story.

Sure, I was “good” all week.

But weekend overeating? That was my jam.

Every Friday around 5pm, as I waited for the bus after work, I’d start to salivate. The end of the work week meant red wine, pizza, a giant bag of chips, and bad movies. It was a Friday ritual.

Sometimes I’d call my husband while waiting. What should we get on the pizza? They do that really good pesto sauce with goat cheese. What about extra sausage?

Friday night, when I got to eat whatever I wanted, was the highlight of my week.

My job was stressful. The commute was long. Coming home, dumping my stuff, and crushing some fast food and booze was my way of unwinding.


Friday became a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend.

I ate big breakfasts on Saturdays before I went to the gym, and big lunches afterwards. I went out on Saturday nights for drinks and a heavy meal. Or stayed home for more takeout and movies on the couch.

Then came Sunday brunches, of course. And picking up some of those amazing cookies at that little coffee shop on Sunday walks. And, naturally, you close weekends with a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday.

Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday.

Which bled into: Because it’s Thursday night. Technically close enough to Friday. Friday-adjacent, and good enough.

In my head, the weekend was a time where “normal rules” didn’t apply. It was a time to relax, put my feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take me away.

I’m not talking about compulsive bingeing here. That’s where you have episodes of eating without thinking, almost like you’re on autopilot.

(People with binge eating disorder feel disassociated while overeating and that can be hard to break without help from a doctor or therapist.)

But for me, it wasn’t that. Rather, mine was the kind of overeating where you’re all-in: a convenient, stress-fueled, often social, habit.

My social circle was happy to support it. I had binge buddies and pizza pals. As far as I was concerned, going hog wild was just what people did on weekends.

Looking back, I also know that in the face of a stressful job and overwhelming responsibilities my overeating ritual made me feel sane and human.

After a while, though, weekend overeating started to suck.

As every overeater knows, the joy of runaway indulgence comes with consequences.

You feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, perhaps even sick to your stomach. Mentally, you feel crappy. Guilty. Regretful. Maybe angry at yourself. Or just angry in general.

And while weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can sabotage your goals.

Aside from the obvious extra body fat or stalled performance, there’s other unwanted stuff.

Like your joints hurt because of inflammation from last night’s junk food. Or you’re too full to run properly. Or you lie awake in bed with meat sweats, huffing in small breaths around the food-baby in your belly.

Yet the cycle can be hard to break.

I tried to get it under control.

I started cutting deals with myself, such as, if it’s “real food” then it’s okay to overeat. (Cue jars of almond butter, spinach pizzas, and all-you-can-eat sushi.)

During the week, I trained harder. Ate less. Tracked low and high calories in a spreadsheet. But every starvation attempt was inevitably followed by an even bigger blowout on the weekend.

The cycle continued; my health and fitness goals remained elusive.

Then I made a surprising discovery.

How did I finally break free of my weekend overeating cycle?

Maybe not how you think.

I didn’t use “one weird trick”, or biological manipulation, or reverse psychology.

With some help from a nutrition coach, I realized that my eating habits on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday weren’t the only challenge. There were some questionable weekday habits, too. Habits that were perhaps even more crucial to the whole picture.

Once I identified my work-week eating patterns, and how they were affecting my weekend behavior, I developed a healthier relationship with food… and myself.

Here are the 5 strategies that helped me turn things around.

Strategy #1:
I aimed for “good enough” instead of “perfect”.

I’ve seen it in so many Precision Nutrition Coaching clients.

They want to follow the “perfect” diet.

So they adhere to strict meal plans (to the last measured teaspoon) Monday to Friday. And, the whole week, they worry incessantly about screwing things up.

By the weekend, though, the willpower gives out. They’re so sick of restrictive eating and can’t wait to eat food they actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge!

For most of them, there are only two options: perfect or crap.

So the logic follows:

“It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge heap of fries.”

If you take “perfect” off the table, things change. You feel empowered because there are now other options. Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of fries, there’s:

“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger because I had fries at that work lunch on Thursday.”

Therefore, my solution: Always aim for “good enough”.

Throughout the work week and the weekend, I started to consider my health and fitness goals, what I was in the mood for, what was available, etc. I came up with a definition of “good enough”, and aimed for that.

Remember: The decent method you follow is better than the “perfect” one you quit.

Strategy #2:
I let go of my food rules.

If perfectionism is the Wicked Witch of overeating, then food rules are the flying monkeys.

Food rules tell you:

  • what you can and can’t eat,
  • when you can or can’t eat it,
  • how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
  • how much you can or can’t have.

Spreadsheet time!

These rules take up an awful lot of mental real estate. They also set you up for disinhibition… aka “the Screw It Effect”.

Here’s how the Screw It Effect works.

Let’s say your #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No croutons on the salad; won’t touch a sandwich; no potatoes with your omelet. Thanks.

But this Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You hold out for a bit. Finally, you give in and grab a slice.

That means screw it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and uncomfortable after effects.

Of course, if you have one food rule, you probably have several. That means there are lots of ways to “mess up” (and disinhibit). Maybe all night. Maybe all weekend.

Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating crap, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.

My solution: I ditched the rules and let hunger be my guide.

Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or happy hour.

Start by paying attention to your own food rules and responses.

When, where, and how are you likely to say, “Screw it?” What might happen if you let go of that rule and really tuned in to your physical hunger and fullness cues instead?

Strategy #3:
I gave up on “Cheat Days”.

Monday through Saturday is all about being faithful to your diet. But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day.

Oh, Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week.

You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas. Go hog wild all day long, eating all the stuff you didn’t permit yourself during the week.

As evening nears, you start to freak out. So you eat (and maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.

Sure, some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means continue.

But for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory.

My solution: I quit the Cheat Day routine, and gave myself permission to choose what I wanted all week long.

Like the Screw It Effect, Cheat Day depends on scarcity.

Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy. The counter to a scarcity mindset? Abundance.

For you and most people around you, food is abundant — not something to be hoarded or feared. (If that’s true in your life, be grateful. It’s a privilege.)

You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on. Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because you’re satisfied from dinner.

What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues. No matter what day of the week it is.

Strategy #4:
I owned my choices (Really. Owned them.)

Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?

“Okay, self, I’ll turn down dessert today… but I’m gonna collect on the weekend and you better pony up the whole damn pie.”

In this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “sin” elsewhere. These trades rarely pay off — they usually just amount to a lot of mental gymnastics that help you avoid making tough decisions and help you justify overeating.

Look, we’re all adults here. Trading off “good” and “bad” is for little kids and convicts. There is no “good” and “bad”. There’s no prison warden holding the keys.

Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions.

My solution: I started owning my choices, and letting my adult values and deeper principles guide me when I sat down to eat.

I started making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome I would expect, based on my experience. For example:

“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m fine with it.”

In the end, own your choices: Don’t moralize them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behavior.

Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.

It’s your call.

Strategy #5:
I stopped rationalizing.

Weekends present all sorts of comfortable justifications for eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods.

It could be anything:

  • You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
  • You were traveling. Or maybe you were at home.
  • You had to work. Or you had no work to do.
  • You had family/social meals. Or maybe you ate alone.

Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!

But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. Their explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.

Rationalizations are a convenient script. They help us make sense of — and perpetuate — our overeating or other unhelpful behaviors.

My solution: I stopped rationalizing and asked myself why I was really overeating.

Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal.

But instead of falling back on the tired victim-of-circumstance narrative, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on.

Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy?

Do this over and over and over, and you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s your pot of gold. That’s your opportunity to change overeating behavior — and do something else to address those emotions instead of bingeing.


For full article by Krista Scott-Dixon visit

The Last Fitness Frontier: Chronotyping


This is an excerpt from Life, Awakened – a series of articles that promote harnessing the power of sleep for those in pursuit of an active, healthy lifestyle.


“You’ve found the workouts that work best for you. You’ve pinpointed your perfect eating plan. But if you haven’t identified your chronotype to optimize your health and fitness, you may be missing an important piece of the puzzle.

“Your chronotype is your genetically pre-determined sleep schedule,” explains sleep expert Michael Breus, M.D., author of The Power of When. “By knowing your chronotype, you know your personal natural hormone schedule. Being aware of when your hormones are at the right level for a particular activity (i.e. workouts) will give you a significant advantage.”

Joseph Geraghty, a Tier X manager at Equinox Sports Club Los Angeles, agrees. Determining your ideal time to sleep and exercise will make you most productive in all aspects of your life.

Indeed, this October three scientists—Jeffrey C. Hall, Ph.D., Michael Rosbash, Ph.D., and Michael Young, Ph.D.—were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on the body’s circadian rhythm, which controls biological clocks that govern eating behavior, metabolism, and, of course, sleep. Using fruit flies (which are known to have similar circadian rhythms to humans), the team of researchers discovered the clocks’ molecular mechanism. “We found that when we manipulate sleep artificially, if we induced it in some cases by tightly regulating their circadian clocks, we could extend sleep and life span in those flies.” In other words, the scientists were able to understand how our biological clocks regulate all of our behaviors, particularly sleep.”

How to Identify Your Chronotype

Your chronotype is determined by the PER3 gene (which stands for period circadian clocks 3) and new research shows that it varies widely among people and even changes a bit throughout your life. And while scientists used to think there were just morning or evening types, recent research has found that there are actually four chronotype categories. Most people should have a good idea of which category they fall into simply by identifying with the following patterns. (If you’re not sure, though, you can head to your doctor or try an at-home test you can mail in for a full analysis. “Your chronotype can be determined with blood or saliva analysis,” notes Breus.)



Often called Larks or Lions, these naturally early risers are ready to go before dawn, tend to be most productive between 10:00 a.m. and noon, and their energy declines throughout the day. Bedtime should be around 10:00 p.m.; workouts should be in the morning and late afternoon.



These people—whom scientists sometimes call Owls or Wolves—naturally stay up late and sleep in later. Their energy spikes when the sun goes down. Bedtime is likely around midnight; workouts should be in the evening, when they tend to be most productive.



About half of all people fall into this category: Energy ebbs and flows predictably with the sun so they’re most productive in the daytime and have less mojo at night. Bedtime should be around 11:00 p.m. and workouts are best in the early to late morning. Overall, these people (Breus calls them Bears) are most alert from late morning (but they’re not as energy-charged as morning types) to early afternoon and most productive just before noon.



If you wake with minimal noise, sometimes feeling unrefreshed after sleep, and experience fogginess off and on during the day, you might naturally have lower energy, a category that Breus calls Dolphins (because they sleep with half their brains still awake). Athletes who identify with this type should aim to work out about 90 minutes after rising for the day. While they tend to be most alert in the evening, their energy comes in unpredictable spurts throughout the day.

And while they’ve identified these types, scientists are still investigating why you’re a certain chronotype. There are different theories, but an important one: Research indicates that levels of melatonin—the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle—varies widely in people and can change as you age, based on diet and lifestyle.

How to Optimize Your Chronotype

Geraghty has witnessed the effect of adapting your fitness routine to your genetic type first-hand: “I’ve seen people shift when they exercised based on their chronotype—and their energy, focus, and productivity have gone through the roof.” Science agrees. As does Suhas Kshirsagar, M.D., author of the upcoming book Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Understanding the body’s circadian rhythm will help you set a daily schedule that allows you to get the right amount of sleep, eat the right foods at the right time, and get enough daily exercise to keep you focused and fit,” he says. His top tips to sync up with your chronotype:

  • Unplug from electronics by 9:30 p.m. Research has shown that blue light emitted from phones, tablets, and screens messes with your circadian rhythm and lowers the levels of natural melatonin in your system.
  • Go outside. “We get far too little natural light during the day. This confuses and delays the natural circadian rhythm and puts you in the path of insomnia. Take an outdoor walk; you will be able to fall asleep easier at night if you get more natural light during the day,” says Kshirsagar.
  • Make lunch your largest meal. “Eating late at night could contribute to insomnia and interfere with your body’s ability to produce serotonin and necessary hormones for the next day,” says Kshirsagar. “Moving your largest meal to the midpoint of the day erases all of these problems for all chronotypes.”

In some cases, people struggle with adjusting to their natural chronotype—say, people who have to travel across time zones regularly and suffer from jet lag. Breus often prescribes different variations of light, melatonin, caffeine, and napping to patients to help them adopt their natural schedules.

“Sleep is the entry point—If you can fix your sleep to adapt to your chronotype, you can make better decisions with nutrition and have more energy during your workouts so you see better results,” Geraghty concludes.

For full article please visit



Science supports a smoothie habit.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.

Researchers in New Zealand found that people who eat lots of raw fruits and vegetables are more likely to report positive moods, greater life satisfaction, and fewer symptoms of depression than those who eat produce in non-raw states.
“There’s promising evidence that folate, carotenoids, vitamin C, and B vitamins are involved with wellbeing and mental health,” says study author Kate Brookie, Ph.D., a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

But most of these nutrients get destroyed when they’re cooked, canned, or otherwise processed. There are exceptions: Carotenoids, like those in carrots and dark leafy greens, actually become more abundant when exposed to high temps, she says.

While most can’t stand the heat, antioxidants can hold their own in the freezer. “Pop frozen fruits and vegetables straight into a smoothie, and you won’t lose any nutrients,” Brookie adds.


Even eating one extra serving of raw produce per day can significantly boost your mental health, she says. The benefits level off once you reach eight daily servings. (So don’t go overboard if you find raw veggies lead to bloating.)

Opt for these fruits and vegetables, which the study found had the most mood-boosting benefits: Apples, bananas, carrots, lettuce, berries, cucumbers, kiwis, dark leafy greens like spinach, and citrus fruits like grapefruit.

For full article by Lisa Fields please visit

Would I be healthier if I quit drinking?  My quest to understand the real tradeoffs of alcohol consumption.

The after-work gin and tonic. The bottle of wine over dinner. A few beers on the weekend. Before long, the alcohol adds up.

Is that a problem? Can drinking stand in the way of your health and fitness? Do you need to quit drinking to change your body? Or could it actually be good for you?

In this article we explore the question in a personal way.

“Should I take a break from booze?”

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I’ve asked it, as have many of our Precision Nutrition Coaching clients.

At the same time, like many of our clients, I’ve never really felt like I needed to quit drinking. My consumption is normal by most accounts, as is theirs. It’s “moderate.”

But boozy beverages seem to show up a lot in my life — and I know I’m not alone in that.

Maybe we like having a beer to mark the end of a work day. Maybe on Friday we get fancy with a cocktail.

Something to celebrate? Pour a little champagne. Crappy day? That Chardonnay or Cabernet will soften the edges a little bit.

The drinks can start to add up.

If we consider ourselves healthy people, alcohol is easy to justify. We exercise. We try to eat nutritious food. If we’re getting coaching, we know we’re working on our stuff.

But still. Some of us wonder…

Are we OK?

Are we justifying something we shouldn’t?

Are we ignoring the elephant in the room who’s currently dancing with a lampshade on its head and laughing a little too loud while telling off-color jokes?

Are we pretending craft beer or red wine is a health food because it’s artisanal or full of antioxidant something-something?

If we want to be healthy, fit, and functional, how does alcohol factor in?

As I discovered, the answer isn’t straightforward. (It rarely is.)

For one thing:

You may have heard that drinking is actually good for you.

Moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, gallstones, and coronary heart disease.

Light to moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, helping reduce your risk of cardiac arrest and clot-caused stroke by 25 to 40 percent.

And there have been several studies indicating that drinkers — even heavy drinkers — actually outlive people who don’t drink.

We see headlines like this every time a new study comes out, which seems fairly often, judging by my newsfeed.

An important point that seems to get buried:

If you don’t already drink, health experts recommend you don’t start.

Wait, what? If drinking is so good for you, then why not add that antioxidant-rich red wine to MyPlate — a nice goblet right where the milk used to be?

Because no one knows if any amount of alcohol is actually good for all of us.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you not to drink.

That’s not what this article is about.

But, despite all the headlines and pro-drinking studies:

Most of the research on alcohol’s potential health benefits are large, long-term epidemiological studies.

This type of research never proves anything.

Rather than showing that X causes Y, it simply says that X seems to be correlated with Y.

So even though many studies suggest that light to moderate drinkers have lower rates of the above-mentioned health problems than non-drinkers, that doesn’t mean drinking causes those benefits.

Sure, it could be that alcohol consumption raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Or it could be that moderate drinking reduces stress.

Or it could be that drinking doesn’t cause any health benefit.

Rather, it could be that people who drink a light to moderate amount also have something else going on in their lives, unrelated to alcohol consumption, that keeps them healthier, such as:

  • robust and resilient genes
  • a lower-stress personality
  • a particular lifestyle
  • good social connections and support

We just don’t know for sure.

Any physiological effects would vary from person to person.

The amount of alcohol that may help your heart health might harm your friend’s — for instance, if they have a history of high blood pressure.

And most of the research indicates that you’d have to be a light to moderate drinker with no heavy drinking episodes (even isolated ones) to see a heart benefit.

OK, given that…

What is “moderation”, anyway?

Definitions vary around the world, but according to the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “moderate drinking” means, on average:

  • For women: up to seven drinks per week, with no more than three drinks on any single day.
  • For men: up to 14 drinks per week, with no more than four drinks on any single day.

And here’s a guide to health-agency classified “drinks”:

Sure, you might know you’re not a binge drinker (that’s five or more drinks for men, or upwards of four for women, within two hours).

But when was the last time you poured wine in a measuring cup, or tallied your total number of drinks at the end of the week, or calculated your weekly average in a given month, or adjusted your tally to account for that sky-high 9.9% ABV Strong Ale you love?

Studies show that people routinely, sometimes drastically, underestimate their alcohol consumption.

It’s easy to edge into the “heavy” category without realizing it.

For example, if you’re a woman:

That’s a big problem, since heavy drinking comes with a much higher risk of major health problems.

Risks associated with moderate and heavy alcohol consumption

Moderate Heavy
Heart Arrhythmias
High blood pressure
Kidney disease
Heart disease
Brain Disinhibition
Altered judgement
Poor coordination
Sleep disruption
Chemical dependence
Neurological damage
Damage to developing brains
Immunity Infection / illness / lowered immune response
Cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast)
Damaged intestinal barrier
Increased inflammation / flare-ups of autoimmune disorders
Hormones Breast cancer Hormone disruption
Impaired sexual function
Impaired reproductive function
Thyroid disease
Liver Worsening of existing conditions such as hepatitis Fatty liver
Alcoholic hepatitis
Fibrosis / cirrhosis
Liver cancer
Metabolism Weight gain or stalled weight loss**
Interference with some medications
Loss of bone density
Bone fractures
Changes to fat metabolism
Muscle damage

*Particularly if there’s alcoholism in your family
**If drinking causes you to eat more food or opt for energy-dense meals

In young males especially, even moderate drinking increases the risk of accidental injury or death, due to the “Hey y’all, hold my beer and watch this!” effect, or simply the dangerous equation of youthful exuberance combined with less impulse control, combined with more peer pressure, combined with things like motor vehicles and machinery.

All drinking comes with potential health effects.

After all, alcohol is technically a kind of poison that our bodies must convert to less-harmful substances for us to enjoy a good buzz relatively safely.

Through a series of chemical pathways using the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), we convert ethanol to acetaldehyde, then to acetate. The body breaks acetate down into carbon dioxide and water.

A second system for processing alcohol, the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS), involves cytochrome P450 (CYP), an enzyme group that chemically affects potentially toxic molecules (such as medications) so they can be safely excreted.

In light to moderate drinkers, only about 10 percent of ethanol processing is done by the MEOS. But in heavy drinkers, this system kicks in more strongly. That means the MEOS may be less available to process other toxins. Oxidative cell damage, and harm from high alcohol intake, then goes up.

The biochemistry doesn’t matter as much as the core concepts:

1. We have to change alcohol to tolerate it.

2. Our ability to process alcohol depends on many factors, such as:

  • our natural individual genetic tolerance
  • our ethnicity and genetic background (for instance, many people of East Asian ancestry have a genetically-linked aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme deficiency, which affects their ability to properly metabolize alcohol)
  • our age
  • our body size
  • our biological sex
  • our individual combinations of conversion enzymes
  • etc.

3. Dose matters. But all alcohol requires some processing by the body.

So what’s the “sweet spot”?

What amount of alcohol balances enjoyment (and your jokes becoming funnier) with your body’s ability to respond and recover from processing something slightly poisonous?

The moderate-vs-heavy guidelines are the experts’ best guess at the amount of alcohol that can be consumed with statistically minimal risk, while still accounting for what a lot of people are probably going to do anyway: drink.

It doesn’t mean that moderate drinking is risk-free.

But drinking is fun. (There, I said it.)

In North America, we tend to separate physical well-being from our emotional state. In reality, quality of life, enjoyment, and social connections are important parts of health.

So let me say it:

I enjoy drinking.

So do a lot of other people.

In the U.S., for example, 65 percent of people say they consume alcohol. Of those drinkers, at least three quarters enjoy alcohol one or more times per week.

The wine flows at lunchtime in continental Europe (for Scandinavians, it’s the light beer lättöl). Hitting a pub or two after work is standard procedure in the UK and Japan. Northern Europeans swear by their brennivin, glögg, or akvavit (not to mention vodka). South America and South Africa alike are renowned for their red wines.

Thus, for much of the world’s population, alcohol — whether beer, wine or spirits — is something of a life staple.

And if you’re doing it right — meaning tasteful New Year’s Eve champagne toasts are more common in your life than shot-fueled bar dances to “Hotline Bling” — there are some undeniable benefits to be gained:

  • Pleasure: Assuming you’ve graduated from wine coolers and cheap tequila shots, alcoholic beverages usually taste pretty darn delicious.
  • Leisure: A bit of alcohol in your bloodstream does help you feel relaxed. And like a good meal, a good glass of wine should offer the opportunity to slow down for a minute.
  • Creativity: There’s evidence that when you’re tipsy, you may be more successful at problem-solving thanks to increased out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Social connection: Drinking may contribute to social bonding through what researchers call “golden moments” — when you all smile and laugh together over the same joke. This sense of community, belonging, and joy can contribute to your health and longevity.

If you’re going to drink, drink because you genuinely enjoy it.

Drink if it truly adds value and pleasure to your life.

Not because:

  • you’re stressed
  • it’s a habit
  • other people around you don’t want to drink alone; or
  • it’s “good for you”.

With confusing alcohol consumption categories and contradictory news headlines, many people give up trying to decide whether drinking is healthy or not.

A new study shows alcohol may be harmful? Whatever.


Drinkers live longer? I’ll hop on that horse and ride it straight to the bar!

So forget about the potential health benefits of alcohol.

There are plenty of (probably better) ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease — like eating well, exercising, and not smoking.

Wanting the enjoyment of a perfect Old Fashioned or a rare sake is a legitimate — probably the best — reason to drink.

As with what you eat, what you drink should be purposeful and mindful. And delicious.

Drinking or not drinking isn’t about “healthy vs. not”. It’s about tradeoffs.

Alcohol is just one factor among many that affect physical performance, health, and fitness.

Whether to keep drinking or cut back depends on how much you drink, what your goals are, and how you want to prioritize those things.

Only you know what you are, or aren’t, willing to trade.

It may be a simple “yes” or “no”.

  • Saying “yes” to Friday happy hour might mean saying “no” to your Saturday morning workout.
  • Saying “yes” to marathon training might mean saying “no” to boozy Sunday brunches.
  • Saying “yes” to better sleep (and focus, and mood) might mean saying “no” to your daily wine with dinner.
  • Saying “yes” to moderate alcohol consumption might mean finding a way to say “no” to stress triggers (or human triggers) that make you want to drink more.

Or it may be where you’re willing to move along the continuum.

  • Maybe you’re willing to practice drinking more slowly and mindfully, but you’re not willing to decrease your total alcohol intake.
  • Maybe you’re trying to lose weight, so you’d consider drinking a little less. Like 2 beers instead of 3, but not 0.
  • Or, maybe you’re willing to stay sober during most social situations, but you’re not willing to endure your partner’s office party without a G&T on hand.

Maybe there is a “best” answer for how much alcohol is okay for everyone. But we don’t know what it is yet.

At least not for certain.

That’s OK.

You can write your own “Owner’s Manual” for YOU as a unique individual.

Guidelines for drinking don’t tell us who YOU are or what effects alcohol has on YOU.

So let’s forget about “expert” advice for just a moment.

Instead, let’s try letting your body lead.

Read its cues. Observe yourself carefully, gather data, and see how alcohol is — or isn’t — working for you.

Here’s how.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

1. Observe your drinking habits.

Keep track of all the alcohol you drink for a week or two (here’s a worksheet to help you).

You don’t need to share it with anyone or feel like you need to change anything. Just collect the info.

Next, review the data. Ask:

  • Am I drinking more than I thought? Maybe you hadn’t been taking the couple of casual beers with Sunday NFL into account.
  • Is my drinking urgent, mindless, or rushed? Slamming drinks back without stopping to savor them can be a sign that drinking is habitual, not purposeful.
  • Is alcohol helping me enjoy life, or is it stressing me out? If you’re not sleeping well or feeling worried about the drinking, the cost can outweigh the benefit.
  • Does alcohol bring any unwanted friends to the party? Binge eating, drug use, texting your ex?

If any of the answers to these questions raise red flags for you, consider cutting back and seeing how you feel.

2. Notice how alcohol affects your body.

Use Precision Nutrition’s “how’s that working for you?” litmus test. Ask:

  • Do I generally feel good? Simple, but telling.
  • Am I recovering? How’s my physical performance after drinking? If I were to hit the gym on Saturday morning after a Friday night social, how would I feel and perform?
  • What happens afterwards? Do I get a hangover, upset stomach, poor sleep, puffiness/bloating and/or other discomfort?
  • How does the extra energy intake work for my goals? Is alcohol adding some calories that I don’t want? Am I trying to lose weight, for instance?
  • What do my other physiological indicators say? What did my latest medical tests suggest? How’s my blood work? My blood pressure? Any other physiological indicators that I’m watching?

If you’re unsure about whether your alcohol use is helping or hurting you, talk to your doctor and get a read on your overall health.

3. Notice how alcohol affects your thoughts, emotions, assumptions, and general perspective on life.

Again: How’s that working for you?

  • Do you feel in control of your drinking? Are you choosing, deliberately and purposefully… or “finding yourself” drinking?
  • What kind of person are you when you are drinking? Are you a bon vivant, just slightly wittier and more relaxed, savoring a craft beer with friends? Or are you thinking, Let’s make that crap circus of a workday go away, as you pound back the liquid emotional anesthetic through gritted teeth?
  • If you had to stop drinking for a week, what would that be like? No big deal? Or did you feel mild panic when you read that question?

4. Play “Let’s Make a Deal”.

To pinpoint which goals and activities in your life are the most important to you, ask yourself:

  • What am I currently saying “yes” to?
  • What am I currently saying “no” to?
  • What am I willing to say “yes” to?
  • What am I willing to say “no” to?
  • What am I prepared to say “yes” and “no” to? Why?

There are no right or wrong answers.

Just choices and compromises.

You’re a grown-up who can think long-term and weigh options rationally. Whether you drink or not is your call.

5. Disrupt the autopilot.

One of the keys to behavior change is moving from unconscious, automatic reactions to conscious, deliberate decisions.

To experiment with decreasing your alcohol intake, try these strategies:

  • Delay your next drink. Just for 10 minutes, to see if you still want it.
  • Look for ways to circumvent your patterns. If you usually hit the bar after work, try booking an alcohol-free activity (like a movie date or a yoga class) with a friend instead. If you stock up on beer at the grocery store, skip that aisle altogether and pick up some quality teas or sparkling water instead.
  • Savor your drink. Tune into the sensations in front of you. Here’s an idea: try tasting wine like a sommelier. Look at it, swirl it, sniff it, taste it.
  • Swap quantity for quality. Drink less, but when you do drink, treat yourself to the good stuff.

6. Call on the experts.

Change almost always works better with support. It’s hard to change alone.

  • Talk to your doctor about your drinking patterns and your health.
  • Consider genetic testing. Many commercial genetic testing services can tell you about your alcohol tolerance, or your risk of other chronic diseases (such as breast cancer) that are linked to alcohol intake.

7. If you choose to drink, enjoy it.

Savor it. Enjoy it mindfully, ideally among good company.



For full article by Camille DePutter visit


earplugs, night noises, night noises stress, stress,

It harms your health even it doesn’t wake you up.

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.

Nighttime sounds (especially from traffic sources) can lead to health problems that increase your risk of heart disease and other conditions, according to a new analysis in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
These disruptions cause your body to regularly release stress hormones, which over time can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure, two key risk factors for heart disease, explains lead study author Thomas Münzel, MD, professor and head of cardiology at the University of Mainz in Germany. The analysis, which included data on healthy people and those with heart problems, shows that the negative effects of auditory disturbances persist even if they neither wake nor annoy you.

It doesn’t take a lot: Once the noise reaches 50 decibels, every 10-decibel increase can significantly raise your risk of heart failure and stroke with regular exposure over the years, the authors found. (The difference between 50 and 60 decibels is equivalent to a conversation at home versus one in a restaurant.) Daytime noises are harmful too, though it’s unclear why they’re more detrimental at night.



If you live near a highway or otherwise busy road, the study suggests you close your windows when you go to bed. Münzel also recommends sleeping with earplugs or turning on a white noise machine. The device is just as loud as a distant airplane but the study suggests it won’t trigger stress hormones, potentially because of the frequency and consistency of the sound.

For full article by Rachel Schultz go to


bone health, appetite, sitting too much, health, research

New research suggests cells in your bones are to blame.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.

Researchers might have found an explanation for why sitting is tied to weight gain and poor health. A new study on mice led to the hypothesis that it has to do with gravity sensors in the bones of our legs, called osteocytes, which act as a bodyweight scale.

Osteocytes are a type of cell that sense outside force on bone and adapt accordingly, explains study author Jan-Åke Gustafsson, MD, Ph.D., founding director of the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston. These cells help regulate bone mass but the study results suggest they also do so for fat mass—at least in mice, he says.

Since sitting removes the force of our body weight from our bones, osteocytes in our legs mistakenly think we weigh less and try to get us back to homeostasis by sending signals that increase our appetite, Gustafsson explains.

Gustaffsson and his team still need to test the theory in humans, but the discovery in mice is an exciting prospect that could help explain how our body regulates weight gain. Until then, move more throughout the day to remind your bones what your natural weight feels like.
For full article by Rachael Schultz please visit
sleep, sperm, sex, conception, birth, pregnancy, science, research


And why stress levels matter

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.

In a new study in the Journal of Sleep Research, men who slept fewer than six hours or more than nine were more likely to have an elevated high DNA stainability (HDS), an index that reflects sperm quality.
“Higher HDS indicates immaturity of the sperm production process (spermatogenesis), which means they may not perform well to reach the egg and achieve pregnancy,” explains study author Jia Cao, Ph.D., director of the toxicology institute at Third Military Medical University in China. It’s possible poor sleep behavior negatively interferes with your circadian clock (which controls spermatogenesis) and oxidative stress levels (how well your body can fight free radicals). “Although these results are interesting, and perhaps a springboard to stimulate further research, we don’t know if there is a causal relationship between sleep duration and sperm DNA integrity, and more importantly, if this translates to infertility,” adds Joseph Clark, M.D., program director of Penn State Hershey Medical Center’s urology residency program
Aiming to get between seven and seven and a half hours of sleep per night if you’re a guy trying to conceive is probably not going to hurt your odds, Clark says. Also important is keeping stress levels in check, another key factor in male fertility. If you still can’t conceive after a year, Clark advises heading to a specialist.
For full article by Rachael Schultz please visit

The Most Underrated Core Strengthener, Revealed

The Most Underrated Core Strengthener, Revealed

You’ve tried every core exercise imaginable: crunches, planks, pikes, ab-wheels, you name it. But it turns out the most important core-strengthener isn’t actually a “core” exercise at all. It’s every other exercise you do in the gym. Performed correctly, those exercises improve the strength, stability and functionality of your core better than any traditional “core” exercise.

“A person can have the strongest core in the world without ever touching the abs with a crunch or plank,” says Erik Marthaler, CPT, co-owner of Lateral Fitness in Chicago. It stands to reason: In one Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, when researchers had exercisers perform heavy squats and deadlifts, they activated a far greater percentage — and a greater degree — of their core than when they performed dedicated core-stability exercises including the side-plank and superman.

After all, the core is quite literally the foundation for your entire body, comprising not just your six-pack muscles (aka your rectus abdominis) or your deep-lying transverse abdominis, but also your spinal stabilizers, lats, traps, heck, even your pecs.

“To effectively train the core, we need to stop looking at the body as a hacked-together grouping of various body parts, and instead look at how the body functions overall,” says Mike T. Nelson, PhD, a Minnesota-based strength coach and exercise physiologist. As the core is the main connection between the upper and lower body, training it that way is the key to a stronger, more functional total body.


When it comes to strengthening the foundation of your body, some of the best movements include squats, deadlifts, step-ups, lunges and large push and pull movements such as the bench press, standing cable row and all-powerful pullup. Other great options include the farmer’s carry, where you stand tall, hold a weight (or two) and walk across the gym floor.

While these exercises are generally added to workout programs to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, quads, pecs or lats, it’s important to remember that proper execution of any of them requires and builds a strong, stable core. “Your body almost automatically tightens up to make a sturdier base when doing these exercises,” Marthaler says.

However, you can increase the core contraction by coordinating deep diaphragmatic breathing in your movements, he says. During the eccentric — or easy part of an exercise (i.e., lowering into a squat or lowering down in a pushup) — inhale slowly through your nose inflating your abdomen. Then, as soon as you begin the concentric — or hard part of an exercise (i.e., raising out of a squat or pushing away from the floor in a pushup) — forcefully push the air out through your mouth, tightening your abs like you’re about to get punched in the gut.


Your core-centric planks, deadbugs and Pallofs can still be part of your exercise routine — and they should be especially if your core is weaker than the rest of your body, Nelson says.

How do you know if your core is relatively weak? During every exercise, pay attention to how your body feels. If you regularly feel your core shaking when performing standing shoulder presses or your core gives out before your chest and shoulders do during pushups, your core needs strengthening. Similarly, if you can squat or deadlift considerably more weight when you wear a weight belt, it’s a sign your core could use a little extra love.

For full article by Aleisha Fetters go to