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GIVE YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS THE HEALTHIEST YEAR EVER

First off I wish anyone reading this a very happy and healthy New Year. For 2017 I have decided to simplify things a bit and to work more with kids and adults alike to develop quality health and fitness routines that translate into better daily performance. In 2016 I applied these simple routines to children I worked with and with my own son and saw great results in everything from physical and mental performance to better mood and ability to focus on one thing at a time. Since kids now have so many distractions with all the technology on hand I believe it is imperative to teach them how to focus on the task at hand and not to always be scattered with constant multitasking which takes away from building the skill of quality deep work . Smart phones,tablets,and getting lost in social media and television programing has become the norm. We all often see kids and adults alike walking through a parking lot or sitting at a dinner table with family,texting or posting to social media without really paying attention to the world unfolding around them. This is not only developing poor habits but down right dangerous. Their is a time and a place for everything but when focus is needed on lets say skill development or study of a subject,we as adults and our kids alike need to hold on to and redevelop the simple skill of attention.

WHAT TO ADD AND WHAT TO TAKE AWAY

In my experience playing with these concepts has proven to me that simplicity is key at first and as attention and routines develop then you can push for more development. I think just by adding simple book ends to the day and subtracting a bit of time from the distractions is a good start. By book ends I mean a good start and good end to the day with quality routines. We now have conclusive evidence that adults and children alike benefit greatly from a simple morning routine and a light sweat first thing in the morning to get the brain and body jumpstarted for the day to come. Add a good end to the day with some unwind time and unplugging from electronics a couple hours before bed and you get much more quality sleep to keep you rested and recovered day after day. A couple of great books that take a deep dive into the physical,neurological,and emotional benefit of a quality morning routine are Spark by John Ratey,MD and Boost Your Brain by Majid Fotuhi,MD. Both these books have research backed evidence on the life changing benefits that fitness and a focus on neurological health can give you and your children.

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Dr. Ratey in his book SPARK highlites how some underperforming kids in inner city schools have completely turned around there physical health and mental performance in school and started to perform at a very high level by just taking a PE class first thing in the morning before diving into academics. He also dives deep into the what happens neurologically and physiologically with quality exercise in the morning. You can read about the great non profit that has been trying to implement this to as many schools as possible at PE4LIFE.  Dr. Fotuhi lays out a plan from diet and exercise to memory practice and other mind strengthening strategies which I have filtered through and added the most useful tools to my program.

Both of these authors make it clear that there are some very interesting things going on by just getting a good sweat first thing in the morning and constantly learning and applying something new. Below are some videos to understand these concepts better and  the main components to understand what is going on and why we should all implement these concepts into our lives and our children lives.

SPARK

PE4LIFE

 

THE CORE FOUR

1.Adding Synapses
Synapse-a junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter.
When you learn something new you create new synapses-a process called synaptogenesis and when you continue to use those synapses you strengthen them. So learning a new skill and working at it regularly(brain training) leads to measurable structural changes in the brain.

2.Bolstering Highways
The brains neighborhoods communicate with each other through a network of fiber bundles,which carry signals back and forth. How well they function depends on two main things:how many synapses there are between the neurons that make up these fiber bundles and how well myelinated those neurons are. Adding synapses helps strengthen the connection,while preserving a strong myelin coat on the axons through myelination helps to ensure fast messaging between.

3.Adding(and aiding) Blood Vessels
The brain is a very vascular organ,fed by an intricate system of blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to every cell. A third of the brain is made up of blood vessels and 20% of the hearts output goes to the brain. With good healthy blood flow to the brain neurons can thrive. But growing the brain isn't just a matter of keeping existing blood vessels in good health. We need to increase the network by developing new blood vessel branches through angiogenesis(the development of new blood vessels). Exercise has been shown to promote angiogenesis,which in turn brings more blood and oxygen to the 100 billion cells in the brain.

4.Neurogenesis-the growth and development of nervous tissue.
Neuroscience has proven that the human brain can create new cells in adulthood not just in a developing brain like was previously thought. It has been proven that constantly learning and putting to practice new things throughout life can promote neurogenesis. Some changes have been shown to occur in as little as 2 hours and to such a large degree that they can be seen on MRI(magnetic resonance imaging).

THE THREE CRUCIAL MECHANISMS FOR BRAIN GROWTH


1.Oxygen
Unlike the cells in the rest of the body,neurons are constantly buzzing with activity,firing thousands of times a second,even when you are sleeping-a level of demand that requires tremendous oxygen flow. Oxygen keeps these neurons firing and is critical in synaptogenesis and neurogenesis.


2.BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor)
BDNF is kind of the emerging rock star in neurology and in SPARK it is made clear that exercise is a big component in BDNF activation and neurogenesis. Think of it as a very effective fertilizer(miracle grow) for the brain.


3.Healthy Brain Activity(alternating brain wave states)
The brain functions by way of electrical signals. Those signals in groups of neurons,in turn,produce waves that oscillate at varying frequencies. And just as an orchestra is made up of varying instruments,each playing its own part,groups of neurons with a similar firing frequency produce a recognizable "song" or pattern. That song can be detected by sensors placed on the skull,using a technique called electro-encephalography(EEG)

Brain Wave Frequencies
DELTA:1-3 hertz(Slow-sleep)
THETA:4-7 herts(relatively slow-brain trauma or disease)
ALPHA:8-12 hertz(middle range-associated with focus,calmness,alertness,and creativity)
BETA:greater than 12 hertz(fastest-occurs during heightened alertness and critical problem solving,but excessive amounts of beta are associated with anxiety,insomnia,and other problems).

WHAT TO EXPECT

-Better cognition and focus

-All day energy

-Better mood

-Quality work and more productivity

-Ideal weight and body fat due to lower inflammation and daily activity

-Being happier day to day with a more optimistic outlook on life

 

SO WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

On your part it can be as easy as getting some mindful breath work and a nice quick sweat when you get up in the morning. This gets the oxygen and BDNF activation components taken care of and when your mindful of it the brain wave states get taken care of as well. Then you add  nutrition that maximizes neurological health and proper sleep/recovery habits that compliment a healthy neurogenesis lifestyle.  I have developed a simple program that anyone can implement into their life. Simple daily bookend routines that have trigger sessions for exercise laid out and  I have added my own spin for breath work,nutrient timing,rest/recovery,and some cold adaptation for an anti-inflammatory effect and healthy immune response. It can all be done with as little as an hour a day. If you or your children need a boost in energy and physical/cognitive performance daily,do yourselves a favor and start putting these simple tools to use for the healthiest year ever. If you'd like some help getting started please click here for more information.

Ares Nikolopoulos 

Aresflow.com


 

 

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WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND NEEDED AND HOW TO ELIMINATE EXCESS

At this point in my life I have come to realize that when we are always trying to add we end up not really getting any better. I catch myself listening to audiobooks and podcasts everyday on health and wellness and reading books constantly on various subject. This is all good and we should constantly be learning in life but the issue is that we just go through it all and never truly apply the good information on a daily basis to move toward a certain mastery of the important things. I recall reading some of Seneca’s writings,the great Roman stoic,that basically said we as individuals would be wise to take a small handful of good books and information and put it to good use and apply it with vigilance daily to become a better human being and not overwhelm ourselves with so much information that our brains cannot retain it. Very wise words from a very wise man. I can look back years and remember some of the books and teachings that I came across that if I did just what Seneca said I would have a much better handle on my mind and overall wellbeing daily. Most of us in this day of technology and Google search already have more than enough information to keep us busy working toward a better self. If you need help in a certain area then pursue some coaching and once you have a general understanding you can simplify it and apply it regularly. This is a growth mindset that keeps us getting better and not stagnant or worse. Life is constantly changing and we either grow and get better or we get worse. The biggest issue I see in this new era of technology is the constant distraction and the need to immerse ourselves in a digital life instead of just being and living. Look around and you see everyone on a smartphone texting and scrolling through a bunch of posts that total strangers have made. Or we are taking a bunch of pictures and selfies to put out to the world instead of actually just taking it all in. The sad part about all of this is that I feel like toward the end of life a lot of us will look back and feel like we didn’t fully experience life because we were too busy building some digital persona. There is nothing wrong with capturing a beautiful moment with your loved ones and friends but a single picture will usually do and then why not put it away and enjoy the real human contact around us. I truly feel sorry for the kids now that are so immersed in their smartphones everywhere you look instead of socializing with family at the table or just having a good conversation in the car. I feel blessed to have grown up without that stuff and actually went out and played in a park or with friends more.

 

 

So what are the big factors that we should work on and what should we eliminate? This comes down to the individual but there are some universal applications that will make us better in most every aspect of life. I personally feel that by bringing a bit of the following into daily life and honing in the big factors you can apply and tweak and then eliminate the excess.

 

 BIG FACTORS

 1.State Of Mind

2.Movement

3.Fuel

4.Rest & Recovery

5.Experience Of Life

 

STATE OF MIND

I personally think that state of mind is the biggest single factor. It is truly a life long practice to hone in the skills of focus and attention to the process of life that unfolds in every moment. We must have a growth mindset and always be moving forward and getting better as human beings. Finding the sweet spot in our challenge to skill ratio and constantly raising the bar. Too easy and you are staying stagnant and getting bored too hard and frustration sets in and you may lose interest. This goes  for all the big factors mentioned and it’s a constant practice of application and tweaking to individual needs. Once we start getting in the practice of focusing on one thing at a time and being fully present in our actions a lot of distractions fall away and the excess of doing things that don’t need to be done helps us eliminate excess. We end up living with a general sense of wellbeing with an optimistic outlook and a happy demeanor. Our emotional resilience strengthens and we can focus on and visualize what we are trying to accomplish. Learn to love the process and not the end result because life is in constant flux and even when we reach that goal there will always be the next.

“80% of life is psychology-20% of life is mechanics”

-Tony Robbins

 

MOVEMENT

By movement I mean being physically active daily. Focusing on mobility,strength,and endurance for resilience and longevity. No need for complication here just get a good sweat,move in multiple planes,and move something relatively heavy once or twice a week. In my experience if you can squat,pick up something,push,pull,and swing weight that’s all you need. Incorporate trigger sessions on days you aren’t training. A trigger session is a 10-20 minute quick sweat that will keep your body signaling growth instead of just sitting around on a recovery day falling into atrophy. I love doing this first thing in the morning fasted to get all the neurological benefits from a good morning sweat and I feel sharp all day after  I have had a cold shower and a good nutritious meal. Sweating first thing in the morning has been shown to activate more BDNF(brain derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain which is like miracle grow for neural connections. More oxygen and blood flow to the brain in the morning has proven to increase daily mental performance exponentially.

 

Basic Example Of A Trigger Session

-Pick 4 bodyweight exercises and go through them as a circuit as many times as you can in 10-20 minutes

1.Full depth bodyweight squats 15 reps

2.Push ups 15 reps

3.Jumping jacks 30 reps

4.Straight leg sit ups 10 reps

 

The combinations are endless so just use bigger movements to get a better effect.

 

I like to use movement and feel to help get into a flow state regularly by working on mental focus and physical movement while synchronizing breathing to movement. This is an example of how to visualize and really focus on doing the task at hand. I like to incorporate visualization before a movement or set. For example-play out the whole movement or sequence of what you are about to do in your head in real time down to the last rep or movement and breathing pattern. Make it so vivid that it feels like you really physically did it. You can even truly focus on the tension and feel the muscles,tendons,and heart working. In between sets focus on breathing with a 2x exhalation length to inhalation and bringing heart rate back down and a feeling of looseness vs constant tension. Shake it out and get ready again. Don’t use a watch just focus and when you are recovered just jump back up to the plate so to speak and visualize and execute again. When your mind wanders just bring it back gently to the breath and realign yourself to move forward and again focussing on the process.This compounded over time will give you a constant growth in mental/neurological strength as well as the physical strength that will come with it without you only looking to a fictional future result. In this way of training and thinking you are achieving the goal moment to moment and will have much more of a feeling of accomplishment  vs just looking weeks,months,and years down the road. I am not saying to drop long term goals,all I mean here is to have them drawn out and then finish the task day to day in focus and you will inevitably achieve those goals but in a much more enjoyable process and most likely exceed them with the laser like focus you will develop over time. Another benefit will be the mental control you feel and you yourself holding the reins on the mind instead of the mind leading you.

 

 


FUEL

Talking about diets has become as taboo as politics or religion. There are so many ways to go and I think it truly comes down to the individual needs. We have paleo,ketogenic,vegan,and on and on. You have to play with and experiment to find a balance that is right for you. One aspect of dieting that has come to be well known and well documented in it’s benefits is eating a higher quality fat diet as opposed to a high carbohydrate diet. For me personally what works best is eating a macronutrient split of 50% quality fats with half the fats being saturated,30% protein from mainly seafood and organ meats,20% carbohydrates from low glycemic fruits and vegetables. I cut out things like most grains and processed sugars. Again this is highly subjective to the individual but their is no denying that the traditional SAD(standard american diet) is backward to this and can arguably be the main reason we have such an obesity and diabetes problem. Constant overeating and the consumption of all the sugars and processed foods is no doubt a huge issue in general health and the major cause of constant inflammation which is the underlying cause of most disease and illness. Educate yourself from quality sources,not government standards that are pushed by big industry and start playing with them to see what works best for your lifestyle and needs.



Things worth looking into;

1.Higher quality fat diets

2.Pulse feeding and nutrient timing

3.Intermittent fasting

4.Fermented foods

5.Brain health supplementation

 

 REST AND RECOVERY

First thing that comes to mind when I bring this up is sleep and it should be. Most Americans are under rested and overworked. Average sleep in this country is just over 6 hours a night. Depending on your needs and exertion daily it varies but we need 7.5-9 hours a night on average to be optimal. To add to that it is important to sleep with light cycles. So going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 6-7am seems to be the sweet spot. I know that there is shift work and life gets in the way but this should be a general guideline. I worked shift work for years being born and raised in Las Vegas and I can tell you it is truly brutal after a while and you never feel rested. I was in my 20’s and in great shape and always felt inflamed and cognition was poor. There is way too much going on in your sleep cycles to go over here but basically recovery of the brain and body happens during sleep so sort it if you have poor sleep patterns. Unplug from all the electronics and artificial light at least an hour before bed for best results and try not to eat sugary snacks before bed which will spike insulin and interfere with melatonin production and in turn growth hormone production.

 

The other aspect is general recovery. One way to test this is through HRV(heart rate variability) testing in the morning. It measures the balance of your nervous system and tells you if it’s recovered. HRV is controlled by your autonomic nervous system which has two branches.

 

Sympathetic nervous system-fight or flight

 

Parasympathetic nervous system-rest and digest

 

The balancing of these two is tricky in this fast paced era and hard training and a wandering mind of stress and endless tasks daily can make for a crash. I don’t test mine anymore because I have gotten to the point where I go off of feel and know for the most part if I should push or back off on a given day. I am still a big fan of HRV training which is more a meditative practice in relaxation and breath work. I am a fan of the Heartmath Institute’s work and tracking devices. Follow the link for more info.

 

 EXPERIENCE OF LIFE

The last one is obvious if you want to live a happy and full life. We have to learn to slow down and experience life moment to moment regularly so we can take it all in. Go out of your way to have new experiences regularly and throw some creativity in your life by contributing your own unique talents to the world in some form. Drive different routes to work and plan new vacation spots regularly and get outside into a rich environment where you can get into flow with nature. I said this before but I think it is very important to emphasize the process over the end result in life. From you physical and mental health to your socialization and human contact experiences you will only benefit from keeping it fresh and constantly trying and doing knew things. Stagnation and a completely straight line equals atrophy and death. To grow in life there has to be novelty and change. In the end it won’t be what you have or even what you achieved that you will look back on as much as all the great and amazing experiences you had with the people that matter the most. Get out and experience your life firsthand and not in a virtual world. It can only be done out there!

 

 

Ares Nikolopoulos

 

AresFlow

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY WE GET FAT

TOP 10 REASONS WE GET FAT

The most common questions I get from clients are about body fat. Why am I gaining body fat even though I train so hard? I barely eat anything so why can’t I drop any weight? It goes on and on and that is why I put this together for a general understanding on my take of the top reasons we gain weight and body fat or just can’t drop weight and body fat. 

 

CALORIC INTAKE

Yes calories do matter when you are looking to drop weight and body fat. It isn’t as simple as calories in/out but nevertheless  caloric intake matters. Then of coarse the source of calories are even more important. Just because you are within your caloric allotment at the end of the day doesn’t mean they are the right calories. Processed food and very low quality food is nowhere near the same as nutrient dense calories with the proper macronutrient ratios. Taking in too many calories daily is an obvious reason for gaining weight but it can be just as harmful to not take in sufficient calories daily especially when you are training hard. I have played with most popular dieting modalities and tools like fasting,nutrient timing,etc and we are all different and have different needs but the bottom line is that setting a proper daily caloric intake and macro ratio daily is a must to get to your goals. When you cut too many calories(800-1200) a day for 4 weeks or more you can fall into starvation syndrome and actually gain body fat while losing muscle mass. On top of that you will most likely have some of the following issues;

-Thyroid downregulation(lower conversion of T3 to active T4)
-Loss of muscle mass
-Decrease in testosterone and hormone imbalances

A free way to get a relatively accurate number to start tracking is using the Harris-Benedict equation. This will calculate your BMR(basal metabolic rate) which is basically how many calories you would burn daily at rest.

Now you have your BMR so apply that number to your activity level below.

Now you have your BMR so apply that number to your activity level below.

Now you have your number so start tracking it!

Now you have your number so start tracking it!

I like to use MyFitnessPal for clients to track their calories and macronutrient ratios since it seems to be the easiest to use and has the largest database. I advocate a low carbohydrate approach for most clients trying to live a healthy lifestyle. If you are a pro athlete of some sort and are training far above and beyond the average person then of coarse there will be much more room for carbohydrate intake. What works for me personally,even when I am training very intensely is a ratio of;

50% High Quality Fats

30% Protein

20% Carbohydrates(low glycemic fruits & vegetables)

Again we all have different needs and need to play with this to find our best balance as individuals. You can eat all the quality greens you like and I usually have 6 servings a day of dark leafy greens. I personally have incorporated a mix of Dr. Jack Kruse's Epi-Paleo diet and Dr. Brant Contrite's great book on living a neurogenesis lifestyle. This way of eating works best for me and they are based on very nutrient dense foods and quality fats that work best for brain function and long term neurological health. As far as nutrient timing and number of meals per day,that all varies per individual and your lifestyle and training needs. You can work that out by experimenting but here I just want people conscious of daily caloric intake and macro ratios.

 

NOT ENOUGH MOVEMENT

 

Lets start by understanding the SAID Principle.

Wikipedia;

In physical rehabilitation and sports training, the SAID principle asserts that the human body adapts specifically to imposed demands.[1] In other words, given stressors on the human system, whether biomechanical or neurological, there will be a Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID).[2]

For example, by only doing pull-ups on the same regular pull-up bar, your body becomes adapted to this specific physical demand, but not necessarily adapted to other climbing patterns or environments.

So basically if you always do the same things and never change it up you will hinder your gains. Any activity and sweat is a positive as far as I'm concerned but if you want to make gains constantly in dropping weight and body fat you have to keep it fresh and keep changing things like exercises,angles,sets,reps,tempo,and flow work indoor/outdoor constantly for best results. I change things up weekly to keep it interesting. You need to completely change your routine at least every 4 weeks.

Examples of routine change;

-Which days

-Time of day

-Weight training vs. aerobic vs. interval

-Zone 2 vs 3,4,5

-Constantly changing loading angles-push/pull/press,etc

-Routine is good for muscle growth-bad for fat loss

 

CARBOHYDRATES AND INSULIN RESISTANCE

 

I try to make it clear to clients that carbohydrates are not necessary for energy. We can fuel our bodies and brains with protein and the breakdown of quality fats. You can fully fuel even the highest levels of activity and training without a high carbohydrate diet. Again the ratios and the how much of carbohydrate intake is sufficient will vary by individual and your needs and will take some time and experimentation to get it down. I personally train fasted with amino acids and a few supplements in the morning including high dose fish oil with a high amount of omega 3's and DHA. Then I have a pulse feed post workout that consists of a nutrient dense shake with my own concoction that has greens,goat whey protein,MCT oil,and some antioxidants like raw cacao. Two hours later or so I have my lunch and by 6pm I eat a good dinner which is the biggest meal of the day. This works very well for me and due to the higher fat intake I feel well fed but not too full and don't get hungry while feeling great all day. I always include a fermented food like kimchi,sauerkraut,greek yogurt,or kombucha tea daily to help with my digestive health. The problem with the old bodybuilder style of eating 6 meals a day and feeding every two hours is that you constantly have insulin spikes throughout the day. If you are a bodybuilder  you most likely need to feed that often for best result but for the average person it just isn't the healthiest and most effective way not to mention the inconvenience of having to feed every couple hours. Constantly spiking insulin usually ends up leaving you insulin resistant and in an inflammatory state. Studies show people that eat higher amounts of fatty foods including saturated fats like butter,coconut oil,eggs,etc can lose weight and decrease heart disease risk but it has to be in the absence of a high carbohydrate diet! If anything remember the following;

-Carbohydrates not necessary for energy

-High carbohydrate intake=insulin release by pancreas=insulin resistance

-Insulin is a storage hormone

-Chronically elevated levels of insulin=fat storage over fat oxidation

 

STRESS AND CORTISOL

 

Stress comes in many forms and in my opinion is the single most important thing to keep balanced and generally in control. Physical stress is good and needed to get stronger and stay healthy but at the same time if you are chronically stressing yourself physically you will break sooner or later so again find the balance. Mental and emotional stress is more difficult to keep under control in this fast paced always on the go world. If you cannot learn to shut down the mind chatter you will also break in a different way eventually. The good old fight or flight response is of coarse needed to deal with real danger. The issue is that in the modern world we usually don't have to run from a lion or fight off a real threat very often. In our human evolution we had to deal with these things but now its mainly mind made stress. Our thoughts weigh very heavily on us and if we can't get a general control,life just is much harder physically,mentally,and emotionally. When we are always worrying about work,bills,kids,relationships,or just constantly thinking so to speak instead of just shutting down when the mind isn't needed then we end up with chronically high levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is made in the adrenal glands. It is called the "stress hormone" because of it's connection to the stress response. Cortisol has many functions and can do things like control blood sugar levels,regulate metabolism,even help fight inflammation. Obviously a crucial hormone that can help overall health and wellbeing. In the morning cortisol is high which helps us wake from sleep and get going and of coarse during and after exercise. The issue is that most of us have way too much circulating cortisol and way too often and then it becomes inflammatory. Getting angry and constantly stressing just adds to it all and over time you will simply break. Cortisol can be tested with a simple saliva test that should be taken multiple times in the day for accuracy and needs to be present in morning and post exercise but not elevated throughout the day. I have tried a few tests with clients and an affordable test that gives you more info than just cortisol can be bought here. Understanding the balance of your sympathetic(fight or flight) and parasympathetic(rest and digest) is very important and another way to track this is with HRV(heart rate variability) tracking and training. I wrote an article on HRV and how I track and you can read it here. For HRV training and relaxation I am a big fan of the HeartMath Inner Balance tool. It is very relaxing and I have clients use it 3x10 daily which is plugging into it for 3 sets of 10 minutes spread out daily. Everyone that uses it regularly tells me it has profound effects on their relaxation and state of mind because you have to be calm and have a steady breathing pattern to activate the vagus nerve and keep it in the green as posed to the red. It's like a fun quick game that really works. So remember this;

Cortisol=liver releases sugar=pancreas releases insulin=insulin resistance=inflammatory state

Keeping stress under control of coarse is easier said than done but things like training wisely and recovering fully will help with the physical side while some mindfulness and adding relaxing activities and meditation can help immensely on the mental/emotional side. I also tell people to list all the main stressors in life being everything from bills to the people you surround yourself with and if these things are killing you slowly in the form of stress then simply eliminate them and get rid of the toxic people in your life. Find some peace daily and you can control cortisol and stress.

 

POOR SLEEP

Right up with daily stress management is quality sleep. This is the other really big one to sort if you want to live a long quality life. We have all experienced what going days without quality sleep feels like and it just breaks you down in many ways and ruins physical and mental performance. I have had clients that just by sorting sleep habits they lost weight and felt immeasurably better day to day in mental clarity and physical energy. No fancy supplements and gimmicks needed,just sort your sleep and you will feel like a new person. The big things that happen during sleep are of coarse the recovery aspects. After about 4 hours of dark sleep melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland. It regulates a number of hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythms. Then leptin enters the hypothalamus  and thyroid gets upregulated and growth hormone is released. In turn your metabolism increases and you burn fat while you sleep. 

On the other hand when you have poor sleep habits a whole cascade of negative effects fall on the body and brain. For starters a lack of sleep produces ghrelin which stimulates appetite and down regulates leptin. In turn cortisol is increased and testosterone can be decreased. You also get a lower sensitivity of serotonin and dopamine in the brain which are the feel good chemicals and neurotransmitter function decreases considerably. So your mood and emotional states are poor and your physical performance like cognition,speed,and power are greatly reduced. Recommended sleep is between 7-9 hours a night without any carbohydrates for 3-4 hours before bed to avoid an insulin spike that can hinder melatonin production. Unplug at least an hour before sleep without any bright synthetic lighting from TV,tablets,and phones. If your not sleeping enough at night you can supplement with polyphasic sleep(naps) in the short term but I recommend sorting your general sleep at night since most of us don't have time to nap during the day. 

 

FOOD ALLERGIES OR INTOLERANCES

In my 90 day reset the first 4 weeks focuses mainly on your gut and digestive health. I start here because if you have leaky gut syndrome or just poor digestion you will not assimilate your nutrients well and you end up in a constant inflammatory state. The cheapest and easiest way to get away from inflammatory food is just to pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain things. If you can physically feel a problem after you eat certain foods then it's obvious you should stay away from them or prepare them differently. For example if you know when you have dairy it upsets your stomach you probably have an intolerance and should switch to non dairy alternatives like coconut milks,etc. If you constantly have gas,irritable bowel,and/or acid reflux you need to get to work sorting out your gut health right away. To do this without the guesswork I recommend food allergy testing. Usually a simple blood test will do but you can also have skin testing and a trial elimination style diet to see what works best for your nutrient intake. You can ask your doctor for the testing and go over it and that way you can eliminate the foods that don't give you direct feedback right after you eat them. You may have a mild gluten intolerance or nut and soy issues and would never really know without testing. You can educate yourself on the subject and learn more at foodallergy.org. Once you have eliminated the inflammatory foods you can do a mild herbal cleanse and cut out poor quality foods while adding nutrient dense foods that are easily digestible. A quality probiotic and a gut healing protocol is highly recommended at first and down the road just get it all in through fermented foods daily and a solid diet like I do for myself now. 

What to remember;

-Lack of digestive enzymes or improperly prepared food results in food intolerances=undigested food particles=leaky gut=inflammation=fluid retention=hindered weight loss

-Allergic reaction to food proteins(eggs,dairy,shellfish,etc)=Inflammation

-Inflammation=cortisol=fluid retention=insulin resistance

 

LEPTIN INSENSITIVITY

Leptin is called the "Master" hormone that regulates bodyweight. Leptin is a hormone produced in the bodies fat cells and is also called the "satiety hormone" or "starvation hormone". When your leptin is balanced it reduces appetite and you feel full and well fed after an appropriate meal and don't have the constant cravings. Leptin is supposed to tell the brain that we have enough fat stored and that we don't need to eat. That way we burn calories at a normal rate. Leptin has many function but here we are just understanding that if you are leptin insensitive then you will always have craving and not know when you have consumed enough calories. Leading researchers believe that leptin insensitivity is the leading cause of obesity. They also go as far as to say that with leptin issues calories in/out don't even matter. As I have discussed above I believe they do and that of coarse leptin sensitivity is another big issue that needs to be sorted as well as understanding what goes in and out in food consumption as well as energy expenditure. If you feel you may be leptin insensitive then I recommend Dr. Jack Kruse's leptin reset. It is an easy to follow start guide and really works well with the beginning phases of sorting gut health as well. 

What to remember;

-Leptin reduces appetite

-Enlarged adipose fat stores result in leptin desensitization 

-Chronic high calorie intake=chronic high leptin

-High insulin=increase leptin release

-Chronic high leptin=pro-inflammatory state

-Chronic high calorie intake=leptin insensitivity=inflammation

 

LOW THYROID/METABOLISM

Our thyroid hormone acts on many things including the brain,the G.I. tract,the cardiovascular system,bone metabolism,red blood cell metabolism,gall bladder and liver function,steroid hormone production,glucose metabolism,lipid and cholesterol metabolism,protein metabolism,and even body temperature regulation. Obviously it is responsible for a lot and if you are having longstanding issues with weight loss it it surely something to look into for testing. With a properly functioning thyroid the pituitary gland produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone(TSH) which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T3 & T4. Having an improperly functioning thyroid will very much so impair your metabolic rate and of coarse severely hinder weight loss. Their can be many culprits in low thyroid function including stress which we already spoke about. Other leading reasons are gut health,gluten,selenium deficiencies,excess iodine,and vitamin D deficiencies. All these things can again be tested but again I put an emphasis on stress. Chronic adrenal stress depresses hypothalamus function and pituitary function which both direct thyroid function. Sorting out things like the gut,proper nutrient intake,your activity levels,sleep,and again stress/cortisol can go a long way in sorting thyroid function before you go the medication route. 

 

GENETICS

Of coarse genetics have a place in the discussion of weight management but I find it is used as an excuse a lot of the time. I know a lot of great athletes that have overcome great so called genetic deficiencies to be physical specimens and amazing athletes. I myself was an overweight child with asthma and no athletic talent with parents that are 5'8" and 5'2" respectfully and not muscular or really athletic and I ended up 6'2" at 220lbs with 10% body fat. That is what I like to call hard work,a good mindset,and a quality diet. Genetics of coarse play a role but for example my grandparents lived to be an average of 96 years old and I still have a grandmother alive in Greece that is 96-god bless her. They lived through wars and famine and all kinds of hardship. My take is that after the wars they lived a relatively stress free lifestyle in the villages of southern Greece. They had extremely high quality food that they either grew or raised themselves and didn't have to stress much about bills because they didn't really have any. It was a very simple life with clean air and a LOT of daily activity followed by quality social interaction with the villagers in the evening and a good meal. Everyone that has been to Europe knows they love their naps and sleep and they worked really hard but also rest really hard. I have plenty of family and friends that grew up here in Las Vegas that have longevity in their family and strong genes per say that are in very poor health because of the lifestyle here. So what I am trying to say is,my take on genetics is that it's like holding a stick of dynamite and if you never light the fuse you really are the author of your own story. Of coarse if you are predisposed to certain things you should keep and eye on them and steer a better coarse before you break and try to bandage the problem like most people do. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family so I am conscious of it and that is why I eat a low glycemic diet and eat a very traditional mediterranean diet full of fish,greens,and quality fats. It is relatively cheap to get genetic testing now compared to a few years ago and I still recommend people do it because it is inexpensive now and easily done from home with 23andme. Get tested and be conscious of what you are predisposed to and don't light the fuse!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In conclusion we have access to so may great resources on the subject of weight loss/management. This is my quick take on the big factors and I think if you are looking to finally drop that weight or just get to your ideal body fat percentage you need to educate yourself then apply the knowledge and then steer the coarse and tweak as you go to what works best for you. It may sound complex but the reality is all we have to do is start with a first step and then move along in a positive direction daily. The simplicity of a great book comes to mind from author Tom Rath. His book Eat Move Sleep is a great read in just simplifying and getting started. The title says it all and I recommend it to open your mind to just eating right,moving daily,and getting your rest and recovery. Of coarse he goes over some stress management as well and again I truly emphasize that getting your mind right is the simple most important thing you can do and the rest will fall into place.

If this has been helpful in any way please give me some feedback and I always do my best to get people started on a positive and healthy lifestyle. Anyone that wants a jumpstart please follow this link to a health questionnaire on my site. I give a completely free health consult and assessment to anyone reading my info with no obligation after. All I ask is that if you find any of this helpful please share it so I can get my view and two cents out there. Thank you!

Ares Nikolopoulos

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MORNING AND EVENING ROUTINES FOR PERFORMANCE

Rise And Shine

Rise And Shine

Having a solid morning routine can be key to a successful and productive day. Whether your goals are to get healthy,lose weight,or just be more productive and set yourself up for success in work and life in general. Getting up and starting your day right is paramount. Everyone is different and we all have different schedules and different lifestyles. The key is to put the necessary time aside every morning to get your body,mind,and spirit ready and working at peak performance for the day to come. It takes time and experimentation to get it working per individual so I am just offering some advice on what will make you better day in and day out with a good start to your day. I think of the three M’s to make this easy to remember.

-Mindset
-Movement
-Meal

The 3 M’s is just a simple way to remember what should be done every morning to get you into high performance mode instead of being sluggish and fumbling through the day. There are a lot of good routines and plenty of great books out there that have many approaches to quality routines and a great start to the day. For example The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod being a very popular and easy to implement morning routine using what he calls SAVERS.

S=Silence-Meditation and quiet time to reflect
A=Affirmations-An encouraging statement to get you motivated
V=Visualization-Imagine your day as you would like it to unfold
E=Exercise-Movement and a good sweat
R=Reading-Get your mind on track by learning something new
S=Scribing-Journaling to reflect on wins/losses

I like this easy approach but I have found it difficult to get it all in most mornings since my sweat in the morning is a bit time consuming and I don’t like to rush it because it is my FLOW and skill work time. So I have simplified it to the 3 M’s so that I can fit it all in comfortably in an hour or so. 

MINDSET

The words mindset and meditation are overused and really are vague in explaining what we are trying to accomplish here. All I am trying to get across here is a practice on calmness and quieting the mind. When life gets hectic most of us are stressed and our thoughts are scattered all over the place from the moment we wake up. We don’t step back and give ourselves a few minutes of calm reflection and a relaxed way of collecting our thoughts for a more positive outlook on our day to come and our lives in general. I like to get up and drink my bottle of water next to my bed first thing and then I put aside 15 minutes to get some breath work in. I lay flat and use one of many breathing tempos. For example 1:2 would be a 5 second full inhale through the nose and a 10 second exhale through the mouth while relaxing my entire body and letting go of all the tension I feel physically anywhere in my body. A prolonged exhale activates the vagus nerve and brings a sense of calm. I fall into a rhythm for 10 min just following count and keeping my mind on the task at hand. You gauge the success of the breathing with the level of calm and relaxation you feel. Approximately 10 minutes in I am in a good rhythm and I start with some thoughts of what I am grateful for and a daily affirmation I will repeat in my head for a bit of motivation and confidence for the work to come. Finally I use visualization to play out my day in as much detail as I can imagine. Visualization is an extremely powerful tool to have a quality outlook and perform well. I use it in many ways including my workouts where I play out exactly what I am about to do in a mental movie before I actually do the movement and that brings a very consistent quality to my movements and work in general. So the takeaways are simply to stay present through a breath count and find that calm where you are in control of your inner body and mind chatter. Think of it as hitting the reset button on your thoughts and constant agitation of the tasks to come and start with a feeling of calm where you make quality decisions in your work.

MOVEMENT

Now we go from the mental and spiritual reset to the physical reset. All you need is a 20 minute sweat in the morning to activate BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and promote neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is simply the process of creating new neurons,or brain cells. BDNF is a protein in the brain that is like a fertilizer for these neurons. I have heard it called miracle grow for the brain. Research shows that higher levels of BDNF and a higher rate of neurogenesis are associated with many health benefits including:

-Faster learning and better memory
-Higher cognitive function
-Better mood and emotional resilience to stress and anxiety
-Stronger immune response
-Enhanced overall brain function

All you need to do is get some movement in and get a good sweat. I use this as my time to loosen up physically and not feel like the tin man all rusted up. I do 5 minutes of movement drills to move in many ways and loosen up and then I get a solid 15-20 minute sweat in via jumprope and shadow boxing. I only stop moving from one to the next for a few deep breaths. BDNF has a higher activation rate when you are doing aerobic work instead of anaerobic work. This by no means is my training for the day. I have that planned for later in the form of strength training,trail running,swimming,or skill work like wrestling or kickboxing. This is just to get yourself aligned and working at your best for the day to come. You can use any aerobic means you like and even a quick HIIT(high intensity interval training) workout like jumping jacks,burpees,and jumps. Just get your heart rate up and keep it there for roughly 20 minutes. This makes for a good sweat and a lot of blood flow to get all that oxygen to the brain. After that get a 5 min cool down stretch in while using deep breathing to slow back down and keep getting all that quality oxygen to the brain. I personally enjoy a cold shower afterwards since it seems to finish things off nicely and gets me to feel extremely alert and sharp. Cold exposure has many health benefits in itself that I won’t get into here. You can read up on that here if you like.

 

MEAL

Now we are clear and focussed mentally and physically loose and feeling strong for whatever comes today. Its time to fuel our bodies with a healthy meal that promotes neurogenesis and quality long lasting energy for the day. A higher quality fat and protein with low carbohydrate approach works well for me. No sugars and starchy carbohydrates that can make you crash half way through the day. Lots of dark leafy greens with a low glycemic fruit-preferably blueberries and goji berries accompanied by quality fats and a good protein source. My go to in the morning is usually as follows:

-3 free range eggs cooked in coconut oil
-3 servings leafy greens
-1 serving of a fermented food like sauerkraut or kimchi
-1 avocado and olive oil with some sea salt,pepper,and oregano
-Full fat Greek yogurt with blueberries,goji berries,and hemp seed

It is a low glycemic meal that gives your brain and body what it needs to perform at its best all day. High in quality fats and protein and nutrient dense while packed with antioxidants. The fermented foods like kimchi and the Greek yogurt will keep your gut happy and it all goes hand in hand with brain and cognitive performance.

EVENING ROUTINE

Before bed I like to just put aside 30-60 minutes to go over wins and losses for the day and journal a bit. I will journal how I felt during the day and what I was proud of getting done and what could have been done better without any emotional judgement. Then I go over the next days work and the most important task that needs to be done. I unplug from all electronics at least an hour before bed. Then I read something calming and spiritual that won’t get me riled up like trying to learn a new skill. I enjoy some spiritual and philosophical reading before bed. Next to my bed I have anything from Marcus Aurelius’s meditations to The Tao Te Ching for a nice calm read that I truly enjoy. I go to bed once I feel ready and lay down with a quiet mind and put away all the rest. If my mind starts to wander I focus on my sense perceptions and breath. I feel the cool sheets and focus on a calm heart beat while being thankful for a comfortable place to sleep. I usually doze off and sleep through the night well and get up again ready and excited for the next mornings routine and a healthy,happy,and productive day.

Ares Nikolopoulos

 

 

 

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MORNING ROUTINE TO PROMOTE NEUROGENESIS

The amazing neural pathways of the brain

The amazing neural pathways of the brain

The human brain is obviously extremely complex.I’m by no means a neurologist and have limited understanding of all the mechanisms at work with every thought,movement,and activity we engage ourselves in.What I do understand is the basic breakdown of what we can do to perform and feel better day to day and in learning new skills.The sad truth is that in this day and age of  technology being based on making things so called easier is really just making us lazier.Everyone seems to be looking for the easy way for everything from health to finances and the truth is that nothing really worth having ever comes easy.I’m trying to find a balance in guiding people to a healthy lifestyle and solid daily performance with doing things smart not just easy.The one thing that can be life changing in health and daily performance is simply having a quality morning routine.Whether you want to make it a long ritual of meditation,affirmations,visualization,reading,journaling,and exercising or just a nice quick sweat and some creative work with a positive outlook on the day ahead is entirely up to what works best for you.I have seen profound change in people by just helping them implement a high quality start to the day.Set aside an hour first thing in the morning to get your mind right and visualize a happy and productive day and fit in a good SWEAT!I will get to the importance of a good sweat in the morning in a bit.First we need to highlight neurogenesis which is the way that the brain renews itself and BDNF.

Wikipedia

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, is a protein[1] that, in humans, is encoded by the BDNF gene.[2][3] BDNF is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors, which are related to the canonical Nerve Growth Factor. Neurotrophic factors are found in the brain and the periphery.

In recent years it has become clear that this protein created by neurons plays a crucial role in brain health and growth.BDNF is a big part of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.The hippocampus is responsible for constantly creating neurons in the brain.Basically BDNF is the miracle grow for the brain.No need to get any more in depth than that for this discussion.The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to feel more clear and focused and perform better day to day, a great place to start is with more BDNF activation and promoting neurogenesis in the brain.We are looking to grow the brain not shrink it of coarse.

Brain Grower                    
-Exercise
-Healthy Diet
-Meditation
-Positive Attitude
-Creative Work & Learning New Things

Brain Shrinkers
-Obesity Or Being Overweight
-Hypertension
-Diabetes
-Stress
-Alcohol Abuse
-Poor Sleep Habits

Lets look at exercise and why this is such an important tool for brain health and performance.Studies have shown indisputably that there are much higher levels of BDNF in the brains of people who exercise vs people who don’t.Aerobic exercise especially seems to activate BDNF more than anaerobic but as far as I’m concerned a good sweat is a good sweat and will get you quality and lasting results.The most obvious reason behind exercise being so good for neurogenesis in general is that exercise promotes cardiovascular health which helps the heart pump oxygen rich blood to all parts of the body and of coarse the brain.A process called angiogenesis creates new blood vessel branches in the brain.So exercise basically adds more blood vessels to your brains network and in turn gets more oxygen to every part of your brain.

This is a layman's brief explanation of the benefit of BDNF activation first thing in the morning.Myself being the layman of coarse.The point is I have applied this for a long time in the morning and it positively promotes brain growth and daily performance.I just want to put out a 30 day challenge to whoever reads this in the form of a quality morning routine.Do the following for the next 30 days and I promise you more energy and clarity daily.You will start your day clear and not foggy and be in a much better mood while performing at a higher level. 

1 Hour Routine
-10 minutes of meditative breath work.1:2 ration breathing meaning breath in through the nose deeply for 5 seconds and exhale fully and slowly through the mouth for 10 seconds with your eyes closed lying on your back relaxed and not following thoughts.The count on your breath and feeling the belly rise and fall is all you should focus on.
-5 minutes going over the days tasks and goals
-5 minutes visualizing yourself taking all those tasks on successfully and in good spirits
-20 minute of exercise.A good sweat!I enjoy jumping rope or shadow boxing in intervals for 20-30 minutes personally but a nice jog outside of coarse is great.Whatever it is just make it a quick and intense session that gets you a good sweat and breathing nicely.Just picture all the blood flow and oxygen going to your brain while creating new blood vessels and all that miracle grow for the brain.
-5 minute cold shower.
-10 minutes reading something that puts you in a good mood like a happy spiritual book to set the tone for the day.
-5 minutes to journal and reflect while checking off yet another day with a positive morning routine.

This of coarse is just an example.I rarely get my quality morning all in with just 60 minutes but you can play with it until it suits your individual needs.The big take aways are some form of meditation and positive visualization,a good sweat,and a positive read and journaling experience.Then a quality brain healthy meal full of quality fats high in omega 3’s and DHA and nutrient dense food full of antioxidants and quality protein source.No trans fats and processed sugars.Anyone needing a sample food list and diet please message me here and I would be happy to email it to you.

All in all the most important part of brain health and neurogenesis is our moment to moment thoughts and though we all have stressors in life our thoughts day to day make or break us.Use your brain when you are doing your work and your tasks and then practice daily to turn the thought chatter off and stay present in the moment and actually see whats around you by focusing on the beauty of this world through all your sense perceptions.We are truly the creators of our own personal heaven or hell.It is not easy to do this at first but it is a life long practice that can and will make life the amazing experience it truly is! As I am writing this it is early morning on Fathers Day 2016.My son is asleep upstairs and I got up to just write something for a creative outlet before I enjoy the day with him and my own father.I am truly grateful for all I have.I am blessed with an amazing woman by my side and all our boys are blessings and I am blessed to have an amazing father that has shown me what true love and true character is.We all have different blessing and we would be wise to look at the good we have instead of the negative.That alone will serve us all well in this play of life.One of my favorite books in this world is the Tao Te Ching.I recommend this little handbook to everyone.It is a profound and life changing read and I find myself listening to the audiobook in my car on stressful days since it always puts a smile on my face.I will leave off now to enjoy this fathers day with my loved ones and I hope this content can be put to use and helpful.One of my favorite quotes from the book is below and with that I am stepping back.

“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”  ― Lao Tzu

Ares Nikolopoulos

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USING FLOW IN YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE

FLOW INDUCING EXERCISES & ACTIVITIES

WHY FLOW EXERCISES?

We make neural connections while learning new movement. A constant use of body and mind makes you put the distractions away during exercise and actually develop a skill while being physically active. Its challenging and deeply engaging instead of a mind numbing means to an end like getting a sweat walking on a treadmill while texting or screwing around on Facebook.

The trick here is finding your sweet spot in your challenge to skill ratio. Too easy and you lose focus and when too difficult the same usually happens through frustration. We set clear goals and get into flow and stay in flow through exercises and activities that give you immediate feedback. For example when I do mitt work with clients we have to build a bit to understand each other and get into flow with each other regularly. Once that rapport is built we both get into flow very quickly and stay there for the duration. They know the numbers and how I hold and move plus the tempo that I use after warm. Then to keep in flow I keep adding movement,combos,knees,kicks,elbows,and different footwork and striking angels. Its actually fun for me and a great workout in every way. You can take it up another step and throw in what I simply call You go/I go. We both wear gloves and when I call they throw and I catch with gloves and I immediately throw back the same combo and they have to catch for me. That really makes you think and gets you to focus plus work on some defensive movement. I picked that up in the Netherlands when I was lucky enough to train at Golden Glory in Breda for a short while. They are so good because it is all about repetition and building off the basics with you go/I go and every round you switch partners and have to reset your movement and striking for someone taller,shorter,stronger,southpaw,etc,etc. Repetition+Volume+Diversity of partners makes for a well rounded striker! They they use same approach for light sparring with all the diversity in the room. Anyone who knows the sport knows that they put out more amazing kick boxers in the heavier classes than anyplace else. It is that formula that gets them into FLOW. It also doesn't hurt to be doing this with very talented people.

I have gone over the components and triggers in the short flow article I wrote last year based on Steven Kotlers great book The Rise Of Superman. Here I will just recap a few of the big ones that help us get into flow with some of the outdoor training and skill work.

ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE

-INTENSELY FOCUSED ATTENTION

-CLEAR GOALS

-IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK

-THE CHALLENGE TO SKILL RATIO

Thats all four of the psychological triggers and you can see in the mitt work/thai pad work I described that they are all present with a good partner.

WE TRAIN OUTSIDE TO ADD THE ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS

THE BIG ONES

-RICH ENVIRONMENT

-DEEP EMBODIMENT

So this fits very much into outdoor movement work and lower acrobatics with things like crawling,rolling,and falling in a nice green park. One of my favorites is trail running in a beautiful environment. I always get into flow while trail running. Its the not knowing whats just over the next hill or around the next bend. Having to be quick footed downhill and always looking exactly where to place that next step so you don't turn an ankle or take a bad fall. Lots of angles and terrain that is constantly changing from dirt to rocks to a soft clay. Trail running truly makes you process your environment and your next move very quickly and efficiently making it one of my favorites for getting into flow with exercise. Another favorite of mine is getting into a cold river or lake and taking a nice swim. No times or laps just the sun,cold water,and beautiful environment. You need concentration on breathing and keeping it safe so the mind chatter disappears and you just enjoy the experience. Of coarse you also get all the amazing health benefits of CT(cold thermogenesis) and the healthy radiation from the sun that makes for vitamin D production and many more health benefits not to mention the sense of accomplishment from doing something difficult in a natural environment like we are meant to. 

The other environmental trigger that I didn't mention earlier is high consequences. I don't use that for clients of groups for obvious reasons but we all can understand how that can push us into flow right away. When your hanging on the side of a cliff wall your usually not thinking about your grocery list. That being said we can do that in a safe setting and environment with spotters. Spotters being partners and other group members. That brings us into the next group of triggers-social triggers.

THE BIG ONES

-SHARED,CLEAR GOALS

-GOOD COMMUNICATION

-SERIOUS CONCENTRATION

-EQUAL PARTICIPATION

-ALWAYS SAY YES,AND CONTRIBUTE TO GROUP

These bring on a sense of camaraderie and fun between us all. This is the main reason I think crossfit is so popular. This is why group work is a great alternative for most people. You get motivation and feedback from peers and in the right groups you get the accountability to succeed at the task at hand. So this is the reason  for the outdoor fitness classes,group trail runs,hikes,and outdoor swims in safe environments with spotters. Its always amazing to me when I take a group to the river for a cold swim and see people that have never attempted anything like that before succeed because of the people around them and getting into group flow. I love the look of bliss and accomplishment on there faces after. There confidence and sense of self achievement just shines through.

Last category of triggers is creative triggers which there is but one-CREATIVITY. This is where freestyle work comes in. Lower acrobatics and shadow boxing are a couple of good examples I enjoy using. Once the basics are down I love just telling everyone that the next 20 minutes is just constant movement with no right or wrong just move using whatever works. Rolling,falling,hand stands,get ups,crawling,or just getting up/down with no hands. Doesn't matter-JUST MOVE! When I see them stop and think I gently remind them that there is no wrong and to just keep moving. I do this in my shadow boxing. I just keep moving light on my feet and strike from all kinds of angles and with all kinds of combos and craziness. Thats the fun and thats where CREATIVITY comes in. Im not a fighter and you don't have to be to get benefit and enjoy this exercising of mind and body in one. Its absorbing and keeps the mind from chattering away. Truly is a meditation in itself. The sense of getting better and making connections in chunks is how we learn. You will feel a sense of clarity and accomplishment while learning to focus on the task at hand which is becoming a lost art in this world of technology and constant distraction. The neurological connections and the feel good chemicals released while in flow like dopamine and serotonin literally leave you on a high all day.

If anyone would like more information on joining some of these fun outdoor adventures or just advice on how to implement more flow into your fitness routine,please feel free to contact me here.

 

 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY MICRO BIOME

Phase 1 of my 90 day health resets main focus from a diet standpoint is to sort the gut. It's amazing what new research is finding about the importance of a healthy micro biome. Our intestinal organisms participate in a number of functions including immune system function,detoxification,inflammation,neurotransmitter and vitamin production,nutrient absorption,and much more. All these things factor in heavily to whether we experience things like allergies,asthma,ADHD,cancer,diabetes,or dementia. The micro biome effects our mood,libido,metabolism,immunity,and even our clarity of thought. It helps to determine much of our overall health and should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Thats why its PHASE 1.

This article is based on and taken from the great book by Dr. David Perlmutter. Great read for anyone looking to understand why this subject is so important in sorting your overall health and staying healthy and resilient. Click here to purchase the book.

A healthy gut flora is a big key to a long and healthy life. With todays SAD(Standard American Diet) we are marketed all the bullshit about how a low fat/high sugar/high carbohydrate diet is the healthy way to go. Most food is processed and has little to no nutritional value. I try to explain to clients that there is no one size fits all diet for everyone. We are all unique but some general guidelines seem to be universal and clearly the healthier way to go. For one,the higher quality fat/moderate protein/and low carbohydrate seems to fuel people better and keeps things like Type 2 Diabetes and Leptin and Insulin resistance at bay.  

According to Dr. Perlmutter the new science on nurturing a healthy gut can help with the following;

-ADHD

-Asthma

-Autism

-Allergies and food sensitivity

-Chronic fatigue

-Mood disorders,including depression and anxiety

-Diabetes and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates

-Memory problems and poor concentration

-Chronic constipation or diarrhea

-Frequent colds or infection

-Intestinal disorders,including celiac disease,irritable bowel syndrome,and Crohn's disease

-Insomnia

-Painful joint inflammation and arthritis

-High blood pressure

-Atherosclerosis

-Skin problems such as acne and eczema

-And many more

FEED YOUR MICRO BIOME

Six keys to boosting your brain by boosting your gut

Key 1-Choose foods rich in probiotics

-Live cultured yogurt

-Kefir

-Kombucha tea

-Tempeh

-Kimchi

-Sauerkraut

-Pickles

-Pickled fruits and vegetables

-Fermented meat,fish,and eggs

Key 2-Go low carb,embrace high quality fats-BRAIN MAKER FOODS

-Vegetables:leafy greens and lettuces,collards,spinach,broccoli,kale,chard,and etc and etc. You've got the point. Quality organic greens.

-Low sugar fruits:avocado,bell pepper,cucumber,zucchini,squash,pumpkin,eggplant,lemons,limes.

-Fermented foods:yogurt,pickled fruits and vegetables,kimchi,sauerkraut,fermented meat,fish,and eggs.

-Healthy fats:Extra virgin olive oil,sesame oil,grass fed tallow,and organic or pasture fed butter,ghee,avocados,coconuts,olives,nuts,and nut butters,cheese and seeds.

-Protein:whole eggs,wild fish,shell fish and mollusks,grass-fed meat,fowl,poultry,pork,and wild game.

-Herbs & seasoning and condiments:mustard,horseradish,and gluten free salsas. No ketchup! No restrictions on herbs and seasoning.

Key 3-Enjoy wine,tea,coffee,and chocolate

Enjoy wine ,coffee,and chocolate in moderation and tea to your hearts content. The reason being that flavonoids are produced by plants to protect there selves against free radicals. They are polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants found in plants and are the most abundant antioxidant in the human diet. Adding polyphenols to your diet has shown to significantly reduce markers of oxidative stress. The main dietary sources of polyphenols are fruits and vegetables:plant derived beverages like coffee,red wine,tea,and chocolate.

Key 4-Choose foods rich in prebiotics

Prebiotics are what the gut bacteria love to eat to fuel there growth and activity. They are easily ingested through certain foods. It's estimated that for every 100 grams of consumed carbohydrates that qualify as prebiotics,a full 30 grams of bacteria are produced.

Health Benefits Of Prebiotics;

-Reduce fever related illness

-Reduce inflammation

-Enhance the absorption of minerals

-Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing overall inflammation

-They promote a sense of fulness,prevent obesity,and spur weight loss

-They reduce glycation,which increases free radicals,triggers inflammation,and lowers insulin resistance,and so compromises the integrity of the gut lining

In the SAD(Standard American Diet) we get nowhere near enough pre/pro biotic foods. BRAIN MAKER recommends 12 grams of prebiotics a day by either real foods or supplements

TOP FOOD LIST FOR PREBIOTICS

-Raw chicory root

-Raw jerusalem artichoke

-Raw dandelion greens

-Raw garlic

-Raw leek

-Raw onion

-Raw asparagus

-Cooked onions

-Acacia gum

Key 5-Drink filtered water

Chemicals like chlorine in tap water destroy good gut bacteria. So use quality filters.

Key 6-Fast every season

Our bodies have the ability to convert fat into fuel during times of starvation. The body breaks breaks down molecules called ketones,and one in particular-beta hydroxybutyrate(beta-HBA)-is a superior fuel for the brain. This is why there is a such a compelling case for intermittent fasting. Researchers have determined that beta-HBA improves antioxidant function,increases mitochondria,and stimulates the growth of new brain cells. We can add beta-HBA to our diets just by consuming coconut oil which we will cover next in supplementation for gut and brain health.

SUPPLEMENTATION

1.PROBIOTICS-need 5 core species

-Lactobacillus plantarum

-Lactobacillus acidophilus

-Lactobacillus brevis

-Bifidobacterium lactis

-Bifidobacterium longum

OTHER SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER

DHA-Docosahexaenoic acid(DHA) is a very well documented supplement in protecting the brain. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that makes up more than 90% of the omega-3 fats in the brain. 

Recommended Dose:1,000mg a day

TURMERIC-New research shows that it can enhance growth of new brain cells and activate an array of antioxidants that protect our mitochondria. Turmeric also induces glucose metabolism which is a very good thing in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

Recommended Dose:500mg twice daily

COCONUT OIL-A super fuel for the brain that also reduces inflammation. It has also shown to prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Recommended Dose:2 teaspoons a day straight or use it for cooking

ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID-This is a fatty acid found in every cell of the body when it needs to produce energy. It crosses the blood brain barrier and acts as a powerful antioxidant in the brain. 

Recommended Dose:Aim for 300mg a day

VITAMIN D-This is actually a hormone not a vitamin. It is produced in the skin by exposure to ultraviolet(UV) radiation from the sun. Most of us don't get enough exposure so that is why the majority of the US have a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is important for many things but in this context we are looking at how it protects neurons from the damaging effects of free radicals and reduces inflammation. Vitamin D performs all of these tasks through its regulation of the gut bacteria.

Recommended Dose:Get your Vitamin D levels checked before setting dosage but 5,000IU a day seems a good place to start









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AresFlow 90 Day Health Reset

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  My 90 Day Reset is a three month coarse designed to be a truly full spectrum health and fitness program. I'm tired of seeing all the half assed programs out there and I wanted to put something out that will have participants educated for life on how to get and stay healthy,happy,strong,and resilient. The program tackles all the major factors needed for a healthy and happy body & mind. Things like sleep,gut health,heart health,brain health,anti-inflammatory diet,mindfulness,and of coarse solid program design. After over 20 years of playing with all these concepts and have the pleasure of working with and for some amazing people,this is to the best of my knowledge the only way to become a very well rounded individual with your health and wellness. This is no bullshit magic pill approach. There is no one diet,supplement,or exercise that will get you healthy and keep you that way. It is a journey with many,many variables so don't sell yourself short looking for the shortcut because it won't last.

  The program is broken down into 3 phases. Each phase is 4 weeks long. I have found that to be the magic number in setting good long term habits and also for the body to aclimate to the changes. Research also backs the 90 days to any lasting change. Each phase has its own focus and training. The workouts,supplements,macro intake and nutrient timing will change per phase as we emphasize the main goal for the month.

BASIC OUTLINE OF PHASES

PHASE 1-GUT AND DIGESTIVE HEALTH/FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH

PHASE 2-HEART HEALTH/STRENGTH PHASE

PHASE 3-BRAIN AND NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH/POWER PHASE

OVERVIEW OF PHASES

PHASE 1

GUT/DIGESTIVE HEALTH

FOUNDATION STRENGTH AND MUSCULAR ENDURANCE

POSSIBLE CLEANSE AND GUT HEALTHY FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS

SETTING HEALTHY DAILY ROUTINES

START TRACKING SLEEP,HRV(HEART RATE VARIABILITY),MACRONUTRIENT INTAKE

STAGE 1 CT(COLD THERMOGENESIS)

STAGE 1 MOVEMENT DRILLS/joint mobility

STAGE 1 BREATH WORK/MINDFUL MEDITATION

HOMEWORK-RECOMMENDED READING FOR GUT HEALTH AND ITS IMPORTANCE

PHASE 2

HEART/BLOOD PRESSURE 

STRENGTH PHASE-MOVING HEAVY THINGS PROPERLY

SUPPLEMENTS SPECIFIC TO A STRENGTH PHASE FOR BEST STRENGTH GAINS AND PROPER HORMONE OPTIMIZATION

CONTINUE PROPER ROUTINES AND TRACKING SLEEP,HRV,AND MACRONUTRIENT INTAKE

INTERMITTENT FASTING

STAGE 2 CT(COLD THERMOGENESIS)

STAGE 2 MOVEMENT DRILLS/joint mobility

STAGE 2 BREATH WORK/MINDFUL MEDITATION

HOMEWORK-RECOMMENDED READING ON HOW TO GET STRONG/STAY STRONG AND BREATH WORK.

PHASE 3

BRAIN/NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH

POWER PHASE-EXPLOSIVE ALL OUT MOVEMENTS

SUPPLEMENTS SPECIFIC TO NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH AND EXPLOSIVE FAST TWITCH PERFORMANCE

CONTINUE PROPER ROUTINES AND TRACKING SLEEP,HRV,AND MACRONUTRIENT INTAKE

STAGE 3 CT(COLD THERMOGENESIS)

STAGE 3 MOVEMENT DRILLS/joint mobility

STAGE 3 BREATH WORK/MINDFUL MEDITATION

HOMEWORK-RECOMMENDED READING ON BRAIN AND NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH

These are just the main points. It may sound overwhelming but the program is not difficult to implement. That being said you surely need to put the work in to get the maximal benefit. If you do the work and learn the concepts I guarantee an amazing transformation in health and lifestyle. The workouts are based on 3 days a week of workload and healthy routines and rituals to fill in the gaps. Supplements change per phase to ensure maximal benefit and performance for the specific module. Everything I recommend is safe,natural,and extremely well researched. Mainly herbs,amino acids,and superfoods that are specific to phase. 

THE TRAINING

HIIT(HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING) TO FINISH SESSION

HIIT(HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING) TO FINISH SESSION

Of coarse the training is the backbone and the fun part as far as I'm concerned. It is very well rounded and specific to what we need and use in life. I make 1 day an outdoor day every week and if possible I do at 2. The training is broken down by phase but basically it is a 3 day split with a resistance day typically at the gym,a FLOW day outside in nature with no other distractions like a trail run,and a metabolic/skill day specific to the individuals goals for example thai pad work,boxing,lower acrobatics,KB,etc. All are hard work and are meant to get the most out of you. Starting with a very in depth dynamic warm up and torso work. Followed by the meat of it so to speak,and brought back down to baseline with breath work and relaxation exercises. That is the only proper way to get you to balance out your sympathetic nervous system(fight or flight) and your parasympathetic nervous system(rest and digest).

MITT WORK-SKILL DAY

MITT WORK-SKILL DAY

OUTDOOR WORK IN A RICH ENVIRONMENT IS A BIG FLOW TRIGGER

OUTDOOR WORK IN A RICH ENVIRONMENT IS A BIG FLOW TRIGGER

My full intention with the 90 Day Reset is to have you get great benefit from the 12 weeks but also once you've completed it,you will be educated for life on how to stay healthy. No need for anymore training and wasted money. After you get there your path will take you to whatever else you may want to learn about or master but all the basics will be covered.

EXPLANATION OF CONCEPTS AND TOOLS

Please feel free to read up on some of the tools and concepts I use for the system. Click on keywords below for articles.

CT(cold thermogenesis)

HRV(heart rate variability)

SLEEP

FLOW

GUT HEALTH

JOINT MOBILITY

BREATH WORK

OUTDOOR TRAINING

HIIT(high intensity interval training

 

I have had feedback from people asking to have different levels of the coarse for cost reason and just availability of time. So this is a basic overview of what you get per level:

Level 1

FULL TRACKING AND FEEDBACK

-You will receive the module info and what is recommended for tracking,etc and I will track sleep,HRV,and macronutrient ratios daily with daily feedback

-Recommended anti-inflammatory diet and shopping list PDF

-CT(cold thermogenesis) instructions

-Breathing/meditation instructions

-

Level 2

-Everything from level 1 plus a full 12 week fitness program designed specific to individual

-Weekly FaceTime or Skype call to go over wins and losses for week

Level 3

-This is the full hands on with me(if in Las Vegas). All of the above with all the training being one on one with me and I basically hold you by the hand on everything. This is the way to actually learn proper form in everything from your training movements to breath work,to mindful outdoor training. I only take on 5 people at a time to ensure a top level experience so its upon availability.

Please contact me any question here

Link to pricing  here

 

 

 

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COLD FOR FAT LOSS AND PERFORMANCE

I have played with CT(Cold Thermogenesis) for a few years now and had great benefit in overall health,vitality,and recovery. Like any journey it has had its share of pitfalls and failures. I have played with ice packs,ice vests,cold showers,cold weather workouts,ice baths,cold water swims,and even swimming in frozen pools and lakes. After all that, I realized there is actually an easy and effective progression to cold adaptation and all the benefits that come along with it. Since I have some experience with CT,when I experienced a Cryo Chamber I knew right away that its mostly marketing and another quick fix for most people that don't want to put in the effort and time to truly experience benefit from CT. Cryo chambers have there place for a certain type of individual but all the claims that are made are only true of prolonged cold exposure of more than the 3 minutes that you get using cryo chambers. If you are new to cold exposure and not at all adapted then it can be a great tool in getting you started. The issue is that once you start to adapt and its no longer cold to you for just the 3 minutes you get,then its not anywhere near as effective as cold water exposure for 10-30 minutes.Especially when you look at the ridiculous cost involved. I see them as a gimmick for a wealthy type of client that likes the convenience of not getting wet and only needing a few minutes to get it in. All I felt was a bit refreshed after.

Cryo Chamber In Las Vegas

Cryo Chamber In Las Vegas

Good old ice bath at roughly 55 degrees F for 20-30 minutes

Good old ice bath at roughly 55 degrees F for 20-30 minutes

That being said lets look at some of the commonly known benefits of CT.

-Lowers Body Fat

-Helps With Immune Function

-Reverse Diabetes

-Strengthen Adrenal Function

-Lower Inflammation

-Increase Hormone Levels

-Deep/Quality Sleep

-Fertility

-Tight And Healthy Skin

-General Faster Recovery For Training

Now lets see the reason and the mechanisms at work that make these benefits happen. I will go over what I think are the big 3. This is just skimming what is happening but I want to keep this understandable for myself and you.

THE BIG 3

-BAT(Brown Adipose Tissue)OR BROWN FAT

-ADIPONECTIN

-IRISIN

 

BAT(Brown Adipose Tissue)

WAT(White Adipose Tissue) is used to store excess calories we consume but BAT actually burns WAT to produce heat. When fully activated brown fat activates 300 times more heat than any tissue in the body. Your body is trying to maintain its ideal 96.6 to 101 degrees fahrenheit. So when you are exposed to cold you activate BAT. The beautiful thing is that you usually need to burn through blood glucose and glycogen stores in the liver and muscles before you can utilize fat for energy,but BAT activation directly burns WAT for fuel. BAT in adults is mainly found in the collarbone and upper chest and back area. You can actually raise the level of BAT in your body with cold exposure,proper exercise,and even certain foods,but CT is the most effective way I have found. Also glucose uptake has been observed to increase 12X in BAT by cold exposure.

 

ADIPONECTIN

Adiponectin is a protein hormone that is involved in regulating glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. It is secreted by adipose tissue(Fat) during cold exposure. When the hormone is released it breaks down fat and shuttles glucose into the muscles which in turn lowers blood sugar. Hence the reason CT can help reverse diabetes. Low adiponectin levels go hand in hand with quite a few health issues. The big ones being obesity and diabetes.

Adiponectin Benefits

-Fat Burning And Weight Loss

-Insulin Sensitivity

-Muscular Enhancement

-Reduced Inflammation

-Improves Heart Disease And Metabolic Disorders

IRISIN

Irisin is a hormone released by muscle tissue during higher intensity CT and after high intensity workouts. The key with Irisin seems to be the fact that when its released it lowers Myostatin.

Myostatin is a signaling protein that binds to muscle tissue inhibiting division and growth. NOT GOOD FOR MUSCLE BUILDING!

-So Irisin lowers Myostatin allowing increased muscle growth.

This explains to me why when I incorporate a lot of CT into  my routine,I drop body fat and keep muscle while holding on to strength gains. Another huge benefit to Irisin release is thats its associated with longevity due to the fact that studies have shown its linked to increasing DNA Telomere length which itself is widely associated with a longer lifespan.

So Basically-

CT=Increases Irisin=Lower Myostatin=Allows Increased Muscle Growth

You will not get these hormones released in a cryo chamber in 3 minutes. That is why I think they are bogus. Again they have there place with someone who has money burning a hole in there pocket and is just starting out with CT and isn't ready for the cold water yet. If that's your case then use them a few days a week for a month and then move on to better methods. 

WIM HOF METHOD

Wim Hof is known as THE ICE MAN. You can google and see all the crazy stuff he's done and world records,etc. To me the amazing this is the control he has over his autonomic nervous system which was before thought impossible. He has great control over his body and breathing. So I have had questions answered via email via my own journey and also have gone through his 10 week coarse. I recommend it because its actually fun and you will learn a lot about yourself via breath holds,breath work,and cold exposure. So I use my own variation of his method in my 90 day health reset to use all 12 weeks to get adapted and to feel the full benefits of CT.

BASIC PROGRESSION

-Face dunks in ice water 20 seconds at a time for 5-10 rounds daily

-End showers 30 seconds cold

-Start and end showers 30 seconds cold

-Add time in cold to beginning and end of showers

-Only cold showers for 5 minutes

-10 minute cold showers

-Cold plunges or baths at 60-65 degrees fahrenheit for 10-20 minutes

-Ice baths at 50-55 degrees fahrenheit for 10-20 minutes

No need to go further than 50 degrees. If the ice bath becomes easy to you then you can simply add time.

IMPORTANT

You must progress slowly if you are new to this. If you have heart disease,high blood,or any other chronic ailment please consult your physician first!

WHY ITS IMPORTANT

For myself CT has been huge in my recovery and general immune function. When I incorporate it regularly into my routine,I never get sick and I always feel energetic,recovered,and rejuvenated. The last thing I will go over briefly are a couple of tips for fat loss and dropping body fat while putting or just maintaining muscle and strength gains.

FAT LOSS

BEFORE 4 WEEKS CT

BEFORE 4 WEEKS CT

AFTER 4 WEEKS OF SOLID CT

AFTER 4 WEEKS OF SOLID CT

Best personal results are when I do cold swims at 55 degrees fahrenheit or ice baths at least that cold,3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes. I am in a fasted state and take 500-1000mg of bitter melon extract 30 minutes before my session. This is a bit more advanced so I am just throwing this in as a possible future goal if you are not there yet. Usually  a 4 week cycle is enough for me and then I only use cold showers and take a small break for a month or so. I actually just finished a 4 week cycle and this time  added a systemic enzyme at my activation dose with the bitter melon and had even better results. I can't make any scientific claim and have no proof via lab work but I know my body and it was simply more effective. The best and only systemic enzyme I use is RESTOREZYME. It is a Mike Mahler product. Click on the link for more info. Great product and he is a solid guy that stands behind his supplements. His whole product line is amazing and I have had great benefit from them all. Especially take a look at his testosterone booster. Great for strength phases!

KEEPING MUSCLE MASS AND DROP FAT

SIMPLE FORMULA-

1. Strength train/HIIT

2. Post workout meal including lots of carbohydrates

3. Use CT to direct nutrients away from fat and into muscle & BAT

4. Equals low blood glucose levels & Insulin sensitivity

POST WORKOUT CARB FEED

=EQUALS

NUTRIENT PARTITIONING

=EQUALS

GLYCOGEN SUPERCOMPENSATION

=EQUALS

ENHANCED MUSCLE GROWTH

OUTDOOR DAY

OUTDOOR DAY

COLD RIVER SWIM

COLD RIVER SWIM

WILLOW BEACH,AZ  

WILLOW BEACH,AZ

 

ARES NIKOLOPOULOS

 

 

 

 

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HEART RATE VARIABILITY(HRV)

Wikipedia;
Heart Rate Variability(HRV)-is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by variation in the beat-to-beat interval.

  HRV monitoring is a very useful tool in keeping track of your stress levels and how well you are recovering from your workouts. It is very easy to test every day and is not time consuming thanks to apps on your phone. It's a cheap and easy way to monitor your nervous system and is something I use myself and for my clients.
  HRV is a unique way to assess the effects of stress on your body. It basically measures the pattern of your heart beat. For example if your pulse is 60 beats per minute(BPM) your heart would assumably beat once every second,but the variability is more like 1.1 then 1.05 then .95. So it averages 60 BPM. HRV is exclusive to heart rate(HR). You can have a high resting HR and still have a healthy HRV and vise versa. HRV testing logs the average and gives you a number from 0-100. A high number is a sign of a healthy nervous system. HRV is controlled by the autonomic nervous system(ANS),which has two branches;

Sympathetic Nervous System-Also known as the fight or flight response.

Parasympathetic Nervous System-Also known as the rest and digest response.

LF(Low Frequency) is the measure of the Sympathetic branch.

HF(High Frequency) is the measure of the Parasympathetic branch.

  So these two systems are basically in a tug of war. Sympathetic system is speeding heart rate up and the parasympathetic is slowing it down. The key is having a balanced nervous system and quality training in combination with quality rest and recovery are keys to this. Of coarse a good relaxed state of mind can also do wonders for your HRV.

  I think the best product out right now is made by SweetWater Health. I have used others in past like ithlete,but this app is much more comprehensive and tests LF and HF along with a lot of other measurements. As of right now it's only available in the iTunes store on the iOS platform. They say an Android version is on the way. If your not an iOS user I would try ithlete since it's available on both platforms. Sweetbeatslife is the name of the app. You can click on the link to see compatible heart rate monitors and they even have there own HealthPatch that does it all plus takes a few other measurement like skin temperature.

  The process takes 5 minutes of your time every morning upon awaking. I use this for myself and my clients daily to keep track of recovery and make a quality plan for training on that day. It has been an invaluable tool in finding the balance between hard training and quality recovery. When you get this right you keep cortisol levels low and stress levels balanced. The cost is very low for the feedback you get and if you have a compatible HR monitor it will just cost you $9.99 for the app as of now. This is one of the only self quantifications I use daily and I highly recommend it!

Ares Nikolopoulos

 

 

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FLOW

  I have talked about flow a few times before. Usually I talk about presence and keeping your mind in the NOW. Being conscious of your surroundings and really focusing on your sense perceptions as much as possible is a very good way to go through life. The way I see flow is what we call the zone in sports. You are all there and all in,with no thought outside of what you are doing. The book FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first book and basically the authority on the subject for the last 20 years or so. When I first read it,it was fascinating to me but also most of it went over my head with all the science jargon.

  About 6 months ago I picked up The Rise Of Superman by Steven Kotler. I read it and also listened to the audiobook and it all kinda came together and made sense. The book FLOW is fantastic but Rise Of Superman was the one that just made it click for me. I have also heard a few podcasts with Kotler as he explained his own personal struggles in the past with Lyme Disease and of coarse the depression that came along with it. Then a great story about how he overcame it all by accidentally tapping into flow on a regular basis. A lot of what he writes comes from studying adventure athletes which without a doubt tap into flow more than any other athlete. For them it's either make it or your dead or at the very least seriously injured. I have known a lot of this all deep down but just never made sense of it. I like the way he breaks down the flow triggers  and main components of a flow state. This opens up your mind to how you can increase performance and the enjoyment of your activities.

  This information is almost completely based on the book Rise Of Superman. I'm not getting too in depth with it. I just want to get you thinking about it and trying to incorporate some triggers. I do it in my training and even put fitness trips and exercise routines together totally based on getting clients into a flow state.

According to Steven Kotler there are ten core components of flow.

1. Clear goals

2. Concentration

3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness

4. Distorted sense of time

5. Direct and immediate feedback

6. Balance between ability level and challenge

7. A sense of personal control over the situation

8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding,so action is effortless

9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs

10. Absorption-narrowing of awareness down to the activity itself.

  Reading over this list will no doubt get you thinking about your own activities and what activities may get you into a flow state. When I first read this book it made me think that this is describing pure consciousness and to a point it is! This is where my theory of slow vs fast time comes in. It's easier to be conscious as a practitioner when at a leisurely pace and an underlying sense of peace is present. Now fast time you are forced into consciousness or flow by triggers and your natural fight or flight response. For example you are hiking and a bear comes out of the trees and starts to charge you. You simply have no time to think about that bill that is due next week. You either respond in one way or another or you are in a world of hurt. The problem is that when it's slow time most of us are conditioned to be bored or need distractions like TV,internet,etc. So it is more difficult for most to be conscious or get into flow with out some kind of trigger like risk,which is a big flow trigger.

  Now we will get into the flow triggers. These are all broken down and explained in great detail inside The Rise Of Superman. Here again I am just listing them so you can get an idea of what triggers flow. Kohler says there are 17 flow triggers. This is how he breaks them down into categories.

4-Psychological

3-Environmental

9-Social

1-Creative

Psychological Triggers

1. Intensely focused attention

2. Clear goals

3. Immediate feedback

4. The challenge to skill ratio

Environmental Triggers

1. High consequences

2. Rich environment

3. Deep embodiment

Social Triggers

1. Serious concentration

2. Shared,clear goals

3. Good communication

4. Familiarity

5. Equal participation

6. Risk

7. Sense of control

8. Close listening

9. Always say yes-So contribute and add to the momentum of the group

Creative Triggers

1. Creativity

  The triggers that stick out the most to me are the psychological triggers. You need to be focused on what you are doing. You need clear goals on how to tackle the obstacle at hand. You need immediate feedback to know if we are heading in the right direction or not-so to speak. Finally the challenge to skill ratio must be right for us to get in the zone. Not too hard and not too easy.

  Environmental triggers are huge for me since I love the outdoors and regularly get into flow in nature. High consequences would be like hiking a very narrow ledge with a deadly drop if you slip. This keeps your attention like nothing else. Rich environment is the 'awe' factor. Being outside somewhere beautiful and seeing an amazing sunset. Deep embodiment is just taking it all in fully. The big social trigger for me is risk. It doesn't have to be physical risk,it can simply be you crossing the room to ask a beautiful woman out on a date. Of coarse physical risk also gets us into flow nicely but no need to kill yourself. The reason I love riding motorcycles is probably because of all the sense perceptions firing at once when you are sitting on some ridiculously powered sport bike and how a twist of the throttle actually needs acclimating to because your brain can't even process the speed at first. Then there's the risk. You have to be sharp and paying attention completely to the task at hand. If not and you make a mistake,it may very well be your last.

 Probably the biggest trigger of all for me is creativity. Simple definition;

Creativity-The process of developing original ideas that have value.

  When you get those creative juices flowing there is a huge dopamine release. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical released whenever we take the risk of putting a new idea out there. We feel this inrush of excitement,engagement,and curiosity. It also tightens focus and makes us present in the now so it helps us into flow.

  I highly recommend reading FLOW and The Rise Of Superman. They are interesting reads and if you implement a few triggers here and there you will be amazed at how they can really help you into flow.

Ares Nikolopoulos

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13 THINGS YOU CAN INCORPORATE NOW FOR BETTER HEALTH

  I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday and he asked me to throw a few health conscious tips at him off the top of my head. In friendly conversation I just started rambling off the things that are easy to incorporate daily and have been successful for myself and clients. This list is very basic but can be extremely useful depending on the depth in which you choose to implement these things and make them habit. All these things should be started at a very basic point. Just start them! Then you can go more in depth to each subject with the sciences and so on. My goal with this post is to get people thinking about these things and starting to use them and then I will have a follow up post to each one of these every week that will explain each one a bit more in depth.

 

1. Be Mindful

This subject in general is the most important practice in achieving good health and a happy life. If you get your mind right,everything else will fall into place much better and much easier. What i mean by being mindful isn't sitting in lotus position on a mountain in Tibet until the mysteries of the universe come to you. Being mindful is as simple as looking around,listening,feeling,smelling,and tasting. Using your sense perceptions in the present moment without any mind chatter. Just try putting 10 minutes a day aside to take a walk and feel the sunlight on your skin and the breeze on your face. Feel the earth beneath every step and the smells in the air,good or bad do not label them just experience them while letting go of thought. Its as simple as enjoying a shower while taking in the water temperature on your skin and the smell of the soap. This is a very basic explanation but very effective and i will follow up much more on this subject soon.

2. Sleep

We all know what its like to go without enough sleep for a few days. Not only do we feel physically tired but we also lose a lot of cognitive ability and a constant 'brain fog' so to speak. Quality sleep and good sleep habits are arguably the single most important thing you can sort out and feel like a new person. When i sleep well I recover much faster from training and my state of mind is great. I feel sharp and precise. So much goes on during sleep to repair your body that it cannot be something that you sacrifice because you think you are getting more done. When rested and sharp your work quality is much higher than when you are tired and just going through the motions.

Try unplugging from white light that comes from electronics like TV,cell phone,computers,and tablets 2 hours before bed. Go by candle light or blue light and try to unwind and get in bed same time every night and get up same time in every morning. Shoot for 7.5-8 hours of quality sleep a night. For example go to bed at 10pm and rise with the sun at 5:30-6am. Put this to practice and get on a good routine and I promise you 30 days from now you will feel much better and be by far more productive during the day.

3. Water

Drink water sounds obvious but if you sit and think about it,how much of the liquid you drink every day is just good old clean water? Most people I have journal what they eat and drink every day come back after a week and show me that water comes out to be 25-40% of the liquids they take in. Soda,juice,coffee, and all the rest seem to take a precedence to water. It is simple as far as I'm concerned. Stop drinking soda because it is poison! You don't need all the high sugar sports drinks and juices either. Coffee and tea in the morning is fine but water should be the liquid of choice. It will hydrate you and keep every cell in your body healthy and happy.

Drink 20oz of water upon awaking to help jumpstart your organs and flush your system. Then eat 45 minutes to an hour later. I shoot for 1oz of water per pound I weigh a day. So I weigh 210lbs so i drink at least 200oz of water a day. At first this sounds like a lot so shoot for half of that per pound and work your way up. Especially in hot summer months and when your exercise routine has been kicked up a notch.

4. Implement A Morning And Evening Routine

I get up and the first 30-40 minutes is exactly the same every day. Sounds boring but I feel great once I'm done. I wake up and take a few deep breaths while genuinely being thankful for another day on this earth and for my health and family. Then I sit up and test me HRV(heart rate variability) while I journal results and my days training and some positive thoughts. I drink 30oz or water with some fresh squeezed lemon juice in it and my phytoplankton mixed in while I take down some herbs i use for inflammation control. Then I do some deep breathing for oxygenation and take a 10 min ice cold shower. When I get out I feel awesome. Then it's time for a my breakfast which consists of a fatty chai tea with grass fed butter and coconut oil and either Greek Yogurt with honey or a couple hard boiled free range eggs. Sounds like a lot but it has become second nature and I do it all mindfully and slowly. In the evening I start to unwind after sun down and try to keep to the light cycles as well as I can and unwind with blue light bulbs and a book. I usually sleep very well with a scoop of GABA in my casein protein before bed and I am out.

This is just an example. The point is to slowly implement a daily ritual for rising and unwinding and quieting the mind to go to bed. I find daily journaling in this daily routine very helpful and gives a lot of feedback to look back on to tweak things when they aren't going so well. It always helps to look back and see what was working when you were optimal.

5. Eat Consciously 

Be mindful of what goes in your mouth. It is simple really,ask yourself if what you are about to eat is nutrient rich and will serve a purpose for your body and energy. Be honest with your self and if it is a NO then put it down and get something better. We are all different so I'm not here to give you a certain diet,thats comes down the road. To start just be conscious of what you are eating and be mindful when you eat. No smartphone or TV,just eat and taste the food slowly. Be thankful for the meal and don't rush through it while reading Facebook or some other bullshit. I always tell my son to be thankful for this healthy meal because there are plenty of kids in this world starving so don't take this for granted. I also recommend journaling your meals for a while and simply put a checkmark next to good meals and a X next to bad one and review it every day so you can make better choices the next day.

6. Watch Your Posture And Gait Movement

This is something most of us have an issue with,myself included. Proper posture is something we should be conscious of. Whenever you feel yourself slumping in the car or in a chair just make an effort to sit up straight. When walking stand up as tall as you can with shoulders back and pretend someone is pulling you up by the crown of your head stretching you out. Use proper gait movement. Walk straight and balanced with feet pouting forward and a smooth stride. Improper posture and gait movement will eventually lead to a structural breakdown. Move well now and you will move well for a very long time.

Gait Movement Definition;

Moving without exageration from any angle. Straight coming and going. Viewed from side, effortless, brisk action, retaining top-line.

7. Get Outdoors

Anyone that knows me has already heard me preach this subject to death. We all should incorporate time outdoors in a green environment for both body and mind. Again I will go into all these subjects much more one by one but for now shoot for two days a week outside. One day for exercise in an open space for anything from running or plyometrics yoga. The other day is just for a mindful walk or hike outside in a green relaxing environment. Try to change it up often and get to new spots. It will help with stress and your workouts will be better because we tend to move around more when we aren't strapped to a treadmill or bike watching TV and not paying attention to what we are doing.

8.Add Some Cold

I have had great success for myself and for my clients with CT(cold thermogenesis). It can help with weight loss and body composition. It is also a proven inflammation defense while helping with other things like sleep issues and even depression.

Start slow just by adding some cold to morning routine. Do your morning ritual and some breath work and then take your shower. At the end of shower turn the water as cold as it goes for just 30 seconds. That is very doable for anyone without serious health issues. Then after a week go to 1-2 minute at the end. Third week start with cold in shower for a minute and then warm to clean up and end with cold for a minute. After a few weeks of this shoot for a whole week of a 10 minute cold shower while breathing properly. By then you will be feeling good and will most likely just take cold showers every morning. Once you get there you will be ready for next step like cold exposure and ice baths,etc. I will cover that all in follow up to this subject.

9. Have A Weekly Adventure

Every weekend you should sit down and plan a weekly adventure to get out of the normal numbing routine. It can be hiking a place you have never been or just taking a good book to a new park. We can't always get away to do something wild but once a week get out for some fun and once a month make it a good one like rent a Harley Davidson and ride somewhere to see something new and have a beer in a dive bar. Get a good nights sleep and ride back next day. It is all about the experience. I have done this a couple of times and it sticks with me always because it was so out of the ordinary routine and such an adventure without having to go far. My best day riding was renting a bright yellow Ducati 1098S and putting 300 miles on it in a day just around Las Vegas. It was loud,nasty,uncomfortable,and scary fast but the experience is one I will never forget. Rode it from Red Rock to Mt. Charleston and to the lake and Hoover Dam. All your thoughts stop when you are on something like that. You are either fully present or you might die. I am not recommending this to everyone,just an example. The possibilities are endless. Just get out of routine. A little adventure alone every week can make a huge difference in your outlook and bring the fun factor up a notch in your life.

10. Add Activities That Give You A Creative Spark

Creativity is a big flow trigger. Meaning it can put you right into a flow state or into the NOW if you like. Find something you love doing like painting or writing or picking up an instrument. Whatever puts you into that creative mode. Start a blog to write about things that are interesting to you. Even if nobody ever reads it, who cares it is for your creativity and your well being. Nobody really reads my stuff but I feel great after publishing something on my blog that I know might help someone that might come across it.

11. Make Time For Quality Socialization

You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. So get out with people you have fun with and also can learn from. I am really bad at this personally and it's something I am working on myself. I never socialize even though I know it is part of a healthy,quality life. In many studies of some of the earth longest living people a key factor was there community and socialization habits. I saw it in Greece in the villages my parents are from. People are poor and work hard but every evening they are at a tavern having a drink and dancing. Laughter everywhere and kids having fun. It is not the same here in Las Vegas at all. So get out and socialize with quality friends and have a little fun.

12. Unplug

We need time away from electronics and the internet. We need to live our own life and not worry so much about everyone else's. Social media has become a big part of business and day to day life but we need to break away from it regularly. Just look around at a family eating out and most of them are on there phone instead of socializing with family and enjoying the food. This is also very unhealthy. White light throws off our melatonin production and our sleep cycles. EMF(electromagnetic field) exposure is another subject I will follow up with. 

"Do nothing which is of no use"-SHINMEN MUSASHI

Unwind by unplugging every night 2 hours before bed. No phones,tablets,or TV. Try going by candle light or blue light bulbs. Read a book or write something. Then get some mindful time and go to bed in complete darkness. This is the only way to get the brain to relax and get ready for sleep. This is how we can get back to proper sleep cycles. Then try one day a week where you don't check email or get on social media at all. No internet or anything. Just have your phone on you for the day to day needs for family to get in touch,etc. Don't even use your phone if you have to. Try it and you will see how difficult it is for most of us, but in reality it is a necessity to unplug.

13. Become A Child Again

Try to not take yourself or the world too seriously. Do away with self consciousness and worrying what others think. Laugh a lot and be goofy! Go to the park and roll around with your dog or have a water gun fight with the neighborhood kids. If people around you are uptight or don't like it then FUCK EM!

Try seeing the world through a child"s eyes again. See how they are in such amazement over something simple like a butterfly on a flower. Things we have become desensitized to with our poor conditioning to not stop and smell the roses so to speak. Slow down and look around so you can see life for what it is. The difference in just changing how we see things can be as drastic as watching an old black and white film that changes into full IMAX HD right before your eyes. Life becomes a much richer experience. Also like a child you should try to put a smile on a strangers face at least once a day. Usually just smiling at someone can do the trick or helping them with groceries or whatever. You get the point. This has a 3 way positive effect-on the person you help,on you,and on anyone who witnesses.

Ares Nikolopoulos

 

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Top 10 Anti-inflammatory Herbs

Turmeric

This herb is widely used in Asian and Mexican dishes. Experts recommend turmeric to people with inflammatory diseases such as tendonitis, arthritis and other autoimmune illnesses. The advisable dosage of turmeric extract is between 400mg and 600mg which should be taken 3 times a day. Many studies have been conducted to test the effect of turmeric in the human health. Researchers from the Oregon State University found out that turmeric can aid in arthritis. Turmeric can also address swelling and pain which comes along with the inflammation.

Ginger

In many countries especially in Asia, ginger is used as a natural anti-inflammatory medicine. In a 1992 study conducted at Odense University in Denmark, it was found that people with inflammatory illnesses experience relief from inflammatory symptoms when taking ginger supplementation. In the said study, 75% of the participants who took ginger supplements reported that they experienced relief after taking ginger. In another study published in the Journal of Medical Food, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger have been comprehensively discussed. It can be ingested or taken orally in a form of tea or supplement. Allergic reaction to ginger may cause several symptoms including headache, nausea and diarrhea. 

Boswellia

Also called Indian frankincense, this is among the anti inflammatory herbs that are also used to address joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis. It also comes in supplements and natural drug treatments. In a 2005 study, it was found that Boswellia treats inflammation by destroying a type of cytokine which is involved in chronic inflammation. Unlike the standard non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NADs, Boswellia doesn’t cause irritation in the stomach. This herb causes boswellic acids which reduce inflammation in several ways. First, it boosts blood flow. Second, it prevents the inflammatory white cells from damaging tissues. And lastly, it blocks the chemical reactions that trigger the inflammatory responses of the body.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a popular spice that is used in international cuisines. This evergreen shrub is cultivated in many parts of the world. Aside from enhancing the taste of foods, it is also used in tea. Aside from the anti-inflammatory properties of this herb, rosemary is also known for its tonic, diaphoretic and its tonic effect. On a very recent research, it was found that rosemary has a stimulant and analgesic effect too which is mostly found it its oil. The anti-inflammatory characteristic of rosemary can be attributed to the flavonoids and rosmarinic acid.

Garlic

This is one of the most common anti inflammatory herbs that you can always find in your kitchen. Garlic is also considered as a natural antibiotic and is widely used in many countries to address various health problems including sinus infection. In fact, it has the same effect with penicillin. Garlic is also a health tonic just like rosemary. As an anti inflammatory medication, garlic works by altering the cytokines which trigger inflammation. This pungent and flavorful herb was also found to be useful in the treatment of hypertension, diabetes, common cold, and cholesterol.

Licorice

Many of us are very much familiar with licorice as a candy and not as one of the anti inflammatory herbs. This plant is widely used in many countries as a remedy that can be taken with other herbal medications. Licorice is also considered as an anti depressant drug, anti ulcer, anti fungal, and immunity booster. This herb is also used in treating asthma, liver problems, fungal and viral infections, arthritis, prostate enlargement, gingivitis, tooth problems, and many more. This herb also contains high amount of flavonoids which makes it an anti inflammatory medicine. However, studies show that too much consumption of Licorice can trigger palpitations, difficulty in breathing and other heart problems.

Cayenne

This is one of the most powerful anti inflammatory herbs that are also helpful in improving blood circulation. Cayenne powder is also rich in vitamin B, B complex, and vitamin C. It also contains high amount of calcium and potassium which are essential nutrients that the heart needs. This herb is also said to aid in the treatment of arthritis, post herpetic neuropathy, psoriasis and cancer.

Cinnamon

We all love this herb for coffee and we use it to add enhance the aroma of cakes, muffins and other pastries. But other than its culinary benefits, cinnamon can also help you achieve a healthier body in many different ways. New studies suggest that cinnamon reduces the risk of inflammation. Eating too much of fatty foods can cause inflammation in the internal organs which later on can lead to the development of heart disease.

Parsley

Parsley is among the anti inflammatory herbs that are very rich in vitamins and minerals. It is fully packed with vitamins A, B, C and K. Traditionally, parsley has been used to treat kidney problems, painful menses, digestive disorders, etc. This popular spice is also known to prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis and certain types of cancer. Because of the nutrients it contains, this herb for inflammation is also used to boost the immune system. Studies found that parsley, when combined with asparagus can be a powerful cure against inflammatory disorders.

Basil

The last but not the least of our top anti inflammatory herbs is basil. People suffering from arthritis are advised by many doctors to eat fresh basil. This fragrant herb is commonly used in salads and as flavor in pasta dressings.

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Gut Health

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 Our gut health is overlooked by many of us in our overall outlook on wellness and general health. If you have IBS(Irritable bowel syndrome)and/or regular bouts of gas and acid reflux,your first line of action should be sorting your gut health. When you have inflammation in the intestine you are probably not absorbing much of the nutrients you are consuming. So even if you are taking a bunch of supplements and vitamins etc, they are basically being flushed down the toilet. Just like the money you spent on them. To sort gut health you need to clean up your diet by cutting back on processed foods,animal protein,and simple sugars. Consume more fiber from fruits and veggies. Stop taking unnecessary meds such as aspirin,ibuprofen,and laxatives as well as broad spectrum antibiotics. Most antibiotics wipe out good bacteria as well as the bad. Anyone on them should take probiotics for twice as long as the the antibiotic prescription. Adding certain foods to your diet can have a profound effect on your gut health. Add fermented foods and good bacteria rich foods like Greek yogurt,sauerkraut,kombucha,kimchi,etc.
   Another side of a healthy gut that people don't think about is what our mood and what general stress levels do to our health via the stomach. Research shows that the gut lining houses an independent network of hundreds of millions of neurons. That's more than our spinal cord has. Its's called the enteric nervous system. Called by many "the second brain." It's a very complex network that is in charge of the digestive process. Anyone that has had that butterfly feeling in your stomach can understand why our thoughts and mood play such an integral role in gut health. Being that your gut lining is the core and strength of our bodies immune system we would be wise to make it a priority for general health and wellness.

So to recap.
1. Clean up your diet with good quality fibrous fruits and vegetables.
2. Add a probiotic if you have intestinal inflammation.
3. Add a fermented food to diet.
4. Of coarse since I'm Greek i have to plug Greek yogurt(my favorite is Fage).
5. Cut out unnecessary meds.
6. Drink lots of water for general health and to help flush your system. I shoot for an ounce for every pound you weigh a day.
7. Aloe vera juice is also a favorite of mine for general digestion health as well as a number of other health benefits.
8. Realize that your thoughts and mood weigh very much on your general health. From your GUT to your endocrine system. So relax and realize how important your thoughts are.

Ares Nikolopoulos

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Training Outdoors For Mind And Body

 According to government estimate,the average American spends 90% of his or her life indoors. When this finally registered with me it kind of made me sick. I thought of a friend that always jokes that we are heading for an existence that is a lot like the Matrix movies. I also see the dangers of this when i see my child having to be ripped away from the iPad or TV when the cartoons are on. What ever happened to our parents having to scream at us to have us come in at night after hours of playing outside with friends? There are so many health benefits for being outdoors that I will only go over some important points. Just to name a few;

-A 2008 Scottish health survey with nearly 2,000 participants found that outdoor physical activity had a 50% greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym.
-Your Vitamin D levels go up.
-You will get more exercise. You move around more and in general more active than being confined to a space like a treadmill.
-You will be happier. Green places have been associated with better mood and less stress.


  Research suggests that spending time in nature improves cognition,relieves anxiety and depression,and even boosts empathy. The Japanese implement something they call shinrin-yoku. Inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices,it means to let nature enter your body through all five senses. Due to the high stress of Japanese culture,the government has funded National Forest Therapy Centers for people to get away from the stresses of work and relax. There in depth studies have shown that a leisurely walk through the forrest compared with a urban walk yield decrease in the stress hormone cortisol,decrease in sympathetic nerve activity,decrease blood pressure,and even a decrease in heart rate. Most subjects tested also report better moods and lower anxiety.
  The key they say is that you should balance a mindful relaxed experience outdoors with another day of physical stressors outdoors. So Get a day of exercise outside a week and also make time at least once a week for a nice outdoor experience in a green environment. I have found this personally to do wonders for my training,my mood,and just breaking up the jail cell like environment of gym. Try it and i promise you will have benefit!

Ares Nikolopoulos

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Joint Mobility And Dynamic Warm Up Benefits

About a year ago I somewhat hit a wall with my training. Not due to a lack of motivation or a lack of new modalities and sporting events I wanted to try,but because my body literally felt broken down. I had just left a good job in a casino a few months earlier to pursue my passion for fitness as a career and was on a warpath in the gym. Being in a full blown power phase and training like I was getting ready for a professional sporting event for 6 months straight finally got to me.I was using my training as a stress release and my meditation. My lower back on the right side always hurt and general joint pain was the norm. Gains were non existent due to the overtraining and for a while I almost felt like succumbing to the idea that I was 35 and "getting old".
  Once I started getting into correctives and of coarse some rest,I started feeling much better in a couple of weeks. After that I started working for a friend who was a Z Health professional. I got into the various phases and studied them hands on. I felt a lot better by adding joint mobility work to my routine. I'm not going to say that Z Health is the end all to the mysteries of the body,but it has great benefits by taking into account the neurological side of movement and pain. You would have to write a book to get into it sufficiently. With that being said,what is joint mobility and what is a dynamic warm up? What are the benefits of both?
  Mobility work uses movement to actively move your joints and bring more lubrication(mainly via synovial fluid)and therefor helps joints heal and regenerate. The nutritive and lubricative flow helps revitalize the connective tissue and makes for a healthy and mobile joint. Think of it like the Tin Man getting oiled by Dorothy so he can move again. It also has great benefit on restoring posture and lost movement patterns. Like my old boss would say,"it puts these movements back on the map". What he meant by that is simply that we stop moving in certain planes of motion and don't exactly stand as tall as we should just to name a couple. So neurologically we have forgotten how that feels and it's off the map so to speak. With practice we put it back on the map and we stand taller,have better posture,and move much more efficiently.
  The reason I am writing this is to simply stress the importance of corrective work. Especially as we age! It will keep you felling young and elastic like a child. It is due to this work that i still go to the park and roll around like a hyper kid and enjoy it pain free.
  I also want to emphasize the importance of a warm up.More specifically a dynamic warm up.

[Web Definition]Dynamic Warm Up=A series of movements(including bouncing and skipping)that are designed to actively prepare the muscles for performance and are performed in a safe and controlled fashion.

  So basically instead of just jogging in place to break a sweat you are moving in different planes of motion for a more effective warm up. A "specific dynamic warm up" is a dynamic warm up that is specific to the workload to come in your workout. For example if you are doing agility work and sprints you would specifically target the legs and mimic the planes of motion that are to come.
  That all being said,the good news is that there are endless free videos on Youtube with plenty of good joint mobility and dynamic warm up routines. I just want to open up your minds to something we all should be incorporating. I also will post a video within a couple days of the article posting. It will be a quick variation to my own mobility routine and a easy basic dynamic warm up anyone can do. Please let me know what you think and I wish you all great benefit.

Ares Nikolopoulos

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High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT)

  I am a big fan of HIIT training. I always feel great after a hard session and a good cool down,stretch,and cold shower. Studies show an increase in growth hormone(HGH) as much as 450% after a good HIIT workout.I am here to tell you that I believe it because I feel incredible after pushing myself hard for 20-30 minutes. HIIT crushes conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise. It is also much less time consuming and you don't need any equipment to do it. Can do it almost anywhere with NO GYM needed. 

  Benefit of HIIT training physiologically include the substantial post workout boost of HGH that I mentioned above and the benefit of burning more fat at a standstill for the 24hrs to come due to the increase in both HGH and your metabolic rate increase. Studies have shown that 12 weeks of HIIT had participants show significant reductions in abdominal,trunk, and visceral fat while increasing fat free mass and aerobic power. There is also an immediate,measurable change in DNA after a good HIIT routine.

  A basic breakdown of our bodies energy systems goes like this. The energy for all physical activity comes from the conversion of high energy phosphates(adenosine triphosphate-ATP) to lower energy phosphates(adenosine diphosphate-ADP). Since our muscles don't store much ATP,we must constantly re-synthesize it. The three energy systems are;

 

1. Phosphagen System-ATP+CP(creatine phosphate). This is predominant system used in all exercise lasting up to about 10 seconds.

2. Glycolysis System-Predominant energy system used for all out exercise lasting from about 30 seconds to 2 minutes and is 2nd fastest way to re-synthesize ATP. Glycolysis uses glucose(sugar)  in the blood and glycogen witch is stored form of sugar,present in the muscles and liver for fuel.

3. Aerobic System-Uses oxygen and is slowest system to re-synthesize ATP. Uses blood glucose,glycogen,and fats as fuel to re-synthesize ATP in the mitochondria.

 

Phosphagen System-About 10-30sec

Glycolysis System-About 30sec-2min

Aerobic System-Approximately after 2min mark when glycogen stores are low. Switches to oxygen and fats as energy.

 

 

  We should train  all these systems on a regular basis to be well rounded,but since we are talking about HIIT training,we are primarily using the phosphagen and glycolysis systems.

 

Example of a basic HIIT routine;

-Warm up 3 minutes

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-Exercise as hard as you can for 30sec and take 60-90sec rest. you should be spent after the 30sec. Shoot for 90% max heart rate if you are healthy enough for this type of activity of coarse.

-Repeat this 8-10 times

-20min is ideal for total interval time

-Cool down and stretch

-Cold shower and food LOL



  I personally like doing HIIT using all different exercises to make it more fun and more challenging. The reality is that you can sprint in place and get the benefits as long as you are pushing hard enough,but trying all different movements makes it well rounded and more fun. If you are in good shape and want to go for it, try the fun HIIT routine I put up on Youtube. It's a bit longer than 20min and very challenging,but good fun! Please do not attempt until you build up to that level.

  In conclusion,HIIT is a time efficient ,challenging,and body/mind altering tool you should add to your routine if you are healthy enough for that level of exercise.


Ares Nikolopoulos

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Ice Bath

The subject of cryotherapy("cold therapy") is a controversial one. Ice baths for example have been used by elite athletes for decades to help in post workout recovery. I personally am a big fan of ice baths and have used them as a recovery tool for years. I always feel invigorated and energized when I'm done. I also sleep like a baby a couple hours afterwards when I have warmed up and call it a night. The great nights sleep in itself is an invaluable tool in recovery. Research shows many benefits,but also some negative effects if not done correctly and sparingly.

Lets go over some of the benefits first;
1.Improves circulation
2.Reduces inflammation
3.Speed recovery-helps prevent DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness)
4.Increase metabolism
5.Strengthens immunity
6.Can increase testosterone in men
7.Increases energy & wellbeing
8.Relieves depression
9.Keeps skin and hair healthy

  Using ice baths/cryotherapy basically works by constricting blood vessels and decreasing metabolic activity which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once you are no longer in contact with the cold water the tissue starts to warm up. As it warms the blood flow return is much faster and has a flushing effect on lactic acid and other byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling. Ice baths decrease muscle pain and inflammation and help prevent DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness)  because of this flushing of byproducts.
  Another benefit is that your metabolism is increased and it can accelerate fat loss. The reason for this is simply that your body will burn any fuel it has to stay at it's optimal operating temperature. Cold water is bar none the most efficient way to quickly decrease body heat and kickstart your bodies fat burning furnace. The best part is the calories burned for heat mainly come from fat. In Timothy Ferris's book The Four Hour Body, Ferris wrote a section called "Ice Age Revisited". Ferris has experimented with cold showers,ice packs,and ice baths. What he has concluded is that there are two distinct types of fat tissue. White adipose tissue(WAT) and brown adipose tissue(BAT). Until recently it was thought that BAT was only present in infants and small children and that adults only have WAT. It turns out that adults do have BAT and it is predominantly in the neck and upper chest & back. BAT helps dissipate calories as heat instead of storing them as WAT. BAT is known as fat burning fat. So cold stimulates BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat,especially when you get to a light shiver. I have personally tried this for fat loss and had surprisingly good results.
  The Thrombrosis Research institute showed that cold water exposure can increase testosterone in men. Cryotherapy has also been shown to stimulate a chemical called noradrenaline. Low noradrenaline has been linked to depression. Another benefit I have had from ice baths is tight,healthy skin. Cold water contracts pores and improves circulation to the skin for healthier hair and skin.
  I know that so far ice baths sound like the greatest thing around,but there is research evidence that shows a considerable down side for some people and if overused.
  First off if you are not a generally healthy person and have heart disease,high blood pressure,or if you are sick with fever,you should avoid ice baths like the plague. The contraction of blood vessels can cause stroke in people with high blood pressure. The other big issue falls into the realm of athletes using ice baths regularly for recovery. The issue is ROS(reactive oxygen species). ROS are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. ROS form as a natural byproduct of the normal metabolism of oxygen and have important rolls in cell signaling and homeostasis. So all this mumbo jumbo that I don't  understand was explained to me like this. When you train hard your body generates ROS as an inflammatory response so you can recover. There simply is a need for an inflammatory response to help heal. ROS are essential to allow your body to increase it's anti oxidant defense mechanism. A stronger defense mechanism will allow you to withstand more ROS production during your next workout. So to destroy all of them is harmful. So the cooling effects of an ice bath generates less ROS and decreases the inflammatory reaction. So long term if you don't have an effective inflammatory reaction you cannot properly repair your muscle.
  All this being said I think that if used as a tool and not overused, ice baths have great benefit. I don't use them right after training so that the inflammatory response does it's work and I only use them 1-2 times weekly a couple hours before bed. I can tell you that once you get used to the cold you will feel amazing and have an amazing nights sleep. When you wake up the next day you will feel great and not feel beat up or tired.
  If you want to try out Cryotherapy you have to start very slowly. Cold packs on different parts of body and on the back of neck. Transition into cold showers and when you are ready try the ice bath. Even then start slow. Break it into three parts. Sit in water to the waist for half the time,then up to chest arms out 1/4 time and fully submerged arms in and water to chin the last 1/4.

 My personal checklist for ice bath;
-Fill up tub half way with cold water.
-Put 30lbs of ice in tub if average size.
-Wait until ice is 80% melted
-Water should be 50-59 degrees F
-Get in for 10-20 minutes(never more than 20)
-10 min waist deep,5 min up to chest arms out,5 min fully submerged arms in and water to chin.
-Get out and get dressed while letting your body heat up on its own. No hot shower needed.

Ares Nikolopoulos

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Using Intermittent Fasting As A Tool

Intermittent Fasting(IF)-A pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting(usually meaning consumption of water and sometimes low-calorie drinks such as black coffee) and non-fasting.  -Wikipedia-

 

  I have played with IF in the past and had good results. For myself the 8/16 split worked best. That just means that I consumed my meals and took all my calories in during an eight hour period of the day and was fasting the other 16 hours of the day. So 10am-6pm I fit my meals in and nothing but water,green tea,and black coffee the rest of the time. I would do this five days a week and just spread things out a bit on the weekends. There is a lot of positive research on IF and calorie restriction(CR) in general. CR in itself has many studies on animals showing that a 30% reduction in daily calories leads to a 30% longer lifespan. In general there are many health benefits and lifestyle benefits with IF. 

 

To list a few:

-Reduces blood sugar and insulin levels while improving overall glucose metabolism

-Increases fatty acid oxidation

-Lowers inflammation

-Reduces oxidative stress

-Increases protection against neuro-degenerative diseases

-Keeps metabolism strong and healthy

-More energy

-Better mental focus

 

  IF is used in different ways,but mainly as 'long' fasts 1-2 times a week for roughly 24 hors and up to 32 hours. Then we have the 'daily' fast which compresses your meals into a 6-8 hour window and you fast 16-18 hours. I use these formats as examples because these are the time windows most of the research is baed on. 

  IF is great because you get the benefits of fasting without feeling weak or deprived. In my own experience I actually have more energy and perform better. It gives your body a break in that 16-18 hours of the day. You maintain healthy levels of insulin and leptin. When we are in a fed state our bodies produce insulin to keep our blood sugar at a safe level. Insulin takes excess glucose(sugar) from the bloodstream to the muscles,liver or fat cells for storage. Insulin  doesn't only take sugar out of the blood,it also increases fat storage. From a fat burning standpoint IF is a very helpful tool.

  The controversy of how to eat for a optimal metabolism is a whole other story. We are all told that eating 5 or 6 times a day helps boost metabolism,but more recent research shows that to be false. To sum up my point on this subject we will consider our ancestors in primitive times. They ate when food was available,PERIOD! They were constantly forced into a fasting state. They never had the same amounts of food or even food at the same time every day. They may have gone days without food and there calorie intake was directly based on what was available. So being in a constantly fed state is not natural to the bodies physiology.

  To break things down to how your body works in a fasted state on a cellular level would take a full book and someone a whole lot more intelligent than me. If one thing sticks out in  the research it would be its effect on TELOMERES.

  Telomeres are basically a protective wrapping on the end of our chromosomes. Telomere length is directly related to lifespan. Shorter the telomere=shorter life. IF is a way to increase telomere length. It is as simple as eating less. This is where the studies on animals I spoke of earlier is based on. Telomere length was tested on different groups of animals. A calorie restricted group and a group allowed to eat as much as they desired and at any time. The end result after years of study showed that The CR group took in an average 30% less calories a day and ended up with 30% longer telomeres. Ironically there lifespans averaged 30% longer.

  To be fair of coarse there can be problems with CR and IF. Like fasting too long where it hinders you physically. Or if you are training for some event or competition and need a more sufficient daily caloric intake. For the average person IF can be an extremely helpful tool in optimal health and sound body and mind. That being said,like anything in life we need to find a balance that works for us as individuals. As long as you respect that balance I recommend trying IF in one way or another and see how you feel. I look at is as another tool in the toolbox. Anyone that knows me knows that I am very physically active on a daily basis and train hard constantly. I have implemented a version of the 8hr diet into training cycles and as long as my calorie intake was nutrient dense and a good balance of proteins,fats,and carbohydrates I always felt optimal. Never once felt weak or 'off'. Try it and play with the different methods and you may just find yourself a few months from now at your target weight and body fat percentage and feeling like a new person.

 

Ares Nikolopoulos 

 

 

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Sleep And Melatonin Production

  Whenever I speak to any health professional and ask what is probably the single most important thing to fix for general health,well over half of them say you must have proper sleep habits. Sorting out your sleep will help improve your memory,lower stress,help you recover faster,reduce inflammation,and help you live longer. The best part is there is no magic pill needed. Just sleep better and you can stop looking for the magic supplement and the newest and greatest workout regimen. Those things of coarse are important tools and we need proper supplementation and exercise,but sleep truly is probably the single most important thing to help sort a variety of health issues.

  Our sleep breaks down to two categories. REM(Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM(Non Rapid Eye Movement). This consists of four stages of sleep with one deeper than the last. REM sleep is when you are in the dream state and your eyes actually do move back and forth. Hence the 'rapid eye movement'.

 

Four Stages Of Sleep

-Stage N1(Transition to sleep)-Lasts approximately 5 minutes. Eyes move slowly and muscles relax. Easily awakened.

-Stage N2(Light sleep)-First stage of true sleep. Lasts 10-25 minutes. Eyes stop moving,heart rate slows,and body temperature decreases.

-Stage N3(Deep sleep)-Deepest stage of sleep. Difficult to awaken. Brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from brain and toward your muscles to restore physical energy.

-REM Sleep(Dream sleep)-Cycles in about 70-90 minutes after falling asleep. REM sleep is where dreaming occurs. Your eyes move rapidly. Breathing shallows. Heart rate and blood pressure increase. During this stage your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed.

 

  Our sleep cycles are brought on by melatonin which is hormone that makes you sleepy. At night our bodies respond to a loss of light by producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland which is a small gland in the brain. Melatonin is responsible for controlling our sleep cycles. There are very small amounts of melatonin found in certain food and of coarse it is sold as a supplement.

  Melatonin is an internal clock of sorts. During the night hours your body responds to a loss of light by producing melatonin to make you sleepy. During the day,sunlight triggers the brain to cut back melatonin production so you wake up and feel alert. Melatonin production is disturbed by bad sleep patterns,working nights,and traveling through time zones to name a few. A bigger problem is the disruption of melatonin production from not getting enough sunlight during the day and being exposed to too much artificial light at night. This is especially true of light from electronic devices which we are almost all exposed to daily. TV's,computers,tablets,and cell phones are a normal evening pastime for most of us in the technological age. I think the scariest thing is that a recent documentary from the UK showed scientist prove that radio waves completely disrupt melatonin production in the brain and we are all consistently exposed to them since we can't do without a cell phone nowadays and towers are literally everywhere!

  In the last decade or so research has shown why melatonin is so important and how it does a lot more than just regulate sleep cycles. It has been shown to guard the nervous system against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and stroke. It is a very powerful antioxidant that protects both lipids and proteins from damage and is a potent free radical fighter. Melatonin also crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain. Others studies have shown everything from fighting certain cancers,preventing debilitating migraines,to reducing oxidative stress.

  Now that we have covered melatonin,lets get back to the whole architecture of sleep. Our sleep follows a predictable pattern that moves back and forth between deep restorative sleep(deep sleep) and more alert stages of dreaming(REM sleep). Together,the stages of REM and NREM sleep form a complete cycle. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes and repeats 4-6 time a night. The time spent in each stage changes as the night progresses and most of the deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night. That is why we rarely wake up right after we fall asleep and if we do wake early it is in early hours of morning. Later your REM sleep stages become longer and alternate between light stage 2 sleep. 

  Many of us have accumulated a 'sleep debt'. Sleep debt is a result of not sleeping enough for an extended period of time. You are going into debt every time you skip out on proper sleep. You cannot get out of debt by just sleeping in for a couple of weekends. To get back on track you need to put a few things into practice.

-Sleep 7.5-9 hours a night regularly

-Settle short term sleep debt with extra 1-2 hours sleep a night

-Keep track of your sleep habits in your daily log or keep a sleep diary

-MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY!

 

  Obviously proper and quality sleep which goes hand in hand with healthy melatonin production is very important. I have unfortunately experienced severe sleep debt from working night shifts or just not sleeping well. I felt absolutely horrible. Completely inflamed with joint pain and aches plus a constant disoriented feeling and my brain just felt like it was running on 20% capacity. Slow reactions and couldn't think right with no chance in hell at coming up with anything creative. Again like I opened up this article,whenever I ask health professionals what the single most important thing that should be fixed for proper health and quality of life,the majority always say "FIX YOUR SLEEP PATTERNS!".

 

Ares Nikolopoulos

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