Month: January 2020

 

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Yeah, yeah…it seems I’m living in the Dark Ages these days. After all, if you read last week’s article on why your body is a human battery, along with my review of the book “Healing Is Voltage” (and how I actually read as many books as I do), then you know that I’ve been a fan lately of old books.

OK, not too old. But pretty old.

How old? Well, in today’s article, in which I’m going to explain how you can customize your diet to you, I’m going to begin with a few excerpts from a 1998 gem by Roger Williams entitled “Biochemical Individuality“, described as thus:

“There is no such thing as an average person, we are all genetically and biologically unique. But when sperm meets egg, our characteristics are not locked in stone. This work argues that bad genes do not necessarily cause disease by themselves, and nutrition and environment can alter the outcome.”

The book, recommended to me at a recent health conference by a man deemed as the Father of Functional Medicine – Dr. Jeffrey Bland (the author of many other excellent books you can peruse here), explains the fascinating amount of diversity that exists from human to human, including diversity in everything in the shape of our heart, the shape of our liver, the shape of our hands, the rate at which we excrete various fatty acids and amino acids, our natural enzyme production, and many other elements that display an extreme amount of individuality.

For example, consider the anecdote below from the book (and pardon my dirty fingernail):

In that anecdote, you can see that one of the areas in which we humans highly differ is our own internal microbiome, and that, based on this fact, the presence of certain bacteria can dictate our need for nutrients such as, say, riboflavin or ascorbic acid or Vitamin A (and that’s just one of the reasons I recommend everyone take advantage of these new laboratory methods that allow you to test your own unique bacteria from the comfort of your home – a concept that will come into play shortly as I teach you how to customize your diet to you).

Or consider the following second anecdote I’ll now share from the book (neatly bracketed by my artistic blue Sharpie marks):

Yep, you read right. Nutrient deficiencies cause cravings (and the book goes into how these cravings go far above and beyond the level of mere booze). Of course, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking news as I have indeed written about this seemingly logical phenomenon before, but still – this is especially scary to think about when you consider the recent shocking research revealed about the huge rise in earth’s CO2 since the industrial revolution, and the subsequent drop in plant nutrients accompanied by a steep rise in plant sugar!

Or how about this?

Wow. That should be a big warning sign to anyone still popping Vitamin D like candy based on health media’s current infatuation with this seeming cure-all vitamin – there are certain people (possibly you) who can develop toxicity very easily with Vitamin D supplementation, and some people who can develop serious health issues from osteoporosis to hormone deficiencies without Vitamin D supplementation.

And yet, despite this enormous amount of biochemical individuality that exists from human to human, we still see a plethora of diet books published each year (particularly close to swimsuit season and close to the New Year) that promise to be the de facto final solution for everything from fat loss, to health, to banishing acne, to beating cravings and beyond when all-the-while, as so elegantly put below, the same friggin’ “ketosis” diet that caused your neighbor to shed twenty pounds can result in massive inflammation, brain fog and oxidized cholesterol for you…

Get that? For dramatic emphasis, allow me to repeat what dear Roger Williams says above…

…”all these diets likely have merit, but only for some individuals…”

So, with that as a background, let’s now turn to why diets suck, why I’ve never written a diet book, and how you can truly customize your diet to you.


F*@# Diets

Diets suck, which is probably why I’ve never written a diet book and also why I think most diet books are silly marketing ploys (despite being the #1 generally accepted way for an author to prey upon our desire to find the holy grail of dieting, make oodles of money by publishing a diet book and then, to grab even extra cash, publish a cookbook a few months after the diet book).

Why do diets suck so hard?

Simple: most diets simply involve a “one-size-fits-all” approach that paints an entire population with a broad nutritional brush, without taking into consideration genetics, personal health history, nutrient, vitamin and minerals holes that need to be addressed, and, as you’ve just learned, biochemical individuality.

Take the currently popular ketogenic diet I mentioned above, for example. This very high-fat, very low-carb diet is championed by enthusiasts as the perfect way to lose weight, enhance cognition, increase endurance and beyond. And it does indeed work for these goals (for example, for enhanced endurance I personally followed a strict ketogenic diet for years while racing Ironman triathlon and occasionally use ketosis and exogenous ketones as a brain-boosting strategy on mentally difficult days).

However, when reviewing the bloodwork and biomarkers on the lab tests of my clients and people for whom I do health, fitness and nutrition consulting – notably people who are following one of these famous ketogenic diets – I’ve witnessed concerningly high levels of LDL cholesterol (skyrocketing over 400), along with high triglycerides (which can be a risk factor for heart disease and serious liver issues) and high inflammation. How could this be?

In a nutshell, there exists a condition called “familial hypercholesteremia” (HeFH) that affects up to 10% of people worldwide. People with this condition tend to experience a metabolic firestorm in response to a high-fat diet because their cholesterol and inflammatory markers increase dramatically in response to foods such as coconut oil, butter, fatty fish and meats, eggs, etc.

As explained by my friend Chris Masterjohn in this excellent podcast on HeFH, the best way to get to the root of the problem in HeFH is to take the one gene for the LDL receptor responsible for contributing to this condition and try to bring it up to the expression level that would be found in someone without HeFH.

How is this done?

From a scientific standpoint, it can be accomplished by maximizing the biological activity of thyroid hormone and by maximally suppressing the activity of a gene called PCSK9, which is accomplished by increasing insulin signaling. In brief, from a dietary management standpoint (and much to the chagrin of ketogenic zealots), this all comes down to…drumroll please…

…eating a low-fat, fiber-rich, high-carbohydrate diet and replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat – using a diet very similar to an ancestral Kitavan islander diet rich in fiber-dense carbohydrate such as coconut meat, starchy tubers, and fresh fruit. As a matter of fact, in this groundbreaking podcast with me, Denise Minger (who also penned a great article to complement what you’re reading right now entitled “Exactly How To Figure Out What Diet Is Right for YOU“) explains how some people who don’t thrive on low-carb, high-fat diets can actually prosper on low-fat, high-carb diets.

Yet another example of the same dietary advice not being good for everyone (and one big reason why, despite the prevalence of diet books, we have failed so miserably at controlling the obesity epidemic), is the wild variation in blood sugar response that can occur when subjects in controlled dietary studies eat foods like cookies, bananas, sushi and whole-grain bread. The latest research on this newly observed phenomenon – detailed in nitty-gritty specifics in Robb Wolf’s fantastic book “Wired To Eat” – suggests that each person’s capacity to extract energy from foods differs dramatically because the interactions among one’s genes, microbiome, diet, environment and lifestyle are so infinitely complex. This also suggests that common measurements of the sugar content of foods, such as the glycemic index, may be relatively useless when compared to looking at individualized blood sugar responses to foods.

Take, for example, one recent six-month study, funded by the European Union. The study, entitled “Food4Me“, investigated 1,500 participants in seven European countries who were randomly given personalized dietary advice based on their genetic data, or instead told to follow standard dietary prescriptions such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables (don’t you just love how those two are always “lumped together”), lean meats (I run like the plague when I see a lean meat because I’ve never once been dressing an animal I’ve hunted and found meat void of fat) and whole grains (which can spike your blood sugar higher than a Snicker’s Bar). Those who were in the personalized diet cohort fared far better than those in the one-size-fits-all diet group, making the researchers pretty confident that personalized diets are the way forward.

Coffee is another perfect example of the need for diet individuality. Current guidelines advise no more than four or five cups of coffee per day. And sure, this is fine for roughly half the population that are genetically “fast caffeine metabolizers”, but for the other half who have a variant of a gene called CYP1A2, any more than two cups per day increases the risk of a heart attack and hypertension.

Scientists are slowly beginning to tease out all these connections, and have now linked at least 38 different genes to nutrient metabolism. Dear Roger Williams wasn’t aware of this fact when he wrote the Biochemical Individuality book I described above (although he hypothesized about a genetic influence on propensity to thrive on specific diets), but variants of these genes are now known to hinder or help absorption or the efficient use of nutrients in foods, which means that – depending on your genetic makeup, microbiota, health history and living environment – you should consume more or less folate, choline, vitamin C, fatty acids, starches, caffeine and beyond. A host of other such genes exist, including MTHFR (folate, vitamin B metabolism), FTO (body weight and fat composition), TCF7L2 (blood sugar regulation), APOE ε4 (cholesterol) and FADS1 (fatty acid metabolism).

As you can obviously see, from the failures of a high-fat diet, to individual blood sugar responses to carbohydrates, to genetic variations in the need for major vitamins, minerals and nutrients, the need for dietary customization is enormous.

So how can you customize your diet?

Great question.


How To Customize Your Diet

The fact is, we now live in a magical modern era in which the same kind of self-quantification and lab testing that high-falootin’ CEO’s decades ago would have paid tens of thousands of dollars for at fancy longevity institutes…

…is now available to the general population at a fraction of the cost. 

Let’s take a look at my top picks for figuring out how much carbohydrate, fat and protein you should eat, which supplements you should or should not take and how many calories you should consume.

-Blood testing: a good blood test can determine “holes” in the diet that need to be filled from a supplement or food standpoint, such as low vitamin D status (vitamin D can be quite toxic if you’re simply taking it because you heard you should when in fact, your levels are actually already adequate), blood sugar response to certain foods or high blood sugar in general, mineral status, thyroid status, cholesterol status, red blood cell and white blood cell levels, vitamin B, acidity, alkalinity and beyond. Some blood tests can even be used to determine food allergies and intolerances, although most of these are notoriously inaccurate, and will simply give you an exhausting “false positive” list of foods you shouldn’t eat. So what do I recommend for blood tests? For males, this longevity panel; for females, this longevity panel and for both sexes for food allergies, the Cyrex Array 4 (gluten) and Cyrex Array 10 (all other foods).

-Stool testing: your blood can’t necessarily tell you what’s going on in your gut, but a stool panel allows you to determine presence or absence of certain types of bacteria, yeast, fungus, parasites and digestive inflammation, all of which can then be used to determine the need for certain probiotics, cleansing compounds, the need or non-need to avoid fermentable substances such as simple sugars and starches, etc. This one is pretty important, since poor digestion and malabsorption can lead to immune dysfunction, nutritional insufficiencies, and various disease states – along with food allergies and other toxicities. Eventually, I think Viome will progress to the point where this whole “poop in the equivalent of a hot dog tray for three days” test becomes a thing of the past, but for now, I still recommend the three day complete gut testing panel here.

-Microbiome testing: In the article “How Gut Metatranscriptome & Microbiome Analysis Can Change Your Health“, I talk about a new form of complete gut microbiome analysis called “Viome“. Born at the prestigious Los Alamos National Lab, and originated from technology originally designed for national security, It is based on a complete sequencing of the gut microbiome derived from a very small stool sample. By analyzing the genes that your microbes express, Viome can identify which metabolites they produce – in other words, they can determine the role of those metabolites in your body’s ecosystem. By following Viome’s diet and lifestyle recommendations, you are then able to fine-tune the function of your gut microbiome to minimize production of harmful metabolites and maximize the production of beneficial ones.

-DNA testing: As one of the most useful and important ways to customize your diet, genetic DNA testing (performed via a simple and inexpensive salivary measurement) is an excellent method to determine not only what your ancestors traditionally ate, but which genes are present or absent that contribute to everything from antioxidant need to blood sugar response to lactate and gluten sensitivities and much more. I recommend you get a 23andMe analysis done, then upload the results to Stratagene to take a deeper dive.

-Urine testing: This test is somewhat optional, but can be crucial for identifying the very type of tiny nutritional deficiencies I discussed earlier in the introduction of this article – deficiencies that can add up over time (e.g. a slight drop in uric acid excretion over ten years can mean getting or not getting painful gout in your older years). Via a urine analysis and at home “blood drop”, it investigates your levels of organic acids, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Over time, these tiny nutritional deficiencies can cause a variety of chronic health conditions, and if you struggle with things like poor sleep, less-than-stellar workouts, brain fog, appetite cravings, sore joints, or any other “mysterious” issues, this profile can help to elucidate and discover micronutrients and other small components that other basic blood test simply can’t discover. Of course, for a simpler urine analysis that is far less detailed but far more “affordable”, you can always do this to see 10 things pee can tell you about your body.

-Metabolic testing: A Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR) determines the amount of energy (calories) your body is using at rest. This measurement is made by analyzing the amount of oxygen your body uses and the amount of carbon dioxide your body produces. Almost all of the energy your body produces is created through aerobic (oxygen utilizing) metabolism. The oxygen is then combined with carbohydrates and fats to make energy in your body’s tissues. When carbohydrates and fats are broken down to make energy carbon dioxide is produced. The percentage of the energy created from carbohydrates and fats – and how many calories you are burning at rest – can be determined by measuring the carbon dioxide your body produces. When paired with an exercise metabolic test, you can find out the same data relevant to exercise (e.g. how many calories you burn at any given heart rate). Armed with this information, you can then know precisely how many calories to eat. To get this test, I recommend you Google the name of your city + the phrase “metabolic testing”. Many universities, health clubs and medical institutions offer these tests to the general public. Here’s a somewhat old but helpful article I wrote for Triathlete Magazine that gives you even more nitty-gritty details on metabolic testing.

OK, OK – that might seem like a dizzying array of tests, but it’s really not that difficult once you systematize how to quantify your body. For example, I recommend everyone do the following:

-Blood test once yearly

-Gut test once yearly

-Microbiome test once yearly

-Urine test if you have symptoms and issues the other tests can’t identify

-Metabolic test once in a lifetime or when you body composition or fitness dramatically changes

-DNA test once in a lifetime

Yes, the total cost per year is probably going to be close to $1500, but this friggin’ pales in comparison to what you’ll shell out to medical care and insurance agencies over the course of a lifetime if you build up nutrition deficiencies and issues such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or dementia, colitis, constipation and the host of other nasties that manifest in the human body when the fuel we put into it isn’t the proper fuel for our specific body and – well – biochemical individuality.

Plus, and perhaps this is the propeller-hat donning nerd in me talking, it’s pretty cool to keep your finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on inside your body, provided you resist the temptation to become obsessive compulsive by adding a microgram scale to the kitchen counter for weighing every last shred of your parmesan cheese. Balance in everything, right?


An Important Final Thought & Summary

Finally, let’s close with one important consideration…

…your diet can indeed fluctuate and change as your body and your gut transforms. For example, many people who have digestive issues, toxicity or other health complaints need to initially fix their gut or detox with an extremely “clean” and restrictive diet that eliminates notorious problem foods such as dairy, grains, nightshades, red meat, etc. – even the healthy, organic, natural versions of these foods. The Paleo Autoimmune diet is perhaps my favorite such example. But once the gut and immune system is healed, these foods can gradually be reintroduced and enjoyed once again!

Finally, for specific recipes and diets that are not trendy diet books written to make a quick buck, but are instead very thorough reads appropriate for customizing both plant-based diets and omnivorous diets, I’d recommend you add the following to your library:

-“Plant Paradox” by Dr. Stephen Gundry (book here and podcast here)

-“Ancestral Diet” by Dr. Michael Smith (book here and podcast here)

-“Perfect Health Diet” by Paul Jaminet (book here and podcast here)

-“The Wahl’s Protocol” by Terry Wahl’s (book here and podcast here)

-“Deep Nutrition” by Dr. Cate Shanahan (book here and podcast here)

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about how to customize your diet? Leave your comments below and I will reply!

The Men’s Health 2019 Snack Awards

These are the best bites for men, according to top dietitians.

 

American has the munchies. The number of people crunching, slurping, and chewing snacks two or more times a day more than doubled between 1977 and 2008, according to the most recent USDA numbers.

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Eating between meals is fine, and even good for you, as long as you pick high-fiberhigh-protein, low-sugar options capped at 200 calories.

Mindless eating can add unnecessary calories, and many “healthy” snacks on the market are just junk with fancy branding. To cut through the confusion and separate the probiotic chips from the legit, we asked three dietitians for their picks.

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Just to make sure, we taste-tested their selections to double-check that the award winners will help you fight hunger, build muscle, and make your taste buds happy. Read up. Then eat up.

Every time you think “I could use a snack” stands as an opportunity to improve your health or give in to junk. To help you choose, we’ve assembled a list of 22 ways to startsnacking smarter right now without sacrificing flavor.

 
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When you’re in need of protein, turn to these meat-based options for a quick fill-up. They’re perfect for pre- or post-workout. Or, okay, pretty much anytime.

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When the craving kicks in, these picks satisfy without going overboard. Plus, many of them carry other nutrients, like a decent dose fiber or protein. Can’t say the same thing about Oreos.

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Sometimes you’re jonesing for a texture rather than a flavor. When the mood strikes, these crispy chips and crisps will be there for you.

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Check out the latest and greatest fitness gear, hand-picked by Men’s Health editors.

 
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Marvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA - 20 Jul 2019 Kumail Nanjiani 20 Jul 2019
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/Shutterstock

Kumail NanjianiOpens in a new Window. took his casting in The Eternals Opens in a new Window.very seriously, as evidenced by his newly ripped physique. Best known for playing the oblivious Dinesh Chutai in Silicon Valley or his semi-autobiographical romantic comedy The Big Sick, the actor took his reported role as the genetically-enhanced samurai Kingo in the upcoming Marvel movie as an opportunity to get into superhero shapeOpens in a new Window..

Nanjiani’s transformation started with walking in the door of Granite Gym in Beverly Hills, home to personal trainer Grant RobertsOpens in a new Window.. “I was excited to work with Kumail because I could tell he was ready to dedicate himself to the process,” says Roberts. “I have literally thousands of text messages to prove that point. Getting these kinds of results don’t happen without maximum effort.”

Here’s a look at what RobertsOpens in a new Window. helped Nanjiani transform into:

For over a decade Roberts helped actors prepare for the physical demands of their roles, for example helping Hilary Swank get ring ready for her Oscar winning role in Million Dollar Baby. Roberts even got a thank you in the actresses acceptance speech during the awards ceremony.

Before working as a trainer in Hollywood, Roberts was a champion body-builder competing out of Toronto, snagging the title of Mr. World Canada. So it stands to reason that he knows how to pack on the pounds, in the right way.

For nearly a year, five days a week, Nanjiani would show up at Granite for intense and dynamic sessions that would target no more than three different parts of the body. Roberts would employ electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS, pads putting out twice a week to encourage gains in targeted areas.

“I pushed him a lot harder than he was expecting,” says Roberts. It didn’t take long for Nanjiani to be fully on board for the challenge though. “He had just never worked out like this before. But once we really started, I saw his mindset change completely.” Their work didn’t end when Nanjiani left the gym either, Roberts was equally keyed into every other part of his day, working with him on his recovery, rest, and diet, along with nutritionist David Higgins.

Roberts also taught Nanjiani to focus on symmetry of the musculature, the way that body builders do, so that the actor would care more about the full picture. This dedication to “no weak spots” gave the actor a much more complete physique than he had ever had before.

By the time that Nanjiani left for filming in England, the actor had put on about 25 to 28 pounds of muscle, according to Roberts. “This is a big moment for him,” says Roberts. “I could tell that this role and movie meant a lot, it showed in the room, and he walked away a stronger person.”

A DAY IN KUMAIL’S CHEST TRAINING FOR “THE ETERNALS”

  • Standing 45-Degree Cable Incline Fly: 4 sets of descending reps (each set heavier): 20/15/12/10
  • Dumbbell Incline Press: 4 sets of descending reps: 12/10/8/8
  • Low Cable Scoops: 2 sets of descending reps: 15/10
  • Chest Cross (wide grip): 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Chest Cross (narrow grip): 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Single Standing Cross Body Cable Fly (slow 3-second hold finish, visualize the chest lines): 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Body Weight Dips: to failure
  • Heavy High Elbow Tricep Pushdowns (straight bar): 4 sets of descending reps: 10/10/8/6
  • Standing Overhead Tricep Rope: 3 sets of 20 reps
  • Lying EZ Bar Skull Crushers (elbows 45 degrees, bar goes past top of head to bench depth): 3 sets of 12 reps

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Here’s all the best stuff to help you sleep more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed—wherever it is you happen to be dozing off tonight.

 

At Men’s Health, we tend to focus on conscious pursuits. Burpees? You need to be awake for those. Same with making a fiber- and protein-rich meal at home. Or going to a therapist. What we don’t spend so much time on is the unconscious state we fade into every single night and for hours at a time—even though it supports all of our daily pursuits.

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But we’re spending more time investigating sleep than in years past, and so are doctors and retailers. That’s because so many of us aren’t fading into sleep—and the sleep we’re getting isn’t lasting for the hours it should and it’s not as restorative as it needs to be. We’re battling our way through the process, and we’re buying loads of products to help win the fight.

We’ve compiled a list of the best of the hundreds of these products—for your bedroom or wherever you’re crashing for the night. Not just the sleep masks and white noise, but the metronomes and the watches and the temperature-controlled duvets and the under-mattress sleep-monitors. (Sleep trick: If you repeat “temperature-controlled duvet” over and over again, you’ll fall asleep in no time.)

So, good night, buy right, and don’t let the… idea of an under-mattress sleep monitor freak you out because it’s more awesome than it sounds.

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You know how important your mattress and pillows are for proper sleep. But we’d bet you forgot how important a nice pair of sheets is. Since sheets and pillowcases are definitely making direct contact with your skin, they could definitely affect how you sleep—or, Heaven forbid, give you outbreaks. Well, your solution is here: We broke down the best bedding you can buy, depending on your sleep style.

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Finnicky about your choice of pillow? You should be. The right pillow could mean the difference for you between a sleepless night and a good night’s sleep. And since no two guys sleep exactly the same, we’ve made it easy. Here are the best pillows to buy—entirely based on how you sleep. Time to get comfy.

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Your best night’s sleep simply starts with your mattress. If you’ve been suffering from a sleepless night here and there, your mattress is probably to blame—and that’s probably because it’s not quite right for your sleeping style. It’s time to re-up. Since mattresses can be a bit of an investment, we’ve made the choosing easy. Here are the best mattresses to get based on how you sleep.

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Sleep is as vital to life as air, food, and reruns of The Office, so taking control is a must. Luckily, there is plenty of tech to ensure you don’t have to do it alone, from gadgets that monitor your sleep to ones that straight up alter your environment for prime snoozing potential.

Whether your issue is falling asleep, sweating through the night, or getting comfy, we have you covered. These are some of the latest gadgets that are sure to help you get that much-needed rest.

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We take a comfortable night’s sleep for granted at home but, when it comes to travel, you may be stressed, knowing how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep. Well, it’s time to put your worries to bed (pun intended). If you want to sleep well while you’re traveling—yes, even on the plane—these are the products you need.

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Nothing ruins a camping trip like crappy sleep. When you’re already missing your bed back home, the last thing you need is a sleeping bag that leaves you shivering all night, or a tent that caves in at the first sign of rain. While we don’t have a solution for transporting your California king into the wilderness, we do have 5 great products that’ll help you get the best sleep possible under the stars.

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The editors of Men’s Health are your personal conduit to the top experts in the world on all things important to men: health, fitness, style, sex, and more.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Affiliate Disclosure

 

In past articles…

…including “The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Your Blood Sugar Levels (And Why Sugar Sometimes Isn’t Bad).” and “5 Simple Steps You Can Take To Live Longer, Banish Blood Sugar Swings & Massively Enhance Energy Levels.” …

…I’ve highlighted the extreme importance of monitoring or somehow self-quantifying your blood glucose levels.

And in my article “How To Get Into Ketosis“, I discuss the importance of ketones and ketosis and how to get into a state of ketosis efficiently.

However, today, I’d like to discuss how to actually test whether or not your efforts to manage blood glucose or increase ketones are actually working!


How to Test Your Blood Glucose

While a single blood test using an inexpensive blood glucose meter like this from any drugstore or health website can give you a static, single snapshot of your blood glucose levels, nothing beats a continuous blood glucose monitor for truly determining how your diet is affecting one of the most important parameters of your health and fitness: glycemic variability.

A continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) is a system that does just what it sounds like: it monitors your blood sugar continuously, 24 hours a day. The data is transmitted from a sensor which is inserted right beneath your skin, and this is attached to a transmitter which sends the data to the receiver. You are then able to see your blood sugar at any point via a receiver or a phone app.

For those of you who want to know the results of my own 24-7 blood glucose monitoring using my Dexcom G6, which is currently implanted on my right abdomen, you’ll just have to wait, as I’m working on a report of the results. In the meantime, here’s a fascinating read on what you can actually see when you monitor your blood glucose with a continuous blood glucose monitor.

The basic way any CGM system works is via a tiny sensor inserted under the skin of your abdomen or on the back or your arm that is typically worn for 7-14 days (in my opinion, if you are eating your normal diet, you eat the same things regularly, and you test for two weeks, you’ll know everything you need to know about your blood glucose and can likely stop testing at that point unless you’re wearing the CGM for medical reasons). This sensor will be reading glucose levels in the interstitial fluid below your skin’s surface and is attached to a transmitter which sends the glucose level data wirelessly to an insulin pump (if a diabetic is using the CGM) or other receiver or smartphone app.

This means that at any given time during the day or night, you can look at your device and see how your blood glucose level is trending, and even receive instant notifications if it gets too high or too low. Since CGM is measured over a range of time, such as over minutes or hours, one of the best values to pay attention to are your postprandial (post-meal) blood glucose levels. The ideal postprandial levels range from 78 mg/dl over two hours following the meal (in men) and 81 mg/dl over two hours following the meal (in women). A healthy fasting blood sugar that is normal for people without diabetes ranges from 70–99 mg/dl, although I personally try to keep my sugar below 80. Within two hours after a meal such as a large breakfast, lunch or dinner, levels should ideally be less than 140 mg/dl.

The two most popular CGMs – both of which I’ve experimented with and found to work well, especially when covered in kinesiotape or some kind of ace bandage for high-intensity workouts, races, swimming or sauna exposure – are the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring System and the Freestyle Libre. Admittedly, because of my highly active lifestyle, I was nervous about using a continuous blood glucose monitor due to my fears that it would constantly become detached from my body, become water damaged, or that the extremely small needle that is inserted between the CGM and the skin would become bent. But as long as I am careful to tape the CGM prior to intense physical activity, it seems to stay attached and continue to take good readings, especially the more expensive but far more accurate Dexcom G6 model. The SIMPATCH adhesive patch for Dexcom works particularly well for this.

Now don’t get me wrong: owning a basic, cheapo blood glucose meter is a good idea, but if you can convince your physician to write you a prescription for a CGM (here’s one guy’s sneaky way to do it with an insulin overdose, which I do not recommend), it is well worth the insight you get. I personally didn’t get insurance for my Dexcom and had to pay a few thousand dollars for an entire year of tracking, but the expense is worth it to me, because I’m getting a lifetime’s worth of valuable data I can act upon to enable myself and many others to become healthier (yes, I invest in things like this instead of nice cars and fine China).


How To Test For Ketosis

In addition to blood glucose, it can be very insightful to measure your ketone levels, which are reflective of how efficiently you are burning fat, or how efficiently you are producing energy, even in the absence of high blood glucose levels.

Assuming you do not possess genes that would make you respond deleteriously to a high-fat, low-carb diet, ketosis can be a powerful nutrition approach to use switch your metabolism to prioritizing the use of fat as a fuel, while also increasing cognitive and physical performance (incidentally, even if you’re not achieving ketosis via a high-fat, low-carb diet, you can still amp up ketone production by intermittent fasting or engaging in other forms of calorie or carbohydrate restriction). Many people just assume that if they are “low carb” or fasting they are in ketosis, but it can be useful, especially if you’re just getting used to a new diet or supplement and trying to determine whether or not it increases ketone production. Ideal blood levels of ketones to indicate if you are in a state of ketosis range from at least 0.5 millimolar up 3.0 millimolar.

There are actually three testing methods for ketosis because there are three forms of ketones in your body: acetoacetate, acetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, which can be tested in your urine, breath or blood, respectively.

Let’s begin with acetoacetate. The way ketones get into your urine is if they are “spilling over” in excessive amounts. This means that if there is an excess of ketones or if you are not actually utilizing your ketones efficiently, they can be dumped into your kidneys to be excreted in your urine as acetoacetate. The way to measure these excess amounts of ketones is through a urine strip, which changes colors relative to the number of ketones in your urine (usually the darker purple color on the strip, the more ketone bodies).

Unfortunately, this is not always a reliable test. Once your body is in a “keto-adapted” state and you’re burning ketones (including acetoacetate), you will see a progressively lower level of ketones that are reading on the strip. This is misleading since you may actually be in a deep state of ketosis but the strip says you have low ketones. In reality, there are just fewer ketones spilling over into your urine. So urine strips can be a cheap and effective testing method if you are just starting to get into ketosis, but aren’t a viable long-term or consistent test once you’ve been consistently in ketosis.

Acetone (also called acetate) is the second ketone body and is produced by gas exchange in your lungs. Acetone has been found in research to correlate very closely to levels of BHB in the blood and can be measured directly through the breath with use of a breath-measuring device.

One of the key advantages of a breath meter for testing ketones is that it is reusable and usually involves a one time purchase of a breath-measuring device such as a Ketonix, a Keyto or a LEVL.

Finally, the primary ketone body that you use for energy (or can take as an exogenous ketone supplement) is beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB. BHB enters the cell and is converted to acetylacetone, which can then be ultimately converted to acetyl COA and enter the Kreb’s cycle for production of ATP. A blood test for BHB can be done easily at home the same way individuals with diabetes check their blood glucose. You simply prick your finger, squeeze a drop of blood out of your finger, tap it on a strip and a small handheld reader will tell you the level of BHB in your blood. This is the most direct and accurate way to measure your level of ketosis. The downside to the blood ketone meters is that some people may have a strong aversion to needles and blood, and the testing strips are considerably expensive, usually $5-$10 per strip (although a newer device called “Keto Mojo” has dropped the price of ketone strips down to 99 cents per test). The blood level of BHB is measured in millimolar concentration, known as mmol. Studies have shown most optimal ranges of BHB levels for benefits of ketosis are between 0.5-3.0 mmol, although this varies based on activity levels, time in ketosis, fat-burning efficiency, etc.

So how do I personally test ketones? Although, as mentioned above, I wear a CGM (the Dexcom G6) to monitor my blood glucose, I’m not a fan of the hassle or expense of constantly measuring blood ketones. Instead, I use the device mentioned above, a LEVL, to monitor my breath ketones.

Here’s how it works…

…during ketosis, the body generates molecules called ketones, one of which, as described above, is acetone. Because of its small size, acetone can appear in your exhaled breath as an indicator of fat burning and can be relatively (although not precisely) accurate representation of your blood ketone values.

Clinical research has demonstrated a correlation between the amount of acetone detected in the breath, blood ketone values and body fat burned, giving a reliable indicator of ketosis fat loss. A breath ketone measuring device such as the LEVL is designed to detect trace amounts of acetone in your breath when your body is burning fat. You simply breathe into it, and your breath is captured then analyzed by LEVL’s nanosensor, providing you with an instant measurement of your body’s acetone concentration.

When you first shift into a lower carbohydrate intake, your body increases the amount of fat it uses for energy relative to the amount of carbohydrates, and your breath acetone concentration ramps up. This increase happens over the course of 3-7 days until you reach an elevated level of breath acetone. If your diet becomes high in calories or high in carbohydrates, your body will become less dependent on fat for energy. This will result in an acetone concentration reduction over the course of 1-2 days.

I prefer this method of breath measuring since it’s quick, easy and gives me a quick glance at my approximate level of ketosis. It does not measure blood mmol concentrations, but I still find it far easier and more convenient than blood testing for ketones. If I were to test blood, I’d prefer to use the KetoMojo, which is the most affordable solution.


Summary

That’s it!

In summary, while an inexpensive blood glucose meter can do the trick for blood glucose monitoring, a CGM is a far better solution for actionable insight without the hassle of pricking your finger.

And for ketones, I prefer breath measurements, for the reasons stated above.

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about testing glucose or ketones? Leave your comments below and I will reply!

 

 

 

The Silicon Valley star trains hard to put some more muscle behind all those jokes.

 
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HANA ASANO

Kumail Nanjiani is in a dimly lit basement weight room in Beverly Hills called the Granite Gym, electrical wires attached to his back. Elbows in two cloth cradles, he grunts through reps of a modified lat pulldown as his trainer, Grant Roberts, delivers electric charges to his back muscles.

“You ready?” Roberts asks. “Never,”Nanjiani says. Roberts fires another shock anyway, and Nanjiani’s lats quiver. Then he does another rep.

The 41-year-old is hoping all that voltage (okay, only 70 milliamps, but still!) can fast-track his transformation from comedic actor into action star. Nanjiani made his name by making you laugh in The Big Sick and HBO’s Silicon Valley, and he’ll do that again in Men in Black International this summer. But his next role, rumored to be in a major comic-book film, involves a makeover. “I realize what’s holding me back from those roles is how I look,” he says. “So I’m changing that.”

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HANA ASANO

To that end, Nanjiani’s been trudging down to Granite five days a week for the past three months to train with Roberts, a former Mr. Canada. Roberts uses electronic stimulation (e-stim to trainers) to help fire up target muscles—and it’s a strange sensation. But Nanjiani is fully on board, absorbing milliamps and grinding out reps.

It’s just one technique Roberts is deploying to catapult his client onto the action-hero A-list—a major leap for an actor who came to Hollywood after growing up in Pakistan and attending college in Iowa. Before he met Roberts, Nanjiani had been your average gym goer, riding the stationary bike to nowhere for 20 minutes a day. Now his workouts draw from the bodybuilder playbook, and his trademark wit has been replaced by a thousand-yard stare.

“When I’m exercising, I’m not thinking about anything else,” he says.“It’s like meditation.” That may be why Nanjiani’s friends “practically staged an intervention” a few months ago to get him out of the gym. The last thing they want is a T-1000 clone of Nanjiani replacing Silicon Valley’s Dinesh. “Effort isn’t funny,”he says. “Several of my friends have said, ‘There’s nothing funny about a guy who works out all the time.’” Nanjiani doesn’t care. “I’m kind of obsessed with it.”

Even when he’s not hooked up to diodes, Nanjiani thinks about the gym. His diet is so squeaky-clean that Roberts has to nudge him to carb up on cheat day. The actor’s goal: slap 20 pounds of muscle onto his 150-pound frame. No joke.

But he insists he’s not turning his back on comedy; rather, he’s expanding his acting range. “Look at Bruce Willis in Die Hard,” he says. “He was very funny while staying true to the tone of the movie.” In the process, the TV lightweight became one of the heaviest hitters in Hollywood.

Nanjiani has his eyes on a similar prize. “If I can be a big, buff person with the same outlook I have now, that would be pretty cool,” he says. “There aren’t many people around like that.

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What Makes Nanjiani Tick

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HANA ASANO

His go-to cheat meal . . .

“Pakistani food is delicious, but it’s a lot of carbs: biryani, naan bread, tons of rice. Afterward, my wife and I will say, ‘Let’s take a quick nap.’We wake up five hours later.”

His current diet . . .

“Basically, it’s five days of low-carb, then over the weekend you eat as much as you want. But I’m trying to figure out the food thing right now because I wasn’t eating enough. I’m still kind of afraid of gaining the wrong kind of weight, because I’m very vain.”

His best comedy tip . . .

“My favorite comedic actor growing up was Bill Murray.He’s the opposite of effort. He’s really not trying at all.”

His facial hair . . .

“I grew a beard because I needed a crutch to start working out intensely. But it’s going well now, so I’m going to shave it.”

The Break of Brawn

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HANA ASANO
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Nanjiani’s spent extra time (and electricity!) building action-hero shoulders. Want to bulk yours up? Try his workout; all you need are dumbbells and a bench.

Directions

Do the first 3 moves as a triset, one right after the other, using the same dumbbells. Do
3 rounds, resting 60 seconds between each round. Then do exercise 4.

1. Front Raise

Stand with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Without swinging, raise the weights in front of you until your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause, then lower to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 5 to 8.

2. Lateral Raise

Stand holding dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing in. Raise the dumbbells directly out to your sides, elbows bent slightly. Pause, then lower to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 5 to 8.

3. Rear-Delt Raise

Bend your knees and hinge your torso forward, keeping your back flat, arms hanging. Raise the dumbbells out to your sides. Pause, then lower to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 5 to 8.

4. W Press

Sit on a bench, holding dumbbells at your shoulders. Press the dumbbells up and outward; pause when your arms are nearly straight. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 12 to 15.

 
James Harden | Train Like A Celeb
by Men’s Health US
 

 
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Andrew Heffernan, CSCS is a health, fitness, and Feldenkrais coach, and an award-winning health and fitness writer.

Affiliate Disclosure

hidden health killer
 

Perhaps it’s genetics or perhaps it’s because I was homeschooled K-12 in rural Idaho, but I’m an introvert, through and through. Yes, I’m “that guy” at busy conferences who ducks away to my room to go recharge my batteries every few hours – something I can only accomplish by escaping the crowds and being entirely by myself. I thrive on long walks, multi-hour hikes and extended bike rides – usually alone. I become exhausted at networking events and cocktail parties and often slip away early to sleep, to curl up with a good book, or simply to meditate and breathe. Even at family events, I can often be found off in some quiet corner reading or strumming on my guitar or ukulele.

As a matter of fact, when I was a child, my parents had to coax me, persuade me and yes, even  threaten me with punishment, to actually get my nose out of my book and be gracious enough to ever so briefly emerge from my bedroom to say a quick hello to any guests we had at the house, after which I would subsequently rush back to my room and curl up once again with my book (I’d often read until 3 or 4am and consume several books each day and night!). A multitude of personality tests that I’ve taken, including the Quiet Revolution test and the Myers-Briggs analysis, have backed this up: I’m an introvert through and through.

But at the same time, even though I’m completely happy being a loner, I now go out of my way to ensure that (as uncomfortable or unnatural as it was initially for me) I spend plenty of time carving out a couple hours each night for a family dinner and nighttime family rituals, for connecting with old and new friends, for attending networking events, for scheduling plenty of book signings and meet-and-greets, for traveling to crowded conferences and for actively engaging in local church, community and charity events. One could even say that I’ve halfway transformed myself into a bit of a social butterfly.

So why have I begun to incorporate such a strong emphasis in my life on optimizing friends, charity, community relationships and love – aside from my desire to not be an arrogant, hard-to-approach, uncommunicative a-hole? Turns out, there is a fascinating link between love, family, social connectedness and relationships and a longer lifespan. This article will supply you with a host of practical love tips to include in your own life for a longer lifespan and better health. After all, owning an amazing body and a sharp mind can all be for naught if loneliness, sadness, inflammation, high blood pressure and accelerated aging are all occurring due to a lack of friendships, social relationships, community, charity and love – and this article will teach you exactly why and how to include these important components into your own body, mind and spirit routine.


The Problem With Loneliness

Imagine a condition that makes a person irritable, depressed, and self-centered and also increases their risk of dying early by over 25%. Imagine that in industrialized countries, over 30% of folks (a percentage that is increasing at a rapid pace) are afflicted with this condition. Your income doesn’t protect you. Nor does your education, your sex or your ethnicity. Worse yet the condition is considered to be contagious, damages heart muscle, causes premature death and can affect any ordinary person walking down the street.

This condition exists, and you may already have it. It’s called, drumroll please: loneliness. Also known as social isolation, loneliness is often stigmatized, trivialized, and flat-out ignored, but is fast emerging as a worldwide public health problem – oddly enough growing hand-in-hand with so-called “social” media. Worse yet, zero physicians are trained in medical school about how to deal with this problem.

Often, we tend to associate loneliness being homeless, being depressed, being severely introverted or having poor social skills or social anxiety. But none of this is true. Both human and animal longitudinal studies have shown that the deleterious effects of loneliness are not attributable to some fringe subset of isolated individuals, but instead can affect anyone, anywhere.

In addition to the serious emotional toll that you’d expect loneliness to be able to pile upon you, research has shown that the physical manifestations are also rather grim. Studies have linked loneliness to cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, immune system issues, pain, fatigue, depression, excessive reactivity to stress, rampant elevated cortisol levels and high blood pressure – making the effects of loneliness on par with smoking in terms of mortality risk. Unlike other chronic diseases that tend to wreak havoc more often in aging individuals, it’s actually young adults who are at the highest risk social isolation.

When you think about it, there’s a bit of an ancestral context to this whole loneliness problem. Looking at human history from an evolutionary standpoint, we see that extended isolation could mean death since your tribe wasn’t physically around to nurture you or protect you. Hence we developed social constructs to keep ourselves bound together in bands, communities, and tribes, including extended families and social connections that seem to land at around 150 people (that number is actually known today as Dunbar’s number).

The frequency and growing epidemic of loneliness is actually a bit ironic, isn’t it?

Today, we live in a hyper-connected society, and yet one of the biggest uphill battles we face in terms of our long-term health is disconnectedness and social isolation. It’s far less common than it used to be to know your neighbors by face and name, to engage in face-to-face meet-ups and conversations in connected communities not separated by an electronic barrier, and to be a child raised by an entire tribal community surround you, rather than say, a parent or two, schoolmates you see for a limited amount of time each day, Netflix and a smartphone.

But wait!

We walk around with tiny computers in our pockets that can instantly connect us with like-minded peers and people all over the globe. We should be more connected to other people than ever, right? Not quite. Even when you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, some fringe new platform that’s all the rage in Japan and any other social media outlets, you’re not actually experiencing relationships the way that you’re programmed to and the way that you’re hardwired to from an ancestral standpoint. You’re not looking into people’s eyes, you’re not touching them, you’re not feeling them and you’re not experiencing the invisible, chemical signals that human beings create and ooze from our pores when we’re around other humans – not to mention the fact that you’re missing out on the strong electromagnetic heart and brain signals I wrote about two weeks ago.

As a matter of fact, a direct relationship between smartphone prevalence and loneliness has started to amass a significant amount of research. For example, a 2015 study showed a correlation between smartphone usage and loneliness in college students. A 2017 study found a significant correlation between attachment anxiety, loneliness, depression and smartphone addiction.

This link between technology and loneliness is even more obvious when we look at smartphone usage in teenagers. An article I recently read in The Atlantic noted that as smartphone usage became more ubiquitous, a rapid and disturbing change in teenage behavior has occurred. These changes began sometime around 2012, when about 50% of Americans owned smartphones (come to think of it, I got my very first iPhone in 2013!). The group born between 1995 and 2012, a group the article dubs “iGen”, experienced a significant increase in the use of smartphones and social media. You probably don’t fall into that category if you – like me – can’t actually remember a time when you actually never even had a smartphone or even really cared about any form of social media at all.

In the iGen group, the rates of depression and suicide have significantly increased since 2011. As a matter of fact, teenagers who spend three or more hours per day on electronics have a 35% higher chance of a suicide risk factor a 27% higher risk of depression. The author of the article notes that “it’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”.

Each of the social media outlets you use each day make an implicit claim about the structure and organization of human interaction. Instead of direct interaction with others, we are interacting through something metal, something electronic and something impersonal. So the question we should be asking is this: can we actually form meaningful personal relationships through an impersonal medium?

Turns out that others have asked (and answered) this same question. Author Sherry Turkle has been studying children’s development in technological culture since the late 1970’s. In her book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age”, she explains how children use technology, specifically programming, as a form of self-expression. One 13-year old interviewed in the book comments, “When you program a computer, you put a little piece of your mind into the computer’s mind and you come to see yourself differently.” And you could say that in a way, this self-exploration is personal. It’s all about you.

But this kind of personal experience is lacking two things: a relationship and a prefix. When a significant amount of your time is focused on an impersonal social medium, you miss out on the interpersonal relationships that you can really only get by talking to someone face-to-face. Virtual space has become a place of self-exploration, and dealing with real people who have a knack for being unpredictable becomes difficult after spending time in a predictable simulation. Take email for example. In the workplace, it’s used to deliberately avoid social interaction and results in a significant amount depersonalization. Heck, I’m personally guilty of talking to people more like robots and less like humans when I interact with them virtually. What’s worse, when you don’t get much interpersonal interaction, your emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to be able to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others – begins to suffer. People who spend a lot of time on the internet are lonelier, have more “deviant values” (e.g. a willingness to break social norms) and lack the robust emotional and social skills characteristic of high EI.

Here’s a news flash: when it comes to social isolation and loneliness, it really isn’t about getting more friends on Facebook. It isn’t about extending your Snapchat streak of chats by yet another week. It isn’t about that popup you have set on your computer to reach out via email to some influencer on your digital Rolodex. It isn’t about developing the independent, lone-wolf, “I (plus my smartphone) can survive on my own, thank-you-very-much mentality” I personally maintained for so much of the past decade before I came face-to-face with my own growing loneliness and social isolation. It’s about going out of your way to build actual physical, flesh-and-blood relationships and a robust community of people who will come to your rescue when your basement floods, who will show up at your doorstep when you’re moving into a new house and who will cry at your funeral.

Cry at your funeral? Where’d that come from? Allow me to introduce (yet again) the writings of pastor John Ortberg… Here’s what he has to say in his book “I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me”, which is an essential handbook for developing deep, meaningful, intimate relationships:

“So, who will not be crying at my funeral?

-my critics
-people who write me to ask for favors, but whom I never hear from otherwise
-people whose approval I’m constantly trying to gain, but who always withhold it
-rich people who I think might give me something if I get to know them better (but so far it hasn’t happened)
-successful people whose success I think might rub off on me if I hang out with them more often people who see me frequently but don’t remember my name
-people who I think could make me feel important if I could just get them to notice me
-people who are cooler than I am
-famous people I’ve never actually met
-beautiful women whose pictures are on the Internet, but who don’t actually know I’m alive -people I’m afraid of
-people who are afraid of me
-all the people in the little jury box of my mind whose opinion of me matters so much, but who aren’t thinking about me at all because they’re wondering what other people are thinking about them

Who is likely to cry at my funeral?

-my children and their families
-my wife
-my brother and sister
-my good friends
-my parents, if I should go before them
-people I have genuinely and personally helped

In other words, the people with whom I have true intimacy.

The question is, Am I giving the best of my time and my life to the people who will cry at my funeral?”

I find it quite interesting that the people who make Ortberg’s “cry at my funeral” list aren’t really the same people you tend to interact with every day on social media and via e-mail, but rather those people in your life with which you tend to build true, meaningful relationships that keep you from dropping into the dark hole of loneliness. And remember: this is coming from a guy (me) who has 5,000 Facebook friends, tens of thousands of Twitter followers, nearly a hundred thousand Instagram fans, what seems like 8 billion Snapchat messages per day and has still had to deal with intense loneliness.

Anyways, grab Ortberg’s book and read it if you want to cut through all the hustle, the hurry, the business and the “I’m too busy to hang out with real, flesh-and-blood people” and to instead develop more meaningful intimacy and relationships in your life. Furthermore, the good news is that you’re about to discover how to eliminate loneliness from your life, how to defy social isolation and how to tap into one of the most powerful emotions that exists.


The Opposite Of Loneliness: Love

In his book “Blue Zones”, longevity expert and author Dan Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live the longest, statistically speaking: Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece), and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.

Buettner offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first-hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives. Turns out, the people inhabiting these “blue zones” share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity, from life purpose to stress reduction to moderating alcohol intake and beyond. But there are six shared characteristics that are inherent among each and every Blue Zone population. They are:

-Less smoking

-A plant-rich diet

-Consistent, moderate physical activity

-Consumption of legumes

-Family engagement

And finally…drumroll please:

-Social interaction

In his book, Buettner illustrates just how important love is as the unifying factor between family, relationships, social engagement, and community, and even points out the fact that research shows strong social relationships predicts a 50% increased chance of a long, healthy life.

So what is love, exactly?

Love actually encompasses a wide variety of emotional and mental states the deepest interpersonal affection seen in the intense love between a husband and wife or a mother and child to the simplest pleasure you might experience as you take a delicious bite of cheesecake. The range of definitions of the word love means that the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse differs from the love of food. Most commonly, love simply refers to a strong feeling of attraction and attachment. Greek philosophers categorized four forms of love: familial love (“storge”), friendly love (philia), romantic love (eros), and divine love (agape). But love is also an all-encompassing virtue that incorporates kindness, compassion, and affection and perhaps most importantly, an unselfish loyal and benevolent feeling of goodwill towards another.

That’s right: having love in your life is not just about the number of your relationships, the strength of your relationships or how many people love you. Rather, it’s the attitude with which you engage in those relationships that predicts a longer and healthier life. While many think that they need to find someone to love them, research shows that the greatest benefits for health, longevity and well-being come not from receiving affection but instead from giving it to others. So perhaps the additional question Ortberg should have posed is: whose funerals will you cry at? As a matter of fact, I tell my children that if they desire true happiness in life, the very greatest thing they can accomplish towards that end is to identify their purpose in life, then to use that purpose to love God and to love others.

Of course, if meaningful love for others and social relationships increases your lifespan, then the opposite must also be true. Drawing on data from four nationally representative longitudinal samples of the U.S. population, one recent study assessed the association of social relationships such as social integration, social support and social strain with measured biomarkers of physical health like C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index within the life stages of adolescence, young, middle and late adulthood. The researchers discovered that a higher degree of social integration was associated with lower risk of physiological dysregulation in a dose-response manner, in both early and later life. At the same time, lack of social connections was associated with vastly elevated health risks.

Social isolation increased the risk of inflammation by the same magnitude as physical inactivity in adolescence, and the effects of social isolation on hypertension exceeded that of clinical risk factors such as diabetes in old age. This is likely because the same genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation. While people with low social connection have higher levels of inflammation, individuals who live a “eudaimonic” lifestyle, defined as a life rich in compassion, altruism (selfless care for others) and a sense of purpose, have surprisingly lower levels of inflammation.

That altruism piece is pretty important too. Take, for example, a study done by Stephanie Brown at the Stony Brook University Medical Center. Those in the study who engaged in helping others and supporting others ended up living longer lives. This was not the case for people who were simply recipients of care and support. Another study supports and extends the findings above, demonstrating that volunteerism predicts a longer life. Interestingly, this second study found that volunteerism lengthened lifespan only when it was performed for purely selfless reasons. When you sincerely wish to help others, you will reap the benefits thereof, so it turns out you cannot deceive your own body about your true intentions for helping others.

This means that while it’s important that you’re aware that loving others and having lots of love in your life is one of the most potent ways to enhance your wellness and longevity, you shouldn’t be going out of your way to experience love so that you can, say, decrease inflammatory cytokines or extend the length of your telomeres. Instead, you should go out of your way to experience love because you actually, genuinely care for your fellow man and fellow woman, because you relish the idea of hanging out with your family and because being with other human beings makes you happy.

If you’re anything like me, it may take a lot of time, patience and learning to bring yourself to the point where you can shove out of  the back of your mind the idea that you’re attending a family reunion because you care about family and not because you heard it could be good for your physiology, but the more you love others, the more it seems to create a positive cycle in which you love others just because that’s what you do not because that’s what you should do. Make sense?

Of course, it’s tough to love others if you’re not actually around others. I would know. I used to be the guy at conferences who would stand in the back of the lunchroom with a blank stare on my face, completely paralyzed by the prospect of approaching a table of gabbing attendees to ask for a seat, the student who sat alone in the corner of the university cafeteria with my nose buried in a newspaper and the fellow who upon first settling into my airplane seat would don my noise-blocking headphones and avoid all eye contact with anyone who seemed to threaten me with an impending conversation.

Then I read a book by author Keith Ferrazzi entitled “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time”. Ferrazzi has a circle of contacts that numbers in the thousands, a circle he’s cultivated for years (admittedly, this seems to rub against the concept of Dunbar’s number) and a circle that he has built based on what he says is an incredibly important aspect of any relationship: generosity. His approach to never eating alone integrates networking, behavior, intuition, and power, but also emotion, reciprocity and trust, all integral parts of workplace and personal relationships.

Ultimately, I’d sum up his book by saying that it encourages you to find people, sit down at a table with them, and smother them with love by being truly and genuinely interested in them, not striving to “get anything” out of getting to know them, and offering up as much helpful advice as you can give them based on your specific areas of knowledge and expertise. When I walk into a group of people, whether it’s a cocktail party, a bar or a conference lunch, this is now my modus operandi. Of course, the book goes into far more detail about how to “never eat alone”, and I’d highly recommend you add it to your recommended reading list.

Now, it shouldn’t be ignored that Ferrazzi’s approach actually capitalizes on the connectivity provided by social media and the internet. He described that LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and beyond are all powerful tools when used correctly and in the right dose. In Ferrazzi’s words, “Today’s kids… their social-media-driven upbringing will make them savants in some areas of relationship building, and idiots in others…” In a nutshell, social media outlets shouldn’t be your primary sources of interaction, but should instead be places where you sync up with the global hive and points from which you maintain your connections, friendships and relationships, which are based on personal and reciprocal interaction and trust and ideally actual flesh-and-blood meetups, dinner parties, social events and other inherently human activities that allow for everything from eye contact to smelling someone’s unique bacterial scent to sensing pheromone release.

Now don’t get me wrong: you do not need to be an extroverted social butterfly who spends every evening hour of each weekday hopping from a baseball game to a charity event to a plant foraging meetup to a bridge club to a dinner party to reap these benefits. A number of studies have shown that your own internal subjective sense of connection, compassion or love suffice to protect your health, happiness and well-being. This means that rather than dropping everything to go attend every cocktail party and golf game you’re invited to, it’s OK instead simply have a few close friends you can confide in, a daily gratitude practice in which you identify one person you can pray for, help or serve that day and a weekly hobby or event in which you’re around a just a few people who you love and who love you.

Of course, I’m not going to just leave you with that. Instead, I have a few practical tips up my sleeve that have really enhanced my own ability to be able to surround myself with more love and to build social engagement and a sense of community.


6 Ways To Enhance Your Life & Longevity With Love

#1: Volunteer

Volunteering is a win-win for all parties involved. Those who receive your help will be grateful, and you’ll fill your own life with more empathy, sympathy and love. Consider the following as ways you can start volunteering:

-Care for your parents. We live in a culture in which our parents and the elderly are often relegated to nursing home and hospice. But in an ideal community, you’d sacrifice your time, space and money to bring your parent into your own home, the same as they did for you when you were a baby. Even if they’re not living with you but they instead live close to you, you can drop by for coffee on a Saturday morning, mow their yard or accompany them on a shopping trip.

-Help a local school. Educators are overworked and stressed, while the children at many institutions need role models and people who care about their lives and behavior. You can volunteer to read stories to elementary school students, monitor outdoor activities, chaperone field trips or even work with a local church or other charitable organization to ensure that poor children are able to get food on the weekends. In our community, there is a program called “Bite2Go”, and each week a volunteer from my church drops off boxes of food at the school.

-Visit a nursing home to sing or to visit. As I alluded to above, many nursing homes are turned simply dumping grounds for older people whose families are gone or are unavailable, and many residents are desperate for conversation and connections with outside individuals. Pick up the phone and call a local home, asking if you can come by and play guitar or piano, sing, help cook, take folks on walks or simply visit. I often visit local nursing homes with my twin boys to sing and play guitar, and when I grew up, homes would often allow myself and my siblings, along with our parents, to take nursing home residents to local venues such as the fair or the symphony. Similarly, hospitals also have many volunteer opportunities that include everything from sitting with patients to working with children to food service and pushing wheelchairs.

-Coach a sport. Many kids don’t get the opportunity to participate in sports because there aren’t enough coaches or assistants. Even if you’re not a “pro” in the sport for which you choose to help, you can volunteer to coach for your own child’s team or any local youth sports team. I’ve personally done this for Valley Boys & Girls Club basketball, my local University sports camp programs and my twin boys’ sports teams.

-Tutor. From children to adults, there are robust opportunities in most communities to tutor students, teach literacy, cooking, sewing or home repairs to adults, instruct English and even help with classes on computers and other skills (the latter is especially needed and appreciated in the senior community).

-Deliver meals. I grew up in a family that delivered “Meals on Wheels” to the homeless, the unemployed, the elderly and the poor each week. Many communities have programs like this, and some even allow you to help with the meal prep.

-Become a docent. A what? A docent is a trained guide who leads visitors through facilities such as museums, art galleries, presidential libraries, aquariums, zoos, and universities. Your docent training is usually provided for free by these institutions.

-Serve your own neighborhood. In our modern era of digital connections, it’s now all-too-common for neighbors not to know one another (can you name all your neighbors), since you can easily join a Facebook group that contains avatars with far more similar interests than the person who lives next door to you. But neighborhood barbecues and beautification projects, helping your neighbor mow or shovel snow, and participation in a neighborhood organization builds a strong sense of local community.

#2: Dinner Parties

My friend Jayson Gaignard, author of the book “Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins” has built his entire career around connecting people and networks via hosting what he called “Mastermind Dinners”. Of course, Keith Ferrazzi’s classic networking book I mentioned earlier highlights the importance of convening people over food, but Jayson has truly perfected the process. He typically organizes dinners of eight to sixteen people in various major cities across the US and Canada (although he recommends six for the most intimate “sweet spot” if you really want people to get to know one another) and encourages that if we do the same, we should think carefully about who we invite to these meals and look for uncommon commonalities that make it more likely the guests will resonate with one another.

The book goes into far more detail, and I’d highly recommend you give it a read, but ultimately, a huge amount of community-building power lies in the simple act of throwing a dinner about once a month for the purpose of reconnecting old ties, connecting people who should know each other and connecting with people who you’ve meant to connect with for a long time.

#3: Meetups

One way to meet new people, to make friends or practice your social skills, is through “Meetups”, which are typically organized over the internet, but result in flesh-and-blood people being brought together for everything from hiking to tennis to business networking and beyond. At the moment the most popular and well-known site for this is Meetup.com, a website on which you can create or join groups and events. It’s free to join groups and go to events but costs money if you want to form one yourself.

Reddit.com is another decent place to find meetups for people located in your city, as are a growing number of apps that include SkoutExcuses to Meet, Hey! Vina, and there’s even one for you and your pooch called Meet My Dog. I’ve been a member of plant foraging meetup (if we all die of mushroom poisoning, at least we die together) and a singer-songwriter meetup. Even if you go to a meetup just one time, you’re still likely to connect with at least one similarly interested person who winds up becoming a friend.

#4: Church

When it comes to forming deep, personal, meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals who share a belief in the importance of characteristics such as peace, love, joy, purpose and belief in a higher power, there’s not a more likely place than a church to fit that need and to also provide you with an avenue to further explore the benefits of caring for your spirit. Granted, I’ll admit that the modern church has a scarred and sometimes sordid past of extreme judgmentalism and abuse, but I think you’ll find that at your local, neighborhood place of worship you’re more likely to find a great deal of love and care from others than you are a dogmatic or socially intolerable scenario.

Even though I’m a Christian, as an introvert I personally struggle with attending church. Frankly, I’d rather be wandering through the forest on an awe-inspiring hike while listening to a sermon or speaking with God. But I’ve also discovered that I can’t just navigate through life as a spiritual lone wolf without the encouragement, collective worship, volunteer opportunities and church community that is defined by the Greek word “Koinonia” which literally translated means communion, joint participation and the state of uplifting fellowship and unity that can and should exist within a church. There’s even a growing body of evidence that demonstrates both physical and psychological benefits of singing in a choir (admittedly there are many choirs and singing groups you can join outside of a church, but having a large organized group of people to sing with is just one more benefit of being in a church).

#5: Renewing Forsaken Family Relationships

A recent research project at the UK’s University of Cambridge called “Stand Alone”, showed that family estrangements that arise from partner choices, addiction, illness, inheritance arguments and divorce are incredibly common, with estrangement from fathers being the most common and tending to last an average of almost eight years. Estrangements between brothers last 7.7 years, sisters around 7.4 years and mothers at 5.5 years. That’s a large chunk of time to, as the Bible verse says, “allow the sun to go down on your anger”, and the stress, tension and emotional pain that accompanies these estrangements are definitely not a healthy state of vibrational energy at which to exist.

I’ve certainly had my own fair share of family conflicts: bitterness against my father for not being more present and for divorcing my mother, resent against my mother for being overprotective during my childhood, judgement against my sister for marrying someone I initially thought was “the wrong guy”, frustration towards my brothers for not being more responsible with their lives and families – the list goes on and on. I’ll admit that it even feels therapeutic to tell you about these personal issues of mine, and I’ll admit this also: I’m not perfect and I’m still working on mending each of those relationships.

Interestingly, the Australian documentary “Look Me In The Eye”, actually explored what happens when real families who are estranged make attempts to reconnect with each other and restore broken relationships. It shows that estranged family members often have an uneasy relationship with change, find change to be difficult and therefore find that resolving estrangement feels out of their control. This is certainly the case with me: I’m a creature of habit who often becomes frustrated about and gives up on what seems to be outside my control. So how can you re-establish and mend broken family relationships? Here are a few tips:

-Reach out to the family member (and note that these same strategies should be applied to any broken relationship in your life – not just family members). Nothing is likely to happen unless you make that initial contact. Chances are high that multiple attempts will be necessary, and chances are also high that you’ll be more successful picking up the phone or traveling to resolve issues face-to-face, vs. communicating via often impersonal emails and emoticons.

-Interestingly, and related to the last tip above, the method of re-connection they used in the documentary Look Me In The Eye was direct eye contact, which was based on neuroscience research showing that direct eye contact significantly helps people to communicate in difficult circumstances. So there’s yet another reason to be present personally when resolving conflicts.

-Communicate clearly. Acknowledge the issues that are unresolved by naming them (e.g. “I’ve been angry with you for the past four years since you married Gwyneth, who I felt really wasn’t the right person for you and messed up your life). Lay all the cards out on the table.

-Consider family counseling with a pastor, counselor or psychiatry professional, especially if complex, thorny and unresolved issues threaten to remain or if trying to solve the issue yourself doesn’t seem to be producing any progress.

-Understand that it may take significant time, effort sacrifice and, well, love to rebuild trust and respect.

#6: Reclaim Real Conversation

During a late-night-TV interview with Conan O’ Brian, Louis C.K., (as controversial as the comedian is), said this about children communicating via the internet and smartphones:

“And they don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build the empathy. You know, kids are mean, and it’s ’cause they’re trying it out. They look at a kid and they go, “you’re fat,” and then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and they go, “oh, that doesn’t feel good to make a person do that.” But they got to start with doing the mean thing. But when they write “you’re fat,” then they just go, “mmm, that was fun, I like that.”

Louis makes a good point: not only are digital conversations less empathetic, most likely due in large part to the loss of eye contact and other important physical elements of human interaction you learned earlier in this article, but it’s also easier to hide your true emotions behind the invisibility of internet interaction, feel less guilty or less hesitant about trolling or making offensive remarks, and to engage in fake, inauthentic conversation.

The opposite of this would be what author Sherry Turkle in her book “Reclaiming Conversation” would refer to as real, authentic, personal conversation.

In her book, Sherry notes that it’s all too common for the dinner table to fall silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention, for you to not say a peep to the person sitting next to you on the airplane because both of you are sucked into the screen and for two phones to be slapped on the center of the table in between spouses or lovers on a date. Heck, I’ve personally even developed the skill to be able to text message one person while conversing with and looking into the eyes of another person – an extreme example of being disconnected and halfway connected all at once.

Sherry points out that the case for conversation begins with conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers.

Back to Louis C.K.’s interview with Conan O’ Brian. Louis notes our propensity to grab our phones at any given time when we begin to feel loneliness creep in on us, including while in our vehicles:

“Just that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. You know it’s down there. And sometimes when things clear away you are not watching it, you are in your car and you start going “oh, no here comes that I’m alone like it starts to visit on you”. You know, just the sadness…Life is tremendously sad just by being in it, and so you’re driving and then you go ah-ah-ah that’s why we text and drive. I look around pretty much 100% of people driving are texting. And they are killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars.”

But as you’ve already discovered, this quest to be constantly connected is increasing, not decreasing loneliness (and also making the average highway a very dangerous place to be!) because technology interaction simply can’t replace real, flesh-and-blood, face-to-face interaction. This form of real conversation builds empathy, friendship, love, learning and productivity, and the book Reclaiming Conversation argues that the most human and humanizing thing that we can do is to engage in person-to-person conversation.

How? Here are a few tips, particularly focused around mealtimes, which I consider to be one of the best ways to engage meaningfully and the best times to “reclaim” conversation (much to the chagrin of frequent 5 day water fasting enthusiasts!).

-Reconfigure Your Phone: If your email, text messages and social media apps ping you every time a notification rolls in, you’ve not only lost control of your day, but also the ability to be able to engage in real conversation without being distracted. Your routine and your conversations now depend not on your schedule, but on whatever’s happening on your phone. But as you no doubt know, Android, iOS and individual apps all have settings to stem the flow of alerts, buzzes and rings. Every single notification on my phone is off, my phone is in silent mode and if I’m on a date or having dinner with the family, the phone is in airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode. There is absolutely no need for you to be ripped away from a deep, meaningful conversation every time a Facebook friend tags you in a post. In extreme cases of smartphone addiction and lack of self-control, you can even install addiction-breaking apps such as AppDetox, which lets you set limits on the time you spend inside individual apps; Flipd, which focuses on blocking access to certain apps for set periods of time; Onward, which allows you to track how often you use your phone and individual apps, set up rules for limiting phone use, and even have an expert give you personalized coaching to help break your tech addiction; and Forest (my favorite), which takes a slightly different approach by gamifying the process of easing you away from phone distractions. In Forest, you plant a seed, which eventually grows into a tree as long as you don’t navigate away from the app. If you ditch Forest during the growth period to check Facebook or surf Safari, your tree will die. Admittedly, this sounds gimmicky, but is actually a very effective and dare-I-say meditative way of avoiding the temptations rife within your phone.

-Play Table Topics: Whether I’m on a date with my wife or at home with my family, a potent and fun way to completely forget the existence of my phone is to play a game of “Table Topics”, also known as “Dinner Conversations”, in which each person at the table asks a question from an official Table Topics card game, a Table Topics app (ironic, but can be used with the phone in airplane mode) or a printed list of Table Topics that include questions such as “If you could have any superhero sitting here at dinner with us, who would you choose and why?” or “What was the scariest decision you made in the past year?” or “If your house were on fire and you could put three objects in a backpack before you rushed out, what would you choose and why?”. You get the idea. It may seem silly that you’d need your conversation topics chosen for you to engage in “real conversation”, but I and my family have spent many valuable minutes at dinner laughing and learning more about one another with this approach, and often the questions rabbit-hole into even deeper conversations.

-Share Gratitude Journals: On a website that I created for injecting more gratitude into your life, you can discover the power of gratitude and the three most important questions you can journal each morning. At our house, we bring our journals to the dinner table and discuss what we wrote. When a family of four, or even a group of two, embark upon a conversation about what they are grateful for, what they discovered in the morning’s reading and who they helped, prayed for or served that day, it can lead to deep and meaningful conversation that can often last the entire dinner.

-Taste the Food: Allow me to point out painfully obvious fact: when you’re at a meal you are eating – often filling your face with wonderful and interesting molecules that are highly conducive to conversation. So why not share your opinions of a meal’s taste, texture or presentation? Why not discuss the culinary expertise put into the food (which can work when at a fancy restaurant, but may not be so handy when eating Aunt Edna’s macaroni-and-cheese)? Why not sip the wine, flavor-taste the salt or try a set of new spices and discuss what your brain experiences? Just last night at our house, my wife, twin boys and I spent nearly twenty minutes tasting and trying three different bottles of olive oil from our olive oil club and – similar to a wine tasting – commenting on the notes, the flavors, the aromas and the subtle details of each oil, and we liked best about it. The bonus of this strategy? You tend to eat less and become fuller faster because you’re actually savoring your food!

And finally, should all else fail, you can rely upon Jayson Gaignard’s trick that he reveals at just about every one of his Mastermind Dinners I’ve attended: all phones get piled up onto the middle of the table in airplane mode or off, and the first person to reach for their device pays for dinner.


Summary

Ultimately, owning an amazing body and a sharp mind many of us constantly strive for can all be for naught if loneliness, sadness, inflammation, high blood pressure and accelerated aging are all occurring due to a lack of friendships, social relationships, community, charity and love in your life. But you’re now equipped to include these important components into your own body, mind and spirit routine.

Finally, be sure to consider reading the following books within the next year:

Never Eat Alone
Reclaiming Conversation
Mastermind Dinners
I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me
The Power of Introverts (if you are indeed introverted or suspect you are)

Finally, I have a quick challenge for you based on what you’ve learned in this article: this week, take a loved one on a date, an adventure, a walk or just a quick meal or chat, but leave your phone behind. Not “off” in your pocket, but truly forsaken back at home or your office. Observe how this changes the conversation or experience, and feel free to leave your experience notes below.

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about loneliness, love and deeper connection? Your own tips to add? Leave your comments below and I will reply!

 

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7 THOUGHTS ON “THE HIDDEN HEALTH KILLER NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT (& 6 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM IT).”

  1. Rou says:

    I loved reading this well researched and very well structured and presented essay. I’m looking into the further reading you suggested and I am going to listen to your podcast next. Very glad to have come across your instagram account, which led me here. Thank you!

  2. Emily van der Waals says:

    Hi Ben,

    As an expat the realities of loneliness are often thrown in to sharp focus and I have experienced a number of health issues which when I review your article are probably exacerbated by the loneliness I have and continue to experience. Your article has really made me think. Thank you. My health is the most important thing to me in the world. I need to make changes.

  3. Deb says:

    Ben,
    The past two articles you wrote if taken to heart and put into practice by others would be life-altering in the right way. I am in gratitude for your wealth of knowledge and how you to share it with the world, with the incredible people you have brought to the podcast, and for your love of others.
    I will be one of those people you do not know, who you have impacted with your purpose in life and therefore, who will cry at your funeral.

  4. Jack says:

    Good word, Ben. Love your transparency and thoughtfulness.

  5. Kim says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes!! Put the electronics down. Converse with others. Look at their faces when interacting. Smile at people you don’t know. Say hello to those you encounter in public. Reach out because there are people craving connection-just like you.

  6. Cal says:

    “A number of studies have shown that your own internal subjective sense of connection, compassion or love suffice to protect your health, happiness and well-being”.

    A good point often overlooked by other articles on this subject.

    I appreciate your thoroughness!

    1. Joel says:

      Very good point

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Affiliate Disclosure

 

In past articles…

…including “The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Your Blood Sugar Levels (And Why Sugar Sometimes Isn’t Bad).” and “5 Simple Steps You Can Take To Live Longer, Banish Blood Sugar Swings & Massively Enhance Energy Levels.” …

…I’ve highlighted the extreme importance of monitoring or somehow self-quantifying your blood glucose levels.

And in my article “How To Get Into Ketosis“, I discuss the importance of ketones and ketosis and how to get into a state of ketosis efficiently.

However, today, I’d like to discuss how to actually test whether or not your efforts to manage blood glucose or increase ketones are actually working!


How to Test Your Blood Glucose

While a single blood test using an inexpensive blood glucose meter like this from any drugstore or health website can give you a static, single snapshot of your blood glucose levels, nothing beats a continuous blood glucose monitor for truly determining how your diet is affecting one of the most important parameters of your health and fitness: glycemic variability.

A continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) is a system that does just what it sounds like: it monitors your blood sugar continuously, 24 hours a day. The data is transmitted from a sensor which is inserted right beneath your skin, and this is attached to a transmitter which sends the data to the receiver. You are then able to see your blood sugar at any point via a receiver or a phone app.

For those of you who want to know the results of my own 24-7 blood glucose monitoring using my Dexcom G6, which is currently implanted on my right abdomen, you’ll just have to wait, as I’m working on a report of the results. In the meantime, here’s a fascinating read on what you can actually see when you monitor your blood glucose with a continuous blood glucose monitor.

The basic way any CGM system works is via a tiny sensor inserted under the skin of your abdomen or on the back or your arm that is typically worn for 7-14 days (in my opinion, if you are eating your normal diet, you eat the same things regularly, and you test for two weeks, you’ll know everything you need to know about your blood glucose and can likely stop testing at that point unless you’re wearing the CGM for medical reasons). This sensor will be reading glucose levels in the interstitial fluid below your skin’s surface and is attached to a transmitter which sends the glucose level data wirelessly to an insulin pump (if a diabetic is using the CGM) or other receiver or smartphone app.

This means that at any given time during the day or night, you can look at your device and see how your blood glucose level is trending, and even receive instant notifications if it gets too high or too low. Since CGM is measured over a range of time, such as over minutes or hours, one of the best values to pay attention to are your postprandial (post-meal) blood glucose levels. The ideal postprandial levels range from 78 mg/dl over two hours following the meal (in men) and 81 mg/dl over two hours following the meal (in women). A healthy fasting blood sugar that is normal for people without diabetes ranges from 70–99 mg/dl, although I personally try to keep my sugar below 80. Within two hours after a meal such as a large breakfast, lunch or dinner, levels should ideally be less than 140 mg/dl.

The two most popular CGMs – both of which I’ve experimented with and found to work well, especially when covered in kinesiotape or some kind of ace bandage for high-intensity workouts, races, swimming or sauna exposure – are the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring System and the Freestyle Libre. Admittedly, because of my highly active lifestyle, I was nervous about using a continuous blood glucose monitor due to my fears that it would constantly become detached from my body, become water damaged, or that the extremely small needle that is inserted between the CGM and the skin would become bent. But as long as I am careful to tape the CGM prior to intense physical activity, it seems to stay attached and continue to take good readings, especially the more expensive but far more accurate Dexcom G6 model. The SIMPATCH adhesive patch for Dexcom works particularly well for this.

Now don’t get me wrong: owning a basic, cheapo blood glucose meter is a good idea, but if you can convince your physician to write you a prescription for a CGM (here’s one guy’s sneaky way to do it with an insulin overdose, which I do not recommend), it is well worth the insight you get. I personally didn’t get insurance for my Dexcom and had to pay a few thousand dollars for an entire year of tracking, but the expense is worth it to me, because I’m getting a lifetime’s worth of valuable data I can act upon to enable myself and many others to become healthier (yes, I invest in things like this instead of nice cars and fine China).


How To Test For Ketosis

In addition to blood glucose, it can be very insightful to measure your ketone levels, which are reflective of how efficiently you are burning fat, or how efficiently you are producing energy, even in the absence of high blood glucose levels.

Assuming you do not possess genes that would make you respond deleteriously to a high-fat, low-carb diet, ketosis can be a powerful nutrition approach to use switch your metabolism to prioritizing the use of fat as a fuel, while also increasing cognitive and physical performance (incidentally, even if you’re not achieving ketosis via a high-fat, low-carb diet, you can still amp up ketone production by intermittent fasting or engaging in other forms of calorie or carbohydrate restriction). Many people just assume that if they are “low carb” or fasting they are in ketosis, but it can be useful, especially if you’re just getting used to a new diet or supplement and trying to determine whether or not it increases ketone production. Ideal blood levels of ketones to indicate if you are in a state of ketosis range from at least 0.5 millimolar up 3.0 millimolar.

There are actually three testing methods for ketosis because there are three forms of ketones in your body: acetoacetate, acetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, which can be tested in your urine, breath or blood, respectively.

Let’s begin with acetoacetate. The way ketones get into your urine is if they are “spilling over” in excessive amounts. This means that if there is an excess of ketones or if you are not actually utilizing your ketones efficiently, they can be dumped into your kidneys to be excreted in your urine as acetoacetate. The way to measure these excess amounts of ketones is through a urine strip, which changes colors relative to the number of ketones in your urine (usually the darker purple color on the strip, the more ketone bodies).

Unfortunately, this is not always a reliable test. Once your body is in a “keto-adapted” state and you’re burning ketones (including acetoacetate), you will see a progressively lower level of ketones that are reading on the strip. This is misleading since you may actually be in a deep state of ketosis but the strip says you have low ketones. In reality, there are just fewer ketones spilling over into your urine. So urine strips can be a cheap and effective testing method if you are just starting to get into ketosis, but aren’t a viable long-term or consistent test once you’ve been consistently in ketosis.

Acetone (also called acetate) is the second ketone body and is produced by gas exchange in your lungs. Acetone has been found in research to correlate very closely to levels of BHB in the blood and can be measured directly through the breath with use of a breath-measuring device.

One of the key advantages of a breath meter for testing ketones is that it is reusable and usually involves a one time purchase of a breath-measuring device such as a Ketonix, a Keyto or a LEVL.

Finally, the primary ketone body that you use for energy (or can take as an exogenous ketone supplement) is beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB. BHB enters the cell and is converted to acetylacetone, which can then be ultimately converted to acetyl COA and enter the Kreb’s cycle for production of ATP. A blood test for BHB can be done easily at home the same way individuals with diabetes check their blood glucose. You simply prick your finger, squeeze a drop of blood out of your finger, tap it on a strip and a small handheld reader will tell you the level of BHB in your blood. This is the most direct and accurate way to measure your level of ketosis. The downside to the blood ketone meters is that some people may have a strong aversion to needles and blood, and the testing strips are considerably expensive, usually $5-$10 per strip (although a newer device called “Keto Mojo” has dropped the price of ketone strips down to 99 cents per test). The blood level of BHB is measured in millimolar concentration, known as mmol. Studies have shown most optimal ranges of BHB levels for benefits of ketosis are between 0.5-3.0 mmol, although this varies based on activity levels, time in ketosis, fat-burning efficiency, etc.

So how do I personally test ketones? Although, as mentioned above, I wear a CGM (the Dexcom G6) to monitor my blood glucose, I’m not a fan of the hassle or expense of constantly measuring blood ketones. Instead, I use the device mentioned above, a LEVL, to monitor my breath ketones.

Here’s how it works…

…during ketosis, the body generates molecules called ketones, one of which, as described above, is acetone. Because of its small size, acetone can appear in your exhaled breath as an indicator of fat burning and can be relatively (although not precisely) accurate representation of your blood ketone values.

Clinical research has demonstrated a correlation between the amount of acetone detected in the breath, blood ketone values and body fat burned, giving a reliable indicator of ketosis fat loss. A breath ketone measuring device such as the LEVL is designed to detect trace amounts of acetone in your breath when your body is burning fat. You simply breathe into it, and your breath is captured then analyzed by LEVL’s nanosensor, providing you with an instant measurement of your body’s acetone concentration.

When you first shift into a lower carbohydrate intake, your body increases the amount of fat it uses for energy relative to the amount of carbohydrates, and your breath acetone concentration ramps up. This increase happens over the course of 3-7 days until you reach an elevated level of breath acetone. If your diet becomes high in calories or high in carbohydrates, your body will become less dependent on fat for energy. This will result in an acetone concentration reduction over the course of 1-2 days.

I prefer this method of breath measuring since it’s quick, easy and gives me a quick glance at my approximate level of ketosis. It does not measure blood mmol concentrations, but I still find it far easier and more convenient than blood testing for ketones. If I were to test blood, I’d prefer to use the KetoMojo, which is the most affordable solution.


Summary

That’s it!

In summary, while an inexpensive blood glucose meter can do the trick for blood glucose monitoring, a CGM is a far better solution for actionable insight without the hassle of pricking your finger.

And for ketones, I prefer breath measurements, for the reasons stated above.

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about testing glucose or ketones? Leave your comments below and I will reply!

seal team
Courtesy of CBS

David Boreanaz knew that when he signed on to lead the CBS military drama SEAL TeamOpens in a new Window., he was also signing up to spend some serious time in the gym. The show follows Bravo Team, an elite sub-unit of SEAL Team Six, as they train for and execute dangerous missions all over the world. That’s not the kind of group you get to lead by skipping workouts.

“The kind of person that becomes a Tier 1 operator has tremendous drive,” Boreanaz told Men’s Journal.

He has portrayed team commander Jason Hayes for three seasons. On the surface level, the character is a highly decorated military stud, but the real story is much more complicated. He also wrestles with the emotional and physical toll from his service—this season more than ever before.

The biggest asset Boreanaz has is the series creative team, which is stacked with former special forces members. They offer a wealth of insight on the mental and physical aspects of the jobOpens in a new Window., from getting through BUD/S, to deployments, to coping with the aftermath.

“I can’t explain how crucial they have been to the character,” Boreanaz said. “During these operations they can’t go below 100 percent, they are always going and burning. I get so much out of being around those guys, and it pushes me to work harder.”

One person who can attest to that is Boreanaz’s trainer Roy Paras, founder of EPX TrainingOpens in a new Window., who has spent the past year keeping the actor dialed in and fit for duty.

“These Navy SEAL guys are all true badasses, and there are no shortcuts to looking like a badass,” said Paras. “You have to train that way.”

So he designed a program to keep Boreanaz healthy and shred him up, too.

'SEAL Team'
Courtesy of CBS

Boreanaz reports to Paras six days a week. Since the show films so many days out of the year, there’s a trailer on set filled with gym equipment where the whole cast of SEAL Team can get their pump on. On days when they aren’t filming, Boreanaz drives to EPX, but no matter where they go, the program stays the same.

Their workouts are complete and multitiered, kicking off with a little cardio to get the heart pumping and the limbs warmed up. Before they exercise further, Paras puts Boreanaz through soft tissue workOpens in a new Window. on the table, to identify any potential problem areas.

“Doing that kind of prep work is just as important as any other part of the session,” Paras said. “This is all about the long game, and whether you are out in the field or on the lot. You can’t do your job if you are injured.”

Boreanaz is no stranger to injury. He suffered a few over the course of previous seasons, and even went through platelet-rich plasma therapyOpens in a new Window.—injections that stimulate the body’s natural healing functions—to bounce back after a substantial knee trauma. The show’s intense action scenes also placed a significant toll on his lower back, legs, and joints. He admits to being less disciplined in his past training, but now with Paras they have found a way to push it hard without those long-lasting consequences.

'SEAL Team'
Courtesy of CBS

That’s good, because the rest of the SEAL Team cast are younger guys who all like to get after it. Boreanaz not only plays their team commander, but he also serves as an executive producer and director on the show. For him, it’s not just about keeping up, it’s about leading. For example, he directed an episode that involves the group hustling up a hill while loaded down with packs.

“The scene started off with a rope exit out of the chopper and then we did an ascent up the side of this hill,” said Boreanaz. “I could probably have cut a few minutes in, but I didn’t want to. I just kept us going, harder and harder up the hill, with rocks falling all around us. By the time we were done, we were sucking wind. The guys didn’t love it, but it looked awesome.”

This season the cast traveled to Serbia, where they could be spotted jumping out of cars and chasing bad guys down alleyways with their full kits on.

“I really enjoy getting into the elements like that,” said Boreanaz. “Getting to run around Belgrade in a physical space rather than on a soundstage. Everything that we do is to serve the story of these guys better. That is why we put in the work.”

'SEAL Team,' starring David Boreanaz; workouts
Courtesy of CBS

A Day in SEAL Team Training

Boreanaz stands at 6’1” with big shoulders, and he bulks up quickly. During his research, he noticed that a number of SEAL operators were wiry with great flexibility and athletic builds.

“On occasion they have to smash down doors,” says Boreanaz. “But there are also a lot of controlled movements, sitting low and crawling for their covert missions. All with their packs on.”

So Paras designed a high rep count program that would keep him lean and mean.

THE WARM-UP

Bike or Treadmill: 5 minutes
Soft Tissue/Table Prep Work: 10–15 minutes

ACTIVATIONS

Band Hip/Glute Activation: 4 minutes
Band Shoulder Activation/Mobility: 4 minutes
Dynamic Warm Up (ham/hip/groin openers): 4 minutes

THE WORKOUT

Circuit A

Complete 2 rounds of this circuit with no rest in between.

Lateral Side Coil/Crunches on Back Extension (full ROM): 12 reps
Back Extension (arms pull back into scapular retraction at top): 12 reps
Jump Rope: 1 minute

Circuit B

Complete 4 rounds of this circuit with a short rest in between.

HexBar Deadlift (increase weight with every set): 5 reps
Short Box Hop (full extension, float to the top, land soft, step off): 5 reps
Ipsilateral Walking Lunges (lunge 5 steps with left leg, holding weight on left side, then switch sides): 5 reps
Bike Sprint: 10 sec
Rhythm Run Recovery: 50 sec

Circuit C

Complete 3 rounds of this circuit, moving weight quickly with a short rest in between.

Mix Grip Bench: 15 reps
Pushup: 15 reps
Inverted Row: 15 reps

Circuit D

Complete 3 rounds of this circuit with a short rest in between.

Staggered Stance Single Arm Overhead Press: 12 reps
Pullup (hold at top w/ knees to chest 20 seconds): 12 reps
Tri Ext/Curl/Shoulder Raise Complex Circuit: 12 reps

Boxing Finisher

Flurry Finishers on Heavy Bag (punches and power hooks): 30 seconds

Get more info on Roy Paras at EXP TrainingOpens in a new Window..

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