High glycemic load diet and breast cancer riskMost of us know at least one or more people who’ve developed breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is currently the second leading cause of death among females (After heart disease), with breast cancer being the most common cancer for females.

Of course most cancers, including breast cancer, are multifactorial in nature, involving a complex and sometimes deadly interaction between genetics, diet, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

But what I want to briefly discuss today is something which comes up repeatedly in the scientific literature, which is the effect the “glycemic load” of one’s diet has on their chances of developing breast cancer. Glycemic load referring to both the amount and quality of carbohydrates consumed on a regular basis. Quality being largely determined by how rapidly a given carbohydrate turns into sugar.

All carbs turn into sugar of course; but higher quality carbs turn into sugar relatively gradually and slowly, whereas low quality carbohydrates turn into sugar quickly.

The preponderance of scientific evidence, looking at the effect of glycemic load on breast cancer development, strongly suggests that eating too many carbs and/or low quality carbs, increases a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.

Put into plain english, women who eat more highly processed, rapidly digesting starches and sugars are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who eat less of such foods.

And what’s perhaps even more scary, is that the breast cancer promoting effects of a high glycemic load diet are even more pronounced in YOUNG females with relatively normal bodyweights.

Considering that breast cancer risk, like the risk for many cancers, is known to increase with obesity and age, it’s rather telling that a high glycemic load diet appears to increase breast cancer risk, seemingly somewhat irrespective of a women’s weight or age.

Of course, as I already noted, there are other factors which can contribute to a woman’s risk of breast cancer, other than the glycemic load of one’s diet.

For instance, alcohol consumption is also strongly correlated with increased breast cancer risk.

But today I just wanted to briefly touch upon the relationship between a diet high in junk carbs and breast cancer risk. Yet another reason to avoid excess starch and sugar (i.e. carbs) in your diet, and to also ensure that whatever carbs you do eat come from healthy sources, rather than from junk food.

References:

Leading Causes of Death in Females
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Three Most Common Cancers Among Women
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, and the risk of breast cancer in an Italian prospective cohort study, published in 2007 in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition

Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and the Risk of Breast Cancer Among Mexican Women, Cancer Causes & Control, December 2005, Volume 16, Issue 10, pp 1165–1169

Real low carb food for optimal healthIn my vision of a perfect world everyone would eat nothing but healthy, Paleo Diet approved meals of REAL FOOD, rather than becoming overly reliant upon processed powders, pills or bars.

I realize how tempting it can be to overly rely upon so-called “meal replacement” powders, pills and bars in today’s hectic, go-go culture, since they’re admittedly so easy and convenient, and don’t create a kitchen full of dirty dishes. And heck, you don’t even have to take the time to chew those meal replacement shakes – just pour them right down the ole hatch, right?

But may I be so-bold as to suggest that if you’re regularly “too busy” to cook healthy meals and actually chew your food, then perhaps your current lifestyle is in need of an extreme makeover? Just a thought.

Meal Replacement Products can NEVER Replace REAL FOOD

Real food, and ONLY real food, contains the thousands of health promoting vitamins, macro minerals, trace minerals, phytochemicals, co-factors, etc. in an optimally synergistic and balanced manner.

The way “nutrition” occurs in real food is almost infinitely complex. So complex, that only profound ignorance or arrogance can lead us to believe that man-made pills, potions, powders, or bars can serve as a fully adequate replacement for real foods which occur in nature, and to which humans are adapted to.

For instance, a carrot has many different carotenoids, which are balanced with polyacetylenes, hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanindins, etc. (I know, lots of big words. I don’t understand most of them either.)

Nobody on this planet fully understands how these various plant chemicals interact with each other for the betterment of human health! And I doubt we ever will. And I’m even more doubtful that such complexity could EVER be optimally duplicated in a man-made bar, shake, pill, potion, or elixir.

And that’s just a few of the nutrients in carrots. Let-alone the complex symphony of nutrient interactions which occur in all the other REAL FOODS we eat. Or at least should be eating.

Vitamin Pills vs Real Food

Very credible research is starting to show us that, although vitamin supplements may have certain uses in certain situations (Such as prenatal vitamin/mineral supplements for pregnant women), they are NOT the health panacea so many think they are. In fact, it appears that at least certain vitamins, when taken in pill form rather than from real food, may actually DECREASE our lifespan!

Which is why taking a beta-carotene pill is not only a vastly inferior proxy for the MULTIPLE forms of carotenoids found in REAL FOOD such as carrots, but may even be HARMFUL. For instance, there is strong evidence which suggests that artificially flooding your body with a disproportionate amount of beta-carotene from man-made pills actually blocks your body’s ability to take in other health promoting carotendoids from real food.

In fact, a large Cochrane Review study (considered the gold-standard of meta-analysis studies) found that both beta-carotene and vitamin E pills actually DECREASED overall lifespan!

The authors concluded in this study…

“We found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention. Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A. Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.”

Yes, as mentioned, that Cochrane Review Study found that vitamin E pills, which were presumed to help prevent heart attacks, actually DECREASED overall lifespan. Perhaps because vitamin E pills do not duplicate the complexity of vitamin E as it occurs in real food with 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. Not to mention various “co-factors” found in real food which help to “stabilize” vitamin E and prevent it’s oxidation.

Now again, that’s not to say that certain supplements, in certain situations, can’t have their place. But there is no vitamin pill, meal replacement shake, or protein bar which is going to fully optimize your overall health in the way that ONLY real food can.

So Many Examples, So Little Time

I could give you lots more examples of how pills, powders, and bars can NEVER adequately replace real food. And how such “nutritional reductionism” – thinking of nutrients as separate entities from each other, rather than seeing them as parts of an infinitely complex series of interactions with other nutrients only found in real food – may actually harm us.

But I won’t bore you to death with such details.

Suffice to say, that meal replacement bars, shakes, vitamin pills, etc. can never take the place of real food. And as mentioned, if you think you are too busy to cook or to actually chew your food, you might want to reconsider that assumption.

I say MAKE THE TIME to prepare and eat REAL FOOD!

Even if it requires making some serious lifestyle adjustments.

References:

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;3:CD007176. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007176.pub2. | Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases.

What are the best weight training exercises?So what are the best weight training exercises and equipment to use in your workout program?

Well…it depends. It depends upon all sorts of considerations.

There’s no single cookie cutter weight training program or list of “best” exercise equipment that’s going to be a perfect match for all people in all situations.

Thus we all need to select weight training exercises and workout equipment which work best for us on an individual basis.

I truly can’t overemphasize enough the importance of individualizing one’s weight training program and selection of exercise equipment. Because what works best for one person may work terribly for another.

Thus we must avoid making silly and overly dogmatic statements about “such and such exercises and equipment” supposedly being the “best” for all people in all situations.

After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist level of intellect to understand that what works best for a 25 year old world class athlete, in terms of exercise selection and weight training equipment, perhaps will NOT work so well for a 75 year old female with brittle bones, and a very poor sense of balance, right?

25 year old world class athletes (Especially those who are “built right” for all sorts of weight training exercises) will be highly proficient at most any exercise, with most any form of exercise equipment you can throw at them. Thus, they’ll have a very large exercise and equipment “toolbox” at their disposal, chock-full of all sorts of exercise and equipment options. They’ll be able to do barbell deadlifts, barbell back squats, one leg Romanian deadlifts, and other weight training exercises best reserved for younger, more athletic trainees.

Whereas frail, elderly trainees with poor balance and coordination will likely end up severely injured, if they attempt to use the same exercise and equipment toolbox used by athletic, young athletes.

And heck, even if one isn’t frail or elderly, MANY of us are simply NOT built for certain exercises, due to unfavorable limb and/or torso lengths. Or due to medical/injury reasons.

For instance, ever see a really tall and long legged person try to do a barbell back squat? It ain’t pretty, that’s for sure. The knee ends up travelling much further forward than on a short person, thus greatly increasing stress on the knee.

Barbell back squat dangersBarbell back squats are a great exercise for some, but unsafe for many others!

And so, even though many weight training enthusiasts dogmatically assert that one “must” do barbell back squats, lest they be considered a wimp, barbell back squats are actually NOT a good exercise selection for MANY people. Anyone who says otherwise is very mistaken.

I’d even argue that it is a minority of people who can safely execute barbell back squats without excessive knee or low back stress entering into the equation.

Though most folks can indeed still squat safely, when using a lever squat machine which allows for a more low back and knee friendly trajectory when squatting, as well as a safer distribution of the weight, more in line with your body’s center, which really helps minimize excess torque on the low back. And the Frank Zane Leg Blaster (Yes, that Frank Zane. As in 3-time Mr. Olympia winner.), which I currently use in my personal training studio, is yet another safer alternative to free weight barbell back squats for many of us.

But anyways…I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent about barbell back squats specifically, but wanted to use that as just one example, of many others I could cite, where certain exercises that are often portrayed as “the best” or even outright mandatory, are simply NOT good exercises for MANY people for MANY reasons. That’s an indisputable fact.

And avoiding exercises which are potentially dangerous for YOU to perform does NOT make you a wimp or outcast within the weight training community. It makes you smart.

Training Safety Comes First!

Of course proper exercise technique and training safety should always be at the forefront of your thinking when determining which weight training exercises and equipment are going to be the best possible match for you. Avoiding injury should never be treated as an after-thought, but rather as being foundational to your weight training program.

And one of the most important ways to to ensure your weight training program doesn’t get you hurt is to select exercises and equipment which are easy for YOU to utilize properly, with excellent exercise technique, and without getting yourself injured. NOT easy on the muscles of course, but rather “easy” in terms of being able to do correctly and with safe exercise technique.

Again, the exact exercises and equipment which will best allow you to utilize good exercise technique, train without injury, and achieve your body transformation goals, will depend upon numerous variables.

Things to Consider When Selecting Exercises & Equipment

  • Your current physical condition
  • Workout history or lack thereof
  • Body transformation goals
  • Medical history
  • Injury history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Limb lengths
  • Torso length
  • How your muscles are innervated
  • Budget considerations
  • Time available for weight training
  • Space available for equipment
  • Access to decent gyms
  • Whether you prefer gym or home workouts
  • Access to personal trainer or coaching
  • Sense of balance
  • Intramuscular coordination ability
  • Etc., etc.

As you can see, exactly how large and full your “exercise toolbox” is (or isn’t) depends upon all sorts of variables, all of which interact with each other to determine which exercises are going to work best for you, and which one’s likely won’t work so well for you.

Again, there’s no single exercise program that’s going to be “best” for all people in all situations. And there’s no single list of “the best exercise equipment” that’s going to apply to everyone either.

Your personal exercise toolbox will likely be somewhat different than other people’s exercise toolbox. Especially if you’re a total beginner or working around injuries. But as time goes on, and you master the exercises and equipment in your personal exercise toolbox, you’ll likely find yourself gradually adding in new exercises and equipment, which you’d previously not felt totally proficient at using before.

But always make sure you stick with weight training exercises and equipment which seem to mesh well with YOUR body and abilities. Don’t worry about what other people are doing in their weight training programs. Become a student of the art of weight training, and learn what works best for YOU.

Train safe, train smart!

Hidden SugarsMost of my personal training clients, and readers of this blog know it’s my firm belief, that of all the unhealthy “foods” people eat these days, sugar is the absolute worst. I’m not going to go into exactly why sugar is so incredibly unhealthy in this post, but trust me, it is. (Not because I say so but because the preponderance of scientific evidence says so.)

If you ignore everything else I ever say about diet, please at least do your best to avoid sugar as much as possible. But to avoid sugar, you must be able to recognize it when you see it. But that’s often hard to do these days, since the people and companies which profit from sugar and sugar loaded junk foods often refer to sugar in their list of ingredients by other names. Aliases if you will. Which is why I’ve posted the attached infographic, highlighting the many aliases of sugar. Remember, no matter what the sugar pushers call it, it’s still SUGAR. And it’s still terrible for you.

Women too bulky from weight training mythOne of the most common concerns some females have about resistance training is that it’ll make them get “too bulky” somehow. But here’s the deal…building some calorie-burning, lean muscle tissue won’t make you “too bulky” at all.

The only two things that make a woman look “too bulky” are illegal muscle building drugs (which I sure hope you’re not using) and excess fatty tissue. Being strong and in great physical condition sure doesn’t.

In fact, since lean muscle gives you a higher 24/7 metabolic rate (i.e. helps your body burn more calories), it will actually help you be LESS bulky.

So don’t fear getting “too bulky” from weight training ladies. Weight training makes females look leaner and healthier, rather than “bulky” looking.

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