The Truth About Sports Drinks

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I live near a high school and the start of the school year inevitably brings more traffic to my neighbourhood. The other morning, while walking my dog, I passed a young man on his way to school. He was guzzling a Gatorade, at 7:30 in the morning.

I wonder if he thinks Garorade is healthy?  Many people think these sport drinks are good for them thanks to aggressive marketing that relates these beverages to athletic performance.

But the fact is, a bottle of this drink contains 35g of sugar. That’s almost 3 tablespoons in a single serving.

Granted, there have been studies showing that carbohydrates-laden sports drinks help athletic performance[12]. Which makes sense since carbs provide fuel for exercise. In this case the carbohydrate comes in the form of sucrose and dextrose. Your body absorbs this type of sugar very quickly, which results in a relatively immediate energy boost.

But the benefits end there.

We do know that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to an increase risk of type 2 diabetes [3], obesity [4], non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [5], and cardiovascular disease [6]. We know consumption of sports drinks specifically leads to an increase in BMI[7] and that adolescents accessibility to them also leads to higher BMI [8]. So why are parents still willing to buy these for their kids? And let them drink it for breakfast?

So what if a parent only gives sports drinks to their kids when they are participating in athletic activities?  Most children aren't highly trained endurance athletes, running 15 km time trials in the heat - those people might benefit from the electrolytes or whatever else Gatorade claims to provide. But I should point out that Gatorade doesn't supply the ideal form of carbohydrates and electrolytes nor does it provide nearly enough of them.

Alternatively, you can make your own sports/electrolyte beverage. Here is a great recipe. 

The takeaway: A child attending gym class or playing a game of hockey should stick to water. As should everyone.

If you have any questions about how you can reach your greatness, don't hesitate to book an appointment, contact me, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Bright Lights, Big Fatigue

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We all go through periods when we don't quite get enough sleep: a new baby, a busy period at work, exams…there are as many different reasons as there are people. 

The best fix is making sleep a priority - set a sleep schedule, establish a bedtime routine, and learn some pre-La-La-Land relaxation techniques. But let’s face it, with today’s lifestyles, it isn’t always possible to prioritize sleep.  So what can you do?

First off, with less sleep, the first thing to go is mental capacity, or cognition. You process information slower, you are less creative, and you may notice mood changes. If you are losing sleep from something that is unavoidable and hopefully short term, there are some things you can do to minimize some of the cognitive deficits. 

Our natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is at the heart of it. The physiological basis for this lies with two hormones: melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin is the trigger for sleep, cortisol is the trigger to wake up. Our eyes are intimately related to this cycle, and specifically to our exposure to light and darkness. Melatonin is stimulated by exposure to darkness; minimizing your light exposure at night (including TV and cellphones) is a great idea. If you have a hard time turning off your devices at night, a less-than perfect alternative is using some blue light blocking technology; the iPhone has something called "Nightshift" built in that changes the colour of light the screen emits. On my computer I have an app called "f.lux", which does the same thing. 

Falling asleep in the dark is not a foreign concept to a lot of people, but exposure to bright light in the morning often is. Bright light in the morning can help stimulate proper levels of cortisol and improve mental functioning [2]. If you’re a late riser and the sun is up, it can be as simple as going outside or opening your blinds. If you are an early riser, getting some bright artificial light might be enough. You could go as far as purchasing an alarm clock that mimics the sun rising, it wakes you up slowly with light, or light therapy glasses

Regardless if you had a poor night sleep or not, many people will still get the dreaded mid-afternoon energy dip. It typically happens after you've eaten lunch and need to get back to work. Bright light can help here too. Before or during that post-lunch dip, getting some bright light exposure (either artificial or natural) can help mitigate that cognitive decline [3]. 

In a nutshell, bright light (blue light) during the day, and dim light (orange light) at night can have a profound impact on your sleep. Try it for a week and let me know how you feel. 

If you have any questions about how you can reach your greatness, don't hesitate to book an appointment, contact me, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Why High Performance Athletes Need Naturopathic Doctors

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High-level performance athletes have teams of people to support them. I'm sure it’s no surprise to you that trainers, physiotherapists, or chiropractors are on those teams. But it may be surprising to you to learn that, more and more, Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) like myself are playing integral roles in the team helping athletes achieve peak performance. Here's why

1. We Are Experts in Nutrition

Nutrition plays a big role in reaching athletic goals, but there is a huge disconnect between what athletes are doing, and what we know works. To confuse matters, not every diet will work for every athlete. No, the Ketogenic diet isn't for everyone. Personalizing your diet to fit your individual goals, needs and wants is something NDs excel at. 

2. We Are Experts in Supplementation

There are very few athletes out there who don't take supplements. The unfortunate part is many aren't taking the right things, at the right dose. NDs are trained to know what works, how much of it works, and how it applies to your individual case. For example, you may be taking a supplement that works for a 400-800m sprinter, but you're a strength athlete; I see it all the time. A Naturopath is one of the only professionals with a deep knowledge of supplements. Get a Naturopath's opinion before you start taking a supplement, you'll save time and money. 

3. We Don't Just Work on the Physical

Many professionals gear their service towards the physical nature of sports. By that I mean designing an awesome training program, providing exercises to help improve muscle imbalances, and treating injuries as they arise. As a Naturopath I do all of those things, but I also work on your body on a smaller scale; from a physiological level. Helping you absorb more nutrients from your food, using those nutrients more efficiently, and improving your performance from the foundations right up to the peak. 

4. We would rather prevent an injury than treat one

The best treatment is no treatment, by that I mean prevention. There are many specific strategies that can help you decrease your risk of injury; lifestyle, training, diet, and supplements all play a role. NDS can help you stop the things that might cause injury before they become issues. 

5. We know what to do if you get injured

Despite our best efforts, sometimes injuries are unavoidable. When that happens, an ND can help decrease your recovery time and get you back to fighting strength sooner. An ND will use our wide knowledge of nutrition and supplements coupled with physical therapies to get you better, faster. 

Naturopathic doctors fill a void in the sports and athletic industry.  We provide evidence-based performance enhancing care that is hard to come by but crucial if you want to perform at your best. Let an ND help you become the best athlete you can  by having one at the heart of your sports therapy team. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Is It IBS or Not?

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So you've been given a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Beyond emergency bathroom visits, what does that mean? And what can you do about it?

First of all, your diagnosis was most likely based on something called the ROME IV criteria, a set of rules used by clinicians to classify a diagnosis of a patient with a gastrointestinal disorder. ROME IV is the latest iteration of the criteria, produced by the Rome Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Your IBS diagnosis is based on a constellation of common symptoms that together define the syndrome. According to the ROME IV criteria, the signs that define IBS include abdominal pain at least one day per week related to defecation (i.e. pooping) accompanied by frequent diarrhea or constipation and changes in bowel habits. Symptoms usually are experienced as acute attacks that subside within one day, but recurrent attacks are likely. There may also be urgency for bowel movements, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, and bloating.

While the cause of these symptoms varies from one person to the next, there are some common themes among IBS sufferers.

The first is dysbiosis, meaning, a disruption in the healthy bacteria that live in the digestive tract. Over the past few decades we have learnt more about the crucial roles those bacteria play in a robust digestive system.

Dysbiosis includes the potential cause of many IBS cases, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). In a nutshell, the small intestine is supposed to have small amounts of bacteria, while the large intestine holds the bulk of the bacteria. When too much begins to grow in the small intestine, you may experience bloating, diarrhea, or constipation (sounds a lot like IBS right?)

Other themes include inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and gut motility issues. All of these likely play a role in the cause of many IBS-like symptoms.

So where do you go from here?

Well, the best place to start is figuring out the leading causes of your symptoms; this includes considering a combination of your medical history, lab tests, and physical exams.

Once the cause or causes have been determined, a treatment plan can be developed.  Treatment for GI dysfunction almost always includes a lifestyle change: stress management, diet, exercise, all of it. It’s not a magic pill, but it gives you your best chance of long-lasting relief. Also, there are some specific naturopathic strategies, like herbal preparations, supplements and acupuncture that can be very helpful. 

For more information, don't hesitate to contact me by phone or email, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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I've Got Some Big News

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I am all about constantly learning, improving, and challenging yourself. This has been a big part of my practice, for my clients and myself.

That's why I am happy to announce that I will be teaming up with 3 other fantastic Naturopathic Doctors at a brand new clinic in Lakeshore, Ontario (see the bottom of the post for the full address). The new clinic is called Valero Wellness. 

I love the idea of having access to three other perspectives; when it comes to patient care, collaboration is always the best for the patient. 

What's changing?

Apart from the change in location, I am adding some new and exciting therapies. 

Intravenous Infusions

IV infusions are a great therapy for a wide array of people and conditions. The infusions include vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and can be included in any health and wellness plan. They are especially helpful for stress, immune support, energy, and performance optimization. Specifically, they can be a part of treatment plans for chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, cancer, irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and so much more. 

I am very excited to be able to offer IV infusions to my patients. 

Infrared Sauna

Saunas have been used for hundreds of years and their truly amazing health benefits are just starting to be discovered. They have been shown to improve recovery after endurance exercise (1), can help improve pain in rheumatoid arthritis (2), can improve cholesterol levels (3), and can decrease your risk of a heart attack (4). All from what is widely considered a relaxing spa-like activity. 

Fully Stocked Natural Dispensary

I'll have access to a much wider range of products than what I can carry currently. This makes treatments easier for you and me. It also gives you choice; we can decide on the perfect option for you all conveniently located right at the clinic. 

Community Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a great therapy that can help a wide array of people. With all of my therapies, I try to make them as financially friendly as I can. With acupuncture, the more frequent the treatments, the better the results, driving the price up pretty quick. A fantastic solution is community acupuncture; it involves many people receiving acupuncture at the same time. The ultimate goal is to make acupuncture more accessible.

With these changes and additions, I hope to continue to grow, but more importantly, I hope to help more people reach their desired level of health. 

For all booking inquiries call: 226-774-5888 or contact me directly with the button below. 

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake, ND

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P.S. The new address is:

480 Advance Blvd - Unit 200                                                                                Lakeshore, ON                                                                                                                    N8N 0B7                                                                                                                                    P: 226-774-5888

Instead of caffeine, try this

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Caffeine is the most widely used substance for performance enhancement, in sports and everyday life. Most people have used it at some point for a short-term energy boost. For good reason too, the science backs it up for endurance, strength, and mental performance (123). Unfortunately, we don't all process caffeine to the same degree; some of us are "fast metabolizers" and some of us are "slow metabolizers".

Fast metabolizers are those whose liver processes caffeine twice as fast as slow metabolizers. Think of the person who can drink coffee before bed and still sleep like a baby, that's a fast metabolizer. However, the slow metabolizers are actually at an advantage; they can consume caffeine and get the full performance benefits. Fast metabolizers might not get a mental or physical boost. 

If you think you're a fast metabolizer, get unpleasant gastro-intestinal side effects from caffeine, or just want to try something else to get that quick energy boost, consider Rodiola rosea

Although the research isn't as robust for Rhodiola as it is for caffeine, it's been used for thousands of years. One of its first uses was to help combat altitude sickness in those who lived in the mountains of West Asia. Since then it has been categorized as an adaptogen, which is a herb that helps you adapt during stressful situations. 

Rhodiola has been seeing an increased use in sports performance circles and the science backs it up too. Rholdiola may be most effective if you use it for an extended period of time (2-4 weeks), however, it has been shown to work short term with benefits on physical and mental endurance (4567). Don't think of it as a replacement for your morning espresso (nothing replaces that!), think of it as an add-on before your workouts, as a boost before a big meeting, or to combat those afternoon energy dips.

 

I'd recommend making an appointment with your favourite Naturopath to make sure Rhodiola is right for you. I carry a liquid version, but you can find it at most supplement stores or buy it from me here: 

The next time you find yourself reaching for that extra cup of coffee, maybe consider Rhodiola rosea instead. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Complementary versus Alternative Medicine

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Many people describe what I do as “alternative medicine". While this is somewhat true as it is indeed an alternative approach to medicine, it also creates some incorrect perceptions to what I do as a naturopathic doctor.

For one thing, “alternative medicine" leads one to believe a choice needs to be made between naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine. This could not be farther from the truth. Every well-trained naturopathic doctor (ND) will prefer to work hand-in-hand with a medical doctor (MD); conversely, every good MD should be willing to work with an ND; the end result is the best care for our shared patients. There are things MDs can provide that NDs cannot, and things NDs can provide that MDs cannot.

For example, NDs spend more time with each patient to get to know your individual needs and the nuances of your situation. An initial appointment with an ND like me is typically up to an hour. MDs face system-imposed time pressures that NDs do not. We will spend time discussing diet, lifestyle, and many other things that may be missed in an MDs office due to these time constraints.

An MD on the other hand, can take advantage of our OHIP system and get much needed lab tests, imaging, and prescribe life saving medication and treatments when needed. 

When it comes to actually describing what I do, I prefer the term “complimentary medicine"; I provide care that complements what you may be receiving from your MD. Although certain conditions can be treated solely with naturopathic medicine, it is best to have both sides working in tandem to get the best results. 

There are those who argue that complimentary medicine is best, and those that argue conventional medicine is best. I don't argue this point - I argue that both are necessary to give my patients the care they seek and deserve.  

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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BCAA's: Are They Worth the Hype?

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Go on any health or body-building site and you'll read about “branched chain amino acids" (BCAAs). They're a sports supplement used by many and touted as a required supplement in your "stack”. 

But what are BCAAs? Do they work? Should you buy them? 

Before we get into BCAAs specifically, it's important to understand what amino acids (AA) are. They are the building blocks for basically everything in our bodies. If you think that sounds a lot like protein, you’d be right. That's because amino acids are protein - protein is just a bunch of AA attached to each other. In general there are two types of amino acids, non-essential and essential. Our bodies make non-essential amino acids on its own, whereas essential amino acids are required in our diets. Of the essential amino acids, there are 3 that have a branched structure - these are the BCAAs. 

BCAAs have received a lot of attention in the medical, health, and fitness industries over the years. 

It started with the observation that the three BCAAs are mainly metabolized in the muscle tissue, not the liver like the other AA. This got researchers interested in determining what role they play in muscle function. Eventually, the BCAA leucine was found to have a stimulating effect on muscle protein synthesis, or in other words, it is a direct signal for your muscle to grow. 

Of course this mechanism is of huge interest to the health and fitness industry, but is there any evidence to back it up?

Unfortunately, not much. 

When you compare BCAA to placebo use after exercise, you do see a benefit in terms of muscle soreness, recovery time, and muscle performance [1, 2]. This does make sense, since its compared to doing nothing. Once you compare them to doing something else, like a carbohydrate or protein for example, you see there is actually no difference [3, [4] . Which also makes sense. 

The lack of strong scientific support for an additive effect of BCAA to a regular healthy exercise routine is not surprising. You get all the amino acids you need (branched and other essentials) from a healthy diet and supplementing with a protein if you choose.

The biggest claim to fame for BCAA is that they stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). The secret to MPS is keeping yourself fed so you have the substrates for building. Leucine signalling alone is not enough to build muscle, you need all of the other amino acids along with the signal. Again, a real food source of protein is better. 

If you have ever tried an unflavoured BCAA you’ll know it's unpalatably bitter. That's why most of the BCAA supplements on the market are heavily flavoured, coloured, and sweetened. 

Overall, BCAA's are not as an important for your exercise, fitness, or health routine as many people think. You'd be better off putting the money you spend on BCAAs into high quality food or protein powder. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Bone Broth: Good For You, But How Good?

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Bone broth. Some say it's the elixir of the gods, with benefits ranging from healthy skin to improved immune function. But how good is it? And what is bone broth anyway?

First off, bone broth is different than stock and regular broth. The most important difference is the length of cooking; stock is cooked up to 2 hours, broth 4-6, and bone broth 24-48 hours. The reason for the long cooking time is to get as much of the nutrients out of the bones as possible. This is believed to be the reason it confers all of the health benefits you'll read about. 

This long cooking time makes the bones leach out high amounts of collagen, the main structural protein in our bodies responsible for making healthy joints, skin, and all other connective tissue including your digestive tract. It's also thought to be a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin, the classical joint support supplements, as well as vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

For these reasons, bone broth is being toted as one of the healthiest things to consume.  

Unfortunately, there really isn't evidence to support many of the claims for bone broth specifically. 

Most of the research you will see investigates individual components included in bone broth, like collagen supplements for example. There is research to show that collagen can improve skin health (123), but no evidence to show bone broth has this ability. There is research to show that collagen, chondroitin, and glucosamine can help with arthritic joint pain (4), but again no empirical evidence to show bone broth does.  Finally, there is also research to show that gelatin may have an effect on human digestive tract cells (5), but again no evidence that bone broth helps in this regard. 

It's not that I don't love bone broth or think it is an extremely healthy food to consume. I do, but I also think there is too much hype - as is often the case with these “superfoods” (see the recent fuss about apple cider vinegar). 

As a naturopathic doctor, I counsel my patients to be realistic. It's not a miracle cure for whatever ails you; it's a great part of a more complete treatment plan, and a really easy way to catch the cooking bug. Whenever I recommend it, I am honest about the benefits; it is a long-term lifestyle change and the benefit may be very subtle yet important. 

Three tips for making your own bone broth:

The key to a good bone broth is choosing the right type of bones; the really cartilaginous bones like knuckles are great since they have a lot of collagen. 

It’s okay to mix the type of bones in your broth - beef, pork, venison, etc. More types, more better!

Add some vinegar or lemon juice and cook for at least 8 hours (24-48 hours is generally recommended) to elevate the pH in your broth [6]. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Key To Our Digestive System

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Digestive issues are one of the most common complaints seen in any doctors office. They also tend to be very complicated. That's why seeing a Naturopathic Doctor can be so helpful; we spend the time to figure out your complex issues. Since it's a complicated system, certain aspects can get missed. 

One aspect of the digestive system that often gets overlooked is the mucous lining. It's exactly what it sounds like: a lining of mucus that covers the inside of your digestive tract. I know, sounds appetizing, but it's a bonafide superstar of your digestive health and therefore your entire health. 

The mucus lining is the unsung hero of your digestive tract: Why is this slimy structure so important?

It houses your good bacteria.

Gut flora, or good bacteria, has been a hot topic in health and medicine for a while now. Like any living thing, they need to be nourished and given a place to live. That's where the mucous lining comes in; it's where they reside. If there isn't a healthy lining, fewer will be able to live happily. It won't matter how many billion you take, what strains you take, or how much money you spend, if your lining isn't healthy, they won't survive. 

It's where your immune system interacts with the "outside world”.

The mucus lining also provides a space for the immune system to interact with pathogens.  Specialized cells will "sample" molecules and either initiate an immune response (so they can recognize it the next time they come across it) or develop tolerance. If this mucus membrane isn't healthy, this interaction is subpar; the pathogens could easily slip past the immune cells, causing allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. 

It's your first defence against harmful pathogens.

Our immune system is made up of many different types of cells; one of the first-line defenders is Immunoglobulin A or IgA. It is one of the most abundant immune cells, and is present on all mucous membranes. It functions by attaching itself to potentially harmful molecules and preventing them from entering circulation. This is one way your gut lining is connected to your immunity - poorer mucous membrane means less space for IgA to function. 

How do you fix a dysfunctional gut lining? Like anything else, in order to build it, you have to take away the things that will knock it down. In the case of the mucous lining, food sensitivities, processed foods and certain medications are the major demo crew. So avoiding or limiting those things are a good idea. 

If you're one of those people who have a hard time digesting raw fruits and vegetables, it may have something to do with your gut lining. Although they are considered a healthy food, if they aren't being absorbed they aren't helping. Allow your gut to heal by eating well cooked veggies and avoid bothersome fruit for a while.

You can make some food choices that can help repair your gut lining. One of my favourites: bone broth. Either chicken or beef, homemade or responsibly purchased. It is a great option to help replenish electrolytes, provide cofactors for growth, and support the immune system. Watch my blog for a piece in the coming weeks on this amazing food.

And then there is the supplement side of things: it depends on the individual. I always focus on the lifestyle options first, and add supplements if we think they could help.

Key takeaways: Don't ignore the symptoms of poor digestion, consider all parts of digestion, and remember Rome wasn't built in a day, it takes time to reach your full potential. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Saturated Fat Myth

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As a Naturopathic Doctor, whenever I talk to patients we always end up talking about their diet, and inevitably get into a conversation about the three main macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. When we get to fat, I frequently encounter patients who misunderstand the connection between its intake and health. This misunderstanding has a lot to do with erroneous media reports, based on a legacy of bribery and fraudulent research practices. 

First, the truth about fat: With the exception of trans fat, all fats are a healthy part of a balanced diet, including saturated fat.

Trans fat, or trans-unsaturated fatty acid, is an artificially created fat and was originally designed to keep food from going rancid. The terms “hydrogenated" or "partially-hydrogenated" are often used in conjunction with trans fat as that's what the process involves, adding hydrogen. These fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This process makes the fat shelf-stable. That’s why it’s usually found in fast food and pre-made desserts. This is good for business, but not good for your health. Research has linked it to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis and numerous other diseases [1].

Saturated fat is naturally occurring and found in all of those foods you used to be told were bad for you, like animal products such as beef, pork, full-fat dairy, and coconut oil. These also happen to be some of the most delicious. They are called “saturated" since all of the molecular bonds are occupied, saturated with hydrogen. 

The misunderstanding that saturated fat is bad began in the 1960's when research was done into the connection between dietary factors and cardiovascular events. Early research concluded saturated fat and cholesterol were the main culprit in heart disease. August institutions like Harvard University and respectable journals like The New England Journal of Medicine published the research, lending it credibility.  This research carried on until the early 90’s.

During that 30-year span, dietary guidelines were released recommending avoiding all saturated fat, and replacing it with carbohydrates and food laden with sugar. Seems crazy now, but this is what following the best evidence looked like at the time. 

But this research shouldn't have been trusted. Why? The sugar industry was funding it.

In November 2016, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released documents which showed that researchers were being paid by the sugar industry to obscure the relationship between sugar and heart disease, pushing them to blame saturated fats instead.

Don't believe me? Here’s an account of what happened [2]. It reads like a crime novel. 

But the widespread belief that fat is bad is hard to erase. The sad fact is, the sugar industry’s diversionary strategy was successful.

But the current science shows that the main culprit in heart disease is sugar consumption. And many of us get too much sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) [3,4]. SSBs include popular brands like Coke, Sprite, sweetened iced teas, and even juice. To compound the problem, those who drink SSBs may have a less-than ideal diet in other ways, like high trans fat consumption. 

What should you conclude from this story?

Consume as little trans fat and pop as possible (none preferably), and don't be afraid to eat red meat, butter, and any other saturated fat. It's as much a part of a healthy diet as fruits and vegetables - just enjoy everything in moderation. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Science Behind ZMA is MIA

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Walking down the sports aisles of your favourite supplement store, it's not hard to get over-whelmed with all the different products boosting unbelievable advantages. One of the products that many websites and some experts will endorse is ZMA. The ingredients are zinc monomethionine aspartate (hence the name), magnesium aspartate and Vitamin B6. 

It's not a supplement I recommend, and here's why. 

ZMA burst onto the market in the late 90's and came armed with some research to support its use. This research found that those who took it had a 33% increase in both total testosterone and free testosterone, and a 15% increase in muscle strength. These results sounded pretty good. But a closer look reveals there is definitely a bias in the research, not to mention a questionable cast of characters behind it.

One of the research authors was Victor Conte. If you followed the Major League Baseball steroid scandal in the 2000's, you may recognize his name. Conte was the man behind the BALCO lab that was implicated in the doping of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Marion Jones among others. He also had a trademark on the "ZMA" name, so he had a direct financial gain by finding positive results for his formulation. A big red flag in the world of research. 

The other author, Dr. Lorrie Brilla, worked for a ZMA manufacturer. Can you say, "conflict of interest”?

Assuming these results were found without bias, they should be reproducible; one of the most important aspects of the scientific research method. In this case, the same results were not found when the study was replicated. There were no enhancements in blood magnesium, zinc, testosterone, or any other hormones measured. Nor was there a strength benefit. And the group doing this research also had a reason to find positive results, it was funding by Cytodyne Technologies Inc, a company that manufactures sports supplements. This makes the results much more trustworthy. 

ZMA, although endorsed by many, is likely not all it's chalked up to be. Be aware.

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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The Real Reason You Hate Mondays

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No, it's not from the thought of the work week ahead of you, dealing with your boss, co-workers or, actually, anything about work. It has everything to do with your sleep - you hate Monday's because you're tired. Here’s why. 

We have a natural sleep-wake cycle largely based on the sun, called our circadian rhythm. In it's simplest form it's the interplay between two hormones, melatonin and cortisol, which are both affected by light exposure, hence the sun's involvement. When we are on a regular schedule, our circadian rhythm is in sync with our lifestyle, and we function better. When you throw two out-of-sync days in the middle of this routine, it messes with your rhythm, making it more difficult to fall asleep, wake up and function to your full potential. 

Both mainstream and naturopathic doctors agree that one of the best long-term treatments for sleep issues is something called "sleep hygiene". No, this is not about how clean you are when you go to bed. Rather it’s about but how "clean" your sleeping situation is in general. 

Although there are many aspects to sleep hygiene, like reducing TV time before bed and limiting naps, the most important and effective is routine. And this is why you hate Mondays - your routine is out-of-whack. 

Let's look at an example. Say someone works a typical 9 to 5 job, they need to wake up at 6:30am during the week in order to get to work on time. Since they get up relatively early, they have lights out at the reasonable time of 11 pm. During the weekend however, this person likes to stay up a little later, let's say until 1 or 2 am, and they sleep in to 9 or 10 am. When 6:30 am Monday rolls around, your circadian rhythm has been thrown off just enough to make Monday a drag. 

If you suffer "from a case of the Mondays" every Monday, do yourself a favour, try keeping your sleep-wake routine consistent. Yes, Saturday and Sunday too. Do this for three or four weeks and while you will still have to report to work for that 9 to 5 job, Monday's should be a little more tolerable. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

The Problem with Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent fasting (IF) is becoming more and more popular as a weight loss tool. It's less of a diet and more of an eating schedule. There are many ways to do IF and lots of things to consider before starting. (That's where a Naturopathic Doctor can help.)

First, the big question: Does it work for weight loss?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is more complicated, as is the case with any diet. Most diets result in weight loss (Mediterranean and Paleolithic diets, for example) as long as they are hypo-caloric  - in other words, you eat fewer calories than you burn. IF has the advantage of simplicity: you don't have to follow a strict regiment of do and do-not eat foods, just do and do-not eat time periods. 

These time periods can be broken up many different ways, one of them is alternate day fasting. It's exactly what it sounds like, you eat for one day, and fast for the next. For example, your last meal would be Monday at lunch, and you wouldn't eat again until Tuesday at lunch. One of the more aggressive IF protocols. A lot of this time is spent sleeping, so it's not as bad as it sounds. And that's exactly the schedule used in the following study.

This study had participants follow an alternate day fasting program for 6 weeks [6]. They measured all aspects of the participants intake before and after implementing the IF protocol: from protein, carbs, and fat to vitamin, mineral, and total calories. Participants ate 33% less total calories for the 6 weeks compared to their normal diet. So it comes as no surprise that every measure also came in lower. But did this have any effect on performance?

They found the participants had a lower heart rate during the same level of exercise, a decrease in total energy expenditure, and lower blood lactate (the cause of that burning feeling in your legs). The authors concluded that this was evidence of a performance enhancement. They also reported a 4.4% decrease in body weight and a 15% decrease in body fat mass. That’s good. But there was also a somewhat worrisome result: an almost 3% decrease in muscle mass.  This was likely a result of the reduced protein intake.

So the conclusion? IF might deliver some real benefits, but take precautions: consider taking a multi-vitamin and make sure you are getting enough protein from a wide variety of sources while following an IF regimen.

Is C4 All It's Cracked Up to Be?

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In the shiny world of pre-work out supplement bottles, manufacturers resort to hyperbole to get any advantage. That's why shelves are lined with bottles adorned with  words like "pump", "explosive energy", and "extreme". Pre-workouts are a common sight at most gyms, but will these products really make you better? As a Naturopathic Doctor, it's my job to guide clients through this hype.

Cellucor's C4 is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market. It's one of many combination products touted to provide you with "explosive energy, heightened focus and an overwhelming urge to tackle any challenge". Whew! But does it help?

The first 5 ingredients: Vitamin C, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Folic acid, and Vitamin B12 are all supplied in such small amounts they have virtually no effect.  It could be argued those first few ingredients are really just filler to make the ingredients label look more impressive

The remaining ingredients are supposed to deliver the goods. 

Beta-alanine is a commonly-used sports performance enhancer. It acts as an intramuscular buffering agent, or in other words, it lessens that burning sensation you get in your arms and legs during intense circuit training sessions. C4 contains 1.6g of beta-alanine, but is that enough? The research says yes. It's on the low end of the effective dose of 1.6 to 6.4g per day, but nonetheless it will have some benefits [1,2], if you use it correctly: for 8 weeks, daily, and for exercise lasting longer than 30 seconds and not longer than 10 minutes [2]. Sorry, marathoners and split muscle group trainees. 

Creatine is likely the best known sports supplement, and for good reason. It has been shown to increase strength and muscle growth [3, 4], a common reason people take pre-workout supplements. The difference in C4? Most studies use creatine monohydrate, an inexpensive, widely available supplement with a load of research to support its use. Cellucor uses creatine nitrate in C4, a form of creatine with the added benefit of nitrate content [nitrates are in beets!]. The problem is it has not been shown to be superior than the simple monohydrate form [5]. The low dose problem also resurfaces - 1g isn't enough to get the results you probably want. 

Arginine is another very popular sports supplement thought to increase blood flow leading to greater oxygen supply to muscles. According to the evidence, we can be fairly certain it doesn't impact performance [6, 7, 8 ]. But C4 uses Arginine Alph-ketoglutarate, a form that is suppose to be better absorbed. Unfortunately, we know it isn't much better than regular arginine and it doesn't have any significant effect on performance [9]. You’d need a dose of arginine 6x higher than that supplied in C4 to see any impact [10].

Finally, how about that "Explosive Energy Blend”?  The only really effective ingredient delivering on that is caffeine [11, 12]. However, the dose is again lower than what we know works [13, 14]. To make matters worse, caffeine is most effective if you don't take it for a few days before an event [15], and as I mentioned above, Beta-alanine must be used everyday for 8 weeks. Having these two ingredients in the same product doesn't make much sense. 

Bottom-line

C4 may help you perform better, but don't let the other ingredients fool you, it's the caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine doing most or all of the work. A word for the economically minded, you can get over double the servings of each, in the correct dose, for the identical price in other products. Don't be fooled by flashy marketing. Be smart in your training, nutrition, and competition and you will see the results. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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Should you go Gluten-Free?

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Gluten remains one of the hottest topics in the health and wellness industry, with many experts and celebs advocating for and against including it in your diet. Go to the internet and a quick search turns up thousands of links, many of which have nothing to do with Kim Kardashian.

So, the question remains. Should you eat gluten?

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, definitely not. It's a very serious condition with many long-term complications, so eliminating gluten from your diet is a no-brainer. If you suspect you may have celiac disease, get tested. There is a screening blood test that, if positive, is confirmed with a scope and tissue sample. (Not that you need a reason to get tested and have celiac disease medically confirmed, but you can claim gluten-free food on your taxes as a medical expense.)

But if you don't have celiac disease, it gets more complicated.  Perhaps eating gluten just makes you feel bad and you think eliminating it from your diet will make a difference.

Personally, I eat gluten. I don't have an issue with it. But I know many patients and family who don’t. My wife, for example, has celiac disease and has been eating gluten-free for almost a decade.  I know what you're thinking, "You're a Naturopathic Doctor, you're supposed to hate gluten!”. But most Naturopaths like me aren’t strident about gluten; rather, we take a balanced approach to gluten and diet strategies, employing some when they are appropriate and ignoring others when they aren't. 

I'm not saying I have never recommended a gluten-free diet, or any other type of diet that eliminates a certain food. I have, many times. But I describe these recommendations as more of a self-diagnostic tool to see how a client will feel not eating something. If they feel substantially better, I would suggest that they stop eating that food, at least for a while. If they feel only slightly better, we weigh the pros and cons of continuing eating or not eating that food, and continue the search for the culprit.

Another way to look at a gluten-free diet is as a starting point for a healthy change. I am well-aware that lots of unhealthy choices are gluten-free (pop, chips, etc), and lots of gluten-filled options are healthy (whole-grain bread, etc). When you go gluten-free, you are making a mindful choice to eat in a more deliberate way. I have had many patients who have tried a gluten-free diet even though I had a low suspicion that gluten was the culprit. What happens, without fail, is that they began to transform their eating habits - they cooked more meals at home and they read labels. In short, they became more aware of what they were eating. 

These are the first steps to having the most healthy diet you can. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

Beets Beat Disease

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Beet Month, sadly, is coming to a close. Now that you know how they work magic on your bloodstream, how they can boost your performance, and how many you need to eat, we’re going to close out Beet Month by showing you how they can help prevent some nasty diseases...and make your smarter.

Beets Help Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Canada, responsible for 29% of all deaths. So here's some good news: beets may play a role in preventing heart disease. As we noted earlier this month, the nitrates in beets have a relaxing, widening effect on our blood vessels. This effect is delivered by some types of medications for heart disease. Beets do it naturally.

There is evidence to support it too; beets have been shown to decrease blood pressure by about 4 points (-4.4/-1.1mmHg) [1]. This was achieved with the equivalent of just under 3 cups of sliced beets. So increasing your beet (and other veggie) consumption will decrease your blood pressure.

Beets Reduce the Effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is as exactly as terrible as it sounds: it’s lung disease associated with increasing breathlessness. With this breathlessness, your capacity for exercise diminishes. Declining exercise capacity is a strong predictor of worsening COPD. But beets can help: both with exercise capacity and with controlling blood pressure after exercise.

Research found that the consumption of beetroot juice allowed those with COPD to exercise for 30 seconds longer than those who didn’t have any [2]. It also lowered post-exercise blood pressure by 8 points (-8/-6mmHg).

Beets Fight Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition where the blood vessels in your limbs, usually legs, become narrowed. This narrowing leads to decreased blood flow, pain, and decreased exercise capacity.  Once again, beets can help.

Research found that 500mL of beetroot juice lead to an 18% increase in walking distance and 17% longer walking time for those with PAD [3]. Those are impressive gains!

Beets Improve Cognitive Functioning?

As a naturopathic doctor, I am especially excited by this new area of research. Studies indicate that beets have the potential to play a role in keeping your brain healthy as you age. How? By increasing blood flow to areas of the brain, of course.

Beetroot juice with about 5.5mmol of nitrates increased cerebral blood flow and improved cognitive function in a series of mental tests [4]. This means beets may be part of a treatment plan for various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

So what conclusion should we draw from all this science about the crimson tuber? Beets are indeed a super-veggie!

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

How Many Beets Do I Need to Eat?

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Somebody once said that February is the longest month of the year.  So to brighten it up, it’s beet month here on my blog! I’m a Naturopathic Doctor with Newfoundland and Eastern European roots, so the subject of beets is both of scientific and sentimental interest to me. They are not only delicious, they are also good for you.

Last week, I explained how beets can improve performance - you can read it here. If you were keen and clicked on some of the links to the research papers, you would have seen that all of the studies used a beetroot juice supplement

That does not sound delicious. 

Clearly, this is not like the beets in the average person's diet - I like mine baked with a little olive oil and salt. So if you're like me and prefer to get all of your nutrients through diet, how many beets do you need to eat every day?

First we have to figure how many nitrates you get from those baked beets. Nitrates are the magical substances in beets that improve performance and cardiovascular health. With some simple math we can figure out how many beets you need to eat to get the amount you need. 

The recommended daily intake of nitrates is 0.06 millimoles per litre (mmol) per kilogram of body weight. So a person who weighs 68kg (150lbs) should consume 4.08 mmol of nitrates daily. 

One cup (80g) of sliced beets has about 1.88 mmol of nitrate. So to get your daily nitrates requirement, you would have to consume over two cups of sliced beets. The athletes in the studies I referenced consumed the equivalent of twice that amount of beets, or FOUR cups, ninety minutes before exercise.

That’s a lot of beets, even if you love them as much as I do. 

So if you are an athlete and want immediate performance gains, use the beetroot supplements. Here is a link to one of the products used in the research (and yes, the product really is called "Beet It").

But for those of us who just want to improve cardiovascular health, the good news is beetroot is not the only veggie that is packed with high levels of nitrates: 4 cups of arugula has 3.35 mmol, 2.5 cups of spinach has 2.76 mmol, 1.5 cups of shredded lettuce has 2.44 mmol, and 3/4 cup of sliced radish has 2.4 mmol. 

What does this mean for you? If you are looking to improve your acute endurance, strength, or power performance, supplementing short term with beets and beetroot juice may give you an advantage. And for everyone else, a long-term diet full of beets and leafy vegetables provides nitrates and takes stress off your heart. So eat your veggies! 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake

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How Beets Help You Beat Your Competition

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Last week I highlighted why beets have a magical effect on blood flow and blood vessel health. While it's nice to know that something I have loved since childhood has such a positive impact on our health, the Naturopathic Doctor in me is asking what the effect is. Beets can help you perform longer, faster, and with more power - they could be the difference between winning and losing.

Beets Improve Endurance

If you compete in endurance events like marathons, or even just spinning classes at your gym, you know the smallest advantages can often lead to big results. If you a have personal best you want to beat, or just simply want to be the best, that's where beets can help; they can take your normal performance and instantly improvement it. 

Beets have been shown to decrease the amount of energy you use during endurance exercise [1] by helping your body use oxygen more efficiently [2, 3].  Science backs up this claim: research has shown beets can improve race times  [34,] and can help you exercise longer [5]. In fact, one study found that beets helped cyclists shave 12 seconds off their time in a 10 KM trial. That doesn’t sound like much, but just imagine trying to catch a cyclist 12 seconds ahead of you.

So load up on your beets in the days leading up to an event and you’ll see real results.

Beets Enhance Your Strength

But beets won't just add to your endurance. Research shows that beets can make you a rockstar during explosive high intensity interval workouts [67], sprints [8, 9], and weightlifting [10]. 

A recent study showed that weightlifters who consumed nitrates (found in beets) were at a significant advantage - they were able to do almost 20% more reps to failure. Total weight lifted was also considerably higher than their non-beet-eating competitors.

If your wondering how much you need to eat to get these benefits, watch for my post next week. Next week I'll be covering the best way to eat your beets. 

If you have any questions about how to implement some healthy changes to help you reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book and appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Oake

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Beets, Beets, Magical Beets

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For the month of February we will be highlighting one of my favourite vegetables to grow, eat, and recommend: beets!

I come from a Lithuanian background, so I have been eating beets practically since birth. We eat them boiled, steamed, grated into soup (hot and cold), pickled - you name it, we've got a way to prepare beets. 

It wasn't until years later when I became a Naturopathic Doctor that I learned how magical beets truly are. Even though some may describe their flavour as "Earthy" or like a "damp basement”, there is no denying that these purple tubers swing a massive health punch. The foremost of these magical health benefits is improved blood flow and blood vessel health. But why do they have this magical effect? 

It's All About Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a substance in our bodies that promotes relaxation of blood vessel walls, leading to widening of the vessels, greater blood flow, and reduced stress on the heart. The more nitric oxide in our bodies, the better.

Our bodies have more than one way to make Nitric Oxide

Of course our bodies naturally have a system for making NO, however, the starting point for each pathway is different. The main difference is: when our bodies make NO it requires oxygen, whereas, when inorganic nitrites are used oxygen is not needed. This means that in situations where oxygen is low (lung disease, anemia, heart disease, exercise, etc), inorganic nitrates could help by increasing delivery of blood to muscle and other tissues.

What does this have to do with beets?

While nitrates are found in all vegetables, it’s especially abundant in beets. Recent research suggests that adding  nitrate-rich beets to your diet can not only decrease blood pressure but also reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance. 

So that’s why I tell my patients to eat their beets! They’re very good for you - and delicious. And that makes the naturopath - and Lithuanian- in me very happy!

Pay attention to next week's post as we will dive into some of the research, as well as provide helpful tips on how to eat your beets.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake, ND

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