VooDoo Floss Compression Bands : Say bye-bye to aches & pains AND say hello to super-fast workout recovery

Every year, we spend approximately a bazillion dollars on all manner of treatments for pain in our necks, backs, feet, shoulders, etc.

Sadly, most of that pain is due to inactivity, poor posture, sitting too long in front of tvs & computer screens, poor training form, etc.

If only there was a way to quickly and inexpensively eliminate those aches and pains?

VooDoo Floss Bands

Way back in 2011, I saw the following Youtube video (with Dr. Kelly Starrett and uber-strong man Donny Thompson) highlighting the use of DISTRACTION and COMPRESSION to help repair shoulder dysfunction…which I happened to be suffering from at the time.

The very next day, I…

  1. Ordered a pair of compression bands, and
  2. Started rehabbing my bad shoulder with the distraction technique.

After 6 days…

  1. My shoulder felt a LOT more stable and was noticeably less painful. I had also resumed resistance training with my focus on rehab.
  2. The compression bands arrived in the mail.

After 2 days of compression & distraction rehab…I was able to press an 80 lb dumbbell overhead with ZERO pain in my formerly-bad shoulder.

In another week, my shoulder felt better than it had in a long, long, long time.

In the 5 years since then…Crossfit exploded in popularity…helping Dr. Starrett become THE mobility  & athletic performance guru…and compression bands became very popular amongst weightlifters, crossfitters, powerlifters AND physiotherapists.

Fast forward to today…and it’s just about time for compression bands (and associated rehabilitation techniques like Donnie Thompson’s distraction technique) to enter the mainstream.

Instead of spending big bucks on massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture, etc, it’s time for “normal” people to take advantage of this amazing rehab technique and…

For $65, you will be getting the knowledge and the gear required to keep your joints healthy, strong and pain-free.

And if you don’t want to drop the extra $$$ on Kelly’s book, I have sourced the best “how-to-use-compression bands-to-fix-my-busted-up-body” videos from the Youtubes. They are organized by joint/bodypart.

Note: If you follow the above links (and make a purchase), Rogue fitness will give me 5% of the purchase price as a finder’s fee. It won’t cost you any extra and the dough will go straight into my daughter’s education fund.

If you have any questions about the rehab techniques, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook

Wrist / Forearms

Elbow

 

Shoulder

 

 

Hip / Thigh

Knee

 

Calves

Ankle

Feet

 

 

The Top Weight Loss Supplements for 2016

Unlike a lot of personal trainers, I am not a big fan of weight loss supplements.

In the 20+ years I have been transforming bodies, my clients have sculpted new bodies thanks to:

  1. A total commitment to eating healthy, and
  2. Exercising smarter.

However, there have always been a minority of clients that have needed some help in the form of supplements or pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, in the past 5 – 10 years, that small percentage has been growing and growing.

I don’t know if it’s…

  • genetically modified foods,
  • the chemicals found in processed food,
  • a lifetime of poor food choices manifesting as broken metabolisms

Whatever it is, more and more of my clients NEED weight loss supplements to help boost the effectiveness of their new diet and fitness routines.

Because of this, I have put together a report of the top weight loss supplements for 2016.

Starting with a list of 30 popular weight loss compounds, I used the big data of Google Trends to identify the most popular weight loss supplements as decided by the millions of people who use Google to research weight loss supplements.

  • No marketing B.S. 
  • No fraudulent claims from supplement companies
  • No advertorials masquerading as honest information

Just pure data collected by the giant brains at Google.

With all that data, I was able to identify:

  1. The top weight loss supplements for 2015, and more importantly 
  2. The projected top weight loss supplements for 2016.

SO….HOW DO YOU GET THE REPORT?

  • If you are an email subscriber to @healthhabits, you don’t have to do anything. A copy of the report should be sitting in your inbox right now. If not, shoot me an email, and I will get one to you asap.
  • If you don’t already subscribe to @healthhabits email updates, hit the button below, follow the sign-up procedure and a report  will be flying to your inbox in mere seconds.

fitbit surge healthhabits review

Fitbit Surge Review : Is this the fitness tracker you’ve been looking for?

When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, steps are just the beginning. Fitbit tracks every part of your day – including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep – to help find your fit, stay motivated and see how small steps make a big difference.

https://fitbit.com

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Fitbit via Mode Media>. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Fitbit.

As per my policy on review articles, I only post reviews of products & services that I would recommend to my “real world” clients and I only request payment when a company wants time-limited exclusivity, meaning that I won’t review a competing product for a specified period of time. This is one such case.

When a rep from Fitbit called me last fall and asked if I wanted to review Fitbit’s Surge fitness tracker / wearable / watch, my initial reaction was…NO WAY!!!

I have tried out LOTS of fitness trackers over the years…with the end result being that after a few months, all of them found their way into the back of a drawer and were never heard from again.

Don’t get me wrong. The data that I received from most of my previous fitness trackers was useful, but only to a point. Up until now, fitness trackers were great for runners & walkers, but pretty much useless for anything else.

And while I wasn’t surprised that the Fitbit Surge has the latest & greatest technology for runners:

  • Measuring heart rate in real time right from your wrist without having to push any buttons while you run.
  • Using that real-time heart rate data to gauge & adjust training intensity on the fly.
  • A built-in GPS giving you data on pace, distance, elevation, floors climbed, split times, route history, route map and workout summaries to help you adjust your running program as needed.

Even with all this, I still wasn’t interested in doing the review. Like most fitness folk, I do more than go for a run or a walk.

  • I lift weights,
  • I sprint hills.
  • I do yoga.
  • I circuit train.
  • I do a bunch of different stuff.

That’s when the Mr. Fitbit smarty-pants told me that the Surge can be used to track all sorts of different workouts:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Cross-training
  • Hiking
  • Pilates
  • Weight training
  • Spinning
  • Circuit training
  • Yoga
  • and more

By now, I was a little intrigued. But, I still said no because as cool as this thing was sounding, my history with previous fitness trackers told me that:

  • I would still end up putting it on for workouts…
  • Taking it off for the rest of the day…
  • Occasionally forgetting to put it on in the morning…
  • And eventually losing track of it altogether until it popped up at the back of my junk drawer in the kitchen.

What I needed was a good reason to wear this thing. Something more than all the fitness tracking technology.

Here’s my reasoning:

  • Most of us used to wear a watch.
  • But, as soon as we all got mobile phones, a lot of us ditched our watches because our phones had a clock.

Why did we do that?

  • Pulling your phone out of a pocket is much less convenient than a quick glance at your wrist.  
  • Why would we abandon a superior piece of time-telling technology for an inferior one?

Simple.

  • The annoyance of carrying two pieces of technology outweighed the annoyance of having to dig your phone out of your jeans when you wanted to check the time.

Don’t believe me?

  • My clients who self-identify as runners wear their fitness trackers 24 hours a day.
  • My clients who don’t identify as runners wear their fitness trackers for workouts and take them off when they settle in for the night at home.
  • Normal people (who want to be fit) buy fitness trackers and eventually stick them in drawers.

Unless the annoyance of wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist is significantly outweighed by the benefits, it’s gonna end up in the back of your junk drawer in the kitchen. Believe that.

So I asked Mr. Fitbit…what can the Fitbit Surge do to make my life better, in addition to improving my health & physical fitness?

Mr. Fitbit replied that the Surge will allow you to:

  • See who is calling or texting you on your mobile phone without having to pull it out of your pocket
  • Pause or fast forward your phone’s music player QUICKLY and EASILY while you are working out.

Two things that would make my life just a little bit easier, and would get me to wear a watch for the first time in over 5 years.

Here’s my review:

Looking at the technology, the Surge has all the functions I want in a fitness tracker…

fitbit surge review - ultimate fitness super watch fitbit surge review app fitness

  • GPS Tracking & Mapping
  • Continuous heart rate readings. 24 hours a day. No straps. No clips.
  • Continuous activity monitoring
  • Multi-sport functionality
  • Workout intensity monitoring
  • Sleep Monitor – quality & quantity
  • An excellent (IMHO) Computer / Smartphone app interface….very simple & intuitive.

fitbit surge review app fitness

    • It also works with a bunch of third party health & fitness apps. Which is great if you’re already an active member in one of the major online fitness communities.

And if you’re not part of an existing online fitness community or online fitness training advice service or motivation app, Fitbit also allows you to contact/challenge/praise/shame your fitness friends as well as make new friends via the Fitbit community.

Note: Fitbit also offers a “premium” service, providing personal training, nutrition & sleep consulting. I didn’t try this service, so I have no idea how good (or bad) it is.

Moving on to the reason why I decided to review the Surge

I couldn’t be much happier with the Surge, because in addition to all the cool fitness tech, it made my smartphone even smarter.

Call & Text Message Monitoring

      • With the Surge, I can monitor phone calls & text messages during situations when I “can’t” check my phone .i.e. during business meetings,
      • Or when I’m walking, running, working out, etc,
      • Or when it’s charging across the room.

Music Player Control

Not as big a deal as the call/text monitoring, but still pretty useful for me.

When I’m working out at the gym or running, I use my smartphone as a music player. Sometimes, I need to pause the music or skip one of my less favorite songs.

Prior to testing out the Surge, I had to pull out my phone, open the screen-lock, open the player and pause/skip to the next song. I realize this is the very definition of a first world problem, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to just reach over to my wrist and push the pause or FF button

You’re going to appreciate this when someone interrupts your workout at the gym.

Things I would change about the Fitbit Surge

      1. The display is a back lit monochrome LCD display. Considering that competitors like the Microsoft Band and the upcoming Apple Watch both have high definition OLED screens, the Surge LCD touchscreen looks very 2014.
      2. While the phone call/text notifications are FANTASTIC, it would be nice to receive notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not essential, but nice.
      3. Re music player control, some people prefer to use streaming services rather than playlists stored on their phones. Control of these services would be great for those users.
      4. Style wise, it would be nice if Fitbit had an option that looked less like a sports-watch and more like a watch-watch…something that would look nice with a suit.

NOTE: Online, the Fitbit Surge is getting compared mainly to the Apple Watch. And I have a bit of a problem with that comparison. While the Surge gives you on-board GPS and optical heart rate monitoring, the Apple watch uses less accurate optical heart rate sensors and the watch doesn’t have GPS.

Which kinda sucks if you bought the Apple watch to be your fitness tracker.

It’s like comparing these two pair of shoes.

basketball-shoes

Sure, they both look like basketball shoes, but each was designed with different purposes and for different consumers. One’s a fashion shoe. The other is a fitness shoe.

  • The Apple watch is a smartwatch with fitness features.
  • The Fitbit Surge is a fitness tracker with smartwatch features.

Which one you choose depends on your needs for the product. At least, IMHO.

NOTE: I have no idea if Fitbit is looking into adding more smartwatch-esque features in the Surge 2.0 or if they looked into them already but decided against them due to cost constraints.

I’m pretty sure they could have put in an OLED display and added more connectivity options, but that stuff costs money…which would be reflected in the purchase price.

Maybe Fitbit could offer two different Surge versions…the current version at $250 and a second version with OLED screen & Twitter updates for $350.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the strongest recommendation I can give in support of the Fitbit Surge is that I very seldom take it off and I have no plans to stick it in my kitchen junk drawer.

  • At first, I fiddled around with the watch commands…swiping the touch screen, pushing buttons…trying to get the thing to do what I wanted it to do.
  • After a few days, I was pretty good with it and was developing a habit of using the watch and checking my dashboard daily.
  • After a few weeks, I was really comfortable using the watch and I had developed a dashboard routine that took about 2 minutes per day.
  • As I was already a giant fitness nerd, I didn’t exactly need the Surge to motivate me to exercise.
  • What it did allow me to do what get a better handle on how my training was affecting my overall health.
  • As a result, I have made some minor lifestyle & exercise changes which have paid off nicely. Definitely worth the $250.

At the end of the day, I can heartily endorse the Fitbit Surge.

Like this article?

Subscribe to @healthhabits and my friends at Mail Chimp will make sure that every time I scribble an article for @healthhabits, it will end up in your email inbox.

In addition to the articles, I will be writing a series of Special Reports this year exclusively for @healthhabits subscribers.

Subscribe now and make sure you don’t miss out.

button subscribe

3 Pieces of Fantastic Fitness Equipment

I am a giant fitness geek. This means that when I see a new piece of fitness equipment…I want to buy it.

  • Unfortunately, a lot of fitness equipment sucks…case in point – the Ab Circle Pro.

Fortunately, there are a few pieces of fantastic fitness equipment that are worth the money. Here are three of them:

1.  The Hammer Head Anchor Gym

In my humble opinion, the Hammer Head anchor gym is a truly fantastic piece of fitness equipment that should be in every home gym.

  • I use it for strength training
  • I use it for flexibility training
  • I use it for mobility training
  • I use it for energy system training
  • It takes up almost zero space
  • It’s cost effective
  • And it’s safe

For years and years and years, I have used a set of high quality resistance bands with all of my clients. They are portable, never break, are versatile and allow me to do just about everything that I can do in a full commercial gym without turning my client’s rec room into a health club. The only requirement that I need from my clients is something solid to attach the bands to…usually a piece of cardio equipment – treadmill, bike, elliptical, etc… It isn’t the perfect set-up for resistance-band strength training, but
it was okay until…

…I got my hands on the Hammer Head anchor gym. The multiple attachment points have allowed me to get way more creative with my selection of exercises. For example, earlier today…

  • I had a client perform a circuit involving a standing two-arm chest press…with the added resistance of a resistance band looped around her waist.
  • In addition to the work being performed by her chest, triceps & front delts, she was also stressing her core muscles as well as stabilizers in her ankles & hips as she resisted being pulled backwards by the band around her waist.
  • As soon as she finished the chest press set, I had her jump immediately into a set of shuffle lunges with the added resistance of the band looped around her waist.

hammerhead h2 home gym strength bands fitness health

For less than $200, they now have a home gym with a lifetime guarantee that takes up zero floor space.

Love it, love it. love it.

Next PageThe Glasstic Water Bottle….

TellSpec answers the question…what is in that food?

Imagine for a second that you are someone who…

  • is trying to lose weight, or
  • is allergic to peanuts, or
  • is lactose intolerant, or
  • doesn’t want to eat foods laced with pesticides, or
  • just wants to know what is in that food that they just picked up at the supermarket.

In 2013…what you would do is take a quick look at the nutritional info on the back of the package, or pull out your smartphone and consult an app that gives you the nutritional info of the average sized apple or serving of pasta salad or the nutritional info claimed by Senor Nacho Grande.

nacho chips label nutrition

In 2014, what you’re going to do is whip out your TellSpec scanner…

  • aim the TellSpec scanner at that bowl of nacho chips,
  • press the button until it beeps
  • firing a low-powered laser at the chips,
  • measuring the reflected light with a nano spectrometer, and
  • sending those measurements up to TellSpec’s cloud servers
tellspec spectrometer
The TellSpec scanner sorts these photons by wavelength and counts them. The resulting numbers, called a spectrum, describe the chemical compounds in the food.

Once in the TellSpec cloud, the data will be analyzed using a proprietary mathematical algorithm. And in less than 20 seconds, TellSpec will send the results of all that number crunching and nanophotonics back down to your smart phone, computer or tablet

tellspec phone1

Letting you know EXACTLY what is in that food you are (or were) about to eat. TellSpec will give you the…

  • Calories
  • Macronutrients
  • Micronutrients
  • Allergens
  • Chemicals
  • Ingredients

tellspec phone2

Letting you make an INFORMED decision about the food you were about to eat…or serve to your child.

  • Which could be kind of a big deal if you have a problem feeding your kid nacho chips laced with Tartrazine – a food dye made from petroleum – known to cause CANCER. (funny how the manufacturer never mentioned the tartrazine in their nutritional info graph)
  • It could also be a big deal if your kid is allergic to peanuts…which is about 99% of all kids nowadays.
  • It could also be a big deal if the reason you keep getting headaches every day is because you are sensitive to gluten or dairy or MSG or any of the chemicals found in processed foods.

tellspec phone3

And because TellSpec can track what you eat, as well as how you feel after eating, it can help identify potential food sensitivities and allow you to make changes to your diet with or without the help of your MD.

It can also track your caloric consumption, your distribution of macronutrients (carbs/fat & protein), which micronutrients are missing from your diet as well as advise you to cut back on the canned tuna sandwiches (Google tuna & mercury levels for more info).

tellspec phone4

How Cool is That?

If you’re anything like me, your mind has just been blown away by the TellSpec scanner.

And it gets even better. TellSpec is developing a software development kit that will provide developers with tools for directly accessing the food analysis data from our servers so that they can create their own amazing applications. The SDK includes source code for iPhone and Android apps, an API for TellSpec’s analysis engine, JSON specifications for data interchange, and access to information about each nutrient, chemical, allergen, and ingredient.

Unlike the fine folks at Apple and most other tech companies, the really fine folks (Isabel & Stephen) want all of the world’s software geeks to push the TellSpec technology even farther to provide even more value for the end user.

Where Can You Get a TellSpec Scanner?

You can’t get one yet 😦 The TellSpec is still in development, and as of October 1, 2013…

  • They have developed the analysis engine, coded it, and tested it, 
  • They have successfully tested three prototype scanners, including one using a nanochip,
  • They have finished the industrial design for the scanner,
  • They are well along with the user interface design;
  • and they have been doing an independent validation of the underlying algorithm.  

Now What?

If you want one of these bad boys, you can get one by supporting their IndieGoGo campaign – hurry up…time is running out.

Open your HTML editor and load the file that has the iframe coded.

2
Type “align=middle” into the HTML iframe code. The code below is an example of a centered iframe:

This code centers the internal page within the iframe.

3
Use a div tag to center the iframe within the web page. The code below encapsulates the iframe and centers it on your web page.

4
Save the page. Use your web browser to test the new settings. Open the page in a web browser and view the iframe location. It’s now centered on the page.

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how_5825834_center-iframe.html#ixzz2kMJXJiek

Here’s what they need – $650,000

Here’s what they need the money for:

  • Manufacturing the TellSpec scanner and get all the regulatory approvals needed to ship it.
  • Deploying the food analysis engine on servers that reliably provide quick analysis of the spectra.
  • Developing the SDK for Android and iOS platforms so others can build exciting apps.

Personally, I ponied up $420 to become a beta tester of the TellSpec scanner because I can’t wait for the production models and because I am totally geeked by the potential of this technology. I will be meeting with the founders of TellSpec next week to discuss the beta testing procedure as well as potential future applications for the technology.

Conclusion

For $150, you can grab one of 500 Early Bird Specials – You’ll receive one TellSpec scanner and two years of unlimited analysis of your food scans. Once those 500 spots are gone, the price shoots up to $200 for the next 500 people and then up to $250 for the next 3000 people.

I have no idea what they are going to cost once the IndieGoGo campaign is closed and they go on sale to the general public. But I have a feeling they’ll cost more than $250.

tellspec scanner

Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to have one of these bad boys before they go on sale at Amazon and Best Buy?

The Absolute Best Barefoot Running Shoe

Last year, I reviewed the Skora Base running shoe. In that review, I concluded that the Skora Base was an excellent barefoot/minimalist/natural running shoe. Excellent…but not perfect.

  • The soles were very durable, giving the shoe a very long life
  • Great ventilation = reduced stinkfoot
  • I received lots of positive feedback on how the shoes look…not important, but nice
  • Easy to slip on…way easier than Vibrams
  • A little on the heavy side for a barefoot shoe
  • Comfortable as heck
  • Designed to encourage “natural” walking/running gaits
  • A toe box roomier than standard running shoes but not as roomy as some uber-barefoots
  • Zero heel drop
  • Average sole thinkness – not super thin like Sockwa but way better than a lot of “barefoot” shoes. This give them decent ground feel.
  • And the unfortunate feature that when my cross-training workouts got a little hot & sweaty, I found that lateral stability became a significant issue. Not a big deal if you’re running around a track, but if you’re bounding through the woods or playing a little tennis, I found that I was almost sliding sideways out of my shoes.

So….when I heard that Skora has two new models for 2013, I was curious to see if Skora had addressed my personal issues with their kicks. And they have.

With two new models…. The Phase and the Core.

phase x skora

Here are the upgrades…

  • The toe box is roomier in both styles- I can now wiggle my toes while wearing both the Skora Phase and the Skora Core
  • The new for 2013 synthetic upper Phase is lighter than my synthetic upper Base shoes. 7.2 oz v.s. 7.9 oz
  • The new for 2013 leather upper Core is lighter than the previous leather upper Form shoes. 8.1 oz 8.2 oz (not much of a diff here)
  • Both of the new styles are using a new injection blown rubber outsole giving both the Phase and Core a “grippier” feel and an increased ability to feel the ground beneath your shoes. This new sole reminds me of the sole Leming uses.
  • And finally, both shoes have much improved lateral stability. This might be due to the new lamination process used to bond the upper materials and overlays without stitching. Skora claims “this results in a stronger, more durable upper with less seams to let in water or rub against the skin”. All I can tell you is that I am not sliding around in this shoe.

So, all in all, both of these new Skoras – the synthetic Phase and the goatskin leather Core get two great big enthusiastic thumbs-up from yours truly.

SKORA_CORE-M03_medial_34_3

If you want to learn a little more about the specifics of these shoes, please continue reading…

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.
Where my old Skora Base shoes have a 9mm Forefoot/heel stack height (sole 4mm, midsole 5mm), the new Skora Phases and Skora Cores have both been reduced down to 8mm while changing the sole material from a high abrasion rubber to a grippier injection blown rubber. Defintely an upgrade in my mind.
SKORA_CORE-M03_outsole_36_3
  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

I can’t get over how much this shift to injection blown rubber has made on the proprioception capabilities of these new Skoras. As mentioned above, both the Phase and Base are 1 mm thinner. And unless you are the princess from the Princess and the Pea, I doubt you can tell the difference. But there definitely is a difference in ground feel with these new Skoras. It has to be the new rubber.

SKORA_PHASE-M03_top_59_3

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Like the older model Skora Base & Form, this is where I believe Skora really separates itself from the rest of the barefoot/minimalist/natural shoe pack. Unlike some minimalist shoes which basically slap some rubber onto the bottom of a polyester sock, the Skora engineers have created an aysmmetric last shape with a curved bottom profile. And it’s that curved outsole which is supposed to mimic the natural foot shape and encourage a natural medial to lateral rolling motion which makes the Skora truly unique. And with the now wider toe box, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Unlike any other minimalist shoe that I have ever worn, the Skora Base actually makes you run naturally. No more falling back into old patterns of heel striking.

All 4 models of Skora running shoes (Core, Form, Phase and Base) will have you landing midfoot and absorbing impact as your feet were originally designed. And while that may not be a huge deal for someone (me) who has spent years re-training their neuro-muscular system and suffering though freakishly tight calves and the converted their bodies to a minimalist style of running, it is a gigantic deal for someone who wants to start running ala barefoot put has spent years running heel-toe. For this one feature alone, I can’t say enough good things about Skora.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Both of these 2013 models are lighter than their predeccesors – with the Skora Phase weighing 7.2 oz and the Skora Core weighing 8.1 oz. Not the lightest barefoot shoes on the market, but light enough that you probably will never notice the difference. Next page – the review continues…

3 Pieces of Fitness Gear that You Need to Buy Right Now!!!!

Back in the olden days, human beings performed manual labor every day. They walked, ran, lifted, carried, dragged, pulled and pushed. Today, most of us spend our days sitting, typing, reading, talking and googling.

As a result, modern humans are fatter, weaker and sicklier than our ancestors. And while some of us are okay with this side-effect of our modern society, a growing percentage of the population isn’t. After leaving their physically inactive jobs for the day, they head over to the gym and spend a big chunk of their free time trying to get stronger, leaner and healthier.

Unfortunately, most of those people start their fitness journey with no idea how they should go about getting stronger, leaner and healthier…and thus fall prey to the marketing promises of the fitness / weight loss industry….a multi-billion dollar business sector that relies on hype and promises…pumping hundreds of new books, dvds, pills, potions and pieces of fitness gear onto the market every year…promising amazing physical transformations…

fat-to-fitt

…and unfortunately, most of this fitness gear is crap.

Luckily for us, amongst all that health & fitness detrius, there are always a few products that…

  • Do what they promise
  • Are worth much more than their purchase price
  • Deserve all the social media love that we can shower upon them.

Here are three of those products

1.  GLOBE GRIPZ

globe grips grip strength

For my personal training clients, Globe Gripz do two important things.

  1. They makes their hands stronger..which allows them to make the rest of their body stronger.
  2. They magically eliminate shoulder joint impingements…eliminating pain, preventing injury and allowing us to reverse decades-old structural issues.

How?

  1. The increased diameter of the Globe Gripz forces your hands to work harder to hold onto the implement – dumbbell, barbell, kettlebells, band, chin-up bar, etc. The increased workload leads to increased muscular strength in forearm, hand, finger strength.
  2. The baseball shape of the Globe Gripz allows my clients to use a neutral grip (see middle image) which reduces the strain, impingement and chance of injury on their elbow and shoulder joints.

It’s a really simple piece of fitness equipment and for less than the price of a single physical therapy session, I have seen my single pair of Globe Gripz help a whole bunch of clients get rid of sore shoulders while make significant gains in grip and overall upper-body strength. They’re a must-buy.

2. BECOMING A SUPPLE LEOPARD

For the past 27 years, I have lifted heavy things, sprinted up hills, jumped over obstacles and bashed into trees, fences and other human beings. And as a result of my somewhat insane behaviour, I have developed more than a few aches and pains. And up until about two years ago, I spent a fair amount of cash on physical therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc, to help minimize those aches and pains.

But since I discovered Kelly Starrett and his MobilityWOD videos, I spend a lot more time fixing my own aches and pains and a lot less money having someone else to do it for me.

Imagine my surprise when I heard rumours that Kelly was working on a book that would take all that video goodness and re-assemble it into book form…complete with an index chapters dedicated to specific injuries/treatments along with step-by-step pictures showing how to perform all of his painful yet awesome rehabilitation exercises.

I was totally geeked. Unfortunately, those rumours started about a year ago and the book was only released on April 23.

Since April 23, I have read the book at least 10 times. Seriously.

If you have aches and pains..or if you exercise on a regular basis..or if you are aging like the rest of us..or you want to be fitter/healthier..or you know someone who fits this description…

BUY THIS BOOK  and save a TON of money on physio, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc….

3. YOGA TUNE UP

yoga-tune-up

Jill Miller and her Yoga Tune Up program was introduced to me when Kelly Starrett  featured her in a few of his MobilityWOD videos. In particular, it was this video on diaphragm mechanics that really captured my attention.

Such a simple movement…with a truly powerful impact on the type of aches and pains that sitting in a chair inflicts upon all of us.

After seeing this video, I contacted Jill via Twitter and asked if she would be willing to send me a bunch of Yoga Tune Up stuff with the promise that if I loved it, I would write up a review article. She said yes…and sent me a bunch of videos and therapy balls. And for the past month or so, I have been beta-testing the videos.

The verdict?

Everyone who has tried these videos more than three times has raved about them…me included. And this is coming from a guy who hates, hates, hates yoga classes.

        

Jill’s program is a weird and wonderful combination of yoga, calisthenics, corrective exercise, movement techniques and body therapy….designed to repair damaged muscle tissue, increase overall strength, create balance, increase flexibility, improve coordination, reduce stress and bolster the immune system.

And while I can’t comment on the immune system boosting, I sure as heck can confirm that doing Jill’s dvds 3 x per week will loosen up your knots, reduce that pain in your neck/back and have you moving, standing and sitting in weirdly graceful manner. I will continue to use her dvds and therapy balls and have recommended them to all of my clients.

Like Kelly Starrett and the folks at Globe Gripz, Jill has put together a unique program that produces massive results with a minimal time and financial commitment…..unlike all of those D-Bags who sell crappy fitness gear on late-night infomercials.

Jaybird Bluebuds X Wireless Bluetooth Headphones : The BEST Exercise Headphones???

As a “moderately successful” health & fitness blogger, I am constantly getting emails & tweets from companies that want me to plug their products.

After informing them that my policy for product reviews requires that I test their product with a number of my training clients and that I only post reviews of products/services that get an enthusiastic thumbs-up from ALL my guinea-pigs, most of the companies decide to pass on the review.

One of the companies that didn’t disappear was JayBird.

Jaybird makes a line of wireless bluetooth headphones designed for athletes and people who like to get sweaty on a regular basis.

For this experiment, Jaybird sent me a pair of their BlueBuds X to beta-test.

Here are the results of my real-world beta-test…

  • Taking phone calls while driving….PASS
  • Making voice activated phone calls…PASS
  • Stability and sound quality while jogging…PASS
  • Stability and sound quality while playing some shinny…PASS
  • Stability and sound quality while performing a highly-active resistance training workout…PASS

I also made use of the X-Fit clips which get rid of any dangling cord and let the Buds fit snug against the back of your neck. Normally, I won’t use this feature as my business requires me to be available via my cellphone, BUT when I do decide to block out the rest of the world, I will definitely use this feature.[/box]

With the cord snug behind your neck, you don’t feel the headphones at all.

Conclusion?

I can highly recommend the Bluebuds X as a day-to-day bluetooth headphone for hands-free use while driving AND as a seriously BADASS pair of sport/exercise/workout bluetooth headphones.

Reebok Nano 2 Shoe Review

The Reebok Nano 2 isn’t your run of the mill athletic shoe. It’s equal parts…

  • Barefoot/Minimalist shoe
  • Running shoe
  • Gym workout shoe

And unlike most of the hybrid shoes I have beta-tested in the past few years, it does a great job at blending the best parts of these three very different styles of athletic shoe.

reebok-nano-2.0

  • It provides better stability than a pure barefoot shoe. This is important if you’re participating in activities that require rapid changes of direction – soccer, tennis, sprinting, fitness classes, football, Zumba dance fitness, ultimate frisbee, interval training workouts, etc.

Your foot stays in place when you’re moving from side to side or exploding from a dead-start into a full-out sprint.

  • Unlike most running shoes that have a built-up heel and force you into an unhealthy heel-toe running form, the almost completely flat profile of the Nano 2.0 allows you to adopt a natural “barefoot”  running style.

barefoot-running

  • But before you go thinking that the Nano is a true minimalist/barefoot shoe, we need to look at the sole of the shoe. Because, unlike most barefoot shoes, the Nano has a thicker sole & midsole designed to…
  1. Provide more cushioning for runners, and
  2. Provide a flat, stable base for weightlifting

As this shoe was designer for Crossfitters who do all manner of exercise, this was the most necessary design feature of the shoe. And in my humble opinion, Reebok has done a fine job of engineering.

I have been running in barefoot/minimalist shoes for years, and while I did notice the loss of “ground-feel” caused by the thickness of the sole/midsole, I had no problems going for a 30 minute jog prior to hitting the gym for a resistance training workout.

[box type=”note”]This rigid sole would be a drawback for trail runners who want to “feel” the ground conditions and run “naturally”. Due to this, I wouldn’t recommend the Nano 2.0 for trail running or for runners who require high levels of proprioception.[/box]

  • While the Nano doesn’t provide optimal proprioceptive feedback, it does provide one of the most important features of a barefoot shoe – natural foot movement

The wide toe box and “natural” foot shape allows your foot to move as it was designed to move. Unlike most fitness shoes with a narrow toe box and all manner of corrective technology, the Nano 2.0 doesn’t force your foot into any un-natural positions. And this is a very very good thing.

reebok-nano-2.0-top-view

 All in all, I am a big fan of this shoe. I have used them over the past month for a wide variety of workouts and I wasn’t disappointed by them once.

And I don’t think you will be either.

Brooks Pure Connect – Barefoot Shoe Review

Alright, I’m back again with another Barefoot / Minimalist shoes review and this time I’m looking at the Brooks Pure Connect running shoes.

Like the Reebok RealFlex, the Brooks Pure Connect is an attempt by one of the major running shoe manufacturers to expand upon it’s standard “heel-toe” style of running shoe and enter the barefoot/minimalist shoe universe (shoeniverse???)

And like the RealFlex, the Brooks Pure Connect attempts to maintain some aspects of their standard runners while adopting the qualities of barefoot running shoes that they feel are most vital.

Let’s see how they did.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The Brooks Pure Connect protects your feet more like a traditional running shoe than the much thinner soles of most barefoot shoes. Note that this increased protection from sharp objects will result in a trade-off with respect to proprioception and stiffness.

Unlike their traditional runners, Brooks has attempted to create a more mobile sole by creating a split in starting just to the inside of your big toe and running towards your midsole. You can see how they are trying to straddle the fence by trying to blend the uber-flexibility of a minimalist sole with the protection and performance of a standard Brooks running shoe.
  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Compared to Lemings or Sockwas, the Brook Pure Connect has horrible proprioception. Compared to Nike Free and the Reebok Real Flex , the Pure Connect is equal if not superior. The split sole does not give the foot mobility that it claims, but all in all, there is more ground-feel than with the Nikes or Reeboks.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Unlike companies that specialize in barefoot/minimalist shoes, Brooks and other mainstream athletic shoe manufacturers are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to creating their barefoot shoes. They realize that this market niche is growing very quickly, but there is no way that they are going to abandon the technology of their standard running shoes and go 100% minimalist. Ain’t gonna happen. They sell way too many “standard” running shoes.

What Brooks has done is recognize that different runners like to run…differently. Brooks sees all of these runners as fitting somewhere along the line of their Float vs Feel continuum of running styles & shoes. This video explains the concept.

The Pure Connect is the most extreme example of a Brooks “Feel” shoe.

  •  To that end, Brooks has split the outer sole of the shoe to make it more flexible than their standard runners. And in that regard, they have succeeded. However, compared to shoes created by companies that specialize in barefoot/minimalist shoes, this shoe is much, much stiffer.
  • Brooks is also using an anatomical last that is less restrictive than their standard models. As well, the sock liner is removable…producing an even more natural feel.
  • They have also minimized the size of the heel to help new-to-barefoot runners adapt to a mid-foot strike. This design feature is similar to the one used by Skora.

[box type=”note”]One area of natural foot movement where Brooks really missed the mark is with shoe width.[/box]

This shoe is way too narrow.

  • My wife has a very narrow foot and she loves these shoes. LOVES THEM.
  • Me…wide feet – couldn’t even fit into them.
  • My third guinea pig – normal feet – could squeeze them in, but they were too tight and didn’t allow his feet to spread as he ran.
 Note – Brooks seems to have addressed this concern with their new-for-2013 shoe – the Pure Drift
  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Mens – 7.2 oz  Womens – 6.5 oz…it’s a light shoe

Next page – the review continues…

3 completely badass fitness products that you’re GONNA buy…or else.

Alright….maybe badass isn’t the appropriate description for these products.

None of them are going to smack you around for being a pair of idiot skinheads starting trouble on a public bus.

But they will help you :

  • make your feet work better
  • reduce associated pain
  • pack on muscle faster than cheap internet steroids

Correct Toes

Dr. Ray McClanahan (podiatric physician) believes that the best way to treat most foot problems is by allowing the foot to function exactly as nature intended. Unfortunately, the shoes you are wearing right probably don’t do that. This realization is why so many people are giving barefoot / minimalist shoes a try. Unfortunately, if you have been wearing “normal” shoes for most of your life, switching to a barefoot shoe isn’t going to fix your feet.

This is where the Correct Toes spacer can help. They are designed to spread your toes into their natural and correct position…improving “proprioception, which then allows the brain to better promote balance and optimal muscle function”.

Paired with a quality pair of barefoot / minimalist shoes, Correct Toes returns your foot to its natural state, treating most foot problems, and by extension, many musculoskeletal problems.

Sidewalk Surfers from Sanuk

There is no point in buying the Correct Toes spacer and fixing your gnarly old feet if you’re going to keep shoving them into a pair of “normal” shoes and scrunching them together like some masochistic Chinese foot binding experiment. What you need to do is buy a pair (or two) of barefoot / minimalist shoes that allow your feet to move as they were originally intended.

And that’s one of the reasons why I have been wearing a pair of Sanuk Chibas all summer long.

Some of the other reasons are…

  1. they are comfortable as heck,
  2. can be worn on the beach AND with casual clothes,
  3. they look pretty darn good
  4. and they come with an antimicrobial additive…meaning they won’t stink after hours and hours of barefoot wear.

SizeOn

skinny exercise weightlifterA few months back, I started working with two different 40+ year old clients who wanted to add some muscle to their “slender” physiques. In addition to a complete restructuring of their diets and an introduction to a truly nasty training program, I put them both on Gaspari Nutrition’s SizeOn product.

Instead of taking a bunch of different products, I wanted one supplement that would service their workout endurance demands as well as help them pack some meat on their hardgainer bodies. And SizeOn turned out to work perfectly.

Both clients had already started gaining muscle with SizeOn, but when we added it into the mix, things really took off.

  • Both gained significant muscle mass
  • Subject #1 gained 14 lbs of muscles while losing 7 lbs of fat
  • Subject #2 gained 11 lbs of muscle while losing 22 lbs of fat.

Pretty significant transformations…especially when you consider that both of these guys were both ectomorphs and lifelong hard-gainers.

I can’t say enough about this product – Great Stuff!!! – Here are the ingredients if you want to check it out.

Iyashi Rock Bathing = Ultimate Relaxation

  • Your life is busy
  • Your life is hectic
  • Your life is stressful

Your life needs the kind of ultra-relaxation that only a Japanese Ganbanyoku (rock bathing) spa can provide.

And lucky for me, Toronto is blessed with an authentic  rock bathing spa – the Iyashi  Bedrock Spa. And on days when I am feeling that life has kicked me around a little bit, I book a rock bathing session and let all of my stress melt away.

What is Rock Bathing?

[box type=”info”]Originating from Thailand, Rock Bathing – uses a special stone, called Black Silica, to heat your body from the inside out. These black silica stones are unique in that they naturally release Far Infrared Rays (FIR) and Negative Ions to help the body perspire and “detoxify” and are found in only one mountain in Hokkaido Japan. Unlike regular saunas, the silica rock beds that you lie on are kept between 42° to 44° C with the humidity at about 60%, providing for a comfortable temperature that is incredibly soothing and relaxing. Other clients have referred to it as being in a “Rain Forest”.[/box]

And while I can’t verify the validity of the health claims associated with Ganbanyoku, I can tell you that you WILL:

  • Sweat a LOT
  • Feel more relaxed than you have ever felt
  • Feel amazing for hours after the session – my skin tingles for a few hours…weird but pleasureable

I have also spoken with other clients who claim that weekly rock bathing sessions have dramatically improved their symptoms of arthritis, allergies and fibromyalgia.

[box type=”info”]Rock Bathing is nothing like a regular sauna or steam bath. One of the first things you will notice is your sweat – you will sweat a LOT – but there is no odour, saltiness or stickiness to it. And if you take the opportunity to stretch or do some yoga poses during your session, you will find that your muscles are unbelievably supple and receptive to stretching.[/box]

Note – As with all my reviews, I only tell you guys about products and services that I completely believe in and would recommend to clients, friends and family. I am a paying client of Iyashi and a huge fan. If you’re in the Toronto area, check out Iyashi. If not, do a google search for Ganbanyoku [your city].

Reference

Skora Base – Barefoot Shoe Review

Alright, I’m back again with another Barefoot / Minimalist shoes review and this time I’m looking at a very different type of minimalist shoe – SKORA

Different in how they look…in how they are designed…in how they work…and in how they’re being marketed. But let’s leave that for the end of the article and get on with the analysis.

Skora has two different models – the Form & the Base. For this review, I chose to test the Skora Base (SB) as I was intrigued by the criss-cross velcro fastener. In a future review, I will be looking at the Skora Form – which has just been introduced for women.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.
The outer sole of the Skora Base (SB) is 4mm of high abrasion rubber, the midsole is 5mm and the removable Ortholite insole is 4mm thick. This means that the total stack height of the SB is either 9mm or 13 mm depending if you decide to ditch the insole or not.

 

At first glance, this thickness might be enough to put off some minimalist running purists. Sure, it’s thinner than the Reebok Real Flex or a pair of Nike Frees, but for a shoe that promises minimal cushioning and a “natural” feel, the Skora Base is 2-3 x thicker than the ultra-thin Sockwa G2.

Note – before you banish Skora to the land of faux-minimalist sneakers, you need to slap a pair on your feet and go for a jog through the shoe store. Seriously, don’t stress about the thickness – If we’re going to get picky about sole thickness, I know a bunch of true barefoot runners who won’t even put up with the thinnest pair of Vibrams due to the loss in proprioception. 

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

The proprioception is superior to any of the big name manufacturers I have worn (Nike, Reebok, New Balance, etc) but not as good as it’s thinner-soled cousins (Sockwa, Vivo, etc). The high density rubber outsole (and the EVA midsole) are denser than industry standard improving ground feel. In short, the lack of squishiness improves proprioception.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

This is where Skora really separates itself from the pack.

Unlike some minimalist shoes which basically slap some rubber onto the bottom of a polyester sock, the Skora engineers have created an aysmmetric last shape with a curved bottom profile. And it’s that curved outsole which is supposed to mimic the natural foot shape and encourage a natural medial to lateral rolling motion which makes the Skora truly unique.

Unlike any other minimalist shoe that I have ever worn, the Skora Base actually makes you run naturally. No more falling back into old patterns of heel striking. The SBs will have you landing midfoot and absorbing impact as your feet were originally designed.


And while that may not be a huge deal for someone (me) who has spent months re-training their neuro-muscular system and suffering though freakishly tight calves and the converted their bodies to a minimalist style of running, it is a gigantic deal for someone who wants to start running ala barefoot put has spent years running heel-toe.

For this one feature alone, I can’t say enough good things about Skora.

Note – in addition to the curved outsole, the SBs have a nice wide toe box and larger ball girth volume designed to let my Fred Flintstone-esque feet move as they should.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

At 9.1 oz, the Skora is on the heavy end of the minimalist shoe market, but as that weight comes mainly from the awesome sole design, I am okay with the extra 2-3 oz of weight.

Next page – the review continues…

Yummy + Healthy = Square Snacks

  • It’s 3:00 in the afternoon
  • Your tummy is grumbly
  • You’re “jonesing” for something sweet
  • But you’re trying to watch your waistline…
  • And you don’t want to eat crap food like the rest of the drones in your office.

You could go for one of those 100 cal packages of cookies/chips….

Or…you could go for something that tastes awesome and is actually good for you.

My experience with Square Snacks

A few weeks ago, some of my clients asked me what I thought about this new energy bar that their friends were raving about. They said that it tasted better than Lara  Bars, and had fewer calories. After taking a look at their website, I contacted the owner and asked them to send me a few samples to review.

  • Two days after receiving the samples… all of them had been inhaled by my wife and clients.
  • Three days later… I had to go to the store and buy some more to test myself.
  • Four days later… I agreed with my clients that the Square Snacks were a great mid-afternoon energy snack… even better than Lara Bars.

My reasoning…

  • Nutrient dense ingredients
  • Great taste
  • No chemicals, flavors, etc…just real food
  • With 1/2 the calories of a Skinny Vanilla Latte

Nutritional Info

It gets even better

Because I love you guys so darn much, I am going to hook one of you up with a 20 bar prize pack of Square Snacks

[box type=”important”]Unfortunately, this giveaway is open ONLY to Canadians. Square Snacks is a new company and aren’t selling outside of Canada yet.[/box]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Super-Amazing Celsius Energy Drink Giveaway!!!

Here’s what you can win:

  • A Celsius Soft Cooler Bag filled with:
  • (1) Celsius Dri-Fit T-Shirt,
  • (3) Retail Coupons, 
  • 14CT Box On-the-Go Sticks of our new Outrageous Orange flavor, and
  •  (7) Ready to Drink Cans in the following flavors; Sparkling Wild Berry, Sparkling Orange, Sparkling Cola, Apple Orchard Blend, Lemon Iced Tea, Raspberry Acai Green Tea, and Outrageous Orange.

Entering is easy…. just wait for the form below to load and then follow the prompts!

Note – You can earn bonus entries by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and/or  leaving a comment here on the blog. – check it out! Feel free to enter early & often.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Boring Contest Rules Stuff

  • The contest is open to American residents only (excluding Alaska & Hawaii). Sorry…that’s just the way it is…
  • The contest will run from July 5, 2012 12:01 am EST until July 12, 2012 12:01 am EST
  • You can earn extra entries by leaving a comment and/or tweeting about the contest and/or liking the Health Habits Facebook page. Follow the prompts on the form
  • The winner will be announced July 13, 2012 here at Health Habits
  • I will contact the winner on July 12.

VIVOBAREFOOT – Aqua Lite & Lucy Lite – Barefoot Shoe Review

Last summer I started reviewing Barefoot / Minimalist shoes…. and I’m at it again this summer.

First up are the VIVOBAREFOOT Aqua Lite (mens) and Lucy Lite (womens).

Both the Aqua Lite (AL) and Lucy Lite (LL) are designed as a lightweight road running shoe with a thin sole, wide toe box and zero drop profile. However, unlike many other barefoot shoes, the Lites have evolved to look like normal shoes. You get all of the health & performance benefits of minimalist shoes without people thinking you’re weird for wearing multi-colored toe-shoes.

Here’s the review…

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Both the Aqua Lite & Lucy Lite have a 3mm soft, high abrasion TPU sole, designed to give maximum sensory feedback on hard, flat surfaces. This is the same sole material used by Sockwa and is my personal favorite for “feeling” the ground under my feet.

  • The Aqua (Mens) comes with a removable 3mm insole with hex-flex moisture management system
  • The Lucy (Women) comes with a removable 5mm Pressed EVA Insole for additional thermal protection

Both of my shoe testers / guinea pigs didn’t mind the insoles, but as experienced barefoot runners, they preferred to ditch the insoles. My advice…if you are relatively new to barefoot shoes, leave the insoles in for the first couple of months as you get used to being barefoot.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

With or without the insole, both pairs provided excellent proprioception. I love that TPU sole.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Both the Lucy Lite and Aqua Lite are winners when it comes to natural foot movement thanks to their wide toe box and zero drop profile. For maximum barefoot movement, I preferred to remove the insole. But as I mentioned above, a barefoot-newbie should probably start with the insole until their foot muscles get a little stronger.

In regard to the wide toe box, I can’t say how important this is to re-building a pair of healthy feet.  Our feet are supposed to look like the pair on the left, but I bet that almost everybody you know has feet like the ones on the right. Ugly nasty feet that make you think of creepy Chinese foot binding tootsies.

natural and unnatural feet

Also, VIVOBAREFOOT takes into account that the male & female foot aren’t the same and their shoes shouldn’t be either. No unisex shoes here.

Note – If you want to learn more about how your feet are supposed to look & work, click this link.

Next page – the review continues

Green Coffee Bean Extract & Weight Loss

A couple of months ago Dr. Oz read one of my articles about Raspberry Ketones and decided that RK supplements were a pretty cool way to melt off excess body fat.

Not wanting to keep this info to himself, he decided to do a segment about RK on his daytime tv show. And the day after that…. the supplement world went absolutely crazy with requests for RK pills.

I wonder what’s going to happen when he finds out about the next big natural fat burning supplement – Green Coffee Bean Extract.

The Science behind GCB and Weight Loss

There have been a number of studies over the years which showed that GCB extract had a positive effect on human fat loss.

This latest study is a little different in that it is the first to investigate how different dosages of GCB extract impact the effectiveness of fat loss.

Here’s what the researchers did….

Subjects received high-dose GCB (1050 mg), low-dose GCA (700 mg), or placebo in separate six-week treatment periods followed by two-week washout periods to reduce any influence of preceding treatment. Treatments were counterbalanced between subjects. Primary measurements were body weight, body mass index, and percent body fat. Heart rate and blood pressure were also measured.

The Results?

  • At the end of the study, 16 of 16  lost fat.
  • The subjects lost an average of 10% of their weight
  • There were no adverse side effects
  • 16 of 16 completed the study

  • When participants were on the high dose of GCB extract, the weight came off quickly
  • When participants were on the low dose of GCB extract, the weight came off more gradually
  • When participants were on the placebo, weight loss stopped

How do these results compare to pharmaceutical fat burners?

  • 30-40% of test subjects dropped out of studies testing sibutramine, orlistat or rimonabant
  • Compared with placebo, orlistat reduced weight by 2.9%
  • Compared with placebo, sibutramine reduced weight by 4.3%
  • Compared with placebo, rimonabant reduced weight by 4.1%
Conclusion
  • GCB extract produces results far superior to big pharma fat burners
  • GCB has no adverse side effects
  • GCB extract is waaaaaayyyyy cheaper than a prescription fat burner
 Reference

Leming Ancestral Footwear – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

There are two main type of barefoot / minimalist shoe wearers.

  1. There are the people who want the benefits of barefoot shoes without looking weird.
  2. And there are the people who thrive on people staring at their feet while they wiggle their Vibram-shod tootsies.

I fall firmly into the first camp.

While I am “unique” enough to be caught jogging outside in shorts during a snowy Canadian winter, I am not a fan of wearing minimalist shoes with street clothes.

They look weird.

Correction – they looked weird.

 

Leming Footwear are the first truly barefoot / minimalist shoe that looks like a conventional “sneaker”.

And boy are me and my wife happy…she was sick and tired of me wearing my barefoot booties out with her in public.

But enough about me and my sartorial quirks….Here’s the review.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The Leming sole is different than other barefoot / minimalist shoes.

While the market is moving towards thinner / puncture-proof sole materials, Leming employs a thicker (6 mm) sole made a 6mm thick air infused rubber that is supposed to replicate the elasticity of human skin.

 

The result is a sole that provides unbelieveably good groundfeel, is super flexible, but may not be your best choice if you’re into trail running over rocky surfaces.

 

With that being said, I decided to take them trail running over rocky surfaces….with the end result being a great run with no punctures – shoe or foot.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

As I mentioned above, Lemings offer amazing groundfeel.

But unlike the sockwa G2s, this barefoot feel is achieved not through the thinnest of soles, but through the consistency of the sole material. It’s completely different from anything else on the market.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Lemings allows your foot to move, spread, scrunch as nature intended.

They also offer a great explanation of what nature had in mind. Enjoy your foot education.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Lemings weighs 6.3 ounces…. or about 1/3 of a pound. Heavier than the Sockwas, lighter than a pair of Nike Frees.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

Lemings have a 0mm drop.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Lemings are built with an wide toe box and sole. This allow for a proper foot spread without stretching the fabric of the upper or oozing out beyond the width of the rubber sole.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

Super comfortable, with a barefoot feel equal to the Sockwa and superior to the Reebok.

Unlike most barefoot shoes, Lemings are comfortable whether you wear them with or without socks.

As an aside, due to the wide toe box of the Lemings, I found myself wiggling and scrunching my toes while wearing these shoes. Not sure why. It was kinda weird. Just though I would share.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Yep – Also, I chose to wear socks with them. Can’t do that with all minimalist shoes.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

They look like normal “sneakers”. When I showed them off to people, I had to draw attention to the wide toebox.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the Lemings?

So far so good. The Lemings combination of faux-suede and mesh let my sweaty feet breathe during runs & workouts.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. If they wear poorly, I will update this post

  • Price –

$89.99 USD – Same price as the Reeboks, $20 more than the Kigos, $40 more than the Sockwas and $25 less than the Lunas.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

Lemings are the most versatile barefoot / minimalist shoes that I have tested. Great for athletics & great for sitting on a patio watching the girls walk by.

Conclusion

Like all barefoot shoes, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

  • Lemings are a true minimalist shoe
  • They are also the most fashion friendly minimalist shoe on the market
  • The price is reasonable

But what about you?

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?
  • Do Lemings fit that application?..

The Luna Equus Sandal – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

The Luna Equus is different than any of the other barefoot “shoes” I have tested thus far.

For one thing, it’s a sandal, not a shoe.

Secondly, like a lot of my favorite people/stuff, the Equus started out as a giant pain in the butt, but with a little time and effort, I came to appreciate and love them.

Here’s why they annoyed me in the beginning:

  • Straight out of the box, this sandal is very stiff (thanks to the Cordovan leather)
  • The straps kept digging into my feet (especially between my toes)
  • They made a slapping noise as I ran in them (very annoying)
  • I got a wicked blister on my first run

In fact, I would have given up on them, except that I talked with a few people who had already gone through these growing pains. To a person, my new sandal buddies told me that as…

  1. the Equus begins to conform to your feet, and
  2. as your feet conform to wearing huarache sandals

… you will fall in love with these kicks and will never want to wear anything else.

And that’s what happened with me.

The sandals broke in, molded to my feet and my tender tootsies got used to the strap between my toes.

And I fell in love with my Luna Equus sandals.

Unfortunately, I live in Canada…and it’s starting to get cold…and I won’t be wearing sandals in the snow.

But as summer comes around next year, I will definitely be wearing these sandals as often as possible.

Here’s the review.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The total thickness of the Luna Equus is about 4mm.

The thickness of the Equus leather varies slightly but it is usually right around 2mm. The Vibram sole is 2 mm thick also. And the last time I checked 2 mm + 2 mm =  4mm total thickness.

While the Equus sole is thicker than the Sockwa G2s, it still feels very “barefoot”. And yet, you can walk/run along rocky paths without feeling every stone jamming into the sole of your foot. It’s a nice compromise in thickness.

One drawback of the sandal is that the top of your foot is open to the elements. And while being topless feels great when you’re walking on the boardwalk on a hot summer’s day, it’s not so fun when a stick gets stuck between the footbed and your foot as you run through a wooded trail.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Until you “break in” your Equus sandals, there will be a distinct slapping noise as the stiffness of the sole hits the sidewalk. Over time, my pair of sandals has become much more flexible and that slapping noise has gone away.

Along with the reduction in noise, as the Equus became molded to my feet, I stopped noticing the separation between my feet and my footwear. The Equus became barefoot.

How will you be using your barefoot shoes?

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The Equus allows your foot to move, spread, scrunch as nature intended.

This adaptation becomes more natural as the shoe is broken in and becomes more flexible and molds to your foot.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

The Equus weighs 5 ounces. They’re heavier than the Sockwas, but still incredibly light. 

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

The Equus has a 0 mm drop. perfect.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

The Equus can be ordered custom fitted for no extra charge. This guarantees that the sole will fit your sole perfectly.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

At first, the Equus gave me blisters, killed the spot where the toe strap rubbed and felt really stiff.

After a few weeks of wear, they molded to my feet and felt like I wasn’t wearing anything.

You have to decide if you’re willing to put up with the break-in period.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Getting the lacing “just right” was another issue with my new pair of Luna sandals. They come laced and ready to wear, but for a better fit, you will need to play with the laces. 

Personally, I like the top part of the lace tighter than the heel. When the heel lace was tight, it jammed my foot forward into the toe lace and caused a bunch of between my toes pain. 

However, after a few attempts, I got the lace tension just right. Since then, I haven’t had to adjust them once. 

Also, the laces stay in place and the sandal is super easy to take on and off.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

Unlike barefoot shoes, the general public doesn’t react to huarache sandals with stares and finger pointing. Of course, if you have gnarly feet, you may want to consider getting a pedicure before striding out in your Equus’.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

Tons of ventilation. No stink. No sweat.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a few of months, but I have been running and walking them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is very little wear.

Barefoot Ted says that the Equus is made to be a long lasting sandal for everyday wearing and running. He estimates 1000 pavement miles of gentle pavement running for someone accustomed to the lightness of barefoot running. Street scuffing will wear the sole much more quickly.

  • Price –

The Cadillac of huarache sandals retails for $115 USD

Not cheap.

However, as with all Premium Model Luna Sandals, The Equus can be resoled and new laces can be added. This means that the Equus can be the last pair of sandals you ever buy.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

The Equus is a great everyday shoe during the summer months. And while lots of other people use the Equus for running as well as everyday use, I prefer the protection of an enclosed shoe.

Conclusion

Like all barefoot shoes, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

  • The Equus is a great sandal
  • And while the initial cost is pretty steep compared to other barefoot / minimalist shoes, the fact that I can re-sole the Equus should drive down the lifetime cost. 
  • However, while lots of other people wear the Equus when they hit the running trail, I prefer the protection of an enclosed shoe.
  • The same goes for my weightlifting workouts and sporting activities. I prefer a shoe to a sandal.

But what about you?

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?
  • Does the Equus fit that application?
  • Do your feet look fugly in sandals?

..

Kigo Edge & Kigo Curv – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

After wearing barefoot / minimalist shoes for the past few months, I can honestly say that no two brands are the same.

Both the Kigo Edge and the Kigo Curv feel & perform unlike either the Reebok RealFlex or the Sockwa G2.

Kigo Edge

They are closer in both form & function to the Sockwa, but as soon as you put it on, you’ll realize that the Kigo design is completely unique.

Kigo Curv

 

and just what makes the Kigo so different?

Read on:

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Both pairs of Kigos come with a removable EVA insole, a flexible 1.5 mm midsole, and a 3 mm heel thickness. This combination of elements places the Kigos somewhere between the spongy protection of the Reebok RealFlex and the very thin barrier of the Sockwa G2.

The sole is made from a non-slip rubber with “fingerprint” grooves to provide a moderate level of traction. As well, the Kigos come with a protective toe cap.

Both of these features were tested when I played a game of pick-up football on damp grass one afternoon. 

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Due to the thicker sole, both pairs of Kigos offer a lower level of proprioception when compared to the Sockwas.

For example, while sprinting up a rocky hill, I was grateful to be wearing my Kigos. However, when I was zipping through wooded trails with tree roots and uneven terrain, I preferred the “ground-feel” I got from the Sockwas.

How will you be using your barefoot shoes?

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The design of the Kigo’s upper  and the use of 4-way stretch  fabric  results in an incredibly snug fit. While playing football in my Kigo Edges, I could cut and spin just like Barry Sanders.

Unfortunately, this same design didn’t allow my feet to spread laterally as if I was barefoot. While the sole is flexible and allows for movement front to back, the lateral spread is lost.

As well, the narrow toe box means that your toes will be unable to spread as you walk/run.

And this may be a significant issue for people buying “barefoot” shoes.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Both pairs weight 5 ounces. They’re heavier than the Sockwas, but still incredibly light. 

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

There is a 1.5 mm drop from heel to midsole. Much flatter than the Reebok.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Like a conventional athletic shoe, the rounded toe of the Kigo is narrower than your actual foot. While this design is more aesthetically pleasing, it means that your toes are squished together.

While this may be unnoticeable to a conventional shoe wearer, it’s hard to miss for people who are used to other brands of barefoot shoe.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

The narrow toe box really bothered me. I couldn’t get past it.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

They are super snug, but the webbing loop on the heel made it easy to slip on and off.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

Like the Sockwas, people (friends/strangers) thought the Kigos looked weird.

The most popular description was “elf slippers”

But after I kicked their collective asses with my elf slippers, most commenters changed their minds and said they loved the Kigos.

The fact is, all barefoot / minimalist shoes are going to look “different”. The Reeboks or Nike Frees are the only ones that are going to look like normal athletic shoes. But those shoes are much less “barefoot” than the Kigos.

And remember, different doesn’t mean bad.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

The Kigos have an anti-microbal insole. If stinky feet are an issue for you, this is a great selling feature.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but I have been running them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is very little wear.

  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

$69.99 USD –  $20 less than the Reebok RealFlex – $20 more than the Sockwas G2s

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

I will be wearing my Kigos for outdoor sports like soccer & football. My foot doesn’t move around in the shoe, allowing me to make quick changes of direction.

Conclusion

Like both the Reebok RealFlex and Sockwa G2, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

The Sockwa is more barefoot-y, but the thinner sole means you are going to hurt running over rocks.

The Reebok looks more like a normal shoe, so people aren’t going to stare.

The Kigo has more protection than the Sockwa, but looks funnier than the Reebok. The tighter toebox means that I won’t wear it for long stretches of time, but the tight fit is great for athletic performance.

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?

Note – Kigo has two brand-spanking new models coming out in August. 

And both pairs have been designed to make the Kigos more barefoot-y.

  • Lighter
  • Zero drop outer sole
  • The rubber soles have been replaced with PLUSfoam
  • Improved proprioception
  • Wider toe box
  • Smaller toe bumper
  • Reduced “toe spring” – the toes don’t angle up like elf shoes
  • As well, the new lines feature high-performing recycled, post-consumer and non-toxic materials, and are actually recyclable.

It’s as if they read this review before it was even published.

  • The Kigo Flit is a lighter version of the Curv with a zero drop outsole.
  • The Kigo Drive is a lighter version of the Edge with a zero drop outsole and adjustable speed lacing.
My Recommendation
I would wait for August and check out the new models.
..

Sockwa G2 – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

Unlike the Reebok RealFlex, Sockwa shoes are most definitely not designed for the mainstream athletic shoe customer.

This is a true barefoot / minimalist shoe.

With a freakishly thin 1.2 mm TPU sole bonded to a 2.8 mm neoprene sock, this is as close to barefoot as you can get.

For my review, I tested the G2 model.

Note – Sockwa is going to be unveiling their latest product at the Outdoor Retailer show next month. Unlike the current method of “gluing” the sole to the upper, this new product will utilize over-mold technology. Overmolding is a process where one can join two different plastics during the molding process without the use of adhesives or primers. This process comes from the plastic injection molding industry and will serve to actually bond the upper & the sole together into one piece.  

The product will be fully machine washable, more durable, have fewer non-green materials, weigh even less and have a smaller footprint on society.  

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The Sockwa G2 doesn’t provide much cushioning for your feet. I found this out while sprinting a hill covered in very pointy stones. It truly felt barefoot.

However, the uber-thin TPU sole was up to the challenge of my 255 lbs pounding up and down that Hill of Pain. 

Conclusion – you will feel it when you run over stuff, but unless it’s a nail, the Sockwa sole will keep your human sole from being punctured.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Just like being barefoot…except you can’t grab stuff with your toes.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Just like being barefoot. There was absolutely no restriction on the flexing & spreading of my Shrek-like feet.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Light as a feather.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

No drop – 2.8 mm of neoprene cushion on the front and back of the shoe

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Sockwa soles are shaped like a flat-footed, extra wide sock.

Unlike a normal shoe, the Sockwa sole wraps up and around the neoprene upper. This allows for the sole of your foot to remain protected by the TPU sole as your foot naturally spreads & flexes while you walk, run & jump.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

How do you enjoy walking or running with bare feet? 

With these shoes, you will experience essentially the same amount of impact. Less damage (temperature & impact) than bare feet, but the same impact force due to the relative lack of padding.

If you are used to exercising in a mainstream athletic shoe, the difference will be enormous. Like night & day.

However, after a little while, your soft little baby feet will begin to toughen up and your body mechanics will adapt to accommodate for the lack of foam, gel, springs, airbags, etc…

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Just like putting on a pair of your granny’s knitted slippers.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

I overheard a few comments while wearing the Sockwas.

  • Check out that guy’s shoes
  • Is he wearing socks?
  • Why does he look like a hippo wearing ballet slippers?

The last comment made me wonder if all barefoot / minimalist shoes look better on smaller, less muscley owners. They look a little dainty on us “big guys”.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

So far so good. 

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but I have been running them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is little to no wear.

My Sockwa G2s – sorry about the picture quality – trust me, there is almost zero noticeable wear
  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

$49.99 USD –  $40 less than the Reebok RealFlex

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

I wore them in the lake, on the beach, walking on the boardwalk, walking on the sidewalk, running on the sidewalk, running in the woods, running on gravel & stones, while lifting weights, while stretch & doing yoga poses…and other than having to get used to the higher impact forces, I have absolutely no complaints.

True, I don’t see myself wearing them through a Canadian winter, but…

Conclusion

Like the Reebok RealFlex, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

If you want a true barefoot feel, this is a great shoe.

But, if you don’t want to walk around in sock/shoes & have strangers make comments, then maybe you should opt for a hybrid minimalist shoe like the RealFlex or the Nike Free.

Or, maybe you wear your Sockwas in yoga class or at the beach or sprinting hills…..and then walk the streets in something more mainstream.

Reebok RealFlex – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

Reebok‘s RealFlex running shoe marks Reebok’s initial foray into barefoot / minimalist footwear.

Evolving out of an earlier concept for “collapsible shoes“, the RealFlex isn’t a pure barefoot shoe.

Reebok RealFlex Running Shoe

Designed for the mainstream market, the RealFlex is being promoted as being a better than barefoot shoe. Their Head of Advanced Innovation says that RealFlex combines the best aspects of barefoot/minimalist footwear with the protection of a modern running shoe.

They claim that you get all of that healthy foot movement & proprioception without all of those nasty impact forces caused by running on concrete sidewalks.

Sounds pretty convincing to me. Which is not surprising when you consider that they’re trying to sell you a pair.

How about an unbiased review?

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Compared to all of the other barefoot / minimalist shoes I have been beta-testing, these shoes offered the best protection against the stones, glass and small woodland creatures I encounter while trail running. This is thanks to the RealFlex’s thicker sole & foam padding.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Compared to every pair of Nike Frees that I ever owned, the RealFlex offers much improved proprioception. Compared to the average running shoe, there’s no comparison. The RealFlex lets you feel the ground better than any other big name athletic shoe that I have ever worn.

However, when we compare to every other barefoot / minimalist shoe that I have been testing, the RealFlex is like walking in Moon Boots. The relatively thick layer of foam padding creates a noticeable barrier between your feet & the ground.

And that’s the big trade-off – Protection for Proprioception

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The RealFlex offers no motion control technology. The minimalist upper lets the foot spread out against the fabric with minimal resistance. However, since it is shaped like a standard running shoe, us wide footed runners tend to spread our feet out and over the edge of the sole.

Not exactly like bare feet.

The toe box is average width. You don’t notice your toes being pinched, but compared to some barefoot shoes, there is less room to wiggle.

Regarding shock absorption, the RealFlex’s foam padding is designed to protect the runner from impact on man-made surfaces.

This is most noticeable with the RealFlex’s built up heel design. This is a major design difference between the RealFlex and other barefoot / minimalist shoe makers.

Instead of letting the runner alter their body position and center of gravity  to continue running on his mid-foot while going downhill, the RealFlex provides foam protection and a high-heel stance in order to promote a heel-toe gait. Big difference.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

The RealFlex is very light. Lighter than some barefoot / minimalist shoes…heavier than others. But, definitely, definitely lighter than just about every athletic shoe you will find on the wall of your neighborhood sporting goods store.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

As I mentioned above, the raised heel of the RealFlex is a significant difference between it and the other barefoot/minimalist shoes on the market. Barefoot runners adapt to running downhill by shifting their center of gravity and perhaps slowing down. The Reebok RealFlex wants you to shift your gait from a midfoot strike to a heel-toe running gait when you are bombing down hills.

Major difference in philosophy.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

The RealFlex is shaped like a traditional running shoe. As such, runners with wide feet will find their feet spreading out and over the width of the sole

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

They are super comfortable. My “normal” running shoes felt like big, clunky shoe-boxes on my feet after wearing the RealFlexes.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

The reduced material in the uppers means that you can’t just shove your feet in a pair of RealFlexes without untying them or using a shoe horn. Deal with it.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

The RealFlex looks like an ordinary runner. Unlike almost all of the other test shoes, you won’t look weird wearing these shoes.

Major selling point if you want to market to the mainstream.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

So far so good. But then again, I don’t have stinky feet. My wife is a lucky woman.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but there is little to no wear.

  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

At $90, the RealFlex is cheaper than some barefoot shoes, and more expensive than others. They’re also way cheaper than most pairs of high end “normal” running shoes.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

The RealFlex is the most unique barefoot / minimalist shoe that I will be testing.

  • It doesn’t look like other barefoot shoes
  • It looks like a “normal” running shoe
  • It doesn’t work like other barefoot shoes….
  • But, it doesn’t work like a “normal” running shoe either

So, what is it?

What the Heck Is the Reebok RealFlex?

IMHO, the Reebok RealFlex is either:

  1. A transition shoe for runner who want to transition from heel-toe running to barefoot running.
  2. A hybrid shoe that provides the best aspects of barefoot / minimalist shoes with the best aspects of heel-toe running shoes.
  3. An attempt by Reebok to capture the buzz of barefoot / minimalist shoes without scaring away the mainstream buyer who would never buy a pair of shoes with toes.

Conclusion

I highly recommend the Reebok RealFlex to my clients.

I believe that a switch from heel-toe running to barefoot / midfoot running is a great thing to do for your body. However, the switch from a pair of New Balance running shoes to a pair of barefoot / minimalist slippers can be brutally painful.

The RealFlex makes that transition much, much easier.

Whether they transition from a RealFlex to a true barefoot shoe is another question altogether. Perhaps they use the RealFlex on rocky terrain or during a race. Perhaps they graduate from the RealFlex to a pure barefoot shoe. Perhaps they go all the way and ditch running shoes altogether.

Either way, the RealFlex is a good shoe. It’s not for the Barefoot / Minimalist purist. But then again, the purist is the customer Reebok is looking for. Reebok is looking for the millions who want to run without people staring at their feet.

 

Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

About 5 years ago, I was introduced to barefoot / minimalist shoes while shopping for a pair of running shoes.

The salesperson showed me a pair of Nike Frees and explained to me the concept behind this new/old technology.

Since then, I have been a big fan of minimalist shoes. And I’m not the only one. In the past few years, these weird anti-shoe shoes have nudged their way into the mainstream athletic shoe market.

And while the bulk of the market is dominated by Nike Frees and Vibram Five-Fingers, there are a ton of other manufacturers making a wide variety of different minimalist shoes. But since they don’t have big advertising budgets, you have probably never heard of any of them.

That stops now.

A few months back I contacted some of the most interesting manufacturers to see if they would be interested in having their minimalist shoes reviewed by yours truly. And most of them said yes.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the reviews.

For today’s post, I thought I should outline the criteria I will be using to review the shoes as well as a brief intro to the theories behind barefoot / minimalist shoes & running.

Why should you wear barefoot / minimalist shoes?

Our ancestors covered their feet to protect them from physical damage (puncture) and unpleasant temperatures (Canadian winter). Since that time, shoe manufacturers have “improved” upon our footwear to the point they have more technology in them than your iPad.

As a result of this shoe tech, humans have modified their jogging/running/sprinting gaits to look more like a natural walking – heel-toe – gait. Instead of using the natural shock-absorbers built into our feet, we rely on our shoes to absorb the shock of a longer heel-toe stride. And this has resulted in a whole bunch of aches, pains & injuries.

The makers of minimalist shoes are creating shoes that:

  1. Protect your feet from puncture & cold temperatures
  2. While still allowing your feet to function as originally intended
  3. And hopefully helping you correct all of the postural and impact related damage you have inflicted upon yourself by running in your cool Nike Shox.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.
  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.
  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…
  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?
  • The Drop – Most running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.
  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage
  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?
  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?
  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?
  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the others?
  • Durability – I only tested the shoes for a few weeks, so this test is pretty inconclusive.
  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.
  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

Okay, that’s it for today. I should have the first review online this Friday.

Shoe Reviews

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe

Reebok ZigTech = Run Faster Longer

Over the past couple of months, I have been beta-testing a pair of Reebok ZigTech running shoes.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I have become a big fan of my wild looking Zigs.

I hate to admit it because I am a big believer in minimalist style training shoes that force the muscles in your feet to do some actual work. I also can’t stand that high-end trunning shoes are sold mainly on hype. They promise a lot but usually deliver very little.

And that’s exactly what I assumed about the ZigTechs when I was contacted by a PR company who represents Reebok.

They wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing some of their gear for Health Habits.

And while my official policy is to only review products that I like enough to purchase myself as well as recommend to my clients, I decided to give them a try because I was looking to get back into running some real distances and I needed to find a new pair of shoes that would allow my poor surgically reconstructed knees to survive a “run” without swelling up.

And boy am I glad I did.

ZigTech Shoes : The Good

  • Whether it was on an elliptical cardio trainer, a treadmill or outdoors on the frozen Canadian tundra, the Zigs allowed me to increase my mileage while making life much easier on my knees. Also, shin splints were reduced by 84.73%.
  • Comparing apples to apples, my performances on the elliptical & the treadmill improved by around 10% over the past 2 months.
  • Lateral mobility was good during cross-training workouts. I was concerned about this initially.
  • I thought my red & black versions looked pretty snazzy.

ZigTech Shoes : The Bad

  • There was some heel slippage during some of my resistance workouts. I fixed this problem by switching to a “Heel Lock” lacing pattern.

ZigTech Shoes : The Interesting

  • Unlike running shoes equipped with springs, air bags, gel paks etc, the idea behind ZigTech is that the sole absorbs the impact of heel strike and rebounds that energy horizontally along the length of the shoe propelling the athlete forward with each step. That’s the theory. And while I didn’t have some fancy-schmancy lab equipment to test that theory, it did feel like that…like I was being pushed forward. Kinda weird, but pretty cool.

Conclusion

While I am still a big believer in wearing barefoot/minimalist footwear, I like running better in my ZigTechs.

So, here’s my plan:

  • minimalist shoes during the day and during most workouts.
  • Zigtechs when I am running

Essential Workout Gear: The Clean Bottle

I recently had one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

I was in the middle of a workout at the gym and was about to take a pull from my water bottle when I was assaulted by a disgusting, sour smell. The remnants of a thousand workout drinks & protein shakes had finally turned my favorite water bottle into a stinky, funky, moldy smelling hunk of plastic.

As the rest of the gym watched me cuss out an inanimate water bottle, another member came up to me and showed me his water bottle. He told me how the bottle unscrews from both ends and allows him to clean out all of the goo that can collect at the bottom of a water bottle.

And that’s when I had my “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment.

What I great idea…instead of poking around with a bottle brush or trying to shake free all of that congealed week old Gatorade, you just unscrew both ends and dive in with a dishcloth. So, I ordered a bottle from the manufacturer and over the last few weeks, have been running it through it’s paces.

The Review

  1. It doesn’t leak…thank God. This was my biggest worry.
  2. It’s easy to clean
  3. The nozzle is easy to open & close (hands or mouth)

As a water bottle, it’s great. Two thumbs up.

But, of course, I didn’t use it solely as a water bottle.

After I worked out, I dumped a scoop of my super secret post-workout protein drink into the Clean Bottle and shook it like a polaroid picture. Bad idea. The nozzle got all clogged with protein powder goop.

However, seeing as I am a pretty creative guy, I decided to try and MacGyver a solution to my Clean Bottle / Protein Shake dilemma.

Solution – I added a wire whisk ball to the Clean Bottle and voila!!!…instant kick-ass protein shake shaker bottle….that will never get stinky.

Ain’t I smart.

Conclusion

  • If you’ve ever thrown out a stinky water bottle, do yourself a favor and buy a Clean Bottle.
  • If you want a Clean Bottle with a wire whisk ball, you are temporarily out of luck.

Clean Bottle is a tiny little company run by a guy addicted to cycling, raising money for good causes and inventing really great water bottles for his fellow cyclists.

So, if you want to MacGyver your own custom Clean Bottle – the protein shake version – you have two options:

  1. Email CleanBottle and beg them to source out some whisk balls, or
  2. Buy your own

Note – There is another protein shake bottle on the market that uses a wire whisk ball in it’s design. I have owned two of the bottles over the past year and have had to chuck both after they started leaking and/or got stinky. Just a word to the wise.

Disclaimer

I really like this product and I will be contacting the owner about setting up an affiliate program with them so that you can buy the bottles via Health Habits.

I will also be suggesting that they add the wire whisk ball as an option.

Bye Bye Healthy Lifestyle : Hello Qnexa

Woooo-hoooo!!!!

No more exercise, no more vegetables, no more fish, no more paleo, no more carb/insulin control, no more protein shakes, no more mindfulness, no more healthy anything…

Qnexa is here and as soon as I get my prescription filled, I am gonna lay a beating on the nearest “all you can eat” restaurant I can find.

Because today is the day that the FDA released their review of  Vivus‘ new anti-obesity drug – Qnexa.

And in that 248 page review, the FDA notes that drug trial participants taking Qnexa lost significantly more weight than those taking a placebo, and that those taking the highest doses of Qnexa lost the most weight.

They also noted that there are concerns about Qnexa side effects – which include depression, anxiety, impact upon heart rate, increased body acids, impaired attention span, impaired memory, impaired attention span, language problems and various risks for pregnant women.

But, who cares about a few side effects?

  • I want my cake
  • I want to eat my cake
  • and I want a six pack

Who cares that Qnexa is the offspring of that old-school diet drug “fen-phen“.

Who cares that by replacing the appetite suppressant phentermine with the anti-seizure drug topiramate, Vivus is praying for a weight loss pill with the effectiveness of fen-phen but without all those pesky fen-phen side effects – pulmonary hypertension, heart valve problems and death.

  • Who cares that fen-phen passed all of the same FDA tests and trials that Qnexa is now passing with flying colors.
  • Who cares that analysts estimate that Qnexa could rake in nearly $689 million in sales by 2014.
  • Who cares that Vivus stock has already risen 20% on the news of this FDA report.

.I want my six pack and I want it now.

.Qnexa…here I come.

.Update:

As of Friday, July 16, Qnexa, the first new prescription weight-loss pill in more than a decade, failed to win backing from U.S. health advisers, who said safety concerns about the drug outweighed its ability to help obese patients shed pounds.

The FDA vote was 10 : 6 against Qnexa.

So, what happens now?

Vivus should have the results of a 2 year Qnexa study by the end of this quarter. If those results are positive, Vivus will take another run at the FDA.

However, things get a bit more complicated for Vivus.

To win FDA approval, Vivus will now have to test Qnexa in as many as 10,000 human patients, at a potential cost of $150 million. And to raise that kind of money, Vivus will probably have to partner up with one of the Big Pharma corps..

Women, Food and God

Every once in a while, I do a review of a product or book that I like.

Today’s post is a review of Geneen Roth’s latest book – Women, Food and God.

And I am willing to bet that my review will probably be the only one written by a great big muscley 245 lb health & fitness blogger.

I am not exactly Ms. Roth’s target demographic.

And that’s okay.

Because, even though I wasn’t interested in the new-agey Oprah-esque multi-denominational God speak, this book struck me as being a powerful tool for every person who:

  1. Eats when they’re not hungry
  2. Eats too much food when they’re not hungry
  3. And beats the heck out of themselves for eating too much food when they’re not hungry

And that’s a heck of a lot of people.

In this book, Ms. Roth offers up her own unique version of mindfulness training as a way to not only help her readers regain control over their disordered eating patterns, but also by understanding why they eat the way they do, regain control over the thoughts, feelings and preconceptions that led them to overeating in the first place.

.

Note

At least once a week, I get an email or comment from someone telling me that successful weight loss is as simple as “eat less & move more”.

I used to rebut these simplistic comments by launching into a spiel about disordered thoughts, emotions, brain chemicals, hormones, neural plasticity, etc…

But, not any longer.

The mind is quickly becoming the new frontier in obesity treatment. And as that frontier is examined, outdated beliefs such as calories in/calories out will eventually die off as being too simplistic.

And even if Ms. Roth’s new-agey approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the principles behind her approach are worthy of a serious look by anyone unhappy with the current relationship with food.

If that’s you, pick up a copy at your local library (free) or from amazon ($13)

For more info, I have included a video of Geneen discussing her book.

.

pills supplements nutrition fitness health

Essential Nutritional Supplements – These are the best, so forget the rest

The health supplement industry is big business.

Millions of dollars are spent by manufacturers on advertising and marketing. Luckily for them, billions of dollars are spent by consumers.

And when you subtract millions from billions, you end up with a lot of profit. And, there’s nothing wrong with that…as long as the customer is getting the results they paid for.

Q:  So, do consumers get what they pay for?

A:  In my experience, the short answer is NO.

Most supplements over-promise and under-deliver. But, not all….

These are the supplements and supplement companies that I think are worthy of your trust and your money.

Note – If you are interested in purchasing any of these supplements, click on the image of the supplement and you will be taken to my Amazon store. Any purchases made through the Amazon store earns Health Habits a 4% commission. Thanks in advance.

General Health

Multi-Vitamins

I can’t say enough good things about New Chapter.

  • Most multivitamins and nutritional supplements are synthetic, chemically isolated nutrients that lack the natural beneficial compounds of a whole-food complex.
  • New Chapter multi-vitamins are made with 100% organic ingredients. But, unlike most multis, New Chapter’s nutrients are food. In fact, they are a whole-food complex, rich with thousands of health-giving, whole-food phytonutrients found in nature. They do not believe that people were designed to eat mega-dosages of synthetic chemicals.
  • They believe that your nutrients should come in the form of cultured whole food so that you get the full benefit of Nature’s wisdom. New Chapter’s nutrients are cultured in probiotics — the healthy bacteria every human body needs. Probiotics are naturally prevalent in select foods such as yogurt, red wine and sauerkraut.
  • Daily consumption of probiotics boosts the immune system, increases nutrient absorption, improves vitamin synthesis, digestion, detoxification and protection from toxins.

Greens

Sticking with the whole-food v.s synthetic nutrients argument, we have Vege Greens.

Vege Greens is a combination of over 60 land, sea and cruciferous vegetables, as well as super green foods, EFAs, pre and probiotics, enzymes and herbal extracts. One little scoop is equivalent to six to eight servings of vegetables, and offers a full spectrum of nutrient rich and highly alkaline foods.

And unlike most Green Foods, Vege Greens doesn’t taste like a mouthful of grass.

And like New Chapter, the manufacturer of Vege Greens (Progressive Nutritional) has incredibly high professional standards. At this time, I would have no problem recommending any of their products.

Fish Oils

I have written often about the health benefits of fish oils/Omega 3s.

– Promotes cardiovascular health
– Reduces inflammation
– Supports mental focus & cognitive function
– Supports positive mood & emotional well-being
– Promotes brain, eye, & nervous system health
– Supports healthy immune system function
– Enhances appearance of skin and hair
– Promotes optimal fat metabolism

And while there are a lot of companies selling fish

oils / Omega 3 supplements, Ascenta is one of the best. They have a long track record of producing the purest fish oils on the market….that don’t taste like fish.

Recently, New Chapter came out with their own line of fish oil supplements. I am currently testing this product to see if I can notice any difference in anti-inflammatory benefits.

nutrasea

Vitamin D

For the past few years, a number of progressive nutrition geeks have been singing the praises of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D researchers believe that Vitamin D is a major player in the prevention of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, etc…

Unfortunately, even with this passionate support, Vitamin D suffers from a lack of mainstream acceptance.

And that’s too bad.

Vitamin D has powerful health benefits and costs next to nothing to purchase. It’s a no-brainer.

Garlic

Researchers have found that aged garlic extract (AGE) has hepatoprotective (protects the liver),immune-enhancing, anticancer and chemopreventive (disease preventative) activities. Furthermore, AGE is a potent antioxident.

It also makes your breath stink.

But, not Kyolic AGE supplements.

All the health benefits with none of the stinkiness. WIN-WIN

Anti-Inflammatories

Zyflamend

Zyflamend was my introduction to New Chapter.

A few years ago, I was suffering from chronic pain in one of my shoulders.

The cause of my pain?

Too many years of lifting very heavy weights with very little warm-up. (nothing like being in your twenties – invincible & stupid)

My orthopedist gave me 3 options:

  1. arthroscopic surgery to clean things up a bit
  2. cortisone
  3. take drugs for the pain

Being the contrary type of guy that I am, I went for option #4 and researched natural ways to bring down inflammation. And that’s how I found Zyflamend
New Chapter’s patented Zyflamend formulation represents a scientific breakthrough in promoting a healthy inflammation response. After extensively researching the herbal pharmacopoeia and international medical databases, New Chapter discovered that a number of time-tested herbs, properly extracted and blended in the correct proportions, contain at least 8 phytonutrients that may safely and significantly promote a healthy inflammation response.

Recent research studies suggest reducing the inflammatory response may be an effective strategy to promote healthy joint function and normal cell growth.
My shoulder is all better now, but I continue to supplement with Zyflamend because of the overall health benefits associated with reducing systemic inflammation. You should too.

Adaptogens

       

According to the CDC, up to 90% of doctor visits in the US are stress related.

National Institutes of Health adds that chronic stress may shorten life expectancy up to 20 years.

Chronically high cortisol from stress disrupts endocrine, gastrointestinal, immune and neurological systems.

Regardless of whether we feel stress or not, conscientiously managing our stress response, every day, positively impacts every organ and system in our bodies.

In short, how you handle stress has a major impact on your health.

And, if you’re trying to lose weight, get stronger, faster, etc, you are piling even more physiological & psychological stress onto your already overwhelmed immune system.

But, before you get all stressed out about your stress, there is a solution.

For thousands of years, people have relied upon adaptogens (plant derived agents that help to adapt the body or protect it from stress) to help them cope with life’s little stresses.

These 3 adaptogen supplements from New Chapter have been unbelievably useful in helping some of my clients incorporate healthy living & eating into their lives. Those people who suffer from emotional eating receive a huge benefit from these supplements.

Stress Take Care is made up of 9 different adaptogens:

  • Curcuma Xanthorrhiza
  • Schizandra
  • American Ginseng
  • Eleuthero
  • Rhodiola
  • Galanga
  • Turmeric
  • Astragalus
  • Ginger

The next product, Rhodiola Force is made up of a single adaptogen – Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola is widely considered to be the most powerful of all adaptogens.

Thriving in high altitudes and in nature’s most challenging climates, this most resilient herbal is intensively studied for enhancing concentration and endurance, uplifting one’s mental state, and supporting optimal immune, adrenal, and cardiovascular function even under conditions of severe stress.

The third adaptogen supplement, Holy Basil, has been a staple of ayurvedic medicine for centuries.

When New Chapter was researching Holy Basil, they wanted to know why people find that Holy Basil promotes a positive stress response and elevates their spirit. Ayurvedic masters told them that “Holy Basil delivers nutrients to the mind necessary for the experience of enlightenment.”

Enlightenment. baby

Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are one of the most underutilized nutritional supplements.

And that’s a big mistake.

Without enzymes, we could not exist. Our bodies’ reactions would be too slow for life to be possible. The human body makes and uses more than 3,000 kinds of enzymes that speed up chemical reactions and save energy. Digestive enzymes are like scissors that cut up the foods we eat into basic building blocks that our body then absorbs and reassembles to build cells, tissues, organs glands and entire body systems.

If our digestion is compromised then so is our health. Many enzymes on the market today are made from animal organs – hog stomach, bovine pancreas, lamb forestomach etc. These individual animal enzymes work only in a narrow pH range, and are usually only capable of digesting protein or fat.

Udo’s Choice Enzyme Blends, however, are broad spectrum plant and microbially derived enzyme supplements that have a wide pH range of activity, allowing it to function throughout the entire digestive tract.

I have been using Udo’s products for years after I was introduced to his flax seed oil and his book – Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill.

Probiotics

There are several reasons that people are interested in probiotics for health purposes.

First, the world is full of microorganisms (including bacteria), and so are people’s bodies—in and on the skin, in the gut, and in other orifices.

Friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protection against microorganisms that could cause disease, and to the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. Each person’s mix of bacteria varies. Interactions between a person and the microorganisms in his body, and among the microorganisms themselves, can be crucial to the person’s health and well-being.

This bacterial “balancing act” can be thrown off in two major ways:

  1. By antibiotics, when they kill friendly bacteria in the gut along with unfriendly bacteria. Some people use probiotics to try to offset side effects from antibiotics like gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Similarly, some use them to ease symptoms of lactose intolerance—a condition in which the gut lacks the enzyme needed to digest significant amounts of the major sugar in milk, and which also causes gastrointestinal symptoms.
  2. “Unfriendly” microorganisms such as disease-causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites can also upset the balance. Researchers are exploring whether probiotics could halt these unfriendly agents in the first place and/or suppress their growth and activity in conditions like:
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that causes most ulcers and many types of chronic stomach inflammation
  • Tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • Vaginal infections
  • Stomach and respiratory infections that children acquire in daycare
  • Skin infections

Another part of the interest in probiotics stems from the fact there are cells in the digestive tract connected with the immune system. One theory is that if you alter the microorganisms in a person’s intestinal tract (as by introducing probiotic bacteria), you can affect the immune system’s defenses.

Performance / Specialty Supplements

We have finished with the supplements that I think are important for your overall health.

Now we move onto the specialty supplements…the meal replacements, protein powders, fat burners, etc.

Meal Replacements

There is no substitute for real food.

However, sometimes “real food” just isn’t convenient.

So, when life gets a little too hectic, and you don’t have time to make a real meal, what do you do?

  • Starve?
  • McDonalds?
  • Bottle of Ensure?

No, no and no.

Monster MilkThis supplement is a true meal replacement.

Loaded with fast & slow absorbing (lactose free) milk proteins, digestive enzymes, creatine, healthy fats, fiber & prebiotics, Monster Milk is a great supplement for trainees attempting to gain muscle mass or attempting to cut calories without sacrificing nutrition.

Sadly, while Monster Milk is popular with bodybuilders, it is unknown amongst the general public. too bad

Muscle Milk – Light

But, maybe you don’t want the creatine in your meal replacement.

And maybe, you’re cutting back on the carbs, or don’t like artificial sweeteners.

If that’s the case, reach for Muscle Milk Light

It has the same proteins & fats as Monster Milk and it’s sweetened with stevia.

And it tastes way better than most other meal replacements / protein powders.

Protein Powders

Harmonized Protein

Harmonized protein is produced by Progressive Nutritionals. Unlike the other protein powders / meal replacements, HP doesn’t market to the bodybuilding demographic. They are all about health first.

Harmonized Protein is a synergistic blend of 5 unique proteins (whey isolate, whey concentrate, milk protein isolate, colostrum & lactoferring) designed to offer an array of health promoting properties beyond that of any individual protein source.

The cattle that produce the milk used to create these unique proteins graze in open pastures and are raised without the use of hormones, including rBGH.

New Zealand proteins are considered to be the cleanest and purest in the world.

They do not contain antibiotics and are routinely screened for over 250 agricultural and chemical contaminants including pesticides, fertilizers and PCB’s.

HP also contains:

  • alpha lipoic acid for improved insulin response
  • flax seed oil powder
  • digestive enzymes
  • organic sea vegetables (you can’t taste them)
  • downey birch and corn silk for improved protein utilization

It is also sweetened with stevia

Creatine

If you’re not taking creatine, you are making a big mistake.
Creatine is bodybuilding’s ultimate supplement, and for good reason. For one thing, creatine can significantly increases lean muscle mass

It is also responsible for:

  • improving performance in high-intensity exercise,
  • increasing energy levels,
  • helps with fat loss and
  • speeds up post-workout recovery rates.

Creatine’s ability to enhance energy reserves in muscles comes from its ability to increase muscle protein synthesis, while simultaneously minimizing protein breakdown.

This occurs because creatine has the awesome effect of super-hydrating muscle cells with water. It also enhances muscle growth – making muscle fibers bigger and stronger.
Warning – Cheap creatine can cause significant intestinal distress and cause some serious bloating.

Allmax creatine has never let me down.

Leucine

Way back in October of 2008, I wrote about leucine and it’s ability to turn back age related muscle loss (buy a tub for grandpa).

According to the research:

  • Leucine stimulates new muscle growth
  • Leucine is the major amino acid responsible for the muscle producing capability of food
  • Adding leucine to a meal increases muscle growth by 50 to 70 percent
  • Leucine works best when taken with a mixed carb / protein meal. This is due to the insulin surge that comes from the carbohydrates in the meal, and the other essential amino acids that are present.
  • Leucine does not work as well with carb-only or protein-only meals
  • The change in leucine levels in the blood seems to be more important than the overall amount. Therefore, it is better to take a small serving of leucine with a meal (level of leucine increases), wait a few hours (let the leucine levels drop), and then take another serving with some food (levels increase again).
  • Leucine supplementation has also shown to be effective as a supplement for athletes interested in adding functional muscle mass.

So, the plan is to take a small scoop (5g) of leucine with each meal of the day. (up to a max of 20g)

This supplement has worked wonders for my hard-gainers.

Branch Chain Amino Acids

You can’t go wrong with BCAAs.

  • Add them to protein shakes when you’re trying to gain muscle
  • Drink them at night when you’re dieting to preserve muscle mass

Simple. Powerful. You can’t go wrong

Okay…that’s the list. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook if you have any comments, questions or complaints.

Nutrition Deathmatch #2: Special K Protein Shake v.s. Chocolate Milk

special k protein shake vs chocolate milk

I think it’s time for me to find another health club.

Yesterday, while chatting with the “towel lady”, I noticed that they were carrying a new protein shake…..by Kellogg’s…  the makers of Eggo waffles, Froot Loops and Pop Tarts.

and now they’re making protein shakes.

I asked to take a look at a bottle of the NEW!!! Special K Protein Shake.

Arrrggghhhhh!!!

Here’s what the label looked like:

special k protein shake chocolate nutrition 2

Looks pretty good, right?

I mean, except for the sucralose, corn syrup solids, acesulfame potassium, nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners.

On the plus side, it has 190 calories, some carbs to re-fuel after your workout and a relatively small dose of protein.

Just like chocolate milk.

chocolate milk low fat nutrition

In fact, the macronutrient profile looks almost identical to the carton of chocolate milk that I picked up at the 7-11 across the street from the gym.

Calories about the same, protein about the same, carbs about the same. The milk had a lower fat content as I prefer the low-fat version post-workout.

So, why in the world would I spend $3.99 for a bottle of Special K Protein Shake with extra HFCS and nonnutritive sweeteners when I can get a carton of chocolate milk for $1.25?

special k web site

I mean, besides the fact that Kelloggs is marketing their entire Special K product line as an effective way to get healthy….

and look like an airbrushed supermodel in short shorts.

But, maybe you’re not the kind of person who would fall for such obvious commercial manipulation.

Maybe you rely on the opinions of real people…like these bloggers:

Either way, Kelloggs is working hard and spending a lot of money trying to convince you to buy the protein shakes and their healthy cereals and snack bars.

So, as a counterpoint to the advertising, I would like to offer my review of the Special K Protein Shake:

Don’t waste your money.

Chocolate milk is healthier and cheaper.

.

If you like what you see here, click here for updates

.

Related Posts


Fitness Equipment that Works: The G2 Fitness Mat

Last month I received an email from a representative of G2 Fitness telling me that you and I really needed to try out their fitness mats.

Right.

Normally, I delete those emails right away. You would not believe the amount of crap people want to send to you if they think you will promote it…..even in my teeny tiny little blog.

However, in the email, the rep mentioned that G2 fitness mats have a variety of stretches/yoga poses/pilates exercises printed on the surface of the mat.

Damn!

It was one of those smack yourself in the forehead , “Why didn’t I think of that” moments.

Simple idea. Anyone could have thought of it.

Potential great upside for a beginner and a good reminder for the trainee who tends to “forget” to stretch.

So, I emailed back and one week later, the delivery guy dropped off 2 new G2 fitness mats at my front door.

And that same day, I took mats to some of my clients for beta testing.

The Results

  • The mats were well liked by all of my beta-testers.
  • The pictograms were easily understood by all of the testers.
  • All of the testers did more stretching than usual. Some felt that they needed to complete all of the stretches printed on the mat.
  • Most liked the thickness of the mat (Thicker than a yoga mat – thinner than the standard “gym” mat)
  • The stickiness of the mat was an issue. My clients who already use a sticky-foam yoga mat thought that the mat moved around when they changed stretches. The non-yoga mat testers never mentioned any issues with the G2 mat sliding around.
  • Most didn’t like that the mat folded up for storage instead of rolling up. They thought it was too bulky and was less convenient.
  • They all expressed concerns that the pictograms would fade with use.

My Conclusions

  • I liked the mat. As an experienced trainee, I didn’t really need the pictograms, but I think that for beginner/intermediate stretchers, this is a great tool. And I am jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
  • I like the thickness of the mat. Sometimes I find yoga mats too thin.
  • I like the fact that they have 7 different types of fitness mats – yoga, golf stretch, maternity, pilates, general stretch, ab fitness and back stretch
  • I had no issue with mat movement and I used it on a polished hardwood floor.
  • I also found the folded mat a little cumbersome. It wouldn’t be very good for traveling to my personal training clients. Luckily, G2 makes a roll-up version of their yoga, pilates , maternity, pilates, ab fitness and general stretch. Same dimensions 6′ x 2′ x 10mm.
  • Regarding the durability of the pictograms, G2 says that “testing has only gone for 1 year, so we can only guarantee forthat long, but there isn’t any sign that it won’t last for at least 5 years with regular use”.

Overall, I would have no problem recommending this product for any beginner/intermediate trainee looking to increase/improve their flexibility.

And that’s saying something, because I think most fitness equipment sucks.

HIIT Interval Timers: Review of the Inventico TMR04-B

Bill Hall
artist: Bill Hall

One of my favorite training methods is HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training.

It’s one of the best tools I know for developing power, improving anaerobic endurance and maximizing fat loss.

But, it’s not perfect. One of the potential drawbacks to HIIT workouts is that instead of counting reps, your workout revolves around time.

And that’s fine if you are using a piece of cardio equipment with a built in timer.

However, if you are trying to time a set of HIIT hanging power cleans, you may be in for some trouble.

Unless you have a workout partner with a stopwatch, an expensive personal trainer like yours truly…or a dedicated Interval Workout Timer like the Inventico TMR04-B.

Inventico TMR04-B
Inventico TMR04-B

What is an Interval Timer

Basically, it is a stopwatch dedicated to counting down and alerting you to start and stop your HIIT work sets and rest periods.

The TMR04-B is not the only interval timer on the market. But, it is the only one that I have used.

Disclosure – Inventico contacted me in January and asked if I would be interested in trying out their product. At that time, offers of this kind were fairly new to me. I agreed to try out the unit because:

  1. I was sick of using a stopwatch to time my personal HIIT workouts
  2. The Inventico rep was very confident in the product and was willing to risk a bad review
  3. I am a geek for fitness equipment. You wouldn’t believe the amount of workout and rehab tools that litter my apartment

So, here’s the review:

How Does It Work?

  • The unit is about the size of a travel alarm clock – 3 1/2″ (8.3cm) wide & tall by 1 1/4″ (3.5cm) thick
  • You enter the number of interval sets and the length of the work sets and rest periods via the buttons at the top of the face plate.
  • The relatively large LCD display (height of numerals – 3/4″ or 2cm) counts down the work/rest periods
  • The unit beeps three times at the end of every work set and beeps 1 time at the end of your rest periods
  • At the end of your final work set, the unit produces 3 sets of 3 beeps
  • There is also a red LED light at the top of the unit that flashes in unison with the beeping.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It made solo HIIT workouts a LOT simpler. For example, in the past when I wanted to do a HIIT workout using front squats, I had to pause between reps to turn and look at the wall clock in my gym. With the timer, I used the LED light as a visual cue to start and stop my sets. Outdoors, the auditory cue (beeping) was loud enough that I didn’t need to carry the timer during sprints.
  • The LCD screen is large enough to see from a few feet
  • Inventico designed the unit to be mounted onto fitness equipment. The unit has two holes in the casing that allow a piece of cable to be threaded through and attached to the frame of a piece of fitness equipment. Obviously, this was designed to help out a health club manager. For my use, I bought a piece of stick-on magnet and stuck it to the back plate of the timer. This allowed me to attach the timer to any piece of metallic equipment at whatever height was appropriate for that exercise.
  • The unit is durable – It was dropped more than once and it kept on tickin’

Cons

  • The beeping noise is way too loud for a health club. And it isn’t adjustable. But, it can be eliminated by removing a small chip from the circuit board inside. Note –  Inventico has plans to offer an adjustable volume control with it’s next edition of the timer
  • The LCD screen is hard to read in certain lighting conditions. However, I seldom used the screen anyway, preferring the LED indoors and the beeping outdoors.
  • The instructions were a little confusing. I gave the unit (with instructions) to a bunch of people and no one found it easy to adjust…at first. After a few tries, it becomes easier.

Overall

The unit isn’t perfect, but if you are a HIIT junkie, it’s worth the $26.

.

Note about Health Habits and Product Reviews

In the past few months I have started to receive offers to try out different products & services. At first, I turned down all of these offers because I can’t stand when other bloggers write kiss-ass reviews for products simply because they got the product for free and felt that they owed it to the company.

I decided to take Inventico up on their offer because I was genuinely curious about the product. And I was 100% honest in my review.

In the future, if I write a review about a product that I received at no cost, I will:

  • Let you guys know that I received the product free from the manufacturer,
  • Review it honestly, and
  • Request from the manufacturer that they send a second item to one of my readers for their review. That way, we will get two different points of view on the same product/service.

Reference

.

If you like what you see here, click here for updates

.

Related Posts

9 out of 10 Dentists Say…

oral-b-triumph-smart-guide

…this toothbrush kicks butt.

Actually, I have no idea what 9 out of 10 dentists say, and to be quite honest, I can barely believe that:

  1. I am blogging about a toothbrush, and
  2. I am in love with an almost $200 electric toothbrush.

But, it’s true.

Since my last cleaning, I have been using one on these Oral-B Triumph brushes.

And you know that feeling that you have when you come out of the dentist’s office after a cleaning and the spaces between your teeth have had all of the plaque and gunk scraped and chiseled out.

Well, I still have that feeling.

And because of that feeling, I have been like the little Pied Piper of dental health for the past month and a half.

I swear to God. I am walking up to complete strangers and extolling the virtues of this toothbrush.

And why am I so excited about this toothbrush?

ADA
Image: ADA

Because about 6 months ago, I was at the dentist and after my check-up, I was told that I might require “restructuring” of my gums around my lower left second molar – #18 in the picture.

And the reason I might need “restructuring” in that area is because when my wisdom teeth were removed, the surgeon left a pocket where the tooth had been and this made the area prone to food getting stuck.

This resulted in bacteria and inflammation and bone loss and lectures from the hygienist and the dentist telling me that I needed to buy an almost $200 toothbrush.

And believe me, the idea of a $200 toothbrush just about blew my mind.

At first, I resisted and bought a less expensive electric brush.

And my gums got better. Not all the way better, but better.

The dentist didn’t think I would need the surgery.

Yay!

In my state of euphoria, I did some additional research into the effect that dental health has upon our overall health.

Most striking was the fact that inflammation caused by poor dental health can travel throughout the body and cause all sorts of problems.

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about some of the diseases and conditions that may be linked to oral health:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Research shows that several types of cardiovascular disease may be linked to oral health. These include heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and bacterial endocarditis. Some researchers believe that bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and travel through your arteries to your heart, affecting your cardiovascular system. Although periodontal disease seems to be associated with heart disease, more studies are needed before the link can be confirmed with certainty.
  • Pregnancy and birth. Gum disease has been linked to premature birth. Some research has shown that disease-causing organisms in a pregnant woman’s mouth can wind up in the placenta or amniotic fluid, possibly causing premature birth. Unfortunately, treating periodontal disease during pregnancy may be too late, because the infection may have already spread in the woman’s body. This is why it’s vital to maintain excellent oral health before you get pregnant.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth, and a variety of oral infections. Conversely, poor oral health can make your diabetes more difficult to control. Infections may cause your blood sugar to rise and require more insulin to keep it under control.
  • HIV/AIDS. In some cases, one of the first signs of AIDS may appear in your mouth, with severe gum infection. You may also develop persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth.
  • Osteoporosis. The first stages of bone loss may show up in your teeth. Your dentist may be able to spot this on routine dental X-rays. If bone loss worsens from year to year, your dentist can suggest that you discuss the issue with your other health care providers.
  • Other conditions. Many other conditions may make their presence known in your mouth before you know anything’s wrong. These may include Sjogren’s syndrome, certain cancers, eating disorders, syphilis, gonorrhea and substance abuse.

At this point, I was sold on the virtues of electric toothbrushes. . No more 69 cent manual toothbrushes for me.

And, because I am a bit of a tech geek, I upgraded to Oral B’s Triumph with Smart Guide…the Cadillac of electric toothrushes.

And it’s awesome.

My teeth feel like they just got cleaned yesterday……and I still don’t need dental surgery……and that’s a very good thing.

wii-fit-exercise-nintendo-workout-healthhabits

Wii Fit – A Workout for the Fattest Generation

Being a personal trainer, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been asked about Nintendo’s Wii Fit.

  • Is it a good workout?
  • Will it help me lose fat?

My answers:

  • It depends
  • Probably not

What is Wii Fit?

For those readers without children, the Wii Fit is a video game developed by Nintendo for the Wii console. The Wii Fit is unique in that it uses the Wii controller and the Wii Balance Board to enable the user to play a variety of “exercise” games.

In an attempt to market this product as a quasi health device, the Wii Fit calculates your BMI and after a few balance and reaction tests, assigns you a Wii Fit Age. The goal of the Wii Fit is that by exercising with the Wii Fit, you will be able to lower your BMI and Wii Fit Age.

Is the Wii Fit a good workout?

As I mentioned above, it depends. If you are even moderately physically fit, the Wii Fit is a waste of time.

In an article published in the National Post, the Wii Fit was tested in the exercise physiology lab at McGill University. Researcher Tania Taivassalo put the Wii Fit through it’s paces to see what sort of workout you can get with it.

The researchers tested the Wii Fit running game and the hula hoop game.

“According to Jean-Philippe Marchand, a kinesiology master’s student who tested the product in the lab, both the running and hula hoop game required the testers to work out at the equivalent of 60% of maximum aerobic power for children. These results classify the games as light physical activity with the potential to improve fitness among those new to exercise, but with little potential to do the same among the fit population”

Even worse than the low level of intensity was the fact that both games offer only short bursts of activity (under five minutes).

Low intensity plus short duration does not equal Olympic marathon champion.

The researchers’ final word on the Wii Fit: “It is definitely meant for sedentary people or for kids to have fun while exercising — as opposed to sitting and moving their thumbs only.” So, if you, or someone you love is a video game junkie and really, really, really needs to get in shape, the Wii Fit may be a good place to start.

It’s not too intense for a beginner, and it addresses most of the aspects of physical fitness:

Will it help me lose fat?

Without changing your eating habits, it is very unlikely that you will lose much body fat with your Wii Fit workout.  Sorry.

So, should I buy the Wii Fit?

Unless you are very desperate, I would hold off on buying the Wii Fit. While it is incredibly popular right now, I have a strong feeling that in a few months, there will be quite a few gently used Wii Fits being offered for sale on Ebay.

2015 Update

Wii Fit is now Wii Fit U and is available on Amazon for around $50.

money-muscle-health-healthhabits-fitness-exercise

An Affordable Home Gym

During my almost 20 years as a personal trainer, I have been asked numerous times to help clients design & outfit their home gym. Taking into account their fitness goals, the available space and their budget, there are a number of ways to go.

When it comes to the strength training part of their gym, most people are usually looking for some form of multi-gym. They promise the most bang for the buck.

Along those lines, I was reading an article today about a new type of compact home gym called the Murphy Gym. Obviously, taking it’s inspiration from the original Murphy Bed, the Murphy Gym is a dual cable stack weight lifting station that folds away into it’s own custom made cabinet.
>

When it comes to multi-gyms, I have to agree, this one is a beauty.

However, there is a drawback. The price.

The Murphy gym sells for $3,495, plus the cost of installation. And that is for the base unit. If you want the fancy-schmancy custom cabinet version, you’re going to pay.

If spending $4000+ for a home gym doesn’t work for your wallet, here’s what you need to do:

1. Buy the Hammer Head Anchor Gym CORE home gym – $150 at Amazon

hammer head home anchor gym-health-fitness-healthhabitsAnchor-Gym-Core--health-fitness-healthhabits

2. Buy a set of these multi-ply style strength-bands. $110 for 4 bands

strength-bands-health-fitness-exercise-healthhabits

 

3.  Or a set of these bands. Not as long-lasting, but the price is right and you can attach multiple bands to the handles

fitness health exercise healthhabits fitness bands strength

4.  Screw the Hammer Head hooks into a stud in the wall.

5.  Cancel your gym membership

6.  Get sweaty

alli-diarrhea

Anti-Obesity Pill for the U.K.?

 

The Daily Mail reports that “GlaxoSmithKline has applied for a licence to sell Alli in Britain and it could be available next year”.

NOTE:  For those that don’t know, Alli is the over the counter (OTC) version of Xenical.

alli-diarrhea

Xenical (generic name – Orlistat) is a prescription only drug produced by GSK designed to prevent obesity by blocking the absorption of dietary fat.

As reported in USA Today, Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston University Medical Center and a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, has patients on Alli and Xenical. She tells them the drugs will block about 100 to 200 fat calories a day. At that rate, they would lose an extra pound every 2½ to 5 weeks.

A 2007 study printed in the Lancet showed that Orlistat reduces weight by around 3 kg on average and decreases progression to diabetes in high-risk patients; adverse gastrointestinal effects are common.

And what are the adverse gastrointestinal side effects?

NOTE:   This is taken directly from the Xenical website.

“Because XENICAL works by blocking the absorption of dietary fat, it is likely that you will experience some changes in bowel habits. These bowel changes are a natural effect of blocking the fat from being absorbed. They generally occur during the first weeks of treatment; however, for some people they may continue for 6 months or longer while on XENICAL”.

These changes may include gas with oily discharge, an increased number of bowel movements, an urgent need to have them, and an inability to control them, particularly after meals containing higher amounts of fat than are recommended.

An inability to control your bowel movements.

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…like the great Neil Peart once said “You don’t get something for nothing“.

  • Brits will just have to decide if the benefits of Alli outweigh (no pun intended) the side effects.
  • Note that in the first four months that it was available for sale in the U.S., Alli sold over two million starter packages. At $60 per package, that is $120 million in sales in only four months.