Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind

American nutritionist Justine SanFilippo knows how badly a fad diet can harm your health; she has tried too many to count.”I had no energy, my brain was foggy and I had this weird, metallic taste in my mouth,” she writes of one low-carb diet’s effect. “To this day, we still think all carbs are bad. But we need them for energy. Read at the South China Morning Post.

Ten tips to lower your blood pressure

You know the routine: you walk into the examining room, perch on the table, and roll up your sleeve. Your healthcare practitioner inflates the cuff until it feels oppressively snug.

Read at the South China Morning Post.

Stress, death and bikinis: launching a start-up after serious sickness

Workplace stress costs the economy $15 billion a year, according to Medibank Private research. In 2005, if any doubt existed, researchers at Sydney’s Garvan Institute proved that stress triggers sickness.
Stress inspires such dread that it has been dubbed the “Black Death of the 21st century”. Meet two entrepreneurs who were flattened by stress-related sickness but rebounded to jump-start booming businesses.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Ten things you didn’t know about testosterone

Look at your hands. Is your ring finger – the fourth, counting the thumb – longer than the index finger?

If so, and you are male, good for you. That is a sign of high testosterone, or T: the hormone that influences your energy, libido, muscle size and strength. Testosterone may even help you think more sharply. In fact, testosterone lies at the heart of desire, ambition, even history, according to a website devoted to it, T-nation.com. Read more at the Adrenalist.

How to kickstart your body without caffeine

Energy without espresso

If you smell and drink coffee when you wake, consider kicking the habit. Despite its seductive aura and devoted global following, coffee essentially amounts to a drug that is less soft than you might think.

A recent Finnish study found that coffee drinkers are more likely to be on medication for high blood pressure than abstainers, suggesting that the two may be linked.  Dr Jacob Teitelbaum, the Medical Director of a fatigue-fighting centre (www.fibroandfatigue.com), says that just one cup of coffee a day can exacerbate fatigue, anxiety or pain. The caffeine, Dr Teitelbaum explains, is “a loan shark for energy, giving a boost now, but crashing you later”.

Worse, he says, caffeine exacerbates low blood sugar-induced irritability. Into the bargain, the acids in coffee aggravate indigestion — so don’t wash down your tummy tablet with a cup of the world’s most popular drug. In fact, think twice about relying on your espresso for energy at all.

Why not simply try injecting more fulfillment into your life? “I have found that having compelling and meaningful goals in life can get anyone out of bed early and full of energy. No kidding,” says Valli Bindana who has been boosted by launching her own multimedia startup, KreativeVistas ( http://www.kreativevistas.com).

Nancy Clark, the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, flags up another orthodox option: “Without a doubt, the best caffeine-free alternative to an eye-opening cup of coffee is exercise.  A quick walk and some fresh air may be far more effective than a cup of brew.”

So too may “belly breathing”, endorsed by Dr Adrianne Ahern, a peak performance psychologist and the author of Snap Out Of It Now! Done by children naturally, this respiration technique simply entails sucking the air down and popping the belly out in the reverse of the shallow, tight breathing that most of us practise. Breathe slow and deep and oxygenate all parts of the body, including the brain, bringing nourishment and calm.

If you cannot take mind-and-body techniques seriously, try laughing. That’s how Betty Hoeffner, the author of contagious laughter CD Laugh it Off (www.HeyUGLY.org) jumpstarts her day.

After learning that laughing for 10 minutes elevates your spirit and endorphins she started guffawing in the morning five years ago. “It really works,” the reformed coffee drinker says.

If hard laughing, deep breathing, passion and exercise all seem too much like hard work, ponder the dietary options. Happily, there’s more to coffee substitutes than just ginseng or guarana gum.

Remember to take any stimulant you embrace in moderation. Otherwise, it will interfere with your sleep and ultimately sap your energy supplies. 

10 food and drink coffee alternatives

1. British breakfast
Dr. Maurice Ramirez, the author of You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time, recommends an holistic approach to giving your body oomph in the morning.  At the core of his programme are high protein meals, in particular the traditional English breakfast.  “Get back to good old bacon and eggs.  They will really wake you up and are Atkins-approved,” Dr Ramirez says. He is less keen on high-carbohydrate foods such as bread, which he calls “a double-edged sword — high carbs will wake you up, but when the sugar rush fades, the insulin rush puts you down for the count”.

2. Red hot chili peppers
Not the band, the actual peppers are great in your breakfast. Thank capsaicin oil, the active ingredient that gives peppers their zap. Dr Ramirez describes capsaicin as “an excellent stimulant”. Other supporters call chili a superfood. But take it easy unless you want to feel as if you have eaten a cactus salad.

3. Yerba Mate
If you really want to experiment, consider the charms of yerba mate tea from Argentina. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes this holly plant’s pungent taste as “like a cross between green tea and coffee, with hints of tobacco and oak”.

Daisy Merey, a doctor who has practised for over a quarter of a century and written several books on nutrition recommends yerba mate because it naturally contains the stimulant guarana. You can obtain yerba mate tea online via google.com.au or sensis.com.au, say. Mate will make you less twitchy than caffeinated drinks, but may be addictive and raise blood pressure, Merey warns.

4. Moringa
You’ve never heard of moringa? Don’t worry – nor has hardly anyone else. An honourable exception is Kris Pham, the producer of the Asian diet and lifestyle show Zen Living (www.zenliving.tv ). Pham praises the plant: “It has a lot of the nutrients the body needs and is actually better for you than a full breakfast, even. Drink the tea warm with some honey and you’ll have the energy to last into lunchtime. Also, great for the immune system.”

The secret? According to the Los Angeles Times, the “gifted bit of flora” packs the calcium of four glasses of milk, the Vitamin C of seven oranges and the potassium of three bananas. Soon, people will be calling it a superfood.

5. Reishi mushrooms
Another nutritional kickstart you might never think to enlist is Reishi mushrooms. Susan Kath, the director of Balmain-based InnerSense Natural Therapies, recommends them, saying they have been used in China and Japan for over 5,000 years.

Traditionally, the dried mushroom was boiled in hot water to release the active ingredients and be drunk as a tea or in soup.  Today, the mushroom extract is normally taken as a tincture or in tablet form.

Among other benefits, the magical mushrooms support and stabilise the adrenal hormones adrenalin and cortisol that stimulate the body.

6. Rooibos
Pronounced “roy-buss”, rooibos is a caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich, reddish tea technically known as a “tisane” that comes from South Africa. Rooibos tastes like regular black tea, only less bitter, which makes it a good choice for people who usually spit the herbal kind.

Steep it for three minutes and drink as you wish — plain, with a lemon wedge or milk, or iced. Rooibos is available at health food stores, some grocery stores, and online in a variety of flavours such as vanilla.

7. Dandelion root “coffee”
The herb dandelion (latin name Taraxacum officinale) has a long history as a folk remedy for digestive complaints and skin conditions. Today, herbalists use it as a liver “tonic” among other applications.

It’s a fine option for people who like coffee’s pungent taste, says Kathy Wong, the About.com alternative medicine guide and the author of The Inside Out Diet. The roots of the dandelion variety have been slow-roasted until golden brown then pulverised in a coffee grinder. Pour the powder into a regular coffee maker (about one level teaspoon per cup of coffee).

8. Whey
Immortalised by a nursery rhyme, whey is the watery part of milk that separates from the solid curds. A whey smoothie is just the job for people who want a convenient breakfast, above all because it’s packed with protein, which fills you up. Whey also hosts the essential amino acids.

Clearly, it is much better than a sugary or high-glycemic breakfast that triggers a blood sugar spike but later leaves you feeling frazzled. But bother to shop around for whey protein isolate, which has little lactose and fat compared to whey protein concentrate. And remember to read the label because some whey powders have artificial colours and sweeteners.

Beyond smoothies, whey can be mixed into yogurt and topped with fresh berries or blended into breakfast cereal milk. Versatile.

9. Tea
Tea packs enough caffeine to give you a boost, but not enough to crash you. Better yet, it is loaded with antioxidants. If anxiety is a problem, drink green tea, which contains theanine: a special amino acid (protein) that calms you while sharpening mental clarity. Also available as a supplement in capsules, theanine is excellent for anxiety.

Use only the SunTheanine form (the only form most reputable firms add to their supplements). “I suspect it’s only a matter of time till your local coffee shop barista asks, ‘Would you like one pump of Theanine or two in your coffee?'” Dr Jacob Teitelbaum says.

10. Super supplements
A study published by Dr Teitelbaum’s fatigue fighting centre shows that a special sugar called D-ribose boosts energy by almost 50% after three weeks in people afflicted by “the devastating fatigue” of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Any brand is OK, he says. Ask in your health food store for the super sugar, which is manufactured by Syn-Tec and TOP Nutrition.

While you are about it, consider the enlivening power of high-dose vitamins and minerals — especially B vitamins and magnesium. To avoid having to gobble handfuls of pills, take them in vitamin powder form. “That’s how I jumpstart my energy each morning,” Dr Teitelbaum says.


Originally published Good Health magazine, Australia