Crack A Cold One For These Boozy Facts…

I’ve covered coffee and green tea in previous posts (the green tea thing is going fantastic, by the way!) So today, I’ll be covering a beverage type most people don’t consider as having health benefits: alcohol.

Yes, you read that right. In certain circumstances, alcohol can lend a number of health benefits (when it doesn’t include getting black-out drunk).

When one drinks in moderation, and just to be clear, moderation means no more than about two drinks a day, here are some of the benefits:

It can lower the risk for heart disease. Moderate alcohol can help increase the amount of “good cholesterol”, help improve insulin resistance and can help prevent certain blood clots.

It can improve your libido! Although there’s a lot more study to be done on this subject, some results have shown that alcohol can help prevent erectile dysfunction. And I don’t know about you guys (pun fully intended) but this is an important detail. Again, this is based on extremely moderate consumption.

Alcohol can help prevent dementia and reduce the chance of gallstones. Studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol can help make brain cells more fit. I’m not certain how one would measure the reduction in chance of developing gallstones. I mean, maybe you’re just someone who doesn’t develop them, right? But then again, that’s why I’m not a scientist.

It’s also been shown to reduce the chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes. This is apparently linked to healthy lifestyle choices used in conjunction with moderate consumption, of course. But while we’re on the subject of Diabetes and alcohol consumption, let’s talk about carbohydrates.

Obviously, carb counting becomes extremely important to insulin-dependant Diabetics. With that in mind, just about any pure spirit is carb free. For example, whiskey and tequila are actually carb free. As long as you don’t mix your drink with sugared alcohol or juice, you should be good to go. Unfortunately, just about all blends of beer are heavy on the carbohydrates. You know, hops and yeast and all that…

Frequent or heavy use of alcohol can LEAD to several health complications and a bunch of inconvenient things like weight gain and addiction. So be sure to drink in moderation and check your blood sugars frequently while consuming. Alcohol can keep your liver so occupied that it forgets to release glycol and your levels can drop quickly.

You can visit the Mayo Clinic’s website to read further about the benefits and complications of alcohol consumption. Here’s the link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551

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Wherever, Whenever…

Working out can sometimes get tough. There are a lot of things that can get in the way, such as work, studies, family, etc…

It’s important to remember that you can have a simple workout no matter where you find yourself or what you may be doing. For example, we’ve had an old fold out couch that I had to beat with a sledge hammer last year because the bed portion wouldn’t fold in properly. I properly screwed up the mechanism, so it’s had a piece of metal sticking out of the corner for the past year. It’s still been decent to sit on, but with the new couch taking up the majority of the living room space, we’ve been trying to get rid of it. This afternoon, a crow bar, a sledgehammer and a lot of sweat later, we tore the couch into burnable pieces of wood and the steel bed frame to bring to a scrap yard. It was actually a pretty good workout.

Sometimes when we’re on a trip somewhere, we tend to forego our fitness. Especially when staying in motels and such. Don’t forget that you can get a good sweat on, simply from your own body weight and body weight exercises. Some good examples would be push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches or sit-ups, leg raises and tricep dips using a chair. As long as you push yourself, you’d be surprised how good a burn you can get.

Check out this web page I found that contains all kinds of exercises that you can do when you find yourself without equipment and need a good burn: http://travelstrong.net/bodyweight-exercises/

Remember, travelling and daily obligations shouldn’t keep you from maintaining your physical health. As the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’m Zamfir, Yo!

I’ve decided to undertake a new hobby. I mean, between martial arts, my Buddhist studies and fitness, writing my blog, reading dozens of books a year and taking care of my son, I have so few hobbies, right?

I’ve decided to learn the pan flute. I found a unique opportunity to get my hands on one for only $14. Considering traditional bamboo pan flutes usually go for $80 to $100, minimum, it was something I couldn’t pass up (I can hear my wife cursing the day I got a credit card as I type this!)

The pan flute is a traditional wood-tube wind instrument that was originally created by the ancient Greeks. It was believed used originally by shepherds and is thought to have been used as early as the third millennium BC. It usually contains a minimum of four to eight hollowed bamboo or wooden tubes and is known for it’s rich sound by blowing across the opening.

My new toy! I feel inclined to name her…

It’s often associated with specific soundtracks. For example, Gheorghe Zamfir played a full track of Japanese Pan Flute for the original Karate Kid movie in 1984 ( the video can be heard on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSlAk0GatQ0 and haunts my soul!). The sound was haunting and beautiful, and it has always stuck with me throughout my martial arts training. I’ve always dreamt of learning this instrument and now I have one. It’s important to to have goals.

I’m thinking the name “Kaze” would be appropriate…

Music can play an integral role in your mental and physical well-being. Music wears several different hats for someone who indulges, such as lessening stress and anxiety, improving your mood and facilitating exercise, provides ease and comfort as well as easing pain in certain specific circumstances.

Music can move people to tears, make them smile or alter their mood. I’ve been playing the guitar and singing (in small doses), for the past twenty years. I’m not professional or anything, but the playing of music has always provided a satisfaction akin to meditation, which as you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a fan!

“Kaze” is Japanese for “wind”

Music is often used in physical activity as well as meditation. I hope to learn this instrument in short order and include it in my meditational routine. I’ll keep you guys posted and maybe even post a couple of sound bytes of me playing (if I can learn anything that sounds normal).

My point is, if you have the opportunity to learn and embrace a musical instrument, I highly recommend it. It can provide a certain amount of relaxation and all the benefits I named above, if you stick with it. It can also provide a certain level of discipline, which would be required to master any instrument. But if you stick with it and enjoy it (which is important) the benefits will far outweigh the efforts. ☯

No Matter How Much You Love Your Donut, It’ll Never Love You Back…

It almost seems as though they come out with some new fad diet every year. And with every new fad, people are subjected to different angles to trying to lose weight. Some involve cutting out carbohydrates (which is a really dumb idea since it’s our source of fuel), some involve trying to eat like our paleolithic ancestors (which is also another ridiculous concept, since our digestive systems have evolved WAY beyond what our ancestors had) and some involve eating nothing but vegetation (probably my biggest pet peeve, since the human digestive tract is designed to be omnivorous).

The bottom line is that it’s more the fact of what you eat than how much you eat. And also HOW you eat. After all, every person is different and the amount of food you require depends on age, fitness levels, overall health and a score of other factors.

For example, a man of my age, fitness level and size require almost 3,000 calories a day. My wife requires about 1,800 calories and my son would only need somewhere in the range of 1,000 to 1,400 calories (although I swear to the light that his energy level dictates he consumes SOOOO much more!).

Fad diets won’t help you lose weight. I mean, they might… But it severely depends on how you manage your lifestyle in tandem with the diet. Make sure that you consult your health practitioner prior to starting any diet regiment that seriously alters your eating habits from what you’re used to. Combine it with a healthy exercise schedule and watch for any change in your body’s behaviour that may be an issue (chest pains, random sweating, light headedness, etc…)

Last but not least, listen to your body. Dieting shouldn’t leave your stomach grumbling several times a day. If you’re constantly hungry, it’s a sure sign that your body is telling you that you need to eat more.

My Tea Is Green With Envy…

First and foremost, let me clarify that I drink about 3 to 4 litres of water a day. Between my fitness regiment and the facts I have Diabetes, water plays an integral role in my daily routine. But I do have an affinity for tea, and green tea is especially high on the list (with orange blossom and cinnamon being my top choice).

There’s a lot of attention being given to tea. Specifically, green tea. Studies have shown that green tea has a surprising amount of positive effects on the body. Most recently, I read about how drinking at least 5 cups of green tea a day can help in losing weight, most of it in the belly. Since Type 1 Diabetics have difficulty losing weight in the gut due to insulin use, this would be fantastic. True, there are no hard and fast beverages that melt off the fat for you. And it becomes most important to pair your tea consumption with other healthy habits, such as limiting your alcohol intake, eating well and exercising regularly.

Some of the health benefits include, but are not limited to improving blood flow and lowering cholesterol, aiding with blood sugar control and contains a number of antioxidants. These are just to name a few, and the studies are still happening as we speak.

One important benefit is the relaxing routine that comes with consuming tea. In fact, most Buddhist monasteries include the consumption of tea as part of the morning routine, as we believe that it helps with the cultivation of body and mind. It isn’t always necessarily green tea, but it usually involves a similar blend. Green tea has also been used in traditional and holistic medicine for next to forever.

I’ll be trying the whole “5 cups a day” thing for the next little while. In addition to how I’ve been killing myself on a bicycle lately, we’ll see if it does help to trim the gut a touch. I’ll also be watching my blood sugar levels to see what effect it may have. I’ll be providing updates as I go along.

My “short” little bike ride tonight…

So grab yourself a cup of green… When preparing your tea, it is recommended not to use boiling water as it can be damaging to some of the good stuff in the tea. Hot but not boiling water is best, and remove the tea bag once it has achieved the desired strength.

Some good articles that cover the material I’ve written on and more include WebMD (in case y’all haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of this page) and MedicalNewsToday.com. These articles can be read at https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea#2 and https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269538.php respectively.

Enjoy!

Gotta Get Me Some Of That Fresh Air Everyone Talks About…

I know a lot of people who spend the majority of their lives indoors. It happens naturally, right? Most jobs happen indoors and then when we get home we make meals and rest at home. But there are a lot of benefits to spending some time outside.

The first and most obvious benefit is sunlight. Although it has been proven that tanning and being in the summer sun unprotected isn’t all that great, getting “some” sun will help trigger the body’s production of Vitamin D and has also been shown to help prevent myopia in younger children.

Being outside will help with mental health and has been shown to reduce stress levels. Once outside, people will also tend to be more physical and exercise more. It also allows children o be more physically active, as they have access to space and play structures not available within the house. (For us parents, it also helps to maintain our sanity)

The majority of these benefits apply to adults, as well. I know a lot of fitness buffs who exercise, work out and stay in good shape but practically never go outdoors. I’m a firm believer that exercise is exercise; the benefits will happen regardless. That being said, adding the outdoors aspect will add to those benefits. Today, my family and I cycled to the nearest park, then my son played on the structures for almost an hour before we cycled back home.

So, get outside! The weather is getting nicer and summer is fast approaching. Whether you start with a simple walk or go for a jog or hop on the bike… You can’t go wrong.

The Weight of The World…

Stress. It has become a defining factor of modern day society. Unfortunately, you would be extremely hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t experience some level of stress in today’s world. In fact, even the wealthy and philanthropic have their own stresses, albeit stresses we likely don’t understand.

Some of my more religious associates would say that “God never throws more at you than you can handle…” If this is true, then I must have shoulders of fortified steel.

If stress simply involved worrying about something, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. The major issue with stress is the physiological and psychological effects it can carry with it. Sometimes, even the more trivial symptoms can be overlooked, such as a headache or back ache. But these physical symptoms can often be associated to the stresses on your life. Some of them can be more severe. Depression, change of mood or appetite and constant fatigue despite being unable to sleep can all be caused by stress.

So, what can one do to alleviate this? Well, the most obvious thing would be to eliminate the source of the stress. If possible, that would be the most effective way to reduce and eliminate your symptoms. However, when the stress in your life is caused by something you can’t eliminate, like perhaps your career that you’ve worked your whole life for, eliminating the cause becomes a little more difficult.

There are some traditional ways to manage stress. My obvious go-to and favourite one would include getting regular physical activity. Exercising releases certain hormones and helps to relax you. It also keeps your metabolism up and will help you sleep better. These are all things that will alleviate stress. I can certainly attest to the measurable benefits of working out on a punching bag.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. But it sometimes becomes hard to focus and concentrate on these things, depending on what’s bothering you.

As appealing as it may seem, you want to try and stay away from hobbies that will leave you sitting idle. Binge watching television or surfing the Internet may seem like a distraction, but in the long term it leaves you in a position where you can dwell on the things that are causing the issue.

Last but not least, prolonged bouts of stress can cause some serious, life-threatening physiological changes. If you notice that you have taken steps to control your stress but it lingers on, it might be time to chat with your doctor. If you start experiencing chest pains, random sweats and dizziness, it could be a sign of a heart attack. Be sure to take good care of yourselves.