Warm It Up Nice… 🔥

Exercising is strenuous on the body, especially if you’re working out properly. Increase heart rate and blood pressure, the release of adrenaline and a whole batch of other hormones, and secondary effects on the human body. That strain is increased even further by the prospect of working out when you’re cold. And yes, it’s winter in the Canadian Prairies and I feel inclined to pick on ‘Ol Man Winter, so please bear with me…

The jury is still out on the concept of your blood thickening during the winter months. With some studies showing that winter climates tend to make our blood thicker and run slower, and some studies stating that there’s no correlation, it make it difficult to know if this is a potential cause. But let’s admit, for the sake of argument, the it always feels a bit tougher to find that “get up and go” when walking into fitness class or gym when it’s cold out.

In karate, it’s a noticeable effect… During the warmer months, people are totally game to come work out and break a sweat. But during the deep, frosty winters of Saskatchewan, the class size drops to a handful who are crazy enough to brave the elements. But besides the issue of disliking the cold and how our blood reacts, the specific aspect I want to talk about today are your muscles.

Muscles are necessary for fitness. D-uh, right? You use them for any fitness workout you may have planned, so they sort of play a key role in what you do. Your muscles are an elastic tissue, and are affected by the changes in temperature. When you spend time outside in the cold, those tissues contract and become stiffer. When you step out into the balmy, tropical weather, tissues expand and relax. This is why most fighters and athletes prefer to train and work in warmer climates.

Last Thursday, the temperature where I am sat at a lovely -37 degrees Celsius. Once the wind factor is included, it was actually in the -40’s. Stepping into karate class, I felt cold, stiff, and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep. It felt like it took WAY more effort to stretch and warm up than it rightfully should have. But this is where it becomes all the more important to stretch and warm up properly before getting into a rigorous workout.

As your muscles and joints become tighter, you lose some range of motion. You become more susceptible to muscle sprains and tears and potentially pinched nerves. It WILL take more effort to perform the same exercises as you would in warmer weather. This is why you should start your winter workout with about ten minutes of mild to moderate cardio, such as jump rope, punching bag or shadow boxing (I’ve included the ones I usually do in karate, but there are plenty of options).

So instead of foregoing your workouts in the winter and hibernating, simply take the time to warm properly once you reach your class. It will help to prevent injury and will ensure that you don’t accumulate any of that dreaded “winter fat” from ignoring your fitness! ☯

Grab The Bull By The Horns…

Anyone who is at least mildly familiar with me, knows that I’m a big fan of caffeine. My day pretty much always starts with a coffee or an energy drink (sometimes both) and I would be lying if I said that I don’t turn into a cranky biatch if I don’t have some levels of caffeine coursing through my veins before I deal with the outside world.

Energy drinks have gotten a bad rap in the past couple of decades, and not always for good reason. Over-consumption, allergies and/or misuse have lead to the popular opinion that energy drinks are bad for you, even dangerous. The bottom line is that it is very much a question of moderation, much like everything else. The average person can safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (depending on age, weight and health concerns), and the average 473 mL can of energy drink only has 160 milligrams of caffeine. You’d have to drink four cans to start creeping into that “danger zone”.

Now that we’ve covered off the caffeine issue in all it’s glory (some of my previous posts have been specifically about caffeine so I won’t go crazy here) the actual focus of today’s blog is an often-disputed ingredient that happens to be in most energy drinks: Taurine!

Taurine is an amino acid and is actually produced naturally by the human body. Despite its natural production, it can also be found in reasonable amounts in meat and fish. Contrary to some claims on the internet, Taurine is not derived from the urine and/or semen of bulls. Yes, the word “Taurine” is derived from a latin word that means bull, but unless you’re getting your Taurine from a cut of steak, it has nothing to do with an actual bull.

Taurine, unlike other amino acids, doesn’t contribute to the creation of the body’s proteins. But it has a number of uses that are beneficial to the proper health of the body’s cells. Some studies have even shown that there are measurable benefits in regulating Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes, as well as some Diabetes-related kidney issues. MedicalNewsToday.com has an excellent article that goes into detail about some of it an can be read here; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326476.php#why-do-we-need-it

The studies in question seem to indicate that taking Taurine supplements can help improve insulin sensitivity. But like caffeine, the amount of measurable Taurine in a can of energy drink is well below what’s believed to be safe. Although the average can has 2000 milligrams of Taurine, an article by Healthline.com indicates that doses upwards of 3000 milligrams for an entire lifetime still fall within the realm of safety. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-taurine#dosage)

The bottom line is that consuming energy drinks are not inherently dangerous, when consumed in moderation. And Taurine is most certainly not an included ingredient that the manufacturers have gotten from a bull’s testies! The end result is that you should take your caffeinated beverages in moderation, and never beyond mid-afternoon. Otherwise, enjoy your energy drink! There’s nothing harmful in it. ☯

Don't Freeze Your Bits…

Ahhh, winter… The season of freshness. The season when everything is covered in a cleansing blanket of white that seem to invigorate… And take one’s breath away! Of all the things that affect people who live with Type-1 Diabetes, cold is one of the least considered, though it should not be forgotten.

Last Monday, I had my usual bimonthly eye injection appointment in the neighbouring city. As is my habit, I checked into my hotel a bit early so that I could park my vehicle in the relative safety of their parking structure and walk for approximately fifteen minutes across a public park to reach the hospital. This is usually done due to the lack of availability of the hotel’s shuttle and the fact that I’m too cheap to pay for a taxi.

Once I checked in, I took my first few steps in the cold, -40 degrees celsius of Saskatchewan winter. That first breath caught in my lungs and caused me to choke. But the first few steps were bearable. Then, as I continued, my limbs and face started to object to my being outside. They almost seemed to form a linch mob hell-bent on making me regret every step I took in the “great” outdoors.

By the time I had reached the hospital, two things happened: I was frozen to my core despite wearing appropriate winter apparel, and the battery on my insulin pump died on me. It shouldn’t have, since it was barely half used. But exposure to the intense cold caused the battery to bottom out.

This leads us to an important reminder about the cold. First and foremost, extreme cold forces the body into a fight-or-flight state, which can cause the release of adrenaline and similar hormones, which will cause the release of glycol for further energy, thereby affecting blood sugar levels.

There are a score of other problems that spending too much time in the cold will cause. The most important thing to remember is that although insulin is meant to be kept cool and/or cold through refrigeration, it can’t be allowed to freeze. Insulin is a protein, and if it is allowed to freeze it’ll break down and won’t function the way it should. Once broken down, it won’t lower blood sugar the way it’s intended.

As far as equipment goes, the manufacturer’s information for all things Diabetes-related, such as your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump, will indicate that you shouldn’t expose them to extreme cold. The problem I faced, in regards to my pump’s battery, is that the freezing temperature will cause the composition of the battery to become ineffective and possibly even rupture. I was lucky that my battery didn’t pop inside the pump.

If you find yourself having to venture out in the freezing, Saskatchewan winter, be sure to dress for the weather. Dress in layers, stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and cover up to prevent frostbite. But most of all, keep your equipment and insulin shielded from sub-zero temperatures and freezing as much as possible. And certainly not least, trust your blood sugars frequently to ensure you’re staying on top of it. ☯

It's Not Their Fault…

We all know that there’s suffering in the world. I think this goes without saying, but sometimes we encounter these prozac-dosed individuals that walk around with tweeting-bird sounds floating around their heads who seem to think that suffering doesn’t exist. In all honesty, good for you if you can truly believe this and live your life in that mindset; even if it’s false.

My point is that for the most part, we are all firmly aware that the world contains suffering. And we all endure some of that suffering, as much as we would prefer not to. As sentient beings, we have an unspoken responsibility to do our part to reduce and/or eliminate this suffering in the world, which leads one to wonder why any individual would intentionally CAUSE it…

“Pain Is Inevitable; Suffering Is Optional”

David Kessler

A few days ago, I was out running errands with my family. We rarely all go out together. Especially given the labour-intensive process required in getting an infant ready and out the door during winter months, and trying to maintain control over the destructive force of nature that is my five-year old son… But as usual, I digress…

During some of our errands, I will occasionally run in quickly without the rest of the family in order to complete one of the quicker stops. This is where the subject of today’s blog post took place.

I grabbed the couple of items I needed from this particular business and headed up to the checkout, which included two tills and two employees. There was a man there, and he was trying to return something without a receipt. I think we’ve all been there, but one also needs to understand that many locations won’t accept a return WITHOUT the receipt from your purchase. This was the case for this particular gentleman.

He immediately became belligerent and started arguing with the cashiers, which included grabbing another package off the shelf to “prove” that he had purchased the item at this specific location. The cashier calmly explained that although it was an item they carried, they couldn’t prove he had purchased it there and that it was their store’s policy not to accept a return without proof of purchase; something which was out of the cashier’s control.

The man became angry and started yelling that he had grabbed the wrong one by mistake and that it was absolutely imperative that the cashiers allow him to exchange or return it. The cashier, who to her credit maintained her calm throughout this entire exchange, explained once again that it was the store’s policy and that she had no authority to go against it.

Now folks, I can understand the frustration on both sides of this equation. I’ve tried to return items without a receipt and I totally understand how angering it can be when it doesn’t work. I have also worked retail and can tell you for a fact that in Canada, with the exception of some specific commercial laws, retail locations are under NO obligation to accept a return or issue a refund. Once the sale is made, the sale is made.

All this being said, despite the fact I try to exude calm as much as possible I have very low tolerance for people who cause suffering and cost others their time for trivial things. Especially an item that’s only $14.99 and especially when you’re tying up both cashiers with your stupidity, holding up the four people behind you. I kindly asked the gentleman to set aside his complaint for a few moments so that the staff could clear the line. This snapped the cashiers out of their stupor and one of them called me over while the other continued to deal with this angry man.

As I was finally and thankfully exiting the location, the cashier was trying to convince the man in much calmer terms that his incorrect choice did not constitute a problem on her part and that she could get him the number for the store manager and he could deal with the matter this way.

For most people, things tend to dwell on our minds. If these two employees were having a decent day, this jackass and his negative energy likely damaged or ruined these poor peoples’ afternoon. Now, I’m not saying that this particular exchange wasn’t important to this person. Maybe that $15 was the last of his money for the week and he really needed the item he sought. But one needs to acknowledge that his approach not only DID NOT get him what he needed, he spread the suffering in the attempt.

Even while dealing with something or going through something negative yourself, take a moment to consider how your actions may affect others. You have the same responsibility as the rest of us in preventing the propagation of suffering. ☯

Much Like A Coat, Your Opinion Should Be Checked At The Door

It continues to blow my mind how brazen and “cheeky” some folks become when protected behind a keyboard in the safety of their home. Even with some of the more enlightened societal concepts that have supposedly become the norm, many still believe in calling out others and speaking against them in online forums.

I recently read a post by someone who had been listing some homemade clothing and purchases they had made at a thrift store. Almost immediately, someone hit up their comments section and started calling the person out, claiming that wearing second-hand clothing was disgusting as you had no idea where it came from and that the writer should know better. This was apparently even someone who KNEW the writer.

This is a pretty tame example and they tend to get worse. I, myself, have even had people commenting and arguing with me in relation to martial arts and Buddhism on this blog! Kind of hard not to, I guess, since religion is one of the most disputed topics of conversation out there. But I’ve even had it where I’ve been verbally insulted and attacked on my blog posts. I tend not to allow an argument to ensue and simply block person and their comments as I don’t abide by unnecessary negative energy.

It’s almost a safe bet that if you go online (on any forum) and say left, someone will say right. Then they’re usually game to argue their view to the point of becoming insulting and belittling to the writer. So why are people like this? For the most part, I can almost guarantee that the same people wouldn’t be arguing like this, if they were face-to-face with the person in question.

The popular term that has labeled to this phenomenon, is known as “trolling”. This is not to be mistaken with people who genuinely want to discuss and even debate their opposing view through your comments section. Trolls basically take the time out of their day to comment in a negative fashion against anything they find online. They usually make it a point to make their comments as insulting as possible and are actively hoping to elicit a reaction from people.

An article posted on PsychologyToday.com states, “[…] trolls have markedly different personality styles: they are more narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic and sadistic.” This basically means that they comment for their own self-gratification based on the responses they elicit as opposed to actually contributing to the conversation. Nice, eh?

The article goes on to explain that the best thing you can do with trolls, if you find them commenting on your post or article is to simply ignore them. This can be quite difficult, if your post is of a personal nature or you’ve vested yourself in the message you’re sending. But if you don’t engage them, you essentially take away their influence against you.

Here’s the article, if anyone wants to give it a read: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/significant-results/201408/what-you-should-know-about-online-arguments

For those who may not be a troll, I like to use a popular term I’ve found often online: “Just scroll on by…” Basically, if you don’t like what you see or read, there’s nothing wrong with just scrolling past. There is no genuine need to comment. Unless of course, you wish to genuinely debate. In which case, let me grab you a coffee! We’ll be here for a while… ☯

Balancing What You Eat Can Help At Balancing Your Life

“Wow, my blood sugar is great, right now! Time to f&*k it up with lunch…” This is a typical line I often say to my wife when I test my blood and find it sitting in an ideal range. Having Type-1 Diabetes makes it reasonably difficult to find balance. On the one hand, some food items have some very clearly defined carbohydrate counts. On the other, depending on your current state of health, mood, hydration and the weather (I wish I was kidding), the same food item you ate yesterday can have a measured difference in effect on your blood sugars from the day before.

Finding a diet that works is very subjective, and having that diet work in relation to your blood sugars is by no means an easy task. For example, did you know that about a cup of a rice krispies cereal has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the carbohydrates in something less generic, like Special K is about 22.75 grams? (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-low-carb-cereal-brands#medium-carb)

Although this doesn’t seem like a HUGE difference, a two or three gram difference in your meal’s total carb-count can make a big difference in the overall blood sugar levels of the day. But are carbohydrates the worst concern in your diet?

Carbohydrates are fuel. That’s the simplest way of looking at it. Along with protein and fat, it is one of the essential aspects of nutrition that’s required. The problem with carbohydrates is that some of them will burn much slower than others. This can play hell with your insulin dosage. If you take X number of units for Y grams of carbs and it has a measured effect on your blood sugar curve, you may see a noticeable difference with the same amount of carbs in a food that’s processed slower.

For example, if you compare 100 grams of red meat against a half cup of beans, the beans clearly win out where total nutrition is concerned. Beans will have more protein, almost four times the iron and magnesium and contains none of the cholesterol that you’d find in meat. However, that half-cup of beans will have 22 grams of carbohydrates to bolus for, where the meat will have none.

The difference is you CAN take insulin for the carb in the beans. Fighting off the long-term (and sometimes not so long-term) effects of cholesterol are a little more difficult; not to mention the effects on the cardiac system and your overall health.

Another good example are eggs versus tofu. I’m gonna start by saying I am a diehard hater of tofu and I refuse to even have it in my house. Although very nutritious, I’m not a fan of eating something that either has a gelatinous feel or looks like something I scraped out of the lawnmower. But I digress…

While half a cup of scrambled eggs will certainly have less carbohydrates than tofu, it also contains more than three times the amount of saturated fats as tofu. I’m still not eating tofu! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! (Hides under the covers in his bed and pouts)

Last but not least are chick peas. I have a friend back home who is a big fan of chick peas, and for good reason. If you compare equal amounts of chick peas with let’s say, chicken breast… chick peas will have an almost equal amount of protein as chicken but with none of the cholesterol. Chick peas also pack a decent amount of fibre, whereas chicken has none. And fibre is one of those dietary staples that most people seem to neglect.

There are plenty of sites around the internet where you can get nutritional measurements for common foods, so I’ll leave it to you to find your own information. Your family doctor or medical practitioner should be able to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns related to your food intake.

The bottom line is that in the face of all these fad diets and nutritional trends out there, you need to find a balance in what you eat. Lower carb counts can help to lose SOME weight, although this is only in small amounts and usually doesn’t last. So choosing foods high in protein and minerals that your body needs may be worth the added two or three units of insulin you have to inject at mealtime. The key is knowing how your body will metabolize the specific carbs you’re eating, and distributing your insulin accordingly. ☯

If The Smell Doesn't Kill You, The Benefits Will Heal You…

Yeah, it isn’t the prettiest fragrance in the vegetable world, but damn is it delicious! I’m a big fan of garlic, and I use it in most of my cooking. Garlic comes in many forms when used in the kitchen. You can buy garlic butter, garlic powder and even garlic spread. And that’s on top of the usual fresh whole cloves and chopped, freeze-dried garlic.

Most people obviously know that garlic is a vegetable (I hope), but something many don’t know is that it’s related to the onion. And on top of the delicious flavour it adds to my stir fry, it has a number of proven benefits for the body, as well.

Garlic contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, including some B vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fresh garlic has been studied and shown to boost immune systems, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart issues. Taking garlic supplements has even been shown to help reduce pre-meal blood sugar if taken over long periods of time.

According to an article posted on WebMD, there is a bad side to garlic. Considering it has the potential to lower blood sugar, it’s definitely something to watch if you’re eating it in large amounts. Other problematic issues includes heartburn, bad breath and a distinct and noticeable door of garlic when you sweat. Lovely, eh?

There are also some medication interactions to watch for, if you eat large quantities of garlic. You can check them out here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic

At the end of the day, we mustn’t forget the most important benefit of garlic: it’s delicious! Fresh, chopped garlic always adds a little “je ne said quoi” to your meal, whether it’s a stir fry or a meatloaf. Did I mention it’s delicious? I recently found an in-store made garlic spread that’s pretty good on toast. The best part is that my son seems to have taken to it and can’t get enough, as well (the five-year old, not the three-month old).

So, garlic it up! Just don’t forget to keep your toothbrush close by to eliminate that death-breath afterwards! ☯