Build Strong Abs and Reduce Back Pain at the Same Time

Posted on June 12, 2018. Filed under: Exercise, Health, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , |

medicine ball absIn today’s busy lifestyle, people strive to be as efficient, effective and productive as possible. So on the premise of  “killing two birds with one stone”, there are ways to build a strong lean set of abs and reduce back pain in one fell swoop.

Diet plays a strong role in not only creating a lean abdomen but also reducing inflammation that can be related to joint and back pain. By keeping inflammatory foods at a minimum, you’ll likely see great results.  Sugar is one of the biggest culprits, it turns into fat in your body and suppresses the immune system. Ridding starches like breads and pasta can help not only your mid-section cosmetically, but keep an over abundance of carbohydrates from turning into sugar.  The foods we eat can also cause bloating, especially around the midsection. For some, salt and dairy products cause water-retention. Great foods to take away the bloat but are also anti-inflammatory include foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber and help with constipation as well.  These include cucumbers, bananas, avocados, papaya, asparagus and kiwis.

The next way to build better abs and reduce back pain is to focus on certain exercises which build muscle and a stronger core.  Strong abdominal muscles not only look great but can actually prevent back pain by making you less prone to back injury and helping with better spinal alignment.  Back pain can be caused by weak abdominals and unbalanced muscles. The abs are the front anchor to our spine, and if weak, the other muscles that also support your spine, work harder to compensate.  In building strong abs, you’ll want to make sure that all the abdominal muscles including internal and external obliques and transverse abdominal are equally exercised.

One of my favorite overall abdominal exercises are the hanging leg or knee raise done in an upright position.  This dynamic exercise concentrates movement on the lower core which provides more benefit than holding a plank which is a static exercise. Performing exercises that allow you to curl your abs where you actively contract the muscle are great to do.  There are a multitude of exercises you can choose from but anything that causes pain or discomfort should be avoided. Another favorite exercise that not only strengthens the abs, low back, glutes, thighs, and overall core are squats. They work so many muscles at the same time providing more bang for the buck.  The best ab exercises will help support and give strength to the lower spine and abdomen and also work the deep and intermediate abs at the same time.

And let us not forget that one of the most simple and easy ways to make abs look great and help with back pain is good posture!  If we imagine a plumb line going straight up and down, we define good posture as having the ear, shoulder, hip, and ankles all in alignment with that imaginary line.  When we stand correctly, we see a multitude of benefits – we feel stronger, more confident, better balanced and we look taller, thinner and feel better!

 

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Why Women Need Testosterone Too

Posted on May 16, 2018. Filed under: Aging, Exercise, Healing, Health, Hormone, Testosterone | Tags: , , , , , |

Monica side with weights

Monica Steiner

By Dr. Greg Steiner

Most people have been under the impression that testosterone is for males only.  Not so!  This hormone is found in both sexes but in smaller concentrations in females.  Testosterone not only helps with keeping muscle mass (no more saggy arm skin) but it can help substantially with energy and overall well-being.  There are many things which affect testosterone levels with increasing age as a main factor.  Most recently, we’re seeing lowered levels appearing in younger ages and in both men & women so often it’s almost an epidemic.

Symptoms of low testosterone in women include:
Weight gain
Hair loss or thinning
Depressive mood
Irritability
Low libido/sex drive
Decreased energy & fatigue
Inability to build or maintain muscle mass

How Do I Know If My Testosterone is Low?
Questions to ask include, “Are you in your 40’s or 50’s? Have you had menopause? “or “Have you noticed a difference in your mood or how you feel?”  Because we have many different hormones, the issue at task is discovering just which ones are actually causing the problem.  Menopause symptoms as well as hypothyroid and low testosterone symptoms can be very similar and often overlap.  The best thing to start off with is a blood test to determine what may be off.  But don’t just go on labs alone because what some labs may consider to be a “normal” range may not be the optimal best range.  For example, if a patient has a testosterone level of 22 which one lab says falls within their “normal” range of 15-75.  This falls within the low range of normal but the patient could dramatically benefit from testosterone supplementation.  (There have been marked improvements in symptoms from shooting towards the upper 50% of “normal range”).

How to Naturally Increase Testosterone
Hormone replacement has been come well known in recent years but there are some things one can do to help increase those levels through nutrition, exercise and stress management.  Vitamin and herbal supplementation suggestions include plenty of omega oils, maca root, nettle root extract, and dim- (a broccoli extract which helps stop testosterone from being converted into estrogen) are good choices.  Because of deprived soils producing inferior foods with lowered nutrition on the market, a case for supplementation can be made.  A diet with lowered starches and carbohydrates and increased vegetables, good fats and proteins help as well.  Exercise is good for everyone but type of exercise can influence testosterone levels.  Those who are endurance athletes (runners, cyclists) whose bodies tend to be lighter and leaner  tend to have slightly lower levels than power athletes (weightlifters) or those who engage in strength building because growing muscle mass builds testosterone.  For stress management, having good, deep, and restorative sleep will make a huge difference.  Testosterone is produced when the body reaches a restorative state.  For example, with 5 stages of sleep, you’ll need to reach stage 3 or 4 at least in order to start that process.  Proper, uninterrupted sleep (where you dream) is necessary for recovery and sufficient testosterone production.

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Pre & Post Surgery Prep for a Quicker Recovery

Posted on March 20, 2018. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Chiropractic, Exercise, Healing, Health, Pain, surgery | Tags: , , , , , , |

monica back exercise~By Dr. Gregory Steiner, DC, MPhil

After over 25 years as a Natural Health Practitioner, I’ve come across a multitude of patients who used Chiropractic and Acupuncture therapies to either forgo their surgery or to prepare for an upcoming procedure.  I’ve also utilized these therapies on myself pre and post for knee surgery due to years and years of martial arts, over exercising, improper techniques, poor diet and ignorance in my youth. Surgery was performed to re-implant my own cartilage back into my kneecaps. I created a protocol for the first surgery and then tweaked it two years later for the second surgery.  The results of preparation pre and post were incredible and I’ve been able to share this protocol with my patients for their own rehabilitation success.

First and foremost is the concentration on nutrition. My patients and myself included, have used proteolytic enzyme supplements to prepare the body and help reduce inflammation.  These enzymes are designed to speed up the chemical reactions in your body and speed up your own repair process.  You should also focus on a more anti-inflammatory diet and consume foods like green leafy vegetables, walnuts, avocados, and herbs like garlic and ginger, and especially turmeric.  Stay away from sugars, white flours, and fast foods while also reducing dairy products pre and post-surgery.  I also liked to sip on branch chain amino acids pre and post.

Prehab also includes exercise.  Whether it be plyometrics or weight lifting, the goal is to activate the nervous system and get it charged up.  Anesthesia from surgery affects this, they create “nerve blocks” and it can take a while before they start firing up again.  It’s not just about lifting a bunch of heavy weights but using them in a controlled manner to activate the nerves as well and fire them up.

Acupuncture combined with electrical stimulation can also help.  I’ve used general points to boost energy and decrease stress and specific master points to help reduce inflammation and increase circulation to affected areas. Chiropractic is very good especially if the upcoming surgery is joint related.  The goal here is to get the joint in the best alignment as possible prior to procedure.

Getting the mind and body ready for surgery and preparing yourself  “pre-hab” and “rehab” can result in quicker and less painful recovery helping get you back to doing what you love to do in the shortest time possible.

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Headache from the Neck? Dealing with the “Cervicogenic Headache”

Posted on October 3, 2017. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Cervicogenic headache, Chiropractic, headache, Health, Neck Pain | Tags: , , , , , |

cervicogenic

Almost everyone has had a “headache” but did you know there are at least 150 different types of headaches?  There are vascular, condition specific, tension, cluster, migraine, environmental, disease related and the list goes on.  One of the most prevalent headaches I see at the clinic is that which is called the “Cervicogenic  Headache”.  It’s classified as a secondary headache which means that its caused by another issue other than directly in the head.  Pain is perceived as occurring in a part of the body other than its true source, a type of “referred pain”.  Simply put, perceived in the head from a source in the neck.

By identifying the type of headache, corrective measures can then be taken but it’s not always easy to determine the headaches because many symptoms and patterns are similar.  Cervicogenic headaches often feel as painful as a migraine and typically pain is located on one side of the head.  The pain seems to start at the back and wrap itself up and over the top to the side of the head.   Cervicogenic means that it’s coming from the neck, though neck pain may not be felt.  There are structures right at the base of the skull where it attaches to the spine along which arteries and nerves run.  If they get irritated or compressed, it can be problematic.  If you push at the base of the skull, it’s extremely tender, even light pressure above the nerve can hurt too.

For these types of headaches, a chiropractic adjustment can help dissipate that pain.  What happens here is that proper motion and relationship is being restored within the structures.  Abnormal tensions are reduced, pressure is lessened, muscles start to relax, and blood vessels return to normal flow and things start to heal in fairly short order.

Patients who are prone to neck and shoulder pain may experience these types of headaches more so than others.  It can be aggravated by sitting at computers or excessive cell phone use, especially with forward head posture because there is so much tension on the back of the neck.  If the head is dropped forward, the muscles then try to pull backwards, creating a kind of tug of war.  When the neck is out of alignment for long periods, chronic headaches can develop.  One of my top recommendations that you can practice at home and at any time is having good posture.  When you correct your posture, you take tension off the neck.  This can substantially reduce the occurrence of headaches.

Another recommendation is acupuncture. It can relax the muscles and also provide extra effects on the top of the head right in the muscular tension itself.  There are specific acupuncture points we use that directly target headaches. While chiropractic can work at the source of the headache, acupuncture can work directly on the source itself.  The good news is that there are natural therapies that can be used to help these headaches instead of ongoing dependence of medication.

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Physical Training & Avoiding Injuries

Posted on March 21, 2017. Filed under: Acupuncturist, Aging, Chiropractic, Exercise, Healing, injury, rebuild, Pain, Posture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

monica back exercise

Monica Steiner at work in the gym

By Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

“I keep getting hurt – how can I train to gain without getting injured anymore?” This and similar questions are only slightly less common than “What did I do to myself?”

Let’s face it, little is more frustrating than being knocked off the training track once again. Finding a sticking point or plateau is bad enough, but what I might call “break down points” is probably even worse. The difference is critical – a plateau is that inability to surpass a certain desired goal in size, strength or muscularity. A breaking point is one of those times when “Oops, it happened again,” such as when training weights approach a certain level at which a back, shoulder or perhaps knee always seems to give way.

The essential bottom-line point is that if you are injured over and over again, your training will suffer. If your training suffers, it is not possible to reach your peak cardiovascular fitness. So, what are we to do?  Whatever the most motivating end goals, the underlying requirement is training consistency. A week here or a month there is of no value, other than in giving one a sense that “efforts are being made, I’m trying…” Largely futile and possibly dangerous – it used to be called “the weekend warrior” syndrome, which helps fill the waiting rooms of Monday morning chiropractic clinics as these individuals exert beyond what is their safe capacity.

The next essential step is to do the exercises correctly. One of my physician mentors used to have a saying – “If it’s not right, it’s all wrong!” He didn’t pick up this phrase from school however, but from an elite military unit of which he was once a part. He himself was a super-fit, super motivated highly intelligent man with very big uppers arms and a fighting spirit to match. His relevant point in his saying however, was that in times of high stress, structures and procedures had to be tip-top, or something would break.

In weight training, this refers to cheating on form while the body is under the greatest load, usually when performing the hard reps late in a set, or when using very low reps and very heavy weights. It’s then that the weak links give way, and injury occurs.

Sorry, but no one training method or scheme produces the perfect size, fitness, strength while taking no effort, being fun to do all the time and perfectly safe.  But, the real baseline is consistency and ability to replicate useful workouts time and time again while simultaneously performing them correctly without error.  The principle behind training without getting hurt is to stress the muscles without damaging the supporting structures such as ligaments and joint capsules in order to grow and maximize them without causing them injury.  If you are not sure if you’re doing something correctly, find an expert who can help and get that extra insight.

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The Concussion & Whiplash Connection

Posted on October 4, 2016. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Children, Chiropractic, Health, injury, rebuild, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , |

football-playerBy Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

 

Head injuries can happen in a variety of ways and are more prevalent in activities that involve a lot of physical movement.  Playing an aggressive sport like football, soccer, wrestling, or any such type; one is bound to get knocked or bounced around a bit.  Following a hard hit to the head is a possible concussion.  A person can bounce back normally from a low-grade concussion but there are warning signs to look for and keep in mind:

Nausea and vomiting
Headache
Blurred vision
Dizziness
Lethargic and slow to move
Unable to concentrate or remember
Balancing or coordination problems
Slurred speech
Ringing in the ears

With these symptoms there is some varying degree of concussion experienced and should be looked over by a physician to be on the safe side. Simply put, the impact on the head causes the brain to bang against the inside of the skull and create swelling or trauma.  The extra pressure can lead to cognitive impairment and some of the symptoms seen.  Something else that is often overlooked is the neck trauma.  If a person gets concussed, they often get whiplashed.  Sometimes with a hit, the head snaps which jerks the neck back and forth.  Maybe there’s a fall, so there could be a twist in there too.  So, the secondary damage is what happens within the neck area.

Recently I had a patient who took quite a hard fall and had symptoms of a grade 1 concussion but also had a quite painful neck afterwards.  Often the neck or back issue isn’t felt until after the concussion settles down.  Even if the concussion problem heals, there can still be a problem in the neck which could last for several days or even months.   With whiplash, such as in an auto accident, if the person is young and healthy, there could be damage up to a point but if you deal with a slightly older individual, who has an arthritic neck and their joints don’t fit or align properly, their tissues and muscles are less elastic and they are likely to be damaged far more seriously.

Chiropractic care and acupuncture can be very helpful.  It is important to gently work and mobilize the neck and examine for proper function and proper movement very carefully.  The upper back should also be checked because a certain amount of neck pain often originates from the upper back.  All the muscles and tissues are connected to one another so we work with the upper back to make sure the spine, joints, and muscles are working properly because they are the base that the neck sits upon.  The acupuncture can help with relaxation of the injured muscles helping reduce inflammation and being able to help with decreasing pain as well.

Accidents happen, it’s a part of life, but getting the proper treatment and care is an important step which shouldn’t be missed.

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Thinking About Acupuncture, Don’t Fear the Needle

Posted on July 29, 2016. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Acupuncturist, Children, Health, inflammation, Pain, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

~by Dr. Gregory Steiner

Child receiving AcupunctureMany of us have heard about the benefits of natural healing, the thought of not being dependent on medications, the ability for the body to function optimally based upon proper diet and exercise, and holistic therapies that can heal us of afflictions. Eastern medicine has educated us on the benefits of massage, herbal and aromatherapy, and even acupuncture.  Unfortunately, many of us are reluctant to seek acupuncture treatment because we have a fear, a fear of the unknown and a fear of needles.  But what does the “typical” thought of needle conjure in the mind? Maybe we were traumatized when we received immunization shots as a child, anesthesia shots for fillings, or some other type of injection leaving our brains to associate needles with pain and uncomfortable situations.  Luckily, acupuncture performed correctly by a trained professional causes virtually no pain!

I’m afraid of needles, does acupuncture hurt?
Rest assured that acupuncture needles are in no way similar to hypodermic needles.  First of all, a medical hypodermic needle has a hollow point and sharp edge and must “break” the skin to either insert or withdraw fluid. Acupuncture needles are solid, round-point thin and wire-like and are sterilized and disposable.  With their small size, they are more comparable to a strand of hair.  They are hardly like needles at all.  The depth the needle goes is so shallow that it doesn’t even draw blood.  A helpful comparison is that  between 20 and 40 acupuncture needles can actually fit inside the hollow shaft point of a hypodermic needle (depending on size).  These needles are so small and thin that some of them can actually be passed through a balloon without popping it!

What does it feel like?
Many patients describe the feeling of the needle as either a tingling or pulsating sensation, or a dull ache which soon passes, or not feeling anything at all being inserted.  It only takes a second for the doctors to insert the needle and when working with an experienced practitioner, should relatively be painless.  If by chance, there is discomfort, the needle can be quickly removed and repositioned.  Pain isn’t something that should be felt or elicited; in fact, the acupuncture is used to do the opposite and help alleviate pain.

What is it used for?
Acupuncture can help with a variety of issues, including reduction or elimination of pain, whether it be for the back, neck, shoulders or joints to name a few.  It can help with headaches, stress & anxiety, and even help balance the body which in turn can positively affect the thyroid, menstruation issues, and hormones. It has also been used to increase energy levels and has been effective in weight loss and allergy symptom relief.  The list can go on and on for the benefits that acupuncture can provide.

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Repairing Your Body After Injury

Posted on July 14, 2016. Filed under: Aging, Exercise, Healing, Health, injury, rebuild, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Heat map Acupuncture doll

By Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

In its simplest terms, aging could be described as the body’s failure to repair. We grow, we mature, we reach various physical and mental peaks, and then…..we age.  When we are young our hormones, e.g. testosterone and growth hormone – are at high levels and command our bodies to grow and repair; our circulatory system is efficient as it transports those hormones and necessary nutrients towards muscles and organs; we have more enzymes that we know what to do with that make the chemical process necessary for growth and repair work at super speed. Though other factors are involved, hormones, transportation, enzymes and nutrients form the basis for growth, and its first cousin – repair.

Have you noted when an athlete of say, 20 years of age sustains an injury he or she seems able to be back on the field in just a few weeks? If an athlete of age 30 sustains an identical injury, it’s often much longer before return to play. At age 40, who knows?  The younger athlete’s speed of recovery demonstrates all those factors in play, working fast and in a coordinated way.

Of course with every injury comes scar tissue. If you tear a hamstring, it will eventually heal, but somewhere within the muscle will likely be a cluster of tough, stringy tissue that while strong, is nowhere near as elastic as the original muscle, nor does it have the same circulation properties which means the scar won’t receive or use nutrients as effectively as original tissue. One thing that I’d say every aging fitness person or athlete knows very, very well is what a painful body feels like. All the accumulated injuries of younger years are still present in scar tissue, and as the body loses efficiency and elasticity, the aging athlete feels them all the more. That’s why putting a strong emphasis on ‘repair’ is crucial to prolonging your active life and living a vigorous lifestyle.

While a team doctor for Master’s weightlifters in Scotland, I would often converse with coaches and lifters who had travelled to Eastern Europe and Russia to train, learn and exchange ideas. Though many bits and pieces of knowledge were exchanged during these travels, two factors truly stuck out. First, the emphasis on conditioning no matter what the sport practiced; and second, how much effort they would put into restoration.  One way of summing up the ‘conditioning’ emphasis was to say ‘an athlete is as good as his legs,’ meaning that legs take real effort to condition, and if the legs are strong and have stamina the whole person probably does too.

Repair then, is replacing what has been lost, mending what has been torn, restoring arrangements in what has been disrupted and so on. To live is to be injured, but through nutrition, good body mechanics, enzymatic replacement, and the right type of conditioning your body has the ability to restore itself.

 

 

 

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What is Sciatica and What Can I Do About It?

Posted on June 3, 2016. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Chiropractic, Healing, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , |

drgregportrait1test2~by Dr. Greg Steiner

Sciatica is something that strikes terror into the hearts of people who have had it before. It’s referred to as a pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back, through the hips or buttocks down the hamstring and into the leg.  Some people have described the pain like a blood pressure cuff contracting around the ankle.  They may feel  a fire or electricity in the leg or even weird sensations of ants crawling on them, but whatever it is, it’s not right and it usually gets worse with sitting.  They’ll start sitting sideways or in different positions and do anything to get comfortable.  Rarely do pain meds even help in this situation.  Some folks think that it has to do with circulation, but that’s not the case.  The simple formula is that numbness + tingling = nerves.  If you cross your legs too long and your foot goes to sleep, you’ve basically cut off some nerve for a time and when it starts to fire again, it hurts for a bit and then it’s ok.

There are a couple of different causes for Sciatica.  Sometimes it will be a twisted muscle or vertebrae in the back, with muscles pulling this way and that which tugs on the nerve and makes pain go down the leg.  Another way is when someone bends and picks something up, the disc between the vertebrae can be squeezed and when it bulges out, it pokes a nerve.  If it pokes a nerve, it doesn’t hurt where the nerve gets poked, it hurts down the leg.

If left untreated, sciatica can lead to surgery but we prefer a much more conservative approach.  We’ll go through a checklist to determine exactly where the problem is and we work with it to see if it starts to feel better by using chiropractic, acupuncture and body mechanics modification.   Other things that can help relieve sciatica that you can do at home include:

  • Specific exercises for pain relief
  • Icing –best used when sore or swollen
  • Heat – best used when the area feels stiff
  • Natural anti-inflammatories/ herbal therapies
  • Trigger points for self-massage

One of the best things you can do for Sciatica is prevent it in the first place.   The biggest cause of sciatica is actually lifting or handling objects incorrectly.  So, be sure to “Think before you lift”.   Ask yourself, “Am I standing in the correct position?”, “Are there any handling aids that can help?”   The second biggest cause is sitting down for too long which can decay the spine & disc.  When you sit too long, your spine is not moving and flexing thereby prohibiting an adequate supply of nutrients to the area.  If you still feel the pain, just be sure to get checked out with a thorough exam to determine exactly what the problem is and how it should be handled specifically to your needs.

 

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Getting Tired Too Fast? The Key is Building Endurance

Posted on May 5, 2016. Filed under: Aging, Exercise, Health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

drgregportrait1test2.pngBy Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

Endurance, also known as stamina, comes in several flavors. We have general stamina – the ability to perform ever so well the necessities and luxuries of our daily lives, without undo fatigue or effort. (Life should NOT feel like an uphill-both-ways struggle! No, not even when we are ‘older’!) More specifically, we have cardiovascular stamina in which our heart, lungs and blood vessels work in coordinated harmony to let us safely exert ourselves in accordance with the needs of the situation we find ourselves in. We also have local muscular endurance, in which specific muscles happily find themselves able to repeat a needed motion again and again and again. We also have an ‘isometric’ stamina which enables us to remain in a position for as long as is needed.

When you read about aging as related to endurance, you read conflicting statements, e.g. “I get tired faster now that I’m older;” vs. “Endurance is the old man’s game.” What are we to make of this apparent contradiction?  Several things act to explain this. First, we have to look quite honestly about how the person of high stamina has lived his or her life compared to the person of low stamina. Is their weight still good? Has their diet been healthy? Has their stress level increased or decreased? Have they exercised diligently and appropriately? Genetics always, always play a role, but no matter what genetic cards we have been dealt, the answer to good aging is always the same: play the hand as best you can, wisely and diligently maximize your genetic strengths and arrange your lifestyle to counteract your weaknesses.

In an athletic sense it often comes to pacing. For example, young people run faster than older people and their ability to recover after exertion is often quicker as well. So, if an older person tries to do repeat sprints with little recovery, he or she might be very disappointed if they try to compete with a younger person. However, some older athletes become very good at getting into a pace and keeping that pace up for a very long time. The legendary Tarahumara people of the Copper Canyon area of Mexico are renowned for the endurance running of their older members, with distances reported to be 100 miles or more, and sometimes kicking a round wooden ball. Of course, they have a lifetime of training and cultural expectations that such apparent feats of stamina are definitely in the realm of possibility.

Many factors can contribute to increasing your stamina.  Basic cardio, high repetition weight training, hydration, and even deep breathing which boosts oxygen intake can all help.  But there is no substitute for having a good proper diet.  It’s better for everything including stamina.  Include protein, healthy fats, low glycemic index foods including vegetables (think veggies that don’t convert to sugar readily) and reduce carbohydrates unless you are doing strenuous activity for at least 30 minutes.  If you feed the “machine” right, it will help you reap the benefits of better strength, vitality and health overall.

 

 

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