VO2 Max: Training to Use Oxygen Efficiently

Written by Nate Martins • January 3, 2019. Originally posted on HVMN, adapted for use here on Lorieb.

VO2 max (V=volume, O2= oxygen) is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen utilized while exercising. It may seem simple and inherent: you breathe in, you breathe out, you keep the workout going.

The importance of maximal oxygen consumption for exercise and the idea of the VO2 max was brought to into the fold by AV Hill, a Nobel Prize winner from Cambridge, in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s however, that methodological studies were conducted to gather the accurate physiological elements required for VO2 max measurement of an individual.

Tools to measure VO2 max were created by Henry Taylor and his colleagues over the course of 12+ years at the University of Minnesota lab. Studies were conducted on military draftees who were conscientious objectors. These subjects were essentially at Taylor’s disposal. Over a 12-month timeframe they exercised for one hour a day, six days a week. Data was obtained using methods that were groundbreaking at the time, but are still used today.

Currently hundreds of labs all over the world can conduct a VO2 max test. It used to be only elite athletes that had access to these tests but they’ve since become a prevalent benchmark in endurance sport for those at all levels looking to improve their athletic performance.

Why consider testing VO2 max as part of your training? It’s possibly the barometer for aerobic fitness.1

Why Muscles Need Oxygen to Function

Muscles (and all cells) require energy production to function. Energy inside cells comes in the form of ATP. Most of our ATP is created through the breakdown of metabolic substrates (food) using oxygen, resulting in CO2 and water. This means oxygen is really important. As you exercise energy requirements go up, so you need more oxygen.

Oxygen is absorbed into the blood by the lungs. It binds to a special protein called hemoglobin inside red blood cells. It then travels in the blood, and is pumped by the heart to the rest of the body, getting released in the tissues (including muscle) where it is used to breakdown our food to release energy.

The harder we exercise, the more we breathe and the more our heart pumps. This pumping helps to deliver more oxygen. These are some of the critical factors that influence an individual’s VO2 max.

However, muscles can make energy without oxygen in a process called anaerobic respiration. The only fuel that can be burned anaerobically is carbohydrate, being converted into a substance called pyurvate through glycolysis and then into lactate via anaerobic metabolism.

Build up of lactic acid happens when production occurs faster than our ability to clear it out. The blood becomes more acidic, which in turn can compromise muscle function.

Clearly, fuel source is an important factor relating to the amount of oxygen consumed. At higher intensities of exercise, muscles burn mainly carbs and at lower intensities, they burn more fat.2 Burning fat uses more oxygen than burning carbs, but we have more energy stored as fat, so you can keep going for longer when burning without running out of energy. Muscles are like engines that need gas (oxygen and fuel) to function.

What’s Behind a VO2 Max Number?

The maximal rate at which an individual can process oxygen is usually expressed in milliliters of oxygen per minute per kilogram of bodyweight. This is the relative number most often considered a VO2 max. An average, untrained male age 20-29 has a VO2 max of 35 – 40ml/kg. The average, untrained female of the same age has a VO2 max of 27 – 30ml/kg.

You’d imagine endurance athletes, who need to make energy during long periods of aerobic exercise typically have the highest maximal oxygen uptake. Masters of endurance performance, like cyclists and runners, are usually near the top, with more explosive athletes, like weightlifters, near the bottom.4

Elite male runners can have VO2 max values of 85ml/kg; elite female runners can have values of 77ml/kg. Miguel Indurain, who won the Tour de France five times, reported to have had a VO2 max of 88 at his prime, with Lance Armstrong at an 85.

Which athletes are at the peak of VO2 Mountain? That’s cross-country skiers. Bjørn Dæhlie, a Norwegian cross-country skier, recorded a VO2 max of 96ml/kg. The result came out of season for Dæhlie, and his physiologist claimed he could have gone over 100ml/kg. He had the record for years but in 2012 was dethroned by another Norwegian, an 18 year-old cyclist named Oskar Svendsen, who reportedly logged a 97.5ml/kg. Remember, these scores don’t appear in peer-reviewed literature, so questions always arise about their accuracy.

Animals have also been tested. Thoroughbred horses have been measured to have a VO2 max score of 180ml/kg, while Siberian huskies who ran the Iditarod notched a whopping 240ml/kg.

How to Find Your VO2 Max

Do you know how many milliliters of oxygen per minute per kilogram of oxygen your body can consume at all-out effort? Probably not. Professional labs (and sometimes training facilities) with exercise physiologists can provide these tests, which are typically conducted by breathing into an oxygen mask while walking on a treadmill for a certain amount of time at a specific pace. The only downside: it’s expensive.

During lab tests, a facemask is placed on subjects to measure the volume and gas concentrations of inhaled and exhaled air. Similar to lactate testing in a sports lab, athletes run on a treadmill (or sometimes use a stationary bike or rowing machine, depending on sport) and the exercise intensity increases every few minutes until exhaustion (read: you start having tunnel vision, hit the red stop button and collapse into a sweaty heap). The test is designed this way to achieve maximal exercise effort from the subject.

Usually, heart rate is measured through the test so you get data on your resting heart rate all the way up to maximal heart rate. Athletes will receive their ideal heart rate zones for warm-up, aerobic, anaerobic and uber-tough intervals.

The most valuable of this group might be the heart rate between aerobic and anaerobic exercise: the anaerobic threshold. Training will be geared toward improving this point, at which the body begins to accumulate lactate in the blood.

Similar tests can be replicated outside of labs with less accuracy.

Simple Heart Rate Test

Another way to roughly estimate VO2 max also makes use of heart rate measurement. First, find your resting heart rate. Most fitness trackers can provide this number, but if you don’t have a fitness tracker, you can go old school. Find your pulse and set a timer for 60 seconds, counting the number of beats in a minute.

Then, find your maximum heart rate. This formula might oversimplify things, but it’s effective for the purposes of a loose VO2 max calculation. To find your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220. So, if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190 beats per minute (bpm).

Use this formula to find your simple VO2 max: 15 x (max heart rate / resting heart rate).

For example, if your maximum heart rate is 190 and resting heart rate is 80:

VO2 = 15 x (190/80)

VO2 = 15 x 2.4

VO2 = 36.6

This isn’t the most accurate formula, but it can provide a good starting point for training to improve VO2.

The Rockport Fitness Walking Test (RFWT)

This walking test can also calculate a VO2 max, and studies have proven its accuracy. First, stretch and warm up. Then, find a track or mostly flat surface on which to walk a mile as fast as possible. It’s important to walk, and not to cross over into jogging territory. After walking exactly one mile, note exactly how long it took and your heart rate at the end of the mile. Using those numbers, you’ll be able to find an estimated VO2 max using this formula:

VO2 max = 132.853 – (0.0769 x W) – (0.3877 x A) + (6.315 x G) – (3.2649 x T) – (0.1565 x H)

W = weight (in pounds)

A = age

G = gender (1 for men, 0 for women)

T = time to complete the mile (in minutes)

H= heart rate

VO2 Max for Cyclists

Power is the golden egg of data for cyclists. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as it provides some insight into finding a VO2 max, when combined with some field testing. Pedal for 20 minutes at a maximum, yet sustainable, effort. Cyclists should monitor their power meters, maintaining consistent intensity while incrementally increasing wattage the first three minutes until finding a power output that can be maintained for the rest of the test. This should be a wattage similar to high-intensity rides or races. Use this formula to find your VO2 max:

VO2 max = [(10.8 x W) / K] + 7

W = average wattage

K = weight in kilogramsStill searching for that PR?

Improving Your VO2 Max

Two major factors contribute to a high VO2 max: the amount of oxygen you can transport and your muscle physiology. Oxygen transportation includes a strong heart pumping blood through the body, with hemoglobin-dense blood, a high blood volume and high capillary density in the muscles. Better oxygen transport leads to higher VO2 max. Muscle physiology means how many muscle fibers you have, how big they are, how many mitochondria there are, and how strongly you can activate them during exercise. More aerobic, oxygen guzzling muscles equals a higher VO2 max.

Similar to lactate training, a training program can be implemented to improve VO2 max and help increase physical fitness, improving the way your body utilizes oxygen. Training is designed to have you spend as much time as possible at 95% – 100% of your current VO2 max.

Limiting factors like gender, genetic makeup, and age all have an impact on an individual VO2 max, but training can always improve this number. Because lactate threshold and VO2 max are linked, check out our blog for additional ways to train with lactate in mind.

A note: since body weight is a factor in VO2 max, less body mass will inherently improve your score.5

Interval training often results in the most improvement of VO2 max.6

High-Intensity Training: Long Intervals

If you are good at pacing yourself, sessions made up of long (4 minutes or so) intervals at your hardest sustainable effort are a good way to increase VO2 max. Between each interval, you should keep moving; active recovery will keep VO2 elevated during the process. Plan to do 4-6 sets.

The 4×4 minute workout is a classic in all sports: running, cycling and rowing research has proven its efficacy.7 First, always remember to warm up properly for at least ten minutes. Then conduct four maximal 1,000 meter runs (or sprint four minutes) at 85% – 95% of your maximum effort with two to three minutes of recovery between each run. For cycling, find a section of road or a climb offering a challenging grade that you can work for 4 minutes. To mix it up you could try alternating between standing and seated efforts each minute

The idea is to save enough energy so that your last set is the hardest intensity. If you are running on a track or watching your power on the bike, ensure you’ll be able to go your hardest on the last set. Pace this right and you should be dreading the last interval. By holding a pace that’s at the upper limit of your ability, you overload your heart, lungs and muscles, forcing them to adapt to deliver and take up more oxygen.

In one research study, athletes who did a similar workout improved their VO2 maxes by 10%.7 Time to exhaustion, blood volume, vein and artery function all improved after the training period.

High-Intensity Training: Short Intervals

If you can’t bring yourself to suffer four minutes of near-max intensity, you can go for shorter intervals–but they have to be an even higher intensity to provide a benefit. Short interval sprints of under one minute can also improve VO2 max as long as they’re conducted at almost maximal effort level.

The exercise test here is 8-10 sets of 1 minute sprints. Again, make sure you are properly warmed up–these workouts carry a risk of injury because of the amount of power produced. You have to give it your all during each interval without holding anything back.

From the same study mentioned above, those doing ten sets of one-minute high-intensity sprints on a treadmill at maximum rate (with a 1 minute rest in between each interval) increased VO2 max by 3%.7

Time to exhaustion, plasma volume and hemoglobin mass increased with this routine. However, results demonstrated that long interval training garnered the most dramatic results.

VO2 Max: Training Your Body to Use Oxygen

Being able to use a high volume of oxygen with a high degree of efficiency is one of the best indicators of endurance fitness there out there. Many factors contribute to this measurement, but what it comes down to is training–athletes must train to increase VO2 max.8

Some athletes are better equipped for high VO2 maxes. Runners, cyclists and rowers sit near the top of the totem pole, but cross-country skiers have typically reigned supreme. Regardless of your sport, a high VO2 can be a great gutcheck for your fitness level at a physiological level.

Because oxygen is so vital to our muscle function, we should be adept at using it efficiently. Training, backed by science

Scientific Citations

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Men are from Mars

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is the name of a best selling book authored by John Gray back in 2012. It is a great communication guide for couples, with the focus on understanding how the other thinks and feels. Far from rocket science, but important in the evolution and success of relationships.

I learned long ago, early on in my 34+ year marriage, how to get my husband to do the things I need him to do to keep our household running smoothly. The solution was/is simple. Ask for help and tell your partner how you feel. Communicate what works for you as a couple.

Men are learning a clean kitchen is the way to a woman's heart
The way to a woman’s heart is through a clean house

Many of us women were raised to believe we have to do everything (household chores) ourselves if we want things done properly. This may have worked early in the last century, but modern women are busier than ever and smarter than that. So are men.

In defence of the men in that generation, they were raised to believe similar rubbish. Chauvinism was rampant. My husband was one of them, so were my three brothers. My mother and mother-in-law were clones of June Cleaver, looking after their children and their homes while their husbands worked outside of the home. Things got more complicated, not to mention stressful, when both mothers went back to work as soon as their youngest child was in school. All of a sudden they each had two full time jobs. My sisters and I were recruited to help out, but the males of the family were exempt.

If I learned nothing else from that experience, it was that I would not accept that archaic mentality in a partner. Making that decision a reality was tricky, but we managed to figure it out. I used to slam cupboard doors and stomp around when I was angry and frustrated with his (perceived) inability to recognize necessary household chores.

I would like to say I straightened him out, but must admit he figured it out faster than I did. He did notice the slamming doors and stomping feet after all, so made the first step by admitting his need for me to communicate (verbally) exactly what I wanted him to do. This must be why “honey do lists” became so popular. He was quite happy to “help” although learned fast that he was pulling his weight rather than helping. This was especially important when our three sons were young and our household was very busy.

Men have (thankfully) evolved over the years, into caring and nurturing fathers, husbands and partners. And women have evolved by encouraging their men in these roles without losing any of their superhero powers. The moral of this story? Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but we can successfully co-exist on Earth if we communicate!

L-Theanine: Tea’s Amino Acid for Overall Wellness

Written by Jamie Witherby • December 7, 2018. Originally published by HVMN, modified for use here on Lorieb.

In this article, we won’t just stick to why tea is so tasty. We’ll talk about the positive effects that L-theanine (L-thee-uh-neen) can have on your stress levels, cognitive performance, cardiovascular and immune health.

Discover the benefits of L-Theanine in tea
Discover the benefits of L-Theanine in tea. Photo by Pexels

Tea is coffee’s coy competitor in the cutthroat, yet throat-soothing, world of hot beverages. Both provide daily stimulant boosts, both are great to share with a loved one, and both are steeped in rich and complex histories. But popular teas (like green tea, black tea, and even tea extract and tea constituents) have something coffee doesn’t.

If you have a cup of green or black tea in front of you, take a sip. Savor those tocopherols and flavonoids lending the cup its signature color and flavor. The tea leaves’ distinct bitterness is supplied by natural antioxidants known as catechins.

There’s another flavor you should be experiencing however. A pleasant, mouth-filling sensation that creates a rounded and savory taste, umami is often called the fifth taste after bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. Tea’s umami flavor is all thanks to the non-protein amino acid, L-theanine.1

Brain Boost

A healthy body starts with a healthy brain. L-theanine has proven itself to be a powerful supplement for brain health by assisting with stress, sleep, attention, and memory.

Stress and Anxiety

If you’ve ever brewed a cup of tea to decompress from a stressful day or share with an anxious friend, congratulations—you have fabulous instincts.

Researchers have found L-theanine can reduce our physiological stress responses by altering the behavior of neurotransmitters in the brain.2 This isn’t a slow, thirty-days-to-better-behavior modification process. L-theanine is tough, immediately jumping on defense to supply these benefits.

Taking L-theanine is like hiring a bodyguard for your brain.

Our brains balance activity through excitatory (upper) and inhibitory (downer) neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of some of the major excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The balance can shift however, through an excess of these excitatory neurotransmitters. A shift can cause classic responses we’re familiar with like stress, anxiety, and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (AKA the fight-or-flight response).

Taking L-theanine to mimic gamma-aminobutyric acid (a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain) can inhibit these excitatory responses and ease their physiological stress responses. This will allow you to enjoy a lower heart rate,2 lower blood pressure,3 attenuation of the fight-or-flight response,2 and reduced cortisol levels (major stress hormone).2,3

If the classic calming effect isn’t revealing enough, let’s pull back the covers on how deeply relaxing L-theanine can be.

Sleep

To catch some Zs, first we have to catch some waves.

During sleep, it’s all about theta waves and delta waves. Theta waves occur in the first stages of sleep, generating two distinct rhythms of greater amplitude and lower frequency than the waking beta waves. Delta waves are the lowest frequency, highest amplitude waves generated during the deepest stages of sleep. Right before sleep, when you’re still in that daydream-like, relaxed state, it’s all about the alpha waves. The brain generates alpha waves during deeply relaxing activities such as meditation.4,5

If you struggle to feel peaceful during meditation or get your mind to achieve that quiet calm right before bed, L-theanine can take you there. Studies have shown that L-theanine can generate alpha brain waves in the parietal and occipital regions of the brain, leading to a prolonged calming effect.4,5 In a placebo-controlled study of young individuals with ADHD, L-theanine proved especially effective in helping them get to sleep and experience deep sleep.6

Sleep problems are often a concern for individuals with ADHD, and L-theanine proved to be a safe and effective therapy to improve sleep quality.

Focus and Attention

L-theanine has the power to both calm you down in the evenings and provide a boost in the morning. You know those days; lack of quality sleep the night before leaves you dull, each excruciating minute stretched out between sips of coffee. All that coffee can have a negative build up, leading to a jittery, on edge feeling while desperately trying not to fidget during your conference room presentation.

The same amino acid that ushers you into dreamland can also deliver an attentive state of mind. Multiple human studies show that consuming L-theanine can increase focus, reaction times, and visual processing while reducing mental fatigue.7,8 Essentially, subjects in these human studies performed attention tasks better after taking L-theanine. Their overall mental performance improved.

Even when the mind is in a relaxed state and creating those alpha waves, it’s focused. Consider meditation: its goal is mindfulness, focusing on an inner calm. Meditating is a form of dialed-in concentration that also happens to be calming.

Memory

Maybe you’re a master of mornings but you can’t remember the names of many of your closest coworkers. Enter L-theanine, which can assist with memory.9

To be clear: drinking a single cup of green tea will not suddenly remind you of where you left your keys. However, consuming L-theanine over time could help protect the neurons in your brain from injury or cognitive impairment and contribute to the development of the hippocampus. That’s the part of your brain responsible for storing memories9 not the future academic grounds of the large semi-aquatic African mammal.

Start young, and you could even stand a better chance against the oxidative damage and memory impairment of Alzheimer’s. Oh, and remember how we talked about L-theanine reducing cortisol levels? Cortisol can negatively impact memory retrieval.11 Reduce cortisol levels, and you may be able to retrieve those memories a little more easily.

We’ve touched upon what L-theanine can do for the brain, but let’s not forget about its benefits for the body. L-theanine couldn’t let your brain have all the fun. So freshen up your tea, and let’s talk about what your new amino acid can do for your body.

Immune System

Unfortunately, L-theanine is not the cure for the common cold. It has however been linked to increased protection against the flu and a boost in immune function when combined with another amino acid, L-cystine.12 This combination improves the production of Immunoglobin G (IgG), an antibody with a vendetta against infection, and glutathione (GSH), an antioxidant.12

Antioxidants are valuable because they help our bodies remove free radicals. Free radicals are these unpaired, unstable, thieving little molecules that steal electrons from our lipid cell membranes (also called lipid peroxidation). The theft causes tissue and muscle damage and contributes to some of the big name diseases out there: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. L-theanine has demonstrated powerful antioxidative properties.13,14,15

Cardiovascular System

Because antioxidants help us remove the free radicals that lead to cardiovascular problems like heart disease, L-theanine can do some pretty amazing things for heart health.

Leaves from both green and black tea have been shown to improve cardiovascular health all on their own.16,17 L-theanine sweetens the deal through its ability to mitigate blood pressure increases when the user undergoes acute stress. Translation? Less strain on the heart.18

Supplementing with L-theanine

Not a fan of green tea or black tea? Healthy adults can safely and easily supplement L-theanine at a dosage of 100-200 mg per day, a staggering five to ten times higher concentration than what you’ll find in a cup of green tea.1 So even if you’re already pounding cup after cup of the umami taste bomb, you may not be enjoying all of its benefits…or at least not as efficiently. Consider supplementing with L-theanine to warm up for your day or to cool down at the end of it.

L-theanine hasn’t been linked to any adverse side effects or symptoms in the neuropharmacology sphere. Keep in mind though, that it should not be mixed with medications for high blood pressure because L-theanine reduces blood pressure. As with all new supplements and medications, consult with your healthcare provider before taking.

Last Drops

Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a tenacious tea drinker, your mind and body will enjoy the benefits of adding L-theanine to the mix. To recap, those are:

  • Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
  • Increased sleep quality
  • Increased focus, attention, and memory
  • Increased immune function
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Antioxidative properties

No matter what’s in your cup, we can all raise a glass to those benefits.

find Scientific Citations here

Modified Keto Diet

Many people (especially us older folks) have a hard time understanding how the popular keto diet can be healthy. Most of us have been warned about cardiovascular disease, so a high fat diet seems contrary to what we have been taught for years. The good news is, there are many versions of a modified keto diet. I have created one for myself by cutting way back on refined carbohydrates like sugar, potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. I was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat years ago, so already switched to gluten free bread and pasta, but even they contain not so good for you carbs.

Food items like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers and snacks contain high amounts of net carbs, so I have learned to avoid them. A great alternative to pasta and rice is cauliflower. You can purchase it (conveniently) already cut up in “pearls” (like the bags I buy, pictured below) or you can cut up a fresh head yourself.

add cauliflower to your modified keto diet for low net carbs
cauliflower pearls have low net carbs, great for a modified keto diet!

As indicated on their label, these pearls of cauliflower contain a mere 2 grams of net carbs (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber) per 3/4 cup. This is a huge difference from pasta or rice. For example, pasta contains 62 grams of net carbs per 3/4 cup, brown rice contains 22 grams per 1/3 cup and white rice contains 32 grams per 1/3 cup. When you are limiting your net carbs to 25 grams per day, those numbers are quite significant. These cauliflower pearls can even be incorporated (with cheese) into a pizza dough!

Another great substitute for the high carb perils of pasta and rice is zucchini spirals. They too can be purchased already cut up, but you can buy them whole and cut them up yourself too if desired. I’m all about convenience. If an ingredient is easy to prepare, I will be much more likely to use it in a meal. Spaghetti squash can also be used as a substitute for starchy pasta.

I also make sure I have lots of crunchy salad ingredients on hand to throw together a quick lunch option. Leafy greens, broccoli slaw, seeds, avocado, tomatoes and cucumbers (all contain low net carbs) as well as a variety of low carb salad dressings are mainstays in my fridge. These choices of good carbs have always been staples in my diet, often incorporated into a morning smoothie.

For calories formerly taken up by bad carbs in my daily diet, I have increased my intake of fats, although I stick to good fats. Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as good fats. I don’t like the way so many animal fats (processed and fatty meats, butter, cream, lots of cheese) recommended on the original keto diet make me feel. Constipation and stomach cramps are no fun!

Therefore, to get my fat macros (that’s the keto term), I consume more plant based omega 3s. Fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, almond milk, flax seeds and coconut oil are my favourites. It is easy to replace the fats suggested in keto menus with the healthier versions. For example, I substitute almond milk for full fat cream and olive oil for butter.

My protein intake remains about the same. Protein consumption is important to retain muscle mass, especially for post menopausal women like myself. I have always leaned (pun intended) towards lean meats and fish for sources of protein, so that aspect needed no modification.

For four weeks now I have been following this modified keto version. I have lost a few pounds, but weight loss was not my primary goal. More importantly, I have noticed increased muscle tone in my abdominal area. These are the muscles I have not seen in many years, not since before my kids were born. That is impressive (I think) since those four weeks included one week of vacation (lots of margaritas) as well as the holiday season during which tempting goodies were hard to resist.

Salads work on any diet

Are you trying a new diet and having a hard time finding things you are allowed to eat? Most diets, especially the currently popular keto diet, restrict carbohydrates, but salads work well if you include the right kind of carbohydrates.

The good news about salad related carbs is that they contain lots of fiber which means their “net carbs” (what you actually count on keto) are negligible. To calculate net carbs, subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrates indicated on the labels.

For example, the broccoli slaw I love on my salads to add extra crunchiness displays this label:

brocolli slaw contains low net carbs, works great on salads
brocolli, cabbage, and kale slaw, low net carbs, great on salads

You can see the total carbohydrates in 1 cup of this slaw is 6 grams, but the fiber is 3 grams, so the net carbs are 3 grams. Considering you might add one half cup of this to greens on your salad, that is very few net carbs! Of course, you could also eat this slaw like you would traditional coleslaw.

Broccoli by itself has even less net carbs (4 grams of carbs minus 3 grams of fiber per 1.25 cup equals 1 gram of net carbs) That means broccoli would be a great keto approved option for a side dish at dinner. Or cut up on your salad if you don’t like the slaw that I use.

The salad in a bag (romaine, carrots and cabbage) that my husband likes has a net carbs value of 2 grams per 2.5 cups (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber). I prefer my salad base to contain spinach and kale however, which have even fewer grams of net carbs. I also like cucumber, avocado, flax seed and cheese on my salad…

Ingredients for salads that are low net carbs and healthy fats
brocolli slaw, cucumbers, avacado and cheese, low net carbs and healthy fats

The cheese (shredded Tex-Mex in this case), avocado, flax seed and salad dressing contain the fat necessary on this keto diet. I top the salad with a creamy, roasted garlic and Greek yogurt salad dressing from (my favourite) Renee’s line of all natural, no preservatives added products. The assembled lunch plate looks like this.

I don’t really count the net carbs as they are so negligible in a salad like this. These carbs though (as opposed to the bad ones) are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, a fact that I think is very important to overall health.

Protein is accounted for in the broccoli and cheese as well as the Greek yogurt based dressing and lax seeds. A sliced hard boiled egg or cooked chicken would also be great sources of additional protein.

Concoct your own salad, the variations are endless!

Carrots, Eggs or Coffee: Which are You?

Carrots, eggs or coffee, which are you? I love this analogy of personal strength and adversary by an unknown author:

carrots, eggs or coffee, which are you?
carrots, eggs or coffee, which are you?

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the granddaughter replied.

The grandmother brought the girl closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. The grandmother then asked her granddaughter to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked her granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. She then asked. “What’s the point, Grandmother?”

The grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they changed the water.

“Which are you?” grandmother asked granddaughter, “carrots, eggs or coffee? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, you become hardened and stiff?

Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

author unknown

The moral of this story? When life gets you down, elevate yourself to the next level.

Buy Local, Support Small Business

As a small business owner myself, I am all for supporting and promoting local entrepreneurs. When you buy local, from growers, artisans or crafters alike, you are investing into the economy of your own community. That’s healthier on so many levels.

TruLOCAL is such a business delivering their local meat products anywhere in Ontario. Your chosen products arrive frozen in airtight packages, packed with dry ice to keep the container cold for many hours. That means it can sit on your step until you get home. You also receive email notification of when it will arrive.

I have received several shipments now, and must say, I love the products and the ease of ordering online. You can easily change the frequency and size of your order as well as the products in each order. There are so many items to choose from. Each order is based on a point system, you simply fill your order until your “box” is full. For example, with BBQ season coming soon (I hope) I will be ordering more steaks and less roasts.

The best part? Their meat products come from locally raised, free run and grass fed animals, that are free of hormones and antibiotics. In this era of heightened awareness, these qualities cannot be ignored. Sustainable foods are popular today, cows raised in pastures instead of feedlots turn out healthier, tastier meat with more vitamins and minerals.

If I have convinced you to give TruLOCAL a try, use my referral code of
TRULOCAL2097 to earn us both free products!

Tennis upsets feature Canadian Bianca Andreescu

After (painfully) witnessing the upset of our mens junior hockey team in the quarter finals we Canadians have moved on to a thrilling and unexpected (maybe not to her) surprise in world tennis action. Eighteen year old Bianca Andreescu has been on the pro tennis circuit since 2017, but suddenly bounced into focus last weekend when she defeated Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki in New Zealand’s ASB classic.

Despite the fact that she was defeated in the final of that event, Andreescu went on to qualify for the Australian Open a few days later. Young, talented, ambitious and resilient, Bianca is earning respect on the tennis courts as well as pride and admiration from Canadians.

With a shining future ahead, all of our eyes and hearts are on and with her!

tennis
Bianca Andreescu photo by Rogers Media

Laughter is (still) the best medicine

I know I have written about laughter before, but I saw this video Marc Cramer posted on Facebook this morning and just had to share…

laughter is contagious!

This video is proof that a good chuckle is contagious, to anyone and anywhere. It has also been proved to be medicinal with its amazingly positive affect on every organ in our body. Even our immune systems and the condition of our blood vessels are boosted by a good laugh.

Have you ever noticed that people who are asked what they look for in a partner say they want someone that makes them laugh? That’s because laughter makes everyone, from babies to seniors feel good.

I bet everyone watching and listening to that man (stranger) laugh felt great for a long time afterward. I know I did.

Drug Checking Technology Challenge

Health Canada is putting their money where their mouth is, asking for help with a drug checking technology challenge. Most of us are aware of the opioid crisis here in Canada and around the world. For more information, please check out the detailed article in the link above. It describes the challenge to discover or modify the technology involved in detecting lethal, potent drugs like Fentanyl as well as other toxic substances. The article also contains additional links for those wishing to increase their knowledge of the crisis we are facing as well as one for substance abusers too.

Drug checking technology is out there, it just needs to be improved for increased reliability, accuracy, adaptability, ease of use as well as affordability. Any innovative (for or not-for-profit) Canadian post secondary institution, company, research or industry association is eligible to apply, although only the selected semi-finalists will be able to compete for the pilot phase and grand prize.

This challenge was launched on October 2nd, 2018 and the deadline for application is February 1, 2019. That means there is no time to waste! Semi-finalists will be announced February, finalists in June and grand prize winner in January 2020. Oh, and the prize is a cool million dollars.

It must be my thirty years of laboratory work; this challenge certainly piqued my interest. Do you have an innovative, ambitious personality with the resources to create a design ? Where can you apply? At the bottom of the webpage linked to above. Or right here!