The only thing that matters

Movement, Exercise, Daily

It does not matter how fast.

Get moving again.

There. End of post. Shortest ever!

What, you don’t quite get it?

OK, I’ll elaborate a little. But just a little. (I still want this to be the shortest post ever from me.)

Take this post, for instance. It has been a while since I’ve written one. I’ve been busy, you know, with stuff: Selling a home, buying a new one, preparing two moves, planning a new life in a new town, doing a bit of money-earning work. Oh, and trying to get pregnant. (Not me: My wife. But apparently I have a contribution to make.)

It adds up. And whether it is the time it takes, or the mental energy it requires, it ends up leaving too little of either for me to muster what it takes to write.

And so you don’t get to read anything from me for a while.

It is just like when “Life gets in the way” and prevents us from exercising like we know we should. (Or must.)

First, you take a short breather, just to get over the urgent things. Then it gets a bit longer, because it always takes longer than expected. Then the habit appears broken, and it gets hard to find the time or muster the energy.

Next thing you know, you’ve not exercised in a while. Just like I’ve not written a post in a while.

So, what are we to do in such situations?

Get moving again.

That is the only thing that matters.

It does not have to be moving a lot. It does not have to be performing at our top level. It does not even have to be a good post.

Just get out there and move. Just find a bit of time.

You know why. You know it is the right thing to do. For yourself. For your Purpose.

So that’s it. Today, I’ve done my part (writing this post); now it’s your turn to do yours.

Get out there and move!

Picture by Sacha Veillette

P.S.: It is still pretty much my shortest post ever.

Getting to the gut of the problem

I’m really trying not to talk about food anymore.

Food, Diet, NOT FOOD, Everyday

Bacteria (and archaea) are your friends. Feed them well.

But I keep being drawn back to it, somehow.

Here are the reasons, I suspect:

1) Exercising more is very simple, and you can find all the advice you can possibly need elsewhere on my blog. So without going into highly specialized training regimen, which I don’t advocate anyway, there are only so many things that can be said about moving everyday. It is simple, but it requires effort. Everyday.

2) Food is fascinating, pleasant, and something we do effortlessly multiple times per day. So fixating on it comes easily. Also, the entire process from the food we eat to the energy we have to spend is so complex that, depending on your intentions, you can fool a lot of people some of the time, or try to enlighten one person at a time, with the same amount of energy.

So, because I’d rather enlighten a single person (I’m that kind of person), and I’ve talked about how to move more aplenty, and because more people want to read about food, let’s talk about food.

Actually, let’s talk about food that feeds the many, on top of feeding the one person who eats it. In so doing, we will get to what some have come to consider the “gut of the problem.”

Let’s talk about the food that feeds the bacteria and archaea that live in our guts.

A summary of recent research published in Scientific American spells it out quite nicely. You should really read it.

To save you time, however, here are the main facts, and what they hint at for optimal health:

  • Fact 1: Our digestive system is home to millions of other living beings. It is an ecosystem for them, and there is an interaction between their living, and our absorption of nutrients from food. It is what we refer to as the “gut microbiome” or “gut microbiota.” Or just “microbes” if you prefer.
  • Fact 2: Who says “ecosystem” also says “food chain,” “competition,” “natural selection,” etc. For instance, there’s a constant battle between “good” and “bad” bacteria; between those that help us (by helping our digestion not causing diseases) and those that can hinder us (by causing inflammation, diseases, etc.).
  • Fact 3: The gut microbiome didn’t just appear out of the blue this week; it has evolved along with us (co-evolved is the term). Different species have different gut microbiota. In each case, the gut microbiota has evolved and adapted to thrive off of what the host species typically eat.

Hint 1: Just like our own body should be fed the kind of food it is capable of handling (i.e. food, not too much, mostly plants), so too the bacteria and archaea that live inside us. Basically, the “good” ones strive on a diet that is precisely the kind of diet we should eat. And when the “good” ones don’t strive, then the “bad” ones do, and that can lead to problems for us.

Hint 2: One aspect of the research focused on fiber. We’ve known that fiber is important, and that we don’t have enough in our modern diet, but it seems a big part of the reason is that, without fiber, those “good” bacteria and archaea don’t fare so well.

Hint 3: Moreover, in the absence of enough fiber in our diet, a part of the gut microbes to the next best thing for them: the mucus that lines the walls of our digestive tract, particularly in the large intestine. But we need that mucus for the digestive system to work correctly and for the protection of the rest of our bodies, so when bacteria and archaea eat it, we get ulcers, inflammation, and a slew of other problems.

The article talks about positive results from adding fiber, even just a little, to the diet. It seems to help.

So, go ahead, add fiber to your diet. But not just any fiber.

Real food contains fiber. NOT FOOD that claims to contain fiber often contains the wrong kind of fiber. What I might call NOT FIBER, were it not for the fact that it is, in fact, fiber. Just not the kind that our gut microbiota can be expected to eat.

So we are back to the food we eat. What are we to do?

The same that we’ve known all along: Lots of veggies and fruit. And stay away from NOT FOOD.

No surprise there. Have we learned anything new today?

Yes, I think we have. Or at least this story serves as a reminder.

Nutrition is more complex than “calories in,” and just a count of carbs, proteins, and lipids. What you eat does not end up directly in your blood stream and then inside your cells. It goes through many steps of processing, natural processing, by our guts and the multitude that live in it.

Our own enzymes and guts mechanically and chemically disassemble the food we eat into its basic constituents (glucids, lipids, amino acids, various micro-nutrients) which can then enter the blood stream. What’s left behind is then further processed by gut microbes, and that can sometimes provide more nutrients for us as well.

By further (and co-processing) food, the gut microbiota play an essential role. They help make the whole machinery run smoothly. Provided they get benefits from it as well. Those benefits come from having a relatively safe place to call home and lots of food.

If we create the wrong kind of home for them, or if we provide food that the rowdy relatives prefer, then the “home” becomes less peaceful, and everybody suffers.

Sure, I’m simplifying by using such an analogy, but it is closer to the truth than a lot of the advice out there. (And much better than a car analogy.) Basically, feed your gut bacteria well, by feeding yourself real food (not too much, and mostly from plants), and you’ll improve your digestion.

So next time someone tries to sell you a super food, supplement, or miracle cure for what they claim ails you (but probably doesn’t), simply grab a veggie or a fruit, and chew on that. Everybody involved will feel better…


See the article “Fiber-Famished Gut Microbes Linked to Poor Health” in Scientific American, March 23, 2015, by Katherine Harmon Courage.

Image from Pixabay.

The problem (as I see it) with nutrition advice

Food, Advice, Nutrition, Everyday, Diet

Food, the final frontier? It is all about how you think about it.

This is going to be a short post.

Primarily, because it doesn’t take long to express what, to my mind, is the problem with nutrition advice.

But also because I would like this to be the starting point for a conversation. (I know, I tend to go on and on when I write, and that can give the impression that I don’t listen to what others have to say. But I promise it is not the case. So there.)

Here we go:

The problem with nutrition advice, and it permeates pretty much all advice on nutrition that I’ve come across, is the idea that good nutrition will make you healthy.

How often have you heard or read that a specific diet will make you healthy? That a supplement ensures health? That this food (or that food, the very next week), will prevent disease?

The truth is the reverse: Bad nutrition makes your body more susceptible to diseases.

In part, this is because it does not have what it needs to function optimally. For instance, to fight off infections; but one often reads that better nutrition will enhance your immune system, whereas the problem is that bad nutrition impedes the immune system from functioning optimally.

The other part is because, over time, bad (or simply excessive) nutrition leads to weight gain in the form of fatty deposits, primarily in the abdomen region, which is proven to lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and nasty stuff like cancers (to name only those main life shorteners).

In my estimation, the way nutrition advice is given, implying that eating right will make you healthy, leads perniciously to all sorts of damaging beliefs about nutrition and health. It points towards a constant search for a special diet, super food, secret ingredient, or other magic pill, to keep disease at bay.

But the truth is otherwise: Given what it needs, which is a lot of movement and good nutrition, the body is, naturally, healthy. The body does not become healthy by having plenty of exercise and good food; removing those things from your body, however, can (and often does) lead to chronic disease and problems coming from sub-optimal functioning.

You might be tempted to say that the difference is only semantics. My contention is that the difference has a big influence on how we think about food and nutrition. The way the advice usually goes (eat well to be healthy) leads to thinking some additional, external, and effortless solution can be applied. The advice focusing on the way the body works (eat well to allow your body to be healthy) hints, on the contrary, at changing habits, removing bad nutrition, and letting nature take its course.

Let’s use an example, albeit an extreme one, to illustrate the logic.

Does not smoking make you healthy? Can we say “if you don’t smoke, you will become healthy”? No, of course not. That would seem absurd. Smoking can, and does, cause you to be at risk for a whole lot of nasty things. Absence of smoking is how things should be for optimal health, but not smoking is not the cause of good health.

This is analogous to what I was saying earlier: If you stop eating bad food, you will not become healthy. The absence of bad food, or the presence of good food, is not the cause of health. The presence of bad food on a daily basis is an impediment to your body’s optimal functioning (a.k.a. health).

So eating “right” will help the body restore itself, and will reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases and the incidence of other problems. But it won’t make you healthy. Your body will do that all by itself, given half a chance.

And to give it more than half a chance, to give it a full chance (and a chance-and-a-half), it is not just a matter of eating right. In fact, a larger proportion of the solution resides in moving more.

But that will be a subject to be covered (again) in another post.

Picture from Pixabay.

Do you really want to know what I eat?

No-brainer Fitness is not a blog about food.

This is not a blog that provides recipes.


No-brainer Fitness is about being healthy and fit. And, of course, after having done the correct “first thing first” and exercised regularly, what logically comes next is to eat right.

And it is a blog that is not afraid to go off the beaten path. Once in a while.

So in case you’ve ever wondered, I’m going to share one of the staples of my diet. (That’s diet in the correct, noun sense of the word, not in the verb sense. Just to be perfectly clear.)

My wife and I start all our days pretty much in the exact same manner: By eating a good breakfast. (Yeah, I know, we’re boring people.)

Since we try to put as many veggies and fruit in our diet as we can, essentially eating a largely plant-based diet, breakfast has become a major part of our “greening the plate” effort.

To achieve that, we use a product found at Trader Joe’s called “Cruciferous Crunch Collection.” It consists of a mix of shredded kale, cabbage (both green and red, light on the red), broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Yummy! Especially when you sautee it with some coconut oil…

Here’s the detailed recipe:

Food, Diet, Everyday

The main ingredients. Good fats, proteins, and a mountain of green stuff.

  • 1/4 cup of roasted and unsalted cashew pieces
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 184 g Cruciferous Crunch Collection (1 bag)
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 4 large eggs (cage free)
  • Spices to taste (I use a bit of salt, pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, and red pepper flakes)

Simply roast the cashes pieces at high heat a little in coconut oil before adding the green stuff and reducing to medium heat. Stir and mix until the green stuff is pretty much glistening and feeling soft, then start adding in turn the spices, raisins, and finally the eggs. Continue mixing between each ingredient, and finally until the eggs are cooked and completely mixed with the rest.

According to the software I used for the calculations, this recipe provides 64 grams of carbs, 39 grams of protein, and 49 grams of fat. Total calories: 830. If you share equally between two persons, divide those numbers by two. (We share roughly 55-45.)

The fat comes essentially from the cashews and the coconut oil, both recognized as sources of healthy fats. But feel free to substitute. The cashews, by the way, add a nice crunchiness to the mix.

The proteins come from the eggs almost exclusively, and as we all know now, eggs are good eating.

The cruciferous crunch mix provides some of the carbs, and a whole lot of phytonutrients and stomach-filling (and gut-friendly) fiber. So the big contributor to the carbs count is obviously the raisins.

Food, Diet, Everyday

Breakfast! I think of this as yummy. Maybe it takes some getting used to.

That’s breakfast.

It may not look appealing to you, but in fact it is full of textures and shades of colours, admittedly mostly in the green-yellow range. But your digestive system does not care, ultimately, what the food looks like, and your taste buds can be reset to consider this very tasty.

Notice how there is no juice, no milk, no toast (no, not even whole wheat or gluten-free anything) in that breakfast? We drink a bit of coffee (add some 10-20 calories, because it is espresso, black) and some water. That’s all we need.

And we feel full for a good long time.

Were we to add those other things, often referred to as “parts of a balanced breakfast” but really just loads of extra carbs and some fats, our individual calorie counts would likely double. And we’d get very little additional nutritional value for it.

Notice also how none of this is done in order to get some “super foods” onto our plates. This is just our normal breakfast.

And that’s the key: The normal food has to be good food. Everyday.

NOT FOOD, like coffee, and other stuff that might happen during the day, must become a very small part of your diet. Not the main part.

That being said, keep in mind that I’m not here to provide meal plans, or tell you what to eat. You’re grownups, so you should be able to figure it out for yourselves.

I’m here to tell you to move more, to exercise regularly: To become everyday athletes.

But sharing recipes among everyday athletes is fair game. So feel free to try this.

Pictures by Sacha Veillette, yesterday morning, while making the usual breakfast.

Use it, or lose it (a.k.a. Why bother exercise?)

Exercise, Aging, Everyday, Weight Control, Muscle Mass, Bone Density

Ready to take the plunge? If you don’t now, you may not be able to later.

Are you trying to exercise more? Or at all?

Has it been on your mind for a while? Perhaps you used to, but as the years passed, you went from “active” to “weekend warrior,” and ultimately to “I just don’t have the time.”

Perhaps you weren’t all that active as a youth, but as you went through your 20s and 30s you’ve noticed the loss of your effortless youthful figure.

No matter your story, you know you should be getting moving more. You feel it in your bones (quite literally, as it turns out).

You are not alone. And you are not alone in the struggle, either.

But have you stopped and really explored why it is so important to exercise, or to exercise more than you currently do? In that deceptively simple questioning might be hiding a profound source of Purpose

That is the question

Why is it important to you to exercise regularly?

Is it because you think it will make you look better (or a certain way)? To control your weight, perhaps?

Maybe it is to lose a few extra pounds accumulated over a few years of too much sitting behind a desk, in a car, and on a couch. Or all three, in turn.

Any of those may be a valid ultimate objective; they are certainly valued to varying degrees by different people. Yet they are not the reason why regular exercise is a good idea.

Leaving aside my own (admittedly strong) opinions on the goals and objectives of folks who exercise regularly, allow me to offer a simple and compelling reason why you must exercise regularly. As background to what you are about to read, you might want to look back at the principles behind training.)

The answer

The answer is simple: If you don’t exercise regularly, you’ll lose important muscle mass and bone density.

Muscles, Athletes, MRI, Ageing, Muscle Mass, Bone Density

Which one do you want to be when you grow old?

You see, if you don’t exercise, your body, being the result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, does the most logical thing and stops investing in expensive to build, and costly to maintain, muscle mass.

In turn, when muscle mass decreases, strain on bones also decreases: Basically, if you don’t move much, your bones don’t need to be strong. So once again your body does the evolutionary logical thing and divests itself of bone density, which is expensive to maintain from a biological standpoint.

That’s how the body works: If you don’t use it, you lose it.

And that’s the real answer. Anything else is confusing the main cause (muscle mass and bone density loss) with its consequences, or symptoms.

The consequences (or symptoms)

Yeah, sure, you may gain weight of the fatty kind if you don’t exercise. Exercise burns calories, so it helps keep the weight off in the long run, or maintain a healthy weight. If you keep eating like you did when you were 20.

But keep in mind that when you start exercising, you will gain some weight of the non-fatty kind, so at first your weight may go up, not down. Or stay the same if you never really let yourself go.

Also, the main reason you gain weight, which is the symptom, is that without enough muscle mass, your base metabolism is greatly reduced. So if you keep eating the same quantity, or, worse, you eat more as you age, you will put on the pounds. However, this is not what happens to everyone.

Another, less talked about consequence of “losing it,” is an increased risk of injury from not having sufficient muscle tone and bone density when attempting certain actions or movements. We are accustomed to think of this as the “natural” frailty that elderly folks have as they age, but it is already showing up at younger ages, especially for those who forget that they are no longer 20…

And there is nothing natural about becoming frail as we age. That frailty is the direct consequence of losing muscle mass and bone density. Of not using our bodies enough.

There is also mounting evidence that our internal organs, and our brains as well, don’t function optimally when our bodies are not moving enough. Though that is a little beyond the scope of this post, the principle of “use it (your body), or lose it (your mind)” also applies.

All good things must come to an end

Our bodies are marvelous biological machines. But they are not magical; they obey very specific rules that make sense from an evolutionary, biological standpoint. And they get older, of course.

Magical thinking about being able to be healthy in the long run without exercising regularly, or just by controlling what we eat, won’t make it so.

It is a fact that we all age and that some day we’ll die. It is a fact that many of us are getting heavier and rounder due to fatty deposits over time. And it is also a fact that many become frail as they age.

But it does not have to be so. Although there is no absolute guarantee of health into old age, because much can happen, the way to improve the odds is well known.

The key is to move more, everyday, so as to maintain the all-important muscle mass and bone density you’ll need to age gracefully into your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and well beyond if you keep at it.

And here’s a further thought in closing: Since you want to have all those years ahead of you, consider picking up a new sport now that you’ll be able to practice when you retire. After all, you’ll have a lot of time on your hand then; might as well fill it with something fun to do.