Quick Ways to Improve Your Attention

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by Eugene Y. Chan, MD

Ever wonder why you can’t sit still and finish your work?  This is a general problem with the population at large these days.  The quick answer is that there are too many distractions:  smart phones, the internet, kids, and television.  Yes, these are things that can ultimately cause you to be unfocused, unproductive, and unnerved.  This decrease in attention has indeed been studied by numerous groups out there.  For instance, Higginbotham et al. 1993 showed that both normal and diagnosed children with ADHD, when subject to active and passive distractions, led to decrease in performance.  It is no question that distractions, especially sensory ones related to visual and auditory, are undesirable.  On the other hand, this is not the only reason.  For instance, Booth et al., 2005 demonstrated that there is a decreased inhibitory network in those with ADHD, suggesting that there is an underlying physical basis for decreased attention. What should you do about it?

  • Unplug!  Have dedicated periods of time in your day where you are free from your phone, TV, internet, and any electronics.
  • Practice focusing.  This can be done by reading, writing, or some other active form of concentration.  This forces your mind to exercise its inhibitory neurons.
  • Eat carefully.  See previous post, avoid any refined sugars, avoid stimulants, go for small meals, and wisely supplement.

Take care and stay focused.   Booth, JR et al.  Larger deficits in brain networks for response inhibition than for visual selective attention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  2005.  J. of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  46:1, pp 94-111. Higginbotham, P. and Bartling, C.  1993.  The effects of sensory distractions on short-term recall of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder versus normally achieving children.  Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, Vol 31(6), Nov 1993, 507-510.

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Energy Drinks Can Affect Your Heart

Image By Eugene Y. Chan, MD

Just recently, presented at the Radiological Society of North America, German researchers were able to image increased cardiac motility 1 hour after test subjects consumed popular energy drinks.  The drinks contained 400 mg taurine and as much as caffeine as up to two cups of coffee.  The increased cardiac motility is not surprising, given that caffeine itself can lead to irregular heartbeats and palpitations.  What this does confirm however, is that physically, the heart works harder, specifically 6% harder after drinking energy drinks, according to Dr. Jonas Doerner with the University of Bonn, Germany.  Increased heart contractility in those with underlying cardiac issues would be more prone to potentially adverse effects.  In recent years, there has been a series of deaths and emergency events associated with the consumption of these caffeine and taurine-based energy drinks.  What is surprising from this study is that a control group, just utilizing caffeine at the same dose, did not show increased cardiac contractility.  This potentially shows that the potential synergistic effects of caffeine, taurine, and potentially sugar can lead to amplified effects, which can affect heart function.

Here’s my advice on how to stay focused without energy drinks:

  • First, minimize your sugar intake.  Refine sugar can have a deleterious effect on your body.
  • Second, stay up to date on the latest studies of what you eat or drink.  Science and medicine have a certain truth to it.  If more than a few research studies have shown certain things, it is starting to look like it may be real.
  • Third, go stimulant-free.  Caffeine acts on your neuroreceptors, which get saturated over time.  That is why over time you need more of it for it to work.  Going stimulant free and choosing a judicious supplement program allows you to go for the long haul.

Stay focused and be well.

Studying for Exams

by Eugene Y. Chan, MD

The rigors of academics can take a toll on the mind and focus.  What to do when you have stayed up for that all night cram session?  There are a few ways that you can clear your mind:

  • Avoid caffeine, this tends to last only for a short period of time and then the crash will come and you will feel more tired than before you took it.
  • Avoid foods with excess carbohydrates or refined sugar.  These high glycemic index foods lead to significant swings in your mental state.  The insulin response from these foods can also cause reactive low sugar levels that can cause drowsiness.  Instead, reach for something else like nuts which stabilize your sugar levels better.
  • Go work out.  There is no better way to keep up mental fitness by exercising your body.  Sound mind and body.  There is no exaggerating here.
  • Take a supplement that helps you recover and maintain focus.  On this end, you should try to find something that works on entire metabolic pathways (like CLAREX or a like product).  You have to find what works for you and sometimes trying out a few may work well for you.  Regardless of the product, you should look for something that is stimulant-free and does not act on your neuroreceptors like caffeine.

Be well and stay focused.

The Post-Workout Protein Window

A Collaboration between Captain Clarex AKA Eric Ballenger and Dr. Eugene Y. Chan M.D.

Why is it, that so many people put such an enormous amount of thought into what they eat all day long, and not immediately post-workout? Everyone training muscle, regardless of their chosen mode of exercise, must take their post-exercise nutrition seriously in order to provide their muscle with the required raw materials. Since all types of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, it is inevitable that muscles require carbohydrates afterwards. Therefore, post-workout carbohydrates are important to refill this key ingredient in your muscles.

However, any amount of carbohydrates will not do. You need to consume enough carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling glucose into muscle cells. Furthermore, insulin leads to increased glycogen synthesis in liver and muscle cells. Insulin has overall anabolic, or “building up,” effects on the body. The addition of protein to this post-workout carbohydrate routine adds the basic building blocks for this overall anabolic process (Miller et al., 2003; Volek, 2004). There many recommended ratios out there concentrating on the glycemic index and the carbohydrate to protein ratio, including a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio (Cordain, 2010). Researchers have utilized a 0.8 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight as a recommended amount for stimulating anabolic effects of insulin (van Loon et al., 2000). At a 4:1 ratio, this is 0.2 g protein per kg of body weight. An increased consumption of essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance. For instance a 0.4 g/kg may by better. A protein intake range of 0.2 g/kg to 0.4 g/kg is therefore appropriate.

While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.

 

 

Cordain, L. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. December 16, 2010.

Miller, S.L., K.D. Tipton, D.L. Chinkes, S.E. Wolf, and R.R. Wolfe. Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 34:449-55, 2003

Van Loon, L., Saris, W.H., Kruijshoop, M., and Wagenmakers, A.J. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 72(1):106-111, 2000.

Volek, J.S. Influence of nutrition on responses to resistance training. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:689-96,2004.

Food for Thought for the Holidays

By Eugene Y. Chan, MD

The holidays are approaching us fast and typically there are two big fears that confront us:  (1) how do I not gain weight? and (2) how do I survive my holiday party?  Thanksgiving and the holidays are synonymous with gluttony, binge eating, and over indulgence.  Furthermore, there are numerous holiday parties that you need to attend, whether out of obligation or for fun.  Given the joyous time of year, there is plenty of opportunity to get carried away.  Fortunately, there is time to prepare.  

First, regarding weight gain, there are several key realizations.  The first is that the stomach has unique properties.  It is an expandable container, made of smooth muscle.  If it is in a compact state for weeks prior to your binge eating episode, you will feel full faster and will not consume as much.  On the flip side, if you occasionally have large meals, you stomach will have lost its elasticity, very much like a balloon that has been inflated and deflated multiple times, and you will be able to consume a lot more.  Second, your stomach and digestive tract secrete enzymes that require a certain time of upregulation, through gene expression and protein translation.  Without certain key enzymes, the nutrients of certain foods do not make it into the body.  So you could utilize this to your advantage.  If you avoid fatty foods routinely, it is unlikely that a single meal of fatty foods will lead to significant weight gain.  The lesson here in understanding the anatomy of your stomach as well as the molecular response of it to food is simple:  if you eat healthy and in small portions on a routine basis, the impact of a single large meal is unlikely to have significant impact on your daily trip to the scale.  Of course, it all goes without saying that you should continue to remain active and exercise often.

Ok, what should you do about those holiday parties?  Holiday parties tend to be a great time to network, build camaraderie with your colleagues, all through a relaxed atmosphere.  Part of this is a liberal amount of beer, wine, and cocktails that loosen up even your stiffest co-worker.  The key here is moderation for you.  Since you don’t want to be the individual that gets talked about the day after, setting a drink limit and goal for yourself prior to the party is most important.  Discussing your goals with a colleague of similar professional mindset would help you solidify your resolve.  In the event you did have one too many, how do you make it to work?  The answer is simple:  drink plenty of water and take a product designed for post-celebration recovery.  The key is to get your Kreb’s cycle back up and running since an excess of ethanol builds up NADH, which signals the Kreb’s cycle to slow down.  As you know the Kreb’s cycle is central to generating ATP, your body’s main form of energy.  By supplementing key cofactors for enzymes in your Kreb’s cycle, you can get it back up and running in no time, and feel great in the process.  

With that, good cheers for the holidays and be well.

 

Gym Etiquette by Captain Clarex, aka Eric Ballenger

Gym etiquette-2 words that usually don’t go in the same sentence. Whether its cross fit, boot camps, the freeweight gym, or a chain style gym, etiquette seems to be a lost art form in today’s fitness settings. When we discuss gym etiquette, not only are we talking about hygiene and the cleanliness of a facility, but for many it is just common courtesy. here are some examples of ways to not become “that guy” or girl at the gym.

1. Handling of weights

When lifting weights, especially free weights, be sure that you either have a spotter or can comfortably handle the weight that you have chosen. Nothing is more expensive or irritating to gym owners or personnel than someone who is constantly slamming dumbbells to the floor. The old saying was if you have to drop the weight you probably shouldn’t be lifting it in the first place. So if at any point during your workout, you find yourself “dumping the weight,” then either up your reps with a lower weight or find someone to spot you. (You know who you are.)

2. Stripping the weights

Is there anything more irritating then going through your full pre-workout routine, dragging yourself to the gym, and finding your favorite machine already racked up with multiple rows of plates? Not only does this take away from your time in the gym, but also puts you in the wrong mindset for an effective workout. So the next time you are on a machine, whether it’s a flat bench, hammer strength, or a squat rack, have some common courtesy and put the weights back where you found them. This will go a long way in building long lasting relationships with not only gym personnel, but your fellow fitness enthusiasts. You might even make a friend or two in the process. (Again, you know who you are.)

3. Wiping the bench.

This may be the most disgusting element of gym etiquette that you will ever encounter. Nothing is worse then watching someone push themselves to their personal limit and watching them walk away from their machine without the common courtesy of wiping down the machine. All gyms now have “sanitation stations” with either wet wipes or a spray bottle and paper towel. The two minutes that it takes for you to clean off the apparatus that you have just used. can be the difference between being a valued member of your gym or “that guy” that suddenly gets his membership cancelled without notice. Yes, this is an act of courtesy, but more importantly, eliminates many of the health risks commonly found in a gym setting including bacteria, staph infection, and other health concerns that can be eliminated by taking this one simple step.

This will be an ongoing series. Gym etiquette is something we can all work on to some degree. A few simple acts of kindness and common courtesy can go a long way in developing and maintaining the positive fitness experience. We at Clarex are here to promote good health and good will. Stay tuned-more to come. Be good to others-you’ll be surprised how far it might go!

Have a healthy day,

Captain Clarex

A Lethal Dose of Caffeine

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By Eugene Y. Chan, M.D.

Recent news about tragic death of Anais Fournier hit the web.  She was 14 and she died after consuming two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks over a 24-hour period.  She had an underlying heart arrhythmia that may have predisposed her to the adverse effects of caffeine.

Caffeine is a small molecule alkaloid that is found in many different types of plants.  It has a receptor-based mechanism of action that antagonizes the action of adenosine.  In clinical medicine, adenosine is sometimes utilized to treat certain irregular heartbeats, including some supraventricular tachycardias.  Decreasing the action of adenosine can therefore lead to a faster heart rate and can also predispose the heart to irregular heartbeats.  In the case of the very unfortunate 14-year old, she consumed caffeine which decreased action of the adenosine, thus increasing her likelihood of a fatal arrhythmia.

How much is too much?  One may say, “Let us calculate the lethal dose.”  The LD50, or lethal dose for killing 50% of tested animals, for rats is 192 mg/kg.  Extrapolating this to a 14-year old weighing 50 kg, this LD50 is 9.6 grams of caffeine.  Of course, these studies were not conducted in humans so this is only a ballpark estimate.  In a typical energy drink, there is approximately 200 – 300 mg of caffeine, although in some energy drinks, the actual amount is unclear, based on how the products are labeled.  We can assume that Anais probably consumed < 1 gram of caffeine from her two energy drinks, yet this was a fatal dose for her.  What the LD50 calculation is missing is both an understanding of both statistics as well as pharmacogenomics.  Statistics tells us that some individuals may very well have adverse events at a much lower dose of caffeine.  Part of this is based on a genetic makeup and how we react to certain molecules.  This is called pharmacogenomics.  In the case of Anais, she likely had a genetic cause of her underlying cardiac arrhythmia.  She may very well have been a slow metabolizer of caffeine, also based on her genetic makeup, leading this molecule to linger in her system much longer than that of her counterparts.  Without a whole genome study, of course, we would never know.

Overall, the lesson here is that receptor-based molecules, such as caffeine, can be extremely dangerous, depending on the specifics of your medical and genetic background.  For most people it may be fine, for others, it can unfortunately take push you over the threshold of safety.

Why you need mental clarity

By Eugene Y. Chan, MD

Somewhere around 3 AM in the morning at the Massachusetts General Hospital one day, I remember a particular instance of having to draw blood from a very ill patient.  By that time, I had already worked for 20 hours straight, with my beeper ringing every few minutes.  What is so urgent that requires a blood draw at this hour?  I looked at the patient’s medical record and saw a history of HIV and HCV.  This patient was in renal and liver failure.  I looked for a suitable vein in the antecubital fossa but could not find any.  I look elsewhere on the arm, but still no.  My eyes were feeling heavy from my day and also staring closely in the dark to look for a thin blue vein that I could target.  Finally, I found a potential vein, on the dorsal surface of the foot.  It was so thin and collapsed, but it was my only hope.  I knew that if I were not careful, I could indeed inadvertently stick myself, which could put me at risk for both HIV and HCV.  I also knew that I did not draw the patient’s blood, she would have a high likelihood of not making it through the night.  It is in times like this, where if your mind wanders, even for a brief moment, the outcome would be highly undesirable.  This is when you need mental clarity, this is when you need that moment of unwavering focus.  Have you been in a circumstance like this?  Maybe not treating a patient, but interviewing for a most coveted job, giving the most important sales presentation, or pushing yourself to win that race?  Fortunately, the outcome that morning was positive, the important medical tests were highly informative for the course of her care and the patient made it through the night.  There are situations like that that arise often, and often unexpected, and you have to be prepared to make those yours.  Stay focused and be at your best, always.

Clarex’s Busy Weekend!

Clarex was all over the place this past weekend. We were at the Whole Foods in Cambridge and Newton, cheering on bicycle riders as they began a trip from Boston to Raleigh, handing out samples with HubHelmet and even at Fenway Park! Clarex was stocked on the shelves, and great times were had by all.

The day began as early as 8 for our Street Team, who were up bright and early to attend the The Pablove Foundation’s long-distance bike ride.It funds pediatric cancer research and programs to improve the quality of life for children living with cancer.The 1000-mile bike ride from Boston to Raleigh began with a nice breakfast for riders, family, and supporters to chat and enjoy at the Whole Foods on Prospect St. in Cambridge. Not to mention we had our team there handing out samples and taking photos of the event, which you can view here. The kickoff also had another perk for Clarex-our product was officially on the shelves! What an accomplishment! So be sure to visit the Whole Foods on Prospect St. to buy Clarex directly along with your other groceries.

Meanwhile, Captain Clarex was at the Whole Foods in Newton, setting up his demo. Clarex is also now sold at the Whole Foods in Newton, and many people got to learn about eliminating mental limits with Clarex. There were trial sizes to test out, and the product being sold right there in the store for those who wanted to continue to increase their focus. After all, Clarex is all natural and caffeine-free!

We also had some samples to give away with HubHelmet, a new service that allows Hubway users access to helmets for safe riding. Be sure to look out for HubHelmet available with all Hubway stations soon! Clarex was a big hit, and it’s great for bike riding so you can focus more on your ride and enjoy it.

Clarex was also at Fenway Park this Saturday as well! After attending teh Pablove Foundation’s kickoff event, Team Clarex attended College Day @ Fenway. where lots of college students received samples. Everyone there had a fantastic time, especially our street team members who got to pose with the World Series trophies! Check out the photos here.

And to think this is just the beginning! Keep on the lookout for Clarex on our Facebook page to learn where we will be next. Comment with any suggestions or feedback-we love to hear from our fans!

-Team CLAREX

Breaking Down the Intelligent Workout with Eric Ballenger

Eric Ballenger

Welcome to the Clarity Corner! I’m Eric Ballener, and a daily Clarex user. As a fitness enthusiast, my background includes ISSA, ACE, NFPT certified, certified personal trainer, former NPC competitor, and a Pre-Contest Prep Coach. I’ll be posting regularly with all things fitness, so check back often! Feel free to comment with any questions to answer in future posts.

What we do before we work out can be just as important as any exercise we do during our workout. Pre-workout preparation has been studied, dissected, and argued about since before Arnold lifted his first barbell. .Let me back up here for a second, we’re not just talking about the gym rats. (You know who you are, because I’m one too!) I’m talking about the triathlete, the cyclist, the runner, the CrossFit enthusiasts, the powerlifter, and even the bodybuilder. We are all familiar with the term “muscle memory.” Muscle memory has been used along simultaneously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.

In other words, every Monday, we wake up thinking today is chest day and our mind prepares our body for the trauma that it will endure during a typical workout. We have all been there. We take the thermogenic gotten the jitters the heart palpations the sweats but what did we really accomplish? We have once again attacked our receptor sites and overstimulated our adrenal glands.  Through the use of Clarex, I have personally found a new form of laser focus while in the gym. Though I still enjoy my heavily caffeinated and synephrine based pre-workout RTD, I have now added Clarex as a complement to my regimen.

This is where “The Intelligent Workout” begins. I take my Clarex with my thermo 30-45 minutes pre-workout. The most profound and lasting impact of Clarex on my workout is found in the level of clarity that did not exist before, I no longer find myself asking what exercise is next. Rather, I find myself with that feeling of complete focus and concentration.

As a result, my workouts have become more intense, and shorter in duration. Let me reiterate. CLAREX IS NOT A THERMOGENIC! Clarex is a stimulant-free complement to any pre-workout regimen. Clarex, when taken as directed, can help you get the most out of every workout no matter what hurdles life has thrown at you before you step through the gym doors. So try Clarex today, “Eliminate YOUR Mental Limits” and unlock your body’s full potential with no side effects and no crash.

-Team CLAREX

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