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    ICON Meals Catoring To The Competitor In Each Of Us

    ICON Meals Blog — shawn wells

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    What is the Keto Diet?

    What is the Keto Diet?

    What is the Keto Diet?

    Have you heard of the keto diet? I’m betting you have since just like intermittent fasting, it’s a hot topic in the health and dieting industries. For many who are interested in trying it or are in the beginning stages of making this lifestyle change, the amount of information and misinformation can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

    The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb and high-fat diet. It can result in significant reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in glycemic control. We’ve all been told glucose and carbohydrate is where we get fuel from and that’s true – blood glucose is important for fuel – but there’s an alternative fuel source called KETONES.

    And the brain actually prefers it!

    Ketones are an incredible source of energy from fat!

    Living a Keto Lifestyle

    I’ve followed the keto lifestyle for a little over 20 years now and I am not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed my life. I stumbled onto keto after getting extremely sick with Epstein-Barr, battling chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, depression, and fibromyalgia. Through my research, I read that a keto diet could help with autoimmune issues and inflammation—at least according to a few trailblazers on the message boards. It sounded like my autoimmune issues didn’t have to hinder me my entire life. They didn’t have to be a death sentence, and there might be some hope. The more I researched the ketogenic diet, nutritional ketosis, and ketone bodies, the more convinced I became that this was the solution to my health woes. After a few weeks following the keto diet, I started noticing an improvement in how I was feeling, and it was becoming noticeable by those around me as well. To say I was thrilled is a huge understatement.

    Keto Food Pyramid

    The keto diet can be beneficial to many people for an assortment of reasons, and it can be customized to fit your bio-individuality. There are three main factors that led me to sticking to the keto diet: it cuts out all nutrient-deficient foods, it helps me to feel full and satisfied and it has cognitive-enhancing effects and there is the weight maintenance effect as well.

    Keto and Diet Studies

    In a review of 23 weight-loss trials published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Tulane University found that both low-carb and low-fat diets led to weight loss, reduced waist circumference and improved metabolic risk factors with no significant differences between diets. They concluded: “These findings suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets in reducing weight and improving metabolic risk factors. Low-carbohydrate diets could be recommended to obese persons with abnormal metabolic risk factors for the purpose of weight loss.”¹

    One of the best and most reliable examples is the A TO Z Weight Loss Study, a randomized trial conducted by a group of Stanford researchers led by Dr. Christopher Gardner. In the trial, the researchers compared four popular weight-loss diets—Atkins (low-carb and high-fat), LEARN (low-fat), Ornish (low-fat) and Zone (technically considered lower carb)—and they found that women following the Atkins diet lost more weight and experienced more favorable metabolic effects after 12 months compared to the other diets.²

    In another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association—the DIETFITS clinical trial, which randomized 609 overweight or obese adults to a healthy low-fat or a healthy low-carb diet for 12 months—both diets led to similar weight loss and metabolic health improvement (e.g., reduced fasting glucose and insulin). Notably, the low-carb diet led to more favorable improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.³

    One of my favorite aspects of the DIETFITS trial was the emphasis on diet quality. The lead physician Dr. Gardner and his team put a tremendous emphasis on high dietary quality for both groups, which is important because traditional low-fat diets often lead to reduced diet quality due to the low-nutrient density of heavily processed, convenient, pre-packaged low-fat foods (e.g., refined grains, added sugar).

    Remembering Bio-individuality When Starting a Keto Diet

    I love sharing my story and experience with keto. There are two important items I want to mention regarding the keto diet or any change to your diet. The first is that you are making a lifestyle change. You have to find what works for your life and your body. Keto worked phenomenally well for me and my lifestyle and while I know it can work for many others, it won’t be a fit for everyone. We have to keep in mind bio-individuality. All of us are different. Our bodies need different things, our lifestyles require different things. Experimentation is one of the most important things to keep in mind. You’ll never find what works for you without it. Experiment with the keto diet to see if it works for you, try carb-cycling, try the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet. Find what works for you and don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t—just make adjustments.

    The second is that when making a lifestyle change, you must grant yourself grace. I know that it’s great to imagine your life on keto—to feel the renewed energy of eating clean whole foods and being free of sugar addiction—but I also know that imagining the keto life and adopting it can be two vastly different things.

    I am a firm believer that nothing needs to be done perfectly. Even I can get thrown off my diet when life gets crazy, or I get too busy, or I find myself in an airport with only 40 minutes between flights. So, when life gets crazy, and you grab a cookie or two don’t despair and throw all of your hard work out the window. Just get back on track with your next meal.

    More Keto Tips

    If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice that I frequently share posts about my favorite keto products, keto foods to choose from when you’re making meals and snacks, and how I order when I go out to eat. These are some great ideas for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by all of the information out there. And if you’re still struggling with how to implement this into your life, I recommend not overcomplicating it. Start slowly by focusing on the types of whole foods I list in my 7 Keto Foods to Boost Energy post.

    Make sure you also follow The ENERGY Formula Facebook Group as we share our favorite keto recipes.

    Original article may be found directly on Shawn's site. 

    Stay connected with Shawn Wells:

    Want to be featured by ICON Meals? Submit your stories to info@iconmeals.com or send us a DM on IG or Facebook!


    “low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets” Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy Jr, W. S., … & Bazzano, L. A. (2012). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American journal of epidemiology, 176(suppl_7), S44-S54.

    A TO Z Weight Loss Study” Gardner, C. D., Kiazand, A., Alhassan, S., Kim, S., Stafford, R. S., Balise, R. R., … & King, A. C. (2007). Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. Jama, 297(9), 969-977.

    ^the DIETFITS clinical trial” Gardner, C. D., Trepanowski, J. F., Del Gobbo, L. C., Hauser, M. E., Rigdon, J., Ioannidis, J. P., … & King, A. C. (2018). Effect of low-fat vs low-carbohydrate diet on 12-month weight loss in overweight adults and the association with genotype pattern or insulin secretion: the DIETFITS randomized clinical trial. Jama, 319(7), 667-679.

    Top 10 Supplements From The World's Greatest Formulator

    Top 10 Supplements From The World's Greatest Formulator

    By Team ICON Meals Shawn Wells. Follow Shawn on Instagram

    I’m incredibly humbled to be known as “The World’s Greatest Formulator,” and it’s an honor that I don’t take lightly. Now, I wouldn’t have gotten into supplements, become so passionate about formulating, and been tagged with that nickname if I didn’t strongly—very, very strongly—believe that supplements could be tremendously helpful to virtually everyone.

    As you can imagine, one of the most common questions that I get goes a little something like this: “Shawn, what are your top supplements?” Basically, people want to know what supplements I use personally, and of course, they want my insight into what supplements I think may be best for them to take.

    Obviously, a supplement regimen should be personalized based on an individual’s needs and goals, and so it would be virtually impossible to provide a list that unequivocally applies to everyone. Having said that, here are my top 10 supplements, which I use myself and most often recommend to others.


    Creatine is perhaps the most popular and extensively studied sports nutrition supplements of all time. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand, “Studies have consistently shown that creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine concentrations, can improve exercise performance, and/or improve training adaptations.”

    In other words, research clearly, consistently, and convincingly shows that supplementation with creatine increases strength, hypertrophy, power, and athletic performance. Even more, creatine supplementation may enhance recovery from exercise, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, and traumatic brain injury (i.e., concussions).

    Benefits of CreatineBut the application of creatine extends beyond those better-known benefits. For example, emerging evidence suggests creatine supplementation may have clinical applications in a variety of neurodegenerative conditions (including muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s), diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, brain and heart ischemia, depression, and pregnancy.1

    I recommend using creatine monohydrate (such as Creapure®) and taking 3 – 10 grams per day. It doesn’t matter if you do it in divided doses, so whatever is best for you with compliance.


    What is alpha-gpc?

    Alpha-GPC is a naturally-occurring choline, which refers to a class of molecules that are used for various functions in the brain. For instance, choline is the main building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which performs several critical functions including facilitating communication in areas of the brain associated with memory and concentration and triggering muscle contraction.

    Along those lines, supplementation with Alpha-GPC offer several potential mental and physical benefits including improved cognitive function, attenuated cognitive decline, increased power output, and increased growth hormone production. In one randomized controlled trial, Alzheimer’s patients supplementing with Alpha-GPC (400mg @ 3 times/day) for 180 days experienced significant improvements in cognitive function.2

    Alpha-GPC improves cognition

    From an athletic performance standpoint, one randomized controlled trial found that supplementation with 600mg per day of Alpha-GPC for 6 days significantly increased lower body force production. The researchers concluded, “Sport performance coaches can consider adding A-GPC to the diet of speed and power athletes to enhance muscle performance.”3

    I prefer the branded form, Alpha-Size, by Chemi-Nutra.


    what is theacrine?

    Theacrine is structurally similar to caffeine but is longer lasting, and research has shown that supplementation with theacrine increases energy, focus, concentration, willingness to exercise, and motivation to train while reducing fatigue—all without any increase in heart rate.4 Also unlike caffeine, theacrine, which possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been shown to provide these neuro-energetic effects while also being non-habituating.5

    Research has also demonstrated synergy when theacrine is consumed with caffeine, and the combination has been shown to improve feelings of wellbeing, attention, alertness, focus, and energy levels while reducing feelings of lethargy and grogginess when compared to placebo or caffeine alone.6

    Benefits of teacrine compared to caffeine

    TeaCrine® is a branded, patented, research-backed form of theacrine that I use myself and recommend to others. I recommend taking 200mg per dose, but doses up to 400mg have been shown to be safe. If taking with caffeine 125mg is effective.


    What is Curcumin?

    Turmeric is one of the hottest spices and dietary supplements, and for good reason. Turmeric, which belongs to the ginger family, has a long history of use in the Indian system of holistic medicine known as Ayurveda. While there is a laundry list of health benefits associated with turmeric, many of them seem to trace back to its curcuminoids, notably curcumin, a powerful antioxidant polyphenol that gives turmeric its yellow pigment.

    With over 3,000 preclinical investigations, curcumin is one of the best studied botanical constituents in the biomedical literature.7 These studies have revealed that curcumin has antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects.8 Not surprisingly, studies have shown that curcumin may have beneficial effects on inflammation, cancer, joint health, blood sugar management, infections, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, mitochondrial function, athletic performance, and more.

    It’s worth noting that the potential health benefits of turmeric and curcumin are limited by poor solubility, low absorption from the gut, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination.9 With that in mind, when supplementing with curcumin, taking a water-soluble form, a liposomal form, or combining it with black pepper may improve absorption. Assuming one of these bioavailability-enhanced versions of curcumin is used, then I recommend a dose between 200 – 250mg of curcuminoids per day.

    Curcumin by curcuwin

    My favorite form is CurcuWin by OmniActives as it has 46x the bioavailability and is EDC-free.  EDC is a toxic solvent that is carcinogenic that’s found in many curcumin products in the industry.


    Berberine is main bioactive alkaloid found in multiple Chinese medicinal herbs, including Coptidis RhizomaCortex PhellodendriHydratis Canadensis (also known as goldenseal), and Coptis Chinensis. Berberine has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to treat gastrointestinal infections and diabetes.

    What is Berberine?
    Along these lines, Berberine is well-known as a potent insulin sensitizer, which has been validated in multiple randomized controlled trials. In fact, it has been shown to be equally effective at reducing insulin resistance as the popular diabetic drug Metformin—that’s powerful!10,11 To me, this alone is more than enough reason to make my top 10 list, especially considering that blood sugar management, insulin sensitivity, and metabolic function touch virtually every corner of human health and optimization.

    But there’s more. Berberine has been shown to activate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is responsible for a variety of crucial functions in the body. For example, AMPK, which is known as an “energy sensor,” is thought to be responsible for multiple health benefits assigned to exercise and caloric restriction.12 Speaking of which, AMPK possesses anti-aging properties via activation of mitochondrial biogenesis. In addition, Berberine has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

    Berberine can improve insulin sensitivity

    I recommend taking 500mg of Berberine three times daily. Only buy this from a reputable company, many of the berberine products are spiked with other plants and not nearly as effective.


    What is Ashwagandha?

    Also known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub found in the arid parts of India. Ashwagandha literally means “smell of horse,” which is part because it’s commonly believed that it can help develop strength and vitality similar to that of a horse.13 Referred to as a “royal herb” because of its well-known rejuvenating effects, Ashwagandha is an “adaptogen” that’s highly regarded for its ability promote health and longevity, slow the aging process, revitalize the body, combat stress, and improve feelings of well-being.

    For me, some of the most interesting benefits are Ashwagandha’s capacity to improve energy levels and mitochondrial health.14 On one hand, Ashwagandha can have beneficial effects on mitochondrial functioning; what’s more, Ashwagandha can reduce the activity of the enzyme responsible for breaking down ATP (i.e., increasing cellular energy levels).15 Case in point, one of the primary components of muscle development and exercise performance is energy production. Along these lines, when combined with resistance training, Ashwagandha has been to increase muscle size and strength and boost endurance.15

    In addition, Ashwagandha is perhaps best known for its ability to increase resilience, reduce stress, and decrease cortisol.13,16 Along those lines, there is an interesting link between chronic stress (e.g., psychosocial stress, stressful life experiences) and mitochondrial dysfunction. Specifically, chronic stress can generate toxic by-products, promote systemic inflammation, and alter gene expression, ultimately damaging mitochondria and accelerating cellular aging.17

    I’d recommend looking for an Ashwagandha extract that’s standardized to at least 5% withanolides, which are thought to be the compounds responsible for the benefits associated with Ashwagandha. A typical dosage is 300mg taken twice daily.

    My favorite form is Sensoril by Nutragenesis/Natreon.

    Rhodiola rosea

    Another one of my favorite adaptogens is Rhodiola rosea. Adaptogenic herbs like these are used to strengthen the body’s immune response and increase an individual’s ability to cope with physical and mental stress. That is, adaptogens help shift the body toward balance. Adaptogens are typically used for stress relief, brain health, and adrenal health, and they have been shown to improve health in a variety of different ways.18

    Rhodiola Rosea can lower stress

    Rhodiola, also known as golden root, is used in Russia to combat fatigue, ward off sickness, and improve mood. Rhodiola’s most popular applications include relieving fatigue and improving concentration, memory, and productivity.19 Several studies have shown that supplementation with Rhodiola can:

    • Stimulate focus and cognitive function
    • Calm emotions
    • Enhance learning
    • Reduce fatigue
    • Improve sleep
    • Reduce irritability
    • Increase strength
    • Increase quantity and quality of work
    • Improve mental and physical performance
    • Improve feelings of wellbeing

    Overall, Rhodiola is considered “an excellent choice for individuals who are weighed down by stress and fatigue as a result of demanding intellectual work.”19 I recommend using a Rhodiola supplement containing 3% Rosavins and 1% Salidrosides (the “active” components of the adaptogen). Dosing is typically 288 – 680mg per day. I’ve also formulated with a 5% rosavins and 2% salidrosides product.

    Exogenous ketones

    Under normal circumstances, the brain and central nervous system (CNS) rely on glucose for fuel. However, during periods of prolonged fasting (a few days) or severe carbohydrate restriction (as is the case with a very-low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet), the body’s carbohydrate reserves become depleted. And since the brain and CNS cannot use fat for fuel, the body is forced to turn to an “alternate” energy source: Ketones.

    Ketones are molecules produced by the liver (via a process called ketogenesis) as a by-product of fat burning. Research now suggests that ketones may be the preferred fuel source for the brain, and ketones have been shown to have cognitive performance (e.g., better focus, less brain fog, fewer energy crashes), cognitive health (reduced risk of neurodegeneration, reduced inflammation), and cognitive recovery (recovery from traumatic brain injury) benefits. Ketones, particularly BHB, may help upregulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which essentially serves as fertilizer for cells of the brain and CNS.

    Ketones are not only used by the brain, they can also fuel skeletal and cardiac muscle. From a performance standpoint, ketones can help fuel endurance performance, enhance metabolic flexibility, and increase the body’s utilization of fat for fuel. Recent studies have shown that combining the ketogenic diet with weight lifting results in comparable (and in some cases, better) improvements in strength, power, and body composition as the typical Western diet.30–32

    Supplementing with exogenous ketones can help expedite the process of getting into ketosis, provide the benefits of elevated blood ketone levels, and accelerate keto-adaptation—with or without following a ketogenic diet.

    Optimal dosing is 5-10g of BHB (not accounting for the mineral salts bound to the BHB – including that would 6.5-13g of BHB salts.


    It’s no surprise to see omega-3 supplements—such as fish, krill, and algal oils—at the top of recommended supplement lists. After all, EPA and DHA are nutrition all-stars. They are well-known for supporting:

    • Heart health2–4
    • Brain health, cognitive function, and mood5–10
    • Eye health and vision11–13
    • Skin health14,15
    • Immune function16
    • Metabolic function17–19
    • A healthy inflammatory response20

    Recent research has shown that DHA and EPA may also have anti-aging properties.21–23 Several recent studies have even shown that these super fats can boost metabolic rate, increase calorie-burning lean body mass, and boost fat burning to boot.17

    But here’s the deal. Most people tend to refer to the two omega-3 fats DHA and EPA as if they are one and the same, leading many to believe that they are interchangeable and provide similar health benefits. The fact of the matter is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, DHA and EPA each have very specific functions, and along those lines, offer very unique and distinct health benefits.

    For instance, EPA levels seem to be closely correlated to mood, and studies have shown that supplementation with EPA can help boost feelings of wellbeing and help temper aggression.28,29 On the other hand, DHA generally exceeds EPA by 5- to 30-fold in most tissues of the body.30

    In fact, DHA is the most predominant fatty acid in the brain and eye tissue, where it is several HUNDRED-fold more abundant than EPA. Along those lines, DHA has been shown to improve both memory and reaction time.9 DHA has also been found to elevate levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a very important growth factor for the brain and central nervous system that plays a key role in cognitive function, mood, and mental health.31

    DHA may also be more effective than EPA at improving markers of heart health, and recent research shows that DHA appears to be superior to EPA when it comes to promoting a healthy inflammatory response.20,32,33 One particularly nifty attribute of DHA is that the body can convert it, on an as-needed basis, to EPA. However, the opposite is NOT true, meaning that the body can’t convert EPA to DHA.30

    Based on the current body of research, a good recommendation is to take at least 500 – 1000mg (possibly as high as 2000mg) of DHA daily, and it’s a good idea to complement that with regular consumption of oily fish (e.g., wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, oysters, mussels).

    Probiotics and Prebiotics

    Like omega-3 supplements, probiotics are commonly recommended and for many good reasons. Of course, probiotics are particularly popular due to their ability to help keep harmful microorganisms in check, promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, support a healthy digestive tract, and aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

    Beyond that, there are several overlooked health benefits of probiotics including:

    • Boosting immune function and supporting a healthy inflammatory response
    • Enhancing intestinal barrier function
    • Enhancing antimicrobial activity
    • Staving off upper respiratory tract infections
    • Boosting mood
    • Reducing anxiety and helping manage the body’s stress response
    • Improving cognitive function and memory
    • Helping with weight management
    • Increasing satiety and aiding with appetite control
    • Enhancing sports performance
    • Reducing muscle damage and enhancing recovery
    • Promoting heart health
    • Supporting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
    • Improving skin health and protecting the skin from photoaging
    • Supporting detoxification

    In addition to probiotics, prebiotics are also one of my top supplements. These indigestible carbohydrates essentially serve as “food” for the healthy bacteria in the gut, which ferment these fibers. A by-product of the fermentation is short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which fuels the immune system, signals the release of key appetite-suppressing hormones, and protects the brain and nervous system (via BDNF).

    The importance of Gut Health

    While it’s so difficult to narrow it down, there you have my top 10 supplements. There are so many others that I’ve used—and even currently use—and recommend to others. Along those lines, I’d love to hear your feedback, and if you have questions about supplements that didn’t make the list, please let me know.



    1. Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:18. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z.
    2. De Jesus Moreno Moreno M. Cognitive improvement in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia after treatment with the acetylcholine precursor choline alfoscerate: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Ther. 2003;25(1):178-193.
    3. Bellar D, LeBlanc NR, Campbell B. The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:42. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0103-x.
    4. Ziegenfuss TN, Habowski SM, Sandrock JE, Kedia AW, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL. A Two-Part Approach to Examine the Effects of Theacrine (TeaCrine®) Supplementation on Oxygen Consumption, Hemodynamic Responses, and Subjective Measures of Cognitive and Psychometric Parameters. J Diet Suppl. May 2016:1-15. doi:10.1080/19390211.2016.1178678.
    5. Taylor L, Mumford P, Roberts M, et al. Safety of TeaCrine®, a non-habituating, naturally-occurring purine alkaloid over eight weeks of continuous use. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:2. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0113-3.
    6. Kuhman DJ, Joyner KJ, Bloomer RJ. Cognitive Performance and Mood Following Ingestion of a Theacrine-Containing Dietary Supplement, Caffeine, or Placebo by Young Men and Women. Nutrients. 2015;7(11):9618-9632. doi:10.3390/nu7115484.
    7. Aggarwal BB, Sung B. Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009;30(2):85-94. doi:10.1016/j.tips.2008.11.002.
    8. Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, Malani N, Ichikawa H. Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:1-75. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_1.
    9. Jäger R, Lowery RP, Calvanese AV, Joy JM, Purpura M, Wilson JM. Comparative absorption of curcumin formulations. Nutr J. 2014;13:11. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-11.
    10. Wei W, Zhao H, Wang A, et al. A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012;166(1):99-105. doi:10.1530/EJE-11-0616.
    11. Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.013.
    12. Wall CE, Yu RT, Atkins AR, Downes M, Evans RM. Nuclear Receptors and AMPK: Can Exercise Mimetics Cure Diabetes? J Mol Endocrinol. 2016;57(1):R49-R58. doi:10.1530/JME-16-0073.
    13. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
    14. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-213. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9.
    15. Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha SR, Bhattacharyya S. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9.
    16. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. JANA. 2008;11(1):50-56.
    17. Picard M, Juster R-P, McEwen BS. Mitochondrial allostatic load puts the “gluc” back in glucocorticoids. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014;10(5):303-310. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2014.22.
    18. Seely D, Singh R. Adaptogenic Potential of a Polyherbal Natural Health Product: Report on a Longitudinal Clinical Trial. Evid-Based Complement Altern Med ECAM. 2007;4(3):375-380. doi:10.1093/ecam/nel101.
    19. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Increasing Vitality with Adaptogens: Multifaceted Herbs for Treating Physical and Mental Stress. Altern Complement Ther. 2003;9(2):54-60. doi:10.1089/107628003321536959.
    20. McCleary SA, Sharp MH, Lowery RP, et al. Effects of a ketogenic diet on strength and power. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11(1):P41. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P41.
    21. Rauch JT, Silva JE, Lowery RP, et al. The effects of ketogenic dieting on skeletal muscle and fat mass. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11(1):P40. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P40.
    22. Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Roberts MD, et al. The Effects of Ketogenic Dieting on Body Composition, Strength, Power, and Hormonal Profiles in Resistance Training Males. J Strength Cond Res. April 2017. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001935.
    23. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ. Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. 2002;106(21):2747-2757. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.0000038493.65177.94.
    24. Bradberry JC, Hilleman DE. Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Therapies. Pharm Ther. 2013;38(11):681-691.
    25. Lee JH, O’Keefe JH, Lavie CJ, Marchioli R, Harris WS. Omega-3 fatty acids for cardioprotection. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008;83(3):324-332. doi:10.4065/83.3.324.
    26. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2003;60(7):940-946. doi:10.1001/archneur.60.7.940.
    27. Hibbeln JR, Ferguson TA, Blasbalg TL. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: opportunities for intervention. Int Rev Psychiatry Abingdon Engl. 2006;18(2):107-118. doi:10.1080/09540260600582967.
    28. Parker G, Gibson NA, Brotchie H, Heruc G, Rees A-M, Hadzi-Pavlovic D. Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(6):969-978. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.6.969.
    29. Osher Y, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 fatty acids in depression: a review of three studies. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2009;15(2):128-133.
    30. Stonehouse W, Conlon CA, Podd J, et al. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):1134-1143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.053371.
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    Simple Hacks to Build Immunity & Avoid Sickness by Shawn Wells

    Simple Hacks to Build Immunity & Avoid Sickness by Shawn Wells

    No one wants to get sick, or aid the spread of this virus. What can we do to keep ourselves safe and healthy?

    Our number one defense against sickness is a strong immune system. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from microscopic threats like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Involving many types of cells, organs, and proteins, this system’s job is to distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue. If the immune system encounters an antigen (aka. pathogen, bacterium, virus, parasite etc.) it triggers an immune response, and the body fights to dispose of this foreign invader.

    If your immune system is weak or overall unhealthy, your body’s response will be less able to fight antigens and you’ll be more vulnerable to getting sick and developing more severe symptoms.

    What do we do during viral seasons? We load up on vitamins, medications and disinfectants. While I’m not dissuading the importance of these things, it’s important to remember:

    Healthy immunity starts with a healthy body.

    The best way to boost your immune response is to improve your overall well being. Are you eating whole, nutrient-dense foods? Are you getting enough sleep and fresh air? What is your overall stress level?

    • Things that weaken the immune system:
    • Poor diet (sugar-rich, processed foods with additives)
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol intake
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Dehydration
    • Obesity
    • Stress
    • Antibiotics
    • Not maintaining regular exercise

    In contrast, here are some easy lifestyle habits that can improve your overall health and boost immunity:

    Eat a whole food diet: It is always important to avoid processed foods and prioritize a whole, nutrient-dense diet, but especially when we fear our immune system may become compromised. We’ll get into more details about eating for immunity below.

    Get adequate sleep: Sleep is SO essential and most of us don’t get enough of it. While we sleep, our bodies shift into “restoration mode”, producing higher levels of hormones, chemicals and white blood cells which heal wounds and fight infection. This study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, explains the core relationship between sleep and immunity.

    Right now, as we practice social distancing and home isolation, is the perfect time to catch up on sleep and establish a better schedule for when life goes back to normal. The most beneficial snoozing hours are before midnight.

    Minimize stress: Mental stress is one of the most detrimental factors against building immunity. Minor stress is normal. But if your job, relationship or financial situation is eating away at your mental health, keep in mind that it’s doing the same to your physical body. When you’re mentally overwhelmed, the body puts the immune system at the bottom of the priority list.

    Keep checking in with yourself. Pinpoint anything that may be causing you unhealthy amounts of stress, and see how you can change or eliminate it.

    Pro tip: A daily meditation and/or yoga practice is proven to lower stress and anxiety.

    Wash your hands & disinfect your phone: This goes without saying, but often people don’t realize how many germs we carry on our phones. For hands, use soap and hot water. Wash for 20 seconds, and don’t forget between the fingers and under the nails. Rubbing Alcohol makes a great daily disinfectant for phones and other devices.

    Exercise: Observational studies show that those who exercise tend to suffer fewer infections that those who do not. Whether it’s a walk in the park, jog, yoga practice or online fitness class, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

    Get fresh air: Especially when facing a lung-targeting virus, breathing fresh air is imperative. Inside, we primarily breathe pathogen-laden recirculated air. Going outside gives our lungs a chance to discharge toxins, increase oxygen intake and lower cortisol.

    Hydrate: A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 170lbs, aim to consume 85oz (2.5 litres) of water daily. If you feel cold, herbal tea is a great alternative.

    Sauna (ideally Infrared): This form of thermotherapy has been used for thousands of years for hygiene, health, social, and spiritual purposes. The extreme heat raises your core body temperature by 1°-2°C, inducing an artificial fever and triggering the body’s defence system accordingly. This study at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia explains on a cellular level how regular sauna use reinforces the body’s defence mechanisms.

    Pro tip: alternate between hot and cold (ex. sauna and cold plunge) to maximize benefits.

    Lymphatic Massage/Dry Brushing: The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport white blood cells throughout the body via the fluid “lymph”. It also helps rid the body of waste, toxins and unwanted materials. Our lymphatic system is one of two circulatory systems in the body, but unlike the vascular system, there is no organ responsible for moving fluid around. Adding a daily 10 minute lymphatic self-massage or dry brushing session stimulates lymphatic drainage and assists normal lymph flow.

    In addition to improving our lifestyles, there is a plethora of natural supplementation that can have great effects on immunity. Be aware that when purchasing supplements, it’s important to prioritize quality – look for those that have gone through thorough testing, have detailed ingredient lists and are recommended by professionals.

    There is some controversy on the effectiveness of supplementation to specifically prevent and treat the virus. Scientists, like Linda Van Horn (chief of nutrition in the department of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) all over the world agree that “….eating a nutritious diet and getting proper sleep and exercise are the best ways to strengthen your immune system.” That being said, there are many studies stating the efficacy of certain vitamins and herbs in supporting immunity, and it’s never a bad idea to take extra precautions.

    During this outbreak of novel virus, it’s important to focus on supplements that support lung and respiratory health. Our lungs’ number one job is to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, but they have a plethora of other functions including: blood pressure regulation, pH balance, infection protection, blood reservoir, mucus clearance, speech and detoxification. When the lungs become compromised, it causes a domino effect throughout our entire body.

    Some of the most helpful immunity-boosting supplements and herbs are:

    Liposomal Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant, aids in the absorption of minerals like zinc and iron, builds collagen, and helps protect organs by bolstering fatty tissue.

    What does “Liposomal” mean? Liposomal vitamins are encapsulated in pockets of fat cells (called liposomes) rather than using capsules, tablets or powders. Currently, this technique is the most effective way to ensure proper absorption.

    Oil of Oregano: Oil of oregano is nature’s antibiotic. It reduces inflammation, provides antioxidants, treats fungal infections and kills bacteria. It is extremely effective, but be careful not to overuse it or take it for more than two weeks at a time.

    Zinc: Zinc is a mineral of many functions, but it is best known for its ability to bolster immunity. There are many studies proving zinc can prevent sickness and/or shorten the length of colds and flus.

    Echinacea: Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in North America, and it’s been used as medicine for centuries. Clinical results have been inconclusive thus far, but scientists believe it can help prevent respiratory infection.

    Vitamin D3: Referred to as a vitamin, Vitamin D also acts as a hormone in the body. This review of 25 randomized trials finds that taking V4itamin D has a protective effect against respiratory-tract infections. It’s very hard to get adequate vitamin D from food – the best source is sunlight – so it’s a great supplement to take, especially during the winter. Look for Vitamin D3/K2 combo in gel caps or liquid form.

    NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine): NAC is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce phlegm and cough, loosen mucus and decrease the deterioration of lung function. It helps replenish glutathione levels in the lungs and decrease bronchial inflammation.

    Omega 3 for the Immune SystemOmega-3: Almost all of us are deficient in Omega-3s. This essential fatty acid is chronic for reducing inflammation. Try to consume foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel walnuts, pumpkin seeds, in addition to adding a supplemental dose of Omega-3.

    Elecampane Root: This root has been long-used to treat lung diseases including asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis. Elecampane contains the effective phytochemical “inulin” which coats and soothes the lining of the bronchial tubes and helps clear the lungs of congestion. It’s a powerful root to take as both a preventative and a treatment-aid.

    Curcumin: Most commonly found in turmeric, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce airway inflammation. Traditionally used in Asian medicine, it’s safe at high-doses and can be taken on it’s own or deliciously added to foods like rice, coffee, eggs and curries.

    Briefly mentioned above, I’d like to reiterate the importance of eating an immune-boosting diet. Here is an easy guideline you can follow to make the most out of your meals!

    Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods: Avoid all processed & packaged foods, and always check the ingredient list. Recommended items to keep on hand are: eggs, grass-fed beef, pork belly, bone-broth, yams, squash, zucchini, high-fat plain yoghurt, almond butter, 90% chocolate, avocados, cheddar cheese, nitrate-free sausage, frozen berries, spinach, canned salmon, olive oil and coconut milk.

    Moderate alcohol: Excessive alcohol usage can increase inflammation and disrupt immune response.

    Avoid sugar: Eating or drinking too much sugar slows down the immune system by putting your white blood cells in a coma-like state.

    Cook with garlic and ginger: Garlic is an immunity-boosting superstar (and it keeps the vampires away!) Rich in organosulfur compounds, it is used for its antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. In fact, garlic was the main preventative of Gangrene during both world wars. Consuming raw garlic is best. And most widely known as an antiemetic (anti-nausea), ginger is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

    Eat vitamin C rich foods: Citrus, bell pepper, broccoli, kale, strawberries and parsley are all examples of vitamin C rich foods. Taking a supplement is advantageous, but it’s always better to eat your nutrients when you can.

    Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate (at least 85%) may help protect the body’s cells from free radicals due to the antioxidant theobromine.

    Eat flavonoids: This 2016 study notes that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defence system. Consume them by eating blueberries, grapes (including red wine), tea, onions, kale, broccoli and tomatoes.

    A healthy immune system is necessary for survival – and it starts by leading a healthy lifestyle. By making some of these small changes in habits and diet, you can make a big difference in the strength of your body’s defences.

    There is a lot here, but start simple: Eat a whole food diet, take vitamin C, sleep well, drink more water and less alcohol, and go for a 30 minute walk once a day. Then you can start stacking more of these items into your routine to maximize potential immunity benefits.

    Incorporate as many of these immunity-boosting hacks as you can to help keep you, and your family, strong and healthy during this time.



    Original blog may be found directly on Shawn's site here!  

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    10 Foods That Lower Stress

    10 Foods That Lower Stress

    By Team ICON Contributor Shawn Wells


    Modern life can be full of stressors — money and relationships are two of the most obvious ones, but smaller-scale worries like the morning commute or making sure your home is in order when guests arrive can add up to significant stress.


    The good news is many healthy foods can actively fight stress! Here are 10 of my favorites:


    Chamomile Tea 

    Warm drinks make us happy and relaxed. Chamomile is known to reduce anxiety, possibly due to the antioxidant apigenin.



    Nature's multivitamin! Eggs are rich in nutrients like choline, providing a healthy stress response.



    These delicious blue treats are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may reduce stress-related inflammation and improve mood.


    Greek Yogurt

    Probiotic foods like yogurt may promote better mental health and brain function. They may also  ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.⁣


    Dark Chocolate

    Besides satisfying your sweet tooth, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher may reduce the stress hormone cortisol*.


    Fatty Fish

    Don’t be dissuaded by the name — these fats are excellent for you. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and tuna may ease depression and improve mood⁣.



    We all know milk is a great source of calcium, which may ease depression as well as the symptoms of PMS.



    Like the fatty fish mentioned above, this amazing fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) is loaded with stress-reducing omega-3 fatty acids.


    Pumpkin Seeds

    These taste amazing when roasted, and they’re rich in magnesium and tryptophan which calm your sympathetic nervous system and prepare the body for sleep.


    Leafy Greens

    Swiss chard, spinach, and similar leafy veggies are good sources of magnesium, an important mineral that plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions including the body's stress response.⁣





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    Facebook /shawn.zhr



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