Monday, 12 March 2018

Fix Sleep Problems With These 3 Simple Tricks!

From time to time we all experience some trouble getting to or staying asleep at night. If this is not a regular occurrence, it isn't a big deal, however for those of you reading this who experience difficulty in either of those areas more nights than not, it can become a real problem. Each person needs different amounts of sleep at night to feel their best. In general, optimal ranges are between 7 and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. The reason I want to stress uninterrupted sleep is because waking up mid way through an 8 hour cycle can be even worse for you then only having slept 5 or 6 full hours in a night. Our bodies need to get into and stay at those deeper levels of sleep in order to fully reset and recharge. These deeper levels of sleep only become effective the longer we can stay in them, and they occur in greater length the more into our sleep we get. Not sleeping enough, or waking up half way through interrupts this and causes us to feel groggy, foggy and cranky in the morning. Not a great way to start the day. Fortunately, there are some habits you can implement that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep without having to resort to medications or even supplements. I highly recommend trying these 3 simple things first, potentially addressing the root cause, before grabbing a bottle of sleeping pills or even a supplement for that matter. 

1. Get rid of the electronics
This is a big one! A lot of us are guilty of this mistake more often than we care to admit. Laptops, phones, tablets, TVs and the sun emit a lot of blue light. Blue light is a short wave length light that is high in energy. It causes strain and fatigue on your eyes but can be very stimulating for your brain. Having this light emitted near you just before bed can seriously mess with your natural sleep rhythm. It tricks your brain into thinking the sun is up and powerfully suppresses your natural melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body when it is time for bed. When it gets suppressed or altered, we have a lot more difficulty falling asleep, and even more so, staying asleep. So while you may think falling asleep watching your favourite (or least favourite?) show is a nice way to go down for the night, you're actually doing yourself a disservice. Instead, try to avoid screen time at least 30 minutes before you plan to get some shuteye.

If you insist on staying up on that laptop or cell phone right until the moment you fall asleep, I recommend you look into downloading F.Lux. It's a free blue light filter for your phone and computer screen that gets rid of that blue light for you, making it easier on your eyes and better for your sleep. It can be left on 24/7 or set to cycle with your wake and sleep patterns. Try it out!

2. Tidy up!
Keep your room clean! It's easy to let clothes pile up on the floor, papers stack and scatter on desks and random items placed in corners or just all over the place. Whether you like to admit it or not, seeing the place that is supposed to be safe and relaxing in chaos causes us stress and anxiety. This is not a good recipe for restful sleep. The place you choose to get your rest and relaxation should be tidy! Leave the mess outside the door, just keep the bedroom clear! Tidying your room can make a huge difference and costs you nothing. Make it a habit to put things away so the task never becomes daunting and start enjoying some better sleep!

3. Sleep and sex only!
Simply put, save the bedroom for only these tasks. Your brain becomes programmed to associate certain areas and situations with specific things it needs to do or be ready for. Making the bedroom a safe place for sleep and sex helps program the brain to be relaxed when you get ready for bed. Do not go to your bed or bedroom to get work done, study, exercise, or argue with a loved one. All of these things will start to train your brain to expect stress when in bed. When your brain is primed to expect stress, it is not ready for restful sleep. Make it a habit to get everything done and resolve any lingering issues before entering the bedroom, and even more importantly, the bed itself. A peaceful mind will lead to a more peaceful sleep. 

If you're one of many who struggles to get a full night of recharging sleep, make sure you're doing the above 3 things correctly before you resort to anything else! 1 or more of these things could be the root cause of you not sleeping properly at night. If that is the case, taking something to help you sleep will only ever be a bandaid solution, never really getting to the real reason you're always tired.

If you have any other tips or tricks that help you get an amazing sleep, please share, I'd love to know!

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Protein Shakes FAQ: Protein Shake Essentials

Being in the sports medicine field and working side by side with an ever expanding bootcamp, protein is always a hot topic. I'm often asked questions like; whether people need extra protein, would it make any difference, is it bad for you to take protein or what protein should I be taking? So I've decided to compile a list of the questions I come across the most and lay them all out for you to read, Q&A style. Have a read, enjoy, and let me know if you have any other questions or comments!

What are the health benefits of protein shakes?

Protein has many roles in the body so the benefits of adding extra protein through supplementation include: increasing lean muscle mass, speeding up recovery (injury or after a workout), and strengthening the immune system to name a few.

This can also become very important in the aging population where falls become an increasing problem, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Maintaining muscle mass is directly linked with increased balance and a decreased amount of falls.

How effective are protein shakes for someone wanting to gain muscle?

When combined with a resistance training program it is essential to be obtaining enough protein to support the demands of the body. This can be done through a whole foods diet, however, for busy people on the go a protein shake is the perfect solution. Furthermore, at a certain point, depending on the demands of training, individuals may require an amount of protein that is just too difficult to obtain through food alone. In this case, additional protein gained through a shake can be easier to get down. If someone is exercising but not getting enough protein, they cannot gain more lean muscle.

Are they effective for weight loss?

There was a study that looked at excessive protein consumption in body builders. By the end of the study period the researchers actually found that the body builders placed on the very high protein diet had lost more weight compared to the subjects who were put on a moderate protein diet.

This is only 1 instance but increasing protein consumption does have an overall beneficial effect in terms of metabolism and weight loss. Our body does have the ability to convert and store excess protein as fat, however, to do so requires more work from our metabolism. The process of converting protein to glucose or fat is more metabolically taxing, therefore increasing the amount of calories the body will burn and aiding in weight loss.

This is not a linear relationship though. If all other calorie intake remains equally elevated you will still end up gaining weight. More is not better if all is not done in moderation.

What should I look for in a protein shake?

My biggest suggestion is to look for a clean protein source that works well with you as a unique individual. My top choice would be a Grass-fed Whey Isolate (Whey isolates currently are the quickest and best absorbed proteins on the market). Typically if dairy is a problem, it is the casein protein people tend to have issues with and the whey isolates are well tolerated. If dairy is a problem overall, look for a grass-fed beef protein. They are newer to the market but are complete proteins with great amino acid profiles. If you're looking for vegan or vegetarian sources, ensure that they are a blend of multiple plant proteins to ensure a complete amino acid profile.

Aside from the type of protein, the next most important thing to look for would be to ensure little to no sugar is added. Sugar has no beneficial use and adds extra calories. Watch for unhealthy sweeteners as well, stick with stevia, erythritol or xylitol if some sweetness is desired.

Alternative to whole foods?

Protein shakes make a great SUPPLEMENT to whole foods but should by no means replace them. As mentioned earlier, if someone is too busy to have a complete meal soon after a workout, a shake is very easy to bring around and consume on the spot. They can also be very effective in cases where protein requirements are simply too difficult to meet based on whole foods alone.

They can also be a great supplement for people who avoid meat and are worried they may not be consuming enough complete protein in their diets.

Are there any negative effects to protein supplementation?

While protein shakes are generally well tolerated and safe, they are extra calories. If no other changes are made to the diet and extra protein is added, it is likely that you will gain weight. As for negative health outcomes related to protein, studies have yet to conclude that extra protein intake can cause any health risks.

It is important to note however that while our bodies can readily deal with extra protein without negative consequence, there are instances where someone who is already in a compromised health condition may not process the extra protein well. Kidney disease is one of these instances. Remember to consult with your doctor before making any major changes to lifestyle if you have a medical condition or suspect you may.

When is the best time to have a protein shake?

The absolute best time to consume a protein shake would be immediately after a workout. Mix with some water or unsweetened dairy alternative and try to consume about 20-30g (of total protein) within 2 hours of your workout. The sooner the better! After exercise our body is primed to absorb much more protein into the muscle and use it to rebuild and repair. Take advantage of this window!

Can you have too much?

Yes, too much of anything is a bad thing.  If you only consumed protein shakes you would not be obtaining the proper amount of nutrition that you need to live optimally and in good health. Also, consuming more protein than your body needs to carry out all of it’s functioning will cause the extra protein to be converted and stored as fat. While not the main energy source for the body, protein still can be used as energy and has calories associated with it.

Are protein shakes effective for athletes and regular gym goers?

Athletes should absolutely be using protein shakes in order to enhance their game. With increased demands of training, protein shakes offer an easy way to supplement and optimize protein utilization in terms of timings and controlled amounts.

Regular gym goers can also benefit from adding protein shakes to their diet, so long as they are consistent in training. Maximum benefits can be seen with consistent training programs. Increases in muscle mass, strength and power can all be enhanced even in regular gym goers if protein shakes are added after a workout. This can also be accomplished with whole foods, but taking a shake with you to the gym is a lot easier than packing a meal. 

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Monday, 1 January 2018

6 Reasons Why Coffee Can Help You Live Longer!

Coffee can sometimes get a bad wrap. Drinking too much can be problematic, however, too much of anything is bad for us. That's why it's deemed "too much". Coffee, without the addition of dairy and sugar, actually has some pretty good health claims behind it that are backed by research. Check out these 6 things coffee does to make you live a healthier life!

1. Coffee boosts brain power!
Caffeine (in moderation) can actually be quite useful when used correctly. It can enhance brain function and improve memory! We all know caffeine is a stimulant, so I'm sure the energy boost is no surprise. Depending on how quickly your body can metabolize caffeine, some people may notice caffeine has a stronger affect on them than others. 

Caffeine acts as an antagonist to the neurotransmitter Adenosine. Adenosine is known for promoting sleep and surprising arousal. Caffeine blocks this action, causing you the be alert and focused and has been shown to improve memory, cognitive function and reaction times!

2. Coffee can help you burn fat!
Caffeine is the reason behind this one as well. Studies have shown that consuming the appropriate dose of caffeine before exercise can actually shift the body to metabolize fat as a preference over carbohydrates. This can sometimes get a bit blown out of proportion in some weight loss supplements, so watch out for this little fact! It seems to be very dose dependant and unique to the individual, and it also tends to work best after the 90 minutes of exercise mark! 

3. Coffee can improve your athletic performance!
Another point for caffeine! That shift in metabolism that helps you burn more fat will also increase performance in endurance type sports or events. Again, it is important to remember that the majority of this effect comes into play only after the 90 minute point. 

It can also help in the short term and is often a popular choice in pre-workout weight lifting supplements. Short term, caffeine can reduce the perception of pain and make it a little bit easier to push yourself just a little more, which can make all the difference in close competition. 

4. Coffee can protect the liver!
Now it is true that caffeine is broken down and processed by the liver, so you'll often find coffee on the avoidance list when approaching things like a detoxification program. The liver is an incredible organ with many responsibilities, so for the purpose of detoxification, avoiding caffeine takes away one more job so the liver can work on detoxifying the rest of the body. So detoxification protocols aside, coffee has actually been shown to be very protective of the liver. In fact, people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day (avoiding the sugars and dairy) have up to an 80% decreased risk for developing cirrhosis! 

5. Coffee can make you more happy!
Aside from that smile that creeps across your face and the joy in your soul that occurs when you smell a fresh cup of coffee, there are studies that show a correlation between lower rates of depression in people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee per day. That 4 cup a day mark seems to be the magic number here.

6. Coffee is rich in antioxidants!
This may come as a surprise to some of you, it definitely did to me, but coffee is actually a pretty great source of antioxidants. In fact, for most people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD), coffee is likely the greatest contributor of antioxidants, trumping both fruits and vegetables. Coffee is definitely a rich source of these ever so important antioxidants, but the fact that a Standard American Diet is so deficient in other sources is concerning as well. That aside, coffee can most definitely be a healthy way to start your day! 

There we have it, coffee is pretty great. As long as you are skipping out on the massive amounts of sugar and dairy, you can reap in all the rewards that coffee has to offer. Not all coffee is created equal though so try your best to be drinking more locally roasted beans so freshness is preserved and mold is kept to a minimum. Some beans I personally love can be found on my "Guide to Supercharging your Day" post, as well as some tips to make your coffee work even harder for you first thing in the morning. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Fight the Cold and Flu with Food!

It's that time of year. Everyone around you is starting to develop some sort of sniffle, cough, sneeze or runny nose. You'll try your absolute best to avoid all contact with those you know are infected, but eventually someone you don't know will sneak up behind you and cough in your direction, almost as if they're doing it on purpose. Like you are sworn enemies and the target of their biological warfare in a battle you never wanted to be a part of. Cold and flu season is here whether you like it or not, but you can do something about it! The best offence is a good defence, so let me tell you about some foods you can eat that will help you fight off these nasty viruses this year!

Mushrooms are quite impressive organisms. This Honey Mushroom currently holds the record for being the largest living organism on earth, spanning 3 square miles across the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. Aside from their incredible ability to adapt and thrive, some species of mushrooms are incredibly nutritious and have been used medicinally for centuries. The fungal polysaccharides found in mushrooms are responsible for boosting our immune system and helping us fight the good fight against colds and flus. Not all mushrooms are created equal however, as certain species will have stronger immune boosting effects than others. Maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps and chaga mushrooms have the strongest immune boosting effects and as an added bonus, act as adaptogens to better manage stress.

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me as well, but this common household condiment can be used to fight infection as well. Aside from it's immediate sinus clearing actions from the burn you feel when you eat it, horseradish actually has bacteria fighting properties. Throw in some garlic and you've made yourself a tasty, virus fighting garnish!

Oil of Oregano
This stuff works! It definitely is not pleasant to take and should not be overused, but taking a few drops when you feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on can sometimes stop that virus dead in it's tracks and prevent it from ever becoming a full blown attack. Some people have sworn by this virus busting oil for some time now and we know it can fight bacteria with force. Definitely worth keeping on hand. 

Vitamin D
I can't stress this last point enough! Vitamin D is absolutely crucial to anyone living in Canada, and even more so in the winter months. It's no wonder cold and flu season begins when we enter into eternal darkness (a.k.a. winter). We simply do not get enough. Vitamin D actually acts more as a hormone than a vitamin and is strongly linked to our immune defences. Up your Vitamin D intake and you'll greatly increase your chances of not getting sick this season while everyone around you starts to sniffle. Good food sources include fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, egg yolks and certain mushrooms as well like portabella, chanterelles, and maitake. 

As a last point, remember to do your part to stop the spread of germs as best you can. Wash your hands with soap and water and avoid contacting areas of your body where germs can easily enter like your eyes and mouth. Minimizing your exposure while increasing your defences are the best way to avoid any nasty viruses this cold and flu season!

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Impacts of stress on memory

I've known of the performance advantages in competitive athletes who use a carbohydrate mouth rinse just before competition for some time now. It consists of swishing a sugary solution in your mouth and spitting it out just before competition. It stimulates reward pathways in your brain and can improve performance in competitions where every millisecond counts. This can be particularly helpful in Ketogenic athletes since they won't actually be ingesting any sugars and not altering their ketotic state.

This new article out of the JISSN however, opened my eyes to a broader topic that is relatable to almost everyone. Basically they found that a carbohydrate mouth rinse after exercise halted the decline in executive function associated with exercise. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the researchers also measured stress hormones and found that the reason executive function was not hindered was the associated decrease in stress hormones found in test subjects who took the carbohydrate mouth rinse after exercise. So, athletic performance aside, what this article really outlines is that we simply cannot perform our best when under constant stress. Executive function deals with our ability to plan, pay attention, problem solve and remember things.

I'm not saying sugars are the answer here! I just want to point out that stress can immediately impact our cognitive abilities. Living constantly stressful lives without taking the time to meditate, enjoy hobbies, learn something new or just do things you love can have significant impacts on how you live your day to day life.

My favourite 2 apps that I recommend to almost everyone I see in practice for helping destress at home for free are Headspace and Down Dog. Headspace is a guided meditation app for your phone that you can set for as little as 2 minutes or as long as you can tolerate. Down dog is an amazing free yoga app that creates a new workout for you each time you use it and can be set to a time and difficulty level of your choosing. I love yoga for it's focus on breathing techniques while getting in some exercise and much needed stretching at the same time.

Let me know if any of you have other apps or things you like to do to help destress at the end of a long day or particularly difficult week. I'd love to hear and learn of new methods for myself and others!

Link to the article for those interested:

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Monday, 28 August 2017

Relieve Your Arthritis Pain At Home With These 3 Simple Tips!

action, adult, affection

What is it?

There are many forms of arthritis that can lead to the classic presentation of achy, swollen joints, however the form we tend to see the most of is Osteoarthritis or OA. OA is also know as the "wear and tear" type of arthritis. What this means is that over time the slippery cartilage that meet on each side of your joints and keep them gliding across one another painlessly has been damaged from an injury or worn out over time. Either way, what is left is a surface that is no longer smooth, and articulating bones that may now be exposed to one another. What results is pain and inflammation. 

Who is affected?

Due to the nature of OA, the population that is most commonly affected are those over the age of 65. This is simply due to the fact that this group of people have had more time for their joints to wear against one another throughout their lives. That being said, OA can affect people of any age and is seen more so in people who have previously injured the affected joint, obese individuals (from increased stress of additional weight on certain joints) and those who have overused a specific joint (think baseball pitchers or sprinters). 

What joints are affected?

Typically OA is a one sided condition where the pain and damage to the joints affects only one joint on one side of the body. This is not always true, multiple joints can be affected, however the distribution is usually not symmetrical. Symmetry in diseased joints may be indicative of other forms of arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis being the most common of these. The joints that are usually involved in OA include the hips, knees, fingers, feet and spine.

What are the symptoms?

Pain and stiffness are the most commonly reported symptoms of OA. Particularly morning stiffness that improves with motion throughout the day is very common. Swelling, heat and redness around affected joints is also fairly common especially after prolonged use of the joint. Other symptoms include a grating sensation with audible crackling or popping sounds (referred to medically as "Crepitus"), bony growths at affected finger joints, and even difficulty grasping or holding objects due to weakness or pain. 

How can you help yourself?

Fortunately there are things you can do at home to help relieve some of the pain. Before any home treatments are initiated however, I do recommend confirming the diagnosis with your doctor and working together to treat the pain and prevent further erosion. That being said, here are my top 3 tips for helping resolve arthritic pain at home:

  1. Reduce weight - If arthritis is affecting your hips, knees or feet and you are carrying around a few extra pounds, no other intervention will make as immediate an impact as a moderate reduction in weight. If done safely and slowly, it can take that extra stress off your joints, reducing pain and increasing your ability to begin and maintain a steady exercise routine. For more tips on weight loss read my 7 Tips For Successful Weight Loss.
  2. Warm water pool exercises - Whether you're only able to walk or you can swim full lengths, nothing beats warm water pools as an effective pain relief method when it comes to arthritis. The buoyancy takes the weight and stress off your joints while the heat soothes and calms them. This, combined with gentle exercise to strengthen the surrounding muscles will have you feeling pain free and more mobile  in no time!
  3. Castor Oil - When applied topically to the affected joint, castor oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory intervention. It is absorbed into the skin and provides pain relief that is comparable to NSAIDs [1] (the standard drug prescribed) without any of the harmful side effects. 

How can your naturopath help you?

In addition to these at home pain relief techniques, Naturopathic Doctors can use various modalities to suite your specific needs in accomplishing your pain management goals. Modalities such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, nutraceuticals, botanical medicines and the ever emerging prolotherapy and PrP techniques can all offer additional and complimentary benefits to the treatments you may already be undergoing. Remember not to try to tackle any condition without the help of a registered professional, instead, work with them in coming up with a treatment that works best for you!

Rob Raponi CISSN, B.Kine,
Naturopathic Graduate

1. Medhi, B., et al. "Comparative clinical trial of castor oil and diclofenac sodium in patients with osteoarthritis." Phytotherapy research 23.10 (2009): 1469-1473.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cheat Clean with Delicious Keto Chocolate Lava Cakes

I've made these once before and they turned out great, so in preparation for some Sunday afternoon football I decided to give them another go and share the recipe with all of you. This recipe comes out great and takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Perfect dessert for those of you trying to keep the carbs low and the weight off!

I used a muffin tin and the easiest way to get these things out of there was right side up. So I guess that makes them upside down as far as lava cakes go. This recipe made 7 so you can adjust it to whatever suits your snacking needs:


6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp xylitol
3 eggs
3 tbsp heavy cream (Substitute with coconut cream if dairy doesn't sit right with you)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
3 pinches of salt


Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees celsius. 
Mix in the cocoa powder and xylitol together in a bowl. The better you combine them, the smoother your final product will be. In a separate bowl beat the eggs as the air will help with the rising of the cakes. Add the cream and vanilla extract to the eggs then combine with the cocoa powder/xylitol mixture. Lastly, add in the baking powder and salt and mix together until you get the mixture as smooth as possible. 
Pour your mixture into a muffin tin, filling each spot about 1/2 way. Now for the baking aspect, remember that the smaller you make these guys the less time they'll need to bake. You don't want to overcook them or you'll just have cake and no lava. For this batch I went for 12 minutes and it left me with a decently gooey centre. I'd suggest maybe 11 minutes if you really want the lava to flow. 

Try pairing these delicious cakes with some low carb ice cream right after they come out of the oven while they're still warm for some extra incredible, keto friendly, indulgent desserts! 

Nutritional Information (per lava cake)

Calories: 68cals
Fat: 4.7g
Carbs (total): 2.5g
Carbs (fiber): 1.7g
Net carbs: 0.8g
Protein: 3.5g