Monday, February 19, 2018

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training

What the heck is BFR, you ask?

For everyone you ever want to know about it, this site covers it. As a basic explanation, BFR is:

Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a training strategy involving the use of cuffs or wraps placed around a limb during exercise, to maintain arterial inflow to the muscle while preventing venous return. BFR can be used with resistance training, or with other modalities, including walking.

Programs of resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to increase strength. BFR programs appear to increase strength more than resistance training without BFR when using matched (low) relative loads but are either similar in efficacy or slightly less effective than conventional resistance training with unmatched (high) relative loads.

Programs of resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to produce hypertrophy. BFR programs appear to increase muscular size better than resistance training without blood flow restriction when using matched (low) relative loads but are similar in efficacy to conventional resistance training with unmatched (high) relative loads.

There is some evidence that resistance training with BFR might be able to improve muscular power, sprint running speed, and endurance, and that non-resistance training methods (like walking) with blood flow restriction can cause hypertrophy, although there is more limited research in these areas.

After reading about BFR, I almost immediately ordered these BFR (occlusion) cuffs.

Why was I so eager to start this type of training, you ask? For the following reasons:

1. I am always trying to increase my strength.

2. Since I work out exclusively at home and our dumbbells only go up to 50 lbs, I saw this as a great way to increase strength without having to spend the money on heavier weights, and find room for them!

3. I thought this would be a great way to stay fit while travelling, if I also bring some resistance bands (because I generally hate hotel gyms).

I brought them to Florida over the holidays, and was very glad I did. I had zero interest in going to the gyms at the resort. They have mostly cardio machines and only very scanty weight equipment, and so if even 1 other person is trying to lift at the same time as you, its very annoying. I skipped the gym entirely and a few days over our stay, I did a resistance band workout in our condo with the occlusion bands on.

Without door attachments, etc., it is often difficult to make a band workout tough enough, but the cuffs definitely made my exercises more challenging. It was awesome!

 Back home, I have been using the cuffs 1-2x week, once for legs, once for upper body. I really like being able to work with lower weights, but still being challenged.

If you are looking for a way to jack up your training, or if you workout at home and have limited equipment, this is a great way to give your training a boost without spending a lot of money or buying big equipment.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kinin Bioactive Aromatherapy: Product Review

I am embarrassed to admit something about the back story to this product review. Initially, the Kinin company contacted me, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their aromatherapy pens. I thought they meant writing pens that contain essential oils. So, you know, you're sitting at your desk working, or writing out your to do list or grocery list and relaxing with a lil' aromatherapy. Um, no, they meant pens like a vaping type device that you inhale. Oh, that kind of pen! 😜

I was a little suspicious since vaping is not really my thing, um, at all. I even contacted them just to confirm there is no tobacco or nicotine or anything in them. They assured me that there is none. The pens contain safe, organic, essential oils that the pen simply vaporizes and you do, indeed, inhale.

As you know, I am very in, I love perfumes, and scented products! Though I would not say I regularly practice 'aromatherapy', I do see its value. Even research has supported the link between certain scents and our moods. Things like peppermint and citrus can invigorate, while lavender can enhance relaxation. In fact, I keep lavender essential oil at my counselling office and sometimes sprinkle a few drops around because of its therapeutic benefits.

Anyways, back to Kinin.

The company sent me a selection of their pens:

1. Focus - Nootropics, Cinnamon, Tangerine
2. Relax - Kava Kava, Valerian, Copaiba
3. Recover - Eucalyptus, Peppermint Clary Sage

Apparently these products are generally safe for everyone though their website warns:

We recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who have specific allergic reactions to any of our listed ingredients avoid our products. There is no age requirement, but if you’re under 18, you should check with your parents.

I had never heard of nootropic before but apparently it is a general term for cognitive enhancer, which could mean anything from caffeine to ginko biloba to prescription drugs. The fact that they don't give any more info about this ingredient is a bit worrisome to me.

Copaiba is another plant derived stimulant.

Apparently clari sage has a myriad of benefits including anti-depressant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure lowering, anti-anxiety, and ability to improve mental function. Not a ton of scientific research to back this up, however.

I found all of them pleasant smelling. I would describe the physical experience when you inhale as similar to when you first pop a piece of strong minty gum into your mouth and you get that cold, fresh burst.

My first thought is that this might be a good replacement activity for people trying to quit vaping or smoking. You get the same action with your hands and mouth, and none of the detrimental health effects.

Does it work? Who the heck knows. I suspect it works if you believe it does. But hey, even placebo effect is real.

Do I recommend them? If you believe in the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils, or are looking  to quit smoking/vaping or for healthier ways to get a boost (instead of sugar, coffee, weed, etc.) than absolutely. It is kind of a cool concept. Its also good as an aromatherapy-on-the-go tool, though you might get strange looks if you pull it out on the subway and start inhaling from it.

The pens are $22 USD, and for $45 they are coming out with a refillable/reusable one.

Disclosure: The company sent me the pens but all opinions on this blog are my own.