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3 Books for Enhanced Learning

Reading is one of my favourite past times, I spend a good portion of each day engaging in literature, predominantly of the non-fiction variety. Books that promote higher learning (I hate when people call them self-help) are some of my favourite. Here are THREE, which inspired this blog itself and notably improved the way I consumed information:

1. Flow by  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

This is less of a book, but rather an entire new way of thinking. Summarized as: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity,” flow has become the accepted term to describe complete absorption in what one does. Learning is a dominant theme, but flow applies the experience as a whole. You’d be hard pressed to find a self-help book that doesn’t reference Csíkszentmihályi and his psychological break through.

2. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

The name undoubtedly speaks for itself, written by chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, the star of the book and film “Searching for Bobby Fisher.” Although arguably less enigmatic than that of Bobby Fisher, Waitzkin also lived a life as a young chess prodigy, constant being paralleled to his older American counterpart (as is the context of the “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” written by Waitzkin’s father). The Art of Learning finally gives Josh the canvass, who provides some remarkable learning tools gathered in his chess journey, of which were successfully transferred to other facets of life, including a Thai Chai championship in minimal time. The techniques shared are unprecedented and Josh continues to push the frontier of learning in all of his life endeavours.

3. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

It took me a few years to get through this one, be warned, it can feel like a straight-up business textbook. However, as Josh states in the preface, skip around to the things that interest you. This book has an insatiable amount of knowledge packed into it, but it’s all incredibly condensed and concise. Kaufman doesn’t waste a word, something which isn’t an option when trying to condense the meat of an MBA degree into one book. By far my favourite part of the book was the section on productivity and ways to increase efficiency in both learning and getting things done. That being said, I’ve riddled this book with sticky notes and check back on it at least once a week.

Arnold-Schwarzenegger

Mass March 2014 – The Results

The gluttonous month of Mass March has come to an end and this year’s 6 contestants put on a combined weight of 47lbs!

With 12.6lbs gained, I was able to regain my Mass March title. Admittedly my bodyfat did raise by 3 percentile (from 12 to 15), but it was still a MUCH cleaner bulk than 2 years ago (gallon of homo milk a day).

March 1, 2014

 

March 31, 2014

1. Eating more food than I ever imagined possible. Again and again and again.

I seriously shudder when I think about the meals I consumed over the past 30 days. It was on more than when occasion when consuming a meal brought me to the verge of tears. The pain was often unbearable, pushing one’s stomach well past the limit not once, not twice, but three times a day. Then add two liquid meals on top of that, because chewing five supersized meals was out of the question. I was almost always bloated, slow, and sluggish from constantly being in a state of digestion.

This was dinner…on a low calorie day.

 

2. A disciplined regimen, planned out for every day, meal, and workout.

I followed this regimen (with a few minor changes, all made beforehand and saved in an excel spreadsheet) taken from Tim Ferriss’ health blog featuring a program by GSP’s trainer Dr. John Berardi. It’s very comprehensive and NOT for the faint of heart. Having a detailed plan for all 30 days meant there was no reason to falter.

This is 3 days of food. I prepped meals every Sunday and Wednesday (rest days)

 

3. A lofty goal.

I set my goal for 20lbs and although I was 7lbs short, 12.6lbs is the most weight I have ever gained in one month, making me the heaviest I have ever been. Setting a lofty goal serves more like a vision, it allowed me to really push it and break my previous record. As Bruce Lee once famously said:

 

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SuperHuman Strength: Update

 

After 3 months, here are my figures for the end of December (see original post HERE)

1. Bench Press – 175 (15 pound increase)

2. Military Press – 120 (20 pound increase)

3. Squat – 250 (30 pound increase)

4. Deadlift – 260 (30 pound increase)

 

 

Supplements taken for the first 3 months of the program have been whey protein, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, and a pharmaceutical grade Creatine Monohydrate, prepared by my brother, a registered pharmacist.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance produced by the body’s liver and helps to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy for muscle contractions. Also found in foods such as meat and fish or in supplement form, creatine is known to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. It is used by top tier athletes and is now being tested as a treatment for heart ailments and neuromuscular disorders.

The most important things of the strength challenge (aside from the creatine of course):

1. FORM

Invest in at least one private lesson with a personal trainer and go over the form for all the lifts and some good warm-up exercises to reduce risk of injury and increase performance.

 

2. DE-LOADING

The last week of every month is called “de-loading” and it is astonishingly hard to go to the gym and do 5 reps at a weight that doesn’t even a break a sweat. Trust me, it will pay dividends.

 

3. CONSISTENCY

Strength gains are a long road and it’s important to stay focused on form and mental toughness. Don’t go too fast or you’ll injure yourself; but don’t go too slow or you won’t make progress. Find that steady increase which works for you.

 

Life & Fitness: One Man’s Quest For Strength

I think one of my favourite parts about fitness is the linear transparency it has.

There are countless things in life where people say “what you put in is what you get out,” but in reality, it’s usually not true, as there are numerous variables that must be accounted for.

Fitness, on the other hand, allows things to be planned and regimented to the most minute details and does well to remove a substantial amount of those variables. It’s one of the few things in life where you can set your goal, plan your course of action, and then achieve it. Achieving one’s goal is a phenomenal feeling and results in the desire and motivation to succeed in other facets of life. Success breeds success, which is why fitness is so important in one’s daily life.

For the better part of the past decade, my main goals in fitness have revolved around “gaining” (a.k.a. putting on weight, preferably in the form of lean muscle mass). Very aesthetic focused, less-focused on strength and performance. A debilitating knee injury a few years ago caused my priorities to shift more onto performance and less on aesthetics. Since then I’ve slowly phased out the bodybuilding regimens for more athlete-catered, full-body workouts.

This brings me to my current goal: Strength.

 

“Use your BODY every way you can, it is the greatest instrument you will EVER own.”

-Baz Luhrman (Sunscreen)

 

The human body is a remarkable thing. Why not push it and see what it can really do?

 

 

 

The Quest for SuperHuman Strength Gains

The regimen is inspired by Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 as seen HERE

The 5-3-1 is rather simple, focusing on FOUR movements. I have provided my training maximums for the “Big 4″ when I started the program in October:

 

1. Bench Press – 160lbs

2. Military Press – 100lbs

3. Squat – 220lbs

4. Deadlift – 230lbs

 

The program requires 4 workouts a week, with each day based around the ONE compound movement, then followed up with other exercises of your choice, usually to compliment it. For example, on Squat day I will perform the squats as per the 5-3-1 regimen, and then finish the day with a superset of 1-legged squats, box jumps, and single leg dead lifts (all leg movements). That way I can be fully rested for chest day, if I wanted to do it the day after. The goal is to lift as much as possible, so the key is to not get carried away. Focus on the big lifts, the others are just extra.

What separates this program from all the others I’ve done in the past is its longevity. In order to see drastic strength increases, you need to put in the time. 5-3-1 is designed to be a year-long program, with steady strength increases over the course of 12 months. This may seem “less drastic,” however, a 10-pound increase each month for a year results in a 120-pound strength gain–very drastic indeed. I’m used to doing 1-month programs; the discipline for a year will be, bar none, the hardest part of this strength challenge for me.

 

The Truth About Eggs

Mass March is less than a week away and I plan on eating half a dozen eggs a day, yes yolks included. Am I putting myself on the fast-track for high cholesterol? Is a heart attack imminent? I’ve decided to shed light on the ever-controversial issue of egg yolks and cholesterol.

4 yolk omelette

Since my days of undergrad (2007), I have eaten, almost without fail, 3 hard-boiled eggs a day, yolks included. That adds up to a total of 6,570 egg yolks and a whopping 1,314,000mg of dietary cholesterol in 6 years. Upon departing to Europe for my masters program, I took the liberty of getting a thorough check-up including full blood work, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and yes, the ‘cough’ test. Everything checked out nicely, in fact the doctor complimented me on my overall health (apparently milk thistle and greens multi+ does well to combat the after-effects of alcohol, but more on that in a separate post).

So, what gives?

We’ll start with a brief background of eggs.

Since the dawn of mankind, eggs have been a powerhouse of nutrition. They have long been characterized as one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, along with quality protein they also provide an array of vitamins and lutein, choline, and iodine–to name a few of their nutrients, all found in the yolk.

From the Journal of the American College of Nutrition

Table 2.

RDA of Major Nutrients from Two Large Eggs

Nutrient

% Daily Value

Nutrient

% Daily Value

Food Energy

6%

Protein

20%

Riboflavin

30%

Folate

12%

Vitamin B12

16%

Vitamin K

62%

Vitamin D

12%

Iron

8%

Vitamin A

12%

Phosphorous

16%

Vitamin E

6%

Selenium

34%

Vitamin B6

8%

Zinc

8%

 

Suddenly, their image took a nosedive as studies in the 1970s revealed high levels of cholesterol in eggs, spurring trends like egg whites and egg substitutes. More recent studies in this decade, however, have shown to bring clarity to the situation. From  my research, their was one recurring theme disproving the unhealthy reputation of eggs and high cholesterol:

 

Dietary cholesterol DOES NOT have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels or heart health.*

 

*trans fats, some saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are proven culprits

 

So, what exactly is significant? The impact of dietary cholesterol in eggs on plasma lipid levels (including blood cholesterol) is so minimal that, especially for healthy individuals, I would go as far to call it negligent.

From a 2000 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition:

“Research has not established a significant independent relationship between dietary cholesterol and LDL or total serum cholesterol levels, incidence of heart disease or heart disease deaths. Furthermore, data fail to show a relationship between egg consumption and either serum cholesterol levels or heart disease incidence. Recent research using an endpoint of heart disease and stroke rather than serum cholesterol levels calls into question the need to limit a high cholesterol food like eggs. In their analysis of data from prospective epidemiological studies, Hu et al. [5] found that consumption of up to one egg a day was not related to heart disease or stroke risk.”

A more recent study in 2006 in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care by Maria Fernandez brings further clarity to the situation. The study was conducted on a ‘healthy population,’ measuring the effects of dietary cholesterol and found 30% to be affected (hyperresponders) and 70% to be unaffected (hyporesponders). For the hyperresponder, dietary cholesterol increased the concentration of both LDL and HDL cholesterol, therefore nullifying any harmful effects*. The hyporesponders experienced little to no alterations in plasma cholesterol concentrations, even when challenged with high amounts of dietary cholesterol.

A word from Deep Dan (BSc in Human Biology):

Another key point in the Fernandez article:  “Egg intake has been shown to promote the formation of large LDL, in addition to shifting individuals from the LDL pattern B to pattern A, which is less atherogenic.” In other words, Pattern B is small LDL which can easily pass through the endolethium and cause much more problems. Pattern A means LDL particles aren’t passing through easily and therefore posing almost no problems to an individuals cholesterol.

 

* HDL (High density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the good guy and acts to get rid of the bad guy, LDL (Low density lipoprotein)  cholesterol  by binding to it and returning it from the bloodstream to the liver.  Therefore, high HDL and low LDL is ideal. In the case of hyperresponders, both levels are increased, but LDL is prevented from inflicting harm because it is equally matched with HDL.  


The study concludes:

 “For these reasons, dietary recommendations aimed at restricting egg consumption should not be generalized to include all individuals. We need to acknowledge that diverse healthy populations experience no risk in developing coronary heart disease by increasing their intake of cholesterol but, in contrast, they may have multiple beneficial effects by the inclusion of eggs in their regular diet.”

 

And now to a bit of an extreme case…

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine depicts an 88 year old man who has consumed a staggering 25 eggs a day for at least 15 years–soft boiled, yolks and all. The kicker? The patients plasma lipid levels* were COMPLETELY normal.

In no way am I endorsing a 25 egg-a-day diet, but it definitely provides an emphatic counter-perspective to the old 3 eggs a week guideline of the 80s.

*total cholesterol, 5.18 mmol per liter (200 mg per deciliter); LDL, 3.68 mmol per liter (142 mg per deciliter); and HDL, 1.17 mmol per liter (45 mg per deciliter). The ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol was 3.15

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Well yolks, there you have it. The tastiest and most nutrient dense part of the egg isn’t going to kill you after all.

If you’re leading a healthy, active lifestyle, like almost all readers are, then quit buying those egg white substitutes and get cracking with the real thing. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle-building, or just plain healthy eating, best to put yolks back on the menu.

Eggs!

 

 

ONE Lifestyle Change for the Summer

First off, I’d like to recap my month of Paleo and Crossfit. It was an interesting 30 days and of which I managed to shed 5lbs of Mass March and bring my bodyfat from 15% to 13.5%.

I have a mixed review of the Paleo diet and wasn’t completely true to it (it’s quite hard to maintain such a diet when on the go, at work, etc.—but I tried to keep it relatively strict). Without any rice, grains, cereals, breads, etc. I found it very difficult to fill myself up and have energy. Eating a meal of only meat and veggies caused my body to think I was starving it, leaving me very unsatisfied. I’m a fairly active individual, so carbs have always helped me meet my desired caloric intake and provided energy throughout the day. Sorry cavemen, but pizza and pasta are just too good to say no to.

Crossfit definitely kicked my ass. After the first session, you realize that working out at your school gym or rec centre isn’t even comparable. As far working out and fitness go, Crossfit is king, no doubt about that. You will do more in a half hour session then 5 hours at a rec-centre. My favourite part was the Olympic lifts, engaging the whole body in one motion. What I personally didn’t like was how you do a different workout every day (although some people love this, so it’s all a matter of personal opinion). I like setting a routine, working to get better at it, then changing it every month or so—it keeps me consistent and forces me to be disciplined. I also enjoy the social aspect of working out, and as one critic wrote about Crossfit “I play real sports, I don’t need to be the best at working out,” which does hold a grain of truth in my books. That being said, it is awesome, but a little overwhelming. I’ll definitely be back at it, but may take a month off to enjoy some good old-rec centre workouts with friends, followed by a hot tub and steam…

 

So what is the lifestyle change that will help elevate your heroic status this summer?

 

Enter: The ICE Age

 

Lewis Pugh is the best cold water swimmer in the world. Google him, he is an absolute legend--the only man to swim in the waters of Everest.

 

I first read about the benefits of ice and cold therapy in Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 Hour Body. I started taking the occasional cold shower and began to grow a liking for them. I began further researching cold therapy and discovered several studies, which compiled numerous health benefits. For generations ice water has been a staple for heroes; from the athletes in professional sports to samurai warriors themselves. Needless to say, I haven’t taken a hot shower since and have an ice bath 2-3 times a week (sorry testicles).

 

7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE TAKING COLD SHOWERS

 1) It wakes you up and makes you feel like a hero.
If you don’t believe it, try it.

 

2) It improves circulation.
Warm water makes blood rush to your skin, cold water makes blood rush to your organs. It is best to switch back and forth a few times in your shower (I switch to hot just before soaping up), but make sure to end in cold. Ice cold.

 

3) Speeds up recovery and reduces muscle pain after intense physical activity.
It is a widely accepted practice for professional athletes to hop in an ice bath after a game or workout. The principle effect is that the ice repairs and strengthens muscles through muscle hypertrophy. The coldness also restricts blood vessels and flushes waste such as lactic acid out of the affected tissues.

 

4) Healthier skin and hair
Cold water closes your pores, preventing them from being easily clogged by dirt and oil (the cause of the dreaded bacne). In a similar fashion, cold water closes the cuticle on your hair, making it stronger, while also looking healthier and shinier.

 

5) Burns fat 
Cold stimulates your “fat-burning” fat, also known as brown adipose tissue (BAT). In cold environments, your BAT will begin to burn other fat and glucose as heat, saving you hours on the treadmill.

 

6) Increased immunity
Acute cold exposure increases levels of circulating norepinephrine. In English? A cold shower a day, keeps the doctor away.

 

7) Mental clarity and purification
The ancient samurai warriors would shower themselves in the glacial river water every morning in a practice they called Misogi. It was a purification ritual which they believed to cleanse, energize their spirit. Even today, cold showers are used as a treatment for a depression.

 

So, there you have it; get fit, healthy, and sexy all at the same time. Summer is the perfect time to try out cold showers in your daily ritual. Start out by simply ending your showers with cold water, until your ready for the full 5-10 minute treatment with only brief stints of hot—and ice baths are simply a must for the athlete or fitness enthusiast.

Everybody's doing it

 

Happy. Healthy. Heroic.

 

Barefoot Running

It’s finally Spring time and with the warmer weather and occasional sunshine we all feel a little inclined to throw on a pair of headphones, some Top Guns Charity shades and go for a jog outside.

We all know running will help us shred some pounds for beach season, but the real question is: What should we be wearing (or not wearing) on our feet?

For the past year I’ve been intrigued by the Barefoot/Minimalist running revolution which has taken the world by storm. In fact, the barefoot/minimalist industry has grown to a worth of 1.7 billion dollars and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The movement can be greatly credited to the National bestselling book “Born to Run” by Chris McDougall, chronicling the life of the Tarahumara tribe who run for days without injury on bare feet.

Last year, I got caught up in the craze and thought that simply changing my running shoes would be the cure to all my running ailments (stiff IT bands, shin splints, etc.). I picked up a pair of Nike Frees and started running the chip trail like I was Steve Prefontaine the 2nd.  Of course, within a week the splints were back, I was stiff as a cadaver and promptly returned to cycling and hockey to get my cardiovascular fix. My problem wasn’t so much my shoes as it was my style of running.

The entire notion of running shoes is actually quite ironic. I tried to find actual studies supporting the science behind cushioned heels, arch support, etc. that were boasted by the running shoes we grew up on. I remember being told that you should replace your running shoe every 3-6 months, once the cushion in it is gone, to avoid injury. The findings were simply not there, there was zero science behind it; just a marketing-driven industry which was growing out of control. I’m no expert, but my theory is that these cushioned, high-tech shoes killed the natural technique, which exists in all of us. If you’re like me, then you do a heel-toe strike and can be heard from up the block. Throwing on a pair of minimalist shoes isn’t going to help if I’m running like that; in fact they’ll only make things worse. What minimalist shoes do help, however, is encouraging that light and natural running style.

These are a pair of Nike Free Trainer shoes. They’re very thin and flexible, but still possess a little bit of cushion and form. I think they’re a great shoe to begin running form correction, before transitioning to something more minimal like Vibrams

So, how do I use minimalist shoes and return to my god-given natural way of injury free running?

Well, like I said, I’m no expert, but luckily my man Jairus Streight is…

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A Word from Jairus.

Hey Bear & Deep Dan, Thanks for having me back.

It’s true that running minimalism has become an overwhelmingly popular theory amongst recreational and competitive runners in the past few years, but in order to part take in this “fad” in a way that is of benefit to you and your health, a fundamental understanding of how we got to this idea in the first place is needed:

1. Running is a natural movement to human beings, and one of our greatest evolutionary strengths (Did you know, there is no land species on the planet that can outlast us in running ENDURANCE?). Our muscular system and cardiovascular abilities as humans are what lead us to become dominant hunters, and in places like Africa (where farmers don’t have horses….ever think about that?), being a strong runner was an important evolutionary trait to becoming a successful farmer, and rounding up your cattle on foot. The idea of “minimialism” comes from the attempt to move as much as possible ‘in tune’ with our body’s natural physiological attributes that give us this ability to run longer than most species. To run well, you need to be efficient, and what better way to develop efficiency, than to run as naturally as possible? So…. the question remains: Can minimalist footwear running help your run better? In short, yes. It ‘can’ help to promote more efficient stride biomechanics, which will in turn help you to be a more ‘natural runner’. The problem is, as grown young men/women, we look to make this transition too quickly. Often times, our bodies are not ready for such a drastic change.

 

2. Heavy heel striking is generally bad. It causes a lot of force on the knee join, and is one of the leading causes of knee pain in runners. In order to become a more ‘biomechanically sound’ runner, it would be beneficial to avoid heel striking while running. While this can be accomplished through “barefoot” style running, which forces you to land more on the “balls” of your feet; it can also be accomplished by CHANGING the way your foot interacts with the ground, without the need to downgrade in shoe technologies. (See point 3) While a knee injury can be a hard one, making the shift to running on your forefoot too quickly has a higher probability of causing you chronic Achilles Tendon issues, from which you may never fully recover….

 

3. (Most of us) have grown up for 20+ years with “diapers” on our feet. What makes us think we can go about changing that all of the sudden? An instantaneous change in structural support to the foot would certainly not be the answer. If you are interested in transitioning to minimalist technologies for running, you need to be PATIENT and a mindful of the degree to which you make the change. Volume, intensity, and surfaces you run on are all things to be moderated, and taken into consideration when making a transition to running in less ‘support’. Look to avoid concrete and asphalt surfaces, and stick to softer surfaces such as grass, woodchip, and park trails.

 

4. The running is simple. No really, it’s actually SO simple that often times people who aren’t as natural at it are simply OVERTHINKING it. The basic movements: You extend your knee in front of you, and perform a ‘sweep’ of your foot that lands as close to beneath your pelvis as possible, plant the MIDDLE of your foot- not the heel, nor the balls of the toes, you then apply muscular ‘force’ against the ground, pushing off your hips, extend your leg behind you in a spring-like movement. After leaving the ground, you allow your leg to recoil under you by initiating a knee drive that again lifts your (now opposite) knee back out in front of you- in essence, a series of “timely bounds. Ta-da! You are running. Don’t overthink it! If you are figuring out how to run, keeping it simple will be best practice to becoming a better runner.

 

5. Your body’s functional strength is important to preventing injury- one of the ways we get ‘stronger’ is by running MORE, but without ‘overdoing it’. I work with Olympic level athletes, as well as my own college age athletes, and the one of the greatest ‘tricks’ is knowing how much to run that will keep you getting stronger, but avoid you from getting injured. Believe it or not, building strength in your CORE can help with this (when you run, what are you pushing off of? The ground! And what does the ground push back against? Your core! Think about it like pushing off against a wall), thus making sure you keep your core strength maintained is key if you hope to be running more often.

Thanks for having me, and if you have any specific questions, fire them off on to me on Twitter!  @jairusstreight

 

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Well, there you have it. Now get off the couch and get moving on your two god given legs!

Green Tea

Drink it like it’s going out of style.

3 cups a day is a good amount to shoot for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are FOUR excellent reasons why:

1) Simply put: it will increase your overall health.

It is packed with polyphenols (most notably EGCG) which possess an array of health benefits including antioxidant qualities and other biochemical activities. Studies over time have only revealed more benefits, most notably in cancer fighting and cardiovascular disease. Want to live longer? Drink 3-5 cups a day. Try a cup in the morning, 2-3 throughout the day, and a nice cup of decaf before bed.

2) It will make you smarter

Didn’t know this one, but it probably explains why my GPA skyrocketed after I jumped on the green tea train. Two different studies have revealed that green tea increases cognitive function. A more recent one concluded that regular green tea consumption may enhance learning and memory ability.

3) It burns fat

That’s right, green tea boosts your metabolism, energy expenditure and fat oxidation; effectively controlling your weight and–with proper exercise–making you SHREDDED. Sound too good to be true? Check out this recent study.

4) It will increase exercise endurance

As an added bonus, green tea will also bring you one step closer to that 4-minute mile, VO2 max, or beep test high score. The catechins in green tea increase both metabolic activity and the utilization of fatty acid as source of energy in muscles during physical exertion. Need that extra push? It’s a cup of tea away.

If you’re still not convinced, then check out this article to read all about its other marvellous benefits including:

UV protection, lowering cholesterol, diabetes and blood glucose levels, heart protection, anti-hypertension, stroke prevention, reduction of CNS disorders, prevention of osteoporosis, bone-loss, and teeth decay, antimicrobal activity, and finally, for all those party-goers, liver protection.

Unlocking Human Potential