My top 3 favourite workout accessories and gear

Everyone who works out regularly has their own favourite workout accessories and gym gear. I have tried many different workout accessories, gadgets and gizmos over the years and found most of them to be a disappointment. But there are a couple of pieces of workout gear that have found a permanent home in gym bag.

Lynx grip

I see a lot of people wearing workout gloves and I have tried them and hate them. Same with straps – I have just never been able to get used to them. For the most part I need to be able to feel the barbell or the dumbbell with my bare hands and be in close contact with the weight I am lifting. The exception to this is either when I am using Fat Gripz or about to do certain exercises that involve lifting heavier weights. This is where the Lynx grips are a godsend. These two pieces of rubber are great at cupping within my hand and protecting it from the tears and pain that are common when you are lifting heavy weights. I like calluses just as much as the next gym rat but I especially don’t want to lose my grip in the middle of a rep. I find the Lynx grips very useful for my heavy deadlift reps when I start using a mixed grip; weighted pull ups, bench press and heavy v-bar rows. Unfortunately I think that the Lynx grips are no longer made but I am sure there are similar products out there. In the meantime my pair is still chugging along, even with a couple of holes in them.

Lynx Grips workout accessories
My pair of very well worn Lynx grips

2XU compression arm sleeve

If you watch basketball or football you will have noticed that compression sleeves have become all the rage with pro athletes. But this accessory is not just something that can help the pros; if you suffer from elbow or forearm pain (tennis elbow, bursitis, pulled muscles, etc.), these compression arm sleeves can be helpful. I tried a few different types including a runner’s sleeve by Nike and some cut up compression socks but found that they would lose their “compression” after a few uses. The Nike arm sleeves may still be good for providing some warmth or protecting against UV exposure but after using them for a couple of weeks, they were not as tight as when I first got them. I then purchased a pair of compression arm sleeves from 2XU. They are slightly more expensive but right away I could tell the difference in quality and feel as the 2XU arm sleeves are made with a much thicker material (80% nylon and 20% spandex) and are a tighter fit. I have been using them for over a month on my back and chest days and so far they are maintaining a very good fit and provide good support during workouts.

Compression arm sleeve accessory
2XU’s compression arm sleeve


This should not come as a huge surprise but music can play a very important role in our workouts. It is interesting that similar to Xerox and Kleenex, Apple’s Ipod has now become the standard when one thinks of mp3 players but smartphones are just as capable of doing what an Ipod can, if not more. I just leave mine in the locker because I don’t want to risk breaking that expensive pocket computer and prefer dealing with the tiny Ipod shuffle instead. Why do you need your own music? Because the music played in all gyms sucks! How can I get pumped up for a big deadlift with Adele in my ears? But if I happen to hit a track from Yelawolf’s Trunk Muzik album, then you know that lift is going to go well. This music may not float your boat but you get the idea; get pumped by listening to music that will get you hyped up and so an Ipod or a smartphone or mp3 player becomes one of your must have workout accessories. It will help you eek out that extra rep or put on the 5 more pounds on a lift to set to a personal best.


Ascenta Nutrasea Omega-3 fish oil review

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements from cold water fish have shown positive benefits towards cognitive health, reducing inflammation and managing cardiovascular health. But it has become harder and more expensive for consumers to get wild, uncontaminated fish which are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids. And the typical western diet is very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Nutrasea’s Ascenta Omega-3 product is one fish oil supplement that can help cover this nutritional gap.

Fish omega 3
Fish like wild salmon, arctic char, mackrel, sardines and herring and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids

NutraSea Omega-3

Nutrasea omega 3 fish oil
Ascenta’s Nutrasea omega-3 fish oil supplement

There are many available options when it comes to omega 3 fish oil supplements. They come in liquid, gelcap, gummy and candy formats, while being manufactured and marketed by hundreds of supplement companies. But there are only a few that I trust. Ascenta’s NutraSea Omega-3 in liquid form is one. It is a high quality herring oil that uses Ascenta’s proprietary technology which combines with molecular distillation, to create a very pure omega-3 supplement. Ascenta’s omega 3 fish oil supplement is also left in the natural triglyceride form versus the ethyl ester forms that are found in majority of other fish oil supplements. The company also offers Pure Check, an online tool where consumers can enter the batch number of their purchase on its website, to view an independent report on the quality test results. These tests include an analysis of the actual amount of EPA and DHA along with oxidation levels and the levels of various common contaminants like dioxins and furans, PCBs, lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. I know that most people worry about mercury being found in fish but the oxidation levels of fish oils is also very important. This is also why one must consume fish oils while fresh, keep them out of the sun and refrigerate them after opening. 

Each serving of Ascenta’s NutraSea Omega-3 provides 1,500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (including 1,250 mg of EPA and DHA) in their naturally occurring triglyceride form. In addition, it contains Vitamin E and green tea extract to prevent oxidization.  The liquid form comes in a dark glass bottle, has a mild lemon flavour with no discernible fish oil taste and as I mentioned earlier, must be refrigerated after being opened.

   Per tsp (5 ml)

   Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids      1500mg

   EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) 750mg

   DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) 500mg

   Other Omega-3 Fatty Acids 250mg

I take approximately one and a half teaspoons of Nutrasea omega-3 fish oil per day, spread over two doses (morning and evening) with my meals.

omega3 stash
An old supplement stash pic with omega-3 fish oil , chia seeds and blender bottles.

Your search for the best gym bag ends today

Looking for the best gym bag? Take a number! Most of us have lived with crappy gym bags. Those that fell apart, were uncomfortable to carry, poorly designed and not worth the money we paid. And then there are those freebie gym bags (from supplement companies or gyms) that tend to be even worse. This workout bag dilemma may not seem to be the most serious problem facing you but the sound investment of a good gym bag will pay itself off many times over. You need a gym bag that will protect your belongings, can keep up with the rigors of public transit, car trunks and gym lockers, is easy to carry, ergonomic and looks good. This is why you want a good gym bag.

By no means have I tried out all the gym bags that are out there on the market. But I have gone through my fair share and have a bit of a “collection of bags” going on.  So  I will cut to the chase and give you what in my humble opinion are the two best gym bags I have come across along with a couple more good bags that really impressed me, but come with caveats.

Timbuk2 Navigator Duffel Bag

Timbuk2 is well regarded for taking the messenger bag from being the domain of bike couriers into the mainstream and makes some very good quality products. Their Navigator is not your typical duffel bag – in fact, it is a duffel/backpack hybrid and that is why I love it. It has two handles that can be used to carry it like a duffle bag if you are taking it out of the car or putting it into your gym locker. And it has two (hidden) straps which can be used to make it into a backpack if you are going to be walking or taking public transit and don’t want to carry it for a long time. This is just one of the great features that puts this bag at the top of my list.

Timbuk2 Navigator gym bag
Timbuk2’s Navigator hybrid duffle bag is one of my favourite gym bags

The small size Navigator has a capacity of 40 liters and should be perfect for most gym goers.  This size should also be good as carry on luggage for most airlines (I have used it without problems a couple of times). The Navigator duffel bag is made of a waterproof material (what Timbuk2 calls bombproof nylon) and has two front pockets, one slim bottom pocket and a large main compartment. The front pockets are perfect for storing keys, smart phone, protein bars and the back pocket can accommodate a book or magazine and it is also used to pack up the bag into itself (check out the video below). The main compartment is open and spacious and allows you to organize it as you please (you can see my setup above). The gym bag is well constructed, well thought out and looks good. It can go from a gym bag to an overnight bag to a carry on bag (small only) on a flight – and I have used it for all three. Sold.

5.11 Tactical Rush 24 Backpack

If you prefer using a true backpack as your gym bag then look no further than the 5.11 Tactical Rush 24 backpack. But you will have to start off by getting past the fact that this bag is marketed to and very popular with the military/private security contractor/prepper crowd and not your typical gym rat. Don’t let this prevent you from considering the Rush 24 as it makes an excellent gym bag. Instead, take from it the fact that this is a very well designed and constructed backpack that has caught the fancy of people who appreciate well built gear. You can also avoid the military style colours and cammo schemes and go with one of the black tones that won’t stick out.

5.11 Rush 24 gym bag
5.11 Tactical Rush 24 backpack makes a great gym bag

First off, this is a solid bag constructed out of 1050D nylon (which was originally made for bulletproof vests). The Rush 24 has a waterproof coating and mine has survived several years of use in the sun,  rain, sleet and snow that we get up here in the Great White North. Did I already mention that this thing is built tough? Next up, storage and pockets is where this backpack absolutely shines. The 5.11 Rush 24 has 37 liters of capacity including a very roomy main compartment that can be fully accessed, thanks to zippers that go from end to end. This compartment also has a few mesh pockets but I never used them – my main workout gear would go in this part. On the side of the bag are two pockets that are perfect for water bottles, an umbrella or sunglass case. The front has two sets of storage pockets. Near the top are two small pockets and below is a bigger one, called the “admin pouch”. This has straps within the secure belongings (originally it was probably designed to hold weapon magazines) and there is an internal zipper pocket as well.

Continue reading Your search for the best gym bag ends today


Super Bowl 2016: Healthy eating at your Super Bowl party

This is a great time of year for football fans. The NFL playoffs are in full swing and the big game with all the parties, the Super Bowl, is less than a month away in Santa Clara, California. But what can you do to keep those health goals that you have vowed to keep with the typical Super Bowl party that is full of anything but healthy food? The simplest thing could be to not worry about it – enjoy Super Bowl 50 on February 7th, 2016 but don’t completely fall off the healthy eating wagon. I try and temper the unhealthiness by keeping the food at the Super Bowl party, somewhat in line with the healthy eating that we all try to start off every new year. This way I won’t be overcome with guilt the day after or spend the next week trying to overdo it in the gym.

I was thinking about the 2016 Super Bowl over the weekend and came up with some healthy ideas that anyone could incorporate. I wasn’t able to test all these recipes out this weekend but did enjoy the fruits of my labour while watching the two wild-card NFL playoff games on Sunday.

Must have Super Bowl tortilla chips and dip

To kickoff this Super Bowl party we need to have some tasty chips and dip. How do we make them healthy? Let’s tackle the tortilla chips first. Look for a good quality baked tortilla chips – I prefer organic baked tortilla chips. Yellow or blue corn is up to you; mix them up if you want your platter to look cool. If you can’t find the baked variety don’t fret too much…just read the labels of the various brands in your supermarket and splurge a little if needed to get the best quality organic tortilla chips.

The layered dip to go along with the chips is super easy to make. You will need salsa, guacamole, plain greek yogurt and a light cheddar cheese. Start by making the guacamole. You already know that I love the superfood avocado so having guacamole in the layered dip is a no brainer. You will need some ripe avocados, finely minced red onion, chopped cilantro, diced tomato, hot sauce, salt and lime juice. Cut the avocados in half and twist them open; remove the pit and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh in a bowl. Mash up flesh with the back of fork, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix it well. Taste and season as needed.

Super duper chips and dip
Main ingredients for the 4 layer dip

We start assembling the layered dip by putting the guacamole in a dish of your choice. Smooth it over and then add a layer of your salsa on top. Grate some light cheddar cheese and then put a thin layer of greek yogurt and finally top it with another layer of grated cheese. You can repeat by adding another layer of guacamole followed by salsa, cheese, greek yogurt, etc. if you wish. I also add like to add some sliced jalapeños at the very top as a zesty garnish. Et voila, your multi-layer dip is ready for your tortilla chips.

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Top 5 Superfoods for Athletes

If you workout, are an athlete that plays sports or live an active lifestyle then you will benefits from superfoods that can enhance your athletic and gym performance. You are already have a very different mindset and set of goals compared to the majority of the population that lives an ever increasing sedentary lifestyle. The added demands of this active lifestyle also require that you  continually help the body with what it needs to perform at higher and higher levels. While supplements are very popular with the athletic, weight and endurance training crowd, they should be seen as just that – “supplements” –  defined as “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” In this case, dietary and nutritional supplements can enhance the results of proper diet/nutrition and exercise. The game changer here is that you can introduce everyday foods into your diet that do more than just provide calories – they may also provide helpful micro-nutrients that can enhance your  overall active lifestyle and performance (hence termed superfoods). Let’s start with this list of the top 5 functional superfoods for enhancing athletic performance.


Beets are loaded with many important vitamins and minerals but there are also some key micro-nutrients that bring the modest beet root and its leaves to the top of the list of superfoods for athletes. For starters, if you are buying your beets whole, use the leaves as you would kale and chard (they are bitter and work well if cooked in some good extra virgin olive oil). Then tackle the beet root itself.

Superfoods fresh beets and beet greens
Beet roots and beet greens make a killer superfood combo

Beets are loaded with many important vitamins and minerals but the two micro-nutrients that absolutely stand out and make them a super-food are the naturally occurring nitrates and betaine found in beets. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide (NO) by the body which is an important factor in regulating many critical activities. These include dilating blood vessels, helping with erectile dysfunction, lowering systolic blood pressure and increasing exercise performance – including better endurance and better muscle pumps for those training with weights. Beets are also a rich source of betaine which can help reduce inflammation and improve exercise performance.

The challenge with beets is the preparation and handling. In their raw form they are quite firm and most of all, they bleed their bright red colour. Be careful when peeling, cutting, cooking and eating them because it can get messy. You can juice your beets, grate them raw over a salad or slice and steam them. Pickled beets are also easy to find in grocery stores (though they often contain some added sugar) and bottled beet juice and beet powder are also now making the health food store rounds. If you are a gardener, beets are pretty easy to grow from seeds and will be ready in about 3 months. Eat beets regularly.

Nutrition facts for beets

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 100g
Servings Per Container

Amount Per Serving
Calories 43 Calories from Fat 1.8
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.2g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 78mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2.8g 11%
Sugars 7g
Protein 1.6g 3%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


Avocados (sometimes called alligator pears or apple of the winter) contain many nutrients that have performance and health benefits, including potassium, folic acid, vitamins B6, C, E, and K. Unlike most fruits, the avocado contains a minimal amount of carbohydrates (and those to almost all fiber) but is very high in fats. This should not scare you off as these are the much espoused “good fats”.  The combination of the high amount of fiber and monounsaturated fat can help improve cardiac markers (cholesterol levels and triglycerides) but this combination may also be playing a role in making those who eat avocados feel fuller. This increased satiety would mean that you consume fewer calories, therefore making it easier to lose weight.

Avocado super fruit
Creamy avocado super fruit

Guacamole is a great way to eat your avocados if you are making it at home, with fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice – ingredients that could be considered superfoods in their own right. A good way to cook an avocado is to cut it in half, remove the pit, season it lightly and grill it on a barbecue. I prefer to just scoop out the creamy flesh and eat them as is with a sprinkle of good sea salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. If you can’t find avocados in your grocery store you can get avocado powder (never tried it myself) and avocado oil (excellent product).  Eat avocados regularly.

Nutrition facts for avocados

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 100g
Servings Per Container

Amount Per Serving
Calories 160 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 23%
Saturated Fat 2.1g 11%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 7mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 7g 28%
Sugars .7g
Protein 2g 4%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Continue reading Top 5 Superfoods for Athletes


Thoughtful musings on exercise, health and nutrition