Should I Take Vitamin D?

In this post:

  • how to know if you should take supplemental vitamin D.
  • the “sweet spot” for vitamin D blood levels.

Author: Nick Ortego is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and assisted stretching.
Also find more on the Nick Ortego Fitness YouTube Channel


Hi Nick Ortego here today. I’m
answering the question: Should I take

vitamin D? The best way to know if you should
take vitamin D is to have your levels

tested, your blood levels tested. You can
do that through your doctor. The doctor

can order that test and you’ll get your
blood work back. You can also order it

yourself. I’m gonna put a link in the
description to a place online where you

can order that test and have the blood
drawn locally. It’s about sixty dollars

to get your vitamin D tested, or if you
want to have your doctor do it and your

insurance may cover it as part of like a
regular checkup. But anyway you want to

get your levels tested. That’s how you
know for sure should I take vitamin D.

Having inadequate levels of vitamin D
can lead to a lot of health problems.

If they’re very low it can interfere with
bone formation about a thousand

different genes in your twenty four
thousand or so genes in your human body

rely on vitamin D to activate them. So
it’s involved in a lot of different

processes. The level you want to shoot
for, the sweet spot for vitamin D levels,

is between 40 and 60 nano grams per

That’s a millionth of a gram so it’s a
very small unit. What’s been shown in

studies to take most adults up to at
least 30 nano grams per milliliter is

4,000 units a day. That may or may not be
true for you. That’s just a study with

most adults getting their levels up to
30 nanograms per milliliter with 4,000

units a day of supplementation. There are
a lot of factors that can change how you

turn sunlight into vitamin D and there
are a lot of factors in how your body

processes it, so testing is the best way
to know also if you do have adequate

levels. If you
have your vitamin D in that sweet spot

between 40 and 60 there’s no benefit to
bumping it up above 60. There’s actually

some detriment. So if you look at the
whole population the people in the 40 to

60 range of vitamin D have the lowest
all cause mortality and then those that

are far below that range have higher
mortality and those above that range the

80 to 100 or so have increased risk of
mortality, so the sweet spot seems to be

40 to 60. You can get your levels tested
with Wellness FX. I’m going to put

the link and the description of this
video I’m also gonna link to a very

simple and informative infographic from
FoundMyFitness, Rhonda Patrick. There’s

this great blog called FoundMyFitness. It
has a lot more info on the specifics of

how vitamin D does all these things in
your body, but the easiest ways to know

is just get tested. Otherwise you’re just
making a guesswork.

You got any benefit from this video? Then
leave me a comment below and if you’d like

to get more content not available on the
blog or the regular YouTube channel, then
click the link connected to this video.
You’ll have a chance to sign up for the
Run Better Now VIP Club. Thank You.

Run Better Now VLOG Episode 4

In this post:

Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretchIn this post:

Also find more on the Nick Ortego Fitness YouTube Channel

For a free coaching session, submit your info in the form below:

Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease, and Stroke; Reduce Inflammation; Prevent Infections; Improve Memory; Fight Diabetes; and Perform Better Physically with this 2-Minute Superfood Recipe

1 cup of Blueberries

1 cup of Water

4 tablespoons of chia seeds

1 32 oz. mason jar

Combine the ingredients in the jar. Cover the jar and shake vigorously. Let the jar sit for a few minutes until the seeds absorb the liquid.

It’s easy.


11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Surprising Benefits of Blueberries

Author: Nick Ortego is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and assisted stretching.

Top 15 Ways to Beat Lower Back Pain

lbp1Got lower back pain? You’re not alone. You are one of the eighty percent of adults who will suffer lower back pain at some point.  But you can do something about it.

The following is not a substitute for medical advice. It is meant for educational purposes only. Always consult your medical professional before changing your exercise and physical activity program.

There are two general types of lower back pain—acute and chronic. Acute lower back pain is when the onset of pain is sudden and immediate. This is what happens when you “tweak” your back. At this point, proper first aid should be utilized immediately.

1. What to do when you injure your back.

Kelly Starrett of has a great video on what to do when you “tweak” your lower back.

After about 48 hours, the acute phase is over. Activity can then be resumed with medical clearance.

However, lower back pain has a tendency to become a chronic problem. Once you have an injury or painful episode, it is very likely to recur. But you can take action to prevent this.

2. Remain as active as possible, avoiding exercises that cause immediate pain.

Physicians used to recommend bed rest for those suffering with lower back pain. That treatment has fallen out of favor, however, because of poor patient outcomes. Research has shown that bed rest actually stresses the spine.

Most experts on spine health agree that moving around is really good and sitting still too long is really bad. In fact, a job that requires sitting for long periods of time is considered a factor that increases the risk of developing lower back pain. Get as much pain-free movement as you can to beat lower back pain.

Source: Low Back Disorders, Second Edition

3. Keep your spine in neutral postition when lifting weights.

Neutral spine is the spinal position where all your natural curves are maintained. Your spine (pictured below) has four curves: sacral, lumbar, thoracic and cervical.

The natural curve in the lower back is described as lumbar lordosis. Lordosis means concave when viewed from the rear. Maintaining this lumbar lordosis is important when you’re lifting weights or other heavy objects.


The joint structures of your spine can more safely accommodate forces when your spine is in neutral position. Bending and twisting stresses your spine. Lifting a heavy weight while bending and twisting too far from neutral is a recipe for injury. Keep your spine in neutral position when lifting weights. (See illustration below)
Source: Low Back Disorders, Second Edition, by Stuart McGill

deadlift kyphotic spine

Rounded Spine

deadlift neutral spine

Neutral Lumbar Spine

You can move your spine out of neutral position for many everyday activities like tying shoes. However, neutral spine is the safest position when you lift something heavy. Sometimes keeping your spine in neutral posture is impossible because of weakness in the muscles of the core or tightness in the muscles of the limbs.

For example, when performing the Romanian deadlift (shown above), weak spinal erectors, tight hamstrings, or a combination of both will cause a loss of the neutral spinal position.

The exerciser is demonstrating the Romanian deadlift with neutral spine (top) and without neutral spine (bottom). He is clearly able to perform the exercise properly. However, not everyone can do this. Sometimes flexibility restrictions, which prohibit the desired range of motion, create poor lifting technique.

In the example with the Romanian deadlift above, tight hamstrings limit the amount of forward bending at the hip joints. The body must then rely on forward bending of the spine to reach the weights. This takes the spine out of neutral position and stresses the joint structures. Another common movement flaw is the hyperextending your spine in the overhead press (shown below).

OH Press hyperextended Spine

spine hyperextended

OH press neutral spine

spine neutral

Sometimes this technique deviation is merely caused by an attempt to gain leverage and use more weight. You can correct it by lightening the load to one that can be handled in proper form. Sometimes though, lack of mobility in the thoracic spine, pectoral muscles (pectoralis major and minor), and lat muscles (latissimus dorsi) keep you from being able to perform any overhead movement properly.

 When this happens, undue stress is placed on the lumbar spine, which must hyperextend to compensate for the lack of mobility in other areas. When you have any of these muscle imbalances, you need corrective exercise.

4. Use corrective exercises to fix imbalances. 

A skilled professional can assess imbalances by observing your movements. Corrective exercise expert Gray Cook has developed a system of assessing and analyzing these imbalances by observing your movements. It is called the Functional Movement Screen. This website has a feature you can use to search for a professional in your area certified in the Functional Movement Screen.

 Another great resource for using corrective exercise to beat lower back pain is the book by Anthony Cary (, The Pain-Free Program: A Proven Method to Relieve Back, Neck, Shoulder, and Joint Pain.

The corrective exercise approach for preventing recurrence of lower back pain typically includes stretching tight areas such as the hips and thoracic spine, along with strengthening and activating weak areas such as the core.

5. Improve hip mobility and flexibility.

Mobility and flexibility training are crucial for lower back health. The first inclination after suffering a lower back injury or “pulling something” for most people is to try to stretch the back muscles. This is not advisable.

Usually, lack of mobility in the areas of the body adjacent to the lumbar spine is what causes undue stress on the lower back. Working on the mobility of the hips is the way to spare the lower back.

7. Work the core—PROPERLY!

Adding a few crunches at the end of your exercise session isn’t enough. Crunches are the most commonly performed abdominal exercise, but they are probably the least useful in promoting lower back health.

In fact, for many people who have bad posture, crunches can exacerbate the accompanying muscle imbalances. So which core exercises should be emphasized in order to prevent lower back pain or injury?

According to Stuart McGill, spinal biomechanics expert, the muscles of the abdomen and lower back protect the spine by stopping movement rather than causing the spine to move. The following video is what he recommends:

Another core exercise strategy from the book Therapeutic Exercise for Lumbopelvic Stabilization is to activate the transverse abdominis, or TVA. The TVA is a muscle that lies underneath all the other abdominal muscles.

The TVA connects to the fascia, or connective tissue, which encases all the front abdominal muscle and also the fascia which encases all the lower back muscles. It works with all of the other abdominal and lower back muscles to hold the torso and spine in stability when the limbs are used for movement.

Normally, the transverse abdominis will contract milliseconds before the contraction of the main working muscle in any limb movement. However, lower back pain seems to change that firing pattern.

In people who have had lower back pain, it seems that the TVA is late in contracting and/or underactive. This is believed to lead to perpetuation and recurrence of the lower back pain. (The reasons for this phenomenon are beyond the scope of this article but are well explored by Richardson and Hodges in Therapeutic Exercise for Lumbopelvic Stabilization .)

Practicing TVA contraction can improve this deficit and improve outcomes for people with lower back pain or a history of it.

The TVA can be contracted by actively pulling the abdominal wall inward. Pull your bellybutton in toward your spine. Hold it, but don’t hold your breath.

Continue to breathe normally while drawing the lower abdominal wall inward. Contracting the pelvic floor muscle can help facilitate a good contraction of the TVA. To contract the pelvic floor, pretend that you are stopping the flow of urine.

Do this exercise for 30-60 seconds at a time at least once a day. Performing this exercise can help improve the motor control deficit in the deeper abdominal muscles that is associated with lower back pain.

8. Brace the abdominal muscles while lifting.

Because of the research involving the link between TVA contraction and lower back health, drawing in the abdomen during exercise has become a common recommendation and practice.

However, research by Stuart McGill Ph.D., author of Low Back Disorders and Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance has shown that doing the abdominal pull-in maneuver alone actually has the opposite of the intended effect. It destabilizes the spine.

Based on his research, Dr. McGill recommends activating the TVA by pulling in, in addition to activating all the other muscles of the lower back and abdomen. With this abdominal bracing technique, there is no movement of the abdominal wall.

A good way to do this to pretend someone is about to punch you in the stomach. This will achieve the desired abdominal bracing.

9. Get some aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise is very useful in reducing the incidence of lower back injury and in treating lower back patients.  Emphasize lower impact forms of activity such as walking. The ACSM recommends 3-5 sessions per week with duration of 20-60 minutes.
Source: Low Back Disorders

10.Utilize one-leg variations when working legs.

Squats and deadlifts are great exercises for strengthening your entire body, especially your legs. But as you get stronger and stronger, the load required to really work the legs becomes quite a compressive force on the spine.

So how can you continue to strengthen the legs while reducing the compression on the spine? One-leg variations of traditional exercises are the answer. They require only the weight of your body for starters and very little external weight as you progress.

11. Don’t use a lifting belt.

If you are a competitive power lifter and using a belt helps you achieve your goal of maximizing the amount of weight you can lift, then by all means use the belt. Everyone else should not. Even competitive power lifters will avoid belts when performing their lighter lifts. According to Paul Chek, founder of the Chek Institute, relying on a belt to support your mid-section during exercise leaves the muscle of the core weak and untrained.  Aside from that, there is not much evidence that back belts decrease the risk of injury.

Source: How to be Back Strong and Beltless, by Paul Chek

12. Avoid sitting for long periods

Sitting causes adaptations in the body that leave you at risk for developing and maintaining low back pain. Here is Kelley Starrett of Mobility Wod explaining why:

13. Eat some anti-inflammatories.

If you are in the habit of reaching for anti-inflammatory medications, then rethink your approach. What you eat has a huge impact on inflammation in the body. The modern western or Standard American Diet promotes inflammation. A style of eating that more closely resembles the “paleo” diet is better for reducing inflammation.  This includes more vegetables and eliminating processed carbohydrates such as most grain products. In addition, add wild and pasture-raised animal protein sources and eliminate grain-fed, factory farmed meat. For more info on this style of eating check out the following website:

Source: Low Carb Paleo Diet Reduces Inflammation

Another great source of information on anti-inflammatory eating is Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive.

Source: Bulletproof Diet

14. If you smoke, quit.lbp2

Smoking cigarettes has been linked to the injury mechanism of chronic low back pain. Researchers believe this is linked to the deterioration of vascular and circulatory function in smokers. If your want help beating this addiction check out Nicotine Anonymous.

Source: Does Smoking Cause Low Back Pain?

15. Use stress management techniques.

Stress is a huge factor in lower back pain that is often overlooked. You can choose any method of stress management you like. Some of the most powerful techniques are the breathing exercises of yoga, or pranayama. Try this method:

  1. Inhale for a silent 4 count.
  2. Gently hold your breath for a silent count of 7. Be sure to gently stop your breath and avoid strain. Feel free to shorten this part if holding until a 7 count creates strain.
  3. Exhale for a count of 8.
  4. Repeat 4 to 8 times.

Source: Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing, by Andrew Weill MD

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Author: Nick Ortego is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and assisted stretching.

Does it really cost more to eat healthier?

“It costs too much.” This is among the most common objections to eating healthy.  According to a poll published in the June 2012 issue of Shop Smart,  (from the publisher of Consumer Reports), 57% of respondents said their main reason for not eating healthier was cost.  But does it really cost that much to eat healthy? In most product categories, higher quality items are more expensive. Food is no exception.  And while many people embrace this concept when it comes to buying other merchandise, they hesitate to spend more on quality food.  Also, because of the influence of massive marketing campaigns of the fast food industry, people are willing to buy overpriced garbage for the sake of convenience.

One day I decided to do a little experiment to compare a fast food “value meal” to something I could quickly get at the local produce market. Here is what I found.
I bought the fruit on the right at Southside Produce in Baton Rouge(!/pages/Southside-Produce-Co-Inc/100516726675495). The cost was $4.78. This was around noon and there was no line at checkout time. Then I went to a McDonald’s in Baton Rouge and bought the Big Mac meal on the left. The cost was $6.42. There was a long line of cars at the McDonald’s drive-thru. For those concerned about protein, I called Whole Foods Market,, and learned that I could purchase 12 ounces of grass fed ground beef for the price of the Big Mac meal, which contains about 2 or 3 ounces of beef of questionable quality.

Then I had an idea to try to put meal together using the fruit. I looked for a quick convenient source of protein. I found some raw almonds from Lucy’s Health Foods, I measured out two servings of the almonds and added them to a few of the pieces of fruit and this is what I put together.

I calculated the cost of the above meal to be $2.98. You can literally eat two of the above meals for the price of one of these below.

The truth is that each person’s spending reflects his/her values. Some women, who spend money freely on salon visits, and men, who spend freely on their vehicles, tell me that it’s too expensive to eat healthy. To that, I say…NONSENSE!

Author: Nick Ortego is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and assisted stretching.


Want a free coaching session? Fill out the form below.

Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.