Category Archives: Uncategorized

Exercise Stress

June11_Overtrain1.jpg

Exercise is a stressor. It’s usually a good one, but a stressor nonetheless.

If you exercise intensely and/or often, you add stress to a body that may already be stressed from other things in life like work, relationships, travel, late nights, etc.  This isn’t a bad thing. Exercise can indeed help relieve stress.  But in terms of a physical demand, we still need to help our bodies recover from all the stress we experience.

How well you’ll recover (and how much extra recovery you might need) depends on your allostatic load — i.e. how much total stress you’re under at any given moment.  In other words, those days when you were late for work and your boss yelled at you and you spilled ketchup on your favorite shirt and you were up all night caring for a sick child — and then you went to the gym and tried to hit a PR?  It’ll take longer for you to recover from that workout than it would have if you’d done it on a day you slept well, woke up to sunshine, and had a terrific breakfast.

With the right amount of exercise, at the right intensity, and the right time, we get healthier and stronger.  With too much exercise, at too high of intensity, and too often, we break down.

Mission Control: Our bodies

Overtraining isn’t a failure of willpower.  Our bodies have complex feedback loops and elegant shutdown systems that actively prevent us from over-reaching or pushing ourselves too hard.

Two systems are at play:

  • Our central nervous system (CNS) acts like a car engine regulator. If the engine on a car revs too high for too long, it shuts down. Similarly, if we exercise too much, our brain tries to protect our muscles by reducing the rate of nerve impulses so we can’t (or don’t want to) move as much. And we certainly can’t work as hard.
  • Local fatigue, the result of energy system depletion and/or metabolic byproduct accumulation, makes your muscles feel really tired, lethargic, and weak. Using our car analogy, this is sort of like running out of gas.

skeletal-muscle-fatigue-and-cellular-mechanisms-3-638.jpg

Training too frequently and intensely — again, without prioritizing recovery — means that stress never subsides.

We never get a chance to put gas in the tank or change the oil. We just drive and drive and drive, mashing the pedals harder and harder.

If we “lift the hood” we might see:

  • Poor lubrication: Our connective tissues are creaky and frayed
  • Radiator overheating: More inflammation
  • Battery drained: Feel-good brain chemicals and anabolic (building-up) hormones have gone down
  • Rust: Catabolic (breaking-down) hormones such as cortisol have gone up

As a result, you might experience:

  • Blood sugar ups and downs
  • Depression, anxiety, and/or racing thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping or early wakeups
  • Food cravings, maybe even trouble controlling your eating
  • Lower metabolism due to decreased thyroid hormone output

You don’t get to decide if you need recovery or not.  Your body will decide for you.  If you don’t build recovery into your plan, your body will eventually force it.  The more extreme your overtraining, the more you’ll “pay” via illness, injury, or exhaustion. The more severe the payback, the more “time off” you’ll need from exercise.

Exercise should make us feel, look, perform, and live better… not crush us.  Movement should help us function freely… not incapacitate us.  What if you could leave the gym feeling energized not exhausted?  What if, instead of doing more, you could do better?

Recovery: Overtraining antidote

“Overtraining” isn’t exactly the problem.  The problem is more like “under-recovering”.  Your body can actually handle a tremendous amount of work… if you recover properly and fully from that work.

Your stress-recovery pattern should look like rolling hills: For every up (training or life stress) there’s a down (recovery).  For every intense workout, there’s an equally intense focus on activities that help your body repair and rebuild.  This doesn’t mean you need to retreat to your dark and quiet blanket fort and get massages every day… although that does sound awesome.

hobbies-leisure-national_public_radio-radio_programs-relaxed-public_radio-radio_shows-jsh121116_low.jpg

Here are a few steps you can take to start feeling better.

  1. Do a little self-assessment.

For some of us, skipping a workout is no biggie.  For others, taking a day off requires effort because doing less makes them feel uneasy.  If you’re beating yourself up and not getting anywhere, maybe it’s time to take a different approach.

  1. Trust your body — and listen to it.

Do a mind-body scan: Lie quietly for a few minutes and bring your focus slowly from your feet to your head. What do you feel?  Practice becoming more aware of your body cues.  What does your body feel like when it’s well-rested? How do you know when it needs a break?  If you’re feeling aches, run-down and blah, anxious, or fatigued or annoyingly sleepless…it might be a sign you need some time off.

  1. Make time for recovery.

Recovery won’t happen by accident. Plan it, prepare for it and hunt it down.  Whatever you do, remember that your recovery — what you do between workouts — is just as important as training.

Some ideas:

  • Go for a walk, preferably in a natural, outdoor setting – put away your phone and observe what’s around you
  • Meditate – it’s easier than you might think
  • Do yoga. (Remember: it doesn’t have to be ‘hot yoga’ or ‘power yoga’ to count)
  • Go for a swim
  • Get a massage

stress-management.jpg

  1. Achieve the balance.

There’s time for tough workouts and time for taking it easy. There’s time for long runs, and there’s time for throwing a frisbee around.  Find some new ways to get active.  Incorporate some silly, goofy play time into your routine and see how it feels.

  1. Have fun.

Here are some ideas for good old-fashioned fun:

  • Play a sport you love. Or discover a new one.
  • Actively play with your kids. Run around with them on the playground – swing from the monkey bars, climb trees, chase a frisbee, etc.
  • Dance. Have a night out with friends, or just goof off with the music cranked up in your living room.
  • Pay your pet some extra attention. Give your dog an extra run for his money at the dog park.
  • Go for a hike or take a walk in the city. Explore a new neighborhood.

Getting out of the gym and into your life is the best way to experience the benefits of exercise.  As my dad would say “Play hard, have fun!”

Advice from a Dietitian. Part 4 of 4: Consistency and Avoid Comparisons

In the last 3 posts, we have discussed some things that can help lead you to a healthier lifestyle. Today we will be finishing up with the final post of the series focusing on 2 main points:

Consistency is key

Healthy lifestyles do not just happen overnight, it takes practice and dedication to really make a change. I have often seen people with a “go big or go home attitude”, where if they “slipped up” or “cheated” once, then they decided they might as well give up because they already “went off track”. Small changes make BIG differences, and taking things one step at a time will make your life significantly easier. Recent research on formation and breaking of habits examined whether a habit is better formed when seeking a reward, or when attempting to avoid punishment. Upon completion of numerous experiments, it was found that habits were faster and more strongly formed when individuals sought pleasure from the habit rather than punishment. This indicates that forming a habit as a means to better yourself is stronger than forming a habit by trying to prevent something bad from happening to you. Do not try to restrict yourself so much to the point that you begin to binge. If you crave your guilty pleasure once in awhile, then allow yourself a small portion of it to satisfy your craving. Too often people try to squash the craving by over eating tons of other foods without getting the feeling they are looking for. Once you satisfy your craving, continue to challenge yourself to make healthier choices the rest of that day. Making the choice to follow your exercise program and choose quality foods will add up over time. You will not see a change instantly, but do not let that discourage you. Trust the process, and before you know it, you will start noticing your energy levels rising and your overall feeling of health and happiness improving.

preview

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s

This is probably the most important piece of advice that I want you to take from today. We as individuals are all so very unique, that’s what keeps life interesting. That also is what makes our journey to healthier lifestyles vary so much from the people around us. So what if Johnny and Janie are adding on more muscle and improving their lifts while you struggle to put up your numbers? Cheer for the successes of those around you because they are trying just as hard as you are. Your time will come, so enjoy getting to know your body and experiencing all that you are truly capable of. Have fun and appreciate your journey to the healthiest version of yourself. A year from now you will be able to look back and think “Man I am really happy I started when I did. I can’t believe I am actually capable of so much more than I ever imagined”.

Take this advice and use it to shape your own goals. Write them down, share them with your coach, and keep track of your progress. Slowly and surely you will begin to realize that you didn’t need a magic wand to make your dreams come true, even though it would be pretty cool to fly a broomstick. =)  

 

meagan-oconnor-db-14-web-1

About the author:
Meagan began training at SAA a few years ago looking to learn the Olympic lifts. She started with a blank slate and learned to trust the process as our coaches worked on her technique and strength. As a Registered Dietitian, she has been able to fuel herself for performance as we programmed for her progression as a weightlifter. Meagan works as a Sport Nutrition Consultant for Renaissance Periodization and spent the last baseball season working for the World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs, as the clubhouse dietitian for their Triple A Minor league affiliate, the Iowa Cubs.  Currently, Meagan works for Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is the Sports Dietitian for the Chicago White Sox.

Reference:

KuhbandnerC, Haager J. Overcoming approach and withdrawal habits: approaching former enemies is easier than withdrawing from former friends. J Exper Psych. 2016;145(11):1438-1447.

 

Advice from a Dietitian. Part 3 of 4: Mindful Eating

So now that we have talked about why carbohydrate ingestion and pushing fluids daily is important, we will switch gears a bit for part 3 of our 4-post series:

Mindful Eating

When we were infants, we cried when we were hungry and stopped eating when we were satisfied. Unfortunately, as we grow up in this busy world, we somehow lose track of how to stay in tune with our body’s hunger cues. Most people seem to eat out of habit or even boredom, and often times eat while distracted and multitasking.  So what is the big issue with eating during other tasks? Digestion involves the gut and nervous system sending a series of hormonal signals, and typically takes about 20 minutes to register feelings of satisfaction. If we are distracted while eating, we might stuff our faces so quickly that we do not sense a feeling of satiety until long after we have already overeaten.  Multiply this by 3 times daily, and we have begun to add tons of excess calories.

man_tv_eating.jpg

So then what is “mindful eating”? Well first, mindfulness is being fully present from one moment to the next, keeping awareness of your surroundings, your emotions, and your physical conditions. Over the last several years, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has incorporated mindfulness in the treatment of several diseases, and has found promising results with management of stress, depression, chronic pain, physical function, and overall quality of life. Mindful eating applies mindfulness techniques to your relationship with food: food choice, quantity, the manner in which it is consumed, and paying attention to both internal and external cues that may influence our desire to eat.

Mindful eating has also been found as a useful alternative approach to extreme dieting and restrictive eating by teaching us how to rebuild a healthy and positive relationship with food. Chronic dieters typically are guided by concerns with weight control when it comes to food intake, rather than the flavor of food. The sensory stimulation that comes with mindful eating, by using our senses when eating both pleasing and nourishing foods, helps us to recognize cues of hunger and satiety. Following this technique has been found to increase overall sense of well being, lower BMI, decrease concerns with ideal body type, and can lower the likelihood of eating disorders.

mindful-eating.jpg

Some simple ways we can start to get back in tune with our body via mindful eating are: turn off all other distractions such as television or social media, set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes to enjoy your meal, chew thoroughly and really try to recognize the flavors and textures of your food, put your fork down in between bites or eat with your non-dominant hand, and pay attention to how you feel with each bite. Occasionally you can stop to think, “Am I really still hungry, or am I just eating because the food is in front of me?” Try making at least one of your meals per day a mindful eating experience and watch how it changes your relationship with food.

meagan-oconnor-db-14-web-1

About the author:
Meagan began training at SAA a few years ago looking to learn the Olympic lifts. She started with a blank slate and learned to trust the process as our coaches worked on her technique and strength. As a Registered Dietitian, she has been able to fuel herself for performance as we programmed for her progression as a weightlifter. Meagan works as a Sport Nutrition Consultant for Renaissance Periodization and spent the last baseball season working for the World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs, as the clubhouse dietitian for their Triple A Minor league affiliate, the Iowa Cubs.  Currently, Meagan works for Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is the Sports Dietitian for the Chicago White Sox.

References:

Gropper S, Smith J. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 6th ed. Belmont (CA); 2012

Mathiu J. What should you know about mindful eating and intuitive eating? JADA. 2009;109(12):1982.

Fung T, Long M, Hung P, Cheung L. An Expanded Model for Mindful Eating for Health Promotion and Sustainability: Issues and Challenges for Dietetics Practice. JAND. 2016;116(7):1081-1086.

Gravel K,Deslauriers A, Watiez M, Dumont M, Buochard A, Provencher V. Sensory-based nutrition intervention pilot for women. JAND. 2013;114(1):99-106.

Advice from a Dietitian. Part 2 of 4: Don’t Stay Thirsty My Friends

In the last post we began looking at tips for a healthier lifestyle by discussing the benefits of carbohydrates. Today we will follow-up with part 2 of the 4-post series:

Don’t stay thirsty my friends

My dad has always called water “the elixir of life”, and with good reason: about 2/3 of our body is made up of it. Proper hydration is important for many bodily functions: temperature regulation (sweating), joint lubrication, forming saliva to begin food digestion, brain and spinal cord shock absorption, and flushing toxins out of our bodies via urine/feces, just to name a few. Due to the uniqueness of water and all its daily uses, no other nutrient is as essential as water is for our bodies.

Water-and-the-human-body.jpg

During physical activity, it is very important to stay adequately hydrated for temperature regulation and reducing the risk of heat illness or injury. For instance, water can prevent weightlifters’ muscles from overheating and being destroyed during exercise by allowing the heat produced by these muscles to be quickly transferred away from the active muscles and distributed throughout the body with the help of blood circulation. In addition to heat regulation, proper hydration is also important for delaying fatigue, improving mental acuity, and increasing your ability to recover quickly from training. It is very important to drink fluids throughout the day and to begin exercise well hydrated. Chances are, if you are feeling thirsty then you are already slightly dehydrated. Some other signs of dehydration to watch for are: headaches, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, general feelings of fatigue and increased heart rate.

For short-duration, low to moderate-intensity exercise lasting less than 1 hour, water is a great choice to drink before, during and after training. When you start getting into moderate to high-intensity training lasting more than 1 hour, sports drinks will be a good option to replenish carbohydrates lost in the muscles and electrolytes lost via sweat. A good rule of thumb is to drink consistently throughout the day, with at least 3 cups (24 ounces) of water within the 4 hours before training, a few large gulps of either water or a sports drink every 15-20 minutes during training, and then a few cups post exercise to replenish any fluids lost during training. If you have issues with cramping, try to replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt, such as soup. You can also replace potassium losses by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The test to make sure you are adequately hydrated is to monitor your urine color to check that it is clear to pale yellow (lemonade color). Any darker shows that you likely need to up your drinking game and pour some drank in your cup.

Hydration_FINAL_small.jpg

The human body relies on an adequate volume of water for many of its processes; so don’t let a silly thing like dehydration bring you down. Practice drinking more water daily, and stay tuned for our next topic: mindful eating.

meagan-oconnor-db-14-web-1

About the author:
Meagan began training at SAA a few years ago looking to learn the Olympic lifts. She started with a blank slate and learned to trust the process as our coaches worked on her technique and strength. As a Registered Dietitian, she has been able to fuel herself for performance as we programmed for her progression as a weightlifter. Meagan works as a Sport Nutrition Consultant for Renaissance Periodization and spent the last baseball season working for the World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs, as the clubhouse dietitian for their Triple A Minor league affiliate, the Iowa Cubs.  Currently, Meagan works for Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is the Sports Dietitian for the Chicago White Sox.

References:

Rosenbloom C, Coleman E, SCAN DPG. Sports nutrition a practice manual for professionals. 5th ed. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2012.

Murray R. Hydration and physical performance. J Am Clin Nutr: 2007;26(suppl):542S-548.

American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39:377-390.

Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition DPG. Exercise hydration nutrition facts sheet. 2009, issue 5.

Advice from a Dietitian. Part 1 of 4: The Truth About Carbohydrates

Healthy-nutritional-foods2.jpg

“Oh you’re a dietitian? I need you to make me healthier, what’s the magic spell?” This is the infamous question that I hear time and time again. Is there some sort of magic that all these Insta-famous people are using to make them so much healthier than the rest of us? As much as I wish I could tell you about my years as a young Gryffindor, I have to tell you that there really is no quick fix to a healthier you. However, I can offer some advice that can help lead you to a healthier lifestyle. See below for the first of a 4-post series:

Carbs are not the devil

Have you ever felt really crappy during a workout, and you just couldn’t understand why since you were trying to eat healthy by totally avoiding carbs and focusing on only protein and veggies? Well, I am here to tell you that our bodies actually NEED carbohydrates, and we use it as our main source of fuel.  Research has shown that the energy demands of exercise determine that carbohydrate is the predominant fuel for training. Carbohydrates in conjunction with protein help our central nervous system to function properly, while also feeding brain activity and priming our muscles for optimal usage. Two sources of carbohydrate in the body (muscle glycogen and blood glucose) provide about half of the energy needed for moderate-intensity exercise, and about 2/3 of the energy needed for high-intensity training. A third source of carbohydrate in the body (liver glycogen) maintains blood glucose levels both at rest and during exercise. Since the body’s carbohydrate stores are limited and carbohydrate influences performance, it is important to enhance the availability of this macronutrient in your body before, during, and after exercise.  

lance

Daily carbohydrate recommendations for athletes range from 3-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. Light training programs typically require 3-5g/kg/day, this would be for low-intensity exercise or skills-based training. Moderate training programs lasting for about 1 hour a day should consume 5-7g/kg/day. Endurance athletes (training several hours daily) should then aim for 8-12g/kg/day. These are general recommendations that should be adjusted for each individual and their specific goals and training needs. Please see a registered dietitian if you are interested in assessing what is the best intake for yourself.

Now when we talk about the benefits of carbs, this does not mean I am recommending you run out and scarf down an entire box of Dunkin Donuts. Some carb sources are better options than others, there are 2 different classifications: complex and simple carbs. The simple sugars spike your blood glucose levels for a quick burst of energy (which is great during a tough workout), but then burn off quickly, which means you need to consume more to keep up. More complex sources that are higher in fiber, such as fruit or whole grains, slow the release of these sugars into the blood stream for a more steady energy source.

Bottom line? Don’t fear any food group and focus on building a winning plate: veggies, quality carbohydrate, lean protein, and a healthy fat. Please stay tuned for the next post, which will discuss the benefits of staying hydrated.

Meagan-OConnor-DB-14-web-1.jpg

About the author:
Meagan began training at SAA a few years ago looking to learn the Olympic lifts. She started with a blank slate and learned to trust the process as our coaches worked on her technique and strength. As a Registered Dietitian, she has been able to fuel herself for performance as we programmed for her progression as a weightlifter. Meagan works as a Sport Nutrition Consultant for Renaissance Periodization and spent the last baseball season working for the World Series Champions, Chicago Cubs, as the clubhouse dietitian for their Triple A Minor league affiliate, the Iowa Cubs.  Currently, Meagan works for Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is the Sports Dietitian for the Chicago White Sox.

References:

Rosenbloom C, Coleman E, SCAN DPG. Sports nutrition a practice manual for professionals. 5th ed. Chicago,IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2012.

Coyle EF. Substrate utilization during exercise in active people. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995; 61(4 supple):S968-S979.

Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SH, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(suppl 1):S17-S27.

Rodrigues N, DeMarco N, Langeley S. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009:109:509-527.

Atkinson F, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller J. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:2281-2283.

%d bloggers like this: