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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

The Magic of Fiber

FIBER-KATY-BLOG

There’s a specific key component that should be part of every meal. Lucky for us, nature has already skillfully pre-packaged it in a cornucopia of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The magic ingredient? Fiber.

What is fiber & why is it good for us?
Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that can’t be digested. (For a quick list of fiber-rich foods see “Fiber foods” below.) If we don’t eat enough fiber, toxins such as preservatives, pesticides, artificial flavors/colors, etc. become more concentrated in our bodies, which in turn can lead to all sorts of inflammatory diseases including an increase in fat storage.

Your digestive system handles all carbs in the same way- by breaking them down into single sugar molecules so they are small enough to absorb into the bloodstream. Fiber is an exception because it can’t be broken down into sugar molecules and as a result passes through the body undigested. You do need adequate fiber in your diet, and its non-digestible quality doesn’t pose a problem for your body. It’s actually beneficial due to the fact that fiber forms a tight bond with bile in our intestines, soaking up harmful toxins, cholesterol and fat on its way out. Think of it as a cleansing workout for your digestive tract since fiber cannot be absorbed by the intestinal wall.

Foods that are naturally high in fiber are precisely the foods that are high in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But there’s a bonus! Fiber-rich diets also support weight loss and decrease the accumulation of undesirable visceral fat (that spare tire around your midsection). They tend to be lower-glycemic foods too- the kind that naturally support steady energy and good weight management. Great news for your push-ups & pull-ups! When we weigh less, it’s much easier to get moving, lifting, bounding, leaping, inverting and playing when working out. Your strength will seem multiplied when you have less body weight, making the classes you attend at Studiomix even more fun.

Keeping immunity strong this winter
Dietary fiber also plays a vital role in improving the effectiveness of our digestive system, which contains more than half the body’s immune system. Fiber from your leafy greens travel through the upper digestive tract and enter the large intestine, or colon, to serve as fuel for the friendly bacteria living there. These “prebiotic” fibers help friendly bacteria, known as “probiotics” grow and triumph over bad bugs in the colon. Fiber feeds good bacteria, so a lack of fiber actually kills the good bacteria in your gut.

Given fiber’s multiple benefits, it’s clear that many of us practice misguided nutritional math- counting quantity (calories) of our food rather than quality (the nutrient density). Instead of trying to adjust calorie intake for improved health, fat loss and/or muscle gain, concentrate on adding vitamin, mineral and fiber rich foods to each meal.

The best part? You can see and feel the results from eating more fiber almost immediately, possibly even the same day! You’ll notice more sustained energy, less moodiness and feel satisfied from a balanced meal longer.

Eat your veggies
Your mom has always told you what science has known for decades: “You gotta eat your vegetables.” Fiber-rich foods like vegetables are good for us, and many experts have observed that as people in other cultures have given up their traditional diets and adopted Western eating habits (dominated by processed foods much lower in fiber and higher in sugar), they’ve become susceptible to weight gain and a host of illnesses.

In addition, a whirlwind of recent studies have shown that fiber-rich foods enhance health in our bodies by regulating blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, a multitude of cancers and gastrointestinal disorders such as reflux, duodenal ulcer, irritable bowel and diverticulitis (inflammation of abnormal pouches in the wall of the large intestine or colon), and more. The evidence to eat your veggies is pretty compelling.

Detoxing- juice or blend?
Now that you’re convinced to include more fresh, whole plants into your diet, what’s the best way to go about it? Turning them into something drinkable is a popular option with the current juicing and blending craze. Let’s break it down!

Juicing is a process of grinding or pressing fruits and vegetables to extract water and nutrients, then discarding the fiber. Without all the fiber, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food and absorb nutrients. In fact, it makes the nutrients more readily available to the body in much larger quantities than if you were to eat fruits and vegetables whole. When you remove fiber from produce, the liquid juice is absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. This is why juicing is often referred to as a nutrient express.

Juicing may be helpful if you have a sensitive digestive system or illness that inhibits your body from processing fiber. Freshly squeezed vegetable juices are the cornerstone of most cleansing and detoxification programs because they are nutrient rich and nourish and restore our bodies at a cellular level. However, if you are only juicing fruits, a rapid spike in blood sugar occurs. These unstable blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings, energy loss, memory problems and more. So be sure to include your veggies in the mix for a optimal nourishment.

Unlike juices, blending the entire fruit or vegetable- skin and all- retains all of the fiber from the foods you use. The blending process breaks the fiber apart which makes it easier to digest and also helps create a slow, even release of nutrients into the bloodstream avoiding blood sugar spikes and crashes. By keeping the fiber in blended drinks, the volume will increase, leaving us satisfied after a meal. Alternatively, when the fiber is removed from food, it’s common to quickly experience hunger again.

Simple carbs (think sugar = fruit juice) are digested very quickly which cause a surge in the hormone insulin, creating an intense but brief sugar high followed by a crash. Complex carbs (fiber = blended fruit and veggie juices) on the other hand take longer to digest and are usually packed with vitamins and minerals. Remember, when the food we eat takes longer to digest, we experience more sustained mood, energy and hormones levels.

For a delicious, blended meal high in fiber and nutrients, check out our partner, Green Surge. The Green Surge experience allows for quick and easy detoxification while enjoying the freshest greens, fruits and vegetables of the season. Green Surge conveniently delivers to Studiomix when you place your custom order.

Fiber foods
Real, whole foods are your best source for dietary fiber. Look for these foods below to get your fiber fix, and aim for 6-10 servings a day from a variety sources:
• dried beans
• lentils
• oat bran
• oatmeal
• rice bran
• barley
• peas
• most vegetables (including leafy greens, cabbage, beets, carrots, brussels sprouts,   turnips, cauliflower)
• most fruits (including citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, pears, apple pulp and apple skin)
• whole grains (including wheat, rye, rice, barley and most other grains)
• wheat bran
• seeds


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Ask a Coach Q & A: Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?

Katy-blog-in-blog

Question: Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?

Answer: By Katy Jercich, Head Health Coach

It is extremely unlikely for regular strength training to have a Hulkish effect on most people, especially women. Let’s get to the bottom of this highly misconstrued question.

Myth: Strength training makes women bulky

The ratio of muscle to fat you have is dependent on a few key factors, some you have no control over (like genetic predetermination) and some you do (like nutrition and exercise).

Women have a distinct disadvantage if the goal is to put on mass. They have about one-tenth the testosterone of men, and testosterone is key in the muscle building process. So women, even if you’re working out just as hard as your male counterpart, lifting the same amount of weight meanwhile packin’ in meals every chance you get, you still won’t see the same results with regard to muscle building. I know, I know, it’s a shame…

But, women can and should build muscles- especially since they don’t have to worry about looking bulky. Instead of seeing large, rounded muscles develop, most women will experience a sleeker, longer, flatter muscle under the skin. However this is not the case 100% of the time. As mentioned earlier, your genetics still play a significant role in how your body responds to strength training.

Myth: Strength training doesn’t burn fat

Far too many people are focused on how many calories they burn while they’re in the gym, but this is shortsighted. Instead, what if you focused on how your body expends calories outside the gym during everyday life activities? You burn calories throughout the day regardless of what you are doing- that’s the nature of metabolism. Exercise helps increase the rate at which you burn those calories. With most forms of traditional steady-state cardio, you expend calories while you’re exercising, but once you stop, you quickly go back to your normal metabolic rate.

Strength training, however, builds muscle and more muscle helps you burn more calories even when you’re kickin’ back on your couch.

Alwyn Cosgrove co-authored the book The New Rules of Lifting and is one of the most trusted authorities in fitness, strength training and athletic conditioning. Something worth taking note of, Alwyn says, “Strength training is a critical component of any program that emphasizes long-term fat loss.”

Think of it this way: Muscles are “hungry” from a metabolic perspective. The more muscle you have, the more fuel you are constantly burning. This is the advantage strength training offers if your goal is to decrease body fat.

Treadmills and ellipticals are often seen as a quick fix to rev metabolism, and they are certainly useful if your goal is to improve cardiovascular health, endurance or simply to burn some extra calories, but strength training is a powerful ally. There are many different ways to get into shape, and while steady-state cardio has its benefits, there are limitations to using it as a sole form of exercise to lose weight.

So, where do I start?

If you’re new to strength training, hiring a trainer or coach who can teach you how to squat, deadlift, overhead press, and do a chin up safely and effectively may be the first logical step. Once you have a grasp on basic proper mechanics, you’ll activate the right muscles and get much more out of your workouts. You’ll also be able to apply what you’ve learned during classes at the gym such as our awesome options like Strength + Conditioning, Build,  TRX and Cross Mix just to name a few.

If you want newer (and possibly more exciting) variations, consider Kettlebells, Bulgarian Bags, medicine ball or barbell circuits, sled pushes, or battling rope variations- the options are endless!

Strength training can help you lose body fat and is likely a quicker ticket to better fitness than just plain cardio exercises. It also won’t limit your athleticism (it will more likely improve it), and women can derive tremendous benefit from resistance training without getting bulky. However as with any program, you’ll have to put in the work. Get to the gym, lift something heavy and reap the benefits.


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Gain Muscle. The Most Efficient Way to Lose Body Fat

Gain Muscle SF

Most people don’t understand strength training; it’s hard to get a clear picture with all the media gimmicks and conflicting information out there.

Years of muscle magazines touting “10 Best Exercises for Ripped Abs/Arms/Shoulders”, or “10 Days to a Bigger Chest/Back/Bench Press” have permeated fitness culture for decades, and that’s just for the men.

“Flatten Your Tummy/Sculpt a Better Booty/Lengthen Your Legs/Slim Your Middle/blah blah blah all in 10 days/a weekend/hours/minutes!” have been the taglines for nearly every women’s magazine for quite some time now.

These catch phrases have done nothing but hold back the truth when it comes to what strength can do for your body. While these promises may be enticing, they hold little relevance, and even less factual value for the average person wanting to get muscular and/or lose body fat. (I mean, go ahead and try to write a paper using Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health as a reference and see how that goes…).

Facts show strength training will burn body fat better than cardio, and do it in less time.
The calories burned during 10 running steps is far less than the calories burned during 10 squats. If you run a mile, that’s about 2,000 steps. As your running improves, you can run for longer periods of time resulting in more steps. Welcome to sustained, steady state cardiovascular exercise. This is what traditionally pops in your head when you think of the term “cardio.” The problem is, this type of exercise burns more than just fat, it burns muscle and other tissue through a process called oxidation.  By increasing your mileage to increase the demand on your body, you increase the amount of time you spend in oxidation.

Your squat on the other hand uses completely different metabolic process, using energy stored in your muscle, liver, and blood, vice breaking them down for energy. So instead of running 2,000 steps for a mile, you could do 10 squats weighted with 100 pounds across 5 sets, resting in between. As you get stronger, you can increase the load keeping the time you spend squatting and resting the same. You do greater work, in the same amount of time.  Simple physics explains that this is more efficient (average power  = work x distance / time, yes?)

Your body will change based on the demands you place on it, hence the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand). The greater the demand, the greater the change. Due to the nature of running (short steps, small range of motion, repetitive nature), the body adapts quickly to it. When you want more of a change in your body, you need more demand, so you may run more by adding miles. Eventually, there are more miles than hours in the day, and you must reduce caloric intake if you cannot increase the number of miles you run to make a change. Or you could just move something heavy. You choose.

Muscle burns more calories per pound than fat.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it takes more energy to maintain per pound than fat does. This is due to how your body regulates blood sugar via the hormone insulin, and muscle takes more of that sugar to refuel itself. Excess blood sugar is typically stored as fat, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and the less likely excess blood sugar will be stored as fat.

The best way to gain muscle is to avoid steady state cardio.
A Norwegian study performed a 12-week trial of two groups: a strength only group, and a strength-endurance group.

The strength group performed only lower body strength exercises, but didn’t do any endurance work like running or cycling. The strength group gained just over 2lbs of muscle and increased the cross-sectional area of their upper leg musculature by 50% more than the other group. Putting on two pounds of muscle sped up their metabolism and prevented their bodies from storing extra fat.

The strength-endurance group performed the same lower body strength exercises in addition to a cycling routine. They did not gain any muscle weight. The cycling and running put the strength-endurance group into a steady state of cardio that prevented them from building any muscle. Ultimately, this group did not burn fat any faster and still stored fat at the same rate.

Bottom line: Learning how to lift heavy things, and doing it often will help achieve fat loss goals more efficiently than any treadmill can.

References:

Ronnestad, B., et al. High Volume of Endurance Training Impairs Adaptations to 12 Weeks of Strength Training in Well-Trained Endurance Athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012. 112, 1457-1466.

Cakir-Atabek, H., Demir, S., Pinarbassili, R., Bunduz, N. Effects of Different Resistance Training Intensity on Indices of Oxidative Stress. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2010. 24(9), 2491-2498.

Skoluda, N., Dettenborn, L., et al. Elevated Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Endurance Athletes.Psychoneuroendocrinology. September 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Ask a Coach Q & A: Is it possible to be too flexible?

Blog-Photo-Is-It-Possible-to-be-More-Flexible

Question: Is it possible to be too flexible?

Answer: By Katy Jercich, Head Health Coach

Maintaining flexibility is important to overall health and performance, but yes, there is a point where too much flexibility compromises joint stability opening us up for injuries.

In general, the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your joints should be both stable and flexible. When we stretch these soft tissues and the tissues effectively lengthen, it translates to flexibility. What leads to injury is when joints become so excessively flexible that they become unstable. Tall Redwood trees can survive earthquakes and high wind speeds because they’re flexible enough to move with the elements, and stable enough to move as one unit without snapping under pressure. Ideally, our bodies should operate with the same balance of structural strength and flexibility as Redwoods.

Things to watch for:

Is your range of motion excessive?
Range of motion refers to the degree a joint can move between a flexed position and an extended position. Every person’s range of motion is unique for each joint. Exercises like deep knee bends may increase your range of motion- you’ll get deeper into your squat- but an excessive level of flexibility might mean the muscles surrounding your joints need to be strengthened first to add stability.

Are your joints hypermobile?
Hypermobility is a term used to describe joints that stretch further than they should. If you can bend your thumb backwards or put your leg behind your head, chances are you have at least some hypermobile joints. While great for entertaining and party tricks, hypermobile joints need extra attention during workouts to avoid injury. The extra flexibility can almost always lead to a lack of stability. While both flexibility and mobility are associated with the range of motion around a joint and elasticity of soft tissues, understanding the difference between the two is where the importance lies. Mobility refers to the range of motion around a joint under “specific” circumstance, like a barbell squat where your joints are weight bearing and under a load. Flexibility refers to the range of motion of a joint “non-specifically” or non-weight bearing, similar to a grade school sit and reach. Mobility has an additional component of stability, unlike flexibility.  In other words, with mobility we want things to move that should, and we don’t want things to move that shouldn’t. Determining how and when to use certain exercises to develop strength for stability and also flexibility are critical to your workout regime.

Are you recruiting the right muscles?
Stability and strength create the foundation needed to safely increase flexibility. Our joints guide us into position, but our muscles hold us there. Activating the right muscles allows for proper alignment and less joint stress. For example, when maintaining a hip bridge, make sure you squeeze your glutes (butt) and your hamstrings (back of the thighs). If you feel pain in your lower back, it could mean you’re putting unneeded pressure on the joints in your spine. Focus on activating your muscles while holding position to gain stability and strength.

Next steps:
It’s possible you might be too flexible altogether or just in certain muscles. Whether we know it or not, most of us have a wealth of knowledge/intuition in how our bodies should and shouldn’t be moving. If a motion doesn’t feel right, we usually know it. If something hurts or feels uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to talk to a health coach or another healthcare professional. It’s important not to work through pain; moving well means moving safely and protecting your body.

When push comes to shove, don’t skip your stretch session just yet. Check with a coach for individual recommendations, and incorporate resistance training a few times per week for a well-rounded program. At Studiomix you can opt for classes such as Strength + Conditioning or Build accompanied by Yoga  for optimal results. It’s great to be bendy, but strength and stability come first to avoid injury.

Thanks for reading! Please send us your other pressing fitness & health questions via Facebook, Twitter or directly to coach@studiomix.com so that we can keep you motivated and always in the know.

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Chronic Pain is Telling You Something. Are You Listening?

Chronic Pain San Francisco


Bob Gazso
, Katy Jercich, and Vincent Som

Think movement, not muscle
If your shoulder hurts that doesn’t necessarily mean your shoulder is injured, or that it’s your only injury. One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing pain is finding the root cause. When a muscle aches, we need to consider more than just the muscle that hurts. Our brains and bodies focus on creating total body movements (like doing a pushup) and not on a single muscle (like your triceps). When you have pain, the cause is likely part of the greater movement system.

When working out, it’s better to go for functional movements like squats, lunges and deadlifts over simple, seated bicep curls. That’s because modern athletic training approaches fitness with balance, coordination and acceleration exercises, and leans away from simply focusing on repetitive movements for singular muscle groups. The same goes for injury treatment and prevention. Muscles work in systems. They’re all part of both the problem and the solutions.

Avoid band-aid fixes
Think of a car. If there’s a problem with the alternator that’s causing the battery to die, the best solution is probably not replacing the battery. The bad alternator will just keep killing the battery and you’ll have to keep replacing it. It’s better to fix the root cause, the alternator, than to keep band-aid treating the symptom.  Changing the battery or massaging your shoulder might help it feel better in the short-term, but it’s not fixing the problem.

Listen to your body
If you’re in pain, listen to your body. Our bodies are good at telling us if something isn’t working (and it usually hurts!) Talk to movement professionals about pain and what it could mean. Ask your trusty coach, physical therapist or body worker for a full body assessment to help figure out what’s causing your pain.

 

References:

Craig Lievenson, DC on Functional Training http://www.craigliebenson.com/functional-training/
ACE Fitness on What is Functional Fitness? http://www.acefitness.org/fitnessqanda/fitnessqanda_display.aspx?itemid=285

 


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