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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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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Ask a Coach Q & A: Why is it that I feel good after exercise?

Exercise SF

 

Question: Why is it that I feel good after exercise?

 Answer: By Katy Jercich, Head Health Coach

Exercise is actually a stressor to your body; the moment you begin a workout, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. Blood pressure and oxygen consumption increases causing an Adrenaline fight or flight response.

Your body reacts by releasing a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element for your brain and nervous system and acts as a reset switch. You know that feeling of clarity after exercising? It’s BDNF at work.

Meanwhile, another chemical to fight stress is also released in your brain known as endorphins. “These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria” says Dr. Mark McGovern, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.

Endorphins act as both a painkiller and as the pay-off for your body’s reward system. When you smash your finger in a car door or eat a habanero pepper, you may get a big dose of endorphins to ease the pain. You may also get an endorphin blast from writing with a certain color pen, eating a delicious meal or being exposed to ultraviolet light.

Everyone has different amounts of endorphins, and what may trigger an endorphin rush for one person could very well be nothing at all for someone else. The pay-off in the form of your body tapping into its own stash of feel-good-chemicals (aka- opiates) is to convince you to do it again sometime soon!

Exercise and the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest. “The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.” (McGovern)

Basically your body needs movement, and that’s what it’s telling you through the endorphin release after exercise. At Studiomix we’re addicted to feeling and moving well and want you to jump on the bandwagon. Send us your pressing fitness & health questions via Facebook, Twitter or directly to coach@studiomix.com so that we can keep you motivated and in the know.


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Killing Us Softly: Soda & The Body

Healthy Living San Francisco

On the hottest days of an early October Indian Summer it’s sweaty, sticky and just plain yucky. People across the nation are cooling off in various ways, but for many of us it’s not reasonable to dive headfirst into a glacial lake or chill out in a walk-in freezer midday. In urban areas what most of us do is head for a tasty, iced beverage to gulp down. Ahh, instant refreshment!

Before reaching for that favorite default soda of yours, let’s dig into why soda is nothing more than a bubbly, fizzy demon intent on wreaking havoc on your health. As refreshing as it is in the moment, it does not come without consequences.

With the understanding that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is warfare to our health, let’s move on to less divulged dangers. Besides, several of the negative health aspects of soda don’t have anything to do with the HFCS it contains. Commercial sodas are pumped with ingredients that make human body systems struggle and eventually fail. It’s scary stuff.

Acid trip: You know that slightly citrusy taste you love so much in some sodas? Thank citric acid. It can ruin your tooth enamel and lead to decay.

Buzzin’: Within 40 minutes caffeine absorbs into the body causing dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure. Caffeine also increases the incidence of ulcers in some people- it ups the production of stomach acid.

Chemical snowflakes: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used to replace the highly publicized “disastrous” HFCS found in regular soda, but is totally bad for you in its own way. Years of research links aspartame to cancer, yet some parties remain unconvinced. In 1995, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a list of aspartame side effects to the FDA, among which included headaches, seizures, neurological problems, abdominal pain, and nausea. After ingestion, aspartame breaks down into a variety of loose cannon chemicals including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, capable of causing abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and damage organs and the central nervous system.

Embellished appearance: According to the Journal of American Medical Association, there’s some evidence that caramel coloring could increase insulin resistance, increasing the risk for developing diabetes.

Fresh!: Potassium Benzoate is a preservative added to keep diet soda fresh. Coincidentally, it also gives fireworks that unmistakable whistle.

Tangy taste: Phosphoric acid removes rust on surfaces. Does that seriously sound like something you want to be putting in your body? Besides that, it has been linked to mineral depletion compromising bone density, and increases the likelihood of kidney stones. Phosphoric acid binds with zinc, calcium, and magnesium in your colon. These minerals are originally headed for your bones, but the caffeine in soda makes you pee them all out before these minerals can reach their destination.

The bubbly: Carbonated water can potentially irritate your digestive system triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Those ingredients are bad enough by themselves, but major beverage corporations have rolled them all together into a poisonous cocktail- available to you at nearly every corner in the good ol’ US of A.

So what exactly happens once you pop the top and throw back a swig? Let’s explore how a bottled liquid soda becomes a part of your body.

  • 10 minutes: 100% of your recommended daily sugar intake (10 teaspoons) slam your system, but instead of immediately purging your stomach contents from this ludicrous sugar bomb, you’re able to keep it down because it’s neutralized by phosphoric acid.
  • 20 minutes: Steeply spiking blood sugar causes an insulin eruption. Your liver responds by rapidly turning any available sugar into fat. (At this particular moment there is NO sugar shortage.)
  • 40 minutes: Mission caffeine absorption= complete! Responding to dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream rendering drowsiness a very temporary impossibility.
  • 45 minutes: Dopamine production increases, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. Physically the same as heroin- who knew? Oh, wait, “Corporation Soda” did.
  • 60+ minutes: Binding time! Calcium, magnesium, and zinc attach to phosphoric acid in the colon, again boosting metabolism. Immense doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners compound excretion of calcium through the urine.
  • 60+ minutes: The diuretic properties of caffeine finally come into play and you scamper off the the bathroom to pee. Big loss in calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, electrolytes, and water. Bummer.
  • 60+ minutes: As the rave inside you dies down, the sugar crash commences. You may become irritable or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the soda to begin with, but not before fortifying it with valuable nutrients your body could have otherwise used.

All this is devastating enough but even more worrisome about a soda-slurping habit is what happens over the long haul. Here’s a little glimpse of the future:

America’s #1 Killer- Heart Disease: According to a study published in 2007 in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, subjects who drank a soda every day over a four-year period had a 25% chance of developing blood sugar levels in the high range and a 32% greater chance of developing lower “good” cholesterol levels. The Nurses’ Health Study found that women who drank more than two sugary beverages per day had a 40% higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease compared to women who rarely did.

Declining Overall Health: Several studies, including the 2007 study published in Circulation, suggest that diet sodas have some of the same effects on health as regular sodas despite having none or very little of the sugar. Why? Drinking soda is typically part of an overall lifestyle that’s not very healthful. Drinking caffeine and sugar is akin to substance abuse. Like it or not, it’s true.

Diabetes Ahoy: In this Nurses’ Health Study, women who reported drinking one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes while the study ran than those who rarely consumed similar potables.

Hello, Spare Tire:  More than several studies have shown an association between sugary drinks and obesity. According to research in the Nurse’s Health Study, which monitored the health of 90,000 women for eight years, drinking just one soda daily added 10 pounds over a four-year period.
It’s curious why soda is so widely available after all these affirmations of it causing or contributing to serious health problems. Until the worldly governing bodies recognize soda as a cornerstone contributing agent to our overall health decline we just gotta take some personal responsibility. And you know what? We might end up a little healthier (and possibly slimmer) for it.

When you find yourself thirsty on a sweltering day, consider your options. Water is arguably the best hydrator (after all, human bodies are approximately 60% water, considering age, gender and environment), but there are many suitable soda substitutes out there as well. Coconut water, iced green or herbal teas, and water infused with any combination of lemon, lime, berries, apple, pear, cucumber, mint (…use your imagination) lend a little pizazz to a glass of fresh, clean, H2O.

Cheers to your health!

 

 

 

 


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