Westchester Personal Training

Why Personal Training Works

People today often consider using a personal trainer a luxury rather than a necessity. In today’s economy, we have many choices about where to use our expendable income, and many people feel that paying a trainer is not worth the expense. However, when you take into account the millions of dollars wasted on diet pills, quick fixes, and unused gym memberships every year, personal training seems like a bargain! Fifty percent of gym members stop going to the gym after three months. None of these people got any results! Statistically, when people work out on their own, only 3 out of 10 see results. On the other hand, 9 out of 10 people see results when working with a trainer.

The benefits of hiring a personal trainer far outweigh the costs. First and foremost, trainers accurately evaluate your current level of fitness and prescribe exercises and routines appropriate to your fitness level. This avoids unnecessary strains and injuries and ensures you reach your goals more efficiently. This is especially important for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and injuries. You certainly deserve to feel better and not worse after a workout!

Trainers also provide a very good orientation to working out, especially if you are a beginner. Many people aren’t sure what they should be doing in the gym and don’t know what exercises or weights they should use. There is “no one size fits all” exercise program because people have different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Personal trainers can individually design programs so that you see quicker results and are more productive with your time. They also teach proper form and technique; doing exercises wrong increases the risk of injury. In addition, trainers add variety to workouts to focus on different muscle groups and make the workout interesting so you don’t get bored.

Athletes and those training for events can also benefit from the expertise of trainers. Personal trainers can tailor programs to ensure you are strengthening the correct muscles, keeping the best range of motion, and avoiding injury. They can help you reach your optimal level of fitness so you are better prepared for your sport.

Personal trainers are also very motivating. In our busy society, it is difficult to find the time to exercise or to push ourselves to get to the next fitness level on our own. Trainers know when to push you and when to back off. Also, people feel accountable to their trainers and having an appointment ensures they don’t skip the gym.

Lastly, trainers are results-oriented. They keep track of your progress and make changes to routines to help better achieve your weight and fitness goals. If you are going to invest in going to the gym, why not do it right? With personal training, your chances of looking and feeling your best become more of a reality than a dream.

By: Denise Groothuis

Holiday Heifer

Avoid Being a Holiday Heifer

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an exciting and fun-filled time of year. The holidays are filled with family, celebration, excitement, and joy; however, they can also be filled with increased commitments, less free time, stress, and an overabundance of food and alcohol. As a result, many individuals find themselves skipping workouts, eating and drinking excessively, and allowing themselves to give into temptation, which often results in weight gain.

Rather than wait for your New Year’s Resolution, there are many things you can do to prevent those added pounds around the middle. First, workouts should be scheduled on your calendar as appointments that you can’t miss. Next, set goals for yourself, and keep a journal to help you follow through. It is important to remember that exercise not only burns calories and tightens and tones, it also reduces stress, which can definitely help your mood, as you are busy trying to get everything done.

Shopping for loved ones is time consuming and stressful, and unfortunately, it may interfere with your workout schedule. To alleviate this problem, consider online shopping to save time and avoid crowds. Many stores offer free shipping during the holiday season, and the choices of gifts are endless on the Internet. However, if you are a hands-on person and must go to the mall, park your car in one of the last spots in the lot to get some added walking time. Additionally, do a few laps around the mall before committing to a location for shopping. You can also go back and forth with your packages to the car to get increased exercise and avoid straining your back and/or neck by holding heavy items. It might also help to wear a pedometer to keep track of your steps.

There are other ways to incorporate extra physical activity into your routine this time of year. Instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs. Also, you can burn more calories by dancing at your holiday party and having fun! You can also work out with family members or play with your kids to incorporate both family and fitness. Winter sports, such as ice skating and skiing, are both social and active, and they will keep you trim during the winter season. Another way to stay focused is to sign up for a race or event and begin training in December. This will keep you motivated to continue with your exercise routine and to push yourself.

As far as food, absolutely enjoy your favorites during the holiday season, but remember to know your limits! Before going to a party, eat a healthy meal or snack at home so you don’t wind up eating a lot of junk. Also, drink plenty of water to maintain fullness. Remember to watch your alcohol intake, because cocktails can add up to quite a lot of calories, plus it can disrupt your sleep and increase your appetite. Consider hosting your own family party so you can be in charge of what is served; that way you can add some healthful options to the menu.

It is also important to try to exercise and to eat right while traveling. You can do pushups, wall sits, and squats in your hotel room. Many hotels have spas and gyms, and if the weather is nice, you can go for a walk or run outside. While dining out, stay away from the bread before the meal and watch your portion sizes.

Give yourself the gift of fitness and health this holiday season. Maintain your weight and your sanity! Happy Holidays!

Sitting-Down

Sitting Ourselves to Death

According to Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, “sitting is the new smoking.”  Research tends to support the claim that prolonged sitting increases the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and depression.  We spend a large part of our day sitting – either at work, behind the wheel of our car, or in front of the television. In fact, it seems like we are sitting ourselves to death!

Sitting contributes to organ damage, brain damage, muscle degeneration, and leg disorders. This is because the body tends to turn itself off when we sit for long periods of time. When we stand and are moving, we activate the systems in the body that process sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Insulin is involved in these systems and it is responsible for transporting fuel into the cells, which decreases the risk of obesity and diabetes.  With prolonged sitting, muscles burn less fat and blood flow is slower, making it easier for the heart to get clogged with fatty acids. Blood flow to the brain is also slower, which results in decreased delivery of oxygen to the brain thereby causing decreased function. Additionally, there is a correlation between prolonged sitting and weight gain. This increases inflammation and contributes to hormonal changes in the body, both of which are correlated to cancer.

When we sit for too long, we are apt to have a plethora of aches and pains. Strained necks and shoulders are very common because we are holding our phones to our ears or we are working at a computer in a hunched position. Additionally, more pressure is placed on the spine in a seated position and it is possible to lose flexibility in the disks. This contributes to back pain and possible herniated disks.  Further, sitting may cause tight hips and a limited range of motion, in addition to weak glutes, since they are not being recruited for movement. Lastly, sitting is linked to weak bones, osteoporosis, and poor circulation in the legs, which is correlated to varicose veins.  Basically, our bodies were designed to be active, and when we sit down and stop moving for long periods of time, the body starts to shut down.

One of the major concerns about sitting is that going to the gym or participating in physical activity doesn’t seem to decrease or reverse the risk from sitting. Research suggests that only through sitting less can we decrease the negative effects of sitting. So even running 10 miles every day will not reverse the negative effects of being at a desk all day. Sitting and activity are two distinct behaviors that influence our health independently. So what can we do?

While eliminating sitting from our daily routine is impossible, we can improve our health and decrease the negative effects of excessive sitting by consciously getting up from our desks and moving around. First, if you are aware of how much you are sitting every day, you can attempt to reduce the amount of time each week. Try to stand up or walk around every 30 minutes – set an alarm if you need to be reminded!  Additionally, try stretching at your desk and learning the proper sitting mechanics to improve your posture while sitting in order to decrease the risk of muscle strains.

You can take it even further by investing in a standing desk or a portable standing workstation. Find ways to move around more at your job. For example, take the stairs or park your car far away from the entrance of your building to increase the time you are on your feet. It is time to take a stand for your health and minimize unnecessary health risks. Start the New Year on your feet!

weight-training

Why We Need Weight Training

A well-rounded exercise program is comprised of both cardiovascular aerobic exercise and resistance training. Many people still focus only on aerobic conditioning for weight loss and health, while ignoring the benefits of resistance training. Resistance training is important for both athletic performance and general fitness.  A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength as well as aerobic exercise to improve heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance.

Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is defined as using resistance to muscular contraction in order to increase the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. It incorporates the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and body weight. Resistance training is based on the concept that the muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when required.

There are many physical and mental benefits to resistance training. It improves tone and strength of muscles, which protects joints from injury. It also may help prevent cognitive decline and improve mood by increasing self-esteem, helping to prevent depression, improving body image, and decreasing insomnia. Resistance training improves mobility and balance, increases flexibility & stamina, improves posture, and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally it prevents osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities. More recent research demonstrates that resistance training may positively affect risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These include insulin resistance, resting metabolic rate, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body fat, and gastrointestinal transit time. Lastly, building and maintaining muscle is good for your metabolism and helps with weight loss and weight maintenance.

In order to become stronger and build muscle, resistance training must be done on a consistent basis. Most guidelines for physical activity recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities at least two days each week. It is not necessarily required that the resistance is heavy; it just has to be controlled and precise for all the major muscle groups.

Proper form is essential in resistance training to avoid injury. Before starting any type of training, it is recommended to work with a qualified personal trainer who will assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as help you create an exercise program to reach your goals, both safely and effectively.

the-arena

The Un-Scratchable Itch

Many times I see patients that have been unsuccessfully treated for one or several conditions, and are coming for a second (sometimes 3rd or 4th!) opinion. I had an interesting case of a patient who had been treated for a very common type of heel pain (plantar fasciitis), but had minimal improvement. She had an array of typically very good treatments (stretching, shoe gear modification, oral medication, injections, physical therapy, etc.), but her symptoms persisted. She had pain in her heel and arch, and the pain was sometimes present in the morning or after periods of rest (typical of a plantar fasciitis), but also occurred at seemingly random times throughout the day. Sometimes walking/running would illicit no pain, sometimes it was unbearable. The pain was often burning in nature, sometimes sharp. After going through a thorough history, the patient also related an interesting tidbit… she had an annoying, persistent itch on the bottom of her foot, and had seen foot specialists and dermatologists and been treated with various creams but to no avail. The itch was present without any other dermatological signs or symptoms, and nothing seemed to relieve it.

the-arena-1Many patients will have very clearly identifiable symptoms and exacerbating factors which they can lucidly describe, and that correlate nicely with a specific condition. Sometimes, however, the patient has a difficult time describing the nature of their pain, and exactly what makes it worse (or what makes it feel better). While the patient above had obvious symptoms, they did not fit nicely into any diagnosis box. I see this difficulty many times when people are dealing with pathology involving nerves.

The above patient was examined, and sure enough a specific examination of an area known as the Tarsal Tunnel elicited a shooting, electrical type pain into her heel and arch, and also increased the “itchiness”. Is this case, the patient was not suffering from a plantar fasciitis, and had no dermatological reason for the itch, but was suffering from a condition known as tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Many people have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) is a similar phenomenon that occurs in the foot. The tarsal tunnel refers to a specific anatomical area on the inside part of the foot and ankle. There is a specific ligament in the area (the laciniate ligament) that attaches from the medial malleolus of the tibia, to the heel bone (calcaneus). Thus a tunnel is formed with the ligament as the roof, and the bones as the floor of the tunnel. All the tendons, arteries, nerves and veins that travel to the bottom (plantar) foot pass through this tunnel. The main nerve passing through this area is known as the tibial nerve, which eventually branches to provide innervation to the bottom of the foot. For a variety of reasons, the tibial nerve can get compressed which will then cause pain to the bottom of the foot. This pain can present very differently for different patients, but most commonly will cause burning, or electrical type pain. Many times, it can also be associated with numbness, tingling, or hard to describe sensations which we refer to as paresthesias. In this particular case, the patient’s pain and “itching” sensation were both caused by a tarsal tunnel syndrome.

TTS can be a diagnosis of exclusion; where everything else is ruled out as a cause of pain. A focused exam needs to be performed over the tarsal tunnel, including percussing the area and looking for radiating pain or paresthesias to the heel, arch or toes (referred to as Tinel’s Sign) or, (less commonly) Valleix Sign, which is pain radiating up the leg. Physical exam and x-rays will often show a foot and ankle position which can increase pressure on the nerve (many times a patient will have a flat foot with excessive pronation which keeps the laciniate ligament taut, increasing pressure on the nerve). An MRI may be useful if there is a structure impinging on the nerve such as a ganglion cyst, accessory muscle belly, or inflammation of nearby tendons. Many times, an MRI is inconclusive, and a patient will be sent for a neurological exam known as an NCV/EMG to evaluate for nerve pathologies. This is often an important test, as it will also determine if there is nerve pathology from any were else in the lower extremity. Sometimes, compression of a nerve originating in the back can lead to similar foot pain and strange sensations.

Treatment for the condition can also vary based on the etiology. If it is simply a positional issue, proper shoe gear and custom orthotics and avoiding compression on the area simply will help. Many times, a topical or oral anti-inflammatory medication is needed. A doctor may need to use steroid injections as well. In cased when there is a mass in the tarsal tunnel, this will typically need to be removed surgically to provide relief. Sometimes, a surgical release of the ligament and any strictures around the nerve is necessary.

So, if you have pain or funny feelings, and are being treated for a foot condition with limited success, make sure you inquire about tarsal tunnel syndrome.

fascial-manipulation-sapiens-potens-est-manus-85304718

Why Your Workouts May Not Be Working

Have you ever exercised and felt that you were not achieving the results you expected? Or worse, have you developed pain or worsened an already painful condition with exercise that was supposed to help? Have you been told by a trainer or physical therapist that your glutes are not firing or you have poor balance and you just can’t correct the problem?

These are very common issues that I hear about in my practice that can have multiple causes. The first thing to examine is the program itself – what exercises are being done and are they even appropriate for the individual based on their health history and present condition. Very often I see people doing exercises that they should definitely not be doing because they are harmful and will cause injury. Unfortunately, I also see many trainers and specialists prescribing these exercises.

The second thing to examine is form – are the exercises being done properly. A good exercise, if done incorrectly, can be a bad exercise. Always be meticulous with form. The purpose of exercise should be to improve our health, whether the goal is increasing strength and endurance, rehabilitating tissue, or correcting movement patterns.

The above are the very obvious reasons and should always be ruled out first. But if the exercises are appropriate and being done with correct form and the issue is still present, there may be another less obvious culprit. This hidden hijacker of a good workout results could be fascial tension.

You may have heard of fascia recently, as it getting much attention due to research, which it deserves. Fascia is connective tissue that literally wraps and connects every structure in the body. To visualize this, imagine removing every organ, muscle and bone. If we were to leave all the fascia intact, we would have a 3D outline of the entire body – a completely continuous web.

Fascia transmits energy and force, in addition to holding everything together. We often think of muscles contracting independently to perform an action. For example, flexing our elbow we attribute to the biceps and brachialis muscles. But in reality, it is much more than that. Tension is created throughout the entire arm and shoulder, into the trunk and down to the hand through fascial connection. Other muscles are also performing at different levels in order to stabilize the arm. So really, everything is working, but at different levels of intensity.

We often think of muscle contraction generating force in the tendons (which attach the muscles to bones) in order to produce a movement. Studies have recently demonstrated that only 70% of the generated force of a muscle contraction is transmitted to the tendons. The other 30% is transmitted outward to the fascia surrounding the muscle by way of attachments along its entire length. Because fascia is completely continuous throughout the body, this force is transmitted to other muscles and structures. This shows that when a muscle acts, it is doing much more than its attributed movement. It is communicating with and working in conjunction with other muscles along a line.

Fascia is also a sensory organ. Another recent discovery is that there there are more sensory nerve endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle. These nerve endings provide information to the brain and spinal cord about position, tension/stretch and pressure – a sense of where we are in space and what is happening to keep us there. Keep in mind that most of this is happening without us even realizing it.

Fascia is made up of different layers that need to slide over each other in order for movement to happen, and in order to have accurate information exchange with the nervous system. If there is restriction of this sliding, usually due to a densification of hyaluronic acid, the substance that lubricates the fascial layers, overall movement can become restricted. Muscle activity can become inhibited due to the lack of efficient communication through the nerve endings that live in the altered fascia.

The densifications causing this altered function can be a result of old trauma/injuries, surgeries, scars or repetitive strain. For example, an old ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly may subtly cause dysfunction either locally in the foot/ankle, or above in the knee, hip, pelvis or even in the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. These densifications may be difficult to detect because they are often found in different areas than where the symptoms manifest. In this case it would be helpful to be evaluated by a professional who understands this process to properly determine the dysfunction and correct it.

Fascial Manipulation is a diagnostic and treatment system developed by the Stecco family in Italy. It sees the body as an interconnected network of points along the fascia that make up different motion planes. The points are centers of coordination for underlying muscles. Interestingly, many of these are also acupuncture points. Densification, or dysfunction, in these points can alter the muscle activity. Fascial Manipulation practitioners find these areas of densification and remove them through a very specific, deep massage technique. When normal sliding is restored to these points, or centers of coordination, very often pain is relieved and muscles function much more effectively with less stress. It is worth noting that Fascial Manipulation has the most scientific research behind it than any other manual soft tissue technique.

Freed movement in the fascial planes leads to normal coordination of muscle activation. This can allow workout results to be more consistent with the targeted actions of exercise and desired goals. If you feel you are not getting the most out of your workout and you know you are doing the proper exercises with good form, consider a fascial evaluation.

Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac, CCSP

painful ankle

Ankle Injuries – The most common athletic injury

Almost every week a player in an NFL game sprains his ankle. This is a common injury in most running sports including soccer, rugby and track. It occurs commonly in court sports like tennis and racquetball. It is seen often in gymnastics and on a trampoline.

Ankle Injuries occur typically from twisting your ankle in inversion. This means your foot comes under your body or actually your body goes over your foot and ankle which is planted on the ground. You may hear a “pop” or just have sudden sharp pain. The ankle will typically swell immediately or within 2 hours as the blood leaks from the torn ligament to underneath the skin. An ankle sprain is just stretching or tearing the ligament that connects 2 bones of your ankle, namely the fibula and the talus. Most ankle sprains are on the outside part of the ankle, but these can also be on the inside part.

If you injure your ankle, it is important to make sure it is not broken. If you can walk on it with minimal pain, it is not likely to be fractured. If it hurts a lot or you cannot walk on it, you need to get an x-ray. It is not urgent to go the hospital emergency room unless it is an open injury or you think you may have dislocated it. Immediately ice it and elevate it and call your local orthopedic specialist to be seen ASAP. My office policy is if you need to be seen urgently, we will see you the same day. We will take an x-ray to confirm that there is no fracture.

If it is just a sprain, you should be able to get back to full normal activities including sports anywhere from a few days to up to 6 weeks after the injury. If you don’t recover quickly, therapy may help. Strengthening the tendons around the ankle will help with the healing. If you are not improving, you should get an MRI to make sure an occult fracture was not missed.

As with other injuries, the best way to treat an ankle injury is to prevent it. Wear good shoes, sneakers or cleats that are tied snugly and fit well. Once your footwear has worn down, throw them out and get new ones. Most injuries will occur when you are fatigued, so be more careful at the end of a game or workout.
If you injure your ankle, ice it and elevate it. If you cannot bear weight on it, get it checked and get an x-ray. Keep your local orthopedic sports medicine specialist’s office number on your cell and don’t hesitate to call and get checked.

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

protien-powder

Which Protein Powder Should I Buy?

There are many different types of protein powders and brands of powders on the market, and it can be difficult to decipher which is the best one to purchase. Protein powders are derived from various sources, such as whey, egg whites, soy, rice, kemp, pea, and flax. There are pros and cons to each type, depending on individual needs and preferences. Additionally, there are an endless number of brand names to choose from, and it may be overwhelming to decide what to purchase.

Whey is the most common and cheapest protein powder available on the market. Whey protein is derived from milk; it is the liquid extracted from milk when cheese is made. Whey is a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It is also rapidly digested and good for muscle synthesis. Whey is available three forms: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysates. Concentrates usually have less protein and more carbohydrates and other components than isolates. Isolates have been purified in an attempt to get to the purest form of whey protein. Whey hydrolysate has similar protein levels to isolates, but the protein has been broken down into small peptide chains and amino acids, which makes it easy to absorb and hypoallergenic, since it denatures the protein. It also can be more expensive. Casein, which is also derived from milk, can also be used to make protein powders. Casein is more difficult to digest than whey, and therefore it takes a longer time for the body to utilize it.

Egg whites is another type of protein, and it is especially good for those avoiding dairy, soy, or gluten. It is a high quality protein for leaning out and building muscle. Some people complain about the taste.

Soy protein is a complete protein that is easily digested, but it is not digested very quickly. It is lactose and gluten free. Some brands use GMOs, so look on the label if you do not want to use genetically modified soy. Soy contains isoflavones, which may potentially reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Despite this benefit, some studies show that in excess, isoflavones can interact with estrogen and affect hormone levels. In men, this may cause a decrease in their testosterone levels.

Other good sources of vegetarian protein are from peas, rice, hemp and flax. Sometimes quinoa, millet, and lentils are added as well. They usually come in a blend since none are complete proteins on their own. However, they can be sold separately as well. For example, pea protein is deficient in cysteine, even though it has the same amount of protein per serving as whey. It is also free of cholesterol, fat and gluten. Rice protein is also deficient in some amino acids, especially lysine. However, it is gluten free and inexpensive. Hemp protein powder comes from hemp seeds and cannabis, though it does not contain a significant amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is high in protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. However, it is also very high in fat and calories. It can also be expensive, since growing hemp products in the US is illegal. There are many vegan powder blends on the market, which combine hemp, peas, rice, quinoa, etc. Vegan powders are dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, and when combined, they are complete proteins. They can be a bit more expensive than whey products.

Besides the source of the protein you choose, it is also important to look at the QUALITY of the protein powder, which differs brand by brand. It is important to avoid a lot of artificial ingredients and fillers, so the fewer ingredients on the label the better. Consumer should also look at the calorie content and types of flavors and sweeteners used in the products. You should also pick a brand that has been tested for quality and purity so that you know that what is listed on the label is actually in the product. The supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, but many are certified by GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). This is a system to ensure that the products meet certain quality standards during its production and manufacturing.

No matter what you choose, it is important to remember that the body needs adequate protein. Protein plays a crucial role in the body and do most of the work in the cells. They are also required for the function, structure, and regulation of the tissues and organs in the body. So do your research, and buy a protein powder that fits your lifestyle, tastes, and needs.

resiliance

Building Resilience

Resilience is known as the ability to successfully overcome challenges and handle stressors while facing adversity. We develop resilience by confronting rather than avoiding difficulties. As we successfully overcome challenges, we develop greater self-esteem and a higher level of confidence. We cannot develop resilience unless there is adversity to navigate.

picture-2Is resilience an in-born trait or a human quality that can be developed? Although genes do play a role providing an initial physiological framework, resilience is mostly a learned experience. From the time we are born, we are constantly facing challenges. We do not remember it, but learning how to stand up for the first time was surely a challenge for all of us. It took quite a few attempts, trials and errors until we were successful able to grab on to an object and stand up, even if it was for only a few seconds. Such a moment was a great success. We learned to overcome a challenge and, I am sure, we showed the greatest smile ever. Most importantly, our brain learned to celebrate such an outcome to the point where we wanted to do it again and again. This simple, and not so simple task, is an example of how resilience is built.

As life goes on, we face different challenges. School, sports, and life in general. We are faced with navigating constant obstacles. However, the essence of building resilience rests on the same learning process we used to stand up for the first time. We try, and try, and try until we finally get it. And, most importantly, such an achievement is celebrated as an act of personal perseverance. The personal gratification that comes when success is achieved is due to its continued effort. This successful experience translates into building confidence and self-esteem. Again, while all this successful experience is celebrated, it is the brain that absorbs this experience as part of our memory.

We can also say that the opposite is equally valid. If we lose our temper when we face an obstacle, give up when challenges come up or expect others to come to our rescue, the brain is also learning from these experiences. If personal gratification was not imbedded into our brains when we achieved success and, instead, unhealthy habits were often used, by default, the brain will repeat unhealthy behaviors. How we respond when facing obstacles become learned experiences that eventually become patterns. How it is learned is how the brain will repeat it.

To foster resilience, Dr. Salomon is known for having developed a four step process that helps athletes learned from failures and use those learned experiences as information to make constant adjustment and continue improvement. These four steps are known as ARSE, which stand for the following:

  • A: Acknowledge: the athlete takes responsibility for the mistakes and accepts the emotions that accompany those experiences. These mistakes are not seen as punitive, but rather as a source of learned experience.
  • R: Review: the athlete uses this opportunity to examine how and why the performance did not materialize as expected.
  • S: Strategize: a plan is executed to correct the error. This strategy may be reviewed with a coach or teammates. However, the individual athlete takes full individual responsibility to make the needed personal adjustment toward improvement.
  • E: Execute: the athlete attempts the next performance based on updated information or adjustments.
    The quicker the athletes adheres to this four step process, the easier will it be to make the necessary changes that lead to continued growth. Resiliency can be learned. It requires steady quote of effort, positivism, and encouragement. And, most importantly, resilient athletes embrace constant learning and self-exploration attitudes knowing that each experience gives them a greater source of knowledge.

Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge

Athlete runner trail running on summer beach. Fit body silhouett

The Farce of Fasted Cardio

So, you just picked up the latest fitness magazine and read that fasted cardio can help you get leaner. The article you read claims that the body burns more fat while exercising in a fasted state compared to doing cardio later in the day after eating. As a result, you decide to take your morning spin class on an empty stomach, thinking you will burn more fat and build more muscle. But does the science prove this? For years this idea has been accepted as fact by fitness gurus, professionals in the industry, and gym rats. However, it is only half true because it is only half of the story. While it does work and will utilize more fat as energy, it is not an optimal way to train because it breaks down muscles and is ultimately detrimental to building lean muscle mass and balancing hormones.

Part of the issue is that we, as consumers, tend to focus on what seems to be working without investigating why it works. There is so much information out there; however, a lot of it is conjecture and not based on scientific fact. It is important to make informed choices, to not accept every article as fact, and not to believe everything the 5% body fat bodybuilder or freak athlete preaches about. When you read an article, it is important to check the sources. It is actually more important than the author itself.

Genetics play a role in how our bodies function, and there are some people that get results no matter how they badly they eat or how they poorly they train. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. The point of this article is to demonstrate that fasted cardio is NOT optimal for fat loss, muscle building, or muscle maintenance, since it doesn’t make sense to burn extra fat at the expense of catabolizing muscle. Let’s fill in some educational gaps to learn the science behind this.

Types of Cardio Training

 There are different types of cardio workouts, which affect how the body burns energy and what type of fuel is utilized. Cardio training can be HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio, low intensity long duration, or moderate intensity cardio. It is generally understood that more calories are potentially burned during exercise sessions of longer duration vs. HIIT. However, even though you burn more calories DURING a session of long exercise, HIIT will burn more calories POST- WORKOUT due to the process of EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption). This is also known as “after burn.” Therefore, your ability to burn total calories will be more with HIIT because calorie burn continues even after you are done exercising!  As a result of more calories being burned, weight loss is more likely.

Bioenergetics Basics

Every activity, from breathing to reaching for a glass of water, requires energy, which comes from calories. We burn calories all day, and even at night while we sleep. We ingest calories as fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Fat yields more energy per gram than carbohydrates because it is much denser in calories. Carbohydrates and protein are only 4 calories per gram while fat is 9 calories per gram.  Fat and carbohydrates are the preferred fuel sources for energy, while protein is spared and used for enzyme synthesis and muscle creation.

After meals, carbohydrates are readily available in the bloodstream as glucose and can be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once these glycogen stores are full, the body will convert the excess glucose into fat and store it in fat cells. This is why eating too many carbohydrates can make us fat! There is a finite amount of storage space for extra carbohydrates, while there is an infinite amount of storage space for fat in the body. As a result, all excess energy that isn’t utilized by the body is stored as fat.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The body must ingest 9 essential amino acids to create usable protein for cellular uptake in the body. Think of protein like a chain, and each essential amino acid as a link. If there is a link missing, then the protein is incomplete, which forces the body to break down muscle to get the missing amino acids.

Since protein is needed for higher-level functions, it is broken down for energy only as a last resort. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, protein cannot be stored or manufactured in the body, so it is “use it or lose it!” This is the reason why complete proteins must be ingested every few hours. Research shows that protein is only available for synthesis for a limited time. Since everyone is different and all proteins digest at different rates, that time varies from person to person. For this reason, research suggests ingesting protein every 2-5 hours. If you are very active and only eat small amounts of easily digested protein, you will probably need to eat more frequently.  In general, a good rule of thumb is to eat protein every 3-4 hours to prevent muscle catabolism. If protein is not ingested during this window, your muscles are broken down into the amino acids the body needs and the unused excess is converted to carbohydrates. If that energy is not used, then the body converts that excess energy into stored fat.

A popular misconception is that protein is only needed for building muscle. As stated, protein has many functions in the body, including hormone production, fluid balance, growth & tissue maintenance, nutrient transportation, and enzyme & protein synthesis. According to research, the average male needs 56 grams of protein per day while a woman needs 46 grams. These requirements are higher for people who are athletic. The more intense the activity, the more protein is needed.

There are dozens of published opinions on the correct amount of protein that is needed for an active person/athlete. Some claim that 56g for men and 46g for women isn’t enough, and that they actually require at least 50% more protein than that. Others state it should be one gram per .6-1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  For example, if you weigh 100lbs and choose to ingest .6 grams of protein per pound, the daily requirement would be 100 x .6 = 60 grams per day.

If you are unsure about how much protein to consume, a good starting place is .8g/kg of body weight of protein for both men and women, and for athletes 1.2-1.7 g/kg. The amount of protein that can be used for protein synthesis in the body is debated among articles; however, the theories range from 15- 40 grams per meal. A good guideline to follow is men should aim to eat 20-25 grams of protein per meal per meal and women 10-15 grams. If you feel bloated and full after a meal very high in protein, then it is too much. If the amount of protein you eat does not cause GI stress, then you can slowly increase your protein intake until you reach your goal. However, do not consume more than 35 grams per serving without talking to your doctor.

It is important to note that when we exercise, we are never burning just one of these nutrients for fuel; it is always a mix of carbohydrates, fat, and protein in different proportions. To achieve our goal of being lean, we strive to utilize a ratio of more fat, moderate carbohydrates, and minimal protein. When we do an activity that is long term, we can potentially use more fat since we have time for it to be broken down. However, when we need to access energy quickly, like when we are sprinting to catch a train before it departs, your body will need to use the fuel source it can access the fastest, which is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are more readily available than fats during exercise since they are easier to break down into energy than fat. Basically, the body uses the glucose in the blood and breaks down the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. Once the body has depleted its stores of glycogen, it will tap into fat stores and convert fat to glucose. This is where the idea for fasted cardio originated. When you wake up and have not eaten, your blood and stored glycogen are low, which forces the body to start to burn fat during exercise.

 

New Age Dieting – Hormonal Not Caloric

Many diets teach the widespread formula, which states that 3500 kcal equals one pound of fat. Often, dieters strive to decrease their calories accordingly while trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, frequently people mistakenly assume that when their Fitbit states they burned 3500kcal, that this was exclusively fat loss. It is important to understand that a pound of body mass was lost, not just fat, which is a big difference. The goal of dieting and exercise is not to lose weight. It is important to lose the CORRECT type of weight, which should be predominantly of fat. People are so obsessed with caloric intake focused diets that they neglect the types of foods they eat and the nutrients contained in what they ingest. It is more important to eat in a way which will create a hormonal environment optimal for fat loss. When you eat carbohydrates, you secrete insulin, which will negate your ability to utilize fat stores optimally. If you keep eating carbohydrates all day, you are telling your body to use those carbohydrates for energy. By eating a diet consisting of complete proteins, healthy fats, and low carbohydrates, all while meeting your micronutrient and phytonutrient requirements, you will create an environment ideal for fat loss, muscle building and/or maintenance.

 

 What Happens During Fasted Cardio?

Basically, the reasoning behind fasted cardio is that if carbohydrates are needed during cardio, then after an overnight fast, the body will need to convert fat to carbohydrates when carbohydrate sources are depleted. The process of converting fats to carbohydrates requires energy from the body, and thus burns extra energy. Therefore, the theory is that a person can burn more calories and use fat as a source of fuel in a fasted state. The only problem is that muscle loss is not factored into this equation.

Exercise is considered a type of stress, and we need energy quickly when the body is stressed. Additionally, exercise independently requires energy for movement, plus cortisol is secreted at times when we need energy. Therefore, we have increased cortisol levels during times of exercise. Cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis, which allows the production of glucose (the building blocks of carbohydrates) from sources other than carbohydrates. It also increases free fatty acid blood levels, minimizes glucose utilization for the body, and saves glucose for the brain, since glucose is the only energy source utilized by the brain.

So far, cortisol seems great!  However, it also increases protein catabolism, which means it breaks down muscle tissue. The body starts to metabolize protein in times of stress because it thinks it is in a survival situation (fight or flight is the nervous system response), and the muscular system, immune system, and digestive system all need protein to function. This is the exact opposite of what we want to do! We need to preserve muscle, because the more muscle in our bodies, the higher our metabolism and the better our ability to burn calories. People with more muscle mass have higher metabolic rates since it takes more fuel to move a bigger machine.

The main goal of exercise and healthy dieting is to increase our metabolism to lose weight. Since we can only burn so much fat during exercise, building muscle is extremely important during weight loss. If your exercise is depleting your muscle tissue and therefore decreasing your metabolism, does it make sense to do fasted cardio? Another negative effect of breaking down protein is that it may create an acidic environment in our bodies due to the creation of ammonia during protein catabolism. Research has shown that an acidic environment promotes inflammation, disrupts hormones, and makes a person more likely to get sick.

In modern society, cortisol is secreted during psychosocial stress instead of a survival situation, which is detrimental to our bodies. Our body is then working to create extra energy when we don’t need it. For example, your cortisol may spike when you are sitting at your cubicle and racing to finish your work for a deadline. There are two negative issues that may arise by being in a constant state of stress with excessive cortisol. First, during this state of catabolism, people under eat, which causes them to lose lean muscle. Second, the catabolism decreases metabolism, so even if the person eats the same amount as usual, they will gain weight because they are not burning the calories. The body is conserving the calories for the times of stress. Most often there is a lack of protein intake, which causes the muscle to break down to fuel the body with the amino acids it needs.

Recent research has shown that this is exacerbated due to imbalances in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which cause people to overeat and gain weight. Again, as mentioned, each person is different. The take-home message is that your hormones need to be controlled in order to properly fuel your body and control your weight.

So yes, fasted cardio will burn more fat, but it does so at the expense of burning muscle.

Solution

The solution is NOT to truly fast before you work out, and to make sure that you include a protein source as soon as you wake up. Ideally, it is best to consume protein 30 minutes prior to working out, but as long you do not eat within 15 minutes of a workout, your body will reap the benefits. Men should consume about 15 grams prior to a cardio session and over 20 grams for weight lifting, while women should consume about 10 grams prior to cardio and over 15 grams if lifting weights. For those trying to build muscle or doing extended intense cardio bouts, branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) should be consumed 45 minutes into the session. BCAAs are the essential amino acids that the body needs for cellular function and muscle tissue preservation. They will help prevent any catabolism of muscle tissue during training sessions.

What Happens Next? 

By following these guidelines, you will not burn through your muscle tissue for protein. You can then reap all the benefits of fasted cardio by utilizing more fat for fuel, while avoiding all the cons, such as high cortisol levels and muscle breakdown. The end result will be building lean muscle and burning fat while increasing resting metabolic rate.

Protein Sources

 As discussed, it is important to consume a source of protein right before exercise. Many people choose to drink a protein smoothie or eat a small meal right before exercise. Your choice of protein source is important. A protein source is needed, but not at the expense of bogging the digestive system down with a heavy meal consisting of bacon & eggs on a roll or oatmeal. Remember that the goal is to preserve muscle during training by giving your body a very simple protein to synthesize during activity. Therefore, a light shake consisting of only protein and water is optimal. Another good suggestion is egg whites because they are easily absorbed and do not require much energy for digestion. In addition to the traditional whey shake, there is also an egg white based shake from a company called Egg Whites International. It is high in protein and tasteless, and it is a great way to boost protein intake. For traditional whey and vegan proteins, recommended brands are Jay Robb, Isopure and Orgain

 

Authors

Charles DeFrancesco

Gio Principe, BS, CSCS

Denise Groothuis, MS, RD

 

References

Kenney, W. Larry, and Jack H. Wilmore. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, 2015. Print

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Brooks, G.A., Fahey, T.D., & Baldwin, K.M. Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and its Applications. 2005.

Bilsborough S, Mann N. “A review of issues of dietary protein intake in humans.” International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006.

Wilson, J., & Wilson, G.J. “Contemporary issues in protein requirements and consumption for resistance trained athletes.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2006.

Tipton K.D., Wolfe R.R. “Protein and amino acids for athletes.” Journal of Sports Science. 2004.

Eberle, Suzanne Girard. “The Body’s Fuel Sources.” Endurance Sports Nutrition, Third Edition. 2014.

Bohè, Julien, Low, J.F Aili, Wolfe, Robert R., & Rennie, Michael J. “Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids.” Rapid Report. April 2001.