Alcohol & Metabolism

Did you know alcohol is a carbohydrate? And not the “good kind” that is packed with nutrients, like fruit. It’s the “bad”, empty kind of carbohydrate that gives you very little nutritional value for the calories it packs. Alcoholic drinks tend to have a lot of calories in general, which can contribute to weight gain in itself. But there are more ways that alcohol affects your metabolism.

Alcohol causes your blood sugar levels to rise drastically simply because it is a carbohydrate.  This is not great for your metabolism and weight related goals.  As mentioned in my post about why it’s important to eat every three to four hours to maintain stable blood sugar levels, blood sugar levels that are too high or too low contribute to fat storage.  Since alcohol causes a spike in blood sugar, you can see how any other consumed calories would contribute to fat storage.

Additionally, your body views alcohol as a toxin. Since your body can’t store alcohol, it must metabolize it right away, meaning your body tries to burn it off and use it as fuel in order to get rid of it as soon as possible. Metabolizing the alcohol takes priority over all other metabolic processes (like digesting food, for example). This means that after two drinks, any other nutrients you might be getting from the food you are eating aren’t going to be absorbed properly because the alcohol is being processed in order to rid your body of the toxin fast.  Therefore, any calories that you do consume will mainly be stored as fat.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY

Alcohol often leads to dehydration as well, since it disrupts hormones in your body that enable you to hold onto water. (Ever notice how much you have to pee once you start drinking? That’s alcohol affecting your normal body processes!) Dehydration has no place in your diet if you are trying to build muscle, maintain weight, or lose weight, since water is crucial to all your metabolic processes associated with muscle building, weight loss, and more.

Another fun fact about drinking alcohol is that it can quickly mess with your sleep.  You probably think you sleep better after a drink or two…but in fact, you don’t.  Alcohol can disrupt your body’s ability to fall into REM sleep, which is the deepest stage of sleep that contributes to feeling well rested.  Alcohol reduces the amount and quality of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling sluggish and lethargic the next day.  If you didn’t know that sleep and weight maintenance are closely related, then you need to read up on why inadequate sleep can contribute to weight gain.

Also, keep in mind that over-consumption of alcohol can have serious long term affects to your health. Since it’s a toxin and your liver is the primary organ to clear the alcohol from your system, over consumption over long periods of time can cause permanent damage to your liver, as well as affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels in general.  Many other diseases have been linked to alcoholism and over consumption of alcohol, and these are matters to discuss with a physician if you have concerns about your health.

In short, alcoholic drinks should be enjoyed in strict moderation, one to two drinks here and there, and only when you have had a proper meal beforehand. Remember to drink plenty of water the day of and morning after if you choose to indulge in alcoholic beverages. And of course, be responsible!

Questions? Leave a comment!

Oh, Cardio

The journey toward your fitness goals is an intricate path. Various components contribute or detract from your success in achieving the goals you set for yourself. Diet and nutrition is a large part of the story, as is strength training and exercising. The third leg of this journey is cardio.

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with cardio. If you’re working hard and doing it right, it can stink! But boy, do you feel great after it’s over… The benefits of doing cardio are undeniable. Your muscles get stronger, your heart rate improves, you burn calories and lose weight… It’s a key contributor to achieving just about any fitness goal!

But why do most people skip it? Most likely, you haven’t found the cardio that’s right for you. Getting your cardio in doesn’t have to mean running for 30 minutes on a treadmill, or using an elliptical for 45 minutes… There are many ways to get your cardio in AND enjoy it! Below are just a few suggestions, now that the weather is warm and sunny and the outdoors isn’t totally off limits!

  • Walking – Walk outside around the park, or around a scenic lake or beach boardwalk for 30-45 minutes to get your cardio in. You’ll be able to people-watch, enjoy the view and the sounds, and get some sunshine.
  • Hiking – Take some friends or family and hike a mountain! There are local trails nearby that will get the heart pumping. You won’t even feel like you’re doing cardio and walking for miles, but you are. Plus, you totally get to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Rock Climbing – Work your arms and back and get some cardio in by rock climbing. It doesn’t have to be up high! You can traverse sideways, a foot or two off the ground, and get just as much of a workout. There are various local areas to do this in and outside.
  • Dancing – Sign up for a dance class, go out to a dance event in a local bar, or just go nuts at home! Really moving and grooving for 30-45 minutes gets your heart rate going and works your legs and arms.
  • Zumba – Similar to dancing but incorporating more strength exercises, Zumba is a great way to get your cardio in.
  • Bike Ride – With this gorgeous weather, I’m sure you’ve seen tons of bikers out in there bright gear taking up the roadways. Well, join them! Dust off your bike and get on the road this weekend. If you’re feeling confident, bike to work with your lunch and a change of clothes in a backpack. Biking outside is a great way to get your cardio in without feeling claustrophobic in a gym. You’re outside – you can enjoy the wind and sun, see so many different things on your route, and change up your ride with hills and turns.
  • Community Rec-League/Pick-Up – Many towns and cities have local sports clubs for people looking to engage in a fun sport activity with low intensity on the rules. Playing kickball, baseball, or basketball on a local recreational team, or even just getting in on some pick-up basketball at the public courts down the street, is a great way to change up your cardio routine.
  • Play a Childhood Game – Do you have kids, nieces and nephews, grandkids?! Then you have an excuse to run a game of tag, flag football, kickball, or any other game you may have enjoyed as a child. Even if you don’t have little ones for an excuse, get some friends together on the weekend to enjoy a fun game, socialize, and get your cardio in!

I hope you enjoy some of these fresh, new ideas for cardio and take advantage of them! Cardio doesn’t have to be boring! You can still get your 30-45 minutes of cardio in, be fit, have fun, and socialize all at once 🙂

Bosu Exercises – Part 2 of 3

Happy Friday!! 🙂

The bosu is one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment. It’s so versatile that it allows you to get a full body workout at a variety of intensities. It really jazzes up exercises that can become mundane and boring on their own.

Below, I’ve listed and shown my favorite AB exercises to do with a bosu. Finish your work week off with a fun new ab workout and try these out!

AB EXERCISES

    1. Crunches – Add some depth to your crunches with the bosu.
      *Lay the bosu on the ground with the blue side facing up. Position your back over the bosu’s hump and set your feet squarely on the floor. When you crunch up, aim your chin directly to the ceiling to target your upper abs. This exercise works great because when you come down from your crunch, the bosu has your back lifted off the floor for extra resistance on each upward crunch, forcing your muscles to do more work.
    2. Plank – Work your abs and arms together with some modified straight arm planks on the bosu!
      *Put the bosu blue side down on the floor. Grasp the sides of the bosu and extend your legs behind you to hold a straight arm plank. Your head down to your feet should create a straight line angled downward. Really contract your core muscles to keep your balance.
    3. Spider Plank with Crossover – Crank up the intensity of your planks by doing a spider plank.
      *With the black side of the bosu facing up from the ground, grasp the sides of the bosu. Extend your legs behind you and hold a straight arm plank. Bring one knee in towards the same elbow, then extend that leg back down. Alternate each side. For extra intensity, after you bring your knee in to your elbow, swing it across toward your opposite elbow, then extend it down. This adds a little extra work for your obliques!
    4. Russian Twist with Bosu – More intense oblique work! Here’s a little modification to the russian twist, which can typically be done with or without weight. Holding the bosu while performing the russian twist adds some weight and forces your muscles to adjust for any balance changes as you maneuver this large piece of equipment over your body.
      *Sit up on the floor with your feet placed in front of you, holding the bosu so that the black side is facing you. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Twist your torso to one side, bringing the bosu in that direction across your hips. Alternate, and twist across to the other side. Continue alternating these motions to work your obliques. If this is too difficult, simply placing your heels on the ground will still work your core muscles as long as you continue to lean backwards slightly.

Enjoy! Comment any questions you may have on how to perform these exercises.

The Importance of Posture

What is posture?

We all know slouching is poor posture. Sitting up straight it good posture. Posture is the position of our bodies that we choose and habitually hold our muscles in every day.

Poor posture results from certain muscles weakening. Muscle groups work together and against each other to achieve or hold certain movements. Some muscles tighten and shorten as they contract, while others lengthen and relax. As a result of the way certain muscles interact, some can become weak and contribute to poor posture habits.

How do we develop a certain posture?

Poor posture can come from daily activities we perform without even thinking about it. Slouching in our chair can cause our lower back muscles to weaken and tighten, resulting in aches and pains. Sitting for long periods of time in the car can result in tight hip flexor muscles, affecting our gait when walking or running.

Good posture has opposite effects. Sitting with a pillow behind your lower back for lumbar support minimizes the chances of developing back pain. Standing up straight with shoulders back allows your chest to remain open and your neck muscles to relax.

Why does it matter?

Poor posture, as briefly mentioned above, can cause all sorts of issues for people. Chronic pain, aches, discomfort, headaches, migraines, and more can all be results of poor posture. And on the flip side, correcting poor posture and developing good posture habits can reverse these issues.

How can I have better posture?

Posture is a habit. It’s a choice. The way to get better posture is to consciously be aware of the positions you are holding your body in. Here’s a few things you can do to ensure better posture.

1. Stretch. Stretching muscles that get tight and stiff from bad posture or by maintaining a certain position for too long is a great way to start improving posture. When you begin stretching, you probably won’t be too flexible because the muscles are tight and short. The more consistently you stretch, the more flexible and versatile your muscles will become, which is good! Click here to read about some great stretches to incorporate into your day.

2. Sit up/Stand up straight. Check your posture throughout the day. Slouching, arching your back, and other “lazy” positions aren’t good! Sit up tall and roll your shoulders back so they sit in their sockets, where they belong. Simply remembering this throughout the day as you slowly slouch down closer to your computer monitor can reset your posture and prevent aches later.

3. Strength. Exercise your core and your back. Most people with back pain have bad posture and weak core muscles. Strengthening your core helps take pressure off your back by allowing the muscles to handle the load you and gravity are placing on them when you sit or stand.

4. Take breaks. If you are sitting for long periods of time, break it up by walking around for a few minutes, or standing and stretching briefly. Likewise with standing for too long – stretch a little!

5. Yoga. Practicing yoga is an awesome way to stretch and improve muscle tone as well as posture!

Questions? Leave a comment!

The Dangers of CrossFit – Why the Workout Is Not Worth Your Money or Your Life

This post will probably be unpopular to people, but it’s not simply my opinion in a blog. A lot of what you’ll read below is scientific and factual. Not only did I study the mechanisms of movement and physiology of exercise in college; not only do I personally train athletes and adults in achieving various fitness goals; not only am I an active and fit person, but I have also done copious amounts of research on this topic. Additionally, I have yet to meet a professional in my field – high school and collegiate athletic coaches, Kinesiology professors, exercise physiologists, certified personal trainers, gym owners, and physical therapists – who recommend CrossFit. Every educated health professional I’ve talked to and every study I’ve read on the topic agrees: CrossFit is dangerous and is NOT the way to increase cardiovascular performance or increase strength gains.

The topic of CrossFit generally just makes me angry. It is dangerous. It is not based on science. There are so many issues with it, I could go on for hours. I’m going to delve into the main issues with CrossFit, so brace yourself for some heavy reading in this post.


The ideology behind, and structure of, CrossFit is an issue. The structure includes WOD’s, or Workout of the Day’s. These workouts are the same for everyone across the board. No individualization. There is a serious difference between randomness and variation. Randomness is not productive. Variation, on the other hand, is. What’s the difference? Randomness is just that: random. Workouts are thrown together without foresight and a future plan or goal in mind, except to “be fitter”. But you cannot build and progress when your workouts are random. CrossFit doesn’t model their WOD’s on variation. WOD’s throw people into the same workout, regardless of experience, fitness level, etc. You can’t randomly start doing movements and exercises, then move to totally different ones the next day, and expect to make real progress and gains. You need variation in your workouts to keep your body adapting. You need to progress from one movement to another, moving up in advanced techniques, or weights, or intensity, or frequency, etc. Variation allows you to build and progress on prior gains.

In addition to this, during these WOD’s, CrossFit coaches push people past their safe limits. The more sore you are, the better workout you had. But that’s just not true. Soreness doesn’t correlate with a successful workout, or toughness, or fitness. Of course when working out there is going to be discomfort; burning in your muscles, shortness of breath during cardio, etc. But PAIN is a different sensation altogether and when a coach encourages you to push through the pain, you should question their professionalism, intellect, and training. It is NOT healthy to push yourself through pain. This only promotes your risk of injury and will be detrimental to your achieving your fitness goals.

This brings me to my next point: the people who run CrossFit. Coaches don’t even need education to run a CrossFit and instruct you. Trainers who REALLY know what they’re talking about and doing will have a educational degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, or another related field, or they’ll have a certification from a reputable organization, like NASM or ACSM. These professionals will attend conferences to remain certified and up to date on their degrees. Often times, a reputable gym will require practical demonstration before hiring a new trainer to ensure that they are educated properly and can provide proper training.

If the CrossFit box is even remotely responsible, the coaches will go to a weekend training seminar where they learn power lifting technique. A weekend! To learn power lifting! I’ve been doing power lifts for years, and teaching them for a couple of years, and I still check myself and compare with other educated professionals to ensure I’m doing and coaching people properly. These are advanced movements, requiring precision and skill. You cannot learn perfect form and give perfect instruction on various power lifting moves in a matter of two days. Performing power movements with improper coaching and form at high repetitions or for time, as done in CrossFit, leads to an even higher risk for injury.

In addition to this point, the idea CrossFit employs regarding power lifting is unscientific. During workouts, participants are encouraged to do as many reps as possible in a timed circuit, or repeat a move for 20, 30, repetitions. Power lifting is NOT meant to be used in this manner. Power lifting and Olympic lifting are meant to be done with precise form, low repetitions, and high weight. These movements need to be executed with the proper technique and are supposed to be explosive, powerful movements. You’re supposed to perform them with adequate rest between sets, and they’re done over very short periods of time. You can’t simply run through an explanation of these movements, throw weight on a bar, and tell someone to repeat the movement as fast as possible for as many reps as they can for two minutes. It goes against your body’s capabilities and crosses the line into the danger zone. Your body is not meant to be put under such intense stress for so many of these explosive, powerful repetitions at a time. This only increases your chances of getting injured by putting undue stress on ligaments and joints. The more you do any movement repetitively, with high weight especially, the more you increase your chances of getting hurt and doing real damage to your body. So, if you’re going to engage in power lifting exercises, do it right. Find a real coach who knows the science of proper technique, who can coach you, spot you, and help you progress gradually to prevent injury – the way power lifting is supposed to be.

rhabdo

The next point is also related to danger. The photo placed here for your viewing is a CrossFit creation. This disgusts me the most. CrossFit appears PROUD and finds HUMOR in using this photo of a clown called Rhabdo, who appears to be on a dialysis machine, with a kidney on the ground, standing in a pool of blood, with various, serious tears in his muscles, looking absolutely decimated. What?! Is this what CrossFit promotes?! Without even getting into the science of it yet – is this what you want your coaches to make you feel or look like? Is that what you call a successful workout?!

Now the science of it – what is rhabdo? Why does CrossFit seem to know so much about rhabdo that they have a logo of a clown suffering from it? Rhabdo, or rhabdomyolysis is a serious, but typically rare syndrome. It involves the breakdown of muscle fibers to such an extent that their contents filter into your bloodstream, leading to kidney complications like renal failure, where the kidneys are so overwhelmed with clearing out waste from your body that they literally fail to do the job. Rhabdo can cause death. Usually, people need hospitalization (see the clown on dialysis?) to treat the issue. It can take weeks to recover from this, if you’re lucky. Rhabdo “is uncommon and normally reserved for the elite military trainee, ultra-endurance monsters, and for victims of the occasional psychotic football coach” (Robertson). Basically, your average mom or dad who is exercising, a fit, collegiate athlete, or another regular person working out, wouldn’t experience or suffer from rhabdo.

When working out and strength training, microtears in your muscle are unavoidable. Macrotears, however, are a problem. When an untrained, unfit, or previously trained person (and by this I actually mean anyone who isn’t pretty much an elite athlete or in military shape) participates in the high intensity of CrossFit training, and pushes themselves the way the coaches direct, muscles will undoubtedly become strained and sore. This can lead to rhabdo.

So why does CrossFit know so much about it when it’s prevalence is about one in hundreds of thousands of people? Well, in exercise, eccentric contractions of muscles allow the body to lift more weight than concentric contractions. If these eccentric contractions are done with high intensity volume, or high repetitions, you get into the danger zone. Your body is not ready for it. Does this kind of training sound familiar?

Yes: CrossFit. High intensity. High repetitions. High weights. Lack of education. Bad training. Being pushed beyond your body’s safe limits. Not working up to the exercises gradually. Rhabdo.

In an article written by the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, he literally discusses the risks this type of training has in promoting cases of rhabdo. He addressed the issue of rhabdo once, back in 2005. Apparently it’s such a problem, CrossFit has had to address it time and time again in their newsletters, issuing real warnings about the possibility and risk of suffering from rhabdo by participating in CrossFit. CrossFit recognizes that exertional rhabdo, or rhabdo from exercise of a high intensity, can be lethal. So the intensity and structure of CrossFit workouts can literally kill you. In the article, it states that one of the worst rhabdo cases CrossFit has seen involved a middle-aged, fit SWAT guy, who luckily recovered from CrossFit induced rhabdo, and can now “easily blast through workouts that once nearly killed him” (Glassman 2). If the workout nearly killed you, perhaps it wasn’t the safest workout to be doing.

The rhabdo associated with CrossFit so far is showing itself differently than what people typically see with rhabdo, which is associated with “exhaustion, dehydration, high humidity, high temperatures, and long practices” (Glassman 2). The author here states this is NOT the type of rhabdo CrossFit is dealing with. The people who have developed rhabdo at CrossFit sessions aren’t showing typical warning signs, like panting or discomfort. These people apparently left sessions just fine, like every other participant. Then went home and had near death experiences that led them to contact a doctor, or venture to the hospital. This is alarming! CrossFit attributes this phenomenon as a result of people not being capable of performing the CrossFit workloads as a result of inadequate prior training levels. They state that training programs including but not limited to those offered in “commercial gyms, fitness magazines, popular internet sites, the U.S military (including special operations training), and police agencies … all proved woefully inadequate at preparing [people] for sustained power output” (Glassman 3).

So…this guy is telling us that a U.S military trainee, someone who has undergone special ops training, who needs to not only endure, but pass practicals consisting of months of the most rigorous training both physically and mentally, is not even close to being physically fit enough for CrossFit? Does this not alarm you?! Perhaps the issue is not the prior training people have or have not had, but the “sustained power output” being referenced here; the same power lifting and Olympic lifting movements discussed previously; explosive movements and power outputs that aren’t meant to be sustained.

Finally, any of the benefits I’ve read associated with CrossFit can be said of just about any exercise program a previously sedentary person might begin. People who are overweight, inactive, and generally unfit try CrossFit and it “works” because they’re actually moving. This would still be true if they joined a gym or started doing cardio on their own. Simply adding movement that burns calories would give these people the same initial results of weight loss and strength gains. In the article “Why CrossFit works…but really doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and why beginners just need change”, sums it up nicely. CrossFit is “Random highly intense exercise. For the unfit or formerly fit, this works great initially…It isn’t that the exercises are super awesome targeted muscle sculpting patented exercises. Instead, it’s that the people who generally do them weren’t doing them before” (Magness).

CrossFit should not be the training program inactive and unfit people turn to when they want to lose weight or get in shape because, aside from everything else you’ve read thus far, once those initial results plateau, which they will, there’s nowhere to go. In a random workout program like CrossFit, you can’t just push harder – you’re pushing as hard as you can already! And here we can circle back to the beginning of my post where I discussed randomness and variation. Variation allows you to progress in a specific direction depending on your goal. Randomness doesn’t. Therefore, there’s really no progress to be gained in CrossFit, unless you want to progress to injury, or worse.

To sum up this lengthy post: CrossFit is led by untrained individuals, promotes improper training techniques, increases the risk of injury, focuses on random workouts, and can kill you. Is the workout even worth this kind of risk? If you’re going to be fit, healthy, and train, do it right and do it with educated professionals who know what they’re talking about, can coach you on a personal level so you continue to develop, and can keep you safe. Oh, and alive.

Please refer to the list of references used in this post for further reading on various topics that were discussed in here.

References:

  • Glassman, Greg. “CrossFit Induced Rhabdo”. The CrossFit Journal Articles. Issue 38 (2005): 1-3. CrossFit. CrossFit Inc. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Magness, Steve. “Why CrossFit Works…But Really Doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and Why Beginners Just Need Change”. The Science of Running. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Robertson, Eric. “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Sept 2013. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

And for a more personal, but still fact-based account of CrossFit, check out this great article below:

  • Simmons, Erin. “Why I Don’t Do CrossFit”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 May 2014. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

Thanks for reading this far.

Agree? Disagree? Learn something new? Have a personal experience with CrossFit? Leave a comment.