This blog is going to make many of you roll your eyes.
It’s about how to gain weight.
I know, I know, but believe it or not, I have received a request to explain how people who are underweight can gain muscle mass. Eyerollers, please bear with me, and stick around; we’re going to talk about muscles!
Down here in Tampa, Mark Lauren is known for his bodyweight strength training. In his book “You Are Your Own Gym,” he believes that diet plays a HUGE roll in gaining weight (well duhh dude…)
Okay, so let’s say you’re already thin and you want to be healthy, but you are afraid you’re going to lose even more weight (Yes, I am aware that this can sound ridiculous). The trick is to eat more than you burn.
In order to build strength, you are obviously going to have to build muscle. However, you cannot build muscle if you do not supply the calories to build those suckers. Lauren suggests consuming 500-1000 calories more than you would normally burn in a day. When you strength train, these excess calories will help build muscle.
However, you cannot be eating a bunch of processed, sugar, saturated, and trans fat-filled foods. Even if you are eating the perfect amount of calories, you are not going to have the same results. Lauren suggests eating frequent meals five to six times per day. He believes that this keeps your metabolism revved up and prevents hunger. However, research completed by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine states that it does not matter when you eat, as much as it matters what and how much. In my opinion, the main benefit of eating small meals throughout the day is that you are less hungry, and thus less likely to gorge or make poor diet decisions.
Also, cooking six meals a day requires time that not many people have, so you might want to alternate meals with protein shakes, if you are really serious about gaining muscle. Lauren claims that there is not a particular protein powder that is essential; instead, he states that you should be sure that the powder is a complete protein (has all nine of the essential amino acids) and is low in carbs (especially sugar).
Even if you do not eat six meals a day, protein shakes are a great post-workout meal. Lauren suggests that exercisers consume 30-50 grams of protein and 30-50 grams of carbohydrates immediately after a strength training session. If you’ve just completed a cardiovascular workout, you can skip the protein shake. However, this blog is about gaining muscle, and if you’re trying to do that, you should skip the cardio (*tear*).
Overall, in order to build muscle, you’ve got to eat enough protein and train consistently. Jillian Michaels claimed in one of her podcasts that muscle can be lost in as soon as 36 hours. Yikes! Now, keep in mind you MUST have a recovery day at least once a week, just don’t get too lazy!
Even if you do want to lose weight, remember that gaining muscle is essential to increasing your resting metabolism rate. Therefore, if you want to gain muscle and lose weight, do not eat a load of excessive calories, eat 1.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, evenly split the amount of carbs and fat you consume, and be consistent.
There you go. I hope I helped both ends of the weight spectrum today.
I hate to see people unaware of the fattening “health” foods they’re eating. Every Christmas somebody gets engaged, and every Spring Break the bikinis are near the front of the store. With all of these weddings and beaches to go to, everybody suddenly becomes concerned about fitting into their new outfits. Unfortunately, these trends are usually designed for failure. Shocking, right?
- Salads: This is the number one mistake I see out there. You go out to eat and you order a salad for yourself, thinking of how healthy you are being. Wrong! The dressing, croutons, and cheese are killing you! My Dad bought me a Chicken Caesar Salad while I was on Spring Break, since he knows I like to make “healthy decisions.” However, I took a glance at the nutritional information and noticed that if I ate the entire salad, that would be close to 800 calories! Holy crap! I could have 2.5 McDonald’s cheeseburgers for that! I scraped the croutons off of that sucker and dipped my fork in the dressing before I took a bite (I did NOT pour the dressing all over my salad). I ended upon only using 1/6 of the dressing and consuming only 270 calories (I even kept the cheese on there, score!).
- Drinks: Drinks are LOADED with extra calories, not to mention the sugar and other crap that is not helping your body out at all. A medium sweet tea from Sonic or McDonald’s is 180 calories alone, and a 12 ounce coke is 140 calories. Simply drinking a few of these throughout the day can add enough calories to equal an entire meal, without satiating your hunger at all. Notice I am only talking about how fattening these items are; I’m not even talking about how harmful they are to your health!
Even diet soda is doing you no favors, since it has been correlated through research to increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and high fasting glucose and triglycerides. In other words, you’re still likely to gain belly fat and be unhealthy. Another study found that individuals who drink diet soda daily were 67 percent more likely to develop type II diabetes. Research has found no significant connections between diet sodas and weight loss; in fact, there are many more solid correlations between diet soda and obesity.
3. Granola/Protein/Power bars: Biggest. Jokes. Ever. You might as well be eating a candy bar. Many of them are loaded with sugar, unhealthy carbs, and white flour. For example, the Special K Chocolatey Chip Meal Bar has trans fats (even though the label says it doesn’t- don’t get me started on FDA Requirements for labels!), 4 teaspoons of sugar, refined flours, and butylated hydroxytoluene, which research says might be a carcinogen (cancer-causing). Not only are these bars not helpful to your help, they also don’t usually satiate your hunger for long!
4.“Multi-grain:” Okay, so many people read “multi-grain” and think that sounds healthier. I mean, they’re grains, right? However, these could be any kind of grains, and rarely, if ever, are whole grains. Whole grains are sooo important. The Mayo Clinic states that half of your grain intake should be whole grains because they lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. They are also rich in fiber, which helps you feel full longer. Refined grains (“white” bread) are no longer complex carbohydrates, so our bodies digest them as sugar. If you’re making an effort to be healthy (WHICH YOU SHOULD BE!!!), you do not want to make the mistake of thinking you’re helping yourself by purchasing “multi-grains.” These are advertiser’s ways of pick-pocketing you. Stick with whole grains to deprive advertisers of your hard-earned cash. A good rule of thumb is that one serving of whole grains should have at least two grams of fiber.
Now, clearly I have only touched on a very few of these “diet-busters.” There are literally millions out there to confuse you. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to learn as you go. Read your labels, look up ingredients on CREDIBLE online sources, and ask a professional if you need to.
Personally, I like to cheat a little bit. If you have a smartphone, I highly recommend the “Fooducate” app. This new-fangled thing allows you to scan a food’s bar code with your phone, and it tells you if it is harmful and why. I love it!
Now, obviously you shouldn’t deprive yourself all of the time. If you really love sweet tea, soda, granola bars, white bread, ranch dressing, etc., make them a treat and not a habit. Honestly, if I’m going to consume 800 calories when I’m going out to eat, I’d rather have a great burger than a skimpy salad drenched in Ranch.
photo credits: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave77459/864932630/”>Dave77459</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/toby_d1/2902863846/”>Pete Zarria</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a
So, it’s Spring Break, and suddenly everybody who has been avoiding the gym like the plague is busy “repping it out.” Pretty soon, this overuse results in injury, and injury usually equals PAIN.
So what do you do? You hobble to your medicine cabinet, and poke through all of your hair gels, deodorants, and half-used toothpaste tubes until you find a big bottle of ibuprofen. After complaining for another 30 minutes, you start to feel much better and plan on returning to the gym tomorrow…
While anti-inflammatories are knock-outs for shutting up your whining, they do no service to your muscles.
Anti-inflammatories can actually reverse your healing process, which for the weaklings means more pain in the long run. Much of muscle soreness is caused by inflammation, which is what anti-inflammatories are on a mission to suppress (duh). However, inflammation is actually part of your bodies healing process. After you’ve “killed it” in the gym or on a run, your body increases the blood flow, causing swelling and nerve stimulation, which causes pain. However, this increased blood flow permeates cells through the body that protect you from infection and facilitate tissue repair. Clearly, too much inflammation hosts a different wealth of problems, but some is necessary for true healing. Thus, taking anti-inflammatories for a wimpy but annoying injury can actually keep you whining and limping longer. Please, spare us!
If you must use anti-inflammatories, research shows that they should only be used in the first 2-3 days of an acute injury (an injury that was caused recently by a traumatic event, i.e. pulled muscles, dislocations, etc.), since a study run by Evan F. Eckman showed that participants who did so resumed walking within 4-7 days. However, if these medications can be so harmful, why not seek an alternative? When I got hit by a car in November, I did not want to hinder the recovery of my broken collar bone. Fortunately, my wonderful sister gave me some Arnica tablets.
This natural herb is known for treating wounds, bruises, sunburn, skin irritation or inflammation, PROMOTING HEALING, soothing the skin, and relieving muscle soreness. Furthermore, it has been proven to reduce pain and stiffness caused by arthritis and reduces postoperative swelling and pain. If herbs were superheroes, arnica would clearly be in an “Avenger.”
The only caution is to not take the actual plant. Arnica can be toxic by itself; however, the homeopathic gels and tablets that you buy at your health food store are too diluted to cause any harm.
Of course, there are some situations where modern medicine is needed, but if you’ve only caused a little inflammation, I encourage you to go natural. I substituted Arnica for pain medication after I left the ER, and I got hit by a freaking car! However, you should of course make an informed decision about your personal situation, since refusing to take much needed medication will get you nowhere.
photo credits: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugley/2594318333/”>mugley</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Some of you may have heard that exercise can help decrease your stress, but how does it do that and how effective is it?
For the past two months I have been struggling with an outbreak of hives. The doctors I saw had no idea what was going on, the food I ate did not seem to impact them, and they just kept getting worse. By Wednesday night, my throat was swollen and my entire body was covered in welts.
Needless to say, I ended up in the ER that night- for the fourth time in the past 22 months. Go me!
Even prednisone (a steroid) only provided temporary relief, so I consulted with a homeopathic chiropractor in Tallahassee, Dr. Jensen, over the phone. He said that hives are the result of an emotional stress overload. This started me thinking on how we manage stress and how to approach it in a healthy way.
Clearly, this blog focuses on how to obtain and maintain our physical health. However, our physical and emotional health is very tightly entwined.
Research supervised by Ulrike Rimmele has been one of the many studies to prove that levels of physical activity do affect the way our bodies respond to stress. Elite athletes have lower cortisol levels and heart rates than sedentary people, and moderately active people have lower heart rates, but not much lower cortisol levels. According to wellness coach Elizabeth Scott, cortisol is the hormone that our bodies release when we are stressed, and it is supposed to provide us with bursts of energy. However, when we have too much of it in the bloodstream for too long, it can affect our cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function, decrease bone density, increase abdominal fat, reduce muscle mass, and of course raise our blood pressure and blood sugar. Thus, it is incredibly noteworthy that exercise can lower our cortisol levels, which can help our bodies handle stress better.
Even if you are not an elite athlete, having a lower heart rate significantly reduces your cardiovascular risk. Janet Renee, a dietitian, points out that the heart is also a muscle, and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it becomes. Consequently, a well-exercised heart can pump enough blood with fewer beats. As a result, the body is rewarded with increased blood flow and lower cholesterol. Renee recommends between 150 and 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week to achieve these results. This may seem copious at first, but that boils down to 30 minutes to an hour five days per week. That’s incredibly manageable.
Clearly, exercise cannot solve all of your problems (yes, I know some of you are shocked to hear ME say that). If that were true, I would not have ended up in the ER AGAIN. Sometimes we have to admit to ourselves when something is bothering us, talk to someone, or seek some counseling help. Part of my diagnosis with Dr. Jensen was talking to him about what had been bothering me for the past two months. This photo was taken a couple of hours after I got off of the phone with Dr. Jensen. Talk about a skin difference!
My skin was only relieved after I was relieved. So clearly, exercise cannot solve ALL of your stress problems. However, it is noteworthy that my severe condition of hives was not able to be helped by modern medicine. If any of you are having symptoms that doctors are not able to diagnose, I encourage you to reevaluate how you feel. Sometimes taking a natural approach can completely change your state of life. Besides, going to a kickboxing class sure does make me feel better after a frustrating day…