Are You Resting Enough?

Did you know that your gains happen outside of the gym, when you are resting? That’s right.

Exercise is just the initial push, a necessary stimulus that forces the body to go through physiological adaptations (getting stronger, building muscle, becoming leaner). For those adaptations to occur, the body requires time to clean up the mess created by your workout session (think of all the by-products left behind) and to repair broken down tissue that was (purposefully) damaged during exercise.

So what happens if we don’t give time for the body to recover?

Well, first you will not see the results you were expecting. And second, you may get yourself injured. 

Without proper rest, the body doesn’t have the means to restore balance which can be dangerous.

You see, exercise acts as an stressor shifting the body into Sympathetic Mode (aka fight or flight). In this mode, our internal environment is bathed in adrenaline-like hormones, raising the hear rate and breathing, shifting blood flow to muscles and releasing energy from our energy stores.

But this is a temporary state. When we finish our workout, the body will then shift gears, getting into Parasympathetic Mode (aka rest and digest). At this stage, muscles begin to relax, blood flow is redistributed to internal organs, heart rate and breathing returns to normal, and processes like digestion can be resumed.

In a cellular level, the body starts the clean-up process, removing  exercise by-products and buffering acid that was left behind. Blood flow will also bring more oxygen, glucose and minerals that are necessary for replenishing depleted energy stores.

Later, when you are sound asleep, specific hormones are released promoting tissue growth and repair, and energy is completely restored.

Now that you know how important rest is, let’s see what you can do to give mother nature a hand.

How to Improve Recovery

  • Cool down

After a workout session, it is important to guide the body through a cool down process. This helps returning heart rate and breathing to normal levels, and redirecting blood flow back to internal organs (preventing blood to be pooled in the lower limbs). It also promotes the initial removal of by-products and starts buffering of acids which preventing muscle soreness.

Good ways to cool down are: light exercise such as a gentle walk, stretching and using a foam roller to massage muscles, all of which can prevent the formation of knots (tight spots on muscles).

Also, keep in mind that all of those modalities can be performed later in the day if it is not possible to do immediately after your training session.

  • Hydration

During a moderate to intense exercise session, the body loses a considerable amount of fluids. If you tend to sweat profusely, it may even temporarily reduce your weight (not fat loss, just water).  That’s why it is important to drink plenty of fluids after exercise.

Keep in mind that rehydrating the body helps eliminating exercise by-products because the extra water temporarily increases blood volume, forcing the kidneys to filter the blood, flushing out toxins in the process.

  • Proper Nutrition

After exercise, your body is starved. If you had a good training session, chances are you have used most of your energy (stored in the muscles and liver) which needs to be replenished.

Your post exercise meal is one of the most important because your body will be like a sponge ready to absorb everything you consume.

A post-workout meal should contain carbohydrates (for energy) and protein (for muscle repair). Examples are sweet potato and chicken, eggs on toast, protein shake with banana.

  • Relaxation Techniques

Remember that to send the body into recovery, we must shift into Parasympathetic Mode. But if you are under considerable amount of stress, your body is trapped in the Sympathetic Mode.

That’s when relaxation techniques can be beneficial. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help calm down the mind, leading the body into a more favourable state.

  • Contrast Showers

Contrast Showers, alternating between hot and cold, are commonly used by athletes to accelerate recovery. This protocol forces blood to flow from muscles to internal organs, creating a pump effect that can flush toxins and by products out of the body relatively quickly.

  • Proper Sleep

Sleep is one of the most under-utilised forms of recovery. During sleep, specially deep sleep, the body releases growth hormone which is responsible for tissue repair and muscle growth.

In addition, proper sleep helps control appetite, boost immune system and keep stress hormones (cortisol) at bay.

Aim for a minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted shut eye.

  • Massage

Massage reduces muscle tension, aids in recovering normal length of muscles, and prevent the formation of knots (tight spots on muscles). It also promotes general relaxation taking the body into parasympathetic mode.

  • Other ways to relax and recover

Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts can help with muscle relaxation, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep.

Magnesium supplements tend to promote muscle relaxation, improve muscle function, maintain electrolyte balance (preventing muscle cramps) and reduce general fatigue.

Compression garments are tight clothing that are designed to improve recovery. They are usually used by athletes to enhance performance and accelerate recovery time.

Want to create your own recovery protocol? Then, you will love this BONUS recovery chart.

Click here to download.

Proper Form: Practice Makes Perfect

Go to any gym and you will see a festival of bad form and poor exercise technique. People lifting too much weight with no regard for proper form. No wonder there are so many injuries among “lifters.”

Maintaining good posture is a fundamental part of any exercise technique. That’s because when you use correct form, stress is evenly distributed throughout the muscles, bones and joints, making you less prone to injuries. Besides if body structures are well-aligned, muscle recruitment is more efficient, which means that the most adequate muscles for the activity will be called into play, requiring less effort and energy to perform it.

But do you know what proper form is? Here are some tips for keeping good body alignment during any exercise.

Reversing the Biological Clock

Exercise is the best anti-aging treatment.  However, most individuals seem to prefer being sedentary and risk having many chronic diseases associated with age. Maybe it is because we are completely surrounded with too many so-called “easy ways to reverse the clock.” Botox, plastic surgeries, anti-aging lotions, you get the picture. Unfortunately, these quick fixes only work on the outside. What about the inside? Our heart, lungs, muscles, and bones – they too suffer the effects of aging. As we get older, we tend to lose muscle and bone mass, our flexibility becomes limited, the production of hormones declines, our cardiorespiratory capacity diminishes, and our cognitive function becomes impaired, among others.

The good news is that living an active lifestyle can make your body stronger and more resistant to the wear and tear of time. Regular physical activity contributes to maintain/build muscle and bone mass, keeps your heart and lungs attuned, and improves metabolic function and hormonal production all of which prevent many chronic diseases related to aging.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Prevention is the best medicine – I’m sure you heard this before. An overwhelming number of studies have shown that our lifestyle choices are responsible for causing or preventing many chronic diseases. So why is it so hard to improve our lifestyle choices? Maybe it is because we don’t feel immediately threatened by any health issues. At least not right now. However, as we get older chances are that our body won’t be able to deal with all the abuses we do when we are younger.

As the years go by, it is more common than not to put on some weight. Then, we blame our metabolism; we convince ourselves that it is slowing down as part of the aging process and it is only natural to gain a couple of pounds, until they start piling up, and you end up overweight and miserable. Also, many will develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, among others. And now, we blame our genes; it runs on the family, we say.

Preventing Common Injuries

According to Michael Boyle, author of “Advances in Functional Training,” most injuries in sports seem to be caused by very common muscle imbalances. Injuries tend to occur when stabilizing muscles are weak and fail to neutralize the stress placed on a joint and its structures. Moreover, whenever there is an imbalance between opposing muscle groups, the body tends to recruit other muscles in an attempt to stabilize the forces in the particular region. The problem is that those muscles were not designed for this function and won’t be able to do a good job, which allows some of the stress to be placed on joints, tendons and ligaments. As this abnormal muscle activation becomes frequent, it alters the relationship between the opposing muscles, affecting posture, body alignment, and movement patterns.

Excess Belly Fat Kills More

Many people think that because they are not “overweight” by the American standards (weight/height tables and Body Mass Index), they are free to be sedentary and have poor eating habits. Well, if this is your case, you better think again. A new research from the Mayo Clinic found out that people with normal body weight, but with excess fat around the waist are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than anybody else. This proves that it’s not how much fat you have on your body that matters, but where it is deposited. It seems that abdominal fat has a toxic effect on the body and is associated with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among others. According to the researchers, when it comes to determining your risk for cardiovascular disease, you must pay attention to your waist-to-hip ratio, i.e., the waist circumference divided by the hip circumference. A waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.86 for women, and greater than 0.95 for men, indicates abdominal obesity and increases one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Click here to read more.

Are You Happy?

I know you must be thinking “what does happiness have to do with fitness and health?” According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.” Thus, our overall health depends on how we feel on a daily basis. Unfortunately, our hectic lifestyles can sometimes get in the way of our well-being.

Can You Be Skinny But Fat?

The answer is definitely yes. Just because you may appear to be within your normal weight range, it doesn’t mean that you are in your best shape. Curiously, most people who were born thin believe that they won the “genetic lottery.” This means that they can eat whatever they want and slouch on the couch for hours, and still get away with it. Well, if that’s your case, I have bad news for you. First of all, thinness doesn’t guarantee good health or greater longevity. In addition, recent research has pointed out that many thin individuals may have a high percentage of body fat. These individuals are considered metabolically obese despite their normal weight. I must remind you that carrying excessive body fat has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, gall bladder disease, and cirrhosis of the liver, among others. Unfortunately, it seems that “normal weight obesity” is more common among women.

Preventing Knee Injuries

The knee is one of the most injured regions of the body. Women are more prone to knee injuries than men, especially when practicing high-impact sports that involve cutting and jumping. The reason is still unclear, but researchers believe that women tend to have knee motions that make them more susceptible to injuries. Recent studies have found that there is a difference in the way sensory information is processed by the nervous system in men and women, which could explain the differences in injury rates.

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