Thursday, May 25, 2017

Photo: Google
For years we have been programmed to measure our fitness efforts in weight lost or gained.  There is, however, so much more to managing a healthy lifestyle than the weight scale. In fact, when you take a closer look, the weight scale can give you a false sense of security and is more of a deterrent than anything else.

Don't get me wrong, managing your weight to fit established medical standards is the foundation to building a healthier lifestyle.  However, it's how you get there, how you stay there, and making needed adjustments to stay on track that will determine the longevity of your success. If the weight scale is your only measurement to manage your plan, you are setting yourself up for failure. Let's take a closer look.

How You Get There: There are some essential components that need to be in place to build the right foundation that ensures a healthy and sustained journey.
  • A nutritional plan that includes the right sources of energy or macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), the Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and ample hydration that supports the healthiest avenue to any needed weight loss or gain.
  • A comprehensive fitness plan that outlines the needed activities that will enhance your nutritinal plan and support the longevity of your efforts.  
How You Stay There: Your plan should include time dated benchmarks that will determine your progress outside any targeted weight loss.  These benchmarks should indicate:
  • muscle mass gain
  • inches lost, gained, or moved 
  • how your clothes fit (sizes up or down)
  • how you feel physically and mentally
  • do you like the way you look?
  • do your endurance levels satisfy your fitness efforts?
These are all measurements that are pivitol to the longevity of your health and fitness plan that cannot be determined by the weight scale.

Making Needed Adjustments: Making sure your progress is in line with your set benchmarks is pivotal to making needed adjustments in a timely fashion. Some examples:
  • If your nutrients are in line with your fitness efforts, you should be losing targeted inches and either dropping a size or fitting into your cloths better while maintaining you current weight. 
  • If you are using the right supplements and hydrating appropriately, your skin should feel better and you should feel better physically and mentally.
Keep in mind, your health and fitness plan is always a work in process and is vunerable to any changes if they are not addressed in a timely fashion. So, once you make any needed adjustments, you will need to align and adjust your benchmarks accordingly.

A great example of how you get there, how you stay there, and when you make needed adjustments is illustrated in the photo below of my good friend, Nickie Summers, founder of "It's All You Fitness." As you can see in the time dated photos, Nickie has made substantial changes in her body composition while maintaining a weight of 130 lbs. You will also note that this transformation began in 2010 and is a work in progress as we speak. Her results are consistent with building the right plan and understanding her progress.  She will tell you that her adjustments are consistent with how she feels mentally and physically, how she looks, how her clothes fit, and her level of endurance during workouts. Not the weight scale.

I would like to thank Nickie for providing me the inspiration to write this article and hope you will find measuring your success outside the scale to be helpful in your continued journey to better health.

Until next time, enjoy your workouts.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Find Your Balance - Hydration for Health and Performance

How much water should you drink on a daily basis? It's a simple question with no easy answers.  Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years but, in truth, your water needs depend on many factor including your health, how active you are, and where you live.

Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body's need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day. First, let's take a look at the health benefits of water, and then the factors that influence water needs.

Health Benefits of Water
Water is your body's principle chemical component and makes up about 60% of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital
organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose, and throat tissues.  Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions.  Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

How much water do you need?
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine, and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. Again, your water needs depend on many factors such as your age, exercise, the intensity of your exercise, environment, illness or health conditions, and pregnancy or breast feeding.

How do you stay safely hydrated?
Generally, if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, you're doing ok.  If you were to keep track, that would measure at least 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) , or more a day. Everyone has heard the advice that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, which is not to far off.  Although this thoery is not supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it is easy to remember.  Keep in mind, the rule should actually be reframed to say "Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day" because all fluids count toward the daily total.

Beyond the tap: Other Sources of Water
You don't need to rely only on what you drink to meet your fluid needs.  What you eat also provides a significant portion of your total.  On average, food provides about 20% of total water intake. For example, there are several fruits and vegetables that are 60% or more water by weight:

  • Watermelon - 92%
  • Spinach - 92%
  • Grapefruit - 90%
  • Broccoli - 89%
  • Blueberries - 85%
  • Avocado - 81%
  • Potato - 75%
  • Roasted Chicken - 64%
In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Even caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or soda can contribute, but should not be the major portion of your daily fluid intake. Water is still your best bet because it's calorie-free, inexpensive, and readily available.

As you can see, determining how much water you need is not really rocket science. It's an awareness to better maintain hydration levels that fit your needs and leads to a healthier lifestyle.

Until next time, enjoy your workouts (and stay hydrated)

Sources: Mayo Clinic Healthy Liniving
              National Academy of Sports Medicine

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No matter where you are in life, healthy habits such as diet and exercise never lose their importance. But for those of us managing our health after the age of 50, fitness becomes an even more essential factor in daily life. It can reduce the impact of illness, enchance mobility and improve daily moods. In fact, a recent study published by JAMA Network suggested that regular, moderate to vigorous exercise can also significantly reduce early mortality.

So, how can you get started on fitness after the age of 50? Here are a few guidelines that I think will provide you with the needed direction to create the most positive experience:

Find Your Balance
Fitness is not a race or a quick fix, but rather a lifestyle. This lifestyle is like developing a plan on how you want to live a healthier life moving forward.

1. Incorporate functional fitness: Exercise is crucial to keeping our muscles and bones strong, preserving our balance, flexibility, coordination, and even enhancing the health of our brain.

2. Keep up the nutrients: After the age of 30, we begin to lose valuable muscle mass and flexibility. So, you need to ensure that your nutrition plan includes the right balance of adequate protein, carbohydrate, and essential fats.

3. Get started and keep going: You need to commit to your plan and be consistent in everthing you do. Importantly, you need to hold yourself accountable. You will be pleasantly surprised how things start to fall in place and become a noticeably healthier way to live.

Keep It Simple:
Start slow and progress gradually. As mentioned earlier, this is a lifestyle.

1. Develop goals that allow you to monitor your progress and grow into your plan:
Include time dated benchmarks so you can make any necessary adjustments to stay on target.

2. Establish a Support System: Everyone one has those not-so-great days. So, encourage your children, spouse, or friends to help keep you accountable.

3. Reward yourself: There is nothing like a pat on the back to keep you motivated.  Find ways to reward yourself as you hit those benchmarks.

Some these changes and adjustments will be big changes, while others will need only minor adjustments.  Change is difficult for many, but realize that there is absolutely no downside to this journey especially when you consider the average life expectancy has reached a new record. It is not about how long we live, but rather the quality of those years that truely matters. There is no better time to start than now.

Until next time, enjoy your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Source: JAMA Network

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Recovery from training is becoming recognized as one of the most important aspects of physical activity and overall wellness.  While there are a myriad of recovery strategies and their varied levels of scientific support, it's important to remember that both scientific and anecdotal evidence point to the value of an appropriate recovery plan to encourage adaption, wellness, and performance.

Many recognize the need for recovery after exercise, but do we understand what it takes to fully recover and have we actually acheived that state? Though recovery is a critical phase of the exercise-adaption cycle, it is among the least understood and most under-researched components of training. Essentially, recovery is the process that includes rest, refueling, rehydration, regeneration (repair), resynthesis, reduction of inflammation and restoration that ultimately returns the body to homeostasis.  Homeostasis is a state of balance within the body that occurs when the variables in a system (e.g. pH, temperature) are regulated to keep internal conditions stable and relatively constant. However, physiological stress that is not followed by adequate recovery can, over time, compromise homeostasis and immune function.  This increases the probability of injury, illness, and the onset of nonfunctional overreaching and/or overtraining.

Considering these implications, it is important to develop a strategy that encourages adequate recovery and fits your individual needs. You may need to experiment to determine which one proves the most feasible.  The guideline that I provide my clients is that their recovery time should match the intensity of their workout program.  So, if they are "hitting it hard",  they need to devote equal time to "quitting it hard" to appropriately recover. This could be one day or two which ever works for you.  In fact, a light cardio day in between lifting can be just as benefical as resting.  Again, it needs to fit your needs.

As you can see, recovery is just as essential as exercise when it comes to finding the right balance and maximizing your fitness efforts for better health.

Until next time enjoy your workouts (and recovery),

Source: Exploring the Science of Recovery, Fabio Romana, MA, MS