Mental Notes – Avoiding Drop Off and Burnout in 2015! – by Jason Eyanson, M.S.

BurnoutAs we dive full on into the New Year and its associated resolutions, it is best to be completely prepared for your exercise and fitness resolutions. I wrote last month about proper goal setting and what makes up a great goal for you. The next step is to plan for your New Year! It has been shown that around 50% or more of people who start an exercise program will drop out 3-6 months into it. A lot of drop out or relapse will occur soon after the year starts. Sometimes this is due to people not being fully committed to their goals. They make the goals with all intentions of following through, however, they haven’t made the proper commitment or the planning necessary to succeed. Usually these people don’t carve out the time daily or weekly to input an exercise program. That is one thing that you must do, carve out some time to exercise. Take a look at your day-to-day routines and schedule some time where you can fit in a workout 3-4 times per week. Make your health and future health a priority!Keep an eye on your calendar. Take note of how many times you are working out weekly, and the intensity to which you are working out. There are many times that people will jump full throttle into an exercise program and end up working out too much or too often. Yes, too much! This will unfortunately lead to a quick and abrupt burnout. Mark out some days for rest. Your body needs it and will thank you for it.

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Exhaustion instead of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Prolonged muscle soreness – (if you are starting up a program, do expect some soreness which could last a few weeks)
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue

Also, be mindful of how you are feeling on a day to day basis at the beginning of a program. Take note of any patterns that you start to see. The best way to do this is to start an exercise journal. In this, you can write down what you have been doing, how you have been feeling, goals for each day of exercise, and track your overall fitness goals. This will also keep those goals in front of you from day to day.

Another way to avoid a drop off is to find a workout partner. Find a friend to workout with. It is usually much easier to keep on schedule when you are working out with someone else, especially when it’s a friend. This will keep you somewhat accountable for those times that you have set up to workout. It will be much more difficult for you to just “blow it off”. Even if you can’t find a friend to workout with, there are many options out there in gyms, such as group classes, that can be a good fit for you. Try out those classes that you have been interested in, see if you like it. If you find one that you like, make it work for you!

Whether you are working out with a partner, or solo, you’ll also want to vary your workouts from day-to-day. Try not to do the same thing over and over again each day. This will cause your body to plateau and your mind to get bored. After a while, the exercise program will become a chore, and you will be more likely to cut it out of your routine. So, mix up your exercises, get creative! Try doing one day on machines, and the next using no machines for example. You do need to be consistent, whether you switch it up or not. Make sure you are keeping to your schedule.

Remember, your health and fitness is something that you can control, so take the reins and take control!

You can make this your best year ever!

Fear of Fruit? – by Kit Kieser

Woman Grocery ShoppingI am often asked, “Is it okay if I eat fruit?” Yes, absolutely. Fruit is just fine. Not to be confused with fruit juice, whole fruit is high in fiber and provides some powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients that you can’t get anywhere else.

You may have been advised to avoid fruit while dieting—or altogether—because of the sugar content. It’s true that fruits contain fructose, a simple sugar found in both fruits and vegetables. However, most fruits have a low glycemic impact; they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin or cause a crash later. Instead they provide your body with steady, sustained energy. In fact, many seemingly harmless “low sugar” or “no sugar” foods, like white rice or potatoes, have a much greater impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Not good.

Even diabetics need not fear fruit. A recent study in Nutrition Journal showed that restricting fruit intake didn’t necessarily benefit type 2 diabetics. In fact, it showed that those who ate two or more servings of fruit per day had the same weight loss and waist size reduction in a 12-week period as those who ate one serving per day. The study also indicated that there was no significant difference between the two groups when it came to their blood sugar numbers.

I’m not disputing the idea that too much fruit can be problematic, potentially adding sugar to your diet in excess and leading to fat storage. And, if you’re diabetic, it’s always important to be cautious and monitor your blood sugar carefully.

But the fact is that fruits are incredibly nutrient dense, rich in disease-fighting agents, and some can even help to enhance your metabolism. Fruit is an excellent source of fiber—often more so than grains or legumes. Fruits are rich in the essential nutrients potassium, folate, vitamins A, C, and E, and are chock full of a plethora of other antioxidants that help to prevent and fight illness and disease.

The benefits definitely outweigh the risks here. I recommend that you eat one to two servings of low glycemic fruit a day–in the morning, before your workout, or both. Remember that variety is essential and fresh is best. Go easy on dried fruits and be mindful of their labels, as they often contain added sugar. If you buy frozen, be sure to get the “no sugar added” options. Avoid canned fruit altogether.

So, next time you hit the gym, don’t hesitate to have an apple beforehand. It’s a portable, healthy, and delicious way to fuel your workout.

A chart of glycemic index and glycemic load on common foods.
A fun infographic about the nutritional benefits of fruit.

Exercise and Stress Relief – by Jason Eyanson, M.S.

Stress ReliefThere are a long list of areas that exercise has been studied to help with. These areas can range from physical to mental. One area that exercise can help reverse spans both the physical to the mental. This area is stress. Stress has been known to cause many adverse affects in people. It has been linked to things such as: headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Stress is also linked to doctor’s visits, in that 75-90% of these visits have something to do with stress and its affects. Also, 43% of adults suffer adverse affects of stress. Many of us go through our day-to-day lives ignoring many of the symptoms of stress, causing levels of stress and its affects to build. Stress, on the other hand, can have some positive effects on the body. There is eustress. This is stress that is exciting and fun. Often times this stress keeps us viral, and gets adrenaline pumping, making us feel energetic and excited.

If you allow stress levels to grow and build upon itself, the damage to the body can be great. However, there is a light at the end of the stress tunnel! One great way to reduce stress levels is by exercising. This is another thing on the list of positives from exercising! In the area of stress reduction, it can also help in those areas that cause stress. It affects the areas of self-esteem, sleep, and mood, to name just a few. How does exercise do this? Well let’s start with the physical aspects. During exercise, your brain releases endorphins. These endorphins are chemicals that make you feel good. Endorphins affect the pain receptors of the body, reducing the perception of pain. After exercising awhile, you can actually start to build a higher tolerance to stress and its effects.

So the next question would naturally be; how much exercise is needed in order for this to happen? With stress and exercise, even a little bit can go a long way. Start with 30 minutes of exercise three times per week. This is a good time for you to be able to decompress during the day. Exercise can let you take your stress out as well as is a diversion from the day-to-day stressors. As you are able to input exercise into your weekly routine, you can start exercising a few minutes longer each time. An ideal amount of time for exercise is between 30-60 minutes. Stress relief is another on the list of things that exercise is good for. You may start exercising for many different reasons, and end up gaining many positives as a result!

Alcohol, Fitness, and Little Known Secrets to Losing Body Fat – by Jason Minich

Fat Loss and AlcoholThere are several common misunderstandings when it comes to the consumption of alcohol and health. Many people believe that drinking a glass or two of wine each night will improve their heart health. Still others believe that hard liquor does not have as many calories as a beer. It could take a while to break down all of the aspects of alcohol and health; however, many common beliefs can be traced back to occasional “news” stories based upon research. The problem is that sometimes research can be misinterpreted in news stories and before long the misinterpreted research becomes common belief. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for consumption of alcohol, however, the countless experiences that I’ve had with my Personal Training clients combined with knowledge of how the body works has led me to share with you a little bit about this.

The first thing that we should take a look at is what alcohol is exactly, and what does it do in our bodies? Regardless of the drink, whether it is beer, wine, liquor, or some kind of mixed drink… a certain percentage of that drink is made up of molecules of alcohol (otherwise it wouldn’t be an alcoholic drink, obviously!) Alcohol molecules are a type of sugar molecule. Alcohol is a simple sugar. Inside of our bodies, our digestive tract is designed to “break down” food such as starches and complex carbohydrates until it is a simpler molecule… or one that is capable of being absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the digestive tract. Simple sugars are foods that are already broken down to a point where they quickly absorb into our bloodstream. Basically, our bodies don’t have to work very hard to digest simple sugars. This can be reflected in how sugary snacks don’t ever seem to “fill you up.” In regards to alcohol, it is actually the “simplest” sugar molecule that there is… basically a super-sugar. In fact, while most sugars have to travel through the digestive tract until they reach the intestines to be absorbed, alcohol can be absorbed through the lining of the stomach. That’s how easy it is to digest.

With that knowledge, the next thing that is important to know is what happens in your body when simple sugars are ingested. First, when you eat or drink something that is comprised of simple sugars, you enter a momentary state of high blood sugar. The moment that sugars are absorbed through the digestive tract into the bloodstream, your body reacts by releasing the hormone insulin into the bloodstream in order to return the level of blood sugar to a normal level. Insulin takes the sugar molecules out of your bloodstream and into the muscle cells of your body that need it for energy or it stores the extra energy reserves in your liver. So, the release of insulin is the instant response that your body has to ingestion of simple sugars… including alcohol. Many people have heard of insulin and quite possibly, if they know anybody who is a diabetic, they think that it is some type of prescription drug. It is a hormone that is naturally produced in our bodies by the pancreas. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone. However, our bodies are always trying to maintain some type of balance. So, there is a second hormone that is produced by the pancreas that much fewer people have heard of before. It is called glucagon. Whereas, insulin is the storage hormone… glucagon is the release hormone. Its role is to essentially tell the body to release stored bodyfat from the areas of our body where it is stored, and send it into the bloodstream. If anyone is interested in “losing” bodyfat, this is important to know simply because fat loss is a two-step process. First, fat has to be released into the bloodstream using glucagon. Second, you “burn it off” when your muscles take the fat out of the bloodstream to use as energy. You absolutely cannot “burn off” bodyfat if it doesn’t make it into the bloodstream to begin with. Like I said, your body is always trying to maintain some type of balance. So when you eat or drink simple sugars, your blood sugar spikes, and insulin is pumped out of the pancreas in reaction to this… your body cuts way back on its production of glucagon. Essentially, bodyfat becomes “locked-in” to the fat storage areas of your body and cannot be released into the bloodstream for chunks of time after you ingest those simple sugars. It doesn’t matter if you are exercising vigorously during that period of time. Your body will simply use the sugars for energy and not your stored bodyfat. Want a surefire way to hold on to bodyfat despite your exercise efforts? Drink alcohol regularly or eat sugary foods daily. I don’t care if you call it your “daily fix”, your “little reward” for making it to your aerobics class this morning, you think that “a calorie is a calorie” despite what food it comes from, or you’ve been told that “it’s okay as long as you add it to your point total for the day”, that’s the way it is. Maybe it isn’t alcohol for you. Maybe it’s that muffin and orange juice each morning, the sugary latte, or perhaps your 100 calorie pack of cookies. Either way, it’s a saboteur of fat loss efforts and will make you hormonally incapable of burning bodyfat for a period of time. The “two” glasses of wine each night (or whatever your drink of choice is) will do the same thing to you. Whereas, normally your body will be “burning” a mixture of bodyfat and sugars throughout the evening and nighttime to use for energy… now it can’t use bodyfat for a chunk of that time (the length of time is different for everybody.)

You see, when you step back from it all and look at the big picture… you realize that our bodies are not robots. We are not machines. It is not as simple as “I ate 1,500 calories today and burned off 500 in my workout.” We are complex living beings with many things contributing to our overall body size, shape, and energy levels including hormones, genetics, environmental factors, and more. We cannot eat 1,000 calories a day to “leave enough calories in my day for my alcohol at night.” It doesn’t work that way… at least not entirely. My most successful clients are the ones that grasp the concept that ‘what you eat’ matters as much as… if not more than ‘how much you eat.’ Our workouts are not designed around ‘how many calories we can burn’… but rather ‘building the body in such a way that we are burning more body fat for energy all day and all night long.’ Bottom line is that if you control your simple sugar intake… you can very well be burning body fat while you sleep! I would rather have my clients burning fat 24 hours a day and not just focusing on burning calories during a workout. This comes through a combination of optimizing the muscle tissue on your body, mixing in an appropriate amount of cardiovascular activity, and eating in a manner that is supportive of what we are trying to accomplish. Dieting (excessively cutting calories or entire food groups) is terrible for you and not what we want. However, there really is no place for simple sugars in your nutritional needs. Simple sugars can certainly be an occasional treat. We just have to understand that there are consequences to any choice we make… and you have to weigh those consequences against what your goals may be. If it’s worth it to you to have your “daily fix”, then go ahead.

Let’s look at it this way, our world has made it easy to obtain and ingest alcohol, other simple sugars, or really anything we want. We no longer have to work for our food. We don’t have to grow it ourselves… or if we want something sweet… we don’t have to go find a beehive and collect some honey. Today we have bottles of the stuff on sale for cheap. We have unlimited sweet choices from honey, to cane sugar, to a slew a sugars made at a chemical plant, to candy, to readily available fruit (also simple sugars), to entire retail stores full of alcohol, to refined ‘white’ grains (also simple sugar… the complex carbohydrate parts have been removed), to many others too numerous to list. We live in a world of excess. We don’t have to work for any of it anymore. However, please remember that you do have control over 1 thing… Your Own Little World Around You And The Decisions That You Personally Make. Take control over your personal world. Understand that you don’t have to stop at McDonalds (or any other fast food restaurant) and get the sandwich with the simple sugar bun, overly fat ‘meat’ patty, and the rest of the junk that they put on it. There are other choices.

Remember when I mentioned that burning fat is a two-step process? First your body has to release the fat from the storage areas of your body into your bloodstream. As long as you are in the proper hormonal state (because of what you are eating), then the ‘fat release’ step is happening all of the time at various rates depending upon how active you are. Then you need to challenge the energy systems of your body enough to “burn off” the fat. This is done through the proper blend of exercises. At Catalyst Fitness, we help people with this every day. We find the proper blend of exercises to put them on the path to reaching their goals while taking into consideration current fitness levels, past or present injuries, available time, and much more.

If you are interested in having help finding the right blend for you, simply give us a call. Either way, have your cake and eat it too… as long as you know what it does to you.

Exercise and MS – by Jason Minich

Exercise and MSFor those who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), understanding what you can and cannot do is often challenging. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease and is described as a progressive demyelinating disease of the white matter of the central nervous system. This means that the body’s own defense system attacks the substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the body. Plus, the nerve fibers themselves can also be damaged. Scar tissue is formed and nerve impulses traveling throughout the body are distorted. Since nerve impulses are the means by which our bodies communicate with themselves, this can cause a wide variety of symptoms and each person’s experience with MS can be quite different. Some of the clinical features commonly associated with MS are general fatigue and muscular weakness, as well as spasticity, ataxia, sensory disturbances, and cognitive dysfunction. 1,2

In the last 15 years, there has been quite a bit of activity and progress in the pharmacological arena. Although there is still no cure, numerous drugs have been and will continue to be tested for all stages of MS. However, it is important to take a look at what else can be done to improve the quality of life of patients diagnosed with MS. According to information provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are many effective strategies available to modify the disease course, treat flare-ups, manage symptoms, and improve function and safety. One of the more commonly suggested strategies is to exercise. Exercise has been shown in numerous research studies to significantly improve the quality of life in MS patients. One such study took a look at how structured exercise affected MS patients both physically and psychologically. Considerable improvements were found in those who exercised when compared to a control group. Depression, anger, and fatigue were reduced while social activity, emotional behavior, and recreational pursuits increased. 3 In fact, excessive fatigue is commonly mentioned as one of the most frequent symptoms of MS patients and has been shown to be significantly reduced by controlled exercise.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that if you have been diagnosed with MS, it is recommended and even encouraged that you exercise. Exercise can be a vital component of your treatment strategy. However, take it slow! Don’t overdo it. Progress yourself a little bit at a time. Pushing yourself to your limits or beyond them can have the opposite effect from what you desire. Remember, your nervous and muscular systems are already strained.

Before you begin an exercise program, check with your doctor to see if he or she has any recommendations for you. You may find that there are certain types of exercise that you should avoid. However, for many MS patients there are typically a wide variety of types of exercises that can be done such as light strength training, cardiovascular exercise, Pilates, balance training, swimming, and even some basic yoga.

Some things to consider when planning your exercise are:

  • Prepare your environment. Whether you choose to exercise at home or in a public setting, make certain that your surroundings are safe and not distracting. Remove objects that you could trip over or surfaces that you could slip on. Ensure adequate lighting and avoid blaring music.
  • Consider exercising with a friend or family member that understands MS and what challenges it represents to you. Plus, they could help to motivate you to stay consistent with your exercise program.
  • Begin with a short-duration workout and add to it a little bit each week.
  • Always warm-up before beginning exercise and cool-down when finished. Warming up prepares your body for exercise and helps to prevent injuries.
  • Stop if you begin to feel sick or experience pain.
  • Consult a Certified Fitness Professional that is experienced in working with those who have been diagnosed with MS. An understanding, qualified Fitness Professional can help you put together a program that is right for you.

Another important point to mention is that MS can often cause sensitivity to heat. Of course, an increase in body temperature occurs during exercise, thus try to be careful not to overheat. Some common recommendations include exercising during the cooler parts of the day, drinking plenty of cool fluids, and wearing cool and loose fitting clothing. If you are exercising indoors, try to have fans available to create some air movement. In the event that you feel disoriented or experience increased symptoms, stop exercising and allow yourself to cool down.

Keep in mind, if you have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, exercise can play a large role in maintaining the quality of life that you desire. MS affects the nervous system and exercise has been proven time and again to have a positive impact on the nervous system. When you are ready to start an exercise program, I highly recommend contacting your physician right away to inform them of your intentions. Once you have clearance from your physician, contact a qualified Fitness Professional to begin putting together a program that suits your needs. Lastly, relax and have fun with it!

References

1. Kesselring J. Multiple sclerosis. Cambridge Univ. Press, UK, 1997.

2. Krupp LB, Alvarez LA, La Rocca NG, Scheinberg LC. Fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Arch Neurol 1988; 45: 435-37.

3. Petajan JH, Gappmaier E, White AT, et al. Impact of aerobic training on fitness and quality of life in multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol 1996; 39: 432-441.