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You put in the hours, pumping iron, logging miles, sweating buckets, overhauling your diet, and (most important) staying consistent.
And the results speak for themselves — every time you look in the mirror, a leaner, more athletic person stares back at you. You’ve even bought yourself a new wardrobe. So now what?
Some people will keep going, perhaps taking up triathlons, joining a hoops league, or training for the CrossFit Games.
But others will want to take their foot off the gas and appreciate what they’ve accomplished.
The key is not to leave it off for too long — two weeks of inactivity are all it takes to notice significant declines in strength and cardiovascular fitness, according to a study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Indeed, the body is incredibly efficient at adapting to whatever demands (or lack thereof) are placed on it.
So now that you’ve crossed the finish line, how can you keep from backpedaling and losing what you’ve built? Just follow these simple steps.
1. Cut Back Gradually
Smart training plans (like those available on Beachbody On Demand) can allow you to work out 5 or 6 days a week with no ill effects (read: overtraining).
But once you reach your strength and endurance goals, you can reduce your workout frequency without losing your hard-earned gains, according to a study at the University of Alabama.
The researchers found that adults aged 20 to 35 who worked out just one day a week not only saw no loss of muscle but actually continued to gain it (albeit at a greatly reduced rate).
Our recommendation: Start by reducing your workout frequency by a third, then a half, and so on until you find the minimal effective dose that’s right for you.
2. Keep It Intense
Even a single set of a strength-training exercise can produce hypertrophy (i.e., muscle growth), according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
So if your goal is to hold on to what you have, one or two sets per move per workout should do the trick.
The key is to keep them challenging; you should always feel like you stopped two reps short of failure.
Take a similar approach with cardio: In a study in the journal Physiological Reports, a team of British researchers found that a single, intense, 20-minute interval workout every five days allowed participants to maintain levels of cardiovascular fitness built through much higher frequency training programs.
3. Dial In Your Diet
Here’s the one category where you might have to be more diligent than you were before you reached your goal.
As you cut back on your workouts, you’re going to start burning fewer calories. To avoid the fate of the ex-athlete who balloons 50 pounds when he hangs up his cleats, tighten up your diet as you reduce your training time.
“On the days you don’t work out, cut 300 to 500 calories from your diet,” says Dr. Jade Teta, founder of The Metabolic Effect, a fitness and nutrition coaching service focused on maximizing results with minimal effort. “Ideally, those calories should come from starchy carbs and sources of empty calories [i.e., junk food] rather than from protein or veggies,” says Teta.
4. Stay Flexible
These general guidelines are just that: general guidelines. Though lower frequency, more intense workouts seem to work for most people looking to maintain their fitness gains, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution.
“It’s going to be different for everyone,” says Teta.
So be a detective: Monitor your strength, weight, definition, and overall sense of well-being as you tweak your exercise and eating habits, and be ready to adjust everything up or down accordingly.
A whopping 30 million North Americans have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes — and more than 84 million more have higher than normal blood glucose levels (called prediabetes) and are at risk for developing the disease. Obesity is the leading risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.
The rising rates of Type 2 diabetes also mean increased potential for developing serious health complications ranging from heart disease and stroke to vision loss and premature death. Exercise could be the antidote.
THE IMPACT OF EXERCISE ON TYPE 2 DIABETES
Several studies have found exercise can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes; some research has shown a 58% risk reduction among high-risk populations. While much of the research has looked at the impact of moderate-to high-intensity cardiovascular exercise, a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings examined the potential impact of strength training on Type 2 diabetes risk. The data showed building muscle strength was associated with a 32% lowered risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Study co-author Yuehan Wang, PhD, notes resistance training may help improve glucose levels by increasing lean body mass and reducing waist circumference, which is associated with insulin resistance — and achieving results doesn’t require lifting heavy weights or spending countless hours in the gym.
“Our study showed that very high levels of resistance training may not be necessary to obtain considerable health benefits on preventing Type 2 diabetes,” Wang says. “Small and simple resistance exercises like squats and planks can benefit your health even if you don’t lose any weight.”
Think twice before abandoning the treadmill or elliptical trainer for the weight room, advises Eric Shiroma, ScD, staff scientist at the National Institute on Aging.
As part of a 2018 study, Shiroma and his colleagues followed more than 35,000 healthy women for 14 years and found women who incorporated strength training into their workouts experienced a 30% lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes but women who also participated in cardiovascular activities experienced additional risk reduction.
“When comparing the same amount of time in all cardio, strength [training] or a combination, the combination had the most Type 2 diabetes risk reduction,” Shiroma explains.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Researchers are still unclear about which type of exercise could have the biggest impact on reducing your risk. Wang suggests erring on the side of caution and following a workout regimen that blends both pumping iron and heart-pumping cardio, explaining, “Both strength training and cardiovascular aerobic training are important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes.”
by Jodi Helmer
It’s that time of the year! Fall is always a busy season with everyone heading back to their routines after a relaxing summer. With the drastic changes in temperature outside it is only a matter of time before we see colds and flus everywhere. At this time of the year, it’s important to support our immune systems and prepare our bodies for a cold winter season.
Here are some simple ways that you can support your body’s immune system.
Good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating and after touching public surfaces (like door handles). If you do happen to catch a virus, sneeze into your elbow (not your hands) to prevent spreading germs to others.
Hydration: Drinking enough water is always important to keep our bodies working their best.
Sleep: There is a well known association showing that those of us who are not getting adequate sleep tend to get sick more often.
Nutrient dense foods: We all know that consuming plenty of fruits and veggies is important for our health. Did you know that choosing warming foods such as ginger, spices and garlic can help your body withstand the switch to cooler temperatures? Eating plenty of warming foods during the change in season is common practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Supplements: There are plenty of important vitamins and minerals that can be taken in supplemental form to help support our body’s natural immunity. While these supplements are widely available, it is important to speak with your naturopathic doctor to choose the right product and dose for you.
Cupping therapy is a wonderful complement to massage and chiropractic care and could elevate your treatment plan to the next level.
What is cupping?
Traditional Chinese medicine doctors have been using this therapy for a very long time! The practitioner will place suction cups on various parts of the body and either leave them in place or move the cups strategically along the muscles.
According to Chinese Medicine Stagnation=pain so cupping therapy is thought to draw the stagnant blood to the surface of your skin, increasing the flow of nutrient rich blood to your muscles below. Immune cells are also called into the area to help your body heal the inflammation that is causing your pain in the first place. Cupping also works to physically stretch muscles and the fascia surrounding them.
How can it help you?
Professional athletes often use cupping as part of their muscle recovery program because it is a great way to break up fascial adhesions that could be contributing to pain and stiffness.
By increasing blood flow to the area under the cup we are also increasing your body’s circulation which results in;
• Relief from tension and muscle relaxation.
• Removal of toxins that can cause pain when they are stuck in the muscle.
• Increased flow of fresh, nutrient rich blood to enhance healing.
• Local warming sensation to help soften the tissue.
• Reduced inflammation.
If you are interested in adding cupping therapy to your treatment plan, you can book a FREE fifteen minute consultation with Dr. Kaitlyn Richardson, ND to see how it can take your recovery to the next level.
Before you crawl into bed tonight, turn out the lights and power down your devices. Exposure to artificial light — from sources such as overhead lights, smartphones and televisions — was associated with higher rates of obesity, according to new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study included almost 44,000 women between the ages of 35–74 over a six-year period and found women who were exposed to artificial light while sleeping had a 17% higher risk of gaining approximately 11 pounds compared to those who slept in the dark; their rates of obesity were 33% higher. Women who fell asleep with a television or light on were also more apt to gain weight and become overweight or obese over time.
LIGHT AND CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
“Humans are genetically adapted to be active during daylight and sleep in darkness at night,” explains lead author Dr. Yong-Moon (“Mark”) Park, MD, postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health. “Exposure to light at night while sleeping could alter the body’s 24-hour body clock leading to changes in hormones and other biological processes that regulate sleep, appetite and weight gain.”
While the study focused on exposure to artificial light in the bedroom but Park notes that light coming from outside the room — from other rooms or street lights, for example — was also associated with a slightly increased risk of weight gain. The study did not explore whether overall exposure to artificial light, including daytime exposures, had an impact on weight.
THE SLEEP-WEIGHT CONNECTION
Several studies have linked sleep issues, including insomnia, sleep duration and sleep disruptions, to higher rates of obesity. Research published in the journal Sleep Medicine found the incidence of obesity was higher among those who slept fewer than six hours or more than nine hours per night; chronic insomnia was also associated with higher BMI, according to one study.
The link between sleep and obesity is one reason to make improving sleep a priority, says Lu Qi, MD, PhD, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center. But sleep is just one of the known risk factors for obesity. Lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress and smoking are also linked to an increased likelihood of being overweight or obese.
“Even if you improve your sleep habits, you still need to pay attention to other risk factors,” says Qi. “We also need to be cautious in interpreting these results; artificial light might be a factor but it could be correlated to other habits that were not part of this study.”
Park agrees, adding, “While our study provides stronger evidence than other previous studies it is still not conclusive. Even so, it seems reasonable to advise people not to sleep with lights on. Turning off the lights at bedtime may be a simple thing we can do to reduce the chances of gaining weight.”
by Jodi Helmer
Vulnerable populations with long term unmanaged blood sugar levels are subject to brain atrophy (shrinkage) and accelerated brain changes including memory loss and cognitive decline.
Vulnerable populations with long term unmanaged blood sugar levels are subject to accelerated brain changes including memory loss and cognitive decline.
Who’s most at risk?
Most at risk are those with Diabetes type I and II monitor sugar regularly and those with metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease.
But that’s not all.
Anyone with long term fluctuating blood sugar levels could be at risk for cognitive decline. So those with chronic stress are also at risk. Stress elevates cortisol, which subsequently activates sugar into the blood stream. This is really helpful when we need the energy to physically run from the tiger. However, in our day in age, the tiger is more likely to be the boss, the lack of sleep, the poor diet, or the overscheduled. Stress, namely long-term cortisol release, affects the microbiome. Certain drugs like antibiotics and oral birth control pills can also change the microbiome. Shifts in populations of gut bacteria can evidently impact blood glucose regulation. Overgrowth of candida can make us crave sugars and leave us in a state of flux or what we have now termed “hangry”.
If you are the hangry type, you likely have issues with blood sugar.
A state of blood sugar surges and crashes overtime will lead to unfortunate hippocampus affects, namely sugar induced shrinkage and memory challenges.
Those at risk:
- long term fluctuating blood sugar levels
- history of oral birth control use
- history of antibiotic use
- diabetic patients on metformin
- elevated cortisol
- chronic stress
- poor diet
- lack of moderate regular exercise
- disrupted sleep patterns
What’s a healthy blood sugar level?
Guidelines for healthy levels are subject to some interpretation, however from a functional medicine point of view, HbA1c should be between 4.6 and 5.3% and fasting blood sugar levels are healthiest around 4-6mmol/L. Note that those with red blood cell disease like sickle cell anemia, which change the shape of the blood cell, HbA1c is not a reliable marker and other markers like triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar levels must be taken into account.
Protect your brain
Protect memory and cognition with adequate blood supply, high levels ofanthocyanins, appropriate levels of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and a diet low in sugar and high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Caution with drugs like metformin, which help regulate blood sugar in diabetics and is associated with cognitive decline. Apparently, this could be due to a number of factors, and not just the drug directly; it is therefore important to monitor B2 (riboflavin), B6, B12 when on metformin.
It is important to include in the diet:
- high levels of anthocyanins
- plant powers found in dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables
- consistent intake of B-vitamins
- egg yolks, red meat, liver, clams, mussels, avocados and dark leafy greens
- daily dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids
- cold water fatty fish like salmon and sardines
- flax, hemp and walnut
Is diet alone enough?
Is diet enough to keep up with the demands of cognitive decline? It is difficult to know as diets of many individuals need to be followed for years and it is difficult to control what people eat on a daily basis for any length of time. First and fore most get what you can from the diet, yes, this is critical as the body knows best how to get nutrients from food. Insulin sensitivity is an important factor in blood glucose regulation and a short-term keto diet and or fasting is proven to be effective method to reset it.
Reduce the risk factors as indicated above and get help to re-set the microbiome. That means create a sleep routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. Move your body every day for about 30 minutes. It means to have space in the day that is not filled with tasks and demands. Take appropriate supplements where diet falls short or medications deplete.
Memory and cognition decline over time. It doesn’t happen overnight. So too should your changes and lifestyle reflect a long-term plan. If you feel you need help, Naturopathic Doctors are trained in lifestyle and laboratory analysis, diet, nutrition and nutraceuticals.
Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND is a registered naturopathic doctor with a functional medicine approach. She has advanced training in pharmaceuticals, is a certified HeartMath Practitioner and a Certified Gluten Free Practitioner and holds the designation of ADAPT Trained Practitioner from Kresser Institute, the only functional medicine and ancestral health training company.
Cui X, Abduljalil A, Manor BD, Peng CK, Novak V. Multi-scale glycemic variability: a link to gray matter atrophy and cognitive decline in type 2 diabetes. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e86284. Published 2014 Jan 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086284
Zhao X, Han Q, Lv Y, Sun L, Gang X, Wang G. Biomarkers for cognitive decline in patients with diabetes mellitus: evidence from clinical studies. Oncotarget. 2017;9(7):7710–7726. Published 2017 Dec 14. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.23284
There are several health benefits associated with increasing lean mass:
Greater basal metabolic rate (amount of energy you use at rest): This means that you use more calories each day which will likely result in decreased fat mass.
Protein reservoir for your immune system: When you get sick your immune system needs significant amounts of protein to help you fight infection. Getting enough from your diet is tough, so your body can pull protein from your muscle in order to create the immune cells that you need.
Bone Health: Adequate muscle mass can help to improve bone density and strength as we age, preventing osteoporosis and decreasing the risk of debilitating bone breaks.
Improves insulin resistance: a study at UCLA school of medicine even found that increasing lean muscle mass by 10% led to an 11% decrease in insulin resistance. (PMID: 21778224)
What is the best way to increase your lean muscle mass?
Start with Resistance/Strength training:
We have all heard the saying “Use it or Lose it”, and it is no different for our muscles. Strength training at least twice a week is important to build and maintain muscle mass. It is important to focus on all the different muscle groups, and remember that the larger the muscle is, the more fuel it will use at rest. Always remember to give your muscles a break between sessions. This is why many people will rotate leg days and arm day. The rest period is very important as it allows your muscles to repair and grow between sessions.
Don’t forget cardio!
Moderate aerobic exercise can help to decrease fat mass, but by ensuring that our hearts are pumping we also improve the delivery of essential nutrients to our muscles. This can help with healing after heavy lifting. Overdoing it with cardio can have detrimental effects on lean mass as well. If we aren’t fueling our bodies adequately, muscle is broken down to fuel our cardiovascular exercise. It is always important to ensure proper nutrition .
There are multiple studies that have shown that when combined with resistance training, increasing protein intake leads to a significant improvement in body composition by increasing lean muscle mass. Athletes and active individuals have a higher protein demand than sedentary individuals, so it is important to ensure you are getting enough. Most of the recent studies have also shown that consuming significantly higher amounts of protein than the recommended intake will not have the detrimental effects on weight gain or kidney function as was originally believed. Of course, it is still important that you consult a healthcare provider before consuming very large amounts of protein to ensure that it is something that will work for you, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Address underlying causes of Inflammation:
One of the most important things that we can do for our bodies (and our figures) is to remove any obstacles that may be preventing us from reaching optimal health. These could be things like correcting hormonal imbalances or promoting a healthy digestive system. It is very important to understand and address why we may be having trouble losing weight or gaining muscle, so that we can look and feel our best.
If you are interested in learning more about increasing muscle mass, losing fat or simply just feeling better every day, now is the time to start! To book an appointment with Dr. Kaitlyn Richardson, ND call 519.826.7973 or book online.
If you’ve ever gotten a massage, chances are that your massage therapist recommended drinking plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. But have you ever wondered how massage and hydration are connected and how much water you should drink before and after your treatment?
The Science Behind Hydration
When your muscle tissues are healthy, they are spongy and supple; however, unhealthy muscle tissues are tough and tight. This tightness often builds up from stress, tension, overuse, and injury. This is an important basic concept to understand because soft tissue allows blood to flow and lymph nodes to drain properly.
These biological processes relate to massage because massage therapists are trained to untighten and de-stress unhealthy muscle tissue. Massage increases blood flow in tired muscles and uses up water stored in the body. This process can lead to dehydration if you aren’t consuming enough water throughout the day.
Hydrating Before a Massage
Many people don’t realize that drinking water before your massage is just as important as staying hydrated after your treatment is over. Drinking water before massage is a good idea because it makes your muscles softer and more pliable, which leads to a more relaxing and comfortable massage.
Being hydrated before a massage can also prevent you from feeling achy after getting a massage. Both drinking water and getting a massage eliminate toxins from the body, so when practiced together, the effects of your massage become even more beneficial.
Hydrating After a Massage
Drinking water after massage is very important because the kneading and working of your muscles are naturally dehydrating. Massage helps pump fluids from your soft tissues into your circulatory system and your kidneys, so you need to replenish that lost water by drinking more than you normally would.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
The standard recommended eight glasses of water per day works well for most people on most days, but consider adding another glass or two to your routine on massage days. Another recommended calculation is to divide your body weight in pounds by half and drink that number of ounces of water. This calculation suggests that a 150-pound person should drink about 75 ounces of water per day.
Symptoms of Dehydration
In general, most people don’t drink enough water throughout the day, and your body’s water needs increase on days you get a massage. Dehydration can be easily avoided if you know the symptoms to look for and make a conscious effort to drink more water on massage days.
These are some of the most common symptoms of dehydration.
- Lack of mental focus
- Extreme thirst
- Dark yellow urine
While walking is an excellent low to moderately intense workout that’s easy on the joints, you’ll still need to recover properly to improve fitness and avoid injuries. Here, seven steps to include in your post-walk recovery routine:
Whether you’ve gone for a long endurance walk or thrown in some intervals, it’s important to take time to let your body cool down before you head back inside. This allows you to slowly lower your heart rate and get rid of any lactic acid that could potentially cause soreness and a heavy feeling in your legs. A 10-minute walking cool down or completing a few yoga poses are great options post-workout.
One of the most important but often overlooked aspects of recovery is hydration. Even during low-to-moderate intensity workouts, the body loses fluid through sweat that needs to be replaced. If you don’t, recovery takes longer and your performance for your next workout will be negatively affected. In the hour that follows your walking workout, drink plenty of water. If you’re doing long distance training for a walking marathon or have completed a particularly intense workout in hot weather, an electrolyte replacement drink might also be needed. If you’re unsure exactly how much fluid you’ve lost during exercise, weighing yourself before and after workouts is one way you can gauge how much fluid you need to drink to rehydrate properly. You can also track your hydration with an app like MyFitnessPal.
REPLENISH YOUR ENERGY STORES
Consuming healthy, nutrient-rich food after a walk is a must to allow your muscle tissue to repair and get stronger. Skip processed, sugary foods and load up on leafy greens, lean protein like chicken, fish or even a post-workout protein shake.
Stretching as soon as your workout is finished and while your muscles are still warm can help reduce muscle soreness and improve your flexibility — both of which can help you improve your overall fitness and decrease your chances of injury. If you don’t have a ton of time to go through a series of stretches, concentrate on your weak spots. For example, if hamstring tightness is normally an issue, put most of your attention there. When you have the time, try this seated routine that targets many of the common sore spots for walkers.
REDUCE MUSCLE SORENESS
While nutrition and stretching are big pieces to this puzzle, there are other things you can do to help prevent soreness so you can feel better and work out more frequently:
- Massage: This helps improve circulation and relax aching muscles.
- Recovery tools: If you don’t have money or time for a professional massage, try recovery tools like foam rollers, lacrosse balls or a Theragun to loosen up sore spots.
- Ice: Try taking an ice bath or simply icing any sore spots like your knees, lower back or shoulders post-walk.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Setting goals and tracking your progress is an important part of the big picture. Instead of waiting and possibly forgetting about it all together, upload your workout info to your favorite fitness app shortly after you’ve finished your walk. This allows you to see the work you’ve put in and can provide a mental boost when you realize how much you’re progressing.
by Marc Lindsay