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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.
The microbiome shows distinct differences in pre and post menopausal women, a 2019 study reports.
The change in microbiome could help us better understand the reasons for health decline in many post-menopausal women. The presence of estrogen protects against cardiovascular, metabolic disease and bone health. Now mounting evidence shows how the gut microbiota affects estrogen metabolism levels. It is unclear if the post-menopausal decline in estrogen is directly related to the change in diversity of the microbiome. We do know that estrogen hold some regulatory capacity in the immune system and more than 70% of the immune system resides in the gut.
Additionally, probiotics can help in bone mineral matrix as the microbes in the gut are responsible for secreting a host of metabolites into the blood stream. Aging women tend to have more Tolumonas microbes. These particular bacterium produce toluene which can reduce bone mineral density.
Some evidence that compares the microbiome of the pre and post menopausal women showed that the bacteria seemed to be more satisfied in the earlier years and tend to compete with each other for nutrient substrates in later years. A decline in estrogen after menopause could increase the bacterial demand for calcium.
Post-menopausal women have a microbiome that produces more cysteine and homocysteine. These components absorb across the small intestine into the blood stream and pose as risk factors for cardiovascular disease. You can take a lab test to measure you homocysteine levels.
It is important to uphold a diverse microbiome to keep the immune system healthy and strong. Older women have higher levels of E.coli and Bacteroides and lower levels of bacteria in the Firmicutes family. Younger women have more Roseburia and less Parabacteroides. The ratios of these microbes in older women links to metabolic and endocrine disorders.
Probiotics for anti-aging
This might be all Greek to you and me, (actually the names of all these critters are in Latin), but the take away is pretty cool. Some of the difference found between pre and post menopausal individuals may provide leadership into the field of anti-aging with probiotic therapy.
Hui ZhaoJuanjuan ChenXiaoping LiQiang SunPanpan QinQi Wang Compositional and functional features of the female premenopausal and postmenopausal gut microbiota. First published: 05 July 2019 https://doi.org/10.1002/1873-3468.13527
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
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
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.
Are imbalances in your brain chemicals and hormones affecting your sleep, work and pleasure in life?
Check each of the following that apply to you:
- I wake feeling unrested
- Sleep is difficult for me
- I am always tired, fatigued or lack lustre for life
- Concentration and focus are a challenge
- My motivation is low
- I am always forgetting things
- I am often irritable and grumpy
- My sex drive is low
- Weight control is difficult and my love handles or muffin top are embarrassing
- Hormones drive me crazy (PMS, menopause)
There are possible safe, painless and natural non-prescriptive drug solutions to help!
Did you know?
- Increased cortisol may cause insomnia, hyperactivity and decreased thyroid function and poor memory
- Low dopamine may result in poor focus, low libido, and depression with exhaustion
- High glutamate may contribute to anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability
- Lower serotonin levels may lead to depression, anxiety and insomnia
- Epinephrine and norepinephrine may increase anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia and insulin resistance
- Low GABA may lead to increased anxiety, insomnia and irritability.
How does imbalance occur?
Many factors contribute to disruption in our delicate system balance. Poor diet, stress, environmental factors, lack of or too much exercise and sleep, stimulants, genetics, even medications can deplete and offset the harmony.
How do you fix this?
Take home lab kits from Sanesco and Precision Analytical are now available for neurotransmitter and hormone analysis. The tests collect the urine breakdown products of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, epinephrine, norepinephrine, glutamate, melatonin, cortisol, estrogens, progesterone, androgens and more. The kit is shipped and the lab company runs the tests and provides the results back to the doctor. Nutritional analysis through lab drawn blood work is also available to evaluate vitamin and mineral status. Laboratory results will guide clinical decisions with clarity and focus.
Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND can help evaluate where to start, access the tests kits and provide blood requisitions for you and subsequently interpret the results. Individualized protocols are the heart of naturopathic medicine. Diet and lifestyle adjustments are first and foremost, then where needed, vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals may be added to help balance the body and get you back to feeling yourself.
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
How long should a workout last? It seems like a question that should have a straightforward answer, but the truth is, there isn’t one. You could spend as little as four minutes on a workout: “There is no minimum,” says Marie Urban, regional group training coordinator for Life Time. “You can get a great workout no matter how much time you have.” Or, you could grind away for hours.
How long you spend working up a sweat is entirely dependent on your goals, personal preferences and the time you have available.
How long you spend working up a sweat is entirely dependent on your goals, personal preferences and the time you have available. Even if you take your goals into consideration, it can be tricky to determine a set workout length, as there are benefits to exercising for any length of time.
SHORT DURATION, HIGH INTENSITY
For example, if you’re trying to build aerobic and anaerobic fitness, you can accomplish that in only four short-but-intense minutes of work. How? Through a popular form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) known as Tabata training.
Tabata training involves performing a cardio-focused exercise (e.g., sprints or burpees) as many times as you can for 20 seconds before stopping for a 10-second rest, and repeating for a total of eight rounds.
Even traditional strength training offers benefits in the briefest of sessions. A recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reveals young men who lifted weights for only 13 minutes per session three days per week made similar strength gains in eight weeks as men who spent 68 minutes in the gym three days per week. The only catch: Subjects performed all sets to failure, or the point at which they couldn’t do another rep with good form. So, there was no slacking here.
It’s worth noting this study included only 34 subjects, and the men had previous experience with strength training; whether the results would apply to new lifters, women or older adults remains to be seen.
GO LONGER FOR MORE RESULTS
In addition, the shorter training sessions weren’t as effective for increasing muscle size (also known as hypertrophy) as the longer sessions. As researchers note, higher training volumes are key for achieving muscle hypertrophy, and higher training volumes require a greater time commitment.
Still, the group that did 13-minute sessions gained some muscle, suggesting you may be able to get away with a quick workout from time to time. However, you would have to continue adding sets, reps and/or exercises if you wanted to continue seeing progress. According to the findings of a 2017 meta-analysis, adding one set each week was associated with an increase in the percentage of muscle gain by 0.37%. As you continue adding sets, reps and/or exercises, your training sessions inevitably take longer to complete.
If you’re training for a specific event (e.g., marathon, bodybuilding competition), your training sessions will likely vary in length as you near your event date, and may include sessions that err on the longer side (60 minutes or more). In these instances, it’s a good idea to work with a fitness professional and/or follow a quality training program, as opposed to trying to come up with your own workouts.
DAILY ACTIVITY MATTERS
By the way, your daily activity level is perhaps more important to your overall health than working out for a set period of time. Research even shows being sedentary can limit the positive effects of exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there’s a strong relationship between sedentary behavior and risk of death from any cause, as well as death from heart disease.
Urban recommends squeezing activity into your day wherever you can: Park far away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do pushups while you microwave food and crank out some situps during commercial breaks. “Having an active lifestyle is more important than working out for an hour every day,” she says.
You’re lying in bed, trying to decide what time to set your alarm for tomorrow. You could get a full seven hours of sleep if you wake up at your normal time, or you could wake up an hour and a half earlier to make that morning spin class. Which should you choose?
This seemingly simple riddle is one we’ve all faced at some point. The decision seems impossible. Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system and injury-prevention, but exercise can contribute to better, sounder sleep.
“Sleep and exercise are both incredibly important for your body, but if you have to choose one it has to be sleep,” says Amy Leigh Mercree, a wellness coach. “Adequate amounts of sleep gets your body the time it needs to replenish and refresh your cellular functioning. If you do not get to do that, your health will suffer greatly.”
Most experts agree that when forced to choose, they’d almost always choose sleep. Adults need 7–9 hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, for optimal performance, memory retention and good health. But achieving a sound night’s sleep is largely dependent on your commitment to your body’s circadian rhythm, which is when we normally go to bed and wake up. A Northwestern study showed our muscles also follow that circadian cycle, meaning if you’re working out during the time when you’re normally asleep, your muscle repair will be less efficient.
EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT, TOO
But just because sleep is usually the answer doesn’t mean you should discount the need for exercise for your overall health if you’re always crunched for time. “Exercise changes the brain and is critical for brain health. What’s good for your body is good for your brain, too,” said John Assaraf, brain researcher and CEO of NeuroGym. “Through exercise, you are feeding your brain by increasing blood and oxygen flow.”
When you have to choose, remember a short workout is better than no workout at all. If you have only 10 minutes, do a quick workout at home with simple exercises like squats, jumping jacks and planks. There are also lots of apps that can give you a quick workout for a specific time frame using only your bodyweight.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
If you find yourself constantly short on time, it might also be good to see where that time is actually going. Try tracking your days meticulously for a week to see where you might be wasting time. Almost everyone is guilty of too much time on social media or watching TV, so see if you could substitute that time for working out. This will help you get a proper night’s sleep and a workout.
by Tessa McLean