We owe it to ourselves

Not everyone has good intentions.

It’s great when a conversation at the dojo can end up being a blog post. Lately I have been having a difficult time coming up with ideas on topics I can cover for my blog. Fortunately, a conversation I had Saturday will be developing into this post.

For some reason, proper nutrition is a landscape of mines of misinformation. The reasons can be money based; new or controversial information can sell books, get you booked onto TV shows and can make people a lot of money. Ok, I’m going to stop there because I think that is the most common reason and I would say 2nd is people actually wanting to educate people.

This post I’m going to go into the aspects of a high protein, low carb diet.

What is it

Let’s start be explaining what is considered a high protein/low carb diet. A high protein diet can be considered as having anywhere from 30% to 50% of your caloric intake to be comprised of protein. It’s hard to find a firm definition of the percentage, but we also need to keep in mind our lifestyle and that not everyone is the same. The amount of protein needed by someone who is sedentary, elderly will be different than someone who is very active. You could also break down an active lifestyle to how much of that activity is carrying out resistance training (the need to repair and build muscle). If we look at it on a granular level, you can’t take a one size fits all approach.

On to carbs. First, let’s break down carbs into their 2 categories; simple and complex. Hopefully we know that we should avoid simple carbs. Things like sugar, starch, high fructose corn syrup. Simple carbs do have their place  in things such as sports drinks if really needed to replenish glycogen stores but should be avoided as a part of your daily diet.

So what constitutes a low carb diet.  According to the Institute of Medicine, the organization that sets the recommended daily intake of nutrients, we should be consuming about 130 grams of carbs daily. Most of us exceed this due to eating primarily prepared foods and also if you look at most snacks that are consumed, they are high in carbs.

Now, if we look at a low carb diet, a diet that will make our body go into ketosis (in a nut shell this is the goal of a low carb diet. It is done so your body will use fat for energy), you will need to consume less than 50 grams a day. That is almost a 2/3 less than the recommended amount. But again we are all different. Sedentary, active, elderly, young, etc.

Exercise and nutrition

I want to be sure to cover off the bioenergetic concepts of how our body produces fuel to feed our energy needs. These needs are determined by our level of exertion from doing nothing to all out full on exercising. Based on the level of exertion our bodies use different sources for energy:

  • Low level of exertion – with this level of activity our body is primarily using fat as the energy source.
  • Mid to low – this level we are now utilizing blood glucose and muscle glycogen.
  • High – Again we are using blood glucose and glycogen.

*Note – Fuel for any of these these exertion levels is not exclusive. All of them use fat, and glucose in some ratio.

Notice that none of these exertion levels uses protein as the fuel source. So how do we replenish blood glucose and muscle glycogen? Ideally carbs. And what if we are not adequately consuming carbs? The body will adapt, right? Yes, it will. And here is how it adapts. The body will take the easiest route to get it’s glucose and that easy route is to convert muscle into glucose by a process known as gluconeogenesis. Muscle is broken down into amino acids and then sent to the liver to be processed.

Yes, this happens in extreme cases caused from being very sick, severely malnourished, or not consuming enough calories. And not consuming the required foods are body needs to maintain the balance between fuel consumption and fuel stores.

This really made sense to me when I delved into bioenergetic concepts. I may be over simplifying it but I like the analogy of a sports car. Use the wrong fuel in that sports car and it won’t perform well but also over time the engine will become damaged. Use the correct fuel and the car performs much better and the engine should last longer.

Why

What is the driver behind people switching to a low carb/high protein diet? The promise you will lose fat. And I get it! I understand why people want to lose fat. Got to look good, got to be slim, but not too slim, got to have those chiseled abs, the six pack. Images and definitions on how we should be primarily perpetuated by the media in many forms. So strong is this message that people will do anything to achieve that ‘ideal’ body sometimes to the point it kills them. How powerful is that. It’s scary.

Having said that lets take a look at the negatives of this type of diet:

  • Fatigue – Research has shown that muscle fatigue increases in almost direct proportion to the rate of depletion of muscle glycogen. It can be hard enough to get the energy due to lack of sleep but this would just add to it.
  • Muscle loss – Glycogen is the fuel of choice for muscles. Without this fuel muscles contract less
  • Lower metabolic rate – with that loss of muscle comes a lower metabolic rate. This means overall your body will be using less calories than before, even at rest. The more amount of muscle we have the higher the caloric requirements just to maintain that amount of muscle.
  • Missing nutrients – Giving up fruit, legumes, whole grain, and other complex carbs deprive you of all the nutritional benefits from eating these foods. Your fiber intake will also drop which can have long term negative effects on your body. You are also depriving your body of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  • Difficult to maintain – It’s not easy to maintain this diet because our body wants carbs. For a good reason!
  • Damaging – Carbs make us feel good. Studies have shown that eating carbs increases the release of serotonin, the feel good hormone. Depriving our body of this could end up stressing us out, causing an increase in the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone which is OK when we either fight or we flight. But when cortisol is released and we don’t do anything about what caused it we can cause damage to our body over the long term.
  • Bad breath – Due to the production of acetones due to the body being in ketosis.
  • Dangerous to our body – I’m saving the big one for last. When on a strict low carb diet our body goes into ketosis. This is the intended goal. The plan is to put the body into ketosis so it will burn fat for the body’s fuel needs. Here are some potential side effects of having the body in ketosis:
    • Increased risk for kidney damage
    • Increased risk for osteoporosis
    • Abnormal heart beat
    • And even sudden death
  • Data – As of yet, there isn’t a long term study on the effects of following a ketogenic diet. But, we do have long time studies of people on high carb, low fat, low protein diet. Just look at various countries in Asia, the rice eaters, the sweet potato eaters. People living with less disease and obesity. One of the longest living people are the Okinawan’s, some living past 100.

 

Healthy

Let’s be healthy and smart about our choices. Instead of focusing on losing fat let’s focus on being healthy. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and let this get you to where you want to be. And it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. Let yourself enjoy the things in life. Nothing wrong with having dessert once in a while or whatever your choice is. If the majority of your eating is comprised of healthy foods than your doing alright.

Lastly know what it is you are doing. I think we all have this ideal on what we are doing but when you actually take the time to analyze and measure what it is you are eating you tend to find out that you were off the mark.

Be healthy. Don’t fatten the wallet of someone trying to cash in on a diet trend. Not everyone has good intentions.

Yours in health,

Darryl

*Note: I am a certified personal trainer with an interest in nutrition. Before making any changes to your diet please consult your physician.

It’s secondary to our nature

At it’s weakest point the chain yields.

Never the target of our focus we tend to neglect these muscles.  Doing so can have unknown consequences.  Typically when working out our focus is on the primary muscles, muscles such as the pecs, quads, delts. The muscles that get us the looks and make us feel better when looking at our body.

The stabilizing muscles, the neglected ones, are forgotten about. Forgotten about until they are injured. Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s a stabilizer muscle that got injured.

Let’s take a look at some of the stabilizing muscles and how neglecting them can impact us and what we can do to strengthen them.

Common Stabilizers

  • Rotator Cuff – I’m starting with the rotator cuff because I think pretty much everyone knows what it is mainly because we probably know someone who has injured their rotator cuff. It can be a brutal injury due to the pain and the limitations it now puts on your shoulder movement. The rotator cuff stabilizes our shoulder joint. It’s comprised of 4 muscles that connect our arm to our shoulder allowing us the greatest range of motion of any of the joints.

Did you read one of my previous articles on exercise bands? No? You should. This is where the resistance band shines as a way to strengthen our body. Bands are fantastic for developing and strengthening the rotator cuff. I’m going to describe two exercises you can do to strengthen the cuff.

1.  Attaching the band to a stable object, bend your arm so your forearm is parallel to the floor. Rotate your arm so your hand is touching your stomach. Hold the band in that hand and rotate the hand away from your stomach so it ends up 45 degrees to the outside of being perpendicular to your body. Return the hand to  the starting position. Do this 12 times each side, then repeat for a total of 3 sets.

2. Now for the next exercise you will place the band under your left foot. Holding the other end in your right hand, keep knees slightly bent and bend at the waist so your hand is over your left knee. Straighten up and pull with your hand across your body until it ends up on the outside of your right side ribs, kind of like the motion used to start a lawn mower. Do this for 3 sets of 10 on each side of your body.

  • Erector Spinae – Think of wide bands of muscle running along your spine on both sides. Think of muscles that help keep us upright and help prevent sore backs and injury. I have your attention now, don’t I. Key muscles of our ‘core’ muscle group. So what can we do to strengthen these muscles? Here we go:

1. Supermans. Do you know this one? I’m going to explain how I want you to do this exercise. It will probably seem a little different because it is different from how most people do this exercise. The common way of doing this exercise tends to engage the glutes. We don’t want to do that.

Start lying down on your stomach, legs and arms straight out like, um like superman. Now bring your hands in and place them under your chin. Now, concentrate on engaging your erector spinae muscles as you raise your chin, shoulders about 3 to 5 inches off of the ground. Hold for a count of 3 and don’t engage your glutes! Don’t do it! It’s tough but practice will help. Now let your shoulders, etc. back down. Repeat for 10 to 12 times for 3 sets.

  • Tibialis Anterior – Responsible for common issue number 3, shin splints. Have you ever had them? If you have you know how painful they can be. The Tibialis Anterior runs alongside your shin bone and tends to get neglected. People exercise the crap out of their calf muscles but never this muscle. So how do we exercise this muscle to strengthen it and help prevent shin splints and to also help increase our performance in sports or any activity where we run.

1. Have you ever done calf raises, the exercise where you lift your heels off of the ground, extending the move until you feel the calf muscles contract? The motion we are going to do to strengthen the Tibialis Anterior is the opposite motion. Sit in a chair and keep your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your heels on the floor, raise the ball of your feet off of the floor. Do this for about 10 – 12 reps, and for 3 sets. If you are looking to add resistance, you can use resistance bands. Keep reading.

2. Attach on end of the band to something stationary. Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front, loop the other end of the band around the top of your foot. Now, pull your toes towards your body fighting the resistance of the band. The motion is the same as exercise 1 but we are adding resistance. If the resistance is too much try using a lighter band.

Caution

If this is your first time exercising these muscles take it easy! Just like any muscles we work the first time, they will react the next day by being considerably sore. Take it easy the first week and then you can get into it a bit more. Also, like anything we do, technique is so important. If you are uncomfortable doing these exercises from reading my light explanation, be sure to engage the services of a personal trainer so they can explain in more detail and supervise.

One more thing. I’ve put down just a couple exercises per muscle. There are more you can do. Again, shameless plug for a personal trainer but engaging one is a great way to lean what you can do to strengthen your body. And it doesn’t have to be forever! Sign on for 10 sessions and I know you won’t regret it. Trust me.

Pay attention to the little things. You do that and you will feel so much better for it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

and in between are the doors of perception

Everything is created twice.

I’m going to go out on the limb and say everyone at one point in their life have done a pushup. When it comes to exercise it’s as ubiquitous as the front crawl is to swimming. I’m also going to say that of those people a large percentage have not executed pushups correctly. All of us probably think we have but as simple as they seem, things can go wrong in a number of ways.

Pour water onto a rock and nothing happens to the rock, it’s still intact, no damage done. Do that for a number of years and the rock starts to get a pit formed in it at the point the water has been hitting it. It’s the same when it comes to exercise. You can be doing an exercise incorrectly not knowing it because you don’t feel any pain while doing it, and you don’t feel any pain afterwards. Or at least we don’t associate the sore lower back, or the sore shoulders to doing an exercise incorrectly. That can be because we already have ideals on what causes pain or the pain started months after doing an exercise. How many times do we associate a sore back with maybe having a bad sleep, or from bending over picking something up, or tying our shoes? It could very well be that the motion of bending over puts enough stress on an area that was already aggravated and ready to fail.

I want to cover some common mistakes that can lead to injury or cause us discomfort. Read them and think if you are doing any of these things.

Hands

It’s common when doing pushups to have your hands straight ahead, or even worse rotated inwards. The idea hand position is to have your hands rotated outwards at about a 45-degree angle. Having your hands at this angle helps to keep your elbows closer to your sides instead of away from your sides, flaring out past your wrists. It also reduces stress on your shoulders which is a good thing. Shoulder pain can be really frustrating due to it being hard to determine what is causing the pain.

Another hand position mistake is to have the hands too far forward. If your hands are forward of your shoulder you are putting undo stress onto your shoulders. Keep your hands just below your shoulders, closer to being in line with your chest.

Elbows

As mentioned above, keep your elbows tight to your sides. Keeping the elbows close to the side has the benefit of strengthening the serratus anterior muscle which attaches to your shoulder blade and helps stabilize the shoulder joint. Having this muscle strong will help prevent shoulder injury even when doing other exercises that involve the shoulder joint. This can also help in preventing rotator cuff injuries due to having your elbows flared out.

Also when doing pushups have your hands positioned so when exercising the movement your elbows track above your wrists, not below or above your wrists.

Hips

Sagging hips. It’s common to let the hips start to sag when fatigue sets in. Just like any exercise it’s important to keep form and to know when to stop because you can no longer keep proper form. If your hips are dropping due to fatigue, then it’s time to stop and rest. Give yourself a 30 second or a minute break if you want to continue. Do as many as you can keeping proper form. Keeping the body straight and not letting the hips sag can help in preventing a sore lower back.

To keep your hips at the proper position, think about your body following a straight line from your heels up to your head. This includes keeping the back of your head along this line by not lifting it.

Keep your core tight. This includes the abs, back, chest, legs and especially the glutes. Keeping these muscles actively engaged will help you keep your body following that ideal straight line.

 

All this time

Sometimes it takes us stopping, and examining how it is we do something. It’s all in the details. Try these tips I have listed above to improve how you are doing your pushups. And keep doing your pushups injury free.

Yours in health,

Darryl