Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Stand the Heat

Hydration Strategies for Summer Training
   by Bob Wells, CES, PES, Pn1

Courtesy Live NY Now
The long winter of our discontent is finally over. The snow has melted, and we have stored our sweaters, warm coats, and other winter gear in boxes, or in the back of our closet. We can finally breath a sigh of relief--summer is here!

The temperatures are soaring, along with our spirits about this development. The surplus of daylight hours and warm weather has many of us giddy. We can eschew the treadmill, and opt for a pre and/or post work run outside.

However, we need to take certain precautions regarding fluid intake to perform at a high level and stay safe. There are three periods that we have to take note of for hydration strategies:

  1. Before Exercise- Most of us don't think of proper hydration strategies until we have finished our training session, and we are sweating profusely. This thinking both compromises the quality of our workout and is dangerous. Underconsumption of fluids can lead to problems such as heat stroke and eventually death. Make sure you consume enough liquids, primarily water, by drinking 500mL of fluid (about 17 ounces) about 30 minutes prior to exercise.
  2. During Exercise- Once you start exercising, it is important to stay hydrated. Dr. John Berardi, of Precision Nutrition, suggests that athletes consume nearly 250mL (about 8 ounces) for every 15 minutes of exercise. This is a general guideline and temperature, one's body size, and intensity of the training session will affect how much fluid intake is appropriate. (Email me at bob@bobwellsfitness.com or contact your local personal trainer or fitness professional to determine exactly how much fluid you should consume based on these factors.)
  3. After Exercise- Once your training session is over, fluid intake is key for recovery. If you don't replace the fluids that you have lost, recovery is delayed. One way to replace the sodium and carbohydrate losses is to consume 400mL-800mL (13-26 oz.) of a commercial sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.
Courtesy NBA

To read more about hydration strategies and the importance of water, check out "Exploring the Relationship between Water and Fat Loss" or "Running in the Heat" by Jennifer Van Allen of Runner's World

Comments? Questions? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fat is Not the Enemy
   by Bob Wells, CES, PES, Pn1

Courtesy Pantry Paratus
For decades, we have had a hate-hate relationship with fat.

Fat has been denigrated for years, and we have been told that the consumption of it will lead to sickness and disease, most notably cardiovascular disease.

One of the earlier researchers--and creator of the military's K ration--Dr. Ancel Keys (1904-2004), led the charge against fat consumption. His Seven Countries Study showed that there was a causal relationship between saturated fat intake and prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

In his research, Keys highlighted the fact the the Western Diet featured meat and dairy. Not surprisingly, this high fat consumption resulted in high rates of heart disease. Keys therefore warned Americans to drastically reduce fat intake in order to avoid heart disease. Based on Keys' research and strong admonitions, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued guidelines to refrain from fat consumption. Later the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joined the party, and issued directives to stay away from fat, setting up carbohydrates as the base of their food pyramid.

Courtesy Denise Minger
The food companies, with the blessing of the USDA, obliged, and began offering low-fat and nonfat fare. Fat intake plummeted, and carbohydrate intake began to rise, to the surprise of no one. Four decades into this paradigm shift, we are able to see this strategy for what it is: a complete failure.

Despite our decreased fat intake, Americans are sicker than ever. Bryan Walsh of Time writes, "The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes increased 166% from 1980-2012." Approximately 10% of the population suffers from diabetes, leading to astonishing health care costs. One estimate is that diabetes alone costs nearly $250 billion annually. To top it off, cardiovascular disease still remains the No. 1 killer in the U.S., despite this wide scale reduction of fat consumption.

The dubious connection between fat and heart disease should have been noted long ago. Countries like West Germany and France consumed high fat diets yet had low incidences of heart disease. Why Keys left such crucial data out of his research remains open for debate.

However, their inclusion might have led food companies and consumers alike to look earlier into the importance of a truly balanced diet. Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition shows that macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates) are most effective for health and desirable body compositions when they are consumed in the proper amounts. Read "Sculpting the Perfect Body : One bite at a Time" to get a better picture of what a balanced meal looks like.

As many of us now know, we should "Eat Healthy Fats Daily" to help look and feel our best.

In other words, fat is not the enemy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Sleep Matters

As a student at Duke University, our unofficial motto was "Work Hard. Play Hard."

There was a prevailing mythical notion that you could have it all--the high GPA that comes with talent--and numerous hours of study, yet not have to sacrifice all the fun that one should be having at university. The only sacrifice that needed to be made was the nightly eight hours of sleep.

While the years have passed, times have not changed--for our society at large. We stay up later than ever to party, study, and work. We erroneously believe that these extra hours awake will increase our productivity and make us better at school and/or our jobs. 

Courtesy fooyoh.com
A major problem with this school of thought is that science has clearly demonstrated the negatives associated with "burning the candle at both ends" . According to Harvard Medical School, "...a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury." 

At the least, we've wasted our time cramming information into our heads that we have little hope to retain and be able to recall at a later date. At the worst, we potentially risk life and limb as a result of the depreciated cognitive and physical states that we are in due to this sleep deprivation. 

Long term, the effects are even more pernicious. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. In other words, the cumulative effect of all this sleep deprivation is making us dumber and fatter and sending us to an early grave. 

None of us want to be dumber, fatter, or die earlier, so how do we change this negative trend? Here are a few things that Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition advocates in "Hacking Sleep." that we should implement:
  1.  Exercise Regularly. "Exercising regularly helps normalize circadian rhythms, tone down the sympathetic nervous system, and regulate endocrine function." A caveat to consider: intense workouts at night can rev us up, costing us precious sleep. Berardi says that we should leave this intense workouts for during the day.
  2. Keep the Room as Dark as Possible. "Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that signals to your body it is time for sleep. Making your room as dark as possible will maximize your melatonin production." The light from your electronic devices (e.g. cell phones, tablets, computers) inhibits melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep. So, turn these off before bed or turn your iPhone face down if you are using it as an alarm clock. 
  3. Courtesy Ashley Pahl
  4. Do a Brain Dump. Don't stress out about all of the things that you have on tap for tomorrow. This only increases stress and further prevents you from relaxing and falling asleep. Instead, write down everything that you need to do. An example is shown right. This gets it out of your head and allows for true relaxation.
Implement these three strategies to create better sleep patterns and get more from your sleep. 

To read more about sleep and sleep deprivation, check out these articles from Harvard Medical School, New York Magazine, Equinox, and Precision Nutrition.