Continuing Education

What Are 3 Lifestyle Changes To Help Manage Your Cholesterol?

When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked? I'm sure 5 years ago when you had blood work done you were in the clear but as you age it is so important to schedule regular check ups to see where you stand. Think of it as a brand new car. When it is fresh off the lot we drive it until the wheels fall off or until the maintenance light comes on.

But as that car gets older it is important to make sure everything under the hood is in tip top shape more often. So instead of going to the mechanic every 6 months, you go every 3 months. While nothing can ever replace proper advice from a physician about how to manage cholesterol, there are a few well-known changes that can be made through diet and lifestyle that can help with overall maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels.


How is cholesterol made?

The body produces some cholesterol while some of it comes from the foods you eat. Your liver cells and other cells in your body make about 75 percent of cholesterol. The rest comes from foods, especially animal products such as shellfish, meat, butter, and eggs.

Once cholesterol enters the blood stream, carriers called lipoproteins transport it to cells. There are two types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL cholesterol molecules are composed mostly of cholesterol with a small amount of triglycerides and protein and work to deliver cholesterol to cells. Too much of LDL cholesterol can cause buildup in the inner walls of your arteries resulting in decreased blood flow to the heart and brain. A complete block of the artery, or a clot, can result in a heart attack or stroke.

HDL is the  “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol molecules are composed mostly of protein with only small amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides. HDL molecules pick up excess cholesterol and deliver it back to the liver to be excreted from the body. High HDL levels have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease, possibly because they assist in the removal of buildup in arteries.

When there is too much cholesterol (a fat-like substance) in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup causes "hardening of the arteries" so that arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

Your total cholesterol count is a combination of LDL and HDL along with triglycerides and a lesser known genetic variation of LDL cholesterol known as Lp(a) cholesterol. The desired total blood cholesterol count for adults is below 200 mg/dL.

What do statistics say about having high cholesterol?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about one in six adults in the US have high cholesterol, putting them at a higher risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have heart attacks, and about a half million people die from heart disease.

How can you lower “bad” cholesterol, increase “good” cholesterol?

  1. Participate in regular physical activity: Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking) or 75 minutes of intense aerobic physical activity (running, jogging) per week is touted by the American Heart Association to support health cholesterol levels.
  2. Include soluble fiber in your diet: A diet high in soluble fiber (such as from oats, nuts, beans, apples, and blueberries) is shown to help reduce cholesterol levels. When ingested, soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance and can bind with cholesterol and reduce the amount absorbed into your bloodstream.
  3. Get enough healthy fats: Replace saturated and trans fats with healthy fat sources. People who follow a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have healthier blood lipid levels. Olive oil, flaxseed, hemp seed, and fish such as salmon are good sources of omega-3s. You can also supplement your diet with omega-3s. A good rule of thumb: eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day for a healthy individual and less than 200 milligrams per day for someone with an increased risk of heart disease.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Some of the most common comments I have heard over the years in regarding sleep patterns are: "You should be getting 8 hours a sleep a night."

"Taking a daily nap is needed so your energy levels don't drop."

"Wake up early during the week and catch up on sleep on the weekends."

Have you ever heard any of those?

This is probably the toughest topic to address in my opinion. I will be the first to admit that I am not a good example of proper sleep patterns. I find it hard to sleep past 3:30 am unless I am just completely exhausted, I rarely sleep 8 hours in a night, and I like getting a little nap in sometimes (no more than 30 mins). But what I do works for me.

I will attempt to lay out the science behind the big question of, "How much should you sleep?"

In my experience, you can have the best diet in the world, have the best exercise program and be free from emotional stress, but if you aren't sleeping well, for whatever reason, it is virtually impossible to be healthy. But how much sleep do you need for optimal health?

Over the years, I've come to a conclusion that there is no perfect answer to this question because like everything else, the answer depends on a large number of highly individual factors. The general consensus seems to be that most people need somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep each night.

There is compelling research available that indicates sleeping less than six hours may increase your insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. Some recent studies even show sleeping less than five hours a night can double your risk of being diagnosed with angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. On the contrary, the same appears to be true when you sleep more than nine hours per night.

One of the first indications that you may be getting sick is that your body tries to rest, as sleeping helps strengthen your immune system. So chronically sleeping longer than the average eight or nine hours could be an early indication that you have an underlying illness your body is trying to recover from.

In terms of making up for sleep, it is a very common pattern in our world that people short sleep during the week and then sleep in on the weekend. It's considered a delightful experience. For me, it's kind of funny. It's like starving yourself during the week and then pigging out on the weekend. It's not the best way to eat, as we know.

Everyone loses sleep here and there, and your body is typically resilient enough to allow for that. However, when poor sleep becomes a constant, there's no question your health may be at risk.

You can make up for some lost sleep on the weekend but here is the price: it throws off your circadian rhythm. Basically you are confusing your brain. Not a good thing.

Asking how much sleep you should get is like asking how many calories should you eat. There are way too many factors that go in to play. With nutrition it normally comes down to the quality of the nutrients you are consuming and the same can be said about sleep patterns.

In a recent study done by clinical psychologist, Dr. Rubin Naiman; who is a leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams made a great recommendation to this subject matter. He said you should sleep "enough hours so that your energy is sustained through the day without artificial stimulation, with the exception of a daytime nap."

Why "Diet" Foods Aren't Actually That Great for You

You spot 'diet' this and 'diet' that on tons of nutritional labels as you are in the grocery store walking down some of your favorite aisle's. Are they worth you picking up and or should you just look right past them? Yes, and No.

Many people who I am very close with ask for nutritional advice. Not because I claim to be some guru, or expert. But I try to be as honest as possible with what science and human physiology says while being sensitive to the state they are in and the circumstances they are under.

Everyone's journey starts somewhere and being respectful of that is always a good thing. If you are consuming tons of sugar from various sources on a daily basis then maybe some of those 'diet' items in the grocery store might be a good change. Changing some of those very refined sugar items you are consuming to some lower calorie 'diet' items may result in you lowering your overall caloric intake to improve your lifestyle.

The untold truth about items in the grocery store that have 'diet' on the label is the artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are added to about 6,000 different beverages, snacks, and food products, making label reading an ever pressing necessity. Disturbingly, food industry groups are now trying to hide the presence of artificial sweeteners in certain foods.

One of the reasons why artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight relates to the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories.

When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain's reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.

However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn't contain any calories, your brain's pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste, but there's nothing to deactivate it, since the calories never arrive.

Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it's going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn't come, your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.

In recent years, we've learned that gut microbes play a significant role in human health. Certain gut microbes have been linked to obesity. As it turns out, artificial sweeteners disrupt your intestinal microflora, thereby raising your risk of obesity and diabetes.

As for safer sweetener options, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Now days reading food labels are becoming a necessity.

Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not. In the end, the research tells us that artificial sweeteners are nothing more than a pipe dream when it comes to aiding you in becoming healthier, because contrary to what the marketing campaigns claim, low or no calorie artificial sweeteners are more likely to help you pack on the pounds than shed them.

Just be careful as you choose what you consume. Also, be sensitive to those who may be trying to change there lifestyle. Sugar, and artificial sweeteners can be addicting and someone may need your empathy and support while they are going through their journey.

New Year, New You?


Ask yourself this question: If there were no pressure from others, would you want to change? Studies have shown that people are more likely to succeed in changing their behavior when they are motivated by internal rather than external forces. So basically you are more motivated when your 'why' is deeper than something that is essentially materialistic.

Being motivated by the money you will win at your job for being the "biggest loser" is nice for the first 3 months of the year but what will you do after that? The special date that is coming up where you have to fit in the clothes you already bought will put a fire under your butt, but when that date pasts will you keep going? These are just examples and this is not my attempt to throw you under the bus for what motivates you. Getting ready for vacation, winning a competition, earning money for your work, looking good in that new dress, and having a six pack for summer is nice. But dig deeper than that because ultimately it will keep you going.

Making resolutions work involves changing behaviors and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking. Yes, this means you have to rewire your brain. Now before you start rolling your eyes hear me out. I'm not some voodoo doctor that believes in spells. But scientist have proved through the use of MRI's that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior when you are faced with a choice or a decision. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.

The other aspect of not reaching those resolutions lie in the cause and effect relationship. You make the resolution to lose weight, get stronger, eat better, and be more consistent at the gym. You made that resolution because you thought it would change your life for the better. But when it doesn't do that right away you may get discouraged and revert back to those old behaviors.

The success of resolutions has much to do with the issue of breaking bad habits and establishing new ones Establishing more desirable habits will ultimately keep you going when times are tough. Habits form through repetition of the same behavior in response to the same cue. Researchers have discovered that the first few times you do something are the most strongly habit forming.

Stay tuned! Coming up, I will dive into some helpful tips to assist you in achieving all your health related resolutions.

What is a mind muscle connection?

When I first started training with my mentor Charles Anderson I learned what this old adage meant. Now days it is a lost art because more people are concerned about the superficial aspects of weight training but in the days where huge social media platforms weren't around and the gym wasn't a new workout outfit contest this saying was relevant. No matter your age, your goal, or how long you have been training; you can benefit from this technique.

What is a mind muscle connection? Research shows that when you think about a muscle, greater muscular activity occurs there. For example, one study looked at how much muscles worked in three conditions: (1) thinking exclusively about the muscles that were working, (2) thinking about the weight that was being lifted, and (3) thinking about whatever the participants wanted. Results showed that there was significantly greater muscle activity in the first condition. And more muscle activity during weight training corresponds to the muscles getting stronger.

Let's say you are doing barbell bicep curls. Your brain instinctively wants to concentrate on the weight: "Move this weight up and down." You need to rewire your brain to concentrate on the muscle: "Squeeze and release the biceps." To practice this, imagine flexing in front of a mirror while doing the curls. Using the mind-muscle connection lets you stimulate a muscle effectively with less weight, which spares your joints. It also leads to less cheating - breaking form just to perform an action without engaging your muscles properly. You'll get better results with less risk of injury when you put your mind into it.

Some movements can be completed by more than one muscle, and your body will tend to use the stronger one. For example, maybe you shove your shoulders up toward your ears during a side raise. This means that when you are done with the set your traps and neck are hurting more than the meat of your shoulder (middle deltoid muscle). To target the weaker muscle that is 'supposed' to be the trained muscle, your brain must shut off the dominant muscles and turn on the weaker ones. The mental focus required to do this not only improves your results, but also helps block distractions, relieve stress, and enhance your relationship with exercise.

How do I practice mind muscle connection? I recommend a quick mental systems check for each new strength exercise. Ask yourself: 1) Are the right muscles contracting when I execute the motion? 2) Do I feel mild soreness in the muscles (a sign to take it a bit easier on that area)? 3) Do I feel any pain there (a sign to stop)? 4) Do I feel extraneous contractions anywhere else? 5) Am I completing the full range of motion? By being mindful of everything happening inside your body, you'll get much more from your training than you would by just going through the motions.

To put your mind into your muscle requires organizing your thoughts and concentrating them on the specific task at hand during a workout. Although this sounds like a simple idea, it's not easy to do because there are plenty of distracting thoughts to get in the way. To minimize the distractions, manage your time so that your workout is a priority, which helps your mind be less agitated about other things you think you should be doing. If you start worrying about how you look at the gym or noticing the person next to you, remind yourself that you're there to maintain and improve your health, not to see and be seen by others.

Why Healthy Eating Can Actually Be Harmful

Nutritional preferences have become very reminiscent of a cult over the past few years. It's safe to say, among certain crowds, you would not even be considered cool unless you belonged to a certain group - "Clean Eating", "All Organic", "Paleo", "Flexible Dieting", "Vegan"... just to name a few. Healthy living and the concept of “healthy eating” appear to be our new cultural fixation. We are constantly flooded with articles and advertisements with elaborate juices, recipes, and lists of super foods. All claim to be able to instill us with optimal health.


The first problem that I have with the idea of “healthy eating” is that all too often it is simply just a more socially acceptable way for people to attempt to control their weight - by manipulating their food choices. They may eat "healthy" but they also have a laundry list of other habits such as: smoking, excessive drinking, tanning, etc. Saying that they are simply trying to “eat healthy” is a way for some people to justify what may become restrictive or rigid eating habits, and could even serve to mask the development of disordered eating or eating disorders.

Saying that you are trying to "eat healthy" gives the notion that there are some foods that are "healthy" and other foods that are "unhealthy". This kind of black-and-white mentality surrounding food sets people up for disordered eating habits. For instance, you have a work function that was providing lunch for you and you decide to eat a slice of apple pie for dessert. If you have a black-and-white mindset surrounding food this perceived “failure” could lead to you “falling off the wagon” and succumbing to a binge or over-eating episode. Food is inherently neutral and you are not a “bad” or “good” person based upon the type of food that you choose to eat. We need to take the concept of morality out of our food choices as this is just another way to shame and berate ourselves for something that we shouldn’t.

Here’s the best way that I can explain it. If all that you ate were carrots, you would likely develop nutritional deficiencies over time. If you only consumed brownies, you would likely develop nutritional deficiencies over time. All foods in moderation can be part of a balanced diet and removing the “good” and “bad” label from foods can help you to heal your relationship with eating and find freedom from diet mentality.

The last issue I have with the concept of "healthy eating" is that health has so much depth and is completely person-specific. We have all seen the lists of the top 10 foods you should never eat, or the top 5 foods that lead to a better body. Those general statements are completely ridiculous. As human beings, we are completely different and unique, with different gut bacteria, histories, environments, genes, and tons of other biological and psychological variations. What may be “healthy” for one person may be “unhealthy” for another, therefore making any general statements that label a food group or specific food, as being “healthy” or “unhealthy” makes zero sense. Ultimately, I don't care how many alkalizing foods you have in your refrigerator, how many 'green juices' you mix up, fermented foods you consume, or how much intermittent fasting you do if the thought of having dessert gives you anxiety. That is not mentally healthy.

4 Things You Should Know About Glutes

We see tons of photos with individuals highlighting their backsides on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat. I personally respect the obedience it takes into the training anyone dedicates themselves to in order to become a better version of self. But I have an issue with the lack of information provided by those of superior physical stature. When you are reading the content of "experts" or listening to the podcasts, YouTube videos, interviews with popular stars on how they achieved such a 'perfect' body make sure that you discern the difference of science and opinion. 9 times out of 10 they are giving you their opinion and personal insight on what they did and chalking it up to the holy grail of exercise. To give an example of this notion, do you remember the squat challenge. It makes me chuckle just thinking about all the trending pictures. I would show some examples but I would rather keep this blog free of content that has no scientific backing. Mind you, everything can't be explained by science. Their are many things related to health and fitness that have very little research or conflicting research. But human anatomy and physiology is still the same. Lets sum it up. The glutes produce hip extension and external rotation. They are primarily fast twitch, high force producing and very difficult to fatigue. To paint the picture of what this looks like think of a skating stride in hockey. The toe turns out so the flat of the blade can dig into the ice (external rotation and abduction - leg moves away from the body), and then the hip extends back into the ice to provide some forward movement (hip extension).

4 Glute Myths: 1) Squats and deadlifts aren't the best exercises for building bigger, stronger glutes. We see pictures of squats and lunges as the centerfold for being the 'booty builders' and while they are beneficial and make the glutes sore; they target the quads and erector spinae. Even box squatting, walking lunges and sumo deadlifts don't activate much glute in comparison to some other exercises. It's not that people don't know how to use their glutes or use proper form. The glutes just aren't maximally involved in squatting, lunging and deadlifting. Glutes are maximally contracted from bent-leg hyperextension exercises (examples: Hip Thrust, Reverse Hyperextensions)

2) Cardio burns fat in the glute - ham area. I see so many physique athletes slaving away for hours on the stair master, claiming that it sheds fat and etches in the details of the glute-ham tie in. Which by the way is not a muscle. The Stepmill can indeed hit the type I fibers and potentially aid in total muscle building efforts. However, this could also be accomplished via incline walking, cycling, the elliptical, or simply adding in some high-rep, low-load resistance training. I'm not saying that cardio (or the stair master) should be avoided; just know that it doesn't preferentially burn fat in the glutes or hamstrings.

3) There are special exercises to shape the glute - ham tie in.  There is no glute -  ham tie in muscle. The next time someone tells you this ask them, "What is that muscle called?" and listen to the crickets after that. Ha. The gluteus maximus is one muscle. The hamstrings have a supporting cast which are comprised of (biceps femoris long head, semitendinosus, semimembranosus and finally, the adductor magnus). There are plenty of exercises that do a great job of activating the glutes and hamtrings at the same time and there are also plenty of exercises that might make you feel sore in the lower region of your glutes (walking lunges, bulgarian squats). However, if you want to maximize the muscularity of the glutes and hamstrings, you'll need to perform a variety of exercises. No single exercise will optimally build both muscles.

4) Having nice glutes are genetic and can't be built. Glutes are a muscle believe it or not. Some people are genetically pre-disposed for certain body parts being more over powering than others. We could make a case for many things like athletic background, parental DNA and environment. But truth be told we all can strengthen this muscle. It just takes effort, time and some patience. The weapon of choice for glute development is the hip thrust exercise. Hip thrusts can be performed with a barbell, with bands, or one leg at a time. However, no exercise on its own will optimally develop any muscle. Another thing to note is if your body fat isn't low enough your glutes aren't going to look as good. Attaining low body fat levels is best achieved through a periodized combination of dieting, strength training, and cardiovascular training. So we can lose the excuses of, "I am stuck with a flat butt." "My parents had no butt so that's why I have no butt." "I'm too old now to have a butt." Last I checked the glutes are still a muscle which means we can break it down and repair for growth.

The glutes are sleeping giants. Dormant and underused with tons of potential. Go unlock yours.

Can you exercise when you are pregnant?

It wasn’t long ago that doctors still warned pregnant women against exercising during pregnancy. Fortunately, the myth that pregnant women should spend nine months on their couch is now thoroughly debunked, and most all physicians should be encouraging moms-to-be to stay active. It should come as no surprise to find out that exercising during pregnancy is helpful both for you and your baby. After all, exercise is an essential element of an amazing physical and mental health program. After studying the research, I have more great benefits to share about maternal exercise than you have time to read. So I will get right to it. Some of the most mind blowing research comes from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. They have proven that maternal exercise during pregnancy may have a beneficial effect on fetal cardiac programming by reducing fetal heart rate and increasing heart rate variability. When they looked at the fetuses that had been exposed to maternal exercise they came to the conclusion that hear rates among women who exercised during pregnancy had fetuses with significantly lower heart rates than those mothers who were not exposed to exercise. Researchers concluded that exercising during pregnancy can benefit a mother’s own heart and her developing baby’s heart as well.

Along with a stronger heart for you and your baby, what other types of benefits can you expect by staying discipline to a exercise regimen? * An easier labor and faster recovery from birth * A lower risk of gestational diabetes * Fewer pregnancy symptoms like backache, leg cramps and constipation * A leaner baby * A lower risk of premature birth * An improved mood * A lower risk of gallstones * Relieve your anxiety

One way to look at exercise during pregnancy is that you are conditioning your body for labor and childbirth. As with most physically demanding things in life, if your body is in shape, you and your baby will have a much easier time of it.

Previous studies have show that women who exercise throughout their pregnancies have larger placentas than their more sedentary peers. The volume of your placenta is a general marker of its ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your fetus, so it stands to reason that having a large, healthy placenta will lead to a healthier baby. It has also been noted that women who exercised during pregnancy gave birth to infants who were lighter and had less body fat than women who slowed down. None of the babies born to women who exercised had babies that were considered low birth weight. Low birth weight is associated with developmental problems in childhood and may be linked to heart disease and other health problems later in life. It is pretty safe to say that avoiding physical movement for fear of causing harm is unreasonable and not based on reality, unless you have some form of medical condition that is putting your pregnancy at risk.

Another pregnancy myth that has long since been debunked is the idea that you need to eat for two. If you’re starting out at a healthy weight, you only need to eat an extra 150-200 high-quality calories a day for the first few months, and then increase that to about 300 calories a day as the pregnancy progresses. This amounts to 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Some women may start out overweight or obese. In this case you only need to gain 15-25 pounds. This is also where exercising can help you maintain a healthy weight.

When you are pregnant you’re carrying around extra weight and your weight distribution is altered. Therefore, your muscles must work harder to accomplish your normal gait pattern when you walk. Exercising during your pregnancy will help keep your muscles conditioned to handle the increasing weight, and can be very beneficial for both preventive and rehabilitative management.

Pregnancy is not the time to set any records or run any marathons. However, if you’re having a normal, healthy pregnancy you can continue to do just about any exercise that you enjoy, as long as you follow the most important principle: listen to your body.

If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Remember, too, that your center of gravity will change during pregnancy, so exercises that require balance will become more difficult. Your body will also produce a hormone called relaxin that’s meant to lubricate your joints to make labor easier. This hormone will increase your flexibility, but can also increase your risk of injury because your joints will be so elastic. So if you feel that you’re stretching abnormally far, back off a bit to avoid an injury. Avoid exercises that could cause trauma to your abdominal area, that require very good balance (biking or skiing), or exercises that require you to lie on your back (not recommended after first trimester).

Aside from those precautions, exercising 30 minutes or more on most days of the week is a great way to have a healthy pregnancy.

References. JF, C. (2002). Continuing regular exercise during pregnancy: Effect of exercise volume on fetoplacental growth. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gyneology, 186(1), 142-147. Retrieved from Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [Jour] AND 142[page] AND 2002[pdat]

Bad Types of Exercise to Avoid

Unfortunately most of us interested in exercise took an American approach to exercise when Dr. Cooper first popularized exercise in the late 1960s. We took the "more is better" approach and started racking up the miles or hours in the gym or aerobics classes and competing in marathons or triathlons. Turns out that this excessive cardio was likely not much better at improving longevity than being sedentary. Most exercise programs today are built based upon a very incomplete picture of the physiology of your body. Getting cardiovascular benefits requires working all your muscle fibers and their associated energy systems. Unfortunately for the long slow cardio folks out there, this cannot be achieved with traditional slow cardio. Unfortunately, anywhere from 90 to 98 percent of people who exercise are NOT doing high intensity exercises. By focusing on slow endurance-type exercises, such as running on a treadmill, you actually forgo many of the most profound benefits of exercise. Your heart has two different metabolic processes: * The Aerobic, which require oxygen for fuel, and * The Anaerobic, which do not require oxygen.

Let's simplify this. Studies show that we have three different types of muscle fibers; slow twitch (type I), and fast twitch (fast twitch IIa & IIb). If you don't actively engage and strengthen all three muscle fiber types and energy systems, then you're not going to work both processes of your heart muscle. Many mistakenly believe that cardio works out your heart muscle, but what you're really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers. You're not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart.


I want to paint the picture of what high intensity is, what the benefits are, and why ANYONE can partake in this type of exercise. High intensity exercises sequentially recruit all the different types of muscle fibers in your body, starting with the smaller motor units made up of slow-twitch fibers which are primarily aerobic (have a lot of endurance and recover quickly) -- to the intermediate fibers -- followed by the fast twitch fibers. If you stopped and gave it some thought, it's actually easy to see that your body was designed for high intensity, short interval exercise. In nature you will never see an animal jogging -- hint hint. Instead of being sedentary for much of the day and then running for an hour on a treadmill, our ancient ancestors combined lots of walking with regular lifting and short bursts of high-intensity activities. It is safe to say that science backs up the notion that they did not have near the amount of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic issues that we face today. So why did we fix what wasn't broken? Steady state aka long slow exercise trains the plasticity out of your physiologic system. This is the ability to handle widely varying levels of exertion within a short span of time. Yes, you can make yourself less adaptable to physical stress in general.

Your fast twitch fibers are largely glycolytic and store a lot of glucose (carbs). When these muscles are recruited, it creates the stimulus needed to grow muscle. We have to remember that muscle is very metabolically expensive. If you become sedentary and send your body the signal that this tissue is not being used, then that tissue is metabolically expensive. The adaptation the body takes is to deconstruct that tissue (Use It Or Lose It). At the same time, it enlarges the glucose storage reservoir in the muscle, which in turn enhances your insulin sensitivity. Normalizing your insulin is one of the primary health benefits of exercise, and this is particularly true in the case of high intensity exercise. Slow long distance cardio recruits the slow twitch fibers only. If you remember, earlier I said those fibers recover quickly. So rather than moving to the next set of motor units, you're just recruiting that one group over and over again. As a result, your intermediate and fast twitch fibers actually begin to atrophy aka SHRINK AND DIE! Aside from losing muscle mass, you'll also experience earlier onset of loss of insulin sensitivity, leaving yourself open to a full scale of health ramifications, such as metabolic syndrome (Diabetes).

High intensity short interval training can be as simple as getting on a recumbent bike and pedaling as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then resting for 30 seconds and repeating that process for 10 minutes. But it also relates to the individual who can perform a set of squats for 6+ repetitions, move on to a set of step ups for 6+ repetitions on each leg and starting over until 2+ rounds are completed. There is no one size fits all. Everyone has to start from somewhere.

Why I don't believe RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) works

For most of my career as a health and fitness professional, the acronym “RICE” was thrown around by my professors, therapist, and physicians as a method of controlling inflammation and preventing injury. This post explores what I believe to be one of the biggest issues in the health and fitness industry. Lifelong learning is what I am about and with that, I am eager to change my approach if the science supports it. And if that means proving myself wrong at times, then I am okay with that. Icing areas of the body that have too much inflammation has been the norm for a long time. Growing up as an athlete, we were always told to go to the trainer’s room to ice down a sprained ankle or other minor injury. Soon after that we are popping over the counter fixes to speed up the healing process. Fast forward and now we have new ideas on inflammation and how our bodies naturally heal. Why are we using ice? The goal is to reduce inflammation right? But inflammation is the latter portion of a multi-step process. So are we saying that we are better at regulating the inflammatory response than the body is naturally? This is where science meets logic and I began to question these methodologies as I looked into more recent research on the inflammation process and its role in the healing process. Let’s talk about the inflammation response so we can gather a little background.

The role of inflammation in the process of healing has been misunderstood for many years. Recent neurological and immunological research has shed light on its importance in the human healing process. A clear shift in science is taking inflammation away from being the enemy of health and a condition to be suppressed and/or eliminated, to one in which its importance and role is allowed to proceed. The inflammatory response is a natural defense mechanism that is triggered whenever body tissues are damaged in any way. Most of the body defense elements are located in the blood and inflammation is the means by which body defense cells and defense chemicals leave the blood and enter the tissue around the injured or infected site. Inflammation occurs in response to physical trauma, intense heat and irritating chemicals, as well as to infection by viruses and bacteria. The inflammatory response:

(1) prevents the spread of damaging agents to nearby tissues (2) disposes of cell debris and pathogens and (3) sets the stage for the repair process.

The inflammatory process begins with chemical “alarms” - a series of inflammatory chemicals that are released in the extracellular fluid. Consequently, exudates - fluid containing proteins such as clotting factors and antibodies - seeps from the bloodstream into the tissue spaces. This exudate is the cause of the local edema or swelling that in turn, presses on adjacent nerve endings, contributing to a sensation of pain. Pain also results from the release of bacterial toxins, lack of nutrition to the cells in the area. If the swollen and painful area is a joint, normal movement may be inhibited temporarily in order for proper healing and repair to occur. Although at first, edema may seem to be detrimental to the body, but when you look at the science it clearly isn’t. The entry of protein-rich fluids into the tissue spaces (1) helps to dilute harmful substances, which may be present (2) brings in large quantities of oxygen and nutrients necessary for the repair process, and (3) allows the entry of clotting proteins which form a gel-like fibrin mesh in the tissue space that effectively isolates the injured area and prevents the spread of bacteria and other harmful agents into the adjacent tissues. It also forms a scaffolding for permanent repair.

So what should we do? We have to first understand that ice does not get rid of inflammation. It can bring core temperature down so we feel less pain but it also impedes the process of healing the affected tissue. We need to allow the lymphatic system do its job and restore our tissues to normal function. The lymphatic system serves several functions but the most important in this case is that it controls fluid balance by draining and cleansing the fluids that leave the circulatory system to deliver nutrients and gases to the tissues. In the circulatory system, our blood passes through the arteries, arterioles, and then the capillaries. The capillary walls allow the fluid portion of the blood to exit the capillaries into the surrounding tissues. Once the fluid leaves the capillaries, it is called interstitial fluid. About 90% of this fluid will diffuse back into the capillaries because of the difference in concentrations of the fluid. However, about 10% of the fluid will enter the open-ended lymph vessels. These vessels eventually deliver the lymph to locations where it can be cleansed of debris and checked for the presence of pathogenic organisms. How the lymph gets there is pretty amazing. There is no heart for this system of vessels to pump the lymph around. So, the lymph moves throughout your body by moving your skeletal muscles. The contraction of skeletal muscles squeezes the nearby lymph vessels, “pumping” the lymph through these vessels which helps us get rid of inflammation naturally.

Based on this recent research and approaching inflammation as a natural part of the healing process, here are some things that are actually effective in helping the body respond naturally:

1) Compression: Wrap the injured area in a light ace bandage. Doing this will help with stability of the area and also increase the body's ability to filter good oxygenated blood to the area. 2) Heat: Sitting in a hot tub or using a mild or low heat heating pad will also assist in filtering good oxygenated blood to the area. 3) Using Skeletal Muscles to your benefit: If the area is able to work under little to mild restriction of range of motion, try performing some very light exercise. Utilizing our ability to squeeze skeletal muscles at or around the injured area can also help the body deal with the inflammation naturally. 4) Electrical Muscle Stimulator: The use of these devices has increased dramatically in the last 15 years. They are now sold almost everywhere and can be beneficial in helping the body use skeletal muscles to help the lymphatic system do its amazing job.

References Wassung, K. (n.d.). The Role of Inflammation in the Healing Process. Retrieved from