Sports Science

I read a great book recently called Brain Rules, by John Medina.  It talks about how brain science has proven some simple truths about the way we learn and interact in the world and what we should be doing differently to maximize our school system and our work environment for productivity.

I was surprised that Brain Rule Numero Uno was: EXERCISE!!  I was hooked immediately, can you imagine why?  Basically this chapter talked about the fact that Homo Sapiens evolved from nomadic tribes that would have to walk at least 12 miles a day, and therefore the brain evolved to be most productive when being stimulated by physical activity.

Your body composition is the product of many factors.  Some of them you can't completely control.

Your Body Composition: Factors You Can Control

1) Type of activity you do. Different activities provide different stresses on different parts of the body, and as you would expect the body reacts differently to these stresses.  Aerobic exercise (jogging, walking, treadmill) has traditionally been thought of as the fat burning exercise, but there is more proof that being in your anaerobic zone not only burns fat, but increases your lean mass by building muscle and burning fat even faster.  You might not lose weight as fast, but you will get smaller, because fat takes up more space, pound for pound, than muscle.  A member of FAF JUST posted something about this, she has only lose two pounds over the past months, but reduced her body fat percentage from 27% to under 20%.  She gained several pounds of muscle during this period, so she looks leaner and meaner!

2) Amount of activity. Clearly, the more a person exercises the greater potential benefits in desirably altering body composition.  However, increasing activity too drastically without increasing food intake to balance energy can have a negative effect on body composition, as you can possibly start to eat up muscle.  In addition to overtraining, this will reduce your lean mass, even though the scale goes down, and reduce your power and endurance, which means in the long run you are moving backwards.  Find the balance that works for you, and eat appropriately!

Per request of a client, I am going to address heart rate and training zones today. The takeaways from this post will be:

1) Is there really a "fat burning zone" and should I aim for that?
2) Why are carbs an important element in my diet if I’m exercising?
3) How does heart rate give me clues for how my body is utilizing energy?

In order to understand your zones, you first need to understand how the body creates energy.

Many people have been asking me questions about daily caloric intake recently.  The funny thing is I could give 5 people with similar goals the same daily caloric total solution, and it may only work for one of them.  Understanding the basic math that a pound of fat = 3,500 calories is important to determine a baseline and to be able to be consistent, but perhaps more important is to STAY consistent and monitor changes that occur in YOUR body over time. 

For example, many of you decide "I want to lose a pound of fat per week" and therefore create a 500 calorie deficit at the end of every day by working out and eating right.  This "should" work -- but your weight doesn't budge.  Then you add 400 calories back, and all of a sudden you bust through a plateau.  However, another person with the same weight might have benefited from your original 500 calorie plan because of the weirdest factors, like the types of workouts you are doing, when and what you are eating (that one isn't so weird), climate and elevation, internal temperature, lifestyle, and even average daily stress level.  Some people lose weight when stressed out, others gain weight.

So WHAT DO WE DO?  Well - I gave you the answer.  "Pick a number" that isn't too extreme, and see how your body reacts, and then take note and adjust accordingly.

I can tell you one thing though - in general, extreme calorie cuts and extreme calorie surpluses will never give you the body you want.  And by extreme, I might even mean anywhere above or below 400 calorie deficit or surplus.  That is going to be the first part of my discussion today, and the second will be "micro" energy surplus and deficit throughout the day -- the little peaks and valleys in your daily energy level.  There is some disagreement about the first point, but little to no disagreement about my second point.

This is what I call a "back to basics" blog post.  I will be talking to you about the 3 general things that can improve your fat loss.  I have to admit I got the gist of this information from another Beachbody Coach, Jenelle Summers, but wanted to expand on her ideas a little bit.  As a preamble, I'd like to remind you that the processes of building muscle and burning fat are completely separate.  Wouldn't it be cool if we could lift weights all day and then convert all the fat into muscle and just weigh the same but be jacked?  Yeah - unlikely, and in fact, impossible.  As you will read, though, that doesn't mean strength training shouldn't be part of your weekly routine.

What does the term "muscle confusion" really mean?.  First of all, if you are not familiar, this is the "science" behind P90X, and honestly it somehow comes into play in just about every other Beachbody workout, especially TurboFire and ChaLEAN Extreme.  Basically, with muscle confusion, you do a certain set of workouts that stimulate muscles in a specific way for 30 days, and then change it up.  This supposedly helps you bust through plateaus, because just as your body starts to adapt to the routine, you mix it up and instead of hitting the wall, you continue to see your muscles gain and your fat disappear.  

If you read that last sentence, I guess it makes sense, doesn't it?  It seems logical that you should change things up every month or so to avoid plateaus, but there is actually a scientific principle behind it as well, so it isn't just "infomercial science," it's actually a real thing that goes on in your body, and one of the reasons Beachbody just plain old WORKS and other knock-offs don't.

If you've ever done p90x or Insanity you've probably heard trainers say stuff like "check your heart rate" and "make sure you are in the right zone."  If you are a runner, you have heard terms like "aerobic run," "tempo pace," and "VO2 Max" most likely.  Well, this blog post is just a quick guide to what the simplest things you need to know about your heart rate are, and how knowing them can affect the way you exercise.

Somehow, and at some point in America, the elusive feature known as "six-pack abs" became an even more important trait to us when choosing our mates than more traditional values like, say, personality or even other physical traits like functional fitness.  What does it mean to have a six pack and why is it so important?  Well from a health perspective, having a six pack honestly doesn't automatically mean you are Godly or perfectly healthy, and conversely, NOT having a six pack doesn't mean you can't be in peak health and peak physical condition.  For example, a mid distance runner might have the best six pack because his or her training involves power and speed, while a marathon runner or a professional weight lifter might be elite in his or her sport, but not have a six pack.  I guess the bottom line is that having a six pack has nothing to do with physical ability, it is simply an aesthetic representation of having a certain percentage body fat, which allows for your abdominal muscles to show through.  

The sport of Bodybuilding, which obviously does include a lot of training, is also much about body conditioning for looks, which isn't very natural and sometimes unhealthy.  For example, my friend who is a competitive body builder (just placed 6/20 in his class at a competition!) told me in his cut phase, he ate chicken or tilapia and green beans for almost every meal from July-October.  The day of the competition he wasn't allowed to drink any water after 8 oz. in the morning.  Because he was on a ketosis diet and was severely dehydrated the day of the competition, he had an extra great six-pack, I've seen pictures!  Of course, that wasn't the only reason, he trained hard for a whole year leading up to it, but there are "tricks" like that, that bodybuilders and models do before photoshoots.  However if you asked one of those models to run a 5k after the photoshoot, or a bodybuilder to do a Warrior Dash the day of a competition, they'd likely collapse from not having enough carbs in the diet and from being so dehydrated.  I just want to say to you - unless you want to be a competitive bodybuilder, you might want to reprioritize your goals if "six-pack" is your number one goal!  I always say eat for performance and dominate in your workouts to lose weight and look good!

That being said, there are healthy ways for you to get your six pack that don't involve fasting and ketosis diets, and certainly ways to get there without doing 1,000 crunches in a day, which seems to be how everything thinks you get a six pack.