Carbs Don’t Make You Fat.

What we know about fat loss is that energy balance is matters. That means as long as you’re in a calorie deficit, meaning your intake is less than you burn, you’re likely to lose weight. Alternatively, being in a calorie surplus means that you eat more than you burn which may either cause you to put on fat or can be used as a means of bulking to gain muscle. When people cut out entire food groups, they may see rapid weight loss and believe that the only way to achieve results is be cutting out those food groups again. Unfortunately, even though this may help someone achieve fast results it’s unlikely that these types of crash diets are sustainable.

 

Carbs don’t make you fat, however, eating more than you burn will contribute to fat accumulation regardless of whether it’s a protein, carb or fat. However, it is easy to overeat carbs since they aren’t very satiating but they’re quite enjoyable to eat. A sustainable diet is one that you can adhere to for months at a time without feeling like you’re being deprived all the time. Can someone go months without eating bread/pasta/anything that makes you somewhat happy? Probably, but why should they when there are less exhausting ways to achieve the same results. Now this isn’t the same as someone who’s intolerant to certain food. Alternatively, I’ve had people suggest that they’re intolerant when really, they’re just afraid of eating the food and gaining weight. There is a lot of misinformation being spread about nutrition that often leads to the demonization of certain food, which is unnecessary and harmful.

 

Additionally, when cutting out entire food groups some people don’t realize that they’re cutting out nutrients as well. For example, even though we don’t need carbs our body still uses them for energy, especially if we’re relatively healthy and active individuals. They also make us feel good and are enjoyable to eat. For the average individual, there is a certain amount of fat, protein and carbs required for daily functioning. When depriving yourself of essential fats, for example by following a low fat diet, there could be hormonal implications. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of how diets can affect our mental and physical well-being beyond energy balance.

 

On the other hand, if you find that eating too many carbs makes you tired or gives you brain fog you may feel better on a higher fat diet rather than a higher carb one. This might matter a bit more when deciding between high fat versus lower carb diets or high carb versus lower fat diets. How you decide what to follow is based on your individual preference. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to play around with your fat and carb intake, or just simply notice which one you naturally gravitate to.

If we go one step further, we can tailor our diet to influence our body composition. Assuming you’re putting in the work at the gym, simply eating a higher protein diet can help improve our lean body mass. To go on a bit of a tangent, body recomposition can occur during the first 6 months to a year of proper training. This enables an individual to eat at their maintenance calories while losing fat and building muscle, rather than having to eat at a deficit or surplus.

 

Cutting out entire food groups or even demonizing them may yield quick results, which can be motivating. However, keeping a long-term perspective means that no one should be crash dieting forever. Over the long term, manipulation of your food intake isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be. Food preferences differ from individual to individual, therefore using a one-size fits all approach will only yield results for so long until you have to make some changes. Therefore, being in tune with your body and noticing what you like and how you feel is just as important as the diet itself.

 

Marie

 

Has Fitness Become An Obsession?

In order to improve your health there has to be some sort of commitment to change your previous habits. This often means changing your diet, exercising regularly or trying to change any behaviour that doesn’t bring you closer to your goals. You do this because you acknowledge that through your actions you have the power to improve yourself.

Making a positive change requires dedication. But when does dedication become obsession?

 

I’ve heard people suggest that it becomes an obsession when it’s impacting your quality of life. Usually they give examples of turning down parties with friends or choosing going to the gym rather than spending time with your family. Obviously I’m not the person to say what people should and shouldn’t do in regards to their personal life. However, dedication and commitment requires some sort of sacrifice. So the question might become, how often are you sacrificing your enjoyment of life with a ‘healthy lifestyle’? If you turn down a party every so often because you know you’ll go overboard on the alcohol, that’s probably a good thing. However, if you find yourself saying no to birthdays because can’t eat a piece of cake without feeling bad

you might want to re-evaluate. Dieting isn’t the most fun thing in the world but it shouldn’t rob you of your ability to enjoy life. Some people say moderation is key but when you can’t moderate their eating habits it becomes an all or nothing situation, which may then lead to feelings of deprivation. Therefore, it’s important to realize that dieting and training isn’t always a straight line. There are minor fluctuations and maybe even bumps in the road but it’s never rigid.

 

If you find yourself being obsessive about hitting an exact amount of calories everyday or you’re upset at yourself because your numbers at the gym are tanking, your perfectionism may be holding you back. This isn’t the case for everyone since perfectionism can be a good thing however, it may also lead to feelings of unhappiness and discontent. If you find yourself unhappy with your progress because you believe you should be further you’ll probably give up earlier. You may become fixated on your image and look for minor flaws regularly. Maybe you try to starve yourself to make up for the excess calories consumed or spend a few extra hours at the gym. This is when fitness becomes a battle with yourself: when you become too rigid with your decisions too often. There’s no winning. What you can do is try to be more flexible and give yourself a little more leeway for error, whether it’s your diet, your training or both. That could mean cutting yourself some slack for being hundred calories over your targets or taking a rest day because your body feels beyond exhausted. It’s important to have goals but your day-to-day choices and thought processes matter just as much. Additionally, one misplaced decision doesn’t mean failure.

 

Obsession about body image is some of the most common concerns people have. Unfortunately, it’s more of a mental game than a physical one. No one wants to obsess about how each part of his or her body looks in a piece of clothing but it happens. We have an idea of what an ideal body would look like and we may not see ourselves as ideal, which is why we want to change right? Body image is a complex topic to cover so we’ll leave that for another post but I think it’s still important to mention.

 

Additionally, being so involved in your fitness journey doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. To people who don’t understand you may seem obsessed when, in reality, it feels natural to you. You may enjoy it or you be hooked on the results you’re getting. It’s an obsession in the eyes of others but to you, it’s your life and you love every aspect of it. You’re okay with making sacrifices and you don’t feel deprived for a lot of the time. That’s great and you should continue because it should be a lifestyle that you enjoy. Focusing on the opinions of others won’t bring you closer to who you want to be. Therefore, the only person who can judge whether you’re being too occupied with your fitness journey is yourself, or even an unbiased outsider perspective. You’ll know how flexible you are with your choices and the intent of your decisions. When other people suggest that you’re being too obsessive it could be coming from a place of concern or a place of envy but it doesn’t really matter because it’s your journey.

 

Marie

How Can We Speed Up Recovery? (Part 2)

In the previous post we looked at nutrition and sleep as factors that are vital for adequate recovery. In this post, we’ll look at importance of managing training volume and different methods of recovery that can speed up the process.

 

Managing Training Volume

Recovery is often impacted by the frequency and intensity of your workouts. As you progress in training age you tend to recover faster and can handle higher frequency training. However, during the first few months of your training you might train at a lower frequency thus giving your body enough time to adapt to the movements, recover and build muscle. As you progress your volume should be increasing as well due to this adaptation over time. Furthermore, managing volume means making sure your volume isn’t constantly on the high end for every workout and for every week. Therefore, incorporating deload weeks and tapering volume means that you allow enough time for any built up fatigue to dissipate.

 

Recovery Methods

Furthermore, recovery methods include incorporating active recovery, foam rolling and possible supplementation. Active recovery, such as light cardio, increases blood flow to the muscles and helps any lactic acid build up. Incorporating light walking or biking can help to decrease muscle soreness. Recovery methods, such as, foam rolling, also helps connective tissue health, reduces muscle soreness and can improve muscle activation. It can also relieve joint stress while improving muscle imbalances and range of motion. Myofascial release techniques can also be incorporated to help deep tissue health and recovery. Additionally, caffeine intake has also shown to improve recovery. It helps to improve performance and increase the overall work you’re able to do while decreasing possible muscle soreness however, this may have implications for the overall volume you are able to recover from. Finally, stretching and massage therapy has also been used for recovery however studies have shown that they pose no significant benefits to muscle recovery or soreness. However, if you feel that they improve your recovery you can incorporate them if needed.

 

Finally, a big part of recovery is being in tune with your body’s signals. For example, between exercises 2 minutes rest is usually the benchmark for enough recovery to carry out your next set. However, the rest time can be reduced or increased slightly based on how you feel. Sometimes, your working set may feel heavier than usual so this may be a cue to assess how well you’ve been recovering as well as your load.Being in tune with these signals allows you to adapt to your body’s needs and can reduce the risk of injury in the long term.

 

Marie

 

Cheung, K., Hume, P. A., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145-164. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333020-00005

 

Donnelly, A. E., Clarkson, P. M., & Maughan, R. J. (1992). Exercise-induced muscle damage: Effects of light exercise on damaged muscle. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 64(4), 350-353. doi:10.1007/bf00636223

 

Finkelstein, N. B. (n.d.). The effects of massage therapy on delayed-onset muscle soreness after unaccustomed exercise for healthy, sedentary adults. doi:10.25148/etd.fi15101402

 

Gray, P., Gabriel, B., Thies, F., & Gray, S. R. (2012). Fish oil supplementation augments post-exercise immune function in young males. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26(8), 1265-1272. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2012.08.002

 

Herbert, R. D. (2002). Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: Systematic review. Bmj, 325(7362), 468-468. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7362.468

 

Hurley, C. F., Hatfield, D. L., & Riebe, D. (2013). The Effect of Caffeine Ingestion on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3182a99477

 

Lane, J., Kripaitis, D., & Spina, M. (2017). The effect of Foam Rolling (FR) on recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness. Physiotherapy, 103. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2017.11.212

 

Macdonald, G. Z., Button, D. C., Drinkwater, E. J., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 131-142. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3182a123db

 

Recovery in Training. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/recoveryUNM.html

 

The Recovery Principle for Sports Training. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sports-training-adviser.com/recoveryprinciple.html

 

 

How Can We Speed Up Recovery? (Part 1)

When training hard and frequently we know that it’s virtually impossible to progress without giving ourselves adequate time for recovery. Managing recovery on a short and long-term basis is important if we want to see results. But what does recovery mean and how important is it? Let’s look at the different factors that impact recovery and how we can better facilitate recovery so that our performance and progress isn’t negatively impacted by fatigue over time. The first part of this post will address the importance of nutrition and sleep. The second part will look at training volume and methods for recovery.

 

Recovery, in terms of training, means that individuals who undergo training require enough time to recuperate between exercises and between training days. Therefore, recovery includes nutrition, different methods for recovery and sleep. Without adequate recovery, fatigue increases and performance decreases thus impacting muscle gain and fat loss. This highlights the need for adequate rest, managing training volume and ensuring you’re getting proper nutrition on training and rest days. Furthermore, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is often thought of as an indicator of muscle damage however, soreness doesn’t always indicate muscle damage and vice versa. Simply doing exercises you’re not usually accustomed to or targeting the muscle differently can also cause soreness without necessarily causing muscle growth. Thus, it becomes important to periodize your training and incorporate deload weeks (a week of reduced training volume after a certain amount of consistent training weeks) so that your training and progress isn’t negatively impacted by sudden bouts of fatigue and stress.

 

 

The importance of Rest

When training a muscle group, 2 to 3 times per week is usually the minimum frequency that facilitates enough volume to induce muscle growth and allow for enough rest. Therefore, rest days are days between training days that allow you to recover and how well you recover indicates how much you can progress. Proper nutrition and sleep on rest days is just as important as those on training days, if not more. This means getting enough food in relation to your goals, including adequate protein, as well as a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night can help muscle growth. On the other hand, not incorporating adequate recovery management can decrease performance and increase the risk of injury. It can also impact stress hormones thus slowing down rate of progress. Additionally, how well you recover and the speed of recovery also depends on your age, sex, how long you’ve been training, the exercises done and whether you’re in a gaining or fat loss phase.

 

 

Nutrition and Sleep

When it comes to diet there should be some room for flexibility concerning macronutrients and the tools that you use to get to your calories. Even though you may have less flexibility in a calorie deficit the range of tools you use can make life a bit easier, whether this means calorie cycling, intermittent fasting or carb cycling. I bring this up because some individuals encourage the idea they should have different calories on rest days and training days, which means calories on training days and decreasing calories on rest days. However, this may have implications for recovery and may complicate calorie tracking since there are a lot more mechanisms at play that influence our calorie intake and expenditure. Furthermore, when in a fat loss phase, being in a consistent calorie deficit will make it easier to measure your progress, although your recovery will be slower you’ll still be able to recover with a slightly reduced volume. Alternatively, being in a gaining phase means that on your rest days you have a greater opportunity to get the calories you need to recover and to facilitate muscle growth as well as to support your daily activities. It also means having enough food to fuel your next workout since your energy levels will also improve.

 

In terms of macronutrient ratios having enough protein during rest days and training days ensures that your protein intake is enough to facilitate muscle growth. This is usually around 0.8 g/lb to 1.5 g/lb per pound of bodyweight. Additionally, carbohydrates and fat intake depends on your individual preferences but the overall calorie intake should fall within a range of your calorie targets.

 

Furthermore, sleep is a huge part of recovery since it helps reduce stress hormones, blood pressure and any accumulated fatigue. It also plays an important part in muscle building and fat loss. On the other hand, not getting enough sleep can result in muscle loss and can negatively impact recovery and performance. Although recommendations suggest a minimum of eight hours of good quality sleep per night not many people are able to get those eight hours. Therefore, trying to sleep earlier, having a few hours of extra sleep on the weekends or incorporating power naps can make a significant difference in your progress.

 

In the next part we’ll look at the different methods of recovery and how our training volume and frequency is impacted by recovery.

 

Marie

 

Dattilo, M., Antunes, H., Medeiros, A., Neto, M. M., Souza, H., Tufik, S., & Mello, M. D. (2011). Sleep and muscle recovery: Endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 77(2), 220-222. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017

 

Vyazovskiy, V. (2015). Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: Explaining the benefits of sleep. Nature and Science of Sleep, 171. doi:10.2147/nss.s54036

 

The Case for Protein (Especially for Women)

 

When trying to gain muscle the first building block that people often think of is protein. Adequate protein intake is imperative for maintaining lean body mass during fat loss phases and increasing satiety. Many men usually don’t think twice about incorporating protein in their diet and generally enjoy eating it. On the other hand, women are less likely to incorporate protein in their diet and if so, don’t consume nearly as much as they should. Women are also more likely to be vegetarian and vegan. Although it is possible to lose fat or gain muscle on a plant based diet it’s also easy to underestimate your total protein consumption. However, the key point here is consuming enough protein is necessary regardless of your goals.

 

Studies have shown that a good protein benchmark for men and women should be 0.8 g/lb to 1.5 g/lb of bodyweight, with 1.0 g/lb being the average recommended protein intake. However, protein intake should increase when in a calorie deficit. It also increases as you become leaner and your activity levels increase. Additionally, when women are in a calorie deficit they’re more likely to cut calories too much and too fast, without increasing their protein intake and usually without incorporating weight training. This has the potential to make dieting unsustainable and can result in loss of lean body mass thus negatively impacting body composition. However, dieting in general can be a bit more complicated when it comes to women but when done so properly can yield impressive results. This includes, managing your calorie deficit, protein intake and training, as well as being conscious of your body’s response to stress and recovery.

 

Furthermore, in a gaining phase one could aim for protein intake of 0.8 g/lb of bodyweight to 1.0 g/lb. Meal timing is also something to consider in terms of making sure you’re getting enough protein during pre-workout, post-workout and before bedtime in order to maximize gains.

 

Finally, adequate protein intake is also something to consider since vegans and vegetarians are less likely to eat enough protein since plant proteins are not absorbed as easily as animal proteins. There have been studies on the myth of ‘incomplete’ proteins however, vegans and vegetarians are less likely to get adequate amounts of leucine, lysine and branch chain amino acids that are easily available from meat sources. However, isn’t that plant based diets cant provide adequate protein but that individuals need to make sure that they’re still hitting their protein targets through protein rich food sources while still keeping within their other macronutrient targets. Additionally, this is where protein supplementation may help since increasing protein when in a calorie deficit becomes difficult without increasing carbohydrates and fats. Although there are variances in individuals it is important to observe how responsive your body is to certain protein sources.

 

Marie

 

References

Entezarjou, A., Morales, A. E., Nuckols, G., A., Wheeler, E., C., & B. (2018, July 07). Plant Gains? Advice to the Vegetarian and Vegan Athlete. Retrieved from https://www.strongerbyscience.com/vegetarian-and-vegan-athlete/

McDonald, L. (2015, August 16). Protein Intake While Dieting – Q&A. Retrieved from https://bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/protein-intake-while-dieting-qa.html/

McDonald, L, (2017, October 31). Women Training and Fat Loss. Retrieved from https://bodyrecomposition.com/announcements/women-nutrition-fat-loss-teaser.html/

Trommelen, J., K., R., S., Nuckols, G., Anderson, S., . . . Carlos Ramos. (2017, July 17). Perfecting Protein Intake in Athletes: How Much, What, and When? Retrieved from https://www.strongerbyscience.com/athlete-protein-intake/

 

Are Supplements Necessary ?

Whether you’re gaining muscle or trying to lose body fat there’s a supplement marketed towards you. The supplement market is massive and preys on every type of consumer. Products, such as weight gainer shakes, fat burners and branch chain amino acids are often targeted to people who are uninformed or those who want quick results. Supplementation isn’t necessary to achieve your goals. However, there are a few well-known substances, like caffeine and creatine, that has proven to be beneficial.

 

Although considered a drug, caffeine is proven to improve alertness and increase stimulation while reducing any pain induced from activity. It also has metabolic impacts that can improve performance in the gym (2018, Helms). It’s easy to see why one of the main ingredients in many fat burners and pre-workout supplements is caffeine due to its metabolic impacts. Therefore, it can easily be used during a weight loss phase, due to it’s appetite suppression effect, as well as a gaining phase. However, it is vital that individuals manage their intake timing since caffeine can negatively impact sleep quality. It’s also important to consider taking a dosage relative to what you’re accustomed to since taking too high of a dosage can cause negative mental or physical effects, thus impacting your recovery.

 

Protein is another common supplement that is by no means required, but is usually taken for the sake of convenience. It’s also useful for individuals who struggle to meet their protein requirements for the day. Whey and Casein protein powders are two of the most common and easily available protein powders. There are also numerous vegan protein powders, such as pea protein and brown rice protein that can also help vegans and vegetarians meet their protein requirements. The problem with whey and casein is that many people find that they are intolerant and develop allergic reactions when ingested, however they are the cheapest protein powders on the market. Additionally, many vegan protein powders have been questioned for their amino acid profile and run the risk of being ‘incomplete’ proteins. Although the topic of incomplete proteins has been up for debate it’s still something to consider.

 

Furthermore, supplements such as Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) have grown in popularity over the years because of the understanding that taking them during your workout facilitates muscle growth and repairing. Unfortunately, BCAAs do not to provide any significant benefits. What is more important is consuming your protein throughout the day. Unless your workouts are strenuous, high intensity workouts that last more than 1.5 hours intra-workout supplementation isn’t a requirement.

 

On the other hand, creatine is a naturally occurring energy system within the human body that can help increase energy and improve performance. Even though we can get creatine from food sources the amount our body utilizes is minimal compared to the amount we actually need. Therefore, individuals, including women, vegetarians and vegans, can benefit from creatine supplementation in both mental and physical ways, as long as it does not cause any adverse stomach issues. I won’t go in to too much detail since there has been a lot of extensive research published but I will link a few articles for those interested.

 

What about multi-vitamins and fish-oil supplements? Based on individual needs multivitamins can help meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you don’t see yourself ingesting enough of them through whole foods. Fish oil supplementation can also be beneficial for reducing inflammation. However, both supplements have been called into question since fish oil can have adverse effects and multi-vitamins may not be required at all.

 

Remember that supplements are called supplements for a reason. They shouldn’t make up your diet nor are they required. Many a time it’s difficult to even say what a supplement contains because of how they’re manufactured. Therefore, there’s always a risk of spending money on products you don’t know will be beneficial to your goals. As it is supplements are in no way cheap therefore, if you do end up buying supplements buy it from a reputable company that shows the profile of the supplement and the reasoning behind it.

 

Marie

 

 

References:

BCAA Supplementation does not help in maintaining lean body mass in during fat loss phases: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0128-9

Creatine Supplementation: https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/

Omar Isuf and Eric Helms: Everything you need to know about creatine

 

Is There Any Benefit To Abdominal Training?

 

Abdominal exercises are always some of the first exercises people resort to when they first start working out. There is a belief among many people that, in order to get a defined stomach you have to train it accordingly. It might make sense in theory since if you train for strong legs you’ll get strong legs. However, in reality, abs are a bit different seeing as that most often their strength is result of other movements. Many people are already ahead of the game and know that abs are made in the kitchen, i.e. visible abs are a result of a lower bodyfat percentage. So what happens when you go on your first cut (fat loss phase), lose a considerable amount of fat and still see no six/four pack? This might have something to do with genetics and fat distribution, not being at a low enough body fat percentage or not having developed enough muscle just yet.

 

Abs are often thought of for their aesthetic appeal however, the core itself serves an important functional purpose in training and everyday life. Therefore, is direct ab training necessary? Nope. Your abs are engaged when carrying out compound movements and other everyday activities that involve bracing your core. Therefore, if you decide to shed some body fat after only doing compound movements you can probably expect to see defined some abs. However, if you want to get stronger in your main movements or just for everyday activities direct ab work can help.

 

So let’s go through this scenario, you train for a year and embark on your first fat loss phase after thinking that you’ve put on a decent amount of muscle. Toward the end of the cut you’ve lost a considerable amount of body fat but your abs are nowhere to be seen. I considered giving an estimate of body fat that abs would be visible from but to be honest, it depends on the individual since some people can show abs at a higher body fat than others. This brings me to my first point: the role of genetics. Genetics determines where you store most of your fat and what your abs look like. Some people may train for years, cut down to single digit numbers and will still have a four pack. Someone else may have defined abs but may have a higher body fat percentage because they store the majority of their body fat in their lower body. Therefore, you can’t always train your way to your idealized body without some reality checks.

 

 

Furthermore, in the circumstance of not having enough developed enough muscle yet and seeing no abs you may be one of the few people who would have to incorporate some direct ab work. This would be easier to do when you’re not in a calorie deficit and you’re training consistently. As a side note, there has been a misconception that compound movements are known to thicken the waist and make it ‘blockier’. Not only is this untrue but, these movements actually help activate the core and shed fat overall. If your waist is ‘blocky’ it could be a result of genetics or heavy direct abdominal training. In most instances, when training abs for muscle growth any weighted ab work can make your waist size bigger. On the other hand, if you choose to incorporate ab work into your training sticking to bodyweight exercises is enough to improve definition.

 

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Marie