Sugars Effect on Insulin and Your Health

We all know sugar tastes yummy.  Sure it can add excess calories with no nutritional value.  Sure it can rot your teeth.  But there are far graver consequences to be aware of when we consume too much sugar.

Consumption of refined sugar has skyrocketed.  Our genes were developed in an environment where one person consumed at the most 4 pounds of sugar a year.  In 1830 human sugar consumption rose to 11 pounds a year and by the end of the twentieth century it was up to 150 pounds a year!  Yikes!

When we eat sugar blood levels of glucose rise rapidly.  The body immediately releases a dose of insulin to enable the glucose to enter cells.  The secretion of insulin is accompanied by the release of another molecule called IGF (insulin-like growth factor), whose role is to stimulate cell growth.  In short, sugar nourishes tissues and makes them grow faster.  They have another effect in common: They promote the factors of inflammation, which also stimulates cell growth.  Sugar, therefore, acts as a fertilizer for cancer tumors.

Today it is well known that the peaks of insulin and the secretion of IGF directly stimulate not only the growth of cancer cells, but also their capacity to invade neighboring tissue.  The moral of the story here is to not only fear the short term effects of sugar consumption, but the long term effects which are much scarier!

How many steps do you take in a day?

sneakers

The surgeon general recommends you strive for 10,000 steps per day to maintain a healthy fitness level.   This is approximately the equivalent to 30 minutes of activity.  Remember, though, that if you want to lose weight, you would need at least 15,000 steps per day.  

So how do you go about accomplishing this goal?   First you need to determine how many steps you actually do take during the course of a normal day.   Purchase a pedometer or a fitness tracker (I recommend FitBit) and track your number of steps each day for one week.  At the end of the week figure out your average number of steps per day.  Now add 20% more to that total.   For instance, if you average 7,000 steps per day, add 1,400 step to equal 8,400.  You now have your first daily goal!   Once you reach that goal, add another 20%. 

You may be surprised at how little activity you typically get in a day.   A sedentary person only gets in about 1,000 – 3,000 steps.  There are many ways to increase your steps.  Use the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from stores, or better yet, walk to the store!   During the course of the work day, get up and walk around the building.   Get creative, you’ll be feeling more energetic and looking leaner before you know it.  

What’s So Great About Leafy Greens?

leafygreens

We are constantly hearing that we should be eating greens. Yes we all know that vegetables are good for us but do you know why greens in particular are recommended?

Calorie for calorie, greens are probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food.  They are loaded with vitamins and minerals including A, C, K, E, folate, calcium, potassium, and iron as well as fiber and phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage.   There aren’t many foods out there that will provide you with all of this! They even have a little omega 3 fatty acids!

Here is a list of few leafy greens you can stock up on. Try them in a salad, a wrap, or stir fried. Because most these vitamins are fat soluble your body will need a little dietary fat to help absorbs them. So, add a little olive oil to the stir-fry or flax-seed oil to your salad but avoid using butter which is loaded with saturated fat.  You can also add them to soups or steam them.

  • Arugula
  • Collard Greens
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Romaine Lettuce
  •  Spinach
  • Swiss Chard

Common Mistakes I See at the Gym

liftingtooheavy

It’s inevitable, I go to the gym to get my own workout in, and I can’t help but notice what people are doing wrong.  In order to obtain great results you need a combination of resistance training, cardiovascular work, and a good clean diet.  Simple right?  Well, you need to be doing those workouts correctly too.  Here a few mistakes we see over and over again.

Lifting too Heavy

Heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better.  If you cannot maintain proper form, have to ‘jerk’ the weight in order to lift it, or cannot perform an exercise through a full range of motion, then the weight is too heavy for you.   Lower the weight, and perform the exercise at a moderate pace using a full range of motion.  Not only is this safer, but you will see much bigger gains.

Talking on the Phone

Seriously?  If you are talking on the phone while working out, I can guarantee you are not working hard enough!  Focus on the muscle you are working and make every rep count.  This is what builds a strong, lean body, and a clear focused mind.

Leaning on the Cardio Equipment

Proper form holds true for cardio equipment too.  Don’t lean over, hanging on to the StairMaster or elliptical machine.  Stand up straight and let your legs carry your weight.  By leaning on the equipment you are promoting poor body mechanics.  If you find you cannot stand up straight then you have the equipment set at too high a level for you.  Slow it down or lower the incline.   You should be able to maintain proper form throughout the duration of your cardio session.

A trainer can answer any questions you have about proper form and can prescribe a cardio prescription at the right level for you.  Building a solid foundation in proper lifting techniques and learning to stay focused during your workouts will keep you injury free and reaching your goals sooner than you thought!

Image courtesy of Jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhoto.net

The Importance of Stretching

We all know stretching is important and can feel the ill effects of not stretching in our daily lives.  So why is it that this is the most neglected component of physical fitness?   Maybe because we can’t see flexibility?  Or maybe because we are so focused on losing body fat?   Whatever the reason, we need to bring flexible to the fore front.  Without the ability to move your muscles through a full range of motion, you are more susceptible to injuries,  and balance and coordination are impaired.  If you’re looking to build muscle, you’re muscles will only grow as large as your fascia will allow (sheath of connective tissue covering your muscles).  If your fascia is tight it will hinder muscle growth. One way you can squeeze some stretching into your day, is take a few minutes to stretch while sitting at your desk.  As trainers we see more often than not, clients whose anterior deltoids and pectorals are shortened as well as their hip flexors.  This is due to extended periods of time sitting and leaning forward. Stretching by Bob Anderson is one of my favorite books on stretching.  Below is a quick routine for stretching at your desk.   I highly recommend you add this book to your library! stretchingbanderson Title Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Incredible Hip

hip_anatomy_posteriorview

Our body’s frame is made up of hundreds of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  As you know, our muscles contract and lengthen as they move our bones, all of which would not be possible without joints!  There are a few different types of joints, and they each perform a different action.  The simplest is a hinge joint, which only moves in one direction. Your knees, fingers, toes, and elbows are hinge joints.   The saddle joint, as in the thumb, ankle, and wrist, are examples of gliding joints.   The spinal column is made up of synovial joints.  The most versatile joint is the ball and socket, found in the shoulder and hip.

The hip is the most flexible of all the joints (except for maybe the shoulder) and can perform in multiple planes of motion.   Unlike your knees, ankles, fingers, or elbows, the hip joint can flex, extend, abduct, adduct, as well as internally and externally rotate.   The hip also supports our body weight and the force of our largest and most powerful muscles of the hips and thighs.  If you start to lose the strength and/or flexibility of this joint, you will soon begin to experience problems not just in your hip but also your low back and knees.  The hip is meant to be a mobile joint while the knee and lower back are meant to be stable.

The most common cause for decreased strength and range of motion through the hip is too  much sitting.   We were not meant to spend our days sitting.  A sedentary lifestyle will lead to muscle atrophy, shortening of your ligaments and tendons, and a decline in balance.  In response to the immobility of the hip joint, the low back and knees will begin to be stressed.  This typically causes people to move even more infrequently, which leads to low back and knee problems.  Low back and knee pain are the two most common complaints we hear with new clients.  Your trainer can help you improve your strength, balance, and proper function of this very important joint.   In the mean time, here are some tips to help keep your body functioning properly:

  1. Move!  If you have a desk job, get up each hour to stretch your legs.
  2. Take the stairs.  The Gluteus Maximus is the strongest, largest muscle in your body.   You need to keep this muscle strong in order to support your lumbar spine and stabilize your knees.
  3. Stretch the muscles of the hip in all directions.   Don’t just stretch the hamstrings and glutes.   The muscles responsible for adduction and abduction as well as internal & external rotation need to be stretched too.
  4. Incorporate functional exercises into your workout.   Functional exercises work the smaller stabilizing and balancing muscles.
  5. The following exercises will strengthen the muscles of the hip:  Squats, dead lifts, kettlebell swings, lunges, side steps, box jumps, and bridges.
Keep your abdominals pull in and knees positioned over toes as you lower body.  You will naturally lean forward, but keep your chest lifted.

Keep your abdominals pull in and knees positioned over toes as you lower body. You will naturally lean forward, but keep your chest lifted.

Improve Your Mood With Good Nutrition & Exercise

image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Depression is difficult for anyone to deal with and your doctor can prescribe medicines or herbs to help in your battle against this debilitating condition.   Studies have shown that exercise and certain nutrients can help with the effectiveness of these medications.   Below are a few helpful tips to start you on your way to happier, more energetic days!

First be sure to eat at least 3 balanced meals and a couple of snacks throughout the day.  This will help to maintain your energy levels and keep your blood sugar from dipping too low.

Low calorie diets can reek havoc on your mood!   Dropping below 1,000 calories per day will reduce your intake of tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce serotonin.  Lower serotonin increases depression.

Omega 3’s can also help to reduce depression.   You’ll find this in cold water fish (Salmon), soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and eggs fortified with omega 3.

Cut back on caffeine.  This will interfere with sleep and can increase anxiety

Eat GOOD carbohydrates.   We’re not talking about white bread, and sugary snacks here!  Get a good serving or two of brown rice, whole grain bread or cereals, fruits and lots of veggies.  This will increase your serotonin levels; strive for 130g per day.

Exercise Daily!!   Any exercise at all.  It doesn’t have to be lifting weights, or a 45-minute cardio session.   Going for a walk, gardening, a bike ride, any movement at all helps to alleviate stress.   A cardio workout that gets you into your target zone (use your heart rate monitor!) will release endorphins; a peptide occurring in the brain tissue that acts like an opiate and increases the pain threshold.

Eating right and exercise can help in dealing with depression but you do need to see your doctor and get support from family and friends as well as a professional.