The human body is a marvel of resilience and adaptability. Depending on the combination of circumstances, we can live just about anywhere, in just about any climate. We can adapt to different foods, types of shelter, seasonal variations, and levels of stress. We can exist weeks, months or even years with nutrient deficiencies.
But there's one thing, besides a lack of oxygen, that our bodies can't adapt to. It's dehydration.
"The importance of proper hydration cannot be stressed enough," reports the National Academy of Sports Medicine. "Water is vital to life itself; it constitutes approximately 60% of the adult human body by weight...Studies show that a fluid loss of even 2% of body weight will adversely affect circulatory functions and decrease performance levels."
When we stay properly hydrated, our bodies benefit in the following ways:
What happens to our bodies when we're DE-hydrated? We experience decreases in performance, blood pressure and volume, sweat rate, cardiac output and blood flow to the skin. Our heart rate, core temperature, perceived exertion and use of muscle glycogen increases. We retain more water and sodium.
At most clubs where I've worked, we would measure clients' total body water percentage using a bioelectric impedance scale, which also measures body fat. Invariably, the majority of clients were below recommended hydration levels. One trainer would tell her achy clients that due to dehydration, "Your joints are like the Sahara Desert." A lack of water affects every physiologic function, so yes, even joint pain and stiffness can be at least partially attributed to this deficit.
Different tissues in your body contain different amounts of water. Livestrong.com reports that body fat contains approximately 10 percent water, while muscle is approximately 75 percent water. "In general, men should aim for a total body water percentage between 50 and 65 percent, while the ideal range for women is between 45 and 60 percent."
So, how do we determine if we need to drink more water? Just go by our thirst, right? Wrong, according to NASM. "Thirst alone is a poor indicator of how much water is needed. Athletes consistently consume inadequate fluid volume, managing to replace approximately 50% of sweat losses."
Daily water intake recommendations state that sedentary men should consume an average of 3.0 L (approximately 13 cups) and sedentary women should consume an average of 2.2 L (approximately 9 cups) of water. For those trying to lose weight, drink an additional 8 ounces of water for every 25 pounds above ideal weight. Increase water intake before, during and after exercise, and if you're in a hot climate.
When exercising for less than an hour, experts say to stick with water for fluid replacement. For exercise lasting more than 60 minutes, sports drinks are acceptable and help replenish muscle glycogen stores.
Now that you're convinced to consume more water, here are a few of my personal tips to help you make that happen:
Considering that every aspect of your physical health, down to the cellular level, is impacted by hydration, drink up TODAY. This is one area of your health and wellness that you can control!
Q. Do carbohydrates make me fat?
A. The answer is no. Carbohydrates are necessary nutrients. They provide energy for the body, metabolism of fats, spare muscle proteins, and provide essential fiber, vitamins and minerals. Excess intake of any nutrient, carbohydrate, fat, protein or alcohol over daily calorie needs will cause weight gain.
Selecting carbohydrates that are moderate- to low-glycemic foods and high in fiber can help with satiety, blood sugar regulation and energy balance indirectly. Overconsumption of sugar, refined processed carbohydrates and high-glycemic foods could lead to uncontrolled spikes in blood sugar, low energy and increased appetite. Therefore, to avoid hunger, it is advised to choose unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates sources such as vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole fruit and grains to provide fiber, vitamins and minerals for healthy weight loss. In addition, carbohydrate is imperative to glycogen repletion before, during and after exercise for strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic performance, and conditioning. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrate intake for an adult is 45 to 65% of total caloric intake.
Q. Does eating at night make me fat?
A. Weight gain is a result of eating more calories than you burn on a regular basis, not when you eat. Because of their preference or schedule, many people eat later in the evening, before bed, or even wake up in the middle of the night to take in calories. If one gains weight doing this, it is because of excess calorie intake, not the timing.
The body does not have an enzyme with a watch that after 7 pm preferentially stores items, especially carbohydrates, as fat. We all have a certain number of calories that we can consume without gaining weight. As long as we do not exceed that number, weight gain will not occur.
Imagine this scenario: at your height, weight, and activity level, you know that you burn 2,750 calories in a 24-hour period. You have had a busy day, and since your 350-calorie breakfast, you have not had the opportunity to eat. You get home late after a long day and you are starving. At 9 pm, you eat an enormous 1,000-calorie meal. Added to the 350-calorie breakfast, this brings your total calories consumed for the day to 1,350 calories. After your late meal you are exhausted and promptly go to bed. Will you gain weight? Simply put, no. You have burned 1,400 calories more than you consumed. So, the moral here is to figure out how many calories you can have during the day to lose or maintain weight and distribute those calories and foods in a manner that makes you feel your best and prevents hunger.
Questions and answers provided by NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised
Could you or someone you know be royalty without even realizing it? Take this 'YES or NO' quiz to find out!
If you answered YES to the majority of these questions, then I now crown you Cardio Queen!
Before you claim your royal title, I need to know one thing: Does your fitness goal include losing fat, increasing lean mass and accelerating your metabolism so that you burn more calories at rest? If you answered yes to this as well, you may want to reconsider donning that crown.
But first, allow me to applaud your commitment to exercise. The fact that you incorporate movement into your day already demonstrates that you value fitness. Making exercise a habit is a critical step in your path to wellness.
My guess is, though, that if you've been performing steady-state cardio for a while (meaning, aerobic activity that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval workout where you vary your intensity, allowing for periods of recovery), one or several of these has occurred:
Am I right? Here's some additional insight from one of my favorite fitness experts, Rachel Cosgrove, who co-owns one of the most successful gyms in the country and writes for numerous reputable fitness magazines: "Your body quickly adapts to steady state aerobic activity, decreasing the amount of calories you burn with each walk/run, making you more and more efficient at the activity. This is the goal if you're training for an endurance event – to be super efficient using the least amount of energy (calories) possible to complete the distance. You want just the opposite if you're trying to lose fat."
Numerous studies support this, including this one from the American Journal of Medicine --
I had a client, who is now a good friend (I love when that happens!), who began her fitness journey attending one cardio-based group fitness class most days of the week. Then it progressed to two classes per session. Eventually, she began jogging a couple of miles on the treadmill before classes. She came to me exasperated, exhausted and feeling like she was losing the weight management battle, not to mention her free time. I recall asking her two questions: "How's your diet?" and "Are you doing any strength training?" Her diet was mostly liquid--sweet tea--and she wasn't doing any strength training for fear that it would make her bulky. Please, lady friends, put that myth to rest! While some of us may have an easier time than others adding defined lean mass, we women lack the natural hormones to develop man muscles.
Ok, so back to my client. Once she cut the sweet tea, added real food to her diet, especially healthy amounts of protein, drastically reduced traditional cardio and emphasized circuit-style weight training into her program to build muscle and burn significant calories, she noticed immediate results. Very quickly, she became strong, lean, shapely and energized. Beyond that, she reclaimed her schedule by cutting her time in the gym by more than half.
Are we saying that you should never perform steady state cardio? Absolutely not. It builds endurance, conditions your internal organs, releases feel-good endorphins, and improves our mental state. Furthermore, as I reported in a previous blog, "An individual's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality." (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition Revised). But if your goal is fat loss, steady-state cardio should not take precedence over muscle-building strength training or metabolism-revving interval training. If you are an endurance competitor, then by all means, perform steady state cardio as that is training for your sport. That said, even distance athletes benefit from strength training.
So, where does that leave your Cardio Queen crown? Hopefully, on your mantle, at least for most days of the week. On other days, swap it out for weights, a kettlebell or bodyweight exercises performed in interval fashion. For example, after warming up, perform exercises as intensely as you can--and with correct form--for, say, 30 seconds. Then rest for 60-90 seconds. Repeat all work/rest intervals for a total of 15 minutes. As your conditioning improves, reduce the length of your recovery, as low as 30 seconds. And if you're a serial cardio class taker, reclaim some time in your life by skipping three one-hour classes and lifting weights instead for 20 minutes. Imagine what you could do with the two hours you'll get back from that simple decision!
Need help putting an interval training and/or metabolic resistance training program together? You know where to find me!
Do you own a t-shirt with a funny or inspiring phrase on it? Clothing has always been used as a form of expression, but over the last decade or so, our duds have become quite blatant. Text is now printed directly on the chest, back or sleeves of our garments, letting the world know exactly what we think. I'm a bottom-line kinda girl, so terse t-shirt text is up my alley.
I especially enjoy searching for uniquely scripted shirts for my husband. For him, I get thrifty, as in, I visit thrift stores. Who doesn't love sorting through the racks of t-shirts arranged by color, hoping to find a one-of-a-kind gem? Alright, maybe you don't, but I'm ok with working up a sweat digging through piles of used stuff. More calories burned! Anyway, some of my husband's favorite t-shirts include one that reads, "Grillin' & Chillin'-- Hicks Family Reunion" (we're not members of the Hicks family), another promoting the "U Suck Vacuum Cleaning Vocational School," and still another emblazoned with "Tough Actin' Tinactin" in large Stencil font. All of them reflect his sense of humor and appreciation for the absurd.
I, too, have a few scripted shirts that I wear when I work out, with decidedly motivational messages. They read, "Strong is the new skinny," and "Quitting is not an option." I feel extra tough when I wear that one.
During a recent trip to T.J. Maxx (where I intended to purchase four things and left with 12! Does that qualify me as a Maxxinista...or someone with a shopping problem?), I discovered a sleeveless, white shirt in the athletic clothing section that I just HAD to have. The tank featured a large, shiny gold heart made up of the following exercise and wellness words and phrases: motivation, sweat, go, swim, believe, live your best life, cycle, smile, achieve, challenge, run, laugh, determination, dance and dream. What an amazing compilation of words, scattered in the shape representing love, set in a blingy gold design!! Totally me, right?! When I meet people while wearing this shirt, I think I'll just state my name, then point to the heart-shaped collection of words on my chest and say, "Read this and know me."
Ok, so it doesn't represent everything about me--a few words could be swapped out for, "family," "faith," "sleep," "pizza," and "bulldogs," but it's mostly spot on. As I tried the shirt on again, considering the message it would send to those who read it, I began pondering this post's Thought of the Day:
If you could design a shirt that reflected your current level of or relationship with fitness, what would it say? Instead of a heart made up of positive words, would it be a big red "X" made up of words like , "overweight, tired, pre-diabetic, depressed, hungry, embarrassed, out of breath and hypertensive"? If the message on your shirt would be negative, perhaps because you haven't been successful at weight management or diet discipline, take a look at the words again on my new shirt. Pick your favorite, be it "believe," "cycle," "dance," "sweat," or another one that motivates you, and own that as your new t-shirt message for the next month. You may have noticed that nearly all of the words are verbs--they require action. How can you embody that word such that if it were written on your chest, others would believe it? Let me know the word you chose in "Comments" below, and how you plan to live it out over the next 30 days!
Less than a year ago, we moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. With its top-rated schools, easy access to major roadways, close proximity to the beach, a wide selection of builders and lots of preserved green space, it's one of the fastest growing communities in the Southeast. What that means is, everyone is new to one another. That's a lot of newness.
While it's exciting to start fresh, it can also be daunting to forge new relationships. Those take time. And willingness. And reciprocity. And energy. Whew. I'm tired already.
So why bother making an effort to get to know the folks who live beside, across and around us? I discovered the answer while reading a book called, The Art of Neighboring--Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.
The book's bottom line is this: "The majority of issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors...The idea is that when neighbors are in relationship with one an other, the elderly shut-in gets cared for by the person next door, the at-risk kid gets mentored by a dad who lives on the block, and so on." Government programs wouldn't be as necessary if we dealt with social issues on a street-by-street basis.
When we moved in to our current home in January, no one on our street went out of their way to welcome us. No freshly baked cookies. No house plants. Not a single doorbell ring or note of welcome left on our stoop. This was dismaying to me, but I figured that perhaps folks had what I call new neighbor fatigue, where their neighborliness was tapped out due to so many families moving in over the last couple of years. And being new themselves, it's possible that they were still acclimating (and hoping for a welcome wagon of their own). Beyond that, everyone's busy. Sooooo busy. Long work hours, kids schedules and an addiction to overscheduling allow little time to neighbor. We fall prey to this condition, too.
Thankfully, I've lived in a neighborhood where our neighbors became our best friends, so I know what this should look like. We shared food, holidays, vacations, milestones, and still remain close to this day, even though we're in Florida and they're in North Carolina (Shout out to the Whitteds, Lowerys, Strines/Kings and Buckleys in Cornelius!). While that was an unusually utopian situation, I've always desired to recreate that on some level in each of my subsequent neighborhoods. It hasn't happened, yet, but maybe there's more I could do to foster a neighborly environment.
I've tried to spend time in the front yard with the boys to show I'm available for impromptu chit-chat, but I often find myself the only parent outside. Perhaps my driveway jump rope/ kettlebell workouts have been off-putting?! I wave at neighbors driving by, who usually wave back, but very few car-side convos have commenced. And our yard is regularly a gathering place for neighborhood kids, but their parents rarely come over to join in the fray. Don't get me wrong--my neighbors aren't anti-social (well, not most of them anyway), and we have two block parties each year, but casual congregations in the street aren't common.
Rather than trying to overanalyze the sociological issues afoot, I'm going to press on with what I know is right: to love thy neighbor. I will look for small, yet impactful ways to show those who live around me that we are a friendly family who believes in community. There are literally eight recently built homes--six of which became occupied in the last two months--on the street adjoining mine, so we shall go about the art of neighboring them. I've put together little gift bags containing a welcome letter, neighborhood contact information, a useful "home" notepad/clipboard set and chocolate chip cookies, that we will deliver during one of our family walks. Cute, simple, thoughtful. Who knows what will come of it. If nothing else, it will be a teaching moment for my boys to treat others as you would like to be treated.
Ok, so some of you may be thinking, "This is great and all, but this is a fitness blog. What does neighboring have to do with that?" I believe that fitness doesn't just refer to the physical. In fact, being physically fit means little if we aren't emotionally fit, mentally fit, spiritually fit, and in this instance, socially fit. All of these require effort, discipline and commitment on our part. It's time to do mine.
Thought for the day: How is your social fitness? Is there a neighbor whom you haven't met? According to The Art of Neighboring, less than one percent of people can list the names, occupations and personal interests of their eight nearest neighbors. How might their life and yours be positively impacted by your efforts to love thy neighbor?
Credit: "Welcome to the neighborhood" hang tag downloaded from http://www.beneathmyheart.net/2011/06/3960/
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.