“What is Collagen?”
by Coach Kathleen
Collagen is another buzz word that’s been circulating into the spotlight lately. Before we dive into the benefits of collagen and when to use it, let’s clarify what it is! Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. Woah, that sounds important! There are several different kinds of collagen but the most supplements contain a mixture of Type I-III. Type I is the most abundant and it’s found in skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth and between organs. Type II is found mostly in cartilage and our eyes. Type III is found in skin, muscles and blood vessels. As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen, so if we want to keep that youthful glow, making sure we have enough collagen is a good place to start!
Collagen also provides several other health benefits ranging from joint health to digestive repair and boosting our metabolism. It has a gel-like structure and can ease stiff, swollen joints by “greasing” them up and reducing swelling. When it comes to our digestion, having sufficient collagen in our digestive tract soothes the intestinal lining, covering up holes that may have otherwise allowed vital nutrients to seep out. Being a source of amino acids (aka: protein), collagen can boost our metabolism by increasing our lean body mass. Glycine converts glucose into energy to feed our muscles, arginine helps repair muscle tissue and glutamine helps maintain our energy levels by fueling our cells.
We can get ample amounts of collagen by eating a diet rich in animal sources. As with all foods, higher quality sources will typically offer more nutrients, so choosing a pastured animal source is ideal. As collagen is rich in bones, boiling animal bones to make a bone broth and consuming it as a warming beverage or in homemade soups and sauces is another great way to get more collagen. Finally, collagen can be found in supplemental form, as hydrolyzed collagen, collagen hydrolysate and collagen peptides. These powdered forms contain the same amino acid profile but are broken down into smaller chains. The shortened chains make collagen even more digestible and easy to absorb. Supplemental collagen dissolves easily in liquids and makes a great addition to our morning coffee, smoothies or even mixed into oatmeal.
While collagen is certainly a necessary and beneficial source of protein, there is one element we should keep into consideration when consuming it often. Collagen is an incomplete source of protein, which means it does not contain all 9 essential amino acids. In fact, it contains 8 of the 9. Combining collagen with complete sources of protein like pastured meat and wild-caught seafood will ensure we get all the amino acids our body needs to function optimally. Due to its prevalence in our bodies and knowing we obtain collagen in animal proteins as well, we can think of hydrolyzed collagen as a beneficial, but optional, supplement. Utilizing collagen to reach our protein needs and support our bodies will keep us looking young, maintaining muscle and absorbing essential nutrients to keep us on the path to being fit for life.
Link, Rachael. “What Is Collagen?” Dr. Axe, 5 Feb. 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/supplements/what-is-collagen/.
Song, Hongdong, et al. “Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice.” Nutrients, MDPI, 3 Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707681/.
Free Radicals & Antioxidents
By Coach Kathleen
Antioxidants and free radicals are common buzz words in the health and wellness world. We can guess by the term “free radical” that this isn’t something we want rampaging around our bodies. And we have likely heard of antioxidants being present in fruits and vegetables, but what makes these so beneficial, and how do the two relate? Let’s dive deeper into what they are, exactly, and how they can help or harm our bodies!
Free radicals are reactive and unstable molecules that can build up, causing accelerated aging through oxidative damage. They lack an electron, which like to be in pairs. Much like a person trying to sleep through a party with a single earplug, free radicals will tear through the whole house until they find another earplug (ie. electron) to put an end to the noise. They can either steal an electron from a healthy atom or accept one from an antioxidant. Free radicals are not abnormal, as they are produced as byproducts of vital functions in our body. They also come from inflammation, exercise, environmental toxins, radiation, drugs and pesticides, emotional stress and a poor diet, to name a few.
Antioxidants are very stable and contain additional electrons that can be donated to other molecules. Antioxidants seek out free radicals to donate electrons to, neutralizing them and protecting healthy cells from incurring oxidative damage. Antioxidants can be found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, like carrots and peppers, that are high in beta-carotene. Green and white tea, herbs, spices and cocoa also contain high amounts of other antioxidants like vitamin C, E, selenium, polyphenols and other carotenoids. Having a variety of antioxidant rich foods will help reduce the negative impact of enduring a stressful day of work, a drink we had over the weekend, and that donut that was too irresistible to pass up.
When we neglect to eat antioxidant rich foods on a regular basis, we risk facing some major health consequences. If there are not enough antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, cell damage accumulates, translating to accelerated aging, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. In order to keep the oxidative damage fire at bay, we should regularly consume a very mixed diet of antioxidant rich foods. Let’s focus on supplying our bodies with these powerful plants that will support all of the hard work we do inside and outside of the gym and keep us warding off the nursing home!
Lobo, V, et al. “Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, July 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/.
Levy, Jillian. “Top 8 Foods & Oils to Fight Free Radical Damage.” Dr. Axe, 12 Dec. 2017, draxe.com/health/cancer/fighting-free-radical-damage/.
Axe, Josh. “These Foods, Herb, Spices & Oils Are Absolutely Bursting with Antioxidants.” Dr. Axe, 7 May 2018, draxe.com/nutrition/article/top-10-high-antioxidant-foods/.
“What is Kombucha?”
By Coach Kathleen
There’s a new bubbly beverage out there that has been saturating shelves everywhere from natural food stores to gas stations. It’s carbonated, slightly sweet, slightly tart, unfiltered and called Kombucha. But what exactly is Kombucha, and more importantly, what makes it so good for us? For starters, Kombucha originated about 2,000 years ago in the Far East. It was prized for its vast health benefits stemming from our heart to our brain and gut. We have a plethora of healthy bacteria in our gut, which is also the location of our immune system and constantly sends signals to our brain. Kombucha has been used along with other fermented foods to help support diversity and healthy levels of gut bacteria.
Kombucha is made mostly from black tea and a sweet source like sugar, honey or fruit. It contains a SCOBY, or, symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, that causes the beverage to ferment as it is fed by the sugar. Once the mixture starts to ferment, carbonation forms and the flavor profile changes based on how long it ferments. Simple taste tests along a 7-10 day period will yield the acidity most agreeable to our taste buds. Once the ideal flavor has been reached, the majority of the fermented tea is removed from the scoby and bottled. Traces of live bacterial strains may remain in the beverage and are part of what makes this drink so good for us!
What makes Kombucha different from other sweet carbonated beverages is that it’s packed with naturally occurring components that can sky-rocket our health. It contains B-vitamins such as B12, that is known to boost our mental health. It also contains cellulose-producing bacteria that help protect our cells. The naturally occurring probiotics, acids and enzymes support digestion, gut health and protect us against harmful bacteria. A high antioxidant load reduces inflammation and helps prevent diseases. Studies have also shown it to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, lowering triglycerides and regulating cholesterol naturally.
When it comes to adding kombucha into our diets, a slow approach is usually best received. As kombucha is higher in acidity it can cause some digestive symptoms for people with poor gut health, stomach ulcers or heartburn. Starting off with small doses is a great way to slowly start reaping health benefits while testing the waters of our own tolerance. Gradually we can work to a larger quantity, and enjoy a delicious beverage while we cheers to our health!
- Jung, Youngmi, et al. “Effect of Kombucha on Gut-Microbiota in Mouse Having Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.” Food Science and Biotechnology, Springer Singapore, 12 July 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30815318.
Axe, Josh. “This ‘Immortal Health Elixir’ Protects Your Gut & Fights Food Poisoning Pathogens (and More!).” Dr. Axe, 21 Feb. 2019, draxe.com/7-reasons-drink-kombucha-everyday/
“Eating to Gain Muscle”
By Coach Kathleen
We all have different goals when it comes to our health and how we want our bodies to look and function. We might strive for an aesthetic goal, or to simply be more confident and capable. Believe it or not these goals have a lot more in common than we may think. In order to look, feel and perform our best, we have to support our bodies with the nutrients it needs to build a strong, resilient body. When we are in a poor state of health, our bodies will not prioritize building muscle. They will do what is needed to keep us alive, and oftentimes that means breaking down existing muscle, using stored nutrients to support our vital organs.
When we support our bodies with the proper nutrients and fuel, along with the correct stimuli, we will be able to start growing muscle. More muscle mass does not mean we will look like a bodybuilder, unless we specifically try to. In fact our genetics and gender play a large role in deciding what that increase of muscle will look like on our unique bodies. The term “abs are built in the kitchen” can be true for some, while others can be lean and muscular, eating enough to support their bodies and have a rock solid core, without prominent abs. When we talk about building muscle, we need to keep our bio-individuality in mind and accept that how our bodies look with lean body mass will always differ.
One of the keys to building muscle is making sure we are eating enough to support our levels of activity. This includes what we do inside and outside of the gym. To start, eating about 0.7-1g of protein per bodyweight will give us a good base of protein to support maintaining and building lean body mass. Protein sources should be mostly complete sources, containing all of the essential amino acids that we need, such as eggs, grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish. Healthy fats like those found in fish oil, flax oil, egg yolks and almonds help transport nutrients to the places they are needed in our bodies, repairing and replenishing nutrient stores. Carbohydrates are a cofactor in tissue building and everything from starchy sweet potatoes to cruciferous vegetables like broccoli support muscle growth in different ways. Getting in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will ensure our bodies get the range of vitamins and minerals needed to boost and maintain those muscle gains.
There are also some dietary choices that can have a negative impact on muscle growth. Hydrogenated oils found in canola, soybean, vegetable and corn oil will slow muscle recovery and growth due to an increase of inflammation. Alcohol consumption can also pose a threat as it depletes nutrients that are necessary for tissue growth. Bleached white products like bread, pasta and other wheat products contain anti-nutrients that impair our digestional health, decreasing our ability to absorb nutrients. Finally, consuming white sugar around workouts increases free radical damage, inflammation, fatigue and can also lead to insulin resistance.
In order to grow muscle beyond our minimum needs for locomotion and survival, we have to create an adaptive need for more muscle. Thinking back to our example of natural bodybuilders, we know that their primary focus is taxing targeted muscle groups to cause hypertrophy, which stimulates muscle growth in order to keep up with demand. Heavier weight training performed weekly will signal to the body a need to build more muscle tissue. Conversely, doing excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise and avoiding weight training could selectively reduce our muscle mass, as muscle is heavier to move around for long periods of time. By no means must we choose one or the other, but we can certainly take thisi nto account based on our specific aesthetic, performance and long term health goals. Being strong and able to run from predators was certainly something our ancestors relied on for survival. So let’s use the accessibility of a kick-ass gym, nutrient dense foods and information to keep us fit, healthy and lean for the rest of our lives.
Benetti, Elisa, et al. “High Sugar Intake and Development of Skeletal Muscle Insulin Resistance and Inflammation in Mice: a Protective Role for PPAR- δ Agonism.” Mediators of Inflammation, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703883/.
Axe, Josh. “How to Eat to Gain Muscle.” Dr. Axe, 29 Nov. 2017, draxe.com/eat-gain-muscle/.
by Coach Kathleen
There is nothing enjoyable about wanting to go do a workout, or simply enjoy a nice hike or run and experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) distress. This feeling can be presented in a multitude of ways and range from slight discomfort to extreme pain and loss of control. We typically see this on competition or testing days where the pressure is on, and quite literally causes our bodies to constrict and force anything “extra” out. There are many causes for GI distress ranging from dietary, lifestyle and mechanical factors.
We unintentionally raise our core body temperature when we are anxious or start exercising. This increase in temperature causes us to sweat, moving us towards dehydration and depleting minerals that are necessary for digestive function. This heightened state also causes our blood to flow away from our digestive tract and to the parts of the body that need it most, like our muscles. The lack of blood flow in our digestive system can cause what we know of as “leaky gut”, the opening of tight junctions in our small intestine.
A leaky gut can be exacerbated by things like gluten and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen). How many of us have used pasta to “carb up” before game day? I’m sure most of us can also raise a hand for grabbing some Advil to mask any ache or pain that may impede us on any given day as well. While not everyone has the same experiences and gut microbiota, there are certainly some tactics we can use to help prevent this from happening.
To support the health of our small intestine we can start by avoiding foods that commonly cause gas, bloating, indigestion and other digestive symptoms. This will help reduce our inflammatory response by removing foods we are intolerant to. Foods that tend to cause digestive distress are pasteurized dairy, gluten, refined sugar, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. There are also several supplements that can help reduce leaky gut by strengthening the gut lining, repairing tight junctions.
Getting appropriate amounts of prebiotic foods like asparagus and chicory root (which, in a tea form, tastes similar to coffee!) help support digestive function by feeding healthy bacteria. Glutamine can also help support the integrity of the gut lining and can be found in high concentration in meat and seafood. Omega-3 sources like fish oil help reduce inflammation of an irritated gut, and soothing herbs like slippery elm and ginger help rebuild mucosal lining. Utilizing stress reduction tactics also greatly help relieve GI distress.
Meditation and breathing exercises can be extremely useful in lowering the stress and anxiety that can lead to leaky gut symptoms. When we perceive something as a threat, our bodies respond by shifting into “fight or flight” mode, moving all other bodily processes to the back of the line. This survival tactic can be altered if we understand the role our mind has on activating sympathetic (fight or flight) or parasympathetic (rest and digest) states. If we are entering into an unknown challenge, chances are we may feel our “gut drop”. This adrenaline rush can be controlled if we simply channel our thoughts to something positive. By using our mind to assure our body that we are not in danger, it can continue normal functions, and save us a last minute sprint to the bathroom.
Whether GI distress is something we face often or not, it’s important to understand the underlying mechanism, in order to help lessen the negative effects. A leaky gut is the foundation of health issues like autoimmune disease and other nutrient deficiencies. Supporting our bodies by eating nutrient dense foods and learning how to channel our reactions through breathing and meditation will ensure we limit digestive upset and absorb nutrients optimally. Of the few things we can control in life, we choose what we eat, so on our journey to being fit for life, let’s provide our bodies with foods that nourish and support it’s optimal function.
Levy, Jillian. “These Symptoms Could Mean You Have IBS.” Dr. Axe, 11 Apr. 2016, draxe.com/ibs-symptoms/.
“Building an Iron Gut – Part I. Causes of GI Distress |.” Eat Sleep Fit, www.eatsleep.fit/endurance-sports/iron-gut-1/.
When we think about coffee we often think about a slightly bitter, fragrant, warm dark beverage. Most of us enjoy coffee first thing in the morning, as a way to either ease-into or kick-start our day. From there we find coffee at the focal point to meetings, a go-to for mid-day energy slumps and as a common aperitif. There are many controversial opinions about coffee and if it’s health benefits outweigh the risks, so let’s dive into the pros and cons.
There have been many studies focusing on the impact of coffee on our health. Studies have shown that one cup of coffee per day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 13%. The risk of prostate cancer reduces by 18% after six cups of coffee. Four cups a day can reduce the risk for liver cirrhosis by 84%, and one to four cups of coffee per day decreases the risk of Parkinson’s by 47%. The findings also show that adding more cups of coffee increases the success rates further!
The magic behind the benefits of coffee may lie in the fact that they are full of antioxidants. As we dry roast the beans and then heat them to high temperatures, we dilute and denature some of these antioxidants, which may be why more cups tends to lead to higher health benefits. However, there are some negative effects of coffee consumption as well.
Coffee is a potent stimulant that increases the release of stress hormones. While we might think this is due to the caffeine content, the same effect happens with use of decaffeinated coffee. Coffee consumption lessens our production of DHEA, a steroid hormone that impacts our cognitive function, enhances our memory and protects us against stressors. Coffee also causes a release in dopamine, an addictive pleasure hormone. Once our brain connects dopamine to a substance, it causes us to crave that substance more and more. Coffee also impacts our cholesterol, increases inflammation, alters DNA repair, interferes with sleep, lowers bone density and increases the risk of acid reflux.
When it comes to deciding how much is enough, and too much, there are some things to keep in mind. If we drink caffeinated beverages, we need to take into consideration how our bodies metabolize caffeine. Since coffee is a stimulant that can alter our hormones, if we want to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm it’s best to consume caffeine before 11am. If our purpose for drinking coffee is to increase energy, but we drink coffee so often that we no longer feel those stimulating effects, then we begin exposing ourselves to greater health risks. Finally, if we are consuming coffee for its health benefits alone, we may consider a green coffee extract as a more potent source of antioxidants.
Enjoying a warm (or cold) cup of coffee is certainly a part of our culture for a reason. If coffee was inherently bad, America wouldn’t “Run on Dunkin”. If we pay attention to our bodies and use coffee in moderation, we will likely reap more benefits than health risks. Being mindful of the power that addictive substances have, and consciously reducing and removing them if they have begun to take control over our mind will keep us able to make the right decisions in saying yes or no to that next cup of coffee.
Noonan, S C, and G P Savage. “Oxalate Content of Foods and Its Effect on Humans.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24393738.
Douillard, John. “Coffee: The Good, The Bad, and The Ayurvedic Perspective | LifeSpa.” John Douillard’s LifeSpa, 15 Feb. 2018, lifespa.com/coffee-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ayurvedic-perspective/.
We develop allergies when a substance enters our body that is seen as a threat. It then attacks and marks this substance as an (IgE) antibody, which the body will recognize and proceed the same way when this substance is found again. Allergies develop over time, can come and go, and their severity can vary greatly. As the climate has changed, seasonal allergens are becoming more abundant. Add that to the year round allergens such as pet dander, mold, food, and chemicals, and we can see why allergy rates have increased nearly 6% in four years.
One symptoms of chronic allergies is “allergic asthma”. It presents as wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest and difficulty breathing. Other allergy symptoms include post-nasal drip, itchy eyes, excessive sneezing, and skin reactions. These symptoms can wear us down which impairs our ability to heal as this adds more stress to our immune system. With most of our immune system is located in our gut, our diet can be a particularly useful tool in helping lessen the severity of allergic reactions and allergy symptoms.
There are many foods that can help boost our immunity and aid in warding off allergens. Local raw honey can be used to help clear up infections and desensitize us to some of the pollen in the area. Apple cider vinegar helps break up mucus and supports lymphatic drainage to remove toxins. Pineapple contains an enzyme called Bromelain that can help reduce allergic reactions. Proteins such as wild-caught salmon are high in omega-3’s which help reduce inflammation and boost our immune system. Spirulina, which is derived from algae, and quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, can be supplemented to reduce histamine production and release. Finally, additional probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can boost intestinal flora and increase the function of the immune system.
In addition to adding in immune-boosting foods, we can also begin to minimize and remove harmful allergens and toxins in our daily life. Removing foods in which we know we react to will be paramount to seeing reduced allergy symptoms. Food reactions can look like gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, as well as allergy symptoms listed above. Removing these foods until the gut can be repaired and then adding them back in slowly should reduce or eliminate sensitivities. Year round allergens can also easily be reduced. By reading the labels of products we are buying and reducing our exposure to chemicals, we will lessen the stress on our immune system in constantly fighting them off. Be weary that fragrances are often some of the highest in chemicals, if you choose to use scented products or perfume, check to see if they are naturally scented with pure essential oils.
When it comes to allergies, supporting our immune system and removing stressors is an effective way to reduce symptoms and reactions to allergens. If our goal is to ward off the nursing home and be fit for life, we have to be cognizant of the effects that allergens have on our bodies. Picking a place to start is key, as allergens can be everywhere. Whether we start with a food elimination diet, get some allergen-specific testing, or start changing over personal care and household products to non-toxic versions, small steps will start to improve our health in no time. Let’s not let allergies be the reason why we can’t enjoy outdoor activities this summer, or the rest of the year!
McCoy, Kathleen. “Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms.” Dr. Axe, 9 Aug. 2018, draxe.com/seasonal-allergy-symptoms/.
Platts-Mills, Thomas A E, and Judith A Woodfolk. “Allergens and Their Role in the Allergic Immune Response.” Immunological Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21682738.
Chewing Gum: Friend or Foe?
Chewing gum is a habit that came about as early as 9,000 years ago by northern Europeans. Chewing birch bark tar was thought to have medicinal purposes such as relieving toothaches. In the late 1840’s the first commercial gum was developed from spruce tree resin and cornstarch. As time went on, gum went through various ingredient transformations to get to where it is today. With it’s long lasting flavor and endlessly chewy nature, it’s become a staple in many people’s purses, cars, and desk drawers.
Gum is used for many purposes, from warding off hunger, covering up bad breath, helping pop our eardrums when changing altitude quickly, and simply for boredom or a sweet treat. So is it inherently good or bad? Science says, it depends, so let’s take a look into both the pros and the cons of chewing gum.
In studies conducted in daily work environments, gum chewing increased alertness in the absence of cognitive performance tasks. Studies have also shown that chewing gum during the workday may also decrease some kinds of stress. Finally, as mentioned previously, gum can be used in small bursts to help correct things like bad breath and attenuating air pressure.
In the same studies listed above, gum also increased anxiety rates which is correlated to an increase in depression. Chewing gum also causes a host of physiological effects. The act of chewing signals to the body that food is coming, priming digestive pathways. Stimulating these pathways without using them can cause them to be less effective when we actually consume foods, and leading to digestive dysfunction due to lack of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. There are also some things we should take into consideration when consuming gum regularly, and those are: the ingredients.
Gum manufacturers use nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, various forms of sugar and other sweeteners that can pose some serious health risks. Titanium dioxide is a metal compound that can cause inflammation, weakened gut barrier, slowed metabolism and block nutrient absorption. Sugar, as we know, is addictive, and those studies that found increased alertness could actually be linked to the sugar content in gum! Finally, sugar-free gums often contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener known to cause everything from birth defects to diabetes, cancer and mood disorders if consumed frequently. If our ultimate goal is to ward off the nursing home, these are some good things to note when you go to reach for that next piece of gum. Moderation is key in many aspects of life, and gum chewing should be one of them!
Allen, Andrew P, and Andrew P Smith. “Chewing Gum: Cognitive Performance, Mood, Well-Being, and Associated Physiology.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449949/.
Zerbe, Leah. “Chewing Gum Ingredient Linked to Gut Destruction, Slower Metabolism & Inflammation.” Dr. Axe, 8 Mar. 2017, draxe.com/chewing-gum-bad/.
Exercising on a regular basis is one of the best forms of stress relief and hugely beneficial to our self esteem. It can also be very therapeutic and of course, really freaking challenging at times. The only thing harder than a challenging workout is not being able to workout! We’ve all had those days where we simply don’t feel well. Our bodies ache all over, we can barely squat down to our chairs at work, and the thought of exercising causes us to tense up further. Even worse, when we get injured and our ability to exercise is limited. While there are parts of training that are beneficial to push through in order to gain a certain adaptation, we have to pay close attention to our recovery in order to get there safely.
There are many factors that influence our recovery in positive ways. Nutritionally, we can support our bodies with an abundance of anti-inflammatory foods. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds and grass-fed beef will help keep inflammation at bay. Protein and amino acids are critical for muscle building and recovery. Fruits and vegetables are also a key component. Micronutrient rich foods replenish and restore essential vitamins and minerals that are depleted during exercise while also offering antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect us from illnesses.
Magnesium and calcium are used for muscle contraction and relaxation. Common symptoms of a lack or imbalance of these essential minerals are muscle cramps and twitching. While we can easily get enough calcium from foods, magnesium is not as abundant in our food or water supply. Magnesium is used for over 300 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. It is critical for energy metabolism and to maintain normal muscle function. Magnesium also enhances glucose availability in our brain, muscles and blood, which delays lactate accumulation in muscles. While there are many oral magnesium supplements in several different forms (citrate, glycinate, etc.), magnesium is best absorbed through our skin. Great options for magnesium supplementation include epsom salt baths and topical magnesium spray. If we’re feeling extra run-down, chilling for an hour in a magnesium-rich float spa will certainly help bring us back to life!
Sleep is also fundamental to recovery. Sleep is imperative to allow the body to repair and detoxify. The more stress we have on our bodies in terms of hours exercising, lifestyle factors and exposure to damaging foods, the more sleep we need in order to recover. If we are between the ages of 18 and 64 we need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Adding in strenuous exercise, and that number must increase in order to repair and grow tissues. If we are chronically under sleeping, we can expect up to 68% increase in potential to get injured. We can have the best diet on earth, but without enough sleep we won’t be able to achieve peak cognitive or athletic performance.
We can also use movement to help increase blood flow and boost recovery. Stretching helps us increase our range of motion and loosens up tight areas that could be subject to injury. Deep tissue work like massage, active release and foam rolling aid in preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness. Dynamic compression like the Normatec system or doing some light jumping causes an increase in lymphatic movement. Our lymphatic system is the highway for toxins and waste products, and the faster we move them out of our bodies, the faster we will recover. Cycling through different forms of these physical recovery methods is a great approach to cover all the bases and prevent injuries.
While the list of recovery methods may seem daunting, they can easily be sprinkled throughout our day. Choosing to nourish our bodies with nutrient dense foods, prioritize sleep for its vast benefits, and spend a few minutes treating our hard-working bodies to some physical relief, will be well-received on our journey to being fit for life.
Axe, Josh. “Do’s and Don’ts of Muscle Recovery.” Dr. Axe, 17 July 2015, draxe.com/muscle-recovery/.
Zhang, Yijia, et al. “Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance?” Nutrients, MDPI, 28 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622706/.
Pearcey, Gregory E P, et al. “Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures.” Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/.
Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav V. “Sleep, Recovery, and Metaregulation: Explaining the Benefits of Sleep.” Nature and Science of Sleep, Dove Medical Press, 17 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689288/.
Effects of Alcohol
Enjoying an alcoholic beverage is a luxury we have likely all experienced at some point in our lives. In our culture, we consume alcohol for many reasons. Celebrations, social events, pain relief and calming nerves are a few common occurrences. For some of us, alcohol is a part of our daily routine, while for others, exposure can be far and few between. However we choose to incorporate this libation, being aware of the potential health and performance risks will help us think deeper about its role in our lives.
Alcohol affects our brain through the blood brain barrier. It stimulates a region in the brain that releases dopamine, giving us a feeling of pleasure. When this reward pathway is stimulated often, it becomes reinforced and ingrained, making this pattern particularly hard to break. Alcohol interferes with the part of our brain associated with decision making, impulse control, motivation and problem solving. This part of the brain receives less neural stimulation and can even shrink with regular consumption of alcohol. Additionally, alcohol can cause a decrease in new brain cells, leading to a deficit in areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. These (among other) effects on the brain lead to massive consequences on our body, including physical performance.
A decrease in neuronal density and blood flow to the brain causes a decrease in glucose metabolism. When we ingest a toxin, we must then breakdown and move those toxins through our liver and out of our bodies. This process utilizes a multitude of nutrients and energy and backs up our “metabolism organ”, our liver. One of the nutrients depleted in this process is thiamine, or vitamin B1. A chronic deficiency in thiamine can result in early onset dementia. Along with plummeting nutrient stores and energy, our muscles also take a hit. Alcohol will impair muscle growth, diminishing protein synthesis, cause an increase in dehydration and prevent muscle recovery by disrupting our sleep cycle. It doesn’t end there either. Working out with a hangover can decrease our aerobic capacity by as much as 11%. Therefore, to protect our bodies and begin to replenish them from the damage done by alcohol consumption, it may be best to take a day off from the gym after a night of indulgence.
Now you may be wondering, how can we possibly enjoy a healthy balance in life, ward off the nursing home and still see performance gains? Moderation and a few well thought out tactics can certainly help! Saving alcohol consumption for special events instead of making it a daily occurrence will ensure that an alcohol-dependency doesn’t develop. This will also support our bodies in absorbing and utilizing nutrients efficiently, sleeping deeply, and hitting our workouts will full intensity. While at social events that include alcohol, having a water between every libation will lessen dehydration and slow down the rate of alcohol consumption. Drinking on days where we plan to fully rest and recover is also helpful, as well as drinking earlier in the day to lessen the cortisol spikes at night that alter our sleep. Finally, making sure we eat nutrient dense foods often will boost our bodies ability to detoxify and recover as efficiently as possible.
In a culture that loves to entertain, being indulgent once in a while is certainly a part of maintaining a healthy, balanced life. When it comes to alcohol, our best protection is knowledge. When we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into, we can throughtfully decide when, where and how much to consume to compliment our lifestyle and support our goals. As summer approaches, we are often torn between achieving that beach body we’ve always dreamed of, and enjoying bottomless margaritas on a rooftop deck. While there is no right or wrong, supporting our bodies with nutrient dense foods, water, daily exercise and restorative sleep will set us up for a faster recovery time and lessened repercussions when we do decide that rooftop margaritas are the perfect way to spend the 4th of July.
- Keck, Rachel. “How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? (It’s Not Pretty).” Dr. Axe, 3 Mar. 2018, draxe.com/how-does-alcohol-affect-the-brain/.
- Vella, Luke D, and David Cameron-Smith. “Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients, MDPI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257708/.