Overtraining Syndrome Can Sabotage Performance

Authored by Brady Holmer • March 12, 2019 • 10 min read

It’s two weeks away from marathon race day. Legs should feel fresh, mind should be focused, and fitness should be at an all-time high. This is what you’ve trained for the past several months, never missing a workout. It’s time for all of the hard work, dedication to diet, and mental preparation to pay off.

But things feel off. Nailing goal workouts is difficult. Running similar times requires more effort. Fatigue is chronic despite adequate rest. Muscle soreness lingers.

Taking a week off from training doesn’t help and on race day, a personal record feels impossible. You start the race with little enthusiasm, each of the 26.2 miles spent thinking about the finish line. Rather than running a fast time, the goal becomes simply to finish. The excitement of the race is gone.

These symptoms represent a classic case of “overtraining syndrome” or OTS. OTS is something that many athletes may suffer from but may know little about.

What is Overtraining Syndrome?

Training dedication is important. But if you overtrain, you may not even make it to the start line.

Overtraining and Overtraining Syndrome Defined

Operationally, overtraining is defined as a training imbalance where stress > recovery.1When high levels of physical activity or high-intensity training are paired with inadequate rest and recovery time, performance suffers.

A separate but related condition to overtraining is known as relative energy deficiency syndrome in sport (RED-S). This syndrome results from an imbalance between dietary energy intake and expenditure. RED-S is characterized by loss of general health, proper growth, and reduced sport performance.2 Many physiological functions such as metabolism, menstrual function, bone health, immunity protein synthesis, and cardiovascular health are negatively impacted by RED-S. This syndrome may be an early precursor to full-fledged overtraining syndrome.

Short-term overtraining is reversible with a proper rest period. In overtrained athletes, a rest period of one or two weeks can reverse many symptoms and lead to a performance rebound. This distinguishes overtraining from the more severe overtraining syndrome (OTS).

Overtraining syndrome results when overtraining continues for an extended period of time; some might call it burn out.

Since OTS is more severe than overtraining, recovery time is longer. It may take a rest period of weeks or even months to reverse OTS, maybe because it’s usually coupled with other types of stress: high altitude living, training monotony, suboptimal diet, and academic, occupational, or relationship strain.

Overtraining, or Under Recovery?

For athletes, the concept of overtraining might seem odd. You understand a high training load is needed to adapt and get better (known as “supercompensation”). However, too high of a training load with too little recovery is a poor way to achieve proper gains. Recovery is when the actual training adaptations occur, not during the training session. In fact, sometimes overtraining may not even be evidence of training too much, but recovering too little.

Your Brain and Body on Overtraining

It’s well documented that mental strain can have physical impact. When the mind wears down from overtraining (or stress outside training), it can impact performance negatively.

A woman sprinting, with an illustration of a bran behind her, showing what happens when you overtrain

Negative Mood States are Higher in OTS

The mental side of training and recovery are equally important as the physical. Overtraining can have wide-ranging effects on mental health and motivation, which can negatively impact day-to-day training and performance in competition.

One of the early signs of overtraining might be large emotional swings accompanied by more negative thoughts than normal. Mood changes likely occur due to alterations in endocrine hormones and changes in the nervous system.

Ultramarathoner and HVMN Athlete, Jeff Browning, has been there. He says there are a lot of puzzle pieces to running 100 miles and the mind is a big piece.

“I don’t let negative talk take root. I’ve learned to slay mental dragons by constantly switching to positive speak. That’ll give you an improvement in performance.”Jeff Browning

Overtrained athletes exhibit higher levels of negative moods like tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion. They also have lower levels of positive mood states such as vigor and motivation during training.3 One study observed that in a group of athletes suffering from chronic fatigue, 80% had levels of clinically significant depression.

Overtraining may also cause feelings of edginess with symptoms of insomnia, lack of appetite, restlessness, and sleep disturbances. This may seem counterintuitive, since overtraining is usually associated with chronic fatigue, but it likely results from a “hyper-aroused” state. A constant, high release of stress hormones characterizes sympathetic overactivity; this is one reason an elevated resting heart rate is observed in overtrained athletes.

Neuroendocrine Dysfunction

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) regulates a majority of our body’s hormonal system. As part of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), it helps respond and adapt to challenges by releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline: think “fight or flight.”

Proper coordinated function of the hormonal and nervous system is critical for athletic performance, helping prepare the body for high-intensity exercise and competition by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and releasing catecholamines (hormones produced by the adrenal glands).

Overtraining syndrome causes central nervous system dysfunction; while release of stress hormones might remain high, their ability to cause the proper response in target organs is diminished. Hormones responding to exercise or low blood sugar are rendered ineffective.4,5

This is the “autonomic imbalance” hypothesis of overtraining. Sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system dysfunction and insensitivity to stress hormones results in impaired performance during racing and training.6 Overtrained athletes have a harder time performing. This suggests chronic fatigue can have effects in the brain as well as the body.

High-intensity, high-volume training may also result in reduced cognitive processing speed.7 For sports and race situations requiring decision making and composure, this is dangerous.

Heart Rate Variability as a Biomarker for Overtraining

A popular biomarker for athletes to indicate recovery status, heart rate variability (HRV) might be useful to detect potential overtraining. The applications of HRV are discussed at length in a recent HVMN podcast episode: “What You Can Learn From Heart Rate Variability” ft. Jason Moore.

HRV is a measure of the variability in the time between heartbeats (the beat to beat interval) and reflects autonomic nervous system balance–the balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity. Increased HRV generally indicates a good balance, whereas a reduced HRV may indicate a shift towards greater sympathetic activity due to chronic stress and overtraining.

Along with an elevated resting heart rate, lower HRV is found in athletes who are overtrained.8 This could indicate nervous system imbalances as a result of overtraining/under recovery. Regardless, the underlying problem is too much stress.

Effects on Mental Health

A daily self assessment of mood and well-being might be able to point out a possibility of overtraining or a path toward OTS. Athletes know their bodies well, and a simple mood check-in might be a quick way to assess recovery status.

Feeling a bit off during a workout? Less motivated to train? Recognizing changes in mental state during training can indicate when to dial back the intensity or take extra recovery time.

How Overtraining Influences Performance

A heads-down training approach is something to be admired, and it’s a way many athletes train in hopes of better performance on race day. But it’s a thin line. Overtraining, and not allowing enough recovery time, can actually impair performance.

Training, Racing, and OTS

While no true biomarkers for overtraining exist, one sure sign of overtraining is “an inability to sustain intense exercise and/or a decrease in sport-specific performance.”9

In other words…you’ll suck on race day.

In the short and long term, a state of overtraining in endurance athletes has been shown to decrease time to fatigue by 27%, reduce power output by 5.4%, and increase trial time by 9.8%10,11–it kills performance measures

Along with reducing performance and work output, overtraining increases the effort required to sustain the same level of intensity: running at the same speed feels harder, lifting a lighter weight seems more difficult.

Athletes report a higher rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for the same workload when they are overtrained versus well-rested.12

While endurance athletes are often the subject of overtraining talk, it is important to realize that no athlete is immune. Overtraining syndrome has been observed in endurance athletes, strength athletes, and elite judo athletes.13,14,15

The Immune System Suffers in Overtrained Athletes

Of all the things athletes want to prevent, arriving at the starting line sick or losing training time due to illness are high on the list.

Overtraining severely impairs immune system function, leading to increased risk of illness and infection.16 Being around group of teammates or training partners in gyms, sporting facilities, and public venues only increases this risk by exposing athletes to more pathogens and infectious bacteria.

Depressed immune function and higher rate of infection are consistent findings in studies of overtrained athletes. In particular, athletes training at high volumes seem especially prone to upper respiratory tract infection (URTI),17 a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways.

The immune system is less able to fight pathogens during overtraining16 due to a lower number of immune cells fighting bacteria. Even the most elite athletes are at risk. Olympic athletes classified as chronically fatigued are shown to have higher levels of infections leading up to the games,18 a period where they are undergoing strenuous training.

Recovery and nutrition strategies targeted at improving immune function may prevent illness during overtraining. Increasing dietary carbohydrate and intake of certain polyphenols (plant micronutrients) are effective in supporting sport19 performance and anti-viral capacity of athletes.

A female runner with her hands on her head, resting after a difficult training session

Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome

Taking adequate recovery time to bounce back from overtraining presents a major setback, so preventing overtraining should be one of every athlete’s goals.

However, if you’re feeling overtrained or suffering symptoms of OTS, the first step is to immediately reduce training volume. This might involve low-intensity training or active recovery. In some cases, an extreme amount of rest may be necessary to prevent full-fledged overtraining syndrome from developing.

Below are some strategies to optimize recovery, prevent the onset of overtraining syndrome, and treat symptoms if you find yourself in an overtraining rut.

A male cyclists making a turn on the road, showing how to prevent overtraining.

A Well-Planned Training Program is the Key to Success

The best way to prevent overtraining is to stick to a well designed training program. Athletes in all sports tend to overperform on the easy days and underperform on the hard days.20 Don’t make this mistake

Having a coach or a training partner to provide accountability and support throughout training can be helpful here. A support system can also keep you accountable if you need a few days off. Training partners can encourage the need to rest and remind you bigger things are down the road.

The Importance of Getting Enough Zs

The scientific literature is consistent: the body needs sleep. Inadequate sleep negatively affects areas of performance such as memory and attention, injury risk, speed, and endurance.21 Sleep is often sacrificed by athletes in favor of training or other lifestyle demands, such as travel, competition schedules and work.

Overtraining is associated with sleep disturbances.22 Athletes should pay extra attention to sleep time and sleep quality, following some key strategies to enhance sleep hygiene and promote optimal recovery.

Increase sleep duration by getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night (recommended for all adults).

Athletes may need even more sleep due to higher training volumes, as it’s necessary to restore mental and physical functions.

Research indicates that sleep extension improves several measure of performance in athletes.23

Sleep can treat overtraining symptoms too, and is perhaps the best recovery tool available to athletes. Take a few rest days and focus on sleep if you find yourself experiencing training fatigue.

It can help to optimize sleep environment with a cool, dark room, free of electronics and artificial light–all are shown to increase sleep quality. Adding a nutritional supplement such as Yawn from HVMN into to a sleep routine can further promote high-quality sleep. Ingredients like magnesium glycinate, L-glycine, and L-theanine promote sleep and enhance the recovery process in athletes who may need help getting some proper shut-eye.24

Fuel for Success

Optimal performance and recovery require proper fueling at every stage of training. Inadequate carbohydrate and protein intake, in addition to long term negative energy balance, impair recovery and lead to symptoms of overtraining. Even with proper planning, studies show that many athletes fail to meet a sufficient calorie intake to maintain energy balance25 and might suffer from vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.

Protein is vital for tissue restoration, muscle building, immune function, and recovery from hard training sessions. Athletes in training need more protein to support training and recovery needs. Increased protein intake can also prevent unintended loss of weight in the form of lean muscle mass.

Up to 1.7g/kg of bodyweight in protein should be consumed for athletes in a variety of disciplines such as endurance and strength training to prevent muscle breakdown and support immune system function.

Adequate intake of carbohydrates to support training intensity and promote recovery is another important factor in preventing overtraining. While low-carbohydrate diets may have a place in some programs, sufficient intake of carbohydrate to support high-volume and high-intensity training in athletes is recommended.

Studies provide evidence that less adaptation to training occurs in glycogen-depleted endurance athletes, and that symptoms of overtraining can be prevented by a high carbohydrate intake during times of high training load. Athletes consuming a high carbohydrate diet containing 8.5 g/kg of carbohydrate during a period of high training maintained better performance and mood compared to a group consuming a lower carbohydrate diet containing 5.4 g/kg throughout the same training program.26

What if you are feeling overtrained, sluggish, or in a slump? Try to eat yourself out of overtraining by increasing your calorie intake, consuming high-quality protein sources, and eating foods rich in a variety of nutrients. Energy insufficiency is often a cause of overtraining, and giving your body what it needs can get you back to training.

Track Biomarkers

Staying in touch with yourself on a day-to-day basis will let you become aware when things seem off. Take a daily mood assessment before and after training. Is your attitude or willingness to train more negative than usual?

As discussed above, heart rate variability (HRV) tracking can also let you know if you’re overtraining. Getting your blood work done to test for possible endocrine or metabolic imbalances may be a more in-depth but worthwhile assessment of training status.

Could Ketone Esters Help Prevent Overtraining?

Recently, an increasing number of athletes are experimenting with the ketogenic diet and exogenous ketones (such as HVMN Ketone) as tools to enhance endurance sport performance and recovery. Strategic use might help athletes avoid overtraining, but there is still a lot of work to be done to understand their full potential.

Early studies suggest that ketone esters might accelerate muscle replenishment.

For example, athletes who added beta-hydroxybutyrate or BHB (the ketone ester present in HVMN Ketone) to a post-workout meal, set themselves up for enhanced muscle protein synthesis, indicated by increased signaling of the growth regulator mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1).27

Another possible application for ketone esters is to help the body store carbohydrate in the muscles as glycogen. Replenishment of muscle glycogen was accelerated following ketone ester supplementation when coupled with in IV infusion of glucose.28 The jury is still out here, as another research group didn’t see the same effect on glycogen when the ketone ester was taken with a post-workout shake.27 Because of the powerful effect of ketones on the body, it’s certainly likely that adding ketone drinks to regular nutrition could boost muscle recovery.

Overtraining is a Delicate Balance

Like rain clouds in the distance, overtraining threatens any athlete in a hard training block. Dedication and overuse is a thin, looming line that many athletes don’t realize they cross until it’s too late. For many athletes, it’s probably easier to push harder than pull back.

But perspective is necessary. If you’re worried about overtraining, speak to a coach or friend and hold yourself accountable to get necessary recovery time. Learn to listen to your body for whispers of overtraining. It’s a complex scenario involving mental health, nervous system function, and physical symptoms that decrease performance in the short and long term.

Importantly–don’t beat yourself up about it. A black hole of overtraining can be a dark and lonely place, so getting help is one of the best ways to treat OTS. Be patient, recover properly, know it’s a process and take the necessary steps to try and prevent overtraining before it’s too late.

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10 Top Health & Wellness Trends this 2019

This article first appeared on MadebyHemp.com

This year has been a year when most of the world focused on health and wellness in a more holistic manner: both physical and mental wellness. And it is beginning to look like 2019 will be a glorious continuation of what we have been opening our minds up to in 2018. So what can we expect to see in the health and wellness sphere in 2019?

1. Ayurveda

The 5,000-year-old health system, Ayurveda (in Sanskrit means “knowledge of life”) is responsible for a lot of health movements in 2018. Perhaps the most familiar of which would be the ketogenic diet. Ayurveda is an old system of medicine that incorporates plants and animal products, particularly fats. The practice of Ayurveda involves using fats both for consumption, meaning eating fats like ghee, and external use, like oils for the skin. The practice connects both mind and body in bringing about wellness.

2. More Plant Based Alternatives

2018 has seen the rise of plant based food, a whopping 23% rise in sales. Gone are the days when the choices we had regarding plant based food were TVP and tofu. Now it is beginning to look like there will be a huge movement in the plant based fish sector. Expect your local Whole Foods aisles to have more plant based fish meat choices. The plant based fish movement stemmed from the awareness of people of the negative impact of overfishing has on our environment.

3. More Sleep

A lot of people, students and workers alike, are severely lacking in sleep. In the coming year, we will have a better understanding of our circadian rhythm and the effects of melatonin and cortisol on our sleep patterns. If these two hormones get out of whack, our circadian rhythm will be thrown out of its cycle and our sleep gets messed up.

4. CBD Oil

This year has seen a massive rise in popularity of CBD oil. Despite its being taboo in certain circles, Whole Foods Market’s projection predicts that CBD oil will have an even higher spike in popularity in 2019.

Expect that in the coming year, we will be learning more about the endocannabinoid system or the ECS. This is a major bodily system which compounds like CBD and other cannabinoids interact with. We have seen how CBD oil has helped manage anxiety and we’ve marveled at its anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure effects. Cannabis might also help with setting our sleep pattern straight. It most certainly helps with keeping a lid on anxiety and stress.

5. Eco-consciousness

More and more people are becoming aware of global warming and the dire situation the Earth is currently in. Expect that in 2019, the strong rise of the eco-friendly movement will continue. It is predicted that the use of single use plastics and other single use items will see a further decline and the BYOB (bring your own bag) movement will continue to become more popular.

6. Mental Health

This year, mental health continues to be given its due importance. People are now realizing that in order to be physically healthy, you need to think about your mental health as well. Hemp based products (like CBD oil) has become a more popular alternative to the usual stress medications. It is predicted that 2019 will see the continuation of this mental health trend.

7. Oat milk

Is oat milk the new soy? This year, sales have grown by an impressive 45%. Lactose averse people have found a good alternative to dairy and soy milk and the rise of its popularity does not seem to be ending soon. Grab yourself a bottle of oat milk this 2019 because it looks like they will be flying off the shelves still.

8. MCT oil

Aside from CBD, 2018 brought MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil into the spotlight. This oil is odorless and colorless and stays liquid at room temperature. Putting MCT oil into your coffee, making it “bulletproof” is a good way of boosting your energy. Expect to see MCT become even more popular in 2019 as more people become aware of its benefits.

9. Body Positivity

Thanks to Rihanna and her Fenty brand, body positivity moved from the fringes to mainstream. Body positivity saw a rise in popularity in 2018 as more and more people focus on loving their bodies instead of shrinking them to fit into the mold that society wanted them to look. As more people shift their focus to mental health, this 2019 will see an even bigger rise in the body positivity movement.

10. Hemp based products

Aside from CBD oil, hemp based products have found their way into our lives from our beauty products, to our food. With the 2018 Farm Bill already signed into law, hemp based farming will be legal nationwide. Expect that in 2019, there will be more choices in hemp based products.

Contributed Post. Article originally posted on https://madebyhemp.com/

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How To Ensure Your Employees Are Safe At Work

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If you run a business where you hire other people then one of the most important thing to realise  is that you’re responsible for their health and safety whilst they are under your supervision at work.

However this can be quite overwhelming for employers to figure out what kind of rules and regulations they should be following in terms of keeping their employees safe, so in this post we’re going to share with you some of our top tips for how to ensure your employees are safe at work.

Keep things comfortable:

Most people don’t automatically think that comfort and safety go together, but it’s important to understand that for example if your employees have to work outdoors, for example on a building site and they’re working during winter or when conditions are particularly harsh, or even if they’re working in the middle of summer then the temperatures and the environment in which they are working depending on what they have to wear can make them less or more comfortable, so for example if it’s very cold outside then you may want to consider renting a generator so that you can perhaps keep things a bit warmer for them as this will enable them to not focus so much on being cold, but be able to focus entirely on their work which will in turn impact their safety.

Analyze the working environment:

Every working environment is going to be different, so for example you may have an office where employees work for you and their safety is just as important as someone who works on a building site, although the things that you need to have in place to ensure their safety are going to be different, so for example, you could be responsible for ensuring that all computer screens are at the optimum height, at the right brightness, and that all desks and chairs are suitable for people so that they don’t suffer any kinds of headaches or repetitive strain injury.

Have regulations in place:

All employers are required to have health and safety regulations in place that they have to follow so it’s important that you have these and that you make sure that everyone is on board, understands them and is following them, so you should have them for example, printed out in common areas and also they should be part of the on boarding process when you hire new people.

Perform regular reviews:

Keeping up-to-date with your health and safety regulations is key as is making sure that your employees also feel safe and protected when at work, so performing things like regular reviews, checking things over, checking equipment and making sure that everything is functioning as it should be and also asking people how they feel working there.

We hope that this post has been helpful in helping you to identify some of the things that you can do to make your workplace a bit safer for the people who work for you, and also to help you understand what kind of things that you might need to have in place and what things that you don’t have to really think about as well as tips for ensuring that health and safety can be an ongoing thing but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

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Maintaining Wellness During and After Divorce

by Sandra Hughes

Navigating a divorce is stressful and unpredictable.  Regular exercise and a healthy diet go a long way in managing our stress and making us feel a whole lot better in general. A grounding activity like yoga or Pilates is relaxing and helpful. Maintaining healthy habits and taking care of ourselves is vital during this uncertain time.

My Journey to be Well

Around the time that I separated in 2014, I read an article about staying healthy during divorce. I started a holistic health care regimen while I was going to graduate school. Just as that regimen helped alleviate the stress and pressure of school, it stood to reason, it would help alleviate the stress and pressure of the divorce process. That article certainly confirmed it, so I continued my health and wellness path, switching modalities as needed, based upon how I was feeling and what I needed at the time.

For example, when I first began my holistic journey, I adopted a daily meditation practice. That was fine-tuned later when I took a Spirituality in Leadership class in business school; then I started taking classes to learn Qigong, the meditation practice that goes with Tai chi. Now I do a simple 10-minute breathing/meditation exercise every morning and set my intention for the day. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it is a very simple, grounding experience.

Exercise is key. I try to walk or use the elliptical every day, preferably in the morning, after my meditation exercise and before I start checking and getting involved in answering and sending emails. If I exercise first thing, then I’ve done it and don’t have to think about it for the rest of the day.

Get Yourself a Team

The rest of my wellness regimen is covered by my wellness support team. Much of the stress and unpredictability of your divorce can be alleviated from the beginning, if you put a wellness support team in place, and I highly advise it. The wellness team members are there in their expert capacity in each of their modalities to help you deal with the stress and intense emotion caused by the divorce.

My suggestion is to get referrals for all of these team members from people that you trust, family, friends or colleagues, and then interview each to make sure that the person is the right fit for you. It is important that you feel truly supported by each of your team members.

The Four Members of your Wellness Team

Therapist (LFMT, MFT) – Hopefully your divorce attorney or mediator has suggested that you start seeing a therapist; I am suggesting that you do. There will be a lot of emotion during the divorce process and a lot of diving deep into the whys and hows of your relationship. A therapist is the best person to work through all of that with you.

Massage Therapist – Massage is a great stress reliever. I started having regular massages about eight years ago and it has made a world of difference relieving stress during my divorce.

Acupuncturist and/or Chiropractor– Either or both of these practitioners helps relieve the stress that manifests itself in different parts of our bodies, most often our neck, shoulders and spine. We tend to tighten all of these when we are stressed and in “fight or flight mode”.  Personally, I hadn’t been to either for 30 years because my first experience with both was not that great: huge needles at the acupuncturist and intense bone cracking at the chiropractor. I learned recently that there are acupuncturists who use little thin needles with great effect, and a chiropractor who uses less intense bone cracking techniques. I am now a huge fan of both and I receive treatments regularly. Both have done wonders helping me to achieve stress relief! Also, it is often possible to find practitioners who are also covered by health insurance.

Certified Coach – A certified coach plays a different role than a therapist. A coach is more like a mentor, a person with whom you discuss your goals and your plan for achieving them. In the process you explore your values and life purpose. A coach will guide you and help you to be accountable for what you say you want/are going to do. Together, you will create a vision of your reinvented life!

My wellness team told me they were pleased that I was being proactive and preventative in keeping myself healthy during this time in my divorce, instead of waiting to seek them out when the process was over and I was ill from the stress of it all. That, unfortunately, is what most of their patients did. I encourage you not to be MOST patients! I celebrate your continued path to health and well-being!

To learn more about navigating the transition of divorce, visit my website at http://www.sbhcoaching.com. You can also join my private Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LifeReinventedPrivateGroup

 

Sandra Hughes is a leadership coach for adults 40+ going through significant transitions. She  created Life Reinventedto help people navigate divorce. She has a CPCC designation from The Coaches Training Institute, and MBA from Santa Clara University. Sandra had a long corporate career before navigating her own divorce after 27 years of marriage. She is committed to helping people achieve integrated lives and finding the joy they deserve.

You can learn more about homesharing at Silvernest.com – Silvernest boldly breaks the rules of aging so you can share your home on your own terms. We’re creating the next generation of roommates. A more modern kind. A well-matched kind. A kind that’s just your style. Because around here, the details are totally up to you.

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3 Unconventional Ways to Improve Your Health

Image via Pixabay

When you think of “improving your health,” there are likely a few core concepts that jump straight to mind.

First and foremost, everyone knows that in order to be healthy it’s important to get plenty of exercise. So, that might mean regular treadmill sessions at the gym, laps in the swimming pool, and a commitment to cycling to work instead of driving.

Then, it’s also pretty common knowledge that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg is essential for maintaining optimal health, so in your mission to be a healthier you will inevitably include things like tailored meal plans, and green smoothies, and “an apple a day.”

All of that stuff is great – essential, even – but there are also some lesser-known and more unconventional ways you can go about improving your health.

Here are a few of those ways.

 

  • Get genetically tested for disease susceptibility

 

Not everyone is equally as susceptible to every health condition. Some people have certain genetic predispositions to diseases that you can’t determine through a regular checkup.

In some cases, these genetic predispositions will vary according to race and ethnicity, but sometimes they will be all your own, and there will be nothing obvious to suggest that you are in a higher risk band.

In order to detect and counteract any of these unfortunate conditions, you could consider getting genetically tested for disease susceptibility.

A researcher using a chip SEQ kit might be able to help you out here, and various commercial companies offer genetic screening for various diseases.

Of course, you should be careful who you release your genetic data to, and shouldn’t expect  that every disease can be detected through such a procedure. But it’s something to consider, anyway.

 

  • Practice breathing exercises

 

Breathing is easy, right? We all do it automatically, from birth, and that’s just all there is to it.

In fact, though, there are certain health and fitness gurus who argue that there is more to the art of breathing than that.

The medical marvel and daredevil, Wim Hof, for example, uses a specific breathing exercise in order to allow him to withstand incredible degrees of cold, and also to take conscious control of his immune system. That sounds like nonsense, but there are actually studies that have been done on him by reputable institutions that confirm it.

There are a lot of different types of breathing exercises out there. It may be worth investigating a few of them on your quest to boost your health.

 

  • Go for periods of time without eating

 

All right, so this is slightly dangerous advice, and of course it’s important to mention that you shouldn’t take it too far.

Nonetheless, there is ample research suggesting that occasional (not excessive) fasting – as in, going without food for set periods of time – can work wonders for your health.

Among other things, fasting helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and engages a process in your body known as “autophagy.”

Autophagy is, simply, a “recycling” process, where your body breaks down and consumes damaged cellular tissue, and regenerates new, healthier cells.

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How To Stay At Your Active Best As You Age

There’s much to love about growing older. You learn more about yourself, about other people, about the world in general. You come to understand that life, while it has its downsides, is overall a pretty spectacular journey to be on. But while there might be a lot of personal, mental, and spiritual growth as you age, there are some areas that seem to be in decline: your physical side. Our mind can get sharper, but our bodies begin to slow down. Not fair! The good news is that this isn’t just something that we have to accept. If we want to stay active as we age, then we can — but we need to take control of it, and take steps to make sure it happens. Below, we take a look at a few tried and tested tips that’ll have you up, moving, and active, no matter how old you are.

Source: Pexels.com

Get Moving

The most powerful acts are usually the most simple. If you want to be active, then there are few things better you can do that to just get moving. If you live with a mindset that encourages you to take the stairs rather than the elevator, to sometimes walk instead of drive, and all-around be more mobile, then you’ll find that you’re able to keep the big issues — the ones that lead to decreased mobility and activity — at bay.

Review Your Lifestyle

There’s an element of genetics at play when it comes to how much we’re able to move as we age. But really, some people use that as an excuse. In fact, it’s more likely that a person’s lifestyle will influence their level of activity, rather than anything that’s hardwired in their body. So if you want to stay active in your later years, then you need to start reviewing your lifestyle. Drinking too much alcohol, will eventually catch up with you — it has a huge influence on the quality of a person’s later years. Similarly, if your current lifestyle involves sitting down too much, you’ll find it harder to get up and active as you age. Life can be tiring, but make sure you’re not giving in to its demands and spending too much sat down on the couch.

New Hobbies

It seems that most people are naturally active when they’re younger. They effortlessly slip into playing a sport, or hiking, and the like. But there comes a point, usually after their mid-twenties, when these things start to fade away. They put their energy into other things, and their past, more active hobbies take a backseat. Before they know it, they don’t have any sweat-inducing hobbies that they regularly do! It’s never too late to change that, however. If you can’t currently point at any activities that get your heart rate up, look at picking one up. There’s no shortage of awesome options out there! Give them a go, and you never know where it’ll lead you.

Handling Injuries

Of course, it’s not always possible to pick up a new physical activity, especially if you have an injury. There are plenty of people who lead active lifestyles, until they suffered an injury. But it’s important to remember that while these things are frustrating, they’re not things you just have to accept. You can get help to overcome the pain with Precision Sports Physical Therapy, and get back to peak physical condition. One injury can have a seriously detrimental effect on your lifestyle if it’s left untreated. Don’t fall into an inactive lifestyle all because of a bad knee!  

Maintaining the Body

Even if you don’t suffer from one specific injury, the general wear and tear of life can bring your levels of activity down. As such, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures, which will help keep those slight aches and pains at bay, and keep your body in overall tip-top condition. One of the best ways to do this is to practice yoga, which will keep those limbs limber and your body strong. If you’ve never done it, it’s a good idea to join a class, as it’s important that you do things correctly. At the end of the class, you’ll be walking on air, we promise.

Source: Pexels.com

Set Targets

If you’re just relying on your inner motivation to stay active, then there’ll come the point when you slow down. Something else will come up, and you’ll forget all about it. One way to stay on top of your active lifestyle is to set targets — you might say that you’re going to run a half-marathon, or go on a multi-day hike every month, or anything else. Whatever you need, essentially, in order to keep your quest to be active at the forefront of your mind.

Regular Checkups

Your doctor will be a great ally in your quest to stay healthy and active. Make a habit of getting regular check-ups — they’ll be able to tell you the things you need to do more/less of in order to stay at your best. Don’t underestimate how important they are!

Find a Group

You might struggle to always stay active if you’re just trying to do everything by yourself. As such, why not look at finding a group with whom you get active? You’ll be more inclined to get out of the house on those rainy days if you know you have friends waiting for you on the other side of the door.

In the Outdoors

The lure of visiting a dark and grim gym multiple days a week may not be all that appealing, and that’s understandable. Instead, why not get your fill from the great outdoors instead? You’ll be more inclined to keep your body ready for activity once you’ve experienced all the beauty and wonder of nature. You don’t necessarily need to take a trip to a National Park, either — you can also have some outdoor fun in your yard. Get into gardening, and you’ll be using your body just enough to be considered active. Plus, it’s also highly rewarding…

Stay Happy

Life can give us some pretty heavy blows. And when it does, we usually want to do little other than to stay wrapped up indoors, away from the world. But if we make this too much of our lifestyle, then we’re going to fall into a sedentary lifestyle. As such, one of the best ways to stay up and active is to simply make sure you’re feeling happy! Of course, this is usually easier said than done, right? Well, yes, but a lot of research has been done in recent years to determine what it is that makes people happy. Getting exercise, eating well, talking with others, and limiting the things that bring us down (such as alcohol/junk food) will all lead to a healthier state of mind.

In Control

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your body is under your control, no-one else’s. If you don’t take care of your body, then it’ll fall into a state of disrepair — that’s just a fact! Moving forward, make a conscious effort to take care of your body. It’s usually when we begin living on autopilot that problems materialize.

Conclusion

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your days as an active person has to come to an end just because you’re getting older. There are people in their eighties and nineties running marathons and climbing up mountains — they show what is possible! Look to them as inspiration, rather than around at other people your age.

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Carb Cycling Guide for Athletes

Authored by Nate Martins •
January 9, 2019

10,080–that’s how many minutes are in a week. Maintaining a diet through all those minutes, for weeks or months, requires supreme, almost unwavering willpower.

Even The Rock doesn’t do it; his Sunday night cheat meals are stuff of legend, consisting of thousands of calories of his favorite food.

The social side of dieting is tough. It takes dedication to remain unmoved on a diet; happy hour invites, dinners out, work-sponsored lunches–saying “no” to all these are small wins on the battlefield of dieting. For a diet like the ketogenic diet, avoiding carbohydrates can feel like tip-toeing through a minefield of Western, carb-centric eating.

For athletes, it can be difficult because we rely so heavily on carbohydrates for fuel. Of course, there’s growing research about how to use bodily fat as a fuel source,1 but carbohydrates have been the gold standard exercise nutrition for years.

Carb cycling is planned consumption of different amounts of carbohydrates, usually throughout the week. Everyone can develop their own carb cycle based on need; for example, keto athletes might work in carb days during especially hard training blocks.

While carb cycling isn’t for everyone, it can be a great way to optimize a diet based on your personal needs.

What’s a Carb, Anyway?

There are three different types of macronutrient fuel sources in our food: fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

An image of an egg, granola, chicken and exogenous ketones to show the different ways the body uses fuel

The main function of dietary carbs is to be a source of energy. Some even argue they aren’t essential, and can be made from dietary protein and fat.2 This process is called gluconeogenesis, a metabolic pathway generating glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates.

Carbs (especially refined carbs) raise blood sugar, resulting in the body producing extra insulin to bring that blood sugar down. Insulin is a hormone that triggers fat storage–so more carbs means more insulin which means more conversion of carbs to fat stores.

As a fuel source, carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. They also maintain blood glucose concentrations as fuel for the body, but also for the brain. That’s the spike in energy you experience after an afternoon stack, as blood glucose fluctuates throughout the day when we consume carbs.

Simply put, carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel. But when we don’t use that fuel, carbohydrate manifest as fat.

When following a keto diet, lower carb intake is necessary (like 25g of carbs per day–the amount in a single banana). This encourages the body to burn fat and also to convert fat to ketones. Consuming carbohydrates causes insulin release, which inhibits ketone production in the liver.

Science Behind Carb Cycling

What is carb cycling, and why is it beneficial? Looking at the science can provide some clarity. Maybe a more accurate definition of carb cycling is carb manipulation.

The goal is to match the body’s need for glucose depending on activity or activity level overall.

High-Carb Days

High-carb days are usually matched with workouts when you might need more glucose–like high-intensity interval sessions or a long day in the weight room.

An image of a man at the gym showing how high-carb days can help performance

When you exercise at a high intensity, the body makes most of its energy from carbohydrates, either breaking it down aerobically (with oxygen), or anaerobically (without oxygen), forming lactic acid. This would be the optimal time to introduce a higher amount of carbohydrates into the diet because the body uses more carbohydrate during the workout itself, and then after the workout to make glycogen to refuel and decrease muscle breakdown.3

When looking for your highest possible power or speed output, carbs are often necessary for the body to produce its best results during intense training sessions.

Low-Carb Days

In traditional carb-cycling, low-carb days are meant for days on which you do not train–the idea is the body doesn’t need carbs because its demand for fuel is far less than on workout days.

A man stretching backwards doing yoga on a pillow

But further investigation by scientists have shown some of the advantages of training on these low carb days, which has two main benefits: it helps to speed up general adaptations to aerobic training, and it increases fat burning and thus improves endurance.

One of the key, groundbreaking experiments in this field was conducted using single-legged cycling exercise. Athletes had to cycle using just one leg at a time; the left leg cycled one hour straight, and the right leg did two half hours with a few hours in between where no recovery fuel was given. This means that the right leg was training in a carb depleted state during the second session. Muscle biopsy samples revealed that the twice-trained leg saw bigger gains in the enzymes that are key for aerobic respiration. This led to the conclusion that low-carb training could accelerate aerobic gains.4

Strategic low-carb days focus on switching the body back to using fat as energy and increase aerobic capacity. Research is continuing on this topic, but athletes are looking to boost the ability of the body to tap into fat as a fuel source, since we store more fat than carbohydrates.

Training in a low-carb state has been shown to increase the ability of the body to burn fat over the long haul, improving metabolic flexibility.5 There have even been studies noting keto-adapted athletes can use fat in preference to carbohydrates for moderate intensity endurance exercises, in which carbohydrates would usually be used as fuel.6

But it takes time. Robert Sikes is a professional bodybuilder and founder/owner of Keto Savage. He’s a bodybuilder on the keto diet; backstage at events, he receives inquisitive looks from competitors when they find out he’s keto. But the results speak for themselves and after events, he’ll even get asked about he’s able to train with such little carb intake. He says it can take years to full fat-adapt, and that it’s something that doesn’t happen in the short term.

“You need to allow yourself to be completely adapted to life without carbs. Play the long game. Be diligent with hitting macros and eating wholesome foods.”Robert Sikes

By controlling carbs, and the types of carbs consumed, there also may be a benefit in manipulating insulin and insulin responses.7,8 This would likely help with improving metabolic health.

It is becoming widely accepted that athletes should adopt carb cycling or periodization of carbs based on training needs. This ensures fuel for the work required (so training intensity isn’t compromised), while also empowering the body to metabolically trapeze between carbohydrates and fats as fuel sources as available.9

Is your training yielding minimal results?

Diet and training regimen should go hand-in-hand. We’re analyzing research to help athletes optimize training for their goals.

Benefits of Carb Cycling

The benefits are carb cycling are measured against personal goals. Do you want to improve body composition? How about improve training or recovery?

Ask yourself what you want to achieve with carb cycling to best understand its benefits.

An image of a male soccer player kicking the ball on the field

Body Composition

As with most diets, a major goal is usually weight loss. Because we consume such a high amount of calories as carbohydrates in Western diets, limiting those calories and carbs will ultimately lead to fat loss. The process aligns with most other diets: consume fewer calories than the body burns, enter a calorie deficit and promote weight loss.10

Though specific research on carb cycling is limited, generally studies show that limiting carb intake works well for weight loss. One study analyzed overweight women who had a family history of breast cancer. Three groups were randomly assigned different diets: calorie-restricted and low-carb diet, low-carb but unlimited protein and healthy fat, and a standard, calorie-restricted diet. Women in both low-carbohydrate groups showed better results for weight loss.11

Performance and Recovery

Training in a low-carb state can help with weight loss, boost fat burning capacity, and can speed up aerobic adaptation to training. However, athletes face a compromise when employing low-carb diets; they need the carbohydrates to perform at the highest intensity (especially in a race), and want to keep that energy system working well, but still want the benefits of carb restriction.

Making sure the body has carbs for tough training can help performance. The body needs fuel for the most difficult exercise days. Since carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel source, consuming carbs before a workout enables the body to train harder for high-intensity, short-duration exercise.12 Interestingly, even the presence of carbohydrates in the mouth (meaning, not actually ingested) can lead to increased performance, because they activated brain regions believed to be involved in reward and motor control.13

Carbs can also help accelerate recovery. After exercise, consuming carbohydrates can lead to glycogen resynthesis and protein synthesis (after resistance training).14,3 So, it’s easier to perform and recover if you have enough carbohydrate in your diet. Carb cycling means those big training days can be high quality.

Other Benefits

By cycling carbohydrate consumption, you may be afforded some of the benefits of both higher-carb and lower-carb diets–and avoid some of the common negative side-effects.

Metabolic Health: The combination of two types of diets may help you become metabolically flexible.5

The days with low-carbs may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity; this study showed the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet on glucose metabolism, lowering fasting glucose and insulin values.8 And when compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet led to greater weight loss, which in turn led to a decrease in triglyceride levels15–high levels of triglycerides have been associated with cardiovascular disease.16

Hormone Health: There are some concerns that hormones might be negatively affected by a badly put together low-carb diet, but this could be mitigated by strategic carb feeding.

High-carb feeding periods can potentially boost the levels of some vital hormones, like cortisol. There are some concerns that cortisol can decline when following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet (although not much research supports this fear). To combat this possibility, either make sure your keto diet is well-formulated with enough calories and nutrients,17 or cycle periods of carbohydrate feeding to give your body a break.

In men, testosterone concentrations were higher after a ten-day high-carbohydrate diet, while cortisol concentrations were consistently lowered on the same diet, suggesting the power of diet (specifically the ratio of carbohydrate to protein) as a factor in hormone regulation.16

Thyroid hormones are essential to regulating metabolism,18 being crucial determinants of resting metabolic rate. But they themselves are in turn regulated by diet and metabolism because glucose fuels the production of those thyroid hormones. The thyroid produces a large amount of T4 hormones, which are then converted into T3 hormones (T3 is the active thyroid hormone influencing many body processes). When carb intake is reduced, conversion of T4 to T3 reduces.19 People worry that this might lead to a lower metabolic rate and thus slow down weight loss with a low-carb diet

Longevity: The ketogenic diet may help to increase lifespan and health.

This might be increased further by taking a cyclical approach to the diet: alternating high-carb and low-carb weeks. One study fed a ketogenic diet to mice every other week. Results showed avoidance of obesity, reducing midlife mortality, and prevented memory decline.20

How to Carb Cycle

Anyone from the amateur dieter to the serious athlete can carb cycle. There are different options for how carefully you implement carb cycling, depending on training and recovery needs as well as your overall goals.

Creating a schedule, tracking your progress and targeting carbohydrate intake can help develop a well-formulated plan to succeed cycling carbs.

Create a Schedule

Before a single carb touches your lips, think about your goals. These will formulate your carb cycling plan.

A guide to scheduling carb cycles, with a woman studying, a woman lifting weights, an avocado and a fitness watch

Do you want to lose weight, or maintain weight? Do you want to boost aerobic fat burning capacity or target a lean body composition?

Then consider your typical training week. Which days are your most intense workouts? Which days can you recover, even without carbs? Do you meal prep to make sure you get enough quality, low-carb foods?

Serious athletes might want to take it one step further and consider carb cycling over a longer period, to keep up with training or competition cycle. Instead of breaking up a single week into high-carb and low-carb days, each week would have a different carbohydrate goal. Weeks with a heavy training load would be carb-heavy, while weeks with a lower training load or coming into a weigh-in could be more low/moderate-carb.

Your answers to these questions will determine how you go about cycling carbs. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule and be a bit flexible once you get started.

Log calories and macros

Establishing a calorie goal could prove helpful (especially if you’re trying to lose weight). Multiply your bodyweight by ten, and that’s the amount of calories to work toward if you want to lose weight. To gain weight, you can multiply your bodyweight by 15 to garner a ballpark daily calorie target.

Tracking your macros in a food journal or an app will help keep you accountable. Taking note of everything you eat will let you make sure you get enough calories from the right type of macronutrients while giving you a better understanding of how diet impacts your training output.

Target for a High-Carb Day

High-carb days should accompany your toughest training sessions of the week, such as intense intervals or prolonged weight training. These days call for about 2g of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and they’ll be your highest calories days. If you’re working out four times a week, and weight training once or twice a week, then you should have about one or two high-carb days each week.

Note that you might want to eat high-carb the night before a heavy morning workout to make sure that you are fueled up and ready to go, even if the training on that day was not that intense.

Target for a Medium or Low-Carb Day

Low-carb or medium-carb days can be used to fuel less-intense workouts or recovery days. Depending on training volume, low/medium carb days can be anywhere from 50g – 150g of carbs.

Training low doesn’t mean training on zero carbohydrates. On low-carb days, be sure to prioritize other macronutrients such as good quality protein and fat. High protein intake is important for post-workout recovery and the development of muscle mass. When cutting back on carbs, make sure you get enough calories, and the bulk of these should come from fat.

There are a few strategies that you can use to control your carb intake around your training sessions.

Training low: start your training having limited your carb intake beforehand. Implementing this strategy is simple. You may wake up and workout in the morning without eating before. You may even increase the effect by limiting carb intake the night before. If you workout during the evening, you may limit carbs from morning until that evening training session.

Sleeping low: don’t refuel using carbs after a workout, and stretch out the period before you refuel by sleeping overnight before refuelling with carbs at breakfast. This has shown promise, with a recent review in elite cyclists describing how the “sleep low, train low” method (where morning exercise commences with less than 200 mM of glycogen), improved results for cycling efficiency.20

On low-carb days, be clever to ensure quality training and recovery. Performing on a low-carb day can be difficult, so consider taking a low-carb or keto energy source, such as HVMN Ketone. Elite athletes have used HVMN Ketone to give them BHB as a fuel during high intensity time trials, showing that if you really want to avoid carbs, swapping in ketones can be a great energy alternative.

Another way to get a boost is to mouth rinse with carbs; this can improve performance without needing to actually eat carbs. You can also use caffeine before your workout, which is another reliable, carb-free way to get your body ready to perform.

What about recovery? BHB from HVMN Ketone is a carb-free alternative for recovery on low-carb days. Studies have shown that not only is less glycogen broken down in training with HVMN Ketone,21 but glycogen22 and protein resynthesis23 are also increased by 60% and 2x respectively. BHB could be a great way to help protect your recovery but also keep carb intake low.

Foods to Remember

An image of oats, broccoli and blueberries showing helpful carbs, food low in carbs and foods with fiber

With all this talk of carbs, you need to know where to find them so you can either stock up or steer clear.

A carb cycling diet requires high quality, healthy carbs and whole foods. Every once in a while it’s fine to treat yourself in epic, The Rock-like proportions, but from day-to-day, it’s all about maintaining balance. Good carbs include whole grains (like brown rice and oats), legumes (like beans, a good slow-digesting carb) and tubers (sweet potatoes).

Foods low in carbs include meat (beef, chicken, fish), eggs, vegetables (like bell peppers, broccoli and mushrooms), nuts (almonds, walnuts) and dairy (cheese, yogurt). Building a meal plan to incorporate all these types of food should help with each phase of the carb cycling. Even better? Meal prepping, so the stress of cooking depending on the day goes out the window.

But don’t forget about fiber; it plays an important role in weight loss, energy maintenance, regulating blood sugar and controlling hunger. Though fiber is a carb, it doesn’t raise blood sugar like other carbs and plays an important metabolic role because it doesn’t convert to glucose.

Is Carb Cycling Right For You?

It depends on your goals. It also requires some experimentation–based on your lifestyle and fitness routine, finding the right balance of high-carb and low-carb days can take some time and will probably change over the long-term.

What’s nice about carb cycling is the flexibility. It empowers a dieter some choice, while also providing the ability to fuel on days where it’s required, like ahead of intense training sessions. Benefiting from each could help an athlete reach goals for exercise, as well as goals for body composition. But remember to check with your doctor before implementing such wholesale changes to the way you eat.

Contributed Post.

If you like what you’ve read here, please let others know of this post, blog, and site.

And thanks for reading!  🙂