Is Alcohol Ruining Your Workout?

Sometimes, a nice, cold drink after a long, hard day is necessary. But, have you ever wondered how the alcohol may affect your body and your physical performance during your workout? According to some studies, alcohol has the ability to interfere with your muscle growth as well as cause your post-workout recovery process to slow down. So, how can you enjoy a stiff drink without ruining your workout and your physical performance?


Let’s hear some facts first…

According to Women’s Health, when you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol as opposed to other fats and carbs. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone found in the body, also begin to rise in the presence of alcohol. In turn, this increases fat storage in different parts of your body. Along with a disruption in your muscle growth, recovery and metabolizing processes, alcohol also causes a disruption in your sleep patterns and nutritional intake. Because alcohol is not a nutrient, it cannot be stored as energy into the muscles. Therefore, it is stored into the body as a fat. According to an article posted by Laura Schwecherl on Greatist, “alcohol’s effect on the liver can also cause a shortage of oxygen, which interferes with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP) — a direct energy source for muscles.” Alcohol also goes hand in hand with dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates you and, as a result, slows down your muscle recovery process and can inhibit your workout performance.


On the other hand…

While too much alcohol consumption puts you at risk for greater health problems, it is not all together bad. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol (consumed in moderation) can actually provide some health benefits for you as well! According to an article posted by Mayo Clinic, alcohol could possibly offer you benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes. However, they also state that “the evidence about the health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.”

So, while alcohol has been proven to hinder athletic performance and cause some unideal conditions for the body, it is not something you need to totally steer clear from. In moderation, alcohol can be okay for both men and women. While we do not recommend throwing a few back before your big race day, a post-race celebratory beer is something athletes (21+ of course) can enjoy without negatively affecting your body!

 

 

Works Cited:
N/A. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol: If you drink, keep it moderate.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
Schwecherl, Laura. Greatist. “Why Alcohol and Exercise Don’t Mix.” https://greatist.com/fitness/why-alcohol-and-exercise-dont-mix
Yeager, Selene. Women’s Health Magazine. “Drinking and Exercise: How Alcohol Affects Your Body.” http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise

Less is More

When it comes to building muscle and weightlifting, there is an all too familiar notion that the heavier the weights you lift are, the more muscle you attain. However, a recent study may have just proven that to not always be the case.


THE STUDY

A recent study conducted by researchers at Ontario’s McMaster University studied the effects and differences between two groups of young men randomly divided into two separate groups. Group number 1 used weights 75-90% of their one rep max (8-12 reps) over a timespan of 12 weeks. Group number 2, however, used weights 30-50% of their rep max (20-25 reps). Throughout the 12-week time period, researchers measured the 49 participants muscle strength and size, along with the hormone levels of each of each of the young men.


THE RESULTS

After examining the young men’s muscles and hormone levels, the results were nearly identical! The men who used 75-90% of their rep max did not have any significant difference when compared to the men who did not use their max. Both the muscle strength and size of the participants seemed to mirror one another, supporting the idea that completing fewer reps with heavier weights does not necessarily make you stronger as compared to if you were to complete more reps with lighter weights.

When it comes to lifting heavier weights, the case can be made that your body exerts more energy to complete fewer reps (as little as 1-5 at times). However, by completing more reps with fewer weights, your body is trained in the art of muscular endurance. The two different approaches to weight lifting will train your muscles in different ways to ultimately give you the same final result.


MOVING FORWARD

At some point in anyone’s weightlifting or workout career, however, athletes reach the dreaded plateau. Your body adapts to your workout routine and seeks a change in order to continue seeing improvements. However, the idea that more reps with lights weights can warrant the same results as fewer reps with heavier weights could be a perfect solution. If you have reached the point in your workout where you simply cannot incorporate any more weight into your routine, it might be time to change it up! Confuse your muscles with a smaller weight amount and complete more repetitions. This will train your muscles in a new and effective way in order to ensure you are still improving upon and training the strength and size of your muscles.

CK

Works Cited:
https://greatist.com/move/strength-training-lift-heavier-weights-or-do-more-reps
https://experiencelife.com/article/strength-in-repetition/

 

Keep Your Goals High and Your Squats Low!

Squatting is a workout technique that strengthens and tones our glutes as well as various leg muscles including our quads, hamstrings, and calves. Squatting is great because of the versatility of the exercise! It can be performed almost anywhere at any time with no equipment or weights! Another added benefit to squatting is that, due to the increased muscle you are gaining in your legs, you are able to burn more fat as well! More muscle = more fat burned. By engaging the core muscles in the body, squatting helps to improve and strengthen the core as well. Because squats help to improve upon this, you are able to build and maintain a better sense of mobility and balance as well. Along with these benefits, strengthening your muscles will also help to decrease the risk of injury. Adding weights to your squats can help to incorporate your upper body as well, leading to a full-body workout all in one!


 

According to an article on Experience Life by Heidi Wachter, the following list contains tips and cues to keep in mind in order to ensure you are performing the movement accurately in order to get all of the benefits out of the squat.

 

  • Begin the squat by hinging at the hips and pushing your butt back.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, balancing your weight evenly.
  • Keep your chest up, shoulders pulled back, and spine neutral.
  • Engage your core by bracing it throughout the movement.
  • As your knees bend, keep pushing your hips back so your weight stays balanced in the middle of your feet

 


By perfecting your squat during your workout, you will actually be benefitting your everyday routine as well! This is because “squat exercises are a motion that your body uses often in real life. Whenever you bend down to pick something up, you’ll be thankful that, because of your squat exercise routine, you’ll have the strength and flexibility to get the job done” (Fitday).

CK

 

Works Cited:
Fitday. “The Benefits of Squat Exercises.” http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/the-benefits-of-squat-exercises.html
Peak Fitness. “Squats: 8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise.” http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/25/darin-steen-demonstrates-the-perfect-squat.aspx
Wachter, Heidi. Experience Life. “5 Tips to a Better Squat.” https://experiencelife.com/article/5-tips-to-a-better-squat/

Get Your Head in the Game

When it comes to your health, two factors usually come to mind: your physical activity and your diet. However, there is a very important and essential factor when it comes to your overall health and well-being that some people often do not take into consideration: your mental health. Positivity and relaxation are both key components when it comes to improving upon your mental health, but there are other tips and suggestions we have for you in order to ensure your body can become and stay mentally fit!

 

AVOID HIGH SUGARS

Our body creates and supplies glucose for our bodies, which our brains need throughout the day. However, the simple sugars which are located in junk food cause peaks and drops in this circulation, and therefore upset the balance of our brain. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that only 5% of our caloric intake come from sugars. Today, however, people are consuming close to 5 times that much! Studies have shown that high sugar consumption can lead to low levels of insulin. As a result of this, cognitive functions such as memory and learning skills can be at risk

 

GET MORE PROTEIN
The amino acids found in the protein we consumer are key components for a healthy brain. They provide essential materials that are needed to create the neurotransmitters that our brains depend on. Experts have stated that 20-25% of our daily diet should come from protein. According to Psychology Today, “The hormones and enzymes that cause chemical changes and control all body processes are made of proteins.” Therefore, the basis for our brain’s daily function stems in part from the proteins we consume!

 

REGULATE YOUR STRESS WITH VITAMINS

Everyone knows how stressful stress can be on your body. Stress hormones, however, can be regulated by vitamins such as Vitamin B, B3, and C. These vitamins can protect your body and its neurotransmitters from stress hormones that can have a negative effect on your body and your health.

READ A BOOK

We know that when it comes to your body, it is important to exercise and stay physically active. When it comes to your brain, however, we do not realize that we need to do the same thing. Reading is the exercise of the mind! It can help to stimulate your brain and reduce your levels of stress. Reading has also been linked to improvements in memory as well.

REMEMBER TO SMILE

Research shows that a regular gratitude practice has the capacity to create new neural pathways that support a more positive outlook. Being around positive and uplifting people has also been shown to increase your happiness and overall sense of feeling. This is important to remember for you personally because, after all, you don’t want to be that one friend responsible for bringing everyone else’s mood down!

CK

 

Works Cited:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200301/brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/06/sugar-brain-mental-health_n_6904778.html

 

Exercise and Circulation

When it comes to your body’s daily functioning, circulation plays an essential role in assisting keeping you alive. Your circulation affects all parts of your body including your heart, brain, lungs, stomach, and muscles. So, it should come as no surprise that exercise can play a role in circulation. Exercise and the circulatory system have a mutually benefitting relationship. According to Donald Dengel, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, “exercise makes the circulatory system stronger, more flexible, and more expansive — all at the same time. A healthy circulatory system then returns the favor by boosting athletic performance.” Exercise has also been proven to prevent and also help to cure the arterial damage that comes from unhealthy eating and unhealthy lifestyles in general.


When it comes to the mutual relationship, here are six ways in which exercise and circulation go hand in hand.

  • Exercise promotes blood-vessel health
  • Exercise helps inoculate against chronic disease
  • Exercise reduces heart-disease risk
  • Exercise bolsters athletic performance
  • Exercise improves lymphatic function
  • Exercise makes the heart bigger and stronger

When it comes to your heart, exercise plays a vital role in keeping it happy and healthy. When you exercise, your heart rate increases. As your fitness levels begin to improve, your heart in turn becomes stronger, thus decreasing your resting heart rate. According to Live Strong, “As you exercise, the hormone adrenalin causes your blood vessels to expand to allow passage of a greater-than-normal volume of blood. This is called vasodilation, which is a short-term response to exercise and is one of the reasons your surface blood vessels may become more prominent during exercise.” Another important component with exercise and circulation comes from the effect exercise has on your red blood cell count. By continuously working out and improving your fitness regime, you increase the number of red cells in your body. As a result, your body can transport more oxygen to parts of your body.

 

 

Works Cited:
Dale, Patrick. Live Strong. “The Effects of Exercises on the Circulatory System.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/413190-the-effects-of-exercises-on-the-circulatory-system/
Bergeson, Laine. Experience Life. https://experiencelife.com/article/how-exercise-affects-circulation-and-vice-versa/.

Feeling Blue

For centuries, water has been associated with healing and spiritual properties that we have incorporated into our daily routines and cultural practice. Have you ever found your mood significantly change when you are near a body of water? There is almost a sense of pure serenity and peace when you are looking out over a lake or ocean. Why does this happen? Why does nature, and, more specifically water, sooth us the way it does?

 

According to Wallace J. Nichols, PHD, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, “researchers look carefully at studies detailing the calming effect of nature on the human mind, and they find over and over that water helps amplify nature’s soothing, healing qualities.” He also states that when it comes to our bodies, we all naturally have a “blue mind,” which can be described as a meditative state that can be categorized by qualities such as serenity, harmony, and satisfaction that is actually prompted when we are in or around different sources of water. Water can be a source of clarity, entertainment, and exercise in our everyday lives.

 


According to Nichols, the following are six important benefits when it comes to your “blue mind”

  • Water gives our brain a rest
  • Water can induce a meditative state
  • Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected
  • A blue mind is a creative mind
  • Exercise by or in water is good for our bodies and brains

 


 

Another important aspect of water that draws us into it is the ability that water has to both change and remain consistent all at the same time. Our brains and bodies get a two for one special by getting the benefit of stability and consistency with the added bonus of a stimulating change all in one! The positive benefits and advantages associated with water can be important for people dealing with the stress and pressures of everyday life. According to Nichols, “water impacts all five senses at the same time with a positive, powerful image and memory,” he says. “The good memories from a day on the water help override bad memories that haunt someone and possibly help crack that shell, letting them rejoin the world.”

 

Experiencing this state of “blue mind” does not require you to go sit at the beach and watch the waves crashing to the shore (as beautiful and peaceful as that may be). Rather, it can be something as simple as taking a bath, going fishing, or drinking water! Whatever your source may be, incorporate more water into your life. Both your physical and mental health will thank you for it.

CK

 

Works Cited:
Gregoire, Carolyn. Huffington Post. “Why Being Near the Ocean Can Make You Calmer and More Creative.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/02/25/mental-benefits-water_n_5791024.html
 Wallace, J. Nichols, PHD. Experience Life. “Blue Mind.” https://experiencelife.com/article/blue-mind/

The Importance of Taking Days Off

Today, it seems as though our society has adopted this “all or nothing” type of mentality, and working out is no exception. Oftentimes, working out can be a struggle. However, for some people, taking days off when trying to reach a goal can be just as difficult. We do not want to lose any of the progress that we are making, and we would like to see results as soon as possible. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our workout routines that we forget to take days off and give our bodies the rest that they need.

According to Russel Wynter, NASM certified master trainer and co-owner of MadSweat, “when the stress is too much physiologically for the system to handle, it can and will lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint pain.” Depending on the severity of the injury, we could ironically be pushing our goals farther and farther away if we do not give our muscles a break.

More negative side effects associated with excessive amounts of exercise with limited rest include a decrease in performance, sickness, a change in your hormones, poor sleeping patterns, and a decrease in your immune system. Certified Personal Trainer, NASM CPT, Sarah Gibson states that when we experience tears or strains in our muscles and joints, we in turn activate our immune system. Rest is a key element in ensuring that take a day off and step back from the practice, our immune system does not hve enough time to fix everything. Wynter also states that, “you should have at least one day of rest before attempting to work similar muscle groups again. The general rule is it requires a minimum of 48 hours to recover with full recovery seen within 72 to 96 hours post workout.”

When it comes to the recommended time spent on cardio throughout the week, experts strongly suggest that 30-60 minutes of moderate workouts (5 times/week) or 20-60 minutes of intense workouts (3 times/week) in order to get the most of your training. In order to build strength, your muscles need time and rest to rejuvenate. Different athletes and people with different goals will have different versions of “taking a day off.” For bodybuilders and pure strength training athletes this may mean taking a break from the weights one day and doing some form of light cardio. For others, this may mean withholding from all strenuous activity as a whole.

No matter what your athletic level may be, it is important to give your body rest and time to recuperate. If not, the possible consequences that you may experience may end up doing more harm than good regarding your body’s progress.

CK

 

Works Cited:
Gibson, Sarah. Well Bridge. “Give it a Rest: It’s OK to Skip Your Workout.” https://www.wellbridge.com/fit-like-that/give-it-a-rest-its-ok-to-skip-your-workout
Rosenbrock, K. The Active Times. “Why Rest Days are Just as Important as Working Out.” https://www.theactivetimes.com/why-rest-days-are-just-important-working-out

 

 

Old Dog, New Tricks

As we get older, we tend to stay set in our ways of thinking and behaving. We learn what works for us, and we tend to stay content in our comfort zones. However, studies have shown that a childlike approach to life in certain situations can actually be beneficial to our aging brains!

 

Over our lifetime, we have learned to integrate our many years of education and skill building into our current thought processes and how we approach our everyday lives. University of California-Riverside psychology professor Rachel Wu, PhD published an article supporting the idea, however, that in order to protect our brains as we grow older, stepping outside of our comfort zones and incorporating a more youthful approach to life is important. She states that “across your lifespan, you go from ‘broad learning’ (learning many skills as an infant or child) to ‘specialized’ learning (becoming an expert in a specific area) when you begin working, and that leads to cognitive decline initially in some unfamiliar situations, and eventually in both familiar and unfamiliar situation.”

 

There are six key factors that can help explain the difference between the broad learning and specialized learning:

 

  1. OPEN-MINDED VS. CLOSED-MINDED. AS WE AGE, WE’RE LESS LIKELY TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONES.
  2. CONSISTENT ACCESS TO TEACHERS AND MENTORS VS. NO ACCESS. THEY’RE OUT THERE, OF COURSE, BUT WE SELDOM SEEK THEM OUT.
  3. A GROWTH MINDSET VS. A FIXED MINDSET. ONCE WE’RE SETTLED IN OUR JOBS, MOST OF US FEEL LIKE WE KNOW ALL WE NEED TO KNOW.
  4. A FORGIVING ENVIRONMENT VS. ONE IN WHICH FAILURE COMES WITH CONSEQUENCES. WHY TAKE A RISK WHEN IT COULD GET YOU FIRED?
  5. A SERIOUS COMMITMENT TO LEARNING VS. A LACK OF PERSEVERANCE. THE OLDER WE GET, THE LESS LIKELY WE ARE TO SOLDIER ON THROUGH DIFFICULT SUBJECTS.
  6. LEARNING MULTIPLE SKILLS SIMULTANEOUSLY VS. A SINGULAR FOCUS. IT’S HARD ENOUGH TO LEARN ONE NEW THING AT THIS AGE, SO WHY PUSH YOURSELF?

(list provided by Experience Life)

 

In relation to this, an article published by the Harvard Medical School stated that “challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby or learning a new skill can function the same way.” Keeping our minds fresh and active has also been proven to diminish signs of dementia as we age!

 

According to Psychology Today, as we age, we still have an inner child dwelling us, even though some adults are unaware of this. The inability to recognize this metaphoric child within us, however, can lead to many behavioral, emotional, and relationship difficulties in our everyday lives. According to Stephen A. Diamond, PhD, “to become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child–representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness–must be stifled, quarantined or even killed.” The very qualities that positively mirror our inner child can be lost or forgotten as we age, and, in turn, can be detrimental to our health and well-being. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the non-profit organization called the National Institute for Play, has studied the benefits of incorporating fun and childlike activity into our everyday lives. His research has stemmed back about 40 years, and has proven that fun and play time can actually decrease a person’s risk of depression and feelings of being ‘stuck’. So, not only does a childlike approach positively affect our aging brains, it is crucial for our mental health as well!

 

Getting comfortable in our everyday routines is something that is bound to happen to most people at some point. However, as we age, it is important that we do not remain stuck. Rather, it is essential that our minds stay active, and we force ourselves out of our comfort zones every once in a while.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?!

 

CK

 

 

Works Cited:
Cox, Craig. Experience Life. “Pumping Irony: New Tricks for an Old Dog.” https://experiencelife.com/article/new-tricks-for-an-old-dog/
 
Cutter, John. Orlando Sentinel. “It’s important to learn new things as we age.” http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/aging/cycling-into-aging/os-growing-old-learn-new-skills-20160606-story.html
Diamond, Stephen A. Psychology Today. “Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: The Inner Child.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evil-deeds/200806/essential-secrets-psychotherapy-the-inner-child
 

 

Musical Motivation

Have you ever noticed that when “your” song comes on when you’re working out, you feel a rush of adrenaline and a newfound sense of endurance? Where does this come from? Why is music such a motivating factor when it comes to our workout performance?


The study of music and its relationship to working out was not studied in depth until the mid- 1990s due to the technological advances that made it possible for more and more people to listen to music on the run. Now, scientists have been studying the impact that music has on improving athletic performance.

One of the more widely accepted views on why music makes working out easier is that it serves as a mental distraction. The music we listen to serves as a distraction from the fatigue our body is facing and the exhaustion that comes after about 10 minutes of cardio and weightlifting. According to the Guardian Report, the distraction that comes from music can boost athletic performance by 15%.

Not only does the music you listen to distract you during your workout, but it can also help control and pace your run too! The songs you listen to while you run, bike, walk, or lift weights can help stimulate the motor section of your brain in order to help set the pace for your workout! According to the Huffington Post, “clueing into these time signals helps us use our energy more efficiently, since keeping a steady pace is easier on our bodies than fluctuating throughout a sweat session.”

So, next time you hit the tredmill or bike, make sure your playlist is one that is going to keep you motivated and “in the zone” throughout the duration of your workout!

 

Works cited:
Hughes, Virginia. “Why Does Music Help Us Exercise?” National Geographic. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/15/why-does-music-help-us-exercise/.
Staff, Experience Life. “Music=Motivation.” Experience Life.  https://experiencelife.com/article/music-motivation/.
 “7 Reasons You Should Listen to Music When You Workout.” Huffington Post.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/why-exercise-workout-music-playlist_n_4173931.html.

Technology and Sleep: What Poor Sleep Patterns Do to Our Bodies

Pick your poison: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube you name it, and the Millennials are on it. Technology and social media combined have overtaken the minds and hands of society. Many of us have heard time and time again that the stimulation that comes from technology can disrupt our sleep patterns. Recently, the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study that emphasizes a very strong correlation between people with sleep problems and social media usage.  In the study, the researchers examined about 1,800 young adults, specifically those in the Millennial generation who have grown up in a tech-dominant society using social media for the majority of their lives. As they observed the results, “they found that the study participants spent an average of an hour a day on one or more of the major social-media platforms and checked their various accounts 30 times a week. Nearly 30 percent of them suffered “high levels” of sleep disturbance” (Cox).


According to Experience Life, the research conducted by Jessica Levenson, PhD, explained 3 ways in which sleep issues were connected with social media usage:

  • Late-night engagement on social-media channels can simply displace sleep time.
  • Interaction with other users on these platforms can trigger emotional, cognitive, or physiological reactions that can make falling asleep more difficult.
  • The light emitted by computer screens can disrupt circadian rhythms and disturb sleep patterns.

While the study does not irrefutably state that social media usage causes sleep problems, it does support the idea that the use of social media can negatively affect the quality of sleep someone is having at night.


A poor night’s sleep can affect aspects of your everyone’s everyday life, not only Millennials. Your quality of life and your overall health and wellness can reap the negative consequences of poor sleep patterns. An article on ABC news reports that “research has shown a clear link between technology use before bed and compromised sleep that affects our health and wellbeing.” So, not only could technology and social media be affecting your sleep patterns, but also functionality throughout your day to day routine as well.

It is important to note that technology and social media usage do not affect everyone in the same way. The light, stimulation, and interaction that comes from using technology can affect people and their sleep patterns in different ways, some more extreme than others. Some forms of technology are also more disruptive than others, such as video games and more interactive outlets.

When it comes to our bodies, sleep is an essential factor in keeping us healthy and well. Not only does a poor night’s sleep make us feel less than 100%, it has also “been linked with an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, weight gain, reduced immunity, and some studies have found there’s a relationship between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure or heart disease” (Johnson).

Getting enough sleep and giving our minds a rest (especially before bed) are crucial in ensuring we can function as our best selves the following day. End your night right to start your day better!

CK

Works Cited:
Cox, Craig. Experience Life. “Social-Media Use Linked to Sleep Problems in Millenials.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2016-10-21/how-technology-use-messes-with-your-sleep/7950336.
Johnson, Cathy. ABC Health and Wellbeing. “How technology use messes with your sleep and what you can do about it.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2016-10-21/how-technology-use-messes-with-your-sleep/7950336.