Electrolytes are minerals (e.g., sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, etc.) that break down into small, electrically-charged ions when dissolved in water. The electrolytes within your body are located in your blood and cells and are necessary to regulate intra-cellular fluid transfer. For example, sodium and chloride help to maintain your blood pressure level by regulating fluid balance within your blood. Sodium and chloride also support muscle and nerve function. Other electrolytes include calcium and magnesium which aid in muscle contraction and nerve impulses. Potassium and phosphate help to regulate energy, muscle contraction and pH balance.
Optimum performance while exercising can be compromised if the electrolytes within your body are depleted. Symptoms of electrolyte depletion are muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. Your body's ability to recover following strenuous exercise may be affected by electrolyte depletion. This is where listening to your body is key. If you do or have experienced the aforementioned symptoms when exercising, then it may be a good idea to replenish your electrolytes with a sports drink (e.g., Gatorade). If you don't or have not experienced these symptoms, then a sports drink is not needed. It's that simple.
Many factors determine your electrolyte level including gender, body size, exercise intensity, environment, exercise duration, etc. Males tend to sweat more than females and therefore experience sodium losses at a much greater degree. Large-frame people need more sodium than smaller people due to an increased sweat rate. High-intensity exercise certainly speeds the depletion of electrolytes more than low-intensity exercise. A hot, humid environment will definitely impact mineral losses more than a cool, dry environment. The longer your exercise duration, the more likely you'll become depleted in essential minerals. The recommendation is to drink a sports drink during and after a workout that lasts more than 90 minutes.
There is a huge market for sports drinks but many contain way too much sugar which adds unnecessary calories. Instead, opt for drinks that have four to eight percent carbs per eight ounces and about 120 to 170 mg of sodium. Gatorade fits the bill, supplying the essential electrolytes with minimal sugar.
The typical American tends to eat a diet characterized by excessive saturated and trans fats due to an overconsumption of fast foods and red meat. Foods high in saturated fat
include beef, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, palm oil, butter, cheese, and milk. Foods high in trans fat
include crisco oil, margarine, butter, shortening, crackers, candies, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, fried foods, baked goods, nondairy creamers, and meats. This is a recipe for a health disaster! The health consequences of eating this way day after day after day will become apparent soon enough when you go get a medical checkup. Here are just some of the health scares:
- Increased total cholesterol level
- Increased LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)
- Decreased HDL (the "good" cholesterol)
- Increased triglyceride level
- Increased inflammation (the source of a host of diseases)
- Increased blood viscosity (increases the risk of blood clots and stroke)
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of Alzheimer's disease
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of kidney disease
- Increased risk of type-2 diabetes
- Increased risk of Multiple Sclerosis
- Increased risk of prostate cancer
- Increased risk of lymphoma
This is marketing madness! There is NO evidence whatsoever that any of these diets are beneficial for your digestive system. In fact, they may actually be harmful in that the good bacteria within your colon is removed along with the bad bacteria. The good bacteria is needed to maintain a healthy digestive tract. The reality is that your body is designed to rid itself of foreign bacteria all on its own--it does NOT need help in this regard. Your kidneys, liver, lungs as well as your colon are the filtering organs of your body and they work fine on their own without help. No need to fast or purge yourself to rid your gut of bad bacteria. By the way, any weight that's lost from fasting within one to two days is mostly due to water loss, not fat loss. Prolonged fasting is not healthy because of the risk of malnutrition.
A recent study published in Clinical Rehabilitation found that walking can be just as beneficial as strength training in lessening chronic lower back pain. You're never too old or out of shape to walk. Strive to walk for up to 40 minutes to obtain the most benefit of reducing back pain.
An analysis in the journal Stroke looked at the combined data from several observational studies to determine a correlation between increased fiber intake and lower incidence of stroke. Fiber may lessen the risk of stroke by controlling blood pressure and reducing blood cholesterol and blood sugar. So eat your fruits and vegetables!
Fat burning goes into overdrive when your body's metabolic rate remains elevated for longer periods of time. The key to burning more bodyfat is to train your body to run at a faster metabolic rate. How can this be done? Simple. Incorporate more interval training (alternating between periods of high and low intensity) within your workout regime. Interval training enhances your metabolic rate due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is the amount of oxygen debt your body experiences following intense exercise. The oxygen debt occurs to make up for the oxygen deficit during the initial period of your exercise bout when there is a delay between exercise and your body's physiological response to exercise. EPOC occurs to metabolize additional nutrients your body needs as well as to replenish energy and oxygen stores. EPOC increases when your exercise intensity increases. The increase in oxygen debt plus protein turnover (amino acid replenishment) causes an increase in your metabolism. The increase in your metabolism can last several days following an intense exercise session. This means your body can burn more calories while resting as a result of intense training. Think of your body as a machine. When the machine is placed under a greater workload, it "learns" to adapt to the increased stress. As a result, your body becomes more tuned, running at optimum efficiency and at a faster metabolic rate. The end result: your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy while resting. How cool is that?
This particular blog does NOT pertain to middle-aged men or older who may require testosterone supplementation due to low blood levels of the hormone. It is well known that natural testosterone levels decrease with age. Rather, I want to focus on the worrisome trend of young men in their twenties and thirties opting for testosterone supplementation. Why should this be of concern? Because in most cases these young men do NOT need testosterone supplementation.
The real issue is the supplement industry marketing test supplement products as anabolic boosters (remnants of "energy" supps come to mind for those who feel they need an energy boost) as the means to build muscle mass. My question is why take any supplemental testosterone when there's no clinical evidence that you're deficient in this hormone. Have you taken a blood test to verify that your testosterone level is low? If not, then why would you consider taking a supplement that has unwanted side effects? It makes no sense to me.
More concerning is the possibility that your natural test levels will be compromised from taking the supps and as a result, testicular shrinkage may occur (your testicles produce most of the testosterone in your body). You might as well inject yourself with steroids while you're at it. Do you see my point? Taking artificial hormones is not something to be trifled with as the side effects can be very undesirable. In other words, the risks will undoubtedly outweigh the benefits. Let me count the ways: infertility due to low sperm count, liver problems, male breast growth, increased male pattern baldness, possible harm to prostate health, increased risk of blood clots, congestive heart failure, and worsening of urinary symptoms (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013).
There are legitimate reasons for low T. Lifestyle is primarily the reason why many men are low in test. Regular exercise is known to boost test along with having enough saturated fat (i.e., lean red meat, egg yolks, etc.) and certain micronutrients (e.g., zinc, magnesium, etc.) within the diet. Endurance training (e.g., marathon running) can compromise test levels as well as overtraining (i.e., high intensity level, lack of recovery time, etc.). Lack of sleep, daily stress, medication usage, as well as overindulgence in alcohol may also lower testosterone levels.
BOTTOM LINE: Testosterone supplements are being oversold to consumers who, for the most part, should NOT be taking them. Simply exercising will boost your natural testosterone level. So instead of relying on potentially dangerous supplements, you should get adequate exercise, eat healthier foods, reduce medication usage if possible, and lose bodyweight (there is a correlation between obesity and lower testosterone levels in men).
Indeed, it is insidious that the human body loves fast food and packaged, processed foods. Unfortunately, highly processed foods (i.e., fast food) may severely compromise your body's metabolism. How does this happen? Since processed foods typically lack the nutrients that whole foods contain, your body craves more fast food in order to get the nutrients it needs to remain healthy. Thus, your appetite for unhealthy food tends to increase in order for your body to get as much of the nutrients it needs even if the food in general is not healthy.
A diet of mostly processed foods (most people get the majority of their sodium intake from processed foods) and high-calorie beverages essentially causes an imbalance in metabolic rate. Foods high in sodium, beverages high in sugar, and processed foods with a high calorie density but low nutrient density do not trigger appetite sensors to signal satiety. Instead, these foods tend to stimulate the release of periodic surges of insulin to deal with high blood sugar levels. As a result, the tendency is to scarf down more and more of these foods and drink more and more of these sodas (can you say 40 oz, please). In the meantime, more and more empty (read: nutrition-less) calories are consumed. Guess where these extra calories get stored. In a word: bodyfat! Combine this tendency to overindulge with sedentary behavior and you have a recipe for obesity.
The solution to break this never-ending cycle of gluttonous behavior in order to fulfill your appetite is to learn to eat more whole, nutritious foods. These are the low-glycemic index foods which are the unrefined, complex carbs which take longer for your body to digest and absorb. The benefits of eating these foods: increased micronutrients (vitamins and minerals); increased fiber content which contributes to increased satiety; increased thermic effect of food (TEF) in which your body burns more calories to digest compared to simple carbs; and increased insulin sensitivity. Your body will adapt gradually to feeling full much sooner when healthier foods are eaten. More importantly, your body will have a steady energy balance due to more regulated insulin levels.
In order to obtain "6-pack abs", you need to get your bodyfat down into the single digits (i.e., under 10%). In theory, that's all there is to developing a well-defined midsection. Of course, for most, what is simple in concept is hard in practice. The challenge is being able to get your bodyfat below 10%. It may be difficult but NOT impossible to achieve. The key is to NOT perform endless sit-ups or crunches but rather to eat a low-carb diet in conjunction with your strength and interval cardio training.
Tracking your carbohydrate intake is the key to getting well-defined abs. Carbs (sugars), being the body's fuel source for short-term energy, need to be carefully monitored. Why? Because excessive consumption of carbs gets converted to glycogen and fat for storage in muscles/liver and fat cells, respectively. Being that your body can only store a limited amount of glycogen (up to 100g), this means the remaining is stored as fat in your adipose tissue. This is why it's important to monitor your carb consumption relative to your energy needs (i.e., your exercise level).
The recommended manner in which to lean out and develop "6-pack" abs is to steadily reduce your carb intake to allow your body to resort to fat as its primary energy source. You should decrease your carb intake to an amount in which gluconeogenesis
occurs. This occurs when your glycogen (stored carbs in your muscles and liver) has been depleted and your body is forced to resort to fat (glycerol) and some protein (amino acids) for its energy needs. The conversion of glycerol and amino acids to glucose for energy occurs within your liver.
Here's a recommended process for reducing your carb intake over an 12-week period:
- Weeks 1-2: cut your current daily carb intake in half (i.e., if you're eating 500g, cut it down to 250g)
- Weeks 3-4: cut the daily intake in half again (i.e., 250g gets cut down to 125g)
- Weeks 5-6: cut the daily intake in half again (i.e., 125g gets cut down to 75g)
- Weeks 7-8: cut the daily intake in half once again (i.e., 75g gets cut down to about 35g)
- Weeks 9-12: maintain the daily low-carb intake
Daily protein and fat intake should gradually increase (i.e., every 2 weeks) in order to maintain muscle mass and hormone levels, respectively. The increase of both of these macronutrients should be very gradual so as to allow for a reduction of overall caloric intake. By the eighth week your body should be resorting to mostly fat (in the form of ketones) for energy. This occurs when your liver produces ketones (ketogenesis) for fuel when carb intake is extremely low. Unfortunately, since the body and especially the brain prefers to use glucose as its chief energy source, ketone bodies won't prevent feelings of lethargy, sluggishness, and mental slowness from occurring. This is important: there should be a carb re-feed day (i.e., cheat day) once every one to two weeks as needed during the first eight weeks in order to refill your glycogen stores and to help you maintain your sanity throughout the dieting period.
Allowing several cheat days in conjunction with mental fortitude, discipline, consistency and dedication will allow you to slog through the discomfort and enable you to achieve your desired physique.
First of all, it's important for you to distinguish between good pain and bad pain. Good pain feels like a dull, aching muscular soreness which occurs when a muscle is fatigued during a reasonably intense set of an exercise. Bad pain feels like a sharp, piercing ache which can occur during or after an exercise is performed. Good pain should dissipate relatively soon after muscular fatigue occurs whereas bad pain may linger for a while.
Back pain may occur at any time and its occurrence in many cases is unexplainable. Nevertheless, any back pain should be taken seriously as it can be quite debilitating. Normally, your back (particularly your lower back) will be involved to some degree when performing most exercises, especially those that involve standing. This is why it's important to strengthen your core muscles (your lower back being one of them) in order to maintain postural integrity. In fact, poor posture due to weak core muscles may exacerbate back pain as a result of muscular imbalances.
If you experience back pain (especially lower back pain) while exercising, do NOT be alarmed. Your lower back is essentially the link between your lower and upper body. As such, the erector spinae muscles need to be strong to withstand the daily strains that occur. Remember that dull aching pain is normal and you need not be concerned with this when performing exercises like the squat, deadlift, lunges, etc. But if you feel sharp pain that feels severe, then it's time to take a break and give your back some time to heal and recover. See other articles elsewhere within this blog for tips on treatment for back pain. There may be particular exercises that simply don't work for you and seem to aggravate back pain. If this is the case, avoid doing them. Maintaining good posture is extremely important when executing exercises and if at any time your posture becomes compromised, this may be the cause of your back pain.
BOTTOM LINE: Listen to your body! Know the distinction between good and bad pain. Always be aware of your posture when performing exercises and when in doubt, either seek tips from a professional personal trainer or else refrain from doing the exercise.