April 28, 2013

Fuel Up Your Recovery: Timing Matters

Nutrition science has come a long way from the days of carb loading (eating a ton of pasta the night before a marathon).  What you eat (and when) has a major effect on your workout.  Eating after you exercise helps convert your body from a catabolic state (where you break down muscle tissue), to an anabolic state (where you build muscle tissue back up).  What and when you eat are the key factors.
To replace energy stores and help repair damaged muscle (during training your muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt to become stronger) you need to eat within 30-45 minutes of your workout.  This time period is crucial in helping you recover.  Wait longer and you will not get the benefit.
As for what to eat, the newest research is showing you need a mix of carbohydrates and protein.  Most sources indicate a ratio of 3-4 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein.
Carbohydrates should be a mix of simple and complex (such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains).  Adding protein can help reduce muscle damage and speed repair.  High quality proteins such as those from milk, chicken, fish, eggs and soy are recommended.  Smoothies made with yogurt, pretzels and hummus or peanut butter, cereal fruit and milk are examples of a good post training snack.
Post exercise nutrition is especially important for those who work out frequently and hard.  If your exercise is a 20 minute stroll, you do not have to worry about eating for recovery.  Those who do high intensity interval training, lift weights or do long endurance activities need to make post exercise nutrition part of their training.  Do not forget that these foods still count as calories so you may need to adjust the rest of your eating.  Time and plan your nutrition and you will get much more out of your training.

April 14, 2013

Still Stretching?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not in favor of stretching before a workout.  New research underscores how pre-exercise stretching can decrease vertical jump height, sprint speed and amount of weight lifted.  This is probably because a stretched muscle is a lengthened, and thereby weaker muscle. 
Many fear that lack of stretching will lead to injury or a pulled muscle, but most people “pull their muscles” due to weakness, not tightness.  There is actually no evidence that stretching (before or after a workout) decreases injury.  You still need to warm-up.  Your body responds best by gradually easing into your sport or workout.  A dynamic warm-up is recommended.  This means mimicking the activities you will be doing, but going easier.  For example, walk before running, use light or no weights but go through the movements before lifting weights. Move your body through its full range of motion.  You should feel warm before engaging in any intense activity.
This does not mean stretching is bad; these studies are specific to stretching before a workout or sports performance.   Those with injuries or muscle imbalance may need to stretch a specific area before working out.  However, the consensus is to save your stretching for after the workout.  You will get better results, and save yourself some time.

April 7, 2013

More Dead Bugs For Your Abs

Once you have mastered the previous dead bug exercises (see posts you can progress to even more challenging variations:

1.Lie on an unstable surface such as a foam roller, BOSU, or even a pillow.  Start back with the first progression (find neutral spine, maintain it while moving just the arms or legs), only increase difficulty when you can keep perfect form.
2. Perform the dead bug but move the arms to the side of the body instead of above the head.  Once you are good at this, you can add a dumbbell or medicine ball. 
Correct form is essential; it makes no sense to increase the difficulty if you cannot do the exercise flawlessly.  Challenge yourself, but keep perfect form, and your abs and back will thank you.