From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads

From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads

“Back then, what I thought was healthy for me, wasn’t. I wanted to be healthier for my children and set a good example.

Waleska M.

Waleska is a mom with 2 part-time jobs who decided it was time to change the direction her weight was headed. In our interview with her, she shares how, even when surrounded by unhealthy food choices, she was able to decide on a lifestyle change and stick to it until she lost over 60 pounds! If you’re worried that you can’t make time for your health goals or that your environment hosts too many temptations to set you up for success, you need to read Waleska’s story! 

From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads 

My fitness journey started about 5 years ago,” explains Waleska. I was very overweight, and I realized I had to make a change when I gained 20 pounds in a single month. At the time, I worked for a chocolate company. I ate many chocolate chip cookies, drank hot chocolate, ate ice cream, and just overate when I was bored; but the chocolate boutique was the culprit. 

Back then, what I thought was healthy for me, wasn’t. I wanted to be healthier for my children and set a good example. 

Early Mornings at the Gym 

Once she realized her health was on the line and decided to be healthier for her kids, she started to plan around her existing schedule. My fitness routine starts in the morning right after my kids leave for school [and] I try to get it done before I start work. 

I first start off with a 5-10 min warm up on the treadmill or elliptical. I like to mix it up to avoid boredom, so I tend to alternate between lifting and calisthenics. I like to do overhead presses with squats, bicep curls, deadlifts, and chest flies. If I can’t make it to the gym, I try to do a 30minute workout video from YouTube like “Strong by Zumba. 

The important trend to notice here is in Waleska’s commitment to consistency. If she can fit gym time into her schedule, she’s got a backup plan and she sticks to it! 

 The Goal to Inspire 

Oftentimes we worry that we’ll have a hard time adjusting or adhering to whatever health goal we’re trying to accomplish. However, Waleska’s experience is a great example of how a healthy lifestyle is possible when you focus on what you love about it.

I enjoy working out and I’ve lost more than 60 pounds with physical activity and by watching what I eat,” she explains. I enjoy working with others, so I am currently studying to become a personal trainer to help others with their journey.  

In the end, the most important thing is that you “never give up” and that you “keep going, she exclaims. We all have the power within us to succeed in what we want to do! 

Do you have an inspirational story you’d like to share with us? Email us at blog@lafitness.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post! 

For grammatical correctness, length, and clarity, minor edits – none of which alter the original or intended meaning – have been made to the quotes provided. 


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Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Looking into the Potential Strength Benefits of Sodium

Salt has been called the “secret weapon in the gym” and “the newest workout supplement1.” The white granules known as table salt (also sea, kosher, or Himalayan salt) in your kitchen are simply sodium and chloride put together. By itself, sodium is one of several critical electrolytes which are minerals that affect the body’s fluid balance, muscle and nerve impulses, blood pressure and acidbase balance.  

Though human requirements are only 300-500 milligrams of sodium daily, the average American consumes ten times that – over 3,400 mg2! It’s well known that athletes have a higher need for sodium, mainly due to sweat losses. However, competitive athletes also train hours a day (and the majority not resistance work) compared to the average person in the weight room. So then, we wondered where the hype about extra sodium came from. Does liberally salting nearly everything you put in your mouth help you pump more iron in the gym?

The Strength Training Community 

Reading through three online sources3,4,5 touting the benefits of salt for size and strength it would appear that we’ve missed out on the key to bodybuilding success! Sodium increases blood volume and intracellular water retention. True, but sodium just doing its job for fluid status and muscle contraction doesn’t mean more salt enhances power and strength for greater gains. None of those articles provide evidence-based references or citations to support these supposed enhancements. (Sodium phosphate is a different molecule that is mentioned as an intracellular buffer that can increase aerobic and anaerobic performance when supplemented3.) The authors do agree that although you shouldn’t limit sodium, you don’t need supplemental salt for strength gains, just ample dietary consumption. A fourth bodybuilding source6 advises not to add excessive sodium to meals and shares that it’s more important to have potassium in balance with sodium intake.  

Sports Nutrition Experts  

We asked Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), in the St. Louis, Missouri area if strength athletes and power lifters need additional sodium beyond that in the typical American diet. She informed us that sodium requirements vary significantly based on intensity and time of training session, sweat rate and acclimation to the training environment. “Based on the current research available, strength-based athletes do not need more than the average intake of sodium from the typical Western diet,” McDaniel said. She explained that most athletes’ eating habits far exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg sodium* per day making it unlikely that strength trained athletes would need an increase in daily sodium for the average hourlong training bout.  

* for the general public, from the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines7.  

Also, nationally known, Marie Spano, RD, CSSD and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®, gave us her input regarding athletes’ sodium needs. She shared that dehydration can decrease strength and power. “Your muscles need sodium to hold on to more fluid and for muscular contractions, so consume adequate sodium to cover sodium losses through sweat,” Spano advises.  She previously wrote, “To achieve proper hydration, athletes may want to add sodium to their sports drinks or preworkout meals to help retain the fluid they’re consuming.8 The amount depends on total dietary sodium intake and sodium losses through sweat while training in a particular environment.  

Professional Organizations  

American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2016 position stand and The International Society of Sport Nutrition’s (ISSN) 2018 research and recommendation update both addressed sodium. Regarding hydration, the ACSM indicated, “Sodium consumed in pre-exercise fluids and foods may help with fluid retention, and advised ingesting sodium during exercise when large sweat losses occur9. The ISSN stated that inadequate sodium would impair performance and advised replacing adequate amounts due to sweat losses10. In regard to extra sodium the Society indicated it was beneficial for hydration in the early days of training in the heat10.  

Neither ACSM or ISSN directly mentioned sodium involved in strength, power, weight training or muscle mass. In fact, the ISSN didn’t list any sodium compounds as “muscle building supplements” based on available literature but did name sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate under the “performance enhancement” category, noting there was strong evidence to support their efficacy10. The Society also indicated limited or mixed evidence to support the efficacy of [sodium] nitrates to improve aerobic work performance and endurance exercise10. 

Evidence from Scientific Research 

Being that salt is everywhere in our diet, research on supplemental sodium chloride solely for muscle strength or growth is lacking. Sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is not easily obtained from food and has evidence as a modestly effective sports nutrition supplement for short-term, high intensity exercise (anaerobic work) performance11,12. Benefits are most likely due to its action as an extracellular (blood) buffer11. Sodium citrate is a potential alternative buffer, but with unknown effectiveness. For endurance work, sodium phosphate may enhance performance12.  

The Final Word 

So, it seems the hype surrounding salt for strength comes from the importance of sodium for hydration and muscular contraction. Most people generally get enough of it in the form of sodium chloride, more of which doesn’t help strength gains as long as dehydration is prevented, particularly for training sessions that are very long or in the heat. Other sodium molecules consumed as sports nutrition supplements may offer ergogenic effects that can’t be derived from table salt, namely sodium bicarbonate for anaerobic work. The consensus is not to limit salt if you’re intensely resistance training, but you don’t need to intentionally use the saltshaker everywhere either. Consider just drinking a higher sodium fluid electrolyte beverage pre-workout. 

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

Good health starts with good hygiene practices. Many of these everyday items are not our first thought when we think of germs, but if you know it’s there, you can do more to protect yourself from illnesscausing pathogens. Promote healthy living by keeping your immune system strong with nutritious food and regular exercise, and by washing your hands often (especially after touching or using any of these germy everyday items). 

Cash

Cash is notoriously germy and can carry potential pathogens like E. Coli, Staph bacteria, and salmonella.1 While you won’t get sick just from touching it, you can get sick if you eat or if you touch your nose or mouth before washing your hands.

Cellphone

Be truthful with yourself for just a minute. Has your phone accompanied you to the bathroom even once? Even if it hasn’t, research has found that phones carry tons of bacteria, including the kind that cause strep throat, the flu, and yeast infections.2 It’s a good idea to sanitize your phone regularly! You can use an alcohol-based wipe or a cotton ball with a light coating of rubbing alcohol.

Your Purse, Backpack, or Wallet

These items go everywhere with you. Your purse or backpack will often go to the bathroom with you, get set on the floor, and carry germy items like your phone and cash. Your wallet is no exception, especially if you carry it in your pocket where the warmth and humidity created by your body provides the right environment for bacterial growth.

Pin Pads

Every time you purchase something and use a pin pad or other electronic check-out device, you are touching something that hundreds of others have touched too. They aren’t sanitized between each guest, so we’re not surprised at the research that states there are as many bacteria on pin pads as there are on toilet seats!3

Remote Control

When you get home and just want to wind down with some of your favorite shows, you may want to consider what’s living on your remote control. When was the last time you wiped it down? If you’ve ever munched on snacks while watching T.V., you may have grabbed the remote to turn down the volume or changed the channel when your hands weren’t exactly clean. We all know what loves to live on sticky, oily, foodcovered surfaces.

The Gasoline Pump

The gas pump is packed with germs, probably because they’re never or rarely cleaned! A study by the University of Arizona found astoundingly high numbers of microbes on gas pump handles. 71% of the inspected handles had microbes associated with illness and disease.4

Refrigerator and Microwave Doors

For the same reason you want to clean other surfaces that come into contact with food, you’ll want to clean your refrigerator and microwave doors. Not only are they commonly touched, but you may be touching them when you’re in the middle of food prep. Washing your hands before you eat is a good way to keep bacteria that was on your hands from entering your body. Follow the same principle for the surfaces you touch just before you eat.

Air Dryers

Air dryers in public restrooms circulate the bacteria in the air and deposit it on your freshly washed hands. According to Healthline, the bacteria doesn’t come from within the air dryer itself. The movement of air essentially collects the freefloating bacteria5 (which is already going to be more plentiful in a public space). Your best bet is to dry with paper towels. Fortunately, more and more tree-free products are hitting the market, so you don’t have to feel too guilty.

Toothbrush Holders

Because it’s so close to the toilet, your toothbrush holder can be teaming with bacteria. One flush can unleash fecescontaining aerosols6 from the toilet and release them into the bathroom where they can land on anything. Considering it holds a brush that goes in your mouth, try sanitizing it by popping it in the dishwasher (if it’s dishwasher safe) or washing it with hot soapy water. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. This system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord and, when it is compromised, it can be disabling. Essentially what happens is that the immune system attacks the protective covering on nerve fibers which disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The affected nerves will vary from person to person, so not all people with MS will exhibit all of the same symptoms.1  

What Do Symptoms Look Like?

The most impacted function with Multiple Sclerosis is movement. Numbness or weakness in the limbs, tremors, and an unsteady gait are among the most recognizable symptoms. Vision, speech, sexual, bowel, and bladder problems are also known to occur.1

Exercise with MS

Muscle weakness, balance and coordination problems, dizziness, and difficulty breathing can make exercise a significant chore for people with Multiple Sclerosis. However, activity is still very important. Common MS treatments and inactivity can render people with this disease more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, which can make balance and coordination issues an even greater concern. This can be prevented or slowed, however, through physical activity and proper nutrition.2  

A 2004 study found that, even though cases of MS vary across patients, exercise programs designed to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and mobility can enhance a patient’s quality of life while also reducing the risk of secondary disorders.3 However, it’s important to adhere to exercises that are safe.  

 

A publication by BMC Neurology identifies a number of practical and beneficial exercises for patients with MS. An important preface to their findings is that each exercise program should be designed to address a patient’s specific goal and should take into account a person’s baseline impairments and capabilities. Only a healthcare professional can provide the appropriate fitness routine for your needs, but generally, these aspects of training are known to hold benefits for patients with MS: 
  

  1. Aerobic Training: Low to moderate intensity aerobic training is effective on cardiovascular fitness, mood, reduction of fatigue, and overall quality of life. Examples include bicycling, aquatic exercise, and treadmill walking. Rowing and running are also potential options but only for patients with proper functioning.4
     
  2. Strength Exercises: For MS patients, supervised resistance training is safer than unsupervised training, and the use of weight-machines is safer than the use of free-weights. It is also important to prioritize the lower body because that is where the strength deficit is usually greater. Examples of strength exercises include the seated leg press, seated hamstring curls, knee extensions, shoulder press, chest press, and lat pull-downs. As a note, seated exercises are the safer option when compared to standing exercises.4
     
  3. Flexibility Exercises: These types of exercises are important to enhance mobility and improve balance and posture. Slow, gentle, and prolonged stretching is recommended before and after exercise with a particular focus on spastic muscles (tight or stiff muscles). Yoga and tai chi classes may be options for patients with higher functioning.4
     
  4. Balance and Coordination Exercises: Exercises that challenge balance can be very helpful. It is important that a stable support is available or that patients exercise in water. Water exercises provide support that help protect participants from dangerous falls.4  

Common Concerns

As with all new exercise routines, it’s important to know when to stop. You can help protect yourself from injury if you are attentive to how your body is feeling with each movement. When it comes to Multiple Sclerosis, there are a few more things to keep in mind. 

  1. Heat Intolerance: Heat stress caused by exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of MS. For this reason, heat-sensitive patients are encouraged to exercise in air-conditioned rooms, to perform water-based exercises, and to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day.4
     
  2. Fatigue: Exercise can make symptoms of fatigue worse in MS patients.4 This is part of why it’s important that you don’t push yourself to exhaustion. It can be dangerous to do so, especially if you are using free-weights. In the grand scheme of things, exercise can actually help improve symptoms of fatigue,4 but it is important be aware of your limits during exercise.
     
     
  3. Risk of Falling: It is advised that patients who are at risk of falling be monitored during exercise.4 A fall is a risk not worth taking, so it is important to have non-slip surfaces in areas of aquatic activities and to take precautions during any form of exercise. 

What is your approach to exercise with MS? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, and to stay in-the-know on important health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 

SOURCES 

  1. “Multiple Sclerosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269. 
  2. Pietrangelo, Ann, and Kristeen Cherney. “The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Your Body.” Healthline, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/effects-on-the-body#7. 
  3. White, L.J. & Dressendorfer, R.H. Sports Med (2004) 34: 1077. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434150-00005  
  4. Halabchi, F., Alizadeh, Z., Sahraian, M. A., & Abolhasani, M. (2017). Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations. BMC Neurology, 17(1), 185. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12883-017-0960-9  

Intermittent Fasting: How to Hit Your Protein Goals | QA

Intermittent Fasting: How to Hit Your Protein Goals | QA

Question:

I’m wanting to start intermittent fasting for the numerous benefits it has… yes, including a little fat loss as well! The only issue is that I’m also trying to add muscle at the same time. Subscribing to the 1-2 grams of protein per body pound theory, is that enough time in the IF window to ingest that much protein? (I weigh 230 now, that’s a lot in a short window of time! ? What are the recommendations in order to achieve this with IF and low-carb/high protein? Is it even possible? Thanks!

– Chris T. 

Answer:

First, I’d modify your protein goal to the lower end of the range you proposed: 1 gram per pound goal body weight. That’s still over the 1.7 gm protein/kg recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to increase muscle mass. Since there is no physical storage of amino acids in the body, consuming large quantities of protein at once doesn’t mean you’ll use all of what you eat.  

For intermittent fasting, I’d advise breaking down your total so that you’re consuming 30-40 grams of protein* every 2-3 hours for the span of time you do eat. Remember to support your workouts with protein before, during and after to provide your muscles with amino acids when it needs them most and to promote muscle protein synthesis. 

* Amount of protein generally supported in the literature as that which can be utilized at one sitting. 

Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How Much Protein Can the Body Use in a Single Meal for Muscle-Building? Implications for Daily Protein Distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; 15,10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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