Your 2020 Fitness Bucket List!

Your 2020 Fitness Bucket List!

This year, your fitness plan needs one of these Bucket List items! It’s easier to achieve a goal when it’s specific. So, pick out an item that aligns with your overall health goals, and work towards it!  

You may need to already be in a certain state of fitness for some of these. We don’t expect a beginner to sign up for their first marathon today, but we’re challenging you to work your way up to accomplishing something new! 

1. Learn a New Swim Stroke

If all you’ve got is the dogpaddle, it’s time. Ask the advice of an experienced swimmer and maybe don’t go alone if you’re new to swimming. If you’re comfortable in the water, you can read a guide like this one to apply techniques to accomplish strokes like the freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and sidestroke. 

2. Try Open-Water Swimming

Face your fear of sharks and try a long-distance swim! Again, not to be attempted alone! Search for training and open-water race opportunities near you, and dive into the exhilarating experience of open-water swimming. You can also train in the pool at your local LA Fitness like Triathlete Champion, Dave Ruby. What you’re looking for is a way to condition your muscles for the type of work a long-distance swim requires! 

3. Do a Wall-Free Handstand

To hold a handstand, you need strong shoulders, arms, and wrists to hold you up, and a strong core to keep you balanced. Taking this challenge means you’ll need to do some strengthening work. Are you up for it?  

If you’re already handstanding your way through life, we challenge you to try a new kind of handstand! One-handed, maybe? Try learning to walk on your hands or holding it for one minute. Can you do a handstand pushup? There are limitless ways to push the boundaries of what you can do!

4. Complete at Least 5 Unassisted Pullups

You may have seen or used the assisted pullup machine at the gym. It’s a great way to slowly increase the amount of weight you can pull until you are able to lift your full body weight into the pullup. If you’re completely new, aim for 5 pullups to start. If you’re seasoned, your next step might be a one-arm pullup, or maybe a muscle up!  

5. Complete at Least 5 Pushups

Easy pushups usually start with your knees on the ground to help support your weight. Just because it’s the “easy” version doesn’t mean your muscles aren’t working hard. New movement will always challenge your muscles. Try to get to 5 if you’re brand new, but don’t stop there! Shoot for 10 and then 15.  

If you’re already a master at pushups, add a new one to your repertoire. Unlock some new skills like a clap pushup, diamond pushup, try one with a hand behind your back, or go for a superman pushup! 

6. Accomplish a Planche

You’ll need a lot of body strength to successfully hold a planche. Those who can accomplish this move have stable wrists, strong arms and shoulders, a strong back and core, and perhaps even an understanding of physics. It is typically done on the ground or with paralletes, and you’ll need to be fairly strong to begin with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn some progressions to get to a fully extended straight-arm planche.

7. Master a Difficult Yoga Pose

Yoga isn’t just about achieving a calm, meditative state. You can build some serious muscle through many of the more challenging poses. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, give yourself an opportunity to learn more or find a class near you to try it out. You may find that you enjoy it more than you anticipated.  

If you’re not just looking to build strength and stability, performing yoga for the enjoyment of some tranquility is another great reason to add even just a few minutes of it to your day. 

8. Run a 5k or 10k

With so many themed 5k’s and 10k’s, running has never been more enjoyable. Many courses have a special theme, a unique reward at the finish line, surprises at each checkpoint, and sometimes even zombies to keep you running. Not to mention these events often support a charitable cause.  

If the distance looks daunting, keep in mind that there’s no pressure to run. You can go your own pace and all the festivities are a great distraction. In many cases, you’ll go home with a medal no matter when you cross the finish line. So, add this one to your list this year and let us know how it went! 

9. Train for or Compete in a Marathon or Triathlon

If you’re looking for a more intense test of your abilities, it may be time to train for or compete in your first marathon or triathlon. Real feats of endurance, physical fitness, and mental strength, these competitions are terrific goals to work towards. The only way you’ll survive is if you train smart and feed your body what it needs. Not only are you accomplishing something big, you’re practicing self-discipline and restraint to reach this bucket list item.

10. Learn to Ride a Tandem Bicycle

Bouncing back to a more easily achievable item, this one takes you back to your childhood. Didn’t think you’d need to learn to ride a bike again, did you? A tandem bike can be a lot of fun once you’ve figured out how to get it going. You’ll need some good teamwork skills and perhaps a bit of determination to power through your first tandem bike ride!

11. Compete in a Bike Race

Cyclists, it’s time to take it to the next level! Train in the gym or take it outside but a bike race needs to be on your bucket list. Not only is it great for building your endurance and for improving your cardiovascular health, your cycling route can show you miles of breathtaking natural scenery. You can do it for fun or do it to win, but make sure this experience is not missed! 

12. Try a Bike Friendly Mountain Trail

Make sure you have the right gear for this one. A mountain trail can be thrilling or leisurely depending on where you go and which trail you choose. Start out with something simple, as you would with anything new, and work your way up to more advanced trails. Take-in a stunning sunrise, bask in the stretches of land you can only see from a mountaintop, and maybe even stop to watch the wildlife.

13. Hike a 5-Mile Trail or Longer

A good long hike can take several hours to several days, but above all else, go prepared! Being well-supplied isn’t only safer, it puts your mind at ease. You’ll find you’re able to simply be in the moment instead of feeling antsy to return to civilization because you’re hungry or your socks got wet and you didn’t bring a spare. Also, the satisfaction of looking out over some beautiful vista, with nothing but the power of your body to get you there, is really, really, good. 

14. Learn to Ski or Snowboard

Snow sports are a whole new world if you’re not accustomed to those frozen flakes descending from the clouds. Simply walking in your gear can be a workout.

Despite the huffing and puffing just to get to the lifts, both of these winter sports are exhilarating once you get the hang of them! A tip for beginners: take a cabin for a few days to adjust to the altitude, and spend some time taking classes! Practice your skills and stick to the bunny slope until you’re more comfortable moving to the next level. 

If you’re already comfortable with one or both of these, your challenge is to learn a trick! Ski tricks and snowboard tricks add a new level of excitement and accomplishment when you go out to hit the slopes, not to mention you’ll get a lot of awed attention.

15. Try Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a great way to build your upper body and increase your grip strength. Aside from the physical benefits, there’s a lot of adrenaline to be enjoyed from this activity. It is not for the feint hearted. Of course, you can start with the much safer option of indoor rock climbing where you’re strapped-in to a harness and spotted from below. As you get stronger and more confident in your climbing you can progress to bouldering, which is essentially climbing without a harness but to limited heights.

16. Join the 1,000-Pound Club

No, you don’t get to just sign up for this club, you earn your way in. The 1,000-pound club refers to your power lifting total. The sum of the weight you can move by Deadlift, Weighted Squat, and Bench Press must make up 1,000-pounds. Depending on your body weight, and other factors, this can be a little easier or more difficult to achieve. The idea is to challenge yourself to increase what you are capable of because the human body is incredible and can do a lot more than we think.

17. Take a Dance Class

Either you’ve never considered it because it sounds boring or uncool, or you’ve been meaning to do it for a long time. Dancing is not just a great form of fitness it has actually been shown to benefit your mental acuity and memory. Browse through our selection of classes and find something that sparks your interest! You’ll torch calories and it’ll feel more like fun than it will like a workout.  

18. Compete in a Team Competition

Basketball, Raquetball, Volleyball, Football, and more. Start your own team with your friends or join one of our club leagues. Getting involved in some healthy competition is really good for your motivation and your athleticism. That’s partly because being on a team drives you to push harder than you normally would if you were working out alone. Join a team and see how it fuels your fitness goals! 

19. Improve Your Flexibility

Being flexible is great for your overall health and fitness. You don’t have to be able to bend over backwards but improving your flexibility protects you from injury and can help you perform other exercises more easily and effectively. Take skiing, for example. More flexibility helps you bend into your knees and hips a little deeper and change direction more easily. Or consider swimming. Better flexibility will improve your shoulder extension and rotation. Many athletes now take up yoga for precisely this reason. 

20. Give Personal Training a Try

You may not know exactly what your body can do until you’ve tested it in the right ways. If you aren’t sure where to begin, or if you love the sound of these bucket list items but don’t feel ready to tackle them, a personal trainer can help you. You’ll learn new exercises to add to your arsenal and reap the benefits of one-on-one attention and guidance.  

Don’t stumble through your fitness plans with trial and error, zero in on your goals with the help of a professional who knows how to get you where you need to go. Book a complimentary fitness assessment and get matched with one of our ProResults® Personal Trainers! 

Which of these challenges are you planning to take on this year? Share your goals in the comments below! Then, stay in-the-loop and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

Strength Training for Aging Bodies

Strength Training for Aging Bodies

There seems to be this idea that, as we age, frailty and loss of energy are inevitable. However, these can be symptoms of something that is highly preventable: muscle loss.1 What is the primary cause of muscle loss? Inactivity! 

Everyday activities like climbing the stairs, carrying groceries, playing with the kids or grandkids, or cleaning the house don’t have to become more difficult! Strength training is the answer to this common problem, and no, it’s not just for the gym buffs. 

We’ll be taking you through the many benefits and some sample exercises with the help of Tufts University’s book on the Growing Stronger exercise program. The book is a completely free, accessible, and research-driven guide that can help you regain your strength and your independence.  

Because the exercise program offered in Growing Stronger has been tested in its entirety, this article should not serve as a replacement. It simply highlights many key components of the program to showcase how fitness can be an easy and progressive addition to your lifestyle regardless of age 

The Physical Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults 

Strength training can help alleviate the symptoms of many chronic conditions and diseases.1 Seguin and colleagues identify the following benefits for several common conditions: 

Arthritis: Reduces pain and stiffness, and increases strength and flexibility 

Diabetes: Greater control of your blood sugar levels 

Osteoporosis: Builds bone density and reduces the risk of falls 

Heart Disease: Reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness.  

Obesity: Increases metabolism, which, in turn, burns more calories and aids long-term weight control.  

Back Pain: Strengthens back and abdominal muscles. As a result, stress on the spine is reduced. 

Safety Tips and Recommendations

As with any new exercise program, it is important to consult with your doctor to make sure that your exercise plan is safe for you and that it aligns with your other health goals. Once you are sure you can proceed, there are still some safety recommendations the Growing Stronger authors would like you to consider: 

  1. Shoes with good support are a must. The recommendation here is that you choose rubber soles that aren’t too thick because thick soles can cause you to trip. 
     
  2. The weights you use are another important consideration. You don’t want to start with anything too heavy. The numbers may not look impressive, but it is the safest way to transition from body-weight exercises to exercises that involve weights. The authors recommend pairs of dumbbells in the following weights: 

Women 

Men 

2 pounds 

3 pounds 

3 pounds 

5 pounds 

5 pounds 

8 pounds 

They also advise that you choose adjustable ankle weights because you will be able to more freely alter what you’re working with. 

3. Store your weights on the ground or at ground-level storage. This eliminates the possibility of the weights falling on you if you are attempting to reach them from a high storage location. You can even leave them in a wheeled cart for easier access.

4. A commonly cited piece of advice (but one still worth mentioning) is that you should aim to exercise every other day to allow your muscles to rest. You can also alternate muscle groups (legs one day, upper body the following day) to avoid overworking a single muscle group. 

5. Perhaps the best thing you can do is to be attentive to the aches and pains in your body. Don’t work out if your muscles feel strained or if you feel unable to safely exercise.  

Effective Exercises to Start Rebuilding Strength

The book offers a detailed breakdown of multiple exercises and even plans them in stages. Once you have completed the first stage (about 2 weeks), you will be able to move on to a more difficult set of exercises. Here are just a few of their recommended exercises divided by difficulty level. 

Stage 1 Exercises

Stage 1 exercises should be performed for 2 to 3 weeks before moving on to Stage 2. For each exercise, perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions with a 1-minute rest period in between sets. 

Squats

You may already know how to do a basic squat; it is essentially the act of sitting down, without actually sitting down. This exercise is great for strengthening the hips, thighs, and glutes. 

Placing your body weight into your heels (as opposed to you leaning into your toes), lower into a seated position and rise back up to your standing position. Be careful not to let your knees come forward past your toes. You can choose to actually sit on a sturdy chair as you perform this exercise and to use your hands to guide your motion until you get stronger. 

Wall Push-ups

These are just like regular push-ups except your feet are planted on the ground and you are pushing off the wall. This is still a great way to strengthen your arms, chest, and shoulders, without having to get down on the ground. 

Toe Stands

Also known as calf raises, this exercise strengthens your calves and restores your balance. Stand tall and with your feet flat on the ground. Using the back of a chair (or another stable surface) for balance, rise onto your toes and settle back down. 

Stage 2 Exercises

Stage 2 exercises should be performed for 2 to 3 weeks before moving on to Stage 3. For each exercise, perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions with a 1-minute rest period in between sets. If you find yourself able to complete 10 repetitions easily, and with proper form, consider increasing the weight of the dumbbells or ankle weights for your next set

Bicep Curl

The biceps curl is a great strengthening exercise that also helps improve your grip strength. Using your lightest set of dumbbells, lift the weights by bending at the elbow and bring the dumbbells towards your shoulders. Your palms should be facing you. You may do this from a seated or standing position. 

Overhead Press

This exercise works the muscles in your arms, upper back, and shoulders. It simplifies tasks like reaching for items in high locations. From a standing or seated position, hold a dumbbell in each hand and bring the weight up towards your shoulders (as though you just did a bicep curl). Rotate your wrists so that your palms face away from you. This is your starting position for the Overheard Press.  

With controlled movement, push the dumbbells up above your head until your arms reach full extension. Then return the dumbbells to your shoulders. Do not actually rest the weights on your shoulders.  

Side Hip Raise

The muscles in your hips, thighs, and glutes are putting in the work with this exercise. Not only can the Side Hip Raise shape your lower body, it can also strengthen your hip bones which are more vulnerable as you age. 

Using a stable surface for balance, stand with your feet slightly apart and your toes facing forward. You may have ankle weights added to increase the difficulty. Without locking your knees, lift your leg out to the side, pause for a moment, and lower your leg back to the floor.

Stage 3 Exercises

For each exercise, perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions with a 1 to 2-minute rest period in between sets. Again, if you find yourself able to easily and properly complete 10 repetitions, consider increasing the weight of the ankle weights. 

Knee Extension

The muscles along the front of your thigh are the target of this exercise. It helps strengthen weak knees. 

With your ankle weights fastened, sit all the way back in a sturdy chair with your toes pointing forward. Your feet should barely touch the ground. Flex one foot and extend your leg until your knee is straight. Then, lower your foot back to the ground. After you complete 1 set of 10, do a set with the other leg. Then start over to complete a second set for each leg. 

Knee Curl

If you strengthen the front of the muscle you should really strengthen the back as well. This exercise targets the hamstrings (the back of the upper leg) and pairing it with the knee extension can make walking and climbing stairs easier. 

With your ankle weights fastened, stand behind a stable surface for balance with your feet just less than shoulderwidth apart. Keep your foot flexed as you bring your heel towards your butt and pause for a moment before lowering it back to the ground. Do 1 set of 10 with each leg before starting on your second set. 

The Complete Guide

If these exercises were exactly what you’ve been needing, the complete Growing Stronger guide contains even more. Let us know in the comments below if you try it out! If you’re ready to step things up, come check out our Silver Sneakers program. In this group class, you’ll work on total-body conditioning in an instructor-guided setting where you can still go at your own pace.  

For more information on healthy living in older adulthood, read our registered dietitian’s answer to this question on Protein Advice for Seniors. Or, for a boost of motivation, read Paul and Karen’s success story who say the gym is like their fountain of youth! To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter, today! 

Sources 

  1. Seguin, Rebecca A., et al. “Strength Training for Older Adults: Growing Stronger.” Www.CDC.gov, Tufts University, 2002, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/growing_stronger.pdf. 

A Guide for the First Time Gym-Goer

A Guide for the First Time Gym-Goer

In the coming weeks, people everywhere will take the first steps towards their new commitments. Whether it’s a commitment to acts of kindness, to visit your parents more, to do your laundry every week, or to take better care of your health, the start of a new year acts as a perceptible starting point.

It’s kind of like the most celebrated Monday of the year. “I’ll start Monday” simply becomes “In the new year, I will…” Except there is usually a lot more motivation in the new year because you are not alone. Everyone else is talking about their own goals and the energy can be contagious.

For many, hitting the gym is on the resolution list. If you’re doing so for the first time ever or getting back to the gym after a long time away, this guide is for you. We’ll tackle some real concerns like “It’s going to be too crowded,” “I don’t want to be judged,” “I don’t know how to use the equipment,” and “I don’t want to get sucked into a sales pitch.”

We understand. This is your personal guide for how to navigate your first visit to the gym.

What to Expect

At the Front Desk

When you first walk into your local LA Fitness, this is what you can expect:

If you already have a membership, simply check-in at the front desk using your mobile app. They will scan your digital Member ID for you, and you can proceed inside.

If you don’t have a membership, you can visit our website here to sign up for a Complimentary 5-Day Pass. You will need to provide your name, email address, phone number, and zip code, and will need to sign a waiver. Your Complimentary Pass will then be emailed to you.

Your first visit activates your free pass and it will stay active for 5 consecutive days. Be sure to check out this list of Gym Bag Essentials so you are prepared for your workout.

Once You’ve Been Checked In

If you check-in with a Membership, you may not be asked if you would like a tour because it’s likely you’ve already had one. If you need a refresher, feel free to ask! Then, head down to the locker room to pack your items in a locker (don’t forget your padlock) and get ready to workout.

If you check-in with a Complimentary Pass, you’re in good hands. You will be taken care of by a member of our team who will give you a tour of the facility and chat with you about your fitness goals. Yes, you may be asked if you’d like to sign up for a membership, but there is no obligation to do so. You can simply decline and choose to stick to your Complimentary Pass. Once you’re done with that, you’re free to head in and enjoy your workout!

The General Layout

Each LA Fitness location has the same general layout, but according to the size and structure of the building, the equipment may be located in different areas. One thing you can always expect to be the same, is that the equipment is grouped by type. The cardio equipment (the treadmills, ellipticals, etc.), the weight training equipment (bench press, shoulder press, etc.), will always be grouped together.

If your club has a pool, it will usually be located by the locker rooms. This makes getting to the showers a lot more direct.

If your club has a juice bar, it’s usually located near the entrance. This makes grabbing your pre- or post-workout shake easy and accessible.

The Kids Club is also typically located near the entrance.

But I’m Intimidated

It can be easy to let your mind run off with worries about what other people see in your workout. Are they judging you for your routine or for how much or how little time you spend on a machine? Are they impatiently waiting on you to figure out a machine they already know how to use and are waiting for?

Every single person in that gym was once a “first-time gym goer.” No one has ever walked into a brand-new environment and instantly understood everything about it. Bear that in mind and let the fear that someone is watching you melt away. This is your space too.

But I Won’t Know What to Do Once I’m There

All the options can be overwhelming. Narrow things down by choosing which muscle group you’d like to work on and then finding the workout space that will help you meet that need. Take a look at some of these articles for help deciding on some workouts:

  1. For Sculpted Shoulders
  2. For Strong Legs and Glutes
  3. For a Defined Chest: Part 1 and Part 2
  4. For A Shredded Six Pack
  5. Top 10 Most Popular Exercises and How to Do Them Properly

You can also browse through our LA Fitness YouTube Channel to watch how-to videos and get a better feel for what the gym offers.

Quick Tips

  1. Work out one muscle group to start. Don’t do a full body workout on your first ever gym day or the resulting soreness will be a huge deterrent.
  2. Go at a comfortable pace. We promise, no one is watching you. You don’t need to “blend in” by working at a pace or level that isn’t right for you.
  3. Weight train before cardio. Trust us, you don’t want to try lifting weights over your head when your body is already tired from your cardio. You can warm up with light cardio but save the intense stuff for the end.

Don’t Forget That People are a Resource Too

Go with a friend who can show you the ropes or ask any of our Pro Results® Personal Trainers how to use the machine you want to work on. If they are not currently in a training session with someone, they will be glad to assist!

You can also ask someone on a machine nearby. Not everyone is actively working out at the same time. Some will be taking a brief rest period in between sets. Some are just arriving to set themselves up on a piece of equipment. Others are moving on from one machine to the next. There tends to be at least one available person who can help answer your question. However, try not to ask someone who will need to stop mid-workout to help you.

But the Gym Will Be Crowded

“I’ll stick to the treadmill. It’s familiar and at least I know how to use it.” That’s exactly what everyone else thought. So, the cardio section is probably going to be the most crowded area in the gym.

It’s also this kind of thinking that will get you stuck. Adhering to the familiar means you’re more likely to get bored, and more likely to miss out on everything else the gym makes available to you. Take advantage of your access to a fully stocked gym!

Lastly, Some Thoughts on Gym Etiquette:

Just like there are Do’s and Don’ts in nearly every public space, there are Do’s and Don’ts at the gym. Here are a few:

Do wipe down equipment if your workout left it sweaty.

Don’t ignore time limits especially during peak hours. Signs are usually posted asking guests to limit their usage of certain machines when others are waiting.

Do allow others to “work-in” (to share the equipment with you) if you plan to take long breaks between your sets. Don’t feel obligated to say yes. It’s nice if you are able to share the space, but if you don’t want to share someone else’s sweat, you don’t have to. Decline politely and let them know approximately how much time you still need.

Do communicate your interest in a machine that you’re waiting for. Doing so kindly lets the current user know that someone is waiting. Don’t hover over the person or make them feel rushed.

Do return movable gym equipment (like free weights and resistance bands) so others may easily find and use them. Don’t use movable equipment in walkways or in front of doors where you may risk your safety or someone else’s.

Any new environment can be a little bit intimidating, but don’t let that keep you from using the resources you have available to you. For more helpful information and to access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter. See you in the gym!

Should You Exercise on an Empty Stomach?

Should You Exercise on an Empty Stomach?

The Truth About Fasting and Exercise

Evidence Based 

There are a lot of reasons a person would consider exercising on an empty stomach. Many people simply like to exercise first thing in the morning. Then we have trending diet plans like Intermittent Fasting that make it difficult to schedule exercise around food consumption. Others incorporate fasting into their lifestyle for faith-based reasons. All the while, our exercise routines continue according to or despite our nutritional timing.  

So, what happens when you exercise on an empty stomach? Is it good or bad for weight loss? Does it help you burn more fat or does fasting negatively impact your workout? 

Let’s tackle these questions one by one. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering working out while fasting: 

What Happens to Your Body When You Fast? 

When we say “fasting” we typically mean you’ve gone 8 to 12 hours without food. This would be like waking up in the morning after a good night’s sleep and deciding to work out before you have your first meal. If you participate in Intermittent or Prolonged Fasting, you may be going without (or with very little) food for 12, 16, 48, or even 72 hours.1 Here’s what’s happening in your body when you fast: 

By 6-8 Hours –  Your body is still  burning through its glycogen supply. This is the most readily available form of energy. 

By 12 Hours – You enter the metabolic state called ketosis in which your body begins to break down fat.1  

By 18 Hours – You’re now in “fat-burning mode.” Your body is generating more ketones which tell your body to reduce inflammation and to make repairs to damaged DNA.1  

By 24 Hours – Your body starts a process called autophagy. This means your cells work harder to recycle old components and to break down misfolded (damaged) proteins. Misfolded proteins are connected to Alzheimer’s and other diseases.1 

If you’re interested in learning what happens once you hit 48, 54, and 72 hours of fasting, check out this article on the 5 Stages of Intermittent Fasting. For the purpose of this article, we don’t need to delve that far. 

What Happens if You Exercise While Fasting? 

 

Now that we know what’s happening on a biological level while fasting, let’s take a look at what happens when exercise is added to the equation.  

As you exercise, your body starts by using glycogen for energy. You typically have enough stored up to last you about 24 hours.3 If you manage to deplete your glycogen stores (say you’re an endurance athlete running a triathlon and you haven’t been replenishing your energy as you go), you’ll hit exhaustion. Your body still has plenty of energy stored as fat, why doesn’t it use it when glycogen levels are low? 

The body is not adapted to this. However, it can be trained! Following a low-carb diet or exercising while fasting can teach your body to draw energy from your fat-stores.3 Before this all starts to sound too good to be true, let’s define what we mean by “drawing energy from your fat-stores.”   

A terrific example by Dr. Jason Fung in his article on Fasting and Exercise, starts to illustrate this concept pretty well: Imagine that your glycogen supply is like energy stored in the refrigerator. It is ready to use but the supply is limited. Your fat is like energy stored in the freezer; it takes a greater process to make it usable but you can store a larger supply.  

Over time, exercising while fasting increases the production of fat-metabolizing proteins.3 Our muscles essentially become more efficient at breaking down fat in order to use the energy. It’s all part of how the body adapts to its circumstances.

What Other Studies Say

 

So, what does other research have to say about this? An article from the Strength and Conditioning Journal reviewed the results of multiple studies on the subject.  

The review found that endurance trained individuals who performed moderate to high-intensity cardio (while fasting) break down significantly more fat than the body can actually use.4 So, yes, the body does break down that fat, but what isn’t immediately used goes back to its original form.4 The ultimate conclusion was that the net effect of exercising while fasting was negligible and may even have negative effects on muscle strength and growth.4 

Another study examined body composition changes between a group that fasted before exercise and a group that did not. Their findings showed no difference between the two groups! They both lost significant amounts of weight and fat mass but fasting seemed to have no implication on the results.5 

So, the evidence seems to lean in two directions. The body is clearly responding to the need for energy but there are split conclusions on whether this response is beneficial. Until more research is done, fasting before exercise may come down to a matter of preference. If you’re still seeking some answers and still interested in giving it a try for yourself, let’s find out a little bit more. 

Will Fasting Before Exercise Cause You to Eat More? 

 

A study on exercising in the fasted state hypothesized that exercising on an empty stomach would increase calorie intake throughout the day. They were surprised to find that not only did their participants eat less, they were also more motivated to work out.6 These results are promising if you’re worried about your hunger causing you to overeat on days you both fast and exercise.  

Does Fasting Decrease Your Ability to Effectively Work Out? 

 

Well, it depends what you’re doing. If you’re working out on an empty stomach, keep in mind that your body has been running on its glycogen stores while you fasted. It will pull from those same stores when you exercise, at least until you run out. If you’re doing steady cardio, you’re likely to be just fine.

High-intensity exercises, however, rely on glucose for muscle contraction.7 If your energy stores are low because you’ve been fasting, your body might break down your lean muscle to get you through your workout.7 If you recall, this was the same concern that came up in the article from the Strength and Conditioning Journal. 

Closing Thoughts 

Clearly, this subject merits further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. Evidence can be found to back both sides of the argument. Some athletes swear by it, and there is science to prove that something is in fact happening to release and utilize your fat stores, but is it all enough to make a difference and are there significant adverse effects?  

With the research at your fingertips, it remains up to you to decide whether you want to fast or feast before your workout. Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below! 

For more thought provoking posts, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Working Out, or, read this post to debunk some big Muscle Building and Fat Burning Myths. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter, today! 

Sources

  1. Jarreau, Paige. “The 5 Stages of Intermittent Fasting – LIFE Apps: LIVE and LEARN.” LIFE Apps | LIVE and LEARN, 22 May 2019, https://lifeapps.io/fasting/the-5-stages-of-intermittent-fasting/ 
  2. “4 BIG Health Benefits of 12 Hour Intermittent Fasting.” Clean Cuisine, 5 Dec. 2019, https://cleancuisine.com/12-hour-intermittent-fasting/ 
  3. Fung, Jason. “Fasting and Exercise.” Diet Doctor, 14 Sept. 2018, https://www.dietdoctor.com/fasting-and-exercise 
  4. Schoenfeld, Brad. “Does Cardio After an Overnight Fast Maximize Fat Loss? : Strength & Conditioning Journal.” LWW, Strength and Conditioning Journal, 2011, https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2011/02000/Does_Cardio_After_an_Overnight_Fast_Maximize_Fat.3. 
  5. Schoenfeld, Brad Jon, et al. “Body Composition Changes Associated with Fasted versus Non-Fasted Aerobic Exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 18 Nov. 2014, https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7 
  6. Bachman, Jessica L, et al. “Exercising in the Fasted State Reduced 24-Hour Energy Intake in Active Male Adults.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5050386/
  7. Niedziocha, Laura. “What Happens If I Workout Without Eating?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 24 Mar. 2019, https://www.livestrong.com/article/501975-what-happens-if-i-workout-without-eating/ 

Own Your Cold Weather Workout

Own Your Cold Weather Workout

The start of the winter season is on Saturday, December 21st this year and we’re gearing up for a cold season. Many states have already seen record lows! If, like us, you don’t plan to slow down your fitness endeavors, you need to be prepared for working out in the cold.  

 We’ll be covering the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia and giving you some useful information for your next winter workout! 

Warning Signs  

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when your skin and the underlying tissue are damaged by freezing. Exposed skin (especially on your nose, ears, and fingers) is most vulnerable, but you can still get it even if you’re covered up. If you plan to be out in cold weather, especially where the wind temperature is below 5° Fahrenheit (or -15° Celsius), these are some important precautions recommended by the Mayo Clinic: 

  1. Limit your time in cold, wet, and windy weather conditions 
  2. Wear loose, warm layers of clothing 
  3. Cover your ears completely 
  4. Wear mittens because they provide better protection than gloves 
  5. Wear insulating socks and sock liners that wick moisture and fit snugly 
  6. Tell others that you’ll be out and give an expected return date 
  7. Avoid alcohol as it can actually cause your body to lose heat more quickly 
  8. Stay hydrated 

Additionally, they identify these symptoms as warning signs of frostbite: 

  1. Cold skin and a prickling sensation 
  2. Numbness in the affected area 
  3. Red skin in milder forms of frostbite, and white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin as it becomes more severe 
  4. Hard or waxy-looking skin 
  5. Joint and muscle stiffness 
  6. After rewarming, the appearance of blisters on the skin 

If you go out prepared and know the signs, you can head into your workout with confidence. Frostbite, however, is not the only worrisome condition you have to watch out for in cold weather. While the former can lead to loss of limb, hypothermia can cause death. Here is what you should know about hypothermia: 

Hypothermia

Your body’s normal temperature is 98.6° F (or 37° C). According to the Mayo Clinic, Hypothermia starts when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it; and, will start to show its effects once your temperature falls to 95° F (35° C) or lower. 

In their article on Hypothermia, the Mayo Clinic identifies the following symptoms you should look out for: 

  1. Shivering 
  2. Slurred speech or mumbling 
  3. Slow, shallow breathing 
  4. Weak pulse 
  5. Clumsiness; lack of coordination 
  6. Drowsiness; low energy 
  7. Confusion; memory loss 
  8. Losing consciousness 
  9. In infants, you would notice bright red, cold skin 

Perhaps the easiest way to enter a hypothermic state is if you are wet from rain, snow, or if you fell into a body of water. Wind, on its own, whisks away your body heat. Add the fact that your clothes are wet, and the effect is amplified. It’s extremely important to change out of wet clothes and find a warm dry place when you are caught in cold weather. 

Things to Consider Before Heading Out

Warm the Air Before You Breathe It – Breathing heavily in cold weather can make your lungs feel like they’re about to freeze over. Wearing a face scarf over your nose and mouth can help warm the air you’re breathing and make your workout more comfortable. 

Map Your Route – You should know if you’re likely to encounter flooded areas, frozen patches of water, slick icy roads, or fallen plant life and debris. Stick to areas you’re familiar with so you can re-route if needed and still find your way. Choosing areas with more cover (like buildings, trees, etc.) will also help protect you from wind and other sporadic weather conditions. 

Plan by Time of Day – Leave for your workout when you know the temperature will be at its warmest for the day. Going too early in the morning or too late in the evening will expose you to colder temperatures and, if it’s cold enough, icy roads and frozen slush. 

Keep Hydrated – Hydrate before you leave and bring some with you if you plan to be out for a while. You may not notice that you’re sweating, but you probably are. Putting back what your body loses is important to a safe cold weather workout. 

Protect Your Skin – Sunblock is still important in the wintertime, and the brisk winter air can dry out anything that’s exposed to it. Moisturize your lips, your face, and your hands if you don’t plan to wear gloves. 

You can read up on the calorie burn of cold weather workouts by reading our post on Thermogenesis. For information on how to protect your eyes from the dryness of winter air, check out our blog on Eye Health. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

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