I recently read an eye-opening article about how our bodies react when dealing with an injury. The human body is fascinating – I think sometimes we forget the intricacies and natural healing properties within us.
More and more avid exercisers are getting injured – the most common being the knee or back. Much of this stems from the wrong form during a movement or is the result of too much repetitious pounding from explosive movements. Whatever the cause, if you are someone who works out religiously every week, an injury can be extremely challenging mentally and physically.
Naturally, once you get injured immediate questions come into your head:
- Can I continue to eat normally without exercising?
- Will I gain weight?
- Should I be taking supplements?
- Is there quicker way to heal?
Here’s what I learned:
- Maintain a healthy intake. Rather than waiting to shape up your diet after an injury – strive to maintain a high-quality food intake every day to bank up on vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair if you were to get injured (or during daily muscle repairs after micro tears when training). You will heal quicker by replenishing your body with nutrient-rich foods).
- Good nutrition enhances recovery. To enhance healing, maintain a healthy combination of food groups – proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits. Proteins are critical during healing. They digest into amino acids needed to repair damaged muscles. Ensure you incorporate 20-30 grams of protein at each meal or snack. And eliminate processed foods.
- You need to eat when injured. Many athletes decide they are going to starve themselves to cut back on the calories they are no longer burning off at the gym. In actuality, our bodies need fuel to repair. You just have to eat mindfully. You might have to cut back on your servings if you are no longer torching a lot of calories when working out. Eat enough to fuel your body at your current activity level.
- Our organs burn the majority of calories in our body – not our muscles (although they do a nice job too). “Organs are metabolically active and require a lot of fuel”, says Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. “About 2/3 of the calories consumed by the average active person support the resting metabolic rate” (energy needed just to exist).
- Surgery or trauma requires an additional 10-20% more calories for your body to function. Your body responds naturally to hunger cues. So, eat when hungry and stop when your stomach is full.
- Muscle does not turn into fat. Muscle atrophies. Our bodies have muscle memory – once we go back to our normal routine, the muscle rebuilds quickly.
- Our bodies also have a “genetic” weight. If we are underweight, our body will try to adjust to the intended size and natural physique.
If you are injured, don’t panic. Your body has your back, literally. You will recover, and in most cases, often stronger than before your injury.
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the news on the radio and it mentioned a study that confirmed something in our brains called insula can give athletes an extra physical edge to excel. I was intrigued!
We have all heard the stories of an athlete being able to perform the unexplainable. Or read accounts of individuals who pushed their body beyond what they thought was possible. There is a scientific reason why this happens. The reality is that our bodies are capable of more exertion than we think – it’s not physiological, it’s perception and anticipation.
Recent studies indicate the brain’s insular cortex can help an individual be more efficient physically and give that extra “edge”. The insula is said to anticipate future feelings. Researchers at the OptiBrain Center and the Naval Health Research Center suggest that athletes can generate a heightened awareness that can accurately predict how the body will feel at the next moment. This allows an individual to activate their muscles to move faster and perform better than typically expected.
The OptiBrain center says this “mindfulness” is a result of the insula serving “as a critical hub that merges high-level cognition with a measure of the body’s state to insure proper functioning of the muscles and bones; those that perform more optimally are the ones who are able to use anticipatory cues to adjust themselves and return to equilibrium.”
The insula helps to calculate how much energy exercise “costs us”. The brain can respond by pushing the body when it needs to and pulling back when necessary. The insula seems to be the key to pushing yourself physically to limits you did not think you could reach.
So next time you are in a workout, try to incorporate a sense of mindfulness…anticipating when you will need to exert yourself to a higher level (for those in our Tabata Bootcamp – you know when it is coming ;-). You might be surprised how much you can push yourself beyond what you thought you were capable.
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The New Year has begun, and if you are already growing impatient waiting to see results from all that cardio, you may be leaving out an important piece of the puzzle – weight training! Yes, weights! And not those pretty, pink hand weights or those fancy machines, real barbells. More and more women everywhere are seeing and feeling the positive results of weight training, yet many women still worry about bulking up and are afraid to give it a chance
It is a great feeling to be STRONG! You will be able to lift those boxes all by yourself and not have to wait for some guy to do it. As a single mom, my boys are getting bigger, but they still rely on me to lift or open anything difficult. I want them to see how powerful women can be. There is never a time in life when being weak comes in handy!
Some important facts to keep in mind:
- You will not bulk up. Our bodies are not made to get bulky – we do not have the testosterone to look like body builders. When you lift weights that are challenging, you actually create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. (This is the soreness you feel.) As these tears are repaired by your body, the muscle becomes stronger. Because muscle tissue is more dense than fat, adding more muscle to your body actually makes you look leaner—not bigger. To truly bulk up, you would have to train with that goal in mind. Bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights, and eat a very strict diet to promote muscle gain. The average person’s workout and diet—especially a calorie-controlled diet—will not lead to the same effects.
- Increased metabolism. Another amazing benefit of weight training is what it does for your metabolism. It allows you to take advantage of your body’s natural ability to maintain an “after-burn,” known as Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The after-burn is the extra calories your body burns after you complete a weight lifting workout. Your metabolism will stay elevated for anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours, depending on the intensity and duration of your workout. This means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout. It takes extra calories just to keep muscle.
- Heavy weights are key. Many women rely on lighter weights with higher reps in an attempt to get a more toned body. However, to get truly toned, you need larger muscles and less fat. One recent study found that lifting 85% of your maximum ability for 8 reps burns about twice as many calories in the two hours post workout as compared with 15 reps at 45% of your maximum ability. Don’t give up lighter weights entirely, as they do a great job of building endurance, but they do not build tight, dense, strong muscles.
- Weight loss. Some women worry that once they begin weight training, their weight will go up or they won’t lose the weight that had hoped. Try not to focus on the scale and don’t get frustrated before you see results. At first, your muscles may retain water as they react to the shock of the workouts and the recovery afterward. But as you continue weight training, you will be building muscle and shedding fat. This may still not translate to high weight loss, but a pound of muscle is much denser than a pound of fat, so your body may shrink even if your weight doesn’t change significantly. Keep in mind that muscle is a metabolism booster – the more you have, the more calories and fat you will burn all day long!
- Getting older. As we age, maintaining muscle mass becomes more and more important. Muscle may make the 40 something woman slightly heavier than in her college years, but the improved body composition and faster metabolism is the big payoff. Many women find they’re able to attain a lower body fat percentage, fit into smaller sizes, and generally feel more vigorous by adding weight training.
The bottom line is weight training can lead to fat loss, stronger leaner muscles, better fitting clothes and a general better feeling of wellness and strength. What are your waiting for – let’s get lifting!!