Archive for March, 2012

Stretching: Focus on Flexibility

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
 
 
Kelly Kalbfleisch, NPTI Certified Personal Trainer
Manager of CoachMeFit Ann Arbor
 

 

A lot of my clients, and other people in general, complain about stiff muscles.  My first question to them is, “are you stretching”. The answer is typically no.  Most people, myself included, think of stretching as chore. I’m not sure why!  I know the benefits of sticking to a regular stretching routine outweigh the negative effects of not stretching.  We all just need to make it a part of our daily routine.

You can stretch anytime, anywhere. Just follow these tips to do it safely and effectively.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Stretching may take a back seat to your exercise routine. You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?

Not so fast. Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your flexibility, which in turn may improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help — and how to stretch correctly.

Benefits of stretching

Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed results. Some show that stretching helps, while others show that stretching has little if any benefit. The main benefits of stretching are thought to be:

  • Improving athletic performance
  • Decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries

Stretching can help improve flexibility. And better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. For instance, say your Achilles tendon is tight and lacks flexibility. If you do a lot of hill walking, your foot may not move through its full range of motion. Over time, this can increase your risk of tendinitis or tendinopathy in your Achilles tendon. Stretching your Achilles tendon, though, may improve the range of motion in your ankle. This, in turn, can decrease the risk of microtrauma to your tendon that can lead to overload and injury.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. And you may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching before — or better yet, after — hitting the trail, ballet floor or soccer field.

Stretching essentials

Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.

Use these tips to keep stretching safe:

  • Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up. Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.
  • Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring, too.
  • Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further, making you less flexible and more prone to pain. So, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times.
  • Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.
  • Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week. If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.
  • Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi, for instance, may be a good way to stretch. And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a front kick in martial arts, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.

Know when to exercise caution

In some cases, you may need to approach stretching with caution. If you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to adjust your stretching techniques. For example, if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm.

Also, don’t think that because you stretch you can’t get injured. Stretching, for instance, won’t prevent an overuse injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best way to stretch if you have any health concerns.

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Are you Getting Enough Protein?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

 

Kelly Kalbfleisch, NPTI Certified Personal Trainer
Manager of CoachMeFit Ann Arbor
 
 

Protein consumption is one of the most important parts of your daily diet…I believe it is THE most important.  It is the primary ingredient in reaching any fitness and health goal you have set for yourself.  The following article explains what protein is, why you need it, how much you actually need and where to find it in your foods.

Protein: How Much Do You Need?

What is protein? How much protein do we need? Is it possible to eat too much protein? These are important questions for people following a low carb way of eating, who usually are replacing part of their carbohydrate intake with protein.

What is protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up about 16 percent of our total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. However, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in our bodies. In addition, many of our bodies’ important chemicals — enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and even our DNA — are at least partially made up of protein. Although our bodies are good at “recycling” protein, we use up protein constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. Our bodies cannot manufacture nine of the amino acids, so it is important to include all these amino acids in our diets. Animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy products have all the amino acids, and many plants have some of them.

How much protein do we need?

Our protein needs depend on our age, size, and activity level. The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in kilograms by .8, or weight in pounds by .37. This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum. According to this method, a person weighing 150 lbs. should eat 55 grams of protein per day, a 200-pound person should get 74 grams, and a 250-pound person should eat 92 grams.

Do people who exercise need more protein?

Although it is controversial, there is evidence that people engaging in endurance exercise (such as long distance running) or heavy resistive exercise (such as body building) can benefit from additional protein in their diets. One prominent researcher in the field recommends 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for endurance exercisers and 1.7 to 1.8 grams per kg per day for heavy strength training.

But shouldn’t protein intake be a percentage of total calories?

Quite a few programs and nutritionists quote percentage of calories, usually in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, as a way to figure out how much protein a person needs to consume daily. This is a rough estimate of a person’s minimum protein needs. It works because typically, larger and more active people need more calories, so the more calories they need, the more protein they will get.

Where this falls down is when people are eating diets that are lower in calories for any reason, conscious or not. People who are ill or losing weight, for example, do not need less protein just because they are eating fewer calories — so anyone on a weight loss diet should not go by the percent of calories method of calculating protein needs.

What happens if we don’t eat enough protein?

Unlike fat and glucose, our body has little capacity to store protein. If we were to stop eating protein, our body would start to break down muscle for its needs within a day or so.

Is it OK to eat a lot more protein than the minimum recommendations?

This is the crucial question for people on diets that are higher in protein than usual, as low-carb diets tend to be. In a review of the research, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the only known danger from high-protein diets is for individuals with kidney disease. After careful study, they recommend that 10 percent to 35 percent of daily calories come from protein. They point out that increased protein could be helpful in treating obesity. There is also accumulating evidence that extra protein may help prevent osteoporosis.

Extra protein can be broken down into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. On low carb diets, this happens continually. One benefit of obtaining glucose from protein is that it is absorbed into the bloodstream very slowly, so it doesn’t cause a rapid blood sugar increase.

What foods have the most protein?

Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts all have substantial amounts of protein.

By Laura Dolson, About.com Guide
Updated October 04, 2011
About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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