How to improve your conditioning levels...

Hi everyone, Donogh here from PFP. In this blog I am going to focus on how to increase fitness or conditioning. We have wrote quite extensively in the past via blogs or on our social media about various ways to improve strength through differing methods, exercises or rep schemes, so now it’s time to talk about conditioning. This is quite a broad topic that I will try to make as simple as possible but due to the vastness of the topic, I will split it into 2 parts.

When training to improve conditioning, you are effectively training the heart. You are trying to train the heart to be able to pump blood around the body fast enough to maintain the activity you are doing (walking, working, training etc.). When designing a conditioning programme, coaches need to know the ultimate goal of the person. In this blog, the focus will be on the person who is looking to improve their lifestyle.

When training to improve conditioning, you are effectively training the heart. You are trying to train the heart to be able to pump blood around the body fast enough to maintain the activity you are doing (walking, working, training etc.). When designing a conditioning programme, coaches need to know the ultimate goal of the person. In this blog, the focus will be on the person who is looking to improve their lifestyle.

Improving your conditioning, much like improving strength, can be done in a variety of ways. The first thing that you need to ask yourself is what exactly you want to improve. Do you want to improve it to play your sport? Is it to improve your quality of life? For example, you struggle to do everyday tasks due to a lack of fitness.

In this scenario, it is likely that adding conditioning exercises at the end of a structured weights programme will help them. We would recommend a form of high intensity interval training. This will usually last up to 15 minutes with interspersed breaks throughout some high intensity exercise, for example: prowler pushes.

Here at PFP, we try to incorporate weights training into all programmes as we believe this is the most efficient way to lose body fat or gain muscle. Increasing your conditioning levels can have a direct impact on the amount of weights training you can do. If your heart is capable of pumping blood around your body at an efficient rate, it will allow you to recover optimally between sets.

If weight training isn’t your thing, and you still would like to improve your conditioning levels, a combination of low intensity steady state training and high intensity training can be a good way to reach your goals. This could be done by going for a brisk walk, slow jog, consistent speed cycling or rowing where you can keep a steady heart rate at around 120-140 beats per minute (this will vary depending on age and fitness levels). Perform this steady state training for 20-60 minutes to improve your hearts ability to pump blood around the body.

 Note: The time above varies quite alot again based on age and fitness levels, you could also go longer than an hour.

Combine this training with some sort of high intensity training on different days with exercises such as burpees, sprints, jumping jacks, mountain climbers etc. for a better conditioning regime that will provide the heart with a different stimulus to improve its function. Try following a time on, time off ratio where you do more work than you rest, for example: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off.

Hopefully, after reading the above you’ll have a bit more of an understanding on how to improve your conditioning levels. If you are looking to improve your conditioning for sport, stay tuned for our next blog.

Thanks,

Donogh

 

Sleep...your secret weapon!

“Sleep is food for the brain, sleep is fuel for exercise”

Hi everyone, Donogh here from PFP. In this blog I’m going to discuss the importance of sleep and how you might be able to improve your sleep – your secret weapon!

Sleep can aid the body in growth and repair as cortisol, a known muscle eater is reduced during sleep. Sleep is the best time for growth and repair as testosterone and human growth hormone are at their peak. A reduction in sleep means a reduction in muscle building time. Long periods without sleep can increase stress to key organs and cause muscle soreness. Sleep has been shown to improve motor learning and reduce anxiety. Research has even shown that 8+ hours of sleep can reduce your risk of injury.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

So, what are the consequences of poor sleeping patterns?

•       Poor concentration, Poor Decision Making, Poor memory Recall

•       Mood Disturbance, Increased Anxiety, Depression,

•       Reduced Testosterone, Reduced Growth Hormone, Increased Cortisol, Reduced natural adrenal release

•       Increased risk of illness

•       Loss in Lean Tissue, Increase in Body Fat

•       Increase stress to key organs

Did you know that research has also shown that being awake constantly for 17 hours has the same effect as 0.05% blood alcohol levels! To avoid this effect, it is advised to try nap throughout the day if you have a long day. A 20 minute nap has been shown to enhance alertness, concentration and motor skills. Be careful not to nap too long though as naps between 45min and 90min may have you waking up groggy and disoriented.

What strategies can we implement to try sleep better?

  • Educate – Understand the importance sleep plays in your lifestyle
  • Routine – Determine your sleep requirements and meet them nightly, try go to bed around the same time every night
  • Environment – Create a dark, quiet, comfortable and a technology free bedroom. Avoid using your phone, tablet or laptop 1 hour prior to going to sleep. Activate the blue light filter on your phone/tablet. Or try out the blue light blocking glasses - available here
  • Periodize Sleep – Try creating times within busy days that you can have a nap
  • Nutrition – Stabilize blood sugar levels, restrict caffeine consumption after 3pm so your bodies melatonin production isn’t interrupted

Sleep is one of the most underappreciated part of our lifestyle but it can play a huge role in helping us reach our goals. Hopefully from this you can take away how important it is and try to improve it just a little.

As always, if you have any questions just pop in and ask one of us.

Talk to ye soon,

Donogh

Can exercise help you beat anxiety?

We all know how good working out is for our physical health, so let's start a conversation today about the benefits of working out for your mental health. 

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Exercise is underutilized as a method of managing and treating anxiety. It has no negative side-effects and it can be free, if you do it at home or outside.

Several studies have shown that there is a very powerful connection between exercise and anxiety. In fact, the coloration between both is so strong, that exercise on its own may be enough to drastically diminish the symptoms of anxiety. 

How can exercise do this?

1. Endorphins - the body releases endorphins when you exercise. These are your body's natural 'painkillers',  and in addition they play a massive role in regulating your mood and relaxing your mind. You know that 'feel good' feeling after a workout ? Yep! That's the endorphins. 

2. Sleep - exercise tires out the body and  can enable those who have anxiety to get a better night's sleep. A lack of sleep, or inability to sleep, makes the symptoms of anxiety worse. Exercise can release all of the excess energy in the body and mind - in fact, high intensity exercise has been shown to tire out the body and the mind simultaneously. 

3. Inactivity anxiety - a lack of exercise can lead to an excess of energy and this energy can be misplaced by the body, resulting in increased tension and stress. An increase in stress levels can exacerbate anxiety. This is very much linked with the above point on sleep. A lack activity can feed into a lack of sleep, and together both of these elements can accumulate and worsen the symptoms of anxiety. 

4. Healthy coping strategy- managing anxiety through exercise is a healthy coping strategy. Sometimes we turn to things like alcohol to manage anxiety. But the consumption of alcohol, as a coping strategy,  will usually have a negative impact on anxiety and will often lead to a worsening of symptoms. Exercise, on the other hand, is a positive means of dealing with anxiety with lots of additional benefits such as improved overall health. If you are in a gym or a group, such as a running group, the camaraderie and friendships can be an additional support in managing anxiety.

So that's it - a brief overview of how exercise can help to cope with and manage anxiety. In the long term, a regular exercise schedule can dramatically alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. If you, or someone you know, is suffering with anxiety, please do seek medial advice - medication is may sometimes be necessary, but exercise can, and should, compliment it.

As always, feel free to get in touch,

Nigel

If you need to talk to someone please phone one of the numbers below:

Aware (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety)

www.aware.ie
Tel: 1800 80 48 48

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House)
1800 247 247

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)

www.pieta.ie
Tel: 01 623 5606

Grow (Mental Health support and Recovery)

www.grow.ie
Tel: 1890 474 474

IACP (Counselling & Psychotherapy)

www.iacp.ie
Tel: 01 230 3536

Shine (Supporting people effected by mental ill health)

www.shine.ie
Tel: 01 860 1620

Teenline Ireland Helpline

www.teenireland.ie
1800 833 634

For references and further info please see below :

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201506/sitting-all-day-increases-your-risk-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/mindfulness-the-power-thinking-about-your-thinking

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/exercising

 

 

Fats and Immune function

In this third and final installment of the role of macro-nutrients on the immune system, we are taking a look at the role dietary fat plays in immune response and function.

Fats are powerful mediators of the immune system, and they may modulate the immuno-suppressive effects of strenuous exercise. Dietary fat plays a role in some key functions in the body, which all contribute to immune function, namely:

  •  Hormone regulation and production, especially testosterone and oestrogen
  • Transport of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), to the liver for storage and utilisation.

Dietary fats play an important role in numerous physiological functions and therefore a low fat diet can pose health problems. Additionally, a low fat diet does not guarantee weight loss if calories aren’t appropriate.

Both the amount and type of fatty acids in the diet influence the growth and activity of immune cells. Proper functioning of the immune system depends on adequate amounts of each essential fatty acid.

Essential fatty acids such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are the precursors of substances that can promote or restrain inflammation. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and thus, must be taken in via the diet. Essential fatty acids are intricately involved in the immune response, and regulate cytokines, which are released from immune cells in response to injury, infection, or exposure to foreign substances, as previously mentioned in our protein and immunity article. Amongst the fatty acids those from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are more biologically potent than alpha linolenic acid.

Studies in athletes have shown that a low-fat diet (15% of total calories), increases inflammatory and decreases anti-inflammatory immune factors, depresses antioxidants, and negatively affects blood lipoprotein ratios. A critical analysis of a large number of studies, demonstrated that there is a number of potential benefits to consuming unsaturated fatty acids on the immune system. This analysis showed that fatty acids play an important role in immune system regulation and may therefore be classified as holding the ability to modulate immune response. http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/v78/n1/full/icb20006a.html

Increasing your omega 3 intake (specifically EPA), and decreasing your omega 6 and saturated fat intake can have positive health effects and decrease inflammation. Omega 3 sources include salmon, mackerel, eggs and red meat. Omega 6 sources include sunflower oil, corn oil and safflower oil.

 

Foods: 
• Saturated Fats: Usually solid at room temperature and are primarily from animal sources, such as, dairy and other meats.
• Unsaturated Fats: Usually liquid at room temperature and can be further divided into mono and poly unsaturated fats.
• Mono-unsaturated fatty acids include: olive oil, avocado and peanut butter. 
 

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10910295

https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200232050-00004

http://advances.nutrition.org/content/6/3/293S.full

http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v56/n3s/pdf/1601478a.pdf

 

 

The Great Protein Debate

Protein is gaining a lot of attention these days – so much so that marketers are desperately jumping on the bandwagon and throwing “a source of protein” on pretty much everything that you can eat – an example below shows a desperate attempt at it. (Image provided by Joseph Agu @ Elite Nutrition Coaching). 

 

Our bodies use protein to make some fundamental molecules – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies, as well as helping build muscle and replace and repair damaged cells, meaning our bodies don’t function all that well without adequate protein.

When blood sugar levels are low, for example during and after exercise, or in between meals, a hormone called glucagon is released, which causes the liver to breakdown any stored energy, meaning glucagon can help breakdown body fat. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can help increase levels of this hormone.

Recent media reports have tried to suggest that too much protein can cause organ damage or increase cancer risks. These concerns are typically overblown and here are some recent studies to support the fact that protein does not damage organs or cause cancer.

http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2   

http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/new-study-on-protein-overfeeding-a-critical-analysis/

To clarify, people with certain medical conditions may not be advised to consume too much protein, but all excessive protein will do to a healthy person is give them a dose of wallet ache. This has stemmed from the fact that people with kidney issues respond well to a lower protein intake, but this leads to people taking a reverse causality approach, whereby they see that a lower protein intake helps those with kidney dysfunction, so high protein intake must have caused the kidney dysfunction, this however, is far from the truth.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383270

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383270    

Protein Intake recommendations

Your daily protein intake is largely dependent on your goals and activity level: Some recommendations will say that 0.5g/lb of body weight is sufficient, but this recommendation is purely based on avoiding a deficiency. Therefore, in order to get the benefits mentioned previously, you need more to thrive!

0.8 - 1g/lb body weight if your weight is stable and you don’t exercise

1.0-1.2 g/lb if your goal is fat loss and you’re physically active

1.2 - 1.5 g/lb if your goal is muscle building and you're physically active

People who are overweight or obese should calculate their daily protein intake based on their target weight as opposed to their existing body weight, as going off your current weight could result in consuming too many calories.

Gaining Weight or “Bulking”

Bulking and weight gain doesn’t require a massive increase to your protein intake, provided this intake is adequate. Muscle growth is affected by protein availability and protein elimination rates, or how fast protein is used up. Muscle tissue is constantly going through a process of breaking down and restoration – training and eating are the biggest contributors that will determine whether or not your body breaks down muscle tissue more or builds it up more – as you can probably guess, if you’re eating more food and hitting your protein intake, then you will sway towards the side of muscle building and not muscle breakdown.

The more calories the body has available to it, the more efficiently it utilizes protein because fewer amino acids are converted into glucose. This means that the added calories are contributing toward more efficient protein use, so there may not be a need to increase protein intake during a “bulking period”, once you are consuming an adequate amount in the first place.   

Moreover, since protein has a high thermic effect, (burns calories through the process of digestion) than carbs and fat, it might not be in the best interest of someone looking to put on weight to consume more protein than they need to, when the extra calories could go towards carbs or fats, which won’t burn up valuable calories in the digestion process.

Thermic Effect of Food in %

  • Protein: 20-35% of calories burned through digestion.
  • Carbohydrates: 5-10% of calories burned through digestion.
  • Fats: 0-5% of calories burned through digestion.

Sources of Protein

Protein sources do not matter much when we are just talking about protein, however, they matter in the context of the overall diet. For example, eating a high calorie protein source means a lot of calories are taken up, calories which could be directed elsewhere. If looking to lose weight, then choosing lean sources of protein can help keep calorie count low.

Protein from both plant and animal sources work just as well as each other in terms of increasing protein synthesis. The amino acid Leucine seems to be a major contributor to muscle protein synthesis – which can be found in eggs, poultry, milk, fish and meat.

Supplementation

People who cannot eat enough protein due to finances, diet preferences, or motivation often turn to supplementation to avoid eating more chicken or eggs! Others, however, seem to think that protein comes only in powder form and in a shaker bottle.

Mainstream media and supplement companies have tried to over complicate protein intakes because it helps sell products. There is only one advantage a protein shake has over protein from real whole foods and that’s convenience.  If you’re stuck for time then a protein shake is your biggest ally, although the new protein milk is a great source of protein plus other vitamins and minerals. 

Don’t feel under pressure to shell out on protein supplements or even stick to drinking them if they cause stomach discomfort (which many people complain of). Try getting your protein from whole sources of food and use the protein shakes for convenience, (if you are going to use them).  Supplementation should only be used if dietary changes cannot be made to meet your protein requirements. It is however, worth noting that consuming protein in the form of actual food can give benefits that supplementation may not be able to provide.

Summary

The debate over “optimal” protein intake is likely to continue for decades to come, as research continues to evolve, however the intakes recommended above are reasonably accurate and pose no health risks to healthy populations. Sources of protein are generally well known, however, be careful of marketers jumping on the bandwagon and read food labels to ensure you know what you are consuming. Use supplements for convenience and don’t view them as a staple. 

Thanks for reading guys - as always if you have any specific questions give us a shout.

Adam

S & C Coach

PFP GYM

My top 10 foods for micro-nutrients

When all is said and done, our health is the primary reason for eating good food.

We can get so caught up in counting macros, calories etc. that sometimes we don't think about the nutritional value of food. 

So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of MY top 10 foods (pretty hard to pick only 10!). I decided not to include any meats or fish on the list so that I could keep things simple - anyone who comes to the PFP knows how much I love my meat! The foods that I have picked are nutritional powerhouses, easily available and can be included in our daily diet. How many do you eat regularly?

1. Apples - great source of fiber, potassium and anti-oxidants. Also a good source of boron, which is a mineral with bone-building properties so aids with arthritis and osteoporosis prevention. 

2. Spinach - Low calorie and nutrient dense. High in potassium, magnesium, folate and iron among other vitamin and minerals. Can help to lower blood pressure and to keep skin and hair healthy. 

3. Onions - believed to have protective effects against stomach and esophageal cancer. Onions contain anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic - which will help to improve your immune system. The type of onion impacts on the health-promoting properties - the stronger the taste the more the potent the properties of it. 

4. Turmeric - also has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Very good for supporting any liver conditions.

5. Eggs (organic) - perfect source of protein. Make sure to include the yolk as the whole egg contains all nine essential amino acids. Contains choline which is vital for heart and brain health. Eggs provide decent amounts of vitamin B2, vitamin B12 and selenium. Best eaten poached or boiled and with a soft yolk. 

6. Nuts - raw nuts of any kind provide are great sources of fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamin E. Also important for heart health. 

7. Berries - berries are great sources of anti-oxidants and help to lower cholesterol levels. Believed to have protective properties against degenerative diseases. 

8. Sauerkraut - a big favourite of mine - but make sure it is truly fermented and not just a commercially processed impostor. The process of fermenting food creates 'live cultures' which have a tonne of health benefits such as feeding the good gut bacteria. A good balance of gut bacteria will result in improved digestion, absorption of nutrients and greater immune health. Sauerkraut is high in vitamin K and C as well as iron, potassium and calcium. Cabbage in itself has strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties while also being high in fiber and low in calories. 

9. Avocado  - high in mono-saturated fat which is believed to reduce the risk of both diabetes and cancer as well as being important for a healthy heart. Contains lutein which is important for eyes and skin. Great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A. 

10. Raw milk / cream - raw, organic milk and cream are one of my favourite things to eat. Besides tasting great, raw dairy is full of vitamins A and D as well as calcium.  Raw milk is also high in omega 3s. It contains lots of healthy enzymes. Find raw milk here from Crawford's Farm with a list of stockists including the Fruit and Nut in Portlaoise. Even if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to tolerate raw milk with no issues so it's worth checking out. 

So there you have it - my top 10 foods (at the moment!) for micro-nutrients. 

What would you add in  / take out? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Nigel