Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Have you got what it takes?

Have you got what it takes?

It has been said that if you spend an average of six hours a week in the gym that you are considered an athlete. This statement is somewhat true but if you intend on being a high level athlete then six hours is just the beginning.

Six hours is much more than the average fitness buff spends on a fitness routine but, if we look at an elite track athlete’s program or swimmer they have training programs that have them in the pool or at the track four to five hours a day, and this does not include time spent in the gym.

As the Olympics will come to an end and the Paralympics approach I want to give everyone an idea of the complexities of a training program for a high level athlete. Programming for an athlete involves many different training goals and each must somehow be incorporated into a program. Each program must be designed to have the athlete’s performance peak at a specific time. The program must allow for proper nutrition, recovery and must have the proper stimulus to create a positive adaptation. We must remember that training is a stress; this stress is designed to create an adaptation. Hopefully the stress is enough to create a positive adaptation and not a negative one. Too much stress in the form of intensity or volume can have some very negative side effects. Some of these negative side effects include insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, soreness in the muscles that lingers, injuries and more.

Along with an extensive training regime there must be a nutritional plan. Nutritional planning for an athlete is no small task. Some nutritionists have made quit lucrative businesses in designing nutrition programs for athletes. Each person’s program is tailored to their specific needs for calorie intake, carbohydrate content, protein needs, recovery, and supplementation. Nutrition for an athlete is an ongoing process. The program often needs to be fine tuned at different times of the training cycle depending on the athlete’s performance. The issue of supplementation is one that needs to be addressed. Top level athletes do not have the convenience of using many of the high tech supplements for fear they may contain any of the hundreds of banned substances. Most of them usually stick to the basic protein powders and electrolyte based sports drinks.

Sport specific programs must allow for many diverse factors including, power, strength, speed, agility, coordination, quickness, flexibility, muscular endurance, aerobic capacity and aerobic endurance. The science of training cycles is called Periodization and is very complex and is beyond the scope of this article. The basic idea is the athletes program is broken into four different cycles. The cycles are designed to allow the athlete to achieve the many diverse factors needed to compete at an elite level. Often athletes are training an average of four to six hours a day, six or seven days a week, with training sessions broken up over the day.

The four main cycles are the “Pre-Season”, “On Season”, “Post Season”, and “Active Recovery”. The basics of the cycles are this, the” pre-season” is designed to develop the athlete’s base in strength and power, and this is where most of the heavy weight training is done. As the season approaches the exercises are transformed to more sport specific movements and we begin to add agility and coordination drills into the program.

Flexibility and speed specific work are ongoing throughout this cycle. During the “on-season” cycle the program is geared towards maintaining the athletes’ strength, power, endurance etc. Now, if at any time one or more of these factors begin to diminish we will add a micro-cycle of “pre-season” training into the mix to give the athlete a quick jolt. As the season draws to a close we hope the athlete has not sustained any injuries. If this is the case then referral to the proper medical personal is the next step. Once the athlete has been rehabilitated we begin the final cycle called “active recovery”. The “active recovery” cycle is where the athlete remains active but is not training at a high intensity. Usually the athlete will go swimming, ride their bike, do light jogs etc. The duration of this is usually 2 to 4 weeks. The cycles then begin back at the “Pre season” cycle. Anyone who plays a sport, whether for fun or at a competitive level can make valuable use of Periodization.

As you can see the work involved in becoming an elite athlete is quite daunting.
The athletes must train, diet, work a regular job, and promote themselves and their sport.
All this is done in a typical day where most of us will work 8 hrs and go home.

As a professional strength and conditioning consultant I have an in depth look at what it takes to get to the highest level of mental and physical conditioning and let me say that one out of a hundred people has what it takes. We call them champions!!
Our athletes deserve our respect, gratitude, and applause for the tremendous task they have before them.

To all our Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Until next time be fit and stay strong!
Peter J. Morel C.F.C, C.I.C, C.P.T.
TopShape Fitness Inc.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shift Work

Shift Work
“Eating right to achieve your health and wellness goals”
By: Mike Hayden CFC, AFS, SPT,

Many of my clients have asked me to produce nutrition plans for them because they work strange hours. Like many Canadians, they work ‘shift work’. In many individuals this has become another obstacle in the fight to build lean muscle and burn unwanted fat deposits.

While working on this diet, I realized that most of the strategies I was outlining were almost identical to the nutritional plans devised for most of our clients with some important exceptions.

Shift workers are usually prone to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and obesity. The major exception is that shift work upsets the body’s natural Circadian rhythms. This system is affected by daylight and night hours and dictates many of our body’s functions, such as sleep, hunger and digestion. Before I set-up this nutritional plan I wanted to understand fully the roll of Circadian rhythm upon shift workers who exercise regularly.

My reasoning was, if one needs to make exceptions to their nutritional plan when on shift work. It is because in many cases shift work is “rushed” work. Also, digestion is not at an optimal level because the body believes this should be your rest, repair and recover hours. It has also been my experience that shift workers are eating poorly during the day and over-eat during their shift. Also a huge problem is that their world flips when it comes to the weekend.

What does the current research say? In 2009 The Salk Institute for Biological Studies used mice to reveal that gene activity in the liver (the bodies’ metabolic clearing house) is mostly controlled by food intake and not by the body’s circadian clock as conventional wisdom lead us to believe.
"If feeding time determines the activity of a large number of genes completely independent of the circadian clock, when you eat and fast each day will have a huge impact on your metabolism," says the study's leader Satchidananda (Satchin) Panda, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory.
"We believe that it is not shift work per se that wreaks havoc with the body's metabolism but changing shifts and weekends, when workers switch back to a regular day-night cycle," says Panda.

They found that putting mice on a strict 8-hour feeding/16-hour fasting schedule restored the circadian transcription pattern of most metabolic genes in the liver of mice without a circadian clock. Conversely, during prolonged fasting, only a small subset of genes continued to be transcribed in a circadian pattern even with a functional circadian clock present.

A Northwestern University study has found that eating at irregular times -- the equivalent of the middle of the night for humans, when the body wants to sleep -- influences weight gain. The regulation of energy by the body's circadian rhythms may play a significant role. The study is the first causal evidence linking meal timing and increased weight gain.
This study was found in the journal Obesity.

For example, genes that encode enzymes needed to break down sugars rise immediately after a meal, while the activity of genes encoding enzymes needed to break down fat is highest when we fast. Consequently a clearly defined daily feeding schedule puts the enzymes of metabolism in shift work and optimizes burning of sugar and fat.

  1. Alternate 8hrs of eating with 16 hrs of fasting everyday.
  2. Planning, identify weakness. More protein, veggies and smart fats such as omega 3 fish oils with each feeding.
Many people on shift work order out for fatty, fried foods. These have a high processed carb make-up and lack a good lean protein source. All meals should contain both a protein and a carb.
  1. Use a digestive enzyme for help with metabolites during shift work. Also including yogurt, ginger, and pears in your diet to help. Add apple cider vinegar to your water to help combat blood sugar rise and blood pressure. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can help fight fatigue.
  2. Prepare cut fruits and veggies to bring. Preferably the low gylcemic load type. But don’t be too picky.
  3. Lastly, cut the coffee. Many shift workers drink too much. Have 1 cup before your shift. It would be better if you add oolong tea or green tea during your shift to boost metabolism.

To summarize, the key to staying health for shift work is to remember it is meal timing that matters more than circadian rhythm. Eat small metabolically charged meals containing lean protein sources and vegetables with each feeding over 8hrs. Use a digestive enzyme or include digestive aids such as yogurt, ginger and pears in your meal plans. Prepare foods instead of takeout. Lastly if you are having trouble getting 1.5 to 2g of protein per lb of body weight use a predigested  isowhey protein or high vegetarian protein (ex. Hemp) to supplement.
Keep Strong!