Cardio or Strength Training First?

I’ve had many clients ask what should be done first during a workout, cardio or strength training?

There is a common misconception that strength training before cardio increases the amount of fat used during cardio, helping to burn more fat.  There is no research that proves that this is true though. 

Remember that it is exercise intensity that determines which substrate is used: fat or carbohydrates.  During higher intensity exercise, carbohydrates are being burned.  During lower intensity exercise, more fat is burned (NOTE: this does not give you an excuse to have low intensity workouts…See “4 Benefits of Interval Training” post).

What’s most important to you? Are you wanting to lose weight? Build endurance?  Build strength?

Whichever activity is more important to your goals, that’s the type of exercise you should start with.  This way you are able exert more of your energy during that workout, getting the most out of the workout. 

For example, if you’re trying to make strength gains it wouldn’t make sense to exert all of your energy into a 20 minute sprint interval workout.  This would just leave you feeling fatigued by the time you hit the weights.  Conversly, if you are an endurance athlete (runner, swimmer, or cyclist) and strength training is used to improve your performance and prevent injury, do your cardio before strength training.  This way you are able to get the most out of your run, bike or swim.  In addition, you’ll be preventing yourself from possible injury due to fatigue.  You would be more prone to injury trying to run at your normal pace or faster if you are already fatigued from a strength training workout. 

If you don’t have time to do both in one day, that’s perfectly fine too.  You have to do what works for you and what fits into your schedule. 

Therefore, to recap, decide which activity is more important to your goals: cardio or strength training?  Then do that one first.  This way you will be getting the most out of your workouts and preventing yourself from possible injury as well.


Stop Buying Processed Foods!

Currently, approximately 90% of the money Americans spend on food is used to buy processed foods.

Go to your food pantry or refrigerator and take out all the packaged foods you have in your kitchen and take a look at the nutrition labels.

1. How many words are you unable to pronounce?

2.Which of these ingredients have you never heard of/have no idea what they are?

Here’s a little advice for you:

1.  If you can’t pronouce a word on the label, don’t eat it!  There’s a good chance it’s composed of some type of chemical that your liver is going to have to detoxify & your liver won’t like it.

2. If it’s a non-food, don’t eat it! Paul Check defines a “non-food” as any food that costs more in nutrition to digest, absorb & eliminate than it delivers to your body. Many people forget that there is a cost to metabolize anything you put in your mouth.  Examples of “non-foods” would be candy, cookies, soda, processed sandwich meats, white bread, white flour, or ANYTHING PROCESSED.

3. The longer it lasts on the shelf, the worse it is for you! Most things in nature will not last more than a few days once picked or killed for consumption.  To increase a products shelf life, that product is simply stripped of it’s enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.

4.  Never eat anything with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils/fats” in it!  These are cooked fats that have been altered in a way that make them very hard to digest, as well as being damaging to the body.  This form of fat does not occur naturally in nature, and in fact, chemists say the molecular structure of hydrogenated fats resemble plastic more closely than food!

5.  Avoid food products with the word “enriched.”  Foods are only enriched because they were completely killed & stripped of their nutrients during processing.

6.  Avoid eating anything that has been genetically modified!  Genetically modified foods consist of genetically modified organisms or GMO’s.  A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic enginieering techniques.  Here’s an interesting quick read regarding GMO chickens…

Hopefully this gives you some insight regarding processed foods and the negative effects they can have on our health.  Next time you go grocery shopping, make an attempt to fill your cart with more fresh produce (fruits, vegetables etc.) rather than processed, packaged “non foods!” : )

References: Paul Check : “You are what you eat.”

4 Benefits of Interval Training

Instead of going to the gym and jumping on the elliptical for 45 minutes, stretching and calling it a day, try adding some intensity to your workout.

Interval training is defined as bouts of high intensity activity, followed by periods of recovery.  The definition alone brings me to the first benefit…

1. Interval training involves aerobic and anaerobic activity.  During aerobic activity, our body is using oxygen as our primary fuel source.  During anaerobic activity, we have two energy systems working: ATP & CP and anaerobic glycolysis.  Within the first 30 seconds of activity, our ATP & CP energy system is being used.  The next 1-3 minutes involve the second system, anaerobic glycolysis.  Here, our body is using glucose (glycogen) as our main fuel source in the absence of oxygen.  The bi-product of anaerobic glycolysis is lactate (lactic acid).  This brings me to the next benefit….

2. Interval training improves the body’s ability to remove & tolerate lactic acid.  The more you are working in an anaerobic state (anaerobic glycolysis specifically), the more lactic acid your body will be producing during your workouts.  If you train at this level on a regular basis, your body will adapt and learn to remove this lactic acid at a quicker rate and/or tolerate it.  Have you heard of the term lactate threshold? This is the point when lactate removal fails to keep up with the rate of lactate production.  Working at this level will help to increase your lactate threshold.  Simply put, this means you’re going to get faster.

3.  Interval training increases RMR (resting metabolic rate) due to EPOC (excess post oxygen consumption).  This simply states that interval training will increase our resting metabolism.  This means we will be burning more calories throughout the day while we are just sitting at our desks etc.  This is due to the fact that following an intense workout involving intervals, our rate of oxygen consumption increases (EPOC).  It’s the way our body trys to calm down following a workout and return back to resting levels.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post (EPOC),  the way your body works following a workout can be compared to that of a car engine.  When you’re driving a car for a prolonged period of time then turn it off, the engine is still going to be hot for a while after the car is turned off, right?  This is just like working out.  When you’re working out at a high intensity then stop, your engine is still hot, or in other words, your body’s engine is trying to cool down & it does this by burning more calories. NOTE: * The higher the intensity of the workout, the greater the EPOC effect (meaning you’re burning more calories following the workout)!

4. Interval training is time efficient.  We all have busy, hectic lives.  Whether its because of work or kids, don’t use the excuse “I don’t have time to workout.”   I’m positive that everyone has AT LEAST 30 minutes in their day that they could dedicate to their health.  If you only have 30 minutes, make the most of your time and do an interval workout.   Twenty minutes of interval training is going to be just as beneficial, if not MORE than 40 minutes of steady state cardio.  That’s HUGE!  So unless you’re training for a marathon, half, or triathlon, stop spending so much time running/biking at the same pace for long periods of time.  Even marathon, half marathon and longer endurance programs involve interval training.

So now you understand why you should start incorporating interval training into your routine, how do you go about it?

You could do intervals on the treadmill.  Example:  Try a 5 minute warm up followed by a 90 second sprint and a 1 minute recovery.  That counts as one round; do 6-8 depending on your fitness level.

You could try Tabata intervals.  This is 20 seconds of hard work with 10 seconds of recovery repeated 8 times (total of 4 minutes work).  See my previous blog post on Tabata training for more info & exercises.

You could incorporate intervals into a circuit routine.  Example: Medicine ball slam + burpee combo (12 reps), Seated lat pulldowns (12 reps), Elbow planks (45s).  Repeat 3 times (rep/set scheme can obviously be changed depending on specific goals).  The idea is that you’re incorporating an exercise that will get your heart rate up and get you working in an anaerobic state (medicine ball slam + burpee combo), then taking it back down to an aerobic state (lat pulldowns).

Hopefully this helps you understand the benefits of interval training and why EVERYONE should start to incorporate it into their normal routine!

Feel free to contact me with any questions! : )

Quote of the Month

The Dali Lama, when asked about what surprised him most about humanity said…

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.” 

Simply put, those who sacrifice their health for money now, will  be sacrificing even more money on their health later on down the road due to the unhealthy state they put themselves in. 

We only get one body.  Why wouldn’t we chose to take extra good care of it?  I like how one of my fellow co-workers put it.  He said, we’re not like new cars.  When you buy a new car, the second you drive it, it’s value/worth goes down.  As we “drive” our bodies through life, our value/worth (in this case meaning health) does not have to depreciate.  We should be making decisions each day that will affect our health in a positive way.  This could be both mentally & physically.  If we don’t, somewhere down the road we will regret it. 

Take care of yourself now and put the time and money into your health.  This could be by joining a gym, hiring a trainer, and/or making sure you are regularly seeing your doctor when need be.  By doing this, you’re investing money in your health, and I’m pretty sure (ok, no I’m POSITIVE) that’s one of the best investments you could possibly make.

 Our body, our health, our physical well-being should be NUMBER ONE on our priority list.  So many times we make excuses not to work out and not to take care of our health. 

My suggestion:  Look for balance in your life. 

Make sure you are creating a balance between work, your family, friends, etc.  In addition, you should give yourself  “me” time where you are able to partake in some sort of  activity that brings you joy.  Find that balance sooner rather than later.  Don’t be the person who sacrifices their health for money or something else you think is more important.  Nothing should be more important than you and your own health!

Fascia: Connecting Our Body

Under your skin, encasing your body, and webbing its way through your insides like one huge spiderweb, is FASCIA.  Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and organs.  It literally wraps around the entire body, connecting it from top to bottom.

Since it is connected to basically everything in the body, you’d think it must be pretty important, right.  ABSOLUTELY. But how many of you have actually heard of it or know what it does?

Since fascia is like a web, it should make sense that any tightening or restriction in one area of the body creates tension in another area and throughtout the web, leading to pulling on other structures.  This is why often times people will feel pain that appears unrealted to their original injury (ie. if you had a knee injury you feel pain down your lower leg and even into your foot).   Therefore, fascia influences the tension and integrity of the entire body.  Any localized stiffening of the system could affect the range of motion of that particular area and may create instability throughout the system.

Imbalances and tightness throughout the fascial system could be a result of trauma, poor posture (which is very common), inflammation, and/or repetitve motion.

Here’s how I suggest you take care of your fascia:

  • STRETCH REGULARLY: When your muscles are chronically tight, the fascia that surrounds those muscles becomes very tight as well.  This tightness obviously shows an imbalance in your muscular system, possibly leading to one in your fascial system as well. Take care of it and stretch (dynamic before working out & static following your workout!)
  • FOAMROLL: Since fascia covers our entire body, you can actually foam roll any part of your body.  Foam rolling works to loosen up tightness in the fascial system.  SLOWER is better when rolling (& take your time!…I will honestly spend 10-15 minutes foam rolling some days).  If you feel one spot, for example while you’re foam rolling your IT band, that feels more tender than others, it’s known as a trigger point (or adhesion).  Go ahead and hold on that spot for 20 seconds and be sure you’re breathing as you do so in efforts to help release the knot.
  • GET A MASSAGE: Yes, a massage.  I’m sure you’ve been working hard so treat yourself.  For starters, it’s good upkeep.  If possible, if you could get in to see a massage therapist at least once a month, you’ll reap benefits.  And if you have some type of injury or annoying tightness that’s bothering you day to day, DEFINITELY go see one ASAP.  Many massage therapists are beginning to embrace fascial therapies so ask around.  If not, you can look into a fascial or myofascial therapy specialist.

There you go, so in order to maintain good muscular balance within your body and feel good, TAKE CARE OF YOUR FASCIA! : )

Switch to Ezekial Bread

Ezekial bread has been gaining more & more popularity lately.  Why?…

Well for starters, one slice contains:

80 calories

4 grams of protein

15 grams of carbohydrates

3 grams of dietary fiber

1 gram of fat

75 mg of sodium

80 mg of potassium

The nutritional value here explains in itself why it’s a better choice than any other type of bread.  Not to mention the exact ingredients used to prepare this bread which include wheat, spelt/rye, millet, barley, lentils, great northern beans, kidney beans and pinto beans. Now how healthy is that! With all the grains and legumes combined together to make this bread, the amount of protein available is almost equivalent to that present in milk & eggs.  Oh, did I mention the bread is also flourless and completely organic?

The benefits of this bread are endless.  If you’re on a weight loss regimine, the high fiber content of this bread will be great for you.  In addition, there are no trans fats & the sodium content is much lower here than compared to other breads.  The low glycemic index also makes it suitable for people who need to keep their blood sugar levels in check as well.  Studies have also shown that the proteins in ezekial bread contain all the 9 essential amino acids required by our bodies.

This bread is most commonly manufactured by a company called Food for Life.  You could find it at your local Whole Foods (most likely in the frozen food section because it has no preservatives & therefore has a very short shelf life), other health stores or you can order it through their website…