Monthly Archives: May 2013

No More Soda?

Everyone has heard the soda debate.  To drink or not to drink?  Diet or regular?  Well, we can all enjoy a nice cold soda every now and then, whether it’s because they are refreshing or simply for a caffeine kick, without a worry in the world.  The problems arise when we start replacing water intake with soda.  First you’ll learn the difference between regular and diet soda, then what you should know about the things too much soda and not enough water can do to you.

It’s important to know the difference between regular soda and diet so you decide which one is best for you, if you don’t decide exclusively on taste.  Regular soda is sweetened using high fructose corn syrup, which has calories and carbs galore.  Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, and although that means zero calories and carbs, they’ll still get you.  Taking in large volumes of aspartame on a regular basis has been linked to dizziness, memory loss, headaches, irritability and joint pain.  Regular soda, with its carbs and calories and without aspartame can cause its own problems.  Consuming lots of the easily digested sugar or high fructose corn syrup found in regular soda causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin which make you more vulnerable to stroke, diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease.  These sugars can also lead to weight gain by causing increased consumption due to a failure to satisfy hunger as solid foods do and, as whole, has been associated with increased blood pressure and, especially in children, tooth decay.  People with diabetes should avoid regular soda because of these spikes and, if you choose to drink soda, stick with diet.

The biggest health issues associated with soda aren’t its actual contents.  The problem is that when you’re drinking soda, you’re not drinking water.  Chronic dehydration affects 75% of Americans and being dehydrated, even a little bit, can cause your metabolism to slow by as much as 30%.  Dehydration can lower the quality and results of workouts by making you feel weak and also make it hard to concentrate.  Choosing to drink water instead of soda will help quiet hunger, especially late at night and aid in weight loss.  Staying properly hydrated keeps skin healthy, while dehydration can speed up the adding process and cause fatigue.

You don’t have to give up your Coke, Dr. Pepper or Pepsi just yet, but now you know why you need to balance soda intake with water.  If you are ready to jump the soda ship, and still want bubbles, try seltzer or flavored, carbonated waters.

Benefits of Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is a great way to get the most from limited work out time.  HIIT workouts can range from taking four minutes to thirty, plus a warm up and cool down if it’s short and including them if you’re working out a little longer.  While HIIT is great for those who are short on time, it’s also a great weight loss tool, a fun way to keep workouts mixed up, and there is no equipment required.

HIIT involves alternating periods of maximal exertion with periods of rest.  Work and rest should occur in a 2:1 ratio with the intensity mimicking that ratio.  Work period should be at maximal, 100% efforts while rests should be at 50% effort.  A great example is sprinting for one minute then walking for thirty seconds and repeating.  A popular form of HIIT known as Tabata training was created by Izumi Tabata and uses cycles of 20 seconds of intense activity partnered with 10 seconds of rest between sets for 8 rounds (notice the optimal 2:1 ratio of these intervals), and one round should take four minutes.

The ultimate goal of interval training is to bring your heart rate up and down repeatedly, leading to increased cardiovascular capacity, increased insulin sensitivity, increased lactate threshold, decreased recovery time and numerous studies have demonstrated that HIIT increases resting metabolic rate (RMR)  leads to improvements in athletic performance.  HIIT’s maximal exertion pushes you into the anaerobic training zone, which isn’t a place steady state workouts visit.  Steady state exercise, such as a long walk or hour on the elliptical causes your body to burn more fat than glycogen, but when trying to lose weight, the goal is to burn the most total fat.  Interval training gives you rest periods which allow you to perform at a maximal rate for longer length of time than steady state activities, so you will burn more total fat by using HIIT.   This is great for burning fat because it throws your body into super repair mode and helps jump start your metabolism. During the up to 24 hours post workout your muscles are working to repair themselves, human growth hormone (HGH) production increases, leading to increased burning of calories and possibly slowing the aging process.

The best benefit of HIIT is that you don’t need a gym or any equipment other than yourself to get it done.  Anything and everything, including running, jumping, jumping rope, air squats, burpees, lunges, push-ups, and sit-ups can all be used to do interval training.  So get out there and give it a try!

Have questions about working HIIT into your routine or what kind of exercises might be best for you?  Ask us through email at

When Should You Do Your Cardio?

Many people wonder when they should do their cardio.  Do it before or after they lift weights?  The answer is different for every individual, but no matter what your fitness goals are, cardiovascular training is an incredibly important part of your routine.  Here are some tips for making sure you get the most out of your cardio training time.

We get most of our workout energy from a compound in our bodies called glycogen.  Glycogen is long term energy storage produced and stored in muscles and fat cells.  We get the glycogen we need from the food we eat, so the most important thing to know about any workout is that doing it on an empty stomach is a bad idea.  If you haven’t eaten before your session, your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to perform at an optimal level.  This means you won’t see the results you want or expect because your body will start to feed on valuable muscle cells, rather than food stores to power the workout.

If your goal is to lose weight, you want your workout to have the largest afterburn effect possible.  The afterburn effect is best for weight loss because calories burn for up to 48 hours after your session, not just during it.  Heavy resistance training workouts have been shown to induce big afterburn effects, increasing cardiovascular health and strength, though scientific evidence is ultimately inconclusive.  Another excellent reason to save your cardio for second is safety.  Doing cardio before lifting uses up the glycogen stored in muscles, which means you don’t have it to help you pick those weights up.  By lifting first, you have the help you need to perform weight lifting exercises safely and correctly.  Not only does doing cardio second keep you safe, by the time you get to the cardio portion of your session, the lower glycogen stores in your muscles will lead your body to start using energy stores from fat cells.

If you have time in your day, you want to separate your lifting and cardio sessions into two separate times of day with two or more hours in between.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have that much time to exercise and are doing weights and cardio back to back, find what works best for you.  Try doing an intense run before you lift, try switching them and comparing how you felt after each one.  There is also the option to mix them together, doing a round of weightlifting followed by a sprint in a high intensity interval.  Since fat burn doesn’t actually occur while we work out, but one to 48 hours later, the determining factor is how much energy you expend overall.

The best answer is to do what works best for you.  Try each style of workout, writing down how you felt before, during and after each one then deciding which one you like best.  You also don’t have to stick with one style, you can always, and should regularly, change your workout so your muscles keep responding.

Questions?  Need or want help developing a plan to reach your goals?  Email us!

Working Out with Music

All of the cardiovascular equipment at your gym has headphone jacks, the stereo in that Crossfit box was blasting, and even the yoga teacher had some relaxing tunes coming out of the MP3 player.  Even if you already work out with a beat to get you going, you might not know why you feel so different without it.  Listening to your favorite band while you sweat has numerous benefits, and it’s all about finding what works for you.

Listening to the right type of music has been shown in several studies to increase endurance by up to 15%.  Music also has the benefits of reducing perceived effort, helping your mood improve, and possibly even increasing your metabolic rate.  There are several reasons people see these benefits when listening up while working out, but a big one is that it distracts you from the pain of your sweat session.  If you’re singing along to one of your favorite songs, you won’t also be staring at mileage on the treadmill or rower’s calorie counter.  The predicted source of these benefits is the music’s beat.  Typically, people want to move to the beat of whatever music they’re listening to, which is why pop, rock and hip-hop are incredibly popular on workout playlists.  Syncing your body movements to the music, or getting close, can increase the efficiency of your movements as your brain and body respond to the beat.  A study done by C. J. Bacon of Sheffield Hallam University (Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2012 Aug; 52(4):359-65) found that cyclists who pedaled to music used seven percent less oxygen than those who worked in silence.

All these benefits are wonderful, so wonderful in fact, that USA Track and Field had banned any type of music device from all sanctioned races citing them as a performance enhancer.  USATF has since reformed this policy to apply only to those who are competing for money and awards, but it just goes to show how the right tunes can push you a little harder and a little farther, so throw on your head phones and get going.

You don’t have to pick a playlist just because it’s 128 beats per minute and that’s what you think you’re supposed to sweat to.  Listen to whatever motivates you.  It could be Metallica or Bach, the good news is no one else can hear it!  There are plenty of line sources for sample playlists and even more workout specific remixes and compilations to get you started.  Your best bet is to know what you like and try different things out.  Be careful about where you’re working out with your tunes pumping, however.  You need to be able to hear traffic and others around you, especially if running or biking in a busy area for cars.

Questions?  Training for a race?  Contact us at for answers!