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Carb or Fat Burning..... which to train in


     What's the difference?  What does it matter?  Why should I care?  For some of you out there looking to lose a few pounds or training lingo is a foreign language, this is an important concept to understand.  The two ideas were introduced many many years ago to help differentiate workouts.  The Fat burning zone was meant to be for those looking to lose weight.  The Carb burning zone was meant for those looking to maintain a healthy weight.  

   What's the difference?

     First,  the Fat burning zone is a work rate that requires a lower heart rate, 60-70% of heart rate max, slow and steady.  Where fat stores in the body are broken down into glucose in order to fuel the activity.  The slower pace of the work allows the body to breakdown energy stores outside the muscle in order to maintain the work rate.  When possible the body prefers to maintain glycogen stores in the muscle.  When its a slower intensity workout the body will call on fat stores from other parts of the body, adipose tissue mostly found in the abdominal area, instead of using up the local energy stores in the muscles themselves.  This is the main reason its considered the "fat burning zone".

      The Carb burning zone requires a higher level of intensity, +70% of heart rate max, where the energy is taken from glycogen muscle stores.  All muscles maintain energy stores called glycogen, long chains of glucose molecules strung together for storage purposes.  When these local stores are full the remaining glucose in the blood will be stashed away into adipose tissue.  When the intensity of the work exceeds the speed at which the body can breakdown, glycolysis, the fat reserves it is forced to use the local supply until it is exhausted.  The local supply includes the local muscle glycogen reserves as well as glucose already present in the blood.  This threshold is around 70-80% of heart rate max or higher.  

     On a side note, yet very important, if you're curious about heart rate max....... take 220 and subtract your age.  For me, my max heart rate would be 220-39= 181 beats per minute.  This means, for me I'd need to get my heart rate up above (181 x .7=127) 127 beats per minute to maintain a good cardio/carb burning workout.

      The important concept to understand is that your burning calories REGARDLESS.  The biggest difference is how much time do you want to spend, or even better, how much time do you have!?  Not many people these days have 4 hours to spend on the treadmill to burn the calories they need, NOT THIS GUY!!

    Why should it matter?  It matters because you should be aware of what your goals are and how you can be both effective and efficient in your workouts.  For those folks that are high risk of a cardiac event (older, more obese, previous history, etc.) the high intensity workouts should be done for less time and be closely monitored.  No point in hitting the gym hard just to keel over with a heart attack a couple weeks into the new workout regimen.  Checking with your primary physician and using a heart rate monitor are both good starts.  Consulting with a dietician or nutrition expert are also good choices.  
   

    You should care because if all you ever do is the slow and steady burn, you're missing out on much needed cardio.  The Carb burning zone (higher intensity) gets 2 birds with one stone in that it burns calories faster and it also pushes the heart to work hard!  Making the heart push to its upper limits, based on age and ability, are what keeps it healthy.  Keeping active (fit bit, pedometers etc.) is good but it doesn't ever really push the system to get stronger.  High intensity workouts, which varies from person to person, is where you get stronger in the heart and cardiovascular system.  So don't be satisfied with walking 10,000 steps each day where your heart rate never gets above 50% max, push for more!  Push your body and you'll be pleasantly surprised with how it reacts!

Hot vs. Cold

Hot vs. Cold

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   People are regularly asking me what to use, heat or ice?  So I thought I'd take this time to give a little feedback, for the record.  Before I do, I need to explain a thing or two.  First, There is no research that has definitively linked heat or ice to any significant change in recovery.  Considering that most research design has an inherent flaw, some more flawed than others, there is just as much research supporting hot/cold therapy as there is refuting it.  Most research suggest neither manage to effect tissue more than 1/8-1/2" deep, the skin is normally about 1 sheet of paper thick.  There will be body parts it can be more effective than others, ankle v. gluteals, but overall the research is inconclusive.  Secondly, considering that half the game is in the athletes head, if you think it helps..... IT HELPS!! haha!  Seriously though, this isn't the only treatment out there that science has failed to confirm or deny that is still widely used.  So with that said if you like to take contrast baths after a big game to prep for the next game, be my guest.  One thing science hasn't done is prove it hurts to ice or contrast!  So if it provides you a mental edge, then don't hesitate!  I know I used to do it all the time when playing, I'll be the last person to tell you "stop".   So with that said, on to the point of this article.

There are numerous forms of heat that can be useful.  Just make sure to be aware of too much heat.  Too much can cause burns that can complicate your achy muscles.

There are numerous forms of heat that can be useful.  Just make sure to be aware of too much heat.  Too much can cause burns that can complicate your achy muscles.

     Heat should only be used on a subacute injury (old or chronic injuries) before activity.  Heat is something you would use to start the day or before your workout.  The body responds to heat by sending more blood to the area, through vascular dilation, increasing blood flow to the area.   The additional blood to the area helps increase the core temperature of the muscles of the area of application.  The increased muscle temperature helps to prevent muscle damage like strains and/or tears.  Its the same principle behind dynamic stretching.  They both are used to increase blood flow to the area.  With increased blood flow comes increased temperature and increased elasticity.  To get a nice visual, try taking 2 rubber bands, freeze one and put the other in a warm water bath then try stretching them and see which one snaps first.  Although a little exaggerated, this is very similar to how your muscles work.  cold muscles are fragile and warm ones are responsive and adaptive, which is key in injury prevention.

Old school bags of ice cubes or frozen veggies are out of style these days with all the different colds packs made these days but they can be expensive and don't work any better than your "old reliable"!

Old school bags of ice cubes or frozen veggies are out of style these days with all the different colds packs made these days but they can be expensive and don't work any better than your "old reliable"!

     Ice should be applied at the end of the day when all activity is completed.  Ice will aid in lower the core temperature of the muscles/joint over the area applied.  Cold causes vascular constriction in the area of application, this reduces the amount of blood that makes it to the area.  This is the bodies response to cold in an effort to maintain core body temperature, much like when you are outside in the winter and you feel fine but your fingers and toes go numb.  Its the bodies natural response for staying alive.  The use of ice helps decrease inflammation in the area.  Its especially helpful in the event of an acute injury (new), like an ankle sprain, to prevent/limit secondary injury due to excessive swelling.  With a new injury tissues are torn, including capillaries, causing blood to flood into the muscle compartments.  If the swelling is left unchecked it can overfill these compartments resulting in rupture of the fascial dividers and further injury.  It can also cause compression of other structure restricting blood flow and sensation, which can lead to necrosis (death) of compressed tissue (muscle and nerves alike) if left long enough.  It's imperative to make sure the PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) guidelines are implemented immediately following injury.  Here's a general rule of thumb for ice usage is 20/40 (20-minutes on followed by 40-minutes off) with compression till bedtime.  Some people like to use contrast baths for recovery.  As mentioned above, the research is inconclusive but if that's part of your routine and you feel it helps, by all means, keep it up!

    I hope this was useful.  Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.  Hope to see you soon on the field or in the office.  Until then take care and best of luck!  Cheers!

How to Optimize Your Run

How to Optimize Your Run

Enjoy your run without stomach upset, follow these suggestions. Better preparation equals better performance. Want more information, give us a call at 303-776-5520.