Basic Science Fitness Facts

It’s time to look past all the myths and nonsense and get down to the actual science facts and findings.

Basic Science Fitness FactsI have been doing some new research into fitness including weight loss, fat burning and muscle building. I wanted to know all the results and facts of the latest scientific research in the confusing world of fitness. So in this article I will share with you what I found out.

Much of it mirrors what I have said before but here it is anyway.

We have four main body types or physical conditions which are.

Underweight

The result of low muscle mass, body fat or both. Probably due to a lack of calories. Can be corrected by increased calorie intake and exercise.

Overweight 

Mostly the result of regularly exceeding more calories than the body requires. Can be reversed by a reduction in calories and or increased exercise.

Average

Achieved by a balanced amount of calorie consumption and exercise resulting in normal levels of body fat and muscle mass.

Muscular

This is higher than average levels of muscle mass with a relativity low body fat percentage, around 10 percent body fat or less. It can be achieved by regular exercise with a large percentage of this exercise being resistance training (weight training). Also a diet ideal for muscle development with a calorie intake slightly above the recommended amount.

What else can affect our fitness levels besides diet and exercise

  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Hormone levels
  • Injuries
  • Hydration
  • Illness

Recommended Health and Fitness Guidelines

  • Exercise – High intensity 3 times a week for around 20 minutes or medium intensity 5 times a week.
  • Body Fat Percentage – Men 8 – 20% Women 15 – 28%.
  • Sleep – 7 – 8 hours of sleep recommended to maintain optimal health.

Mental Health

The facts show that good lifestyle choices such as eating well and exercising regularly influences our mental health.

Stress

Stress can worsen existing health conditions including obesity and is believed to accelerate the ageing process. Exercise is proven to be an effective way to relieve stress.

Genetics

Genetics determine things like height and bone structure. It also determines the location of where body fat is stored. For example the first body location for fat storage can be different for different people. For one person fat maybe stored first in the lower stomach area, for another person it could be the hips or thighs. Genetics doesn’t actually determine our overall body fat percentages.

Metabolism

Despite popular belief all our metabolisms differ only slightly. Foods we consume can affect the metabolism, obviously exercise can and also the amount of muscle mass we have.

Calories In and Calories Out

Basically consuming more calories than your body requires results in the body storing the excess as body fat. The reverse happens when your bodies energy requirements exceeds the amount of calories you consume.

However all calories are not equal, the foods that you eat effect your hormone levels and your hormones effect your bodies systems including fat storage. So even if your calorie intake is at the right level for fat burning it can have the opposite effect if your hormones are out of balance.

Will Cardio Burn Muscle Mass

will cardio burn muscle massWill performing cardio exercises reduce your muscle mass and drain your strength?

There seems to be a belief which is a very common one. That belief is that performing cardio will prevent muscle growth and even cause the body to burn muscle to use as energy, therefore reducing muscle mass. This is known as being in a catabolic state.

It’s true that prolonged exercise whether it be weight training or cardio can trigger the body into a catabolic state where the body needs to break down muscle tissue to use as an energy source. However the key word in that sentence is “prolonged” exercise not just cardio exercise but any exercise. Cardio is generally more energy hungry than weight training so cardio is more likely to trigger the body into using your muscle as energy(going catabolic).

The actual risk of your body burning off your muscle by performing cardio is exaggerated and it has become somewhat a workout myth and misconception.

Yes it can happen if your cardio is intensive and long. Your body needs energy and it has to get it from somewhere and your body will break down your muscle if it needs to. However this will only cause an issue if your cardio or exercise is intensive and prolonged, for example running a Marathon. Running for 10 or 20 minutes on a treadmill or playing a sport will make no difference.

What you eat matters!

Exercise is not the only factor, your diet plays a major role in whether your body goes into a muscle burning catabolic state. If you don’t eat enough or give your body the nutrients it needs it will contribute to a catabolic state.

To help avoid muscle loss during exercise make sure that you eat regularly throughout the day. Provide your body with the nutrients and energy it needs and it will not need to feast upon your muscles.

Diet tips to avoid catabolic states

Eat a couple of hours before your workout, you body will use the energy it gets from your pre workout meal so it will not require breaking down your muscle mass.

Eat breakfast! while sleeping your body will go without food for around 6 – 9 hours and your body uses up energy and nutrients from your last meal while you are sleeping. So you need a fresh intake of nutrients and energy when you awake.

Sport drinks are generally not that good but they provide instant energy for your body which can prevent that catabolic state during your workouts.

Anabolic state

This is the state that most weight trainers are trying to achieve. An anabolic state is when your muscles are repairing themselves in a way that makes them bigger and stronger. When you train it’s like a tug of war between the anabolic and catabolic states. To stay in that anabolic state you need to train hard to break down those muscle fibres and then provide your body with the nutrients and energy it needs to repair and grow, or in other words eat well before and after your workouts.

Cardio can benefit muscle building

Cardiovascular fitness can actually aid muscle growth. Cardio fitness aids with heart and lung capacity, blood circulation and general fitness, all of these benefits will aid with muscle development.

The bottom line

As long as you eat well and don’t overdo it with the cardio, cardio will actually improve your anabolic muscle building ability.

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Weight Training Routines for Women

Weight Training Workout Routines for WomenThere are many benefits of weight training for women. However most women avoid it like the plague, because they see it as not feminine and not inline with their goals.

Most women believe that cardio is the way to achieve their weight loss goals or ideal body. They fail to realise the potential benefits of weight training on fat burning and overall health and fitness.

Why do many women avoid weight training?

The common belief most women have about weight training is that it’s a masculine activity aimed to achieve a muscular or bulky body (not feminine). Most women don’t seek a muscular or bulky look especially in the upper body.

Trust me when I say you don’t have to worry about becoming too manly as a result of weight training. It’s not easy to increase muscle mass to a noticeable amount especially for women. You are not going to wake up the next day after doing some weight training looking like a man. It just doesn’t happen that way so don’t worry about it.

Most women would find it very difficult perhaps even impossible to achieve a muscular or bulky physique due to the lack of the hormone testosterone and other genetic factors.

The benefits of weight training for women

  • Stronger Muscles. Now before you start saying things like “I don’t want big strong muscles”. Firstly strong muscles doesn’t mean muscular or bulky. Our muscles are incredibly important to our health, they allow us to move our bodies, lift objects and even pump blood around our bodies. Stronger muscles makes performing daily tasks easier it has nothing to do with being masculine or feminine.
  • Increased Metabolism. A little extra muscle will improve your bodies rate at which it burns calories, helping to burn that body fat and to keep it off.
  • Prevent injuries. Stronger muscles especially your core muscles leads to improved posture which will make us look better and can help to prevent injuries and problems in your lower back and hip area.
  • Stronger bones, tendons and ligaments. Helping to prevent fractures and ligament damage.
  • Confidence. Making yourself stronger therefore making yourself more physically capable and fitter will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin and improve your self-esteem.

There are in fact many more benefits that come from weight training but I recently published a page on the benefits so I won’t bother listing anymore. See the previous post if you would like to read more about the benefits.

Don’t neglect your upper body

Often women who perform resistance workouts neglect their upper bodies, when I do see women in the gym they are almost always training their lower half. Squats and inner thigh exercises being the most common I see.

To achieve all round fitness upper body exercises should also be included in your workouts. Workouts which target your whole body are proven to burn the most calories which means they have the best fat burning potential.

Don’t just hit the treadmill, running is great for your cardio vascular system, however alone it’s a very limited exercise. Running puts a lot of pressure on your knees and lower back. Running is a great exercise just don’t rely on it solely.

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Top 10 Benefits of Weight Training

Why should you weight train? If you’re like most people, you likely believe that the only reason anyone should weight train is to bulk up and gain bigger muscles. While it’s true that the right training regimen can lead to increases in muscle size and strength, the benefits of weight training go far beyond bulking up. Top 10 Benefits of Weight Training

10 Benefits of Weight Training

1. Optimal Fat Burning. Regular weight training helps you burn more fat even while you’re at rest. Lifting weights has been shown to increase the number of calories that a person can burn per day by 15%, and studies show that people who strength train burn fat at a faster rate than those who do not.

2. More Tone and Definition. Strength training improves the tone and definition of the muscles, creating a more sculpted physique. You’ll look better in short sleeves, shorts and your swimsuit when you weight train regularly.

3. Stronger Bones. Studies have found that weight training helps to improve bone mass, which can help to reduce the risk of fractures and the development of osteoporosis with age.

4. Better Posture. In order to stand up and sit straight, you need to engage many muscle groups. If these muscles aren’t strong enough to support your body, you can develop rounded shoulders and a hunched back. Regular strength training leads to gradual improvements in posture, which can have the added benefit of relieving back and neck pain.

5. Stress Relief. Lifting weights allows you to release physical tension from your body and can greatly lower stress levels. In addition, studies have found that brain chemicals released during strength training workouts can improve mood and ease symptoms of depression.

6. Healthier Heart. Strength training helps to condition the cardiovascular system over time, reducing your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Research shows that weight lifting can lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, reduce blood pressure levels and increase levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol to promote a healthy heart.

7. Less Risk of Disease. Science has shown that weight lifting on a consistent basis reduces one’s risk of developing many serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

8. Boosts the Immune System. Regular strength training workouts can improve the functioning of the immune system, so that your resistance to germs increases. Frequent workouts can greatly decrease your risk of developing colds and flu throughout the year.

9. Flexibility Gains. As you strengthen your muscles and the connective tissue with workouts, your flexibility will begin to improve. Not only will this make it easier for you to bend, twist and reach, but it also decreases the likelihood of straining a muscle when you’re completing chores or DIY jobs around the house.

10. Improved Performance. Weight training can help athletes improve their performance with enhanced endurance and the ability to make faster, more explosive movements. Even if you’re not an athlete, you’ll enjoy greater stamina and even improved mental clarity and focus from strength training regularly.

These are some of the many benefits of strength training that you can enjoy. Major results do take time, but you’ll begin noticing subtle improvements in your health, well-being and physique rather quickly.  

 

Working out while sick, should I do it?

Should you be working out while sick, or should you just be resting in bed, can exercise help you recover or will it actually make you worse.workout while sick

There are obviously different levels and kinds of sickness so it really depends on how sick you actually are. It also depends on what sort of workout you plan to do, for example, weight lifting, running, playing a sport and so on.

Cold or Flu Symptoms

If you just have a bit of a cold then there should be no reason why you can’t hit the gym like you normally would. However if things are a bit more serious like suffering from a fever then it is recommended to avoid the gym and rest. Fevers cause our body temperatures to rise and it can also cause dehydration, working out will only increase these symptoms, possibly making us even more sick. If you have a fever just rest and keep hydrated until the fever has passed.

It can be difficult for some of us to give the gym a miss, it becomes additive, a habit that is hard to break, however when sickness strikes sometimes we need to rest our bodies.

Sometimes a compromise will be the best solution, for example you may be feeling well enough to have a light workout. Your body may not be able to cope with your usual level of workout intensity, so a light workout may be suitable. You could reduce your workout time, use lighter than normal weights or go for a walk instead of the usual run.

If your sickness is effecting your breathing, bad chesty cough or a swollen or sore throat for example, then you should definitely give it a miss until the symptom subside.

Another reason to give the gym a miss would be because gyms are full of hot sweaty people which means they are full of germs. Your immune system may be weaker than normal because your body is fighting off your current illness. This may mean you are more susceptible to those germs which again could make your condition worse or lengthen the recovery process. It also poses a risk to your fellow gym members as you could be passing on your germs to them.

Personally I hate to miss a workout, but I was recently struck down by a cold with a fever and I didn’t exercise until those fever symptoms went.

I would recommend contacting your doctor if you are concerned, everybody’s situation and physical condition is different. Professional and personal advice is always recommended.

High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

High Intensity Interval TrainingHigh Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an intense but short method of training with workouts lasting anywhere from just a few minutes to around half an hour or longer, some pre designed workouts may last longer. HIIT is a combination of cardiovascular and resistance exercises, normally no equipment is needed to perform the workouts which is one of the reasons why they are so popular.

High Intensity Interval Training has been very popular lately in the world of fitness and fat loss with various different products and video programs being big sellers such as PX90 and the Insanity program.

High Intensity Interval Training workouts normally consist of a warm up period, followed by periods of high intensity and then recovery periods of medium to low intensity and then back to high intensity. For example you may perform a high intensity exercise for 20 seconds and then perform a rest period of low intensity exercises for 15 seconds and repeat, increasing or reducing the time periods as the workout progresses.

Benefits of HIIT workouts

  • Burning more fat, studies suggest that high intensity workouts are more effective for burning fat and increasing metabolic rates compared to medium intensity exercising for longer periods of time, for example brisk walking or moderate jogging on a treadmill.
  • Another great thing about these workouts is that you can perform them almost everywhere.
  • Good cardiovascular improvements, studies suggest that after just a few weeks of HIIT training that it is very effective for increasing heart and lung capacities.
  • No equipment is necessary, you don’t need to bother buying expensive workout equipment. You can find lots of HIIT workouts that don’t require exercise equipment.
  • Short workout and high intensity make them ideal for busy people wanting to improve their health and fitness. Simply put it is an efficient way of exercising.

Example HIIT workout exercises

  • Hip rotations
  • Press ups
  • Squats
  • Squat thrusts
  • Jumping jacks
  • Twists
  • Lunges
  • Jogging on the spot
  • Star jumps

Many of the exercises that you will find in High Intensity Interval Training workouts will be combinations and variations of these different exercises.

I am new to HIIT workouts myself and they are something that I am only just starting to get into. They seem to have many benefits and they are ideal for those of us with little free time to attend a gym. However they are as the name suggests intense workouts! a decent level of fitness is required to complete one of the these workouts properly which may be too much for some people. You may wish to start with a slightly less intense workout depending on your fitness levels.

If you are looking for free HIIT workouts simply search for them on you tube you will find many free workouts there.

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Healthy Weight Chart

healthy weight chartSo how much should we actually weigh? using a healthy weight chart can give us an idea or our ideal weight based on our height.

This page has a healthy weight chart which you can look over, it will give you a rough guideline of the weight you should be aiming for.

However the chart here has limits, just like the Body Mass Index it doesn’t take into account the amount of muscle somebody has. Body builders may be heavier than the recommended weight because of their extra muscle mass, they may also have a lower than average body fat percentage, so it may seem surprising to some when they are considered over weight by such measures.

If you are into body building don’t be concerned if you are above the listed ideal weight, however most experienced body builders will already be aware of this.

It’s a good idea to know your ideal body weight. Having that knowledge can help to keep these things in mind which can help us to keep track of our weight.

The below chart is only designed to be used by adults above the age of 18, anybody below that age should use a chart or body mass index calculator designed for children and for those who are still growing.

  • Those that are underweight the cause of this 9 times out of 10 is just simply you are not eating enough, however there can be other reasons. If you strongly believe you are eating plenty each day, at least matching your recommended daily calorie intake amount it may be a good idea to contact your doctor to see if something else is causing the below average weight.
  • Those within the normal weight range, this is obviously a good indicator which means that gaining or losing weight is not of the up most importance. However this doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t have a little too much body fat or too little muscle mass, it’s all down to personal preference and what you are happy with.
  • Lastly for those who are overweight, the cause of this most of the time is simply too little exercise and too much unhealthy eating. Being overweight has a few different levels which are simply known as Overweight, then we have Obese and very Obese. Sometimes weight gain can be caused by other reasons other than a lack of exercise and overeating. If you are in the obese range it would be a good idea to visit your doctor to make sure there are not other health factors contributing to any weight gains.

Height - Feet and InchesMaleFemale
5' 0"117 - 136102 - 125
5' 1"122 - 141107 - 130
5' 2"125 - 145111 - 134
5' 3"128 - 148115 - 139
5' 4"131 - 151118 - 141
5' 5"133 - 154121 - 145
5' 6"135 - 157124 - 147
5' 7"138 - 160126 - 149
5' 8"141 - 163128 - 152
5' 9"144 - 166131 - 154
5' 10"147 - 170134 - 158
5' 11"150 - 176137 - 162
6' 0"154 - 183140 - 167
6' 1"160 - 192143 - 170
6' 2"165 - 202146 - 174
6' 3"171 - 208149 - 178
6' 4"176 - 215152 - 182
6' 5"182 - 220155 - 187
6' 6"187 - 227
6' 7"192 - 233
6' 8"197 - 237
6' 9"202 - 242
6' 10"208 - 248

Just in case you didn’t realize the weights in the chart are listed in lbs.

Benefits of a Strong Core

benefits of a strong coreOur core muscles are very important and it’s sometimes an neglected area however our core is the foundation to a stable and strong body.

What muscles make up our core?

Abdominals, muscles of the lower back, hip and pelvis. Training and strengthening these muscles will help us to keep good posture which can lead to preventing injuries including back problems.

Exercises good for strengthening core muscles

There are various weight training and resistance exercises such as, Squats, Deadlift varieties, hyperextensions and of course any of the many abdominal exercises. There are many other forms of exercises such as planks and other limited movement static body weight exercises that are effective for strengthening our core.

Benefits of a strong core

  • Improved body posture
  • Less likely to suffer from injuries, including the lower back
  • Improved aerobatic and sporting performance
  • Improved overall strength, balance and stability
  • Daily activities will become easier
  • Better sporting performance
  • Strong core muscles will offer better protection to the spine and other vital areas

Tips to improve your core

  • Stand up and sit up straight, don’t slouch, slouching is very bad for our posture, slouching can undo some of the good work that we do via exercise.
  • Perform exercises that strengthen the core muscles, again these are the muscles of the lower back, abdominals, hip and pelvis area.
  • Train and strengthen each muscle of the core evenly, for example it’s common for people to focus on their abdominals and pay less attention to their lower back therefore resulting in an unevenly trained core and a less stable central area which could cause health and performance issues.
  • If you perform exercises such as the shoulder press you can perform this exercise either seated or standing. While seated your core is being party supported by whatever you are sitting on, however if you are standing your core muscles come more into play to stabilize your body therefore performing the exercise while standing helps to strengthen your core.

Static and Dynamic exercises

Both static and dynamic exercises are recommended for core strength, static exercises such as the plank and the side plank is recommended. Dynamic exercises such as various abdominal exercises, hyperextensions and its variants which target the lower back. Also compound resistance exercises such as the deadlift and squats are also ideal for core strength.

Core Flexibility

Maintaining core flexibility is also very important, various flexibility exercises such as the seated inner thigh stretch and the side lunge, most hamstring stretches also stretch the muscles of the lower back so they would be recommended as well as the standing side oblique stretch to name a few.

Always take care when performing any exercise and consult your doctor if you have any health problems.

What are the benefits of stretching?

what are the benefits of stretchingWhat are the benefits of stretching? Stretching can often be overlooked when it comes to fitness and bodybuilding, however stretching has many benefits.

Flexibility is one of the 5 components of physical fitness. Having good flexibility will have a positive effect on the other forms of exercise that you perform, including cardiovascular fitness and weight training.

What are the benefits of stretching?

Stress relief

Exercise in general is considered to be a good way of releasing stress and easing tension, and stretching is no exception to this. When we become tense or stressed our muscles tighten which can cause us to feel more uneasy, and performing some light stretching exercises helps to release that tension and ultimately makes us feel better. Stretching like other forms of exercise is thought to release endorphins, helping us to further feel better and more relaxed.

Improve your circulation

Stretching has been proved to increase blood circulation. Improved blood circulation means nutrients will be supplied to different parts of the body quicker, including the muscles. Improved circulation can help with muscle building, injury recovery and possibly even injury prevention. It can prevent or reduce muscle soreness and better removal of waste such as lactic acid from the body. Improved circulation can even result in us having higher energy levels as it allows more oxygen to be transferred to the muscles and around the body.

Improve motion of the joints and muscles

If you have a good range of motion then we can move better, it can also help us to maintain our balance which can also help us to prevent falls and injuries. Improved range of motion will also have an obvious effect on our sporting activities, running faster, jumping higher, reacting quicker and better recovery times.

Help to prevent lower back problems

Stretching and having good flexibility helps us to maintain good posture. Good posture is a good way to help keep lower back problems at bay. Stretching doesn’t just improve flexibility it can actually strengthen our muscles as well, further helping our bodies to stay strong and healthy.

As we age it becomes even more important to stretch, one of the effects of aging is that our muscles become shorter and tighter therefore limiting our movement and increasing the chance of injuries. Spending some time stretching really does make life easier and more comfortable, especially as we get older.

Stretching is a very natural thing, animals do it and we also do it unconsciously, and it also feels good. Help your body to stay active and healthy and dedicate a little extra time to performing some stretches a few times a week.

Just a word of warning! you can actually injury yourself while stretching, especially if your muscles are cold, because they are less flexible. Always make sure your muscles are warm before attempting to stretch them. Also don’t over stretch, you should feel discomfort from the stretch, but if that discomfort becomes a more serious pain, stop because you may be risking injury.

What is your Body Type?

what is your body typeThe three different body types are Endomorph, Mesomorph and Ectomorph. What is your body type? and depending on what body type you are, will you need to train differently or need some kind of special diet?

Ectomorph

This is the naturally thin body type, they have a thin bone structure, less muscle mass and they may find it hard to gain weight. They may have a faster than usual metabolism which burns calories quicker than normal.

Recommended workout style to gain weight would be weight training with lots of compound exercises to build those larger muscle groups. Compound exercises are always the best exercises to start with, but with Ectomorphs it makes it especially true.

Their diets should be higher in calories to support their weight gain, ideally these calories should come from healthy foods, supplements could be a nice way of boosting calorie and nutrient intake.

Endomorph

This is the largest of the body types, broader skeleton and overall a stockier build, they may find gaining body fat and muscle mass easier. Endomorphs could possibly have a slower metabolism than the other body types, however this is not always the case.

They may find it easy to gain weight but find it difficult to lose weight. Including cardio training combined with weight training would be a good idea to burn some extra calories. Endomorphs with slower metabolisms may need to be more careful with their calorie intake.

Mesomorph

This is the body type that falls into the middle of the other two, they have a broader skeleton than Ectomorphs but not as broad as Endomorphs. Mesomorphs are usually athletic, or they have the potential to develop athletic builds with good tone and definition. They can usually build muscle quickly, however they can also gain body fat if they consume too many calories. Weight training workouts will normally get good results, include some cardio to help keep that body fat percent low.

Some people are not necessary just restricted to one body type, they can be a combination of two of these body types. No matter what body type you are you can still achieve a great deal with the right training and a good balanced healthy diet.

There have been recent studies that suggest that our metabolisms only differ slightly. So if you are an Endomorph body type your metabolism may only be slightly slower than that of the other two body types, and perhaps not slower at all. So if you are an Endomorph and you are overweight, your Endomorph body type or your genetics may not be to blame.