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World’s Best Diet Part 6–Vegetarian/Vegan

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Vegetarian/Vegan

Claims: These diets claim to be healthier because they eliminate animal products as a food source.  Claims are vast and include: reducing cancer risk, improved bone health, lower mortality rates, protecting against chronic disease, etc.  Vegetarian diets are those which do not include flesh/meat of animals (though some do include fish) but will typically do include dairy and eggs.  Vegans on the other hand do not consume any products that come from animals (in some cases even excluding honey).

Reality: All of the claims from Vegans and Vegetarians on superiority for health come from correlative studies which do not control for confounding variables.  They simply take a survey and use correlations to draw conclusions.  Correlative research cannot draw conclusions, it can only direct us toward areas that need further study.  Of the 6 studies to ever look at health outcomes among vegetarians and vegans, 3 showed reduced mortality for meat eaters, while 3 showed reduced mortality for non-meat eaters.  The 3 studies that showed advantage to vegetarians all compared religiously motivated groups to general population (who tend not to be overly concerned about their health).

Pros: Tends to encourage the consumption of more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Cons: Often leads to inadequate amounts of protein being consumed.  Anytime entire food groups are removed, there is an increased risk of deficiencies.  In this case, the following nutrients may be compromised: B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Iodine.  Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it tends to fill you up more than fats or carbohydrates.  If protein levels drop, as is often the case in these diets, the chances of over consuming calories rises.  Low muscle mass levels are a risk due to inadequate protein intake.  In my experience, I have only met 2 (out of around 30) vegetarians over the last 20 years who were not either overweight and/or under muscled.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

Triathlon Success: Myofascial Management

Triathlon training is a vigorous and demanding athletic endeavor. The successful triathlete is often the one with the fewest injuries and the best recovery capacity.  Soft tissue mobilization with a roller helps decrease pain, improve mobility, and will speed up recovery between bouts of exercise.  Few of us can afford or dedicate the time to a daily massage.  The roller is the best do-it-yourself method of enhancing myofascial recovery.  Triathletes should begin every training session with five to ten minutes of roller work.

In the book, Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers describes the interconnected webs of fascia and muscles that move our joints and hold us upright.  The human body is not just isolated muscles, but rather a series of interconnected lines of muscles and fascia that are reliant on one another to produce efficient movement.  The mechanical stress created by a roller keeps the tissue lines sliding and gliding across one another.  It removes neural and mechanical inhibitors of movement and makes exercise easier.

More varieties of rollers have come on the market and whenever we are faced with a lot of choices, it becomes more difficult to make a decision.  In this short presentation, I have some suggestions on the proper roller for the job.

Rollers are available in three foot and one foot lengths.  I find the longer versions easier to use.  Bigger and taller athletes generally do not do well with a short roller.

The best roller for you will depend on your tissue tolerance or how sensitive you are to the compressive forces of the roller.  If you are new to foam rolling, a low density white foam roller is softer and will create less discomfort.  As you develop better tolerance to rolling, you can progress to a firmer black foam roll.  It has been my experience that the white rolls break down faster than the firmer black versions, so be prepared to replace a white roll fairly often.

Hollow, pipe style rollers are newer to the market and I have had good results with two products.  The Grid Trigger Point roller is a cushioned hollow pipe with a grid pattern across the surface of the roller.  Many smaller clients and patients report they like the short version of the Grid roller.  Another hollow pipe version is the Rumble Roller.  This product has a series of projections that extend from the roller surface.  Self-soft tissue mobilization with a Rumble Roller is more uncomfortable than any other roller I have used.   It is a more aggressive treatment, but I have found it works well for individuals with thicker and denser muscles.

So how often should you, a triathlete, use a roller?  I like to stay active, pain free, and maintain my posture, so I use a roller every day.  Physical therapy patients with painful myofascial restrictions may need to foam roll two or three times a day.  Including five to ten minutes of foam rolling prior to a training session is the preventative medicine that will keep you on the road and out of the doctor’s office.  Watch the video that accompanies this article and get going on a roller.

View video here: Roller Video

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

World’s Best Diet Part 5–The South Beach Diet

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

The South Beach Diet

Claims: The South Beach Diet says that its balance of good carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats makes it a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich diet that you can follow for a lifetime of healthy eating.  It focuses on eliminating “bad” carbs that are high on the glycemic index scale (meaning these foods increase blood sugar quickly when eaten in isolation).  The diet also encourages the consumption of monounsaturated fats, limiting “unhealthy” fats, and consuming whole grains and other fiber rich foods.  The diet is set up in 3 phases.  Phase 1 eliminates virtually all carbohydrates and is claimed to help eliminate cravings. Phase 2 re-introduces “healthy” carbs and is the weight loss phase.  Phase 3 is the maintenance phase where you continue to use what you learned to do in the first two phases, but other foods can also be eaten in moderation.

Reality: This is another sensible meal plan which allows for eating a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and variety of fat sources.  The only fault with this program is the emphasis on low glycemic carbohydrates.  The Glycemic Index is based on what foods do in isolation.  If other foods are eaten in conjunction with these items, the blood sugar response can be greatly altered.  On top of that, even if a food does rapidly increase blood sugar, it doesn’t inherently make it a poor food choice, and weight loss can still be achieved with these foods assuming portions are monitored.

Pros: Encourages lean protein consumption, fiber rich foods, whole grains, and variety of fat sources.

Cons: Creates an undue fear of certain types of carbohydrates and doesn’t directly advise on portion sizes.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

Ivy Rehab And The Linden First Try

Ivy Rehab is pleased to sponsor the First Try Triathlon held on June 16, 2018 from 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Byrum Lake’s Clover Beach.  The First Try Triathalon is a scaled down version of a full triathalon.  The physical therapists at Ivy will be sending out exercise information to help you train successfully for the First Try event.

Website:Click Here to Register

First Try Triathlon – 2018

300 yd Swim, 9.1 mi Bike, and 2 mi Run 
 
Saturday, June 16th, 2018
Welcome to the 8th annual FirstTry Triathlon, a triathlon designed specifically for first timers. 
 
If you are not a first time triathlete please sign up for the FastTry (includes age group awards), which is the competitive version of the FirstTry.  
Note:  The FirstTry has no age group awards but everyone gets a very cool medal.
 
The distance is what we call a Super Sprint (shorter than a sprint). 
 
The concept of the FirstTry is to offer a race that gives you the experience and fun of racing in a “real” triathlon without the intimidation factor. 
 
Let’s start by addressing many of the fears that first timers have:  
“I will drown” – The swim is a 150 yards out and 150 yards back, so if you can swim the distance of three football fields you can cover the distance. Freestyle, doggy paddle, whatever is comfortable! You will start in waves, or small groups, which will allow us to put enough people in the water with you to give you the feeling of what the triathlon swim is about, without the fear of someone swimming over your back.  There will be a “course talk” at the beginning of the race to answer your questions.  There will be a regatta of lifeguards and kayaks if you decide you need a rest.
“I don’t have a clue what to do in a…what is it called again, Transition”? – Transition will be staffed with “coaches” who will help you set up and answer your questions about what to do in transition.  They can point you in the right direction and discretely help you (note: don’t get naked in transition). Transitions will also be taught during our clinic series which you can sign up for when you register for the race.
“I will get lost or crash on the bike” – The bike course is only 9 miles long and is mostly pancake flat with some small hills. There are only four turns and the course will be heavily marshaled so you will know what to do.
“I can’t run” – The 2 mi run course is an “out and back” on the bike trail in Linden County Park.  You will run and/or walk one mile, turn around, and head back to finish your first real triathlon.
“I will be last” – You won’t be last.  We have someone officially assigned to be last.  This person is designated at the ‘lantern rouge’, or the red lantern.

Byram Lake’s Clover Beach
Linden Country Park
15349 S. Linden Road
Linden, MI 48451

Course Description
Swim – Easy 300 yard out-and-back swim in Byram Lake.  The water temperature will be between 75 and 80 degrees F.  WARM, COMFORTABLE, SAFE.  Athletes who feel uncomfortable swimming may request the services from any of the number of kayaks that will be lining the course.

Bike – 9.1 mile loop starting from the transition area located at the beach parking lot at Linden County Park.  The bike course will head north on Linden Rd (Bridge St), go though town, and turn right on Rolston Rd toward Jennings Rd.  You will then turn left (North) on Jennings Rd and head to Lahring Rd.  At Lahring Rd you will turn left (West) and continue on Lahring Rd to Linden Rd.  You’ll make a final left turn (South) Linden Rd, go past Rolson Rd, through town, and back to Linden County Park to the transition area.

Run – 2 miles out and back from the transition area onto the bike path, toward the turn around at soccer fields.

World’s Best Diet Part 4–IIFYM

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

 

Claims: The IIFYM diet approach shares many characteristics with Zone and Weight Watchers.  It has its roots from the bodbuilding.com forums back in the 2004-2008 time.  At this time, many forum posters would routinely ask if it was ok to eat a given food while dieting and trying to decrease body fat.  There was a notion (and still is) that certain foods are totally off limits and ignorance of the role of energy balance and protein intake on success.  IIFYM can be different for everyone, but the basic premise is the same.  You have a certain target for total calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat that you need to hit to be successful with your weight loss goals.  As long as those numbers are hit, then the food quality and micronutrients don’t matter.

Reality: If you hit a given caloric intake target below your maintenance intake needs for long enough, you will absolutely lose weight, regardless of food quality.  If you  hit a certain protein intake this will ensure that you are less likely to lose muscle mass in the process.  Carbohydrate and fat intakes will be dictated by food preference and performance goals.  There have been countless case studies proving that calorie intake is king ( Twinkie Diet , McDonald’s Diet , 100 Day Ice cream Diet ).

Pros: Allows lots of dietary flexibility.  Gives protein minimums.  Encourages accurate tracking of foods and quantity.

Cons: Potentially ignores food quality and micronutrient intake.  Many people have taken this approach as a pass to eat low nutrient foods as long as they are hitting their targets.  Can leave people feeling trapped if they can’t accurately measure or track a food at a social event or restaurant.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

Spring Trap

Preventing Gardener’s Trauma

After a long, snowy Michigan winter, the first warm and sunny day, we charge outside and clean up the yard.  The months snow bound in the house have made the gardeners eager to start the spring clean up and prepare for the summer to come.  Most of us will spend the winter in a fairly sedentary physical state and with no physical preparation to launch into hours of challenging outdoor work activity.  Every year at our clinics, we treat patients with gardening and yard work induced injuries that could have been prevented with some modifications of activity and preventative exercise.  These are my four hints to help safeguard my gardener friends from an unintended trip to the doctor’s office.

#1: Set a Time Limit.

Most of the patients we see with gardener trauma report that they worked “all afternoon” in the yard.  It is not uncommon to hear patients report they were bending, pushing, or pulling for five or six hours.  Use some caution and limit the duration of your weeding, raking, and shoveling.  Set a time limit of two hours and then stop–the garden will be their tomorrow and you will be less likely to have to undergo a springtime MRI.

#2: Use Proper Ergonomics.

Many gardening tasks place your body in challenging positions.  Ergonomic experts go to great lengths to eliminate forward trunk flexion and sustained knee flexion from industrial work settings.  Pulling weeds and cleaning out flowerbeds combines both of these positions and can create mechanical back and knee pain.  Avoid being in the “hands and knees” position for extended periods of time by changing positions frequently.  Use knee pads to reduce compressive forces on the knee joints and purchase gardening tools with extended handles so that you need not bend as far or as often.

#3: Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects.

After a sedentary winter spent indoors watching television and knitting, the last thing you should attempt is to hoist the 40 lb. bag of fertilizer into the back of the wheelbarrow. Lifting injuries increase dramatically with loads greater than 25 pounds.  Lifting any object from the floor to standing is risky, and carrying unstable loads that can shift around increases stress on the body.  Divide heavy loads into smaller portions and avoid lifting directly off the floor.  Get a bigger, stronger, and fitter neighbor or family member to help with heavy lifting tasks.

#4: Prepare For Battle.

Gardening and yard work are challenging tasks that should be met with a degree of preparation.  If you want to work for five hours in the garden and remain pain free, you must train your body for that level of activity.  I have selected three simple exercises you can do to get yourself ready for action in the yard.  Simple modification of ergonomics, limitations on work duration, and preparatory exercise can prevent a summer of pain.

Getting Ready To Toil In The Soil.

These three exercises can help you avoid injury and make your spring gardening safer and more productive.  Ideally you will perform these drills three times a week for two or three weeks before getting outside and working.

Hip Flexor Stretches

This stretch elongates the large muscle that runs across the front of the hip and attaches to the spine.  This region tends to tighten with prolonged sitting and can restrict hip and spinal motion.  Place one knee up on a cushioned chair and the other foot slightly forward on the floor.  Keep the spine tall and bend the front knee to stretch the hip flexor muscles.  Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat five times.  Perform the stretch on the other side.

Four Point Fold Ups

If you are going to spend time on all fours, it is a good idea to train your body for this task.  Assume a four-point position, knees under the hips and hands under the shoulders.  Keep the hands stationary and drop the hips back toward the heels.  Go back to the point you feel a stretch and hold–do not stretch into pain.  You may feel this in your hips, shoulders, lower back, or upper back.  Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat five times.

Bodyweight Squats

Gardening and yard work involves a lot of squatting.  Being able to safely squat allows you to lift with better body mechanics.  Simple bodyweight squats will strengthen the legs and trunk in preparation for these tasks.  Place your feet at least shoulder width apart.  Check the foot width with a full length mirror– most people squat with the feet too close together.   Keep the heels flat on the floor and squat down by pushing the hips back.  Work on maintaining balance and control during the motion.  Practicing this movement pattern will also improve your flexibility.  Perform a series of ten repetitions and then rest and perform another set of ten.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

World’s Best Diet Part 3–Weight Watchers

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Weight Watchers

Claims: Weight Watchers markets itself as being flexible and livable.  They assign food points based on their “Smart Points System”.  They encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and discourage the consumption of sugar and unhealthy fats with this points system.  They even list 200 different foods as being “zero points foods”.  They encourage tracking of food and claim to be successful at helping people achieve long term sustainable weight loss.

Reality: Tracking your food intake in any way is usually helpful when it comes to weight loss–if done accurately.   The points system is really just a complicated marketing scheme similar to simply tracking calories, which anyone can do on their own for free.  There are no zero foods in existence that have no caloric impact, so the notion of “zero points” foods is ludicrous.  Any food eaten in excess can and will slow weight loss and/or lead to weight gain.  Every person I’ve ever met who was a lifelong Weight Watchers client had success with the program, but was 40+ pounds overweight..

Pros: Allows for dietary flexibility which should improve long term adherence.  Requires tracking of food and portion sizes.  If you opt into monthly meetings, there is an accountability factor built into it.

Cons: No minimum requirement given for protein intake.  Allows certain foods to be eaten with no limit.  Not a good long term success rate (think Oprah’s weight swings).

 

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 2–The Zone Diet

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

The Zone Diet

Claims: The Zone diet was built around the idea of keeping your macronutrients in a specific ratio.  The prescription is 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein.  There aren’t as many robust claims with the zone diet that you find with many other trendy diets out there.

Reality: The Zone diet is a sensible diet approach.  Most Americans tend to overeat carbohydrates, and sometimes fat, and under eat protein.  This approach increases protein intake and typically reduces carbohydrate and overall calorie intake.  If calories are reduced, then this diet will work.  The simple act of giving people macronutrients  forces them to track their food intake, which in and of itself often reduces intake.  We typically recommend carbohydrate intakes of 35-60%, fat intake of 15-30%, and protein intake of 20-35%.  As you can see the Zone approach fits this nicely.

Pros: Doesn’t take any food off the table entirely.  Allows flexibility with food choices.  Tends to increase protein intake in most people.  Creates awareness of food intake and requires monitoring intake.

Cons: Doesn’t directly require attention to overall caloric intake.  Ignores micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals) and food quality isn’t necessarily monitored.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

How To Start Working Out

*How to Start Working Out, is a great article by Anahad O’Connor.  Most media articles on developing the fitness habit are fairly flawed, but Mr. O’Connor has done well.  I am encouraged because he discusses two of the more important aspects of fitness success: process goals and strength training.

Process Goals

Developing and maintaining the fitness habit is a motivational mind game.  Having a goal provides the emotional reinforcement necessary to be successful.  Most fitness clients set outcome goals—they want to lose twenty pounds, get stronger, or run a 5 kilometer race in record time.  Outcome goals are achieved through proper nutrition and consistent training.  Outcome goals are achieved through the development of a better life process.  I try to steer clients toward process goals—eat more protein, sleep better, daily mobility sessions, etc…  Process goals are the building blocks of fitness success and focus on your life outside of the gym.  Setting and achieving process goals creates the environment for achieving nearly everyone’s outcome goals.  Stronger, leaner, pain free, and faster will all follow when you have better life processes working in your favor.

Every expert on habit development recommends a paper and pen.  Writing it down is part of the commitment to fitness.  Record your process goals in an exercise log book or a nutrition diary.  Process goals that have worked well for fitness clients are listed below.

-Perform a daily five minute foam roll / mobility session for the next forty days.

-Weigh every serving of food you consume for the next two weeks.

-Take a thirty-minute walk for forty consecutive days.

-Get an extra hour of sleep every night for the next two months.

-Drop all sweetened drinks (juice, soda, sports drinks) for three months.

-Learn how to prepare a new healthy meal every week for six months.

Older, deconditioned, and metabolically challenged fitness clients will develop the fitness habit more readily with a dedication to process goals.  Build on the habits created by achieving ever more challenging process goals and you will reach all of your outcome goals.

Strength Training

When you get stronger, the magic happens.  It is really that simple.  If you want to be leaner—get stronger.  If you want to chase away the pain—get stronger.  If you want to improve your performance—get stronger.  If you want to prevent injuries—get stronger.  If you want to be active and vital into old age—get stronger.  The problem is that many barriers exist to the strength solution.

For best results, we need to start early.  An adequate strength level keeps you functioning well for a lifetime.  If in your early years, you were fairly sedentary, you need to get busy and strength train.  As we age, we lose a portion of our lean tissue, and if you have less muscle and bone “in the bank” you will reach your fifties and sixties in a weak and frail body.  Age related sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) is one of the primary drivers of metabolic problems such as diabetese, hyperlipidemia, and chronic inflammation.  Today’s children are growing up with fewer episodes of bone and muscle building lifting and carrying activities.  I see teens nearly every day with lower back, knee, and hip pain all related to glaring strength deficits.

A lack of proper coaching and progressive programming are barriers to your strength training success.  Strength training is like medicine; given the proper prescription and dose, the results are consistently good.  Many of the people that have tried strength training and had bad results have taken the wrong medicine at the wrong dose.  They utilize advice from magazines, celebrity trainers, and the internet.  They confuse pharmaceutically assisted bodybuilding programs as appropriate strength training for a forty year old.  The best results are achieved when you work closely with a qualified coach who can monitor your results and teach you how to get stronger.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS< CSCS

*New York Times, Health Section, Anahad O’Connor, How to Start Working Out. View here.

Training For Less Fat, More Muscle

How To Induce A Growth Hormone Response

Human growth hormone (hGH) has been a newsmaker because of athletes’ illicit use of synthetic versions of this hormone to help them perform better on the baseball diamond, football field, or bicycle race.  Bodybuilders inject synthetic hGH to help sink bodyfat levels to single digits, all the while maintaining optimal muscle mass. The last ten years of exercise science has shown what type of fitness activities induce the greatest natural growth hormone response.  Specific exercise and recovery activities have a positive effect on our body’s daily hGH production.

Human growth hormone (hGH) is secreted in a pulsatile fashion throughout the day.  A number of physiological stimuli can initiate hGH release, the most powerful of which are sleep and exercise.  Human growth hormone has many varied roles throughout your life.  For adult athletes and fitness clients, hGH helps increase fat metabolism–you get leaner, enhance muscle recovery from challenging exercise or injury, you stay stronger, and produce a healthier body composition as you age.

Resistance Training

Resistance training produces a significant exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) that can last for 24 to 36 hours.  The response is greatest with full body training sessions that involve multi joint lifts and carries.  EIGR is not limited to traditional barbell or dumbbell training, but is also produced with the performance of bodyweight resistance training.  The post training hGH response gets better as the trainees became more proficient (gets stronger) with strength training.

Anaerobic Exercise

The exact mechanism that causes EIGR with anaerobic exercise is not known, but it appears to be related to higher lactic acid levels in the blood.  The activities that produce the greatest EIGR are high intensity exercise intervals lasting at least 30 seconds.  The researchers’ current recommendations for optimal EIGR are six to eight 30 second intervals of high intensity activity.  Bicycle sprints have been the most commonly used exercise modality in research studies, but other activities can be used as long as your joints and muscles can tolerate the stress.  Treadmill, stairclimber, rower, as well as track sprints and hill runs are good interval training choices.

Sleep

Human growth hormone is released in response to our natural circadian rhythms.  If your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, the cyclical release of hGH is blunted.  Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important for optimal hGH production.  Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before retiring to sleep.   Falling asleep and waking at consistent times creates more consistent hGH blood levels.  Just a few nights of interrupted or decreased sleep duration have been shown to reduce fat metabolism, slow muscle recovery, reduce insulin sensitivity, and decrease hGH levels.

Natural HGH Production Activity

Inducing optimal human growth hormone production is easy:  Get adequate and consistent sleep.  Every week, perform two or three high intensity interval style training sessions for six to eight sets of 30 seconds duration.  Two or three times a week perform a full body strength training program made up of full body multi joint exercises.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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