The Impact of Stress on Gut Health

Navigating the impact of the global pandemic on our daily lives has caused many of us to experience significant amounts of stress. Stress can stimulate a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being. 

Many of us have tried different avenues to relieve the burden of stress, such as meditating, disengaging from social media, and exercising in your converted living rooms to home gyms. The impact that stress has on your overall health and wellness cannot be understated.   

Stress can contribute to the breakdown of the intestinal walls allowing bacteria to slip through and cause inflammation. An interruption of nutrient absorption can occur causing an increase in gas production and discomfort. While short term (acute) stress can slow digestion, long term (chronic) stress can cause GI distress such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, indigestion or upset stomach. Chronic stress can lead to more serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome and other GI disorders. 

The Gut Microbiome

Your gastrointestinal tract is home to the human microbiome, the genome of all our microbes. The human microbiome is composed of a community of bacteria which serves a critical function in the development of immunity, defense against pathogens, production of short-chain fatty acids important in energy metabolism, and synthesis of vitamins and fat storage. In fact, because of the impact the microbiome has on the human body, it is considered an essential organ of the body, without which we could not function correctly (1). 

Factors That Shape the Gut Microbiota

A healthy human gut can host up to at least 1000 different species of bacteria, viruses and fungi. This complex ecosystem is influenced by numerous factors including age, genetics, drug use, stress, smoking, and diet (2). In fact, the composition of your microbiome gains it’s diversity and complexity starting at birth – exposure (or non-exposure) of bacteria in the birth canal during vaginal birth, being bottle fed or breastfed – and is further developed as we age and interact with our environment – living with a dog, cat, or close to farm animals, the number of antibiotic treatments administered, and environmental toxin exposure.

Stress and Its Effects

In response to physical and mental stress, the body, specifically the adrenal glands, release a hormone called cortisol (3). Cellular cortisol receptors help to regulate blood sugar and metabolism, reduce inflammation, and formulate memory. When you experience stress, your body shifts into a “fight or flight” response, triggering the sympathetic nervous system. Cortisol helps to limit any functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation. Instead of crumbling under the weight of stressful moments, tasks or events, our body’s built in response helps us to cope with the stress and eventually return back to homeostasis. 

When experiencing constant state stress as you might be now during this pandemic, your cortisol levels can remain high which may lead to adrenal fatigue, gastrointestinal distress and premature aging. In fact, specifically in regards to digestive health, short term (acute) stress can slow digestion, long term (chronic) stress can cause GI distress such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, indigestion or upset stomach. All of this stress can weaken the intestinal barrier, allowing gut bacteria to enter the body causing inflammation.

Additional signs and symptoms of high cortisol levels include:

  • Rapid weight gain around the face, abdomen and chest
  • Flushed face
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in skin – thinning skin, easy bruising, acne
  • Slowed healing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches

What Can We Do?

Well, being more mindful of our digestive health can help. Digestive health represents vital physiological processes which are central to overall well-being and quality of life; it’s important to help keep us feeling our best.  

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Reduce stress by taking breaks from upsetting content coming from the news, social media or a close friend/family member. Just turn it off and turn on something that brings positive energy into your life. Try some gentle yoga, mediation or going for a walk to help to relieve your stress and create more mindful, restorative moments. Reduce tension and relieve stress with breathing exercises. Breathe deeply to relax and bring more calm to your day.  

Move Your Body

Regular exercise releasing endorphins – yup those feel good hormones – that help to boost energy levels and help you to maintain a positive attitude. Do exercises that you love, whether it’s lifting weights, running, playing tennis or football tag with the family. Keeping your body moving will help support your energy levels and reduce stress. Aim for both 150 minutes of aerobic moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (4)

Consume Prebiotics + Probiotics

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are living microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts, must confer a health benefit (5). Probiotics work with your gut microbiota (the trillions of bacteria living in your intestine) to break down non-digestible components of your diet to produce beneficial substances (such as vitamins or short-chain fatty acids), help with nutrient absorption, and out-compete the potentially harmful bacteria (6).

Regular consumption of probiotics can work together with your gut microbiota to help support digestive health, improve the bacteria makeup in the gut microbiome and create the ideal environment for more good bacteria to flourish and support digestion. Probiotics are commonly found in dairy and plant-based versions of yogurt + kefir; some fermented foods (kombucha, kimchi) and supplements. Simply check the label for LIVE CULTURES.

Prebiotics are the nutrients in food that nourish the microbiome in your body. They are commonly found in complex carbohydrates, such as apples, oats, beans, bananas, and peas. Consuming prebiotics will help stimulate the healthy bacteria and maintain gut health.

Up Your Fiber Game & Hydrate Like A Boss!

Be sure to hydrate and get enough fiber in your diet to further improve digestion. 

Hydration plays an important role in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract. Drinking water and ingesting fiber helps to dissolve nutrients so that they may be absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the cells. Insufficient hydration will slow the digestive process and chronic poor hydration can lead to constipation.

Making an effort to drink more water can help make your bowel movements easier to pass, keeping you regular. Daily fluid requirements vary by age, but generally, otherwise healthy adults should aim to drink 25-30 ml per kg of bodyweight to remain hydrated daily. 

Fiber plays an important role in gut health by fueling healthy gut microbiota and helping regulate bowel movements, keeping them soft and regular (7). Dietary fiber is the part of plant-based food that mostly passes through your digestive system without breaking down or being digested. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. 

Soluble fiber is the main type of fiber found in grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, fruits & vegetables. When digested it pulls in and absorbs water, partially dissolving into a gel-like substance, which slows down digestion. Conversely, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and passes through the digestive tract pretty much intact, adding bulk to our stool. Insoluble fiber can help improve various digestive symptoms associated with irregular bowel movements. 

The daily recommendation for fiber is 25g of fiber for women and 35g for men. Get fierce with fiber by including non-starchy vegetables, complex carbohydrates and fruits into your daily meals. One easy way to include fiber is to level up your breakfast by adding chia seeds and berries in your oatmeal. 

The Takeaway

Managing stress is important in maintaining a healthy gut and improving our overall health. Daily stress is inevitable, but you can utilize techniques to help minimize the effects of stress on our gut health. Staying hydrated and consuming probiotics/prebiotics, and high-fiber foods will improve gut health by aiding in digestion and supporting regular bowel movements. Reducing stress by practicing relaxation techniques and getting regular exercise will also keep your digestive system running as it should. Remember, you can’t always avoid stress, but you can take steps to deal with stress in a positive way. 

#LiveNourished

Sleepiness and Fatigue Post-Workout: Good or Bad?

 

Woman Laying On Bed

Photo: Unsplash/Vladislav Muslakov

Worn Out After Your Workout?

Regular physical activity helps boost your energy levels by increasing your heart rate and blood flow which in turns helps you to feel more awake. So since this is the case, you’re probably wondering how you could possibly feel sleepy after your workout. Well, it is common to feel some fatigue post-workout, especially after a high-intensity sweat sesh where you are expending a lot of energy; however, there are many other factors that may contribute to sleepiness after a daily workout. The fatigue you experience post workout could be a sign that you are not treating your body as well as you should. 

What’s Up With the Post Workout Sleepiness?

Your energy level after exercise depends on many factors including your current fitness level, the type, duration and intensity of exercise, your diet, your level of hydration, and how much sleep you obtained the night before. Post-workout sleepiness is the body’s natural reaction to physical activity. Muscle contractions are produced using adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that provides energy to the cells. During exercise your muscles contract, depleting energy stores. Decreased levels of ATP result in a reduction in your muscle’s ability to function leading to muscle fatigue. When your routine is too strenuous, the demand for ATP is higher, and it can leave your energy reserves depleted (2). That’s why you may feel extreme fatigue after an especially grueling training session.

Feeling a bit tired is normal and that fatigue is your body’s way of telling you it needs rest and nutrients to rebuild your muscles and reenergize so you are ready for your next workout.

Brain Drain

The neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are released in response to exercise which help regulate mood. Increased levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being (1). A flood of dopamine into the brain creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behavior. Norepinephrine produced through exercise also helps to improve alertness and energy. 

However, the increased release of neurotransmitters can actually reduce your central nervous system’s (CNS) capacity to activate muscles during exercise leading to central fatigue (2). During physical activity, the CNS repetitively fires signals to activate your muscles during your workouts. This repetitive firing can become less charged the longer you workout. Both of these things can leave you tired and ready to take a nap. 

Beat Post-Workout Fatigue with Proper Nutrition & Adequate Sleep

Although the intensity of your workout may be triggering fatigue, the cause may lie in your routine before your workout. Post-workout fatigue can be caused by dehydration, lack of sleep or undernourishment, which together hinder muscle recovery. Experts at Harvard’s Healthy Sleep website and the National Sleep Foundation believe that ignoring one of the three pillars of health – diet, exercise and sleep – could cause the other two to suffer.

Significant differences can be seen in the mood, concentration and mental skills of those hydrated versus those in a mildly dehydrated state. Research shows that dehydration causes headache symptoms, loss of focus, fatigue and low mood at rest and during exercise (3). Multiple studies confirmed that an increase in tiredness and a decline in alertness and concentration was associated with a mean dehydration level of 2.6% body mass loss. It is also interesting to note that a wide variety of mood states such as vigor, perception of task difficulty and fatigue are affected at a dehydration level of 1.36% body mass loss which can occur very quickly if you are not properly hydrating before and during exercise (3). 

Sufficient sleep is critical to our overall health and sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on athletic performance. There are proven negative effects of sleep deprivation including impaired reaction time, reduced accuracy, decreased vigor, submaximal strength and decreased endurance (4). Some of your cognitive functions may also be affected such as judgement or decision-making. Most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep per night and studies show that negative effects are seen with just 2-4 hours less sleep per night. Some experts find that those who are sleep deprived may not only experience poor performance during peak exercise but also crave unhealthy foods that promote weight gain (4). 

Food is the fuel that is broken down into energy that you require for exercise. If you are fueling your body that lacks nutrient density, you are depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to perform optimally. So, you will not only want to make sure you’re staying hydrated, but also fueling your body throughout the day with nutrient dense foods such as non-starchy vegetables, clean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. And of course, we all know sleep is SO important. 

What’s the Takeaway?

It is always important to listen to your body. After a strenuous workout, you are physically stressing your body and will need to replenish with water, nutrients and rest to recover. Feeling a bit tired is normal and that fatigue is your body’s way of telling you it needs rest and nutrients to rebuild your muscles and reenergize so you are ready for your next workout. However, if you are having to get right back into bed post-workout, you are most likely sleep deprived, or not taking care of your body as well as you could. This level of fatigue may also be because you are engaging in an activity that is too strenuous for your fitness level. In rare cases, fatigue or exhaustion may be the result of a medical condition. If you have any medical symptoms in addition to your exhaustion after exercising, contact your doctor. 

#LiveNourished 

Masked Running – Yeah or Nah?

How does running with a mask impact your performance?

I’ve been a long distance runner for as long as I can remember. While I  love running on a treadmill, I do enjoy running outdoors. So when gyms closed and the ‘stay at home’ order was implemented in Los Angeles, I thought, “No, problem I strength indoors and I’ll get my cardio in by running outdoors.” 

I’ve been running 5-7 miles outdoors, two to three times per week since March 17th. I feel I have been doing a good job keeping distance between myself and other pedestrians while I’m running outside. Recently the mayor required all Angelenos to wear face covering when they leave the house to slow the spread of COVID-19. DREAD!

Since this order was executed, I’ve decreased my time running outdoors because frankly I don’t want to wear a mask while I run. For anyone who’s done it, you’ll know how uncomfortable it is. Masked running definitely takes getting used to because you have to work harder to get the same amount of air into the lungs. 

But running with a mask on is not a new phenomenon. Elevation training masks have long claimed to improve lung capacity and oxygen efficiency by simulating high-altitude conditions. In fact, running with a cloth face covering may have its benefits. Since your lungs have to work harder to get the same amount of air they are used, overtime this effort could strengthen your lungs and diaphragm giving your respiratory system a boost. 

“I hate that my mask gets damp when I run.” Yea, this sucks doesn’t it. What you can do is try nasal breathing as it expels less droplets than mouth breathing, which could keep your mouth drier. And bonus – your nasal pathways are designed to filter allergens and foregin bodies out of the air before they reach the lungs. 

Nasal breathing takes some getting used to,  and can become challenging as your intensity increases. If you are a serious runner, dedicated to your running routine, try practicing nasal breathing throughout the day and not just on runs so you can get used to the feeling. This way you’ll begin to condition the lungs for what they will experience during exercise. 

#LiveNourished
Stephanie

What is the Low FODMAP Diet? Does it work for IBS?

High FODMAP alert! Cauliflower pizza w/ asparagus

The low FODMAP diet may be the answer to your digestive issues

Recently, Instagram has been inundated users posting contrasting images of their bodies at various points throughout the day. Typically the first picture would show an athletic, toned abdominal section and the second picture depicts how that same region looks after experiencing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. It definitely is refreshing to see so many individuals honestly showing up on Instagram, sharing their issues with gut health. Gastrointestinal distress is common for many people so today we are discussing IBS and how the low FODMAP diet may provide relief from IBS symptoms.

IBS— What is it?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID) which affects the large intestine. FGIDs are disorders of gut-brain interactions, which affects how your body works. With IBS foods may move too slowly or too fast through your digestive tract which in turn will affect your bowel movements. IBS is a not a disease, therefore is does not have a clear cause; however, allergies, lactose intolerance, a low-fiber diet, eating large meals, high-fat foods or stress may play a role.  As per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, studies estimate the 10 to 15 of adults suffering from IBS.

To be considered clinically as someone who suffers IBS, you will have to had symptoms consistent with Rome IV criteria (1). Typical symptoms occurring in individuals with IBS include abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits without any pathological abnormality of the intestinal wall— meaning you shouldn’t have any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract. IBS is a chronic condition which will have to be managed long term.

There are four types of IBS that are differentiated by changes in your bowel movements.  The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) has done a fantastic job at defining these types of IBS.  Follow this link to find descriptions of all four.

Vegan Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

High FODMAP alert! Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Since FGIDs cause problems within your brain-gut interaction it would be beneficial to work toward alleviating the symptoms of IBS while maintaining a healthy gut micro biome.  Two quick solutions would be to take a probiotic, eat more fiber and hydrate properly. There are lifestyle changes you can make which include managing stress and anxiety through yoga or mediation, increasing physical activity and getting adequate sleep.  Additionally, you can follow a special eating plan called the low FODMAP diet.

What is the Low FODMAP Diet? Does it work for IBS?

FODMAPs stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Here are some foods that represent each FODMAP:

Fructans: garlic, onion, wheat
Fructose: fruit, honey, oranges, apples
Galactans: legumes such as beans and lentils
Lactose: dairy (milk, ice cream and yogurt)
Polyols: stone fruits such as peach plums and gasp! avocados & sugar alcohols such as sorbitol

So why is a low FODMAP diet a solution to your IBS symptoms? In those individuals suffering from IBS, these sugars are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, and fermented by gut bacteria in the colon causing flatulence and bloating through increased gas production and distention of the colon wall (2).

The low FODMAP diet alone won’t completely alleviate your IBS symptoms; however, it has been proven to be more effective than other standard dietary interventions in improving general symptoms and quality of life (2); however, researchers notes that more evidence is needed in this area. A low FODMAP diet could be potential first line approach combined with psychological and pharmacological treatment.

Homemade Popcorn – Perfect Low FODMAP food!

How do I start a low FODMAP diet?

Remember that the low FODMAP diet is not a “one size fits all” solution.  Work with your dietitian to eliminate foods which are causing you distress and find alternatives to ensure that the diet is nutritionally adequate.

Phase 1

Identify FODMAP foods and follow strict restriction for 4 to 6 weeks. Essentially, you want to find the the amount of FODMAP foods you can tolerate.  Work with your dietician to eliminate foods which are causing you distress and find alternatives to ensure that the diet is nutritionally adequate.

Phase 2

Reintroduction.  Foods restricted in phase 1 are slowly reintroduced and a long term way of eating is established. The overall goal is to identify the type and amount of FODMAPs that can be tolerated so that the end result is a diet lower in the problematic FODMAPs where maximum variety is achieved.

Note:  Please consult your primary care physician (PCP) and registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) before beginning this diet.

Hopefully this article provided you with some knowledge with which you can use to consult your physician and dietitian.  Be on lookout for a specific Carter Hall Lifestyle PDF with all of the FODMAPs listed to help you in grocery shopping and daily meal prep.

#LiveNourished

References:

1 – Simren, Magnus, et al. “Update on Rome IV Criteria for Colorectal Disorders: Implications for Clinical Practice.” Current Gastroenterology Reports, vol. 19, no. 4, 2017, doi:10.1007/s11894-017-0554-0.

2 – Varjú, Péter, et al. “Low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAP) diet improves symptoms in adults suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) compared to standard IBS diet: A meta-Analysis of clinical studies.” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0182942.

Welcome to the Living Room!

Everything included in this section is something that I am “Living For!” Get it? Each month I will touch on the some of the products, places and people that have helped me to maintain health and wellness as it relates to topics were are discussing this month on the site. I would love to know what you’re living for this month, look out for opportunities to share what you are “Living for!” on my instagram.

And remember to always #LiveNourished


Nourish + Balance

Vejo – https://www.vejo.com/

Made for you: The world’s first portable, pod-based blender. Bringing you healthy nutrition on the go. This perfect small travel blender is perfect for your active life. Nutritious smoothies are blended by you, anywhere and everywhere, in just 30 seconds. To make a blend, all you do is fill your Vejo full of cold water, pop one of Vejo’s signature blends into the blender, and put the cap on until you hear a click – this automatically triggers 30 seconds of blending. Now you’re ready to refuel and nourish your body in under a minute. 

Here’s why I’m living for this! –  Vejo’s signature blends are great to take the guesswork out of figuring out which smoothie to have at which time of the day. You’ll also save on prep time as these smoothies are ready to go in under one minute. And did I mention the cost savings of not having to buy as much produce and protein powder! These nutrient packed pods have everything you need and are ready to fuel your day. 

Vejo’s performance blends will help fuel you pre- and post-workout. These blends are gluten free, soy free, and dairy free with only 5g of sugar per serving. I especially love that these blends are packed full amino acids, adaptogenic herbs, B vitamins, as well as other vitamins and minerals which aid in both preparing for and recovery from your workouts.

In addition to performance blends, Vejo has pods specially packed full of plant based protein. As a vegetarian and sometimes vegan, I appreciate that included blends with both plant based based protein and whey. These blends are also gluten free, soy free, and dairy free (with the exception of whey) with no sugar added! And at 100 calories and 7 grams of protein per servings, these blends shake up well for breakfast or an afternoon snack. 


Sweat + Sculpt

Bala Bangles – https://shopbala.com/

Add a constant but comfortable resistance to your workout with one pound Bala Bangles wrist and ankle weights, helping to burn fat and build muscle. For yoga, running, aerobics, pilates, walking, traveling, home workouts, core training. You name it! Bala Bangles are made of the highest quality fitness materials and come in a range of colors.

Here’s why I’m living for this! – With online at-home workouts taking the place of group fitness classes and personal training sessions at gyms and sports clubs, weights have become a must have for your home gym. Bala’s weighted bangles are the perfect addition to any home gym! These bangles are great for adding resistance and power to all types of exercise including walking, running, and yoga. I especially like to use these bangles for barre sculpt class to help shape and tone thighs and glutes. If you are serious about your at-home workouts, then Bala bangles are a must have addition to your routine!


Align + Focus

Oura Ringhttps://ouraring.com/meet-oura

Oura’s advanced technology monitors your body’s pulse, movement, and temperature, delivering a holistic picture of your health. With Oura you will receive interpretations of your sleep patterns, activity levels, and recovery – all personalized to you. 

Here’s why I’m living for this! – During this time when our normal routines have been disrupted, monitoring our body’s holistic health is ever more important. 

Investing in sleep is so important in regards to your overall health. When you get enough quality sleep you improve immune function and decrease risk of developing certain diseases. Oura measures sleep using sensors that gauge body signals, including your resting heart rate (RHR), heart rate variability (HRV), body temperature, respiratory rate, and movement, to determine your sleep patterns. After deciphers your sleep patterns to see how restorative your sleep was, and whether you went to sleep on time.  

Maintaining pre-pandemic activity levels can be challenging given the mandate the gyms remain closed. Motivating yourself to take an online class or get outside for a run (wearing a mask) can be difficult. You can leverage Oura’s Activity insights to achieve your fitness goals. Oura captures many activities automatically helping you maintain and also pairs with Apple Health and Google fit to help you find the right balance of physical activity each day. 

Recovering is certainly underrated when it comes to health and wellness. Readiness is an overall measure of your recovery that signals your capacity to perform at your mental, emotional, and physical best. Oura’s readiness estimates examine your recent activity and sleep patterns as well as your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and body temperature to determine how well rested you are and whether or not you’re ready for a challenge.

**I am not affiliated with any of the above brands and do not receive any compensation for these recommendations

Today’s top hits I’m loving this month!

Beyoncé powers Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” right into spot number one on this month’s ‘Top Tracks I’m Loving’. These two Houston favorites collabing on this remix have rocketed this track to the top of all the charts. And of course we have Drake sliding into our playlist with the Tik Tok track of the moment, “Toosie Slide”. But the hits with Drake don’t stop there. The long awaited collab with Fivio Foreign & Sosa Greek makes its way onto Drake’s latest mixtape and onto our playlist! 

Rounding out our playlist we’ve got new tracks from Steve Aoki, Kygo and Dua Lipa. These are fun tracks to dance to like no one’s watching. And after you’re done with your cardio dance sesh, wind down with new tracks from Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, and Childish Gambino.  

Track List

Why Do My Muscles Burn During a Barre Workout?

Group of people performing second position plie

Photo: iStock Getty Images

“Feel The Burn!” | The Science Behind the Barre Burn

Have you ever been in barre class, and during the workout your muscles start to burn and your legs begin to quiver and shake? Well, you my friend, you have experienced what is known in the barre community as the “barre burn”.

If you haven’t had the chance to take a barre class, you are missing out! Let’s find out why.

What is a Barre Workout Anyway?

The barre class workout technique was developed in the 1950s by Lotte Berk, a German-born modern dancer. After injuring her back, Lotte combined ballet barre routines with rehabilitative therapy to create a fitness system. This technique is inspired by elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates, and focuses on low-impact, high intensity movements designed to strengthen and tone your body in ways that few other workouts can. 

With barre, you have the opportunity to work your slow-twitch (Type 1) muscle fibers to build strength endurance. The muscles in each group are fatigued via small targeted movements, high repetition, and light weight or resistance. Interspersed throughout the class are moments of stretching and core work. The class is also designed to boost endurance, improve balance, increase range of motion, promote better posture, and help with weight management.

The Difference Between Slow- and Fast-Twitch Muscles

So you may be asking yourself, what are slow twitch muscles? Skeletal muscle is made up of fibers that are bundled together and work simultaneously to contract and provide the movements that we need to function throughout our day. These fibers are categorized into two types called slow-twitch (Type I) and fast-twitch (Type II), and the difference lies in the way they create energy for their contractions. Type I fibers are more efficient and can contract for longer periods of time, whereas Type II fibers are better for short bursts of speed and strength and fatigue more quickly. 

Slow twitch muscle fibers are mainly used for activities that require efficiency over time such as maintaining posture or endurance exercises like running a marathon. These fibers have a low threshold meaning they are activated first before fast twitch muscle fibers, but aren’t as easily fatigued. They are highly vascularized and have many mitochondria, mini energy producing cells, which utilize aerobic (with oxygen) respiration for energy. Aerobic respiration is a long process involving many different steps to create energy in the form of ATP from amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids. Although it may take longer, aerobic respiration provides a larger, steady stream of energy increasing stamina and oxygen capacity of your muscles allowing them to keep going for long periods of time (1). 

Fast twitch muscle fibers are generally built for exercises that require short, explosive, powerful bursts of energy such as heavy lifting or football. These muscles have a high activation threshold and are activated when the slow twitch muscles cannot meet the strength or force requirements of the activity. Their ability to contract quickly with a great amount of force comes from the anaerobic (without oxygen) respiration process of creating energy. Since there are significantly fewer mitochondria in these muscle fibers, ATP is formed quickly from energy stored inside of the contracting muscle cells in the form of glycogen (2). This process will provide much less energy and also begin to build up lactic acid. There are two types of fast twitch muscle fibers including Type IIa and Type IIb. Type IIa, fast oxidative-glycolytic, utilizes some oxygen to help convert glycogen to ATP. Type IIb, fast glycolytic, has the fewest mitochondria and therefore utilizes no oxygen relying on glucose to produce energy (1).

Think of muscles fibers as a spectrum with Type I slow twitch at one end and Type IIb fast twitch at the other end. Type IIa fast twitch muscle fibers will lie somewhere in between having the ability to utilize some oxygen to create ATP necessary for the fast, short term intensive exercises while recovering slightly quicker than Type IIb (1).

So What’s The Deal with the Barre Burn?

So you’re in barre class and suddenly: uncontrollable shaking – check! legs on fire – check! 

We have all experienced this burning sensation in our muscles, but why does this happen?

There are three pathways the body uses to create energy: phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative. All three systems work simultaneously to a degree, but parts of the system will become predominant depending on what the needs of the body are.

During short term intensive exercise your fast twitch muscles, which are anaerobic (without oxygen), use energy that is already present in your body along with glucose. These intensive exercises activate an ATP-PC energy system also known as the phosphagen system. This process synthesizes ATP from a high energy phosphate called phosphocreatine (PC) which is stored in your muscle cells. 

According to studies, this phosphagen system can only create energy for about 10 seconds of high intensity effort which is when the glycolytic system takes over (3). This system quickly compensates for the lack of ATP using glycolysis for energy lasting only a few minutes and can ultimately result in an accumulation of lactate and hydrogen molecules. This build-up of hydrogen ions decreases pH causing a state of acidosis interfering with muscle contractions through a number of ways which is why you feel that burn and discomfort. This is now when the oxidative system kicks, which relies on energy derived from fats and carbohydrates.

What’s the Takeaway?

It is beneficial to understand the science behind how your muscles react and contract during different types of exercises. This knowledge can help you integrate the right workouts into your routine to help you reach your goals. 

Remember, slow twitch muscles use oxygen to create energy for contractions providing a long steady stream of energy. Both barre and pilates exercises engage these slow twitch muscle fibers using low-impact movements to the point of exhaustion. These types of workouts also increase cardiovascular endurance and metabolism, which helps to quickly burn calories. Other benefits include: a lifted bum (oh hey!), improved core strength (flat tummy!), increased flexibility (yup – you too can do a split!) and improved posture.

Barre workouts are a definitely must add for anyone who is looking to vary their resistance/strength training workouts, build flexibility and core strength and improve strength endurance.

Fast twitch muscles use very little to no oxygen (anaerobic) for energy and provide those short, powerful, quick bursts of energy. These muscles are initiated during workouts such as powerlifting, sprinting and high intensity interval training (HIIT) but will also contribute to that lactic acid build up causing that burning sensation. Similar to aerobic exercise, studies show that anaerobic exercise can help increase the reduction in non-esterified fatty acids (2). This study showed the benefit of an aerobic workout followed by an anaerobic workout resulting in the release of triglyceride stores and a reduction in BMI.

It comes down to finding the exercise that you enjoy the most while listening to your body and being aware of how these exercises are making you feel. Determining your goals and utilizing the knowledge of the different muscle fibers can help you create an exercise program that includes the right training strategies to maximize efficiency and enjoyment.

Is the burn experienced in barre class the ‘bad kind of burn’? Not at all. The burn might trigger some discomfort, but it is definitely an indication that your muscles are being challenged, which makes them stronger. Barre workouts are a definitely must add for anyone who is looking to vary their resistance/strength training workouts, build flexibility and core strength and improve strength endurance. Happy shaking!

#LiveNourished

Carter Hall Recipes Coming Soon!

We are working diligently on a page redesign and all new clean eating recipes. Sign up for our newsletter to the first to know the date of the relaunch! Relaunch is tentatively scheduled for Labor Day 2020.

More Recipes from Carter Hall Coming Soon!

Hey all! We are diligently working on a site redesign to launch all new clean eating recipes! Sign up for the newsletter to be the first to find out the date of the relaunch. We are tentatively scheduled for relaunch Labor Day 2020!

Be Mindful – Up Your Food Safety Game During the Pandemic

Photo: Unsplash/ Jason Briscoe

Best Practices: Food Safety During Coronavirus Outbreak

With concerns of coronavirus on high alert, you may be spending less time outdoors and more time inside where you feel safe. Unless you have stock in GrubHub or Postmates, you probably are cooking a bit more at home than you usually do – we’ll talk later about how it took a threat of an outbreak to get you to cook more at home, tsk, tsk! Shopping at the grocery store then preparing, cooking and storing meals at home will require you to be more mindful so that you can protect yourself from the Coronavirus threat and prevent illness. 

Business as Usual in the Produce Section

Heading to the grocery store to stock up on pantry staples and refrigerator must haves? Many people are rightfully concerned about contracting the Coronavirus from fresh fruits and vegetables out in the open, potentially handled – and put back – by dozens of shoppers. And trust me, I love the Whole Foods salad and hot bar more than most. 

While there is no evidence that the Coronavirus can be spread by food, theoretically someone who has the virus could cough on a tomato or handle the cucumbers with hands that have been catching sneezes all day. Then you come along with your healthy self and choose that tomato and cucumber to take home for your dinner salad. Theoretically, you could handle the infected foods before prepping them and pick up the virus. 

Unfortunately the question of supermarket safety has not fully been addressed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In general, it will be important to follow common sense food safety guidelines even though Coronavirus is not thought to be food borne as any person-to-person contact by infected individuals can allow for exposure.

Does this mean I can’t buy fresh produce or utilize the hot/cold bar in my grocery store?

No, not at all. However, this is definitely the time to exercise some additional precaution when shopping at grocery stores such as wiping down your cart or basket and bringing your own produce bags to store fresh fruits and vegetables in. When using the salad bar or hot food section of your local grocery store, use hand sanitizer directly after touching tongs, spoons or other serving utensils – and remember to keep you hands away from your face. I know my local Whole Foods has placed hand sanitizer at the ends of each station to help prevent the potential spread of the virus.  It is important to note that if there is anyone in your family who is especially at risk for contracting the virus – the elderly, the young or those with a weakened immune system (e.g., leukemia) – you may want to purchase produce that is prepackaged and wrapped already just for extra precaution.

Food Safety Guidelines to Remember

Great, you’ve made it home and now have safely unpacked your groceries. Since you have endeavored to dust off that set of pots and pans and cook more at home, you’ll have to revisit proper food safety guidelines in preparing, cooking and storage. 

The USDA encourages individuals to follow four basic guidelines to keep food safe.

  • Clean— Always wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Remember to disinfect surfaces often.
  • Separate— Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash the cutting board, knife, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Cook— Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer.
  • Chill— Refrigerate promptly. Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

How long do those leftovers last?

This seems to be the age old question. The general rule is to use most cooked leftovers within three to four days, being sure to reheat 165’F before eating. Click the link below to download a guide to view the storage times of prepared, refrigerated and frozen foods. The USDA suggests that these storage times will help keep refrigerated (40 °F) food from spoiling or becoming dangerous to eat. Remember freezing at 0 °F or below (not 32 °F) keeps food safe indefinitely, recommended freezer storage times are for quality only. 

Safe Food Storage Guidelines

Final Thoughts

It is important to not panic during this time or jump to conclusions. Look to the USDA, the FDA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and your state and local officials for any additional precautions you need to take. When in doubt, remember to follow common sense food safety procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling food, chances are, you’ll be okay.

#LiveNourished