Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

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3 Tips from a Naturopath on Training for Athletic Events

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Now that Portland is officially showing us some spring-like and even sunny weather, it is time to start thinking about preparing and training for summer athletic events. 

Image courtesy Oyam, Flickr

The three most important things to keep in mind when approaching summer time athletic event prep are a as follows:

1. Set and intention or a goal and use benchmarks to monitor your progress.

This can be anything from signing up for the Portland marathon to making yourself a goal of walking a certain mileage amount before the summer is over. Portland has a plethora of parks and trails to get acquainted with…maybe your goal is to cover as many of the trails in Forest Park as you can. There are organized walks, runs, triathlons, bike rides, dragon boating, and other fun-focused outdoor events nearly every weekend day of the summer. Take advantage of what is offered!

This next section might ruffle a few feathers out there, but I generally don’t encourage my patients to make weight loss, and weight loss only, their goal. Having worked in the world of health and fitness for a decade, I can assure almost anyone that weight loss, toning, svelting-up– however you choose to put it–will happen naturally as you work towards your athletic goal.

Scale watching is the most infuriating and often discouraging process. It is a well known fact for most people now that muscle weighs way more than fat. I can’t tell you the number of times I have patients in tears because their pant size went down but their weight barely budged… and, when I tell them it is because they are getting in shape, I usually get looks of disbelief.

The benefits of maintaining a healthy size are plentiful, but that healthy size is different for every body. Instead of using specific scale-based goals, I would much rather use cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure as markers of body fit-ness. Okay. I’ll hop off the soap box now….

2. Good, clean nourishment

My definition of nourishment comes in a few forms. Making sure your body has the big fuel (food!) and the small fuel (nutrients!) will help to ensure that your goal is met is the most important part of training. There is no way to push yourself to your own max without treating your body right and giving it what it needs to thrive.

Nutrition

What it is always going to come back to is finding what works best for your individual body. As a naturopath, I focus so much of my initial treatment with patients on getting healthy and nourishing food into their bodies. I often recommend that patients try the anti-inflammatory diet for a few weeks to see if we can fine any particular foods that are causing unwanted symptoms in the body, and it usually works great. However, I will say that trying out a new and complicated diet scheme in the MIDDLE of event training may not be in your best interest.

Fruits and vegetables are some of your best bets while training. While much of the focus of endurance events is carbohydrate loading, I would argue that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has plenty of carbohydrates, both simple and complex. And they are chock full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and some of the smaller nutrients that help our body function optimally.

Supplements

In general, I encourage athletic patients of mine to start on three basic supplements, especially if their training routine is rigorous or if they are feeling the effects of the training are already tiring their bodies:

1. Fish oils: inflammation stoppers and very protective
2. Magnesium/calcium/potassium: needed for proper neuromuscular function and bone strength
3. Vitamin B complex: these vitamins are needed in all major biochemical processes that help to break down proteins, carbs and fats!

All three of these supplements can help to cut down on the any potential deficiencies that might be caused by excess training and also help to mitigate the increased amount of inflammation and stress that your body will undergo while training.

3. Have fun and remember to play

When fitness become a task, it loses some of its positive body and mind benefits. Slogging through anything that is not at least somewhat enjoyable (long work days, hard and draining workouts) will have an effect on the body’s stress coping mechanisms. We humans we made to move, and challenging our endurance and strength is incredibly important. Making yourself run when you are tired to the bone (quite literally) will eventually cause more harm than good. Remembering to keep the idea of play and enjoyment fresh in your mind as your train — and possibly compete — will help you stay on the right path to health.

I have learned a tremendous amount over the years, watching athletes come in who were not taking the above suggestions into account.

If you have more specific questions about training programs, give us a call at 503-287-4970.

 

 

 

Image courtesy Oyam, Flickr

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The Marathon Experiment

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

 

The quick and dirty of it all is this:  I am running my first marathon in April 2012…in Paris.  It’s my honeymoon…and I am going big.

I don’t come from a long line of marathon runners. My husband does, though.  In fact, he comes from hearty German stock and very athletic parents.  His mom ran the entire duration of her pregnancy with him, through lush Bavarian forests and cobblestoned streets.  Both of his parents have competitively run many races–it was through a recent discussion with them that we officially caught the marathon bug.

I have always been a bit more of a gym rat than a marathon runner.  As a personal trainer for the past 10 years, I have preached to many the great benefits of circuit training—the idea of keeping cardio/endurance workouts in moderation with strength training and stretching.   And, as I have already had two knee surgeries earned from competitive downhill ski racing, I am maybe not the best candidate to train for a marathon.  But, at the end of the day, I really want to run one.  So I am going to.  In April.  In Paris.

I by no means hope to compete in this one-and-only marathon, but to complete it and then enjoy the rest of my honeymoon.

Here is where the plot thickens a tad: not only am I going to run this race, I am going to take the best care of my body as possible. I am assembling a team-care approach to training, that I am hoping to employ with other athletes (both professional and non) as well as myself.   I am lucky to work in a holistic clinic and have access to such a great team to take care of me, but a large portion of it will also be self care, the easiest thing to let slip as a healthcare provider.

The plan:
·      Acupuncture 1x/week
·      Chinese Herbs
·      Massage 1-2x/month
·      IV Therapy every two weeks
·      Supplements
·      Diet Change to the ‘Paleo Diet’
·      Chiropractic/Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy weekly

Throughout the following weeks you will get a taste of what I am doing to both train and heal my body as I prepare for this huge task!

Image courtesy Caitlinator

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Super Supplement Strategy: Part 1

March 15, 2012

About two weeks ago, I hit the wall. My long runs have been feeling VERY long and my body has been taking days to recover. We are in the final month and counting before our trip, and I am getting a little anxious over the race… all I want to do is finish it, but on the other hand, these long runs are slowly breaking me down, making training for that hopeful finish harder by the run.

So, this week, I am going to mention the super-supplement-strategy that I beefed up even more in the last few weeks to get my through this next month.

First of all, I had been getting a mini IV Therapy treatment weekly. Seeing as how I co-teach the IV Nutritional Therapy Course at NCNM, it won’t shock many to know that this has been incorporated into my treatment plan from the beginning. In the last two weeks, I simply increased the dose of a few of the vitamins and minerals to help compensate for the increased loss of nutrients on my long runs. (This next section is going to sound like a bit of a commercial for IV Therapy, so stick with me… I figure I would just teach it outright on this blog, and anyone interested could come and talk specifics with me if need be.)

IV Therapy is a form of treatment that most naturopathic physicians learn as part of the their basic education, but not many specialize in, due to the amount of set up required to infuse nutrients and the inherent risks of the treatment. I have learned to love the benefits of IV Therapy and prescribe it with many of my patients: from Hepatitis C to GI disorders to improved athletic performance.

Potential Benefits of IV Therapy include:

· Easy access to rapid administration of solutions

· Easy to monitor delivery of fluids, electrolytes and nutrients (for those with impaired GI tracts)

· Nutrients are not affected by stomach or intestinal disease (so, we don’t have to worry about mal-absorption issues that can plague us during times of high stress…like marathon training)

· Total amount of fluid and nutrients enters the circulation, therefore it is available to the tissues.

· Higher doses of nutrients can be given by vein than by mouth without nausea, abdominal discomfort or diarrhea.
Here is an abbreviated list of a few of the vitamins and minerals that I am including into my IV Treatment and why I chose them:

Vitamin B5:

· Aids in release of energy from foods.

· Involved in the transport of fatty acids to and from cells and accelerates fatty acid breakdown in the mitochondria.

· Stimulates healing.

· Supports adrenal glands and alleviates stress.

Vitamin B6:

· Participates in multi-enzyme systems, chemical reactions of proteins and amino acids.

· Promotes normal red blood cell formation.

· Helps in energy production and resistance to stress, enhances mood.

· Co-enzyme in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

· Relieves some joint pain and muscle spasm.

Vitamin C:

· Antioxidant, prevent muscle soreness post exercise.

· Helps in collagen tissue health.

· Supports the immune system

Calcium:

· Participates in metabolic functions necessary for normal activity of nervous, muscular and skeletal systems.

· Plays important role in normal heart function.

Magnesium

· Relaxes tight muscles and muscle spasm.

· Relieves night time leg cramps.

· Regulates normal heart rhythm.

· A cofactor in numerous enzyme systems and is involved in muscular excitability and neurochemical transmission.

I include most of the above nutrients in many of the IVs that I provide here at Nature Cures Clinic, and many more, always creating specific formulas (or, cocktails as many patients call them) for specific patients.

Stay tuned: I’ll talk about oral supplements next!

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Supplements for a Long Run

March 1, 2012

For the past two months, I have been trying to find the perfect on-the-run supplements to use for electrolyte balance and calorie upkeep.  I have attempted to veer away from the sugary supplements that are out there, as the main ingredients of maltodextrin and fructose are not exactly what I would call perfect fuels for the body.  (For a reminder of why I don’t particularly love fructose, please see previous posts)

Maltodextrin:  This is a highly processed starch, derived form other starchy foods (potatoes, wheat, etc).  It is a bit of a useless, nutrition-less, overly sweet-tasting filler.  It can be converted to glucose in the body, but it is otherwise pretty worthless.

I have been using basically three supplemental food products (notice I mentioned food and not sugar-based products?) to get me through my long runs:

  • Homemade fruit and nut energy bars/bites
  • Easy to make sports drink with electrolyte replacement
  • Almond Butter Packets

Homemade Energy Bars/Bites:

Here are some recipes that I have been using with great success for a pre-run and sometimes mid-run whole foods snack:

  • 2 tbsp Coconut oil
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ½ cup cashews
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup dates
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until the mix is slightly sticky—enough to form small bite sized pieces.  Wrap these pieces in some waxed paper (don’t make them too big, as I have definitely had a bit of a choking fit while trying to gobble too much at once).

Sports Drink:

Use the guidelines below to make a drink that tastes good to you.  I go lighter on the honey and heavier on the salt, because I have found that at about mile 8-10 I am needing some salt replacement.  I am choosing sea salt over iodized salt for its maintained natural levels of iodine, magnesium, and other trace nutrients that are removed from iodized salt during the refining process.

  • Fill bottles to the top with filtered water
  • ½ tsp – 1 tsp of lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp of raw honey
  • ¼ tsp – ½ tsp of sea salt

Almond Butter Packets:

Check these out:   http://www.justinsnutbutter.com/products.php

I have been using 1-2 of the almond and honey packets per long run and I love them.  They provide a huge burst of energy and are a pretty perfect mix of fats, carbohydrates, and protein!

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Sugar Smackdown

February 3, 2012

A friend of mine recently said, “Dr. Fuller, in my house we think that white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the devil, and that agave and honey are just fine… but why is that?”  It is a great question, especially in this time of fad diets, sugar free trends, and new sugar substitutes competing for the consumer’s attention nearly every week.  As an athlete (and now, by default, a runner…), I have been indoctrinated to think that I need quick release sugar in the form of goopy packets and sports drinks to be able to survive my runs…but is that really the case?

To start get to that answer of that question, let’s break down the idea of sugar even more.  First, lets talk about what sugar even really is. This site is a fantastic place to get a brief education on what sugar is and how it affects us: http://www.realfooduniversity.com/best-sweetener/

Two vocab words to stick in your head are glucose and fructose, which are each single-molecule sugar forms. Table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose, called sucrose.  And high fructose corn syrup is a combo of fructose and glucose with over half being composed of fructose, making it seem sweeter to our tastebuds.

Glucose is essential to life.  Glucose is the form of sugar that fuels our bodies, both during exercise and during rest.  This is where the buck stops, as all other sugar forms have to be converted to glucose to be used by our cells.  Most other fats and proteins that we eat (or that are already a part of our physiology) can also be turned into glucose…we are that awesome and efficient.

The quick and dirty (well, really not-so-quick, and pretty dirty-lookin) on fructose is as follows: “Fructose is a sugar found mainly in fruits, which undergoes metabolic processing in the liver. The main problem with fructose is that little piece about needing to be metabolized by the liver. Studies have suggested that consuming too much fructose messes up all kinds of things in the body.  Some show a correlation with obesity. Fructose tends to promote an increase in triglycerides in the blood, which are a definite marker for heart disease. Other studies have shown that fructose pulls important minerals from the blood, chelating them out of the body. This little gem also increases levels of uric acid in the body, an abundance of which brings about the symptoms of gout.

Studies have shown fatty liver disease from too much fructose, making the liver look like that of an alcoholic. And finally, fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, while decreasing suppression of ghrelin levels, hormones which control satiety and appetite.” Fructose, then, is a little tougher on the body, but it is also the main sugar in fruit…does that mean fruit is bad for me in this marathon training frenzy I find myself in?

Not necessarily… fruit does have sugar in the form of fructose but, couple that with some fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other goodies that you don’t get in the sweeteners, contributing bulk that limits how much you can eat.  In high fructose corn syrup there are no coupling-goodies (for lack of better word) and the body is just taxed by this form of sweet.

I asked Maria Zilka, our Certified Nutritionist here at Nature Cures Clinic, to talk to me a little more about the goods and bads of sweets in the eyes of athletic training. Here are some key points that she passed along to me:

·       Every cell in our body needs sugar for energy production—just not processed sugar.  All the essential sugar that we need for health can come from fruit and vegetable sources.
·       When you eat any processed form of sugar, you eat something that has some or all of its synergy taken away.
·       When you have sugar in nature, you have something to couple it with: either fat or fiber.  Refined sugars are completely devoid of most minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients.

Maria has also encouraged me to leave the sugary on-the-run packets behind for a more of a combination approach:

·       Fats are the logs on our metabolic fire, sugar is the kindling.  Endurance and sprint athletes know the value of sugar…but, at the end of a long ride or a huge run, it is actually the fats that have provided the power and endurance!  We need them both to keep our fires going strong!

To sum it all up:

Avoid processed sugar sources and stick with unprocessed sources. Some examples include:

·       Raw honey contains nutrients and enzymes when we filter it.
·       Grade B maple syrup (filtered one less time) has more nutrients
·       Dates (fiber and cellulose)

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll share some recipes for on-the-run nutrition that Maria has helped me develop!

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The Straight Fats (errr, Facts…)

January 27, 2012

For so many years, the word ‘fat’ has been vilified in our society.  Low-fat this, non-fat that, trans-saturated-hydrogenated-confusing.  What I want to impress upon you, as I explain my fat-feeding-strategy, is that fat is so very needed and important to allow our body to function.  It is also a perfect source of fuel to use when training for an endurance sport.  We just have to make some educated choices about what fats to use and when to use them.

A fantastic site that discusses the ins and outs of good and bad fats can be found here:
http://www.realfooddigest.com/complete-guide-to-fats-and-oils/ It is well worth bookmarking and even printing the chart they include!

Understanding how fats work in and out of the body:

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is simple biochemistry: how the molecules line up dictates how fats will fold and lay atop one another—creating solids, liquids, and gelatinous goo in between.

There are two main factors to consider when it comes to oil/fat biochemistry:

·       How easily they oxidize. The oxidation of fatty acids changes the chemical properties of the fat; it reduces the nutritional value of the fat, darkens its color, can cause off–flavors, and may be deleterious to your health.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am avoiding all things that might increase my oxidation level, leading to free radical accumulation, starting with keeping oxidized fats out of my diet.  (For a very science geeky/technical explanation of oxidation, check out this site: http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/475/oil-breakdown.  Keep in mind, it is discussing machinery oil products… and I am attempting to become a better-oiled-machine)

·       Omega ratios:  The key is that omega 3 is anti-inflammatory while omega 6 has the possibility to generate more inflammation. (Again, I am generating enough inflammation on my own, without the added help from the fats that I consume…)

The quick and dirty with what to do with these fats and how to incorporate them into a diet is as simple as this:

·       Avoid trans fats.  They are gross.  Both in taste and in what they do to the body.
·       Use monounsaturated oil (olive, sesame, etc) for low heat only: they have the tendency to oxidize with high heat.
·       Avoid using polyunsaturated oils (canola, cottenseed, corn, soybean, etc). Oxidation and inflammation central.
·       Embrace saturated fats (grass feed animal fat/lard, butter, coconut, etc): worry more about the source you are getting the fat from than the fact that it is saturated (Think happy, pasture raised, grass loving animals)
·       Remember: Omega 3 is good for me, Omega 6 is ick ick ick.

Stay tuned for the Sugar-Smack down, coming soon, when I talk Carbohydrate Strategy.

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Planning on Stress — Understanding the Nutritional Strategy

January 20, 2012

There are hundreds of articles and websites out there dedicated to the topic of using exercise as a stress reliever.  And as my patients know, I am always asking what they are doing for exercise and making suggestions on how to get more movement into their lives.  Exercise — cardiovascular, strength training, stretching —is undeniably important to our health and well-being. Overexercise — like one might find themselves doing as part of a marathon training program — causes its share of stress on the body, however, rather than relieving it.

Strenuous exercise increases oxygen consumption and causes disturbance of intracellular pro-oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis — generating boat-loads of free radicals.  An increasing body of evidence has implicated this oxidative stress, and the resulting free radicals, in the pathogenesis of numerous diseases, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress can lead to damage or destruction of cellular macromolecules such as lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids (building blocks to DNA!) — it is what I spend a majority of my time attempting to mitigate with the patients that I treat.

It is no surprise that oxidative stress has been associated with decreased physical performance, muscular fatigue, muscle damage, and overtraining. High intensity exercise induces quite a bit of oxidative stress and although there is no evidence that this affects sporting performance in the short term, it may have longer term health consequences.

Free radicals are usually neutralized by an elaborate antioxidant defense system consisting of enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and numerous non-enzymatic antioxidants, including vitamins A, E and C, glutathione, ubiquinone, and flavonoids (I will dedicate a whole post to the topic of Glutathione in the near future).

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radical generating processes and available antioxidants.  Several environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle choices can cause the balance to swing in the favor of oxidative stress —including high intensity and long duration exercise.  So, the question then becomes, what strategy am I going to use to counteract all of this intense training and free radical generation?

Antioxidants, as I mentioned above, are the nutrients we require in order to neutralize free radicals so they can then be eliminated from the body in a harmless form.  Many people in our society live on nutrient-deficient diets from highly processed and refined foods that do not supply essential nutrient protection.  My strategy to diminish the effects of this intense training using a highly nutritive diet strategy is 3-part, and will be discussed over the upcoming posts.

Over the next two weeks, I am going to delve into two important components of nutrition that comprise a healthy, antioxidant rich diet: macronutrients — like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and micronutrients.

I am going to spend the following week talking about the different on-the-go nutritional aids that Nature Cures’ own Maria Zilka is helping me to create.  These will replace the traditional sugary goo packets and sports drinks that have been popularized in the sporting community.

And finally, my favorite topic, I am going to dedicate a post to the fantastic treatment of IV Therapy, a subject that I teach at the National College of Natural Medicine and one of the best ways to pump the body full of micronutrients and antioxidants that can often be a challenge to absorb in high volume orally.

References:

1.     Exercise and oxidative stress: significance of antioxidants with reference to inflammatory, muscular, and systemic stress. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2001;7:108-33.

2.     Exercise, free radicals and oxidative stress, Biochemical Society Transactions. 2002, 30(2):280-5.

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Making Changes

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

I used to work at a gym.  Checking people in, passing out towels, making small talk.  January at the gym was fascinating.  Membership instantly quadrupled, as folks catapulted themselves into their New Year’s fitness resolutions.  Endless lines formed for the cardio machines.  Yogis wrestled for mat space in surprisingly unZen-like fashion.  Fat burners and protein powder flew off the shelves and personal trainers packed their schedules.

4457047403_cf2709a179But by mid February, the “resolutionaries” quietly dissipated.  Part of me was relieved to see the crowds thin, but a bigger part was sad, knowing that most of those who had stopped coming had given up the ghost.  I don’t think they quit for lack of want, but rather support.  When real life began to overshadow their fragile new routines, they didn’t have the backing to encourage them along, offer guidance and ease the discomfort that often accompanies change.

Now, as a care provider, I have the privilege of helping others make changes, both big and small, to improve their wellbeing.  Take the standard goal of dropping a few pounds.  Most people wanting to lose weight are battling food cravings and low energy.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs work wonders for improving digestion and reducing stress — two key players when battling cravings.  And that sluggish, foggy-headed, heavy-limbed feeling that’s been interfering with your hopes of working out?  That’s a perfect example of “qi stagnation.”

Our “qi”, or “chi”, is the vital energy flowing through our body.  It makes our heart beat and our synapses fire.  When our qi gets bogged down and begins to stagnate, we feel it everywhere.  We lose our pep, that spring in our step and gleam in our eye.  Digestion becomes less efficient, focus and clarity wanes, and we find ourselves sinking into the couch with a bowl of ice cream, instead of hitting the gym.

Acupuncture assists our qi in flowing smoothly again.  Prodding it along, until eventually it resumes a balanced, healthy pace, and that foggy feeling begins to lift.

A cleanse is another killer means of boosting your energy, metabolism and spirits.  What better way to kick off the New Year, than by detoxing all of the crud you accumulated in 2010.  While a cleanse may be intimidating to do on your own, consider having a support team to guide you through the process.   With your help, we’ll formulate a plan to ensure that the process suites your lifestyle.  We’ll work to minimize detox side effects, such as hunger and low energy, and enhance your body’s cleansing abilities.  As a practitioner, few things are more exciting than watching a patient on a cleanse.  The effects are visible.  Bloating melts away, the skin begins to glow, energy peaks, your eyes dramatically brighten.  With a little planning, acupuncture, nutritional support, and cheerleading, you’ll be popping out of bed with newfound energy, and bypassing the coffee and pastries without a second thought.

Long story short, enlisting a support team is the most effective way to ensure that your goals are attained.  Share your plans with others, so that you’ll be held accountable for your actions.  Plan ahead.  When you foresee irritability, withdrawal headaches or sleeplessness in your future, get some acupuncture treatments on the books.  When your legs get achy from covering those miles, get a massage.

All in all, there are plenty of ways to spoil yourself and maintain momentum as you make a change for the better.  So whether you made an official New Year’s resolution or not, take this time to focus on your wellbeing, realize your body’s potential, and know that you’re not in it alone.

 

image courtesy lululemon athletica

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Sports Injuries: Treatment and Prevention Vodcast

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

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