Monthly Archives: April 2017

Strength Training…….it’s important!

The simple fact is, it’s essential to have strong muscles in order to carry out activities of daily living. This includes household chores, walking, working in the garden, and carrying in the groceries.  Strength training should be a regular part of an active way of life.

After the age of 30, many adults lose about 1/2 lb. of muscle each year! This is mainly because of a decrease in activity.  Also, with age, muscle mass naturally decreases.  Body fat percentage will go up if you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle mass which is lost.  You can strength train at any age to protect and improve your muscle mass.

As a runner, I realize that adding resistance training to my running schedule will help me be a stronger runner as well as decrease my risk of injury.  To gain the benefits of strength training, you don’t need to be a “bodybuilder” or spend hours a day lifting weights.  It only takes 20-30 minutes, two to three times a week to see significant changes in your strength. People of all ages can gain positive results.  It’s never too late to start!

Here are some of the important benefits strength training provides:

  • Increased bone mineral density, which can lower the risk of osteoporosis
  • Improved body composition (more muscle, less fat) which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease

*resistance exercise has been shown to improve insulin response and glucose utilization and has also shown to lower resting blood pressure, improve blood lipid profiles, enhance vascular condition, and decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome* (PubMed)

  • Gain stronger muscles, notably important for the lower back
  • Increased strength in bones, tendons, and ligaments
  • Reduced pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Decreased depression in older adults
  • Improved ability in older adults to do all activities of daily living
  • Provides better balance which decreases risk of falls
  • Overall enhanced quality of life
  • Some research indicates that strength training may help boost thinking and learning skills in older adults

It’s recommended to include strength training exercises at least two times per week making sure to work all major muscle groups. (we don’t want any strength imbalances!)

The Importance of Strength Training. It's never too late to start! Click To Tweet

Whether at home or in the gym, there are many options to work your muscles.  This includes: using your own body weight (push-ups, squats), resistance bands/tubes, free weights (dumbbells, kettlebells), or weight machines.  These are all effective tools to use for strength training and have their own pros and cons. Working with a combination is a great way to add variety and reduce boredom!

Do you strength train?

What is your favorite method? 

Caffeine and Athletic Performance

It’s appearing everywhere now a days.  Lip balm, chewing gum, snack chips, protein bars and ice cream.  And there’s the obvious products such as coffee, tea, and soda.  Over 90% of American’s admit to regular caffeine use and 20-30% consume 600 mg (equal to about 6 cups of coffee) or more each day!

When consumed, it quickly enters the bloodstream and gets to all organs of the body within 40-60 minutes.  The effects of caffeine can last up to six hours!

I love coffee.  I drink it everyday.  No cream, no sweetener.  I realize that too much can have negative consequences, so I do limit myself to around 4 cups a day.  Discovering that caffeine is being added to sport drinks, energy gels, and chews,  I wanted to find out……Does caffeine actually have an effect on athletic performance?


Yes!  Research concludes that caffeine enhances athletic performance.  “Caffeine sustains duration, maximizes effort in cyclists, and quickens speed in an endurance event (Keisler & Armsey, 2006).”    The feeling of how hard your body is working is reduced and high-intensity work feels less challenging.  Most research exploring the performance benefits of caffeine has used capsule forms in doses around 400-600 mg, although benefits have been noted at doses as low as 250 mg.

Here is the content of caffeine per ounce in popular beverages/products:

  • Coffee:  13 mg
  • Monster Energy Drink:  10 mg
  • Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino:  8 mg
  • Iced Tea:  6 mg
  • Coke:  4 mg
  • Over-the-counter stimulants (NoDoz):  100 mg per capsule
  • Clif Shot (Mocha):  50 mg per shot (Double Expresso flavor has 100 mg)

So, drinking my coffee can enhance my performance?  Great!  But, there is a downside.  Non-users (<5o mg/day) see more performance-enhancing benefits than regular users (>300 mg/day).  As we adjust to regular caffeine use, the effects are reduced. Basically, we’ve built a tolerance to it.

It doesn’t help to keep increasing the amount of caffeine you consume.  Doing that can be harmful, even toxic at high doses.  Habitual caffeine use can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, decreased bone density in women, sleeplessness, and jittery nerves.  It’s important to take note if you have any of these symptoms.

Also, if you take a “break” from caffeinated products, you may have withdrawal symptoms.  These include headache, irritability, drowsiness, decreased alertness, decreased energy, and difficulty concentrating.  Personally, I can feel a headache coming on if I skip my usual coffee times.

Does Caffeine Affect Athletic Performance? Click To Tweet

Some other interesting facts I found:

  • research indicates that exercise + caffeine doesn’t cause water-electrolyte imbalances, hyperthermia (high body temperature), or reduced exercise-heat intolerance
  • in one study, nearly 70% of athletes reported regular caffeine use
  • to ensure that your body absorbs the caffeine, it should be consumed 60 minutes prior to exercise (although benefits have been seen when consumed 15-30 min prior)
  • benefits of caffeine are more powerful when consumed in capsule/powder form vs coffee

Here is a link to an informative article by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Being a “chronic” coffee drinker, I haven’t noticed any benefits that enhance my performance.  I do drink a cup before every run.  I look forward to it and it makes me happy, so I guess that’s a positive benefit!  I’ve never consumed caffeine during a race through sports gels or sports drink, although, I may try during a marathon in the future.  Any help during 26.2 miles is welcomed!

Are you a coffee drinker?

Do you use caffeine before or during a race or event?


*Reference:  ACE Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals*

Nutrients for Optimal Athletic Performance

Throw back 2011

With racing season in full gear, It’s so important to optimize our food choices to gain any advantages we can.  Of course, it’s essential to eat a balanced diet all the time, but there are certain vitamins and minerals that we need to prioritize for optimal athletic performance.

There is not one diet in particular that helps us gain any athletic advantages, but there are six vitamins and minerals that are especially important to help ensure that your body is working to it’s fullest potential.

If I’m investing the time to train for a race or event, I want to make sure that I’m fueling with foods that will assist with my performance as well as enhance recovery.   With that said, there are six vitamins and minerals that are exceptionally beneficial in order for you to perform your best.

IRON:  Important for delivery of oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles.  Athletic training in combination with low dietary intake of iron can lead to depletion of stored iron which in turn leads to restricted performance.

ZINC:  Important for immune function, blood formation, and protein synthesis.  The body quickly loses zinc following strenuous exercise, particularly in hot, humid environments.

VITAMIN B12:  Important for the normal metabolism of nerve tissue, protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

RIBOFLAVIN:  This is essential to produce energy.  Riboflavin (Vit B2) is stored in muscles and is abundantly used when muscles are fatigued.

VITAMIN D:  This is necessary for calcium absorption, bone growth, and mineralization.  Helps with the risk of bone fractures.

CALCIUM:  Needed for maintaining bone structure and vitamin D metabolism.  Calcium is also important for blood clotting, nerve function, and muscle contraction.

6 Vitamins & Minerals for Optimal Athletic Performance! Click To Tweet

The best sources of vitamins and minerals are whole foods.  Your body will more readily absorb nutrients from food rather than from a supplement.  (Unless you have a deficiency and are advised by your doctor to take a supplement).

I believe we can gain a competitive edge by fueling our body with healthy food choices and paying attention to our nutrient intake.  Junk in = junk out.  If you want to perform your best and feel your best, then proper nutrition is essential!

Are you currently training for a race or event?

Do you agree with junk in = junk out?

*Reference:  ACE Personal Trainer Manual*