Monday, September 4, 2017

Ketones - All About Ketosis

So, let’s start simple with this subject.  Without any medical terms, presumptions or claims, here is a good understandable definition: 

Ketosis is the presence of ketones in the metabolism.   The ketones are being used for fuel after all the stored glucose has been used up.

Yes - I did say being used for fuel. The body, brain and metabolism require two sources of fuel for your body to operate in an optimal state.    

What is an optimal state you may ask?


Let’s start very simple with optimization. Is anyone reading this post a distance runner? Yes, many of you call it a runner’s high after you make a breakthrough in your event. This may come around mile 5, 6 or 7. Performance Dr. Jacob Wilson of ASPI Performance Assessment Labs suggests it takes about mile 7 of a distance run to burn through the stored glucose. What many athletes aren’t aware of is that they have burned through their stored glucose and started operating off fatty acid produced ketones.

Why is this considered optimization?   

Well, if you own and operate an Automobile, don’t you usually make sure that the Auto has fuel and oil? If it has both, the motor will run most efficiently. Take one away, and the motor will not run very well for very long. That’s one of the best ways to compare the body’s ability to be run optimized using both forms of required fuel, ketones and glucose.

The biggest surprise often is that ketones are a cleaner and more sustainable fuel when studied under performance activities. If you know what VO2 Max is (oxygen utilization), you would be impressed with the fact that VO2 Max can be up to about 30% more efficient while in Ketosis. Dr. Volek of Ohio State University has been studying performance and the presence of ketones for many years.   One of the biggest surprises and benefits to ketones for fuel is that your body manufactures them instead of having to store them for hours and days prior to performance. We all know that the maximum amount of glucose for storage is usually much smaller than what is required to make it through a performance event.

But performance is only one of many applications of being in the state of ketosis, and the presence of ketones. A person’s mitochondria require ketones for fuel. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of your cells.  Why should I be concerned about mitochondria? Because mitochondria are in your heart, brain and muscles. So, no ketones in the metabolism and look what’s not getting the fuel(s) it requires to be optimized?

Ketones, ketosis and metabolism

Now, the importance of Ketones in the metabolism is getting a little clearer to someone who may never had heard of the word 'Ketosis' or 'Ketones'. But how do I get Ketones in my metabolism? That is a great question. Most of the studies since the 1920s have suggested that eating a moderate protein, lower carbohydrate diet with higher good fats can naturally put a person in to nutritional ketosis.   The Ketogenic Diet (KD) has been studied for a long time for health, wellness and performance. The KD really confuses many athletes; since so many have been raised on storing fuel with proteins and carbohydrates. But these same athletes have never experienced the sustained fuel of operating on the dual fuel system explained above.

Like most things, technology continues to produce better options for people. Over 10 years ago a team of researchers in Tampa, FL figured out how to match one of the body’s ketones, b’hydroxybutyrate, BHB. Dr. D’Agostino did this for the U.S. Navy Seals and NASA astronauts.   BHB is very effective for increasing human cognition and ensuring the reduction of seizures. 

Why is this relevant? 

Think about the conditions of these two professions - altitude pressures, oxygen deprivation etc. If the KD is prescribed for reducing seizures, doctors are saying that the presence of ketones will help your brain. Remember, the brain is one of the locations for mitochondria. So now you can fuel with endogenous (made in the body) and exogenous (taken in the body) ketones.

I’ve wanted to keep this post as simple as possible. It is your body and brain that needs to be optimized and preserved at their highest levels. Simply take a look at the recorded number of Alzheimer’s disease in the world. Remember that the brain has these mitochondria and it needs ketones. Eat a lot of carbohydrate based foods and the body may never produce a single ketone.

I only want you to take in this information and examine if you need and want to be better. You can be better very easily. I write this with experience of both lifestyles. I’m enjoying the higher levels of physical and mental fuels in my metabolism. Your personal challenge is probably to get better all of the time. I can be found on LinkedIn and Facebook.   My name is Brian Magazine and I have enjoyed sharing this information with you today. I look forward to hearing from you on how to get ketones in your body.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to Fall Asleep Faster

I struggle to fall asleep, and regret the fact that I didn't fall asleep faster when I wake up in the morning. I know that sleep is important for muscle growth and after finding the best ways to get more zzz's with the limited time that I have, I thought it would be a good idea to share them with you.

How to fall asleep better

1. Establish a routine

Spend the last hour before you plan to sleep doing the things that will calm you down and get your body to realize that it is sleepy time. Your body is very routine-orientated. If you are used to struggling to fall asleep every night, your body will get used to that idea and will do that all the time.  By doing things that make you calm down every night, your mind will start to learn that these things mean that it is time to fall asleep soon. Don't do things that you do during the rest of the day when you are wide awake. This makes your mind assume that it nowhere near bed time yet. Our ancestors did not hunt before they were going to sleep. You shouldn't either.

2. Dim the lights

 Also, our ancestors could see the sun go down every day. This subconsciously signaled bed time. Have you ever wondered why a beautiful sunset make you feel so calm and peaceful? You don't have to watch the sunset every day to get your brain to shut down, but you do need to adjust your lighting accordingly. Bright lights tell our brains that it is time to be awake and darker lighting tells us that sleep is coming soon.

The bright lights from computer screens, televisions and mobile phones mimic the sun's rays to your brain. Cut these out during the last hour of your day, avoid other bright lights and your body will soon see this as a sign to start winding down. When you switch off the light and jump into bed, your mind still needs to adjust to the fact that 'it is no longer day'.

Unfortunately, our brains can't just switch off. We need to give them time to do so. If you can get your mind to relax before you climb into bed, you will fall asleep faster and the quality thereof will improve.

You quality of sleep improves because your mind was able to ease into its sleeping cycles slowly and naturally. When it is forced to wind down too quickly, it will bounce back up very soon. What goes up must come down. The faster something goes up, the faster it comes down.

2. Reverse psychology

Huffington Post says that you will actually fall asleep faster if you try to force yourself to stay awake. They quote a sleep study where two groups of insomniacs were tested. One group was told to lie in bed with their eyes wide open and stay awake. The other group was told to fall asleep as quick as they can. The group who tried to stay awake ended up falling asleep long before the group that was trying to fall asleep in the first place.

Why does reverse psychology makes our minds do what the opposite of what we are trying to do? My guess is that it is the body's way of balancing itself out

3. The timed breathing technique

Alina Gonzalez from Byrdie explains how she stumbled upon a breathing technique that drastically changed her life. She now uses timed breathing to fall asleep. She discovered this technique a few days before an important wedding that caused her anxiety. Her friend, a wellness practitioner, introduced her to a technique that enabled her to fall asleep within minutes. Here's how it works: 

You breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds (counting as you do), hold your breath for 7 and exhale through your mouth for 8. Doing this repeatedly calms your mind and slows down your heart rate.

When you are anxious, your heart rate increases. This increases your breathing rate. The more you breathe in and out, the more anxious your body feels. This becomes a cycle that can often be hard to break out of. By slowing your breathing down and focusing on these numbers, you are forcing your body to reduce its heart rate - which in turn slows your mind and body down. This deeply relaxes you and lulls you into a deep sleep.

Alina also writes about how she used this breathing technique (with the same second counts) to combat anxiety before a major speech that she had to give on the actual wedding day. This made her feel relaxed and, according to her, allowed her to give a better speech than what she would have if she did not use this technique. Give it a try for yourself and see if it works.

4. Take a hot bath before bed time

This is suggested by According to them, increasing skin temperature relaxes you and makes you feel sleepy. By taking a hot bath before bed, you will be calmer and fall asleep faster. They say that a hot shower can also work, as long as the water is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius) and as long as you stay in the water for 20 minutes or more. These temperature and time rules apply to both bathing and showering. For best results, you should bath like this 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep.

Since the body falls asleep at cooler temperatures and wakes up at warmer temperatures (note how we can all sleep forever during winter), the hot temperature from the bath or shower makes our bodies drop their natural temperatures very quickly. This quick drop in body temperature eases us onto a quicker sleep.

5. The best dinner for the best sleep

Life Hack recommends eating a light meal at night for the best results. They say that eating a meal that is too heavy will burden digestion and therefore make it harder for you to fall asleep. On the other hand, going to bed hungry will stop you from dozing off as well. Eating a meal that is not too heavy but satisfies your hunger is the best, according to Life Hack. They recommend snacks like a banana, hummus or Greek yogurt before bed as the best choices. 

I assume that this does not apply to everybody. I personally find that I sleep better after a big meal. Because my primary goal is to build muscle, I have a large dinner and a big meal replacement shake before bed.

I know that some people are worried about the health effects of eating before bed, but doing so actually helps people who get up to eat in the middle of their sleep cycle. This link explains how eating when you are supposed to be sleeping is worse than eating before you fall asleep.

6. Write it down

If troubling thoughts are keeping you from lala land, try writing down the things that you are worried about. This helps you to mentally let go of the thoughts that you can't seem to get rid of. Writing down your worries will release some of the holds that they have on your ability to relax and rest. These things always sound crazy until you try it. The next time anxiety is stopping you from falling asleep, write down whatever is making you feel anxious. Go back to bed and feel relieved. It is almost like tricking your mind into thinking that you have dealt with the issue that it needed you to handle. This amazing sleep tip was originally suggested by Daily Burn. They also recommended the 4-7-8 breathing technique we spoke about earlier - looks like that technique is causing quite a buzz.

7. Tense and release

I used to do this when I was younger - and it actually helped. Mirror recommends consciously tensing and relaxing your muscles to calm yourself down. This relaxes your body and mind at the same time. Tensing your muscles before relaxing them is also a great way to release tension caused by exercise or an injury. By releasing tension and relaxing your physical body, you will be able to laze into that coveted dream state in no time. Focusing on one muscle at a time is best. Start with your toes (you can do all your toes at once), and your feet, then your calves until you get to your neck and your forehead. By the time you are done, will feel like sloppy spaghetti.

Sleep is extremely important for optimum health. Failure to fall asleep can often stress us out if we know that we only have a certain amount of time before we need to get up. By making sure that we are calm before snooze time, we will sleep sooner and get more out of every hour. STAY STRONG!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Perfect Rest Week for Maximum Muscle Growth

It is good to take a rest week every 2-3 months of training. This will actually improve muscle growth and physical performance. If you are resting enough between workout sessions, your body does a good job at recovering in between exercise routines. It does, however, build up a tally of accumulated physical stresses that need it needs recovery from. Resting for a day or two helps with regular recovery, for longer rest periods allow for a deeper recovery where the body can focus on thoroughly repairing tendons, ligaments, nerves and muscle tissues. 

I personally take a rest week when I hit a plateau, just before my next workout program. I find that I come back stronger than before after each rest week and that these rest weeks seems to 'lock in' my physical progress. I have experienced nice muscle gains during these rest weeks.

Rest weeks are great to strengthen joints, decrease the volatility of muscle size and improve long-term strength. They also prevent over training syndrome that can accumulate if you don't rest enough from intense exercise. Click on the link above if you think that you might be over trained. In extreme cases, some athletes have had to take up to 6 months off because of severe fatigue.
Taking a rest week every few months stops your body from burning out and keeps it growing stronger.

This rest week allows for recovery for more than just your muscles. It lets your immune, central nervous, energy production, digestive, sleep and hormonal systems recuperate to optimal operational levels.

The perfect rest week

You should experiment to find out what works best for you. I find that following the schedule below helps me to maximize recovery and keeps me from going insane and losing touch with my training routine.

Day 1: Absolutely nothing

Don't do anything physical at all on this first day. This will signal to the body that it can start recovering. I usually still go to the gym on this day and shower - just to keep the habit of going to gym every day. I usually eat the same amount of food that I would on training days (except my post workout shake). A lot of recovery happens the day after your last exercise session, and this requires nutrients.

Day 2: Steam room

On this day I will take a nice, long steam before using the shower at the gym. Since my body is not using too much energy, I reduce my overall caloric intake. I don't reduce it enough to cause a deficit, though, because that could hamper recovery. Too little nutrition can lessen muscle growth. I follow this lower calorie (but not too restricted) eating plan for the rest of the week.

Day 3: Warm up and stretch

On this day I get some active rest, just to remind my body that exercise still exists. I do a light warm up, stretch out all of my muscles (static stretches, 3 sets of 10 seconds for each muscle) and do a light cool down before hitting the shower.

Day 4: Skip the iron

Now that my body is totally relaxed, I skip the gym on this day and get as much sleep as I can instead of hitting the gym. I often struggle to fall asleep that night since I feel quite rested, but I force myself.

Day 5: Another warm up

I do a light to moderate warm up at the gym and sit in the steam room or sauna to raise my body temperature. Sweating can help improve recovery.

Day 6: Go out and live

Instead of visiting the gym, I do something that I usually don't have the time to do. I go to the movies, catch up with an old friend, or take a long walk down my road. As long as there is no intense exercise here, anything (outside of the gym) goes.

Day 7: Nothing but rest

I take a day of complete rest. I don't exercise or visit the gym at all. I usually spend this day prepping my meals for the next week.

The come back

If you have rested well during you rest week (and previously trained hard enough to deserve it), you should come back bigger and stronger. I often experience more muscle gain during my rest week than on my average training weeks. It still amazes me how much stronger I am after this resting period - even though I have basically been doing nothing. You should experience the same benefits from regular breaks. This time also rekindles your fire for fitness. Not only do I come back stronger and bigger, but more determined than ever before. The rest benefits your mind just as much as your body.

What the rest of the web says about rest weeks

I am not the only one who advocates the whole rest week idea. Russell Yeager from says that smart bodybuilders take rest weeks regularly. He advises, though, that you should spend the entire week completely outside of the gym. He says that this should be a part of every serious bodybuilder's program. Russell does not do any form of exercise during this period. He recommends taking a rest week every 8-10 weeks, and says that it is impossible to maintain the best level of intensity every week without a good, prolonged rest period. Russell notes that he finds it easier to plan his programs into 8-10 week cycles and break up his goals accordingly. He says that getting lost in the motion of working out every day makes it easy for people to lose sight of their short-term goals, level of intensity and determination to improve. According to him, the people at his gym who haven't taken a rest week in over two years are looking the same and lifting the same weight as they did two years ago. He warns against feelings of guilt and laziness for people who attempt their first rest week without mentally freaking out.

Your muscles are stimulated during exercise, but only grow when they are not being exercised. For this reason, finding the right balance between rest and training is essential. I believe that physical progress can be chalked down to three elements: training, rest and nutrition. Any one of these three elements can sabotage your advances if you don't look after them properly. If muscle growth is your primary goal; a bulking diet, for example, is crucial for development. Rest is no different. also touts the rest week as an essential period for serious athletes. It says that the importance of an entire week of rest depends on the intensity that an individual is working out at. For example, people who train at moderate or low intensities will benefit more from a day (or a few days) off every week and don't need an entire rest week because the stresses placed on their bodies aren't that high. It adds, though, that weight lifters and endurance athletes need a full rest week every now and then to fully recover from the physical stresses that can accumulate. They note the fact that failure to take these rest weeks often enough can lead to a lack of physical progress and even lead to a decline in performance and bodily transformation. They say that many endurance athletes take these rest weeks after their competitive seasons, while many bodybuilders take rest weeks every 4-8 weeks.

How often should I take a rest week?

As you can see, different sources recommend different times. I recommend once every 2-3 months, recommends every 8-10 weeks and recommends every 4-8 weeks (for bodybuilders). The truth is that the best frequency depends on you.

It depends on a variety of factors like: 

The intensity

The higher the intensity, the more often you will need a rest week.

The form of exercise

Casual forms of exercise require less rest weeks; but weightlifting, intense sports and endurance exercise requires more.

The length of time you have been training

Newcomers need to rest more regularly, but probably won't be able to achieve the right level of intensity to deserve an entire rest week (a day or two of rest should be fine for these people). As the intensity increases when your body is able to perform better, the need for rest weeks will rise.

The amount of rest that you usually take

If you rest every second day, you probably won't need a rest week in a very long time. People who work out 6 days a week will need rest weeks more often.

Your own body

This is probably the most important point of them all (especially for experienced athletes). As you progress further into your chosen exercise regime or sport, you will realize that your body does not respond the same way as everybody else. You will start to realize what your body needs - outside of the standard guidelines. Some people need rest weeks more often, while others don't need them as much. 

Personally, I have trained long enough to know when I need a rest week. It is not as simple as saying that I need a rest week every 2-3 months. Sometimes I need a rest week sooner, while at other times I know that my body hasn't accumulated enough stress to justify a full rest week. If you are new to the idea of taking a rest week, try taking one every 8 weeks until you start getting a feel for whether you need them more or less often.

A great way to tell whether you needed a rest week is by judging your physical progress when you get back to your exercises. If your strength/ endurance/ speed/ output have not increased, you probably took a rest week too soon. STAY STRONG!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Dangers and Solutions to Overtraining

Training places a physical stress on your body. It responds to this stress by becoming stronger. This process is called homeostasis. Your body needs time to recover from exercise. It recovers when you are not exercising. Most of this recovery happens while you sleep. When you exercise at a higher rate than what your body can recover from, over training can occur over a period of time.

The longer the period of time that you put more stimuli onto your body than what it can respond to, the more serious this condition can become. It will also increase the time that it will take for your body to recover from over training.

The dangers of overtraining

Below is a list of dangers that over training can cause on your body.

You've hit a plateau

Hitting a plateau is the usually first symptom to arise when over training. A plateau is what we call the state where you are not increasing your physical performance or getting closer to your body transformation goals. When you are exercising regularly but not making any progress, we call that a plateau. Plateaus are more common than over training. You can hit a plateau without over training, but you can't over train without hitting a plateau. If over training is the cause, over training worsens physical ability and ends up decreasing physical performance. It is important to note that you can hit a plateau even if you are not over training. If you think that you've hit a plateau, click here to learn ways that you can blast past it.

Decreased physical performance

If you continue to over train once you have hit a plateau, physical progression will reverse into regression. The amount of physical activity that you can do will get less and less. Your body's transformation goals will reverse. Fat deposits may increase and muscle size will decrease. This happens because your body will start to break down from all of the physical stress placed on it. It no longer has enough time or energy to recover and starts to eat itself in order to survive. The loss of muscle from over training is referred to as catabolism.

Decreased overall energy

You will have less energy throughout the rest of your day. One of exercise's benefits is that it gives you more energy. This happens because your body adapts to the exercise by producing more energy in order to cope with that stress. When the body does not have enough time to recover, the benefits of exercise are often reversed from overtraining. For example, too much exercise will deplete your energy levels. Your body will squander to allocate as much energy as it can to recover from exercise before your next session. Since it needs more energy to recover than what it can produce, its energy levels are constantly depleted.

Your body will break itself down

Exercise makes small damages in your muscles. It also challenges your cardio vascular system. These challenges are supposed to make them stronger, but challenging it too much will weaken these systems and cause your body to break down. Since your body cannot repair muscle in time, it will break it down in order to survive. Your body will break down whatever elements it does not find absolutely necessary in order to cope with the physical pressure from over training.

 Appetite and cravings

Since your body is desperate for energy and resources, it will either crave more calories or crave close to nothing. This often goes in the opposite direction of a person's goals. People who are trying to lose weight often end up craving high calorie foods and can't seem to satisfy these cravings because their bodies are reverting back to what they know in order to try and restore balance. Conversely, people who struggle to put on weight (or who want to build muscle) will lose their appetites. Again, this is because their bodies are reverting back to what they know in order to restore balance. Their bodies are more concerned with short term recuperation instead of long term recovery.

Constant thirst

You physically associate drinking with refreshment. A constant, unquenchable thirst is a classic sign of over training. Your body needs more water to metabolize the tissues that it is breaking down and get rid of excess waste products. Since it is breaking it down and can't regulate itself properly (because it does not have the energy and resources to do so), it struggles to self-regulate and craves water for extra assistance.

More cases of injury

Athletes who overtrain are more prone to injury (even with less physical effort). This is because of the fact that the body is not fully recovered, does not have the resources to protect it and is breaking it down; making it weaker. Overuse is one of the biggest causes of joint injury. A classic example is the shoulder joint, which is generally susceptible to injury. One of the leading causes of shoulder pain and injury among weight lifters is overuse. This is because of the fact that so many weight training exercises involve and stimulate the shoulder joint. If programs are not balanced (training different parts of the shoulder equally - see above link), or use the shoulder joint too much, injury is more likely to occur. This is one of the main points in the argument against whether you should have separate shoulder days (click to see reasons why you should). Injury is not limited to the shoulder joint. Increased injuries could affect other joints and muscles as well.

Lowered immune system

Since your body is breaking itself down and prioritizing recuperation over long-term function, immune function will be sharply affected. Getting sick more often is another extremely common sign of over training. This is another benefit of exercise that gets reversed with too much stimulus. Some people experience flu-like symptoms after every exercise session because of overtraining. If you exercise regularly and are getting sicker, more often; the chances are very high hat you are either over trained (or need to look at your daily nutrition).

Emotional/mental/motivational instability

Since exercise releases endorphins, you should be looking forward to your training session and feel great afterwards. This is especially true for people who have gotten used to the physical demands of exercise. If you have a negative outlook towards your exercise routine, it might be because your body needs more time to recover. Overtraining can cause exercise-induced depression. Lack of motivation is another sign that you need some good rest. People who are heavily overtrained often develop a sense of anger, resentment and hatred towards their exercise regimes. They don't see the point of it anymore and it feels like their physical goals are sapping the life out of their souls. Over training also impacts your emotional and mental health outside of exercise. Overtraining will make you more moody and less sociable. It will limit your mental ability, since your body is breaking itself down and lives in a constant state of desperation. The things that you used to enjoy won't make you happy anymore.

Some people develop a sense of hatred towards exercise, but others can actually get addicted to it. Exercise addiction refers to the possible, negative relationship that we can have with exercise if we do more than what we should. Since over training has a negative impact on our emotional states, this reinforces the habit for some as they over exercise for the endorphin release or to feel better about themselves. In this way, exercise addiction is similar to eating disorders.

Central nervous system damage

The central nervous system is the collection of nerves that your body uses to move and control movement through muscles. Exercise stimulates this system and therefore makes it better. For example, exercise helps you to have a better mind-to-muscle connection. This connection refers to the amount of control that you have over your physical movement. Once again, this benefit is reversed with over training. Too much exercise damages your body's nerves. This can lead to constant shakiness, muscle twitches, restless leg syndrome and more. Think of the central nervous system as the body's electrical circuit for communication between the brain and the rest of the body. A burnt out central nervous system (from too much exercise) is similar to a burnt out electrical system.

Sleep problems

As mentioned above, most recovery happens when you sleep. Overtraining refers to a state where your body has more to recover from, but less time to do so. This negatively affects sleep in two possible ways:

Overtraining makes some people sleep too much

Since your body is desperate to recover, your need for sleep increases. People in this category will fall asleep very quickly but can't seem to get enough sleep. They feel like they can sleep forever and will still not be fully rested. They are tired throughout the day and constantly need to sleep more. This is because their bodies have very little energy and still need to recover more.

Overtraining stops some people from sleeping properly

These people need sleep, but their systems are so burnt out that your struggle to fall asleep - and stay asleep when they do. Since their bodies are frantically trying to recover and can't regulate themselves properly anymore, they lose the ability to distinguish between the times of rest and activity. Think of the way that mental stress can keep you up at night.

Hormones imbalances

Since the body struggles to regulate itself, muscle building and performance hormones like testosterone and growth hormones start to decline in number. Sleep and rest hormones like melatonin aren't regulated either, making some people too tired and others too active. Stress hormones like cortisol are increased as a response to physical stress. The exercise that increases muscle building hormones ends up halting their production because of too much stimulus.

Adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue can arise from overtraining. This will make you feel fatigued all the time. Hormones and neurotransmitters get less in number and potency when someone has adrenal fatigue. Food cravings are another sign of adrenal fatigue. This will stop someone's ability to handle physical and mental stress. As the name suggests, adrenal fatigue happens as a result of the continuous strain on internal adrenaline use and production. Medical professionals, who rely on adrenaline to carry them through long working hours, for example, are very susceptible to adrenal fatigue.

The fix: How to get over an overtrained state

The answer might seem obvious, but there are a variety of ways that you need to look at in order to overcome and reverse the effects of overt training.


Did you see that one coming? If you are over trained, rest and give your body a chance to recover. Depending on how over trained you are, you might need to rest for a longer period of time. In extreme cases, patients who suffer from chronic overtraining syndrome need to rest for up to 6 months. Depending on the severity of your symptoms (as described above), rest for as long as your body needs to. I believe in listening to your body. Rest until you feel better, and don't be scared to overdo it. The fear of resting for too long might be what caused you to over train in the first place.

If the symptoms are relatively new (you've only been experiencing them for a month or so), I would suggest taking a week off and seeing how you feel after that. If you have been feeling these effects for longer, a good month of rest might be what you need. If you feel like you have all the energy in the world after the third day, it doesn't mean that your body has fully recovered. Your body is probably still in survival mode and is accustomed to using the little energy that it has for physical exertion. Give yourself time and allow your body to slowly realize that it has the opportunity to focus on recovery. Since it hasn't been doing much recovery in the last while, it almost needs to re-learn how to recover. Here are a few tips for getting the most recovery out of your rest periods.

To avoid the risk of overtraining, take at least one full day of rest every week and have a full week of rest every 2-3 months. This rest week is great to recover from accumulated stresses that the body does not have the opportunity to recover from in-between exercise sessions.


Your body does most of its recovery during sleep. For this reason, make sure that you have ample amounts of sleep to give your body the time that it needs to recover. Sleep is also important for the regulation of hormones that improve physical performance. Establish a good sleeping ritual that will calm you down before bed time. This can include dimming the lights, reading a book and avoiding the light from screens for an hour before you hit the sack.


Give your body what it needs to recover and rebuild. Incorrect nutrition can exasperate the effects of over training. Proper nutrition, on the other hand, can minimize its effects. Your body can only recover when it has the resources that it needs to do so.


Glutamine is an amino acid that is naturally found in your body. It is needed for recovery from injury, exercise, illness and disease. By supplementing with glutamine, you can increase the amount of recovery that your body can do within a certain period of time. This makes glutamine a perfect supplement for people who need to recover. I personally use glutamine when I am sick (to get better faster) or when my current training programs is putting a lot of stress on my body.

Over training will lead to the reversal of the benefits of exercise. It will decrease your performance, body transformation progress and reverse the health benefits of exercise. Your body gets better/faster/bigger when you rest. STAY STRONG!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Flu-like Symptoms from Exercise

These are the reasons why you could feel like you are getting sick after or during exercise. Firstly, let me tell you that you are not alone. Many people experience this. The symptoms go away for most people after their bodies get used to it (for new comers who experience it). If you feel cold and chilli (instead of flu-like symptoms) from exercise, click here.

Why you could experience flu-like symptoms from exercise


It is very easy to become dehydrated during exercise. You don't only lose water through your sweat, but through your breathing (You exhale water vapor. Heavier breathing loses more water) and pee as well. On top of that, your body needs more water because it increases muscle volume in order to get more nutrients into the muscles and escort more waste products out of them. Getting dehydrated can cause dizziness, light-headedness and headaches which you might be associating with the feeling of being sick. Make sure that you get enough electrolytes as well. They are responsible for helping your body to hold onto the water you drink. When your electrolyte levels are low (they get depleted from exercise), your body struggles to hold onto water and it simply flows right through you.

Exercising outdoors - Dust

If you exercise outdoors, your body might be reacting to the dust levels in the air. I have recently moved from the suburbs to a more country-themed area. My running trails have turned from tarred surfaces into the dirt roads that you typically find in country regions. For a few hours after my run, I cough up some of the dirt that I've inhaled from the day's exercise. This is how my lungs get rid of the dust. Some people might sneeze or get snotty as their bodies try to remove the inhaled dust from their systems. Read more about exercising in environments with dust and what the safe levels are.


Similar to the above, your symptoms might be brought on by the pollen or other allergens in the air. Exercise opens up your airways and blood vessels, which makes it easier for these allergens to enter into your body.

Loosening of phlegm

Exercise opens up the airways and lungs. It also helps your body to get rid of sinus build up. If you were sick recently or have sinus in your cavities for some other reason, exercise might be assisting your body to expel it. This might make you think like you are getting sick, when phlegm removal is simply being sped up. Working out can aid in loosening phlegm that has been sticking around for long past its welcome date. Try to steam out the excess phlegm or sinus that you may have. Steams rooms are good for this.

You are getting sick (and exercise is bringing it out)

Exercise challenges your body. Your body gets stronger to adapt to the strain that exercise temporarily puts on it. The immune system takes a short-term hit from exercise. If your body is currently battling with an underlying, impending spell of illness; exercise might be warning you about what is soon to come. If this is the case, take a few days off to give your body all the energy that it needs to fight off the sickness. Also make sure that you get the right sleep and nutrients to help your body fight it off. Use these tips to get better quicker when you are sick.

Release of human growth hormone (HGH)

Exercise encourages the release of human growth hormone. It is a hormone that assists the body to recover and build muscle. Although it is very beneficial for recovery and muscle growth, too much of it in the system at once can make you feel nauseous. 

Over training

You could be training too hard and failing to give your body a break to recover. This point is very important. You could be getting sick (and feeling those flu-like symptoms) for this reason. Over training can make you get sick more often because the exercise ends up challenging the body more than what it can cope with. See our article on breaking your plateau to determine whether over training is making you sick. Don't drag out your exercise sessions for too long. This is could be the reason why you feel horrible afterwards. You are pushing your body so hard that it is breaking down more than it is building itself up. You also need to have rest days. Here are great ways to have a fantastic rest day that really speeds up recovery.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia says that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia might be the reason why you feel sick after exercise. Symptoms that indicate that this is the case include dizziness, extreme exhaustion or nausea (although all of these symptoms could indicate over training as well). If this is the reason why exercise makes you feel sick, you need to see a doctor.

Nutrition that will help you

BCAA's (branched chain amino acids) will support performance during exercise, decrease the stress it places on your body and therefore minimize the temporary impact that exercise could be having on your body. As discussed in the article referring to over training (that I linked to in the point above), glutamine can help you recover quicker from both exercise and illness. You should always eat a balance diet that includes healthy, raw foods to maintain a healthy immune system.

Go through the list and see which best describes your current situation. Once you find the cause, you will be more equipped to deal with the issue. Always stay safe and put your long term health first when exercising. STAY STRONG!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Homeostasis - Using it to Your Advantage

Homeostasis is your body's way of balancing things out. It is the name of the processes that happen when your body does something to maintain stability. If something swings one way, homeostasis would be the process that your body uses to counteract that action to return to normal and maintain a standard state of being. For example, when you get too hot your body sweats to return its body temperature to normal. Producing sweat, in this case, is an act of homeostasis to maintain the right body heat. Another example could involve the immune system. Your immune system fights off disease to return to normal. This is called homeostasis. Wikipedia explains homeostasis as the characteristic of systems within the body where a variable is regulated to stay near a constant value.

Long term effects of homeostasis

Khan Academy tells us that homeostasis usually involves negative counteractions to maintain stability. This brings the body back to a certain value (like body heat). When the counteraction process is positive, the value that the body regards as normal could change from its original point. 

For example, exercise temporarily increases your heart rate. Homeostasis is the process where your body brings your heart rate down (a positive counteraction) to achieve balance. This positive counteraction can change the standard (resting) heart over time. The effects of the counteraction (or homeostasis) can often outweigh the initial stimulus that caused it. This happens because your body adapts to minimize the effects of the stimulus in the first place. In this example, your heart rate will decrease after regular exercise because of the repeated homeostasis brought on from the exercise. 

You can therefore find that homeostasis often has a cumulative effect.

Diabetes: Failed homeostasis leads to disease

When your body cannot restore itself to a state of homeostasis (balance), disease is the result (or cause). Diabetes is an example of how the lack of homeostasis leads to disease.

How diabetes is caused by the lack of homeostasis

When blood sugar levels are high (from eating), insulin is released to restore balance. It does this by telling the body to absorb the sugar out of the blood and into storage. When blood sugar levels are low, glucagon is released to make the body release this energy from storage. When your body can’t restore this balance, blood sugar levels can remain high (either because not enough insulin is being released or your body is not responding to it properly). 

Homeostasis is critical for survival.

Using homeostasis to your advantage

Exercise is not the only thing that can take advantage of the positive effects of homeostasis

Exercise owes almost all of its benefits to the cumulative effect of homeostasis. For example, the endorphin rush that makes you feel so good is your body's way of compensating for the pain and exhaustion that exercise physically induces. The release of endorphins is often accompanied with pain as the body tries to balance out its effects. For example, eating chilies and getting a tattoo are both accompanied with endorphin release. This is what makes these activities addictive.

In another example, your muscles get stronger as a result of the exercise that breaks them down, in an attempt to re-establish balance. We increase the intensity or difficulty of an exercise as we get used to it, forcing our bodies to adapt further towards a homeostatic, balanced state of being.

Your body tries to stabilize itself by increasing its strength or endurance as a result of the opposite happening during exercise. Your immune system also gets stronger, because exercise momentarily challenges it.

Homeostasis and skin

We discuss the idea of training your skin to either produce less or more oil here. It is premised on the theory that you can train skin in the same way that you train muscle. People who have dry skin can increase oil production by washing more regularly. Conversely, people who have oily skin can train it to produce less oil by stripping less of that oil away in their daily routines. I tried out this theory and my skin majorly improved in two weeks.

This takes advantage of your body's innate tendency to balance things out. People with dry skin tend to use a lot of moisturizer, which the body balances out by producing less oil. When I used less skin cream and showered twice a day instead of once, my body balanced out these actions by producing more oil. The effects to this were cumulative, and after a few weeks my skin was less dry than it had been in years. People with oily skin can use the same principle by removing less of the skin's natural oil layer. It will attempt to reach a state of homeostasis by producing less oil.

In the same way, long term exfoliation increases the thickness of your skin. It temporarily thins your skin, which causes your body counteract by thickening it. It slightly overcompensates for this action in order to protect itself from the next exfoliation. Over time, the skin gets thicker as a result of cumulative homeostasis.

During your exercise routine

You can use this principle during exercise as well. I used to drink less water when I first started exercising and after a few workouts, I felt less thirsty. People who train often on an empty stomach are better adapted to it and will probably feel sick if they didn't, since their bodies have establish that specific procedure as their standard condition. Because of homeostasis, the best time to work out is actually the time that you work out the most often. You will have unknowingly gotten so used to working out at a certain time that those times become the best time for performance. Your body makes the most energy when it anticipates the most activity, in order to maintain balance. For this reason, Healthy Way recommends training at the same time of a particular event that you are preparing for to maximize performance on that day.

Response to exercise

In our research on the best weight training workout split for muscle growth, some studies had to be distinguished from others depending on whether their subjects previously trained or if they were untrained. The long-term homeostasis responses from trained athletes changed the way that their bodies responded to exercise. People who previously trained where able to recover from exercise stimuli more efficiently than people who didn't.

Absorption and digestion

My father always told me that the diets that some people eat every day could make other people sick, because their systems are so used to it. This is extremely true. Your body gets used to certain foods and becomes better at digesting these foods. This is a great concept to understand for people who battle to digest certain foods or supplements. By using smaller quantities, you can train your body to get used to breaking down a particular source of food for nutrients. By increasing the quantity and quality of certain foods over time, your body gets more adept at digesting it and using it.

This is why you need to balance out supplement consumption with real food. If you don't eat enough real food regularly, your body can lose its ability to digest it properly.

Train for pain

You can increase your pain tolerance by taking advantage of the fact that your body will adapt in order to restore a sense of balance. Most fighters develop a greater pain tolerance for this reason.

Hot and cold

Your body tries to cool you down when the environment is too hot. It also tries to warm you up when it gets too cold. It takes a lot of energy to change body temperature, and people who are exposed to larger temperature differences burn more calories because of this. This homeostatic response can therefore be used to burn extra calories.


Not all cases of homeostasis are positive. Homeostasis can lead to dependency as it causes changes in the body to restore balance from products that were originally meant to boost it. A good example of this would be caffeine. It gives your body energy. Your body attempts to restore its natural energy balance by decreasing its natural energy production, minimizing caffeine's effects and increasing the rate at which caffeine is eliminated from the body. The longer and more often you consume caffeine, the less of an effect it will have on you. If you consume it long and often enough, your body will adapt so much that it will not be able to maintain its own energy levels without it.

Because of the above, it is therefore advisable to regularly consume nutrients that the body needs and cannot produce on its own (like protein, essential vitamins and anti-oxidants), but cycle other things that have an immediate positive effect without letting the body balance out its effects. This prevents your body from getting too accustomed to something. The long-term homeostasis counter-effects can accumulate to an extent where products that were meant to increase certain functions end up causing dependency.

By cycling caffeine, you can maximize its effects during the times that you need it the most. This applied to many other non-essential nutrients and chemicals. The rule of diminishing results as a result of homeostasis is the reason why you should cycle creatine.

It is clear that you can get the results that you want from your body by doing things that will force its homeostasis processes to elicit a particular response. This is useful because you can change how parts of your body work and what it does by applying the homeostasis principles explained above. STAY STRONG!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Science of Lactic Acid: Increasing Performance

Lactic acid is the chemical that is responsible for the burning sensation that you feel in your muscles when they get fatigued. Lactic acid has a primary survival function: It prevents you from overworking your muscles in a single bout of physical activity and acts as an indication for when your muscles are ready to continue with more physical exertion. Without lactic acid, you would never know when to stop and could permanently damage your muscles without realizing it. Read on to find out more about lactic acid formation and what you can do to maximize your workouts by managing lactic acid build up.

Extra Info: Some of lactic acid's properties

Wikipedia says that lactic acid is white and water soluble. It falls under the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) acid group. AHA's are often used in the cosmetic industry for their skin rejuvenating effects. AHA acids generally originate from milk and fruit sugars. Lactic acid in particular comes from glycogen, the sugar in our muscles (we will read more about that connection later). Lactic acid is also hygroscopic, meaning that it attracts and absorbs the water around it.

What you need to know about lactic acid to improve your performance

Lactic acid is formed during anaerobic exercise

Scientific American explains that lactic acid is formed during anaerobic exercise - the type of exercise that uses energy from muscle glycogen, not the type of exercise that uses energy from oxygen.

When your body needs energy at a faster rate than what it get make from oxygen, it uses glycogen stores to meet its energy needs. Glycogen is the energy (a form of glucose) that is stored in muscle mass. Shorter bursts of exercise use muscle energy (or glycogen). This is one of the reasons why sprinters have bigger muscles than marathon runners. Since they reply on muscle glycogen for energy, their bodies adapt by increasing muscles mass to accommodate more glycogen. Marathon runners don't reply on glycogen stores, since they work at a pace that can rely on oxygen for energy. For bodybuilders, glucose accommodation is one of the reasons why high reps training can build muscle mass.

This would explain why new runners are more prone to experience sore muscles during training than better trained athletes. Their bodies are not as trained to use oxygen for energy as efficiently as more experienced athletes. They therefore rely more on glycogen stores to complete their training sessions. As they progress and their bodies use oxygen-generated energy more efficiently, less lactic acid will be produced as a result.

This could also explain why longer aerobic sessions can lead to muscle soreness (like on competition and race days). As you advance further into prolonged physical activity, your energy-from-oxygen system starts to tire and begins to lean on your glycogen-for-energy system for help. The resulting recruitment of the glycogen system leads to lactic acid build up.

How lactic acid is formed

Glycolysis refers to the process where glycogen is broken down into energy. During this process, glucose is broken down into a substance called pyruvate.

When there is enough time to use oxygen as a form of energy, pyruvate can be transported and used for more energy though aerobic pathways. When there is not enough oxygen for this process because of time constraints, pyruvate is turned into lactic acid (or lactate) so that the glucose can be broken down into energy to perform a physical function. As the muscle continues to work, the lactic acid builds up more and more. It continues building up to a point where you start feeling that burning sensation. This burning sensation eventually prohibits further physical exertion. Your muscles begin to lose their physical ability to perform because the acidity of lactate disrupts the muscle function. This effect worsens as the lactic acid (or lactate) increases in concentration within the muscle fiber.

The process described above has a very basic survival benefit, because without it we would exert ourselves without stopping. This would cause irreversibly damage our muscle tissue.

The elimination of lactic acid (and how to speed it up)

As oxygen enters into the blood and reaches the muscle, it turns the lactic acid back into pyruvate so that it can be used as energy. Since the rate at which pyruvate is turned into lactic acid (during intense exercise) is greater than the rate at which oxygen can turn it back, there is a back log that slowly catches up as oxygen reaches the muscle fiber. According to, the reversal process can take 30 to 60 minutes after the activity that prompted lactate formation. After this time, lactic acid levels return to normal resting levels.

You can speed up the removal of lactic acid by doing light exercise right after the lactate-inducing activity. Cool-down exercises allow oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to reach the muscles faster.

Fact: Lactic acid does not cause delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Many people believe that the muscle soreness that lasts for days after your workout is caused by lactic acid build up. This is not true. The American College of Sports Medicine says that there is no connection between lactic acid build up and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Firstly, lactic acid cannot be the cause of DOMS because the pain you feel from this will only appear after a day (sometimes longer) of the exercise that caused it. The burn you feel from lactic acid is immediate and usually goes away after an hour. If the two pains were from the same chemical, then why does the pain subside and then come back? It's not like lactic acid needs to take a rest, disappears and returns with a vengeance. As stated above, lactic acid returns back to base levels within an hour.

Instead, the recovery process is what causes DOMS. It is caused as a result of microscopic damages and tiny tears that happen within the muscle fibers as a result of exercise or physical activity. DOMS is most often experienced with new programs that your body is not used to. New stimuli require a much higher degree of recovery, since your body is not used to recovering from that specific stimulus.

This is why you can feel an incredible immediate muscle burn while working out and not have DOMS afterwards. Also, you can experience DOMS even if you didn't feel the burn in your muscles during your workout.

Reducing lactic acid formation

Here are ways to reduce lactic acid formation so that you can work out for longer and increase the amount of stimulus that you put on your muscles before they start to tire.


Complete Nutrition recommends hydrating with water and electrolytes. This helps you to ease the effects of lactic acid because it is water soluble. Water will dilute lactic acid, which you can pee out during your workout. They recommend drinking before you get dehydrated, and that only drinking at this stage is too late. Waiting for the signs of dehydration before you re-hydrate will increase the effects of lactic acid build up, instead of minimizing it. Electrolytes help your body to hold water so that it does not run through your body without making any positive effects on your hydration levels.

Improve blood circulation

A hot bath will improve blood circulation, encouraging the reduction of lactic acid, according to V Kool. The increased heat opens up blood vessels so that more oxygen and nutrients can reach the muscles in less time. Steam rooms can also help ease and limit lactate build up for the same reason - improved blood circulation. Warming up is a great way to reduce lactate accumulation. It also increases your performance. Massaging the muscle will also improve blood circulation, and so will a good cool down routine after your workout.

Breathe in more oxygen

Have you ever breathed deeper and more rapidly to feel light headed? Did you know that you felt light headed because of the extra oxygen in your blood? The extra oxygen in this case will help to counter the effects of the lactic acid. To take things a step further, you could work on increasing your VO2 max, so that your body naturally absorbs more oxygen that normal. Cardio vascular exercise will increase that rate at which your body can use oxygen for energy and reduce the rate at which lactic acid is released because of this. Don't worry muscle junkies: cardio can actually aid muscle gain.

Slow down

When you feel the burn coming on, you can stop for a few minutes and let the sensation subside. This can increase the amount of work that you get to do before the burn takes over. The more stimuli you can give your body, the more it will be prompted to grow.

Supplements that combat lactic acid


Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that provides the body with energy. Supplementing with creatine to increase its naturally occurring levels will assist the muscle fibers by providing them with more energy than usual. By increasing energy availability, there will be less lactic acid build up from the energy production process described above.

Fish oil

Fish oil contains omega 3, which helps to support your cardio vascular endurance system and maintain it at an optimal level. The better your cardio vascular system can process oxygen (as discussed above), the less lactic acid will be produced.


Magnesium is also important for cardio vascular performance. Many endurance athletes use magnesium during race days to avoid muscle cramps and soreness. Make sure that you don't overdose on this mineral, though. Too much magnesium can lead to irregular heartbeats, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and hypo-tension. Never take more than the recommended dosage.


Beta-alanine is widely known for its ability to combat muscle fatigue. It is also known to reduce the rate of lactate formation, which means that your muscles can do more before they burn out from the acidity of lactic acid.

Some people experience negative side effects from beta-alanine supplementation. Try a small amount of this amino acid (amino acids are the building blocks of protein) to see if you are sensitive to taking it in its isolated form. Many athletes report a tingly, itchy feeling on their skin when they take this supplement. Others feel the tingling sensation and continue using it because they associate the sensation with the increased the endurance that beta-alanine can give them. Others don't have any negative side effects at all.

Baking soda

Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) works to decrease the effects of lactic acid because it works to counteract lactate's acidity within the muscle fibers. Although sodium bicarbonate is relatively abundant within muscle, consuming this common household ingredient before intense activity has shown to decrease the burning sensation within a person's muscle tissue.

By understanding what lactic acid is and how it works, discovering ways to minimize its effects and realizing that DOMS is a recovery response instead of the left-over effect of lactate; you are more empowered to exercise, eat and plan your life in such a way that you can further your physical goals with less time and misguided effort.

I hope that you learnt some information that help you further your physical progress. If you did, please let me know in the comments below. STAY STRONG!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Everything You Need to Know about Catabolism (Muscle Breakdown)

Catabolism is the process where muscle mass is broken down. According to Wikipedia, Catabolism refers to any process where molecules are broken down to be used either for energy or an anabolic (building) process. Catabolism can also refer to the breakdown of fat for energy. Therefore, catabolism in itself is not a bad thing. It can be beneficial if it is breaking down fat cells, for those who are trying to lose weight. Many people have a negative viewpoint on catabolism because it is most often used to describe the breakdown of muscle tissue.

In this article, we will be focusing on the catabolism process with regard to muscle breakdown (the negative kind that you don't want to happen). Your body enters a catabolic state when it is too stressed, for example, and breaks down muscle tissue for a quick source of energy. 

The word is often thrown around many a webpage, and I thought it would be good to write up an in-depth article on what catabolism actually is, what it does, its causes and what you can do to minimize its effects.

The importance of understanding catabolism

According to, understanding what catabolism is and how the process works will empower athletes and all health-conscious individuals to achieve greater results with their exercise and eating plans. They will be able to increase their fitness levels, reach their desired body compositions or grow muscle mass more efficiently if they have the right knowledge about what the body is breaking down during different times. 

By understanding catabolism and the catabolic state that your body enters into for various reasons, you can either enhance or counteract this process. For example, knowing when your body will break down muscle for energy will allow you to take actions that will minimize this process. Additionally, knowing when your body will break down fat cells instead will allow you to take steps that will maximize that specific chain of events.

Fit day uses the example of an athlete that knows when muscles are most likely to be broken down in his body because of hormones that are released during exercise. With this knowledge, he is able to stop this process by eating certain nutrients before, during and after exercise. This will decrease the amount of muscle that is broken down and therefore further his specific goals more easily.

Catabolism is a natural process

Many metabolic processes require a catabolic state in order to function properly. Without catabolism, your body cannot break down nutrients for energy and bodily repair. Catabolism is needed for anabolism, because nutrients are needed to be broken down into usable building blocks before they can be reformed into new tissue.

Catabolism and anabolism need to be kept in balance for the right things to be catabolized. Keeping the right balance between the two allows you to avoid the wrong things being catabolized. Your body will always prioritize survival. If it senses that it needs to break down muscle in order to survive, it will do so. If your body has a higher rate of catabolism and a lower rate of anabolism, muscle and fat deposits can become depleted. 

A good example of this would be hard gainers, ectomorphs and very skinny people. They struggle to put on weight because they have high metabolisms. Their bodies are very efficient at breaking down nutrients for energy. Since their bodies are so catabolic (breaking down so many nutrients for energy), they tend to be more catabolic than anabolic. Since catabolism is higher in these instances, these people have lower fat and muscle masses. When understanding the idea of catabolism in this way, it becomes clear that these people can eat more (to increase nutrient availability), exercise in ways that encourage anabolism (increase muscle growth), and work to lower their metabolisms if they want to change their bodies.

Bodybuilders aim to decrease body mass catabolism and maximize muscular anabolism by increasing nutrient intake and limiting exercises to activities that stimulate muscle growth during their bulking phases. During cutting cycles, they decrease nutrients (while still ensuring that they get enough to minimize muscle catabolism) to increase fat catabolism.

The causes of muscle catabolism and muscle breakdown

1. Insufficient nutrition explains that muscle catabolism can be avoided through proper nutrition. Larger muscle mass requires more calories to maintain. Therefore the more muscle you have, the more nutrients your body will need to maintain it. They say that sufficient protein and essential fats are the most important nutrients to prevent muscle break down. These two nutrients do this by giving the body what it needs to maintain muscle and regulate muscle-friendly hormones. 

20% of your diet should include protein to maintain muscle mass. This increases to 30% if you exercise every day. You can use protein supplements to assist you if you battle to get your protein requirements from your daily diet, but you need to ensure that the majority of your diet consists of real food. Good sources of natural protein include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds and legumes. 

20% of your diet should consist of fats. Good sources of healthy fats are oily fish (like salmon, pilchards, herring, mackerel and trout), olives, avocado, nuts, seeds and dairy products.

Eat fresh fruit and vegetables to keep healthy. When looking at a new diet, you always need to include a good amount of fresh fruit and vegetables for optimum health. This is essential to get all the micro nutrients that your body needs to be optimally healthy. Failure to get these micro nutrients can lead to illness (a significant cause of muscle break down - see below). Also, these are needed to improve digestion, which ultimately helps your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to achieve your goals. 

2. Prolonged exercise (and over training)

The Journal of Applied Physiology showcases a study that investigated the effects of muscle breakdown during prolonged exercise. They measured the breakdown of protein by looking at urea levels. Urea is the end product that is made when protein is broken down. High urea levels, for example, indicate highly broken down muscle mass. They measured the urea levels of participants who cycled for 1 hour at 61% of their VO2 max to determine the correlation between muscle loss and exercise duration. The researchers found that 13.7 grams of protein was broken in 1 hour of exercise. 10.4% of the total energy cost (measured in calories) was obtained by breaking down protein. The study reports that protein is broken down at a much greater extent than what is commonly estimated.

This study shows that you lose more muscle during exercise than what you would probably think. This happens because your body does not realize that you can stop exercising when you want to and that you are doing it out of choice. It thinks that you are physically exerting yourself because you have to for your survival. In order to protect your survival, it ensures that your system has as much energy as it can physical produce to allow you to do what you need to do. It would rather break down the protein in your muscle to survive than preserve it and compromise your chances of survival.

This sounds like a very depressing story. You exercise to get into better shape, but your body breaks down muscle when you do. The good news is that by understanding the above process, you can take steps to minimize the amount of protein that is broken down. Here are the ways that you can improve muscle retention during physical activity.

Don't prolong exercise for too long

Find the optimum length of time that you are going to train for, depending on your goals. Marathon runners have less muscle mass because they exercise for extremely long periods of time.

If your goal is to become a marathon runner, you shouldn't mind losing muscle mass as much as other athletes, because it will make you lighter and therefore require less energy to move your body over a long distance. You can still retain some muscle mass, though, by following the next few points.

If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, like bodybuilders do, you should limit the amount of time that you spend on each workout to 90 minutes.

Check the exercise intensity

Exercise above a VO2 max of 60% is considered to be a very high intensity exercise. The higher the intensity of the exercise session, the more your body will break down muscle for energy. Take this into consideration when planning your exercise routines.

For example, I lower the intensity of my exercises by increasing the rest times between sets. This minimizes muscle loss. I do this because some of my training programs can't be squeezing into 90 minutes. I compensate for this by resting for longer than 2 minutes between sets so that the intensity is lower and therefore my body needs less calories to complete the task. I make these changes because muscle growth is a bigger priority than fitness. If fitness was more important to me than muscle size, I would rest less instead.

Have enough rest days

You muscles grow just as much on rest days (if not more) as they do on training days. If you don't have enough rest days, you are burning more energy than you should to achieve your goals. Catabolism is one of the ways that over training (training so much that the body does not have enough time to fully recover) negatively affects your physical progress. Exercise stimulates a muscle to get better. Rest is where it actually gets better. You need a balance between both. Too much of one will cancel out the positive effects of the other. Here are great ways to get the most out of every rest day.

Meet energy requirements

If your body is breaking muscle down for energy, then clearly providing your body with the energy that it needs will decrease the amount of muscle that it breaks down. BCAA's (branched chain amino acids) are known to reduce muscle breakdown and provide energy during exercise. Consuming the nutrients that your body needs for energy before, during and after exercise will also lower muscle catabolism.

3. Sleep

There are two sides of the coin when it come to the relationship between sleep and muscle breakdown. Firstly, sleeping without the right nutrients in your system can lead to catabolism because your body needs energy and resources to repair all of its tissues. Secondly, insufficient sleep leads to muscle breakdown because it does not have the time it needs to recover and rebuild.

The right nutrients to recover when sleeping

The nutrition you consume before sleep determines what resources your body has to rebuild. Nutrition timing determines how much your body can repair and grow during sleep. If you have enough of what your body needs, it can use these resources to replenish energy levels, maintain physical tissue, grow muscle and repair the central nervous system (a very important system that every athlete must look after).

If you don't have the right nutrients during these times, your body can recycle the protein in your muscles into the energy and building blocks that it needs to ensure that you recover and function at your best the next day. This decreases muscle mass. Your body will rather recover and function properly instead of retaining muscle and risk degrading into oblivion. Give your body what it needs to be able to do both.

You can do this by consuming a good amount of slow-release protein and complex carbohydrates before sleep. Slow release versions work best because they will last in your system for longer. Remember: they should be available for as much of your 8-hour sleep period as possible. I have a nutrition shake that has carbohydrates and casein protein, because casein lasts longer in your system before being used up. You can see the difference between protein supplements according to how long they last in your system here.

Getting the right amount of sleep

Medical News Today explains that lack of sleep can actually cause muscle loss. When you don't get enough sleep, you don't get enough recovery. This is because a large portion of recovery happens when you sleep. Your body needs to recover in order to become better at using energy more efficiently. When you haven't recovered, it takes more energy to do normal activities and function properly. This is why you crave food that is high in calories on days following poor sleep. Lack of sleep forces your body to prioritize regular function instead of muscle growth. It prioritizes regular function over retention as well, meaning that it will break down muscle tissue if it needs the resources.

4. Aging

Springer Link, a Sports Medicine authority, explains muscle loss as a result of aging. This also results in decreased muscle function. It also contributes to the increased risk of accidental falls and injuries.

As depressing as the above statement is, there is a little good news that comes with it. It may not be reversed or indefinitely stopped, but exercise can drastically decrease muscle loss from aging. Maintaining a good exercise routine right into old age can not only keep you around for longer, but keep those guns strong and healthy. Numerous studies have found that elderly people who start exercising can possibly reverse some conditions associated with old age and may appear younger than before they started.

5. Stress explains how cortisol, the stress hormone, breaks down muscle mass. When your body is stressed, it undergoes changes in order to prepare for the impending dangers that it faces. It thinks that your survival is threatened and therefore releases cortisol to prepare the body for fight or flight. In preparation for this anticipated danger, your body will slow down recovery processes so that the energy that is used for those functions can rather be used where it might be needed more. Additionally, the body will gather its resources for quick energy that it can use. One of the resources that it will tap into is... you guessed it... muscle mass.

The opposite is also true. Serotonin (the happy, relaxing hormone) speeds up recovery because this hormone signals to the body that there is no impending danger. This lets the body know that it can relax and rather focus its resources on other functions like recovery.

A study proved that sending clowns into a hospital shortened the recovery times of its patients. The proposed reason for this was the reduction in the cortisol stress hormone and an increase in happy hormones which therefore increased internal anabolic processes.

Nutrition can help minimize the catabolic effects of stress because your body will have the nutrients that it needs for energy. Managing the stress in your life and creating opportunities for you to feel relaxed will help your body to become less catabolic and more anabolic.

6. Hormonal imbalances

Testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH, or growth hormone for short) and IGF-1 are hormones that support anabolic activity such as building muscle. They play vital roles in muscular repair, recovery, maintenance and performance.

Having imbalances of these hormones can interfere with your body's ability to build muscle and properly recover from exercise. On the other hand, exercise helps to regulate and improve these home levels.

Did you know? Women also naturally produce testosterone. Optimal testosterone levels in women ensure good health and lower-than-natural levels can cause adverse health effects.

7. Illness

Diseases and illnesses limit your body's ability to build and maintain muscle because of the way that they negatively impact basic biological functions. This is one of the reasons why maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of exercise is important to boost the effects of exercise. Illness can reduce your physical achievements and potentially reverse all the hard work that you have put in. Exercise is one way to prevent many illnesses, but there are other essential ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.

In order to protect yourself against illness and disease, it is important to follow a healthy, balanced diet, get enough rest and sleep, live a balanced life that includes fun hobbies and relaxing activities, interact with other people and have a reason to wake up every morning. All of these beneficial activities will not only add to your life, but also assist you in achieving your own physical goals.

I hope that this article has helped you learn the basics about catabolism, what it means and how to use the information to maximize the effort that you put into your body. I am looking forward to reading your comments below. STAY STRONG!