By Fitness Editor Paula Jager CSCS
That title sure got your attention, didn’t it? I love to stir the pot–almost as much as my dear friend Sarah! But I’m not touching that one with a ten foot pole, not here anyway. Let’s get back to the Fall Fitness Challenge. . .
Thank you for the comments, updates and questions–please keep them coming. I am getting some common thread questions in regards to exercise and macronutrient ratios. What kinds, types and volumes in regards to both. Not everyone is metabolically the same, has the same activity levels, demands, needs or the same goals.
Let’s take a look at 3 hypothetical clients that came to me for help and a suggested protocol for each of them to follow. . .
Ella: 48 yo female; 5’2”, 205 lbs., sedentary, type 2 diabetic, borderline hypertensive
Chase: 15 yo male; 5’10”, 155 lbs, high school football/track athlete
Shera: 34 yo female; 5’8”, 125 lbs, endurance athlete, highly stressed, gastric issues
What we have here are 3 very different individuals with far ranging problems and challenges. Is there a one-size fits all exercise and nutritional program for them? No. There are a few constants but many things that are right for one individual are harmful for the other. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Ella: she doesn’t feel too well; she home schools her 4 children along with carting them to and fro their activities. Her doctor keeps telling her she needs to lose weight and exercise but she doesn’t have the time or energy. She’s also experiencing hot flashes, night sweats and bouts of insomnia along with depression. She does no exercise now, there is “simply no time”. She eats a S.A.D.
- Exercise: Ella needs to move–period. Are we going to have her start running up stadium stairs right off the bat? No. We’re going to suggest she starts walking for 10 to 30 min 4 to 5x a week for the first month and then we’ll up the intensity. We’re going to put her on a bodyweight strength program 2x a week for about 10-15 min. Total time investment: 2-3 hours a week. We found this time by taking away 1.5 hours of television watching, 1 hour of net suring and .5 hour during children’s activities where she usually sits waiting for them.
- Nutrition: we have Ella eating reasonable portions of meat, fish, fowl and their fats, consuming healthy carbohydrates from primarily vegetables and some fruits, no starches and no sugars until her weight/metabolic conditions are at a healthy level.
Chase: he feels fine–he’s 15; his hormone levels are raging and he’s nearing the prime of his life. He is a stud, a rising athletic star, playing varsity wide receiver on his high school football team and a 100 m & 200 m track star. The girls are chasing him left and right and his biggest concern right now is that he just can’t gain weight and he wants some muscle. He is 8% body fat with a stunning six pack. His parents feed him a fairly balanced diet consisting of various animal proteins, some vegetables but too many boxes of Kraft mac n’ cheese, soft drinks and one too many trips a week to Micky D’s. He’s also started drinking 3 protein weight gain shakes a day loaded with simple sugars and stays up too late playing video games and online chatting with friends. What’s a parent to do?
- Exercise: not the problem here. Chase is very active; he lifts weights regularly in between track and football seasons as well as a modified program in season. He attends an excellent school with the best strength & conditioning coaches possible. Chase will most likely secure a college scholarship based on his current performance and academics. Chase is a fortunate young man
- Nutrition: we hit Chase with the facts–making progress on the field and in the weight room starts with proper nutrition. Do not power down junk food just to gain size. The “size” will be useless fat, slow you down on the field, decrease performance and overall health. We had a conference with Chase’s supportive parents and agreed to feed him meat, fish , seafood and their fats, roots, tubers, olives & olive oil, coconut and his “protein” shake was switched to nice big glasses of raw milk chock full of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. No caloric restriction and 4 to 6 meals per day. We clipped the late night activities and he now gets 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Shera: Shera is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. She’s a high-powered Corporate executive bringing home some serious bacon. She works 70+ hours a week, sleeps 4 hours a night, is a Type A driven individual and competes in 6 marathons a year logging 40+ miles a week. She also gets in 1-2 strength training sessions a week but can’t seem to gain any muscle. She a chronic stress fracture in her right foot that just won’t heal. Shera eats a primarily vegetarian diet, drinks 3 caramel macchiatos from Starbucks per day and takes ½ xanax at night to help her sleep. In addition to being constantly stressed out and short on patience she has been experiencing some serious gastric issues and the doctors are running tests but none have come back conclusive.
- Exercise: slow down Shera, less is more. We cut Shera’s endurance training back to 2-3x a week and encouraged her to refrain from another marathon until her health improves. We discontinued her “long” runs for the time being and have her doing 2 interval running workouts per week of a 20 min duration. We upped her strength training to 2-3, 30 min sessions using heavy weights in the 3-6 rep range, cutting back if necessary depending on recovery. We added in 1-2 gentle yoga sessions per week along with deep breathing exercises and meditation practice.
- Nutrition: give the girl a bone! Seriously; we spoke with Shera over the importance of obtaining adequate flesh proteins and she agreed to a trial period of a modified Gaps type diet including seafood to help with recovery and healing. She also agreed to let go of the caffeine and under her doctor’s supervision be weaned off the Xanax.
Yes, I embellished a bit, added in some humor and showed extreme examples but the moral of the story is that we are not all the same. Each individual must assess their goals, circumstances and limitations and find the best approach that works for them which is usually a combination of several. With this mind, we all should be well on our way to success!
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar in Tampa, FL
I want to thank you for your no excuses attitude yet compassion for an individual to start from where they are. My baby is now 8 weeks old and I am back to exercising due to the motivation of others in this challenge. It makes me pretty wiped out by the evening (2 night time feedings, nursing are taking a toll) but I do feel more energetic during the early day. I will be adding the basic body building exercises from your youtube video. It is small but it is a start back. I know the caffeine needs to go next and other areas to work on as far as diet is concerned. I won’t waste your time on the food part!
Thank you again,
Not sure of the qualifications of the “celebrity trainers” sprouting that nonsense but any strength and conditioning coach worth their salt will tell you that it is virtually impossible for a woman to add “bulk” in the form of muscle because of our hormonal make up. We simply do not have the testosterone necessary to do that–unless one is using anabolic “aids”.
Nothing wrong with dancing for the enjoyment of it and you can work up a sweat. “Accessory” muscles are utilized by people with respiratory distress to help the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Not sure what is meant by that.
Lift light or no weights, excessive cardio or no cardio, eat too much and I will guarantee one will add “bulk”.
sorry for the type-o I meant heavy wights. 🙂
So what is with some of the more recent celebrity trainers who claim hevey weights will just add bulk, and if you want a long lean look, you should work you accessory muscles and do a variety of dance cardio???
Ditto on the adrenal fatigue!!! I’m 37, SAHM, have 2 children, ages 2 and 5. October 2010 I weighed 133 lbs, 5’5″, trained for a half marathon, ran an epic relay, and ran my small home business. I now weigh 165 lbs, did a month of Intro to Gaps, and am now on full GAPS. I see a naturopath, using amino acids and a whole bunch of other supplements just to make it through my days. I can barely make it through my days, let alone try and recover from a walk. I’ve had to mostly shut down my business. I use to love to exercise and sometimes now dream about it. Yes, at night. But I am convinced that while I was heading into adrenal fatigue I used strenous exercise (I lived by the belief that while I wasn’t the best athlete, no one would work harder than me) to try and raise my serotonin or endorphins or whatever, before then plunging into a 6 hour depression. I am TERRIFIED that exercise will exacerbate my symptoms, and I can barely make it as it is. I ate a mostly Paleo diet before this, but now consume lots of saturated fat. As a fitness trainer, are you working with more people with adrenal fatigue or related symptoms? Are you finding that you need a different protocol for these symptoms, or are they just similar to what you recommended for “Shera”? Here is the bottom line, (I read this from someone else online,) that the worse you get with adrenal fatigue, the lazier you become to other people. It’s awful. I have used exercise as such an important tool in my health and life, and am so worried that it may not be helpful at this time. Are you finding other people like me?
SAHM? I had to look that up lol, I think it means “stay at home mom”? If that’s the case fortunately you only have 1 job.
It sounds like the combo of excessive endurance exercise, stress of the business, children and other things overtaxed your body. Working with the naturopath and the GAPS diet should have you on the road to healing but I would definitely recommend the addition of exercise just not to an extreme. Check out my post on https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2011/07/staying-fit-with-hormonal-challenges/
Yes, I have worked with several clients w/ adrenal challenges. Lifestyle including proper nutrition, sleep, sunshine, stress reduction are all part of the picture as you know and cannot be overemphasized. However, exercise is equally important in the healing process. The exercise suggestions in the above post should be a good point of beginning for you
No, I hadn’t read your “hormonal challenges” post. But I see you get it. I am extremely relieved to read at least two examples in your post that people can heal from adrenal issues. From the outside, everyone sees my previous life, and to everyone it looks as though excessive exercise precipitated the adrenal problems. And, I had to bootstrap my own self back from extreme hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancies, starting very small with only stretching as exercise. But i see so many people that have even more exercise in their life than I ever did. Hmmm, I don’t know. But I do want to thank you, Paula. That hormonal challenges post helped me turn a corner. SAHM: fortunately 1 job, unfortunately, same hours, http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/RaiseKids/ThePriceOfAMom.aspx
Thanks for the great post, Paula! Do you have any suggestions on exercising for those with adrenal fatigue? I am 26, pregnant with my third child and suffering from day time fatigue and lethargy due to stressed adrenals and high night time cortisol (which I am working on correcting with amino acids. It seems that walking is the only thing that doesn’t put me on the couch. Is this enough or do you know of any other exercise alternatives that won’t knock me out?
Hmmm, congrats on your 3rd but being pregnant is also going to put some “stress” on your body. If someone has been on a regular, consistent exercise program they are usually fine to continue thoughout their pregnancy with minor modifications although it’s not the best time to start something new and intense especially with the adrenal issues. I would suggest to continue your walking and the addition of some static core exercises and basic bodyweight movements like squats, push ups and lunges would be beneficial. Don’t overdo, take a day “off” in between and progress with the volume and intensity but in small increments.
“Paula” – stupid keyboard!
Think movement and REST! Eat less, more often. Isolated aminos are NOT beneficial, but gelatin , a REAL food, is very beneficial especially during pregnancy. Saturated fat is also very beneficial and pro thyroid. Walking at a speed that allows you to maintain a conversation, then putting your feet up is very beneficial.