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Obey Your Thirst

by Geoff Rand

My first real lesson in hydration came at Fort Campbell, Kentucky at Air Assault School in 1994.  The final graduation requirement was a 12-mile road march in full uniform with helmet, rifle, and rucksack.  The 3-hour time limit was tough on my short legs, but the real challenge was to drink all the water they required.  At several points along the course were hydration stations.  At each one, we had to hold two open 1-quart canteens over our heads to prove they were empty.  And we couldn’t just dump the water along the way.  Spotters would disqualify us for a safety violation if we tried to spill it.  After showing empty, we refilled them and continued on.  I’m not sure how many gallons I drank during the 2.5 hours it took me to finish, but I would have exploded if someone kicked me in the stomach upon reaching the finish line.  I definitely was not dehydrated.

While the Army’s safety regulations may border on the absurd at times, there usually is a reason.  In this case, soldiers have died on this very course due to dehydration.

While potential for death is quite a motivator, there are other reasons you should be drinking water.  Studies have shown that dehydration by a mere 2% loss in body weight can cause impaired performance.  At 5% loss, capacity for work can be decreased by up to 30%.

Water has benefits for you even if you’re not engaged in physical activity.  It aids in proper digestion, reduces chances of developing kidney stones, cavities, some cancers, urinary tract infections, and cataracts, to name a few benefits.  Water is also crucial in flushing toxins from the body as well as assisting in proper blood flow and plays a key role in muscle repair because of these functions.  You will notice more muscle soreness, cramps, and earlier onset of DOMS if you are dehydrated.

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Drinking water before a meal can also help you feel full faster and consume fewer calories.  If weight loss is your goal, consider drinking water as cold as you can stand.  Your body has to warm it up to metabolize it, and that burns even more calories.

When should you drink?  Early and often is good advice.  If you wait until you feel thirsty, you are already playing catch up.  Hydrate before, during, and after physical activity.  If you want to freak out other people in the bathroom, take the below chart in with you and compare your urine color to it.  Know that some vitamins and supplements can give you an artificially light yellow color even if you are dehydrated.

How much should you drink?  We’ve all heard the 8 glasses of water a day as the accepted standard.  However, it turns out this standard is not at all based on scientific study.  Its origin has not been definitively determined, but generally the accepted source is a 1945 paper that suggested one ounce of water consumed per calorie of food consumed.  On a 2,000 calorie diet, this translates to roughly 64oz., or 8 glasses of water.  A better rule of thumb, often prescribed by Amanda, is to drink one ounce of water for every pound of body weight you have.

While we aren’t going to make you hold your water bottles over your heads, our coaches can tell when you aren’t drinking your water.  It shows in your face and in your performance.  So, do your body a favor, drink up now and keep drinking up throughout the day.

 

Sources:

http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/dehydration-and-its-effects-on-performance

https://nutritionfacts.org/2017/05/25/how-much-water-should-we-drink-every-day/

https://authoritynutrition.com/8-glasses-of-water-per-day/

http://www.prevention.com/health/dehydration-and-your-body

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Practice Perfect Push Ups

by Geoff Rand

During my time in the Army, I became intimately familiar with the push up.  Move too slow, push ups.  Uniform not perfect, push ups.  This continued into the police academy.  Forgot a call clearance, push ups.  Shoes not shined, push ups…   It’s easy to see why this isn’t one of my favorite exercises.  It was always being done as a punishment.  On top of that, I never was showed how to really do them until coming to CrossFit.

To make your pushups better and easier, you need to concentrate on three areas, elbow position, hand position, and tight core.

Pretend you are going to shove someone across the room Elaine Benes-style (Seinfeld, anyone?).  Really, try it.  I guarantee your elbows aren’t going to be straight out to your sides.  It is much more natural and effective to keep your elbows down at about a 45 degree angle.  This is the same position your pushups should be done in.

For hand position, point your middle finger at the 12 o’clock position and spread your fingers wide.  Next rotate your hands outward slightly, screwing them into the floor.  This will help engage the lats and give your pushups a bit of a boost.  It also helps keep your elbows in the proper position.

Finally, keep those abs engaged.  This makes sure your back is being kept stabilized and moves as one unit with the rest of your body.  No wet noodles.  A slight curvature in the back is ok as long as you keep your abs tight to stabilize it.  You can also hold a yoga block between your thighs if you need a cue to stay tight.

Remember to focus on these areas when doing pushups.  With enough practice, the next time you get dropped for someone showing up to formation late, you’ll be able to crank out your punishment reps with ease.

 

Sources:

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/how-to-progress-your-way-to-a-perfect-push-up

http://www.builtlean.com/2011/02/23/how-to-proper-push-up-form/

 

 

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No Shirt, No Shoes, No Barbell…No Problem

by Geoff Rand

With vacation season soon approaching, many of us are thinking of spending it someplace full of sun and sand, possibly with a drink in our hand.  But just because you are away from the Box, it doesn’t mean you need to abandon your workouts.  In fact, with the tendency we all have to overindulge on our time off, it might be more important than ever to get that blood pumping and burn some calories.  Plus, we’ve all experienced that first day back at the Box after a long absence.  It sucks.  Staying active on your vacation can help minimize the pain upon your return.

The big hurdle to overcome with travelling and working out is the lack of programming.  While I’m sure Amanda would love for you to take her with you to the islands, that’s probably not realistic.  But have no fear, that trail has already been blazed for you.  Here are two links to help you out.  The first is 75 primarily body weight WODs, and the second is a website devoted to travel WODs.  Both feature WODs requiring no or minimal equipment.

Alternatively, you could take a deck of cards with you (or download a deck of cards app) and do the core centric version (burpees, mountain climbers, flutter kicks, situps, and jokers are 400m sprint), or substitute an exercise for any equipment you may have available.

Another option is to rediscover some of the CrossFit Girls.  Many of them require minimal or no equipment.

Angie (100 each of pullups, pushups, situps and squats – for time)

Barbara (20 pullups, 30 pushups, 40 situps, 50 squats – 5 rounds for time, with 3 minutes rest between rounds)

Cindy (5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats – max rounds in 20 minutes)

Mary (5 handstand pushups, 10 pistols, 15 pullups – max rounds in 20 minutes)

Don’t forget your warm up.  You wouldn’t jump right into a WOD without warming up here, so why would travelling be different?  Pack your jump rope and twist off the bristles from a broom, and throw in some inch worms or push ups, and you’ve got all you need to be plenty loosened up for any travel WOD.  And, don’t forget to stretch afterward.

One final option when on the road is to drop in to a local Box.  This is a great way to get your sweat on and it can be fun to experience the nuances of different coaches and vibes of different Boxes.  Here are some tips if you are thinking of hitting a new box while travelling.

·      Research the local Box’s policies regarding prior registration, cost, paperwork, drop in requirements, etc.  Some may require online registration and actually limit the number of attendees for a given WOD.  It’s always a good idea to call or email ahead of time and let them know who you are and when you are coming.

·      Arrive early to fill out waivers, pay, meet the coaches, and figure out how the Box works.  Take notice of whether or not weights are dropped, equipment is wiped down after the WOD, etc.  Introduce yourself and ask questions if you are unsure of anything.

·      Be Open Minded.  Coaching varies from place to place and you may be shown an alternate way to do an exercise that you might not be familiar with.  Now is not the time to say, “Well, we do it this way.”  They might actually be telling you the same thing CFF does, just in other words.

·      Communicate any injuries or exercises you’re uncomfortable with.

While your normal routine is interrupted, being away from CFF is no excuse for not working out while on vacation.  With the simpler, body weight workouts you might be doing on your own, it might even be a good time to involve other family members and workout together.  Also, if you’re like me, my day starts with my workout and I just feel better and get more done if my workout has been knocked out early on.  Finally, if you are looking for an escape from your travel companions, whomever they might be, a travel WOD or drop in is a great excuse for a little time to yourself to clear your mind.  It may keep you from ripping someone’s head off later.

If you happen to workout or travel someplace cool, send Amanda a photo.  Bonus points if you’re doing a handstand hold on the beach or back squatting a family member or friend with the Grand Canyon or some other neat place in the background.  We’ll feature your photos in a future blog article or on the CFF FB page.

 

Sources:

https://breakingmuscle.com/learn/4-tips-for-visiting-a-crossfit-gym-while-traveling

http://www.tabatatimes.com/crossfit-traveling/

 

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Give your Hands a Hand, Part One

by Geoff Rand

This week's blog is a rerun of an article that appeared last year in our old printed newsletter.  I'm sitting here looking at my rough hands and calluses from the past week and thought it was a fitting reminder of the maintenance we all should be doing.

 

We’ve all seen or experienced, ahem, first hand, what it’s like to tear open a hand during a WOD.  Some consider bloody hands a CrossFit badge of honor, but really it is more like a billboard advertising that you have poor technique or didn’t take the time to care for your hands.  Think about it.  Sure you may have ripped a hand while crushing that WOD.  But now what?  That injured hand is going to limit everything you do, in and out of the Box, until it heals.  Not so heroic now, is it?

How it Happens

Tears are caused when your calluses have raised and/or uneven surfaces that rub and catch on the bar you are using.  These raised surfaces eventually will blister and then tear away from your palm, often taking live skin with them.

Hand Maintenance

You prevent tears by shaving or sanding down the rough surfaces.  You want the calluses to be tough and thick, but smooth.  If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, or catch an edge with your fingernail, it needs to be smoothed down.

You can smooth the calluses by sanding them down with a Dremel tool or pumice stone.  If using a Dremel, use a fine grit sanding wheel, and for sanitary reasons, don’t share sanding wheels with others.  Set the Dremel on a low setting and gently grind them down, keeping the wheel moving over all the calluses to avoid heat build up.  Don’t overdo it and check your progress frequently until you get the technique down.  Coach Dave May prefers this method and can tell you all about it if you need help.

You can also shave the calluses down with a disposable razor or callus scraper (available in the foot care section of drug stores).  It is best to use these tools before you shower when your hands are dry.  Don’t apply too much pressure and be careful not to shave too deep.  Again, take it easy until you learn how much is too much.  Arch your fingers backwards when you use the scraper to really get your palm to push those calluses out.  Then, using short strokes, gently scrape away the skin, starting at the base of the fingers.  It’s not rocket science, but you might want to check out the YouTube video: What To Do About Calluses, or ask Coach Amanda if you are new to callus scraping.

Just like you should be doing mobility and rolling out sore muscles, you should be smoothing your calluses periodically throughout the week.

Don’t forget to keep your hands moisturized.  Remember, soap, chalk, and Liquid Grip, dry your hands out, so apply moisturizer as needed.  Coach Amanda uses Aquaphor nightly.  My favorite is O'Keeffe's Working Hands, and guys, you can pick it up at Home Depot.  Bonus.

 

Proper Grip

Preventing tears also means gripping the bar properly.  When working with a barbell or pull-up bar, many people are inclined to grip the bar across the middle of their palms. This, unfortunately, squishes the fleshy pad below the base of your fingers against the bar, causing discomfort, added friction, blisters, and worse.  A better way to go is to grip the barbell across the base of your fingers.  This grip will require more strength in your hands, fingers, and forearms, but you’ve read the Get a Grip article and are working on turning apples into applesauce with your hands, right?  Good.

Hand maintenance and proper grip will go a long way towards preventing tears, but tears may still happen.  In part two of this article, we will look at what to do if you do happen to tear your hands.

By Geoff Rand

Sources:  Fitbomb.com, Athletichuman.com, CrossFitparker.com

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Putting a Spin on Salad

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By Geoff Rand

One of the consequences of eating healthy is the higher cost of food.  It’s a fact; the stuff that’s better for you just costs more.  So with that being the case, we need to make smart decisions and avoid wasting these costlier purchases.

I’ve thrown out way too many food items, often due to poor planning or being too ambitious about my ability to consume them.  Often, they go bad before I can use them.  No food that I buy gets thrown out more often than salad.  It just seems to get fuzzy before I can use the whole container.  But what if there was a way to extend the life of the salad you purchase, and thus save money?  Well now there is.

I credit all the information in this article to Annie.  She recently clued me in to a trick she uses to keep her salads fresh, extending their life, and avoiding tossing out what would have been good food.

Annie uses a salad spinner, not just for washing the lettuce, but also for removing the moisture from prepackaged mixed salads, and then for storing them.  She reports that even spinning prepackaged salads in the spinner helps prolong their life.

I had to try this for myself.  First I dumped a package of salad into the spinner.  A couple pulls of the lawn mover-like cord was all it took.  The inner basket holds the greens and the walls of the outer bowl collect the moisture.  A quick dump, rinse, and wipe down of the bowl, and it was good as new.  Now you just replace the basket of salad and lid and store the salad in the fridge like normal.

The lettuce leaves were drier, but not bone dry, which I think will only help preserve them, while keeping them crisp.  I expect to get several additional days beyond the normal spoil date with this method.

I purchased my spinner, the Progressive Prep Works Salad Spinner for $9.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond.  So far it seems like a quality item.

So if you are finding you throw out more salad than you eat, give the spinner a try.  And thank Annie for helping us all to save a few dollars.

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Stretching: The Truth

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by Geoff Rand

 

Thinking back to my lacrosse days, it’s a wonder I didn’t tear something with our totally inadequate pregame routine.  A quick jog around the field, some jumping jacks, and then about 5 minutes of various stretches, held for about 10 seconds each, some with bouncing.  Then, we went right into the game.  And we did nothing post game.  Completely wrong, dangerous, and ineffective.

For stretching to be effective, you need to do it right.

Static stretches are done while the body is at rest.  The goal with static stretches is to gradually elongate the muscle to the point of discomfort and then hold that position.  Always warm up before attempting static stretches or better yet, save them for after the WOD.  Attempting static stretches without warm muscles will result in injury.  The seated hamstring stretch is a static stretch.

Dynamic stretching involves activating certain muscles or muscle groups, most often the ones you will be using in the workout.  By moving or holding a position during the stretch, you are increasing range of motion and warming up the muscles at the same time.  It is a highly effective form of stretching.  A good example of a dynamic stretch is the Samson Stretch.

When we are exercising, we are contracting our muscles.  Stretching is a way to counter that contraction and return elasticity to the muscles by loosening them up so they are elongated and prepared for further activity.  Failing to stretch can result in weakened muscles that are tight and have poor range of motion.

Modern research has shown that to get the most out of your stretching, you need to ease into the stretch, and hold for 1 to 2 minutes.  If this is too difficult to hold, hold for as long as you can, briefly come out of the stretch and then ease back into it, attempting to push further.  Short duration stretch holds have shown to have little benefit.

So to improve range of motion in a stretch, we just need to push harder, right?  Not really.  Let’s use our hamstrings as an example here.  I sit in a car for up to 10 hours a day.  You might be stuck at a desk.  Both positions are killing our hamstrings.  Over time, the hamstrings shorten and become tight due to the daily memory if you will, that they develop due to what they are being asked to do, or not do, during most of the day. 

Say you attempt an assisted seated hamstring stretch with the goal of increasing range of motion.  This is where you sit with legs together and fold and reach forward with someone pushing on your back.  You’re going to go through several stages of sensation, maybe like, “ok I can feel this”, “all right this is starting to get tight”, “ok you can stop now”, “holy cow that’s too far”, and “my leg just snapped off.”  Somewhere in the vicinity of “ok you can stop now” your nervous system kicks in and puts the brakes on any further progress you can make.  It does this because the nervous system decides what is safe or not for you to do and wants to avoid injury.  It puts limits on the amount of elongation it will allow because it doesn’t want you to hurt yourself.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to pick up an unconscious person you’ll know they are like a wet noodle.  You could practically tie them into a pretzel.  This is because their nervous system is offline.  As soon as they come to, their flexibility limitations return.

Short of asking someone to bonk you in the head before stretching, there’s not much you can do to override your nervous system.  But you can do two things to help maximize your stretches and increase range of motion.

First, really concentrate on achieving a deep stretch, held for a full two minutes, every time you stretch, for each stretch.  We all want to talk about the WOD we just crushed, but stretching should require a considerable amount of effort and focus to be truly effective.

Second, look at what you can do outside the Box to improve your range of motion.  In my case or the office worker’s case, we could get out and walk around or take the stairs.  Sometimes rethinking your type of footwear outside the Box can help with lengthening your muscles if whatever you’re wearing is placing you in a position that is encouraging shortening of the muscles.

The trick to help increase range of motion is to figure out what is holding you back in your daily life outside the Box, correct it, and put in a focused, solid effort in your stretches after each WOD.  Going to mobility or yoga classes certainly won’t hurt either.

 

Sources:

Input from Coach Amanda May

http://www.livestrong.com/article/328926-how-long-to-hold-stretches/

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/stretching-doesnt-work-the-way-you-think-it-does

http://www.crossfitrockwall.com/crossfit_rockwall/a-better-way-to-stretch.html

http://www.stretching-exercises-guide.com/how-to-stretch.html

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Getting All Wrapped Up in Compression Gear

by Geoff Rand

Compression clothing claims to cause increased performance and speed recovery.  These garments have appeared on many athletes in the CrossFit Games, but does compression clothing actually offer any benefit to their performance or recovery?

Compression technology is not a new concept.  With its roots as medical devices, compression stockings and socks have been used to promote better circulation and reduce fatigue in patients with lower leg ailments and poor circulation.  Always in search of a competitive edge, athletes adapted compression gear to their sports and eventually companies began producing shooting sleeves, compression shorts, calve and thigh sleeves, compression socks and even full-body suits.

Several studies have been conducted on athletes in many sports to include endurance running, cycling, bodybuilding, basketball, and others.  In these studies, varying physiological measurements were taken and test groups were given compression clothing, placebo clothing, or normal clothing to wear during exercise.  Some studies also compared the recovery characteristics of compression clothing to traditional recovery methods like stretching and ice baths.

The results of the groups measuring performance seemed to indicate zero to minimal increased performance by the test subjects wearing compression gear.  When you wrangle on a sleeve or a pair of tights, you may feel like the sensation of everything being pulled tightly together is going to help you run faster or jump higher, but the study results don’t support this.

The data from the recovery studies pointed to the conclusion that compression clothing does have a positive impact on recovery.  This seems to be supported by a significant number of people who report a measureable reduction in pain or fatigue following certain workouts in which compression is worn compared to the same types of exercises performed without compression.

Even with these studies, compression technology is not fully understood and more studies need to be conducted to determine if there is a benefit to wearing compression clothing during a workout versus only wearing it after a workout.

So, if you are expecting to jump higher or lift heavier just by pulling on some tight piece of lycra spandex, think again.  But if you suffer from chronic calf cramps every time you run, they might be worth a try.  Just know why you are wearing them.

Sources:

http://www.joefrielsblog.com/2011/02/an-update-on-compression-clothing.html

http://deadspin.com/5914969/what-compression-gear-will-and-wont-mostly-wont-do-for-you

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Forging New Habits

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by Geoff Rand

With the healthy eating challenge over, I took notice of some of the comments people were making in the Box and on Facebook in reference to their successes and failures they experienced.  I was happy to see a good number of people were happy with their experience and plan to continue on with the program and build upon the good habits they developed.

It’s no secret that making healthy changes part of your daily routine is the way to stay on track to a lifetime of health and fitness, but just how long does it take to make a new way of doing something become habit?

You may have heard the saying that it takes 21 days to develop something into habit. Unfortunately, this isn’t completely accurate and it seems over time, the original meaning was lost.  Here’s how it happened.

In the 1950s, plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed there was an adjustment period for his patients to become accustomed to their new look.   He commented that “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell. ”

That quote, and Dr. Maltz’s other thoughts on behavior change were published in 1960 in his book Psycho-Cybernetics.  The book went on to sell 30 million copies and suddenly every self-help guru and their mother was quoting Maltz.  Over time, the minimum part of the 21 days was dropped, and 3 weeks became the standard for developing something into habit.  The problem with Maltz’s observation was that it was nothing more than an observation he made, not a tested fact.  But, with his misquoted statement being repeated over and over again, it became the accepted truth.

Later, scientific studies showed that the time period varies from person to person in how long it takes something to become habit.  On average, it takes 66 days for someone to develop a new behavior into his or her routine, however, this time can be obviously longer or shorter depending on a variety of factors.

Bringing all this back to our healthy eating challenge, the challenge was 8 weeks or 56 days.  We’re a little short of the average time it takes to turn those changes we made into habits.  One could surmise that those who had success during the challenge were quicker to adapt these changes into their daily routines, and those who weren’t as successful maybe just needed some more time to develop those same habits.

It doesn’t matter if the change you’re looking to make is eating better, drinking more water, attending more CFF classes, or stopping the biting of your nails, the path to change follows the same guidelines.

Know your why.  Have a clear reason for making the change.  It could be as simple as wanting to look good for a reunion, or as serious as a doctor’s ultimatum.

Take one day at a time.  Instead of being overwhelmed by a long journey to change, look at what you can do today and tomorrow to better yourself.

Take small bites.  Look at small changes you can implement.  I have a friend who decided to eat better and to work towards that goal, he would eliminate one poor food choice and replace it with a healthy one each week.  One week, he’d cut out ranch dressing, the next, breads.  He continued on like this until his nutrition was nearly optimal, and his performance in the gym was greatly improved.  Breaking your trek up into smaller, more achievable goals helps keep you motivated and moving in the right direction.

Don’t sweat small setbacks.  It’s inevitable that you will experience failures during your quest for change.  Whether it is because of work, family, or other events, things don’t always go to plan.  Don’t let a day of poor eating choices, or schedule conflicts make you totally abandon your goal.  Get through the day and get back on track tomorrow.

Make it easy.  Set that water bottle out where you’ll remember to drink it.  Schedule reminders on your phone.  Put a Post-It note on your steering wheel.  Do whatever works for you to keep that good behavior in sight.

Stay accountable.  Having a partner or even a whole family working towards the same goal as you is a huge motivational booster.  Commit to attending class, prepping foods, etc. and expect your partner will do the same.  Call each other out on social media to keep each other honest if that works for you.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to start.  Life is full of obstacles and putting off starting to make a change because of upcoming holidays, family or work events, vacations, etc. will just delay you reaching your goal.  Start today and stay with it.  In time, your newly developed habits will allow you to roll right over these barriers and get on with your life.

Above all, be patient.  It would be great if we could flick a switch and make instant changes stick, but it doesn’t work that way.  You’ve likely been reinforcing the bad habit for years so don’t expect change overnight.  Give it time and the new practices will begin to set and become part of your daily routine.

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/forming-new-habits_b_5104807.html

http://examinedexistence.com/how-long-does-it-take-for-something-to-become-a-habit/

http://derbycitycf.com/goals-new-habits-for-2017/

http://www.crossfitcatonsville.com/3-steps-to-creating-habits-that-stick/

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Weighing In on the Weigh-In

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by Geoff Rand

When I first entered the Army, one of my earliest challenges was the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), consisting of timed pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run.  Sounds simple enough, but there’s a second portion of it, not widely advertised, the height and weight and body fat percentage standards.  You need to pass the APFT and height and weight.  If you don’t meet the height and weight standards, you get taped to measure your body fat. 

Unfortunately for me, the Army is slow to change and was still using height and weight charts from the 1940s when I was in.  The beanpole physique that seemed to be adequate for storming the beaches of Normandy was at odds with a mid 1990s diet and lifting regimen not to mention the strength needed to carry the amount of gear we were issued.  So, I became very familiar with getting taped after every PT test (more on this later).  The trick was to get your neck to be as close in circumference as your waist, as those were the only two areas they measured for males and the difference in the two measurements was what factored into the official body fat percentage calculation.  To assist me in passing the tape test, I received great advice, such as don’t drink or eat anything for 24 hours before you get taped.  Of course, no food or drink for so long before any physical activity is horrible advice.

There seemed to be a stigma attached to the ever-increasing number of us failing to meet the height and weight standards and thus needing to be taped.  I always made my body fat percentage, so it wasn’t a huge issue for me, but those of us who had to get taped, even if within body fat percentages, were looked at in a negative light.

The Army’s height and weight standards just don’t take body composition into account and are unrealistic for many people who lift.  And whether it’s outdated thinking or just being uncomfortable with having a stranger pinch your belly fat, I think a lot of regular people tend to place too much emphasis on the scale’s reading, and not enough on their body fat percentages and measurements.

What does the scale tell you?  It really is just a measurement of the force of gravity acting upon your body, whatever your body is composed of.  The scale does not take into account your muscle mass or body fat percentage.  And, with it being very possible to gain or lose 2-10 pounds in a single day depending on diet, fluid intake and retention, hormones, activity level, your elimination schedule and a thousand other factors, the scale falls short if you are looking for a complete picture of your level of health or fitness.  While your weight measurement is needed for most body fat calculations, your measurements are what you should really be paying attention to, not the scale.

For those people finishing up the most recent nutrition Challenge, those continuing to follow a nutrition/workout plan, or for those just monitoring their day to day health, here are some tips to get the most out of your weigh-ins and measurements.

Be consistent.  Weigh yourself at the same time of day each time you weigh-in.  One of the better methods is to weigh yourself right after waking up and after using the bathroom, and before eating or drinking anything for the day.  Wear the same type of clothing each time you step on the scale for the best results.  Because of weight fluctuations throughout the day, compare day-to-day weigh-ins to other measurements taken at that same time of day.  The same goes for measurements.   Get measured at the same time as previous measurements to have an accurate comparison.

Don’t cheat.  Your most accurate results will come from you centering yourself on the scale.  Most scales will give a lower weight measurement if you stand more towards the edge of the scale, but you’re only lying to yourself if you do this.  Stand on it properly and accept the truth.  The same goes for your measurements.  Sucking it in only creates a false result.

Position the scale on a solid, flat surface that has no give to it.  Hardwood, vinyl, or tile floors are best.  Don’t put it on carpet with padding underneath.

Don’t weigh or tape yourself after a big cheat meal.  You know the figure is going to be an anomaly, and you’re just torturing yourself by looking at the higher than usual numbers.  Most foods prepared in restaurants or that are prepackaged are high in sodium, which will make you puffy by causing you to retain water.  Get back on track and check it a few days later.  And, it does take a few days after a large meal for everything to return to normal, so keep that in mind before you decide all is lost and rob Georgetown Cupcakes.

Remember how the Army did my taping after the PT test?  Yeah, don’t do that.  By working out or even just stretching or warming up before measurements, you’re potentially getting a “pump” as the muscles respond to activity by drawing water into them, and this will artificially inflate your measurements.  So don’t do any activity prior to getting measured.

What about electronic scales?  I have one of those electronic scales that supposedly measures body fat in addition to weight.  But, I found my numbers to be all over the place day-to-day and even hour-to-hour within a day.  Other users and studies show the same.  What’s up with that?

These scales use Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) which is a fancy way of saying it sends a low voltage electrical current through your body and measures the resistance.  It relies on the fact that muscles contain a lot of water and fat tissues contain very little water.  Water’s conductivity is a known factor, so a reading can produce a theoretical body fat percentage.

However, if you are dehydrated, you will get a higher than actual body fat percentage result since there is less water to conduct the current.  Also, if you downed an electrolyte drink right before stepping on the scale, your internal conductivity will be increased and a lower body fat percentage will be shown.  Even factors like body temperature can affect readings.  For these reasons, the body fat calculation on your scale can fluctuate greatly and it is a poor way to measure body fat and lean muscle mass percentages.

Your best practice is to continue your normal course of hydration and eating before your weigh-in or measurements.  Don’t starve or dehydrate yourself.  Your body will naturally eliminate fluids and nutrients it doesn’t need, so don’t do anything to interfere with a properly functioning system.  Eat a small meal with water before a weigh-in or having measurements taken.

Opinions differ on how often to weigh yourself.  Some schools of thought say weigh-in everyday so you can see how differences in diet and exercise affect your weight.  Others say that once a week is sufficient.  The problem with daily weigh-ins is a lot of people start watching their weight like the stock market.  Weekly weigh-ins only capture a snapshot of where you stand on that one day.  If you were on the high end of the curve that day, it’s going to make it look like you blew the whole week.  A more accurate method would be to weigh yourself daily, but average the numbers for the days of that week and record that average figure.  This eliminates many of the variables and gives a truer picture of your progress.

My advice is to check your weight maybe a couple times a month just to see where you are, but get measured once a month if you have a specific goal you’re working towards.  Everyday, think about how you feel, how your clothes fit, and your performance in the WODs and record it.  As things change, good or bad, try to figure out what caused the change and either incorporate or eliminate the stimulus for that change.  It’s important to look at changes over time.  Don’t go and stop a certain activity or immediately make a drastic diet change because of a short spike in weight gain or loss.  A food or training journal can assist with this.

Now I’m not saying toss your scale in the garbage, but just understand the limited information it can provide.  Place heavier importance on the results of your body measurements, your performance, and how you feel.  Don’t get so wrapped up in the fluctuation of a few pounds that you let it derail your progress.

Amanda offers private nutrition counseling and can discuss rates and what you can expect from the program.  It might be a good follow on program for anyone who wants to continue towards their goals post challenge.

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/weight-loss-tip-scale-weigh-yourself_n_1844340.html

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/5-reasons-your-scale-weight-may-be-inaccurate.html

http://lifehacker.com/5991221/how-do-i-accurately-track-my-weight-and-fat-loss

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235960/

https://www.t-nation.com/living/body-composition-for-beginners-2

 

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Take it With a Grain of Salt

by Geoff Rand

Our bodies are wonders of engineering, more complex than any robot or computer we could build.  Just like computers, our bodies sometimes send warning messages or set off alarms to let us know something isn’t functioning properly.  The trick is to figure out what is causing the alarm or effect, and that’s not always easy.

One area of concern in which I recently took notice was thyroid function.  If your thyroid isn’t happy, it lets you know by mucking up your energy levels and limiting glucose consumption, leading to fatigue and weight gain.  Now, thyroid malfunction isn’t the only thing that can cause fatigue and weight gain, but it’s simple enough to figure out if you aren’t giving your thyroid what it needs through either medical tests or analysis of your nutrient intake.

A properly functioning thyroid determines how your body uses energy, makes proteins that affect growth and development, helps control glucose consumption, regulates blood lipid levels, and controls body temperature.  To do all this, the thyroid needs to be supplied with sufficient levels of iodine.  It is recommended that average adults consume 150-300 micrograms of iodine daily.  My measuring spoons don’t go down to micrograms, so to put this in better perspective, one teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 400 micrograms of iodine.

Iodine is naturally occurring in saltwater fish, seaweed, shellfish, cheese, cows milk, eggs, frozen yogurt, ice cream, soymilk, soy sauce, yogurt, and some breads.  Unfortunately, many of the foods on this list are not the best choices if you are looking for optimal fuel and nutrition.

In the early 1900s, there was a pronounced iodine deficiency in certain regions of the U.S., mainly those that had limited access to seafood.  In 1924, the Morton’s salt company began adding iodine to their table salt, which made great strides towards combating these iodine deficiencies.

Another source of iodine used to be wheat flour.  Bread used to be made with iodized flour, however, today’s breads are made with flour processed with bromide, which does not have the same beneficial effect on the body as iodine.

Check your labels carefully.  Many brands make iodized and non-iodized versions of their salt.

Check your labels carefully.  Many brands make iodized and non-iodized versions of their salt.

With gluten fears on the rise, less and less people are eating bread anyway.  Another issue is food labels don’t list whether or not their products are made with iodized salt (they’re usually not).  With many diets proposing reduction in salt intake, along with non-iodized sea salt being so popular, iodine deficiencies are back on the rise, with some estimates putting 74% of Americans suffering from iodine deficiency.

Another contributing factor in which active people should take notice is iodine is excreted through sweat, so it is important to replenish iodine after exercise. 

If you feel like your energy levels are off, or you have weight that just isn’t dropping even with a proper diet, take a look at your iodine levels.  It is an easy adjustment to add a little iodized salt to your food or water.  Give it a few weeks and see if it improves things.  You can also have your doctor check your iodine levels with a urine test.

If you were looking to increase your iodine intake solely through eating ice cream, it’s possible, but not recommended.  Two scoops of ice cream contains about 10 micrograms of iodine.  If you can eat 30 scoops of ice cream in a day, you likely have much bigger problems than iodine deficiency.

 

Sources:

http://www.thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/

https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/tip-fix-your-metabolism-with-table-salt?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article4996

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodised_salt

 

 

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