Watch out for prolonged stress

FIT TIP: Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you, around you, and what you do to yourself, put stress on your body. You can experience stress from your environment (work, family etc), your body, and your thoughts.
The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.
Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called ‘distress’, a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.
Another side-effect of prolonged stress is a condition called ‘adrenal fatigue’. This is where the adrenal glands become unable to produce the required qualities of the hormone Cortisol in response to the ongoing stress, and the body runs out of energy. Think ‘zombie’ and you get the idea.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.
Some statistics on stress:

  • Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  • 75 – 90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  • Stress can be the cause of headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

So how can we combat prolonged stress? There are many techniques. I’m a believer in high intensity exercise to release the ‘happy hormones’ dopamine and endorphins. Tai Chi, yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques are also incredibly effective if practised regularly. Changing your diet to remove toxins from chemicals in food can remove stress from inside your body.

How much protein do I need?

FIT TIP: Our body has several basic building blocks and protein is an important one of these. Protein accounts for around 16 percent of an average person’s total body weight. That is because connective tissues, skin, hair and muscle are all made up of protein. To maintain these systems, we need to consume enough protein each day. This is especially important if we are strength training, to repair the muscle tissue we damage in the session.
Our body can only utilise a maximum of 30 grams of protein at any one time. Increasing protein content during meals does not necessarily mean we will gain more muscle.
What we need to concentrate on is adding more protein to other low-protein meals.
Usually, we eat very little protein at breakfast, a bit more at lunch and then consume a large amount at night… So we’re not taking enough protein on board for efficient muscle building and repair during the day – and at night we’re often taking in more than we can use. We run the risk of having this excess oxidised and ending up as glucose (for energy) or fat (stored in the body as, um, fat!!).
For breakfast, consider replacing some carbohydrate, particularly the simple sugars, with high-quality protein. Throw in an egg, a glass of milk, yogurt or add a handful of nuts to get closer to 30 grams of protein. For lunch you could add lean chicken breast or tuna to a salad, and then moderate the amount of protein for dinner. Kitchen scales are a useful tool to measure your quantity. 30g of eye fillet steak will look very different from 30g of minced turkey breast, for example!
Do this, and over the course of the day you will spend much more time synthesising protein into muscle and the other important body systems.

Improve your sport by doing one thing per week!

FIT TIP: One of the biggest mistakes many people make when looking to improve their sport is to ignore working on their strength.
In some sports, strength work is still seen as a hindrance to the “real” work of endless sub-maximal monotonous drills and training runs.
It’s such a shame. Because strength is crucial. It’s the basis for speed, power, agility, and of course the ability to generate force. You need it whether you’re swimming, running, cycling, or playing a team sport like football or rugby.
• If you want your muscles to explode with power right WHEN you need it most, you have to train those muscles to react instantly.
• If you want to avoid fatigue, which affects your judgment and technical ability, then strength training is crucial. If you have stronger muscles, you will exert less energy for every muscle contraction and conserve it for the all important later stages of your sport!
• Strength is also an important factor in injury prevention. For example, one of the reasons that females are four to seven times more likely than males to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is a lack of lower-limb strength.

Even if you’re an experienced athlete with many years of training in different forms of exercise, it’s still worthwhile doing strength work in the off-season, to keep you fresh and work on the areas where you were weakest during the season.
Don’t worry, you won’t ‘bulk up’ and slow down. With a proper eating plan you will develop lean, toned muscle tissue without the ‘mass’. You will get faster!

The old-fashioned approach of a split strength program over multiple days of the week is gone. The most effective and time efficient method is one full-body strength session, once per week. We no longer work the muscles in isolation (such as a bicep curl) but a functional compound motion (such as a Dumbbell row).

If you do anything to increase your sporting performance, make it functional strength training!

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