Nutrition for Strength Training

As with so many other fitness activities, strength training is about more than just throwing some weights on a bar and lifting. Truly effective strength training also relies on a healthy nutrition plan and appropriate pre- and post-workout fuel, all designed to maximize results. Restricting foods and cutting calories are not recommended during strength training to ensure the body continues to get adequate nutrition to function and prosper with resistive activities. Consuming whole and unprocessed food is highly recommended over prepared and packaged food and supplements.

The best nutrition program, overall, to support a strength-training program includes the following:

Carbohydrates: 6 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight (2.7 to 4.5 grams per pound of body weight). Carbohydrates maintain blood glucose levels during exercise and replace muscle glycogen. Personal carbohydrate requirements vary based upon the intensity and length of workouts as well as body size, sex and even environmental conditions. Carbohydrates are essential to brain and muscle function.

Protein: 4 to 20 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight). These recommended protein intakes can generally be met through diet alone, without the use of protein or amino acid supplements. Simply by combining both plant and animal based proteins in your meals throughout the day. Protein is essential to maintaining and gaining muscle tissue.

Fat: 20 to 35 percent of total energy intake. It can often be tempting to drop below this level in the quest for improved results; however, consuming less than 20 percent of energy from fat does not benefit performance. It’s important to stress the importance of total nutrition for optimal results. Combining unprocessed animal and plant derived fats provides the most nutrition for the body. Fat is essential to brain, muscle, hormone and nerve function.

Hydration: Adequate fluid intake before, during and after exercise is important for health and optimal performance. Dehydration decreases exercise performance. In the hours after exercise, clients should aim for approximately 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound (0.5 kg) of body weight lost during exercise to replenish fluids. Adequate hydration ensures the cells of the body can remove waste and function properly.

As with other training programs, fueling up in the hours prior to strength training is essential to an effective session. The goal of this small meal is to boost energy for the training itself as well as to prime the body for faster recovery after the workout.

Nutrient Dense and High in Fat Breakfast Sandwich Example:

  • 2 slices Thick Cut Uncured Bacon
  • 1-2 Eggs fried or scrambled
  • 2oz Mozzarella slices
  • 2 slices Whole Grain/Flax Seed Bread or whole bagel (more protein than bread)
  • Grass fed butter for the bread/bagel

Weight Loss Misconceptions

Our bodies are composed of water, tissue, bone, muscle and fat. The composition varies slightly by gender, age and genetics. Every person has the capacity to burn fat and build muscle. The amount lost or retained depends on our gender, age, genetics and lifestyle. The scale (our weight) tells us nothing of our composition and is misleading when it comes to our overall health.

Weight loss and weighing less are misleading goals for health promotion. Yes, having less body fat leads to a healthier body. The problem is that weight loss includes losing muscle along with fat. We are focused on losing weight when we should focus on gaining weight. Gaining muscle weight and burning fat, that is. Muscle mass weighs eight times that of fat mass. As you build muscle you will gain ‘weight’ even as you burn fat.

Losing muscle mass leads to an increase in stored body fat and a reduction in circulatory function. Muscle movements help push fluids through the circulatory system. Muscles also consume large amounts of energy to maintain their mass and strength. The less muscle mass you have the fewer calories you burn at rest; the fewer calories you can consume daily. The lower the amount of skeletal muscle the lower the function of the circulatory system, including the heart.

When we cut calories or certain foods (diet) or submit ourselves to an excess of aerobic activity we are only losing/burning calories. Aerobics in moderation do have their place in heart and circulatory health. Too much aerobic activity leads to muscle atrophy and joint instability with overuse. The muscles are usable calories (muscle glycogen becomes glucose) and are easily broken down to fuel aerobic activity. We weigh less because we are losing muscle and fat mass.

Fast aerobic activity must be balanced with slower strength training activities to ensure the body maintains necessary muscle mass and joint stability for daily function as we age. Slower controlled movements during exercise increase the strength and stability of the joint. Reducing the speed and amount of movement on the joints allows them to last longer for us, reducing the need for reconstruction or replacement surgery.

Avoiding hard jarring movements in fast aerobic movements is essential to maintaining joint integrity. Every hard or rapid downward motion on the joint and body affects fascial and ligament connections, joint strength and intestinal flow. Instead of running try walking with weight, cycling or rowing. Instead of Body Pump try strength training or weightlifting. Instead of Step Class try Tai Chi Flow or Power Yoga. Instead of only walking, add seated weightlifting.

Aerobic activity combined with strength training in a weekly exercise routine increases muscle mass and fat burning capability more effectively than aerobic activity alone. Combining the two provides the body with the opportunity to increase skeletal muscle strength and density while improving cardiac muscle strength. Exposing the body to multiple types of physical activity is best for maintaining overall function throughout life.

Benefits of Increasing Muscle Mass at Any Age: these are the benefits of gaining muscle mass without dieting or restricting your eating. Therefore, we must consider that weighing more can be healthy.

  1. Enhances your level of functional fitness: Your muscles play a key role in determining whether you can perform the activities of daily living at home, work, and play. Accordingly, the higher your level of muscular fitness, the more likely you will be able to do the tasks in your life without undue fatigue or risk of injury
  2. Facilitates your efforts to control your fat mass: The amount of lean muscle mass you have helps to determine your resting metabolic rate, which in turn significantly affects the number of calories you burn. All factors considered, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to keep your body fat within a desirable range.
  3. Promotes bone health: Strength training not only makes your muscles stronger, it makes your bones stronger. Performed over an extended time, strength training has been found to increase bone density. Accordingly, proper strength training will help to lower your risk of bone loss. Increasing bone density also increases overall bodyweight.
  4. Reduces your chances of sustaining both muscular and skeletal injuries: It is estimated that a significant number of various injuries that occur in physical activity could be prevented through a higher level of muscular fitness. Strength training can be viewed as a relatively effective and inexpensive form of personal health insurance.
  5. Slows down the so-called aging process: Strength training enhances the ability of older adults to perform the daily tasks associated with independent living. Proper strength training can have an invaluable impact on helping senior citizens maintain their independence and personal dignity.
  6. Decreases the relative muscular demands of specific tasks: Every physical activity requires a certain percentage of an individual’s maximal level of muscular strength. For individuals who become stronger through strength training, common activities of daily living (e.g. carrying groceries, shoveling snow, lifting small children) require less effort and are easier to perform.
  7. Helps treat and prevent lower back pain: Proper strength training can help reduce the incidence and severity of lower back pain by strengthening both your abdominal and lower back muscles. By enhancing your postural stability, keeping these muscles strong can help prevent undue load forces from being placed on your spine.
  8. Enhances your appearance: The “fit, healthy” look is a matter of muscle tone, and an improved level of muscle tone is a by-product of proper strength training. Fortunately, substantial changes in the level of strength and tone of a muscle can occur in a relatively short period.
  9. Improves sport performance: Strength training has been shown to enhance an individual’s ability to perform a variety of skills. A higher level of muscular fitness affects not only your capacity to perform a specific task, but also your ability to continue to perform that task at an acceptable level over an extended period.
  10. Improves psychological wellbeing: Strength training has been found to have a positive impact on your level of anxiety, depression, and self-esteem. Accordingly, strength training can have a meaningful effect on the various facets of the mind-body connection.

Benefits of Losing Body Fat by Increasing Muscle Mass Instead of Dieting:

  1. Improves overall physical fitness
  2. Lower risk of cardiopulmonary and heart disease
  3. Reduce strain on blood vessels, increases blood flow to the brain and boost overall brain function (improves memory, concentration, and problem solving skills)
  4. Lowers digestive and immune system stress, improves mental health
  5. Lower risk for other conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cancer
  6. Lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels, and manage high blood pressure
  7. Keeps the body warmer in colder seasons and climates with better circulation
  8. Ensures the body continues to get proper nutrition without restrictive dieting

In the end, we see that losing weight should not be our focus for maintaining physical health throughout aging. Gaining or maintaining muscle mass through regular resistive activity is essential to maintaining self-reliance and health into old age. Resistive activities are essential for maintaining circulatory function, bone density and joint function throughout life.

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Inner Knee Pain

Pain On Inside of Knee No Swelling: If there is no swelling with your medial knee pain, it is likely only a minor injury such as a small cartilage tear or a grade 1 sprain of the MCL.

Inner Knee Pain When Running: Knee pain medial side during or after running is most typically caused by a cartilage tear or Runners Knee.

Inner Knee Pain When Straightening Leg: Pes Anserine Bursitis is the main culprit here as the bursa can easily get squashed when straightening the knee.

Medial Knee Pain with Flexion: Most medial knee pain gets worse with knee flexion, especially when weight bearing through the leg. If it’s worse when standing, it may indicate an MCL tear or meniscus tear. If it happens when you are sitting or bending the knee, it may be pes anserine bursitis or plica syndrome.

Anterior Medial Knee Pain: If your inner knee pain is coming round to the front of the knee, it may be a problem with the kneecap or Runners Knee rather than one of the structures on the inner knee.

Causes of Inner Knee Pain

Medial knee injuries are common because of muscle weakness and/or tightness around the knee that can subtly change the way the knee moves. This causes more force to go through the inner side of the joint, rather than distributing weight evenly through the whole joint, which results in damage to the inner side of the knee and therefore results in medial knee pain. For example, it is much more common to get osteoarthritis on the inner side of the knee than the outer side.

Pes Anserine Bursitis

Inflammation of the pes anserine bursa, causing medial knee pain. The pes anserinus is an area on the medial (inner) side of the knee where three muscle tendons attach to the tibia (shin bone). Pes anserinus means “goose’s foot” and it gets its name from the webbed-foot shape made by these three tendons where they join forming one tendon and attach to the shin bone.  Repetitive stress or friction over the area results in inflammation of the pes anserine bursa. The bursa produces excessive fluid and thus swells, placing pressure on the surrounding structures. Pain from pes anserine bursitis usually develops gradually rather than suddenly and tends to get worse with activities such as stair climbing and running. 

The most common causes of pes anserine bursitis are:

Repetitive Stress: Activities where the three muscles are being used repetitively, such as in running (particularly uphill), cycling, swimming (particularly breaststroke), and side-to-side movements can cause friction and pressure on the bursa.

Muscle Weakness/Tightness: Weakness and/or tightness in the hip and knee muscles can place increased tension on the pes anserine tendons which damages the tendon itself and increases pressure on the bursa.  Tight hamstrings are a common cause of pes anserine bursitis.

Poor Training Techniques: Training errors such as sudden increases in distance or intensity, not warming up and inadequate stretching can over stress the area.

Other Medical Conditions: Joint inflammation associated with arthritis can cause swelling of the bursa. Studies have shown that approximately 20% of people with knee osteoarthritis suffer from pes anserine bursitis. People with Type 2 Diabetes or Osgood Schlatters are also more likely to develop bursitis.

Gender: Pes anserine bursitis is more common in women, due to a wider pelvis and the angle of the knee joint.

Altered Biomechanics: changes to the position of the leg bones and soft tissues, such as flat feet or a turned out foot can place extra pressure on the Pes Anserine region.

Obesity: More weight goes through the area increasing the pressure on the knee bursa.

Trauma: direct injury such as a blow to the pes anserinus area can lead to swelling of the bursa.

Plica syndrome

A condition caused by inflammation in the lining of the knee joint. It results in achy knee pain which gets worse with activity, particularly up and down stairs, a feeling of instability in the knee and sometimes a catching or locking sensation. Plica syndrome develops when the synovial folds are irritated and become inflamed. This may be due to direct knee trauma, overuse or repetitive activities, or an underlying knee problem that affects the pliability of the synovial membrane. The knee plica may get trapped or pinched between the knee bones, or caught on the femur. When this happens, the knee plica in question becomes inflamed, gradually thickens and eventually, if left untreated, becomes hard.

Plica syndrome is typically caused by:

Direct Trauma: A blow to the knee e.g. a fall on to the knee or a RTA where the knee hits the dashboard

Repetitive Knee Movements: Activities where you repeatedly bend and straighten the knee are often to blame for knee plica syndrome e.g. running, cycling, going up and down stairs

Sudden Increase In Activities: If you rapidly increase your exercise levels it can lead to overloading of the synovial plica and thus they become inflamed

Knee Injuries: particularly twisting injuries, meniscus tears or anything that causes bleeding in the knee joint

Prolonged Flexion: sitting for long periods or sleeping with your knee bent often result in pain with plica synovialis

Underlying Knee Conditions: such as osteochondritis dissecans, fat pad irritation or synovitis

Muscle Weakness: As the plica are indirectly attached to the quadriceps, weakness in the quads muscles increases the force through the plica leading to irritation and inflammation

Treatments for Inner Knee Pain

Rest: temporarily avoid activities that cause pain. This may mean modifying your activities or indeed stopping some altogether to allow the swelling to settle down.

Regular Ice: Applying an ice pack for 10-15 minutes, every couple of hours, to the inner side of the knee can help to reduce pain and swelling associated with pes anserine bursitis. 

Herbal Remedies: peppermint, chamomile and lavender are anti-inflammatory, calming and pain relieving; turmeric and ginger assist in healing and pain relief; arnica assists in healing and strengthening tissues; magnesium assists in healing and reducing inflammation.

Medication: Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and inflammation with knee bursitis. Always check with your doctor before taking any medication.

Stretches: performing simple stretching exercises is an important part of the treatment process to take the pressure off the bursa. 

Strengthening Exercises: weakness in the hip and knee muscles makes subtle changes to the way the forces go through the knee, so by strengthening the glutes, quads and hamstrings, you can ease the pressure on the pes anserinus bursa.

Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can assess any areas of weakness and tightness that may be contributing to the problem and work on a rehab program with you.  They may also use treatments such as ultrasound and acupuncture to help reduce pain and inflammation with knee bursitis.

Fitness for the Less Able

Mother Jai’s provides fitness classes for people who are less capable. Jennifer created these unique classes for people who want exercise but cannot stand or maintain their balance while moving. They are various full body warm-up and exercise routines that can be done from any chair, wheelchair, or even the couch. Anyone of any ability can participate and enjoy these exercises.

Jennifer has been instructing Senior Fitness classes in Adult Day Programs, Nursing Home, Independent and Assisted Living Communities since 2013. She is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Silver Sneakers Approved and Certified Instructor and RenewActive endorsed instructor. She also holds a Integrative Aromatherapy Certification and a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrative Therapies.

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