wondering if this will post to my blog?
Have you heard of VO2? This is one of those fitness terms that seems to be popping up all the time. So, I thought we should define it and I needed a “V” topic!😊
This is the volume of oxygen consumed when you exercise.
It is often expressed as VO2 max. This is a measurement of the maximum oxygen an athlete can use during intense exercise. It is basically a measurement of aerobic endurance, and the athletes’ overall cardiovascular fitness.❤️
This is not just for elite athletes. If you have had a stress test at the doctors office, you may have had this assessment.
How it is measured
The athlete, or patient, performs an exercise, usually riding a stationary bike, or running on a treadmill. The oxygen content is measured in the volume of air that is inhaled and exhaled. Remember, CO2 is exhaled and therefore contains oxygen molecules.
The test is 10 to 15 minutes and the athlete is required to raise the speed and intensity of the exercise until the point of muscle fatigue. The test must be performed in a lab with the measurement taken with the correct equipment, your Garmin reading is not accurate. Garmin, and other heart monitors can only track your heart rate, and then use your weight, gender, age and height to calculate your VO2, which is off by a large factor!
The VO2 max is the point where aerobic metabolism stops and anaerobic metabolism begins, muscle fatigue follows quickly. Have you ever had a cramp when swimming or running? It hurts!😩 that is the point we are talking about.
Can it be altered?
While there is a strong genetic component, your VO2 max can be increased through proper training. Age, gender and altititude can also affect your VO2 consumption.
To give you an idea of what we are talking about, the averge sedentary person has a VO2 max of 35 ml/kg/min and elite endurance athletes are around 70 ml/kg/min.
Remember Lance Armstrong? At his peak, his VO2 Max was 85 ml/kg/min. He was able to manipulate his VO2 by increasing the number of red blood cells (which bind and carry oxygen). He took EPO, erythropoietin, which stimulates the formation of red blood cells. This was especially helpful when cycling in the mountains were there is less oxygen at high altitudes.
Of course, he also tested positive for other substances as well, and won the Tour de France seven times before having his titles and medals stripped. Cycling is notorious for blood doping with EPO, and most riders complain that they cannot compete with the athletes who use performance enhancing drugs.
I hope this helps you the next time you see this in your health and fitness reading, which I am sure you are doing regularly!😇
This is a topic that has impacted my life in a couple ways. First, I am a natural redhead, meaning I have the freckles and white skin that often accompany that trait. As a kid I would burn instantly, but growing up in the Pacific Northwest it wasn’t too much of an issue. The sun was only strong enough in the summer, and that is really only 2 months out of the year.
This is the UV index for Redmond, Washington today. ☁️
It wasn’t until much later in life, while studying comparative vertebrate anatomy, that I learned that my cells produce phaeomelanin, the least effective of the two forms of melanin. My melanocytes, (the cells in our skin that produce melanin) do not make the brown pigment that allows others to tan more easily. If you are a burner like me, then you also produce phaeomelanin, which are the yellow and red pigments. We are the freckled population!
I apply sunscreen everyday, yes everyday! My skin type is extremely sensitive to UV and we are constantly exposed, even on overcast days. I am concerned about all the effects of aging, not just melanoma.
Fast forward 40 years of so, and I now have a second home in Tucson, Arizona. This is a climate where the sun shines constantly! I have to be careful, but not as much as I thought I would have to be. Interestingly, as many of you know, things change as we age. I still have lots of freckles, but I don’t burn as quickly as once did.
The UV index for the same date, in Tucson, Arizona. My environment has definetly changed ☀️
I thought it might be a good idea, with summer approaching, to take a look at our skin health. It is the largest organ of the body, after all!
Why do we tan in the first place, biologically?
UV light damages DNA. Melanin pigment is produced in an effort of the cell to aborsorb the UV wavelength, thereby protecting the DNA. The more UV exposure the darker the melanin pigment becomes in the outer layer of our skin. The lower layers will begin melanogenesis, a process to produces the melanocyte cells, which are full of melanin. Those cells move upward toward the surface of the skin, as you slough cells continuously. Once the UV stimulus is removed, melanogenesis slows and the dark cells are sloughed off.
If I get a “base tan” will I be better protected?
No. And that is going to bother some people. Regardless of what the tanning bed industry tells you, all UV light is damaging. The proof is the color of your skin!
All tans are signs of skin damage, regardless if the UV source is natural, or from a tanning bed! There are literally dozens of thorough, scientific studies to back up that claim. And still, people go to tanning salons, just as they continue to consume tobacco products in the face of overwhelming proof that cigarette are linked to cancer.😔
Melanomas are not the only damage: wrinkles, brown spots (age spots) and crepey skin are all long term effects from exposure to UV light sources.
If I don’t have a tan, am I getting enough Vitamin D?
Yes. Your body is incredible efficient at making Vitamin D and needs very little exposure to UV light to activate that pathway. In fact, the tan would be blocking the UV light from making the vitamin! There are far too many good sources of vitamin D that you can consume in your diet to justify the need to tan. At worst, you can take a supplement which would not harm your DNA!
Did you know?
National “Don’t Fry Day!” is May 25 this year! So, get out that sunscreen and apply generously and often!
You probably think I have lost my mind, and you are most likely right! But let me explain!
As an active person, who frequents gyms and yoga studios, and has some knowledge regarding microbiologics, I have a heightened awareness of “disease by contact”. I often get questions from fellow gym rats about MRSA. I don’t want to push any panic buttons, but thought it might be a good idea to talk about exactly what MRSA is, how it is transmitted, how we can avoid it and if needed, how to treat it.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria that colonizes 20-30% of the healthy population at any given time. It is estimated that 60% of us will have staph, on our skin or in our nostrils, at some point, and around 10-20% never have it on their person.
Why do some have it and others do not? That is personal genetics for you! Some of us have a more inviting living environment for this particular strain of bacteria. And, it is usually harmless as it goes about living on our bodies.
But that is the key point, on our bodies, not inside! Should staph breach our exterior defense and enter into the tissue or blood stream, then we may have a problem.
I will give you a personal and embarrassing example of just how easy it is to become infected with staph from your own body! I had a hangnail on my thumb, probably from some exercise related event. I should have removed it with a nail clipper or scissor, but no. I was in a hurry, it was bugging me, so I bit it off with my teeth. Yes, I am an animal!😬
One day later my thumb was twice the size it is supposed to be, and I knew I had a staph infection. I had bitten too close to the surface of the skin and caused a small tear. The staph entered and found a warm, moist environment and began to multiply like crazy.
Of course I was busy and didn’t have time to go to the doctor. I also wanted to give my immune system a chance to clear the infection on its own, which happens often as our immune systems are incredibly competent. Apparently I overestimated my healing powers, because just 48 hours later I could barely bend my thumb at the joint.
I swallowed my pride and saw my doc, who laughed and said “a PhD in molecular biology should know better!” She was right, I should have and I still infected myself! After 2 weeks of a standard antibiotic, I was back to using my opposable digit with no ill after affects. Ego was still bruised. 😳
My experience has been, and will continue to be the norm. These stories don’t make headlines.
So, what is MRSA?
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This strain of bacteria has acquired antibiotic resistance by living in a strict environment, such as those in hospitals. A hospital, or health care facility, is extremely clean and forces the bacteria to mutate to survive. Under this selective pressure, the bacteria have to acquire genetic mutations to deal with strong cleaning solvents, hot temperatures and multiple forms of antibiotics. Those individual bacteria that hit the genetic jackpot will reproduce and provide the next generation with those specific genes, making this strain extremely tough to kill.
Hospitals don’t only provide that extreme environment, they also have patients who are already ill, and have compromised immune systems. The act of surgery, intebation and catheterization are all breaches into the body that help facilitate the bacteria’s entry.
Infections that occur while a patient is in the hospital are called nosocomial infections. Hospitals are required to publish their nosocomial rates of infection by the CDC and WHO, and the consumer can look up that data, if they are concerned about an upcoming procedure.
However, you can still acquire MRSA or other forms of staph infections outside of the health care system, that’s known as CA-MRSA, or Community Acquired MRSA.
Who is at risk?
CA-MRSA is transmitted by direct contact with a
carrier, or contact with an object used by the infected individual. Athletes, particularly those who use mats or pads for their activities are at a higher risk of contracting staph infections. Think boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, yoga…you get the idea. Also, people living in close quarters, who share items in that environment, such as prisons, dorms, and barracks.
Hygiene is king!
You knew that was going to be the answer, right! Washing hands, taking showers, disinfecting mats and exercise gear, all of these are the best defense to contracting ANY infections.
Keep cuts and tears covered at the gym, don’t help the bacteria get into you in the first place. If you do become infected with something, don’t panic or presume the worst! The odds are great that you have a standard, treatable condition.
MRSA can be effectively treated with strong antibiotics, in combination. Often the sores or blisters that result from the infection can be drained and they heal on their own. It is important to treat the infection before it has a chance to spread via the blood stream, that condition is called sepsis, or systemic and is far harder to treat.
I have to admit, I was really happy the other day when I saw the mats being cleaned at kickboxing! 😏
Stay healthy my friends!💕
VISA; vancomycin intermediate SA, VRSA: vancomycin resistant SA
Antibiotics used to treat staph infections
You see them all the time. “Test your knowledge of _____________”! I usually just close the box and move on. But, every once in awhile it is kind of fun to take a moment to find out what I don’t know, it usually turns out to be quite a lot!😜
I decided to take some specific quizzes, related to Health and Fitness topics, and see how I did. I shared my results, no doubt you can easily best me!
I chose four different quizzes, but of course there are many more. If you want to play along you can find the quizzes in the links. Some advice, don’t rush, I did missread at least one question (probably more).
First up, a fitness related test
This quiz was centered around acronyms and jargon regularly used in classes and at the gym.
My score: 10/15
Not my best result! There are quite a few terms for me to learn! 😐
Next, “Are you a distracted diner?” quiz. These are obviously questions regarding dinning habits and mindful eating.
My score: I received the grade of “Balancing Act”. I guess the quiz thought I was doing an ok job!
A quiz on reading food and nutrition labels accurately
My score: 6/11. Geesh, I really thought I would do better on this one! Sadly my score was still better than the average quiz taker. There is plenty of work for me to do on this topic😬
And finally, a quiz on health and fitness topics in general. A mix of questions, some of which we have talked about in the series.
My score: 14/15. I don’t remember which one I missed, I may have to go back and take it again, just because I am curious!
Take the tests and let me know how you kicked my butt!! 😅
Do you want more tests? Check out:
Let’s talk about protein today. There is this understanding that protein is the most crucial macromolecule that we can eat. It is also widely believed that we are not getting enough in our daily consumption. And, if you are active you must take in even more protein to be healthy. So, let’s find out if any, or all of that is true!
What is protein?
Protein molecules are long chains made up of smaller amino acids. The 21* amino acids that account for every protein on the planet (yes, just 21 make up all proteins, in all living creatures) and are used to make hair, bone, blood, anitbodies, hormones, collagen, muscles and enzymes, and more!
Obviously this is an important class of molecules! You are capable of making 11 of the 20 amino acids whenever you need them. The other 9, known as essential amino acids, must be consumed through food.
Proteins also store energy, just as carbohydrate and fat molecules. In N is for Nutrition we talked about how the cell will break apart atoms to release the stored energy to perform cellular work. Well, the same is true for proteins. The cell can break down the large protein back into amino acids and release energy at the same time.
If you are withholding carbs and fats in your diet and exercising, the cells are able to break down muscle fibers, muscle proteins, to get the energy they require. Remember the cycle of fad diets? How you will loose water and muscle, and gain back fat! This is how that happens!
Even though cells can break down protein, it is much harder do so than breaking down carbohydrates and fats. Making protein the cell’s last choice for its energy needs. So, in the long run a high protein, low carb diet will not work for weight loss.
Are we getting enough Protein?
According to the USDA the average American consumes 69 grams of protein daily. That include vegetarians! An active 130lb female needs 65 grams of protein, so most of us are set! If you workout an hour, for more than five days a week, then you should bump it up a little more.
Can you consume too much Protein?
Yes! A diet too high in protein can stress your kidneys, and even cause heart problems. But, you would have to consume hundreds of grams of protein for a prolong period of time to cause this damage.
Can Protein cause weight gain?
Yes! People tend to talk about protein as if it is a magical answer to all things diet related. Protein can help in building muscle, which burns calories, but protein itself is not calorie free! In fact: 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories and 1 gram of fat = 9 calories. You need to consume protein to repair muscle fibers that are damaged during exercise, but if you eat too much protein, the extra will be stored and can cause weight gain. Obviously, if you are not limiting your portions of fatty protein sources you are taking in protein and fat.
So, what should you do?
Be judicious about your protein consumption. Be sure to have some form of lean protein at the start of the day, and a little at each meal. Include a protein snack 30-45 minutes after your workout. This is the magic window when your muscles need access to lean protein sources to repair the damage done during exercise.
Plant based protein sources are just as good as animal based and are very weightloss friendly! 😊
I do hope this clarifies some of your protein concerns 😃
*Selenocysteine is a recently discovered amino acid and is the 21st as it is found in protein synthesis. Ornithine was recently discovered but is a byproduct of urea formation so is not found in proteins.
Yes, this is a real phenomenon! It happens to me from time to time. I didn’t realize that overtraining was possible. I mean, I am not an olympic athlete, so it never occurred to me that my constant aching muscles, or my struggle to sleep, could be related to “overtraining syndrome”.
It wasn’t until I started researching my symptoms that I stumbled across articles related to overtraining. Of course this makes perfect sense. If you train more than you allow for recovery, than the muscles and tendons never get a chance to repair.
We tend to believe that “more is better” with exercise. We get excited about a new sport, getting better at our current activities or loosing weight for that special occasion. So, we hit the gym, and hit it hard. So how do you know if you are overtraining or just hitting a natural plateau?
Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome
You are restless at night and having trouble sleeping.
This is a tough one because many things can be disrupting your sleep. Hormones, eating too close to bedtime and daily stresses from work or kids, are all valid reasons that you may be missing your much needed shuteye. When you exercise too much your body is stressed and can be releasing cortisol, which will stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, keeping you awake. Evaluate your training or exercise program if you are not finding stressors in your daily life, and particularly if you have any of the other symptoms of overtraining.
You have odd pains in your muscles, joints or bones.
This is my big clue that I am doing too much! The pains are mostly in both my arms, and are especially bad when I lay down to sleep. They ache all night, waking me if I make the slightest movements. The pains usually begin in my biceps or shoulders and make their way to my forearms and grip strength. When I am training for a half marathon my hips will hurt. This is the time to back off!
You are getting sick more often than normal.
When we tax our body to repair itself, our immune system is stressed and unable to fight off infections as easily as it did before overtraining. Resting will allow your immune system to reboot and regain full strength.
You are feeling depressed and irritable even after a great workout.
That wonderful feeling after the endorphins are released is great. That runner’s high that you look forward to at the end of a run. If those are not happening you may be overtraining.
Loss of enthusiasm for a sport or activity.
If you suddenly are no longer the first person at the gym, or have to drag yourself to the soccer field, you may be overtraining. A drop in performance can also be a sign. I know that if I suddenly drop a grade or two at the climbing gym, it is a sign that my body is just too depleted to operate at my basic level.
Some other common symptoms may include: headaches, decreased appetite and increased injuries.
Everyone is different and their body will respond with a variety of these symptoms. You need to listen to your own signals, and learn when you are approaching the edge.
So how do you avoid, or recover from, overtraining?
Build in recovery and rest days to your schedule.
This doesn’t mean you have to do nothing. Think of this as an opportunity to cross train. I will hike, or do yoga, when I need to give my climbing muscles a break. Swimming and cycling are great non-impact activities that will allow you to recover one muscle group while still advancing your health goals.
Improve your nutrition and hydration
Are you eating properly before and after your workouts? Are you taking in enough water so the cells can make repairs? Most of us can improve in this area! Check out N is for Nutrition if you want a refresher on the recommended guildelines.
Get more sleep.
This is the fastest way for your body to heal itself. Sleep is restorative on every level, physically, mentally and emotionally. It will also help you reduce your overall stress and inflammation levels.
Consider getting a sports massage.
This can help with circulation which can assist the immune system in removing pathogens. Massage can lower overall stress levels and aid muscle fibers in healing. I try to do this every so often but it can be hard to schedule these into a busy life. If it is too costly, consider other ways to relax the muscles. Soak in a warm tub and gentle stretching can help the cells make repairs.
Enjoy your workouts! And, watch out for overtraining! 🏋🏻♀️
When I thought about tackling this HUGE topic, a couple things went through my mind. What should I focus on? I don’t want to give dieting and weight loss advice, as I have already stated, I don’t believe in dieting.
I don’t want to talk specifically about nutrition for extreme body building. Those folks already spend a ton of time working out their own specialized nutrition plans for, lets face it, physiques most of us are not interested in developing.
So what does that leave? How about a quick refresher on nutrition for active people, who are working out regularly and looking to maximize those efforts. Bingo!
What do moderately active people need to fuel their fitness?
I don’t think there will be any “Aha” moments here! You need carbs, fats, and protein and pretty much in that order!
55%-60% of your daily calories should be carbohydrates, where the majority are from starches and only 10%-15% from refined or simple sugars.
30% of the calories should be from healthy sources of fat, and 10-15% from lean protein.
The easiest way to accomplish these targets is to eat a variety of foods each day, from low fat dairy, meat and produce. I think most people know a healthy fat from a less than stellar source: Think olive oil, versus butter. And, again, most know that protein from beans, and poultry is leaner than bacon!
Carbohydrates seem to give people the most trouble when trying to diferentiate the type of carb and the best source. Let’s talk carbs for a minute and what happens in your body.
If your cells could choose, they would use glucose as their primary energy source. Simple sugars are glucose, or very close relatives to glucose, and can be turned into useable energy right away, and therefore gone quickly. Glucose stores are the primary fuel that is burned in the first 20 minutes of exercise.
Now, all carbs and fats are fuel, but not all can be used immediately.
As you continue to use up the available glucose in your blood, your cells will have to convert more complex carbs, or starches stored in your body, into glucose and then burn it. Triglycerides are a great example and are being consumed at this point, and you will have enough energy for about a two hour work out.
This is just one triglyceride molecule! See all those Carbon atoms? When the cell breaks those off, energy is released and your muscles function. It takes some time to get in there and break up this guy, but you have a lot of potential energy in here!
Finally the cells move onto larger fat molecules, which store the most energy. Those large molecules are broken down into smaller molecules, atoms are rearranged and bam, you have made more glucose to burn and fuel your activity.
What this means is that, unless you are working out at a high intensity for more that 60 – 90 minutes you will not need to consume carbs during your work out. Many people make the mistake of overestimating the number of calories they have burned, and underestimate the number of calories they take in after their workout.
Do not make the mistake of cutting out all carbohydrates from your diet!
Remember the whole “fat makes you fat” trend? Everyone was cutting out all fat from their eating plans, until we learned that you need healthy fats or your metabolism will not function properly. The same goes for carbs! If you severely limit your carbohydrates and then exercise, you will throw off the timing for your energy needs.
Make sure you have the proper fuel before you begin your workout.
And you need to eat smart after the workout, this is not a “I did X so now I can eat Y” moment! You need to be honest about how much work was done, and for how long!
And don’t forget that water!! Hydration is crucial, even in cold weather.
The Bottom Line!
Healthy active people need all macrobiotics (fats, proteins and carbs) to perform their activities. If you have some weight you wish to loose, you know what you need to do!
Eat food from healthy sources, and move your body. 🏋🏻♀️🧘🏻♀️🥊🏃♀️🏊♀️🧗♀️🚴♀️
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word these days. You see it ascribed to a number of activities. Lately I have found it associated with eating, as in slow down, think about your choices, savor the experience. Sounds good!
We can also apply this to other areas of our daily lives, and not just when we are eating. You don’t have to be in a pretzel formation, chanting a certain word for this to work! The goal is simply really. SLOW DOWN. Be present, in the moment.
This is not a new concept, just newish to the Western world. The roots of mindfulness and meditation is a decidedly Buddhist concept and entered into American practice in 1979. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded MBSR -Mindfuness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then there have been thousands (yes, thousands) of studies that document both the physical and mental benefits of practicing mindfulness.
The toughest part of mindfulness is loosing the judgment component. We tend to assign “good” and “bad” to the random thoughts that flow across our minds. This is a big issue for me in particular, I can get caught up in a negative loop that will drive my mood straight into the dumps. And, fast too!
Many experts believe that mindfulness can help people accept painful experiences, after all you can’t change them, they happened. Mindfulness is a process by one acknowledges the thought or emotion, recognize it for what it is, a past memory or pain, then your thoughts move on.
Why take the time to practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness can improve your mental health
You can reduce stress and anxiety as you focus on your mental state. Recognizing and acknowledging negative thoughts is the first step. Refocusing your mind on positive and healthy events and goals will eventually become easier. You will find that you spend less time dwelling on thoughts that cause your stress levels to spike. Your overall anxiety levels will decrease. You will be slower at self judgments and passing judgment over others.
Mindfulness can improve your physical health. This is the essence of biofeedback. Through breathing one can lower their blood pressure, slow the heat rate, and reduce the level of stress hormones in your system. Those with chronic pain also reported less discomfort. All with just calm, measure breaths.
Mindfulness can improve your overall well being. Controlling the negative thoughts will lesson the power they hold over you. Being present in the positive moments of the day and focusing your attention on the pleasure in life leaves less time for the negative to take root. People who practice mindfulness report a higher satisfaction in life and deeper connection with the people around them.
Do you remember, the Mental Health Core Habits of Healthy People? One was that they surround themselves with positive people. For that to happen, you have to be one of those positive people. Practicing mindfulness will take you in that direction. Perhaps not right away. This is a practice after all, and requires some effort on your part.
There are many books, online tools and apps that can get you started. I prefer Headspace as it is free and these are guided mediations. I have found this to be very helpful in dealing with those times when life is tough, or I am struggling with negative issues.
Of course a yoga class will also incorporate mindfulness, with the added benefit of exercise! There are also numerous online classes should you want to try that out too!🧘🏻♀️
Our fitness levels are really important, especially as we enter into midlife. The reality is that our overall fitness level begins to degrade long before midlife, in fact there are losses beginning as early as our 20s and 30s. We loose 3% to 6% in those early decades but skyrocket to 20% loss as we near 70 years of age.
Why should you care? The less overall fitness you have, the slower your metabolism, which of course leaves you vulnerable to injury and disease.
Decreased muscle mass also correlated to bone strength. Strong healthy muscles need strong bones for attachment, so new bone must be laid down as your muscles grow. Of course the converse relationship also exists. You lose a third to a half a pound of muscle each year unless you’re strength training and your bones will loose density as well.
The good news is that this can be reversed at any time! Moving is critical! There are five key tests that are used to determine your overall fitness level. This is a great indicator as to where to focus your exercise goals. They specifically measure your overall strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness.
- Core strength: You will need a timer for this exercise. Get into a plank formation and start your timer. The goal is to hold this position for as long as possible. Note the time when you can no longer support your body weight and find your age group on the chart below.
2. Upper body strength: This is a push up test, no timer needed. Perform the exercise and keep track of your completed reps. Watch your form! Count only completed push ups.
3. Lower body strength:
This is a timed wall sit. Stand with your back against a flat surface and lower until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Start your timer, and record when you can no loner hold the position.
4. Aerobic Fitness:
There are several versions for this as some will have you walk a track for a specific time or distance. This one will be a step assessment. If you choose an alternative test, make sure you use the chart for that specific assessment, as the charts are not interchangeable.
For this, you will need a timer and an 8 inch step. Straighten your back and engage your stomach muscles, then begin stepping on and off the step, alternating your feet. Maintain a steady pace for three minutes, with the goal of taking 40 steps per minute. When the time is up, rest for 30 seconds, then take your pulse for 15 seconds. (You can check your pulse at your wrist using your opposite hand’s index and middle finger.) Multiply the 15 second pulse count by four to get your heart rate per minute.
5. Flexibility: This is the sit and reach test. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Stretch your arms forward, reaching toward your toes. If you cannot reach your toes, then bend your knees until you can.
So, how did you do?😊 Now that you know your strength and weaknesses you can add in those activities that will help you move into a better overall fitness level! The goal is to be a little better than you were the day before 💕