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The importance of Sleep on muscle gain.

Does sleep have any effect on your muscles?

Our Sports Scientists hear all the time from clients that their sleeping patterns are poor. Late nights out, working late, mind racing when your head hits the pillow etc. Can you relate?

It is very well known and documented that sleep plays a crucial part of humans’ general health and wellbeing. However, does sleep have any effect on muscle gain, retention or loss? Let’s dig deep and find out!

A number of studies have identified the importance of sleep on human hormonal balancing. When we sleep, our body releases anabolic hormones such as Testosterone & IGF-1 to aid the body in the recovery process. When sleep is insufficient, the release of these hormones is reduced which may lower the bodies’ ability to repair muscle or thus build muscle. So if you are doing regular strength training, but your sleep is compromised you could end up not getting those gains!

Studies have also shown that sleep is vital to make sure we don’t experience muscle atrophy (muscle break down). Lack of sleep will elevate hormones in our body, specifically CORTISOL. Cortisol is a stress hormone and when its elevated it has the effect of breaking down muscle tissue. This hormone is very Catabolic and reduces the rate of protein synthesis and inhibits muscle tissue growth.

So Elevated Cortisol = harder to gain muscle!!!

To reap the rewards of our hard work in the gym, you must get your sleep right.

The time in which we sleep directly influences cortisol levels as well! A number of studies have identified that individuals who slept during the day could not significantly reduce Cortisol levels when compared to people who slept during “regular” night hours. The conclusion of these studies stated that there is a direct correlation to cortisol secretion and our bodies natural clock (Circadian Rhythm) and it seems that catching up sleep the next day might not offset a bad night’s sleep.

To summarise, sleep plays a HUGE role in the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. LACK of sleep will contribute to breaking down your hard earned muscle! Sleep provides a state of recovery and repair for the body, allowing the “good” anabolic hormones to be secreted into the bloodstream and reducing the release of “bad” catabolic hormones.

Put your sleeping habits to the test with a DEXA scan and our experts will provide you with the advice you need to get to your goals!

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It’s not too late to get your dream summer body!

It’s a common saying – summer bodies are made in winter. And maybe with the whiff of wattle in the August air, you’re thinking that it’s nearly spring and you’ve left it too late to get your dream beach body.

Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s not too late!

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Losing body fat and building lean muscle tissue before summer hits its stride is completely achievable, especially when you have the inside advantage of a DEXA scan to give you an accurate picture of your current internal health. This information can allow us to recommend some simple dietary and exercise tweaks that will help you achieve your health goals.

Six steps to a healthy summer body

  1. Come in for a baseline DEXA scan. In a few short minutes, we can give you a detailed and accurate picture of your health. Our scan results will let you know your weight, body fat percentage including intramuscular fat versus visceral fat, bone density, and lean muscle mass.

2. Using this information, we can calculate your optimum calorie intake and ideal protein requirements. Getting enough protein is important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass, but too much can contribute to undesirable weight gain. Using the information that a DEXA scan gives you, we can help you to strike the right balance.

3. Exercise the right amount – not too little, but also not too much. Over-exercising is one of the most frequent factors that prevent our clients from achieving their goals. Exercising too much can increase production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can cause your body to stockpile fat.

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4. Lift your way to lean. Strength training is hands down the most effective way to get the lean body everybody wants. Weight training doesn’t mean getting bulky muscles, even when you are lifting heavy weights.

5. Get a follow up DEXA scan to track your progress, and keep you motivated. Keeping track of your results is one of the best ways to give you the motivation you need to stick to your eating plan and exercise routine. Even if the number on your bathroom scales isn’t shifting, we can show you the reduction in body fat and the increase in lean muscle tissue.

6. Just keep going. Persistence is key to success. Stay focused on your goal of being fit and healthy so that you can enjoy all the amazing activities that Sydney summer has to offer. Make a list of everything you want to do and get out there this summer and DO IT.

So don’t sit there thinking that you’ve left it too late and you might as well just hide away in the air conditioning once summer arrives. We can give you all the information you need to get your health on track and will support you along the way. Call us today to book a DEXA scan package and roll on summer!

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Are you exercising too much? Physical stress and fat stores

cortisol-overexercise-dexa-bodymeasure-crowsnestWe see it all the time: client comes in, they want to lose weight – ideally fat. In pursuit of that goal of fat loss, they’ve been watching what they eat and hitting the gym every day. Sometimes, even twice a day! But despite all that exercising, they’re just not getting the results and we can see the frustration radiating off them.

“Why aren’t I getting results?” we get asked. The answer a lot of the time is stress. When you are under stress, your body produces more cortisol and more cortisol means more fat stores. But we don’t just mean emotional stress, physical stress is a significant and often overlooked trigger for cortisol production – especially in our enthusiastic exerciser example.

As Chris Kresser says, “when a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a barrier to achieving those goals.” Extreme exercise produces an immediate increase in cortisol, and chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a range of health problems, such as sleep disturbance (which can also hinder fat loss – see our blog post on sleep and fat!), digestive issues, depression, weight gain and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, especially around the abdomen, and we know how dangerous that abdominal fat can be.

So how do you know if you are putting your body under too much stress when exercising? You can start by doing a simple exercise test. For example, you might be able to do five pull ups when you aren’t stressed. But two days later, you find you can only do three pull ups. Of course it doesn’t have to be pull ups- it can be any simple exercises, for example, a vertical leap or a chin up. That’s a big warning sign that your body hasn’t recovered and you will trigger the production of cortisol and store fat, rather than burn it.

To get the maximum benefit from your exercise regime, without promoting excessive cortisol production, try the following tips:overexercise-cortisol-dexascan-bodymeasure-crowsnest

  • Reduce the frequency: Limit high intensity, high stress exercise to only two or three times a week.
  • Get enough rest: It’s important to give your body time to recover and get enough sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping through the night, evaluate the intensity of your training schedule.
  • Have a break: Take a regular, planned break from intense training.
  • Get more variety: High intensity exercise can be great for reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. But balance this with a form of exercise that helps to control your cortisol levels, such as a regular yoga practice.
  • Be smart about your carbohydrates: Low-carb eating is a good way to decrease body fat, but if you are doing high intensity training, it’s important to strike the right balance. Choose healthy, slow burning carbs such as those found in root vegetables.

Are you training hard but not seeing results? Or are you feeling rundown and exhausted? Come back for a follow up DEXA scan and we can assess the changes in your body composition and help to identify if you might be overtraining and placing your body under too much stress.

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Anabolic versus catabolic: What’s the difference and why does it matter for your health?

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The terms anabolic and catabolic are well-known in the weightlifting and body building communities, but we believe it’s time that the broader community understood what these terms mean and use that knowledge to improve health and well-being!

So, what do these terms mean?

Anabolic and catabolic essentially refer to whether your body is building tissue or breaking it down. An anabolic state means your body is building or repairing tissue, whereas a catabolic state means your body is breaking down tissue. Workouts are either anabolic or catabolic, and each has a different effect on your body.

Anabolic workouts are focused on strength training, and will increase muscle mass. The effect of anabolic training actually takes place during rest and high intensity training, when the body produces more muscle fibres to replace the ones that were broken during exercise. By increasing your muscle mass, your body will burn fat more effectively when at rest. Classic anabolic hormones include growth hormone, insulin and testosterone.

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Catabolic training predominantly involves cardio exercise sessions of at least 20 to 45 minutes in duration, and will cause your body to release hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenalin. Catabolic training will cause a loss of total body mass and is an effective fat burner while you are exercising.

Which is better?

We believe that for most people, it is better to exercise in a way that encourages your body to be in an anabolic state. Anabolism is necessary to grow muscle tissue, increase bone density and also encourages the production of white blood cells to boost your immune system. By increasing muscle mass, your body will burn fat more effectively all day – not just when you are exercising. It is vital to ensure that you are eating enough, as if your body has inadequate resources to fuel muscle repair, it will actually break down undamaged muscle tissue to repair damaged muscle tissue!

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How to promote anabolism

Becoming more anabolic isn’t just a matter of increasing your weight training. It requires a combination of training, good nutrition and rest. Here are some tips on how to be more anabolic:

  1. Watch what you eat: A diet that focuses on fresh, natural and unprocessed foods is ideal. Aim for simple home cooked meals based around protein, good fats and clean, slow burning carbs.
  2. Sleep your way to success: Sleep and rest are vital to promoting anabolism as this is when the body will repair broken muscle tissue and grow new muscle. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night and make sure you are giving your body a chance to renew itself.
  3. Train using compound movements: Exercises like squats, deadlifts and push and pull variations develop the whole body, rather than just one muscle group. This helps to promote an anabolic state as the body will keep burning fat for hours after your workout.
  4. Reduce stress: Both mental and physical stress can lower your immunity and hamper muscle repair. The stress hormone, cortisol, is associated with a catabolic state and is known to increase blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses.
  5. Avoid alcohol: Yes, we know this is never popular advice! But alcohol hampers the process of protein synthesis and lowers testosterone levels, both of which are necessary for muscle growth. So save the beer and wine for an occasional indulgence.
  6. Eat green vegetables: Plenty of green veggies will provide your body with phytonutrients to trigger anabolism.

So there you have it, an overview of the difference between anabolic and catabolic states, and what that can mean for your health. To get an indication of the amount of muscle tissue in your body, come in for a DEXA scan and we can help to tailor your training to help you turn into a lean, fat-burning machine.

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It’s what’s on the inside that counts: The risks of hidden fat

Do you have a secret killer hiding deep within your abdomen? Visceral fat, or abdominal fat, might be out of sight, but it really shouldn’t be out of mind. Visceral fat is implicated in a wide variety of health problems – much more so than the visible subcutaneous fat you can pinch between your fingers.visceralfat-dexascan-sydney-crowsnest

What’s the problem with visceral fat?

This hidden fat can be quite literally strangling your heart, liver and kidneys. It is highly toxic and releases a stream of dangerous poisons into your body. Visceral fat can also affect your mood by increasing production of the stress hormone, cortisol, and reducing levels of feel-good endorphins.

Visceral fat is linked to many serious illnesses. These include metabolic disturbances, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery. Emerging research is even showing associations between excess visceral fat and dementia.

How to identify visceral fat?

One of the biggest problems with visceral fat is that it is hidden out of sight inside the abdomen. There is a significant portion of people with normal weight – estimates are as high as 25 per cent of people of normal BMI – who have dangerous amounts of visceral fat, a phenomenon commonly known as Skinny-Fat or TOFI (Thin Outside, Fat Inside). Waist circumference is also a crude and often misleading metric. Traditionally used methods such as skin-fold testing also only measure the subcutaneous fat on the exterior of your body – and while this fat may be annoying and less than desirable from an aesthetic point-of-view, it really doesn’t have anywhere near the bearing on your overall health as abdominal fat.

The best way to identify the amount of hidden visceral fat is through a body composition scan, such as a DEXA scan. This will tell you HOW MUCH is in your body and WHERE in your body that fat is being stored.

What can you do about visceral fat?

The great news is that visceral fat responds really well to diet and exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise. Increasing exercise and improving diet also results in lower blood pressure and better cholesterol levels. Contrastingly, subcutaneous fat can be frustratingly difficult to shift, but fortunately it is not considered as much of a health threat.xercise-dexascan-bodycomposition-sydney-crowsnest-visceralfat

But how can you know that your efforts are making a difference if you can’t see the changes? Being able to zip up your jeans might indicate lower weight, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ve lost that risky abdominal fat. This is where regular body composition scans come into their own, ensuring that you are monitoring your results and staying motivated to maintain your healthy lifestyle changes. Reducing abdominal fat and increasing your lean muscle mass is one of the best things you can do for your longevity, so it’s worth sticking with these health changes for the long-term.

Don’t become a statistic in Australia’s obesity crisis. Open your eyes to what’s going on inside your body. Start by identifying how much fat is surrounding your internal organs and take the necessary steps to improve your health and fitness. Maintaining an ideal weight with a high proportion of lean tissue to body fat doesn’t just mean you’ll look better on the outside. It means you’ll look better on the inside too – and we all know that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

Visit Body Measure in Crows Nest for your Dexa Scan and body composition details, and find out how much visceral fat you are carrying!