Mid-Week Musings: Water Retention and Scale Weight in Females, Chasing Exercise For Fat Loss and Why Going Meat Free Isn’t That Great.

Here are the pressing questions of the week from the gym- you ask I answer!

Water Retention and Scale Weight In Females.

In conversation with our female clients this week there were questions about why weight fluctuates through a calendar month. The conversation follows the line of “I have eaten perfectly for the last week- exercised, tracked everything on myfitnesspal and done everything right but I have not lost weight.” Scale weight loss is not a linear thing all of the time because we have to account for fluctuations in body water through the month. Any women who has a menstrual cycle has 4 phases, in these phases water retention is affected as following:

Early follicular (first 7 days after menstruation): Low water retention.

Late follicular (days 7 to 14 after menstruation): Estrogen release causes water retention due to a change in sodium handling.

Early luteal phase (first 7 days after ovulation): Low water retention.

Late luteal phase (7 to 14 days after ovulation): Drop in progesterone causing a rebound water weight gain due to a change in sodium handling.

So there you have it, in the late follicular and late luteal phase there is a predisposition to retain water hence weight fluctuations on the scales.

Chasing Exercise and Fat Loss.

Simply, if you are chasing large volumes of activity to make up for your high calorie diet your habits and behaviours will not be shaped to deal with periods of inactivity. As diet is largely habit based disruption to your activity levels means it is incredibly hard to then change your habitual eating habits to match your activity. An hour of exercise may burn anywhere between 200-600 calories but if this how you are creating your deficit to diet then this may prove an issue if you lower your activity levels. Tracking your food intake can help understand your current behaviours and reviewing your intake is sometimes useful when looking to make changes. Daily exercisers may be commended for their efforts but if your goal is weight loss and you are exercising daily and not losing weight your nutritional intake is the issue, not your exercise programme. See it as more exercise is like buying an extra bucket for your leaky roof rather than fixing the hole in it. Exercise is obviously a positive thing but the aim should be to improve aspects of your fitness improving your quality of life not just to nullify poor nutritional behaviours.

Why Going Meat Free Isn’t Great.

Vegan and vegetarian diets are gaining popularity at the moment for no other reason than “trend.” On a quick poll at the gym today most peoples opinion where they are “healthier.” It’s simply not the case. I’m not going to discuss the reasons that people don’t consume meat and/or animal products on ethical grounds, that is people’s own business. The general perception of their “healthier” status is fundamentally wrong. Any exclusion based diet can leave you deficient in certain nutrients. Primarily these deficiencies can be seen in vitamin B12 (anemia, nerve damage and cognitive impairment), iron (oxygen transfer and depression) and zinc (growth impairments in the young and mood). If removing dairy products then there can be a deficiency in calcium (when deficient inline with Vitamin D rickets may be prevalent). Supplementation can be used to fill these gaps but it is worth noting some of the symptoms above if you are deciding to change your lifestyle. From a macronutrient perspective you are able to consume a suitable amount of protein from a variety of sources. What you are inclined to see though is that protein based foods may have take along carbohydrates which if you are looking to control calorie or carbohydrate intake it may be a issue. Any diet has a positive and negative aspect but if you are removing quality unprocessed lean protein animal products from your diet it may prove sub-optimal for health if you don’t fill the gaps nutritionally.

 

What is Fatigue? How To Resist It?

The typical UK winter brings along the standard seasonal ailments of colds and flu’s but one thing I encounter is the fact that people say they are “fatigued.” There is generally no need to feel tired, after all most people have a seasonal break over Christmas and should return to work/ life refreshed but as the nights feel long and the days short it’s hard to remind yourself that we are on the upward spiral heading towards spring.

The actually definition of fatigue in an exercise sense has been dominated by the thought that lactic acid production limits movement. That burning now is known to be the creeping of acidity in the muscles which limits movement rather than the phantom of lactic acid which the body can actually use as an energy source. Whilst physiologist consider technical mechanisms of fatigue the overarching feeling for the layman is that one way or another you hit a wall and your performance is limited en-route to hitting a limit.

Another theory though considers a link between effort and motivation. Motivation factors such as rewards affect performance without changing physiology or a muscles capacity to produce effort. Perception is everything when it comes to effort and motivation and therefore fatigue is also a partial product of motivation. As things get harder your physiology encourages you to slow down and your perception of this is very important. It’s understandable therefore why pushing the body to new lengths or breaking through plateaus is hard as our physiology is working against us.

This resonates perhaps with endurance athletes but for the normal person what does this mean? If you are in a situation where you feel fatigued is it your physiology or is it your head? Answer these questions to see what your answers are:

  1. Do you sleep for 7+ hours?
  2. Do you eat a well balanced diet with a good share of protein, carbohydrates and fats?
  3. Do you perform over 3 hours a week of scheduled exercise or pulse raising activity?
  4. Do you remain active e.g. 10,000 steps a day?
  5. Do you drink 2 litres of fluids daily?
  6. Do you eat over 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily?
  7. Do you eat enough fibre daily?
  8. Are you part of an active community/ family that can help you?

Each of these factors are associated with improved health and therefore will help buffer against fatigue. Activity and exercise build fatigue resistance and a healthy lifestyle and diet will help you feel better.

Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you smoke?
  2. Do you drink alcohol regularly (2-3 times a week)?
  3. Do you sleep less than 7 hours a day?
  4. Is your diet made up mainly of high glycemic carbohydrates/ sugar?
  5. Is your job sedentary or do you perform little daily activity?
  6. Are you part of a sedentary community that hinders you?

If you answer yes to the above they can potentially increase your fatigue levels and they can potentially chip away at your health.

But where to start, consider this- if you have a behaviour on the lower list perhaps consider switching it with one on the top of the list. The top list could be considered foundational behaviours to not only resist fatigue but also to maintain a healthy body. Perception is important as we stated before and encouraging yourself to perform things to make you feel better will help build your self efficacy and confidence going forward. This is not just for people who are struggling for fitness- these positive behaviours will resonate with any athlete who has been successful and the negative behaviours pretty much would shut down anyone’s sporting career a lot quicker than it needs to be. When it comes to motivation or resisting fatigue the evidence is clear- if you give your physiology the best chance to resist fatigue your head stands a greater chance of helping you.