Sunday, June 2, 2013

Guest post: Exercise during cancer recovery

 Today's blog post is written by Melanie Bowen.
Melanie is currently a Master's student with a passion that stems from her grandmother's cancer diagnosis. She often highlights the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness.  To read more from Melanie, visit her blog for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In her spare time, you can find Melanie trying new vegan recipes, on her yoga mat, or spending time with her family.


Exercise During Cancer Recovery

The diagnosis is enough to send your brain reeling. When you're diagnosed with cancer, it is typically followed up with a series of tests and days filled with doctors. It is truly a life-changer and you may start to question everything you do. Should you keep your diet the same? Can you keep up with your exercise routine? Should you even exercise at all? It is important to follow the recommendations of your physician, and there are always exceptions, but cancer may not be your excuse to get out of breaking a little sweat! Depending on where you are in your recovery will affect what type of exercise is best. We'll break that down a little further to help you get started.

Light Exercise

Patients undergoing aggressive treatment for mesothelioma or other lung-related cancers can perform light exercise. Light stretching is an example of a simple light exercise. As long as you maintain your normal breathing and chat with a friend easily while performing the activity, it falls into this category. Stretching can be done while standing or sitting down, depending on your condition. If you are confined to a chair it may be as simple as raising your arms up overhead or reaching behind your back for several repetitions.

It might sound simple, but the benefits are far-reaching. Light stretching can ease depression and fatigue. Stretching obviously increases flexibility, but it also boosts feelings of tranquility while physically challenging your body so you are able to get a better night's sleep.

Moderate Exercise

You've recently completed your cancer treatment and are ready to start building up your strength. With a moderate exercise program you'll break a sweat after about 10 minutes and can still chat with your friend, but your breathing will be more rapid. Water aerobics or aquatic exercise is a wonderful place to start. The buoyancy of the water eases stress on your joints but the resistance of the water works your muscles no matter which direction you move. It is safer for raising your body temperature because you dissipate heat more effectively in the water. It is a fun way to increase your strength and flexibility while regulating your weight. Exercising in the water is also a good way to enhance your stamina.

Advanced Exercise

This level is for those who are in the advanced phase of recovery and would like to get the spring back in their step. Weight training is an excellent method to achieve this goal. Your body becomes more powerful while you feel more energized. Lifting weights increases bone density and muscle, which will help burn more fat. It is especially beneficial if you have had stomach or prostate cancer, which can cause you to lose muscle mass at an alarming rate. Using exercise machines at a gym are a great way to get started. The machine helps you maintain good body mechanics to avoid injury and it's easy to track your progress. Free weights are also easy to use and can be very effective when combined with moves like lunges or squats.

Cancer can be scary enough without stripping you of everything normal in your life. Exercise is a great way to boost your energy and your spirit. The benefits of exercise greatly outweigh its conveniences. Actively participating in a fitness program is also a way to keep feeling more like you.

P.S. Today (Sunday 2nd June) is National Cancer Survivor Day, just thought I'd mention it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Obsession: yoga video (part II)

My newest obsession: Meghan Currie's yoga video "Mad love".

Just watch it and you'll understand.

// I'm off for a mini-vacation to South Karelia (Eastern Finland). I'll be able to go to the gym once, which means that I'll most definitely bring my yoga mat. I'm not even closely as flexible as Meghan (especially after my killer workouts this week), but you know what? I don't care. I'll finish my yoga as flow-y as possible. This one is all about breathing and moving to my own rhytm.

Have a great day,

Supplement info: Magnesium

Good morning, happy people!

After writing the "Diet tip of the day: Drink more water" - post I've received a ton of questions on supplements and superfoods. Therefore I want to share my knowledge with you guys. This is the first part of my "supplement info"-series. My main goal is to introduce some of the most important supplements any athlete (beginner, intermediate or professional) should be taking - giving you a description of why they work and some tips on using them correctly.

Do you want to improve recovery after a really tough workout?
Do you want to sleep better at night?
Do you wish to reduce muscle spasms, cramps and improve your tolerance of vigorous physical activity?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element by mass in the human body and is essential to good health. It's ions are essential to all living cells, where they are needed in manipulating important biological compounds like ATP, DNA and RNA. Magnesium is required in the catalysation of more than 300 enzymes in the human body, and it has been detected in nearly 4,000 binding sites of human proteins.

Magnesium is important to metabolism, enzyme function, the proper function of the nervous system, the uptake of calcium, the immune system, muscle function (keeping the heart beat steady - the heart is a muscle), strengthening bones and protein synthesis. Taken correctly, magnesium prevents stroke and heart attacks; and can help pain in fibromyalgia, migraine and premenstrual symptoms.

Magnesium is essential in a healthy diet. Magnesium, just like Vitamin D, plays a part in many chemical reactions and functions in the human body, and deficiency is therefore challenging to diagnose. Many people may not have enough magnesium stored in their body because they fail to get the recommended amount of magnesium from their diet. Having enough body stores of magnesium can prevent stroke and heart attacks and immune dysfunction.

Common first symptoms of magnesium deficiency are numbness and tingling, apathy, memory loss and learning difficulties, nausea, desorientation, sleep disorders, irritation, muscle spasms and cramps, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness. Magnesium deficiency can cause asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are general and can be caused by many other things than magnesium deficiency!
Magnesium deficiency is usually caused by a disease or dysfunction of the intestines (diabetes, kidney dysfunction, irritated bowel syndrome), certain types of medicine (diuretic compounds, birth control pills and antibiotics), stress or alcoholism.

Good dietary sources of magnesium include green vegetables (spinach, agar, green leafy spices), fruits like banana and avocado; beans and peas; tomatoes, ginger, cumin, fish (halibut), nuts and seeds (especially cashews, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds), and whole, unrefined grains. Refined grains (e.g. white flour) are generally low in magnesium, because when they are processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed. So make sure you eat whole-grain products in stead of processed foods! Coffee, cocoa and tea are also good sources of magnesium. When it comes to cocoa, choose raw cacao (here's why).

Keep in mind that carbonated drinks like sodas decrease the uptake of magnesium, as does taking large amounts of calcium supplements.

Magnesium dietary supplements are widely available. Here's a short description of the different forms of magnesium supplements:

Magnesium oxide is one of the most common forms in magnesium dietary supplements, because it has a high magnesium content per weight (60%), but it is the least bioavailable. Magnesium oxide works mostly as a laxative in the human body, so don't overdose on it - you'll feel the consequences pretty fast.
Magnesium citrate has been reported as more bioavailable then oxide or amino-acid chelate (glycinate) forms. Citrate is a common form of magnesium in supplements, you'll find it in almost every supermarket.
Magnesium glycinate is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium, and it provides a high level of absorption and is considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency. (It's also the form I mostly use).
Magnesium chloride or lactate has only 12% magnesium, but it is still more bioavailable than magnesium oxide.
Magnesium stearate is a potentially harmful additive, a binding ingredient in drugs and mints, and shouldn't be used as a magnesium supplement. According to a health-oriented website magnesium stearate (or the stearic acid in it) can lower your immune system and potentially prevent the absorption of nutrients in your intestine. So, steer clear of magnesium stearate.

So, what did you learn? Don't use magnesium oxide, take almost anything else. Except for magnesium stearate, that is. Read the labels on your supplement bottles! If you're unsure about supplementing on magnesium, leave a comment or send me a message - I'm glad to help.

Excess magnesium in the blood is filtered at the kidneys, so it's difficult to overdose on magnesium from dietary sources. With supplements, overdose is possible, but mostly in people with poorly functioning kidneys.So you shouldn't worry.

Picture source 1 2

 Hope you're having a great day!

/Coach U

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday motivation.

My motivational moodboard of the week:

Hi peeps.
I'm going through some serious sh*t in my personal life, but you know what? I'm strong, I'll get through it. I'm more motivated than ever to work out like crazy and to get shredded by August. Heck, I'll be in top shape in July.

No excuses, just get it done.

/Coach U

Picture source

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Diet tip of the day: drink more water

75 % of your body is water - in fact, 70-80 % of your brain tissue consists of water. If you're dehydrated, your body and mind are stressed.
Every chemical reaction that takes place in the body needs water - basically, your cells need water to function properly. By drinking water I mean drinking pure water; not coffee, beer, coke, juice or other sugary fluids.

If you wait until you're thirsty, your body is already a little dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration may include dry skin, loss of skin elasticity, increased wrinkles, dry eyes, thrist, tiredness, dry mouth, headache, constipation, dizziness or lightheadedness. Severe dehydration may result in low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, confusion and fever.

Water affects your health extensively. Your body needs water to recover from injuries and diseases, to detox (cleanse the body of contaminants), and to improve digestion. Decent hydration will boost your energy levels, increase your mental sharpness and help boost your immune system. Drinking water helps you build muscle tone (helps muscles to contract better), decreases muscle cramps and lubricates joints. Best of all, water may help you lose those extra pounds you've been trying to shed.

According to a study (Davy et al. 2010) drinking water before a meal has been proved to aid weight loss. The study states that drinking two (2,5 dl) glasses of water before every meal affected the participants' eating habits - in fact, the participants ate in average between 75 and 90 fever calories during the meal. The participants were successful in keeping the weight loss even 12 months after the study. Basically, water makes people feel satisfied and keep hunger off, at least in the older population.

How much water is enough? That's a tough question, since a person's need of water depends on age, body size, physical activity and weather. An average adult needs at least two litres of water a day. You'll need a lot more water if you're physically active, spend a lot of time in a dry environment (for instance, if your home or office has an effective airconditioning system) or if your environment is very warm and you sweat a lot. Keep a glass of water or a bottle nearby to remind you to stay hydrated. When in doubt, drink a little more. ;)
Drinking much water won't give you a bloated body - water retention is caused by eating too much salt, not by drinking much water. In fact, drinking water helps you get rid of feeling bloated, since it flushes the body.

I'm not saying that water is a magic potion, but it can aid you in losing weight. Water makes you feel fuller and revs up your metabolism. Acccording to some sources drinking ice cold water makes you burn even more calories, since your body has to warm it up - but seriously, you'd have to drink a lot of icy water to lose weight solely on that method. A study showed that drinking approximately 5 dl of near-freezing water only burned approximately 4 kcal. Your diet makes a bigger difference to shedding fat.

Remember, that there's also a possibility to drinking too much water (water intoxication). Water intoxication is not easy to achieve, trust me. Obsessive-compulsive water drinking or an extended athletic activity, where the athlete drinks a lot of water, may cause water intoxication. This means that electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) in the blood are diluted to the point that it interferes with brain, heart and muscle function. Athletes tackle theproblem by using sports drinks with minerals to keep their body in balance. 

Here's a link to an online water calculator, check it out!

A few tips to drinking water:
  • As I said earlier, keep a glass or bottle of water close by at all times, to make sure you remember to hydrate. One tip is to fill a 2l jug of water in the morning and making sure you empty it during the day. I usually fill a 650 ml glass bottle with water three times at work - and I drink a big glass of water with every meal. Think of places you can stash your water bottle (your purse, the car, on your desk at work..)
  • Create your own vitamin drink. For example, try one of my smoothies!
  • Drink a glass of water with every meal. By sipping water during your meals you'll enjoy your food more and slow your eating. 
  • Drink herbal teas. Try different infusions and enjoy them after meals - you'll aid your digestion by drinking a warm tea after a heavy meal.
  • Try berry- or veggie flavoured waters (see picture below). For example, you could stuff a mason jar with ice cubes, citrus slices and some mint leaves - add water and enjoy.



Picture source 1 2 3

Brown, CM; Dulloo, AG; Montani, JP. Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: the effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Sep;91(9):3598-602
Dennis, EA; Dengo, AL; Comber DL; Flack, KD; Savla, J; Davy KP; Davy, BM. "Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older Adults", Obesity 18 (2): 300–307
Popkin, BM; Barclay, DV; Nielsen, SJ.Water and food consumption patterns of U.S. adults from 1999 to 2001. Obesity 13 (12): 2146–2152