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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

Last week a study was released on the effects of heavily processed foods on the body. It had 20 participants of average age (30 +/- a year-ish), average BMI (27 +/- 1.5kg/m^2), consume the same diet for 14 days. Half of the people consumed a whole food diet, the other half consumed a processed foods diet. After 14 days, the groups switched.

Each diet was matched for fat, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, and sodium. In the end the processed diet yielded 100 more calories per day than the whole food diet, with slight caloric increases observed in the carbohydrates and fats.

Their conclusion: When people consumed a whole food diet for 2 weeks, they lost almost a pound. When they consumed the processed diet, they gained a pound. In the end the researchers confirmed what most of us know that a whole food diet is better for our health, and can also be a way to minimize risk of obesity and weight-related disease.

So why does this happen?

There are a few mechanisms at play here. First, and this really cannot be ignored, is the fact that on the processed diet, the participants were consuming around 700 more calories per week than the whole food diet. More calories, typically means weight gain.

Although that is a simple explanation, there is more to it. Hopefully you have heard that it isn’t just about the quantity of the calories, but also the quality.

Processed foods are usually packaged, filled with preservatives, and made with cheap or synthetic ingredients to produce a similar food to whole food, but at a fraction of the cost and with a much longer shelf-life.

Our bodies evolved to metabolize and function on what was available to us in nature. Real animals and fresh plants and fungi are what our body knows how to break down and use. Even if we do not use it (like corn), our body knows how to excrete it.

So as we consume manufactured foods, some of the substances that end up in the food, or that the food is exposed to (think of the air they pump into chip bags), our body isn’t equipped with the mechanisms to break it down and use or excrete it.

So where does it go instead?

Turns out our adipose tissue, the tissue comprised of adipocytes, or fat cells, is a great place for storing foreign substances. Not only that, but once toxins are stored there, that tissue begins to promote inflammation in the body. So not only are foreign chemicals putting more adipose tissue on our bodies, but now they are making us “fluffy” too. This effect is also seen in areas of high air pollution concentration. A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology looked at the early exposure of mice to high air pollution. What they observed was this same effect – increased risk of obesity, chronic inflammation, and even insulin resistance!


POP: Persistent Organic Pollution

The fact is that processed foods will not only lead to unwanted weight gain, but they’ll also put your body into a diseased state if you are constantly consuming these foods. The longer you hold onto these toxins in the body, the more chronic your inflammation becomes, and the greater chances you have of developing many different kinds of diseases.

Although the human body is certainly complex, it is also quite simple. Your body is like a car. Put the low grade fuel in and the car will go, but for not as long and the parts won’t last as long. Put in premium fuel and the car can drive for much longer, and the integrity of the parts will be maintained over a longer period of time.

The type of fuel we put into our bodies will dictate our health and longevity. If it hasn’t been inherently clear up to this point, then we hope this point is perfectly clear now: Choose whole, natural foods first.

The post Just How Bad Are Processed Foods? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

We’re sure that many of you have heard the shock-headline that sitting is the new major threat to our health. But is there merit to this claim? And can we truly compare it to the detrimental health effects of smoking? Read on to find out.

Where Did this Come From?In a quick Google search, I found many articles warning about the threat of sitting to our health. A few pages in I found an article back from 2013 from the Harvard Business Review with the headline, “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation”.

According to one article, the number of articles and research papers published talking about the threat of sitting in comparison to our health increased 12-fold between the years of 2012 and 2016. Which could have sprung from the New York Times article in 2011 titled, “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?”

Turns out this idea that sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect our health has been around since the late 90’s.

The Research

Between 1999 and 2000 a large scale study was published detailing the metabolic effects of sedentary behaviour. Sitting and general sedentary behaviour can affect the body in a few different ways.

  • Metabolic rate slows. To help conserve energy while we are doing nothing, the body adapts by slowing down the metabolism. This is why snacking at your desk can be a major factor in sneaky weight gain.
  • The production of the enzymes that clean up the blood vessels of harmful cholesterol and free fatty acids declines. So by sitting, you are putting yourself at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Sitting affects your blood glucose levels as well, as the body is less efficient at producing the insulin required to lower blood-glucose levels. This puts you at a higher risk for obesity and developing type 2 diabetes.

The research also shows that even if you are meeting the guidelines for 150 min/week of moderate-vigorous physical activity, but then spending the rest of your time sitting, that all of these negative effects will still occur. If you’re a woman, the research showed that these consequences of sitting are more extreme in women than in men.

The Upside to the Research

There is some hope for those of you who are desk bound for work, or find yourself on long-haul flights or drives for work.

Even the slightest bit of extra movement, as simple as bending down to tie your shoe, can cut into the sitting time and protect you from the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. It’s this new science known as NEAT science, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (thermogenesis meaning creation of heat – in our case burning calories/stimulating metabolism).

Activities like taking the stairs, taking a break every hour to get water or walk around, standing up and doing a few squats at your desk, going for a walk at lunch, getting off the bus a few stops early to walk the rest of the way – all of these will contribute to your total active minutes throughout the day, and therefore tip the scales in favour of movement.

Is Sitting Really As Bad As Smoking

We cannot argue that sitting is pretty bad for our health. All of the consequences listed above should be taken seriously and should inspire you to include more movement in your day.

But is sitting really as bad as smoking?

Turns out this isn’t a fair comparison at all. Especially when articles are starting to suggest that smoking is less harmful than sitting. If you had a sample size of 100,000 people, about 190 excess (unnecessary) deaths would occur from sitting. For smoking that number is 2000 excess deaths.

So obviously smoking is not good for our health – this is something we should all be aware of. Is it fair to compare sitting to smoking in a literal way? Probably not. But for the sake of shock-value, grouping sitting in with smoking as a health risk helps us understand just how bad this simple part of life can be. We should not take inactivity lightly, and should all start emphasizing more movement everyday. That does not mean adding a 5k run to your day, although that would certainly help. It can be as simple as tying your shoe. Keep it simple and get moving!

The post Is Sitting Really the New Smoking? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

For the final portion of our muscle building series we have the often-overlooked factors of recovery and genetics. The fact is, not every person has the same genetic makeup and therefore every individual will respond to diet and exercise in their own individual way. Recovery will also be different for individuals based on their training level. This is why beginners require 2 or 3 days between workouts, whereas athletes can train twice a day for several hours.

Before we get too far it is important to mention that although genetics can make putting on size easier for some, and more difficult for others, hard work always pays off. So if you are genetically designed to be an ectomorph (long and lean), put in the work and you will put on size.

Muscle-Fiber Type

In our  muscles there are actually 3 types of muscle fiber types. Your baseline concentration of these is pre-determined by your genetic makeup. There are slow-twitch fibers, which contract slowly but can continue to contract for a long time. For athletes who are trained in endurance sports, they typically have more slow-twitch fibers in their muscles that support that type of exercise.

Then we have the fast-twitch fibers A. These muscle fibers can use both oxygen and glucose to contract. This makes them optimal for exercises in the 8-12 rep range, or mid-range events like the 400m sprint.

The final muscle fiber type is fast-twitch B. These are used in our explosive movements. So if you are doing a single clean and snatch, or the 100m sprint, then your are likely using these muscle fibers.

We are all born with different amounts of each of these muscle fiber types in our bodies. This will influence the body’s ability to put on size. Type 1 fibers, the endurance muscle fibers, don’t want to grow because that would add bulk to the muscle. If you are going to be running for a long period of time, you want efficient muscles, not bulky muscles that will weigh you down.

On the flip side, if you look at 100m sprinters, their muscles are typically larger than their marathoning friends because they need as many of those explosive muscle fiber types to propel them forward the fastest.

If you have always found that you stayed lean no matter how hard you trained, you likely have a greater concentration of the slow-twitch fibers. If you are the kind of person who puts on muscle with minimal effort, chances are you have a larger concentration of the fast-twitch B fibers. If you’re somewhere in the middle, then you probably fall under the fast-twitch A category.

Again – this does not condemn you to one body type for the rest of your life. The human body is built to adapt, so if you are constantly giving your body the right stimulus to build muscle, you will eventually put on muscle no matter what muscle fiber type you have more of.

All this to say, if you know you how your body has been responding to exercise up to this point, use this information to clarify how you will progress.

Recovery

Recovery is so critical to progress. If you look at the graph below, every training stimulus puts us into a declined state of fitness. When we take time to recover, the body adapts and actually super compensates in order to be ready for the next bout of training.

So if we train without allowing for time to recover, we can never get into the supercompensation area of the graph and will actually see a decline in fitness.

The actual time you take to recover will vary depending on your fitness level. If you are a beginner, then the general guidelines are to take at least 48 hours before working the same muscle group again.

For people who have been training for a while, one of the adaptations their body has made is that the time it takes to recover is much shorter. This is why athletes can train twice a day for hours. It is typically 2 different types of training stimuli, but they have the energy for it.

The above graph includes a very important aspect of recovery. It isn’t just about not exercising. If you want to get the most out of your recovery, and therefore experience the most muscle gains, then your recovery plan needs to include hydration, sleep, and supportive nutrition.

With our 3-part series on hypertrophy coming to a close, we should summarize:

For exercise, your fitness level will dictate how specific your training needs to be. If you are new, you will likely experience hypertrophic adaptations no matter what your rep and set scheme looks like. As long as you are challenging yourself. The more advanced you are, the more advanced the programming should be. Combine a mixture of power, hypertrophy, and strength training to get the most out of your training.

For nutrition, protein will be critical. Your body needs protein to help rebuild the muscles. You should also have carbohydrates to give the body the energy it needs to complete the workouts.

And finally, for genetics and recovery. Although we are all born with a set number of the different muscle fiber types, this does not mean you will only ever respond to certain types of exercise. Work hard and the body will adapt accordingly, it just may take more time.

Your recovery is the final piece of the hypertrophy puzzle. Recognize where your fitness level is, and adjust your recovery accordingly. Don’t over-work the muscles without giving them ample time to recover. And of course, remember to include nutrition, sleep, and hydration in your recovery plan.

The post A Special Recipe for Muscle Mass: Genetics & Recovery appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

As the month of April comes to a close, it is time to shine a light on one of our clients and let them tell their story. Featuring our clients – telling your stories is not only inspiring to other clients, but it keeps us as trainers motivated to continue to deliver the best support and training possible.

For April we bring your the story of Craig Richer. A father of 2, born and raised in Ottawa, he kept himself active with ball hockey and softball while juggling home life and work as a graphic designer. When Free Form Fitness on Albert st. opened up across the street from his office and he saw our iconic 8 for $96 offer, he just had to check us out!

Since then he has not only seen his body change, but he has kicked a bad pop habit, gained new confidence, and even takes on more nights of ball hockey.

There is so much to his incredible story, so we’ll let him take it away. Read on and be inspired by Craig’s (ongoing) success story.

First start by introducing yourself. Where you’re from, what you do for fun, family. Just a few fun facts to help people get to know you.

I was raised in the East end of Ottawa, but now live in the South end with my wife, Kim, and 11 year-old daughter, Alyssa. We also have a 23 year-old son, Eric.

I’ve been a graphic designer for the federal government for 20 years and I also help to organize and participate in a mixed adult recreational ball hockey league for 8-9 months of the year. During the other months in the summer, my wife, son and I move from our ball hockey team to our softball team in the top division of the RA League.

I also enjoy biking, tennis and golf in the summer months.

When did you first decide to join Free Form Fitness?

I noticed FFF opened in May of last year as my office window faces that Albert Street location. So a couple of weeks later when I saw the sidewalk sign saying ‘8 sessions for $96’, I walked in and was very kindly greeted by Ashley – so I decided to give it a try!

What was your initial goal when you joined?

My goal was to lose about 40-45 lbs, from about 255 lbs to about 210-215, while also losing inches but gaining muscle at the same time. In doing so, I hoped to be in overall better shape physically to better enjoy my sports and live a longer, healthier life.

Has your goal changed since you started?

My goals haven’t changed, really, except now that I’ve lost about 30 lbs, I’m less concerned about my weight on the scale as I’m continuing to lose inches all over, like 7” off my stomach area, while definitely gaining more muscle definition. With muscle weighing more than fat, I realize that my weight on the scale might hover around the same, but I’m definitely still losing fat in inches.

What type of adversity have you faced in the time you’ve been with Free Form?

I’m happy to say I haven’t faced much adversity at all. My two personal trainers, Jimena and Andrew, are both fantastic at giving me a program that works for me – both in my eating and my workouts – which makes me literally look forward to my new healthy meals and my workouts with my trainers.

One adversity I guess I had was I told Ashley in my initial meeting, and Andrew and Jimena thereafter, that they won’t convince me to give up my Diet Pepsi. Well, all 3 of them didn’t command me to do so, but did suggest that maybe soda water with lemon and/or lime or even Mio flavour will still give me the fizzed drink I crave, while being completely healthy and free of controversial aspartame….so I gave it a try, and I’ve never looked back! I haven’t had a Diet Pepsi since about July last year, and I never will again – I’m perfectly satisfied with my soda water with lemon and lime at restaurants, and Soda Stream and Bubly flavoured sparkling water at home.

Have you experienced success at Free Form Fitness? Tell us how you got there.

I’m proud to say I’ve had tremendous success at FFF! As mentioned, I’ve lost about 30 lbs while also losing inches all over like 7” off my stomach area, and I was on notch #1 on my belt when I joined FFF, now I’m comfortably on notch #5. My XL shirts are all too big, I had to donate over 20 of my work shirts….my jeans went from a size 38 to 34….and where before I struggled to make it through my one weekly ball hockey game, now I play regularly twice a week and sometimes 3 times, and it’s not an issue at all. And of course, all that success has also made me feel better physically and emotionally, and my new healthy lifestyle has rubbed off on my wife and two kids as they’ve all now joined gyms and/or Taekwondo while eating better along with me.

I’ve tried other weight-loss methods, like meal replacement shakes but the trainers at FFF have taught me the correct way to lose weight: Making a sustainable lifestyle changes that work for me.

Another big part of my success is along with considering my trainers and Ashley as real friends, I’ve also become Facebook friends with them, so I can send them messages and they’re all terrific at answering any questions I have about meal choices or exercises. They’re also all very supportive when I post before and after photos and tell my story about my journey to a healthier me.

What is your best piece of advice for someone new joining Free Form?

The best advice I can give is to understand that if you’re serious about losing weight and/or getting stronger and healthier, you need to give FFF an honest try. Take advantage of their 8 intro sessions to see how great they are at helping you reach your goals.

I’ve referred at least a dozen of my friends and family to FFF because I fully believe in their program. I would also highly recommend getting a Fitbit or something like it to make yourself accountable by monitoring your calories in versus the calories you burn. I’m happy to say that in my 10 months at FFF, I’ve accounted for every single thing I’ve eaten and drank, and I’ve only been over budget for calorie intake on 2 days….every other day, I’m always below budget – usually eating/drinking about 1700-2100 calories while burning at least 2500-3200 calories a day.

On that note, for you fellow Albert Street gym goers, I highly recommend the Juice Monkey for your lunches! I eat there 3 times a week after my 1pm gym sessions, and they literally have the best grilled chicken wraps, salad boxes and protein smoothies I’ve ever had – and they’re all natural and healthy!

So there you have it! Craig has shown the Free Form Fitness team that by committing to your goals, taking it day-by-day, and celebrating all of the little wins along the way that you can reach your health and fitness goals AND see it as a lifestyle solution – not a short-term one.


The post Designing a Healthier Future appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

Last week we explored the ways that our muscles adapt to exercise and how those adaptations can lead to either sarcoplasmic hypertrophy or myofibrillar hypertrophy.

As with just about every protocol in the fitness industry, it is impossible to ignore the effects of nutrition/diet. For part 2 of our special hypertrophy blog, it is time to see how what we eat can influence how we grow.

Quality vs. Quantity

It takes about 2,800 calories to build 1 pound of muscle but where you get those calories should matter to you. Specifically you want to be focusing on the kinds of protein you are consuming. This is because in a rested state, our bodies are breaking down more muscle protein than it is building new muscle protein. So if you want to gain muscle, especially while you’re training, then you should be aiming for at least 15% of your calories to come from protein.

If you are restricting calories (fat loss and muscle gain program), then you should be aiming to eat 1.5g-2.0g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

What About Carbs?

In any article about diet and nutrition, it is important to talk about carbohydrates.

Research suggests that insulin may have a role in muscle synthesis. How do we raise our insulin levels? WIth carbohydrates.

This is why many post-workout supplements will combine essential amino acids with a high-glycemic index carbohydrate to rapidly elevate the insulin in the body as it begins to repair the muscles. Is there any merit to this advice though?

The International Society of Sports Nutrition released their official statement on the concept of nutrient timing in 2008. It came to a few conclusions about carbohydrates and proteins in relation to protein synthesis and resistance training.

  1. Consuming both carbohydrates and proteins before resistance training can increase muscle protein synthesis post exercise
  2. Consuming a combination of proteins and carbohydrates during a bout of resistance training can decrease muscle damage, and increase endurance – prolonging the workout
  3. Consuming protein (specifically the essential amino acids) within 30 minutes of exercise leads to maximum protein synthesis post-workout. But combining carbohydrates and essential amino acid could potentially lead to even more muscle protein synthesis.

4. Supplementing with creatine while following the above-mentioned protocols, can lead to even more protein synthesis.

You can read the rest of their position statement here

Creatine – Doesn’t That Make You Gain Water Weight?

Not necessarily. Creatine simply draws more water into the cell so that the breakdown of creatine-phosphate can occur and thus give you energy for your workout. Research has shown that supplementing with creatine may account for less than 1lb of weight gain.

What About Fat?

As it stands, consuming dietary fat has more of an effect on heart muscle growth than skeletal muscle growth (they are two different types of muscle tissue). As far as skeletal muscle hypertrophy goes, there are limited studies on how fat affects muscle hypertrophy and what the specific recommendations are.

There is one study, however, that observed whether rats on a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet would experience the same hypertrophy or not after exercise. The results show that a low-carb, keto diet would not impair short-term or long-term muscle hypertrophy after resistance training.

What this means is that consuming a lot of fat would not decrease your ability to put on muscle, but it may not increase that ability either.

Supplements

Supplements are just that – supplements to the diet. You do not need supplements to gain muscle, but they can be included in your hypertrophy nutrition protocol to advance your gains.

We have mentioned a few times in this article that essential amino acids are an important part of promoting muscle protein synthesis during and after exercise. Just 6g of essential amino acids can increase muscle protein synthesis.

Protein powder is also a popular post-workout supplement. Although not necessary, especially if you are eating whole foods that are high in protein, protein powders usually provide these essential amino acids. The exception would be some vegan proteins (although most are now formulated to have all of the essential amino acids), and collagen protein.

Although collagen protein is a great protein supplement, especially for your joints and skin health, it only has 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids, and is therefore not a complete protein source.

As mentioned before, creatine is also a great supplement to take when you are looking to encourage protein synthesis. It is one of the most researched supplements and has been shown time and time again to help with muscle protein activity. Just 5g of a good quality creatine will do the trick.

Magnesium and zinc are also very important. Commonly sold in a ZMA format, these two micronutrients are critical for muscle health and are typically missing, or are consumed in insufficient quantities, in people’s diets.

As far as what will work best for you, that is for you to figure out. Experiment with protein sources and content and take note of how your body responds. Every* body* is different and will therefore respond to different foods and amounts of protein and carbohydrates in their own way.

Our next article in this series will discuss the genetic component of muscle hypertrophy and just how individual hypertrophy can be.

Articles in order of appearance

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-muscle-growth

Is Carbohydrate Needed To Further Stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis/Hypertrophy following resistance exercise? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850644/)

International Society of Sports Nutrition position on nutrient timing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575187/)

A putative low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet elicits mild nutritional ketosis but does not impair the acute or chronic hypertrophic responses to resistance exercise in rodents (https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00837.2015)

Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129161/)

International Society of Sports Nutrition position on nutrient timing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575187/)

A putative low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet elicits mild nutritional ketosis but does not impair the acute or chronic hypertrophic responses to resistance exercise in rodents (https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00837.2015)

Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129161/)

The post A Special Recipe for Muscle Mass: Part 2 – Diet/Nutrition appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

We understand that not everyone who reads this blog is a woman who needs to understand her hormones better. So we are taking a break from our more female-focused blog topics and will move to a more general one: putting on muscle mass – or hypertrophy.

The general recipe, or formula, for hypertrophy is :

Weight training + Diet + A Pinch of Genetics + recovery = hypertrophy

This is a huge topic and really can’t be boiled down to one article, so we are going to break this down into 3 parts:

  1. Weight Training
  2. Diet
  3. Genetics and Recovery

This week we will focus on how the “right” kind of exercise can help you increase muscle mass, and whether or not there is one right way.

What Is Hypertrophy

Meriam-webster defines hypertrophy as:

hy·​per·​tro·​phy | \ hī-ˈpər-trə-fē

biology : excessive development of an organ or part

specifically : increase in bulk (as by thickening of muscle fibers) without multiplication of parts

As it pertains to us in the fitness industry, we are interested in how we thicken our muscle fibers without creating new cells (hyperplasia). This can happen in 2 ways, as shown in the image below

For those of you who are a little foggy on grade 12 biology, the sarcoplasm is the muscle-cell space between the myofibrils. In most animal cells this is known as the cytoplasm. It is a gel-like fluid where the other components of the cell are suspended. Myofibrils are the contractile components of the muscle cell. In the picture above they are little dots, but in reality they look like this:

So if you are going to get bigger you can either increase the cell space, or actually increase the number of contractile components (the parts of the muscle that will do the work).

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Research is mixed on how sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is accomplished long-term, but in the short-term, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is essentially “the pump”. Taking supplements like creatine, working a high volume program, blood-flow restriction training, and carb-loading can all cause this swelling of the muscle.

So if you’re looking for a quick, non-functional (less strength associated with this kind of hypertrophy) pump, then you could combine all of these techniques for maximum pump-age.

This kind of muscle growth is also seen in the elderly. Many of us know that as we get older our ability to gain muscle/strength decreases. You can still gain a small amount of size as you get older as your bodies ability to adapt this way slows at a slower rate than the ability to adapt by-way of myofibrillar hypertrophy. So although your ability to increase myofibril count decreases as you age, your ability to increase sarcoplasmic space is decreasing at a slower rate.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

This second form of muscle growth is the one that really counts. The muscle adapts by incorporating more contractile proteins so, not only does the size of the muscle fiber grow, but it also gets stronger.

This type of muscle growth is accomplished with very specific training, as well as proper nutrition, recovery, and a sprinkle of genetics – but we will get to those next week.

There are A LOT, and we mean A LOT of programs out there all claiming they will help you “gain the most size ever, and you’ll be super ripped and huge for beach season.”

But what is the best way to encourage this type of muscle adaptation?

In fitness programs and personal training certification courses we are taught a generic formula for the 3 different training goals. 1-5 reps & heavy load will lead to strength gains. 6-15 reps and heavy to moderate weight will lead to hypertrophy. Anything over 15 will lead to endurance adaptations.

But is it so black and white? Should you only train in the 6-15 rep range if you want to increase muscle mass?

In a study published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 34 healthy and trained men were put into three different training groups. The breakdown was essentially low volume, moderate volume, and maximum volume. The men trained for 8 weeks.

In the end, all men had some hypertrophy. The only place where there was greater hypertrophy associated with higher volume was in the elbow flexors (biceps) and the thighs. So if you’re looking for bicep and thigh gains, then maximizing volume (reps x sets x weight) could be the key.

So what about the perfect program?

One of the 7 training principles in personal training is individuality. This is why we always stress with exercise and dietary recommendations that you need to find what works for you. For those who are just starting off, simply lifting weights consistently should help put on size.

If you have been training for a long time and your hypertrophy has dropped off, you may need to be a bit more resourceful with your training.

Dr. Layne Norton, a well-known weightlifter, and somewhat controversial figure in the fitness industry, designed a program known as the PHAT program. PHAT stands for power hypertrophy adaptive training. The program takes both power-style training techniques, as well as strength and hypertrophy style training to give your muscles the most stimulus possible to promote hypertrophy.

Dr. Norton’s program highlights a key point around hypertrophy. There needs to be a varying stimulus in order to maximize muscle growth.

If you were building a house, you could make it all out of wood – this would be like following a straight hypertrophy program (6-15 reps, moderate weight). In the end you’ll still end up with a house.

Or – you could build a house with wood, steel, plaster, and a number of other materials. In the end the result is the same – a house. But the one built with many more materials is more robust and uses as many of the available resources possible to build the house.

Working with your trainer, who has a better understanding of your training level, nutrition, and lifestyle, is key to achieving the goal of hypertrophy. They can put together a program that is specifically designed to your individual needs, and training history, so you can maximize your muscle growth.

Next week we will look at how nutrition can affect your ability to put on size.


The post A Special Recipe for Muscle Mass: Part 1 – Weight Training appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Free Form Fitness Blog by Ashley Ann Lawrie - 1M ago

Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

Somewhere between the fat free diet and the keto diet was the gluten-free movement. In 2011, Dr. William Davis released the book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. This was at the peak of the gluten-free craze as it’s popularity has been steadily rising from 2004 at a rate of 28%. Celebrities all tried it and began to advocate for its health benefits, with the body-transformation champion, Khloe Kardashian at the helm. While we all contemplate trying keto, or paleo, or veganism, or whatever diet is the latest trend in the news, have we forgotten about enemy number 2 (after falsely-accused fat)? Should we worry about gluten again? Could gluten have suffered the same fate as fats did in the 70’s? Read more to find out!

Where Did Gluten Come From?
Gluten is the storage protein of wheat grains. It is a complicated network of proteins and comes in many forms like gliadin (wheat), secalin (rye), hordein (barley), and avenin (oats). Gluten has been in the human diet for years and it’s ability to make a small amount of wheat, water, and salt into a loaf of bread to feed a family with quality nutrients meant that we celebrated this protein.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of industrial farming and the shift to using genetically modified seeds, we are now consuming gluten in foods besides bread and this gluten is not the gluten of our ancestors.

Gluten-Free Diet : Fad or Factual?

Consuming a gluten-free diet is absolutely essential for individuals with diagnosed celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is actually an autoimmune disorder (meaning the bodies immune system will act against the specific tissues in the body). This is incredibly serious, and can even be life-threatening if it goes undiagnosed. For the rest of the population who do not have celiac disease or NCGS, is the gluten-free diet really everything the diet books tell us?

Elephant in the Room

Let’s get this out of the way right away – can the gluten-free diet help us to lose unwanted weight? The research is mixed.

In studies where they implemented a gluten-free diet for celiac patients, some say that BMI improved and all patients lost weight. Another study looked at patient records from 1991 to 2007 and found that between their first record and their final record, the incidence of obesity in patients almost doubled from 11% to 21%.

So which one is it?
For both of these studies, the gluten-free diet was being integrated into a celiac individual’s life. Going gluten-free was out of necessity and not for the purpose of weight-loss. In fact, the second study mentioned was urging for better nutritional follow-up to ensure that when celiac individuals switch to a gluten-free diet that they are paying attention to their nutrition and not just eating bags of those chocolate covered glutino pretzels!

As with many major dietary changes, an individual’s decision to switch to a gluten-free diet may lead to weight-loss simply because they are becoming more conscious of what they are eating. So much of the eating we do in a day is unconscious and so we end up consuming too much, too little, or too much junk. By making an effort to eat a certain way, people are more likely to make other healthy choices as well. Remember – the best diet is the one you stick to! So yes, a gluten-free diet can help you lose weight if the rest of your diet is also getting re-evaluated and updated.

Other Benefits of Gluten-Free Eating

Gluten is found is a lot of food like soy sauce, beer, licorice, imitation crab meats, canned soups, and malt products, so when someone decides to go gluten-free and they commit to absolutely no foods with gluten, then they will likely begin to eat a more whole-food diet. Eating more whole-foods means better nutrient density and quality, and a more balanced diet.

A gluten-free diet can also help those with irritable bowel syndrome. The best way to manage IBS is by following a low FODMAP diet (fermentable oligo-,di-, monosaccharides and polyols). When gluten is consumed, it is easily fermented by the bacteria in the gut which can lead to painful cramping, bloating, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and constipation. So if you know you have IBS, then cutting out gluten from your life can be a good option for you!

Can a Gluten-Free Diet Be Bad For You?

In some cases choosing to go gluten-free can have negative effects. Gluten from crops is also associated with important sources of fiber and iron, so if you go gluten-free and don’t seek out suitable alternatives for these then you could run into health problems.

Going gluten-free when you don’t have a medical reason to also limits the variety of food you can consume. Studies have shown that the more restrictive your diet, the greater your chances of having depression.

So before you revisit the gluten-free craze, think about what you’re really looking for? If weight-loss is the goal, then a gluten-free diet could help you get there – but a balanced diet of whole foods can as well.

We have to stress that we are not dieticians or doctors, so any nutritional advice we provide on the blog is not meant to treat disease or act as a prescription. The blog and all of its topics are simply here to start the conversation and give you something to think about.




The post Is gluten really the enemy? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

A woman’s monthly cycle is a complicated process that not many women truly pay attention to, with the exception of women with chronic disease, women who are trying to get pregnant, or women who have hormonal complications like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

It’s crazy to think that this happens, for most women, every month for about 40 years and the average woman cannot tell you how her hormone levels are changing, and the difference between the luteal and follicular phase.

This is really a disadvantage for all women because the more you understand your cycle, the better you can move and fuel your body to support this process. Eating and moving right can be the difference between having painful PMS and just slightly uncomfortable PMS symptoms.

The title of this article suggests that something known as seed cycling can make a woman’s monthly cycle “better”. To each woman that will mean something different, so it is important to say that seed cycling will have varying effects on women, and that the effects of seed cycling are targeting the hormonal changes during a typical 28-day cycle.

So what is seed cycling? Read more to find out!

The Root of Seed CyclingIn nutrition science it is well known that some foods like flax and soy are high in compounds known as phytoestrogens. In last week’s article we briefly mentioned that consuming phytoestrogenic foods can have protective effects on a woman. In one study they looked at the effects of these phytoestrogenic foods (specifically flax seeds) within the different phases of a woman’s cycle. What they discovered was a slight increase in testosterone during the mid-follicular phase, and a higher progesterone/estragen ratio in the luteal phase (you can refer to the image below to understand this a little better).

Higher testosterone levels typically presents itself as a higher sex-drive in women (hence the slightly bump around ovulation to give women a little extra encouragement).

The higher progesterone/estragen ratio is also significant. When women have a low progesterone/estradiol ratio in the latter phase of their cycle, this could be an indication of estrogen dominance, which is a risk factor for developing breast cancer, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, infertility, and miscarriages.

By consuming flax seeds and pumpkin seeds during the follicular phase of your cycle, you support healthy production of estrogen and encourage healthier levels of progesterone in the luteal phase.

What About the Luteal Phase?

So if phytoestrogens support the first half of the cycle, then what supports progesterone production for the second half of the cycle?

With seed cycling, it is less-so about directly targeting progesterone, and more so about estrogen. For the luteal phase when women want to have that high progesterone-estradiol ratio, they should aim to consume foods that keep estrogen levels normal (not high), and help to detox the body as it naturally begins to prepare for a new cycle (a detox-ing in its own right).

Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are the perfect options for this part of the cycle. Sesame seeds have been shown to have a controlling effect on estrogen, blocking excess production of the hormone. Sunflower seeds fill out the other part of this as they are high in the micronutrient selenium, which is important for liver detoxification.

So How and Why Should You Start?

It’s very simple to begin seed cycling. On the first day of a woman’s period she will begin by adding 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed and ground pumpkin seed to a morning shake, or simply have by the spoonful. At day 14, or halfway through her normal cycle, she will switch to 1 tablespoon of ground sesame seeds and ground sunflower seeds.

If you don’t have a regular cycle, or no cycle at all (common with women with PCOS), you can actually use the moon cycles. The new moon to full moon is the follicular phase, and then the full moon to the next new moon is the luteal phase.

As with all new health protocols, the best results will be achieved if a woman in also practicing other hormone-supportive choices. This includes consuming a diet low in processed sugars, high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Exercise is also a major component to any healthy life, but in women it can be especially helpful in balancing hormones.

Seed-cycling can be especially helpful to women who decide to take themselves off of the pill after many years of being on the pill. This is because there is an androgen-rebound that occurs when a woman comes off the pill. This puts her testosterone at a much higher level, and throws the estrogen and progesterone levels way off leading to acne, severe mood swings, and weight gain (to name a few symptoms).

Should Every Woman and Her Tribe Try It?

As with all protocols, exercise regimes, and diets mentioned on the FFF blog, it is entirely up to you to decide if this is something you want to try.

If you do decide to try this out, give it a few cycles to really make up your mind about the effectiveness of it. This is also something that doesn’t need to be followed for your whole life. A woman’s hormones could just need a quick jolt of balancing action to get back to normal levels and then the body can take care of it itself.



The post Can Seed Cycling Improve Your Cycle? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Free Form Fitness Blog by Ashley Ann Lawrie - 2M ago

Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

Women’s bodies are pretty spectacular. The fact that every month their body goes through a cycle that could lead to new life is amazing. This cycle has an finite number of turns, and at the end women enter into a phase of their life known as menopause.

This can be a time of major change for women. As menopause typically occurs in their early 50’s, women are finding themselves feeling less needed as a mother with their children reaching young adulthood. This means reconnecting with their partner, and some women are even preparing to retire at this time.

Juggling all of these changes and going through menopause can be incredibly difficult for women, especially if they don’t fully understand what is happening to their body and how they can manage the symptoms of menopause. This week we want to get into what menopause and what lifestyle changes you can make today to make menopause easier for you (& your partner).

What Is Menopause?

Officially, menopause begins at the last menstrual cycle. If a woman has not had a period for 12 months, it is usually safe to assume that she has reached menopause. Premature menopause can also occur when a woman has had radiation to the ovaries due to ovarian cancer, or if a woman has a hysterectomy.

What Changes Can We Expect?

At this time, women’s estrogen levels have been dropping since their 30’s and the ovaries are now no longer producing estrogen. Estrogen has been the predominant sex hormone for the entirety of a woman’s fertile life, but it also has protective effects like maintaining healthy, strong bones and keeping the skin clear and healthy.

Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, which are random waves of feeling hot and even sometimes sweaty. Some women experience irregular periods, and their periods may vary in the “heaviness” of their flow.

As the hormones change, a woman’s mood can be affected as well. Some women going through perimenopause (the time 2-3 years prior and up to menopause) may experience extreme mood swings at this time, depending on the health of their hormone secreting glands and liver. Some women’s hormonal changes can actually cause some women to become depressed.

Weight gain is also a very likely (but not inevitable) symptom of menopause. When you are no longer producing estrogen in the ovaries, estrogen needs to be produced elsewhere (but in much smaller amounts). One of the ways the body does this is in the adipose tissue, or fat tissue of the body. In order to maintain base levels of estrogen in the body, fat tissue becomes a bit more stubborn during perimenopause and menopause.

Lastly, some women experience difficulties sleeping, or sleeping through the whole night. Every woman experiences perimenopause and menopause in her own unique way, but there are a few universal ways to prepare for menopause so that if you experience any of the symptoms they will be more manageable.

Nutrition for Menopause

There is no perfect way to eat for everyone during menopause, but there are definitely strategies you can implement to lessen the severity of symptoms.

Women who eat plant-based diets report fewer hot flashes. With that said, women who consumed more dairy and meat products had better bone density post-menopause. The conclusion: eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables throughout your lifetime will set you up for a healthier perimenopause and postmenopause.

High carbohydrate diets are also related to weight gain and mood irregularities, so sticking to complex carbohydrates like leafy green vegetables and limited simple carbs like breads, pastas, and sweets is a great way to mitigate menopausal weight gain and mood swings.

As estrogen declines, it might be useful to consume foods high in estrogens. Specifically soy and flax meal. These are both phytoestrogens and when metabolized by the body can have protective effects for women.

To help stabilize mood incorporate more foods high in vitamin C like broccoli, bell peppers, citrus fruits, teas, potatoes and yams.

Foods To Avoid

Although the recommendations for helpful foods is fairly broad (whole, natural, organic foods), the foods that will inevitably make menopause more uncomfortable and increase the severity of symptoms are well-known.

As we mentioned before, you definitely want to avoid sugars and processed foods as much as possible. These foods are not great for our long-term health before menopause, and they certainly are not any better afterwards. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, and as your body is at a greater risk for carrying extra weight, developing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, it is best to keep inflammatory foods at an absolute minimum.

For the coffee and alcohol consumers out there the evidence is somewhat conflicted. Some studies have shown that consuming caffeine can increase the severity of hot flashes, but not increase their frequency. Some women report no changes to their hot flashes when they consume caffeine, so again we are seeing how individual the experience is for each woman. It is well reported, though, that alcohol and caffeine disrupt sleep so if catching proper Z’s is difficult during this time, it would be worth limited caffeine and alcohol consumption so you can get your much-needed sleep.

Spicy foods are also not recommended if you are already experiencing intense hot flashes. Spicy foods temporarily increase body temperature, so if a hot flash hits while/after eating spicy foods it could be extra-unpleasant.

Quality of Life During Menopause

One of the best ways to manage menopause is to check in with your current lifestyle habits and your environment to be sure that it is encouraging healthy and happy behaviours. Are your relationships supportive? Are your getting lots of sunshine and rest? Are your consuming enough water and taking time to meditate/check in with your inner well-being?

If any of the above-mentioned things are not acting to support your happiness in life, then it will only make menopause more difficult.

The post Menopause: One Hot Topic appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Free Form Fitness Blog by Ashley Ann Lawrie - 2M ago

Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

If there is one topic in the health and fitness industry that divides people most, it would probably be veganism. If you haven’t heard, a vegan diet is a 100% plant based diet. It is also associated with an entirely animal cruelty-free lifestyle. So no leather, no fur, and no products that have been tested on animals. Though not all vegans choose to make the vegan lifestyle choices.

If our ancestors were hunter gatherers, then when did we make the switch to an animal-free diet? Where did it all begin and why do some of us eat this way? Read more to find out!

In the Beginning…

Veganism, or strict vegetarianism, can actually be traced back as far as the time of Buddha and Pythagoras (famous philosopher and mathematician). It took time for the plant-based diet to really take hold, but in the 1800’s, people began to swear off animal products like eggs and dairy, creating a new category of dairy-free vegetarians.

In the 1940’s, a man named Donald Watson got 6 non-dairy vegetarians together to discuss plant-based/animal-free food choices. They wanted to make a more clear distinction between vegetarians and a fully plant-based diet. They went through a few different words like vitan and benevore before finally landing on vegan, which takes the first 3 and final 2 letters of vegetarian.

Since then the vegan movement has grown in popularity, with numerous documentaries like Forks Over Knives, being produced to showcase the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet.

Eats Plants – Save the Planet

As humans have taken over the planet and the number of us has increased, we have created massive farms and complex shipping routes to deliver the food we need to stay alive, to entertain guests, and to drool over while watching Chef’s Table on Netflix.

This has created a massive industry worth just over 100 billion dollars in Canada. Unfortunately, along the way we have sacrificed the health of the planet. Human needs for energy and food have created massive amounts of carbon dioxide that is being pumped into the atmosphere, and it is changing the climate of the whole planet. Although our energy needs make up over 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural activities come in second at 11%. In fact, if the emissions from cows were seen as a country, they’d be the third greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.

With such massive factory farms being put up across the world, our overproduction of meat from livestock is becoming a climate issue, and not just a health issue. In November of 2018, The Economist released a video which explained how a worldwide vegan movement could massively decrease greenhouse gas emissions. It brings up a few important points about how things like water consumption would be decreased, and the overall health of the population could be improved. You can watch it by clicking the hyperlink on “released a video”.

So Does Veganism Makes Sense for Human Health as well as Climate Health?

It seems to make sense for us to move to a more plant-based lifestyle if we want to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but does it make sense for optimal human health? In many of the plant-based-promoting documentaries, they typically follow an individual who is riddled with disease and taking countless medications. After following a vegan protocol, they get off of all of their meds, and many of their health issues have gone away or have been drastically reduced.

Sounds pretty great, right?

It is! There are a few things to be understood, though, before making the switch to a fully vegan diet.

First of all, you will have to become very familiar with all of the foods that may use animals or animal by products in their production. The obvious ones like steak, eggs, and milk are easy to pick out, but some wines use fish bones and animal proteins in the production process, and even some pastas have animal by-products in them. So research is key.

Include vitamins and minerals on a vegan diet in your research. Vitamin D and B12 are 2 major vitamins that quickly become depleted on a vegan diet. These are both essential to you health and deficiencies in either of these can have critical effects.

Calcium, which is readily available in greens like kale and spinach, can also quickly become depleted on a vegan diet. After 30 our body harvests calcium from the bones to be used elsewhere. Most vegans, although they are eating their dark leafy greens, still are not meeting their calcium requirements and this can lead to brittle bones and increased risk for fracture. Calcium from plants is also harder for the body to absorb, so supplementing is your best bet to keep calcium levels high.

Vitamin A, the carrot vitamin, which is important for numerous bodily functions, but most notably eye health, is also a vitamin you will have to pay special attention to. When you consume a vegetable like a carrot, your body actually only gets 0%-4% of the vitamin A from the carrot (in comparison to liver, which your body absorbs 100% of the vitamin A).

Vitamin A, the carrot vitamin, which is important for numerous bodily functions, but most notably eye health, is also a vitamin you will have to pay special attention to. When you consume a vegetable like a carrot, your body actually only gets 0%-4% of the vitamin A from the carrot (in comparison to liver, which your body absorbs 100% of the vitamin A).

Going vegan certainly has its benefits, but research and consulting with a dietician to help ensure you are getting enough of the protein, fats, and vitamins and minerals that you need is crucial.

Should We All Go Vegan?

We are all individuals and we are all able to make dietary choices for ourselves based on what works for our lifestyle and our health goals. Including more fruits and vegetables is certainly something we could all be doing, but do we need to go fully plant-based? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

For a few more resources (both for and against) on the vegan diet, check out these articles and links:

Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults Vegetarian diet and mental health: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in culturally diverse samples. Association of vegetarian diet with inflammatory biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Will Going Vegan Make You Healthier (from the BBC) When Your Kindergarden Goes Vegan (from The New York Times) Vegetarianism, depression, and the five factor model of personality

The post Let’s Talk About Veganism appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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