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

There are a lot of competing forces in our environment that make it difficult to lose weight. Whether it is clever marketing that plays on our emotions and psychology, doubts of personal self-worth, or simple temptations all around us, we have to overcome many obstacles in order to lose stubborn weight.

Previous blogs have mentioned the role that our gut bacteria play in achieving a healthy body composition, and previous blogs have spoken about the potentially beneficial effects of cannabis use. Why are we bringing those two up together? Turns out the body produces cannabinoids – molecules also found in cannabis – within our own bodies. These are known as endocannabinoids (endo meaning within/internal), as they are cannabinoids produced within the body.

According to a recent study, a higher concentration of cannabinoids found in the gut can actually lead to overeating. This has to do with the signals that our gut sends to our brain to let us know that we are satiated.In every human, there is something known as the circadian rhythm. Many people have heard of this as it relates to our sleep and the various sleep stages we go through. But the circadian rhythm is actually a full-day cycle and includes not only sleep and melatonin, but also cortisol, leptin and ghrelin.

As you move through the different sleep stages, your body is eventually triggered to wake up due to an increase in cortisol (most well-known as the stress hormone). Lights, sounds, and sometimes what you ate the night before can trigger this rise in cortisol.

The cortisol helps to wake you up and prepares the body to take on the day and all of the activities that you have planned. Within an hour or two of waking up the brain will receive its first signal from the gut telling the brain that it is hungry and requires nutrients. This comes in the form of ghrelin (think of a ghrumbly stomach).

You’ll typically experience hunger pains when this happens and you find yourself looking through the fridge for your first meal of the day. Once you’ve started to eat, the body will eventually send another signal to the brain in the form of leptin. Leptin tells the brain that the body has enough nutrients to get through the next bout of activity.

The more fat stored on your body, the more leptin your body should be producing and storing. Fat is a form of energy storage, so if you do decide to eat, then leptin should kick in faster than someone who carries less fat on their body. This is a mechanism that was designed to help humans eat only what they needed to in order to survive.

Nowadays we can ignore those feelings of satiety and essentially turn off the leptin signal. It’s like the body gives up on trying to tell you you are done and as a result you never truly feel full.

The study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that mice with greater concentrations of cannabinoids in their gut and were considered obese had an even harder time receiving that leptin signal. This led to overeating in the mice, further contributing to their obese state.

The idea of cannabis and overeating is probably a familiar one for many of us. Either you have experienced it yourself or have seen it in a Seth Rogen movie, there is a high correlation of increased snacking with a rise of cannabis consumption. So it kind of makes sense that individuals with larger concentrations of our endocannabinoids are finding it a lot harder to slow down the snacking and feel truly satiated.



The post Can Cannabinoids Make It Harder to Lose Weight? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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

One of the greatest things about strength training is just how much you can change the workouts over time. You can periodize over weeks, months, and even years! Changing your workouts from all barbell to all bodyweight can even lead to useful adaptations!

If you find that your workouts are feeling a little “blah”, maybe it is time to change something up. The good news is it doesn’t take a great deal of effort or knowledge of training to add some new excitement to your workouts and reignite that fire and motivation!

Switch Up the Tempo

The standard tempo exercises are performed at is a 2:0:2:0 meaning 2-second count to initiate the eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle) followed by 0 seconds between that and the concentric portion of the movement (shortening of the muscle), pause for 0 seconds at the greatest contraction then proceed to the next rep. The  image below shows a slow eccentric tempo.

Altering any point of this tempo model can create a new kind of stimulus for the muscles and therefore encourage adaptations to occur. So you can make the concentric contraction longer, drawing out the time it takes to shorten the muscle and forcing you to really focus on the feeling of the muscle working.

There is also benefit to lengthening the time it takes to complete the eccentric contraction, or the lengthening of the muscle. This is typically the weaker part of the movement. Think about doing a bicep curl. On the way up the movement is simple and seems to get easier as you progress through the contraction. On the way down it feels uncomfortable and many of us just let gravity take over. By intentionally slowing down this movement you actually strengthen the weakest part of the movement, thereby making the overall strength of the muscle more balanced and robust.

A few things should be known before trying this out.

  1. If you are going for reps, tempo is not ideal. In a study published in The Journal of Human Kinetics in 2018, Wilk et. al found that incorporating tempo into a working set resulted in fewer reps being completed in comparison to the standard tempo.
  2. If you are doing volume training, tempo is a great idea! The same study by Wilk et. al found that although you perform fewer reps, the muscles time-under-tension was increased. Research has observed that the greater time the muscle spends under tension, the greater the hypertrophic adaptations (gains) are achieved.

Leave It All to the Drop Set

Drop sets are exactly what they sound like – a set where something drops, in this case it is the weight. To make the most of the drop set scheme you should start with a very heavy weight – around the weight that you can do for 8-12 reps for that exercise. Perform your reps and then drop the weight to something lighter. Perform another set of reps with very little rest between sets. Keep doing this until you have dropped the weight to about 30% of your predicted 1 rep max.

What are the benefits of this style of programming? For starters it takes much less time to achieve the same benefit as a straight set of an exercise with rest intervals between each set. So if you are pressed for time but want to make sure you get a good workout in, a drop set could be an efficient way to achieve that.

Drop sets have also been shown to increase cross-sectional area, strength, and endurance of the muscles. Your volume is high, but so are your reps, so you are able to increase many aspects of you training by doing the exercise in a drop set.

Try A New Piece of Equipment

Believe it or not doing the same exercise with a different piece of equipment will make it seem like a whole new stimulus to the body. A barbell will shift the body’s center of gravity in a different way than a dumbbell, or even doing the exercise with no equipment.

If you’ve noticed a plateau in your training, try switching up the equipment for a week and your workout will feel like brand new!

Strength training is so easy to vary, you just need to know the little tips and tricks to keep your workouts new and exciting, so you can continue to benefit from the workouts.

The post Plateau no more! 3 Ways to Keep Your Workouts Working for You! appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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Free Form Fitness Blog by Ashley Lawrie - 2w ago

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

It’s that time again! For the month of May we bring you the story of Dorothy, a client at our Albert St. location who knows all about being a part of something bigger than ourselves! This PEI-born mother of 4 is the youngest of 13 kids, and has realized by watching her eldest child deadlift amazing weights that working out can not only help you lose the couch-potato weight, but can also help you discover your true inner strength.

Read more about her incredible story of consistency and hard work below!

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 am from an enormous family on Prince Edward Island – the youngest of 13 children (I know, right?).  I came to Ottawa about 12 years ago on a work exchange program. I got into running while here and my first milestone was to survive the Ottawa half marathon in 2009.  I have a lifelong interest in music, and love a good Maritime kitchen dance party. I have four children between the ages of 20 to 29, and they are undoubtedly my greatest achievement in life.  Now that they are grown up (mostly), I am learning to take care of myself.

When did you first decide to join Free Form Fitness?

I joined when the Albert Street location opened. With it being located so close to my work, I knew I could easily fit training sessions into my schedule!

What was your initial goal when you joined?

I just needed to feel better. After two years of couchpotato-dom I had stopped running due to a foot injury, had gained weight, and I was sore all the time.  So my initial goal was a 10% weight loss and an increase in fitness level.

Has your goal changed since you started?

I am working on increased strength.   My oldest daughter is a carpenter and she has been powerlifting to improve her stamina on the job.  She is deadlifting well above her own weight. I probably can’t match her, but I want to see how much I can manage.  But most of all, I just want to reach a healthy weight and then to maintain it.

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

I have tendonitis and old ligament injuries in one foot, so I have to stick to low impact, lower load activities.  It was fairly challenging to get through some of the exercises – I could not do a single leg RDL (romanian deadlift).

My trainers worked with me to build strength and stability and I can almost do it now.  It is not 100% and I still have to be careful of my foot but it is sooooo much better!

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

I am so happy with my progress so far.  I have muscles now! I hit a personal best deadlift of 155lbs today, and I’ve lost about 30 lbs so far. I still have a way to go, but I know I will get to my ultimate goals in good time. I was really worried about my foot, but  I knew I had to get active somehow.

Tess and Jimena were pretty patient with me to keep me progressing without injuring me. They also helped me fine-tune my diet.  They just keep adding more weights and changing up my workouts. I never knew there could be so many variations of the plank! They also gave me home workouts that I could readily do on vacation (without full gym equipment), because I didn’t want to lose the gains I was making.

“I hit a personal best deadlift of 155lbs today, and I’ve lost about 30 lbs so far.”

I did have a fairly healthy diet but they coached me on setting macronutrients to build muscle. I have a pretty strict food diary practice to keep myself honest.  I don’t starve myself and I have not cut out ALL the unhealthy foods… Or wine

Tess and Jimena are really encouraging and the atmosphere at Albert Street is high-spirited.  They put Queen on the playlist too!

How else do you live a healthy lifestyle?

Last summer I biked to work almost every day, but now I live close enough to be able to walk it comfortably.  I use the gym at work or I work out at home and I also try to swim at least twice a week. I have a sit/stand desk at work and I try to make use of that to reduce the aches and pains of aging in a sedentary job.  Staying away from processed foods, drinking plenty of water, and finding people to share a laugh with are all important aspects of my healthy lifetsyle.

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

“Learn to love the challenge!”

The post Dorothy’s story appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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

In a study published by the University of Alberta last year, they discovered that the cells just below the skin that store fat droplets decrease in size when exposed to the blue light emitted by the sun.

So that extra bit of “padding” we put on over the winter months is partially due to less exposure to the sun. Does this mean that sitting out in the sunshine all summer is all you have to do to get rid of the winter padding?

This should come as no surprise – but no. It does, however, mean that putting in the hard work over the winter months, and keeping that effort consistent into the summer months will likely lead to better body measurements as summer goes on.

What is fascinating about this study is the fact that it acts as a reminder to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. There are so many manufactured solutions for weight-loss and disease, meanwhile mother nature provides us with many of the resources we need to be healthy – and it is free!

We have talked about the importance of sunshine before and there are so many more reasons to get outside and enjoy the sunshine this summer. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer prevention
    • Research is starting to report more on the cellular protective effect of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to regulate normal cellular growth, and as cancer is the instance of irregular cellular growth, it makes sense that vitamin D is crucial to prevent cancer
  • Mood Regulation
    • Vitamin D plays a role in the production of your mood-regulation hormones and neurochemicals. This is why we we see less of the sun in the fall months and through winter, that many of us experience the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder.
  • Healthy Bones
    • Vitamin D deficiencies in children lead to a condition known as rickets, where the children’s bones are very porous and brittle and they are at a high risk for fractures. In adults, the same is true. By not having enough vitamin D in the body, there cannot be proper calcium absorption and therefore the bones slowly become weak and brittle.
  • Encourages Play and Socializing
    • Getting outside in the sunshine is a great way to spend time with friends and family. Socializing is a critical aspect of good human health and being outside with other people, especially when there is play involved a free and easy way to maintain good health.
    • Of course, no sunshine article can be written without cautioning you against the harmful effects of too much sun exposure. The sun emits radiation and that radiation can penetrate deep into the skin. When we spend too much time in the sunshine without creams and lotions that protect us from the radiation, then we put ourselves at a greater risk for developing things like skin cancer.

After the very long winter we had here in Ottawa, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. But hey – now you have even more reason to do so!

The post Can Sunshine Keep You Slim? appeared first on Free Form Fitness.

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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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