Stretching: It’s Necessary, Not Optional

Are you too cool to stretch? I used to be– or I thought I was. And then I strained a few muscles, had some back issues while surfing, and had sore legs and tight hips from running. Now I can’t seem to stretch enough. Oh, and I am 30. That hurts to type.

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Why Should You Stretch?

Stretching can balance the length and tension of muscles around a joint, decreasing the likelihood of overactive muscles and joint stress. However, it is important to identify the muscles that are actually overactive (no guessing). Once you do that, then you can develop a plan for lengthening them and strengthening their counterparts. Click here to see how to find overactive muscles.

If you do not balance the muscles around your joints, you will develop faulty movement patterns over time. Essentially, you will succumb to the following series of events:

Muscle Imbalances–> Poor Posture–> Improper Movements–> Injury

(Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008)

When & How to Stretch

  1. Use a posture assessment to determine which muscles to target
  2. Do SMFR (Self Myofascial Release, AKA Foam Rolling) first!
  3. Corrective, Active, or Functional stretching
    • A trainer is especially beneficial at this stage

You should stretch before and after each work out. However, one caveat is necessary. There is some scientific research suggesting that acute static stretching before a performance can slightly decrease power and/or strength (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). Conversely, long-term (chronic) stretching has been associated with increased strength and power.

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So start implementing stretching now to increase your long-term power, strength, range of motion and neuromuscular efficiency, and to decrease joint stress.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

The 30 Second Stretch: Yes, It’s Backed by Science

I’ve heard it all my life. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds or so, but I never asked why. According to our anatomy and physiology, it matters!

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Mechanoreceptors (Sensory receptors)

What tells us that a muscle is stretching too much or that it needs to stretch more? Our bodies have muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs that provide that particular service.

Muscle spindles are the major sensory organ of a muscle. They are microscopic fibers that run parallel to a muscle fiber. The main function of a muscle spindle is to alert the brain, via the central nervous system, that a muscle is lengthening too far or too fast (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). When excess lengthening occurs the muscle spindles contract, resulting in micro muscle spasms or a tight feeling.

Golgi tendon organs are located between a muscle and a tendon, also referred to as the musculotendinous junction. Their job is to to relax a muscle when it is placed under excess tension (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008) For example, if you try to lift a weight that is too heavy, then the GTOs will send a message to the muscles involved to stop the action. The relaxation prevents a muscle from tearing.

Hacking the Body With the 30 Second Stretch

You can hack your body’s system by holding a static stretch for a prolonged period of time. Doing so starts a process called autogenic inhibition. In short, autogenic inhibition is an override of the muscle spindles by the golgi tendon organs, allowing the muscles to relax and lengthen (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). The 30 second rule is based on this process. Generally speaking, most static stretches should be held long enough for the golgi tendon organs to override the muscle spindles– approximately 30 seconds.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Time Restricted Eating: Does it work?

Although traditional reduced-calorie diets are a very science-based way to lose weight, intermittent fasting is a good alternative that studies suggest is just as beneficial for losing weight” –Sai Das, PhD

brown and black round analog watch on beige rocks

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Time-restricted eating is eating within a specified time-frame each day. Sometimes people refer to it as fasting, and it is popular in many health and wellness circles and some religions.

  It does not require one to change the foods he or she eats; it simply requires the food to be consumed  within a shorter time frame.

Although, research seems to suggest that placing that window earlier in the day is more beneficial because our blood sugar control and metabolism are generally better in the morning.  Regardless, time-restricted eating means fasting for a large part of the day and allowing oneself a minimized period of feeding.

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There is a trending consensus that time restricted eating causes fat loss. The fat-loss theory in time-restricted eating is analogous to  lending money to somebody and then collecting interest on it every day.

You sacrifice for a period of time (no food to go into a fasted state), you get it all back (your window of time that you can eat), plus you benefit more because of the delay/sacrifice (your increased fat-burning).

In theory and analogy it is a wonderful idea. But what does the research say?

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Moro et al. (2016) found that males with a background in resistance training –and that fasted for 16 hours a day–decreased their fat levels and maintained their muscle mass while maintaining the same caloric intake; those that had a background in training and maintained a regular eating schedule did not reduce their fat levels. Similarly, a pilot study on women found a significant decrease in fat for women who were involved in resistance training and followed a time-restricted diet (Smith, LeSarge, & Lemon, 2017). Although those in the women’s resistance training group maintained muscle mass while decreasing fat, the other groups did not have the same benefits; they experienced an overall weight loss, which included muscle.

A scientist from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) – Sai Das, PhD—has commented on intermittent fasting, stating “Although traditional reduced-calorie diets are a very science-based way to lose weight, intermittent fasting is a good alternative that studies suggest is just as beneficial for losing weight” (The Buzz on Intermittent Fasting, 2017). She goes on to note that there have not been many scientific studies comparing the different intermittent regimens, so there is not a clear  amount of fasting that one should follow; moreover, Das reminds readers to avoid overcompensating during feeding times.

Much more experimental, long-term studies have been done on animals, resulting in better research and substantiated conclusions.

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In a popular Youtube video—linked below in the references–  Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses the immense benefits of fasting on mice, referencing work by Dr. Satchidananda Panda. Moreover, Dr. Patrick gives her own anecdotes, stating she has experienced an increase in cardiovascular benefits. Other suggested  benefits of intermittent fasting may include: cognitive enhancement and an overall increase in health biomarkers.

To me, the evidence suggests that time-restricted eating can be beneficial– especially for those that are already on a workout plan.

Whether the weight loss and/or fat burning caused during time restricted eating is as effective for those living a sedentary lifestyle, it is difficult to say; people could unintentionally cut calories during the fasting time– that and food choices are factors that must be controlled for in larger future human studies. Moreover, although food choices were not mentioned, it is still important to eat as healthy as possible. One should not expect great results while eating horrible foods daily. 

If you are looking for an alternative to cutting a bunch of calories, time-restricted eating seems to be a safe and more practical way to attempt to reach your goal.

Although I have provided some research on the subject, please do your own and draw your own conclusions. I will be giving the fasting a try, limiting myself to food for 10 hours a day to start.

 

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References

Moro, T., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., Pacelli, Q. F., Battaglia, G., & … Paoli, A. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal Of Translational Medicine, 141-10. doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0

Smith, S. T., LeSarge, J. C., & Lemon, P. R. (2017). Time-Restricted Eating in Women – A Pilot Study. Western Undergraduate Research Journal: Health & Natural Sciences, 8(1), 1-6. doi:10.5206/wurjhns.2017-18.3

The Buzz on Intermittent Fasting: Studies suggest intermittent fasting regimens can help with weight loss. But, long-term adherence and health benefits are uncertain. (2017). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 4.

Youtube interview– Joe Rogan & Rhonda Patrick:

Youtube interview– Rhonda Patrick & Satchin Panda