Metabolism is the mechanism our body uses to break down the nutritional intake into nutrients some of which will be used to build muscle (anabolism) and some will turn into energy ready for the body to use (catabolism). The word metabolism, comes from the greek word "metabole" meaning change, essentially describing the "change" that happens to our food, once digestion has started.
The rate at which food breaks down into nutrients determines a "slow", "normal" or "fast" metabolism. No matter what sort of metabolism we might have inherited from our parents, one can always boost their metabolism in a number of ways.
1) Breakfast plays a crucial role to one's metabolism. In the morning metabolism is slowed down because of being asleep for duration of the previous night plus the fact that the stomach is essentially empty since last meal was many hours ago. Skipping breakfast will only slow your metabolism even further. A quality, high nutritional value breakfast including proteins, fibres, vitamins and carbs will not only boost your metabolism, but also prepare the stomach for the heavier meals to come.
2) Don't skip meals. Skipping a meal (or halving a meal to save calorie intake) signals the metabolism that times are getting "lean" so breaks are put on the fat-burning process to save energy for perhaps even "leaner" times. Now you know why even the in-between meals are equally important as the rest.
3) Build muscle. There is a controversy lately about how much muscle gain can impact one's metabolism and therefor their fat burning capability. Some studies show that an extra pound of muscle can burn up to 90 extra calories, others show that it is as low as 5-6 extra calories during rest. Whichever the case, big impact or not, the fact remains the same. There is an increase in the resting metabolic rate. And then again don't forget the calorie expenditure needed while trying to build muscle.
4) High Intensity & Interval Training. Any sort of physical activity (and by any I literally mean any...from raising a glass of water to the mouth, to running a marathon) there is a need for energy expenditure, therefor the burning of calories. Of course the expenditure differs from activity to activity. My personal favourite is High Intensity training and Interval training. Short duration, high intensity workout sessions have proven to be highly beneficial. Study has shown that oxygen intake by the muscle tissue remains at a much higher level even 48 hours after the session, as opposed to any sort of steady state training, which drops to normal just a couple of hours after the workout. I also apply this principle at any given opportunity (e.g. staircases...whenever you see one ahead, just run up. You'll be surprised at how effective a few seconds of intense muscle work, a few times a day, can be)
It is quite often that we will experience pains, aches, niggles and discomforts, independent of the lifestyle we lead. These pains can be caused by injuries, posture, repetitive motions, exerting efforts, weakness and stress. Although we can all feel pain, not all of us can tell the difference between sorts of pain, let alone the reasons why they are happening. This will be an effort to educate on the various kinds of pains we feel. By no means would this be a “self-diagnose” guide, but more like a guideline as to how to distinguish between the different kinds of pains.
All conditions ending in the suffix -itis, indicate inflammation, consequently tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon. Many reasons contribute to this condition, but common denominator in most cases is a repetitive, low impact motion (e.g. typewriting). The repetitive, low impact motion of typing, over a long period of time can cause the inflammation of certain tendons in the forearm.
Typical symptoms would be pain, especially during or after the activity, stiffness or a dull feeling in the affected joint, possible redness of the skin and sensation of heat in the area. In extreme cases there might be swelling of the joint. The condition will affect one’s skill, so a guitarist for example, will notice difficulty playing their instrument, or even reach the point where they cannot play at all (if left untreated). Not all conditions of the tendon are tendinitis though. The term Tendinopathy would describe a wider variety of tendon issues, including tendinitis.
The best thing to do if you suspect you have tendinitis, is to visit a specialist for a diagnosis, treatment and guidelines for homecare. Do not just wait for the symptoms to go away. This is likely to make things worse.
Delayed onset of muscle soreness. It is the sensation of muscle ache the first few days after training or using your musculature for a physically demanding effort (like moving your furniture for example). Depending on the intensity of the activity and the level of one’s fitness, the DOMS can show on the same day of training, but usually it is the second day, one will really feel the pain, peaking on the third day.
During a physically demanding effort, micro-injuries occur in the muscles. It is those injuries that we perceive as pain (and not the lactic acid as it was widely believed till recently). These pains, as mentioned above, will start subsiding after the 3rd day. The pain experienced is completely different to that of an injury. It can be replicated by stretching the sore muscle or by contracting the affected muscle.
The best thing to do in case you are experiencing DOMS, is to remain active. If you have trained legs, and your legs are sore to look at, then a very light leg workout will do the trick. Ways to take edge off DOMS, is cold showers, foam rolling, self-massaging, stretching, good nutrition and rest. Although there are many things you could do at home DIY style, it is always good to pay a visit to your sports therapist once in a while to treat the areas you cannot reach (and trust me, there are many). Do not seek for a sports massage the first few days after training. A good therapist would ask you to visit them after the DOMS have subsided.
A muscle spasm is the sudden involuntary contraction of a group of muscle fibres or of the whole muscle, causing acute pain. Cramps are a typical case of muscle spasm, which happens when a group of muscle fibres goes into involuntary contraction. Of course not all spasms are cramps. Cramps are harmless and usually resolve within a few minutes. Cramps are caused by ion imbalances in the muscle.
Spasms caused by overload, by abnormal nerve stimulation or by abnormal activity of the muscle itself can last longer and affect the individual in the way walk and stand. Lumbago (lower back muscle spasm), is such an example. The pain can be nauseating and a cold sensation covers the affected area. The affected individual will have problems with every day activities, such as putting on their socks, or getting out of bed. It is usually worse early in the morning, late at night and after long periods of immobility. So walking as much and as often as possible is very beneficial. Hot patches and off the counter muscle relaxants will also help take the edge off.
Once again, it is ideal you visit a specialist for individualised diagnosis and guidelines. Sports massage has many tools which can help “switch-off” muscles that are in spasm. Muscle energy technique can help you recover faster.
Sprains - Strains
There are numerous injuries that can happen to the musculoskeletal system, so I will focus only on the most common ones, which are joint sprains and muscle strains. A joint sprain happens when the joint is being taken beyond its functional range of motion, resulting in one or more ligament tears. The equivalent injury to a muscle would be a muscle strain, where the muscle is either taken beyond its functional range of motion (stretched too far) or was loaded beyond its strength. In both cases the injury is graded, according to the severity, from minor to major (grade 1, grade 2 grade 3).
Although we usually are immediately aware of such an injury, we cannot always tell its severity. Symptoms (in both cases) would be pain, functional loss of the involved structure, weakness, swelling, discolouration and localised inflammation. These symptoms are all in line with the severity of the injury.
If you suspect you have just sprained/strained a joint/muscle, you should try and book an appointment with a specialist as soon as possible. A correct diagnosis of the severity, followed by a tailored treatment will save you days of recovery, in case the injury is serious, or ensure you do not make things worse, in case it is a minor injury. Although I strongly suggest you educate yourselves on the R.I.C.E. protocol, I urge you to discuss with your therapist before applying it to yourself.
Many a time have I heard clients referring to a specific painful spot in a muscle as the "knot". Although, more or less, every-one of us has experienced the pains caused by a "knot", or range of motion restrictions, or, have even felt the "knot" while self-palpating, we never really ponder on it much. "Oh, it's just another knot", we say, and continue our lives despite it getting more painful or more annoying by the day. We tend to ignore it as much as possible, because in the end. It will resolve itself, right?
True, but just like any other, untreated condition, which will eventually resolve itself, it will probably not recover to its full potential. To fully understand the long-term consequences of not treating sore and knotty muscles (and mind, we are not even talking about injured muscles), one needs to have an idea of what a "knot" is and how it forms.
Muscle fibres tend to stick together forming adhesions. This can be caused by micro-traumas, prolonged contraction or stretch, incorrect posture, overuse, under-use, incorrect use, sudden use etc. The blood flow to the area is restricted (therefore the oxygen and nutrient supply is also obscured), allowing the accumulation of metabolic waste. Painful spasms and restricted range of motion, happen more often than not. Now, this might make sense to a health professional or fitness fanatic, but to the average Joe, it's all Greek to them as far as they're concerned.
To simplify things, imagine, a muscle made up of bundles of elastic ropes, and each elastic rope is made up of shorter rubber bands attached to each other like the links of a chain (a bungee jump rope is a perfect example of the mechanic properties of a muscle fibre). A healthy muscle fibre has contractile and elastic properties, meaning it can contract and it can stretch, always to a certain point. For the reasons mentioned above, muscle fibres tend to stick together, resulting in an uneven application of force.
To visualise this better, imagine having 10 elastic bands in array, one end being the one you will tug on, the other end attached to a weight. By pulling onto your end, all 10 elastic bands will apply an even force onto the weight. Now, imagine tying a knot on a few of the elastic bands, therefore shortening the length of those few bands. When pulling onto your end now, not all 10 bands will be applying the same force onto the weight. Those, few knotted one's will pull stronger since they are shorter than the rest. Even at rest, those shorter bands will still be applying more force onto the attached weight. If this visualisation is helping, then try to imagine what it would be like to tie a few knots (say 3-4 knots) on those few elastic bands we chose to be knotted. Even further, imagine tying two different elastic bands together, while at the same time they are knotted. Ok, now mentally tug onto them. Will they all be applying an even, smooth force onto the attached weight?
Now, having a better idea of what "knots" are, let's go back to paragraph 2 and see how untreated "knots" can affect us in the long-term. As mentioned before, we are likely to ignore the pains and be patient till things sort themselves out. However, every untreated "knot" will heal to a certain point leaving an adhesive residue. This residue acts in an accumulative manner. And it is common that new adhesions will happen in the same, more or less, area that the previous ones exist, since those locations are already the weakest link in the muscle. This explains why people of an office-natured profession tend to get knots in their upper backs and necks, individuals with a large kyphotic curve get knots in their intra-scapular region, drivers get knots in their lower backs and so forth. This also explains why we tend to get chronic pains, but explaining the term "chronic" will be the issue of another blog.
A massage therapist will treat already existing "knots", prevent the accumulation of adhesions, and identify the reason(s) of why you have these "knots" in the first place. Keep in mind, that no therapist can "fix" you with a snap of their fingers. Recovery requires time and patience. Mostly on your end.