Expert answers to your health and wellness questions.
I've been on and off with my exercise and up and down with my weight the past few years and for some reason, whenever I start exercising again, I actually seem to gain a couple pounds during the first two to three weeks and get discouraged. Can you explain this?
Yes! And I have good news for you, so please read on with patience.
When a sedentary or somewhat inactive individual starts an exercise program, several changes occur in the body as it responds to this new stimulus. The sum of these changes can add a bit to the scale temporarily, despite your hopes for the exact opposite.
First of all, your muscle mass can increase and the added protein in the muscle stores additional water. The body also will start to store more glycogen (sugar for energy) in the muscles, and again, water storage plays a role. Several enzymes that process oxygen for fat burning also increase in quantity within the muscle cells.
And if this isn't enough, your connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) will toughen and thicken - and your total blood volume can increase by up to one pound within a week.
All of this better adapts your body to increased physical activity and helps to improve your workout efficiency, giving you the ability to do more and work harder with less effort as you continue to train.
So not only does the exercise get easier but as your fitness level continues to increase you become able to burn more calories per workout and have a higher residual calorie burn after the workout. That's when good things start to happen!
The key is to be consistent with your workouts and avoid the scale for a while if you're likely to get discouraged by what you see. Believe me, your weight will trend down in the long run as you continue your program.
The problem is you probably never have stuck with it long enough to win the prize.
Exercise is not the quickest way to lose weight but it is by far the best way to lose fat and keep it off for a lifetime.
So get off the yo-yo diet and exercise roller coaster and don't forget the old adage: Good things come to those who wait!
I was thinking of focusing a bit more on swimming this fall for general fitness and weight loss. What do you think - pros, cons?
Swimming is a great exercise and a joint-friendly way to cross-train. I always applaud variety in an exercise program. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Swimming, while offering excellent overall health benefits, has not been shown to be as effective as some forms of cardiovascular exercise in terms of its effect on fat loss. Maybe the body knows that a little extra fat helps a body swim better due to the buoyant effect! A couple of studies have shown that competitive swimmers have higher body fat levels than competitive runners or cyclists. Another study suggests that swimming in cooler water overstimulates the appetite so that the calories burned during the exercise bout are obliterated by post-exercise gobbling!
Also, since life is lived on land against the forces of gravity, a totally non-weight-bearing activity such as swimming is not entirely transferable to the functional strength and fitness requirements of activities of daily life, work and recreation.
Having said all that, I still can recommend swimming as a supplement to traditional cardiovascular exercise for cross-training purposes. Just don't rely on it as your only form of cardio unless you are forced to because of orthopedic issues.
I love fast food but I am trying to lose weight and improve my health. Is it OK to eat fast foods while on a diet program?
I'd love to tell you no, but the qualified answer is yes. As always, there are a few important points to keep in mind. We all know fast food isn't usually the healthiest option in town but we also know that setting realistic goals is an important component of any successful weight-loss program.
Therefore it might not make sense to completely deprive yourself of fast food, especially if it's necessary for convenience sake when you are crunched for time. That said, if an occasional trip turns into three to four hamburger value meals per week, your weight loss efforts likely will suffer.
The key is to become a savvy shopper and watch out for calorie-laden foods with added sugars, sodium and fat. Look for a "nutrition facts" pamphlet in local restaurants and educate yourself on their menus. Consider the small orders rather than large so your caloric intake remains reasonable even if the nutrient content isn't so good.
If you make the effort, you'll be able to find a sensible meal no matter where you go.
Remember, balance, variety and moderation are the words to live by when it comes to food. Eat more high fiber, highly nutrient dense foods (vegetables and fruit) when possible and avoid highly processed, high calorie foods with low fiber and nutrient content.
If you apply these principles regularly and watch the quantity of intake, you won't have to sacrifice your health and wellness goals when eating out.
Jay Bryan is an exercise physiologist and Heidi Bryan is a certified personal trainer.
To ask Jay or Heidi a question, e-mail them at: sequim@anytime fitness.com.