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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How To Stop Muscle Loss

It's actually a fine line between peak-training and over-training. In our keen efforts to achieve optimal fitness or build that lean, muscular physique, our diligent training can sometimes create more harm than good. Here's why...

What are the symptoms of over-training?

• Tiredness, bordering on apathy
• Chronic fatigue
• Insomnia
• Injuries that do not heal
• Loss of lean muscle tissue
• Frequent colds and infections, due to a lowered immune system
• Biochemical depression
• Craving stimulants caffeine and sugars
• Having a tough time getting started in the morning
• Muscle cramps, due to mineral deficiencies
• Feeling 'brain-dead'.

How can we prevent overtraining?

There is a common misconception that stress is bad for us, but the truth is, in some instances it can be quite enjoyable, even addictive. For example, a cup of coffee with sugar is actually a biochemical stress; driving a car in traffic is a stre! ss; work, family, relationships and bungee-jumping are also common sources of stress that we might face in our daily lives. In order for our mind/body system to function effectively, it actually needs some type of stress to get it going.

Stress stimulates our adrenal glands (those responsible for the fight/flight responses) to release very powerful hormones called 'adrenaline' and 'cortisol' to help our body deal with the incoming stress. These hormones are so powerful that they affect not only our whole physiology, but our moods, energy levels, behaviour and general wellbeing.

What does stress have to do with our training?

According to neurologist Professor Paul MacLean, our human brain is actually a 'triune' brain that is comprised of three distinct sections.

1. Reptilian brain: controls muscles, balance and autonomic functions such as breathing and heartbeat. This part of the brain rema! ins active, even during deep sleep.

2. Limbic brain: is ! concerne d with our emotions and instincts, as well as digestion, elimination, fight/flight response and sexual behaviour. This emotional system responds according to what is 'agreeable' or 'disagreeable' to us. This is the level where we are consciously and unconsciously avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

3. Cerebral Cortex: is the logical, rational thinking part of the brain. The place where our ego/identity resides and the part of our brain that feels safe when it is in control of situations.

According to Professor MacLean's research, the interaction between the three parts of our brain are as follows: the cerebral cortex has no influence or control on the primitive brain, but the primitive parts (limbic and reptilian) hijack the thinking brain during times of stress. This explains why people often become irrational, forgetful, spacey or highly emotional when under stress.

Overtraining will add stress on top of stress

If we are already challenged with the ! amount of stress in our life - whether work-related, study, exams, promotion, relationships or finances - our reptilian/limbic parts of the brain are activated by the stress hormones which, in turn, activate our survival programs to help us deal with it.

As we've mentioned, the primitive brain does not respond to the commands from the rational thinking brain; instead, the limbic/reptilian survival centres take their instructions from the adrenaline pumping through our system. And since our reptilian brain controls muscles and movement but is incapable of rational thinking, it is also unable to distinguish the difference between running away from a lion, running away from an executive boss, a deadline, or running on a treadmill; all it knows is that it is running for survival.

This explains how too many high-intensity workouts can push us into the over-training zone, particularly if our body is already challenged and stressed due to other areas in our life.

Over-training ties into the fact that hormones work in pairs.! When ad renaline is released in response to stress, the even more powerful hormone, cortisol, is also released into our bloodstream. Excess cortisol stimulates glucose production and simultaneously catabolises (breaks down) lean muscle tissue for energy. This is obviously not a good outcome for anyone on a fat loss program or for someone trying to build lean muscle tissue.

Putting it all into action

Having health and fitness goals is helpful, as long as the goals are not so rigid that they override our inner instincts or our biorhythms, to push us into over-training mode.

Our bodies do not speak the language of verbs and nouns like we do; instead, communication occurs through symptoms. For example, low energy levels, aches and pains are our body's way of telling us to ease off, rest and recuperate.

It is a fine line between optimal training and overtraining, and only your body knows where that line is. Be sure to listen when it's trying to tell you you've ove! rstepped the mark and need to back off. After all, when it comes to over-training, pain has no gain.

In Wellness!

Teya Skae
Health and Life Coach
Dip Health Sciences
Dip Clinical Nutrition

Hello and welcome as the founder of Empowered Living an Education and Wellness center in Sydney, I enjoy working with the whole person and bringing practical solutions to your physical, nutritional, emotional imbalances. I work in the area of helping people accept the unacceptable. If you are struggling with your health, or energy levels, corporate burnout, emotional stress or unresolved issues that drain your energy, then there is something going on a much deeper level. When you are able to ENERGE! TICALLY accept what is most unacceptable in your life be it pa! in, rela tionships gone astray, lack of self-worth, a dynamic change takes place at a deeper level/cellular level. In my experience, we can't change just by talking ourselves into it, but we can change it by energetically accepting the issue. This is the area that I love working in, helping people to accept the most Unacceptable, in Wellness and Success, Teya!

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