Weekly fitTip: Never Stretch Before a Workout

Every once in a while we all get these mysterious sprains or injuries from our activities of daily life or our regular workouts.  These so-called injuries can last anywhere from overnight or go on for days or even weeks.  Very frustrating and senseless as it’s often hard to pinpoint the actual cause.  Most people simply resolve to the fact that they probably didn’t warm up enough.

Well, the truth is, warming up can be a double-edged sword, not only can it prevent injury, but it can also be the cause of injury.

First of all, injuries can be pretty complicated and your lack of warming up may not totally be to blame, but one thing is for sure:  Warming up WILL help you reduce your risk of injury.  You need to get yourself moving and get that blood flowing to your muscles to properly prepare your body before you get all crazy with the dumbbells.

Problem is, most people have been taught that stretching is part of warming-up.  After all, isn’t that what all the fitness magazines suggest.  Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth and it’s exactly the kind of advise that initiates those senseless injuries.

Here’s why you should NEVER stretch before your workout:

#1 Stretching before your workout can increase your risk of injury:

There’s a common misconception that stretching reduces your risk of injury by “loosening” up your muscles.  Well, it’s not all wrong…static stretching can help elongate and relax your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  But here’s the catch: static stretching reduces your muscles’ ability to contract.

And since your muscles need to be ready to contract (concentrically and eccentrically) at vigorous rates as soon as you start exercising, you want them to be ready for action — NOT in a long and relaxed state. You’re much more likely to pull a muscle when you suddenly try to exert force (like lifting weights) from a relaxed state.  This is why static stretching is not the activity of choice prior to working out.

#2 Stretching is NOT warming-up:

Your warm-up should be a lighter version of what your actual workout is going to be (I call it a “Dynamic Warm-Up”.  For example, if one of the exercises you plan on doing is lunges with dumbbells, then your warm up should be lunges without the weights.  You should do all the low-intensity versions of the exercises you’ll be doing in your workout to properly prepare your muscles, ligaments and joints.  This is why it makes all the difference to plan what you’re going to do before you go the gym.

The whole point of warming up is to get your heart rate up, get your blood flowing and pump more oxygen to your muscles so you can prepare to dive into your workout.  If you stretch during your warm-up, you’re going to let your heart rate back down and allow your muscles to relax…and “undo” what you were trying to accomplish in the first place!

When should you stretch?

Stretching is extremely important, but what’s more important is WHEN you stretch.  Never stretch before a workout, only AFTER your workout.  You want to have good flexibility because that helps reduce risk of injury, but it’s crucial that you don’t work on it until after your workout when you’re cooling down – that’s the right time to lengthen and relax your muscles.

Now, keep this in mind during your next workout and see if you experience the difference.  I can almost guarantee you won’t be getting anymore of those mysterious injuries.

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Balance your pH level and Lose Fat Fast!

pH is a chemistry term that describes whether something is acidic or basic (alkaline).  It’s based on a scale from 1-14.  1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic.  The middle is neutral at pH 7.  This is an important number, since your body happens to function most optimally at pH 7.  In fact, you can only survive within a very strict range of pH 7.

Thankfully, your body has many built-in mechanisms to ensure that the pH level doesn’t ever veer too much.  However, it’s always best to keep as much strain off of your body as possible to ensure that it keeps functioning optimally.

One way to do so is by eating a well-balanced diet.  Now, all foods have an acidic or basic value.  All proteins (meats, poultry, fish and dairy) and refined carbs (ESPECIALLY grains) are acidic foods, whereas all unrefined carbs, which are your fruits and vegetables are basic and most fats are neutral.

Since proteins are essential in your diet, these are acidic foods that are necessary and it’s easy to balance them out by eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Where you can get into trouble is when you consume refined carbs – especially grains like breads, pasta, rice and all packaged snacks such as chips, cookies, crackers and so on.  These foods are highly acidic not to mention packed with sugar and calories and do nothing for your weight loss endeavors.  Another food you should try to avoid is cheese.  I know it’s delicious, but it’s also highly acidic and dense in calories.

Avoiding these highly acidic foods will give your body a break from having to use its own vital organs and bone minerals to neutralize the acidic foods.  The less your body has to expend energy and nutrients on keeping your body functioning, the more energy it has to enhance metabolic processes that helps you recover faster, burn more fat and build lean muscles quicker.

So to optimize your body’s functions stick to eating natural whole foods.  Eat plenty of protein and balance it out by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  You really can’t eat enough greens…ever!  This is one case where more is better.  And don’t forget to throw in some healthy fats in the mix to balance it all out.

The great thing is the way you need to eat to maintain an optimal pH level in your body also happens to be the best way to maximize your health and weight loss as well!  Coincidence?  I think not.

Here’s a pH balance chart that will help you keep the acid foods and alkaline foods in a better perspective making it easier to make better food choices.

Acid Alkaline Chart