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Apr 08 2014

Upper Respiratory Infections in Athletes

By: Coach Alexis Alvarez

If you want to be the best possible version of yourself exercise is a biological imperative. There is no pill that can instantly replace the beneficial effects of exercise, such as an increased sense of well-being, lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, increased metabolism, improved lung function, and even improved immune system response. Sometimes, however, even the healthiest of athletes can fall victim to an upper-respiratory bug.  You or someone you know has probably felt the wrath of some vicious pathogen doing it’s nasty business in your throat, lungs and sinus cavities. This Spring I’ve seen a lot of this, and  so I thought it would be a good topic of discussion.

Prolonged vigorous exercise places stress on the body and with stress comes stress hormones such as cortisone. Cortisone is vital. Cortisone in the right amounts reduces inflammation and keeps the immune system from over reacting, but too much of it can also be a health risk. Too much exercise equals too much stress and in turn that amounts to high levels of the stress hormone cortisone.  Heightened levels of cortisone (either from exercise or daily stress) can have the negative side effect of signaling the immune system to “take it a little easier” leaving your body susceptible to biological threats such as bacteria and viruses.

After prolonged vigorous exercise cortisone level can remain pretty high for up to twelve hours.  This period of high cortisone can be referred to as a “window period”. If vigorous exercise like this continues day after day this can lead to chronic immunosuppression, this means the “window period” stays open.

The “window period” is not a bad thing, and in reality it is completely necessary for your recovery. Picture your body as a fortress and exercise as a battle of sorts. After the battle your body tells the military (immune system) to stand down so that the citizens  (cells) can begin repairs.  Your body needs to make repairs , but you also need to protect yourself.

What can you do to protect yourself?

1) Stay Hydrated Duh!!!

Yes, it sounds cliché’ but the importance of staying hydrated cannot be overstated. The cells of your immune system depend on the passages of your lymphatic system to move through your body. Not drinking enough water thickens lymphatic fluid and impairs the movement of your immune system’s cells.

2) Adequate nutrition.

Some athletes may under eat because they are trying to look leaner or are trying to lose weight. Whatever the case, make sure you get enough protein. The “window period” will stay open longer if you’re body can’t recover because it doesn’t have the protein needed to do repairs.

3) Antioxidants

Some antioxidants can prevent illnesses by shoring up your immune system.   Zinc, Vitamin C, Quercetin, and Vitamin E are strong supporters of the immune system.

4) Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene keeps your body from being overwhelmed by foreign invaders that can potentially cause an illness.

5) Get enough sleep

Recovery happens during sleep. Without enough sleep, your cortisone levels may stay elevated longer than they should be causing a weaker immune system.

6) Avoid overtraining

Listen to your body. This is one of the harder things to do.

A little soreness is ok, but soreness to point where your range of motion is compromised and you feel utterly weak is too much. Don’t feel bad if you take a day or two off for your health, you’re not Rich Froning….. yet.

Protect your Gainz  by protecting your health especially during  this cold and flu season.

Apr 08 2014

CrossFit Meal Prepping Tips

By: Coach Ale Montalvo

One of the most overwhelming decisions we all face after joining a CrossFit gym, or any gym for that matter, is what diet to follow to get you ideal results – now! It is completely understandable that taking on a whole new challenge such as eating healthy can be pretty daunting or nerve-wrecking for some of us. More than anything it is due to our super “busy” schedules that leave us very little time to spare on cooking full-on meals. For many people, that’s why it is so darn easy to just skip breakfast in the mornings, go out to eat for lunch, and pick up dinner on the way home. Preparing your meals for the week can help you save time and money, while also helping you stay on track to reaching your goals. Although this article will not give you the magical diet or formula to follow to get those results it will touch on a very popular activity that directly helps make clean eating much less challenging – meal planning, a.k.a. meal prepping.

There are tons of meal-prep tips and tricks to make things easier on yourself, especially when we´re barely starting. A simple search on Pinterest or Google will help provide you with many of these tips and tricks that many in our shoes have figured out and have been kind enough to share. Here is a small compilation of some of my personal favorites in no particular order:

1. Buy Tupperware, lots of it. Don´t underestimate the need for good Tupperware. My suggestion is to buy the big container at Sams or Costco that has a great variety of sizes and for a very cheap price. If you´re anything like me just make sure you mark your Tupperware with your name so that you don´t lose it. I personally like the snap tops but just make sure you purchase durable containers. Oh, and don´t forget about the handy mason jars as an alternative to plastic.
2. Plan your recipes or meals around Tuesday´s grocery specials. Every Tuesday grocery stores in town send out their grocery specials for the week. Take about 15 minutes while you wait for your kid to get out of school or practice or even while you´re winding down in bed to browse through the specials and make note of what items are on sale. Then come up with simple little recipes using those items. This will be a great way to get organized so that whatever day you choose to do your grocery shopping you will have everything jotted down that you need for the week.
3. Don’t get too fancy. One of the most common mistakes we make when we start preparing meals at home is to look up recipes online and try to do them all at once or get too excited and shoot for the most extensive recipes you find. If you have the time, by all means go for it! But realistically speaking, if it takes you thirty minutes to look over a recipe and another hour and a half to prepare it and make it, it´s probably not the smartest thing to do. So keep it simple. More than anything try to keep it fun. Incorporate the whole family. Not only will this allow you to spend time with your loved ones, but it´s also true that kids who help out in the kitchen become more aware of their eating habits and are also more likely to try new foods.
4. GRILL! Grilling is the easiest and least dirty (in terms of washing dishes) form of meal prepping you will find. Grill your veggies, your meats, and more if you´d like!
5. Bulk cook and buy. There are items that you know you will use often or in large quantities. I´m sure most of you already do this but it serves as a friendly reminder that you should take advantage of these cost savings ONLY on items that are actually worth it. Don´t just buy to have the food or ingredients stored. On a similar note, if you have dishes that you love to eat over and over again you can just make these in large quantities. Then simply portion them into Tupperware and store them in the fridge (or freezer, depending how long until you want to eat it again).
One disclaimer I would like to give after mentioning all these tips is that meal prepping can get pretty boring for lack of a better word if you’re eating the same foods over and over again. Therefore, it´s really important to play around with seasonings and simple recipes that can be Googled or even shared amongst friends and workout buddies. Trust me, we all have our go-to recipes and sharing these can mean adding variation to your meals, which is a must!

Mar 21 2014

Why You Should Stop Pulling Early: The Power of the Arms vs. the Hips

By: Coach Josh Duran

“You’re pulling early”, “Finish that second pull”, “HIPS”, “Explode from the hips”, if you have spent any significant amount of time in a CrossFit gym, you have definitely heard these phrases.  For whatever reason, so many people who are still new to Olympic lifting, think that if they want to lift heavier weight that they need to do so using their big strong shoulders, with the help of their massive biceps and triceps!  This idea could not be more wrong.  No matter how big and strong your upper body is, it will never be able to match the power of the core.

Lets look at this purely from a physics aspect.  When we lift a bar from the floor up to either the front rack position of the clean or to the locked out overhead position of the snatch, we are doing so using force.  We are forcing the bar to move from one position to another.  But what exactly creates force?  Well Sir Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion explains this.  It states that The net force on an object is equal to the rate of change in mass and acceleration (Force = Mass x Acceleration).  Basically, the more mass or weight we can get to move in an accelerated direction, the more force we are creating.  So now that we know this, let’s look back at those big shoulders and arms of yours!  Compare the mass of your upper chest and arms to the mass combination of the back, abdomen, hips, glutes, quads, thighs, and hamstrings.  There is no comparison as to which group has the larger mass.  So if we want to generate more force, we need to activate the larger mass.   Think about when a baseball pitcher is winding up to throw the ball to home plate.  The first thing he does is lift his lead leg up in the air, what this is doing is gathering the mass of his entire body.  He then plants that leg in the ground and begins his throwing motion using his entire body as the mass used to generate the force of the throw.

Remember now that the other half of the equation for Force deals with acceleration.  This is where the hips come in!  The hips are what allow us to set our core in motion (generate acceleration).  The faster we can get that mass to start moving, the more force we will have by the end of the lift.  Generating acceleration comes from speed but mainly from explosiveness.  This is generating the most amount of speed in the shortest amount of time.  If you can find a way to activate the mass of your core and can do so in a quick, explosive manner at the perfect time, that is when you will maximize the force needed for these lifts.  It sounds very complicated, but that’s what practice is for.
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Mar 20 2014

Mobility Tools and their Uses

By: Coach Jennifer Kruse

When it comes to stretching, mobilizing and releasing painful, tight muscles there is no full-proof, 100% effective method. Each athlete is different as is each tight , restrictive body part and therefore, a variety of tools and methods can be used to release tightness, regain mobility and proper range of motion.

The lacrosse ball, roller and large “Super Nova” ball from Rogue (or any dense, cylindrical object) is wonderful for tacking down, or trapping, a specific tight muscle and restoring movement and blood flow. The idea is to locate a specific area that is tight by rolling the ball or roller over the area until a location is found that is tight, painful or moves poorly. Once located, keeping the tool on the site and forcing a proper range of motion by moving muscle fibers underneath, working at a minimum of 2 minutes per location or until there is a change.

*A “change” normally feels like blood flow has returned to the site, pain or tightness has subsided and there’s almost a weightless feeling.

Voodoo floss, or a compression band, is an amazing tool for restoring motion. It can help with swollen joints, restore blood flow to matted-down tissues and help muscles improve contraction. Like the tools mentioned above, once identifying a muscle or joint that needs help, wrap a voodoo band snuggly by overlapping the band a 1/4in. and secure the end by tucking it into itself. Ensure that it’s not too tight—tingling and/or a loss of color is an indication the band is too tight. Once in place, movement through a range of motion needs to be done for about 2 minutes. Say that an athlete feels tight through the elbow when putting a barbell overhead or doing pullups. With the voodoo band on, the athlete could do a set of presses overhead, pullups or ring rows to really target the effected area. Once the band is removed, retest the site for the desired results. The limited blood flow with the band and the return of blood flow once the band is removed aids in recovery and healing.

Resistance bands, or pullup bands, can help stretch tight muscle as well as create tension to gently dislocate joints or open a restricted site via “flossing” in a primary area and/or assisting muscles. If an athlete finds that they are tight through the hip flexor, he can stretch and lengthen the hip flexor and quad while “flossing” the assisting muscles, the hamstring and glute. This further helps open through the hip flexor. Two birds with one stone, as they say.

There are a variety of other mobility tools (barbell, kettlebell, a friendly partner), you’re only limited to your imagination.

Remember….

Keep aiming for perfect range of motion.
Attack your tight bits often.
Work on those tight bits at least 2 minutes, or until you feel a change.
Take care of your body, it’s your only one!

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Mar 18 2014

What’s the Big Deal about Gluten?

By: Coach Samantha Bencomo

I think at one point in our mission to become healthier individuals we all felt like that guy in the video. Your coach tells you “try going on a gluten-free diet. It changed my life!” and the first thing you think is “what the heck is gluten?” Embarrassed and afraid of seeming uneducated, you go home and Google “gluten”. Immediately you are overwhelmed with a bunch of information but still don’t know what to do with it or what gluten really is. Why are we told not to eat ‘gluten’ in particular? What’s so bad about it? After all, it IS the foundation of our, oh so trustworthy, Food Pyramid. Gluten can be a very complex topic if you choose to really look at the science behind it; however, it can also be very simple to understand if you understand basic nutrition.

What is Gluten and which foods contain it?
Gluten is the main structural protein complex of wheat and other grains. You can find gluten in:
· Grains such as wheat, rye, barley, couscous, etc.

· Foods like bread, baked goods, pasta, cereals, noodles

· Hidden sources like salad dressings, yogurt, processed foods, soy sauce, beer, and candy

We can thank the Egyptians for introducing wheat and grains to our diet. Back then, wheat and grains were easily stored and used during famine and drought. However, due to modern technology, scientists are able to reengineer wheat into what is now called dwarf wheat. This comes with one problem though, our new wheat which has been referred to as “Frankenwheat” by Dr. David Paul Kirkpatrick has been cross-bred and hybridized so much that it’s chromosomes have actually doubled. What does this mean in simpler terms? More gluten.

Why can’t our bodies digest gluten easily?
First of all, just to make sure we all understand what a protein is, a protein is a long chain of amino acids. Amino acids are essential nutrients for our body. These have to be consumed through diet because our body does not naturally produce them. Within each protein, there are amino acids being separated by chemical bonds. Your stomach breaks the chemical bonds to free the amino acids so they are ready to be absorbed. Because the chemical bond structure is different in wheat and grains, it is harder for those bonds to break which, in turn, makes it hard for your stomach to absorb the amino acids.

How does gluten affect our bodies?
Gluten consists of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. The gliadin is the part that people react negatively to. Once gluten reaches the digestive tract, the cells of the immune system recognize it as foreign material and react to it. In most cases, especially with people who are sensitive to gluten, the immune system decides to try and attack. In someone with celiac disease, not only the gluten proteins are attacked but so are enzymes of the digestive tract which then eats away at the intestinal walls. Degeneration of the intestinal walls can lead to many health issues like nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, fatigue, anemia, and increased risk of many serious diseases.
In order to regulate intestinal permeability, the cells have many duties within the intestinal wall. With people who are sensitive to gluten, once they consume any product containing the gluten protein, the gut cells then release a protein called Zonulin which can break apart the tight junctions that actually hold your intestines together. If this happens, you will then have something called a ‘leaky gut’. With a leaky gut, toxins, microbes, antibodies and undigested food particles are allowed to travel out of the intestines and into parts of your body via your bloodstream. The problem with this is the antibodies that escape are that antibodies needed to break down gliadin in the first place.

What are some signs that of gluten intolerance?
Not everyone is extremely sensitive to gluten, but we all have some form of intolerance to it because it is still a foreign item to our body.
A few signs that you may be gluten intolerant include:
· Gastrointestinal problems, stomach problems, and digestive problems like gas, bloating, queasiness, abdominal cramps, constipation and diarrhea

· Constant migraines or headaches

· Emotional issues like mood changes or depression

· Neurological issues such as dizziness, difficulty balancing, and pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in extremities

· Fatigue (either chronic or after every meal)

If you think you may be gluten intolerant then you should try going on a gluten-free diet for 60 days. You can also see a doctor (preferably a nutritionist) to get some tests done to determine whether you are or not and how severe it may be.

If there are so many problems wrong with this protein we are putting in our body then why do we continue to consume it? Gluten-free items have been on the rise, but beware before simply reaching for one of these options. Many products which are advertised as “gluten-free” can be just as processed and unnatural as those products that use wheat. Rather than only emphasizing a gluten-free diet, which is only part of the puzzle, we focus as well on improving overall nutrition – whole foods, unprocessed, pure products that will enhance and fuel you, rather than satiate a craving.

Doctors and scientists are finally realizing the harmful effects of gluten in our bodies and so should we. I encourage everyone to try and diet free of gluten and see how you feel after. You never know, you may just solve the medical mystery happening in your body that your doctor can’t seem to figure out.
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