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The Importance of Hydration For Performance

Why is fluid important?

Our bodies are made up of 50-70% water – it is found in every cell, tissue and organ. Our bodies need water to:

  • transport nutrients in the blood
  • help chemical reactions take place (eg: digesting food)
  • replace fluid lost through sweating and breathing
  • remove waste products through the urine

Why is fluid important during exercise?

During exercise, the body cools itself by sweating. This results in a loss of body fluid that can lead to dehydration if not replaced.

Sweat production (fluid loss) differs for everyone and depends on factors such as age, genetics, clothing, body surface area, exercise intensity and the training environment – with increases in temperature, humidity, and high-intensity exercise causing a higher rate of sweat loss, and therefore requiring a greater need for fluid replacement.

Dehydration and performance

Exercise performance can be impaired when an individual experiences even mild dehydration. The reason for this is reduced oxygen intake due to the cardiovascular system working harder to keep body temperature normal. This increase in heart rate and body temperature, with reduced oxygen intake, can make exercise feel more difficult (compared to training in a hydrated state) and mental fatigue can occur, bringing about lapses in skill level, concentration and decision-making.

But can you drink too much?

Drinking more fluid than required can also impair performance. A stomach full of fluid is certainly not comfortable when trying to exercise, and on a more serious note, over-hydration can dilute electrolytes in the blood causing serious side-effects such as headaches, disorientation and in very severe cases, coma or death. Please note this is quite rare and dehydration is a lot more common in exercising individuals.

How much fluid should I drink?

The amount of fluid you drink will depend on your individual needs. If you are a serious athlete, you should consult a sports dietitian who can assist you with calculating your sweat losses and help you devise a hydration plan.

Before Exercise

It is important to start exercise in a hydrated state. An easy way to gauge this is to check the colour of your urine as per the image below – if your urine is a light yellow colour, you are most likely hydrated.

If your urine is darker, you’ll need to start sipping on fluids leading up to your exercise session. Between 200-400ml is a good start to help you commence exercise with an improved hydration status without feeling bloated from too much water.

During Exercise

“Drink to Thirst”. This means sipping on fluids as you feel is required. This will avoid visits to the toilet and an upset stomach. Again, if you are a serious athlete, “drinking to thirst” may not be enough and a hydration plan may need to be devised.

After Exercise

The goal after exercise is to replace all lost fluids and electrolytes. One simple way to achieve this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. If you weigh less after your session compared to before, multiply the difference by 125-150% and this is the amount of fluid you will need to drink over the next 4-6 hours to replace the fluids lost during exercise.

In regards to electrolyte replacement, drinking fluids alongside slightly salty recovery snacks such as bread, milk or cereal, will help your body rehydrate more effectively. Another option is to drink a sports drink – especially if the session was over 90 minutes in length and/or in hot and humid conditions.

What are the best fluids to drink?

For short duration, lower intensity exercise, water is the best fluid option before, during and after exercise. If you’re exercising for over 90 minutes and/or in hot and humid conditions, sports drinks may be a better option due to their concentration of carbohydrates (for energy) and electrolytes (stimulating thirst and helping the body re-hydrate more efficiently).

Two beverages that are not good to drink around exercise are alcohol and energy drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic (causing us to urinate), so drinking it before exercise will set you up for dehydration and prevent rehydration if consumed after exercise.

Energy drinks are another poor fluid choice due to their higher carbohydrate content, which can cause stomach discomfort during exercise. Also, while a small amount of caffeine via a coffee per se, may help you feel more alert and energized for exercise, a recent study found the caffeine from energy drinks results in more profound changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which could have serious consequences in regards to performance and health. This could be due to the other stimulants in energy drinks. (For more information on caffeine, checkout our previous article posted on 12 May 2017).

 

While many athletes and fitness-lovers focus intently on their training and nutrition, it is imperative that hydration is not forgotten. The consequences of dehydration can be quite serious – especially with Shanghai’s hot and humid summer months coming up. If you want to know more about fluid and hydration, or would like to schedule a nutrition consultation with our sports dietitian, contact XpertHealth via our WeChat page or info@xperthealth.com.

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5 Healthy Habits That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

From the XpertHealth team to you – The healthy habits that we try to live by.

Most of us have goals in many areas of our lives. We work towards big goals at work, using different strategies trying to achieve them; we have yet another set of strategies to achieve the goals we set with our training, and yet some other goals with our personal lives, our health and so on. For many of us it is our habits that make the biggest difference in the endeavour to reach our goals. This is also where some of us tend to struggle.

The way we look at healthy habits are very individual, and differs widely even within our own team. When asked to list five healthy habits that we try to incorporate in our lifestyles the members of our team all listed something different. This doesn’t mean that the five habits my colleague listed are more accurate than mine or the other way around, on the contrary. We base our replies on our own circumstances, goals, personalities, and knowledge.

Instead of using this article to tell you what we believe are the best five healthy habits to focus on, we hope that you will use this as inspiration to find your own five habits that will make sure your lifestyle supports your goals.

So here are some of the healthy habits that we try to incorporate into our lives.

Nutrition:

· Strive to eat as much fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 500g of fruits and vegetables each day, which is around 2 pieces of fruit and 2-3 cups of chopped vegetables.

· Always try to have 1 fist-sized amount of vegetables each with your lunch and dinner.

· Remember to enjoy the food that you eat! Use the internet to learn about “Mindful Eating” and stop feeling guilty about your food choices. Choose that chocolate cake and savour it!

· Stay hydrated! Carry a water bottle with you every day and drink at least 1.5L of fluids (preferably water) per day, and even more on hot days or during exercise.

· No foods are forbidden- however you may need to eat less of some foods and more of others depending on your health and goals.

Sleep:

· Make sleep a priority!  Sleep is time for the body to rest, recover and relax and it is very important for our bodies and brains to have some down time.

· Try to go to bed before 11pm each night to make sure you get that much needed rest.

 

Exercise & Physical Activity:

· Make movement part of your daily life! Our bodies were made for movement, so move as much as possible and in different ways.

· Aim to be out of breath from exercise at least 3 times each week. Exercise helps relieve stress, releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good hormones), and reduces the risks of a multitude of chronic diseases and mental illnesses. Exercise is good for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

 

Life Balance:

· Strive towards a balance between all areas of life – work life, personal life, social life and love life.

· Try to minimise the use of electronics in bed before going to sleep – this includes your phone, iPad, laptops and TV. Screens omit blue wavelength that affect sleep. And surely there isn’t an email so important it can’t wait until the next morning?!

· Create a lifestyle where a healthy diet, exercise and your mental wellbeing are equally important.

 

Emotional Health:

· Never go a day without smiling and laughing! Life is better when you smile. If you ever struggle, fake a smile in the mirror and keep smiling like that until that forced smile turns into a real smile.

· Expect the unexpected in life! By removing expectations you will also reduce your overall stress and frustration.

· Keep the positive people in your life, and remove yourself from those who bring you down.

· Be kind to yourself! Take your current circumstances into consideration and don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes life gets busy and you need to change your plans.

· Listen to your body! It tends to tell us when to slow down, to speed up, to eat, drink and sleep. Are you listening?

You can choose to adapt to all, or none, of these habits but reflect on what is important for you, and what habits will help you
reach your goals. How does your lifestyle and health today compare to your goals and where you want to be? Are there any changes that you can easily make or are your habits really good already? If you know that you want to make a change but are not sure where to start, then contact us today and let us help you.

It all starts with one question: What is your goal? 

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Successful Weight Loss

What is the best way to lose weight? There is an overabundance of information available on social media platforms about the “best way”. However, very few of us consider asking the people who have lost a lot of weight how they achieved it. These people are the real weight loss experts.

What is their secret? According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) – a research group that investigates the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss – there is no single best way to lose weight. Not one. There are actually many ways to lose weight. And the best way is that which suits the individual.

Even though the best method is that which suits the individual, the NWCR has found three common factors that are employed by individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. These are:

1.     Regular self-weighing

2.     Eating a smaller variety of food

3.     Intense exercise.
To expand on these points:

1. Regular self-weighing

Regular self-weighing allows an individual to keep track of sneaky weight gain and make immediate lifestyle changes to rectify the situation. During particularly celebratory periods, such as holidays or Christmas, it’s quite easy to put on an extra 300-500g of weight. It doesn’t sound like much, but over the years we all know it can start to add up.

For the sake of an argument though, we shouldn’t purely base our weight loss success on the scale number. There are many other ways to track weight loss. For example, how do your clothes fit; how much energy do you have; are you making healthier food choices; are you sleeping better; are you managing your stress more appropriately? All of these lifestyle changes promote healthy and sustainable weight loss.
A sensible recommendation is to weigh yourself once a week or fortnightly on the same day and at the same time. This will enable you to stay on track without obsessing over it.

2. Eating a smaller variety of food

The NWCR found that individuals who succeeded with weight loss ate a smaller variety of food no matter if it was a weekday, weekend or holiday, ie: they always ate similar foods. This isn’t to say we need to eat the same food everyday (that would be both boring and unhealthy), but try to eat similar portions of food and similar types of food each day. For example, if you eat a sandwich everyday for lunch during the week, eat a sandwich for lunch on the weekend – just mix up the sandwich fillings to keep it interesting.

3. Intense Exercise

The NWCR found that people who have succeeded with longterm weight loss burnt an average of 2,621 calories per week. For an 84kg (185lb) male, this equates to a 1-hour jog four times a week, or two 1-hour games of basketball and two spinning classes per week.

Intensity is one of the most important factors when it comes to exercise and fat loss. One of the simplest and most effective ways to gauge how hard you are working is to measure your heart rate while exercising.

A possible way to do this is via the 180 Method, which subtracts a person’s chronological age from 180 to find their maximum heart rate. This figure is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors.

Once you know your maximum heart rate, check out our “What is Your Zone?” article from May 19 to see which zone you should be training in to reach your goals – be they related to speed, performance, or weight loss.

No matter what sport or physical activity you do, just make sure you are moving everyday! And find an enjoyable routine that suits your lifestyle.

So there they are – the three most common habits of individuals who have succeeded at longterm weight loss. Of most importance is this: find what works for you because you know your body best.

If you need some assistance finding the right approach for your own weight loss goals, contact us today. We’ll be With You Every Step of the Way.

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Vitamin D for Health & Performance


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for health. Exposing our skin to sensible amounts of ultraviolet rays from the sun is the most plentiful way to obtain vitamin D, but it is also naturally found in fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel), egg yolks and wild mushrooms. In addition to natural forms, vitamin D is found in fortified foods and in supplement form.

An optimal vitamin D status is essential for countless bodily functions, making it an important nutrient for all individuals.

ROLE IN THE BODY

Amongst other roles, vitamin D:

  • assists to maintain levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood to enable the continual formation, growth and remodelling of bones;
  • support cell growth;
  • maintain neuromuscular and immune function;
  • can help reduce inflammation within the body.

 

COULD YOU BE DEFICIENT?

The rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are prominent worldwide. A study in 2004 found over 77% of Americans were considered to have insufficient levels of vitamin D, and another study in 2013 found only 5% of Chinese citizens were sufficient in vitamin D.

 

Particularly “at risk” groups include:

  • People with naturally very dark skin;
  • People who cover up from the sun and delibirately avoid sun exposure;
  • People who work in occupations with limited sun exposure (eg: office workers);
  • People with chronic disease or fat malabsorption syndromes (eg: diabetes or coeliac disease, respectively).

ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

Due to the many essential roles of vitamin D within the body, researchers have started to examine the influence of vitamin D on physical performance and injury.

  •  A study examining male military recruits found vitamin D status to be a significant determinant of maximal peak bone mass and that insufficient levels of vitamin D significantly increased the risk of stress fractures.
  • A study using female navy recruits found that those who supplemented with vitamin D had a 20% lower incidence of stress fractures.
  • Poor vitamin D status was associated with reduced forearm strength in adolescent females. In the same population group, muscle power and jump height were positively associated with adequate vitamin D levels.
  • Multiple performance studies in older adults (over 65 years) have associated low vitamin D levels to decreased reaction time, poor balance, and an increased risk of falling. In addition, vitamin D supplementation in this population showed improvements in strength and walking distance. Although the aging population is not quite indicative of a typical athlete, the positive results in older adults is encouraging for scientists to further research vitamin D and athletic performance.

 

 

HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

The intake measurement of vitamin D is expressed in “International Units” (IU). The Endocrine Society recommends 400–1000 IU of vitamin D per day for infants, 600–1000 IU/day for children (1-18 years) and 1500–2000 IU/day for adults. This is in addition to sensible sun exposure, which is about 15 to 20 minutes daily with 40% of the skin surface exposed to sunshine.

The serum level of vitamin D is measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) via a blood test. As mentioned above, although research in the area of vitamin D status and athletic performance is preliminary, the findings suggest a serum level above 40 ng/mL will give athletes the best chance of possibly improving their anaerobic athletic performance.

 

 

From a nutrition perspective, food should always come first! However, for most of us living in China, it would be prudent to look into a vitamin D supplement due to many of the “at risk” criteria being relevant. If you did want to obtain most of your vitamin D from food, you would be looking to eat similar to the following each day: 100g of canned salmon (624IU), 1 mackerel fillet (403IU), two large eggs (36IU), and two cups of fortified milk (254IU).

 

 

Optimal vitamin D levels are essential for many significant functions of the body – including bone health, electrolyte regulation, protein synthesis and immunity. These vital functions are essential for all individuals, and especially so for elite and recreational athletes who put their bodies under repetitive stress. Therefore, even though there is limited literature available to support a positive effect from vitamin D on performance, obtaining optimal levels should be a goal for all athletic and active individuals.

If you are curious to discuss your diet and want to know more about vitamins and how they can affect your health and training, please contact XpertHealth today!

 

References available.

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Concussion 101

With more attention being paid to concussions, they’re no longer being thought of as simple “bumps on the head” or “bell-ringers”. Help keep young athletes protected by better understanding symptoms, treatment and prevention of concussions.

A concussion is defined as a “trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve loss of consciousness”. This can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Concussion signs and symptoms can appear immediately or not be noticed until days or even weeks after the injury.

How to remain safe !

  • Make sure all safety equipment are sport specific, properly fitted and refurbished according to industry standards.
  • Follow sports safety rules and use proper techniques
  • Practice good sportsmanship

You have a concussion–Now What??

  • Report Symptoms Tell a coach, a parent or athletic trainer if you suspect an athlete has a concussion
  • Get Checked Out Only a health care professional experienced with concussion management can tell if a concussion has occurred and when it is OK to return to play
  • Get Plenty of Rest Immediately after the concussion is sustained, rest is recommended. This includes keeping a regular sleep routine and avoiding activities that require a lot of concentration.
  • Give Time to Recover It’s important to allot time to heal. Another concussion sustained while the brain is healing can result in long-term problems or even death in rare cases.
  • Take it Slow at First After the physician or athletic trainer gives the OK to return to activity, an athlete shouldn’t jump in all at once. The athletic trainer will work with the athlete to develop a safe plan for progressively returning to play.
  • Address Concerns If there are concerns, don’t hesitate to bring them up with a health care provider (athletic trainer, physician, etc.)

Knowing the RED FLAGS

  • Can’t be awakened
  • Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Unusual behavioral change
  • Slurred speech
  • Unusual behavioral change
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Worsening headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sleep problems
  • Seizures
  • Looks less alert
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Increasing confusion or irritability

Sources: NATA, Stanfor Orthopedic Sports Medicine, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Heads Up Concussion, Fifth Annual Youth Sports  Safety Summit

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Beat the Heat!

With temperatures in Shanghai reaching above 40°C and the humidity on top of that, most of us
are desperately looking for ways to cool down! Here are 10 tips that might help make this heat wave just a little more bearable.

1.  Cool down with Frozen Snacks! 

Cold snacks like ice cream, ice lollies, ice cubes and frozen fruit will be both tasty and thirst quenching for those times when the cravings sets in.

Try putting grapes and pieces of banana and watermelon in the freezer for a few hours, they will turn into delicious cool snacks that will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you hydrated at the same time.

 

2.    Time for a Cold Shower! 

Cold showers, cool packs and cold compresses will help to reduce your body
temperature. Place a wet towel, a cool pack or a cold compress on your chest, neck or your shoulders, and relax as you cool down.

Or fill a basin with water and ice cubes, pull up a chair, grab a good book or put on your favourite TV-show, and soak your feet – this will cool your whole body!

 

3.    Give Yourself a Break! 

Readjust your schedule to adapt to the heat. Go to the pool, relax in the shade, shop online or go to shopping malls with air conditioning, and have dinner a little later in the evenings.

 

4.    Change your Exercise Routine! 

Exercise indoors to get away from the scorching sun or in the early mornings or late at night when the temperature is lower.

 

 

5.    Remember to Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! 

Drink plenty of water, sports drinks if you are training, and stock up on ice cubes.  Make sure you have bottles of water or a jug of water in the fridge so that you always have quick access to cold water.

If you want some flavour to your water add a couple of slices of lemon, peach or cucumber, or a few branches of fresh mint, for a refreshing drink. While it might be tempting, try to avoid large amounts of alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea, as these will make you dehydrate faster.

 

6.    Keep your Home Cool by:

  • Eating out instead of using the stove and oven.
  • Getting a fan.
  • Blocking out the sun by closing the blinds and curtains, and keep doors and windows closed.

 

7.    Dress Appropriately! 

Wear loose-fitting clothes in light colours made from materials like linen or cotton. Loose, light materials will help you feel a little cooler by allowing your skin to breath. Invest in a nice hat if you are spending a lot of time outside to keep your head cool.

 

8.    Feast on Fruit! 

Munch on juicy fruits with high water content like watermelon, grapes, peaches, coconuts (and coconut water), cucumbers and oranges to help you stay hydrated.

 

 

9.    Choose Food that will Lower your Body Temperature! 

Spicy foods might feel like a strange choice but by making you sweat it also helps lower your body temperature. Cold foods like salads, cold soups and sushi will also keep your body temperature down, making you feel more comfortable.

 

 

10. Protect Yourself! 

Don’t forget to use sunscreen to protect your skin and use a pair of sunglasses, with good quality glass, to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV-rays.

 

Know the signs!

Early Warning Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Headache, dizziness, confusion and disorientation.
  • Excessive sweating and/or flushing
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Chills and/or goose bumps
  • Fainting

Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Core body temperature above 40°C
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

If you suspect that you, or someone else, is suffering from a heat stroke then:

  •  Call your hospital or if the situation escalates 120 for ambulance service (in Shanghai).
  • Try to lower the body temperature of the affected person by spraying them with cold water, cold baths, or packing them with cold packs and compresses.
  • If they are able to drink, give them cold water.

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