Exercise, is it keeping our brains young?

Have you felt the effects of quarantine on your body yet? Or even on your brain? Well, there is a good reason for that. Our bodies, and brains, have been trained and specialized for activity like stalking and chasing down prey. Now, not only with the quarantine but also the way we have engineered our lives to fit us and make everything easier, our lives are made sedentary and that takes a heavy toll on our bodies: For the first time in U.S. history, younger generations are expected to live shorter, unhealthier lives than their parents.

While exercise is well known to change our bodies, researchers have long suspected the same might be true of the brain. Research into this is a little more difficult though, but why has been harder to figure out?

Few studies have really looked at what’s going on in the brain while we’re moving. Only recently has technology given scientists the ability to see what is really happening in our brains as we move. Aerobic exercises seem to change both the structure of the brain and the way it operates, which together bolster learning in kids, give adults an edge on cognitive tasks, and protect against the cognitive declines that often come with age.

Brain Waves Get a Boost

Your brain becomes much more active during exercise, Helping with attention, memory, and information processing.

Using tools like an electroencephalogram (EEG), which pick up on electrical pulses, researchers have found that aerobic exercise causes a shift in the amplitude and frequency of brain waves. More beta waves, in other words, means that exercisers may be in a more alert state.

You Become More Sensitive to the World Around You

During exercise, the brain becomes much more receptive to incoming information, leading to measurable changes in vision. The visual cortex is designed to zero in on important features in the environment—the kind of features that might indicate, for example, the presence of a predator or prey—and filter out less important background noise. It’s been found that low-intensity cycling boosted this feature-selectivity ability so the brain was able to better identify specific features during exercise.

It taken a professor of psychology and brain sciences at UC Santa Barbara four years to figure out how to consistently and reliably record an EEG while a subject is in motion.

Scientists have also administered cognitive tests right after exercise—for example, measuring the flicker fusion threshold (the rate at which a flashing light begins to look like it’s steadily glowing) and found the same thing: After exercise, one’s senses are heightened and thus can detect the flashing at a higher frequency than before exercise. Taken together, these findings indicate that people see more clearly and immediately after exercise. They can make finer visual distinctions; their perceptions are sharper.

The benefits of exercise to your brain may begin as soon as your heart rate begins to rise. In much the same way that your muscles demand more energy during exercise, the brain begins gobbling up glucose or other carbohydrates when the body is in motion.

It was previously unknown what the brain was doing with all this fuel, it’s been discovered that the brain uses some of that fuel to build more neurotransmitters, the chemicals that relay messages around the nervous system. The brain may be filling up its stores of essential ingredients, perhaps in order to deal with a sustained period of hunting. This process might be why exercise has been shown to alleviate depression and has been found that during activity, glutamate levels rise in the same region of the brain where stocks of the neurotransmitter have previously been found to be low in depressed patients.

Your Brain Becomes Younger

A few things happen in the exerciser’s brain that make the organ appear younger. Studies suggest that exercise sparks the production of growth factors that nourish new neurons and help existing cells survive. Budding neural cells also need more nutrients as they grow, and animal studies suggest that exercise promotes the release of other growth factors that promote blood vessel growth, which could deliver those nutrients. At least one study in humans has found that active individuals tend to have more and healthier blood vessels, or, in the words of the authors, a “younger-appearing brain.”

These structural changes in the brain generally take at least a few weeks to develop but lead to long-lasting improvements in regions of the brain associated with cognitive tasks, like working memory.

Beyond that, research shows that aging exercisers have increased gray-matter volume in regions associated with general intelligence and executive function, which encompasses everything from attention to planning to problem-solving skills. Studies also show that fit adults have healthier white-matter tracts—the superhighways that connect various regions of gray matter—in the basal ganglia, a critical region for balance and coordination.

So, Is Exercise Magic?

You shouldn’t expect to increase your IQ or anything of that nature, we’re talking about small to moderate effects, which are potentially great for improving cognition and brain health.

But we can envision a future in which doctors prescribe exercise instead of drugs. “Exercise is a potential prophylactic against some aspects of age-related cognitive decline,” Giesbrecht says. “When you think of the fact that we have an aging demographic and the high prevalence of depression, there might be simpler treatments out there, like exercise.” 

We know everyone is excited to get back to the gym and we cant wait to share out new facility with you all!

Follow us on facebook or instagram to keep up to date on the gyms opening and membership specials!

Get back to the grind with you vertical jump program! your brain will thank you for it.

Fresh Summer Hummus

Fresh Summer Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup tahini sesame paste, optional, with some of its oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon plus more as needed
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.
  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

Nutrient Timing for Athletes: Does It Really Matter When We Eat Post-Exercise?

            People have recently started to question the idea of an ‘anabolic window’ post-exercise and whether we really need to eat or have that protein shake after our work-out. But where these opinions fall short is in the interpretations of the current research and literature to an athletic population.

            The idea is that a recent meta-analysis found that our total protein intake over a day is more important than the amount of protein we eat after our workout for building muscle mass, and while this is great information it largely gets mis-interpreted in the media. This is because while total protein intake during the day is more important than the amount we eat during the anabolic window (time after exercise where our ability to absorb nutrients is increased). If we are an athlete why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of this time of increased nutrient absorption? Even if the advantage of eating post-workout is smaller than we originally thought, most sporting events are decided a fraction of a second or a very small percentage, so if we aren’t taking advantage of this window (when our competitors are) then we are sure to fall short in competition. As athletes we must remember that we are in the performance business and not the physique business. While having a low body-fat percentage a key contributor to athletic performance, if we are not fueling our bodies properly than we will not be able to perform no matter how low our body fat percentage is. Also remember that protein does A LOT MORE for our bodies than just build muscle, and helps other bodily tissues recover, repair, and regenerate post-exercise.

            Furthermore, for a lot of our athletes they are partaking in two training sessions on most days (one sport session; one lifting session), so in this scenario is it really practical to post-pone eating after one session and not re-fuel before the next one? Does it ever make sense to not fuel before a session when we are in the performance business? Athletes who fuel better, perform better. Athletes who eat breakfast perform better. Therefore, we don’t usually recommend intermittent fasting to our athletes either. While it is totally possible to train after an overnight fast or a prolonged fast period (cue fasted cardio proponents), if it is going to affect our performance in that workout or training session is the small advantage we might get in body composition going to be worth it? This is like popular ketogenic diets (as we don’t generally recommend these to our athletes), as most studies have found performance isn’t improved with these diets (even though body composition might). This doesn’t make us promoters of high carbohydrate diets, but we do need to refuel the glycogen stores in our muscle that our athletes exhaust with high-intensity exercise bouts, especially following competition. 

Bottom Line: If you are not taking advantage of nutrient timing and the post-exercise window as an athlete you are missing out on important opportunity to fuel, regenerate, and repair your body for optimal performance. For athlete’s there is really no situation where it is a good idea to delaying feeding after exercise no matter what you’ve heard on social media.

Here are some guidelines to help maximize your post-exercise nutrition:

Post-Exercise Maximize Glycogen Re-Synthesis (within 30 min):

HIGH GLYCEMIC CARBOHYDRATES 1-1.5g/kg/hr

ADD PROTEIN! 0.25-0.5g/kg/hr enhances effect; as long as <1.2g/kg/hr

Example (70kg individual) ***individual needs may vary***

  • ~70g CHO/HR ~30g PRO/HR
  • (Large Banana, English Muffin with Jam, Protein Drink)

Click here to Book your nutrition session today to ensure your diet and training are working together to have you at peak performance!

Click here to visit our online store to order your Protein today!

What coaches look for!

Hey everyone! I’m excited to write this blog today! What I’m going to talk about is something I preach to my athletes all the time! Being a coach, and knowing a lot of coaches I often find myself talking to other like minded individuals about what we are looking for in an athlete. After all my time talking to people and other coaches, this are the three traits that I look for in an elite athlete; flexibility, aggression and a driven mentality.

Flexibility 

This is such an overlooked aspect of training! There is a misconception people have think that certain people can’t be flexible, because they weren’t born with it. This is so wrong!!! Sure some people are going to be more pliable than other, but don’t judge your flexibility against someone else’s. The more flexible your can be the better athlete you are going to become. If you take a “none flexible” person and work on stretching and mobility, you will see over a time period that they will become more mobile and become a better athlete! There are lots of studies that prove that pliability is so important when determining how much force a muscle can create. 

Aggression – No Fear

No matter what the sport is, I want aggressive people. Someone who is willing to take risks, someone who is not afraid to roll down a dark alley! This couldn’t more true, especially in contact sports such as football, hockey and basketball. Let’s look at basketball, one of the best points guards in the NBA is Kyle Lowry. He has never been afraid to take the ball into the paint where there are guys way bigger than him. He gets hit all the time and had even gotten hurt going into the paint but, he continues to go in there because he knows it’s helps his team! I’ve seen a lot of athletes who are freaks in the weight room and on the track but when they get into thier completion the struggle because they are afraid of contact and getting hurt! YOU CANT BE!!!

Driven Mentality 

This is what separates the good from the great! Good athletes are just that, they train to get better and be good at there craft. Great athletes train to be the best of all time. One of the greatest NBA Player of all time Kobe Bryant, who just recently pass away had something he called “The Mamba Mentality” This was basically his process of out working everyone. I remember a story of the lakers drafting someone and this kid started working out in the gym at 5:30 in the morning, Kobe caught wind of this and started his day at the gym at 4:00am, just to prove the point that he would outwork everyone! This is truly what an elite person is, someone who is incapable of losing!!!

This is just my take. If you asked another coach the same question he/she would probably have a different answer for you. But the great ones I’ve been around or seen have these traits in common!! 

There is no off season, come into SST today and lets get faster stronger and out work the competition! Email Bskinner@sstcanada.com to book a free demo session.

What do you need to gain mass?

Here at SST a lot of athletes come into our facility wanting to put on size and gain strength and ask for our advice to help get them there. While what we do in the gym is a HUGE part of helping them achieve this goal, what we preach to our athletes is that what they do with the 23 other hours they aren’t in our facility are just as if not more important if they want to gain size and strength.


The most common misconception with ‘bulking’ or the pursuit gaining muscle mass is that you can just go on the see-food diet (eat any food in sight) and you will put on mass. While this is true if you are in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you are burning), it doesn’t mean you are going to the athletic size we want you to gain. You should have a professional help you to calculate your caloric needs to identify #1 if you are eating enough for your activity level and if so if we need to add more calories to your current regime to help you gain some healthy muscle mass. This is ESSENTIAL if speed and/or power is important for an athlete’s sport as if we are looking to put on size, we need to be cognisant of how this may affect their speed. We want to gain size and strength the right way to promote speed development, keeping our body fat levels in a good range for us to perform for our sport.


For this to happen you need to be eating adequate protein. A good rule of thumb is that you should be eating AT LEAST 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass and it is best to space this protein out throughout the day to keep us on the positive side of protein synthesis/degradation. While individual needs will vary for sport and training period this is a good rule of thumb to follow. Another way to think of this is to try and eat 40 grams of protein per meal, or the equivalent amount of two decks of cards of a high-quality protein source, as protein is the key macronutrient for muscle building. If we are wanting to put on size and to make sure we are eating enough, another simple trick we can use is to try and eat 3 meals before 3pm, and 5 meals before 9pm. If you follow these simple rules of thumb it should go a long way in helping you put on some healthy mass.


We also focus on our athletes avoiding highly processed foods and protein sources. The more nutrition we can get from unprocessed, home-prepared meals the better. Focusing on eating lots of vegetables (hitting all colours of the rainbow), adequate carbohydrates for specific goals and activity level, healthy unsaturated fat sources such as fatty-fish, olive oil, avocados, almonds, etc. and protein sources that used to run, swim, or fly is a great place to start. We need to know where our next meal is coming from, and if we are prepared and have meals ready-to-go then we are less likely to hit the drive-thru window. While supplements have their place in athlete nutrition, forming this foundation is key for preparing our athletes for the demands of their sport and our training programs and to create life-long healthy relationship with food.


Also don’t forget to sleep! Hitting at least 8 hours of sleep per night is essential for muscle recovery and regeneration. It is important to make sure this is un-broken sleep as well as this is when our best muscle-building takes place. Making sure our sleep hygiene is in check can go a long way to help us get those 8 hours, such as avoiding screen time before bed and getting to bed at the same time every night to name a few. Also making sure we are adequately hydrated can help with sleep, but also everything else. Most of our athletes who come in aren’t drinking enough water and this affects not only their performance in sport, but everything else as well.
While this article only starts to scratch the surface on what things we should be doing when we are wanting to put pack on some healthy mass, it should go a long way into helping lay a strong foundation!

Email Bskinner@sscanada.com to schedule a complimentary demo session!

Do you want to look like an athlete?

Everyone wants a body like an athlete, and yet don’t eat or train like an athlete!? Training like an athlete is important because athletes can move their bodies like no one else can. Your body is meant to be mobile, versatile, and freely moving – so why not train it to be like that, isn’t that why we exercise? To look feel good and look good?

Eating like an athlete is just as if not more important as training like an athlete. Our 1hr a day we spend working out is only 4% of your day. What you choose to do and eat the rest of it is what can make or break the training goals you have set for yourself. Here are 3 reasons why training and eating like an athlete is important;

1. Better Mobility Athletes need to have more mobility in order to achieve the best performance in their respective sports. Can you imagine a hockey player who can’t do a skate cross-over? Transitioning to your reality…with better mobility comes a better quality of life. Mobility allows you to move more freely while easily doing the simple things in life which a lot of people take for granted. climbing up an uneven step, lift a laundry basket or reach into the backseat for a bag…mobility helps with all of that, not to mention all the fun things we like to do like playing with our kids, going swimming on vacation or taking the dog on a hike etc. We all should be mobile and yes even into “old age”.

2. Better Looking Body; For the most part, athletes generally look really fit and athletic. They have put in the hard work and it seems as though their efforts have paid off. We all know that most people would like a better looking body, but are you willing to put the work in for it? I am not saying you have to put in 10 years or 10,000 hours like an athlete, but a 1 hour workout about 3-5 days a week will do the trick. As a trainer that struggles with their weight, I know the feeling of the extra wobble you want to just go away and I can promise you that if you are willing to put in the time for yourself, you will feel 100 times better the next time you put on a pair of shorts in the summer!

3. Better Nutrition; Athletes keep their nutrition in check a lot more than the general population. This is because their sport demands it. Empty calories and processed foods do not help fuel performance in their respective sports. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a treat occasionally, (careful), but athletes keep their macro-nutrients in check. This means getting an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Athletes also make sure to consume their micro-nutrients as well like; iron, zinc, selenium while getting their essential vitamins too. Eat like an athlete, not only will you be healthier, your digestion, skin and mood will better!

So why do we look at athletes and want what they have so badly but instead of doing a scaled down version of what they do, we drink laxative teas, eat fake food, do mostly cardio or lesser work outs. Stop taking advise from your friends, they are not qualified and please watch out for companies that promise fast results with little change to eating or exercise habits.

CLICK HERE to find out more about how we train our clients to be more mobile, stronger and healthier!

BCAA’s – what, why and how?

One of the newer supplements on the market making claims to improve cognition, decrease muscle breakdown, promote muscle protein synthesis and improve exercise performance is branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs).

But… what are they? BCAAs are essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine (ones we cannot synthesize ourselves and must consume) that can be oxidized within our muscles, especially during exercise. These amino acids are the most important amino acids for muscle protein synthesis, as leucine itself is a direct stimulator of muscle protein synthesis independent of exercise and it is important to make sure we are getting adequate amounts in our diet before considering supplementation.

While most of the research into BCAAs has been done in rodents, some interesting data has recently surfaced regarding their effect on exercise in humans. Mainly the ingestion of BCAAs before, during or after exercise has been shown to increase intracellular and arterial levels, and to prevent muscle protein breakdown, where some studies have even demonstrated less delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) following exercise. BCAAs are also an important fuel for our muscle cells during exercise, and since levels decline with exercise, it makes sense to use them as a supplement during and/or after workouts.

When combined with a resistance training program and enough protein intake, BCAAs have been shown to help to increase lean muscle mass and lower body fat percentage. It should be noted that a lot of the research into BCAAs, is through one off studies and research is just starting to tease out the effectiveness of them but nevertheless there are some intriguing early results. Come into SST to find out how, when, and what BCAAs we use with our athletes and clients to help improve exercise performance and body composition!

References: All About BCAAs Precision Nutrition Andrews, Ryan (2018) Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise Shimomura et al. (2004) The Journal of Nutrition

Email us at Bskinner@sstcanada.com to get email notifications on our upcoming nutrition and supplement clinics!

SST Q&A- Short Hockey Stride

Question:  My 14 year old son is a good hockey player, but as he is getting older, his skating strides are becoming short.  Why would this be? And how can he improve his stride?

Answer: This is a good question.  I have been around the rinks for about 20 years now, and that is something I notice a lot of in young hockey players. A short skating stride can come from a number of things.

First thing, take notes:  What is the position of his upper body? Which way does he shoot?  What does he do for warm up?

For Example:

If his upper body is bent over = tight hip flexors

If he shoots left = Tight right Hip (must be balanced) (and vice versa for a right shooter)

Warm up is Crucial for effective stride length so make sure you are including an effective dynamic warm-up before you get on the ice.

 

If you are still having issues with stride length look to tackle to following through myofacial release,  proper stretching, and off-ice training:

  • Tight Hip Flexors– Comes from too much skating, riding the bicycle (amazes me how many pros I see still riding the bike after games!), not enough stretching, computers and TV etc. Look for warm-up exercises that extends the hip and lengthens the leg.

 

  • Tight Hamstrings: same as above.

 

  • Weak Glute Muscles: Glute Med, Glute Max, Piriformis  muscles which extend and abduct the hip.  These muscles are neglected off the ice.  If these muscles are not strong, power can not be generated to get a full stride. Weak glutes often cause the common hockey groin injury as a direct result of the groin being overworked.

 

  • Tight IT Band – Abducts the hip. Tightness in the IT band causes knee tracking problems causing Patella Femoral syndrome. Use myofacial release to help reduce tightness.

 

  • Tight/Weak Adductors: Commonly neglected.  Athletes tend to stretch this muscle a lot, however neglect to strengthen them.  This affects the recovery phase of the skating stride. Due to the imbalances of the Glutes the groin is an overworked muscle.

 

  • Upper Body Posture: Tight anterior muscles can affect the stride length as well. When a player strides, the opposite arm cocks back as well.  Being tight can cause the leg not to extend to its full potential.  Most hockey players are tight in the Anterior Upper Body (chest region).

 

  • Weak Core Muscles: Especially Back Extensors.  Weak low back causes a hunched position which decreases stride length.  SST has found that strengthening the Lower Back will increase stride length.

 

These weak areas can be improved by:

  1. Stretching the hip flexors and hamstrings, strengthening the glute muscles, strengthening the adductor muscles.
  2. A mixture of dynamic stretching, static stretching, foam roll self myofacial release.
  3. A proper warm up before training, practice and games is also very important.

 

EXERCISES PERFORMED AT SST

Split Squats, Lunges, Walking Lunges and other forms of Lunges, Glute Ham Raise, Reverse Hyper Extension, Deadlifts and all variations,  Resisted Hip Adduction, Y,T,W,L Shoulder Circuit, Back Extension and a variety of speed, agility, quickness and power exercises.

A player with a long fluent skating stride will be more effective and efficient during a game.  He/she will not use as much energy, will be stronger on his/her feet, and will be less likely to become injured.

To recap:  Stretch hip flexors, IT band and chest muscles.  Strengthen glutes, adductors, back extensors and upper back.  SST recommends doing this 3 x a week and watching the difference in your stride and your game.

 

For more great articles and videos please visit www.sstcanada.com