Building Muscle – Don’t Worry About the Speeding Ticket

We’ve been focusing our recent articles on weight management; specifically from the fat loss perspective. We will continue with weight management this week; but from a muscle building angle. If you’ve ever wondered just how quickly your body can realistically put on muscle mass; then the following article is for you. I decided not to re-invent the Mona Lisa this week by referring you to a wonderful article researched and written by Christian Finn, a personal trainer who holds a master’s degree in exercise science.

He does a great job at dispelling myths on muscle building, while providing well researched explanations of the different factors that contribute to how fast or slow our bodies put on muscle mass. There is also a neat little video that you should watch if you’ve ever been tempted to buy a product based on the advertisement’s Before & After pictures….

Christian Finn’s, How Fast Can You Build Muscle… Really?



Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise, pt. 3

Time for our third instalment of Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise. In our first two articles, we explored energy output, where I used myself as an example for some tangible numbers. Today’s article will address the opposite side of the equation; energy in. Let’s get right at it!

We previously determined that I expend around 3,291 calories every day. Now let’s explore how I can manage my weight by adjusting the amount of calories I consume.

From our current understanding of thermodynamics; if we consume more energy (calories) than we expend, the extra energy is stored in our bodies. Any additional energy stores will result in more body weight. If we take in less energy than we expend, our body needs to pull the deficit from stored energy, and the net loss results in weight loss. If I were to make sure I ate 3,291 calories every day, I would maintain my body weight. If I consistently ate over that amount, then I would gain weight. If I ate under that amount, I would lose weight over time.

A fairly typical weight-loss goal is losing one pound of fat every week. This is a healthy rate to lose fat, and with the right dedication and guidance, an achievable goal. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. This translates into a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. You could either achieve this through diet modification, exercise modification, or, ideally a combination of both.

Let’s Get Practical
Back to my example. If I wanted to lose one pound every week, I would have to eat 500 calories under my daily output; which would mean I would need to eat an average of 2,791 calories every day. There are many great online resources these days that will track how many calories you’ve eaten (calorieking, fitday). Tracking everything you eat every day gives a fairly reliable indication of how much you’ve eaten. If you’re determined to meet your weight-loss goals, you will find this to be a valuable process. For those of you not prepared to count calories, you can start working towards your goal by making modifications to your diet. I won’t go into specific strategies here, as I have touched on this topic in a couple other articles (Goal Setting, Portion Control Strategies). Once you’ve determined how you plan on managing your intake, you’re ready to get started on your weight-loss lifestyle!

Please re-read the following fine print as many times as it takes to fully appreciate it’s contents. Everything we have just talked about regarding energy in and out (thermodynamics) is true. However, the human body is very complex; and many things that we have not talked about play a part in how our bodies process and adapt to energy surpluses and deficits. Everything from hydration, to hormones, to fidgeting, to efficiency of food digestion will add clutter to our very clean energy balance equation. This is important to consider in case you’re finding that the weight loss is not happening as quickly (or more quickly) than you anticipated. To get a nicely written rundown on the factors that will affect your hard efforts , I will refer you to Lyle McDonald’s article, The Energy Balance Equation.

Homework of the Week
I challenge everyone in the next couple days to write down everything they eat for one typical meal. Then go to an online site and determine approximately how many calories were consumed. Try not to pick that dinner where all you had time for was a salad and glass of milk.  After you’ve determined your calories for that meal, relate it back to your numbers from all the articles.
A little food for thought…. A typical fast food meal (loaded burger, large fries, drink) can easily put you over 1,000 calories; up to 2,000 calories. If you’re female, chances are your total caloric output was around 2,200-2,500 calories. One fast food meal and your day is almost done! And if you think homemade burgers on the grill is any better…. do a little research, and watch the calories climb as you start to add the chips, cheese, and beers to that extra-lean beef burger….

Hurray for BBQ season!


Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise, pt.2

Welcome to part 2 of 3 for our Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise series. Last week you figured out what your basal (resting) metabolic rate was. If you missed the first article, please read it here.
ADL’s Are Your Friend

Our next step is to get an approximate idea of how many calories you burn doing activities of daily living (ADL’s). There are two ways to accomplish this step. We could either break up every day into specific activities, determine the amount of calories expended per activity, and add up all your ADL’s to have a fairly accurate account of calories burnt throughout the day. Or, we could save you a few hours of work; and categorize you based on your perceived level of activity. Think about how active you are on an average day. Consider everything from how you get to work, the type of work you do, how often you go out with friends, how much TV/computer you do, etc. Don’t forget about our first article, be sure to leave out scheduled exercise. We are only looking at activities of daily living! Now you will decide which of the following categories you fall into:

Sedentary    (0.2)
Light    (0.375)
Moderate    (0.55)
Hard    (0.725)
Non-Stop    (0.9)

Beside each category is a number. Take your basal metabolic rate (from the formula in the first article) and multiply it by the corresponding number beside your category. The result is a predicted number of calories burnt from ADL’s in one day. Please note, this is a broad estimation, and by no means meant to be taken as accurate. It is based on an average healthy population. But it at least gives us a starting point. For the remainder of the articles, we will make an assumption that the #’s for metabolism and ADL’s are accurate (just to make life easier).

Take the two numbers you’ve calculated thus far (basal metabolic rate and total ADL’s), and add them together. You will most likely have a number between 1,600 and 2,800. This is the number of calories you burn off on an average day, before doing any scheduled exercise. In other words; if you did not do any scheduled exercise, you will still burn that many calories every day. To illustrate this, I will walk through my numbers:

Age: 28          Ht: 188 cms           Wgt: 79.5 Kgs
BMR = 66 + (13.7 x 79.5) + (5 x 188) – (6.8 x 28)  =  1,905 calories/day
ADL’s =  1,905 x 0.55 (moderate lifestyle) =  1,048 calories/day

BMR + ADL’s = 1,905 + 1,048 =  2,953 calories/day
Pinch of Exercise

Remember the pie chart from article #1? We’ve already filled the two larger pieces with BMR and ADL’s. The last piece of the pie is our scheduled exercise. Let’s say I go to the gym four times every week. I run on the treadmill for 40 minutes at a speed of 6.0 mph and a slight incline of 2.0. Based on my weight and age, I would be burning 14.8 calories/minute . This results in 450 calories every time I go to the gym. Averaged over a seven day week; I’m looking at 338 calories every day. Compare that to my 2,953 calories from BMR & ADL’s. Now we can see why for most people, exercise is the smallest piece of the pie!

If I add both numbers together, I end up with a total of 3,291 calories expended daily!

Now that we’ve taken care of the energy out; we’ll have to make sure we’re managing the energy in. In our next article, we’ll focus on our diets to make sure we’re on the right path to achieve our weight loss/gain goals.

Your Homework: Just to show you the importance of staying active throughout the day; try placing yourself in a different ADL category (sedentary, light, moderate, etc). See how much your calories expended per day drops if you go down a category; and how many more calories you’d burn if you increased your ADL’s to the next category. Pretty interesting stuff…. 


– Stuart

Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise, pt.1

It’s good to be back to blogging. MORFIT has been open for two months now, and it’s about time we continued to bring you posts on everything health & fitness.

Behold the first of three parts to our Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise series. Over the next few weeks you will develop the tools needed to determine your approximate daily caloric balance; thus giving you an idea of whether you’re on track to lose or gain weight. Here we go:


The Pie Test
We are constantly burning energy (calories) throughout the day. Everything we do requires our bodies to burn off calories. We can group these calorie-burning activities into three categories: Exercise, Metabolism, and Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s).
Exercise refers to planned activities that considerably increase heart rate and perspiration for an extended period of time.
Metabolism  refers to all processes of the body required to keep you alive. This includes cell metabolism, tissue repair, digestion, maintaining body temperature (thermoregulation), etc.
 refer to all the activities you do throughout the day that are not scheduled exercise. This includes going to work, working, going shopping, housework, etc.

These three categories fall into the pie chart below; representing total calories expended per day. The blue portion (#1) contributes to the most calories burnt, followed by the green portion (#2), and finally the red portion (#3) contributing to the least amount of calories. Here’s your challenge: Place the three categories of caloric expenditure (exercise, metabolism, ADL’s) into the right piece of the pie.






Most of you will have put exercise into the blue portion, the biggest contributor of caloric expenditure. Here’s the answer.
1. Metabolism (biggest contributor)
2. ADL’s (second biggest contributor)
3. Exercise (smallest contributor)


This may be startling information for some of you, but fear not, information is power. If exercise accounts for the least amount of calories burnt throughout the day, then that must imply that managing your weight does not rely on busting your butt in the gym seven days/week! And such is the case. Over the next two articles, we will explore the role of exercise, lifestyle and diet in weight management. But don’t go anywhere until you’ve finished your homework. Below is a formula to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which we are referring to as a generalized metabolism in this article. Put your age, weight, and height into the gender-appropritate formula to determine how many calories you burn per day just by living. (If you don’t like math, you can use this online BMR calculator instead).

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x Kg’s) + (1.8 x cm’s) – (4.7 x age)
Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x Kg’s) + (5 x cm’s) – (6.8 x age)

Next week we’ll put this number to work. Until then; why not glance at some food labels and pay attention to how many calories you might be taking in compared to how many calories your metabolism  is burning.



The Skinny On Stretching

Since your first soccer practice at age five, people have been harping on you to stretch before and after activity. However, at your current stage in life you’ve given up all aspirations of being a world-class gymnast and, let’s face it, you probably don’t stretch as often as you should. Perhaps not at all. So what’s the big deal? Why all the fuss over stretching, anyway?

DOMS Reduction

Flexibility aside, there are other, more immediate benefits to stretching. DOMS – Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness – is that tenderness in your muscles you’ve felt the day after a good workout or boot camp. It has been said that by stretching after activity, you can decrease the intensity of your DOMS.

The body’s natural response to prolonged stretching (i.e. holding the stretch for more than 20 seconds) is a reduction in muscle tension. By doing this after a workout, when muscle tension is high, you may increase your odds of getting out of bed the next morning.

Injury Prevention

There is much debate, especially among the running community, over whether stretching can decrease your chance of injury. The short answer is: that would depend on the type of injury.

If you’re jogging at dusk and roll your ankle in a pothole (rare as they may be in Winnipeg…) increased flexibility is unlikely to prevent that sprain from happening. If you’re playing street hockey and someone slap-shots the puck straight into your thigh, again, having nice loose quads won’t stop the bruising. These are what we call acute injuries. Some outside force is acting on your body over the course of a few seconds to produce injury.

Chronic injuries are a different story. A chronic injury is one that comes on slowly over an extended period, like carpal tunnel syndrome. It could take days, weeks, even months of repetitive stress on a body part to produce this type of injury. Chronic injuries are very preventable, and stretching is often a key component in their prevention and rehabilitation. Stretching the calves, for example, can keep conditions like Achilles tendonitis at bay. Even some kinds of headaches result from muscle tension in the neck, and can be managed with stretching.

The problem with chronic injuries is that they can take as long to heal as it takes for them to develop. So make your stretching proactive, not reactive! Stretch to treat the injuries that aren’t slowing you down yet.

The Method

Any stretching that you do immediately before exercise should be brief – hold these stretches for about five seconds. For the sake of performance, you don’t want to cause too much relaxation in those muscles before you make them work.

After activity, you should hold each stretch for at least twenty seconds. At this point you are trying to achieve muscle relaxation, and perhaps even see some long-term flexibility gains. Remember; stretching should never be painful. Pull just until you feel a light stretch and hold at that point.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Nope! The nice thing about stretching is that, when performed properly, you can do it as often as you like without negative effects like DOMS. For folks like the afore-mentioned world-class gymnast, hyper mobility in the joints caused by being too flexible can be problematic, but the average person doesn’t need to worry about becoming overly flexible.

~ Amanda

Running for Fitness: What’s Your Excuse?

You’ve seen them. We all have. Whether sweating their skins off in the summer or bundled-up beyond recognition in the winter, the runners are out there. Maybe you’ve called them “crazy” (or something even less polite). Maybe you’ve envied their single-minded dedication to their physical well-being. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve even considered giving running a try yourself…

“I could never do that. I’m not a runner…”

Sure you could. How do you think early man got around? Our bodies evolved to run; they did not evolve to sit at a desk all day. Will it be easy? Not at the start. But it will get easier if you stick with it. Maybe your first run will only be five minutes long. Maybe you need to run one minute and walk the next. Do whatever it takes to get you moving.

And the day you do, you’ll be a runner.

“But I don’t have the time!”

Oh no? You can’t spare twenty minutes a few times a week? If the answer is no, perhaps it is time to look at why fitness is not a priority in your life. Why do you want to run? Weight-loss, health gains, even just to get out of the house… these are all worthy causes. Does looking and feeling better mean more to you than, say, catching the next installment of Desperate Housewives? To achieve consistency in any exercise program, fitness needs to be a priority, whatever your underlying motivations. To put it bluntly, you need to make time. Scheduling your runs each week will increase your odds of actually getting out there to run.

“But I don’t have fancy shoes!”

While a slick pair of running shoes might make you feel cool, they aren’t crucial when just starting out. Make sure that the runners you do wear on those first outings fit well to avoid getting blisters. If you decide that running is something you want to do regularly, a good pair of shoes is a sound investment, especially if you are prone to foot problems like plantarfaciitis. Be sure to select the pair that fits and feels the best, which will not necessarily be the pair that looks the best. Your running shoes should be about function, not fashion.

Just put one foot in front of the other…

And repeat. In the end, it really is that simple. Your feet will figure out what to do.

– Amanda

Goal Setting

Bit of a delay between articles, but here it is. Today we will be discussing goals. How to choose them, define them, and stick to them. Goals are like destinations on a vacation. They help keep you focused and on the right path. They keep you looking forward to arriving at a specific destination. And you can always look back on them once you’re on to the next one. Without goals, it is easy to continue aimlessly and lose sight of what we have actually accomplished.

Regardless of who you are, and where you are on the wonderful spectrum of health and fitness; there are goals that you can set for yourself. You may be after after weight loss or muscle gain, running a 2.5 hour marathon or going around the block for a walk, quitting smoking or adding two servings of vegetables every day. No matter what you’re setting out to accomplish, there are a few considerations that will help give your goals meaning and increase your success. The time tested SMART principle:

Jack and Jill set a goal for themselves; in three months they both want to be healthier and more fit. Jill cleans up her diet and goes to the gym five days a week. Jack buys $300 worth of Lulu Lemon clothing and wears them every Sunday for their traditional 2 km. walk.  After three months, they revisit their goal sheet. Jill feels better than she did, but the scale is telling her she weighs two more pounds than when she started! Jack takes a look at his shrink wrapped body in the Lulu’s, and gives himself the old gun and wink. He thinks he reached his goal, she does not.
Had they been more specific with their goals, they probably would have come to different conclusions.
Jill could have set and succeeded in any of the following goals:
– I want to feel less tired throughout the day
– I want to go to the gym for at least 4 hours every week
– I want my waist circumference to go down 3 cm’s
– I will only eat junk foods on the weekends
Jack, on the other hand, may not have been as optimistic about reaching his goals had he been more specific. He didn’t make any lifestyle chages to activity or diet. He maintained his 2 km walk every Sunday, but it was the magic of spandex that gave him the illusion of being healthier.

When setting your goals, try to get as specific as possible. This may lead to more items on your goal setting sheet, which is never a bad thing.

One trick to keeping your goals specific, is making sure they are measurable. You should be able to measure/record your baseline when you set your goals, then re-measure periodically until you’ve reached your goal. The advantage to measurable goals, is there is much less room for interpretation/subjective clouding. It is important that the same standards are used from one measurement to the next. I was in a local gym a couple weeks ago where a trainer was measuring the circumference of a client’s thigh (he was trying to increase his muscle mass). The trainer randomly chose a spot on the client’s leg, no landmarking whatsoever. Obviously surprised by the measurement, the trainer told his client his leg must be swollen because of how big his thigh was. I suppose this could have been the case… or the trainer measured a couple inches higher on the client’s thigh, which would drastically change the circumference of the leg.
If you are taking circumferences of your hips/waist/limbs/etc.; use a bony protusion as a landmark. Our bones don’t move, so you’ll have a more accurate measurement the next time through.

If your goal is centered around diet; be sure to be specific and measurable here as well. “I will clean up my eating” is neither. Try putting a specific quantity to the foods you will be restricting or adding to your diet. You can also set goals based on times of day, or days of week.

Your goals should be appropriate. I like to clarify this as being safe for your mind and body, and for the right reasons. Many goals based on weight loss are appropriate, unless the intention is to lose the weight in an unhealthy manner (dangerous supplementation, starving the body, reaching an unhealthy body fat %). There are also inappropriate ways to gain muscle, such as steroids. I also mentioned setting goals for the right reasons. You should be motivated by staying healthy, and feeling good about yourself. Ask youreslf why you want to accomplish your goals, and you should feel in control of whether or not you pursue, abandon, or modify the goals.

This is definitely the principle that most people struggle with. I’m sure you or someone you know has looked frantically for a 5-day/week bootcamp because they have a weeding coming up next month. As a trainer, I love these clients, because they are highly motivated. However, I do have an obligation to explain to them that our body has limitations, and timelines for adaptations. So losing 15 pounds in one month may not be a realistic goal. Is it possible? Sure it is. Can it be done safely? With enough effort and managing every aspect of your life, yes. Would I recommend this to anybody? I’d rather see you make manageable changes over a longer period of time, and turn that temporary 15 pounds in one month, to a sustainable 40 pounds in a year. But I digress.

If our goals are not realistic, they will not accomplished, which esily demotivates and discourages us to start anew. Ideally, our goals should be based on a lifelong commitment to ourselves to live within a healthier body. If this is the approach we take, there is no need to rush our goals and set unrealistic timeframes. I highly encourage my clients to make short term goals that address lifestyle changes (specific diet and physical activity changes) and long term goals that address body composition measurements (weight, waist circumference, etc). First, lifestyle changes are generally needed before seeing body composition changes. Second, we have conscious control over lifestyle habits, whereas we don’t always know how long it will take our bodies to put on muscle or lose fat.

Most people don’t know what is a realistic amount of fat to lose in a month, so they guess, or avoid making the goal altogether.  Guessing can lead to unrealistic goals, but avoiding it doesn’t keep us accountable to reach the goal. I could tell you that 1-2 lbs. of fat per week is a safe rate for fat loss (which is what research tells us). But keep in mind that diet, stress, and physical activity must all be managed on an ongoing basis for this to become realistic. Many of us have schedules, commitments, and lifestyles that do not cater to this rate of fat loss. If you make weight loss a long term goal, and start with short term lifestyle changes, would you not be happy with accomplishing your goal of 40, or even 30 pounds in one year? In that one year, you would adopted healthy habits, lost approximately 15-20% of your body weight (I’m averaging here), and done so safely. 30 pounds in one year is only 0.57 lbs/week. That’s much lower than the 1-2 lbs/week research recommended. But you would have made it realistic and sustainable.

All goals should have timelines associated with them. Short term goals can be anywhere from 1 week to 6 months, or 1 year. Timelines help to remind us that we can’t keep putting our goals off until we get back from the family vacation. Keeping track of your progress along the way is also very helpful. You may realize in February that you’re not going to realistically attain your April goal. Nothing wrong with adjusting timelines when we see we’ve over or underestimated the time needed to accomplish a goal.
Not many of us use goal setting as a tool to help us get where we want to be. It takes very little of our time, but can help keep us organized and headed in the right direction. You would never plan a European vacation without a map and schedule of destinations. So why not take ten minutes to frame out the map that will help you become more fit?


Holiday Workouts

Hello everyone,

Hope you’re all keeping well. You’ll have to forgive this week’s post. It used to be a lot longer, mind blowing and full of humourous quips, until something went wrong when I tried to upload it. So here is the abridged version with only the important stuff.

It’s around that time of year when we all pack up our cars and head out to the cottage for the week. Just because we’re taking a break from the city doesn’t mean we need to take a break from staying fit. In fact, there’s nothing better than getting a workout in at 6am on the cool sandy beach as the rising sun lights up the rippling waves. Toes sinking into the grainy sand, as you prepare to experience a refreshing and satisfying workout… this continued on for a while in th original article…

Don’t Need A Big Trunk
If you’re used to machines and free weights at the gym or in your home, this is a great opportunity for you to broaden your scope of exercise. Bodyweight workouts are a great way to work multiple muscles at once, develop your balance and coordination, get an aerobic component in to your strength program, and keep costs down. Best of all, you don’t need any equipment! Elastics, exercise balls and straps can greatly increase the variety in your bodyweight workouts, but they’re definietly not necessary.

On Vacation, Perfection Not Required
Unless you’re on a four week Alaskan Cruise, chances are you’re only gone for 1-2 weeks. This is a fairly short time in your training schedule, so we can afford to cut back on our duration while on vacation. Figure out an amount of time you know you’ll be able to commit to. 45 minutes? 30 minutes? 20 minutes? You may not get your minimum recommended aerobic exercise for the week; you may not have a perfectly balanced workout for all major muscle groups; but don’t worry, it’s only for a week! You’ll be back to your regular routine or Boot Camp before you know it!

There is an unlimited number of exercises to choose from. I won’t bother trying to list exercises in this post, as there are hundreds of resources out there to choose from, a few of which are listed below. In addition to these online sites, you can always find exercise ideas in books (remember libraries?). If you don’t feel comfortable with a given exercise, or are not sure you’re doing it right, simply swap it with another exercise for the same major muscle group. If you don’t feel comfortable trying exercises without receiving proper instruction, you may want to consider seeking the services of a trainer to get you started.
Some online resources for bodyweight exercises:

This is where you can really spice up your workouts with variety, fun, and a little motivational competition. To give you an idea how many formats there can be, this Monday will be the 100th Boot Camp I plan for my MORFit participants. Every class has a different format. Some are typical formats you might find online, most are just ideas that came to me the night before. Nobody said you have to stick to the “2 sets of 15 reps” format. Or maybe someone did. Well, I’m telling you do don’t have to. Below are a few ideas you can use for your vacation (or your regular) workouts:

Ten’s – Pick 4-6 exercises. Do 10 reps of each exercise, then down to 9 reps, then 8, 7….. down to 1 rep of each. Try to complete the workout faster each time you go through the same exercises; or change your exercises every time.

 – Do as many reps as you can of an exercise in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 or 20 seconds. Repeat this same sequence 6-8 times for the same exercise. Complete 4-6 minutes of higher intensity cardio. Then move onto your second exercise, repeating the same sequence as before. Go through 4-6 exercises. You can write down your reps for each round, trying to get as many reps as you can in each 20 second bout.

Two to Tango
 – Determine a distance that takes approximately 1-2 minutes to complete (maybe a track, maybe running to the tree on the beach…). Your partner does an exercise for the length of time it takes you to run the complete distance. When you finish the run, your partner takes off while you go through the exercise. When they return, move onto the second exercise. Go through as many exercises as needed to fill the time you have for your workout.

Now you have no excuse not to workout at the cottage! I hope this article was helpful. I have no intention of giving you one workout that will keep you satisfied for one week. These are some of the tools you can use to start building your own workouts, should you be interested in doing so. Check out some of the sites I pointed to, there’s some great resources out there. Until the next post, I wish you all variety and enjoyment in your workouts, whether it’s in the company gym, or on a sandy beach.



Our entire post today is dedicated to that unavoidable, unrelenting, silent but deadly, and all to often ignored…. stress. You have it, I have it, and that overly peppy neighbour who always has a smile on his face has it too. Stress is vital to our health and safety, yet has evolved to become the source of many medical ailments and diseases. Can we completely remove stress from our lives? I sure hope not, because that would mean never exercising! Can we manage stress so it is less detrimental in our daily lives? Yes.
Let’s explore stress together, and maybe we can come up with some solutions for taking back the control stress has whisped away from us over the years.

Too Much of A Good Thing
Stress can be generally described as any strain on our bodies, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional in nature. When we experience stress, our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol into our bloodstream. Cortisol is our “natural” energy drink. It increases our reaction time, alertness, cognitive abilities, and strength to a certain degree. When we find ourselves in dangerous situations, cortisol increases our “fight or flight” response. Sounds great doesn’t it? Bring on the cortisol! As with most things, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. To quote Brendan Brazier, Ironman Triathlete and vegan, “Stress is like fire: When controlled and used for a purpose, it serves us well. Left unbridled, it can consume us.” (Brazier, The Thrive Diet, 2007).
We live in a world that breeds stress; quick unhealthy diets, long work days, polluted environment, relationship troubles, responsibilities that wouldn’t fit into a 36 hour day… We have a lot working against us. All these stresses, though not life threatening on their own, do contribute to an ongoing release of cortisol from the adrenals.

The Silent Killer
Our bodies can only handle a certain amount of cortisol before it needs to recover from the stress hormone. If this recovery does not take place, and our bodies are subjected to ongoing release of cortisol, we predispose ourselves to a host of problems. Initially, we will experience fatigue, mental clutter/fog, and sleep disturbances. If the level and frequency of stress is high enough, we can get into more complications. Our bodies interpret stress as a reaction to a threatening situation, and our bodies can shift to a survival mode. We start to store and conserve fats, and rely more on carbohydrates as energy. The more carbohydrates we burn through, the more we will crave these foods. A combination of the survival mode and cravings can lead to weight gain. Hormonal imbalances leading to nutrient imbalances can cause digestive problems, hampered hydration, and poor recovery after workouts. Further down the line, stress can lead to even more serious diseases and implications, including depression, types II diabetes, fibromyalgia, and so on.
The ironic thing about sustained stress, is that each of these complications just lead to more stress. If you’re too tired to be productive during the day, yet can’t sleep at night to get rid of the fatigue; you’ll just be more stressed that you can’t find the energy to get things done.

Nutritional Stress
Stress from the foods we eat deserves it’s own section. It is believed that the majority of stress experiened by North Americans is caused by nutritional stress. Processed foods, unbalanced macronutrients (fats vs proteins vs carbohydrates), hydration, and a lack of wholesome foods causes UNPARALLELED stress on our bodies. Food is supposed to provide us the energy we need for all our other daily activities. A lot of the foods we buy actually tax our bodies of energy in the digestion process, robbing us from some of that valuable energy. I can’t possibly cover everything on nutritional stress in this article. But I will provide you with two resources. The first is a book called the Thrive Diet, written by Brendan Brazier (quoted earlier). I am neither recommending or suggesting you follow the thrive diet, but there is a lot of good information on nutritional and other stresses. Secondly, I will be posting an article on nutrional recommendations in a couple weeks. There will be a bunch of ideas you can adopt into your diet to minimize the nutritional stress on your body.

Balancing Stress
As mentioned before, some stress is beneficial. We stress our muscles every time we go through a MORFit Boot Camp. But we stop the stress, recover, and come out stronger and more fit than we were before. If you went through three boot camps every day for 4 months, the stress would be too much. We wouldn’t recover, fatigue would set in, and possibly injury. Stress also strengthens our immune system in the same way. If stress lasts too long, the immune system is overloaded, and we are at increased risk of illness and immune system ailments.
Below are a couple strategies you can use to try and manage the effects of stress in your life:
1) Be aware of stress symptoms (fatigue, mind clutter, unmotivated, performance decline, weight gain, weight loss, sleep disturbance, mood swings, decreased sex drive)
2) Educate yourself on what you’re eating, and start making healthy substitutions
3) Balance work, recreation, and other responsibilities. Do you really need to put in the overtime? Is there something more productive you can be doing instead of watching “The Last Ten Pounds”? Will I be more relaxed if I take the kids to the park and leave the dishes till tomorrow?
4) GET YOUR SLEEP!!! 4-6 hours is not enough for the vast majority of us, yet this is a very common amount of sleep for many of us. Getting good quality sleep every night can do wonders for stress levels, positively affecting everything else.
5) Choose your battles. Some of us are more high strung than others. Turning every little squabble into a warzone may get you your way more often, but it will come back at you in stress. Cortisol makes no exceptions for type A’s. A good question to ask yourself in these situations, “Will this really matter 6 months from now?”.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment. Every little bit helps. I wish you all a stress-limited week. Check out Brazier’s book when you get the chance!


Managing Time & Yourself

As some of you have noticed, I have missed a week or two in submitting an article to the MORFit Blog. I do apologize to the readers out there. I wish I could use the excuse that I have been too busy, but this very article is about time and stress management, and winding down on a weekly, if not daily basis.

We do them with our groceries, so why not with the rest of our daily to-do’s? Have you ever noticed how much more time you spend in the grocery store if you don’t have your list with you? You have to check every group of products in every aisle, just to make sure you don’t forget something. And if you do, then it’s an immense waste of time making that second trip.
As we get older we seem to develop more responsibilities. I would highly encourage you to try making a list of things to do during times of stress (home renovations, balancing a busy weekend with the kids, University exam month, etc.). Make a column for “urgent”, “non-urgent”, and “reminders”. Take ten minutes to brainstorm everything you need to get done, and write them under one of the columns. There will be times when you’re adding to the list more than removing, but it is such a relief to have it written down, and not worry if you’re missing something.

Take Time For Yourself
This has been an extremely hard thing for me to do, now that we’re in the throws of building the MORFit Training Centre. I’ve been trying to spend every spare minute in the gym tearing up floors, hauling out garbage, or looking for something to do. My contractor and good friend Dan gave me a lecture this past week about taking time off. I heeded his advice, and was more productive on other tasks that I had been ignoring (such as the MORFit Blog). Often we get caught up in one task that is in the forefront of our mind; neglecting to realize our efficiency is needed somewhere else. Many times, that somewhere else, is simply relaxing. When we relax, we let go of stress, which is one of the healthiest habits to get into.

Stressful Times
Next week I will dedicate an entire article to stress. This natural process is experienced by every human, is a major leading cause of chronic diseases, yet is commonly overlooked. Most people strive for a healthy body through diet and exercise; yet completely ignore stress as a major component to health. Diet and exercise contribute to stress in their own ways; which can be a good or a bad stress. This will be explained in greater detail in the next article. For now, we just want to plant a seed in your mind that stress could be the reason why you feel fatigued all the time, could be the reason you seem to keep putting on weight despite your regulated diet and exercise, could be the reason why your doctor is worried about your lipid/cholesterol/blood sugar levels.

Bit of a shorter article today. But now we both have an extra 5 minutes to sit back, listen to some Nick Drake, and simply, breathe.