How foam rolling can dramatically help with weight-loss and pain

If you’ve been exercising for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen or heard foam rolling. For most of my clients, there is a love/hate relationship with this method of tension release. If you’ve ever had a massage before, you know how wonderful and relaxing it feels to work out any kinks or knots you may have. But while foam rolling achieves the same thing, it just plain hurts. I’m selling it so well, right? Well, let’s get into a little bit of science behind why it works, and then outline how it can help not only reduce any pains and aches, but also dramatically help anyone lose weight.

Let me first say that any calorie burning and work is done at the cellular level. Every cell in our body has a certain amount of energy available to it, and can perform only a certain amount of work before it gets too tired to function, and has to replenish its energy. One muscle is made of hundreds, if not thousands, of muscle cells all contracting and expanding together to move us through the world. Think of it like a small army working together to make movements easy and efficient. Put even simpler, many hands make light work.

But if we have knots in a muscle, some of those cells cannot contract, cannot use energy, and cannot be involved in the weight loss process. Even worse, the other non knotted muscle cells have to work way too hard, making them fatigue quickly, making us take rests sooner than we’d like during a workout. Even worse, those cells also have increased risks of injury when they fatigue, and need much longer to rest before we can use them again. Think of it like pulling all nighters for just a few days can lead to even the simplest tasks becoming impossible. In exercise terms, we call that over-training, and this can lead to a weight-loss plateau faster than anything else.

Stretching should help, right? Well, stretching is a great way to stay limber, yes. But think of the full chain of cells in a muscle like a really big rubber band. If we tied a knot into the rubber band, the muscle would stretch, but NOT the cells involved in the knot. Enter foam rolling. By applying direct pressure to the knot, we force just those tight cells to clench hard for about a minute (the pain), and then release their stored tension (the release). Unfortunately, tighter/bigger the knot, the more pain we experience. On top of that, the release may take up to a week of foam rolling every day to fully release the knot. But, the relief for my clients with chronic pain is immediate and sustainable after only a few days of ‘treatment.’

If every cell in the muscle can be used for movement, not only does life get easier, but we have more cells using energy at once, and each movement we do burns more calories! Not only that, but we can perform harder movements, at higher intensities, and even take shorter rests.

So what do we foam roll? Well, the whole body would be nice. But unless you’re retired, or a personal trainer and do this for a living, there’s not enough time in the day (a minute per knot, remember?) For most people, three major muscle groups are really the culprits of most pains, and the biggest muscles that use energy/calories: the middle back, the glutes (butt muscles), and quads (thighs). These three groups need to be free to do not only more work functionally, but when they get tight, they actually turn off other muscle groups (ex: tight quads mean the hamstrings and glutes can’t function well. And a tight mid back means the low back and neck do way more work. Eww back pain!)

I leave techniques for foam rolling to any YouTube video or self experimentation you desire. But bottom line is this: foam rolling means more work in less time, faster weight loss, and a lot less pain.

GMO, Glyphosphate, Gluten, Gobbledygook?

As a health expert and personal trainer, I get questions about the latest nutrition related buzzwords all the time. Are genetically modified foods bad? What is gluten, and is it bad for my gut? Is glyophosphate (Round Up) toxic to my microbiome? Is Dairy the Devil?

Well, as a total nerd, and educator, my first gut reaction is to break into song and dance about different scientific studies, the chemical compositions of our cells and these substances, and even point them in directions for more information. Fortunately, I'm usually able to stop the show, and simply answer the client with this: you're asking the wrong questions. 

The real question is this: how does eating food make you feel?  For example, I love to eat Lavash (a type of bread, i.e. gluten), topped with a good quality cultured yogurt (i.e. dairy). Gluten and dairy are terrible, right? For some reason, I can eat literally pounds of the stuff and be fine. But a tortilla/bun from any fast food place? Cheap white bread? Top that off with processed cheese? Within minutes (no joke) I gain an inch on my stomach, and become so bloated with gas that I clear rooms. For years, I gave up all non vegetable carbs and dairy, because science told me it was bad, and I missed them so much. But only after I asked myself the question of how does this specific food, I can now eat what I love!

Becoming aware of how your body reacts to specific foods is the key to leading a happy healthy life. It sounds like a lot of work, and at first it is; tracking all your food, different apps and sensors to get the data, tracking how food effects sleep and mood, etc. But the long term effects are so worth it. Sure, at first you'll have to give up some foods you may like. But once you realize how they make you feel, you'll not want them much. Think of the freedom of being able to eat anything you want, AND feel great doing it. 

How can you tell? One easy way is this: we don't have gas and bloating when we eat well. Farts come from the bad bacteria in our gut getting what they want. Another way is to download any heart rate variability app on your smartphone (I personally use StressCheck by Azumio for Android). The variation of the space between each beat of our heart can tell us just how stressed food (or lack of sleep) can make us. Lastly, food should be energizing and vitalizing for us. If you feel lethargic and don't want to move after a meal, you may have eaten something wrong, or simply way too much.  

Reconnecting with your body is the most basic, and most important step to conquering weight-loss, muscle growth, heart problems, joint pain, and even the bedroom.  Don't wait for studies and conflicting science to tell you how to eat and live your life. Take the time to say hi to your body again. I promise, it's worth it!


Himalayan Salt Lamps

About a month ago I started learning about Himalayan Salt Lamps. At first, I wrote them off as hippy garbage, or at best, a placebo producing product. They had to be, with claims like:

  • Cleaner indoor air
  • Reducing allergies
  • Improved mood
  • Reducing the harmful effects of EMF (electromagnetic fields)
  • And even helping to prevent cancer. 

If it sounds too good to be true, my skeptic meter goes crazy. Prevent cancer? Yeah right. But lately, I've been getting much more into meditation, yoga, and other practices from the East, and I've noticed massive benefits to my life. So, I decided to jump on a sale for a pair of these magic rocks, and see what might happen. (At the very least, my clients might think they're pretty in the studio)

Before I get to my experience with these pretty pink wonders, I do want to get to some hard science, as you'll never get fru-fru hippy crap with me. Let's go through three of the top health claims, and some of the science that supports them. 

1) Himalayan Salt Lamps (HSLs) clean the air, reduce allergies, and combat EMF
This claim is based on the idea that the HSL is hygroscopic in nature (meaning that it attracts airborne water molecules). When the lamp inside the stone is on, the lamp then evaporates this moisture to produce negative ions in the surrounding environment. Pollution, smoking, and electronics of any kind all produce a combination of positive ions which are harmful to us, and the HSL's negative ions combat these positive ions to produce a more 'balanced' environment.  
(You can actively feel these kinds of negative ion effects on a large scale when near waterfalls and beaches, where negative ions are abundant)

2) Improved mood and sleep
For this claim, we need to turn to chromotherapy (a method of treatment that uses the visible spectrum (colors) of electromagnetic radiation to cure diseases). According to one study, "the color pink (the distinct color of the HSL) does have some tranquilizing and calming effects within minutes of exposure, and suppresses hostile, aggressive and anxious behavior." 

3) They frikin' cure cancer!
This claim I had the most trouble with. Going back to the same study, the color red does seem to have been shown to be effective in the treatment of cancer and healing wounds. Add to this the effects of decreased EMF radiation, the HSL helps regulate our melatonin levels, which have been linked in many clinical studies around the world to inhibit cancer cell growth.

It's been two weeks since I've had these rocks running in my house. I have no physical data to back up my claims, but I will say that the difference is noticeable. The air does smell better. I have more energy through the day, and I would also say my moods have been elevated. I also track my sleep, and the few nights I've had the lamps on before bed, my sleep quality overall has improved. Lastly, I was right, and my clients do love the look and feel of the lamps in the room, whether while getting trained or coached. 

I won't recommend a specific stone for you, since I don't have enough experience to give that kind of recommendation. However, I would say that if you have any worries about your air quality, and don't want to invest in a $500+ air purifier, these little stones might be worth a try.