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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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Readers Blog: Terracotta101...The 101 on health and fitness

Low AM Energy? No Pain No Gain? Do I Have To Sweat?

Question: I’ve been having a tough time with my energy levels for my 6am workouts. I was thinking coffee might help with this, but it seems like it’s always getting mixed reviews. Any cause for concern before a workout?

Answer: First things first. If you’re experiencing low energy levels, and you’re not necessarily focused on fat loss, try having a small breakfast, or even a bar or a shake, before you go workout. This will definitely provide the much-needed energy you’re looking for. However, if you’re trying to drop body fat and you’d like to avoid calories that early in the morning, coffee is an excellent alternative. The caffeine in coffee is considered a central nervous system stimulant and will provide a boost of energy, though the effect varies greatly among individuals. Caffeine is actually considered an ergogenic aid, meaning it enhances physical performance. In the right amounts, caffeine has been shown to reduce the perception of effort during a workout, which means your workout will seem easier than it actually is. Not bad for a little cup o’ joe, huh? Keep in mind, coffee does increase heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, and it can make you a bit jittery if you’re a newbie. Luckily, these effects are relatively mild, especially for healthy folks. In fact, much of the research these days is focused on the potential health benefits of coffee, rather than any health risks.

Question: I was in the gym the other day and I overheard a guy talking about his “No Pain, No Gain” weightlifting philosophy. Do I need to adopt this attitude for my own workouts to see results?

Answer: No, not necessarily. It is true that weight training sessions can be intense, resulting in micro-tears and subsequent muscle soreness for a day or two afterward. This is completely normal, and as the body heals itself, the muscle fibers gradually become larger and stronger. This is the essence of strength training. However, if he was implying that a workout is only effective if pain is involved, he is flat wrong. Mild discomfort is common at the end of a hard set, as fatigue starts to set in, but actual pain is never a good sign during a workout. If you’re experiencing this, it usually means you’re severely overworking a muscle or you’ve suffered an injury.

Question: Do I really need to sweat profusely to get in a good workout, or is this another fitness myth?

Answer: Myth all the way! Sweating and the overall quality of your workout do not go hand in hand. Workout quality depends on the type of activity, the intensity and the duration. Sweating is simply a way for your overheated body to cool itself…that’s it. Some people sweat from the very beginning of physical activity and others end up doing 30 minutes before the first bead hits the floor. Your environment, specifically the temperature and humidity, certainly plays a role, but the amount you sweat is very individualized as well. When you’re physically active, your core body temperature rises and the body looks for an easy way to dissipate heat. So, the next time you’re sweating and someone mentions that you look hot, just tell them, “Really, I was just starting to get cool.”

About the author: Terra Cardwell earned a bachelors in Kinesiology from UWM, ISSA Certified in Sports Nutrition and ACSM Certified personal trainer. To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at terracotta101@hotmail.com

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