What? Can my diet screw up my stretching? The average person has never imagined there is a direct correlation between diet and stretching.
As humans, we tend to put everything into buckets, or compartments. We think of diet as separate from strength training and strength training as separate from stretching. Finally, we think of our thoughts as separate from our health. The truth is, all of these things are combined together to make the whole you. The food you eat fuels the body to increase your strength. The stretching increases flexibility to allow better use of our strength which enables us to gather more food and prepare it. Our thoughts give us the will to increase our flexibility and strength to gather the foods and prepare them to eat. As you can see, it is a chain reaction. You have heard the phrase, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
This is true in health. Not eating the correct foods can affect strength, flexibility, and our thoughts. Today I will discuss some of the things I have learned about how food affects us throughout our bodies. There are many resources you can seek out to dive a little deeper and I will list some of my resources that you can listen to as well at the bottom of this article.
The Importance of Diet and Stretching
Food is an energy source we need to make our muscles and brain fire properly. Too much bad food can slow the metabolism which can lead to weight gain, feelings of being sluggish, and can create brain fog. The question is, what is good food versus bad food?
We see too many studies on our various media channels about foods that contradict each other. One study says coffee is good for us, another says it is bad for us. It can be a real challenge and downright frustrating. My clients have seen my weight loss and have asked many questions about what I did and how I did it. Today I will share with you what I did, but please keep in mind this is what I did and before you change anything in your diet. If you have health challenges, make sure you speak with your physician before changing your diet.
In 1997, I lost 105lbs and maintained that weight until 2020. When the pandemic hit, I had a doctor visit with my primary care doctor, and I weighed 210 pounds. She had mentioned that my BMI (body mass index) was a little high. BMI is a standard based on your height and weight. I am 6’4” tall and weighed 210lbs. which my doctor said was overweight based on the BMT scale. I decided to try and bring my weight down to where I needed to be which was 185-190 lbs. I went back to what I had learned in 1997 from another doctor. I reduced my refined carbohydrates, breads, pasta, rice, and any baked goods, to less than 10% of my diet. I raised my vegetable intake to 60-70% of my total diet intake. In other words, 60-70% of everything I eat is a plant-based food. And put my protein (meat) intake at 20%. I was not focused on calories, just what type of food I ate. Too many people focus on calories in versus calories out and that is a problem. Here is an example, if I eat 100 calories of candy versus 100 calories of broccoli, will it have the same effect on my body. Of course not, why?
A daily diet of candy will have a very different effect on my body than a daily diet of broccoli. Would you agree? I am sure you see this. So if I eat 100 calories of candy daily and then exercise to burn 100 calories my body will still be damaged, whereas if I choose broccoli over the candy, my body will respond very differently. Therefore, calories in versus calories out depend on what you are eating.
My body responded well and in a very short period of time I lost 25lbs, down to 185 lbs. I was able to maintain that weight for the next 12 months. What was funny is, she thought I had lost too much weight even though I was at the weight she said I needed to be.
My point here is your weight will respond to the type of foods you are eating. Keep in mind that every person’s body is different so you may have to tweak these ideas to get a similar result with your body. As a nation, are eating way too much refined carbs and sweets. A high intake of refined carbs can slow your metabolism and cause your body to store fat in each of its cells. This can make it difficult to lose weight and make you feel sluggish. When eating too many refined carbs and sweets, you are not getting the fiber you need for a healthy gut system, and this can affect your colon and intestines. The fiber slows the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream by creating a gelatinous covering on the inside of your intestines. Eating more vegetables will provide the fiber needed for a healthier digestive system and provide you with important minerals to power your body.
The more colorful the veggies, the better. Veggies like green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, mustard greens, lettuces, kale, and chard are a great source of minerals for your body. The beauty is that most of these greens come in different colors like red, and different shades of green.
Meat is a great source of protein and some important amino acids. This is important for building muscle which will protect your bones, and increase strength and stamina. For those of you who are vegan or vegetarian, it is true you can get protein from plant-based sources and supplements as well. I find that meat is easier for me. The important thing about meat is to know how it was raised, processed, and cooked. You want the cleanest meat you can find. Meats that are grass-fed and grass-finished are the best. These meats are high in Omega 3s which are great for the heart. Grain-fed meats are high in Omega 6s which is not good for you. Look to see if the animals were injected with antibiotics and hormones. If the animals got it, so will you. Were the animals raised in a good environment? I know this may sound like a weird thing, but it does affect the meat. I remember as a kid, many farmers would say, never stress an animal before you kill it as it will cause the meat to be tougher. Plus, it is just not right to stress the animal any more than you have to as a good humane measure.
I know this is a broad explanation, but I wanted to give you a little information about how the right foods can make a difference in your stretching.
Food and Stretching
When we eat a diet with too much refined carbs like breads, pasta, rice, white potatoes, and sweets, we end up with too much glucose in our bloodstreams. This causes an insulin response which can increase inflammation throughout our bodies. This inflammation affects the joints, spine, and brain making it harder to stretch and difficult to focus on releasing the muscles. Remember, I have spoken many times about how to use your brain to relax the muscles. The sugar spikes put the brain on high alert causing non-stop thoughts, increased energy then a crash, and a feeling of fatigue making it very difficult for you to focus on releasing the muscles.
When a person is in this state, the pain will increase and the ability to relax is impossible. There will be irritability and frustration causing you to lose patience with the stretching. This is why so many just give up.
Thoughts and Stretching
This one throws a huge curve to many people, including professionals. How can my thoughts affect my stretching? A mind that is racing, thinking of everything I need to do for the day, cannot relax the muscles. We think of stress as a person biting their nails as they are about to lose everything, which is bad. However, the person that cannot slow their mind from thinking about all the things they have done, want to do, or will do in the future is dealing with chronic stress, which is equally as bad. Our bodies need some stress from time to time to keep us healthy. The temporary stress raises cortisol levels, blood pressure, and glucose levels, and revs the body up in a healthy way. When the stress is chronic, or all the time, the body never is able to rest and recover. Remaining in this state most of the time takes a toll on the body and keeps the brain in the fight or flight response, making muscles tight. This is impossible to stretch.
Use your stretching time as a time to rest your thoughts and just feel your body releasing. Stretching is not about pain. Self-massage is not about pain. Both are about feeling the body relaxing and releasing. When you have completed your stretches, you should feel relaxed as if you had meditated for a few minutes. I use my stretching time to let go of my thoughts and just feel my body from the inside out.
This can be difficult for those of you who have never done this before. So take your time. It does not need to be perfect. Begin with 5 minutes at a time and work your way up to 20 minutes at a time. Practice breathing out as you stretch as if you are in the water just floating along without a care in the world. I don’t care how far you move when stretching as the range of motion will eventually take care of itself. There is no competition in stretching so you can focus only on relaxing. I have stretched my neck sitting in my car at a stoplight for 2 minutes at a time. I find it a great way to deal with traffic and the bustle of everyday life. Give it a try and see if it improves your life.
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
Neck Hyperextension Oblique
Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!
Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.