Your Tired Ass!

Do you need coffee to start off your day? Have you recently gained weight, especially around the mid section?

If Yes, then you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue!

Adrenal glands are responsible for a boat load of hormones that are essential for life as you know it! Some include DHEA, Progesterone, Testosterone and cortisol. Since the adrenals are responsible for these hormones, they are directly related to energy production, fat storage, fluid and electrolyte balance.

The main culprite of adrenal fatigue is stress.  Our daily routines lack the ability to relax. Our workdays have become longer, poor eating has become a habit and a good nights sleep has become far too distant. These overtime will cause a dysfunction of the adrenals that will lead to some or all of the symptoms below:

•Mild depression or anxiety
•Multiple food and or inhalant allergies
•Lethargy and lack of energy. Desire for “cat naps”
•Difficulty in performing daily tasks
•Decreased stress coping skills
•Dry and thin skin
•Heart Palpitation
•Hair thinning or lose

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may have adrenal fatigue.

Now the question that needs an answer is “what do you do?”

1) Reduce or completely stop the intake of caffeine!

2) Sleep! Get it! 7-8 hours every night. If you are one of those people that can only sleep 4-5 hours, stop shitting yourself and get to bed! You may think you can function off those hours but there is no way you’re at your potential!

3) Reduce the strenuous workouts to easy workouts that don’t exhaust the body. If you continue to push you will dig a bigger hole for yourself.

4) Stop eating packaged foods and eat nutrient dense foods; Foods that do not have an ingredients list!

5) Learn to meditate or something that allows the mind to calm (read a book, go for a walk get a massage, walk out into a field and scream your lungs off!). This will also bring the heart rate down.

6) Adrenal Support supplements. Though it’s best to get nutrition from food, its recommended to supplement with an adrenal Support to ensure you are receiving adaquate micronutrients. Some take an adrenal Support as a daily supplement even if they don’t suffer from adrenal fatigue.

There are many ways to get your body functioning properly. Take one of these tips above and make it happen. One small step will result in a huge jump in your adrenal function.

Talk to one of the trainers at Critical Mass for further information. We also provide an adrenal support cocktail but if you need anything else book a nutrition counseling session with Julia!

Want to be LEAN?!

Sure, you do your best to eat healthy and live a fit and active lifestyle, but you’re still not satisfied with your body. Day after day of eating salads and hitting the gym and your body isn’t changing.

It’s frustrating!

And yet there are people, whom you know personally, with phenomenal bodies and very little body fat. What are they doing differently than you? You work out and eat healthy too! Why doesn’t your body look like theirs?

What’s the big secret that they know about losing fat, getting lean, and looking amazing?

The answer is as simple as it is difficult: AVOID SUGAR

While you do your best to eat healthy, do you know how much sugar you are actually consuming everyday? The answer will surprise you.

The average American consumes over 80 grams of sugar everyday, an amount that’s easily three times more than is safe and healthful. How much sugar do you eat? Write down the sugar count on everything you eat for the next few days and then find your average sugar gram intake. Now work on slashing this number.

Part of the problem is that food items are often sneaky about how much sugar is really hiding within. Deceiving messages on the packaging imply that the contents are beneficial, causing us to ignore the high sugar content. In the end whatever supposed benefits being advertised are overshadowed by the negative effect of the sugar.

What’s the big deal about taking in a lot of sugar? Well, you won’t achieve a lean body while consuming a lot of sugar. So if you choose to indulge in sugar then forget about strutting your stuff on the beach this year.

Aesthetics aside, a high sugar intake is detrimental to your health as it causes your cells and organs to become acidic and a breeding ground for disease.

Going back to that guy or gal that you know who is perpetually lean…you can bet that their diet is extremely low in sugar. A low sugar diet is the key to keeping lean and it’s not had by simply avoiding the high sugar items, like candy and cake, it’s had by avoiding items with even low amounts of added sugars.

Take the next week to cut out all added sugars from your diet. Check in with your weight and your energy levels at the end of seven days and note any difference. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you’ll see results in both your weight and energy levels by making this simple, conscious move to avoid sugar.

Diet is only half of the equation when it comes to having a sexy, fit body. Exercise is the other half of the coin, and that’s where I come in.

Contact us for more information:

Cortisol, the FLIGHT or FIGHT Hormone


Cortisol, the fight or flight super hormone that is essential in surviving a life and death situations might just kill you! Now I am not going to go into detail on this process, because I am not a doctor and it would just confuse the both of us. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the Adrenal Glands. When you find your self in a stressful situation your brain will send a signal to your adrenal glands to release cortisol which brings about adrenaline. In a nut shell this hormone saves your ass. Cortisol’s causes:

•A quick burst of energy
•Heightened memory functions
•A burst of increased immunity
•A greater tolerance to pain
•Super hero strength

Your probably saying to yourself, “This all sounds great but where does the ‘kill you’ situation come in?” After a stressful situation where your body perceives harm, the body gradually retreats back to a normal state of relaxation. However, due to our life styles being stressful, we never experience relaxation and if we do, it’s NOT ENOUGH! Therefore, the body is always in a state of excitement and this can be potentially deadly. Prolonged presence of cortisol can cause:

•Decreased thyroid function
•Decreased muscle tissue
•Decreased Bone density
•High blood pressure
•Slow healing and increased inflammation
•Increased abdominal fat
•Loss of attention skills

Long lasting cortisol levels in the blood will increase your chances of experiencing the above symptoms. In the long run you can suffer from greater occurrence of sicknesses, increased weight gain, heart attacks and or strokes. Fun stuff right?

The best thing that you can do to lower cortisol levels after a fight or flight response is to take deep breaths, meditate, hum, self reflect or build up your body’s tolerance to stress. Some exercises you can do that are very beneficial are isometric holds for time. This means hold a position (with proper form) for an extended amount of time. Examples would be:

•Wall Sits
•Lunge holds
•Even just regular exercise has benefits on lowering stress levels.

Basically anything that challenges your will power! These exercises will allow you to push yourself to greater relaxation. You are forcing your own body and mind to experience a pain. Once you reach a moment in the hold where your inner voice says “this hurts, I have to stop” you push through and don’t stop. Experiencing a self inflicted pain (in a healthy manner) and pushing your mind and body to a new limit will allow you to interpret a once very stressful situation to a not so stressful situation. Now, I am not saying your are going to be skipping through a gum fight like your on the yellow brick road, but you will be able to greater handle the situation as it unfolds around you.

Our everyday lives are stressful but they don’t need to be. Isometric holds are a great exercise to incorporate into your workouts. It’s a self help exercise that will keep your cortisol levels down when your wife is yelling at you to take out the trash or if your trying to meet a deadline. There is no reason to be stressed with mundane life events.

Can Food Addiction be Cured?

The average American has a dysfunctional relationship with food. This is simply because of it’s availability. Our culture is centered around food. We eat when we are happy, sad, and bored…because we can! This has caused us to be disoriented when it comes to how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop! Along with societal pressures, this is has given rise to eating disorders and a staggering obesity rate.

Processed foods and the irresponsibility of large food companies is causing mass confusion about what is healthy and what isn’t. These companies have stripped away vital parts of whole foods, added chemicals, and sweeteners and marketed these foods as “healthy”. As a result, people have developed food addictions.

I personally do not believe that food addictions are caused by genetic psychological disorders. What I do believe is that people self-medicate with processed foods because of the physiological effect that it has on the brain. Have you ever heard of someone having an addiction to apples or broccoli? Me neither.

Our bodies are genetically coded for survival. That means that behaviors that ensure our survival are “rewarded”. This reward response occurs in the Limbic System of the brain responsible for our emotions and biological drives such as hunger and sex. When you eat, our brains release a chemical called Dopamine (along with serotonin), which acts upon the limbic system and gives us a sense of pleasure. Some foods elicit this response better than others. Concentrated sugar has a major impact on this response because it is absorbed quickly by the body. This is because sugar is further broken down into glucose, the body’s primary energy source.

While some whole foods have naturally occurring carbohydrate (sugar), other nutrients are also found with it. Other nutrients such as fiber, fat, and protein balance the effect that the carbohydrate has on blood sugar levels. This is important because the higher blood sugar levels rise, the quicker the body tries to clear it from the blood stream using a hormone called Insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows nutrients from the bloodstream to be taken up by our cells.

When a person consumes concentrated sugar over time, the body’s insulin response begins to weaken because the cells that are responsible for secreting insulin become desensitized to glucose. That means, it takes higher and higher amounts of glucose to signal insulin to be released so that the cells can receive nutrition. When cells become “starved”, a hormone called ghrelin is released to “tell” your brain that you are hungry and dopamine levels drop until you eat again. This may be responsible for why food cravings occur, especially to sugar.

The answer to this problem is to slow the transit of foods in your system by regularly drinking water and eating whole foods full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. The hormones responsible for telling your brain that you are hungry or full are also controlled by the stretching of the stomach and small intestine. Foods with high fiber, protein, and water content stretch the stomach and small intestine signaling leptin to trigger satiety. Sugar and processed carbohydrates, on the other hand, move faster through the digestive system because they are absorbed quickly by the body. The faster something is digested, the more ghrelin is released to tell you that you’re hungry. Eating nutrient-dense foods will eventually fix dysfunctional insulin and hunger signaling responses. Another way to fix the problem is through Intermittent Fasting (IF), which can reset the insulin and hunger signaling response.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is one of the newest dietary strategies being studied specifically for its fat loss effects. IF involves going short periods without food, such as 24 hours once per week or 16 hours each day. Some of the positive benefits include an increase in immune system function, improvement in blood lipids, improvement in brain function and mental clarity, improvement in insulin signaling, and increase in fat utilization as fuel.

Here’s how it works. When you eat, it takes several hours for your body to break down the food and clear sugar, fat, and protein molecules from your bloodstream. Where these nutrients go depends on many things including your metabolic rate, nutrient demand, and the amount of insulin utilized to clear these molecules from the bloodstream. Most importantly, the more insulin that is utilized, the higher the potential to store those nutrients as fat. When you fast, insulin levels stay low and fat becomes released from fat cells into the bloodstream to be used as energy. When it’s time to break the fast, chances are, your body will respond quickly with insulin and you may even feel full sooner.

While there are mixed results on the effect of IF on fat loss, there is a very logical reason for doing it. It allows you to engage in gradual caloric restriction as opposed to sharply decreasing it. This is important because a rapid decline in calories, especially when exercise is a part of the weight loss plan, can cause hormonal imbalances to occur. This will most definitely halt your fat loss progress and may even cause you to gain weight. IF allows you to restrict your calories for a relatively short period of time and then return to a normal eating pattern.

Intermittent Fasting and Food Addiction

Have you ever felt like you are addicted to food, especially sugar? This is because your brain releases dopamine in response to eating carbohydrates, and more specifically sugar. This is because your brain utilizes about 25% of your total carbohydrate intake to maintain its function and is also easily broken down and taken up by the body to be used as energy. It is a survival mechanism.

Dopamine is known as the “pleasure” hormone. It acts upon the pleasure center of your brain to “reward” you for behaviors that ensure your survival. When you expose your system to sugar frequently your body needs more and more sugar to get the same dopamine release because the receptors that recognize dopamine, become desensitized. There is some evidence to suggest that IF can reset your dopamine response to eating because you deplete your body’s carbohydrate stores during IF.

Adam Eckart MS CSCS FDN-P
Co-Founder, Critical MASS Training Systems
732.889.3319 ext. 2

P.S. For more information on intermittent fasting and other nutritional weight loss strategies please give us a call or email us.

How Training Less can Help you Lose More!

Let’s play out the following scenario.

You are 30-40 pounds overweight. Recently, you’ve decided to make a change. You want to feel better, look better, and increase your energy levels. Through logic and some research, you’ve determined that eating whole foods including clean sources of protein and hearty vegetables will support muscle gain and energy levels. Additionally, you understand that by reducing refined sugar and processed carbohydrates, you’ll begin to shed some body fat. Last, but certainly not least, you’ve decided to increase your activity levels by exercising more, taking the stairs, riding your bicycle to local destinations and adding other logical ways to integrate movement into your lifestyle.

Let’s fast forward a few months. You’ve been extremely consistent. You’re down 25-30 pounds and approximately 75% of the way to your goal. However, you’ve noticed that your weight loss has diminished week to week. During your first few weeks, you lost 3-5 pounds per week, but now you’re losing 1-2 pounds every other week. You reexamine your exercise levels and dietary choices, picking through each meal plan with a fine-tooth comb. You may ask yourself “what can I eliminate to catalyze my weight loss?” Logic is telling you to start eating less and exercising more and so you implement this strategy for a few weeks.

It worked. After a few weeks of eating less and training more, you’re down another 5 pounds. You continue this strategy and max it out by eating as little as you can to sustain your wake hours and workouts. Another couple of weeks go by and, suddenly, seemingly to come out of nowhere, you hit another wall. You’ve ceased losing weight or, worse yet, gained weight. You wake up tired, don’t feel like working out, and generally lack the motivation to do anything else but eat and sleep. Your weight loss journey has come to a screeching halt.

Let’s examine.

This result is all too common for many people. In fact, you’ve most likely heard of the term used for the cycle of losing weight and gaining it all back. It’s called the “yo-yo” effect. In some cases, the rebound weight gain can be worse than where you started!

This is all due to something called the law of conservation of energy. Yes, it’s a term used in physics to explain that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but rather, it changes energy states. A simple way of explaining this law is: energy in is equal to energy out.

Let’s use the following example to illustrate. Say you want to roll a bowling ball up a hill. You try several times, but the ball only goes so far up the hill before it rolls back to you. You decide that you need to put more energy (force) behind the bowling ball to reach the top so that it will roll down the other side. So you put more energy into the ball so that it reaches the top and it finally rolls down the other side. Observe that you had to continuously put energy into the ball until you reached the top. Keep in mind that friction between the surface of the ground and the surface of the ball is partly responsible for the amount of force needed to get the ball over the hill. Friction slows the ball down. So we must overcome that friction, the weight of the ball, and the height of the hill.

Let’s compare the ball to your body weight and the energy required to push the ball over the hill to your metabolism (the net amount of energy required for your body to maintain its processes such as brain function, breathing, digestion, circulation, and movement.) The hill, of course, represents what changes (effort) must occur in order to affect weight loss. Using the example above, you must continuously increase your energy levels to build the metabolism you require to lose weight (mostly from fat).

It’s well understood that relative increases in your metabolism help your body change its composition, or it’s ratio of fat to lean muscle. One common way to increase your metabolism is to exercise. Exercise is specific stress placed on the body. The body utilizes energy stores to compensate to be able to handle that same stress in the future with less energy being utilized. In other words, your body becomes more energy efficient. When you weight train, more muscle is built to handle more stress. When you perform cardiovascular training, the compensation occurs at the cellular level, where more organelles called mitochondria, responsible for creating cellular energy, are developed.

Metabolic “friction” occurs under the following conditions. 1) You reduce your energy input (food) to the extent that it reduces your energy output (metabolism). 2) You increase your energy input (food) without utilizing that energy making the weight of the ball (you) greater, creating more friction.

These conditions do not happen all of a sudden. They happen as a result of momentum in that particular direction. Meaning, a shift in momentum is created when a particular behavior occurs over time. That is why, in our scenario, when you reduced your food intake and increased your exercise levels, you lost some weight. However, you lost the additional weight simply because you reduced your intake levels forcing your body to utilize reserves. You stopped losing weight because with the reduction in energy consumption, a reduction of energy production occurred. It just took a week or so to experience that effect. Realize that in order to continue building muscle (and therefore, your metabolism) you must continue to produce enough energy to exercise above and beyond your normal level. That can’t be done if the energy you consume is less than the energy required to create a metabolic shift upward. 

Make sense?

We’ve analyzed the big picture when you reduce your energy intake and increase your exercise levels to boost your weight loss progress. A reduction in caloric intake combined with an increase in exercise levels will only take you so far before you are stopped dead in your tracks. This effect is known as overtraining. 

What are the internal mechanisms responsible for this effect?

Enter a concept called Adaptive Reserve. This is the term used to describe your body’s ability to call energy reserves into action during times of acute stress (known as the Stress Response). Then, when that stress has abated, your body has the opportunity to restore those reserves. When stress is perceived, your adrenal glands put out two key hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones aid the body in utilizing stored nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) found in muscle, the liver, and the blood stream to create energy. Recall that the nutrients we eat not only help create fuel for energy, but they also help synthesize hormones, repair bones and tissue, and support immune function. A problem occurs when we are not eating enough raw materials to help create an anabolic (state of building) internal environment. We, in fact, create a catabolic (to break down) environment. When you are in a catabolic state, you are utilizing reserves at a faster rate than you can replenish them. 

As we only have a finite amount of reserves, your body will reach an extreme point of self-preservation. A few things will occur. Cortisol released by the adrenals will eventually resort to breaking down muscle tissue and converting it to glucose for energy (also known as gluconeogenesis). An elevation in cortisol inhibits the production of thyroid hormone, which essentially, reduces your metabolic rate. Lastly, a reduction in caloric intake will trigger ghrelin production, the hormone released by the gut and stomach to increase appetite and promote fat storage. 

This stress response occurs via a feedback loop called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. When your brain perceives stress, the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system becomes activated and acts upon the adrenals to release stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). Once the stress has gone away, the brain shuts down the signaling of stress hormone production. Sometimes, the stress response can actually feel good. This is because your stress hormones help to increase your energy levels and reduce inflammation. However, if stress becomes chronic, the brain will continue the stress response and will cause a state of dysfunction leading to a loss of muscle mass, an increase in fat storage, and a suppressed immune system (leaving you susceptible to becoming sick). Essentially, your body shuts down.

Regardless of the type of stress (exercise, mental, emotional, internal), your body handles it the same way, the stress response. Therefore, all stress or stressors must be managed to promote an anabolic environment. In other words, if you increase your stress, you must also create balance by increasing your body’s ability to recover from that stress. Remember, the goal is to build muscle to increase your metabolic rate so that you can change the composition of your body weight to one of an ideal ratio of muscle mass to fat mass or until you are satisfied with the way you look. The only ways to increase your body’s ability to recover is to nourish and rest your body.

Here’s how to tell if you’re overtraining. Any one or more of the following can be a sign.

1. If you lack the desire to exercise or be physically active. Your body is trying to tell you it needs rest. Listen to it.

2. Soreness or muscle aches beyond normal. This means your body is not recovering well and your hormonal production is shutting down.

3. Sugar cravings. Your body craves sugar mainly because cortisol is made from sugar. Additionally, broken down sugar, glucose, is your primary source of energy so your body is going to want more of it.

4. Reduction in libido. This is a sign that your sex hormone production is slowing. This happens because your body steals a hormone called Pregnenalone to make cortisol. Pregnenalone is the master hormone that makes all other hormones. When your body “steals” pregnenalone, all other hormone production becomes affected. Women may actually experience late or missing menstrual cycles.

5. Sleep disturbances. This is mainly due to drastic swings in your blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops at night, your body will release stress hormones to help free energy from storage. 

Here’s what you can do to avoid overtraining.

1. Engage in mainly low and moderate forms of exercise. Ramping up your heart rate to near maximal levels for 60 minutes straight, 6-7 days per week is a sure way to hit the wall. If you’re going to ramp up your heart rate, only do it once or twice per week for no more than 60 seconds at a time and less than 30 minutes in total duration.

2. Find practical ways of adding physical activity to your day. Take the stairs, park farther away, ride your bike to work. You get the point. Out of seven days, weight train 2-3 days, high intensity 1-2 days (sprints, bootcamp, kickboxing), recreational activities (active recovery) 1-2 days (yoga, golf, walking), and complete rest (passive recovery) 1-2 days. You must build recovery days into your routine where the majority of your week is either active or passive recovery. Weight training and high-intensity intervals are considered hard-effort days, active recovery activities are considered medium-effort days, and passive recovery days are considered light-effort days. Create a plan using these terms.

3. Try calorie cycling. On hard-effort days, try adding 2-3 more servings of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa. On medium days, keep your consumption at baseline. And on light days eat small meals and graze throughout the day. (Contact us for more information on our Nutrition Coaching)

4. For every period of consistent training, take off from training for about one-quarter of that time. For example, if you train consistently for 4 weeks, take off from training for one week. This will allow your body to recover and grow. You may even experience weight loss during that period.

Adam Eckart MS, CSCS, FDN-P
Co-Founder Critical MASS Training Systems
732.889.3319 ext. 2


For more information on our training and coaching programs, please contact us for a FREE Program Strategy Session.