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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Are Collagen Supplements Effective?

GettyImages-1195245457Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body and the primary structural component of connective tissues found in your bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin, aiding in their elasticity and strength. Our bodies naturally produce collagen; however, its production declines as we age, especially when paired with poor diet, excess alcohol use, lack of exercise, excess sun exposure, or use of tobacco products. The degradation of collagen and collagen production can lead to wrinkles and an aged appearance, both of which are feared in our youthful appearance-obsessed society, leading to an increased consumer interest in collagen and collagen-containing products in recent years.

Collagen Supplements: How to Buy It and What It Might Be Able to Do 

Collagen supplements are available in a variety of forms, including powders, pills, and fortified foods. They are often sold as “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides,” both forms of collagen that have already been broken down and are therefore more readily absorbed by the body. There is some evidence to suggest that collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity and hydration, promote wound healing, and improve joint mobility and pain, and are generally deemed safe with no reported adverse health effects. However, the evidence that is available to support these claims is often unclear (for example, the exact dosage to experience benefits) or funded by related industries or authors with ties to those industries who may benefit from positive research outcomes, presenting a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, as with all other dietary supplements, collagen supplements are not assessed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to being marketed; therefore, their efficacy and safety is not guaranteed.

Should You Take a Collagen Supplement?

Currently, there is not enough evidence to provide clear recommendations to support or advise against the use of collagen supplements. However, when searching for any supplement, including collagen, look for those with USP or NSF certifications on the label, which indicate that the product has been tested by a third party for purity, potency, and safety. Additionally, you should always consult a health care professional, such as your physician, prior to starting any supplement.

How to Protect Your Natural Collagen

Finally, there are some ways to naturally protect your body’s natural collagen without taking supplements:

  • Wearing sunscreen every day: UV light from the sun breaks down collagen.
  • Eating a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant Vitamin C, which can help protect collagen from damage and breakdown.
  • Controlling stress: Some studies have shown that chronically high cortisol (stress hormone) levels are associated with decreased collagen production.
  • Quitting smoking and limiting smoke exposure: Smoking may decrease the rate of collagen synthesis in the body.
  • Getting enough sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for most adults.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: joint health supplements joints dietary supplements skin collagen beauty elasticity

Gambling with Sports Injury: Warning Signs and Recovery

GettyImages-512753571Sports careers, whether you are junior varsity or a hall of fame professional, all come to an end at some point. Often, these endeavors are marred with setbacks due to injuries ranging far and wide and sometimes spanning years. During competition and in the spirit of the moment, athletes sometimes push their bodies and minds beyond what was thought possible, resulting in amazing feats—but also potential injuries.

Don’t Play Through Your Injuries

Injuries that occur when we push our bodies to the limit can become more pronounced when an athlete decides to continue activities instead of receiving timely treatment. Once commonplace, playing through injuries was more accepted in the past. However, with modern sports medicine and advanced technology, sports enthusiasts can enjoy longer, more productive careers than ever before due to increased injury awareness and preventative maintenance.

The adage “listen to your body” still rings true. Although you might not know what you are listening for, you can assess your situation and make smart decisions to help prevent more serious injury.

How Do You Know When You’ve Overdone It?

Symptoms of sports injuries and illness can vary, and anytime you have a serious concern about your health, refer to your primary care physician. Because every person experiences pain differently, resulting in a wide threshold, you may need to seek advice and consult a professional to help assess your situation. Here are some of the most common symptoms of injuries, according to Harvard Health.

  • Chest pain: Although this goes without saying, your heart is the most vital muscle in the body. Although coronary artery disease is not curable, treatments make it possible to decrease the chances for heart attacks (which may occur when a deconditioned individual is subjected to extreme strenuous exertion).
  • Difficulty breathing: Similar to chest pain, difficulty breathing can be a sign of more serious underlying issues with not only the lungs but also the heart and blood pressure. With high blood pressure, exercises such as sprinting and powerlifting typically put a lot of strain on the heart.
  • Joint swelling and pain: The swelling of a joint can range from tendon, ligament, or muscle injury to arthritis in the joint. It is good to know whether you are experiencing injury or arthritis because this will determine your level of treatment.

How to Recover and Get Back in the Game

These symptoms are common and can happen to almost anyone who exercises. Many other factors such as genetics, age, and medical history all play a role—not only in your injury, but also your healing process. “Getting back on the horse” is something we eventually want to do (once we are healed).

Here are a few tips that can get you back on the road to recovery without jeopardizing your health.

  • Before beginning a new workout program, meet with a fitness professional who can assess your physical fitness levels. Many tests are available, the Functional Movement Screen (or FMS) is designed to not only pinpoint potential red flags, but also to prescribe routines intended to better your movement patterns and decrease your chances for injury.
  • Beginning a proactive fitness program that targets your weaknesses and strengths can also help decrease your chances for injury. A program that identifies your strengths and uses them is good, but you also need to make sure your weaknesses are addressed. As these weaknesses become stronger, as a whole, you will become stronger.
  • Moving your workout to a more low-impact setting might also help. The pool adds a great opportunity to create exercise but not put stress on the joints. We know that swimming takes some skill, but just treading water can be a great way to burn calories. Depending on availability, zero-gravity treadmills and water treadmills are often used in the professional athlete world to get athletes moving (technology never ceases to amaze me).

Not sure about swimming? Check out these blogs by NIFS staff regarding the impact of swimming and some great ideas to help you get started.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner swimming injury prevention injuries sports recovery illness athletes student athletes joints low-impact

Use Prehab Exercises to Improve Athletic Performance and Health

To potentially prevent future injuries, you can use prehab exercises to bomb-proof your body. The overall goal of prehab exercises is to increase durability in your physical activities with better-quality movements, which will improve your performance and overall health.

How Prefab Exercises Help

As a planned part of your exercise routine, prehab exercises will help with mobility, activation, and stabilization:

  • MOBILITY is the process of collectively improving your flexibility.
  • ACTIVATION is the process of causing controlled contractions or trying to “turn on” specific underactivated muscle groups to fire.
  • STABILIZATION is the process of generating coordination, or to control movement.

Videos of Prefab Exercises

The videos I’ve added are a few of my favorite routines to do with athletes before workouts begin. The goal is to strengthen and mobilize joints (such as shoulders, hips, knees, and elbows) as well as help practice movements you do during workouts and everyday life. Depending on your workout for the day, I’ve included samples of full-body, upper, and lower routines that I use with athletes regularly.

Full-Body Prehab Exercise Video

Full Body Prehab Exercises

Upper-Body Prehab Exercise Video

Upper Body Prehab Standing-I, Y, T, Ws and Scap Taps

Lower-Body Prehab Exercise Video

Lower Body Prehab Exercises

Practice is the key to all these prehab exercise movements. Work on the exercises that you find the most challenging and develop a body that will be mobile, strong, and stable for many workouts to come.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises videos mobility joints movement stability prehab

Shiny Penny! How Band Distraction Can Improve Your Mobility

Band StretchWhether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior, or the casual gym-goer, addressing mobility concerns can go a long way toward performance enhancement and injury prevention. If a joint is unable to move through a complete range of motion unloaded, then it’s going to be “bad news bears” when it comes to putting that same joint under any external load. Eventually, limited mobility could lead to muscular imbalances and compensation patterns, which could ultimately lead to the onset of injury. In other words, you can’t look to build strength on top of dysfunction.

How Band Distraction Works

There are numerous ways to tackle mobility, and it’s a heck of a lot more than just lying on a mat, hitting some static stretches for 10 minutes, and calling it a day. One such technique, band or joint distraction, involves using resistance bands to specifically isolate and improve the way bones glide over each other within a joint. This is accomplished by separating the articulating surfaces to allow for synovial fluid (the body’s homemade version of WD-40) to fill the joint and allow for less friction and (hopefully) increased motion. In other words, it creates “space” inside the joint complex. Band distraction can be used with nearly any joint in the body; however, the usual suspects are typically the ankle, hip, and shoulder.

Examples of Mobility Drills Using Band Distraction

Screen Shot 2021-01-07 at 12.35.58 PMHere are a few specific examples of band-distracted mobility drills:

  1. World’s Greatest Stretch
  2. Pigeon Stretch
  3. Half-Kneeling Ankle
  4. Shoulder Girdle (2 versions)

Important Tips

A few things to keep in mind when utilizing band distraction on a joint:

  • Be sure to anchor the resistance band to an immovable post, squat rack, etc.
  • Position matters! Be sure the band is placed over the correct structures, usually the crux of the joint or as close to it as possible.
  • This is one piece of the mobility puzzle. Pair this technique with soft-tissue work (foam rolling, trigger-point therapy, etc.) as well as a thorough dynamic warmup to encourage adequate blood flow and maximize readiness.
  • You don’t need to stretch each area for an eternity. Try 30 seconds to start on each structure.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: shoulders injury prevention resistance exercises mobility joints hip mobility ankle mobility exercise bands band distraction

Stability and Mobility in Fitness: The Dynamic Duo of Movement

GettyImages-961867136Think about the most recognized duos of all time: Batman and Robin. Mario and Luigi. Buzz and Woody. Stability and Mobility. Wait, what? Yes, like superhero teams, stability and mobility work together to achieve a balanced, harmonious environment for functional movement.

It’s All Connected

First, I want to bring to your attention a concept that has been around for some time; however, we often forget the important role it plays in day-to-day performance. Let’s reflect on anatomy and the structure of the human body. I challenge you to think of it in terms of one continuous structure in which each joint affects the joints above or below it. This concept is commonly referred to as the kinetic chain. It boils down to stable joints being stable when they should be and mobile joints being mobile when they’re meant to be. In terms of starting or stopping movement, stability and mobility are quite often complementary in nature.

Being Flexible and Mobile

In case you missed it, let’s review the details from my preceding blog. Flexibility is primarily genetic, but can be improved slowly over time. It refers to the greatest length a muscle can achieve. This is often known as a joint’s range of motion (ROM).

Mobility is the ability to synchronize one’s coordination and overall strength to move around a joint under load—as, for example, when doing the front squat.

Now that we are adding stability to the equation, it enhances movement and helps it make sense. Stability is the ability to provide firmness and strength to certain joints, often with help from the surrounding connective tissue.

The Kinetic Chain in Action

The following illustration at www.acefitness.org depicts the six common links involved in the kinetic chain, along with their assigned level of stability. Each link or joint plays an important role in human movement and overall function.

Therefore, a joint’s health and function are ultimately determined by its structure and the continuous tradeoff between being stable or mobile. When there is more of one, there is always less of the other.

Why This Relationship Is Important: Injury Prevention

Why should you care? Well, when a joint is less stable, that means it is more mobile. More mobility means more motion at that joint; it can also mean more wear and tear, which can lead to more injury at that joint, including arthritis. Also, a less stable joint has to rely on surrounding muscle and tissue to provide the required stability, which can lead to injury in certain joints that are already highly susceptible.

So the next logical question is, how do I train to improve stability? We’ll explore that question in my next blog.

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness injury prevention flexibility mobility joints movement stability

Back to Exercise Basics: The Strong Squat

We here at NIFS are what you can call “pattern people”; meaning our team of instructors focuses on fundamental movement patterns and how we can enhance them to allow for better function and goal achievement. Of course we start this process by having our members complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The first assessment takes a look at the Squat pattern. Second in our series focusing on exercise basics, the squat will be the topic here, including how you can build a better one.

The Keys to a Great Squat

As we continue our focus on movement competency prior to attempting the most challenging exercise known to man (I still see this happening every day, in the gym and all over Facebook), we begin by taking a look at the major keys to a great squat. Much like the push-up described in a previous post, the squat is a super-versatile movement with so many real-life and performance applications in which it plays a role. From sitting into a chair (and standing up from that chair) to setting a PR in the back squat in your next powerlifting competition, the squat is a very powerful and functional movement we should all be training. Quite a few things are going on in a great squat; it employs core joint mobility in the ankles and hips, core stability, and motor control. These far-reaching aspects of movement are challenged and improved when incorporating a properly performed squat into your routine.

Cara_squat

Squat Pattern Checklist

Refer to the following checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your squat pattern by performing it correctly. Just as you learned to squat, check it off from the ground up:

  1. Feet 1: Just beyond shoulder-width apart
  2. Feet 2: Slightly angle outward
  3. Feet 3: Weight over the heels and spread the floor
  4. Knees: Tracking over toes
  5. Hips 1: Hips push back to begin movement
  6. Hips 2: At or below parallel
  7. Hips 3: Hips and knees flexing at same time
  8. Spine 1: Angle of spine and tibia are the same
  9. Chest: Keep up, proud chest
  10. Arms: (top of press) Push-up to straight-arm position
  11. Head: Keep gaze straight ahead

Squat Variations

Here are just a few variations you can try after mastering the pattern. Remember, do the basic stuff really well before moving on to the really hard stuff.

Overhead w. Dowel IMG_1201

2KB Front Squat

IMG_1211

BB Back Squat

IMG_1217

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises powerlifting squat pattern functional movement joints assessment squat functional movement screen

Sprint into the New Year: Do’s and Don’ts of Sprinting for Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-610859290.jpgThe New Year is just around the corner and many will be out to improve themselves on many levels in 2021, with health and fitness usually being number one on the list. If losing weight, increasing lean muscle tissue, and sculpting a lower half that will certainly turn heads, while all at the same time improving your heart health is what you are looking for, I have one answer. The use of sprints in the world of fitness and sport performance is nothing exceptionally new, but can be new to you. Actually, sprinting (fast, short bouts of running) was used to stay alive long before we used it as a mode of training.

Author Mark Sisson has spent a great deal of time spreading the message of the importance of sprinting to overall health, and that it was a huge part of daily life for our early ancestors. He believes, and I like his theory, that primal humans (represented by a caveman known as Grok) owed their fitness to three important concepts:

  • They walked great distances during their hunting and gathering trips.
  • They lifted heavy things such as building materials and large animals.
  • They sprinted for their lives from time to time from wild animals, and chased down game for their paleo dinner.

So Mark says, walk a bunch, lift heavy things (and set them back down, of course), and sprint once in a while, and fitness will find you. I think he nailed it. There isn’t much difference between a sound fitness program and what I just described. So why is sprinting so important and beneficial?

The Benefits of Sprinting

There are easily a hundred benefits of sprinting. This acute stressor can have many positive effects on your body. Here are just a few benefits of adding sprint work into your training:

  • Sprinting can be used across all fitness levels.
  • Sprinting doesn’t take a lot of time to do.
  • Sprinting burns fat.
  • Sprinting improves endurance.
  • Sprinting improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Sprinting is a fun and easy way to get and stay lean.

When implementing sprinting into your training, there are some pretty important steps to follow. To help you get started, here are a few tips that will get you on your way to sprinting more in 2017.

Step 1: Prepare Your Feet and Mobilize Major Joints

Feet: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/7w84n4t9px

Mobilize: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/l6m3ft8v72

Step 2: Perform a Proper Warmup

Warmups: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/x6i393bxk3

Step 3: Ease into Sprinting

When starting your sprinter program, follow a progressive level of intensity and volume. You do not want to start out with all-out sprints for 100 meters for sets of 5 to 10. That is a surefire recipe for an injury at worst, and failure to perform the movement properly at best.

A great tip I picked up from Eric Cressey is to start by sprinting uphill first before moving to the track or any flat surface. This will help with proper mechanics and decrease the chances of injury because you are less likely to overextend. Your timed intervals should start at a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio and gradually ramp up to a 1:1, and even a 2:1 ratio. For example, do :20 of max work followed by :40 of rest, then repeat for the desired number of sets.

The recovery from the sprint is just as important, and I would recommend using your heart rate to tell you when it is time to go again. Waiting until your heart rate is 110bpm or lower before starting your next bout is a good general rule. I am also a huge fan of using your heart rate both as a measure of intensity and for determining your rest. You would rest until your heart rate recovered to 110–120bpm before starting your next set. The bottom line is that there will be no first-place ribbon waiting for you at the end of your sprint, so know your limits and use a progressive program when implementing sprinting.

Step 4: Mix It Up with Different Types of Sprinting

Treadmill: https://nifs.wistia.com/medias/bsjs720s4a

One of the best things about sprinting is that there are several ways to sprint, and sprinting is relative to you. If you give everything you’ve got into a sprint, that is where the work is done, but it doesn’t mean you will be breaking any land speed records (unless your last name is Bolt). Your sprints don’t have to be rep after rep of 100m dashes; it just has to be a near max effort for a few reps or a short period of time. Those who claim they just got done completing 20 sprints were probably not maximally sprinting. If you intersperse a couple periods of higher effort levels with periods of lower effort levels, you will be in good shape (pun intended).

Here are some other sprinting options:

Sprinting can be a fun and very effective training tool in both fat burning and performance. I can’t stress enough the importance of a proper warmup and easing into higher-intensity sprints. Stay healthy so you can stay moving! (And if you have injuries, see this blog for tips on working through it.)

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness injuries sprinting paleo heart rate warmups new year joints