What are Energy systems? And why are they important?

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Hello boys and girls!

Today we will be talking about the body’s energy systems; how they work, what impact they have on the body and what it means to train all of them when it comes to not only your health, but for sports performance.

So where does the body get energy from in order to perform work? Our body get its energy from 3 macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

In terms of the amount of potential energy that can be utilized, fat contains the most per unit weight (9kcal/g vs a typical carbohydrate which is 4kcal/g). However, it is also very difficult to break down fats in our body because the actual structures of fats are very rigid and also the sheer size of the molecule is relatively bigger. However, because fat provides the=e most amount of energy per unit weight, it is an ideal source of energy when our body requires large amount of energy but when it is not needed very quickly.

Carbohydrates on the other hand are relatively easy to break down in contrast to protein and fats. Carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharides known as glucose. These glucose molecules are then stored as glycogen in muscle tissue. Now because it is easy for our bodies to break down glycogen and utilize glucose for energy, it is consumed rather quickly. Your body attempts to moderate the expenditure of glucose by tapping into triglycerides and sourcing its energy from various sources rather than relying too heavily on any single one.

Proteins are categorized into either essential or nonessential amino acids; essential amino acids are ones that cannot be synthesized by the human body. The nine amino acids humans cannot synthesize are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine (i.e., F V T W M L I K H). The eleven amino acids humans do synthesize are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Proteins are usually the last resort for the human body to breakdown and be used for energy.



So in order for us to utilize food for energy, it must be broken down into what we would call adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When ATP is used during processes that require energy, a single phosphate breaks off from the ATP, and the resulting breaking in bonds releases energy for work. This process leaves us with a adenosine DIphosphate and a free floating phosphate.


So now that we have a very basic understanding of where energy comes from, let’s move onto the important stuff – how we use it!


So when it comes to your body’s energy systems, there are 3 different systems that operate simultaneously. Although different energy systems are used in different levels at different intensities it is important to remember that your body does not simply ‘switch’ from one system to another. Your body’s energy systems work in an overlapping fashion relying more on one or another depending on the type of activity you are performing.


First, our ATP-phosphocreatine system provides the most immediate source of energy because it taps into the relatively small stores of glycogen in the muscle tissue. This glycogen is converted to glucose which then provides the necessary ATP needed for work. This ATP is then broken down into ADP and a free floating inorganic phosphate. This free floating phosphocreatine is then joined back onto an ADP and the process repeats itself. The amount of time this energy source provides for is <30 seconds. A good example of this is running a 100m; if you pay attention to your breathing, you will find that you are able to run at max speed for almost the length of the 100m with very few breaths.

creatine diagram

Second, the anaerobic-lactic (anaerobic glycolysis) system, like the ATP-PCR system above does not operate with the aid of O2. This too means that although this system provides energy relatively quickly, it cannot last very long and there must be a trade off for this lack of O2. This anaerobic-lactic system provides energy for moderate level intensity activities. Think of activities that last just a hair under 3 minutes – running an 800m, swimming 300m, etc. This system does provide the body with a larger pool of ATP to be used for work, however there is no such thing as a free meal. Glucose is still the main driver of this system in turning ADP into ATP. However you will notice that here, there is a new molecule called  nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), and NADH is simply when a hydrogen is added to it. Here it is important to note that NAD is a coenzyme responsible for taking a free floating Hydrogen to bring back to the glycolytic process to keep producing pyruvate. This pyruvate is combined with O2 later on in the process to be used in the Krebs cycle. Now here it get’s fairly complex in terms of biochemistry but we will keep it as simple as possible for the sake of time and to maintain your interest. Pyruvate here leads to two things: 1. it combines with coenzyme A to produce acetyl-coA which leads further down the rabbit hole towards krebs cycle 2. Pyruvate then undergoes lactate dehydrogenase whereby NAD gives a Hydrogen to pyruvate to produce lactate with a free floating hydrogen. This lactate is transported to the liver and the reverse process takes place, known as the Cori cycle. 


It is important to note here that ‘At high concentrations of lactate, the enzyme exhibits feedback inhibition, and the rate of conversion of pyruvate to lactate is decreased’ (Wikipedia.org , retrieved Sept. 30, 2015). That is why when you are running an 800m run, you are breathing very hard because your body is working super hard to provide O2 for energy knowing that it can only recycle the lactate so fast.

Lastly, the aerobic system. The aerobic system relies on a constant supply of oxygen to create ATP, hence the term aerobic. The aerobic system takes on most of the heavy lifting when activities are sustained for long periods of time (think of anything that lasts 4+ minutes). Now the duration of the activity has a direct impact on the intensity in which you can perform this activity. You will notice that if you sprint 100% right out of the gates in a marathon, you quickly find yourself slowing down in order to sync your breathing with your running. The availability and efficiency in utilizing oxygen is the biggest influence on how intense you can perform your aerobic work.


So now that you understand the 3 different energy systems it is important to know that when you are training – whether it is for a 10k, an obstacle course, a marathon, or 100m sprint – you must design each workout to serve a specific purpose. If you are going to the gym today, target a specific energy system and work on it. Think about what your goal is and how to change your workout accordingly to create the most effective and efficient workouts to get you there.

Well, we here at Fit & Fed hope you found this article helpful! See you all next time and happy training!


Team Fit & Fed

Top 10 safe and challenging exercises for new moms!

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Hello there boys and girls!

We here at Fit & Fed hope that you are all having a great summer and enjoying that much needed vitamin D after a lengthy winter. This article comes to you as per request by a few of our clients that have become recently new mums! Now this article is not to be taken as gospel as there will always be individual circumstances and exceptions to the rules, BUT these exercises are generally safe and used by most physical therapists to help address common postnatal issues. These exercises are predominantly ones that target the pelvic floor and the abdominal musculature.

Now the great thing about these ten exercises is that there are regressions and progressions. The mark of a good therapist/trainer is they can be uber creative in terms of making an exercise easier, harder or just simply changing the medium in which the exercise is being applied. So if the following exercises are too easy or too hard, consult a qualified professional and see how you can gradually make the exercise harder/easier accordingly. So without further ado let’s go to our Top 10 Safe and Challenging Exercises for new Moms!!


10. Hook – Laying March. In this exercise, you begin by laying on your back with both feet flat on the ground. Next, you draw your belly button into your spine. Imagine you are trying to sink your belly button to the ground as close as possible. Next, raise one leg off the ground and pause for 1 – 3 seconds and bring the leg back down. Before you raise the leg, you should inhale a fairly deep breath. When your leg lowers back to the ground, exhale. Hook-laying-march


9. Hip Bridge. In this exercise, you will also be laying on your back with both feet flat on the ground. Next, you are going to go into what therapists and trainers call a posterior pelvic tilt. This can be accomplished by squeezing your butt cheeks together and tilting your butt towards the ceiling. Here you will drive your heels into the ground and lift your lower back and butt off the ground (all the while squeezing your butt). If you are doing this correct, your knees will flare out to the sides slightly.


8. Quadruped Leg Raising (Bird-Dog). With this exercise, you will have to start in a quadruped position (On hands and knees). You begin by going into a posterior pelvic tilt (squeeze your butt and drop your belly button in with a half deep breath). While maintaining tension in the core, raise one leg . Simultaneously raise the opposite arm so that the arm, torso and leg are all in line with each other. Hold for 2 – 5 seconds and bring back to starting position.


7. Swiss Ball Sit with Leg Lift. With this exercise, we start moving to an upright position. We start by sitting upright on our swiss ball with hands extended straight out or folded and up to shoulder height. Next, brace the abdominal musculature by breathing in and drawing your stomach in but maintaining an erect posture. While maintaining tension in the core, slowly lift one leg off the ground and hold for 5-8 seconds.


6. Wall Ball Squats. Begin by placing a swiss ball behind the lumbar region of your spine and press it firmly against the wall. Take care not to hyper-extend, and to maintain an erect spine. Place feet slightly ahead of your hips so that when you squat down, the knees to not extend past your toes. As you lower yourself, maintain core stability and be sure your knees do not collapse towards each other. Once you have reached a 90 degree bend at the knee, raise back up by pushing from the heels and exhaling.


5. Banded Scapular Retraction. This exercise specifically targets your upper back and the muscles of your rotator cuff. Begin by wrapping a thera-band around a pole. While in an upright position, grab both ends with each hand and pull towards the sternum. The important points heer are to make sure the shoulders do not ‘shrug’ up as you pull your shoulder blades back. The end position for the pulling of the thera band should feel like you are trying to pinch a pencil with your shoulder blades.


4. Wall Push Ups. This exercise is meant to be progressed and regressed very easily. You being by standing arms length away from the wall. Place both palms against the wall at chest (nipple) height. Slowly ‘lower’ yourself into the wall while tucking the elbows in close to the torso. Press yourself away from the wall with the elbows still tucked in.


3. Single Leg Hip Hinge. Begin by standing upright with feet shoulder width. Slowly raise your right leg (whilst keeping it in line with your spine) and reach for your opposite foot. Only lower yourself to the point where you can still maintain a straight back along with the leg that is raised. Return to starting position while maintaining a straight back and leg. Before tilting, remember to squeeze the core to maintain core stability.


2. Side Plank. Begin this exercise by laying on your side with your elbow placed underneath the shoulder. Brace your abdominal muscles and lift your hips so that your torso and legs are in line with each other. Hold for at least 10-15seconds.


1. Walking. This one may seem obvious, but going for walks of 30+ minutes does the body amazing in terms of increasing blood flow, improving proprioceptive awareness, stability, etc. So lace up those shoes and enjoy the sun!


Thanks for dropping by and we here at Fit & Fed hope that you have found these exercises helpful! If you have any questions, you can email the team at info@fitfed.com! Once again, congratulations to all the new moms out there!




Team Fit & Fed

The elixir of life.

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Hey everyone!

We hope that everyone is enjoying the slow transition of weather as the days start to become a little warmer and the days are a little bit longer. And as the days get warmer, it is very important to refill on water and electrolytes – especially if you are planning on training outside. But how much is too much? How much is too little? Well keep reading to find out!


First it is very important to define a few terms: First is euhydration which is when the body has an adequate volume of water to meet physiological demands. Hyperhydration is when there is an excess amount of water in the body. Hypohydration is when there is an insufficient volume of water in the body. Lastly, dehydration is the process of losing body water and transitioning from a state of euhydration to hypohydration.

Also it is important to understand that there is water that is constantly changing in its concentration between intracellular (ICF, fluid in the cells) and extracellular (ECF, fluid outside the cells) fluids. This concept will be important in understanding electrolytes and how to keep the concentration relatively consistent.

Next let’s distinguish between cations and anions. Cations are positively charged ions (major one being Sodium [Na+]) and anions are negatively charged ions (Chloride [Cl-] and Bicarbonate HCO3-]). For the most part, Potassium [K+] is the main cation in the ICF with a small concentration of [Na+]. But this is the opposite in the ECF. Now because these concentrations are different, through the principles of osmosis, [Na+] is constantly leaking into cells while [K+] is leaking out. But never fear, the pumps in our cell membranes are working hard to maintain healthy concentrations.


Now this is where things get interesting for the athletes. Normally, the level of water is is pretty evenly distributed between the ICF and the ECF, BUT a large amount of water is lost during strenuous exercise which means water within the cells shrink (water moves from ICF to ECF) to balance the concentration. Conversely if there is a drastically large amount of water in the plasma in the ECF, then water shifts into the cells and they begin to swell. It is important to note here a condition known as hyponatremia where a large amount of water is quickly consumed and the body is unable to excrete it quickly enough through the renal system.

The average adult male has about 2.8L of plasma. A loss of 10-20% over prolonged exercise drastically reduces exercise performance. The average marathon runner or elite level soccer player have a typical sweat rate in excess of 2.5L/hr. During prolonged exercise, the body is unable to match fluid loss with intake and absorption (The body simply cannot do it fast enough). Also, the sodium content of sweat ranges from 10 to 70 mEq/L with the average being 35mEq/L (Sawka et al., 2007). 1 mEq of sodium is equal to 23mg of sodium. With these numbers in mind the average athlete may lose up to 1,610 mg of sodium per liter. Exercise lasting 1 to 2 hours doesn’t generally pose a problem for the athlete and so their main concern should primarily water loss. Anything more and they have to take electrolyte ingestion into account. As we venture past the 2 hour mark, carbohydrate intake and sodium intake start to play a role.


A simple and cost effective method in measuring fluid loss during your workout can come in two methods. The first is the urine color chart (pictured above). The lighter your urine, the more hydrated you are. The drawback to this is of course its susceptible to subjective interpretation and also diet heavily influences the color of urine as well. The second method is calculating over the course of a workout your total water loss. 1 litre of water weights approximately 1 kg or 2.2lbs. For example, a marathoner records his weight at 145lbs before he goes for a 1 hour basebuilding run at a steady pace. He weighs himself after the hour run and logs in at 142.8lbs. The runner can then calculate the rate at which he is losing fluid and from that calculation can estimate how much he should be replenishing. This strategy can be applied over a period of days to evaluate on a day to day basis whether the athlete is properly hydrating themselves post run. Last but not least, thirst is the last mechanism our body initiates to let us know we are hypohydrated. These 3 simples and cost effective mechanisms when put together make for a fairly effective strategy in assessing your level of hydration.

So onto how to approach hydrating yourself before, during and after training/competition. The general recommendation for fluid intake is ~ 5 to 7 mL/kg at least 4 hours prior to exercise (Sawka et al., 2007). This recommendation of course changes with the environment at hand, training intensity for that session etc. In terms of ingesting fluids during a training session or event, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends ingesting 0.4 to 0.8L of fluid per hour to the average marathoner. Now in terms of sodium and carbohydrate intake, it is not of vital importance to events 2 hours or less as your body has plenty to spare for the duration of the session. However events that are longer than 2 hours require adjusting and tweaking to account for sodium and carbohydrate intake. If an athlete is consuming carbohydrates the content of carbohydrates within beverages should be less than 10%. With concerns to post training and performance, the recommendation is 1.5L per Kg lost during training session (Sawka et al., 2007). With post training nutrition, it is important to note that sodium, carbohydrate and protein intake should predominantly come from food. And after everything is complete, it’s time to rest, recover and re assess!

Well we hope that you found this article helpful and that you will take into account hydration with your training. Although the tone of this article is geared more towards endurance athletes such as marathoners, it is still important for the average exerciser to recognize what level of hydration they are at.


Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next article!



The Fit & Fed Team!

Not all Proteins are Equal

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Hey Boys and Girls!


Today we are talking about the various structures and types of proteins. We will be talking about how different sources of protein are ranked on the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS), what the criteria are, and what all this jargon basically means for you in terms of fueling for your workouts.

Let’s start off by stating that the most basic component of proteins is the amino acid (complex chains of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen). Without getting to technical, it will suffice to say that there are 2 types of amino acids: dispensable and indispensable. Dispensable amino acids are ones that the body cannot manufacture and versely indispensable amino acids are ones that can be manufactured in the human liver. There is a third category known as ‘conditionally indispensable’ which basically means that when the body is under distress, it cannot manufacture enough of a specific amino acid (This point is important to understand in athletes and unique cases, but for now we will stick to indispensable/dispensable).











Now here it is important to point out that there is a distinction between plant proteins and animal proteins. Animal proteins as you can see in the above table tend to ranked a bit higher than plant proteins. This is not to say that incomplete proteins (plant proteins) are less effective than complete proteins(animal proteins). It simply means that plant proteins may not have proper concentrations or lack specific indispensable amino acids and thus have to be paired with other plant proteins to bring the concentrations up to par which would make these complementary proteins.

Now that we’ve gotten a basic idea of different types of proteins, we need to understand how protein is absorbed into the body to have a better idea of how the body absorbs the protein. Absorption of protein happens in the jejunum and the ileum which are located in the small intestine; absorption of the amino acids are in the form of various type of peptide chains. It is important to note that proteins have to be broken down into small peptide chains first before being absorbed. However this does not mean you should go out to but protein supplements that are marketed as ‘predigested’ as the jury is still out on its efficacy. After absorption, some amino acids go straight to the liver and others circulate in the blood.

Now once the amino acids are freely circulating in the blood, they get picked up along the way by skeletal muscle and stored in what is called an amino acid pool within the muscle which then helps synthesis protein (also known as protein anabolism). Now it is important to note that excess amino acids are not ‘stored’ like carbohydrates are for future use. When an athlete undergoes prolonged bouts of stress, amino acids are used to help provide ATP via oxidation (however, this is not what your body ideally wants as the production of ATP via this process is highly inefficient and under extreme circumstances you can see how catabolism would take place. This is the body’s last resort to provide itself with ATP).

Now that we have a basic understanding of what protein is and how it works, we should address some common issues and misconceptions that exist in the fitness community. The first and most obvious suggestion that many people hear is that we should be consuming tons of protein if we want to get stronger or if we want maximize muscular hypertrophy. This thinking is erroneous in that it assumes that since the body absorbs about 5 – 8g of amino acids from protein per hour, that if we increase the supply of protein, the body will naturally want to absorb faster. The problem with this thinking is that although protein synthesis does increase, so does amino acid oxidation and thus net gain is not changed. Since there is no benefit to excess protein consumption, is there a danger? The answer is yes.

Two basic components of amino acids is NH2 and a carboxyl group. Now what happens at the end of the process of breaking down and absorbing these amino acids is the creation of the byproduct ammonia. As you can guess, this byproduct is excreted by the body via urine or feces. The problem is that urea synthesis is capped in each of us, and this cap cannot go up or down. If an individual undergoes a prolonged bout of excessive ammonia in the blood, the results could be fatal.

So when it comes down to what you should be eating in terms of protein intake, the average individual who does not specialize in any sport in particular should aim for approx. 0.8  to 1.2g/kg (you weigh) per day. In terms of post workout protein intake, carbohydrates should be taken alongside protein in order to replenish glycogen stores. Just remember, amino acids are vital for maintaining a healthy immune system, maintaining nitrogen balance (which contributes to maintaining skeletal muscle mass) and maintaining our energy levels!

If this all seems complicated to you, don’t worry – it is. That is why when you are thinking about starting a diet or following a fad you read about in Cosmo, you need to think twice. If the rule of the diet can be summarized in one or two sentences, it is most likely not the best thing for you. Consult a professional dietitian if you are having issues or if you have questions about your food intake.

Thanks for dropping by and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Youtube!




Team Fit & Fed


Why I can’t stand the running community.

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Hey boys and girls. It’s your friendly neighbourhood running coach. Today I would like to address a significant rising issue that is threatening the health of the majority of our recreational exercisers. The issue is the predominant mindset of the current running community.5-tuyet-chieu-giup-ban-co-mot-mua-he-dang-nho-ivivu-7

Over the past few years, there has been a surplus in running clinics, running groups and an overall increase in exposure to the sport of running in the media. For example, here in Toronto the number of participants in the Sporting Life 10k rose from 17, 000 runners last year to roughly 35, 000 runners this year (2014). There has been an increase in the number of running events as well from ultramarathons outside the city (Eg. Guelph triathlon, Oakville, etc) to shorter 5k themed runs. Local running clubs from the Running rats to Running rooms, have grown in numbers at an amazing rate. A quick google search of local running groups in Toronto will get you over 30 different running groups in the city of Toronto alone.

Being a competitive distance runner, I was glad to see that the running community was growing and as a physical therapist / trainer, a part of me is  glad to see that more and more people are taking that first step to a healthier and more active lifestyle. But the reason why you are reading this and the reason why I am writing  is not to praise the growing running community.

As I mentioned, my career is in fixing people in how they move to make sure they move well and for a very long time. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a recreational runner on the streets of downtown Toronto and cringed a little bit by how they moved. Sometimes I see a group of these runners running together with a “coach” and the inner coach in me is absolutely HULKING out!  With the number of certified trainers and kinesiology students being churned out by the big Toronto Universities  and Colleges, you would think that there would be no shortage of qualified coaches to run these clinics (pun intended). Yet this is not the case at all, WHY???

The issue is grounded in various overlapping reasons. The first and more obvious reason is that most personal trainers/kinesiology students (unless they have a passion for running or endurance sports) rarely take interest in such activities. Most coaches at these clinics/clubs are at two extremes; Elite level runners and coaches who are well versed in their field OR the recreational runners who do not have a background or even a foundation in the know-how of biomechanics but run because they enjoy it. Now the problem of course is that qualified coaches and teachers tend to come at a cost whereas volunteer coaches (who make up the predominant amount of clinics and clubs out there) are usually free of cost. Therefore a large amount of runners simply are not getting the adequate amount of training and coaching in their movement patterns. To borrow a phrase from Gray Cook, you have to earn your movement first before you repeat that movement. Like most education, if individuals are not qualified the pupils suffer. In the case of running, the pupils suffer from potentially tearing ACL’s, Plantar Fasciitis, IT Band syndrome, etc. and I simply cannot be ok with this.

What exacerbates the first problem is that a large group of the recreational runners who participate in these clinics think their weekly running is “enough” for their overall health and fitness. Now obviously it is a difficult task for anyone to learn about their body (let alone read in depth into anatomy and physics) on top of their jobs and other obligations that take up a lot of their time. But what needs to happen is that if a coach is not well versed in the field of kinesiology (or at least enough to make exercise recommendations), he or she should make a recommendation for an individual to seek out a professional to help fix his or her motor patterns before running more.

The last major problem I see within the running world is not so different from the Crossfit community. Because the structure of these types of fitness groups is geared towards large groups, the attention to detail is simply not given to individual. And as these individuals train with faulty movement patterns, problems arise. To compensate for this, the health and fitness industry convolutes the industry with an endless array of products that act as crutches for people as a temporary (and not scientifically sound) fixes. Ranging from wraps to leg sleeves, from various supposedly uniquely designed shoes to in soles. All of these products are temporary fixes that do not address the root of the problem. The fix of course is to strength train properly to fix muscle and movement imbalances and asymmetries. Yes it is a lot of work but if you do not want to have invasive surgery to fix a ruined leg in a few years then you have to invest in your body. Take the time to either hire a qualified and proven personal trainer or talk to experts in the field to help you.


Thanks for reading and may you all run long and prosper!