Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
Manager of Health Promotion
Drexel Recreation Center
Drexel Recreation’s resident fitness expert, Joe Giandonato will be fielding questions each month from employees, students, and members and addressing topics related to strength training, weight loss, injury prevention and health education.
1. I’ve been trying to quit smoking and in the process have gained unwanted pounds. What measures can I take to keep my weight in check? – Michael G.
Let me preface my answer by congratulating you on kicking the habit! Gaining weight following smoking cessation is normal, usually a gain of 5 to 10 pounds is typical among those who have liberated themselves of the habit.
While many ingredients found in cigarettes are capable of rendering ill health, nicotine, a potently dangerous chemical, elicits arguably the most profound of maladaptations among smokers.
A central nervous system stimulant, nicotine binds with a number of receptors which in turn increases neurotransmission. Researchers theorize that the increased neurotransmission elevates dopamine levels, thus flooding the pathways of brain’s pleasure center
with feelings of equanimity and euphoria.
Over time, nicotine upregulates key receptors located within the central nervous system, specifically the cerebellum and brainstem. The upregulation of these receptors is alleged to embolden the dependency on nicotine.
But that’s not all, nicotine also activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the release of epinephrine, which interferes with the glucose mediating effects of insulin, thus negating the assumedly welcome benefits of any increased energy expenditure. Heavy smokers are reported to have higher resting
metabolic rates than light smokers and non smokers.
Individuals who have recently quit smoking are left scrambling to stave off unwanted weight gain.
Usually they end up substituting smoke breaks with snack time which can be problematic since food, like nicotine, is capable of releasing dopamine within the brain’s pleasure center.
Rather than zeroing in on the minutia and imprisoning oneself to a myopia of scrupulously tallying calories, an all-encompassing healthier lifestyle should be adopted to ensure that all temptations and opportunities to smoke are extinguished.
One of the first steps a person can take in adopting a healthier lifestyle is establishing regular physical activity. Although a Scrabble board of acronymized governing bodies have issued recommendations pertaining to frequency and duration, no such hard and fast rules exist when it comes to getting active.
I’d merely recommend that someone find an activity that they feel comfortable doing from which they derive enjoyment. The more time spent moving will mean less time to light up a cigarette, much less think of smoking.
The second step involves ridding yourself of routines which have long been associated with smoking.
Perhaps you enjoyed a smoke while drinking your morning coffee on your front porch. Instead, grab a coffee at one of the many coffee shops nearby prior to coming to work. You should have no problem affording a cup of Joe with the amount of money you’re saving from not having to buy cigarettes.
Also, try to avoid any social situations which revolve around or involve smoking. Smoke breaks can be substituted with a brief walk. Drinking alcohol which has forever been linked with smoking should be curtailed or eliminated, especially during the initial phase of smoking cessation.
The third step involves eating healthier. As you begin to exercise, you will desire healthier foods to replenish your body. Pack healthy snacks, which may include an assortment of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, trail mix, sugar free candies and gum to help subside cravings should they arise.
2. What is the best time of day to exercise? – Joelene L.
A quixotic, but cumbersome approach to determine what time of the day is best to exercise would be to glean points from the scientific literature. But no one reading this blog operates in the vacuum of a laboratory or is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, in which variables are largely controlled, or in the case of what goes on in South Philly, attempted to be controlled.
Fitness professionals have long theorized that the time in which one engages in physical activity must correlate with their circadian rhythm or internal clock. Hill and colleagues (1987) indicated no discernible improvements in performance among individuals training during the morning or evening hours. In fact, their post-exercise responses, irrespective of the time they trained, were comparable, suggesting that circadian rhythm can
be manipulated with tactful planning and implementation. For instance, an athlete who has to compete in a different time zone would gradually adjust the time they trained each day to ensure that they are fully acclimated on the day of competition.
And though the benefits of exercise on sleep have been well documented in the literature by way of secreting serotonin, little is known on what times of the day are preferential for exercise as is pertains to improving sleep. However, it was cautioned that exercise that is too intense may interfere with the release of serotonin and be accompanied by insomnia.
Deschenes and colleagues (1998) reported fluctuations of blood plasma concentrations of testosterone and cortisol among untrained males throughout the day. However, responses stemming from exercise revealed elevations of both testosterone and cortisol during the morning hours and a greater ratio of testosterone to cortisol in the evening hours, loosely suggesting that training later in the day may be better with respect to force production.
Deschenes also commented that individuals who train later in the day experience a heightened afterburn effect, meaning that more energy is burned following their workout versus those who train earlier in the day.
Atkinson and Reilly (1996) suggested that older athletes (over 50 years of age) have greater work capacities during the early morning hours than their younger counterparts.
I previously reported in 2012, largely drawing from the work of acclaimed spinal biomechanics expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, that engaging in intensive strength training in the morning, especially with significant axial loads, may increase the likelihood of a lower back injury. Annular tension within the intervertebral discs is greatest in the morning as the night prior our spines decompressed while lying in bed. Intradiscal pressure is also greatest upon rising from bed since the core muscles which
envelop the spine have not become activated through gravity and repeated activities of daily living, ambulation, and sport and recreational activities.
But what does this mean for the layperson, or moreover, the Drexel employee (staff or faculty member) who is swamped with a bevy of occupational and familial responsibilities each day?
Take each consideration with a grain of salt and if time avails, utilize it to exercise. If time permits on a regular basis, establish a routine. However, if you are training early in the morning, please consider incorporating a prolonged dynamic warm up and if engaging in strength training, perform some exercises such as bridges, planks, and moderately loaded carries to activate the core musculature which well help buttress the spine during exercises in which you “pick [heavy] things up and put them down”.
The Rec Center, which opens each morning at 5:30 a.m. and will be returning to a closing time of 12:00 a.m. during the weeknights at the commencement of the school year, has the hours, available equipment, and programming to accommodate nearly everyone. If you aren’t yet a member, drop by the Member Services desk, located in the lobby next to the Landmark and request a tour.
Atkinson, G. & Reilly, T. (1996). Circadian variation in sports performance. Sports Medicine, 21, 292-312.
Deschenes, M.R., Kraemer, W.J., Bush, J.A., Doughty, T.A., Kim, D., Mullen, K.M., & Ramsey, K. (1998). Biorhythmic influences on functional capacity of human muscle and physiological responses. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30, 1399-1407.
Deschenes, M.R. (n.d.). ACSM Current Comment: Chronobiological effects of exercise. Retrieved from: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/chronobiologicaleffectsonexercise.pdf
Giandonato, J. (2012, November 6). Training for fitness versus training for performance. EliteFTS. Retrieved from: http://www.elitefts.com/education/training/training-for-fitness-versus-training-for-performance/
Hill, D.W., Cureton, K.J., Collins, M.A. (1989). Circadian specificity in exercise training. Ergonomics, 32, 79-92.
Melancon, M.O., Lorrain, D., & Dionne, I.J. (2014). Exercise and sleep in aging: emphasis on serotonin. Pathologie Biologie, 62, 276-283.
3. Will I derive any health benefits by eating gluten free? – James K.
Though nutrition is not my wheelhouse, I’ll tip toe on a limb here and say that this whole gluten free thing is a bit overblown.
Few topics in sports nutrition have drawn the ire of going gluten free. For those preparing to take the Miller Analogies Test (alternative standardized test for GRE for some graduate programs), I would imagine the following incomplete analogy and possible answers appearing on an upcoming test:
The topic of gluten is to sports nutrition as _______ is to the _______.
a. VHS, VCR
b. Donald Trump, GOP
c. butter, roll
d. weather forecast, weather
If you selected “b”, you’re onto something. Gluten is a polarizing topic and has served as a demarcation between pseudo-scientific health enthusiasts and genuine health, fitness, and nutrition professionals for the past half decade.
Gluten has been pinpointed as a cause of a number of gastrointestinal issues, which range from flatulence to irritable bowel syndrome. Gluten has also been linked to autoimmune diseases, which include Celiac disease, a condition that is characterized by chronic discomfort of the digestive tract and recurrent bouts of constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies which are surmised to stem from malabsorbency of the small intestine.
Celiac disease is a serious condition, however, it remains quite rare among the population. And though many allege to be “sensitive to gluten”, true sensitivity to gluten is also found to be rare.
Everyone remains afraid of gluten and most don’t even know what it is.
Gluten is naturally occurring protein found in multiple types of grain which include wheat, barley, and rye, and is composed of two fractions: glutenin and gliadin.
In those afflicted by celiac disease, gluten is not the lone culprit. The immune system targets the enzymes lining the cells of the digestive tract, which inevitably invites a host of symptoms and ailments.
Gaesser and Angadi (2015) recently reported that no published experimental evidence supports weight loss with a gluten free diet or that going gluten free would prove beneficial for members of the population who do not have
existing autoimmune or gastrointestinal disease.
Based on their review and the volume of blog posts and internet articles which errantly misinterpret studies involving celiac patients, there are no benefits by ascribing to a gluten free diet.
However, rather than having me serve as the judge, jury, executioner, and at the rate I’m typing, the court stenographer, let our team of registered dieticians decide which approach is best for you. Please contact Morgan Kilroy, Coordinator of Member Services, at email@example.com to set up your initial nutritional consultation.
Gaesser, G.A. & Angadi, S.S. (2015). Navigating the gluten-free boom. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 28, 1-7.
Joe will also field any questions related to programs and services at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also ask for him at the Member Services desk, which is located in the lobby of the Rec Center.