balance

It’s ALL About CORE! 6 Things You Need To Know!

What is the purpose of the core? Oh there are many, many essential functions!

Stabilization

Maybe the most common function of the core is to take excess load off the spine and to transfer force between the upper and lower body. When you throw a ball for instance, you have your core to thank! Back pain? Check in with your core muscles! Gastrointestinal problems? Your core even plays a role in your bowel movements!

Balance

Core muscles support your skeleton for balance (and for your ability to “Catch” yourself when falling). Try to really apply your core stability (hollow body hold tension) to your strength moves; squat, deadlifts, pushups, planks, and see the difference! Especially exercises standing on one leg. Just TRY to shut off your core muscles and you are probably going down!

Rotation

Core also helps with rotation and even more often, ANTI-rotation…Refer up to stabilizing in order to resist the movement. Core stabilizers include the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (creates pressure and provides the most stability during dynamic movements), multifidus (small muscles in your back), erector spinae (think back extensions), obliques (moving side to side and rotation), AND the diaphragm.

Posture

Weakness in the CORE can change your posture – for the worse – therefore affecting the strength of your hips and ultimately knees and/or back. For example, in an abdominal exercise such as bicycles, your pelvis should NOT be moving. If it is, then you may not ready for that move and should take a step back to keeping the hips on the ground while just lifting the opposite knee/arm without speed or momentum.

Breathing

The diaphragm is an extremely important core muscle that contracts and extends toward the abdomen when we inhale and connects to the lower six ribs of our ribcage. When you inhale, your diaphragm flattens allowing the most air into your lungs. When it contracts it pushes everything else out of the way (and when your belly expands this is called belly breathing).

Try belly breathing – lie on the floor on your back. Legs bent or extended on the ground. Take a deep breath and inhale deeply allowing your belly to rise. As you exhale every last breath, let your belly draw in toward the ground. Practice this until it becomes automatic. When you apply it to your exercises, you’ll be surprised how much more stable and effective you are!

Now What? Put This In Action!

Not sure where to start?

Step 1: Learn spinal stability and breathing properly. Back or neck still hurt during movements? Start with pelvic tilts and increase the endurance/time of the hold.

Step 2: Once mastered, start adding complexity such as increased levers (hollow body hold), followed by slow movement (deadbugs) with levers.

Step 3: Add load/complexity (i.e. hold a plank and add alternating leg lifts).

Step 4: Add rotation (i.e. Soft Toss Medicine Ball shot put throw)

Step 5: Add dynamic movement (Step back lunge with sandbag t-spine rotation)

What’s The BIG Deal With “Macros”?

If you’ve been around a bodybuilder, you’ve likely heard them talking about getting their “macros” in. Balancing your macronutrients is honestly just another way to look at food consumption, just like any other approach such as Whole 30, Precision Nutrition’s hand/palm/fist/thumb approach, or any other.

If you haven’t found an approach that works well for you yet, maybe macro dieting is the method right for you! Macro dieting/Flexible Dieting can help with portion control as well as more balanced nutrient intake and paying more attention to processed food intake. As with most approaches, finding the right balance will help with energy levels, cravings, and even quality of sleep and workouts.

What ARE Macros?

The three MACROnutrient categories are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Speaking in terms of calories, carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories per gram. Is a macro the same as a vitamin or mineral? No, vitamins and minerals are MICROnutrients which are also very important! Your body needs less of them (hence the word micro) but they are vitamins and minerals needed for immune function, blood clotting, bone health, growth, and so much more!

How Much Should I Eat?

Macros are based on your height, weight, age, activity level, and goals. For example, a 150-pound, 5’ 5” female who is moderately active and wants to have a steady weight loss would be around 1700 calories per day broken down to a pretty typical 40/30/30 ratio: 40% carbs at 170g, 30% protein at 124g, and 30% fat at 56g.

You can find your own macro calculator here:
https://healthyeater.com/flexible-dieting-calculator

NOTE: Calculators are not perfect or right for everyone. A more accurate calculation would calculate based only on LEAN tissue since body fat % plays a roll in the energy needs of the body.

Carbohydrates

*Gasp* Carbohydrates ARE needed for energy. Carbohydrates also tend to be where we consume the micronutrients we need in our diet. Whole foods are the best source for carbohydrates because they will pack more fiber. Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that reduce our risk for disease, improve digestion, etc. Optimally, women should obtain at least 35g of fiber per day and men, 48g.

Fat and Protein

Fats give us energy, support cell growth, and aid in the absorption of vitamins and nutrients (our BRAINS are fat-based! So the next time someone calls you “Fathead” perhaps a “Thank You!” is in order).

Mix up the types of fat you eat to get a balance of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.

Proteins are the building blocks of our muscle (and most the rest of our body for that matter). A very lean protein is a protein with 1g of fat or less per ounce. Lean protein is 1g-3g per ounce. When looking at your labels, first determine how many ounces you are looking at like a 3-ounce fillet of beef/chicken/pork/fish. If your 3-ounce fillet has 9g or less of fat, you have a lean cut of protein.

Keep in mind that any strict form of eating may not be suitable with a history of disordered eating. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any major changes in the way you eat and be aware of any interactions with medications. Like most healthy ways of eating, eating your macros will come in the form of eating every 3-4 hours, choosing whole foods, and eating your vegetables! In the end, eat mostly plant-based foods and find the system that works best for your lifestyle and goals, and you will likely see success!

Interested in more reading? Check this out:
https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/macro-diet-counting-macros-weight-loss-better-nutrition