One of the most important things, as well as eating healthily, is to consider your blood sugar levels, which we look at in the Kinesiology triangle of health. Every time you eat - and not necessarily just sweet things - there is a whole digestion process going on to break down the food. The body breaks it down into energy so that it can either use it and if it can't use that energy up to fuel the muscles, then it just feeds that whole metabolism and digestion process.
So why is that important to think about in terms of Pilates, movement and exercise?
What I find really fascinating is that actually, when it comes to muscles they are all connected to organs. Let's take, for example, our abdominals muscles – whether that's your transverse abdominals, obliques, or rectus abdominals (your six pack) – they are all actually connected to your small intestines and come in to play when you are doing Pilates exercises such as the hip flexion movement with straight leg, or the single or double leg stretch. The 'glute max' (your bum muscles) are connected to your hormones. All of which we can test in functional kinesiology.
Why is it important to know that there is a relation?
If you have ever noticed an excess build up in your stomach, or you are going for a workout and want to strengthen your glutes, you may find it difficult to maintain pelvic stability. If your glute muscles don’t seem to be working or firing effectively, there could be a number of reasons why, so understanding this relationship helps us to understand how to approach making a change.
Let’s use the example of strengthening our glutes - if you are quite sedentary and used to sitting at a computer all day and then get up and go to your exercise class – all that ‘just sitting’ compression activity has an impact on the tissue. And so, during your exercise class, you go to do a movement and that whole neural pathway connection is affected in terms of the body's ability to send a message through the system to move that muscle.
But it’s not just ‘environmental’. Nutritionally, if you have challenges with your digestive system - bloating or constipation, slow motility through the gut - or even if you are eating healthy foods but your body is intolerant to it in some way and hasn't got the capacity to process that food because there's too many other stresses going on – then this can also have an effect on that whole neural pathway and your ability to be able to effectively work those muscles.
Imagine your body as an electrical circuit, if a part of it keeps switching off because of a system overload, then the body (or circuit) will try and use something else to complete the circuit. Whether it's neck muscles, or maybe it's higher up in the hip that the body's trying to work to compensate. This compensatory pattern, will start to create imbalances in how your body works.
So therefore, when you are eating, it's important to know the food you are eating is “nourishing” to your body to aid its ability to strengthen, build and function. When it comes to muscle testing, Kinesiology and looking at the different foods, we identify them as:
Biogenic - in which case they're nourishing for the body,
Biostatic foods - more of fillers, so they're not necessarily going to nourish and support the body and finally
bio-acidic, so those are the ones that, if you tend to eat them, they cause a reaction and that instigates the 'fight or flight' mode - that stress response - through your system, or it could be that actually the body finds that food harder to process, which makes the whole digestive system a bit more sluggish and affects the motility.
A balanced snack for a balanced body
It's not just what you are eat, but when you eat.
Let’s first look at what you eat:
If you are like me, when I’m working I find it difficult to eat breakfast so I prepare myself a smoothie to have during the day. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I do like some fruit in there, BUT if I'm having my fruit - a banana or an apple – I will also put in raisins or oats. In addition to your fruits, you want to mix the smoothie up with some proteins, and some carbohydrates, so that it's much more balanced and easier for your system to process.
We should always be looking at how can we get that blend of proteins, fats and carbohydrates balance in to every meal to support us. Even when you are snacking. In fact, it’s so important that I have a 'protein, fat & carbohydrate food sheet' (below) that I give out to clients when we're discussing how to create a firm foundation. Because when your blood sugars are balanced, it helps with energy. It helps with that whole blood circulation. And actually, you have a much more stable base from which to operate from.
Our bodies are really clever at telling us what we need, “I need something savoury', or 'I need something salty.” That's your body's signalling system telling you it needs this kind of mineral.
But you should also listen to it when it tells you what it doesn’t need, so within 20 minutes or so having eaten something, if you feel uncomfortable in the digestion, or get some reaction or pain symptoms in the back, then my challenge and my mission for you, if you choose to accept it, is just to take notice. Consider:
Are there any physiological reactions when you are eating your foods?
How do you feel when you are eating your food?
Do you take time to savour and enjoy them? Or are you on the go when you are eating them?
These all have an impact on our bodies.
When you eat:
Interestingly, a ‘lack of eating’ plays with our digestive hormones and also our blood sugar levels. When we skip a meal, our body thinks ’oh, we're not sure when we're going to eat next, so let's store that bit of food, so that we've got that energy in support for later on.’ And it doesn’t necessarily go to the area we would like!
When it comes to exercising, often, if you are exercising or doing sessions after work in that "six o'clock time", you might decide to go for a snack beforehand. Ideally if you're going to have a snack, then 45 minutes is probably a good time before exercising and hydrating particularly helps before doing physical activity.
If you eat too close to your physical activity, then actually your body is focusing on digestion but you want it to focus on doing the physical activity. In this instance your sympathetic / parasympathetic nervous system can only do one or the other, either burn the energy, create more energy or digest.
Eating to get the most out of our physical activity.
Allowing yourself the time to digest food and thinking about those low glycaemic and slow glycaemic index foods that have that slow release quality can help you, and don’t just reach for the carbs!
If you're too carby, then that can also create an imbalance in the blood sugars. Having an excess of root vegetables and those starchy carbs can also have an impact, as its harder for the body to process or digest.
Remember, it’s the correct balance of protein, fibre and carbs in every meal – OR SNACK! – that will give your body the best chance to prepare you for your physical activity.
Check out our PFC food sheet
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