What’s Your Equation?

This past Friday night I had the wonderful opportunity to take part as an expert in a Women’s Indulgence Night hosted by Hall Family Chiropractic.  Inside the office your eyes are drawn to the many inspirational quotes and sayings on the walls.  But, there was one in particular that caught my attention…

B > R = D

B < R = W

Wait…I thought there would be no math!

As it turns out this one very simple equation is a statement of your life, health, and general wellbeing.  Yup, all that broken down to 3 little letters…so, what do they mean?

B = Breakdown.  Whether you are aware of it or not, you are in a perpetual state of breakdown a.k.a catabolism.

ca·tab·o·lism   [kuhtabuh-liz-uhm]

noun Biology, Physiology .

destructive metabolism; the breaking down in living organisms of more complex substances into simpler ones, with the release of energy (opposed to anabolism).

Starches are catabolized into sugar (glucose) in to body.

Catabolism happens every time you eat.  The process of breaking down your breakfast from macronutrient into usable molecules is catabolic.  When your muscles require energy during a workout and stored glycogen is released, that is a catabolic process.  Catabolism provides the energy necessary to maintain your current cells and to grow new cells when and where they are necessary.

The one catabolic process everyone is familiar with is the breakdown of the fat in adipose tissue.  When fat in the body is broken down into the fatty acids which can be used to provide energy, this is the “Fat Burning” process.  Unfortunately, most people turn to a calorie restricting diet  to “burn” body fat.  Calorie restriction coupled with inadequate protein consumption forces the body into the far less desired catabolic process of gluconeogenesis.

Muscles are very expensive to maintain, calorically speaking.  When the body finds itself in a prolonged calorie deficit and is used to relying on sugar to supply its energy needs, the body will resort to breaking down its own muscle tissue to meet its energy (gluco = sugar, neo = new, genesis = formation) and protein needs.  Reduced muscle tissue means reduced caloric needs a.k.a a slower metabolism.  This is why it is so easy to gain all the weight you’ve lost, plus a little extra, every time a diet ends.  Read more about your amazing muscles here, and here.

R = Repair.  Also occurring without your knowledge is your body’s constant state of repair a.k.a anabolism.

a·nab·o·lism  [uhnabuh-liz-uhm]

noun Biology, Physiology .

constructive metabolism;  the synthesis in living organisms of more complex substances from simpler ones (opposed to catabolism).

The anabolic part of your metabolism builds up and maintains the body’s tissues using the energy provided from catabolic part of your metabolism.  Your growth from infant to adult was fueled by the anabolic part of your metabolism.

The squat is one of the healthiest and most functional movements you can perform.

Most of us are familiar with the extreme muscle growth associated with the use of anabolic steroids. But, even without steroids, we can take advantage of the anabolic part of our metabolism.  Imagine your muscles have just endured a workout or some other physically taxing endeavor.  The particles available from catabolism will be used to build and repair your muscle tissue, ultimately providing you with a larger and stronger muscle.  And, if the provided stimulus involved a weight bearing activity, an anabolically driven increase in bone density.

But in addition to your muscles, it is this same anabolic state that builds and repairs all the tissues of your body.  When you are injured or sick, tissue repair is driven by the anabolic side of your metabolism.    General bodily maintenance, like the replacement of malfunctioning, dying, or dead cells is controlled by your anabolic metabolism.

So, what does B > R = D and B < R = W actually mean?

B > R = D

When BREAKDOWN is GREATER than REPAIR this leads to DISEASE.

B < R = W 

When BREAKDOWN is LESS than REPAIR this leads to WELLNESS.

Both your catabolic and anabolic processes must work together in the body to maintain a healthy energy level and a durable, functional body.  When we improperly nourish our bodies, when we do not get enough sleep, or when we participate in “chronic cardio” type activities that actually break down muscle tissue and release hormones that further act to deplete energy storage, we force our bodies to spend too much time in BREAKDOWN or the catabolic side of your metabolism.  This perpetual state of breakdown will ultimately lead to disease as the body can no longer keep up with demands.

However, nourishing your body with whole, healthy foods, and providing adequate rest after exercise takes advantage of REPAIR or the anabolic side of your metabolism.  Consuming nutrient-dense foods before and after physical activity provides the body with the proper energy and nutrients to repair and build new tissues.  During periods of rest, like sleep, the body recovers and remains in an anabolic state. When the body does not properly rest muscle tissue will continue to break down and without proper nutritional intake, tissue growth and repair will not take place.

So, what can you do to stay on the B < R = W side of the equation?

  1. Eat whole nutrient dense foods.  Fresh fruits and vegetables provide the necessary energy, vitamins, and nutrients to repair and replace your tissues.  Antioxidants also provide protection from the oxidative stress created by your catabolic metabolism. Ask yourself, “Where’s the protein?” at every meal.  Read more about the importance of protein here.
  2. Drink plenty of water.  Your catabolic metabolism requires water to break down your food and provide energy.  It also produces metabolic wastes that need to be flushed away.  Drink approximately 1 oz per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight.
  3. Get 8 hours of sleep…or more if you can.  Most of our body’s repair and maintenance functions occur while we are asleep.  Don’t start behind the eight ball by short changing on your sleep!
  4. Listen to your body!  Give yourself some credit where credit is due.
  • For those of us who exercise religiously we often fall into danger of overtraining.  When you stop making progress despite increased effort,  when you have a chronic injury or nagging illness that will not go away, or when you truly dread what you are doing, it is time to take a break.  Your body will let you know when it is time to jump back in.
  • For those of you who are new to exercise, you will have to push yourself to get out there and do it.  Find a friend who you will hold accountable, and who will hold you accountable for accomplishing your workouts.  Try something new and take advantage of novelty.  Get outside and multi task by getting some Vitamin D while you exercise.  Remember, the hardest part is getting your clothes on and getting out the door but, when it’s over, you body will thank you!
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