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The Elephant in the Laboratory, Corporate funding or Why you shouldn’t trust everything you read

What is the Elephant in the Laboratory? No, I’m not talking about some new and terrible form of animal testing, I’m talking about finance.

I know, finance is boring but please stick with me for a minute or two. When you want truth follow the money. It’s a sad fact of life that people with money are people with influence and therein lies the problem.

Why am I suddenly so concerned about this? Because of this article on how coconut oil isn’t healthy.

The article sounds perfectly plausible, highlighting the dangers of saturated fats and stating how there is no reason to consider Coconut oil as any healthier than animal based saturated fats. That’s fine, there is a lot of controversy on whether or not saturated fats are a problem but this information hailed from the American Heart Association (AHA). They are a huge organisation dating back to the 1920s that was created to combat heart disease and raise awareness of healthy living.

So far so good, but now we get to the Elephant in the room. One of the early sponsors of the AHA, who undeniably had a lot of influence in the organisation’s research, was Proctor & Gamble. These days P&G have interests in pretty much everything, but they started as a company who sold all things fat and oil (soaps, candles, oil) and at the point where they were the AHA were starting up P&G were well into the production of Crisco – a major name in vegetable shortening.

Vested interested in demonising saturated fat when you’re trying to sell vegetable fat products? What do you think?

 

Now, despite the best interests of organisations like AHA and British Heart Foundation, incidences of heart disease have sky rocketed in the western world and after decades of being told to swap butter for margarine and lard for vegetable oil.

Let me just say I’m not blaming these organisations, it’s just that AHA has stirred up some controversy and it’s a good time to air an ugly truth that the science community doesn’t like to raise it’s hand to – and that’s FUNDING.

 

Research costs money, a lot of money, and most of that money comes from private organisations rather than from government. Now imagine you’re a scientist, you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got a car loan, you have a burning need to eat this week, and a company comes to you with an idea for research. All you have to do to get your mortgage paid for the rest of the year is do the research they want. Lying or fudging results is a serious breech of professional ethics, but you’ve already been handed a research idea that the company is pretty sure will make them look good.

Not convinced? Trying looking up lifecycle analysis research done into whether disposable or cloth nappies are better for the the environment. (try using Google Scholar for the best results with published papers rather than just articles like this one!) This was an example used while I studied at University to highlight the use of selective data and manipulation of statistics. Oddly enough (note the sarcasm), the disposable nappy manufacturers spent a lot of time on the energy used to properly wash cloth nappies and make the detergents, while the cloth nappy manufacturers dwelt on the landfill implications of disposables. In the end they both discovered that their way was best.

 

Phew, still with me? Well done, you’ve got a lot of staying power!

Back to the Elephant. We can’t ignore it, it won’t go away. It’s the reason we still have so much conflicting information on what is or isn’t good for us. If it was easy to see who had funded research it would be easy to know if information is biased or not, but of course it’s not that easy, and yes, I do sound like a conspiracy theorist now. Sorry about that.

 

The take away message from this is always get a second (informed) opinion when it comes to health advice. Just because one study says Avocados are deadly and will kill you the second you put it into your mouth (fictional study, source: My tortured imagination.), that doesn’t mean you should stick biohazard warning labels over your fridge and get it incinerated for the good of humanity. That sounds absurd but trust me, given time (and funding) I could provide a plausible research paper complete with experimental data and pretty graphs!

So if you see an article that makes you question everything you thought you knew, do some digging and see what other articles are saying on the same subject.

Source of Pain versus Cause of Pain (with a case study example)

Just because something hurts doesn’t mean it’s the problem.

That doesn’t sound right, does it. A lot of the time, with acute injuries, the sources of the pain is obviously the cause. A great big lump or a cut it generally a good hint, but if you have a chronic problem you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that what hurts where you need to fix.

The first time I encountered this odd situation was just out of University when a work colleague was suffering with awful foot pain. He spent a fortune on orthotics, special insoles and shoes, as well as all manner of odd potions and potions. He also spent huge sums on painkillers. Then he went to a Chiropractor because his neck was aching. To his surprise he was asked if he had an leg or foot problems. All that pain, which he put up with for over a year, was in actual fact a trapped nerve in his back. Two sessions with the Chiropractor adjusting his back and there was no more pain.

 

But one of the most obvious examples of referred pain has to be my husband. No I’m not making a joke about marriage, although thinking about it… Anyway, this is one a lot of people can probably relate to.

My husband works primarily in an office and when he’s not at his desk he’s in the car driving to meetings. That’s a lot of sitting time. And he’s always complaining about his lower back pain, forever bending over to stretch his back and saying how he needs a hot water bottle to ease it. Of course, since he’s my husband he gets treatment last (sorry, dear) just because i’s often late and we’re tired by the time there’s a chance to look at him so instead we just go to bed.

Anyway, I finally had a chance to take a look and to my surprise his lower back was fine. There were a few tissue adhesions but that’s normal in someone who doesn’t get many massages. So what was the problem? His lower traps and rhomboids were locked up.

In case your anatomy isn’t up to scratch, that’s the red and blue bits!

What he’s managed to do was lock his upper back solid, it just wasn’t moving so his lower back was having to do all the work.

Imagine hopping on one leg all day instead of walking, that leg would start to hurt pretty quickly, but it’s not the reason you’re in pain. The reason you’re in pain is you’ve decided to hop everywhere!

A few massages later and no more lower back pain – without any lower back work.

Then the hard question – why were the muscles locked?

 

 

 

 

This is where therapist turns detective. In this case I was pretty sure of the answer right away, it started with an old car accident and a nasty case of whiplash, it was compounded by hunching over a keyboard in one place for hours at a time.

 

The take home message:

If you can’t get relief from the pain no matter what you try, maybe it’s time to wonder if the location of your pain isn’t the source of it.

And keep an open mind when your therapist or Doctor comes up with an answer that seems crazy. Your body parts do not work in isolation, everything is connected.

 

 

 

Kinesiology Tape – Science or Placebo?

I first encountered Kinesiology Tape while watching the 2012 Olympics. Quite a few of the athletes were sporting brights strips of tape in seemingly random places all over them and I could not understand why or what it was. I later discovered the name, although it is often called KT Tape (a brand name) or Rock Tape (another brand name), but for a long time I was a confirmed skeptic and ignored the whole thing.

Two years ago I was struggling with martial arts classes because my wrists were just not up to scratch, too many bad landings have given the carpel bones in my wrists a beating and that’s hellish for punches and push ups. I tried traditional supports but they stopped my wrists from flexing and I needed mobility. Painkillers did nothing against the sharp pains. Strengthening exercises did little to protect the damaged joints.

I saw some Kinesiology tape and decided I had nothing to lose so I gave it a go. To my surprise, it actually worked. It was not a magical “oh wow all the pain is gone” but it did significantly improve my pain free mobility.

But it’s just a pretty sticking plaster!

Not content with not knowing, I sought out one of the only certified courses in the country that teaches the proper technique for tape application and went with an open mind to become:

Certified by Rock Tape to apply their kinesiology tape thanks to their REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals) recognised course.

 

There is so much more to it than just a pretty plaster.

First, the stretchy tape is precisely manufactured to mimic the elasticity of the skin so it can move and stretch with you, not pulling against you the way traditional sports tape will.

It’s also medication free, hypoallergenic and latex free, so virtually anyone can use it.

 

The way kinesiology tape works is actually surprisingly complex, making use of the amazing way our bodies works, that all the tissues in our bodies are interconnected and the fact that not all nerves are created equal.

Think about what happens when you get injured. You get inflammation, your body pumped fluids into the effected area to help stabilise it and get the healing process going. This is great, it’s a biological miracle, but it also puts pressure on pain nerves and hinders mobility which isn’t so great.

The magic happens when you lay a simple strip of kinesiology tape over over that painful area. Two wonderful things happen:

  1. The slight stretch in the tape lifts the skin, pulling it away from the underlying tissues and giving that little bit of much needed space for all the fluid built up from the swelling.
  2. That light touch on the skin activates sensory receptors, pressure sensing nerves. When you hurt yourself what’s your first instinct? To clamp a hand around the injury. Why? Because it makes it hurt less. This is because not all nerves are created equal, some fire faster or slower than others, effectively meaning the brain interprets them differently. You feel pressure in preference to pain.

Of course there is still debate about it, the effects are subtle and there is no easy way to quantify it, so scientists struggle to get firm results, but the theory is sound and from personal experience it’s worth a shot.

 

Another wonderous benefit of this deceptive tape, is it’s effect on the kinetic chain and posture.

If you are someone who slumps when they sit, you could benefit from having your back taped. Why? Because when you sit properly and have tape placed in the correct position it creates a neutral position. Move away from that neutral position and the tape stretches. You can still move freely, something traditional supports prevent, but there is a gentle reminder to move back to the correct place.

 

So, I’m very much in the Science camp on this one, but I don’t deny there is likely to be a level of placebo thrown in. I will not hesitate to offer kinesiology taping to clients or recommend it. I use it on myself, which I think is the best endorsement a fitness or health professional can give.

The real gym bag essentials

Gym bag essentials.
I keep getting sponsored feeds coming up on Facebook with “gym bag essentials list” which are basically adverts for some or other skin care product or designer gym wear that looks amazing but isn’t designed for actually doing anything but taking those all important Instagram selfies in.
 
But what really goes into a gym bag? And what do people use as a gym bag? I’m assuming everyone doesn’t really have a £200 designer bag to use. Maybe I go to a cheapsake gym because most of my fellow gym goers have old back packs or duffel bags.
So I suppose that’s a good place to start.
The gym bag: Health and Fitness magazines will say it must be a bespoke gym bag with special pockets for everything, but seriously a carrier bag will do and often does especially if you know you’re going to have extra sweaty clothes to bring home with you. Personally, I use an old backpack right now, but there’s some canvas draped over my sewing machine that will eventually become my new gym bag just as soon as I get the chance to make it!
Hydration: Mine’s a £1.50 sports bottle. Strictly speaking it’s one of my vast collection, I swear they replicate in the dishwasher. I don’t remember buying so many sports and shaker bottle, where do they all come from? Pay more if you want but just make sure you don’t get dehydrated.
Clothes: Comfort, flexibility and sweatability (I may have made that word up). My favourite is a Corbeau branded technical tee that I won in a competition (yes, corbeau seats, I’m a petrol head and proud) and whatever joggers are clean. If designer wear makes you feel better then be my guest but I’m not looking at you while I’m working out and I couldn’t care less if you’re looking at me.
Footwear: That’s probably my most expensive piece of kit. Asics (they’re good for wide feet like mine) if I’m doing a treadmill workout or my trusty Vibrams five-fingers for weights. I know, but love them or hate them they are great for the barefoot feeling and there’s no way I’m really going barefoot in the gym.
Changing: Clean clothes, Deodorant, Make-up (if I don’t want to look like a train wreck), towel & wash kit. Unless I’m heading straight home to shower there, then I travel light. I really shouldn’t have to tell you want you need here, I mean you are a responsible adult, right?
Extras: Workout towel for sweat wiping purposes, my trusty old Tough Mudder towel or a pub bar towel (I seem to have more of these than I rightly should but they are just the right size).
Headphones, just in case the gym’s music is dire although mine is usually okay.
Gloves, because blood blisters on the palms are so last year, darling.
Workout plan. Okay, I don’t normally have mine because I remember what I need to do but it’s useful when you’re starting out or you’ve just changed your workout.
But if I’m really in a pinch, I throw on my gym clothes, jump in the car (don’t judge me, the gym is 10miles away) and take these:
20170117_203706
Gym pass, gloves, towel & bottle. That’s it.
If you really want to be a minimalist you can do with the gym pass and the bottle.
You’re already paying to use the gym, the rest is personal preference and you’ll get the same results wearing those old joggers and the stained t-shirt as you will wearing designer logos. Don’t be conned into thinking fitness has to be expensive.
A note on post workout nutrition:
Conventional wisdom says you must have a good amount of protein within 30 minutes of your workout or you’re wasting your time, which is why so many people are eating as they leave the gym (hey, what more excuse do you need?) but there are a few recent papers floating around that suggest it’s not as critical as everyone thinks and within a few hours is fine. Certainly remember to eat to your goals, you’re never gain muscle if there are no raw materials or recover from an intense workout if you don’t have the energy.
Just remember, you probably haven’t burned as many calories as you think and an hour in the gym isn’t an excuse to go on binge.

The best Miracle Diet ever

 

miracle-diet

 

There are so many Miracle Diets out there it’s hard to know what to choose. Some promise half a stone in a week, some up to 20 pounds in a fortnight. Wow.

Using the latest miracle food or special food combinations you can lose huge amounts of weight in a very short time.  The Military diet promises 10lb loss in a week, the Cabbage soup diet promises the same, then there’s the Aloa Vera detox, Liver cleanses, Zero calorie foods, Smoothie diets. The list is endless. There’s even a diet out there promising that just by drinking copious amounts of lemon juice in water you can lose nearly a stone in a week.

It seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and I’m feeling left out, so I’ve done all my research and come up with a foolproof one week diet plan to lose weight.

I’m calling it the Mars Method :

Breakfast – Boiled Egg & a Mars Bar (50g)

Lunch – 1 Chicken breast (steamed or grilled), 1 cup mixed salad leaves (no dressing) & a Mars Bar (50g)

Dinner – 1 portion of steamed fish, 2 cups vegetables (no potatoes) & a Mars Bar (50g)

Remember to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. You may add up to 100ml of skimmed milk for tea/coffee. Do not add sugar. Only diet drinks if you must, but try to drink water instead.

Follow this diet for seven days then a week on healthy eating, aim for between 1500 & 1800 calories per day. Repeat until you reach your desired weight.

Now, for the love of health and nutrition DO NOT FOLLOW THIS DIET. 

This is just an example of how absurd some of the miracle diets out there can be. With the Mars method you would lose weight, for most people I estimate about 3lb a week, maybe up to 7lb if you have a lot of weight to lose, but you would be grumpy and lack energy.

How is that possible? It’s very simple mathematics, the above diet provides approximately 1100 calories per day (depending on what vegetables you choose). You would be grumpy because of the sugar crashes after eating and that would leave you lacking energy too.

Diets like this with questionable and sometimes downright dangerous nutrition giving ludicrous promises of results are often supported by before and after shots that are either faked or stolen.

clickbaitThey are click bait, they want you to go to them so their advertised pages get more hits and more often than not they are trying to sell you something at the same time, either supplements or books. They don’t care about your weight struggles, they just want to feed off your insecurities and belittle the real struggle that weight loss can be.

Real weight loss requires dedication and time.

In an earlier blog I did a review of a number of more reputable diet methods that do work. They are not the rapid miracles you might be hoping for, but they do help you to lose weight and combined with exercise they are viable and doable.

If you are really stuck you can ask your GP if there is a referral scheme in your area either for a slimming club (usually Weight Watchers or Slimming World) or Personal Training sessions. If you don’t want to speak to your GP, or the waiting time is just too long, you could always find a registered dietitian who will put together a comprehensive plan for you. If you are determined to exercise as well, Personal Trainers are qualified to give nutritional advice as well. As you can see, there is a lot of help you can get without having to rely on google or pinterest.

Be a smart dieter, do your research and get the right advise. A slower diet will yield long lasting results and teach you how to keep the weight off.

Are those e-cigarettes friend or foe?

They have been hailed as the answer to your smoking woes, a safe alternative to the tar filled ‘fag’ with none of the yellow fingers and teeth and no smokers cough. They even come in a huge range of flavours and fancy gadgetry.

As a life long non-smoker I realise I am an outsider looking in. I see a lot of friends who have made the switch and while it’s certainly easier on the nose to be around them they do spend a lot of time vape in hand.

Is it really the perfect answer they have been sold? Until recently I was trying to convince my brother to make the switch, that is until I chanced upon what I thought was just a scare mongering article about the health hazards of the e-cigarette phenomenon. So I did some digging, hunting for some real research and what I found made for uncomfortable reading.

Just as asbestos was once hailed as the miracle substance but is now reviled and feared, there are chemicals hidden within the little liquid vials of happiness that you really do not want to be inhaling.

So where is this going?

From this:

smoking pinup

To this:

From californiavaping
From californiavaping

Remember folks, cigarettes were once considered seductive and healthy but now they are the enemy. Will vaping go the same way?

Onto the facts:

E-cigarettes come in many different shapes, sizes and designs, but are basically a battery operated atomiser or vaporiser which allows you to inhale your nicotine fix with a tasty flavour added as a bonus.

Traditional cigarettes are a mini bonfire of dried tobacco leaves and additives rolled into an easy lighting package with a filter on the end (unless you roll your own then the filter’s up to you).

 

First the Diacetyl scare. This was the first warning flag that went up for me. Diacetyl is a flavouring, a tasty creamy flavouring traditionally used in popcorn manufacture. It’s perfectly safe to ingest but inhalation is another matter, this is where the horrible “popcorn lung” (Bronchiolitis obliterans) comes in. This is a relatively new problem, only recognised in the US in 2000 in industrial situations where popcorn was being manufactured in high quantities. Getting to the heart of the issue is hard with so many arguments at cross purposes but here is was the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have to say about it.

Many vape sellers are quick to point out that where found, liquids with Diacetyl and similar chemicals are removed from sale and replaced with alternatives. However, a Harvard paper from June of this year found Diacetyl in 47 of the 51 liquids they sampled. The official advice they (and many sellers) gave was only trust a reputable seller, but when vaping is so new how do you know what’s reputable? And how would you spot a fake if it was offered to you?

If Diacetyl is cropping up so often then what else is in there? Many chemicals considered food safe are not inhalation safe, so they are easy to get hold of and taste nice but should you be breathing them in?

The moral of this story is to carefully research your manufacturers before choosing your vaping method, don’t just go with the cheapest or prettiest or you may regret it in years to come.

 

Then let’s get down to the heart of it. Nicotine.

220px-Nicotine.svg

This unassuming, naturally occurring, little gem is highly addictive and highly poisonous (did you know tobacco is from the nightshade family of plants).

You may be swapping out the tar but you are still an addict if you go for vapes instead and initial studies are showing that very few people are quitting vapes after quitting the cigarette habit. If you are an adult in perfect health the nicotine in small quantities should not do you any harm (at current findings) but it does pose dangers to people with Cardiovascular disease, children and unborn children.

Serious Warning here: In high doses Nicotine can be fatal. Do not let young children anywhere near your e liquids!

Swapping one addiction for another may seem the best option and for some of the worse side effects it may well be, but it’s still an unhealthy habit. For once, I am in agreement with NHS advice which is to use e cigarettes as a means to quit but not as an alternative. The risks levels between smoking and vaping is no contest based on current research but vaping is still far riskier than quitting all nicotine based consumption.

 

My advice to my brother now is simply to quit (I know, I know, there’s nothing simple about it!), but if vaping makes it easier then pick a well researched and reputable brand.

 

Be cautious: This is new territory, e cigarettes have only been covered under the EU Tobacco Directive legislation since May of this year, so anything older than that is a Russian Roulette and even now it’s a case of building better legislation as issues arise. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t make me feel much better about it.

 

And magically the fat was gone!

I wish.

As an experienced dieter (or should that be experienced over eater?) I have have been through most diets out there. More recently I have been deliberately seeking out different diet strategies to test them so I can give more balanced advice when clients complain about that spare tire or those thunder thighs that they just can’t shift.

But I’m a healthy active person, why do I need to diet? I run, I go to the gym, I eat my fruit and veg. I also like cake, a lot, and baking. I could write a whole separate blog about experimental baking and chocolate art (a friend of mine actually calls me “The Chocolateer”, oops). My life is the same struggle that everyone else has, be slim or eat that yummy cake.

So have I found a magical solution to all our woes? Sorry, not yet. I have found plenty of diets not to do and a few that work if you give them time. It’s been an interesting and frustrating year, for me and my patient family. Let’s go through the highlights (try not to yawn).

Calorie Counting:calories

Tried and tested, it’s the diet go to. This does work but can need fine tuning to get the correct number of calories for your body type. Keep a notebook handy and write down everything you eat so you don’t accidentally overeat. It’s easy to get hungry when reducing calories but that can be solved by upping your protein intake. Which leads us to –

Macros: Also known as IIFYM (If it fits your Macros).

If it's good enough for Tony...
If it’s good enough for Tony…

Forget counting calories, if you love complicated calculations this is the diet for you. Protein, Carbohydrates & Fat. Calculate how many grams of each you need everyday and stick to that. If you have OCD issues steer clear because hitting your target exactly everyday is nearly impossible, just get as close as you can. It does work and you shouldn’t get hungry, but you might go crazy for the first few weeks trying to figure it out.

Very low calorie (VLCD): Also known by a thousand brand names. When looking at these (through gritted teeth) I discovered that most of them actually come from just a couple of factories and only the wrappers change so if you really must do this diet type it pays to shop around for the best deal. You will lose weight, of course you will you’re only eating 600kcals a day, but it is not easy for you or anyone you live with. I managed 5 weeks (somehow) and I can still feel the ridge on my nails caused by those weeks – yes, it caused deficiencies. I  was too wiped out to exercise, I was constantly tired and my family hated the boring dinners I cooked them because the last thing I wanted to do was bake when I couldn’t eat it! I would never recommend this type of diet, but if you really, desperately must lose weight quickly and painfully, then this is the diet for you.

Low Carb:low-carb-meme_catwalk_slideshow It was known as Atkins but now goes by so many names. Actually a far older diet than people are willing to acknowledge, it’s even referenced in a Goon Show episode (Spike Milligan was a legend) from the 1950s (“Give up bread and potatoes”). A favourite of carnivores everywhere. Cutting out the sugar can be highly beneficial but bacon and eggs for breakfast is only amazing for so long. If you do a lot of cardio you will struggle to keep it up until you adjust (for some it’s a few weeks before your body adapts, apparently for me it’s never) but if you are a resistance monster it’s fine.

Paleo: paleoThe Caveman diet. Get rid of everything artificial and processed, eat like hunter gatherers. Based on some dubious archaeology and the premise that modern food and farming is causing all the problems. There are merits to this way of eating, it certainly is healthy but be careful or you could actually gain weight.

Fasting: fasting5:2, JUDDD and many more branded versions to come. Like VLCD with frequent holidays. This is my current diet experiment and I am doing Alternate Day fasting (JUDDD – justupdaydownday). So I get 500 calories one day and around 2200 calories the next day. So far (only a week) it’s surprisingly easy because if I want something I can just rationalise that I’ll eat it tomorrow. Not for everyone, like VLCD it requires iron will, but only every other day. It’s just calorie counting on the longer term. Some people fast for only certain times during the day, giving themselves a six hour window during which they can eat on the basis that they can’t over eat if they only have a few hours to eat in (they’ve clearly never seen me on a baking binge!).

Miracle Diets: A category all of their own. You must have seen them – “Lose 20 pounds in a week” – they have apparently miraculous food combinations that you must not deviate from and promise to melt the fat. The 3 day diet, the Military diet, the beach diet, they go by lots of names and mostly when you look closely at them you’ll lose weight because you’re eating so few calories. These are just a way for someone to make money quick and make you hate yourself as you try to swallow strange horrible foods for a week to fit into that party outfit. Yes, I have tried them and yes I lost weight, but it didn’t stay off and they are not sustainable or healthy.

 

There are many more diets out there, we all know Weight Watchers, Slimming World and Slim fast. Come January every diet brand out there will be advertising and telling you they are the one and only solution for you.

The horrible truth is that it’s all about energy expenditure, the fancy diets are just a way clever way to dress it up so it doesn’t look so hard. One day I’ll get around to making my own miracle diet for people to buy, but in the mean time the answer seems to be:

  • Ditch the junk food
  • Exercise, cardio and resistance
  • Eat less calories than you use
  • Eat protein so you don’t go hungry

That said, if the fancy diet makes it easier for you to stick to it then go for it, just do your research and watch your health.

What is my IT Band and how do I stop it hurting?

So you’ve Googled you symptoms and you have ITB Syndrome. First off, are you sure you haven’t actually injured your knee?

Quick check – bend your knee to 45degree, does it hurt on the outside edge? Yes? Then your IT band is a good candidate for the pain, especially if you do a lot of running.

IT band pain location
IT band pain location

It’s a very common problem and normally you’ll be told something like “It’s due to a muscular imbalance” or “bio-mechanical insufficiency” which, let’s face it, isn’t very helpful.

What you really need is a translation.

 

To get to the root of it you really need to know what the ITB is, then you can get an idea of why it’s giving you pain at the knee.

ITB stands for Iliotibial Band, also known as the Iliotibial Tract. This is the medical way of saying it starts at your Ilium (that big flared out part of your hip) and finishes at your Tibia (your shin bone).

The ITB IS NOT A MUSCLE, nor is it a ligament (which many normally reputable publications will tell you) it is Fascia, a thick band of connective tissue linking your hip to your shin and assisting in stabilising your knee when you walk and run.

IT muscle attachments
IT muscle attachments

The ITB Origin (where it starts) at the Ilium is important because it attaches to the Gluteus Maximus and the Tensae Fasciae Latae, basically the bottom muscle and a hip rotator muscle.

The ITB Insertion (where it finishes) is the Lateral Epicondyle of the Tibia, in layman’s terms the top outside of the shin bone.

To pull your leg back when walking or running you contract your Gluteus Maximus, pulling on the ITB. When you medially rotate your hip (kicking a ball with the inside edge of your foot you’re using the Tensae Fasciae Latae.

There we are, that’s the basics of what the ITB is. Now why is it hurting? And how do you fix it?

Remember when I said “muscular imbalance” and “anatomical insufficiency”? I wasn’t swearing at you, honestly I wasn’t. These are genuine terms and probably as correct as they are unhelpful. They basically mean that either one or both of the Origin muscles (the ones discussed above) are not engaging properly and/or you don’t have the correct gait when you run.

Commonly, people will try to use their Quadriceps (the front thigh muscles) to run instead of their Glutes and Hamstrings) – this happens a lot with triathletes as cycling gives them strong quads – or their pelvis isn’t properly aligned, pointing off to one side instead of to the front which weakens the rotator muscles including the Tensae Fasciae Latae.

Over time these movement errors cause irritation and that is most likely to be expressed where there the force from the muscles pulls, at the top of the Tibia right by the knee. There is the pain.

 

Back to how to stop it hurting.

Why did I emphasise that the ITB not a muscle? Because stretching it won’t help. Yes, I did type that, stretching your thigh won’t do a thing to stop the pain. Unlike muscles, fascia has very little give and does not stretch much at all, it’s like trying to stretch a steel cable.

  • Icing, the first choice of most runners for any pain, often gives immediate relief because there is strong evidence that the pain is caused by ITB being inflamed. Whether or not it’s rubbing on the lateral edge of the knee joint is subject to debate (you’ll find lots of arguments about the existence or not of specific bursae which you don’t need to know about right now) but many sources will still give this reasoning. Either way, if icing helps then go ahead, just be aware this is only a temporary fix.
  • Next, if running hurts it then don’t run. Obvious but it needs saying, I’m a runner so I know how frustrating it is but pain is there to tell you something is wrong.
  • Get your posture analysed. There are a lot of specialists who can do this. A Sports Massage Therapist is trained to check your whole body alignment, as of course is a Physiotherapist, a Chiropractor and an Osteopath. You probably see or have seen at least one of these specialists already, tell them you suspect your ITB is playing up and they should check if your pelvis is aligned properly or your leg is turned out at the hip.
  • Massage that ITB. Deep tissue massage breaks up hard lumps and adhesions in tissues to allow freer movement.Be prepared to swear, possibly even to discover new expletives. Sorry, but it while it’s good for you it does hurt. If you don’t want to swear at your Therapist (Don’t worry we understand the IT Band issue) you can always self massage with a foam roller with good results.
  • Strengthen those Origin Muscles. Work on Glute strength and hip rotations with Hip Bridges, Lying Hip Abduction and similar.

Sorry, no miracle cures here, but solid long term results.

As always, don’t trust a Google diagnosis, get it checked by a professional and follow their advice.

Muscle food

Sorting out those sticky nutrition issues has never been easy, but does it get over complicated?

 

Here I am only a few days away from an insane challenge and already I’m looking towards the next one. Perhaps not so insane as running an Ultramarathon – eek, am I really about to do that?!, but this next one is a strength challenge.

Next week will be a recovery and restock week, nursing my aching body and cursing my stupidity while I write up the next phase in my fitness journey. My next challenge is to improve my strength and once again hit the free weights in the gym.

100kg. That’s what I want to be able to comfortably Deadlift and then Squat. That’ll do for now. That and an honest Pull up, no kipping.

This will be me.
This will be me.

 

 

 

 

To do that I need to grow some muscle and for that I need to eat right. Of course, as a PT I should know better and eat right all the time but as I also love baking the lovely naughty treats my Grandma taught me to cook I find myself falling off the wagon like everyone else quite often.

Before the Runger caught up with me, that carb crazy demon is activated by the smell of sweaty running gear I swear, I was having success with IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) and just as soon as I can walk again – give it until about Wednesday next week I think – I will launch right back into it.

And I believe I have stumbled across an insanely easy way to calculate your Macros. Usually the laborious thing and the reason most people stop before they start, is the maths required before you can even think about what to eat. The calculation I will be following is so much easier:

Your Macros are Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. They are the macro-nutrients you need to function, as opposed to the micro-nutrients which are your vitamins and minerals.

How do you find out how much of each you need? Easy:

What is your goal weight in pounds? (Pick an intermediate weight if you have a lot to lose) My current goal is 160lbs.

Take your goal weight in pounds and that magic number becomes the number of grams of Protein and Carbs you can eat per day. So I get 160g of Protein and Carbs.

What about Fat? Take your goal weight and divide by two. In my case that’s 160/2. 80 grams of fat.

To work out how many calories that is, you just need to know that 1 gram of Protein is 4kcal, 1 gram of Carbs is 4kcal and 1 gram of Fat is 9kcal.

160 x 4 = 640

160 x 4 = 640

80 x 9 = 720

Total Calories = 2000

That’s a lot more calories compared to the average diet, but that’s also a lot of protein!

If it's good enough for Tony...
If it’s good enough for Tony…

After years of restrictive calorie diets it feels somehow wrong to be allowed so many but I get the distinct feeling that the challenge will be consuming so much protein. Still, there are perks too.

 

 

The diet isn’t everything though, 3 days of weights and 3 days of cardio every week will certainly make the difference.

 

I’ve got the running down already so there’s cardio sorted, now to design my three day split…. Mmm, free weights.

 

Preparation is key

Less than a week to go now before I run 100km in one day to raise much needed funds for The CATS Foundation charity for children with a rare life limiting disease.
 
So what do you need to run the equivalent of nearly 3 marathons in one day?
Many people would say you need more than a touch of insanity, it certainly takes dedication, long months of training and a huge dollop of stubbornness.
Every day for months you are either running or recovering from running. Your is house littered with drying running gear, you become obsessed with the perfect lacing arrangement for your shoes and a connoisseur of energy gels and bars. When there are two of you in the house preparing for the same event your washing machine begs for mercy. Add young children to the mix and it’s a constant one in one out, you are either running or babysitting.
Training's going really well!
Training’s going really well!
During the last few months training has changed it’s focus from purely upping mileage to testing strategy. What foods can you eat on the go and how much before your body rebels, how fast you can really go and what to do when you hit the wall – and you will hit the wall at some point, the trick is what to do when that happens.
The less pleasant things are some of the discoveries you make on the way, like where you must put those blister plasters (not always on your feet!) and exactly where your running tights will start to chafe when you are still ten miles from home.
I long for the days when a run was three miles round the block and I didn’t have to carry a backpack with two litres of drink, food, a waterproof jacket and first aid kit. Oh for the time when a run was just a quick trip out, phone in pocket and go, then home and time to spend a day in the park with the children.
My last long run had me out for five hours and by the time I was sanitised and fed when I got home it was nearby the children’s bedtime.
I hope all of the effort pays off. This time last year my longest run was 12 miles, I had just completed a Tough Mudder and fractured my Coccyx in the process (it still twinges sometimes now).
This time next week I will have taken part in my first Ultra Marathon. Will I complete it? Will I get pulled out by the medics? Who knows, but I will give it my all and in the end that’s the best I can do.