A Light Workout and Considering Gut Microbiome

squats
Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

After yesterday’s return of the back owie, I didn’t think I’d be lifting anything at all again until Thursday, but I was still unhappy that I hadn’t been able to do any halfway descent squats. So I decided to start really light and see how far I could go.

I figured I’d just do squats, and when I was done, I’d switch to some ab work and then round out the morning with a cardio session.

Actually, I had to push myself to get out of bed. It was another dark and cold Idaho morning and 4 a.m. came all too early. I’d been awake tossing and turning for 2 hours, so I figured I could either do more of that or get up and be productive.

I made it to the gym a few minutes before it opened and stood outside the doors with a few other morning regulars freezing my legs off in 36 degree F weather. The receptionist was kind enough to rescue us by unlocking the gym and letting us in.

I headed straight for the squat rack and was determined to lift only until I felt my back complain. Here’s how it went:

Barbell Back Squats in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
6x 105lbs/47.6272kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg

My back didn’t complain at all at first, even though I knew it was still tender. My form was pretty good from what I could tell, and I consistently got down into a low squat on each rep, even as the weight increased.

OK, I wasn’t increasing the weight by all that much, but as I’ve said before, I was trading intensity for volume.

It wasn’t until my set at 95 pounds that I felt anything in my lower right back at all. I decided to up the weight 10 more pounds and try again.

lower back pain
Photo credit: theboxmag.com

My back complained each time, but not really until I had re-racked the weight and was stepping out from under the bar. I felt kind of uncomfortable as I stepped to either side of the bar to add to or change the weight plates.

To compensate, I lowered the reps per set, first down to 6 and then 5. The discomfort didn’t go away but it didn’t get worse, either. I could tell the limiting factor in me squatting a heavier barbell wasn’t my legs, it was the back injury. Without that, I could have gone heavier, maybe a lot heavier.

It wasn’t effortless. I did huff and puff a bit between sets, even at relatively light weights. The quads and hams are big muscles and they suck up a lot of blood and oxygen that goes with it, so my stamina is tested.

Three days ago, I did a similar squat routine:

Barbell Back Squats in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 75lbs/34.0194kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg
8x 105lbs/47.6272kg
8x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 125lbs/56.699kg

On Friday, I did 8 sets for a total of 70 reps with my heaviest lift being 125 pounds for 6 reps. Today, I also did 8 sets, but only for a total of 61 reps, however, I lifted 135 pounds for 5 reps. I don’t know if that means anything except maybe that even with a tender back, I felt I could tolerate a slightly heavier bar.

I decided that 8 reps and 135 pounds was enough for one morning, especially since I want my back to be in better shape when I have my next training session with Chase this coming Thursday. On to Ab work and then cardio:

Spine Supported Ab Crunch

x50
x40
x40

cardio
Photo credit: Askmen.com

30 min elliptical lvl 10 (25 min cardio, 5 min cooldown)

It was straight up 6 a.m. when I finished my cardio and time to go home and get ready for work.

Last night was the eighth and final night of Chanukah, and after my wife cooked all day, we had the kids and grandkids over for dinner, dessert, and a played dreidel games (my grandson cleaned up and got all of the gelt).

As you can imagine, holiday eating isn’t low cal and one of the traditions for Chanukah is to eat a lot of oily, greasy foods such as potato latkes.

In and of itself, the occasional splurge into bad eating won’t kill you, but while most people figure their gut is “stuff in, stuff out,” I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about how complex our gut is and how its tiny inhabitants can affect our entire well-being.

I’m talking about our gut microbiota otherwise referred to as ” gut flora” or “gut bacteria.” Yeah, not all bacteria are bad and in fact, some of them are not only good, but absolutely vital for our overall health:

Our gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than human genes). Microbiota can, in total, weigh up to 2 kg. One third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, while two-thirds are specific to each one of us. In other words, the microbiota in your intestine is like an individual identity card.

stock photo gutWebMD.com published an article a while ago called What Is Your Gut Telling You that is very illuminating.

Actually…

Bacteria — along with viruses and fungi — are microbes, and we’re filled with them. For each one of your human cells — that is, for every cell that’s “you” — there are an estimated 10 microbial cells. They live everywhere in your body: on your skin and inside your mouth, your nose, your genitalia, urinary tract, and intestines.

So basically, we’re crawling with the critters. And although medical researchers believe certain kinds of gut bacteria can cause a wide range of diseases, they are also responsible for a lot more:

Ongoing research reveals that people with certain diseases often have a very different mix of bacteria in their intestines compared to healthier people. Researchers are working to define the makeup of gut bacteria in a healthy person vs. the gut bacteria that can point to higher risk or presence of certain diseases.

No two people have the same make up of bacteria in their gut. In fact, some believe that the composition of the different kinds of bacteria each person possesses is as individual as a fingerprint. Not only that, but different compositions result in differences in overall health in people:

Certain bacteria can strengthen the immune system, while others can promote the inflammation that’s part of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, recent research shows.

“Many diseases — of the skin, lungs, joints, and other tissue — are caused by inflammation,” Petrosino says. “A bacterial imbalance can lead to elevated inflammation that can advance disease.”

A recent study shows that people with untreated rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease, have more of a particular inflammatory bacteria in their intestines and less of a known beneficial bacteria than their healthy counterparts.

gut bacteria
Photo: io9.com

Our gut bacteria is sensitive to any changes we make in our lives, particularly dietary changes:

“If you make a long-term dietary change — for example from a high-fat, high-sugar diet to a leaner, more high-fiber diet — it’s possible that you could reshape your microbiome, giving it a healthier profile,” Petrosino says. This could improve immune function, lower inflammation, and lead to overall better health. Not just a healthy diet, he says, but a more varied diet may be key to fostering a diverse and healthy microbiome. Exercise might diversify gut bacteria, too, says a recent study that showed athletes had more varied intestinal microbes than their non-athlete peers.

So it’s not just what we eat but how we live, including exercise, that affects our gut bacteria and thus our health. The thing is, research into this area of our health is relatively new, and there’s a lot we don’t know about the connection between our gut health and the rest of our health, except that a connection is undeniably present.

However, according to Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac and “globally recognized leader in the fields of ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine,” modern medicine’s rampant use of antibiotics plays hell with our gut bacteria and thus the level of health we experience:

One study found that after a single treatment of intravenous antibiotics, fecal bacteria tests demonstrated a significant change in the variety of bacterial strains, and the development of the pathogen Clostridium difficile. C. difficile colonization in the gut can lead to serious complications such as severe diarrhea and colitis.

antibioticsNow imagine how many times you’ve been prescribed one antibiotic or another over the course of your life, starting in childhood. While antibiotics are sometimes necessary in order to treat serious illness, there’s also a trade off in that we are most likely damaging our ongoing health for a short-term treatment.

I was recently prescribed an antibiotic for a skin condition which was also affecting my vision. I started getting nose bleeds every single day, sometimes several times a day. The minute I stopped taking the medication, the nose bleeds stopped.

While I couldn’t find a direct connection between antibiotic use and nose bleeds, I did find one having to do with vitamin production and absorption that can lead to a variety of symptoms, including nose bleeds.

If we’ve been more or less raised on antibiotics, chances are, our health has been damaged repeatedly, perhaps in some cases, beyond our current ability to repair.

Another study demonstrated that a short course of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin reduced the diversity of the intestinal microbiota, with significant effects on roughly one-third of the bacterial species. This study also found that while much of the diversity eventually recovered, there were still several species that failed to recover after six months, suggesting that even a short course of antibiotics may cause permanent changes to the community of friendly flora in the gut.

Further…

An unbalanced microbiota in the gut is also a contributing factor in autoimmunity. Infection with certain microbial pathogens can trigger autoimmune reactions in joints and other organs. The destruction of healthy gut flora can make the mucosal lining more susceptible to leakage, which some researchers believe is a precondition for developing autoimmunity. It is well-established that the balance of gut bacteria plays a key role in the formation of a proper immune response. A lack of healthy gut bacteria is associated with allergies, IBD, and general autoimmune reactions when this immune modulation goes awry.

And…

New research has linked changes in gut bacteria with obesity. One study found that the gut bacteria of obese subjects differs significantly in species type from lean subjects, and that low calorie diets, restricting either fat or carbohydrates, changed the gut flora and increased the abundance of the bacterial strains found more predominantly in the lean subjects.

kefir
Photo: commonsensehome.com

My wife is the one who has looked into all this and as a result, she’s adamantly against antibiotic use except in the most dire situations. This flies in the face of the advice I sometimes get from my medical professionals and makes finding effective alternatives difficult.

There are alternatives to traditional antibiotics, but you’ll want to look into them and decide for yourself if they’re for you. I have some questions about a person who has spent years if not decades repeatedly taking prescribed powerful antibiotics and whether or not any of this person’s resistant “bad bugs” would be significantly impacted by natural alternatives.

Near the bottom of the article I just linked to is a section called “Maintaining Good Gut Health” which offers suggestions on what you can ingest to promote and maintain your good gut bacteria environment. Some you may know and some might surprise you. Basically, a lot of home fermented substances such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and real pickles (you’ll need to learn how to do fermentation yourself…my daughter has taught herself and makes this stuff all the time).

Bottom line is that a good predictor of your overall health is your gut health. Start paying attention to your gut today.

If you’re capable of sending a legible text message between sets, you probably aren’t working hard enough.

Dave Tate

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