Things I Learned From Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer

Things I Learned from Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer

Hello there, and welcome back to another edition of Casey talking about stuff.  I am stoked to announce that I have obtained another credential as of today.  I am now an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM CPT).  Eeek!  This is super exciting.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the “why” and the “how” surrounding my efforts toward getting this certification.  Today I’d like to explain a bit of what I learned along the journey of obtaining this relatively challenging certification, and why I did it.

  1. I felt it was necessary to add an exercise component to my expertise in nutrition in order to truly guide people to better health. I will still stand firm behind the fact that about 90% of weight loss happens as a result of the food you consume; but exercise is a critical part of strengthening your body, improving your metabolism, and making you a healthier person overall.
  2. I tend to thrive on a good challenge.  Studying for the ACSM CPT exam was no easy feat.  I lost track of the hours upon hours I studied some surprisingly complex exercise physiology dynamics and guidelines.  I spent about 5-10 hours a week for 2 months prepping for this beast.  This exam apparently has about a 50% fail rate, and during the exam that cold, hard reality sunk in big time.  It was pretty hard, and I like to think I’m decently strong in this [health and wellness] area.
  3. I wanted to determine firsthand what exactly makes the personal trainers I’ve encountered feel as though they are somehow qualified to spew out nutrition advice.  Guess what?  Not shockingly, the ACSM consistently emphasizes that a CPT’s scope is to inform the client of the importance of proper nutrition in a healthy lifestyle and training program.  The ACSM further emphasizes that a CPT is not qualified to give anything beyond basic advice, nor are they qualified to provide “diet plans” for anyone, especially in the setting of specific health conditions.  Isn’t that funny…every single personal trainer I’ve ever known seems to crap out “diet plans” for everyone…interesting, and not ok…OH!  And also very important:  the ACSM stresses that the ACSM CPT is not—I repeat, NOT—qualified to recommend supplements…seriously, it’s explicitly repeated throughout their own literature.  Shocked?  I’m not.
  4. Something that was pretty disappointing is that a decent amount of the nutrition component of the ACSM guidelines was completely inaccurate.  I actually tried to contact them because it was THAT big of a deal (no response yet).  I had to learn quickly that I needed to “study to the test” rather than answer the questions like I know them to be true based on current peer-reviewed literature.  One example is that corn oil is a “healthy fat.”  There were plenty of other snippets that were jaw-droppers for me, but I did not keep a log unfortunately (or fortunately?).  The point is, not only does an ACSM CPT not at all have any authority to be giving you advice on ANYTHING nutrition except for super-basic stuff, the little teensy bit that is taught by ACSM is not current nor accurate.  Please just be aware of that, because it’s kind of a big deal.

I do not feel confident that I will ever succeed at stopping the illegitimate nutrition-advice vomit that happens in the general public from well-meaning people who are probably trying to help.  However, this is my small effort at trying.

If you’re a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is reading this, I hope you are at least a tiny bit inspired to achieve an exercise credential to add some dimension to your career also.  Yes, it is expensive, especially the study materials + the cost of the exam itself; no, you will likely not get a raise in your “regular” RDN job.  But you will expand your knowledge significantly with regard to exercise dynamics, and this is a really good thing for your practice and your clientele.

To end on a positive note, I hope that I can help one or many of you with your health-improving adventure one day.  It won’t be free, but if you’re nice to me I might offer a reduced rate 🙂

 

Toodles,
Casey

Take the Coffee. Leave the Cannoli.

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Fun Fact #1:

As it turns out, coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you.

I’ll admit, I have helped perpetuate this rumor throughout past years.  I recall learning this over, and over, and over.  I learned it in school at some point…I learned it in the military…etc.  However, what most current, reputable, research shows is that caffeinated coffee does not act as a diuretic when consumed in modest amounts.  The increased urination that most people experience as a result of coffee intake happens as a result of – wait for it – the fact that you just drank 10 (or 20?) ounces of fluid.  The fact that the fluid was coffee would most likely be no different a result than if it was an equal amount of plain ol’ water.  If you are a coffee drinker, and you are dehydrated, it is quite likely due to simply an overall fluid deficit.

WAIT a second!  Here me out before you go suck down a pot of Folgers:  excessive caffeine intake (more than 3 cups of coffee for most people) is not without risk, even if it isn’t necessarily dehydrating you.  Excessive caffeine can cause an inappropriate increase your heart rate; reduced intestinal calcium absorption (this is bad); increased blood pressure; acid reflux; etc.

Bottom line:

Drink your coffee guilt-free (hopefully without sugar), but limit it to 1-3 cups a day and drink lots and lots of water!  Although not discussed today (stay tuned for later posts), coffee does have some health benefits when consumed in moderation.

 

Fun Fact #2:

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn’t as different from “regular sugar” as you think.

If I had a dollar for every person whom I’ve heard say “I got the regular sugar version because the other one had HFCS!”  Rolls eyes…  First of all, HFCS and “regular sugar” are both things we can do quite well without.  I mean, I love sugar.  I really, really do.  However, added sugar is one of the biggest contributors to the wild fluctuations in blood sugar that contribute to insulin resistance (aka prediabetes).  Added sugar also is one of the leading contributors toward high triglycerides, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and obesity.  Let’s be real here, the more we eat [of sugar], the longer we will be on that rollercoaster of cravings that often could be called an addiction.  Furthermore, the metabolism of fructose has it’s own little dark secrets with regard to the fact that it doesn’t activate our bodies’ “fullness” hormone (leptin), which allows us to just keep eating (or drinking) without much regulation to stop.

sugar

Anyway, back to the topic.  HFCS is about 55% fructose and about 45% glucose, molecularly speaking.  Interestingly, table sugar is about 50% fructose and 50% glucose.  GASP!  They’re practically the same!  HFCS starts out as regular corn syrup, a liquid extracted from corn.  The corn syrup is pumped with more fructose to make it taste better.  HFCS is much cheaper than cane sugar, so that’s why it started showing up in our food a few decades ago.  Additionally, corn and sugar are typically genetically modified in the US; but that [GMOs] is another debatable topic for another day.

Bottom line:

Added sugar from table sugar is no better or worse than HFCS.  Try to do whatever you can do to a) wean yourself off of the “need for sweet,” and b) reduce added sugar intake any way you can.

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Ps – On a separate note, I have embarked on a treacherous journey to review current, published literature as it relates to saturated fat and heart disease (not completely for fun — it’s the last nail in the coffin to complete my Master’s degree).  Stay tuned for some cool insight on this topic in the late Spring/early Summer!

xoxox,
Casey

Is That a Goiter, or are You Just Happy to See Me?

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Yesterday I had someone ask me if he should avoid broccoli because he has hypothyroidism.  He had read that cruciferous vegetables (discussed later in this post) negatively impact the health of his already poor-performing thyroid.  Therein lies the inspiration for this posting.  The short answer is no, cruciferous vegetables typically will not have a negative impact on your health; as a matter of fact, they can have a significantly positive impact on your health.  But first, we have to determine what’s going on.

Some issues with thyroid result from auto-immune disorders, such as Grave’s Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  When an auto-immune disorder happens, there is usually nothing we could’ve done to prevent it.  Some integrative and functional nutrition techniques can help us to better manage these conditions; but generally speaking, auto-immune conditions are very much genetic and not preventable.  Today’s post is not about unpreventable stuff dealing with our thyroid; rather, I want to focus on things we have a bit of control over.

Let’s talk a bit about goiters.  A goiter is basically an abnormally enlarged thyroid.  Why should you care?  Well, even if you don’t ever develop a goiter, having a dysfunctional thyroid can create a cascade of other health problems if untreated.  Knowing how to prevent thyroid issues and give that little fella some TLC is rather important in terms of your overall health.

Wait – now you know that a goiter is a huge thyroid…but what is a thyroid?  A thyroid is a small gland in the front part of your neck that basically regulates the rate at which your body burns energy (metabolism).  Your thyroid produces hormones that send signals to little-bitty receptors throughout your body’s cells and tell them to crank your metabolism up or down depending on what is needed at any given time.

A few nutrients play rather critical roles in the health of our thyroid.  The two MVPs when it comes to micronutrients and thyroid are iodine and selenium.  Iodine is essential to the formation of thyroid hormones, and selenium is essential to form enzymes that activate thyroid hormones.  Iodine and selenium do a lot of other really cool stuff in our bodies too, but today we’ll focus on the ol’ thyroid.  One of the most common non-auto-immune causes of goiter around the world is iodine deficiency.  In fact, pregnant mommas consuming inadequate iodine and/or selenium can impact the growth and development of their little ones in utero.

thyroid

You may recognize iodine in its most common role, “iodized salt.”  Nearly 100 years ago, experts realized that widespread iodine deficiency could be prevented quite easily if they simply added iodine to our salt.  Easy peasy…or is it?  The thing is, we have been told over and over and over to limit our intake of added salt to prevent high blood pressure (this is not completely true, and something that deserves an entirely different conversation for another day).  Not only have we limited our intake of added salt, we have switched to other forms of salt like sea salt and/or Himalayan pink salt.  These cool hipster salts (sea salt and Himalayan pink salt) don’t typically have added iodine.  Therefore, goiter has been spotted making a comeback.

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Some argue that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.) impair thyroid function because metabolizing these foods produces components that interfere with iodine uptake in the thyroid, among other mechanisms.  However, (and this is a BIG however), the impact of cruciferous vegetables on iodine uptake is only noted in cases of an already present iodine deficiency coupled with significantly large portions of cruciferous vegetables (several heaping cups a day).  Furthermore, cooking cruciferous vegetables lessens their impact on iodine uptake anyhow.  Lastly, (and deserving of another entire discussion) cruciferous vegetables have GIGANTIC benefits to our overall health, and should never be avoided by most of us.

Ok, so where do we find iodine and selenium anyhow?  Seafood (especially wild-caught salmon, cod, tuna, sardines, and shrimp) are great sources of iodine; and, believe it or not, so are cow’s milk and strawberries.  And here’s a fun fact – many of the same foods rich in iodine are also rich in selenium!  Wild-caught salmon, cod, tuna, sardines, and shrimp are great sources of selenium.  Some other sources of selenium include Brazil nuts (common in most cans of mixed nuts), sunflower seeds, beef, and barley.

Yet again, the bottom line here is that if you enjoy an abundance and variety of whole foods, you are quite likely to obtain all the nutrients you need without worry.  If you are super-worried about your ability to obtain iodine, selenium, or any other nutrient, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you formulate a plan.  Many multivitamins can help you achieve adequate intake of most micronutrients, but they shouldn’t be the complete solution without emphasis on consuming real, whole foods.

Lastly, if you suspect you have hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or goiter, get checked out by a physician.  After that, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to develop strategies to better manage your condition!

Toodles,
Casey