Many of us get sick a lot, get food cravings often and have sore muscles after workouts. But exactly what does this mean for our bodies? Dr. Emily Cooper, author of “The Metabolic Storm,” discusses how we can listen to our bodies more effectively.
When people say “listen to your body,” what does that mean?
You always hear the phrase "listen to your body," but it's easy to take that for granted and ignore the signals of what can really be a big deal. People try to be so strong and work through some of these things when in reality, these conditions could be dangerous to their health.
So it’s like a “big boys don’t cry” kind of thing?
Yes. Brief muscle soreness can be normal after exercise, but if you're continually feeling sore after a workout, and "working through the pain," it's not the best thing. It could mean that you're not getting enough fuel or rest to support the workout so you won't see the results you would expect and you can experience overuse injury. Eating after a workout and proper recovery times can help.
Persistent or prolonged severe painful soreness after a workout can mean that you're putting too much strain on your muscles. Doing that can lead to a serious problem called rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney damage.
It's not that you're pushing yourself hard in a good way, it's your body telling you something's really wrong.
So we shouldn’t pay attention to the “no pain no gain” rule?
So many times your body will tell you when it's in a danger zone. If you're getting shin splints, it could mean that you're building up your training levels too quickly. It takes bones 48 hours to adapt. That's why those recovery days are so important. Plus muscles, tendon, ligaments and bones repair when you sleep. Carbs are the fuel needed for high intensity endurance, so if you're cutting out carbs plus working out too hard, you're setting yourself up for trouble.
What does it mean when you crave certain foods?
When people crave red meat, it could be a sign of iron deficiency. If you crave something salty, it could be that your electrolytes are off balance, which sometimes happens after sweating a lot during a workout or a hot day. A sugar craving might mean that your body needs more carbohydrates. If you're desperate for something really fatty, it could mean that you're not getting enough fat in your diet or your metabolism has the glitches we've been talking about in other segments that tell your brain it's starving.
What about all these supplements that guarantee your body will feel fantastic and that you will have tons of energy?
Well, most of these supplements are not regulated by the FDA and there's no way that every ingredient in a product with 55 ingredients could be specifically right for your individual system. Sometimes you might be better off with a glass of milk or a healthy fruit and yogurt smoothie that's not part of pyramid scheme that promises weight loss or muscle bulk.