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Today’s Health Upgrade
Contraceptives and your workouts
The rep test
Can Vitamin D keep you Alzheimer’s free?
This Pill Won’t Make You Weaker
For decades, research focusing on women has lagged, but we’re finally seeing more traction and focus on issues specific to women. Recently, researchers conducted a meta-analysis to determine whether oral contraceptives limit your hard work in the gym.
The results suggest that hormonal contraceptives do not appear to diminish muscle growth, power, or strength in women. In other words, women using hormonal contraceptives can expect similar gains in muscle size, power, and strength as women who are not using contraceptives.
That said, the study did find that individual responses to exercise and hormonal contraceptives may vary. So, if something feels off with your body or results, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. Instead, consult with your healthcare professionals and consider factors specific to your personal health history and contraceptive choices to find what works best for you.
Are there other areas of female-focused research that you would like us to highlight or support? Email us and let us know!
The Rep Test
Many people don’t see the results they want from their workouts for two primary reasons: 1) they don’t stick to a program long enough, and 2) they don’t train hard enough to force their bodies to change.
A new study proves point two by suggesting you might be doing fewer reps than you’re capable of achieving.
For more than 30 years, researchers have used charts to help determine how many reps you can perform based on your 1-rep maximum. For example, a chart that has been used since the 1990s suggests that lifting 70 percent of your 1-rep max should allow you to perform 10 to 12 reps. But this new analysis suggests a more realistic number of 14 to 15 reps.
This might not seem like a significant difference, but gaining muscle is a matter of motor unit recruitment. The more you push towards failure, the more you increase ”mechanical tension” and recruit motor units, which is a major driver of building new muscle. So those extra two or three reps are where the growth really occurs.
The researchers also found that a general estimate can be misleading because exercise selection matters. If you are doing the bench press, the number of reps you can perform closer to your maximum is less than the leg press. This doesn’t even consider the type of workout split you’re performing (full body vs. upper and lower body) or the order of exercises in your workout.
It’s why when people ask us in The Pump app, “What weight should I use?” the best answer is to take a trial-and-error approach. Many variables influence the correct weight for the number of reps prescribed. So, when starting a workout, the first 1 to 2 weeks should focus on figuring out how hard you can push on any given exercise to get close to failure, assess your strength, and then calibrate the correct number of reps based on the weight you’re using.
The study included charts (see below) designed to give you a sense of what you might be able to do based on your 1-rep max. Remember, though, they are a guide — not the rule. Do your workouts, don’t worry about the weight, and then once you figure out your strength, follow your program and focus on improving over time.
The “load” is the percentage of your 1-rep maximum, and the “estimate” is the average number of reps you might be able to perform at the given weight.
Can Vitamin D Keep You Alzheimer’s Free?
What if a tiny nutrient deficiency could impact your brain health? Research suggests that Vitamin D could play an important role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists examined 60 studies that examined the relationship between genetic variants, vitamins and minerals, and disease. They found that people with higher levels of vitamin D had a 43 percent lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
The catch? Those who used Vitamin D supplements did not show an association with lower risk.
This isn’t the first study to suggest a link between Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s. Multiple cohort studies — which observe associations between behaviors and disease — found that low Vitamin D levels are linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
As we’ve discussed, Alzheimer’s is the byproduct of several factors, but scientists have focused on the buildup of plaque (amyloid-beta, specifically), which causes brain damage. Identifying ways to reduce this plaque is a primary area of research that focuses on prevention, and this study — along with others — found that supplementing with Vitamin D could reduce the buildup of the plaque, which could contribute to its preventative powers.
We’re unsure why the research didn’t show that supplementation made a difference. It could be that the amounts tested were not high enough to provide the plaque-fighting powers. Or, the protective benefits of Vitamin D you get from the sun may be different than what you find in supplements. We’ll need more studies to know, but it would be beneficial to test your Vitamin D levels to see if you’re in a healthy range.
Remember, there is no way to prevent any disease completely. And the best prevention is exercise, good nutrition, sleep, and social connection. But, being aware of risk factors can make sure you eliminate blind spots and reduce the likelihood of health problems.
Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger