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Principles of a Rehab Specialist: From Fat Loss to Performance Ready, Part 1

by Jeffrey H. Tucker, DC, DACRB

This article is a real story about a client of mine, Sheldon, whom I am proud to call a very good friend. Last year, I was excited to find out that he was invited to play in the 2007 Maccabi Games (www.jccmaccabigames.org).

I want to personally share his story with you while educating you on the principles of rehab at the same time. Sheldon was given an opportunity to live a dream of playing in a basketball competition that few will ever experience. He came to me feeling confident with our past experiences I could help him recover from a serious injury and get him in shape for the tournament in about 12 weeks’ time. Like every client, Sheldon’s recovery and therapy required customization.

In mid-September 2007, Sheldon, a 49-year-old male presented to my office with left lower-posterior leg and ankle pain made worse with walking. He indicated to me that the pain was in the Achilles tendon region and attachments at the calcaneus. He had been recently invited to play for the U.S. basketball team at the 11th Pan American Maccabi Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2007. He decided to make the trip to Argentina a family vacation. Sheldon was not unfit, yet he was not in condition for a world-class competition. The ankle injury had occurred as a result of his overexertion in preparing for the tournament.

He came to my office with an immediate goal of pain relief so he could practice basketball again. His bigger goal was a structured exercise program to get him ready for Argentina. The patient was diagnosed with pre-insertional Achilles tendonitis with a partial tear. His past history was remarkable for low back pain and previous diagnosis as a pre-diabetic. The goals of a complete chiropractic/rehabilitation training program for this client were to: decrease pain and body fat, increase strength, endurance, flexibility, lean muscle mass and performance; and prevent injury.

Sheldon’s treatment was guided by measurements such as bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), weight loss, heart rate, exercise intensity, ratings of perceived exertion, interval training timing and meal plans. The tools I used to decrease his pain as quickly as possible were a class IV, high-powered warm laser, sound-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (SASTM) as taught by David Graston, joint mobilization/manipulation and myofascial therapy. I had his MD prescribe ketoprofen cream, an anti-inflammatory used to massage into the Achilles area.

As part of his overall program to achieve the above goals, I recommended and initiated food plans, supplementation and a corrective exercise program. Diet is the best tool for fat loss. I have found the Mediterranean diet is easy for clients to follow and offers the best results.

The need for supplements depends upon the individual sitting in front of you. However, there are specific nutrients we can recommend for each individual to take on a daily basis. For example, Sheldon was instructed to take 3 grams of EPA/DHA per day for pain relief and to support joint and bone health, glucose and insulin homeostasis, and the integrity of neurological cells. He was instructed to take daily essential vitamins and minerals, and to increase his protein intake using a bioactive, pure whey protein powder concentrate.

Exercise creates changes in the musculoskeletal system, increasing strength and performance, along with stimulating physiological processes. However, we may not all agree on the best type of exercise to make such changes. In this article and the next, I will discuss these topics and much more, clarifying the connections between fat loss, fat-free mass, exercise and performance.

Measurement and Weight-Loss Basics

Within three weeks, Sheldon was walking without pain. At the end of the third week, he could jog with slight to moderate pain after 10 to 15 minutes of intermittent stops and starts, as in playing basketball. Once his pain diminished enough that he could jog, it was time to get serious and implement a corrective exercise program. We all recognize the value in measuring blood pressure, height and weight. As part of my workup before starting an exercise progression or before starting a weight-loss program, I measure body fat percentage and lean body mass. When I ask a client, “How much do you weigh today?” I often hear remarks such as, “10 pounds too much.” Then I ask, “But how much do you weigh now?” and get the usual response of, “I don’t know, I never weigh myself.”

Maintaining a healthy body weight includes maintaining healthy functioning immune, hormonal and reproductive systems without any traces of an eating disorder. It is also a weight that you can realistically reach and maintain with healthy lifestyle efforts. To effectively manage body weight and body composition, it is important to know your daily caloric requirements. A BIA test can tell us body composition and basal metabolic rate. Accurate assessments using BIA allows me to determine each client’s unique personal caloric requirements and to better plan and evaluate weight management/exercise programs. As mentioned above, I utilize therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) including food plans, supplements, exercise and relaxation that can be evaluated using objective measures before and after beginning my nutritional and/or exercise program.

Body Composition Measurements

In my practice, I use a body composition machine, which is a portable, battery-powered bioimpedance analyzer. Patient assessments are conducted using a connection between the analyzer and the wrist and ankle of the patient. Connections to the patient are through standard ECG sensor pad electrodes. Resistance and reactance, the two components of impedance, are measured directly from the body.

On Sheldon’s initial office visit, he was 78 inches tall and weighed 215 pounds. A look at some of the results from Sheldon’s BIA test revealed the following:

Fat Mass (FM) 20.8%
Fat-Free Mass (FFM) 79.2%
Body Mass Index (BMI) 25.5
Intracellular Water (ICW) 56.4%
Extracellular Water (ECW) 43.6%

Body Weight

Body weight is the sum of your body fat or fat mass (FM) and your lean body mass or fat-free mass (FFM). FFM consists of dry lean mass and total body water (TBW). TBW is divided into water inside the cells (intracellular water – ICW) and water outside the cells (extracellular water – ECW). TBW is the sum of intracellular water and extracellular water (ICW + ECW = TBW). Keeping these components appropriately balanced is the key to staying fit and healthy. Compositional imbalance in the body is closely related to obesity, malnutrition, edema and osteoporosis. It also will contribute to suboptimal athletic performance.

Body Mass Index

Body mass index (BMI) is a common measure expressing the relationship (or ratio) of your body weight to your height. BMI is more highly correlated with body fat than any other indicator of height and weight, but it is not recommended for use as the sole measurement of your body composition. It does not apply to infants, children, adolescents, pregnant/breastfeeding women or adults over 65 years of age.1

BMI Measurements and Ranges: You can calculate your BMI using the formula: BMI = weight (kg)/[height (m)].2

BMI <18.5: This calculation may indicate an underweight status and may be associated with health problems for some people. This client may need to have a consult regarding diet or other health-related issues.

BMI of 18.5 – 24.9: This zone is the preferred range as it is associated with the lowest risk of illness. The client is living life in a way that improves health.

BMI of 25 – 27: This zone may be fine if you are physically active. You likely have lots of muscle mass and may be overweight but not overly fat. However, a BMI over 25 may be associated with health problems for inactive people. This client will need to consult with a doctor.

BMI of 27 – 29.9: This is a health risk zone and is associated with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. At this point diet, nutrition and exercise must be implemented.

BMI > 30: This is obesity. Clients must be provided with a program of balanced eating, supplements, regular exercise and reduction of stress.

Sheldon’s BMI was 25.5, putting him between 25 and 29.9. Although he is only 0.5 over, this still falls within the overweight range. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems. I was not concerned about Sheldon being overweight, but I was concerned that he would be under stress from the workouts ahead and was on a tight time schedule to get ready for Argentina. Within the first week of treatment, I had discussed the Mediterranean food plan with Sheldon to promote healing and increase strength.

Table 1: Risks of cardiovascular disease relative to body mass index and waist circumference3

Body Mass Index (BMI) Waist Circumference
Men = 102 cm (40 inches)
Women = 88 cm (35 inches)
Waist Circumference
Men > 102 cm (40 inches)
Women > 88 cm (35 inches)
Underweight = <18.5 Increased Risk? Increased Risk?
Normal weight = 18.5-24.9 Low Risk Low Risk
Overweight = 25-29.9 Increased Risk High Risk
Obese = 30-34.9 High Risk Very High Risk
Obese = 35-39.9 Very High Risk Very High Risk
Extremely obese = 40+ Extremely High Risk Extremely High Risk

The BMI ranges are based on the relationship between body weight and disease and death.4 Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon), and dyslipidemia (high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides).

Muscle Mass

There are three types of muscle: cardiac, visceral and skeletal muscle. The quantity of skeletal muscle is most affected by exercise, particularly by strength-training programs. By comparing the percentage of body fat mass and skeletal muscle mass in each body component, the level of fatness or obesity can be measured in a more proactive and exact manner. An essential part of my program is to teach my clients how to train and lift free weights. By teaching Sheldon corrective exercises and a free-weight training program, I expect his muscle mass to increase and the body fat to decrease.

We will follow Sheldon’s progress in part 2 of this series and look at metabolism and the benefits of interval training.

References

  1. Mei Z, Grummer-Strawn LM, Pietrobelli A, et al. Validity of body mass index compared with other body-composition screening indexes for the assessment of body fatness in children and adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr, 2002; 75(6):978-85.
  2. Garrow JS, Webster J. Quetelet’s index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. Int J Obesity, 1985;9:147-53.
  3. Gallager DG, Heymsfield SB, Heo M, et al. Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. Am J Clin Nutr, 2000;72(3):694-701.
  4. Prentice AM, Jebb SA. Beyond body mass index. Obesity Rev, August 2001;2(3):141-7.
  5. Gallagher D, Visser M, Sepúlveda D, et al. How useful is BMI for comparison of body fatness across age, sex and ethnic groups? Am J Epidemiol, 1996;143(3):228-39.
  6. World Health Organization. Physical Status: The Use and Interpretation of Anthropometry. WHO Technical Report Series. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1995.