Shannan Bergtholdt, MS Ed, RDN is a Registered Dietitian with 19 years of experience and is highly adept at translating health information in engaging and effective ways. With a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and Wellness, she designs custom fitness and nutrition strategies for her clients.
Shannan runs a private practice and freelance writing business. Her articles have been featured on prominent health-related sites, most recently in Fasting.com and Top10.com. Her original research studies were published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association as well as Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. In private practice, Shannan takes a practical approach to help her clients use Food, Fitness, Stress, and Sleep strategies to optimize their health.
In this episode, we break down the importance of movement and fitness in every lifestyle and how it is an essential complement to nutrition. Fitness and nutrition are two key components in living a healthy lifestyle as they work together but it doesn't have to be all or nothing!
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Welcome to the Sugar Solve podcast where we're demystifying health one gram of sugar at a time. From eliminating excess sugar to cutting back on carbs, diving into keto, or becoming a devout vegan, today's diet landscape can give you a sugar crash just thinking about it. Sugar Solve is here to demystify all the nutrition and health trends you're bombarded with on a daily basis, bringing you unbiased insight, research and real world experiences from experts in the field of medicine, nutrition, health and wellness. You'll gain knowledge and clarity around the biggest trends in health and nutrition and leave each week feeling empowered to make informed decisions in your own life to optimize your diet and personal wellness for longevity, long lasting energy immunity, improved focus and performance that will leave you feeling better day in and day out. The truth won't be sugar coated here. Welcome back to the Sugar Salt podcast. Today we'll be speaking with Shannon, who's a registered dietitian, and she specializes in fasting and exercise. You'll be learning so much about fitness and what's too much, what's just enough, and how important is it compared to nutrition and diet? Hi Shannon. Welcome to the Sugar Solved podcast. Can you give us a little bit of background about you're education, what you do?
Sure. Thanks, Rebecca. It's my pleasure to be here. I am Shannon Burchfield. I'm a registere dietitian and I also have a master's degree in exercise science, and wellness. I've been a dietitian for 19 years, and when I first started, I really enjoyed working with clients and I happened to be working with a military population. And that population, as many people know it requires them to be physically active. They have to pass a test and maintain physical fitness for their jobs.
And so I realized very quickly that mostly focusing on the nutrition component, I was missing a huge piece of sort of the overall wellness. And so I pursued my master's degree in exercise science. And I've been practicing in all different fields, in and out of dietetics in the fitness world, doing personal training and group fitness instruction. And I guess that's where it brings me today.
Awesome. So have you always been interested in, like, helping all this? Like from your like, did you know that this is what you wanted to do when you were younger or did that kind of change?
That's a great question. And I somewhat came into dietetics haphazardly. When I was in college, I was pursuing a more general health science track, which was usually the first step to do pre-med or something of that nature. And I was a little undecided as to whether it was right for me. As you know, organic chemistry can really humble a person. So I happened to have an advisor who was the head of the Dietetics program, and she said, check out a dietetics class. And I had never even heard the term dietetics before. And when I took the nutrition class it was like a big aha moment, because I realized it would enable me to stay in the health care profession. But I felt like it was just very actionable, like it felt personal, that I could take what I was learning in class and apply it to my life that day. And the thought of being able to help people be healthier and be more active was just it felt like a right fit. And then, as I mentioned, going into more of the exercise science component, it felt more comprehensive. And I can really speak to how people can lead their lives and not just focus solely on food.
So yeah, as I studied public health in college and you know, I always toyed with, oh, maybe I would go and get dietetics or something like that because there's so it's such a rich field of education. It's always changing because we're always bombarded with new studies that come out of research. And it is so holistic because it's not just the food you eat, but it's also the fitness and it's also the sleep and things like that. So in your day to day, the clients that you work with, like what are some of the biggest hang ups you see in terms of just general wellness?
Well, that's such a good question and I will say I focus on four pillars of health, if you will, and you touch on many of them. We talk about food, fitness, stress and sleep. And I think in the year 2020 to where we are now, I think over the past two years, If anything has taught us, is that, Sleep and stress, are foundational to our health. And without that, I know lot of people feel like, especially when they come to me as a dietitian, they think, okay, well, just tell me what to eat, and I'll be fine, and it'll work out and just give me a meal plan and it'll be great. And it's like if I could do that, then I would be out of a job. So that only takes you so far. But I think one of the biggest pitfalls that I see, Is that people are not being mindful of how much sleep they're getting at night and how they're managing their stress. And I think there's been an overemphasis on exercise and that we get this perception of, okay, if we work out every day, then the results should come and it's not as though we can just focus on one of these aspects, if you like, to think of it almost like a kitchen stool with the four legs, like you can't just have one leg and expect the stool to stand up. You can maybe get away with having, you know, nutrition, fitness and sleep, but you really just can't ignore stress. So I think that to me is the biggest pitfall is that when people focus solely on just one aspect, expecting it to really shift the tide in their health.
And you always hear the phrase like, Oh, abs are made in the kitchen and it's like 80% nutrition and like 20% is fitness because those all play a role. And the other aspect is the inflammation in your body from the stress and you're not getting sleep. So like when you don't get sleep, your body has no time to repair, right? And really like build muscle or just take care of your body. So what is if someone's, like, new to exercise and like obviously exercise is important, but where should they begin? How much is too much? How much is not enough? What types of exercise are the best? And how does that change between women and men? Does it differ?
Right. That's such a good question. It's very layered. So I'm going to start at the beginning. So let's say we have someone who is sedentary and what that means is they don't do any sort of exercise. And that doesn't necessarily mean that they're bedridden or couch ridden, But maybe they just go throughout their daily lives but don't workout. So I like to think of it as a good, better, best tier system. Right? So good would be just sometimes I tell my clients, just move more, right? A lot of us have activity trackers either through rings or watches or through our phone. Not too many people wear pedometers. These days, but there are ways that. You can get a sense of how many steps you're getting in a day. And so one of the ways that you can easily start is just by trying to aim for at least 8000 steps a day. And I know in our profession I've preached.or years to get 10,000 steps a day. And it wasn't until last year that I learned the origin of the 10,000 steps, you know, the origins.
No, I don't, actually. I heard a lot of, like, changing thoughts around this, but no, I haven't.
Right. So it's kind of a funny story in that the 10,000 steps today stemmed from one of the original pedometers, which was and it was a Japanese advertising company, and I believe it was the name of the pedometer related to the fact that it could count up to 10,000 steps. And what they found is once people were doing that much activity, it had many benefits in terms of longevity metabolic markers, even weight loss, fitness, all these improvements. And so we just said, okay, great, it's 10,000 steps. So it was based on this arbitrary advertising campaign, which is kind of funny. It's like, okay, well, maybe it wasn't fact based, but what they're finding is there were some longitudinal studies done, which means they were observing people over a long period of time. And what they found is that if folks can get 8000 steps a day, that it relates to almost a 50% decrease in all cause mortality. And what that means is that dying from any reason at all reduces by 50%. Now that's compelling because I feel like 8000 steps is pretty reasonable. Most people, if you're up and walking to your car or running errands on a daily basis, can get about 5000 steps a day. So it's just being more intentional. So that's kind of the starting block is maybe I can aim for 8000 steps, move more, and then the next tier up would be to try and meet the recommendations for physical activity, which is either 150 minutes per week, not per day per week of moderate intensity activities. And really it's 150 to 300 minutes per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity. And that would be things like hiit exercise, many of the boot camp style classes, and exercising at what would be like 75% of your heart rate max. Or for most people that would be like when they get that breathless feeling when they can speak in 2 to 3 words sentences. So and for a lot of people, once they start to get into the routine of exercising maybe three times a week, they can realize, oh, I'm getting much closer to the 150 minutes.
And so that's kind of the better part and then the best would be finding a exercise routine that you can stick with consistently five days a week where you're consistently hitting the benchmarks for getting 150 minutes and or 75 minutes, it doesn't have to necessarily be either or you can mix and match it. And one of the things that's really cool about exercise is that what I think you asked about pitfalls is that another one is that people feel intimidated to start like, Oh my gosh, my life is so busy, where am I going to carve out 30 minutes? Well, the cool ting about exercise is that you can accumulate minutes in that their research suggests that if you can do three, 10 minutes, increments of exercise. It's just as beneficial as doing 130 minute because if you take a step back and look at your day, most people, let's say you're awake for 16 to 18 hours a day, right? Well, if you're only working out for 30 minutes of it, what are you doing for the rest of your day? And you have to think about what's going on in the rest of my life. And if you're breaking it into smaller pieces, maybe walking the dog or getting outside and going for a quick walk that's getting you up and moving more frequently throughout the day, which people have found is when I say people, I mean researchers have found that that can help with longevity and health in general. So that would be my recommendation.
So when a lot of people, I guess, and for me personally, I like to work out in the morning and get it out of the way. Nothing gets in the way. Later on in the day when things pile up, you get new notifications, alerts, whatever, and you can't you end up skipping that. But then some people are like, Oh, now I have more energy at the end of the day. And they are always like trying to go to the gym at night or after work or whatever. Sometimes it gets skipped. But then there's also like again, that sleep component. So is there an optimal time? Like, should you. Yeah, should you try to get all of your those, say, those three increments during the day in the morning, or what if you really do only have time at night? Is that going to affect your sleep? So is it better to work hours or better to get in a good night's sleep?
Oh, that's such a great question. And there's a couple different ways you can look at it. I would ask people first to think about what is their goal with exercise? For example, If they are looking to achieve primarily weight loss, it may be more beneficial to find a time that's not necessarily at morning or at night, but when they can stick with it. So if that means you can only exercise at night, then that truly is the best time. I know it sounds like a platitude. Oh, just work out whatever's most convenient for you, but. But truly, if you want to be consistent, that's the key, is finding the right time and then the other recommendation is that, if you have folks that are really looking to have improvements with blood sugar in the mornings, if you take a look at your circadian rhythm, right? So like our bodies are somewhat adapted to a 24 hour clock with light and darkness. So let's assume that we don't live like way up north with only just a few hours of daytime. So in the morning we have a better insulin sensitivity, which means that our muscles are more willing, if you will, to accept glucose, willing and able and exercise acts as a form of mechanical insulin. It helps naturally lower blood sugars. And so if you are looking to manage your blood sugars, I would recommend starting with exercising in the morning if you can. But again, if you can't, I really wouldn't sweat it. But then in the evening times they found that your muscles are less insulin sensitive and cortisol is naturally a little bit higher. So if you are going to exercise in the evening, I would encourage you to take a look at what type of exercise that you're doing, because I know you touched on this just briefly with the hit training, the high intensity interval training or just high intensity training in general raises your cortisol level. And cortisol is the stress hormone. It's when our body gets the fight or flight and we release cortisol. And that's a good thing. We want our body to do that. And the reason why that is, is because with cortisol, it kind of opens the floodgates for the blood sugars to be released, our muscles, to use it, and then we're supposed to either run away or keep exercising. But if you're doing this consistently at night, it may be problematic, because cortisol stays elevated after hit and after high intensity exercise, more so than any other type. So I think a good indicator would be if you're having trouble falling asleep at night, or if you're finding that you're waking up frequently throughout the night, I've found a lot of time with clients that have elevated cortisol levels will wake up sometime between like 2 and 5 a.m. that's pretty consistent. So, that's usually just a little red flag that you want to watch out for.
All right. I have a bunch of other questions now. This will probably go back to the good bed rest kind of water. What is a good mix of weight training? So like strength training plus cardio, because obviously they're working like your cardio health is so important and your heart in them, they always say like, that's number one. But if you also want to be building your strength in your muscles, there's weightlifting. And obviously that's less of a it doesn't get your heart rate up as much. So what's the best kind of ratio of that?
Right. That's a good question. And you can design a workout however you like in terms of if you take a look at the week and let's say, okay, I want to get just 150 minutes total of cardio and I can mix and match. So that gives me what, five days a week of 30 minutes or I can compress it and do three days a week, but maybe 45 to 60 minutes. And then what I would recommend is at least two days a week of strength training, and you can break that up. You can either do like a full body circuit or take a group fitness class if you're able to. I know there's a lot of apps nowadays, where you can do strength training at home and so you can either do full body twice a week or you can break it up into individual muscle groups like maybe do upper body one day and then lower body the next and core. But I would certainly recommend at least getting a minimum of two days a week of strength training, not just for muscular strength and appearance, but also for women like for bone health as we get older and just for quality of life.
So no one wants to be hurting their back when they pick up a laundry basket, right? So just doing simple things and I will say if you'll allow me to do a quick story, when I was in graduate school to get my master's in exercise science. I remember my professor telling us this story about these nursing home folks that participated. And it was a short study. It was like maybe eight or 12 weeks long. And they did three exercises. They did a leg press. So kind of like a squat. They did a leg extension, which where you push the bar up and then. A leg curl, which does hamstrings. And so three simple exercises and all the participants were ages 90 and older. And so they found that every single participant either went from being in a wheelchair to a walker or going from a walker to a cane or going from a cane to no walking assistance. And that blew my mind. Like I could not believe it. And that's when I knew that I wanted to talk much more about exercise and just really bring home the fact that I know some people might feel intimidated about trying strength training. And some people may feel like they're not fit enough to go to the gym. But I want to encourage anyone. Like to start where you are and it's never, ever too late because there's always things that you can do, no matter how small to improve your strength and quality of life.
Yeah, I was recently. It was the other day I was reading an article about how what the fitness industry gets wrong and how just so many people have these notions in their head, like from childhood, like they're traumatized by, like, gym class, and then they end up hating exercise the rest of their life. But there's so many different forms of exercise and you can start so small and just like work your way up. But it shouldn't be intimidating. It should be a very empowering and confidence building experience, I think.
And I also would like to mention that I think sometimes we get the impression that strength training is only like lifting heavy weights and there's many different ways that you can do strength training that includes body weight using your own body weight. That includes using resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells. I mean, there's more ways to work out now than ever before. So don't feel like you have to go in the gym and lift these heavy plates and and feel intimidated by that. There's definitely something for everyone.
Yeah. So the other question I had was so this people always talk about the afterburn effect. So especially when if you say if you work out later in the evening, your body is going to be burning calories like extra calories while you sleep or and that's why is it better to then work out earlier because you're getting that burn that after burn for like the duration of your day when you're actually eating meals.
Mm hmm. Yes, that's a great question. And I will say, I haven't heard compelling research to really say for certain. Okay, you need to work out in the morning. If you want to, if X and Y. Right. There's no perfect formula. But there is something called Epoc, Epoc, and it's post-exercise oxygen consumption. And that's a fancy way of saying that, you do burn more calories after you work out. Right. We touched on it a little bit when we talked about hit. But what happens with Epoc is that after you're done exercising, the benefits begin. Actually, as soon as you start exercising, you give benefits. And then after you finish your workout, you're still getting additional metabolic benefits because the body is kind of like, okay, what just happened? The body likes to be what's called homeostasis, the likes of being in a balanced state. It's like, okay, something just happened. I need to maybe do some muscle repair. I need to get my heart rate down. I need to start sending blood and oxygen to the organs that may need it. And so, your metabolic rate, the rate at which you utilize or burn calories, does stay elevated after you work out. And I will say that, after a hit workout, it stays higher for longer than if you went for a run or lifted weights or did yoga or any other type of exercise. So that's why these hit style classes became so popular that you burn a lot of calories, and you continue to after your workout.
But what they found is that it's really after about an hour or so after your workout, it's really no different than any other exercise. So should you exercise in the morning versus that night? I mean, I'm shying away from saying one way or the other, but I do stand by my answer with that. If you're exercising at night, I would encourage you to really tap into what's going on with your sleep. Because if you, let's say, as an example, you're exercising, you're done working out at 730 at night. And then you're eating dinner almost up until 9:00 at night. And then if you go to bed an hour after that, not only have you just completed a workout, you've eaten what may be a large meal, you've at least eaten a meal, and then you're trying to sleep. And so, yes, you will have an elevated metabolism, if you will, but that does cut into sleep. It will affect your quality of sleep. I guarantee you, your heart rate will still stay elevated and your sleep quality will not be as high. There is research to support that if you follow the sleep scientists like Dr. Matthew Walker. So if you are finding that you're not recovering from your workouts, you're waking up tired, you're having trouble falling asleep, and maybe time to reevaluate when you're exercising if you're working out at night.
Now, the final topic I wanted to cover, and I know that you're an expert here, is about fasting and let's say like pre-workout, nutrition, post-workout, nutrition. Now, like I said myself, I work out in the morning, I'm fasted when I work out and I have enough energy and I feel fantastic afterwards because it does have that natural boost of the endorphins and stuff, right? Then let's say if you do, if you're someone who works out later in the day, obviously you probably didn't. The entire day. You grow that fast somewhere before you
work out later. So what's the optimal like? Pre-workout, post-workout, nutrition? Should you be fasting before you work out? Should you not? What's your take?
Mm hmm. That's a good one. So if you exercise in the evening, I would encourage you to go ahead and eat as normal, especially if you're doing intermittent fasting because you don't want to have a whole day's worth of calories right before you go to bed, that would probably be detrimental to your sleep. And so what you should eat before workout, what's recommended for athletes is somewhere between 100 to 200 calories of easy digestible food within an hour before exercise. Also, you want to be making sure, even if you're exercising while fasted, you're having some water. Because if you are exercising first thing in the morning, there's a pretty good chance that you're also dehydrated because obviously you're not drinking water while you sleep. So but, during the day, I think really, the key recommendation is not to stress too much about what you're having, but before a big workout, just making sure you're not having a high fat, or a really high protein meal. Or a high fiber. So a fat, fiber protein, you want to keep them a bit lower just simply because these foods take longer to digest, meaning they sit in the stomach for longer. And for some folks, that can be problematic, cause nausea and all sorts of performance problems. But if you're having 150 to 200 calories and with the carbs and the proteins, unless you're doing like specific sports training for most of us, just having a snack before you work out would be just fine.
Very interesting. Well, thank you so much for coming on. I could talk to you for like another hour. There is one specific actionable takeaway that our listeners can do and implement into their own lives right after they listen to this. What would that be?
It would be simply move more, move more, and don't wait for the time to work out because there is no extra time. You have to make thet ime, so write it on your calendar. Put an appointment in your phone and commit to that time and move your body more and the benefits will come.
Definitely. All right. You can let our listeners know where they can find you online, your links, your social handles, your website.
Sure, they can find me on Instagram at Revolution Dietician, on Facebook at Revolution RD, and they can find my website where we blog about topics like this all the time. I say we it's me. But at Revolution rd dot com.
Awesome. Thank you so much. I'll have all that in the show notes and thank you for coming on Shannan.
Thanks, Rebecca. It was a pleasure
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of the Sugar Solved podcast. As always, if you like what you hear. Share it with a friend. Leave a rating and review on your favorite podcast player and tune in next week for another episode of the Sugar Solved podcast, where we demystify health and nutrition. One gram of sugar at a time.