ORLANDO – For a lot of folks these days, it’s a devoted daily ritual: heading to the gym to spend hours building up a sweat and burning off calories. There’s even a term for them: gym rats, or people who spent much of their leisure time working out in a gymnasium or health spa, devoting their energies to muscle building, strength training, cardiovascular exercising and aerobic activities.

But if it sounds like the ultimate in healthy living, there are skeptics like Luis Rodriguez Jr. who cautions that, as with most things in life, too much of any good thing can potentially backfire on you.

“You can work out too much,” Rodriguez cautions.

Rodriguez, a physical fitness coach and trainer, isn’t skeptical about physical fitness or a healthy workout at the gym. His Web site, www.HealthyChamps.com, promotes exercise and nutrition and helps people find ways to become healthier, stronger and in the best shape they’ve ever been.

Still, Rodriguez has spent enough time training people – including so-called gym rats – to know that their energy level or degree of enthusiasm doesn’t always amount to an effective workout. All too often, Rodriguez said, he’s seen examples of people who think a good workout begins and ends with the amount of time they spend on a treadmill or execise bike, or maybe lifting weights, and don’t think about their body’s critical nutritional needs.

“Your level of activity and level of nutrition need to be matched up,” he said. Not everyone does that.

As Rodriguez noted, lengthy workouts mean people are burning off calories, allright – “between 800 and 2,000 calories if you’re talking about a three hour workout,” he said. “The average person already burns 1,200 calories as they’re sleeping, at a minimum.”

That may sound great to anyone who counts the calories on their food boxes, but what they often forget, Rodriguez noted, is that their body actually needs a certain amount of calories and fat to stay healthy and fit. That means giving your body all the nutritional needs it requires to keep up with the active pace of a gym rat workout schedule.

Otherwise, “Your body is not getting the calories it needs,” he said. “Eighty percent of fat loss and muscle building is nutrition. Nutrition is more important for exercise for fat burning goals and muscle building. If you’re not engaging in frequent meal eating and getting carbohydrates, fat or protein, you’re going to kill your metabolism.”

That’s true even for those who switch to a vegeterian diet in the hope of becoming healthier, Rodriguez said, adding that the body still needs some fat to keep working properly.

“If they do go vegan or switch over to becoming a vegetarian, they’re missing out on some of the amino acids their body needs to build tissue,” he said. “My body needs 2,800 to 3,000 calories a day. You can’t get that amount from vetegables alone. I could only get it from beans and soy, but what was happening was my metabolism was slowing down.” That makes it harder for the body to burn off fat.

Surprisingly, a lack of nutrition can also leave a gym rat feeling sick – the very opposite of what they probably expect a vigorous daily workout to produce.

“If you’re not getting enough nutrition, it could lead to dehydration, and leave you low in vitamins and minerals in your body,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of illnesses can come from a lack of vitamins and antioxydents in the body.”

At the same time, gym rats often assume that if they spend hours in their favorite gymnasium, they’re giving their body exactly what it needs, regardless of what they eat. But Rodriguez cautioned that “The duration is not as important as the intensity.”

There are three levels of intensity that people can engage in during their workout: high, moderate or low. More often than not, Rodriguez said, gym rats go for moderate intensity so they can stretch their workouts over several hours and not burn out too quickly.

“Some people go in and do moderate intensity all the time,” he said. “What they really want to do is a combination of high, moderate and low intensity during the week. Just doing moderate intensity doesn’t push you forward. Low and moderate intensity with good nutrition will get you good health goals, but they will not build the muscle tissue you need.

“Let’s say we start the week and we’re working your biceps, and we do a very heavy routine,” he said. “By Wednesday, maybe you want to do something with a medicine ball, that’s keeping your heart rate up. The next day, you do low intensity – yoga or any type of core exercises. Each muscle group needs to be treated by itself.”

Rodriguez said before gym rats get their membership and start scheduling themselves for two hours or more a day, they should sit down with a professional trainer to figure out what type of exercise routine works best for their body – and what kind of nutritional plan their system requires.

“Each person’s body is a little different,” he said. “The first thing you need to do is talk to one of the trainers at your gym, to design a specific program for you.”

To learn more, call 407-271-1119 or log on to HealthyChamps.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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