Thursday, September 30, 2010

Six tips to avoid catching a cold or flu

by healthy mind fitbody


It seems as though nearly everyone catches a cold or flu over the holiday season (between December and February). Most people are of the opinion that this is a natural state of affairs, and unavoidable. This is simply not true!

There are many ways to avoid these debilitating and depressing afflictions. Follow the tips below and significantly reduce your odds of becoming ill during the winter months.

1. Avoid sugar. As hard as this might be during the holidays, sugar is the #1 reason people fall ill! Sugar impacts your immune system and makes you more prone to disease. If you can’t go without sweets and desserts during this time, try to significantly reduce the amount you do eat and choose a few specific times you will indulge. Daily sweets will surely impact your health, so avoid those daily chocolate hits at the office!

2. Get adequate sleep. When your sleep is impacted through stress or a busy lifestyle, your immune system is weakened. You should actually sleep a little longer through the night during the winter months, so do attempt to maintain your sleep schedule during the holidays and resist cutting back on your sleeping hours.

3. Don’t stuff yourself. When you overeat, your liver is forced to work extra hard, and this can lead to you getting sick. It might be tempting to eat more than necessary, but try to resist. Another reason to avoid overeating is the fact that gluttony leads to weight gain, because any energy your body doesn’t use gets stored as fat. Stick with smaller meals more often through the day and don’t be pressured into eating “just a little bit more.” Avoid falling into the trap of filling up on appetizers before a meal. Think about what you’re eating and don’t overdo it with alcohol.

4. Reduce stress and prioritize. Prioritize and plan your work and daily activities so that you don’t try to overdo it. When you become overwhelmed and stressed out, your immune system suffers and makes you more susceptible to colds and flu. Try yoga or meditation, or any other relaxing activity (a nice hot bath or alone time) for 20-30 minutes a day where you don’t have to rush around or be anywhere specific.

5. Cook with coconut oil. For a long time, coconut oil was the preferred cooking oil in North America, until the vegetable oil industry spread false rumors about its health benefits. Recent studies prove that coconut oil is healthy and keeps our immune systems strong. Coconut oil is a healthy form of saturated fat. Eat a couple teaspoons of coconut oil each day (in cooking or in a smoothie) to help maintain health.

6. Work out. If you can’t get in both your aerobic and weight lifting workouts and need to skip one, make sure you skip your anaerobic activity rather than your aerobic one. Anaerobic activities like sprints or weight lifting actually add more stress to the body and it is beneficial to skip these types of workouts occasionally to give your body a break. An otherwise stressful time of year like the holidays is the perfect time to give your body this type of break.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

3 "Healthy" Foods You Should STOP Eating! Part 2

Why is it so unhealthy to consume 2/3 of our calories from corn, soy, and wheat?

Well, this section could encompass an entire book, so to keep this short, I'll just throw out a few random reasons...

# Skews the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in our diet to as high as 30:1, when a ratio of 1:1 to 2:1 is considered healthy.

# Problems with gluten intolerance (related to heavy wheat consumption)

# Problems with weight gain, blood-sugar swings, and reduced insulin sensitivity (and progression of diabetes) due to excessive refined corn and wheat flours, as well as HFCS in our diet

# Soy and corn are the most genetically modified crops (which also allows more pesticides and herbicides to be used, which are usually xenoestrogens)

# Many of the pesticide and herbicide residues in these crops are xenoestrogens, which can increase "stubborn" belly fat

# Soy products and derivatives contain a double-whammy of xenoestrogens as well as phyto-estrogens... again creating an environment in your body for fat storage, carcinogenic effects, and even "man boobs" in very severe cases

# The feeding of corn and soy to animals reduces the health and nutritional benefits of those animal products

# and the list could go on and on and on...

So how do you avoid all of this overwhelming amount of corn, soy, and wheat in our food supply, and finally take control of your weight and your health?

1. Don't purchase processed foods! It all starts with your grocery cart discipline... choose only 1-ingredient foods such as fruits, veggies, beans, eggs (free roaming), nuts, seeds, and meats from grass-fed or free roaming animals that are raised correctly. Only resort to junk foods or processed foods on a 1-day per week "cheat day" but ONLY when dining out... that way, the processed foods aren't in your house to tempt you.

2. Get most of your carbs from fruits and veggies instead of grains.

3. Avoid store bought salad dressings as they almost always contain soybean oil and HFCS

4. Make sure that your tomato sauces don't have HFCS and soybean oils... look for sauces made with olive oil instead. Remember to avoid unhealthy canola oils too!

5. Try veggie sticks with guacamole instead of corn chips

6. Try veggies sticks with hummus instead of pita chips or other bread

7. Reduce your cereal, bread, and pasta intake by having these foods only on "cheat days" and stick to more of the 1-ingredient foods I mentioned in #1 above.

I could go on with more examples, but I think that's good for now.

So with all of this said... Is my diet perfect? Well, no of course not! Nobody is perfect, and I can give in to temptation on occasion just like anybody else.

However, I'd estimate that my corn/soy/wheat consumption is only about 2-4% of my total caloric intake compared to 67% for the average person. The way that I achieve this is to simply not bring any corn, soy, or wheat products into my house, so I'm never tempted by it. Therefore, at least 6 days/week, I eat virtually no corn/soy/wheat, except for the occasional piece of sprouted grain toast a couple times a week (which is a better option than typical "whole grain" bread).

I do, however, give in and sometimes eat breads, pasta, and even corn chips, etc. when I'm dining out. I see these as my cheat meals and try to do this no more than once per week. I still completely eliminate sodas and deep fried foods though...they are just TOO evil!

Please share this article with your friends and family on email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc... this is one of the MAJOR reasons that we are so unhealthy and overweight as a society... 67% of our calories from just 3 foods (and their derivatives) is an appalling statistic! Don't give in to the marketing machine that is the corn, soy, and wheat industries! Take control of your OWN health instead of letting big corporations take control of your health.

Til next time,
Don't be lazy... be lean.

Mike Geary

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 "Healthy" Foods You Should STOP Eating!

by Mike Geary

Now get ready for a shocking and appalling statistic...

Currently, the average adult in the US consumes approximately 67% of their total caloric intake from only 3 foods -- CORN, SOY, AND WHEAT (and their derivatives).

What would be considered a reasonably healthy amount of corn, soy, and wheat in the human diet? Based on tens of thousands of years of human history, and what the natural diet of our ancestors was (indicating what our digestive systems are still programmed to process), this would probably be in the range of about 1% to 5% MAX of our total calories from corn, soy, and wheat.

Considering that modern humans are eating 67% of their total calories from corn, soy, wheat... you can see why we have massive problems in our health, and our weight!

It's not a surprise that we have so many intolerances and allergies, specifically to soy and wheat (and gluten intolerance)... the human digestive system was simply never meant to consume these substances in such MASSIVE quantities.

Keep in mind that these massively high levels of corn, soy, and wheat in our modern human diet is a relatively new phenomenon that originated from the economics of the multi-billion dollar corn, soy, and wheat industries. It really HAS been all about the money.

By "derivatives" of corn, soy, and wheat, this means the food additives such as:

# high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

# corn oil

# soybean oil (hydrogenated or plain refined)

# soy protein

# refined wheat flour

# hundreds of other food additives such as maltodextrin, corn or wheat starch, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, etc, etc

This doesn't surprise me... consider how much soda or other sweetened drinks (with loads of HFCS) that the average person drinks daily... this is a LOT of calories from just 1 sole corn derivative. Even marinades, salad dressings, ketchup, breads, and hundreds of other foods contain loads of HFCS!

Also think about how many processed foods we have that are either fried in soybean or corn oil... and even if the foods are not fried in these oils, these oils are additives to almost every processed food... chips, candies, cakes, salad dressings, tomato sauces, burrito wraps, corn chips, breaded chicken, etc, etc. This is a LOT of calories from these 2 other corn and soy derivatives... both of them EXTREMELY UNHEALTHY!

On top of that, think about how much breads, cereals, pastas, muffins, and other highly processed wheat products that most people consume each day. Again, this is LOADS of unhealthy, blood-sugar spiking, nutrient-poor calories, that more than half of the population has some degree of intolerance to anyway.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is the best way to do a short warm-up routine?

By Stephen Pyle

LATE FOR A VERY IMPORTANT DATE

When you find yourself pressed for time pre-race, the warm-up run trumps all, says coaching legend Jack Daniels, who says 10 minutes of running should leave you reasonably ready to roll. The in-a-pinch twist is that, after starting at your normal easy warm-up jog pace, you run progressively faster so that the final 3 minutes are at threshold, or roughly half marathon pace. Try to time the 10-minute run so that you have 5 minutes until the start, during which time you can get in place among the field.

"Ten minutes of running is typically adequate for the muscles to get warmed up," Daniels says, "and by increasing the speed of this warm-up run the aerobic system will be pushed into gear and breathing will be challenged some." An added benefit: "The runner will start the race realizing that he/ she can't go out too fast," Daniels says.

Former Olympian Steve Plasencia, now the head cross country and track coach at the University of Minnesota, agrees, saying, "I would keep my warm-up to nearly exclusive running. I would probably proceed at a pace a little faster than normal but leave a few minutes before the start to make sure I 'gathered myself' for a race as I normally would.

"When the gun goes off," Plasencia says, "I would want my cardiovascular system to at least be reasonably warmed up, and I think running would be the best way to accomplish this."

If there's time, Plasencia advises, try to squeeze in a few strides, increasing from 60 to 120 meters. But because you're literally running late, Daniels' warm-up-with-fast-finish will usually work better logistically before you need to join the rest of the field.


HEAT WARMS THINGS UP

Gary Brimmer, who coaches runners in San Antonio, Texas, deals with plenty of hot temperatures. A 2:31 marathoner, Brimmer knows heat, having also lived in Hawaii as well as in Iraq while serving in the Army. During the summer, when the temperatures are often over 100 degrees in San Antonio, Brimmer has his runners limit their warm-up to a mile jog and a few dynamic drills, such as leg swings and rotation drills for the hips and hamstrings.

"One thing I stress to my runners is when it's hot, you just can't stress warming up that much," Brimmer says. "When it is warm, it does not take long to warm up."

Brimmer is a fan of pre-race dynamic drills in the heat because "that way there isn't a lot of aerobic stretch on the body," he says. "It just loosens the legs up." Before workouts and races, Brimmer's athletes use the Myrtl routine.

Plasencia advises sticking with pre-race strides in the heat if they're a regular part of your warm-up routine, but to allow extra time between them to allow for close to full recovery. That can take close to 75 seconds in the heat.

In the heat, Plasencia says, it's also important not to have your warm-up jog, no matter how short, dehydrate you. Warm up in as little clothing as possible, he says, because "we do not want to perspire so much that we draw down body fluids before competing." If you're a heavy sweater, consider changing outfits after you warm up so that you're not starting the race in gear that's already soaked, which could lessen its cooling properties.

If possible, says Daniels, go inside until race time once you've warmed up.

"I encourage them to go inside and cool off, even placing cold, wet towels on themselves," Daniels says of his runners. "The muscles will stay warm even if you cool the skin."

No matter what your pre-race routine in the heat is, Brimmer has one last piece of advice. "You have to ease into the first mile or so of the race," he says.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Acai Controversy

Acai berries (Euterpe oleracea) are either a miracle “superfruit” or an outright fraud depending on who you ask. If you visit health food stores regularly or read natural health magazines you’ve surely come across juices and supplements containing extracts of this Amazonian palm fruit. It’s quite possible that you’ve even had a friend or neighbor offer to sell you a bottle of acai because it’s a regular fixture in the multi-level marketing community as well.

The hype involving acai (ah-sigh-EE) primarily has to do with its unique chemical composition. The pulp of the fruit is a rich source of antioxidants, dietary fiber and health promoting fatty acids. This much is well established in the medical literature and forms the basis for the optimism revolving around this supplement. What’s more, scientists are continually discovering previously unknown elements in acai which may confer some of the potent antioxidant activity demonstrated in numerous laboratory experiments.

Clinical studies conducted in animal and human models go a long way toward establishing the validity of a functional food or nutritional supplement. Intervention trials involving human volunteers are naturally preferable, but they’re also quite expensive and relatively rare. So let’s examine the most noteworthy in-vivo studies that have been published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals over the past several years:

* The July-August 2010 issue of the journal Nutrition reports that adding 2% acai pulp to the diets of rats with high cholesterol effectively lowered LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol and select markers of oxidative stress including carbonyl proteins and superoxide dismutase activity. Another inquiry indicates that acai extracts stimulate vasodilation in rats and may, therefore, be of value in the natural management of cardiovascular disease. (10,11)
* Preliminary experiments in animals suggest that acai berry extracts may: a) inhibit esophageal tumor progression; b) protect the brain from oxidative stress which may contribute to neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and; c) protect the kidneys and liver from chemically induced DNA damage. It’s worth noting that the esophageal cancer study builds upon a few test tube experiments in which acai was shown to selectively combat the growth of colon cancer and leukemia cells. (12,13,14,15,16)
* In 2008 a study was published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry that examined the ability of 12 human volunteers to absorb the antioxidants contained in acai juice and pulp. The juice and pulp resulted in significant increases in plasma antioxidant activity of up to 3-fold compared to baseline readings. (17)
* An additional human trial also from 2008 found that a juice blend containing acai elevated serum antioxidant concentrations and reduced lipid peroxidation. The latter is of value because high levels of lipid peroxides can result in cell damage and dysfunction. (18)

An Acai Component (C3G) May Combat Cancer Growth
Source: The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 281, 17359-17368. (a)

New research appearing in the May 2010 edition of the journal Toxicology supports the overall image of acai as relatively non-toxic. However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. Firstly, the safety evaluation was conducted in-vitro and in an animal model – 220 rats were the study subjects. More importantly, the form of acai used in the experiment was an “acai pulp enriched fruit and berry juice”. Mixing small quantities of acai with other fruit juices is a common practice because consumers tend to prefer the taste of diluted acai (4% to 5%) as compared to more concentrated acai blends (20% to 40%). Observing this taste preference may be appealing to consumers and manufacturers, but it makes it nearly impossible to determine the safety of pure acai extracts which are common in the marketplace. (19,20,21)

While researching today’s blog I tried to get a sense of where other natural health experts stood on this issue. Dr. Andrew Weil hasn’t addressed this topic on his popular web site for a number of years. However, in 2006 he essentially took the position that acai simply didn’t have enough evidence to support it’s use over other berries. This more conservative point of view is not entirely shared by Dr. Mehmet Oz who considers acai to be one of the top “anti-aging” foods because of it’s hefty antioxidant content. Even the famed dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, has weighed in on this topic. He’s a big fan of acai and notes the relatively high proportion of oleic acid contained therein. This is the same monounsaturated fatty acid which is believed to contribute to the health benefits attributed to olive oil. (22,23,24)

The measure of how I feel about any given supplement is whether or not I recommend it to my family and friends. To date, I have yet to suggest acai to anyone. On occasion I use a “chocolate green superfood” drink that includes acai as one of many ingredients. That doesn’t disturb me in the least. In fact, I’m not particularly concerned that acai will pose a danger in regular users. However, I have a big problem when certain manufacturers promote acai as a weight loss aid. This claim appears to be completely unfounded. Beyond that, the bottom line is that I’ve found little evidence that acai provides any health benefits beyond those found in better researched foods and supplements. As an example, an experiment from 2008 determined that pomegranate juice and several other beverages including black cherry juice and red wine possessed significantly higher antioxidant activity than acai juice. Factor in the higher price of acai juice and I think you’ll find that it’s just not a very good deal according to the evidence. (25)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What the Heck is Inflammation? Why Should You Care?

From Fitness Black Book


The term "inflammation" usually puts me in skim mode when I'm reading article. I feel like my time is limited and I want to quickly move on to something more interesting like fat loss strategies. I'm going to do my best to give you the Cliff Notes version of what inflammation is. Earlier this week, Brad Pilon, just completed the newest version of Eat Stop Eat which now goes into detail about inflammation. He sent me an early copy of the book and also a document with 15 scientific studies he referenced in the book. He told me it was cool to share this info with readers of Fitness Black Book. So I will try to hit some good points from the notes Brad sent me without making you feel like you are reading a text book.

Inflammation

[Happy Autumnal Equinox! This girl doesn't look so happy about the whole situation. Looks like she needs to drink some of that coffee.]

What the Head of A Major Pharmaceutical Company Told Me

Ten years ago, I was an executive recruiter who placed Ph.D. level medicinal chemists into pharmaceutical companies. These are the scientists who discover the lead compounds that eventually get turned into drugs that help people. It was kind of an intimidating job, because often times these high-level scientists would list CEO's and VP's of major pharmaceutical companies as their references. It was my job to contact these CEO's and to conduct reference checks. Let me tell you, it is not easy to get a hold of a high level executive in companies that do tens of billions of dollars per year. I would always think to myself "who am I to talk to this ultra-smart super successful person". One executive level chemist in particular told me something I will never forget…

"Never, Ever Allow Yourself to Become Overweight for an Extended Period of Time"

This guy spent a lifetime studying chronic disease and he spent close to 30 minutes drilling this point into my head. He said the number one thing that will drastically decrease your chances of getting any disease is to never allow yourself to become overweight. He wasn't just talking heart disease and things we normally associate with being overweight either (obviously this isn't a guarantee, there are countless examples of fit people who develop cancer and other life threatening diseases). He went on to tell me that the mass media understates the cause and effect of obesity and disease…and that if the general population wasn't overweight, that the drug companies would lose billions.

I Didn't Know What Inflammation Was at that Time

Inflammation is a way that the body heals itself. When you get a cut, the body elicits an inflammatory response. It sends blood cells to the injured area. The redness and swelling initiates the healing process. This is Acute inflammation and it is a good thing! The problem is Chronic inflammation.

What If the Entire Body Was Inflamed?

Chronic inflammation is when your entire body is experiencing this "injury response". The huge problem here is that when your immune system is trying to repair your entire body, it can't defend against cancer and other diseases. Your body also produces cholesterol as an inflammatory response. This works well in the short term, helps heal wounds, but develops plaque in the arteries if the body is chronically inflamed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Omega-3 deficiency causes 96,000 US deaths per year

By Shane Starling,

Omega-3 deficiency is the sixth biggest killer of Americans and more deadly than excess trans fat intake, according to a new study. The Harvard University researchers looked at 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors such as tobacco smoking and high blood pressure and used a mathematical model to determine how many fatalities could have been prevented if better practices had been observed.

The study, jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Association of Schools of Public Health, drew on 2005 data from the US National Health Center for Health Statistics. They determined that there were 72,000-96,000 preventable deaths each year due to omega-3 deficiency, compared to 63,000-97,000 for high trans fat intake.

Power of diet
“This is a very interesting analysis,” said Andrew Shao, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). “I think this analysis reinforces the long-held notion that the diet has a tremendously powerful impact on health and longevity and that the consumption of omega-3’s (along with fruits and veggies) by Americans is far from adequate.”

But he questioned the precision of the study findings due to complicating factors that had not been addressed.
“It is hard to say how definitive their findings are as far as the numbers are concerned, since chronic diseases and associated deaths are multifactorial,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.com this morning. “As far as diet goes, is it the lack of fruits and veggies or the excess animal and processed foods that is the culprit? It is hard to say.” He added that the study did not consider other key nutrients such as vitamin D.

Shao’s counterpart at the Natural Products Association, Dan Fabricant, PhD, emphasized the potential public health care savings that could be derived from better nutrition, especially in tight economic times, but called for further study. “We need more clinical research that nails down why omega-3 is so effective,” Fabricant said. “This seems to be the last missing piece for omega-3s in terms of clarifying the picture for governmental/regulatory bodies of its efficacy.”

Shao added the study highlighted the importance of establishing a dietary reference intake (DRI) for omega-3 forms, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). “Once these requirements are established, the government can undertake initiatives to improved Americans’ intake of these critical nutrients,” he observed. “But until that happens, Americans are likely to continue to fall short in their omega-3 intake, and we see a glimpse of what the consequence can be from this study.”

Shocking
The study will do no harm to the omega-3 industry, with the world’s leading supplier, Ocean Nutrition Canada, calling the results “shocking”. “…this new study validates that Omega-3 EPA/DHA is more than just part of a healthy diet...it's a matter of life and death," said Ocean Nutrition Canada's vice president of marketing and communications, Lori Covert.
"We know that daily doses of Omega-3 EPA/DHA can help with many conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, and we're committed to increasing consumer awareness about the drastic Omega-3 EPA/DHA deficiency in the Western diet,” Covert said.

Tobacco smoking ranked as the highest risk factor with 436,000 to 500,000 attributed preventable deaths, followed by high blood pressure (372,000 to 414,000), obesity (188,000 to 237,000), physical inactivity (164,000 to 222,000), high blood glucose (163,000 to 217,000), high LDL cholesterol (94,000 to 124,000) and high salt intake (97,000 to 107,000).
The other risk factors were alcohol use; low polyunsaturated fatty acids; low fruits and vegetables intake.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recovery from Workouts Should be Active

From Sparta Point

Have you ever realized after a long break from exercise, your first day back is one of your best workouts? Athletes should put in equal amounts of planning and energy into their recovery; sleeping, eating, and soft tissue work. Without these methods of regeneration, the breakdowns achieved during training can never be compensated for.

While Sparta coaches are on-site with hands-on soft tissue techniques, such as Active Release Therapy, several options are also available to do on your own. Perhaps the most widely used AND effective is to release your IT band, the muscle running down the side of your leg. A cheaper, longer lasting solution to a foam roller, is a thick PVC pipe. 10 repetitions down each leg for this muscle, and others such as the calf, will go a long way to increasing your performance goals.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grocery shopping

from Fuel As Rx


Grocery shopping - some people love it, others hate it. No matter where you fall on the spectrum the fact is, you've got to do it if you want to eat. Now throw following a Paleo Diet into the mix and things have gotten even more complicated, and some would tell you, more expensive. But it really isn't as difficult or expensive as one might think! Use this guide and tips to help plan your next trip.

Let's start shopping!

Produce Department
-Focus on the crops that are in season in order to get the best prices and nutrient content.
-Choose organic when/if possible and if your bank account allows.
-Stock up on what's on sale - many vegetables can be frozen for later use!
-Purchase spinach, salad blends, pre-cut vegetables, etc. if convenience and minimal prep time are important.
-Fill your cart with color!

Vegetables - Get Lots!! Great choices include: spinach, greens, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes (for post workout meals), mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, avocado... (Avoid the nightshades if you have autoimmune issues.)

Fruit - Don't go crazy here! Fit fruit into your diet primarily in the post workout period. Great choices include: Berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, peaches, grapefruit, oranges, plums, apples, bananas...

Meat Department
-Go for grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, and free range poultry if it's available and within your budget.
-If choosing farm raised meats opt for leaner cuts, if grass fed the fat is good!!

Meat - Beef, bison, venison, wild game, pork - they're all good! Sirloin, tenderloin, flank, and strip steaks are the leanest choices.

Poultry - When choosing poultry the breast and thigh portions will yield the most meat and from a food to $$ ratio are the best bets! There are also many 'natural' sausage options available in large supermarkets - chicken apple sausage is wonderful!!

Fish & Seafood - Salmon, tuna and other fatty fish are the best choices due to their high Omega-3 fatty acid content. For variety cod, perch, tilapia, mahi, scallops, shrimp, etc. are good choices too.

Dairy Department
-Don't spend too much time here!! Look for the eggs. Omega-3 fortified eggs from free-range chickens are the optimal choice! Get some and move on!!

Frozen Foods Department
-Fresh produce is not always the best choice depending on the season and your budget. The frozen food aisle is another great option for fruits and vegetables. It is always a good idea to have a few bags of broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, etc. in the freezer for a 'quick' fix meal!
-Make sure to choose plain frozen vegetables without sauces or flavorings added - you can season them at home!
-Choose unsweetened frozen berries, peaches, cherries and other fruits.
-Pick up a couple large bags of plain chicken breasts, salmon, and/or other meats. If you are on a budget buying bulk bags of meat is cheaper than purchasing from the meat counter.

The Aisles...
Many times this is where people get in trouble! So many pretty packages with pictures of cookies, crackers, snacks, etc. AVOID aisles of temptation!!
-Pick up a selection of salt-free spices. My favorites include garlic powder, oregano, basil, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, and for everything else an all-purpose spice like Mrs. Dash is great!
-Next stop - oils. Coconut oil and olive oil are must haves. Avocado and walnut oils are also very good on salads.
-Coconut milk (the kind in a can with no sugar added), is great for making curries, in post workout smoothies, and as an alternative to creamer if you're a coffee drinker. Get some!
-Nuts and nut butters are also good to have around for quick snacks and in a pinch. Walnuts and macadamia nuts are the best choices and walnut butter is EXCELLENT! When choosing nut butters make sure there are no added ingredients - pure nuts is what to look for. If there is the option to 'grind your own' take it! Also, purchase unsalted nuts if possible.

Miscellaneous Items
-Some other items to consider depending on your goals, level of strictness and situation may include; unsweetened dried fruit, balsamic vinegar, green tea, and jerky (although the BEST place to get jerky is through Paleo Brands (click the link and look around)- they have GREAT Paleo frozen meals and cookies too!)
-If you are an athlete or looking for some quick post or during workout carbs grab some coconut water and Larabars for quick convenient fuel.

This list by no means covers all the possibilities but it's a good start. Now grab a cart and start shopping!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Understand Your Food

From Learning from our Ancestors


The simplest way to put it is: Control your insulin. Do this by seriously lowering overall carbohydrate-intake, and of course by strictly avoiding sugar and grains. You might be surprised by how many other little problems you've had over the years take care of themselves once your insulin levels are under control. Always remember:
CARBOHYDRATE CONTROLS INSULIN AND INSULIN CONTROLS FAT STORAGE

Cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s do not have to be our destiny. We are each born with a set of genes, but the expression of those genes is not set in stone. Genes can be either activated or silenced by many factors, chief among them diet. Its the expression of our genes that matter, and that is where your food-choices dictate how your hormones behave and your genes express themselves.

New research just published in the July 2010 print issue of the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal shows that certain foods can indeed change how genes associated with health conditions function.

"Knowing which genes can be modulated by diet in a healthy way can help people select healthy diets," said Maria Isabel Covas, D.Pharm., Ph.D., a researcher from the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Institut Municipal d'Investigacio Medica in Barcelona, Spain.

"This study is ground breaking because it shows that...diet can affect our bodies in a far more significant way than previously believed," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "Not only does this research offer more support to encourage people to change their eating habits, it is an important first step toward identifying…targets that affect how our genes express themselves."

Those “targets” are the hormones that control our fat-storage/physical well-being, chief among them insulin. We're talking about changing the instructions to your cells by manipulating diet to activate desirable genetic behavior and deactivate undesirable genetic behavior. As Taubes has stated numerous times, fat storage is all rooted in our hormones and our metabolism, not necessarily the amount you eat.

Despite the common observation that obesity runs in families, research shows that the habits you inherit from your family are more important than the genes you inherit. And for the last two to three generations our habits have been crap – completely unprecedented in humanity's time on this earth in their heavy reliance on carbohydrate in general, specifically though, cereal grains and refined sugar. Us, our parents, probably our grandparents, and perhaps our great grandparents have all been part of this inadvertant human experiment.

But its the fat-intake too, you say? In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dr. Ludwig points out that careful review of all the studies on dietary fat and body fat -- such as those done by Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health -- have shown that dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat.

The Women's Health Initiative, which is the largest clinical trial of diet and body weight, found that 50,000 women on low-fat diets had no significant weight loss.

In two recent studies, Dr. Ludwig found that the main factor that determines changes in body weight and waist circumference is how your body responds to any type of sugar, carbohydrate or glucose load; there's the insulin again!

In one study, for example, Dr. Ludwig and his colleagues followed 276 people for six years. They performed a glucose tolerance test at the beginning of the study and looked at insulin concentrations 30 minutes after the people consumed a sugary drink. This gave the researchers a rough estimate of whether they were high or low insulin secretors.

They looked at the people's body weight and waist circumference. They found that those who were the highest insulin secretors had the biggest change in weight and belly fat compared to the low insulin secretors. And people who were high insulin secretors and ate low-fat diets did even worse.

This makes perfect sense because after you eat a high-carbohydrate meal, your insulin spikes and your blood sugar plummets -- making you very hungry. That is why you crave more carbohydrates, more sugar and eat more the whole day.
Dr. Ludwig also found that the patients who ate a low glycemic load diet -- which lowers blood sugar and keeps insulin levels low -- had much higher levels of HDL so-called "good" cholesterol and much lower levels of triglycerides.

Its not necessary to demonize the carbohydrate, all we have to do is understand what carbohydrate-consumption triggers in the body. Then you can use that knowledge and decide when to consume this or that. Understand your food.
Always remember:
CARBOHYDRATE CONTROLS INSULIN AND INSULIN CONTROLS FAT STORAGE

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Adaptation to training

By Pete Pfitzinger

Training provides a stimulus for your body to adapt so it can handle a greater workload. Training hard this week, however, does not improve your performance for this weekends race. The short-term fatigue and tissue breakdown from hard training reduces your ability to perform for a few days while your body recovers. With the correct type, duration and intensity of training, followed by sufficient recovery, your body continues to adapt to a higher level, called supercompensation. Thus: training leads to fatigue, which leads to recovery, which leads to supercompensation.

Developing the perfect training program requires finding the optimal balance of training stimuli (e.g., long runs, tempo runs, speed) and recovery. Complete recovery from a hard training session typically takes from five to 10 days. This doesn't mean that you need to wait that long to do your next hard workout, but you can expect to have some residual fatigue. Depending on the severity of the workout and your personal capacity to recover, it is typical to do two to three hard sessions per week. For recovery from racing, a reasonable guideline is to allow three recovery days plus one additional day for each two kilometers of the race (e.g., about eight days for a 10K).

The time required for adaptation to an improved level is harder to determine because supercompensation is actually a cumulative effect across many workouts. Although the scientific evidence is inconclusive, it appears that a minimum of 10 days is required to obtain the full benefits of a workout. The secret to improving your racing performances is to manipulate your training and recovery so supercompensation is maximized.

To race your best, you need to recover fully and allow supercompensation to occur. Prior to a major goal race, it is wise to taper long enough to reap the full benefits of your training.

Turning your genes on

When you do one hard workout, you provide a stimulus for your body to improve in order to handle that specific workout, but it is moderate and short-lived. If you adhere to a training program that challenges your body week after week, however, you provide a strong, prolonged stimulus that will lead to profound adaptations within your body. Training provides stimuli (e.g., energy depletion), which turn specific genes in your body on or off, which change the rates of protein synthesis and breakdown. For example, endurance training turns on genes for the generation of mitochondria. Endurance training leads to more mitochondria in the trained muscles, which allows you to produce more energy aerobically Twenty years ago at the U.S. Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs, legendary coach Jack Daniels, Ph.D., taught me the benefits of organizing training into six-week blocks, with a specific objective for each training block. It takes about six weeks to provide enough training effect to provoke a measurable improvement in your bodys abilities. Approximately six weeks of long runs, tempo runs, long intervals, or striders will provide enough accumulated stimulus and adaptation that you will not only notice the improvement but we could actually measure the change in a physiology lab.

Gene expression and the resulting balance of protein synthesis and breakdown occurs in both directions, so when you stop providing a stimulus for your body to maintain a high level of glycogen storage or aerobic capacity, detraining occurs to the current level of challenge. The body generally adapts its capabilities upward and downward at a similar rate; however, there is evidence that it is easier to reattain a training level that you have reached previously.

How quickly can you adapt?

How hard you can train and how much recovery you need to improve at the fastest rate is determined by your health and lifestyle, your genetic predisposition to adapt to training, and your current training status (i.e., how hard you have been training). Each of these factors plays a large role in how to best train an individual athlete, which is why it is so important for coaches to learn as much as possible about their athletes to individualize each athletes training program.

If you are tired and stressed and your immune system is compromised, then you will not recover from hard training sessions as well as if you are at the peak of health. Improving lifestyle factors (diet, hydration, quantity and quality of sleep, overall stress level, etc.) will improve your ability to positively adapt to training. A large part of the difference between runners responses to training is determined by genetics. Some runners are programmed to adapt more slowly than others; both the number of hard workouts you can handle and the amount of recovery you need between hard sessions is partly determined by genetic factors. Regardless of your genetics, however, if you are a highly motivated runner, you can do much in your training and lifestyle to optimize your rate of improvement.

If you consistently use the concept of adaptation to training when developing your training programs, then you will have mastered the first essential ingredient to effective training.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dial in Your Carbs

From Mark's Daily Apple

Now, different people will be able to handle different amounts of carbohydrates differently. Highly active athletes will do a bit better with more carbs, since their energy demands will be higher than sedentary people. Diabetics will do better on fewer carbs, since they’re mostly unable to physiologically manage normal carbohydrate metabolism. But as for your basic, average, everyday man or woman who takes care of kids, goes to work every day, sits in traffic – you know, pretty much everyone with any type of daily responsibility – and finds his or her belly getting a bit larger and looser, honing in on the type and amount of dietary carbohydrates is vital. Those are the folks who need this info most: the average person with a bit of metabolic derangement, possibly even drifting toward diabetic status after years on the standard American (or any other industrialized nation) diet. They’re the most likely to be using the Internet to look for info on nutrition, the most likely to stumble upon Mark’s Daily Apple and the Primal challenge, and the most suitable audience for my PB Carbohydrate Curve.
What’s Wrong with Carbs Anyway?

Carbohydrates aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they have the distinct, unique ability to really ravage a metabolically disturbed individual’s body. If you’re overweight, as most people in the United States are, it’s very likely that your carbohydrate metabolism is dysfunctional. You’re probably insulin resistant and even moderate amounts of carbs will do a real number on you, causing a dangerous hormonal cascade: insulin is released to deal with the influx of glucose, but your cells are resistant to it; your blood sugar spikes and the pancreas secretes even more insulin; all that insulin prevents the release of fat from adipose tissue, so you’re not burning any body fat; eventually, since fat cells are resistant and muscle cells are resistant and probably replete, that glucose has nowhere to go but to the liver for conversion into glycogen; the liver fills up pretty quickly, though, after which additional glucose is converted into fatty acids and packaged into lipoproteins; those lipoproteins are then ushered into adipose tissue for conversion to triglyceride, or nice healthy chunks of body fat. You’re probably somewhat sedentary (many jobs, for example, involve eight hours of sitting each day), meaning your muscle glycogen (glucose-derived energy) stores generally stay full, and more carbs means more glucose which will have no where to go but into fat cells. You’re probably exposed to processed food on a daily basis, most of which is carb-and-sugar-based. So, we have a perfect metabolic storm: people eat too much sugar, grain, and vegetable oil, thus destroying their metabolisms and making any amount of carbohydrate a potential problem; they don’t move around enough, so they’re not burning any of the glucose for muscle energy; and everywhere they turn, cheap, simple, and refined carbs wink suggestively, confident that the time-strapped and stressed individual will succumb.




The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve



0-50 grams per day: Easy, effortless weight loss for any and everyone. Diabetics and the severely obese may find it useful to remain in this zone, while others might employ it now and then to jumpstart weight loss or break a plateau.

50-100 grams per day: Steady, gradual weight loss. This is the sweet spot, in my opinion. You can still enjoy a wide variety of foods and lose weight slowly but surely.

100-150 grams per day: If you just want to maintain, I recommend this level. Hardcore athletes may want to increase them a bit, but your average Primal exerciser and eater will maintain supreme leanness, health, and performance at 100-150 grams per day.

150-300 grams per day: Steady, insidious weight gain. It’ll creep up on you. Just look around next time you’re at a high school reunion – people gain weight at this level without even realizing it.

300+ grams per day: Unless you’re an extreme endurance athlete, 300+ grams of carbs per day will inevitably show on your waistline. Tragically, the average “healthy” American diet reaches this carb count pretty consistently.

Knowing where you stand doesn’t have to be difficult, though, and paying attention to a few simple ideas and tactics will keep you dialed in and aware of your place on the curve.
FitDay

Though the Primal Blueprint is not about counting calories, macronutrient-counting tools can be utilized to keep track of carbohydrate intake. Eventually, as you get acclimated to the eating style and the way it makes your body feel, you’ll instinctively know what to eat without straying over. But for you beginners, opening a free FitDay account can make a huge difference. I have one myself, as do most of my readers – so head over to FitDay, create an account, and begin tracking your carbs. I recommend doing it for 2-3 days to get a sense of what your eating patterns are like now, and then again once you feel like you’ve made some significant changes.
Carb Creep

Your first few days on FitDay will be eye opening. Carbs are seemingly everywhere. You go out to eat and order a garden salad piled high with steak. Good choice, right? You figure you’re being the Primal exemplar – except that balsamic vinaigrette was made with high fructose corn syrup and comes loaded with 20g of sugar per serving. Okay, okay. You learned your lesson: ask for olive oil and vinegar instead. Next, you grab a fruit salad instead of a sandwich for lunch and pat yourself on the back for making the right choice. You get home and enter the whole shebang into FitDay and convulse in horror. Seems that watermelon and pineapple wasn’t so innocent after all. Next time, you’ll be sure to go light on the fruit.

Carbs creep up on you, especially when you’re eating out or relying on processed, packaged food. You’ve got to be vigilant, perhaps almost annoyingly so at first, but it pays off. You learn to cook your own food (control your own dietary destiny), make smart decisions when out (mustard instead of ketchup; oil and vinegar instead of dressing; cottage cheese or tomato slices instead of hash browns), and you develop an eye for hidden carb sources. Once it becomes second nature, it’ll get even easier, and you won’t think twice about carb creep.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fight These 4 Causes of Aging

Posted By Dr. Mercola | August 02 2010 | 1,564 views



You can slow down your aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. U.S. News & World Report offers some tips on how to do it:

1. Free radicals. Free radicals are chemically unstable molecules that attack your cells and damage your DNA. You can limit your exposure to them by avoiding cigarettes, trans fats, charred meats, and other sources. Organic fruits and vegetables will also limit your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, which contain the harmful molecules.
2. Inflammation. Inflammation is a major player in many diseases of aging, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. One way to avoid it is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet. Other great anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, dark chocolate, and the anti-aging chemical resveratrol. Exercise is another great way to lower inflammation.
3. Glycation. Glycation is what happens when sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate your aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. One way to avoid ingesting AGEs is to turn down the heat when you cook. The browning effect of high-heat cooking causes these molecules to form. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help.
4. Stress. Stress initiates the release of a variety of hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise. The hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, also creates problems when it remains chronically elevated. Try practicing relaxation techniques to help manage stress, and get enough sleep every night.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Do You Repair Your Immune System?

From Fitness Spotlight

I got to thinking about how this isn’t all that abnormal. So many people accept illness as a regular part of being alive. But is it really? Is illness the normal human life, an inevitable part of drawing breath? I don’t think it is. And I say that as someone that’s rarely ever sick. Of course, when you’re surrounded by sick people, you’re eventually going to get a hold of something, but with a strong immune system, what puts others down for days, you’ll deal with in hours.

So how I would advise someone to repair their immune system after a lifetime of destroying it? What can one do over the course of, say, 3 months to turn around (or at least start to turn around) the damage of years and years of poor diet, poor habits, and poor health?


The very first thing that has to be done is to stop damaging your immune system! There are three dietary elements that are prevalent in most people’s diets that do a good bit of damage to the immune system. So if you’re one of those people that catches every single bug that rolls through the neighborhood, your first order of business is to deal with these trouble spots.

Yeah, I’m going after your sweets first and foremost. Candy bars, cakes, cookies, pie, ice cream…there’s no place for these things when you’re trying to repair your immune system. Why? The sugar and processed grains cause a sharp rise in insulin levels, which suppresses growth hormones, which suppresses the immune system. If you’re constantly beating your immune system down with sugar and processed grains, you have no hope of repairing yourself. How bad is it?

These studies show that in adults, cell mediated immunity is significantly depressed after sugar ingestion (75 grams). A 100g portion of sugar can significantly reduce the capacity of white blood cells to engulf bacteria. Maximum immune suppression occurs one to two hours after ingestion and remains suppressed for up to five hours after feeding.

Replace your high-carb foods of processed grains and sugars with more vegetables and fruits. Your waist-line will thank you, as well.
Skip The Sauce

I’m not talking about the Hollandaise sauce. I’m talking about the beer, wine, vodka, gin, rum, or bourbon that we all love so much. Every time you sit down and have three or more drinks, you’re suppressing your immune system:

One drink (the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of hard liquor) does not appear to bother the immune system, but three or more drinks do. Damage to the immune system increases in proportion to the quantity of alcohol consumed. Amounts of alcohol that are enough to cause intoxication are also enough to suppress immunity.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink. It means you don’t want to get tanked.

Avoid New Fats

Once upon a time, mankind ate three kinds of fat, in naturally-occurring proportions: mostly monounsaturated, a good bit of saturated fat, and little in the way of polyunsaturated fats. But then some well-meaning, but misguided scientists decided that saturated animal fats were a bad idea and told us to eat more of those polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

Unfortunately, polyunsaturated fats are highly immunosuppressive, and as Ray Peat has pointed out, are used for their ability to suppress the immune system in organ transplant patients.

So go back to the past…swap out your corn, peanut, canola, and other new oils for butter, lard, and coconut oil. And definitely avoid trans fats, the absolute worst thing you can put in your body.
Now, Start Repairing

So basically, the above three guidelines push you towards a diet of real foods. But for the average person, that’s not going to be enough to get back to health in any reasonable amount of time. You need to call in some reinforcements to help your body make use of all the good fuel you’re giving it.



Bacteria Are Your Friends

Pop-quiz…what is the most abundant thing in your body? It’s not cells. Your body has about 10 trillion cells. And your intestines have about 10 times that many bacteria in them, helping you digest food and serving as a first-line of defense against pathogens coming in orally. So what happens when you take antibiotics, which you probably turn to at the first sign of a sore throat? Antibiotics are like shooting a fly with a bazooka. They kill off everything, including those beneficial bacteria in your guts. Any wonder your digestion sucks?

So find a good probiotic supplement and start getting your intestines back in shape. These bacteria will serve as your friends, fighting off invaders, as long as you keep them happy with plenty of nutrient-dense foods. And that sugar I told you to stop eating? It helps the bad bacteria flourish and overwhelm your good bacteria.

Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut are great food sources of probiotics.

Sleep

When you’re asleep, your body is repairing. While you’re trying to get healthy, you need to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night and preferably more. Since you probably have daily obligations, that means you need to go to bed earlier or grab some naps. If you can’t get more sleep, everything else becomes even more important. “The Late Late Show” really isn’t worth your health, so you better come up with another excuse for why you can’t go to bed earlier.


Vitamin D

It’s a beautiful thing that vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins there is and that it’s free! Get outside and get some sun. Some sun without sunblock! Food sources of vitamin D can’t even come close to the amount of vitamin D your skin produces. And since we’re told to avoid the sun because it’s going to kill us, most of us are vitamin D deficient.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods

Meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, tubers, squashes, fruit, and healthy oils like butter, lard, olive oil and coconut oil. That’s really all there is to it. These foods are full of vitamins and minerals that will support your health instead of destroying it.


Add A Few Important Vitamins

I’m not a big fan of individual vitamin supplementation. Most people are focusing on taking a ton of vitamin C or extra this or that. But the body is far more complex than just adding some vitamin C, a bit of vitamin E, a dollop of B-complex and stirring. However, there are a few that most of us are getting far too little of.

As I mentioned above, vitamin D is very important and few of us get enough. I’ve heard recommendations to take 1000IU per 25lbs of bodyweight. You can get your vitamin D checked as part of the D-action study. I bet yours is low…mine was and I very rarely get sick, so don’t assume your vitamin D levels are good.

Magnesium and zinc are two important minerals that most people don’t get much of. And exercise only increases the need for these two minerals. I take a cheap zinc-magnesium supplement (ZMA) from NOW Foods most days of the week to make sure my zinc and magnesium levels stay at optimal levels where they can help with testosterone production.
And Finally, Try To Relax

Constant stress is an immune system killer. With our daily hustle and bustle, most of us are like race cars in the red. Eventually that engine is going to blow. We keep our cortisol levels sky-high with work stress, family stress, the stress of the commute, hurried lunches, and late nights.

So turn off the news, which tends to do nothing more than stress people out, and take up a hobby. And being outside in a natural setting, perhaps hiking or just hanging out at the park allows you to relax AND get some sun.
Why Is This So Important?

Boy, that sure sounds like a lot of work. Dropping sugar? Keeping more fresh food around the house? Supplements and sleep? Why not just take advantage of modern medicine and its ability to keep us well?

One simple reason: modern medicine does not keep you well. It typically does no more than mask the symptoms of the damage you are doing to yourself.

Do you want a prime example of how futile modern medicine is against illness? Study: Drug not working against flu:

With Tamiflu no longer effective against this particular flu strain, known as H1N1, physicians are turning to zanamivir, which has problems of its own. The drug, which is inhaled, is not recommended for some of the very populations that would need it most – very young children and people with respiratory problems

Drug-resistant flu, Methicillin-resistant Staph (MRSA), antibiotic-resistant bacteria…everytime we dose the population with drugs indiscriminately, we’re sowing the seeds of our own illness by creating these strains of bacteria and viruses that can resist our drugs.



In the end, you can rely on modern medicine, which is very good at treating things like broken bones but not so good at keeping people healthy, to kill off every little bug. Or you can recognize that illness isn’t normal and there’s no reason that you should be laid up multiple times per year with a cold or the flu or strep throat.

You can recognize that there are people that stay healthy for years on end because they treat their bodies right. They eat right, they exercise, they sleep, and they avoid toxic environments. There’s no reason you can’t do the same.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick. A couple weeks ago, I took my first sick day since sometime around 4th grade. Seriously. It’s been that long since I’ve felt bad enough to have to stay home from work or school. Okay, I might’ve missed a few college classes due to feeling bad, but that wasn’t driven by illness. Hah!

Take charge of your health…live well, be well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

High Blood Sugar and Heart/Stroke Death

From Fitness Spotlight

Scientists in the United States and New Zealand have calculated that in addition to the 960,000 diabetes deaths worldwide each year, raised blood sugar levels are linked to 1.5 million deaths from heart disease and 700,000 from strokes.

So far high blood sugar has been linked to cognitive impairment, increased risk of blood clots, diabetes, and numerous other disorders. There’s a reason for that: the human body is not designed to run on glucose 100% of the time! High blood sugar means high insulin, both of which damage arteries. Damaged arteries cause cholesterol to be called to the scene to repair the damage. Yet cholesterol gets blamed for arterial damage, which makes as much sense as blaming the ambulance that shows up at the scene of an accident. You simply cannot be healthy eating large amounts of processed grains and sugar. Those foods are alien to your body, distorting the fatty acid profile of your cells and disrupting cellular function.

Step away from the candy bar and put down the low-fat blueberry muffin.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trainer Tells All – What I Have Learned About Health and Fitness

From Fitness Spotlight

I was riding my mountain bike yesterday and all of the sudden it just came to me. I just started thinking about how many things I’ve learned through my own personal working out (since I was a kid and playing competitive sports) as well as being a trainer (since 1998). So today I just wanted to share some of the things this 36yr old has personally learned about all things health and fitness….in no certain order….

* Pushups are the best upper body workout designed….no machine can replace that…you don’t need any equipment and you can do them anywhere.
* It’s easy to become a certified trainer (as I have seen overweight people become certified)….it’s not easy to work as one full time (hence a high turnover rate in many clubs)
* Diet is 85% of where results come from…..for muscle and fat loss. Many don’t focus here enough.
* Working out too much doesn’t lead to good results….hence most people are still struggling after years of hard effort and little return.
* Most people do not lift heavy enough to make stronger muscles.
* It’s never too late to build muscle….and is more important as we grow older.
* The only real cure is prevention….don’t get sick in the first place otherwise you may be in for a long road back to health
* If you eat whole foods that have been around for 1000s of years, you probably don’t have to worry about counting calories
* Sugar is not our friend
* High Fructose Corn Syrup is making people fat and sick
* The biggest 2 threats to our health are inflammation (silent and chronic) and insulin resistance
* Our dependence on gyms to workout may be keeping people fat….as walking down a street and pushups in your home are free everyday…but people are not seeing it that way.
* If I had to pick one sport for a child to start with it would be gymnastics, the strength/speed/balance/body control they will learn can be applied to any sport down the road.
* I hate to jog….I love to run
* Never listen to any advertising telling you what is healthy….as they are just trying to sell you something
* There is no such thing as spot reduction…but there is a great business in selling that concept (Ab-reclining chair anyone?)
* The fittest people I know keep active daily doing what they enjoy
* Fitness and Muscle magazines never got me any real results
* Supplements were are waste of a lot of money for me
* The best performance enhancing thing I know of….is a cup of coffee 30min before a workout/playing sports.
* To build muscle, throw away your Whey protein and eat more steak and eggs
* More people are taking muscle building hormones than will ever admit to you
* The best way to lose weight for most is lower carbohydrate eating/cycling
* It’s a lot easier to stay fit and strong….once you get there
* Meat and Fat are my friends
* Muscle size does not tell a person’s real strength
* Muscle size is mostly glycogen and water
* Whole foods can never be replaced by a multi-vitamin
* Most people need some Fish Oil to control inflammation
* Many brain functions may be vastly improved with a diet of no sugar/higher fats (esp DHA from fish/fish oil)
* Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day
* Eating 6x a day provides no metabolic advantage for losing weight than 2-3x a day…it’s still about calories and blood sugar/insulin control
* Mainstream media is 5 years behind research studies….research studies are 10 years behind what people are already doing for health and results
* The eat low-fat advice was the biggest health disaster in the last 30 years
* The greatest learning experience was helping people with autoimmune/arthritis to get healthier…..I never got more appreciation for my own health and how important prevention really is.
* The saddest thing to see is someone crippled by a potentially preventable disease while they are young which keeps them from doing simple daily activities and on multiple medications
* I was 215 lbs in college and thought I was big and had muscles….now at a much leaner and defined 185lbs I know I was more fat than muscles back then
* The smartest trainer I know does not have a website or best selling ebook….as he is too busy training real clients
* Apple Cider Vinegar is the only medicine I take if I feel sick
* I can go up and down up to 10lbs in a week depending on glycogen and water balance
* The first big amount of lbs you lose in the first week dieting is mostly water
* If you want to get better at running….you run…..at biking…you bike…….at a sport…you play that sport
* I know a professional athlete making millions and a star on his team…yet he can’t do a pullup…but he doesn’t need to
* There is no one right way for anything…..as 20 different ways can get you results…
* 80/20 rule is so true…..80% of your results come from just 20% of the exercises, 20% of the food in supermarkets, and spending 20% of your time working out.
* Results are just the simple yet important things done on a consistent basis
* Losing more than 2lbs a week is probably not all fat
* Gaining more than 2lbs a week is probably not all muscle
* All diets fail over the long run….but lifestyle changes last
* All diets books are saying the same thing in general…they just make a new way to present it
* There is nothing new in health and fitness…..just ideas that resurface that are long forgotten
* Fads are created to sell more specialized equipment/gear, lifting/throwing something heavy and running fast has been around for 100s of years and still works
* Want a strong “core”? Lift something heavy over your head and walk around trying to stabilize it…the motivation to not drop it on your head will work wonders
* There should be a law against selling any dumbbells less than 5lbs….or ones in neon colors
* If your trainer can not get you to lose weight, fire him/her. You are not paying for his/her company or excuses….go find someone who can deliver or knows how to get results
* Squatting to parallel will only give you weak hamstrings and lead to more knee issues….you should be able to go down like you were going to pick something off the ground….as that is the reason our bodies were designed to squat
* The best thing anyone can do for their health/results is to just try new things…see how their body adapts and responds…and learn how to take total control no matter life may throw at them in the future

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Recover

All successful athletes overtrain. Sometimes it’s referred to as overreaching, but this is still just an early stage of overtraining. The difference between overreaching and overtraining is how long it takes to recover. With overreaching you are ready to go after, at most, about two days of rest and/or active recovery. When overtrained after a few days—or even a few weeks—you are still tired. There are a host of other possible symptoms you can read about in my Training Bible books. The bottom line is that when you are overtrained (it’s sometimes referred to as the “overtraining syndrome” to differentiate it from the early, overreaching stages) your race season or at least a huge chunk of it is over.

Training as if you are eventually going to become overtrained is necessary for success. The process of becoming fit requires that you stress the body to a level for which it is not currently adapted. You can’t do this only once. High fitness requires that you do it repeatedly for some period of time. When you eventually stop adding stress and recover is the key to avoiding overtraining.



Recovery should be built into every day, every week, every month and every year. For some this is the hard part. This is where they fail on the path to high fitness. Let’s look at the starting point for recovery: What you do after a stressful workout.



First, what is a stressful workout? In my books I refer to these as “breakthrough” (BT) workouts. Essentially, this is a hard workout, one that will require more than 24 hours to recover from. During that 24+ hours you’ll be doing easy, active-recovery workouts or completely resting. Most athletes can generally manage two to four BT sessions in seven days with active recovery or rest days between them. It’s also possible to string two or more BT workouts back to back on consecutive days, but by so doing you increase the risk of eventually becoming overtrained if some serious rest is not included. (I might also add that this increases the rate at which you become fit. This is the risk-reward concept of training which I’ve written about before.)



Quick recovery after a BT workout is one of the keys to success in endurance sport. The sooner you are recovered the sooner you can do another BT workout. The more BT workouts you can do in a given period of time the more fit you become. The more fit you are the faster you race. So the key is quick recovery.



What can you do to recover fast after a BT session? The following is what I tell the athletes I coach to do and in the order they should do them. Not everyone can do each of the following after every hard workout because things like a career and other responsibilities get in the way. Just do the best job you can realizing that some days it will be easier to plug more of these in than on other days.



1. Take in carbs within 30 minutes of finishing a BT workout. Most prefer this in a liquid form. It could be anything that is rich in sugar. This is not a time to be overly concerned with what is or isn’t “healthy.” Possibilities are commercial recovery drinks, a blender homebrew you make, or even a soft drink. Take in whatever appeals to you that is carbohydrate-rich and high glycemic. Depending on body size, your experience and how hard the workout was you’ll probably need between 200 and 500 calories. It could even be more. You’ll know when you’ve had enough. I always like to see the athletes I coach include fruit or fruit juice at this time since hard workouts increase body acidity which delays recovery (not necessarily lactic acid which is a topic for another post). Fruits and veggies are the only foods that reduce acidity in the body. It may also be a good idea to eat some protein. About 10 grams (40 kcal) is probably adequate. There’s quite a bit of research which seems to support this. Commercial recovery drinks usually include protein. But it could be a powder you add to your homebrew. Or perhaps you just eat a couple of boiled eggs or leftovers in the fridge. Protein and carbs at this time don’t have to be expensive, exotic or designed by a “scientist.”



2. As soon as possible after the workout elevate your legs. For example, lay on the floor with your feet and legs on a chair or against the wall. This will take the load off of your heart and encourage the redistribution of fluids that have pooled in your legs. A few minutes of this is usually enough.



3. Take a nap. This is one that most people can’t fit in. Most pro athletes seem to nap regularly. But then they don’t usually have to rush off to work or a child’s soccer game. Thirty to sixty minutes is probably enough to help speed recovery.



4. Drink fluids to completely satisfy thirst the remainder of the day (there is no ‘schedule’ or precise amount you must drink). Water is the No. 1 choice. Sports drinks are okay immediately post-workout but as the day wears on these increasingly become poor choices for fluids. Your cells don’t need to bathed in sugar and sodium for hour after hour.



5. In the next meal after the BT workout include dietary starch. The best options here are potato, sweet potato and yam. But it’s also okay to eat some grains (bread, bagels, cereal, corn, rice, etc). I prefer vegetables to grains at this time as vegs are richer in micronutrients than grains. After that meal return to eating primarily veggies, fruits and lean protein while reducing your starch intake. This, again, is because starches are less rich in vitamins and minerals. My concern at this time is long-range recovery. Micronutrients are needed for that. If you’ve done a good job of taking in sugar immediately post-workout and adequate starch in the first post-workout meal then you shouldn’t need a lot more starch or sugar now.



6. The most important form of recovery comes in sleep the night after your BT session. This is when adaptation takes place and you become more fit. It’s best to sleep until you awake naturally—not to an alarm clock. That often means going to bed early. Again, a lot of people simply can’t fit an early bedtime into their lifestyles due to so many other commitments. But realize that this is the one which will give you the greatest return on investment.



While this is what I advise those I coach to do in order to recover quickly from a BT workout, we usually wind up modifying things to better fit their unique situations. This often has to do with the time of day they do certain types of workouts. For example, when doing two sessions in a day (see my blog on this topic here) they may need to be arranged so that the one which will be the easier to recover after, in terms of lifestyle conflicts, is the harder one.

Monday, September 6, 2010

NSAIDs and Stomach Damage

stumptuous.com


Many active folks have little ouchies from time to time. “Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories” is the most commonly prescribed athletic trifecta. But be cautious: NSAID, or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are not harmless. Indeed, they often come with quite significant side effects, particularly to the gastrointestinal tract.

An overview from Johns Hopkins describes some of the problems.

Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), and ketoprofen (Orudis) cause stomach upset, bleeding in the digestive tract, and ulcers in some people.

NSAIDs have these effects because they disable the stomach’s protective mechanisms that shield it from the acidic juices used to digest foods. Older people are most at risk for these NSAID-related stomach problems, since the protective mechanisms operate less well with age. NSAIDs can also cause bleeding in other parts of the body, because they inhibit the blood’s ability to clot..

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why you want to stay away from highly processed foods...




Ingredients:
UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1},
RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2},
FOLIC ACID),
WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR,
PALM AND/OR SOYBEAN AND/OR CANOLA OIL,
RESISTANT CORN MALTODEXTRIN,
SUGAR,
CORN SYRUP SOLIDS,
PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED AND/OR PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, MALTODEXTRIN,
SEMISOFT CHEESES (PASTEURIZED CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES),
CHEDDAR CHEESE POWDER (MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES),
CHEDDAR CHEESE POWDER (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES),
WHEY (FROM MILK),
SALT,
LEAVENING (CALCIUM PHOSPHATE AND/OR BAKING SODA),
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP,
CELLULOSE GUM,
WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE,
LACTOSE,
DISODIUM PHOSPHATE,
LACTIC AND CITRIC ACIDS,
SOY LECITHIN,
DRY CREAM (FROM MILK),
MONOSODIUM PHOSPHATE,
NATURAL FLAVOR,
CALCIUM PHOSPHATE,
ARTIFICIAL COLOR (YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6),
CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO EXTRACT COLOR),
ANNATTO EXTRACT (VEGETABLE COLOR),
SODIUM CASEINATE.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

America's Most Medicated States

The 10 Most Medicated States:



No. 10: Iowa


Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 13.9

The northernmost state to crack the list, Iowa made it into the top 10 with a rate of 13.9 retail prescription drugs per capita.

No. 9: Mississippi

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 14.2

One of many Southern states on the list, Mississippi ranked ninth among states with the highest per-capita use of retail prescription drugs. One reason may be the fact that the state has the country's highest obesity rate--32.6% of the state's residents were obese in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Obesity is frequently associated with conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, which often require medications.



No. 8: Arkansas

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 14.5

Arkansas was one of a swath of Southern states that made the top 10 list of most retail prescription drugs per capita. One cause may be the state's high rate of obesity--29.3% of the state's residents were obese in 2007, according to the CDC. The state's use of estrogen was also among the most prevalent in the country in 2000 and 2006, according to Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management company.


No. 7: Louisiana

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 14.9

High rates of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, according to 2007 data from the CDC, likely helped Louisiana make it into the top 10. The state had the highest overall prevalence of seven different classes of drug therapy in 2006, according to Express Scripts.


No. 6: South Carolina
Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 15.2

South Carolina was among the top five states in 2006 with the highest overall prevalence of seven different classes of drug therapy, including anti-hyperlipidemics (cholesterol-lowering drugs), anti-diabetics and anti-hypertensives (blood pressure medication), according to Express Scripts.


No. 5: Kentucky

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 15.4

Kentucky ranked among states with the highest prevalence of anti-hyperlipidemics (cholesterol-lowering drugs), gastrointestinal medications and antidepressants in 2006, according to Express Scripts.

According to 2007 data from the CDC, it also has one of the country's highest rates of adult arthritis, a condition that may be treated with multiple medications.



No. 4: Alabama

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 15.7

Like Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi, Alabama had some of the greatest increases in the country from 2000 to 2006 in its percentage of people with at least one anti-diabetic or anti-hypertensive prescription as well as the number of prescriptions per covered individual for both types of medications, according to Express Scripts.



No. 3: Tennessee

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 15.8

Tennessee has some of the highest rates of obesity, adult arthritis and diabetes in the country, according to 2007 CDC statistics. The state was also among the top five in terms its use of a number of drug-therapy classes in 2006, including anti-hyperlipidemics, anti-diabetics, gastrointestinal medications and analgesics/anti-inflammatories, according to Express Scripts.


No. 2: Missouri

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 15.9

Missouri has one of the country's highest rates of adult arthritis and tobacco use, according to the 2007 data from the CDC.



No. 1: West Virginia

Retail Prescriptions Filled Per Capita: 17.2

Take a look at West Virginia's health statistics, and it's no surprise the state's residents use the most retail prescription drugs per capita. Data from the CDC shows that, in 2007, West Virginia had the highest rate of adult arthritis in the country as well as some of the highest rates of tobacco use and obesity.


Now this list might look similar. I wonder if there's a link..........



The states with the highest percentages of obese adults.
1. Mississippi
2. Alabama
3. West Virginia
4. Tennessee
5. South Carolina
6. Oklahoma
7. Kentucky
8. Louisiana
9. Michigan
10. Arkansas / Ohio (tie)

Friday, September 3, 2010

When Did “Just Rest” Become a Viable Recommendation?

by Eric Cressey

I suppose this blog title is more of a rhetorical statement than an actual question, but I’m going to write it anyway.

Just about every week, I get someone who comes to Cressey Performance - either as a new client, or as a one-time consultation from out of town - and they have some issue that is bugging them to the point that they opted to see a doctor about it. This doctor may have been a general practitioner or an actual sports orthopedist. In many cases, the response from this medical professional is the same “Just rest.”

“It hurts when you lift? Then stop lifting.”

Huh? When did COMPLETE rest because a viable recommendation?

In case folks haven’t noticed, 64% of Americans are overweight or obese. Even if rest was the absolute key to getting healthy, telling them to not move is like not seeing the forest through the trees. Your bum knee will feel better, but you’ll have a heart attack at age 43 because you’re 379 pounds.


Oh, and never mind the fact that exercise generally improves sleep quality, mood, and bowel function. I’m not going to lie: I would rather have an achy lower back than be fat, chronically ill, sleep-deprived, impotent, angry, and constipated.

But you know what? The good news is that you can still exercise and avoid all these issues - regardless of symptoms. I can honestly say that in my entire career, I’ve never come across a single case who couldn’t find some way to stay active.

I’ve trained clients in back braces.

I’ve trained clients on crutches.

ginn-crutches

I’ve trained clients with poison ivy.

I’ve trained clients less than a week post-surgery.

I’ve trained a client with a punctured lung.

And, when I did an internship in clinical exercise physiology, we trained pulmonary rehab patients in spite of the fact that they often had interruptions during their sessions to cough up phlegm for 2-3 minutes at a time.

All over the world, people are using exercise to rehabilitate themselves from strokes, heart attacks, spinal cord injuries - you name it.

However, Joe Average who sleeps on his shoulder funny and wakes up with a little niggle needs complete rest and enough NSAIDs to make John Daly’s liver cringe.

Sorry, but you’re going to need to be on crutches, in a back brace, with poison ivy and a punctured lung to get my sympathy. And, you’re sure as heck not going to get it if you’re just “really sore” from a previous exercise session. Seriously, dude?

I don’t care what your issue is: “just rest” is almost never the answer (a concussion would be an exception, FYI). When a health care practitioner says it, it’s because he/she either a) doesn’t have the time, intelligence, or network to be able to set you up for a situation where you can benefit from exercise or b) doesn’t think you have enough self control to approach exercise in a fashion that doesn’t make it more harm than good.

There is almost always something you can do to get better and maintain a training effect. While adequate rest for injured tissues is certainly part of the equation, it is just one piece in a more complex puzzle that almost always still affords people the benefits of exercise.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Protein the Magnificent: not just about muscles.

by Begin to Dig

Ask someone - particularly someone into working out - what protein is for - eating it; having it - and most of the time we'll hear "muscle building." And yes sure, skeletal muscle is the largest single source of protein in the body (50% of the lean mass of our bods is skeletal muscle) but that is just TOTALLY INCOMPLETE.

The Bigger Picture. Indeed, you may be as surprised as i was on first learning a more accurate answer to "what is protein for" is really "everything." - Just consider this list of what requires protein or just IS protein.

* collagen, hair, skin, bone middles - all big huge protein components
* every cell in the body EVERY cell requires protein to be replenished or replaced
* muscles for sure, but organs too: protein protein protein.
* the instructions for our dna, which inhabit cells, are proteins. The genetic code in the the ribosome (beside-ish the cell nucleus) for which all the recent research about "gene expression" comes, is protein.
* hormones like insulin - the messengers of what to do in terms of chemical processes to stop and start - are proteins
* enzymes that are essential to metabolism and respond to hormone messages, yes, protein. Indeed there are 6 types of enzymatic reactions for moving, rearranging, breaking for reforming, joining, oxidizing. All proteins. Some are also faster others slower for limiting the rate of change. Amazing proteins.
* antibodies for defending our cells against infection- more proteins.
* energy - yes, sometimes we need/use proteins to produce the ATP we need (usually refered to as "energy" ) to be able to move our muscles.


The Primacy of Protein
Like fat and carbs, protein has carbon and hydrogen. Unlike fats and carbs, protein has Nitrogen (part of their amino group). And here we get to the interesting bits. Just a reminder, nitrogen is fundamental to life (overview of nitrogen's role). This without nitrogen no life, and protein being in everything kinda hints at the reason perhaps for protein being called PROTEIN.


Amino Acid Pool: Resources on Call for Just in Time Service.


The amino acid pool has about 100g of proteins ready and wating to be called into service at any time. That's not a lot but it's not a little. It's just getting turned over frequently as proteins are constantly being used and rebuilt.

Proteins are so important, and so versatile. Many can be constructed on the fly from available protein resources in the bloodstream, or the "amino acid pool." Part of the process of metabolism (changing stuff) is to take the proteins we ingest and convert them as needed by the demands of our bodies into the proteins we need. They can be converted into non-protein compounds (to be used in lieu of carbs in glyconeogenisis) and catabolized for ATP/energy conversion. Indeed, here's a shocker (to me): about 5% of the energy from longer duration activities comes from BCAAs.

This processing is where essential and non-essential proteins come into play. The essentials are the ones we need to ingest because we can't synthesize them.

It's a Wading Pool
That said, our bloodstream it seems is already pretty full with other stuff besides proteins cuing up for use. So we don't store a lot. Therefore, we need to ingest protein regularly. This need doesn't mean go nuts on protein. More doesn't always mean better, right? But it does mean that our bodies need a pretty consistent flow of them. And if it doesn't get those proteins from our diet? Our bodies will start taking proteins from other sources. Like muscle. And repurpose them. We're wired for survival not performance or prettiness.

Amino Acids: eat your veggies
This is just an aside to remind us that we can get the amino acids we need from plant based diets. And likewise if we rely on veggies, we will also be getting more than just protein. One of the advantages of a more plant based (i didn't say vegetarian) diet is that well, you get a lot of protein from eating a range of veggies, we also get lots of other nutrients not found just in meats/dairy, and they are less energy and calorically dense. So we can eat rather a lot, volume wise. If we get a good mix of veggies and legumes, we don't need to worry too much either about whether or not we're getting whole proteins and all the essential amino acids we need.


Protein turnover, though, means that likely the worst thing to compromise in one's diet IS protein
a) because we're mainly organisms made up of protein and water.
b) because we don't store a lot of protein for re-use in the amino acid pools and
c) because the proteins in all parts of us are constantly being replenished

Muscle is still Protein, right?
Muscle is just one of the tissues in our body that requires and turns over protein regularly. If all tissue cells have protein as a part of them, then presumably sufficient protein needs to be available for all the metabolic signalling (hormones and enzymes) and new tissue building (more amino acids), and sufficient energy stores need to be available to support the building process (ATP).

Protein synthesis is, as best i understand, cells' DNA signalling to say there's a need to create more protein of some kind for a particular requirement - whether that's a requirement to generate more hormones or muscle tissue or antibodies. Muscle use - when pushed to adapt to new stresses causes existing protein to breakdown in normal turn over and to be rebuilt, and rebuild more tissue as needed. The tissue is largely protein based. But so are the cells in our body.

Protein turnover (catabolism and anabolism) is happening all the time in all parts of the body, not just muscle, as cells die, get flushed and replaced. In muscle building we usually focus on protein synthesis - the generation of new protein - and crave anabolism and fear catabolism. We want MORE not less. But protein turnover, it seems from all the above, is important, and part of staying healthy, and effects more or less everything in our bodies.


How much protein to eat?
I'm not going to get into how much protein do we need. The 1g to 1lb of body weight is a pretty grounded heuristic for two reasons:

* it's very difficult to go toxic on protein (discussed here), so potentially overeating protein in the mix of other nutrients is likely ok if one's going to err on a given macronutrient.
* but, lets remember that overeating ANY food pushing into caloric surplus means what's not needed goes to fat.

Summary
The point of this piece is less about hypertrophy - of which we know so little - and more to share or to raise awareness that muscle building for our body is just one job that protein has to support in the organisms that are us. For me, kinda puts muscle building in perspective and no wonder we know so little about it, since it's a part of such an integrated protein dance.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What exactly is bodyweight strength training?

We hear it all the time : “I can do a ton of push ups, so I doubt training with bodyweight exercises is going to help me that much!”

This is bad reasoning because real strength training, weighted or not, is not about doing lots of repetition at a low force production. We are not trying to improve our endurance, but our strength. In order to become stronger, you have to produce maximum tension (without going to failure, of course). A good way to achieve that is to do exercises that challenge you (exercises that you can do for 3 to 5 repetitions). To get back to the example, doing ”a ton of push ups” is not going to help you do unsupported handstand push ups. So, how can you make easy exercises harder ? If you train with weight or not, the logic is pretty much the same. When training with weights, you add weight to the bar when it becomes less challenging. With bodyweight exercises there is a little difference; it is the leverage that you change. For example, doing a L-Pull up is harder than a regular pull up. As long as you keep decreasing the leverage as you progress, you will keep gaining strength!

Strength is about nervous stimulation. Basically, if one wants to become stronger, he has to put tension on his body with effective exercises and adapt to it. Here, the role of the nervous system is to make your muscles contract harder, thus resulting in more force production. So, how can bodyweight training make you achieve that? Well, it is quite efficient at putting tension on your whole body, because most exercises are compound moves that necessitate force production from the whole body. Take the push up for example. Whenever you push yourself up, there is tension in the pressing muscles (arms, pecs, etc.) as well as in the core area. The capacity to produce high tension through the body is why bodyweight strength training is a good way to become strong.

What are the benefits of bodyweight strength training?

1. It is convenient. You can do it anywhere. All you need is some free time and, maybe, a few things (more on that tomorrow).
2. The tension under which the body is during the execution of the exercise is much more natural and easier on the joints. While I can’t bench press because of shoulder problems, I can do handstand push ups or one arm push ups without any problems.
3. You will gain functional strength that will transfer well into your daily activities. You will learn to use your body as a unit, which is how your body has evolved to be used.
4. You will save tons of time, because you won’t have to do more exercises, or rack and unrack weights.
5. Weight lifting teaches you to push something away from you or pull something closer to you. Bodyweight training teaches you to push yourself away from something or pull yourself closer to something. This is quite a difference and it’s reflected in the type of physique and strength both methods produce.
6. I believe it yields better results than weight lifting. Ever looked at gymnasts? Most of them don’t train with weights and they are the strongest athletes in the world.
7. It is hard to overdo bodyweight exercices. Form will decrease quickly when you tire up and it will prevent you from continuing (e.g. : there is a moment where you will stall when you do a pull up. You won’t be able to pull through and you will have to quit the repetition)