Conventional wisdom tells us that you should always stretch before you exercise right? Well that may not necessarily be the case. Current research suggests that stretching before you exercise may not reduce the risk of injury (see here). The article also goes on to say that stretching may mask muscle pain in humans. This could pose a problem if that muscle pain is a symptom of an underlying problem that can be made worse by exercising. So what does that mean for the average joe? Not much really. You should still warm up before exercising. The key is knowing how to warm up. Everyday I go to the gym and see people come in and start basic stretches, holding different poses for a few seconds, and then starting their workout. This is not going to help, and may hurt them. Not only are they stretching cold muscles (a problem in itself, cold muscles don’t stretch well and may be prone to injury), but they are failing to warm there muscles in any significant way. A proper warm up will be more beneficial than stretching without one.
Here is my basic plan:
20 alternating leg lunges
Give this a try before your next workout. It should take 5-10 minutes. Use this in place of stretching and you will feel better and workout harder.
…And that means that Holiday food is coming. Many people find the holidays a very tough time to keep control of their diet. There is so much sugar floating in the you are likely to get a sugar crash just from breathing! However, the holidays don’t have to be a time of dissapointment and failure from a dietary perspective.
Most fitness blogs and trainers will start talking holiday action plan the week of thanksgiving. That’s all well and good, but it set people up for failure. In my experience, clients don’t go from zero to hero with their diet in a single week. Now is the time to start shaping up. Starting now will give you a few weeks to get used to a new diet strategy. You will have time to find what triggers cravings, or causes you to binge. You will have time to figure out snacks that can keep you on the wagon. You will have time to figure out how to grocery shop and maybe even plan a healthy meal on turkey day. Bottom line, when Thanksgiving rolls around this year you will be prepared, and being prepared is 80% of the battle.
Now to give you a head start, I am going to let in on a little secret. I love cranberry sauce. The canned stuff however is no good, and homemade cranberry sauce has a full cup of sugar! Me and my wife have figured out that you can make a delicious cranberry sauce with pineapple juice and stevia instead. It cuts some of the calories and is certainly a healthier option! Disclaimer though, pineapple juice is naturally high in sugar, so I won’t call this guilt free, but as long as you limit your portion, it is a healthy way to enjoy a traditional food.
As part of this blog series, I want to add a section at the end called Exercise of the Week. I’ll post an exercise, and what it’s benefits are. Try and get the exercise in twice a week and expand you workout cache! This week the exercise is The Deadlift! A favorite of bodybuilders and powerlifters alike, the deadlift is a great exercise for all fitness levels. A good deadlift works the quads, hams, glutes, ab, and back. Its a lot of bang for you buck and great for those on a time crunch. It can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells. Aim for 1-3 sets of 3-8 with a moderate to heavy weight. Enjoy!
(I didn’t draw this, this guy did-http://dryaun.blogspot.com/2011/07/you-should-not-deadlift-also-you-should.html)
This is good form, the back is nice and flat. Remember to keep the abs tight and drive your hips forward, not up. You should come to a standing position in one motion, and not like a hinge with your hips moving up first, then using your back to lift the weight.
Thats all for now!
Recently, my gym cited an article that talked about different sweeteners, and weather or not they were good or bad for your health. The usual suspects were on the for being “bad guys.” Sugar and HFCS were the top two as per usual. However I was a little surprised to see agave nectar on the list of poor choices. It sited the sweetener’s high fructose content and said that because fructose is processed in the liver, it raises blood triglycerides. This was news to me as I have been using the sweetener for a month or so believing it to be a healthy alternative to sugar.
The thing I want to emphasize, is that I was only mildly surprised. The reason being, that the face of nutrition is ever changing. You see, scientists have only recently (last couple of decades) begun to really do studies on nutrition and how it relates to overall human health. Because the science of nutrition is so young, we are constantly making new discoveries and learning new things that what we as humans know about nutrition constantly shifts. To complicate the matter, food giants are creating new synthetic foods and additives to make their food more appealing (read: make more money) by the minute. Scientific studies often take years to complete, and by the time they are finished, thousands of new products have popped up that need to be studied for safety. We are fighting a losing battle.
So what does this mean to the common person? Should we just give up on trying to find “the perfect diet?” No! I think it is a person obligation to educate themselves about nutrition. However I also understand that a person can go crazy trying to stay abreast on the latest health food crazes. So what do we do? In my opinion, we stay basic. Remember, food companies be they health or other wise only want to make money. It’s the sad fact about America, but its true. No company really wants to “improve your health” as much as they want to empty your wallet. If that were true, they’d give you their product for free.
Here is what we do know however. For the most part, foods grown organically are better for you. Sure studies may shown inconclusively that this pesticide or this genetic modification may not harm you, but why risk it? Vegetables and fruits are good for you. Some meat is good for you, and the less tampered with the meat is, the better it will be for you.
I also subscribe to the belief of everything in moderation. Does this mean I advocate a little cyanide every now and again? NO! It means eat a varied diet, not too much of anything, but eat a little of everything. The exceptions here are vegetables, and sugar. I have never met a person yet who consumes too many vegetables (as long as they are varied, eat too many carrots and you may turn orange). I have also never met a healthy person who eats tons of sugar. My advice to to eat a natural balanced diet, and save sugar for the rare treat, even then eating only small amounts.
Hope this inspires you to take charge of your health,
A lot of my clients come to me with nutritional questions, and I always start with breakfast. I believe that a great breakfast gets your day started right, and can set the tone for your nutritional choices to come. However, not all breakfasts are created equal so these are a few of the ideas I have come up with over time for great breakfasts.
1.) Take a coffee mug and brush the inside with olive oil. add two eggs, cheese, and chopped veggies. mix and microwave for 1-2 min. enjoy.
2.) In a blender combine, 1 serving plain greek yogurt, 1 tbs peanut butter, 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1 cup spinach (you won’t taste it), and water to desired thickness. Blend and enjoy.
3.) Plain greek yogurt and fruit
4.) Whole wheat toast with nut butter.
Not as Quick Breakfasts
1.) The night before, boil 1.5 cups water. Add 1/2 cup steel cut oats and boil for one min. Turn off heat and cover. In the morning the oats will be cooked and you can reheat in the microwave and add your choice of toppings. No sugar though!
2.)Dice 1 apple and 2 stalks of celery and enjoy with nut butter.
3.) Combine plain greek yogurt, oats, nuts, and dried fruit and let sit overnight in the fridge.
Remember, that breakfast can make or break your day. Enjoy any of these recipes with black coffee or unsweetened green tea and a multivitamin to round it out. Hope these motivate you to get up and eat in the morning!
I love body weight exercises, so I thought I would throw up a quick workout you can do at home with no equipment.
Do 15 reps of each exercise, then immediately move to the next. Repeat the cycle as many times as you can, or for a time limit (for example, 30 min).
Single Leg RDL
Vertical Pushup (or half vertical, with feet on a chair or bed)
One thing to note on this workout, is that it does not include any back or bicep exercises. There are body weight exercises for these area, but they typically require equipment such as a pull up bar or TRX. I am sure there are things you can do without equipment for your back, but I doubt they are as effective or they require more experience than the average person has. That said, this can be a great workout for vacation or times you can’t make it to the gym, just don’t make it a long term routine.
In a previous post, entitled the Pillars of Health, I vilified all grains. I would like to amend that post somewhat. Since writing that post, I have come to find out that I am gluten sensitive and breakout with cystic acne of the worst kind after consuming large amounts of gluten. I blame this sensitivity for a good portion of my weight gain in college. I also believe that when I went to a no grain diet and I lost a lot of weight, it had more to do with cutting out gluten than it did with cutting out carbohydrate. I have since added gluten free grains back into my diet, and shed another 5 lbs.
However, I do stand by my original post in saying that grains are a likely culprit in America’s obesity epidemic. While I no longer think grains themselves are inherently bad for you, I do think that moderation and quality are key. Despite what the government may tell you, you DO NOT need 11 servings of grains a day to function. Humans need as little as 150g carbohydrate a day to avoid ketosis. I recommend around 250g of carbohydrate a day for individuals at a healthy place with their weight, and 200g for those trying to lose weight. To give you and idea of what that looks like, it is about 2 servings of grains a day in addition to 3 servings of fruit, and 5ish (depends on the veggie) of vegetables. I also recommend carbohydrate tapering. See, Carbohydrate is simply a fuel source for your body, and you can only store about 2500 calories worth of carbohydrate. This means that when your carbohydrate tanks are full, any excess gets converted to fat, which is useful in a number of ways to your body, and enjoys unlimited storage. So I tell clients to eat those two grain servings over breakfast and lunch, enjoying only fruit meat and veggies for dinner. This allows your body to burn excess carbohydrate for energy during the day, instead of simply storing is as fat at the end of the day.
That’s all for today!
P.S. One thing I run into with my clients, is them telling me they NEED a carb with dinner. You do not NEED it. You WANT it. If you are trying to lose weight, you NEED to be honest with yourself and realize the difference between a WANT and a NEED. Just a pet peeve of mine.
Today I wanted to share one of my favorite 1 pan meals.
1 Tbs each of Cumin, Cayenne, Chili Powder, Minced garlic
1 tsp Salt
1 lbs Ground Beef
1 Large Sweet Potato
1 Medium Red Onion
1 Large Green Pepper
Brown the ground beef and microwave sweet potato until tender. Dice the potato and vegetables, drain the ground beef and then add all ingredients together with 1 cup water in skillet. Cook until water evaporates and vegetables are tender. Serve over bed of spinach with guacamole and cheese if desired. It’s best taco salad you’ve had, and it’s good for you too!