Thursday, July 1, 2010

Health and Nutrition Part 2

This entry will be about what to eat and how to exercise 

Ok, I don't want to get carried away with this topic. I chose it last week because I'd promised myself I'd write. I was tired and it required the least amount of thought. On the other hand I don't want to leave a bunch of loose ends. So lets see if I can wrap up the nutrition portion of this treatis (sp?).

First, there are a couple of important (unintentional) omissions from the previous post. I got sooooo carried away with the calories and macronutrition thing that you'd think there's no need for fruit and vegetables. Aux contraire! (For those of you who don't speak French, this means "I like chocolate chip cookies".) Veggies and fruits are obviously important in your diet because a) they contain many of the vitamins and minerals you need, and b) you can eat a lot of veggies to fill yourself up to avoid over-eating higher calorie foods.

Although many vitamin companies will tell you that you need to supplement, the truth is a North American diet has more than enough of most of the vitamins we need (with the possible exception of vitamin D, which is added to milk...so problem solved!). Most North Americans eat a lot of meat and meats have just about everything we need. Think of it this way...we are made of meat, so if we eat that of which we are composed, we are consuming that which we need. A totally unscientific oversimplification....but true.

There are of course some vitamins and minerals for which vegetables and fruit are an equal or better source, not to mention the importance of fibre. So, eat meat, eat vegetables, eat fruit. Nothing new here since what they told you this in Kindergarten. I will however add some moderately helpful information. 1) Since vegetable are low in calories, fill up on them before you eat the protein, carb, and fat portion of your meal. 2) Don't overdo it on the fruit. People think that it's automatically good for you in all cases but forget that fruit is high in calories. Fructose, despite "being natural and therefore good for you" (google "naturalistic fallacy") is still sugar. Your body treats a gram of fructose the same as it treats a gram of sucrose or dextrose...or maltose...or bigtose..babytose. A gram of sugar, regardless (by the way, to anyone who misuses this word and says "irregardless"; I will tackle your ass!) of it's source or it's number of hydrogen atoms has the same caloric value...they just have very slight differences in absorption rates. So once again, we need to refer back to the calories in/out equation in deciding what to eat.

What if I'm craving something sweet and fruits not gonna do it? Here's what works for me: Modern protein bars, unlike their barely palatable ancestors basically taste as good or better than a chocolate bar...and there are just as many flavours to chose from. Buy a box. Have them on hand. Eat them when you're craving sweets; it tastes just as good and the protein will make you feel full.

Doh! Somehow, I've gotten bogged down in details again! Ok, I'm gonna sum up nutrition: 1) Pay the most attention to calories in vs. calories out/used. 2) Tinker with the ratios of protein/carbs/fats to find the ideal mix for you. 3) Avoid white (i.e. processed) carbs. 4) Eat your meal in this order: veggies, protein, carbs&fats. 5) Be aware of the calories in fruit. 6) Eat protein bars when you're craving "bad-for-you" sweets.

Why the crap did it take me 2 blog entries to say what I just condensed into a paragraph? My first year English teacher would have a fit and make me rewrite the whole damn thing...and he'd be right! But...Too late!

In the spirit of condensing things lets look at another leg people often get wrong: Exercise

AMI'S OPINIONATED GUIDE TO EXERCISE:

You know what? Before I even start, there are a couple of things I should say right away pertaining to what exercise is not. (I warned you it would be opinionated!) Based on some of the behaviours I've seen in gyms all over the world, it seems that there is some confusion over what it means to exercise--please allow me to clarify 1) If you're not sweating...you're not exercising PERIOD! (Sorry, the period key on my computer was temporarily broken so I had to type it out....) 2) If you can sip a mocha-latte machiato with 1 pump of vanilla while on a cardio machine...you're not exercising PERIOD! (Darn button is acting up again!) 3) If you can squawk incessantly to your friend while on any machine (especially one near me)...you're not exercising PERIOD! (gotta get that key fixed). Ah! I feel much better....serenity now! serenity now!

There are obviously many types of exercise and you should find one that you enjoy. For some people it's the gym, others prefer an organized sport (golf and base/soft ball don't count--see rant #2), others might prefer a solo activity like hiking, running, or rock climbing, others might like dance or aerobics. It doesn't matter what it is, or if you combine various types. What matters is that you engage in some physical activity at least 3x a week and it is more probable that you will do so if you actually enjoy the activity.
For simplicity sake I will focus on rules of thumb for success in the gym. Not because I think it's superior to other forms of exercise but it is probably the most popular.

Priority of Body Parts:
It's important to know that all body parts do not have equal importance in the gym. What I mean is that if you have limited time and you have to choose between training body part A or body part B, there is a correct answer to this dilemma. The larger the muscle group the greater the priority: 1) Legs 2) Back 3) Chest 4) Shoulders/traps 5) Arms. Notice a couple of things: a) Arms are last. If I want to find the most out of shape person in the gym I just look for the area where people train bi's and tri's. If I want to find the most fit people, I go to the leg equipment, especially the squat rack. Don't believe me? Try it at your gym. b) Notice the midsection is conspicuously missing, that's because you should do minimum 3 sets for your midsection every time you go to the gym (abs/lower back).

Why is important to prioritize in this order? 1) Using large muscle groups burns more calories. Think how many calories are burned doing leg press or a squat vs. a bicep curl. It's simple physics: F (force) xD (distance)=Energy. With the larger muscle groups you can use more weight so you can exert a greater force thereby using more energy. 2) When you engage your major muscle groups (legs, back, chest) to lift weights your body releases HGH (human growth hormone) which, in short, is the fountain of youth.

So when you plan your workouts make sure you give most of your attention to the big 3 areas (legs, back, chest). What you should not do is give equal time to back or chest and arms (for example). You already engage your arms in every pushing and pulling upper body movement when you work your back, chest, (and shoulders) so it is overkill to do more sets for your arms. You've already worked them. As an example I do about 12-16 sets for my chest and on that same day only 4 or 5 sets for my triceps. I've already worked the triceps in every pushing movement so why do more? It's more beneficial to do extra sets for the chest.

Related to this is the concept of compound movements. Unless you are training for a professional bodybuilding competition you should always chose compound movements over isolation movements. A compound movement as you may have gathered, is one that engages more than one muscle group. Some examples are: the squat i.e. the king of all exercises (quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, traps), bench press (chest, front delt, tricep) , dips (same as bench press), pull ups (lats, biceps, forearms, triceps) and so on. 

 Basically, if you are going to the gym for fitness you want to choose exercises that use as many muscle groups as possible because you are using more energy per movement and therefore being more efficient with your time. Also, for sports and general co-ordination it's better to do compound movements because it aids in neuro-muscular co-ordination (I threw in the "neuro" to make myself sound more science-y. For you new age-y types I will re-write the last sentence for you in your language) ...it's better to do compound movements because it is a more holistic approach to moving the weight and will help you feel more balanced and centred (by increasing your chi).

Ok, this is taking waaaaaaaay too long I'm gonna wrap it up and recap. If you have specific questions, just ax me:
1) Always exercise large muscle groups first and more. 2) Choose compound movements over isolation movements. 3) Don't ever let me catch you sipping a grande mocha latte machiato on or near a cardo machine...I'll tackle your ass!
Hope this was helpful!

3 comments:

  1. A few more regular blog entries and you may get your bookmark back on my toolbar.
    I had heard grumblings that you can eat too much fruit, but I guess I never wanted to admit it could be true. Especially in the summer time when berries, peaches, nectarines and watermelon are plentiful.
    My only question to you is: is there a minimum amount of time you have to exercise in order to get the full benefits? In other words, how much do you gain in exercising for 15 minutes 3 times a week? Obviously there isn't a magic number, but there must be some sort of approximation.
    By the by, I don't think sweating is an accurate measure of weather or not someone is exercising. Depending on your age and health walking can be extremely beneficial, and swimming is generally accepted as one of the better forms of exercise.

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  2. A few comments from the peanut gallery:
    1) I couldn't agree more with tackling people who use the word irregardless
    2) Someone needs to brush up on their possessives. It's "its source or its number of hydrogen atoms" not "it's". Gotcha!
    3) I couldn't agree more about the more-the-merrier fruit misconception.
    4) One additional issue I like to harp on is the delusion that only solid foods have calories. One grande latte is a equivalent to a solid 30 minute workout!

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  3. As you know, I'm about the furthest thing from a calorie counter, but I did read an interesting bit of nutritional advice a little while ago. It was a calorie counters rule of thumb for beginners.

    Always EAT your calories. Avoid drinking them.

    I think the point is two fold. One is that the calorie count in drinks is generally much higher than people think (even juices). The second is that you aren't as aware of how much you consume when you drink as opposed to when you eat.

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