Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Oh yeah, those important kinds of things. Don't forget, fitness isn't really doing you a lot of good if it's not doing you a lot of good. (yeah, wrap your head around that...)
There are plenty health benefits to being fit: lower chances of coronary artery disease, improved mood, fewer chronic aches and pains. But those things are all future types of things and after a recent discussion on public health--and general observation of the world's obsession with instant gratification--we know that most people are less concerned about the future than they are about the here and now. So let's talk here and now.
My brother got into weight lifting a little bit in high school and was enjoying his new strength and muscles. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But then one day when he was just being lazy around the house my mom asked "So what are those [muscles] good for?" Ooooo....Point goes to Mom.
She has a good point though. I used to work at a health club teaching swimming lessons and would often see members come in who looked like they were way too clean to be working out and who spent most of their time building big muscles and toned bods just for the looks. But what are they good for? Put them to use!
Try things that give you functional fitness so that you can take advantage of being fit by doing everday real life types of things. Yoga workouts are great for building your core strength and helping prevent back injuries. Circuit workouts use your whole body, muscles and cardiovascular system. So does rowing! Kettlebells are great for stabilizing joints because they use multiple muscle groups instead of just isolating the good looking ones and are good at stimulating the muscles you use for picking things up (like the garbage). And you can still enjoy the other good looking benefits of the changes your body will make as it adapts to the stress you put yourself under.
The bottom line really is this: all that hard work you do ought be useful to you. Don't you think so? Staying fit and trim is functional because it prevents injury and helps you do everyday life types of things without stressing you out so much that you need a nap. When you take care of yourself it's not that big of a deal when you have to lift your luggage (and all your other family members) or carry it up the stairs, a walk in the park becomes a walk in the park instead of an exhausting amount of exertion and, who knows, your next landscaping job might be something you decide not to hire out. I have to say that these sorts of things all sound fantastic to me, and 100% worth it.
The next time you're working out, ask yourself "What is this good for?" The answer may be to win your next race, it might be to fit into smaller pants, it could even be because you want to be able to be able to keep up with your grandkids someday. Whatever your reason is, just make sure you have one. It will make your training all the more worthwhile and maybe even a little more FUNctional. (oof. That was bad wasn't it?)
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
You know all those movies where the ships roll in with the galley full of slaves rowing away. Now I know why they always made the slaves do the rowing. It's really stinkin' hard!
With the advent of cross training season I'm moving indoors to try some alternate training that will help keep my cardio fitness up and give me enough variety to keep going even when I'm stuck inside not going anywhere. Thus, I have turned to rowing. Rowing is not for the faint of heart. It's a total body workout from your shoulders to your toes. Just make sure you do it right so that you stay injury free.
There are lots of good tutorials that you can find on Youtube. Anything from an actual rowing coach walking you through the motions, to stick figures and animations. The thing that I like best about rowing is it will keep my legs in shape, but help build some of my core and upper body at the same time--areas that tend to be neglected when training for cycling, but are needed if I want to stay useful for everyday life types of tasks.
If you want to try rowing, I recommend you watch one of the instructional youtube videos so that you don't incur any injuries and send yourself backwards instead of forwards. Start slow and then build up and reap the benefits.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Before we answer the "so what?" let's start by laying some baseline information. Calories are a measurement of energy. Calorie with a capital "C" is actually a kilocalorie, but we use Calories to talk about food because measuring in calories like physicists would give us giganticer numbers than we want to deal with. Your body needs a certain number of calories per day which it gets from food. Food is your fuel. There are three main pathways that those fuels take when you eat them. They get used for 1)energy now, 2)they get stored as energy specifically for muscle in glycogen or 3) they get stored away as fat.
Now let's answer the "so what?" question.
If I only need around 2000 calories per day to do everything that my body needs to do what does it do with the extra? It stores it! Let me introduce you to your friend, the liver. The liver organizes most all of this fuel. It's first job is to maintain your blood sugar. If you don't have enough glucose in your blood the liver will move glucose into your blood. If you have too much glucose in your blood, the liver will take it out and send it where it can be stored. Pretty handy organ to have, eh? The liver also does a lot to direct the storage of extra fuel as both glycogen and fat. But here's the deal, you're body can only store so much glycogen before it's full. Fat cells on the other hand just keep getting bigger and bigger the more you stuff in them. It's not such a bad system when you don't know when your next meal will be, but living a developed nation we can usually count on eating every day. Which means that if you don't want to store food as fat you need to control your caloric intake.
There are two really important ways to do this. First, keeping an eye on your daily caloric intake vs. output. If you are using 2600 calories a day and eating 3000 you are going to have 400 extra calories a day that the body wants to hang on to, which means more fat. This explains the well known idea that if calories in > calories out you will gain weight.
Let's get more specific though and talk about how much you eat at one time. Would you believe me if I told you that eating 5 times a day is better for your body composition than eating 3 times a day? What if I explained that you would be eating the same number of calories, but in smaller portions spread throughout the day? Think about the liver's priorities..1)blood sugar, 2) glycogen, 3) fat. All right, so now imagine you ate 2500 calories in 5 portions. That means that you would eat around 500 calories each time you ate. Not too bad. That's a big PB&J sandwich. But it also means that your portions are small enough that you are primarily addressing liver priorities #1 and #2. Once the food is used to balance your blood sugar and fill up your glycogen tank there may not be any left for your fat stores. Now that's pretty cool!
Try it and see how it works for you. The worst part is the inconvenience of eating outside of the normal Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner window. However, eating small portions several times a day, will help your body to store less fat and use more of the energy it is consuming when it enters the body.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The difference is that our bodies also have batteries. The problem being that the batteries for our body tend to come in the form of love-handles rather than the nice copper tops. That's right, fat is the human battery. It's the primary way that we store energy for using later and it's pretty stinking good at storing a lot of energy (we can talk more later about how fat really isn't a bad thing unless you have too much of it).
Food is fuel. Sounds great, but what does it really mean. It means that what you eat lets your body do what it needs to do. There are three main nutrients that give energy to your body, protein, fat and carbohydrate. There is potential energy stored up in all of the chemical bonds that exist in the foods you eat. When you eat, your body breaks those bonds and transfers the energy in them to make other molecules your body can use, primarily ATP. Don't worry that's about the end of the sciencey discussion for now. The bottom line being that if you don't eat, you don't get the energy you need to do the things you like to do like running, biking, swimming etc.
There are three main plans that your body has for the fuel you put into it: 1) turn it into glucose right away to maintain your blood sugar levels and feed your brain, 2) store some energy in small energy stores for muscles called glycogen so that your muscles have the immediate energy they need to do things like walk, jump, sit, stand, etc. and 3) store whatever is left as fat.
Your body's goal is always to use the fuel you give it, even if you give it too much. Now the trick is finding out how much fuel you need and to give yourself the right amount. A good place to start is by doing a simple calculation of a basal metabolic rate. There are lots of calculators on the internet that you can find which will help you do this. The basal metabolic rate really is just a starting point though, because this is the absolute minimum number of calories you need in a day. Which means that even someone who has a sedentary job will burn more calories than their BMR...albeit not a lot more. The more active you are the more calories you burn because your muscles are using more fuel. Makes enough sense, right? If you drove your car 100 miles a day it would need more gas than if you drove it 10 miles a day. It's the same idea. Some calculators will try to compensate for this by giving you an opportunity to estimate activity level, like this one I found or the Livestrong.com calorie calculator. These are only estimates, but they work fairly well.
Not all fuels are created equally, either because you are never getting just one nutrient from what you eat. This is a good thing too. Interestingly enough it is often found that natural whole foods frequently have a combination of nutrients and vitamins that complement each other in such a way to benefit your body. For instance, eating an orange or a bell pepper is a more efficient way for your body to obtain vitamin C than taking supplements...but now we're getting into vitamins and other add ons. They aren't really fuel, but they help your body do what it needs to do with the fuel. We'll leave that for later.
Ultimately you need to choose your fuel carefully. Most people would be quick to agree that eating all fat is no good, but eating all protein is also no good. Foods need to be balanced between nutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate) and they need to be enough to meet your needs. A caloric deficit--which is what you usually aim for whenever you go on a diet--will make your body lose weight, but it will also stress your body. Remembering that food is fuel will help you realize that when you eat you should be considering the amount of energy you have used or will need to use. The key being balance and establishing a beneficial average quantity.
Until next time, fuel up!