Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting Fit: Training For a 10K Race -- Week 2

Last night was my second round of interval training... slowly making progress and increasing the amount of time I do the intervals.

5 minutes warm-up run at 7mph
12 minutes of 30sec/8.5 mph and 30sec/6.0mph
12 minutes of 30 sec/8.5mph and 60 sec/6.0mph
10 minutes run at 6.4mph
5 minutes cool-down walk at 3.8mph

Doing the intervals weekly is the only main change to my overall exercising program. The other days I still do jogging or elliptical, as well as weight training.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Getting Fit: Training For a 10K Race

I've decided to register for a 10K race. In the past I've ran in four 5K races, but never 10K. Since I'm in okay-shape, I'll be able to finish the race without walking, but I'm certainly not going to be able to finish with a competitive time. My plan is (to do what I did with the 5k races) to get the best time I can in this race, and then try to beat that by a goal amount the next time. Last night I started doing a little interval training on the treadmill to help me prep for the race. My workout was:

5 minutes warm-up run at 7mph
10 minutes of 30sec/8.5 mph and 30sec/6.0mph
10 minutes of 30 sec/8.5mph and 60 sec/6.0mph
10 minutes run at 6.5mph
5 minutes cool-down walk at 3.8mph

Next time I'll try to extend these interval runs to more time. This 10K is going to be at the end of July (in about 7 weeks), so that should be enough time to make some good improvements on these intervals.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Truth About Carbs

Over the years there has been a craze over cutting out all carbohydrates, followed by the realization that this wasn't such a good idea. Here's a little (and very, very abridged) history on how all this happened:

Large numbers of people started cutting out fats from their diets to lose weight. So dieters' meals consisted of mostly carbohydrates and proteins. People would buy candy and cookies that were labeled low-fat or fat-free, but still contained a lot of refined carbohydrates. However, many people didn't lose that much weight. In fact, with the low-fat diet period came an increase in diabetes and heart disease, and even an increase in weight.

Then people realized that highly refined carbohydrates lead to extra release of insulin in the body, which indirectly lead to increased fat storage in the body, increased blood sugar, and diabetes cases.

This then led to diets such as Atkins, South Beach, etc. that aimed to drastically reduce (and for some, practically eliminate) the amount of carbohydrates in the diet. People did in face lose weight using these low-carb diets, but they are much less healthy. There are two reasons that these low-carb diets are so unhealthy:

(1) There are good carbs and bad carbs.

It's true, it is very important to minimize the amount of bad carbohydrates -- highly refined and processed carbs – in the diet. THESE are the carbohydrates that cause higher insulin levels, higher blood sugar, and lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels. These effects then directly contribute to the onset of diabetes and heart disease.

Examples of these carbohydrates include:
cake, brownies, cookies, pastries, etc.
potato products (baked potatoes, potato chips, french fries...)
white bread

But there are also good carbohydrates. These are the intact and unprocessed carbohydrates, which are critical for maintaining good health. These are products containing whole grains and fiber. Eating more of these intact grains has shown in studies to reduce the chance of getting heart disease. When shopping for bread, cereals, and other food that do contain large amounts of carbohydrates, make sure that WHOLE GRAIN is the first word in the list of ingredients.

2. You need to eat fats

Because so many people were anti-fat, and then became anti-carb, the low-carb diets were interpreted by many to mean high-protein diets. But just eating protein isn't healthy – you also need to eat unsaturated fats to maintain heart health (See Eat Healthy Fats to Lose More Weight) and to lose weight. Studies have shown that people who eat more mono- and polyunsaturated fats and whole grain foods lose more weight and are healthier than those who do not follow this practice.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Take Your Vitamins to Lose More Weight

I recently read reports on two separate weight loss studies involving vitamins and nutrition. Both of them show that there is a direct correlation between taking vitamins and being thinner (not to mention healthier). Here they are:

1) The British Journal of Nutrition reported results of a study involving multivitamins in both men and women. The results showed that for both men and women, those who took a multivitamin had lower bodyweight and fat mass. The women in the study additionally reported that when taking a multivitamin, they noticed reduced hunger levels as well.

2) When in combination, vitamin C and calcium just might reduce the body’s fat absorption and storage. The Public Health Nutrition Journal reported results of a study performed on 900 Iranian women whose daily consumption of vitamin C and calcium were monitored. The results showed a correlation between women who had LESS abdominal fat and MORE of these two nutrients. There was also a potential trend that women who had the potential for being obese (particularly in the central area of the body) also had low dairy consumption (the main source of calcium) and low vitamin C consumption throughout the course of the study.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Don't Only Consult The Scale

Many people base their image of their health on weight. Many doctors and health organizations refer to the Body Mass Index to determine level of health. The BMI does offer a good starting point, as American Cancer Society studies have shown that death rates do decline with lower BMIs. A BMI of about 18 – 24.9 kg/(m^2) is considered to be a “healthy” range (see a BMI graph at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/bmi_tbl.htm).

Many health professionals use the BMI to determine if someone is at a healthy weight. So lets look at two people that have a “healthy” BMI. A 5’7” person weighing 125 pounds has a “healthy” BMI of 20, and another 5’7” person weighing 150 pounds and BMI of 24. Both are in the “healthy” range, but it is clear that there is a big difference in how healthy each person’s weight is. The American Cancer Society recommends that you strive for a BMI of about 18 – 20*. If you currently have a BMI around 23 or 24, it is better to try to reduce that number even more.

But there’s another very important aspect to health: the amount of fat in your body.

As people age, they tend to experience an increase in body fat, while simultaneously losing muscle mass and bone density. Metabolic rate slows as well. These factors can add up to a minor weight gain on the scale, but a major increase in health problems. Increases in body fat (particularly in the abdominal area) are related to the onset of many health conditions such as high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and gallbladder disease.

Consider another person with a healthy BMI. A 6’0” ft tall man weighting 156 lbs has a healthy BMI of 21. As he begins to reduce his physical activity, he loses 10 pounds of muscle mass and 5 pounds of bone mass, and gains 20 pounds of fat. He gained 5 pounds and his BMI only increased by 1 . However, this man’s health has plummeted. Maintaining muscle mass and minimizing fat increase is as equally important as the number on the scale or the BMI chart.

So what’s the best way to stay healthy? Eat healthy (less saturated and trans fats, which are linked to high cholesterol and larger waists) and get to the gym. Burning calories is important for preventing fat gain, and weight training is important for preventing muscle loss.

*Myers, Tim, et. Al. “American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention: Reducing the Risk of Cancer with Healthy Food Choices and Physical Activity.” ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention Volume 52 • Number 2 • March/April 2002. p. 93-119.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Another Dangerous “Diet”

I recently heard about the KIMKINS diet, which is not only one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard of, but is also a total scam.

The diet consisted of eating 500 calories per day, with most of these calories consisting of protein-based foods. Fats and carbohydrates were practically eliminated. The diet forbids most fruits, nuts, and milk-based products.

This diet description is really a recipe for complete malnutrition. Fiber and fat are essential for maintaining good health. Additionally, the diet’s website actually recommends taking a laxative to help lose weight! The body cannot maintain a diet that low in calories.

Some people paid money to join the Kimkins program and lost a lot of weight very quickly. Not surprisingly, most people also had very bad side effects, including fainting, liver damage, hair loss, and missed periods; all effects associated with starvation. Many people tried to get refunded after experiencing these effects, but instead of receiving a refund, they were banned from the program and no longer allowed access to the Kimkins website.

The issue isn’t completely the diet itself, but the person promoting it.

The founder, “Kimmer,” claimed have lost 198 pounds in under a year, meaning about 4 pounds per week (if “Kimmer” ’s story had been true, I’d go on about the fact that this weight loss rate is extremely fast and extremely unhealthy). To join the Kimkins diet, there was an enrollment fee to be a member and to receive diet planning advice. But she banned members who reported bad results. She encouraged what is essentially anorexia, and promoted it under the falsehood that she herself had lost weight and kept it off using this method.

“Kimkim” is actually Heidi Diaz, a morbidly obese woman. She recently confessed that she had not actually lost weight and that she had tricked many people into giving her their money.

There truly is no get-slim-quick method out there. Most diets like this will cause significant damage to your health.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Adjust Weight Training to Match Your Fitness Goals

As mentioned in my article Build Muscle to Lose More Weight (link), it is important to add weight training to your routine. Aging causes a decrease in muscle mass over the years if you are not active. While cardio can help boost your fitness dramatically, challenging the muscles is equally important for weight loss and overall fitness and health.

If you’re just starting to add strength training and weight lifting to your workout, here are a few tips when getting started:

1. Warm-up for a few minutes on a cardio machine prior to lifting weights and cool-down gradually after sessions. Also, don’t forget to stretch.

2. Do exercises properly using the correct techniques regardless of the exercise (cardio, weight machines, etc.). Always read and understand the instructions on the machine and consult a personal trainer when unsure of proper technique.

3. Make sure there is a spotter when lifting free weights. If you try to do squats, bench press, or any exercise where you lift weights over your head, make sure to ask someone to spot you. If something happens and you can’t get the weight back up, you’ll need someone to be there to help you get out from under the weights.

4. Challenge the muscles, but make sure that it's kept safe. While it is usually recommended to do 12 – 15 reps for toning and muscle maintenance goals and 8 – 12 reps for muscle building goals, it is still good to mix up the number of repetitions to keep challenging your muscles and to be sure you do not reach a plateau. Reducing the number of reps and adding weight, and vice versa, can help keep your muscles challenged and in shape as you work out. The same thing goes for the number of sets that you do. Most trainers recommend three sets of each exercise. Sometimes, though, it may be good to decrease the number of sets and mix up the sets/repetition/weight combinations. Challenging your muscles in this way will also help to keep your metabolism high, assisting in weight loss.