Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for February, 2011

Nutrition 102

For some reason, laziness comes to mind, I don’t get voicemails in a timely fashion. So I got one from my son, asking about shopping choices well after the fact. All I can say is a really hope he reads my blog.

There are a lot of gray areas in eating. This is why they can publish a dozen “Eat This, Not That” books every year. Most of your choices are a question of quality. This is ok, that is better, this is best. Choices of good, better and best are based on your nutrition needs and limitations. Are you vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, pregnant, or growing? Are you eating for your bones, your heart or to prevent cancer?

With all of this in mind, I still think I can safely say there are some foods that are superstars, or always good choices, and some foods that should be relegated to the garbage can. The three “macro nutrients”, protein, carbs and fats, all have their good and bad choices.

Protein: Think lean protein. Good guys are chicken, fish, turkey, beans, and low fat dairy. The bad boys on the block are hot dogs, lunch meat and any kind of highly processed food. Turkey deli meat might be an exception, but it is often processed, more then just cooking and slicing. Red meat falls in the gray area. It is loaded with vitamins and protein, but too much isn’t good for you. I’ll talk more about it when we get to fats.

Carbs: Carbs are not evil. If anyone tells you a carrot is bad for you, tell them to go stick in their ear. Vegetable are your superstars of carbs. Green leafys, like spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens and lettuce should be on your plate as often as possible. Even lettuce can be cooked. Brightly colored veggies are loaded with phytonutrients and vitamins. Squash, beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and sweet potatoes are often listed as having more nutrients than the average veggies. Corn, peas, green beans are ok, just not as power packed. Fruits have more sugar,but it is sugar packed with fiber, vitamins and water. Don’t run from fruit, but don’t make it the center of your diet. Whole grains are the last of the good carbs. While many now disagree with the food pyramid about 6- 11 servings, I think it is safe to say you don’t have to go low carb to lose weight. The list of things you just simply should not be eating in carbs is long. Any store bought baked good has a good shot at being a no-no. White flour isn’t good, all the good stuff is stripped out of it. Your starch on your plate is best if it is whole wheat, or even better, quinoa, millet, amaranth or brown rice.

Fats: Fats are not your enemy. They can make you feel full, they make food taste better, and they are essential to your body. This is one area where the official advice is still changing. Saturated fat used to be the enemy, now studies apparently are making this less clear. The advice on dietary cholesterol is changing as well, it appears that dietary cholesterol has less impact on your heart than the cholesterol you make. Having said this, fat still has 9 calories per gram, vs the 4 in carbs or protein, so it can wreak havoc on your weight loss attempts, and being overweight still appears to be the worst component for heart health.  Trans fats are the current enemy #1. To be safe, I would still choose low fat dairy, and not eat red meat more than two or three times a week. I personally don’t eat a lot of eggs or butter. Coconut oil has been rehabbed into being a good oil, in spite of it’s saturated status. Despite this, I would be cautious, especially if you have heart disease. I would stick with olive oil, canola, safflower and other unsaturated oils for themajority of my diet.

Last, if something in the store is labeled healthy, chances are it’s not. Protein bars, breakfast bars, cereals and beverages are notorious for making bogus health claims. The healthiest foods don’t have labels- fruits veggies and real meats. Your best beverage is water. If you don’t like that, coffee and tea, black, are good choices, or with real dairy. Right now everyone is on the stevia band wagon. Every other alternative sweetener had it’s heyday, followed by an “oops, we didn’t know this was bad about it”. I would just stick to sugar, molasses and honey to sweeten, and just keep those as low as possible.

I know this has gotten really long. Last thing is a web site I like a lot, Fooducate.

Just Venting

Indulge me for a moment. I have probably written about this before, but it really bothers me. To begin, I joined a discussion of breakfast on facebook, bemoaning what people consider breakfast food. I was thinking about that this morning, and it brought our church’s fellowship time to mind.

In our church, between the two services, we have a fellowship time where we serve what amounts to breakfast. It is largely donated, but we do buy some bread and coffee. What is donated is often the worst things anyone should be eating. Cookies, cakes, donuts, and assorted pastries. We had some discussions about it, especially since we had a weight loss class going in church. The larger consensus was that it was up to people to police themselves, and make their own choices, rather than ask people to not bring goodies.

I don’t think that makes sense. Our church would never have alcohol at any of our events. Not because we think it is evil, but it is the concept of the weaker brethren, so many people have trouble with it, and the evil that brings to them and others. How is offering an overabundance of sweets different? So many people have trouble with over eating, that leads to physical evil, rather than spiritual. How is causing physical misery any different than causing mental and spiritual misery? Almost no one has will power in the face of food. If you wave one of my favorite treats in my face, I will eat it. It appears to me that we are enticing people to overeat.  I see some of these kids that are already bordering on obese with their plates piled with goodies. How is our behavior helping them?

One of the other rationalizations that is being used is that one meal a week isn’t going to make that much difference. Those with problems will still overeat the rest of the week, so why deny the rest, or make a big deal of it? Again, I would argue, try making that argument with alcohol. Or try this: “Oh, kids will get cigarettes somewhere, I might as well let them smoke.” Also, just because you are not overweight, doesn’t mean you should be eating garbage.

picture equating cupcakes to cigarettes

How do you see it?

I was listening to “Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone” this afternoon, and it made this post more fitting, in my mind. They were interviewing a women who had gastric bypass surgery. She said she was addicted to food. Her experience was heart wrenching. Should we make things harder for people like that? Granted, we all like sweets, and people with food addictions cannot avoid food. It isn’t like staying out of a bar. But wouldn’t a responsible and prudent action be to offer more nutritious, less enticing choices? Put out a tiny amount of sweets, or none. Breads are delicious, and better than cake. We do offer some healthier choices, but with the abundance of tantalizing goodies, who can resist?

I hope that anyone reading this will comment. Obviously, most people disagree with me, or else behavior would change. I welcome your efforts to change my mind. Then I won’t feel so aggrieved by behavior I can do nothing about. Am I making too much of this? Or am I tying the physical and spiritual together incorrectly?

OOh, what did I tell you!?!?!?

Here, with almost no fishing around, here is a great link to some hip flexibility exercises:http://stronglifts.com/7-dynamic-stretches-to-improve-your-hip-mobility/
There is sooo much good stuff on the web.

Fitness 102

I will write what I intended to, but here is a blog post I just had to link to.  It is a list of top trainers favorite exercises. You’ll see a pattern. Which is a segue into what I intended to write.

There are a lot of exercise options out there. Exercise does not have to complicated. You want to work all your major muscle groups, you want to sweat, you don’t want to get hurt. You will want variety over time, for both the boredom factor, and to avoid adaptation. If you do the same thing every time, you will get very good at it, so get less “bang for your buck”. Efficiency is not good for exercise. All of the exercises in the top picks linked above are full body exercises.  Squats, presses, “ups”- chin ups and pull ups, and dead lifts.

So here is some more basic information for you, you can research these on the web or get books:

  1. Learn your body parts. You will hear words like “glutes, hammies, lats, and delts. Those are slangy abbreviations of muscle groups.  When you exercise, you should know what muscle group you are targeting, and if you don’t feel it there, chances are you are not doing it right. I recommend “The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises.” Or, if you are a guy, “The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises”. They are the same book with different pictures.  “New Rules of Lifting”  is a good book as well.
  2. Learn the names of exercises. While exercise doesn’t have to be complicated, there are a lot of them out there. If you don’t know what the exercises are that I mentioned above, look it up.  Again the web has TONS of info. Go to you tube to see people do them. The books I mentioned above are  good resources too.
  3. Don’t be afraid of the mirror. Good form is extremely important to exercise. Having a mirror where you exercise is very helpful. Is your back straight? Are your feet in proper position? You can get hurt if you don’t perform an exercise properly.
  4. Don’t feel you have to buy a lot of equipment. Especially don’t buy equipment to only works one body part. I would recommend 5 and 10 lb dumbbells to start (for girls). I would get a variety of stretchy bands. A swiss ball, also called a stability ball. Something to pull up on. You could get in shape with those to start. After that, there are a lot of goodies to amp things up. Barbells, Bow-flex or Total Gym. Exercise bikes, treadmills or elliptical machines.  Free weights beat machines as you have to stabilize them, using more muscles.

You can do all you need to do at home. Joining a gym offers motivation, community and more equipment. Training at home has no travel time, your equipment is always available, and no one sees you exercise. I would recommend a personal trainer to start, unless you are very motivated and have done your homework. If you can’t afford a trainer, please do your homework and read everything you can get your hands on.

fitness 101

My son told me that he hired a personal trainer at the gym he joined. He couldn’t have made me happier unless he told me he’d taken up knitting. He was telling me about it and asking me some questions, and it got me to thinking, “what are some of the basics it would be good to know?” Fitness is a larger topic than any of my other hobbies, as it is an umbrella term that covers so much. To be fit is to combine exercise and eating in a way to promote maximum health. How you do that is as varied as people are. I don’t think I’ll have time to cover too much this morning, but here are some basic starters.
1 Exercise- There are two basic types. Cardiovascular and strength. Cardio, for short, is any form of exercise that you do to raise you heart rate and breathing and keep it up there for an extended period of time. Running, walking, skiing, hiking, swimming and many others fall in this catagory.
Strength is any exercise you do to strengthen your muscles- weight lifting is the obvious example, but nowadays, there are many types of strength and “resistance” programs. They call them “resistance”, as you are not necessarily using weights, you may use bands, weighted balls, the swiss ball, your own body weight, or other devices to get the resistance to your muscles.
You can also combine strength and cardio into what they are calling “metabolic” exercises. Many people currently believe this is the best way to lose weight. This is doing light to medium weighted exercises fast, so you sweat and huff and puff.
People have three major reasons to exercise: to lose weight, to get stronger and hypertrophy- gaining muscle mass. If you want to lose weight or gain strength, you need a combination of cardio and strength training. If you want big muscles, that is an entire field unto itself, but that is strength training, in a specialized way.
Well, that’s all I have time for today. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll cover terms that get thrown around without explanation, and maybe some more nutrition.

Nutrition 101

I have had more that one person tell me that they were confused by all the nutrition information they hear. I do understand that. It does appear that the “experts” contradict each other. Who are these experts? If I successfully lose weight, and write a book about it, do I qualify as an “expert”? If I read a lot about nutrition, and pull all that together into a book, am I an expert? Am I only an expert if I am a scientist, or a nutritionist? If I am a journalist, and I see a paper written on a certain aspect of nutrition, and I have no background, but I put out the synopsis of that paper, with whatever my understanding of the paper is, correct or not, am I an expert?

That is only problem one. Problem two is: what are we talking about? Losing weight? Heart health? Cooking? Cancer? How are we talking about it? Anecdotal evidence? A scientific paper? Someone’s opinion? Are we getting a sales pitch for the latest diet, supplement, magazine, or just someone wanting to be right?

Further complicating this is you. What level of basic nutrition/human biology knowledge do you have? How badly do you want to believe whatever someone is telling you? Especially when it comes to weight loss or cancer, there is a strong motivation to believe something that might help you.

So what is the prescription? First, common sense. Is there anyone out there that really thinks donuts are good for you? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Second, What source are you listening to? What are their credentials? While everyone writing about nutrition or fitness has a horse in the race, some sources are more trustworthy than others. I would trust the Mayo clinic over some dude selling supplements. I would trust someone who can cite studies over someone saying, “Well I think…” or “In my experience…” I wouldn’t completely discount experience, but it is similar to anecdotal evidence. Maybe something works for you, but will it work for a larger population? In Supersize Me,  they interviewed a man who ate at McDonalds nearly every day, and he was skinny. That won’t work for most people. Find trustworthy sources. Listen to debates about sources, find out what other people think. Criticism might not be deserved, but at least you’ll know why people trust or don’t trust some sources.  If something is massively popular, be suspicious. Just like the “narrow path” to heaven, sound nutrition and fitness advice is not sexy or full of mass appeal.

Get some basic nutrition information. Read, either on the net or get books. Compare new information with what you’ve learned.  The Mayo clinic has a nice basic here. Here is another one, at About.com. This is one of my favorites, Nutrition Data.

Having said all of this. It is true that information changes. We have only been scientifically studying nutrition for a relatively short time. It is EXTREMELY difficult to study nutrition. You can’t put people in laboratories, you can’t deprive them of vital nutrients, you have to trust them to be honest. Clever people are trying to come up with experiments to eliminate confounding variables, and the better they get at it, the better the information is.

Ok, this is too long as it is. Maybe I’ll do nutrition 102 soon.


I was never on the protein bandwagon until recently.  I resisted it based on my nutrition education that said that we get more than enough protein as Americans in our diet, and  certainly don’t need more.  After listening to podcast after podcast extolling the need for more protein, I caved. I bought some from our local store with the least amount of sugar. I have to admit I’m impressed. I have had a problem with “DOMS”, delayed onset muscle soreness, that seemed to increase with age time. Since I started the protein powder, it has faded to only be an occasional problem. I can work out longer and harder with less fatigue.

All that is the good news. The bad news is that for whatever reason, most protein powder manufacturers seem to think we have to have sweet flavors. If all you want to do is dump it in some water, I guess you would. I, however, put it with my morning oatmeal. Even if I didn’t, I can add whatever I want to flavor it. The one I’m currently using has sucrolose in it, which causes me gas and stomach aches. I have found a source for plain whey protein on the ‘net. IF it turns out to be good and a trustworthy site, I’ll let you know the name, and kind of plug it, since all this flavored stuff ticks me off.

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