Archive for October, 2008

Foods to Consume Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Avoiding bad foods is not useful if you avoid foods that will provide needed nutrients to function and perform at your peak. Here are some essential liquids and foods you should consume on a regular basis.

Water is the single most important substance for life, and not just human life, all life. Most people do not get nearly enough water on a daily basis; they are surviving, but their bodies cannot respond as well with limited amounts of water. Water is more important when you are active and sweating water that was previously inside your body. As I said last time, water is key in transporting nutrients throughout and aiding in digestion. By not drinking water you can easily become dehydrated, impedes nutrient absorption and wastes will remain in your body longer because they are unable to be transported out as well.

A common rule is to drink 6-8 tall glasses of water every day; it is also been said that if you are active for an hour or more a day and are sweating during that activity you should be drinking a half gallon of water a day. Think about that! How much water do you normally drink? If you are finding it hard to drink that much water, space it out, drink a glass after every meal, and stop at every drinking fountain you pass and drink for ten seconds. Another method is to drink room temperature or slightly cooler water; the body tends to feel more satisfied while drinking cold water and you will not consume as much as you would if drinking warmer water. It might not taste the best at first, but try it out. Other liquids such as tea are okay to drink, but many of them have caffeine, sugar and calories which take away from the effectiveness of water. Drinking tea or milk added to the 6-8 glasses of water is the best thing to do. Stay away from high fat milk if you are trying to cut weight and stay away from alcohol and caffeine at all costs. Both of these substances have detrimental effects on the body and both are addictive.

Protein is essential for people no matter their level of activity. Your body is filled with proteins and muscles are built using this nutrient. Some good foods that contain high levels of protein are eggs, fish, white meats, red meats, legumes (beans, peas, and peanuts), milk, and nuts. Eggs have a very high protein to fat ratio which is what most people want to build muscle and cut fat. White meats or poultry, such as chicken and turkey, are much higher in the protein-fat ratio that red meats. Beans are a commonly overlooked source of protein; they include a good amount of protein and other different types of nutrients depending on the bean. Some good beans to eat are lentils, garbanzo, and soybeans and types of nuts to eat are walnuts, cashews, and almonds. Milk is also a very good source of protein and also fat if you are not careful. If you are very active and have a high metabolism, you might not have to worry about fat as much, but if you are worried, you can always drink skim milk, or one/two percent. Fish are amazing sources of protein and healthy fats; try salmon, tuna (actual tuna, not that canned stuff, even though the canned stuff is better than no fish), and cod; all of these are excellent choices for any meal.

On Sunday I will look at different ways that carbohydrates and fat are good for you and how they can be consumed in a healthy manner.

Foods To Avoid Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

One of the most commonly consumed and most harmful substances in America is soda. The first problem with most sodas is that one can contains high amounts of sugar. As with all sugars, your body will turn them into fat, which is something that you do not want. Fat is necessary for your body to survive and function, but you get plenty of fat from eating healthy foods, so by drinking soda you are simply adding more fat to your body.

Another huge problem with many sodas is the amount of sodium in each can; once again, sodium is useful for your body but in one soda you can consume a large portion of your daily sodium intake. When your body has too much sodium, the kidneys want to get rid of the excess making you thirsty and want to urinate. This can then lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, and dehydration.

A third problem with soda is the carbonation; some people say that diet soda solves the above problems which might be true, but it is still no better for you. Your body needs water to function, it makes up 45-75 percent of a person’s body weight and is the solvent that facilitates the transport of nutrients throughout the body and aids in digestion. When water is carbonated, like it is in soda, your body has a difficult time trying to convert it into usable water for bodily functions, thus, it is effectively useless for means of productive hydration.

Sweets of all kinds are also something that should be avoided. Moderation is generally an accepted practice by many athletes and exercise enthusiasts. This comes down to an arbitrary definition of the word moderation; for me, eating a cookie for lunch and dinner has no consequential negative health effects. Just be careful, consuming too many sweets fills your body with an excessive amount of calories, fat, and sugar for the small treat that was provided. If you struggle with this, I would try limiting yourself to one or two small sweet things per day, because we are all human and getting rid of sweets completely is unrealistic.

Chips are filled with fats and oils that your body will process as fat and also can clog your arteries which can lead to heart problems in the future because blood will find it more difficult to be pumped into and out of your heart, which means less nutrient-filled blood is transported throughout your body. A heart attack can also result from this interruption of blood flow. So chips are bad, do not eat them.

Trans fats, or unsaturated fats, should be avoided as much as possible as well. Most food in grocery stores and at restaurants is filled with trans fat due mainly to hydrogenated oils. These oils improve the shelf life of food, but have terrible consequences for your body such as coronary heart disease, and arterial decomposition which leads to plaque buildup and the clogging of the arteries.

These are just a few of the many foods you should try to avoid, but I felt that these are the most important to limit in your diet because there are negative health effects and can lead to serious health problems down the road.

Nutrition Monday, October 27th, 2008

Nutrition is a key component to leading a healthy lifestyle but is often overlooked. Some people who love to exercise “cheat” when it comes to the food they put in their bodies. Modern American culture has placed an emphasis on eating quickly but has completely failed in promoting eating healthy. The massive obesity problem in this country is one of the huge indicators that Americans are not living healthy lifestyles.

Obesity is not the only danger of eating unhealthy though; eating disorders, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other serious ailments can result from poor eating habits. The ease of fast food lures many people astray and encourages the thought that there is simply not enough time to eat healthy. This is a dangerous misconception. It will take some more thought and effort to eat better, but the minimal extra time it takes now could save you from a lot of trouble down the road.

This week I will look at some different ways that you can eat healthy, and describe some common myths that are common in our culture. Today I will look at one huge myth: you must diet to lose weight.

This is the number one rule of weight: if you intake more calories than you burn in a day, you will gain weight, if you burn more calories than you consume in a day, and you will lose weight. Dieting is often a means for people to burn more calories than they consume. Seems simple enough right? However, this does not mean that you are going to lose a ton of weight or burn off of the fat that you have, this simply means that if you want to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you take in. So dieting would seem like a good solution. Wrong. Dieting most of the time robs the body of the essential nutrients needed to burn calories and function optimally; dieting almost always leads to dissatisfaction and poor health. Now this is directed at those phony, popular television or magazine diets.

A true “diet”, one that is safe and will help you lose weight, lose fat, or be healthy, I do not like to call a diet at all. The main reason for this is that it is too easy to confuse the eat-nothing-lose-weight diets with eating responsibly. A healthy diet limits the amount of unhealthy foods and fats you consume and ensures the proper amount of vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. This type of diet also does not completely get rid of fats, carbohydrates, or sugars, because your body needs all of these to maintain good health.

So remember, the next popular diet you hear about on television or from friends is probably not going to benefit you in the long run. Rather, a healthy dose of the proper nutrients while limiting the foods that your body does not respond as well to is the way to go. This week I will try to debunk some of the mysteries surrounding the healthy nutrition lifestyle.

A Beginner’s Workout Sunday, October 26th, 2008

This workout is designed for people who have some physical training experience but are not “super fit” athletes or gym bums. The exercises will be similar to the beginner workout but the difficulty will be increased and the workout will be more intense.

First, you should stretch and warm-up for about five minutes. If you already know an approximate number for your maximum number of sit-ups and pushups, you can skip the next step. If not, do a set of as many pushups as possible, wait about thirty seconds and then do a set of as many sit-ups as possible.

For the first set, do half of your max number of pushups, and immediately follow this by doing half of your max number of sit-ups. Rest one minute and then repeat this process ten times. If you cannot get all of your reps in toward the end, do not worry, this just means that this is a good workout for you and will allow you to progress in your fitness.

After you have completed the first series of exercises and rested about three minutes, this next set should be performed with an emphasis on good form and controlled movement. Do not try to break good form just so you complete the set. For the first set, do a quarter of your max pushups with your arms placed about double the distance as a normal pushup. Immediately following the pushups, do fifteen reps of bicycles. One rep is pushing out with both legs and when you push back out with the leg that you started with is the beginning of the second rep. Rest for one minute, and then repeat this process ten times, then rest for five minutes.

The final set of exercises should be difficult. First, do a set of one eighth the number of your max number of pushups. For this, touch your pointer fingers together and your thumbs together to form a clover or diamond shape then place them on the ground, this will isolate your triceps. Immediately following the pushups, lay on the ground, hold your head off of the ground about six inches, hold your feet off of the ground about six inches and place your hands in normal sit-up position, then hold the position for twenty-five seconds, or as long as possible. Rest one minute and then repeat this process five times.

Stretch some more to loosen your muscles and remember to drink plenty of water and get nutrients into your body. Next time I will cover an advanced workout if this one was too easy. If this workout was challenging, keep working at it until you are able to complete all of the reps with good form.

Mid-back Exercises Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Today I will cover some middle-back exercises. Some of the exercises I explained this week also work the middle-back, but these work this area more directly.

The first exercise is the one arm dumbbell row: this exercise is a little complicated and form is very important and can be easily messed up. If my explanation of this exercise does not make sense, I would encourage you to ask someone to show you in person. Good form is really the only way to have an effective workout with this exercise and target the middle-back. First you want to find a bench and place your left knee on the bench and then place your left hand on the bench ahead of your knee by about a foot and a half to two feet. Put your right foot behind the bench and keep your leg straight; you want your back flat and sloping downward at about a twenty degree angle with the floor. To accomplish this, try to keep your bum down and puff out your chest. Then, with your right hand, grab the dumbbell and while keeping it close to your body, pull the weight straight up and perpendicular to the floor with your arm until your upper-arm is parallel with your back.

Another middle-back exercise is the bent-over row, which can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells. Place your feet shoulder width apart, keep your knees slightly bent, and bend over so that your upper body is at about a forty-five degree angle with the floor. Pick up the weight and then pull it up to your body, this motion should be perpendicular with your body. Make sure the barbell or dumbbells come all the way to your chest for maximum effectiveness.

Most middle-back exercises involve a rowing motion, so with this motion you can do rows lying on your belly, on a bench, or you can do rows on a seated row machine. There are many other types, so you can ask me if you want more ideas or you can stick with these. When working back, like with all other muscle groups, it is important to work all components of the muscle area. Back is a huge muscle area and is extremely important for everyday activities, so do not over look working your back. Next week I will take a break from exercises and will give some nutritional advice.

Lower Back Exercises Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Last time I described pull-ups which work the upper back or lats. Today I will give a couple of exercises to work the “all-important” lower back. The lower back is a part of your core muscle group that is frequently referred to as the “most important” because all other exercises directly or indirectly involve working your core. This part of the body is commonly overlooked by people and could lead to unnecessary pain in the future if not properly maintained. Think of the core as the support system for the rest of your body.

A great exercise to work your lower back that can be done anywhere is the “superman.” It is performed by lying flat on the ground, on your belly. Stretch your arms out in front of you until they are straight and then hold your hands together. Simultaneously, raise your arms while raising your legs as high as possible. Keep your legs straight and together, and squeeze your lower back at the top of the motion. Then lower both your arms and legs together. If you are just starting, you might want to rest your arms and feet on the floor between reps, but if you want a better workout, lower them until they are only an inch or two above the floor and then go back up. Another way to increase the intensity of this exercise is to hold the position at the top for several seconds; the rep-length is up to you but obviously the longer you hold, the harder it will be.

Another great lower back exercise is the stiff-legged dead lift, which can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells. The barbell should be held in front of you but the dumbbells can be held either on the side of your body, or in front. I personally prefer dumbbells and keeping them in front of me because I get more motion out of the exercise. With a barbell you are limited to how far down you can go due to of the physical size of the weights, unless you stand on a box. If you choose to use a box, make sure you have good balance and are careful about how much weight you lift. Straining is possible due to excessive weight coupled with overextending your.

Start with the weight on the floor, then keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, slightly bend your knees, and lift the weight up using your back to raise your body to standing position. On this exercise make sure not to bend your knees and start with a low weight because this puts a lot of strain on the lower back and it is a fairly common exercise for injuries. Also, keep your chest out and tighten your lower back on the way up to keep good form. There are many variations to this exercise including bending your knees, but for now use this form and if you want more ideas on how this exercise can be performed- let me know via the comment boxes below.

Back Exercises Monday, October 20th, 2008

This week I will take a look at some different back exercises that can be incorporated into a workout. Today I will describe the basic pull-up and some common variations.

A pull-up is a fantastic compound-exercise which works the back, biceps, and core of the body. Pull-ups are simple in their motion, but offer a tremendous amount of resistance (in the form of your own bodyweight), so they are actually quite difficult to perform. A normal pull-up is done by hanging fully extended from a bar with your hands slightly-more than shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you. You can bend your knees or keep them straight (this is a matter of preference, unless you are tall, then you might need to bend your knees so you do not touch the ground). Next, pull yourself straight up until your chin is above the bar. As you completely lower yourself, make sure your arms are fully extended. Many people only go part-way down with a bend at the elbow; this makes the exercise easier and decreases its effectiveness. Motion control is important, do not swing your body upwards; using momentum while swinging also makes a pull-up considerably easier.

If you are unable to perform a pull-up, there are assist machines that allow you to either stand or kneel on a platform which reduces your lifting weight. This is a great way to build strength and endurance, and it allows for progression toward an unassisted pull-up. If an assist machine is unavailable, stand on a chair then pull up as hard as you can, supplementing the extra strength needed to get to the top of the pull-up by using your legs. Another aid available use is another person; they can push up on your legs if your knees are bent or pull up on your feet if your legs are straight.

There are different variations of the pull-up. The most common variation is the chin-up; which is basically the same as a pull-up except your palms face toward you. This is easier than a pull-up because your biceps are engaged while maintaining the same muscle use in your back. Other common variations are to change the width of your hands: you can put them closer together to work the inside of your upper back, or you can put them farther apart to work the outside of your upper back.

An Intermediate Workout Thursday, October 9th, 2008

The purpose of this workout is to provide strenuous exercise that is attainable for most people if they keep working at it. I could provide a workout that would be all but impossible, but no one would be able to benefit from it. This workout is going to incorporate some basic exercises as well as some harder ones that are attainable after some, but not a tremendous deal of practice, if you are already in good shape.

As always, stretch and warm-up before exercising and for this workout, I would suggest that only the fittest people perform attempt it, otherwise there is a risk for injury. For any type of workout, you should be aware of your abilities and limitations as well as any potential health problems you have or might encounter. This workout will increase your heart rate to high levels and will be extremely strenuous on your upper body.

For the first set, do as many pushups in a row as you can, immediately follow this by doing as many sit-ups as you can do. Rest for one minute and then repeat the process ten times. After the last set, rest for two minutes.

Now, do as many rolling pushups as you can; for these you want to switch the direction of rolling every two pushups. I covered these in the pushup section of blogs I wrote a couple of weeks back if you have not heard of them before. Immediately follow the pushups with a set of as many elevated leg sit-ups as you can do. I have not yet covered how to do these, so to perform a rep of this exercise, lay flat on your back and lift your legs about six inches off of the floor while keeping them straight and stationary. Now, hold your hands together and put them behind your head, kind of like you are reaching to stretch (a photo of this exercise is posted with this blog). During this exercise, keep your arms straight and behind your head, it will be a struggle, but will increase difficulty. Now, do a sit-up keeping your legs and arms in the correct position. Rest one minute and then repeat this process ten times, then after your last set, rest two minutes.

For the last set of exercises, do a set of as many diamond pushups as you can. Instead bringing your body down with your hands underneath your body, lower yourself and place your nose in the diamond provided by your hands. Follow this immediately by a set of as many bicycles as you can do. Rest one minute and then repeat ten times.

Make sure to stretch, drink plenty of water, and consume some vital nutrients, such as protein, after this workout. If this workout was still too easy, let me know and I will try to provide one that will challenge you. The workouts this week were designed so that you would not have to go to a gym but could simply do them in your bedroom if you wanted. This will decreases the number of excuses that can be made of why you could not workout. If you are sitting in your room doing homework, watching television, or are simply bored, try one of the workouts and get your blood pumping! Keep working hard and you will see results.

Working Out Monday, October 6th, 2008

So here we go, today I will give a good example model of a workout for beginners then on Tuesday I will give an intermediate example and finally on Thursday, I will try to give a workout that will challenge the most physically fit.

This workout routine can be performed in a gym or in your own room, so there should be no excuses about the lack of facility accessibility. To start, make sure to stretch and get warmed up; a good warm-up could consist of a light five minute jog or riding bike for a while, or my favorite: jump-roping. After you finish your stretching and warm up, do one set of as many pushups as you can, rest for about 30 seconds, then do one set of as many sit-ups as you can. This will be your base number that I will base this workout off of.

For your first set, do a quarter of your maximum number of regular pushups. Rest for about 30 seconds and then do a quarter of your maximum number of normal sit-ups. This should be fairly easy, but if it is not, you might want to consider dropping down to an eighth of your maximum rep number. After this first set, rest about one minute.

The next set, do the same routine, except double the number of pushups and sit-ups while maintaining the same rest in between. This time, rest two minutes after you have finished the sit-ups, and then repeat the same set with double your base number of pushups and sit-ups, then rest another two minutes. Next, repeat the first set and then rest two minutes after the sit-ups.

Now, you are going to want to do a set of pushups, but you want to stop at the bottom for five seconds, with your back straight, bum down, and arms parallel to the floor. Do five of these with about twenty seconds in between each one. After the fifth one, rest about one minute and then move on to the next set of abs.

For this last ab exercise, you are going to work your obliques. Do a set of ten twists; these are the ones where you hold out your legs, lean slightly back and then hold your hands together, twist to one side of your body, touch the floor, and then twist to the other side and touch the floor, this is one rep. Wait about thirty seconds and then repeat.

This ends the workout, make sure to stretch again, this will decrease possible soreness following the workout. Depending on how difficult this workout was, you might want to continue it and follow along with the beginner workouts I give, but if you felt it was rather easy, you might want to move up to intermediate level. I would recommend at least a one day rest before doing this again. Rest is a very important aspect of working out. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water and get some food into your body after your routine.

More Ab Exercises Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

So far I have barely scratched the surface of ab exercises that are out there and will not be able to cover them all in future. I would encourage you to do some research on your own if you want some more ab exercises to keep you from getting bored or if you want to have a more diverse workout. Today I will cover some different exercises that will be location specific.

First we will cover the upper and middle abs; this is perhaps the most common and easiest area to work because just about every ab exercise there is as well as many other types of exercises work this area. Besides the ones I have already covered, another exercise that works this area is the pull-in. Some say this is more of a lower-ab exercise, but it works the upper and middle abs so well, I am going to include it in this section. The pull-in is performed by laying flat on the floor, then with your head about six inches off of the ground and your hands in sit-up position, keep your legs together, lift them into the air about six inches and then bend at the knee while pulling your legs in until your upper leg is at a ninety degree angle with your upper body and your knees are also bent at a ninety degree angle. Using the reverse motion, straighten your legs back out until they are completely straight and six inches above the floor. Make sure your feet do not hit the floor; this will decrease the intensity immensely. To make this exercise slightly easier, you can keep your head on the floor; to make it harder, hold at the start position with your legs straight and six inches above the floor for three or more seconds, do this at the end of every rep.

The lower abs seem to be most people’s crutch. This is the place where excess fat likes to hang out and is a little harder to find an effective exercise for. One that I have found to work extremely well is the floor-wiper. This can be done by either lying flat on a bench or lying flat on the ground. A good starting point for beginners would be to lay flat on the floor, then put your arms straight in the air perpendicular with the ground. Next, put your straight and keep them together, raise them without bending them until they are perpendicular in the air, then lower them back down without letting them hit the floor and repeat. To increase difficulty, hold some light dumbbells in your hands while performing this exercise. Then after you feel comfortable with doing those, the actual floor-wiper is performed by laying flat on a bench; put some weight on a barbell, hold that up, and then raise your legs as before. This works the lower abs a ton, it also works on the shoulders and arms and balance because it is difficult to hold the bar while raising your legs. The upper and lower abs as well as the obliques are also worked during this exercise. To increase difficulty once again, hold up dumbbells on the bench, this will really test your balance and ab strength.

A great oblique specific exercise is the twist. There are many variations of this exercise, but the basic one is performed by sitting on the ground, then slightly leaning back with your upper body and extending your legs away from you. Raise your legs off of the ground about six inches, then lock your hands together and twist to one side of your body, touch the ground, and then twist to the other side of your body, touch the ground and then repeat. If you want an added challenge, take a medicine ball or a dumbbell or a weighted plate, and move that across your body in place of only your hands. Also, try to lean your upper body further back toward the floor and straighten your legs. As your abs increase in strength, this is a good way to keep using the same exercise but increase its difficulty.

Make sure to try to keep good form as always and try these different exercises out. Do not give up; keep pushing yourself and persevering and you will see results. Next time I will finally look into some workout routines that will engage your entire upper body.