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Weight Gain Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Today I will look at some different ways to bulk up for those of you who want to get huge! The main nutrient that builds muscle is protein; a common amount of daily protein recommended is one to one and a half grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, that does not mean you should avoid foods that do not offer a large portion of protein. To gain weight, and therefore muscle, you need to be eating more calories than you are burning; for this to happen, eat a lot of food- carbohydrates, protein, fats, everything. Take the advice I gave about fats and carbohydrates. Some people want to just gain weight without worrying about if it is mostly fat, and then after the weight has been gained, they will diet and burn off all the fat and keep the muscle gained during that “bulking phase.” I tend to avoid having any fat on my body at all, so I pay closer attention to the foods I eat, unlike people who perform this technique.

There are three different types of bodies, ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs. It is important to know which type you are so that you can effectively know how to get huge and ripped. Ectomorphs are those people who have a naturally small and even somewhat frail frame. They cannot seem to gain weight no matter how much food they eat and are stuck in the land of the skinny. If this is you, the first thing I will say is stop most if not all of your cardio activities. Burning more calories is certainly not going to allow you to bulk up, so stop burning them. I understand the importance of staying in shape, but if you are serious about bulking up, you have to understand your body and that by doing cardio you will have to eat an outrageous amount of food. Another good tip for ectomorphs and all body types is to eat smaller meals every two to three hours; this allows your body to constantly consume nutrients throughout the day and will not start burning off muscle if all of your excess energy reserves have been depleted.

Another tip is to drink a lot of water, but also a lot of other liquids because water speeds up your metabolism, and this is not something you want. Also, try to get a little less sleep because sleep also speeds up metabolism. This is an initial mass gaining technique and should not necessarily be instituted long term. Sleep also allows your body to recuperate and heal after hard workouts which is necessary to build muscle. So if you are an ectomorph and are struggling to gain weight try some of these different tips, and remember to eat, eat, and eat. Next time I will define the body type mesomorph and look at some mass gaining techniques for them.

Fruit Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Fruits are a tasty alternative to unhealthy snacks and provide many beneficial nutrients. Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and strawberries are common types of fruit that can be added to almost any meal. Many other types of fruit can be combined to form fruit salads or smoothies, both are very appetizing and nutritious. Most fruits contain phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and a variety of vitamins.

Phytochemicals are contained by all plants and limit the growth of cancer cells. Some other benefits of phytochemicals are that they can aid in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Apples and cherries are specifically good for helping to fight tumor growth and to prevent blood clots.

The basic explanation of antioxidants, avoiding excessive chemistry, is that they neutralize free radicals. Free radicals, if not neutralized, create a detrimental chain reaction in the body and can lead to cancer and coronary heart disease. Apples and cherries are also great suppliers of antioxidants; many vegetables contain more antioxidants.

Vitamins are important for many different aspects of your body and are essential for a healthy diet. Some fruits that contain good amounts of vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, and E are apples, bananas, grapefruits, kiwis, oranges, peaches, pears, and strawberries.

Fiber contains no calories, is indigestible, and cannot be absorbed by the body, so you would think it would be fairly useless. That would be a wrong assumption because fiber helps out in digestion by making waste pass through the colon more quickly and also has some properties that help fight against cancer. Some good fruits for fiber consumption are apples, bananas, grapefruits, oranges, peaches, and pears.

A general layout of grocery stores is the fresh foods are on the perimeter and the processed foods are on the interior. So when shopping, stay by the outside walls and look for some colorful, fruity additions to your eating habits. Not only will they taste good, they will provide your body with beneficial, long term effects.

Dieting Monday, November 3rd, 2008

One of the reasons I dislike dieting is that many diets try to get rid of carbohydrates, this is a huge mistake. There are three types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. Sugar is the type of carbohydrate you should stay away from because it is a simple carbohydrate and is turned into glucose which is then turned into fat. Starch and fiber though are complex carbohydrate and are beneficial to your body. Carbohydrates are your body’s first form of energy, followed by fat and then protein. To lose fat you first have to burn off your carbohydrates, but complex carbohydrates blend with your fat meaning that you can burn off fat and carbohydrates at the same time.

Some good foods that contain complex carbohydrates and little sugar include pasta and bread, and really any food that has a lot of grain in it; grains contain starch and also some fiber. Beans are another good source of fiber and protein so I would recommend eating beans on a regular basis. Potatoes have come under scrutiny with some people who say that they contain too much starch but I personally love potatoes and do not think there are enough negative health effects to deter you from eating them. Fruits and vegetables are both great sources for carbohydrates and also include a plethora of other beneficial nutrients.

Fats are also a nutrient that is absolutely essential to your body and is not something that you can eliminate from your eating habits. Saturated fats are ones you want to stay away from but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for you and also help reduce cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are great sources for healthy fats as are cold water fish such as salmon, cod, and tuna. Nuts and seeds are also full of fats that will help your body.

So the next time you are shopping for food, do not immediately get rid of moderately high carbohydrate and fat containing foods. Look more closely at the labels; do most of the carbohydrates come from sugar, or do they come from fiber? Are there saturated fats in the food, or healthier, unsaturated fats? The key is to have a good balance, so do not take this article as a reason to go load up on carbohydrates and fats, you should still consume them in moderate quantities and make sure you are getting many other vital nutrients. Next time I will look at fruits and discuss the benefits and even disadvantages of the more common ones.

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.