Follow by Email

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peanut Butter is NOT're welcome

Geez, if I hear it one more time, I think I may explode. Why, why, why do people continue to promote and encourage these lies? I just don't get it.  In a country where people are already so confused about nutrition, why do some find it necessary to propagate such misinformation???? Stupidity is pretty much the only thing I can think of..well except for the obvious..out-right deception.

This blog has been churning in my head for a while, but walking in to work this morning and having one of my co-workers read a list of "Top 10 Lean Proteins"as written by a REGISTERED DIETICIAN and posted on ( really pushed me over the edge. (Thanks Matt!) Her list is as follows: quinoa, skyr (Icelandic style yogurt), egg whites, nut butters, oatmeal, soy, black beans, white meat chicken, daily catch (fish), sunflower seeds. WHAAAAAAATTTTTTT?????????? C'mon, you're kidding, right? I wish it was a joke, but it wasn't. Right there on the Fox News website for all to it MUST be true...sigh, here we go again.

What is protein, why do we need it? Protein comes from the greek word proteios meaning: of the first or prime importance. Protein is basically a chain of amino acids.  Different proteins are made up of different amino acids in different combinations. There are 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential (must be obtained through the diet) with another 6 considered conditionally essential (must be obtained through diet during stressful conditions- such as exercise).  The remaining amino acids are considered non essential as the body can produce them from other compounds.  Proteins are needed to produce anitbodies for the immune system, enzymes for different reactions, are components of structural tissues (muscle tissue, collagen, elastin), transport molecules (hemoglobin) and some hormones (insulin, thyroid hormone and growth hormone). Protein can also be oxidized (broken down) for use as fuel.
Our bodies have zero storage capacity for protein, therefore our requirements must be met each and every day. Protein requirements for individuals has been a highly controversial topic for as long as I can remember (and probably was long before I was born as well).  Some RDs (as well as some doctors) will claim .4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (g/kg) is sufficient, while other RDs and sports nutritionists (myself included) stand by 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (g/lb).  Either way you go, you MUST consume your protein every day.  If protein requirements are not met each day, muscle tissue will be metabolized to fulfill amino acid requirements.  This slows tissue repair, decreases strength (and muscle size), and impairs performance. All around a bad situation.

Ok so what's the big deal where it comes from? Well, as I said earlier proteins are made up of chains of amino acids in different combinations.  Proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids are considered complete proteins as they provide tissues with the aminos necessary for growth. Examples are: milk, eggs, meat, fish, poultry- animal sources. Proteins that are lacking even ONE of the essential amino acids are considered incomplete and are not capable of causing growth.  In fact, a diet comprised of incomplete proteins can lead to protein malnutrition.  No, I am NOT making this up. Incomplete proteins include plant sources such as corn, lentils, beans, and nuts.
Did you hear me? Yes, I just said plant sources...and yes 2 of the things I specifically listed were on Tanya Zuckerbrot's list of "Top 10 Lean Proteins".
That's right folks, not all protein is created equal.  Just like clothes, cars, electronics and just about anything else you can think of.  Some are just plain better than others.  That is how the world works people, accept it and move on.

So why do some people say that nuts or nut butters (or whatever) is a 'source of protein'?  Well, my guess is that because it actually contains some amino acids so when you look at the nutrition facts (the numbers on the back of the package) there is a number next to protein.  It does not say zero, therefore it is a source of protein.  That is a great plan *cough, cough*.  That is like a builder telling you that your new house will be constructed out of particle board. I know, you are probably laughing thinking 'what the heck?'.  Really though, if we are playing by the same rules as this 'source of protein' game particle board is a source of wood.  It has wood in it, right? So what's the big deal? The big deal is: A) what is the quality of the wood? And B) what percent of the particle board is comprised of wood?
Your answer- A) haaa, chips and dust and shavings B) hmmm.
Let's do the same thing for nuts..specifically peanut butter.  Ok, we already know it is an incomplete protein so quality is not great at all.  Now for the amount of that protein in peanut butter.  To figure this out, let's look at the nutrition info for peanut butter. You can look at any kind you'd like they are all going to be about the same.  Looking at Smucker's Natural Chunky Peanut Butter you see that one serving (2TBSP) is 200 calories, 16 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein. Let's do the math here - 16grams of fat x 9 calories/gram of fat gives us 144 calories from fat. Six grams of carbohydrate x 4 calories/gram gives us 24 calories from carbohydrate.  Seven grams of protein x 4 calories/gram gives us 28 calories from protein. What percent of the total calories is that? Hmmmm 72% for fat, 12% for carbohydrate, 14% for protein.   Now, I am definitely NOT a math major nor am I a statistician, but I would have to say that peanut butter is a great source of....wait for it...FAT, not protein.  Well, unless you think that particle board is a good source of wood. (If it IS a source of protein, then one would have to say that it is also a source of carbohydrate as the numbers are almost the same for the two)

 What about beans?  I love beans. Especially black beans.  Ms. Zuckerbrot states: "Black beans have 8.5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber per half cup. Enough said."  Well, yes they actually do. They also have 21 grams of carbohydrates --which, if we did the math- would qualify them as majority carbohydrate source...NOT protein. Oh wait, beans are also an INCOMPLETE source of protein.  ENOUGH SAID.

What about combining incomplete protein sources to 'make' a complete protein? Sure, go ahead..if you would like to increase you caloric consumption as well...let's try it. We'll go with the ever popular beans and rice.  We'll use black beans and brown rice. One cup of brown rice has 5 grams of protein and we know that a half cup of black beans has 8.5 grams. Together that makes 13.5 grams of protein. Hmmm, but also gives us 67 grams of carbohydrates and totals about 340 calories. Hmmmmm.  Just for kicks and giggles let's look at chicken. First of all we know it is an animal source so it is by default a complete protein. Two ounces of cooked chicken breast has MORE protein than the rice and beans mixture (2oz chicken has 18 grams), and has 99 calories!!!!!!  Ninety-nine calories, 2 grams of fat, zero grams of carbohydrate and 18 grams of protein. Hmm, what does THAT work out to as far as percent composition? Seventy two calories from protein and 18 from fat..soooo about 73% protein, 0% carbohydrate and 18% fat.  PROTEIN SOURCE!!!! In general, I am not going to consider something a source of ________ (insert whatever you'd like) unless it has over 70% of that thing in it.  I am NOT going to consider something that has a trace amount of something a SOURCE of that something and certainly not a GOOD source of it. Most especially when there are sooooo many sources that are much much better.

Wait, it gets better. According to a study done by Young and Pellett (Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59)
 "Contrary to popular belief, there is no known maximum amount of protein that can be absorbed in one meal.  However, in general it is known that humans typically absorb approximately 95% of ingested animal proteins and approximately 85% of ingested plant proteins."
Did you hear that? So of the 13.5 grams of protein from your beans and rice you probably only absorbed  11.4 grams. The 18 grams of protein from the chicken left you with 17.1 grams.  So you would need to consume EVEN MORE of your beans and rice. Whew, I'm full just thinking about it.

Let's recap this. You need protein every day.  You need complete proteins.  Complete proteins are animal sources. Plants are NOT animals. Plants are NOT complete proteins. Beans are NOT protein. Peanut butter is NOT protein.  You're welcome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

40 miles of thoughts...

Since I made it official here, I guess I need to recap it here too.  I completed the Triple Lakes 40 mile trail race on October 15. SUCCESS!!!!

My only goal was to finish the race- in an upright position- and on my own 2 feet. I am very happy to report that I did just that. Well, not JUST that, but I did that.  I feel like I did so much more..
In that 40 miles, I had many conversations with myself, thanked my guardian angles for keeping me from face planting SEVERAL times, wrote a new blog, pondered the meaning of life, unsuccessfully attempted mathematical equations, encountered scary sounding beasts (which ended up being cows), evaded some 'close talkers', avoided an emotional breakdown near mile 30-something and had an emotional break down at mile 40. It was a busy day.

It couldn't have been a more perfect day. Everything just came together in the most harmonious way..the weather, the trail, the event itself... just perfect.
I couldn't help but find the parallels between a trail race and life.  The trail was very technical with a great percentage of it covered in leaves.  Constant attention was required to avoid slipping or tripping on rocks or sticks.  Every so often the trail would come to a 'flat' stretch and I found my self looking up from the ground just long enough to take in my surroundings. When I tried to look back down at the trail, it was gone. Vanished.  I felt as if I were standing in the middle of the forrest alone. After a few seconds of concentration I could start to see where the trail was.  I kept my eyes peeled and continued moving forward.  'Wow,' I thought 'life is a lot like this trail race.  You have to stay focused on the path you are following.  If you look away or become distracted, you may lose your way.'
Focus grasshopper, focus.
Another similarity...sometimes you may be caught with snot on your face, you have to wipe it off and just keep going.  Really, things don't always go the way we envisioned them every time. You may end up with egg (or snot) on your face, but you have to get back up, wipe it off and keep going.

All the happy thoughts in the world and I still almost had an emotional breakdown at mile 30-something.  If you are a runner, you definitely understand that at some point in any race you may become over whelmed with emotion..the longer the race the greater the likelihood.  If you aren't a runner, you'll just have to trust me on this.  All I could think about was finishing and when I did I knew I would see my friends.  They would be there smiling and excited to see me.  I started to cry.  And let me tell you it is NOT easy to run and can't breathe! I could see Katie and Danielle and Jenny and their smiling faces in my mind.  I knew they would be there and I was so happy to have such amazing friends to share this moment with.  Friends who loved me and supported me. I had to put that thought on hold in order to get my breathing back to normal.  'Later, ' I told myself 'you can go back to that thought later.  For now just keep running.'

Just keep running is what I did for a few more miles.  I had no idea how much further it was.  I could hear people cheering off in the distance but couldn't tell how close I was, nor did I know if they were people from the race or some other event going on in the area.  I tried not to get too excited, but after spending so many hours alone in the woods, the sound of other's voices was pretty exciting. A few miles later I came around a curve and down a hill and ran past some people. I thought I heard them telling me which direction to run, but I didn't completely understand. 'Turn right, cross the street' and something about cones.  When I crossed the street I could see some orange cones ahead and figured that was what they were talking about. 'Head to the cones' I told myself.
As I am heading toward the cones I hear "That's Michelle!"  I knew that familiar voice, I knew it was an exclamation for me.. 'through the cones I kept telling myself', but I could feel my thoughts drifting to seeing Katie, Danielle and Jenny and I started to get a huge lump in my throat. 'Oh no', I thought ' don't cry now, they will think you are having a heart attack!' I could feel myself having trouble breathing and kept trying to push back the tears. 'Finish the race and then cry' is what I kept telling myself...and I did.
I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.  Danielle and Jenny were cheering and clapping and there was Katie, arms raised in victory. I went right to her, gave her a big hug and burst into tears.  I couldn't help it, I was so happy that I had accomplished my goal, but even happier to have amazing friends to share it with. A round of hugs with everyone and Danielle was right there with my recovery shake.  I think I still had tears in my eyes. I couldn't help it. I was thinking 'this must be what Heaven is like. Greeted by people you love with open arms and snacks.'
 Yep, life IS like a trail race

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is the meaning of 'healthy'?

Uncanny timing for this post.  On the heels of a class action suit filed against General Mills and its Fruit Roll-Ups for misleading consumers that its products are healthy, when in fact they are not.
General Mills is not the only company guilty of doing this. Marketing departments everywhere are trying harder and harder to appeal to health conscious consumers as well as those just trying to make small improvements in their dietary habits.  What is even more unfortunate is that some professionals (dietitians) that Americans look to for guidance are just as misleading.

Merriam -Webster defines healthy as: conducive to health. Citing such synonyms as  able-bodied, bouncing, fit, hale, hearty,robust, sound, well, well-conditioned, whole, wholesome.  Not a bad place to start.  They go on to define heart healthy as conducive to a healthy heart and circulatory system.  Ok, I'll buy that.  But what about everyone else? What is their definition of healthy?  This is something that confuses most Americans each and every day. If eggs, oatmeal, almonds, berries, chicken and  salmon are all deemed healthy--even heart healthy then eating them would be a good thing, right? Uhhh, no.  Not always.
What?? You heard me..NO! You can't just take something that is healthy and do whatever you want to it and say it is STILL healthy.  Some of you are probably laughing right now thinking, well duuuhhh, of course. But then WHY, WHY, WHY do people do it every day and no one says anything? Each and every day you are presented with things that appear to be healthy and simply ARE NOT.  Oatmeal from Mc Donald's (or even Starbucks), yogurt with 'real fruit', trail mix or an Egg Mc Muffin.  Yes, I did say Egg McMuffin. That's right.  Apparently some dietitians actually consider it a healthy option. Wholly cow, what was the definition of healthy again????  Looking at an online 'resource' you will actually learn that healthy has a meaning completely different than the Merriam-webster version.  Here is what they say: "The dietitian-approved Healthy Dining choices emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats and meet calorie, fat and saturated fat criteria. A new Sodium Savvy platform helps consumers find restaurant meals with less than 750 mg. of sodium." They emphasize those things, but don't necessarily have them...ohhh and golly gee- less than 750mg of sodium...half of my sodium intake in just one meal..THANKS!  
So yes, you DO need to pay attention to what you are eating not just what some pretty, colorful package says or some commercial with an unbelievably catchy song, or even a fun website that says it is dietician approved.  You need to know what it started out as and what happened to it along the way; what was added and what was taken away.  Then, regardless of the marketing associated with the item you will KNOW if it is healthy or not. Simple enough?

Let's look back on some of the choices purported as 'healthy options' according to First up, McDonald's Egg McMuffin.  (Thankfully McDonald's lists the nutritional information as well as ingredients for their items online- which is more than I can say for WeightWatchers Ingredients are listed as: english muffin, egg, pasteurized process American cheese, Canadian style bacon, liquid margarine.  Ok, never mind the fact that I would dump the english muffin, this choice may not seem too bad to some folks.  I mean after all, it DOES list egg, right? Well, let's look a bit closer.  Scrolling down the page, after all the listings of its breakfast items 'eggs' are listed.  Hmmm, wonder what's in there..eggs, I hope.  Let's see....USDA Grade A eggs, soy lecithin (release agent). Prepared with liquid margarine: liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavors, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, bets carotene (color).  While we're at it, why don't we look at the english muffin too. Those ingredients are listed as: enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat gluten, soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, calcium citrate, yellow corn flour, corn meal, rice flour, barley flour, rice malt, artificial flavors, natural flavors (botanical source), dough conditioners (ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, datem, tricalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate and potassium sorbate (preservatives) soy lecithin. Prepared with liquid margarine: liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavors, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, bets carotene (color).  

Oh heck, while we're at it we'll finish it off with the Canadian Style Bacon and Pasturized process American cheese..guess we don't really need to look at the liquid margarine since THAT is already incorporated into every other item in the sandwich! Canadian Style bacon: pork, water, sugar, salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, natural flavor (vegetable), sodium diacetate and sodium nitrite (preservatives). Pasteurized process American cheese: milk, water, milk fat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, scorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, artificial color, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy lecithin (added for slice separation). 
Ok, so I have a question to the dietician that 'approved' this as a healthy option--what on EARTH is your definition of healthy???? I mean, really...hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, salt, soy, soy, soy, PRESERVATIVES?? Yeah, that is right in line with the standards they mentioned: emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats and meet calorie, fat and saturated fat criteria.Wow, that is all I can

I do find it interesting that Mc Donald's uses different eggs for different items.  For instance the biscuit items are listed as having a 'folded egg'.  This 'folded egg' has ingredients listed as: pasteurized whole egg (DOES NOT LIST GRADE OF EGG), food starch-modified, soybean oil, natural flavors (botanical), sodium acid pyrophosphate, carrageenan, flavor enhancer [salt, maltodextrin, natural flavor(plant source), spices, herb, turmeric (color)], monosodium phosphate, citric acid, soy lecithin (release agent), prepared with liquid margarine. All eggs are NOT created equal.  Not too sure about you, but if i cooked an egg at home, I'm pretty sure the ingredients would be: egg.  That's it, just egg. 

I know, you're thinking "well, duuh, i didn't REALLY think that was a healthy option anyway." Just for you we'll look at something that most people WOULD assume would be a healthy option.  Grilled chicken.  McDonald's has done its part to stay afloat in this increasingly health conscious market so you have many choices with your grilled chicken there.  You can go with a salad, or sandwich or wrap.  Let's not split hairs with what you get with your grilled chicken, let's just look at the chicken for now. It is actually called New Grilled Chicken Fillet and is made of: chicken breast fillet with rib meat, water, seasoning (rice starch, salt, sugar, yeast extract, canola oil, onion powder, maltodextrin, chicken skin, paprika, flavor, sunflower oil, chicken, garlic powder, chicken fat, spices) sodium phosphates.
WOW! Why is there rice starch, sugar, yeast, oil, maltodextrin, CHICKEN SKIN, oil, chicken and chicken fat used to prepare the chicken???? Shouldn't chicken taste like chicken without ADDING chicken, chicken skin and chicken fat to it???? Or maybe it didn't taste like chicken after adding the sugar, salt, oil and maltodextrin so they had to add chicken back IN to the chicken.  Who knows.  All I know is that THAT is NOT chicken.  Not anymore.  

I can imagine this whole thing may be very confusing for some.  I mean after all there are isles upon isles of things in grocery stores jumping out promising to be healthy.  Made with "whole grains" or "real fruit" they say.  People buy into it forgetting the fact that the products don't even LOOK LIKE what they are supposedly made from. So when you DO have a product that looks like what it is made from (grilled chicken) it can be even harder for people to discern its health value. Read the ingredients people.  Not the pretty colored box front.  The actual ingredients.  They are usually small black letters..on the BACK of the package.  You may even need your glasses to read them. Put your glasses on, read the ingredients and keep the TRUE definition of healthy in mind. 

Stick with me, we'll get through this.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Heeeellllooooo sweet cookie.

So I am walking through the grocery store the other day and I just happen to walk past an entire Weight Watcher's diplay. It was complete with soft chocolate chip cookies and cake things and who knows what else.  I honestly had to look away after I realized what was there...cookies and cakes.  Are you KIDDING me with this??? Weight watchers and cookies.  I guess I should not be surprised by this, but I am.  Ok, maybe not surprised, more so dumbfounded and a bit angry.  It doesn't make me mad for me ..but for YOU and for every person out there who is trying to do something to be a bit more healthy and/or lose weight.
Let me just go ahead and say it now:
 If you are trying to lose weight you should NOT be eating cookies. 
 If you are trying to improve your health you should NOT be eating cookies.

I don't know how much simpler it can be.  Cookies or cakes or brownies or muffins are NOT a part of a healthy diet. Period.

Lies, all lies.  Ok, maybe some people call it marketing, but I call it lies.  If you know me, I'm certain you have heard me say it before: they don't care if they kill you, they want to make money.  You cannot rely on a company trying to sell you something to tell you the truth about how this product will impact you or your health.  Heck, these days you can't count on many people to tell you the truth about that.  Most people are too afraid to hurt your feelings.  When is the last time your doctor told you that you needed to lose weight or that you needed to stop eating crap? Probably never.  But they aren't afraid to tell you to stop smoking or doing crack.  Why the disparity? Well, telling you to stop smoking or doing drugs is not going to hurt your feelings...not nearly as much as telling you that you need to lose weight and actually make a lifestyle change with your food.  Well, don't worry, I'm not afraid to tell you.  I would much rather hurt your feelings and tell you than to 'spare your feelings' and let you  dig yourself an early grave.
You can be damn sure that if I'm not going to lie to you about the fact that you need to lose weight, I am NOT going to lie to you about how you need to do it. Cookies are not the answer. Neither are cakes, pies, candies, muffins, or ice cream desserts.  Here is what the Weight Watchers website says about their sweet baked goods (as they call them):
           Stay on track with Weight Watchers Snack Cakes, Brownies, and Muffins. These delicious treats are perfect as part       of a smart breakfast, an afternoon snack, or an easy, sensible dessert to finish your day. Making smart choices doesn’t   mean sacrificing deliciously satisfying treats.

Ummm, yes, it actually does mean making sacrifices. Eating those treats is what got you in the position you are in.  So, sorry to say, but give 'em up people!
Ever look at the ingredients of any of these 'sweet baked goods'? Of course not, why would you need to.  You know that it is 2 points or 3 points and that is all that matters, right? That would be a great thing IF a calorie was a calorie was a calorie.  Just like people and clothes and cars, calories are NOT all equal.  They are not the same.  They behave differently when ingested and cause different things to happen as a result of their ingestion.  So let's do ourselves a favor and forget that this point system ever existed ok?
Thank you.
Now let's actually look at the'll have to do it by looking at the box or searching the web because the Weight Watchers site DOES NOT list the ingredients OR the nutrition facts. Am I the ONLY ONE that finds that interesting???? Yes, I actually went back to the store to look at the ingredients..couldn't get a clear, readable shot of them and actually had to purchase a box of the cookies.  
Let me tell you THAT was a strange feeling for me.  I was really hoping that people wouldn't see me buying them and think that it was actually a good idea. Thankfully I escaped the store without being engaged in any conversations about my purchase. Whew!

Back panel Weight Watchers Chocolate Chip cookie

Very interesting...the list of ingredients looks almost the same as this:

Hmm..with the exception of 2 grams more fat, 9grams less carbohydrate and 4 grams less  sugar  the nutritional facts on this second example are pretty much the same as the first. Wondering what it is??? Yep, you guessed it! Chips Ahoy cookies By Nabisco.  Hmmmm…so take out a little fat, because most people trying to lose weight think fat is “a bad thing” add more sugar –because you have to replace the fat with SOMETHING (remember the whole Snackwells craze??) and throw in a little fiber to reduce the ‘points count’ and there you go instant Weight Watchers cookie 

ARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! People, paaahhhhleeeeeeze, it is still a cookie! Just a chocolate chip cookie..with MORE sugar and a tiny bit of fiber.  Ohhh, yes, let’s not forget the added fiber, that makes it better, right? Niiiiiice try and great marketing ploy.
If I add fiber to crack, does it make it better for you? NO! and it doesn’t work with cookies either! Cookies will make you fat whether the box says ChipsAhoy or Weight Watchers. Period.

Yes, it is entirely possible to lose weight and become fatter.  That is exactly what happens when you eat things like this.  Remember the discussion about breakfast foods and Glycemic index/Glycemic load foods? Yes, the one where we talked about how foods with high Glycemic loads will actually trigger your body to store fat. Guess what THIS cookie does? EEEEXXXAAAACTLY! Combine eating cookies/products like this and a reduced calorie diet and what happens? You store more fat, yet you are losing weight, uh I mean muscle. So the number on the scale goes down and the amount of fat tissue you have (relative to the lean muscle tissue) goes up, thus increasing your body fat percentage.  Why should you care if your body fat percentage goes up? Well, increased body fat can put you at an increased risk for certain diseases- diabetes, cancer, hypertension, atherosclerosis, joint issues and of course obesity! Yikes! Not what you had hoped for when you bought the cookie….

Do yourself a favor, put the cookie down, step away from the Weight Watchers display and learn how to eat real foods to make yourself healthier and happier.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back to The the gym

Having spent some 15 years in the fitness industry as a personal trainer I have had the opportunity to attend many different seminars and continuing education talks and workshops.  It is always interesting to me to see the ‘newest’ toys and exercises that are featured. Learning new things is good..right? I mean it can give you new tools, skills or methods of dealing with things, help you reach a goal or specific result or perhaps just give you a new perspective.  I can’t help but to look around the room and wonder juts how many of these trainers are going to run home and throw this new ‘stuff’ at their clients first thing Monday morning.  Sigh

As a trainer in a facility with over 40 trainers I often feel the same way when we hire on new staff.  I feel very confident in the in-house training our staff undergoes as well as the ability of the existing trainers to relay and teach the information. What I am sometimes leery of is a new trainer’s ability to discern when to use the ‘fancy moves’ they are learning. 

This is an equal opportunity pitfall open to trainers and gym goers everywhere. We’ve all seen it.  In walks Jane Doe for her evening workout, magazine in hand carefully folded open displaying the fancy ‘new’ workout complete with fancy name and photos of body parts going in every direction.  She walks over to the dumbbell rack grabs a pair, steps up onto a BOSU, attempts to balance on one leg with her eyes closed and perform a one legged squat while curling and pressing the dumbbells over head.  The end result is anything but optimal.  Was it the exercise’s fault? Nope.  The magazine’s fault? Nope. Hmmmm, where did things go wrong?  Let’s step back and think first about Jane Doe’s goals.  What are they?  Weight loss? Sports performance? Is this exercise appropriate for her goals? If it IS an appropriate exercise selection then we move to step two: breaking it down. Is she proficient in each piece of the exercise- single leg balance on unstable surface, single leg squat on an unstable surface? Can she perform those well on a STABLE surface? Can she perform a dumbbell curl while on an unstable surface? How about an overhead press? This advanced move may be very appropriate for someone who has mastered each individual piece of the move- first on a stable surface –using both legs, then on a stable surface using one leg, then on an unstable surface with both legs, then with one and finally with their eyes closed. If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’ then by all means please proceed with your exercise.  If not, let’s start over. Let’s start at the point she is walking towards the dumbbell rack. 

I see it time and time again-grab a weight and do an exercise. Why? Because that is what everyone else is doing? That is always a great answer.  How many times have you seen an exercise being performed improperly and wondered if it would even be possible for the exercise to be executed WITHOUT any external load? Meaning, can the person properly execute the exercise using only their body weight?  Let’s get back to the basics and progress from there.  After all progressive overload is the premise of exercise, right?  If we start at the end point then where do we go from there- besides home after we get hurt!

Is it even possible to put together an a$$ kicking bodyweight workout? Oh hell yea.
Where do we start? Well, at the beginning of course.  Let’s build a program for someone looking for general fitness/weight loss.  Honestly, regardless of your goals, you should be able to perform a general bodyweight workout FIRST before jumping straight into an advanced specific training program.  Next we want to be sure to include all primal movement patterns: pull, push, squat, lunge, bend, and twist. Easy enough. Body weight row or pull up, push up, squat, lunge, dead lift pattern and any type of rotation. Depending on the ability of the client the twist may be built into one of the other patterns- the squat or the lunge or even the pull or push. 

I generally like to have clients do some type of general warm up such as run, walk, cycle, row or jump rope for 5-10 minutes and then perform a more specific warm up with movements that are a little more closely related to the exercises we will be using in their training session.  So let’s say Jane walks briskly on the treadmill for 10 minutes.  Then she will perform a more dynamic warm up using leg swings in the sagittal plane (forward and back) as well as frontal plane (side to side), walking high kicks, butt kicks, high knees, carioca, lateral lunges, squats, arm swings forward and back as well as with lateral flexion and walkouts or inch worms.  Depending on what a person is accustomed to doing in their training, this may be an entire training session!  Let’s say Jane makes it through this just fine.  Now we move on to the meat and potatoes of our session.  Remember her goal is general fitness/weight loss, so we will be performing these exercises in succession with little to no rest between until completing one round of each exercise. 

Four sets of the following with a minute rest between each set:
Body weight squats x 25 (squat to ball to maintain depth)
Step-ups alternating legs (or alternating lunges)x 30 seconds
Jump rope 1 minute

Rest 3 minutes

Next, three sets of the following with a minute rest between each set:
Push up to T-stance  x10
Body weight row x15
Jump rope 1minute

Rest 3 minutes

Then 5 sets of the following, rest as needed, but no more than 90 seconds
Burpee x10
Mountain climbers x30 seconds
High plank hold x 30 seconds

Rest 3 minutes

Top it all off with a 500-1000 meter row and you are D-O-N-E!

Using a plan like this, exercises can be regressed or progressed based on a client’s ability level and workload capability.  One size does NOT fit all.  Any monkey can pull exercises off of YouTube that look cool or write a program to just kick someone’s butt.  However, the ability to adequately evaluate a person’s readiness or ability level, and ascend or descend exercises accordingly takes quite a bit more knowledge. What do you do if you are training on your own? First, look at the general outline of the training plan.  Who or what is it geared toward? Strength, size, endurance, sport specific?  Does that match YOUR goal? If it does, carefully look at each exercise.  Can you break the exercises down into multiple parts? If so, can you properly perform each part before doing them together? If you answer no, then just start with each part by itself and go from there. 

Remember, the basics are there because they are the BASE of everything.  If you don’t have a solid base, chances are the rest of your program will come tumbling down- just like a house without a solid foundation.  Don’t go adding the roof or the skylight until the walls have been put in place. There is an order to building things, whether it is your house or your physique, be sure you are progressing properly.  Master the basics before you throw pain at the walls.