Ok to Train When Ill?

Well, it depends.  Just how sick are you?  From a health standpoint, there’s something called “the neck check” that can usually help you determine if it is ok to exercise: above the neck (aside from a fever) is generally okay to get in a workout; but below the neck, it is not advisable to train.  If you have a fever, chest congestion and stomach ache – exercising can be dangerous (since exercises raises body temperature).  But mild exercise (like a walk or ping pong) or even moderate (like a jog or bike ride) is totally fine. Per vigorous training – it is NOT advised to exercise past mild or moderate intensities.

When it comes to training (especially with colds or feeling ill), I would suggest using your own normal Resting Heart Rate (RHR) as a guide.   My coaches always taught me to check my resting in the morning.  If it was way above my norm, then I should take off that day (might be a sign of tiredness, over-training, or signs of getting rundown).  Normal RHRs – good chart: http://www.topendsports.com/testing/heart-rate-resting-chart.htm

 

Carbs for Dinner?

Question: “Per the debate over carbohydrate intake, what is the overall volume/ratio in your diet in relation to weight gain and particularly to that number one question you hear people ask about whether they’ll get fat eating carbs for dinner?” – Anonymous

Short Answer:  Calories in excess cause weight gain, not carbohydrates.  When calories are consumed in excess of the body’s needs, the body stores those calories in the form of fat tissue.

Long Answer:

We vilified this poor macronutrient

Before I jump into the science-y stuff, I thought I’d mention that the “carbohydrate debate” is not really a debate in medical communities.  Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy.  Carbs are essential for the brain, immune system and red blood cells to function properly.  The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), established by the USDA, recommend that adults consume carbohydrate at a range between 45-65 percent of total calories per day.

It’s the “refined carbs” to be wary about

Why carbs have gotten a bum rap: the fastest way to consume calories in excess of the body’s needs is in the form of “refined carbs.”  Why?  Refined carbohydrates have added sugar, which is sugar listed on a nutrition label in the form of high fructose corn syrup, glucose, syrup, nectar, etc.  When a product has added sugar, the total calories drastically multiply in that product.

What this means as far as weight gain

It’s easier to gain weight when the majority of your diet is full of refined carbohydrates.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has not established an “RDA” or recommended daily allowance for added sugar.  However, the Department of Agriculture and some non-profits (like CSPI, the Center for Science in the Public Interest – amazing organization) have recommended no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar, which comes out to ~40 grams.  Remember this is ADDED SUGAR.  You would not include a banana or apple to this limit, because people did not add sugar to natural fruits.

Let’s look at this in an extreme case.

Pretend you decided to eat all of your calories for the day in the form of bread.  You would feel, (a) bloated, (b) constipated, and (c) less sated due to consuming one macronutrient.  But here’s the kicker: you’d maintain your weight.  Maybe your weight would fluctuate by a pound or two, since glycogen (our energy storage) requires water to be stored.  But the reality is that if you only ate the amount of calories you needed to maintain your weight (even if through carbs), you would maintain your weight.

Demystifying the carbohydrate conundrum

There are refined carbs (as mentioned above) and there are complex carbs (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, starchy veggies, grains, whole wheat breads and whole wheat pastas).  Here’s where percentages of carb versus protein versus fat come into play.  The more nutrient dense the diet, the better off your health and your weight.  Thus, having a greater percentage of carbohydrate one day over another and a drop in protein or fat (within your calorie needs) will not make you gain weight.  Does this mean we always have to eat between 45-65 percent of our calories from carb?  No.  But it does not mean that including a carb will cause weight gain, either.

What this means as far as practicality…

Adults need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, 38 grams of which should be fiber for men and 25 grams for women.  130 grams is not a lot of carbohydrates – especially for an active person.  Thus, it is appropriate to assess your baseline calorie needs, followed by a measurement of your current activity factor.  By doing so, you establish a range of calories you require on a daily basis.  I typically like to use the Harris Benedict equation to assess kcal needs.

References:

(1)    http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/5_Summary%20Table%20Tables%201-4.pdf

(2)    https://briefing.nextjump.com/?p=12504

Bone Breakdown: NTx Test

I just had my Annual Check-Up early yesterday morning and want to share a new test with everyone – especially for the ladies.  A good test to measure the rate of bone breakdown is through something called the N-telopeptide test (or NTx test).  This is a simple and non-invasive test: urinate into a cup; the doctor finds out your results.  A normal result is anywhere between 0.45 – 4.5 uIU/mL.  Why you want to do this: women have an increased risk of developing osteopenia (low bone density), which is a precursor to osteoporosis later in life.  During your 20s and 30s, you can rectify low bone density much faster than later on in life.  You can do so through increasing vitamin D (supplements, sunlight and food sources) and by weight training (adding a stress to the bone produces bone cells).  Treatment through supplementation and weight training is warranted once you know where you stand, so ask for the test! To learn more about other tests you should take at the doctor’s office, visit the the Health Checklist Channel.

 

Vegetarian Sources: Vitamin D & B12

Vegetarians are known to have low levels of both vitamins B12 and D (since the best sources of these vitamins are found in the flesh of fatty fish, seafood and meat products).  Luckily, many foods are now “fortified” with vitamins B12 and D.  When a food is fortified, it means the company has added vitamins and minerals to enrich the product’s nutritional value.  How to detect if a product is fortified?  #1 Look for the Nutrition Facts label. #2 At the bottom of the label, a product is required to list the amounts of vitamins A and C, and the minerals calcium and iron.  #3 Many times there are additional vitamin or mineral listings, in order for a company to market the product as, “an excellent source of B12!” or, “enriched with vitamin D.”  Some examples are: Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereal (100% B12); Soy Milk (50% B12; 30% vitamin D).  Other B12/D vegetarian sources include: nutritional yeast (which are flakes to add to yogurt, cereal or oatmeal), orange juice, dairy products, eggs and veggie burgers.

Maximize B12 with Food Sources:

  • Breakfast ideas:
    • 1 cup heart to heart cereal with soy milk
    • 1 cup yogurt (half DV B12) with nutritional yeast
    • Lunch ideas:
      • Tofu (good source) with veggies and brown rice
      • Snack: 1 cup soy milk with a piece of fruit
      • Dinner:
        • Veggie burgers (fortified with B12!)
        • Whole wheat bread (fortified!)

Maximize Vitamin D with food sources:

  • Milk and Soymilk
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Swiss Cheese (also has B12)

Muscle Cramps: How to Overcome

Ever endure the pain of a muscle that involuntarily tightens (and doesn’t go away)?  That’s a muscle cramp (a.k.a., “a charley horse”).  Figuring out why you get them can be tough since there are all sorts of reasons for it (dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is a common one, along with overuse of a muscle or not enough blood being shunted to muscles).  How to overcome:

  • DRINK FLUIDS: water with every meal and 1-2 cups in between meals
  • DILUTED GATORADE: with exercise, try a diluted sports beverage for extra electrolytes
  • STRETCH & MASSAGE: relieve the pain pre and post exercise
  • WALK IT OUT: stop the exercise and try to walk out the cramp (if in arms: massage the area)
  • SODIUM: try to pre-load the exercise with a saltier food addition (like a pickle or a side of chips)
  • KEEP UP YOUR FITNESS: Maintain fitness all year round to prevent cramping as often

 

JPMCC Challenge Race Tips

TIP #1 – Unexpected Hills: continue with the same level of exertion, even if it means slowing a bit going up the hill (versus sprinting up the hill – unless this hill is at the end of the race).  TIP #2 – Unexpected Adrenaline Rush: adrenaline surges during a race; as a result, runners might start out faster than anticipated.  Use your playlist to your advantage: try softer music to start and save your heart-pumping thunder power for later (when you need it).  Strategize the split for the first mile (kilometer) and stick to it (use the first mile/km as your warm-up).  TIP #3 – Arm Power: legs are half the battle; use arm a full arm swings that correspond to your gait in order to add extra power to your step. TIP #4 – Chance of rain: embrace it!  Running in the rain should not present any problem.  If it’s a light rain, you do not need to adjust pace.  If heavy or cold rain, slow down a little to prevent sipping.  TIP # 5 – Keep hydrating throughout the race (every mile, take a swig of water from the stands or bring your own bottle.  TIP # 6 – Runner’s Etiquette: as you would driving a vehicle, signal when you want to pass, don’t stop dead in your tracks at the water station, and don’t run in a pack of Next Jumpers (check out previous Runners Etiquette posts for more – post 1 and post 2).

A Calorie is a Calorie – Or Is It?

The NY Times published a recent article about, “what really makes us fat.”  Aside from the author’s agenda (Gary Taubes is a HUGE proponent of low-carb diets), let’s look at the question objectively.  The article contends a controversial topic in the nutrition field: is a calorie a calorie.  Why this is important for the discussion: when it comes to fat loss do calories matter more or is it the diet’s composition?  Short-term: Calories are king.  Long-term: diet quality is more important for sustainable, healthy weight loss.  Excess refined carbohydrates contribute to obesity more than say, a handful of calorically dense nuts.  The insulin response is what distinguishes fat calories from carbohydrate calories, but it is an important distinction (with regards to satiety and fat deposition).  What to take away from this – focus on the types of foods you are consuming and their respective portions.  When it comes to weight loss, it’s about improving the nutrient density (quality) of the diet.  Read on for further discussion.

Do extra calories make us gain weight?

Yes.  No matter what the composition of the diet (healthy or unhealthy), eating more calories than your body needs will cause weight gain.

But the goal of weight loss is to keep it off.  A very low calorie diet to get there is not sustainable and has myriad negative side effects, such as a slowed metabolism and increased protection of fat cells. This is because when you drastically reduce calories, the body is in a starved mode.  Constant hunger is usually the result, which is why those on low calorie diets for weight loss can’t sustain it and thus tend to gain back any accrued weight loss (and sometimes subjects have even gained more weight than from baseline).

Can I eat a low calorie diet of Twinkies and Coke for weight loss?

As mentioned above, refined carbohydrates (added sugars versus those found naturally in foods) does increase fat deposition on the body when eaten in excess (and by, “in excess,” this is much is less than what people would think).  “In excess” is more than 150 calories of discretionary spend (for men) and 100 calories (for women).  This means, for men, if a food has around 9 teaspoons of sugar (1 teaspoon weighs around 4 grams and so 9 teaspoons weighs 36 grams) they’ve had their limit for the day.  To put this into perspective, one 12 fl oz can of regular Coke has 40 grams of sugar J   More on sugars and carbohydrates at the American Heart Association website.

Best way to eat for weight loss?

Those who eat more lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs and whole foods and less refined carbohydrates and processed foods lose weight quicker and don’t have a hard time keeping it off.  This is because there are many factors when it comes to weight reduction.  The reduced caloric plan is not sustainable and metabolism slows down to protect the fat it has on the body so as not to starve to death, etc).  With regards to what really helps us lose weight, fussing over caloric quantity is less effective than focusing on quality foods.

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