Saturday, April 9, 2016

Low Sodium Treats

  As a person with hypertension controlling it through diet, finding foods in today's marketplace with low or no sodium can be challenging.  Convenience, shelf life, and changing palates are all forces that have pushed the food industry to the sodium-laden debacle that it is today.  One does not even need to be heavy handed with table salt in order to have elevated blood pressure and find themselves on medication, all by simply eating the ubiquitous variety of processed and pre-packaged foods available in supermarkets across the country.

  There are ways to live a life with normal blood pressure by making smart food choices.  In case you hadn't guessed it, getting away from processed, pre-packaged foods is the key.  Below are food choices to help your low-sodium decisions.  Everything discussed below assumes the raw/fresh food itself with no added salt or salt-containing seasoning.

Fruits & Vegetables - any and all...consume as much as you want and ideally, these should comprise the bulk of your diet.

Grains, Breads, & Cereal
Grain products often make up the majority of people's diets.  As such, things like corn, rice, oats, potatoes, and breads have become known as food "staples."  Whole and less processed varieties have no sodium.  For instance, rolled oats that you have to actually cook has 0 mg of sodium:



whereas instant oatmeal has significant sodium content:


The same is true for breads and cereals.  Processing foods for long shelf lives requires the use of many sodium based preservatives.


Meat, Fish, & Shellfish
All meats contain a certain amount of naturally occurring sodium.  The sodium content of the fresh meat itself (before adding any seasonings) is relatively low, with the exception of shellfish.  The San Francisco Chronicle has a great write-up on the naturally occurring sodium content of meats: 


If one eats a high protein diet with a lot of meat consumption, learning to appreciate the flavor of meats cooked without a lot of added sodium is key to maintaining a healthy sodium intake level.

Dairy & Eggs
Dairy products in general contain a relatively high amount of sodium per serving.  Dairy products that have been processed to remove some or all of the fat content (skim milk, low fat cheese, etc) typically have salt added to them to help offset the loss of flavor when removing the fat so, from a sodium intake perspective, these are actually worse for you than the full-fat varieties.  Full-fat whole milk contains ~100mg sodium per 8 oz serving, whereas skim milk contains ~120mg sodium per serving.  Greek yogurt contains 50-70mg sodium per serving, whereas regular yogurt contains 90-120mg sodium per serving.

Cheese, in particular, has a high sodium content by design since the entire art of cheesemaking emerged as a way to preserve the milk product for long time periods.  There are lower sodium varieties of cheeses (called "fresh" cheeses) but these don't have the same texture as regular cheese and take some getting used to when cooking with them.  I've used fresh mozzarella when making low sodium lasagna.  There are also lower sodium versions of Ricotta and Cottage cheeses (both fresh cheeses).

Eggs also contain sodium...~70 mg for 1 whole large egg and ~55mg for just the whites.

Processed Foods
I addressed these in my email posted in my last blog entry:

"The key is letting go of convenient, pre-packaged foods.  Even though a given pre-packaged food product may not be "salty" it still probably has a high sodium content due to additives & preservatives like sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sodium bisulfate, disodium EDTA, sodium benzoate, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, sodium gluconate, pantothenic acid (sodium pantothenate), pectin (sodium pectinate), sodium tartrate, and the list goes on.  Read your food labels...these things are often present, sometimes in abundance, in most all pre-packaged foods."

One must be wary of anything sold in a box, bag, or can in a modern grocery store.  Items, such as condiments, that have long shelf lives are typically chock full of sodium and other preservatives that make them dangerous to consume on a heart healthy diet.

Alternatives

As mentioned above, food processing was originally done to help lengthen the shelf life of foods for various reasons.  I've spent a lot of time over the past decade looking for low- or no-sodium varieties of processed foods and list some of the items I've found to taste good and are a very welcome part of my low-sodium diet.  The website http://healthyheartmarket.com is a wonderful resource for finding low- and no-sodium versions of the things we love (such as condiments) that are typically high in sodium.  Below is a list of my favorite low- & no-sodium processed foods:

Obviously, making the majority of your diet composed of fresh, unprocessed foods is the best way to help control your blood pressure, but by shopping smart, you can also incorporate some processed foods at a very reasonable hit to your sodium intake.  If this will be your first foray into eating a lower sodium diet, you will have to give your palate time to adjust as salt is a natural flavor enhancer so eating foods without much added sodium will make things taste bland at first.  After getting your blood pressure to normal levels naturally though will more than offset the flavor you miss in the beginning.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Pressure

For those that don't know, I have hypertension.  That's right...high blood pressure.  I don't take medication however.  Instead, I figured out, through trial & error, that I am sodium sensitive and so I control my hypertension through lifestyle choices.  You read that right...I am hypertensive and avoid taking medication through healthy lifestyle choices.  What are those?  Of course I'll illuminate.

I learned years ago, that I am sodium sensitive, meaning my body tolerates far less sodium than normal individuals.  Many folks can consume the recommended 2300 mg of sodium daily (or more) and have no ill effects, whereas sodium sensitive individuals will often have hypertension at these sodium levels and benefit greatly from consuming a sodium restricted diet (less than 1500 mg per day).  This is almost impossible to do when eating a typical Western diet of pre-packaged and prepared foods.

Back in late 2010, I wrote a rather lengthy email (below in full) detailing the background of my hypertension, what I had learned about the process behind hypertension, and the lifestyle choices I made to control it.  This email was directed to African-American members of my circle (friends & family) but the advice is pertinent to anyone with hypertension.

It is now 6 years later and I'm happy to say I'm still living the low-sodium lifestyle and my blood pressure is fine...125/80 this morning.  Of course, I'm an avid exerciser, and that helps keep my blood pressure in check for sure.  I would attribute 90% of it though to diet.  In my next entry will publish a list of low- and lower-sodium foods that I've found over the years that I love to consume.  For now, I hope you get something from the email that I wrote.

-Will


Begin email dated 12/21/2010
This email began as an update for my family, but I realized the information was pertinent to African-Americans in general, so I've decided to broaden the distribution to include black folks I know (or have known) that might benefit from the information.  Some folks I've been in touch with recently, others haven't heard from me in years.  I hope you're open to receive some of my story.

As you know (or maybe you didn't), I've lost a tremondous amount of body fat over the past 8 or so years, going from a very unhealthy high weight of ~330 lbs and ~30% body fat at 29 years old down to my current weight of 225 lbs and ~11% body fat at 37 years old.  I did this the old fashioned way...by altering my exercise & eating habits to support a healthy lifestyle.  Over the years, I was always plagued by elevated blood pressure.  Since I was 23 years old until this year, my blood pressure has constantly been in the range of 140/90.  As a young, obese man, the doctors constantly preached losing weight (and at the time, stopping smoking).  I stopped smoking, became a strength athlete, and changed my body composition to that of a much leaner individual.  This year, my doctor said my blood pressure was now of concern since I've controlled all aspects of my health (my blood sugar & cholesterol are all within the normal-excellent range and my ticker is stronger than most) and that was the only thing out of whack.  She put me on a low dose of HCTZ this summer to bring my blood pressure into normal range.  These pills worked.  My blood pressure went down to 125/85, which is a little above normal, but still acceptable and a great improvement over 140/90.  The diuretics didn't really change the way I felt in any way, I just didn't like the idea of being on prescription medication.  I began researching what these diuretics were actually trying to accomplish & I found that they were trying to artificially lower the sodium in your blood by acting on the kidneys to reduce sodium reabsorption...i.e., shunting excess sodium into your urine instead of back into your bloodstream.  Excess sodium in the bloodstream causes your blood cells to retain more water, increasing the overall volume of blood in your body.  Your heart, veins, & arteries have a finite capacity, so this extra volume leads to an increase in the pressure exerted on the walls of these organs, which leads to all the horrifying effects of hypertension...stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, arterial aneurysm, and chronic kidney failure.  Once I understood the mechanism, I asked the doctor if trying a reduced sodium diet along with the pills would hurt me.  She said no and I began my latest experiment in November...the low sodium diet.  The results were shocking.  While on the last few pills of my previous prescription I eliminated all added sodium from my diet for a week (no packaged foods, no sausage, no adding salt to anything...just eating lean cuts of meat, fruits, vegetables, & products with very low or no sodium in them) and my blood pressure plummeted to about 110/65.  I was amazed.  I discovered on my own that I'm sodium sensitive.  Whereas individuals with normal sodium tolerance can ingest anywhere from 2000-4000 mg of sodium per day and have normal blood pressure, I find I have to keep my sodium intake < 1200 mg per day.  Apparently, this is very prevalent among African Americans.  This article is very informative and you should read it and pass it along to anyone you think might benefit - http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/407741.

This just goes to the heart of my developing feelings towards western medicine.  They are too happy to hop us up on pills to keep us consuming all the products that are developed by this ridiculous food system.  When I saw what dropping my sodium content did to my blood pressure, I immediately stopped taking the blood pressure medication.  I was afraid to begin adding sodium back to my diet at all, but have started experimenting with sodium levels to find a balance between taste/satisfaction with my food and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.  I pretty much only consume whole foods now.  Most prepared foods, I prepare myself with all my recipes adjusted to accomodate my sodium intake requirements.  I make bread every other week (that way I can control the amount of sodium that goes into my bread), I cook meals for the week every Sunday, and the rest of my daily diet consists of milk, eggs, whole oats, fresh fruits & vegetables.  I consume very few pre-packaged things...I buy cereal (granola type with as low of sodium as I can find), unsalted butter, and unsalted peanut butter.  My blood pressure now regularly sits at around 120/70.  The key is letting go of convenient, pre-packaged foods.  Even though a given pre-packaged food product may not be "salty" it still probably has a high sodium content due to additives & preservatives like sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sodium bisulfate, disodium EDTA, sodium benzoate, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, sodium gluconate, pantothenic acid (sodium pantothenate), pectin (sodium pectinate), sodium tartrate, and the list goes on.  Read your food labels...these things are often present, sometimes in abundance, in most all pre-packaged foods.  Even though these additives may be in small quantities, they incrementally add to our daily sodium intake, and for African-Americans this has resulted in one of the highest blood pressure rates for any population (Asians have higher than average blood pressure rates as well due to the amount of sodium found in things like MSG).

For my family members on this distribution, I know high blood pressure is in our family...there's a strong genetic component.  I'm evidence of this due to my bi-racial heritage.  High blood pressure is pretty much unheard of in my mother's family...they have other problems...cancer, cholesterol, & what not...but blood pressure...not an issue there.  This sensitivity of mine comes directly from the African-American side of my genetics, so I'm urging you all now to take a good look at what you're consuming.  Have your blood pressure checked regularly if you aren't already.  I bought a blood pressure machine for my home (you can get them at Target or Walmart & they aren't expensive) that way I can monitor regularly and conveniently.  Men - if your upper arm is greater than 13" in circumference, which it probably is (mine is 17") you'll need to get a cuff for larger arms.

If you have high/elevated blood pressure, changing your diet is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways for you to treat it.  I know it's hard because we all like to eat what we like to eat, but adjusting your taste buds as a matter of health & longevity should not be a hard decision to make.  We also need to be passing on this knowledge & these habits to our African-American children as we have passed on our genetics to them.  To get started, I suggest doing what I did...eliminate all added sodium for a short period of time.  Measure your blood pressure before and after the experiment.  I would be very surprised if you didn't see a drastic drop in your blood pressure.  After that, begin adjusting your diet to suit your tastes & blood pressure needs.  Constant monitoring is necessary so you can judge the amount of sodium you need to maintain healthy blood pressure.  There's tons of info on the web regarding low- & no-sodium diets.  The DASH diet is recommended for sodium sensitive individuals, & I guess I'm on my own version of it.  I tried a salt substitute & found that it made everything taste bitter so I chucked it and just decreased the sodium content without trying to mask the lack of sodium with something else.  There are definitely food no-no's that you should eliminate, severely limit your intake of, or try to find an unsalted version of.  Off the top of my head, I can think of:

-Any processed meat product (sausage, lunch meat, spam, etc.) - this stuff has so much sodium, I bet you'd see a noticeable drop in blood pressure just by dropping them from your diet.  I love breakfast sausage, so this one has been hard for me.
-Pickles & olives
-Most condiments - salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, bbq sauce, worcestershire sauce, steak sauce...basically any sauce, gravy, or dressing that you didn't make your self.

This has been very difficult for me even though, since losing the weight, I've always cooked 90% of my food.  Now, I cook 99% of my food and I add very little salt to anything.  In order to lose weight, I began measuring food components (fat, carbohydrates, protein, & calories).  Now I have to measure sodium & potassium as well.  Websites like http://www.calorieking.com/ are great resources in that you can get all of the food nutrition information for foods that don't have labels (i.e. your fresh fruits, veggies, & meats).  You'll be surprised by the amount of sodium that naturally occurs in foods.  Right now, a typical day's eating for me looks like:

7:00 a.m. - 3 whole eggs (scrambled with non-stick cooking spray), 1/2 cup of whole oats cooked with 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter & 2 tbsp sugar added
10:00 a.m. - salad (one leaf romaine lettuce, 5-10 leaves of spinach, 1 roma tomato, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 tsp olive oil, liberal amount of vinegar), fruit (this week it's a sliced mango)
1:00 p.m. - one serving of whatever I cooked on Sunday...this week it's pot roast with carrots & red potatoes...no salt was used in the cooking of the roast
4:00 p.m. - two pieces of fruit (this week it's a tangerine & a banana)
7:00 p.m. - peanut butter & jelly sandwich (two slices of homemade whole wheat bread, 1 tbsp unsalted peanut butter, 1 tbsp all natural strawberry preserves)
8:00 p.m. - 1-2 bowls granola type cereal (depending on how hungry I am after working out).

According to my rough calculations, this is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2300 calories with a daily sodium intake of around 1000 mg.  Obviously, this diet works for me with my needs as a strength athlete who's 6'4".  You would have to determine your own caloric needs based on your height & weight goals, but aiming for 1000-1500 mg of sodium per day is pretty solid advice.

Anyways, sorry for the lengthy email, but I wanted to share some important information & findings with you.  I hope you find this inspiring and helpful.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone you think would benefit from reading it and let me know if there's anything I can help you with.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Resurgence

It has been over 2 years since my last entry.  Life has a funny way of engulfing you in unforseen activities that derail any plans you may have made.  Having made another cross-country move, adjusting to new positions at work, settling into married life for the third time, adjusting to the news that I'll soon be a father again (ironically for the third time), then preparing for that new adventure, all within the span of 14 months has left me with little time for my own pursuits.  Through all of this madness, some nuggets of learning and wisdom have surfaced that I was not expecting.

1) I've had noticeable changes to my recovery ability as I'm entering my mid-forties
This could be due to age but I suspect another culprit is cumulated effects of working a sedentary job for the last 14+ years.  I've always had problems with my right knee, especially during low barometric pressure weather episodes, but now I find my right hip, ankle, and shoulder are consistently tight and overly sore after workouts.  I spend a lot more time doing warmup activities before working out and have dedicated more time every week to stretching and soft tissue work.  Chiropractic, while a staple component of my recovery routine during my competitive years, has fallen to the wayside for the past 4-5 years.  Now that I'm back in north Texas, I've scheduled my first appointment back with my old chiropractor to help get my joints re-aligned.  I've learned that regular chiropractic care is essential for those of us that work desk jobs.

2) I've learned that I respond well to an overload of exercise on a weekly basis, however that exercise should be balanced
Having gone through years of concentrated strength and strength endurance training to compete in Powerlifting, Strongman, and Olympic-style Weightlifting, my natural inclination is to train hard and heavy with weights.  Having neither the drive, the desire, the time, nor the recovery I did 10 years ago has left me a sore bag of bones at various times within the last year or so.  Training in this style (low rep, heavy weights combined with HIIT style cardio throughout most of the year) requires a certain level of time investment that I simply do not wish to carve out any longer.  I've learned that a good mix of strength training geared towards hypertrophy for my upper body and flexibility/mobility for my lower body a couple of days per week balanced with 2-4 days of strategically organized HIIT and medium endurance cardio work best for me at this age.

3) Exercise selection is highly dependent on environment
This one has only become apparent to me this past year.  Living in SoCal offered me so many awesome opportunities to exercise outside (cycling, hiking, running the Santa Monica Stairs or the stairs at Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach) that I'd let my weight training reduce to 2 days per week of mainly O-lifts and I was able to stay lean through all of the other activities.  That doesn't work here in DFW b/c, although there's a pretty large cycling culture here, I just don't enjoy getting outside in this environment very much to exercise (heat, allergies, bugs, etc).  Hence, I've picked up 10 lbs of unwanted flab that I struggle mightily to get rid of.  I've been my leanest in Texas when I have a membership at a gym with a lap pool and I can swim 2-4 days per week to complement my strength training.

4) Diet is even more of a 4-letter word in your forties
I've probably most acutely felt the effects of age-related metabolic decrease when it comes to my diet.  I still track my food and honestly, my diet hasn't changed much at all in the last decade yet I hold on to ~10 extra pounds of body fat compared to in my thirties.  In a nutshell, this is metabolism.  I don't do the same amount of high-intensity exercise that I did back then but I'm eating roughly the same amount of calories.  This coupled with the natural decrease in metabolic rate that comes with aging are the culprits.  I am stubborn and loathe to decrease my caloric intake by 100-300 calories per day so I tend to seek to make this up with exercise.

These are four of the key things I've learned in the last couple of years.  The purpose of this blog was initially to chronicle a long journey from fatness to fitness.  Now, I believe the purpose is aptly morphing into the long journey through the life of fitness.

More to come...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Next chapter

Wow, what a year it's been.  Since my last post (6/16/2012) I trained up my shot put to 50 feet, gained 15 lbs (mostly, but not all, muscle), moved back to California, watched my son graduate high school, started cycling & lost the 15 lbs I gained, and turned 40.  Whew.  Through all of this I let blogging go but I've stuck by my basic principles of eating healthy and exercising regularly.  Turning 40 has given me perspective on a few things.  First of all, we are only as old as we feel...and we feel as good as we are active...period.  Getting up and moving in some purposeful fashion every day for the past decade is paying huge dividends now.  Aside from the occasional ache, I feel as good or better than I did throughout my thirties.  When I look around at my peers I am amazed at how badly the human body can be affected by disuse and a shitty diet.

So, kicking off this next chapter of my life, I've decided that my competing days in strength sports are behind me.  I had a good run (multiple Powerlifting & Strongman championships plus one year competing in Olympic style weightlifting) and I achieved more than I'd ever expected.  My best lifts in the individual powerlifts are a 485 lb squat, 330 lb bench press, and a 601 lb deadlift (got 617 lbs to the knee but couldn't lock it out)...all at body weights ranging from 275 - 308 lbs.  Some of my Strongman accomplishments include pulling a 23,000 lb truck 75 feet, flipping a 700 lb tire 13 times, deadlifting a Toyota Corolla for 15 reps (with a woman in the trunk), and carrying a 275 lb Husafel Stone 300 feet...all as a light weight (body weight < 231.5 lbs).  I was never very competitive in Olympic lifting but have enjoyed learning and training the lifts...the snatch and the clean & jerk (they are still staples in my workout routines).  My best competition lifts are 75 kg (165 lbs) in the snatch and 110 kg (242 lbs) in the clean & jerk...all in the 105 kg (231.5 lbs) weight class.  Yes, I've had a good run.

My decision to leave competitive strength sports is primarily due to age.  The rigors of strength athletics take a huge toll on your body & mind over time and the risk-to-reward ratio becomes higher as you age...i.e. higher risk (the body's ability to recover diminishes with age) & lower reward (as a natural athlete your strength curve inevitably begins to flatten out & eventually plateau...nobody has unlimited strength potential).  I picked up shot putting since it felt like a natural extension of my strength athletic training (and it is) however, there isn't a large community of throwers (at least not in the areas I've lived) and after a year I sort of lost interest.  I still throw from time to time but just for fun.

This leads me to my newest venture...cycling.  I've always been impressed with cyclists and the sport in general.  I got a vintage road bike from a co-worker of mine in Dallas in 2011 and rode a bit from time to time but nothing seriously.  After moving back to LA, I became interested in taking my cycling to the next level so I looked for a group to ride with.  I researched Major Taylor cycling clubs in the area and found Major Motion (I'll write more about Major Taylor in another post).  This group changed my life.  After a couple of weeks riding with them I got more serious about cycling and bought a new bike.  I dropped 15 lbs of body fat & have improved immensely over the 2 months that I've been riding seriously.  I'm interested in entering a criterium race next year so will be training with the racers in Major Motion this winter.

Life is good.  I've got health, my kids are doing okay, & I'm fortunate to be able to continue my quest to stay healthy & fit.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My new venture

Greetings Fam,

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything.  Life has had me in its jet wash for a minute and I've been stressed out about it all.  For those that know me well, you know how I deal with stress in life...delve into something and try to improve myself.  This little character trait has served me well over the years.  I completed my master's degree and entered into the competitive ranks of three strength sports (powerlifting, Strongman, and Olympic-style weightlifting) pretty much all because I had stress in my life and didn't know how to deal with it.  Improving myself is my alcohol...lol.

So, my new venture is training the shot put.  I have no background, whatsoever, in track or field events, but through training the Olympic lifts (the snatch and clean & jerk), I've become interested in focusing my power on something outside of weightlifting.  I've been a fan of throwing sports since I was a kid.  I recall seeing an 8 lb shot sitting in the gym at my junior high (I was in 7th grade) and thinking how cool it would be to try to throw (put) it.  Being the shy, nerdy, overweight pre-teen that I was then, I shied away from the thought and busied my mind on other, more academic, pursuits.  Over the years, I've never lost that fascination.  I'm an avid track & field fan and during the summer olympics, when most people are drooling over who's the fastest man/woman, I'm always curious who's putting the shot or throwing the javelin or discus the farthest.

Anyways, I found a throwing coach in the area and had my first lesson today.  This was hard but exhilarating.  The 16 lb shot didn't feel heavy to me (guess all my strength training has paid off...lol) but putting it efficiently is a beast.  Today we mainly worked on the basics...the power position, turning my foot & hips appropriately, and following through.  My main take-away from today's session...it's not strength, it's technique.  Check out the vid of one of my throws.

video


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Official!

After years of giving free advice and helping people achieve their fitness goals, I decided to take this to the next level.  I passed my first certification exam on Monday.  I am now a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dietary advice series...part 2

So, here's part 2 of my dietary advice series...in The Zone!

2)  A calorie is not a calorie…at least not all of the time.  On a certain level, yes, a calorie is a calorie however, when trying to devise a balanced, healthy meal plan, the differences between carbohydrates, proteins, & fats become important.  For one thing, the three macronutrients have different caloric densities (carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram whereas fats have 9 calories per gram).  This difference makes balancing the number of calories you intake with feeling satisfied with the foods you eat a tricky thing to do.  I’ve tried many diets over the years and I’ve only come to one resounding conclusion…my performance is best and I feel the best on a split that’s about 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrate.  Try to take in less refined carbs (think more brown rice, oats, & sweet potatoes instead of potato chips, sugar, white bread, or white rice) and make sure your fat sources are healthier fats (think more olive oil, coconut oil, & avocados instead of fried pork chops).  I've used this split over the years & have found it to be a great thing.  It's plenty of carbs for energy so you don't feel lethargic & the amount of fat & protein keeps you feeling satisfied (no late night bingeing...lol).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dietary advice series...part 1

Greetings true believers.  I began poking around in some of my writings & found some nuggets worth putting out for the masses to consume.  This series will be some of my thoughts on diet in general, with the primary focus on losing body fat (or at least not gaining any).  The key to losing body fat or maintaining a low body fat level is calories.  To a very large extent, our body weight is the result of a sometimes complex energy equation.  There is no explicit formula for this equation but I’ve devised some general rules of thumb.
 
1)  It is a zero-sum game.  In other words, calories in – calories out = 0.  Absolutely.  It always does and always will.  The fuzzy part is determining the calories you consume (in) and the calories you burn (out) to any degree of accuracy.  Regarding calories in, there’s nutrition information everywhere (labels on all packaged foods, & there are websites like www.calorieking.com for everything else) that should make building a database of your regularly consumed foods fairly easy.  Seeking to determine your calories in accurately implies the necessity of measuring your foods.  Measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a food scale will become necessary tools to do this.  Over time, you’ll develop the ability to measure out your foods without all the tools based on experience, but until that day comes, use the tools.
     Regarding calories out, this can be harder to determine.  There are devices like Bodybugg that claim to be able to calculate your calories burned with up to 90% accuracy.  I’m not a fan of this technology b/c of the metabolic variation between individuals.  Height, weight, sweat rate, & body temperature aren’t the only factors that determine how many calories a person burns in a given time period.  The best way to determine your caloric expenditure is to instead determine your caloric needs to fall within one of three zones…losing weight, maintaining weight, and gaining weight.  Determining this involves trial & error as we all have a particular metabolic rate that’s dependent on so many factors, it would be impossible to predict.  What’s worked for me is to pick a starting number of calories that seems reasonable for someone of your stature and activity level (I started with 2000 calories per day.  I’m 6’4” with a desk job & I tend to gain weight easily) and eat precisely that many calories daily for two weeks.  If your weight goes down, you know you’re below your maintenance level.  If your weight goes up, you’re above maintenance, and if you’re weight stays the same, you’re within your maintenance range of calories.  I say maintenance range because there isn’t a particular number of calories that will make you gain weight that if you come in 1 calorie less then you’ll maintain.  Instead, I’ve found there to be a range of calories that allows you to maintain your bodyweight (for me it’s 2200-2400 calories per day).  Once your two weeks are up & you’ve determined which zone you’re in, your goals then come in to play.  If you are trying to gain weight & you maintained, you need to increase your calories until you start to gain weight.  If you are trying to lose weight and you maintained, you need to decrease your calories until you start to lose weight.  All of this is predicated on the assumption that you are on a sound strength & conditioning program.  These baseline calories need to revisited periodically as changes in body composition , age, and activity level create different caloric needs over time.

So that's part 1. Start to track your calories & get ahold of that waistline!

More to come...

PW

Monday, March 5, 2012

Transformation of Patient-Zero

Greetings fam.  As you all have read in previous blog entries, I've been training a co-worker & friend of mine named Dave.  You've seen him in various videos I've posted doing dips & running around with some of my training implements.  When I met Dave last summer he was around 360 lbs (10 or so lbs down from his heaviest weight of 373 lbs in April 2011).  At the time I was doing my normal thing eating and working out to maintain my body fat levels and he'd entered into a friendly weight loss competition with some co-workers of ours.  He didn't win the competition but he got his weight down to 353 lbs by the end of July.  Through all of this, our co-workers told him he might want to get with me on fat loss since I'd lost a significant amount of body fat over the past 8 years.  We talked & I told him to just start coming to the gym with me.  He did & took every bit of advice I had to give & executed my program perfectly.  Now I've given many, many people advice over the years about fat loss and gaining muscle, but nobody...not one...has followed it as closely or determinedly as Dave...and it shows.  Here are some before & after pics of Dave.  The "current" pics are as of 2/27/2012.  He's actually 4 lbs lighter today...233...that's 140 lbs down from his highest weight and 120 lbs down (353 to 233) in 7 months!



Since it took me 8 years of experimenting and learning how to transform myself from an obese, unhealthy person to a lean, fit, active person I call myself Project-X...and I call Dave Patient-0 since he's the first to execute The Program completely and successfully.

I'm very proud of him, his effort, and his determination.  The world should prepare to see much more of Project-X & Patient-0.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Periodization

     So, Dave & I just wrapped up week 5 of an 8 week hypertrophy mesocycle last week.  Man, what a week!  Due to schedule difficulties, we ended up working out 4 days straight...Tuesday - Friday.  I was beat down by Friday night, but I definitely feel like my body is adapting well to hypertrophy training.  I've been able to increase my intensity every week (either getting more reps with the previous weight or upping the weight for the prescribed reps).  Dave & I are also both showing the outward signs of hypertrophy training...fuller, rounder muscles in various body parts.

     This leads me to the topic of this blog entry...the importance of periodization.  Periodization comes from the athletic world and is broadly defined as a program design strategy used to promote long-term training and performance improvements.  The overall program should include preplanned, systematic variations in training focus, intensity, and volume organized in cycles or periods.  Periodization, while typically used to train athletes for competition in their specific sports, is also effective for helping people increase their general fitness level.

     The foundation of any program I prescribe is strength because increasing strength and its expression [either through increased power (speed strength) or increased hypertrophy (strength endurance] form the foundation of achieving increased fitness (conditioning).  I've also found the body has a tendency to plateau after 6-8 weeks on a given training program.  Plateauing can have varying symptoms from mild (inability to increase the intensity of your workouts...sets, reps, or weights) to more severe (chronic fatigue and/or soreness, general malaise).  Although periodization schemes for athletes are as varied as the athletes themselves and the sports they participate in, for the person seeking to increase their fitness I recommend a basic periodization scheme.

The following diagram is a guideline for your periodization efforts:



 
The legs of the triangle represent foundations of strength & conditioning...strength, speed, & engurance...while the corners represent expressions of adjacent legs...strength with speed is expressed through power, strength with endurance is expressed through hypertrophy, and speed with endurance is expressed through conditioning.  They are all interconnected however, from bottom to top...Strength & Conditioning.  There isn't a blanket periodization program that will work for all purposes.  If you'd like more info or help periodizing your training, contact your nearest strength & conditioning specialist ;-)