Sin City

Greetings all! This week’s post is drawing its title from the nickname of my recent vacation spot – Las Vegas. ¬†It dawned on me while I was living it up in the desert oasis that the name Sin City would be a perfect title for a piece on indulgences and the five letter word that has become the deadliest sin in the nutritional game, carbs.

So without further adieu or any of that jazz here is the first edition of Body Fuel.

Body Fuel 1

In my last blog post I talked about the cursed underachieving and tucked away in the words of that rant I alluded to nutritional breakdown percentages with a slice of the pie being focused on carbs. Well in this article I am going to attempt to delve into that pie and to draw a correlation between the consumption of carbs and indulgences.

To begin with carbs have received a ton of bad press over the past few years. Repeatedly throughout the advice columns and such the recommendation keeps turning to cut carbs, cut carbs, cut carbs. All this advice and all its negative glory has done nothing more than label carbs as a bad, bad thing – sin no less. Body conscious adults attempting to get into a better shape read these headlines and typically translate that into “I must cut all carbs, they will make me fat.”

Is there truth to that statement? Well yes and no.

Carbs, short for carbohydrates, are actually a good thing. They are the core fuel substance to keep your body going, the nutritional component that ignites the pilot light in the nuclear reactor that is the human body. But can there be too much of a good thing? Absolutely.

A diet conscious adult should always consult with a nutritionist if they are unsure of their daily intake needs but let’s just look at some examples. First and foremost the FDA will recommend a balanced diet that includes 300g of carbs per day. Secondly most fitness gurus will pretty much calculate the same number (see things like My Fitness Pal as an example), especially for those of us that are regularly exercising.

So does a diet plan that includes 300g of carbs mean I can indulge on any carb out there? Absolutely….. not.

While carbs are beneficial to get the body going and are a recommended must before and after a workout to provide the body the fuel it needs to expend energy and to build/tone muscle while maintaining a steady fat loss program there are bad carbs out there. Like I mentioned before there are tons of articles out there that recommend cutting carbs and hidden in the paragraphs that people like to skim over are words of caution against the bad carbs – it’s just that most people don’t like to read that. So what is a bad carb?

Unlike the Cheez-It commercials where they age their cheese until it’s mature a carb does not go through that maturation cycle. It is either a good carb or a bad carb and then there is the grey area where good carbs can turn bad, but we will get to that in a bit. First, what defines a good carb? A good carb is in a nutshell a natural carb, something that hasn’t been processed to the hilt and resembles more of something found in nature versus on a chemist’s workbench. Examples would be brown rice, brown sugar, sweet potatoes, natural fruits, and whole grain products like wheat breads and pastas. Notice a trend? There are few things on this list that are processed and even fewer that are “white”. By white I mean white sugar, white rice, white pasta (regular pasta). These foods along with processed junk food are labeled as bad carbs because of their altered states. These are the carbs that your body has a tougher time breaking down and can be more easily stored as fats.

Managing good versus bad carbs comes down to basic food selection. Food’s first purpose is to provide fuel to the body to keep it going, so depriving a body of essential components of that fuel will make the body weak and will ultimately cause the body to feed on itself. Once again when the body feeds on itself it feeds on muscle first rather than fat and we all know that is not a good thing. Now I won’t say that food selection is always easy since the altered processed food typically is more appealing and often can have a better taste but when given the choice choose whole grain over white breads and pastas, choose fruits over chips, choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes. Those simple selections can help deliver a better carb ratio to the body.

So when do good carbs go bad? And lumped into this when does a zero carb offering go bad? First off good carbs go bad when carbs are overloaded in the system for the day. When more than the daily recommended amount of carbs enters the body the body will not be able to process them and ultimately will store them as fat for future use only the body forgets about them and they stay as fat because what happens the next day – lo and behold we eat more. For me there are three times a day when I find carbs the best to indulge on. The first is breakfast and while I don’t recommend to get the large stack of pancakes at IHOP I do recommend getting a bowl of steel-cut or natural oatmeal (not instant) with some brown sugar to help kickstart the body for the day. After that I would recommend about thirty minutes before a workout. This is crucial so that the body has the energy it needs to power through a breakdown of the body. Lastly I would recommend a nice helping of carbs to round out the 300g at dinner time. This ingestion of carbs will help the body begin to recover from the long hard day it has just witnessed. Of course the worst time for carbs, in my opinion, is right before bed. When we are rest we do not need a high amount of energy fuel so consumption at this time will cause the carbs to be stored when they don’t need to be.

When else can good carbs go bad? If one thinks about it it’s actually pretty simple. Think about all the good carbs we can ingest through whole grains and then picture them fried or topped with heavy cream sauces. These things will instantly transform the good carb into a bad carb because of the high amounts of fats that go along with these processes. Pretty simple huh? It all comes down to smart food choices.

So how about that zero carb thing? Well be very, very careful out in those waters. Zero or low carb items usually comes with some sort of processed offering like aspartame. While the thought of a nice diet soda with no calories and no carbs seems like an ideal dieting tool it is actually anything but. Recent research has shown that diet sodas are often worse for a person than a real soda using natural sugars. Why is this? When a diet soda is crafted the natural sugars are replaced with a chemical that mimics the taste of soda (aspartame, splenda, etc.). This replacement is unnatural and worse than a bad carb cannot be broken down. These sweeteners cannot but used for fuel and will ultimately be stored as fat.

This brings me to the correlation of indulgences. Ever get that feeling during the day when you just have to have a soda or a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream? Sure you do, everyone does. In fact you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. Here’s the good news. It’s perfectly ok to indulge… every once in a while. Indulgences every day defeats the purpose of creating a balanced diet however it is ok to give the body what it wants from time to time. If you fail to give into the cravings all the time your body will eventually rebel and force you into pigging out on all the things that are not good for you. Seems strange that our bodies can do that but there are a lot of involuntary things our bodies can do. A lot of body builders and fitness gurus will recommend one day a week as your cheat day. On this day you can indulge on some of the cravings you have had all week and while it may wreck the diet for the day it will help not only keep your sanity but keep you on a good pace going forward. Remember weight loss is about burning the fuel your body takes in along with safe caloric reduction. As long as you are faithful the other six days of the week that seventh day will not hurt the progress you make. This of course does not mean on that day you go hog-wild and pig out on everything you see but rather pick one indulgence and give into it. If it’s ice cream, eat some. If it’s a bag of chips, grab some. If it’s a soda, drink a real one and leave the diet one on the shelf.

I wish that this is all there was to say on carbs but this is merely a highlight, an entry into the panel discussions surrounding these pesky but completely necessary little nutrients. There are volumes of texts and research out there. Like always the best weapon you can have in a diet program is knowledge and help from a licensed nutritionist. But suffice to say that there are good and bad carbs and that entry into Sin City is not always as evil as it may sound.

Underachieving

In this week’s blog post I am going to attempt to address one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a fitness goer – the dreaded reality of underachieving.

See when a newbie first starts their journey into the fitness world they more often than not meet the gym’s personal trainer staff for their “free” evaluation. Well just like everything else in life “free” doesn’t always equate to “absolutely free” and soon enough the person can find themselves wrapped up into a six week long engagement with a personal trainer. There are some problems here.

First and foremost the trainer the gyms like to push to newcomers are typically in great shape and as such draw the envy of out of shape signups. The new member wishes they were as in good of shape as their trainer and sadly the trainer does not usually do their job in setting realistic expectations. So what exactly is realistic? Unfortunately realism is different for every person but here are some things that are not real.

Everyone has seen the infomercials for the latest diet craze, miracle pill, or little gadgets that promise to get a person into great shape by allowing them to put in only 20 minutes a day and all for 19.95 (plus S+H). But wait there’s more. Anything you see in those commercials sadly is not real and will not work. They are all a pure waste of money. The one thing that you can take away is that the models they are using for the demonstrations are typically the same trainers that they parade out to you in the gym. And just like the infomercials these trainers sell half truths and bogus promises. I know, when I did personal training the gyms I worked for told me to do the same things. It was what they called working the client. I detested doing that to clients so my success as a trainer in a gym was pretty short lived from that aspect.

So what does the trainer typically say?

Pretty standard stuff actually. Promises of dropping 20-30lbs in six weeks. The easy workout plan in which all the ills of the human body can be solved with crunches and cardio. This of course is all wrong and is what leads me to my first Fitness Builder post.

Fitness Builder 1

Ever heard the saying “No pain, No gain”? It may be cliche but that statement holds so much water in the gym it isn’t even funny. In order to achieve the ideal you there are some basic elements that one must follow. The first is setting realistic expectations and goals. The key word there is realistic, notice how I keep coming back to that theme? When someone is first starting a fitness regimen the number one goal is typically to lose weight. It’s an admirable goal but one that is very tough to achieve. Losing weight is complex formula of nutrition, exercise, and a balanced diet – notice good food becomes the bookends to this story and the pages of that story are filled with hard and sweaty work.

Let’s take a typical example. A new fitness goer wants to lose thirty pounds for summer and it’s the start of the year. A realistic expectation is to lose 1-2lbs per week. This is the healthy standard accepted by most nutritionists. Now if you are doing the math and start figuring that with the high water mark of 2lbs per week losing 30lbs would take 15 weeks or roughly 4 months – plenty of time for summer right? Well that would be ideal and since we all know humans are not ideal creatures and our bodies have a mind of their own, the gym newbie should take into account that they will not be able rewire their bad eating and exercise habits overnight. Take in account that you probably have multiple years of bad habits and have reaped the adverse effects turning this around in a matter of days just will not happen. This means that the optimal 15 weeks for losing 30lbs will most likely not happen and that the dreaded plateaus will ultimately hinder the achievement of the overarching goal.

Sadly when the goal is not met the fitness seeker gives up but they really shouldn’t have. They probably just went about their goal all the wrong way. So where did they go wrong?

Well for starters the first common mistake that will lead to underachievement is not eating right. A fitness seeker should consult a nutritionist to find out the optimum daily caloric needs for their body and their goals. These needs are broken into categories such as maintenance levels (calories needed to maintain body weight), cutting (caloric deficit to lose weight), and bulking (caloric increase to gain weight). The common goal for all these is not to tip the scales with fat but to build lean muscle mass and to do so the right balance of macro-nutrient percentages needs to be calculated. But all that is for a different time and a different post. For this post suffice to say that it is imperative to get a proper balanced diet that does not starve one’s self. Starving one’s body to loose weight is the number 1 mistake in weight loss. Most people figure that if they eat next to nothing their body will lose weight and sometimes they are right but more often than not the weight loss is temporary and once the dam that is holding back the metabolic flood waters bursts the body will start packing on fat in self defense against starvation. The key to remember is that the body will not burn fat to feed itself to fend off starvation but rather it will feed off of muscle. Muscle loss in these cases will directly result into a loss of lean body mass so while a pant size may drop it wasn’t the fat that went with it.

The second biggest mistake is not working out hard enough. Over the years I have seen many people come into the gym and only walk on the treadmill for a half hour or so and then go home. Come on folks that is not nearly enough exertion to burn calories. The flip side of this is the people who come in for hours and do nothing but high intensity cardio. Once again not good enough.

Cardio is great to stretch and get the heart pumping but is poor vehicle for toning and weight loss. Overdoing cardio will cause the body to react badly and burn muscle instead of fat. For some strange reason our bodies love to hang onto fat but will feed on muscle in a heart beat. So how does one circumvent this trap? The answer lies in those heavy metallic objects strewn about the gym. Yes, that’s right. The weights. Resistance training is key for everyone. Resistance training provides the cardio but also forces the body to use muscle, to break muscle down, and then to rebuild it with the side benefit of being able to continue to burn calories post-workout as you wind down for the evening. The result is a leaner looking you.

While the concept of resistance training may seem ugly to some and cause some people to instantly conjure up pictures of Stallone or Arnold in their minds I am here to tell you that you will not, and I repeat will not, get that huge just by lifting weights alone. Bodybuilding comes in all shapes and sizes and bodybuilding of that type takes major dedication and usually some testosterone supplements. Rest assured ladies you will not develop man muscles by lifting weights; you would have to indulge on some man hormones to pull that off.

Bottom line to all this is lift some heavy objects repeatedly. Work with a good trainer and doctor to determine what kind of resistance training is best for you. In future posts I will look at some exercises and recommendations but like I said everyone is different and everyone needs some resistance training in their lives. Never fret about being embarrassed lifting. If you feel that you are doing it wrong ask for help, get guidance, study up some; form is more important than the total amount of weight lifted. Once you get underway with resistance training go back and re-evaluate your goals. Factor in plateaus and factor in the fact that as you swap fat with muscle your body weight may maintain but the inches will drop. Take a look in the mirror and smile when you see your lean body mass starting to reflect back to you.

A good resistance regimen is a journey and not a marathon so plan to be in it for the long haul. Don’t rush the journey as there are no shortcuts on this road but this road will provide the achievement we all look for when we gaze into the mirror. So step off the treadmill, pick up a dumbbell, and get on your way to realistic goals. It’s your body, isn’t it time for a leaner, better looking you?

Welcome to the Gym Rant Blog!

First and foremost let me say welcome to Gym Rant! This is my little area of the world in which I hope to provide some insight into the fitness life. I will strive to fit this edition and future editions into categories of training tips (Fitness Builder), nutrition (Body Fuel), supplements (Octane Boost), and last but not least some satire on gym life (Rat Rant). If the satire offends some many apologies in advance but satire being satire it’s just opinions and perceptions.

Before we continue on this journey I must place a disclaimer that anything written within this article and future articles should always be taken with a grain of salt. These are the writings of one gym enthusiast’s opinion and for anything that directly affects the reader’s health, nutrition, or training regime consultation with that person’s doctor is an absolute must. I cannot stress the importance of getting professional medical opinions before starting any training regime. Remember I am not telling you what to do nor am I intending to prescribe actual plans for anyone, rather I am here to offer some sage advice.

Now with that said just who am I? Well you can call me Jeff, Ken, Mike, Tom, Joe, John, or Richard – just don’t call me Dick. Truth is I am a former personal trainer that fell out of the gym faith for a couple of years and after the steady decline my body took from that time off I went back full force about four years ago – all due to no longer being able to fit into a roller coaster, amazing what little things will inspire you. While I decided to no longer pursue my small fleeting career as a trainer I cannot help but constantly notice how many lost souls there are out there in gyms across America, perhaps the world. And while I am the guy that any number of you will see working out steadfastly with my earbuds popped in I thought I would take the time to write down some of my thoughts on exercise and all things related to.

Before I get into the main body of this first post let me first say congratulations to all those that struck their New Year’s resolutions for better fitness and kept to them after the bitter six weeks of winter in which the strong pull of Valentine’s chocolates and treats pull so many away – especially when the promised results from that trainer you talked to on January 2nd didn’t exactly pan out. And for those long timers all I can say is keep the faith brothers and sisters.

So without further ado I am starting off this first edition with a satirical piece of observation.

Rat Rant 1

In the life of any gym dweller the ever present presence of what is commonly referred to as the douche bag can not help but be felt. This presence is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people stop going to gyms and while places like Planet Fitness have sprung up to help protect people and their ambitions of a better “me” from the douche bag I cannot help but think even they missed their mark. See the douche bag isn’t just a lunkhead like PF depicts them, after all someone who lifts heavy weights and grunts to get through the motion may actually be less judging than you can imagine. No the douche bag I speak of is the guy that comes to the gym like a social butterfly and stalks other fellow fitness freaks.

This guy will rarely perform an exercise but will claim a single bench for his entire two hour epic journey in gum flapping. He will horde the water fountain in his unending need to quench the thirst of the person who rambles constantly. On the surface one would think this is one popular dude but think again. Look at the people’s eyes as he stalks them around the gym – they are trying to get away from him! From the moment he comes sauntering in twirling keys around his finger like he’s the Clint Eastwood of the weightlifting world to the point where his steroid induced high pitch voices starts squeaking out like Beaker from a Muppet movie the clan he stalks wishes they were anywhere but where they were. Their only reprieve comes in two stages.

Stage 1: the feigned workout. This gym rat will pick up a weight that is typically pretty light for the built stature that he carries and will then proceed to perform half reps of one set of ten. This takes oh about thirty seconds and from there he is off and running back to the water fountain only to follow that up with at least twenty more minutes of gum flapping before the next set is performed. Now reading this you may be slightly confused as I have remarked on the physical prowess of the said douche bag along with the assertion of steroid use. Let me just say I am pretty confident in that assertion since there is no exercise regiment I know of in which you can perform a half-hearted set followed by twenty to thirty minutes of gum flapping and end up cut. Pretty sure running the mouth is not like running on a treadmill and while I do not doubt some calories are burned from the social club aspect of it all I do doubt that there is any way on earth it’s enough to burn fat and build muscle.

Stage 2 is the ironic chasing of tail. Yep, that’s right the poor ladies of the gym cannot escape and if they are new to the environment and shapely this douche bag is all over them. In a similar fashion as his stalking of the guys he will sidle up to an unsuspecting female and prop a leg up on a bench near her. He is always wearing shorts and one can only suppose that he is like one of Phoebe’s boyfriends on Friends and his mouse is out of its house. The leg prop, unlike Phoebe’s boyfriend, is intentionally trying to draw attention. One watching this event transpire can actually see the female cringe like she needs to run and take a shower. Guys like this are about as slimy as used car salesman and women definitely don’t desire the attention, the sad pick up lines, or the ogling of their assets (no matter how tight the yoga pants may be). The typical lady will shoot this guy down in less than thirty seconds – same equivalent of another half hearted set. Perhaps the look up the guy’s shorts was enough to scare her off.

While Stages 1 and 2 are taking place the clan will have dispersed but they are not safe for the douche bag will track them down, one by one, day by day, or week by week. Once the douche bag has made “friends” with you that is it; you may just want to switch gyms for the guy is a like a leech and no matter how hard you try to put him down he will simply switch to an agreeable self deprecating tact that leaves you confounded.

So what’s the message in all this – it’s simple, don’t be a douche bag. Be friendly and courteous to your fellow neighbor but don’t stalk and if it’s social hour you’re looking for try the neighborhood bar.

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