“I’m Exercising…So Why Can’t I Lose Weight!?”

Written by: on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
woman running

You run, therefore you should be losing weight. Not true! There's much more to the weight-loss story than that.

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???

Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?

For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight-loss efforts.

woman standing on a scale

Even if you're an athlete, you cannot eat anything you want and expect to still lose weight.

MYTH You must exercise in order to lose body fat. 

TRUTH To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories. Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”

Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and—as a result—they saw no changes in body fatness. The bottom line: creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed? Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

woman running in race

Just because you're in training for a race doesn't mean you earned those chocolate chip cookies!

MYTH If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. 

TRUTH Wishful thinking. If you’re an endurance athlete who complains:“For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day, found another study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.

TRUTH Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56 to 78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62 percent less active the rest of their day, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

woman doing a lunge stretch

Four workouts a week with cardio, strength (and a bit of stretching) might be better for weight control than six workouts a week.

MYTH You should exercise six days a week to lose weight. 

TRUTH Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. Another study—published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

man and woman running together outdoors

Woman will always lose weight at a slower pace than guys...it's just the way we're built.

MYTH Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.

TRUTH Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss—and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise. In another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at New York’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line

If you’re exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

Copyright©Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

 

 

 

 

Cheating & Lying in America: Where has all our morality gone?

Written by: on Friday, January 18th, 2013
Lance Armstrong on a bike

Lance Armstong: the newest face of cheating in America

I remember the first, and only, time I ever cheated. I was in third grade—of a Catholic school, no less—and a friend in my class had put the idea in my head: “You can write the answers on your hand for the test. You don’t need to study.” I can’t remember what was going through my head then, but I tried it. And the nuns caught me (I got detention and a painful rapping across my knuckles with a ruler). I got spanked by my dad, too, and punished at home for who knows how long.

It was enough to make an impression on me that cheating was something I should never, ever do.

Now that my son is in the third grade, it’s something I talk to him about often: you never cheat, you never lie. You always tell the truth.

So it gets me thinking: why is our country rampant with lying scandals? There’s Lance Armstrong, who is now (finally!) admitting that he won his seven Tour de France medals thanks to one of the “most sophisticated doping programs ever” (despite his years and years of denials otherwise). What a huge disappointment. And there’s the Notre Dame tackler Manti Te’o, who has now allegedly made up the existence of a girlfriend, who died a horrific death (both are supposedly untrue, although how the lies got spread is still being investigated). The public feeling about both Lance and Manti: “He’s overcome so much to get this far.” (We do love a good overcome-at-all-odds success story in this country.) And then there’s Bernie Madoff and so many others—from athletes to other ponzi schemers—who cheat the system to get ahead, to collect riches, to garner fame.

The prize? The sprawling homes; the expensive, flashy watches; the boats; the parties; the flashy cars; and, of course, the fame and the (false) admiration of society that comes with being a huge “success”.

Think about it: Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be a household name today if he had come in 23rd in the Tour de France. He wouldn’t have become a celebrity of his own, dating stars like Sheryl Crow, becoming the poster boy of top brands, and gracing numerous magazine covers. He wouldn’t have started Livestrong (and some could argue, he wouldn’t have helped so many people with cancer). Our society celebrates the winningest (that is a word), not the losers.

And that focus is partly to blame for the eagerness by so many to get ahead at all costs.

But where’s our internal sense of morality? Have we completely lost it in modern America? Was there no one in these people’s lives to show them that cheating is just plain wrong? Is there no one in their lives now who can show them the “right” way? Or am I just being naïve—not getting the way things really work in this world. Maybe.

One psychologist, Nigel Barber, Ph.D., has said that “Cheating is a way of life.” Even Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying: “Money, not morality, is the commerce of civilized nations.”

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s our country—with its definition of success as wealth and so-called fame—that’s partly to blame. It’s also the media that pounces on a story of David overcoming Goliath (e.g. Lance overcoming cancer and then going on to win seven titles; Manti overcoming horrible personal circumstances to help Notre Dame become a winner; Bernie Madoff rising from a humble Queens upbringing to become a Wall Street “success”).

That, and there’s a disturbingly pervasive belief in our society that we’re entitled to grab what we want, now, no matter whether it’s right or wrong, good for the environment, good for our family, good for our health…the list goes on.

So, do we just throw up our hands and say that’s the way it is? I have a somewhat more optimistic opinion that we can change, but it has to begin at the beginning.

We must start with our children: we must teach them that grades (and sports trophies) aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. Parents push their children to have top grades and win top honors: I can understand this. We want our children to do well, to succeed, to have the right opportunities in life. But this puts inordinate pressure on our children to get ahead at all costs. No wonder we hear about cheating scandals in schools: these schools are a microcosm of our society. That’s where it all starts.

But take away the pressure to achieve—and getting ahead at all costs becomes less important. Teach our children to love what they’re doing and to do their best, even if that best doesn’t bring top honors or awards.

Above all, though, we must teach them to hold sacred a sense of morals, a belief that—at the end of day—how we live our lives, how we treat other people and the world we live in, is what really matters. We need to get back to an internal sense of right and wrong. It’s pretty simple, actually. There aren’t a lot of grey areas when it comes to morality. As Mahatma Gandhi put it: “Morality is the basis of things, and truth is the substance of all morality.”

Bottom line: You can’t take fame, fortune, and riches with you when you’re gone (we’ve heard that so many times), so what good is spending your entire life working toward something that may make you feel good temporarily, but is an empty, hollow pursuit? Now that’s a question I’d like Oprah to ask Lance in her interview.

“How I conquer the #1 exercise excuse”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Friday, March 16th, 2012

I have many excuses. The most common one: I can’t get to a gym. The hours are limited (true), I work too much (true), no child care (true), I have stuff at home to work out (true), it’s too far to drive (true), I don’t have time (true), I have no one to go with (often true).  So all those things are true but it is still an excuse.

Success is working around the stuff that’s holding you back, even if those things are valid.

Melissa Juliano Workout Room: Valerielatona.com

My inexpensive home gym!

This is a picture of my favorite room in my house: my yoga-plus studio. And my faithful workout partner: Pumba. I pop in a video of Rodney Yee and get transported to a stress-free yoga zone.  I love my basket for holding my yoga mats. It says “Namaste” and makes me happy. The decorations on the walls from my girls also make me happy. My daughters often do yoga with me and that make me very happy.

Lately, I have branched out to weight work. I know I don’t need any big equipment or space to give myself a great workout. Over the years I have employed a personal trainer at least 4 different times. I know what to do.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, I get free shipping even on heavy stuff! I have gradually acquired the large ball, an 8-lb medicine ball, a 10-lb cast iron kettle bell (much better than sand filled), and a pair of 5-lb hand weights.  I have a 15-lb weighted bar being shipped soon.

This was my workout today (I’ve attached videos to almost all if you’re interested in doing them yourself and need some how-to’s):

  1. Wall push-ups (working my way up to real push-ups)
  2. Chest press on the ball (with medicine ball)
  3. Chest flies on the ball (with hand weights)
  4. Squat thrusts
  5. Front-loaded squats (with kettle bell)
  6. High Knees (for a cardio burst)
  7. Vertical Balance Squats (with medicine ball)
  8. Front shoulder raise (with hand weights)
  9. Side shoulder raise (with hand weights)
  10. Bicep curl (with hand weights)
  11. Butt Kicks (for a cardio burst)
  12. Lunge holding hand weights, right and left
  13. Squats with hand weights at sides
  14. Hyperextension over ball
  15. Scissor kicks
  16. Triceps Overhead Extension (with medicine ball)
  17. Overhead triceps extension (sitting; I do it on the exercise ball)
  18. High Knees (cardio burst); see video above #6
  19. Jump rope (without the rope)
Home workout equipment: valerielatona.com

This is it: all I needed (plus a little motivation) for a great home workout!

This is one heck of a workout. The squat thrusts are just entirely painful and difficult. I did the moves in groups of 3 to 6 and then repeated for 2 sets. Each was 10 to 25 reps depending on the move. It took me exactly 43 minutes with music blaring. I was sweating, tired … empowered!  According to My Fitness Pal, I burned 557 calories for “circuit training, general.”

And to think I only needed about $80 worth of equipment, all of which can fit in a milk crate!

 

The 6 Best Pre- and Post-Workout Foods

Written by: on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Chocolate milk good workout snack

Who would have thought this childhood fave would turn out to be so good for you?!

If you ask most people what’s the best pre- or post-workout meal or snack, they’ll probably mention sports drinks, protein powders, protein bars, and anything but plain old food.

Well, this is continually being proven wrong by researchers, sports nutritionists, and exercise specialists.

The latest research by McMaster University professor Stuart Phillips shows that the top foods for athletes—and regular exercisers—are:

1) Chocolate milk: offers post-workout water, protein, electrolytes, and carbohydrates—and not to mention, it tastes good too! According to Phillips, chocolate milk helps rehydrate your body after exercise and recharges damaged muscles. For these reasons, it’s far superior, he says, to water and sports drinks when it comes to post-workout recovery.

For more information on chocolate milk, click on rechargewithmilk.ca (full disclosure: this site, recommended by Phillips, is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada—but it’s actually quite informative and packed with good information—why I’m okay with linking to it. They’re also sponsoring the giveaway at the end of this piece…and free stuff is always good!)

steel cut oats

Try steel cut oats: they take longer to cook (about 30 minutes) but have double the fiber of rolled oats!

2) Oatmeal: contains carbs, fiber and B vitamins (which are key for the breakdown of carbs into glucose and energy in the body—among other things).

Oatmeal, with protein-packed almonds, is the perfect pre-workout meal (particularly if you’re exercising in the morning). I also like to add dried cranberries, zest from a lemon, cinnamon (which helps control blood sugar), and a drizzle of agave nectar into mine. Just had a bowl this morning!

3) Salmon: rich in protein, iron, vitamin B12 (critical for healthy nervous system functioning and making blood cells) and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain function, reducing inflammation in the body, and normal growth and development.

My favorite way of cooking it: Marinate it in a little lemon juice and spices (try O&Co Salt & Herb Mix for Fish, $8.50; www.oliviersandco.com/salt-and-herb-mix-for-fish.html), drizzle with olive oil, and cook covered at 400ºF for 20 minutes. Shut off the oven, take off the cover, and let sit in the warm oven for another 15 minutes.

4) Blueberries: high in carbs (key for energy) and free-radical-fighting antioxidants (more free radicals are produced in the body during exercise).

I like to add frozen blueberries to almond milk and blend up with a frozen banana and some agave nectar—the perfect fuel-up smoothie!

grilled salmon

Did you know? Salmon is rich in selenium, a free-radical busting antioxidant.

5) Sweet potatoes: chockfull of iron (which helps your body produce oxygen during exercise) and antioxidants beta-carotene as well as vitamins C and E.

Don’t have the patience or time to cook them in the oven? Simply puncture a few times with a fork and cook them on high in the microwave, on a paper towel or plate, for 4 to 5 minutes.

6) Yogurt: high in calcium (important for strong bones and muscle contractions) and energy-boosting vitamin B12. Look for yogurts with little to no added sugar and gut-busting lactobacteria or acidophilus (healthy bacteria that helps digestion).

I love Greek Fage (pronounced “fah-yeh”) Total 2% yogurt with granola (for carbs and taste) and a tiny bit of honey mixed in.

There’s no Gatorade on Phillips’ list, no packaged protein bars, no fruity gummy chews.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ll probably still stick these into my bike “bento” snack pack (http://www.teamestrogen.com/prodFB_840200.html) for races because they’re so convenient, but the important take-home message from Phillips’ research: you don’t have to spend a lot of money on processed sports foods at other times.

Real food is still your best bet.

[Read more…]

Skip lunch/coffee with a friend … and try this instead!

Written by: on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
images of two feet on a walking path

Next time you get together with a friend, make it a point to walk outdoors

Today I was supposed to have lunch with an acquaintance of mine—and instead, she suggested we go for an early morning walk in a local park. It was a great idea! Instead of sitting and talking over food, which studies show can sometimes result in you eating more than you want, we walked…and talked, despite the drizzling rain outdoors. And not only did I feel great afterward as I got fresh air and exercise, we also traded tips and advice about life with kids. So next time you’re supposed to have lunch or coffee with a friend, take it outdoors. You’ll feel invigorated!

The Flat Abs, Firm Butt, Strong Legs Workout: Try It!

Written by: on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
flat abs on fit woman

Consistent strength training—and cardio—will help transform your body.

If you’re looking for a good workout to get you toned from head to toe, this is it (and it’s just the first in a new series of workouts being featured here). Created by New York City-based Equinox trainer Katherine Roberts-Hill, it’s meant to ease anyone into a total body workout. She created it for me as I needed a not-too-difficult workout to start on after having a baby about 10 weeks ago. I’ll be adding this to my cardio (elliptical and swimming) workouts. Keep me posted on your progress (I’ll be keeping you posted on mine)!

Disclaimer: You should have your doctor’s okay before starting any exercise program—and if you have questions about any of these moves, ask a trainer at your gym for help. If you feel pain or discomfort, STOP. Do not continue exercising and work with a professional before starting up again. We want people to get fit—not hurt!

How often to do it
This is the first workout for 2 weeks. Try to get in 2-3 workouts each week. It should take 40-50 minutes with a warm up and 15-20 minutes of cardio. Choose 7 exercises each time (you can mix it up).

Plus…
Prior to the warm-up, do myofascial release on your legs with the use of a foam roller (from $11.95 at powersystems.com). To see how to do this, watch this video >

Workout Plan

ACTIVITY  TYPE  SETS   REPS   DURATION   WEIGHT   INTENSITY   REST
Squat to Shoulder Press – 2 Arm  Strength  3 15-20 20 lbs  –
Lunge – Forward  Strength 3 15 30 lbs 75%  60 sec
Squat – Front with Barbell  Strength 3 20 20 lbs 75%  60 sec
Chest Press – Incline Dumbbell  Strength 3  –
Supine Triple Flexion to Extension – Alternating Leg  Strength  –
Abs – Backstroke  Toning 3 20
Side Iso-abs with Crunch  Toning 3 15 30 sec  –
Lat Pulldown – Standing (Free Motion)  Strength 3 15 40 lbs
Stability Ball Pull-Over  Strength 3 20 15 lbs

Cool Down

The cool-down should consist of some light walking and stretching for about 5 minutes.

SQUAT TO SHOULDER PRESS – 2 ARM
Reps:  15-20 Sets:  3
Weight:  20 lbs
To start:

  • Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, feet pointing straight ahead.
  • Start with dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forward.
Movement:

  • Perform a squat as deep as you can (A).
  • Squat up to starting position; perform a shoulder press (B).
  • Lower weight slowly, then repeat.

A

B

LUNGE – FORWARD
Reps:  15 Sets:  3 Intensity:  75%
Weight:  30 lbs Rest:  60 sec
To start:

  • Stand in proper alignment with hands on hips.
  • Place feet straight ahead and shoulder width apart.
Movement:

  • Draw lower abs inward toward spine (activating the deep stabilizing mechanism).
  • Step forward and descend slowly by bending at the hips, knees and ankles (A). During the descent maintain weight distribution between the heels and mid-foot. Don’t allow feet to cave inward or shift outward. (Knees should be between first and second toes.)
  • Perform downward reps slowly and concentrate on the descent and the alignment of your body. Only descend down as far as you can maintain optimal alignment, keeping upper torso erect. (Leaning forward can injure the spine, knee, and ankle.)

A


SQUAT – FRONT WITH BARBELL
Reps:  20 Sets:  3 Intensity:  75%
Weight:  20 lbs Rest:  60 sec
To start:

  • Stand with feet pointed STRAIGHT AHEAD with a barbell placed comfortably on the top back of shoulders (A). Be sure to position your head up over shoulders and shoulders in line with hips (i.e., neutral spine).
Movement:

  • Draw your belly button inward toward your spine (from the start position).
  • Descend slowly by bending at knees and hips (B). Maintain weight distribution between mid-foot and heels. Don’t allow feet to cave inward or shift outward.
  • Push up through the feet extending the ankle, knee and hip joints while weight is evenly distributed between heels and mid-foot. Don’t allow weight to shift toward toes. (Knees should track over the second and third toe.)
  • Perform downward reps slowly, concentrating on proper alignment of body.
  • Descend as far as you can control. Partial squats should progress to full squats as you get better at this exercise.
  • Note: This should be back loaded (on the shoulders with a barbell). If it is too difficult to do, use 2, 15-lb dumbbells.

A

B

CHEST PRESS – INCLINE DUMBBELL
Reps:  20 Sets:  3
Weight:  12.5 lbs each hand
To start:

  • Lie on bench with feet straight and flat on the ground.
  • Position dumbbells, arms fully extended, over lower part of shoulders, not the head.
Movement:

  • Draw belly button inward toward your spine.
  • Slowly, lower your elbows out and down, maintaining wrist position over the elbows (A).
  • Continue to lower the weight until your upper arms are level with the shoulders.
  • Move elbows up and in toward center to return (B). This will create a triangular motion. Wrist should maintain a neutral position. Keep dumbbells over wrists throughout entire exercise.

A

B

Note: Maintain proper posture, as the weight is lowered. DO NOT allow your head to “jut” forward.
SUPINE TRIPLE FLEXION TO EXTENSION – ALTERNATING LEG
To start:

  • Lie with back flat on the ground, knees bent 90°, and place hands on the ground by your side (A).
  • Activate core with a drawing in and pelvic floor contraction.
Movement:

  • Lift BOTH legs off the ground.
  • Extend one leg into triple extension.
  • Simultaneously alternate each leg from flexion to extension (B), keeping head relaxed on mat while maintaining good upper body posture.

A

B

ABS – BACKSTROKE
Reps:  20 Sets:  3


To start:

  • Maintain good posture throughout the exercise with shoulder blades retracted and down, good stability through the abs, and neutral spine angles.
Movement:

  • Begin in a crunch position (shoulders slightly off the mat), ensuring that spine is ‘long’ and not excessively rounded. Hands are to the side, palms facing up (as shown).
  • Perform a backstroke motion with one hand (A), while holding the crunch.
  • Return hand to the side and alternate sides (B), once the backstroke motion has been completed.

A

B

SIDE ISO-ABS WITH CRUNCH
Reps:  15 Sets:  3
Duration:  30 sec

To start:

  • Make sure you’ve done a quick warm-up prior to doing this exercise.
Movement:

  • Take the top arm, place the hand behind the ear (A) and rotate elbow towards ground (B). Ensure body line is straight, visual gaze is straight ahead and shoulders and trunk rotate.
  • Repeat for desired number of repetitions.

A

B

LAT PULLDOWN – STANDING (FREE MOTION)
Reps:  15 Sets:  3
Weight:  40 lbs

To start:

  • Adjust cable arms as shown.
  • Stand in squat position (facing Cable Cross), knees bent, maintaining good posture with arms outstretched. Grasp handles (A).
Movement:

  • Brace spine by drawing your lower abdomen in.
  • Start movement by pulling elbows into side of body (B), maintaining proper posture.
  • Check alignment and positioning and repeat press.
  • Squat deeper or adjust back from Cable Cross if weight stack touches at end range of motion.
  • Variations: Try various grip positions, Single arm alternating.

A

B

STABILITY BALL PULL-OVER
Reps:  20 Sets:  3
Weight:  15 lbs

To start:

  • Adjust the column toward top and place stability ball in front of column.
Movement:

  • Hold the triceps rope above head with straight arms, sitting on stability ball facing away from the machine (A).
  • Engage abs, and roll body and arms out parallel to the floor (B).
  • Pull arms back over head to starting position.

A

B

 

The towel every exerciser needs!

Written by: on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
"I am worth it" workout towel

A great quote, always worth remembering!

How fabulous is this towel? Just when your motivation is waning to hit the gym — or do another 15 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical — just one look at this quote will reinvigorate you! (100% cotton; available for $10.95 from inperspire.com). Just one of the things I’m loving today…

Need a little motivation to get off your butt? This may help…

Written by: on Sunday, January 29th, 2012
Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer

This book is a must-read for everyone…truly inspiring whether you have kids or not.

I just recently finished a compelling book called Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer. I highly recommend it whether or not you have a son or kids. In it, Meltzer details—in a concise but compelling way—people who have overcome different kinds of challenges to become, in his mind, true heroes. (I’ve already pre-ordered from barnesandnoble.com his next book, Heroes for My Daughter, which is due out April 10.)

Two of the people he features are Team Hoyt (teamhoyt.com). I had never heard of this father-son duo before, so I did a bit more research on them—and realized why they are heroes, and also an inspiration for everyone.

Rick and Dick Hoyt

Team Hoyt after finishing the Boston Marathon 2014—their last. (They’ve been racing the Boston Marathon since 1981.)

Rick was born in 1962. Deprived of oxygen at birth (which—as a mom—I can’t even imagine), he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the result of his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and oxygen being cut off to his brain when he was born. Rick’s mind is intact but he can’t speak or control his limbs.

His parents were advised to institutionalize him because there was no chance of him living a “normal” life. But instead, they worked to teach him to speak and do, as best as possible, “normal” things that kids do. (In my mind, they’re hero parents too.)

Team Hoyt in a race

Team Hoyt during one of their more than 1,000 races together. 

But when he was 15 years old, Rick told his dad that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. His dad wasn’t a runner, but he pushed Rick in his wheelchair all 5 miles and they came in next to last. After that, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” Since then, they’ve completed over 1,000!!! races together, including marathons!, duathlons, and triathlons (six of which were…get this, IRONMANS! That’s a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike, topped off by a 26.2-mile run—a marathon.). If you’re wondering how they do it, his dad swims in the triathlons, pulling a boat with Rick in it. And they have a specially designed bike for the two of them.

After reading this, all my excuses for not fitting in my run, bike, or swim (or just exercising at all) seem completely lame. I mean, really, no excuses seem valid after reading this!

I’m reminded, too, of something Christopher Reeve said before he died: “I get pretty frustrated by people who are able-bodied but who are paralyzed for other reasons.” A great quote…and a good one to remember the next time you need a push to get out there—whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do!

* Update: Rick and Dick (his dad) just completed their last marathon together: Boston 2014. They planned to make the 2013 Boston Marathon their last—but then the bombings changed everything—for everyone. They may run smaller races together, but no more marathons or triathlons. Dick Hoyt is now 73 and Rick is 52; Rick may compete with others moving forward, but hasn’t decided yet.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Eat After Exercise…So You Don’t Gain Weight

Written by: on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
woman lifting a barbell

It's easy to negate the effects of a good workout by eating the wrong foods afterward!

What’s best to eat for recovery after a hard workout? That’s what marathoners, body builders, and exercisers ask. They read ads for “recovery foods” with the “perfect” ratio of carbs to protein and a “proprietary” formula— and emphasize immediate consumption the minute you stop exercising. But the truth is that engineered recovery foods, which often cost more, are actually no more effective than standard foods.

Q: Who should eat a recovery diet?

A: Too many athletes are obsessed with rapidly refueling the minute they stop exercising.  They’re afraid they’ll miss the one-hour “window of

best recovery food for exercisers

Skip the pricey "recovery" foods; a glass of low-fat chocolate milk may be all you need.

opportunity” when replacement of glycogen [stored glucose] is fastest. But refueling still occurs for several hours after exercise, just at a slowing rate. So there’s no rush! Given a steady influx of adequate carb-based meals and snacks, muscles can refuel within 24 hours. If you have a full day to recover before your next training session, or if you have done an easy (non-depleting) workout, you don’t need to obsess about refueling immediately afterward. Over the course of the next 24 hours, you should repeatedly consume carbohydrates with each meal/snack, along with some protein to build and repair the muscles (e.g. chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie).

Refueling as soon as tolerable is most important for serious athletes doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first workout, including:

√ triathletes doing double workouts

√ soccer players in tournaments

√ people who ski hard in the morning and again in the afternoon.

The sooner these athletes consume carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to repair damaged muscle, the sooner they’ll be able to exercise hard again.

Q: How many carbs do I need?

A: According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:

Amount of exercise Gram carb/lb Gram carb/kg
Moderate exercise (about 1 hour/day) 2.5 to 3 5 to 7
Endurance exercise (about 1-3 h/day) 2.5 to 4.5 6 to 10
Extreme exercise  (more than 4-5 h/day) 3.5 to 5.5 8 to 12

 

For example, a 150-lb triathlete doing extreme exercise should target about 500 to 800 grams of carb/day (2,000 to 3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 grams of carbs every 4 hours during the daytime.

Q: What are some good carb-protein recovery foods?

recovery food for exercisers

Simple recovery food: cereal (carb) and low-fat milk (protein). Nothing elaborate and pricey necessary!

A: Your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables plus a smaller amount of protein (at least 10 to 20 grams per recovery snack or meal). Best bets:

√ fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries)

√ cereal + milk

√ bagel + (decaf) latté

√ pretzels + hummus

√ baked potato + cottage cheese

√ turkey sub

√ pasta + meatballs

Do NOT consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana, frozen berries, and/or graham crackers.

Keep in mind that recovery calories “count.” I hear many frustrated dieters complain they are not losing weight despite hard workouts. Perhaps that’s because they gobble 300 or so “recovery calories” and then go home and enjoy a hefty dinner. By organizing your training to end at mealtime, you can avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories.

Q: What about recovery electrolytes? Do I need them?

woman exercising hard outdoors and sweating

Simple foods still work best after a particularly tough workout, particularly if you sweat a lot.

 

 

A: After a hard workout, many athletes reach for a sports drink, thinking products like Gatorade or PowerAde are “loaded” with sodium (an electrically charged particle). Think again! Milk and other “real foods” are actually better sources of electrolytes than most commercial sports products. These electrolytes (also known as sodium and potassium) help enhance fluid retention and the restoration of normal fluid balance. Here’s how some common recovery fluids compare:

Beverage (8 oz) Sodium (mg) Potassium (mg) Protein (g) Carbs (g)
Water
PowerAde 55 45 19
Gatorade 110 30 14
Low-fat milk 100 400 8 12
Chocolate milk 150 425 8 26
Orange juice 450 2 26

 

As you can see, after a hard workout, recovery fluids that such as chocolate milk, orange juice, or a latte offer far more “good stuff” than you’d get in a sports drink. Sports drinks are dilute and designed for drinking during extended exercise.

bagel with peanut butter

A bagel with peanut butter provides carbs, protein, and sodium—important for replenishing after a tough workout.

To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself naked pre and post an hour of exercise, accounting as best you can for any fluid consumed. Loss of one pound equates to loss of about 700 to 1,000 mg of sodium. If you sweat heavily and lose a significant amount of sodium, you can easily replace those losses with pretzels (300 mg sodium/10 twists), a bagel (500 mg) with peanut butter (200 mg/2 tbsp), Wheaties and milk (300 mg), or a spaghetti dinner with tomato sauce (1000 mg/cup Ragu sauce). The truth is: most athletes actually consume plenty of sodium, from everyday food!

Q: What should I eat before I exercise?

A: According to research presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming protein before lifting weights enhanced recovery better than consuming a protein drink afterwards. That’s because your body digests pre-exercise protein into amino acids during exercise and puts those amino acids right into action repairing damaged muscles.

Q: I never really feel like I recover well. Is something wrong?

woman running on beach in sweats

Sure, you love your morning runs, but make sure you take at least a day off every week to rest; your body needs it!

A: If you have to drag yourself through workouts, there could be an underlying issue. The most common:

√  You’re overtraining. Rest is an essential part of a training program; muscles need time to refuel and repair. Take at least one, if not two, days off from exercise per week.

√  You’re anemic. Anemia is common, so have your doctor monitor your serum ferritin (stored iron). If your iron stores are depleted, you’ll feel needlessly tired during exercise. An estimated half of female athletes are iron-deficient, as indicated by low serum ferritin stores. (About 14% of all women are iron deficient.) A survey with collegiate male runners suggested about 20% had low serum ferritin. Iron supplements help resolve the problem, along with a good recovery diet.

So the moral of the story is: Eat wisely, and you’ll recover well—and feel great without gaining extra weight!

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD January 2012

How to Fuel Up For Cold Weather Exercise: 10 Must-Know Facts

Written by: on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
woman skiing downhill

Exercise is an excellent way to warm up in the winter! Aerobic workout can increase your metabolism by 7 to 10 times above the resting level. This warmth helps you survive in a cold environment.

If you’re a winter athlete, you want to pay careful attention to your diet. Lack of fluids and the right food can take the fun out of your outdoor activities. Here, tips to stay at the top of your game.

Staying Hydrated in Winter

Some need-to-know facts about getting enough fluids during the cold-weather months:

1.) Cold blunts the thirst mechanism; you’ll feel less thirsty despite significant sweating and may not “think to drink.” Winter athletes (especially those skiing at high altitude) need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water vapor that gets exhaled via breathing. When you breathe in cold dry air, your body warms and humidifies that air. As you exhale, you lose significant amounts of water. You can see this vapor (“steam”) when you breathe.

2.) Dehydration hurts performance. Failing to drink enough fluids is a major mistake made by winter athletes. A study comparing hydration of athletes who skied or played football or soccer, reported the skiers had the highest rate of chronic dehydration. Before a competition, 11 of the 12 alpine skiers showed up dehydrated. (Some winter athletes purposefully skimp on fluids to minimize the need to stop for a bathroom break, but this affects how well they do.)

female skier drinking water outdoors

Exercising women need at least 8 – 12 glasses of water a day during the winter months.

3.) Room temperature water is best. Don’t drink icy water (i.e., from a water bottle kept on your bike or outside pocket of your backpack), unless you’re hot. Cold water can cool you off and give you the chills. A better bet: an insulated water bottle or a bottle filled with a hot sports drink then covered with a wool sock to help retain the heat.

4. Layering up helps you sweat less. Sweaty clothing drains body heat. As the weather becomes “tropical” inside your exercise outfit, strip down layer by layer. You’ll stay drier and warmer. Simply taking off a hat is cooling; 30 to 40 percent of body heat gets lost through the head.

What to Eat to Stay Warm

You need adequate pre-exercise fuel to generate body heat—why you want to eat the proper foods before you ski, run outdoors, or embark on any outside activity in extreme cold.

5.) Eating not only provides fuel but also increases heat production (warmth). Your body wants fuel to “stoke the furnace” so it can generate heat. (It takes about 30 to 60 minutes after you eat for your body to generate about 10 percent more heat than when you have an empty stomach.)

energy bar

Always carry a snack (or two)—like an energy bar—with you when you're outdoors exercising.

That’s why it’s important to always carry emergency food (such as an energy bar) with you in case you slip on the ice or experience some incident that leaves you static in a frigid environment. Winter campers, for example, commonly keep a supply of dried fruit, chocolate, or cookies within reach, in case they wake up cold at 3:00 a.m.

6.) A drop in body temperature actually stimulates the appetite and you experience hunger. That’s why if you become chilled during winter exercise (or even when swimming, for that matter), you’ll likely find yourself searching for food.

Also note that changes in brain chemicals (particularly in those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) increase carbohydrate cravings and the desire to eat more. To limit winter weight gain, stay active! Exercise helps manage health, weight, and the winter blues.

bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts

One of the best foods for winter athletes? Oatmeal with nuts and a little dried fruit.

7.) The best winter recovery foods are those that chase away chills, replenish depleted glycogen stores, and rehydrate your body. Best bets: warm carbohydrates with a little protein, such as hot cocoa made with milk, oatmeal with nuts, lentil soup, chili, and pasta with meatballs. The warm food, added to the thermogenic effect of eating, contributes to rapid recovery. Eating cold foods and frozen fluids, on the other hand, can chill your body.

8.) Your body uses a considerable amount of energy to warm and humidify the air you breathe when you exercise in the cold. For example, if you were to burn 600 calories while cross-country skiing for an hour in 0° F weather, you might use about 150 of those calories to warm the air.  (In summer, you would have dissipated that heat via sweat.)

woman running in the snow

Always layer up when running or doing any outdoor exercise in the winter.

9.) If you wear heavy clothes, you’ll burn a few more calories carrying the extra weight of skis, boots, heavy parka, snow shoes, etc. (The Army actually allows 10 percent more calories for heavily clad troops who exercise in the cold.) If you’re a runner, however, think twice before chowing down: the weight of your extra clothing is minimal.

10.) Shivering is an involuntary muscle tensing that generates heat.

When you first become slightly chilled (such as when watching a football game), you’ll find yourself doing an isometric type of muscle tensing that can increase your metabolic rate two to four times.

As you get further chilled, you’ll find yourself hopping from foot to foot and jumping around. This is Nature’s way to get you to generate heat and warm your body.

• If you become so cold that you start to shiver, these vigorous muscular contractions generate lots of heat—up to 400 calories per hour. Such intense shivering quickly depletes your muscle glycogen stores and drains your energy. This is when you’ll be glad you have emergency food with you!

Copyright:  Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, December 2011

Nancy Clark, MS RD offers nutrition consultations to casual exercisers and competitive athletes at her private practice located at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-795-1875). Her popular Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for runners, cyclists, and soccer players are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.