Of all the words of mice and men

It’s not for the things you’ve done, it’s the things you haven’t done.

You have read the mission and you have accepted it. It might have seemed somewhat daunting, but you knew you were up for it. It’s something you have been wanting to do and have been having trouble doing it, or getting the anticipated results. But this time it’s different, this time it’s going to happen.

Where are we

About a week and half ago I wrote an article on what you can do to gain 5lbs of muscle in 4 weeks. I laid out things to do, and things not to do. Some of them easy, some of them more challenging. Things like getting an adequate amount of sleep. Yeah, we all wish this was easy to do. Getting the right amount, or even too much protein can be tough too. But I don’t want to talk about these things necessarily.

It’s been 11 days! Well, eleven since I wrote the post. Where are you in project five lbs? 4 days, a week, or 11 days? How are you making out? Have you been weighing yourself? If you have, relax if you haven’t gained weight yet. The body may not necessarily respond right away. It might take two weeks to see an increase of 2 or 3 lbs. The worst thing you could do is start to worry. When we worry, or create stress our body responds by releasing cortisol, a hormone that can be harmful if we don’t handle the stress correctly and do away with it. Don’t sabotage the work you have been doing.

Keep going

If you have hit a stumbling block, don’t quit! Keep going. Push out your date if you have to. Reevaluate that roadblock and put together a plan to deal with it in the future. It’s not the end of the world (that stress thing again). Instead, focus on the positive things you have been doing. Feel good about them. You should.

A slice in

It’s a small slice in time to see what you can do when training specifically, for a specific goal. Try to manage things so you are able to keep on track.

If it’s late, and you haven’t worked out, do it anyway. Once you are into it you’ll feel better and you’ll feel better afterwards, nah, you’ll feel fantastic because there won’t be any guilt! You’ll then go into the next day carrying that high you felt from your workout. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

But don’t sit there contemplating it. Sometimes you have to say f*ck it, and just get it done. That’s it.

4,3,2…

Week 4 will be here in no time. Fly by just like that. Welcome that week with that 5 lbs. of muscle on your frame. Who knows what comes after that. I’m thinking another 5.

Yours in health

Darryl

but I’ll get around it

A river in a time of dryness, a harbour in the tempest.

The bag of salted peanuts, chips, chocolate. The thought comes into your mind that you really want some. You dismiss the thought only to have it come back about 5 or 10 minutes later. This time it’s much stronger. You can taste the food, you want it so bad. But you resist the craving and hold off. Ok , it’s no  use, I’m grabbing the food as fast as I can. It’s not so much that I like the food and that’s why I need to have it, it’s I have to have it, I WANT it.

Cravings can be so powerful and can virtually leave us at their mercy. You can’t think of anything else but the food you are craving. Salt, sugar are the most common cravings.

Powerful

Cravings don’t seem to happen all the time either. It can come on all of a sudden and nothing else matters other than satisfying that craving. Weeks may go by without a craving but all of a sudden it’s there, knocking at the door of your mind. Why? Why is it that cravings happen randomly like that and isn’t the same as craving water when you are thirsty.

Why

Wanting food, or craving food is different than liking food. It can seem like a life or death decision, if I don’t satisfy this craving, I’m going do die. It can be that strong.

A leading theory is that based on the craving, your body could be lacking minerals, hormones, or have an underlying health issue. I want to look at the common cravings and what they might mean.

Salt. You are a craver of all things salty. Salty popcorn, salty nuts, pretzels. Yeah, love the salt. You crave salt so much you are thinking about going to a farm surplus store to pick up some salt licks. One study concluded that craving salt may be due to a diet low in calcium. The theory is calcium temporarily increases calcium levels in the blood tricking the body into thinking the low calcium issue has been resolved. But, in other studies, the results showed that craving salt may be due to low iron, calcium, and potassium.

Carbs. I’m excluding really sweet foods such as chocolate, ice cream, etc. Carbs such as snack crackers, chips, potatoes are a common craving. If you look at typical snack foods, they are primarily carbs. And if you look at what people mostly snack on, it’s mostly carbs. The theory is that carbs stimulate the release of serotonin. Serotonin is the feel good hormone. If you are feeling low, have some carbs. Carbs are basically anti depressants packaged up as food. I believe that is why most people snack on carbs. If protein had the same affect, most snack foods would be rich in protein.

Sugar. Sweet sugar. Yes, sugar is a carbohydrate but when I mean sugar, I mean really sweet food such as chocolate bars, donuts, pop. We are now getting into the area of drugs in that studies have shown that consuming sugar has the same affect on the brain as doing cocaine or heroine. Going even further, Dr. Lustig, a leading expert on the affects of sugar suggests it be regulated the same as cigarettes. But, sugar cravings can also be due to other issues going on such as thyroid issues, a yeast infection, high stress in so much that your adrenal glands are working overtime.

Foundation

You have a wall in your house and it keeps cracking. You patch the crack and a day, or week later the crack is there again. You patch it again and once more it comes back. You could do this for the next year and the result will be the same. Why? Until you fix the faulty foundation your house has, the crack will always be there because the foundation is the issue, not the wall.

Address the underlying issue and your cravings may go away. But keep in mind too that cravings are not the end of the world as long as it’s a moderate craving.

If you feel your craving may be due to lacking minerals or a hormonal imbalance, get these things checked out by our doctor. I’m a proponent of getting blood work done and looking at all vitamin and mineral levels to ensure they are at adequate levels. I usually have this done every six months.

Relax

Address the underlying issue of the craving. You may still get the odd craving but don’t get worked up about it. Unless, you are the one with salt licks located throughout the house.

Yours in health,

Darryl

before you know it…

There will always be a much, much more than this

In a previous post I spoke about the impending New Year’s resolution to get back into shape and make fitness part of your lifestyle. The heart of the article talked about easing into a change as large as this one. I think the same attention needs to be given to resolutions that centre on what we eat, and how we eat.

The importance

To me, eating well should be part of our lifestyle and not something we do only when things start to get out of hand. When it’s something we do only when the scale, or ourselves determine that we need to, most times things are done to address that extra weight that can be damaging to our bodies. I see it all the time, people following the newest and latest diet. People eating only cabbage, or only having a shake for lunch. Usually this is because even though it probably has taken months for the weight gain the person is dealing with they want that weight off as quickly as possible, no matter what.

The problem with this is this process can be damaging to our body. Usually the body is deprived of vital nutrients, or put into starvation mode because of the lack of calories. The process itself of gaining/losing weight over and over can be damaging to our body.

The fact is nutrition plays a huge role in how we perform day to day, and how we will perform and exist 20 to 30 years ahead. Damage we are doing to our bodies today may not be evident until much later in our lives when it’s too late to change our eating habits. If you consider yourself an athletic person look at it this way. A high performance car made to run on high octane fuel just does not run well on regular fuel. The affect can be felt immediately with loss of power and also long term when your mechanic is hitting you up for thousands of dollars due to the damage done to the engine from running low grade fuel. Your body really is no different. Garbage in / garbage out.

But don’t get me wrong. By no means am I saying you can only eat healthy foods and you need to eliminate all other foods. Doing that would make it very difficult to make eating healthy a lifestyle and you are most likely to end up back to where you were. We need to adopt a process that is realistic and doable, something that can be done gradually over time.

Options

To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are coming from. Take a week and keep a record of everything you eat and drink. Then create 4 groups; fat, protein, carbs and water.  Now move each item you have written down into one of those groups.

Now take each group and break it into two sub groups; healthy and junk. As an example, a bag of chips would be considered junk. A baked potato kept simple and not loaded down with tons of cheese would be considered healthy.  Do you get the idea? If your meals come in the form of a box than you would want to read the label to see the ratio. I hope your meals aren’t coming in the form of a box. Processed food should be avoided since they are loaded with unhealthy fats (these fats are cheaper to use), sugar and salt.

Now you need to look at the ratio of fat, protein and carbs. Generally speaking the ratio should be around 30/30/40 respectively. This is a general recommendation without taking into account your age, sex, activity level. If you need a ratio that is more specific to you I would recommend you do some research or see someone who is a professional in the field of nutrition.

Now that you know what you are eating, how much of it are you eating? If you want to know the exact amount you need to measure what it is you are eating.  Measuring does not mean counting the number of bowls of cereal as an example or the number of cups of juice. How big is your bowl? There is no standard bowl you can buy. Because of this most of us who have a serving of cereal in our ‘bowl’ usually end up having 2 to 3 times the actual serving amount listed on the box. The same can be said for drinks. A cup is not a cup. Our western civilization has gradually moved towards much bigger bowls, plates and glasses. If you ever have the chance to go to Japan you will see what I mean. Their dishes are much smaller than ours.

So now that you know how much you are eating, are you surprised at the amount of calories? Probably. Most people are. Again, if you are looking for your daily caloric intake amount I would suggest you do  some research or speak to someone who is certified in this field.

How is looking so far. Where do you fall?  A lot of junk? A little junk? Too many calories? Don’t sweat it because you are now trying to do something about it and you are trying to turn things around.

A slow walk

So it took you a while to get to where you are now. 30, 50, 75 lbs overweight. Not feeling healthy? How long did it take? 6 months, a whole year? I’m sure it took a while so why the rush to lose the weight. Let’s look at this as a gradual process.

Looking at the groups and subgroups you created let’s try to eliminate 10% of the junk for the first couple of weeks. If you are someone who drinks a can of pop a day, for two days substitute water for the pop. If your caloric intake is on the high side try reducing it by 10% for two weeks.

Then, let’s try another 10% for two more weeks.

One month later and you are now drinking pop only 3 days a week from 7. Thinking about it, can you go without any pop at all? Probably. Gradually bringing the amount down has allowed your body to handle the change. Many studies are showing that the brain reacts to sugar the same way it reacts to cocaine, or heroin. The same areas of the brain become alive when consuming sugar as they do when taking certain drugs. Just like the heroin addict who needs to be weaned off of the drug, you need to gradually remove sugar from your diet.

Let’s go back and look at the groups I asked you to create. One of those groups was water. The importance of water should not be underestimated. We are mostly made up of water. When we are dehydrated our body has to work harder to pump blood. Dehydration can also lead to cramping up when training. So drink plenty of water.

The percentages I’m using are a general recommendation. If you feel you are able to reduce by a higher percentage than go ahead. Just don’t go off the deep end and start eliminating by 60% – 70%. The goal is to succeed, not fail.

The first step

Everything starts with the first step. It can be difficult, taking that step. Walk before you run. Make these changes letting this become part of your life moving forward instead of something you’ll do for 4 weeks.

Time is fleeting. Just like you looked at yourself wondering how you got where you were, you’ll be doing the same thing 6 months from now knowing how you got there. Glad that you are where you are. How would that feel?

Yours in health,

Darryl

Are you ready?

Neither too late nor too early.

In a sense this post is a continuation of my last post. In my last post I discussed that the only way to know if something will work for you is to try it. That’s because we are not the same, everyone is different. What might work for you may not work for me. In this post I’m going to cover what we can eat before our workout so we have energy and can perform as best as we can.

The foods

I’m going to discuss two things here; the meal you should eat 2 – 3 hours before, and the snack you should eat closer to the workout. They are different because the first meal will come into play much later into your workout and the snack will play a role immediately into your workout.

The first

If you are eating healthy already, a balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates than you probably are already eating correctly. Eating this balanced meal will help you if your workout is an endurance type or any type of workout exceeding 90 minutes. It’s important that you have fats in this meal as your body will be looking for fat to metabolize for energy. If fat isn’t available it’s more than likely your body will end up metabolizing protein for energy which it will get from your muscles. Probably something you don’t want to happen.

Some foods you can eat for this meal are peanut butter, almond butter, oatmeal (try to not load on the sugar), beans and lentils, dark greens and other vibrant coloured vegetables, toast with honey or pure jam.

The last

The last food you eat before working out should be a snack high in carbohydrates. You will want to avoid fat and protein as it will take longer to digest, and you don’t want that blood going to your stomach aiding digestion while working out. We need that blood feeding our muscles oxygen during our workout.

But we do need to eat. Maybe that is why some people, or maybe most people don’t eat before working out because they tried this and ate the wrong foods and the results were negative.

Some people may argue that they are still working out, pushing themselves so they are still growing as far as fitness and health goes. Not necessarily true. If your body doesn’t have the fuel to aid your workout, your body is forced to slow down. It cannot perform at that level without getting the fuel it needs. If you have read my posts on high intensity workouts, you know that you get the most benefits working out in this zone. If you have to leave the high intense zone because you run out of fuel and have to drop down to the medium or low intense zone you are no longer getting the benefits. Secondly if you don’t have fuel your body will metabolize what it needs to, muscle. That’s 2 big negatives to not eating a snack before your workout. I’ll even add a third to try to convince you. You’ll feel like crap when you run out of fuel. We have all been there. Working out and dragging our ass through the workout. Afterwards all we want to do is nap. Not a great feeling. Wouldn’t it feel great if you could go through the whole workout feeling pumped, full of energy, and ready to push yourself further? No kidding! Those are the workouts we remember and feel great about.

So what can we eat 30 minutes before training. Carbs. Foods like dates, bananas, oranges, raisins, apples, pears.

Remember that this is a snack and not a meal. If you eat too much your stomach will be busy digesting the food during the workout and you want to avoid that. You will probably have to experiment with what to eat and how much to get the right balance.

Now is the time

Try it.  I think you may find this to be one of the most beneficial things to try for your training. What do you have to lose? Nothing really if you think about it. Lets start getting away from the thinking that we eat 3 meals a day, don’t drink water during a workout, and other myths. A lot of these myths do harm to our body. Ultimately it’s you who will benefit. And everyone else will be looking at you in awe, wondering how you have so much energy!

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

 

I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art

Sift through it until you find it. Then do it.

There is a lot of information out there with regards to what things to do, how to do them, and when to do them. It’s gets confusing and can also be overwhelming. Most times we give up and just continue doing what we normally do. But what if there is something that will help you and you happened to miss it because you either dismissed it or couldn’t be bothered with it.

So what do we do? One thing I recommend is try to find a valuable source for your information, like this blog as an example. I know, cheap self promotion. I can equate it to a movie critic. You have movie critics that will praise a film, and other critics that will condemn the same film. Most people will stick with the critics that generally like the same films they do. It probably makes sense to do the same with your health and fitness needs. Once you find a source that has provided information that works for you, you will probably go back to that source because of the success.

Is that it?

Is there anything else we can do? Absolutely. It requires investment of your time and there are no guarantees. You are the other thing. Experimenting, testing new things. Ultimately not everything works for everybody, most people, but not always for everybody. How will you know it works for you? You have to dive in and commit yourself to trying it.

No guarantees

Whatever it is, it won’t always work. And you may not always no if there was something else responsible for your positive, or negative results. I hear people saying ‘I took Echinacea this winter and didn’t get a cold’. Would that person have gotten a cold if they didn’t take Echinacea? We don’t know for sure. When trying things yourself there is no control like a lab experiment, unless you have a clone. The clone can be the control. So we never know for sure if what we are trying is successful, in some cases. This doesn’t pertain to everything. The things we try that are easily quantifiable are easier to measure if they are successful or not. An example is if you have been training for 6 months, or a year and you are not seeing gains, then you try a new method or technique and you start to realize gains, then that would probably be looked at as a success. But even with these things we need to be aware if anything else has changed. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to introduce only one thing new. If you add more than one change it will be harder to understand what change was accountable for the success.

Complicated, isn’t it. It can be but it can also be very rewarding.

What are the things

What are the things we can do to understand if it was a success? Keeping track. You need to keep track of the things that can impact performance. Sleep, rest, diet, schedule, stress. All these things can have an impact on your performance. Other things too like when you are taking your supplements, if you take any. If you normally take them in the evening, then switch to the morning and notice a change in performance, this may be why. Keep all other things the same if you can. Remember, don’t introduce more than one change. If you do what change was responsible for the success? It will be hard for you to know for sure.

It may seem like a lot of work but the rewards can be great, and they feel great. How do I know this? I was waiting for you to ask me.

I have been there

Over the last few months I have been researching how to improve performance when training, working out, etc. What foods to eat, when to eat them, amount of sleep needed and a couple other things. Sleep. That’s a tough one. It’s not always in our control. My full time job requires me to be on call every so often. Sometimes I get woken up when sleeping. Other times the mind is just too busy, occupied to shut down and let sleep come.

What we can eat is more controllable. It should be since we buy our food and prepare it. It usually comes down to what foods to eat, or eat at all. I know some people that don’t eat before training, sometimes hours. Have you ever driven your car when there isn’t any fuel in it? Right. The body is just like your car. It needs fuel.

This leaves me with when. When to eat. Sometimes we can control this and sometimes we can’t. Depending when it is you train it may not be possible to get fuel into your body when you should. And when is that? When should you eat before training? An hour, two, half? I think I have the answer. I know I have the answer when it comes to myself.

Normally I have been eating about anywhere from 60 minutes to 120 minutes before training. Seemed to work as far as I could tell. Because I didn’t try anything else I really didn’t have a comparison. It was time to fuel up 30 minutes before training. I was somewhat hesitant to do this because I usually start my training with a run. I was worried that running so close to eating would leave me with an upset stomach and hurting my performance instead of improving it. But I went ahead anyway.

I knew my routine would be pretty much the same routine I have every week. So I decided to do it. This is a good time to change up when I eat. Keeping everything normal as far as the other foods I eat and when I eat them, I picked my food to eat. The banana. A great source of carbohydrates to fuel me for my run and easily digestible. So I ate the banana, and waited…anxiously. At about 30 minutes I started my run. Today was a day where I would normally start the run at a medium intensity and build up the intensity as the run progressed. Everything was going great. I felt good, lots of energy. It was a very successful run. My resistance training afterwards felt good too. I still had energy whereas sometimes I may not have as much after my run.

Success! But I told myself that this is only one test. Could it be the placebo affect? I need to move on to day two, Tabata day. Same thing day 2. Consume a banana, wait 30 minutes than train. Just so you know if you decide to do a Tabata workout on a treadmill, it can be tricky. You need to master grabbing the rails and quickly moving your feet to the side. Success again! I have never completed a Tabata workout on the treadmill at the speed I did this time. Awesome! 2 successful days. I won’t go into the subsequent workouts but workouts 3, 4 and 5 were all successful as far as having more energy both during my cardio and resistance training.

I felt good and I felt bad. I felt good that I think I have found what I need to do before I train as far as eating. I felt bad that it took so long to find this out. But I didn’t feel bad that long. I remembered a Chinese proverb: ‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now’.

Choose it then do it

Are changes always this successful? Not always. But that’s ok because we usually forget the ones that fail, the ones that didn’t work. But when we find that one that works it can make all the difference. It makes us feel good. We look forward instead of looking back.

Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. Take that leap of faith. It might be scary, but the results can be so satisfying.

Yours in health,

Darryl