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Posts Tagged ‘health’

7 foods you should never eat

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Here’s a great post about seven foods you should never eat. Mostly because of high levels of contaminates and chemicals, which can lead to all sorts of health problems.  I won’t go into the studies and reasons why each one is on the list (you can read the original article for that).  I just wanted to give you the list.  So here it is:

  1. Canned tomatoes
  2. Corn-fed beef
  3. Microwave popcorn
  4. Non-organic potatoes
  5. Farmed salmon
  6. Milk produced with artificial hormones
  7. Non-organic apples

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are high protein diets safe?

June 2, 2010 1 comment

Diets high in protein have been the staple for many athletes and bodybuilders over the years.  Protein is the essential building block for muscles and increases size, strength and power. A very good thing for athletes and anyone who exercises regularly.  But can we have too much of a good thing?  That seems to be a common belief among people who argue that high protein diets can cause health problems like kidney dysfunction and osteoporosis.

Let’s take a look at what actual research has been done on high protein diets to clear up some of the myths about associated health problems.

There is no evidence linking high protein diets to kidney problems in healthy people

No studies have shown that high protein consumption can cause kidney dysfunction in healthy people.  As Dr John Berardi notes, “there is absolutely no data in healthy adults suggesting that a high protein intake causes the onset of renal (kidney) dysfunction. There aren’t even any correlational studies showing this effect in healthy people.” The only research that shows a correlation between high protein intake and kidney problems is in people who are already suffering from kidney disease.  So for those who have kidney disease, a high protein diet may not be advisable.  But there is no reason to believe that this is the case in healthy people.

Studies actually show health benefits from high protein diets

Bone health:  some people believe that high protein can cause a loss of calcium and lead to problems like osteoporosis.  But when studies were done to test this belief, they actually found the opposite to be true, with a “positive association between protein intake and bone mineral density”.

Blood pressure: large studies in the US [1, 2] and China [3] have found a negative relationship between blood pressure and the amount of protein consumed – indicating that high protein diets are associated with low blood pressure.

Heart disease: a 14 year study of over 80,000 women found “that replacing carbohydrates with protein may be associated with a lower risk of ischemic heart disease”.  This is truer in cases where protein comes from lean sources like chicken, fish and vegetables, and less so in cases where protein comes from high cholesterol and saturated fat sources (pork, beef, lamb, eggs, etc.).

Liver function: protein in needed for liver tissue repair and high protein diets have been found to be beneficial for people suffering from liver disease.

We are genetically designed to consume high protein diets

As mentioned in my previous blog about the caveman diet, proponents argue that developments in food have far outpaced human genes.  We are built to eat unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meats. Palaeolithic diets were high in protein – around 3 to 4 times more protein that in modern diets.  Arguing in favour of the cavemen diet, Dr Anssi Manninen from University of Oulu in Finland states, “it is implausible that an animal that adapted to a high protein diet for 5 million years suddenly in 10,000 years becomes a predominant carbohydrate burner.”

drink water

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Whether you pay attention to it or not, water affects every aspect of our lives – from sanitation to cooking to, well, you.  About 70% of our bodyweight is water.  We can’t live without it.  But many people aren’t getting enough.  This is the case not just in developing countries where it is difficult to access safe drinking water, but also in developed countries where clean water is plentiful.  In fact, a study shows that up to 27% of people in the US might suffer from chronic dehydration.

So what?

Well, here’s a list of problems you’re more likely to encounter if you’re not drinking enough water:

  • Cancers (urinary tract, colon and breast)
  • Heart disease (mitral valve prolapse)
  • Kidney stones
  • Childhood obesity
  • Diminished mental and physical performance
  • Diminished salivary gland function

But how much water is ‘enough’?  The very helpful answer is: it depends.  It depends on your weight, food consumption, physical activity, environment and diuretic consumption (caffeine and alcohol).   As a guide, you should be drinking 1ml of water per calorie of food.  So, if you’re eating 2,500 calories per day that means you should be drinking 2.5L of water per day.  However, approximately 1L of that will come from food (especially fruits and vegetables) and another 250ml coming from the water of oxidation.  That leaves 1.25L, or 5 cups, that needs to come from drinking water.  Follow?

However, these are the calculations for an inactive individual.  If you/’re doing exercise then you are sweating more and need to drink more.  A rough guide is to consume 1L of water per hour of exercise.  So, want to figure out how much water you should be drinking per day?  Try this calculation:

[Number of calories/1,000] + [hours of exercise x 1] – 1.25 (fluids from food and oxidation) = number of litres per day

So, if I eat 2,800 calories per day and exercise for 45mins, my water intake calculation will be:

[2,800 calories/1,000] + [0.75 x 1] – 1.25
2.8                 +      0.75     – 1.25  =  2.3L

So, I would need to drink 2.3L, or about 9 cups, of water per day to keep my fluid levels constant and avoid dehydration.  This doesn’t account for diuretics like coffee and alcohol, which actually create a negative fluid effect – which is why a late night drinking session can result in headaches and vomiting, which are symptoms of dehydration.  Make sure you drink even more water if you’re drinking caffeine and alcoholic drinks – you’ll be glad the next morning!

Dehydration occurs with as little as 1%-2% loss of bodyweight from fluids.  Even just 1% loss impairs exercise performance.  That means non-diuretic fluid intake (from water, sports drinks, etc) must be enough to keep bodyweight constant for optimal physical performance.  So when you’re at the gym, running, or whatever, make sure you’re drinking something to replenish your lost fluids.  There is plenty more to say about ideal exercise drinks (e.g. protein and carbohydrate combinations), but I will leave that for a future blog.

Always err on the side of too much water if you’re in doubt as to how much you need to drink.  You can use the urine test as a crude method for judging how hydrated you are: dark is dehydrated and pale is adequately hydrated.  Just remember that more exercise, food and diuretics (coffee, alcohol) mean more water is needed.  So drink up.

get fit in 4 minutes with tabata training

May 12, 2010 1 comment

The title of this blog looks like one of those ridiculous claims that you would see on the front cover of Men’s Health.  But I stand behind it because it’s been proven that four minutes of Tabata training really is more effective than an hour of cardio training.

The Tabata method is becoming an increasingly popular form of high intensity interval training (HIIT).  HIIT consists of short bursts of intense activity at near max heart rate, followed by less intense exercise or rest.  For example, sprint 30 seconds, jog one minute, sprint 30 seconds, jog one minute, and so on until you can’t continue.

The Tabata method takes this type of HIIT as a template and turns it into an exact science to maximise anaerobic capacity and VO2max.  In other words, four minutes of Tabata training produces better fitness results than an hour of endurance training.

All the hype comes from a 1996 study by the training method’s namesake, Izumi Tabata, from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.  In his six-week study, participants were divided into two groups.  The first group did one hour of moderate cardio (70% VO2max).  The second group did eight rounds of 20 seconds intense exercise (170% VO2max) followed by 10 seconds rest – equalling a total of only four minutes.  Here are the results:

  Group 1 Group 2
Exercise Moderate cardio Tabata training: 20 seconds of activity followed by 10 seconds rest for eight rounds
Time 60mins 4mins
Frequency Five days per week for six weeks Five days per week for six weeks
Increase in anaerobic capacity Not significant 28%
Increase in VO2max 10% 14%

And the winner is: Tabata training.  In just four intense minutes, Tabata training achieves greater aerobic and anaerobic capacity and more max oxygen consumption than an hour of cardio training.  This not only means higher levels of fitness and exercise tolerance, but even results in more weight loss than moderate cardio.  Time to get off that elliptical machine!

Here’s how you do Tabata training:

Tabata training can be done with any exercise, but I prefer body weight exercises because they allow you to easily stick to the 20sec/10sec work/rest split, they can be done anywhere and they are challenging.  If you’re doing Tabata for the first time, I recommend starting with air squats.  So you would do eight rounds of:

  1. As many air squats as you can in 20 seconds
  2. Rest 10 seconds

Record the lowest number of squats that you did in any given set and use this as your benchmark.  So, if the lowest number of squats you could do in any of the eight rounds was 15, then this is your benchmark to beat next time.  Make sure you have a stopwatch, because the timing is precise.

Want something more challenging?  Try ‘Tabata Something Else’, taken from the CrossFit website.  It’s the same 20sec/10sec x8 routine, but with four different exercises: pull ups, push ups, sit ups and squats.  You do a four-minute Tabata sequence for each exercise, totalling 16 minutes.

  1. Pull ups: max reps in 20secs followed by 10secs rest: x8
  2. Push ups: ditto
  3. Sit ups: ditto
  4. Squats: ditto

If you’re interested in keeping tabs on your progress, record the total number of reps you did for each exercise for the entire 16 minutes then try to beat this next time.

One final note: make sure you go all out in Tabata training.  You should be well outside of your comfort zone and feel exhausted when you finish.  It’s only four minutes, but it should be a very hard four minutes.