Archive for May, 2007

Fish Oils and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

For some, the phrase, “take your cod liver oil”, may bring back disturbing memories of a mother feeding them a spoonful of some of the most vile tasting liquid known to man. I never had to deal with it, but I can only imagine how evil it must have felt as a child - almost punishing. However, what may have once seemed absolutely disgusting beyond words has only recently had a light shone on it, showing why taking your cod liver oil may, in fact, be something that we all should continue to do on a daily basis.

Once upon a couple generations ago, fish oil was a daily given. It was thought that because of the rich vitamin A and D found in it, fish oil helped keep people healthy and prevent the contraction of some diseases. More recently, it has been discovered that it’s not necessarily the vitamins that help, it’s long chain the omega-3 fatty acids that are the wonder component. You may have noticed how grocery stores are getting stocked with milk, juices, eggs, all fortified with omega-3, but why? What is it about omega-3 that is so important?

There are two omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil in particular, that are key - eicospentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA is important to controling insulin levels. EPA is also beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer, arthritis and other chronic diseases. In March 2007, Dr. Mitsuhiro Yokoyama at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine performed a study that showed that “long-term use of EPA at therapeutic doses is effective for prevention of major coronary events in high cholesterol patients.”

DHA may be even more beneficial than EPA for the human body. DHA is a major fatty acid found in the retina, sperm and brain. DHA can reduce the levels of blood triglycerides in humans and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Low levels of DHA have also been associated with Alzheimer’s, depression and ADHD. Most importantly, however, is the effect that DHA may have on the brain. No other organ in the body has as high a concentration of DHA than the brain. The fact that human breast milk is loaded with DHA may account for why one study indicated that children fed breast milk tended to score 10 percent higher on IQ tests.

Nutrition expert, Udo Erasmus includes omega-3 fatty acids as an essential part of his “Udo’s Choice Food Pyramids”, saying that omega-3 fatty acids (and slightly omega-6) “help reduce fat production in the body” and “increase fat burning and heat production, and shift the body from burning glucose to burning fats.”(*)

Fish oil may taste nasty, but fortunately no longer needs to be taken in the putrid liquid form. The supplement section of the local grocery or health food store or pharmacy will contain a whack of fish oils in capsule form. Dr. Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone diet, suggests a daily intake of 5 grams of fish oil.

Major inspiration - Can World’s Strongest Dad

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Years ago, I would read various short stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul and feel all inspired and such. This is truly that kind of story.

It’s about a guy who is no doubt the World’s Strongest Dad - Dick Hoyt, a 63 year old father of a disabled son, who goes the extra mile (around 26 of them usually) with his son to help both of them have the most fulfilling lives possible. Fantastic story that I just had to share.

Hit the link here:

Killer Leg Exercise - The Lunge

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Yesterday I did a whole wack of lunges. Simple exercise - just stand and lunge forward with one leg, bending the back knee until it touches the ground just slightly, keeping a fairly wide stance. Back to standing position, then lunge forward with the other leg. However, its simplicity is deceiving.

Do 3 sets of 33 lunges in a row, followed with 25 air squats and see what I mean. A good video of lunges and lunge variations can be found here on youtube, courtesy of crossfit.


Monday, May 14th, 2007

Over on, there was an article about a fitness class called, BODYPUMP. Looking at their site, it seems kinda neat.

They’ve combined an aerobic exercise class with some of the best weight training lifts. The BODYPUMP fitness program seems to almost have the same high intensity weight lifting routines that one would find in a crossfit workout of the day. However, these classes are obviously geared to an audience that isn’t going to be cleaning 155lbs. Still, sqauts, clean and presses, bench presses - including these fundamental weight lifts in an aerobic class is a brilliant idea - hopefully it catches on a bit.

However, I’m sure that the added strength element to an otherwise strictly aerobic class would no doubt intimidate folks or give them the idea that they would be bulking up by adding strength training to their workouts (myth).

Interesting, none the less. They just need to get someone like Billy Blanks on the bench and the program would be solid gold
Check out the BODYPUMP program here.

Prepare for Glory!

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

I saw 300 last night. It’s an amazing film. The story might lack a little depth, but between the acting, the cinematography and the special effects, it is still a super good movie. Right from the get go, there’s a huge intensity that doesn’t end until the movie is over. The camera work and post production was brilliantly done. Apparently much of the film was shot at high speed and a scene hardly passes without some degree of slow motion. The characters were all portrayed perfectly and the voices of both Leonidas and Xerxes were bang-on. This movie takes that Ben-Hur kind of cinematic achievement to the next level - hopefully it will inspire other films to follow it’s path.

But one of the many neat aspects of 300’s production was the training that the actors underwent before shooting began. These guys were all playing Spartan warriors and if the movie is any indication, Spartan warriors all have to have lots of muscle and extremely chiseled abs - almost ridiculously chiseled. So how does one go about gathering a cast of Schwarzeneggers? Apparently they go through punishing workouts. The training that they have is something seriously ferocious. Here’s a clip of Mark Twight, the trainer, talking about how they got smashed.

Mark Twight talks more about the 300 workout here, on the Gym Jones website.

Spring Training - HIIT

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Back to the subject of HIIT - high intensity interval training. There’s a couple great articles on discussing the benefits of HIIT with sample routines and body blasting workouts.

A nice short and to the point article can be found here. A great quote from the article when speaking about the usual forms of cardio workouts - “the monotony, non-creativity, invested time, and scramble for equipment takes its toll on most everyone I know. I shudder, mop the gym floor and polish the mirrors furiously, instead. Very practical and also works.”

So reduce your cardio workout time by performing less medium intensity exercising and focus on high intensity. Spend your time wisely.

Cooking healthy is easy

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Why is it so difficult to maintain a healthy diet, when it’s easier to cook a healthy meal than it is to cook a high fat\carb meal?

A chicken breast and a side of cooked frozen veggies takes practically no effort. Even throwing a frozen pizza in the oven takes as much effort (take it out of the box and struggle with the cellophane wrapper). Yet, I guess on those lazy days, it just seems more appealing to eat a cheesy pizza than some bland, semi-dry chicken and veggies.

My suggestion, however, is to cook a bunch of stuff up on Sunday - several chicken breasts, some turkey bacon or maybe even a pot of turkey chili. Throw some in the fridge and some in the freezer. Make your meals microwavable and you’re gold.

Frozen veggies go a long way too - throw a couple cups of frozen green beens and a couple cups of frozen broccoli in a tupper-ware container with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add a couple slices of cut-up deli meat and bring that to work for lunch. Throw it in the micro for a minute (don’t make it too hot - it’ll stink the office up) when you’re ready to eat and give it a stir. Tastes pretty good, takes no time and is incredibly healthy. Lots of fiber, some protein and the good kind of fat and carbs. Gold.

My Gym

Friday, May 11th, 2007

I belong to a nice gym. It just went through a good renovation and acquired some more equipment (having another couple pullup bars is nice). It’s not a huge franchise like Golds but it tries to cater to a similar crowd with the machines and whatnot. Nope, it’s nothing special, but I like it and besides, it’s down the street.

Regardless of the proximity of the gym to my home, however, there are those nights where I just don’t get home from work in time to get there for a good workout before they close. Or maybe I’m just short on time one day and can only get a half an hour in. On these days, I’m very glad that besides my gym membership, I also have a great home gym.

At my home gym, I can do all sorts of exercises - squats, cleans, deadlifts, presses, jerks, snatches, curls, hit the core, the shoulders, the legs, the arms and the back all in the comfort of my own home. And how much did this home gym cost? Nothing. Wha?!?! Yep, that’s right.

You see, all my gym consists of is a 25lb barbell and about 50 lb’s in plates. All it cost me was a trip down to my parents’ basement where I knew my Dad had a few weights sitting around gathering dust since his days when he was my age. Sure I’m not going to be pressing my max or deadlifting hundreds of pounds, but even with this measly setup, I can whip off a few sets of high intensity, high rep sets of several full body exercises.

There is no need to have the latest bowflex machine for $20 per month for the next 50 years. No real need to get an elyptical or high cost treadmill. All anyone really needs is some inexpensive weights (or possibly free for the lucky ones), a bit of empty space in the house (or the garage, or outside) and maybe a good outdoor route to occasionally run.

A good spot to find cheap weights are garage sales. Typically a good hunt early on a Summer Saturday morning will reveal some weightlifting equipment that was laying around in someone’s basement. Salvation Army and other second hand stores will also occasionally carry exercise equipment.

The Benefits of Interval Training

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Going for a 5 or 10 km run is a fantastic aerobic exercise that will burn lots of calories. However, the normal run is generally a moderate intensity exercise.

Long bouts of moderate intensity exercise may actually preferentially burn more muscle tissue than one would like [1]. The goal, after all, is usually to burn calories from carbohydrate storage and maintain muscle.

Some studies have found that brief intervals of high intensity training are more effective at maintaining muscle and building their capacity for lactic acid oxidation [2].

Lactic acid builds up as muscles undergo intense strain. You may recognize this as the burning sensation you might sometimes feel as you’re trying to lift that last rep or trying to sprint the last 100m of a good jog. During the recovery from bout of the high intensity, lactic acid is broken down. This process uses energy from carbohydrate storage or fat [3]. Translation - interval training may be better than a moderate intensity run for losing fat and getting lean.

So next time you’re heading out for your weekly (or monthly or whenever you can get yourself off the couch) run, perhaps head down to the track instead and run 5 or 6 400m sprints, each followed by 2 minutes of rest. It may take less time than a 10k jog, but it may be just as effective.

How not to get your post workout protein

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Sure this guy is cut and looks extremely badass, but this is certainly not the way to get your protein after a workout.

For more info on this crazy dude, check out his myspace page.