Why You Should Drink More Water

Sure, you’ve no doubt heard that you should be drinking more water. But why? Here’s a list of 7 reasons.

  • Water contains no calories. Unlike fruit juices and sugary drinks, water will hydrate you and quench your thirst while not affecting glucose or insulin levels.
  • Our bodies are more than half water. It is essential that we get enough water in our system on a daily basis to maintain ourselves.
  • Drinking enough water throughout the day will keep your organs, like your liver and kidneys healthy and working properly.
  • Drinking water is virtually free. True, many people these days purchase bottled water, but the difference between that water and the water coming out of your tap is probably minimal. Fortunately water is one of the few things left on this planet that we can still get for free (sort of).
  • Diet sodas have artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that could potentially pose health issues (although there is currently no direct evidence of this). At the very least, artificially sweetened drinks keep your “sweet tooth” wanting more sweet stuff which might come in the form of a candy bar. Water is plain tasting and could help aleviate your “need” for sweets.
  • No stains. An often overlooked benefit of drinking water is that if it spills, cleanup is simple and there shouldn’t be any worry about stains on your new shirt.
  • Ever hear of the saying, “8 glasses of water a day will keep the dentist away?” Well, neither have I. I just made it up. However, it could be somewhat true. Less sugar intake from sugary pops and fruit juices would definitely be a good thing for cavity prevention.

On Vacation!

Today my wife and I left for Greece for a 10 day adventure getaway.  While I’m gone, I’ll have some articles getting posted on a regular basis.  A good blogging tip is to stay prepared and alway have some extra posts up your sleeve.  WordPress has a future post option that’s great.  Enough blogging…  Time to relax and not think about working out or running or eating right.  Vacation is down time and I intend to take full advantage of it.

Fitness Toolbox - 60+ Fitness Related Links

Mashable, the world’s largest social networking blog, has a list of 60+ health and fitness site links.  Some of them I’ve reviewed in on The Fit Blog, but there are others there too that might be worth a look.

Check  out the list here.

More Evidence Suggesting Aspartame Safe

It goes without saying that diet colas are an extremely popular drink. These days, diet anything is popular. Despite their popularity, most people will agree that there is much confusion about artificial sweeteners, specifically aspartame, and whether or not there are any side effects from continued consumption. The confusion no doubt stems from the vigorous public controversy and the shady circumstances surrounding the FDA approval of the artificial sweetener in 1981*.

Some studies, in the past have suggested connections between aspartame and cancer. In 2005, the Ramazzini Foundation published a study in Environmental Health Perspectives that demonstrated how aspartame administered to rats caused a significant increase in leukemia and malignant tumors. The study was later dismissed as the FDA and other international food and drug bodies “concluded” that the findings had shortcomings and the cancers could not be found to be related strictly to aspartame. Although Ramazzini held steadfast to the study’s results and has since performed other research with similar findings, the food and drug administrations continue to reject them.

In 2006, a large human study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute found no significant link between aspartame and cancer. Critics of this particular study, however, are quick to point out that it looked at only a short period of consumption.

Yesterday, a press release came out highlighting a sweeping review of aspartame research studies saying that there is “no evidence that the non-nutritive sweetener causes cancer, neurological damage or other health problems in humans”. This, comes as good news for individuals weary of their aspartame consumption.

The review from an “international expert panel from 10 universities and medical schools” looked at over 500 reports dating from the 1970s to the most recent. Never before has such a group been put to the task of such an extensive review on the sweetener. The review found that aspartame, as it is consumed by human populations (including even high amount consumers), does not cause cancer promoting activity or neurological effects. The review also states that aspartame does not have any adverse effects on reproduction and despite what some recent studies have suggested, does not contribute to obesity. In fact, the review suggests that diet soda contributes to weight loss.

No matter how many reviews and studies take place, aspartame is a sweetener that is certainly going to be forever criticized, resulting in much consumer confusion. Personally, I enjoy my caffeine free diet cola. But like with everything else, at the end of the day moderation is key.

The press release can be found here.

Quick Little Workout That Will Kick Your Butt

I usually run on Tuesday nights, but my wife decided to go to the gym so I thought I’d tag along. For some reason it was a ghost town in there. It gets like that once in a while. Some nights its packed, some nights it’s seriously empty. But I like it quiet. It gives me a chance to hog an area or machine. This is a benefit of a smaller gym when several mega gyms exist in the same city (other benefits here).

I decided on the following workout.

As many sets of the following with as little rest in between:

  • 10 kipping pullups
  • 15 pushups

I managed to squeeze out 8 sets in about 15 minutes. My arms are a little sore and the calluses on my hands look terrible. But it was good. Not only does a workout like this help build muscle, but doing max sets with as little rest as possible also gets the heart rate up.

TRX Fitness Anywhere

group-hip-hinge.jpgWhile having gym equipment at hand is a serious bonus to any workout, as I’ve mentioned before, the effectiveness of bodyweight workouts shouldn’t be underestimated. By performing seemingly simple bodyweight exercises, you can still have a very good routine while benefiting from the ability to workout at places other than a smelly gym.

Enter the TRX Fitness Anywhere system. What is essentially a nylon trap with handles on each end enables you to extend your bodyweight exercise repertoire and perform some neat exercises that would be probably be difficult to do without something like it.

The TRX Fitness Anywhere strap mounts on your door, over an I-beam, or over some other structurally sound mounting point. From there, either by holding onto the handles or strapping your feet through them, you can perform a variety of interesting suspension bodyweight exercises such as the “Atomic Press” (think pushup combined with a hanging leg raise). A bunch of demos of the possible exercises are available on the TRX website.

The TRX system was developed by Randy Hetrick, during his years as part of elite Navy Seals teams for use in quarters where sufficient exercise equipment was scant. As time went on and as it became more and more apparent that he had a good fitness product on his hands, Randy made continued modifications to the system, bringing it to where it is now.

According to a NYT article, the TRX Fitness Anywhere has “entered the mainstream”, becoming part of over 1,000 gyms throughout the U.S., being used by individual trainers and for group classes. TRX has also been used for pro Football training.

The Exercise Equipment Expert has a good review and video of the TRX Fitness Anywhere system and highly praised it for not only helping to give a good workout, but for its relative inexpensiveness as well.

The Power Plate

The Fitness industry is loathe with individuals out to make a buck on unknowledged suckers, most of whom would try anything to lose weight. Turn on the shopping channel and if it’s not jewelery or a home stereo component that they’re advertising, it’ll most likely be a “fitness” product. And for a while, these items sometimes garner the interest of dieters worldwide. Case in point, the Power Plate.

The Power Plate looks like a doctor’s scale with handle bars. Step on it and turn it on and it begins to vibrate intensely. The makers of the machine say that the machine is “the premium vibration device powering a new dimension in wellness solutions for all ages, lifestyles and physical abilities.” They cite benefits of using the Power Plate, including improvement in blood circulation, increased flexibility, bone density and strength as well as decreased cellulite. And they claim all of this in faster, less frequent workouts than you would typically do.

My initial gut reaction to this is that it’s bogus - yet another expensive workout gimmick. However, a quick search in Google reveals hundreds of sites and news articles all seemingly proclaiming the vibrating machine’s greatness. Some articles even go as far as describing how celebrities like Madona have successfully used it. But I just can’t believe it. How can a vibrating platform be a substitute for a normal workout?

I could continue to write about why I feel that the Power Plate isn’t worth its $10,000 cost and why it would be the biggest paper weight purchase anyone would make, but over on blogcritics.org, Sal Marinello has written a pretty good article that pretty much sums up what I’d have to say.

Sure the Power Plate may have some health benefits. The blood circulation and flexibility claims seem within the realm of possibilities. But don’t get trapped in the hype of self-proclaimed super machines like the Power Plate. There’s a reason why the components of a good workout routine hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. Exercise unfortunately requires work. There’s no way around it. If you want to build muscle or lose weight, you’re gonna have to get sweaty at regular intervals and spend some time actually working out.

My New Nike+ IPod

 The other day I went out for lunch with a friend and he completely convinced me to get a Nike+ Ipod for my running. Today I got it. I don’t know why I hadn’t purchased this $39CAD device ages ago. It is seriously awesome. Read on to find out about my first experience with it.

Pushup Variations

Without further ado, I present my second attempt at an exercise video demonstration. This time, I cover pushups and variations thereof.

Pushups are often thought of as a simple bodyweight exercise and are pushed aside in favour of the infamous bench press. It’s unfortunate because pushups are a great exercise. Once again, it’s a case of simplicity being grossly underestimated. 50 consecutive pushups is an exercise worthy of only quite fit individuals. And once the standard pushup becomes a breeze, there are a multitude of variations to be taken on. In fact, there is probably no exercise like it, in its ability to get increasingly more difficult through subtle variations.

With this video, I try to go through a bunch of these variations and I’ve arranged it in an order that I believe to be from easiest to most difficult. I admit that I struggled with the single arm pushups at the end and as such, used a fancy video dissolve in order to cover it up (although with little success). Regardless, please enjoy…

p.s. For those of you interested in who the band is, it’s a Canadian band named Bedouin Soundclash from their 2006 album, Sounding a Mosaic (which, IMHO, is a fantasic album).

Is it Just Me, or is Google Having Issues This Weekend?

I know that there was planned adsense maintenance yesterday, but all weekend, I’ve been having issues getting to numerous Google sites.  Adsense ads have been flaky at best.  The URL, pagead2.googlesyndication.com has been timing out, not just on my site but on other sites.  This, in turn, has caused some slow page load times.  The sidebar has been most affected.  This isn’t so bad, but news.google.com is not working and I tried images.google.com, which returned links, but no images.

I’ve tried looking around for some information - groups.google.com mostly as news.google.com doesn’t seem to be working.  Not that it’s the end of the world or anything.  Having Google not working is far from having any real problems. I guess I’ve just grown to depend too much on the big G?

I first thought that perhaps it was my computer.  After all, I haven’t rebooted in days.  But the same problems are occurring on other machines.  My next thought was that maybe it was my ISP.  I get an error 500 when I try to sign into their site.  But I ssh’d into Dreamhost (where my websites are hosted) and used the text browser, Lynx.  It also would not go to news.google.com.  In fact, after 5 minutes of waiting, I gave up waiting any longer.

So the big Internet Crash of 2007 has perhaps finally occurred?  Maybe the “scheduled Google Adsense maintenance” had some adverse impacts.

The Benefits of Resistance Exercise for Breast Cancer Patients

It seems that there is no end to the benefits of exercising. A recent study conducted at the University of Alberta shows some benefits of resistance training for early-stage breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The study, authored by Kerry Courneya, showed that resistance and aerobic training helped improve the self-esteem, muscular strength and lean body mass of individuals dealing with the “unfavorable changes” as a result of chemotherapy. Chemotherpy has a multitude of side effects that are generally related to these physical and mental areas. The study also found that resistance training improved the chemotherapy completion rate versus the sampled patients who were not doing any exercise.

Among women worldwide, breast cancer is the most common cancer and most common cause of cancer death. In 2007 it is expected to cause almost 50,000 deaths in the U.S. For us Canuks, we can help contribute to the possibility of a future without breast cancer by taking part in the CIBC Run for the Cure on September 30. The event will take place in 53 communities across Canada, and together we will be raising millions of dollars to help fund breast cancer research and awareness programs.

I’ll personally be running the 5k. However, 1km runs are also available in some communities for beginner runners and individuals who would be walking or are otherwise unable to complete a full run. For people who will be unable to attend a run, donations can be made at the CIBC Run for the Cure website.

Waking Early Increases Vascular Risk?

via Bloomberg

I’ve alway envied people who are capable of getting up super early in the morning. So much extra time on their hands. Time to get up to date on the latest headlines or go for an early morning jog. I tried it a couple of times, but I couldn’t get used to running in the cold darkness that the early mornings presented.

But I tend to go to sleep later in the evening (around midnight), and getting as much rest as possible is super important for maintaining muscle and a healthy weight. However, there could, in fact, be more severe consequences for not sleeping in a little longer. A recent study from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan suggests that “getting out of bed before 5 a.m. might be bad for your health” possibly increasing the risk of “heart attack and stroke”.

The study found that “people who habitually rose before 5 a.m. had a 1.7 times greater risk of high blood pressure and were twice as likely to develop hardening of the arteries.” While the age old saying, “the early bird gets the worm” may still hold true for individuals trying to get more time to do things, the saying should possibly be revised to include a disclaimer. “The early bird gets the worm (possible side effects include heart attack and stroke).”

Soy Versus Whey Protein

It is often suggested that soy protein is not as effective as whey protein for building lean muscle mass. Many bodybuilders subscribe to this idea as if it’s a universal truth. But is it? Is Soy protein seriously less potent than whey?

According to a Ohio State University study published in 2004, like whey, soy protein produced a “statistically significant increase in lean body mass” in the subjects with little difference between the two.

Another point that some bodybuilders will make against using soy based protein supplements is the apparent high levels of estrogen found. While soy protein does contain higher estrogen-like molecules (Daidzein) than whey, they are significantly weaker than human estrogen estradiol and will not cause any problems in men.

I’m not saying that you should chuck your 100% whey protein and start using soy based protein. However, if you would rather not use protein supplements that are derived from animals, or possibly have an allergy to whey, then soy protein is a really good choice. In fact, soy based protein may even have benefits over whey. The same 2004 study suggested that while the whey sample group exhibited a deterioration in antioxidant function, the group that took the soy based protein showed a preservation of this function.

Shin Splints

Lately when I’ve been running, I’ve been getting shin splints. Shin splints are pains in the shins, caused by running, jumping or possibly even biking. For me, the pain might take a day or two to get better.

But why is it suddenly happening to me? According to wikipedia, shin splints can be attributed to landing on the heel for each stride. However, I tend to run from the balls of my feet so I can rule this out as the reason. What I believe to actually be the cause is improper foot pronation.

If foot pronation is not proper when landing, it can cause shin pain. Ideal pronation when running is to strike the ground on the outside of the shoe and roll inwards slightly. This is something that I concentrate on during the run in an attempt to correct, but the shin splints don’t go away.

I think the solution to these shin splints will be a new pair of shoes that have good arch support and a form meant for overpronaters. This may help keep my foot strikes properly aligned. Another method of shin splint prevention is to adequately warm up and stretch the shin before running - something that I rarely do.

I’d like to resolve the issue before the end of the month, when I’m scheduled to run in the CIBC Run for the Cure.