Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Weight Training?

            When we think of weight training, most of us think of weight lifting (for definition difference click here). We think of big oily, over-tanned men with disgustingly big muscles in Speedos right? Wrong. Weight training involves a weights program that builds strength, not disgustingly big muscle we see on bodybuilders. So if we’re not planning on entering a weight lifting competition, why weight train?
            A very smart professor at BYU once told me, most Americans by the age of 76 cannot push themselves out of an armchair because they lack the strength. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be heaving my grandchildren around and swimming races at 76 years old, not sitting in my armchair because I physically can’t get out of it. Besides that fact (which some of you may not even care about) weight training helps us to build and strengthen our muscle mass which aids in weight loss (which I’m sure many more of you care about).
            One pound of muscle requires three times more energy at rest than the energy required to maintain one pound of fat. So what does that mean? Your muscles are burning three times the calories than your fat does! Let’s say you put on three pounds of pure muscle. This increase in muscle burns an extra 40 calories per day at rest (imagine how much you would burn if you were to actually use this muscle mass). That’s an extra 280 calories per week, 1,200 calories per month, and 14,600 calories per year. Just packing on three extra pounds of muscle can burn about 4 pounds of fat per year. At rest! So does weight training burn fat? Ultimately the answer is yes. By increasing muscle mass you give your body more ability to burn more calories at rest which results in weight loss.
            Another benefit of weight training is that it strengthens your bones. Weight bearing exercises, such as weight training and running, strengthen your bones. When participating in a weight bearing activity your bones bend which creates a stimulus for new bone formation. In technical terms, the stimulus causes the osteoblasts to lay down new collagen fibers on your bones which harden and form new bone growth. This is extremely important because osteoporosis is becoming more and more common, especially among women. Studies have been done concerning this new bone growth where scientists have discovered that your bones strengthen and become harder as you age (which is why it is said that children’s bones are “softer” than an adult’s). By the age of 25, this natural hardening of the bones begins to drop off. Without weight bearing exercise, bones become more brittle and this is where osteoporosis and broken hips come in. With weight bearing exercise, bones stay hard and there is a much lower risk of osteoporosis and they typical “old age breaks” that occur. You have to keep up the weight bearing exercise if you want to continue to have these benefits. As soon as the weight bearing exercise stops, your bones start to become brittle.
If you have performed weight bearing exercise before the age of 25 (or roughly about the time this natural hardening of the bones stops) you can increase the strength and hardness of your bones beyond what your body does naturally. The amazing thing about weight bearing exercise before your mid-twenties is that if you were to stop doing the exercise, your bones would remain as strong as they were while you were doing the exercise. Really, you could build up your bone strength while you’re body is still naturally hardening your bones so that by the time your body stops doing it on its own, your risk is even lower than someone who is past their mid-twenties and is participating in weight bearing exercise. A person who has built up this strength and hardness can enjoy the benefits of strong healthy bones much longer than one who has not. Eventually, if this person does not keep up the weight bearing activity, their bones will become brittle as well, however, not nearly as soon as one who has not participated in weight bearing activity at all.
I know that this is somewhat of a complicated concept so please leave questions in a comment if you need more clarification. This is an amazing thing our body does and when you really understand how it works if’s fascinating and it will really help you to devise exercise programs that can strengthen your bones and keep you healthy.
Weight training is an extremely important part of your exercise routine that can help keep you strong and healthy all your life. If weight loss is your ultimate goal, remember that muscle burns more calories than fat and is important in your weight loss program. Happy lifting!

Weight Training Vocabulary

     For those of you who would like to start a weight training program but have no idea what all of these terms mean, this one's for you!

hypertrophy – increase in cell size
atrophy – decrease in the size of a cell and/or a decrease in the number of cells.
resting metabolic rate – the amount of energy utilized by the body at rest
lean body mass – fat free mass plus essential fat
o    essential fat – fat incorporated into organs and tissues
o    fat free mass – muscle tissue, connective tissue, skeletal tissue, nervous tissue, organs, blood, and teeth
     accomodating resistance - the use of a machine that adjusts the resistance in an attempt to obtain maximum resistance through a full range of motion.
     barbell - a bar with iron plates attached
     concentric action - a shortening of the muscle against resistance
     dumbbell - a hand weight
     dynamic action - muslce action with movement
     eccentric action - a lengthening of the muscle against resistance
     free weights - barbells and dumbbells; free weights differ from strength training machines, which are restricted on how they can be used
     isokinetic training - the use of a machine that controls the speed of a muscle contration and attempts to vary the resistance according to the muscle force applied (some gyms have isokinetic machines)
     isometric action - muscle action without movement (such as a wall-sit)
     maximum resistance - maximum weight lifted in one repetition of an exercise
     muscular endurance - the ability to perform repeated muscle movememnts for a given period of time
     periodization - dividing the training year into periods and manipulating the stress of training to combat overtraining
     progressive resistance training - increasing the amount of weight lifted as one becomes stronger
     recovery period - the rest interval between sets
     repetition maximum - the maximum amount of weight lifted for a given number of repetitions. For example, 1 RM would be the maximum weight lifted for one repetition, and 6 RM would be the maximum weight lifted for six repetitions
     repetitions - the number of times an exercise is performed (also known as a rep)
     set - a given number of repetitions
     strength - the ability to exert force against resistance
     variable resistance training - the use of a machine that adjusts the resistance through the range of movement of a muscle contraction to accomodate to the changes in muscle strength at different joint angles
     weight lifting - competition that requires the participants to use specific lifts
     weight training - a systematic series of resistance exercises to develop strength (so yes, weight training and weight lifting are two different things)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Turbo Jam

So I'd heard a lot about the Turbo Jam workout from BeachBody and I wanted to try it for myself. I love to kickbox and I knew that's mostly what it was but I was a little scared of the "dancy" part of it I'd heard about. I am no dancer by any means. I'm really glad I bought this program anyway, the dancing is no big deal and it is SO much fun! Chalene Johnson is so cute and so fun and she's really good at motivating you to keep it up.
The first workout on the DVD is the "Learn and Burn." Doing this workout first is so important because she describes and has you practice the moves she uses most. There are 11 moves she takes you through and then there is a 16 minute workout combining all of the things you learned. I love that there is a "Learn and Burn" segment on the DVD because it really makes for a near flawless transition into the workouts she has. A lot of programs never describe how to do the moves and it takes several times through the workout before you start to get the hang of things. I felt like I could do anything Chalene asked of me, when she asked me to do it. I didn't have to stop and watch a few times before attempting the move myself. I loved that! I could have a seamless workout with no pauses to learn the moves.
The 20-Minute Workout, Turbo Sculpt, Cardio Party, and Ab Jam are all a lot of fun and Chalene does a great job of helping you to hang in there and see the workout through. She's also scheduled in water breaks through the cardio workouts which is great. I always feel like I need some water to keep my throat from getting too dry when I breathe heavily after something like that.
You can buy this program directly from BeachBody complete with a workout schedule, meal plans, and a few other neat things or you can buy just the DVDs for less at the Turbo Fit Store. I have the workout plans I can post if any of you would like to buy the DVDs only.
Try this program out, it's tons of fun, guaranteed to make you sweat and shed the pounds!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Skinny (or not so skinny) on Trans Fat

                I figured it was about time to tackle the article on fats. There seems to be a lot of confusion about fats; which are good, which are bad, and why we should care. I’ll briefly describe the different types of fats but I mostly want to focus on the dreaded trans fats. The chemical make-up of these different fats can explain why some are good and some are bad. One of the main things I want you to take away from this is that not all fats are bad and that you do need those good fats.
                Unsaturated fats are broken up in two categories: monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are really oils. They are liquids at room temperature but they become slightly more solid or cloudy when put in the refrigerator. Studies have shown that when a person substitutes the saturated fat in their diet with monounsaturated fat, their blood cholesterol is lowered. This means that monounsaturated fats are good for you. Polyunsaturated fats cannot be produced by your body which means you can only get them from your diet. These fats are liquid at room temperature as well as when refrigerated. These fats do lower your blood cholesterol and are considered to be heart healthy. One of the common polyunsaturated fats a lot of people use are fish oils, often taken as a supplement. In short, unsaturated fats are good for you, and polyunsaturated fats can only be obtained through diet.
                Saturated fats are not as good for you. You still need some saturated fat in your diet, but not much. Saturated fats have all of the hydrogen atoms they can hold. These fats come from animals and animal products and they are all solid at room temperature. If you heat up saturated fats they become liquid but as it cools, it turns back into a waxy solid. Saturated fats can be found in milk, though milk is obviously liquid. Ever notice that whole milk is much thicker and will coat your spoon but skim or fat free milk is much thinner and will not coat your spoon? Saturated fats raise your blood cholesterol, which in turn raises your risk for heart disease and stroke.
                Trans fats are the worst possible fats you could eat. Many years ago food scientists tried to come up with a way to use less saturated fats in foods without compromising taste. (Saturated fats taste good, that’s why so many of our favorite cookies and candies are high in saturated fat.) They took polyunsaturated fat and put it through a process called hydrogenation. Healthy, polyunsaturated fats were heated and had hydrogen atoms added to it. This man-made fat was called trans fat. It had the ability to be used over and over again to fry foods without going rancid and it was thought to be healthier for you because it originated from polyunsaturated fats.
                The focus of this article today is trans fat and I hope to impress upon you the seriousness of what happens when we put this into our bodies. Gram for gram, trans fat poses 10 times more risk to our health than saturated fat. Because it is a man-made fat, our body has an extremely hard time processing trans fat. In nine different (and quite large) studies, both saturated fat and trans fat were shown to decrease good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. However, the effect of trans fat was 2.5 times worse than the effects of saturated fat. According to Dr. Steven Aldana, “the minimum amount of trans fats a person can consume and not increase risk is zero.”
                So, where do we find trans fat? The answer may surprise you. Margarine, vegetable shortening, any deep-fried foods, french fries, most bakery goods, and anything made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil contain trans fat. When you look at the nutrition facts on these items, some say that they contain trans fat and other don’t. Why is that? Well, the FDA requires that food labels include trans fats. That sounds nice, right? At least we are aware that we are slowly poisoning our bodies. Unfortunately, the FDA said they only had to include trans fat if there was 0.5 grams of trans fat or more per serving. Hmm. Not so good. This means if companies who use trans fat in their products can create a small enough serving size, they don’t have to report the use of trans fat.
                Have you ever looked at a serving size of any one of these items? In Crisco brand all-vegetable shortening it claims to have 0 grams of trans fat in its 1 tablespoon serving size. However, if you look at the ingredient list below the nutrition label, you can find the words “partially hydrogenated” which means, there is trans fat in that product, but it has less than 0.5 grams per 1 tablespoon serving. No one goes and eats shortening from the tub, but shortening is often found in pastries, cookies, cakes, and frostings. I have a butter cream frosting recipe that contains more than 2 cups of shortening. Guaranteed you’re eating more than a tablespoon of shortening by the time you eat a piece of one of my frosted cakes. Or how about those yummy processed cookies you love to eat? No trans fat in those bad boys right? Less than 0.5 grams per one cookie. But how many cookies do you eat? Three, four? I know I can’t stop at one.
                So how do we cut out trans fats when they are found in our favorite foods? My first suggestion would be to go through packages of your favorite processed foods and look at the nutrition label and the ingredient list. If it has trans fat or has the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list, you have a problem. Make note of those foods. Often you can find other brands of the same food that don’t have trans fat. For example, I love those cheep little sandwich cookies with the frosting in the middle. Most contain trans fat. I found a store brand of those same little cookies with no trans fat. Sure I had to look around, but it was worth it. You don’t have to cut those foods out completely, you just have to look for a brand that makes the same food without trans fat. If there’s no trans fat on the label but it does contain partially hydrogenated oils, you can eat them. Just stick to the serving size. The problem comes when we eat well over the serving size and suddenly you’ve eaten several grams of trans fat.
                Bake with butter instead of margarine. Sure saturated fats are bad for you. But remember that trans fats are 10 times worse. If you’re going to bake, bake with butter instead. You still have to be careful of how much you eat, but your risk is significantly reduced. Sure your breads and crusts and pastries won’t be quite as flaky but is that little bit of extra flakiness worth your health? I think not.
                If you’ve got to have that french fry fix, go to a fast food joint that doesn’t use partially hydrogenated oils to fry those bad boys. In-N-Out Burger has the healthiest french fries because they use peanut oil to fry. (No, there is not a peanutty taste to the fries…) Some fast food chains have committed to using healthier oils and not partially hydrogenated oils to fry their foods and those are the ones you want to hit. Frito-Lay products have also committed to reducing trans fat use and in some cases have stopped its use. You’re safe eating chips by Frito-Lay! Other companies like McDonald’s have said they will cut their trans fats in half to appease their patrons have not actually followed through.
                Be smart. You’re health is more important than any cookie or pastry so make the effort to find the healthiest ones and take steps to cut your trans fat intake to zero. Good luck!