I see you injure yourself a lot. Can you help me?
When I’m not being an annoying blogger/web wonk, I often do athletic things like lift weights, play soccer and injure myself. When people see me do these things (even including the injury part, oddly), they invariably ask me questions about how they can get in shape, what they should eat, what workout program they should do, and why my neck makes crunching noises.
Instead of try to be coherent and give anyone who’s interested a logical guide to these questions, I will instead secrete a bunch of bullet points from my finger motion, which are below. If you are an astute reader (and you are), you’ll notice these are in no discernable order. That’s OK, because order isn’t important, mainly because I lack the discipline right this second to infuse this post with even the slightest bit of structure. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re reading this before your first meeting, Starbucks coffee in hand, while the printer spits out some documents for said meeting that you’ll doodle on for 45 minutes. So let’s not get carried away with formality.
So, yes, anyway. These bullet points about health and fitness:
- I wish everyone would understand that fat isn’t necessarily the enemy. We’ve been led for years to believe fat is what makes us fat, and that’s calorically-speaking: fat has 9 calories per gram, whereas carbs and protein only have 4. So, with over double the caloric value, fat must make you fat, right? Not really. It’s not the main culprit.
- Sugar is the main culprit, which means instead of counting fat grams, you better start moderating your carb intake. Without getting into the biochemistry and forcing you to pass out face-down on your keyboard, let’s just say carbs invoke your body’s insulin response, which in turn stores excess sugar (glycogen) as fat. Excess or wrong-type carbs create a metabolic cascade that is very much at the center of the obesity problem we’re seeing today.
- Again: don’t freak out about fat. I know you want to. Everyone does. But understand that your fat-free dressing is full of nasty vegetable oil and additional sugar and salt to make it even somewhat palatable, which is far, far worse than a couple tablespoons of olive oil on your salad. Eat real food.
- Exercise isn’t optional. It really isn’t. Yes, you can manage your weight by keeping a really tight diet, but eventually you will cheat or fall off. We all do. Without stoking your metabolic furnace, you’re really pushing a boulder uphill.
- What kind of exercise? Not endless cardio. I tell folks to lift heavy things 2–3 times per week for no longer than 30 minutes, and to sprint twice per week, but there are many option like kickboxing, Martial Arts Classes, and boxing. If you can’t run, do very short, intense 20 second intervals on a bike, rowing machine, or elliptical. Intervals mean you should go at 90–100% of your max effort for 20 seconds, then take 40 seconds to recover. As your fitness improves, you’ll be able to reduce your rest interval all the way down to 10 seconds. Doing 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 10 seconds of rest is known as the Tabta Protocol. In just eight minutes you can get a better cardio and metabolically-stimulating workout than 45 minutes doing steady-state cardio work.
- When you lift, don’t be afraid of going heavy. Heavier weights build more muscle, and they hit metabolic pathways that help you burn fat, gain lean tissue and even impmrove your cardio capacity. Ladies, you do not have the hormones required to put on much bulk, so concerns about you turning into a hulking, stinking she-devil are unfounded.
- Walk. A lot. As many times as you can per week. Beats the heck out of staring at TV.
- Don’t ignore sleep. Amazing things happen in your sleep, and I’m not talking about having that dream where you are a robot superhero and fly around on a chocolate dragon. I’m talking about tissue recovery and growth, fat loss, stress reduction – you name it. We’re a nation of overtired, super-stimulated people, and we need sleep. Don’t skimp it – especially if you start exercising more.
- Avoid grains if you can. I mean it. All grains. I can go on and on about this, but I’d rather refer you to Robb Wolf’s excellent The Paleo Solution or Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint for thorough explanations. This should actually be bullet point #1, but I didn’t want to freak you out right way. (But I am OK with freaking you out now.)
See? No discerable order, yet pretty reasonable advice. Is it Friday or what, baby?
One last thing: supplements. Everyone asks what supplements they should take. Here’s what I recommend:
- If you can’t get enough protein from real food (with enough being .6-.7 grams per pound of bodyweight; more if you are an athlete), get yourself a good whey protein supplement. I use this daily.
- Fish oil for omega–3 fatty acids. Back when we ate more off the land, we had many more omega–3s in our diet. Today, with the preponderance of grains and processed food, we have a 20:1 omega–6 to omega–3 ratio. That’s way upside-down. We should be closer to 2:1. Fish oil helps this massively. Here’s what I take.
- Unless you spend a lot of time outdoors, I recommend a Vitamin D3 supplement. Nearly every single blood panel I’ve seen is deficient in this, and often massively so. I use a liquid version.
So. Yeah. Friday post. Okay then.
Seriously, if you have any questions, you let me know in the comments. If you prefer email, no problem.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
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