Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Save your joints

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After the bones and muscle, the joints are the most important part of your movement. They define the quality of your life and - actually - your freedom. An old saying goes something like "you are as old as your joints" and it is quite right.

Unfortunately, the joints can be easily damaged; they get developed slower than muscle; and they recuperate even slower. So they need a great deal of attention. Proper form in every exercise is the first thing you should do to save your joints.

The second is supplementation. Here we have the following Holy Trinity: glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen. Other substances help too (vitamin C, omega-3, MSM), but the first three are fundamental.

Finally, for joints more than anything else, the adage "use it or lose it" is completely true. So, put in your daily routine mobility exercises for the eight basic joints:


Just move every joint in its full range of motion and do 10 reps. Move front-to-back, left-to-right, and rotations too (where applicable).

One more thing: don't confuse mobility exercises with stretching. For example, if you lift your bent knee to your chest, you perform full range of forward motion for the hip. If the knee was straight, then you would also stretch your hamstring (and the movement would be much more difficult), but the hip would see no difference.

Get to work!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer has ended

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If during this summer you achieved the best shape of your life (which I surely hope), then maybe vacations ruined it a bit. Or maybe you didn't manage to do it, and now you have set your sight on next summer.

Either way, this blog will help you. With simple and regular tips on exercise and nutrition, it will bring you closer to the body of your dreams.

Let's start with two basic exercises (one for the abdominals, and the other for legs) which you can perform anywhere without equipment:

Don't do repetitions. Just hold these positions for as long as you can, and next time shoot for more time. In this way, you will be able to effectively improve two common trouble spots.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fight sedentary life in four steps

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The post's title is intentional. Sedentary life is a vicious enemy of our health and must be fought. Many times we have discussed about nutrition and that it's more important, however it's not enough by itself. The following program assumes a normal work schedule (9:00 - 17:00).

1. Before work
Wake up half an hour earlier and go for a run or fast walk. 20 minutes are sufficient. While you are away, you can have some water heated (if that's an issue for you), so you can shower the minute you get back, have breakfast, and then leave for work. You will not believe the difference in your mood and energy.

2. After lunch
Don't rush back to your office. Don't waste time talking with coworkers at the table, either. Stand up and go for a quick walk. Whatever you do is good (for example, walk two times around the block), and 20 minutes are more than enough in this case too. You will again notice immediate difference in how you feel, and you will fight sleepiness very efficiently.

3. After work
Rest for as long as you can (the best you can do is sleep for an hour or so) and then put in a full hour of intense activity. The best choice is the gym, but feel free to do whatever you fancy (dancing, martial arts, bicycle, swimming, running etc).

4. After dinner / just before sleep
Go for one more short walk. The best thing you can do at this time is a casual stroll.

All other pieces of advice (park your car away, take the stairs etc) continue to be useful, but if you commit in doing these four steps, you will be on your way. Good luck!

Everything you need to know about carbohydrates

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1. They are the body's primal energy source (along with fats). That's why they are essential in breakfast and before/after training. They provide four calories per gram.

2. They cause the secretion of insulin. This hormone is the transport of nutrients (protein and glucose) to the muscles - and to adipose tissue.

3. They also cause water retention in muscle. As a result, a drastic cut of their ingestion will lead to fluid loss.

4. There are two ways to divide them:
a1. Simple (sugar, honey, fruit, white flour products)
a2. Complex (whole-grain products, grains, oats, rice, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, legumes)
b1. Slow-digesting (yams, wild rice, beans, fruit, pasta)
b2. Fast-digesting (white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes, cereals, juices).

5. Simple and fast carbs release more insulin. However, the speed of digestion can be reduced by combining them with fiber, fat, or protein. Raw, whole, solid, and cold carbs are slower, too.

6. They get stored in muscles as glycogen (which is the most important energy source for the muscles, and is 75% water). This makes muscles look fuller.

7. Insulin is an anabolic hormone, but it poses two threats: it increases appetite and encourages fat storage. It might also nourish cancer tumours.

8. When there is a shortage of carbs, the body is forced to use fat for energy. Fat burning byproducts are called ketones, and in extreme situations, this state is called ketosis. Even then though, the body is able to create the glucose it needs by itself.

9. They take part in the fat burning process, which is called Krebs Cycle.

10. When carbs are low (and thus less glycogen is stored), protein must go up. The body will convert nitrogen to glucose. Simultaneously, more fat gets utilized for energy.

11. Some supplements that help carbs to get stored as glycogen (in muscles) and not as fat are: chromium, a-lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids. The best way to do it though is to consume carbs right after strenuous muscle activity.

12. A sharp spike of insulin levels (from simple carbs) along with the subsequent sharp reduction of blood glucose might cause a feeling of weakness.

Armed with this knowledge, you will be in a better position to understand why a low-carb diet will help you lose fat. Good luck!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Does sugar cause cancer?

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I am reading this article by Gary Taubes on sugar. In there, you will also find a lecture by Robert Lustig which has made some noise recently. Previously, I have blogged about this subject, too.

The new aspect is the following: sugar might cause cancer. To be more precise: insulin (which is stimulated by sugar) might nourish the tumours. This is the issue that has drawn the attention of the global nutrition society.

Of course, I can't tell if such a claim is true or not. I can say however that it sounds logical to me, because insulin's role is exactly this: to nourish tissue (muscle and fat).

But this is where the problem lies. You can't say that "I am cutting back on sugar and all carbs to stop insulin, and thus I will avoid cancer" because in this way you will stop the nutrition to your muscles too (and to your adipose tissue, but this is something you want, I suspect).

So, what should you do?

Bodybuilders are doing it for a long time: try to stimulate insulin (by consuming carbs) when your muscles need glycogen. That means certainly after weight training, and possibly in breakfast (if you are trying to put on muscle mass). As a result, carbs will go exactly where they should.

Other than that, it goes without saying that you should prefer good carbs: fruit, vegetables, honey, lactose (in milk), some potatoes, a little rice. Complex carbs (whole-grain) are not necessarily good. Generally, you should avoid processed carbs (flour-based products). This also holds true for sugar and sweets, of course.

Doing that, you reduce cancer's odds and simultaneously burn fat. What else could you ask for?

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to train naturally

Continuing the previous article, today we will show ways to make our training more natural. As we have said many times in the past, exercising should be divided in two parts: aerobic (running) and anaerobic (weights).

Running – as well as speedwalking – is a natural activity in and of itself. However, there is a way to make it even more so: run in natural surroundings (forests, parks, beaches) wearing shoes with minimum sole (ideally, no shoes at all).

As far as weight training is concerned, surely lifting and carrying heavy objects is natural, however not in the form used today (barbells and dumbbells). These weights are completely balanced and symmetrical, and thus don’t transfer fully to the real world. But there are ways to make this part of our training more natural, too:

1. Weight train in natural surroundings without shoes.
2. Utilize bodyweight exercises: pull-ups, dips, squats.
3. Lift natural loads: stones, rocks, logs, water-filled containers.
4. Push, drag, carry.
5. When using barbells and dumbbells, prefer exercises that are close to real-world conditions: deadlifts, squats, overhead presses.

Apart from improved results, these guidelines will make your training healthier and more fun. Good luck!