2014 in Review: Fitness and Health Articles

2014 in Review: Fitness and Health Articles

As we look forward to 2015, let’s look back and see what we covered last year.

This review of the articles posted to the FunFit website in 2014 let’s us reflect on what we’ve learned, and allows us to get the most out of this year.

Let’s get into to it! 🙂

FunFit Crew

Fitness (6 Articles)

Let’s start with how to define fitness. A definition of fitness let’s you set clear goals and measure your progress as objectively as possible.

http://fun-fit.com.au/what-is-fitness-measurable-definition/

Now that you know that strength is a fundamental component of fitness, you can figure out ‘how strong are you?’ and see if you have any relative weaknesses you can focus on.

http://fun-fit.com.au/strength-standards-how-strong-are-you/

If you are just getting (back) into fitness or would like a refresher on how to get the most out of training, then please read this guide for beginners. (Or send the link to a friend!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/fitness-newbie-success-guide/

For those of you who’ve heard of Crossfit, or have been doing it for a while, please read my take on the pros and cons of Crossfit.

http://fun-fit.com.au/love-hate-relationship-crossfit/

If you or someone you know is pregnant or considering it, please read this guide on how you can get the most out of training while pregnant – safely of course! (Please share!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/pregnancy-exercise/

The Primal Blueprint is hands down one of the best lifestyle books out there. Read my review of this fundamental work.

http://fun-fit.com.au/primal-blueprint-review/

little ninjas self defence

Self Defence/Martial Arts (3 Articles)

Understand the motivation behind self defence training.

http://fun-fit.com.au/real-self-defence-risk-management/

Are you a parent? Please read this to help your kids keep themselves safe when they’re out and about and are offered a lift. (Please share with other parents)

http://fun-fit.com.au/pick-password-safety-tip-for-kids/

I’m often asked how to correctly tie a belt for martial arts. Here’s a video to which you can refer.

http://fun-fit.com.au/tie-belt-martial-arts/

prehabilitation

Rehab/Prehab (4 Articles)

Move better. Improve your functionality. Reduce the likelihood or severity of injury. Prehab.

Sore lower back? It’s often down to poor squat mechanics, weak and/or tight quads and glutes and tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Check out this video to help you do something about it!

http://fun-fit.com.au/quad-hamstring-lower-back-mobility-video/

Following up on the lower back, here’s a 9 stretch sequence you can do with a band to maintain or improve your suppleness.

http://fun-fit.com.au/9-ways-bands-can-help-stretch/

For those who like to integrate suppleness and strength dynamically, there’s FlowFit. Move, play, flow!

http://fun-fit.com.au/flowfit-move-better/

Done something to yourself? Check this out so you know for sure – when to ice and when to use heat. (Thanks again to Chirotherapy for the guest post!)

http://fun-fit.com.au/injury-treatment-ice-heat/

nutrition

Nutrition (2 Articles)

I have no problem with people criticising the Paleo Diet. What I do have a problem with is people misrepresenting the Paleo Diet (straw man) and then criticising what it isn’t. Example here.

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-diet-criticism/

Just in case you missed it in the fitness section above – this is a fantastic book. Please (re)read my review.

http://fun-fit.com.au/primal-blueprint-review/

Recipes (5 Articles)

Yummy things!

Delicious and low effort, slow cooked Turkey.

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-slow-cooked-turkey-garlic-mustard/

For the sweet tooth – gluten free, dairy free chocolate brownies.

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-chocolate-brownie-bites/

Need breakfast ideas? How about banana pancakes?

http://fun-fit.com.au/paleo-banana-pancake-recipe/

Looking for a healthy snack? Look no further!

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-kale-chips-win/

Choc Raspberry Cupcakes. Check this out – you won’t regret it!

http://fun-fit.com.au/recipe-choc-raspberry-cupcakes/

What are your thoughts on what you read in 2014?

I have a few ideas for 2015 – What would you like to see?

Fitness Newbie? Read this getting started guide!

Fitness Newbie?

Get started with these 10 Tips For Success

Stepping into a new gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
You might see a bunch of people lifting really heavy things. Doing unfamiliar movements and using peculiar vocabulary. Fear not fitness newbie; these people won’t bite. They’re actually pretty friendly and supportive once you get to know them. It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to functional fitness training prior to starting at FunFit. But don’t worry; we’ll look after you. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your FunFit journey.

1.) Have fun

Let’s face it, not all workouts are fun. But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment (or relief!). You shouldn’t be upset that you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here?  Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? If so, then don’t be too concerned with your competitive nature.

The things you’ll learn at FunFit are fun: making your life easier and helping you engage more. Learn new skills of controlling your own bodyweight, kettlebells, movement, olympic lifts. A lot of the stuff you can’t do in a Fitness First. The attitude is different too; the feeling you’ll have the first time you get an unassisted pull-up or move with effortlessness is an amazing sense of power and accomplishment.

fitness newbie: challenge yourself and have fun

2.) Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, over and over again


It’s your time, money, and most importantly, health. If you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all a fitness newbie at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the squat, deadlift, or any of the olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

3.) You’re competing against yourself, not others


When it comes time to doing a workout, don’t feel like you have to do everything, or be able to complete as many rounds as other people right off the bat. Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts.  Start light, get your form sorted out, and improve from there. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

Fitness newbie: Leave your ego at the door

4.) Don’t be too proud to modify


Learn new movements. Progress to more complexity over time. You have to know your own body and its limits. Most importantly, there’s no substitute for common sense.

5.) What you eat is more important than what you lift

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your energy levels, your recovery, and your overall defence against disease.

“Junk in, junk out.”

When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. Eat ‘cleanly’ (as much real food as possible / as little processed food as possible). If you’re eating as cleanly as possible, you don’t even need to worry about the quantity at this stage. You are a Ferrari. You wouldn’t put low quality fuel in a Ferrari, would you?


6.) Training isn’t everything


We are doing a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It can improve almost every aspect of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. I train so that I can do whatever I want: Go out, play sports, learn new things. Having that GPP allows me to take on new challenges. Training is not my life. I train so that I can have a life… and get the most out of it.


7.) It doesn’t get easier, but you get better


Persevere. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough.  All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can do each workout to the best of your ability.

Fitness newbie: keep calm and do your best


8.) You won’t PR every day


Don’t mistake intensity for hard work. Even if you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work. Intensity and hard work are not the same thing. Don’t skip a planned session just because you’re feeling a bit flat. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine; scale back. Something is better than nothing.

9.) Respect rest and recovery


Too many people new to training (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in over-training. Don’t be afraid to schedule in a de-load day once per week, or a de-load week every 4-6 weeks where you cut the weight, rounds, and intensity in half. You have to think about this from a longevity standpoint. If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down. You need to respect your time outside of the gym. There’s an old weightlifting adage that goes something like: “You don’t get bigger and stronger from lifting weights, you get bigger and stronger from recovering from lifting weights.”

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. Don’t know what that is? Ask!

10.) Thank yourself

Overcoming inertia and getting off the couch isn’t easy. Especially in winter. Thank yourself for making the effort, training consistently and reaping the rewards. You’re investing in yourself. It’s worth it. 🙂


So, what now?

You’ve made a commitment to yourself. You’re about to start eating better. Your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, deadlift and snatch. See you in training. Welcome to FunFit.

Ready to get started? Get in touch!

Primal Blueprint Review: 10 ways to better Health

Primal Blueprint Review

There are a number of books on my shelf about fitness, health and nutrition.
The Primal Blueprint is my number one pick for “START HERE”. Other books can (and do!) go into more specifics. The Primal Blueprint is a great overview for the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint Review

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book. It’s a lifestyle program from an evolutionary perspective. Using historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, it attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Mark Sisson is an athlete, coach and student of health. The Primal Blueprint is the distillation of 20 years of his research and experience. Utilising aspects from a number of scientific fields, Mark has devised a concise list of behaviour principles to improve your health, fitness and participation in life.

If you keep in mind that this is a blueprint for general health, fitness and well-being – you won’t get bogged down in minutia. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one or two things with which you disagree.

I like the fitness suggestions because they focus on functional movements, encourage strength training and some cardio for conditioning. Walking more will work for almost everyone.

I like the diet suggestions because they focus on real food. The Primal Blueprint principles are simple, practical and relatively inexpensive. They require minimal, if any, sacrifice or deprivation. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for flexibility.

The most important take-aways are:

The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Carbohydrate Curve
Walk lots, Sprint Occasionally, Lift Heavy Things

If you can, read the whole book, cover to cover. Then reread certain parts.
If you can’t/“don’t have time” then read the chapter summaries and ‘snippets’.

The table of contents is as follows

Welcome from Mark
Introduction: What is Going on Here?
Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
Chapter 2: Grok and Korg- From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind
Chapter 3: The Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
Chapter 4: Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
Chapter 5: Primal Blueprint Law #2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
Chapter 8: A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Welcome from Mark

Read this just for the 80% Rule.
The gist. No one is perfect, but strive for perfection. That way, even if you don’t quite “get there” you’re still doing really well.

Introduction: What’s going on here?

Mark compares “Conventional Wisdom” and “The Primal Blueprint”. He does this by contrasting an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century counterpart, Mr Korg. This section contains very brief sections on grains, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs, fiber, meal habits, strength training, cardio, weight loss, play, sun, footwear, prescription drugs and goals.

Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

In this chapter Mark outlines the specific laws of The Primal Blueprint – the foundation of the entire book. If you read up to the end of chapter 1 and actually apply what you learn, your life will change.

Chapter 2: Grok and Korg – From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind

Mark compares the typical day of many Americans (this applies to many Australians now too, sadly) to a prototypical hunter-gather ancestor. It’s a frightening contrast.

Suffice to say, it’s been a different lifestyle scenario for the past blink in human evolution (some 10,000 years), and DRAMATICALLY different over the past few decades.

* Even if (like me) you’re not convinced of the ‘hunter gatherer model’ for health, what with so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that go into health – eating real food is still the right answer.

Chapter 3: Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy

If you eat real food and don’t eat fake food – you’ll look, feel and perform better.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
The longer you eat properly, the less you want to eat crappy food- because it makes you feel just that way, crappy.

This chapter also covers the role of insulin in fat storage, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, the role of healthy fats, macronutrients and transitioning to a Primal way of eating.

*Here’s where people often get hung up. Even if you don’t buy into the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis and think dismissal of the lipid hypothesis is dangerous – eating real food and cutting down on fake food is still generally the right answer for improved health.

Chapter 4: Law #1- Eat Lots of Plants and Animals (Insects Optional)

Mark has a sense of humour. The Primal Blueprint is NOT a textbook.  It’s professional, yet enjoyable and even comical at times. Perhaps that’s even one of it’s strongest aspects – since what good is great knowledge if the communication is confusing?

In this chapter, Mark gets more specific with eating habits and choices. The vast, vast majority I agree with. A few details here and there I’m not exactly in agreement with, but overall, another excellent portion of the book.

Here Mark presents the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. On the whole an excellent, clear guide. I would swap the positions of meat and vegetables, but hey, that’s me, and the difference for most people would be negligible.

Regarding supplements, I’m not “anti-pill”, but obviously only take supplements if you actually need them (i.e. you have a tested, measurable deficiency in a vitamin or mineral).

Chapter 5: Law #2- Avoid Poisonous Things

In this chapter Mark argues against the ‘conventional wisdom’ surrounding grains in a systematic way. He goes into detail regarding the effects of grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar on insulin levels and immune function. He also discusses gluten, lectins, phytates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their effects on nutrient absorption and health, clearly and logically.

Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws

Mark’s stance on exercise and physical activity is far superior to the run of the mill “chronic cardio” and bodybuilding crowd. I have read some accounts of the Primal Blueprint by fitness professionals that disagree with this section. I believe this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things and occasionally sprinting is a great way to get basic general, functional fitness.

It is true that you can get into far greater specifics with how you lift heavy things, what heavy things and how often. That will depend on specific goals, training age, required recovery, energy levels and a host of other variables. What Mark offers here is a quick guide on how to effectively go from sedentary to moving (or from overdoing it to balance).

He discusses the case against chronic cardio and the importance of functional, compound movements in strength training and in play.

Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws

Without proper sleep and sunlight the rest is built on shaky foundations.
Also, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” holds true for humans generally.
Mark ties these together and shows how they affect our health (mental and physical).

He also covers the final Primal Blueprint laws of “Avoiding Stupid Mistakes” and “Using your Brain” – making this book comprehensive and not just a typical diet or exercise book.

Chapter 8: A Primal Approach to Weight Loss

The chapter begins by linking, and purposefully repeating which aspects of The Primal Blueprint will help you lose weight (fat)- although I hope by the end of the book that most people will realize that health, body composition, daily habits, and so on, are all inter-related, and very rarely exclusive to one another.

The carb/insulin vs reduced calorie intake for fat loss debate is still raging. The jury’s still out. Studies have shown that just about every weight (fat) loss method that is adhered to is effective – at least in the short term.

The major advantage of the Primal Blueprint method (and others) is that it involves lifestyle change, rather than ‘dieting’. This makes it easier to maintain medium to long term – which makes the results last.

Primal Conclusion

A strong ending for an excellent book. This book is a gem in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.

Mark gets really down to earth and a bit more behind the scenes. Not only in terms of psychology, but also in what a few days out of his life typically look like – specific foods eaten, activities, and so on.

Also, what you appreciate at the end of a health book – a complete list of foods and habits to aim for, and foods/habits to avoid. Simple as it is, I think most people will really appreciate this final section – especially people new to Paleo/Primal thinking.

Personal Conclusion

Overall, I give this book my highest regard and recommendation when it comes to proper nutrition and positive lifestyle habits to develop. This is the definitive book on nutrition and lifestyle change, especially considering how practical the information is and immediately applicable.

There are detractors to this book. Apart from “you can’t please everyone”, there are some flaws in this book. Domestic plants and animals are very different now than in the Paleolithic. Does that mean eating real food is bad? Of course not!

I agree with 95% of the content of this book. The things I don’t agree with won’t stop you from being successful with this lifestyle change. If you get bogged down in minutiae you will find fault with this book, and Paleo/Primal in general. If you see the big picture of ‘eat real food’ and ‘move/use your body in a functional way’, then the Primal Blueprint is a great template.

Like what you’ve read? Please leave a comment.  🙂

If you found this Primal Blueprint Review useful please share it with friends and family.

Sydney Morning Herald: Paleo Diet Criticism

Paleo Diet Criticism

The Paleo Diet has been rising in popularity recently. So too has Paleo Diet criticism.

This post is a bit longer than usual – and hopefully not too ranty!

Paleo Diet Criticism

On the 5th August 2014, this article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/nutritionists-warn-of-dangers-in-paleo-dieting-20140805-100iup.html

This article is both interesting and error filled. Here are some points with which I took exception. (Some important, some trivial). My critique of the Paleo Diet Criticism will make most sense if you open that article in a new window, read it, and then read it in parallel to the points I’m making. I also wish to clarify certain misconceptions this newspaper article propagates about Paleo. Please don’t misunderstand me. My article is not a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of a lifestyle modification I think works for many people. It’s a reaction to a mischaracterization of Paleo. At the bottom of this article I have linked to a well written piece that is a legitimate Paleo diet criticism. Anyway, here we go!

“The Paleo diet might be heading for extinction, like the cavemen who inspired it…”

Cavemen are not extinct, they are our ancestors. If they were extinct we wouldn’t be here!

“…modern Paleo eating mimics the hunter-gatherer diet of our Paleolithic ancestors…”

Let’s be clear from the outset. Modern Paleo seeks to emulate rather than replicate hunter-gatherer diets. What do I mean by that is? Get ideas of officeworkers carrying clubs while wearing leopard skins out of your head. Forget starting fires with two sticks. This is not modern Paleo. Modern Paleo is eating unprocessed foods. Simple. If you can eat grains and legumes unprocessed, be my guest. Meat, you can. Vegetables, you can. Fruit, you can. Get the idea? That’s all Paleo is – unprocessed foods.

Stanton says we should applaud the low content of processed foods, sugar and salt advocated in Paleo diets but asks, “why exclude plant-based foods such as wholegrains and legumes when a wealth of evidence confirms their health value?

There is an argument to eating minimally processed grains and legumes, if you can tolerate them. (No abdominal bloating / gas / discomfort.) A lot of people (myself included) have ‘gastro-intestinal issues’ with beans. :/
I’m not convinced that grains and legumes do anything for you that a variety of vegetables don’t. Grains and legumes often displace vegetables on the plate. I think vegetables offer more nutritional value.

The article then says

…the chief executive of the Dietitians Association of Australia, Claire Hewat, says there is no scientific evidence to support eating the Paleo way.

yet then quotes her as saying

“A recent search of the published studies looking at Paleolithic diets revealed no more than 10 studies, all with very few participants over very short time frames – most less than three months. And many people dropped out of the studies, claiming the diet was difficult to follow,” Hewat says.

“No more than 10 studies” is not the same as “no scientific evidence”. So either the article mischaracterises or oversimplifies Hewat’s position, or, less likely, she conflates scant evidence as non-existent. It is the case that there have been few scientific studies of the Paleo Diet. These studies tend to be positive (like this one) but also tend to have small sample sizes. These are red flags. For what it’s worth, there is a study about Paleo being healthier than the Mediterranean diet. All nutrition studies have drop out rates.

“Any diet excluding whole food groups should raise suspicions”

yet the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has no problem with vegetarianism…

“…eating more meat than is needed by the body certainly has risks”.

Yes. So does drinking too much water. Not limited to red meat, the only risk of consuming too much protein I know is for people with existing kidney disease.

“Claims that our ancestors did not experience heart disease, cancer and diabetes ignore the fact that few people lived past their reproductive age and physical activity ensured people were lean.”

I don’t know about historical disease rates, so won’t speak to that. Staffan Lindberg’s Food and Western Disease talks in depth about Papua New Guinean hunter-gatherers, nutrition and disease. Follow that rabbit hole if you dare! In any case, few people living past reproductive age is a great example of not understanding ‘life expectancy from birth’. (A population without sanitation, for example, will have higher infant mortality – which will bring down the life expectancy figure. Fewer people making it out of childhood doesn’t necessarily mean adults died before they got old…

“Two major hazards associated with the Paleo diet are the high content of red meat and the lack of wholegrains”

Covered the wholegrains thing above.
Red meat. Ahhh!. I sigh for two reasons.

  1. Red meat is delicious!
  2. The (too much) red meat is bad for you trope. Or tripe. :p

Let’s address number two, as number one is self evident to most people. 🙂
Most ‘meat’ studies don’t discriminate between red and processed meats. D The ‘red meat increases your risk of obesity / diabetes / cancer boat is turning. Slowly, but surely.

This review and meta-analysis from 2010 found:

Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of CHD and diabetes mellitus. These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations.

Then there’s this study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2014 studied approximately 75,000 people over 15 years, looking specifically at the difference in survival between red and processed meat eaters. This is what that study said:

High red meat consumption is associated with an increased mortality risk. This association is partly explained by the negative effect of processed meat consumption, which is widely established. The role of nonprocessed meat is unclear.

Not too controversial so far… let’s see the conclusion!

We found that high total red meat consumption was associated with progressively shorter survival, largely because of the consumption of processed red meat. Consumption of nonprocessed red meat alone was not associated with shorter survival.

So sausages and porterhouse steak don’t have the same effects on health? Wow!

The Paleo diet can be expensive. So is medical care in later life. If you’d like to see how you can manage the Paleo Diet on a budget then please check this out

Paleo is often characterised as ‘low-carb’. It can be, but often it’s just ‘lower carb’ than eating cereal for breakfast, a roast potato for lunch and pasta for dinner. Pretty much any version of Paleo you see will have the proponent suggest you match carb intake to activity level.

Paleo (done right) isn’t a fad. It’s a healthy way of eating that works for many people.
Effort = results. If you aren’t committed to making lasting change then no lifestyle change will last.
That’s not Paleo’s fault or a controversial statement. That’s reality.

That being said, if Paleo doesn’t work for you – do something else!

If you’re really keen – you could have a look at the Dietitians Association of Australia website. Specifically the sponsors – major partners and associate partners. I believe the DAA has a conflict of interest in their position. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to why this criticism of the growing Paleo movement may have come about…

Please don’t settle for half-baked criticisms and straw men.

If you’d like to read an excellent article that makes legitimate criticisms of Paleo then check out 4 valid criticisms of the Paleo Diet by Jaime Hartman at GutsyByNature.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Goal Setting: Planning to Succeed – this is really Important!

Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.

In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.

In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.

Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-based

Specific
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.

A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

Achievable
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?

S.M.A.R.T goalsGoals-mistakes

Relevant
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?

Time-based
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?

Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!

Paleo Diet Position Update

Science encourages us to constantly update our ideas – so here’s my update on my position on “Paleo” eating.

We start with a hypothesis, work out measurement criteria, and rigorously test.
If the hypothesis is supported by evidence we accept it – until such time as something better comes along. If the hypothesis is not supported by evidence we reject it – and hopefully something better comes along.

As someone who tries to base decisions on these tenets – I feel it’s time to give you an update on my position on “the Paleo diet”.

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been a proponent of the Paleo diet for a few years now. The reason for choosing it was at the time it seemed to have a sound internal logic to it that elegantly encapsulated what is now starting to be referred to as “evolutionary medicine.”
A fundamental principle being the Dobzhansky quote “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” Paleo espouses:
“eat what your ancestors ate because that’s what you have adapted to eating.” The ‘trouble’ is there is no one “Paleo” diet. Depending on your latitude you may be eating a huge variety of food, and to suggest there is only one way is misguided.

I would describe humans as opportunistic omnivores.
There is no such thing as a toxic substance – only a toxic dose.

Rather than thinking about food in binary terms: as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, perhaps a more useful way would be so visualise a scale or continuum. I would grade the scale based on nutrient density per kilojoule (this is the volume of vitamins and minerals relative to the energy load.) “Real food” tends to be at one end, some processed foods appear in the middle, and what everyone would agree is ‘junk’ appears at the bad end. Then the trick is eating the ‘good’ stuff, having some ‘middle’ stuff, avoiding the ‘bad’ stuff – and not eating too much of any of it.

Paleo Diet

The common theme that’s running through the “optimal diet” is eating real food.
Unlike processed foods there tends to be high nutrient density relative to kilojoules contained.

Wild Salmon Broccoli Sweet Potato Potato White Rice Pasta Kit Kat

The links above point to nutritiondata.com. Here you can find nutritional breakdowns of a huge variety of food, including macro and micro nutrient ratios (vitamins and minerals), protein profiles, inflammation factor, glycaemic indices, fullness factor and other information.

What is skinny fat and why is it so unhealthy?

Skinny fat vs lean and fit

The difference between skinny-fat and lean-fit. Note that she’s ‘heavier’ but in better shape

Hey folks,

Conventional wisdom says that if you are thin you are healthy and if you are overweight you are unhealthy – but new research points to just how dangerous being skinny can be — if you are a “skinny fat” person, that is.

The medical term for this is “MONW,” or metabolically obese normal weight, which I prefer to refer to as being a skinny fat person. This is someone who is not overweight and has a skinny look but still have a high fat percentage (especially belly fat) and low muscle mass. Usually those people have a low calorie diet, that’s why they are skinny, but are not involved in any sports activities or training and that’s why they don’t have any muscle. To the uneducated, untrained eye, a skinny fat person may appear to have a physique of the same caliber as an individual who is comprised of significantly more lean tissue.

While we know that 63 percent of Australian males and 48 percent of females are overweight (1), and that most have diabesity — being somewhere on the continuum of pre-diabetes to Type 2 diabetes — the shocking news from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is that nearly 1 in 4 skinny people studied have pre-diabetes and are “metabolically obese.” (2)

It seems it is better to be fat and fit than thin and out of shape. It turns out that if you are a skinny fat person and get diagnosed with diabetes, you have twice the risk of death than if you are overweight when diagnosed with diabetes (2). Perhaps having that extra muscle on your body from having to carry around those extra pounds protects you.

Get the Right Tests

So how do you know if you are a skinny fat person? There are a few criteria you can use that can help you identify yourself as having diabesity or being skinny fat, including family history of Type 2 diabetes or early onset of heart disease (heart attack in relative under 50 years old), or even looking down and see a little pot belly. And if you are of Asian or Indian descent, you can get diabesity at a much lower body weight.

There are some important blood tests that you should have your doctor do:
Fasting blood sugar or glucose (normal 4.0 – 6.0 mmol/l*)
Triglycerides (the recommendation is for less than 2.0 mmol/l*)
HDL (“good” cholesterol (normal greater than 3.5 mmol/l*)
Blood pressure (normal is 120/80*)

*Please be aware that reference ranges or “normal” depends on a number of factors including patient age, gender, sample population and test method, and numeric test results can have different meanings in different laboratories.

There are a few special tests your doctor may not do that you should insist on that tell the true story and help to detect diabesity much earlier. They are:

1. An insulin response test (what most doctors call a glucose tolerance test but with the addition of insulin measurements) that will measure glucose (blood sugar) AND insulin levels while fasting and one and two hours after a 75-gram glucose drink (the equivalent of two soft drinks).

2. A NMR Lipid Particle Test which measures the number and size cholesterol particles. Most cholesterol tests just measure the total amount but the particle test is MUCH better at predicting risk for heart disease. When you are a skinny fat person with diabesity you have too many particles, and they are the small, dense, dangerous kind.

The Treatment for Skinny Fat Syndrome

The treatment for the skinny fat syndrome is the same as the treatment for someone who is overweight with diabesity.
It is quite simple actually.

Get enough Sunlight — 15 to 20 minutes to 20% of your body per day will do it unless you’re dark skinned.

Get enough Sleep — Sleep deprivation alters metabolism and increases cravings for carbs and sugar. Sleep is sacred. Make your bedroom a sleeping temple and stay there for 7 to 8 hours a night.

Eat a Low-Glycaemic Load Diet — Meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar.

Power Up with Protein — Start the day with protein and at each meal. This makes your metabolism run hotter and cuts hunger. Incorporate eggs, nuts, seeds, chicken, fish or protein shakes.


Don’t Drink Your Calories — No soft drinks, juices, sweetened drinks and no more than 3-4 glasses of wine or alcohol a week with meals.

Avoid the Deadly White Powder or Flour — Including gluten-free flour products. Even whole grain flour acts like sugar in your body.


Beware of Frankenfood — Factory-made foods are often science projects with fake ingredients including MSG (which causes ravenous hunger and is hidden as “natural flavoring”), high fructose corn syrup, artificial colours, preservatives, and chemicals.


Get an Oil Change — Eat omega-3 fat-rich foods including sardines and wild salmon and avoid refined and processed vegetable oils except olive oil.


Get Fit and Get Strong — Both cardio and strength training are key (3). Cardio builds fitness and improves metabolism, and strength training builds muscle so you won’t be a skinny fat person.

Supplement if necessary — Fish oil (EPA/DHA,) and vitamin D do the trick for 95 percent of people – if they can’t get what they need from food.

References:

(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4125.0 – Gender Indicators, Australia, Jan 2012 (Retrieved 10th Dec 2012)

(2) Carnethon MR, De Chavez PJ, Biggs ML, Lewis CE, Pankow JS, Bertoni AG, Golden SH, Liu K, Mukamal KJ, Campbell-Jenkins B, Dyer AR. Association of weight status with mortality in adults with incident diabetes. JAMA. 2012 Aug 8;308(6):581-90.

(3) Ribeiro JP, Schaan BD. Physical activity advice only or structured exercise training and association with HbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2011 May 4;305(17):1790-9. Review.

Time for Dr Oz to go

20121128-104641.jpg

Dr Oz returns!
This time on the cover of time magazine, once again wading into the murky waters of nutrition, despite being a cardiologist…

I don’t automatically reject everything Oz says – I just view it with a fair degree of scepticism. After all, Newton believed in the reality of alchemy in addition to his world-changing theories about motion and gravity.

All I’m asking is that you exercise caution when reading his opinions about nutrition. For more about Dr Oz and some of his more ‘interesting’ forays into various therapies, please click here.

What is the best bikini diet for summer?

20121014-003454.jpg

What is the best bikini diet for summer?

You can see this kind of headline in (insert trashy magazine name here) promoting the latest, greatest diet from some ‘celebrity’ or other – usually someone famous for being famous. Alternatively, the guru of girth is an actress, who 95% of the time is famous because they are genetically gifted with symmetrical features and an enviable physique (and can sometimes act).

Do you want to know what truly is THE best bikini diet for summer?

Proper nutrition:
Eat clean, unprocessed food. Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds. Drink plenty of water. Lay off the alcohol. Repeat.

There is no magic bullet. Eat sensibly in a way that you can sustain. Binging and purging in an attempt to look like a ‘star’ is for losers – and beneath you.

What’s the most ridiculous magazine headline or story you’ve seen? Please post to comments.