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Entries in grains (4)

Sunday
May022010

How'd You Get Fat?

Maybe this is the most interesting title I've had so far, but it's a bit misleading.

Basically I'd like to take you through the eating habits I had until the age of 25 that caused me to gain weight and get fat.

Like most people who were competitive athletes their entire lives, I never gave any consideration to food choices or portion control.  I ate what I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much of it as I wanted.  I always burned everything off playing sports (basketball, football, track & field).

I began literally EVERY day with a giant bowl of cereal.  Cereal was my favorite food.  Frosted Flakes, Cap'n Crunch, Wheaties, Lucky Charms, the entire Cheerios family, Frosted Mini Wheats, I ate it all.  Plus I used the largest bowls I could find, a popcorn bowl or salad bowl was barely big enough.  Add in the fact I always used either 2% or Whole Milk and it isn't tough to figure out why I battled allergies and severe nasal congestion until my late twenties.  If somehow I wasn't eating cereal, then it was either a stack of Eggo Waffles (tons of syrup) or my mom's pancakes, which really are worthy of some sort of pancake-tasting contest if such a thing exists.

Snacks were nothing original - Pringles potato chips (Sour Cream & Onion), Doritos (Cool Ranch), Oreos, Pop Tarts, Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, usual "junk food".

My meals (if you can even call it that) were also junk-heavy.  My Mount Rushmore of Junk Food looks like this:

  • McDonald's Quarter Pounder w/ large fries & Coke
  • Domino's pizza (cheese & sausage) w/ dozen buffalo wings + 2 bottles Miller High Life
  • General Tso's Chicken w/ steamed white rice
  • Bojangles' chicken supremes w/ seasoned fries, sweet tea

*If Mount Rushmore had 5 heads I'd add a Philly cheesesteak from East Boulevard Bar & Grill in Charlotte.

I also LOVED fries.  Love might even be too mild of a term.  It wasn't unusual for me to be on a car trip and decide halfway down the highway that a large fry and chocolate or vanilla milkshake would make a good "snack" during the drive.

Wendy's deserves lots of credit too.  Their "Late Night Menu" became a good friend my first few years after college, I'd drive 2 miles to the next exit and get an order of nuggets, fries (of course), and a Biggie Frosty.  For a change of pace some nights I might just eat a handful of little marshmellows out of the cabinet before bed.

This is getting like an awards acceptance speech, since I am forgetting too many old friends. 

Ramen Noodles were a big staple during the post-college years.  I learned a trick from my college girlfriend about making "baked spaghetti", so I used Ramen along with sliced chicken nuggets, a handful of mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce to make a type of lasagna.

Please don't over-look the shoutout to sweet tea earlier.  Bojangles' had the best (read: sweetest) tea with Chick-Fil-A pulling in second.  I actually used to have my mom make a half gallon of sweet tea and bring it back to college.  If I had no sweet tea in the house, I'd keep an empty Gatorade bottle of Kool Aid in the fridge so I could get my liquid sugar fix that way.

This is probably gratuitious at this point - but I think you get the general idea.  People (especially co-workers) wonder why I am such a healthy eater, and why I am so disciplined about what goes into my body.  The reason is because of 25 years' worth of piling garbage into my body with no regard for health or athletic performance.  Who knows what type of athlete I could have been with even a rudimentary understanding of nutrition, or conversely the hazards of a diet heavy in starchy grains, sugars, dairy, and fried things.

It wasn't until during my first year in graduate school that roommate and friend (yes I am name-dropping here) Wes Miller told me "Dude, you're getting fat!?"  I couldn't believe it, but the mirror rarely lies, and the truth hurts.  Friends don't tell you what you want to hear, they tell you what you NEED to hear.  And I needed to hear that.

I didn't look like the Nutty Professor (yet) but I was surely headed there.  My six-pack had disappeared and my waist size was up to 36.  When I left grad school I weighed in at 193.

Today I'm back to a 32 and weighing between 178-180.  The points I wanted to make with this post were that we're all human and love crappy foods.  I was no different.  However please use the above eating lifestyle as a sample of how easily nutritional ignorance and lack of discipline can have you standing in-front of the mirror wondering how you got fat, just like I did.

Sunday
Feb282010

Fitness Spotlight: Julia Mancuso

As the 2010 Winter Olympics draws to a close, I figured this would be a great time to highlight the training and nutritional outlines of both a men's and women's Team USA competitor. For the women's side of things, we're going to highlight gold medal skiier Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso has some different training habits, though I am a big fan of the varied nature of her workouts.  For someone who makes her money (figuratively and literally) in the cold snow and ski slopes, she's also a big fan of getting out in the sun and surf:

  

I also love seeing the explosive plyo trampoline jumps as well as the lateral aglity drills in beach sand.  As I said before, I love varied/multiple training days and even though this was a promotional video from VISA, clearly there's a degree of validity to the training footage.

   

There is not a lot available on her eating habits (though I suspect there will be more articles and interviews following the Olympics after her performances).  However one brief article shows that when traveling, she tries to get as many veggies and lean meats as is possible, as well as limiting the grains and glutens.

Sunday
Jan172010

Should I stop eating grains? - Part 1

At dinner with friends the other night, I had to explain why I no longer eat grains or processed breads.

This is admittedly a long topic that warrants LOTS of discussion (there are numerous articles and books out there right now) so I'm going to keep things fairly brief.  Even still, I'll have to break this up into a series of mini-posts to give this complicated topic the time it warrants.

To begin - I'll just cover the changes I've experienced in my own body since I quit eating grains.

My entire life I used to begin the day with a giant bowl of cereal.  Giant is not an exaggeration, I used punch bowls or popcorn bowls to eat my cereal.  I also battled allergies and nasal congestion throughout high school and college.  I was also a big fan of french fries, donuts, pasta, and two grains that still call my name to this day - bagels and blueberry muffins. I'm biased, but I also should say that my mother makes the best pancakes available in the continental U.S. 

I was on a cut diet program as recently as a few months ago that (in a nutshell) called for 4-4.5 days of very low carbs and low calories, followed by a full body depletion workout, then immediate carb loading with as many starches and grains as you can put into your system in 48 hours.

It was enjoyable, but I never got as lean as I hoped I would.  I also had extreme energy crashes from the spikes in my insulin and blood sugar.  These carb load days usually fell on Fridays, and I could never last more than an hour before I badly needed another nap. 

I switched to a move high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carb (non-grain) approach, championed by guys like Marc Lobliner with Team Scivation (www.scivation.com) or Mark Sisson (www.marksdailyapple.com) after feeling like there was no way I was going to lean out by gorging on bagels, muffins, pasta, and donuts each week.

Carbohydrates are still required for energy (whether in complex or simple form) so I get them from fruit/plant sources most days like grapefruits, oranges, blueberries, green beans, broccoli, and as many leafy greens like spinach that I can cram into the blender (thanks to advice from guys like Craig Ballantyne and "the Raw Model").

Subsequently, my energy levels are much more steady.  My skin is clearer and I'm as vascular in my arms as I've ever been.  I'm getting closer to having the level of leanness in my abs and torso that I've been chasing.  I don't wake up feeling like I've been in the cage with Brock Lesnar either.  I'm not saying these things are "cause and effect" with eliminating the grains, I'm just providing my experience and letting you draw your own conclusions.

Thursday
Jan142010

How long after a workout do I have to eat carbs?

Someone asked me today, "how long do I have after a workout to eat my carbs?"

She had just been at the gym taking a lunch hour fitness class and wanted to know just how much of a free "window" she had left to eat a few carbs.  Well, my answer as it almost always seems to be was, "...it depends..."

As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of post-workout nutrition would tell you, there are several interrelated factors that determine whether the carbs you are eating are going to refuel your muscle glycogen stores, or being stored away as excess body fat (which, since you are reading this I feel safe assuming you do not want to happen).

Factor #1 - How intense was your workout?

Factor #2 - How long has it been since your workout ended?

Factor #3 - What type of carbs are you about to eat?

Factor #4 - What has your carb intake looked like for the past 3-4 days?

There are even more factors than this at play, but I think you get the general concept.  I'll try to attack these one at a time.

Factor #1 - Workout intensity has a number of post-workout effects on one's body.  Generally speaking, high-intensity exercise (sprinting, a spin class, intense circuit training with weights, etc) will deplete your body's glycogen stores moreso than low-intensity exercise (unless you put in a marathon/triathlon-style workout).  So when those glycogen stores are fairly empty, all the more reason your post-workout carbs will be soaked up by the right places (namely your muscles).  Not only that, but in a general sense when you worked up a sweat and raised your heart rate during a workout, your body burns (slightly) more calories post-workout while trying to return to homeostasis.

Factor #2 - There is generally considered to be a one-hour window of time post-workout when your carb intake will be shuttled directly to thirsty muscles.  However the "lower" you fall on factor #1 (ie: lower intensity training) then the shorter time period you will have for your post-workout carbs to go straight to muscles and skip past the fat stores.

Factor #3 - This one is arguably the MOST important in a lot of ways.  So important actually that I'll need to come back to this for another day.  But for now, if you absolutely have to eat simple or starchy carbs (white breads, bagels, muffins, etc) then immediately following an intense workout is the absolute best time.  The "simplicity" of how easily they are broken down and get into the blood stream is in most cases a bad thing (since it's easily converted to fat) however post-intense workout this actually works to your benefit.

Factor #4 - Think of your body's carb stores (muscle capacity to contain glycogen) as fuel tanks.  If you've eaten a carb heavy diet for the past few days, then your tanks are likely either still full, or moderately full even with an intense workout within the past hour.  You won't need more post-workout carbs as much as a person who's been going low carb for the past 3-4 days.

Here is another (longer) read on post-workout nutrition:

http://www.intense-workout.com/post_workout.html

Key Takeaway: The harder you've worked out...and the lower your carb intake has been before today...the better the opportunity you have to consume some "bad carbs" you've normally been avoiding.  Just be sure not to overdo it.