Archive for March, 2013

postheadericon My new favorite protein source

Getting enough protein is not a problem for anyone with access to adequate amounts of healthy food. But for muscle recovery, especially when performing high stress heavy lifting, a little extra help is appreciated. Easily assimilated (drinkable is my preference) protein consumed before and especially after a strength workout seems to be a mainstay habit of omnivores and herbivores who strength and power train.
I have sampled a variety of protein powders over the years. I used to regularly use Naturade’s soy meal replacement powder. I still have some and like it. But just to mix things up, I decided to try a different plant source, so I tried Growing Naturals rice protein powder. Each serving contains 24 grams of vegan protein, which is a good amount for me. It is soy and corn free for those with allergies, and it is made from organic rice. It comes in original, vanilla and chocolate. I usually take about 10 ounces of chocolate silk, a banana, a good scoop of peanut butter, and one serving of powder and blend it. Not only does it provide energy for a workout, it is a good recovery drink and can function as a meal replacement if necessary. I am usually good for at least a couple to a few hours without hunger after having a shake with this protein in it. It has a 96% correlation to whey protein, so for those who feel they cannot lift or recover without whey, this might be a good alternative.
Overall, an excellent product. They also have pea protein, which I have not tried yet. But based on my experience with the rice, I may very well give that a go soon!

postheadericon And now, the good news…

In a previous post, I mentioned that adults in the U.S. are not meeting the benchmarks for aerobic and strength training set by the CDC. According the American College of Sports Medicine though, there is reason to be hopeful about a change in those numbers. In their predicted fitness trends for 2013, strength training and body-weight training ranked #2 and #3 as upcoming trends. The #1 slot went to certified fitness professionals. One of the reasons for this trend is the emphasis on functional fitness and functional strength. People used to think, as Seinfeld has said, that “The only reason that you’re getting in shape is that so you can get through the workout.” People are now realizing that the reasons for exercise go far beyond being able to get through that hour or so at the gym. There are buses to catch, children and grandchildren to pick up, groceries to cart in, and many other daily activities which will be easier and more pleasant to carry out when regular exercise is part of life. Not to mention the long list of other benefits of regular exercise: improved sleep, weight maintenance, a stronger immune system, and better response to stress, among others (more reasons here). After long last, people are starting to get on the strength training bandwagon. And as word spreads about how regular strength training can change and improve lives, hopefully the weight rooms at the local gyms will be used by more people – until they get crowded, then we will need bigger gyms. Won’t that be a great problem to have?

postheadericon Ladies (and men too), pick up some weights!

It’s not a surprise for most of us to learn that people are not getting enough exercise these days. But in terms of strength training, it might even be a bleaker picture than for cardio. Women and men, but particularly women, are not meeting the strength and cardio recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control. This, according to an article in BU Today. Only 17.5% of woman and 23% of men are meeting the exercise benchmarks set by the CDC. This is a troubling statistic, especially since we know how helpful exercise is in so many aspects of our health and quality of life. And strength training, although often forgotten, is important not only for general health, but is important as we age, too. The bar for training is not being set too high in my opinion. The recommendation for strength training is that “..adults perform muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.” The recommendation does not mention weight lifting specifically, only muscle strengthening exercise. This could be strength-based calisthenics or workouts with a resistance band. I think that weights (and not the pink ones!) are the best for getting good results, but my recent experience with Insanity (see this post) has taught me that, even in the absence of heavy dumbbells or barbells, strength can be increased.
While both men and women need to increase their strength training, I think the reasons they don’t are different. Men may believe that they don’t need to after a certain point, or they may be short on time. But women, many women unfortunately, are still of the belief that if they workout with weights, especially heavy weights, that they will somehow bulk up or get big. Not true! Will women be more sculpted, chiseled, and strong? Absolutely! Will they feel better, sit up straighter, and have more functional strength? You bet! So we have to find a way to instill in women, especially younger girls, that they need to build and maintain muscle strength throughout their lives. Involvement in sports is always good, and outdoor activities like hiking can inspire a lifetime of wanting to stay fit and healthy. I think we just need to get out of this collective funk we have going on in this country in regards to exercise. Exercise needs to be viewed as being as important as quitting smoking or eliminating saturated fat. We need to move!

postheadericon B-12 deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans

We have all seem numerous studies, recommendations, and warnings about vegetarians and vegans not getting enough B-12.  Vitamin B-12 is essential for many functions, including making red blood cells and nerves. A B-12 deficiency, besides being detrimental to health in general, could certainly affect a strength training or other exercise regimen. A recent study measured blood levels of B-12 in different populations, including the elderly, pregnant women, and vegetarians. The conclusion of the authors was that “…vegetarians develop B12 depletion or deficiency regardless of demographic characteristics, place of residency, age, or type of vegetarian diet.” Now, this is not really major news to vegetarians, especially vegans. Since B-12 is derived from animal sources, those of us that do not consume animal derived nutrients probably (hopefully) already know to supplement this vitamin. The difference for me, however, is the source. Much of the advice given to vegetarians from the mainstream medical community is from people who not only have little experience with nutritional science, but also have little to no familiarity with vegetarianism/veganism. And much of the “advice” is really encouragement to consume animal derived nutrients because we need them somehow. Thankfully, much of this thinking is falling by the wayside, but some misconceptions persist. The lead author of this study, however, is Dr. Roman Pawlak of the Nutrition Science Department at East Carolina University. He is not only a registered dietician but is also vegan and has authored several books on the subject, including In Defense of Vegetarianism. So if a study that he has conducted concludes that vegetarians need to be mindful of B-12 intake and get necessary supplements, I am likely to trust it.

This is important information, not only for long time vegetarians, who may already know about B-12, but for new vegetarians, who may assume that everything they need is in a healthy whole foods diet (thankfully, most of it is).  And people starting strength training routines are trying to absorb information about a variety of nutrients and supplements related specifically to strength training and muscle building. Hopefully, this study will highlight the need for vegetarians, as well as other at-risk populations, to make sure they are getting the B-12 they need.

postheadericon Insanity for strength? I didn’t think so, until……

I never thought my first post on this site would be about Insanity, since it is primarily a cardio program, but I now have a new appreciation for it as a strength enhancing regimen. I have always been a fan of Insanity ever since I started it about two years ago. It provides a highly intensive cardio workout in a reasonable amount of time, and Shaun T. is a very positive and motivating instructor. Which is all great, for cardio. But what about strength? Recent events in my life, including a blizzard which knocked out power for a few days and a family illness, required me to significantly alter my workout schedule for a period of time. The troubling events happened after I had taken a planned week off from strength training, and when all was said and done, I hadn’t lifted for almost a month. Not to mention that my nutritional protocols had taken a bit of a hit during that time, too, and my fruit/protein smoothies as well as my other pre and post workout fuel options were not consumed as consistently as usual. The one thing I did try and do was workout consistently (other than the few days I had no power). I did the Insanity regimen pretty consistently for that month. Although I did not follow the recommended schedule exactly, Insanity was the mainstay of my workouts during that time. And since I hadn’t lifted, I gave the Insanity Cardio Power and Resistance dvd (the primary strength workout of the set) a few rotations. I did notice some post workout soreness – not bad, but enough to know I had challenged myself. I saw this as a potentially positive sign.
Still, when I was finally able to get back to the gym, I was prepared, as I always am after some time away, to lower the weights for the first couple of workouts. At best I thought I MIGHT be in the same ballpark as the previous month. I was shocked to see that, with a number of exercises, I had to adjust the weights upward, in some cases, by quite a bit. That has never happened to this degree after such a long break from lifting. The only new variable in my regimen was the Insanity workouts- no nutritional changes, no nifty new vegan protein shakes, nothing. So I have to conclude that regular use of the Power and Resistance workout, in addition to the others in the set, helped me to gain strength which showed up a month later. While I don’t plan to utilize Insanity as my strength builder, it is nice to know that in a pinch, it functions well to enhance strength (not to mention the cardio!)