Archive for July, 2013

postheadericon Vegan diets – what’s good about them?

bell_peppers2
No matter where we look these days, vegan diets (also called plant based diets) are everywhere. Bill Clinton is on one. The Rev. Al Sharpton credits his 70+ pound weight loss to a vegetarian diet, and he has since gone vegan. Raw food and vegan celebrities are everywhere. While some continue to push paleo-style and other meat-based variants, the evidence is mounting almost daily (at least it seems that way) that a plant based diet is better for overall health and can be quite beneficial for athletes as well. Just ask triathlete Brendon Brazier, bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, and tennis champion Venus Williams, who says a raw vegan diet helps her manage the symptoms of an auto immune disorder (1).

So for any well-meaning omnivores in your life who say they are healthier because they still “eat a little meat,” you can tell them that their “healthier” choice puts them at higher risk for heart disease (2) and cancers of the colon (3) breast (4), and prostate (5). Obesity, which is now an epidemic and an official disease as designated by the American Medical Association, is also a higher risk for meat eaters (6), and diabetes (7), the cause of many associated and serious problems, is more likely to occur in meat eaters as well. And speaking of serious problems, since heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in the U.S., some doctors, such as those at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic, have recommended “40 top foods” for heart health. Of those, 38 are vegan foods (8). And unfortunately, since the two foods on the list that are not vegan (salmon and tuna) are plagued with PCB’s and dioxin (9) as well as high levels of mercury in tuna (10), those doesn’t necessarily seem to be great choices either, especially when good sources of protein as well as omega 3 fatty acids are available through plant foods.

Actually, whether for general health or for athletic performance, a vegan diet is cleaner, healthier, and comes with fewer impurities, pathogens, parasites, contaminants, and unhealthy byproducts than a meat based diet. And the only thing that can’t be obtained through a strict vegan diet, vitamin B-12, can easily be obtained through a supplement.

So the next time meat eaters try to tell you their meat diets are better for health than vegan diets, you will know that you have seen a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Sources:
(1) Venus Williams
(2) heart disease
(3) colon cancer
(4) breast cancer
(5) prostate cancer
(6) obesity
(7) diabetes
(8) Cleveland Clinic 40 top foods
(9) salmon
(10) tuna

postheadericon No cardio – how did it go?

no-cardio-hand_weights_close_up

A few weeks ago, I decided to experiment with a no cardio regimen. The experience was interesting, and I do not regret trying it. But, as I explain below, I will probably (almost surely) not become a “no cardio” advocate – at least not for myself.

Ok, the results. I did get through about the first three weeks with no cardio. For the first two of them, I actually felt great. I enjoyed strength training more knowing I would have the next day off. The schedule was much easier to deal with, since I didn’t have to make time for strength days and cardio days. The additional time saved by not doing cardio could be redirected to additional strength work or to other pursuits. I still slept well, because strength training has that effect on me. My appetite actually decreased a bit, allowing me to drop a couple of the ten or so pounds I am still looking to shed. That was the good news. On the other end, I noticed a slight dumpy feeling after about three weeks, and then a real funk – almost a depression, but not quite. I hadn’t realized or appreciated how much cardio gave me a bit of a zing, added energy to my day, and frankly, is just plain fun. So I decided to break off my experiment a week early, ending it with what is arguably the most intense of the butt-kicking cardio workouts – an Insanity DVD. That first workout felt like a cool glass of lemonade on a ninety degree day. So I kept going and added cardio back into my schedule in much the same way it had been before. Adding cardio back into my schedule felt normal, balanced, and energizing. It was as though the missing piece had been added back into my exercise life.

So would I recommend a no cardio regimen to anyone? As usual, those kinds of questions often have answers like “it depends.” Each of us has to figure out our own best routine and adapt it as needed over time. But for me, the answer is clear. Cardio brings balance to my fitness training, makes me feel better, and is the perfect complement to a very enjoyable strength training regimen. So at least for me, cardio is staying.