Monthly Archives: June 2012

Don’t be an idiot

So about 5 weeks back, I came home from The Quad and brought along with me a pair of pushup handles since I had twisted my left wrist pretty bad while doing some non-training related activity. Due to the messed up wrist, I wasn’t able to do many traditional moves and hence was working within what I could do without aggravating the injury. That night was upper body day and so I decided to do a simple push-pull combo. This was the workout…

Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.

  • 5 pushups @ BW + 70lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds
  • 5 bent over barbell rows @ 135 lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds

I usually try and do more pulls than pushes to even out the chronic anterior-posterior imbalance we all suffer from, so every other round, I added in 10 pullups. So overall it works out to be 50 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs. Being 145 lbs, this is a fairly intense workout but by no means crazy. The goal was exerting optimal power within the constraints of proper technique. If at any point of time my technique was compromised in any exercise I decided to stop the step.

The loads felt light and I kept knocking each rep out of the park. Rest periods were perfect and I felt strong overall. At about the 5th set, as I continued to feel great, I very subconsciously decided that I was going to kill this workout. That is when shit hit the fan.

I reached the 8th round and as I was doing my 4th pushup, I felt some discomfort on my right shoulder (possibly from overly compensating using my right side due to subconsciously trying to reduce load on the left wrist). I consciously ignored it and went on to do my final and hardest rep. I grit my teeth through the pain and completed the set in style but after the set, I felt considerable stiffness on my right shoulder. I did some basic shoulder mobility work and expected to feel better. Since I didn’t feel too much better after the mobility work, I decided that for the 9th and 10th rounds I would not do weighted pushups but would do bodyweight pushups instead. Painful and uncomfortable as they were, the last two rounds were  already“step-downs” from my original plan and, in my head, I “needed” to do “at least” this. Not doing the last two sets was not an option (at that time).

So I did about 25 pushups in each round and successfully completed the workouts with 40 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pushups @ BW, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs.

I woke up the next morning with an overly stiff and painful shoulder and since then have been nursing that shoulder till date. While I’m not in pain anymore, I’ll tell you I’m well away from feeling a 100%. This messed up my training pretty badly. I’ve met 4 different physical therapists, spent over Rs 8000, taken two non-consequetive weeks completely off from training and am only now slowly getting back to training with a plan.

One rep! Just than one damn rep! If only I had stopped before that rep, I would not have had to suffer for more than a month. I’m such an idiot! Right?

I’m an idiot alright, but it wasn’t that one rep that caused the damage. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that set or that workout or even the workouts before that. I wasn’t overtrained or fatigued. I wasn’t lacking focus or sleep. I wasn’t eating junk and was by no means weak.

So then, what caused the damage? Honestly, my attitude. My attitude towards training is what caused all this havoc. Let me explain.

Like most fitness enthusiasts, I have a tendency to get carried away when I workout. Though I have solid goals defined for each mesocycle and for each workout, I tend to forget those and get lost in the moment. I try to kill every single workout. If you have been training for a while, you’ll know that’s a recipe for disaster and if you’re brutally honest with yourself, you’ll realize you do it yourself!

In this specific case, my goal for the quarter was strength. Not max pushups or fat loss but strength. And for me to get stronger I need to train very consistently. And for me to train consistently, well, I need to stay injury free. So, though, at that time, that last rep seemed like it was taking me towards my goal of getting stronger, by doing the rep I injured myself which has set me far far away from my goals.

What do I need now? Rehab? A new training plan? Some postural alignment? Sure. I need all of these. But most importantly I need a change in attitude. I need to look at training as training. I need to focus on the big picture. I need to not be penny wise pound foolish. I need to train myself to work towards a larger goal be it strength or long term injury free living or general health.

Similarly, very very similarly, it isn’t that one week binge that made you fat. It isn’t that one cheat meal that made you “fall off the wagon”. It isn’t that diet that made you sick of health and fitness. It isn’t that trip you had to make that messed up all your efforts.

It is your attitude. It is your attitude towards transformations and fat loss and health. Let me break it down further.

  • If you think you can eat junk tonight and “burn it off” tomorrow either by doing some extra reps or extra cardio, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can “go on a diet” and lose in 6 weeks what you have gained in 6 years, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think eating well for 3 days gives you the leeway to stuff your face on the 4th day, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can just moving your arms and legs for a few minutes three times a week and saying no to cake once a week will fix all your health problems, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think the people who look awesome or perform at a high level or live forever just put in a few weeks of work, you bloody well need a change in attitude.

To help you and I change our attitudes, I’ll present here the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.

Understand that health or fitness or looking awesome or reversing a disease is a long term effort. You are not going to sport those sexy abs with a 6-min abs program. You’re not going to become an awesome athlete with half-assed mobility work. You are not going to lose (and keep off) those extra 20kg by going on a diet for 2 months. You are not going to live to see your great grandchildren by eating at pizza hut every other day. You are not going to reverse diabetes by replacing sugar with splenda. And we are not going to get anywhere with an attitude that undermines real work.

We are only going to achieve all this by possessing one thing – consistency. Consistent effort leads to sustainable long term results. Period. Be it aesthetics or performance or blogging or cooking or meditation or even life in general, consistency results in excellence while inconsistency results in mediocrity.

And just to be sure you and I got the message, I’ll say it again…

Don’t be an idiot. Focus on the big picture.

Adios!

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5 “cheat” foods you SHOULD eat

Most people get caught in the ‘what not to eat’ pages that they fail to understand the concept of nutrition. A food isn’t always bad or good. Whether a food item is healthful or not purely depends on the ingredients and to an extent cooking/processing method. If my plate of meat and vegetables contains fried chicken and gravied vegetables, is that still a healthful meal? What if my fresh fruit juice contains a truckload of sugar? What is my anti-nutrient free real food nutrition plan is 70% rice? On the other hand, if my ice cream contains mostly cream, milk, eggs and berries with a little bit of honey, is that still junk? What if my dosa is cooked with ghee, topped with an eggs, an ounce of cheese and a cup of vegetables?

Thanks to conventional wisdom (and the low fat mafia and the low carb squad and the vegan police and the paleo primates), we’ve successfully reached a point in life where we have no idea what to eat and what not do. And as a result, we end up not eating foods that are shining with nutrients and replace them with nutrient-less cheap fillers like grains.

Here is a list of 5 such foods that taste delicious and are undeniably healthful.

1. Ghee

Contrary to what you’ve been told, ghee is not fattening and is in no way atherosclerosis promoting. Ghee contains the same amount of fat and calories as any other oil but, unlike processed industrial seed oils like sunflower oil, groundnut oil, canola oil etc., ghee is rich in many nutrients that are essential to the human body.

Consume ghee on a daily basis because it…

  • contains vitamins A, D, E & K.
  • has a high smoke point and hence is perfect for high heat cooking.
  • contains essential fatty acids.
  • is free of lactose (for the intolerant).
  • is free of oxidizable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • tastes bloody awesome!

Note:

  • Watch out for over consumption ‘cos anything you cook with ghee tastes bloody awesome!

2. Dark chocolate

Chocolate isn’t the first guy to show up when you call for health, but that is because of the sugar content and other processed junk and preservatives that are added. Chocolate is (or at least should be) rich in cocoa which has myriad health benefits. So what happens if you pull out the junk, preservatives and fillers, reduce the sugar content and increase the cocoa content? It starts to taste like crap? You couldn’t be further from the truth. It tastes pretty darn amazing and ends up becoming a super healthy snack.

Eat dark chocolate everyday because it…

  • is one of the most potent anti-oxidants ever known to man. Yep, way better than green tea and your acai berry madness.
  • is rich in vitamins and minerals required for the proper functioning of the human body.
  • has been shown to reduce CVD risk and blood pressure.
  • controls cravings.

Note:

  • Dark chocolate means >80% cocoa. Don’t fall for the “Dark chocolate!!” marketing scam you see in pretty much all chocolate bars nowadays.
  • Banana + dark chocolate + quick zap in the microwave (~10-20 sec per banana) = best sweet thing you’ve had.
  • Watch out for over consumption. A couple of 1″ squares of dark chocolate is all you need per day.
  • Add a pinch of cocoa and coffee to your cooking (especially red meat) and take flavoring to the next level.

3. Ice cream

Like chocolate, ice cream gets the bad wrap it does due to the high sugar, junk and preservative content. But if you break it down, you’ll see that ice cream can be truly healthful when made at home using the right ingredients. If you can make your own ice cream with full fat milk (or coconut milk), whole eggs, honey, vanilla beans and/or cocoa and/or fresh fruits and berries, there is absolutely nothing you need to worry about.

Eat homemade ice cream because it…

  • is free of junk and anti-nutrients.
  • is rich in fat soluble vitamins.
  • is an absolute treat with respect to taste, appearance and smell.

Note:

  • Honey or sugar, make sure you use as little as possible. The idea is not to come up with a cloyingly sweet concoction but to enjoy a mildly sweet creamy frozen treat.
  • Since the ingredients used are extremely calorie dense, watch your portion sizes. Once again, the idea is to enjoy it as a treat and not to make it a meal.
  • Vary the fruits you use and keep your palate fresh.
  • Feel free to dump the dairy and go the sorbet route. And use tender coconut water in place of water for some added flavor.

4. Mangoes

Pretty much everyone’s told you mangoes are “fattening”. Honestly, I have no idea what that means. Mangoes, like other fruits, are rich in carbohydrates but are fairly less calorie dense and completely devoid of allergens compared to the regular starches (oats, rice, wheat etc.). A 100g serving of fresh mango contains only about 70 calories (most of which are from carbohydrates) but is also rich in vitamins C and A. So if you live in a place where mangoes are in season, eat up!

Eat mangoes because they are…

  • a seasonal fruit and hence are only available for a few months during the year.
  • rich in vitamins C and A.
  • absolutely delightful and can brighten up any meal.
  • extremely effective in controlling sugar cravings.

Note:

  • Like with any fruit, watch your portion sizes ‘cos the total sugar consumed can easily creep up.
  • If you’re prone to an increase in body temperature, be sure to drink some milk (or eating ‘cooling foods’) after.

5. Coconut

A perfect example of a hero being bad mouthed as a villain, thanks to half-science and improper understanding of nutrition. Coconut and coconut products with all the health benefits they have to offer, are as close to magic as you can get.

Eat coconuts and other coconut products because…

  • Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid.
  • Coconut oil incredibly heat-stable and hence, like ghee, are perfect for high heat cooking.
  • Coconut products are rich in medium chain triglycerides.
  • They help in balancing our your lipid profile by increasing your HDL.
  • Coconut oil is anti-fungal helping with candida, IBS and other gut related issues.
  • They help with skin and hair care.
  • They help in keeping your immunity levels up high.

Note:

  • Coconut flakes, coconut milk, coconut flesh, coconut water, tender coconut – they are all fair game.
  • Watch out for packaged processed coconut milk. Read the ingredients and make sure it contains only coconut and water.
  • Like other fatty foods, coconut products tend to be significantly calorie dense and hence monitoring portion sizes is critical.

So next time you deem something unhealthy, think twice ‘cos nutrition isn’t about going on a diet or eating boring foods or giving up on certain foods or going blahblah-free or even making compromises. Sustainable nutrition aimed towards long-term wellness starts where health, taste and consistency meet.

Adios!

The EBV meal

As we slowly move our fat behinds and spilling bellies into the 21st century making good food choices becomes more and more of a struggle. For instance, we first had cookies. Then we had Oreo cookies. Now we have Oreo stuffed cookies! Are you kidding me? What’s a fat boy to do?! Not eat it? Blasphemy!

While I’m super excited about what is up next, I’m also petrified about how this is going to cause an uncontrollable downward spiral of our already crashing healths. That being the case, it becomes more and more important to make good food choices on most meals so that we can live long enough to enjoy tomorrow’s awesome treats. One of my recommendations to eating right while still keeping taste, nutrition and satiety levels high is the EBV meal and this is how it works.

You eat beans, eggs and vegetables. Nothing more. Nothing less.

You will need…

  • 2 – 4 whole country/free range eggs
  • 1 – 1.5 cups pre-soaked beans (any kind. mixed is fine)
  • 1 – 2 cups raw vegetables (mixed is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or coconut oil or lard
  • Salt, pepper, spices and toppings per taste
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt (optional)

You will need to…

  • Make a serving of beans. You can make it the Indian way (daal) or mexican way or american way (chili) or my way i.e cuisineless (add stuff you like and make it taste awesome). Of course, you can very well add your 1-2 cups of vegetables and cook them along with the beans to make the cooking simple.
  • Cook your eggs. Hard boiled, sunny side up, omelet, poached they’re all fine. You can even make this a gravy and add in the vegetables if you choose to.
  • Cook your vegetables. Saute, pan fry, broiled, steamed, baked they’re all fine.Or eat ’em raw if that’s how you roll.
  • Top your vegetables and/or beans with 1-2 tbls of shredded coconut (optional of course) or raw cut onions or green mango or cheese or bacon whatever else floats your boat.
  • Other options:
    • Top the beans with vegetables and eggs.
    • Scramble the eggs along with the beans and/or vegetables.

Nutritionally, you will have consumed…

  • Calories: 500 – 900 kcal
  • Protein: 30 – 55 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 – 85 g
  • Fiber: 15 – 22 g
  • Fats: 20 – 40 g
  • Vitamins: Plenty (depends on choice of beans and vegetables)
  • Minerals: Plenty (depends on choice of beans and vegetables)
  • Satiety: Very high due to the abundance of protein, carbs and fiber.
  • Taste: Awesome (but that’s only ‘cos I’m a pretty good cook. So suit yourself!)

And you will realize this is awesome, because…

  • The meal is filled with nutrients.
  • The meal is free from gluten, sugar, soy and other anti-nutrients.
  • You can very easily modify the meal to suit your goals be it fat loss or performance or muscle gain or general health – high/low calorie, high/low fat, high/low protein, high/low carb etc.
  • Variety is unlimited ‘cos you can vary the vegetables and beans every time (black, kidney, toor daal, pinto, moong daal, chick peas, double beans, ) and the nutritional value will still stay high up.

So next time you’re out of options for a meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, soak some beans, crack some eggs, chop some vegetables and you’re good to go!

Adios!

The two paths to fat loss heaven

I know I owe you guys one more post in The Gluten(free) Myth series, but I’m in the midst of some gluten based experiments and will need a few more weeks to collate my findings and create a post out of it. Thank you for your patience. 

– – – – – x – – – – – 

Sure there is plenty of talk about not focussing on fat loss and instead focusing on health and welness and blah blah. All that is awesome but truth is that most people today can benefit from some fat loss. That being the case, why do most people struggle to get the chub off? Well, ‘cos most people half-ass the efforts. They either do the wrong thing or do things wrong. Let me explain.

I have already discussed in detail about what the right thing is here, here, here, here and everywhere. If you have any questions about what the right thing is wrt fat loss, read up first. So, moving on from doing the right thing to doing things right, there are two ways, and only two ways, to getting lean.

  1. The crazy way
  2. The not-so-crazy way

And the best thing about these two ways is that they are both legit and they both work marvelously and one is no better than the other. It all depends on which is better suited for you.

The crazy way, and my preferred way to fat loss, is nothing short of an all out battle. You lock (in your goals), you load (up your eating and training plan) and fire!

This is for you if you…

  • Have a legit goal. Eg. You need to lose a few pounds and look good for an upcoming event or you need to drop weight for a competition.
  • Are truly disciplined and can commit to a not interesting (but not necessarily boring) food life for a period of 12-16 weeks.
  • Enjoy training and can commit to 4-5 days of focussed training per week.
  • Are bold enough to say no to yourself or anyone else who tries to get you to deviate from your nutrition or training plan.

And this is what you need to do.

  • Set a (short term) goal. Based on what your bodyweight is, figure out your optimal rate of fat loss (per this article) and come up with how much weight you can lose in 12-16 weeks. For instance, I’m about 150 lb (68 kg) at 10-12% BF and if I want to get lean, I’d aim to lose 5-6 lb (2-3 kg) in 12 weeks and hope to end up at about 146 lb (66 kg) at 8% BF.
  • Come up with a training plan or find someone who can help you with one. You don’t need anything fancy. The basic movements for strength work 2-3 times a week, sprints or sled drags or hill sprints 1-2 times a week and 50-60min of super low intensity cardio (i.e. walking or enjoyable swimming) everyday is all you need. You can follow a plan like the “how to look awesome naked” plan or a few 4 week plans like this one or create your own plan.
  • Come up with a nutritional plan you can sustain for about 3 months. As a general rule for fat loss, up the protein and fat and eat carbs (starch and fruit) only immediately after your workout. About 1 gm of protein, 1/2 gm of fat and 1 gm of carbs per lb of target bodyweight is a good place to start. Eat more (protein) if you’re losing more than you should and eat less (carbs) if you’re not losing enough. For more read the “free stuff”.
  • Have a cheat meal every other week. The term cheat meal, here, means eating foods that aren’t allowed in your 12-16 week plan OR eating more of the allowed foods. Figure out what you need (the dessert cheat for sanity or the excess calories for more energy) and do it.
  • Do nothing more and do definitely nothing less. Stay true, real true, to the plan for a short 3-4 months. Make no deviations. Grab the bull by the horns and get shit done!

The not-so-crazy way, is by contrast a chilled out, gradual and slow approach. You set some basic ground rules and go about living your life.

This is for you if you…

  • Have a vague goal. Eg. You need to lose some weight or you need to improve your health/fitness.
  • Are not dedicated enough to stick to a very strict training regimen or nutritional plan for more than a few days.
  • Don’t really enjoy working out but do it ‘cos you need to lose weight (or improve your health etc.).
  • Are prone to “falling off the wagon” fairly easily when tempted or hungry or stressed.
  • Are 50+, not athletically inclined and are doing this purely to stay healthy/pain free.

And this is what you need to do.

  • Set a (long term) goal. For eg. decide to lose 5-6 kgs in the coming year. If you lose 7 don’t eat a restaurant and if you lose only 4 don’t jump off a cliff.
  • Forget training plans and find a way to increase your activity level. You don’t necessarily have to join a gym or sign up for any programs, but make some lifestyle changes. For eg. find someone who will walk with you 3-4 days a week, swear to never use the elevator/escalator, carry your groceries, swear to not take the car for anything under a 15min walk, find a sport you like and play twice a week, do some home workouts with involve just bodyweight squats, pushups, lunges etc, or create your own training plan as instructed here.
  • Forget diets and nutritional plans and set yourself some food rules. Eat dessert only once a week and limit yourself to a small portion. Always leave the table when you’re still a tiny bit hungry. Eat more vegetables and meat and less starch and fruits. These 10 simple food rules will do the trick real well.

And here are some special cases…

  • If you are grossly overweight or clinically obese or have anything more than 25 kg to lose, you definitely want to go the not-so-crazy way. Your run is a marathon and you need to tackle it appropriately.
  • If you are just a few pounds away from reaching your happy body, then the crazy approach is your friend. Suck it up for a couple of months and you’re good to go.
  • If you’re an athlete (or wannabe elite athlete) capable of controlling your bodyweight fairly well, then the crazy approach it is.
  • If you’re considering making a chance in your parents’ lives by helping them shed some weight, the not-so-crazy way is definitely what you want to consider.

As complicated as you want fat loss to be, it really is that simple. Not easy but truly very simple. The reason most people fail in their fat loss efforts is not because they chose the wrong diet or wrong workout program but because they choose the wrong approach (for their type). Sure there is no way to say which exact type you are, but the key is to try both. If you have tried one and that didn’t work, maybe you should give the other approach a shot.

After all, insanity is nothing but doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time. So mix it up a little and instead of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side, hop in and check it out for yourself.
Adios!
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