Tag Archives: analysis

Why your shoes are making you poor and your sports drinks are making you fat.

For those of you who didn’t already know, I write for The Week’s health magazine called Smart Life and the following article appeared in the November 2012 issue. The magazine is pretty cool actually. They are only about a year old and are slowly gaining readership. They have a good collection of articles in each issue and more importantly, an issue editor who cares about the content. Definitely something to check out if you are into magazines.

– – – – – x – – – – –

Keep it sane. Keep it simple. 

Why your shoes are making you poor and your sports drinks are making you fat.

Like a lot of things in life, thanks to smart marketing, we have been misguided into believing that health and fitness depend on external factors like complicated analyses and branded health foods. A list of such marketing gimmicks can be very long, but I’ll discuss today, my top three repeat offenders in any layperson’s fitness life.

  1. Expensive shoes
  2. Body composition analyses
  3. Sports drinks

Shoes

Shoes are awesome. They come in a million color combinations, cost from nothing to everything and can make or break your ‘cool quotient’. But the question here is, are they necessary for training? Yes and no.

If you’re training for performance, be it weight lifting or playing a sport or running or sprinting, shoes become an absolute necessity. But for the general fat loss enthusiast, shoes are nothing more than an(other) expensive buy.

Realize that your feet contain 19 muscles, 107 ligaments, 26 bones and 7000 nerve endings and that they all require activation and/or strengthening in order to optimally perform during long term usage (i.e life). That being the case, it goes without saying that your feet need to be ‘used’ and shoes, with all the padded soles and constraining enclosures, don’t help because they end up over-protecting your feet and end up acting like crutches for your feet.

By living without shoes i.e. walking barefoot at home, training barefoot and gradually increasing intensity etc., you, firstly, strengthen the finer muscle fibers, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue that help keep your feet healthy and, secondly, facilitate better coordination due to improved neuromuscular communication within the body by means of activating the thousands of nerve endings on your feet and toes.

Summing up: Wear shoes. Look cool. But spend enough time barefoot too. Your feet will thank you.  Barefoot shoes like Vibram, Merrell and Innov8 are great options to strengthen your feet while still keeping them protected from sharp objects and high heat. 

Body composition analyses

Anytime anyone joins a new upscale gym, one of the first tests that is done on them is the body composition analysis i.e. determine how much of their body weight is fat, how much is lean mass (muscle, bone etc.) and how much is water.

In a world that believes ‘the more complicated a process is, the better it is!’, such analyses are done using different methods – from very cumbersome acts like hydrodensitometry (underwater weighing) to more technologically advanced and convenient methods like bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA), Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) and Whole Body Gamma Counter (WBD) to more basic methods like skin-fold measurements and Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations.

Though there are multiple methods available today to perform a body composition analysis, there are some inherent flaws in all of them.

  1. Most convenient or easy or basic methods are grossly inaccurate. BIA, BMI and skin-fold methods can show numbers that are anywhere from 5 to 30% away from the real number.
  2. The methods that are fairly accurate are either super cumbersome (like hydrostatic  weighing) or ridiculously expensive for the purpose (like DEXA and WBD).
  3. And most importantly, none of these numbers actually matter for the general fitness enthusiast or even to athletes until they get to the elite level. For someone who is looking to lose fat, the plan of action is to eat right and train smart. Knowing how much percentage of their body weight is fat does nothing with their progress other than encouraging obsessive behavior. In other words, unnecessary stats don’t help.

All this said, I have my own body fat testing apparatus. It is a complex piece of equipment and it provides you with exactly the answer you need to help you move ahead in your journey. I didn’t design it and I don’t get a get if you use it, but I strongly recommend that you purchase and use it.

It is called ‘the mirror’ and it only has one reading – ‘If it jiggles, it is fat’.

Summing up: Save your money and sanity. See yourself in the mirror often and get a picture every week. In a few weeks you’ll be able to clearly say if you’re gaining or losing fat and where. 

Sports drinks

Gatorade and other such sports drinks are a fitness enthusiast’s elixir today because he/she believes that his/her training was intense enough to require special recovery fluids and that consuming a well-branded drink will help achieve his/her goals better and faster.

Unfortunately, a lot of this ‘belief’ is born from the smart marketing that is used to sell these sugary drinks to the common man. While the composition of any sport drink is water, lots of sugar, food coloring, preservatives and additives the marketing emphasizes on the presence of electrolytes. As important as they sound and as important as they are for an intensely performing human body, electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, chloride etc.), are very easily available without sugar, preservatives and additives from whole foods.

Most people get enough sodium and chloride just from salting their food well and more than required amounts of potassium and bicarbonate can be easily obtained by eating bananas or, even better, drinking tender coconut water. For example, while a 1 liter of Gatorate Rain provides you with 120mg of potassium (along with 56grams of sugar!), one serving of tender coconut water can nourish you with approximately 250mg of potassium.

The fact is that recovery drinks do help, but only when training at an extremely high level of intensity. I (and many of my fat-loss and performance seeking clients) have been training intensely for many years now, and not once have I found the need to even sip on a sport drink or recommend one to my clients.

Summing up: Quit drinking sugary colored fluids irrespective of whether they have a ‘healthy’ marketing label associated with them or not. Choose whole real foods. A good diet will, by design, provide you with the required amount of electrolytes to satisfy your body’s needs. 

Let’s talk numbers

You know what… forget gluten, forget lectins… let’s assume that grains and beans have no detrimental effects. With this assumption let us compare the nutritional content of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and sugars. There’s actually very little I want to write in this post because I did a fair bit of research or data collection or whatever you want to call it and  have gathered some numbers which I’m sure will be very useful to you. So without further ado let’s just jump right in.

Note:

1. 200 calories of each food item is taken into account.

2. Carbohydrates, fiber and protein are in grams.

3. Vitamins are present as %DV i.e. Percentage Daily Value = Recommended Daily Amount. Find more information here.

Data:

Cereals and Grains:

– About 1 cup of grains/cereals will result in a calorie in take of ~ 200.

– All grains and cereals have a high carb load and contain little to no fiber and protein.

– Vitamins are available… but in trace amounts.

Beans and Legumes:

– About 1 cup of beans/legumes will result in a calorie in take of ~ 200.

– Beans and legumes have a high carb load but contain decent amount of fiber and protein.

– Moderate quantities of vitamins are available.

Starchy Vegetables:

– Each medium sized potato/yam will provide you about a 100 calories.

– Starchy vegetables are carb heavy and contain less fiber and protein (similar to grains)

– Moderate quantities of vitamins are available.

Fibrous Vegetables:

– Each cup of fibrous vegetable will result in a calorie intake of only 40 calories!

– Fibrous vegetables are not carb heavy and contain enormous amounts of fiber and protein!

Monstrous quantities of vitamins are available!

Fruits:

– Fruits could be calorie dense or not depending on their type. Berries are generally super low calorie.

– Fruits can be carb heavy, again depending on choice, and can have insane amount of fiber (berries) or not.

– Protein content of fruit is generally very low.

– Moderate quantities of vitamins are available (mostly vitamin C).

Sugar:

– 1/4 cup (or less) of sugar will result in 200 calories!

– They have a very high carb load, no fiber and no protein.

– Sugars have little to no vitamins to offer.

– Honey and sugar ain’t too different.

Discussion:

Now that you have seen the data let’s throw in some graphs, pictorially represent them and put things in perspective.

1. All these foods offer pretty similar amount of total carbohydrates to provide a total of 200 calories.

So no big deal here. Let’s chill.

2. While we are looking at the carbs offered by these foods let’s see how much fiber each of these offer.

Oh wow! Now here’s something worthwhile.

– While sugars offer zero fiber and grains offer just about 4 grams/200 calories, fibrous vegetables offer a whopping 21 grams/200 calories!! That is 85% of your DV for fiber!

– Fruits offer a significant amount of fiber too and if all your fruits are berries… my oh my… you’re getting ~ 30 grams of fiber/200 calories! That is 120% of your DV of fiber!

Clearly from a fiber perspective (which is important for all this)… fibrous vegetables and berries kick some serious ass! So brown rice eaters… please quit being proud! The 2 grams of fiber/200 calories ain’t no thang!

Net carbs in any food = Total carbs – Fiber and this is the number of carbs that actually count and the lower the better. So net carbs for these dudes?

Seriously… check it out! Fibrous vegetables have more fiber than net carbs! Wicked! Show me one product in the market today that does this! Fruits don’t compare too badly either and if I make a column for just berries… that would be very similar to the fibrous vegetable column.

3. What about protein now? These things should come with some protein too right?

Hells yeah! Once again… fibrous vegetables top the charts with an average of ~ 17 grams of protein/200 calorie! Compare this to the 6 grams from grains and 0 grams from sugar (obviously!) Now let’s compare the amount of carbs to the amount of protein these foods offer.

Well… of course sugars have no protein and grains have a meager 4 grams of protein for every 40 grams of net carbs. But our awesome fibrous vegetables have 17 grams of protein for every 16 grams of carbs! Did you read that? Yes? Now read that again! Fibrous vegetables provide you with more protein than carbs.

4. Last but not least… satiety.

200 calories = 1 cup of grains/beans Or 6.5 cups of fibrous vegetables Or 3.5 cups of fruits Or 1/5th a cup of sugar. You can get all your calories from just one chocolate bar and stay hungry for the rest of the day or you can throw in a bunch of vegetables and fruits… eat till your full and realize you’ve eaten only 1/4th of your calories for the day.

Summary:

Calorie for calorie…

– Fibrous vegetables provide more fiber and protein than sugar, grains, starchy vegetables and even beans.

– Much higher quantities of fibrous vegetables can be eaten without piling on the calories (as opposed to sugar and grains). This helps in satiety when on a diet especially.

– Fruits (especially berries) provide crazy amounts of fiber and vitamin C compared to grains and sugars.

– Starchy vegetables offer a high carb load with minimal fiber and moderate vitamins which make it an awesome candidate for post-workout meals.

– Fibrous vegetables offer insane amount of vitamins compared to any other food source that exists.

– Sugars have zero nutrition. Period. Honey is no better than sugar.

– I haven’t even discussed the gluten issue. You can read here about the havoc they wreck.

– If this is not enough information and analysis for you to base the bulk of your diet around vegetables and fruits… then you’re just an idiot (and will be a fat idiot  soon and will most probably be a fat diabetic idiot soon after.)

Once again… you don’t have to change your diet to eating just fruit and vegetables and nuts and lean meats all the time. Base the bulk of your diet on these things and have the occasional dessert or grain based meal.

Peace.

%d bloggers like this: