Monday, August 22, 2016

Intensity- The Magical Ingredient

With any exercise program there are 4 variables: 1) Mode or type of exercise, 2) Frequency or how often you exercise, 3) Duration  or how long each exercise bout lasts, 4) and Intensity which is how hard the body is actually working.

If you don't feel like you are getting results from your workout, then increasing the intensity of your exercise might be the missing piece of the puzzle. I frequently see people hanging out for hours in the gym. If you are one of the people who are at at risk for getting a loitering ticket while you are at the gym, then it's probably time to turn up your intensity.

How to Measure Intensity

1. Monitor your heart rate. This is best done with a heart rate monitor. Remember your maximum heart rate is your age subtracted from 220. Unless you are a beginner, you should shoot to work at 70% of your MHR or higher.
2. The talk test. If you can easily carry on a conversation with a friend while working out, you may be taking it too easy. However, during the last marathon I ran, I noticed two women in front of me gabbing away for several miles while I was dying trying to keep up with them. I guess there's always an exception.
3. The perceived exertion scale. This is a very simplified way to determine intensity. There are many variations of the scale and it's not as objective as measuring your heart rate, but I kind of like the simplicity of using the 0-10 scale of 0 being totally relaxed and at ease and 10 being I am going to die!

Here are some ideas that can help you increase your intensity.

1. Time yourself. Working against the clock can do wonders to giving you a tougher workout. Just remember not to compromise safe form.
2. Work out with or in front of others. You are less likely to take 3 minute breaks between sets and loaf around during exercise if others are watching you work out.
3. Choose more intense activities and exercises. Rather than just walking or jogging, you may want to try sprinting. This is a very intense activity that will use all of your muscles. You may also want to try plyometrics or full court basketball instead of half court games or swimming laps instead of water aerobics.
4. Keep track of your personal best records. Know your personal best as it relates to push ups, pull ups, crunches,1 mile run, 1 rep max, etc. Having a prior record to occasionally work towards beating can be very motivating.

One of the benefits of the CrossFit movement is that it really increases intensity by incorporating several of these concepts. High Intensity training has several advantages over steady state exercise. I still think activities like jogging and walking are beneficial, but if you are looking to take things to the next level then you may want to re-evaluate the intensity level of your workout.

One word of warning. Exercising with intense ballistic movements is more likely to cause injury, so make sure that you have prepared your body for intense activities by slowly building up a foundation of strength training over time and make sure that you are sufficiently warmed up before you engage in intense exercise. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cooking With Fewer Calories

I'm not the kind of person who obsesses over calories, but if you want to reduce the number calories you consume, then it's wise to look for easy opportunities to do so. Consider making the following substitutions the next time you are cooking or baking in order to help you reduce the caloric content of your food.

1 cup of white sugar (774 calories) vs. sugar substitute (0 calories)

3 whole eggs (231 calories) vs. one whole egg and 3 egg whites (130 calories)

1 tablespoon of butter (150) vs. cooking spray (6)

1/2 cup butter (814) vs. 1/2 cup of applesauce (50)

1 cup of sour cream (492) vs. 1 cup fat-free sour cream (233)

8 oz. cream cheese (793) vs. 8 oz. fat free cream cheese (255)

1/4 cup mayonnaise (229) vs. 1/4 cup fat free mayonnaise (45)

Another great way to decrease calories when it comes to carbohydrates is to eat more vegetables as opposed to breads, pastas, cereals, etc. You can eat a ton of vegetables without running up your calorie count as long as you aren't smothering them in high fat dressings.

As you can see, making simple substitutions can make a big difference in the overall number of calories you consume over time. Many foods still taste good if the high calorie ingredients are slightly decreased from what the recipe calls for.  I substituted applesauce for syrup years ago and can't bring myself to eat syrup any more since it's just too sweet.

Calorie content is still only one part of the overall food equation. There are also factors of taste, texture, smell, flavor, satiety, and overall nutrition which may change for better or for worse when you switch high calorie ingredients with lower calorie substitutes.

Keep in mind that there are also some low calorie foods that just may not have the same nutritional value and may actually be less healthy than their higher calorie options so you don't want to put too much emphasis on just calories, but if you need to lose weight and you have an out of balance energy equation (more calories being eaten than you burn each day), then it is wise to look for easy ways to decrease your calorie consumption.