Monday, March 23, 2015

What Should I Eat?

What Should I Eat? My first reaction is to say “food”.  But, actually the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health & Human Services has tried to make it easier. Every 5 years they issue Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A new set is due to be released this year. Hearings will be held later in the month, but the new guidelines have recently attracted controversy. More on that later.

Whats a Healthy Diet?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans describe a healthy diet as one that:

*Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;

*Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and

*Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Other high points:
*Eat mostly food derived from plants – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. 

*Limit highly processed foods – shop the perimeter of your grocery store

*Consume a variety of food

*Watch portion size & read labels

*Eat more whole grains – “wheat flour” is not “whole wheat flour”

*Eat less refined grains & added sugar

*Enjoy more fish & nuts

*Eat less animal fat which is saturated, and is found in red meat. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry, low or nonfat dairy products.

And Specifically:
*Avoid trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – these raises LDL (bad) cholesterol & reduce HDL (healthy) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

*Reduce cholesterol consumption to less than 300mg a day. Cholesterol is found ONLY in animal foods such as meat & eggs.

*Reduce sodium intake to less than 1500mg a day, and increase potassium intake

*Watch calcium & Vitamin D intake. 1000-1200mg a day of calcium is recommended.

*Choose food over supplements.

*Watch out for liquid calories and what you eat on the weekend.
The Berkeley Wellness Letter has summarized these into 14 pointers.  Click the link for more detail.

Need Help  in implementing the above? The government website  has hundreds of tips, lesson plans, a dietary tracker, recipes, food plans and more…and its all free.  Log on for a personalized MyPlan geared to your height, weight, weight loss goals and activity level.

What's The Best Diet?  For those who want a more detailed guidelines, US News & World Report ranks many popular diets on a yearly basis.

The government endorsed DASH diet came out tops again for the fifth year. Developed to fight high blood pressure, it received high marks overall, for meeting dietary guidelines and for promoting heart health.

The next four highly rated diets were the TLC, Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean & Weight Watchers. For more details click here, and then click on the details and links you are interested in.

2015 Dietary Guidelines Hearings. As mentioned earlier, hearings for new guidelines are being held soon. You may have also read the the beef industry is upset with the recommendation that consumers eat less red meat due to its saturated fat and - in a first - environmental concerns. The industry isn't taking this very well, and most observers believe this recommendation will be watered down now that the politicians & industry money are involved. Extra hearings have been scheduled as the lobbyists circle.

Why is this important? The Dietary Guidelines - besides advising consumers - are used to set buying criteria for schools and other government supported food programs. Stay tuned and follow the money......

Also in the news  - don't know what to make of the headlines finding arsenic in cheap wines? And what about the fine points on reading the Nutrition Facts you know what is really "low fat", "low sodium", and how to judge whether there's too much sugar in your kids' cereal?   Coming in the next blog post!

Recommended For More Information
Food Rules - Michael Pollan.  A straight forward common sense statement of guidelines to follow for healthier eating.

Forks Over Knives  This 2011 documentary film examines the evidence for a low fat whole food, plant based diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. While some find fault with the methodology of those advocated a plant based diet, the evidence supporting the conclusions is mounting, and worth an examination.

Healthy Eating Plate  Harvard School of Public Health's version of healthy eating plate.  It includes graphics for oils, water, and exercise.

© March, 2015, Fitness Spark Personal Training

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Do I Start? What Do I Eat?

Don’t know how to start or what to eat?    These are the top two questions I get.  Let’s talk about starting exercise…read on:

Starting exercise.  As a fitness professional, my “off the top of the head” reaction is “slowly”.  We see too many yoga, boot camp, Crossfit, running, pilates, you name it - injuries from those whose bodies can’t keep up with their brains telling them to do what they did 10 or 20 years ago.  I’d love for folks to come in for a consultation or a short series of sessions just to get them off on the right foot.  It goes without saying to check in with your MD first, by the way.

How much exercise do I need?  The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations for healthy adults for cardiorespiratory (aerobic) exercise are 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.  This can be divided into 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise 3 days a week.  Either continuous sessions or multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes are acceptable.  Length of time, frequency and intensity should be gradually progressed to minimize the risk of injury and to help build the exercise habit.  Any amount is beneficial – it’s not an all or none thing.

For strength training – ACSM recommends working each major muscle group 2 or 3 times a week with varying exercises and equipment.  Older persons & sedentary persons should start with very light intensity.  Two to four sets of each exercise will help build power & strength.  For each exercise, 8-10 repetitions increase strength; 10-15 reps improve strength (in middle age & older adult beginners), and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.  Allow 48 hours between resistance exercise sessions.

For flexibility, exercises to increase range of motion should be done two to three days each week.  Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds.  Repeat each stretch 2-4 times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.  Stretch exercises may be static, dynamic, ballistic or PNF.  Stretching is most effective when the muscle is warm – after exercise or a hot bath/shower.  My handouts for stretching can be found here.

A new category added recently (2011) is neuromotor exercise or functional fitness training, which is recommended 2 or 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes.  Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifunctional activities such as tai chi or yoga. 

Is this a lot?  Maybe, initially, but in real life, a properly certified personal trainer or fitness professional can devise workout routines that incorporate all of these requirements into a manageable schedule for you, as well as helping you to incorporate more movement into your days.

A Walking Program Say you want to start by walking.  Its inexpensive, easy, and can fit in with your schedule.  Yes, there are numerous programs on the web.   But, remember the information reliability pointers we discussed in January.  Here's one that I'd recommend that makes sense for most folks .

Beginners:  Try walking for 10 minutes a day at a brisk pace (about 3-3.5 mph pace, or a mile in 17-20 minutes).  That would be about a half mile at the recommended pace.  Do this for 3 weeks.  Then increase your walk by 5 minutes a week until you’re up to 30 minutes a day, six days a week. 

Intermediates & Advanced – increase your pace and your distance as described above. 

The National Heart Lung & Blood Institute has a booklet with walking & running programs that can be found here.  A12 week Mayo Clinic program is here.

In The News:  I get a number of newsletters from various professional organizations.  Here's what's being discussed.

Canola Oil – is it as bad as its made out to be?  Berkeley Wellness discusses this controversial topic here.

Target heart rate can be a very complicated subject.  After starting an aerobic program, the next question is how hard to work out.  The answer is that the most common formulae may grossly underestimate heart rate in older exercisers.  Machines only take into account your weight, and age, not your muscle mass or cardiovascular capacity.  Best rule of thumb is the talk test – as long as you can talk at a slightly breathless pace, you’re probably fine.  Breathless, gasping for breath & unable to talk – you’re working too hard.  The New York Times discusses this topic here, and presents slightly better formulaes.

New Dietary Guidelines will be coming out later this year.  You may have heard that the new Guidelines allow more eggs, and have lifted limits on healthy fats, but have capped saturated fats at 10%.  There is an emphasis on sustainability, and also a recommendation that up to 4 or 5 cups of coffee may protect against Parkinsonism and diabetes. Read more here  and here.  Since hearings will also be held later this year, you can comment on the website.

Online Lectures:  UC Berkeley's Food Institute is again running its Edible Education 101 course with free live streaming.  Although the series started January 26th, you can access the lectures on YouTube.  Hosts are Mark Bittman, and Robert Hass.  Guest speakers include Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and other notable thinkers on making the food system more sustainable and equitable.  More information here.

The Future Of Health  Sponsored by WebMD and with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts commentating five breakthroughs are discussed - infertility, 3D printing, obesity treatments, wireless medicine & advances in vision. The videos are short and hold your attention.  Access them here.

 ACSM Guidelines         Walking Program

 ©2015, Fitness Spark Personal Training