Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Calories"

Day 349 - The Truth Behind Calorie Labels



It really does make you wonder how far off your calorie counting is or could be. You may not realize it, but being off by 500 or so calories a day can add on some major pounds! I always try and recommend to people that they cook for themselves as much as humanly possible, but not only that, try and stick to real, whole foods with minimal ingredients. It is much easier to try and calculate how many calories are in an apple than a frappuccino at Starbucks...

Quote of the day:
"Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can."
-Lowell Thomas


Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com





Day 339 - Calories

We live in a society that is constantly swayed by trends. Recently, one major trend that is taking over is counting calories. You would be pretty hard-pressed to go somewhere without seeing some sort of mention of calories. Restaurants print them on menus (not always accurate, only an estimation), food companies print them on packaging, diet and exercise claims on the radio, tv, and in advertisements all claim to "burn more calories". The problem with mostly all of this is that majority of the population never stops to think or understand what these numbers or claims mean. Unfortunately they just get caught up in the trends.

I have made a list of calorie claims, myths, truths, and partial-truths below to help my readers understand how to decipher what they see and read out in the world today.

1. Calories Fuel Our Bodies

The term "calorie" was first coined in the 19th century for steam engine heat conservation. Basically, a calorie is a unit of energy required for 1 gram of water to heat 1 degree Celsius. It was in 1890 that the USDA first brought this term over to the food industry. Scientists would literally take a piece of food and light it on fire to see how much it would heat water. Some of you may remember doing this in science class, I know I do. The term "calorie" in the food industry should actually be "kilocalorie" as the calorie count you see on food packaging refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, but everyone usually drops the "kilo" because we are all lazy...

There is also one problem here, our bodies do not have little fires raging in our cells to produce energy, we break down macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) to use their chemical energy. Also, instead of one enormous chemical plant, we have billions of little energy producers in our cells called mitochondria that are much more efficient. The problem that many people think and feel, is that all calories are created equal, when this simply is not the truth, which leads me to #2.

2. All Calories are Created Equal

When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?) To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly.

Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore has the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether. Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest.

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active.

3. You Are What You Eat

We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that! When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach break things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste.

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the walls quickly. Animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starchy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system. Not only that, but fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. An equivalent amount of broccoli compared to an equivalent piece of chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body. Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

4. "I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym"

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for a second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories in working out each day.

Most of our calories burned on a day to day basis come from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning a ton of calories even when watching tv! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person!

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your life that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often rather than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

5. "Big" People Have Slower Metabolisms

There are many studies that show that thin people may potentially absorb and burn dietary fats quicker than their "bigger" counterparts, but this topic is definitely false. When referring to the "resting metabolic rate" (RMR) discussed in #4, studies have shown that the average man requires 11 calories per pound of body weight for their RMR, even if they sat in front of the tv all day. If you do the math, you would quickly discover that the bigger you become, more calories are actually required to maintain your current weight.

6. Low Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

This seems to be a very hot-button issue as of late. Many people seem to think that eating "Low-Fat" or "Low-Calorie" food substitutes will help them lose weight. It looks and sounds good on paper! The problem here is that companies often remove fat from products, but replace with either sugar or artificial sweeteners or in high-sugary foods, they remove natural sugars and replace with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. The problem arises when those "zero-cal" sweeteners hit the bloodstream. A long story short, the body thinks its taking in sugar (and calories) when in fact the artificial sweeteners are useless which causes a blood-sugar dip causing you to crave guess what, more sugar!

More and more studies are coming out detailing how individuals who frequently consume things like "Diet" sodas and low-cal foods are actually gaining weight in the process, oh, the irony! The ideal situation here would be to remove soda from the diet and replace with another zero-cal beverage...water!


Quote of the day:

"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 317 - My Diet Through Body Beast Part 1: Build and Bulk Diet

***Part 2 of my diet (supplements) can be found here***

This blog will detail what my diet consisted of, as well as the timing during Phase 1 (Build Phase) and Phase 2 (Bulk Phase) of Body Beast.

Please note, that as I am writing this blog, this is the first time that I have actually 'counted' the calories that I consumed. I completed my own mass phase back at the beginning of 2012, so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to eat, so I didn't feel the need to count.

Once I get to the Phase 3 (Beast Phase), I will count my numbers religiously to make sure that I am correctly aiming for my proper calories and macronutrient ratios.

Please note, the schedule below is my usual day. I did not follow this plan exactly to a tee every single day, but most days I did.

Also note, my dinners vary quite drastically so I have an overall consensus of how many calories I would take in on an average day. More often than not, my dinners would consist of 1-2 servings of protein, a veggie side, and a carb side (potatoes, rice, bread, etc.)

My schedule:

5:00am - Alarm goes off, drink coffee (a little bit of milk, no sugar)

5:45am - Starting workout by this point at the absolute latest

6:30am - Finished workout, immediately drinking 500mL Chocolate Milk with creatine (see below)

500mL Chocolate Milk - 340 calories (5g fat, 56g carbs, 18g protein)

7:00am - Once dressed and ready for day, 3 scrambled eggs

3 Large Eggs - 240 calories (18g fat, 3g carbs, 21g protein)

9:00am - Banana, Chocolate Shakeology mixed with 12oz. 1% Milk (take vitamins at this time)

Banana - 110 calories (0g fat, 30g carbs, 1g protein)
Chocolate Shakeology with 12oz. 1% Milk - 316 calories (6g fat, 34g carbs, 30g protein)

11:00am - 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese mixed with 1/2 Cup Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt

1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese (2%MF) + Yogurt - 167 calories (2.5g fat, 16g carbs, 19g protein)

12:30pm - Turkey sandwich (3-4 slices turkey breast, mayonnaise, mustard, tomato, lettuce, cheddar cheese), baby carrots, Clif Bar

Clif Bar - 250 calories (5g fat, 44g carbs, 10g protein)
Turkey Sandwich:
Sliced Turkey/Chicken - 460 calories (12g fat, 60g carbs, 30g protein)
Cheese - 360 calories (30g fat, 3g carbs, 21g protein)
Whole Grain Bread - 240 calories (5g fat, 40g carbs, 10g protein)

1:30pm - Apple, Fibre 1 bar

Apple - 80 calories (1g fat, 21g carbs, 0g protein)
Fibre 1 bar - 140 calories (3.5g fat, 26g carbs, 2g protein)

3:00pm - Vanilla Whey Shake with 1% Milk

276 calories (6g fat, 19g carbs, 38g protein)

6:00pm - Dinner (see below)

9:00pm - Pre-bedtime snack (Ice-Cream or Peanut Butter)

4 tablespoons peanut butter - 360 calories (32g fat, 16g carbs, 12g protein)

Totals

My totals are entirely based on what I eat for dinner each day (which varies greatly). Dinner basically always consists of meat, a starchy side, and a veggie side. Meat is generally one of the following: 2 chicken breasts, 1-2 pieces of salmon, 1 filet of tilapia, 1 1/2 cups of shredded roast beef.

Starchy carbs involve white potatoes, rice, bread, etc. For veggies, I would try and eat broccoli whenever possible because it is a great, nutritious food, and I really like it!

Totals - 3200-4000 calories

~120-150g fat = 30%-40% total calories
~360-400g carbohydrates = 40%-50% total calories
~210-240g protein = 25-30% total calories

Creatine

Plain and simple creatine monohydrate, crystallized. I take mine mixed in my post-workout chocolate milk. I pre-loaded with creatine for the first 5 days, taking 20g of creatine daily (4x5g doses).

Now the Body Beast guide recommends taking 10g of creatine following every workout, but I found I was getting a bit of stomach upset after 30 days or so, so I dialed it back to 5g post-workout.

Shouldn't be a problem, because at that point, my muscles most certainly have reached their maximum "saturation level" and should have PLENTY of creatine available to them.

Water

One thing I will add, the first 30 or so days of the program I was not drinking enough water. Well, I should say I was drinking enough to "get by", but I needed to drink much more. Your muscles volumize while on creatine, so it is important that you have plenty of extra hydration to allow those muscles to fill up like sponges! Keep a water bottle handy at all times...

***Part 2 of my diet (supplements) can be found here***

Quote of the day:
"Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can."
-Lowell Thomas

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com





Day 223 - "How to Lose Weight" Video


Here is a great video I came across detailing some very basic principles behind weight loss/weight gain. Most people don't think of these principles this way, so it is nice to have this organized and broken down in such a great way.

Quote of the day:
"The sky has never been the limit. We are our own limits. It’s then about breaking our personal limits and outgrowing ourselves to live our best lives."
~ Unknown

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com



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Day 100 - My Top 10 Blogs



To be honest, I am quite proud of myself for reaching 100 straight days of blogging! I can honestly say that when I started out with this goal to write 365 blogs in a row, consecutively, I knew it was going to take some time and dedication, but didn't realize it would be this time-consuming.


Having said that, I feel as though I am in a good rhythm and routine now and am looking forward to at least 265 more days in a row!


Since 100 straight blogs is a bit of a milestone, I am going to do something a little different today. I am going to post my Top 10 Most Popular Blogs. Below, you will find a list of my Top 10 blogs, according to number of views recorded by blogger. These are not necessarily part of my 365 "Grow Younger Every Day" blogs, but my Top 10 none-the-less. This is a great opportunity for any new readers out there to see what all of the fuss has been about in the past.


I would like to thank those of you who have stuck with me and continue to read this blog. I have seen a pretty tremendous increase in readership over these past few months, and am hoping to continue that trend. So thanks!


Top 10:


10. March 26th, 2012 - Warrior Training


9. October 13th, 2011 - Calories


8. February 20th, 2012 - More Discussion into Morning vs. Evening Exercise


7. April 25th, 2012 - Think Like an Athlete


6. February 3rd, 2012 - My Thoughts on Crossfit


5. March 16th, 2012 - Mass Phase Progress - End of Phase 1


4. April 19th, 2012 - Warrior Training Revised


3. March 30th, 2012 - Mass Phase P90X Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps Modifications


2. February 15th, 2012 - Time to Move Some Weight


1. January 3rd, 2012 - Reader Question - Should I do Insanity if I'm a skinny guy and can't keep weight up?


Quote of the day:
"Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today."
- Benjamin Franklin




Day 81 - You Are What You Eat


We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that!

When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach breaks things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste. 

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the intestinal walls quickly. Keep in mind that animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starchy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system.

Not only that, but fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. Therefore, a specific amount of broccoli and chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body.

Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

Quote of the day:
"Happiness is more a state of health than of wealth."
-Frank Tyger






Day 31 - How Do You Feel?


A question I received recently (paraphrasing):

I have been counting calories lately, with some success, as I have lost 6 pounds since the start of the month. However, the calorie tracking program I use has me targeted at 2700 calories per day. I am having troubles reaching that number. Any thoughts?

In a general sense, it is nice to track your calories from time to time so that you can gauge how far on/off your diet is. I have even tracked my own diet in the past, and will do some at occasional times in the future. 

Having said that, I personally find that counting calories all the time is not sustainable for my lifestyle. Some people, once they get hooked, absolutely have to know 'the numbers' on every single ounce of food that goes into their body. That is fine, and I am happy that that works for them, but it simply is not for me. I personally don't mind checking 'my numbers' every once in a while, but do not like the idea of being attached to them.

So, the next question then becomes, how do you know how much to eat? I find that gauging your food intake on how you feel works best for me. If your energy levels are good, you are sleeping well, you feel good/energetic during your workouts, then you are probably on track.

I feel the need to input a giant disclaimer here, however. This principle to "eat to feel good" should only be used by those who have a handle on what is proper nutrition. If you have weight to lose, or have lead a life of poor diet choices, then tracking calories may be for you.

On the other hand, if you already have a pretty good understanding of what is considered a 'healthy diet', combined with the fact that you understand your caloric needs, there can be some slack as to exactly what goes into your body.

This is the principle that I use. I am comforted by the notion that I can track my numbers from time to time to make sure that I am still on track with my current goals, but for the most part, I know what I need to consume to fuel my body to not only feel good, but to fuel my performance in exercise and competition.

A good example of this is when we consume fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables can be low-calorie, but they are very nutrient-dense, so you get more 'bang for your buck' if you know what i mean. 

Oftentimes, healthy individuals who need to aim for a specific caloric intake may find that they struggle to reach their 'number'. It may be extremely difficult to reach a few thousand calories if you are primarily eating fruits and vegetables. However, by consuming a diet that is primarily made up of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies, chances are, you are feeling pretty dandy, and have lots of energy. If you are feeling fine with less calories, i say more power to ya!
Having said that, make sure you aren't dipping your calories too low because you may start to get those hunger pangs for something sugary.

As you get more and more fit, and you put on more muscle mass, your energy levels will go up and you will be able to 'do more', so you will probably need more and more carbs to keep your energy levels up. 

Also known as your "Basal Metabolic Rate", the more lean mass you have (muscle) the more calories you will be burning on a daily basis, even at times of rest. This is why it is hard to initially judge someone's BMR because these websites base it off of height/weight/age/etc. An 'athletic' or muscular person who is 180lbs will have a higher BMR than a sedentary 'overweight' person at 180lbs.

Quote of the day:
"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory."
-Ghandi





Day 12 - Exercise Myth


 I exercise all the time, I can eat whatever I want! MYTH.

Some individuals feel as though they can "splurge" and let their diets slip because they were "good" and went to the gym that morning.

The problem most people seem to run into, is that they drastically overestimate how many calories they burn during a workout. Just to give you a very basic example, a 170 pound man that walks for 30mins burns an additional 140 calories (approximately), that's like half a juice-box!

I always try and tell people that if they wish to lose weight, they need to have a well-balanced diet and exercise, but cutting 500 calories out of your diet daily is much easier than burning 500 calories at the gym.

The ideal situation for any individual is to have a solid combination of daily exercise, along with a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight. Both of these components provide their own benefits.

Quote of the day:
"The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity."
~Ayn Rand





Day 8 - Exercise Myth

 
If I want to lose weight, I should do more cardio exercise. MYTH. 

Cardiovascular exercise is fantastic for your brain, circulatory system, and can burn calories. However, strength training raises resting metabolic rates for hours after a tough workout so you continue to burn calories long after you have left the gym!

What does 'Resting Metabolic Rate' mean? Your body is burning calories at all hours of the day. Processes in your body require energy to complete. These processes can include replacing/repairing tissue, digesting food, thinking, breathing, etc.

Unfortunately, most people seem to have 2 different training styles stuck in their head; cardio and resistance training. Why can't you combine them? Many people feel as though to burn calories and do "cardio", they should hop on the treadmill or elliptical, get their heart rate up to a respectable level and then keep it there for an extended period of time.

This is a common fallacy because unless you are training for a marathon, there is absolutely no need to keep an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time. Instead, why not add some total-body resistance work into your training and perform exercises in circuit (moving from one body part to the next with little to no break) so that you never stop moving. That way, you are working your muscles, but also getting "cardio" work at the same time. Remember, cardiovascular exercise means that you have an elevated heart rate, your body doesn't care if that's achieved from running or pushups!

Not only that, but oftentimes when individuals are 'doing cardio', they elevate their heart rate about mid-way to their max heart rate, then keep it there for an extended period of time, but never really pushing themselves to their max effort. By doing high-intensity interval exercises, your heart rate is climbing and falling multiple times throughout a workout which has been shown to be far more beneficial to overall health than steady-state cardiovascular exercise.

Quote of the day:
"Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still."
~Chinese Proverb





Day 2 - Small Changes Add Up!

 
“I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym.”

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for that second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." 

Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories by working out each day. Most of the calories we burn on a day to day basis comes from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are even burning calories reading this blog right now! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise activity thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person.

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your lifestyle that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

Exercise can only take you so far. Diet choices and other small lifestyle changes add up over time to create a healthier you!

Quote of the day:
"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Sources:
Photo - http://www.zmescience.com/science/biology/sexual-sweat-is-recognized-as-novel-by-the-brain/





Mass Phase Final Results

***FINAL RESULTS VIDEO HERE ***

Well, my 9 weeks of building mass is complete. I have to admit that I am quite happy with my final results (video above). I set out with a few personal goals. I wanted to try and stay as regimented with my diet as possible, lift as heavy as possible with good form (to avoid injury), and to put on some weight while gaining some strength. All of my goals were met - except for a few small nagging injuries picked up just from the sheer forces my body was put under.

I still learned a few things along the way, not only about my own body, but also about what to value with health and fitness. I would definitely consider myself a 'hardgainer' with a body type somewhere between an ectomorph and a mesomorph. I have always been quite active and athletic growing up, so that, coupled with the fact that I have a smaller body type, creates difficulties for me in gaining any significant mass.


My diet was quite spot-on, hitting anywhere from 3500-4000 calories, 6 days a week. I was right around the 30% protein every day as well. Now I will mention that in order to hit my protein numbers, I was supplementing with protein shakes on a very consistent basis, while trying to use wholesome dietary sources as much as possible.

I do not want any of these things to sound like excuses, as I feel like I still put on some mass, as I intended to do, but there are some things to learn from my own little experiment these past few weeks. First of all, I was attempting to build mass by using my own home gym. Research tells me, which I knew going into this, that in order to build significant amounts of body mass, I should incorporate more large-muscle and multi-joint exercises into my program (heavy squats, deadlifts, bench press, snatches, etc.).

Also, I aimed to cut down on my activity level the best I could, so that my gains would not be hindered by doing too much cardio for example, but I still played hockey outside of my 6-day-a-week workout schedule.

One thing that ended up being one of my biggest successes through all of this, was my strength gains that I achieved. I continually pushed my 'numbers' as best I could through every workout, increasing either repetitions or resistance (weight) in order to promote muscular growth. My gains in strength will now help me with my future plans and training for the coming months.

Now that I was able to put on a bit of mass, and gain a pretty substantial amount of strength, I look forward to my upcoming P90X2/Asylum hybrid, where I can now take my strength gains and apply them to a desired goal (Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder).

This is where I feel I truly excel - competing. From the time I begin my hybrid on Wednesday April 25th, until I cross the finish line at Tough Mudder on Sunday August 19th, I will be competing. Sure, it is nice to lift some heavy weights and try and look all ripped and muscular, but I have been an athlete my entire life, and competing is what I like to do. I will be keeping everyone informed on how I am doing along the way!





Your Numbers






We live in a society that is completely obsessed with numbers such as; finances, sports, weather, etc. Part of the reason why we, as a society, are so focused on numbers is because of their direct tie to results. Unfortunately, in many cases, people focus too much on certain numbers when it comes to their health and fitness. Below, I have created a list of common numbers related to a healthy lifestyle that I can discuss in further detail so that you can not only learn a thing or two, but also realize that some numbers really aren't all that important to stress over!

Blood Pressure

This is definitely an important number. People with high blood pressure carry higher risks for certain diseases such as heart disease and stroke. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada lists the following guidelines for your systolic and diastolic numbers:

Normal:
Systolic - 120-129
Diastolic - 80-84

High Normal:
Systolic - 130-139
Diastolic - 85-89

High Blood Pressure:
Systolic - 140 and over
Diastolic - 90 and over

The good thing about high blood pressure is that it is (for the most part) entirely possible to lower your numbers with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Heart Rate

One of the biggest misconceptions out there today is the "fat burning zone". It baffles me to know that even to this day, there are still posters and signs plastered in gyms across the world that indicate heart rate zones that target fat burning.

Here is what is really happening. During your every day life and low-level activity, your body is meeting its energy requirements with (mostly) aerobic energy systems by burning adipose (fat). As your heart rate climbs during an intense exercise session, you begin to transition into burning more sugars (muscle glycogen) but still maintain burning adipose. By aiming to keep your heart rate in a specific 'zone' is just short-changing yourself and your workout will be less efficient than if you were to push yourself. So in short, disregard 'heart rate zone' posters and push yourself to work hard!

The heart rate number you should pay attention to is your resting heart rate. You can take this first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The fitter you become, the lower your resting heart rate will fall, which is good for you in the long run as it means your heart doesn't have to work as hard over a lifetime.

A "normal" resting heart rate should ideally be between 60-80 beats per minute, although you should discuss with your doctor what is right for you as heart rates will vary between people based on age, genetics, and other health conditions. I have heard that during his peak, Lance Armstrong's resting heart rate was between 32 and 34 beats per minute!!!

Weight

Another number that really does not carry a whole lot of meaning. Actually, let me rephrase that. If you are overweight, chances are, you know it. We should all know by now what a respectable weight range is based on your height. Having said that, you should really try and avoid weighing yourself every day as your body will usually fluctuate between a few pounds based on what you ate during the day,  your hydration level, etc.

Also, if you are just starting a new exercise program, and your muscles are even a little bit sore, your weight may actually go up a bit as water retention in your muscles is part of the repair and remodeling process.

Ideally, you should aim to get your weight into a fairly respectable range, keeping in mind that muscle weighs more than fat (relative to size), and then stay in that ballpark. Do not stress over a few pounds difference here and there from day to day or week to week!

Body Mass Index (BMI)

This can be a reliable scale for the average person to slap them in the back of the head and get their butts moving, but it is not reliable for all. This is a simple equation basing your 'ideal' number on an equation using your weight and height.

As soon as the BMI scale attempts to try and class athletes or bodybuilders - that are even slightly muscular - into a category, is where you run into problems. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so as you start to get fit and healthy and pack on some muscle mass,  your BMI is going to cry aloud. Anything over 25 is considered overweight!

Don't kid yourself here, however, don't calculate your number and then try and convince yourself that you are fit when you really aren't!

Body Fat Percentage

I will be the first to admit that I have never tested my own body fat percentage. Why? Because I feel there is no need for such a useless number. I have been a skinny guy (lucky) my whole life, so my body fat probably hasn't changed much over the span of my life. So what's the point? So I can brag to other people? Nah!

Not only that, but majority of body fat tests out there are terribly inaccurate. The only way you could make some of the tests reliable is to test yourself on the same day, after eating the same foods, and drinking the same amount of water, and blah, blah, blah.

There is one advantage to testing your body fat percentage however. If you an individual who needs to lose even a fair bit of weight, this can be a great motivational tool for you to see this number drop. Again, keep in mind that you would need to measure yourself with the same instrument, under as similar circumstance as possible every time, and also remind yourself that there is a possibility of a +/- %5 variation on each test!

Measurements

These numbers can be the most telling. Again, remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are exercising and eating right but your scale hasn't budged, you may still be making progress! I recommend keeping track of your numbers that are relevant to your goals. For example, if you are trying to slim down and lose weight, take measurements of your waistline, hips, legs, and butt before and after many weeks' work to see the change. If, on the other hand, you are looking to put on some muscle, you may want to measure the size of your biceps and chest.

Often times, you may start to notice your clothes are starting to feel looser - or tighter if you are trying to put on some muscle - so you may not even need a tape measure!

Calories

 There is a pretty close link with "calories in, calories out", but it is not an exact science. For the most part, we all need a specific number of calories to maintain, lose, or gain weight, but these numbers fluctuate between people due to genetics, age, metabolisms, activity levels, etc.

You can definitely experience some success by ingesting fewer calories, but the key is making every single one of your calories count. For example, you are far better off eating 200 calories of fruits and vegetables rather than 200 calories of candy. Not only will 200 calories of fruits and vegetables fill you up more, but they contain more useful 'stuff' in them such as vitamins and minerals.

To learn more about calories, you can read one of my past blogs here.


Sources:
http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484023/
Photo - http://www.anthonyarroyodotcom.com/theabletoncookbook/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg





Be Mindful of What You Are Eating!

I have always been an active person, playing sports year-round growing up. I have also been quite lucky *knock on wood* to have a slim build and never really need to worry about what I eat. Over the past few years, I have definitely put on a few pounds of "comfortable insulation" but nothing too serious.

After I graduated University in 2006 at the age of 21, I still had that lazy mindset that I could basically eat whatever I wanted and drink whatever I wanted because exercise and my metabolism would take care of the rest. Well, a few pounds crept up on me and I decided to nip my bad habits in the butt long before they took hold and overran my life.

In 2008 when I decided to really start to change my lifestyle by exercising more frequently and 'watching what I eat' I really only did one part of the equation. Again, I figured that since I was so active and that I was still young with a blazing metabolism, I could basically eat whatever I wanted to.

Fast forward a few years now, and I have had some pretty good success. I don't necessarily eat/exercise to "look good", because as I have told people in the past, I frankly don't really care what I look like on the beach. I exercise and try to lead a healthy life for a number of reasons including feeling better, being able to do the things that I like to do, be in a better mood, and hopefully all of these criteria for years to come (especially now with my son!).

I will say that in these past few years of exercising more, I have begun to change my dietary habits as well. Not only do I wish to maximize my results and how I feel from being active, but I have also come to learn of the numerous other health effects/benefits a proper diet has. You could say that my diet has been slowly evolving over the years and rather than an overnight resolution to overhaul everything, I have been making small changes over the years that are manageable to me and make sense based on what I learn/read about.

This brings us to November 2011. For my 27th birthday, my wonderful wife bought me an iPad for my birthday/Christmas/Anniversary gift. I played around with the idea of 'tracking calories' for years now but have never wanted to be a slave to what I eat.

Well, to start 2012, I finally decided to download a free app for my iPad that would help me track my calories in a fairly loose sort of way. Now I need to mention a few disclaimers here. One, I have only been doing this for a week. Two, I don't plan on doing this forever, I just wish to educate myself on how my diet is going based on how I currently living my life, etc. Three, I am not being 100% accurate about things, but I am doing my best and am probably 90-95% accurate (I am NOT using a food scale to weigh every single morsel of food).

Well, at the end of my first week with this new endeavor/hobby/goal/whatever you want to call it, I have made some pretty startling observations that I will list below.

First, about me; I am 27 years old, have a pretty fast metabolism, work a full-time job with a few part-time personal training jobs on the side. I am married, have an infant son at home and also exercise 6-7 times/week. I am very active and should be consuming well over 3000 calories/day!

I have done a bit of research and realize that I don't really wish to lose a whole lot of weight, plus I am active and try and keep my lean muscle mass in check so I have been aiming for about 40-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein and 25-30% dietary fat (healthy fat as much as possible). This plan seems to work best for me and seems to fit my lifestyle the most, but should still challenge me to meet certain criteria.

Things that I have learned so far:

1. Carbohydrates creep up on you FAST! Holy smokes has this ever been an eye opener for me. There is sugar in nearly EVERYTHING we eat! I cut soda out of my diet a long time ago, so the only beverages I consume is either water, green tea, the daily glass of chocolate milk (post-workout), and the occasional glass of white milk (1%) with dinner. I try and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can and keep my grains to whole grain and I STILL have absolutely no problems blasting through my daily carbohydrate consumption...and that is even when I am aiming for 50% carbs on a 3000cal+ diet!!!!

This is scary for a few reasons. One, I know I am in a very small minority of people who actually consume this few of carbs. Two, there are many, many people out there who consume carbs with this thought in their heads that it is 'fat free' so it must be good for them...only to pack on more and more and more pounds! Three, as I said, I don't consume any sugary beverages and I still have no problems meeting my daily caloric counts, I struggle to keep my carbs down, and I am highly active. I find this downright scary and disturbing to think of some folks out there who down cans and cans of soda a day or eat carb-full meals then go sit on their butts and watch tv...holy smokes. To be honest, I knew it was bad, but never really knew it was THIS bad!

2. I really am trying to do my best to keep my protein levels up. I do quite well with this as I try and have protein with every meal, I have healthy snacks that I try and squeeze some protein in, as well as having protein shakes (low-cal) throughout the day. I guess this one will be tougher for me to keep my numbers up the more active I am because the higher my daily calorie count goes, the higher my recommended proteins go as well. This is probably my best category though.

3. Healthy fats are out there, you just have to look for them! I try and cook with olive oil, I take a fish-oil supplement and I try and squeeze some avacado into my diet whenever I can. The scary part is seeing the amount of fat in some packaged products at the grocery store. A little bit of fat is good, too much fat is bad, and especially stay away from trans fats. What may be even scarier than all of this however, is that when companies remove the fat from their products, they replace it with sugar...which makes most individuals in our society think its then guilt-free....wrong!

This is going to continue to be a learning curve for me. I have realized that I have actually been doing quite well in my daily caloric intake. I often wondered how far off/on I was before I started tracking, but have come to realize that I am pretty spot-on in that regard. The biggest learning curve for me will be to watch my carbohydrate calories as the higher that goes, the less room there is calorie-wise to get my required proteins and fats in. I will keep everyone updated!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS




Liquid Calories

Last Thursday's blog I discussed calories, and more importantly, how calories are digested and used in the body. When it comes down to it, all of us need calories to survive as they are the "energy currency" in our bodies to allow us to do stuff. Calories allow energy actions in our bodies to be performed such as thinking, breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, walking, etc.

The problem most people run into is that they ingest too many calories, which are then stored as body fat as an evolutionary "backup plan". You see, our ancestors didn't always have a KFC sitting on the nearby corner, so they actually had times of famine. Our bodies store adipose (fat) tissue for when we are in need of energy when those hunting and gathering times aren't so good.

People have to ingest calories in order to survive. Foods tend to contain other things in them such as nutrients that make them ideal for our calorie consumption. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats are all nutrient dense. What this means, is that healthy foods give you the most "bang for your buck". You want to aim to get as many nutrients and vitamins in your body through natural sources as possible, while keeping your calorie count low, in order to maximize your metabolism and keep your weight down, while maintaining good health.

Liquid calories can therefore be a major pitfall for a lot of the population. Virtually all sources of beverages that people consume (other than water) have high calorie counts, with very little nutrient payoff. Take sodas for example, most of these beverages can contain anywhere from 8-10 teaspoons of sugar....per can! Visually picture yourself scooping 10 teaspoons of sugar into a can, then filling the rest with water. There doesn't leave much room for water, let alone any vitamins or nutrients.

Believe it or not, sodas can actually play a part in a person's diet, that is if they are a highly active person. Take, for example, a marathon runner. If they were to drink a can of soda before a race, that sugar would be digested and burned off in no time from their high activity level. Most people, however, sit down and enjoy a can with a high-calorie meal while watching tv. Those calories coming from the sugar in the soda are either used right away for high-energy activity (which they aren't) or are packed away for future use (aka, body fat).

Alright, fine, let's give up soda. Many people have taken this pledge (including myself) to give up soft drinks, so now what? I find milk to be a good alternative, but watch your nutritional labels. Milk is high-calorie because it contains fat and protein as well as natural and added sugars. You may be surprised at how much sugar is in your glass of milk. Look at the sugar count per cup (250mL), in grams, of milk, and you may be surprised how much is actually in there. Not only that, as you get closer to skim milk, or in other words, less fat, companies add in even more sugar in order to make sure the taste stands up. I personally like to enjoy either 1 or 2% milk in moderation as milk can provide a lot of vitamins and nutrients such as calcium!

Alright, so milk is a nice substitute for soda, but keep it in moderation. How about fruit juices then? Many companies are jumping on this bandwagon so to speak as they are finding the need to produce what the public is asking for. I will just come out and say it, fruit juices can be just as bad, if not worse than sodas. They can be very high in sugar with potentially little to no nutrients left. The act of processing fruit juices to get the product to your grocery shelf can remove many of the nutritional benefits of the product, not to mention the removal of fiber, which is helpful in slowing the digestion of eating fruit whole. Try and stick to real fruit juices that have no added sugars, and often times, you can "cut" the juice by filling half a glass of juice with the other half water and still enjoy the flavor, minus all of those extra calories.

Coffee is actually zero-calorie. There are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee that have been reported in the recent past. Let's face it, coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in human history, so it is no surprise that it is also one of the most widely-researched (pros and cons). I could write an entire blog on coffee consumption, which I can in the future, but for now, you can make your own conclusions on this. Chances are, if you are currently a coffee consumer, I may not change your mind either way, and vice versa. Just keep this in mind, coffee can suddenly become very high-calorie by adding too much cream, sugar, or flavored coffees to the mix. If you can handle black coffee, that is the best, but I understand some people like to add some sugar and (I recommend) milk to help the taste, so 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee in the morning will not make or break your diet assuming you are ingesting a well-rounded diet throughout the day.

Alcohols, like soda, are nutritional bombs. Just to give you an idea of calorie breakdowns, and where our dietary energy comes from; fats are 9 calories/gram, proteins and carbohydrates are 4 calories/gram, and alcohol is 7 calories/gram. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are generally packaged with nutrients and dietary benefits when they are consumed, whereas alcohol is essentially useless in the body and is just used as energy. Yes, like coffee, there have been many studies done on alcohol trying to prove or disprove its need in the human diet. I will say that there appears to be some health benefits to having a drink now and then to help relax, and lower blood pressure, but many people do not stick to their daily recommended intake. Not only is alcohol itself high-calorie, but most people do not drink alcohol on its own, they mix it with sodas or drink it as beer or wine, which can all heighten those calorie counts.

I find it so discouraging to see some people that are trying so hard to exercise and eat somewhat respectively, but then literally pour away their potential health benefits and gains by consuming large quantities of calories through needless liquid sources. The human body has evolved to feel "full" from eating solid foods. We do not get that same response from drinking our calories, which I think plays a part in the consumption of large numbers of calories being consumed. If people were to make a switch to drinking just water, milk (in moderation), and tea (zero-cal green teas, etc.), they could literally cut hundreds of calories out of their diets every day which that switch alone can account to pounds lost over months and years!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Calories

We live in a society that is constantly swayed by trends. Recently, one major trend that is taking over is counting calories. You would be pretty hard-pressed to go somewhere without seeing some sort of mention of calories. Restaurants print them on menus (not always accurate, only an estimation), food companies print them on packaging, diet and exercise claims on the radio, tv, and in advertisements all claim to "burn more calories". The problem with mostly all of this is that majority of the population never stops to think or understand what these numbers or claims mean. Unfortunately they just get caught up in the trends.

I have made a list of calorie claims, myths, truths, and partial-truths below to help my readers understand how to decipher what they see and read out in the world today.

1. Calories Fuel Our Bodies

The term "calorie" was first coined in the 19th century for steam engine heat conservation. Basically, a calorie is a unit of energy required for 1 gram of water to heat 1 degree Celsius. It was in 1890 that the USDA first brought this term over to the food industry. Scientists would literally take a piece of food and light it on fire to see how much it would heat water. Some of you may remember doing this in science class, I know I do. The term "calorie" in the food industry should actually be "kilocalorie" as the calorie count you see on food packaging refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, but everyone usually drops the "kilo" because we are all lazy...

There is also one problem here, our bodies do not have little fires raging in our cells to produce energy, we break down macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) to use their chemical energy. Also, instead of one enormous chemical plant, we have billions of little energy producers in our cells called mitochondria that are much more efficient. The problem that many people think and feel, is that all calories are created equal, when this simply is not the truth, which leads me to #2.

2. All Calories are Created Equal

When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?) To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly.

Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore has the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether. Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest.

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active.

3. You Are What You Eat

We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that! When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach breaks things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste.

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the walls quickly. Animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starcy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system. Not only that, by fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. A certain size of broccoli and chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body. Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

4. "I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym"

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for a second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories in working out each day.

Most of our calories burned on a day to day basis come from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning a ton of calories even when watching tv! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person!

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your life that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often rather than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

5. "Big" People Have Slower Metabolisms

There are many studies that show that thin people may potentially absorb and burn dietary fats quicker than their "bigger" counterparts, but this topic is definitely false. When referring to the "resting metabolic rate" (RMR) discussed in #4, studies have shown that the average man requires 11 calories per pound of body weight for their RMR, even if they sat in front of the tv all day. If you do the math, you would quickly discover that the bigger you become, more calories are actually required to maintain your current weight.

6. Low Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

This seems to be a very hot-button issue as of late. Many people seem to think that eating "Low-Fat" or "Low-Calorie" food substitutes will help them lose weight. It looks and sounds good on paper! The problem here is that companies often remove fat from products, but replace with either sugar or artificial sweeteners or in high-sugary foods, they remove natural sugars and replace with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. The problem arises when those "zero-cal" sweeteners hit the bloodstream. A long story short, the body thinks its taking in sugar (and calories) when in fact the artificial sweeteners are useless which causes a blood-sugar dip causing you to crave guess what, more sugar!

More and more studies are coming out detailing how individuals who frequently consume things like "Diet" sodas and low-cal foods are actually gaining weight in the process, oh, the irony! The ideal situation here would be to remove soda from the diet and replace with another zero-cal beverage...water!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS