Avoiding or Defeating Constipation

This isn’t a glamorous post, but one huge practical drawback of low carbohydrate diets is their propensity to cause constipation. Unfortunately high protein, high fat foods do not contain a great amount of fibre, even with the addition of fibrous vegetables. Accordingly, a lot of people find that they need to supplement their diet with a fibre source. Below are some options available to low carb dieters to fend off the frustration caused by constipation.

Psyllium Husk: Pysillium comes from the Plantago plant and is a potent, spongy fibre. Due to its high fibre content, only a small portion needs to be consumed to reap the benefits. It has been said to also reduce apetite, because of the expansion of the fibre provides a feeling of fullness. It is available in both capsule and powder form. FYI there are only about 16 calories in one tablespoon of Pysllium Husk, so you are not consuming large amounts of energy or carbohydrate.

Inulin: Inulin is an alternative to Psyllium Husk. It is another soluble dietary fibre, which occurs naturally in foods like Asparagus, Leek, Onion, Banana, Wheat and Garlic. Inulin is basically a “pre-biotic” and when digested creates healthy bacteria in your intestines. These bacteria are associated with improved bowel function.

Olive Oil: This is a less common ‘supplement’ for Constipation but is a common home remedy. The consumption of oil stimulates the production of bile. Bile is basically the body’s natural laxative. Oil also protects the mucosa of the Colon, making it a preventative method as well. Take one tablespoon upon rising.

Epsom Salt: Epsom salt is the classic laxative. It does as what other laxatives do, drawing water to the bowels thereby facilitating movement. It does this through the operation of magnesium sulphate, its key ingredient. It can be easily mixed with water. The only thing with Epsom Salts is, if you’re on medication, or prone to nausea or vomiting, it may affect you adversely.

Exercises for Beautiful Arms

Beautiful arms are a product of the appropriate combination of exercises targeting your Biceps, Triceps and Forearms. In order to have a great looking set of limbs, you should be hitting these areas once per week, preferably in the same workout. In the below post we’ll consider some must do exercises for your arms.

Bicep Curl (Outer Bicep)

This is the staple of bicep exercises. You should use a straight barbell as opposed to an EZ curl bar as you want to target the ‘outside’ muscle belly of your biceps. Standing straight, with the barbell held stationery just below your waist, lever it up towards your chest, using ONLY your arms. Recruiting your back to get the weight up is cheating. If this is occuring for you, perhaps use a lighter weight until you get the form correct:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO_CNYidOw0

Preacher Curl (Inner Bicep)

Find a preacher curl bench with an EZ curl bar. Check out the video if you’re unsure what a preacher curl bench looks like. Adjust the seat so you can comfortably extend your arms to grasp the bar. With hands grasping the bar at an outward 45 degree angle, lever the bar upward towards yourself until it locks out at the top portion of the exercise:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMj_q0LvOOk

Dips (Triceps)

Dips are a staple exercise for the triceps. Depending on your skill level, you can use two benches, or the Dip bar itself. With the two benches, seperate the benches such that you can place your feet on one bench, whilst supporting yourself with your arms on the other. To execute the exercise, lower yourself with tension focused on the back of your arms (Triceps) and raise yourself back up. The Dip Bar is a lot more simple, support yourself on the two parallel bars, and lower yourself such that your arms are flexed at 90 degrees, then push yourself back up:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSBQtLL_Gs8

Triceps Rope Pulldown

A decent isometric exercise to accompany your Dips is the Triceps Rope Pulldown. Grab the rope attachment (a three noted rope with an attachment at the centre) and attach it to a pulley weight machine. Leaning slightly forward into the rope, extended it downward towards your waist area using only your triceps muscles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiuVA0gs3EI

Forearm Curls

Get a relatively light weight (you can move up if you feel it is too light). Support your arm fully, such that only your hand from your wrist is unsupported. You can do this on a bench, or alternatively using your quadriceps as support, with the wrist hanging at the knee. Using only the muscles making up your forearm, ‘curl’ the weight up with your hand. You will feel the tension in your forearm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSLGvckmZ7Q

You could take the above exercises and use them as your ‘Arm’ day workout for a great way to hit each muscle. Correct form is always going to be better than going for heavy weight. For one you minimise the risk of injury, and secondly, you actually hit the muscle properly therefore getting a more effective workout.

Spirulina

Spirulina is basically a form of Algae. It grows in akaline water environments, and can be found in multiple parts of the world. It grows in tropical regions with consistent high temperatures, utilising sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.Whilst it has been a part of peoples diets for centuries, it is only toward the end of the last century that its benefits have gained prominence.

High in protein (in fact, higher in proportion to most animal proteins), packed with large doses of natural vitamins (Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin B12, Magnesium Sodium, Phosphorous to name a few), Beta-carotene, and Gamma-Linolein acid, Spirulina gains its status as a ‘Super Food’ with relative grace. Altogether there is actually over 100 nutrients in Spirulina.

Because it is effectively a composite of rich vegetable protein and a multitude of essential nutrients, Spirulina is particularly useful for those of us who have a tight schedule, and those of us trying to reduce the amount of animal protein in our diet. It can be taken as a tablet or in its more baser form. Children, adolescents and the elderly can also benefit from Spirulina, as it is quite easily digested, and can address dietary deficiencies.

Side effects wise, it can range from mild to non-existent. Fever and dizziness can be common in persons who are not used to a diet with a high protein content. You may also notice passing excessive wind, and even discolored stools due to Spirulina’s chlorophyl content. These reactions typically occur in a body adjusting to the intake of Spirulina, however if such things continue, it is good to have a professional evaluate why.

Finally, persons who should avoid Spirulina include those persons who have an allergy to seafood or iodine, persons who suffer from hyperthyroidism (check with your healthcare provider); persons who are pregnant or beastfeeding (check with your healthcare provider).

Gaining Strength & Muscle While Staying Lean, Part 2

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A ‘Clean Bulk’ presents its own challenges. For one, there’s almost a gaurantee you’ll gain some adipose tissue (fat) in the process of gaining the muscle. How much calories go where depends on your bodies’ own ability to synthesize proteins. This can vary by genetics. That’s why the relatively new alternative, “Culking” has emerged.

Culking was a term devised by Alan Aragon. Though he acknowledges it’s not necessarily a method in itself, just a useful word to describe the approach. It basically refers to a protocol of training at maintenance, or ever so slightly above maintenance calories. This way, you make very slow muscle gains, but without the concomitant fat gain. Calories are dialed in at certain points in time, to either manage muscle gain, or fat loss.

The details of a Culking protocol aren’t far different from a Clean Bulk. You would follow the exact same macro-nutrient breakdown, however it would be applied to your maintenance calories. You would still need to stick to suitable proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Cardio would be scaled back too, otherwise you’re just going to be in a situation of fitness limbo.

Choosing between a Clean Bulk and Culking is a personal choice. People who consider themselves bodybuilders or competitive athletes might be attracted to the former, because you can obtain results quicker. This approach does however take a spartan-like level of dedication to get right, which is easy if you are at a pro level. Many a person has abandoned a Clean Bulk half way through due to anxiety over the weight gain, despite that this an accepted part of the Clean Bulk.

For a person into recreational fitness, Culking represents a less extreme, psychologically easier means of gaining muscle. You don’t change how you look in the mirror from day to day, but over a longer period of time, you are forging a stronger, more muscular body. Both approaches, followed correctly, arrive at the same destination. The only differences is the rate at which the destination is reached.

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Gaining Strength & Muscle While Staying Lean, Part 1

There is some material out there that suggests there are ways that you can simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle. Now that’s an attention grabbing promise. The problem is, losing fat and gaining muscle concurrently is limited to certain circumstances, such as in untrained persons with high body fat proportions and low lean body mass, or persons taking anabolic hormones. For the rest of us reguar fitness types who’ve been at it for a while, it’s a little more difficult.

The solution then is to pursue a gradual increase in strength with a carefully managed diet, that allows you to build muscle, but mitigates fat gain. How do you do that? Well to gain muscle the body must be in a caloric surplus, to lose it must be in a deficit. Simple physics. If you’re in too much of a surplus, you’ll gain too much adipose tissue (i.e.fat) in addition to any muscle. If you’re in too much of a deficit, you will not see adequate progress.

There are two means to increase lean body mass whilst mitigating fat gain. The first is what is known as the standard “Clean Bulk” diet. The general consensus on a Clean Bulk, is that you will eat 500 calories over your maintenance calorie level, ensuring you consume adequate levels of Protein, Carbohydrate, and Healthy Fats. To determine your maintenance calories, refer back to the Harris-Benedict formula noted in yesterday’s post. Add 500 calories on to that to have your “Clean Bulk” calories.

You will also need to be aware of managing your ‘Macronutrients’, that is your proportion of Protein, Carbohydrate, and Fat consumed. A typical breakdown for a Clean Bulk in percentage terms is roughly 45% Carbohydrate, 30% Protein and 25% Fat. Keep your Carbohydrate sources Low Glycaemic. Carbohydrates such as Oatmeal, Rice, Rye, Quinoa, and Wholegrains (sparingly) should be used.

You should avoid Simple Carbohydrates (i.e. Sugars) on a Clean Bulk apart from your post-workout Protein Shake. Simple Carbs can stimulate fat storage, and so should be rarely a part of your regimen. Keep Protein to good whole food sources such as Lean Red Meat, Fish, Chicken, and even Game Meats. Supplement Protein (such as Shakes, Bars) should be limited. Granted, you’ll probably have a shake post-workout for recovery.

Ensure you are getting your fill of healthy fats. Natural Peanut Butter is a great source of monounsaturated fats, and a tablespoon can generally quell any sugar cravings you can have whilst bulking. Other good sources being fatty fish, avocadoes, flaxseed (linseed), and nuts (almonds, macadamia, walnuts).

I’ve seen a Clean Bulk last anywhere between 6 to 12 weeks. I honestly think anything more could be overkill. It’s better to keep a Clean Bulk to a manageable amount of months, so you are not faced with a large period of dieting at the end to remove any fat gained. If you do it correctly, watching your calories and macronutrient content, you should not gain too much fat in the first place.

Moreso than when on a fat loss diet, I would watch intake of Alcohol. As alcohol suppreses Testosterone and muscle growth in general, it can really counter-act your progress. Secondly, as you’re in a constant caloric surplus, Alcohol may influence the storage of fat, which is something we look to mitigate on a Bulk Diet.

Tomorrow, the second way to gain muscle and keep fat at bay. A relatively new concept known as “Culking”.

Alternative Diet Spotlight Week: Calorie Counting (i.e The ‘Diet’ Diet)

Calorie counting is the most fundamental, mathematic approach to fat loss. There are elegant, packaged programs like Weight Watchers with their own comprehensive lines of products, and there are quick and dirty guides on the internet. Most, if not all diets have calorie restriction as a feature, however they differentiate themselves with a unique approach or other gimmick to get the person interested. The reasons for that are obviou$$$. So what is the most broad approach to calorie counting?

Eat less than you burn.

How do you figure out your own personal level of suggested consumption? Simply figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), adjust for activity, determine the calories required for that (known as your ‘Total Energy Expenditure’ TEE calories) and then eat a few hundred calories UNDER that number to lose weight. If you are not losing weight then there are two possibilities, you calculated your TEE calories wrong, or you are eating above the determined number.

To put a formula to the above simplified description I refer you to the Katch-McArdle formula which is typically regarded as more accurate than some of the more mainstream energy expenditure formulas:

BMR = 370 + (21.6 x LBM)Where LBM = [total weight (kg) x (100 - bodyfat %)]/100

Therefore, if you weighed 70 Kilograms at 17% bodyfat, your BMR would be 1,804. You would then adjust this BMR amount but your level of activity as below:

1.2 = Sedentary (Desk job, and Little Formal Exercise)

1.3-1.4 = Lightly Active (Light daily activity AND light exercise 1-3 days a week)

1.5-1.6 = Moderately Active (Moderately daily Activity & Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)

1.7-1.8 = Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle & Hard exercise 6-7 days a week)

1.9-2.2 = Extremely Active (Athlete in ENDURANCE training or VERY HARD physical job)

So if you’re exercising 3-5 days a week with moderate activity, you’d mutiply that 1,804 by 1.5-1.6 giving a final calorie amount of 2,706 or 2,886. Then if your goal is to LOSE weight, you simply subtract calories from this given total (i.e. 500) so you hit roughly 2,200 – 2,300 calories per day. This would mean roughly 3,500 calories less per week and presumably result in steady weight loss.

That is the basis behind calorie restriction diets. There are mild ones out there like above, and extreme ones known as Very Low Calorie (VLCD) Diets, which I personally see as counter productive and dangerous. I am a firm believer in retaining muscle mass, as its a metabolically active tissue. VLCD’s are successful in helping people lose weight, but they can slow your metabolism to a crawl, encourage catabolism of your muscle mass, and gradually produce general fatigue in the dieter.

Slow and steady wins the race. Frankly, it should just be a lifestyle choice to begin with. Be active and be healthy and reap the rewards of a full life.

Alternative Diet Spotlight Week: The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet is the most commercially successful low carbohydrate diet protocol. The reason the diet advocates low carbohydrates is that by lowering carbs to a very low proportion of your overall daily intake, you can induce a state known as ‘ketosis’ in which the body turns to burning fat for fuel in favour of glucose (or glycogen).

In order to bring the dieter into Ketosis the diet recommends two weeks of consuming no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day (The ‘Induction’ Phase). Foods typically consumed during The Induction Phase are limited to:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Green Fibrous Vegetables
  • Protein Powders
  • Oils & Butters
  • Nuts and Nut Butters
  • Hard Cheeses

The Induction Phase is the most challenging part of the diet but also tends to be where most of the weight loss occurs. This weight loss is due to multiple factors though. For one many people will find themselves consuming less calories than they thought on the Induction Phase because of the satiating nature of high protein, high fat foods. Second, less carbohydrate consumption means less glycogen, which translates to your body holding less water and therefore weighing less.

From Induction you move into Ongoing Weight Loss, which sees you reincorporate carbohydrates into your diet to a point where you can still manage your weight. In this phase you can re-introduce items such as Whole Wheat Products, Starches and Alcohol. Always bear in mind whilst following this program you need to be weary of your daily carbohydrate intake, as it must be within the bounds of the diet in order to maintain your desired physique.

From Ongoing Weight Loss the dieter can then go onto THE Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance phaseS which encourage finding a level where you can maintain your goal weight over the long term, following a similar premise to Ongoing Weight Loss as above.

Diets such as the Atkins Diet are part of a collective approach to dieting called “Ketogenic” diets which are essentially those which limit the intake of Carbohydrate. Other popuar low carbohydrate diets are the South Beach diet, the Zone diet, and the CSIRO diet. The long term health effects of these kinds of diets has been discussed in many different fields and the debate rages on as to the holistic impact. The best approach is to do your own research and find what works for you.

Alternative Diet Spotlight Week: The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet (the WD) is based on the premise of intermittent fasting. This involves focusing on an ‘Undereating’ phase that lasts for a maximum of 16-18 hours, followed by a period of Overeating where you ingest the majority of your calories over 6-8 hours. The standard protocol with the WD is that your workout should be situated just prior to your Overeating Phase.

It is believed that by working out after a sustained period of Undereating you create an optimal environment for calorie use via glycogen “super-compensation”. Another assertion is that working out in a fasted state fosters a greater hormonal response to your workouts. During the Undereating phase you are permitted small amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts. I typically throw in a protein shake here and there as well.

The overeating phase is less restricted, and you should ideally consume high protein, good fats and low glycemic carbohydrates. It is suggested that proteins are consumed first, prior to carbohydrates so that absorption of the latter is delayed.

The idea behind consuming the majority of your calories prior to sleep is that your parasympathetic nervous system takes over during this time. This system aids digestion and theoretically makes more calories available to your body during the first 3-4 hours of sleep where Growth Hormone (GH) is released.

The beauty of this diet is you need not follow it all week. Understandably there are things on the social calendar which will prevent you from adopting this lifestyle full time. I personally did it 5 days out of 7, typically the 5 days being the days I worked which I was quite happy to go without breakfast and lunch. In fact, I noticed an increase in concentration during this time, and did not experience the post-lunch fatigue many of us get.

As for results, there are many converts to this diet and the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Many people tailor it to their individual schedules as well. Though it is typically directed to someone who works out at night time, I have known of people who workout in the morning to adopt it aswell, modifying the Undereating phase to compensate for the training.

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