Thursday, February 16, 2012

The F-Word

Fresh fruit will not make you fat.

I don't know about you, but my favorite part of any food store is the produce department. I love the rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes on display. The playful misting of the lettuces, the exotic vegetables I've never heard of from parts of the world I've only read about. I can't imagine anyone getting fat by eating a variety of any combination of the foods you find here. So why do people think fruit will make them fat?

It's the F-Word - Fructose

Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a simple monosaccharide and one of three dietary monosaccharides, along with glucose and galactose, that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. Unlike glucose which can be immediately available to the muscles, however, fructose must first be processed in the liver, giving it the lowest glycemic index of all sugars.

Naturally, fructose is found in fruit, many plants and some vegetables, but not in very high concentrations. Fructose is very sweet - perhaps the sweetest of all natural sugars. That's why an orange can taste amazing with just 2.25g fructose per 100g of fruit. To think you can get fat from eating fresh fruit is just absurd.

Beware of Dried Fruit

All fruit is not alike. While I LOVE the chewy bundles of natural sugar called dates, they top the list of sugary fruits weighing in at 73g of total sugar per 100g of fruit - about half of which is fructose. Raisins, Craisins and all other manner of dried fruit also pack a wallop in the sugar department, so tread lightly here.

Why the bad rap?
If getting fat from fresh fruit is impossible, then why has fructose been villainized?

In short, I like to blame modern chemistry. Commercially, fructose is usually derived from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn and can be found in high concentrations in all manner of food products from baked goods and condiments to juice boxes and soda. Fructose in its most natural form comes complete with tons of water, fiber and various micro nutrients making it hard as hell to overeat. When it's separated from the mother ship and processed into a syrup and poured into a can, the concentration that humans can consume quickly and easily shoots to the moon - and back!

You would have to eat 13 oranges to get the same amount of fructose found in ONE 20 oz. non-diet soda.

Which do you think will make you feel full?

 Are you beginning to see the problem? Now, add increased fructose consumption to the fact that this sweetest-of-sweet has been shown in studies to suppress Leptin - the hormone that tells our body that we're not hungry. High leptin = low appetite and vice-versa. At the same time, it raises levels of Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. The result? Feeling hungrier; eating more.

Ever eat a brownie or drink a Coke and want another...and another...and another? Does the same thing happen when you eat apples? No, of course not.

Fruit is Berry Friendly
I'd like to introduce you to your friendly neighborhood strawberry. Weighing in at approximately 5.3g sugar/100g of fruit, this little gem is 91% water. Binge all you want on strawberries. Unless they're coated in a pound of chocolate, they will not make you fat.

So set your fear of fresh fruit aside and indulge. Grab a kiwi, a pile of berries, even a banana *gasp* and EAT. Not only will you satisfy your sweet tooth, you will be loading up your body with vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep your motor revving. 

Disclaimer: If you're eating like a pig and consuming more calories than you are using in a day, you will gain weight over time.

QUICK FRUIT LIST- Fructose per 100 grams
Eat from the bottom up on this list and you can't go wrong

1. Dates, 32 grams/32%
2. Raisins, 29.7 grams/27.9%
3. Figs, 22.9 grams/22.9%
4. Prunes, 12.5 grams/12.5%
5. Grapes, 8.13 grams/8.13%
6. Pears, 6.23 grams/6.23%
7. Cherries, 6 grams/6%
8. Apples, 5.9 grams/5.9%
9. Persimmon, 5.56 grams/5.56%
10. Blueberry, 4.97 grams/4.97%
11. Bananas, 4.85 grams/4.85%
12. Kiwi Fruit, 4.35 grams/4.35%
13. Watermelon, 3.36 grams/3.36%
14. Plums, 3.07 grams/3.07%
16. Honeydew Melon, 2.96 grams/2.96%
17. Grapefruit, 2.5 grams/2.5%
18. Strawberry, 2.5 grams/2.5%
19. Blackberry, 2.4 grams/2.4%
20. Raspberry, 2.35 grams/2.35%
21. Orange, 2.25 grams/2.25%
22. Pineapple, 2.05 grams/2.05%
23. Cantaloupe, 1.87 grams/1.87%
24. Peach, 1.53 grams/1.53%
25. Nectarine, 1.37 grams/1.37%
26. Apricot, 0.94 gram/0.94%


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Most Important 'Muscle'

Last night when I was finished my bench/pull-up/dip routine, I had some extra energy - and time. I hopped on the treadmill and just started walking. I like walking. Whether it's around the neighborhood with my dog or on a treadmill in the gym, I find that when I'm walking is pretty much the only time my mind is totally free to meander wherever it wants to. I started thinking...

Despite the fact that I'm fighting a cold and hadn't slept well in a day or two, I felt really, really great. I wanted to run or even maybe do some HIIT intervals to help ignite my fat burning furnace. But then the voice of my coach echoed in my head, "When on a cut, don't be stupid and do too much."

My coach, Andy.
Well, maybe those weren't his exact words, but the general idea is spot on. Regardless of how good I feel or how impatient I'm getting with the snail's pace of fat loss I'm experiencing, too much training volume or intensity will only be counterproductive as it will impair my recovery and put added stress on my central nervous system (CNS). Hell, that stupid bench pyramid routine I did on Sunday is probably the reason this cold was able to take hold of me in the first place. Simply put, I did too much. I compromised my immune system. Now I'm paying the price in sniffles and swollen sinuses. Lesson learned.

While none of you would disagree that the "no" muscle is the most important muscle to exercise when dieting, you may not realize its effect on your training as well. Rest = Recovery. It's a simple equation, really. Contrary to popular opinion, we don't actually build muscle in the gym. No; the gym is where we tear it down. We push, pull, lift, strain, and do all manner of cruel things to our muscles when we train - none of which leaves room for simultaneous growth. We grow when we rest because then, and only then, is our body able to repair the damage we have done and respond to the added requirements by building the new bonds that result in lean tissue growth.

This is the same reason nutrient timing is so critical for optimal muscle growth. If you pig out before you train when your muscles are heavy with glucose, nutrients and calories that would be used for recovery and repair had they been consumed post workout basically go to waste - or worse, to you're waistline.

Exercise your "no" muscle as often as you can. Saying no to over training is as critical to your success as saying no to that cookie or brownie. (Unless it's a special occasion, of course!)

And keep walking. I did.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Ever hear the expression, "Too many cooks spoil the broth?"  Put simply it means, when trying to cook something - even something as simple as broth - too many conflicting ideas will ruin it. If you have too many people adding this and that, with no cohesive plan or recipe, your broth will taste more like dishwater than anything palatable when you're done.

Training and fitness are the same. I never really put it together until Andy commented on a crazy bench press pyramid routine I tried the other day that I posted on Fitocracy. It's not that he was against the routine, per se, but he did point out that I'm on a pretty strict cut and the volume was way too high and will likely affect recovery and progress at this point. He warned me not to fall prey to the "too many cooks" trap.

He's right, of course. But I was frustrated with my RPT bench routine which has stalled at 110 lbs. x 4 reps and was looking to do something different to break through my plateau. I'm looking to bench my body weight (119) for reps. A guy at my gym is a heavy-duty bench press competitor and he suggested I try the pyramid. In all honesty, the weight was pretty light until the middle couple of sets, but it was still overkill in my current state of dieting. My bench press 'kitchen' went from two cooks (me and Andy), who had agreed on a certain routine, to three cooks - and I started doubting myself.

This also applies to diet and nutrition. As more and more IF and Leangains-related Facebook groups pop-up, I'm finding myself straying from the very ideals that got me to where I am today. Like with the bench routine, I've started doubting my diet approach and foods I eat based on the posts of dozens of people I don't even know.

There's a lot about nutrition, training and life that I don't know. But I do know this: I know that what works for a 28-year old man will not likely be right for me. In a similar fashion, that which works for a woman who is 80 lbs. overweight will not be right for me. And I know that what works for me, may not be right for anyone else.

As for all of you other "cooks" out there:

I am not lactose, glucose, or gluten intolerant; I could care less about what sweetener is in my casein or BCAA powder; I will never give up chocolate - or settle for a substitute. I love Brussels Sprouts cooked in bacon fat; meat by the pound; eating like a barbarian - and training like one, too. I love the euphoria I feel in the gym before I KNOW I'm about to kill it. I love how my body is continually changing for the better. 

And I love to train low volume and lift heavy shit. Why? 


(Thanks, Andy, for stepping in and saving me from what could have turned into a full-on derailment of my program.)