Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sex with Jessica Alba and Brad Pitt

I know what you're thinking. WTF is SweatJunkie talking about Jessica Alba and Brad Pitt and sex? There's no porn here. No sweaty, naked bodies, hot oil, and kinky love play. No fcuk, uckf, or any other variation. No paparazzi pics. No night vision video of Paris Hilton and her latest sex toy(s). So everyone that stumbled in here in a quest for HOT ALBA ACTION can go away now. Please. Everyone else can stick around.

So what's the connection between Jessica, Brad, and you? You don't have to admit it, but you've thought about your favorite Hollywood fantasy object before, right. Yeah, that smile is admission enough.

Well, short of being a movie star, the only way you're going to get your local edition of your favorite fantasy is by working out and eating right. Confidence is the ultimate mating display. This goes for women as well as men. When you're feeling confident, you're acting confident. And nothing is more confidence-building than feeling good. The two biggest contributors to feeling good are looking good and being physically fit, e.g. eating right, and working what you got.

Eat right -> Exercise Right -> Feel Great -> Get Some

Go ahead, make that fantasy a reality.

But leave Jessica to me... ;-)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lara Bars - nectar of the gods

Just a quick shout out to my new favorite food group: Lara Bars.

I'll be the first to admit that, like any food bar, they look a little sketchy. Go ahead - take a close look at your favorite bar, and honestly tell me you think it looks like it's going to taste good. That's what I thought.

Looks aside, the taste of the Lara Bar is phenomenal. The truly incredible thing about them is that they're all natural. The first time I read the ingredients I kept looking for the rest of the list. There wasn't any. Typically 5-6 ingredients, such as dates, almonds, apples, cinnamon, walnuts, etc.. And did I mention they taste great? Just the right thing to have as that mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.

I found mine at Trader Joe's after being turned onto them by a friend, but am getting ready to buy a few boxes from the Lara Bar website to spread around the office.

Try 'em, you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another way to lose weight: walk across the country

Extreme situations call for extreme measures. Steve Vaught is walking across the US to lose weight, and has lost 114 pounds since April. Check out his blog for more details. Refreshing to see someone recognize a problem, and then just doing something about it.

Go Steve!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Losing weight, part 2: the workout

Of course, the second leg of the weight loss tripod is exercise. Burning off those guilty pleasures. Hmm, In n Out, the Cheescake Factory, or...? Now it's time to pay the piper.

Since my main focus is weight loss combined with a healthier heart, cardio plays the dominant role. At the same time, building muscle mass will increase my base metabolism to burn more calories while I'm resting, so I have to spend some time pushing the iron around.

Men's Journal had an article last year on improving your heart muscle performance that included an interesting workout. However, it took a fair amount of scheduling your workouts with significant tracking and attention, so I shelved it for later consideration, possibly when I've plateau'd and need to break through. A useful data point though, was their breakdown of the most beneficial cardio exercises:
  1. Running
  2. Cross Country Skiing
  3. Rowing
Given that, I've structured my workout starting with a 30 minute cardio workout, 3 days a week in the gym rotating between the treadmill, the eliptical trainer, and the rowing machine. The 4th weekday I spend in cross-training, a great combination of cardio and body-weight exercises (lunges, pushups, etc.) with the added benefits of a trainer to push you harder than you'd ever push yourself, and the peer pressure of seeing your classmates keeping up. Weekends I do a long and short trail run through the local hills. The 7th day I leave for rest, both because it's important to take time to recover, and who doesn't miss a workout during a busy week.

For weights, I've tried a lot of different routines over the years. Splitting legs, arms, back, chest, core over 5 weekdays. Alternating upper body / lower body between workouts. Doing high reps, low weights. High weights, low reps. Supersets. Pyramid sets or starting with the high weight and working down. They've all worked ok, but haven't given me any great improvements over the years. This time around I'm doing my whole body in every workout. back, chest, arms, shoulders, legs, core. Then I pick a different exercise for that body part on each day of the week, e.g. for chest I pick from flys, incline, decline, flat, pullovers, etc. and do that that day and another exercise the next day. This works my whole body with no worries about missing days or being unbalanced, and also lets me do those isolation exercises or other exercises that you never get to if you stick to your typical "chest/arms/whatever day" routine. 3 sets, 6-8 reps each, often without changing weight just working to failure each set. In addition, each workout I focus on a single body part and work it to exhaustion: 5-8 sets with the same weight, hopefully with my last set being only 1 rep. It may be unorthodox, but it's been phenomenal for my pushups. I did 120 good solid pushups during my last cross training class over the one hour - more than I've ever done and the first time I didn't have to do any on my knees.

All told, it's about a 90 minute workout, door to door. I love it. Endless variety. Indoor and outdoor. Plus breaking a great sweat in every workout. It's given me great results so far, but more on that later.

Let it out, and live longer

Lifehacker points out an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the negative health impact caused by holding back instead of responding to verbal attacks.
"Those who stood up to clients had a rapid heartbeat for a brief
period, but for those who had to remain friendly their heart was
still racing long after the client had hung up."

So let it out, if you can. Just try not to let it turn into a career-limiting-move...

Secret to weight loss? Diet and Exercise

Face it, there is no miracle pill that will save you from the simple fact of weight loss. You have to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Different foods will impact you different ways, carbs vs fat, fat vs protein, etc. but if you eat it, you still have to burn it off.

In general, we Americans are fat, bordering on obese. Nothing will ever underscore this more than my experience returning from a summer in Asia and Europe, and having it hit me between the eyes when I saw all the fat people waddling around the airport and the city. The saddest thing is that was over 10 years ago, and everything I read says we're getting even worse. Of course, it's easy to be fat in America. Fast food everywhere you look. Massive portions served at restaurants. Super Big Gulps. Super Size Me. Etc. There's a reason gluttony is considered a deadly sin - it kills you, just like it's killing America. Most people have no idea how little food you need to get through the day. When I travel, I often get by on a protein bar for breakfast, and just water until I have a "regular" meal at the end of the day. Not the best way to fuel your body say the proponents of the "5-6 small meals per day" camp, but that combined with walking all day got me in the leanest shape of my life (before my current school-induced waistline disaster). It also showed me clearly that diet is the most important part of taking care of your health. Not dieting in the sense of starvation or limiting your calories, but diet in the sense of "performance vehicles need performance fuel".

So I've stated my goals - what am I doing to get there? Weight loss is my priority now, so the diet is more important than the exercise for now. I'm an avid reader of Men's Health magazine and use the foods they mention in their Abs Diet Plan as a guideline when making my food choices. However, you can still eat poorly or eat too much of a good thing. To keep things simple to start, I've done the following:
  1. No soda
    • drink green tea instead
  2. No fast food
    • eat a Balance Bar Gold or LaraBar (yum!) when I need fuel fast
  3. No junk food
    • 7-11 is evil. Avoid it.
  4. Eat lots of vegetables
    • This means salads as well as broccoli, corn, beans.
    • They take up room so you feel full, with few calories.
    • They're good for you. You don't need me to tell you that.
  5. Eat lots of fruit
    • See above
  6. Make sure you get enough protein
    • It makes you feel full longer
    • You need it for muscle growth
  7. Stop eating before you feel full
  8. Cheat!
    1. One day a week, eat however much I want, of whatever I want
It's that simple. Although I'm sure I'll continue to tweak it as I hit plateaus in my weight loss. So what exactly do I eat? Lots of oatmeal, protein/fruit smoothies, yoghurt, chicken, cottage chesse, broccoli, almonds. And how about that cheating? More on this later, but I've found that my tastebuds have changed since I've cut out the junk food and fast foods, so they don't taste as good as they used to, and I don't crave them any more.

Now stop reading. Get out there and do something. Drop and give me 20. Whatever it takes.

Move it before you lose it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More fish = less prostate cancer

Speaking of eating better, this is news to me. Most people know that omega-3 fat is good for you (typically from fatty fish or flaxseed). But I never knew that the omega-6 fats can increase cancer growth. Better make sure I'm balancing out all those almonds with some tuna and flaxseed.
"Omega-6 fats, found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, increased the spread of tumor cells into bone marrow. This invasion was blocked by omega 3 fats -- the ones found in oily fish"

Courtesy of Yahoo! News

"Weight loss tips" - huh?

The "How" is still coming, but came across this list of weight loss tips from FitTV, courtesy of LifeHacker. What's sad is how woefully out of touch it is with the typical person's day to day life, or what you'd actually do. So many gimmicks or "tricks" when it has to be lifestyle change to be successful. Anyone here going to put their utensils down between bites? Uh-huh. Let me know how that works out for you. The only one I can agree with is
  • Be more active!
The more you do, not only do you burn more calories, but you're not sitting around your house, or your dinner table, eating food you don't need. You could summarize these tips into the exact same advice we've all been hearing all our lives.

Eat less (even better, "eat better"), and do more.

Humble beginnings

Why on earth would anyone want to sweat it out? One easy answer:

You feel so good

I've talked to many people about this, and everyone I know who's ever been in good shape agrees. You just feel good when your body and mind are in sync. Maybe you decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator and you get to the top and you're not out of breath. Or you're crossing the street and hear a car coming and enjoy the fluid ease of your body shifting into high gear - not because you have to, but because you want to. Whatever it is, you know it when you feel it.

I used to have that feeling, but three years of full time work and part time graduate school have taken their toll, in the form of ~30 additional pounds. Granted, I'm over 6' tall, so #235 instead of #205 isn't as bad as it sounds. But even if it doesn't look bad, knowing how I could be feeling, it feels horrible. This is only compounded by the last time I went to donate blood and couldn't because my blood pressure was borderline high (130/90).

School's wrapping up, so it's time to crank it up before it's too late.

  • Weight below 210
  • Body fat below 15% (according to my home scale)
  • Blood pressure to below 120/80
  • Resting heart rate below 60
Who knows how long it will take, but I'll get there eventually. Wanna watch?

Next up: the "How":