Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sugar - How Sweet It Is.....Or Is It?

Let's discuss the benefits of eating sugar. First off.....well......uhmmm.....oh yeah, that's right......there aren't any!

By now you should know (if you didn’t already), that sugar is evil! If your health & wellness plan includes specific goals such as lowering your body fat percentage, trimming down your waistline, maintaining an ideal body weight, and improving your energy levels, then eliminating sugar from your diet is going to be a big step in the right direction.

Let's take a look at of the benefits by decreasing and/or eliminating the intake of this simple carb.
1. You’ll have more energy and be more productive
Believe it or not, you’ll actually have more energy if you completely avoid sugar. Sugar in its refined state is not friendly to our digestive system. The more sugar we eat, the more our bodies have to work to deal with it. Any energy that is gained from sugar is short-lived, and it creates such a spike in our insulin levels it’s like trying to quench your thirst by drinking from a fire house on full bore.
2. You’ll feel less sluggish in the afternoonDo you ever experience that annoying tired feeling in the early afternoon? I use to and it was something I’d come to expect/learn to live with. After removing sugar (and grains) from the majority of my meals, I realized that the tired/sluggish feeling wasn’t normal. Having low glycogen (blood sugar) levels forces you to utilize stored fat as the primary source for energy. Sounds good, right? It does to me!
3. You’ll be able to appreciate more subtle tastesThe thing with sugar is that it has such a heavy taste, it dominates the various flavors we eat. By removing sugar, things may seem rather bland to begin with. But over time you’ll start to appreciate tastes that you wouldn't even be able to identify when your food was saturated with sugar.
4. You’ll be in control of your diet (and therefore your body)After a couple of weeks your sugar cravings will start to subside. You’ll no longer yearn for the white cocaine-like powder (which ironically is addictive) - so when others feel like a cookie, cake or soft drink, you’ll be happy with an apple or an orange. You’ll also be able to appreciate 'cheat meals' without eating harmful amounts of sugar, as you’ll be satisfied by smaller helpings. Sometimes just one small piece of chocolate can be enough.
5. You’ll waste less money
Cans of Coke, chocolate bars, cakes, cookies, pastries, confectionery…..all these things will no longer be on your shopping list. You’ll be walking straight past the vending machine at work as you watch other employees bending over to pick up their mid-afternoon chocolate/sweet fix. Just dig your hands into your pocket and feel those coins that are still yours to spend/save (I recommend saving).

There are other advantages I could go on to list - sleeping better, avoiding extra dental fees, having better skin complexion - but I wanted to list just those that will be applicable to everyone. No matter who you are, if you stop eating sugar for good, you'll enjoy the benefits listed above.
Have I (myself) gone off sugar completely?
Well, no. However, I avoid it whenever possible but now and again I do eat it, and I enjoy it too. I sometimes consume it as part of my 'cheat meals'. But most of the time I actually prefer to use healthier sugar substitutes such as agave nectar, organic honey or organic maple agave syrup blend.
Take note: You may experience flu-like symptoms if you completely shut off from eating sugar. This happens as your body finally has a chance to get rid of toxins which have accumulated within. Headaches are quite common as well. Don’t go out and get any medication, just ride it out and in a day or two you’ll feel a lot better.
Here's to living a 'sweeter life'!
*Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Staying Focused & Motivated For Summer

The winter holidays aren't the only holidays that can and do sabotage health and fitness goals. Procrastination is just as prevalent in the summer. Summer is the busiest time for travelling & vacationing. So how do we keep our workouts consistent when travelling or when lounging on white sandy beaches? Check it out:
  1. Know your weaknesses, learn from past mistakes: Figure out what has sabotaged your success in the past. We can anticipate the challenges that will inevitably arise and overcome them. Are you a morning person or do you tend to sleep in on vacation? Do you love cardio, but hate resistance/weight/strength training or vice versa?

  2. Plan for success: Have specific process goals to overcome your challenges where you have failed in the past. Know how long you are going to dedicate to exercise every day.

  3. Always remember WHY: Why are you exercising? Is it to look and feel better? Why do you want to look and feel better? Remember the pain and what you have to lose if you don’t achieve your goals. How will that affect you?

  4. Have a specific workout you can do anywhere: This will eliminate EXCUSES! Convenience is key. Get into a routine before you are travelling as it'll be easier to stick to it. My go-to piece of fitness equipment for 'Fitness Anywhere'.....the TRX Suspension Trainer. It's portable, durable and guaranteed to give you a great workout!

Just because summer is here, it's no reason to start slacking in your workouts! Add some hot sauce to your progam and get to work son!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Workout of the Day

"Pick a Card"

Here's a great, awesome workout that utilizes a deck of playing cards and bodyweight vs. gravity.

Use 1 deck of playing cards and add 2-4 Jokers in the deck. Assign each suit an exercise (these exercises can vary to your liking). In my case, I used the following:
  • Spades = Jumping Jacks or Seal Jacks
  • Diamonds = Burpees
  • Clubs = Push ups (any variation)
  • Hearts = Squats or Squat Jumps
The reps for each exercise are as follows:
  • 2 = 2 reps
  • 3 = 3 reps
  • 4 = 4 reps
  • 7 = 7 reps......etc.
  • All face cards = 10 reps
  • All Aces = 11 reps
  • Jokers = ALL reps are DOUBLED until another Joker is pulled (then go back to single reps)

Playing the 'Pick a Card' Exercise Game

Pick 1 card at a time (all cards should be facing down) and follow the rules above. Say you draw an Ace of Hearts - perform 11 reps of squats or squat jumps. Next you draw a 9 of Diamonds - perform 9 burpees. Say you draw a Joker on your 3rd attemp, pick another card from the deck (4th attemp) and you draw a King of Clubs - perform 20 pushups (since the reps are doubled). Keep drawing cards, doubling each rep until another Joker is drawn then return to single reps.

You can also use this various particiants - handing out cards to everyone until are cards in the deck have been dealt out. Form a circle, each person draws 1 card, and everyone performs the give exercise.

Get creative, change the exercises the next time you play this game and also add new challenges for the Joker. An example could be to run lines, or jog 1 lap around the exercise circle after each exercise when the Joker is drawn. Repeat this sequence until another Joker is pulled, then go back to regular reps.

Train hard & have fun with this one!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Add Some Hot Sauce

There you are.....sitting at the table with a plate of food in front of you that tastes alright, nothing too special about it. You know something's missing and need to bring a little more flavor to experience the full epicurean savoriness of the dish. Salt? No! Pepper? Nah! HOT SAUCE?! OH YEAH!!

Adding hot sauce to any dish can be a 'life altering' experience, especially for the novice. Regardless, any experienced hot sauce connoisseur embraces the experience as a divine formality. Add hot sauce, you feel a slight discomfort which turns into an intense stinging sensation, your eyes begin to water, your face starts turning red, you feel your core temperature rise and then you start to sweat! You start guzzling massive amounts of water only to temporarily relieve the fiery anguish but in reality the only way it gets better is with time (and possibly with some ice cold milk)!

I like to use this analogy in context as a metaphor for flavoring food as well as 'adding spice to your workouts' and 'kicking things up a bit'. Most people that I see spend their workout time only performing slow, continuous, not to mention boring training exercises. How about those cell phone yackers and magazine & newspaper readers who are oblivious to the effort (or lack of) put forth into their workouts?!

I know I've said this time and again but if results are what you're after - whether it's fat loss, increasing lean muscle, boosting metabolism, losing inches from your waistline - you MUST perform some form of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HITT is the HOT SAUCE!! HITT IS WHERE NO SLACKERS ARE ALLOWED - EVER!! You must experience the discomfort, push forth with every ounce of sweat that pours out of your body, build your foundation of intestinal fortitude, and rise above the anguish of what wants to keep holding you down! For some this sounds like a hot sauce eating episode. But for those of us who have been there before and enjoy eating the hottest of hot sauces, this is nothing new! This is just another challenge that we overcome. We make no excuses, we dig our heels in and go to work!

Adding hot sauce is what it's all about. Instead of doing the same old, boring program, kick things up and try different, non-traditional methods that will 'shock the system', if you will. You need to embrace the discomfort and not be scared in doing so during the process. Go through each hot sauce eating experience objectively as no one can understand what you've been through unless they go through it themselves. Whether it 's actual hot sauce eating or metabolic disruptive workouts, in the end you'll be glad you went through the experience and lived to tell about it! HA!

If I ever see you in the gym, slacking off and not putting forth any muscle grease, nor adding any ounce of teeth gritting "umph", yapping away at the person next to you, or reading the Sunday funnies when you ought to be focusing on your heart rate, workout intensity and calories burned, don't be shocked nor surprised if I sneak up from behind and say, "You better add some hot sauce to your program!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Tale of Two People - Revisited

I was going back and re-reading some of my oldest blog posts when I first started Life.Health.Wellness. over 2 years ago. In doing so, I came across a great story as told by Alwyn Cosgrove that I heard in person at the Perform Better Functional Training Summit in Long Beach, CA back in June of '08. The story really impacted me and made me think about the people in my life who have affected me positively and those who have affected me negatively. Regardless, Alwyn asks at the end of his story, "What kind of person are you?"

Check it out:

When I was in high school in Livingston I was in an advanced mathematics class. I have no idea how I got there as I was clearly the dumbest kid in the class. Sat next to me in the class was a guy (Keith Wilson) who spent his spare time (at 14 years old) working for a company converting the program code for an arcade computer game to a home version. He used to hand in his homework on a floppy disk. Me? I was drawing sharks on the back of my notebook.

So while studying quadratic equations, (something that has been oh-so-useful in my life) it was clear that I didn't understand it. I asked the teacher to go over it again. He sighed an exasperated sigh - but he went over it again. I still didn't get it. So I asked again. The teacher sighed loudly and said "Okay - the rest of you take a five minute break while I go over this again for Alwyn's benefit ....." and then mumbled
"for whatever good that will do".

Obviously I felt pretty small at that point. And of course the whole class heard him and laughed. And I still didn't get it.
And I never asked a question to this teacher again.
And I failed the exam for the class.

This teacher was a man who had a chance to make a kid feel better and help him, or put him down and make him feel worthless. He chose the latter. Why? Just because he could. That's the kind of person he was.

Another person in my life was my Tae Kwon Do instructor - Derek Campbell. My Dad was made unemployed and we could no longer afford lessons. I went to my instructor and told him that we just couldn't afford lessons anymore and I'd be back when my Dad got a job. He told me to show up early for the next class and become his assistant - teaching beginners. He would pay me with free lessons. I went on to become a fourth degree black belt, and seven time UK national champion as a result. This teacher was also a man who had a chance to make a kid feel better and help him, or put him down and make him feel worthless. He chose the former. Why? Just because he could. That's the kind of person he was.

One person changed a kids life and made it worse. One person changed a kid's life and made it better. I remember both of them.

We have all had, and remember these people in our lives - the only question to ask is....What kind of person are you?