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As you all can see, I'm on a roll with my personal mission of getting rid of the baby fat. It all boils down to 10 years, 10kg and 10 calories a day too much over that period. The magic 10. Does that mean I'll need 10 months or 10 years to get it all back to normal again?
Anyway, the topic of today is a result of a comment someone made about her teenage son wanting to bulk up and the personal trainer wanting him to do the protein shake thing and the doctor being against it. I read that and a couple of things went through my mind. In gearing up to tackling this old body of mine I've been doing a lot of reading. And my personal opinion is that they're probably both right and they're probably both wrong and that it depends on a lot of things.
As anyone who's tried to find a suitable diet knows, whatever you read seems to contradict whatever else you read. On the surface. At the bottom line they all agree that the system is one of energy in (calories) and energy out (exercise / life) and the balance of the two will either result in equilibrium, you getting fatter or thinner.
Then, most seem to agree that you need some sort of combination of macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fat) and then most seem to diverge greatly as to the proportions in which you need them and the frequency. So you see anything from 50:40:10 to 20:40:40 etc. and anything from 6 meals/snacks a day to intermittent fasting.
But there also seems to be a pattern in what everyone is saying. A general consensus seems to be forming around the need for all macro nutrients to be present in every meal / snack (i.e. don't just have carbs or protein or fat in a meal, but a bit of each), cutting sugar out of the diet (sob) and that we should balance our protein out during the day (not just a lump of steak for dinner) and that protein has an important role in maintaining muscle. And who wouldn't like a little bit of muscle with their fat?
Now for the protein. As a weekday vegetarian, I'm finding it a bit of a struggle to keep up the protein without adding tons of carbs. I've just started doing Cross Fit (don't ask, it's lunacy, but fun), and there they are strong fans of the Zone diet and recommended I read the "vegetarian myth" - I'm open to reading anything as you know - so watch this space.
Anyway, in answer to the comment about protein, I think the answer is something in-between. Yes protein is important. But it's also important how it's delivered. And what choice you make depends on what your goals are. So if you're a skinny teenager wanting to fatten up and add muscle, I'd say that the trainer is right about protein and wrong about whey protein shakes. Why? Well for a start he's probably on a commission to sell the packs, but besides that the main aim of the shakes is to provide pure protein without any carbs and fats for people who need to lose fat and maintain or grow muscles. And who are time poor and don't have a nice mummy who is prepared to cook nutritionally sound and delicious meals for them. aka the life of most fitness trainers, who, let us be honest are also not always the most intellectual and researching of creatures.
And your doctor is right because it's probably always better to get your nutrients in the form of food and not out of a can or bottle, and he's not entirely right because depending on the protein shake it's not going to kill your son, if that's not all he's eating / drinking but he needs to know that you need to drink a lot of water if you're taking in a lot of protein to protect your liver and kidneys. By the way - the Livestrong.com website is a pretty good site with a no-nonsense attitude to health and fitness. But I always have a good look at the doctor giving the advice and see if he walks the walk or is a fat sedentary smoking guy with no idea about health and fitness in real life!
If you want to increase your protein intake it's a good idea to have some feeling for what foods deliver protein and what else is part of the package. Any of a dozen websites will give this information, just find one that is easy to use and understand.
Then finally, dear anon, good on you to seek medical advice and to have such a good relationship with your son that you're working on this together and sensibly! A final thing, if his "not bulking up" seems inappropriate for his age / relative to his peers, and is accompanied by other delays, it may be a good idea to see an endocrinologist in case he has delayed puberty.
Saturday saw me watching the kids play football with a couple of other mums. One of the more adventurous had her running shoes on and had done a couple of laps of the field, braving the stares of the less energetic and less exhibitionist or daring of the rest of us, not to mention extreme heat and no breeze. Afterwards she came to join us chatting. We admired her spirit and tenacity and the talk moved to exercise and running in general. A couple of us lamented the ending of the cross country season, which, although meant getting up at an ungodly hour to have the kids running at 6.45, had meant 2 days of guaranteed exercise for us.
Then one of the mothers said she'd love to take part in a 10km run in March next year. "that's great" I said, "and you have more than enough time to prepare for it." Then out came the story. Her husband had hired this fancy schmanzy trainer, and had "lent" said trainer to her for a session. She'd admitted her goal and he'd laughed at her. Not only had he laughed at her, but he told her it was unlikely she'd be able to do it, perhaps she should revise it to 5km, or maybe if she was allowed to walk it / take all the time in the world it would be possible. And then to hit the nail in the coffin, he added that if she lost some weight first it would be a bit easier.
Now just for the record. We are not talking about a large lady here. We're talking about a middle aged mum who plays tennis a couple of times a week, is perhaps 5kg over weight and is generally active.
I was shocked. And told her that with that amount of time, if she really really wanted to she could even run a marathon. A full marathon. And I advised her never to go back to that particular trainer should she need good advice and encouragement. And that she'd lose weight as a by-product of running, if that was her aim. And then I pointed her to the resources on the web for beginner runners and suggested she had a look through Hal Hidgdon's site, which has some good solid advice and once upon a time took me through a marathon training.
Yet again it seems we have to take care who we listen to, what they're saying and how much credibility we give them.
My daughter turned 10 a couple of weeks back. It's been something that's been creeping up on us gradually, but now it's here and she's once again become a fully fledged No Monster. The last time this persona was present in our lives was when she was roughly 2 years old. She alternated saying "no" as a response to all requests both reasonable, unreasonable and in her own self interest or not with half hour long mantras in the car on the way to school of "I don't want to go to school, I don't want to go to school"(OK you can imagine the rest).
It was a rather trying time, co-inciding with the recent birth of her sole sibling who was having some health problems of his own, and I guess a dose of sleep-deprived humour was the only way to cope with it at the time.
So too now. There is this extreme irrationality that has cropped up in an otherwise rational thinking child. Take Thursday for example. I was going out, Dad was on his way home in some plane from some distant shore. They were both finished with dinner, homework, music practise and it was 6.30pm. OK guys, say I, just have a quick bath or shower and pop into bed. "No" says she. Obviously I'd insulted her 10 year old self who now goes to bed at 8pm. But you're really tired, I try, just go and read quietly and relax. "No" says the avid reader who would otherwise murder, maim and disable in order to be able to get another 10 pages read. I'm running late and this is going nowhere, so they get a hug, a curfew based on the limit and I leave.
Fast forward to Friday evening when she is in tears and protesting that despite the fact that not practising her clarinet and cello will result in suspension of lessons which she doesn't want to happen under any circumstances and despite the fact that she's fully aware and understands that when she starts practising she enjoys in and despite the fact that when she practises she makes faster progress and enjoys her lessons more she absolutely refuses to practise. And if I didn't request it the odds are less than 50/50 that she'd do it of her own accord. And besides anything, she's EXTREMELY TIRED, DIDN'T I KNOW THAT? At that point I must admit I dissolved. Into laughter. "what's so funny?" she huffed. Nothing, I say, only that if you'd grabbed the chance to go to bed earlier last night you'd not find yourself in this situation tonight. That's all.
But there are principles at stake here, obviously. She's not going to lose ground, the battle is a short minute by minute day by day one and there is no long term strategy. I suspect there may even be hormones in the picture. Last night when I put her to bed I told her about her 2 year old self. The child who loves going to school couldn't believe she'd ever resisted it so fiercly. She too had to laugh at her 2 year old self and there was a glimmer that she saw a resemblence to what was happening now. The logical thinking bit of her acknowledges the insanity of her behaviour, but the growing girl's reptilian brain short circuits logic and reason and just says "no".
Or is it why didn't I listen?
As far as fitness and training is concerned, there seems very much to be a "boy" version and a "girl" version. Yes, sure I've followed lots of programs for getting myself ready for a marathon, half marathon, mountain marathon, Maclehose 100km, Green power 50km, etc. etc. I've done bootcamp, I've done the great and wonderful and very much to be recommended fitness program at IHP. But my history with interval training is patchy to say the least.
It's my own lazy fault really. Every time in a program where is said "interval training 5km" I'd go and do a light 5km run and not be fagged about running 100 or 200 or 400m sprints. I mean that's like really hard work. When I trained for my first marathon, during my MBA program, there was a group of guys training really hard to climb the Eiger. They'd do these tough hill interval trainings every week, and I'd be totally intimidated and resisted the one time they ever invited me to join them. One of my other classmates, a decathlete once mentioned in passing that I should swap at least one of my training runs for some interval training, but I thought that wasn't for me.
OK, put me down as a resistant know it all, or at least someone who's scared of the new and un-known. More recently, I was doing the IHP program - remember when I posted those graphs about how well and fast my fitness was improving? How week after week my heart rate went down doing the same interval training runs? At the time I was probably the slimmest I've been post children, and I foolishly put it down to the fact that I was doing at least 6 to 8 units of exercise a week, and training for a half marathon with lots of long slow runs. (I definitely wasn't eating any less). Then I went and got the hip bursitis and was injured for the longest time. Turns out I could have done a lot less, not have been injured and still have seen the same weight loss. But I didn't know / understand the science. Studies have been done with rats, and fat australian ladies, and Norwegians, and it does seem you can achieve more with less.
There are a lot of people on the net selling interval training and it's companion, HIRT - high intensity resistance training, which basically means using weights and using heavier ones than you are used to for less repetitions. The few I've been sniffing around have been Turbulence training (and their new fat loss 24/7), the Venus Index , Alwyn Cosgroves etc. I've read through their free stuff (warning use a little used email address to sign up because they sure know how to bug you with tons of emails), and it seems to make sense. I'm not sure it is necessary to fork out a lot of money for the programs if you know what you're doing and how to do it, personally I bought the fat loss 24/7 and think that the exercise program is pretty good as it lets you do everything at home with a selection of dumbbells (warning you'll need heavier ones than you're probably used to), a stability ball, a fitness bench and your own body weight. I'm not so sure about their eating program as it seems to rely quite a bit on stuff out of a jar or bottle and lots of protein, which if you're a vegetarian or even part time vegetarian like me, is pretty hard to do. I'm not into too much fag about planning things and weighing things and obsessing about meals and meal times.
One of my readers who is also a friend recently wrote to me and said, "Quick, desperate, I need to lose 5kg what should I do" and I pointed her to Dr. Fuhrmans' eat to live diet. (I'm better and preaching than practicing) and she wrote to me this morning saying she'd followed it to great success losing the 5kg she set out to lose. I'd say that's probably the most healthy way to lose a lot of weight quickly.
Ok, finally, I'm going to give you the interval training I've been doing the last 2 weeks - it's one from the Woman's runner's magazine and is excellent in my view. It's aim is to get you to run a faster 1/2 marathon, but it tick's the interval training box perfectly. I'm using the beginner's version, and believe me, after 30 minutes you can mop me off the floor, along with a whole pool of sweat. And I've lost 2kg....
To be able to do this workout, you need to be able to run at 10km per hour for at least 3 minutes. It increases by 30 seconds each workout. Recommended you don't do this more than 3 times a week with at least a day recovery between. There's 2 ways of doing it, using km/h or doing perceived effort, but the risk of perceived effort is that you think you're working harder than you really are and actually could push yourself more! If you can't run at 10km/h (or can run faster than 10km/h for longer than 3 minutes), I'd say just adjust each of the speeds up or down by 0.5km/h until it hits the button for you. You know you're doing the right thing if by the middle of the last set of 10km/h you feel like you may just die if you can't stop, but you keep going anyway.... and your heart rate is approaching or at its max. (Do go and see a doctor and all the rest if you're not reasonably healthy and fit before you do this, I don't want anyone literally dying on the treadmill).
Time (in minutes): (cumulative Speed:
minutes into run): (beginners)
4 0 7 km/h
3 4 8 km/h
2 7 9 km/h
1 9 10
1 10 9
2 11 8
2 13 9
2 15 10
1 17 9
3 18 8
2 21 9
3 * 23* 10*
1 26 9
3 27 8
30 0 (give me a drink!)
* The idea is that at this point you keep on increasing the amount of time you're going at 10km / hour by 30 seconds, so everything shifts down from that point. My personal aim is not a 1/2 marathon, but to eventually run for the MacRitchie 25, which means doing 5km in 25 minutes. So once my cumulative km hits 5km (I'm now running 33 minutes and doing 4.78km) I'm going to start increasing each component of the workout by 0.5km/h until I can get to 5km in 25 minutes.
This is the intermediate version - I'm not ready for it, but maybe some of you are!