Tag: strength_training

Next Health Phase

Ok, so back in May I joined the Y and began to work out (for the first time in awhile). It’s also the first time I took working out really seriously, for real.

My plan was to try to build upper-body strength first, then, when I reached a goal or two, to switch gears and focus on cardio health and stamina. Because I was really serious for real this time, I actually studied what to do, made a plan, and set realistic goals. One thing I discovered, that pretty much everyone agrees on, is that to build muscle, you have to gain weight. Therefore, on days that I worked out, I would splurge at the only buffet in the Westside, or eat 40 chicken wings during happy hour at Hooters.

This worked quite well. I reached my first strength goal (to bench press 200 pounds), added three inches to my arms, and overall am much stronger, in about six months, while not being all that consistent. The only problem is, I put on 30 or so pounds in the process.

So now it’s time to lose it. I’m shifting the workouts to more aerobic exercises, of course, but it’s also time to diet. I’ve never been on an official diet before, although I have implemented temporary eating rules here and there. But this time I am counting calories, with the help of a nice cell-phone app.

I have utterly no hope that I’ll be able to stick to counting calories for very long. However, if I stick to counting calories for at least a few weeks or months, I’ll get a good feel for how many calories foods really have (which I don’t have now), and will make wiser decisions from then on.

Here are the rules I have in place for at least a couple months:

  1. Limit to 2000 calories per day; absolutely no carryover. (If I find out 2000 is around what I eat normally, which I highly doubt, I’ll knock it down a few hundred.)
  2. No more ordering additional side dishes when eating out. (This one might depend on me managing to eat breakfast or lunch.)
  3. No sweets. Minor exceptions:
    • up to two teaspoons honey or fruit syrup topping for yogurt
    • bran muffins
    • medium-sweetness fruits

Finally, I get a cheat card for Christmas day.

Update: December 26, 2011

Well, it’s the day after Christmas and I am still counting calories faithfully. Am getting a feel for how expensive calorie-wise foods are. Pickles are nearly free, who knew? I had a glorious Christmas Day where I ate a couple small chocolate bars and some cookies, and 3500 total calories. Now back to 2000 a day max for a couple months.

Rule #2, no sides, didn’t last long. I found out that I had a lot of trouble eating enough calories if I didn’t order an additional side, especially when I eat late in the day.

I guess I should mention that I’m noticeably thinner in the waist. I haven’t (and won’t) weigh myself, though.

A new Power Bar

Ever since I started working out (again) I’ve been noticing a lot of workout foods like Power Bars and their kin that I never really noticed before [1].

Power Bars are supposed to be a convenient, and non-perishable, source of protein that one can eat to get a quick protein boost in the system [2]. But there are problems with these bars. First, they’re expensive: a bar with 30 grams of protein might cost three dollars. Second, they taste like crap and usually have to contain quite a bit of sugar just to make them palatable. Finally, they’re just not natural.

I was wondering if there could be a cheaper, healthier, more natural, but just as convenient protein source to use in place of Power Bars. And, after considering it for a while, I realized that there is.

I present to you: Sardines.

Sardines retain most of the benefits of power bars, improve on the problems with power bars, and have their own benefits as well. They’re cheap (a tin of sardines will cost a dollar or less). They’re tasty (just be sure to get them in mustard or some kind of sauce; they’re messy in oil and a litte too bland in water [3]). They’re natural. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids. A tin of sardines contains 20-25 grams of protein. They’re non-perishable and almost as convenient (obtaining a fork might be a problem in some situations). In other words, sardines are healthy, tasty, cheap muscle food. So next time you’re tempted by a Power Bar, consider sardines instead.

Another possibility you may have thought of is good old tuna. It’s just as convenient and higher in protein than sardines, but I’d recommend eating tuna less often. Tuna has a few drawbacks. First, it’s high in mercury. Sardines are (much) lower on the food chain and so don’t contain as much mercury. I doubt a healthy, non-child-bearing person would get mercury poisoning from a few tins of tuna a week, but it’s still best to eat it in moderation. Second, the canning process for tuna destroys much of the omega-3 fatty acid. High-end canned tuna, and tuna in plastic sleeves might retain those fatty acids, but they’re also more expensive.


[1] It’s amazing how when you start something, you notice things you never noticed before. For instance, after I read ”Pride and Prejudice” I started noticing all the “sequels” to the story in bookstores, even though I knew the basic story and characters before I read it. Apparently my brain was benevolently sparing me from a sense of vicarious embarrassment on behalf of these authors, but after I read the novel it couldn’t save me any longer.

[2] The theory of muscle building is basically that you need to saturate your metabolic pathways with protein, so that when your body is repairing from a workout, it ends up building more muscle than it otherwise would have by sheer partial pressure. So it’s important to get a lot of protein.

[3] If you want some really good sardines, try fresh or frozen (but not refrozen) sardines. Sardines are great in the can, even if a tad bland, but you’d never guess that they’re some of tastiest fish when grilled or pan-fried.

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