Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Week's Super Food and Fitness Tip of the Week

Super Food of the Week: Almonds

The almond that we typically think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, which produces fragrant pink and white flowers. Much like the peach, cherry, and apricot trees, almond trees produces fruit with stone-like seed (or pits) in them, which is where we get the almond nut. Almonds have received wide praise for their ability to help foster healthy growing hair. Almonds not only contain high amounts of protein, vitamin E, and magnesium, almonds also contain some amounts biotin.

Although high in fat, almonds are also very good for your health. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health promoting fats found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and the reduction bad cholesterol. Eating whole almonds (with skin) has been shown to provide even more heart healthy benefits. The flavanoids found in almond skin team up with vitamin E to more than double the antioxidant punch to help protect the heart from disease.

The healthy fats in almonds have also been shown to reduce weight with the help of the monounsaturated fat found in almonds. Almonds also lower the risk of weight gain according to a study published in the journal Obesity. During a 28-month study involving over 8,800 men and women in Spain, researchers found that participants who ate nuts at least twice a week were 31% less likely to gain weight than the participants never or almost never ate nuts.

In another study, researchers found that daily consumption of almonds may help you to eat a healthier diet. In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the normal eating patterns of 43 men and 38 women were followed for 6 months. After 6 months they were told to eat 2 ounces of almonds daily but were not given any further instructions about changing their diet, and were followed for an additional 6 months. At the end of the study a number of beneficial changes were recorded. While eating almonds, the participants’ intake of health-promoting monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated acids, fiber, vegetable protein, vitamin E, copper and magnesium significantly increased. At the same time, the intake of trans fatty acids, animal protein, sodium, cholesterol and sugars significantly decreased. Both sets of changes in nutrient intake are a close match to the dietary recommendations known to prevent cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.

The many other benefits of almonds include energy production (thanks to copper and manganese), the prevention of gallstones, and providing more protein than the typical egg yolk, which is a great option for vegans and vegetarians.

There are many creative ways to sneak almonds into your diet. You can add some chopped almonds and dried fruit to plain non-fat yogurt for a little kick. Almonds can be added to chicken salad or can be used to make cold rice salad with fresh garden peas and currants. Or you can just do it the old fashion way and eat them raw. Anyway you like them; almonds are sure increase your hair, heart, and overall health as well as help decrease the waistline.

Fit Tip of the Week: Strength Training 101

This week we’re going delve a little deeper into the recommended practices of strength training. We’re going to look at the general guidelines to include frequency (how often), volume (repetitions and sets), and types of strength training exercises. Remember to consult your health care provider before starting or modifying physical activity. I also recommend a consultation with a certified fitness professional to learn and ensure you’re using safe and proper techniques before beginning a strength-training program. That being said, let’s take a look at the general recommendations for strength training.


So how often should a person participate in strength training workouts? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that for general muscular fitness an individual should strength train each major muscle group 2-3 days per week with at least 48 hours separating the exercise training sessions for the same muscle group. For example, you don’t want do an upper body strength training session two days in a row or with only one day of rest between upper body training sessions. This will cause the muscle to “burn out” and result in injury. The rest period will give the muscle time to recover and adjust to the demands being placed upon it. Depending on a person’s schedule, all muscle groups to be trained may be done so in the same session (i.e., the entire body in one session twice a week), or the person may decide to “split” the body into selected groups so only a few of them are trained in any one session. For example, the muscles of the lower body may be trained on Mondays and Thursdays, and the upper body muscles may be trained on Tuesdays and Fridays. With this rotation each muscle group (upper and lower body) are trained twice a week and the 48-hour rest period for each muscle group is allotted for.

Volume (Repetitions and Sets):

In general, adults should train each muscle group for a total of 2 to 4 sets with 8 to 12 repetitions per set with a rest interval of 2 to 3 minutes between sets to improve muscular fitness. For older adults and very unconditioned persons, one or more sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of moderate intensity resistance are recommended. As far as the amount of weight, or resistance, being used should, this should be of moderate intensity. Moderate intensity on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (very difficult), the amount of resistance should yeild a rating of a 5 or 6. The actual amount of weight (5 pounds, 10 pounds, and so on) will vary from person to person.

Types of Resistance (Strength Training) Exercises:

Strength training regimens should include multijoint or compound exercises (for example, the bench press, leg press or dips) that affect more than one muscle group and joint. More examples include the shoulder press, lower-back extensions and abdominal crunches. Single-joint exercises, such as bicep curls and triceps extensions, can also be used to target more specific muscles.

The above mentioned are the more general guidelines for strength training, however all individuals should receive professional instruction in proper strength training techniques to ensure efficiency, safety, progression and to find a regimen that is suited to their individual needs and goals. Most people with strength training routines will likely experience rapid improvements in strength and muscle tone. Do not get discouraged if visible improvements start to taper off after a few weeks. As your fitness level improves, improvements in strength and appearance may come at a slightly slower pace. Stay with it! Also remember to allow some variation in your program. Using machines and free weights are both effective tools for strength training, and a combination of the two is generally recommended. Utilizing both provides variety, which not only reduces boredom, but also provides a subtle exercise difference that enhances progress.

I hope this has help to clear up some confusion some may have with strength training programs. If you have any further questions you know where to find me! Until next week, stay happy and healthy!