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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Mythbusters - Fitness edition

After being posed with some of the most absurd fitness questions, I thought it would be apt to put some of these to rest - once and for all? …Probably not. (if you're after a 6 pack, you definitely want to read the last one!)

Myth #9 - Holding weights while doing cardio increases calorie burn
Ok well this one is partially true. Yeah you will burn a few extra calories but this amount is almost negligible.  Also, you may develop shoulder injuries from excessive movement of these weights.
Besides, it looks ridiculous! You aren’t an extra in an 80’s Madonna music video.
Just don’t’ do it man. 
So if I ever see one of you men holding weights while on a treadmill I will walk over and trip you while you’re on it.

Do this instead:
Man up and give the farmers walk a try. It burns alotta calories! (This is no substitute for cardio exercise)
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and let them hang naturally, at arm's length, next to your sides. Walk forward for as long as you can while holding the dumbbells. If you can walk for longer than 60 seconds, use a heavier weight.

Myth #8 – Protein shakes are bad for you.
No they aren’t. Do you eat meat? Or vegetables? Are they bad for you?
They are all forms of protein.
With that said, it can be potentially dangerous for someone that bases the main portion of their diet on these protein shakes. Don’t do stupid things like that, instead, refer to the next myth.

Myth #7 - You need supplements to get in good shape
Supplements should be used for what their name implies, to “supplement” and outstanding eating regimen. I understand that as young professionals it’s hard to find time to prepare 5 million quality meals a day, in which case a protein shake provides a quick alternative. However, this should only be used on those “lazy” days or when you simply cannot fit in a meal between work, weekend sports and taking your lady out on a date.

It is WAY more beneficial to EAT your daily calories rather than drink it. The food you eat has many more essential nutrients that aren’t included in the liquid forms. With that said, it may also be hard to achieve the allotted amount of daily protein intake without a protein shake…. But please... try?
Do this instead: Prepare a meal plan in advance so you know what you’re going to be eating for the week.

Myth #6 - More hours spent in the gym leads to better results
A few weeks ago a colleague of mine asked me some fitness advice. He began explaining his training schedule which was seven days a week! So I asked him, “When’s your rest day?” He said he didn’t want to rest. I expressed my disagreement with this scheduling and told him the dangers of his endeavours.
About 2 months down the line he’s in the hospital seeing a doctor cos he’s constantly fatigued and can barely get out the bed.
This is called ‘overtraining’. It occurs when your exercise exceeds your recovery capacity. This also has a direct effect on the immune system and can lead to its prolonged suppression.
If you’re trying to build muscle you want to avoid overtraining at all costs. When you overtrain you start to break down muscle tissue instead of building it!

Do this instead : Have a healthy balance between exercise and recovery. If you feel that you aren’t performing like normal, take a break. A week off from vigorous training is good for the body and mind!
Unless you’re training for endurance type activities or have a sound professional training program for sport specific purposes you should limit your gym sessions to an hour. Remember, you don’t grow when you’re lifting weights, you grow when you’re recovering.

Myth #5 - If someone looks fit, they know what they're talking about

Who would you rather take advice from?

The guy on the left, Professor Tim Noakes is one of the leading Professors in the world on exercise science.
Unfortunately, more often than not people would listen to the genetically “perfect” human being rather than the one who knows more about Adonis’ body than Adonis himself. (Sorry to the dude who's picture i used, I'm sure you're a clever lad!)

Familiarize yourself with the term “Broscience”: Word of mouth knowledge passed off as fact, primarily among bodybuilders + weightlifters where the anecdotal reports of ripped dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.
Some of the evidence also stem from lifestyle magazines and supplement manufacturers.
I’ve only had ONE client who’s asked me, “What qualification do you have?” That was his very 1st question.
Some people are blessed with good genes and look good despite their training and eating habits. We have these 2 guys at our gym who are ripped and well proportioned despite their pathetic form and choice of exercise. They’ve been training for mere months and have achieved more than what most people would in a year or two.
That’s the Law of individual Difference. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another. For MOST people, you need to find out what works best for YOUR body.
A perfect example: There are these other 2 guys in our gym that embarked on a training and diet program together while starting an anabolic steroid cycle (I do not condone the use of anabolic steroids. That’s another topic on it’s own, so don’t ask me about it!). ‘Guy A’ gained 8kgs in a few weeks and ‘Guy B’ gained a mere 2 kgs. Everybody’s body responds differently to different stimuli. Steroids have severe side affects and should not be used, other than for their intended purposes.
Don’t get frustrated and lose hope after reading about people who go from flab to superhuman in 8-12 weeks when you’ve been at it for 6 months with little results.
-You dont know what they did to get that way.
-You dont know about their previous fitness history.

They could have been track & field stars in their day and merely let themselves go, only to rediscover their genetic potential after hitting the gym again.
With that said, some trainers may not have the relevant qualification but have many years of experience in their field. So while listening to what they have to say make sure you are critical of it and adapt it to your unique situation.

Myth #4 - Eating 5- 6 meals a day will speed up my metabolism.
Says who? The millions of supplement companies that fund these studies? They want to promote the sales of their meal replacement shakes and protein powders. They interpret the results of these studies in a way that suits them best. Out of these studies, which may be poorly conducted, arises half- truths and faulty conclusions. When reviewing these studies, one needs to be critical of all facets. Fitness magazines reach a lot more people and have a lot more influence than scientific studies, which require some sort of academic background to decipher and thus, mainstream media have the advantage of the reaching the masses. Those who have experience with research methodology will be able to provide you with a critical analysis of these studies.

Back to my point.

When you eat, your metabolic rate increases. It takes energy to breakdown this food and utilize it AS energy. This creates a paradox within itself. If you eat a 1500 calorie meal in one serving or if you have it in 5 small servings, it will still take the same amount of calories to metabolize it. Thus, meal frequency has no effect on the rate of metabolism. Personally I eat 5- 6 meals for the sake of convenience, as this method of eating allows me to consume the large number of calories required for muscle building. I prefer this method rather than having to put down large quantities in each seating.

If you want to lose weight you need to consume less calories than you burn. If you want to gain size, you need to consume MORE, quality, calories than you burn. TOTAL CALORIE INTAKE is whats important.

For those interested I have included some reading material on this topic:

Myth #3 - "I don't want to get muscles that are too big"
 This one REALLY grates me.
Guy walks into the gym and when you ask him his goals he says, “I want to get bigger, get more muscles but I don’t want to be TOO big”
Dudes. Seriously. Stop this behaviour!
You aren’t gonna become Arnold overnight. You aren’t even gonna be like that 2 years from now. I can assure you, after a few weeks of going to the gym, you wont wake up one morning and find yourself with 10kgs of extra muscle. From the millions of people that I’ve heard quote the above mentioned statement, guess how many have gotten “big”?
I blame the media for this one. Fitness seems to be all about aesthetics. People disregard the physiological health benefits associated with exercise and tend to give up when they don’t see their abs after a few weeks of crunches.
Developing a decent physique takes time and devotion and to be honest, MOST people are never gonna have either of those. Don’t walk into the gym and expect to look like a cover model in 3 months. It ain’t gonna happen!!!!
Most people I see going in and out the gym get results that go hand in hand with their efforts. Some have almost no change at all, despite going to the gym for months (external factors like diet and exercise prescription may be at fault here).
Have realistic expectations. That’s all I’m saying. Everybody can have the body of their dreams but achieving that body comes with varying difficulty.

Myth #2 – This one is for your girlfriends who say, “I don’t want to do weight training cos it will make me muscular like those female bodybuilders”.
Let me say this. It’s virtually impossible. The female body doesn’t produce enough testosterone to achieve that kind of muscle mass.
Ladies SHOULD include weight training into their exercise regimen if they want to burn more calories and lean up. Full-body weight training burns a lot of calories!!

Myth #1 -  Doing crunches and ab workouts will get rid of belly fat
You can do a 50 000 000 crunches a day and you wont even see a dull shade of an abdominal muscle.
That’s cos achieving a 6-pack has everything to do with your body fat percentage. Guess what your abs are covered with? No, its not a protective layer for your muscles, its fat.

You CANNOT target fat loss on a specific body part!
You simply can’t pick and choose where you would like to burn fat. So please don’t go buy those ab machines they advertise on tv.
Do this instead:  Combination of cardio and strength training with a balanced healthy diet. This will reduce your fat percentage so you can start seeing those bad boys again!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Degree vs. Experience - the constant battle.

It seems that in today’s economic climate, the battle between formal education and experience seems to be raging fiercely. Is a degree even worth half as much as it was 10 years ago?
Of course, in fields such as medicine, engineering law and other sciences, a degree is obligatory.

Recently I’ve considered furthering my studies. Should I be doing masters? Should I change my field of study? Or should I try and get more work experience under my belt?
Having an Honours degree in Sport Science and working as a personal trainer is comparable to qualifying as a medical doctoral student and working as a nurse. I could have done a 3 month course in fitness and still be equipped to do the same job (provided I had the relevant experience) instead of spending four years of my life as a student and pushing out a thesis.
However, I’m told, you have to start somewhere.
One fallacy, among many, that we’re taught to believe is that getting a degree will get you a well paying job. This is far from the truth. Getting a degree may not even get you a job.

A recent poll on an employment website asked employers what kind of candidate they preferred, one with experience, or one with qualification. Experience won by a landslide. I can’t find the link I had for that so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.

Employers arent interested in what you know. Only in what you can do! A degree does however, show employers that you are able to see things through to completion. It shows that you have commitment and dedication.
And sometimes your resume won’t even make it to the employer’s desk if it doesn’t accompany a relevant qualification.
Still, there is no substitute for the school of hard knocks.

It goes without saying that education is EXPONENTIALLY better with experience. This is what makes internships so beneficial.

(This is based from the point of view of graduates and young job-seekers)

We tend to leave school/ college with a false concept of reality. Our expectations and what we experience in life are actually poles apart.

Here is a few things that college WONT teach you about the ‘real’ world.

The Godfather
1. No job is beneath you
When you’re asked to do something by your boss, you should do it happily no matter the task (within legal reason, especially if your boss asks you to ‘take care of someone’).
Even if it “isn’t your job”. Doing something outside of your job description is a reflection of your character. Of course, you still have a choice. But do it, and earn greater responsibility and respect.

2 The world doesn’t care how you feel, how hard you worked or what your sacrificed. Just how well you perform.

3. Academic intelligence isn’t everything
In school, the smartest kid with the best scores came out on top. In the real world the best person at the job isn’t always the smartest… just the one that knows how to do something that you don’t (through experience).

4.Naïve honesty
We’re taught to be trusting and that the world is just and fair. The world is never fair and justice is flawed. You will never know the whole truth about everything.
Being completely open and transparent with your thoughts, decisions and actions can lead you into trouble and leave you wide open to be taken advantage of. People look out for themselves, especially in a corporate environment. You need to look out for yourself. Never reveal everything at once. Keep a few bullets for your defence.

5. Problem solving
In class we put up our hands and shout out the answer. Or we point out a problem and someone fixes it. In real life you find the problem, provide the answer AND fix it yourself. Anybody can find problems. Few can provide and follow through with solutions.

6. How to voice your opinion
You think your teacher was hard on you? You can tell your teacher off. Go ahead. They don’t pay your salary. Your boss however, won’t take too likely to it. Bask in the roasting.

7. Team Work
Unless you played in sport through school and in college you won’t grasp the real concept of team work, communicating within a team and handling team responsibilities. Nobody can do things alone and people that think they can, end up with a lot more stress and far more enemies than they can deal with. If you need help, ask. That is also a form of team work.

8. A degree doesn’t = a job
The reason school leavers get a degree is to get a job in their desired field. This was true in the 80’s and 90’s. These days every other person has a degree in something and many of them are either unemployed or working in a different field to their qualification.

9.Taking risks and learning by trial and error
Many small businesses started by people just ‘winging it’ and taking things as they come. On the outside we see a working professional with a business, a brand, a plan and a product, when actually, from an insiders view its just one or two individuals doing what comes to them and making decisions and following them through by trial and error. You don’t have to know every single detail of everything in order to succeed.

10. There are more than one way to get to your destination
I had this conception that I would finish high school, graduate from university, get a well paying job and buy my own apartment all by age 23 at least. This seemed like the only logical way to proceed through life and achieve success.
I graduated, spent a year enjoying life and working part-time then ventured overseas, learning valuable life lessons (due to return in a couple of months). We shall see how the rest turns out.

11. Social intelligence and networking
A fundamental key to human function.
Seeing as we all function within a society. It affects every aspect of your life (dating, family, friends and work). It is the key aspect to networking. Take a look around at some of the most successful people in the world. If you don’t have a unique idea or product, you better be socially intelligent.
Take Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa for instance. When he 1st arrived on the scene, singing and dancing and causing an uproar, we thought, how could people ever vote for such a man. But scratch the surface and you’ll hear stories of his benevolence and compassionate demeanour. A story from a ‘friend of a friend’ told a tale of an esteemed Jacob Zuma at an important lunch where he noticed the strain taken on by the waitress that was serving the table. He quickly got up and helped her with her tasks of serving the prestigious guests and kindly asked her name and if she was ok. He knows how to read people, treat people, and talk to people. Charisma- social intelligence- will get you everywhere.

Here's some food for thought. You do the dishes...

“…The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. But time and chance happen to them all.”
                                                                    - Ecclesiastes 9 v. 11