« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

3 posts from December 2009


Should you do anything when your unfit family is stuffing themselves at Christmas?

How many of you have just suffered through an uncomfortable Christmas watching friends and relatives gorge themselves on holiday meals laden with fat and sugar, not to mention the alcohol and distinct lack of physical activity. Now imagine my horror at having this same scenario played out before me for eight days and seven nights on board a recent cruise.

As a loving son, daughter, friend you want to save your loved ones from their path of self destruction and similarly, as a fitness professional I want to save the world from that same path. But how do you tell someone close to you, or a complete stranger, that they are going to die unless they lay off the crap and move their arses!

We could encourage them to exercise and eat better, because we’re concerned about their health and want them to be around to watch their grandchildren grow up, but they’re likely to get upset and feel that they’re being judged. Who are we to tell them how to live their lives and suggest that they give up something that makes them happy!  But then again, who are we to turn a blind eye while they slowly eat themselves to death.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we cannot control other people's behavior, but that’s not to say that we are completely helpless either.

People who continually fail to adopt healthy eating and exercise patterns generally fall into one of two categories, they either refuse to change their behavior or they believe that they can’t.

For those who refuse to change their behavior, because they don’t think that there is a problem, the best thing to do is to accept that they are not ready right now, offer understanding, and find a way to let them know that if they are ever ready you can help. Being judgmental and/or unrelenting will only ruin the relationship and any chance of being able to help later.

For those who think they can’t, who are aware that there is a problem but feel that it is too hard to fix, help them to recognise their barriers and to develop strategies to overcome those barriers. Agree with them that there's not always a lot of time for exercise or that healthy foods may seem less appealing than junk food. Once you've established a common ground you can try to address these concerns. Help to find snacks that you agree are both healthy and tasty. Introduce them to an exercise plan that doesn’t impact too much on their regular routine. Help them to find professional help from a dietitian or another health professional. Introduce them to people who have achieved what they currently perceive to be impossible.

No matter what the category, resist the urge to lecture and nag them. Rather listen and empathise, and lead by example! Even though you can’t change someone’s behavior, you don't have to contribute to it. When the next family get together comes around take a healthy dish, without drawing attention to the fact, and continue to stay focused on your own health and fitness goals, without harping on about them.

The idea is to provide a good role model and hope that seeing someone they love and respect healthy and happy may lead them toward the light. Healthy habits can be contagious, isn’t that how you got to where you are now?!

Back to my cruise. I couldn’t change the behavior of everyone on that ship but by the end of the cruise I had everyone at my dinner table ordering salad as their entre, drinking more water than wine and taking the stairs instead of the lifts. And I didn’t say a word...Karen Lirio


Sports Drinks


Do they really help?



Sports drinks are designed to replenish the water, sodium and glucose that the body needs to maximize muscle function during exercise, and to speed up post-workout recovery.

Athletes worldwide use these products successfully to enhance performance but sadly, for most of us, all they do is enhance our waistlines. The average person simply doesn’t work hard enough to need the rapid refueling that these drinks offer.

Plain old water is still the best option for most of us but it’s also good to know what the others offer. The ingredients in all of them are pretty similar and include water, carbohydrates (sugar), sodium and potassium. Following are the pros and cons of a few for your consideration.

Electrolyte Drinks

This category includes Gatorade, Powerade, and other electrolyte fortified drinks. Their active ingredients help replace the water, energy (glucose), sodium and potassium that is lost during a strenuous workout.

Clinical studies show that electrolyte drinks improve physical performance and increase the length of time that an athlete can perform before reaching exhaustion. They supply the muscles with energy, water and electrolytes, which help prevent muscle cramping and delay dehydration. These same ingredients also speed post exercise recovery.

The extremely high levels of carbohydrates and salt in these drinks, by their very nature, are also their biggest downfall. A 600ml Gatorade or Powerade contains about 150 to 200 calories and 35 grams of sugar (nearly 9 teaspoons). For an elite athlete this amount of sugar, and the added calories, are not a problem but for the average exerciser, or someone training to lose weight, it’s could spell disaster. Even some athletes find the amount of carbohydrates in these drinks too high and complain of a sticky mouth and upset stomach.

In addition, drinks with a high sodium content should be reserved for intense workouts of 60 minutes or longer otherwise they provide too much salt for your system. There is an optimum level for electrolytes in the body and the same symptoms can be experienced from too much salt as from too little.

Enhanced Waters
This is now the biggest and fastest growing category of sports drinks. Vitaminwater is the perfect example of an enhanced water and is marketed to the health conscious in general. Some have very few calories while others are no better than a soft drink.  Most contain a token amount of vitamins and a few include sodium and/or potassium. Check the nutrition panel and ingredient list to know what you’re buying.

Because of their added flavouring, these drinks can help those with an aversion to water get their daily fluid intake and keep them hydrated during workouts. Enhanced waters with a reasonable amount of added vitamins can also help individuals top up their RDIs, particularly if they are restricting their calorie intake.

Although many enhanced waters sell themselves on their vitamin content, their
claims have been questioned. Simply eating a piece of fruit will give you the same nutrients plus more. If you exercise hard, long or in hot temperatures, you may need sodium, which helps the body hold on to water. Enhanced waters don’t typically contain sodium. Or if they do, it’s usually less than what’s found in a traditional sports drink. A low-sodium drink could pose a problem for athletes.

Some enhanced waters distinguish themselves with endurance enhancing ingredients such as guarana seed extract and taurine. Sadly there isn’t much research to show that these ingredients have significant value to athletic performance, yet you’re paying for them. It’s also unclear as to whether or not enough of these ingredients are present to deliver a boost anyway.

Then there’s the added sugar and calories. Amounts vary considerably but 125 calories and 32.5 grams of sugar (8 teaspoons) in a 600ml bottle is not uncommon.

Coconut Water

Fitness fans are currently going nuts over coconut water. The clear juice from green coconuts has been rapidly gaining in popularity due to its natural origins and a healthy load of potassium and other electrolytes.

Unlike many sports drinks which contain artificial colors and flavours, coconut water is all natural. The water’s delicate aroma and light taste make it a refreshing drink with no side effects. Its nutrient content is perfect for an athlete’s performance needs and recovery, including potassium, magnesium, chloride, sodium and a small amount of natural sugar.

For athletes working at a high level of intensity, coconut water may not rehydrate the body as quickly as traditional sports drinks as its very light on sodium. One clinical trial compared the ability of plain water, a sports drink and coconut water to rehydrate athletes who exercised to the point of dehydration. Coconut water was better than plain water, but didn’t rehydrate the athletes as well the sports drink. However, when the researcher’s added sodium to coconut water, equal to what is found in a sports drink like Gatorade, the new coconut water rehydrated the athletes just as well. Both the plain and the sodium-enriched coconut waters caused less nausea and upset stomachs to the athletes than the sports drink or plain water.


What is CrossFit?

What is CrossFit?


CrossFit is a unique form of training that is slowly making its way from obscure warehouse style venues into mainstream fitness centers. It involves training the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems simultaneously and is most often performed in a competitive group environment (they even have CrossFit Games!). CrossFit uses only functional compound movements, some of which could be considered highly unconventional and some of which we have been doing in the gym for years.



The aim of CrossFit is to develop a broad, general, and all inclusive level of fitness. It is designed to prepare participants for any physical task, rather than being sport specific. Its developers looked at all sport and physical tasks collectively, and asked what physical skills and adaptations would most lend themselves to an across the board performance advantage. Its specialty is, in short, not specialising.


The CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” Functional movements are compound (multi-joint) movements that are intended to be natural, efficient and effective at moving resistance, whether of the body or external to it. Devotees believe that there is no aspect of functional movement more important than the capacity to move large loads over long distances, quickly. These three attributes (load, distance, and speed) are believed to make functional movement uniquely qualified for the production of high power or intensity. CrossFit also recognises intensity as the variable most commonly associated with favourable adaptation to exercise, and so their prescription of functionality and intensity is constantly varied. They believe that preparation for random physical challenges, as provided by most sport and physical tasks, is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens.




The methodology that drives CrossFit is entirely empirical, meaning guided by experience and observation rather than scientific method or theory. It is referred to as “evidence-based fitness”, which depends on full disclosure of methods, results, and criticisms. The Internet (and various intranets) has been used to support these values and the resulting open charter has made co-developers out of participating coaches, athletes, and trainers through a collaborative online community. CrossFit claims to be empirically driven, clinically tested, and community developed.




The implementation of CrossFit is done, quite simply, as a sport, the “sport of fitness.” It is believed that harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of sport yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means. The late Col. Jeff Cooper observed that “the fear of sporting failure is worse than the fear of death.” It has also been observed that “men will die for points” and so, using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, is believed to not only motivate participants to unprecedented output levels but produce relative and absolute gains from every workout.




CrossFit developers claim that their commitment to evidence-based fitness; by publicly posting performance data, co-developing their program in collaboration with other coaches, and their open-source charter in general; has made it easy for them to measure the adaptations elicited by CrossFit programming. They claim that CrossFit increases work capacity beyond the initial aim of building a broad, general, and inclusive fitness program and that participants have experienced performance improvement s in VO2 max, lactate threshold, body composition, and even strength and flexibility.




“CrossFit is a community where human performance is measured and publicly recorded against multiple, diverse, and fixed workloads. It is an open-source engine where inputs can be publicly given to demonstrate fitness and fitness programming, and where coaches, trainers, and athletes can collectively advance the art and science of optimizing human performance.”  For us traditionalists the concept of CrossFit may be a little hard to embrace without scepticism, but in true CrossFit style we should perhaps withhold judgment until we have been guided by experience and observation rather than scientific method or theory.