This article was written was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
For the main, juice drinks can be categorised into fruit juice and fruit juice drinks. Fruit juice is a drink which contains 100% pure fruit juice and no other added ingredients. Fruit juices can be classified into 'freshly squeezed' and 'from concentrate', both contain similar energy, carbohydrate and fibre, and both count significantly towards vitamin C intake. A 150ml serving counts as one portion of the 5 fruit and veg per day, though only one serving per day can count (more information).
Juice drinks are products which are made up of less than 100% pure fruit juice, though the composition of them can vary considerably. Juice drinks include, ready-to-drink, cordial and squash dilutable drinks and 'high juice' drinks.
In addition to these, there are also 'fruit smoothies' which are typical combinations of fruit juice and crushed fruit. The Department of Health has recently revised advice regarding commercial fruit smoothies: any smoothie which contains at least 150ml fruit juice and at least 80g of crushed fruit (or vegetable) pulp can claim a maximum of two of the five portions of the 5 a day.
There has been vast research in to the use of fruit juices and good health. It's pretty obvious that consuming fresh fruit juice instead of sugary drinks is preferable. However, consuming whole fruit has more health benefits than just the juice. Fruit juice is acidic so is cariogenic and can affect dental health, although it is not as cariogenic as sugary drinks where the sugar sticks to the teeth. The advice is clear: avoid sugary drinks, include some fruit juice and drink plenty of water every day.Leave a comment
This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2010 edition
Green tea is grown in China and it has been shown to have a number of health benefits. Its caffeine content is lower than normal Indian black tea, and it also contains higher amounts of antioxidants; the most prevalent antioxidants being its catechins. Catechins are what we know as the supplement green tea extract or, more precisely epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is lipolytic, which means it breaks down body fat.
The most famous study where green tea extract was shown to be an effective fat-burner independent of caffeine was Dulloo, et al 1999. These showed EGCG to be significantly effective in increasing 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans, independent of any effects of caffeine.
A more recent study (Gregersen, et al 2009) gave 15 healthy weight males 1) 150mg caffeine, 2) green tea catechins (600mg), 3) caffeine plus catechins or 4) a placebo on four different days. Levels of energy expenditure and fat oxidations (i.e. fat burning) were calculated using very accurate methods. Combinations of caffeine and catechins were found to be the most effective at raising energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
It's great for anyone into bodybuilding, health and fitness to enjoy 2-3 mugs of green tea a day. However, many people just don't like drinking it; whilst it is perfectly palatable, is just not as nice as a normal cup of tea! The good news is that green tea bags are available infused with flavours like lemon, mint and camomile: try a few until you find your favourite. To get the full benefits of the catechins, let the tea bag stew for 5 minutes or more and do not add milk, as some amino acids in milk will bind the catechins, and negate some of their positive effects.
The more potent alternative to drinking green tea is using green tea extract supplements. These are perfectly safe and contain higher concentrations of catechins. They are worth considering in any supplement arsenal both for weight loss and health purposes. Of course, though, no supplement is going to be effective for weight loss unless you have a suitable nutrition regimen and exercise plan.References:
- Dulloo AG; et al. 1999. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 70: 1040-1045.
- Gregersen NT; et al. 2009. Effect of moderate intakes of green tea catechins and caffeine on acute measures of energy metabolism under sedentary conditions. BJN 102 (8): 1187-1194
This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2010 edition
We're constantly reminded that we need to be including cardiovascular (CV) exercise in our lifestyles for good health; but why? Reasons why cardiovascular exercise is important include:
- CV exercise is an effective way to burn excess calories which can aid weight loss and weight maintenance; being overweight is associated with a number of health problems
- CV exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, some cancers and other diseases
- CV exercise can help reduce stress levels
- CV exercise can strengthen your heart so that it does not have to work as hard, thus improving physical fitness
- CV exercise can increase your lung capacity
- CV exercise can make you feel good and sleep better
A step by step guide for the beginner is:
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- Choose an activity that you will enjoy. The best form of cardio is one that you will actually get off the couch and do rather than one that you do because you have to.
- Start with two or three sessions per week ideally on non-weights days or at a different time of day to weight training. If this is not possible then following a weight training session is fine.
- Begin with 5-10 minutes warm up of light activity to gradually increase your heart rate towards the point where you can still communicate clearly but are slightly catching your breath.
- Continue for as long as comfortably possible. This may be 5 minutes, it may be longer. Do not be disheartened if you struggle, this will quickly improve as long as you are consistent and strive to improve over time.
- Aim to add 2 minutes to the sessions on a weekly basis to build up towards the 30 minute mark. Do not bother monitoring distance or pace; just strive to improve the duration that you can comfortably exercise in the target zone: the point where you can still communicate clearly but are slightly breathless.
- Once you are at the level where you can comfortably exercise for 30 minutes or longer you have developed the base required to progress towards a more advanced program. Beginning where you want to be, rather than where you are actually, will usually result in injury and despair. Do not run before you can walk!
This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2010 edition
Developing the middle of the back is not an area of training which you read about very often. You often see exercises for the lats, upper back and lower back, but rarely the middle. This is mainly because developing this area is of little concern to beginners, and even to intermediate bodybuilders. However, it could be a concern to some more advanced trainers especially those considering competing.
Where exactly am I referring to when I say 'middle back'? I mean the inner part of the lats and lower part of the traps: a well developed middle back will have a thick crevasse between the muscles running along the spine. If you are looking at a perfectly developed middle back you'll be able to wedge your fingers in when the poser does a rear double biceps pose, and when they show a rear lat spread, the lats will almost protrude out in the middle. It is an area which is often not so well developed in competitive bodybuilders; even those of a high standard. Granted, unless pointed out to you, this is not a flaw which is obviously noticed on stage, but it is an area judges will notice and when you're competing at a high standard, it could be the difference between winning or not.
Like I said, for the beginner this is probably of little concern. But when you've caught the training bug for a while and you think one day you may compete, why not add some mid-back training as part of your back routine to help develop thickness?
Exercises for this area include deadlifts; they pretty much work the whole back. Also performing bent-over rows and T-bar rows slightly differently to focus the central back area; rather than bending right over, tilt your torso at less of an angle with a slight bend at the knees and your head up - bring the bar up to the abdomen and then lower it. Low pulley rows will also work the mid back: on full contraction continue to lean slightly forward as you bring the V-bar to the torso and really squeeze - you'll really feel this in the mid-back.Leave a comment
This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2009 edition
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fibre found in foods. Not only does it help gut health, but it can also help to reduce blood cholesterol levels. It is found in a range of fruits and pulses but is available in particularly high amounts from oats. FOS, or fructo-oligosaccharides, are types of prebiotic fibre which our gut flora can feed on, thus improving digestion and helping to strengthen the immune system.
Note, prebiotics are different to probiotics: Probiotics are live strains of 'friendly' bacteria which help our digestive system work efficiently, and we can obtain them from certain live yoghurts or supplements and examples include bifidus and acidophilus. Prebiotics are certain nutrients and constituents of food which our gut flora feed on, thus increasing their numbers. Click here for more about probiotics and prebiotics.
The benefits of beta-glucan and FOS on gut health, the immune system and in reducing severity of food allergies and the effects from food poisoning have been reported for a number of years. However, more recently, it has been suggested that their intake may also have a role in promoting satiety and reducing food intake, in turn possibly helping weight loss (Peters et al 2009).
Prebiotics, along with probiotics, are proving very popular. This is because, unlike many nutrition trends, the evidence that they promote good health is strong (Gibson 2003). Not only do they help us digest our food, but users report that formulas also help improve general well-being and they may help improve performance in sport due to improved digestion of food and therefore increased availability of nutrients. Also improved immunity to disease and reduction in illness means fewer interruptions to our training.Reference:Gibson (2003). Functional Nutr. 2 (2): 11-13Peters, et al (2009). Am J Clin Nutr. 89: 58-63Leave a comment