Friday, July 29, 2011

Powerlifting 101: Instant Gratification

Don’t be a “Powerlifting Hare”

I know most of you have heard the story about the tortoise and the hare. Remember the hare started out quickly but was eventually over taken by the more methodical tortoise? Well some powerlifters remind me of that story.  

Characteristics of the Hare:
  • He wants to get to his destination NOW.
  • He does everything fast and out of control.
  • He is prone to exhaustion easily.

Characteristics of the Tortoise:
  • He wants to arrive at the desired destination.
  • He is very methodical and deliberate.
  • He is very durable and resilient.

When the “powerlifting hare” gets into the sport of powerlifting what do you think happens? He goes to his first meet and finds out that he isn’t the strongest lifter there. He wants to be the strongest and second place is not an option for him. He needs to place 1st quickly. Powerlifting is a sprint for him not a marathon. He looks around and he sees that many of his competitors are wearing supportive gear. In his exuberance to achieve his goal NOW, the next thing you know he has purchased a bench shirt, squat suit, groove briefs, erector shirt and wraps. He soon figures out that these items do not help him all that much. Why, because he doesn’t spend the time to learn how to use the supportive gear and more importantly he is still physically weak. What do you think he does next? He starts using performance enhancing drugs. Do you see where I am going with this?

Conversely, the powerlifting tortoise goes to his first meet and also finds out he isn’t the strongest lifter there. He also wants to get stronger and eventually work his way to the top. He knows that it may take a little time but he is willing to work at it. He also sees that many of his competitors are wearing supportive gear but decides to build a strong foundation before he personally uses the support. He keeps training and continues to learn about the sport of powerlifting. After working hard and developing a strong physical foundation he decides to try out the supportive gear. He works very hard learning how to use the supportive gear as he continues to work on his raw strength. At this point he has spent far more time and effort than his counterpart has expended.

What happens next? The “powerlifting hare” may start out fast. His numbers may jump up quickly because of the supportive gear and drugs. He may appear to be a rising star but he is likely to become a falling star. He has not worked for what he has achieved. He has essentially bought his numbers with money instead of grueling mental and physical work. His foundation is built on sand.

Eventually, the “tortoise powerlifter” becomes one of the strongest raw powerlifters around and he is unbeatable when lifting with supportive gear. Why, because over the course of time he methodically worked his plan to perfection. He became an expert with his supportive gear and he became very strong physically. He understood that it takes hard work and time to gain strength.

The Tortoise always wins in the end no matter how many times you read the story.

Our society in general wants and demands instant gratification. That way of thinking has permeated powerlifting and is demonstrated by many lifters that have resorted to using performance enhancing drugs to achieve their goals. The need for instant gratification can destroy a powerlifter.

If you need instant gratification like the proverbial hare who tries to turn a marathon into a sprint, powerlifting may not be what you are looking for. To achieve powerlifting goals, one must learn from the tortoise and work hard over an extended period of time. It may seem like you are never going to reach your goals but in the long run you will far outdistance the lifter that is reckless in their approach. There is no free lunch when it comes to true strength. You must earn it. If you acquire strength artificially it will not last. When you stop taking the chemicals you are left with the truth. True strength can only be gained over time through consistently working smart and hard.

I guess the moral of the story is there is no fast way to the top. Real strength is in the mind and body. It isn’t found in the equipment and drugs. Exceptional strength certainly doesn’t come instantly.

“There's no substitute for hard work”.  Thomas Edison

Keith Payne
Functional Strength Systems

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nutrition For The Diabetic Athlete

At age 40, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Up until that time I had eaten pretty much whatever I wanted. That’s probably one of the reasons I acquired this disease. In addition to eating a “normal North American diet” I had always used nutritional supplements (vitamins, whey protein, bcaa’s,) when I could since I was always training for some sport. Being diabetic now I try to watch what I eat (not always succeeding) and make sure what I eat is nutritionally sound.

Generally speaking diabetics should keep their intake of saturated fats to a minimum. Avoid trans fats and processed foods all together. Complex carbohydrates in most cases are usually better than simple sugars. Below is a simple guide to a diabetic’s nutrition plan.

Lean beef (Example: top sirloin), skinless chicken, skinless turkey, salmon and tuna are all good choices as long as they are baked or grilled. Eggs are a very good low cost source of protein. (I would recommend removing all or at least part of the yolk.) Low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) on occasion are also good sources of protein. Beans and nuts (almonds, walnuts) are good. There are many low sugar whey protein products on the market that are great for supplementing your diet as well.
Avoid frying food at all cost. Eat lean low fat cuts of meat. Always remove skin from poultry and fish and fat from beef and pork. Do not eat bacon or high fat dairy products.

Breads / Grains
Whole grains (rice, cereal, flour) are the way to go. Complex carbohydrates absorb more slowly than simple sugars. That’s always good for the diabetic. Foods like whole grain rice, whole grain bread, tortillas and sweet potatoes are good in moderation. These foods are high in essential vitamins, minerals and are a good source of fiber. Avoid white flour (white bread), processed sugar cereals, processed rice and French fries. 

Vegetables / Fruits
Fresh vegetables (eaten raw, lightly steamed or grilled) such as broccoli, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and cabbage are great. Tomatoes, carats, potatoes are good as well in moderation since they are a little higher in carbohydrate content. 
Note: Fresh raw vegetables are best. They maintain all their nutritional qualities because the cooking process (heat) destroys much of the nutritional value.
Fresh fruits eaten raw are packed with vitamins, mineral and fiber. Like vegetables, they are naturally low in fat. One exception would be the avocado which is high in a good unsaturated fat.
I would caution diabetics to be careful with fruit (especially fruit juices) because they contain a high amount of carbohydrates which a can affect your blood sugar.

Water is the most important nutrient of all. As a diabetic you can’t rely on sodas and high sugar sports drinks. A general recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water a day depending on body size (You may need more).  Diabetics should pay special attention to their water intake. Adequate water intake reduces stress on kidney function and this is critical to the diabetic.

In closing, I would suggest a low fat diet including as many raw fresh vegetables and fruits as possible. I think the diabetic athlete should obtain a greater percentage of their protein intake from vegetable sources. Many times the athlete will ingest too much high fat meat in an attempt to keep their protein intake high. This can be very hard on your kidneys as well as your heart.

Keith Payne
Certified Sports Nutritionist
Functional Strength Systems

My Top Five Worst Foods

  1. French Fries / Chips
French Fries and Potato chips offer no health benefits. Not only are they void of any nutritional value they contain high levels of acrylamide which is a carcinogen. Acrylamide is formed when white potatoes are heated at high temperatures. Acrylamide is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. Potato chips and French Fries are also loaded with saturated fat that raises cholesterol level and increases the risk of heart disease. Fries and Chips are loaded with calories. They are very unhealthy. They will make you fat and sick. So why do we eat them? Because they taste good….Not a good choice.

You can avoid the saturated fat, sodium, and carcinogens by baking or roasting red potatoes. This will maintain some of the nutritional value of the potato.

  1. Processed Meat / Bacon and other fat Meat
You may ask, what is processed meat? Well, it is any meat or combination of animal parts that are preserved with chemicals. (Example: deli cold cuts, hot dogs, bologna, and ham) These chemical substances may change into cancer-causing compounds in the body. Processed meat is always loaded with salt and fat.  Sodium nitrite can be found in many processed meats. This carcinogen has been linked to leukemia in children and brain tumors in infants. Other studies show that sodium nitrate also promotes colorectal and pancreatic cancer.
Bacon is not much more than salt and fat. Bacon can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It has also been linked to damaged lung function and an increased risk of lung disease. In general, any meat is unhealthy if it is loaded with saturated fat.

Substitute leaner and lower-sodium meats such as fish, roasted skinless poultry, pork tenderloin (all fat trimmed), and round steak.

  1. Soda
I’ll have to say this one is hardest for me to avoid. You’d think knowing one can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories, 30 (or more) mg of caffeine, and is loaded with artificial ingredients would make a person take notice. Soda is nothing but artificial flavors, sugar and water. It has no nutritional value.
Drinking too much soda can cause tooth decay and lead to things far worse including obesity and diabetes. Soda is also very acidic and can lead to kidney problems.
On the other hand, Diet Soda can potentially lead to more problems than the sugared soda. Since Diet Sodas contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame they have been linked to many diseases to numerous to list.

The best option is always Water. Fruit juices in moderation. Unsweetened Green Tea.

  1. Processed Desserts
Processed Desserts are very anemic in nutritional value and are extremely high in calories. Most processed desserts are made up of sugar, refined flour and partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats). As mentioned, Trans Fats have been linked to artery disease as well as cancer.

Fruit, Fruit, Fruit

  1. Butter, Margarine
Simply put, fat is the problem here. Margarine has hydrogenated oil, a fat which can potentially cause cancer and other diseases. Butter has a high amount of saturated fat which is linked to heart disease. (As a side note: processed peanut butter is also loaded with trans fats. Natural peanut butter is always a better choice.)

Use olive oil when possible because these fats are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fat.

Notice there is a common theme here. All of these foods have very little nutritional value. They all have trans fats or saturated fat (except soda). Most of them are loaded with (empty) calories. Many of them have unsafe additives and chemicals. All of these foods are linked with disease.
Stating the obvious, it would probably be a good idea to limit intake of these foods by using natural non-processed alternatives.

Keith Payne
Certified Sports Nutritionist