Five key points: health and fitness

I had a great workout this morning with Nate Miyake. The actual workout was fine, but what launched it into great was the conversation we had about “five key points.” If you could simplify and summarize whatever it is you’re doing into five (or less) key things you’d want to get across to the world, what would they be?

When it comes to health and fitness – by which I mean general health and fitness, not sports-specific performance, my key points would be:

  1. Good health is 90% diet. You can maintain a good weight and good overall health nearly through diet alone. Unless you’re insanely active, you can’t work off a bad diet. It won’t make you stronger or faster, but it’ll keep you thin. Eat right and you’re 90% there.
  2. The only good plan is a sustainable plan. There are a zillion different plans and programs – for both diet and activity – out there for losing weight and getting fit. The only good ones are the ones that you can keep up over the long haul. If it’s just short-term plan, it’s just a short-term solution (and probably bad for you).
  3. Focus on whole, unrefined food. Some people say that it’s all about the calories, and not about the type of calories. Others say that it’s overall calories that matter, not the type. And there are studies that support both. But regardless, a larger advantage of whole, unrefined food is that it tends to take up more room in your stomach and make you feel fuller. A cookie’s going to have a lot of calories and won’t be all that big (and the sugar will cause an insulin spike and make you hungry pretty soon). A salad with the same number of calories is going to be a lot bigger, will take more time to eat and digest, and won’t give you the same insulin spike.
  4. Counter the effects of sitting all day. If you’re like me, you sit most of the day. This is bad. You don’t need to be super active, just walk around and stretch. If you can do anything to avoid sitting, do it. Walk where you need to go instead of driving. Do stretches everyday.
  5. Cardio for weight loss and health is stupid and pointless. The only reason to do cardio is to improve your cardio-dependent performance, or if you just really enjoy it (by cardio, I’m not talking about walking everywhere). I enjoy riding my bike – great reason to do cardio. I want to improve my high-altitude performance – great reason to do cardio. I want to lose weight – bad reason to do cardio. Running is especially bad. You’ll get a much larger benefit in a shorter period of time from lifting weights or just doing bodyweight exercises (and you do get heart benefits from those as well!), and you’ll miss out on all the long-term knee and foot injuries.

Why “healthy” snacks may be bad for you.

I’ll make this quick because I have other stuff to do today and want to get this published.

A friend of mine has recently started working with a company that promotes and sells “healthy” snacks – things like chia seed chips and healthy juice and soy mixes. I think these snacks are great – they’re made with better ingredients in a more sustainable way (presumably) than a Snickers or bag of Doritos.

But I disagree with describing them as “healthy snacks.” They aren’t really all that healthy. When you look at the ingredients, they still have a lot of fat, salt, and carbs. Sure, they may have more¬†pronounceable¬†ingredients and less artificial stuff, but that makes it marginally healthier and certainly won’t help you lose weight.

But here’s my real problem with these healthy snacks: they don’t taste as good as normal (unhealthy) snacks, and are only slightly healthier for you, and not in any short-term way. A genuinely healthy snack is something like carrots. Or celery. But people don’t eat those things, they eat this mostly-bad-for-you healthy snack, but because it’s not a Snickers, they don’t get the “reward” satisfaction of eating something genuinely bad for you. So later that day, they decide that because they ate healthy earlier, they can have that bowl of ice cream now. But the truth is they ate unhealthy earlier, fooling themselves, and are eating doubly unhealthy now.

A few recent articles on steriods

My position on steroids in sports is pretty well established, but I know how much you all love hearing more about it. So here are a few recent articles.

Lance Armstrong: Victim?

This sounds like a review of the USADA’s prosecution of Lance Armstrong, but really an examination of their power and their role as a quasi-governmental agency that operates without the oversight and Constitutional constraints that a government agency would have.

Roid Age: steroids in sport and the paradox of pharmacological puritanism

Here’s a long and somewhat academic article that goes even deeper into the history of steroids and the ironies of their use. The author concludes:

The irony is that we punish severely the people who could use steroids the most, the athletes who have the most legitimate need for them if they are to recover and perform at the levels we like to watch on television and in stadiums. Using steroids because we no longer get the same erections we once had, or because a middle-aged man has less energy than he did at twenty (or a woman has less libido than considered ideal), is increasingly considered normal, while the list of substances banned for people like Mark McGwire grows longer and longer, the invasive tests intended to expose any transgression more and more extensive. As a society, we suffer from a paradoxical pharamacological puritanism, expecting medical technology to change our lives and yet demanding that it not change our games.