In my opinion, and Lord knows I have them, there are three components to a successful fitness program. In order, they are 1. Diet, 2. Workouts, 3. Rest. What you put in your mouth is 75 % of the battle. You can have the best workouts, get your 8-9 hours of sleep, massages, 2-4 rest days, but if your diet isn’t clean, you will be pushing the elephant up the stairs. Controlling your diet is the single hardest part. There are land mines everywhere. Going out to eat, desserts, chips, beers, social engagements. Sometimes when your diet is locked in, you feel like you’re the anti-social party pooper. ”Have a beer. No thank you. Why not? etc. Go to a dinner party, there’s the crackers and cheese, cashews, chips and dip for appetizers. Cake and pie for dessert. And I’m as weak as anyone. I love doughnuts, potato chips (I could compete for the Mr. Massachusetts Chip Championship on some days), beer, scotch and Chinese food. Do I eat them every day? No, but I don’t turn them away either. Okay, so what works? Well first, I don’t have all of these every week. But in the last 7 months I have learned what works for me.
The first thing that works is intermittent fasting. There are many different ways to do it. I follow Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat program. What you do is fast for about 24 hours once or twice a week on non consecutive days. According to Brad, you will not lose strength or muscle following this protocol. You don’t start losing muscle until you fast for 72 hours straight. Here’s the way I do it. Eat dinner, and then skip breakfast and lunch. By the time you wake up the next morning, your 1/2 way through the fast. I drink black coffee (got to get the full taste of the beans) and lots of water. The water will help your liver crank up your metabolism, plus it makes you feel full. I’m good about controlling my diet Monday through Friday, so I like to fast on Monday to get any garbage out of my body from the weekend, as well as Thursday or Friday. That way you are going into the weekend with some success. I don’t do it every week, but probably 3 out of every 4 weeks.
Is it tough? Well, the first couple of times takes a little getting used to. Especially when your ”friends” at work find out and order three pizzas. At least we didn’t have to cook that night. For me around hour 20, I start thinking about food. It’s a mindset. What I discovered was that I am able to control my hunger. If you can fast for 24 hours, not eating for 6 is no big deal. What are the benefits of fasting? It induces growth hormone secretion, it increases insulin sensitivity (very important if you don’t want to get fat), longevity, it cleanses you by burning the toxins in your body. It helps the pocket-book because you are saving buying 4 meals a week. and you have mental clarity and are more productive. Look it up, try it.
The second thing I’ve learned is about carbohydrates. Now there are people who think that breads and grains are evil. For me it’s not true but there are those with digestive issues, who as soon as they give up grains have instantly felt better. When you eat a lot of sugar, or pasta or carbohydrates, your insulin spikes. And that is not good as far as controlling your weight. In the past 6 months, I’ve pretty much given up eating bagels and oatmeal. I’ll have pasta once in a while, but it’s not a weekly staple, unless we make spaghetti sauce, then I’ll have it a couple of days in a row. The bonus of cutting your carbohydrate intake is that you can increase fat. Bring on the eggs, bacon, and almonds. Almonds taste better and fill me up better than any piece of bread can.
The perfect weekly Monday – Friday diet for me is Fast Monday and Thursday until dinner On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, have a protein shake 1 hour after working out in the morning. Why 1 hour? Because when you finish working out, your human growth hormone is still activated. As soon as you eat, it becomes inactive. The protein shake contains 2 scoops, milk, 2 tablespoons of flaxseed, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and either an apple or banana. 5 hours later a sandwich, almonds and a piece of fruit. Dinner with meat, spinach salad and a sweet potato or a small potato. I always work out on an empty stomach.
With the diet better controlled, I have finally been able to embrace rest days. For a while I was going 100% 5-6 days a week. I really enjoyed the stimulus of working out that kettlebells provided. But in the morning when I would get out of my car, I would be stiff as a board. Years ago, I banged my right knee against concrete while running my dog. The deep bone bruise has now become a little arthritic. My right elbow/forearm would throb from tendonitis. I just chalked it up to old age. Well I was doing a cluster training cycle which was a high volume program and intense. I decided to just workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday and take 4 days off. And you know what? I wasn’t stiff anymore, my knee stopped aching walking up stairs and the dull throb in my forearm went away. And I became a believer in the ” you get strong on your days off.” And once I got my diet under control, I stopped being concerned about gaining weight because I didn’t exercise. Currently for the next 4 weeks, I’m in a high volume program on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I would love to take Tuesday and Thursday off, but my 45 minute commute would be an hour and 20 minutes due to solar glare. So on those days I do 5 to 10 minutes of Turkish Get Ups and 12 minutes of swings/jumping rope with my 88 lb. kettlebell. Just enough to get the heart pumping without killing myself. Saturday and Sunday are rest days.
Supplements I’m currently taking are protein, flaxseed and magnesium oil. I take the flaxseed to replace Omega 3 from fish oil. I found it in 1992 that I had developed a food allergy to fish after eating it for 22 years. All of a sudden, my throat would get a lump in it and my saliva turned as thick as syrup. One skin test later, no more fish. I like flaxseed. I have two tablespoons of flaxseed either in a blender with my shake or as a topping to my salad. It helps with preventing high cholesterol and heart disease. It increases the body’s metabolic rate, as well as numerous other benefits.
In February, I started taking magnesium oil. I was reading about the benefits of magnesium on Mike Mahler’s website. www.mikemahler.com and decided to try it. There is even a book called the Magnesium Miracle about the benefits of the mineral. Spraying magnesium on your body is much more efficient than taking it orally. I spray 17 pumps on my arms and legs or where I am sore and rub it in. I do this when I get up and when I go to bed. The first thing you’ll notice is you will sleep sounder. (Expect some weird dreams!) Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and helps alleviate pain and soreness. It cures migraines. My mother has arthritis and was complaining about the pain in her hip and wrist while I was at her house. I had magnesium oil and told her to try it. Being an ex nurse practitioner, she didn’t want to hear about medical advice from a headhunter. I urged her to try it. She sprayed it on, 5 minutes later the pain was gone. Isn’t it amazing that the people you are closest to are the ones that don’t trust you? She went from telling my sister I was a quack to telling her she ought to buy some. I get it at Vitamin World, it’s $25 a bottle and each bottle last for me about 6 weeks. You only need 350 -450 mg vs. the 700-900 mg you would need if you took it orally. It does tingle when you first use it, but you get used to it. You can wash it off after 20 minutes.
Getting older is no picnic, but with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can stay ahead of Father time.