• Get Fitness Together

  • Blog Posts

    March 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  

Dealing with Ailments, Injuries, and Illnesses as We Age


Exercising regularly or not, the frequency with which we incur ailments and injuries increases as we age.

As we age:

  •  the body naturally looses mineral density in the bones (sometimes resulting in osteoporosis);
  •  the muscles themselves shrink (technically called atrophy); 
  •  the tendons and ligaments holding it all together become less pliable and weaken; and
  •  metabolism slows, increasing the time it takes for the body to mend.

It all starts somewhere in our early 30s increases into the 40s and then accelerates into the 50s and 60s.  Regular exercise is, of course the best way to stave off the process, but even regular exercisers experience ailments and injuries, sometimes even more so than sedentary adult simply because some of us still think and behave like we’re 20!

Injuries

If you’re exercising regularly it’s typical to pick up injuries large and small overdoing it in some way: that extra mile on a long run; that 6th day of training;  that extra hill on the bike ride;  that extra 20 pounds on the bar when squatting for the 1st time in a while.

Injuries come with acute pain.  You normally know exactly when the pain started and exactly what you were doing when it occurred: it’s tough to forget smacking your face into a forest tree!

Sedentary adults are most frequently injured simply navigating the course of life … hurting your back moving that piece of furniture or slipping on some ice.  Exercisers get injured in these ways too, but less so.  Stronger muscles, joints, and bones help the body tolerate impact better, and, of course improves overall coordination and balance.

Ailments

Ailments are technically injuries too, but are introduced slowly over time as a result of over use and insufficient recovery.   Athletes and aggressive exercisers ( anyone exercising 5 or more days per week) work with ailments on a regular basis, normally around joints.   Runners who only run frequently develop knee and ankle ailments.  Cyclists who only cycle often experience hip and knee trouble.

But ailments also, and perhaps more commonly occur within the daily grind for both exercisers and the sedentary:  carpal tunnel syndrome and strained shoulders are all too common modern-day office worker ailments.

They are incurred with the same problem: overuse of a body part without sufficient recovery. 

Responding to Injuries

For minor injuries and ailments the 1st remedy is normally RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation on the effected area.  Depending on severity, this could be for an hour just once to several intermittent hours each day for a week.

If you are in severe pain, or if the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, or just want some piece of mind, see your doctor.  

Exercising with Ailments and Injuries

Exercising with an injury isn’t just possible, it’s actually quite common.     In fact, it’s often an opportunity to introduce beneficial cross training into the mix … swimming, for example, if you’re working through a calf injury.   Or simply limiting overhead and torsion exercises if you’re nursing a strained back.   Unless you’re in traction, a good fitness trainer will easily find something to do no matter what the injury!

The key to a quick and safe recovery is allowing the injury to completely heal before re-introducing the effected body part  into your exercise program.  

This may include some physical therapy, but almost always begins with the pain-free range of motion test: if you can move the limb or body part completely through its range of motion without pain, you’re probably ready to begin putting a load and stress on it.

Begin cautiously with low resistance, low volume and low intensity.  Increase these three elements (volume, resistance and intensity) one at a time waiting at least a day between any further increases.   Be sure to stretch, stretch, and  stretch some more, especially if it’s a joint issue.  You may develop some minor soreness and swelling in the process; use RICE along the way.   

This process of improving range of motion, incrementally increased load,  and incorporating RICE is, in fact rehabilitation.  It’s best overseen by a physician, but …

If you know your body well, or are working with a highly skilled fitness professional, it’s actually  straightforward enough to rehabilitate yourself through injuries.   You know how your body feels and reacts better than anyone else. 

But if you’re not working with a professional of any type, it’s best to go see your doctor.

Illness

While exercising with and recovering from ailments and injuries gets tricky, handling illness is comparatively simple.

We call it the neck test.

If your symptoms are in your neck and above, you pass and should be OK to exercise in some way.  

Depending on how you feel, it might be a good day for your long, slow cardio event, or other light activities.   Dial it down a bit if you need to, but DO exercise!   It will boost your immune system and increase your metabolism, getting you back to good health more quickly! 

But if your symptoms are in your chest, you fail, and should rest and/or see a physician.

 

10 Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a Personal Trainer


I had the good fortune of chatting with a middle aged woman from Minneapolis at last Saturday’s Divorcing Diva’s conference.

She wasn’t looking for training, but had stopped at our booth primarily for a signature on her card to be eligible for a drawing.   One thing led to another and we talked for almost 30 minutes about diet, exercise, scheduling, and personal training.

As it turns out, she trains at Lifetime.  Four days a week.   But before I could ask her how that was working out for her (she had somewhere upwards of 50 pounds to loose by quick inspection), she went on to volunteer a few things about the trainers there at Lifetime.   She had lots of complaints about how they were all 20 somethings that “knew it all,” but didn’t really “understand a middle aged female body,” and really just “… didn’t listen well on the whole.”

I felt sorry for her in no small way.  Unfortunately, she was right, and I operate in an industry where expectations are frequently unmet.  I’ve interviewed the kind of trainer she was talking about, and see them in action myself as I make my way around to the big box clubs in town.

We didn’t get any realistic leads from our booth, but it made my day to be reminded that we’re not that trainer.   I personally handle recruiting and training and the client experience here at Fitness Together.  My staff is the best of the best, and they push each other to get better.  And I’m the ‘parental guidance’ that’s missing from the big and little box trainers.  Who’s training the trainer there!?

And I had afew more thoughts, so here then are my

… Top 10 Tips for Finding the Right Personal Trainer.

1. There is no licensing requirement in most states. Unlike chiropractors, nutritional consultants, and massage therapists, Personal Training does not require licensing. It’s been suggested that states require licensing for the entire 25 years I’ve been in the industry, but it never seems to find any traction. In fact, you don’t need a degree, nor do you really even need a certification to operate as a Personal Trainer. You yourself, in fact, could call yourself a Personal Trainer and no one with any authority could force you to drop the declaration. While all of our trainers do have degrees from 4 year programs in exercise science related fields, and it does in fact make them better trainers, some trainers get along just fine with practical experience and energy. Simply recognize that without formal kinesiology and physiology training, you do assume higher risk of injury.

2. That said, most Personal Trainers will at the least boast certifications. And what a mess! You’ll see ACE, AFPT, NSCA, ASCM, and UBYA along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of others. It’s a verifiable alphabet soup out there, and unless you’re actually in the industry, you really wouldn’t know the difference between a B6T from CYA and an Advanced Certification from NTSE. I’ve personally completed a few myself, see them daily on applications from trainers, and even I get confused! Some certifications, like NSCA an ASCM are very technical and difficult to obtain. Others are web based and can be completed with just a few hours on the internet! And even then, authenticating the certificate will be a challenge. So, you’ll need to do some research and don’t be shy about directly requesting a copy of your potential trainer’s certification. If certifications are all your trainer carries for credentials (unlike an actual degree), be sure to go online and look at the curricula. Oh, and be sure to ask about the currency of their CPR certification.

3. Nutritional Education is normally not part of most programs. In fact, even the degreed programs our staff has completed are light on nutritional education. And trainers will be all over the map on nutritional advice. Be extremely cautious if your trainer-to-be spends a lot of time pitching supplements. First, many states, Minnesota included, prohibit the ‘prescription’ of diet unless you are a licensed nutritionist. But a lot of trainers make significantly more profit from pushing and selling supplements than they do from training. If you find your trainer recommending more than a single supplement per day, or a month’s supply of pre and post workout supplementation, your best bet is to simply walk away.

4. Training women is much different than training men. I’ve run into a lot of male bodybuilders over the years who make Personal Training their profession. Highly accomplished themselves, a lot of these guys know a great deal about training young male athletes, and are quite good at it. But it takes an entirely different type of training, and an entirely different style of personal interaction to work with women, children, seniors, or special needs clients. Training an athletic, healthy 20 -something is much, much, much different than training a 50 something woman who hasn’t done much exercise in the past 20 years! Make sure that the trainer you interview has experience and positive results with someone just like you!

5. Personal and Professional Boundaries vary significantly. Dating your personal trainer is completely unprofessional. We had a trainer on staff a few years ago who came in with a fresh haircut. He looked good with it, and I told him so! He responded that he “…had just learned that most personal training clients fantasize about their trainer, and that if our clients were going to fantasize about him he at least wanted to look good!” Honestly, I can’t confirm the statistic. And I don’t know why clients sometimes tell us the things they tell us … we’re really not psychologists! But with regular, close contact, and regular (sometimes overly) personal conversations, the illusion of a friendship sometimes surfaces. However, if your Personal Trainer is a true professional, dating … and even casual fraternization … is completely over the line. A true Personal Training Professional begins and ends his relationship with you with your training session. Directly ask your personal training candidate what her policy is on dating clients.

6. Scheduling issues are likely to exist. Anyone who’s worth training with is going to be busy enough to be at least slightly unavailable to train you at your preferred time. At least initially. For FT MSP, we normally wedge the 1st few weeks of training into a mutually acceptable, but awkward schedule for new clients. Over time, things eventually converge to at least mostly acceptable for the client. As you might expect though, before and after work hot spots will always be on the schedule. Be sure to check your would be trainer’s schedule for the next few weeks before writing your check.

7. Turnover is extremely high in this industry. Due primarily to the lack of parental guidance mentioned above, Personal Training is an extremely high turnover industry. One statistic recently showed an average trainer turnover of about 6 months. Because, like you, I need to get out of my office to exercise, I personally see this kind of turnover all the time at the big boxes where I exercise. Very few trainers work independently these days. Most are employed by and paid through their fitness facility. When they leave, any unused sessions they still owe you will likely get brokered to other trainers in the facility. This could be good (perhaps even great!), or bad, but you need to ask about turnover and session transferability should your training candidate move on. And what if the trainer you hire simply doesn’t work for you? Personality friction sometimes exists. If a few sessions go poorly, can your unused sessions be trained by a colleague? Or sister facility across town?

8. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anyone who promises you that you’ll loose 25# in the next 25 days is selling snake oil. Oh, it can in fact be done, but it won’t be safe, and it won’t be permanent. If your ultimate objective is to incorporate safe, permanent, positive changes into your life, be sure that your trainer understands that. Be sure that you’re clear about your goals, and don’t let your don’t let your trainer change them into dreams. In fact, one of the most unfortunate consequences of how most trainers are now employed is that those that do well in the big box gyms do so primarily becausethey can sell better than other trainers. And one of the reasons for why turnover is as high as it is is because thousands of highly skilled, enthusiastic, would-be exercise professionals are horrible at selling. It is truly tragic that schools are churning out skilled exercise professionals, and the 1st thing their employer asks them to do is become a salesperson! So, if it starts to feel like you’re being ‘sold’ something from your potential trainer, chances are that she’s better at selling than she might be at training. If you’re not answering a lot of questions, but are instead listening to a lot of promises, you’re talking to the wrong person.

9. Do the research. I like to compare hiring a trainer to hiring an orthodontist. If you don’t have teenagers, this won’t make complete sense, but a trainer, like an orthodontist is someone who …

  1. You will see very frequently and need to at least like a little bit;
  2. Needs to have acceptable availability with your schedule;
  3. Is reasonably easy to get to several times per week. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic for 40 minutes just getting to your trainer. You’ll be late frequently, and you’ll also come to dread the event, which will eventually reduce your attendance, which makes reaching your goals nearly impossible; and, finally …
  4. Needs to have proven results for patients with your specific background and goals

So, be sure to ask for and call several references. Make sure that those references are like you. Ask them about scheduling, results, nutritional advice, and socialization policies. Ask, as well about basic things like personal hygiene. Are they always cleanly shaven, with fresh breath, and without body odor? This might seem like it’s getting a bit too personal, but I can assure you, you don’t want a trainer in your face with bad breath or body odor. And very, very few people will actually volunteer that her trainer has BO unless you specifically ask them.

10. Find out who the boss is. Who do you turn to if your trainer crosses that personal/professional boundary? Towhom is your potential trainer eventually accountable? What is the background of the guy in charge? How long has he or she been in business? And whatabout their professional network: what professional and business associations do they belong to? What is their presence in the community like? What is their wellness sphere of influence like? Do they work with and have strong relationships with other wellness professionals in massage therapy, chiropractic care and nutrition. A quick google of the boss’ name can give you a lot of information!


Unselfishness’ Edge in Exercise Programs


Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”  

– Vince Lombardi

I have a bike race on Saturday.  On Tuesday I needed a short, hot spiky interval workout to prepare and condition my body for clearing the flood of lactic acid soon to be heading my way!

I’ve done this type of interval training plenty of times before … on the bike, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, running hills, etc.  But on Tuesday morning, with that deliciously crisp fall air still hanging around, I headed for the rink for some open hockey.

Hockey’s an ideal game for short, hot, spiky interval training: skate hard, blow up, get off the ice and recover.  Winning (or trying to win) the race for a puck is a very quick way to find the Red Zone.  Do it again and again and again and again and you’ve got a nearly perfect hot spiky interval workout!

But what makes my engagement with the game truly unique, and why it is particularly effective for me in this way has mostly to do with mostly sucking at hockey.

I did not grow up playing the game in an organized way (I began playing at 41) , so when I jump into a local game, I’m almost always the least skilled player on the ice.  What happens next is, I think, fundamental human nature: recognizing my limitations, my primary <ahem> goal is to simply not be THE liability on my team.  It’s rare that I hit the net with the puck, so above all else, I don’t want to be THAT GUY creating the turnover or easy goal that let’s my team down.

I’ve worked extremely hard in individual workouts throughout my life, but almost never as hard as I do when my team is counting on me, or when I’m cycling in a group sprint ride.

  It isn’t necessarily for everyone, but I think group exercise is valuable in at least a limited way for most folks.

I still prefer to train mostly by myself for lots of reasons, but on occasion,  what is helpful to my overall program, and what I NEED most is someone ELSE to count on me.

And THIS is way I’m so excited about the upcoming Rollout of our Small Group Training Program!  

We now have a way to deliver well managed personal training in a small, teamwork-like environment!

PACK WEEK IS THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 26TH!

Limited space still available, but call now if you want to jump in!

Conquering Carbohydrates Part 3: The Complex Carbohydrate Conundrum


A few weeks ago, we posted Carbohydrates For Dummy’s Part 1: Saccharides and Such. 

A week after that we posted Part 2 of the Conquering Carbohydrates story: an introduction to Complex Carbohydrates.

Then came a few distractions and the Annual Fair Foods Blog, but we’re back on track today  with the 3rd and final part of the Conquering Carbohydrates Conundrum.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

If sugar, starch, simple carbs, complex carbs, and ne t carbs weren’t enough to test your meddle, two other sometimes confusing carb-centric terms to contend with are Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL).

Glycemic Index simply ranks foods on how quickly they affect glucose levels in the blood stream.  Developed in Toronto in the 1980s to help doctors prescribe diets for diabetics, foods that quickly elevate blood sugar levels have a high glycemic index.  Foods that increase blood sugar slowly have lower glycemic indices.

In addition to Diabetics, Athletes also tend to be highly aware of blood glucose levels to both prepare for and recovery from intense exercise.   Regular exercisers can also benefit from an awareness of blood sugar levels, however, because the of the effect cortisol has on glucose metabolism when you are low on blood sugar.

You might think that you’re doing yourself a favor skipping lunch, when in fact, doing so triggers your body to generate more cortisol.

Cortisol … the “your under stress hormone” counteracts Insulin production and reduces the metabolism of glucose.  The result of this is disproportionately more fat storage in anticipation of famine!  Additionally, the increased Cortisol increases appetite so you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal!

It would be great if you could simply categorize carbohydrates into glycemic index groups that fit nicely within some saccharide category, but the truth is, it’s somewhat of a frustrating memorization exercise.

Take roots.  Carrots & yams (both simple carbohydrate foods) have relatively low GIs of 39 and 51, respectively, while potatoes have GIs as high as 85!   The difference here is that potatoes are very starchy.

So, starchy means high GI then?

Not quite. Plenty of other starchy carbs, like Oats, Bran, Rye and Barley are actually quite low in GIs scoring in the 20s and 30s.  Similarly,  wheat and most rices also score fairly low (50s), while brown rice pasta has an exceptional and soaring 91!

And then there’s fruit.  Unless I’ve missed something, no fruits are starchy.   They’re fibrous and watery, but not starchy.  But here’s the rub: some fruits have very low GIs, like grapefruit (25), plums (39), and apples (38); and some fruits have moderate GIs, like mangos (56), apricots (57), and raisins (64).  Why then, does watermelon have a sky high GI of 72?

It makes no sense, and in the end, you must simply memorize or carry GI tables with you to get it right!   Here’s one build for the sometimes-popular South Beach Diet.

Attempting to solve this mystery steps in Glycemic Load.

As it turns out, part of the reason why inconsistencies exist across the simple to complex carbs GI spectrum is related to quantity consumed.   For example, a single piece of hard candy (nearly all sucrose) will trigger a smaller glucose response than a bite of a banana.  But if you consume 2 cups of each, the candy outpaces the banana quite quickly!

What’s more, Net Carbs also have a role.  As mentioned above, the fiber content will affect digestion speed, which, in turn, effects blood sugar fluctuations.  So, in the late ‘90s,  the Glycemic Load became a more popular way to determine food effect on blood sugar, defined as the percentage of GI times Net Carbs:

Glycemic Load = Glycemic Index / 100 x Net Carbs

Got that?  Well, before you start looking for a smart phone app to calculate GL, have no worries, many nutritionists have simply done the math for you with tables they’ve built themselves.  In fact, one of my all time favorite nutrition sites, NutritionData.com doesn’t list GI at all, but instead lists an Estimated Glycemic Load number for most of it’s nutritional listings.  The values are estimated simply because complete data on GI and Net Carb values simply hasn’t yet been compiled for all foods.

What you also need to know about GI vs GL numbers is that a high GL number could be a low GI Number:

Within the heavily debated carbohydrate controversy, exists a separate embedded micro controversy around GI and GL.  As with carbohydrates, many experts propose low GI/GL diets within the weight reduction context, while others staunchly oppose it.  A 2008 German study, for instance, actually found that low GI/L diets actually correlated to higher bodyfat results.

Withstanding GL wizardry, one food category that emerges consistently high in the GI tables is highly refined grains, particularly those in baked goods.  French bread, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, rice cakes, and many breakfast cereals ALL SCORE very high on GI tables.

Refined Grains and Added Sugars

Refined grain products (cookies, cakes, cereals) also suffer from two other significant problems: added sugars and nutrient deficiency.

In fact, according to the  USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the single largest problem with many American diets is, indeed,  these refined grain products.

Not only do they trigger a short, spiky bust in glucose, but they are also reasonably ‘empty’ calories with very few micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  To make matters worse, they frequently include added sugars to make an already unhealthy food even more caloric.  Sometimes inclusive of saturated and/or hydrogenated fats as well, and well, these products are really quite evil to health and fitness professionals.

The Carbohydrate Conundrum: What to do?

With all of this going on, it’s no wonder the general public is confused about carbohydrates and their dietary relevance.  Here then is my professional recommendation on the topic.

First, if you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s orders, not mine.

For all the rest of us:

  1. The easiest way to defuse most of your concerns about carbohydrates is simply to exercise more!  Not only will you metabolize more calories in doing so, but other hormones involved with exercise and exercise recovery help keep cortisol and insulin balanced.
  2. Recognize that carbohydrates are, above all else, your body’s primary fuel source.   While it’s true that your body always metabolizes a blend of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source.  If your engine is just idling, back off on the fuel!
  3. Adjust your complex carbohydrate intake with your anticipated physical activity
    1. If you are sedentary, you need very complex few carbohydrates.  Most of your energy will come from stored energy sources (glycogen and body fat).   Eliminate most complex carbohydrates from your diet to avoid gaining body fat.
    2. If you are active, you need some complex carbohydrates.  Try to get most of your complex carbohydrates early in the day, typically before 2:00 PM.  Switch to mostly simple carbohydrates after that.
    3. If you are regularly exercising, or an athlete, you need a LOT more carbohydrates. Get most of your complex carbs early in the day, but do include moderate quantities later in the day.  Don’t hesitate to include higher amounts in your diet if you have a high intensity exercise event the following morning.
  4. Eat a wide variety of and large quantities of fruits and vegetables.  Follow the seasonally available produce and you’ll get plenty of variety.  Make sure you get at wide variety of color in your diet.   A lot of people miss out on the yellows: squash, yams, yellow peppers.
  5. Try to incorporate more legumes into your diet: green beans, black beans, pinto beans, white beans; etc.
  6. When choosing complex carbohydrates, focus on whole grains, and high fiber sources.  Steel cut oats, whole wheat, and wild rice are good examples.
  7. Always avoid or minimize highly refined grains, particularly those with added sugars.  MOST of the grocery store bakery fits into this category: cookies, cakes, pies (it’s the crust), french bread, muffins, and doughnuts.   What’s worse is that many of these will also include partially hydrogenated fats.
    1. Avoid or eliminate them if you are serious about your health.
    2. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in America and these fats are deadly
Did I Miss Anything?   What’s your burning or unanswered carbohydrate question? 

Carbohydrate Quiz


Conquering Complex Carbohydrates – Part 2 of Carbohydrates for Dummy’s


 Part 2 of a 3 part series on conquering carbohydrates, today, we focus on Complex Carbohydrates: where they’ve fit into diets and dietary conversations.

Last week, we covered Carbohydrate conversational history, and Simple Carbohydrates: Saccharides / Sugar.

Disaccharides

Chaining two saccharides together creates a slightly more complex type of carbohydrate called a DIsaccharide.   Three of the most common disaccharides are Sucrose, Maltose, and Lactose, all formed with a different combination of monosaccharides:

Disaccharide

Monosaccharide + Monosaccharide

Sucrose =

Glucose + Fructose

Maltose =

Glucose + Glucose

Lactose =

Glucose + Galactose

Sucrose naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables and is highly concentrated in cane sugar and sugar beets.    

It is also common table sugar.

NOTE: Some canned fruit and vegetable products will also ADD refined sugar (like high fructose corn syrup and common table sugar) to the processed food, to sweeten the flavor.  You need to be careful of the extra sugar and extra calories.

I also learned this week, courtesy of Breakfast Club Guest Speaker Steve Zeller of Waconia’s Parley Lake Winery that Winemakers sometimes add sucrose to highly acidic wines to improve palitability. 

Polysaccarides

Stringing 3 saccharides together creates, you guessed it, a trisaccharide, while 4 or more saccharides builds a polysaccharide.

And this is where things get really interesting … and controversial. 

Three of the most common polysaccharide carbohydrates are Starch, Glycogen, and Cellulose.

Starch is insoluble in water and must be digested by animals.  It is a glucose reserve for plants (excess plant glucose is converted to starch).  Rice, wheat, and corn are common sources of starch in the human diet.

Glycogen is a reserved form of glucose for animals (not too unlike how starch is a glucose reserve for plants).   It is manufactured by the liver and is stored in the liver and muscle tissues.  It must be converted back to glucose to be used as an energy source.

Cellulose is produced by and forms the primary structure of plants. While technically a polysaccharide carbohydrate like Starch and Glycogen, the cellulose molecular structure makes it indigestible by mammals.  It is therefore considered fiber, and not really an energy source.

Complex vs. Simple Carbs

If you’re observing the carbohydrate reduction battles, these complex carbohydrates are exactly the carbs that tend to be under the most scrutiny.

The easiest way to separate Simple Carbohydrates from Complex carbohydrates is to identify Starch.  Complex Carbohydrates will almost universally contain Starch.

Fruits and Vegetables do not; they consist primarily of water, cellulose (fiber), and fructose.

Complex carbohydrates are then primarily carbohydrates with a starch element.  These include most of the grains (wheat, oats, barley, rice, and corn), some roots (potatoes, yams, turnips), and some legumes (beans).   Most also have significant cellulose content making them high in fiber.

Low and No Carb Diets

While extremely low carb diets like Atkins eliminates nearly all carbohydrates, mono and disaccarides included, some diets, like South Beach allow for most monosaccarhide and disaccaride carbs, but banish the more complex ploysaccarides.

The big difference in these two approaches is that the carbohydrate threshold below which an Atkins style diet places your body in what’s called a state of ketosis whereby glycogen stores are depleted, requiring that energy comes entirely from the metabolism of fatty acids.

Most of the medical community considers this a highly risky and potentially life-threatening taxation on the liver.

Ketosis risks notwithstanding, another at least as significant problem with many low/no carb diets is micronutrient deprivation.  Despite the phenomenal products from many supplement providers, matching natural food vitamin and mineral content is extremely difficult.  Missing out on all of these in the absense of a saccharide smart diet is simply not a healthy, long term way to provide nutrients to your body.

Net Cabohydrates

Net Carbohydrates are an interesting new term in the diet world whereby the diet du jour architects and food manufacturers have decided that the carbohydrate content defined by the USDA isn’t meaningful for the fibrous component in a food product.

So, what they’ve done is created a new value: Net Carbs, defined as the total carbs in a product less the fibrous content.

In no small way, this is merely a ruse to position products in a more favorable light to carb conscious dieter.  

While the Net Carb idea is somewhat honorably used to identify the energy sources relevant to body fat storage (or elimination), disregarding the fibrous (often cellulose) component in this way sidesteps several other metabolic and digestive considerations.

For one, high fiber carbohydrate products digest more slowly, and in some cases much more slowly than a low fiber food.  This results in a slower, and more steadily produced stream of glucose in the blood stream … something highly significant to 25+ million Americans with diabetes.

Second, high fiber diets are healthy!  They reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, and help with weight control programs by providing ‘filler’ the body often identifies as food to reduce appetite. 

As a result, the Net Carbs numbers tend to do more clouding than clarifying.

In the end, your time would probably be better spent simply looking at and monitoring the sugar and fat content of a food than bothering with the net carb calculation.

In fact, as an isolated factor, you might actually choose a less healthy product on it’s net carb merits!

For instance, a serving size of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal has 27 grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 3 g are dietary fiber, while 2 g are Insoluble fiber.  Hence, the net grams of the product are:
27 – 3 – 2 = 22g.

On the flip side, a serving of General Mill’s Cocoa Puff’s has 23 total grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 1 g. is dietary fiber for total net carbs of 22g as well.

Equivalent products then?  Not even close.  The oatmeal has than 1 g. of sugar while the Cocoa Puffs have a whopping 13 g of sugar!  Further, the serving of oatmeal includes 4 g of protein while the serving of cocoa puffs has just a meager 1 g of protein.

What’s more, the 5 g of dietary fiber in the oatmeal will give it a much lower glycemic index (tune in next week) than that low fiber General Mill’s product, something that will effect hormones in a far more influential way.

Though … from a net carb perspective … the products look equal.   

Unfortunately, a desperate public blindly following the net carb lemmings may make poor, and uninformed decisions.  Don’t let that be you!

Next Week: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load; Refined Grains; what to do? 

Like last week, leave me a comment and we’ll spot you a free water bottle!

Ready to Sweat!? Small Group Training is coming to Fitness Together Minneapolis!


Same great managed training & nutrition programming in groups of 2 to 4.

Bring your A game though, because it gets a little competitive!

Current clients will be offered a taste early this fall!