Newsletter Volume 1, Number 22

November 23, 2006

Newsletter Archive


Are You Under-Training?

The reason I pose this question is that I have come to the conclusion that I was under-training for about one year. It has taken me one month to change over from three days weight-training to four days. At first, I was aching all over. But already, I am feeling "normal" even though I have increased my time moving the weights from 3 hours to 4 hours. That does not tell the whole story though. I now do one warm-up set, one "priming set", and three work-sets for each exercise instead of only one work set as before.

I feared over-training so much that I under-trained. Of course, the results we get reflect what we put in. Yes, I was putting in the time—3 hours moving the weights plus 1.5 hours warm up and abdominal exercises (abs), say 4.5 hours. Now, I am doing the warm ups and the abs exercises plus moving at least double the load of iron and steel— doing twice the work—in only 5 hours.

That's because it's a lot faster to do five sets of one exercise than one set of five different exercises. What I forgot to count was the time it takes to set up an exercise and the time to restore everything to its place.

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I was worried that I might not be able to cope with such a big jump in volume of exercise. Since what did happen appears to be zero—zilch—nada, I conclude that I am now training at the level that I should have been working at for the whole of last year, beginning about six months after starting at the gym.

This seems to me the sort of mental breakthrough that you read about. I am noting the date of change in my program in order to track its impact on body fat percentage and muscle development. Ok, so it has only been one month since I started. And at first, I was timid about the weights and the number of sets. But I do believe I can see a harbinger of things to come. I am dead certain that my thighs are gaining shape for the first time in my life. In high-school gym class, they called my the spider because of my skinny thighs. And like most older men, my thighs came to look like sticks. So what?

Well, thigh girth in older men is a fairly reliable predictor of mortality (death). That's what. Ouch!

Sidebar: "Priming Set": I coined this term because I have not found any reference to this technique. By accident, I found that one heavy set after the warm-up set made it possible for me to lift heavier weights for the work set. So now I do one set of 15RM for 10 repetitions, one set of 5RM for 5 reps, and three sets of 10 RM 10 for reps each. (15RM is the maximum weight that I can lift 15 times, 10RM is the max for 10 times and 5RM is the max for 5 times.) Notice that for the warm up, I only do 10 of the 15RM. This is because 15 of the 15RM would be a work set. For dips the actual weights that I am using now are: 15RM equals 41 kg (90 lbs), 10RM equals 49 kg (108 lbs) and 5RM equals 59 kg (130 lbs). Every exercise uses different weights, the only thing in common being the progression: as the weights increase by 20%, the number of repetitions decreases by five.

But Why Focus So Much on Muscle-Building? Why Not Aerobics?

Two reasons. First, we all lose muscle as we age, half a per cent per year from about age 30 to age 50 and something like one per cent per year after age 70. The consensus is that aerobics preserve the heart muscle, while strength-training preserves the skeletal muscles and the abs. However, doing supersets, as I do, with pairs of exercises—alternating between them without rest—keeps the heart rate around 65% of maximum, the most efficient fat-burning zone. Some of the exercises, such as squats push my heart rate up to about 90% of maximum. Second, I like working out in the gym, but I have other things to do with my time. This new program seems more efficient.

The moral of this story is that with a little bit of cunning, you can design a strength-training program that will give your heart a good workout.

How About Diet?

During the last 18 months, I have not attempted to cut calories but just ate carefully. I did not count calories. What happened. Not much. I lost around three kilograms (7 pounds) then deliberately gained it back two months ago in the hope of gaining some muscle. I think it worked. I am now trying to lose what I gained by cycling carbohydrate intake.

Wednesday and Sunday are normal carb days. On the other five days, I stick with fruit and vegetables plus the protein supplement, cutting all grains such as bread and rice. I allow one corn-on-the-cob with no butter or salt.

I eat both raw and cooked vegetables plain, with no butter or oil, except for a little olive oil on green salads. The natural smells and tastes of fruit and vegetables grow on you, so you begin to wonder why people plaster so much stuff on vegetables. Also, fruit juice leaves me hungry, so I eat whole fruit, usually with the skin.

I have heard that orange peel is especially rich in antiodixants, but I have not yet tried eating it, except when it has been dried or preserved.

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Oatmeal of the Instant Variety: Diabolically Deceptive

Tom Venuto advises us to eat unprocessed food (Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle). We cannot always eat the food as it comes straight from the field, but we can avoid foods that have been processed unnecessarily.

Traditionally, people ate oats that were rolled but not subjected to extra "instantizing". Now, instant oatmeal is popular but definitely does not fit Tom's prescription. The glaecemic index of instant oatmeal is almost double that of traditional oatmeal, way up there with white sugar and white bread. (Also spelled "glycemic index" or abbreviated as "GI".)

Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, David Ludwig and others, compare traditional oatmeal and instant oatmeal:

Most starchy foods commonly eaten in North America, chiefly refined grain products and potatoes, have a high GI, exceeding that of even table sugar by up to 50%. By contrast, vegetables, legumes, and fruits generally have a low GI.

On average, our obese subjects ate 81% more total energy after consuming two meals of instant oatmeal than they did after consuming two meals with the same amount of energy in the form of a vegetable omelet and fruit. In addition, they ate 53% more energy after the high-GI instant oatmeal than they did after the medium-GI steel-cut oatmeal.

PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, p. e26, American Academy of Pediatrics.

So there you have it: To control hunger, eat traditional rolled oats which has a glaecemic index of only about 50, unlike instant oats, which will leave you feeling hungry much sooner.

How to Save Time Preparing Traditional Oatmeal

My wife suggests this method for preparing traditional oatmeal. Place the oatmeal in big cup that can be covered. Add 2 parts boiling water to 1 part oatmeal and stir. Cover. Go and brush your teeth, shower and do whatever else you have to do. Come back in 20 minutes and eat your oatmeal.

                   My oatmeal porridge cup
If it's too cold or not soft enough, microwave for a minute. (You may need to experiment with the amount of water or add milk.)

I like to blend a couple of prunes in hot water to add as a sweetener, but some people make savoury breakfast by adding a little Bovril, Oxo, or Vegemite.

If you are short of time every morning, you can prepare the oatmeal the night before and warm it in the microwave before eating.

Traditional oatmeal prepared in this way has a texture similar to instant oatmeal. However, because it has not been cooked much, its glaecemic index is moderately low, about 50.

Oat Groats

The unrolled grains known as oat groats can be used as a substitute for rice or barley. You may have to soak them overnight because they have a more fibrous coat than most grains, then cook in a rice cooker. Alternatively, you can cook oat groats directly in a rice cooker, but you have to use about 1 part oat groats to 4 parts water to prolong the cooking time.

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The Science and Practice of Strength Training

I have ordered a book on strength training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky, M.D., The Science and Practice of Strength Training. I hope to review it for the next issue of this newsletter.

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How to Reduce Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs: Download free e-book

This e-book is available for downloading now. Your name and e-mail address are not required. (A new window will open with the request box at the bottom of the page.)

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Bye until December 7.
Fred Colbourne, It's never too late!
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