Monday, July 21, 2008

The Essence of Training - by Fred Fornicola

Many of us who own computers and have access to the Internet will visit websites on many topics of personal interest - which I’m sure training is one of them. There are an infinite number of sites geared toward all types of resistance training, as well as information on conditioning, nutrition, grip training, bodyweight only training, strands, kettlebells and so on. Upon finding these many areas of interest within the dynamics of the field of health and fitness however comes a common theme that always emerges – one that seems to have done more harm than good. I am always very intrigued when I read or hear someone recommending advice on any topic. I often wonder what the basis is for their response and if they really, truly understand what it is they are commenting on. This, of course, happens quite frequently in the field of health and fitness with the barrage of books, magazines, Internet sites and publications - just like this one. Amazingly enough though, even with the all the information that is available, most individuals still remain in the dark as to why it is they “do what they do”. Maybe that’s the problem – too much information to sift through, especially on an ongoing basis. Month after month, year after year people blindly and without question follow the latest diets, workouts of the stars and trends in fitness to be aimlessly led like sheep to slaughter. The best part is they highly recommend whatever it is they are doing -- or better yet, heard about -- to all their friends and family based on the foundation that either 1) Johnny Guru is using it, 2) some Hollywood hunk looked ripped in a movie or 3) some chicks ass looks hot now from some four hour workout she does with her soon-to-be-famous (and overpaid) trainer. In either case, no one has the slightest clue as to whether it works or is even worth mentioning.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin

Too often in today’s fitness world there is an overabundance of misleading information that seems to reek more havoc than good - actually failing miserably at providing some sense of solution. Most individuals who are searching to find what is “best” or “optimal” are given guidance by those who merely regurgitate what someone else prescribed, or will echo advice based on what they think they know to be right – albeit way off base. This industry has become one that is 90% opinion and 10% science, and because of these off-base recommendations espoused by “those-in-the-know” many will become caught up in experimenting with the latest fads, trends, “new magical discoveries” and labor endlessly over all the little intricate reasons of “why” a particular lifting strategy may or may not work. Because of this direction, it has made it more and more difficult for anyone to truly understand what is and isn’t an effective means of training, usually because they fail to have a true understanding of what an effective approach to fitness entails. Unfortunately, the so-called magical discovery becomes the focal point for many trainers and trainees alike, and usually causing one to lose sight of what is truly important: the actual training itself. If this kind of thing happens to these “experienced” individuals, just imagine how devastating and paralyzing all this information is to the beginner? Regardless of age or experience, we are all beginners in some capacity every time we undergo a new endeavor. The challenge, however, is in knowing how to circumvent your way through all the crazy turns based on what experience has taught us by using our noggins for more than a hat rack. If people took the time to use their intellect to evaluate information instead of being lured in by the many people or groups who claim to have the answers to all the important questions, there would be less time wasted laboring over what will produce the best results.

“The desire to know is natural to good men.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Now, my personality is such that I like to understand why things happen. I don’t necessarily need to get down to the last nut and bolt, but I do strive to have as good a comprehension about things as my gray matter will allow. I ask many questions (too many at times which many of my peers can attest to) with the goal of learning “why” – not mimicking what is told to me. I have had the great fortune of speaking with many individuals who truly understand and know training. The funny thing is, none of them ever get caught up too much in the science and research or what they think may work, they just tell you what they know to be true – straight forward, like it is, no bullshit. These guys understand “the essence” of high intensity training which, when you get right down to it, is simple to comprehend yet missed by many. Our discussions are often about how so many individuals are misguided and confused about such a simple concept for training safely, efficiently and effectively. It has become unfortunate but the industry of strength has been so polluted by money whores, cult followers and an endless line of ignorant know-it-alls that few can filter out what is a productive approach to health and fitness. Neither I nor anyone else can give the exact specifics of how someone should train, however I do believe that there are certain criteria that needs to be met such as consistency of effort, proper form, hard work, ample rest and solid nutrition. When these principles are met they will produce gains in strength as well as conditioning while maintaining integrity to ones health - both short and long term. A simple concept of using an intense level of effort on a handful of basic exercises along with some recreational/cardiovascular activity, eating wholesome foods and having adequate rest -- all of which should be done on a routine basis -- has been a mainstay for hundreds of years. But this philosophy surprisingly is still vehemently opposed. There are no perfect routines, exercises, repetition ranges, diets, or miraculous findings that are “best” and anyone claiming otherwise is a flat out liar.

Training isn’t just about the X’s and O’s; it’s about a true understanding of the process. It’s about what takes place in the body and mind when you exercise and what benefits you receive – not how much you squat while wrapped up in a suit and knee wraps and shoving ammonia up your snoot to “get psyched”. When you bring training down to its purist form, it is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The problem is that most are frozen in one place – deathly afraid to take a step for it might not be the “perfect” approach.

“The maxim "Nothing avails but perfection" may be spelled "Paralysis." - Winston Churchill

Training for strength and fitness should be an individual journey that needs to be discovered on one’s own. Making mistakes are a part of life, let alone in your training so trying to have a flawless approach will only provide time wasted which could be better spent learning from doing. Discover the “essence of training”; realize that “necessity is the mother of invention” and that there are no restrictions when you set your mind on your goals. Uncover the freedom of training that enables you to enjoy “the process” and the benefits of your efforts. Recognize and learn that “simple” is the solution to a healthy and strong life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Fred Fornicola

Physical Culture
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Monday, July 14, 2008

The Way I See It! - By Tom Kelso

Used with permission from the editor of High Performance Training Newsletter

The way I see it is there are 10 hard and fast rules of strength training and they are:

1) Be compliant and work hard.

Provided the “X’s” and “O’s” are in place, simply making a concerted effort to “do something,” do it on a regular schedule, and do it as hard as you can at the time will go a long way to maximizing your potential. It’s 80% of the battle and the first requisite if anything is to be gained. Yes, there are specifics (type of exercises, number of reps, rep
speed, weight loads, nutritional intake, etc.), but they are secondary to showing up and exuding effort as there are literally numerous ways to train.

2) Train with intensity (of effort).

Relative to the hard work aspect of point number one, its strength training! You’re trying to create overload in the muscles, and proper overload means forcing the muscles to work
beyond their existing capacity. This is not easy and manifests itself in temporary pain, discomfort, heavy breathing, lightheadedness, etc. due to the intense effort put forth.
High reps, low reps, dumbbells, machines, one set or 3 sets, somewhere in the endeavor a high degree of effort must be expended so the recruited muscle fibers adapt and improve
their quality if maximum gains are to be obtained.

3) Be safe.

The manner by which you train is a controllable variable in your long-term health and well-being. Exercise stresses the muscles, joints, and energy systems to create a positive
adaptation to these stresses. Using proper exercise form is mandatory if one desires to train over the longterm. Proper body alignment/posture and controlled speed of movement through a safe range of motion makes the exercise safe not only during individual training sessions, but over all sessions year after year. The whole bouncing, yanking, and ballistic/explosive lifting debate ends abruptly here. Likewise, training loads, session volume, and number of training session per period need to fit so they do not over-stress and lead to chronic injuries and regression.

4) Use basic exercise movements.

One does not need to perform any complicated exercises nor a multitude of any exercise each and every workout. The “Big Four” can go a long way for the upper body: a chest push, a seated/bent-over row, an overhead push, and a pull down/pull up. Throw in another pushing and pulling angle (i.e., incline press and upright row) -- or a direct triceps and biceps exercise – and it’s still simple and time efficient. For the legs, a
multi-joint glute/quad exercise and a hamstring exercise are the bare minimum such as a squat, dead lift, or leg press and a prone/seated leg curl or stiff-leg dead lift (RDL).
A second multi-joint glute/quad exercise (i.e., lunge, single-leg squat/leg press) and direct calf work can also be added provided the total workout volume is not overly taxing.

5) If in doubt, SLOW DOWN!

Lift fast or lift slow? Who is right? The optimal speed-of-exercise camps are out there, and each espouses its own recommendations. The truth is, working to achieve a maximum number of repetitions in a set is the key to achieving optimal overload, regardless of exercise speed. In both cases – moving intentionally fast and slow,
significant recruitment of muscle fibers will occur if one simply attempts to achieve maximum repetitions in the set. But here’s the key point of this issue: too fast creates too much momentum and lessens the tension on the muscles and increases the risk of muscle/joint trauma due to the excessive acceleration (and consequent deceleration). So, if in doubt, SLOW DOWN! You will not SAFELY recruit the higher threshold fiber types any better when moving a resistance fast as compared to moving it slower. Move fast outside the weight room if you’re a an athlete practicing a sport (which by the way can result in injury, and often times does, but it is a risk you take when you play

6) Use a reasonable volume of training.

As mentioned in point number 4 above, there is no need to perform a high volume of exercises per session. This holds true for exercise sets. A 1 to 3 sets/exercise protocol is within reason and should be the guiding rule to create muscle overload. It’s effective, time-efficient, and also facilitates recovery because the body doesn’t have to deal with
unnecessary stress bouts and energy depletion. Similarly, very intense training sessions require a few days to fully recover from, therefore two to three sessions per week should be the limit. If more people trained harder and took an extra day of recovery between these more intense sessions, there would be more muscle visible in the world.

7) Vary the number of repetitions.

Proper strength training should involve significant resistance to recruit and fatigue targeted muscle fibers. It is not advisable to perform hundreds of repetitions in an exercise set as the resistance needed for this would be too light and inadequate for creating muscle tension and overload. Because research is mixed on the exact number of repetitions needed for specific types of development (i.e., maximum strength, quick strength [explosion], increased muscle size, and extended force output [muscular endurance]), a wide range of repetitions can be used. A reasonable range of repetitions
would be from four to twenty five, used systematically to enhance muscle capacity over the course of individual training period segments and the training year.

8) Vary exercises and workout day formats.

Proper strength training can be a grind due to its stressful nature, therefore to add variety to training, rotate exercises between workouts and alter the workout day formats throughout the training year. Examples: leg presses for workout A, barbell or
machine squats for workout B, and dead lifts for workout C. Wide grip pulldowns for the upper back on workout 1, chin ups on workout 2, and close grip pulldowns on workout 3. Train ten weeks doing total body on Monday, upper body on Thursday, and lower body on Friday. For the next 8 weeks, switch to a total body workout every fourth day.
Bottom line: use a variety of exercises and training day formats, but maintain consistency and progression.

9) Use sensible nutritional intake.

The good ole days of recommending fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, complex
carbohydrates, and adequate hydration seem to have been be lost as there are a gazillion ergogenic aids and supplements are on the market. All are purported to enhance some elusive quality, namely increased muscle mass, strength, energy and/or leanness. They cost money, but so do trips to the local supermarket to obtain regular food products
which we all have to do anyway. No one wants to hear this because it’s boring, but if a person eats sensibly – that is, eats balanced meals derived from the four food groups obtainable at the supermarket and gets enough calories to support whatever is desired (i.e., weight gain, loss, maintenance) – that in itself should be sufficient to reach their goal.

10) Accept your body type and genetic limitations.

Last but not least is the genetic issue. I saved this for the end purposely as it is the greatest reality check of them all: you’re stuck with your body type and genetic endowment no matter how much you wish it could change. Thirty years ago I was 5’-9”,
weighed approximately 155 to 160 pounds, and could maybe do 185 pounds for 10 repetitions in the bench press before I started serious strength training. Fifteen years ago, I was 5’-9”, weighed approximately 193 to 197 pounds, and could do 225 pounds for 9 repetitions in the bench press due to hard, consistent, and progressive training. Currently, I’m 5’-9”, weigh approximately 185 to 190 pounds, and can do 225 pounds for 6 repetitions due to the fact I’m 47 years old and trying to hang on to continued consistent, progressive training. I hate to admit it, but I’m on the down-side. My shoulder bone/ligament structure isn’t going to change, I’m stuck with a 5’-9” frame, but my body composition and strength levels can vary depending on how I train. My point is you’re not going to make any major transformations in your strength and physique once you make the initial commitment and tap into your genetic potential. The key is to accept what you have and train intelligently within its confines.

Physical Culture
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A New Book by Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola

Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids

An interview with co-author, Fred Fornicola

By Rick Rignell

Fred Fornicola contacted me recently with some very exciting news about a new book project he and Matt Brzycki have in the works. With their first collaboration, Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness hitting 10,000 copies sold in just a little over two years, Matt and Fred are teaming up again, but this time their focus is on the fitness of America’s youth. Fred wanted to discuss their latest project with me, Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids so I put together a little interview to pick Fred’s brain about the many different aspects that he and Matt tackle in their book. There is probably no better way to glean insight into Fred’s thoughts and feelings about the health of America’s kids and what this new book is about than discussing specific aspects of youth fitness with Fred. The following is my interview with co-author, Fred Fornicola.

Rick: There are few, if any, books out there that address the topic of youth fitness. What inspired you and Matt to write this book?

Fred: This book has been something Matt and I have been discussing off and on for a couple of years now. It’s a topic that is important to us for several reasons. First and foremost, we each have a kid (my daughter Alexa is 13 and Matt’s son Ryan is 11) and as parents, we both feel it’s important for our kid’s to be physically active so they can experience good healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. Secondly, as individuals in the field of fitness, we understand the value of what a well-rounded fitness program can offer a youth and we hope to help influence parents, coaches and teachers that there is a need for youth fitness to be taken more seriously. That is why we cover topics such as strength training, cardiovascular exercise, nutrition, flexibility, childhood diabetes and obesity, as well as other issues that are related to youth health and fitness.

Rick: I’m a High School Physical Education teacher, working with students ages 14-18. One disturbing trend that I’ve seen over the years is what I call a “fitness gap.” On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got kids who are athletic and very fit, and on the other end, you have kids that are very unfit and inactive. There seems to be little in between. Have you noticed this trend also?

Fred: Absolutely Rick and it’s a disturbing observation for sure. When I was a kid I played outside all the time, participated in organized and informal sports and stayed active. Kids today are very sedentary. They spend way too much time watching TV, staring at a computer screen and “texting”. It seems as though only kids that are serious about sports participate in an exercise program. These kids seem to understand the value of what a fitness program can provide; not only for their health but their athletic career as well. Then you have the other end of the spectrum where kids think “why bother, I’m not involved in sports” so they don’t think they need to stay with a formalized program and end up do nothing remotely physical. This, of course, is a huge mistake and is now becoming a major problem for today’s kids. Every kid needs to exercise to promote overall good health. And we can’t turn a blind eye to the rising rate of child obesity and diabetes. It’s a very sad state of affairs and it’s increasing to epidemic proportions and it needs to be addressed on many levels – and right now!

Rick: Because so many kids are in such poor shape, it can be challenging to get them involved in a fitness program without turning them off. Do you have any strategies for dealing with this challenge?

Fred: It’s been my experience Rick that in dealing with young kids (and adults as well), a fitness program needs to meet a kids needs physically, mentally and emotionally. In doing so, we as parents and fitness professionals need to do our “due diligence” and learn as much as we can so we can offer our kids every opportunity to make their fitness program one that can be enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. Most importantly, we need to make it so a kid will want to be consistent in performing their exercise. There are several things you can do to get a kid moving. Something as simple as having them go for walks or getting involved in organized activities can be a start. A great way to get them going is to have them get an “exercise buddy”. Having a training partner makes working out more fun and can offer some friendly competition. Also, there’s a tendency for each participant to feel a sense of obligation to the other and therefore there is a greater likelihood of each staying with the program. If a friend isn’t available, it’s a great time for a parent, teacher or coach to step in and participate in the youth’s fitness program.
A good way to get a kid to stay with an exercise program is to offer a condensed plan that is simple and straight forward. When it comes to strength training, I often use a simple approach that has been quite successful over the years. I subscribe to what I have found to be an effective philosophy which requires a youth to perform two or three full-body workouts each week. Each of these sessions generally last no more than 30 minutes. In recommending this approach, most kids can squeeze exercise into their academic, personal and social lives and they can mentally handle training for 30 minutes or less a couple times each week. It’s important to recognize that although the training sessions are brief, they can be very effective for improving strength, cardiovascular health and flexibility if done correctly. Matt and I have spent many years training people and getting young individuals involved in fitness and we discuss in our book, in detail, our concepts along with additional ideas of how to use various types of equipment, training protocols and much more so kids will want to exercise – and stick with it.

Rick: One thing that I’ve noticed with my Physical Education classes is that the majority of the student’s, fit or unfit, seem to enjoy strength training. Do we emphasize strength training enough as a youth fitness activity?

Fred: I believe there are more efforts being made to expose young people to strength training, but as you know, there is a lot more to it than just walking into a gym and picking up a weight. There are many aspects of strength training that need to be considered. Initially, a kid needs to be taught proper form so they don’t become injured and since there are many takes or opinions on what proper form entails, Matt and I prescribe specifics that have worked for us over several decades of training ourselves and others – especially the kids. In addition, a program needs to be devised that will be effective for that particular youth along with determining what equipment is suitable to their structure and their needs. In conjunction, they also need appropriate supervision.
As you know Rick, there are countless philosophies and methodologies when it comes to fitness –strength training in particular – and therefore there are some confusing issues. It’s unfortunate, but there are many myths and misconceptions propagated in the field of fitness and the various information that is disseminated can be paralyzing to parents, coaches and kids. There are many different approaches to strength training as you know - some being very good and others being downright dangerous – and when we’re dealing with young people especially, safety is the number one consideration. We must keep in mind as well that strength training is just one aspect of becoming physically fit. There are other components that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis for a kid to have a well-balanced action plan.

Rick: Many kids seem to have developed the mentality that “if it’s uncomfortable, I have to stop.” Obviously, we don’t want to injure kids, but productive training can involve some discomfort. How do we work around that mentality?

Fred: Great question Rick and I agree completely, productive training is challenging, but anything worth while usually is. As you accurately pointed out, we certainly don’t want anyone getting injured and as we both know, strength training is a great way of helping to prevent injury. But hard and productive training can be performed safely and is a learned process that can take some time. Being “uncomfortable” is one of the by-products, if you will, of training and when inhibitors like discomfort come into play, a youth has a choice to get past it or not – to improve or not. For some it may come easy, and for others it may be insurmountable for a while, either way, it can be done. A couple of years ago, Kim Wood, a 28 year veteran NFL strength coach shared with me a very valuable lesson. He told me that teaching someone to "train hard on their own" (along with using proper form) was one of the most important things I could teach. After tens of thousands of applications, I couldn’t agree more. Having a kid work hard for themselves can be a struggle at times so what I usually encourage kids to do is draw and imaginary line in the sand to represent their “comfort level”. Since getting past discomfort is more a mental aspect of exercise than a physical one, they can now focus on getting past a specific point mentally instead of physically. Now when they approach their comfort level I encourage them to cross over the line by doing just a little more than they did last time....just giving a little more of themselves than they normally would. This “crossing over the line” is a very important step for a youth to make. A kid will see that they can get past these hurdles and they experience a new-found sense of accomplishment. Having a kid do this time and time again over subsequent workouts will encourage them to work harder on their own because they’ve found the value in what they are accomplishing. Not only will they become stronger and more fit, they will also develop what we refer to as “mental toughness” and that goes far beyond the weight room in daily life.Rick: Do you see one gender as becoming less fit than the other?

Fred: That’s an interesting question, but I’d have to say no. Unfortunately, I think both genders are far from being remotely fit and therefore need to step it up with regards to their fitness. On the flip side, there are those who participate in sports and seem to focus on their fitness – at least for their “in-season” and there too it seems to be balanced between the girls and guys. I just so happen to work with more girls than boys and the girls I work with really get at it when they train – usually more so than the guys. Hey, I’m not trying to take a cheap shot at the guys here but the girls are far less hung-up on bench pressing and doing curls and just do what needs to get done.

Rick: Does exercise have to be fun, or do kids get enough of that with video games, computers, etc.?

Fred: I think exercise should be enjoyable in the sense that a kid isn’t exercising reluctantly. Making a kid do something that isn’t fun won’t build a positive or long-lasting approach to fitness and raises the chances of them becoming injured because they are less focused. There are many ways for kids to be fit and athletic and we need to expose kids to as many aspects of safe, efficient and effective fitness practices as possible. This way, a kid can develop his or her own means of staying in shape and have it be a part of their life forever.

Rick: I remember having teachers and coaches who were not only great role models, but great fitness role models. Do kids today have enough good fitness role models?

Fred: That’s a tough question to answer. Honestly, I don’t know. There is no one of notoriety that I can think of but I do feel that ideally, it should be the parents who are the role models. Like everything else that’s involved with raising a kid, education starts in the home. Teaching kids about exercise and eating right can’t be a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy that will work. Keep in mind it’s the parents who are the ones that go to the food stores and the drive-thru’s. They have the choice of buying healthy, wholesome foods or foods that aren’t nutritious. In conjunction, those responsible on the school level may need to address physical fitness with more “oomph”. Gym and health classes don’t seem to have the same positive impact they did years back. Kids nowadays seem to view gym as a “break between classes” and I think that P.E. and Health deserve the same respect as any other subject in school. Kids just don’t seem to see the value in what is being offered and are suffering because of it.

Rick: What can parents do to help their kids become more fit?

Fred: Like I mentioned, parents need to “lead by example.” I believe that if parents are exercising and eating nutritious foods they are exemplifying good habits and it is a great way to help their kids become more involved in a healthy fitness regimen. Seeking out a qualified fitness professional is another step in the right direction as well. Parents can also become more informed about what is involved in planning a sound fitness program by reading, but as I stated earlier, there is a lot of information out there and a lot of it can be contradictory. Matt and I wanted to share what we’ve learned over several decades of being involved in physical fitness and feel we put our best foot forward in doing this book. We cover the many aspects of what is involved in developing a well-rounded fitness program and offer insight and recommendations on what it takes to help shape America’s kids.
Rick: Thanks for the interview, Fred. Thanks for the work that you and Matt are doing to promote fitness in general, and youth fitness in particular. Best of luck with the new book!
Fred: Rick, it was my pleasure.

Rick Rignell, MA, CSCS
Physical Education Teacher and Strength Coach
Anoka High School – Anoka, Minnesota

Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America’s Kids is being sold at Barnes & Noble and Border’s book stores as well as on-line at, Barnes and and other fine stores. Orders through Premiere Personal Fitness will be autographed by the authors.

Physical Culture
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Friday, July 4, 2008

START YOUR ENGINES: The ABC's of Sports Nutrition - by Nancy Clark

Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD July 2008

START YOUR ENGINES: The ABC's of Sports Nutrition

Eating a performance-enhancing diet isn't easy, and for many athletes and active people, nutrition is their missing link. If that's your case, here are a few ABC’s to get you started on the path to winning with good nutrition.Always eat breakfast; it's the meal of champions! Within three hours of waking, fuel-up for a high-energy day. Not hungry in the morning?

Trade evening snacks for a nice breakfast the next day.Breakfast of champions? I vote for whole grain cereal + milk + fruit—an easy, wholesome, carb-protein combination. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel-up and refuel your muscles. Do not “stay away from” pasta, potato, bread, bagels and other carbs that have wrongly been deemed “fattening.” Excess fat gets easily converted into body fat, but not carbs.Dehydration needlessly slows you down, so plan to drink extra fluids before you exercise. The kidneys require about 45 to 90 minutes to process fluids. Allow time to tank up, eliminate the excess, and then drink again pre-workout. Energy bars are more about convenience than necessity. Bananas, yogurt, fig cookies and granola bars offer convenient fuel at a fraction of the price. But if you prefer the convenience of bars, try Zing Bars ( Yum! Food is fuel--not the "fattening enemy" as some weight-conscious athletes believe. If you obsess about food and weight, find a local sports dietitian at

Gatorade and other sports drinks are designed to be used by athletes during extended exercise, not as a lunch or snack beverage.Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, as characterized by light-headedness, fatigue, and inability to concentrate) is preventable. To eliminate an afternoon energy lag/drop in blood sugar, enjoy a hearty snack between lunch and dinner. Iron-rich foods, needed to prevent anemia, include beef and dark meat chicken (thigh, leg). If you eat neither of those, choose iron-fortified breakfast cereals (Raisin Bran, Wheaties). Read the cereal label, and note all natural brands (Kashi, granola) offer little iron.Junk food can fit into your sports diet in small amounts. That is, you don't have to have a “perfect diet” to have a good diet.

Target a diet that is 90% quality foods and, if desired, 10% foods with marginal nutritional value—sports drinks (refined sugar), birthday cake, chips, etc..Keep track of calories if you want to lose weight. You'll reduce body fat only if you create a calorie deficit. A popular website for tracking food intake is Adding on exercise can help with fat loss IF the exercise contributes to a calorie deficit. (But the more you exercise, the more you might eat…)Lifting weights is the key to building muscles. For energy to lift weights, you need extra carbohydrates. To support muscular growth, eat adequate (but not excessive) protein. Each muscle-building meal should be mostly carbs, with a side of protein, as opposed to mostly protein with minimal carbs. Muscles store carbs as glycogen; glycogen depletion is associated with fatigue. Along with each one ounce of glycogen, muscles store about 3 ounces of water. Expect to gain 2 to 4 pounds of (water) weight when you carb-load. Never eat an untried engineered sports food before an important competition. You may discover it settles poorly and hurts your performance. The website of competitive events indicate what foods and fluids will be available on the course. Find out in advance, so you can experiment during training!

Olive oil is heart-healthy, reduces inflammation, and helps absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Although excess calories from oil (and other fats) are fattening, a little bit of olive oil on salads and with cooking adds taste and health benefits. Protein is an important part of a sports diet, needed for recovery from hard workouts. But protein should be the accompaniment and carbs the foundation of the recovery meal. Make that a carb shake with a little protein (not a protein shake with a little carb).

Quality nutrition is found in natural foods. Be sure there are some apple cores and banana peels mixed in with the litter from your engineered foods and energy bar wrappers...Rest is an important part of a training program; your muscles need time to heal. Plan one or two days with little or no exercise per week. Expect to feel just as hungry on days with no exercise; depleted muscles require extra food to refuel. Sweet cravings are a sign you've gotten too hungry. Experiment with doubling your breakfast and lunch (and halving your dinner). You'll have more energy, better workouts—and far less desire for sweets. Thinner does not equate to being a better athlete—if the cost of being thin is skimpy meals and poorly fueled muscles. Focus on being fit and healthy--not just sleek and slim (but starving). Urine that is dark colored and smelly indicates you need to drink more fluid. If you are well hydrated, you will eliminate pale-colored urine every 2 to 4 hours.

Vegetarian athletes who do not eat meat need to include a substantial portion of plant protein at each meal. Peanut butter on a bagel, hummus with pita, and beans in chili are just a few suggestions.Weight is more than a matter of will power; genetics plays a role. Forcing your body to be too thin is abusive.Xtra vitamins are best found the "all natural" way: in dark colorful vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peppers, tomatoes and carrots, or in fresh fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberries and kiwi. Chow down! Yes, even you can optimally fuel your engines. The trick is: Don't get too hungry. When too hungry, you'll likely grab the handiest (but not the healthiest) food around. Zippy and zingy--that's how you'll feel when you fuel with premium nutrition. Eat well and enjoy your energy!

For personalized nutrition help, consult with a registered dietitian (RD) who is a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD). Use the referral network at to find your local food coach.

Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual exercisers
and competitive athletes at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-383-6100).

Her NEW 2008 Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook 4th Edition, and her Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist’s Food Guide are available via See also for online education.

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports Nutrition Services (books, powerpoint, handouts) (Chicago, Indy, Detroit)

NEW 2008 Edition-Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions
Cyclist's Food Guide: Fueling for the Distance

Healthworks, 1300 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill MA 02467
Phone: 617.795.1875 Fax: 617.795.1876

"Helping active people win with good nutrition."

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Vintage Bodybuilding Literature

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
Oldtime Strongman Books

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