Friday, July 30, 2010

HRM (Heart Rate Monitors)

As soon as you start getting serious with any cardiovascular activity (be it running, elliptical, cycling etc.), the first thing you need to do is stop and take a stock of your activity level.

Are you doing the cardio too slow?  A cardio activity that does not push your heart rate will not yield any positive results.

Are you doing it too fast? You will burn out and run the risk of injury and other complications.

In order to ensure that you are getting the benefit of your cardio exercise, you must make sure you are doing it in the target heart rate zone.

That begs the question. What is my target heart rate zone? The target heart rate zone for each person is dependent on age and fitness level. Use this calculator to determine the target heart rate zone for you. When I plugged in my age and my fitness level, I got my target heart rate results. When I am doing any cardio activity, my heart rate should be between 105bpm and 140bpm. That's my target heart rate zone. (Note: bpm=beats per minute).

The next question is how do I monitor my heart rate?. Most modern treadmills and other cardio-equipment comes with built in heart rate monitors. You place your palms on the HRM sensors and the machine takes a reading of your heart rate. I find 2 problems with this approach:
1. The sensors do not give a very accurate reading because your heart rate is measured using the readings from your palms. And as we all know, palms are a long distance away from our heart.
2. You need wrap your palms around the sensors at regular intervals to get updated readings. This is not very practical - especially if you are running vigorously.

The best way of determining your heart rate is to use a heart rate monitor. These devices come with a strap (containing the sensor) and a watch that receives the signal and displays the results. Advanced models can keep track of your history, calories burned, and even have a GPS chip (such as the Polar RS800CX) to keep accurate history of your exercise data.

Personally, I use the entry-level Polar RS100. But don't let the low price fool you. It is actually quiet a nifty device. Before using the device you need to setup the following data.
1. Weight
2. Height
3. Birth-date (Notice that you don't input the age. Inputting the birth-date allows the computer to compute your age accurately).
4. Max Heart rate (The default is the standard based on the simple formula of 220 minus your age. In my case, that's 175)
5. Resting Heart rate (You need to calculate this immediately after waking up. Use this guide to compute your resting heart rate).

The computer calculates your ideal heart rate ranges, but also allows you to override these values, if you so choose.

Once everything is setup, you wet the strap (to get good conductivity) and strap it around your chest with the sensor right on top of your heart. You then click on the start button on your watch and start your activity. When you reach your target heart rate zone, a small heart will start blinking telling you that your heart is ticking along nicely. If you increase your intensity and go beyond your limits, a beep will go off alerting you to slow down. The beeping will continue as long as you stay above the limits.

Another advantage of the Polar brand of heart rate monitors is that most professional cardio equipment that you find in the gym are compatible with the Polar heart rate straps. That means that these machines can detect the strap and show the heart rate readings directly on the big display. That can be very useful when you are concentrating on your exercise and don't have the time to look at the watch.

Somehow, this article reminded me of Celine Dion's "My heart will go on". If you are feeling nostalgic, click this link to relive the Titanic theme song on YouTube.

After writing the above article, I had a perfect opportunity to give my Polar RS100 a workout. I have not used it for quiet some time since I know the zone in which I normally run hence I don't use it on a daily basis.

The event was my weekly Saturday morning half-marathon run. I went to the gym with the goal of completing the half-marathon in under 2 hours as I had missed this goal by just 2 minutes last week.

I strapped on the HR monitor and started my run. At the end of the run, the data from the RS100 is as follows:
Duration of Activity: 1 hour 56 minutes and 16 seconds
Average heart rate: 144bpm (82% of max)
Limits: 114 - 149
In Zone: 1 hour 35 minutes and 15 seconds
Above Zone: 19 minutes 56 seconds
Below Zone: 1 minute 5 seconds
Calories burned: 1462 (Fat % 35)

Based on the actual data, It took me just 1 minute to enter the HR zone and since the average is 144, I was essentially in the upper end of the zone the entire duration of nearly 2 hours. I was checking the HR on the watch and it was switching between the range of 140 bpm to 145 bpm. A strange thing that I noticed is that every time I took a sip of Gatorade, the HR would drop to 140 and then steadily climb to 145. Guess it has something to do with the shock of cold drink hitting the body. During the last 30 minutes, I pushed myself and essentially was above my desired zone (known as the Red Zone). That is okay for me as I am experienced in running and used to pushing myself. Beginners should not do this, of course.

I also had my Nike+ sensor tracking my run and the details from the Nike+ sensor shows the actual run in graphical form.

The interesting thing to note here is the calories burned as computed by the Nike+ sensor. 1565 calories. There is a difference of about 100 calories compared to the calculations by the HR monitor. In this case, I would give more preference to the values from the HR monitor as they are based on the actual heart beat rate while the Nike+ sensor computes based on the distance run.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Running a 5K in under-20 minutes.

Just as a good movie plot will have sub-plots to keep one occupied, I find that my main objective of attaining a six-pack has resulted in many sub-objectives. For example, I am now determined to do a muscle-up,  single-legged squats and other tough exercises which I had previously considered beyond my capabilities. While I am not so sure whether I will ever be able to achieve those objectives, there is one objective that I feel I can aim for - and achieve; with proper training and diet.

This new objective is to complete a 5 kilometer run in under 20 minutes. You may wonder what is special about running a 5K in less than 20 minutes. Let's just say it's pretty darn hard. World class runners run the 5K in around 13 minutes, professional runners will need 14-15 minutes while college-level runners will need 16-17 minutes. For amateurs, a sub-20 minute run is indeed an achievement. This interesting thread on discusses the challenges and achievements of those who could do the sub-20 minute run, and those who wish to achieve this objective.

When I first started running, I was very happy when I could do a 5K run in 30 minutes (meaning I was running at 10kph for the entire duration of the run). I slowly managed to reduce the time till I was comfortable doing the 5K in 25 minutes (running at 12kph). Once I started the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), I found that I could decrease the time required to complete the 5K - especially after I started with the Asafa Powell training. Just 4 days back, I finished the 5K in a personal best time of 22:39. And yesterday, I bettered that by running it in 22:14. Cutting another 2 minutes and 14 seconds is not going to be easy. It will require specific training (think more HIIT), and mental preparation because you need to run at a constant 15kph for 20 minutes to complete the 5K in exactly 20 minutes. Currently, I am lucky if I can hold the 15kph pace for more than 1 minute.

What makes the 5K run special for me is the nature of this distance. It is not too long that you will get bored by it - and it is not too short that it gets over too quickly. It requires a perfect balance between speed and endurance to complete a 5K run. Start too slow, and you will have difficulty in doing the run in a decent amount of time. Start too fast, and you will burn out after 1 or 2 kilometers. You need to mentally prepare yourself to run at a specific pace and stay on that pace no matter what.

My new sub-objective is to run the 5k in under 20 minutes before the end of this year. Hopefully, I would have completed the main objective of a six-pack around the same time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Importance of Weight-Bearing Exercises

Few days back at the gym, I was relaxing in the Jacuzzi after an intense run on the treadmill. A friend walks in  and starts chatting with me. He must have seen me - running my heart out, because he started giving me fitness advice. His concern was that running is dangerous for me due to my age. He recommended that the best form of exercise for me would be swimming (which is what he does regularly).

I looked at his pot-belly and liberal love-handles, while deciding how seriously I should consider his advice.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against swimming. It is a good and fun way of working out. But I believe that whatever exercises we do should be relevant to what we do in real life. We are not fish and we don't live in water so I don't see much point in swimming. Of course, there is that oft chance that I will be caught in the middle of the ocean in a boat that has just capsized and no life-jacket and my swimming skills will save my life. But if I have no plans on travelling in unsafe boats without life-jackets, I don't see how swimming can be a useful skill to acquire. My Dad literally lived in the sea his entire life - mostly fishing - and he still does not know swimming.

So what are the skills that we need to acquire? Here are some examples that I encounter on a regular basis.

1. My wife calls out "Honey, can you bring down that carton?". The said carton weighs somewhere around 20-30 kilos and I say a small prayer hoping that the weight of the carton does not cause some horrible back injury.

2. We visit a friends place who happens to live on the 8th floor. The lift is out of order and we have to make a difficult choice whether to climb all the way up or just drive back home. When we decide to climb up, the small one finds it difficult to climb the stairs, and I have to carry her the rest of the way.

3. I am at the airport carousel waiting for the luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt. I wait in apprehension to pull the heavy suitcase off the conveyor wondering all the time if my spine will break while lifting the suitcase.

4. We stop the car at the signal and suddenly the engine goes kaput. I am forced to put the car into neutral and push it to the side of the road so it does not block any traffic.

5. I go to the government office for some work and spend the better part of the day walking  from one building to another trying to get 100 signatures from 100 different people.

Can you see the common theme here? Basically, our daily activities consist of walking, climbing, pushing and pulling stuff. All of these activities force us to push our body or some object against the gravity.

These, in essence, are weight-bearing activities - and if we are to do these activities in comfort, we need to do weight-bearing exercises. The definition of weight-bearing exercises is

"Weightbearing exercise is any activity you do while on your feet and legs that works your muscles and bones against gravity." Source:

Swimming, Cycling, Elliptical etc. are NOT weight-bearing exercises, because they don't stress the bones and you are not fighting gravity when performing these exercises.

Now coming back to my friends concern of me getting injured with running. Of course, there is always a risk of injury in any exercise, if not done properly. Scientific data proves that weight-bearing exercises place stress on the bones but instead of damaging the bones, our body sends its troops to fix the stressed area by increasing the bone density, making them stronger.

This is something I learned the hard way. When I first came to Kuwait, I decided to stay fit and started running. After a few weeks, my knees started paining like hell and I thought I will damage them if I continued running so I stopped - and eventually turned into an overweight person. The information that is available today  through the internet was not available at that time.

When I re-started my running program 2 years back, I did it the right way. i.e. start slow and easy. If I felt any pain, I would immediately stop and take a few days rest. But the difference this time was that I would get right back on the treadmill once I felt better. The pain disappeared and eventually, I found I could increase my running speed and time. Now I can run a half-marathon in 2 hours. That may not win me any marathon races, but to do something like that at my age is something amazing.

To conclude:
  - Swimming. It's meh. Do it if you find it fun, otherwise, give it a pass.
  - Walk/Jog/Run/Sprint/Climb or anything that forces you to push and pull (such as weight-training): It's a go!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keeping track of your body fat percentage.

Body fat should drop below 15% to reveal six-packs
Since the main objective of my current fitness routine is to get a "six-pack", it is very important to actually understand what a six-pack is. To get a six-pack, 2 things need to happen:

1. You need to gain muscle (resistance workouts).
2. You need to lose fat (cardiovascular workouts and/or dieting).

Both play an important role in getting a six-pack, but losing fat is (in my opinion) the more important criteria. That is the reason I have decided to give a higher priority to running plus nutrition and a slightly lower priority to resistance training. That does not mean that I ignore resistance training. It just means I focus on running a bit more. Of course, the fact that I enjoy running more than resistance training may have something to do with this choice of mine.

Whatever the case may be, it is necessary that we have a fair idea about how much fat we actually have in our body. According to Wikipedia, a living persons body fat percentage cannot be determine. That means whatever methods we use to know our fat percentages are only rough estimates.

Accurate estimates for determining body fat percentage rely on using x-rays or infra-reds. However, a more simpler option is to use a bio-electrical impedance machine. You find these machines in all pharmacies (at least in all the pharmacies here in Kuwait). You stand in front of the machine and firmly hold 2 electrodes in both your hands. A low-voltage electrical current is sent from one hand to the other (it doesn't hurt one bit and you don't even know that a current is being sent through your body). Some machines send a current through the legs.

The machine uses an algorithm to determine how long it took the current to pass through your body and uses that to determine your body fat percentage. In addition to giving out your fat percentage, it also gives various other indicators like height, weight, blood pressure (always a good thing to know), heart rate, etc. Here's my results from todays test.

The problem with this method of determining the body fat percentage is that it is not very accurate. Different manufactures may use different algorithms - so if you do the test on one machine, and repeat the same test on another machine (by a different manufacturer), you may get different results. The water contents in your body also affect the results from these machines.

But since this is easiest (and cheapest) method of getting a fair idea about our body fat percentage, we can use this method and monitor our fat percentage on a regular basis. I plan to do this every month in order to make sure that I am on the right track and that the body fat percentage is going down.

To keep the results consistent, I will do the test on the same machine, at the same time and ensure that the water in my body is similar every time I repeat this test.

My current index for the fat is decent and within normal range but it is nowhere near the desired level as far as a six-pack target is concerned. The fat percentage needs to drop somewhere in the range of 10% to 15%.

It's not going to be easy, but I always knew this when I took on the challenge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Calorie Counter for iPhone

Last month, I wrote about calorie counting and maintaining a food journal. I use My-Calorie-Counter database to maintain my food journal. It's easy and intuitive. So I was suitably impressed when I saw that they have released a free iPhone app. I quickly downloaded the application on the iPhone hoping that I can now keep track of my calorie progress on-the-go.

Sadly, the app is just a reference database of common foods and their nutritional data. According to their ad, the database contains data of over 34,000 food items - which is very impressive, and it is something nice to have in your pocket when you are perusing a restaurant menu deciding what to order.

But it would have been so much better if they could have integrated the app with the main database to sync my food journal. Currently, I still have to log into the website everyday to update my calorie consumption. Having the ability to update this information on the iPhone would have been ideal. In fact, I would not hesitate to pay a fair amount for such convenience.

 Hopefully, they will update the app soon to provide the ability to sync the food journal and record calorie data on-the-go.

Till then, if you just want a reference of nutritional data, and you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download the application using iTunes from here.

This is how the data pops up when you select any item.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The CrossFit Influence

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning fitness methodology that promotes broad and general overall physical fitness. It was created by former gymnast Greg Glassman. The basic idea behind CrossFit is to promote fitness for the whole body - rather than focusing on specific training. 

Why is CrossFit training relevant to me? First of all, I am too old to do the CrossFit exercises. They are just too intense. Secondly, CrossFit requires specific equipment that is not available in the general gyms (such as kettle bells, rings etc.)

But I am a big fan of their basic philosophy for body conditioning and nutrition. Here are some of their key values that I adhere to.

1. Keep the body guessing: The basic principle of CrossFit training is that you never let your body know what you are about to do to it. You get up each morning, log on to the CrossFit Website and find out what is the prescribed exercise for that day. The exercises are listed in cryptic codes such as Fran, Nasty Girls, etc. You need to do your homework to figure out what you actually need to do to complete these exercises. 

How does this benefit our body? Well, when you do random exercises, you never let your body get adjusted and the body needs to keep adjusting (i.e. get fitter) to keep up with these exercises. Imagine if you ran 5 kilometers every day. Initially, you will find excellent results as your body tries to cope with you running such a long distance. But after a while, your body will get conditioned to this run and you will see no further progress in your fitness. So you need to keep changing your routine and keep the body guessing to gain maximum results.

2. Focus on the whole body: CrossFit requires that you get proficient in ten different domains (cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy). This means you don't focus on weight-lifting or running or sprinting or gymnastics. You focus on ALL of them. 

How does this benefit our body? Since we are not focusing on specific type of exercises, we become generally fit in all areas. You will not get the body of Arnold nor will you look like those anemic Olympic runners but you will have a fit & trim body. You will not win any weight-lifting competition but you should be able to do quiet well. Similarly, you will not win any long-distance races, but you will surely be there in the top finishers. You see where this is going? If you objective is not to compete in events, then CrossFit is the best form of exercise for overall fitness.

3. Short Duration but Intense: Some of the CrossFit workouts can be completed in less than 5 minutes while some may require 20-30 minutes. That's all it takes and you are done for the day. While this may seem like a very easy thing to do, it is anything but. Spend 2 minutes watching this amazing clip (The guy is performing the "Fran" workout) to get an idea of how intense these exercises can get. Make sure you turn the volume all the way up!!

How does this benefit our body? The intensity of the exercises raises our metabolic rate through the roof and keeps it there long after our workout is completed. This is similar in principle to the HIIT workout that I wrote about earlier.

4. Nutrition: CrossFit diet recommends a 40:30:30 break-up of the 3 main macro-nutrients (40% Carbohydrates, 30% Proteins, and 30% Fat). These should come from garden vegetables (especially greens), lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch and no sugar. That's about as simple as it gets. You can read more about CrossFit diet plan here.

How does this benefit our body? The recommended diet provides our body with the right balance of each macro-nutrient and ensures that our body has sufficient energy to complete the workouts and sufficient proteins to build back the damaged muscles.

Will I ever become a CrossFitter? Maybe.

The Chocolate Milk Diet

Can there really be something like a chocolate milk diet?

When I first read David Zinczenkos' article that popped in my inbox, I was a bit skeptical. After all, chocolate milk is something we associate with our kids lunch box. However, after reading the article, it made a lot of sense.

David proposes that the combination of Proteins, Calcium, Carbohydrates, fats and Vitamin D found in chocolate milk is just the ticket for good health, and a catalyst for weight loss. His proposal is to drink 3 packets of chocolate milk each day.

Three packets of 250ml (or 8 fluid ounces for those still living in the dark ages of the imperial system).

One packet in the morning, One packet just before workout and the last packet just after workout is the recommendation. Oh..and in case you thought you could just drink chocolate milk and lose weight, you were wrong. It needs to be combined with a workout session and a sensible diet.

As is usual for me, I trotted off to calorie counter database to check the nutritional data of chocolate milk to make my own judgement on the beneficial values of chocolate milk.

Nutritional Facts of Chocolate Milk.

ItemPer 250mlPer 3x250ml

In addition to the main macro-nutrients listed above, chocolate milk is also rich in Calcium, and Vitamin D - both of which are good for our bones.

The 3 packets of chocolate milk taken as prescribed constitute a full meal (474 calories) with a good break-up between Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fat. The Carbohydrates in the milk is mostly sugar, but when you have just finished your workout, your body needs quick absorbing carbs to re-energize your body and the chocolate milk provides exactly that. In addition, the proteins in the milk start working on your damaged muscles repairing and rebuilding them.

I tried chocolate milk immediately after a hard workout. As the milk flows through your body, you can feel yourself getting re-energized. It has now become my staple drink after a workout. I still haven't started the 3-packets a day diet but I may soon start it.

It makes perfect sense and taste great too!.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Outdoor Running vs Treadmill: Which is Better?

Whenever I am in Goa (India), I take every opportunity I get to run outdoors. My house is near a long stretch of lovely beach - so running there is an exhilarating experience. The cool breeze against your face, meeting friends and strangers on the way, and something different to observe each time.

But I live in Kuwait. Kuwait is a desert and the weather outside is a constant reminder that we are living in a place where humans are not supposed to live. If it is not the sand storms or the dust, then it's the heat or the chilling cold. None of this is conducive to outdoor running so I am forced to run on a treadmill.

This made me stop and ponder whether one form of running is superior to the other. I have tried to summarize the advantages of each method of running.


1. Running outdoors means you are running in a natural environment - the way we were designed to run (yes, as a species, we evolved through running/hunting/gathering. We are not designed to sit in an office for 8 hours). When running outdoors, you react to your surroundings and make split-second decisions based on the obstacles and distractions that you encounter. This type of interaction with the environment is good for our body. Even the wind makes us adapt our running style to handle the wind-resistance or wind-assistance.

2. Running outdoors is not monotonous. There is something different to observe each day. You can take different routes to make the run more interesting.

3. Running outdoors is healthier. It is always a good idea to get some fresh air in your lungs and running outdoors is a perfect opportunity to do that.


1. You are not at the mercy of the natural environment and you don't have to abort your running schedule because of rain, snow, hail, floods, dust or any other disruptions caused by Mother nature. You can set your running schedule and stick to it.

2. Running on a treadmill is safer for your joints as the treadmill is softer than the hard ground and absorbs some of the shock on the joints as you run.

3. You can run at a set pace without worrying about obstacles, or distractions and the treadmill provides useful feedback about your progress such as distance run, current pace, calories burned etc. This makes it easier to set a goal and try to achieve the goal.

4. Sometimes, the fresh air outside is overrated. In many places, it may actually be safer to run indoors.

So both methods of running have their advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, one is not superior than the other. You choose one based on your circumstances and needs.

But must!!!.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The most important meal of the day.

Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for a very good reason. Your body needs energy to fuel your day - and breakfast is the meal that should provide this energy.

A good breakfast should have a right combination of the three main macro-nutrients (carbs, proteins and fats), with the carbs playing a more important role in the early part of the day.

After experimenting with what works for me and what I like to eat, I have narrowed my breakfast choices to the following 3 options:


This breakfast of mine centers around the "Old Fashioned Quaker Oats". I prefer the "Original" version of the oats over the quick-cooking version. I cook the oats in low-fat milk over a slow fire for around 10 minutes and throw in some raisins to add some extra fiber to the meal. The oats are topped up with chunks of 1 banana.

The nutritional data of this meal is as follows:

Original Oats2004388
Low-Fat Milk1224.811.48.1

This is the breakfast that I have most of the time (3 to 4 times a week). The 490 calories constitute 25% of my daily calorie needs. The complex carbs from the Oats keeps me satiated most of the morning.


This breakfast centers around eggs. Scrambled eggs to be more exact. I mix 3 eggs in a dash of milk and cook them in a frying pan. Many people ask me if 3 eggs is a bit much. It depends on your dietary needs. You should always check with your dietitian. For me, I find 3 eggs is just right (300 calories with a solid 19.5g of protein). In order to balance the proteins with some carbs, I take 2 slices of whole wheat bread (23.2g carbs) and a glass of low-fat milk (11.4g carbs).

The nutritional data of this breakfast is as follows:

3 Scrambled Eggs29922.7319.5
Whole Wheat Bread1381.823.27.2
Low-Fat Milk1224.811.48.1

This is quite a filling breakfast. I usually have it only once or twice a week. The fat, though very high, is the good fat from the egg-yolks. Contrary to popular myth, scientific studies suggest that the fat from eggs (from the yolk) does not raise blood cholesterol levels, and that eggs are safe to consume whole. If you want to cut back on the fat, but still get the benefit of proteins from the eggs, a simple option would be to remove the egg yolk, which will make this breakfast a "high-protein", "moderate-carbs" and "negligible-fat" meal.


We all need to indulge ourselves once in a while. For me, that means eating out once a week. On Saturdays, I usually go to the gym early in the morning. On the way back, I tend to visit McDonalds and pick up their Egg McMuffin breakfast for the whole family. The Egg McMuffic sandwich, by itself, is quite a healthy option. It's the hash brown that turns this healthy breakfast into a cheat breakfast.

I choose coffee instead of their canned juices, and end up with a reasonably healthy breakfast.

The nutritional data of this breakfast is as follows:

Egg McMuffin300123018
Hash Brown1509151
Black Coffee (No Sugar)2000.3

The cheat breakfast does not appear to be that much of a "cheat meal" after all.

Of course, when it comes to breakfast, nothing beats the first option (Oats). Ever since I switched to this breakfast, I feel more alert and charged during the day. Nothing beats Oats. You just need to adapt your taste buds to its bland taste, which I guess, is difficult for most of us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I'm loving' it - but should I?

As parents of two "always-hungry" children, McDonalds has literally become our second home. My wife always wishes that they would have some kind of loyalty program because we could have collected enough miles by now to enjoy a nice round-the-world ticket for two, and perhaps a second retirement home, by the time our children get over the craze of McDonalds.

Yes. We are aware that McDonalds food is not good for them. Eating this type of food on a regular basis is a sure-fire ticket towards obesity. Unfortunately for our children, we happen to be a working couple living in a country that lives on a fast-food culture. And neither of us are good at cooking.

But is their food really that bad? McDonalds now publishes the nutritional values of all their food items. I recently picked up a copy to see what to make of it. I have segregated the data between main items, salads, dressings, and side dishes; and I have sorted the items from the most calories to the least.

Main ItemsCaloriesFat(g)Carbs(g)Protein(g)
Chicken Big Mac593324729
Spicy McChicken583354027
Qtr.Pounder w/Cheese530303828
Big Mac500264226
Veggie Burger485275010
Chicken Burger317143314
6-pcs Nuggets310131210

Chicken Ceasar Salad1574526
Green Salad118848
Caesar Salad56335

1000 Islands Dressing20517131
Caesar Dressing19415131
Light Vinaigrette400100

Side OrdersCaloriesFat(g)Carbs(g)Protein(g)
McFlurry Kit Kat34913489
Sundae Hot Fudge32311497
Sundae Caramel3197596
McFlurry Oreo29610438
Sundae Strawberry2596466
Apple Pie22012262
McFries Regular Size21010263
Icecream Cone1504234

The following items (though available at McDonalds) are not available on their nutrition sheet, so I pulled it off from the calorie counter database.

Orange Juice140-332
Coca Cola Classic(M)210-58-
Coca Cola Diet1---

They also have a Tuna salad that I eat regularly, but I can't find the nutrition information on it. But based on similar salads, I expect it to be 192 calories with 9g fat, 10g carbohydrates and 16g of protein.

So now we have all the nutritional information, what to make of it?

Well, first of all, not ALL of the food at McDonalds is bad. If you have:
   a. Chicken Caesar Salad  (157 calories). Throw the dressing away.
   b. Cheese Burger (299 calories)
   c. Diet Coke (1 Calorie)
You actually have a decent meal (457 calories) with a nice balance between Carbs (36 g or 25% of your daily allowance), Proteins (a healthy 26g) and Fat (17g or 25% of your daily allowance). A 25% portion of your daily needs makes perfect sense since it's one of your main meals.

The culprits are those where the food is fried (Chicken Big Mac, Spicy McChicken etc.) or where the food has a lot of mayonnaise and other dressings (most of the big burgers), and of course, the empty calories (fries, ice-creams and sodas).

So it is possible to eat healthy at McDonalds. It's just damn hard to do so.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Interval Running - The Asafa Powell Mix.

In my previous article on Interval Training, I mentioned the special music mixes created by Nike, using famous sports personalities. My favorite is Alberto Salazar, who is really passionate about his running and this passion is  easy to hear in the audio as he urges you to speed up or slow down till you complete the 45-minute interval sessions.

I had recently downloaded the Asafa Powell mix. This is a short 30-minute session with 4 intervals that decrease in time, but increase in tempo.

I decided to give this session a try by downloading the audio file from iTunes and then uploading the audio file on my iPhone 3GS.

I fired up the Nike+ application on the iPhone and started the 30-minute run. The 30-minute session is broken down into the following segments:


Warm up Jogging5 minutes-
Run4 minutesRun at 65% of your maximum speed
Jog4 minutesLet your heartbeat slowly recover
Run3 minutesRun at 75% of your maximum speed
Jog3 minutesLet your heartbeat slowly recover
Run2 minutesRun at 85% of your maximum speed
Jog2 minutesLet your heartbeat slowly recover
Run1 minutesRun at 95% of your maximum speed
Cool down Jogging5 minutes-

The interesting thing about this workout is how the intensity of each workout gradually intensifies till you are running full-out sprint in the last 1 minute.

Since this is a short run, I decided to do the jog at a running pace, and really push myself during the 4 intervals.

I am pretty impressed with my results of this run. It is my personal best for 30-minutes, and I also managed to complete the 5K at a personal best of 23 minutes and 17 seconds.

I could have done a bit better but the treadmill started giving me problems in the last 2 intervals - where I felt it going a bit wobbly when I tried to crank up the speed to 15kph. I decided to play it safe and reduced the speed to 14.5kph.

I will focus on this training for a few weeks to see how it goes. The great thing about it is that the workout is fast and quick - and I am free to do other things; like splashing in the pool with my kids.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Resistance Training.

Workouts can be classified under 2 categories. The first are the cardiovascular workouts (also referred to as cardio or aerobic workouts). Cardio workouts involve working out your heart & lungs to deliver more oxygen to your muscles. Examples of Cardio workouts are walking, running, swimming etc.

The second type of workouts are the resistance workouts - which involve some form of pushing or pulling using your muscles.

Just because this blog is all about running, one must not think that running (or cardio workouts) is the only game in town. As with all things in life, we need a careful balance between cardio and resistance workouts.

Let's first see the some of the benefits of resistance workouts:

1. Increased fat burning: When you do resistance training, you build muscles. Muscles are like fat furnaces. The more muscles you build, the more fat you burn. That should be reason enough for most of us to start with a resistance training regimen.

2. Increased Metabolism: More muscles mean you increase your body's metabolic rate (i.e. the speed at which your body burns energy). So as long as you have some nice muscles in your body, you can eat more and not gain any weight, because all the energy that you consume will be used by the muscles. Increase metabolism also means that you are more alert and active.

3. Increased bone density: As we grow older, our bones become brittle and frail - which results in all kinds of problems (including arthritis and other bone and joint related diseases). Resistance workouts reverse this process by increasing bone density.

Clearly there are plenty of benefits for resistance workouts. In fact, "The Cario Free Diet" book goes so far as to claim that you only need resistance workouts to get a great body and you should avoid all forms of cardio-activity as it is merely a waste of time.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a firm believer in balance in life. I neither want to look like those anemic Ethiopian runners who can run a marathon race in 2 hours but look like they have not eaten in the last 3 years - nor do I want to look like those extreme bodybuilders who walk like Godzilla - and make just as much noise.

A good strategy for a long-term fitness is to alternate between cardio and resistance workouts. For example, you can do cardio workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and do resistance workouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sunday being the rest day. The resistance workouts will build muscles while the cardio workouts will burn fat. End result: A fit and trim body.

What kind of resistance workouts should you do?

Well, it all depends on your age, physical condition and your ability to bear pain!!. The best thing is to consult a certified trainer who will gauge your condition and recommend the correct exercises. 

I do resistance workouts 3 times a week. I tend to focus on just one part of my body each day, so my schedule is something like this:

DAY 1: Chest and Biceps.
DAY 2: Back and Triceps.
DAY 3: Shoulder and Abs.

I try to include leg workouts now and then - but usually avoid them since they hamper my running. i.e. if I do strenuous leg workouts, I cannot run for the next 2 days. I know that eventually, I will have to do leg workouts on a regular basis, but for the moment, my preference is running over leg workouts.