Fitness Mailbag: September 25th, 2012

Over the last few days, I have taken some fitness and nutrition-related questions from my Twitter followers (I can be found on Twitter @anguscertified).

Read on to find out my thoughts on protein shakes, playing sports as a vegetarian, why grains are evil, some Gary Roberts-type workouts for the ‘Regular Joe,’ and more.

@anguscertified I have one. What is a good replacement for skipping the rope? My basement ceilings are too low.

— Michael Fabrig (@gotitotti) September 25, 2012

Skipping rope is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do. Not only does it get the heart rate up quite quickly, but it teaches coordination, proprioception, and it works the entire body. Try skipping rope for a few minutes straight and tell me what part of your body doesn’t hurt. The second great thing about skipping rope is the rope itself – a fraction of the cost of most other exercise equipment, and extremely portable.

That being said, Michael wants a way to get his cardio in without a skipping rope. Here is what I would recommend to Michael – a bodyweight circuit.

Do the following for three to five rounds, either timing each set or use reps (since it is bodyweight you may have to have your rep range in the 12-18 area to fatigue the muscles)

  1. Squats
  2. Pushups
  3. Side Lunges
  4. Side Bridge rotations
  5. Jump squats or knee tucks
  6. Walkouts/inchworms
If you need any tips on how to do any of the above movements, don’t hesitate to ask. The exercises increase in difficulty, so you are warm by the time the more taxing exercises are introduced. A bodyweight circuit is more of a cardiovascular challenge than a muscular challenge, and it gets the heart rate up just like skipping rope does.

 From world-renowned nutritionist Ori Hofmekler:

First off, after training your muscle becomes temporarily insulin resistant. That’s due to tissue micro-injuries which impair the mechanism that utilizes glucose in your muscle. Putting a high glycemic fuel in your muscle right after exercise will jeopardize energy utilization and disrupt your insulin sensitivity. High glycemic fuel includes all kinds of sugars, dried fruits and refined flour.

One of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that an insulin spike is necessary for boosting protein synthesis in the muscle. The truth is quite different. The real factor is not insulin spike but rather insulin sensitivity.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the end of the world if you get your protein in before or after a workout. Some people don’t feel like having a shake right after a workout, while others don’t like the feeling of working out right after gulping one down. Right now I have a big glass of water and some dark chocolate before my workout, and wait about 30 minutes after lifting to get my protein in (usually with a scoop of peanut or almond butter to get some healthy fats).

The key is getting foods dense in calories into your system to provide and sustain energy throughout your activity/sport. Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez is a vegetarian, as is Houston running back Arian Foster. Football is extremely demanding on the body. Being a vegetarian limits your food choices, but it is only a minor hurdle to overcome. Gonzalez found that out:

After reading up on vegan-friendly recipes, Gonzalez found the right balance. Though he had more than enough money to buy any foods he wanted, Gonzalez still wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of spending through the nose on groceries. Instead, his grocery bills stayed about the same, but the check at restaurants got slashed with no $50 porterhouse steaks on his plate. Gonzalez says he now focuses on produce when constructing his meals. He loads up on berries, bananas and mangoes, fresh vegetables and milk alternatives like rice milk or hemp milk, then blends them into what he calls “power smoothies.”



Moderation is key. Learn what foods work with you, and find ways to make them so they taste good and are portable. I’d start with nuts (brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, and so on). Don’t buy the energy bars from the store – they are full of sugar and are nothing more than glorified candy bars.

Yes, definitely. Roberts focuses on function over “looking good.” That being said, you will look good if you work out and eat like he preaches. In general, focus on exercises that have a direct correlation to your sport. For hockey, that is core strength, lower body strength and explosiveness, and mobility in a variety of planes.

I’d recommend a basic strength program (lift heavy weights one or two times per week, focusing on squats and cleans) and hammer home your mobility work. Try a yoga class or two, as well. It is amazing what a little extra mobility can do (and don’t mock yoga as a strength builder, either).

Here are some exercise ideas from Roberts and Nike Hockey. Mix these in to your days at the gym.

Work on getting some strength and explosive power in your legs, hips, and core. The arms and wrists are important, but you will build strength naturally there if you are lifting heavy weights and doing exercises like lunges, squats, and dynamic work for the core.

Here are a few exercise suggestions:

  • Medicine ball wall tosses (core strength, hip power)

  • Deadlift (everything)
  • Squats (legs, hips)
  • Lunges (legs, hips)
In general, I’d place a focus on lower body strength, power, and rotational core work for a month or two and see if that translates over to a harder and quicker shot.

Where to start?

The definitive guide to grains.

And as for the nutritional value of grains? First off, they aren’t the complete nutritional sources they’re made out to be. Quite the contrary, grains have been associated with minerals deficiencies, perhaps because of high phytate levels. A diet high in grains may also reduce the body’s ability to process vitamin D.The definitive guide to dairy.

The definitive guide to dairy.

Whether you include or exclude it from your diet, the decision must be borne from a review of the available literature (Cordain v. Weston Price, for example) with an assessment of the potential risks and benefits, followed by a personal assessment of dairy’s effect on your body (try it, then strictly eliminate it, and note the differences). If you’ve been eating dairy your entire life, your body doesn’t know anything else. In that case, you’ll want to fully drop it for at least a month to get an accurate assessment. Remember – pre-Primal, you probably “felt fine” eating grains and sugar every day. You may have to take the same approach if you really want to figure out what dairy does to you.

The definitive guide to sugar.

 Sugar comes in many forms of course, and each of these leaves a certain amount of damage and destruction in its path. Yet, what do we do when sugar naturally accompanies some of the healthiest fare out there? Do we forgo it altogether when a touch ties an otherwise good Primal recipe together? Are the typical substitutions any better when we choose to use a sweetener? We’ve covered the artificial options in the past, but today I’ll give several natural varieties of sugar their due – the obligatory facts, the practical details and a final Primal analysis.

For me, I cut out grains and dairy because I feel much better without them. I sleep better, I can work out harder, I am in better shape, and I have more sustained energy throughout the day. It won’t be easy to cut them out – perhaps start small and limit a different item each day or week.