What Are “Good” Fats?

4 Sep

112_9_4_164232374[1]A little fat in your diet can be good for you, but not all fats are created equal.

Bad fats include trans and saturated fats.  These fats may negatively impact your health.

Bad fats:

  • raise “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
  • may lower “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • can increase the risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke.

Most trans fats are artificially produced as a result of partial hydrogenation, which is a process used to convert liquid oil to a solid.

Generally, natural trans fats are not a big concern, especially if you choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats. The real worry in the American diet is the artificial trans fats. They’re used extensively in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarines.

Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and naturally occur in foods such as meat.

Good fats, such as mono- (omega-9) and polyunsaturated (omega-3) fats are liquid at room temperature and naturally occur in many foods.  These fats have positive health benefits.

Good fats:

  • are shown to improve cholesterol levels
  • may help reduce risk factors of heart disease and stroke
  • may help reduce risk of diabetes
  • could promote healthy nerve activity
  • are shown to improve vitamin absorption
  • are required to maintain healthy immune system
  • promote cell development.

Sources of good fats include avocado; fish (especially fatty fish like salmon, trout, catfish, and mackerel); almonds; walnuts; peanuts and peanut butter; cashews; canola oil; sunflower oil; olives and olive oil; coconuts and coconut oil; seeds; and low-fat dairy.

As a rule minimize saturated fats, eliminate trans fats, and increase consumption of unsaturated fats.

Here are more tips to help you reduce the total amount of fat in your diet and make sure the fats you consume are the healthy ones (from WebMD):

  • Choose a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Try a vegetarian meal, with plenty of beans, once a week
  • Select dairy products that are skim or low-fat
  • Experiment with light and reduced-fat salad dressings
  • Replace fattier sauces with vinegars, mustards, and lemon juice
  • When using fats, do so sparingly. Try to use unsaturated liquid oils, such as canola or olive, instead of butter or partially hydrogenated margarine
  • Limit your consumption of high-fat foods, such as processed foods, fried foods, sweets, and desserts
  • When cooking, substitute the lower-fat alternative (for example, low-fat sour cream or low-fat cream cheese) whenever possible

Know your fats.


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Improve Cardiovascular Fitness with Kettlebell Training

2 Sep

1299165789_phd_hype_-18%20(Large)[1]High-intensity kettlebell training “significantly improved aerobic capacity… and could be used as an alternative mode to maintain or improve cardiovascular conditioning,” according to a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

20 minutes of kettlebell training — consisting of 15 seconds of alternating work and rest — can significantly improve aerobic capacity when performed 3 days a week for 4 weeks.

In the JSCR study, subjects improved aerobic capacity by about 6% (as measured by VO2max) after four weeks of training.

Kettlebell swings, snatches, cleans, and presses — performed according to the aforementioned work-rest interval — provide for a great total-body strength and cardio workout.

Remember to keep the intensity high (especially if your goal is to improve aerobic capacity), as higher exercise intensities have been shown to elicit greater improvements in VO2max than lower exercise intensities.


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Strengthen Your Core and Legs to Throw Harder

31 Aug

It may seem counter-intuitive, but ball speed relies on lower-body power, according to an Ohio State study.

There’s nothing new about this information, and the rationale is pretty simple:  Pitchers who throw hardest put more force into the ground.

“A strong, stable core helps transfer energy through your hips and up your trunk to your arm,” says lead study author, Mike McNally, CSCS.

Lower-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute-ham raises, and Romanian Deadlifts are great for strengthening your hips and legs; while plyometric training can add explosive power.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article also supports medicine ball training — throws and slams — as another effective way to improve throwing velocity.

Since medicine ball throws and slams, performed properly, require considerable core and lower-body engagement and activation, these exercises are an ideal complement for athletes wanting to improve throwing velocity.


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Protein 101: Types and Timing

28 Aug


There’s a lot of discussion (and confusion) about protein consumption and supplementation.

What kind of protein supplement should you use, and when should you use it?

Check out this article to learn more about Types of Protein.

This article provides insight into Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training.


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26 Aug

20c14e2[1]In his book, Hours of Power, Robert Schuller contends that anyone who truly wants to succeed can do so, because success takes many forms.

Success may involve recovering or rebuilding.  It may be starting a new endeavor or pursuing a new career.

Whatever it is, you can succeed.  Believe in you and believe in success.  Believe that you can and will succeed.

Here are Schuller’s steps to success:

  • S — Select your goal
  • U — Unlock positive thinking
  • C — Chart your course
  • C — Commit yourself
  • E — Expect problems and difficulties
  • S — Sacrifice yourself (success always involves sacrifice)
  • S — Stick with it (you never fail until you say, “I quit.”)


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Should You Take Fish Oil Supplements?

24 Aug

3610294f-cdf7-42aa-b1da-7c919112638f[1]Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and fish oil have been shown to prevent heart disease.  Fish oil may also be particularly beneficial for athletes, as supplementation has been shown to promote healing at sites of injury; reduce muscle soreness from eccentric exercise; reduce heart rate and oxygen consumption during cycling; improve pulmonary function during wrestling; and reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in elite triathletes and runners.

Several studies indicate that athletes who are pushing themselves to their bodies’ limits may be able to increase their potential by consuming a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Here’s an informative resource from Amber Kleckner, PhD titled, Fish Oil: Frequently Asked Questions.

Dr. Kleckner addresses several issues, including:

  • Fish Oil Benefits
  • Fish Oil Supplement Safety
  • Fish Oil Shelf-Life
  • “Real Food” Fish vs. Fish Oil Supplements
  • Timing of Fish Oil Consumption
  • Quantity of Fish Oil Consumption

Hydration, Water, and Electrolyte Replacement

21 Aug


Water plays a crucial role in athletic performance, and dehydration adversely affects performance.

As a matter of fact, water affects athletic performance more than any other nutrient, and dehydration is the number one cause of performance-related decline.

For most of us — in most situations — water (consumed in ample quantities) is all we need to keep us hydrated.

Consuming adequate fluids before, during, and after training and competition is essential to optimal strength training, endurance aerobic exercise, and athletic performance.

There are, however, situations in which electrolyte replacement is warranted:

  • Hot, humid environmental conditions
  • High-intensity, physically rigorous activity
  • Extended duration of activity (45-60 minutes, or more)

Fluid replacement may also depend on the athlete, him- or herself, as there may be differences in ideal fluid replacement among and between athletes.

Any of these situations, alone or in combination, may precipitate a need for something more than water.  Sweat-induced fluid loss can create an electrolyte deficit — including sodium, (and, to a lesser extent) potassium, and magnesium.

Here’s some insight from Craig A. Horswill, PhD titled, Making Your Fluids Work Harder When You Work Hard.


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Run for the Hills

19 Aug

Athletic-Woman-Running-ImagesHere’s an article from Coach Lee Taft titled, “5 Reasons Hill Acceleration Training Is Important.”  Coach Taft is a well-known speed coach and trainer who emphasizes the importance of technique, strength and power development, and recovery to maximize athletes’ energy system potential.

One of the areas I feel coaches overdo early on when training speed is they introduce too long of a distance for the current level of physical preparedness. For example. Having athletes sprint 60-100 meters early on will lead to poor technique, over shooting their current aerobic capacity in order to recover between bouts, and increasing injury potential due to the tissues not being properly prepared and exposed progressively to stress.

My solution is to introduce acceleration work early on so the athlete can get the force production work on they need without over stressing the mechanical aspect of sprinting too soon. One of my favorite acceleration training methods is to use hills. A slight to moderate grade hill will allow the athlete naturally increase force production due to gravity, and a host of other valuable reasons. Listed below are my 5 Reasons to use Hill Accelerations.

  1. Hill accelerations, from a mechanical aspect, force a couple great things to occur that can train the athlete very well to come out of blocks or accelerate quickly in field and court sports. The athlete automatically must drive the knee out (it actually forces greater hip flexion due to the horizontal lean) in order to clear the foot from hitting the toe into the ground. This natural aggressive hip flexion/knee drive increases the power of the force into the ground off the push off leg. More force is put into the ground due to the action reaction forces caused by the aggressive knee drive. Because gravity is constantly working on the athlete the force being put into the ground must consistently be aggressive to keep the center of mass moving (it isn’t like flat ground running where once acceleration is over sprinting begins).
  1. Hill accelerations limit the deceleration that must occur after each run. The athlete almost stops immediately when they stop producing force. In flat ground acceleration the athlete must actively work to “put the brakes on”. The fact the athlete doesn’t have to decelerate after each rep saves the legs and keeps the focus purely on acceleration.
  1. Arm action almost automatically becomes more involved and cleaner when accelerating up hill. The fact the athlete must constantly work hard to produce force in order to keep the mass moving the arms get tons of repetitions. The driving forces produced by the arm are seen through the longer leg actions which produces more force (see #1). If the arms are short in the swing phase the leg action becomes shorter to coordinate the action with the arms. When flat land training the acceleration phase is very short for beginner due to the fact they get out of acceleration so quickly. When training acceleration on hills they can work on the acceleration phase the entire repetition, therefore getting more arm action repetitions.
  1. Because hill work is very taxing on the nervous system programming is very simple. Once you see the athlete begin to reach the prescribed distance must slower than in previous reps you know he or she is getting fatigued. Once the fatigue factor shows up the reps will become much less effective so it is time to end the hill acceleration session. A great way to get as much bang for your buck out of programming is to perform less reps per set and add more sets. For example; rather than performing 2 sets of 6 reps where you would have less rest between the reps than the sets you would perform 4 sets of 3 reps. This allows for great effort and execution of the 3 reps followed by a nice recovery where ATP can be replenished more-so than in the 2 sets of 6 rep scheme.
  1. Hill acceleration training is a form of resisted training. The other forms such as sled, tubing, parachutes, or manual all have benefit yet they disturb the one factor that I personally feel is vital; they interrupt the natural kinesthetic nature of pure running. A band or harness tethered to your body is not as consistent with natural running. A harness attached around the shoulders might cause greater transverse rotation to the shoulders. A tubing around the belt line might cause more flexion than what is consistent with acceleration, a parachute might cause random shifts in the frontal plane due to wind pushing the chute off course. All of these disturbances can have benefits if you know what you are looking for, but when you want to improve the 3 things I mentioned above (technique, horse power, recover) the un-tethered approach might be best most of the time. Don’t get me wrong. I use resisted training frequently- but I always know why and what the results will be.

So there you go. Hill acceleration training is a fantastic way to develop explosive power for short bursts of speed.

Oh yeah! Don’t go crazy on the really steep hills. When technique has to adjust too much to account for the steepness of the hill you might have gone too far. Keep it so the athlete can accelerate with great technique.


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How to Achieve Success in Two Easy Steps

17 Aug
















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Divide Your Strength and Power Training

14 Aug

t1_darius[1]Here’s some food for thought:  Researchers in Greece suggest that athletes shouldn’t mix power and strength training.

If your goal is to jump higher, throw harder, or sprint faster, the Greek study found that individuals who performed separate power workouts gained more explosiveness — a key element of athleticism — than those who combined their power and strength training.

The study suggested the following — once or twice a week, perform 3 sets of 8 explosive repetitions of these exercises:

  • Barbell Squat*
  • Bench Press*
  • Jump Squat
  • Broad Jump

* Use 30% of your 1-rep max (1RM)

To offer a different perspective (but well supported by exercise science and human performance research), at our facility we have helped athletes achieve impressive gains in explosive power by combining strength and power training, using contrast training (a set of heavy lifts, followed immediately with an explosive exercise using the same movement pattern, such as squats followed by jump squats or bench presses followed by explosive push-ups).


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