Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year Eights & Weights! First off, I wanted to thank you all for your support, and your readership in 2011.

We at Eights & Weights are very focused on what to want to achieve - Health & Fitness Awareness - especially among Africans. And so we are really grateful that readers are showing us that we are affecting some lives.

In 2012, we plan to push even further, and so we would appreciate your continuous diligence, feedback, comments, questions, and support. Let's make a difference together!

I can't wait for the new year and all that we have planned! Enjoy celebrating responsibly.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Secret to Surviving the Holiday Buffet

Excerpt from Brian Wansink's "The Secret to Surviving the Holiday Buffet" on MSNBC.

There is probably no greater diet danger zone than the holiday buffet. It's hard to resist grabbing a huge plate and piling it up with buttery breads, cheeses, meats, cakes, cookies and pies.

Although it might seem as if we’re swimming against stream when it comes to the delicious but calorie-laden holiday table, there are a lot of people who seem immune to overloading their plates. They have fun at buffets, parties and dinners without gaining weight. What’s their secret?

To better understand how some people survive the pitfalls of all-you-can-eat dining, researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab observed 213 normal weight and overweight diners at buffets across the country. They found that heavier diners are more likely than slimmer diners to sit closer to the buffet, use larger plates and serve themselves immediately instead of browsing the buffet. 

In the study, heavy folks grabbed a plate almost as soon as they arrived and immediately started serving themselves. The normal weight diners were more likely to scout things out first. When they did pick up a plate they were seven times more likely than the heavy eaters to take the smallest plate available. Some specifics:
  • 71% of normal-weight diners browsed the buffet before serving themselves, compared to 33% of obese diners.
  • 27% of normal-weight patrons faced the buffet compared to 42% of obese diners.
  • 16% of obese diners sat at a booth rather than a table compared to 38% of normal weight diners.
  • Normal-weight people chewed their food an average of 15 times per bite versus overweight people who chewed only 12 times. In fact, speedy eaters are three times more likely to be overweight than people who eat more slowly and who don’t eat until they’re full, recent research found.
  • Overweight diners sat an average of 16 feet closer to the buffet than normal-weight diners, presumably to shorten the trip when they go back for seconds … or thirds.
There are three main problems with a buffet, not only at the holidays, but anytime of the year. Those huge tables of food are prime examples of what I call the 3 C's of disastrous dieting:

Convenience:  Food is all around and it’s often with arm-reach.
Caloric: Whether sweet or salty, buffet foods are often higher in the indulgence factor than good sense.
Choices: There is a lot of variety, which increases how much you eat because your taste buds don’t burn out on one thing.

The bottom line of the buffet is you really can have your holiday cake and eat it, too. You just need to browse the food to find what you really want, use a small plate and eat slowly. To avoid the temptation of going back for seconds, sit as far away from the table of food as possible. If you don’t face the goodies, you are less likely to spot something else you want to pile on the plate.

In my book, "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," I also describe a trick that seems to work well for many holiday buffet-goers. It’s called the Rule of Two. You can choose anything you want at the buffet, but you can never have more than two items on your plate.  If you want to load it up with nuts and cake, go ahead. If you want to go back for seconds and load it up again with chips and carrots, go ahead. Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster, it actually works quite well for people for three reasons: 
  • You tend to take the two types of food you want most. People who love desserts don’t work their way up to desserts. They’ll start with the desserts, and then stop.
  • You tend to not overfill you plate. Putting only two things on our plate helps keep our serving sizes somewhat small because we psychologically don’t want to overload on a particular item.
  • You tend to not go back more than two times.  In one study we did on the Rule of Two, 83% of people only made one or two additional returns to the buffet.
Using some of these easy rules can help you take the focus off the food and pay more attention to what really makes the holidays special - your family and friends.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of "Mindless Eating — Why We Eat More Than We Think," is head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. He is also director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Photo credit:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How to do a Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are great for your arms, your legs, and your core, and serve as a great cardio workout as well. If you are thinking of incorporating new strength training exercises into your program, definitely try these. You may not be able to do that many initially, but it'll get better as you do more of them. We've created a video on how to do great mountain climbers, both slow and fast. Try it, and let me know how you feel!

Also, subscribe to our Youtube channel to watch videos as we add them and provide comments.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting the Perfect Booty

Well, it’s the holiday season, and most of us will probably end the season with butts two times the size of a basketball without the shape. I’m just being honest since I anticipate all the food my eyes shall see this season. So rather than lie on your back and let your booty turn to mesh, what exercises can you consistently do or consistently avoid over the holidays to keep your bum in tip-top shape?

  • Stop watching infomercials. That guy didn’t really get his butt that tight by using a butt-blaster (or whatever it is called) machine. Focus on tried-and-true exercises.
  • One such exercise is the squat. You simply cannot go wrong with the squat, as long as you do it right. As you go low, make sure your knees are not going past your toes. So if you look down in the squatting position, you should be able to see your toes. Why is this important? Many people bend forward when they squat putting pressure on their knees, when they should be lowering their butts. Here is a picture of what a squat really should look like.

  • A couple of weeks ago, I posted a video of how to do a lunge. The lunge is one of the best lower body exercises. Also make sure you knees are not going beyond your toes, and make sure you are keeping your upper body straight when you do the lunge. Here is the video as a reminder of what the lunge should look like.

  • The dumbbell dead-lift is another great exercise for your butt. Start in a standing position holding the dumbbells in front of your hips. Lower down (from your hips!!) with your back flat and your legs straight. Lift back again the same way your came down. You should feel it in your butt as you go down and come up. You want to work your butt, not your back, so it is important to keep your back flat. Here is a great picture of what it should look like.

  • One you may see all the time, but may not actually do, is the hip extension. This really really works on your butt so there’s no way you wouldn’t feel it after your workout if you’re doing it right. Come on to your elbows are knees. Lift one knee up and behind you, and then bring it back to the starting position without letting it touch the floor. Two very important things to remember when doing the hip extension – Your back should remain flat or you won’t be working the right muscles; and you should be lifting from your knee, not your foot. Here is what a hip extension should look like.

I hope these help to burn those derrieres into shape this Christmas! But remember, as I always say, strength training does not work on its own. You have to pair it with cardio exercises to lose the layer of fat while you sculpt your body. And of course, food holds equal importance. Try to balance what you eat this time of the year so you don’t negate your exercise program.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit: Women' and,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eights & Weights Recipe: Egusi and Oatmeal

You expected egusi and pounded yam, didn’t you? You’ve probably seen oatmeal on the menus of some Nigerian restaurants as a “swallow”. But if you’ve never tried it, you won’t have any idea what it looks like or how it’s made.

Oatmeal is a good healthy substitute for pounded yam or garri, because the oat is a natural unprocessed grain that lowers cholesterol, is high in fiber, and is low in calories. And since you make it yourself, well, you know every single ingredient.

Now, you can buy oat flour in stores, but an even better way to make sure you’re keeping it natural is to make the oat flour yourself. All you need is a dry blender, and some old fashioned oats. Old fashioned oats only please, not the flavored “cooks in one minute in the microwave” versions.

What you need:
1 cup of old fashioned oats
½ cup of egusi (melon seeds)
1 onion
¼ cup of palm oil
1 small can of tomato paste
2 fresh hot peppers (or 1 tablespoon hot dry pepper)
2 tablespoons of crayfish
2 seasoning cubes
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cuts of dried fish
Skinless chicken breast (amount depends on preference – I used 5 pieces)
1 bunch of spinach (depends on how much vegetables you want in your soup)

  • Chop the onions.
  • Wash the chicken, and place them in a pot. Put in the chopped onions, the seasoning cubes, the pepper, and about half a teaspoon of salt. Depending on how you like to cook your chicken, you could also include some thyme and some garlic. Add in about a cup of water, and bring the chicken to a boil.
  • While the chicken is cooking, let’s get to the oats. Blend the oats in a dry blender till it becomes a powder.
  • Boil about 2 cups of water. Soak the dried fish in the boiling water and the other half of the salt. Leave it soaking until you need to use it.
  • Before the chicken fully cooks, it would be a great time to blend up the crayfish and the egusi (separately), and chop up the spinach.
  • In a separate pan, pour in the palm oil and bring it to the stove. When it gets very hot, add in the tomato paste. Putting in thicker tomatoes allows you to use less oil. This is why just a ¼ cup of palm oil should do. However, if you decide the oil is not enough, it is okay to add in some more. But I would try not to go over a ½ cup.
  • Keep stirring the tomatoes as they fry so it doesn’t stick. Keep this going for about 15 minutes.
  • While the tomatoes are frying, mix the blended egusi with about ½ a cup of water until it is smooth.
  • When the tomatoes are done frying, pour in the meat and the meat stock into the tomato sauce. Stir and allow the sauce to cook for about 5 minutes. 
  • Add in the dried fish, which should be all soft now. And then add in the crayfish.
  • Pour the egusi into the tomato sauce and stir. This would be a great time to taste to see if the sauce needs some more salt, pepper, or seasoning cubes. If it does, add in some more to your liking. And then let the sauce cook up for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the chopped spinach, mix it all in, and let the egusi soup simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • While the soup is simmering, boil about 2 cups of water. When the water is boiling, pour in the blended oats. Keep stirring like you would do with pounded yam, until it becomes a solid. Add water to get to your desired consistency.
  • Serve and you’re all done!
Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of this meal, so the picture above is just of some random egusi, but please try it and send me some pictures of yours. I’d like to see how it turns out for everyone.

Now we can eat classic Nigerian food and not feel so guilty!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to do a Lunge

Since it's the holiday season, here's another great video tip from us at Eights & Weights. This time, we're focusing on how to do a lunge. Watch, share, and let us know what you liked or didn't like about it (besides the fact that the angle makes me look short and We'd love your feedback!

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US and Happy holiday season to all our readers!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Have Time to Watch TV? Then you have Time to Train!

You have heard of TV dinners, but have you heard of TV workouts? The problem with us adults is that after a long hard day, we just want to curl up in front of the TV till we fall asleep. And while the body needs rest, letting the television be a substitute for exercise can do a lot of damage. Take a lesson from kids. They run around till their bodies are basically breathless, and then they run around some more.

But okay, we aren’t kids, and so less excites us. Rather, we come up with different excuses why we cannot work out. The biggest one I’ve heard is the lack of time to dedicate to exercise. Well, you watch your favorite TV shows, right? Then it’s time to learn to kill two birds with the same stone, and sweat while you fantasize about McSteamy and Nicole Scherzinger.  In fact, with the number of times guys take off their shirts on TV shows, TV should inspire you to work out. I’m still thinking about 90210, and how for some reason, they ALL have abs…

Anyway, what can you do while you’re catching up on the latest dramas? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Exercise during commercial breaks: An hour-long TV show is technically about 42 to 45 minutes. So unless your TV time is limited to your DVR, you have at least 15 minutes every hour to do something. So maybe crank up some music and dance. Dancing is great cardio because it’s really just carefree jumping around.
  • Work out while you watch: You have not watched a commercial since the invention of the DVR? You can still work out while your focus is on the TV. Stick to repetitive exercises you don’t need equipment or heavy concentration for, like jumping jacks (or star jumps), push-ups, abdominal exercises, yoga stretches, etc. 
  • Set tags for exercise bursts: Another option is to jump up and do something when a particular action occurs. For example, if it’s a romantic show, do a minute-long jump rope session every time there’s a kiss. If it’s a thriller, maybe do a round of push-ups when scary music plays. 
  • Stretch while you watch: Yoga does require some concentration, but it also allows you hold positions for an extended period. So you can decide to hold one pose per scene or something like that. And since you can’t tell how long a scene would be, it’s pretty unpredictable.
  • Add to your list of favorite TV shows: There are shows that inspire even more of a workout. You can make sure you get those into your list of regularly watched TV shows. Some examples are: So You Think You Can Dance (and most dance shows), Biggest Loser, Thintervention, etc.
Wondering what exercises require barely any equipment and allow you to stare at the TV?
  • Sit-ups (and most floor abdominal exercises)
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Couch Dips
  • Planks
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Bridges
  • Push-ups
  • Downward facing dog
  • Side planks
...and many more. The key is to get up and just start doing something.

Thank you for the support on our video last week. Look out for more!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Perfect Your Sit-Up: The Video

You guessed it! This week, Eights & Weights is making a video debut. In our first video, we're going back a few weeks to the sit-up topic. Hopefully, you'll get better tips as it is demonstrated in the video. We'd really appreciate your comments, feedback, questions, and concerns.

Subscribe to our Youtube channel to see videos in the future. Simply click on "NEW! VIDEOS!" on the menu above.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is Organic Really, Well, Organic?

It is a known fact that people would unconsciously pick the organic version of food over the regular if both options were the same price. In fact, people unconsciously go the extra mile and rate organic food as better tasting and lower in fat. But in today’s world, is “organic” more than a simple buzzword?

What does “organic” really mean?
Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Organic food is produced from plants that were grown without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. So technically, third-world style. If you're in a third world country, you're most likely already eating organic.

Why should you really care?
The fact is that most organic food has not been proven to contain fewer calories, and has not been proven to be more nutritious than conventionally grown food. The trick manufacturers use is that they sell “organic” as “natural” but these are two different things.

For example, you can say white rice is organic if you didn’t grow it using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, but white rice is heavily processed. Conversely, you can say brown rice is not organic, but it is natural and unprocessed and much better for you.

This is not to condemn organic food though. The pesticides, fertilizers, and other products actually may have long-term effects besides your waistline. The chemicals have been known to affect our long-term health, and may be promoters of diseases like cancer. Besides, health is not the only reason people want to go organic. Some people do it for humane reasons, and others do it for environmental reasons.

So what organic food should we truly truly care about?
In some cases, it does actually pay to go organic. Here are a few:
  • Dairy: Organic dairy contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Meat: Organically raised animals tend to have less saturated fat.
  • Thin-skinned fruits and veggies: For veggies and fruits where the skin is eaten (like strawberries and potatoes), it is a good idea to stick to organic as much as possible because the chemicals easily seep through the fruit or vegetables.
Chemicals usually can’t seep through fruits with thick skins like bananas so being organic or not usually doesn’t make a difference. Also, processed foods like chips and cookies barely have any pesticide residue since we don’t eat them raw.

What does the “organic” label mean?
The good news? Governments have established rules on what can be called organic or not. And so companies cannot just slap on a Government-Certified-Organic label if it isn’t. However, small manufacturers can still slap on a crappy organic label so pay attention.

The Government-Certified-Organic label tells you that a product is at least 95 percent organic. Not 100, but 95. If you want something that is 100 percent organic, the manufacturers would usually say “100% organic” on the label.

Again, organic is great, but an even better option is natural unprocessed foods. Look for items that have very few ingredients, and try to stick to ingredients you can pronounce where possible. Forget about labels. Because a company says "all natural" does not mean much nowadays. Pay attention to the ingredients!

Questions, comments, concerns on organic or natural food? Ask away!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Perfect Your Sit-Up

There are several common mistakes we all make when we do the basic sit-up. Sometimes, it is very evident because we can feel the pressure in other parts of our bodies rather than our abs. Other times, we think we’re doing great.

First, let’s clear up the confusion about sit-ups versus crunches. A crunch is the ab exercise where you lift just your shoulders off the floor, not your lower back. A sit-up is the exercise where you bring your back off the floor and come all the way up.

Now that that’s clear, what are some basic tips you can apply to improve your sit-up?

  • Heels on the floor: It may seem more comfortable to keep both your feet on the floor as you do this exercise. But what you’d notice is that if you don’t have incredibly strong abs, you’d find yourself lifting your feet off the floor as you come all the way up. A better way to do this exercise is to keep just your heels grounded on the floor; not your whole foot, just your heels. You may find that you have to extend your knees beyond the 90 degree angle to do this, but that’s okay.
  • Cup your head: Most people seem to intertwine their fingers at the back of their heads when they do floor exercises. While this act in itself is not wrong, it elicits a certain response from your body. When you intertwine your fingers behind your head, you tend to push your head and neck up as you lift your body up, and your elbows are forced to come forward. So you’d be hurting your neck and using your shoulders rather than working on your abs. What should you do instead? Separate your fingers and cup the back of your head, keep your elbows wide even as you come up, and make sure you aren’t lifting your shoulders.
  • Elbows wide: I just said this, but I have to reiterate. It is tempting to fold your elbows forward as you come up. Don’t. Keep your elbows wide and focus on just using your abs.
  • Drop it almost to the floor: As you go back down to the floor to complete a sit-up, try not to actually touch the floor. Come as close as you can, and then lift yourself back up. You need core strength just to hold yourself off the floor, so you’d be putting in more work.
  • Don’t wobble your head: Yes, it is a repetitive motion, and so you’d be tempted to move your head up and down as you move your body up and down. But that hurts your neck too. An easy way to avoid this is to pick a point on the wall or floor in front of you, and keep your gaze at that point as you go up and down. Easy!

Alternative: If you find that cupping your hands behind your head is uncomfortable, there are a few other options you can try. Either cross your palms over your chest, stretch your arms out straight above your head, or keep your arms straight out in front of you. Just be careful not to use your arm strength as you lift yourself up because that defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

Now, try incorporating all that into your sit-up and tell me how you feel!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back to Basics Part Two: How Exercise Fits In

Last week, we talked about how your nutrition affects your weight. There are websites where you can automatically calculate these numbers, but sometimes it’s important to understand the basics. In summary, this is where we were:

So remember how last week, I gave a breakdown of how calories are processed? How does exercise fit in? Your body simply uses more of that energy you consumed from food to do more intense activities that just digesting food or talking. And of course, continuous exercise raises the metabolic rate you get from activity. So while the 5 basic steps I listed last week are still valid, the amount of energy your body would use to function regularly would go up too. So it’s a win-win all around.

Basic BMR
Now back to our example from last week, we are using a male with the following stats:
Age – 30
Weight – 192 pounds
Height – 6ft (72 inches)

Our basic BMR with no exercise came down to 2000 calories.


General Activity
With only basic low intensity once-in-a-while exercise, metabolic rate increases by BMR x 20% (see the diagram at the top of this post). So his metabolic rate would come down to 2000 + (2000 x 20%) = 2400 calories, meaning his body is burning about 2400 calories a day.

Now consider this: If he amped up his exercise, and starts exercising most days a week, he could increase his metabolic rate by BMR x 40%. This brings his metabolic rate to 2000 + (2000 x 40%) = 2800. That’s a considerable difference! He just burned an additional 800 calories a day by exercising most days! I guess that crazy Michael Phelps diet doesn’t seem so crazy to you now…

Heart Rate
Granted, this is just an approximation, and it varies based on what “most days” and “intensity” mean to you. So the most accurate way to see how much you are actually losing is to calculate it for the types of exercises you do. Yes, there’s a formula for that too.

What the machines at the gym seem not to mention is that the number of calories you burn during exercise heavily depends on your heart rate. The good part is that most machines do have heart rate monitors. What I would advise is to calculate your heart rate during a few different workouts at the gym, and just note the average so you can use it to calculate the amount of calories you burn doing non-machine exercises.

The average resting heart rate is somewhere between 60 and 80bpm. However, if you are very fit or an athlete, your resting heart rate would usually be somewhere between 40 and 60bpm (usually 50 to 60bpm for women). This is just because the more you exercise, the more efficient your body’s circulation becomes.

During exercise, the average heart rate should increase. It would go higher based on the intensity of the exercise. The higher your heart rate, the more calories you should be burning. However, take care not to get above your maximum heart rate.

How do you calculate your maximum heart rate? Here is where I’ll introduce a little caveat. So far, experts have said there is no perfect way to calculate your maximum heart rate. However, the generally accepted estimate is:

Women: Maximum Heart Rate = 226 – Age
Men: Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Age

This is not particularly scientific, but just what is generally accepted. It assumes that the older you get, the less intense you should be with your heart. Generally, when you exercise, your heart rate can go anywhere from 50% to 100% of this rate above. Fairly intense exercise is usually about 80% of this number. So back to our example, his maximum heart rate would be 220 – 30 = 190.

Maximum Heart Rate = 190

One last point I will make with the heart rate is that when machines spell out a “Fat Burning Zone”, it does not necessarily mean anything. Strive to go as high as you can below your maximum, rather than aiming to be within some phantom fat burning zone.

Actual Calories Burned
So we have the maximum heart rate. Now, we can calculate the number of calories burned during exercise. Here is the formula:

Women: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) + (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) – 20.4022] x Time / 4.184
Men: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) + (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) – 55.0969] x Time / 4.184

My question is: Why does it always have to be different for men and women. Well, I guess only God can answer that one…

Back to our example, if our chosen man was doing average intensity cardio for 30 minutes, and had his heart rate at 70% of the maximum, he would have burned the following:

Heart Rate = 70% x 190 = 133bpm
Calories Burned = [(30 x 0.2017) + (192 x 0.09036) + (133 x 0.6309) – 55.0969] x 30 / 4.184 = 374 calories

That sounds like what you see on the treadmill, right? Now you know how they calculated it. We now have a more accurate calculation of how many calories he is burning based on the intensity of his physical activity.

In summary, our 192 pound, 6 foot, 30 year old man with a BMR of about 2000 calories working out moderately for an hour a day would actually be surviving on approximately 2000 + (374 x 2) = 2748 calories per day. You see that this is pretty close to the 2800 number we had calculated before.

We like our diagrams on Eights & Weights, so here’s one for today:

Questions, comments, feedback, concerns? Leave a comment, hit me up at, find me on Twitter @eightsnweights, or join us on Facebook by searching for ‘Eights and Weights’.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back to Basics Part One: The Math Behind Your Weight Loss Goals

I hear this question a lot (and I’m pretty certain you do too): What do I have to do to lose weight? It seems like such a simple question with a “magic formula” answer. There is no magic formula to losing weight, but there are ways to make the process much less like some sort of black hole. The basics? Diet and Exercise. Besides plastic surgery and weight loss drugs, there is no other healthy way to lose weight. And no, that was not an endorsement for either plastic surgery or weight loss drugs...

You want to lose weight, but you don’t want to starve, right? And it’s very difficult to start figuring out how much you should eat. However, people have spent years and years gathering information and analyzing data to make the job easier for you. Here’s how it works:
  • You consume food
  • Food consists of fat, protein, and carbohydrates that provide energy
  • This energy is measured in kilocalories (but usually, we just say calories)
  • Your body uses this energy to function (run, walk, digest, talk, exercise, etc.)
  • Whatever energy is left over that your body did not use is stored as fat
I know that was thoroughly simplistic, but hopefully, it demystifies the process. This is why the calorie is a very important measurement because it helps us decipher what our body is storing as fat. I like to call it the “Eat minus Burn”.

How do you calculate how many calories are in your food? Well, you could hire a Food Scientist, or you could use the cheapest tool available: the internet. As we all like to say, Google is your friend. It’s amazing how many websites available tell you how many calories are in your food; even local food! Some websites even go as far as telling you specific details of the meals in fast food restaurants. We do have so much information available to us.

But then that brings us to the question “How do I know how much I should be eating?” Most people calculate their calories per day for two reasons: One, it’s easier to do daily than weekly. Two, if you do make some mistakes one day, you can leave it behind and move on to the next. However, whatever way you choose to calculate, the calories you should be eating depend on a lot of things because every individual is different. We all have different heights, weights, ages, and sexes. Yes, your sex is a determining factor too!

To figure out how many calories you need, you need to first determine what your BMR is. BMR is the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate, that is the amount of energy you exert daily just being alive, eating, sleeping, showering, etc. Here is the formula for BMR (W = Women, and M = Men):

W: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age)
M: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age)

Yes, men burn more calories just being alive. I know, just one more reason to be upset. Yes, I am jealous in this case. Don't judge me.

Anyway, let’s assume that when you plug in your numbers you get 2000 calories. This means that you can eat 2000 calories a day with no exercise, and maintain your current weight. Our current estimate is:

2000 calories

Now, if you do some form of exercise (even the minimum), this means you can eat even more and maintain your current weight. Again, you can Google all sorts of exercises, and calculate how much you burn based on distance, speed, etc. but we’ll talk more about the basics of exercise next week. Essentially, based on how active you are, you can estimate how many more calories your body needs by adding the following values to your BMR above:
  • Basic walking about: BMR x 20%
  • Minimal exercise a couple of times a week: BMR x 30%
  • Exercise most days a week: BMR x 40%
  • Exercise intensely on a daily basis: BMR x 50%
  • Hard labor or intense athletic training: BMR x 60%
So let’s assume that you do minimal exercise a couple of times a week. Your new number would be 2000 + (2000 x 30%) = 2600. You would need approximately 2600 calories just to maintain your current weight. Note that this is an estimate and it completely depends on the kind of exercises you do, but you get the point. Our current estimate is now:

2600 calories

The next step would be to determine how this number would change if you wanted to lose weight. Now, the body works like this: 3500 calories equals 1 pound. To lose weight, you need to determine how fast you can do it in a healthy way. If 3500 = 1 pound, then you have to have a deficit of 3500 to lose 1 pound. That seems like a lot, right? Let’s go back to our example. If you deducted 500 calories a day from 2600 calories, how much would you get?

2100 calories

500 calories less a day means that you lose 1 pound in 7 days (500 x 7 = 3500). That’s totally doable, right? If you were not in a hurry, you could even spread that out over 2 weeks and make it 250 calories less a day.

But let’s backtrack for a second. Remember that we started on an assumption that your numbers produced 2000 calories? These numbers would change based on what your numbers actually produced. I’ll repeat the formula down here so you can start your own calculation:

Hope this helped! Let me know if you have any questions. All of the calculations above can be also done automatically at this website: Just in case you don’t really care about the formulae but are still interested in the actual numbers.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness: Your Risk Factors

It’s that time of year again. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and as always, I want to make sure we all get some education, and help to educate our friends and families. We all know the dangers of any type of cancer, but do we know the risks? Yes, there are some risk factors that neither you nor I can change, but I still strongly believe that awareness is always better than ignorance. So what are some of these risk factors?

Let’s look at some of these risks closely. If you’ve ever studied risk in the business world, the seriousness of a risk is usually determined by its probability and its impact; basically, how likely is it to occur? And if it does occur, how bad can it get? Today, we’ll be focusing closely on the probability of occurrence.

Sex: Men and women both have the probability of breast cancer. But unfortunately, being a woman increases your probability by like 100 times. The impact can be higher in men as in women though, mostly because men don’t expect it, and so don’t catch it early. Women have more breast cancer cases because our breasts are consistently going through hormonal changes.

Heredity: Certainly you’ve heard that if someone in your family has developed breast cancer in the past, you have a higher probability of developing the disease. However, in addition to this, there are actually gene mutations that can be passed on from mother to child that increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, only somewhere between 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases occur due to gene mutations. Can this be prevented? Probably not, if you already have the gene. But it can be caught early. There are tests for these gene mutations so people can be prepared.

Periods: As a woman, did you start getting your periods really early? Researchers have said that women who menstruate for a longer number of years have a higher probability of getting breast cancer. The reason is because of all the hormones our bodies are exposed to during our periods. So the theory is that if you started much younger than others (say around age 11 or so), and you go on for much longer than others (say after your late 50s), you have a higher chance of developing breast cancer in your old age.

Age: Well, this is another one we can’t help as well since we all grow old. But about two-thirds of breast cancer patients are women older than 55. This is why doctors strongly suggest that we start getting regular mammograms after 50. Logically, if your risk is higher when you are older, you should definitely get tested more then as well.

Race: Here is even another one we have no control over. What ethnicity has the lowest probability of developing breast cancer? Hispanic, Indian, and oriental Asian women. What race has the highest probability? White women do. This means overall, black women fall somewhere in the middle. However, you should still pay attention if you are black because black women seem to have the highest reported cases of breast cancer in women under 55.

Motherhood: This may be somehow linked to the number of periods a woman has. Women who have had no children have a higher probability of developing breast cancer than those who have had children. For me, I see a connection between the number of years you menstruate and pregnancy. If you get pregnant 3 times in your life, that cuts the number of years you menstruate by like 2.5. So back to the point around “Periods”, this could be tied. However, this is only a thought as women are still exposed to a large number of hormones during their pregnancies. Now, if you are planning on being a mother who breastfeeds, this could also reduce your breast cancer risk for the same reason.

Exercise: And we come right back to it again. It’s funny how everything seems to come right back to exercise. Consistent exercise reduces your risk of breast cancer. There is still a debate on how much exercise is actually needed, but for certain, any exercise goes a long way.

Weight: This could also possibly be tied to exercise and healthy nutrition, because women who eat right and work out tend to maintain a healthy weight. We all know that obesity has been known to increase the probability of various diseases, and breast cancer is no exception. It could be because of the higher blood insulin levels in overweight people, or because some estrogen is released from fat tissue. Who knows? But either way, it does increase your probability of developing breast cancer.

Alcohol: Researchers say that people who do not drink have a much lower probability of developing breast cancer than people who do. However, one glass of wine a day (especially red) is good for the body. If you do drink several glasses of alcohol a day, wine or otherwise, it does increase your breast cancer risk. So try to stick to one glass, and try to make it red wine.

I’m pretty certain that we all have known someone who has had or does have breast cancer. It is a serious disease. Please protect yourself, and stay aware. You only have one body, and so it is important to do all you can to keep it working right. Do a lot of research this month if you can on how to reduce your risk of breast cancer, educate your loved ones, and ask questions!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why Strength Training is Important

Ladies are often known to put down anything that has to do with building muscle because we think of staying skinny rather than staying fit. Ladies are usually concerned with cardio and aerobics, and not really with muscle mass. Same goes for the gentlemen who are thinking of losing weight. They tend to play sports or talk about cardio, but forget that building muscles is an important part of losing weight and staying fit. How?

Muscle vs. fat: Age kills muscles and promotes fat. Basically, we lose about 5% of our muscle mass every 10 years, which means as we get older, we are more and more prone to putting on fat. What does losing muscle mean to you? It means you’d have to eat less and less to maintain the same weight; anywhere from 100 to 500 calories less per day. That’s huge! So if you have more muscle, your body is set to automatically burn more calories throughout the day. And so if you keep strength training as you get older, you’ll be building more muscle. Simple.

Muscles burn fat: Okay, so muscles help you lose weight. But how exactly? Well, as you just go about your day, you are burning calories. As you digest your food, you are burning calories. This means that whether you have lots of fat or not, your body will still expend energy. However, muscles work to increase your metabolism and keep it increased longer, which helps you expend more energy doing the exact same things. A muscular person will burn more calories digesting food than a person with much more body fat.

Build strong bones: Building strong bones as we age is especially important for the ladies. I’m sure you’ve heard that women lose bone mass each year as we grow older. As we lose bones mass, we become at risk for a disease called osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis have bones that are weak and break easily. Don’t worry; I’m not here to scare you. I’m here to help you take action against it. Basically, if you’re losing bone mass, what do you need to do? Stop it from being lost, right? Strength training helps to slow down the process of bone loss.

Improve coordination: People who play sports, dance, do martial arts, or do yoga understand how important coordination, balance, and flexibility are. Well, unknown to a lot of people lifting weights and doing weights-focused exercises actually help to improve these functions. This is one of the reasons why athletes and dancers are always encouraged to hit the gym. I mean, in reality, what they do is exercise, but they supplement it with more exercise to make themselves even better. Does that make sense?

Better posture: Working on your muscles, especially your abdominal muscles, allows you to stand up straighter. And better posture means you do exercises better. So the cycle continues…

Now, one important thing to note is that there are different types of strength training. There is strength training focused at bulking muscles, which is what men usually go for. And there is strength training focused at building lean muscle mass. Everyone should aim for lean muscles. Low-rep, high-weighing weight lifting bulks muscles, especially when there is little or no cardio involved. But circuit training, resistance training, and things like cardio kickboxing build lean muscles. I’m not saying don’t lift heavy weights. I’m saying don’t JUST lift heavy weights. Get some cardio in as well.

One last thing I’d like to stress, and I usually stress this, is that testosterone is a very important factor in the bulking of muscles. Women have very low levels of testosterone, and so a little strength training will not make you Morris Chestnut.

Do you have any more questions about strength training? Curious about where to start? Ask!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

How Do They Stay in Shape? Celebrity Diet Tips

Ever wonder how some celebrities stay in shape? And I don’t mean that whole “I eat whatever I want, I’m just lucky” crap. I’m talking about some honest-to-goodness truth about how celebrities stay in shape? Well, I have some for you. Hopefully these help provide some tips as you develop your diet.

Jennifer Love Hewitt: According to the actress, she does not buy snacks around the house, and she does not keep food at home to last longer than two days. This is quite clever if you have stores near you because when you have cravings late at night, the store would already be closed. Plus, your vegetables would always be fresh and you’d never be left with the temptation of a lot of food.

Jennifer Lopez: According to Jennifer, she does not believe in cutting food that she loves out because that would only make her want it more. So she cuts out desserts because that is what she can do without. And for the food, she cuts down her portions. Here’s the kicker: She reduces her drink calories by cutting alcohol from her diet.

Heidi Klum: After she had a few babies, Heidi Klum took nude pictures of herself weekly. Why, you ask? She could see how much weight she was losing or gaining each week. I would like this idea, but all naked pictures seem to eventually leak and start floating around somewhere.

Cheryl Cole: During the week, she tries to steer clear of carbs. She has one pig out day on Sundays. Apparently, she chose this because it is her hangover day.

Drew Barrymore: How does she deal with hunger between meals? She snacks on low-fat Jell-O. Jell-O is very low in calories. For the chocolate-indulgent folk, Chocolate Mousse Jell-O contains about 60 calories. That’s much better than most snacks.

Tyra Banks: Tyra says she lost weight by eliminating some bad little food habits, like putting bacon on her salads.

Jennifer Hudson: It’s no secret that the songstress fully supports the Weight Watchers diet program. The Weight Watchers points programs are pretty good because they help you make a lifestyle change.

Kelly Rowland: According to Kelly, she knows what works for her body and what doesn’t because she’s done test runs eliminating things like sugar from her diet. This is a good idea since we all have different bodies, and different body parts that plague us. One thing she always says is that she does not believe in crazy diets because you just put the weight back on straight away. I’m definitely with her on this one. Crazy diets are a no-no. Lose weight steadily and healthily, rather than super fast.

Ryan Reynolds: Years after Blade and X-Men, men are still searching for Ryan Reynolds’ diet and workout routine. For his diet, Ryan says he eats every 2 to 3 hours so his metabolism is constantly running, and his body does not need to store fat for energy.

Hugh Jackman
: Hugh always eats protein before he trains. His protein of choice is steamed chicken. In fact, he says while he was training for Wolverine, he ate like 29 chickens a day. While that might be an exaggeration, you don’t get that much muscle without that much protein. Just keep in mind that he was also working on his muscles from about an hour and a half every single day for about a year and a half.

Usher: According to Usher, seventy percent of ab work is what you eat. So he keeps a nutritionist who makes sure he stays on chicken, fish, light fruits, and dark green salads. He has a very very strict diet. But then again, I guess you don’t get Usher’s abs without being super strict.

Boris Kodjoe: Boris keeps his diet clean and eats small meals every few hours. In the morning, he gets in the most calories, and then later in the day, he sticks to fresh, local produce and lean meats.

Will Smith: Will Smith focuses on eating a high protein diet and cuts out all junk food.  He doesn’t eliminate all of his carbohydrates, but he does focus on eating healthy sources of carbs instead of the processed version. That means that he goes for whole grain versus white.

Idris Elba: No matter what, Idris says he gets in some carbs and protein for breakfast, usually a healthy cereal and some eggs.

Chris Brown: Chris Brown’s diet plan actually allows eating any foods as long as the caloric consumption in a day doesn’t go beyond the allowable caloric allowance. This is a little bit like the Weight Watchers philosophy that you can eat anything but you have a daily calorie limit. In the end, you’ll find yourself eating smart because you do realize that you need to spread your calories out across the day.

David Beckham: David usually has a breakfast of wholemeal cereal, toast and milk, a mid-morning snack of fresh fruit, a mixture of ground cheese and fresh fruit before and after practice, and grilled white meat or fish for dinner. He also limits wine to once a week and bans sweets and candy. While that sounds pretty strict, we can get some tips from his diet. What we can highlight is that we need to eat a good breakfast, eat before and after workouts, and eat a lot of protein at dinner. 

I know that’s a lot of information, but here’s how you can look at it. If there is a celebrity you think has a body similar to yours, and yet they’ve been able to stay in their target weight/muscle definition, maybe some of their diet tips can help. Let me know if any of these work out for you.

Cheers Eights & Weights!
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tricks to Firm up Fast

You don’t have too much time to spend in the gym? I’ve heard that story countless times. We always make time for what’s important, but the truth is we do also have pretty busy lives. The good news is that there are some tricks to get the most out of your workout in the least time. As I said a few weeks ago, there is no use sitting in the gym for hours on end just to be there, when you can stay for a short time and max out your workout. Your time is tres important, so being smart about it is the key.

Don’t slow down: It seems easy enough, right? But you do firm up the most when you go at your max for a short time, rather than go at a medium energy level for an extended period. Going at your max means intense bursts of cardio, and circuit strength training. Have you ever seen the people that do interval training when it comes to cardiovascular exercise? Like a burst of energy and speed, and then medium speed, another burst, then medium speed, and so on? Or the people that do a circuit of like 5 strength exercises over and over without a break in-between? Yes, they know a secret that you don’t. What’s the secret? You build muscles by tearing up your muscles to the max and then giving them time to repair. So if you lift as much as you possibly can, run around on different machines and really tear up your muscles without a break, and then go home and rest, that rest would be so good on your body that you would actually see the difference. The only negative is that this type of intense workout session should not be done every day because then your muscles are not given the chance to repair themselves.

Five is better than Zero: Well, a 2 year old can tell you that. We get so caught up in “looking for time to exercise” that we don’t realize that we could do bursts of exercise anytime, especially strength training. You know what's better than 5 minutes of nothing? 5 minutes of exercise! We’ve been blessed with our own body weight, right? So if your favorite TV show is on a commercial break, why not do 5 minutes of pushups? If you’re waiting for someone to show up to drop something off, do some sit-ups or squats. It does add up. You could find that you go from 0 minutes of exercise in your day to 15 minutes.

Hang out plus exercise: You dance, right? No? Well, you do now! Multitask by hanging out with your friends and getting a workout at the same time. I know you move around in your seat when [insert most recent club-banger here] comes on when you’re out with your friends. Get up and dance to it then!

Change your abdominal exercises: Yea, we all know how to crunch, but you could benefit so much more (and faster) if you vary the exercises you do for your belly. In fact, you could even incorporate tools like a stability ball that help to target all the different abdominal muscles at once. Don’t just do crunches and sit-ups; that would take you forever, and could hurt your neck as well.

Slow down your strength training: Yes, yes, I noticed that this seems to contradict the first thing I said, but let me shed some more light. A lot of people rush through their reps when they strength-train, and don’t give their bodies time to get the most out of the workout. For example, when you’re doing a squat, do you pulse quickly just to get over with it as soon as possible? Try a different approach. Slow it down. When you go into a squat (or any other repetitive exercise), go as far as you can, pause in the position for one second, and then come up. Tell me how your muscles feel after. You could be doing exactly the same exercise as someone else and not letting yourself feel all the benefits of the exercise. So when next you strength-train, give yourself time to feel the burn in the contracted position before you extend. Tear up those muscles a little bit more. But don’t use the excuse of doing fewer repetitions because you feel more pain. Do the same as you would have if you were going fast.

So what did we learn today, class? Go faster, harder, and tear up your muscles in a shorter span of time than going at an average intensity, and exercise wherever and whenever you can no matter how little.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Wonder that is Tofu

With that title, several things are probably going through your mind right now. No, I have not turned this into a  vegan tree-hugging blog.

From the time I’ve spent writing here, I’ve come to realize several things. One big thing that I’ve realized is that there is not only one type of reader here. In fact, since a majority of readers are Africans, I will narrow it down; there is not only one type of African. I believe there are many people that would like to try new things, but don’t know how to cook them, and feel stupid asking. Well, if you ever thought of making tofu, or if you’ve eaten it out a lot but just don’t know how to cook it, rest easy because I’m here to help.

What is tofu?
Stop scratching your head. In some parts of the world, tofu is pretty unpopular. For those who may not know what tofu is, it is basically a coagulated form of mashed soybeans. You know what soybeans are? Then you pretty much know what tofu is. So why is it so popular? It has become synonymous with vegetarianism because of its ability to absorb any flavor it comes around. Unlike meat that takes a while to absorb the flavors of sauce around it, tofu absorbs these flavors very easily. So you can cook it in almost anything and it would taste just like it.

There are several textures of tofu, but for cooking, we commonly use firm tofu.

What are the benefits of tofu?
Besides its absorbent quality, tofu is also known for its very healthy nutritional content. Let’s stack tofu up against beef and chicken, shall we?

Tofu contains much less calories than animal-based products. The only drawback is that although it is high in protein, you’d need at least twice the size to get the amount of protein meat gives you. But again, if you are already surpassing your daily protein requirements, this should not be a problem. Additionally, a lot of the calories in tofu come from fat, but note that it is the good fat, like the kind found in nuts and fish.

Cooking with tofu
So remember how I said tofu was super-absorbent? This is the point where that actually impacts us in a negative way. To ensure that firm tofu does not dry out, it is usually sold as a large block soaked in water. But then, this means that we have to drain the water out before we cook it or it would be all mushy. This draining process does take some time.

With chicken and beef, you can just cut them up and throw them in a pan. With tofu, you have to do the following:
  • Put a couple of layers of napkins on a dish
  • Remove the tofu from the water, and put it on top the napkins
  • Put a chopping board on top the tofu
  • Put something heavy like a can of tomato sauce on the chopping board to help press out the moisture from the tofu
  • Leave this way for at least 15 minutes.
After this, your tofu should be well drained and ready to chop up and cook. To give it a hard meat-like texture, you could bake, grill or fry the tofu for a little bit before you put it in food. Tofu is most commonly used in saut├ęs, noodles, or sauces, but you can basically use it in anything as a meat substitute.

Do you want to try tofu, but are not sure what to make? Here are a few healthy tofu recipes to help get you started: Tofu Recipes. There is so much on that list from Indian to Chinese to Italian. Maybe one day, we’ll have some Nigerian dishes up there too…

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do You Really Need to Exercise an Hour a Day?

I found this article that I really wanted to share. Sometimes, we get so caught up in numbers that we go down the path of "quantity" rather than "quality" when it comes to exercise. The article below talks about how we can focus on the quality of our cardio exercises, and a few things we can do to reduce the amount of time we spend working out, but still reap the same benefits. Check out the article on at the link below:

Let me know what you think.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Selecting the Right Running Shoes

Do not underestimate the power of your shoes to propel you forward or hold you back. We are usually drawn to the bargain shopping experience, and so we tend to do the same with our running shoes. But many of us will not bargain shop for a bad quality pair of pumps or work shoes, so why do we do it with the shoes we use to work out?

However, I do understand that the task of picking a good quality pair of running shoes is daunting, especially since we are not experts and find it difficult to understand the technical aspects of shoe design. But there are a few simple steps you can follow to choose the right pair of shoes for your feet.

What type of feet do you have?
Everyone has different feet, and so the shoes that we feel comfortable in are also very different. Between your heel and the balls of your feet, there is an arch on the inside of your feet, right? Depending on how high or low that arch is, you would need a different type of shoe. To measure you can dip your feet in water and step on a surface where you can see the outline of the shape the water would make when you step off (e.g. paper towels).
  • A regular arch is where the part of your foot that touches the floor when you stand is a little less than half the width of your foot. This also means that there would be less pressure on the left or right side of your foot as you balance. People will regular arches should focus on comfort and stability, and so you should stay away from shoes where the whole sole has no inward arch. And definitely stay away from shoes where the sole has an outward arch. An example of a good shoe for the regular-arched people is the Adidas Women's Supernova Glide 3. See the curve where your foot arch is? That’s exactly what your foot needs.

  • A low arch (also called overpronation or flat feet) is where the part of your foot that touches the floor where you stand is almost the entire width of your foot. So there is a lot of pressure on the inside of your foot where there shouldn’t be because you roll inward as you walk. Stay away from shoes with an arch as those would be uncomfortable.  An example of a good shoe for the low-arched people is the New Balance 1123. See how it seems to focus more on motion from the heel to the toes as you land? That’s what your foot needs.
  • A high arch (also called underpronation) is where the part of your foot that touches the floor where you stand is pretty thin, and almost not visible. There is a lot of pressure on the outside of your foot because the inside basically does not touch the ground. You need shoes that have a lot of cushion to absorb shock so that they could push some of the pressure off of the outer foot. An example of a good shoe for the high-arched individuals is the Nike Air Max+ 2011. See the cushioning on the shoe? That’s what your foot needs so your ankles don’t get sprained. I’m partial to Nike for underpronation because they make a lot of well cushioned shoes.

Although this is a great start, I want to stress that if you have a running store near you, please go there. They would measure your foot, your arch and degree of pronation, as well as your posture, what surface you run on, how long you’ve been running, and how much you weigh. Take your old shoes when you go to a store because they help the clerk figure out how you run. All the shoes I’ve named above are from major sneaker companies that have specialty stores. Go to one if you have a store near you. If you do not, use the tips above. And remember that your shoes could make or break your workout routine, so please invest in them.

If you have questions, let me know. It is not an easy process selecting the right shoes if you are serious about working out, but when you get the right ones, it is well worth it.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When is a Salad Not a Salad?

The conditioning we have received is to tag certain words in our brains as good, and others as bad. For example, if I said the word ‘burger’, you would immediately think juicy with tons of calories. And if I said ‘salad’, you would think dainty, few calories, possibly tasteless, and good for you. If you’ve ever been to a Nigerian 10-year old birthday party and looked at the mayo-infused coleslaw being served, you’d think again. Some salads are worse than a Double Whopper. The word salad is just that, only a word. Restaurants can get away with a lot if they just name an item a salad.

The same theory goes for a burger. If you make it absolutely greasy with greasy onions, tons of cheese, and tons of fatty dressing, of course it is unhealthy. But if you stick to lean meat, get a low calorie bun, skip the cheese, and minimize the dressing, a burger can actually contain less calories than some salads out there.

So what should you look out for when choosing or making a salad? What defeats the whole purpose of having a salad? Here are some of the items:

Bacon: I don’t even need to point this one out to you. Bacon is pretty greasy and salty, and although it’s, you know, bacon, and it’s delicious, a few strips can defeat the purpose of having a salad. It is really not that filling as well, so it just feels like eating empty calories. Try to stick to other forms of lean meat.

Dressing: Rather than use creamy dressings, I would stay try to stick to small servings of vinaigrettes or olive oil. If you absolutely must use a creamy dressing, serve it on the side so you can use just a tad as you eat the salad. There is no point if the number of calories in the dressing is more than the whole salad.

Nuts: Be very careful here. People like to throw in some nuts here and there to spruce up a salad, but when it starts to take over the salad, then there’s a problem. Nuts are great for you, but just like anything, they do contain calories too, and so we can’t eat them endlessly and expect to get away with it. Oh, and stick to nuts with low salt content.

Greens: All edible greens are great for you. But some are better than others. I live by the rule: the greener the vegetable, the better it is for you. Greener vegetables have more vitamins and antioxidants than bland-colored vegetables. So to all the lettuce lovers, come to the spinach side!

Meat: Let’s face it; a plain salad is just blah. You can make your salad taste better and be more filling by adding in some meat. But it’s important to be careful with the type of meat you use in a salad. I once saw a salad with bacon bits, sausage, and chopped burger patties. You may as well just eat a few pizzas. With salads, try to stay in the lean meat or fish category: chicken or turkey breast, lean beef, salmon, etc.

Dried fruit: I love love love fruit in salads. They help to naturally sweeten the vegetables. But please pay attention to the number of calories in the fruit you use when using dried fruit. Some dried fruit are caramelized with sugar and syrup, and that could multiply the number of calories in the raw fruit. If possible, stick to fresh fruit like berries, peaches, oranges, and apples with a low number of calories and tons of other benefits.

Now, just to give you an idea of real-life salads out there that contain over 1000 calories. These are all American restaurants, so if you’re outside the US, these may not apply to you. But I just want you to see how easy it is to pick a bad salad.
  • Cheesecake Factory Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad (contains corn tortillas, avocado cream and sour cream) – 1130 calories
  • Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad (contains cheese quesadillas) – 1400 calories
  • Outback Steakhouse Queensland Salad (contains bacon, cheese, croutons, and mustard vinaigrette) – 1410 calories
  • IHOP Chicken & Spinach Salad (contains fried chicken, bacon and garlic bread): 1600 calories
If you make a spinach salad with turkey breast and some blueberries with balsamic vinaigrette, you could eat about 200 to 300 calories depending on the size. See the difference? The summary is it's easy to assume it's great because it has the word salad in it, but ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO THE CONTENTS OF YOUR SALAD!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gym Machines You Should Probably Avoid

This is going to sound a little contradictory, but going to the gym shouldn’t mean you frequently use all the machines there. Let me explain. Every manufacturer wants you to believe his latest creation will change your workout forever. Strength training machines were created to make your life easier as you work out so you wouldn’t have to build your own exercises. And who doesn’t like that? However, some of them are not necessarily good for our bones, joints, and in some cases, even the other muscles in our bodies. It doesn’t mean they won’t work, it just means if you keep using them long term, you could actually hurt yourself. What are some of these machines?

Seated Leg Extension: If you Google “Gym Machines to Avoid”, this would almost come flashing on your screen like a siren. Seated leg extension machines can vary from one to the next. However, the basic idea is that if you lock your thighs in place, and hold your ankles behind a roller, you can build your quads (your thigh muscles) by lifting your legs from your knees down. It’s a little hard to describe so see the picture above for an idea. The positive is that it does work on your thighs. The negative is that a lot of pressure is applied to your knees because of the range of motion. So what can you do instead? I say you can’t go wrong with some squats!

Seated Rotation Machine: I know, I know, this machine looks like it will give you a cinched waist. But in reality, it can put a lot of pressure on the spine as you are rotating quickly. Some seated rotation machines even go the opposite way allowing you to rotate your lower body, but not your upper body. Doing this speedily can also put too much pressure on your spine. To strengthen the sides of your waist, do some exercises like the bicycle or any kind of side crunch.

Leg Press Machine: This is a favorite in gyms because people feel like they are working hard on their legs without actually exerting too much energy. Simply straighten your legs? Sounds great! But this machine has the same issue as the leg extension machine: you put undue pressure on your knees because you’re not allowing your upper body to help you at all. What’s a good alternative? Need I say it? The squat! For some good extensions, you can also try the lunge.

Ab Rocker: You know that machine that looks like a mini-rocking chair that you put on the ground, hold the bars, and do crunches? No? See the picture above. It was the infomercial craze back in the day. But recent studies have shown that this machine just puts pressure on your spine and your neck, and what’s worse is that it really doesn’t work your abs as well as a regular crunch. Ouch. What’s the alternative? Just do some crunches or sit-ups.

Behind-the-neck Lat Pull-Down: This is the lat pull-down machine that forces your chest forward as you pull the weight down towards your upper back. The problem with this machine is that it forces your chest into a position that is not very helpful in building muscle. Because the position is unnatural, it can leave you without the benefit of the exercise because you didn’t do it correctly, or it can cause shoulder pain if you did do it correctly. There’s hardly a winning scenario here. What are some alternatives? Do lat pull-downs, but on the front not the back. Or use dumbbells behind you and lift them up in a straight line behind your lower back.

The more I exercise, the more I realize that we can rarely go wrong with using our own body weight or using free weights like dumbbells. The trick is just learning how to use them right. Machines aren’t bad, but they do add a little complication, and it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which ones are the most beneficial because everyone is singing that they are the best and will give you a rocker bod. They even use those fitness models in the ads that make you run straight to the gym. But pay attention to how your body feels as you use these. Does something not feel right? Does it feel like your body was not meant to move that way? Then stop and try to do something else.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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