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Calorie Intake and You: Calories Do Count – Part 1

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You may have heard various and sundry diet and nutrition gurus touting the benefits of a given “diet”-you can eat as much as you want and not gain fat, as long as it is under the full moon, the color red, and you eat standing up.

OK, so maybe not that extreme, but the idea that total calories don’t matter if you eat specific foods is around and pervasive. Well, calories do count.

There’s no way around the laws of thermodynamics, at least not yet. Quality of food is an important issue as well, don’t get me wrong. But from a strictly energy balance perspective-it’s calories that are king (or queen.) It’s not magic, it’s not difficult, but it does take a bit of attention-at least if you’re interested in improving your health and or the way you look.

Calorie Intake and You

We’ll be looking into the idea of energy balance ie:calories in versus calories out. Today we’ll take a look out the calories you expend-energy output. In Part 2 we’ll take a look at calories in, energy intake, and the ways to track that.

Calories out=energy expenditure=all activity, bodily function, energy required for digestion of food, exercise, cleaning the house, everything. Definition of terms that create your total calorie burn:

  • RMR=resting metabolic rate-the amount of calories you need to exist without any activity-ie:bedrest
  • TEA-thermic effect of activity-this, obviously, represents the caloric burn of activity, both exercise and non-exercise acitivty.
  • NEAT=non exercise activity thermogenesis=general activity like walking the dog, playing with the kids, cleaning the house, fidgeting, general moving around that is not “exercise.” (This can have a VERY large impact on your daily caloric burn. It’s the difference between sitting on your butt on the computer or watching TV and moving, just doing something, anything.)
  • TEF-thermic effect of food. Basically the energy expended to digest and assimilate food into usable energy.

Lyle McDonald, a very smart guy, has a great article that goes into more depth regarding all of these terms. You can find it here.

Calorie expenditure calculators

The RMR is the component that we don’t control very much. TEF and TEA we can make changes to. There are many calculators out there which can help you determine your energy expenditure. One that seems to be fairly accurate is the Mifflin equation, and you can find the calculator here. To get an idea of how many calories are burned for specific activities, you can use the calculator at Fitness Partner here. Keep in mind these are all estimates, but good starting points.

If you like to get even more specific, you can use the Bodybugg or GoWearFit devices. These are small devices you wear on your arm that measure motion, heat given off, skin response to stress, and temperature. You may have see the contestants on “The Biggest Loser” wearing them. They are cool little toys, and definitely make you more aware of how much you are, (or are not) burning in a given day. They also give you more individualized information than an equation.

I think the most useful application of these is that it truly makes you think about moving more and get the burn higher, and you are super aware of when you are just sitting (oh dang, I’m only burning a calorie a minute here.) Leigh Peele has done a comparison of the two devices which you can find here.

I’ve used the Bodybugg on several different occasions, and I am going to share a few of my observations. I hope this helps you see the impact of how moving, and kind of movement, can impact your calorie burn. Oh-any why does this matter? Because if you burn more, your calorie balance is altered. This can positively impact your weight and your health.

My observations

So here we go: I am 35 years old, female, and weighed 127. My RMR has been tested at 1500 calories which also was shown by the Bodybugg. Here’s some examples of calories burned.

  • 30 minutes moderate intensity steady state cardio-(treadmill walking on an incline)-200 calories
  • Sitting at a computer at work-80 calories per hour
  • Taking a 20 minute walk outside during my break at work-100 calories (see the difference between sitting an just walking-this was a casual walk, not a power-exercise walk)
  • 45 minutes of heavy weight training-220 calories

Calorie burn total for this day, which included 45 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of cardio for structured exercise, was 2350 calories.

A day where I was mostly sedentary, sitting at work all day and then going to get my hair cut and colored in the evening (which was more sitting) I burned 1800 calories.

Had I just gone for a short walk I could have bumped that burn by a couple hundred calories WITHOUT GOING TO THE GYM! That’s a huge difference in calorie burn. 550 calories is a big difference day to day. Cleaning the house burns a ton of calories. Which reminds me I really need to clean the floor….

Get up and move!

Although the structured exercise had a positive impact on my net calorie burn, it wasn’t the main area. Many people are under the impression that an hour at the gym will counteract all the sitting. Guess what-it doesn’t. Getting up and moving during the day can have much bigger impact than we realize. You don’t HAVE to set aside many hours to dedicate to exercise to get in better shape.

I hope this helps shed some light on how you can burn calories, and the importance of general movement.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below, or share if you have used the Bodybugg or GoWearFit!

Now-go forth and burn!

Top 10 Misconceptions on Getting Fit and Healthy

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In no particular order, and this is my opinion. There’s certainly more than 10.

Fit. Healthy.

These words may mean different things to different people. Actually, I am sure that they do, as well all have our own frames of reference. Here’s what I’m referring to here in the context of this article.

Fit and healthy means having the physical ability to do the things you want to do without getting out of breath.

It means being able to open a heavy door, carry bags of groceries, go up and down stairs. (By the way-this is the definition according to Erin-this is not Webster’s by any stretch of the imagination.) It means being able to play with your kids-really play with them, not lie down on the floor and let them climb on you because you don’t have the energy or ability to do anything else. It is the ability to live your life and do what you want to do, without self-imposed, changeable physical limitations. Are we straight? OK, here we go!

Top 10 Misconceptions on Getting Fit and Healthy

1) I have to exercise a lot.

This is not true. Actually, I should clarify. It depends on what you call “a lot.” If 30 minutes daily or at least 6 times a week is “a lot”, then maybe yes. However, you do not have to do all structured exercise-meaning going to the gym, lifting weights, or doing cardio. It can be activity-take the dog for a walk, throw the football, play frisbee, whatever.

The most important thing is to get off your duff and move. Don’t sit when you can stand, don’t stand when you can walk. Get up and walk around the house or office every 20-30 minutes. Go window shop. Clean the house-talk about getting immediate gratification and burning a bunch of calories. I wanted a cleaning service until I wore the Bodybugg and cleaned the house. (My fiance was very happy, because I dropped asking about getting a cleaning service after I learned that.)

Cleaning house can easily burn 200-300 calories-depending on the size of the house and exactly what you do, of course. Pace while you’re on the phone. The moral of the story is just move.

2) I have to eat 6 times a day.

Nope. You can if you want to, but you don’t have to. Research has shown that a isocaloric diet (same amount of calories and composition) shows no “metabolic advantage” as far as calorie burn goes, to eating more often. You don’t have to “stoke the metabolic fire.”

Some people find that they feel better eating smaller meals more often. Some like a few larger meals. Some like meals and small snacks. Have at it! Any of it! Whatever will help you eat consistently well, and fits into your lifestyle, is what you should do.

3) I don’t have time to exercise.

Really? Now this is not going to win me any fans, but would you ever say you don’t have time to brush your teeth? Take a shower? You find time to do the things that are important to you. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, we all have responsibilities and things we have to do. If something is important-you figure it out and make it happen.

If someone said they’d give you a million dollars if you exercised, I bet you’d find a way to get it done. And again-it doesn’t have to be organized exercise, although it can be. It early in the morning, before the day gets crazy, before the kids/husband/wife/significant other/dog gets up is the only time-do it! If you can get out at lunchtime-do it! To quote Nike: just do it. Pick a time, and do it. Go. NOW!

4) I don’t have time to cook.

See number 3. Also, cooking can be much less expensive, as well as much better for you. If you shop smart, buying sale items, stocking up, you can eat healthfully for a reasonable expenditure. You can also cook large amounts of staple items so you have good food ready to go.

Click here for a post on planning ahead. Make good friends with your slow cooker. And again-you make time for what is important to you.

5) People that are fit are just lucky/genetically gifted/freaks of nature.

This, personally, drives me insane. If someone says to me-“You’re so lucky” I tell them:

Actually, luck has nothing to do with it. Time, consistency, and a lot a hard work and good nutrition do.

Yes, we all have different and unique genetics. However, that does not limit you from becoming the most healthy and fit person you can be. If you have concerns, see your doctor to rule out health issues. Then get moving!

6) I don’t want to get bulky.

This comes from women. I promise you, you will not get bulky. You can-but it would be very intentional, and wouldn’t happen overnight, and may require exogenous hormones.

I hate to say it, but what many people refer to as “bulky” is most of the time just fat.

If you got leaner, you wouldn’t think you had too much muscle on your thighs anymore, I can almost guarantee it. When fat covers muscle, that is when the perception of bulky occurs. For the most part. There are very few women who are genetically blessed to put on muscle easily. This is NOT the majority. Chances are very good it’s not you.

I promise you, I lift as hard and as heavy as I possibly can, and I am not bulky. Unless I’m carrying too much fat. Then I could be bulky-but it’s fat-not muscle, and when I lean down viola-not bulky. Leigh Peele, whose work I respect and enjoy, has written on this subject and you can read up on it here.

7) I don’t like healthy food.

Nobody really likes boiled chicken and broccoli. However, that is not what you have to eat. You do not have to suffer to lose weight and/or get fit/be healthy. There’s a big wide world of food variety to try!

You can add flavor to foods with spices, herbs, citrus, marinades, rubs, various preparation methods-the world is your oyster (or clam, or shrimp, or salmon-get it?)

Branch out, read food magazines or sites, wander around the farmers market or grocery and try something new. There are a metric ton of wonderful resources-and many food blogs that are specifically gluten free.

If you see a recipe you like-take a look and see how it can be modified, if necessary, to meet your nutrition goals. After you do this a few times it becomes very easy and second nature. I get ideas from the Food Network, and then modify as needed for gluten free and healthy. There’s no reason for you to eat anything you don’t like. There are many options.

8) I can’t live without _______ (chocolate ice cream, bacon, deep fried onions, candy etc.)

You don’t have to.

Just make an indulgence just that-an occasional indulgence. Set aside a Saturday dinner to eat what you want or what you’ve been craving. When you’ve been eating well all week, you can have that bit of indulgence with no guilt and no repercussions.

If you haven’t been eating well all week, then you may want to reconsider. Figure if you eat well 80-90% of the time, take that remaining percentage and have a little bit of an indulgence. That doesn’t mean a whole bag of Pamela’s Chocolate Chip Simplebites (been there.) Have a few, enjoy them, put them away. In the freezer if necessary. Then enjoy guilt free again the following week.

9) I have to get in shape before I start going to the gym.

Nope, just go. No one there cares, they are all too busy worrying about themselves. Just start, give yourself permission to begin.

I am always inspired to see people who are new to exercise and the gym, or who are coming back from a layoff. It takes a big decision to make that first step. Little bits at a time, but start. Just begin. Preferably today. Go for a walk. The article will be here when you get back.

10) It’s too hard.

Well, I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. But what is harder-making a change, or staying the way you are?

Changing behavior first requires a change in perspective. Are you truly satisfied and content with your currrent health and fitness status, your appearance and weight? If so-then stay the same, that’s awesome. If not-make a change.

Choosing to make a change is probably the hardest part. Actually taking the first few steps to change is pretty hard too. But then it’s like a snowball effect-you start to feel/look better, you have more energy, so you want to do more to improve your life. Inertia is very powerful. You can’t escape physics-a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Get in motion, and give it time to have inertia kick in.

Act now

So for today-take 1 step, make 1 choice to help you achieve your goals. Don’t give in to the misconceptions and poor information that is so pervasive. Get educated, make your own decisions. Move forward.

What misconceptions have you heard or seen? What steps have you taken? Do any of these ring true for you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Top 5 reasons why you should exercise gluten free

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Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, right? With the obesity epidemic on the rise, related disorders and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease rapidly increasing, exercise is potentially one of our most potent weapons against these problems.

However, there are some special considerations that people with celiac disease should think about. Exercise should become a part of lifestyle for all of us-but here is why celiacs in particular can benefit.

Top 5 reasons why you should exercise gluten free

1) Weight Control

For some people with celiac disease, malabsorption may have been an issue to the point where they lost weight. For others, they may have gained weight. For all, the prevalence of processed, low nutritive but high calorie gluten free foods is a potential cause for weight/fat gain. Exercise can assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and the inclusion of weight training can also aid in achieving healthy body composition as far as muscle to fat ratio.

Our everyday lives for the most part tend to be very sedentary in nature. Adding exercise can boost the caloric burn you create throughout your day, which would allow you to maintain a caloric balance more easily.

2) Bone health

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are unfortunate and very common consequences of celiac disease and resultant malabsorption of nutrients. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, and running can aid in remodeling of bone.

Unfortunately, cycling and swimming have not been found to be as beneficial when it comes to bone health. Weight training has a very positive impact on bone health. You may not be able to reverse the weakening of bone you already have, but you can certainly keep it from worsening.

3) Improved mood

Certainly non-celiacs demonstrate this as well. Sometimes though, we celiacs get a case of the “why me’s?” or get frustrated with the challenges of everyday living gluten free. Walking into the break room at work and seeing crumbs all over the counter does it to me!

Step away from the kitchen, and go exercise. Exercise has been shown to release hormones known as endorphins which can boost mood. Also, the neurotransmitter serotonin is released which can also assist in maintaining a positive mood.

4) Improved overall circulation

This could also assist in keeping the gut healthy, or in healing damage already created from gluten in a small way. Blood flow to the gut is decreased during an actual exercise bout (and directed to the working muscles,) but overall the circulation to and activity of the digestive tract is improved with regular exercise.

5) Improved nutrition

Of course this doesn’t come directly from exercise. But exercising may cause you to make healthier nutrition choices. The “halo effect” or where the positive qualities of one thing transfer to another, may make you reach for the carrot instead of the gluten free muffin. Doing one good thing for your body may create a domino effect where you do a second and third good thing for your body. Improving your nutrition by eating more vitamin and nutrient rich whole foods will fill in any deficiencies you may have experienced due to malapsorption. Also you may experience weight/fat loss of that is your goal given an appropriate caloric intake level.

A couple of considerations to keep in mind.

You do want to be sure to get adequate levels of iron and calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D to sustain energy levels and maximize bone health. Also keep in mind, especially if weight training, that protein needs may be higher. Generally accepted levels for weight training athletes (yes you are an athlete) is approximately 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.

So what will exercise do for you? Potentials are limitless-but looking better, feeling strong, keeping bones healthy, thinking positive, and eating well-sounds pretty good to me!