What I Read This Week

This post is more accurately titled “What I’ve read this month” but I plan to share interesting articles I come across on a weekly basis going forward.  For anyone who really wants to see everything I read and find interesting, you can follow me on FlipBoard under the username @mtroiano31.  Most of my “magazines” are public, and sorted by nutrition, recipes, lifting, other wellness, etc.

You may notice that I read a lot more men’s health and fitness publications that women’s versions – and it’s not because I want to bulk up or get “huge.” (In fact, I love seeing the “massive gains” articles that incorporate most of the moves I use in the gym that have not made me huge.  I know that since I am a woman, lifting “heavy” isn’t going to make me huge unless I start eating –and supplementing — very differently).

Sadly, most of the “women’s” health advice out there counsels that women should eat ~1200 calories of mainly carbohydrates (with no fat ever!) and plant themselves on a treadmill for hours at a time in the gym.  Or even better, they involve articles about how to keep your hair shiny and manicure intact while you’re working out.  Don’t get me wrong, I like shiny hair and nice nails, but that’s getting me no where closer to a leaner, toned body, nor is it improving my internal health.

So, it turns out that the advice I find most useful tends to come from publications geared toward men.  Of course, that sometimes puts hilarious articles like this one re: “testicle ironing” in my path, but so be it.  😉

Nutrition:

(1) HuffPost Superfoods for fat Loss – A (surprisingly) good summary of foods I try to include in my meals each week, and why they’re “superfoods” (note: I hate the term superfoods because I think it is overused and thrown around to describe every vegetable/fruit under the sun, but I do think every diet should include staple foods–like those referenced here–that are anti-inflammatory and highest in antioxidants and vitamins/minerals.)

(2) Muscle and Fitness’s 12 Unhealthy Health Foods – again, a pretty spot-on list of foods I avoid that (for some reason) are always thrown around as “healthy.”

(3) A great post on Paleo from one of my favorite bloggers, the Domestic Man – after 3 years of Paleo eating, he gives nine lessons that he has learned.

(4) Another good Paleo post from T-Nation – this article really fits in line with my views on personalizing a “diet” to work for your specific situation and level of activity.  I like the concept of paleo — not because I care what people were eating thousands of years ago, but because (1) I think the idea of eating “real food” and avoiding anti-nutrients makes sense to me and (2) it has worked for me in practice.  The caveat to #2 is that it has worked for me with some important tweaks.  I still use a hemp protein powder from Onnit and a whey protein powder from Isopure on occasion – I get full really easily, and it is easier to get protein through a shake than trying to eat 1lb of 96/4 lean ground beef as a snack.  I also take a slew of supplements – I don’t think I can eat enough to get a sufficient amount of some nutrients that I am looking for to correct hormonal imbalances that I developed through years of anorexia and bulimia.  That means buying supplements from trusted sources to meet my daily needs.  I also like 3 drops of stevia in my tea over calorie/carb-laden maple syrup or honey – I have no problem avoiding sugar, and the stevia I use is organic and all-natural with no alcohols or additives.  And, horror of all horrors, I occasionally eat cheese and/or store bought almond milk (when I am too lazy to make my own.) I know a lot of “paleo” people would take issue with these variations, but it works for me.  I feel healthy and energetic, and I save time, which allows me eat this way while being a lawyer (which is a time-consuming endeavor).

(5) Chris Kresser is one of my favorite bloggers, and his post on reduction of blood pressure through diet is a great one.  The advice is simple and easy to follow, and backed up with studies.  I have super low blood pressure – it was just 96/42 at the doctor on Friday — but this is great advice to have in the queue for people on the other side of things.
Lifting:

(1) Advice on targeting fast-twitch muscles from Bodybuilding.com – I am naturally such a slow-twitch, endurance person –  my track coach used to joke that my 400m times were barely faster than my 1600m pace, and she knew I loved to win too much not to give it my all.  That means I am always looking for ways to activate my fast twitch muscles. Looks like lifting heavy and working until fatigue are the ways to go.

(2) 2014 is my year of training body parts I tend to ignore – which means my calves and abs (which are somehow, blessedly, naturally defined and strong-looking with next to no work on my part) require some extra attention.  This article on lifting for calves provides some great tips on how to approach calve training, and these articles from BuiltLean and Bodybuilding.com offer some unique ab training moves. I’ll be incorporating all into my upcoming workouts.

(3) I had mixed feelings about this list of lifting tips for women from Bret Contreras.  Some of the list seemed to stereotype women as more fad-ish and less educated about fitness and nutrition, but given my comments about Women’s health mags above, maybe this isn’t so far off.  Particular favorites of mine (because they are the antithesis of my personal experience) were:

  • Women in general complain about pain more frequently than men (by the way, the notion that women have higher pain tolerances than men is not supported in the literature)[My own experience is quite to the contrary]
  • Many women loathe calluses and prefer to wear lifting gloves as they feel it allows them to retain their femininity – and I have absolutely no problem with this as a trainer[My hands are covered in calluses]
  • Some women giggle when they’re struggling with exercise form or when pushing a set near failure – men don’t do this[Seriously???]

These (and many other) comments aside, I thought some of the things on his list were pretty spot on:

  • Women have much better stamina than men in terms of training density at higher intensities – they don’t require as much intra-set rest time as men
  • Most women initially possess “quad dominance”, which should actually be referred to as “posterior chain weakness”
  • Women are not initially very competent at executing 1RM’s, and this skill takes more time to develop in women compared to men
  • Women tend to go too light with resistance training, whereas men tend to go too heavy to the point where their form breaks down too much or they rely on excessive momentum (there’s a popular saying in our industry that women should add 10% to the bar while men should take 10% off the bar)
  • Women’s upper bodies are much weaker than those of men – lower body strength is around 70-75% of men, whereas upper body strength is around 40-60%

All in all, an interesting, albeit oversimplified, read.

Cardio:

(1) Good Tips on Running Form from Competitor Running – when your form improves, you’re much more efficient and can actually shave some seconds off of your mile time.

(2) Elite Fitness’s take (with the research to back it up) on why overdoing cardio is detrimental to your health (and weight) – I will note that I think there is a place for endurance based training and I LOVE running longer distances, but I think it is important to realize that these workouts should not be the everyday-go-to workout for optimal fitness and health.

Recipes I want to try:

(1) Kale Omelettes from the Sprouted Kitchen

(2) Garlic Chicken from the Playful Kitchen

(3) Cook Eat Paleo’s Frittata

(4) Against All Grain’s Stir Fry

(5) Nom Nom Paleo’s Curried Cauliflower

Recovery:

(1) Fitness RX’s Benefits of Sleep – my focus for the past 6 months has been on improving my sleep.  It has really helped my training and my focus at work.

(2) Fascinating flip-side article from the Atlantic on the detriments of sleep deprivation.  I shudder at the thought of my years of 3-4 hour sleep nights.  Suffice it to say that New Yorkers –myself included– need to slow down and aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.

(3) HuffPost cites a report that consistent routines are good for sleep quality.  Given that I consider consistency one of life’s greatest virtues and I thrive on a schedule that is repetitive and predictable, this was good news. 🙂

(4) Men’s Fitness’s list of recovery tools – I’m obsessed with the Grid, the Stick, the cold roller, and trigger point massage balls, and I am frequently in compression gear in my apartment.  This list is a pretty great list of tools to equip yourself with for myofacial release at home.

Other:

(1) I am a gadget fanatic, so these socks seemed pretty cool.  The socks have sensors that allow you to see in real-time whether you’re heel striking or off on your cadence.  They’re also coming out with gear that has a built in heart rate monitor.  I don’t know if my level of running justifies $200 for a pack of 4 socks, but this is pretty cool nonetheless.

Happy reading!

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