Healthy Pyramid Diet

Dictionary.com defines nutrition as:

–noun

1. the act or process of nourishing or of being nourished.

2. the science or study of, or a course of study in, nutrition, esp. of humans.

3. the process by which organisms take in and utilize food material.

4. food; nutriment.

5. the pursuit of this science as an occupation or profession.

This article mainly concerns definition number 2 and aims to correct some of the common fallacies in the field of diet, health and nutrition.

Expect some controversial opinions and arguments as I explain what health and nutrition is really about as compared to the norm. This is no ‘Mind your Body’ issue no. XX or some Men’s Health nutrition advice. It is the product of my research and personal experience. (For the uninitiated, ‘Mind your Body’ is a weekly newspaper supplement for the The Straits Times, published every Thursday – you can read some of its past issues in the link below.

http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/News/Pages/Feb%202010-News-Archive-By-Chronological.aspx)

Not quite as healthy as what it claims to be

Not quite as healthy as what it claims to be

Along the way, I will also address common questions like “are fats bad for your body?” and “is meat bad?”.

Mention the word, ‘nutrition’ and everyone thinks of the healthy pyramid diet.

Tragically, it has been ingrained into our minds since young, during our first health education lesson in primary school that the healthy pyramid is the paradigm of a healthy diet.

The healthy pyramid diet was designed by the Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) to be a nutrition guide for everyone to model their diet after. The purpose which, is to educate the population from young the importance of a healthy diet and introduce to them the different major food groups and recommended daily servings so they can plan and eat healthy meals.

This is an applaudable effort. I am sure part of the whole ‘healthy pyramid diet’ indoctrination process is because HPB does not want Singapore to turn into another obesity epidemic case-study like Huntington. Read below:

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/World/Story/STIStory_557311.html

Cliff notes version: (Yea, figured you didn’t have a ST Digital account. Let me know if you want to read that article but cannot find a way to do so)

Huntington is among the unhealthiest cities in America. The survey found that 24.3% of adults 18 years-of-age or older reported themselves as in poor to fair health. In addition, the CDC reports that 45.5% of adults older than 20 years are obese. 21.6% of adults over 45 years of age reported a diagnosis of coronary heart disease while another 12.7% of adults aged 18 or older reported a diagnosis of diabetes. An Associated Press article describes local eating habits (the number of pizza shops in Huntington alone exceeding the total number of health clubs available in the entire state of West Virginia), the relatively sedentary culture, and poor education as causes for health issues described in the CDC report. Huntington was rated as the most unhealthy city in the United States.

Source: Wikipedia.org

In comes Jamie Oliver, who tackles the city’s obesity problem by initiating a change of canteen menus in the local primary and high schools. Anyone can benefit from reading (or watching) more about Jamie Oliver, arguably one of the world’s best chefs. Ever.

But I digress.

As expected, the ‘whites’ lost out in the ‘eat wholegrain bread’ mascot selection

Back to the Healthy Pyramid Diet.

Its diet nutrition mantra goes along the lines of:

Minimise oil, salt, sugar and fat intake.

Eat meat lower in fat and cholesterol (red meats) and try soy for its healthy beenfits (low in fat, high in calcium)

Eat more vegetables, fruits, fish and rice. Aim to consume at least five servings.

Eat more whole-grain food as opposed to white bread and rice (probably kickstarted by the recent ‘eat wholegrain’ campaign involving the whole-grain ginger breadman)

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) and dietary advice it dispenses goes along the lines of:

Fats? Bad for health and nutrition as well as weight loss – you should not consume fat; aim for zero fat intake (mostly saturated, especially those derived from animals) in your diet.

Instead, HPB recommends plant oils (margarine, canola oil, soybean oil, olive oil) as a substitute for animal oils (butter) because they contain less saturated fat and are hence more heart healthy.

Like all temptations, they are simply too sweet to resist

Sugar? No. Sugar/fructose is the devil that causes your teeth to decay and make you fat and ugly.

Nutrition supplements are not required and one should use the average caloric intake of 2000 kcal per day to plan his/her nutritional needs.

Therefore, a compliant dieter sources protein from fish, beans vegetables and white meat. Red meat such as beef contains unhealthy animal fat and artery-choking cholesterol which can result in strokes or cardiovascular ailments. (Of course I disagree, read my argument on this in later articles)

His/her diet can be generally classified as low in fat and protein but high in carbohydrates.

Most people would agree with me that this is an ideal diet one should aspire towards achieving.

However, I beg to differ. Protein and Fat have a big role to play in most people’s diet and they are severely neglected in the healthy pyramid diet.

While the Singapore healthy pyramid diet is a decent model diet for those trying to eat healthy, it still falls short in terms of providing the people with adequate protein nutrition and healthy fat.

Introducing HPB’s worst nightmare

The healthy pyramid diet may be sub-optimal because it is based on the following principles:

The lower the fat content in a diet, the less fat the dieter will get.

We do not need too much protein in our diet. 1g/lb (pound) is sufficient to meet our body’s requirememnt. Too much (red) meat contains artery-clogging cholesterol which creates cardiovascular diseases

Eat rice and pasta to increase satiety (the feeling of ‘fullness’) . Carbohydrates are good becaue they will not make you fat.

Limit one’s intake of dairy to reduce fat content. Butter and cheese contains saturated fat and should be replaced with plant-based oils. For example, margarine, canola oil etc

While the intention of encouraging people to eat more vegetables, fruits and fish is most welcome, many of the other tips and advice it provides is actually wrong and detrimental for anyone trying to eat healthily!

What exactly am I talking about? What is wrong with the healthy pyramid diet? Or is it me?

As you can imagine, this is one topic which cannot be covered in one article. (Not, no that part about me; I’m fine. Really. I just happen to like salt with my coffee. What, you don’t? Weirdo.)

I have no intention of bombing you with another junkload again. At least not yet.

Here is a sneak preview of what the upcoming articles will look like:

Looking at this makes you feel healthier already

1) What you should know about: Protein

2) What you should know about: Fat

3) What you should know about: Carbohydrate

Till then, I hope you guys will think about what I have written. If there are any opinions/comments, feel free to voice them out.

To end this article, I would like to drop the following questions as food for thought: (What? You didn’t like that overused, poorly chosen and lousily placed idiom of mine? My bad)

1) Are all meat bad? (Are sausages the same as organic chicken breast?)

2) What is sugar? Why is it bad? What happens when you eat white rice? Are you actually eating white sugar?

3) Lastly, my favourite: Will eating fat make one more fat? An eskimo’s diet is one of the highest in fat intake in the world but yet they are not fat, or even unhealthy.

See: http://discovermagazine.com/2004/oct/inuit-paradox

Stay tuned for my followup article!

On a sidenote: I apologise for the lack of updates! Haven’t had time to really type them out. I will do my best to write faster while not compromising the quality of my writing.

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What is Fitness?

Do me a favour.

Before reading this post, ask yourself these three questions.

1) What is my purpose for training and exercise? Is it to improve my sport fitness? Or to increase weight loss and look more attractive?

2) What does my current fitness training consist of? A mixture of cardio and weights? A full body weight exercise circuit?

3) Why am I using this fitness workout? Is it because the magazine said it would cause more weight loss and build more muscle?

Part 1 — Introduction to Fitness

Fitness can broken down into two components: Physical Fitness and Specific Fitness

Wikipedia defines physical fitness as:

A state of health and well-being

and specific fitness as:

a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations

Our fitness naturally improves with training and exercise but what attribute of fitness are we exactly training? It depends on a variety of factors, which I will discuss below. In most cases, as our physical fitness improves, so does our specific fitness. However, this may not always hold true.

For example: When a powerlifter trains, the primary form of energy system he trains is the anaerobic energy system (supply our muscles with energy in the absence of oxygen). Therefore, there is no need for him to be outstanding in terms of cardiovascular fitness.

Not all powerlifters are bloated and overweight but a good majority are, and with good reason. The bigger the cross-section of their core, the greater their ability to lift heavy weights.

Therefore, when someone trains specifically for the powerlifting sport, he may lose other fitness attributes such as endurance, stamina, body composition and agility.

In this case, can he still be considered physically fit? Well, a good test is if he cannot even walk 5 blocks without panting, then I think he cannot be classified as such.

Strong as hell? YEAAA. Physically fit? hmmm

Strong as hell? YEAAA. Physically fit? hmmm

Part 2 — Some factors which influence the type of fitness you are training for

1. Training objective

Are you training for speed, endurance, strength or all three fitness attributes? The more fitness components in your training objective, the less specific your training becomes.

If you want to squat 300kg, you will need some serious strength. Other elements of fitness such as Power (a result of how you train – explosively fast in the concentric phase) and flexibility (to be able to get into a proper squat position) is required, together with many of the other fitness attributes.

But in conclusion, you still need strength. Because you are training for the strength to squat 300kg, which makes it a specific fitness goal.

2. Purpose for training

Why do you train? Are you interested to build muscle or to perform better in the wrestling cage? Do you need the endurance to lead your infantrymen out of the jungle by marching 60km.

These are some very different purposes for training, each with its own fitness requirement and training and exercise methods.

A soldier may be extremely physically fit as a result of his combat training but his fitness is still very specific to the nature of his job.

Take a peek into the life of a typical special operations soldier:

After being sleep-deprived for 2 weeks, Staff Sergeant Tony received notification to gather his men and evacuate area sector 3B in 5minutes because artillery support fire will be coming in. He organised his men promptly and taking the lead, ran far and fast, dressed in combat fatigues, with over 30kg of load, gear and armaments under the hot glaring sun while still being able to calm his breathing to steady his rifle when firing at enemies in his path.

Just a stroll in the park

Come on man, show some spirit! This is just 50% max. load remember?

Understand that most Olympic athletes will not be able to perform the feat above.

3. Type of training

How much time and energy do you devote to each form of training i.e cardio/resistance exercise. This will impact your fitness gains and losses – the more cardio exercise you do, the more efficient your cardiovascular system becomes and your endurance will increase. However, this will mean less emphasis for your other fitness attributes which may stagnate or decrease as a result.

For example, a recreational but experienced runner may be aiming to complete the marathon under 4 hours.

The training usually involves clocking a certain running mileage every week, which increases as the competition date draws near but drops significantly in the last couple of weeks as the athlete is sufficiently conditioned for the race and allocates more time for rest to prepare the body for peak performance on the actual day.

For this case, the runner is training his specific fitness because he is pushing his body to run the fastest 42.195km it is capable of. It is the main objective of his training.

In the process, his stamina and endurance will increase but other fitness components like body composition or strength will be sidelined.

Hence, can we consider this an improvement in physical fitness?

Sure, if the chap was a former fat bastard BUT what if he was already a lean and mean machine to start with? Some food for thought.

Former Fat Bastard

Former Fat Bastard

And to be sure, just because you are training for a marathon does not guarantee you 6 pack abs.

As quoted from Rachel Cosgrove:  (Taken direct from the blog entry)

… I have found that as I train for these longer distance events and add more and more volume of steady state aerobic training my body changes and not the way I want it to. I don’t lose weight and I don’t fit in a smaller size in fact my weight and size usually stay about the same, despite a high training volume, but my appearance is different. I lose my abs and don’t have the definition I am used to seeing and overall end up feeling a bit “soft” by the time of the event.

By the way, Rachel Cosgrove and her husband, Alwyn Cosgrove are some of the most well-known fitness professionals in the world. If you can only take exercise advice from someone, it will him or her.

Part 3 — A basic idea of how different fitness goals require different kinds of training and exercise

Let me just summarise the above:

* Fitness can be categorised into physical fitness or specific fitness.
* In most cases, when one becomes more physically fit, his specific fitness will also improve.
* A good example will be after some workouts, an obese person creates a weight loss of 20kg. Not only does his physical fitness increase – the chances of him passing his standing broad jump test (A specific fitness test) will be higher too.
* Therefore physical fitness can be used as a general indicator in terms of improvement in specific fitness.
* But this correlation cannot be applied for all cases; refer to the powerlifter’s example above

Hence, plan your fitness workout smartly.

– If your fitness goal is to look good naked, you basically need to build muscle while increasing weight loss, thus improving your body composition. For females, the latter is more important but do not neglect muscle development too!

Examples of body composition goals:

I want to have a gymnast’s fitness

Give me a superhero’s body (minus the ridiculous costume)

To build muscle, sculpt my shoulders into boulders and attain chiselled abs

– If your goal is to bench, squat and deadlift heavy sh!t, you need to work on:

Building a basic foundation of strength in the different planes of movement along all axes (push/pull vertically and horizontally).

Training with low reps (1-5)

Observe some form of periodisation in your training

– If you want the mental endurance of a Special Operations Force soldier, Mariusz Zbigniew Pudzianowsk‘s strength, Usain Bolt’s speed and Arnold’s body, I say you should also consider aiming for the world’s greatest douche award too.

World's biggest douchebag

World

Part 4 — Conclusion

I have left much unsaid. Obviously, there is so much more to be covered on what the kinds of fitness training and sport fitness entail and how you should work on it.

Nevertheless, the main focus of this article is to educate everyone about the different fitness goals. I hope I have clearly distinguished what constitutes a specific fitness goal or physical fitness goal so you can develop the correct mindset and improve your sport fitness or physical fitness.

In my next few articles, I will talk about the basics of exercise and nutrition.

Now, before you close this window and yawn to yourself thinking how you are ever going to get back the wasted 5 minutes of your life, I want you to recall the 3 questions I posed to you at the start.

1) What is my purpose for training and exercise? Is it to improve my sport fitness? Or to increase weight loss and look more attractive?

2) What does my current fitness training consist of? A mixture of cardio and weights? A full body weight exercise circuit?

3) Why am I using this fitness workout? Is it because the magazine said it would cause more weight loss and build more muscle?

Think carefully. Have you discovered anything? So was your fitness goal actually different from what you thought otherwise?

For example: Instead of training to keep fit, are you actually training to increase weight loss? There is a difference. Instead of training to be stronger, maybe all you are after is to build muscle  Let me know in the comments what you think.

Best of Luck,

sgfitnessblog

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Introduction

First post will be out by end of 18 July, Sunday.

I’m sorry if I kept anyone waiting (yea, keep on stroking your fragile ego you despicable self-centred bastard)

These will be the topics covered in the first wave.

1) Fitness – How to obtain it?

2) Nutrition and its impact on your waist line

3) Exercise and its benefits. How to start exercising?

Understandably, the first few entries are extremely broad based in nature but it was intended to be as such so I can build upon them and slowly branch out into the modular, simple yet informative article series I plan to write.

Let me know in the comments what you reader(s) want.

Stay tuned.

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