131120 Get stronger and more physically fit with the basics of exercise and nutrition

Get stronger and more physically fit with the basics of exercise and nutrition

The old-time strength athletes didn’t have all the gizmos, scientific research, or supplements of our time. What they did have was a powerful and undying work ethic, the desire to become the strongest possible, and the perseverance to never give up.

These people used axes, sledgehammers, wheels, rocks, cement blocks, bucked heavy bales of hay, and carried sacks of grain to get strong. Along with these crude implements, judged by today’s standards, they used basic bodyweight exercises. Some of them went to a gym to work out, whereas others simply worked, doing physically hard, demanding work at their day jobs.

Now we have access to all the fancy equipment in the gyms. Most of these do it for us as we sit or lay on a bench that is affixed to some sort of a machine that has been designed for no one in particular and does not precisely fit anyone who uses it. It should be readily apparent that the best strength gains are still made with the simplest of exercises done with the heaviest weight possible for four to five sets of six to eight reps each. As the great Alvin Calvert once said, “Do the most amount of work in the least amount of time.” Work in the gyms, for the most part, has become a jawboning exercise environment.

This is especially true in the large commercial gyms that are continuously blaring their obnoxious ads on the radio airwaves. The television is even worse with the skinny-legged pencil-thin leotard-clad lovelies running on a treadmill or doing a concentration curl with a five-pound weight as their pseudo trainer kneels by their side pretending to spot. Now that I’m on a roll, how about the men doing their squats so high they wouldn’t even be sitting on a kitchen chair or a toilet seat at the depth they go too?

There is so much nonsense out there now urging the unwary to buy something and then drink it or eat it and become superman able to lift gigantic weights in only six weeks.

This whole charade of pseudo workouts annoys the crap out of me. If you aren’t working out hard, then get the hell out of the way and stop taking up space and air.

Push yourself in the gym or at home in your weight room. Don’t be pussyfooting around with the weights; find the ones that will let you just barely finish six to eight reps and use it for three to four sets. Then move on and get stronger.

There’s a lesson to be learned from our forefathers in the strength game and that lesson is to lift keep it simple by lifting heavy and eating more nutritious food rather than popping the supplements.

Nutrition basics

Hey coach, what about this…? Questions about food, fluids, vitamins, and supplements and maybe even some answers on how you can answer them. Coach, “How much protein should I take? Where’s the best place to get my protein drink? Are these energy bars good for me? What about fat, should I be eating any of it? Do I drink water before, during, or after working out; how much should I be drinking? Is this sports drink better for me than water? What about this meal in a can; is it ok to take? What kinds of food should I be eating to get stronger? Are carbohydrates bad; do they make me fat? What kinds of supplements/vitamins should I be taking? How many calories do I need to gain or lose weight? How do you answer these questions?

The easy answer is to refer them to a registered dietician, but what if they don’t have the money to consult with one? Then it’s on your shoulders, isn’t it? Perhaps we can start with a brief explanation of the basic nutrients that our body needs to stay healthy. Some may think that supplements, minerals, and vitamins can take the place of wholesome food, but they are completely missing the point.

Food not only gives us the energy to live, but it also fills us up and makes us feel good. A little vitamin or mineral tablet can’t do that. Cutting calories to lose weight oftentimes means a daily diet that is lacking in nutrients due to the limited amount of food ingested. This can lead to further complications in the athlete’s health if not corrected with carefully planned meals.

Everyone needs calories, enough energy to function at peak performance and more importantly to play with our grandkids. Without the necessary amount of calories in our daily diet, our muscles and brain will not have the fuel to perform efficiently.

The caloric recommendations for recreational athletes begin at approximately 15-17 calories per pound. These can vary depending on the individual’s body composition, and the intensity and duration of their sport.

For example, an endurance athlete may need 35-50 calories per pound whereas one who is strength-training needs anywhere from 30-60 calories per pound, each one depending on the sport and the training program they are following.

For us older folks’, men need about 2000 calories if not very active and up to 2600 calories per day if active. Women on the other hand should be eating between 1600 and up to 2000 calories per day depending on their activity levels.

Getting the calories, with the proper nutrients, needed to stay healthy is not a difficult task; it simply takes a willingness to learn, and the desire to do it right.

Here, from the NIA.gov site https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/usda-food-patterns is a more in-depth description of good eating habits.


USDA Food Patterns

The Dietary Guidelines describe three USDA Food Patterns, each of which includes slight variations in amounts recommended from different food groups. You can adapt any of these eating patterns to suit your cultural or personal preferences.

The USDA Food Patterns are designed to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. And they all include the characteristics of healthy eating patterns that research has linked to reduced risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The USDA Food Patterns are:

Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. This eating pattern is based on the types and amounts of foods. Americans typically consume The main types of food in this eating pattern include a variety of vegetables; fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy; seafood, poultry, meat, and eggs; and nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern. This eating patterns contains more fruits and seafood and less dairy than the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. There is also less calcium and vitamin D because it includes fewer dairy foods.

Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. This eating pattern contains no meat, poultry, or seafood. Compared with the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern, it contains more soy products, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

Here’s a tip

Calories are the way to measure the energy you get from food. How many calories you need depends on age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Choose the calorie total that’s right for you. You can also obtain a personalized calorie recommendation from ChooseMyPlate.gov.

The chart below shows how to reach three different daily calorie totals. Amounts are per day, unless labeled per week. Food group amounts are shown in cup-equivalents (c-eq) or ounce-equivalents (oz-eq). Oils are shown in grams (g).

Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern:
What and How Much to Eat at Different Calorie Levels
Food Group1,600 calories2,000 calories2,400 calories
Vegetables2 c-eq2-1/2 c-eq3 c-eq
Fruits1-1/2 c-eq2 c-eq2 c-eq
Grains5 oz-eq6 oz-eq8 oz-eq
Protein foods5 oz-eq5-1/2 oz-eq6-1/2 oz-eq
Seafood8 oz-eq/week8 oz-eq/week10 oz-eq/week
Meat, poultry, eggs23 oz-eq/week26 oz-eq/week31 oz-eq/week
Nuts, seeds, soy products4 oz-eq/week5 oz-eq/week5 oz-eq/week
Dairy3 c-eq3 c-eq3 c-eq
Oils22 g27 g31 g
Calories for Other Uses130 calories270 calories350 calories

The table below compares the Dietary Guidelines’ three healthy eating patterns for a person who eats 2,000 calories per day. The column for the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern is the same as the 2,000 calorie (middle) column in the table above. Amounts are per day, unless labeled per week. Food group amounts are shown in cup-equivalents (c-eq) or ounce-equivalents (oz-eq). Oils are shown in grams (g).

Healthy Eating Patterns: 2,000-Calorie Level Amounts
Food GroupU.S.-StyleMediterranean-StyleVegetarian
Vegetables2-1/2 c-eq2-1/2 c-eq2-1/2 c-eq
Fruits2 c-eq2-1/2 c-eq2 c-eq
Grains6 oz-eq6 oz-eq6-1/2 oz-eq
Protein foods5-1/2 oz-eq6-1/2 oz-eq3-1/2 oz-eq
Seafood8 oz-eq/wk15 oz-eq/wk
Meat, poultry, eggs26 oz-eq/wk26 oz-eq/wk3 oz-eq/wk (eggs)
Nuts, seeds, soy products5 oz-eq/wk5 oz-eq/wk15 oz-eq/wk
Dairy3 c-eq2 c-eq3 c-eq
Oils27 g27 g27 g
Calories for Other Uses270 calories260 calories290 calories

Cup- and Ounce-Equivalents

Foods come in many forms. Some foods are denser than others, and some have more air or contain more water. That’s why a cup or ounce of one food is not the same as a cup or ounce of another food. Cup-equivalents and ounce- equivalents tell you the amount of different foods from each food group that have similar nutritional content. For example, in the vegetables food group, 1 cup of raw spinach and ½ cup of cooked green beans both count as 1 cup-equivalent.

Learn about the food groups and maintaining a healthy weight.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information on Healthy Eating

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center   
National Agricultural Library

U.S. Department of Agriculture

This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.

Content reviewed: April 29, 2019

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