This week, useful stuff from around the web on: shorter/intense interval workouts vs. longer/moderate ones; plant-based proteins; and what “mindfulness” really means (and why you should care).
Items are in reverse order vs. typical weeks, starting with the mindfulness topic. That’s because I really want you to watch these two videos, man. They’ll be good for you.
MIND-AND-SPIRIT: DEFINING “MINDFULNESS” & UNDERSTANDING WHY IT MATTERS
You hear “mindfulness” a lot nowadays. Of course, in reference to the growing interest in meditation. Related to yoga which bears some similarities to meditation, while having great physical benefits. Even in reference to walking and running.
Merrriam-Webster defines it as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
That sounds interesting. But maybe too abstract and high-level to really compel you to learn more. So please check out these two short videos, which are indeed compelling!
This one featuring one of the original and best-known gurus of mindfulness and using it to reduce stress.
And this one gives a very clear explanation of how mindfulness literally changes our brain (neuroplasticity), and can make us happier and more successful.
NUTRITION: how much PROTEIN, and why do plant sources help?
First, one piece of context for discussing plant proteins. Advice on how much protein to consume is all over the map.
Government guidelines say most men need 56-60 grams daily. They say too much protein is risky because of correlation with saturated fat (if protein is from animal sources). And, regardless of source, they say too much protein stresses kidneys, can cause dehydration, promotes weight gain, and even leeches minerals from the bones.
But many men’s fitness gurus recommend a LOT more protein – up to a gram daily per pound of body weight. That would be 180+ grams daily for a typical guy (3x guidelines).
High-protein advocates point to benefits for muscle building and maintenance, and weight loss/management (because you’re eating protein instead of carbs, often). And they say kidney or other health concerns, while not invalid, are only a risk for a subset of people prone to them.
Finally, they point out you can get a lot of protein that’s not from high-saturated-fat sources. Lean animal proteins like chicken, fish and egg whites, yes…but also from plant proteins.
As in similar situations, I hedge between extremes. For example, adding up protein from what I ate yesterday, I see I had about 110 grams….and I wouldn’t want to eat more than that.
Since I knowingly eat more protein than government guidelines, I’m exploring plant proteins, which avoid at least the saturated-fat concerns.
nutrition: understanding how to get “complete protein” from plants
Two useful articles on plant proteins are below. But before you head there, I want to spell out something I know is confusing. How do you ensure complete protein from plants?
“Complete” here means all of the 9 protein-creating amino acids which your body needs from food (there are 11 others it can make on its own).
You can get complete protein by combining in a meal, or even over a day, any two of these three plant groups: (1) Whole grains, (2) Nuts & seeds; and (3) legumes. (Reminder: legumes include beans, peas and lentils…and peanuts are actually a legume).
1. Whole grains + legumes: peanut butter on whole wheat bread
2. Whole grains + nuts/seeds: walnuts or almonds on whole-grain cereal
3. Legumes + nuts/seeds: hummus (chick peas + sesame seed-based tahini).
Also, a few plant proteins are complete on their own. These include quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, hemp, and soy. I advocate avoiding or minimizing soy, due to its estrogen-promoting characteristics.
Here’s a useful article on combining plant proteins to make them complete.
And one talking about “complete protein” plants, with a bit more on why to be careful with soy.
FITNESS: HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL WORKOUTS VS. LONGER, MODERATE ONES
A lot of research says shorter workouts (~25-35 minutes) with periods of high intensity have big benefits.
⇒ Higher “fitness gained for time spent” than longer, moderate workouts.
⇒ If intervals include strength moves, you get strength and cardio at the same time. Great if you’re crunched for time, or want to add a “mini” strength session to a traditional cardio workout that can thus be shortened a little without sacrificing overall cardio time.
⇒ For weight loss, interval workouts burn similar calories in less time. They then have a metabolic “after burn” effect that keeps burning calories for longer post-workout.
So should we all stop doing >30-minute, continuous-effort runs, long weekend bike rides, or modest-effort “just get a sweat” cardio-machine sessions? I don’t think so, for four reasons.
1. Longer, moderate cardio workouts are a real mind-and-soul cleanse (especially outdoor ones). Tune out the world, go into a zone, and by the end feel mentally, not just physically, refreshed.
2. A lot of us just *like* running and cycling (reason #1 here is part of why, but they’re also the chance to take in nice scenery and exercise in a social way with others). And doing exercise you like is the best way to stay motivated.
3. One thing longer, moderate cardio is definitely better for: getting in shape to do longer, moderate cardio things! So if running races and triathlons are motivational and fun for you, then you need to train for the events by doing the underlying activities.
4. Finally, we need days that are lower-key and lower-effort to counter-balance intense things (especially as OlderBeasts).
But for runners, cyclists, and long/slow types of cardio machine users…I suggest you fold interval training into your routine. Even if it requires reducing “pure” cardio in order to have time.
Useful things to read about this:
Washington Post article on advantages and trade-offs of these different workout types
Article advocating a blend of approaches
Short “slideshow” article with 10 “greatest hits” interval workouts
How about being more aware, and in better control, of our thoughts and emotions? Making better use of plant-based proteins to fuel our bodies? And mixing up workouts to get more benefit, in less time?
Checking out the links above can help you start toward all of those great things.
“Keep a rolling, just a mile to go. Keep on rolling, my old buddy, you’re moving much too slow.” (Grateful Dead, Jack Straw – click to listen)
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