Month: September 2014

Sugar: Friend or Foe?

Before I started doing any research on how to eat healthy, I frequently heard that eating sugary foods would make you gain weight. At my house growing up, treats like donuts, ice cream, and my mom’s famous peanut butter cookies were reserved for special occasions. Luckily for me, grandma’s house did not have the same rules. As I got older, the fear of sugary foods began to extend to items like potatoes, bread and even fruit. Fortunately, my PT certification and subsequent research has educated me on the role sugar plays in our diet. I’ve discovered that sugary foods may not be as bad as some individuals have made them out to be. Please do not assume that the rest of this blog will justify the consumption of foods high in processed sugars (i.e. birthday cakes, cronuts, milkshakes, etc.). Instead, I will simply explain the different types of sugars and the role sugar plays in our body.

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Some people may not know that sugars are nutritionally classified as carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body to provide its preferred source of energy, glucose. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are a single sugar molecule (monosaccharide) or two sugar molecules (disaccharide) bonded together. These “simple” structures are easily broken down by the body and are quickly made available to fuel immediate cellular functions. A few examples of food sources that contain simple carbohydrates are:

  • Raisins (glucose)
  • Bananas (fructose)
  • Honey (galactose)
  • Pure maple sugar (sucrose)
  • Milk (lactose)
  • Barley (maltose)

The major source of simple carbohydrates in Americans’ diet is sucrose in the form of added sugar. Unfortunately, besides providing energy for immediate physical activity, this form of simple carbohydrate provides no other nutritional value. The lack of nutritional value is most likely the reason why organizations like the American Heart Association recommend complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.

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Complex carbohydrates are made up of three or more sugar molecules known as polysaccharides, and are usually higher in vitamins and minerals than simple carbohydrates. It takes the body longer to break down complex carbohydrates which means they provide a more sustained source of fuel for metabolic activities. Complex carbs also contain fiber which helps control cholesterol and glucose levels and aids in digestion. Some examples of whole food items that contain complex carbs include:

  • sweet potatoes
  • kale
  • oatmeal
  • spinach
  • whole grain bread
  • pinto beans

Eating complex carbs in the form of whole food items helps you feel full quicker and longer, meaning you eat less over the duration of a day.

It appears that complex carbs are nutritionally superior to simple carbs, so why would a person ever eat simple carbs? As previously mentioned, simple carbs are a great source of quick energy a person can use to help get them through a short duration high intensity workout. Also, there are simple carb sources that can be ingested during long duration endurance activities that are designed to provide fuel while not causing stomach discomfort. If I’m running a marathon, I’d much rather have an energy gel than an apple during the race.

balanced meal

I hope this blog did more to educate than confuse. I am certainly no nutritionist nor a dietitian, but I feel I can say with confidence that not all sugary foods are inherently fattening. Don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent of rewarding oneself with some “junk” food (unless you have a specific dietary restriction) every once in a blue moon. But I feel the recipe for maintaining a healthy body is ingesting the vast majority of your simple and complex carbs in the form of whole foods while leading a physically active lifestyle. Eat your PB&J on whole grain bread then get out there and get active, because your health is worth it. HIT IT!

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Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park & Fitness Trail

I recently had an epiphany about the Tampa Bay Area during a weekend stroll with our 2 1/2 year old mutt Jasmine. I realized that over the 12 years I lived in, out and around the Tampa Bay Area, it has slowly but surely become a true destination for outdoor fitness activities. The area is well-known for its beaches, which are prime training grounds for someone like myself who participates in triathlons, but it’s the locations away from the beaches that makes me believe the Tampa Bay Area is becoming more conducive to the active lifestyle. The new additions include bike lanes (which are necessary for the new bike sharing program), running paths, and green spaces. Tampa is not only creating new areas for outdoor activities, they are also renovating existing outdoor exercise areas, and one happens to be right outside my front door.

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Ok, so the last statement wasn’t entirely true, but Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park is only a 5-10 minute walk from my apartment. This is extremely beneficial, because Bayshore provides 4.5 miles of uninterrupted sidewalk that is perfect for road work, whether it be on foot, rollerblades, bike, or those funny looking 3-wheelers that you have to sway side to side on to propel. The sidewalk is 10 feet wide and multiple online sources claim it is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. I love using this location for long runs, short runs, and interval training because I don’t have to worry about watching out for cars. It also provides the occasional dolphin sighting and great scenic views of Downtown Tampa and Hillsborough Bay.

Bayshore Boulevard acts as one of the main arteries connecting South Tampa to Downtown Tampa. In addition to the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, Bayshore also provides on-road bike lanes. Until recently, only the northbound side had a bike lane, which forced many cyclists, like me, to make our southbound trips on the sidewalk. But now the city is slowly adding bike lanes to the southbound side to entice cyclists back to the road. The city has also replaced all the exercise equipment on the portion of Bayshore referred to as the Bayshore Fitness Trail. The new equipment includes items such as pull-up bars, dip stations, sit-up benches, push-up stations, and my personal favorite – monkey bars. These stations provide more opportunity for a full body workout while visiting Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park. Hopefully you will take advantage of the opportunities that Bayshore Boulevard provides.

Get out there and get active, because your health is worth it. HIT IT!

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If you’re interested in a visual account of Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park & Fitness Trail, a video I shot out there will soon be up on the Elemental Training Tampa YouTube channel.

The Inception of Elemental Training Tampa

fatfaceSimilar to many people my age, I grew up participating in organized sports and playing outside for fun. This trend of staying physically active continued into high school and college thanks to intramural and club sports that did not discriminate against someone with average athletic ability. Unfortunately, once I graduated from college and opportunities to stay physically active were not as readily available, my physical health and state of mind started to suffer. I was less active, eating poorly, and participating in other unhealthy vices. I was in the worst shape of my life.

Determined to change myself, I walked into a local martial arts school with the hope of regaining my physically active lifestyle. Not only did I regain my former lifestyle, but I learned something that I could never have learned simply lifting weights at a gym.

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Jeff Morris Photography

Studying different facets of various martial arts was both physically and mentally engaging, but the striking arts provided something that I had never experienced before. Punching focus mitts, kicking heavy bags, and knee-striking Thai pads not only improved my physical fitness, but also boosted my confidence, lowered my stress level, and gave me a sense of accomplishment like no other exercise regimen. The benefits that incorporating striking exercises into a complementary training program can provide ANYONE has led me to create Elemental Training Tampa (ETT). The purpose of ETT is to create training programs that combine basic striking techniques with a variety of plyometric, resistance, and core exercises to help individuals reach their fitness goals. This blog will provide ETT workouts that anyone can perform in the comfort of their home along with posts about nutrition, public fitness venues, and eventually information about weekly FREE group ETT classes. Even though striking is often referred to as a science, it’s my mission to help people master the essentials so they can take ownership of their fitness. HIT IT!