Question: I’ve tried numerous diets in the past few years, but for some reason my attempts always seem to end in failure. Can you explain this?
Answer: You may have some personal reasons for your lack of success, so I can’t necessarily comment on that. However, I think we can safely sum up diet failures in three problematic scenarios.
The first is the fact that almost all diet plans are too restrictive in one way or another.
Either there are not enough calories, too few carbohydrates or very little solid food, which ends up leaving people feeling unsatisfied and yearning for more of what their plans are missing.
Plus, if you’re getting too little of one thing, you’re probably getting too much of another. Clearly, this is not the way to achieve variety, balance and moderation in your eating plan.
Another potential problem is a general lack of monitoring. If you’re not paying attention to how much you’re eating, exercising, sleeping and working, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to be successful. Research has proven this time and time again, but monitoring your progress takes extra work and many never commit the time and energy needed to keep track of their habits.
The last issue, and probably one of the most obvious, is the fact that people always seem to be looking for a quick fix. They simply aren’t interested in — or haven’t fully committed to — changing their behaviors permanently. Any changes made are generally short-lived, which means you’ll probably be back in the same boat in the very near future. Most diets are simply short-term solutions to a long-term problem. Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, and because of this, it takes some serious planning and hard work to overcome.
Question: I keep hearing about the benefits of HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Can you tell me specifically what it is and the benefits of doing it?
Answer: High-intensity interval training is a fantastic way to work out and it offers many of the same advantages of more traditional training programs in much less time. The idea is to pick an activity you like to do and then fluctuate between periods of high-intensity, sprint-type work and less intense, active recovery periods. This type of pattern is repeated several times until you’ve completed 15 to 20 minutes of exercise, not counting your warm-up and cool-down. The specific ratio you choose will depend primarily on your fitness level, but the goal is to finish the entire workout in about 30 minutes.
Numerous studies have touted the benefits of this type of training, including improvements in VO2max, resting metabolic rate post-exercise and overall endurance performance. Researchers also found significant improvements in whole body and skeletal muscle fat oxidation, meaning the body became more efficient at using fat as a fuel source.
Despite these results, HIIT isn’t for everyone. If you’re new to exercise, make sure to improve your base fitness level first, before moving on to more advanced training programs. As always, if you have questions, contact a personal trainer in your area.
Question: Foods seem to be so high in salt these days and I’m aware of the dangers of hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Can you please clarify the amount of sodium I should be consuming daily?
Answer: You’re right — salt is everywhere these days. Processed foods are the main culprit, but the increased reliance on fast foods and restaurant meals are problematic as well. To add to the confusion, people often have trouble differentiating between sodium and salt. Salt is actually 40 percent sodium, so when discussing recommendations, we need to be clear about what we’re talking about.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (5,800 milligrams or 1 teaspoon of salt). On the other hand, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (3,800 milligrams of salt) and they set the tolerable upper intake level at 2,300 milligrams. It’s clear that your intake should fall somewhere between these two ranges, or even less, but it’s actually quite difficult to keep your sodium level as low as 1,500 milligrams per day. In fact, the IOM points out that 95 percent of American men and 75 percent of American women consume sodium in excess of the tolerable upper limit — not good news for those of us looking to avoid chronic disease as we get older. In order to keep your sodium intake in check, you need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and make sure you buy foods that are fresh and unprocessed. And don’t forget to avoid adding salt at the dinner table as well.
About the author: Grant Pritchard is the owner of Anytime Fitness in Buckley and Orting. To submit a question for future articles, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.