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The Ideal Workout Routine

Health-related physical fitness consists of optimizing muscle strength, muscle endurance, joint flexibility, aerobic capacity and body composition. These five components can be measured and compared to standards that not only reflect ideal form and function. The outcome of a complete fitness assessment can also determine risk of morbidity and mortality. A complete and balanced exercise program therefore, should include mixed patterns and various forms of movement that develop all of these facets.

Resistance Training

Getting back to the gym is a good move, because pushing and pulling weights against the force of gravity is the best way to maintain and build lean body mass. Resistance training creates an anabolic flux that opposes the catabolic influence of stress, sleep deprivation, worry, infection, gravity, cosmic radiation and oxidation. You can oxidize calories and reduce bodyfat with aerobic activity, but you can't build muscle. The exception to this is high-intensity sprinting which is actually anaerobic. Prolonged aerobic exercise alone tends to reduce muscle size and strength and can even increase the risk of osteoporosis through excessive oxidation. This is especially evident when the diet is acid-forming and lacks sufficient high-quality protein.

Lifting heavier weights with longer rest periods between sets (2-3 minutes) tends to increase muscle size and strength, whereas lighter training with a higher repetition range (12-20) with minimal rest between sets improves muscle endurance. Each major muscle group requires full and complete contraction with resistance applied throughout its natural range of motion. Exercise technique should be executed with precision and pride. In addition to a good warm-up, core training, cardio and stretching, I recommend training one body part per workout with weights, such as chest or arms, five days per week. This allows complete body coverage each week, provides adequate stimulation and recovery, and keeps individual training sessions under one hour.

Muscle Fibers

Muscle fibers contain little furnaces called mitochondria, which oxidize or "burn" fatty acids for fuel. More muscle generated through lifting weights means you can burn more calories from fat just standing still. Functional muscle also supplies immune cells with L-glutamine, an amino acid required by white blood cells for their own survival and replication. So you can see how a slow and gradual loss of muscle over time (sarcopenia) can work against health and wellness.

Comprised of two primary fiber types, (type I and type II) skeletal muscle responds differently to the same exercise performed with a different load. A heavy set of 3 reps in the bench press or squat activates a range of fibers and motor units in a different way when compared to a lighter set of 18 reps. Only those fiber types needed for the muscle work get involved, so you have to be specific in your training format. Do you want size, strength, endurance or a balance of all three? Different muscle groups also vary in fiber type percentage, and these percentages are unique to each individual.

Type I fibers, also called slow-twitch or red fibers, are best suited for endurance and high-volume work, they're mostly used in walking, grocery shopping and long-distance running. Type II fibers, called fast-twitch or white fibers, are explosive by nature but have little endurance. They grow thicker faster when stimulated through intense training, and give more dimension or ‘thickness' to one's physique. Explosive exercise training is also extremely beneficial for developing athletic strength, power and speed.

For general health and fitness for both men & women, I recommend heavy and light resistance training for maximum value. By "heavy" and "light" I mean relatively speaking. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Use your personal existing level of strength and development as a reference. Another issue of equal importance is sports nutrition. Don't expect to grow, get lean, stay lean, recover quickly from workouts or remain injury free if you ignore the significance of food.

Dietary pH

Previously I mentioned how an acid-forming diet can increase the risk of osteoporosis. But there's a whole lot more potential damage involved with a lifetime of eating an acid dominant diet, such as an increased risk of obesity and all degenerative disease. Surveys of what typi¬cal Canadians eat everyday clearly demonstrate a heavy, one-sided approach in favor of acid-forming foods. The average ratio is about 80% acid and 20% alkaline, a standard far removed from the original ideal.

What makes food alkaline or acidic? Alkaline-rich foods contain more alkaline-forming elements (minerals) than acid-forming elements. Alkaline-forming elements include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. In contrast, the acid-forming ele¬ments include sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine. All natural foods contain both acid and alkaline-forming elements, but it's the alkaline minerals that most people aren't getting enough of.

The pH of any food depends on its elemental dominance, such as sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium and its moisture content. This affects the acid or alkaline residue generated in the body, after it is digested, absorbed and oxidized. Enzyme viability of the food is also a factor, as well as whether sufficient alkaline bicarbonate is produced by the pancreas. If the buffers of the body are exhausted, light acids foods, which would normally be neutralized without any problem, tend to also acidify the blood. Stress, hard workouts, infection and an angry disposition all tend to acidify the body.

One of the worst acid offenders is bread, even heavy black bread and pretty much everything made with wheat, rye, barley and oats. Things like muffins, pasta, buns, bagels and pita pockets. All junk food is acid-forming. Overcooked animal flesh is acidic, luncheon meats and canned tuna are right off the scale. Most nuts, legumes and beans are acidic, so are oatmeal and most oils. Coffee and alcohol liberate an acidic pH in the blood, but not so with a mango, a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice or a serving of non-denatured whey protein isolate. All are alkaline-forming.

Alkaline is Best

Ideally, our food staples should generate a strong alkaline impact and provide a significant contribution of water when metabolized. 60% alkaline and 40% acid is a good target. This balance provides optimum amounts of alkaline-forming elements, which reinforces the body's alkaline reserve. What foods are alkaline? Here's where fresh raw fruits and vegetables come in. Get into green plants like romaine lettuce, chard, spinach and kale and your body will love you for it. Color your plate with a rainbow. Beware of cooking methods, time and temperature though, as many alkaline foods acidify the blood when overcooked or pasteurized.

Alkaline-forming foods tend to hydrate the body and provide many important micronutrients and phytochemicals, including electrolytes, chlorophyll, flavonoids, carotenoids, isoflavones, triterpenoids and butyrates. A diet dominated by alkaline elements creates a high-energy, disease resistant, highly functional lean body. So get alkaline and secure your future health.