Archive for November, 2008

Fiber – Soluble or Insoluble

November 26, 2008

Why am I writing about fiber you ask? Because it has magical properties, that’s why. This stuff is the essence of eating well without dieting. By diet I mean having to keep track of something so you don’t overdo it and then stopping when you get there whether you wanted to or not. I read something about fiber a week or so ago and started eating more, I even had a bottle of fiber in my batch of food supplements that I bought at Costco several months ago. (Alas, it was probably because all the pretty colors on the bottle mesmerized me not because I am a food genius.) So looking into fiber further I have found several things that started me baking bran muffins and now has me scouring the web for hard to find fiber facts.

So first things first there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. What this means is two things, although any single place will tell you only one. First, is that if it disolves in water it’s soluble, if not it’s insoluble. Basic chemistry right there. The second is that soluble fiber is fermentable by the bacteria in your intestines (gut flora) which sounds scary but it actually is the reason that fiber has all these magical anti-cancer good for your health qualities.

There are some other interesting properties of fiber that may help you make more sense of things as you experience them from eating more than normal. Insoluble fiber speeds up things through your intestines. Taken to an extreme, of something along the lines of 80 grams a day total fiber (podcast fact linked to below), it becomes difficult to absorb all the nutrients from the food as it cruises by. Nothing to worry about though if you are just getting the recommended values of 25-35 grams a day on the top end. Soluble fiber not only disolves in water but it sort of makes a gel blob that tends to slow things down. So those that worry about the laxative effect may just need to rebalance the soluble and insoluble to get better results. That soluble fiber gel blob absorbs things that then become difficult to get into our system. It binds with fats which is good because it will remove cholesterol from your system as it is eaten before it is absorbed (eat a soluble fiber supplement before steak dinner to feel less guilty.) This is mechanism that allows Cheerios and other oat cereals to make all those health claims about lowering cholesterol (well that and the FDA says it’s ok). If someone counting calories has a little fat exit without counting this can hardly be a bad thing. It is bad when the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K have more trouble being absorbed, as do some medicines. If you are taking a supplement or medicine that has trouble simply take it an hour before or two hours after a soluble fiber supplement or a meal that has a lot of soluble fiber. There are many other good properties and the bad ones are much less a worry. The gas and bloating one might feel is only temporary if you stick to your new high fiber diet because the gut flora of which there are some 500 types living in your intestines tend to rebalance as to what food is coming down the pipe to feed them. Another thing that might seem scary is that if you look up any specific type of fiber it is always mentioned that it is used as a mild laxative. To that I say whatever, it is food and it is healthy until a person finds a problem with the high fiber food consider it ok to try then see what works. 

Here are some links to the best of what I found to read:

Gloria Tsang, RD wrote an article about the soluble vs. insoluble fiber:

5 minute podcast episode on a high fiber diet, hosted by Gloria (she has a nice website by the way):

fiber is something of a natural method of treating diabetes or prediabetes, here is a quote from the website linked to:

Several clinical studies reviewed by Anderson et al. (2001) reported that using fiber supplements rich in soluble fibers such as guar, pectin, apple fiber and pysllium extract reduce requirenments for insulin. They reported that the fiber supplements lowered blood glucose and cholesterol (especially LDL) levels.

This was a difficult one to find, where you can tell how much soluble fiber there is in a food, keep in mind this stuff will vary on things like growing conditions so none of this is a fixed number. So these two links hve some soluble fiber numbers:

and this link is the usda database where everyone gets their info from:

listed by specific nutrient in common foods:

or searchable:

The USDA database is a gold mine if you want specific info on foods with high content of a particular food, for example if you want to know what vegetables have high fiber you hit that total fiber link on the release 17 page linked to above and scan through to see that first vegetable on the list is split peas or if that doesn’t count for you as a vegetable then lima beans, or if you want to get out of the legumes alltogether then you will pass raspberries and asian pears, not a vegetable just an option, and finally get to regular peas. This works the same for any nutrient they measure which makes it nice if you want something in particular. This would take forever to figure out if the USDA didn’t just give us this lovely list to glance through. And the searchable database helps too as you may have noticed (yeah right) raw lentils weren’t in the list (only cooked) but a quick search yields a stunning surprise that it would top the list above pearled barley with a number that doubles that of the barley at 61 grams of total dietary fiber in 200 grams (1.04 cups or 1 cup plus two teaspoons). I know this because I made some killer lentil soup with sausage and potato. I was astounded when trying to measure the nutrient counts and found that I had stumbled onto the best soup in the world that had over half of the fiber you should eat in a day in one single bowl that had 240 calories of mind-numbingly-delicious soup. Another recipe I will have to share when I get around to doing the bran muffins recipe on here.

So now I am trying to add soluble fiber to my muffins. It is customary to use wheat bran which is mostly insoluble if not all. The things to consider on my list are using ground flax seed, which is about as fiberous as you migh ever want to get with more soluble and insoluble. I am also considering oat bran, apples, pumpkin, and carrots. As well as some of the types that can be purchased refined where they are isolated from a high content food (this is how something like cornflakes get a high fiber food label, because they add pectin): grapefruit or other citris rind – the white part is about 30% pectin, psyllium husk, and chicory root which is largely made of inulin I am a bit worried like the guy that wrote the natural news article that refining a food to get the individual coumpounds out of it may not be the wisest thing to do, but I just don’t know if it is possible to buy psyllium husk or chicory root unprocessed and I am sure of one thing that if my muffins have 1 gram of each of the three that is better than having 3 grams of one type. So I will make another batch or two of muffins over the long weekend and see if I can come up with something I am happy with on all aspects, particularly taste.


Progress Report

November 25, 2008

I swam my best time yet for 500 meters last Saturday. As you may rememebr my current goal I am shooting for is 10 minutes. The pesky little thing was just out of my reach at 10:16. Now I know of two things I can do to get 15 seconds off my time. One is to swim first thing, not after I do 50 minutes of cardio, but that is a scheduling conflict that is not worth losing the 50 minute workout to gain 15 seconds in time. The second thing is to wear the speedo trunks to reduce drag. The triathlon instructor has told me a few times right from the begining I need to do this. Well I bought a pair that are 36 inch waist cause that was all they had on sale, 38 would have fit correctly but they were out. I can get them on and they basically fit because I am in between 36 and 38 right now, but I don’t think the 15 seconds is worth looking like a sausage dog (this lovely little number accentuates belly fat like nothing else can). So Unless I just get good enough to do it in 9:30 and then slow it down to 10:00 from the circumstances I won’t be fast enough to claim I can do it, or I can just lose more weight until the suit fits. I am excited about getting so close though. My last try was 10:50 three weeks ago, so I will be there sometime in December.

I have weighed in below 195 three days so far. Not in a row and not today, but this is how my progress comes. I still haven’t hit 194. My goal was to reach 193 by December 1 so it is in reach if I do well this week. I have been finding it easier to eat less even on the weekends. Which is a real good sign for this lifestyle change thing. Isn’t it funny how we determine what we weight? The way I do it can be described like this: my “current weight” is the lowest of the previous 3 to 5 days during the time of day that I weigh the least, that is after I wake up and go to the bathroom. If I am particularly close to a number I really want to weigh, such as the scale throws up a 200.2, then toss out the number and begin a quick routine to lose more weight. I could try to brush my teeth and spit frequently eggin it on with that burning-mouthwatering sensation mouthwash has. I could, time permitting, go back to bed for half an hour with all the blankets on to sweat out that 0.2, or give it a minute or two and attempt to to the bathroom again. After all rituals are complete I am then ready for the official morning weigh in. Which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Oh, and one final word from the wise, don’t jump on the scale with all your clothes on after dinner unless you were looking for some dissapointment in your evening. It won’t even be close to your “current weight”.

I have been doing a little fiber research and I can vouch for the fact that it keeps you feeling full. There is a problem with it though. I make a tray of bran muffins, loaded up with 5 grams of fiber each. That is good, but when they are sitting out and can see them they get wolfed down more often than they should. This leads to a feeling of being full but at the cost of eating too many of these muffins. It’s not really the calories that hurt, it is the fact that I should have eaten an apple or some carrots. I will make the next batch and wrap them up individually as soon as they cool off so they can just be for the midmeal snack during the week that they were intended. I still have to make a modification to the recipe. I am trying to get more soluble fiber rather than the insoluble that is just roughage. Many of the beneficial effects of fiber seem to be from the soluble type so loading up a plate full of ground tree bark, uh… wheat bran,  just doesn’t help as much as one would like. There is a limit to how much one can cram into a muffin and still make it flavorful. Once I get my recipe perfected I will post it with nutritional info. I will be shooting for 1/3 of the fiber needed in a day, that is almost 7 grams, and half of that being soluble, as well as packing this into a muffin that is only 100 or so calories. This will be a tall order but I am pretty close with my first attempt.

I spend a little time each week, as you can tell, doing research on stuff. Lately I have been thinking about what a realistic goal is for my next year in terms of races. There is a half-iron man triathlon in my home town in August. Should I go for it with the plan of just finishing? I will do the “required” Olympic earlier in the year. Is this too much? What about running only. I already am going to do a 12k race, should I add some 10k’s to warm up, and a half marathon to work towards the next years half iron if not this years? Oh the possibilities are endless. I have not sufficiently answered my questions by asking my coach. (He just says no to the half iron on the principle of one level per year. That is Sprint this year, Olympic next and then the half iron in 2010 if I am still inclined.) I am stubborn and have been considering what it would take. I first listed races that are required. They are the same sprint triathlon I did last year to measure my improvement, the 12k run which is just a huge local event, and an Olympic triathlon that I have told my cousin I would do with him this year in his home town. Close to making the list is another Olympic tri that is near a town we will be driving by as we return from our vacation in the summer.  Another close one is a half marathon in a nearby town that is coupled with a real marathon which is very popular in the area. So that becomes a requirement if I plan to do the half iron. I can’t let my first run of 13.1 miles be after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride now can I?

Wow, how the mind dreams big. I am almost convinced that I want to compete in a sporting event that will take more than 5 hours for me. Am I insane?

So I looked at a few training schedules for running a half marathon to see if I was insane, but it probably is not even up for debate. One 16 week version has you run twice a week for 30-50 minutes and then a long run on the weekend. The long run starts at the length I am already hitting in the 50 minute workouts (4-5 miles) and works up to 11 a few weeks before the race. So to alter my schedule for a half marathon I need to add a weekend long run instead of my treadmill 4 miles. It is supposed to be a slower pace so I am certainly confident I could do this no problem adding the miles. I wouldn’t be doing more than 6 miles until half way into the program which I could go out and do right now. So I know this is possible for me. Then I looked at training schedules for doing a half iron tri. I am swimming more now than I need to at the peak. The programs peak at 5000 yards a week. I did 6600 two weeks ago, and have average over 5500 for the last 8 weeks. So I can reduce my swim time. The running is not going to be more intense than training for a half marathon, I just need to adjust my workouts as above. This is a very small change. In theory I need to do some core strength training as well. But this can be added in easily with a minimal workout twice a week. The big change will be biking. I have been doing it once a week or less, and since half the time in the race is spent on the bike I am very much lacking. The plan has a person hit the bike 3 times a week, twice is a short ride with a run brick. These start at 20 minutes bike and 5 run and work up to 45 minutes bike 20 minute run at the end of the peak phase. Then the long ride on the weekend that starts at 45 minutes and goes to 2 hours by the end of the peak. I get my indoor trainer soon and will start hitting the bike more often. I am in good enough shape now to start these 16 week programs other than maybe the bike, but I have almost 30 weeks to be ready for running and 40 weeks before the half iron triathlon. I can gain a base level in the next three months that will have me ready to take these challenges head on providing I can take the time to workout and still want to follow through with the insanity. So I will have to wait on the decision and consider it more since there is still plenty of time. Come March I will make my final decisions. I will see if I can take the increase in workout time over the next few weeks once I add in some more bike time. I will be adding a Tuesday morning weight training session in too, probably not until next week though as my back is a little sore to hit it tomorrow.

One last final note to my totally random chain of dissimilar topics is that fact that I hit the 70,000 calories burned tomorrow. My original goal of 240,000 is looking about right as far as reaching my weight goals. So I am at the 30% mark. I am amazed how fast they are adding up. I am going to have to schedule in some rest weeks soon so I don’t over do it. This week would be a good one but for the fact I set some goals that I can’t slacken up and still make them. We shall see who wins… the brain that wants to meet the goals or the one that knows I should rest for a bit.

VO2Max – Does it improve?

November 24, 2008

part 4/4 of this series

VO2Max is the maximum rate your body can consume oxygen. The way to test it is by attaching a tube to your face that your breath out is analyzed with fancy sensors by a computer. When you breath in it lets air from the room in. By knowing the amount of oxygen in the air in the room and subtracting the oxygen you breath out, the precise amount consumed by your body is calculated.

There are tests to estimate it, but really there is not much point, they are not accurate. For example one test has you measure the distance covered running for 12 minutes, well that assumes a fixed efficiency which is not even remotely the case. So do the tests and have fun trying to figure out what your number is if you want. But, if you want it tested accurately, then go to a Doctor or a Lab that does this sort of testing and shell out some cash. It is measured as volume per body mass per time (ml/kg/min). The reason the per body mass is added is that then the relative number can be compared accurately between individuals with different size bodies. If the absolute number is calculated it will be volume per minute (l/min). Men and women have slightly different numbers due to the higher percentage body fat to keep those babies safe. If adjusted for lean body mass the numbers will be about the same, but that adds another layer of difficulty so it is not done normally.

There seems to be a big deal made of people that test high numbers, for example the highest tested athlete was some nordic cross country skier. But honestly, if that same guy took up running, then he would still have the same VO2Max and it would be attributed to a runner, so what that person happens to do is rather pointless. Also the number in and of itself probably doesn’t really matter. We all have lungs, and a heart, that deliver oxygen to our bodies, we get that whipped into shape and that’s all there is. You can’t train to improve this number once you are fit to compete in an event, nothing much can be done to improve this number. If you are not fit you can improve it by 20% on average unless you are one of the people who can’t, which implies that you weren’t fit but also not bogged down by an unhealthy cardiovascular system. There is little training you can do to improve this number, other than training that will improve the your lactate threshold. So training, if you are not fit will improve it but only by the amount that you are currently “screwed up” because you are not fit. You just workout and train to improve the lactate threshold and you will improve the VO2Max as much as possible as you keep it up. The sorts of things that are improved through training are the amount of blood, increased red blood cell count, and stronger heart and lung muscles. Remember that the VO2Max is the limit and the lactate threshold is how close you can come to that limit because of your own personal cardiovascular system’s ability to remove lactate from the blood.

So although VO2Max matters if you can compete on a high level with say olympic athletes, there are not going to be normal people that have so little they can’t compete at all. As proof of this I offer you the stats for 2 guys, Frank Shorter, US olympic marathon winner, had a VO2Max of 71.3 ml/kg/min, while the pikes peak marathon record holder, Matt Carpenter, had a Vo2Max of 92.0. Now I don’t know for sure but both these guys line up to the start line in their prime physical condition and I bet they both think they will win. And I bet they come close even though the numbers seem to be way off.

The way the test is done also shows you that this number is not all there is to competition. You get on a treadmill and start running. Then you increase the incline and/or speed every 30 seconds until you get so tired you fall off. You need to get to your maximum before you have so much waste product in your muscles that they burn and you can’t go any more because they fatigue. You are trying to stay out of the fatigue area and just measure how much oxygen you can consume. This means that you have passed your lactate threshold and it is building up, and then you are bumping up against your max oxygen intake long enough to see it flatten out all before the lactate build up so much you fall down and can’t go anymore. What happens is you reach say level 20 of the test and you take in 50 ml/kg/min and then on level 21 you take in the same, then on level 22 your face turns red and you are creating energy as fast as you can to make up for the fact that you cannot get more oxygen into your body and they raise it up to level 23 and you finally call them on it and stop running because you just built up an oxygen debt at the same time your lactate level is getting a bit high and between the two you decide it is no longer any fun. They get a graph of this and it levels off even though your workload increased. You cannot keep going harder and harder when this happens as you are creating an oxygen debt that must be paid back sooner rather than later. One Doctor I read from said this is about 2-3 minutes on the high end. From another source it said this is about 6 minutes and suggests that training at this pace with intervals will improve the numbers. Obviously you wont be at VO2Max for the begining of the interval where your body will use some of the other methods of producing that burst of energy until the cardio system kicks into full gear, which might explain why you can go for 6 minutes at that pace that during a proper VO2Max test would lead you to experiencing VO2Max oxygen uptake levels. I can get outside and go to a dead sprint in several seconds and run for a good 5-10 seconds and then stop without being any more winded than if I jogged around the block. This is an example of what I mean that just going fast doesn’t actually get you to VO2Max levels, you have to do it in a certain way. Running at vVO2Max (velocity @VO2Max) doesn’t mean you are taking in maximal oxygen. Although if you keep it up long enough you should in most cases.

Then again you can buy compression tights that claim to improve your VO2Max, so don’t listen to me when I say not to work on this nujmber at all, just work on the other numbers first and much longer than you work on trying to improve VO2Max. Or to think of it another way, if you work on efficieny and lactate threshold you will be doing all you can to improve your VO2Max.