Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Inspirational People - Phyllis Gaukel, All Natural Bodybuilder

This is one of the first of a series of interviews with inspirational people in the health and fitness world. My first guest is Phyllis Gaukel. Phyllis is an all natural female bodybuider. She competes in shows that are drug tested so, all the competitors compete on the same level.

What I think is so inspirational about Phyllis is that she competed and won three of the top natural amateur shows just 15 months after have a beautiful little baby girl. That is an amazing feat for anyone.
So, here are some questions I asked Phyllis to find out a little more about her.

Darvis. Where were you born and where did you grow-up?

Phyllis. I was born and raised in Madison, WI.

Darvis. Who has been the greatest influence in your life and why?

Phyllis. My mom and my husband have been my greatest influences. My mom, also named Phyllis, was, and is always there for me. After my daughter was born she moved to Raleigh to help us, and be an active part of her life. In my youth and even now my mom has given me the confidence in following my dreams and gave me my strong faith in God. Eric, my wonderful husband, pushes me in the gym and shows me the patience and love that I need since I am a perfectionist and very hard on myself at times.

Darvis. What is your profession?

Phyllis. I am a third grade teacher at St. Raphael Catholic School. The kids love when I flex my muscles, race them, and do push-up contests with them.

Darvis. What got you into bodybuilding?

Phyllis. I was always a “Tom Boy” and loved lifting. I got more educated in this activity when I met Eric, my handsome husband. He is a big lifter and is also a scientist. With his expertise in science he has helped me better understand food combinations and the vitamins and minerals the body needs. In the gym we inspire each other to do that extra rep and just being together makes lifting that much more enjoyable.

Darvis. How long have you been competing?

Phyllis. I did a competition in Oct of 2006 when I was 23, then Eric and I moved to NC from Wisconsin. I was planning on doing another show in 2008, but 10 weeks out I was blessed with a pregnancy. Hence, I did not compete again until June of 2010 and I did three in that month.

Darvis. Tell me a little about your very first time on the stage. What was going through your mind?

Phyllis. The show was in INBF show in WI and it was a very popular competition. There were any amazing athletes and you keep comparing yourself to each one there. It can make you doubt yourself tremendously. Doing the show was freighting and the training was mentally tiring since it was my first time. I felt like a guinea pig the whole time- trying this and that and not really knowing how my body would react. I did it and did well for my first show…I learned a lot about my body and how best to treat it for peak condition.

Darvis. You’ve had an awesome year in bodybuilding. First place and overall winner of three major shows. Tell me a little about each.

Phyllis. I did an NGA, a NPA, and an INBF show. The NGA and the INBF were amazing, professional, and the INBF show was the most popular. I loved every moment! The NPA was very disappointing in may respects. The venue was a highschool, it was not organized, very small showing, etc…

Darvis You compete in All Natural bodybuilding competitions, what does that mean?

Phyllis. You take a polygraph test before the show and if you are an overall winner you also have a urine analysis test too. Now that is a real all natural show!

Darvis. You have a little girl how old is she?

Phyllis. I have an 18 month old. She was a big girl at 8 lbs 14 ounces and almost 22 inches. God blessed us with her on Feb. 5th , 2009.

Darvis. Any other children?

Phyllis. Not yet, but Eric and I would love a larger family!

Darvis. Bodybuilding is a very demanding sport. How do you handle being a wife and mother and being a competitive bodybuilder?

Phyllis. I live on 6 hours of sleep during the school year, and it is pretty much full-speed ahead until I go to sleep. I have a very supportive husband and we have a great relationship. My training is always consistent, but does change in in the summer and on vacation breaks than it is during the school year. I use more machines and do more super sets during the school year and more free weights and heavy lifting in the summer when I have more time. With having high expectations in the gym, at school, and as a mom and wife it is hard and there are many times I feel that mother and wife guilt. However, I need to remind myself that I have a GREAT job. I love teaching, I love kids, and I do get a lot of time off to be a mom and train the way I want. In regards to competing, I have decided to only do competitions in the summer, so to lessen the stress on me and my family.

Darvis. How do you get ready to compete? When do you start training for a show?

Phyllis. I increase aerobic and lower my carb intake…I tweek it all based on what I see in the mirror. I have only done four shows…was getting ready for one in 2008, but 10 weeks out I found out I was pregnant =) The time I allow myself really depends on what I look like on off-season. The least amount of time would be 12 weeks because my body responds best to, “Slow and steady wins the race.” If you cut too fast you can lose muscle and over train.

Darvis. What’s your training program in competition mode?

Phyllis. It changes based on the mirror, but this last show I was doing 5 hours of aerobic and 5-6 hours of lifting a week. Oh, and I try to do my aerobic in the morning before I eat.

Darvis. What’s your training program off-season?

Phyllis. I lift heavier, but still around 5-6 hours and 3 hours a week of aerobic.

Darvis. What’s your diet like in competition mode?

Phyllis. I have no ticks, my diet is simple and STRICK! I live on egg whites, boiled chicken, broccoli, almonds when needed, oatmeal, and repeat.

Darvis. What’s your diet like off-season?

Phyllis. It is still cautious. I eat like I do above, but eat out more, and enjoy cheese, popcorn, oil on my food, etc!

Darvis. You won your Pro Card. What does that mean?

Phyllis. I can compete for money and prizes on the national level for the NGA and WNBF (this is the pro version of INBF). The NPA was a small show and not a pro-qualifier.

Darvis. Are you planning to compete in any professional shows?

Phyllis. I am not sure because if I did I would only do it in the summer and we are wanting more children, so I am putting it in God’s hands.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Fitness Routine

Lots of people are starting to ask me what I personally do to stay fit. I'll be 52 years old in November and I feel honored that people think that I am in great shape for any age.

Well, I have great motivation to stay physically fit. I'm a personal trainer who specializes in fitness over 40 so, I have to be a great role model. I must show my clients and others by my actions and lifestyle that they can look good and feel great at any age.

First, I believe that health and fitness starts with a positive mental attitude. The way you think is reflected in the way you look and feel. A cheery disposition goes a long way in healing many ailments.

Second, I exercise on a regular basis. I weight lift 4 times each week and follow that up with 20 minutes of medium intensity cardio after each session. I can't over-emphasize the importance of strength training as you age. Building and maintaining muscle is key to staying fit and firm as mature.

Third, I practice balance and moderation in my diet. No amount of exercise can compensate for a unhealthy diet. Knowing approximately how many calories you consume each day and what percentage of those calories come from carbohydrates, protein, and fat is essential to balancing your diet. Balance and moderation in the foods you eat is easy to incorporate into your life and it's the long-term solution to a healthy diet.

Being healthy and fit is not that difficult. You have the power in your hands to change your life anytime you want to and I'll be here cheering you on.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea— Airmen from the ...Image via WikipediaCardiovascular exercise just called cardio by most in the fitness profession is associated with numerous health benefits and is therefore an invaluable part of any fitness program. Cardio exercise is any activity which increases the work of the heart and lungs. Activities such as brisk walking, running, training on the elliptical machine, biking, and working on the Stairmaster are some of the better known forms of cardio.

During cardio exercise you repeatedly move large muscles in the upper and lower parts of your body and your body responds by breathing faster and more deeply to provide increased blood flow to these muscles and back to your lungs. Your small blood vessels widen to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Your body also releases endorphins which are natural pain killers that promote an increased sense of well-being.

So, regardless of your age, cardio exercise is good for you. As your body adapts to you cardio routine your heart and lungs will get stronger and more efficient in performing their activities. The following are additional benefits of cardiovascular exercise. (2, MayoClinic.com)

  • Helps to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Combined with strength training and a healthy diet cardio helps you to lose weight and to keep it off.

  • Increase your stamina. Cardio may make you tired in the short term but, over the long term you’ll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
  • Ward off viral illnesses. Cardio activates your immune system thus, making you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses such as colds and flu.
  • Reduce health risks. Cardio combined with strength training reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Cardio combined with strength training helps to lower blood pressure and to control blood sugar.
  • Strengthen your heart. A stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast and it pumps blood more efficiently. Consequently blood flow is improved to all parts of your body.
  • Boost your mood. Cardio can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Stay active and independent as you get older. Cardio combined with strength training keeps your muscles strong which helps you maintain mobility as you get older. Cardio also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of cardio three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Strength Training, The Key To a Firm Body

Pulldown exercise, which strengthens the arms ...Image via Wikipedia

I believe, as you age strength training is the best thing you can do to improve your health and fitness level. Strength training is important because around age 40 you start to experience muscle loss. “If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body,” says Dr. Edward Laskowski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Left unabated, you can lose up to 10 pounds of muscle each decade starting at age 40.

Loosing muscle is detrimental to your fitness because muscle is the component of your body that burns the majority of the calories you consume each day. Therefore, when you lose muscle your body requires fewer calories to function. Consequently, those extra calories you consume are stored as fat around your waist, hips, and other places.

Your body constantly burn calories, even when we’re doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily. This small difference can add up over time. In addition, after a bout of resistance training, muscles are activated all over your body, increasing your average daily metabolic rate.

Fortunately, strength training can mitigate, and even reverse the loss of muscle at any age. Thus, increasing the amount of calories needed to function. That’s why you hear some people say that their appetites increase after they have been strength training for awhile. This is a sign that they are starting to build muscle.

Increasing your metabolism isn’t the only benefit of strength training. It also helps:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns more calories more efficiently which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
  • Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle protects your joints from injury. It also helps maintain flexibility and balance which are crucial to remaining independent as you age.
  • Boost your stamina. Building muscle helps to increase your energy level.
  • Improve your sense of well-being. Strength training can boost your self-confidence, improve your body image, and reduce the risk of depression.
  • Sleep better. People who strength train on a regular basis are less likely to have insomnia.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Balance and Moderation the Key to a Healthy Diet, Part 5 - Fat

New olive oil, just pressed. It has a dense co...Image via Wikipedia

In the final installment of this series on Balance and Moderation in your diet I'll talk about fat. Fat has also taken a bad rap over the years, but it is very essential to your health and well-being. Again, balance and moderation is the key.

For decades, the mantra for healthy eating has been “eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.” Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions, millions of people have followed this advice. Seeing a tremendous marketing opportunity, food companies re-engineered thousands of foods to be low-fat or fat-free. The low-fat approach to eating may have made a difference for the occasional individual, but as a nation, it has nether helped us control our weight nor become healthier. In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied Americans with about 45 percent of their calories. About 13 percent of the population was obese and less than one percent had type 2 diabetes. Today, Americans take in less fat, getting about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils; yet 34 percent of the population is obese, and eight percent has diabetes (mostly type 2). (Source: Harvard School of Public Health).

Research has shown that the total amount of fat in your diet isn’t linked with weight or disease. What actually matters is the type of fat in your diet. Trans fats and saturated fats increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite. But then you ask, “what about cholesterol in food?” The answer is, for most people the mix of fats in their diets influences cholesterol in their bloodstreams far more than cholesterol in food.

Almost all foods contain some fat. Even foods like carrots and lettuce contain small amounts of fat. That’s a testament to how important fats are for your health and well-being. Fat provides a terrific source of energy for your body as well as a great depot for storing it. It is an important part of cell membranes, helping govern what gets into and out of your cells. Your body uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and other vital compounds. Fats are also biologically active molecules that can influence how your muscles respond to insulin. Also, different types of fats can fire-up or cool down inflammation in your body.

Your body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny protein-covered particles called lipoproteins in order to get them into your blood stream. Some of these lipoproteins are big and fluffy, and others are small and dense. However, the most important ones to remember for your health and well-being are low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides as explained below.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from your liver to the rest of your body. Your cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of your coronary arteries and other arteries throughout your body. These deposits, called plaque can cause your arteries to narrow and limit blood flow, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Thus, LDL cholesterol is called your bad cholesterol.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) scavenge cholesterol from your bloodstream, your LDL, and your artery walls and ferry it back to your liver for disposal. Thus, HDL cholesterol is referred to as your good cholesterol.

Triglycerides comprise most of the fat that you eat and that travels through your bloodstream. Because triglycerides are your body’s main vehicle for transporting fats to your cells, they are essential for good health. However, an excess of triglycerides can be unhealthy.

The type of fat in your diet determines to a large extent the amount of total and LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. Cholesterol in food matters too, but not nearly as much. You can basically break the fats in your diet into three categories; good, bad, and very bad.

Good Fats

Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles.
Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods derived from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are liquid at room temperature.

Furthermore, there are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in canola, peanut, and olive oil, in avocados, nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans, and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame. Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean and flaxseed oil. They also are found in foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds and fish.

Research has shown that replacing carbohydrates in your diet with good fats reduces harmful levels of LDL and increases protective HDL in your bloodstream. A randomized trial called the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health showed that replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with one rich in unsaturated fat - predominantly monounsaturated fats - lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels, and reduces the estimated cardiovascular risk.

Bad Fats

Saturated fats are called bad fats because they increase your total cholesterol level by elevating harmful LDL. Your body can produce all the saturated fat that it needs, so you don’t have to get any from your diet. In the US and other developed countries, saturated fats come mainly from meat, seafood, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products. A few plant sources, such as coconuts and coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, also are high in saturated fats.

As general rule it’s good to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as possible. Saturated fats are found in many foods, including vegetable oils that are mainly unsaturated fats, so you can’t completely eliminate them from your diet. Because red meat and dairy fat are the main sources of saturated fats for most people, minimizing them in your diet is the primary way to reduce your intake of saturated fat.

Very Bad Fats

Trans fatty acids, more commonly known as trans fats, are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, - a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil. It also converts the oil into a solid which makes transportation easier. Partially hydrogenated oils can also withstand repeated heating without breaking down, making them ideal for frying fast foods. This is reason partially hydrogenated oils have been a mainstay in restaurants and the food industry.

Trans fats are worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise bad LDL and lower good HDL. They also increase inflammation, an over-activity of the immune system that is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Even small amounts of trans fats in your diet can have harmful health effects. For every extra two percent of daily calories from trans fat (the amount in a medium order of fast food French fries) the risk of coronary heart disease increases by 23 percent. It is estimated that eliminating trans fats from the US food supply would prevent between six and 19 percent of heart attacks and heart attack-related deaths (more than 200,000) each year.

Recommendations for Fat in Your Diet

Are you confused at this point about the type of fats and their varied effects on your health? If so remember the basic message to replace the bad fats in your diet with the good fats. Here are some suggestions to help you limit the bad fats in your diet.

  • Eliminate trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils. Check food labels for the presence of trans fats and avoid fried fast foods.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy products. When possible replace red meat with poultry, fish, beans, and nuts. Also, try switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower-fat versions.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in place of butter in your cooking and at the table.
  • Eat one or more sources of omega-3 fats every day. Excellent sources are fish, walnuts, canola or soybean oil, ground flax seeds and flaxseed oil.
Here’s how you can calculate the grams of fat in your daily diet. Let’s use the 1800 calorie per day diet again. Assume that you consume 20 percent of your daily calories from good fats, so that’s approximately 360 calories from the fat in your diet. Now there are nine calories per gram of fat. 360 divide nine equals 40 grams – the amount of fat you can eat daily. Next, use the USDA’s National Nutritional Database mentioned before to calculate your serving sizes, and it’s easy to start balancing the amount of fat in your diet.

I hope that this series on Balance and Moderation in your diet has been understandable and helpful in your quest to a healthier and more fit life. Once you grasp this concept it's easy to incorporate into your life.

Let's face it. Life is meant to be enjoyed and part of the joy of living is enjoying good foods. On the other hand, if you don't have good health, how can you enjoy life? The task is creating a healthy lifestyle in which you don't deprive yourself of the things you love and enjoy. This is what balance and moderation is all about.
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Balance and Moderation the Key to a Healthy Diet, Part 5 - Carbohydrates

Grain products: rich sources of complex and si...Image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned in my previous post, maintaining a steady blood sugar level is a very important component of your diet. While you’ve just seen that your body breaks down all digestible carbohydrates into blood sugar, some are converted into blood sugar faster than others. Thus, some carbohydrates cause a spike in your blood sugar level causing you to feel hungry faster and to crave more sugary foods. Other carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar more slowly, leveling out your blood sugar and resulting in less hunger and food cravings.

For this reason, the Glycemic Index (GI) was developed to classify how quickly
your body converts carbohydrates into blood sugar as opposed to pure glucose. Glucose has a GI of 100, and all other carbohydrate-based foods are ranked against it. Foods with a score of 70 or more are considered to as have a high GI, while those with a score of 55 or less are considered low.

Eating lots of food with a high GI causes spikes in your blood sugar level, which can lead to many health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Eating low GI foods causes your blood sugar level to stay steady thus keeping your energy level balanced and causing you to feel fuller longer between meals. The following are some additional benefits of eating low GI carbohydrates.

  • Helps you to lose and manage weight your weight.
  • Increases your body's sensitivity to insulin.
  • Decreases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease.
  • Improves your blood cholesterol levels
  • Reduces hunger and keeps you fuller longer.
  • Helps you to refuel your carbohydrate stores after exercise.
You can get the GI rating of hundreds of carbohydrate-based foods from the Glycemic Index Foundation, sponsored by the University of Sydney in Australia. It maintains a searchable database of more than 1600 entries at http://www.glycemicindex.com.

The GI is interesting because some of the foods that you think would have a high rating actually do not. For instance, fructose, or fruit sugar has a minimal effect on blood sugar, while white bread and French-fried potatoes are converted to blood sugar nearly as fast as pure glucose. In other words, you can’t classify foods as having a high or low GI based on the sweetness of taste. Many factors affect a foods GI such as:

  • Processing: Grains that have been milled and refined have a higher GI
  • Type of starch: Starches come in many different configurations. Some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. For example, starch in potatoes is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.
  • Fiber content: The sugars in fiber are linked in a way that is hard for your body to break down. Thus, the more fiber a food has, the less digestible carbohydrate, and consequently, the less sugar it can deliver into your blood stream.
Fat and acid content: The more fat or acid a food contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into your bloodstream.
Physical form: Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested, and so has a higher GI than more coarsely ground grain.

The basic technique for eating the low GI way is simply a "this-for-that" approach:., swapping high GI carbohydrates for low GI carbohydrates. You don't need to count numbers or do any mental arithmetic to make sure you are eating a healthy, low GI diet. Follow these easy to implement suggestions.
  • Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
  • Use breads with whole-grains, stone-ground flour, or sour dough
  • Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
  • Enjoy all types of fruit and vegetables
  • Use brown rice
  • Enjoy whole-wheat pasta and noodles
  • Eat plenty of salad vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing
As you see, it’s important to include the right kind of carbohydrates as part of your daily intake. I generally get about 50 percent of my daily calorie intake from low to medium glycemic index carbohydrates. I find that this amount gives me plenty of energy for all my daily activities. You’ll find that eating low to medium GI carbohydrates levels out your energy and keeps you from those high and low points throughout the day.

So now you ask, how many grams of carbohydrates can I eat daily? Let me show you in the following example. Let’s assume you eat 1800 calories each day, and 50 percent of those calories comes from carbohydrates. So that’s 900 calories of carbohydrates you consume each day. There are four calories in each gram of carbohydrates. Now, divide 900 by 4 and that equates to 225 grams of carbohydrates each day. Next use the USDA’s National Nutritional Database that I mentioned above to calculate your serving sizes, and it’s easy to start balancing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.

I hope that you now have a basic understanding of carbohydrates in your diet. In my next post I'll begin my discussion on fat and why it important in diet.

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