Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why You Should Be Drinking More Green Tea: Several Studies Showing Positive Results for Weight Loss, Cancer Prevention, Disease Resistance, and More...

Among all the beverages available for consumption by humans, tea is the most popular drink in the world, second only to water.  While a majority of that tea is generally black tea--made from the fermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush--an increasing amount of people are trying out green tea.  Green tea is also made out of the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush, but the leaves are only dried and heated, not fermented.  It has a relatively similar flavor, it comes from the same plant, it is just as easy to prepare, and it may have benefits that are not realized from drinking black tea.

Camellia sinensis
Although I have heard purported positive health effects from drinking green tea from friends, family, co-workers, television ads and fitness/nutritional websites, I decided to take a look at the research myself to see what science has to say about it.  Despite many trials finding little to no effect, there are quite a few studies showing very real positive benefits from drinking this simple beverage.

Now, I love knowing the science behind how things work, especially nutritional science.  However, I encourage anyone who drinks tea or is thinking about drinking tea make the switch to green tea, despite what the research shows.  It tastes great and it's cheap, easy to find and easy to make.  I have always enjoyed southern-style "Sweet Tea," and using green tea as a base for this drink is great, since you get the taste of black tea with the added benefit of nutrients and polyphenols in green tea.

With that said, let's look at some of the research.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Semi-) Vegetarian Weight Lifting: My Conclusion So Far

The meager amount of people following this blog might know I am an avid weight lifting fan.  There's plenty of reasons I could list for why weight lifting is so great, but the list of references backing it up are too numerous too count, and requires multiple articles just to cover the basics.

Today, I want to briefly touch on something a bit more specific: The concept of being a weight lifter while also being a vegetarian.  This is a goal I am currently in the process of testing out for myself, which is going pretty well, actually.  What enticed me, an avid meat-eater, to try out vegetarianism, you ask?  There are multiple reasons, but I have to admit that the one thing that motivated to try it was a TED talk I watched before work one day on YouTube:

In the video, Mr. Knox isn't too specific about any research, but he does talk about his own personal experience about going almost completely vegetarian.  He claims his cholesterol dropped considerably, he lost 35 lbs. and still continued to make gains in his hobby(job?) of bodybuilding. His physique certainly backs up his claims, as well. This is in stark contrast to what most bodybuilding communities advocate, suggesting we should be consuming large quantities of animal protein to support muscle growth.

A lot of people will claim that this is just one individual and his "anecdotal" evidence of lifting weights while being a vegetarian.  While this may be true, I, for one, believe him.  And there evidence that lends credence to his story.

Menno Henselmans has a website that I visit every so often for his quality articles on nutrition and training.  He has a one particular article, titled The Myth of 1g/lb: Optimal Protein Intake for Bodybuilders which concludes that no more than 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight is optimal for building muscle for most humans, including elite bodybuilders.  In contrast, most fitness and nutrition websites claim that at least 1g/lb of protein to body weight is the only way to reliably build and maintain muscle.  For a guy like me, who weighs about 165 pounds, there is a difference of over 30 grams of protein between Mr. Henselmans's conclusion versus the fitness community's stance.  That equates to having to eat an extra piece of 3 ounce steak, every day.  This just isn't healthy for me or sustainable for humanity and the environment.

Now I love the taste of most meats.  I could eat steak all day long and easily reach either protein amount.  But my love for being logical and efficient (and the never-ending struggle for perfection) tells me this is not a good plan to follow.  The consumption of meat is increasing as our global population grows, especially in the most developed parts of the world.  As such, the supply of beef of increasing as well, which creates more greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.  According to this article in Scientific American, producing enough beef for one human annually is as bad for the environment as driving a car 1,800 miles.  The United Nations seem to agree, and also report that the amount of annualwaste (aka shit) that is made by bovine for beef production is 3 TIMES more than the annual amount made by humans.  All that crap has to go somewhere, and with usable land becoming more scarce, it usually ends up tainting water supplies.

Then the more intimate factors come into play.  Since I only get one of these things called a"life," I believe it is of the utmost importance that I maintain my health so I can enjoy as much of it as I can without having the common preventable ailments that are killing most Americans.  Now the nutritional benefits of being a vegetarian become too clear.  Looking at any plant-based food versus a typical cut of steak reveals that steak itself just isn't that healthy.  100g of beef will supply me with 27 grams of protein and a whopping 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of them being saturated fat (the bad kind).  It also contains some vitamins, but absolutely zero fiber.  The same amount of black beans supply you with 22 grams of protein and only about 2 grams of fat, along with different vitamins and a ton of fiber.  Google makes it easy to see this for yourself.  Just type in the food you want to know about and it will bring up a whole list of nutritional facts.  Look at the data under the amount of 100 grams. Then type in another food and set the amount to 100 grams again.  Figuring out (and comparing) the nutritional facts of food has never been easier.

Another reason to switch over to a vegetarian diet is cost.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one pound of the cheapest beef as of August 2013 is nearly $3.50... and it's definitely not quality meat.  On the other hand, the most expensive vegetable on the list, peppers, is only $2.40... and even non-organic veggies are more healthy for you than meat, pesticides be damned.  Comparing the cheapest meat to the cheapest vegetables, you could buy nearly five pounds of potatoes for the cost of one pound of beef.

A large problem with a simple solution

More food, better nutrition, less costly and sustainable for the environment... it's almost like there's no downside.  Even the taste of vegetarian diet is a non-issue, at least for me.  I know there are some people who just can't stand the taste of fruit and vegetables, and that's OK.  I'm not going to try to change your mind on the things you like to eat.  However, I also know that for every person who truly can't enjoy a vegetarian diet, there are two more people who are unwilling to try it for a few days.  I am not good at coming up with recipes, but the internet is full of sites that potential vegetarians can use to ween off of meat and still enjoy tasty food.

Finally, my weight lifting performance shows no sign of decreasing.  I have switched up my training program a few times since last writing about it, and I no longer do a lot of the same exercises as before.  For one example, I changed the back squat for the front squat.  Although the front squat is generally accepted as a harder lift, I am almost about to meet my previous best on the front squat as I had for the back squat.  I will post another article soon about my new training methods, and hopefully I will continue to have good results until then.

I will admit that I haven't gone -completely- vegetarian.  On occasion, when my wife and I go out to eat, I will order a meat-based dish... because I like the taste, but also because financially, it makes no sense to pay the amount for a vegetarian dish when a meat-based entree is the same price.  These occasions are few and far between, however.  Maybe once a month, if that.  And, in contrast to vegan culture, I still eat chicken eggs, cheese and cow's milk.  I am trying to eliminate milk from my diet, however, as it has been blamed for increased risks of prostate and ovarian cancer.Just cutting out most of my meat consumption was a huge undertaking for me, and for that I am proud of myself.

My 3-month-old son is being difficult, so I have to draw this to a quick end.  I encourage debate on my blog and look forward to viewing more evidence for and against my side of the issue.  So far, though, the clear winner seems to be vegetarianism.  And that's what I'm going to stick with for now.