11 tips to get fit without the hype

AIR FORCE DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON -- Physical training is a must for all active-duty military personnel to help maintain high fitness levels, mental acuity and overall health. With that being said, it's also important to understand that it's not just about the hour or two spent in the fitness center. In truth, our overall fitness and well-being are influenced by several other factors.

The following are some "rules for results" that can help you align your exercise regimen with your diet to achieve better results:

* Eat ample calories. Multiply your body weight in pounds by 15-17 to get an estimate of how many calories you need to consume each day from carbohydrates, fat and protein. As your cardio increases, so should your calories. A person weighing 150 pounds should consume at least 2,250 to 2,550 calories each day for a start. If you're trying to lose weight, multiply your body weight by 10-11 and that represents your desired daily calories.

* Think carbohydrates and protein. Weightlifters should get about 4 to 6 grams of carbohydrate and 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. A 150-pound person needs to consume about 120 to 135 grams of protein.

* Stay hydrated. Even weightlifters that may not sweat as much as endurance athletes need more fluids than sedentary individuals. Losing just 2 liters of water or 3 percent body weight in water will decrease strength and speed, and the person will have difficulty concentrating and breathing. This loss can occur from just 30 minutes to an hour of sweating.

* Eat breakfast. Be sure to eat a small meal prior to physical training, especially weightlifting, to prevent muscle breakdown. Try to include carbohydrate and protein. Head to your commissary to load up on whole grain cereal with skim milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, oatmeal with fruit and a cup of milk, or egg whites with toast.

* Eat immediately after exercise. It's the window of opportunity and the one time during the day when simple sugars are OK. Simple sugars will store as glycogen for your next workout and prevent muscle breakdown. The protein and carbohydrate will promote muscle building and energy replenishment. Great choices for post-exercise right at your commissary are chocolate milk, low-fat milk or just a turkey and whole wheat bread sandwich.

* Graze like a cow. It's ideal to graze rather than "pig out." Avoid going more than three or four hours without eating a small carbohydrate, protein and healthy-fat meal or snack. Avoid eating carbohydrate, fat or protein only.

* Eat fat to look phat. Eat mono- and polyunsaturated fats like flaxseed, fish, olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and nut butters. Even skinny guys have to worry about heart disease. Avoid trans and saturated fats. Choose low-fat dairy, lean beef, and chicken and turkey breasts.

* Legs, legs, legs. Weight train legs, too. Running and other cardio exercise does not replace a leg workout. Leg muscles are huge and huge muscles release growth hormone and testosterone when worked. Strengthening legs will also maintain balance of your body and prevent imbalances on endurance athletes, which can help prevent injury. It will also improve your power and functional strength.

* High-intensity exercise. High-intensity exercise, such as a dynamic warm-up, sprinting or running sports, just one or two days a week will increase the release of growth hormone. If you're well-rested this will increase strength, power and endurance while helping to build and repair muscle.

* Rest and sleep. Muscles get big while you rest, not while you lift. Try for seven or more hours of sleep each day. If that is a "twinkle in your eye," then take "baby steps" toward that ultimate goal. Try getting to bed 15 minutes earlier and wake up 15 minutes later.

* Be patient. First, most males don't reach maximum testosterone levels until their late 20s. Secondly, lean muscle mass increases slowly and differently on everybody. Be patient and realize that putting on lean muscle takes months and years, not hours and days.

(Chris Halagarda is the Navy fitness and performance enhancement dietitian. Contact him with questions at (202) 433-3472, or via e-mail.