21 Ways to Improve Your Daily Health

Spending time in the gym or following a strict diet are great, but they still take place within the confines of our daily life. Improving our health is not difficult, or for that matter even challenging, but it does require making small adjustments to our daily lives.

All the little things we do throughout the day may seem insignificant, but they add up to big changes. Here are twenty-one ways that you can start improving your health today and create a healthier, more pain-free you for tomorrow. Continue reading

One Year Without Black Coffee

I love coffee.

I drink it black. No cream. No sugar. Ever.

It has been extremely tough to quit but today marks the one year anniversary since I went cold turkey on black coffee.

One year ago today, I stopped drinking it. Not caffeine, but black coffee. I didn't eliminate caffeine -- that wasn't the goal -- just black coffee. I still allowed myself expresso as long as it was diluted in something other than water. (Since I'm vegan, that only left soy milk.)

At first I switched to tea. Then I experimented with soy lattes (an espresso diluted in steamed soy milk). Eventually, I removed all sources of high caffeine.

Now I drink water, tea, and the occasional Earl Grey Soy Misto (Earl Grey tea with steamed soy milk).

I no longer wake up in the morning feeling the need to power myself by ingesting a foreign substance. Continue reading

Going Cold Turkey on all Liquids Except Water and Tea

A few months ago when I went cold turkey on coffee, my goal was not to eliminate caffeine altogether, just black coffee. Many people who learned of my quitting coffee were confused when they saw me drinking a soy latte (which contains expresso), so I had to explain to them the difference between black coffee and coffee diluted in soy milk. As much a I love coffee (yes, love, not loved; I still love coffee!), I have suppressed all the urges (as ridiculously strong as they may have been) and my mouth has not seen a single cup of black coffee in over four months!

Although I did not quit black coffee to eliminate all caffeine from my diet, the negative side effects of high caffeine consumption that I was experiencing from drinking lots of black coffee was my main motivation. However, the past few weeks I have unconsciously been increasing the number of lattes I drink, thereby increasing my caffeine intake, increasing the negative side effects that I originally quit black coffee to avoid, and decreasing the money in my wallet.

So today I decided I'm going cold turkey on all liquids except water and tea (and possibly soy milk for protein shakes), until at least the end of the year. I really need to escape this caffeine addiction (yes, it's addiction, no matter how much I don't want to admit it). It's ridiculous, unnecessary, and costing me way too much money. I quit black coffee, so this should be easy.

Going Cold Turkey on Coffee

Coffee is the one thing that I have tried to quit several times over the past few years and failed (it's been my new years resolution several years in a row). Failing is not like me. If I want to quit something, I just do it. I've never been addicted to anything in my life... except coffee.

I started drinking coffee with cream and sugar when I was 16. When I got into fitness a few years later, I slowly decreased the amount of cream and sugar in the coffee until it was black. From that point on, cream and sugar in my coffee ruined it for me so I continued to drink it black.

The average cup of black coffee contains between 115-175mg of caffeine. More than 300mg of caffeine a day on regular basis has been shown to cause several negative side effects, including increased urination (and dehydration as a result), disruption of normal diet (drinking coffee when hungry makes you no longer feel hungry, even though your body needs food), headaches, irritation, and mood swings. I have experienced all of these, but I'm only now beginning to realize how much they're affecting my fitness and overall health.

I recognized a pattern in my coffee consumption. Over a three month time span, I would go from drinking 1 cup to 4 cups of coffee per day. Eventually I would feel so sick of the high caffeine intake (or its side effects) that I would drop back down to 1 cup a day, only to begin the process all over again. Here's a chart of what I'm talking about:

Cups of Coffee Per Day

For some reason I've felt extremely motivated and strong about the fitness goals I set for this year, so since I'm on a roll I decided to go cold turkey on coffee last Tuesday (February 17th). The first few days were rough. Tuesday the bad headaches started. Wednesday the headaches were slightly better, but the mood swings crept in (mood swings are rare for me, so it was easy for me to recognize them). Thursday it was a combination of mood swings and headaches but by Friday the side effects were starting to wear off.

I had considered leaving the weekends open for one or two coffees, but I remembered when I did that in the past it resulted in eventually making exceptions during the week. I almost gave in on Saturday, almost. Today is Sunday and I can already feel my desire for coffee is slowly but surely wearing off. I feel so much better overall. I'm able to wake up easier in the morning, I'm spending less, my diet and digestion are better, and I don't feel this constant need for something external to keep me going.

Back to Bodybuilding

After a long break, I'm back to bodybuilding. In addition to lots of stretching and yoga I'm concentrating on full-body exercises like chin-ups, push-ups, and leg raises. Cardio always seems to die off during the colder winter months, but now that the warm weather is slowly returning I need to pick it up again. I've also started waking up earlier and my goal is to eventually start waking up before sunrise.

Even more difficult than maintaining a good diet and exercise routine is maintaining a good diet and exercise routine for very long periods of time -- I'm talking in years, not months. The past 9 years of my bodybuilding career, although mostly beneficial to my health, have been a roller coaster of workout routines and diets. Dedication, commitment, and sheer will-power made me the fittest I've ever been, but maintaining that physique indefinitely while being in a career that requires me to sit down will be quite the challenge.

Struggling to Maintain a Vegan Diet

Ever since I started working out regularly, I have been trying to eat more protein while maintaining a vegan diet. I've tried making soy, hemp, and rice protein shakes, eating more tempeh and tofu, and even eating more beans (though I must admit that the time required to cook beans and grains definitely prevents me from eating them as regularly as I would like). I don't know if I have a protein sensitivity or if I'm just not combining foods properly, but every time I increase my protein intake my body seems to reject it and digestion becomes very difficult.

I have thought about how much easier things would be if I could have EAS Myoplex shakes, cottage cheese, yogurt, non-fat chocolate milk, and other foods that I learned how to use to help with keeping protein high and carbohydrates low. Now that I have been maintaining a vegan diet, I feel like I'm starting back at square one; I feel like I don't know anything about diet and fitness because everything changes when you remove all dairy from your diet.

Earlier today I was actually contemplating switching back to a lacto-vegetarian diet, but then I remembered the promise I made to myself several months ago:

I was born a Vegetarian, but I will die a Vegan.

So to push these dangerous thoughts out of my head, that has become my new mantra. If maintaining a vegan diet means I need to spend more time preparing food and learning how to cook complete meals, then so be it. I was thinking, I should probably tattoo the word VEGAN on my body somewhere so I can simply look at it whenever I'm doubting my commitment to a vegan lifestyle.

Tired, Pullups, and Scrambled Tofu

I don't know if its a problem with my diet, not getting enough sleep, too much caffeine, not enough carbohydrates, or a combination of all of the above! Every day I seem to be tired, especially around 8pm or 9pm. But, I can't seem to get myself to sleep that early.

Since I moved to the new apartment, I haven't gotten back into my regular workout program. However, I have been doing lots of chinups and leg raises on the pullup bar with ab loops in my kitchen doorway. I also took my DoorGym out of storage in Lowell and installed it in my bathroom doorway. I have the extension for it that allows for wide grip pullups and it works the shoulders and upper back like nothing else.

I was looking for breakfast ideas earlier today -- something different than my oatmeal with toast -- and came across this post on VeganFitness.net. The recipes blew my mind! My breakfast has never felt so dull! I went food shopping today and thought I bought everything I needed to make scrambled tofu, but I forgot the onions. 🙁

All-Zyme Double Strength by Rainbow Light

While I was working on computers at LifeAlive Tuesday night, I mentioned to Heidi (the owner) that I've had a lot of digestion trouble the past few months. She gave me a bottle of All-Zyme Double Strength; plant-source enzyme pills. She thought I might not be getting the right enzymes my body needs to properly digest and process food. So I took one pill before I went to bed and three more yesterday. I had no idea I would feel results after only 24 hours!

Yesterday was the first day in the past several months I've felt as good as I do now. I used to always get a stomach ache during the day, and when I tried to eat something in the late afternoon (when I was the most hungry) the stomach ache would only get worse. Today however, I was able to eat the same things I normally eat but without feeling like my stomach wasn't working.

Vegan's get Plenty of Calories!

These are pictures from my FitDay account. I decided to start keeping track of everything I eat to see how I'm doing with calories and to see if my fat/carbs/protein ratios are good. I didn't realize I was eating so many calories!

As you can see by the Calories Burned picture, I'm consuming about the same number of calories as I burn on a daily basis, excluding any calories I burn from workouts. This explains a lot about why I haven't been burning as much fat as I thought I was -- I've been eating too much! The strange thing is that I've been feeling hungry non-stop, especially at night.

Those pictures are from yesterday. Today I've changed my diet to adjust the ratios and I'm aiming for around 2500 calories.

I also spent 20 minutes today, climbing a total of 948 steps (56 stories (14 stories x 4)) in my office building. It was an amazing workout! Anyone who uses work as an excuse for not being able to workout simply isn't creative and motivated enough! When I worked 3rd shift as a help desk analyst at Getronics a few years ago, I ran laps around the parking lot at 2:00am!

EDIT: I ended up eating more calories today than I did yesterday, however that is because in addition to spending 20 minutes doing the stair climbing I did 30 minutes of interval training at my parents house this evening, which burned 500 calories. So technically, I only consumed 2350 calories.

Time to Burn the Fat

I know I've been saying this for weeks, but tomorrow I'm going to start counting the calories I eat. I've already started using my rowing machine regularly, now I just need to increase the amount of time I use it for. I love running, but when I do too much of it I get shin splints or my knees start to ache. I also need to work on my unsightly calves -- they're probably the most undeveloped area of my body.

Appetite is controlled by your brain and its absolutely amazing how strong feelings of hunger can be. The past few weeks I've found myself constantly feeling hungry, even when I feel full and my stomach hurts. I'm not sure if its because of the change in my diet or if it's because I'm not doing enough intense physical exercise.

The maximum amount of fat a person can safely loose per week is 2 LBS; by burning ~500 calories per day. I aim to burn at least 1.5 LBS of fat per week, for the next 12 weeks (18 LBS of fat!)

Wow, that is so much easier said than done.

How to make drinking water a lot easier

Last year, I wrote a lengthly post about why its so necessary to drink more water. Drinking water isn't really a problem for me, its simply remembering to drink it.

I discovered that if you simply always have a bottle of water on your desk, or within reach of where you work, it will require nothing more than the thought "I could use some water" to grab your water bottle and drink some water (maybe even leave the cap off!). But if you have to get up and walk somewhere just to get some water, you're a lot less likely to do it.

I like to buy a single 1.5 liter Poland Spring bottle of water and simply make sure I refill it once during the day. That means I'll get at least 100oz of water per day. At the end of the week, I toss out the bottle and buy a new one (reusing the bottle too many times can eventually cause toxins in the plastic to release into the water).

A Healthy Week

Well this week has seen a couple of interesting changes. On Sunday, I went food shopping for this week and bought lots of fruits and veggies. And then on Monday, after discovering the Vegan Fitness Forums, I made the decision to go vegan -- which means no dairy, including whey protein. I already have a couple of tubs of soy, hemp, and rice protein so I've started using that to make protein shakes. Probably the easiest, and most tasty shake, that I make is done like this:

1 cup unsweetened soymilk
1 scoop of soy protein
1 banana
1 tbsp peanut butter
ice to taste

It's incredible! You don't taste the soy protein at all, but the whole thing contains over 35g of protein! And meat eaters wonder where we get our protein...

This week I was also given the additional task of being the QA Engineer for Aerva. It will be an excellent learning experience and it will help me gain a better understanding of the whole software development process.

I finished almost all of the fruits and veggies you saw in my fridge on Sunday, but I still have enough for this weekend. Usually I don't have easy access to a stove during the weekends and I end up eating at LifeAlive or snacking on nuts, but this weekend I'm going to make it a goal to finish everything left over from Sunday. I definitely bought too much food this week, but now that I have a good idea how much I'll need, I'm going to buy less for next week.

I also need to increase my protein intake, which I plan to do by consuming more soy protein shakes. I'm also going to buy wheat gluten, something I've never bought before, however I've learned it has the most amount of protein of all vegan foods.

My workouts have been going well, however I haven't been doing enough cardio. Starting next week, I'm going to get back on my HIIT workouts, two days a week. HIIT is extremely intense and I have had excellent results in the past using it. I actually wrote a post about it back in 2003. I'll probably start doing that same HIIT workout and then increase the intensity in two months.

Vegan Fitness Forum

I've been reading stuff on the Vegan Fitness forum lately. I found it somewhere in a post on the bodybuilding.com forums, which I also frequent. I'm learning a ton of stuff from the Vegan Fitness forums -- many of my questions related to bodybuilding on a vegan diet have been answered.

I bought two bags of raw seeds yesterday -- pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Both are inexpensive and have a high protein content. However they're both high in fat, which means even though they're good fats, they still contain a ton of calories. If I eat enough pumpkin seeds to consume 20g of protein, I would have also consumed 40g of fat -- 448 calories! That's almost 1/4 of my daily caloric intake!

I also listed a new item on eBay yesterday; a broken Toshiba laptop I bought from someone for $35. Similar broken Toshiba laptops have sold for $90+, so hopefully I can make a little money off it.

Fruits and Veggies for a Week

I went food shopping today, at Whole Foods. It's not the cheapest place to shop, but they certainly have good stuff. I always shop for the current week, nothing more. By the end of the week everything in my fridge should be gone (besides peanut butter, jam, flax oil, etc).

The rest of my diet includes whole wheat bread, tempeh, brown rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal, assorted nuts, and soy milk. My fruits I eat raw, and I usually steam veggies in the microwave (1 inch of water on the bottom of a bowl, add washed veggies and microwave for 5 min). Although I've been avoiding all dairy for the past few months, I've recently introduced whey protein back into my diet to help with my muscle gains.

This week I'm also trying something new, soy yogurt. I've read the live cultures in yogurt are really good for your digestive system and since I've been having odd digestion issues, I'm going to see how that helps.

Motivational Fitness & Health Advice

I found something I had written for a friend a few months ago (last October, actually) when he asked for fitness advice. I find my own advice, written at a time when I had a regular workout routine, motivating me to start my regular routine once again. There are many reasons (excuses) why I've let my routine slide, but I won't give myself the opportunity to mention them!

Whatever you do, stick with it. If you feel like program A is not working, then don't quit! Modify the program and keep going. Consistency will pay off, whether you're doing the right thing or not.

Eat more healthy. This is kind of obvious, but start with eliminating SODA and any other junk food. Watch the nutritional content labels for high saturated fat and sugar content. Eat more fruit's, nuts, and veggies.

DRINK A LOT OF WATER! If you're lucky enough to work close to a bathroom, drink water until you're pissing every 10 minutes; seriously. When your body changes and fat decreases, your body needs to get rid of all the toxins in your body. It does that by using WATER as a transport mechanism. If you don't have enough water, your body will simply become more toxic.

Don't kill yourself. Create a schedule that fits your lifestyle. For example, start small by dedicating 30 minutes every day to workouts. Then start doing it twice day (30 min morning, 30 min night) if possible, otherwise just increase your workout time. If you feel REALLY sore the day after working out, give yourself a day's rest and start again the following day. Your body does need time to adjust, so give it time. But at the same time, you should be trying to push your limits. Don't use the soreness as an excuse!

Bodybuilding on a Vegan Diet

It's been about six weeks since I last worked out regularly. I have no excuses. For the past two months I have been vegan (no meat, fish, poultry or dairy) with the exception of occasional dairy (cheese/whey). I feel a lot healthier without any dairy in my system, however the vegan diet has dramatically decreased my protein intake. I feel as though I've lost a ton of muscle mass in the past six weeks -- but after checking the scale, I believe it's mostly a psychological effect. I'm still 164.2lbs and 13.5% BF -- not at all much different than six weeks ago. Still, I feel physically weaker (again, could be psychological!).

I haven't done any research on vegan bodybuilding, but I know there are successful vegan bodybuilders out there, so it can be done. My brother has done considerable research on the topic and he says there isn't much scientific information available. I'm going to spend at least the next two months concentrating on my workouts and seeing what results I can obtain while on a vegan diet.

The workout routine I'm doing is the same routine I started back in June. It's designed to build muscle, while keeping your metabolism fired up by varying the exercises and hitting many different muscle groups in each workout. There are four parts to the routine which are completed in a single week, with the first half completed back to back (A and B), then a days rest, and then the second half back to back (C and D). I'm using the same weights as I was in June, however I will probably increase the weight over the next two months. To save you from having to view the old posts, I'll copy the workouts here:

    Workout A (Monday)
    Bench Press, 3 sets, 5 reps, 170 LBS
    Dumbbell Row, 3 sets, 6 reps, 45 LBS
    Dumbbell Bench Press, 4 sets, 8 reps, 50 LBS
    Snatch-Grip Barbell Row, 4 sets, 8 reps, 90 LBS
    Incline Dumbbell Press, 3 sets, 12 reps, 40 LBS
    Dumbbell External Rotation, 3 sets, 10 reps, 8 LBS

    Workout B (Tuesday)
    Squat, 3 sets, 6 reps, 100 LBS
    Rear-delt Raise, 3 sets, 10 reps, 20 LBS
    Romanian Deadlift, 4 sets, 8 reps, 100 LBS
    Dumbbell Split Squat, 4 sets, 8 reps 35 LBS
    Swiss Ball Jackknife, 3 sets, 10 reps
    Bicycle Crunches, 3 sets, 50 reps
    Swiss Ball Rollout, 3 sets, 10 reps

    Workout C (Thursday)
    Pullup, 4 sets, 8 reps
    Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press, 4 sets, 8 reps, 45 LBS
    Weighted Chinup, 3 sets, 5 reps, 16 LBS
    Lateral Raise, 3 sets, 8 reps, 25 LBS
    Bench Press, 3 sets, 6 reps, 160 LBS
    Barbell Curl, 3 sets, 8 reps, 50 LBS
    Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extention, 3 sets, 8. reps, 30 LBS 30 LBS
    Incline Dumbbell Curl, 3 sets, 12 reps, 20 LBS

    Workout D (Friday)
    Deadlift, 3 sets, 6 reps, 140 LBS
    Side Plank, 3 sets, 20 second hold
    Front Squat, 4 sets, 8 reps, 60 LBS
    Good Morning, 4 sets, 8 reps, 60 LBS
    Overhead Squat, 3 sets, 5 reps, 30 LBS
    Calf Raise, 3 sets, 10 reps, 35 LBS
    Swiss Ball Curl Up, 3 sets, 15 reps

I'm reading a really good book right now called Pain Free, by Pete Egoscue. It contains exercises designed to get your body back into it's correct alignment and function. I'm starting to incorporate the exercises into my morning yoga routine. I'll write a review of the book once I've given the exercises some time.

Deadly Food

What would happen if the makers of popular cleaning chemicals modified their products in such a way so that the chemicals tasted, and smelled, just like food? What if bleach smelled, and tasted, like cotton candy? Activists and health organizations would go crazy. Children and pets who don't know any better would get sick and start dying from chemical ingestion. You're probably thinking, "What a crazy thing to even suggest!".

Well, lets see: scientific studies have shown that it's a scientific fact that soda, donuts, cheese burgers, and other unnatural and unhealthy so called "foods", will kill you over time. Yet the better tasting and more appealing the food companies make their "products", the more money they make! The foods are shown to eventually lead to obesity and death and yet it's totally legal and OK for them to market and sell them!

Did you know that the food companies aren't even required to run any kind of trials to test the safety of a new food or product? The foods available on the market today are more dangerous for you than the chemicals and drugs in a pharmacy! Ingredients in foods should be as carefully inspected as chemicals are in new drugs and overly unhealthy foods should be outlawed.

I saw a box of donuts this morning. I wasn't offered any, but that's because everyone already knows I'll simply smile and say "No thank you.", turning away with my feeling of health and motivation still 100% intact. Then I thought, "How much would I need to be paid to eat a single donut?" $10? $25? $50? $100? I finally settled on $150, no less. Call me crazy? Well that's what the extra one hour of intense running, required to burn those calories, is worth to me.

It costs me hours of strenuous physical work to burn extra calories, but it costs me nothing to reject unhealthy food. Thats the way I see it whenever I'm presented with an unhealthy choice.

Don't eat something unhealthy and then ask yourself 15 minutes later "Why did I eat that? It was so unhealthy for me!". Ask yourself "Do I want to eat this?" before you eat it. Create the habit of reading how many calories are in something BEFORE you put it in your mouth, not 10 minutes later.

Eat healthy and don't be a hypocrite. It's your body, and it's your life.

Drink up; you seriously need it!

Drink more water.

Do it.

Our body is made of mostly water. But you knew that already, great. Have you thought about the role that water plays in keeping our body functioning? Without water, we wouldn't exist. I'd say that makes us water-creatures, wouldn't you? Sure, we don't live in water, but we can't venture far from it or else we wouldn't survive. All the functions of our body, from the creation of new cells (which by the way, are constantly dying and being replaced) to the transport of nutrients, to the function of our brain and flow of our blood. Everything that goes on in our body needs water to work the way it should. Continue reading

Why drink more tea?

OK, tea is too bland for me too. Once you've had black coffee and learned to enjoy its complex flavor, it's hard to drink any kind of tea. However, I understand the huge health benefits of Green Tea and most of what I eat and drink is aimed directly at maintaining my health. I've developed a habit of checking the nutritional content of everything I eat, preferably before I eat it, and some food's nutritional content I even have memorized! It's amazing how profound an effect certain foods can have on your body. The healthier your body the better and more noticeable the effects of healthy foods are.

For example, I've been having digestion problems for the past 6 months. I read that ginger is excellent for helping digestion so I ordered some Ginger Honey Crystal tea from Prince of Peace. Empty a packet in a cup, add hot water, mix and drink! It tastes awesome (unless you hate ginger) and I couldn't believe how much it helped my digestion. I've made it a habit to drink a cup almost every day (in the afternoon, when my body seems to need the most help digesting).

A few days ago I was in Starbucks and I saw a new tea for sale. Tazo Green Ginger. I had to try it. It combines the digestion benefits of ginger and the antioxidant benefits of green tea. I was surprised it tasted as good as it did. The plain Tazo green tea wasn't that great, so I wasn't expecting much, but the ginger helps to dull the bitter taste of the green tea, and almost tastes sweet!

My second cup this morning,

Tazo Green Ginger

Changed for Life

Here is the result of more than two years of eating properly, working out regularly, keeping away from chips, soda, fried foods, fast-food, candy, and keeping a very very regular and consistent workout schedule.

I could have accomplished this a lot faster, but there were months when I didn't watch my diet the way I should have, or when I had an operation for a hernia and was unable to workout for 3 months.

Anyhow, I'm almost to my goal, but not quite yet. : ) By this summer, I'll have reached my goal and post the results again. However, until then watch for an article on this site about how I transformed my body. I'll try to have it up here before the end of this month.