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Is Motivation an Overused Term in Strength Training and Fitness?

10 Jun 2013 13:22

The text of this of this blog post is a transcript of the video talk presented here, which explores whether the word motivation is a misunderstood and overused word in fitness and strength training circles. Motivation is treated as if it is a black-and-white concept, and a person is either motivated or they are not motivated. It could be, however, that motivation is much more complex than this and the word used alone, without qualification, may be too vague, or too broad to be of much use. Motivation is a Part of Pop-Psychology Have you ever heard of pop-psychology? Ever heard of psychobabble? Well, for sport and exercise psychology, the word motivation is a part of that. People throw around the word as if it is a simple thing and as if just saying the word means they are doing something about psychology. Some psychologists have argued that the term motivation is vague and overused when it comes to the gym, the locker room, life. I agree. Every article, speech, or utterance about the word tends to come from a different definition. Motivation has become a sports psychology buzzword for those who don't really have any other words to choose from. It's either so broad it pretty much encompasses the whole field of sports psychology or so narrow it becomes useless. Listen to the Voice Version Did you know that there are over 30 theories of motivation? If not more. That means, 30 different organizational (or operational ) definitions. The main thing to realize is that motivation is not a distinct thing. It's not as if you are motivated or you are NOT motivated. It's more a process. If you go to the gym, then you must be motivated to do that, right? So to say I lack motivation doesn't quite describe your problem, if you have a problem. Motivation is Specific, not General Goals are a part of motivation. You go to the gym. Showing up doesn't mean you are motivated to have a good session. So what did you hope to achieve by showing up? Perhaps your primary goal, on the day, was to avoid guilt! The avoidance of guilt is not exactly the same as the desire to achieve something positive. And this is, by the way, part of why I reject the use of guilt tactics to get people to exercise. The motivation that guilt brings is to avoid the negative emotion of guilt as much as it is to achieve something. And this brings us to one big problem with all this talk of motivation. People think that motivation is general. And they think that attitude is general. NO. They are not. They are both very specific. Your attitudes about the specific actions and tasks you undertake in your training are specific to those things. Your motivation is a part of your attitude, as well. Therefore motivation is specific. The more meaningful the task is to you, the more motivated you will be to achieve within that task! I really want this to hit home. You see all these articles about which exercises or what kind of training is the most effective. Exercising is not like buying an appliance and checking consumer reports for all the low down. I guarantee that the thing you enjoy more will be more effective if that enjoyment means you will stick to it. But effective for what? Well, that's another story Even Incentives Motivate in a Specific Way Depending on Situation This brings me to the many contests and other incentives on many websites, etc. that seek to motivate through an incentive-based approach. What you'll find is that while a person might be attracted to, say, a fat loss challenge, they may not be attracted to a lifting challenge. This underscores that their perceptions and beliefs about the two things are different, and their theory of achievement are different for those things. Theories of Motivation I have talked about task-oriented behavior and being intrinsically motivated (self, or inner motivated) and extrinsically motivated (other, or outside motivated). This is also sometimes called an internal or external locus of control. As you can...

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What Is Nutrient Density and What are Empty Calories?

02 Jun 2013 20:11

This explanation of nutrient density and empty calories takes the form of a video presentation. The article contains the exact transcript of the video. Definition of Nutrient Density and Micronutrients The nutrient density of foods is a factor related to the micronutrients in foods. Micronutrients are the small biological molecules in foods like vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals. Contrast this with macronutrients, which are the large nutritional units in foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Calcium, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene are micronutrients. Nutrient density is defined as the amount of nutrients in a food as compared to its caloric content, or more accurately, the amount of micronutrients per unit of energy. A food with a high nutrient density or a 'nutrient dense' food is one that has a high amount of micronutrients relative to its calorie count. An easy way to see this is to compare foods to their nonfat versions. Measuring Nutrient Density For instance, nonfat or skim milk has more calcium and vitamin A per calorie than whole milk. Therefore nonfat milk is more nutrient dense. When dietitians or nutritionists tell us to choose nutrient-dense foods, they are saying to choose foods with the most micronutrient bang for your calorie buck. Empty Calories and Nutrient Density Many sugary foods are called empty calories or junk food. This is because they have very low nutrient density. Sticking with calcium for our micronutrient of choice, let's ask whether cheddar cheese is more nutrient dense than nonfat milk. To be precise we would compare the amount of calcium per 100 kilocalories or even 1000 kilocalories of each item. 100 Calories worth of cheddar cheese contains about 180 milligrams of calcium. Assuming it is not calcium fortified, 100 calories of nonfat milk contains about 366 milligrams of calcium. By this measure, we see that nonfat milk is more nutrient dense than cheddar cheese for calcium. Of course, we do not compare foods based on 100 calorie equivalents, we compare them based on a realistic serving. If we consider a serving of cheddar cheese to be 1.5 ounces, then that's around 170 calories and will yield around 300 milligrams of calcium. A serving of nonfat milk is usually considered 8 ounces, or one cup. That is around 83 calories, also giving 300 milligrams of calcium. So, a serving of cheddar cheese contains more than twice the energy of the nonfat milk for the same amount of calcium. Let's compare less similar foods for a different nutrient, thiamin. How about we compare a lean pork chop (say a center cut which has been broiled or grilled) with asparagus. The pork is about 150 calories (remember, we've chosen a lean cut). That's about .5 milligrams of thiamin. One cup of steamed asparagus, on the other hand, is about 40 calories for around .3 milligrams of thiamin. You can see that the asparagus gives you more thiamin for your calorie buck. In general, plant foods will always be more nutrient dense than animal foods, with certain notable exceptions such as iron and some other instances. Obviously, there is a problem with evaluating the nutrient density of foods by looking at one micronutrient. But when many common foods are compared, it is easy to see that the best way to achieve a nutrient-dense diet is to eat more servings of a variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, than meat or dairy products. Of course, there is more to nutrition than micronutrients. For instance, you need essential fatty acids, like those from fish, nuts, and seeds. What understanding nutrient density allows you to do is meet your micronutrient needs before reaching your maximum caloric intake, allowing you what is called discretionary calories. It is possible to loosely score general classes of foods in terms of overall nutrient density. Based on this, the most nutrient-dense foods, in general, are raw leafy green vegetables. However, certain leafy green vegetables can be problematic, because of...

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