28 May 2009

TV feast without the gut

There's a sports feast on TV at the moment. Everyone's watching something. What is it doing to your waistline?

At the moment there is a sports feast on TV for sports fans. Everyone's stuck to their favourite chair.

Your bum will be glued to its seat. Your stomach will quietly expand. Your evenings and weekends will be taken over by sports. And you'll be stuffing yourself with every tasty snack known to mankind.

Can you picture it?
An afternoon and evening full of sports action. A stomach full of cholesterol, starch, saturated fats and greasy boerie rolls. "Pass the Eno's, love, I think I've eaten one chop too many.

Oh wait, there's one more game. Yes, thanks, I'd love another bowl of salted peanuts ..."

The TV-watcher's challenge
For starters, go all-out this weekend. Drink beer and eat everything you can pack in.

By next weeked, you'll understand why that's not so great. No man is a (permanent) garbage disposal unit. There are only so many consecutive weekends that grilled cow will tickle the taste buds.

"Men put on weight around the midriff before anywhere else on the body," Sports Science Institute biokineticist Karu Pillay says. "If you sit for six weeks watching a tournament and don't hold back on the beer, chips and braai meat, the only place that's all going is straight to your belly."

Pillay has the solution though. Like the competing teams you can set yourself fitness challenges for the duration of whatever tournament or series you're watching.

60 seconds
When play is stopped, or you're waiting for something to start, get down and see how many pushups you can do before things start up again. As you get fitter, add height to your push-ups by putting your feet on a couch or stool. The elevated push-ups increase the effect of gravity, making the workout tougher.

Remember your number from the beginning and compare it to the number you'll be able to do almost effortlessly by the end. You'll be surprised.

10 minutes

  • Use halftime or the long breaks for the ultimate 10-minute workout instead of listening to the experts list everything that has happened in the preceding 40 minutes.
  • You can always listen while doing your exercises.
  • Start with a one-minute warm-up by jumping on the spot. This will get your heart rate up.
  • Follow up with one minute of stretches. Focus on the big muscle groups such as quads, your hamstrings, calves and chest. After the stretching you can do push-ups and tricep dips off the couch (and squats on the floor).
  • Add lunges and standing calf-raises to round out your half-time routine.
  • With a toddler on your shoulders you'll feel the burn when doing squats. And tricep dips are more challenging with a six-pack of beer on your lap.

60 minutes
If you have anything from an hour to a day between the bits that interest you, go for a run or a cycle. You need only 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise to get renewed vigour pumping through your veins.

"The aim of these exercises is to burn kilojoules," Pillay says. "If you're sitting around eating all day you need to burn off what you eat." The harder you work the more you'll burn. If you're already in decent shape, push yourself during the exercises, but if you're a habitual couch potato rather start slowly and go at a comfortable pace.

Your blood pressure and heart rate will benefit, and your cardiovascular risk factors will be reduced. "Try this," Pillay says. "Before the first game take your heart rate. Sit still and stay calm.

Count your pulse over 15 seconds, then multiply that by four to get your heart rate.

Check it again after your weeks of couch-potato workouts. If you've followed these exercises your resting heart rate will have gone down and your recovery time will be quicker."

What you usually have

Traditional beef biltong
"A great protein source," nutrition and dietetics consultant Megan Pentz-Kluyts says, "but a quarter of that handful is pure fat. And the sodium (salt) can send your blood pressure rocketing." And remember, rugby fans, the higher your blood pressure the higher your risk of heart disease - and specifically of a heart attack or stroke.

What you should have
Ostrich biltong chunks
Chew a bit more slowly and enjoy a bit more, Pentz-Kluyts says. Ostrich chunks are a great source of lean protein and you've cut the fat by up to 20 per cent. Salt is still an issue, so watch your portion sizes.

What you usually have

Fizzy cooldrinks
Watch out for sugar overload. There are up to eight teaspoons (40 g) of sugar in just one can. Increased intake of soft drinks and fruit juice can increase dental cavities while playing havoc with your blood sugar.

What you should have

Sparkling water, light drinks or diluted fruit juices (50/50)
They cut the sugar but keep your mouth hydrated enough for you to bellow at a referee who can't hear you.

Enough fluids help reduce your risk of a heart attack and prevent dehydration which can impair concentration, cause headaches, irritability and fatigue (it's your fifth game of the weekend).

What you usually have

More than two drinks a day can raise your blood pressure. More than six during a single match can cause all kinds of problems.

Alcohol can play havoc with your liver, dehydrates your body and can increase feelings of depression.

What you should have

Light beer
Depending on the brand, light beer can drop your alcohol intake by half. Beer is a good source of minerals as it is high in potassium, low in sodium and high in magnesium and contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphate and silicon, Pentz- Kluyts says.

In moderation it can be good for the heart and blood pressure. You'll also be persuaded to clean up after every televised match because you don't want your friends to know you're drinking light beer.

What you usually have

Chips and dip
Read the label - about a third of what you're eating is pure fat. With every handful of chips you're getting in 10 g of fat and if you finish off a large bag you've nearly had your quota for the day.

Saturated fats clog your arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

What you should have

Homemade popcorn
Check the label - only buy popcorn that has less than 2 per cent trans fats.

You get a healthy dose of fibre and it will help sustain your energy levels so you can focus on the game, Pentz-Kluyts says.

What you usually braai

Boerie on white rolls:
High in saturated fat and cholesterol which is a caution to go slow, as it leads to cholesterol being deposited in the walls of arteries and may lead to narrowing of the arteries and high blood pressure.

Traditional pork ribs:
About 30 per cent fat, which is a reason to slow down as about 33 people die daily of cardiovascular disease in South Africa.

Potato salad:
More mayonnaise = more fat.

What you should eat at a braai

Ostrich sausage on wholegrain rolls • Chicken kebabs (skinless) • Potato salad with a light mayonnaise • Three-bean salad • Mixed garden salad

Ostrich sausage cuts the fat by a third; wholegrain rolls triple the fibre, helping you feel fuller for longer; chicken kebabs cut the fat by up to 80 per cent but keep the taste.

Three-bean salad not only adds heaps of fibre but also lowers the GI of the meal, keeping your energy levels up for longer, while a garden salad fills you up without filling you out.

(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in You Pulse magazine, September 2007. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories in the world of health and wellness.)


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