Testing Your Fitness When You’re Hungover is a Bad Idea

"Good job, maggot!"

“You can do better, Parker!”

It’s been 23 months since I last tested my fitness level in February, 2013. So on New Years’ Day I re-tested. My standard is the Army Physical Fitness Test, which is required for U.S. Army soldiers to pass every six months. I’ve never served in the military. The other military branches probably have their own fitness standards, but my dad was in the Army, so that’s what I use.

Unlike 23 months ago, I didn’t pass this time. I don’t like to exercise but I’ve been pretty good about doing it for 60–70 minutes a week, a combination of weight training and HIIT on a stationary bicycle.

My performance:

  • 2-mile run: 21 mins, 16 secs (FAIL; need 19 mins, 54 secs to pass)
  • military sit-ups: 25 (FAIL: need 27 to pass)
  • push-ups: 31 PASS
  • chip-ups: 7 (not part of the Army test but something I monitor)

My run, if you can call it that, was pitiful. I know I gave it my best effort because my thighs were sore for 48 hours thereafter. At one point I wondered if I could “speed walk” just as fast as I was jogging.

Military sit-ups are done with hands behind your head or neck. Doing sit-ups with my arms folded over my chest, I can do 30.

Yes, I’m disappointed. Why did I fail? I’m almost two years older, probably six pounds (2.7 kg) heavier (at 176 lb or 80 kg), and missed too many workouts.

My remedial plan to pass: Miss fewer workouts and lose six pounds of fat, then re-test. I don’t know if it’ll work.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Just kidding; I wasn’t hungover.

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

low-carb diet, spaghetti squash, paleobetic diet, diabetic diet

The yellow spaghetti squash is at the top. It’s related to pumpkins and zucchini.

Many weight-conscious folks are cutting down on carbohydrate consumption. One way to do that is to find lower-carb alternatives to carb-rich items.

An alternative to spaghetti pasta is spaghetti squash. A cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 10 g of carb; a cup of cooked spaghetti has 43 g. The fiber grams are about the same. Numbers are from FitDay.com.

Spaghetti squash is a classic low-carb vegetable. If you’ve never tried it, you should. As vegetables go, it’s one of the largest, heaviest, and most interesting to prepare. Easy, too. The spaghetti squash season is autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere. Purchasing in spring and summer may be iffy.

In my part of the world, supermarket spaghetti squashes weigh between two and five pounds. We cooked a three-pounder (1.4 kg) that yielded five cups; a five-pounder (2.3 kg) gave us 12 cups. A serving size is one, maybe two cups. What you don’t eat immediately stays fresh in the refrigerator for at least several days. Re-heat by microwaving or stir-frying.

Like pasta and potatoes, the squash by itself is bland. It’s a great substrate for sauces or seasonings.

low-carb diet, paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, spaghetti squash

Raw squash cut in half lengthwise

Here’s how we cook it at the Parker Compound. Preheat the oven to 375º F 0r 190º C. Very carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Spoon out and discard the guts (seeds and membranes like a pumpkin; it even smells like a pumpkin). Put the halves flat-side down in a pan, then add a half inch (1.3 cm) of water to the pan. Cover with foil and bake until the outer shell (rind) is fairly easily pierced with a paring knife. This will be about 45 minutes for a two-pound squash (0.9 kg); 90 minutes for a four-plus pounder (2.3+ kg). Then turn them over, re-cover with foil, and cook 15 minutes more, until very tender. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Then use a fork to pull the strands away from the rind.

Other cooks simplify the process and just place the squash halves flat-side down on a baking sheet and cook for 30-60 minutes. Some leave the seeds in while cooking and spoon them out just before the stranding step.

Or you can save time and microwave it. We can’t tell the difference in the final product.

Now what?

You got options.

Our first experiment was with l0w-carb spaghetti sauce.

paleobetic diet, low-carb diet, diabetic diet, spaghetti squash

Low-carb spaghetti

Next we took three cups squash (710 ml) and mixed in 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, 2.5 tbsp (37 ml) chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) minced fresh garlic, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt, and 1/8 tsp (0.6 ml) black pepper.

low-carb diet, diabetic diet, paleobetic diet

Seasoned with parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper

Finally, we took a cup (240 ml) of the squash and added minced celery (4 inches or 10 cm of stalk), 3 minced black olives, 5/8 oz (18 g) of minced sweet (bell) pepper, 1/2 clove of minced garlic, salt (a dash), and pepper to taste.

paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, low-carb diet, spaghetti squash

Seasoned with sweet peppers, black olives, garlic, celery, and salt

These last two options I consider side dishes. By the way, they taste good either cold or warm. They would go well with a number of entrees, such as steak or salmon.

I’ve read that this squash is good with pesto, or just with salt and butter.

Nutrition facts from FitDay.com:

One cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 75 calories (I’ve seen 42 elsewhere), 10 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber, 8 g of digestible carb, 4 g of fat (predominantly MUFA), minimal protein, and a fair amount of vitamins A, niacin, B6, and C. Plus 8% of your RDA for manganese.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

Just What We Needed, Right? Americans Have a New Weight-Loss Drug: Saxenda

Well, it’s not entirely new. It’s liraglutide, which has been available to treat diabetes for a several years, sold in the U.S. as Victoza. Click for my brief review of the drug class for diabetics.

Click for the CBS News report on Saxenda. A snippet:

One clinical trial that involved patients without diabetes found that patients taking Saxenda had an average weight loss of 4.5 percent after one year. Of the people treated with the drug, 62 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Meanwhile, only 34 percent of those given an inactive placebo had the same result.

Another clinical trial that included patients with type 2 diabetes found that patients had an average weight loss of almost 4 percent after one year. Of those given Saxenda, 49 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 16 percent of those who were given a placebo treatment.

Click for the FDA’s press release.

Oh, by the way. You have to inject it daily under the skin (subcutaneous). And if you were hoping for a shortcut to weight loss, this isn’t it. You’re still supposed to follow a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.

I’d try The Advanced Mediterranean Diet first.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Full prescribing information.

Merry Christmas!

Stained glass window created by F. Zettler (1878-1911) at the German Church (St. Gertrude's church) in Gamla Stan in Stockholm, depicting a Nativity Scene. This window was created more than 100 years ago, no property release is required.christmas

Stained glass window created by F. Zettler (1878-1911) at the German Church (St. Gertrude’s church) in Gamla Stan in Stockholm, depicting a Nativity Scene. 

How to Prevent Macular Degeneration

Remember...peanuts aren't nuts, they're legumes

Remember…peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re legumes

I saw an optometrist recently for a new eyeglass prescription and mentioned that age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) runs in my family. ARMD is the leading cause of adult blindness in the West. Thank God, I don’t have it….yet.

The optometrist suggested I start taking eye vitamins to help prevent ARMD. Popular eye vitamin preparations around here are Ocuvite and I-Caps. He said a multivitamin like Centrum might be just as effective.

UpToDate.com, a source I trust, says that supplements for prevention probably don’t work and are not recommended. Which means Centrum would be just as effective: i.e., none of them work.

Instead, UpToDate recommends regular exercise, not smoking, and relatively high consumption of leafy green vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts. Although they didn’t mention it by name, the traditional Mediterranean diet provides all of those.

On the other hand, if you already have macular degeneration (wet or dry), UpToDate recommends these supplements (probably based on the AREDS-2 study):

  • vitamin C 500 mg/day
  • vitamin E 400 mg/day
  • lutein 10 mg/day
  • zeaxanthin 1 mg/day
  • zinc 80 mg/day (as zinc oxide)
  • copper 2 mg/day (as cupric oxide)

An reasonable alternative for non-smokers and never-smokers is the standard AREDS formula. It’s the same as above except it substitutes beta carotene for lutein or zeaxanthin. You can buy both formulations over-the-counter in the U.S. pre-mixed so you don’t have to swallow a handful of pills, just one.

I was in a supermarket yesterday checking out eye vitamins and noted that Bausch and Lomb’s AREDS-2 formula costs about $10/month.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll take the optometrist’s supplement advice. Probably not. But I’ll go the diet, exercise, and non-smoking route.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Fruit Smoothie #1: Grapes, Mandarin Orange, Banana, Pear, Chia Seeds, Kale

 

A 12 fl oz serving

A 12 fl oz serving

My wife has started to experiment with smoothies. Most Americans should eat more fruits; smoothies are one way to do that. Here’s one she made today. Note the trendy chia seeds and kale. You can easily include today’s recipe in your Advanced Mediterranean Diet. Smoothies are a great substitute for junk food desserts.

We’re using a Vitamix mixer. Other devices may be able to get the job done. The mixing speeds our device range from one to 10. (Tip for a competitor: make one that goes to 11.) We love our Vitamix and have no regrets about the purchase. It is hard to hear anything else when it’s running at top speed.

One potential advantage of blending these fruits is that one fruit may provide nutrients that the others lack

One potential advantage of blending these fruits is that one fruit may provide nutrients that the others lack

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) grapes, green seedless

1 mandarin orange, peeled, halved

1 banana (7 inches or 18 cm), peeled, cut into 3–4 pieces

1 pear, medium-size, cored, quartered (ok to leave peel on)

1/2 tbsp (7 g) chia seeds

1 cup (50 g) raw kale

1/2 cup (120 ml) water

2 cups (480 ml) ice cubes

Instructions

First put the water in the Vitamix, then grapes, pear, orange, banana, chia seeds, kale, and finally ice. Ice is always last. Then blend on variable speed 1 and gradually go up to high level (10). Total spin time is about 45 seconds.

Full speed ahead!

Full speed ahead!

Number of Servings: 2.5 consisting of 12 fl oz (350 ml) each.

Advanced Mediterranean Diet boxes: 2 fruits

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

7% fat

88% carbohydrate

5% protein

160 calories

38 g carbohydrate

6 g fiber

32 g digestible carbohydrate

15 mg sodium

520 mg potassium

Prominent features: Good source of vitamin C, fair amount of fiber, miniscule sodium.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

 

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust…

Here’s a beautiful rendition of an Anglican hymn I’d never heard before, “Abide With Me.”

Visit YouTube and you can see the printed lyrics. Written in 1847, the author reportedly died of tuberculosis three weeks later.

h/t John Derbyshire