Thursday, April 8, 2010

Broccoli and Squats?

In a conversation with my wife over dinner the other night, she brought up the fact (after I made it for the 1000th time) that she hates broccoli. Basically, she eats it because she "knows it's healthy." Our conversation then transpired into that of nutrition and exercise and what's good for you and not. I explained how I've always hated squats, and that some time ago, I really just did them because squats were always considered the "end-all-be-all" of exercises and I thought they were good for me. We both came to the conclusion that 1. she hates broccoli and I like it, and 2. I hate doing squats, but she likes them. So, with that, you may be asking yourself, "what do broccoli and squats have in common?" Well, not much really. One's green, rather nutritious and you eat it. The other, depending on who you ask, may require you to squat down with a significant amount of weight across your back, on your shoulders, held out in front of you or even no weight at all for a prescribed amount of reps and sets perhaps performed a few times a week. So, if you're a broccoli hater and you despise squats then read on, this article may pertain to you.

Most of the time both are touted, whether by an expert in the diet industry or an expert in the fitness industry as being absolutely necessary for optimal health and functioning. I disagree. There are certainly many benefits to consuming broccoli and performing squats on a regular basis but some people just don't like either. Are they missing something?

According to The Commodity Spotlight: Agricultural Outlook/April 1999, broccoli is regularly identified as the vegetable eaten most often for health reasons, including cancer prevention. In addition, consumers often specify high fiber content as the reason to purchase broccoli. Broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes are routinely identified by consumers as the three vegetables with greatest nutritional benefits. USDA's nutritional information (not that we always trust the USDA around here: )) confirms that consumer perceptions of broccoli's nutritional value are correct. Broccoli's fiber content is one of the highest among vegetables, and 100 grams of broccoli contains 75 percent more vitamin C than an equal amount of orange, with one medium stalk (148 kg) providing 200 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 16 percent of recommended dietary fiber, and 10 percent of recommended vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. So, where are the negatives? Why not eat broccoli? I'll get to that in a minute.

"The squat has been the most important yet most poorly understood exercise in the training arsenal for a very long time. The full range of motion (F-ROM) exercise known as the squat is the single most useful exercise in the weight room, and our most valuable tool for building strength, power, and size. The squat is so effective an exercise because of the way it uses the muscles around the core of the body." Correctly performed, the "squat perfectly balances all the forces around the knees and the hips, using these muscles in exactly the way the skeletal biomechanics are designed for them to be used, over their anatomically full range of motion." Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 2nd edition by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. . So, why not engage in such a perfect exercise?

Bear in mind, both of the sources that I quoted from are riddled with information and what I have provided as benefits to both merely scratches the surface. The second source, Starting Strength, is an exceptional read for those wishing to become stronger, more muscular and overall athletic and the chapter on squats alone is almost 60 pages.

So, why not eat broccoli and why not perform squats? In short, because you simply don't have to, ESPECIALLY, if you don't like to. So many people in our society in pursuit of health, fitness or just a desire to look good, are constantly told to eat this, do that, and IF you eat this and IF you do that, you will be uber-healthy and fit and look amazing. Well, what if you don't like broccoli and what if you don't like or have access to do heavy-weighted squats? The truth is that there are literally thousands of foods to choose from, whether they be vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds, dairy, and yes MAYBE...- MAYBE some grains that can provide all the nutrients and health benefits you need without ever having to ingest broccoli. Don't like squats? Then don't do them. People constantly fail at their brand new "New Year's Resolution" goals by choosing to do things they really hate. If you don't like it, chances are you're not going to stick with it for the long haul. Find something you truly enjoy. Like the many great food alternatives to broccoli, there are so many great alternative exercises to squats. Some of the most beautiful bodies in the world have been developed by body-weight exercise alone and many of us, simply don't have the time, means, money or access to a gym with all the fancy weights and machines.

So, after your next beach workout of sprints , push-ups and pull-ups under the pier, (notice, no squats) and you find yourself out to dinner with your spouse faced with staying on the healthy track, but you just can't seem to stomach the side of broccoli, don't hesitate to choose something different and that tastes good to you. Regularly engaging in activities that you love and choosing healthy foods that you enjoy will keep you motivated to continue on your healthy path to wellness and longevity.

For additional information on broccoli and other foods you can visit the Nutrition Data website.

For additional information on squatting and other weightlifting exercises you can click on the link above in the article, or simply visit and buy the book.

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