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The Fit 5

MF's weekly roundup of user-submitted questions
1.) The Sweet Truth — asked by Darrin Brown I am a little confused from all of the sources that I have been reading. Are artificial sweeteners worse for you than table sugar? Is the higher insulin level they cause worse than the 18 calories per teaspoon that you get with using regular sugar in coffee or any drink?
“Artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause problems, including cancer, in test animals. However, the research suggests that humans would have to consume an enormous amount (more than anyone could reasonably take in in a day) to be put at the same risk, so you shouldn’t be too concerned. If your goal is to lose fat quickly, you’ll have to cut your carbs. Artificial sweeteners (or sugar substitutes in general, such as stevia, which is natural) will make your diet a lot more palatable. It would probably be wise to limit your consumption if you’re serious about your health, but don’t worry yourself sick. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose do not raise insulin levels so they won’t lead to weight gain.” — Sean Hyson
2.) Back in Shape — asked by Nick Vorres If you're already dealing with an injury, particularly in the lower back, what is an effective workout program that includes strength training and cardiovascular exercise to help with the healing process?
“It depends on your injury, but the safest advice is the old adage, 'Train what is trainable.' If something hurts your back, don’t do it, and do something else that doesn’t hurt it. Squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, back extensions, and situps will probably cause you pain. Instead, you could do lunges, step-ups, pullups/pulldowns, and planks. Training your core will help rehab your back and prevent future problems. As for cardio, running and cycling may be too much for your back. A stairclimber or walking may be more appropriate.” — Sean Hyson
3.) Best Time for Water? — asked by Richard Zinck Jr. When is the best time to drink water? Before, during or after a meal?
“There is some research on digestion that suggests you shouldn’t drink water with meals as it may dilute your stomach acids. Assuming you don’t suffer from any digestive problems, you can drink water whenever. A glass or two when you get up can help control hunger throughout the day, and you should certainly drink water liberally before, during, and after workouts.” — Sean Hyson
4.) What's More Efficient? — asked by Johno Bubb As long as you train your forearms and grip strength separately, are straps a good idea for specifically creating a strong back?
“If you train your grip and forearms directly as you said, yes, you can probably use straps on back exercises to lift more weight and train your back harder. However, performing rows and deadlifts without straps allows you to train grip, forearms, and back at the same time, and that’s more efficient. It’s also a more functional way to train, as those three areas will improve together. If you get in the habit of training back with straps, you may not be able to do activities in life that require back strength without your grip failing on you first.” — Sean Hyson
5.) To the Heart of the Matter — asked by Brady Price Just started using a heart rate monitor to better my performance when running and cycling. Now that I have this tool, how should I utilize HR zones?
“To improve aerobic endurance (your ability to perform low-intensity work like a jog for a long period), work at 65%–75% of your maximum heart rate. This is between 120 and 150 beats per minute for most people. This activity should be done for 30–90 minutes. To improve anaerobic endurance (your ability to produce repeated powerful efforts over time), you’ll need to train around 90% of your max—such as a sprint—and rest until you recover to 120–130 beats per minute. Repeat for 15–20 min.” — Sean Hyson

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