Welcome to the latest edition of PF Quick Hits, a (mostly) lighthearted look at recent fitness news and trends. Quick Hits is published…well, when we feel like it.
My relationship with coffee sounds like a high school romance…on again, off again, back on again…I just can’t quit you.
I picked up coffee in my late 20s as the antidote for sleepy Dallas commutes. Morning commutes in big cities are the worst: traffic will suddenly go from 70 miles per hour to zero, and if you’re not awake, you risk rear ending someone. After a few close calls, I determined coffee was a better option than drinking “organic” energy drinks from Costco, which I’d been consuming on a daily basis. They left me feeling jittery and eventually sapped of all energy by early afternoon. At least coffee is natural, right?
When I met my wife a few years ago, I stopped drinking coffee and took up her habit of drinking multiple cups of tea a day. You know how it is when you move in with someone! You adapt to their way of doing things. With no coffeemaker to be found in my new home (other than an espresso machine), I stuck to Yorkshire tea. The withdrawal headaches only lasted a few days. The lack of coffee definitely had a positive impact on my gut.
Alas, a weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast with a conveniently-placed Keurig machine rekindled my love of the stuff, and I’ve been back on it ever since.
The thing is, I really like coffee. Especially a good dark roast. I take it black, and savor every sip. And who doesn’t love the feeling coffee gives you, especially in the morning? One cup, and I feel like I can achieve anything. Even if I am on the toilet ten minutes later, it’s totally worth it.
I’ve recently been experimenting with different ways of brewing coffee—Keurig, drip, pour over and French press, with the latter being the most satisfying. Needless to say, coffee’s been at the forefront of my mind. When an Esquire article titled “Is It Time to Quit Coffee for Good?” popped up in my newsfeed last week, I was intrigued. Maybe Esquire had some compelling evidence that I should truly kick the habit!
The article starts ominously, describing the story of a former U.S. Navy officer, Marcus Bivens:
He suffered tremors, sensitivity to light, aches throughout his body, and twitchy eyes. He slept just three to five hours a night. A self-described gym rat, Bivens lost his strength; he couldn’t do a single push-up. Doctors performed MRIs and MRAs and conducted more blood work. They wondered if Bivens had lesions on his brain. They prescribed him Ambien, Zoloft, Xanax, and Cafergot, a caffeine stimulant used to treat headaches. He was given an eye patch to alleviate the double vision. None of the tests revealed any abnormalities, and none of the doctors he saw could give him a satisfactory explanation for his bizarre array of symptoms.
As you might guess, Mr. Bivens’ coffee consumption was to blame for these symptoms. Scary stuff, and unfortunate, as he had to retire from the Navy. But a few paragraphs later…
Bivens now believes the source of his medical issues was neither a disease nor a mental illness. Rather, he attributes his health decline to caffeine, the most commonly used, socially acceptable psychoactive substance in the world. For years, Bivens had been consuming close to 1,000 milligrams of caffeine per day, two and a half times the daily recommended limit and the equivalent of more than ten cups of coffee. The habit had wreaked havoc on his central nervous system and in turn caused myriad physical and psychological problems.
My point here is not to make fun of anyone who is addicted to caffeine, as the effects can be debilitating. Rather, I’m trying to highlight one of the big problems with health and fitness clickbait stories—slapping an alarmist title on something, following it with a few extreme examples, and burying the other side of the story approximately 1,600 words below (I counted) after multiple infographics. People have stopped reading by then.
For a more balanced look at coffee consumption, let’s turn to Harvard University:
“For most people, moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet.”
Hu said that moderate coffee intake—about 2–5 cups a day—is linked to a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. It’s even possible that people who drink coffee can reduce their risk of early death…
Certain groups should be careful about drinking coffee, according to the article. Not much is known about the effects of coffee on children, and caffeine could be harmful to pregnancies. Too much caffeine can also cause anxiety in people with panic or anxiety disorders.
Obviously, if you’re drinking ten cups of coffee a day, it’s going to have a detrimental effect on your health. A person also can die from drinking a large amount of water. Should we stop drinking that, too, Esquire?
A new study of a group of middle-aged adults (hey, that’s us!) featured some pretty interesting findings linking healthy eating to better cardiovascular health. Chiefly, that eating a healthier diet leads to higher “Vo2 max,” the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. One of the doctors in charge of the study put it in pretty simple terms:
“This study provides some of the strongest and most rigorous data thus far to support the connection that better diets may lead to higher fitness,” said study author Dr. Michael Mi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, US. “The improvement in fitness we observed in participants with better diets was similar to the effect of taking 4,000 more steps each day.”
So what does eating healthy actually mean? In this case, the researchers are pointing to a Mediterranean-style diet favoring “vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish and healthy fats and limiting red meat and alcohol.”
I’ve seen a lot of “AMRAP” workouts in my news feed in recent years, but never actually stopped to find out what “AMRAP” actually means.
That changed this week, when I decided to investigate after I saw the a Men’s Health article titled “Build Your Chest and Back With This Lightning-Fast AMRAP Workout.” The fact that I love my chest, I love my back and I love things that are LIGHTNING FAST made this a must read. You know me so well, Men’s Health!
I previously should have used context clues to figure out what “AMRAP” stood for. It’s quite obvious: “As Many Reps as Possible.” And this workout seemed pretty straightforward: alternating three pushups with five reps of bent-over dumbbell rows for AS MANY REPS AS POSSIBLE in two minutes.
As I write this, I’ve decided to try out this workout. Like right now. So let’s see how it goes. Be back in two minutes…
…well, that ended up being like 30 minutes, including me getting a snack. So I guess my first takeaway is that I was hungry after experimenting with AMRAP.
I ended up doing four rounds of the upper body AMRAP at a steady pace, as depicted in a video that accompanied the article. And then…I couldn’t resist going further down the Men’s Health AMRAP rabbit hole, clicking through to something called “Bobby Maximus’ Lowly Trinity Workout.” This workout consisted of alternating ten reps each of bodyweight squats, lunges and sit-ups for 15 minutes. I only did 10 minutes given that I’d just done another AMRAP. I’ve got a few takeaways if you’re interested in trying AMRAP:
- You could definitely use an AMRAP-style workout for an exercise snack. The upper body workout above would be great to sprinkle in throughout your workday.
- My average heart rate for this workout was 120, and I maxed out at 152, which is pretty low for me. If you’re doing this type of workout at a “slow and steady” pace, as designed, the effort level seems like it would be somewhere between a normal strength workout with defined rest periods and a more intense HIIT-style workout.
- The upper body workout felt a little unbalanced to me. I completed way more bent-over rows than pushups, and I wonder if upping the pushups to five reps at a time would be better, particularly if you’re already proficient with them.
- Sit-ups…I haven’t done sit-ups in years, and I remember why. They’re much less annoying when someone is holding your feet!
One good thing about these workouts is they require almost no equipment, which probably accounted for their popularity during the pandemic. But one thing I didn’t like? Both workouts felt quite monotonous, and I only did each one for about 10 minutes.
Overall, I could see these types of workouts fitting into your strength training routine…on occasion. They probably work best as a snack, as mentioned above. If I tried to do them multiple times a week, I would be really bored.
Have you tried an AMRAP workout? If so, what was your experience?
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