What Does It All Mean? An Introduction To Exercise And Nutrition Terminology
Remember the last time you were in a conversation with experts in a field completely unfamiliar to you? For example, a highly experienced medical doctor for 30 years, find himself in conversation with a group of internet marketers, talking about Leads, USP's, Hooks, ROI, PPC, "Squeeze Page" - and you stand there nodding your head and putting on your bravest smile, hoping nobody notice the blank expression on your face. Sounds familiar?
It doesn't matter who or how highly educated you are. At some point in your life, you will find yourself in a situation where you are in a room full of people from an industry vastly removed from yours, throwing around terms and phrases you never heard before. They may as well be speaking in a foreign language. It either has or will happen to all of us.
This fact started dawning on me as I was writing some of my other posts. I was using terms like training regime, weight training, cardio and "sets & reps" etc. These are the most basic terms used in the health & fitness industry, so surely everyone should know what it means?
This assumption is probably as relatable as me standing in a room full of hedge fund managers, where the most basic of sentences they use, will be as understandable to me as trying to read ancient hieroglyphics off an ancient wall. This brings to the reason for this article.
I am going to presume that most readers are unfamiliar with even the most basic terms in the health & fitness industry, and start with a list of the terms I have and will use in the future. Obviously this is just a starting point and the list will grow and evolve, either in this article or a follow-up. For readers already familiar with most of these terms, I am not trying to be condescending at all. I just want everyone to be on the same page as we travel through this journey of getting and staying in shape.
Let us start with the "exercise part" and take it from there:
Exercise Program (Training Regime, Workout Program): This is the collective term describing a whole series of exercises, which in turn consist of a certain amount of sets and repetitions of specific movements to train a combination of muscle groups.
Rep (Repetition): The process of lifting and lowering a weight once. (For example, one bicep curl consists of holding a weight in your hand, and curling it up towards your shoulders before lowering it all the way down again.)
Set: The amount of reps (repetitions) you do of a specific exercise (movement).
Let me illustrate with an example. You are instructed to do an exercise, consisting of 4 sets wit 10 reps per set. This simply means you have to do 10 repetitions of certain movement (exercise), rest for a certain of period, and do another 10 repetitions. You repeat this 4 times (4 sets).
Cardio (Aerobic / Cardiovascular Exercise): In general it refers to any activity that significantly increase heart rate and respiration. It usually involves your major muscle groups and is done in a constant and rhythmic way, ranging from low to high intensity. It also normally doesn't require any big external force. Walking, jogging, running, as well as swimming and cycling are typical examples of aerobic exercises.
Resistance (Weight) Training: This activity involves the use of an external force in the form of weights to provide resistance to the natural movement of a muscle. This exercise stimulates the muscle directly and force it to adapt, strengthen and grow. Don’t let the name, "weights" fool you though. Yes, it can be physical weights like dumbbells or barbells, but it can also be dedicated exercise machines or even you own body to us as resistance and effectively train a muscle or muscle group. Hence the term, resistance training.
Obviously you get exercises that incorporates both types of training, sometimes with great results. (One discipline that immediately comes to mind is crossfit. There is no greater example of combining cardio and weight training exercises. I have yet to see one crossfit athlete that is not in great shape. I will be the first to admit I don't have the time, energy or guts to participate in demanding sport, but really admire those who do.)
I've wondered way off topic now, but you get the general idea. I will get more specific, explaining different exercises, equipment, weights and related terms in future posts.
There are quite a few terms when it comes to diet and nutrition that are unfamiliar, misunderstood or even misrepresented. Here are a few explanations that will hopefully help to clear up any confusion.
Before moving on to nutrition, I just need to point out that when looking at exercise programs, it's important to note that some programs take a holistic approach (meaning it incorporates a diet or nutritional plan with the physical exercise program), while other programs just focus on the physical aspect of the training regime.
If you have read any of my other articles about getting in shape, you will know by now that your diet plays just as an important part (if not more) as the different physical exercises you perform.
The important point I am trying to make, is that I personally find it very important for any comprehensive exercise program to have at the very least, some kind of guide or reference to a relevant nutritional guide or diet plan. I don't expect every program to include its own complete diet plan to follow. But since nutrition plays such a vital role, I would expect any program or regime to at least point any participant in the right direction when it comes to following an appropriate diet plan.
Ok, I finished adding my two cents. Let's have a look at some relevant nutritional terms.
Nutrition: Yes, the irony is not lost on me, having to explain the very term I've been using so often and are the heading of this section. But specifically, since this term is used so often and sometimes loosely, is it important that we know exactly what it means.
I did some research, as I honestly had some difficulty explaining it in words, knowing its complexity and far-reaching effects. In all seriousness, it seems most definitions seem to oversimplify its definition.
Cambridge Dictionary defines it as follows; "the substances that you take into your body as food and the way that they influence your health" - Not a bad explanation, but not nearly as detailed as I would have liked.
I kept on searching but could not find any satisfactory definition among online dictionaries and related sources. Then I stumbled across Wikipedia's definition. Although Wikipedia is known and respected as a source of up-to-date information, it seems it is pretty good at defining terms as well.
It describes nutrition as "the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion".
Yes, it is a very detailed (and maybe confusing) explanation, but have a look at it again. It makes sense and illustrates exactly how important it is and how what you consume, interacts with so many functions in your body on so many different levels.
Diet: Sometimes mistakenly used as a substitute for nutrition. It is more specifically a designed or prescribed selection of food to either improve a person's physical condition or prevent some disease or disorder. For our purpose we will use it in the context of changing a person's physical condition. (It is just important to note that diet or diet plan does NOT refer to the misconceived practice of severely restricting any food intake in order to lose weight quickly.)
Protein: Considered to be essential for human growth and proper bodily function, proteins are organic compounds, consisting of amino acids which are the important building blocks of muscle. Not only muscle, but also bone, skin and a variety of other important bodily functions depend on protein for proper growth and maintenance. Specific example include meat, milk, eggs and beans.
Carbohydrates: Technically defined as a nutrient consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and in most cases are produced by green plants in its natural form. The important part for us is to note that it is mainly converted and used by the body as energy. Specific examples include potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat and wheat derived products.
Fibre: Substance (e.g. cellulose, lignin and pectin) found mostly in fruits and vegetable, and passes through the body indigested where it plays a vital role in food digestion and helping it pass through the body relatively quickly. Also found in brown bread and other seed based products. Sometimes more commonly known as "roughage" used to promote colon health.
Fat: We all have a general idea what fat is, but it needs to be defined a little more to explain it properly. It is one of the 3 major food sources (along with proteins and carbohydrates) consumed by humans. Technically it is called triglycerides, which are esters of 3 fatty acid chains and the alcohol, glycerol. (Just in case you wanted to know.)
Fats can be divided into external and internal fats. External fat are obtained from both plant and animal sources. Contrary to some popular believe, certain fats are actually essential for the body to function properly. Essential fatty acids found in certain plant derivatives like flax seed and meat derivatives like Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, play an important part in heart and brain function, as well as supporting a healthy immune system.
Inside your body, fat is mainly stored to be used as a source of energy. Additionally, it plays a secondary important function, as it can be found around your organs and underneath your skin, providing a layer of protection and insulation from external fluctuation in temperature.
I know it's just a few terms and not even a drop in the bucket of all the terms available for explanation. It covers the absolute basics though, so that it will enable you to better understand articles using these terms and the context in which they are used.
Now is your chance to find out more about the term you need an explanation for. Simply drop me your term or list of terms in the comment section below. I am the process of compiling a much more comprehensive a list of terms for a future article. I will be more than happy to add any suggestions you may have to the list.
Until next time, if you haven't yet, seriously start considering getting your feet wet with some exercise programs. I have compiled and are recommending a few "starter programs" for you in this article. Go and have a look!
As always, feel free to leave me a comment or suggestion, and remember to join my mailing list to get informed whenever a new article is released, as well as helpful hints & tips and news on new developments.
See you in the next article!