Oats and oatmeal: real breakfast of champions

There are historic records of oats being farmed many millennia ago, with the wild strain having been on Earth for much longer. But their widespread use as a grain crop for human consumption is much more recent as before that, they were grown primarily as feed for horses. There is apparently a saying from Britain that goes something like “oats are eaten by people in Scotland, but fit only for horses in England” to which the Scots (who are quite famous for their oats) would retort that this must be why “England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!

Oats today are a key ingredient of many breakfast cereals, nutritional bars, and other products consumed by millions with particular popularity in North America and Europe.

Health Benefits of Oats

Boost Heart Health – the most recent claim to fame of oats has been their role in improving heart health, which is often attributed to the high amount of soluble fiber (beta glucan) found in most oat products. Oatmeal also contains key minerals like potassium and calcium which can improve the blood pressure profile by reducing it.

Fight Diabetes – the complex carbohydrates and fiber found in oats can help this modern day epidemic and are a far cry from the more processed carbs/sugars found in most processed breakfast cereals. The low glycemic index of oats (between approximately 42 and 55) can help reduce the risk of diabetes and related metabolic disorders as once consumed; they are digested slowly and help improve insulin sensitivity by not raising blood sugar.

Boost Energy Levels – oats make for excellent morning and pre-workout meals as the complex carbohydrates provide your body with steady source of energy. When eaten in the morning along with a good source of protein, they will also encourage satiety (a longer feeling of fullness). This can help avoid the mid-morning cravings and even lead to better weight management.

Types of Oats

They are included in many cereals and baked products but the real deal are still found in one of two basic forms.

Rolled or Flaked oats
Flaked or rolled

Rolled Oats – this is when the grain is steamed and rolled out. The extent of the processing dictates whether you end up with old fashioned, flaked, quick oats and instant oatmeal. I avoid the instant oatmeal – especially the kind sold in packets with lots of sugar and a highly processed version of the grain. Old fashioned or large flaked oats are good and can be ready to eat with just boiling water or a quick cook in the microwave.

Whole grain steel cut
Steel cut

Whole Grain Oats – as the name suggests these are not rolled and instead look like cylindrical grains. Preparing them requires a lot of time for a proper soak and cooking. These whole grains can also be cut, thus yielding smaller grains and are commonly referred to as steel cut or Irish/Scotch oats. Its what grandma used to make porridge way back in the day. They are also my preferred choice for oatmeal and though some require long cooking, I have found that the Bob’s Red Mill brand’s quick steel cut oats will cook just fine with boiling kettle water in about 15 minutes.

This is why I have been a huge proponent of this grain as part of my special breakfast oatmeal:

Fitness Guru’s Power packed Oatmeal

¼ cup quick steel cut oats
2 tablespoons granola
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
1 scoop of whey protein powder
Milk or another liquid of choice if needed

  • Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl
  • Add approximately a cup of boiling hot water (water should be about an inch above the mixture)
  • Stir well, cover the bowl and leave it for 15 minutes
  • Remove the cover and stir in the scoop of whey protein powder (add some more water or other liquid of your choice like almond/hemp or cow’s milk until the oatmeal reaches your preferred consistency)

Continue reading Oats and oatmeal: real breakfast of champions


Marathon GSAR automatic dive watch

This post is certainly a break from the typical fitness, health and nutrition related missives that you see on this blog. But I think that it is a worthy tangent to take as once in awhile, it is nice to enjoy some of the other fruits of life. And to a man, a nice watch is one of those (rare) luxuries.  🙂

The Marathon Watch company is based out of Canada and manufactures watches for the United States, Canadian and many other NATO member militaries. They do not manufacture the actual guts of the watch, that is the automatic movements (the Marathon GSAR uses an ETA 2824-2 movement from the Swatch Group) and ould be considered a etablisseur in Swiss watchmaking parlance. Having said all that, the Marathon GSAR is a pretty cool automatic dive watch.

Marathon GSAR watch

I wasn’t really looking to buy (another) watch. I happened to run across a “great deal” for the GSAR and somehow convinced myself that I should be adding a dive watch to my collection. And with that, I became (the proud) owner of a Marathon Government Search and Rescue (GSAR) dive watch.  As implied by the name, and barely seen in the picture above, this watch does have the words “U.S. Government” on the watch face as it is the standard issue in many U.S. military and government personnel. I can see this possibly bothering some people, but I didn’t think it was a huge deal.

The official dimensions of the watch are 41mm in diameter and 14mm thickness. This is a bit deceiving though as the dial size is pretty small when compared to the overall size of the case. And though 14mm may be a bit hard to translate to real world equivalent – this watch is in a word “chunky”!

Chunky watch
Side view of the chunky GSAR case which is built like a tank

When it comes to watches, the water resistance rating is one of the biggest scams going. A dress watch may be rated at 30 meters / 100 feet but that doesn’t mean you can actually take it into 100 feet of water. Its actually just barely water/splash resistant. Not meant to be in water at all. But with the GSAR being a dive watch and rated at 300 meters / 1000 feet, it will actually live up to the rating and is made in accordance with the ISO 6425 specifications. Even though most of us will never use it at those depths, you can wear this constantly – including in the shower, out in the rain, swimming, etc. – and not worry about ruining it. Many NATO countries issue this watch to active military personnel so you know its going to be able to take a beating and still keep on ticking.

The other big feature of the GSAR is the “lume” (luminosity or the ability to glow in the dark). Marathon uses Tritium Gas Light Systems (TGLS) in the hands of the GSAR and they use their trademarked MaraGlo around the markings to give it a very good lume. Tritium is radioactive, and the watch has the “H3” and the standard radioactive symbol on the dial, but the level of radioactivity is very small and well contained in the watch making it safe for use. The half life of the tritium gas is 12.3 years so the watch should have a very good lume for a long time.

Marathon GSAR’s Tritium (H3) lume is very long lasting

Here are some of the specifications for the Marathon Government Search and Rescue (GSAR) automatic watch.

Movement – Self winding automatic; 25 jewels; ETA 2824-2
Case – 316L Stainless Steel
Submersibility – 300 feet / 1000 meters / 30 ATM (ISO 6425)
Bezel – Unidirectional
Crystal – Sapphire
Crown – Screw in
Diameter – 41mm
Thickness – 14mm
Strap – 20mm black rubber
Calendar – Date
SKU – WW194006

The Marathon GSAR is  a damn good watch. I would recommend it as a daily wear, casual watch.  Amazon often has these GSAR watches available for a decent price.


ProPeptide protein– “My Quest for the Perfect Protein Powder”

I have long been on the quest for the “perfect protein powder”. There is a lot of research on this subject and many of the gurus and bros have their views and opinions on what is best. Is it whey protein isolate, whey concentrate, whey hydrolysate, casein hydrolysate, micellar casein, milk protein isolate/concentrate, calcium caseinate, whole egg or egg white protein, soy, pea or a combination of these and other proteins?

I tend to believe that a balanced protein powder with a high amount of whey is probably best. There are studies showing that an approximately 80% whey and 20% casein protein blend is best for athletes to consume for recovery after working out or participating in sports.

CNP Professional Pro Peptide is one of the better protein blends available on the market today. Even as whey protein (a by-product of the cheese making industry) supplements become very popular (for good reasons) there is a solid scientific base for the use of casein and egg proteins in building muscle and enhancing recovery. ProPeptide protein can be used at any time of the day, including before going to bed as the slow digesting milk proteins will continue to nourish the body for hours as it sleeps.

CNP ProPeptide
CNP’s ProPeptide protein powder supplement

ProPeptide protein contains probiotic organisms which help with digestion. The casein protein is of the micellar casein form, derived from milk protein concentrate. Whey protein concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate are also part of the blend, along with egg white protein. I asked the company for a breakdown a few years ago and though I am not sure if the protein formulation has changed, but this is what CNP used back then:

Ingredients in descending order by weight

Milk Protein Concentrate > 32.09%
Whey Protein Concentrate > 22.33%
Peptide Bonded Glutamine > 20.67%
Egg Albumen > 15.50%
Natural & Artificial Flavors > 4.30%
Medium Chain Triglycerides > 1.00%
Whey Protein Isolate > 0.80%
Hydrolyzed Whey protein > 0.80%

(Even though I like this protein powder, this breakdown is a good eyeopener on how the sports supplement industry operates. Not much whey protein isolate and hydro whey in there but it sure looks good to have them on the label.)

Finally, ProPeptide also provides a very healthy 10 gram serving of glutamine peptides to help recovery and immune system health.

CNP ProPeptide protein powder has also features a guarantee from the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) stating that sample of the batch was analyzed by an IOC/WADA accredited laboratory and no banned substances were found. This is important because the lax regulation of the supplement industry leaves it open to some less than stellar companies. This sort of commitment to quality control bodes well for this protein supplement. Any athlete that is tested for banned substances should be making these inquiries and confirming that companies whose supplements they consume are current on BSCG certification or that from other similar governing bodies associated with their sports league.

And now back to the ProPeptide protein supplement as we wrap this review up. I have only tried the Wild Strawberry flavour and it was by far one of the better strawberry proteins I have tasted (strawberry seems to be a hard protein powder flavour to master without loading it up with fillers and sugar). I have also read some very positive comments about their Chocolate Malt flavoured protein powder so these two might be good options for those wanting to try out this protein blend supplement.

Nutrition facts for ProPeptide

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 65g
Servings Per Container

Amount Per Serving
Calories 230 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol 45mg 15%
Sodium 350mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 3g
Protein 45g 90%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Grip strength: Can you ever have enough?

One of the most common weaknesses holding back anyone who lifts weights is their grip strength. Grip strength should improve as you lift more but what if you can’t lift more because your grip is weak. This chicken and egg situation needs to be resolved, and though I may not have the perfect solution I can provide some insights that have helped me.

Do exercises that challenge your grip

This is a no brainer. So you are sucking at deadlifts because your grip is the weak point? Do more deadlifts. Progressively add load and you will build up your forearms are grip over time. You can cheat a bit by using mixed grip on the deadlifts or barbell shrugs but don’t use straps. Other exercises that can help build your grip strength include pull ups/chin ups, shrugs and even the bench press.

Do exercises that work your forearms and fingers

Rubber band exercise
Most health conscious fitness enthusiasts and weight lifters eat broccoli. One of the side benefits of this super vegetable is that at least in North America, it comes packaged in bunches that are held together by a heavy duty rubber band. Save this rubber band.

Broccoli rubber band
Save those rubber bands than hold your broccoli!

Bring the fingers of your hand together and put the rubber band around them. Now slowly expand your fingers and let the rubber band providing tension. Do this for as many reps as you can and if you get too good, add more rubber bands. This exercise is very important because it hits muscles that are usually ignored when we do any other movements that work on our grip. If you really hate broccoli, you can buy specialized rubber bands that will help do this exercise.

Wringing a wet towel
Very simple exercise used for ages to work on forearm, finger and grip strength. Wet a bath towel and then wring out the water, twisting it as hard as you can with your fingers and hand. And then quite literally, rinse and repeat.

Static holds
Holding some weight in place is not just the realm of strongmen! You can increase grip strength by pinching a plate with your fingers and holding it on your sides for a set amount of time. I like taking a pair of 45 pound plates, one each on either side of me as I stand and then pinching them with the fingers and holding them for 30 seconds; putting them down for 30 seconds and then back up again for a few sets. Here’s a quick video from YouTube that shows this great exercise in action.

(You could also make this into a Farmer’s walk by just walking with these weights).

Grip strength gear

Hand grippers

Most guys have these sitting around. I remember getting one in my early teens and was all gung-ho about using it in different ways to get me huge. It helped me with my grip and forearms but I even had a way to use it to work the chest and back. The core use of these though is still to work on your grip and they do a very good job of it, especially if you do this in conjunction with the rubber band exercise described above.

Hand gripper
Hand grippers can help with grip strength

Fat Gripz
Fat Gripz are a thick rubber overlay that can convert any olympic barbell and (most) dumbbells into a “thick bar”. I have owned a pair of Fat Gripz for a while and they make certain movements much harder. I use them on my warm-up sets for bench press and deadlifts (deadlifts get much harder as your hands and grip are really challenged to hold on to the bar vs. gravity wanting to slam it down on the ground). I have also used them for pull ups, chin ups and barbell curls and my I can definitely feel the burn in my forearms. When using them for the bench press, just be careful because the change in grip takes a bit of getting used to (the thicker bar) so go lighter weight and have a spotter close by.

Bottom line is you need to challenge your grip to help it grow stronger. Avoid the straps, grab some broccoli and lift heavy. Weight lifting gloves or alternative products that help protect the hand from being ravaged by calluses and ripped up by abrasive bars can also help improve your grip performance. If you are lucky enough to be working out at a gym that allows use of chalk, give it a try as well.

As with everything else that has to do with bodybuilding and weight training, you are always trying to improve and it is the ongoing hard work that gets results.


Do you even squat?

Leg day” – this has to be one of the most hated workout days for most gym rats. Not for me and it shouldn’t be for you. Strong legs provide our bodies with the necessary strength and support structure not just for sports, but for our posture and day to day activities.

Today’s leg workout was a bit more difficult than usual. Earlier this week I decided that I should start introducing more cardio into my life. So I got up before the crack of dawn yesterday and decided that I would climb some stairs. And so I did – not too much as it was my first time doing stairs in a while but enough to feel it (about 35 floors up, and 30 down). I felt fine the rest of the day yesterday but today was a different story. As I walked to the gym this afternoon, my calves were screaming in pain. But that’s OK, it’s something I can deal with.

The workout started with a short 6 minute hill climb routine on the stationary bike. This was enough to get some blood flowing and get the legs warmed up. After that I went right to my staple for leg workout – the barbell squat. I started with a set of 20 reps with just the Olympic bar to get the knees used to the movement. This was followed by even more warm up sets as I like to slowly add in the weight – so I did 2 sets of 10 reps at 135 pounds. Finally we get to the working heavy sets and I was now set to churn out my staple heavy portion of the routine: 5 sets of 6 deep reps of squats with an approximately 3 minute rest between each set. About 30 minutes after I started the squats my legs were throbbing, I was drenched in sweat, dead tired and finally done with squats (or so I thought) for this week. Now to move on to something else that can hit the lower body.


I am pretty content when I am able to do the above sequence of squats and will limit my secondary exercises to something lightweight. That’s exactly what I did next as I grabbed the Bosu balance ball and a weighted bar (25 pounds) and thought I might as well do some more squatting!  I did regular squats and overhead squats (bar raised over the head while doing the squat movement) with that light weight on the Bosu ball. Also did some good mornings and twists, again on the Bosu. I find this to be a nice way to finish off the workout – high rep movements that help fatigue the muscles and also help me work on my overall balance.

But the workout isn’t complete without starting to think about recovery and I usually try to do some stretching and foam roller work right after workouts. Today I used the foam roller on my back and calves and did some stretching on the Precor machine. I also spent some time hanging from a pull up bar to decompress the spine. And with that the workout was over – a quick post workout shake, shower and back to tackle the rest of the day. I’ll draw a hot bath tonight with a generous amount of Epsom salts to try and minimize the sore legs that I am likely to encounter tomorrow. Have to make sure that I can do more stairs, first thing in the morning.

So tell me, do you even squat brah?


Thoughtful musings on exercise, health and nutrition