Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Ripen Pineapples Perfectly Every Time

Getting fresh pineapples from the store used to be hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes I’d get lucky and find one that was fragrantly ripe, sweet, and ready-to-eat. But more often then not, there would only be green ones in the entire bin. After picking the best from the bunch, I would sit it on the counter for days, or even a couple of weeks if need be, waiting for it to ripen. Even though the color would change from dark green to golden yellow, they still lacked the intensely aromatic sweetness of a truly ripe pineapple.

Eventually I found out that I could make them ripen faster and sweeter by putting a plastic produce bag over them as they sat on the counter. Unfortunately, there were three problems with this technique.

  1. Uneven Ripening. The top of the pineapple would be ready faster than the bottom. If I left the bag on longer to let the bottom ripen all the way, the top became over-ripe and began fermenting.
  2. Inconsistent Results. Sometimes the pineapples became sweet but other times, they were still quite sour despite taking on a nice golden color. Also, even the sweet ones would make my tongue feel prickly, as though I was eating an unripe pineapple.

  3. Mold! This happened all over the surfaces that were covered by the bag and also where the pineapple sat on the counter. I was able to prevent mold on the bottom by placing a folded paper towel between the fruit and the counter but mold still persisted elsewhere.

One day, I was taking bananas out of the bag they came in and saw it was just the right size for the pineapple I had also bought. So I put that bag over the pineapple and several days later, I had a beautifully ripened golden pineapple that was extremely sweet throughout. No mold had formed and the fruit didn’t make my tongue feel prickly either. It was the best fresh pineapple I have ever had from a grocery store! I’ve been using this method ever since and have had perfectly ripened pineapples each time, regardless of the stage of ripeness at the store.

So, what’s the trick to the banana bag? I think it’s the holes that are punched throughout. A bag without holes doesn’t allow much air movement. As a result, the gases released by the fruit (ripening-hormones released by the fruit?) accumulate unevenly. Since the top of the bag is completely enclosed, the concentration of these gases is probably higher there, making that part of the fruit ripen faster. The bottom of the bag is open to the air, enabling these gases to disperse a bit. As a result, the bottom ripens more slowly. Also, since humidity doesn’t escape readily from a bag without holes, the surface of the fruit becomes a prime environment for mold to form.

Putting holes throughout the bag alleviates both of these issues by allowing humidity and gases to escape. This enables the ripening process to occur more evenly while decreasing the probability of mold growing.

Is there anything special about the banana bag material itself? I don’t think so as I’ve also tried cutting out 15-20 quarter-inch sized holes in a regular produce bag and using it to ripen pineapples. That has worked just as well too.

So, the next time you want to get a pineapple at the grocery store, there’s no need to pass up on the delicious fruit if you can’t find one that’s ready to eat. Just grab a clear grocery bag, cut some holes in it, and put it over your pineapple for a few days. Watch it turn golden yellow and when you can no longer resist the wonderful pineapple scent every time you walk by, it’s ready for eating!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stop the Low-Weight High-Rep Workouts

Recently, a lady at one of my One Minute Workout workshops asked me how to tighten up her underarms and get rid of the “teacher flab”. She had been doing dumbbell triceps extensions for quite some time but didn’t see any improvements. When I asked her how heavy and how many repetitions, she replied 3 to 5 pounds, 20 to 30 times. Bingo! That was her problem. Those exercises weren’t doing anything meaningful for her. In other words, she had been wasting her time!

Many people think that light weights and high repetitions is the best way to “tone” muscles and improve the look of a body part. This is false! Unfortunately, many workout programs continue to promote this belief while people wonder why they aren’t getting the results they want.

When a body part lacks shape and feels squishably soft, it’s because there is insufficient underlying muscle mass to provide the desired contours. As a result, skin and fat dictate the appearance. Muscles only grow bigger in response to loads (e.g. weight) that stress it enough mechanically to cause individual muscle fibers to break. As part of the normal repair process, the fibers grow back thicker and stronger. When you get tired working against heavy loads, it’s largely because the muscles are no longer strong enough to move it. This is why lifting heavy weights increases the size of your muscles.

On the other hand, when you train with light weights, muscle fibers don’t break. Performing lots of repetitions only tires your muscles metabolically, not mechanically. In response, your muscle cells change their metabolic efficiency so that they can perform for longer periods of time before tiring out. This doesn’t increase their size significantly. Your body also learns to move more efficiently, reducing the number of calories spent for that movement. This has no effect on your body aesthetics. Any improvements you may see are from a global reduction in your body fat, which lets underlying muscles show through better. Losing fat is much more difficult than gaining muscle, which can take very little time and effort when done properly.

If you’re worried about developing too much muscle and becoming bulky, fear not. Building bulky muscles like a bodybuilder takes significant effort, both in terms of training and proper nutrition. If it were easy to get that big, you’d expect to see many more bodybuilders walking around right?

Now, if you’re an endurance athlete, you may think that building muscle mass will weigh you down. While it’s true the heavier you are the more energy you will need to spend, consider the fact that the stronger you are the easier movements become. As your perceived exertion decreases, you will be able to perform longer. Train to increase your strength-to-bodyweight ratio and you’ll improve your endurance performance.

So, the next time you hit the weights, pick ones that you can do for about 6 to 12 repetitions per set. You want to challenge yourself to the point of being unable to complete the last repetition in your set. This means you’ve pushed your muscles hard enough to grow. As your strength grows, increase the weight accordingly. This kind of exercise programming will give you better results and save you valuable time.