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It's 2017 and we've come a long way as far as our understanding of fats. Today we're a smarter nation, I hope, and we now know it's more about sugar and carbohydrate regulation than it is about eliminating fats. That means at the very least questioning those "Low-Fat" and " No-Fat" labels, because fat is an important piece of our dietary puzzle. Truth be told, most of those claims mean that something else, usually processed and and artificial has been added. After all, companies want their products to sell, and flavor has to come from somewhere. So, if you're not eating the fat, then ask yourself, "What ARE you eating?" We often hear the term "healthy fats" but what exactly does that mean, and why are some considered bad? Well, to understand this, we need to dive a little into the makeup of the different types of fats. Fat is one of the three essential macronutrients we need, the others being protein and carbs. It helps regulate our body's temperature, maintain our skin and tissue, provides energy, and is necessary to transports certain vitamins such as A, D, E, K around the body. The two main types are saturated and unsaturated. Saturated refers to hydrogen. When we see "hydrogenated" on a product it means it was pumped with hydrogen, usually to add flavor and texture to foods. Saturated is also solid at room temperature. You could have guessed it, but these are the fats in meats and cheeses as well as palm and coconut. However, not all saturated fats are "bad." In fact in a perfect world 1/3 of our daily fat intake should come from naturally sourced saturated fats. These fats should be limited, but do have their benefits. Both meat and cheese are high in the Omega-6 CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid. This is important because it is one of the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) that our body does not produce. CLA is also is commonly sold as a supplement for fat loss. So saturated fats are necessary in moderation, but certainly not all bad. What is bad, is that man made process I spoke of earlier, hydrogenation. These are commonly referred to as "trans fats" and involve a process that turns vegetable oils into a solid. These hydrogenated fats have been linked to a host of health problems, and are certainly to be avoided. Not all fats are solid. These are known as unsaturated fats, which are liquid oils at room temperature, and become solid when chilled. There are a few types you may have heard of, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated, but what does that mean? Well, a fat is made up of a glycerol molecule and fatty acids. Those with a single unsaturated carbon bond are called monounsaturated, while those with multiple carbon bonds are referred to as polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as peanuts, canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil and sesame oil. Polyunsaturated, are some of the best available fats for our body, and are found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, cold water fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel, and soybean oil. You may have heard the hype surrounding the Ketogenic Diet which is founded upon the idea of lowering carbs and increasing healthy fats. Ketones are water soluble organic compounds produced in the liver for energy during periods of fasting and carb restriction. As a rule of thumb, we should never completely eliminate any of the macronutrients completely from our diet, but there is certainly strategy in moving around the ratios. When carbs (our main energy source) is tapered, the body looks elsewhere for energy…enter fats. For example, a normal macronutrient ratio may look like this, 25-50-25 (protein, carbs, fat) whereas a ketone diet may be 30-30-40. So, are fats good or bad? Well, like anything else, they're good in moderation. One thing to keep in mind is that fats are more than double the calories per gram than protein and carbs. That means dumping too much olive oil over your filet of fish can actually double the calories! Generally speaking, stick to about 1 tbsp of healthy oils when cooking. Also, don't be afraid to use REAL butter. Organic is always the way to go, and follow the single tbsp rule there as well. Today, there are many apps available such as Fooducate and My Fitness Pal that can bring you aware of the fat and calorie content of foods. That's probably the best advice, to gain an understanding of the nutritional make up of what you like to eat. The buzz fats we hear about…i.e. nuts, salmon, avocados, olive oil, are actually the ones we should be eating most often. Obviously, a diet high in meat and cheese is not a great idea for your health, for it contributes to greater acidity of the body, a breeding ground for a host of coronary diseases. However with that said, a proper portion of lean grass fed beef or a slice of mozzarella cheese here and there is certainly ok, and can be beneficial to our health. So, use your common sense, pay attention to your portions, and enjoy all those different flavor combinations with a little bit of that fatty goodness!
Body Mass Index or more commonly known as BMI is a standard unit of measurement that many health professionals use today to determine ideal ranges of weight based on your height. If it sounds familiar to you that's because you may have had this tested the last time you went for a physical. While many physicians still today display this chart in their offices, it's important to understand it's relevance. Instead of focusing on weight alone, determining body fat and hip to waist ratio figures is going to be more important in assessing one's overall health. When it comes to body fat, 5-18% is ideal for men, while 12-25% is ideal for women. Keep in mind that fat is an essential macronutrient of the body, and having too little can be as bad as having too much. To find out where your numbers are at, it's a good idea to have a body composition analysis. A trainer can do this for you by calculating both your lean mass (muscle, tissue and bones weight) as well as body fat weight. This can be done simply with calipers or a handheld device. However, the most accurate, would be to test your weight before and after submerging yourself in water (hydrostatic testing) based on water displacement. This is a bit pricier, and the other methods will certainly suffice. Once you have your body fat figures, it's a good idea to measure both your hips and waist circumference to figure out your hip to waist ratio. Unless your bearing child, failing to see your toes when you look down, is certainly a problem. This accumulation of weight in the mid-section is mostly visceral body fat around your vital organs that is linked to a host of coronary and obesity related diseases. This brings me to my next point: How are you carrying your weight? Now that we know it's more than just the weight itself, but rather the type of weight and how it's distributed throughout the body, lets look at the example below using NFL running back, Darren Sproles. For those of you non NFL fans, Darren is an electric 195lb running back for the Philadlephia Eagles packed into a 5'6" frame. Now while I can brag about the fact that I'm slightly taller than an NFL player, the 30lbs of what is quite obviously muscle is what separates the two of us...that and the fact that he can make an 89 yard punt return for a touchdown look easy, while juking 5 tackles on the way to the endzone! Based on his height to weight ratio, Darren's BMI falls in the Obese category with a 31.5. Normal range is 18.5-24.9 However, I'm not going to be the one to tell the guy he's fat, and in reality, he's not at all. To more accurately assess him, we would need to see what his body composition was. This is a the ratio of lean body mass to body fat. It's realistic to assume he's 10% body fat and perhaps lower, but if this was the case, that would make him 175lbs of lean and mean. Now let's take "John" who is 6'0", weighs 180lbs, making his BMI 24.4 As you can see, he falls within the normal range. He's taller, skinnier in appearance, and many would consider him healthy. The problem is that John doesn't workout, enjoys Pizza Hut, and the only touchdowns he's scoring is on Madden'16 for XBOX One. Despite all that, let's say John is lucky to be only 20% body fat which makes his lean body mass 144lbs. When we compare the two men, clearly Darren is carrying more muscle mass than John which is safer, yet John appears to be healthier than Darren based on a BMI chart. Now let's get back to those hip to waist ratios again. You may have heard the terms "apple" and "pear" used to describe someone's physique. Technically, these are called android and gynoid bodies respectively. The pear, or gynoid physique is a safer way to carry ones weight, while the android body is more synonymous with diseases such as diabetes, for example. To determine your hip to waist ratio you must divide the hip circumference into the waist circumference. Let's say that Darren's waist is 32 inches while his hips are 41. This would mean he's at a .78 ratio...which is considered low risk. If John is 36 and 42 he's at .85 which is moderate risk, but still not as ideal as .78 So...the next time you step on the scale, think about why you're doing it. Common sense will tell you that you may need to lose a few pounds, but losing weight is not the ultimate answer. In fact, many healthy people initially lose body fat, but gain muscle so their weight doesn't move as significantly, yet they're a lot healthier. Eat clean, incorporate resisting training 2 or more times weekly, and focus on achieving a healthy body fat level. Whatever you BMI happens to be at that point, then so be it!
Whenever I achieve a PR I’m wearing them. Coincidence? I think not. Seriously, it’s got to be the shoes, and I’m not talking about Air Jordan’s…I’m talking about my trusty Converse. The truth is, so many of my clients walk into my studio wearing the clunkiest and squishiest of footwear, and they’re probably tired of hearing me tell them to take their shoes off, but I say that with good reason. Plain and simple, if you want to get stronger, get more stable. And that goes for joints as well as footwear. About 6 years ago, I saw a younger gentleman in the gym pressing heavy dumbbells over his head while standing on a BOSU ball. I went up to him and asked him what he was trying to do. He said, “work his shoulders and core.” I told him to ditch the BOSU ball as well as one of the dumbells and stand on one foot and press. “Wow!” he said. “Now you’re still training your core, but in a more stable way which allows you to increase your load more safely” I said. More technically, by converting his exercise into a contralateral one, (balancing on one foot and pressing with the opposite arm) I increased the demand of the lateral core stabilizing muscles as he fought to maintain good posture. This mentality can be related to footwear as well. It makes sense to narrow down your focus when training just as it makes sense to wear the shoes that are going to help you get the job done. However, so many don’t give it any consideration. Remember the cross training sneaker? Good in theory I guess, but I don’t want to go for a personal record nor run a marathon in those, and that’s no different from “Bosu Bobby” fighting his battle of strength verse core training. Train to get strong, or train to challenge your core, but don’t give it a half-hearted approach. When it comes to lifting, the less between your foot and the floor, (preferably a harder surface) the better. My converse give me a strong anchored feeling against the wooden platform during my big lifts such as a deadlift or a squat, something I wouldn’t even think about doing in my Asics GT’s that have supported me through 5 marathons. Today, footwear, or lack thereof continues to be a topic of discussion as we see lots of minimalist type footwear popping up with brands like Vibram and New Balance, for example. The problem is that humans have become reliant on shoes far too long to ditch them now. However, there’s something to say for proprioception, our bodies internal way of recognizing our positioning, posture, and equilibrium. Our feet need to feel the earth to report back to our brain what’s happening. Orthotics and clunky footwear have minimized essential parts of our natural biomechanics. For example, our toes are supposed to “grab the earth” as we walk, not angle upward as many sneakers appear to do. For this reason barefoot seems like the better way to go, and it may be if it weren’t for traction. Obviously we need more traction for more stability. This is especially true when you’re lifting heavy loads, and for that reason it will be me and my Chuck-T’s until death do us part.
It's often a topic of debate, and as a trainer, I've been asked many questions surrounding it: Is it bad for me?" "Will it help me lose weight?" "Don't I need to run for more cardio?" The truth is that running alone, especially distance, is not a good approach if you're serious about achieving optimal fitness, and while this may be defined in different ways, I'll stick to my own definition of it: "Optimal fitness is the state of achieving and maintaining ideal body fat, balanced nutrition, human functionality, and strength/power output appropriate to a particular individual." I'm sorry to disappoint anyone, but distance running is nowhere in the mix. I can say this convincingly having transitioned from marathon running to more high intensity interval and resistance training. If you think about it on a primal level, distance running was never really part of our makeup. Our ancestors sprinted to capture a meal or flee from danger, and walked long distances. Jogging for miles wasn't purposeful nor was it ideal for survival. Let's dive a little deeper into science now to understand 3 important downsides to distance running or steady-state aerobic training as it is often called in fitness circles. In the 1980's aerobics were what people did on TV to motivate us in our living rooms to lose weight. Well a lot has changed since then. Aerobic by definition means "in the presence of oxygen," and fat burning occurs when oxygen is present, but is it our most effective approach? It's not…especially when you understand anaerobic training, and the EPOC or Excess Post Oxygen Consumption rate that occurs following intense workouts. In Lehman's terms, it's the after burning effect of the body. As a rule of thumb, if you're panting heavily you're using your anaerobic system which uses present and stored blood sugar as energy. If you're jogging while having a conversation with your friend, you're aerobic. In fact, your aerobic right now as you read this, but at a level that's insignificant to burn considerable amounts of body fat. Consider the example below to see why it makes more sense to focus on anaerobic training rather than aerobic training. Person A - 1 hour aerobic workout | 50% fat for fuel | Total Calories = 300 Calories Total Fat Calories = 150 Person B - 30 minute anaerobic workout | 40% fat for fuel | Total Calories = 500 Total Fat Calories = 200 Anaerobic training burned 50 more fat calories in half the time! Secondly, one needs to consider the adaptive abilities of the body. There's a reason your three mile run was easier the tenth time than it was the first. Adaptation is not your friend if your goal is fat loss. When you adapt, you stop progressing, and therefore you need to make changes. At the very least, a change in elevation, distance, speed and or a complete abandonment to running and focusing on resistance training would be in order once adaptation has taken place. For me, I know my heart rate will hover around 155 bpm during a jog, but during intervals it fluctuates between 150 and 180 bpm, and that's a lot more purposeful for fat loss. I also know that I can perform certain exercises with weights and achieve the same heart rate intensity while utilizing more muscles than I would running. I mentioned earlier that optimal fitness means achieving functionality, well running is simply not balanced enough to achieve overall functionality. I once had a thought of sticking a sign in the middle of a corporate gym amidst treadmills and elliptical machines that would read, "You're only moving in one plane." I'm sure I'd be asked to leave the gym, but if it got one person to step off a treadmill and head to the weight room, it would have been worth it. A balanced approach to training needs to utilize all three planes of movement, these are the saggital, frontal and transverse planes. Running resides in the saggital plane, and doing it excessively will most likely create imbalances and ultimately injuries. Ok, so we've pointed out some cons to running, but before you chuck your running shoes in the garbage, let's now take a look at some of the good points. The number one reason I find that people run is for fat loss, but we now know that's not the best reason. The second is for their mind, and that's a much better one. Nine years ago, I started my journey into the fitness realm by walking out my door and running on the boardwalk, but it wasn't about fitness as much as it was about clearing my mind. At the time, life presented some challenges and running helped me release some endorphins, level some hormones, and rid some stress that I was feeling. It's no surprise that many serious marathoners come from addictive pasts or have had some type of strife or abuse in their life. Running away from your problems is never the answer, but running to alleviate the mental stress caused from your problems is not such a bad idea. Besides clearing the mind, running is purposeful to train for a running event, and that just makes sense. You certainly wouldn't train for a marathon by swimming an hour a day (although it would help your endurance) When Lance Armstrong finished the Boston Marathon in 232nd place in 2007 many were shocked after the V02 numbers pointed at a record breaking run. Why? Well obviously there's other factors to consider beyond cardiovascular efficiency, but here's another one…Lance has trained most of his life for cycling, not for marathons. Bottom line, train appropriately to compete. If there's anything else good to take from running it's the fact that it's convenient. No weights, no gyms, just you and the pavement, boardwalk, trails, whatever. We as Americans like convenience, and it's not like someone needs to come over and start explaining to you how to put one foot in front of the other to propel yourself forward. Variety is always best and lower mileage will spare your body, especially if your mechanics need to be cleaned up a bit. Vary your speed, distances and terrain and that's going to be more beneficial than sticking to the same route/routine each time you head out. The absolute best form of running with regard to overall fitness is shorter distance running and sprint training. Running faster truly does change the whole playing field. If you don't believe me, compare the physique of a sprinter to a marathon runner. The truth is that sprinting requires greater ranges of motion and is more likely to yield better bio-mechanics than pounding the pavement for 5 miles. Observe any handful of joggers and you'll see some of the things that can go wrong…one arm moving, arms swinging rotationally, leaning to far back, leaning to far forward, poor back and neck posture, feet pointing outwards, knees knocking, the list goes on. These are problems that stem from poor mobility and need to be addressed. I would assume that the reason more people jog than sprint is because it's easy. Let's be honest, you can have a conversation with your friend while you do it. If for no other reason, that should certainly make you wonder if it's even worth it. There's no conversations taking place after a set of 50 yard sprints and standing up straight is often challenging enough as your heart pounds inside you. After all some of the best rewards in life require hard work, and the same applies to fitness. Well, we haven't yet talked about the downsides of anaerobic training, and the truth is there aren't really any. Obviously if you can't walk up your steps without huffing and puffing you'll need to work up to it, but it won't take long before you can start sprinting short distances even if you need to rest significantly between sets. Also, if you've had your joints compromised in any way from injury that will be a limiting factor as well. My recommendations in that case would be to find yourself a fitness sled to push. In this way you can achieve a high level of intensity without the risk factors involved with unstable joints. Remember, running is simply one piece of the fitness puzzle. Nutrition, resistance training, yoga, and mobility work are all part of it as well. Incorporate your running sessions with these other elements and you will be well on your way to a more balanced and strong mind and body!
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Methods - a procedure, technique, or way of doing something, especially in accordance with a definite plan In life, we have principles and we have methods. Methods usually come and go while principles have stood the test of time. The fitness industry is no different. There are plenty of methods to choose from. (Total body split vs. body part split, functional training, crossfit, pilates, yoga, boxing, kettlebells, spin class etc.) There is more than one way to skin a cat just like there may be several different ways to solve a math problem. Who cares how we reached the answer as long as that answer is correct. You can’t argue with results. The issue at hand here is that our generation is living in the information age, or the information era. What information was once thought to be difficult or maybe impossible to find now literally lies at the tips of our fingers. The Information Era is an idea that the current age will be characterized by the ability of individuals to transfer information freely, and to have instant access to knowledge. Now this is great since knowledge equals power, right? Well, to quote the outspoken word artist, Henry Rollins, “knowledge without mileage equals bullshit”. I like to apply this quote to the diet and fitness world as well. Sometimes one method or another will be promoted as the best, the end-all-be all or the only way to get results. We are often asked which one of these methods is the right one and like almost any answer to any fitness question, "It depends." What may work for you may not work for someone else. There are too many cookie-cutter programs in the fitness industry, too much contradicting information, quick-fix recipes, andgimmicks out there that can lead to second-guessing and endless confusion. What we get are people blindly jumping on the bandwagon of a fad or late night infomercial with no rhyme or reason other than the fact that they heard it worked for a their favorite celebrity. These people get frustrated because they are trying everything, yet they are not seeing results. They see a friend, co-worker or a family member have great success with a certain method so they try it out for a few weeks but don’t see the same success. They quickly give up and find themselves caught in the rat maze of diet ditching and program hopping. Seeking the quick fix or the magic pill, these people lose sight of their values. Remember, the best way to see results is through consistent work and progress. Instead of looking at how several exercises or training programs are all different, which can become confusing, we need to look at what they all have in common. These are called principles and principles are the key to success. Principles – A fundamental rule or law, usually unaffected by time or technology Instead of basing fitness and training philosophy’s around one method or one tool, we need to construct our philosophy around core principles, or as we like to call it “core values”. Once we have our core values in place, we can then pick and choose different methods for differentclients as long as they REFLECT our core values. The METHOD simply allows us to optimize the PRINICPLES we need to follow to get the best results. When we come across a new or different method, there are certain questions that should be asked to determine whether this method holds up to our core values.
- Is it safe?
- Is it sustainable?
- Is it measureable?
- Is it manageable?
- Is it progressive?
- Strength Training
- High-Intensity Anaerobic Interval Training
- High-Intensity Aerobic Interval Training
To understand this debate, we must first understand metabolic exercise. Metabolic training is the increased capacity and efficiency of the energy pathways to store and deliver energy for activity. Most people commonly refer to this as, “cardio.” There are two main energy pathways used to provided energy for activity, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic activity uses oxygen to produce energy and is associated with low to moderate activity over 90 seconds...think marathoner. The benefits of this type of training is increased cardiovascular function and a decrease in body fat. The negatives are a decrease in mass, strength, power, speed, and anaerobic capacity. Most people seem to gravitate towards steady state aerobic training, by walking on the treadmill or using an elliptical machine at low to moderate intensities, but is this the most efficient way to decrease body fat? Before I clarify, let's first take a look at anaerobic activity. Anaerobic activity involves higher intensity exercise, like weightlifting or sprinting for example, and utilizes two main energy systems. The first is ATP-CP where energy is derived from the resynthesis of Adenosine Tri-Phosphate from Creatine Phosphate until the energy stores are depleted. This system is associated with quicker movements and only last about 5-7 seconds. The second is our glycolytic system which resorts to the breakdown of blood glucose and stored glycogen for energy. This system falls between the other two, and therefore lasts somewhere between 7 and 90 seconds. To further understand the differences between aerobic and anaerobic training, consider the following: Let’s say you perform a low intensity (aerobic) exercise burning 50% fat for fuel while a friend performs a higher intensity exercise (anaerobic) burning 40% fat for fuel. Based on this you would assume its better to work at a lower intensity to decrease the most body fat, right? Not exactly. Lets say you burned 100 calories (50 fat calories) in 20 minutes while your friend burns 160 calories (64 fat calories) in 10 minutes. As you can see, anaerobic exercise is more beneficial as it burned 14 more fat calories, and in half the time! If that's not convincing enough, consider the benefits of anaerobic exercise which includes, increased cardiovascular function, decrease in body fat, increase in muscle mass, improved strength, improved power,improved speed, and improved aerobic capacity. The only downside to all of this is that anaerobic training requires an aerobic foundation, and that just makes sense. If you can’t jog or climb stairs for any duration without feeling out of breath, you're certainly not ready for sprints and box jumps! Remember, physical fitness involves a combination of cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy, and lets not forget mental toughness. To pursue fitness excellence you must physically train to optimize your performance in all of the physical abilities and not maximize your performance in one ability at the expense of others. What many people are failing to realize, is that focusing on extended aerobic training is doing little or nothing to improve the physical abilities necessary for fitness excellence, and in most cases are in fact decreasing their performance! So what is the solution? Train ALL of the energy pathways by varying low intensity-long duration, medium intensity-medium duration, and high intensity-short duration metabolic training. The truth is most activities encountered in sport, work and life in general are often a combination of all the energy pathways seamlessly flowing from one to another. So, it's not so much of an aerobic vs. anaerobic debate after all, for you need both of them for optimum fitness. Solution: Train at higher intensities most of the time, and mix in some lighter cardio days for recovery and balance. Obviously sleeping and eating well goes without saying. Do that, and it won't be long before you notice your body getting tighter and leaner! Happy Training!
Some examples of exercises where I see poor technique include cable rows, dumbbell rows, and most commonly bodyweight rows with straps like the TRX. While these are all terrific movements for strengthening the postural muscles of the upper back, we need to start taking a closer look at what’s going on around the shoulder complex to make sure we are performing these movements as efficiently and safely as possible. While none of these flaws put the individual in a dangerous position, it is still important that we establish better habits with posture in certain exercises that are going to have a direct carryover to other movements and daily activities. While I won't cover all the mistakes, I will discuss the most common ones that I see on a daily basis.
1) Shrugging the shoulders because of upper trap dominance
2) Using the biceps to “pull” the weight instead of the upper back
3) Extending at the low back to substitute for lack of mobility in the upper back
4) Flexing the wrist to gain extra range of motion
5) Anterior humeral glideThe most common mistake I see is scapular elevation which is the tendency to shrug or hike the shoulders up while performing a row. This usually means that the Upper Traps are overactive and we are having trouble activating the muscles that are responsible for scapular retraction and depression because they are weak or inhibited or because of poor posture. A great tip is to cue the individual to "wrap their shoulder blades around their rib cage". While it's easy to tell the person to "pinch their shoulder blades back and down" this cue may lead to more stability but at the expense of mobility. The "wrap" cue promotes stability but with better balance of muscular activation and motion at the shoulder. Humeral Anterior Glide - What we see here is the front of the shoulder tend to glide forward while performing this movement pattern. This may happen because we have poor scapular movement on our ribcage yet our humerus continues to move on the socket into extension. What we get is an aggressive pull of the humerus past the midline of our body which can lead to a loose anterior shoulder capsule. This can eventually lead to some pathologies such as anterior inpingement, bieceps tendonitis, and even labral tears. We need to instruct these individuals to limit their end-range of motion and to not pull their elbows so far past the midline of the body. These individuals need to improve their tissue quality as well as mobility in the posterior shoulder. Keeping a neutral head and lumbar position. Keep the chin tucked and the neck packed. There is no need for forward head posture. The same goes for the lumbar spine. Just like with overhead pressing, we will start to compensate for lack of movement in the thoracic spine with extension in our lumbar spine. Refer back to number 1. Try and keep the lower back in a more neutral position especially when fatigue starts to set in. If we allow ourselves to fall into excessive lumber extension we will also lose movement at the thoracic spine. When performing a standing cable row, keep the rib cage down and one hand on your stomach. I find this puts people in a better position. The next time you perform any sort of rowing variation pay more attention to your posture. Set your core, be aware of how much lumbar extension you are in and really focus on getting good scapular retraction. You will be surprised at how much carryover this has to other movements you will perform in the gym!
Before diving into this sweet topic, you first need to forget most of what you've heard up until now. Truth be told, most of it's simply bad advice, and if you don't believe me just take a look around you. The bottom line is that our society is facing it's most obese generation to date, and the number one reason: over consumption of carbohydrates, (sugar) and processed ones at that. Six meals a day? That's not realistic for many people, especially those with with severely under active and sedentary lifestyles. Consuming six meals a day of "heart healthy whole grains" which often times consists of *genetically modified and gluten packed versions of wheat, is not only bad, it's essentially a fast track to obesity! Of course if you're climbing trees for food and hunting animals, then you may get away with more, but even the most active lifestyles will experience road blocks en route to ones fitness goals when not seeking out quality sources of carbs. Timing is equally as important as the quality of carbs you are consuming. We've all heard it before, "don't eat carbs at night," but before setting strict guidelines we need to first understand the reasons for such statements, and whether or not it's even applicable to you. In general, consuming a high amount of carbs is not ideal for someone already carrying a large amount of body fat. However, if you're an athlete or a male or female under 18% or 25% body fat respectively, then it's beneficial for more efficient muscle mass development on your already leaner physique. Eating carbs with dinner rather than breakfast does in fact have some strategies that I will soon explain, but perhaps the best time is post-workouts. After a workout, (assuming we are all working out to some degree) your blood sugar is at its lowest, and your body is craving the sugar (glucose) that it just expended during your intense workout. In a sense, it's "preoccupied" with re-establishing heart rate, and leveling off hormones as the body seeks to recover from its catabolic state. In lehmans terms, the carbs you eat after working out will not be stored as body fat, but instead rerouted to be used for immediate energy…a much better option than burning muscle, which is why every gym in America is shoving a "recovery" drink down your throat! Your best food options at this time, are starchier carbs that are broken down more quickly. A **spotted banana, berries, rice (yes, even white rice), squash, and pumpkin are a few good options here. At all other times your carbs should come predominantly from vegetable sources. To get the bigger picture, we need to first understand the roles of insulin and cortisol in the body. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating metabolism and energy from ingested nutrients, particularly carbs, while cortisol is often referred to as the "stress hormone." In a nutshell, carbs cause insulin to spike in an effort to regulate blood sugar. If you don't eat carbs, you don't have insulin being released into the blood. When people eat too much sugar, the blood spikes over and over again causing a yo-yo effect that over time decreases insulin sensitivity, and can lead to pre-diabetic conditions. Despite this, carbs are still essential to the body as they provide energy to our muscles and help maintain brain function. As mentioned, cortisol plays an equally important role in controlling body fat. Cortisol is released in response to stress, and occurs naturally higher in the morning than the evening. The function of cortisol is blunted by the presence of insulin which supports the theory for a protein dominant breakfast over one rich in carbohydrates. Eating oats or cereal for example will essentially throw off your hormone levels, which not only inhibits fat burning (due to insulin presence) but often sets us up for the tired and lethargic "mid-day slump" that many people experience. Instead, it's most likely more advantageous to essentially fast in the am (aside from black coffee, tea or water) as long as you are not working out. If you're working out in the morning, be sure to follow up your workout with a protein shake and a small amount of easily digested carbs like fruit for example. By fasting, and avoiding carbs throughout the morning we are putting our bodies in what is knows as a sympathetic state, sometimes referred to as the "fight or flight" mode. Have you ever felt like you were "wired" after an extended period of not eating or sleeping…case in point. When we eat a lot of carbs, we are in a parasympathetic mode which often causes a more relaxing/tired effect. Just think of how you feel after gorging on a large meal, like Thanksgiving for example. By eating most of your more nutrient dense carbs (such as the ones previously mentioned) with dinner when cortisol is at its lowest levels, you are following the bodies natural hormonal pattern, and are more likely to sleep more soundly and therefore recover more efficiently from your training. If your a numbers kind of person, a general guideline to follow would be 50-75g or 200-300 calories for females trying to lose weight and 100g or 400 calories for men trying to lose weight. Obviously if your a "hard-gainer" type or a marathon runner you can forget what I just said, as you will need significantly more. There are many factors that will effect daily in take. First, you need to determine your total daily caloric requirements as far as protein and fat, and you can then figure out carbs from there. I personally would recommend having a professional (trainer, nutritionist, etc...) determine this for you, although there are many online tools to give you an idea. Speaking of daily intake, I should also mention that the amount of carbs you eat should vary from day to day. Let's face it, we aren't all working out 5 or 6 days a week, so take in more carbs on the days you are training, and lower it on the days you are not. So to accurately answer the question of whether carbs are good or bad for you, one would have to look deeper into the individual and his/her lifestyle. In general, do we need carbs? Absolutely. How much? Well now you can probably answer that better now. How active are you? Are you already lean? Are you diabetic? Are you an endurance athlete? In any case, don't ditch them. They are one of the main macronutrients of the body, and you simply can't function optimally without them. *over the last 50 years the government has allowed the genetic modifications of wheat sources in an effort to increase yield and production and feed the hungry. Unfortunately as a result, the question of whether or not it's even suitable for human consumption has often been ignored. As a result the genetic make up of wheat today does not even, resemble the wheat our ancestors ate many years ago which was of higher quality and more nutritious. **when a banana becomes spotted the sugar profile has converted from fructose to glucose which is the exact sugar you want post-workouts)
At any given time, millions of people all over the world are dieting. Magazine and newspaper ads promise fast weight loss and everyone is talking about the newest pill or supplement that's going to get you "shredded in 10 days!" In the supermarket we are bombarded by products claiming "low-fat" and "all natural" or "zero calories!" Here lies the problem because in the never ending quest for America to become more healthy, we've managed to thoroughly confuse ourselves regarding what we should and shouldn't eat! Before we ask what we should eat, let's first talk about what we shouldn't. Today, most weight loss professionals would agree that traditional methods of dieting and completely cutting out essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, is the wrong approach. Protein, fat and carbs need one another in order to be absorbed properly within the body, end of story. While diets revolving around pills, supplements, and extreme food plans may produce weight loss, they are simply not long term solutions. You buy into the diet, lose some weight, and feel on top of the world only to later be disappointed after your depleted body forces you back into your old eating habits causing you more weight gain than when you started! If you can't stick to a diet plan for the rest of your life, don't waste your time. Anyone can lose weight by cutting calories, that's simple math. However, the real challenge is to lose body fat, not just weight in general, while maintaining and even increasing muscle mass, and that requires a contious effort both in the gym and the kitchen. Eat less, and workout more, right? Not exactly. Starving yourself of calories is not the answer, but I do believe there is truth to intermittent fasting for weight loss, when done strategically. Altering periods of caloric deficiency followed by periods of high calorie feasting has been proven to be effective at maintaining the function of the T3 hormone and therefore a higher metabolic rate. This concept has been around for awhile. In the 1980's, Bill Phillips ("Body for Life") preached skipping breakfast before workouts to tap into fat loss more efficiently. He also encouraged a single weekly high calorie binge. Tim Ferris ("Four Hour Body") despite his radical and somewhat unrealistic methods endorced similar concepts of fast and feast as well. More recently, Jason Ferrugia, a reputable trainer from New Jersey has introduced his Renegade Diet Plan which includes an eating period of 8 hours followed by a 16 hour fast. His reasoning, to improve liver function and insulin sensitivity. He also encourages carb loading at dinner, an unorthodox yet apparently efficient strategy to allow for energy storage for your next day workout. It goes without saying that in each one of these diets, and any successful diet for that matter there needs to be a consistent exercise regimen in place. When buying food, people need to be smart. Low-fat products are not the answer, good fats are. By now, we know the benefits of consuming essential fatty acids and healthy fats. These can be found in nuts, avocados, and oils like fish, olive and flaxseed to name a few. Low-carb isn't the answer either, for many of these products use fillers and artificial sweeteners which are, well, artificial, and therefore can't be absorbed properly in the body. If something says, "hydrogenated" that's transformed fat that has been pumped up with hydrogen for some added taste and texture. While real sugar is better to consume than artificial sweeteners, it too must be strictly monitored as it causes spikes in blood sugar and can lead to pre-diabetic conditions. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup seems to be everywhere in products like soda, fruit juices and many snacks. Excessive sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of obesity in America today and increases visceral fat or the fat surrounding vital organs of the body which can lead to a host of coronary risk factors. So we put down the sugar, the supplements and the diet pills, and we head to our local farmers market which is the real vitamin shop. We focus on at least 4 servings of vegetables a day and a couple servings of fruit which are best before and after our workouts. The rest of our calories should come from lean proteins and unprocessed food sources. This includes GMO and hormone free meats and dairy, as well as naturally occurring whole grain sources. Drinking enough water is also an essential piece of the puzzle as it aids in the transportation of nutrients from these foods to the rest of the body. So..what is the best diet? I'm not sure the answer is exactly the same for everyone. Age, activity level, and genetics all influence what your body exactly needs. But eating well shouldn't be complex either, despite the headache of reading labels as advertisers battle and pry their way into your kitchen! So let's just ditch the word, "diet" altogether, for it's not about counting down to your reunion, or summer, or fitting into that wedding dress. Your focus should not be on these short term solutions, but rather a nutritional plan for life. Once you've found a balanced nutritional plan that you can live with, then you've found your "diet."
Training: The acquisition of knowledge, skills and competency that relate to specific goals of improving capability, capacity, productivity and performance. Anyone in today's world can go on YouTube or pick up a fitness magazine and learn exercises. If it was that easy, why would there be any trainers in the world? If you're thinking the trainer is there to motivate you, well that's not exactly true either. While some people need that accountability, it's certainly not the trainers job to drive to your house, drag you out of bed and physically make you move! I think most trainers would agree that the reluctant client is the worst experience for both parties, and often ends up in a loss all around. It's like the saying goes, "If you think you can't do something, you probably can't." Well the opposite is also true! As stated, training has to relate to specific goals. This is achieved through a SYSTEM of prescribed exercises, not the fancy overhead single arm, single leg press you can do while standing on a BOSU ball. Ask yourself what your plan is, and what's your timeline for achievement? Years ago while I was attending a seminar, the well respected trainer/coach, Mike Boyle, said that training without purpose is nothing more than "exercise shit soup." I initially laughed at that, until reality set in and made me start questioning my own training methods. Today I'm confident in the system we've created at All In Fitness. Our clients follow monthly programs based on their mobility assessments. Once they master the prescribed challenges, a new set of monthly goals are designed for them to keep progressing. It's all about meeting small goals along the way that add up to that ultimate long term goal. You also have to be realistic regarding your expectations. I've trained highschool athletes that ultimately received athletic scholarships for college, that was their goal. I've trained golfers that improved their game and rid themselves of chronic back pain, that was their goal. And I've trained an 80+ year old woman to stand up out of her wheelchair on her own, that was her goal. My point is that not everyone will or even should perform a 300lb deadlift, but the idea is to train with an attitude and intensity that you can! It may come as a disappointment to some, but successful training is not always as creative as you may have thought. The most important exercises humans need (ie...squat, bench, deadlift, press) can be achieved with a barbell, some free weights, and a pull bar. It's not rocket science. Alwyn Cosgrove, one of the most respected gym owners and fat loss experts in the country said that progressive training is "more about varying sets and reps, not exercises." While many people are sold on fancy gym machines, most are useless for engaging core and lack proper range of motion. A simple formula of mobility, primary lifts and varied resistances is enough to progress you forward. How and when that formula is manipulated is why you hire a trainer. It goes without saying that every successful training program needs to be fueled by proper nutrition, but that's another article in itself. In a nutshell, eat clean and drink water. And by "clean," I mean real, unprocessed foods. Common sense will tell you that the "real cheese" claim on the Cheeze It box is a stretch. Furthermore, adding flax seeds and bee pollen to your diet does not magically make you healthy when you spend half the week on your a**. You get the point. Once you've set your diet straight, start rethinking your whole fitness approach as well. That "Body Pump" or "Zumba" class you started 6 months ago was a good idea initially, but is now ineffective as you've adapted to that routine. A prescription of more resistance, and anaerobic training is now in order to get you back to losing fat and gaining muscle. Once you find yourself getting comfortable being uncomfortable, your probably on the right track. Any track at all is a start, for you should never head to the gym without purpose. At the very least, you should be writing your workouts down and balancing out your training to maximize intensity and provide adequate recovery. If you find yourself there for any other reason than to improve your skills or competency than your just exercising. Stop pulling exercises out of a hat, and start focusing on a simple grouping of maximal strength movements that are going to give you your best return for your investment. After all that's what training is, an investment in yourself and you owe it to yourself to invest wisely!