Liquid Candy: Sports Drinks, Juice and Smoothies Deconstructed

soda ad for babies

Don’t fool yourself into believing your daily detoxing juice or pre-workout smoothie is anything more than liquid candy with a few extra vitamins. Most of these beverages are packed with tons of calories and sugar minus the all important fiber. As a healthy adult, the only thing you should drink is water, seltzer, unsweetened tea, coffee and the occasional glass of wine. An argument can be made for full-fat milk and/or unsweetened milk alternatives like almond, coconut, and hemp milk but in moderation. Everything else is chock full of empty calories and sugar or it’s straight up unhealthy. Sadly we have migrated away from eating whole foods in their natural state. We are the fast food nation.  Are we just too lazy to chew or is it something else because eating whole foods is the healthiest way to pack in nutrients and sate your appetite? Take a moment to deconstruct the beverages in your life so you can make better-informed decisions regarding your health. Continue reading

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I’m an Acupuncture Skeptic

human pin cushion circus For years I was convinced acupuncture was a valid medical procedure with clear benefits backed by reams of good evidence. Although I never did believe in the meridian qi energy theories associated with this treatment, I routinely encouraged clients and friends to add acupuncture to their health and wellness toolbox. After all, the Chinese people have been utilizing acupuncture for approximately 2500 to 4000 years and it has stood the test of time, right? – turns out this is not completely true. Many U.S. health insurance companies reimburse their customers for the service, believing it brings quantifiable benefits. However, skeptics suspect this simply makes prudent fiscal sense because acupuncture is a cheaper payout than traditional medical care. In an effort to appease customer demand, many prestigious hospitals have added acupuncture to their wellness and rehab programs despite pushback from the scientific community. The anecdotal evidence was and is overwhelming. I constantly hear intelligent thoughtful people talk about the efficacy and personal success in regards to the treatment. Almost unbelievably, the United States Military started using acupuncture to treat pain on the battlefield (they also practice cupping – our tax dollars hard at work). How can all these hospitals, insurers, government agencies and smart people be wrong? After doing a deep dive into the research and talking with a few doctors and scientists I am no longer convinced acupuncture treatment is better than a placebo.  As it turns out, it makes no difference where you put the needle. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you use a needle at all! In the best-controlled studies, only one thing mattered: whether the patients believed they were getting acupuncture.  Even then, people responded no better than the placebo control. Continue reading

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Balance Training or Circus Tricks

in home training nycBalance is one of those essential skills that enhances all of our movements.  It may sound a bit New Age-y but it is true: the ability to balance is within us all. You just need to find it. Like most things, if you don’t use this skill, you will lose it. As we age we tend to move less, more slowly and limit our range of motion, thus inadequately taxing our balance systems. Why is this a big deal? We evolved to use our balance systems every day in multiple ways; jumping, climbing, running, hiding, playing…. Our modern sedentary lifestyle has reduced these movements, opening us up for imbalance injuries. Lack of good balance can ultimately lead to a premature death. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for Americans over the age of 65. Frequently, an older person will lose their balance, fall and break a hip. Hip fracture in a senior citizen is akin to a death sentence. The complications that follow lead to long-term care, lack of independence and early mortality. There are many things one can do to prevent or lessen the likelihood of a fall-related injury.  Balance exercises and training are perhaps the most important components for prevention but many take it to an extreme. Grandma does not need to stand on a physio ball (neither do you) unless she is preparing for the circus. Almost any type of movement training can have added ‘balance value’ if done properly. Effective balance training should look nothing like acrobatic stunts.
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Workout Motivation: Finding Your ‘Why’

workout inspiration I have been working out since the Reagan administration. It was the Cold War and I had to be ready. ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘The Day After’ convinced me I needed to be bigger, faster, stronger.  Plus I was eager to show up the school bully who tormented me weekly. Scrawny thirteen-year-old me began hitting the weights in a dank suburban New York basement. My mom never bothered me when I was in my training dungeon. The only workout resources I had were bodybuilding magazines and old Army pamphlets I found at a garage sale. I devoted myself to Arnold’s workout routine and added some Bertil Fox chest work and Tom Platz leg exercises into the mix. This happened two hours per day, six days a week, for years.  I also played soccer, joined the wrestling team and ran track and field (200 and 400-meter sprint, discus, and shot put).  As a teenager, I was brimming with testosterone and idealism. I could do anything.  But I looked like a living string bean: 6 feet tall and 137lbs. That began to change over the coming months as I continued to lift. I quickly discovered that not only was I getting stronger by leaps and bounds but I was also calmer.  I looked forward to my self-imposed torture sessions. They helped me deal with my world. There were many reasons I began my training. Some have changed but many have stayed the same.  Working out became my hobby and is now a deeply ingrained habit. The why behind your actions is perhaps the strongest driver of motivation. Finding the ‘why’ is a crucial step to achieving your goals.  Why do you workout?  What is your motivation to exercise? Continue reading

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Top 10 Exercise Fallacies

best trainer nyc

The fitness industry is brimming with tons of rules and guidelines that are contradictory and/or downright wrong. And there are many more ideas that are not wrong or right – they live in the gray area. The fact of the matter is there are many more complicated non-definitive guidelines than absolutes about fitness. We have the desire to oversimplify complex ideas and adhere to easy to understand dogma. Here is a list of my favorite exercise myths and fallacies: Continue reading

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Does Snacking Make You Fat?

funny snack quote For years I’ve been telling weight loss clients they need to eat every three to four hours to increase their metabolic rate and lose weight. “Eat six small meals a day. It’ll stoke your metabolism and help you burn more calories while resting” said my younger, more naive self. It turns out I was wrong. The truth is, the more times you sit down to eat the more opportunities you have to stuff yourself silly or eat the wrong thing. In fact, all that snacking may actually increase your fat stores. That’s right, snacking may make you fat. If you’re anything like me, eating also wakes up the rapacious monster in your stomach. Some people have the willpower to remain within their limits, do you? Eating five to six small meals per day is still the predominant dogma among many physical trainers and nutritionists even though the supporting peer reviewed research is spurious at best. Eating frequency has little or no effect on increased metabolism.  Even though constant snacking is heavily encouraged in American society, it wasn’t always that way. My grandmother used to yell at me (lovingly) to not snack because “you’ll ruin your dinner!” Of course, she was right. The concept of ‘snack food’ was popularized in the 1950’s. By the 1970’s it really took hold and is now a multi-billion dollar industry which is arguably making us fatter and sicker. Continue reading

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Fatness and Insulin Resistance

insulin resistance and diet People don’t get fat because they are lazy or lack willpower. Resist the urge to fat shame because it’s not as simple as “move more, eat less.”  We now know diets focused solely on reducing calories don’t work long term. This is because an invisible cascade of biological and psychological responses push back and prevent fat loss. The cause of obesity is multifactorial: genetics, calories, diets, medical issues, hormones, activity levels, pharmaceuticals, stress, psycho-social elements, environment, sleep, etc… These scenarios create hormonal imbalances. Hormones have the power to drive hunger, satiety, activity levels, sleep, metabolic rate and fat storage, to name a few. The biggest influencer when it comes to fat storage and hunger is a hormone called insulin. It is known as the energy storing hormone. When insulin levels are high (like after eating a twinkie) the body will store lipids in our fat cells. When insulin levels drop our bodies liberate lipids for energy. In a low insulin environment, the body will not store fat, it will use it for fuel instead. This is not a controversial statement or alternative fact. The more one triggers an insulin response, the more likely one is to develop a pro-fat storage environment of insulin resistance. This is called the insulin hypothesis of obesity. Continue reading

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The Salty Truth

At home personal training NYCMany wars have been fought over salt. Without out, we would die. But today, we seem to be oversaturated with salt. The vilification of salt is something I remember from early on. My mom, a proud chef, never had salt shakers on the table. It annoyed her when anyone salted their food before tasting it and believed too much salt would lead to health problems. In the 1980’s she switched the family to “Mrs. Dash”, a somewhat palatable salt substitute.  As early as the late 1960’s the American Heart Association, The USDA, medical journals and doctors began sounding the alarm about dietary salt. We were told it would raise our blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, dementia and could possibly cause kidney disease. Salt fears persist to this day. The Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines considers salt Public Enemy No. 1, ahead of fat, sugar, and alcohol. But when we look into the genesis of anti-salt recommendations, it becomes clear the data is anything but crystal. In fact, there are ample data points showing low salt diets are unhealthy too.  Continue reading

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Detoxing off Alternative Medicine

Miracle cure alternative medicine funny

Alternative medicine is born from pseudoscience. It is an alternative to what is proven to work. Anecdata, placebos, epidemiological studies, cherry-picked data and the internet form the foundation of alternative medicine. These modalities generate the framework onto which the logical fallacies and cognitive biases supporting alternative medicine are presented.

Evidence-based medicine, on the other hand, emerges from unbiased robust data pointing to verifiable and reproducible results. Well designed double-blind randomized controlled trials are the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine; look at the Cochrane group: ‘Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care resources. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation’. Pseudoscience is enticing because it’s easy to understand and offers cures. Here is a short list of alternative medicine practices that haven’t been proven to work better than a placebo: Continue reading

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Offal not so Awful

organ meats offal

Offal is a vague term used to describe parts of the animal we Americans don’t eat. It includes the liver, brain, lungs, heart, tail, tongue, intestines, stomach and marrow.  In the wild, carnivorous animals eat the internal organs before any other part of the kill. The alpha/leader usually claims these prime meats first: the heart, liver, bone marrow and kidneys. Muscle meat is left for the underlings. Many hunter-gatherer tribes commonly eat offal and give their domesticated animals the muscle.  Internal organs are chock full of minerals, vitamins, protein and fat. Offal is a super nutritious addition to a healthy diet. Why then is this vitamin/mineral dense food shunned in Western society and usually left for our pets? Three reasons seem most likely: Continue reading

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The Best Damn Diet.

personal trainer NYCThe multi-billion dollar weight loss industry is teeming with contradictory evidence, opinions, and charlatans looking to cash in on the answer to this fundamental question: why do we get fat and what can we do about it? The answers are not cut and dry and are different for everyone. Sorry, there is no one best damn diet for all. The average American adult attempts a new diet 4 times per year. Within two weeks 25 percent of the dieters give up. At any one time, it is estimated that 70 million Americans are on a diet.  And 65 percent of those individuals are unsuccessful in keeping weight off for at least 5 years. Americans want their weight loss solution to be cheap, fast and easy. No magic diet pill (yet). Here is a marketing sample of what these authors and ‘experts’ are selling: Continue reading

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Marijuana and Exercise: The Science of Working Out Stoned

working out with weed Pot, weed, marijuana, dab, etc… Whatever you call it, cannabis has been heavily associated with lazy stoner culture for as long as I can remember.  But while it may be true that some people get stoned and are unable to detach themselves from the sofa and TV, others become quite productive. Micheal Phelps, Richard Branson, President Obama, Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs and many others have all admitted to smoking pot several times, inhaling and liking it. Not a lazy group. Weed has transcended into the mainstream and many athletes have come out in defense of its usage in sport and training. It sounds hard to believe but marijuana may have benefits that go way beyond the sudden urge to devour a pint of Chubby Hubby. Since human controlled research on marijuana is scant, the internet is full of ‘bro science’ and anecdotal evidence touting the effects of marijuana on athleticism. Let’s dispel some myths and introduce instead some hard scientific evidence regarding the benefits of marijuana and fitness. Smoking marijuana: Continue reading

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MicroBiome – The Puppet Master Influencing Cravings

Bee man microbiome

The ecological community of bacteria, fungi, viruses and single-cell organisms living in your body are known as the microbiome, aka microbiota.  These trillions upon trillions of microbes call your body home. They make-up about 3% of your total body weight and are just as numerous as human cells, despite what you may have heard about there being 10 times more bacterial cells.  With approximately 5000 different species living in and on you at any one time, it is believed these microbes evolved alongside us, developing a symbiotic relationship with our bodies and brains.  Free will notwithstanding, it is unclear who controls whom. Recent research has shown the microbiome plays a role, although not completely understood, in these human conditions (and many others): Continue reading

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Fit and Fat

Sarah+Elizabeth+Robles+Weightlifting+Olympics

michelle-carterTo the left is Sarah Elizabeth Robles. She won the bronze medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics for weightlifting. She is fat.  About 300 lbs on the scale.  She can clean and jerk 350lbs and snatch 278lbs – a lot more than me.  She is a powerhouse.

On the right is Michelle Carter. Gold medal winner in the 2016 Rio Olympics for shot put.  She can throw the shot almost 68 feet!  She is also fat, tipping the scale at about 265lbs.  Michelle was the first American woman to ever win a gold in this event.  Brilliant. Continue reading

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Improve Your Body by Repairing Foot Function

painful foot jokeYour feet are probably dysfunctional. A life-long addiction to shoes and chairs has trounced your tootsies and likely set off a chain of negative events on the rest of your body, from faulty movement patterns to migraines. 

In 2005, after the book “Born to Run” became a best seller, barefoot running and minimalist shoes rose in popularity. Unfortunately so did injury rates. Physical therapists and podiatrists were overjoyed with their spike in business. The main problem is most of us are clueless when it comes to regaining the foot and ankle function of our youth. Look at how a 4-year-old picks up a ball: flat back, knees bent, butt to the ground and lifting with the legs. Watch them running in the park: forefoot striking, upright posture, forward feet etc.  Most toddlers and little kids have perfect posture and fantastic biomechanics until…we strap them into sneakers and chairs. Multiply a whole bunch of years in tight fitting shoes with a sedentary lifestyle (sitting for more than 6 hours per day) and you’ve got a mess on your feet. Continue reading

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