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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Pull-up Perfection

chin-up weightedThe pull-up is one of the best foundation exercises in the world of resistance training.  Arguably there is no better exercise to properly engage and recruit the muscles of the posterior chain and upper arms than the pull-up.  It is a skill based movement pattern that permits your body to express its physiology by testing the limits of upper body strength, shoulder range of motion and the ability to stabilize the core and trunk. Continue reading

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Scientific Truths About Diet and Health

shit burger and diet advice Absolute certainty is impossible–even certainty about the fact that certainty is impossible is itself impossible.

No scientific truism is beyond all scrutiny and error. And yet, to the best of our current knowledge, we do have a scientific consensus on many things. Health and fitness science has a few of these so-called ‘certainties’ but is otherwise filled with falsehoods and unproven theories. And don’t even get me started on nutritional science. According to the Mayo Clinic and many others reputable institutions, nutritional science is borderline ‘pseudoscience’. The majority of nutritional research is epidemiological (correlative and not causative in scope) with an emphasis on notoriously inaccurate dietary recall journals and outcomes that cannot be replicated. There are very few randomized placebo controlled double blind studies in the field of human nutrition. This opens the field up to conjecture and contradictions. In fact, many studies show statistically significant opposing outcomes.  This is why one week you will read “Eggs Will Kill You” and the next week you will hear “Eggs Will Help You Live to 100″. What to believe?  The list below covers some of the important fundamental ‘truths’ of exercise and diet:

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5 Common Weight Loss Mistakes

diet soda joke Losing weight, more specifically body fat, can be an arduous undertaking. First and foremost, focus on fat loss, not weight loss. Changing body composition by adding lean muscle and decreasing fat tissue is or should be the real goal. The scale does not matter as much as body fat  deposits and circumference measurements. Losing weight is easy….losing fat and putting on lean muscle takes some planning. Although the process of losing weight is not complicated, sustaining long-term fat loss is quite tricky and requires some lifestyle and behavior modifications. Continue reading

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Want to Lose Fat? Do Less Cardio & Lift Weights

best trainer nyc First, let me say individual sustained body-fat loss (which is different than weight loss) is a complicated topic which is not completely understood by science. Rather than delve into the overwhelming multitude of variables, I will keep the scope of this article focused on a simple question: is resistance training better than steady state cardio for fat loss? Maybe. This is the truest answer you’ll ever get. If you have to choose, I believe weight training is a more efficient way for most people to lose body fat than steady state cardio. Side Note: The fat loss evidence is much stronger for high-intensity interval training than steady state cardio.

In my opinion, the best weight loss strategy is a blend of high-intensity interval cardio and progressive weight training. Continue reading

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If You Could Only Do 3 Exercises….

Personal Trainer NYCImagine rubbing a lamp from which emerges a malevolent genie who proceeds to cast this curse over you: “Henceforth you shall only be allowed to do three exercises for the rest of your life, so choose wisely” (bare with me and my little thought experiment). I’ve pondered this question a lot more than I’d like to admit. Over my 20 years as a personal trainer in NYC, coach, and teacher, my philosophy and recommendations have evolved, but my answer to this question has remained same.

Since this is my game, here are the rules: You can add weight, resistance, and variability to these exercises so long as the foundations remain intact. Cardio is separate and does not count. The three winners are: Continue reading

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9 Evidence Based Ways To Cut Up For Summer

NYC in home trainer

‘Hot town, summer in the city. Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty…..’

That means beach weather, bikinis, bare-feet and lots of unwanted sand following you home. Worst part: finding that sand stuck in your fat rolls. So let’s prevent that from happening, right?! If you want a shredded 6 pack and super defined muscles you’ll have to work very, very hard. Most people are not willing to commit to such an endeavor, so let’s keep our expectations in check. Nevertheless, you can achieve your best body following these 9 simple steps without having to live at the gym nor eat like a monk.

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The Most Important Toe

in-home trainer nycOur big toe, sometimes referred to as the great toe, the first MTP (metatarsophalangeal joint) or simply the hallux, plays a critical role in dynamic balance and forward motion during a gait cycle (AKA running). It is arguably the most important toe for normal arch functioning, particularly when it comes to propulsion and shock absorption. Without your big toe, running would be nearly impossible. In addition to bearing the majority of contact pressure (60-65%) during movement, this tough little joint is unique in many ways: Continue reading

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Barefoot Plyometrics and Running

barefoot running nycHave you hit a runner’s plateau? Does it seem no matter how hard you train, your speed and cadence remain stagnant? Incorporating plyometrics can help propel you to that elusive next level.

Plyometrics refer to the “type of muscular activity produced when an impulsive eccentric movement terminates suddenly, eliciting a powerful stretch reflex and causing a maximal rebound concentric muscle contraction.” (Siff, 2002)  It is basically the rapid shock loading of a muscle (think springs) followed by an immediate elastic energy output. Continue reading

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Top 10 Fitness and Nutrition Books

strength01I love a top ten list as much as the next guy, especially if it’s well curated. Health/fitness literature is a very saturated environment. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Below are my all time favorite consumer books. Not only are they pleasurable reads, they helped mold many of my opinions surrounding fitness and nutrition. A foundation in good health starts with knowledge.

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Anti-GMO Rhetoric is Junk Science

GMO rhetoric junk science The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is made needlessly complex thanks to junk science. A little refresher course on scientific logic would help the public get clear on this contentious topic.  If you believe science should be subject to popular opinion, political interests, media bias, and/or religious views, then stop reading now. Science is not democratic.

“Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.”

I used to believe GMO’s were a freighting Pandora’s Box; a travesty on nature we could not possibly understand nor contain. I was intent on keeping the “Frankenfood” away from my family.  After months of careful consideration and research, I have changed my mind. The scientific evidence pointing toward the safety of GMO’s is undeniable. Continue reading

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Obese Marathoners: Cardio Overkill

cardio skeleton overtraining If your goal is to drop weight, running a marathon may not be the answer. Too much cardio may, in fact, make you fat! Have you ever watched the end of a triathlon or marathon and noticed how many competitors were overweight?  Talk about entering the ‘Twilight Zone’. In order to prepare for a marathon, these athletes must log in countless hours of workouts and yet some of them remain a tad hefty.  It is not uncommon to run in excess of 60 miles per week when training for a marathon or other long distance race.  Those training for an Ironman race (2.4 mile swim than an 110-mile bike race and then a 26.2-mile run – sounds like torture!) commonly devote 15-30 hours per week leading up to the race.  How can some of these individuals still be overweight?  Although it’s rarely discussed, chronic cardio can be fattening and even deadly.

Many years ago I trained a type-A Wall-Streeter who enjoyed indulging in back to back spin classes 4-5 days per week and a ‘short’ 50-mile bike ride on the weekends. In addition, he took 2 resistance training sessions per week with me, though cardio was his true love.  He was a glutton for the pain. The more the better, or so he thought.  But no matter how much cardio he crammed in, he was 15 pounds overweight. He did like to eat and enjoyed his vino, maybe a little too much, but with that amount of exercise, he shouldn’t have been overweight, right?  So what’s the deal?  After months of cajoling and begging, I got him to slow down and exercise less.  He purchased a heart rate monitor and dropped the double spin classes. During his cardio sessions, I limited his anaerobic exposure and kept him in the aerobic work zone for the majority of the time. Without changing his diet, in 4 weeks he dropped 10 lbs.  We both felt better. Continue reading

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Brain-Hacking Your Motivation to Workout

t-rex exerciseI have been working out for over 25 years but some days I just don’t feel like dragging myself to the gym. To combat this malaise I cultivate a frame of mind driven by joy rather than self imposed pressure. Finding ways to enjoy the gym and making it habitual is paramount. The pleasures of living a healthy lifestyle far out weight the fleeting sugar highs we are all so accustomed to. I do not have the power to motivate you. Only you can do it. Here are some mind hacks to help you with the process: Continue reading

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Donut Cut Calories!

vitamin donut adCalories count but you don’t need to count them. If you severely restrict the number of calories ingested, you could eat nothing but fried doughnuts and still loose weight. There is a better way and it does not involve dieting, calorie math or doughnut binging.

It’s no secret, most people have tried and failed when it comes to dieting. The simple reason is because diets rarely address cravings, hunger, daily activity levels and most importantly easy long term maintenance. Imagine a world where diets were truly successful over the long haul:  non-existent obesity rates, tons of skinny people running around, much shorter lines at Shake Shack and I just might be out of a job. According to grim statistical predictions, the world population is getting fatter and thus obesity related diseases are skyrocketing along with all of our health care costs. This is a dire situation, to say the least. I believe we need to get back to our ancestral roots: forget about counting calories, eating low-fat foods, using diet supplements and buying nonsense infomercial weight loss equipment.  Our great grandparents didn’t do any of these things and never dieted or worried about the fat/calorie content in the foods they ate. They also weighed about 30 lbs less than the average American adult today. Although they moved more, they also ate lots of fatty foods – steak, butter, eggs, chicken fat etc. and never counted calories. Most people did not even know what a calorie was, let alone count them, until the mid-1960’s.  If we can shift our focus away from calorie counting and towards controlling biological drivers (hormones) through quality macronutrient meal planning, we will do wonders for our health and happiness. Continue reading

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