When it comes to weight, let’s take a look at what exactly is a biological set point. Simply put, the set point is the range (usually within a 10% fluctuation) our body was genetically programmed to weigh. Much like our height was determined by genetic factors, so is our body weight…mostly. It is also governed by our hormones and environmental factors which all influence how the hypothalamus affects energy output and intake (eating and metabolism). The amount of food we eat, how much body fat we store and the calories we burn are all regulated by our hormones, neurotransmitters and microbiome. Set point theory states our “set point weight” is automatically controlled. Our bodies want to maintain the status-quo, also known as homeostasis. It explains why certain people, no matter what they eat remain rail thin (don’t be a hater!) and others stay obese on a normal diet of 1500-2000 calories per day. Continue readingby
Have you contemplated jumping on the butter coffee bandwagon? The original Bulletproof Coffee™ is a delicious concoction whipped up by biohacker and all around master marketer Dave Asprey. Actually, he co-opted the idea from the traditional Tibetan yak butter tea. Bulletproof Coffee™ has been a trend for several years now, gaining fast traction all over U.S. and beyond. In fact, Asprey has licensed his brand and is busy selling his own blend of coffee while also hawking a personal line of supplements, including something called ‘Fat Water’ and a $7000 ‘NeuroOptimal Personal Trainer’. He will tell you his supplements and coffee are much better quality than what you can buy elsewhere. So what exactly is Bulletproof Coffee™? According to his alternative health website, Bulletproof.com, it is specialized coffee made precisely in the manner outlined below: Continue readingby
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 maybe 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 readingby
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 readingby
Many 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 readingby
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 readingby
The 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 readingby
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 readingby
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:by
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 readingby
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 readingby
I 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 readingby
Calories 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 readingby
Car·bo·hy·drate: – any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body. (Commonly referred to as: Carbs).
Let’s be very clear about carbohydrates: they are not essential for human health and nutrition. It sounds like crazy talk yet it’s true. You might be wondering how our brain and central nervous system can function without its primary fuel, glucose? It’s simple. Our bodies convert protein and fat into glucose through a normal process called gluconeogenesis. This happens when the body is in a state of ketosis, actively breaking down fat for energy. Who doesn’t want that? Humans can live without carbs and really only need the following nutrients to sustain health: Continue readingby
It turns out all carbohydrate sugars are not created equally. Fructose seems to be especially evil for modern man. Fructose is the primary sugar found in most plants (especially starchy vegetables and fruits). It is a cheap sweetener, usually derived from our heavily subsidized corn industry and is abundant in most processed foods including all juices and most sodas and baked goods. Excessive fructose consumption has been repeatedly linked to:
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
- Lower leptin levels (In charge of decreasing appetite)
- Higher ghrelin levels (increases appetite)
Dr. Lewis Cantley, director of the new Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital and a professor in the Departments of Systems Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School was recently interviewed for BMC Biology about his thoughts and experiences in an article titled “Cancer, Metabolism, Fructose, Artificial Sweeteners, and Going Cold Turkey on Sugar.” Some interesting excerpts: Continue readingby