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
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 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
‘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.by
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
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
MYTH: Doing a combination of light weights and high reps will tone you up. Firstly, if you are alive all your muscles are already ‘toned’. They are in a perpetual unconscious low-level state of contraction while at rest. Low weight and high reps can produce a wide range of results which depend on multiple variables. Strength and endurance exist on a continuum, with both elements being trained at essentially all repetition ranges. Continue readingby
Are you too busy to workout? Do you have 4 minutes? Sure you do. The Tabata training method, a 4-minute high-intensity workout, was created in 1996 by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Working with the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, Tabata was looking for ways to improve their performance. He had a group of college athletes ride stationary bikes 4 days a week, 4 minutes per session, using his brand of high-intensity interval training (HITT). A control group trained at a moderate pace 5 days a week, 60 minutes per session. The results were unreal: after following the respective routines for 6 weeks, the experimental group boosted their aerobic fitness by 14% and anaerobic capacity by 28%. By comparison, the control group increased their aerobic fitness by only about 10%. Since this landmark study was performed there have been many similar studies completed, all confirming analogous findings (not only with bikes but also sprints, body weight exercises and plyometrics). Less time, more results – it’s the American way! 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
Diets simply don’t work. Let me rephrase: diets don’t work long-term. Sure, short term crash diets succeed but they are unsustainable. Eventually, you will fall off the wagon, adding a few more pounds in the process. No one agrees on the true failure rates of diets but it is somewhere north of 60% and may be as high as 95% according to several studies. Why are diets so unsuccessful? Could it be good old lack of self-control and discipline? That is certainly one possibility but not the whole picture. There is so much more to the story. Chemistry, physics, biology, physiology and psychology are all vital factors when determining a long term winning food plan. Instead of fad diets and crash diets try “The Don’t Diet”. Continue readingby
Just because something is sold at the health food store or is listed as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it is wholesome. Organic, minimally proceeded Oreo-like cookies are only marginally better for you than their conventional counterpart. The ‘healthier’ alternative may even contain more sugar than the original, newfangled ingredients, or obscenely high doses of vitamins that turn out to be downright nocuous. Oh my. Here is a list of 6 foods that will worsen your health and lighten your wallet: Continue readingby
The selectorized thigh machines and devices hocked on late night TV infomercials and positioned in the “ladies” section of the gym floor are, for the most part, useless. For many users, not only do these machines not work the way they are supposed to but in fact contribute to the thickening of the thighs and ‘saddle bags’. Say what? “I thought these devices purportedly ‘melt’ the fat away from your butt, thighs and hips” rued the leotard wearing, Jazzersizing 1986 gym goer. Scientifically speaking this is totally bunk. It is not possible to reduce fatty spots on the human body simply by exercising that area. You cannot spot reduce fat unless you go under the knife, though liposuction doesn’t work so well either.
Using the abductor/adductor machines will not slim your glutes and thighs. It is no coincidence many of those who use these machines regularly have thick thighs and hips. Susanne Summers, star of the 1980’s sitcom “Three’s Company” bears some responsibility for perpetuating the myth that women can actually trim their big thighs by spending enough time on the ThighMaster (and apparatus like this). These adductor/abductor machines work small muscles in contrastive isolation, called the gluteus medius and hip adductor group. Contracting small muscles in relative isolation will not require much energy. These moves will not increase your metabolic rate and/or add to a positive hormonal response resulting in significant weight loss. In fact, after progressive use you will likely increase the size of the lean muscle mass in the area which will ‘push’ the fat farther out giving you the appearance of larger thighs. Ughh! Continue readingby
If you are human, you experience all sorts of cravings and give in to them more than you’d care to admit. Some cravings are signals from your body informing you of a need triggered by a deficiency; craving salt to increase blood pressure, for instance. In most cases, however, this is the exception, not the rule. My body craves cookies not because I am sugar deficient but because of many other factors. The sweets in my cupboard call out to me in the middle of the night; “We’re here and we taste fantastic. Just have one, c’mon.” Does this happen to you? There are several reasons we experience food cravings: Continue readingby
Have you been lead to believe the following statements are true?
- If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight.
- If you burn more calories than you eat you will lose weight.
- If you eat the same amount of calories that you burn your weight will not change.
In order to lose weight, all you have to do is burn more calories than you take in. Eat less, exercise more and you are bound to lose weight. Not so fast. This simplistic adage is sort of true but leaves out the ‘how’. It is great to know why something works but in order to put it into practice, we need to find out how to do it. If eat less move more advice worked how come we have such a huge obesity problem? For long term weight loss we need other strategies. We’ve all known someone who eats a ton of junk food, doesn’t exercise, yet never seems to gain weight. Conversely, we’ve also known that unfortunate individual who does cardio every day, is perpetually on a diet and can’t seem to lose weight. The rules just don’t seem to apply to certain people.
What is wrong with the “calories in = calories out” model of thinking? Let’s start with the Law of Thermodynamics (AKA the Law Of Conservation of Mass). Your 9th-grade science teacher told you it is an irrefutable fact; energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The law (of which there are 4) is indeed undeniable but not when it comes to the human body. The idea that “a calorie is a calorie” comes from a misunderstanding of the laws. Here is what the 1st law of Thermodynamics states: Continue readingby
The “Paleo Diet” sometimes called the “Cave-man Diet” or “Warrior Diet” has become very popular in the last few years. As you know, popular doesn’t necessarily mean good. The science of biochemistry and nutrition is in its infancy. There is no scientific consensus on what exactly constitutes healthy eating. But the Paleo factions would have you believe our caveman ancestors got it all right. There are books, videos, and workouts dedicated to this stone age way of life. Like any diet, it works. Like most diets, it only works temporarily. The important key questions are: Is it healthy? Is it sustainable? Is it backed with reams of scientific evidence? Is it contraindicated with any pre-existing conditions? Below are the two major tenants of the Paleo Diet:
- We should eat the types of food our ancestors ate before agricultural times (10,000 years ago and before).
- We should eliminate foods (both processed and natural) which were introduced to the human diet through agriculture and civilization because our bodies may have trouble properly digesting and absorbing these foods.
The contemporary “Paleo diet” consists mainly of wild fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, pastured raised eggs, lots of vegetables (although no corn), some fruit, fungi, and nuts. It typically excludes grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, processed vegetable oils and most anything else that is packaged and boxed up. On the surface, it may seem like a sensible and logical diet. And for most people, it is a healthier way of eating than the alternative – the standard American diet. However, there are some major issues with the absolutist interpretation of this eating plan. Here are some straw-man and cogent arguments against the “Paleo Diet”: Continue readingby
Spinning (AKA stationary cycling) has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to the entrepreneurs behind Soul Cycle and Flywheel. There are even underwater spin classes! These classes are fun, energy packed and tough as nails but they may not lead to long term weight loss. They may even be harmful to your health. Say what?! [caveat: any exercise is better than no exercise. If spin class is the only thing that’ll get you off your butt and in the gym, far be it from me to discourage you]. That being said, a 3-4 time per week spin class may be an unfortunate misuse of your precious and limited fitness schedule. Learn to work smarter not harder at the gym and you can economize your time for the fastest results. Continue readingby