Train to Win, Eat to Lose

A Health and Fitness Blog

Dispatching Another Low Carb Mis-truth

One common mis-truth that I hear in regard to switching to a low carbohydrate diet is that it will cause you to suffer from a lack of energy.  This actually came up recently in a consultation I had with a new client.

The truth is that low carb diets bring about many fantastic changes, and one of those changes is having MORE energy.  It is true that if you rapidly switch from a high carbohydrate diet (150 grams or more per day) to a low carbohydrate diet (60 grams or less per day) your body may go through a temporary adjustment period where you feel like your energy is low.  This is due to the fact that your body is switching from using sugar for energy, to using fat and ketone bodies ( ketone bodies are a by-product of the fatty acids  that are broken down for energy) for energy.  The human body is actually extremely efficient at using fat and ketone bodies for energy.

Here is a great excerpt from Gary Taubes’ phenomenal book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease:

“Though glucose is a primary fuel for the brain, it is not, however, the only fuel, and dietary carbohydrates are not the only source of that glucose.  If the diet includes less than 130 grams of carbohydrates, the liver increases the synthesis of molecules called ketone bodies, and these supply the necessary fuel for the brain and the central nervous system.  If the diet includes no carbohydrates at all, ketone bodies supply three-quarters of the energy to the brain.  The rest comes from glucose synthesized from the amino acids in protein, either from the diet or from the breakdown of muscle, and from a compound called glycerol that is released when triglycerides in the fat tissue are broken down into their component fatty acids.”

Bottom line?  If you want to have more energy, and a myriad of other benefits including better sleep, the reduction of body fat, lower triglycerides, and normalized blood pressure and blood sugar levels…it’s time to switch to a low carbohydrate diet.

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February 19, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cholesterol Is Your Friend

Recently, I have been giving dietary advice to a friend who came to me with questions on how he could lose body fat.  During this time quite a few questions were asked, including: “What can I eat to help safely promote the manufacturing of testosterone?”  I absolutely love this question because the answer brings us back to the topic of America’s most demonized nutrient: Cholesterol!

Cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone (as well as all steroid hormones).  So the answer to my friend’s question is to eat food that has a higher cholesterol content.  This is further reason to NOT AVOID eating food that is high in cholesterol and fat. Yes, that means eat those eggs (yes, the yolk too)!

My friend’s question also got me to dig a little deeper and what I found (thanks to my friend Eugene Thong and his phenomenal blog Eugenization) was this study Surprise – Cholesterol May Actually Pose Benefits, Study Shows (this study came out two years ago so I am admittedly way behind in being aware of it): “At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that there was a significant association of dietary cholesterol and change in strength. In general, those with higher cholesterol intake also had the highest muscle strength gain.”  This makes perfect sense since testosterone is key to the repair of muscle tissue.

Let me reassure you that eating cholesterol DOES NOT increase blood cholesterol.  In fact, cholesterol is an essential nutrient.  If you want to learn more about cholesterol and all it’s benefits (and in process debunk all the myths you have come to hear about it) I highly recommend you visit the Cholesterol-And-Health website.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training | , , , | Leave a comment

Meat Your New Breakfast

In prescribing a low carbohydrate lifestyle, I am commonly met with skepticism in regard to the topic of breakfast…

“I can’t eat eggs for breakfast every morning!”

Why not?  If I were to tell you that you could eat a bowl of cold cereal every morning, would your response be the same?  How about pancakes?  Some hot oatmeal?  Maybe a bagel with cream cheese?  If you were given the “green light” to eat any of those foods for breakfast on a regular basis would you respond the same way? Probably not. So why is eating eggs for breakfast so shocking?

It’s important to change your thinking in regard to how it’s been ingrained in your head.  Breakfast can be thought of just like any other meal.  Have salmon for breakfast.  Have steak for breakfast.  Breakfast should not be something out of a Frosted Flakes commercial.

“Don’t I need carbohydrates?”

NO.  Human beings can live without carbohydrates.  In fact, it’s the one food macronutrient that we do not need.  The other two macronutrients, protein and fat, we DO need.   We have all heard of essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (protein).  Have you ever heard of essential carbohydrates?  The answer is no, because they do not exist.

“All that saturated fat will raise my cholesterol.”

No, it won’t.  Saturated fat will raise your HDL (also known as “good” cholesterol), which is a good thing.  In actuality, HDL is not cholesterol but a lipoprotein that transports cholesterol to and from tissue.  LDL (also know as “bad” cholesterol) is made up of the harmful  small and dense particles or the harmless big and fluffy particles. Carbohydrates produce more of the small and dense LDL particles.  Here is a very short and insightful video I highly recommend watching:  Exposing The Cholesterol Myth.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , | Leave a comment

Failure: The Pathway to Success

“Failure”.

This one little word has a such negative connotation attached to it, yet in the world of strength training it’s meaning is quite positive and powerful. In my day to day work as a personal trainer it is not uncommon to hear a client say that they “don’t like to fail”. The idea that they can no longer continue an exercise due to muscular exhaustion is something that discourages them and leaves them feeling quite negative.

In regard to strength training it is important to desensitize yourself from what you have come to generally think of the word “failure” to represent, and think of it as what it actually is…a pathway to success. C.S. Lewis has a great quote: “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement”. I am pretty sure he didn’t specifically have strength training in mind when he said this, but I think it applies beautifully.

In strength training you must safely and effectively load the muscles through a pain free range of motion to the point of muscular exhaustion, i.e., the inability to move the weight even another inch with safe and proper form (I will leave the topic of the time frame/number of repetitions that this needs to happen in for another discussion). The goal is to always try for one more repetition (again, with safe and proper form) even if you do not think you can. If you complete that repetition you MUST try again, always working for even just one more inch. This is how you send the signal to your body to make those muscle fibers stronger and to start building additional muscle fibers. If you were to approach strength training with idea that success would be to not fail, that you should always be able to continue for extended periods of time, you would never illicit the response you need from your body to achieve all the wonderful benefits of strength training.

So remember, in strength training failure is by no means a sign of weakness. It is in fact a sign of strength, and of more strength to come.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | Strength Training | , , , , | Leave a comment

My Apologies

I would like to apologize for how long it has been since my last blog post. My apartment burned down on November 7th and my life has been a little more hectic than usual since then. No worries, everybody is safe and sound but I did lose a good amount of my belongings and my apartment is currently unlivable. I appreciate you bearing with me while I get my life sorted out.

Rest assured, I hope to have a new post up very soon!

As always, thanks for your support and for reading my blog.

Best,

Neil

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Does Not Equal Better

The other day I was training a client who in training with me twice a week (and of course making the appropriate dietary changes) has seen some very nice declines in body fat and increases in lean muscle mass.  While she was working out, she mentioned a friend who trains everyday, and wanted to know if she should be working out more as well.

The first question I asked her was: “Is your friend seeing results?” The answer: “No, and she doesn’t understand why.”

The reason?

Because more does not equal better. Resistance training is a “controlled detriment”.  When you resistance train you are in fact breaking down muscle.  All the benefits of resistance training happen when you are resting between workouts, not during your workouts.  Over-training simply leads to the continued breakdown of lean muscle tissue. In addition, over-training leads to the release of stress hormones such as Cortisol.  We know that Cortisol is responsible for increased abdominal fat.  This is all obviously counter-effective to building lean muscle, reducing body fat, and gaining strength.

We also know (as I stated in a previous post) that the reduction of body fat has nothing to do with exercise.  It is hormonal: eating too many carbohydrates (sugar) leads to sudden increases in the production of insulin which in turn leads to body fat storage. You must change what you eat to see a reduction in body fat.

More does not equal better.  When it comes to exercise and nutrition, you should always choose quality over quantity.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Positive To See Positive Results

“Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle

This wonderful quote from Eckhart Tolle can be applied to every facet of a person’s life.  After reading this quote yesterday, I started thinking about it application to health and fitness.

When someone begins exercising, they will normally do so with certain goals in mind.  It might be to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle, prepare for an athletic event, or to simply feel better.  Whatever the goal(s) may be, it can be an extremely challenging and uphill battle if you are surrounded by a cloud of negativity that follows you everywhere.  Achieving your goal(s) might be something that not only never get accomplished, or if they do, may never be realized.  Let me give you an example…

I was recently training a client over a 6 month period.  The goals of this individual were to reduce body fat, increase lean body mass, gain strength, and feel better overall.  From the very beginning it was quite obvious that this was an extremely negative person.  That being said, I welcomed the challenge of working through this negativity and helping this person achieve all of their desired goals.

Whether I offered positive reinforcement, advice, insight, or even good news that they were starting to achieve these goals, I was met with more resistance and more negativity every step of the way.  Despite all of this, my client still made the proper nutritional changes and showed up consistently to put forth a strong effort in their workouts. This resulted in some pretty amazing achievements.

At the end of 6 months of training, my client had dropped from 245 pounds to 237 pounds.  They increased their Lean Body Mass from 165 pounds to 186 pounds, decreased Body Fat from 80 pounds to 51 pounds (the drop of only 8 pounds of body weight is explained by the increase in lean muscle), and their Body Fat Percentage went from 33% to to 22%.  Keep in mind that in order to accomplish this, there had to be major changes to their eating habits.  In addition, their strength increased substantially based on the charting.  These are all spectacular results by any standards.

Yet despite all of this, my client felt overwhelmingly negative.  In their mind, they still were not seeing results and were not happy. They did not feel stronger, healthier, leaner, or even better in general.  All they felt was the feeling of negativity.  I could literally feel the negative energy emanating from them.

The inability of this person to acknowledge the good in their life, the abundance they already had, the amazing results they had achieved, shrouded them in a cloud of negativity that they simply could not see through.  When all was said in done, the client decided to take some time off in the hopes of (in their words) gaining some perspective and maybe realizing the results they had achieved.  It is my belief that this client will never return.  The perspective they are looking for is already within them.

You must be positive to see positive results.  Otherwise, you might be missing out on what is already right in front of you.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Real Whole Foods = Real Savings

I recently came across another commercial that once again made me cringe. This time it was from Wal-Mart.  Check out the commercial below.

This commercial is brilliant.  Let’s poison ourselves and our children with this junk instead of going to the drive thru and poisoning ourselves with a different kind of junk  because the junk you will buy at Wal-Mart is cheaper than the junk you will buy at the McDonald’s drive thru.  I’m sold!

Of course, this commercial doesn’t take into account the amount of money we will spend on medical bills and dental bills due to the ill effects eating this food will have on our bodies.  Throw those numbers into the mix and you will see that the real savings comes from eating REAL WHOLE FOODS.

You can purchase a dozen Large Brown Organic Eggs for $3.79.  That means you can have 3 eggs for breakfast in the morning for 95 cents!  Add in a serving of fruit (such as blueberries) or a couple of slices of breakfast meat (such as bacon or sausage) on the side  and you have yourself a wholesome and nutritious breakfast for probably right around $2 or $3.  Add in the savings in medical bills and you have yourself quite a deal!

Bottom line:  If you want to have savings in your wallet and savings in your health always go with real whole foods, and take the trash that companies such as Wal-Mart are spewing out and put it where it belongs: IN THE TRASH.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

To Lose Body Fat You Must Change What You Eat

I will be honest.  I really did not want to write a blog on this topic, as it has been the theme of so many blogs the last few weeks.  However, a certain event transpired that has prompted me to chime in.

My 12 year-old daughter recently had her yearly physical and her pediatrician stated that she was right on the  borderline for potentially becoming overweight for her height and age.  Keep in mind that the pediatrician is talking about her body weight, and not her body fat composition which is not something they test for (which is the criteria we should really be looking at).

The main recommendation her pediatrician gave was for my daughter to partake in more physical activity.  Now, I want to start by saying that my daughter is not a child that sits around watching television all day.  She is quite active.  She plays sports, rides her bike, roller blades, and even strength trains with me on the weekends (and if she had her way she would be wrestling with me every weekend as well).  My daughter’s name and the phrase “needs more physical activity” simply do not belong in the same sentence.  Yet that is precisely what her pediatrician was recommending: more physical activity.

This topic was the focus of a recent Time Magazine article titled “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”,  by John Cloud.  Although Mr. Cloud was off-the-mark on quite a few points in this article, he hit the nail right on the head with the main message in the article: Exercise has pretty much no affect on fat loss.  The simple truth is that if you want to lose body fat you must change what you eat.

We all have friends that I am sure we could go as far as to deem “lazy” in terms of their physical activity and yet, they are thin.  Our children have friends who do in fact sit in front of the television all day and yet, they are thin.   The opposite is also true.  A couple of years ago, there was a child on my daughter’s soccer team who played just as hard as she did.  She was busting her butt, running up and down the field with sweat pouring down her face, going after the ball with all her might.  Yet this girl was obese.  I recall working at commercial gyms as a personal trainer, and seeing certain group exercise instructors teaching 6 classes a day.  These instructors were almost as active in the class as the people taking the class.  Essentially six hours of intense physical activity per day, several times a week, yet I would have easily deemed these instructors “overweight”.

Sadly, we live in a society where a majority of Americans (including doctors and fitness professionals) still think that the solution is more exercise.  The cold hard truth is that despite this belief and despite the fact that Americans are exercising more than they ever have…Americans are also fatter than they have ever been.

Until we wake up and realize that the bottom line is that the solution is NOT more exercise but instead changing what we eat and sticking to those changes, the obesity epidemic in America will not be going away any time soon.



August 31, 2009 Posted by | Fat Loss | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Supports the Immune System? I think not.

ricekrispies

“Even when they’ve stopped popping, they haven’t stopped working.  Now every box of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal has antioxidants and nutrients that help support your child’s immune system”.  This is how Kellogg’s is now touting their Rice Krispies cereal.

As a father myself, I become so unbelievably angry every time I read this.  I hope that for every one else that reads this, parent or not, it elicits the same reaction.

The very idea that Kellogg’s is touting this cereal as something that will “help support your child’s immune system” is laughable at best.  Rice Krispies is a cereal grain.  For those of you who haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword, by Loren Cordain.

Grains are linked to a myriad of health problems.  Grains and sugar cause a highly inflammatory reaction in the human body.  Grains contain something called antinutrients.  Simply put, they are called antinutrients because they interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.  Kellogg’s would have you believe that feeding our children (or adults for that matter) Rice Krispies will give them a stronger immune system, when in fact it will do quite the opposite.

Let’s look a little closer at eating Rice Krispies as part of a “healthy” breakfast.  Looking at that commercial, let’s say for arguments sake that the mother is feeding her child one serving of Rice Krispies with one cup of milk.  It is important to keep in mind that ALL carbohydrates that a person consumes get broken down into glucose (i.e., sugar).  According to the USDA SR-21, one serving of Rice Krispies contains 28 grams of carbohydrates.   One serving of milk contains 13 grams of carbohydrates.  So, in that one bowl of Rice Krispies your child (or you) is consuming 41 grams of carbohydrates all ready to be broken down into sugar…almost 3 tablespoons (2.88 to be exact)! That of course, is assuming you only consume 1 bowl of cereal. According to Dr. Mike Eades, “normal blood sugar represents less than one teaspoon of sugar dissolved in the blood“.  That is far less than the minimum 3 tablespoons of sugar that was just consumed in that one bowl of Rice Krispies with milk.

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies supports the immune system and is part of a healthy breakfast?  I think not.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | 1 Comment