Train to Win, Eat to Lose

A Health and Fitness Blog

Big Fat Lies

Over the past 30 years, the general population has come to believe that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us. However, as I tell my clients, friends, family members, and acquaintances on a pretty regular basis, this is nothing more than a myth; a well told lie.  The truth is that grains, starches, and sugar are responsible for obesity and the diseases of civilization.

So where did this lie about saturated fat and cholesterol come from?  This video from Tom Naughton’s fantastic movie Fat Head, explains it perfectly.  Enjoy!  And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend you add it to your Net Flix queue right now!

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Personal Observations/Reflections | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Sucks Being Fat

“It sucks being fat, you know.”  That was Drew Carey’s response to why he finally made the lifestyle change necessary to shed a whopping 80 pounds in 7 months.

And how did he lose all this weight?  “No carbs. I have cheated a couple times, but basically no carbs, not even a cracker. No bread at all. No pizza, nothing. No corn, no beans, no starches of any kind. Egg whites in the morning or like, Greek yogurt, cut some fruit.”

My one complaint here would be that he is only eating egg whites.  Eat the whole egg.  Fat is good for you and only exerts a negative health effect in the presence carbohydrates: “The deleterious effects of fat have been measured in the presence of high carbohydrate. A high fat diet in the presence of high carbohydrate is different than a high fat diet in the presence of low carbohydrate.” – Richard Feinman, PhD

And despite what you have come to believe saturated fat does not cause heart disease.

While a low carbohydrate diet certainly does not have to be “no carb” (technically a low carbohydrate diet would be under 60 grams of carbohydrates per day) Drew cut out the main culprits: grains and starches.  He even recognized that he needed to minimize his intake of fruit.  In addition, he stopped drinking soda and now only drinks water.

The greatest news of all: “I’m not diabetic anymore. No medication needed.”  To be clear, there is no cure for diabetes. However, we know that slashing carbohydrate intake can essentially reverse Type-2 diabetes and cut the use of medications.

Drew also credits the enormous amount of cardio he is doing as key to his weight loss:  “Lots of cardio. About 45 minutes of cardio, at least 45 minutes of cardio. I’ve been kind of lazy like lately, so I’m not doing it 6 days a week, but I will be for this next month.”  This is where he is veering off course.  As I have stated in a previous post, exercise will not make you thin.  The loss/retention of body fat is hormonal, which is exactly why carbohydrate restriction works so well. Cardio does not help you lose weight. In fact, doing too much cardio (such as 6 days a week) can often hinder the loss of body fat through harmful hormonal changes and muscle wasting.

My advice to Drew?  Stop doing the cardio and make sure you are doing your strength training.  You need this to build muscle and it will increase your insulin sensitivity.  Not to mention a myriad of other health benefits, such as:  an increased metabolic rate, enhanced flexibility, improved blood pressure, increased bone density, and more!

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Fat Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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

Breakfast…it really is the most important meal of the day.

I am always amazed by how many people I talk to that do not eat breakfast on a regular basis.

Let’s take a look at the word “breakfast”.  Breakfast is actually a blend of two separate words: “break” and “fast”.  It is specifically referencing the fact that you are ending your fast from the previous night.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Why? Let’s look at an example:

The last thing you had to eat last night was at 9pm. You went to bed at 11pm. You woke up at 6am. You SKIPPED breakfast. You finally decide to eat something around 9am when you get into the office.  You have just gone 12 hours without eating. Maybe you even go as far a not to eat until lunch time.  Let’s say 12 noon.  Now you have gone 15 hours without eating.

During this whole time, you are fasting.  Fasting is without a doubt, a horrible way to try and lose body fat. If anything, you are leading your body toward muscle catabolism.  In other words, you are burning muscle tissue for energy.  If you do this on a regular basis you will in fact see a loss in lean muscle mass and subsequently a rise in your body fat percentage.  In addition, you are depriving your body of the very important nutrients it needs to help propel you through your day.

The two most commons reasons I hear for skipping breakfast are: 1) I don’t have time and 2) I have trouble eating so soon after I wake up.

If you don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, you need to prepare ahead of time. Get your breakfast ready the night before or purchase healthy food items that require no preparation the morning of.  Examples:

  1. Hard boil 3 or 4 eggs then night before.  Better yet, boil a dozen eggs so that you have several days worth.  They can easily be stored in your refrigerator.
  2. Purchase cans of sardines in olive oil (my personal favorite is boneless and skinless sardines in olive oil).
  3. Purchases bags of almonds.
  4. Purchase cottage cheese (whole fat and sans the added fruit…you don’t need the extra sugar).
  5. Purchase a low sugar yogurt such as FAGE (whole fat and sans the added fruit…you don’t need the extra sugar).

If you have trouble eating so soon after you wake up (as I do), make yourself a “liquid breakfast”.  I have found that this solves any problem I (or more aptly my stomach) have had with eating breakfast upon rising.  Purchase yourself whey protein powder.  One of my favorites is the Healthy ‘N Fit brand of whey protein because it is all natural with no artificial sweeteners (they use the Stevia herb instead).    Make a whey protein shake and blend it with ice cold water.  Add fat by blending in fish oil or flax seed oil.  You could even use a natural nut butter such as almond or coconut butter.  You now have a breakfast that is packed with the protein and fats you need to break the fast.

Bottom line:  Take the time to prepare so that you can start your day off right and eat what really is the most important meal of the day.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment