Train to Win, Eat to Lose

A Health and Fitness Blog

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

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

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