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Handful of Common Questions
Should I eat before
is a slight, and I emphasize "slight" metabolic
advantage to exercising first thing in the morning on an empty
stomach (assuming you are "fueled" from the previous
day's nutrition). If you can get to your exercise session
within 30 - 45 minutes of the time you rise from bed, you
probably don't want to eat first. If, however, you're going
to wait longer than 45 minutes, have a supportive meal upon
waking (balance of complex carbs, essential fat, and lean
protein) and then wait an hour before exercising. We all have
our own individual oxidative capacity which means we all digest
food at different rates. There are some who can comfortably
exercise 45 minutes after a meal, but the idea is to allow
the digestive system to receive adequate blood flow to do
its job of reducing food into nutrients, amino acids, and
glucose, and then, once the primary digestive work is complete,
your muscular system can call upon the respiratory and circulatory
systems to ensure a quality exercise session.
Why isn't my jogging program resulting
in weight loss?
is aerobic exercise, and while aerobic exercise very well
may cause us to burn fat as fuel, it might also burn glucose
obtained from blood sugar, glycogen stored in muscles, glycogen
stored in the liver, fatty acids in the bloodstream, and even
amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and cells. Too
many people are led to believe that aerobic exercise equals
"fat burning." I'd restate it as aerobic exercise
equals "potential fat burning." There are several
other variables that must be considered, blood sugar, nutrient
intake, and bioindividual metabolism just to name a few. It's
also important to note that "aerobic" doesn't mean
"exercise." Aerobic refers to air, or oxygen. Any
time you are meeting oxygen demand, you are in an aerobic
physiological state, calling upon the aerobic energy system
(which can burn sugar or fat as fuel). One of the tricks to
burning fat lies in keeping blood sugar stable to allow for
ongoing fat release any time you're in an aerobic state. When
you're sleeping, you're meeting oxygen demand. When you're
sitting on the couch, you're meeting oxygen demand. Any time
you're meeting oxygen demand you have the potential to burn
fat. Get the formula right and you're burning fat virtually
all day long. Assuming blood sugar is stable, shouldn't aerobic
exercise, such as jogging, burn fat? Maybe, but aerobic exercise
would better be thought of as exercise that optimizes the
work of the heart and lungs. Since nutrients are carried to
the cells in oxygenated blood in the bloodstream, and waste
products are carried away in arterial blood, optimizing the
work of these vital organs is an important element in shaping
a lean healthy body. If you your aerobic exercise results
in a metabolic demand not supported by nutrient intake, you
run the risk of feeding off of muscle tissue, actually slowing
metabolism in the process. Jogging can be a piece of the puzzle,
but in and of itself it just isn't enough. If you want to
burn fat, of course you have to eat supportively. You ideally
would perform regular resistance exercise as muscle tissue
is your fat burning engine. Fat is burned inside the mitochondria
of the muscle cell. Resistance exercise will at the very least
stimulate the preservation of muscle. Incorporate aerobic
exercise, but keep it moderate to prevent the body from turning
to alternative fuel sources such as muscle tissue. I typically
start people out with only 12 minutes of aerobic exercise,
and we slowly progress from there. If fat release is the goal,
it's better to do your jogging (aerobic exercise) AFTER the
Are free weights better than machines?
"Better?" I'd have to say yes, provided you are
acquainted with proper form and you use reasonable poundages.
When you use the typical circuit machines found in every health
club as your exclusive resistance resource, you wind up putting
your body in different positions that hardly resembles the
way you operate and function. When we move, we move our bodies
through space. We balance, we stabilize, and we incorporate
various muscle contractions all interplaying to create human
movement. When you sit on a seated chest press machine, your
back is fully supported, your abdominal muscles are barely
called to act, the deep lying transversus that initiates movement
from your center of gravity is pretty close to being asleep.
Your lower back muscles are relaxed because the rear pad is
doing their job, keeping you upright. Now, with your body
in this uncharacteristic position, you push out in front of
your forcing the impact of the resistance directly upon the
wrists, shoulders, and elbows. While this type of movement
may result in myscle hypertrophy (growth), it does little
or nothing to improve real world function. When you perform
exercises with barbells and dumbbells, you move your body
through space, the abdominal muscles and lower back muscles
continue to fire, and the muscles work synergistically. You
can still "target" a given muscle group, as squats
would target the quadriceps, but the balance and stabilization
requirements make the exercise far more valuable.
Is caffeine in coffee bad for
you really like coffee, I wouldn't tell you to avoid it. There
are downsides, however, to caffeine addiction. Caffeine tends
to result in the leaching of calcium from bone which over
time can lead to decreased bone density. The reliance upon
caffeine may make cognition difficult when caffeine is not
available. It does tend to alter the production of the adrenal
glands. None of these issues, in and of themselves, are all
that significant, so for the most part caffeine (coffee) is
safe. Another interesting tidbit . . . caffeine can be a fat
loss aid . . . in people who have not developed a caffeine
tolerance. That means if you begin to avoid caffeinated coffee,
after awhile you may be able to use it for 3-4 week periods
as a fat loss aid.
Why is flaxseed oil valuable for
Firstly it is protein sparing.
Because bodybuilders typically break down a great deal of
muscle tissue, protein synthesis requirements are increased,
especially if muscle growth is the goal. Flaxseed oil contains
both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids which can readily be
burned as fuel preventing the body from tapping into protein
supply to meet metabolic energy needs. Secondly, the Omega
3's and Omega 6's are two structures of fatty acids that the
body cannot synthesize and the play a role in hormonal production
and cellular structure. While we can get Omega 3's from fish
and Omega 6's from grains, as a supplement flaxseed oil is
an efficient source for delivery of both.
Should teenagers lift weights
or does it stunt their growth?
Exercise is valuable to children
of all ages, but prior to the age of 14, the thinking should
be "Activity" rather than "Weight training." Around the age
of 14 the hormonal environment changes to encourage muscle
development. At 14 years old weight training can enhance muscular
development as well as athletic performance. The only catch
is, up until the age of 18, the ephiphyseal plates at the
end of bone (otherwise known as the Growth Plates) have not
fully hardened. Before the age of 18 an adolescent should
refrain from doing heavy weights that lead to a point of momentary
muscle failure in the 1-4 rep ranges. In other words, the
"how much can you bench press" mentality must be quelled as
younger weight lifters should strive to do sets of 12-15 repetitions.
With that single exception, a weight training routine can
safely be performed by adolescents.
Isn't pasta a good starchy carb?
Pasta is a source of carbohdrate,
and it has been a favorite pre-event carb loading food for
marathon runners, but it is refined which makes it more likely
to convert to triglycerides and be stored as fat. In someone
lean or in the body of an endurance athlete, the carb calories
will likely be used for energy needs, so there is room for
pasta, but if leanness is a primary goal, you'd do better
using potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc as your starch
sources. The more a food resembles its natural state (we don't
grow pasta) the more nutritionally valuable it's going to
be. Corn, peas, and tomatoes are also very good starchy carb
sources when integrated into supportive meals. With that said,
if you can find a good natural market you can buy spinach
pastas, tomato pastas, or whole wheat pastas. These are not
ideal, but are more nutritionally valuable than the white
How much protein do we need
Unfortunately, there isn't any
"right answer." The amount of protein a human being needs
is based on so many individual and variable factors it's almost
absurd to attempt an across the board "need." Many people
"metabolize" more protein than others (they "burn up" amino
acids by activating increases in liver enzyme production).
Fat and carbs might be "protein sparing" so individual nutrient
variances affect protein need. Some people are producing greater
levels of cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle, requiring
greater amounts of protein just for lean tissue maintenance.
Exercise amount, exercise selection, and desired fitness goals
will greatly affect the "need" for protein. You will continue
to hear conflicting information. Protein sellers want you
to believe the "need" is very high. There are some bodybuilders
who carry around 295 pounds at 7% bodyfat and they ingest
2.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Protein sellers
would love to hold this up as the example of what people "need,"
but it's certainly unfair to hold a supercharged behemoth
up as the model for human requirements. Conversely, I spent
some time in Costa Rica and had an opportunity to interact
with many of the natives. Some of them work 7-8 hour days
in the fields working with machetes, and they have very muscular
arms, yet they consume less than 1/2 gram of protein per pound
of bodyweight. Still, they're obviously able to build muscle.
I find it best to first determine
caloric need. A good starting point for someone who exercises
is to multiply "perceived ideal bodyweight" by 15. If you
are extremely active and/or have a very fast metabolism, use
the number 17. That would estimate the number of calories
that might be consumed per day. 35-40% of that number. consumed
as protein, should be adequate. From that point on, trial
and error will help someone hone in on what works best for
them. I wish I had a simpler answer, but anybody who just
blurts out a "number" of grams without understanding some
individual factors is providing flawed information.
Why isn't my diet working?
diet isn't working because you're a human being and . . .
allow me to take a breath before I scream . . . DIETS DON'T
"WORK" FOR HUMAN BEINGS SEEKING LONG TERM HEALTHFUL
WEIGHT LOSS! I've written over one hundred articles related
to the destructive effects of calorie deprivation but here's
the diet dilemma in a nutshell. Diets are all varieties of
calorie restriction. When you take in fewer calories than
your body needs to sustain metabolic demand, you lose weight.
The scale tells you the diet's "working," but the
scale cannot distinguish between lean body mass, internal
organs, bone, fat, or water. It simply tells you how many
pounds you weigh under gravity at a given moment in time.
Intellectually you believe it's working, but physiologically
your body's making some endocrine shifts, trying to protect
you from the threat of starvation. When caloric intake is
too low, you have some built in mechanisms that serve to protect
you. One such mechanism is the increase in cortisol production
combined with an increase in lipase production. This puts
you in a state where you're ready to store fat and where you
begin to break down muscle tissue. If you lose water and muscle,
the scale continues to tell you you're doing OK, but with
each pound of muscle you sacrifice you radically slow metabolism
and you cripple your fat burning potential. Eventually, neurotransmitters
go to work attempting to drive you to fat, which is the most
calorie dense nutrient, and sugar, which provides the quickest
energy. This is yet another protective mechanism designed
to drive you to food . . . but because you're caught up in
the diet mentality, you believe these "cravings"
indicate a lack of willpower. As you fight off the cravings,
they intensify, and when you finally give in . . . the whole
machine changes! The hormonal system all but yells "food
is here" and it begins rapid conversion of nutrients
into triglycerides which are easily stored as fat. Your blood
sugar spikes resulting in residual low blood sugar which results
in energy compromise and yet greater sugar cravings. It's
almost impossible in this state to avoid the post-diet "binge"
and because most dieters fail to understand the ramifications
of cutting calories, they blame themselves and set out in
search of another diet. When I describe "supportive nutrition,"
I'm suggesting we meet energy and tissue needs by taking in
adequate protein, complex carbs, fibrous carbs, and essential
fats. I'm further suggesting we consume nutrient complete
meals frequently throughout the day which serves to stabilize
blood sugar, minimize cravings, and increase the rate at which
your body converts nutrients to fuel. Restated, increasing
the rate at which your body converts nutrients to fuel amounts
to "Boosting Metabolism."
Following are a few articles that
should help anyone stuck on the diet roller coaster gain some
to do when "Supportive Eating" gets boring
know what I should eat . . but . . .
Ultimate Fat Burning Strategy
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