August 1, 2002
my book, The Best You've
Ever Been, I spend a fair amount of time addressing and
exploding the myths and misconceptions regarding
fitness and weight loss. It's amazing how these myths travel
through our population as an undercurrent often spread by
a simple sentence spoken on a TV talk show or a single article
in a newspaper or magazine.
one time Oprah expressed that she had lost weight by changing
her eating habits and as a part of that change she stopped
eating in the evening. All of a sudden, like wildfire run
out of control, the weight loss wanters spread the word making
the refrigerator off limits once the clock struck 5 PM. The
result? Lots of hungry people, still dissatisfied with their
weight and physical appearance.
July 7, just a few weeks ago, an article written by Gary Taubes
came out on the front page of the NY Times singing the virtues
of the low carb diets. Almost instantaneously Dr. Atkins became
the hero of the day.
of the "cut carb" fanatics clipped the article so
they had a weapon allowing them to utter the taunting, "I
told you so."
we as a population recognize that a single sentence, a single
article, or a fast spreading rumor is not going to offer a
long term fitness and weight loss solution . . . but the power
of rumors and the ability to influence the masses can generate
millions even billions of dollars in product and program sales.
As usual, I'm here to offer you some clarity. In this Update
I'll address a four of the more comon misconceptions that
have found their way into my office in the Summer of 2002.
Myths addressed in this Update:
Eating Late at Night Makes You Fat
Eating A Pizza Before Bed May Lead to Fat Accumulation
. . . but . . . meals have a thermic property referring to
the amount of heat generated (energy production requires heat
generation) during digestion. If you were to eat a high fat
meal, your body has a very easy time dealing with those fat
calories. Not a whole lot of work has to be done in the act
of digestion. The fat molecules are simply broken down and
either dissipated as heat (energy) or stored as fat. Because
it is so simple to digest fat, very few calories are expended
in processing a high fat meal through your digestive tract.
The same holds true for refined carbohydrates. These include
breads, pastas, anything made with refined flour, and anything
containing refined sugars.
other hand, if you were to consume a high protein low-fat
meal prior to bed, it might actually aid in the process of
fat loss! Protein is highly thermic. A lot of work is required
to take those protein chains, break them down into dipeptides
and tripeptides (small chains of 2 or 3 amino acids), transport
them through the wall of the digestive tract, and then virtually
reassemble them as new cell tissue. That means your body's
going to increase momentary metabolism as you sleep, increasing
its caloric burn, absorbing and assimilating those vital amino
acids necessary to maintain or increase lean body mass (muscle
the new "lose weight while you sleep" products result
in short term weight reduction because they instruct you to
stop eating 3 or 4 hours before you go to bed. Most people
consume high calorie snacks late in the evening, snacks abundant
in fats and refined carbs. By eliminating those PM calories,
they wind up in a caloric deficit where the body may feed
off of that vital lean body mass. This of course results in
weight loss on the scale, but might seriously stifle fat loss
is important, and if fat loss is a goal, you're probably better
off consuming the greater percentage of your carbs earlier
in the day to keep energy stores filled. The time to consume
simple sugars is immediately after a strenuous workout. The
best meal to eat in the evening would be a meal made up predominantly
of lean protein. It's not a matter of the best times to eat,
but rather a matter of the best most valuable fuel to consume
at strategic times throughout the day. If you go more than
three hours before bed without getting a supportive meal into
your body you're actually limiting your potential.
A "New" Hormonal Product is Safe and Effective
Supplement sellers have learned to make lots of money
selling hormones in a bottle. It started with the Hatch law
in 1994. Senator Hatch was instrumental in getting a law passed
that allowed anything found naturally in plants or in humans
to be sold over the counter . . . as a supplement. Shortly
thereafter the supplement manufacturers brought DHEA to the
shelves and it was marketed as . . . well . . . as everything!
It was going to increase muscle, burn fat, increase sex drive,
and on and on. The truth is, DHEA is "the mother of all
and estrogen actually use DHEA as their raw material. It's
true that as we age DHEA levels tend to decline, but unless
you're carefully calculating DHEA "replacement,"
meaning, you're restoring declining levels to a baseline,
you're interrupting the natural processes that govern the
hormonal cascade. Here's the Catch 22. If oral supplementation
with DHEA actually works to affect hormonal production, then
all of the side effects attached to steroids (which chemically
alter hormonal production) are present. So, if it works, the
risks of liver problems, impotence, hypertension, etc. may
all very well follow. When you play around with hormones the
effects aren't immediate, and there's the trap. If, for example,
you drank five cups of coffee and swallowed a handful of Vivarin
tablets, you'd FEEL IT! The hormonal process isn't exactly
a drug effect. It's a gradual manipulation of the signals
that govern your entire endocrine system. That means the side
effects might not show up for 5, 10, even 20 years. Because
these products weren't even accessible prior to 1994, the
long term research is non-existent.
good news. Most of the new hormonal products don't work! So
why is that good news? Well, it's far better to waste a few
dollars than to jeapordize your health. Unfortunately far
too many people are spending far too much money on ineffective
hormonal products. It didn't end with DHEA. A few years later
the press broke a story that homerun king Mark McGwire was
using a product called "Andro." Nobody really understood
what it was, but it flew off the shelves like crazy! Andro,
more accurately known as androstenedione, is a precursor to
testosterone. That means that somewhere between DHEA and testosterone,
in the chemical conversion process, you create androstenedione
molecules. The marketing positioned the product as a great
testosterone enhancer. After the public grew confused by all
of the sudden publicity for this new product, ESPN pulled
their andro ads. Sales soared even further! Those in quest
of muscle believed that if the professional sports arena was
keeping something from them . . . it must work! The NCAA banned
androstenedione. Sales continued. Recently, some very credible
research revealed a possible truth as it relates to oral supplementation
of andro. In a clinical study, after orally supplementing
with "andro," subjects wound up, not with increased
levels of testosterone, but of estrogen, the female hormone!
If it's truly "safe," it probably doesn't do much
of anything . . . and if it "works" it isn't safe!
Whey Protein is "The Best" Protein for Building
Why Protein is a good protein option. Thanks to marketers
of whey protein supplements with long scientific names (cross
flow ion-exchange blah blah blah) the muscle wanting public
has come to blindly accept that whey protein is "the
best." Interestingly, when I ask the question at seminars,
everyone agrees whey is superior. I then ask the question,
"what's whey?" Rarely does anyone even venture a
guess (something Goldilocks ate with her curds?). That in
itself should illustrate the power of advertising in creating
blind acceptance of rumor as fact. I can answer the "what
is whey" question pretty accurately with two words. Cheese
waste. It's the "leftover" in cheese manufacturing.
in fact a very efficient protein due to its amino acid structure.
It very closely resembles that of human muscle tissue. The
challenge with using a pure whey protein as a supplement lies
not in quality as much as in its propensity for quick gastric
emptying. Whey protein is quickly broken down into small amino
acid chains which repidly leave the stomach and continue along
the digestive tract. The amino acids, once broken into smaller
chains than the configurations of complete proteins, are rushed
into the bloodstream leading to a momentary elevation in serum
amino acid levels. In order to get the most from a whey protein
supplement, it appears that the inclusion of some caseinate
or another slower release protein provides better utilization.
The Atkins Diet is Good For You. It's Been Proven!
A single article was released in the NY Times that took a
mix of opinion and factual information and offered a huge
leap to unfounded conclusions. Written by Gary Taubes, the
article was titled, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat
Lie." Let me expand on it just a little bit. The article
opens by immediately condemning the American medical establishment
for the long time scrutiny of Dr. Atkins. In the same paragraph
Taubes insinuates that the criticisms of Dr. Atkins were unjust
and that Atkins was "right" all along. Let me first
address the issue of "right" and "wrong."
believe the biggest mistake the opposing diet gurus make is
waging all out war, attempting to make it a black and white,
"right" or "wrong" issue. "In this
corner, the low fat diet, in the other corner, the low carb
diet!" The truth is, they both have their virtues and
shortcomings, and if you truly want to master your own body
you owe it to yourself to become educated in precisely how
nutrients are utilized, not only how two nutrients pitted
against each other compare. I know the idea of education isn't
sexy or compelling. That's why people continue to seek out
quick fixes. Education seems like too much work.
want someone to say, "here's what to do," but that's
why our nation suffers an escalating obesity problem. The
dieters are forever following extremes put out by self appointed
gurus hoping the next attempt will be the true solution. The
gurus, through positioning and marketing, attract willing
followers who blindly follow like livestock being led right
off the edge of a cliff, and of course, lots of dollars in
article doesn't indict blind acceptance as the culprit, but
rather the standard dietary recommendations that pervade the
mainstream medical community. Taubes suggests that the premise
of, "eat less fat and more carbohydrates" is "the
cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America."
The most important distinction that needs to be made is one
between "supportive carbs" and "unsupportive
carbs," and the battle fails to address that vital difference.
If someone were to eat a diet low in fat, but in that consumed
vast amounts of sugar and bleached flour feasting on donuts,
white bread, and candy bars, it's not the "low fat"
that's putting them at risk, but rather the high reliance
upon those refined and processed carbs that absolutely contribute
introduces Walter Willett in the article, the chairman of
the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public
Health, pointing out that Willett has been a spokesman for
"the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health
studies ever performed, which have already cost upward of
$100 million and include data on nearly 300,000 individuals."
Taubes quotes Willett as saying the data "clearly contradicts
the low-fat-is-good-health message and the idea that all fat
is bad for you; the exclusive focus on adverse effects of
fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic.''
fat" is simply a piece of the puzzle, and when we are
assaulted with ads for supersizing the already high fat meal
at the convenient fast food restaurants, I believe it's an
important piece, but a piece does not make up the whole. A
proponderance of research suggests, not that "fat is
bad for you," but that "an overabundance of fat
is bad for you," or that "excesses of hydrogenated
and saturated fats can compromise health." There is an
abundance of evidence clearly linking saturated fats to increased
risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease. Even some of the
"evidence" used to dispel the "reduce overall
fat and improve health" idea clearly indicates a difference
when saturated fats are reduced and replaced with more supportive
and biologically active fats.
published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Hu F B et
al (1997), "Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Coronary Heart
Disease in Women" New England Journal of Medicine, 337(21),1491-1499)
tracked women, fat intake, and incidence of heart incident
over a 14 year period. That's a pretty significant study over
a relatively long time period. The conclusions suggested that
replacing saturated and trans unsaturated fats with unhydrogenated
monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is more effective
in preventing coronary heart disease in women than reducing
overall fat intake. That doesn't mean "fat is not a contributor
to heart disease," but instead suggests that it's essential
that we explore the variations in fat intake in order to find
what may in fact be "best." It should also be noted
that the same study led to findings that higher ratios of
red meat to poultry and fish consumption and of high-fat to
low-fat dairy consumption were associated with significantly
greater risk. While this doesn't in any way justify unlimited
bacon, and it is far from a validation of the Atkins Diet
as an ideal, I do agree with a portion of Willet's statement.
One mistake I believe the mainstream doctors have made lies
in purveying the simple message "fat is bad," without
a careful concern for essential fatty acid intake. To indict
"all fats" as evil is no more scientific than the
lump consideration of "carbs" as evil villains.
Another mistake has in fact been the "exclusive focus
on the adverse effects of fat." Again, there's more to
scientific piece, Dietary fat and adult diseases and the implications
for childhood nutrition: an epidemiologic approach, by M Law,
published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (72(5):1291S-1296S
2000) discussed the implications of fat intake in heart disease
and cancer risk. The article suggests that reducing dietary
saturated fat by 7% of energy would reduce serum cholesterol
by 10% and mortality from ischemic heart disease by 25-30%.
It also indicates that dietary change in adulthood, including
reduction in saturated fat intake, may reverse the adverse
health effects of a high-fat diet in childhood.
article repeatedly points out that the obesity epidemic started
around 1980 when "low fat" became dogma. The two
scientific journal articles I just referenced were published
in 1997 and 2000 respectively. What we need to understand
is that as people started seeking "low fat," the
food manufacturers were in a hurry to rush "low fat"
and "fat free" products to the shelves. The primary
ingredient in most of the low fat and fat free snack foods
. . . sugar!
side is inherently "right." With an understanding
of the endocrine system, it becomes clear that simple sugar
intake hinders fat release and facilitates fat storage. That
doesn't stand up as evidence to support "low carb"
as the best path. I have found great success in teaching people
to eat a relatively low fat diet, making certain to obtain
the essential fatty acids, to eliminate simple sugar and refined
carbs, to eat meals combining lean proteins, complex starches,
and fibrous carbs, and to exercise both with resistance and
with aerobic activity. I don't claim this approach to be "the
right way," but I do find that once people develop an
understanding of the distinctions between the various fat
structures and the various carbohydrate forms they become
empowered to trust their instincts and subsist on a sensible
and supportive nutrition program.
component is also paramount. Dieting in any form without a
concern for the stimulation of muscle tissue is likely to
leave a compromised metabolism due to (whether carbs or fats
are restricted) calorie-restriction-induced muscle catabolism.
Aerobic exercise has direct benefits to the entire circulatory
system. A mix of aerobic and resistance exercise in conjunction
with sensible eating will continue to emerge as the consistent
NY Times article does address exercise. Taubes writes, "As
far as exercise and physical activity go, there are no reliable
data before the mid-80's, according to William Dietz, who
runs the division of nutrition and physical activity at the
Centers for Disease Control; the 1990's data show obesity
rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained
unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common."
Just as looking at a single nutrient as a culprit is a flawed
approach to discerning what is "best," looking at
exercise without considering the vital balance between activity
and nutrient intake is going to leave results across the board.
I've discussed in many articles that without a concern for
proper nutrition, it's possible to exercise and lose muscle,
or exercise and slow metabolism over time. That doesn't negate
the fact that a carefully structured exercise program combined
with supportive eating leads to a plethora of health and performance
debate pitting "high fat" against "low fat,"
Dr. Dean Ornish's work can't be ignored. In one study (Ornish
D et al, ‘Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary
heart disease.’, JAMA 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001-7), Dr. Ornish
demonstrated that lifestyle changes in both activity and reduction
in fat intake led to lowered risk of coronary disease. Interestingly,
this 5-year study showed that the risk reversal was greater
after 5 years than after 1 year while the control group continued
to increase risk progressively.
drawn by Taubes and many other proponents of the "carbs
are bad" dictum continuously position a low carb diet
against, not a sensible balance of protein, complex carb,
fiber, and essential fat intake, but against meals including
simple sugars and refined carbs, i.e. "Special K with
low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and toast." How
about comparing the Atkins-endorsed bacon and eggs breakfast
to an egg white omelet with fresh spinach and mushrooms with
a side of oatmeal? Whenever opposing camps contrast one end
of the spectrum against the other, a complete ignorance for
the middle ground emerges, and that's where the long term
solutions for the masses can usually be found. Somewhere in
between the two extremes.
in the article Taubes does discuss the distinction between
saturated fats and foods high in unsaturated fats such as
olive oil. He then, however, jumps to an assumption that this
distinction somehow proves that saturated fats may not be
as deleterious as we've been led to believe. He references
information by Harvard's Willett to say, "you will gain
little to no health benefit by giving up milk, butter and
cheese and eating bagels instead." I agree. But that
doesn't mean that someone who consumed a diet high in whole
milk, butter, and cheese will not benefit by shifting to a
lower fat intake if the eliminated fats are replaced by a
mix of lean proteins and unrefined complex carbs. Taubes includes
the statement, "More than two-thirds of the fat in a
porterhouse steak, for instance, will definitively improve
your cholesterol profile," and then follows that "definitive"
statement with "(at least in comparison with the baked
potato next to it)." Again, Taubes' bias is using the
public's affection for carbs as a tool by which to "prove"
that the fat in steak is actually good for you. It's important
to note that a potato or any starch consumed by itself does
result in a significant change to blood sugar and the inevitable
insulin response that we'd like to avoid, however, when that
same potato is ingested along with a lean protein and some
fiber, the release of the sugar molecules is slowed, making
the reference to "a potato" an variable reference
depending upon the conditions under which that potato is consumed.
agree with Taubes on two points. I believe he offers an important
discussion on insulin and its potential role in negatively
impacting body composition. I discuss this in every single
one of my seminars. I also agree that the "low-fat"
approach has been oversimplified. Neither of those points,
however, give me any cause to alter the feelings I expressed
in my previous article addressing low carb diets (http://philkaplan.com/thefitnesstruth/atkins1.htm).
another quote from the article that leads to a flawed leap
of insinuation, "In the early 70's, J.P. Flatt and Harvard's
George Blackburn pioneered the ''protein-sparing modified
fast'' to treat postsurgical patients, and they tested it
on obese volunteers. Blackburn, who later became president
of the American Society of Clinical Nutrition, describes his
regime as ''an Atkins diet without excess fat'' and says he
had to give it a fancy name or nobody would take him seriously.
The diet was ''lean meat, fish and fowl'' supplemented by
vitamins and minerals." That's very different than "eat
all the bacon and steak you want."
Taubes presented a well researched piece, one that should
certainly open up some important discussions among those who
spearhead nutritional education efforts directed toward the
general public. My criticism is not one of the information
presented, but rather of the opinionated sway toward "Atkins
was right" as opposed to the spotlight being placed upon
the shortcomings of the simplistic low-fat approach. Despite
the reports in the media of an article in the Times proving
the "Atkin's way is the best way" (leave it to the
media to throw our population into utter confusion), the article
does not present actual research that proves the Atkins Diet
is healthful or a long term fat loss solution for the masses.
Those inferences are made with obvious bias. Read the article
carefully and I believe you'll agree. You can find the article
is going to be life changing for those of you who live in
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seminar. It's taking place January 9, 2003, at the Marriott
Marina in Fort Lauderdale from 7 - 10 PM. There are still
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Holly now at 1 800 552-1998.
of you who live on the West Coast, you too can learn the secrets
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in a special one-time event in Manhattan Beach (Los Angeles),
California on October 24! How do you reserve your seat? The
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If you won't be
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the Breakthroughs seminar . . . get the book that shares it
testimonials keep coming.
"Phil, you've given me
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- Daniel Muhalik, Akron, OH
Find info and ordering details
by clicking here.
The Small Group
As many of you know, I've reintroduced
Group workshops and am conducting them in my Miramar Florida
office with the next session beginning Monday, August 6, 2002.
At the time that I'm writing this Update, there's only one
opening left for the August group. If you want to work with
me personally, call for details on this 4-week interactive
program. It's only $249 for the entire four-week course (one
night per week for four weeks).
Of Interest to Fitness Professionals:
New Health & Wealth Newsletter
- the success secret of the fitness elite!
PEAK Weekend is now an international full blown conference
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Holly for details at 1 800 552-1998 (are you sick of me
saying that yet?) or sign
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6/20/02 - Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
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5/11/02 - Miracle GH, What "Works"
3/25/02 - Women on Steroids and More on Core Training
2/15/02 - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Fitness
1/14/02 - Counting Calories
12/28 - 'Twas the Night Before New Years
12/8 - The New Electronic Ab Offerings
12/12 - The "Magic" is Within You
Update 11/20 - Holiday
11/3 - Weight Loss Bread and other Nonsense!
Update 10/29 - Supplement
10/3 - Getting Back to Doing What We Do
Update 9/19 - Tragedy and
Love, RE: Sept 11
Update 8/15 - Myths, Fallacies,
Update 8/1 - The Internet,
Leptin, Steroids, and more
7/9 - The New Supplements
Update 6/14 - Seminar
offerings and clarity on "Brownies"
Update 5/29 - Lose
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Update 5/1/01 - Pizza, Beer, and Fitness
Update 4/7/01 - "Phil-osophies"
and Rip-Off Realities!
Update 4/1/01 - Gourmet Recipes!
Update 3/15/01 - Research Has
Update 3/1/01 - Preparing for
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Update 2/1/01 - Time, Space,
Matter, and Energy
Update 1/15/01 - Atkins hits
Update 10/7/00 - Supplements,
Update 7/27/00 - The Experts
Round Table, Almada, Colgan, Parillo
Update 7/3/00 - Core Training
& Metabolism Boosters
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