Lifting For… Losses

Lifting for gains (muscle/strength) can also equal losses.

Today I wanted to talk about getting shredded to lose weight. Because I know everyone is concerned about how they are going to burn off all that BBQ they will be eating this weekend! So that’s why I wanted to talk about why lifting for gains (muscle/strength) can also equal losses.
But first, a clarification. Weight loss is not the main topic of today’s post. Why? Because weight loss can be achieved through amputation, osteoporosis, stomach flu (though intestinal parasites will do in a pinch), coma, chemotherapy, shaving all your hair off, lobotomy… you get the point. Weight is not a great indicator for health or fitness, so what we are really talking about is fat loss. Because we all know muscle weighs more than fat, we know that weight may go up while your pant size goes down. This is why all of my clients take more pride in their bio-electric impedance (fat mass) numbers rather than the numbers on the scale. They know that their body composition (lean mass compared to fat mass) is what’s really important.
Old-School
The old-school way of thinking was that low intensity cardio burns fat, therefore you lose fat. But we now know that this just isn’t true. Without getting into science nerdy stuff too much, burning fat only means your using fat as fuel source. And unless you’re an ultra marathon runner,this doesn’t really matter. Although cardio is beneficial in many ways, it won’t do a great deal to help you lose fat. Oh and fasted cardio? Well… listen to this podcast that reflects my thoughts on this ridiculous practice.
Why Weight Lifting is Better
Picking up and putting down heavy things does more than you know. It places large amounts of stress on not only your muscles and tendons, but your bones and nervous system as well. Everything has to adapt to stress. As a result of this adaptation, your muscles will store more myoglobin (sugars), bones will become more dense, and your body will know to send more blood to these areas to help with the repair/replenishment of nutrients. Although your weight may go up a bit from these adaptations, it in turn means your metabolism grows as your muscles do! So class. What do we burn when we are at rest and our metabolism is high? Fat! This scenario is how we lose fat. Research continues to show that placing greater amounts of metabolic stress (like weight training) will result in greater fat loss and muscle gains.
Where To Start
Now for some of you, I know that the thought of weight lifting is daunting. Images of bench pressing meat heads may even be dancing around in your mind. But getting started on a weight lifting program doesn’t mean you need to learn how to grunt like an animal while squatting. What is important, however, is that you get started and stay consistent. Here are some key thoughts on how to do this:
Make the Process Fun – Experiment around the gym. Find what you like to do, then do it. It’s that simple.
Set Mini Goals – Long term goals progress slowly. To avoid going crazy, set short term goals as well. It can be as simple as doing a real push up by the end of the month.
Have An Accountabilibuddy – Nothing gets you in the gym as easily as a buddy. It’s much harder to say “no” when there is someone to push you along the way.
Don’t Get Carried Away – The “more is better” approach is rarely a good thing. Layer things on slowly and you will stay sane and injury free.
Feeling stressed out? Who isn’t these days?! Check out this link for tips on how to train when stressed.
Final Thoughts
I’m not saying cardio is bad by any means. In fact, it should be a part of your training program. But if your trying to look strong and/or lose weight, it should not be the main strategy. It’s also important to remember that everyone will react differently to resistance exercise. There is no magic bullet to all of this. Make sure you are placing the big rocks first and results will come. A high protein diet and consistent metabolic stress from resistance training will get you the results. Just be patient and keep the faith and you will see your body composition change! Still need help getting started?

Working Well and Living Easy

Strategies focused on how to stay healthy and productive, particularly for those of you who sit at a desk all day.

Today we are talking about a few strategies focused on how to stay healthy and productive, particularly for those of you who sit at a desk all day. For those of you who have won the lottery (aka retired), you will undoubtedly gain some knowledge from this post as well. So lets dive into how your daily activities, nutrition, and exercise routine can enable you to live life to the fullest!
Get Up
Sitting for long periods of time is almost inevitable for most people these days. And with prolonged sitting being touted as the new smoking (without the bad breath), it’s important to find ways to unplant yourself from your chair. Sitting has been shown to increase the likelihood of high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, back pain, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, herniated lumbar disks, colon, breast and endometrial cancers and more. If you find yourself saying, “I exercise regularly so this doesn’t apply to me” you’re wrong! Research shows us that even with exercise, those who sit for long periods of time are still at risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular events. So here are some ways to elevate your health, decrease the likelihood of back pain, and boost your productivity at work!
  1.  Use standing desks, or better yet, treadmill desks
  2.  Walk across the building to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email
  3.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  4.  Walk outside the building a few times each day
  5.  Hold meetings while walking
  6.  Create a competition in your office to become more active and lead a healthier lifestyle
Nutrition KISS
I’m a big fan of keeping it super simple (KISS). When it comes to being busy at work all the time, the best way to stay healthy and/or lose weight is to plan. This is due to the fact that counting calories, points or macro-nutrients can be a real pain. So when it comes to your food, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning. The first thing you need to do is plan your meal frequency. It may seem silly, but if you don’t do this first step then you may find yourself eating out at a fast food joint because you didn’t account for a meal. Up next we can dig in to planning your protein at every meal, your snacks (if you have them), your veggies at every meal, your fruit, your carbohydrates, and your treats. Along with ensuring that you’re using proper portion size and a meal prep routine, you may want to consider using ONE of these tips as well:
 – If you’re eating a whole food carbohydrate source at each meal, adjust this first.
    *This can mean going from 2 servings per meal to 1 serving per meal.
    *This can also mean eliminating the carbohydrate source from 1 meal per day.
 – If you’re eating a snack, eliminate it.
 – If you’re eating 3 meals, reduce your meals to 2. Or perhaps 2 meals and a snack.
 – If you’re eating a fattier protein source at one of your meals, change it to a leaner protein source.
Finally, we come to hydration. Now this might seem like a no-brainer, but your hydration level can have a large impact on your work life. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, tiredness, headaches, as well as declines in cognitive performance, eye-hand coordination, word recognition, visual attention, and of course physical activity. So make sure that your urine is a healthy color (see below) and check out this link to see how different beverages can influence your hydration level.
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Back to Work
It’s no secret that exercise is good for you, and there are plenty of ways to go about it. But when it comes to those who sit too much, there are many things that you can do aside from getting those 10k steps in a day. This is particularly true for those with back pain, because we know that the special chair that you sit in, and those orthotics you’re wearing aren’t as beneficial as exercise. Aside from a specifically targeted stretching and strengthening program, some of the best moves you can do are these:

Losing Weight = Loose Wallet?

A few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!

Today I wanted to talk about losing weight on a budget. Because cutting a few Lb’s shouldn’t mean you need to cut a few goodies off of your wish list. So here are a few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!
Harness Your Inner Boy Scout
Be Prepared is a Boy Scout motto that I will never forget. It just so happens to be the first tip! Planning and prepping your meals ahead of time means you wont have to spend extra money by stopping for fast food (costly on the wallet and calorie budget), stopping for groceries while hungry (worst idea ever), or saying “screw it!” and just eating whatever junk you have laying around the house (unless you’re in college, a bowl of cereal for diner is not acceptable). There are dozens of ways to meal prep. To get started check out herehere, and here.
Frugality Does Not = Cheapskate
Buying groceries on a budget does not mean you need to buy the cheapest foods. In fact, paying a little more to buy potatoes instead of potato chips will save you money in the long run! When we spend a little bit more in the produce section, we receive the gift of nutrients(vitamins and minerals) in return. And what happens when we feed ourselves nutrient dense foods? We reduce our cravings for junk, we feel fuller longer, and we consume fewer overall calories! Check out some of these recipes for holiday foods that taste as great as their nutritional value.
Don’t Become a Potato Because You Can’t Be a Ninja
We spend our entire lives getting to the fitness level we are at right now. So don’t become a couch potato because you don’t look the way you want to right now! Gymtimidation is a real thing… for everyone. At some point we have all seen someone at the gym and said to ourselves “I wish I looked/performed like them.” The key is to use this potential barrier as motivation, and NOT letting it weigh you down to potato town. This means you can’t set unrealistic goals and lack patience, lack social support, lose your motivation/desire, or focus too much on the end goal.
Losing weight on a budget is like anything else. To look and feel a little bit better you need to plan/budget/exercise a little bit better. Take the cost of getting lean in stride, and you will do just fine.

Our Intellectual Hubris

How challenging our assumptions can change our mindset, save us money, and make us healthy!

Today I wanted to tackle a tough subject. Challenging our thoughts and beliefs, specifically when it comes to health and wellness trends. This is a tough subject because it requires us to admit we are wrong, and sometimes our ego’s just can’t handle it. However, it’s an essential requirement for us to grow as people. So lets take a look at how challenging our assumptions can change our mindset, save us money, and make us healthy!
Know That You Don’t Know
Science is constantly evolving and informing us of new and exciting things. Because what we think we know today will inevitably be challenged tomorrow by some new research. The key to keeping up is to not get dug in on any “one true method” of doing things. This can be tough because our mind hates uncertainty, and randomness and needs to make connections even when there are none because it has a need for order and control. So when you get all of your information from one source, there comes an asymmetry of input (what you believe versus what you choose not to) that creates ‘gaps’ in your knowledge. Your brain automatically fills these gaps based on your prior learning andBOOM you get suckered into a cult. So lets take a moment to “snap out of it.”
Step 1 Take Responsibility – When you start taking responsibility for your own goals (learning, health, fitness, etc.) you also give yourself the power to make changes. We consume the outputs of scientific inquiry like we consume everything else: through a filter of emotion, bias and personal connection. So as long as it’s somebody else’s fault, (i.e. “Dr. Oz said so, so it must be true”) you’re going to keep making excuses to justify why you’re doing, or not doing, things.
Step 2 Call Yourself Out – You need to call yourself out and make sure that what you’re saying/doing isn’t just some nonsensical story you’ve crafted to avoid the hard things in life. There is no magic bullet. Fat burning pills won’t make you skinny. What you learn today probably won’t be true even a year from now. This means you need to recognize your biases, as seen in the picture below, to be able to make a move in the right direction.
Step 3 Be Authentically You – Not being afraid to be you, the real you. Not some manufactured ‘me-too’ edition of somebody else, so you can fit into some arbitrary clique you’ve been told you should be a part of. Don’t assume that doing what everyone else is doing is going to make you look, feel, or be like them. Doing what the bull (e.g. a body builder) does, won’t change the fact that you’re a llama (e.g. a runner).
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When to Build, When to Burn
We determine the importance of information quickly and subconsciously, rather than through a conscious process of deliberative and slow reasoning. So it’s inevitable. You’re going to realize that because a snap decision was made years ago, a person, book, method, or way of doing things is no longer the golden nugget you once thought it was. For instance, we used to KNOW that eggs, fat spreads, potatoes, dairy, and raw nuts were bad for you. However, we now realize that all foods fit into a healthy diet, and perhaps more importantly, enthusiastic consumption of one particular “superfood” can be worse than consuming a so called “food villain!” What I’m getting at is that we all need to take a look at what bridges need to be burned and to start building new ones to the right places as more information comes to light.
The question now becomes “how do I separate the wheat from the chafe?” This is a toughy because you have people out there like David Wolfe, the Food Babe, and Dr. Mercola who spew nonsense but appear to be legit. The keys to their success are that they look “good,” they communicate well and are charismatic, they’re marketing machines, they seem knowledgeable, and they seem experienced. But being scientific and fact driven are not high on their priority lists. Here is how to recognize their pseudoscience garbage:
Translate their message into ordinary language, thereby assuring that what the claim asserts is a logical concept, rather than just a collection of jargon.
In doing this, you will know whether you have been taught an idea or you have only taught a definition.
Practical Application
The goal of this post is to get you to challenge your current belief system, and know how to look for good information. Because knowing what science is will truly benefit us all. What we know today is a reflection of what we have learned and experienced in the past. The problem here is that our memories suck! We all have a distorted and constructed memory of a distorted and constructed perception, both of which are subservient to whatever narrative our brain is operating under. Our malleable memories, combined with confirmation bias, are a key factor in the Dunning-Kruger effect, the inability to perceive one’s own incompetence in a given area.
So here are key takeaways to attaining competence.
 – Challenge what you know, because not even the practice of washing your hands isn’t immune from scrutiny. So if you’re going to read junk like The Grain Brain that’s completely fine. Just be sure to challenge that view by reading The Gluten Lie.
 – Don’t just read the words, understand the meaning behind them. This means that just because something is labeled as “organic” don’t automatically assume that it’s better, or even good, for you. Translate the message (in this case “organic is better”) into ordinary language to fully appreciate the value.
 – Ditch the dogma. I hate the term “clean eating.” It’s an over-hyped theory, an absolutely meaningless term, and can actually be detrimental. It’s a term used in many dogmatic diets and is used by many knuckle head guru’s.
 – Be reasonable, don’t retaliate. People squabble over the silliest of things. So instead of digging into your position, be reasonable and take a firm look at the opposing argument. Yes, reasons can be given as to why insulin will cause obesity, but research shows there’s far more to it than that, and that it’s simply not true. Sure slow and steady weight loss has been shown to be very effective for keeping off weight, but rapid weight loss can also work under the right circumstances. Don’t agree? Find out why these statements might be right before you go saying they are wrong.
 – Don’t just go along with the herd. Our actions are largely influenced by those around us. So do your best to break away from the herd to take a closer look at what’s going on. Because starving yourself won’t help you get skinny, weight loss “hacks” aren’t always helpful, and thatexpensive grass fed beef everyone is raving about isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Pain In The Neck

The neck is really designed to balance the 10- to 14-pound pumpkin that sits on top of it. The problem arises when your head starts to drift forward.

One thing I take pride in, and greatly enjoy, about my job, is my ability to see dysfunction postures and movement pasterns. So this week I wanted to discus an issue that I see far too often these days. This issue is the forward head posture. So while you read this weeks post, make sure you sit up straight!
The Issue
The Cervical spine, the neck, can bend forwards, backwards, to the side, and rotates. It’s made out of seven vertebrae and dozens of muscles, both large and small. Some of these muscles never rest when you’re upright, otherwise your head would fall to your chest! The neck is really designed to balance the 10- to 14-pound pumpkin that sits on top of it. The problem arises when your head starts to drift forward. This is because for every inch the head juts forward, the neck takes on a load equal to roughly 10 additional pounds. In turn this can lead to neck pain, stiffness, cervical muscle strains, headaches, dizziness, early onset arthritis, decreased lung capacity, and pain or weakness in parts of the body that lie below the cervical spine.Yikes!
How Did I Get This Way 😥
By now I assume you’re all sitting up straight in your chair like Hermione Granger in class. But in reality, this posture develops over a long period of time. Most commonly, people who work long hours at a computer, professional drivers, cyclists, runners, baseball players, cell phone addicts, musicians, chefs, surgeons, dentists, and other people who lean over their work are likely to develop a forward head posture.
What To Do About It
So by now you should be able to tell that this issue doesn’t just develop over night. So don’t be a Goober and think simply sitting up straight more often will fix it. You spend your whole life getting into the posture that your in, so you will need to take a few more steps to overcome the postural dysfunction. The first step is to see a doctor if you’re experiencing numbness, pain that radiates toward the shoulder or arm, or a loss of strength in the arms or hands. If you don’t have any of these medical concerns then you can try stretching and foam rolling the thoracic spine, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and upper trapezius to start. Next, you need to be mindful of the muscles that are working during your exercise. If you’re doing a shoulder raise, but feel the muscles in the upper traps firing up, you will need to make adjustments to what you’re doing.

Cultivating Mass

The WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise.

Today I want to talk about the WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, play sports, prevent/recover from injury, or even sport a bikini this summer, gaining muscle mass is critical.
 
Why
Building muscle is critical, especially as we age. Building, and maintaining, muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult as the dreaded sarcopenia starts to set in. So starting the muscle building process as soon as possible will do several great things now and for your future self. It will keep us looking and feeling young, increase our confidence, boost our sports performance, ramp up our metabolic rate (although not significantly), and promote bone health. This last point of bone health is particularly important for women as they are more susceptible to poor bone health with age. It’s crucially important for females to lift heavy weights and knock this “toning” crap out. Trust me, you won’t get “too bulky” or “manly” if you lift heavy. So before you move on to the next part I want you to do three things that I hope will get you inspired. Write down all the things you wish you could do, if you were fitter. Write the obstacles that are keeping you from getting there. Write down how you’re going to get around those obstacles.
 
How
The first thing you need to do is just start lifting things that are uncomfortably heavy. It doesn’t even have to be at the gym. Just start taking in groceries instead of having your husband do it (cough, my wife, cough), moving furniture, or even doing some body weight squats at home. 
The second thing you need to do is make a plan of attack. This is a crucial step for several reasons. Making and sticking to a set schedule will ensure you don’t suffer an over use injury. It also ensures you know what your weaknesses are. If you don’t know proper technique well maybe getting some professional help is in order. If you realize that you exercise schedule is missing a muscle group well then you can now make a place for it. More on this step later.
The third thing you will want to do is look at your exercise selection. This is where it gets tricky. Your exercises need to suite your goals, your fitness level, your skills/abilities, and should be enjoyable. In general, I recommend using compound movements and super sets for a quick efficient workout. For beginners this means you may want to start with partial movements (i.e. half squat/wall squat) to master technique. And of course if you’re looking to shake things up there’s always wild and crazy exercises out there to try.
< 18 years: 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body weight
19-40 years: 0.8-1.1 grams per pound of body weight
41-65 years: 1.1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight
> 65 years: 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
 
Dos and Don’ts 
Here is my final list of some things to maximize your exercise efforts, and some things that are not so wise.
DO
Focus on progressively increasing our performance on a handful of movements, and actually track your performance. Consistency is literally the king of gains.
Base your training on big compound movements. For each lift, figure out which muscle is holding you back and add isolation or assistance work for these weak points.
Change the specific exercises/make slight variations often. Do this by either varying grip, stance, bar type, or the conditions you’re performing the lift in (tempo, pauses in the movement, using chains, etc.).
Aim to train muscle groups 2 to 4 times per week.
Just get into the gym. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go, just get it done.
DON’T
Bro split your routine (i.e. only training muscle groups once per week).
Put an unnecessary time-cap on your workout.
Train every muscle the same/train every muscle directly.  Not all muscles respond best to the same type of stimulation.
Do more than four intense sessions per week.
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The Tangled Web Of Weight Gain

It seems like there is a new diet fad, fitness guru with a crack pot scheme, or nonsense nutrition plan for weight loss that comes out every week. The majority of people because they are restrictive, often scientifically unfounded, and/or don’t address individual needs.

This week I wanted to bring some perspective to the nationwide weight gain crisis. With nearly 1/3 of Americans being classified as obese, and less than 3% able to maintain essential healthy habits, there are fingers of blame being pointed in many directions. So what’s really to blame? HA!!! Trick question! There’s a web of causation with dozens of tangled and intertwined reasons for weight gain. The picture below shows just what I’m talking about. Because I don’t want to write a book today, I’m not going to break down each of the 15 categories and their factors. Instead, I’m going to elucidate a few of them that I believe are under appreciated.
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Increased Intake
I’ll start with the category that’s the most obvious, and yet least properly addressed. It seems like there is a new diet fad, fitness guru with a crack pot scheme, or nonsense nutrition plan for weight loss that comes out every week. As a side note, one of my personal heroes of the industry, Alan Aragon, wrote a magnificent piece on this issue last week. Getting back on point, these plans simply don’t work for the majority of people because they are restrictive, often scientifically unfounded, and/or don’t address individual needs. There are just too many things to take into account for a “one size fits all” diet plan to address. For instance, depending on how well you picked your parents (your genetics), the amount of a chemical in your mouth called amylase will play a huge roll in your body’s ability to process carbohydrates! We also need to consider things like age, gender, mental/physical diseases, social norms/demands, economic status, and even advertising. Here is a list of other factors that contribute to overeating, and what you can do about them.
1. You’re not eating often enough – Don’t let your tummy be empty for too long. Eat something every 3 or 4 hours.
2. You’re not getting the right balance of nutrients – Aim to eat more fiber, protein, and a little healthy fat to stay satisfied.
3. You’re eating too many simple carbs and sugars – Knock it off with the white bread, pasta, bagels, and pastries!!!
4. You’re dehydrated and confusing thirst for hunger – Drink more water to eat less.
5. You’re stressed – Stress = Cortisol = hunger. Try yoga/meditation or some of these practices
6. You’re not paying attention to what you’re eating – When shoveling it in, you essentially forget you already ate. So, eat mindfully.
7. You’re not getting enough sleep – Sleep = hormonal control = appetite control. 
8. You have an underlying medical condition – Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, depression, and anxiety (along with some medications) can mess with appetite. 
 
Decreased Expenditure
We know that it’s not as simple as calories in calories out, but if you’re not doing anything to bump up the number of calories going out then that’s certainly an issue. The good news is that exercise is not the best way to lose weight. The bad news is that exercise is an absolute MUST DO. And we have all encountered those days where exercise seems like an impossible task. But as another one of my favorite fitness authors James Fell puts it “Don’t view an hour’s worth of exercise as something where you need to find the motivation to make it through that entire hour. In most cases, you only need the motivation for those first five minutes.”
When it comes to weight loss, the most important thing to do is to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t make  excuses to get out of doing what you need to do to get/be better. Take a step back and be honest with yourself about what you say you’re doing, and what you’re actually doing to achieve greatness. If you’re aimlessly going about your health goals, or need to figure out great goals, here’s what I want you to do NOW before you read on the last section.
1. Turn “outcome goals” into “behavior goals” – Outcome goals are how we want things to be at the end of the process. Behavior goals focus on the things we have control over, and represent your commitment to practice a set of actions or tasks every day as consistently and regularly as possible. Here’s how to break goals into skills; skills into practices.
2. Turn “avoid goals” into “approach goals” – Saying “don’t” or “stop” in the goal setting phase means you’re telling yourself to stop doing something which almost guarantees you’ll keep doing it. Approach goals are about adding and enjoying “good stuff”, and pulling yourself toward something desirable (and quietly pull you away from something you’re trying to avoid).
3.Turn “performance goals” into “mastery goals” – With performance goals means you’re looking for external validation which can be incredibly demotivating if they don’t work out. Mastery goals emphasize the process of getting a little bit better each day, the joy of learning, and feeling good about your own personal progression.
 
What To Do Next
The crux of all of this is creating positive behavior changes. When it comes to nutrition, try using this check list to make a sweeping change of your home and re check it a month later to make sure you’re adhering to your positive changes. When it comes to exercise, no matter how you feel, get your fanny to the gym and if you’re not full of energy after the first 5 minutes then reconsider your exercise strategy. If in a month from now you’re not making the progress you want you may need to think about 3 keys to mental toughness.
1. “Complete or kill” – If something is important to you, complete it. If not, kill it.
2. If you commit to nothing, you’re distracted by everything – Do you make time for your goals above all else? Do you organize your day around accomplishing them? If you commit to nothing, then you’ll find that it’s easy to be distracted by everything.
3. It doesn’t matter how long your goal will take—just get started – Don’t let the length of your goals prevent you from starting on them.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
—H. Jackson Brown
 
As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this week’s subject. If you have any questions or tips related to the post, or suggestions for future topics, feel free to contact me any time. As always, I’m here to help. So if you need answers to your exercise program, nutrition plan, or wellness issues, please don’t hesitate to ask!