Get A Sexy Back & Healthy Shoulders By Doing This

For nearly all of us, there is one muscle group that’s often ignore which can keep our backs looking good and shoulders strong.

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With pool, beach, and wedding season right around the corner, most of us are thinking about the implications of showing some skin. For others, our thoughts may rest completely on the thought of keeping our body healthy and pain-free. For nearly all of us, there is one muscle group that’s often ignore which can keep our backs looking good and shoulders strong. And that muscle is….
 
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The Serratus Anterior
The serratus anterior (SA), AKA boxer’s muscle does a lot. When it’s strong, the SA holds scapula (shoulder blade) against the thoracic wall (the rib cage) and rotation of the scapula. But when the SA is weak, it can lead to a forward head posture, winging scapula, subacromial impingement, rotator cuff tears, glenohumeral inferior instability, sternoclavicular joint pain, acromioclavicular joint pain, glenohumeral osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder syndrome, scoliosis, lateral epicondylalgia, kyphosis, thoracic outlet syndrome, headaches, neck pain, and upper crossed syndrome (1,2). Aesthetically, scapular winging can lead some to avoid open back dresses or leaving the shirt on at the pool.
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The Fix
For most people, I recommend some basic thoracic spine mobility drills. If you’re in a rush, some simple thoracic spine foam rolling for about 30 seconds will do in a pinch. As for exercises, the easiest thing you can do is incorporate pushups into your workout routine! Pushups are great for building SA strength when done correctly (3). And while I could write a book on the mistakes that can be made while doing pushups, let’s focus in on how to do them correctly. Keep your hands directly under your shoulders, brace the abdomen, keep your head and neck in neutral alignment with your spine (don’t look at your toes), and emphasize the last little bit of pushing at the end of each repetition. If you are already a proficient pushup pro, there are always fun ways to spice it up a bit like using a stability ball under your feet, BOSU ball under your hands, and performing pushups on an uneven surface.  
 
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Another great exercise is the dynamic hug. In this exercise, you use a resistance band wrapped around your back to increase the resistance of moving your arms forward for a hug. When done correctly, it should look the same as when my wife hugs me after I workout and stink like an old gym sock. Of course, there are dozens of exercises that work wonders for strengthening the SA, but these two exercises are safe, easily modified, and are very effective.
Bottom Line
At the end of the day, most of us exercise for our health and/or to look good in our birthday suits. Hitting the serratus anterior on a regular basis is a great way to accomplish both at the same time. So the next time you’re in the gym if you hear a trainer say “drop down and give me 20” you know it’s for a good reason. 
Resources
1. 4Fayad, F., Roby-Brami, A., Yazbeck, C., Hanneton, S., Lefevre-Colau, M., Gautheron, V.. . Revel, M. (2008). Three-dimensional scapular kinematics and scapulohumeral rhythm in patients with glenohumeral osteoarthritis or frozen shoulder. Journal of Biomechanics, 41(2), 326-332. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2007.09.004
2. Nagai, K., Tateuchi, H., Takashima, S., Miyasaka, J., Hasegawa, S., Arai, R.. . Ichihashi, N. (2013). Effects of trunk rotation on scapular kinematics and muscle activity during humeral elevation. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology : Official Journal of the International Society of Electrophysiological Kinesiology, 23(3), 679-687. doi:10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.01.012
3. Decker, M. J., Hintermeister, R. A., Faber, K. J., & Hawkins, R. J. (1999). Serratus anterior muscle activity during selected rehabilitation exercises. The American journal of sports medicine, 27(6), 784-791.

The Cellulite Fight!

Cellulite is a condition that can be found in 80-90 % of post-pubertal women and attracts a wide range of products and treatments.

Cellulite is a condition that can be found in 80-90 % of post-pubertal women and attracts a wide range of products and treatments (1). Marketers take full advantage of the prevalence of cellulite knowing that women, in particular, will try anything at some point to get rid of it. But what really works? In fact, just what the heck is cellulite anyway? Well, like many questions about the human body, the answer is complicated. But the good news is that I’m here to break it down into smooth elegant terms for you.
 
What Is Cellulite?
Cellulite is really just an accumulation of fat cells close to the skin. But, because the fat cells are arranged vertically and are interspaced by blood vessels that connect two layers of fat separated by a coating of fascia, there can be an appearance of lumpiness at the surface of the skin. Cellulite can start as soon as we are born, but most often develops after puberty. Cellulite appears in women more often because estrogen drives fat cell activity of thigh, buttocks, and abdomen. Additionally, prolactin (the breastfeeding hormone) also makes cellulite more visible because it increases water retention in the fatty tissue. Finally, prolonged periods of sitting or standing may impede normal blood flow worsening microcirculation of cellulite prone areas, and decrease insulin control which increases fat storage (2). 
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What To Do About It
Because cellulite is made up of a layer of fat interwoven between the muscle, skin, blood vessels, and fibrous connective tissue, there isn’t really a way for many therapies to efficiently work to get rid of it. However, there is no shortage of snake oil salesmen out there willing to take advantage of your insecurities. Here are some examples of the garbage people will try to sell you (3):
🤦‍♀️Foam rolling
🤦‍♀️Iontophoresis
🤦‍♀️Acoustic wave therapy/ultrasound
🤦‍♀️Thermotherapy
🤦‍♀️Pressotherapy/Massage therapy
🤦‍♀️Lymphatic drainage
🤦‍♀️Laser therapy
🤦‍♀️Elecrolipophyresis
🤦‍♀️Mesotherapy
🤦‍♀️Supplements to burn the fat – (theobromine, theophylline, aminophylline, caffeine)
🤦‍♀️Supplements to increase micro-circulation – Ivy and Indian chestnut extracts, ginkgo biloba and rutin, pycegnol
🤦‍♀️Antioxidant and immune modulatory supplements – Vitis Vinifera, borage oil
🤦‍♀️Asiatic centella extract aka guta cola
🤦‍♀️Sillicium
🤦‍♀️Topical creams/lotions (4)
So what does work? Well as tricky as that answer may appear to be, it’s really quite simple. Exercise, healthy lifestyle, and pick your parents wisely. Let me break those down for you a little bit more:
Kick your bad habits – decreasing smoking and drinking will ensure that your microcirculation near the skin is at healthy levels.
Exercise – a lack of exercise will lead to increased fat retention, decreased vasodilation, increased weight gain, increased water retention, increased risk of diabetes. All of which worsen cellulite.
Stress less – too much stress can decrease your ability to renew the structural parts of the skin.
Genes – if your mother and grandmother had it, chances are you will develop it, as well.
Hypothyroidism, diabetes, & high estrogen, low progesterone – While these can be passed on genetically, they can also be managed with help from your doctor. Get these issues under control, and you will see your cellulite go away as a bonus!
The bottom line is that we all know someone who has struggled with cellulite. The good news is that there are practical and easy steps that can be taken to help them, or yourself,  manage and possibly eliminate cellulite without wasting boat loads of money on nonsense treatments. As with many other ailments, the first step for most people is to exercise a little bit more. Just another reason to work your butt off at the gym!
Resources
1. Luebberding, S., Krueger, N., & Sadick, N. S. (2015). Cellulite: an evidence-based review. American journal of clinical dermatology, 16(4), 243-256.
2. Khan, M. H., Victor, F., Rao, B., & Sadick, N. S. (2010). Treatment of cellulite: part I. Pathophysiology. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 62(3), 361-370.
3. Adis Medical Writers. (2015). Cellulite: no clear evidence that any type of treatment is effective. Drugs & Therapy Perspectives, 31, 437-440.
4. Turati, F., Pelucchi, C., Marzatico, F., Ferraroni, M., Decarli, A., Gallus, S., … & Galeone, C. (2014). Efficacy of cosmetic products in cellulite reduction: systematic review and meta‐analysis. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 28(1), 1-15.

What Happens To The Body When We Lose Fat & Gain Muscles

How fat loss and muscle gain occur in the body.

 
Fat Loss
When it comes to fat loss, there is a lot to go over. I’ll do my best to keep it simple, short, and sweet. Let’s start with metabolism, which is the energy your body uses to stay alive. This often-used excuse for gaining fat, or as a sales tool, is almost always overstated. In reality, 96% of us will stay within 200-300 calories of the average person’s metabolic rate (2). While doing things to raise your metabolism may seem like a great way to lose fat, in reality, those efforts may largely be meaningless. This is because our body knows that when metabolism is higher, we will need to eat more to recover the calories burned. And that’s why we get hungrier after we go for a run or swim (3). This can be counteracted by having a steady and healthy diet/lifestyle, instead of “going on a diet” for a particular period of time (4).
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Fat loss and weight loss are two completely different things. To lose weight, simply go to the bathroom. To lose fat, you will need to metabolize fat. To accomplish this, an activated fatty acid is oxidized to introduce a double bond; the double bond is hydrated to introduce an oxygen; the alcohol is oxidized to a ketone; and, finally, the four carbon fragment is cleaved by coenzyme A to yield acetyl CoA and a fatty acid chain two carbons shorter (5). Yes, that’s a lot of technical terms. However, what I wanted to demonstrate is that burning fat is not just as simple as applying a magic wrap or using lasers to liquidate the fat. There are a lot of things that need to happen for your body to use stored fat. A combination of diet, training, sleep, stress management, hormones, and other lifestyle factors play an integral part in how much body fat one has (6). 
 
Muscles!!!
Most people workout, in part, to look fit. Your aesthetics are mostly determined by how long your bones are, the length relationship between muscle bellies and tendons, and insertion points. Muscle growth is essential for all sorts of things like bone health, fat loss, and looking great naked. Muscle growth occurs, in part, by resistance training-induced release of inflammatory agents, activation of satellite cells, and upregulation of the IGF-1 system, or at least setting in motion the signaling pathways that lead to hypertrophy (7). Despite what you may hear, everyone is capable of building substantial amounts of muscle (8). I have found that the people who have done the best at gaining muscle:
1. have trained with intensity (adding weight to the bar, increasing total volume, and approaching failure with their training).
2. were very consistent and made training a lifestyle (years of consistent training, not a few months here and there).
3. varied their training over time to help induce new muscle growth stimulus and avoid adaptation and injuries.
4. and were methodical in their approach, meaning they paid attention to rep schemes, tracked their progress, and aimed to improve over and over again.
 
And while I can go on for days about the nuances of exercise and resistance training, I’ll boil it all down to consistency. As long as you are weight training each muscle group at least once per week, you will see improvements. Just lift heavy things, and lift them often, because there is a dose-response relationship (9). So what I am saying is, take the “at least” advice literally and shoot for more. At the end of the day, if you want to gain muscle there are no legitimate “get ripped quick” plans. 
Resources

  1. Klein, A. V., & Kiat, H. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: A critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 28(6), 675-686. doi:10.1111/jhn.12286
  2. Donahoo, W. T., Levine, J. A., & Melanson, E. L. (2004). Variability in energy expenditure and its components. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 7(6), 599-605.
  3. Weise, C. M., Thiyyagura, P., Reiman, E. M., Chen, K., & Krakoff, J. (2015). A potential role for the midbrain in integrating fat‐free mass determined energy needs: An H215O PET study. Human brain mapping, 36(6), 2406-2415.
  4. Dulloo, A. G. (2017). Collateral fattening: When a deficit in lean body mass drives overeating. Obesity.
  5. Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., & Stryer, L. (2002). Lipids and cell membranes. Biochemistry, fifth edition. New York: WH Freeman, 1050.
  6. Müller, M. J., Enderle, J., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2016). Changes in energy expenditure with weight gain and weight loss in humans. Current Obesity Reports, 5(4), 413-423.
  7. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2012). Does exercise-induced muscle damage play a role in skeletal muscle hypertrophy?. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(5), 1441-1453.
  8. Montero, D., & Lundby, C. (2017). Refuting the myth of non-response to exercise training: ‘non-responders’ do respond to higher dose of training. The Journal of Physiology, doi:10.1113/JP273480
  9. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1-10.

You Don’t Know Squat?!

Training the prime movers of the squat is essential for maintaining fitness, a fine physique, and independence into old age. So we ALL need to practice/enhance this skill through exercise.

Squatting is an exercise that we must do everyday. I’m not talking about putting loads of weight on your back and squatting up and down in front of a mirror. I’m talking about the motion itself! We squat when we get in and out of the car, sit down and stand up from dinner or the couch, use the toilet, and in many other daily situations. We squat while doing tasks like picking something off of the ground, getting out of bed, dancing, picking up groceries, and almost any type of athletic movement. Training the prime movers of the squat is essential for maintaining fitness, a fine physique, and independence into old age. So we ALL need to practice/enhance this skill through exercise.
There are dozens of ways that you can squat, and there are hundreds of people who claim to know the “best way” to squat. But for all intents and purposes the squat can be broken down into two basic forms. These two forms are the front and back squat, that can be further distinguished by three basic heights: partial, parallel, and full. Proper form for squatting requires keeping your back flat, heels on the floor, and knees aligned over the feet. And when we talk about the safety of squat variations you don’t just have to consider how far back you sit, how far your trunk leans, or how far your knees travel over the toes; you also have to consider how far you shift forward or backward with the bar relative to the feet, as this influences joint torques considerably. So everything considered, squatting can be very complex. If you want to ensure proper form, it may be worthwhile to seek professional advice.
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Pros And Cons
There are many benefits from squatting in any fashion, but there can also be negative outcomes. The Back Squat is good for increasing tendon, ligament, and bone strength as well as developing speed, power, and strength in the lower back, hips, and knees. The bad news is that it can cause joint degeneration, osteoarthritis and osteochondritis, muscle strains, damage to the ACL, and knee instability.
The Front Squat may be a good alternative for those with knee pain because it is just as effective regarding overall muscle recruitment with significantly less compressive forces on the knees. However, there appears to be no difference between front squat and back squat regarding shear stress on the knee, which is actually fairly low -– a lot lower than, say, knee extensions. Squat depth has been shown to have a significant effect on muscular development at the hip and knee joints. To optimize development of the gluteus maximus (the butt muscles), squats should be carried out through their full range of motion. To target the quadriceps (the thigh muscles), a squat depth of 90 degrees appears to be optimal. Hamstring activation / development are generally unaffected by squat depth. The drawback seems to be that although deep squats seem to be safe in healthy folks, those with PCL disorders should refrain from squatting below 50 to 60 degrees, and those suffering from chondromalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis may also need to avoid deep squats. Where you place the bar can also be a factor. So after a hip injury, high-bar squats should be used at the beginning to minimize the risk of hip overload. After a knee injury, a squatting technique more similar to the low-bar technique should be preferred. Finally, research shows that box squats and powerlifting squats could be “safer” for the low back compared to traditional squats.
From Noob To Pro In No Time
In this section I will go over how to learn to squat correctly for beginners, progressively squat more for novice squatters, and how to kick it up a notch for the squat masters.
Noobies
Before you go out and throw a barbell on your back, consider learning these basic moves first if you’re a beginner.
1. The hip hinge requires flexibility of the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine and stability in the feet, knees, and lumbar spine. Therefore, hitting the foam roller, or using some preparation exercises might be required pre-hip hinge. To perform this motion, start by shifting your body backwards, place your weight through the heels, and keep a neutral spine position. Practice first with hands on the hips, then add the simultaneous movement of both arms straight forward and above shoulder height.
2. Body weight squats are next. Begin by looking at a mirror to ensure your head is in a neutral position with your gaze forward or slightly up, thoracic spine (mid back) slightly straight and mobile, lumbar spine (low back) neutral and stable, hip joints mobile and bending backward behind heels, and knees stable and in alignment with your hips and feet. Additionally, your feet should be at shoulder width, in a neutral position, with your heels are firmly on the floor. Start the squat motion by beginning with a bend in the hip joints, followed by bending knees to the desired depth while ensuring that your trunk angle (from the floor) is stable in each movement phase.
3. Functional squatting exercises are important for us all. So once mobility, stability, and strength have been developed, we can get creative! See the next section for more on this.
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The novice squatter is someone with established form and proper mobility, stability, and strength. If you’re a novice squatter, you should:
1. Begin at the top by training loaded partial squats to the desired sets and repetitions. Gradually increase your range of motion while keeping in mind that the deeper you squat, the lighter the load should be.
2. Start adding more volume by increasing the frequency you squat per week. To keep it simple, squatting 3 times per week with 3 working sets per session for a total of 9 weekly sets will be plenty for the average gym goer.
3. Gradually increasing weight will be inevitable. The general rule of thumb here is to increase your load by no more than 10% each week.
The advanced squat star (squar?) will want to change things up a bit and get jiggy with it. Shake things up by going for exercises such as single leg squatsplyometric squatssquats with a band around your kneessquat burpiespistol squatsgoblet squats, and unstable squats.

Double The Metabolism Mayhem!

Today’s post is a follow up to last weeks discussion where I went over the basics of metabolism science.

Today’s post is a follow up to last weeks discussion where I went over the basics of metabolism science. As we know, our metabolism is complex and there isn’t much we can do to greatly change it. However, today I wanted to talk about how gaining and losing fat can change the way your brain regulates your body weight. This is a complex area because our body composition can be influenced by a myriad of factors including sex hormone levels, macronutrient intake (especially protein), exercise style / frequency / intensity, age, medication use, genetic predisposition, and more. No ones body defies the laws of physics. So if the calories in calories out equation isn’t working for you, it’s because the equation is more complicated than it sounds.
Calories In
This part is easy. You eat food, so you gain calories from that food… right? Well not exactly. For starters we aren’t very accurate at guessing how many calories are in foods. In fact, food labels can be off by up to 20-25%! Secondly, the amount of energy we absorb, store, and/or use isn’t even close to being uniform! For instance, processed foods (cooked, chopped, soaked, blended, etc.) are broken down plant and animal cells, which means we absorb more energy from them. Have a gut feeling that there’s something more to it? Well you’re right! The bacteria in your gut can also influence the amount of energy we take in from foods. In the end, don’t count on counting calories to correctly calculate the quantity of calories converted to energy. Say that three times fast and receive a free high five!
Calories Out
I would first like to make a correction to last weeks post where I stated “with digestion we use a maximum of 43% of energy from the foods we eat.” Although it is true that the thermic effect of eating consists of burning 0–3% from fat, 5–10% from carbs, and 20–30% from protein, these numbers actually only represent roughly 5-10% energy out. The point here remains that meat sweats are real. Protein requires a lot of energy to digest!
As a refresher, our resting metabolic rate (RMR) accounts for about 60% of our calories out per day. But guess what… that figure can be off by about 15%! That means while I’m a 200-pound guy with an RMR of 1905 calories, another guy just like me might burn 286 more (or fewer) calories each day with no more (or less) effort. Tack on variable from the last two sources of energy out (physical activity and NEAT), and now have a 50% disparity between what can be calculated to calories in and out vs. reality. Ultimately the Energy Balance Equation will look like this.
Damage Done
Because our bodies enjoy consistency (homeostasis), it will respond negatively when you restrict your calorie intake. So what happens when you go on a restrictive diet? The thermic effect of eating goes down because you’re eating less. Resting metabolic rate goes down because you weigh less. Calories burned through physical activity go down since you weigh less. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis goes down as you eat less. Calories not absorbed goes down and you absorb more of what you eat. Hunger signals increase, causing us to crave (and maybe eat) more. A rise in cortisol from the stress of dieting can cause our bodies to hold onto more water. Bad things also happen when you over exercise as well. For instance, over exercising can cause an increased appetite and more calories eaten, absorbing more of what we eat, decreased RMR, and decreased NEAT. YIKES! The good new is that losing weight won’t “damage” your metabolism. Your body simply makes adaptations in response to fat loss (to prevent that fat loss, in fact).
The Bottom Line
 – How your metabolism reacts to changes in energy balance will be unique to you.
 – Food labels are way off, so 1,600 calories eaten daily could really be 1,200… or 2,000.
 – By eating a diet rich in whole, minimally processed foods, the number of calories you absorb can be significantly decreased and require more calories to digest.
 – Eating lots of highly processed foods will increase the calories absorbed, burn fewer calories in the digestive process, be less filling, more energy dense, and more likely to cause overeating.
 – Energy out for those who have lost significant weight will always be lower than for people who were always lean, so keep in mind that exercise provides tremendous health benefits and should be done for more than just weight loss purposes.
 – Losing weight, and keeping it off, is accompanied by adaptive metabolic, neuroendocrine, autonomic, and other changes.
 – Even if your body might defend against weight loss, you can still lose weight, gain muscle, and dramatically change your body.
 – TAKE ACTION by eating plenty of protein, eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, quality carbs, and healthy fats, adjust portions as you plateau, or to prevent plateaus, create an environment that encourages good food choices, do a mixture ofresistanceHIITcardiovascular, and recovery activities, find ways to increase NEAT, create a nightly sleep routine and manage your stress, and eat slowly to enjoy your meals and decrease the total amount of calories consumed.

The Importance of Life Changes

You can’t change your past, but you better believe that you can learn from it.

As I celebrate the arrival of my first child, I have had a lot of time to think about how I got here. All of the life events, choices, friendships, decisions, and other influences that I don’t even realize happened. Because as I gaze into my daughter’s precious sleepy eyes, I know that every single decision I’ve ever made since the time I was born has culminated into this moment of pure bliss. I know that I won’t have a great deal of time to spend with her as a newborn so I want to make every moment count. At the same time, I am overwhelmed with excitement to see how she will grow and develop.
Now take a deep reflective look at yourself (in a mirror or otherwise), then take all of the words describing my child, and replace them with your personal health and fitness goals. The paragraph above could be describing your body weight, strength, muscle size, or even something about your general health. And while the core message will remain true, you may not be looking at yourself and be happy or excited about how your goals are growing and developing. You can’t change your past, but you better believe that you can learn from it to make your next look in the mirror blissful.
The “Why”
If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and read the book “Sart With Why.” It’s a leadership book, but it has some great take home messages that get to the core of what can help us feel fulfilled. When it comes to our health and fitness goals, many of us want to get there without making changes. Sure, going to the gym a couple times per week, drinking less, and saying no to candy bars is great. But I can honestly say that in the 7 years I’ve been doing personal training, I can count on one hand the number of people who were willing to exit their comfort zone to get to where they wanted to go. We all fall into these comfortable patterns of daily living that draw us in like warm cozy beds on a cold damp Sunday morning. We may be able to escape for a little bit, but we fall right back in when we get too uncomfortable.

Homeostasis —–> change —–> Chaos —–>Homeostasis

I think that’s why so many people do those 30-day diet/exercise challenges. They know that once it’s over, they can go right back to their comfort zone. The problem is that our end goal motives can be internal behavioral causes, such as instincts, impulses, needs, resolutions and desires as well as external behavioral causes, such as rewards, commendations, approval or disapproval. But the individuals that do the best, are those who are engaged in an activity for the pleasure the process provides (1). So if my goal is to get out of the cozy bed (get in shape), and stay out (stay in shape forever), I’m much more likely to do so if I’m playing with my daughter (healthy habits I like) rather than having to do chores around the house (nonsense health fads like eating kale) (2). When setting goals, the “why” should be something that makes you enjoy the ride.
Past Mistakes
The best lessons in life are learned through error. Whether they are mistakes we make, like leaving out a box of cookies on the table and expecting to have enough discipline not to eat them all by the end of the day. Or learning from others, like not to poke the bear. If you have tried and failed in the past, don’t go about things in the exact same way. It’s the reason why I talk to people on the treadmill at the gym. Typically, people do cardio to lose weight. However, cardio and dieting alone without strength training is a terrible way to lose weight, especially over a long period of time (3). But people try that route over and over again expecting weight loss to come. And when they don’t see that goal come to fruition, they get bummed out and quit for a few months. However, goal attainment is synonymous with behavior change goal feedback and tracking focused on accomplishments, resulting in enhanced self-efficacy for the goal (4). In other words, change what you’re doing (i.e. habits), document the positive results, and be happy with who you are and that you’re progressing!

References

  1. DECI, E. L., & RYAN, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(1), 14-23. doi:10.1037/0708-5591.49.1.14
  2. Wisdom, J., Downs, J. S., & Loewenstein, G. (2010). Promoting healthy choices: Information versus convenience. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(2), 164-178. doi:10.1257/app.2.2.164
  3. Dulloo, A. G. (2017). Collateral fattening: When a deficit in lean body mass drives overeating. Obesity.
  4. Héroux, M., Watt, M., McGuire, K. A., & Berardi, J. M. (2016). A Personalized, Multi-Platform Nutrition, Exercise, and Lifestyle Coaching Program: A Pilot in Women. Internet Interventions.

Metabolism Mayhem!

Almost everyone has heard that our metabolism does… something.

Almost everyone has heard that our metabolism does… something. If you have a high metabolism, you can eat a lot and stay lean. Or maybe, you put on weight just looking at a piece of cake because you have a slow metabolism. But what the heck is the metabolism anyways?!?!?! Well that’s what I’ll be answering today, and I will go over some common misconceptions that I hear all too frequently.
Calories enter your body one way (om nom nom!), but there’s many ways for them to leave it. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) accounts for 60–70% of daily calories burned and included doing things like breathing, thinking, filtering waste. You know… bodily functions required for living. However, your BMR can be subject to many things including your size, composition (body fat%), age, genetics, hormones, and health status. This means even the most accurate way of calculating your metabolic rate (Mifflin-St Jeor equation), can still be about 10% off! Other ways we burn calories include food thermogenesis (digestion) which accounts for 10% of daily calories burned, and physical activity which accounts for 20% of daily calories burned.
Magic Bullets
For health “Guru’s” each area of metabolism is a way to sell a particular magic bullet for fitness or weight loss. But magic bullets don’t exist, so here are a few common myths that have cropped up over the years.
More Meals = More Metabolic Burn – The thought behind this is that if we burn calories by eating, then eating more frequently will burn more calories. While this, in part, is true, it is also very far off point. This is because to help with digestion we use a maximum of 43% of energy from the foods we eat (0–3% from fat, 5–10% from carbs, and 20–30% from protein). In short, eating more frequently means we are doing nothing more that increasing the total amount of calories we eat throughout the day. So if your goal is weight loss, this myth is busted.
I Moved More = I Eat More –  This may be the worst myth because it creates a bad habit! While movement is about 20% of our metabolic demand, only a small portion of that (7-9% daily) comes from the gym! This means if you reward yourself for going to the gym you are doing nothing more than consuming more calories than burned. Most of the calories burned from moving are from doing NEAT things like walking, doing chores, and even fidgeting.
More Muscles = More Food – Another common myth is that as you grow more muscles you burn significantly more calories. Again, a partial truth that has been blown out of proportion by the likes of Dr. Oz, fitness magazines, and other nonsense peddlers. They have claimed that 1 pound of muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day. In reality, a pound of muscle burns 6 calories a day at rest and a pound of fat burns about 2 calories a day. So getting shredded doesn’t mean you have the luxury of eating everything in sight!
Fat Burning Exercise = Weight Loss – As we exercise our body metabolizes fuels like carbohydrates and fats. Someone had the great idea to start burning fat instead of carbs to lose weight! But that’s not how it works. Our fuel source for exercise doesn’t matter at all if you are eating more calories than you are using on a daily basis. So don’t pay any attention to the “fat burn” settings on the cardio machines or fat burning supplements. Just make sure you are working hard to burn as many calories as you can while exercising!
Taking Metabolic Actions
Before you get too down on yourself and think there is nothing that you can do to help stay metabolically fired up, there are a few simple ways to “boost” metabolism. The first thing you can do is simply move more. Take the stairs, park far away, exercise regularly, even standing more will boost your metabolism throughout the day. My second tip is to eat more protein. This simple action will increase thermogenesis as well as muscle mass which are two small things that when put together will have enhanced results. But more importantly, increasing total amounts of protein will make you feel fuller more quickly/longer which will decrease your total caloric intake! Finally, having the perspective of “you lose weight in the kitchen, you gain health in the gym” will help you avoid scams and place focus on the things that are most important.