FRUIT JUICE VS. WHOLE FRUIT
When most people see the word “fruit”, they think “healthy”. This is true if we are talking about the whole fruit. Whole fruit has a natural layer of fiber that slows down the absorption of sugar. However, drinking fruit juice is actually one of the quickest ways to put on extra pounds. In fact, a single serving of fruit juice contains the same amount of sugar as three and a half donuts and about 150 calories. The lack of fiber and high concentration of sugar you get from fruit juice causes blood sugar levels to quickly spike. This is the feeling you get when you experience a “sugar high”, a quick burst of energy. This spike then triggers the release of the hormone insulin to help the body bring those levels back down. In a nutshell, elevated insulin levels cause the body to store fat. In addition, when blood sugar levels come back down you experience the inevitable “sugar crash” which can sometimes cause hunger pangs, sluggishness, and irritability. Furthermore, when extra carbs are not used as energy they are stored as body fat.
Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat whole fruit. Give your body the fiber it needs and let the sugar from the fruit absorb at the rate it was meant to. Also, consuming protein, healthy fats, fiber, or some combination of all of those along WITH the whole fruit will greatly reduce the impact on your blood sugar levels.
Yours In Health,
THE FASTED CARDIO DEBATE
The jury is still out on whether or not fasted cardio is ideal for burning body fat. The short answer is...it’s complicated. There is research to support that your body can burn up to 20% more fat following a fasted bout of cardio in the morning. This is due to the fact that when you sleep, you are in a fasted state and your body conserves your carb stores. Exercising first thing in the morning when your body is depleted of calories and carb stores forces it to look elsewhere for energy to burn as fuel. If you guessed fat stores, you are correct. However, we also know that your body breaks down amino acids into glucose while you sleep. This means that fasted cardio potentially forces the body to pull from both your fat stores and your amino acids for energy, which can have a negative effect if building and maintaining muscle is your top priority since the body may catabolize some of your hard earned muscle along with some body fat.
My recommendation for those trying to get lean is to add 2-3 days of 15-20 minute bouts of fasted cardio in the morning in addition to your strength-training program. Consume a BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) supplement following the cardio to help offset muscle catabolism. Closely monitor your results for a few weeks and decide whether or not you are getting the results you desire. There are some who swear by it, others who feel strongly that it is counterproductive to building muscle. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Yours In Health,
PROTECTING THE LOWER BACK
You have probably heard the term “engage your core” as it pertains to performing a specific exercise or movement. But what does that really mean? Many people mistakenly equate engaging the core with sucking in the stomach. However, this is the opposite of what you want to do and is potentially dangerous as it actually de-stabilizes the core and disrupts proper breathing.
The goal when engaging the core is to create a solid mid-section, mainly to protect the lower back and other areas from injury. To do this, you must consciously activate the core muscles. The easiest way I’ve found to describe this to my clients is to say, “If I do this…(motioning a quick punch to the gut)...your natural reaction is to do what?”. The natural reaction to a punch to the gut is always to tighten and brace the core to protect it. You are actually pushing the core muscles out rather than sucking them in. So for example, before you perform a deadlift, you need to consciously activate and engage your core before and throughout the movement to protect your lower back.
This can be tricky at first but it soon becomes habit, and it’s a great habit to have considering over 70% of American’s deal with lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Yours In Health,
IF YOU ARE NOT ASSESSING, YOU ARE JUST GUESSING
Tracking your progress is an important part of staying on track with your fitness goals. Keeping a food log, workout log, taking "before and after" photos, recording body weight, body fat, circumference measurements, and personal records (PR's) are all great ways to keep you on track and moving in the right direction.
When first starting a program, you may not see much movement on the scale. Do not get discouraged. It is likely that you are gaining a little muscle and shedding a little body fat. This is the initial phase we all go through when our bodies are adapting to new stimuli. Stick with it.
When tracking body weight, weighing yourself every single day can sometimes do more harm than good. Your body weight fluctuates daily and at different times based on things like fluid, sodium consumption, and undigested food. Minor daily fluctuations on the scale can be discouraging to a person’s weight loss efforts. Instead, weigh yourself once a week in the morning on an empty stomach, wearing minimal or no clothing, using the same scale. Different scales will skew your readings so the scale needs to stay consistent.
Also, the scale is just one tool for measuring progress. Remember, the scale only measures WEIGHT loss. Take body fat readings each week of the month to measure FAT loss. There is a big difference between these two. Look at it like this. Hypothetically, two twin brothers agree to participate in a 6-week research study designed to assess how different combinations of macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) affect body composition. Both twins are put on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, and both adhere to the same workout program. Assuming all things are constant like body weight when starting, and the amount of weight used in the workout program, twin "A" consumes 2,000 calories of Oreo Cookies each day, twin "B" consumes 2,000 calories of lean meats, vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and a fairly low amount of starches and sugars. Assuming twin "A" hasn't had any health complications after 6 weeks (which would be a miracle), their body WEIGHT may be around the same range but who do you think will come out with a lower body FAT percentage? How about just overall better health? The answer to that is obvious.
For body fat readings, if you do not work with a trained specialist such as a certified personal trainer, strength coach, doctor or physician who can take your skin fold readings using calipers to measure specific spots on the body regularly, you can take your own body fat readings using a handheld body fat loss monitor. The most commonly used body fat reader is the Body Logic HBF 306 Body Fat Analyzer. This body fat reader is a handheld device that uses a method called "bioelectrical impedance analysis" to estimate body composition and in particular, body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). I believe most health and fitness professionals would agree that this method is not the most accurate. I think the rate of error is somewhere between +/- 2-3%. So for example, if your reading is 20% body fat, you could be as high as 23%, as low as 17% body fat, or somewhere in between. Obviously not the most accurate, but this is the most practical for most people, so rather than focus on the actual body fat percentage number, focus on the body fat percentage range. If your body fat range is going down each week, you are making progress.
The American Council on Exercise provides the following body fat percentage ranges for men and women:
Description Women Men
Essential Fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-24%
Obesity >32% >25%
Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what these ranges can look like:
In addition, take circumference measurements along with these readings to gauge progress in areas like the waist, hips, thighs, chest, and arms. Again, if you don't work with a certified personal trainer, strength coach, doctor, or physician regularly, you will need someone to take these for you. These can be measured fairly accurately by a spouse, significant other, friend, or any willing participant. You should measure these with minimal to no clothing for the best accuracy. Personally, I used the cheapest tape measure for a few years. Every one of them broke at the tip after a few months. Five broken tape measures in all. I have since moved on to the Health o Meter Digital Tape Measure, HDTM012DQ-69 and am very happy with it. This tape measure gives you a digital reading each time and is also durable and easy to transport.
Small changes can be hard to recognize when you are looking at yourself in the mirror everyday. “Before and after” photos are a great way to go back and compare where you are now to when you started. Make sure you are taking the pictures from the front and side each week. Keep the angles and lighting consistent. This will give you a more accurate picture of changes in body composition.
Below is one of mine. There is a 2-week span between each picture on the left and right. In the photos on the right, I am down from 10.5% to 8.5% body fat, lost 3.5 lbs. of fat, and gained 2.5 lbs. of lean muscle.
Last, but certainly not least, how you are feeling mentally and physically? Do you have more energy? Do you have more peace of mind knowing you could have eaten that pizza and watched that movie but instead you went to the gym? Have you noticed a change in the way your shirts fit? Are your favorite pair of jeans a little too big now? Good, keep doing what you are doing. That’s progress.
Yours In Health,
21 NUTRITION TIPS & 5 SUPPLEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
- Take a multivitamin and a fish oil supplement every day.
- Give your food time to digest and control your portions. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.
- Focus on lean meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and little to no sugar.
- Fad diets do not work. You may initially lose some weight, but in the end, you'll gain it back and more. No fad diet will ever do what a consistent healthy diet does.
- Mix it up. Eat a variety of foods. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, taste the rainbow. Green smoothies are a great way to get a good portion of your fruits and vegetables, phytonutrients, and antioxidants for the day. Green and red supplements are also helpful here.
- Don't be fooled by late night infomercials and weight loss contestant shows. There is a lot of "extra" that you don't see upfront. There are no shortcuts, magic pills, or special pieces of equipment that can replace a healthy diet and consistent exercise.
- If you travel often, bring healthy snacks and meals. Low sugar protein bars, bananas, mixed nuts, and trail mix are all good choices.
- If you have junk in the house, you will eat junk. Don’t buy it. Problem solved.
- Do some sort of exercise each day. Get out and move. Even if that means just walking somewhere rather than driving.
- Prepare healthy meals at the beginning of each week that can be stored in the fridge for easy access later. Quinoa, chicken, and vegetables are all quick and easy to make. This eliminates guesswork or resorting to unhealthy food later because you weren't prepared and pressed for time.
- Try to eat from each food group and do not eliminate a macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, fat) for any reason. A lower-carb diet is what most people need but don't know it. A no-carb diet is what no one needs....don't try it. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy. Cutting them out completely can cause mood swings, hunger, disrupted sleep, and low energy among other things.
- Allow for a few "cheat meals" or a "cheat day" throughout the week. Try to apply the “80/20 rule” to your health. 80% of the time: eat healthy, exercise, and work hard. 20% of the time: live a little. If you’ve put in the work, enjoy something that may not be the healthiest option from time to time, it won't kill you.
- Weigh yourself weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, not everyday. Always do this in the morning on an empty stomach with the same scale to avoid inaccuracies. Do not obsess over the scale. Food and water during the course of the day can add up to 5 lbs. The ultimate goal is to create healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle.
- Don't think that because you had one bad meal, you might as well have a bad day. It happens. No one has a perfect diet. Not even professional athletes. Brush it off and get back on track.
- There are no shortcuts. Don’t be unrealistic. It took some time to put that weight on, it will take some time to get it off. Focus on building consistent habits both with exercise and healthy eating. Be patient. In the beginning, you will trade burned body fat for the muscle you are building. Because of this, you won’t see much movement on the scale. You will, however, notice that your clothes may start fitting a little differently as your body composition changes.
- Avoid soda, both regular and diet. They hold no nutritional value. High fructose corn syrup should be avoided at all costs. There are plenty of studies linking HFCS to obesity, diabetes, and weight gain. In addition, there is nothing healthy about food dyes, chemicals and artificial sweeteners.
- Keep fruit juice to a minimum. It is very high in sugar, which spikes insulin, raises blood sugar, and triggers fat storage. Eat whole fruits and make green smoothies instead.
- Avoid processed foods. They contain all kinds of additives and preservatives. This includes frozen dinners, boxed and canned foods. Eat whole natural foods that have not been altered instead. If there is no label on it, it is probably a whole food.
- Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels. Be conscious of what you are putting in your body.
- Fitness is 70% diet, 30% exercise. You can spend all the time you want in the gym but it is time wasted if you are not eating right. You can't out train a bad diet.
2) Fish Oil
3) Green Supplement
There are plenty of nutritional supplement options on the market but they are not all created equal. Pharmaceutical-grade supplements are of higher quality, contain less contaminants, and go through a more stringent process of regulation. I personally recommend Poliquin Group supplements to all of my clients as I have found them to be the best. For more information, visit my Nutritional Supplements page.
Yours In Health,
Thank you to everyone who voted for me for the Chicago Reader Best Of Chicago 2014 award! I am fortunate to have such awesome clients and fans and appreciate everyone's support!