Vegetarian, Vegan or meat eater? Or should I say herbivore, omnivore or straight carnivore? What's your meal plan? Why? Morals? Health? Trend? Do you find spending $8 on a glass of pressed kale, celery and ginger juice as opposed to eating a can of tuna fish and a couple boiled eggs is making you stronger, leaner and faster?
As a trainer I find these question to be very intriguing and I’m constantly asking my clients and other trainers what their answers are and why. Personally, I am not a Vegetarian. I tried in once to no avail, tuna fish finally did me in. I find that consuming fish and organic chicken on a daily basis with beef thrown in maybe once a week along with copious amounts of a variety of vegetables to be my diet of choice. But I respect anyone who has the cojones to stick with a vegetarian diet, it’s not easy!
But, am I wrong in my food choices? Could I be doing better on a vegetable only diet? Can I get my protein? Will I live longer? Be healthier? Happier? Well, before we get into these question let's explore exactly what a vegetarian is.
First, we should begin by categorizing vegetarians, here are a few of the more common types:
Lacto-vegetarians (dairy is allowed)
Pescatarians (fish is allowed)
Lacto-ovo vegetarians (dairy and eggs are allowed)
Vegans (no animal products of any kind) Technically, the term vegan refers to more than just the diet alone. A vegan is a vegetarian who avoids eating or using all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, any foods containing by-products of these ingredients, wool, silk, leather, and any nonfood items made with animal byproducts. Some vegans even avoid honey (?!).
Now let's look at the three types eaters in the animal world and their metabolic systems.
Carnivore: Eating high concentrations of protein (meat) has evolutionary benefits for Carnivores. Meat serves as an efficient way to build a lean muscular body and to economically replenish lost muscle tissue. Carnivores usually have lean, fast moving bodies, good for running down or overpowering prey. They have short digestive tracts, good for quickly eliminating unnecessary mass and allowing a high-muscle, low-fat balance. Humans do not fall into the carnivore group. Lions, tigers and salmon do, that’s right, salmon.
Herbivores (vegetarians), on the other hand, need longer intestines to break down and assimilate tough-to-break-down plant fibers. This means that the food stays in the gut for long periods of time. Most herbivore mammals have higher fat concentrations than carnivores and they don't have the speed compared to carnivores. Just observe the large bellies of the great apes, and ruminants (oxen, cattle, sheep, etc.), and you will see how obese they seem compared to hunter-carnivores. Humans do not fall into the herbivore group either.
Homosapiens, of course, fall into to the omnivore class. Through natural selection we evolved the teeth of omnivores, good for grinding grain, stripping leaves, and eating meat. We have long intestines (somewhere between carnivore and herbivore intestinal tracts), and a digestive system that will break down both acidic and alkaline based foods (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, also have an omnivore diet (not only do they eat plants and fruits but they hunt and eat monkeys, for example).
So this is all good and fine, we know what a vegetarian is, what an omnivore is...great! Now which is healthier?
As someone who looks at himself as a body-builder, let's explore what it would take for me to be a vegetarian body-builder. Above is Luiz Freitas (pardon the stretched pictures), world Amateur Champion IFBB body builder. I found an article about him that was very interesting but, the article is written by 'Vegetarians-dominate-meat-eaters' so, needless to say it was bias. But the gist of the article goes like this: ‘Protein in it's original source is derived from plants and then converted through the metabolic process into muscle (protein) from an animal who consumes it, we then consume that animal and it’s ‘second hand’ protein and fat’. In his statement he claims by being a vegan he eats what he calls the 'Origin' of protein instead of the 'Sloppy seconds' that he says meat eaters get. This broad statement isn’t entirely true as some fish, particularly salmon are carnivorous animals, pigs and chickens are omnivores as well. He goes on to state that there are female hormones that are naturally found in red meat, like progesterone, melangestrol, and estradiol. So, in consuming these hormones it has left meat eaters with slumped shoulders and flabby bellies. He then goes on to quote eating soy, quinoa and beans and rice as his goto for protein. However, soy is loaded with estrogen (another female hormone) not to mention most soy is GMO (genetically modified organisms), and all of these protein sources are packed with carbohydrates. So, needless to say, I found his argument a little weak.
After looking at the picture of the vegan body builder for a few minutes I couldn't help but notice that his mid section is a little wide for a world class body builder (he's a body builder, so I can be hyper-critical).
Now, let’s look at an Omnivore body-builder. I went for a ‘Natural’ body-builder as opposed to a roid-builder. Above is Kenyatta Wilson, in his article he says “I'm naturally lean & eat healthy year round. I get my proteins from boiled eggs, steak, salmon, tuna, chicken breast & protein shakes. My only sources of carbs are from brown & white rice, oatmeal, fruits & vegetables. My fat source comes from egg yokes, almonds & peanut butter. Dieting is never a big deal for me during competition time b/c I keep my diet clean all the time. I normally have one cheat day per week”.
Here you can clearly see the difference in waist size. The gentleman on the right has a Y shaped torso, leaner through the waist as his back fans out toward the shoulders. However, the vegan body-builder above is a little thicker through the torso, with no real Y shape. And as a side note, I see neither slumped shoulder or a flabby belly on the omnivore body builder.
Okay, possible, if you’re a body-builder, that a diet of animal protein, rice, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables are better, simply because the amount of protein you need to consume is increased and vegan protein tend to come with a load of carbs as well. It’s a theory.
Now, not everyone is a body-builder and could probably give two sh@$’s about it. The real question is, is it healthier? How can we measure being healthier? BMI? Cholesterol levels? Death rate? Medical issues? We’ll dive in and answer these questions next week.
Thank you for reading, please feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comment section below.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) vs. Over-distance endurance training
Nowadays at the gym you've probably notice a lot of new classes popping up that offer the 'All New' HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training), and have wondered what it is, if you should be doing it, will it fix that stubborn belly fat, will I finally have the guns I deserve, and how long will it take for this new fitness fad to fade? Well, if you're like me you’re probably instantly skeptical of everything branded 'All New', and in this case you would be right.
But before I get to that, let me describe what HIIT is: High Intensity Interval Training refers to a burst-and-recover cycle that can offer a viable alternative to continuous aerobic exercise also known as long distance running. HIIT, pairs quick bouts of high-energy exercise with low-effort rest intervals, over a pre-determined period of time. For example, one of the more popular style of HIIT is called 'Tabata Protocol', this HIIT program follows this timing pattern; 20 seconds of high-energy exercise followed by 10 seconds of low effort or rest, repeated for 8 sets, 20/10x8, that's it, nothing really special, just high intensity followed by rest, and repeat. Now, you don't have to stick to just one protocol, there are many variables to HIIT. There is 1 min. of high intensity followed by 1 min. of rest, repeated 5-8 times, 60/60x5-8, 40 seconds of high intensity followed by 20 seconds of rest, 40/20x8, 30/30x6, you get the idea.
HIIT training is not something that is new to the fitness world. As early as 1912, the Finnish Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen was using interval training in his workouts (Billat 2001). As our knowledge of HIIT has increased, exercise scientists have demonstrated that HIIT can boost the performance of competitive athletes;improve the health of recreational exercisers; and provide the benefits of continuous-endurance training with fewer workouts.
That sounds pretty great, right? Well, there are those out there that disagree, there are those out there that prefer to do over-distance running for their cardio fix, and therein lies an ongoing battle; which is better for your fitness goals, over-distance running or HIIT?
Let's get nerdy: Daussin et al. (2008) measured VO2max* responses among men and women who participated in an 8-week HIIT program and a continuous cardiovascular training program. VO2max increases were higher in the HIIT program (15%) than they were in the continuous training program (9%). *What the heck is VO2max? Well that is the amount of oxygen your body can consume and use for energy during exercise. Interesting... what else?
Improving cardiovascular function and increasing VO2max are major goals of patients with cardiovascular disease, which is why some cardiac rehabilitation centers are beginning to include interval training for heart disease patients (Bartels, Bourne & Dwyer 2010). Although traditional low-intensity exercise produces similar gains, improvements from interval training happen in a shorter time, with fewer sessions. Okay, same benefits, shorter period of time, I'm listening...
An increase in the size and number of mitochondria (the “energy factory” of a cell) is becoming a hallmark adaptation with HIIT (Gibala 2009). The increase in mitochondria density, as scientists call it, has been thought for many years to occur only from chronic endurance training. Okay, so what we once thought about the size and density of the cellular component necessary for energy output during exercise isn't totally true, there's a shocker...
During aerobic exercise, mitochondria use oxygen to manufacture high levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecule of the cell) through the breakdown of carbohydrates and fat. As mitochondrial density increases, more energy becomes available to working muscles, producing greater force for a longer duration (allowing an athlete to run longer at a higher intensity, for example). So, ATP (energy that makes muscles contract), is increased thanks to HIIT, I like that, and it sounds like many athletes would like it too.
In a 6-week training study, (Burgomaster et al. 2008) showed similar increases in levels of oxidative enzymes (proteins in mitochondria that accelerate biological reactions to liberate ATP) among subjects who performed an HIIT program consisting of four to six 30-second maximal cycling sprints (followed by 4.5-minute recovery bouts) 3 days per week and subjects who completed 40–60 minutes of steady cycling at 65% VO2max 5 days per week. An increase in mitochondrial oxidative enzymes leads to more effective fat and carbohydrate breakdown for fuel. Basically, protein synthesis in the cells lead to more ATP in way less time doing HIIT than doing 40-60 min of steady cycling at a medium speed.
Increasing mitochondrial density can be considered a skeletal-muscle and metabolic adaptation. One focal point of interest for metabolic adaptations is the metabolism of fat for fuel during exercise. Because of the nature of high-intensity exercise, its effectiveness for burning fat has been closely examined. Perry et al. (2008) showed that fat oxidation (or fat burning), was significantly higher and carbohydrate oxidation (burning) significantly lower after 6 weeks of interval training. Okay, you're telling me I'll burn off more fat doing HIIT? Done. I'm in, sign me up!
So where does this leave us? Well, it seems that both over-distance training and HIIT prove to be effective for leaning down and losing body fat. Lungs (pulmonary) and Heart (circulatory) systems are very happy, body fat is being oxidized for energy and you are your lean self. But, have gained any muscle? Maintaining your fast twitch, explosive muscle fiber might be about the best gift you can give your body. As we age our fast twitch muscle fiber diminishes and our slow twitch muscle fiber keep us going, slowly but surely. Unfortunately, slow twitch muscle fiber will not help you if you happen to fall down and need to break your fall. This is how hips and arms get broken as we age. With over-distance training we aren't really keeping up so much with our explosive fast twitch muscle fiber retention, however with the HIIT training, that is definitely a possibility by adding dumbbells into the mix with the proper exercises.
Sounds like HIIT wins for me. But, I don't want to completely dump on over-distance training. If it's running you like, then by all means run. Any exercise is better than sitting at home working on the girth of your waist, just try to run on soft ground and use the proper footwear.
Have you ever tried HIIT? If you haven't, below are some good starting moves to incorporate into your routine. If you have already been doing HIIT and you have any good circuits to share, please leave them in the comment section.
Check out some of my favorite HIIT circuits:
High knee sprinting in place/Mountain climber : 20 sec. on 10 sec. off x 8 sets. This four minute burner is a core crusher, make sure your knees come up to waist level when sprinting, and keep you hips low during the mountain climbers.
Pushup/pullup : 20 sec. on 10 sec. off x 8 sets. A great upper body blaster. You probably wont be able to keep up with this one at first, but work on it and watch your upper body grow.
Squat hop/spit squat hop : 20 sec. on 10 sec. off x 8 sets. This is a great butt, thigh and calf killer. Make sure you involve your arms in the squat hop, and keep you knees behind your toes for the split squat hop.
This is a great total body workout that can be done in less than a half and hour. Many modifications can be done to make these moves harder.
Thank you for reading and be well.
The importance of periodization:
Here is something I hear a lot from people at the gym, "I've been doing this workout that I love and I was getting great results, but I've hit a plateau and I don't know what to do". Do a lot of you find this to be true? Do you just continue to do the same workout and day in and day out while praying to the workout gods that things will change? Do you intensify the workout to the point that you're so sore you can't tie your shoes for four days? Do you go on the the latest celery and water only diet? Eventually throw your hands in the air and give up and grab a cocktail? Or seek out the latest greatest synthetic stimulate that will turn you into the He-Man and Wonder Woman you've been hoping for?
Before I get into what can be done to overcome this, let's first look at a basic overview of what happens when you exercise. When you apply stress to a muscle over a period of time (say, lifting weights for 8+ weeks) many cellular changes happen in the body and the muscle begins to adapt to the stress by getting stronger to handle the new stress put upon it. But, if you continue to put the same amount of stress on the muscle, eventually the muscle will catch up the the stress and in turn will not get any stronger. This process usually takes about 8 to 12 weeks, depending on your current level of fitness and workout frequency. Then, the dreaded plateau happens. So what do you do after the process is done? Are you happy with the new level of strength you've reached or do you want to continue to get stronger? How do you go about doing that?
Well, you're in luck, there are many training variables can be easily manipulated in an attempt to change your exercise routine: the number of sets per exercise, repetitions per set, the types of exercises, number of exercises per training session, rest periods between sets and exercises, resistance used for a set, type and tempo of muscle action (e.g., eccentric, concentric, isometric), and the number of training sessions per day and per week. Changing your exercise variables every 8+ week is a method called Periodization.
Athletes and professional trainers have been using periodization for decades to keep continual growth happening with the athlete all year round. Now, I know most of you aren't athletes, you just want to shed a few pounds, get ready for summer, or fit into that Wedding dress, etc., but why not take a note from the professionals? The next time you find yourself hitting a plateau, instead of getting frustrated, try changing up the routine by altering one or more of the variables mentioned above? And most importantly, write down what you do, sets, weights used, and exercises done. If you don't know what you've done, how can you know what to change?
Has anyone found a great periodization progression they'd like to share? I'm always curious about new ways of periodizing. Leave a comment.
Most of my clients have a magic number in their head. This number will usually fall in increments of 5. The number can be 10 or 15, sometimes it's 20. What is this magic number? It's the number of reps my clients will do before they quit a certain exercise. It's the magic number for muscle building. It must be, I see so many trainers using this magic number. "Okay, give me 20 of these, then 10 of these and finish with 25 of these". It doesn't matter what your muscles are capable of doing, somehow, someway the magic number will do the trick.
Before I became a professional trainer, I was spending days in the gym trying to get ripped. I would do my 20 reps of this exercise, and 10 of the other and had some growth, but it was minimal and short lived. I was super-setting this, and split setting that because that's what Arnold did, or so said all the magazines. Even when I began studying for my exams to become professional I noticed that all the example exercise programs the study guides had offered still had these magic number in increments of 5. "Maybe it's just me", I thought "Maybe I'm not lifting enough?" But I'm already working out practically every day. Well, after much frustration and continuing to read everything I can get my hands on about exercise I came across Matt Brzycki's H.I.T. training book. This book finally put in print what I had been discovering all along. It's not the quantity of work, it's the quality of work, the intensity of work. Basically, how much pain can you tolerate? "That's crazy" your probably saying, "Working out shouldn't be torture!" Well, I'm sorry to say, but the opposite couldn't be more true, working out is a form of torture. Before I go on let me state this we are all on the same page FORM IS EVERYTHING! No matter how much weight or reps you are doing, when your form goes, you are done with the exercise. That being said, when you workout you tear micro fibers in the muscle, these micro fibers need time to heal after the workout, when they heal they get stronger. So, the old adage is true, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger". When you workout, you must take your muscles beyond the normal amount of stress they are accustomed to, this will make them burn. How long can you stand the burn? That is the torture I speak of. HOW LONG CAN YOU STAND THE BURN? Till you hit the magic number? The 10, 15 or 20 rep. magic number. Try this the next time you workout, instead of doing a set number of reps, do the exercise until your muscles are incapable of doing another rep. What number will you reach? 30? 50? 62? If the number is that high, I suggest you add weight, in fact, add enough weight to allow for 8 to 10 reps. Now, how tired are you after? How does the muscle feel? Try this method for all your exercises. Not only will you get quicker results, but you'll spend less time doing it. And isn't that what it's all about? Spending less time being tortured? I should think so.
Hello all. I wanted to write a post about a style of training that I have been experimenting with on myself for the last couple of months and I have to say, I have experienced gains, modest, but gains none-the-less. After thumbing through the New High Intensity Training by Ellington Darden, PH.D. I started to understand what the essence of this book is in a nut shell. For myself, I always thought and hour workout which includes a ten minute warm up/stretch and five minute cool down way the perfect amount of time to spend. But I was starting to get bored with the workouts. I had several I shifted through, including P90X and Insanity. I had done the programs and workouts so many times I was was plateauing and getting restless. What do do? I asked myself, "What do I want in a workout?" My answer and I believe most of us would agree, I want a quicker, more effective workout that will get me results. High Intesity Traning is it. HIT! The idea is this, work larger muscles with heaveir weights, and less time rest time in between. Yes, you will work to utter exaustion, yes it will hurt, yes you must be very carefull not to injur yourself, yes you will experience greater results. For a sample of this type of workout you can check out my website at www.degoodfit.com and go to the download page and get "Half Hour of Power". It's a total body, half hour workout utalizing these basic priciples, large muscles, heavier weights, less rest time. Check it out, let me know if it worked for you.
This is a shameless self promotion. I've just made available on my website www.degoodfit.com my first home workout video. It's only five dollars for a half an hour total body workout that, when accompanied by a sensible diet plan, will get you results. It's a no joke, all out half an hour.
If you would like to make suggestions of video you want to see please feel free to comment.
You can catch the teaser for 1/2 hour of power on my idea page.
Today I had a client who was running a little late to her next appointment, our one hour session was becomming a 30 minute session, and she was becomming concerned that we would not get to finish with an abdominal workout like we usually do. And she made the statement "Abs are my favorite part of the workout, because that's where I need the most help". So I asked her "Do you think doing sit ups and crunches will give you a slimmer waist?" She could tell I was leading her to answer the question wrong so I could explain to her this simple but yet hard to grasp fact about the correlation between a slimmer waist and crunches. If you are reading this blog you can probably see a picture of me to the right of the screen. That's me, no air brush, no sucking in, relaxed and calm and with a six pack. Not that I'm trying to brag about it, but here's a simple fact, I DON'T DO A TON OF CRUNCHES OR SIT UPS, in fact I rarely do them. You may think to yourself, "It's genetics" or "I'm a liar", but the way to a slim waist line isn't the crunch and sit up road, it's CARDIO! Plain and simple, and to be more specific, for me PLYOMETRICS is the quickest way to six pack abs. Plyometrics is a form of cardio and strength training used by sports coaches to build speed and endurance with jumping. Literally, jumping in various ways, on boxes, lateral jumping, jump rope, running in place with high knees, basically any exersise where you lift your weight off the ground which in turn forces you to engage your core. That's it, 20 to 60 minutes of this type of work and a sound diet plan will give you the slimmers waist you desire.