Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Should Never Count or Restrict Calories

It seems like most diet gurus talk about the need to count and restrict calories to lose extra fat weight. This is an idea that I've always had a problem with. Why do we need to count calories and consciously starve ourselves to stay thin when most modern hunter-gatherers are usually ripped and muscular without knowing what a calorie is? (1,2) How do they stay so thin while eating whatever they want? The answer is self-regulation. 

The Body can Self-Regulate Calorie Intake
Your brain uses powerful feedback systems to regulate appetite and hunger. These feedback systems allow the brain to maintain very specific body weight and body fat set points (I'll delve into these set points in a later post). (3) These feedback systems are designed to ensure that you are getting enough calories and micro-nutrients from the foods that you eat to supply your cells with energy and support your daily physical activities.

There are four main hunger/appetite feedback systems. (4)
  • Stress-Leptin Feedback (which makes you hungry when our actual weight drops below a given set point)
  • Glucose (blood sugar) Feedback (which makes us hungry when our glucose level drops below a given set point)
  • Ghrelin Feedback (which makes us hungry before meals)
  • Empty-Stomach Feedback (which makes us hungry when our stomach is empty)

All of these feedback systems have to be satisfied for your hunger and appetite to be satisfied. If a person is healthy, then these feedback systems easily maintain a healthy body weight.

When Hunger Feedback Systems Break
With a few exceptions (e.g., drinking alcohol, consuming sugar), being overweight often has very little to do with a lack of willpower. Since calories support weight, (5) if you are overweight, then you are overeating; if you are overeating, then one or more of these hunger/appetite feedback systems are likely malfunctioning.

For instance, the hormone leptin tells the brain how much energy is stored in fat cells and when enough food has been eaten. If something interferes with your brain's sensitivity to leptin, then it cannot know exactly how much body fat you have, or when your stomach indicates that you are full. This can lead to overeating.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The 42-Day "No Gym" Exercise Program

Although I have a tab that goes over my entire Rapid PT 42-Day program, I wanted to dedicate a post to my updated "No Gym" exercise program. Specifically, I wanted to explain what this program is trying to achieve as well as give you some exercise descriptions.

The Program
This program uses several different running and strength training techniques to help you rapidly improve the strength and aerobic measurements of the USAF PT test in only 42 days. I chose the 42-day time frame because it is the maximum amount of time that you have to re-test if you fail your PT test.

Click here for larger image.

As you can see from the overall program above, there are two main components of this program: Running and strength exercises.

Since 42 days neatly divides into 6 weeks, I created three different two-week phases.

Phase One: Break In (Weeks 1 and 2)
In the first and second weeks you are getting used to the program. Your intensity will be minimal. Running intensity is also minimal. You will only execute three sets of Tabata sprints each week. For PT exercises, you will alternate between sit-ups and push-ups all week. And you will only be doing three dynamic exercises each week.

Phase Two: Build Up (Weeks 3 and 4)
Phase two is all about developing your strength and aerobic base. This means more PT and dynamic exercises, as well as long, slow runs. More sprints are also added

Phase Three: PT Test Prep (Weeks 5 and 6)
In phase three, you are trying to achieve peak physical performance by the day of your PT test. Since anaerobic training can interfere with your 1.5-mile run, the Tabata sprints are removed completely. You will concentrate on building up your test pace. More rest is also added to this phase.

When executing the 1.5-mile runs, determine your test pace and train for that pace during the 1.5-mile runs.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Success Story: Six Months and 75 Pounds Lost!

In November 2007 I popped a major umbilical hernia while bench pressing 415 lbs with bad technique and not using a lifting belt. Up til that time I was in fairly good physical condition and my body weight was reasonable. In fact I had been living in Vegas at the time and was occasionally approached by body building recruiters. I was eating a high calorie mainstream US-type diet including pizza, fast food, burgers, tacos, burritos, specialty sandwiches, the works. While I wasn't in perfect condition, I was not terribly concerned about weight. I had a surgical procedure to replace my intestine and block the resulting opening with a Kevlar mesh implant. The in-patient process took a few hours under general anesthesia. Little did I know how much of an impact those few hours would have on my life.

After waiting the prescribed few weeks of recovery time after the surgery I found that any type of physical fitness activity caused excruciating pain. I was told to wait a few weeks and try again by the docs. In the meantime I continued my diet of processed and fast foods with little regard for good nutrition, carb balance and just generally taking in "clean foods". The "wait a few weeks" cycle turned into months, and while life was happening I almost didn't notice that in a little over a year I had gained over 110lbs! 

In Mar of 2010 I finally said ENOUGH. The event which prompted this was climbing into my street stock dirt racing car and putting on the detachable steering wheel. Where I had about 3" of clearance the prior fall, it was actually rubbing my stomach! I immediately started an exercise regimen involving cardio and weight training. However, I did not immediately modify my eating habits. A short time later, I started speaking with Bryan about diet and lifestyle. At various times he provided me with clear and concise information, often concerning resources regarding the "Paleo" diet and "primal-blueprint" lifestyles. The basic gist of which involved eating unprocessed whole foods, avoiding gluten, refined grains, and generally most modern foods which we as humans haven't evolved to digest and utilize in an efficient and healthy manner. As I adopted this lifestyle I realized great improvements in my general feelings of well being and health and to date have lost over 75lbs. I will continue to maintain this lifestyle, confident that I will realize body composition goals that I hadn't even dreamed that I ever achieve prior to learning about nutrition and the body. 


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How the Body Actually Reacts to Exercise

So far I've talked about the impossibility of using exercise to "burn" extra stored calories, as well as the the dangers of excess exercise. In this post, I'll be getting into how the body actually reacts to exercise.

Your Body Easily Adapts to Physical Activity
From your body's perspective, physical activity is an expected part of everyday life. The human body has evolved to interact with any environment it might find itself in. But the body has no idea what physical activity it might encounter: It might require lifting heavy things, sprinting toward or away from other animals, and/or walking for long distances. As such, the brain has to be able to adapt to this variable physical activity as well as adjust its lean mass to produce an adequately powerful, agile, and endurant survival machine that has just enough reserve fuel (fat mass) to make it through the lean times.

As a very intelligent organ, your brain can easily adapt to physical activity. Let's say that you exercise for an hour, burning 300 calories. Your body will lend you 300 calories from its energy reserves (fat and glycogen). After you are done exercising, your brain will sense that its energy stores are missing 300 calories, causing your hunger and appetite to increase. As you eat more food, you will pay back those 300 calories.

This means that regardless of the physical activity you engage in, your body weight should remain stable. Unless you need more muscle.

Physical Activity Builds/Repairs Lean Mass
When your body is unable to meet certain physical demands, it uses this feedback as a signal to grow more muscle (so long as you have enough nutrients and rest). However, if your brain senses that there is no longer a need for this extra muscle, then this extra muscle will be removed. So physical activity will adjust your muscle mass, which can adjust your body weight.

Exercise doesn't just build muscle, it also recycles existing cells. Through the process of autophagy, physical activity can stress poorly functioning cells. The body can then recycle these cells, improving their function. This may explain why those who exercise usually feel good, while those who are less active don't: Sedentary individuals lose much of their ability to recycle these poorly functioning cells.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Too much Exercise can Simulate Starvation

Everybody knows that exercise is good for you, but many of you might not know that there is such a thing as too much exercise. This leads some people to engage in hours of cardio every day in a desperate attempt to "burn" extra calories--all without adequate rest. While they get some good results initially, within a couple of months their progress comes to a complete halt and they start to feel tired all the time. These gung-ho and constantly exhausted individuals are suffering from the effects of too much exercise (a.k.a., chronic cardio).

Dangers of Excessive Exercise
The best example of the dangers of too much exercise comes from The Biggest Loser (a show I love to watch, by the way). These contestants often engage in 4-6 hours of seriously intense aerobic exercise five to six days a week in an effort to burn those extra calories stubbornly hiding in their fat stores. This usually results in a massive amount of weight loss (often an average of 4-10 pounds per week, depending on the contestant) over the competition's 6-month period. When the winners are announced, their massive weight loss makes it seem as if all you need to do to lose weight is simply get off your butt and burn some calories.

But something weird happens in the months and years following these competitions: Most of the contestants start to gain their weight back (some will actually gain back all of the weight they lost), even if they didn't change their diet.

So what happened? In my opinion, the excessive amounts of exercise experienced by these contestants during the show created such a huge calorie deficit that it simulated starvation. It doesn't take much of a calorie deficit to simulate starvation: A person only has to consistently lose more than 7500 calories per week (or a weight loss of more than 2 pounds of fat per week). It seems that if a person loses more than 2 pounds of body weight per week, then their body can switch into starvation mode.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

What does it mean to "Go Paleo"?

The Paleo Diet has become very popular lately, and with good reason. Switching to this style of diet can improve most markers for health (e.g., glucose sensitivity, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, waist circumference) in as little as 10 days! What exactly does it mean to "Go Paleo"?

This post has been moved over to my Mayo's Mind blog. Click on the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

What's in My Food?: Whole Grain White Wonder Bread

In this blog series, I show you how many of the 7 Deadly Foods are found in various processed and prepared foods. In this post, you get to see how healthy the Whole Grain White Wonder Bread is. (1)

Ingredients (that are from the 7 Deadly Foods)
Here's the ingredients break down:
  • Wheat: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Barley Malt), Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Starch.
  • Soy: Soy Fiber, Soy Flour, Soy Lecithin.
  • Gluten Grains: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Barley Malt), Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Starch.
  • Refined Sweeteners: High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar, Honey.
  • Chemical Additives: Enriched Wheat Flour (Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], B Vitamins [Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid]), Calcium Sulfate, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Dioxide and/or Azodicarbonamide), Yeast Nutrients (Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Ammonium Phosphate), Enrichment (Vitamin E Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Zinc Oxide, Calcium Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin D, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [B6], Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate [B1] and Vitamin B-12), Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness).
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Interesting Stuff (11Feb12)

Every week (or so), I'll list a few interesting web links, books, and success stories. This is all designed to encourage you to get more involved with changing your life for the better.

Web Links
  • Dr. Oz's Prehistoric Diet Plan
    I'm not sure what pre-history Dr. Oz is referring to, but his diet plan isn't even remotely close to Paleo. His plan is anti-meat, high in grains, and full of high-omega-6 oils. You can't get healthy on that stuff. For a good idea of what a faileo diet looks like, check out his prehistoric diet plan.
  • Is Honey Good for You?
    The short answer is YES, raw honey is very good for you. But you should avoid the cheap honey.
  • Why You Should eat Foods high in Sulfur 
    Sulfur-rich foods (like onions and garlic) are very healthy for you. Have you ever noticed that a lot of meal recipes include onions and garlic? Maybe humans have always instinctively known that these two sulfur-rich foods help reboot your health.
  • Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause an Insulin Response?
    Not always, but that doesn't mean that you should consume them. If you need to sweeten your coffee or tea, use raw honey.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's In My Food?: Big Mac Meal

In this blog series, I show you how many of the 7 Deadly Foods are found in various processed and prepared foods. In this post, you get to see how healthy the Big Mac Value Meal is. (1) This meal is comprised of a Big Mac, fries (with ketchup), and a Coke Classic.

Ingredients (that are from the 7 Deadly Foods)
Here's the ingredients break down:
  • Wheat: Big Mac Bun (Enriched flour [bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour], contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten),  Big Mac Sauce (vegetable protein [wheat]), vegetable oil for french fries (natural beef flavor [wheat derivatives]).
  • Soy: Big Mac Bun (soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: dough conditioners [soy flour], soy lecithin), Pasteurized Process American Cheese (soy lecithin [added for slice separation]),  Big Mac Sauce (Soybean oil, vegetable protein [soy], soy lecithin), vegetable oil for french fries (hydrogenated soybean oil).
  • Gluten Grains: Big Mac Bun (Enriched flour [bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour], contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten), Big Mac Sauce (vegetable protein [wheat]), vegetable oil for french fries (natural beef flavor [wheat derivatives]).
  • Refined Sweeteners: Big Mac Bun (high fructose corn syrup, sugar), Big Mac Sauce (pickle relish [high fructose corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup], high fructose corn syrup, sugar), dextrose, Ketchup (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup), Coca-Cola Classic (high fructose corn syrup).
  • Chemical Additives:  Big Mac Bun (contains 2% or less of the following: calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners [sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, guar gum, calcium peroxide], calcium propionate and sodium propionate [preservatives]), Pasteurized Process American Cheese (sodium citrate, citric acid, sorbic acid [preservative], sodium phosphate, artificial color, lactic acid, acetic acid), Big Mac Sauce (pickle relish [calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), polysorbate 80], propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate [preservative], caramel color, calcium disodium EDTA [protect flavor]), vegetable oil in french fries (citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), Ketchup (natural flavors [vegetable source]), Coca-Cola Classic (caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors [vegetable source], caffeine).
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Building Your Own Disease-Fighting Diet

For tens of thousands of years, humans have eaten high-quality whole foods from both plants and animals. While hunter-gatherers arguably enjoyed optimal health, humans who embraced agriculture about 10,000 years ago had also figured out how to be very healthy while consuming grains.

Then humans entered into the industrial age. Through the mindless application of heavy industry to food, we started eating refined sugar, wheat flour, hydrogenated vegetable oils, chemical additives, as well as food raised/grown to produce maximum quantity, not quality.

Despite the effective infectious disease protection that came from modern medicine in the early 1900s, human diseases didn't go away, they simply shifted. Instead of dying from cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumonia, or influenza, we are now struggling to control obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. The sad truth is that most (if not all) of the health problems that we are currently plagued with have little to do with the normal consequences of aging and more to do with the consequences of consuming modern denatured, highly processed, nutrient-poor, and toxin-filled foods.

7 Simple Rules for Healthy Eating
But there is a silver lining to this depressing news. You can inexpensively repair and reverse many health problems by making a few critical changes to your current diet (and lifestyle). They are: 

1) Prepare Your Own Meals
When you prepare your own meals, you control the quality of the ingredients used. This ensures that you are not consuming much of the 7 Deadly Foods. It also helps to control the cost of higher-quality foods and can actually save you money if you make all your meals.

2) Avoid Energy-Dense Foods/Eat High-Quality, Whole Foods
Energy-dense food have more calories per nutrient than nutrient-dense foods. Typical energy-dense foods are sugar, wheat flour, pasta, bread, breakfast cereal, candy, soda, and many engineered foods that come in a bag or box. Energy-dense foods require nutrients to be processed in the body, but return little to no nutrients of their own, which has the affect of making you malnourished over time. If you eat a lot of energy-dense foods, then switching to nutrient-dense foods (e.g., meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruit) will dramatically improve your health.

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