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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Some People Quit And Some People NEVER Give Up


Throughout my 18 years in the fitness industry as a trainer, nutrition consultant and motivational coach, I have noticed that some people who start a nutrition and exercise program give up very easily after hitting the first obstacle they encounter. If they feel the slightest bit of discouragement or frustration, they will abandon even their biggest goals and dreams.

On the other hand, I noticed that some people simply NEVER give up. They have ferocious persistence and they never let go of their goals. These people are like the bulldog that refuses to release its teeth-hold on a bone. The harder you try to pull the bone out of his mouth, the harder the dog chomps down with a vice-like grip.

What's the difference between these two types of people? Psychologists say there is an answer.

An extremely important guideline for achieving fitness success is the concept that, "There is no failure; only feedback. You don't "fail", you only get results."

This is a foundational principle from the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and the first time I ever heard it was from peak performance expert Anthony Robbins back in the late 1980's. It's a principle that stuck with me ever since, because it's a very, very powerful shift in mindset.

A lot of people will second-guess themselves and they'll bail out and quit, just because what they try at first doesn't work. They consider it a permanent failure, but all they need is a little attitude change, a mindset change, or what we call a "reframe."

Instead of saying, "This is failure" they can say to themselves, "I produced a result" and "This is only temporary." This change in perspective is going to change the way that they feel and how they mentally process and explain the experience. It turns into a learning opportunity and valuable feedback for a course correction instead of a failure, and that drives continued action and forward movement.

 

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It's all about your results and your interpretation of those results

Dr Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, did some incredible research on this subject and wrote about it in his book, Learned Optimism. Dr. Seligman noticed that the difference between people who give up and people who persist and never quit is what he referred to as "explanatory style." He said that explanatory style is the way we explain or interpret bad events or failures.

People who habitually give up have an explanatory style of permanence. For example, they hit a plateau in their progress and explain it by saying, "diets never work" or "I have bad genetics so I'll always be fat." These explanations imply permanence.

Other people hit the same plateaus and encounter the same challenges, but explain them differently. They say things such as, "I ate too many cheat meals this week," or "I haven't found the right diet for my body type yet." These explanations of the results imply being temporary.

People who see negative results as permanent failure are the ones who give up easily and often generalize their "failure" into other areas of their lives and even into their own sense of self. It's one thing to say, "I ate poorly this past week because I was traveling," (a belief about temporary behavior and environment), and to say, "I am a fat person because of my genetics" (a belief about identity with a sense of permanence). Remember, body fat is a temporary condition, not a person!

People who see challenges and obstacles as temporary and as valuable learning experiences are the ones who never quit. If you learn from your experiences, not repeating what didn't work in the past, and if you choose to never quit, your success is inevitable.

 

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Why Some People Can Drink Alcohol Without Getting Fat


Alcohol has been implicated as a factor that may hurt your efforts to lose body fat. Whether alcohol is "fattening" has been a very controversial subject because technically speaking, alcohol is NOT stored as fat; it is oxidized ahead of other fuels.

Whether moderate drinking is healthy has also been a subject of controversy. Many studies show that cardiovascular health benefits are associated with moderate beer or wine drinking (which has been of particular interest lately with reservatrol in the news so much), while other studies show improved insulin sensitivity. Some experts however, say that alcohol has no place in a fitness lifestyle.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity adds new findings to our knowledge about alcohol, insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. Analysis of the results as compared to other studies also gives us some insights into why some people seem to drink and get fat while others seem to drink and get thin!

The truth about the beer belly phenomenon

This new study, by Ulf Riserus and Erik Inglesson, was based on the Swedish Uppsala Longitudinal cohort. The researchers found that alcohol intake in older men did not improve insulin sensitivity, which contradicted their own hypothesis and numerous previous studies.

They also said there was a very "robust" association between alcohol intake, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. They pointed out that a high alcohol intake, especially hard liquor, was closely associated with abdominal body fat, not just overall body mass.

Abdominal fat accumulation is not just a cosmetic problem, it can be a serious health risk. Abdominal fat, also known as "android" or "central" obesity, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, glucose intolerance and elevated insulin levels.

Many other studies have also found a link between alcohol intake and abdominal fat, but this too has been controversial. A study that was widely publicized by the BBC in 2003 dismissed the concept of the "beer belly."

Nevertheless, it looks like there's some scientific support to it after all (or at least a "liquor belly" according to this newer study).

Hormones may be strongly involved because high alcohol intake has been shown to decrease blood testosterone in men, and also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to visceral fat accumulation.

Why is there so much controversy? Why the discrepancy in research findings about alcohol's influence on obesity, abdominal fat, and insulin sensitivity?

Well, here's the real story of why some people don't get fat when they drink:

A lot of the confusion is because epidemiological research cannot show cause and effect relationships and mistakes can easily be made when drawing associations based on limited data.

With the nature of these longitudinal studies, you have to look at the lifestyle and nature of drinkers in general (or in this study, hard liquor drinkers). Also, the Swedish study focused on older men, so age may have been a factor. You may be more likely to deposit alcohol right on your belly as you get older.

When you hear that alcohol increases belly fat, you also have to look at what else is going on in the life of the drinker, particularly what the rest of a person's diet looks like, and how alcohol intake affects appetite and eating habits.

Research says that alcohol can mess up your body's perception of hunger, satiety and fullness. If drinking stimulates additional eating, or adds additional calories that aren't compensated for and which lead to positive energy balance, then you get fat. You may also get fat in the belly, no thanks to what booze does to hormones.

Another thing that confounds the reports on whether alcohol contributes to weight gain is the fact that the game changes in heavy drinkers. We know that alcohol contains 7.1 calories per gram and these calories always count as part of the energy balance equation… or do they? With chronic excessive alcohol consumption, it's possible that not all of these calories are available for energy. Due to changes in liver function and something called the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS), alcoholism may be a real case of where some calories don't count. Many alcoholics also skip meals and eat less with increasing alcohol consumption.

 

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Alcohol metabolizing pathways notwithstanding, even if binge drinkers, daily drinkers or heavy drinkers consume most of their calories from alcohol, if they eat very little, and remain in a calorie deficit, they will not get fat. Compound this with the hormonal effects and you witness the skinny, but under-nourished, unhealthy and atrophied alcoholic (the person you'd think would be most likely to have a beer belly).

It's the calories that count

The bottom line is, the idea that alcohol just automatically turns into fat or gives you a beer belly is mistaken. It's true that alcohol suppresses fat oxidation, but mainly, alcohol adds calories into your diet, messes with your hormones and can stimulate appetite, leading to even more calories consumed. That's where the fat gain comes from.

If you drink in moderation, if you're aware of the calories in the alcohol, if you're aware of the calories from additional food intake consumed during or after drinking, and if you compensate for all of the above accordingly, you won't get fat.

Now, with that said, you might be wondering: "You mean I can drink and still lose fat? I just need to keep in a calorie deficit?"

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. But before you rush off to the pub for a cold one, hold that thought for a minute while you consider this first: The empty alcohol calories displace the nutrient dense calories!

When you're on a fat loss program you have a fairly small "calorie budget", so you need to give some careful thought to how those calories should be "spent." For example, if a female is on a 1500 calorie per day diet, does she really want to "spend" 500 of those calories – one third of her intake - for a few alcoholic drinks, and leave only 1000 for health-promoting food, fiber and lean muscle building protein?

I realize some people may answer "yes" to that question, but then again, if some people spent their money as frivolously as they spent their calories, they would be in deep trouble!

To summarize this into some practical, take-home advice, here are 7 of my personal tips for alcohol consumption in the fitness lifestyle:

(1) Don't drink on a fat loss program. Although you could certainly drink and "get away with it" if you diligently maintained your calorie deficit as noted above, it certainly does not help your fat loss cause or your nutritional status.

(2) Drink in moderation during maintenance. For lifelong weight maintenance and a healthy lifestyle, if you drink, do so in moderation and only occasionally, such as on weekends or when you go out to dine in restaurants. Binge drinking and getting drunk has no place in a fitness lifestyle (not to mention hangovers aren't very conducive to good workouts).

(3) Don't drink daily. Moderate drinking, including daily drinking, has been associated with cardiovascular health benefits. However, I don't recommend daily drinking because behaviors repeated daily become habits. Behaviors repeated multiple times daily become strong habits. Habitual drinking may lead to heavier drinking or full-blown addictions and can be hard to stop if you ever need to cut back.

(4) Count the calories. If you decide to have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or two (or whatever moderation is for you), be sure to account for the alcohol in your daily calorie budget.

 

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(5) Watch your appetite. Don't let the "munchies" get control of you during or after you drink (Note to chicken wing and nacho-eating men: The correlation to alcohol and body fat is higher in men in almost all the studies. One possible explanation is that men tend to drink and eat, while women may tend to drink instead of eating).

(6) Watch the fatty foods. When drinking, watch the fatty foods in particular. A study by Angelo Tremblay back in 1995 suggested that alcohol and a high fat diet are a combination that favors overfeeding.

(7) Enjoy without guilt. If you choose to drink (moderately and sensibly), then don't feel guilty about it or beat yourself up afterwards, just enjoy the darn stuff, will you!

 

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What The New "Low-Carb" Study REALLY Says

A news media feeding frenzy erupted recently when a new diet study broke in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Almost all the reporters got it wrong, wrong WRONG! So did most of the gloating low carb forumites and bloggers. Come to think of it, almost everyone interpreted this study wrong. Some valuable insights came out of this study, but almost everyone missed them because they were too busy believing what the news said or defending their own cherished belief systems …

The new study, titled, "Weight Loss With a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet" was published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in issue 359, number 3.

I quickly read the full text of the research paper the day it was published. Then, I shook my head in dismay as I scanned the news headlines.

 

I found it amusing that the media turned this into a three ring circus, putting a misleading "low carb versus high carb," "Atkins vindicated" or "Diet wars" spin on the story. But that's mainstream journalism for you, right? Gotta sell those papers!

Just look at some of these headlines:

"Study Tips Scales in Atkins Diets Favor: Low Carb Regimen Better Than Low Fat Diet For Weight And Cholesterol, Major Study Shows. "

"Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets Face Off "

"The Never-Ending Diet Wars"

"Low Carb Beats Low Fat in Diet Duel."

"Atkins Diet is Safe and Far More Effective Than a Low-Fat One, Study Says"

"Unrestricted Low-Carb Diet Wins Hands Down"

Some of these headlines are hilarious! I wonder if any of these reporters actually read the whole study. Geez. Is it too much trouble to read 13 pages before you write a story that will be read by millions of already confused people suffering the pain and frustration of obesity?

 

Here's a quick look at the study design.

The low fat restricted calorie diet was based on American Heart Association guidelines. Calorie intake was set at 1500 for women, 1800 a day for men with 30% of calories from fat, and only 10% from saturated fat. Participants were instructed to eat low fat grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes and to limit their consumption of additional fats, sweets and high fat snacks.

The Mediterranean diet group was placed on a moderate fat, restricted calorie program rich in vegetables and low in red meat, with poultry and fish replacing beef and lamb. Energy intake was restricted to 1500 calories per day for women and 1800 calories per day for men with a goal of no more than 35% of calorie from fat. Added fat came mostly from nuts and olive oil.

The low carb diet was a non-restricted calorie plan aimed at providing 20 grams of carbs per day for the 2 month induction phase with a gradual increase to 120 grams per day to maintain the weight loss. Intakes of total calories, protein and fat were not limited. However, the participants were counseled to choose vegetarian sources of protein (more on that bizarre-twist shortly).

The study subjects were mostly male (86%), overweight (BMI 31) and middle age (mean age 52)

Here were the study results:

There were some health improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure and other parameters in the Mediterranean and low carb group that bested the high carb group. That was the focus of many articles and discussions that appeared on the net this week. However, I'd like to focus on the weight loss aspect as I'm not a medical doctor and fat loss is the primary subject matter of this website.

All three groups lost weight. The low carb group lost 5.5 kilos, the Mediterranean group lost 4.6 kilos and the low fat group lost 3.3 kilograms…. IN TWO YEARS! Whoopee! 

My conclusion would be that the results were similar and that none of the diets worked very well over the long term!

Amanda Gardner of the US News and World Report Health Day was one of the few reporters who got it right:

"Diet plans produce similar results: Study finds Mediterranean and low-carb diets work just as well as low fat ones."

Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times also came close with her headline:

"Long term diet study suggests success is hard to come by: In a tightly controlled experiment, obese people lost an average of just 6 to 10 pounds over two years."

Even this headline wasn't 100% accurate. The study was HARDLY tightly controlled. Tightly controlled means metabolic ward studies where the researchers actually count and control the calorie intake.

The problem is, you can't lock people in a hospital or research center ward for two years. So in this study, they used a food frequency questionnaire. Sure, like we believe what people report about their eating habits at restaurants and at home behind closed doors! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

 

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"No! I swear Dr. Schwarzfuchs! I swear I didn't eat those donuts over the weekend! I stayed on my Mediterranean diet. Honest!"

One of the most firmly established facts in dietetics research is that almost everyone underreports their food intake BADLY, sometimes by as much as 50%. I'm not saying everyone "lies," they just forget or don't know. In fact, this underreporting of calorie intake is such a huge problem that it makes obesity research very difficult to do and conclusions difficult to draw from free-living studies.

Another blunder in the news reports is that this study didn't really follow Atkins diet parameters OR even the traditional low fat diet for that matter, so it's not an "Atkin's versus Ornish" showdown at all.

If you actually take the time to read the full text of the research paper it doesn't say ANYTHING like, "Atkins is the best after all." That's the spin that some of the news media cooked up (and what the Atkins foundation was hoping for).

It says, "The diet was based on the Atkins diet." However, the sentence right before that says, "The participants were counseled to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein." Vegetarian Atkins?

The chart on page 236 says the low carb diet provided 40% of calories from carbs at 6, 12 and 24 months. If I'm reading that data properly, then the only low carb period was a brief induction phase in the very beginning.

Does that sound like Atkins? 40% carb sounds more like the Zone diet or my own Burn The Fat program to me.

The Atkins Foundation, which partially supported this study, told reporters, "We feel vindicated." HA! They should have paid the reporters and told the researchers they felt ripped off and they wanted a refund for misuse of their research grant!

After carefully reading the full text of this study, there are many interesting findings we could talk about, from the differences in results between men and women to the improvements in health markers. Here's what the study really says that stood out to me. It's what I would have talked about if the newspapers or TV stations had called me:

1. "Mediterranean and low carb diets may be effective alternatives to low-fat diets."

I can agree completely with that statement. All three diets created a calorie deficit. All three groups lost weight. Low carb lost a little more, which is the usual finding because low carb diets often control appetite and calorie intake automatically (you eat less even if you don't count calories). Also, if body composition is not indicated, there's an initial water weight loss that makes low carb diets look more effective in the very early stages.

2. "Personal preferences and metabolic considerations might inform individualized tailoring of dietary interventions."

Absolutely! Nutrition should be individualized based on goals, health status, body type, activity level and numerous other factors. Different people have different phenotypes. Some people are more predisposed to thrive on a low carb approach. Others feel like crap on low carbs and do better with more carbs or a middle of the road approach. Those who dogmatically follow and defend one type of diet or the other are only handcuffing themselves by limiting their options. Iris Shai, a researcher in the study said, "We can't rely on one diet fits all." Hmm, far cry from "Atkins wins hands down," wouldn't you say?

3. "The rate of adherence to a study diet was 95.4% at 1 year and 84.6% at 2 years."

THIS was the part of most interest to me. When I read this, immediately I could have cared less about the silly low carb versus high carb wars that the news reporters were jumping on.

I wanted to know WHY the subjects were able to stick with it so well. Of course, that's boring stuff to journalists… adherence? What does that word mean anyway? Yawn - not interesting enough for prime time, I guess.

But it was interesting to me, and I hope YOU pay attention to what I found. The authors of the study wrote:

"This trial suggests a model that might be applied more broadly in the workplace. Using the employer as a health coach could be an effective way to improve health. The model of group intervention with the use of dietary group sessions, spousal support, food labels, and monthly weighing in the workplace within the framework of a health promotion campaign might yield weight reduction and long term health benefits."

 

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Hmmmmm, lets see:

* Dietician coaching
* Group meetings
* Motivational phone calls
* Spousal support
* Workplace monitoring (corporate health program)
* Food labels - calorie monitoring
* Weigh-ins (required and monitored)

 

Wow, everything helpful to long term fat loss that sticks. Can you say, ACCOUNTABILITY? These factors help explain the better adherence.

By the way, the adherence rate for the low carb group was the lowest.

90.4% in low fat group
85.3% in the Mediterranean group
78% in the low carb group

Here's the bottom line, the way I see it:

First, please, please, please learn how to find and read primary research and take the news media stories with a grain of salt. If you want to know who died, what burned down or what hurricane is coming, tune in to the news – they do a GREAT job at that. If you want to know how to lose weight or improve your health, look up the original research papers instead of taking second hand information at face value.

Second, those who prefer a low carb approach; more power to them. Most studies, this one included, show at the very least that low carb is an option and it's not necessarily an unhealthy one if done intelligently. I also have no qualms with someone claiming that low carb diets are slightly more effective for weight loss, especially in the short term, free living situations. Is low carb superior for fat loss in the long haul? That's STILL highly debatable. It's probably superior for some people, but not for others.

Third, low carb people, listen up! Even if low carb is superior, that doesn't mean calories don't count. Deny this at your own peril. In fact, this study shows the reverse. The low carb group was in a larger negative energy balance than the high carb and Mediterranean group (according to the data published in this paper), which easily explains the greater weight loss. Posting the calories contained in foods in the cafeteria may have improved the results and helped with compliance in all groups.

When energy intake is matched calorie for calorie, the advantage of a low carb diet shrinks or disappears. For most people, low carb is a hunger management or calorie control weight loss advantage, not metabolic magic (sorry, no magic folks!)

 

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Fourth, choose the nutrition program that's most appropriate for your personal preferences, your current health condition, your genetics (or phenotype) and most important of all… the one you can stick with. Then tend your own garden instead of wasting time criticizing how the other guy is eating. Your results will speak for themselves in the end. Take your shirt off and show us.

If I were forced to choose only one approach (and thank god I'm not), I would recommend avoiding the extremes of very low carb or very low fat or very high fat or very high carbs. Balance makes the most sense to me, and the research suggests that this helps produce the highest compliance rate. That's not rocket science either, it's common sense. If you have a serious fat loss goal, as when I compete in bodybuilding, then a further reduction in carbs and increase in protein makes perfect sense to me as a peaking diet.

 

If an extremely low or extremely high carb diet worked for you, great. But generalizing your experience to the entire rest of the world makes no sense. Arguing from extremes is the weakest form of argument.

 

The reason I have THREE nutrition plans (three phases) in my own fat loss program is because programs with flexibility and room for individualization beat the others hands down in the long term. In fact, I wrote an entire chapter in my e-book about unique body types, how to determine yours and how to individualize your nutrition – it's THAT important.

 

If you have more choices, you have more power. The people who are shackled by dogma and narrow thinking are stuck. They also risk missing what's really important. Things like:

 

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Tom Venuto's Top 10 Travel Fitness Tips


I recently read two articles about travel fitness. One said that while you're traveling, you should keep up with 50% of your normal training and the other said you should keep up with only one-third. Both were written by well known fitness professionals and both said that you should NOT expect to keep up your regular exercise program while you are traveling. That struck me as kind of "lame" and I said to myself, "Why the heck not? Why do people have such low standards and demand so little of themselves? Why do they let themselves off the hook and scale back?"

Sometimes, of course, traveling is purely for a vacation – including a vacation from training. Occasional time off from intense training is beneficial and necessary to let your body recover and rejuvenate completely from chronic training stress, just as time off from the office is needed to disengage your mind for a while. It's also true that it really doesn't take much to maintain fitness once it is developed, and an abbreviated, but still effective, workout routine could certainly be used, if you choose, when you're on the road.

However, you still have healthy eating to think about and just because you're traveling doesn't mean you can't follow your regular exercise regimen. Why settle? If you want to continue to improve your physique while on the road, you can! Here are 10 ways that I did it on my last extended business trip that you may find helpful as well. It begins with a simple decision.

1. Decide to improve while you're traveling and to come home in better shape than when you left

Nearly every time I travel (the exception being if it's a complete rest and relaxation vacation), I set a goal to come home in better shape than when I left. The only reason most people usually come home with lower fitness and a few extra pounds than when they left is because they didn't make a decision to do otherwise. In fact, many people hold a belief that it's "impossible" to stay on their eating and exercise program while they are traveling! Why not get in better shape no matter where you are? The truth is, all it takes is a decision and some planning. I find it a fun and exhilarating challenge to improve myself no matter where I am in the world.

2. Write out your workout schedule in advance

There's nothing like writing your goals down on paper to keep your mind focused and keep yourself motivated. In addition to writing out goals regularly, preferably every day, you should also commit your training schedule to paper and especially when you are traveling. Write down the days, the time of the day and the exact workout you plan to do and you will be amazed at how easy you will find it is to get to the gym and have great workouts.

 

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3. Get a hotel with a kitchen

The single most important part of my travel arrangements was to book a hotel with a kitchen. For me, not having a kitchen is not an option. If you don't have kitchen, you will be much more likely to skip meals, it's very difficult to eat 5 or 6 times a day (as required by any good fat burning or muscle building nutrition program), and you may end up at the mercy of restaurant, hotel or convenience store food. For my most recent trip, I stayed at Homestead Studio Suites, one of several national hotel chains in the USA which includes a full kitchen including a refrigerator, microwave, stove – the whole works. Exteneded Stay America and Marriot Residence Inn offer similar accomodations

On previous trips, if there wasn't such a hotel with a kitchen in the vicinity, I searched the internet for apartments for short term rental. You may be surprised at the type of lodging you can find and often you will be pleased with price as compared to hotels. I once booked a luxury condo for 7 days and it ended up costing less than the hotel I was first considering, and the hotel didn't even have a kitchen. Nothing beats a full kitchen, but you may also find that many hotels will provide you with a microwave and mini-refrigerator if you ask for them.

4. Go food shopping immediately after checking in

The FIRST thing I did after checking in was to make a beeline straight to the local grocery store. I took a shopping list with me because on past trips I found that I nearly always seemed to forget one or two small items if I didn't have the written grocery list. Once you have a fully stocked refrigerator and kitchen, your meal planning and preparation is NO DIFFERENT than it is when you are home.

5. check the local restaurant locations and menus and commit in advance to making healthy choices when dining out

Since I had a kitchen at my disposal, the majority of my meals were just business as usual. I cooked them right in my hotel room and brought them along with me wherever I went. However, when traveling, it's likely that you will probably be having quite a few restaurant meals.

I make it a habit to scope out the local restaurants in advance and even check their websites. Most have their menus online these days. I make a decision in advance whether it will be a regular meal or a "cheat meal." If it's a cheat meal, I enjoy whatever I want, but I always keep portion sizes in mind. For example, last time, I split a slice of cheesecake with a friend. Was I guilty? Heck no, it was my planned cheat day, I only ate half a slice and it was the first cheesecake I had in 12 months!

If you walk into a restaurant without having made a decision in advance whether you are staying on your regular meals or having a cheat meal, you are much more likely to have a "diet accident" and make a poor choice on impulse, especially if you're influenced by non-healthy-eating companions (don't under estimate the negative peer pressure factor). All it takes is one unplanned cheat meal and that can often lead to guilt. Then "all or none thinking" tends to set in and you may tell yourself, "Well, I blew it," so the next meal and then the rest of the week tends to completely fall apart as well.

 

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Steady State Cardio 5 X More Effective Than HIIT


High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, has been promoted as one of the most effective training methods ever to come down the pike, both for fat loss and for cardiovascular fitness. One of the most popular claims for HIIT is that it burns "9 times more fat" than conventional (steady state) cardio. This figure was extracted from a study performed by Angelo Tremblay at Laval University in 1994. But what if I told you that HIIT has never been proven to be 9 times more effective than regular cardio… What if I told you that the same study actually shows that HIIT is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio??? Read on and see the proof for yourself.

"There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics."

- Mark Twain

In 1994, a study was published in the scientific journal Metabolism by Angelo Tremblay and his team from the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Based on the results of this study, you hear personal trainers across the globe claiming that "HIIT burns 9 times more fat than steady state cardio."
This claim has often been interpreted by the not so scientifically literate public as meaning something like this: If you burned 3 pounds of fat in 15 weeks on steady state cardio, you would now burn 27 pounds of fat in 15 weeks (3 lbs X 9 times better = 27 lbs).
Although it's usually not stated as such, frankly, I think this is what some trainers want you to believe, because the programs that some trainers promote are based on convincing you of the vast superiority of HIIT and the "uselessness" of low intensity exercise.
Indeed, higher intensity exercise is more effective and time efficient than lower intensity exercise. The question is, how much more effective? There's no evidence that the "9 times more fat loss" claim is true outside the specific context in which it was mentioned in this study.
In order to get to the bottom of this, you have to read the full text of the research paper and you have to look very closely at the results.
13 men and 14 women age 18 to 32 started the study. They were broken into two groups, a high intensity intermittent training program (HIIT) and a steady state training program which they referred to as endurance training (ET).
The ET group completed a 20 week steady state aerobic training program on a cycle ergometer 4 times a week for 30 minutes, later progressing to 5 times per week for 45 minutes. The initial intensity was 60% of maximal heart rate reserve, later increasing to 85%.
The HIIT group performed 25-30 minutes of continuous exercise at 70% of maximal heart rate reserve and they also progressively added 35 long and short interval training sessions over a period of 15 weeks. Short work intervals started at 10 then 15 bouts of 15 seconds, increasing to 30 seconds. Long intervals started at 5 bouts of 60 seconds, increasing to 90 seconds. Intensity and duration were progressively increased over the 15 week period.

 

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The results: 3 times greater fat loss in the HIIT group

Even though the energy cost of the exercise performed in the ET group was twice as high as the HIIT group, the sum of the skinfolds (which reflects subcutaneous body fat) in the HIIT group was three times lower than the ET group.
So where did the "9 times greater fat loss" claim come from?
Well, there was a difference in energy cost between groups, so in order to show a comparison of fat loss relative to energy cost, Tremblay wrote,
 

"It appeared reasonable to correct changes in subcutaneous fat for the total cost of training. This was performed by expressing changes in subcutaneous skinfolds per megajoule of energy expended in each program."

Translation: The subjects did not lose 9 times more body fat, in absolute terms. But hey, 3 times more fat loss? You'll gladly take that, right?
Well hold on, because there's more. Did you know that in this oft-quoted study, neither group lost much weight? In fact, if you look at the charts, you can see that the HIIT group lost 0.1 kg (63.9 kg before, 63.8 kg after). Yes, the HIIT group lost a whopping 100 grams of weight in 15 weeks!
 

The ET group lost 0.5 kilograms (60.6 kg before, 60.1 kg after).

Naturally, lack of weight loss while skinfolds decrease could simply mean that body composition improved (lean mass increased), but I think it's important to highlight the fact that the research study from which the "9 times more fat" claim was derived did not result in ANY significant weight loss after 15 weeks.

Based on these results, if I wanted to manipulate statistics to promote steady state cardio, I could go around telling people, "Research study says steady state cardio (endurance training) results in 5 times more weight loss than high intensity interval training!" Or the reverse, "Clinical trial proves that high intensity interval training is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio!"
Mind you, THIS IS THE SAME STUDY THAT IS MOST OFTEN QUOTED TO SUPPORT HIIT!
 

If I said 5 X greater weight loss with steady state, I would be telling the truth, wouldn't I? (100 grams of weight loss vs 500 grams?) Of course, that would be misleading because the weight loss was hardly significant in either group and because interval training IS highly effective. I'm simply being a little facetious in order to make a point: Be careful with statistics. I have seen statistical manipulation used many times in other contexts to deceive unsuspecting consumers.

For example, advertisements for a popular fat burner claim that use of their supplement resulted in twice as much fat loss, based on scientific research. The claim was true. Of course, in the ad, they forget to tell you that after six months, the control group lost no weight, while the supplement group lost only 1.0 kilo. Whoop de doo! ONE KILO of weight loss after going through a six month supply of this "miracle fat burner!"
But I digress…

Back to the HIIT story – there's even more to it.

 

In the ET group, there were some funky skinfold and circumference measurements. ALL of the skinfold measurements in the ET group either stayed the same or went down except the calf measurement, which went up.

The girths and skinfold measurements in the limbs went down in the HIIT group, but there wasn't much difference between HIIT and ET in the trunk skinfolds. These facts are all very easy to miss. I didn't even notice it myself until exercise physiologist Christian Finn pointed it out to me. Christian said,

"When you look at the changes in the three skinfold measurements taken from the trunk, there wasn't that much difference between the steady state group (-6.3mm) and the HIIT group (-8.7 mm). So, much of the difference in subcutaneous fat loss between the groups wasn't because the HIIT group lost more fat, but because the steady state group actually gained fat around the calf muscles. We shouldn't discount simple measurement error as an explanation for these rather odd results."

Christian also pointed out that the two test groups were not evenly matched for body composition at the beginning of the study. At the beginning of the study, the starting body fat based on skinfolds in the HIIT group was nearly 20% higher than the ET group. He concluded:
 

"So while this study is interesting, weaknesses in the methods used to track changes in body composition mean that we should treat the results and conclusions with some caution."

One beneficial aspect of HIIT that most trainers forget to mention is that HIIT may actually suppress your appetite, while steady state cardio might increase appetite. In a study such as this, however, that can skew the results. If energy intake were not controlled, then some of the greater fat loss in the HIIT group could be due to lowered caloric intake.
Last but not least, I'd like to highlight the words of the researchers themselves in the conclusion of the paper, which confirms the effectiveness of HIIT, but also helps put it in perspective a bit:
 

"For a given level of energy expenditure, a high intensity training program induces a greater loss of subcutaneous fat compared with a training program of moderate intensity."

"It is obvious that high intensity exercise cannot be prescribed for individuals at risk for health problems or for obese people who are not used to exercise. In these cases, the most prudent course remains a low intensity exercise program with a progressive increase in duration and frequency of sessions."
In conclusion, my intention in writing this article wasn't to be controversial, to be a smart-alec or to criticize HIIT. To the contrary, additional research has continued to support the efficacy of HIIT for fat loss and fitness, not to mention that it is one of the most time efficient ways to do cardiovascular training.
I have recommended HIIT for years in my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program, using a 1:1 long interval approach, which, while only one of many ways to do HIIT, is probably my personal favorite method. However, I also recommend steady state cardio and even low intensity cardio like walking, when it is appropriate.
 

My intentions for writing this article were four-fold:

 

1. To encourage you to question where claims come from, especially if they sound too good to be true.
2. To alert you to how advertisers might use research such as this to exaggerate with statistics.
3. To encourage the fitness community to swing the pendulum back to center a bit, by not over-selling the benefits of HIIT beyond what can be supported by the scientific research.
4. To encourage the fitness community, that even as they praise HIIT, not to condemn lower and moderate intensity forms of cardio.

As the original author of the 1994 HIIT study himself pointed out, HIIT is not for everyone, and cardio should be prescribed with progression. Also, mountains of other research has proven that walking (GASP! - low intensity cardio!) has always been one of the most successful exercise methods for overweight men and women.
There is ample evidence which says that obesity may be the result of a very slight daily energy imbalance, which adds up over time. Therefore, even a small amount of casual exercise or activity, if done consistently, and not compensated for with increased food intake, could reverse the obesity trend. HIIT gets the job done fast, but that doesn't mean low intensity cardio is useless or that you should abandon your walking program, if you have the time and if that is what you enjoy and if that is what's working for you in your personal situation.

 

The mechanisms and reasons why HIIT works so well are numerous. It goes way beyond more calories burned during the workout.

 

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Speed Eating and Fat Loss: Diet Advice Your Mom Was Right About All Along


A new study just published in a recent issue of the journal Obesity has revealed that thin people eat very differently than heavy people at all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants.

Researcher Brian Wansink and his team from the Cornell University Food and Brand Laboratory observed diners at 11 different Chinese buffet restaurants across the United States.

Their goal was to find out whether the eating behaviors of people at all-you-can-eat buffets varied based on their body mass.

Trained observers recorded the height, weight, gender, age, and behavior of 213 patrons. The various seating, serving and eating behaviors were then compared across BMI levels.

The heavier (higher BMI) patrons:

  • ate more quickly
  • chewed more food per bite
  • used forks
  • sat facing the food buffet
The thin (lower BMI) patrons:

  • ate more slowly
  • chewed less food per bite
  • used chopsticks
  • sat facing away from the food buffet

This study confirms earlier research from the University of Rhode Island published in the journal of the American Dietetic Association which found that eating slowly leads to decreases in energy intake.

Scientists even have a name for this now:

 

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"TIME-ENERGY DISPLACEMENT"

Time-Energy Displacement means that the more time you take to eat, the less energy (calories) you are likely to consume. The faster you eat, the more energy (calories) you're likely to consume.

But wait, there's even more! A study from the University of Alabama looked at satiety (how full a food makes you feel), energy density (calories per unit of volume) and eating time of various foods. To maximize the effects of Time-Energy Displacement, it was found even more advantageous to choose foods that FORCE you to ingest calories more slowly.

This includes choosing more:

Foods that have a high satiety factor such as high fiber and high water foods (so you feel fuller more quickly):


  • Peas
  • Red beans
  • Raspberries
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Chick Peas

 

Foods with a high "chew factor" (so you can't eat them fast if you tried; you have to chew them thoroughly):


  • Lean meats such as top round, lean sirloin
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peaches 
Foods with a low energy density such as salad vegetables and greens (so you'd get tired of eating before you took in a lot of calories):
  • Tomatoes
  • Artichoke
  • Cucumber
  • Salad Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Okra

These results also confirm all the studies that have been advising us not to drink our calories. Liquid calories, especially soft drinks and dessert coffees are two of the biggest sources of excess calories in the typical American's diet.

The problem: calories in liquid form can have a very high caloric density and can be consumed very quickly. Liquid calories also do not activate the satiety mechanism in your brain and gastrointestinal tract the way solid food does.

"Don't inhale your food" used to be an admonishment about proper eating etiquette you heard from your mom. It is now scientifically-proven fat loss advice.

 

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The Razor Sharp Abdominal Workout



If you could sculpt one body part to perfection for next summer, what would it be?  Let me guess – six pack abs!  I don't know anybody who does not want to shrink their waistline, lose body fat, eliminate lower back pain and develop a jaw-dropping set of rock-hard six-pack abs.   Building eye-popping abdominals is not the hardest thing to achieve in the world but it's definitely not the easiest either.

Before you can start learning how to get six-pack abs and discover the truth about what it really takes to build a beach-worthy abdominal section, you must first expose the lies, myths and rumors.  Before we talk about how to get six-pack abs, the right way, we must re-program your hard drive and empty the trash can of garbage you have been fed. 

Because of all this hyped-up and misguided information – even among so-called 'fitness experts' – you should be skeptical of all abdominal training equimpment and programs.  Let's first eliminate the top four ways not to get a six-pack:

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require expensive workout equipment promoted through obnoxious infomercials. You can't flick on the TV anymore without seeing two new abdominal exercise machines being promoted at once.  There are so many of them that if you get suckered into these 'ab workout' gimmicks, you will be broke quicker than Ben Johnson sprints the 100 meter dash!   And get this: Of the $520 million dollars a year spent on exercise equipment, abdominal machines get a $208 million dollar piece of the pie! 

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require thousands or even hundreds of crunches a day.  So much for the Brittany Spears ab workout!  Crunches are decent but totally overused and associated with more being better.  Crunches are a very general exercise, and general exercises get general results.  Excessive floor crunches shorten the abdominal wall, pull your head forward and emphasize poor posture.  They also involve a very low level of stimulation which neglects adequate muscle-fiber recruitment.  

Learning how to get a six-pack does not involve starvation diets.  Starvation diets starve the muscle when you should be feeding the muscle instead.  Guess what happens when you starve your body?  Your metabolism shuts down out of survival and causes your body to store fat.   Your body must get energy from somewhere, so guess what gets sacrificed?  That's right, your precious muscle which is, in fact, responsible for maintaining a high metabolism.  Starve your muscle - great logic!

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require fat-burning pills.  What did the last weight loss pill you bought do for you?  The same thing the next one is going to do – nothing! Except give you a thinner wallet but not a thinner waist line.  The entire concept of taking pills to 'burn fat' is built on a sandy foundation and misleading because diet pills only treat the symptoms and not the root cause.  Without focusing on the root problems of a flabby mid-section, like poor nutrition, a crazy lifestyle and improper training, you will just end up where you started – farther away from having a six-pack for summer instead of closer.

Just Because You're Skinny Does Not Mean You Will Have A Six-Pack

The volume of interest I receive from skinny guys who wish to build their mid-sections is more than enough evidence to disprove the false reality of "I should be able to 'see' my abs if I have low body fat." I'm sure you know of a friend who is completely scrawny, yet, without a shirt on he, has zero abdominal definition! To me that would be salt on an open wound.

Abdominals Are A Muscle, Too!

 

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You want your arms to be bigger, your shoulders to be broader and your chest to be fuller, correct? And what is the solution to making these muscle groups increase in size? High intensity weight training, overload, consistency and a healthy surplus of calories. Starting to sound familiar?

The same goes for your abdominals. Your abdominals are a muscle group that requires the same formula and attention and are not any different from other muscle groups. For some reason many consider abdominals to be a 'special' body part that requires a different set of rules and a completely different formula for training. Abdominals were not given a 'secret code' to crack. To get thick, dense abs – the ones that 'pop' out - you must train them with intensity and overload. Here are some practical tips you can apply to your program so that you can be the 'man' or 'gal' at your gym with a ripped and muscular six-pack. Then I will provide a sample program!

Prioritize By Sequence

If your abs are your worse body part, then why do you keep training them last, at the end of your workout? Which muscles group will receive the highest priority when you train? The ones done at the start of your workout or the ones done at the end of the workout? Of course, the exercises done at the start of the workout while you have the most energy and focus. If abdominals are the muscle group you wish to prioritize, then don't be afraid to disagree with the 'experts' who say "Never train your abdominals first because you'll weaken your core muscles for the rest of your workout…". I completely disagree with this and often reply, "Show me the evidence." The typical response is "Nobody does abdominals first…". That is pure BS. This just supports the notion that many people who work out don't ever question what they hear or do. They want to be spoon-fed answers and follow the trends of others without thinking for themselves. I ALWAYS train abdominals first in a workout if they need the highest attention.

Prioritize By Frequency

What's going to receive better results? A muscle group that is trained one time a week or two times a week (assuming you recovered prior to the second workout commencing)? Of course, the muscle that is trained 2x a week. The more stimulus on a muscle, the more growth. That is why professional athletes are professional athletes. They have conditioned their bodies to such a high amount of stress that they are able to train more frequently.

How often you train your abdominals is based on the inverse relationship of intensity and volume. The harder you train your abs, the more rest they need. The less intense you train your abs, the more frequently you can train them! If your goal is rehab or injury prevention, then you will be able to train them often with more frequent and lower loads. If your goal is to make your abs more muscular and dense, then a higher load and less frequency would be ideal. If your goal is maintenance, then a medium load and frequency would be ideal. Refer to this table:

Purpose

Frequency

Intensity

Volume

Reps

Endurance/Conditioning

5-7x a week

Moderate

1-4 sets

50-100

Hypertrophy

4x a week

High

6-12 sets

8-12

       

If building a sexy six-pack is on your 'to do' list for 2008, then start training abdominals 2-4x a week. I will teach you in a moment how to split your abdominals up into two different days based on movement.

Your Genetics and Abdominals

 

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Right now some of you can see a perfectly set of staggered abs that are wide and thick and separated by a line down the middle.  Some of you have the classic four-pack which is four big abs with a smooth lower section.  Some of you have tiny cubicle boxes sitting high on your abdominal wall.  Some of you have the picture perfect eight-pack that makes people's jaws drop. 

Like every muscle group, all you can do is train them as heavy and hard as possible and hope your genetics take care of the rest. You can't change the shape or alignment or separation of your abs.  You can't move them around and place them where you want them.  Your genetics will affect to which degree they "pop" out and to which degree they stay smoother or flatter. 

The good news is that abdominals are abdominals and when your body fat levels are around 5-7% you are guaranteed to impress people, including yourself, with a set of hot-looking abs.  Even though genetics play a huge role in how they look, it's important to know how to train them to make them look their best. 

Divide Your Abdominals into Two Separate Workouts for Best Results

To train your abdominals safely and effectively you must know the basic movement patterns of your abs and train them within all sub-categories:

• Truck Flexion (upper abs)
• Hip Flexion (lower abs)
• Rotation (obliques)
• Lateral Flexion (obliques)

The majority of books and articles you have read revolve the bulk of the ab exercises around the trunk flexion that is better known as 'upper ab' exercises. A full sit up is a perfect example of this.

Bill Starr in his 1976 classic 'The Strongest Shall Survive' wrote that the abdominals "…can be strengthened in a wide variety of ways. Sit-ups of all types, leg raises, truck rotation movements all involve the abdominal muscles to a different degree…"

I wouldn't be surprised if the abdominal program you are following right now is based on one movement - trunk flexion. I am guessing that your primary goal is actually to have a well-defined and sculpted six-pack, so I have provided a sample abdominal program to break it up into a four day program:

 

A

B

C

D

Trunk Flexion

Rotation

Trunk Flexion

Rotation

Hip Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Hip Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Even though you are training each movement twice per week, you will perform different exercises for each workout.

Use a Variety Of Functional Exercises

The Top 3 Hip Flexion Exercises:

1.   Lying Hip Raise

2.   Incline Hip Raise

3.   Hanging Hip Raise

The Top 3 Trunk Flexion Exercises:

1.   Swiss Ball Crunch

2. Weighted Swiss Ball Crunches

3. Weighted Cable Crunches

The Top 3 Rotation Exercises:

1.   Russian Twist

2.   Weighted Russian Twist

3.   Weighted Cable Crossover

The Top 3 Lateral Flexion Exercises:

1.   Lateral Flexion on back extension machine

2.   Lateral Flexion with medicine ball over head

Razor Sharp Abdominal Workout 2:

Trunk Rotation and Lateral Flexion

Perform this workout at least two times a week separated by at least 48 hours rest.  You should experience a deep muscle soreness after each one of these workouts.  Focus on using a load that causes failure within 8-12 reps and then move to the next exercise.  This is a non-stop circuit.  Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat until you reach 4 sets total.

 

Exercise    Sets   Reps  Tempo    Rest
Side Bends Dumbells Overhead 1-4 8-12 311 -
Oblique Crunch  1-4 8-12 311 -
Side Bends Dumbells Overhead 1-4 8-12 311 -
Lateral Raises on Back
Extension Machine
1-4 8-12 311 1-2 minutes
   

Conclusion

As said earlier, buiding razor sharp abs is not the easiest task in the work but nor is it the hardest.  The above abdominal exercises will help you build a deeply separated and evenly placed set of abs in little time.  The truth is that if you can't see your abs, then the best exercise for your abs will be  better diet. 

 

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Protein Supplements Vs. Protein Foods?


Are protein supplements really better than protein foods? Before attempting to answer this question, I should first preface it by mentioning that I do not sell supplements, nor am I associated with any supplement company, so you're getting an honest and unbiased opinion. Don't get me wrong; I am not anti-supplement by any means. It would simply be more accurate to say that I am "pro-food." There are a lot of good supplements on the market, and I've used many of them, including a multi vitamin, creatine and essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements such as Flaxseed oil. Protein powders and meal replacements can also be indispensable if you don't have time to eat every three hours. However, protein supplements are not the master key to your success, real food is!

Did you ever notice how articles about protein in certain bodybuilding magazines are seldom objective? Instead, they all seem to be slanted towards hyping some "revolutionary" new product. Did you ever wonder why? In my opinion, most articles on protein supplements are nothing more than thinly disguised advertisements (some very thinly). Sometimes they give you a very persuasive-sounding argument, replete with dozens of references from scientific studies (mostly done on rodents, of course). They even give you an 800 number at the end of the article to order. (How convenient!)

When protein manufacturers throw around fancy words like cross flow microfiltration, oligopeptides, ion-exchange, protein efficiency ratio, biological value, nitrogen retention and glycomacropeptides, it sure sounds convincing, especially when scores of scientific references are cited. But don't forget that the supplement industry is big business and most magazines are the supplement industry. Lyle McDonald, author of "The Ketogenic Diet," hit the nail on the head when he wrote "Unfortunately, the obsession that bodybuilders have with protein has made them susceptible to all kinds of marketing hype. Like most aspects of bodybuilding (and the supplement industry in general), the issue of protein is driven more by marketing hype than physiological reality and marketing types know how to push a bodybuilder's button when it comes to protein "

 

Many nutrition "experts" (read: people who sell supplements), state that there are distinct advantages of protein supplements (powders and amino acid tablets) over whole foods. For example, they argue that whey, a by-product of the cheese-making process, is a higher quality protein than most whole food sources. There are many different methods of determining protein quality, including biological value (BV), protein efficiency ratio (PER), Net Protein Utilization (NPU), chemical score, and protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). If you have ever seen advertisements for protein powders and supplements, you have undoubtedly heard of one or more of these measures of protein quality.

BV is one of the most commonly used and is arguably, the best measure of a protein's quality. BV is based on how much of the protein consumed is actually absorbed and utilized by the body. The higher the amount of protein (nitrogen) that is actually retained, the greater the BV. If a protein has a BV of 100, it means that all of the protein absorbed has been utilized with none lost. Whole eggs score the highest of all foods with a BV of 100, while beans have a BV of only 49.

Protein quality is certainly an important issue, but it is one that has been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes. Whey protein is truly an excellent protein with a biological value at or near 100. Many advertisements list whey as having a BV between 104 and 157, but if you look in any nutrition textbook it will tell you that it is impossible to have a BV over 100. In "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism," BV is defined as "a measure of nitrogen retained for growth and/or maintenance that is expressed as a percentage of nitrogen absorbed."

When a protein supplement is listed as having a BV over 100, the company has intentionally manipulated the number for marketing purposes or unintentionally confused BV with another method of rating protein quality. Certain whey proponents claim that whey is "superior to whole egg" so the percentage sign on BV had to be dropped and the scale extended beyond 100. It was noted by bodybuilding writer Jerry Branium in IRONMAN magazine that in a study where the BV of whey was reported to be 157, the author confused BV with chemical score. Chemical score is a comparison of the amino acid pattern in an ideal reference protein to a test protein and therefore the number can exceed 100. 157 was actually the chemical score and not the BV.

Most bodybuilders and strength athletes already consume more than enough protein (an understatement if there ever was one), so the importance of BV to these athletes who are already consuming copious amounts of protein has been overplayed. Even though whey has a higher BV than chicken breast, fish or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume is sufficient, then it is not likely that substituting whey for food proteins will result in any additional muscle growth.

 

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Whether you choose a whole protein food or a protein supplement isn't as important as some would like you to believe. For the purposes of developing muscle, the only guidelines for protein that you must follow are: (1) consume a source of complete protein with every meal, (2) eat at frequent intervals approximately three hours apart (about six times per day) and (3) consume a minimum of .8 grams to 1 gram per pound of body weight. There are times when it would be beneficial to consume more than one gram per pound of body weight, but that will have to be the subject of another article.

Because whey protein does have a high BV, it probably offers the most benefits when you are dieting on very low calories. When your energy intake and correspondingly, your protein intake, are reduced, whey protein could help you get greater utilzation of the smaller amount of protein that you are taking in. In other words, choosing proteins of the highest quality is more of an issue when you are dieting than when you are focusing on mass gains when total calories and protein are being consumed in abundant amounts. Whey protein also provides a way to get high quality protein without the fat, which is also important when dieting.

It has been suggested that whey may have other advantages besides high protein quality, although they are frequently overstated. These benefits include enhanced immunity, increased antioxidant activity and quick absorption. Several studies in "Clinical and Investigative Science" by Dr. Gerard Bounous of Montreal have shown that whey protein provides anti carcinogenic properties, protection from infections, and other enhanced immune responses. Whey protein was also been shown to raise levels of Glutathione, an important antioxidant that can offer protection from free radical oxidative damage. While such findings are very promising, all these studies, which are frequently quoted in whey protein advertisements, were performed on mice, so it is unclear how well the results extrapolate to humans.

Another acknowledged benefit of whey protein is its fast absorption rate. Although there isn't any evidence that protein supplements digest more efficiently than whole foods (as is often claimed), they are definitely digested faster. This is most important after a training session when the rates of protein synthesis and glycogen re-synthesis are increased. This is the reason it is often recommended that a liquid meal containing protein and a high glycemic carbohydrate be consumed immediately post-workout and that whey is the ideal protein for this purpose. Even in considering post-workout nutrition, there is still little proof that a liquid protein-carb complex will actually produce better muscular growth than whole foods, as long as complete whole food protein foods and complex carbohydrates are consumed immediately after the training session and every three waking hours for a period of 24 hours thereafter.

Speaking of protein absorption rates, the discussion of fast acting versus slow acting proteins seems to be the latest hot topic these days in bodybuilding circles. The interest was sparked by studies in 1997 and 1998 that examined the differences between the absorption rates of whey versus casein. The researchers concluded that whey was a fast acting protein and was considered to be more "anabolic" while casein was slower acting and was considered to be more "anti-catabolic. " It was further hypothesized that consuming a combination of these two types of proteins could lead to greater muscle growth. These findings have prompted the supplement companies to market an entirely new category of protein supplements; casein and whey mixes. The problem with drawing such conclusions so quickly is that these studies looked at the speed of whey and casein absorption in subjects who had fasted for 10 hours before being fed the protein. Any suppositions drawn from this information are probably irrelevant if you are eating mixed whole food meals every three hours. Obviously, more research is needed.

This recent fascination with various rates of protein absorption could be compared to the interest in the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a scale that measures the rate at which the body converts various carbohydrate foods into blood glucose. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the food is converted to glucose and the larger the insulin response. Therefore it is said that high glycemic foods should be avoided in favor of low glycemic index foods. The error in relying solely on the glycemic index as your only criteria for choosing carbohydrates is that the index is based on consuming a carbohydrate food by itself in a fasted state.

 

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When carbohydrates are consumed in mixed meals that contain protein and a little fat, the glycemic index loses some of its significance because the protein and fat slow the absorption of the carbohydrate. That's why the glycemic index is really much ado about nothing and the same could probably be said for the casein and whey argument. It's just the latest in a long string of new angles that supplement companies use to promote their protein: free-form vs peptides, concentrate vs isolate, ion exchange vs microfiltration, soy vs whey, casein and whey mix vs pure whey and so on. Every year, you can count on some new twist on the protein story to appear. Certainly there are going to be advances in nutrition science, but all too often these "new discoveries" amount to nothing more than marketing hype.

What about amino acid pills? Amino acids pills are simply predigested protein. Proponents of amino acid supplementation claim that because the amino's are predigested, the body will absorb them better, leading to greater improvements in strength and muscle mass. It sounds logical, but this is a gross underestimation of the body's capacities and actually the reverse is true: The human digestive system was designed to efficiently process whole foods; it was not designed to digest pills and powders all day long. Amino's are absorbed more rapidly in the intestine when they are in the more complex di and tri-peptide molecules.

Your body gets better use of the aminos as protein foods are broken down and the amino's are absorbed at just the right rate for your body's needs. In "Exercise Physiology; Energy Nutrition and Human Performance," authors Katch and McArdle state that "Amino acid supplementation in any form has not been shown by adequate experimental design and methodology to increase muscle mass or significantly improve muscular strength, power, or endurance."

Furthermore, consuming predigested protein when you are seeking fat loss is not necessarily advantageous because it shortchanges you of the thermic effects of real food. Whole foods have a major advantage over protein supplements; they stimulate the metabolism more. This is known as the "thermic effect of food." Protein has the highest thermic effect of any food. Including a whole protein food with every meal can speed up your metabolic rate as much as 30% because of the energy necessary to digest, process, and absorb it. This means that out of 100 calories of a protein food such as chicken breast, the net amount of calories left over after processing it is 70. In this respect, the fact that protein foods digest slower than amino acid tablets is actually an advantage.

A final argument against amino acid supplements is the cost. Amino's are simply not cost effective. If you don't believe it, pick up a bottle and do the math yourself. One popular brand of "free form and peptide bonded amino acids" contains 150 1000mg. tablets per bottle and costs $19.95. 1000 mg. of amino acids equals 1 gram of protein, so the entire bottle contains 150 grams of protein. $19.95 divided by 150 grams is 13.3 cents per gram. Let's compare that to chicken breast. I can buy chicken breast from my local supermarket for $2.99 a pound. According to Corinne Netzer's "Complete Book of Food Counts," there are 8.8 grams of protein in each ounce of chicken, so one pound of chicken (16 oz) has about 140 grams of protein. $2.99 divided by 140 grams equals 2.1 cents per gram. The amino acids cost more than six times what the chicken breast does! I don't know about you, but I'll stick with the chicken breast.

The biggest advantage of protein supplements is not that they can build more muscle than chicken or egg whites or any other whole food protein, the biggest advantage is convenience. It is easier to drink a protein shake than it is to buy, prepare, cook and eat poultry, fish or egg whites. Consuming small, frequent meals is the optimal way to eat, regardless of whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain. To keep your body constantly in positive nitrogen balance, you must consume a complete protein every three hours. For many people, eating this often is nearly impossible. That's when a high quality protein supplement is the most helpful.

Aside from convenience, the truth about protein supplements is that they offer few advantages over protein foods. There is no scientific evidence that you can't meet all of your protein needs for muscle growth through food. As long as you eat every three hours and you eat a complete protein such as eggs, lean meat or lowfat dairy products with every meal, it is not necessary to consume any protein supplements to get outstanding results. Whey protein does have some interesting and useful properties and supplementing with a couple scoops each day is not a bad idea, especially if you are on a low calorie diet for fat loss or when you're using a post workout shake instead of a meal. Aside from that, focus on real food and don't believe the hype.

 

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Protein Powder, The Skinny Guy's Guide To Protein Powder



So what do you really need to know about protein powder? As a skinny guy or beginner to the whole bodybuilding scene you simply want to know a few answers. Is protein powder necessary? Does it really work? How much do I need? What kind should I take? What is the best? And finally, will any of these answers make a difference when it comes to getting jacked and attracting the ladies?

This article is not meant for you if you want to learn the science behind the ion-exchanged, cross-mutaed, isotopically labeled protein tracers - blah blah blah. In this article, I will strip away all the hype, science, and confusion that surrounds protein powder. By the time you are through this article and put it to memory, you will become the resident protein powder expert and amaze your friends the next time you visit the sport nutrition store. No more 2-hour shopping trips for protein powder because you don't really have a clue what to look for!

Is Protein Powder really necessary?

So, although protein supplements are not an absolute requirement for gaining mass, I have yet to meet any person able to get 400 grams of protein per day from cooking food. If your protein intake is greater than 200 grams per day I will suggest a protein powder - it will make your life a lot easier.

In addition, dollar for dollar, protein powders and meal replacement drinks tend to be more cost effective than whole food. Don't get me wrong, though. Protein powders are still supplements in my book. Supplement means an addition to the diet. I emphasize this because the focus of any diet should be food. Whole food is often preferable to powders because it can offer a whole spectrum of nutrients that powders cannot.

Most of your dietary protein should come from meat, fish, poultry and eggs. However getting all your protein from whole food is not always practical or convenient, especially if you have to eat 6 or more times a day to get your required intake. I will stress to you, for optimal muscle gains, you should limit yourself to a maximum of three shakes per day or 40 % of your meals. To some this might even sound like it's going 'overboard' and I would not disagree.

The bottom line is that both food and supplements are necessary to achieve a complete nutritional balance as well as the desired level of protein intake, especially if you're not a big fan of cooking. And I assume that over 95% of you reading this do not have a personal maid at home cooking all your meals while you sit around waiting for your next meal. Do not make the fatal mistake of thinking protein powders can take the place of a solid training and nutrition program.

 

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Does protein powder really work and are they healthy?

I get this question emailed to me almost every day. I just showed how it 'works' as a supplement to help you hit your supplemental protein mark but you are probably still wondering, 'Yeah, but is protein powder going to help me get muscular or is it a scam?" A better question would be, "Does protein really work?" and the obvious answer is 'yes.' You are fully aware that protein is composed of building blocks called amino acids, which performs a variety of functions in the body such as building and maintaining healthy muscles when combined with diet and exercise. Protein also:

  • Supports red blood cell production
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Keeps your hair, fingernails, and skin healthy

However, not all protein powder is created equal. Most protein powder contains an array of questionable ingredients such as aspartame, saccharin, fructose and artificial colors. It's interesting to note how unhealthy most of these protein powders actually are. Look for a protein powder with natural ingredients rather than products that are sweetened with chemicals and made with ingredients that are certainly not going to create an environment for muscle growth and fat burning.

Also avoid products with refined carbohydrates such as fructose, sucrose or brown rice syrup. Make sure that the product is made from a reputable company that is genuinely interested in good health. Unfortunately supplement manufacturers will continue to meet the demands of bodybuilding consumers with unknown crappy products because we buy it and it is cheaper for them to create. Do your homework by seeking out unbiased reviews, investigating the company's history, and reputation. And then make a decision and take responsibility!

In the past one of my criteria for a healthy protein product was that it was great tasting and that it should mix easily. Most protein powders mix quite easily, even with a spoon, however I was disappointed to discover that taste will inevitably be sacrificed for a safe and healthy product. I can live with this. You see, once a product is removed of all artificial chemical sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose, and simple sugars, it is left almost tasteless and sometimes even gross.

How much protein powder do I need?

A better question would be, "How much pure protein do I need to achieve my goals?"

Protein is an extremely important macro nutrient and should be eaten frequently throughout the day. I recommend at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. This means that if you are 150 pounds and 10% body fat (150 x 0.10 = 15 lbs of fat leaving 135 lbs of lean mass), you will require at least 135 to approximately 205 grams of protein per day.

I recommend that protein powder be used primarily for your pre-workout, workout and post-workout shake. This is when liquid food is more advantageous over whole food since it has a faster absorption rate.

I do not recommend protein powder do be used for meal replacements for more than two meals. Here is what a typical day might look like:

Meal 1 (breakfast) - whole food

Meal 2 (mid morning) - liquid protein meal

Meal 3 (lunch) - whole food

Meal 4 (mid afternoon) whole food

Meal 5 (pre and post workout) liquid protein meal

Meal 6 (dinner) whole food

Meal 7 (before bed) whole food

What kind of protein powder should I use?

Before deciding which protein powder is necessary, here is a short protein primer to help you make sense of the thousands of different protein powders from which to choose:

WHEY PROTEIN makes up 20% of total milk protein. Whey is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting variety of peptides. Since it is very quickly digested the best time to consume it is before your workout, during your workout or immediately after your workout. These would be considered the phase in the day where you need energy the most and when your body is in anabolic state.

CASEIN PROTEIN makes up 80% of total milk protein. Casein is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, slow digestive nature, and interesting variety of peptides. Since casein is slowly digested into your bloodstream, don't use it during workouts or after workouts - you need a fast absorbing protein at these times. Instead, use a casein protein for all other times outside the pre and post workout window.

SOY PROTEIN is the most controversial of all protein types. While the soy groupies have gone to great lengths to label soy as a super food with magical effects, there is also a good amount of research that suggests soy protein may be contraindicated in many situations. BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONFUSION, IN MY PERSONAL OPINION, I SUGGEST AVOIDING SOY PROTEIN ALTOGETHER AND STICKING TO THE OTHER TYPES LISTED.

Protein Blends are generally a combination of several types of protein blends such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, egg protein, casein protein, and soy protein.

Why would you want a blend anyway? You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein - use this kind at any time of the day but NOT before or after a workout.

Whey hydrolysates (also known as hydrolyzed whey protein, and are also called peptides), are powerful proteins that are more quickly absorbed; more so than any other form, since your body prefers peptides to whole proteins. Hydrolysates are produced through very low heat, low acid and mild enzymatic filtration processes, (those highest in the essential and the branched chain amino acids) and are potentially the most anabolic for short-term protein synthesis such as the pre and post-workout window.

 

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Whey Protein Versus Whey Isolate:

Most whey protein powders that stock the supplement shelves are made up of whey concentrate and mixed in with a small portion of whey isolate. Comparing the two, whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate because it has a higher quality (more pure) and a higher BV (biological value). Whey protein isolate contains more protein and less fat and lactose per serving. Most whey protein isolates contain 90-98% protein while whey concentrates contain 70-85% protein.

Whey protein isolate is the highest yield of protein currently available that comes from milk. Because of its chemical properties it is the easiest to absorb into your system. Obviously with its high concentration, it appears that an isolate protein would be the obvious choice instead of a concentrate. However, this is an individual decision because the isolate is more expensive, and just because it is purer does not guarantee that it will help build bigger muscles. Its extra concentration may not justify its extra cost.

SO WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE? WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

For the Pre-workout and Post-workout phases, as long as whey hydrolysate is the first or second ingredient on the supplement label then there is probably not enough in the product to influence protein synthesis to reap the optimal benefits. As stated, whey isolates are also a extremely high quality whey and for maximal anabolism isolates should be combined with whey hydrolysates for only the pre-workout and post-workout phases of your program. The inclusion of small amounts of whey concentrates will not harm you but this should not be the first ingredient on the tub of protein powder.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE STRONGEST PROTEIN POWDER TO EXPLOIT YOUR FULL GROWTH POTENTIAL DURING THE GROWTH AND RECOVERY PHASES (ANY TIME OTHER THAN PRE AND POST WORKOUT PERIOD) THEN USE A BLEND.

You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein.

Conclusion

I hope this article familiarized you with the basics of protein powder and gave you a foundation to work from when deciding on your next order. Don't get caught up in the hype and start becoming a more educated consumer when you take your next trip to the nutrition store. Now you can tell the sales rep exactly what you are looking for instead of staring blankly at the shelves without a clue!

Oh yeah, protein powder will help you get more jacked and attract the ladies, but it's not going to do it in a 'ultra short period of time' with the simple addition to your diet.

 

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