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Change This One Variable to Immediately Improve Your Workouts

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Change This One Variable to Immediately Improve Your Workouts

He’s on the last rep, and Jimmy’s face is bright red.  He’s pushing so hard, his cheeks are puffing outward, and he looks like he may explode at any moment.  “Breathe Jimmy, breathe!” he hears, but all he can focus on is moving the weight.  Breathing is the last of his priorities right now.    

Many people new to strength training tend to hold their breath as they approach maximal effort.  Breathing is typically an action regulated by the autonomic nervous system--it’s automatic.  In a light exercise, the breath automatically begins to speed up.  The body senses excess carbon dioxide and tries to get rid of it in exchange for oxygen, in turn speeding the breath and increasing the depth of it.  Yet in a state of emergency, somehow the natural tendency is to sometimes override the autonomic functions and to focus solely on the task at hand, in this case moving large amounts of weight.  

What Breathing Does for Your Health

What’s ironic is that this halt in breathing is actually detrimental to the success of the lift, and it is also a lost opportunity for some of the great health benefits from breathing properly.  In fact, one of the primary sources of the health benefits from yoga or meditation may be attributed to the practice of controlled breathing (1).

Another recent study (2) even showed that the immune system can be voluntarily controlled.  Two groups (one trained in a particular controlled breathing practice and one untrained) were given a toxic bacteria.  The trained group, who used meditation and breathing practices, experienced far less symptoms and recovered faster.  

Other Advantages of Breathing Properly

With the right type of breathing, we can increase our mindfulness, understanding the experience of lifting and learning how to cope for the future.  We can improve our focus, and give ourselves that extra push at the end of a set.  We can even influence our hormones, like epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, which not only helps us during our lift, but triggers a stimulus for all kinds of adaptations after our high-intensity bout.  To put it simply, breathing is a crucial tool, especially in the middle of a strength-training session.  

Breathe Right for the Situation

Okay, so maybe we should put more focus on our breathing during a lift.  But then, naturally the question becomes, how should we be breathing?  Typically during heavy lifts, one is taught to breathe in on the eccentric motion (like lowering the bench press), and then breathe out as you push the weight back up (the concentric movement).  However, when we’re doing a super slow set as advised in the Platform program, this would require very long breaths in and out, and this becomes a bit impractical in such a high-intensity situation.  

With this in mind, the best approach is to breathe deep, with your diaphragm, and fast.  This becomes somewhat of a controlled hyperventilation, if you will.  Continuous breathing in this fashion increases the state of acute stress during our workout, which is one of the main sources for all the health benefits of exercise.  And in addition to all the other benefits already discussed, we can alleviate some of that pressure we’d be experiencing in holding our breath (no one wants a hernia).  

So focus on your breathing when you exercise, especially during a high-intensity workout.  And let us know how it goes!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

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Why Jogging May Be a Waste of Your Time

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Why Jogging May Be a Waste of Your Time

I wince when I hear how a person needs to "go on a run" so he or she can "burn off the dessert."  "Going on a run" for most translates to as much as an hour or so of slow jogging, either on a treadmill or around the local area. I can get behind the idea of being outdoors and getting the blood pumping, but the unrealized truth of the matter is that an hour of jogging burns less calories than the amount in a typical breakfast for most Americans.  And in fact, not only is low-intensity jogging not the best way to lose fat, but it's more likely to cause injury, impose muscle loss, and it's not even the best choice for heart health.  Whether your goal is to cut down some body fat, or live longer, long-distance is likely a waste of your time.

Running Causes Injuries

An epidemiological study on running injuries reports that runners are at between a 37% and 56% risk for having a running-related injury within a given year (1).  An earlier study of 3,000 recreational and competitive runners even showed runners are at a 60% risk of getting injured in general (2).  I know if someone told me I was at a 60% risk of getting injured if I were to partake in a given exercise, I'd probably take a pass.

Running consists of repeated impact loads to the muscles and joints throughout the body, ramping up inflammation, and generally leading to some kind of serious injury that makes any sort of exercise impossible for some time.  Often, serious runners are training multiple times a week, never really letting the related inflammation subside.  On top of that, chronic inflammation is agreed to be the most direct cause of aging and disease out there (see previous blog post!).

Muscle Breakdown

When exercising for long durations (as in low-intensity, long distance running), the energy stores in your muscles (glycogen) become depleted, and your body looks for energy anywhere it can find it. Unfortunately, this energy may come from places you don't want it to, like your own muscle.

For most people who are living on a carbohydrate (glucose) based metabolism, the body is even more likely to break down muscle into the preferred energy source, glucose.  

What’s also ironic is that it takes more calories to sustain muscle then it does fat cells, and so losing muscle actually slows down your metabolism and makes you burn less calories in a given day.  Additionally, the loss of muscle means decreased insulin sensitivity and a correspondingly increased susceptibility to metabolic diseases like diabetes.

And decreased muscle mass means even more likelihood of getting injured!  Sounds like a lose-lose-lose situation in these respects...  

Aerobic "Cardio" Exercise and Heart Health

But what about running for a healthy heart? Most people believe that aerobic exercise is the best exercise for a healthy heart and for health in general. But what does the term aerobic exercise actually imply?

Well it basically means you're only tapping your aerobic metabolism, and your intensity is not high enough to make your body access full metabolism in your muscle cells.

Think of electrical conduits that only need to get electricity to a small group of people (in this case energy to your muscles).  This would imply only a small group of generators are required to create the energy, and small inefficient power lines can be used just fine.  This is low-intensity exercise. However, what if this same electrical line is now required to fuel a huge city?  Suddenly a whole new system of delivering electrical power is required, along with a more robust and efficient delivery system as well (even if for a short time, like in high-intensity exercises).  

This is analogous to what happens in high intensity exercise, where aerobic metabolism and  anaerobic metabolism are tested to their full capacity.  In fact, the way glucose metabolism works is that glucose must go through anaerobic metabolism to get to the aerobic pathway in the muscle cells, so it’s not possible to only trigger aerobic metabolism without the other.  In a high intensity environment, the whole system is forced to work more efficiently, and your heart becomes better at delivering nutrient-rich blood to your muscle cells too!   

Conclusion


We cause adaptations when we can tap into the “fight or flight” response of our body.  We can do this effectively in high intensity exercises, but unfortunately many runners sink into a comfortable pace that they get used to, and this beneficial adaptation never comes.  Running can be beneficial with this concept in mind: our advice would be to try short intense sprints, with only a little recovery time in between, rather than long steady-paced runs.  Now let us know how much harder your heart’s working when you run in this fashion!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

 

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The Hot Secret to Building Muscle: Saunas Part I

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The Hot Secret to Building Muscle: Saunas Part I

http://goo.gl/6z0fJA

http://goo.gl/6z0fJA

I looked at the clock: it had been 25 minutes.  I looked at the thermometer: it was 160 degrees.  This is as hot as I could make it go up to.  I was ready to get out but my goal was 30 minutes.  I had become more used to the feeling so it was a lot easier to make it to 25 minutes now than it had been a few months ago.  I was heat-adapted.  But with my heart racing and sweat dripping, I was ready to get out of there, and I could care less about being heat-adapted.  Even so, I knew this was mental and just kept going...my goal was exhaustion.  I knew all the benefits and I wanted to reap them.  

I was in the sauna for a little over 30 minutes for that session, one of the several sessions I do per week.  Though there are numerous benefits to sauna usage, there are three main benefits we’ll touch on.  In this first of three posts I’ll focus on increasing muscle size, aka, hypertrophy.

But how can short heat exposure possibly help cause hypertrophy?  Through our friends Heat Shock Proteins, or HSPs.  These are activated by heat and are a hormetic (positive acute stress) response to said heat.  They scavenge for free radicals (molecule(s) that damage cells), help maintain glutathione (a coenzyme that assists in reducing oxidation and the body’s master antioxidant), and even repair damaged proteins.  All three of these effects help to prevent protein damage and degradation, thereby helping to maintain muscle.

Another way heat exposure assists hypertrophy is through Growth Hormone release.  Growth hormone is a major catalyst for keeping and synthesizing new muscle. Generally speaking, the more growth hormone you have, the easier it is to build muscle.  That said, it’s been shown to be increased significantly in sauna sessions of just 15 to 20 minutes (1, 2).  

Insulin Sensitivity is key in decreasing body fat, but how can it help increase muscle?  Well, insulin delivers nutrients like branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) into muscle.  These nutrients are vital to synthesizing proteins, thereby acting anabolically.  And heat exposure, like sauna usage, has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by increasing glucose transporters (3), thereby making it easier to build muscle.  In general, the more sensitive you are to insulin, the easier your muscles will absorb nutrients and have the ability to build new muscle.  

So if you want to decrease muscle breakdown and increase your body’s ability to build new muscle, hit up a local sauna near you.  At first aim for something manageable like 5 or 10 minutes.  The more you do, the better you get, and the more heat adapted you’ll be.  So are you ready to bring the heat?

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

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The 80/20 of Strength Training

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The 80/20 of Strength Training

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You know now that if you want to increase muscle strength and size without putting in extra time, just one set per week is all you need.  As mentioned in a previous post, for many of you the “#1 Reason You’re Not Getting Stronger” may not be because you’re doing too little, it might be because you’re doing too much.  Rest time is vital--it’s where your body has a chance to rebuild and repair.  Depending on lifestyle, some muscles can take a few days to repair, while some can take a few weeks.  One set per week gives your body the necessary rest it deserves and needs.

So let’s say you’re going to do just one set per week...what does it look like?  Well, it’s short, it’s intense, and it’s effective.

IT’S SHORT

You’re only doing one set per week so the stress is short and by definition not long-lasting or chronic.  This is a good thing because as the old adage goes, the dose makes the poison.  The set works so well because it’s acute and it’s not abused by being elongated and excessive. Because it’s not overdone, you’ll be allowing your body to recover.  Contrary to this is conventional strength training multiple times per week which, when practiced at many prescribed intensities, inherently becomes a chronic stressor.

IT’S INTENSE

Although you won’t be putting in extra time with multiple sets, you will be putting in an extra effort equal to multiple sets.  This set is an intense, albeit acute, stress on your body.  The intensity will force your body to respond with direct physical adaptations.  The severe stress triggers a brief increase in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, raises heart rate, increases blood pressure and fatigues and breaks down muscle tissue. In order to cope with all these stressors your body changes and adapts so that the next time these come around, you’ll be better prepared to handle them.  Your body adapts by building lean muscle mass, becoming more efficient at cycling nutrient-rich blood to muscle, increasing heat shock proteins and BDNF (more on these in a later post), among lots of other benefits.  

IT’S EFFECTIVE

This one set per week will fatigue all your muscles types, going from the slow-twitch/fatiguing (more numerous but less powerful), to the medium-twitch/fatiguing (average number and average power), to the fast-twitch/fatiguing (less numerous but very powerful) at the very end of the set (study & study).  Since you’re using all your muscle fiber types, you’re able to completely fatigue all of them.  It’s no wonder this one set has been shown to increase strength about 50% more than conventional strength training (study).

So, again, what does this one set look like?  It’s a protocol that uses a 5-10 second concentric and eccentric for compound or single-joint strength movements.  You’ll use about 75% of your one rep maximum for the given movement and go until you can no longer move the weight.  That’s it!

  • It’s short:  You’ll do your one set for about 90 seconds--and that’s about all you’ll last.

  • It’s intense: You’ll be shaking as your fast-twitch muscle fibers are engaged toward the end of the set.  You’ll have set off a hormone cascade to build muscle and get stronger.

  • It’s effective: You’ll completely tax and exhaust your muscles--there won’t be any glycogen left for you to use.

Whether you’ve plateaued in your training or are new to strength training, this is the most effective workout you can do to increase strength and muscle size.  And it’s only once per week.  Try it out on machines first using 75% of your one rep maximum for a chest press, pull down, or leg press and let us know how it goes!  Once you do, you’ll realize why you only need to do it once a week.  Let us know how it goes!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

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Simple Steps to Decrease Your Hunger and Increase Your Energy on the Go

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Simple Steps to Decrease Your Hunger and Increase Your Energy on the Go

Photo Credit: https://goo.gl/4J08lU

Photo Credit: https://goo.gl/4J08lU

So you flew out of the door in the morning, barely making it to work on time, and you didn’t have time to prepare lunch or anything to hold you over throughout the day.  By the time lunch rolls around, you’re dying of hunger pangs and ready to scarf down anything accessible for lunch.  Priorities about the quality of food quickly go out the window, and the illusive sandwich and chips are in (and that may be even considered a good day)… And then you wonder why you’re hungry and in need of coffee just a couple hours later, not to mention you can’t seem to shed the unwanted fat in those problem areas.  You think there’s a connection here?  

 

Now most people view a sandwich and some granola bars throughout the day as healthy.  Unfortunately for most people, this means the simple carbohydrates and gluten (from processed wheat flour) replace other nutrient-dense, energy-sustaining foods that should be the bulk of the diet.  The quick spike in blood sugar sparks feel-good endorphins right after the meal, but then shortly after the spiked blood sugar falls back below baseline, and a snack, sugary drink, or some other pick-me-up seems necessary (see figure below).  And yet a different decision for lunch could avoid the drop in energy and the desire for snacking altogether, meanwhile allowing the cutting of fat, boosting of energy, and reducing of inflammation to take place much more effectively.  

My challenge to you: try eating a high-healthy fat meal with lots of veggies and moderate protein for one week (we’ve made it easy for you by providing examples below).  Note the difference in how you feel toward the end of the day.  You’ll be surprised how much more energy you have, and in turn how much more productive you’ll be.

Now back to the problem at hand: you flew out of your home this morning, and you didn’t have time to cook a high-quality, high sustained energy meal for the road… Now just give up and go buy some Subway right?  No, actually there are plenty of options available, and more becoming available, so that you can still feel good and cut fat throughout the day:

“Fast Food”

Today there are many more options for decent food fast than ever before.  Chipotle is serving organic veggies, humanely harvested meats, and pastured dairy in assembly-line fashion.  Skip the tortilla and other starchy carbs, and go straight to the greens and meat.  Throw on extra guacamole, and even lots of pastured cheese and sour cream if you tolerate lactose well.

You can take a similar approach with many other Mexican or Mexican-hybrid spots too.  Order the carne asada, onions, cilantro, and guacamole, and tell me how life could possibly be better.  It tastes delicious and best of all, you’ll be energized instead of lethargic afterward.

Even traditional fast-food spots are starting to key into this concept: that people care about not being fat and eating quality foods.  If you’re in a grind and wanting a burger, also check out Carl’s Jr.’s “all-natural” burger, which is from grass-fed cows.  Throw a lettuce wrap on it in place of the bun, money.  

Salad

The traditional salad has very little calories and by no means provides a sufficient lunch

meal on its own (for me, and most others I know at least)… We also don’t want our body trying to slow our metabolism down to deal with the greatly reduced calories.  So load this salad with some wild fish, some grass-fed steak, or some pastured chicken if you have access.  Even more importantly though, make sure to throw in PLENTY of fats.  Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and/or avocado oil – throw a generous amount on there!

Soup and Other Leftovers

Especially for cooler days, throw a bunch of veggies together with some of that grass-fed ground beef and some broth.  Bring a thermos with you and you shouldn’t even have to heat it up.

Plan on making extra for your dinner, and thrown it in some glass Tupperware for the next day.  Some grass-fed meat, steamed veggies, and a ton of grass-fed butter are pretty good the next day too!

Avoid Snacking When Possible

If you’re eating the right foods, you should be able to teach your body to go without food for much longer than you’re probably used to.  The problem is that you’ve trained your body to eat every couple hours, and it’s conditioned to think it’s going to die if no more food is coming in.  Believe it or not, this is a strong sign of your metabolic health.  You should not be getting super tired and lightheaded if your meal ends up being a couple hours later.  

That said, there are going to be times when you need that extra boost of energy, and you want something to stop your stomach from yelling at you.  When in need, the following options are good go-to’s:

  • Water or tea.  Yes, hydrating yourself is a good thing.  You can even throw in some MCT oil in there to give you some quickly converted ketones for your brain to use for energy.

  • Raw almonds and other raw organic nuts.  Avoid peanuts though, as these are actually not nuts at all, but rather legumes.  Without getting into details, we want to avoid substances that increase the permeability of our stomach lining and cause inflammation as much as possible.  

  • Avocados.  Avocados are simply amazing.  They’re a great source of healthy fat that will keep you going with a sustained high level of energy.  Cut it open and throw some sea salt, some pepper, and maybe some cayenne or paprika, and you got one of the best snacks ever.  

  • Raw grass fed cheese.  Again, if you tolerate it, pastured dairy is an awesome staple.  

Alright, those are just some ideas for how to get you through the day when you left unprepared.  Be creative, and let us know some of your solutions to being on the go too!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

 

 

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The Little-Known Exercise Recovery Tool You're Not Using Yet

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The Little-Known Exercise Recovery Tool You're Not Using Yet

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We know you know how important sleep is. Good sleep will not only help you reduce your risk for obesity and diabetes, it’ll help you recover from your workouts too. But what if there was something else you could do to help you recover that took little to no effort?  Well, that tool is here, and you probably already have it.... you just haven’t used it to your advantage yet.

Two weeks ago I did a Full Body Workout.  This workout is extremely tiring and exhausting.  So exhausting that I literally have trouble walking after only one set of leg press. That night I wore compression leggings (tight full-length spandex pants) to sleep.  The next night I woke up and for the first time in months I wasn’t sore in my legs!  I figured, ‘oh what the hell,’ and wore them the next night.   Keep in mind that soreness typically hits me the second day after a workout much worse than the first day after--this is what’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS.)  Despite this, the next day my legs weren’t sore either...so what gives?  Could this mean I actually recovered faster?

Well before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s be good critical thinkers and bare in mind a few things:

  1. This may be correlative and not causative (if A occurs and B occurs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that A causes B)

  2. I ate a ton that night and that may have aided recovery (more nutrients for rebuilding and repairing)

  3. There could have been several other unknown factors that sped up recovery (playing devil’s advocate)

With that said, it has been shown that compression does, in fact, aid in recovery. In one study it was shown that compression garments not only decreased perceived muscle soreness post workout, but helped the fast-fatiguing/fast-twitch muscles recover quicker as well.  These are the muscles that take the longest to recover so the fact that compression garments sped up recovery is very worthwhile. A meta-analysis also found similar findings across twelve different individual studies.

So we have evidence that it works but many times why something is effective is much more important than that something is effective.  Knowing the why many times can provide way more clarity and allow connections to be made between seemingly disparate subjects of interest.  Knowing this, what is the mechanism for compression speeding up recovery?  Well, it’s not entirely known but one theory is that blood flow may increase, thereby providing more oxygen and nutrients for repair and rebuilding.

Armed with this knowledge, try using compression when you lift heavy or do powerful movements (like sprinting or jumping.)  When performing these powerful movements or high intensity exercises, you are using your fast-fatiguing/fast-twitch muscles.  These muscles take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully recover! (seems like a good idea to get a head start on recovering, right?)  So after your next high intensity workout, wear some compression clothing and let us know how you feel!

 

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

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3 Ways Sugar is Increasing Your Body Fat

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3 Ways Sugar is Increasing Your Body Fat

Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/PxguA4

Sugar is delicious.  I love sugar, you love sugar, we all love sugar.  And it’s easy to love it.  Not only is it delicious, but we get a nice buzz when we have it.  Literally.  When we consume sugar, opioid receptors light up in our brains, similar to how our brains respond to heroin or morphine. But that uncontrolled love of sugar could be making you fat. The top three reasons why sugar  makes you fat are:

  1. Excess sugar is converted to body fat

  2. Sugar is linked to insulin resistance and obesity

  3. Sugar feeds “bad” gut bacteria

This will all be explained.  We’ll dig deeper into the top three reasons why sugar is making you fat but first, a crash course in carbohydrates is shown below in the figure from a meta-analysis in Nutrients, an open access journal of human nutrition.  It shows how each carbohydrate is processed in the body and the associated effects on the body.

Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/wYKVSw

Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/wYKVSw

There are different types of carbohydrates but for now we’ll focus on the left-hand side in the chart above, labeled Sugars. Sugars, also called simple carbohydrates, tend to taste pretty sweet.  A major one of these sugars that you’ve probably heard of is fructose, commonly found in fruit.  Although it’s pure sugar, it doesn’t cause a rise in blood sugar levels (another type of sugar (glucose) does raise blood sugar levels, which we discuss below.)  Instead it’s commonly sent to the liver, converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.  This mechanism is thought by many to be an evolutionary adaptation to have extra fat stores on hand with winter on the way, particularly because there won’t be fruit for months on end.  As you follow the fructose chain down in the flowchart, you can see that it can lead to not only insulin resistance but high blood pressure as well.  

Glucose is also a big player in the sugar world.  This, unlike fructose, causes a rise in blood sugar levels.  In fact, the term blood sugar is interchangeably used with blood glucose since glucose is what directly raises blood sugar/glucose.  Like fructose, it’s absorbed very quickly, increases hunger and can lead to overeating.  It also dramatically raises insulin levels to counteract the rise in blood glucose.

Polysaccharides, also known as complex carbohydrates, are big groups of sugars.  These are are called starches, and some of these starches are slow digesting (SDS), some are rapidly digesting (RDS) and some are just plain resistant to any digesting (RS).  We’ll dive into these in another post but for now just know they exist.  And they can be very beneficial for you for a host of reasons.

The slow digesting starches are great because although they will raise your blood glucose and insulin levels, it’ll be less than what other carbohydrates will do.  In terms of your body’s response, rapidly digesting starches create responses similar to simple sugars. Resistance starches are what only your stomach is not able to digest it.  Instead, it’s processed by bacteria in your intestines and converted to fatty acids for use in your colon.

So now that you have a primer in simple carbohydrates (sugar), let’s explore the three points at the beginning.

Excess sugar is converted to body fat

A certain amount of glucose is stored as glycogen in our muscles.  The glycogen (strings of glucose/sugar molecules) in our muscles gets quickly used for energy when needed for physical activity.  So if you start to do a squat, your body will use the glycogen stored in your thighs and butt as energy for that movement. This store of energy isn’t unlimited though--there’s a cap on how much glycogen we can store in our muscles.  Once this limit is reached, the excess glucose is converted to body fat.  

Also remember that fructose is commonly converted to triglycerides in the liver and then stored as fat.  Fructose is found in all fruits, but particularly the very sweet ones. Additionally, fructose does a poor job in making us feel full since it doesn’t trigger the release of insulin or leptin (the hormone that tells us we’ve eaten enough), thus you’re more likely to overeat.

So excess amounts of two main sugars--both glucose and fructose--can increase body fat.

Sugar is linked to insulin resistance and obesity

Your body likes to maintain homeostasis (balance), so when your blood glucose level rises, insulin is released from the pancreas to bring blood glucose back down.  But eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates, and especially sugars, will blunt this insulin response.  Eventually, your body figures that glucose levels are chronically high and it becomes resistant to insulin.  This is called insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. This is commonplace in many Western societies today and many times insulin resistance and obesity go hand-in-hand.  

Sugar feeds “bad” gut bacteria

You have over 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut (colon) that compose your microbiome.  They can impact everything from food digestion, to your immune system, and risk for metabolic and mental health syndromes.  So there is food that feeds that “good” bacteria, but there is also food that feeds the “bad” bacteria.  Sugar feeds the “bad” bacteria when it enters your gut because it’s preferentially used by them as fuel.  These bad bacteria become stronger and multiply, directly increasing your risk for obesity.

Bringing together these three reasons why sugar is making you fat you can see that:

  • If you eat too much sugar and don’t deplete your glycogen stores, it’ll convert to body fat

  • Eating too much sugar can lead to obesity and insulin resistance, thereby causing even more fat gain

  • Sugar feeds bad gut bacteria, which can immediately lead to fat gain

We’re not saying that carbs and sugars are the enemy, because they’re not.  Carbohydrates and sugar have their time and place in a diet focused on longevity and optimal performance.  What we’re saying is that the dose makes the poison--and a ton of people are poisoned by excessive sugar.    

So we have some compelling arguments showing why sugar is making you fat. But what can you do about it?  

  1. Eat a “whole food” diet.  Sugar is commonly added to processed foods and is hidden in everything from yogurt to tomato sauce.  Eating whole foods, foods with one ingredient, will put you in a much better position to know what you’re eating.  Some brands of processed eggs have a half dozen ingredients.  A whole egg has one ingredient--the egg itself!

  2. Limit sugar intake to small amounts of nutrient-dense fruits in the evening.  By far the most nutrient fruits are the dark, tart berries.  Although these berries have sugar in them, they also have a ton antioxidants and micronutrients seldom found elsewhere.  Like we said, the dose makes the poison, and it’s excess sugar that’s poisonous.  Having a handful of raspberries, cherries, and blueberries will get you vital nutrients.  And limiting the amount will ensure the sugar isn’t going to contribute to body fat.

  3. Eat 50% or more of your calories from healthy fat. Our bodies process two things for energy: fats and carbohydrates.  Getting the majority of energy from healthy fat ensures that you’ll be satiated because of the leptin release (hormone that tells you you’re full) and will help to prevent overeating. Because you won’t be overeating on a high healthy fat diet, there won’t be any excess dietary fats to convert to body fat either. It’s a win-win situation!

Armed with this knowledge of why sugar is making you fat and the action steps of how to not fall victim to sugar, which action step will you try first? Eating whole foods? Making a few berries at night the majority of all the sugar you eat? Or eating a diet high in healthy fats like grass-fed pastured butter? Let us know in the comments how you’ll stop sugar from making you fat!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

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The #1 Reason You’re Not Getting Stronger

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The #1 Reason You’re Not Getting Stronger

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 20% of the inputs create 80% of the results.  This can be shown in everything from the places you go (you’ll visit 20% of all the places you go 80% of the time, i.e., work/home/grocery store); to the food you eat (you’ll eat 20% of all the food you like 80% of the time, i.e., consider your typical breakfast); to the people you hang out with (you’ll kick it with 20% of all your friends 80% of the time). And this is true for many other cases as well. Especially when it comes to exercise.

Take for instance strength training.  There are a myriad of different set schemes for strength training out there: progressive overload, supersets, drop sets, pyramid sets, 5x5--the list goes on and on and on.  Well, what if there was one way to get the most out of your strength training?  What if all these “sophisticated” set variations add complexity but don’t add results? If you look at the Pareto Principle, you might guess that only 20% of the different set schemes would give you 80% of your results.  Or even taking it a step further, only 20% of the sets would give you 80% of your results.  What if instead of doing five sets of five reps, you just did one set?  Or instead of three sets of twelve reps, you just did one set?  And what if you got the same strength increase from each?

Funny you should ask! The effectiveness of just a single set is exactly what has been proven time and time again.  In one such study that lasted 10 weeks, 1 set was proven to be just as statistically significant, i.e., effective, as 3 sets for hypertrophy (muscle size increase) and strength gain. In a separate study lasting 6 weeks, 1 set of a leg press done once per week was shown to be as effective as 1 set done twice per week.  Another study showed the same benefits of training once per week versus twice per week and three times per week.

But that’s not all folks.  A meta analysis that examined training durations of 4 weeks all the way up to 25 weeks showed that just a single set was all that was needed. In fact, the researchers even went out of their way to specifically state that “there is little scientific evidence, and no theoretical physiological basis, to suggest that a greater volume of exercise elicits greater increases in strength or hypertrophy.”  

So what are we really saying here? That all the different types of sets and different set schemes out there aren’t needed?  Well, if you’re looking to increase muscle strength and size then yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying.  The research has clearly shown that a single set is just as effective as three and is just as effective as five.  It’s also shown that you only need to do that single set once per week.  What that one set looks like in terms of weight, repetitions, duration, and intensity will be explored in a future post. Just know that there’s a minimum effective dose that exists--more does not necessarily equal better.

But you might be saying to yourself now “yeah, that’s fine, but I like working out and being in the gym.”  That’s awesome and we absolutely applaud you for that.  The effort and determination is there.  But doing too much in the gym may be the one reason you’re not getting stronger.  When you break down your muscle tissue with strength training, it takes a while for your body to heal itself, synthesize proteins, and build new muscle.  This process can take anywhere from a few days for slow fatiguing (commonly known as slow twitch) muscle fibers to a even several weeks for super fast (fast twitch) fatiguing muscle fibers.  

Lifting just once per week allows your body not only to repair your muscles, but make sure you come back stronger.  It’s easy to see now why people plateau in their strength numbers--they’re simply doing too much!  So with all that being said, the question now is are you going to lift less so you can lift more?

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

 

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