Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Not to Eat for Fat Loss

It’s time to talk diet- the dreaded and misunderstood portion of a fitness program that is the make or break for the vast majority of people looking to alter their physiques. I wanna highlight a sentiment that several of my clients have shared in the past couple of weeks that have made it clear to me that I’m not fully relaying my message about how the body works. My mama is going to have to be the victim for this one, but her misunderstanding about how to eat for weight loss is consistent with the vast majority of people I talk to.

Mama had lost a good chunk of weight and things were going down the right road in her quest to lose about 100 pounds. We were about 40 pounds down. Mama is thinking, “Sweet!! All my hard work is paying off. I’ve cut my calories, started working out regularly, and it’s working. Best of all, I’m getting used to this and this week I didn’t even feel hungry.” Then, for 2 whole months, the scale started playing games with her. I mean that annoying game where, right when you’ve seen the lowest number you’ve seen in years, you stall. The scale is still moving… up and down, but never below that lowest number. Now she’s thinking that if she’s not hungry, she shouldn’t be eating because the fewer calories she consumes, the more weight she’s going to lose. To get past this plateau, she’s thinking, she’s going to have to really turn it up! There’s a problem, though. The scale still isn’t moving so Mama decides that she should cut her calories again and that’ll be her ticket to weight loss. The scale is now going up, and Mama is ready to start cutting off her fingers if that what it takes to see that number go down.
Rather than sacrifice appendages, she starts hitting cardio extra hard and tries an appetite suppressant comprised of concentrated unicorn blood and freeze dried fingernail filings of French-Polynesian nuns.

This supplement, she reads, has been used for thousands of years by everybody from Aristotle to Jessica Alba and it is the secret doctors DO NOT want you to know about for weight loss. Now she’s proudly reporting to me that she’s eating 900 calories per day but that damn scale is still not moving. Frustrated, she wants to give up, so I say, “That’s exactly what you should do!”

I love my mama very much, so don’t hear what I’m about to say as me being judgmental. She is one of the most stubborn people in the state of Colorado. That’s a fact not an opinion. It has tremendous benefit to many areas of her life because she sees things through, but in this case her energy was fixated on the wrong thing. Needless to say, when I told Mama to “give up” I saw a look in her eye that was a mixture of disappointment, frustration and maybe a little skepticism. She did not want to give up even though it was exactly what her body needed.

Let me explain what I mean by “give up”. Mama needed very badly to get off the road she was on because she was killing her metabolism and the best way to let it rebound was to step away from training for a while, stop cutting calories, and give her mind and metabolism a break. What I asked her to do specifically was take a week or two off and eat everything that wasn’t inorganic or another human being.

I didn’t care about carbs, I didn’t care about protein or fat, and most importantly I didn’t care if she was hungry. Her orders were to EAT EVERYTHING IN SIGHT and then eat some more. “Why,” you ask. Because my mama had taught her body that it had better learn how to use very small amounts of calories to do lots of work because she was not going to feed it.

Her body, in stark contrast to her mind, got the message very quickly and it started slowing her metabolism to a crawl to preserve calories. Why do I say her mind took a long time to get the concept? Because after 2 weeks of eating she had gained about 8 pounds (which I told her would happen). At this time she was getting frustrated, but she did as she was asked and kept eating and gym time was very low intensity if it existed at all. By the end of the third week, she had lost all of the weight plus about a half a pound at which time she said to me, “I lost weight and I wasn’t even trying.” I couldn’t tell you how I responded because I blacked out for about 30 minutes following that comment.

See, to Mama, “trying” meant eating very little and working out a lot. She was so bent on the idea that even after a successful “re-feed” she couldn’t shake the concept that she had to eat miniscule portions and do cardio until her legs fell out from under her if she was going to lose weight. To me, “trying” means doing whatever it takes to get the metabolism working in favor of weight loss and that very often means eating more and working out less!
Weight loss isn’t about cutting calories and then cutting some more. Instead, weight loss is about finding that perfect place where your body is fed enough that it doesn’t freak out and store calories, but it is still in a deficit that promotes fat burning. It can be a tricky line to walk, but I would generally prefer that you eat a little more than you think you should (or maybe a lot more than you think you should) and let weight loss stall because the calories are too high than underfeed to the point that your metabolism gives you the finger and starts working against your weight loss goal.
Just yesterday I got an email from a guy who is doing cardio every morning and lifting weights 3 times per week in a high intensity circuit. He weighs 245 pounds right now, and he wanted me to look over the diet plan that he wanted to use to get to 220 pounds. The diet he sent me came to a total of 1300 calories! Holy Moses, 1300 calories should be dinner for this guy. He had 6 meals listed and high protein content, but that kind of deficit would DESTROY his chances at sustained weight loss. He might lose fat for a while, but his metabolism is saying, “You wanna feed me like I’m a 97 year old cardiac patient… Fine, I’m going to burn calories like one!!”

I had him double his calories, and honestly I might recommend that for a couple of weeks he push his calories into the 3000 range so that we can slowly start backing the calories down (I mean like 100 less every week for 6 weeks). Then, hopefully his body will have sent all the signals saying, “You wanna feed me like an alpha predator… Fine, I’m going to look and perform like one!!” Depending on how bad it is, we might spend not weeks but months retraining his body to handle food.
With him, we won’t just eat willy-nilly like with my mom (I’ve found simplicity is best with Mama, and we were trying to get her over the psychological barrier of eating so my recommendation to her was a little less precise). We’ll start with eating more frequently, and our target will be 6 separate meals throughout the day with most of his carbs earlier in the day or pre and post workout. We’ll start his calorie target high and see how his body responds. At first, he will almost certainly gain a little weight (somewhere around 5-10 pounds just like my Mom), but once his body gets the hint that there are plenty of calories to go around, that fat-storage response that he’s getting from being underfed will start to ease up.
As if by some form of meathead magic, he’ll start losing weight even though he’s eating much more food than his original diet suggested. Once we see the scale start moving down, we know we’ve done the right work to get his metabolism moving again. Then and only then do we start slowly backing the calories down and/or adding more workouts. The hard part is watching the scale go up for a couple of weeks (again, maybe even some months depending on how bad it got) before it finally starts going down again.
The fact of the matter is, you can keep trying to starve yourself into weight loss and eventually ruin your metabolism, sometimes irreversibly, or you can suck it up, get off the freakin’ scale for a while, and correct the root of the problem.

Here is where we talk discipline. Eating 6 times per day is tough, and takes immense planning. You have to be ready with your food before your day starts or you’re screwed. Also, you have to be diligent in timing your meals and making sure you're eating on time even if you’re not hungry.

**A quick side note about not feeling hungry: that’s a bad thing. You should feel hungry when you haven’t eaten in a while, that’s your cue that your metabolism is running full speed ahead. If you can go 6 hours without food, something is wrong. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t wanna hang around me if I haven’t eaten on time. I get bitchy and I feel like I need food (although I have definitely not always had a healthy metabolism, even while I was in the fitness industry there were times when I let my diet go and I ate large meals infrequently and I got fat).
How many total calories you should be consuming greatly depends on your activity levels, your current body weight and body fat levels, and your genetics, so I can’t give you an exact number. The purpose of this article is to get the people who are stuck like my mom out of the rut they're in by helping them shift the way they think about food intake. But dieting, like everything else in fitness, is a unique to the individual. Underfeeding for extended periods of time can lead to metabolic slowing, and the scale getting stuck should be warning flag that most people are totally missing.
So, how do you know if you're one of the people who need to consider adding in more calories to promote weight loss? Well, first of all, if you're just starting a diet, think of this article as a heads up but chances are good you’re not underfed. You're very possibly not eating frequently enough, but that extra weight you're trying to lose is probably not the result of underfeeding. So for those reading who are starting a diet, just don’t screw it up in the first place by cutting calories too drastically too soon.
Figure out how many calories you're eating now with the program and try maintaining the same calories, or adding very little, just spread out throughout the day. Also, make sure you're not eating too many carbs (especially late in the day) or fats. I hardly believe anybody out there is eating too much protein regardless of what the program says, but don’t eat so much protein that you're using that as your primary fuel source. In other words, you should be getting more calories from carbs and fats combined than from protein. The key is tracking and figuring out how you're responding to calories cuts or calorie additions.
If you’re one of those readers who has been dieting and your weight loss has stalled, the major sign to watch out for that is a clue your metabolism is slowing is loss of appetite. If you're not hungry and the thought of eating isn’t appealing, there’s a very good chance that you're underfed. If that’s the case, try the “re-feed” I talked about above for a couple of weeks and see if that’s just what the doctor ordered to kick start your metabolism again.

Even if you’re losing weight dieting in a way that is different from what I listed above, I warn you: If your diet helps you lose weight immediately but it makes your metabolism slow down over the long haul, you're going to be right back to square one the second you start eating like a normal human being. Enter the yo-yo effect. You lose 30 pounds then add 40 pounds; you lose for 3 weeks then gain for three weeks. It kills your motivation and sets you up for failure over and over and over again. If there was a better way to lose weight AND keep it off, I’d tell you about it, but there isn’t- plain and simple. The human metabolism needs constant signals saying, “You’re OK to drop some fat. You don’t need to hold on to it for the future because your calorie needs are being met through food intake.”
Once you get your metabolism moving, through several months of solid dieting, then you can breathe a little and not be so consumed with missing a meal or going out and eating, drinking, and being merry because your metabolism can handle it. Until then, you’re going to be in retention mode and your body is going to try to hang on to calorie reserves called body fat. So, the ball is in your court. Take the quick fix of under-eating and blasting your body with long, hard cardio or do the right work to get your metabolism moving and sacrifice the “right now” gratification that comes with watching the scale move another 4 ounces. It’s up to you!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Da Butt

Da Butt

This personal trainer has quite a booty on him. I mean like the kind of tooshie that makes every pair of jeans I wear so tight that even Ricky Martin’s publicist would say it’s too much. Luckily, I’m in the fitness business where the majority of my day is spent in sweat pants or basketball shorts, but it’s gotten to the point where even a baggy wardrobe can’t hide the junk all up in my trunk. Lately, my shirt is getting caught on the little shelf back there and let me tell you, the ladies are a-looking, and they're a-likin’.

 Men’s Health just listed the butt as one of the top ten muscles women love on men, and I have to tell you from personal experience, I couldn’t agree more. Surprisingly, lots of guys don’t place their butt very high on the list of priorities for their physique enhancements. If that’s the case, it’s very possible that you’re one of those “upper body only” gym rats who has reduced his leg training to some quad extensions, a few sets of leg press, and some variation of calf raises for 12 sets of 20 reps- you make me sick! Just because you can’t see your butt doesn’t mean everybody else can’t, and if your backside has similar dimensions to a crepe with a crease down the middle, it’s time you start worrying about your gluteal fullness pronto.

And I don’t think any stinking magazine needs to publish a list for us to all pretty much agree that men also put the booty on their list of most “appreciated” muscles on the female physique. Every female client I have ever had is at least somewhat concerned with the way her butt looks in a pair of tight workout pants or shorty-shorts. Because of this, I won’t spend a lot of time trying to convince the ladies out there to keep reading.  

With that said, even if you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what the other gender thinks about your body, if you’re reading this it’s because you’re trying to get into better shape. Maybe you’re working out to look better, or maybe you want to have more energy and feel better. Perhaps your doctor finally stopped scribbling prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis for the 30 seconds it took to tell you that you might be able to reduce or even eliminate your symptoms by getting a revolutionary new therapy called “physical activity”. Regardless of your motivation, keep reading! “Why,” you ask; because not only is a nice booty adored by all, but the glutes, in my opinion, are the most important muscles in the entire body regardless of the goal.  

The first reason for that is because the Gluteus Maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body. For most people, that’s a real shocker.  The Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus are much smaller in size, but rank very high on my list of importance, especially in injury prevention due to their importance in keeping your hips stable. Due to the size of the gluteal muscles, it stands to reason that our bodies rely on them pretty heavily. I’ll go into that in a bit, but right now, I just want to focus on the people out there trying to lose weight. There is one way to lose weight: burn more calories than you consume. That would be good enough for me if so many people weren’t struggling to keep weight off once they lost it.

The reason why lots of people are struggling to keep weight off is because they don’t have enough muscles on their bodies. The less muscle you have, the fewer calories it takes to move your body. Muscles, as I’ve said before, are the engine of your body. If the engine is big (i.e. you have lots of muscles) it will take a lot of fuel to keep you moving. Fuel = calories, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll be burning throughout the day no matter what!

 Because we understand that the glutes are comprised of more muscle mass than any other group in your body, it makes sense to me that adding size and strength to your Bootius Maximus will have a big impact in your weight loss and long term weight maintenance.

If you're not trying to lose weight, but you still want to look better, glute development should still stay just as high on your list of priorities as the people who are trying to lose weight. Skinny with a flat butt is out there … AND IT AIN’T CUTE. It’s scary how often I see a guy or gal who has either lost a fair amount of weight or has never struggled with their weight, stuff his/her pancake bottom into the abomination called “skinny” or “pencil” jeans as if to proudly proclaim to the world, “I’m going to have two saggy flaps of skin back there in 20 years! Anybody wanna call dibs before it’s too late?”
In either scenario, glute development cannot be neglected. Now, there are two more reason why strong, full glutes are important, so pay attention; athletes especially: First, all athletes require strength, stamina, and explosiveness from the hips to excel in any sport. Second, if you're always fighting injury (especially in the knee and lower back) you’re not going to be very good at anything. The common thread between performance and injury prevention for approximately 75 percent of my clients, I kid you not, is glute function. Especially for those reading this who participate in strength sports like powerlifting or strongman, I can absolutely guarantee that if you stay diligent on glute development, you will do better in your next competition and reduce your risk of injury. Even if you have no inkling whatsoever to compete in a strength sport, you’ll perform better at every single physical task by strengthening and growing the glutes.
**Editor’s note: Chad even began to perform better at mental tasks once we started training his glutes more regularly, which gives me some indication that there is a strong link between his head and his butt. See, it appeared that his head was lodged into his anus, and despite all of his best efforts, it was impossible to pull it out. Once we began strengthening the surrounding musculature, it became obvious that we needed to push his head out of his butt through intense gluteal contractions. After several weeks of targeted training, we’re beginning to see the dysfunction correcting! The body is a wonderful and adaptive organism…
So, to fully understand why I feel confident making such a bold statement about glute function and athletic performance/injury prevention, we need to develop a better understanding of how the glutes function in the body. The Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus function somewhat differently, although what they have in common is their role in stabilizing the pelvis. The maximus primarily extends the hips and externally rotates the femur (thigh bone) and when fully contracted even posteriorly rotates the pelvis. The medius and minimus work together to abduct the femur (spread your legs apart- be an adult). I throw in the scientific terminology mostly just for the lingo junkies, but if you’re looking for the punch line, all you need to remember is that if your hips need to be moved or stabilized, your glutes are involved.

Now, try to think of one single exercise that doesn’t involve hip stability or movement. If you listed any, you're working out incorrectly. There are certainly exercises that emphasis hip extension and external rotation (changing your hips from bent to straight and rotating your knees out like in a deadlift or squat), and there are ways to increase the hip-stability demands of an exercise like standing instead of sitting, or standing on one leg instead of two, but even the exercises that seem unrelated to the glutes would be more effective if you got your glutes involved. If you don’t believe me, the next time you’re doing an arm curl, squeeze your butt cheeks as hard as you can and see if it doesn’t change how effectively you can move the weight.

 Furthermore, on the injury prevention side of the comment above, think about what would if your hips didn’t stay stable when you're tried to produce force. Or if your femurs rotated inward instead of outward during a sprint or jump. Worse yet, what if you couldn’t get your hips to flex and extend properly while maintaining an arch at the lumbar spine during a squat? All of these would cause some kind of a dysfunctional movement that would lead to knees-falling-in, low-back-rounding, spine-twisting, knees-extending-over-the-toe INJURY!! And, all of these described dysfunctions are the result of weak (relative to the surrounding musculature) glutes. I’m already sick of it. That goes for non-athletes, too. Every exerciser out there needs to hear this whether they're working out for physique enhancement performance enhancement, or general lifestyle enhancement. If you’re not directly training your glutes, you're not getting the most out of your time in the gym- period.

Now that we got the “why” you should train your glutes piece out of the way, let’s get into the “how” you should train your glutes. Getting the glutes engaged for most of the population is as simple as performing lower body exercises correctly. One of the best ways to improve your form is simply by getting a spotter who doesn’t stare at his abs in the mirror during your sets or consider it appropriate to continue to ask you questions about the latest Cosmo article while you're in the middle of your workout. If your workout partner is a tool, ask him/her to pay close attention to your technique while you're exercising. If he/she still doesn’t pay attention, you might consider making the relationship a cardio-only kind of thing. Regardless if your partner is a flake, or even if you don’t have one at all, the best way to know if your glutes are working is to feel them. If you don’t feel them, they're not working. It is that simple.

When I say “correctly” you might be wondering what that form looks like. In the video, we’re showing the squat, deadlift, and leg press and we’re showing the correct form first then the most common incorrect form. Notice that in the videos displaying correct technique, the exerciser's knees are tracking over his toes; they're not falling in. Second, his shins are staying perpendicular to the ground (or the weight platform in the case of the leg press). His knees don’t extend over the top of his feet. If you drew a line from his knee to the floor, it would look like you cut through the middle of his foot. It would not extend past his foot like in the video demonstrating improper technique.

Next, and this is a little harder to see, he is keeping the pressure on the outside edge of his heel. The pressure does not belong on the ball of the foot, and even if the heels don’t look like they're coming up, he could be faking us out. It can be hard to spot this one if you’re not accustomed to looking for it, but I should be able to run my hand under the ball of his foot, and feel no pressure. Even if he was pushing hard with the heel, he may not be on the outside edge. This is the hardest one to correct because to get on the outside edge of his heel, Chad has to rotate his femurs (thigh bone) out. He can’t just push his knees out; he also has to rotate them out.  Finally, see how he keeps the natural arch of his back? It doesn’t round forward or arch too much back. That’s critical in keeping his back healthy and keeping his pelvis in the right position to allow his glutes to bear the load of the exercise.

“But I'm trying and I still don’t feel my glutes,” you say. The problem is that you're mobility sucks. Watch a 3 year old squat down to play or pick something up. That’s what you used to look like.

The reason you don’t look like this anymore is because your flexibility starts to diminish as you age partially because you're supposed to, but mostly because of inactivity and/or a lack of necessity. Well, for a strong, healthy, beautiful behind, it is a complete necessity.

There are 8 common muscles that get too tight and prevent you from being able to conform to the required body position for optimal glute activation: the psoas (hip flexor), adductors (inner thigh), hamstrings, quads, piriformis, calves, IT band, and erectors of the thoracic and lumbar spine. Which one is the root of the problem depends on where your form is breaking down. Excessive anterior pelvic tilt, i.e. too much arch in the lower back, means the psoas and erectors of the lumbar spine are too tight. Knees falling in means the adductors and IT band need mobilization. If your back is rounding it means your hamstrings and the erectors of the thoracic spine are immobile (if you think that the muscles all the way in the middle of your back couldn’t have an impact in your glute function, you're wrong). If your knees shoot out over your toes, your quads are too tight. Along with this one is usually heels that come up off the ground, and ankle flexibility/calf tightness is probably an issue in this case as well. If you can’t keep your toes straight ahead, you waddle like a platypus when you walk and your piriformis is to blame.

Figuring out where the problem lies can be a challenge and your options are to video yourself and try to make your own diagnosis or have a fitness professional or knowledgeable workout partner take a look. Once you’ve figured out where the inflexibility is, you need to address it with something called myofascial release and stretching. The videos below can serve as a guide. Here, we use tennis balls taped together for the myofascial release, but many gyms have a foam roller or PVC pipe that works well also. The objective is to “massage” the tight area and allow flexibility and blood flow back to the area, so pretty much anything will do.

Once you’ve gotten the inflexibility out of the way, it is very possible that you will still have trouble getting your glutes to fire. The problem now is the neuromuscular connection to your glutes. After the glutes have been inactive for a prolonged period, your brain will stop trying to send signals there. That’s true of any unused muscle, and the cure is to run through an activation circuit before leg exercises or as a part of a general warm-up. Which exercises you choose will depend on which exercises you feel the best and which exercise best addresses the dysfunction that was causing your glute inactivity in the first place. Pick 2 or 3 from the list below that really get your glutes firing and perform a few sets of each before getting into a workout.

Glute bridge/single leg glute bridge/physioball glute bridge

Single leg squat (box)

Abduction machine

Side lunge

Reverse lunge (with rotation)

Split squat (with rotation)

Sumo deadlift

Step up

Single leg press

Hip thrusts/physioball hip thrusts

Hip extension machine

While performing all of these exercises, remember the rules about how to get your glutes to activate: knees aligned with your toes, femurs externally rotated, shins perpendicular to the ground or weight platform, back maintaining a natural arch, pressure on the outside edge of your heel.

After a pre-workout glute activation circuit, go about your workout as planned and notice how much stronger and more stable you feel (even in things that are seemingly unrelated to your glutes). After several weeks of this, you may notice that your pants aren’t falling off your backside, that you're getting more looks from the opposite sex, and that you're performing better on the field and in life in general. You’re welcome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

12 Thoughts about Weight Loss

12 Thoughts about Weight Loss

“If I want to lose weight, I just stop eating.” As I look up, I’m met with the gaze of 8 people who are interested in my take on the phrase just uttered. I decide that it’s not worth it. It’s a Saturday night, we’re all having a good time, and for me to sit there and argue with a bunch of people I’ve just met is not really how I’d like my evening to go. This is why I think I'm going to start telling people I’m a bank teller. It gets old sitting around and listening to people who got their education from Dr. Oz debate topics and relentlessly defend their positions. Inserting myself would only expose me to risk. Regardless of the fact that fitness is my job, there is about a 75% chance that I’ll be argued with and my position would be challenged and by the end of the night, the chances of making so much as a Facebook friend out of the whole thing would slowly diminish until even the people who were eavesdropping had a bone to pick.

So, I sit quietly and listened to two gals go at it for a short period before we all decide to move on to a new topic. One of the innocent bystanders appeared to take a genuine interest, and from some of her previous statements it seemed clear to me that she is lost when it comes to how to get in shape. “How many times a week should I do cardio? Carbs will make me fat, right? If I lift weights, won’t I get big muscles?” These and a whole host of others are the questions that I get virtually daily, and it seems everybody is looking for that one thing that will give them the body that they want. I have news for the world at large:

1.      If you don’t take getting into shape seriously, stop pretending it’s going to happen. We all have wants, but I realize that I'm never going to get my own secret crime fighting syndicate equipped with matching, ultra-tight latex uniforms and a hidden, underground, waterslide-access-only lair without a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s good to want things for your life, now you need to become one of those people who actually do what it takes.

2.      Neurosis is a problem. It is very important to be willing to make changes and pay attention to the amount of food you eat/exercise you perform, but obsessing about whether you should do the elliptical, the treadmill, or the stair mill, and/or debating for 20 minutes about purchasing white bread or wheat bread is NOT going to get you anywhere. All of these are well intentioned, but in the early phases probably insignificant. Major in the majors, and minor in the minors.

3.      There is not one single thing that will drastically change your physique. The right approach takes lots of factors into account. The 5 factors we consider at Fitness YOUniversity are:

a.      Food Intake- if you're trying to lose weight, eat less calories than you burn.

b.      Vitamins and Supplements- start by using supps to help you fill in the gaps in your nutrition, then worry about the sexier stuff like fat burners and appetite suppressants.

c.      Cardiovascular Exercise- burns calories. Interval training is best by far.

d.      Resistance training- burns calories and builds muscle which gets your metabolic rate up. Nothing replaces resistance training, and it MUST be performed unless you want your weight to continue to yo-yo.

e.      Rest/Recovery/Injury Prevention- you can’t work out if you’re always beat up or injured.

4.      There is a huge difference between losing weight, and losing weight for good. No doubt about it, you could just starve yourself, but it will come at a huge cost to your metabolism. If I’m wrong, than why do the people who take this approach have to diet every 3 weeks? Even if it seems like it’s working right now, it will catch up to you sooner or later.

5.      There is a difference between not being fat, and actually being fit: know your rank.

6.      Just because it works for Suzanne Somers, doesn’t mean it’ll work the same for you.

We all have our burdens in life, and if losing weight is one of yours, suck it up and work at it. I don’t care if “what’s her name” eats whatever she wants and stays skinny. You can’t and that’s just the way it is. You don’t need to be mad at God about it and cry every three days because it isn’t easy. There are people out there who have it a lot worse.   

7.      If I were you, I would be careful taking advice from someone who very easily changes his/her physique. Try to look for the people who struggle in the same areas as you, and who have overcome it. Chances are, they're going to tell you that you're going to have to work your ass off to get what you want. If not, try to figure out what they're selling.

8.      It will get easier as you go. The longer you wait to start taking control of your health and fitness, the harder it will be when/if you start, and the more diminished your initial returns might be. A lot of the functions of the body will get so deconditioned that the first several weeks or months of your workouts will need to be all about getting your body back to fully operational. That sucks and it’s discouraging, but it is your fault: get over it, and stick it out even if you don’t lose weight in the first 3 hours.

9.      It is possible to work out a lot and see very little return if you're doing it wrong. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS WORKING OUT WRONG!!! It doesn’t mean that you're destined to be fat. It means you need to make a correction. Almost always, you’ll need to do one or more of the things that you hate.  

10.   Take all the money you were going to use to buy a diet pill, and spend it on a good trainer (I happen to know a few) and an outfit that you love that’s 2 sizes too small. Do whatever it takes to get into that outfit (Please make sure you're actually small enough to fit your new outfit when you wear it in public. Just because you can cram your body into a size or two smaller doesn’t mean you should.)

11.   It’s your body. Do whatever you want to it, but stop justifying what terrible shape you’re in to yourself and everybody around you. I used to date a dental hygienist whose patients would give her the laundry list of why they couldn’t floss. The strangest thing happened: no matter what excuse her patients came up with, if they didn’t floss they got cavities. The lesson: there might be good reasons why you're finding it difficult to get your workouts in or watch your diet. You might be busy at work, and you might have kids that need rides to soccer practice and a house that’s a mess all the time, etc. Just understand that no matter what the reason is, if you don’t work out and you eat garbage, you’re going to be fat- period.

12.   Feeling sorry for yourself is a ridiculous waste of time. Ignoring a problem altogether is even more ridiculous. Neither are legitimate options. Address the issue, forgive yourself for letting it get so bad, and take corrective action.  

That’s it, I’m done for now. Thanks for reading, see you in the gym.

The information and discussions on this webstie/blog are intended for general information only. You should not rely on any of the statements made without consulting a medical professional of your choosing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

6 Reasons You're not Moving the Weight

6 Reasons You’re not Moving the Weight

1.      Your core sucks

Core tightness is the difference about half the time when one of my clients can’t move a weight. Your core is the groups of muscles that attach to your pelvis and lumbar spine. They’re all of the muscles that are dead center on your body, so you can think of them as the middle link in the chain. If you're holding something in your hands, and your feet are on the ground, there’s a reason you're not falling over from the weight of the object, and that reason is because the musculature in your core is tight. Read my article on abs for a more in depth explanation on the stomach muscles, but realize that your glutes and low back are also a part of your core, and for most movements glute tightness is more important than anything.

That doesn’t just mean squeezing your butt cheeks together, your glutes need to dynamically stabilize your pelvis, so for most exercises your hips should be bent slightly back, and your glutes should be engaged. By actively stabilizing with your glutes, your lower abs and low back will be in the proper position to activate and your hips will sit still. Once you’re not wiggling all over the place, you’d be surprised how much stronger you’ll be. Remember, if you feel like you can’t move a weight, activate your core musculature and see if that fixes the problem

2.      You're not thinking

Lifting a weight properly requires using your brain!! You have to be mindful of correct technique, and you have to command your body to assume the proper position. I can’t tell you how often I have someone who thinks they're getting stuck and when I ask them what they're thinking about during a lift they say, “I was thinking about pushing.” There is a reason why weightlifting is a sport. It takes a lot of concentration from the participant to execute a lift correctly, and sheer will does not separate the best from the pack. The best lifters in the world in sports like Olympic lifting, powerlifting, strongman, and even bodybuilding are incredibly mindful of technique. To get great at any sport, you don’t just run full speed ahead every second and hope that somehow you're going to be getting better. Progressing often times requires slowing down and really concentrating on what you're doing. At first it can be very frustrating because you'll be asking your body to perform tasks that it has never been through before. Don’t worry, the trade out is that you'll be able to move more weight than you thought.

3.      You have a long history of bad technique

This ties in with number 2 above. After weeks, months, or years of using poor technique, your body is going to develop nervous system patterns that make it very difficult to activate muscles properly. Often, it takes swallowing your pride, cutting down the weight and retraining your nervous system. This is not permission to start lifting tiny weights, but if you’ve reached what you feel is your max on a certain lift, it might be that the technique that you're using is no good. Understand that if you have a history of bad technique, you’re really going to want to go back and read number 2 because it’s going to require a lot of mental effort to correct it and start progressing.

4.      You're a head case

Once you’ve failed at moving a weight, it can be very hard to tell yourself that you aren’t destined to fail at it again. That’s a big part of why I decided to write this article in the first place. I was having a client who would miss the reps she was given, and it was really frustrating her. The more she missed, the more she tried to cheat her way through the reps. The more her technique broke down, the harder it was to move the weight; it’s a vicious cycle. Even though I was coaching her through the reps, it was pretty obvious that I was being ignored. The problem was that my client had decided in her own mind that she couldn’t lift the weight with proper technique, and as long as that idea was in her head, she was right. Remember, there’s a good reason why the weight isn’t going anywhere, and you can fix it. I hardly ever see a client who gets stuck on a lift because they genuinely weren’t strong enough.

5.      You're not fast enough

After you’ve strengthened your core, corrected bad technique and gotten over any mental hurdles that might be in your way, it’s time to move the damn weight. When you push, it is really important that you push with maximal force. Force, in the world of physics, is mass x acceleration, and so to get a weight to move, you need to accelerate it. The only way to do that is through trying to explosively move the weight. There is a good chance that the weight will not actually move very quickly especially if is close to your max, but capitalizing on the impact of acceleration requires that you try to move the weight as quickly as possible.

Often times, when I tell people this one, I watch their technique self-destruct, and then their poundages or reps actually go down, so make sure that you're using the right form, and as you execute  reps explosively you are SUPER aware of your body positioning and your form. Moving a heavy weight as fast as possible with bad technique is an injury waiting to happen, so this piece of advice is really for the more advanced lifter. If you're newer to weight lifting, don’t worry about speed as much as proper technique.

6.      Your mobility sucks

This is the most underappreciated aspects of weight training out there. If you can’t get your body into the proper position because you don’t have the proper flexibility, there is absolutely nothing that will help you except stretching. You can’t out think inflexibility, you can’t out muscle it, and you can’t will it away. You have to address the problem, and if you’re having flexibility issues, you can bet that you’ve had bad technique for a long time (read number 2 and 3). Try warming up and going through a good stretching session before your workout and see if you don’t see a dramatic difference in performance. Sometimes, the problem is in an area that seems like it had nothing to do with the lift you're performing (I can think of one client whose inner thigh and quad were keeping him from bench pressing properly), so stretch everything a lot.
The information and discussions on this webstie/blog are intended for general information only. You should not rely on any of the statements made without consulting a medical professional of your choosing.

Monday, July 18, 2011


The devil lives in my lower intestines. I know how he got there, too. It’s not a stomach bug that’s going around, and it’s not from anything that I ate. No, the atrocity that’s taking place in everything from my duodenum down came straight from the Rocky Mountains.

The day before yesterday, two studs named Richie and Dana and I all decided that it was time to appreciate the great outdoors. We were going on a hike to soak in Mother Nature’s beauty. Richie and Dana work for a Globo Gym, in fact I hired both of them when I was running the place, and so there were 3 fitness professionals preparing for what was supposed to be an enjoyable midday jaunt through God’s country. Needless to say, we all trusted our abilities to enjoy a longer hike, and the route that we decided to hike was slated for about 15 miles. 15 miles at 3 miles an hour is about 5 hours, so if we get there by 2p, we should be done by about 7p, long before the sun goes down and in time to enjoy a healthy, well-balanced meal consisting of a Wendy’s triple stack, fries, and a Frosty. And so, I strapped my beautiful beagle, Doris, into her harness and we were ready to rock.

Now when I use the term “fitness professional” please understand that there are all kinds of differences from one fitness professional to the next. Besides the fact that we’re all different human beings, we all have different interests and how we work out varies significantly. Dana is what you'd call an earth muffin. She LOVES rocks, like in a way that sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable. She loves rock climbing, hiking up large rocks, repelling down them, she keeps rocks that are special to her in velvet bags, and she’s planning to add a quartz centerpiece to her shower so that she can harness the healing power of that particular rock by standing on it chanting while lathering with organic soap made from coconut oil, guava extract, and real bits of ring-tailed lemur.

I digress, the point is, she’s an outdoorsy person, and so is Richie. He moved all the way from the UP to Colorado to enjoy what nature has to offer. Richie plans on becoming a famous male physique/nude gay art model, and keeps himself in ridiculous shape year round. They’re fit and healthy and awesome.

I’m a little bit more of what you might describe as a big fat strong guy.  Most of my conditioning work comes in the form of chasing the dogs when they get out, walking up and down the stairs 7-10 times because I keep forgetting things when I’m trying to get out the door, and helping people move, which amongst my family and friends seems to happen about every 6 weeks. In the past 3 years or so, I haven’t done much in the way of cardio because I didn’t want it to interfere with my strength gains. Before that, however, I was a cardio/conditioning junkie. I have probably run about 15 5k’s, 5 or 6 10k’s, and 7 triathlons. Resting on my laurels, I thought that was no reason why I couldn’t at least just walk up and down a couple of hills. Besides, I thought, it’s 5 hours of walking. I mean, I’ve been at the zoo walking for more than 5 hours, this should be no problem.

The first 4 miles of the hike was directly up a hill. My legs hated me already, and there was a whole lot more to go. By some fluke of my usually super keen navigational skills (I forget how to get home from work about twice a month), we end up taking a left where we should have taken a right, which takes us to where we’re trying to go, but it does it with an extra few miles of trail. Those extra few miles prolong the climb, and so it’s now 4:30 and we’re way behind schedule. Also, it’s about 95 degrees outside, and my less than awesome conditioning has me sweating like a stuck pig. I brought 3 liters of water for Doris and I thinking that it would last me for a 5 hour hike that is described as “moderate” by my trail guide. I’m not sure what a “difficult” hike looks like, but unless you're building the trail as you go, I’m not sure how it could be much harder than what we were doing. Up a hill that lasts for a mile, down a hill so steep it’s impossible to do anything but pucker your cheeks and sprint praying that God spares you your knees and your life if only so you can tell the world your tragic story. Rinse and repeat for 20 miles and you have a pretty good understanding of the hike that we did.

As you might have guessed, I ran out of water about 12 miles in, and that was only because I was rationing my water. If I would have taken a drink every time I was thirsty, I would have run out in the first 30 minutes. Dana brought even less than me, and she was out too. Richie had more water than the both of us, but still not enough to cover Dana and my failure in preparation. Although he was happy to share, once you’re out, you’re out, and Dana and I were doing everything in our power to conserve as much water as possible. Remember when I said it was hot, I'm out of shape so I’m sweating every drop of water out of me, the hike was harder than we had expected, and we took a wrong turn that made the hike last an extras 2 hours? Well, put on top of that running out of water and let’s just say that the idea or kicking Richie and stealing his Camelback crossed my mind once or twice. I might have tried it, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have lifted my legs higher than about Richie’s mid shin and the amount of force and coordination that I could have produced would have been comparable to a muscular dystrophy patient. The harder we hiked to try to get home, the more I sweat and the more water I lost. My tongue was sticking to my cheek from a lack of fluids and there was no chance that I was going to make it another 8 miles without some water.

That’s when I did it. I thought, “We’re nothing more than domesticated animals, and there’s no reason that a little river water should kill me. Dehydration will kill you, but water? What’s the worst that could happen?” Now, I know that there are little buggies that live in water that you can’t see, and I know that tape worms exist and I know, I know, I know. I didn’t care, i was getting nauseous and it was worth the risk. Besides, my dog drank it, and that gave me some kind of assuredness that another mammal had gone before me. Also, Dana agreed to try a little, so I figured we were all in this together. Dana had a sip or two of water. I had over a liter. Fortunately, as far as I know, I did not contract any terrible disease that requires medical attention, but as I said before, the devil decided to set up camp for the week, and he’s not leaving without a fight. With Pepto-Bismol as my holy water, by digestive system has spent the last couple of days performing centuries old exorcism rituals that, while extremely effective, force me to expel the evil inside of me with nearly no warning day or night.

So now, the battle against the forces of evil rages on begging the question, did I make the right decision? To answer that question, we must first evaluate the value of water to our body. Water’s impact on the human body’s systems is very nearly endless. Most people know that the body is comprised of mostly water, but very few people understand why we need so much of it. First, it’s important to understand where all that water is going. The short answer is everywhere. Blood is about 83% water, your brain and muscles are comprised of 75% water, and even human bones are up to 25% water. Water in the human body is everywhere.

When I say that muscles and other organs are made of water, one might ask, “Really, so my muscles are like big water balloons?” Well, yes, kind of. There are large amounts of water in your muscles because your muscles are made of cells, and those cells are full of water. Instead of thinking of your muscles or other organs like big water balloons, you should think of your cells like tiny water balloons, and because there are billions of cells in your body, it takes a lot of water to keep them full. This water is known as intracellular fluid: intra meaning “within”, and cellular meaning “of the cell”. The fluid within the cells accounts for about 60-70% of the total water in the human body. The rest of the water is called extracellular fluid and is the term used to describe every fluid in your body that is not contained within a cell wall like blood plasma (the fluid in which blood cells are suspended) for example. Now, the water isn’t there all by itself. It’s full of nutrients and electrolytes and maintaining the right balance of fluids and electrolytes keeps the right amount of water in the cell and the right amount of water out of the cell. How the water gets in and out of cell is a whole chapter in an Anatomy and Physiology textbook, so we’ll skip that particular lecture. Besides, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you understand that your cells need to be full of water to function properly, and there also needs to be water “floating around” in your body to allow your cells to operate properly. Water is needed on the macro-scale, too, to keep your joints from rubbing together, your organs from sticking together, and your eyes, ears and mouth healthy. Water is also found inside certain organs like the gastrointestinal tract (not in mine anymore) and in your brain in the form of cerebrospinal fluid (possibly never in Chad’s).

The stuff is everywhere! Water is understood to be, without a doubt, the single most important nutrient a person consumes. Adequate water intake leads to a list of benefits as long as my arm because every cell and virtually every organ requires adequate water to function properly.  With that said, let’s dive into why you lose water.

 If I pour a cup of water and seal it up air tight, no water will escape and even if a hundred years goes by, it’ll stay there. Obviously, that’s not what happens when water goes into the human body, but what does happen? There are 5 main ways that water loss occurs, and probably more that I can’t think of. For all intents and purposes, you only need to remember these 5: urinating, defecation, insensible water loss, vomiting, and sweating.


Everybody pees. Most people know that urinating is “getting rid of” waste in the body. That waste comes in the form of uric acid, urea, ammonia and various nitrogen rich substances that are produced during cell metabolism, and after they're filtered out of your bloodstream by your kidneys, they head to the bladder where they wait to be excreted in the form of urine. All of these waste products are suspended in water which is why urine is a fluid. Because your body needs water for many other functions besides urination, it’ll use the water you give it for as many things as possible besides urinating. Your urine will become super concentrated if you're not getting enough water because your body is using the water elsewhere. This shows up as urine with an intense color, and it may even feel a little uncomfortable to go pee. I often tell my clients that if their urine is clear or very close to clear at least once or twice a day, they can be pretty confident that they're getting enough water. At the point where your urine is clear, you’ve probably had more water than you need, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.


Everybody poops. About 75% of feces is water with the rest being made up dead bacteria, indigestible compounds like fiber, certain fats, live bacteria, and mucus from the lining of the intestines. In essence, feces is everything your digestive system needs to get rid of. Similar to urine, feces’ concentration can change depending on how much water is available. Usually, your body self regulates, but the exception is when you get diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused either by disease or the introduction of a substance that pulls water to the bowels like sugar alcohol. Either way, it can be quietly dehydrating, and many people don’t make a correlation from intestinal distress and losing copious amounts of water. Heck, even if you're not sick it takes a lot of water to make feces, so if you're having dry, hard excretions, drink some water and see if it helps.

Insensible water loss

The most silent killer, insensible water loss refers to the water that evaporates off of your skin that didn’t come from sweat glands and water lost from breathing. The combined water loss can equal as much as a quarter of a gallon per day, and because you don’t sense it (hence the name) it is easily forgotten. Whether you're keeping track or not, your body notices that it’s missing, and it needs to be replenished. The tricky thing about this type of water loss is that it doesn’t take any electrolytes out of your system, so it’s possible to have an electrolyte concentration that is too high if you’re not careful. Dehydration from this source should not be treated with sports drinks, just pure water.


This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you get sick either from food that you ate, or an illness and you vomit you're losing water. Vomiting is often accompanied by diarrhea, and the two pack a pretty powerful punch especially if you're too sick to keep water down. The best move is to try to consume small amounts of water throughout the sickness, and in my personal experience, if I drink right after an episode it seems to stay down better. I'm not saying like three seconds after I pull my head out of the trash can, but after everything settles down a little, I can usually keep about 4 oz. down without any additional vomiting.


How much water you lose when you sweat depends on several factors including how hot the temperature is, how strenuous the activity is, how humid it is, how long you’re exposed to the environment that makes you sweat, and your body’s particular cooling needs. The best way to determine how much water you’ve lost due to sweating from exercise is to weigh yourself before and after your workout. If you're 165 pounds before the workout and 161 pounds after the workout, you’ve lost about 4 pounds of water. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, so a 4 pound loss equates to half a gallon of water. Sounds like a lot, but losing water during a workout is okay just make sure you replenish your water after you’re done. Even if you were drinking water during your workout, if you lost a significant amount of weight, make sure that your post workout includes replenishing water. Also, I really don’t care if you’re thirsty or not. Thirst really only sets in once you've already lost a significant amount of water. Just drink the same amount of water that you lost, period.

Sweating, unlike some of the other types of water loss, also depletes the electrolytes in your body. That’s good news because it means that you don’t have to worry about your electrolyte balance getting out of whack. Even though you're losing the electrolytes, you’re also losing water so the electrolyte concentration in your body isn’t getting too high. It’s bad news because you need those electrolytes for your body to function properly. If I lose all the potassium or chloride in my body for example, my cells are going to be missing crucial pieces to the puzzle in terms of cell function. Not that the two electrolytes I listed are the only deficiencies that sweating can create, but they are some common ones.

Most people who are doing moderate intensity exercise in a climate controlled environment really don’t need to worry about electrolyte balance because electrolytes are plentiful in the foods we consume, but for athletes who are routinely losing 2-8 percent of their weight during bouts of intense activity, electrolyte replacement is something that I’d keep my eye on. If you're sweating that much and only replenishing with water, you’ll be losing water and electrolytes but only replacing the water and that can lead to having electrolyte concentration that is too low. Gatorade and Powerade can help keep electrolytes stocked up in your body, and there are some versions that have sugar and others that don’t in case you're worried about the extra calories or tooth decay associated with that much sugar.

So, there you have it. Understanding that there are multiple ways to lose water should get you inspired to pick up a fancy new BPA free water bottles and drink away. The next question is, “How much water should I drink per day?” The answer to that question, just like almost every other question related to the human body, is: it depends.

The Institute of Medicine advises that men get about 3 liters of water per day, and women get about 2.2 liters per day. Other recommendations include 8 x 8 ounce glasses per day, which is 64 ounces. Some of my textbooks have recommended 96 ounces for active adults. There are about as many recommendations as there are recommending bodies, and that’s because people are so different in their hydration needs. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic recommends, and I like it: drink enough water that you produce 1.5 liters of colorless urine per day. 1.5 liters is probably 2 separate trips to the bathroom. I tell my clients what I recommended above: you’ll have different hydration needs depending on what you're doing in a given day. Make sure your urine is clear at least once a day preferably twice. If you’re hungry, you have a headache, you feel sleepy, you’re slightly nauseated for no apparent reason, you have a pain in your side, or if you’re actually thirsty, drink water until your eyes are going to pop out of your head and see if that fixes it. You might be surprised to find out that all you needed was some water.

Another time you need water is when you’re all out and you’re 8 miles from civilization, which brings us back to the story. I can’t say that it didn’t cost me, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d still drink from that river. Granted, I’ve probably lost 10 times the amount of water that I drank in the past few days, but timing is everything and given the necessity of water to my body, I think I made the right call.
The information and discussions on this webstie/blog are intended for general information only. You should not rely on any of the statements made without consulting a medical professional of your choosing.