Why Your Personal Trainer is Full of it – and what you can do about it

If you’ve been to the gym in the last 10 years you’ve undoubtedly seen countless patrons slaving away doing hundreds of crunches, triceps kickbacks, and as many different “thigh sculpting” contortions as you can think of, possibly all while standing on a Bosu ball on top of a balance board while strapped to the wall by elastic bands. In my experience most of these strange permutations of exercise are inspired by someone’s personal trainer/fitness trainer/health and wellness coach or by an article published in any random men’s health or fitness magazine written by one of the aforementioned “fitness experts”. They throw around terms like “functional fitness” and “core strength” and my favorite… “toning”. Of course these guys must know what they’re talking about… look at them – they’re ripped! They also have certifications! Yup, you heard that right. They are officially certified by accrediting bodies which obviously settle for no less than the most up-to-date, cutting-edge science to support these amazing core-strengthening, arm flab-toning, six pack-chiseling methods. Or maybe not. Continue reading

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Are Low Carb Diets Healthy? Lessons from Research and What You Need to Know

We’ve all heard that the healthiest way to diet is to cut out fat. Then again we’ve also heard that the best way to lose fat fast is to cut “carbs”. There are many die-hard fans out there of nearly every type of diet out there, but many of the most popular diets all have one thing in common: they are centered around manipulating the ratios of the macro-nutrients (a term that is not wholly useful in light of our current understanding of biochemistry, but that we’ll save for a later post), namely, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Protein is necessary for life. A diet far too low or far too high in protein is incompatible with any organism surviving for very long. This leaves us with the option of manipulating the amount of carbohydrates and fats in the diet. Expert opinions abound where randomized control trials lack. I’ve compiled a small literature review using some of the best sources available to me to help determine whether low carbohydrate diets are better than high carbohydrate diets in the long term for the reduction and long term maintenance of body fat while taking into account general markers for health like mortality from heart attacks, stroke, or other diseases. Continue reading

A Slow Stomach for a Flat Stomach

What do whole fruits, fatty desserts, and a nagging mother have in common? These are some of the secrets to eating the foods you want to or thought you could never get away with eating, while still looking and feeling great. The speed at which your food is digested impacts its physiological effects on your body. We all know the difference in how you feel if you chug a milkshake as fast as you can compared to sipping at it, or the meaning of “food that goes right through you.” The speed of digestion can actually impact your hormones that control fat gain and loss. This is good to know if you’re interested in losing weight or maintaining fat loss.

So how is it that speed of digestion impacts body weight? The faster a large amount of glucose gets dumped into your system, the larger the insulin response. Although the exact mechanism of how this increases weight gain is still being debated, some of the best research suggests that an excess insulin response influences leptin, an incredibly important hormone that has a hand in regulating everything from satiety and hunger to your sleep schedule. Leptin resistance, which is thought to be a major contributor to the development of obesity, is probably driven by excess insulin which is provoked through ingesting large amounts of sugar or protein without mechanisms to slow their absorption. The takeaway is this: Continue reading