Monday, January 18, 2010

Conversations with a Nutritionist

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hang out over coffee with rockstar nutritionist Alan Aragon and chat for a few hours about this and that. By the way he had whipped cream on his drink. err... paleo whipped cream that is!

A couple things that stuck with me was a discussion on saturated fats in regards to how big of a deal is it when it comes to body composition. According to research (and nobody knows current research like Alan) it's not as important as caloric intake when it comes to losing fat, nor does the source matter all that much.

And in the case of high fructose corn syrup, Alan says it probably won't do any more harm than regular sugar unless you are drinking the equivalent of something like 10 cans of soda per day for extended periods.

We also had a related discussion on different fad diets such as paleo, the zone, the raving no-dairy types etc... all of which don't really have solid science, nor common sense to back them up. Alot of those types of diets work because people generally cut the amount of calories they eat, thus losing weight, but ultimately it's hard to maintain ultra strict diets and so people fall off the wagon and gain the weight back.

In other words common sense. Eat what you like but make sure you get a wide variety of protein and vegetable sources.

Friday, January 8, 2010

All About The Kitchen

Anyone who has waged the weight loss battle knows that the bulk of the work (pun intended) comes in the kitchen. It is simply the fact that you must be able to control what you eat in order to lose fat and keep it off.

TMuscle asked various fitness coaches, Docs etc... 5 things people should have or do in the kitchen and unsurprisingly many of the same things popped up over and over. It's no coincidence.

You MUST know how many calories per day you need to keep it at, and you MUST know how much you are currently taking in. Aside from that simply having a good selection of clean, healthy food at home is mandatory. The more junk you have the more tempted you'll be to eat it.

Virtually everyone in the article recommended monounsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, fish oil) and abundant protein sources, along with veggies. These should be the staples of your diet. Period.

Cooking most of your meals at home is another must do. Those that eat most of their meals out have a harder time.

My five:
1. A computer to keep a food log. You've got to know how much you're eating in relation to your caloric expenditure in order to see the elusive rectus abdominus.

2. Tea. Be it green or otherwise, make tea the beverage of choice rather than soda or beer. I prefer loose-leaf green tea and cold mugi (barley) tea.

3. Healthy fats. Avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, nuts, etc; all are great for using instead of mayo or other spreads. Show monounsaturated fats some love.

4. Mixed nuts. See #3. Great to have on hand for the inevitable evening snack.

5. Invest in a good knife and cutting board for preparing the fresh veggies and lean meat that should be a staple of your diet.

Get a handle on your diet, do some effective exercise program you enjoy. Done.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Paced Density Circuits for Maximum Fat Loss

Today published my first article for them. A timely one too, as it concerns fat loss.

Timed Circtuits: Pace Yourself for Mximum Fat Loss

The idea for the concept came from experimenting with two training protocols: Density circuits, and timed sets of the kind used in kettlebell sport. I've found timed sets done at a set rep per minute pace were quite effective for building conditioning, technique, and of course body composition, so just applied the idea to circuit-style training using other tools.

There has been some research published that shows standard weight training circuits producing a huge caloric expenditure, which means you'll lose alot of fat in a short amount of time. Now, this isn't quite the holy grail as these circuits are pretty damn tough. You've got to have something of a strength base and experience with the exercises to maximize results. But for those who have put some time in the gym give it a try and let me know what you think.

I've got some other variations of this protocol for other specific goals for those interested.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Posterior Shoulder Assessment

Welcome to 2010. May it be better than the last.

The third part in my strength assessment series for Men's Health concerns perhaps the most important part when it comes to maintaining or improving shoulder health: The posterior shoulder.

For most of us that spend considerable time typing at a computer, driving, or sitting on the sofa working your posterior shoulder muscles, and in the case of the featured prone L raise, the rotator cuff muscles, is crucial for staving off injury. Most of you have at some point tweaked a shoulder while pressing and know what that does to progress - actually regression.

This year is a perfect time to think about long term health and improvement.

Strengthen your weakness
To make significant progress with upper body training, having healthy shoulders is essential. (After all, you can't offer her two tickets to the gun show if your bouncers aren't letting anyone in, if you see what we mean.) The common "Achilles heel" of shoulder exercises is rotator cuff weakness: do the following test, courtesy of personal trainer Chris Bathke, to determine if you need some extra work for your posterior shoulder.

Test your rotator cuff

Lie face down on an incline bench holding a pair of 5kg dumb-bells with arms extended toward the floor and thumbs facing in. Pinching the shoulder blades together, raise your elbows to shoulder height. Then, while maintaining a 90-degree bend at the elbow, raise your hands towards the ceiling until they are in line with your head. Pause for one second at the top, then return to the starting position.

Build it up

"If you can do 10 perfect reps using a full range of motion and without any stress in your neck or mid-back then you have good rotator cuff strength," says Bathke. Simply maintain with two to three sets of eight once a week. However, if you had difficulty then do three sets of eight with 2.5kg dumbbells twice a week, along with two or three sets of eight prone T raises (reverse flys). Retest every four weeks.

Raise the bar

Once you're up to speed (and strength), blast your shoulders further with scapular face pulls. "Using a double handle attachment on a cable station, set the handle at about head height, grip the handles and row it towards your face while bringing your hands wide," says Bathke. Use strict form with no momentum and make sure you relax your upper traps and pinch your shoulder blades together. "Start with two sets of 10 once a week and try to do an extra rep each week until you hit 15, then up the weight," advises Bathke.