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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing?

You can exercise too much.....this may never cross some people's minds, especially in American society where the mindset is typically "more is better". In the case of exercise this isn't true, you must have the correct balance of exercise and rest in order to obtain the healthy benefits. Now don't all of a sudden jump to the conclusion that you are exercising too much because for most people the opposite is true. I'm writing about this mainly to let people know that exercise just like almost anything else can be a double-edged sword. Too much is unhealthy, just as too little is unhealthy.

Why is this? Because by exercising you are putting stress on your body which causes damage to your body. The right amount of this stress will cause your body to adapt while the wrong amount will cause your body to break down. This break down comes from overtraining, which is when your body is being broken down more by exercise than it has capacity to rebuild. There are many indicators of this and people become overtrained at various levels of exercise. Some of the indicators of overtraining can be sustained soreness (this doesn't include soreness you get when you first start working out), trouble sleeping, becoming ill, extreme weight loss (involving loss of muscle), inability to achieve goals etc. Keep in mind that what causes overtraining in one person may be the right amount of exercise for another. Other factors which influence overtraining are diet, sleep, stress, bodies inherent ability to withstand a particular level of training and so forth. In other words if you have a terrible diet eating junk food, sleep very little, drink excess alcohol etc. you will most likely overtrain much more easily than someone who doesn't have these lifestyle habits.

These realities are things you must consider if you are going to workout and thus your workouts and program must be tailored and adjusted continuously for your specific needs. In other words don't expect to be able to do the same workout that your friend or a celebrity does and get the same results as you and your life are unique and therefore need a unique program designed aaround that uniqueness. It's all about a balance between pushing yourself and then resting an appropriate amount for recovery before pushing again. Because the many factors affecting your body at any time this balancing act is not only a science but also an art. Exercise may seem like a simple thing, which in some ways it is, but it becomes very complex in terms of its application to each individual. So if you want the best results which includes achieving the look you want as well as the health you want it will take time and energy. Just remember, nothing that's worth doing or achieving is easy. It takes hard work, commitment, and the determination to do what's needed even when it's uncomfortable or inconvenient.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Core Fitness...

This is all you hear about everywhere, "do this for your core", "do that for your core". So most people automatically think this means do as many crunches as you possibly can because "you gotta have a six pack". This is so so far from the actual truth. For one, there are many people who have "six packs" but are far from healthy and actually are relatively weak in the rest of their core. If you have a strong front but a weak or non-existent back it doesn't do much for you.

Ever hear of the naked spine's not really a syndrome but you see it very frequently, particularly in females who train their abs like crazy but do little or nothing for their backs. Here's how to recognize this, if you look at someones back and you can see their spine protruding with little or no muscle along the sides of it that's not good at all. They need to strengthen their back, particularly erector muscles along the spine using (back extensions, torso rotations, rowing movements etc.) Not only will it help them avoid injuries, it will also balance out their looks. Nothing looks worse than a six pack coupled with a bony naked spine where the ribs and spinal column are visibly protruding.

Additionally, the hips should be strengthened in order to provide a total core workout. The muscles of the hips and glutes play a huge role in stabilizing and strengthening the core. This is also an area where many if not most people are seriously lacking. A lack of strength in the hips translates into major potential problems for the spine as well as the lower body areas of vulnerability such as the knees and ankles.

All in all what the point I'm trying to make is that the core is all abs and just because someone has a six pack doesn't mean they are in shape. Take a look at their back and butt and then decide...if those two areas are looking pretty sad then they have a lot of work to do. Even individuals who are "elite athletes" may still have these glaring weaknesses. So balance yourself out by working your abs, back, hips and glutes if you want a core that not only looks good all around but also keeps you injury free. Check out this article for more on this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

....Sports Drinks

These drinks are all the rage now with more and more brands and types available. But really, think about it. Does it make sense to drink liquids which are fluorescent colored? No liquid that humans are meant to drink is naturally fluorescent in color! In order to get these colors they must place many artificial colorings in the beverage. Additionally, most are either loaded down with sugar or artificial sweeteners which are extremely unhealthy for you, despite the fact that government agencies have approved them. If you have enough cash and enough political influence you can get anything approved. Bottom line is these drinks are extremely overpriced and unnecessary for almost everyone. Unless you are working out at extreme levels or in extreme amounts you don't need to suck down a bottle of fluorescent colored sugar water to make it through your 20 minute treadmill routine. All your body needs to stay hydrated is water, a very small amount of sugar and a tiny bit of salt. With sugar we are talking a 3-6% solution of sugar and the salt only comes into play at really high levels of exertion. For your average workout, the type of which I've seen most everyone do, a bottle of water is plenty. Only 5-8 oz every 15 minutes are needed during a workout, with various factors affecting this amount (intensity, previous hydration status, how much you sweat..etc). Start drinking water and avoid the over-hyped unnecessary sports drinks and other "fake" nutrition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Food Quality continued.....

On with the food quality discussion. This is very important when putting together an appropriate nutrition plan, thus the extended discussion of it. Another reason is that most people either don't think about it or are not aware that this is important. Just as a review...when purchasing meats you want to look for hormone free, organic, grass fed, free range products where the animals have not been raised using non-natural foods and treatments. Whatever the animal eats or is injected with will be left in the meat and then it goes into your body and affects you in various ways. You may think the amounts of these substances are small, which that may be true, but your body is highly sensitive as it only takes a minute amount of a substance to cause an effect. Just as an example, at a concentration level similar to placing a drop of a hormone in a rail tanker train several miles long a physiological effect in your body will occur. Now that's a small amount!

You always hear people these days talking about eating "whole foods", the reason being is that they typically contain more nutrients and are lacking all of the chemicals and preservatives that are placed in processed, unnatural food products. This is a big reason that reading labels is important, so you can see what you are really eating. Again these chemicals and preservatives can cause problems in your body and keep you from getting proper nutrition. It's not just about calories in vs calories out. If you don't digest and absorb it, it's not really calories in! Many of the chemicals and preservatives irritate your digestive system and cause it not to work properly. This includes things like alcohol which is a poison with no nutritional or health value. Yes they say wine can be beneficial, but it's not because of the's from the beneficial substances in the grapes which you can obviously get from eating grapes. So don't justify your alcohol with media sound bites that are there to get you to watch the news.

Once you figure out the quality issue the next thing is figuring out when to eat, how much to eat, and what to eat for meals/snacks....more on that tomorrow.....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eating Seems Good..So What's the Problem?

More often than not, if weight is an issue, sugar(s) are the culprit. People have been so scared into thinking fat and meat and eggs are bad that they have replaced these foods with excessive carbohydrates (which are sugars). Granted there are different types of sugars but the sugars most people consume are the ones that are easy to access. They are simple refined sugars which are in many different foods including diet foods (had to use something to make it taste good), most breads and pastries, pastas, many condiments and snack foods. Ever wonder why some pasta sauce has a sweet taste? Tomatoes aren't sweet....hmmm??..... they put sugar in the sauce! Sugar gets put in a number of "health foods" to give them taste. Normally fat gives foods taste, but when the fat is taken out the alternatives are sugar or artificial flavorings to make the item edible. The bottom line is, if you eat whole natural foods that you can look at and say "that grows in the ground or on a plant, or is from an animal that eats those plants" you'll avoid many of these problem foods.

What happens when you eat simple refined sugars is they digest quickly and due to the fact that most people do very little physical activity they get stored as fat because the body has no need to use them for energy. Even more reason to exercise, especially if you are going eat foods with significant amounts of sugar in them. So how do some people who practically eat like vegetarians, becuase they've been scared into thinking cholesterol is going to kill them, still have high cholesterol. Because if you don't eat cholesterol the body will make it. And guess what it makes it from, excess carbohydrates (sugars). So if you stop eating egg yolks, think you're going to have a heart attack if you eat a steak or have some butter then chances are your body is going to have to make cholesterol from your high sugar diet. It's sort of like a double edged sword; the harder you try to avoid cholesterol the more sugar you'll be eating. The more sugar you eat the higher your insulin levels (which is a hormone that's trying to get the sugar into cells). Then cholesterol is needed to repair the damage to the vessels done by excess insulin. This is one of the reasons diabetics typically have heart and circulatory problems. Their body is overwhelmed by sugar with no place to put it because the cells are no longer sensitive to insulin, therefore it stays in the blood stream...thus high sugar readings and high insulin levels leading to more damage and more need for cholesterol to repair the damage caused as the body keeps trying to get the sugar out of the blood. So before becoming an extremist who tries to cut every last gram of fat and cholesterol out of your diet try cutting out sugar, it may be hard because sugar has been shown to be nearly as addictive as hard core illegal drugs but in the long run it will be worth it health and appearance wise. If you cut out sugar and start eating these so called "forbidden" foods (which are actually good for you in moderate amounts) you'll probably feel better and drop some serious weight in a short period of time.

As a final note, bear in mind cholesterol is a very essential substance that is used in the body to repair damage as well as in the making of the sex hormones. You can't live without it! Eat some whole eggs, meat and good fats, you'll be amazed how you feel and you'll probably lose 5-10 lbs in no time when you couple this with the elimination of refined sugars. Focusing on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits and true whole grains (if you don't have gluten problems) will help you put an end to the dietary and weight rollercoaster!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Protein Quality - Meats - Red Meat...It's Good for You

I want to start with protein, primarily because this is where many people are woefully inadequate in their consumption. There is also much confusion and misinformation about proteins that is propagated through the media and other organizations with hidden bias. The first thing you have to understand is "meat, fat, cholesterol and eggs don't cause heart disease". This is something that has been beaten and ingrained into peoples heads over the last half-century. You need fats, proteins and cholesterol for your body to function properly and be fit. Anyone that tells you otherwise does not understand the role these substances play in your body. The problem isn't these foods, it's in the quality of these foods that people buy and how they are prepared that's more of a problem. If you buy the cheapest meat you can find, eat packaged lunch meat, canned meat and other heavily preserved meat products you will have problems. When buying meat you should look for hormone free, free range meats. The reason is that these animals have been fed and allowed to eat what they would naturally eat. For example, cattle were meant to eat grass, not corn. When they eat grass the fat make up of their bodies is different and they contain more beneficial fats. This minus the hormones that the mass market cattle are fed to fatten them up unnaturally in a shorter time period and you have a healthy animal and thus healthy meat for you to eat. The problem with hormones is that they get in the meat and then they get in your body and cause problems. It's always better to by fresh over frozen meat or anything that's already pre-made into something for convenient microwave preparation.

Then you have to look at how you prepare the meats. Don't overcook them and definitely don't cook them in the microwave. Microwaves may be convenient but they destroy the food, make it taste terrible and also have been documented in studies conducted in Europe to cause changes in people's bodies who consume food cooked in them. Read this article about microwaves and what they do. Meats should be cooked slowly and on low heat. The charring and burnt material that you see on some meats is not good for you. Additionally, the higher the temperature the more the fats are damaged. Avoid deep frying or cooking with vegetable oil as these oils are unstable and are damaged by the time you purchase them (this is despite what you hear plastered all over the media and in restaurants). Coconut oil is one of the best oils to cook with if you are going to fry something as it is stable up to a much higher temperature. Olive oil can be used for low temperature cooking. All of this and more affect how healthy the meat is for you.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should rotate your meats, don't always eat the same thing. So many people think they should only eat chicken breasts and fish. This is simply not true. First of all, most fish has mercury in it and you shouldn't be eating it very much at all. Particularly, larger fish, as they eat smaller fish and thus contain more mercury. As paranoid as people have been made about "red meat", it's quite ironic to see people who are eating the least amount of it having more problems with cholesterol and weight than anyone else. If you are wondering why that is I'll get more into that tomorrow as this is getting quite long already. Go out and eat some red meat, it's not gonna kill you! In fact, your lifestyle and over consumption of processed foods and sugar will get you way before high quality red meat will.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quality matters....

when it comes to food just as it does with any other product or service you use. Would you go to an auto mechanic that charged $5 to replace your tires or fly on an airplane lawn chairs for seats? I think not! But for some odd reason most people look at food and try to go for the cheapest possible options. It's pretty hilarious when you see someone with a Porsche driving through a fast food restaurant to buy a $2 sandwich. They'll spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on a car and put high grade fuel in it but when it comes to their bodies they put cheap, highly processed, chemically laden junk in that will make them fat, moody and disease prone. I guess it speaks to the priorities of many people. They care more about what something looks like on the surface than on the reality of what's beyond the surface. More times than not this is a dangerous proposition.

For some people, it's understandable that budgetary concerns don't always allow the purchase of top of the line organic food....but for the many people...particularly clients that I come into contact with that is simply not the case. No one who drives $50,000+ cars and goes on multiple vacations each year and lives in a multi-million dollar home can tell me they can't afford to shop at Whole Foods or buy organic food! It's simply BS. It's priorities and also lack of knowledge about what is good for them or not. The way I look at it're gonna pay for health one way or the other....either by buying high quality food and living a healthy lifestyle or paying doctors, drug companies and hospitals thousands of dollars an hour to feel miserable and maybe get better.

The first thing people need to get straight is that healthy food doesn't taste bad. And no pre-packaged lean cuisine is not healthy food. Healthy foods are things like fresh vegetables, fruits, naturally raised meats etc. The less that's been done to the food the better. Why do you think food in high end restaurants tastes better than your chains....partly because they use fresh ingredients, many times they are from local sources. Try to shop at farmers markets or natural food grocery stores. Even some of your run of the mill grocery stores now stock organic and natural foods. You just have to look at the labels to see what the deal really is because marketers are now in tuned to the fact that people look for these products so you have to be careful. Just because something says "natural" doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you.

Tomorrow more specifics on what to look for with different types of foods...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Eating the right proportions matters

This is huge! You have to eat the right amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats and timing is key. Of course everyone is different, so each person has to figure out what works best for them. As far as timing goes, you really need to try and eat something every 3-4 hours to keep your blood sugar from dropping and thus putting your body into starvation mode where it wants to store everything you eat since you aren't giving it food on a consistent basis. Whether it's a meal or a snack it should always have a protein and a carb, having just one or the other can cause energy problems. The protein will slow down the digestion so you won't have rapid sugar highs followed by a crash. The carb will give you energy to run on and keep you thinking clearly since your brain runs on glucose (which comes primarily from carbs).

So what are carbs and proteins? Carbs come from plants and proteins come from animals to put it simply. Fats come along for the ride with your proteins for the most part.

Here are some examples:
Carbs - fruits, vegetables....less preferred starches like potatos, pasta, bread
Proteins/Fats - eggs, meats, cheese, nuts

As a side note most of these foods have some of each type of nutrient (carbs, proteins, fats) they typically just have one that is predominant....

Why does this matter? Because how frequently you eat and the type of nutrients you eat affect how many calories you burn and the amount of fat and muscle you have...which contributes to whether or not you achieve the look and level of health you want.

Tomorrow.... the quality of what you eat......

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday June 5, 2009 - Eat only real food...

Most people think that's exactly what they are doing, but in reality they aren't. Another one of the big keys to not only losing weight, but also to being healthy is to eat primarily(80% of the time or more) whole and natural foods. What kinds of food are these? Things like fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, cheeses. No fruit juice doesn't count and neither does lunch meat or any of the other convenience foods (chips, soda, canned foods such as soups, breads). All of these items are processed to one extent or another. You know something isn't a real food when you look on the label and see 20 different ingredients in a loaf of bread (many of which are chemicals). The problem with these packaged convenience foods is that most of them contain substances that your body doesn't recognize and they are thus hard to digest. They may say they have 100 calories but they actually require 120 calories worth of energy to digest so you really are losing calories and nutrition. Foods without nutrients suck nutrients out of your body in order to process them, resulting in a loss from your body. People wonder how they can eat 800 calories a day and not lose weight, well for one just because you put it in your mouth doesn't mean your body absorbs all of it. Two, when you are on super low calorie diets that are filled with fake foods containing few nutrients, your body will lower your metabolism because it thinks you are starving, thus no weight loss.

One of the easiest way to keep to whole foods is to shop around the exterior of the store and avoid buying items in fancy packaging that will likely keep on the shelf for 6 months. Real whole food is alive and won't last for months on end in a pantry. The items that do are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals that are meant to kill and preserve the food.

A special note, kids especially should not be eating all of this processed and boxed convenience food. Their brains and bodies are still developing and feeding them lunchables, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and other junk will do nothing for them or their health.

If it doesn't come off a plant or directly from an animal then avoid it, it's not good for you and won't help you lose weight. Even though the food industry has come up with some pretty slick "foods" and substances that taste good your body is still all natural and has no idea what these concocted chemicals are and it doesn't like them! Be careful, however, as some "natural" substances are still poisons.....arsenic, alcohol, etc.....and aren't good for you in any amounts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday June 2, 2009 - Your diet will get you?

If you're looking to lose weight your diet more than almost anything else will get you and drag you back to square one. As I said yesterday, most people eat too much food for their activity level. Gaining a pound a month is only little more than 100 calories per day in excess of what you burn off! So it doesn't take much, that extra cookie, soda, after work drink. That's 12 lbs per year and next thing you know you've gained a lot of unnecessary weight. Given the fact that most adults and even children don't get anywhere near enough activity there is no wonder obesity is such a problem. Even if you walk 30 minutes a day or do some sort of moving around you still aren't burning that many calories.....30 minutes of 3mph walking doesn't even burn 200 calories and that's if you are 175 lbs...if you weigh less you'll burn even less. The average person burns less than 2000 calories per if you're going out to eat often...eating high calorie foods and doing little or no exercise you will gain weight. So focus on more filling items such as fruits and veggies which have fiber and make sure to consume plenty of quality proteins such as eggs and meats. Your body naturally has a shut off switch when you eat fat or protein however when you eat carbs (aka sugars) there is no shut off switch so you just keep eating. You should be getting the majority of your carbs from vegetables and fruits while minimizing starches and refined grains (breads, pastries, pastas etc.) You won't get leaner eating large amounts of starching and refined carbs....actually your body will tend to hold onto more water the more of these items you you that bloated look and feeling.

So unless you are working out hard for several hours per day you can't be eating huge three course meals and snacks which are laden with breads, potatos and other high calorie foods if you want to lose weight

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday June 1, 2009 - Why can't I lose weight?

This is a question I've heard too many times to count. People hope for a simple straightforward answer, but the fact is there is not one. For each person the answer is different. As much as we try to simplify things, there is no getting around the fact that each person is different and requires a different approach if they are to be successful in losing weight.

Each day this week I'll briefly address some of the main reasons why you aren't losing weight. Those issues are diet, stress, and exercise. Here's just a few brief comments on what is most often the

All diet means in this context is "what you eat". Most people will tell you they eat pretty well. However, as soon as you find out what they are actually eating you realize they eat pretty bad. Much of the time this is due to ignorance more than anything else. I could go on all day about what is wrong with people's diets, but in the interest of your time here are the major issues for almost everyone. Number one, they eat way too much for their activity level. Number two, they eat way too many processed "foods" (much of this stuff isn't actually food). Number three, they eat the wrong kinds and/or the wrong portions of nutrients. Again most of this is due to ignorance.

coffee, soda, alcohol, food that will last in your house for that if you look at it you can't think of where you might find it in nature (donuts don't grow anywhere that I know of)....

I'll get into the details tomorrow.....
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