Monday, December 30, 2013

The Year in Fitness and Nutrition

A lot of blogs and websites are doing their year in review pieces as we approach the beginning of 2014. Here are a few that have popped up on my radar.

From Pop Sugar:

The Headlines That Helped Us Drop Pounds in 2013

by Leta Shy December 26, 2013

Another year, another 365 days to unlock the secrets to sustainable weight loss — and in 2013, researchers did not disappoint. From finding the best time to eat a big meal to finding yet another reason to chow down on chocolate, here are the most interesting weight-loss news stories of the year!

1. More Sleep Decreases Junk-Food Cravings

We've been learning more and more about just how important sleep is for our waistlines; this year, researchers showed that lack of sleep can actually change how we respond to junk food. When sleep-deprived participants were shown photos of fatty foods like pizza and doughnuts, the reward centers in their brains lit up much more than those who had gotten enough sleep — proving that when you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to make less-than-optimal diet choices than when you're well rested.

2. Dark Chocolate Blocks Fat

Last year, it was red wine, and this year it's even more good news: a new study found that dark-chocolate eaters who ate more calories than non dark chocolate eaters still had lower BMIs. The study suggests that an antioxidant found in dark chocolate, epicatechin, may block your body's absorption of fats and sugars.

3. Eat More Protein, Lose More Weight

A small study published in September found that the optimal amount of protein for those trying to lose weight may be more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) set by the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers put patients on specific diets that differed in protein — groups either ate the RDA of protein, double that amount, or triple that amount. Those who ate double the RDA of protein lost more fat than muscle, which is important for keeping metabolism levels up when you are trying to lose weight.

4. A Well-Timed Big Lunch Is Key

If you find it hard to schedule a midday meal break during your hectic work day, listen up: a recent study found that late lunchers (those who ate after 3 p.m.) ended up weighing more than those who ate a big lunch earlier. The study also found that late lunchers were more likely to skip breakfast — also a no-no if you're trying to drop pounds. Since the Spanish participants ate their biggest meal at lunch, the study also suggests that front-loading your filling meals during the day can be beneficial for your waistline.

5. Start With Exercise

Losing weight requires dedication to both a healthy diet and a consistent workout routine, but if you can't quite fit both into your schedule, start with exercise first, according to a study published earlier this year. The researchers tracked inactive participants as they either started a new diet and exercise routine at the same time, started a new exercise routine followed by a new diet later on, or started a new diet followed by an exercise routine later on. While the diet-and-exercise group fared the best, the study found that those who established a workout routine first (before dealing with their diet) were more successful at sticking to both a workout routine and healthy eating plan later on — which meant more weight loss in the long run.

Source: Thinkstock
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Here are links to several useful articles from The Daily Beast:

Study: Exercise Could Be The Key to Mitigating the Christmas Weight Damage

Take away: regular exercise can help mitigate the effects of short-term overfeeding and inactivity, regardless of energy balance. Caveat: They studied young men, and the results may be different for women and for older adults (whose metabolism slows as they age).

Wheat Threatens All Humans, New Research Shows

Take away: Wheat is capable of producing 23,000 different proteins, and while 1 in 16 people seem to be intolerant to gluten, it is the other 22,999 proteins that may be the real issue, particularly wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is technically a lectin. WGA binds to gut proteins quite readily, which may leave these cells less well protected against the harmful effects of the gut contents.

These Are The 15 Supplements to Keep In Your Medicine Cabinet

By Ari Meisel
December 28th 2013

More Stories by Ari Meisel

As evidence mounts that multivitamins provide no nutritional benefit, it’s time to forget the ‘daily dose.’ Instead, turn to these 15 supplements and think of your medicine cabinet as your toolbox, taking only what you need.

A lot of people start their days by popping a multivitamin.

Unfortunately, there’s more than enough evidence to show that these “multis” provide absolutely no nutritional benefit. There’s even compelling research that shows they can even do harm to your body. It’s also very confusing since every supplement has different ratios of various vitamins which don’t take into account an individual’s diet or biological makeup. They tend to contain fillers like magnesium stearate, which you might think is a form of the mineral magnesium, when in fact it is an industrial lubricant, meant to keep the pills from sticking to machinery (and has been shown to reduce immune function).

Truth it, there are very few supplements that you should be taking every day.

In fact, when you see RDA values for various vitamins and minerals on a package, you might think that stands for Recommended Daily Amounts, when in actuality, its Recommended Dietary Amounts.

So if you want to take supplements, you need to think of your medicine cabinet as a toolbox, where you use what you need, when you need it, and throw out the idea of a daily dose.

These are the 15 “tools” I keep in my cabinet and what I use them for:

1. Probiotics—A lot of diseases of the industrialized worlds (like my personal favorite, Crohn’s Disease) are thought to be a result of our hyperclean environment with hand sanitizer stations around every corner. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help regulate our digestion, strengthen our immune system and maintain sanity. Unless you are eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, or kefir on a daily basis you should take a probiotic most days and double if you are taking antibiotics.

2. Vitamin D3—Most of you reading this are probably vitamin D deficient if you wear clothes and work indoors. In addition, if you’re diet doesn’t contain adequate amounts of fat then you won’t be able to properly process vitamin D (as well as A, E and K). Most people should be taking around 5,000 IU per day unless you get to spend a good amount of time outside and in the sun. Even those people should take some during the winter months. One more thing, take it in the morning otherwise it can disrupt your sleep since vitamin D and melatonin are inversely related.

3. Krill Oil - Krill Oil, like fish oils can help fight inflammation and lower cholesterol. In tests Krill seems to be better absorbed by the body so you’ll tend to get more bang for your buck and added benefits such as blood sugar regulation and even possible fat loss.

4. Astaxanthin
—The red pigment in salmon and a major skin protectant thought to aid in eye health and inflammation, I take this carotenoid mostly in the winter months when my skin tends to get dryer as the lips in Astaxanthin appear to help maintain elasticity.

5. Phenocane—Nature’s Tylenol, Phenocane’s main ingredient is Curcurmin with a couple added friends that make this an incredibly powerful anti inflammatory and pain killer.

6. Oil of Oregano Capsules—Oil of Oregano (different plant from the stuff on your pizza) contains Carvacrol, an incredibly potent bacteria killer. I take this anytime I travel, am exposed to people I know are sick, or feel a cold coming on.

7. Oil of Oregano Liquid
—in liquid form this stuff is really powerful and will burn a little but a couple drops in a glass of water gargled for a minute will stop a sore throat or sinus infection dead in its tracks.

8. Goat Colostrum—colostrum is the first two or three days of breast milk and contain the building blocks for a strong immune system and health body. Goats milk is the closest equivalent to human breast milk and I always take these in combination with oil of oregano capsules.

9. Xylitol Nasal Spray - xylitol is a sugar alcohol and has antibacterial properties. As a nasal spray it keeps the passages moist and bacteria free, ideal for travel or ducted heating systems.

10. MCT Oil - Medium Chain Triglycerides are the fat transport mechanisms you get when you put coconut oil in a centrifuge. It’s an odorless, tasteless oil that provides an immediate source of ketones (fat energy) to you blood stream and will actually help your cognitive function. I use it in salad dressings or yogurt when I want to up the fat content without adding any taste. If I’ve had a rough night with the kids I’ll add it along with so we grass fed butter to my coffee for a nice cup of Bulletproof Coffee(TM).

11. Digestech—We have different enzymes to help us digest fats, carbs, and protein. Digestech capsules contain those and then some. They help me digest large meals and extract more nutrition from the foods I eat.

12. Activated Charcoal Capsules—sometimes you eat or drink something and wish you Hsn. Don’t panic about the toxins mounting an attack against your body. Just pop a couple capsules of activated charcoal and let natures Brita filter (which actually contains charcoal) trap those toxins and take them out of your body.

13. Alpha Brain - Nootropics are substances which increase cognitive performance. On the pharmaceutical side think Adderall or Modafinil. I’m not one for taking drugs so I turn to Alpha Brain, which contains 11 natural, well studied compounds that will increase focus and memory while offering neuroprotective anti stressors. You can use this daily but I use it when I know I’ve got a big day or meetings or a client engagement ahead of me to help me break through some inner barriers. This won’t turn you into an Einstein, but if you know the answer to the question is inside you somewhere, this might help you find it.

14. Collagen and Whey Protein Powder—Unless you are a bodybuilder or trying to experiment with eating only specific amounts of protein, most people do not need to supplement with protein. Sometimes I’ll do a protein fast for a day or two where I’m limiting protein to 50 grams or less and the easiest way to do that is to eat a whole bunch of veggies and then have a serving of protein power. The two forms are pretty similar but the nice added benefit of collagen powder is that it’s heat stable so you can add it to your coffee if you want.

15. Greens Powder - I try to eat lots of dark leafy greens in my diets but somedays are more difficult than others. A green powder mix like Powerfood from Onnit acts like a dietary insurance policy and gives me things I might never get otherwise like camu for antioxidants or olive leaf for internal cleansing.

That’s what I use—but how about you? Tell me what supplements are in your medicine cabinet in the comments below.

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From the Today Show:

Fitness fails: Workouts you need to stop doing in 2014

Take home: Pole dancing, stiletto workouts, gas mask training, backward running, stability ball stands, and yes, even Tough Mudder and warrior dash all need to go according to this piece. 
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Another article from the Daily Beast:

The Busy Person’s Guide to Becoming a Fitness Minimalist
By DailyBurn
December 27th 2013

by Joe Vennare for Life by DailyBurn

Imagine a workout that can be done anywhere, anytime. This routine doesn’t require any equipment. There’s no instructor and no membership dues. Better still, completing this workout wouldn’t take all day. Heck, it wouldn’t even take up an entire lunch break.

What if this workout existed?

Well, it does. Call it the Rise of the Fitness Minimalist, or the realization that short, high-intensity workouts (even just seven minutes in length) might be better than slogging through longer exercise sessions. In fact, research shows that 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training can produce the same aerobic and anaerobic benefits as steady-state cardio workouts twice as long. Stripping away the excess and upping the intensity has also been shown to improve cardiovascular endurance and burn fat—not to mention boost the “afterburn effect.”

Do More With Less

Ready to opt for efficiency over exercise machines while saving precious time in the process? Try these simple strategies to skip the false starts and time-sucks, and start connecting with your inner fitness minimalist.

1. Keep it simple. Sometimes all you need is your own bodyweight to get great results. This workout, created by researchers at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida takes seven minutes to complete and only uses 12 bodyweight exercises, a wall and a chair. The result: a quick, high-intensity form of circuit training focused on building strength while burning maximum calories. (And who doesn’t love push-ups, wall-sits and high knees?)

2. Up the intensity. When it comes to exercise, we all know something is better than nothing. But when you’re short on time, the trick is thinking about exercise in terms of effort. So while another slow jog around the neighborhood might seem pretty tough, it’s by no means the fastest way to make progress, research suggests. Cram as much intensity into brief workouts as possible by supersetting burpees, mountain climbers or jump squats in between exercises. And if you need an extra push, take the Inferno challenge for a high-internsity program that’s available ’round the clock.

3. Set a timer. When time is short supply, rest periods should be, too (ideally kept to 30 seconds or less). Try this: Set a timer to reflect the length of the workout. Let’s pretend that’s 15 minutes. Now, create a circuit of three to five exercises. Then, start the clock and complete the circuit for as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 15 minutes. Of course, never compromise quality over quantity, but by the end of these workouts you should feel sufficiently spent.

4. Watch the clock. Another technique that utilizes the timer is the Tabata protocol. This interval workout only requires four minutes to complete, but can be repeated as part of a 15 or 20-minute routine. Start by selecting an exercise (think burpees, kettlebell swings or thrusters). Then, perform that move for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat that work-rest routine for eight rounds, clocking in at four minutes flat. On paper it might not seem like much, but these short, intense intervals have been shown to improve athletic capacity, conditioning and fat burning in less time than longer, less intense workouts. Need more guidance? Try these Tabata workouts.

5. Go all out. Jogging is a great way to get moving and stay healthy. But, since we’re aiming for greater results in less time, sprinting is better—specifically HIIT workouts, which alternate between periods of all-out effort and brief recovery. So grab that timer we’ve been using and set it for 60 seconds. Then, sprint, swim, bike, or row all-out for that minute. Take 60 to 90 seconds to rest before repeating at max effort again.

Stick with the Essentials

A great workout requires very few bells and whistles (sometimes none at all). But when the time comes to move beyond bodyweight training, mixing in the right tools can help take your training to new heights. Fitness minimalist and trainer Al Kavadlo, CSCS, recommends picking up a few pieces of versatile exercise equipment (check out what he can do with just a pull-up bar), and using movements like pull-ups, push-ups, dips and squats to get stronger before attempting more difficult moves like the muscle-up or pistol squat. Here’s the essential equipment even a fitness minimalist should consider investing in.

TRX. Set up shop in a doorframe and practice the basic moves, like the horizontal row and suspended push-ups, before moving on to single-leg exercises and explosive moves that require more strength and balance. This type of Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX, get it?) is a form of suspension training that targets multiple muscle groups at once, limiting the length of workouts and the need for additional equipment.

Jump Rope. The perfect tool for warming up or working cardio into bodyweight routines, the jump rope is a fitness minimalist’s dream. Try fast-paced skips, single leg jumps, and double-unders to improve conditioning and coordination.

Kettlebells. This versatile training tool is the total package. Do cardio and strength train simultaneously while engaging every major body part. Now that’s efficiency at its finest!

Sandbags or SandBells. Make a DIY sandbag or spend a few bucks on a Hyperwear Sandbell and you’ll never have to worry about being bored with a workout, or going to the gym again. This versatile training tool allows for more creative and functional total-body workouts when the usual tools start feeling stale.

Skip the Time Sucks

So far we’ve managed to pack more work into less time. But before we can become true fitness minimalists, it’s important to steer clear of the time sucks that could derail our best efforts. As fitness authority Alwyn Cosgrove puts it, some equipment is a “nice to have, not a need to have.” Cosgrove goes on to state that, “your gains have nothing to do with what equipment you have access to, but everything to do with the work you put in.” If your current routine isn’t delivering results, take a closer look at how you’re using the following.

Exercise machines. Navigating a maze of machines, waiting in line, and wiping them down after each use takes a whole lot of time—time that could be better spent on a more effective workout routine. Plus, some machines like the leg extension and Smith machine might be doing harm than good. Take a page from Cosgrove’s playbook by sticking to workouts that use less equipment but are, “simple, time efficient and brutally effective.”

Cardio equipment. It’s nice to watch television while gliding effortlessly forward and backward on an elliptical, but it’s not effective, efficient and it’s certainly not necessary. Go for a trail run or bike ride instead.

Exercise balls. Sure, the guy balancing on the BOSU ball looks fancy, but research has shown that training on an unstable surface yields few benefits. Plus, the women performing chest press or shoulder press on the Swiss ball could be spending her time more wisely as well. In one study, the chest press and shoulder press were most effective when executed on a stable surface. Sometimes keeping things simple pays off.

No More Excuses

No time, no money, and no gym membership are no longer a reason not to exercise. Become a fitness minimalist and eliminate the excuses along with the excess. By upping the intensity of workouts and using the right equipment, if any, it’s possible to workout anywhere, anytime—even when you’re short on time.


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