Success Stories

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pure Maple Syrup

Researchers discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup, and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.  check it out

The point of this blog post is not to promote maple syrup which in the end of the day is still just sugar.  It is to point out that real food, simply can not be beat by man made substitutes or as the article best describes it- Nature is the best chemist.  Real food seems to have great nutrient interactions that give them unique health benefits, processed food not so much.

Look at some of these studies!

Long distance runners

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Powerlifting results

For anyone interested in Power lifting check out my good friends write up on his most recent competition as follows.  Congratulations to Tom who came in first in his weight class 198 even though he was severely under the max weight.  Freak Strength, readers no matter what your goals we can learn from power lifters because they know how to lift heavy weights and know how to do it safely!  Furthermore they don't compare themselves with anyone else.  They know their limits and seek to push past them on a day to day basis.

380 lbs squat

305 lbs bench

460 lbs deadlift
Broke a record for my federation

All in all it was a fun contest, I did not cut weight and still won for my age and weight. I got some great experience, and met some cool people. Power Lifting is an individual thing, while I do compete with other individuals my goals are improvement contest to contest. The last contest I did in November I totaled 1050 in the 165 lb class, the time before that in September 1000 in the 165 lb class. The next
potential contest for me is in May, and I can guarantee if I compete there will be another jump in my

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lipid Madness- sorting through the terminology a basic guide to fat

Some advice I always hear thrown around is, "Fat is not the enemy, when dieting you should eat "good" fats and avoid the "bad" ones.

This advice like others is overly simplified and although its intentions are good it does not always paint the right picture about how you should be eating.  Let me follow this up by saying that no food is inherently good or bad...meaning within the context of a sensible diet whilst reaching set macronutrient goals you can any food without adverse outcomes on fat loss and health.  For example the nefarious trans fat can be enjoyed in moderation with no affect on health, and the exalted Omega-3 fats can be detrimental if you have to much.  For this reason I would like to provide some basic information about different kinds of dietary fat you hear about and follow that up with my thoughts on dietary fat and weight loss/ health.  

First things first, all fats are composed of fatty acids.  The properties of fats are dependent upon the specific fatty acids that  constitute it.  Fatty acids are chains of carbon, and hydrogen atoms with a carboxylic acid group at one end and a triacylglycerol molecule  at the other.

Without getting to technical learning the basic chemistry can be helpful to understand some of the common fatty acids.  A saturated fat is named this way because every carbon on the fatty acid is bound with a hydrogen atom...thus the molecule is fully saturated.  In other fatty acids the carbon atoms may have a double bonds between themselves (creating a degree of unsaturation)  aka monounsaturated fatty acids.  If the fatty acids contain two or more double bonds between carbons they are referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Unsaturated fatty acids with a trans isomer are commonly called trans fat and have received a lot of bad press.

                                                  Above are a few examples of fatty acids

Fats are an important part of our nutrition.  Among other things dietary fat provides energy, is needed to regulate the fat soluble vitamins, provide essential fatty acids, and is important to maintain a good hormonal environment.  The general nutrition world usually refers to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats as the "good" fats because of their ability to regulate cholesterol levels and because the polyunsaturates in our diet are essential.  Saturated and trans fat are referred to as the "bad" fats.  Each fat has unique affects after digestion but the terms good and bad are limited.

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that the body cannot synthesize.  They are required for good health and must be obtained through our diet.  The two essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic (an omega-3 fatty acid,  and Linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) and besides from being necessary to control inflammation must be gotten dietarily or we could not survive.  Just getting these Essential fatty acids is not enough for optimal health, these EFA's consumed in the appropriate proportion (supposedly 4:1 or less omega-6 or omega-3) purportedly will have a positive impact on numerous health events like heart disease, cancer, depression and other mood disorders.  A typical American diet is full of omega 6 fatty acids and because these fatty acids compete with each other omega 3 absorption is compromised.  The American diet may provide a ratio of 10:1 or more and this is not favorable.  This is mostly because Americans eat so much processed food.  

Saturated fat a "bad" fat has been villainized by the scientific community as an artherogenic agent (causes heart disease).  Researchers believed that consumption of saturated fat elevated cholesterol levels which promoted cardiovascular disease.  This research was horribly limited and we can fairly confidently say that for most people their is limited association between saturated fat and heart disease.  Some studies have even shown saturated fat to have a protective effect on coronary artery disease [1].  This goes against what many have had ingrained in their mind, but I suspect within the next couple of years their will be major breakthroughs in cholesterol and saturated fat research alleviating this fat of its "bad" moniker.

Of the most clear cut fats that can be delegated "bad" is transfat.  Trans fatty acids are formed during partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils.  "In the past decade new metabolic studies have provided unequivocal evidence that partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils creates fatty acids that adversely affect plasma lipid concentrations  relative to natural oils."[2]  So basically trans fats are unnatural and detrimental to health.  It is important to note that a natural occurring trans fatty acid (vaccenic acid) may actually be health promoting.  If you are interested further in the subject I recommend you visit Alan Aragon's website and subscribe to his research review he provides a unbiased look at trans fat and its health affects.

Now that some of the common terminology has been sorted out I want to discuss dietary fats role in dieting and health.  Some researchers have come to believe that our ancestral diet consisted of more fat then we once thought.  It is very reasonable to believe that increasing the percentage of fat in your diet could be a good thing as far as health and weight loss go: assuming the increase in fat does not accompany an increase in calories.  Fat has nine calories a gram as opposed to protein and carbohydrate which have four cals/g respectively and for that reason it is still important to maintain a sensible caloric intake.  Further more fat as a macronutrient tends to be much more satiating the carbohydrate...that is a nice fatty meal will fill you up longer than a carbohydrate meal.  For this reason dieters should not be afraid to include high fat foods such as full fat dairy, eggs, fish, and nuts etc.  into their diet.  Some people fear that the dietary cholesterol that can be associated with fatty foods is dangerous, yet their is another weak correlation here.  Dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol are weakly associated... some people even believe that cholesterol levels and heart disease are poorly associated...I have even seen some studies that show high cholesterol foods such as eggs improving the heart health of people.[3] 

As a closing statement I would like to say that fats are not simply good or bad.  Within the context of different diets they can have very different effects.  It is important for dieters and health enthusiasts to remember that the fat you eat does not make you fat.  Furthermore within a sensible caloric intake dietary fat excluding trans fat should not have a negligible impact on your health.  As a dieter it is important to remember that taste is importance for adherence, and adherence is important for results.  Do not shy away from natural foods, and in order to better your omega 6:3 ratio eat processed food in moderation.  Some fat sources I love to eat are eggs, guacamole, red meat, fish, seafood, all nuts, and many more. Don't be afraid to reintroduce some of these natural fatty foods back into your diet today and pass on all that processed junk!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Return Home

Today is my first day back at classes after my return from jamaica.  It was a wonderful experience and although I got a poor view of their culture as a whole staying on a resort.  I wanted to share with my readers a few interesting things I noticed about Jamaicans pertaining to their eating and fitness habits.

1.  Among the islanders it was very rare to see an obese person.  Although the island has been americanized there is still an abundance of traditional foods.  I enjoyed a bunch of traditional foods like root vegetable soups, jerk chicken and pork, curried goat, spicy sea foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and beef patties.  

2.  Jamaican Foods make up for lack of fat with spices.  All the traditional foods I ate were cooked with spices.  Our culture often tries to make food tastier by adding fat, we should follow after other cultures and use spices to flavor our foods.  They taste great and add big time flavor without the calories.

3.   There was fresh fruit growing everywhere.  After tipping a resort worker he showed me how to pick fresh mangos, plantains, and cut open a coconut to have some fresh coconut water.  

4.  There is a lot of seafood in their diet.  Most American diets are dreadfully deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids and should take after jamaicans eating more seafood.

5.  Portion sizes were reasonable and I noticed that even the fried food in Jamaica was a lot less salty.  

These were just a few things I noticed in my limited stay.  I enjoyed traditional Jamaican cuisine and wanted to remind everyone to eat more real food!   Stay tuned for an article on omega 3 and omega 6 ratio.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Break

For anyone that is a regular reader I am sorry for the lack of content this week.  It was midterm week here at Ithaca and my blog was my last priority.  Im sitting here at my campus lounge waiting for my meal to digest so I can hit the gym.

I wanted to leave you with some nuggets of wisdom and some reading material because I am heading to jamaica for spring break and may not have a chance to post before then.

Wisdom you probably didn't want to hear

1.  Completely reverse your approach to training.  Instead of lifting upper body most, start training your lower body more frequently.  Instead of doing so much bench press, start doing more rows and chins/pull ups.  If you have been doing high reps for a while do lower reps

2.  Progressive overload-  If you are not adding weight or reps to the bar week to week you are not doing it right.

3.  If you split your body parts up and you are not an advanced bodybuilder you are doing it wrong! A novice does not need their own delt and calves day.

4.  Traditional jogging on the treadmill does not need to be a part of your workout unless you enjoy it.  Conditioning can be accomplished in shorter periods of time through other methods.  If you do it for fat loss take the extra time you spend on the treadmill cooking healthy meals and you could expect to see a 100% increase in results.

5.  Just because you did cardio doesn't mean you can have that extra bite.

6.  Losing fat is 75% diet

7.  Most novices would do best lifting 2-4 days a week.

8.  You can't out train a bad diet

9.  barbell squats and dead lifts have always been popular for a reason.

10.  Crunches are a joke of an excercise.  Tony gentilcores critique on crunches

Thats it for now for some good reading material while i'm gone scroll down to the blogs I reccomend at the bottom of my page.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saturated fat and cholesterol

Check out Stephan Guyenets article on saturated fat and cholesterol.  Stop fearing fat look at Stephans conclusion below.

"Overall, the literature does not offer much support for the idea that long term saturated fat intake has a significant effect on the concentration of blood cholesterol. If it's a factor at all, it must be rather weak, which is consistent with what has been observed in multiple non-human species (13). I think it's likely that the diet-heart hypothesis rests in part on an over-interpretation of short-term controlled feeding studies."

This article reminds me of an interesting phenomena in human reasoning.  People are scared to death to eat eggs because of the fat and cholesterol yet at the same time will go out and eat processed crap and drink lots of booze.  Bottom line stick to whole foods with minimal processing and you won't regret it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Man vs Food Era

Within my young lifetime I have seen the explosion of food related media.  It is increasingly clear that people love anything food related… and why wouldn’t they?  Food and emotion are undoubtedly connected (a gift and a curse) which brings us to an interesting paradox.  Food is a great way to stimulate connections, show thanks, and is one of lifes greatest pleasures.

Unfortunately the dark side of the food and emotion spectrum is a term called, “emotional eating.”  You may have heard this term thrown around before with its associated buzzwords like comfort foods.  My family and I even deemed our own word for emotional eating called the “crunch.”  The crunch represents that popcorn you eat as a nightcap, or the handful of crackers you mow down as your watching TV.  It is a funny way to represent emotional eating because most times the craving for the crunch exists at times where you are completely satiated (full).  In my experience women in particular seem to be very susceptible to “the crunch,” and it represents a huge reason as to why people cannot take control of their eating habits.             

To throw out a more surgical definition than the crunch, “emotional eating” is eating for any other reason then hunger.  Yes this definition is meant to be very broad and as social beings it is clear we eat for many reasons other than hunger.  However I would like to emphasize the need for people especially Americans to regain a sense of their hunger.

When I say hunger I mean the physical sensation that occurs when your body “needs” food.  When you eat for emotional reasons you are satisfying something else.  It can be different for many people but often emotional eaters crave sugar, alcohol, or high fat.  Mostly high calorie nutrient sparse foods that give you a burst of neurotransmitters that make you feel really really good…for a really short time.  Over time this cycle reinforces itself and can really do some damage to your body.

Taking control of your emotional eating can be very helpful but often times difficult for some people as food has been their only crutch.  The first step is to recognize your emotional eating by identifying your triggers.  In my own experience I noticed I had emotional connections to food when I was bored… which seems to be a common emotional trigger to eating.  Others include eating for sadness, happiness, low self worth, anger etc…

Depending on your level of emotional eating fixing your habits can range from being somewhat simple to very difficult.  Identifying your triggers and when you feel the need to eat, asking yourself, “am I really hungry.”  If the answer is no you are not hungry then go about solving your emotional eating by doing another enjoyable activity.  This could be anything from messaging a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, watching a favorite clip on you tube, reading my blog, or going for a walk, basically any other activity than can replace the feeling to eat.  Some people suggest doing a couple pushups or excercising.  Yoga, relaxation, and meditation are other popular options.  In reality it is going to be person specific.

For some people emotional eating is a little bit harder to just fix.  Sometimes these people have been using food as self-medication.  Trying to control their depression or anxiety with food is serious and underlying issues must be resolved, and therapy, meditation and other such methods should be employed.

Over the last couple of years my research interests have slowly evolved and I ponder quite a bit about how people perceive their own body image.  Dieting itself is often a time where people are particularly susceptible to emotional eating.  I think on a subconscious level dieting for some people is an admittance of dissatisfaction with their bodies and self worth.  Hopefully in the future I can help this country get back to a healthy standing.  Too many poor girls and boys suffer a living hell because of their eating disorders and body dysmorphia.  It is my job to remind people that dieting is just one of the many ways to improve your self confidence… It may take a while to reach a body you are satisfied with but you can change your mindset today.  At the end of the day your physical appearance is the tip of the iceberg of the great person you are.  Dieting should be a slow enjoyable process filled with foods your body actually needs and a period of self-reinvention and acceptance.  Exist outside the unrealistic messages the media sets forth and everyone can be a lot happier.  Work on your body composition goals day by day in a realistic manner, and focus your worries on much more meaningful things.  You don't need to look like a greek god to be happy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

News in my life

Today I made a presentation to personal trainers at the college on how to give nutrition advice to clients.  I have been so caught up in research as of recently presenting was good because it got me reminded of the big picture.

To summarize my presentation:

"We want our clients to achieve their goals!  Our clients must create a consistent sensible caloric deficit over time.  In order to spare muscle clients should aim to get adequate protein and resistance train.  Meal timing and macronutrient composition should be based on taste preference, energy level, and convenience.  To worry yourself over such trivial matters will not help you in your weight loss goals!"

 If you have stalled in your fat loss you may want to take note.  Due the following to get back on track.

1.  Set a goal of weight to lose 4-8 lbs in a month is realistic... Use four if you are already lean and eight if you have some room to go.
2.  Calculate your total energy expenditure here (Shave 10-20 % off your total energy expenditure)
3.  Get a food journal and count calories. is a easy free site.
4.  Try to get 1 gram of protein per lbs of body weight a day
5.  Resistance train 2-4 days a week.
6.   Don't over do it on cardio... and eat foods you enjoy... as long as you hit your calorie goals and keep protein intake up fat loss will continue... diet is how you lose fat not running!

If people were to follow the above and commit to three months of consistency the world would be a much healthier happier place.  Don't stress dieting take it day by day and eat foods you enjoy!

I also just entered into a study being conducted on campus... The study is researching betaine and its effect on sprint performance.  Betaine is an amino acid that has been proven to increase cycling power in untrained athletes source.  I am not hopeful that performance enhancements will be statistically signifcant in trained male athletes but I get a free V02 max report and bodycomp testing by signing up, plus its always nice to help the research community!  I will keep the blog updated with the results.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Post-workout nutrition

A lot of you have heard about the "anabolic window" or the time after a workout (usually between 30-45 min) where it is apparently imperative that you have a protein shake with simple carbohydrates to spike insulin levels  and maximize protein synthesis.  Like most things in the fitness world this has "anabolic window" has been over blown and causes more stress then need be.

Take a look at this article written by Brian St Pierre that clears up some of the misconceptions about the post workout window.  read on