Monthly Archives for January 2011

Archives for January 2011

Negative Calorie Foods: Fact or Fiction?

Delivering a knock-out punch to the "negative calorie" theory.

You’ve probably heard the term “negative calories” to describe some fruits and vegetables. In a nutshell, the theory is that these high-fiber and low-calorie foods actually require more calories to break down than they contain. Celery, asparagus, beet, broccoli, cucumbers, onions, apples and even mangoes make the list.

But is the negative calorie theory true?

The calories required to release nutrients from food are calculated in the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). While the TEF usually is in the 10% range for most foods, it can go as high as 20%. But it never nears 100%, or surpasses it – as the negative calorie theory would imply.

A wedge of cucumber, for example, has 20 calories. If the TEF for cucumbers is 20%, then you’re still left with a net gain of 16 calories. No negative calories there.

In fact, the FDA fined Nestle and Coca-Cola $650,000 in 2007 for describing their green tea drink as “negative calories” without being able to produce any research to support their claim. Opps.

So, no: There are no such things as negative calorie foods. And the subsequently created Negative Calorie Diets are a bit misleading. If you ate plate after plate of mangoes, your stomach wouldn’t magically disappear. In fact, quite the opposite would happen.

Nonetheless, many so-called negative calorie foods are actually quite healthy. Just realize that you are gaining calories while consuming them.

How to Stay Fit While Traveling.

My 6-day trip to Park City, Utah (and blogging hiatus) has finally come to an end. I’m finally back in Rhode Island! There’s no place like home.

Staying healthy and fit while traveling is always a challenge. But here are my top 6 tips for making it happen:

  1. Remember that there’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. You’ve probably heard people try to justify an unhealthy meal by saying, “It’s okay. I’m on vacation.” While there is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, it’s important to remember the obvious: Your body doesn’t process food differently when you’re on a vacation. Calories are calories, plain and simple.
  2. Stay at a hotel with a gym, or buy day passes. Before I left on my trip, I was excited to discover that my hotel had a fitness center. When I arrived, I realized the so-called fitness center consisted of two old treadmills, a yoga mat and one piece of equipment. Since the hotel booking was beyond my control, I called the concierge and found an actual gym 10 minutes down the road. I purchased a few day passes – which was a bit pricey – but splurging on your body is always a good thing.
  3. Use your feet. One of the best ways to explore a new city is on foot, and it’s also great exercise. Opting to walk (instead of buses, cabs and the like) will help counteract some of those extra calories we tend to consume while traveling.
  4. Stock the mini-fridge. I made use of the mini-fridge by stocking it with my own food. I hit up a local grocery store and purchased some fresh fruit and sandwiches. Using the mini-fridge for your own food is a great way to cut down on restaurant meals.
  5. Be flexible. Exercise doesn’t need to be “all or nothing.” Maybe your typical gym routine is 60 minutes, and you only have 30 minutes of free time. As Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work.” Do what you can with what you’ve got! 30 minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes of exercise.
  6. Beat the rush. Though this tip isn’t for everyone, I’d recommend getting up an hour before your friends, family or coworkers. Before your busy vacation schedule starts, dedicate this early morning time to exercise. At the end of the day, after hours of traveling and exploring, you’re probably not going to have the energy to exercise.

Those are my six tips but I’d love to hear some of yours! Let me know in the comments below!

Ellipticals Vs. Treadmills: Which Is More Effective?

Ellipticals and treadmills are two of the most popular and pervasive pieces of cardiovascular equipment – but which is more effective? The answer really depends on the individual exerciser.

Treadmills

There is no question that treadmills are effective at incinerating calories and boosting metabolism – especially when used as part of an interval training program. They also allow for some variety, as exercisers can select different speeds and inclines. And, because the motion of walking, jogging or running on a treadmill is high-impact, it’s very effective at improving bone density and strength.

But, because of the high-impact nature of treadmill exercising, it’s not appropriate for all populations. As such, older individuals – as well as people with injuries or joint issues – may need to steer clear of treadmills. In addition, treadmills do not provide a total body workout; the exercise is limited to the body’s lower half.

Ellipticals

Because ellipticals have arm bars, they activate both the lower and upper body – providing a more efficient workout; many people are able to burn more calories on an elliptical than a treadmill. Ellipticals also provide more variety, including the ability to pedal backwards.

But, exercising on a elliptical is less beneficial for bone strength and density, and it is less helpful for athletes that are training for running events like marathons or a 5k.

It comes down to YOU

Ellipticals and treadmills are both great pieces of exercise equipment. Since there are pros and cons of each – at the end of the day, much of it comes down to personal preference; there is no clear winner. For most people, the most effective machine is the one you most enjoy and the one you’re most likely to stick with (which may include a combination of both).

My heart is with the treadmill. I’ve never had an elliptical workout that can compare to a set of intervals on the treadmill; I work harder, burn more calories and see better results. What about you – which machine do you prefer and why?

Boost Your Workout: A Few Inches Can Make a Big Difference!

Going a few inches lower can yield big results...

I break my muscle groups into different days at the gym; today was a leg day. My leg workouts are relatively strong, but they feel like they’ve lost some intensity in recent months. I’ve slowly been increasing the amount of resistance that I use, but to little avail. My leg workouts haven’t been kicking my ass. Doing more of the same will get more of the same – so something needed to change.

Today, I decided to do something a little different. I do a variety of leg exercises that involve squatting or pressing with my legs. Instead of stopping where I normally stop (when my thighs are parallel to the floor or apparatus), I squatted or pressed down a few inches lower. And the difference was unbelievable. Tomorrow, I’m going to be walking bow-legged; I can feel the soreness creeping in already.

Try going a few inches lower if you feel like you’ve reached a results plateau. It’s a simple tip that doesn’t involve changing much at all – you can continue with your same program, doing your same routine. Just go a little lower, and feel the burn.

I know what you’re thinking: How did Davey Wavey manage to go this whole post about inches without the obligatory penis size mention? Ooo… well, there it is.

P.S. The general recommendation when squatting or pressing with your legs is that your thighs should be parallel to the floor or apparatus. Higher than that, and you’re losing some of the benefit to your quads. Go lower, and you can reap additional gains.

9 Tips to Eat Healthy at Restaurants!

He’s ready to take your order…

It’s difficult enough to eat healthy at home – even when you are in control of the ingredients being used. But dining out at a restaurant presents a real challenge for health-minded individuals. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or really just maintain a healthy lifestyle, try making use of these top 9 tips:

  1. Play on your own turf. Not all restaurants are created equal. Opt for restaurants that value nutrition, and browse the menu online before you go. Ensure that there are healthy options that appeal to you.
  2. Start smart. Fried calamari and potato skins might be tempting, put go for a soup or salad instead. If ordering soup, select a tomato or stock-based option (rather than one made with cream). For salad, order dressing on the side. A great tip for eating salad: Dip your fork in the dressing, and then scoop up some salad. It’s just enough dressing to add flavor without overloading your meal with calories and fat.
  3. Learn the language. Unhealthy options are often disguised. Words like “crispy,” “alfredo,” “breaded,” and “pan-fried” generally indicate unhealthy choices. Look for words like “grilled,” “steamed” and “baked.”
  4. Speak up. Eating healthy may require asking for substitutes. The chicken sandwich may come with a pile of fries, but you can ask for vegetables or salad as a substitute instead. You can ask for fried foods to be grilled, and dressings or sauces on the side.
  5. Don’t drink your calories. Fruity drinks and soda are packed with calories. Water is always the best option. If you’re going for an alcoholic drink, opt for wine or light beer.
  6. Speaking of water, drink lots of it. Water has a slew of great benefits. It boosts your metabolism, curbs your appetite and slows down your eating. Your stomach is full 15 minutes before your brain realizes it – so water does wonders to prevent overeating.
  7. Know your meat. It’s always best to select leans meats. Prime rib is loaded with fat (in fact, it’s one of my top 5 unhealthiest holiday foods); filet mignon or flank steak are much healthier. Poultry is a great option, but order it without skin (the skin adds a quick 8 grams of fat). Order breast meat (instead of thigh meat) whenever possible.
  8. Look for healthy selections. Restaurants often have a section of their menu to showcase healthy options. Other restaurants designate certain menu options with a symbol if they meet healthy guidelines. Ask your waiter or waitress for guidance.
  9. Share a happy ending. Sorbet or non-dairy gelato are much healthier than that triple chocolate layer cake with vanilla ice cream. And there’s no harm in sharing a dessert with your dinner partner. Splitting the calories halves the damage!

Do you have any tips for eating healthy at restaurants? I’d love to hear ’em. Let us know in the comments below!

And for more nutrition information, download my Eating For Fitness ebook today!

Losing Weight with “Cheat Days”: Do They Work?

I’ve often heard people say that, when dieting, it’s good to have a “cheat day” or “binge day” where you can eat whatever you want. This helps to shock your metabolism.

I’m just wondering, do you have a cheat day? And if so, what types of things do you allow yourself to eat on those days? I don’t want to eat something that will ruin my progress entirely (I’ve lost 47lbs as of Monday when I last checked my weight!), but the idea of having a cheat day sounds great to me.

Thanks,
Brad

Brad, first off – congratulations on releasing 47 lbs of weight. I hope you’re enjoying the journey and delighting in the benefits of a healthier you!

For people unfamiliar with cheat days, the general concept is eating healthy 6 days of the week. On the 7th day, less-healthy choices are allowed. It’s not about eating everything in sight, but it is about maybe eating a piece of grandma’s famous fried chicken, or getting an order of fries with your sandwich.

To answer your question: I don’t have a cheat “day”, though I do something a bit similar. I follow the 80/20 rule. In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule is about eating healthy 80% of the time. During the 80%, I eat lean meats, berries, unsalted nuts, fruits, etc., etc. But every fifth meal falls into the 20% category. This is when I allow myself to “cheat”, though I prefer to call it balance. I don’t appreciate the guilt associated with the term “cheat” – it implies that you’re doing something wrong. At any rate, I’m not religious about practicing the 80/20 rule, but I do try to keep a mental note of the healthiness of recent meals.

I have read numerous articles and pieces of research that conclude cheat days do help boost metabolism, thus staving off weight-loss plateaus. And for a lot of people, cheat days give relief in an otherwise restrictive diet. So there can be some real benefits.

But I also think there’s a psychological downside to cheat days, and I don’t think they’re for everyone. I think cheat days can create a mentality of 6 days of suffering through dieting and 1 day of satisfaction. In actuality, eating healthy and satisfaction need not be mutually exclusive. Rather than focusing on what you can eat, I think it’s much wiser to focus on all the healthy, delicious and enjoyable options available. Moreover, by bringing attention to the way your body reacts to your food choices (healthy foods make the body feel good!), loading up on cheese fries starts to lose its appeal.

I hope that helps!

But what about you? Do you have a cheat day? Do you follow the 80/20 rule? Or do you eat healthy foods 24/7?

8 Ways Exercise Keeps You Young.

Want to live a long, happy and healthy life? Research suggests that exercise might just be the fountain of youth for which you are searching.

Here are 8 age-defying effects of exercise:

  1. Faster metabolism – and less body fat. Your metabolic rate is the rate and which your body burns calories to maintain itself. As we age, this rate decreases by a few percentage points each decade until around age 50 – though the amount of food we eat, often does not. As a result, a slower metabolism is one reason (of many) that people tend to gain weight as they age. By combining both strength training and cardiovascular exercise with good nutrition, you can reverse this.
  2. Extends your life and it prevents debilitating disease and illness. Staying active has been linked to both an increase in longevity and decrease in diseases like type II diabetes and obesity. Exercise also has a positive effect on the body’s immune system, preventing illness like the flu or common cold which can become serious in older populations.
  3. Builds stronger bones. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, to create stronger and denser bones, you must put pressure on them. Just like our muscles, bones adjust to the stress put on them. Load bearing exercises and cardio like walking, running and step classes have been proven to increase bone density – making osteoporosis or breaks less likely. Exercises like swimming and cycling are less effective as they don’t put as much pressure on the bones.
  4. Younger cells. Researchers discovered that regular exercisers have longer telomeres – the DNA on either end of thread-like chromosomes. Telomere length is critical to the aging process – once telomeres get too short, cells stop dividing and die. This research suggests that the anti-aging benefits of exercise go all the way to the molecular level.
  5. Improved balance. Earlier in 2010, my grandmother lost her balance on the stairs and took a terrible fall. Though it’s been 10 months, she still walks with a cane and the whole ordeal has aged her greatly. Working out regularly helps improve balance and prevent falls – and there are a number of exercises that target balance specifically.
  6. Better flexibility. Yoga, or exercise programs that incorporate stretching, lead to dramatically improved flexibility. Like balance, flexibility helps prevent falls. And if you do take a tumble, being flexible can help minimize the risk of injury.
  7. More energy. Ever notice how you feel even more tired when you oversleep? Feeling tired and lethargic is often the result of being inactive. Endurance exercises improve stamina and energy.
  8. Improved mental health and brain functioning. Numerous studies have linked exercise to decreased stress, anxiety and depression and improved sleeping patterns and feelings of well being. Studies also show that exercisers perform better on mental tests than sedentary individuals.

Of course, if you extend the timeline out far enough, the survival rate for all of us eventually reaches zero. Exercise isn’t about escaping death; it’s really just about enhancing the quality and quantity of the time you spend on this planet. And more time on Earth = more time to share your love, touch lives and serve others.

Top 11 Things NOT to Do at the Gym.

One of the few sweat puddles I wouldn't mind sitting on.

With a lot of hot and sweaty people in such a small place all clamoring for the same equipment, it’s important to practice good gym etiquette.

To that end, here are 11 things that you should never do at the gym:

  1. Passing in between an exerciser and the mirror. People use the mirror as an aid while lifting to ensure that their posture and balance are maintained. Cutting in between someone that is exercising and the mirror is a big no-no – and downright rude.
  2. Neglecting to wipe down equipment after use. Be kind; don’t leave your sweat behind. There are few things grosser than leaning back on a piece of equipment and landing in a sweat puddle. Use a paper towel and spray to sanitize the equipment after each use.
  3. Resting on the equipment. If the gym is busy and people might be waiting for your equipment, don’t take breaks on it. Even if there’s no line, it doesn’t mean that no one is waiting; someone may be eying your machine while killing time on another.
  4. Don’t monopolize a busy gym by using multiple pieces of equipment. If the gym isn’t crowded, there’s nothing wrong with rotating sets between two different machines. But if you’re exercising during a peak time or if people might be waiting, opt for one machine at a time.
  5. Talking to someone during a set. Yes, socializing is an important aspect of the gym for many – but be considerate of other exercisers. Talking while lifting can be a big distraction. Likewise, if someone is sprinting on the treadmill, they won’t have the breath to talk to you.
  6. Don’t talk loudly on your cell phone. People that talk loudly on a cell phone probably don’t realize that they’re doing it – and you may be one of them. If you need to take a call, excuse yourself from the facilities.
  7. Don’t cut the circuit training line. If your gym has exercise machines, note that there is probably an order to the way people use them. Many gyms number their machines or post a flow chart. Be mindful of other exercisers, and don’t hop on the machine in front of someone.
  8. Don’t wear unwashed gym clothes. I know people think it’s fine to wear gym shirts and shorts more than once. The truth is, if you don’t sweat – you probably can. But for everyone else, please spare us the odor of yesterday’s workout. If you sweat in it, wash it.
  9. Don’t spit, snot or blow your nose in the drinking fountain. Enough said, thank you.
  10. Don’t leave weight plates on the equipment. Gyms don’t have maids. There is no one to pick up after you. And remember, putting the weights away makes you strong, too.
  11. Don’t be the creepy guy (or gal) at your gym. Unless, of course, the creepiness is reciprocated by the other party. If your inquiring eyes or comments are not returned, save the flirtation for eharmony or manhunt.

That’s my list – but do you have any other no-no’s to add? Sound-off in the comments below!

The Best-Kept Nutrition Secret Ever…

To say that frozzzen hot chocolate is delicious is to say that Zac Efron is cute.

Last month, I bought a container of Serendipity’s Frrrozen Hot Chocolate Mix. To say that it’s delicious is to say that Zac Efron is cute. Yummy doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Yesterday afternoon, when looking for a snack, I contemplated making some of the mix. I glanced at the nutrition information, only to discover that each serving contains 61 grams of sugar, 66 carbohydrates and nearly 400 empty calories. Yikes! Clearly, it’s a drink for very special occasions – and not something to be consumed every day.

For a few minutes, I was a bit crestfallen. But then I realized that there were plenty of delicious alternatives that I could eat – putting into practice one of the best-kept nutrition secrets: Don’t focus on what you can’t eat. Focus on what you can eat.

If you focus on the foods that you can’t eat, making healthy choices could be unnecessarily painful. You’ll feel deprived, and by thinking about unhealthy foods – you’ll develop cravings from them. If you think about cheesecake long enough, you’re probably going to get a hankering for some. Don’t mourn over what you can’t eat; rejoice in the foods that you can! Take a glass half-full approach.

Indeed, frrrozen hot chocolate might not make the cut – but many other refreshing options like smoothies or fruit salad are viable alternatives. And healthy foods can be delicious and satisfying, so put your energy and attention there.

And there you have it – the best-kept nutrition secret ever. EVER!

What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t be shy.

8 Ways to Think Beyond the Scale.

Taking a picture of yourself - and comparing it to another down the road - is just one way to think beyond the scale. (And yes, I got this from guyswithiphones.com)

When it comes to measuring progress at the gym, many of us hop on a scale.

If we’ve lost a pound, we rejoice. If we’ve gained a pound, we repent. Indeed, measuring our progress by the scale is one dimension of fitness success, but it’s not the only method of measurement. And it’s not always the most accurate. A scale doesn’t tell the full story.

Consider, for example, a 200 pound man looking to lean up and increase the size of his muscles. After months of working out, he may be discouraged to discover that he’s actually gained weight. But in actuality he’s deceased the amount of fat on his body and packed on some muscle. Muscle is heavy, and the scale won’t tell the story of his body’s transformation.

So, here are a few tips for measuring your success beyond the scale:

  1. Inches. Buy a cloth ruler and measure the girth of those areas that you’re looking to increase/decrease. For our above example, it’s likely that the man’s waistline has decreased – while his chest and biceps have increased.
  2. Body fat percentages. As you exercise, the composition of your body changes. Weight may stay the same – or even increase – but by testing body fat percentages, you should get deeper insight into what’s really happening.
  3. Before and after pictures. Take a picture of yourself in your undies – and store it in a safe place. Compare it to another picture in a few months or a year. See what has changed.
  4. How your clothes fit. As our bodies change, our clothes fit differently. Our pants might become looser, or our shirts tighter in certain areas. This is a very informal but effective way to stay tuned in to your transformations.
  5. Physical activity. Maybe you take the stairs and notice that you’re not winded like usual. This is a valuable indicator of success worth noting – and celebrating!
  6. How you feel. Perhaps you’re usually tired in the afternoons, but now feel energized and enthusiastic. Maybe you’re sleeping better at night. These, too, are measures of success.
  7. Strength. Maybe you’re lifting more weight today than six months ago. Strength is important, and an indicator of progression. I always recommend using a fitness journal to keep track of your progress.
  8. Health. Sure, the physical changes are important – but they pale in comparison to the health benefits of exercise. A friend of mine cured her diabetes through effective diet and exercise. That’s a huge victory, and definitely a measure of success! Compare blood pressure, heart rate and any other number of variables to any changes over time.

And if you do use a scale – it’s not necessarily a bad thing – remember to:

  • Weigh yourself on the same day (i.e., Monday),
  • At the same time (i.e., at 7:00 AM),
  • Under the same circumstances,
  • Fully naked,
  • While being mindful of a scale’s limitations; keep it in perspective.

The bottom line: The scale is just one way to measure your success. Don’t get too caught up on it; use the tips above to help paint a more complete picture of your transformation.

What is Progressive Overload?

Many fitness enthusiasts are fairly committed to the gym and working out, but often perform the same routines with the same weights over and over again. They don’t see any changes in their bodies or increases in strength, and often excuse their lack of results with the mistaken belief that it takes many years to see any real changes.

As it turns out, the human body doesn’t change unless it is forced to do so. If your body doesn’t need to adapt by getting bigger or stronger, then it won’t.

Enter a concept known as progressive overload. Developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. to help rehabilitating World War II soldiers, progressive overload is the the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise training.

The concept is beautifully simply and scientifically proven: In order for a muscle to grow, it must be overloaded. Doing so activates the natural adaptive processes of the human body, which develops to cope with the new demands placed on it. In addition to stronger and larger muscles, stronger and denser bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are all resulted through progressive overloads.

There are 7 techniques to incorporate progressive overloads into your workout:

  1. Increase resistance. This means lifting more weight. If you normally do 8 repetitions, but are now able to do 9, it may be time to increase the weight. If you are new to working out, you may be able to increase weight by 5% – 10%. If you are more advanced, 2% – 5% may be more appropriate.
  2. Increase repetitions. If you normally do 6 repetitions of an exercise, try for the 7th rep. Once you can do the 7th rep, try for the 8th.
  3. Increase the sets. If you normally do 2 sets, try for a 3rd set. While the first set will get you a majority of the results and benefits, there are some additional benefits that can be yielded from additional sets. I generally don’t do more than 4 sets.
  4. Increase frequency. If you train your legs every 10 days, perhaps you can train them more often. It’s generally unwise to train a muscle that is still sore from a previous workout, but there may be an opportunity to hit certain muscle groups – especially those that are lagging – more frequently.
  5. Increase intensity and effort. Instead of going through your workout like a zombie, really crank up the effort. Sometimes working with a good partner or trainer can be a big help. Push yourself – or find someone that can do the pushing for you!
  6. Increase exercises. Maybe you do 3 different exercises for your biceps, or any other muscle group. Try introducing a 4th or 5th exercise to yield increased results.
  7. Decrease rest time. By doing more exercises in the same amount of time, your body will have to work harder and more efficiently.

You’ll need to map these 7 techniques to your exercise goals. For example, increasing the resistance is great for people that want larger muscles. Increasing the repetitions or decreasing rest time may be better suited for people that want increased definition or endurance training.

Whatever your goals, make this powerful time-tested technique work for you.

How to Use Portion Control.

We know that when it comes to portions, size matters. It’s easy to talk about portion control tips, like taking just a few bites of dessert or eating off of smaller dinner plates – but applying that advice is another thing altogether.

Most mornings, my breakfast includes a bowl of cereal. I reach for whatever bowl is available, and then add my cereal and milk. I have two different size bowls: one is 6 inches and the other is 8 inches.

Today, I wondered if my cereal is subject to the large plate theory. The theory goes something like this:

  1. Portions look smaller on larger plates, so…
  2. We put more food on larger plates, so…
  3. We end up eating a greater quantity of food.

The takeaway is that by opting for a smaller plate, we will consume less food. Simple enough.

To test it out, I added my typical serving size of cereal to both the 6-inch and 8-inch bowls. To be honest, the amounts looked fairly similar. But then I took out my measuring cup. As it turns out, I put an extra 3/4 of a cup of cereal (equivalent to 150 calories – or roughly 12 minutes on the treadmill) in the 8-inch bowl. My larger bowl contained a 33% larger portion of cereal.

For me, there are a two morals of the story. First, the large plate theory is very much true. Second, it’s critically important to apply abstract advice and tips to concrete instances in each of our lives. Reading tips is one thing. Living them is another. πŸ™‚

Why Gay Men Are 3X More Likely to Have Eating Disorders.

As a gay boy going through middle school, I struggled with anorexia. I was overweight in elementary school, and became fixated on changing things. I counted every calorie that I consumed until I was sickly thin, pale and extremely unhealthy.

I remember growing four or five inches in one year, and losing five pounds. The doctor asked me if I was eating enough. I lied, and he believed me. Boys can get away with it.

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone. A study by the Mailman School of Public Health and the National Development and Research Institutes found that eating disorders – including symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating – are three times more common in gay men than heterosexual men. Some 15% of gay men reported eating disorders.

Why?

I’ll be honest – my immediate thought was that it’s because of gay culture. We (well, to be fair, not all of us) worship the insanely chiseled bodies of impossibly sculpted models. And by we, I include myself. The pictures that I use in this blog certainly contribute to that. If eating disorders are higher in gay men because of our body-centered focus, then I am a participant of that.

But not so fast, according the study. One of the researchers wrote:

It is not clear why gay men have high rates of eating disorders. One theory is that the values and norms in the gay men’s community promote a body-centered focus and high expectations about physical appearance, so that, similar to what has been theorized about heterosexual women, they may feel pressure to maintain an ideal body image.

To test the theory, researchers compared gay men with affiliation to the gay community (i.e., frequent gay clubs, gay gyms, etc.) to those that are far removed. There was no difference in eating disorder rates, and so researchers were left scratching their heads:

This suggests that factors other than values and norms in the gay community are related to the higher rates of eating disorder among these men

I have my own theory, but it’s not mentioned in the study. Gay men are often the targets of bullying and discrimination (some of it institutionalized). We’re are often disowned by family members, and told that we’ll burn in hell. We’re the butt of jokes, and too often the victims of hate crimes. We are even denied basic rights by our government, and treated as second-class citizens.

We are told that we are “less than” time and time again. Perhaps, eventually… some of us come to believe that it is true. And this lack of love for ourselves can manifest in very physical ways – like in eating disorders.

That’s my theory. What is yours?

Please Don’t Try to Lose 5 lbs By Tuesday.

Starvation usuallys has the opposite effect than what is intended: Long-term weight gain.

Last Sunday, I was talking with a young man who insisted that he wanted to drop 5 pounds by Tuesday.

My first reaction was, “What happens on Tuesday?” I figured that there must be an impending tropical vacation, or perhaps a gratuitous photo shot or something of the sort. “Oh, nothing,” he replied. “I just want to lose a few pounds fast, so I’m not going to eat.”

I suggested that it might be wiser to drop the weight over a period of 4 weeks rather than 3 days, and to use a more effective technique than starvation. But there was no persuading him, and it wasn’t my battle to fight.

I fear that his mindset is fairly widespread – that most people don’t know why dropping weight quickly is so detrimental… and that the detrimental effects are amplified by starvation. While it may produce temporary results, starvation does a huge amount of damage to one’s metabolism – and almost always results in a weight gain that is equivalent to (or larger than) the amount of weight originally lost.

When you starve yourself (generally 1,000 calories or less for most people), the body responds. Through eon’s of evolution, the body has built a starvation response that aids in survival. The metabolism of the starving person slows to a crawl to conserve calories. This will ensure the body’s survival as long as possible. So even though the number of calories in has decreased, so too has the number of calories out.

Starving yourself, obviously, is not sustainable. Eventually the fasting individual will resume their original diet – but the slowed metabolism will lag. Calories are packed on as fat, and the result is a weight gain that often exceeds the original weight loss.

Moreover, starvation can result in the loss of muscle mass, hair loss, decreased energy and increased tiredness. There are also psychological implications of starvation, including irritability and depression.

To achieve real results, realize that the changes must be long-term. If you want to lose some weight, it can be achieved over time by boosting one’s metabolism (though, among other things, an exercise program that combines strength training and cardio) and making healthy food choices.

The bottom line: Starvation doesn’t work – whether it’s done for a few days or a few weeks.

Crazy New Ab Exercise: Double Plate Press!

Truth be told, the double plate press isn’t just an ab workout. It works your chest, forearms, biceps and shoulders – but I feel most of the burn in my abs.

I freaking love it!

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Locate two identical weight plates. Start small – with 5 lb weight plates. You really don’t need a lot of weight to feel this.
  2. Press the two weights together, holding them close to your chest. The smooth side should be facing outward. This is the starting position.
  3. Extend the plates straight out in front of you, so that your arms are parallel to the floor. You’ll really need to squeeze the plates together to prevent them from slipping! This is the most challenge piece of the exercise.
  4. Pause, and then return to the starting position.
  5. If you can do more than 8 or 10 repetitions, you’ll need heavier weights. Repeat for 1 – 4 sets, depending on your goals and available time.

It’s new, it’s different and it’s a lot of fun.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. And, if you’re up for it – browse some of my additional ab tips and exercises.

Enjoy!

New Year’s Resolution Pep Talk!

A recent survey revealed that just under half of Americans made a New Year’s resolution for 2011. That’s 150 million people – and resolutions – in the United States alone. And according to the data, most of the resolutions involve exercise and/or losing weight.

We’re now a week and a half into January, and the initial New Year’s Eve-induced enthusiasm is running a little low. It’s time for a pep talk. Click below to watch the video:

Shake Weight Review: Does It Actually Work?

A good laugh? Yes. But does it actually work?

By now, you must have seen the hilarious shake weight infomercials – or the countless parodies on YouTube. With the sexually suggestive motion of the device, it’s easy to forget that it was design for working out.

After purchasing a shake weight for a recent YouTube video and getting a zillion emails from interested blog buddies, I decided to put the product to the test. The shake weight is 2.5 pounds, and has springs at either ends. The back-and-forth motion – which they called “dynamic inertia” – allegedly helps tone the arms and shoulders – in just six minutes!

I tried the 6-minute shake weight workout. And after six minutes, I got more exercise from laughing than the alleged “dynamic inertia”.

Because of the shake weight’s light size, it’s unlikely to provide much of a workout for most men. (Though to be fair, the shake weight is marketed to women). Moreover, because the shake weight is available in just one size, it’s impossible to progress to higher weights and build muscle.

For a woman that doesn’t exercise, she may see and feel some very initial results. But for active women and most men, the shake weight doesn’t offer anything except a a good laugh.

Sure it’s inexpensive, convenient, easy to use, and better than sitting on the couch eating potato chips – but as a piece of exercise equipment, the shake weight falls short. Great gag gift? Yes! Secret to toned arms? No. Fortunately, it comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

But, for a good chuckle, check out the infomercial below:

9 Really Effective Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

Boost your metabolism for weight loss or increased definition..

Your metabolism is like the fuel-burning furnace that powers your body. If you’re looking to lose weight or increase definition, then boosting your metabolism should be a top priority. Increasing your metabolic rate helps create the calorie deficit (more calories out than in) that results in the loss of body fat.

There are a number of things that you can do to boost your metabolism, including:

  1. Eat within 60 minutes of waking up. Within 15 minutes of starting my day, I always eat a banana to prime my body’s pumps and get my metabolism in gear. Research shows that those who eat breakfast lose more weight than those who skip breakfast. Think of it this way: Your metabolism slows down while you’re sleeping – and it won’t speed back up again until you eat. Not eating until lunch time or late morning means your metabolism is sleeping in.
  2. Get your daily calcium. There are a handful of supplements that improve metabolism, but I’m leery to ingest compounds like Betaine that I don’t fully understand. Calcium is a safe and effective way to boost your metabolism without the risk of serious side effects. You can simply take a calcium supplement – or consume so low-fat dairy products like yogurt.
  3. Drink lots of cold water. Water is a metabolism booster – especially if the water is ice cold; your body needs to work hard to heat it up. If your urine is dark yellow, then you’re dehydrated. Light yellow or clear urine is ideal. Gotta love the piss talk. πŸ™‚
  4. Add on a few pounds of muscle. Muscles incinerate calories. If you – or someone you know – has a muscular build, take notice of their appetite. It takes a lot of calories to sustain muscle, and even by adding a few pounds of muscle mass, you’ll do wonders to boost your metabolism.
  5. Lower the temperature of your home or apartment. This one falls into the strange but true category! Your body will have to work harder to keep your internal temperate at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing so burns calories, increases metabolism – and saves money on your heating bill!
  6. Eat metabolism-boosting foods. Aside from calcium rich foods like yogurt, the following foods (for various reasons) have been linked to increased metabolic rates: Cinnamon, curry, jalapenos, oatmeal, beans, green tea, ginger, grapefruits, apples, coffee, almonds, blueberries, watermelons and turkey. Incorporate them into your diet.
  7. Don’t overdo the alcohol. No surprise here: Alcohol decreases your body’s ability to burn fat during and after consumption by as much as 73%, so limit your drinking for best results.
  8. Do intervals. I know that I sound like a broken record player when I espouse the metabolism-boosting benefits of interval cardio training – but it’s extremely effective. If you’re doing mindless minutes of repetitive cardio training (which can actually cause you to gain weight), learn how interval training can take your workout to the next level. I promise you’ll never look back.
  9. Eat before you get hungry – and never starve yourself. The best way to keep your metabolism in high gear is to eat smaller meals spread throughout the day. If you consume less than 1,000 calories in a day – your body will go into starvation mode and your metabolism will slow down immensely.

While all of these tips will help you boost your metabolism, it’s important to remember that “calories out” is just part of the equation when creating a calorie deficit for weight loss. The “calories in” part of the equation is just as important – so be sure to include proper nutrition as part of any comprehensive plan.

Is Booze Giving Your Workout a Hangover?

Okay, so we know that drinking may have a positive effect on longevity. But how is it impacting your workout and your results? Spoiler alert: It’s mostly not good.

First things first, alcohol is packed with useless calories. Alcohol contains a sobering 7 calories per gram – compared to 4 calories per gram with protein and carbs, and 9 calories per gram with fat. But the problem isn’t just with the calories. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that less than 5% of alcohol calories are stored as fat. But the same researchers also discovered that for several hours during and after drinking, “whole-body lipid oxidation” (i.e., your body’s ability to burn fat) was reduced by 73%. That’s where the beer/alcohol gut comes from.

In addition to oxidation, alcohol can negatively affect protein synthesis, ATP output, testosterone and quality of sleep. All of these things can be moderate obstacles in your quest to realize your fitness goal. Frequent drinking can be like taking two steps forward and then one step back.

Many people enjoy the liberation caused by drinking. Indeed, it diminishes control and contributes to loss of judgment. But that same loss of judgment often finds its way into food choices. Research shows that drinking while eating causes people to consume more food calories than when they’re not drinking. According to one study:

When a group of men were given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, they ate more when the meal was served with beer or wine rather than a soft drink.

But it’s not all bad news. Certain grapes used in red wine production are rich in antioxidants. And some research suggests that healthy, active people who drink moderately are 30% less likely to develop heart disease than nondrinkers. There is also research to suggest that drinking moderately can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.

The bottom line: If you do drink, do it occasionally (i.e., not every night) and moderately (i.e., not until you pass out with your face on the toilet) to minimize the negative effects and maximize the positive ones.

Are the health impacts of heavy or abusive alcohol consumption enough to keep your binge drinking to a minimum? Let us know in the comments below!

Is Your Cardio Killing Your Results?

Results like these don't come from endless cardio sessions. Just saying...

There is a delightful older woman at my gym who spends 60 minutes on the treadmill each day. She walks at a moderate but steady pace, and complains endlessly about the lack of results she is getting from her workout. And yet she continues to do more of the same. Like many gym goers, her cardio program is killing her results.

There are a few reasons why endless cardio sessions don’t serve you well:

  1. If you’re doing more than 45-minutes of cardio, you’re entering into the “danger zone” at which point your body will start burning muscle – not fat.
  2. Since long sessions of monotonous cardio result in muscle loss, the effect is a decrease in the body’s metabolism (as muscle is a large driver of your metabolism). In other words, the body will burn fewer calories throughout the day because of muscle loss. For some people, this could even mean gaining weight.
  3. It’s time consuming! 60-minutes on the treadmill is time better used elsewhere… like in the free weight or strength training section of your gym. Or even time better spent doing some fitness research, like reading this blog. πŸ™‚

There are two quick fixes for endless, monotonous cardio sessions:

  1. Interval training. I keep my cardio sessions relatively short – but extremely effective – by using interval training. In a nutshell, it’s all about varying between intensities on cardio machines – from medium intensity to high intensity. I jog for 90 seconds and then sprint for 60. After 15 minutes, I’m totally beat! It burns more calories than long cardio sessions, and has a huge positive effect on metabolism.
  2. Strength training. I can’t say it enough: Any comprehensive fitness program needs to include both cardio and strength training. If you are just doing cardio, then you are killing your results. Everyone needs to hit the weights as well – especially if your goals include weight loss.

Are you in a long, monotonous cardio rut? Tell us about it in the comments below. And I hope this post can be a light at the end of that results-killing tunnel!

And note: Today is the last day to save 25% off of my Ultimate Guide to Working Out – and it’s the last chance to get Underwear Yoga as a free gift. Through my program, we’ll create a fitness program that is customized to your results. Use discount code “buddy” during checkout to save 25%.