Where it all begins…Mitochondria

  

This is going to be a heavy post. It will require paying attention. It might be confusing. If you make it to the last paragraph you’ll learn how to work out in a way that will supercharge your physical power in almost every aspect of your life. 

There is so much crap. On the web…in magazines…in books. You have no good way to to figure out the good information from the bad, the legitimate experts from that hucksters and charlatans. If you have very clear fitness goals like I want to body build or I want to run the NYC marathon it’s all actually pretty simple. You don’t need to know that much. You don’t need to understand that much. You can easily find workout programs online to build you up or get you moving mile after mile. Those sites and programs will likely even tell you how to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. And you’ll get to wherever you want to get…up to a point. You’ll be able to complete a marathon, but probably won’t get skinny, or finish it in an impressive time. You’ll be able to pack on muscle, building strength and size in your quadriceps and pecs and lats and deltoids. Up to a point. You probably won’t get ripped. Or as big and strong as you hoped.

You’ll either settle for what you get in that first year and plug away trying futilely to maintain your early improvements or you’ll gradually lose motivation and quit. Or you can keep reading. Learn what’s happening to you, deep drilling into the chemistry of life. And along the way, you may even learn how to spot bullshit when you see and hear it.
MitochondriaThink back to your high school or college biology. I know, most of us tried our best to forget this stuff as soon as the tests were over, but this is kind of important. If you want to give yourself a headache click on the word for an in depth scientific description of what it is and what it does. But I’ll keep it much simpler and specific to its role in exercise.

Mitochondria is a part of almost all human cells. It is where cellular energy is made. It is where ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate – phosphocreatine ) is synthesized. There are many mitochondria in the cells where mitochondria are present; up to 2000 mitochondria in every heart cell! And mitochondria can replicate. The more mitochondria present in a cell, the more ATP energy that cell can create. And mitochondria replication occurs as a result of regular intense exercise, and most commonly as a result of intense aerobic exercise  or extreme high intensity anaerobic training. This is the true fuel of life and movement and human power. Everything you do is, ultimately, dependent on ATP, and almost every cell in your body is designed to synthesize this stuff for you to use. In terms of stored human energy, it is the high octane super charged turbo injected rocket fuel of the human body. When confronted with a fight of flight life threatening situation, ATP is what’s gonna get you thru whichever choice you make. It is the first source of energy your body will tap into for any physical activity, and part of a grand conveyor belt of energy that your body utilizes to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your brain thinking, and your muscles moving.

Roughly speaking, our body’s energy systems flow like this: ATP-glycogen (muscle & liver)-Body Fat. This is referred to as the ATP-PC/Glycolitic/Oxidative (or Aerobic) systems (http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-three-metabolic-energy-systems).  

   
The human body can tap into other sources of energy in emergencies, most notably proteins (muscle tissue) and calcium (bone mass), but this is always undesirable unless you’re at risk of starvation. This can occur in extreme endurance athletes like ultra distance runners and cyclists who log hundreds of miles a week in training. It’s also why sports nutritionists recommend marathon runners, iron men competitors, and their even more extreme ultra brethren consume the highest amounts of protein; on par with power lifters, body builders, and strength athletes; some experts claiming that  2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed to help protect their bodies from the muscle wasting effects of their activities. Keep in mind, that athletic activities at these extremes are not about enhancing health. These are tests of the human condition, and pushing to these limits repeatedly almost always come with long term, physically debilitating, consequences. Yes, there are examples of individuals who can perform at the extremes almost to the day they die. Do not bet you are one of those. You will likely lose and finding out if you are a member of that exclusive 1% of the top 1% physically is probably not worth it to you. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this and would be ignoring everyone else’s advice, regardless. 

Body builders and Power Lifters like to imagine they need the most protein, but that scrawny marathon runner who runs 10-20 miles every day needs practically as much. Even the somewhat conservative nutritional dietary establishment supports large amounts of protein for this reason: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Another interesting fact about mitochondria is that they can multiply through fission. This is both good and bad, in a way. Give yourself another headache and click on this, and pay attention to the third paragraph for the bad news. In a nutshell, as mitochondria reproduce through fission, the risk of genetic mutations in new cells goes up and causing the formation of free radicals (some evidence suggests free radicals are bad, as I’m sure you’ve heard, though the science is actually quite sketchy in reality). The good news is that the more mitochondria your body possess, the more ATP-CP you have available, and the more efficiently your body replenished depleted stores of ATP-CP. More mitochondria mean you can ultimately train longer, harder, and more frequently.

So now we come to my opinions. If you’re under 60 years old and your worried about free radicals possibly causing cancer you are being stupid, thru no fault of your own. The media has sent you so many confusing and contradictory messages it’s largely impossible to discern good information from bad. For instance, you probably believe there is an epidemic of Cancer and cardiovascular (heart) disease in the USA. But you’re wrong. There are no such epidemics. If there were an epidemic of cancer (really cancers since there are thousands of completely different kinds of cancers unrelated to any other except for one basic characteristic they all share: harmful cellular multiplication), we would see young people dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of this or that cancer. If heart disease were an epidemic we’d be seeing 12-30 years old dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of heart disease. We do not see this.  What we have an epidemic of is old people! People living into their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond is the epidemic, and something will, eventually, kill us all. Medical science, good nutrition, and basic hygiene, are great at extending our lifespans, but the longer we live the greater the probability that something will go wrong mechanically or on a cellular level.  That’s, unironically, life. So, do you wanna grow old like this:


Or spend your last years living in this like that:


It’s an easy choice for me. More mitochondria please!!!!

Training with Intent

INTENT. 1 a : the act or fact of intending : purpose; b : the state of mind with which an act is done

When you go to the gym and exercise/train, what is your intent? That is, what do you intend to accomplish? Do you even think about it, or do you just go to the gym and “do a bunch of stuff” and hope for the best? If so, have you thought about what you’re actually hoping for?

It’s shocking how many people in the gym never think about any of this. Working out without intent is akin to being given a destination to a town somewhere in North America that you never heard of, and told to find your way there without using a road map, gps, or any other device more complicated than asking random people for directions. Good luck finding your way. You might, but it’s not likely.

Intent can be very personal if you actually have any, but I’m going to try to break it up into a few categories; some specific and some necessarily broad and vague, in alphabetical order since importance is an individual decision:

1: Anaerobic- body building/body shaping
2: Aerobic/anaerobic-weigh loss/weight management
3: Aerobic/anaerobic-cardiovascular health
4: Aerobic-Athletic endurance performance
5: Anaerobic-Athletic performance for strength and power
6: Aerobic/Anaerobic-sports specific performance
7: Anaerobic-anti aging
8: Aerobic/Anaerobic-Health
9: Entertainment
10:Social

Once you’ve chosen the intention of your exercise, you have the opportunity to make an informed choice about what kind of exercises to engage in. Want to train for the next NYC marathon?  Do you want to just finish, or are you trying to see how fast you can finish? #’s 2,3,4,6 apply to you for sure, #’s 9 and 10 might if performance isn’t an issue. Engaging in exercises that adhere to #’s 1,5,7 could prove very counter productive to your immediate goals.

In the coming weeks I’ll touch on training methodologies to best carry out each of the above categories.

Nutrition is critical

Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or improve athletic performance what and how much you eat is of critical importance.

If you’re interested in building muscle you have to over eat tremendously. You also have to lift tremendously heavy weights (relative to your personal ability). If you eat a lot, but don’t lift a lot, you will not build muscle. You will get fat instead. It’s the exercise, or lack of it that determines how your body uses the excess calories.

If you’re interested in athletic performance you have to eat a lot more than normal to be able to fuel that performance (marathon runners carbo load before race days).

If you’re trying to lose weight you must eat less than you burn off .

Here’s a great article by a great coach who’s workshops I attend every chance I get:
http://nicktumminello.com/2013/09/personal-trainer-myths-nutrition-isnt

Interval Training: More evidence that working out harder in shorter time periods is better for you than working out for longer time periods

The interesting NYT article below, about recent studies on the efficacy of intense interval training for weight loss and weight management, is well written. It clearly states that this study is preliminary, used a small sample of young males only, and so no long term conclusions for the general population should be assumed.

It also pointed out that these intense intervals (which many people erroneously conclude last 4 minutes or 7 minutes only) actually last 30 minutes alternating between short bursts of 100% intensity with longer intervals of low intensity activity in-between.

These conclusions are not new or earth shaking. Any track and field athlete or coach engaged in sprinting events could have told you most of what this study says. Read on.

http://nyti.ms/1ap1ZlW

NYTimes: How Exercise Can Help Us Eat Less

Strenuous exercise seems to dull the urge to eat afterward better than gentler workouts, several new studies show, adding to a growing body of science suggesting that intense exercise may have unique benefits.

Training Gimmicks and Training that Works

Training Gimmicks and Training that Works

Exercise should be fun is a common sentiment I hear all the time from clients, prospective clients, health club members, and trainers trying to build their client base, but should it be fun?

That depends on what you consider fun, I suppose. Some people love grueling hard work and find enormous physical efforts bordering on the impossible to be fun. Most people don’t.

The argument is often made that any activity that gets a person doing more than they normally would have, must also be beneficial; hence *exercise classes like Zumba and SoulCycle*

[Wendy Learns to SoulCycle – YouTube](

“Wendy Learns to SoulCycle – YouTube”)

that are only marginally more intense than a fast paced walk are promoted as fun alternatives to the harder workouts associated with traditional weight lifting, Spinning, running, etc.

On the other end of the exercise spectrum you have the *extreme intensity activities like CrossFit [What is CrossFit? – YouTube](

“What is CrossFit? – YouTube”)

[The Problem(s) With Crossfit – Gawker](http://gawker.com/5928989/the-problems-with-crossfit “The Problem(s) With Crossfit – Gawker”)

and all its derivatives*. These encourage you to workout at extreme intensities with no real specific goal in mind beyond getting better at doing those specific workouts, unpredictable body shaping results (maybe you’ll bulk up or maybe get skinny), no transferable improvements for sports or other athletic activities, and an extremely high risk of injuries.

Michael Boyle is one of the most highly respected strength and Conditioning coaches in the world of NCAA collegiate athletics and professional sports, with dozens of published books to his credit. This is what he has to say about CrossFit.

Members and inexperienced trainers often fail to understand that the chronically out of shape civilian has no concept of what exercise intensity means. They actually believe that coming to the gym 2 hours a week is a lot of work. They believe pushing 50 lb. on a leg press is tremendous, even though they might weigh 180 lbs themselves. It’s not their fault. They have no reference points at all. Also, they’re really not that interested in whatever goals they might tell you and themselves, they have. Anyone who really cared about fitness and athletics would likely have been engaging in fitness and athletic activities most of their lives to begin with. And then there is belief. Most of our clients don’t really believe they can get in shape. They don’t really have goals. They have fantasies that deep down they believe are impossible to achieve, and so undermine their own efforts every chance they get by consuming junk food or too much food or exercising without consistency or jumping from fad diet to fad workout to discouragement and abandonment of any effort.

Many believe it is just strictly the luck of good genetics or bad, and there is some truth in that. But good genetics that get you by when your 20 will fail you when you’re in your 30’s unless you take action. The sooner you start the better, but it’s never too late.

Photo 1

Photo 1

First, I’d like to thank Monica for the kind praise, as it was all her hard work and willingness to follow my slightly sadistic advice to the letter.

Monica isn’t an actress or professional model. She’s a “real” woman with a real job and has a real commitment to her workouts and getting the results that she wants. She doesn’t live in the gym 4 hours a day, and she knows that when it’s time to work out you work out damn hard and real smart (or hire a real smart trainer like me) and then you go home. I won’t be specific about her age, but she wasn’t a child when we started, and 10 years later she looks better than she ever did. Period.

Forget the trends. This isn’t rocket science. I’ve been at this for 29 years and the fundamentals haven’t changed. Do what I say you need to do in order to achieve your goals (or whatever shorter term measures I deem more appropriate for each individual) and you will.

Train smart. Train hard. Don’t be a mark for every con game that comes around.

See you in the gym.

 

Hmm…

How much should YOU exercise? This article has no advice for you. It does say how little exercise is necessary for a sedentary adult over their initial 12 week period of beginning an exercise regimen.. Is that you? Do you fit that description?

The problem that this research is attempting to address is that the vast majority of our fellow Americans (upwards of 90%) engage in absolutely no regular exercise at all. Zip. Zero. Despite all the health info available, most American perceive the effort of exercise as too much, for results that are too nebulously distant, to warrant their attention.

These researchers are attempting to address this by finding the absolute minimum effort necessary to improve health. It’s sort of like trying to address world hunger by figuring out the absolute minimum amount of food a human needs to remain alive. Great idea.

My own opinion is that most people, deep down, don’t want to extend their own lives. They may be afraid of death when it’s staring them in the face, but their day to day lives are such efforts of futility that any distraction, however unhealthy, is preferable to the hard work it might take to extend these futile lives most of us are forced into. And I believe that this is how most people feel, even if its only subconsciously.

If you read the article carefully, all the way to the end, it does talk about the limitations and flaws of these studies as they’ve been done thus far. Worth a read, so long as you read carefully to the end.
http://nyti.ms/11WeJJK

NYTimes: The Rise of the Minimalist Workout

People have long been trying to figure out what the right amount of exercise is, but the focus lately is on the shortest period possible.

18 June, 2013 07:14

Here we go. The New York Times getting lazy again. This article isn’t wrong in what it says, it’s just so vague and incomplete that someone who hasn’t ever engaged in regular exercise before but is getting ready to try is likely to make some terrible mistakes. Lets add just a bit of important detail.

First, everything the article says is correct…when talking about aerobic/cardiovascular exercise. You can train multiple days in a row, and such frequency can enhance the quality of your workouts as your practice develops better skills at that particular activity (running, cycling, even power walking have skills that can be improved).

The reason you can perform these activities multiple days in a row is determined by their nature, which is described in the category name AEROBICS. Aerobics refers to both a human energy system and a certain range of physical intensity.

Aerobic type exercise typically falls into a category of intensity between 60% and 85% of a persons theoretical max effort. At these ranges of effort, a person can continuously exercise for 15 or more consecutive minutes before becoming too fatigued to continue. Within this range the entire cardiovascular system becomes healthier and stronger, and that’s great. But it’s only half (some might argue 1/3) your fitness journey.

Anaerobic exercise is the other half of this very important fitness story. Like aerobics, the term anaerobic refers to both a human energy system and a range of physical intensity for the activity. In Anaerobic exercises, the intensity MUST exceed 85% of a persons theoretical maximum effort, causing rapid exhaustion (under 60 seconds, typically, but always under 2minutes). Training in this range improves the tone, and physical strength, of a persons skeletal muscular system, improving the bodies posture, appearance, resistance to physical injuries, and later in life, infirmity and osteoporosis. Can you walk up a flight of stairs when your 80? Can you tie your own shoelaces? Can you carry a bag of groceries or get up out of a cushy sofa? These are matters of physical strength in the geriatric community, and major challenges to millions of Americans.

Training at this intensity level can not be performed on consecutive days, because training at this level actually causes a temporary weakening of the skeletal muscles involved, and the following 24-48 hours are needed for the muscles to recuperate and adapt in order to become stronger.

The Times article correctly states that 72 hours between exercise bouts is too long to wait for any exercise, but fails to caution that certain kinds of exercise require a certain amount of days off before repeating.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

http://nyti.ms/19ztI5l
NYTimes: How Often to Exercise

The Intermediate Exercise Enthusiast

The intermediate exerciser has learned at least 3 of the 5 important things in order to progress to this level, and it shows. Most serious health club exercisers fall into this category, though my personal observation is that no more than 20% of gym members ever make it to this level, and instead remain novices despite the amount of time they spend in the gym going from one activity to another. The Intermediate Exerciserhas lost significant body fat and has gained some real muscle, either in the form of size and bulk or muscular definition, or both, depending on their goal. The 5 critical things that the intermediate exerciser understands and conforms to:

  1. Consistency
  2. Intensity
  3. broad knowledge of muscle function
  4. Nutrition
  5. Rest

Lets take these 5 in order.

  1. Consistency is just what it says. You are committed to your workouts and have a schedule you will not deviate from when possible. You have set aside a certain number of days; typically 4-6; and a set amount of time; typically 60-90 minutes; and you train. This isn’t something you try to fit into your day. It is one of your highest priorities that you work the rest of your day around. When doing cardiovascular/aerobic training you have a protocol you follow and stick to it. When weight lifting, you typically follow some version of a split routine for your body parts, the classic example being Chest/Shoulders/Triceps on day one, Back/Biceps on day two, and Lower Body on day three. Then repeating that pattern for a six-day workout with one day off for complete rest. You will stick to this pattern till doomsday comes or until you change goals. Additionally, you understand the importance of your exercise routine; variation is not your friend in this regard. You need to stick to a routine that you can make comparative assessments on. That means the same, or extremely similar, exercises for each body part every time you train that body part. If your goal is to be the best marathon runner you can be, you don’t spend hours a week ridding a lifecycle or taking spin classes; you run miles, period! If your goal is to improve your overall muscular strength, or build muscle, you pick your exercises and do them repetitively for months on end, the only variables being that you will continuously push yourself to lift heavier weights every week or even every workout!
  2. Intensity is all about understanding your goal. It is the most important factor that will determine whether you actually achieve any measurable progress, whether it’s increasing you distance on a bike ride, speed in the 400 meter run, or your 1 rep max doing an olympic bench press. Trying to lose weight requires a certain intensity. Building muscle requires its own level of intensity. Improving athletic performance…has its own special intensity demands. Not understanding what intensity you need to achieve will undermine everything you try to accomplish. Too much high intensity training will undermine a marathoner, and too little will be futile for the sprinter or weight lifter. If you haven’t read my posts on intensity, or want to refresh your memory click here and here.
  3. Broad knowledge of muscle function means you really understand how all the major skeletal muscles move and work, and know a pretty broad range of exercises for each of them. It’s like having a large vocabulary of exercises to draw on. Since you also understand how the muscles work, it allows you to choose complimentary exercises when doing multiples per body part. You understand why you might want to do pec flys after olympic bench press, not before, or why doing lat pull downs after pull ups might be redundant, so doing dumbbell rows is the better choice to follow-up with in most cases. (Yes, there might be a valid reason to do both pull ups and lat pull downs in the same workout, but that wouldn’t be the most common combo or even the norm). You understand which exercises will enhance your athletic activities or hinder them, and train accordingly.
  4. Nutrition is simply the understanding that what you consume is both the fuel that moves you and the building blocks of what your body is made of. The cliche´ “You are what you eat” is precisely true. Trying to build a powerful body on a diet of McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Twizzlers, is akin to building a battleship hull out of corroded iron. If you can’t get serious about what you eat, get out of the gym. I follow the 80/20 rule. I eat extremely healthful 80% of the time, and don’t worry about the other 20%. The less fit you start, the more dedicated yo have to be. If you’re very overweight and extremely unfit, you need to follow the 100% rule; all healthy, all the time. Period. Don’t cry about fairness, it won’t help. As a fuel, the foods you eat (solid and liquid) all have their specific purposes, and understanding them is critical. Even the most wholesome foods misused can have a counterproductive effect if not properly applied. Every serious endurance athlete understands the importance of carb loading; where you consume vast quantities of mostly simple carbohydrates like pasta the day before the big race. Serious marathoners are extremely lean, carrying minimal body fat (reserve energy stores) to breakdown as the miles accumulate into the high teens. So they manipulate their diets to maximize the available energy on race day. If you don’t run over 100 miles a week, don’t eat like a marathoner, cause you’ll get fatter than a walrus in a well stocked zoo. 20 years ago everyone said eat all the pasta you want because that’s what skinny marathoners eat, now we say avoid all pasta! Both are stupid statements. The question is: how will eating all this pasta help me in my life’s pursuits! If it won’t, don’t eat so much. The strength athlete eats large amounts of protein because protein is what muscles are made of, and when trying to build bigger and stronger muscles your body needs these proteins to build your muscles into larger ones. If you don’t consume enough protein, your muscles simply cannot get bigger or stronger. It’s not magic. If you’re lifting weights with the correct intensity and not able to get stronger or bigger, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not eating enough protein. The most misunderstood food constituent is fat. Fat is neither good or bad. It is a very dense energy source and a necessary nutrient for a whole host of metabolic processes. Fat isn’t the villain in America’s obesity epidemic; people are the enemy of themselves. When it comes to weight control, what matters at the end of the day is how many calories you ate compared to how many you burned. The average 30-year-old woman burns around 1500 calories per day just staying alive. If her diet consisted of 720 calories of fat (80 g of fat; 1 g = 9 cal) and 600 calories split evenly between protein (60 g; 4 cal/gram) and carbohydrate (60 g; 4 cal/gram) she would be following a successful weight loss program! In 20 days, she will have lost 1 lb. Not the fastest program, but if we replaced all those fat calories (720) with proteins and/or carbs, her weight loss would be exactly the same. Fat doesn’t make you fat…eating too many total calories makes you fat and you not understanding your food makes you fat. Now lets not get into a debate of whether eating so much fat in a day is healthy in other ways, because that’s missing the point I’m trying to make.
  5. Rest is so basic and obvious that it’s absurd how little attention avid gym goers give to it, but the intermediate exerciser understands that the end of the workout is only the end of the beginning of the exercise process. For the endurance enthusiast or the strength training enthusiast sleep is understood as the point in your day when all the hard work is actually transformed into results. The results of your training and proper nutrition can only be realized after a good nights sleep. While asleep your body makes all the cellular and physiological adaptations to your body in response to what you did that day. If you don’t get good sleep, your improvement can be slowed, stalled completely, or even reversed into a negative (over training syndrome), when instead of performance improvements you see lower energy levels, lower endurance, lower strength, and more frequent injuries. Imagine if NFL players were required to play 3 days a week, or if every MLB team were only allowed to have 1 pitcher who had to pitch every single game. That’s obviously ridiculous because these athletes have a hard time going thru a regular season injury free. In my hypothetical, they’d be lucky to last a month before being permanently impaired. To a lesser intensity, that’s exactly what the majority of gym goers are doing to themselves, going from class to class to class, three to five hours a day, 5, 6, 7 days a week. Ms. Intermediate understands that if she gauges her intensity correctly she will be done with her workout in 45-90 minutes (unless a marathoner or other ultra endurance athlete) and she will eat properly and get her 7-9 hours of sleep.

In conclusion, you must master and implement at least 3 of these factors in order to achieve any real results, and 4 of them to be able to move on to the next level. Think about what I’ve said. If you’ve been spinning your wheels in beginner land for more than 6 months, you need to implement the steps above to get to the next level. Good luck.

Exercise Science? part 2

Science is a rigorous, no-nonsense, discipline.  A few months ago, a research team of physicists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland reported that they had measured and recorded subatomic particles that traveled faster than the speed of light.  This is the most revolutionary discovery in the history of modern physics.  It completely destroys Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and undermines the whole scientific consensus of how the universe works.  The reaction of the scientific community was immediate and visceral: “hmm, that’s interesting.  Lets double-check that.”  “I wonder where they made their mistake?  Lets check it out”.  Even the CERN scientist who recorded this potentially revolutionary finding wondered: “I wondered what we did wrong?”  Every real scientist would love to be the one that upend Einstein, just like Einstein overturned Newton.  But no real scientist is going to base their reputation on 1 study that has not been independently verified multiple times.  Not even if its their own study.  That’s science.  That’s integrity.  That’s truth.

The world of exercise science is nothing but bogus hucksterism: verb [ with obj. ]promote or sell (something, typically a product of questionable value).  Popular experts are dangerous people, selling opinions and personal preferences as facts, when their not trying to sell you a product they don’t even believe in.  That’s the nature of the “fitness world”.

One of this blogs followers; Mia; asked me about another blog she read.  I will not link to it, because it is terrible.  The author, Kassem Hanson is a personal trainer, a disciple of Charles Poliquin (an expert I formerly admired until I read this garbage).  The article talks about getting “skinny fat” and how certain exercise activities, like Spinning, can cause you to develop “cottage cheese thighs”.

I’m so tired of this.  This Kassem Hanson, if his bio is to be believed, ought to be an expert that I could quote, not waste time refuting.  He claims to have a BS in Exercise Science, BA Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Cornell
BA Biology – Cornell.  A google search seems to indicate he went to Cornell College, in Iowa, not the Ivy League University in NY.  The fact that he intentionally leaves this vague indicates he wants you to assume the Ivy League connection.  Not that there is anything wrong with the similarly named college.  I don’t even have a degree in an exercise related field, which is why I would expect more from him.  And I am disappointed.

Let me be clear.  Not a single, reputable, scientifically based research study has shown spot reduction to be anything but a myth.  The American Council of Exercise (ACE), The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), The International Sports Science Association (ISSA), the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), and every other accredited personal training certifying body, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH), all link to thousands of articles, research papers, and position papers giving the evidence against spot reduction of fat.  The inverse is equally true.  No activity can cause fat to specifically form in one area of the body over another,  The simple fact is that body fat accumulation is mostly genetically determined.  Again, the scientific evidence is overwhelming!  Hanson, and apparently Poliquin, are basing their opinion on a lone Danish study from 2007 that was never peer-reviewed or duplicated independently.  That such a study was done at all, and got published somewhere, doesn’t surprise me and was discussed in part one.  That Hanson and Poliquin would tout this and base their entire training philosophy around a single dubious study goes more to show their personal exercise preferences and bias than their commitment to exercise truth.

They misinterpret what Spinning is, and even say that “indoor cycling” is a better choice because it incorporates anaerobic high intensity intervals.  Uhhh, excuse me…Spinning is the original “indoor cycling program” and includes as part of its standard protocol anaerobic high intensity intervals, though there’s no guarantee in any program that the instructor truly understands or incorporates these principles, or that every participant follows those instructions.

He goes on to make other comments on the subject of things that will make you “skinny fat” mixing myths and facts indiscriminately, showing a tremendous lack of judgement.  For instance, he says that eating a vegan diet will make you “skinny fat”.  I know of at least 4 professional body builders who are Vegan, and I have friends who are vegan.  The body builders look like body builders.  And my friends run the gamut of fit, fat, “skinny fat” and powerful.  No I don’t personally advocate the Vegan diet because it is it is way more complex to insure that the individual consumes adequate complete proteins, but properly done, it can be just as healthy as a meat inclusive diet, for most people.  Please remember, that no diet is universally good for everyone.

Hanson claims scented candles will cause a man’s androgen levels to significantly drop.  Where he gets this tidbit from I don’t know, but if it were true, then their must also be scents that would raise androgen levels.  Where are those?  Trust me when I say the FDA would have this as a controlled substance if it were true.

So watch the next tour d france, the track athletes running the mile, three-mile, or marathons in the next olympics, or the top 100 finishers of the next Iron Man Triathlon.  Find the cottage cheese thighs.  Find the “skinny fat” competitor.  But also remember, you are not them.  You don’t train as hard, you don’t eat as well, you don’t sleep as well, and you don’t dedicate your life to your training.  That means you can’t compare you’re results, either.

What people like Hanson are doing is attacking a mode of training many people favor in the hope of getting these people to switch to a mode favored by Hanson (and other personal trainers).  Since the activity is different, you may in fact start to see some positive change, but that has to do with the SAID principle, not to any inherent superiority of their training method.  Once you start training with them, inertia is likely to keep you as long as you can afford it.  Of course, with a trainer watching you, it’s much more likely that you will train more intensely.  And that could lead to some improvement. And now they are getting your money, too.

Don’t expect unrealistic results that are greater than your commitment.  and always ask for the research.  Then ask for the independent, corroborating research. Stop being a sucker.

Exercise Science?

Hello.  I’m back.  And i have a few things to say.

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve read multiple articles in the New York Times Health section, and a much longer piece in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, that would make any seasoned exerciser bewildered about what we do, and don’t know, about how the human body works.

In one article, “Why Ice may be bad for sore muscles“, there are so many ridiculous suppositions that it boggles my mind.  The article starts off:

“For the study, researchers at the University of Ulster and University of Limerick in Ireland reviewed almost three dozen earlier studies of the effects of using ice to combat sore muscles, a practice that many who exercise often employ. Ice is, after all, the “I” in the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), which remains the standard first-aid protocol for dealing with a sports-related injury. Icing is also widely used to deal with muscles that twinge but aren’t formally injured. Watch almost any football, basketball or soccer game, at any level, and you’ll likely see many of the players icing body parts during halftime, preparing to return to play.”  (The bold text is highlighted by me)

In 29 years of being in the fitness industry, I’ve never; not once; heard the recommendation to ice muscles made sore from regular exercise or physical activity.  Not once.  Ever.  The RICE protocol is used in first aid when dealing with INJURIES.  Post exercise muscle soreness is not considered an injury and would be considered counter productive as icing the muscle would reduce blood flow, which is the opposite of what a weight trainer is trying to accomplish.  The paragraph then goes on to say that icing is also used for muscles that may not be sore, but “twinge”.  Again, never heard this in 29 years from a professional.  And the final nonsense: “…players icing body parts during halftime, preparing to return to play”.  Body parts, yes.  But not specifically muscles.  The athletes routinely ice shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles.  They do not typically ice biceps, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, Quadriceps, etc.  Do you know what the difference is?  Athletes ice joints, not muscles, during competition.  And they only ice themselves if they’ve suffered an injury, like a contusion, or severe muscle pull, or sudden attack of tendonitis; situations where inflammation around the affected joint will have a serious impact on the athlete’s ability to continue competing.  Yes, muscles cross joints, as do tendons and ligaments.  But it is the area of the joint that matters.  The article continues to discuss how the research being detailed shows that icing reduces the overall performance of the athlete in the affected area.  Really, was it the icing, or the injury that preceded the icing?  And how much more degraded would the athlete have performed if they didn’t ice at all and tried to compete anyway?  As someone who used to be a tournament racquetball player, I have some experience with elbow tendonitis.  Icing was sometimes the difference between winning a trophy and prize money, or losing because i could no longer grip my racquet.  As to why an athlete would risk more serious injury by continuing, the answer is: They are competitive athletes with prize money and trophies at stake.  This is who they are and it is often their job.  And Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning at 75% effectiveness is many factors of 100% better than their respective backups.

Lets continue:

The article goes on to discuss how:  there  has been surprisingly little science to support the practice. A 2004 review of icing-related studies published to that point concluded that while cold packs did seem to reduce pain in injured tissues, icing’s overall effects on sore muscles had “not been fully elucidated” and far more study was needed.”  Why an ice pack before exercise should depress performance isn’t fully understood…”.   Not understood!  Oh my god!  Icing reduces blood flow and slows down cellular activity, which is why we ice severed limbs, not put them on heaters.  And ice will slow down muscle cellular activity and tighten up the muscles it is used on.  There aren’t any studies because it would be like a PHD in physics deciding to test Newtons theory of gravity by dropping an apple and a 50 kilo weight from the same hight to see if they fell at the same rate (they do).

I need to point out that a MLB Pitcher, or an NFL Quarterback is paid millions of dollars to play, while you and I are not.  They are not icing to rehabilitate an injury, they are icing to continue the competition.  And how did we go from discussing whether or not icing injuries was an effective treatment, to icing muscles before exercise to see how that affects performance?  How does that have any relevance to icing an injured body part?  No one ices before exercising.  Anyone in the exercise industry knows you warm up muscles and joints prior to exercise, not cool down!  For the rest of us, any injury that would require the RICE protocol would also be followed by the recommendation to rest the injury for a period of days or even weeks, depending on the severity.

Why was this ridiculous study done in the first place?  I imagine some graduate student in Ireland needed to conduct research and present their findings in order to receive their graduate degree.

As to why the New York Times decided to publish an article about this I surmise it was a slow news week in the world of exercise, and the writer of the article doesn’t know anything about fitness, or doesn’t care.  Write or die.  I see the same thing in all the major fitness magazines.  You can’t leave blank space.  You must publish something every month or go out of business (or lose your job).  This writer should lose his or her job just for publishing this nonsense and confusing the public more than they already are.  Hey New York Times…maybe you should hire me.

I will follow this up with two more blog posts; each on two other NYT articles; with valid information, much better researched, much more well-informed, and seemingly contradictory, on the issue of fat and weight loss.  Stay tuned.