All posts by Jeffrey Harrison

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

Supplementation Smarts 101

downloadWhile the summer months may be coming to a close, another season will be heating up momentarily. No, I’m not referring to the fall festivals or the holiday season or the impending winter weather ahead. I’m talking about the season of deceptive and misleading marketing. While another summer may be coming to a close, the companies that produce, market, and sell supplements are already ahead of you and thinking about your goals for next summer whatever they may be. Whether you contribute to the $27 billion dollar supplement industry or not, supplements have become such a household name that it is estimated more than 50% of Americans are using a supplement of some kind. Are we any healthier as a result or are we just paying blindly for that panacea in a bottle?

What’s In A Supplement?

That’s the million dollar loaded question. The word supplement simply means, “in addition to.” A poor diet or poor training regimen are not going to be miraculously saved by taking a supplement. Dietary supplements can range anywhere from vitamins, minerals, and herbs to protein powders, appetite depressants, thermogenic enhancers, and performance aides. The supplement industry is not regulated or kept to the same standards of the US Food and Drug Administration for prescription drugs. Does that make them less safe than prescription drugs? (100 people die every day from prescription drugs) Not necessarily. It does however mean that there are no standards in place to verify or prove that a supplement delivers on what it’s purported to deliver. Just this past year there was a case where dietary supplements sold to major retail stores were indeed not at all what they were supposed to be. I’m not here to debate whether a supplement works or not. There are some just as good as there are bad. I’m only here to pull the blinders off and shed some light on the deceptive and misleading marketing tactics used by supplement companies in the hopes of making you a more alert consumer. Here are my favorites in order:

All Natural

The term “all natural” carries with it a belief that a product has to be inherently healthy if it is all natural. There are a lot of “natural” products in our world not even remotely considered safe for consumption. Just take a look at the periodic table of elements for one. All natural does not mean a product is necessarily good for you.

Clinically Proven

It may have been clinically proven to work on a 150 lb. Caucasian, collegiate, athletic male but if you’re anything else there’s no guarantee that the benefits would be the same. Furthermore, most supplements are not one ingredient and despite the fact that some individual ingredients may have a positive effect, their effectives when used in conjunction with others is again no guarantee. Unforeseen interactions can take place as well as the cancelling out the effectiveness of other ingredients.

Proprietary Blend

Translation – “Our product is superior to other brands but we do not wish to share our secret formula because it’s total bs. We’ll just throw a bunch of really cool, technically sounding words to blow you away.” It’s the shadiest of all the marketing terms because there is no way to regulate or prove that and they know it. To the consumer, it sounds like a big time solution that you’d better get on board with.

Double-Blind, University Study

If it was studied at a university than it must be effective. Number one, check to see if the study wasn’t funded by the supplement company (happens all the time). Number two, request or research the studies the supplement company is claiming to use as their proof. Most times, you’ll see insignificant data to support their claims even if it did show some promise.

100% Safe and Effective

A supplement may be effective, but that doesn’t make it alright to consume or safe for that matter. Again, there are no strict regulations on supplements. There are some that may be effective but that doesn’t necessarily make them safe. Steroids are effective but does that make them safe? 100% is a bit of a stretch.

100% Money-Back Guarantee

Like your mama always said, “If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is.” It is impossible to guarantee that a supplement will deliver 100% on its promise. As I stated earlier, if you have poor dietary and/or training habits, there isn’t a supplement in the world that is going to reverse all of that. The supplement companies are banking on that. It can be guaranteed 200% and it wouldn’t matter. A supplement company can stand by and say that their product is 100% guaranteed of what they say it is, but they can’t guarantee that it will magically work for you, especially if you don’t follow their protocol.

Ads and Photos

Most of the men and women used in the promotion of a product are paid models; people who eat, live and breathe fitness. Some may use the product their endorsing; others are paid to endorse the product. People want to see a visual but that visual is highly deceptive.

The market is inundated with literally thousands of products – all making different claims; all making themselves better than the rest; all virtually saying the same thing. Taking a supplement is a personal choice. I’m not here to judge or suggest; only advise. Be a smart consumer and just be all the wiser than the supplement company is expecting you to be.

Til next time train smart, eat well, and be better.

Hitting 2013 Off and Running

What a year it has been, and it’s only February! Nothing like full speed ahead to warmer months I say. I apologize for the recent lull in posts but as soon as the calendar turned, so did the increase in the dedicated and committed. I hope your year is off and running as well and that it is more of a carry over of momentum from last year than a reboot from last January.  Don’t become just another statistic (88% of New Year’s resolutions fail).  Take charge and do something for yourself. In my last post of 2012, 52 Goals for a Healthier You, I provided a template for you to achieve success in 2013. And at the beginning of 2012, I presented a challenge, the 100 Push-Ups a Day for a Year, to set a goal that was measurable, attainable, and realistic. Today, I wanted to share with you my experience and the momentum I generated for myself heading into 2013!

And On The 367th Day, I Rested

 By default, 2012 was a leap year so an extra day of 100 push ups was in the mix.  Besides, what’s one more day after doing 365? But I did it every day except for the one proof of my human side – I missed a day for no apparent reason on November 28th, only to quickly make up for it the very next day. It was a story filled year, doing the push ups after races and cycling events; during holidays; in various states (PA, NJ, DE, RI, MD, NC); getting out of bed soon after realizing that I hadn’t done them that day yet; indoors, outdoors, in the rain, on the sand; with clients; alone with no one to cheer me on. But the best, having my now 3 year old son reminding me to do them and then doing his best to do them with me. As the year went, I got stronger and could do more in succession with each passing month, hitting the milestone of doing 100 push ups straight October 18th. All told, 36,600 push ups banked in the arms, chest, and shoulders so that when it was January 1st, I took the day off.

More Power to the Push Up

I was not alone in my quest for daily push ups either. I had several clients and friends join me along the way at their own capacity.  In particular, a special client did her version of daily push ups at 50 a day and wins the award for the greatest diversity of locations: FL, CA, Rome, Italy, Cayman Islands, OH, PA, NJ, NY, and VA, completed in living rooms, bedrooms, conference rooms (as demonstrations), on the grass in parks, on the beach, and in hotels. But the award for most courageous and meaningful act of the push up is Sgt. Trevino of the U.S. Marine Corps who did 1 million push ups for the year while raising  more than $51,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The Great French Fry Experiment

 As a sort of side project, I gave up eating French fries for the year. Mind you, I don’t eat them that often to begin with (giving up coffee would have been a real challenge) but I wanted to prove two points. Number one, French fries are everywhere and two, if you ask, they can be substituted for, although I found that to be more awkward than challenging.  I got everything from eyes popping out to “What’s wrong with our fries?” to which my response was, “I just want another option. Point is, you’ll never know until you ask and you have the power EVEYTIME to make a choice.

 A Run to the Finish

My personal momentum that began last year and is still ongoing is my personal goal to run a marathon. After running in the 10 mile Broad Street Run back in May and 13.1 miles in the Philadelphia Half Marathon back in November, I’m getting ever closer to the ultimate goal of 26.2 miles March 17th at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. It’s been an arduous but rewarding journey and one that has taught me more about myself than anything I’ve ever done.  I still don’t have a great relationship with the running, but we’re managing to get along. In the end, it’s not about the time or any accolades. It’s about raising my own bar, challenging myself, and letting everyone else stress and worry about the insignificant.

Hope your 2013 is off to a strong and healthy start as well! Remember, you always have a choice.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Also in 2013, I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new and improved website, www.jeffreysharrison.com Check it out and let me know what you think.

52 Goals for A Healthier You in 2013

I’m hoping your 2012 was a great year, but I’m hoping for an even better 2013 for you. Last year, I challenged you to the 100 Push Up a Day Challenge. (a summary of that will appear in a future post shortly). But this year, I wanted to pose to you a different challenge; one that embodies all of the aspects of fitness and not just the physical. I present to you my….

52 Goals For A Healthier You in 2013

 

Here’s how it works.  Each week you’re presented with a goal for that week. Set out to accomplish it and check it off.  The next week, you’re presented with a new, totally different goal. Set off to accomplish that and check that off the list.  Keep going through the year, achieving small goals each week and achieving momentum that you CAN accomplish anything you put your mind to. You only have 1 goal per week and you can certainly compound them each week as you progress through the year, but the purpose is to achieve that goal for that week and not to get behind or “bank” goals to catch up in one week. Print out the list and put it somewhere where you will be reminded of it daily. The choice is yours and yours alone, as are the excuses.  You CAN do it and I believe in you!

 

#1. Begin an exercise plan. Join a gym, hire a trainer, enroll in a program, etc. If you already do any of those things, try something new.

#2. Keep a detailed food journal of everything you eat for 1 week. For the smart phone fanatics, check out apps such as MyFitnessPal and LoseIt

 

#3. Walk for 30 minutes on 5 separate days

 

#4. Perform 10 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 sit-ups every morning before you get going

#5. Drink nothing but water for the week. That includes no coffee, tea, juice, milk, sports drinks, soda, alcohol, etc.

 

#6. Select 5 books to read this year.  If you already read lots, read 5 books outside of what you normally read.

#7. Plan ALL your meals for a week that does not include dining out.

#8. No dining out: fast food, convenience stores, dining establishments, etc. If it doesn’t come from home, it doesn’t count.

 

#9. Make it a priority to get at least 8 hours sleep every night.  Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and silence the phone earlier than usual.

 

#10. Eliminate ALL sugar from your diet. You’ll be both astounded and surprised just how prevalent it is in even the most conscientious eater.

 

#11. Stretch your muscles daily. Biggest culprits of tightness and resulting pain: hamstrings, hip flexors, low back, neck, and shoulders.

 

#12. Walk for 3 miles on 3 separate days

 

#13. Perform 15 push-ups, 15 squats, 15 sit-ups every morning before you get going

 

#14. Book a trip even if just a weekend getaway. Excludes vacations.

 

#15. Connect with a friend(s) you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Chatting on social networks doesn’t count.

#16. Have a vegetable with EVERY meal

 

#17. Schedule a regular check-up or physical with your Dr.

 

#18. Eat a protein with EVERY meal.

 

#19. Go to a comedy show or movie. As Mark Twain said,” The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

 

#20. Clean out your kitchen/cupboards and create a grocery/staples list so that you can keep to your plan.

 

#21. Consume NOTHING with more than 5 ingredients.

 

#22. Walk for 3 miles on 5 separate days

 

#23. Perform 20 push-ups, 20 squats, 20 sit-ups every morning before you get going

 

#24. If it doesn’t help you grow, it has got to go. Make it your mission this week to de-clutter your life.  Eliminate ALL that is unnecessary and taking up nothing more than time and space.

#25. Get a massage.  If you haven’t experienced or appreciate the value of taking care of your body from the therapeutic side of things, you don’t know what you’re missing.

#26. Buy all of your produce from a local farmer or farmer’s market.

 

#27. Find, sign-up, and register for a 5K fun walk and/or run within the next two months. Check with local charities or go to www.active.com for events in your area.

#28. Eat no packaged or processed food for the whole week.

 

#29. Avoid watching the news. Trust me, if there’s something really important to know, you will know about it. The power of no news is amazing.

 

#30. No sandwiches.  Don’t eat sandwiches? Then no bread, bagels, or wraps.

 

#31. Select a get to bed and wake up time for EVERYDAY this week.

 

#32. Walk for 5 miles on 3 separate days

 

#33. Perform 25 push-ups, 25 squats, 25 sit-ups every morning before you get going

 

#34. Choose something form your bucket list and do it.

#35. Be a kid again. Play outside, go to the park, ride a bicycle.

#36. Learn a new skill or pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to do. (i.e. take a cooking class, photography, etc.)

#37. Assist as a volunteer at a charity event.

 

#38. Eliminate 1 bad habit, personally to you.

 

#39. Schedule 20 minutes every day of quiet time.  No cell phone, email, computer, etc.

 

#40. Recruit a friend who hasn’t yet gotten the big picture and be their mentor/coach.

 

#41. Get out of your comfort zone.  Tackle something you think you can’t.  The only way to know is if you try.

 

#42. Walk for 5 miles on 5 separate days.

 

#43. Perform 30 push-ups, 30 squats, 30 sit-ups every morning before you get going

#44. Eliminate colorless food –beige, tan, box colored food.

 

#45. Take a yoga or Pilates class

 

#46. Clean out your wardrobe and donate old clothing to charity

 

#47. Try a health food you haven’t tried yet.

 

#48. Take a day trip to a new place.

 

#49. Base your workouts on nothing but body weight exercises: push ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, dips, squats, lunges, etc.

 

#50. Give a random gift if kindness to someone not expecting it.

 

#51. Walk for 5 miles on 6 separate days.

 

#52. Review your successes/failures from the past year and write down/record your journey.
Wishing you and your families all the best for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year in 2013! It’s going to be great!

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 36,400 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 12: 7 Essentials To Lasting Change

(This is Part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

They say the only constant is change.  You are either moving forwards or backwards; there is no holding steady.  Sir Issac Newton might have something to say about that though.  According to his 1st Law of Motion, an object at rest remains at rest and an object in motion remains in motion. Goal setting is about moving forward but has become such a generic, almost laughable term.  People set goals all the time but never achieve them. As we embark on another new year and perhaps have your sights set on some new goals or resolutions, it’s time to keep things in motion. Here are 7 things that research had found that are ESSENTIAL if you want to create lasting change:

1. Have Passion – This is wear it all starts.  Set your goals from your heart. Forget about what the statistics say and any of your past failures.  How is your life going to change once you achieve it?  Think of how much happiness will come into your life once you achieve it.

2. Growth – Achieving your goal does not have to happen over night.  Small changes add up very quickly.  A great strategy is to simply be better today then you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you are today.  After 6 months you will be blown away with the improvements that you’ve made.

3. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – In order to experience this daily growth there are times when you will have to step outside of your comfort zone. Accept discomfort and expect it.  It’s an opportunity for you to become better than you are today.

4. Gratitude – It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but the practice of being grateful for who you are today and for the so called failures and challenges of your past is much more powerful.  Each challenge or failure provides you with the opportunity to grow and improve yourself.

5. Become – This could very well be the most powerful word in your vocabulary when you use it properly.  For example; “I have become UNSTOPPABLE!” When you ‘become’ something or someone it is no longer a hope or dream.  It’s a part of who you are.  You now hold these beliefs and attitudes that nothing will get in your way.

6. Have Fun – Research shows that the people who choose activities that they enjoy are more likely to stick to their programs for the long term.  You may read a book that lays out the best fat burning workout routine and nutrition program, but if you don’t enjoy it chances are you will not stick with it.

7. Find a Role Model – You need new references, which demonstrate that achieving your goals WILL happen.  Don’t waste time listening to the naysayers or those that say they have tried that route dozens of times to no avail.  They have created motion in the wrong direction and will continue until a different force acts on them.

Stay tuned as I will release a GOAL Program for 2013 in a few days for those interested, very unlike the Push Up Challenge of 2012!

Wishing you and your families all the best this holiday season and best wishes of health and happiness in the New Year!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35, 500 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 11: Eating Healthy On A Budget

save_money_on_food(This is Part 11 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

 

Make no mistake about it; the cost of food has gone up. And when you’re low on both time and money, eating healthy food is quickly replaced by processed foods because they’re quick, easy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, they’re also loaded with sugars, fats and empty calories. If your goals are to eat healthier and save money, the good news is that it can be done.  It requires that you change your current food shopping behaviors, but the excuse that eating healthy is too expensive is just as ridiculous as thinking eating French fries counts as a vegetable serving.

Strategy #1

Buy produce in season to save money and guarantee better freshness. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables during their off-seasons, as they’re usually less expensive and last longer. Avoid canned foods, which often are loaded with salt, sugar or other preservatives, and typically cost more per serving.

Strategy #2

 

Buy in bulk if and when possible for non-perishables such as whole grains, rice, or beans. Store in air-tight containers, and they can last for months.

Strategy #3

 

Eat at home. Cooking meals made from fresh, healthy ingredients saves you from loads of saturated fat and empty calories. It also costs less than eating in a restaurant. Start with simple meals and aim to try one or two new, healthy recipes per week until you’re able to prepare a wide variety of healthy, inexpensive meals.

Strategy #4

 

Cook extra. Prepare an extra portion to use as a quick lunch or meal later in the week. This allows you to buy larger, more economically priced amounts of ingredients for one meal rather that purchasing the ingredients for two meals.

Strategy #5

 

Prepare a whole chicken. For the same price as a package of chicken breasts, which will yield one meal for your family, you can cook an entire chicken as one meal and use the leftovers to create one or two additional meals. Use the bones to make stocks and broths for other recipes, so that every part of the bird is used.

Strategy #6

Drink water. Soft drinks and sugary juices or energy drinks add calories to your body and detract from your grocery budget. Cut out all drinks but water for an entire week and see how much money you can shave from your grocery budget. This includes runs to expensive coffee houses and stops at work or school vending machines.

Strategy #7

Plan, plan, plan! Making menus helps save money in two ways. First, it allows you to take stock of items on hand, so you waste less and purchase less. Second, sticking to a list helps you avoid impulse buys, such as snacks and drinks. Planning healthy meals and creating a menu means you always know what’s for dinner and can prepare accordingly, instead of heading to a fast-food restaurant because you’re in a pinch.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for the conclusion of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35,400 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 10: Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise and Their Solutions

(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. As a fitness professional for almost 20 years, I’ve heard them all. None of them are any good, particularly when they’re accompanied by the justification for them. Just say “no” and at least we know what the true intention is.  The fact of the matter is, most will always find a reason for coming up short or not succeeding in what they hoped would be different this time. So here are 10 of the top excuses I’ve heard and since I don’t handle excuses well, I’m going to offer my response to each in a positive, constructive way.

  1. No time in my busy schedule. We all have the same 24 hours in a day: from the neurosurgeon to the President of the United States. You don’t have the time because you don’t make the time.  Schedule workout time just as you would an appointment for anything else, even if just for 15 minutes.
  2. No energy/lack of discipline. These two often get lumped together with one generally causing the other and vice versa.  No energy is a direct result of lousy nutrition and/or poor sleeping patterns.  Lack of discipline comes from not a true desire to accomplish something. True desire trumps discipline every time. The quick fixes? Clean up your eating, get ample rest, and set a true, attainable goal.
  3. Not enjoyable. Find something you love, not like, to do. We brush/floss our teeth everyday (at least I hope so) and I’ve never found anyone who says they really love brushing/flossing their teeth, yet we do it.  There are literally hundreds of ways to get physical movement. Sure, there are those that are better for attaining specific goals, but just first find something that gets you moving and keeps you moving.
  4. Expense of equipment, clothes, or membership. Give me 10 minutes and I’ll work you harder than you ever worked minus equipment or the need for special clothes in a space no bigger than your bathroom. Fitness can be obtained without any of those things. All it takes is a body with arms, legs, a heart, and lungs.
  5. Distance / inconvenience. If you can step out of bed, you’ve already reached your destination. But if you do need to travel for your fitness, industry statistics prove that any further than 10 minutes away and adherence drops off by 66%.  Find something close and convenient.  The backyard is usually not too far away.
  6. Boredom / lack of variety. Again, there are literally hundreds of different ways to get physical activity so there’s no excuse. Find something that at least gets you excited or least creates some anticipation for attending.  And if you need variety, just take whatever you do and change your approach every time. (i.e. exercises you do on certain days, new way to do cardio, reps and sets of a particular exercise, etc.)
  7. Injury / health problems / chronic physical discomfort. First, get those physical ailments addressed; don’t use them as a crutch for more sitting.  Check with your doctor before moving on from a health issue or chronic condition.  But I can tell you from many years of experience, I have worked and met with clients who continued to move despite the beliefs of many around them because they made a conscious choice to do so.
  8. Embarrassment / social discomfort. Start in the comfort of your own home.  When you get moving and feeling a little bit better, move on to more public settings, although still not necessary.  Understand this though.  If you go to a health club or gym, most of the people there once started out just like you.  And now, they could really care less about what you’re doing. Walking in is the victory.
  9. Lack of understanding of the benefits of exercise. Whether new or experienced, I never assume what a client knows or does not know. Ask questions, read, work with a professional, etc. Just don’t blindly head into an exercise program and think you know what you’re doing. Could be the difference between continuing and quitting.
  10. Apathy. I have found that this is the summation of the previous 9 excuses. But if some or at least one of the 9 excuses can be resolved, I’m confident that apathy quickly diminishes.  However, for those who never really see, want, or appreciate the benefits of physical activity, there’s really not a lot to say except I wish I could have the opportunity to convince them otherwise

I conclude by sharing with you a quote I came across within the past month.

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something you accept no excuses, only results.”

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35,300 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 9: Hard Fitness Truths

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

This is not going to sound good, but fitness is not all what it is cracked up to be. Before you think I’ve sold out, let me explain.  Fitness, more specifically, physical movement is something we all need and we’re not getting enough of.  And in that quest, we have conflicting information, self-proclaimed gurus, marketing hype, and single minded approaches to things that at best leave so many so confused and misguided they get nowhere. I want to share with you today that fitness is not to blame; it’s the way it is perceived or presented that’s the root of the problem. Here are some “hard” truths that are irrefutable and can not be denied, despite what article you just read or “expert” you just bought into.

  • Diets Do Work – WOW! I didn’t just say that, did I? I did. Diets do work. They work if they’re livable (can be done consistently for the rest of your life); if they’re repeatable (can be done by everyone the same way to yield the same result); if they’re palatable (the food you eat tastes great and can be enjoyed for all eternity).  So if you find a diet that meets all 3 criteria and does not allow for you to live to enjoy all there is in life, congratulations.  You have found the secret to dieting successfully.
  • Science Is Not Gospel – The great thing about science is that it is always changing and those that deny that are ignorant. A lot of exercise theories have evolved over the years primarily because understanding how this complex machine (the human body) adapts to training stimuli is ever changing. To someone like me, it’s incredibly exciting and thrilling. To the self proclaimed gurus, it’s an opportunity for them to market a concept as the “only” way to do things, only to discover in a few more years how antiquated they were in their thinking.
  • Diet is More Important Than Exercise – Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, perform better, etc. – the common denominator is what you eat. Period. No training program is anything without the accompanying nutritional plan. There’s simply no denying that.
  • Genetics Count – A common crutch for those who just don’t work hard enough, there is merit to this. Depending on the goal or desired outcome, some people have an easier go about it based purely on genetics, but that’s not an excuse. Great things are accomplished by those who stop at never, and if it involves a longer journey to success it will taste even sweeter when you remember where you started.
  • Thin Does Not Equal Fit – Our culture is so guilty of this.  We applaud, worship, and adore those that are thin and mostly associate that they are fit and healthy. Under that assumption, many exercise or diet extremely to mimic these waifs possibly endangering their own health along the way. In the end, the quest for thin made them thin in fitness and possibly long term in health. Leanness should be the goal, not thinness, and there is a huge (no pun intended) difference.
  • Muscle Confusion Is Nothing New – This is a simple concept to understand.  Number one, your muscles don’t get confused so get that ridiculous term out of your head. Exercise is a stress, more specifically a eustress; a positive effect that has desirable impact or result. When the body adapts to this stress, the stress has to change or the positive changes diminish. By mixing up your program or simply selecting different reps and sets, you continue to keep the body progressing, thus seeing results. No one gets results from doing the same thing all the time. Muscles fatigue, atrophy, hypertrophy, tighten, lengthen, shorten, cramp, spasm – they don’t get confused.
  • Reps and Sets Are Not Everything – (see previous point) People get so hung up on reps and sets for a specific goal when it comes to weight training that they regress for paying too much attention to one component of effective training. Sets and reps are merely guideposts if you will to give you an idea on how much work should be done. However, it’s the manipulation of those sets, reps, and load lifted that create the desired results.  Not getting the results you want? You might consider taking a few other things into account and not just how many sets and reps you’re performing.

And by the way, I will never declare myself an expert. Like you, I am always learning and that is why this stuff never gets old or boring.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35,200 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 8: Artificial Sweeteners 101

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

I wanted to talk to you today about artificial sweeteners because it’s been my experience over the years that there’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions revolving around these non-caloric sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners and the huge list of products sweetened with them are marketed to you relentlessly as “diet foods”, “healthy foods” or “healthier” than sugar or corn syrup sweetened products. But are they really? Here are some of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market today are:

  • Splenda (sucralose)
  • Aspartame
  • Saccharine
  • Acesulfame Potassium (aka – acesulfame K)

These artificial sweeteners are used in abundance in almost every “diet” drink, “lite” yogurts, puddings, and ice creams, most “low-carb” products, and almost all “reduced-sugar” products. And for you muscle minded folks, even most protein powders are loaded with artificial sweeteners too.

Not So Healthy

Splenda is probably one of the worst offenders of them all claiming to be “healthy” as they say that it’s made from real sugar. Don’t be fooled! It’s still an artificial substance. What they don’t tell you is that Splenda is actually a chemically modified substance where chlorine is added to the chemical structure, making it more similar to a chlorinated pesticide than something we should be eating or drinking. The truth is that artificial sweeteners are not even close to being healthy, and as you’ll discover in a minute, can easily be just as bad for you, if not worse, than sugar or even corn syrup. Most people think that they are doing something good for themselves by choosing the “diet” or “lite” brands compared to the full sugar-laden versions, but the problem is that you’re exposing yourself to a whole new set of problems with the artificially sweetened drinks and foods. The fact is, artificial sweeteners vs. sugar or corn syrup is really just a battle between two evils. Which evil is worse?

The Truth Behind The Science

Most of us are at least familiar with the problems associated with sugar or high fructose corn syrup sweetened products. The excess empty calories, blood sugar spike, and resulting insulin surge this creates in your body not only promotes fat gain, but also stimulates your appetite further, making things even worse. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners may save you on calories, but there’s growing evidence that they can increase your appetite for sweets and other carbohydrates causing you to eat more later in the day anyway. Therefore, you don’t really save any calories at all. Also, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can stimulate high insulin levels in your body too, which again can promote fat storage.

All of the 4 artificial sweeteners listed above are nasty chemicals that the human body is simply not meant to ingest. However, most of us are ingesting a whole lot of these chemicals on a daily basis. Aside from the problems I touched on so far, other health issues that have been related to artificial sweeteners in scientific studies as well as observations are:

  • some have been linked to potential cancer risks
  • negative effects on the liver, kidneys, and other organs
  • stimulating cravings
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • developmental problems in children and fetuses
  • headaches

Consequently, some of the above potential health problems have not been proven as fact in human studies. However, some of them have been shown conclusively in animal studies given high doses. Despite all of the health issues potentially associated with artificial sweeteners, the companies that sell the products will continue to claim that they are fully safe and they have studies that prove that they are safe. The bottom line is that the body was not designed to deal with foreign substances like artificial sweeteners.

A Sweet Alternative

Your best alternatives? Well for starters, real raw sugar in moderation. There’s also raw honey, organic maple syrup. All three actually provide some nutrients and antioxidants as well as sweetness, so it’s not just empty calories. Empty calories stimulate your appetite more because your body is lacking nutrients.

And if calories still concern you, there’s a natural sweetener called stevia. Stevia is not artificial like the other chemical sweeteners I mentioned above. It is a natural non-caloric herb grown in South America and when dried into a powder, has a sweetness about 200-300 times stronger than sugar.

So in a world where sugar is bad, it’s still superior to any artificial, chemically enhanced substance that could possibly do more harm to your body internally than any number you ever see on the scale.  I have a better solution for that. It’s called exercise!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35,100 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 7: 3 Surefire Ways to Get the Physique You Desire

www.womenshealthbenefical.blogspot.comToday’s holiday fitness tip is short and to the point, just as it should be when you approach your workout.  Forget about thinking you need to put in an hour at the gym or making the excuse that you just don’t have the time. Get at it and get on with your day.

#1: Use High Intensity Intervals

Contrary to what mainstream fitness has been saying for decades, long slow cardio is not the most direct route to fat loss. It’s true that moderate intensity, steady state exercise uses primarily fat oxidation as fuel, but that isn’t the total picture. Why are high intensity intervals so much more effective? Interval circuits place such an intense demand on the system that it takes your body up to 36 hours to work its way back to homeostasis (a normal state). That means you’ll incinerate calories for hours after you finish training, even if you’re just lying on the sofa. That aftershock of fat burning potential is called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). Plus, high intensity interval training is fast! You no longer have to spend 30 minutes to an hour jogging your life away on a treadmill. You can spend more time doing other things.

#2. Train With Full-Body Movements

A complex movement is an exercise that involves multiple joints and muscles working in a single movement (i.e. squat) versus an isolation movement which only requires one joint and generally one muscle (i.e. biceps curl). Putting it all together hits the body harder than training a bunch of isolation exercises, and it requires greater resources to recover from, which means you get a greater training effect. If you’re used to conventional gym routines, this will blow you away as you’ll be able to do more total work in less time. A properly programmed full-body routine ensures that your body remains balanced. You won’t waste time dealing with overuse injuries, or overcompensations created by doing the same repetitive movements in the same planes day after day. And you won’t have to mess around with split routines (legs one day, upper body the next, chest and back day, etc). You can hit it and forget it all in one session.

#3. Don’t Get Stuck In Simplicity

If you’re not teaching your nervous system new tricks, you’re losing the body composition battle on two fronts. First, you’re limiting your output. If your nervous system isn’t firing on all cylinders, you won’t be able to lift, push, explode and pull as much or as fast as you should. That means less muscle gain and reduced fat loss. Second, learning a new skill is much more CALORICALLY EXPENSIVE than repeating a skill you’re good at. If you don’t add new skills, you severely limit your fat burning potential. But there’s a fine line to walk. If you just throw random new skills at your body without developing long term motor coordination, you’ll only get random results — and you’ll limit the performance capacity..

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35, 000 push ups done as of publishing time

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 6: The Link Between Fitness and Nutrition

(This is Part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season) Fitness and nutrition. The two are almost as inseparable as chocolate and peanut butter. Fitness is not optimal without a sound and healthy nutrition plan and eating well lends itself to being fit. A huge problem in our society today is that the two just don’t seem to jive.  In one corner, you have those who are fanatical about their exercise yet don’t put the same importance and attention on their nutrition.  In the other corner, you have those who are as good an eater as anyone can get yet still neglect the importance of physical activity.  And of course, there are those who refuse to accept the importance of both and are just “hoping for the best” through life.

The Fitness Link

From years of being in gyms I can say without any doubt or reservation that most people go to the gym and immediately do the exercises they like. Be it familiarity, not knowing what else to do or both, it’s a guarantee that no matter what day of the week it is people flock to their favorite exercise of choice. Is that such a bad thing? Not necessarily, but the positive stress the exercise once provided is now nothing more than activity with diminished gains.  The average person’s work ethic in the gym is the equivalent to going to a restaurant, ordering dessert, getting too full from the dessert and skipping the meal. Lots of empty calories and none of the stuff you need. The truth is that fitness is much like nutrition.

The Nutrition Link

Some people think that healthy food often doesn’t taste very good, to which I say they haven’t had it prepared correctly.  On the contrary, all the stuff that tastes great is generally more fattening and loaded with sugar. Exercise is the same way. Most of the exercises that are best for you are the ones that are least popular and are perceived to hurt the most, hence the popularity of exercises where you sit or lie down. The whole machine concept is based on appealing to the lowest common denominator of human nature – sitting. You can exercise while seated on a padded chair. It is called “working out” for a reason.

Putting The Two Together

As the saying goes, “you can certainly have your cake and eat it too”, but fitness and nutrition must harmonize with each other if the plan is for long term success. One breeds achievement in the other and when they are in accord with each other, the results speak for themselves. Don’t be duped. Workout consistently and progressively, taking time to change things up, and discover new ways to safely and constructively challenge your body.  Eat healthy, well balanced, non processed meals, and explore the endless taste sensations to the palate. But most of all, take the time to get out and explore the endless possibilities to physical movement and eating for life. You won’t be disappointed.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 34,900 push ups done as of publishing time