Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't Just Sit There

A study published last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association linked TV watching with death. Same goes for playing video games. Morbid, I know. But it's not the watching or gaming that's killing us – it's the sitting.

The researchers discovered that the more time a person sits, per day, was associated with an increased the risk of dying from all causes, as well as the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The really key finding in all this? Sitting was an independent risk factor separate from how active the study subjects were. No matter whether you jog, work out or get in a daily swim — if you spend large swathes of the day sitting, you’re elevating your risk of death, especially from cardiovascular disease.”

I have to admit that every time I would read a suggestion that we park furthest from the door in order to get more exercise, I would sort of roll my eyes. Is this the best we can do? Nevertheless it really is simple, good advice.

Stand up and MOVE.

It's funny how many cars circle the gym parking lot for the closest spot to the door. Although I know that finding that perfect spot may have more to do with the hustle or some sort of intrinsic reward. Am I right or do we really not want to walk even that little bit? But sitting for extended periods of time is not just bad for our health, it also contributes to low back and neck pain. Instead of investing in ergonomic chairs maybe organizations should invest in a initiatives that encourage their employees to get up and move often throughout the day.

So what can you do to counteract the negative side effects of sitting? Well, simply put – stand up. I tell my clients to set an alarm at their desk to remind them to get up, stretch and simply walk a little bit. Have you every tried to standing on a Wobble Board, Balance Cushion or Bosu Ball? It really doesn't need to be grand, just take small steps to break the pattern of sitting. Your body will thank you for it.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?

According to Amber Simmons, Phd “Intermittent fasting is not necessarily a diet but rather scheduled eating for the purpose of accelerated fat loss.” In addition to accelerated fat loss intermittent fasting is marketed as a way of lowering body fat and/or maintaining a lean physique while also maintaining muscle mass. 

Although it is something I have tried, intermittent fasting is not something I practice consistently. One benefit I do find is that it helps to clear your palette. Another advantage, according to Simmons “ ...is that it allows people to re-conceptualize hunger. Instead of linking “hunger” with “panic” or even “desire” (Ganley 1989), “hunger” can theoretically be newly associated with “success” or “pride”, or simply ignored. With caloric restriction, intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss. In a recent review (Varady, 2011) and one recent randomized clinical trial (Harvie et al., 2011), authors conclude that intermittent fasting and daily caloric restriction are equally effective at promoting weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. However, no studies to date have been performed with athletes who require maintenance of muscle size, strength, and function.” 

So is intermittent fasting right for you? Here Precision Nutrition's Chief Science Officer, Dr. John M. Berardi, summarizes his experience on the subject:


Since there isn’t one definitive intermittent fasting protocol, I decided to test six different methods over the course of six months. I kept meticulous notes on everything from scale weight, body-fat percentage, and blood/hormonal markers, to lifestyle markers like energy levels, cognitive thought, and pain-in-the-ass factors.
I think there are four main takeaways that readers of this book should come away with.

Trial fasting is a great way to practice managing hunger. This is an essential skill for anyone who wants to get in shape and stay healthy and fit.

More regular fasting isn't objectively better for losing body fat. While my IF experiments worked quite well, the intermittent fasting approach (bigger meals, less frequently) didn't produce better fat loss than a more conventional diet approach (smaller meals, more frequently) might have.

More regular fasting did make it easier to maintain a lower body fat percentage.Intermittent fasting isn't easy. However, I did find that using this approach made it easier for me to maintain a low body weight and a very low body fat percentage vs. more conventional diets.

Intermittent fasting can work but it's not for everyone, nor does it need to be. In the end, IF is just one approach, among many effective ones, for improving health, performance, and body composition. Exactly. Intermittent fasting can be helpful for in-shape people who want to really get lean without following conventional bodybuilding diets, or for anyone who needs to learn the difference between body hunger and mental hunger. (And for the latter, I only recommend the Trial Fast.) It’s a helpful tool and one I’ll continue to use periodically. But it’s not the end-all, be-all of nutrition or fitness. People have been getting in awesome shape — and staying in awesome shape — for decades without the use of intermittent fasting.

How Are IF and "Grazing" Similar?

Successful nutrition plans, whether they use smaller, more frequent meals or larger, less frequent meals all share a few commonalities. These include:

Controlling calories. When calories are controlled, progress is made. Whether you control them by eating frequent small meals or infrequent larger meals is up to you.

Focusing on food quality. Fresh, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food is a must, regardless of which eating style you adopt.

Regular exercise. Exercise is a critical part of the equation.
Once those three have been taken care of, it’s a matter of personal preference and lifestyle considerations. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

To Achieve and Exceed - Be Crystal Clear

Nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to be unsuccessful in their health and fitness goals. Do you know anybody who wants to feel weak, lack movement or be uncomfortable in their body? We know that sticking to goals can be tough. Fat loss and fitness is not for sissies.  It's tempting to go for a quick fix but what happens when you're done? Quick fixes last for a short duration simply because they are not sustainable.  They have an expiry date. So what can you do differently this time around? Be clear, specific and staight-up with yourself.  

Successful people do not succeed by chance.  Their goals are not vague.  Goals must be crystal clear. To say "I will get fit and healthy in 2015" is an abstract concept. What exactly does "fit and healthy" mean to you?  How do you measure this? Clear and measurable goals are a must in order to hold ourselves accountable every day. And when we talk about measurable, ensure that what you are measuring are the right factors. 

I came across some work done by Dr. Don Berwick, the former CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).  "In spite of IHI's diminutive size and Berwick's complete lack of position power in the $2 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, he is universally described as one of the most influential people in the field and a fine example of making strong use of clear and compelling goals" 

"One December day in 2004, Berwick stood in front of a group of thousands of healthcare professionals and issued an audacious challenge by setting a crystal clear and compelling goal: "I think we should save 100,000 lives. I think we should do that by June 14, 2006". Pause. "By 9 a.m".  Berwick and his team beat the 100,000 lives goal.  He was successful in his work and was able to influenced behaviour by setting very specific and measurable goals.  Almost everyone I've been in contact with has goals for this year.  As a trainer it is something I do with my clients from the onset.  

Dr. Berwick's accomplishments are really quite extraordinary but the principles that held true on such a large scale, I believe, can hold true for you too.  So get busy achieving and exceeding! 

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.