Friday, February 29, 2008

Cardio Machine Readout Accuracy

Do you diligently check your calories burned at the end of a treadmill, elliptical, rower or stationary bike workout? If so, you need to know that those calculations can be highly inaccurate.

Some machines determine calories used based only on the resistance level and the amount of time exercised. Although some machines do include your weight and age in the calculation, even those may offer only a rough estimate at best because of other factors not taken into consideration. For example, using a machine incorrectly by leaning on the handrails will result in a reading that is higher than the actual number of calories burned. Another factor is the fitness level of the exerciser, which will also affect the number of calories burned during a workout.

Readouts can be somewhat useful as a measure of progress or as a basis of comparison, if you use the same type of equipment correctly and consistently. For example, if the number of calories burned reads higher now than when you started using a certain machine a month ago, you are obviously working harder and progressing. Or, if today's readout after walking on the treadmill is lower than usual, your workout was probably less intense than it normally is.

Another factor to consider is the type of workout you're doing. Although a vigorous cardio interval session will most likely register as fewer calories burned than a steady state workout, because of the intensity of a challenging interval workout your body's metabolism will remain elevated for hours after you've stopped exercising. This is commonly referred to as "afterburn" and is pretty much non-existent after low intensity exercise.

So, don't get hung up on the calorie readout on the cardio machines; they're most likely inaccurate anyway. However, if you do want to use them as a basis of comparison just make sure you are sizing up exercise on the same machine, performed in a similar manner.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Fat Sucking Machine by Alwyn Cosgrove

Alwyn's posted this on his blog again recently, which is great, because it definitely bears repeating. It's the perfect response to people who get hung up on the number registering on the scale.

The Fat sucking machine...

Q: This weekend I got on a scale at a friend's house (I don't own one) and much to my disappointment, the numbers haven't budged all that much since my last weigh in several months ago. Now, my clothes fit better, I'm in better shape than I've perhaps EVER been in, I know muscle weighs more than fat, I look GREAT, etc...but those numbers scream overweight to me. They make me feel like I've made no progress at all.

A: First off - your clothes "fit better", you're "in better shape than you've ever been in" and you "look GREAT"... but you're disappointed solely because the bathroom scale didn't go down "All that much"

Here's something we tell clients (thanks to Chris Shugart for the inspiration):

If we had a magic fat loss machine -- that you stepped in and pushed a button and you came out looking EXACTLY how you've always dreamed of looking and feeling - the exact dress or pant size you wanted, with the definition and muscle tone you want, at the bodyfat percentage you want - you can see your abs (if that's what you want) etc etc.

Would you be interested? Of course you would!!

But what if the side effect of the fat loss machine is that it increased bone density and muscle density by 100%. So while you looked and felt better than you've ever felt before -- the scale is 50lbs higher than it's ever been. So for example a 150lb-er would come out looking amazing, but weighing 200lbs...

Would that number on the scale make you not want the other results?

Now what if the machine did the reverse - you look exactly the same as you've always done, but you'd weigh 50lbs less? Would you be happy with that? Probably not right?

Just understand that how you look and feel, and how much you weigh are not necessarily related at all.

The picture on the left shows the difference in size between five pounds of fat (top) and five pounds of muscle (bottom). You can see that it's a pretty big size difference.

If you add ten pounds of muscle and lose ten pounds of fat -- you're going to look like you lost at least 20lbs.

But the scale won't move.



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cardio Queens and Disappointing Fat Loss Results

If you belong to a gym, I'm sure you've seen them. The members (usually women) who spend all their time on the cardio equipment racking up hours and hours. Have you noticed how their shape rarely changes from month to month or even year to year (if they last that long)?

I know that for years we were led to believe that cardiovascular exercise was superior for dropping pounds. However, research has disproved this.

So, imagine my frustration when I took my brother and nephew through their new program on Sunday and found out that my sister-in-law was not doing the quickie strength training routine I had designed for her at Christmas.

She has been using her treadmill but that's it. I'm always glad when people are being active, in whatever ways, rather than being sedentary. And, luckily, she's been doing intervals rather than steady state cardio but she is definitely depriving herself of optimum results by neglecting the strength training.

Check out the results of the following two studies.

Kramer, Volek et al.

Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.

Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 9, pp. 1320-1329, 1999.

Overweight participants were divided into three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet-only group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The diet plus aerobics group lost 15.6 pounds (just one more pound than the diet-only group).

The aerobic training was performed three times a week; over the 12 weeks the subjects worked their way up from 30 minute sessions to 50 minutes. So, over the 12 weeks, the diet plus aerobics group spent anywhere from 18-30 hours performing aerobic exercise which produced only one pound more of fat loss than the diet-only group.

The champs were the diet-aerobics-weights group who discarded 21.1 pounds of fat- 44% more than the diet-only group and 35% more than diet plus aerobics group!

Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, Yeater R.

Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.

J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.

This study separated subjects into aerobic-only group and a resistance training-only group.

The weight training group worked out three times a week, performing 8-15 reps of 10 exercises for 2-4 sets. The aerobics group completed one hour of aerobic exercise (walking, biking or stair climbing) four times per week.

Both groups were limited to 800 liquid calories. (Don't try this at home, folks. Calorie intake was that low to remove any dietary variables and to compare the effects of exercise on metabolism and lean body mass.)

Both groups lost weight and VO2 max increased equally in both groups.

However, the strength training group lost no lean body mass (LBM) and also lost significantly more fat than the aerobic training group. The resistance training group preserved both their LBM and their RMR and although the aerobics group lost weight, they also experienced a decrease in their resting metabolic rate (RMR).

It's obvious why lowered metabolism would be a problem but why should you care if you lose muscle as long as the scale goes down?

Muscle, along with fat loss, gives you that defined body that most of us want. (No one likes the "skinny-fat" look.) More muscle means you can be more active and independent as you age. Most important to a fat loss discussion, muscle tissue is metabolically active; the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even at rest.

Any magazine, book, or internet guru who promotes long bouts of steady state aerobic exercise over strength training for fat loss is way behind on the research.

If you're interested in fat loss and are not already strength training, what are you waiting for?

Want to get started on an effective resistance training program? Join Body & Soul or contact me about personal training. If you're not in Lancaster, here are my recommendations:

If you are a beginner, check out Craig Ballantyne's TurbulenceTraining. If you've been lifting for and for a while and haven't seen the results you'd like, pick up a copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess.


Monday, February 25, 2008

No Equipment Workout

One of my brothers asked me to design a 30 minute bodyweight workout that he and his son could do together before work/school. (Unfortunately, not the same brother and nephew I mentioned around Christmas.) We went through the routine yesterday.

Warmup- 3 rounds of 10 reps of each of the following 3 exercises:
Prisoner Squats
Wall Pushups

For the actual workout, I've paired non-competing exercises in supersets. Perform the first exercise and then go directly to the second. Then rest 30-60 seconds as needed and repeat.

Work up to 15 reps of each exercise, using good form and a full range of motion (or 15 reps per side when doing individual legs or alternating sides.)

It looks like this:

Stationary Lunges
Pushups (whatever type you can do with good form)

Rest 30-60 seconds as needed.

Stationary Lunges

Rest 30-60 seconds as needed.

Feet on Floor Hip Bridge
Plank Lift

Rest 30-60 seconds as needed.

Feet on Floor Hip Bridge
Plank Lift

Rest 30-60 seconds as needed.

Slow Mountain Climbers

Rest 30-60 seconds as needed.

Slow Mountain Climbers

As you get more fit, you can decrease the amount of rest between supersets. If you have time, you can add a third superset of each of the above exercises.

The guys decided on more frequent but shorter sessions so they will be alternating between strength days and cardio days. My brother does have a treadmill but no other cardio equipment so a little creativity was involved.

I had one of them do 3 minutes on the treadmill while the other did three minutes of easy bodyweight activity such as 50 ankle bounces, 30 uppercuts, 30 jumping jacks, etc. Every 3 minutes they'll switch. If you think that the non-treadmill stuff wouldn't get your heart rate up enough, I'm sure my "trainees" would disagree. :-)

You don't need a roomful of equipment to get in better shape. Start with this basic workout and change up every 4-6 weeks.

If you're interested in fat loss, ditch the soda, sugary "fruit" drinks and processed foods and eat more fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Go easy on the starchy carbs and when you do eat them, choose 100% whole grain over white bread and pasta.

All exercise will help improve your health but if your main priority is fat loss, you must include proper nutrition. Remember, you can't out-train a bad diet.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why Your Workouts Don't Work

This is what I've been saying over and over but sometimes I think it helps when the information comes from other sources, too. :-)

One reason not mentioned in the article that I would definitely have included is an over-reliance on cardiovascular exercise.

Why Your Workouts Don't Work


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finding Your True Motivation

Yesterday, I wrote about how family and friends can sabotage your efforts to get healthy.

To combat the many people and circumstances that may make your job even more challenging, you need to discover the most burning reason you want to get fit. You have to keep asking yourself, "Why?".

Your initial answer may be that you want to look good and feel better about yourself. O.K. but why do you want to look good and feel better? Then your response may be that you're sick of having no energy and staying home alone watching T.V. every night.

When you ask yourself, "Why do I want to get out more?", you may realize that it's because you're lonely and not confident enough to jump into the dating pool feeling the way you do about yourself. Just keep asking why and peeling the onion. You have to keep digging until you discover your deepest motivation for dumping the fat and getting healthy.

Without that true motivation to remind yourself of daily, you're far more likely to give up on your new lifestyle when you're tired and ordering takeout is easier than preparing something healthy or when work gets crazy busy and stressful or when friends tempt you with pizza or when you don't feel like going to the gym.

Making the necessary changes in your nutrition and lifestyle will be easier if you can unearth the root of your desire to be healthy and fit. You'll be more committed to becoming the person you want to be because your desire will be stronger.

As Dr. James Gordon says, "It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not."


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

With Friends Like That...

It's a challenge for most people to drop a significant amount of weight. It's even more of a challenge when your friends and family are not supportive.

I watched The Biggest Loser last night. The contestants were sent home for a week (I think it was probably over the holidays) and then had to return to the ranch and resume the competition.

I was surprised at how many of the "welcome home" celebrations included lots of junk food. These people do not just have 10-20 pounds to get rid of. All of The Biggest Loser contestants are obese. They were returning home after losing anywhere from 33-70+ pounds and were involved in a competition where they could not only regain their health but could win $250,000.

Regarding the food at one gathering, the comment was made that, "everyone here is not on a diet." True, but it would have been such a hardship to have the party center around family, friends and fellowship while offering some healthy snacks rather than tons of donuts, pastries, gravy, etc.? (Of course, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that TBL supplied all the food to increase the dramatics.)

The worst example of sabotage was when contestant Paul went out to eat with his friends and family. He didn't just slip up, he pigged out. Plate after plate of wings arrived at his table and Paul ate plenty.

I absolutely believe in personal responsibility and Paul blew it big time. He let himself and his team down. What appalled me about the behavior of Paul's group was that a few of them were actually taunting him with a huge, decadent dessert they were eating. This is a guy who's father and grandfather died in their 40s and with his lifestyle Paul was following in their footsteps. How anyone who cares about him could be anything less than totally supportive of Paul's efforts to get healthy is beyond my comprehension.

(I do realize that things are not always as they appear on "reality TV". Selective editing, showing scenes out of chronological order, splicing reaction shots into scenes where they didn't really appear, etc. are all SOP on these shows. However, it sure looked liked those folks were going out of their way to entice Paul to eat that dessert.)

It sucks when people try to sabotage your efforts but you can still succeed. Tomorrow, I'll write about the importance of discovering your deepest motivation to help keep you on track even when circumstances make it more challenging.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Do Something

When it comes to getting fit, do you suffer from "paralysis by analysis"?

I'm the first person to preach about getting the most out of your exercise time. In most instances, I believe in performing cardio intervals rather than slow, steady state cardio. If you are not an experienced and knowledgeable exerciser, I advocate hiring a good fitness coach to teach you proper exercise form and to get you started on a balanced strength training routine.

All that being said, the bottom line is to start eating healthy and get moving. I would much rather see people do something rather than spending hours on the internet trying to decipher the "best" way to get in shape.

I constantly see people new to exercise posting questions on online forums such as:

* Which cardio machine is better for losing weight?

* Should I do cardio or lifting first?

* Should I do a total body or split routine?

* What ratio of carbs/protein/fats should I eat for fat loss?

* How many reps should I do per exercise?

* Is it true I'll burn more fat doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach?

* Which is better, exercising 4 times a week for 30 minutes per session or 3 times a week for 45 minutes?

The answers to some of those questions could make a difference in your fat loss efforts but the possible difference in results will not rival the difference between doing something and doing nothing.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying you shouldn't ask questions and learn about something before you just jump in. However, some people take it to extremes. Because they read differing opinions, they are afraid of doing something "wrong" so they keep searching for the definitive program or the newest guru. Let's face it, surfing the internet is not an activity that's going to help you dump excess fat. If it was, the majority of Americans would not be overweight.

Alwyn Cosgrove tells the story of a guy who bought one of his products and had a question about the weight he should use for a particular exercise complex. He sent a total of 9 emails over a weekend to AC, his gym and the company that ships his products. The customer stated that he was very upset that no one had gotten back to him yet because he "really wanted to get started."

Had this gentleman just gone to the gym, used some common sense and started out with a light or moderate weight, he would been making progress. He wouldn't have injured himself and he could have simply increased the resistance if the exercise was too easy. Instead, he sat around for 4 days waiting for a response. Even if he had ended up doing the complexes with a weight that wasn't challenging enough, he would have been closer to his goal than he got by not exercising at all.

Start today. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Start walking and doing some body weight exercises and continue to progress as you're able.

Do something.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Top 4 Tips For Keeping the Weight Off

Many people drop excess pounds only to regain them (and oftentimes more).

Researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from a survey mailed to U.S. adults and found 4 behaviors that will dramatically increase your chances of maintaining your weight loss.

1. Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

2. Engage in 150 minutes or more of physical activity per week - that's just 21.5 minutes a day or 50 minutes 3 times a week.

3. Restrict your visits to fast food restaurants - eating fast food, even as little as twice a week, was associated with significant less success in maintaining weight loss.

4. Believe that you can successfully follow a healthy lifestyle - it may sound insignificant but a negative outlook on your ability to maintain healthy behaviors will sabotage your efforts.

So, just eat your veggies and fruits, move regularly, stay out of fast food joints and believe in yourself. Nothing extreme; doable for anyone.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Study Shows Exercise is the Fountain of Youth

Everything that gets worse with age gets better with exercise.
The fountain of youth is in your health club.
~Dr. Karl Knopf

According to a recent study of the lifestyles and cells of 2,401 twins published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found a big difference between the cells of regular exercisers and those of their coach potato counterparts.

The cells of the active participants displayed a slowing of the changes associated with the aging process. In fact, their cells looked liked the cells of inactive people who were 10 years their junior.

There are a ton of
benefits from regular physical activity
and this is just one more. Most of us want to live healthy and productive lives and maintain our independence as we age. Just a few hours of exercise each week will help you accomplish that.

It's never too late to begin exercising and you're never too old to experience the benefits. Numerous studies have showed people moving from walkers to canes and those who were using canes to walking unassisted. Falls are a major concern for older folks and weight training can make your stronger and improve your balance.

The oldest member of Body & Soul Fitness Studio is 91 years old; she joined when she was 86 and had never lifted a dumbbell in her life. Just the other day she told me again how good she feels and that she can tell a difference when she misses workouts (on those rare occasions).

If you want to improve the quality of your life - at any age - get moving.

To read more about the study:
Exercise Slows Aging Process
Sedentary Lifestyles Mean Aging Faster

Monday, February 11, 2008

5 Reasons Why Aerobics Suck for Fat Loss

More proof of why I keep telling you that steady state cardio is not the way to go if you want to drop fat.

5 Reasons Why Aerobics Suck for Fat Loss
by Trey Eckerman
The Fat Loss Expert Blog

January 24, 2008

If you know anything about me, you know that I don't believe that aerobic exercise helps you lose body fat. In fact, there are many reasons why aerobics absolutely suck for fat loss and can actually hinder your fat loss success.

Aerobics is a term coined by Dr. Kenneth Cooper in the late 1960's which became very popular in the 70's into the turn of the century. He believed that slow sustainable intensity exercise is the end all be all of exercise prescription. He launched the jogging phase, step classes, dance classes and such which is supposed to reduce fat and enhance healthy function.

I am really good friends with a fitness professional that coaches at Cooper Clinic in Dallas and I promise you his clients aren't doing aerobics for fat loss. Even the trainers at the "father of aerobics" facility resistance train and interval train for fat loss.

I also train a former marathoner who has competed in many races and actually won one a few years back. After he stopped competing, he continued to look to long distance running as a way to control his weight. He developed many nagging injuries and was never really satisfied with his "stringy" body.

He turned to me for advice. After reducing his long distance running and starting him on a resistance training program, he is muscular and ripped to the bone at 56 years young.

These are a couple of reasons why I don't think aerobics are useful for your fat loss program.

With that said, here are 5 more reasons why I think aerobic training sucks for fat loss.

1) It takes way too much time.

In the fast paced, time crunched world we live in today, time becomes a big uexcuse for not changing your body. The last thing you need to do is concentrate your time on a mode of exercise that doesn't change your body. To burn the amount of calories equal to the total daily calories burned through interval training or resistance training, you would have to spend over an hour each day of constant movement performing aerobics.

2) It tears down your body.

In order to burn enough calories to really drop weight (note I didn't say body fat) you really have to do a high amount of work just as stated earlier. This really tears down your body. If you have tried aerobics (classes, jogging, lap swimming etc.) you probably notice you start to develop achy joints. Tendonitis in your knees, shoulders and other joints develop easily with this much use. When you start to hurt, you stop exercising. There could be nothing more detrimental to your success.

3) The more you do it, the more efficiently your body performs it.

You have probably noticed that you get much, much better at jogging when you do it a lot. That is why marathon runners log mile after mile. Guess what? When you get better at running, you are burning less calories while you are running. You then need to run longer (or faster) to burn the same amount of calories. When you run faster, you start to get out of aerobic training and get into anaerobic training. Anaerobic training can come from resistance training or interval training. It works much, much better.

4) It turns you into a walking coat hanger.

If you had the choice, would you rather look like a marathon runner or a sprinter? I would guess that if you are reading what I have to say, you would rather look like a sprinter. Sprinters are lean and have a very nice athletic look. Marathon runners look like they can barely keep their tank tops hanging on their shoulders. They seriously remind me of a human coat hanger. Train to increase muscles and you will burn a tremendous amount of fat and you will achieve the body you want.

5) You will miss out on a mode of exercise which actually raises your metabolism.

Going back to point #1, aerobics take a lot of time. If you are performing an hour of aerobics per day there is no way you could have the time or energy to perform resistance training. If you aren't performing resistance training or intervals you are wasting your time. I usually don't like to speak in absolutes but in this case, you absolutely have to perform high intensity workouts to lose fat.

If you are wondering what the best workouts you can do to lose body fat, there is no better resource than Craig Ballantyne's www.TurbulenceTraining

Trey Eckerman is a fitness coach specializing in accelerated fat loss programs. He has written and supervised fat loss programs for numerous individuals ranging from former highly competitive athletes to previously sedentary beginners. He is the owner of a website that is geared to helping people reach their fat loss and other fitness goals. He also owns Right at Home Fitness, a national fitness coaching company specializing in fitness programs in clients' homes.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

You Are Being Lied To

Do you know why most TV hucksters offer a money back guarantee on their infomercial products? It's not because they're "so sure that you'll get results". It's because they have to; it’s required to by law. Lucky for them, most people don’t bother to return those disappointing gadgets or pills.

Sorry. There are no magic weight loss potions that will make you effortlessly lose 30 pounds in 30 days, you can’t get "six-pack" abs just by using some gizmo a few minutes a day and hair cannot be painlessly removed by ripping it out of your skin.

If you want to lose weight and reshape your body, the healthiest, safest, longest lasting route is proper nutrition and regular exercise. The sooner you accept the fact that there is no effortless way to get the healthy, trim, body you want, the closer you'll be to getting it.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More Reasons to Quit Smoking

If lowering your risk of lung cancer and emphysema, saving money and not having to brace the elements to get your nicotine fix is not enough, below are a few more reasons to kick the habit.

* Researchers at the University of Western Australia found that smokers are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-smokers.

* Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop one of the most common forms of skin cancer. Doctors at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands analyzed the lifestyles of 580 men and women with different types of skin cancer. They discovered that smokers were three to four times more likely to develop "squamous cell cancer". One to 10 cigarettes a day increased the risk almost 2 1/2 times; 11 to 20 raised the risk three times and 20 or more cigarettes a day quadrupled the risk.

* According to a study in the journal Nature Genetics, toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause a woman’s eggs to die prematurely resulting in an increased chance of fertility problems or early menopause.

* In a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology, smoking everyday was associated with a 60% increase in the risk of arthritis compared to the risk for those with no history of smoking. After eliminating the effects of other factors that can contribute to arthritis risk, researchers found a definite link between past or present smoking and a higher risk of developing arthritis.

* Smoking causes wrinkles. According to research, cigarette smoke interferes with the body's ability to renew skin and causes premature aging.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Click on the map.

(I must have done something wrong because the map doesn't change on its own but it works fine if you click on it. Just hit the back button or arrow to return to No Pink Dumbbells.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sugar, Sugar

No, this isn't a post about that annoying Archies song. Then again, it wasn't as bad as Seasons in the Sun. :-p


Although sugar consumption has been linked to raising levels of obesity, tooth decay and diabetes, food companies are continuing to increase the amount of sugar they add to many of their products. Processed foods contain some of the highest amounts of sugar, often with levels closely approaching or even higher than 20 grams of sugar per 100 grams of food.

When you think of sugary foods, you may think of cupcakes and pies but breakfast cereals, bread, and even soup have seen large increases in added sugar. It’s now routine to find whole grain bread that contains almost a teaspoon of sugar per 3 slices. In 1978, tomato soup had less than 3 grams of sugar; today it has more than 6 grams. In that same time period, Kellogg’s Special K went from approximately 10 grams of sugar for every 100 grams of cereal to 17 grams, almost equal to the sugar level in vanilla ice cream.

U.S. sugar consumption has climbed dramatically over the years. At the end of the 1800's it averaged about 20 pounds per person per year. Current estimates range from 142-170 pounds per person per year!

The average American eats 20 teaspoons of added sugars per day, twice the USDA recommended limit of 10 teaspoons for people eating a healthy 2,000 calorie diet.

People are always looking for the latest diet. No fat, low fat, low carb, no carb, cabbage soup, etc. If you did nothing else but limit your consumption of processed foods (most anything that comes in a bag or box) and added sugar, you would lose weight.

And it's not just a matter of expanding waistlines. For information on the negative effect on excess sugar on your health go to Sugar's Effect on Your Health