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Eating Too Little Contributes to Weight Gain


That’s right, eating too little at the wrong times can actually have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day weight loss is still a very basic calorie calculation: weight lost = calories out – calories in. Consume more than you burn and you gain weight. Burn more than you consume andyou loose weight. Simple math.

However, eating too little at critical times of the day, like breakfast or prior to exercise can actually have a negative effect on your ability to loose fat.

Skipping breakfast, for instance can create a hormone imbalance that triggers the body to go into”starvation mode,” and consequently triggers the body to store more fat than it otherwise would by reducing your metabolism. Not good.

Further, as the day progresses, this hormonal imbalance unnaturally increases appetite to the point where you’re far more likely to overeat for your next couple of meals according to the Journal of American Nutrition. That’s even worse.

Eating too little prior to exercise is another frequently made mistake.
Whether you’re heading to the club to lose body fat, add muscle tone, or just feel good about yourself, it is critical that you have a small pre-workout meal.

And here’s why.

Energy for exercise always comes from a blend of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. But fat sources only work at very low intensity levels, and carbohydrates are quickly utilized and must be constantly replenished.

So, while you might hope that your body will always use fat as an energy source during exercise, stored fat is metabolized ONLY when you are either sedentary or exercising at a very, very low level of intensity.  You will, indeed, burn more calories when you exercise at more rigorous levels, but you’ll burn no more fat. Check out my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report for LOTS more detail on this.

Most exercise is aerobic in nature. The energy source that will help you work harder to burn more calories, and work more efficiently to recruit additional muscle fibersis carbohydrates.  Unlike fat, which is stored as fat, carbohydrates are stored in the blood stream, muscle tissues, and organs as glycogen and glucose (and, technically ATP at the cellular level, but we’ll ignore that for now).

These immediately available “sugars” are your primary energy source for exercise… at least until they’re gone, which can be in as little as 20 minutes, depending on your metabolism and the nature of your exercise. Once the supply is spent (metabolized to exercise), your body needs to replace those spent sources with new sources .. .your pre-workout meal.

So, when you’re consuming your pre workout meal, you’re really filling your gas tank for the second half of your workout.

If you get it right, you’re in good shape for high energy levels and higher levels of intensity during the second half of your workout.  If you get it wrong, you’ll “hit a wall”, struggle with even moderate intensities, and ask your body to metabolize less efficient sources for energy, like proteins. That’s right, even if you’ve got 30 pounds of body fat to loose, if your body needs energy sources beyond the immediately available carbohydrate sources, it doesn’t convert your stored fat, it converts proteins!

Unfortunately, it gets worse yet, for if those proteins aren’t in your bloodstream (from a consumed meal), your body converts stored proteins …your muscle tissue … through a process called catabolism.

And if you are catabolising you will almost certainly gain fat because maintaining lean body mass is a key factor in loosing body fat!

So, (ahem), here’s the skinny on your pre-workout meal. You don’t need to have much, but be sure that you have a few hundred (200 to 400, depending on your body weight) balanced calories between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise. This window will vary from person to person (and your hydration levels and prior daily food intake), but 30 to 60 minutes ahead of your workout is a good place to start. A well balanced snack should consist of approximately 25% protein, 65% carbohydrate and 10% fat. One half of a peanut butter sandwich and half a banana handle this perfectly.  Or a yogurt and a few crackers.

This pre-workout requirement is also well recognized, and aggressively marketed by the nutritional supplements industry (Cliff, PowerbarGatoraide, etc.). Products from these suppliers also nicely handles the requirement.  However, just be sure that you consume the product far enough ahead of exercise for benefit: it takes most digestive systems 30 to 40 minutes to move food to the bloodstream. Consuming these productsduring exercise is almost always too late for any benefit for exercise shorter than 90 minutes.


Looking for more healthy tips on eating right and proper nutrition?Ask me about our New Nutrition Together program!

10 Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a Personal Trainer


I had the good fortune of chatting with a middle aged woman from Minneapolis at last Saturday’s Divorcing Diva’s conference.

She wasn’t looking for training, but had stopped at our booth primarily for a signature on her card to be eligible for a drawing.   One thing led to another and we talked for almost 30 minutes about diet, exercise, scheduling, and personal training.

As it turns out, she trains at Lifetime.  Four days a week.   But before I could ask her how that was working out for her (she had somewhere upwards of 50 pounds to loose by quick inspection), she went on to volunteer a few things about the trainers there at Lifetime.   She had lots of complaints about how they were all 20 somethings that “knew it all,” but didn’t really “understand a middle aged female body,” and really just “… didn’t listen well on the whole.”

I felt sorry for her in no small way.  Unfortunately, she was right, and I operate in an industry where expectations are frequently unmet.  I’ve interviewed the kind of trainer she was talking about, and see them in action myself as I make my way around to the big box clubs in town.

We didn’t get any realistic leads from our booth, but it made my day to be reminded that we’re not that trainer.   I personally handle recruiting and training and the client experience here at Fitness Together.  My staff is the best of the best, and they push each other to get better.  And I’m the ‘parental guidance’ that’s missing from the big and little box trainers.  Who’s training the trainer there!?

And I had afew more thoughts, so here then are my

… Top 10 Tips for Finding the Right Personal Trainer.

1. There is no licensing requirement in most states. Unlike chiropractors, nutritional consultants, and massage therapists, Personal Training does not require licensing. It’s been suggested that states require licensing for the entire 25 years I’ve been in the industry, but it never seems to find any traction. In fact, you don’t need a degree, nor do you really even need a certification to operate as a Personal Trainer. You yourself, in fact, could call yourself a Personal Trainer and no one with any authority could force you to drop the declaration. While all of our trainers do have degrees from 4 year programs in exercise science related fields, and it does in fact make them better trainers, some trainers get along just fine with practical experience and energy. Simply recognize that without formal kinesiology and physiology training, you do assume higher risk of injury.

2. That said, most Personal Trainers will at the least boast certifications. And what a mess! You’ll see ACE, AFPT, NSCA, ASCM, and UBYA along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of others. It’s a verifiable alphabet soup out there, and unless you’re actually in the industry, you really wouldn’t know the difference between a B6T from CYA and an Advanced Certification from NTSE. I’ve personally completed a few myself, see them daily on applications from trainers, and even I get confused! Some certifications, like NSCA an ASCM are very technical and difficult to obtain. Others are web based and can be completed with just a few hours on the internet! And even then, authenticating the certificate will be a challenge. So, you’ll need to do some research and don’t be shy about directly requesting a copy of your potential trainer’s certification. If certifications are all your trainer carries for credentials (unlike an actual degree), be sure to go online and look at the curricula. Oh, and be sure to ask about the currency of their CPR certification.

3. Nutritional Education is normally not part of most programs. In fact, even the degreed programs our staff has completed are light on nutritional education. And trainers will be all over the map on nutritional advice. Be extremely cautious if your trainer-to-be spends a lot of time pitching supplements. First, many states, Minnesota included, prohibit the ‘prescription’ of diet unless you are a licensed nutritionist. But a lot of trainers make significantly more profit from pushing and selling supplements than they do from training. If you find your trainer recommending more than a single supplement per day, or a month’s supply of pre and post workout supplementation, your best bet is to simply walk away.

4. Training women is much different than training men. I’ve run into a lot of male bodybuilders over the years who make Personal Training their profession. Highly accomplished themselves, a lot of these guys know a great deal about training young male athletes, and are quite good at it. But it takes an entirely different type of training, and an entirely different style of personal interaction to work with women, children, seniors, or special needs clients. Training an athletic, healthy 20 -something is much, much, much different than training a 50 something woman who hasn’t done much exercise in the past 20 years! Make sure that the trainer you interview has experience and positive results with someone just like you!

5. Personal and Professional Boundaries vary significantly. Dating your personal trainer is completely unprofessional. We had a trainer on staff a few years ago who came in with a fresh haircut. He looked good with it, and I told him so! He responded that he “…had just learned that most personal training clients fantasize about their trainer, and that if our clients were going to fantasize about him he at least wanted to look good!” Honestly, I can’t confirm the statistic. And I don’t know why clients sometimes tell us the things they tell us … we’re really not psychologists! But with regular, close contact, and regular (sometimes overly) personal conversations, the illusion of a friendship sometimes surfaces. However, if your Personal Trainer is a true professional, dating … and even casual fraternization … is completely over the line. A true Personal Training Professional begins and ends his relationship with you with your training session. Directly ask your personal training candidate what her policy is on dating clients.

6. Scheduling issues are likely to exist. Anyone who’s worth training with is going to be busy enough to be at least slightly unavailable to train you at your preferred time. At least initially. For FT MSP, we normally wedge the 1st few weeks of training into a mutually acceptable, but awkward schedule for new clients. Over time, things eventually converge to at least mostly acceptable for the client. As you might expect though, before and after work hot spots will always be on the schedule. Be sure to check your would be trainer’s schedule for the next few weeks before writing your check.

7. Turnover is extremely high in this industry. Due primarily to the lack of parental guidance mentioned above, Personal Training is an extremely high turnover industry. One statistic recently showed an average trainer turnover of about 6 months. Because, like you, I need to get out of my office to exercise, I personally see this kind of turnover all the time at the big boxes where I exercise. Very few trainers work independently these days. Most are employed by and paid through their fitness facility. When they leave, any unused sessions they still owe you will likely get brokered to other trainers in the facility. This could be good (perhaps even great!), or bad, but you need to ask about turnover and session transferability should your training candidate move on. And what if the trainer you hire simply doesn’t work for you? Personality friction sometimes exists. If a few sessions go poorly, can your unused sessions be trained by a colleague? Or sister facility across town?

8. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anyone who promises you that you’ll loose 25# in the next 25 days is selling snake oil. Oh, it can in fact be done, but it won’t be safe, and it won’t be permanent. If your ultimate objective is to incorporate safe, permanent, positive changes into your life, be sure that your trainer understands that. Be sure that you’re clear about your goals, and don’t let your don’t let your trainer change them into dreams. In fact, one of the most unfortunate consequences of how most trainers are now employed is that those that do well in the big box gyms do so primarily becausethey can sell better than other trainers. And one of the reasons for why turnover is as high as it is is because thousands of highly skilled, enthusiastic, would-be exercise professionals are horrible at selling. It is truly tragic that schools are churning out skilled exercise professionals, and the 1st thing their employer asks them to do is become a salesperson! So, if it starts to feel like you’re being ‘sold’ something from your potential trainer, chances are that she’s better at selling than she might be at training. If you’re not answering a lot of questions, but are instead listening to a lot of promises, you’re talking to the wrong person.

9. Do the research. I like to compare hiring a trainer to hiring an orthodontist. If you don’t have teenagers, this won’t make complete sense, but a trainer, like an orthodontist is someone who …

  1. You will see very frequently and need to at least like a little bit;
  2. Needs to have acceptable availability with your schedule;
  3. Is reasonably easy to get to several times per week. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic for 40 minutes just getting to your trainer. You’ll be late frequently, and you’ll also come to dread the event, which will eventually reduce your attendance, which makes reaching your goals nearly impossible; and, finally …
  4. Needs to have proven results for patients with your specific background and goals

So, be sure to ask for and call several references. Make sure that those references are like you. Ask them about scheduling, results, nutritional advice, and socialization policies. Ask, as well about basic things like personal hygiene. Are they always cleanly shaven, with fresh breath, and without body odor? This might seem like it’s getting a bit too personal, but I can assure you, you don’t want a trainer in your face with bad breath or body odor. And very, very few people will actually volunteer that her trainer has BO unless you specifically ask them.

10. Find out who the boss is. Who do you turn to if your trainer crosses that personal/professional boundary? Towhom is your potential trainer eventually accountable? What is the background of the guy in charge? How long has he or she been in business? And whatabout their professional network: what professional and business associations do they belong to? What is their presence in the community like? What is their wellness sphere of influence like? Do they work with and have strong relationships with other wellness professionals in massage therapy, chiropractic care and nutrition. A quick google of the boss’ name can give you a lot of information!


Unselfishness’ Edge in Exercise Programs


Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”  

– Vince Lombardi

I have a bike race on Saturday.  On Tuesday I needed a short, hot spiky interval workout to prepare and condition my body for clearing the flood of lactic acid soon to be heading my way!

I’ve done this type of interval training plenty of times before … on the bike, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, running hills, etc.  But on Tuesday morning, with that deliciously crisp fall air still hanging around, I headed for the rink for some open hockey.

Hockey’s an ideal game for short, hot, spiky interval training: skate hard, blow up, get off the ice and recover.  Winning (or trying to win) the race for a puck is a very quick way to find the Red Zone.  Do it again and again and again and again and you’ve got a nearly perfect hot spiky interval workout!

But what makes my engagement with the game truly unique, and why it is particularly effective for me in this way has mostly to do with mostly sucking at hockey.

I did not grow up playing the game in an organized way (I began playing at 41) , so when I jump into a local game, I’m almost always the least skilled player on the ice.  What happens next is, I think, fundamental human nature: recognizing my limitations, my primary <ahem> goal is to simply not be THE liability on my team.  It’s rare that I hit the net with the puck, so above all else, I don’t want to be THAT GUY creating the turnover or easy goal that let’s my team down.

I’ve worked extremely hard in individual workouts throughout my life, but almost never as hard as I do when my team is counting on me, or when I’m cycling in a group sprint ride.

  It isn’t necessarily for everyone, but I think group exercise is valuable in at least a limited way for most folks.

I still prefer to train mostly by myself for lots of reasons, but on occasion,  what is helpful to my overall program, and what I NEED most is someone ELSE to count on me.

And THIS is way I’m so excited about the upcoming Rollout of our Small Group Training Program!  

We now have a way to deliver well managed personal training in a small, teamwork-like environment!

PACK WEEK IS THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 26TH!

Limited space still available, but call now if you want to jump in!

Carbohydrate Quiz


Carbohydrates for Dummy’s – Part 1


A client recently asked me if I supported low carbohydrate diets.

 I responded with an absolute maybe.

It depends, I told her … are you interested in reducing all carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, refined grain products, sugars, and/or starch?”  

I got “the gaze,” scheduled her for a Nutrition Together session, and decided it was time to write it all down.

Here then, is Part One of a Three Part series on Carbohydrates …

… compete with two polls … please vote!  And, as always, if you comment on my posting, you’ll be entered into a contest to win free personal training!

We’re going to get a bit technical here in the 1st week.  You don’t really need to know the chemistry (I’ll give my layman’s recommendations in week 3), but following along will definitely improve your awareness of marketing hype and improve your diet!

Question # 1 for you:

A (very) Brief History of the Carbohydrate Conversation

If you thought that Low Carbohydrate (Carb) diets were a consequence of modern dietary remediation, you’d be right.  And you’d also be quite wrong.   

In fact, many anthropologists believe that the early hunter-gatherer humans of thousands of years ago consumed a diet largely consisting of proteins and fats with relatively low carbohydrate content.   Of course, they suffered from very low life expectancies, widespread disease, and chronic illnesses, so it’s probably best not to give too much credit to that <ahem> tribe’s eating habits.   They were also generally more active than our current society. 

More recently, physicians sporadically treated diabetic patients with medications and low carb diets as early as the 1700s … more than 3 centuries ago. 

And if that’s not all, the Glycemic index, an indication of how quickly carbohydrates metabolize, was actually introduced by Dr. David Jenkins around 1981 more than 30 years ago!

But the “low carb craze” as we now know it really started in the 1990s when Dr. Robert Atkins introduced his diet and philosophy on fat.

By that time, of course, highly refined grains had permeated much of the American diet, and, according to the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, they still do.

Considering the position we held on the Obesity Curve in the 1990s, carbohydrates became an easy target for a problem that seems to be getting <ahem> bigger. 

Dozens of Medical Research Communities have studied low carb diets over time, developing both staunch supporters of and staunch opponents to the concept.

In short, it’s a complex topic.  While much there is much consensus around protein and fat intake requirements for varying levels of human activity, the camps on carbohydrates are very much divided. 

 

Further complicating the picture is that we have a very diverse range of activities to consider.  Athletes, weekend warriors, and fitness freaks all need different nutrition than the average consumer.  And the average consumer is different in activity behaviors than highly sedentary folks in the community.
In the end, no diet is right for everyone, and, over the next few weeks, I’ll show you why!
What’s more, carbohydrates cover an extremely diverse category of foods.
 Everything from vegetables to vermicelli is under the carb cover.
Simple table sugar is a carbohydrate just as a bowl of oat meal is.  So to, are cookies, pie crusts, and brussel sprouts.
Everything from simple fruits to complex, highly refined grain food products has been thrown under the carbohydrates-are-bad bus, and that’s just wrong.

Organically Speaking …

Carbohydrates, as the name suggests, are a long chained carbon molecule (carbo -) with oxygen and hydrogen (hydrates).  The ratios of hydrogen and oxygen are about 2:1 (H2O), though the molecule itself has very little in common with water.
Proteins and Fats are also long chained carbon molecules, but with much different ratios of hydrogen and oxygen.   (See the skinny on fats and protein primer).  
The simplest of all carbohydrates is a single unit of a saccharide,  or sugar.  It is called a monosaccharide (C6H12O6).    How the molecule is structured, however, determines what type of a sugar it is, even though it has the same molecular formula (C6H12O6).

Three commonly recognized monosaccharides are Glucose, Galactose, and Fructose.   Glucose, of course, is human blood sugar, an immediately ready source of energy for cellular respiration – the product of which is ATP, our primary energy source.

 

Galactose is the sugar commonly found in dairy product (and is responsible for ‘lactose intolerance’), while Fructose is the sugar found in honey and fruits.    

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a fructose manufactured as an sweetening ingredient from corn starch,  and is a highly controversial processed food ingredient.

 

In fact, if you believe Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivor’s Dilemma, Corn and High Fructose Corn syrup play a major part in the American Obesity Epidemic.
Enough for now.  Next week – the Glycemic Index, and Simple vs. Complex Carbs. 
But before that, please tell me …

Eight Simple Summer Fitness Tips


With the temperatures hovering above 90, vacations planned, schools on holiday, and the in-laws inbound it’s easy to get distracted from your fundamental fitness regimen.

We all struggle with consistency from time to time, and summer is a classic example.

Rather than fight the friction, here are a few easy ways to adjust your life and lifestyle to go with the flow when it seems like your exercise program is falling apart.  Here are my Eight Simple Summer Fitness Tips …

1. Lift Weights two to four times per week no matter what. As described in detail in previous blog entries, and is well documented elsewhere,  increased lean body mass increases your metabolism which significantly increases your calorie burn. Load bearing exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis … a threat to both men and women.

2. Just Move More. Use the spread office suggestions from my January blog. Cut your own grass. Walk your own dog. Walk down the hallway to check with a colleague instead of phoning her. Park in remote areas of every parking lot you park in. Use the stairs. All of these simple, additional body movements add up quickly in the long run.

3. Ride your bike to work at least once weekly. Check our May blog to begin your new commuting life style. You’ll look better, feel better, be healthier, and reduce your carbon footprint all at once!

4. Eat Clean. The American Journal of Medicine reports that Americans eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily has gone from 42% in 1988 to 26% in 2006.   One thing is for sure: if you don’t buy them, you won’t eat them, so be sure to spend at least 25% of your total grocery shopping experience in the produce section!

5. Eat Smart. Smaller meals digest better than larger ones. And they help keep your stomach smaller. Don’t eat big meals before bed time. Do eat breakfast every day. Don’t get crazy on the carbohydrates, and limit or eliminate highly saturated fat content foods from your diet.  Need even more help?  Ask me about our Nutrition Together program.

6. Get enough rest each day. Proper rest assists with recovery from exercise. It also affects your job performance, and is critical to regulating insulin. Researchers have also found that proper rest can reduce your risk of developing cancer.

7. Stretch Daily. Certainly, you can do yoga to improve your flexibility, but a simple home stretching regimen is plenty sufficient for most people. More important than anything else is that you build a mere 10 to 15 minutes of stretching into your day. Here, as well, are a few ways to time-slice stretching into your day.

8. Hydrate. Develop the habit of carrying a water bottle with you where ever you go. Drinking plenty of water helps you digest food better, increases muscle and joint flexibility, and helps keep your breath fresh!

And  here’s a bonus tip …

9. Make incremental adjustments. Changing habits takes time, effort, and determination. Rather than attempting to tackle all 8 of these tips tomorrow, pick and seriously focus on just one for each of the next 8 weeks.

Got a tip or some feedback for us!?  

Leave a comment and be automatically entered for a free week of personal training! 

Ready to Sweat!? Small Group Training is coming to Fitness Together Minneapolis!


Same great managed training & nutrition programming in groups of 2 to 4.

Bring your A game though, because it gets a little competitive!

Current clients will be offered a taste early this fall!