What Is The Best Type of Exercise?

squats
One of the most common questions a health care provider gets asked is “what is the best type of exercise?” And one look at the internet and you can see why people ask this question. There must be 1000’s of programs available online. Each professing to be the new “hit” workout program. So to the untrained eye, it must seem like being caught in a hurricane of advice.

Behind the question “what exercise should I do?” is the hope that there is a quick fix program that will allow someone to quickly get into shape. I hate to break it to all of you but, there is no such system. Anyone claiming to have discovered a short cut and wants to sell it to you has only discovered a short cut into your wallet. Be wary.

“What about P90X and other “fast acting” exercise regimens?”

I am well aware that certain programs are incredibly intense and will therefore trigger metabolic changes faster than others. Heck, if we all had to hike 60 km per day for the next 3 weeks, we’d all be a bit less chubby. The problem with the “new” type of programs like P90X or Insanity is that they are, for most people, unsustainable. You may get through the first 90 days, but can you live the program as a 365 day per year lifestyle? Most cannot. Injury or burn out will get most of you.

This does not mean you won’t ever be able to become super fit. It just means the most successful way to get there will be the gradual one. See my “easy does it” article on ideas to slowly increase your fitness levels. It is certainly not the only way to do it, but it does provide you with a blueprint. But the principle is to ease the body into fitness instead of trying to make up for lost time by going nuclear and tearing your body apart.

In regards to what type of exercise to perform, this is a more difficult question to answer. Everyone is very unique. What works for one individual may not work for another. And if you factor in our personalities (not just our bodies) you have to realize that just because your body likes an exercise, your mind might not. And if you hate something, you will probably psychologically burn out and stop doing it. Interestingly, it seems that what fits your body almost always fits your mind, so this should not be a problem for most of you.yoga-exercise-14020804086s6

Another question that needs to be answered is “what are your goals?” If you are training to improve your performance in a specific sport, you will need to ask the advice of those who regularly train athletes of your variety. If you are like most people, you simply want to look and feel better. In that case you could benefit from what I would label a “basic fitness and aesthetics” type of workout. Essentially this incorporates a variety of different types of exercises ranging from endurance cardio to heavy weight lifting. Always consult a professional trainer if you have no exercise background just to make sure you are not lifting improperly and hurting yourself.

Here is a brief example of this “basic” program:

– once per week, do a 40 to 60 minute cardio type of workout. Whether this is cycling, swimming, running or a boot camp or exercise class, the intensity should be something you can maintain for at least 40 minutes. Also, the system it most challenges should be your cardiovascular, so it should be a constant motion class, not 40 minutes in the gym pulling weights around.

– once per week do a 20 minute high intensity training program. Crossfit is one such method but you can do your own high intensity circuit using body weight exercises or weight lifting circuit. The point is, you are again in a (mostly) constant motion scenario (i.e.: no rest between exercises) for 15 – 20 minutes. So the intensity should be quite high and prevent you from going more than 20 minutes.

– once per week do a heavy lifting workout. This should last approximately 30 minutes and only cover 2 muscle groups. You’ll want to chose weights that you can safely lift (do not overdo it!) and have a professional show you good technique. You should always have a spotter with you on heavy days. Chose a weight that allows you to perform 6 to 8 reps. Do about 3 to 4 sets for each exercise before moving on. Only do 3 types of exercise for each of the two body parts you choose to train that day. Take about 60 to 90 seconds rest between each set. Your goal is not to sweat as much as possible, but to lift as heavy as you safely can for two body parts. This triggers your strength development, which is a unique affect on the body. Always rotate which body parts you place in this “heavy lifting” category so you can rest your body and develop it thoroughly.

– twice per week do a “bodybuilder’s” workout. Whichever muscles you did not work on your “heavy lifting” day, spread it out over the two “bodybuilding” days. So, let’s say you did chest and back on the heavy day, you can break up the two bodybuilding days as follows: day 1: legs and shoulders, day 2: biceps and triceps (I would do some core exercises on each of the 5 exercise days). “Bodybuilding” type workouts use weights that allow you to hit the 10 to 20 rep ranges. And you will do 3 to 4 different exercises for each of the two body parts. This means about 12 to 16 sets per muscle group.

– once per week do a “body awareness” workout. The goal of this workout is not to sweat or change your physique, but to learn to feel and use your body. Yoga is a great way to achieve this and will help you become more flexible as well. Professional trainer Ido Portal has some great body awareness routines for you to use. You want to challenge your balance and coordination with these types of workouts so you can increase your ability to master your movements and increase your range of motion.

Again, nothing is set in stone. If you are not happy with the above workout, find something that works for you. Even if it is simply playing a sport in a recreation league. The basic goal is to get and stay moving and to start at your level of fitness. With the above program, either slowly layer in the days until you have worked up to 6 days per week or lower the intensity dramatically to prevent over training.

Best of luck!

Set goals… and actually reach them

1-1266409857RRS3The Olympics are over and the new school year is around the corner. I don’t know about you, but watching world class athletes run, jump and swim at peak performance inspires me.

I love goal setting. Yet in the past, I set too many goals with too many deadlines. I started on a lot of journeys that did not end where they were supposed to. So I refined my goal setting methods.

One thing I tossed out was the big deadline. This is that “etched into stone” date at which you want something completed. I see this as the biggest motivation killer. What happens if you get sick? Or injured? Or have a family or personal crisis? Have a goal in mind for your journey, but do not add a set date.

Instead, make a weekly routine up that is broken down into daily tasks. Make them reasonable. For example, if your goal is to increase hip flexibility and the amount of weight you can squat, start small.

MONDAY: squat with same weight you have been using but add 3 reps. Stretch for 12 minutes instead of 10. squats

Then, every time you squat, add either 1 rep, or 2.5 lbs per side (5 overall). Usually do both, back and forth. If you hit the wall, don’t add anything for two or more weeks, just keep squatting without going backwards on your reps or weight. Slowly add 30 seconds here and there to your stretching.

Off you go on a slow but risk-free and fully realistic journey towards constant improvement.

People often over shoot their goal setting and force unrealistic changes onto their lives. Life does not work this way. Change has to be gradual but constant. So slowing down the demands actually increases the speed of results. If you are driving a car and you want to make a 90 degree turn, you cannot go immediately to a 90 degree without turning the wheels 1, 2, 3… 10… 25… 75 degrees and so on. Life is about increments, not instantaneous results.

If you can introduce a slow, flexible, daily routine towards improved performance, you will successfully change your long term life style towards your goals. Whether they be financial, relational or health oriented.

Dream big, act small. Get there!

Smart Rest

lionrest

If you’re a professional or amateur athlete, or you’re just a fitness fanatic, you may want to consider resting more…

Over-training is a phenomenon that is becoming better understood. Many enthusiastic athletes forget to listen to their body as they pursue excellence. But this will serve to decrease performance in the long run, not improve it. Many fitness participants follow gruelling schedules and push themselves hard. If you are in the category of people who train regularly you will want to realize when over training begins to set in and you’ll also want to adopt a “smart rest” program as part of your training.

The first goal of being well rested and therefore in peek performance condition is to ensure you are not already in the state of over-training. Here are the most obvious signs of this condition:

  • often getting ill/sick
  • low mood, feeling depressed
  • low motivation
  • trouble sleeping despite feeling exhausted
  • chronic fatigue
  • injured often
  • constant thirst
  • performance decreasing even though training harder
  • a resting heart rate (first thing in morning before getting out of bed) that is faster than normal for you

If you have 4 or more of the above (especially the resting heart rate), you qualify as being over-trained. It’s high time to take some time off. A solid 3 weeks of no exercise followed by one or two weeks of very low intensity, part time exercise will do you much good. Then head into a 2 week period of moderate exercise and then finally, take another full week off.

OVERTRAIN REST

Be warned, if you are drastically over trained however, it could take several weeks — even a few months — to recuperate. Which is why you want to listen for the beginning signs of over training and not the drastic symptoms.

If you are not over trained (have less than 4 — or none — of the above symptoms) you will want to incorporate “smart rest” techniques to ensure you never get over trained.

What is Smart Rest?

Very simply put, smart rest is pro-active breaks in your training that allows your body to recuperate before you ever go near the over training zone. As we train hard, week in and week out, our multiple body systems can start to fall behind in recovery. This can be our nervous system, our psychological state, our immune system or our musculoskeletal system. Depending on what other stresses are going on in our lives and how well nourished we are, any one of those systems can start lagging behind and cause over training to set in. By pro-actively resting before anything falls far behind, we are protecting ourselves from over training.

How Do I Implement Smart Rest?

Once every 6 to 10 weeks (you decide by listening in on how your body and mind are feeling), take an entire week off training. During this time, you can go for walks, but no exercise. None. You will want to push the fluids more than usual during your week of rest and you will want to stay away from alcohol and high sugar foods. Nutrition, hydration and rest are the antidotes to over training. Make sure you are going to bed early and on time during this week of rest.

smart rest chart

Not only will smart rest prevent over training but it keeps your body and mind working at their peek. This will prevent mental burnout as well as injury. Remember, you are not to wait until you are starting to over train to implement smart rest, you are supposed to inject one full week of rest once every 6 to 10 weeks regardless of how well you feel. This is what maintenance looks like. You are building a fence at the top of the hill instead of having an ambulance at the bottom.

Try it out and see for yourself the benefits of smart rest!

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT): the fountain of youth?

plastic-syringe-and-test-tubes-1372840857A9r

Since the ancient alchemists of Egypt, mankind has been looking for the “fountain of youth.” A substance, supplement or incantation that will keep us in the prime of life for… well, forever. Modern man is no less obsessed with pursuing never-ending vitality. Over the past several years a new candidate has emerged for the title of verified “fountain of youth.” It is abbreviated “TRT” but stands for Testosterone Replacement Therapy.

Testosterone: what does it do?

Among many other functions, the hormone testosterone performs the following:

1. increases bone density
2. increases energy levels
3. increases muscle mass
4. increases production of red blood cells
5. increases mental acuity
6. increases aggression

As men hit their fifth decade of life (40-49 years of age) they lose about 1% of their overall testosterone production per year. Not surprisingly, it is common for 40-year old men to seek testosterone replacement therapy in order to compensate for lowered sexual, work and/or sports performance.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

TRT is usually administered at 125 mg per week. This is considered the “physiological dose” as it mimicks the average production of testosterone in the average male. At first, this dosage is assisted by the man’s already naturally produced testosterone. So the early usage of TRT will be felt more acutely. As time goes on, however, the male testes produce less and less due to the incoming testosterone from the therapy. This is one of the down sides to TRT: your body loses its ability to produce its normal, maximum amount of testosterone and you are forced to take TRT long-term to keep from experiencing unusually low testosterone levels.

Before going on TRT you should have your testosterone levels checked. Some people warn that you should make sure the lab you use knows the difference between free-testosterone and total body testosterone. Free-testosterone is the only testosterone you have in your body that you can actually access, the rest being bound up and non-available. Personally, I don’t think this is necessary as I don’t know of any condition that would give you a high total body testosterone count but a low free-testosterone count. They come in combination. If one is high, so is the other. If one is low, so is the other. A normal total body testosterone count for males ranges from 225 to 1,110 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter of blood (ng/dl). The average being about 650 ng/dl. So if you are below the 225 ng/dl limit, you may want to talk to your doctor about TRT. However, if you are a man and have a “low” testosterone count but are not experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • chronic lethargy
  • inability to get or maintain an erection
  • low sex drive
  • breast tissue growth (gynecomastia)
  • balding

…then you may be fine with the levels of testosterone in your body. This may be natural for your genetics. If you have both a low count (below the normal range) and have the above symptoms, TRT may be right for you.

Are There Any Risks with TRT?

Yes.

However, they are not well known or well established. Because testosterone increases red blood cell production it has been found to increase stroke and heart attack risks. The reason for this is simple. When your hematocrit count increases (number of red blood cells per given volume of blood plasma) the thickness and “stickiness” of your blood also increases. With chronic synthetic testosterone levels comes chronic increases in blood thickness and “stickiness” which makes the heart work harder to pump blood and puts more pressure on vessel walls. It also increases the chance of blood clot formation. A November 2013 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association stated that testosterone replacement drugs increased chances of heart attack in men by 30%. And a January 2014 article by the UCLA research department (in conjuction with the National Institute of Health) made the dramatic statement that shortly after use, men under 65 who were on TRT had twice the chances of heart attacks. More time will have to pass before we know the full correlation between TRT usage and heart health, but we do have some red flags thus far. TRT drugs have now surpassed Viagra in total yearly sales in the U.S. (according to drugs.com). Millions of men take TRT-type drugs every year in the U.S. so we are bound to start picking up trends as time goes by.

Many urologists warn of the possible increase in prostate cancer risks for men using TRT. This has not been as well established as the above mentioned heart health issues. Actually, it is mainly based on theory. For years, oncologists and urologists have seen that men with low testosterone have better chances of recovering from prostate cancer. This has led to the long held belief that high testosterone equals higher chance of developing prostate cancer. However, this link is, so far, only theoretical.

What is my advice?

I do not give medical advice as I am not a medical doctor. What I tell you is only my professional opinion and I stress that you should make this decision with your medical doctor as well as your own thorough research. You are making long term health decisions and so you should be involved in the data gathering process.

However, my advice is to stay away from TRT if you are not genuinely suffering from hypogonadism. This accounts for most people. Having a lower testosterone count can be like having a high or low score on the Body Mass Index (BMI). In short, it does not mean much. I am of average height for a male but I am muscular for my age, so I score as “moderately obese” on the BMI. But anyone who looks at me will know that I am perfectly healthy. And my blood work and endurance would prove it as well. Therefore, if you feel good and do not have any symptoms of hypogonadism I would not be bothered by your total testosterone count unless it is much lower than the 225 ng/dl bottom limit.

Most TRT users are males in their 30’s and 40’s who want to perform athletically and sexually at their peak levels. They are young enough to remember what they used to feel like energy-wise and how they used to be able to train harder and recover more quickly. In short, it appears most TRT users are not truly hypogonadic. I can understand the attraction of having a veritable “fountain of youth” at your disposal, but I also know that there is no truly natural way to cheat Father Time.

Be aware of the risks, be informed and then be at peace with your decision.

Diabetes Type 2 – is there a cure?

Please understand that this article is focusing on Type 2 diabetes resulting from middle aged obesity. Type 1 and juvenile diabetes are genetic and not to be treated the same way as lifestyle-caused Type 2 diabetes.

If your family doctor has diagnosed you with Type 2 diabetes as a consequence of being middle aged, sedentary and have a high sugar diet, this article is for you. Follow your medical doctor’s advice regarding medication. Until you are able to implement dietary and exercise strategies for a prolonged period of time, it is wise to be on medication. However, I highly recommend commencing lifestyle changes immediately to minimize the amount of time your body is medication dependent.

Run any and all advice in this article by your family doctor before implementing it. It is crucial that your doctor be a team member in every decision you make in this regard.

The main problem with diabetes Type 2 is when someone has one of the following issues:

1. The pancreas stops producing insulin

2. The pancreas produces too little insulin

3. The body develops a resistance to its own insulin

One theory regarding the link between obesity and diabetes is that the fatty tissue developing around the pancreas interferes with its normal functioning. Therefore obesity can alter proper insulin production. Another theory states that eating a diet rich in high sugar foods causes the pancreas to trigger far too many insulin “injections” into the blood stream and the body eventually reacts by developing a resistance to its own insulin. Unfortunately, because insulin allows the body to absorb blood sugars (removing them from the blood stream and storing them in muscles, fat and organs), being non-responsive to it prevents the body from clearing sugar out of the bloodstream. Too much blood sugar causes serious health side effects. Hence the need to store blood sugar in body tissues and therefore the dangers of becoming resistant to your own insulin.

Here is a basic approach to necessary lifestyle changes if you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:

1. Stop smoking: As if we needed anymore reason to quit smoking! However, because of the artery-hardening effects of smoking, the diabetic cannot smoke. Heightened blood sugar also increases arterial hardening and this is a deadly combo.

2. Start exercising: One of my favorite go-to prescriptions for Type 2 diabetics is swimming. Because many of these patients are over-weight, swimming prevents body mass from causing joint injury. Treading water, deep fit aqua fit classes or just plain swimming 4 to 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. This is perhaps the most important aspect of a diabetic lifestyle. It seems to truly help regulate blood sugars.

3. Clean up your diet: Heavily restricting foods that have high glycemic indexes (e.g.: potatoes, processed sugars, etc) is the number one dietary “law” of diabetes recovery. Replacing these with lean proteins and high fiber foods (e.g.: fruits and vegetables) is a sure-fire way to help alleviate diabetic strain on the body. There is a more aggressive way to tackle the dietary challenges of Type 2 diabetes and this involves a short term use of the Atkins diet. One of the few scenarios in which I approve of the Atkins Diet is in the case of Type 2 diabetes. The “low to no carb” rule of Atkins can be great if done for a 6 month period. During Atkins, the body is receiving too little carbs and must therefore generate energy by purging the body’s existing sugar stores (which is overloaded in overweight individuals) and then, when the stores of carbs are depleted, the body breaks fat down into fatty acids and ketones to substitute for carbs. This helps not only alleviate high blood sugar but decreases body fats as well. Again, please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes in this article with your medical doctor before embarking on them.

4. Get good sleep: Although the exact link is poorly understood, poor sleep over a prolonged period of time has been linked to increased risk of many diseases including diabetes.

5. Eliminate alcohol: Alcohol has a very high sugar content and should therefore be avoided.

Once you have made the following changes to your lifestyle for 6 months or longer, you should begin to see a significant improvement. It is possible to eventually have your fasting and post meal blood sugar levels in the normal ranges simply due to lifestyle changes. At this juncture, you can begin discussing changing your medications with your medical doctor.

A healthy lifestyle is a cure to many, many chronic ills. Best of luck!

Brain Fitness – part 2: DEEP BREATHING

deep breathing 1

Athletes pay big bucks to go into hyperbaric oxygen tanks and essentially give their bodies oxygen baths. With the increase in atmospheric pressure and a pure injection of oxygen, the body’s tissues (muscles, organs, nervous system) get a hyper-dose of O2 which increases the rate and depth of healing and repair. In fact, stroke victims are being placed through a series of hyperbaric oxygen tank treatments to create an increase in healing of the affected brain areas. As great as this is, many folks cannot afford regular hyperbaric treatments. Luckily, there is a natural alternative.

Although not as intensive as hyperbaric treatments, this natural hyper-oxygenation method is risk-free and can be done anywhere, any time. It is simply the art of concentrated deep breathing. Essentially it consists of reaching a state of near hyper ventilation by repetitive deep breathing for a prolonged period of time.

deep breathing 2Studies have shown that deep breathing not only gives an increased dose of oxygen to the brain and body tissues, but it ignites the body’s “relaxation response.” This response is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system and does the opposite of the stress response (controlled by our sympathetic system). Stress tends to constrict capillaries and shorten our breaths, resulting in hypo-ventilation. So it may be time to incorporate deep breathing to not only enrich your brain, but relax it as well.

It can be done daily or every two days. Try and avoid doing this on a full stomach. Find a quiet, relaxing area, preferably where there is fresh air. Sit or lay down, whatever is comfortable. Begin taking deep breaths. You’ll want to adhere to the following basic rules:

  • fill stomach up first, then chest
  • breathe slowly, at least 2 to 3 seconds inhalation, hold for 1 second then release for 2 to 3 seconds
  • do at least 15 breathes in this manner

As you get comfortable deep breathing, you can adjust it to your liking. Some people like taking 5 or more seconds to inhale. There is no right or wrong, as long as you follow the basic guidelines above.

Personally, I enjoy deep breathing outdoors as the air is much more fresh. Don’t be surprised if you feel the tips of your fingers or toes tingling once you’ve completed several breathes, this is one side effect to hyper oxygenation. If you are light headed or nauseous, you may want to pause momentarily.

Regular deep breathing is beneficial for anyone. It helps counter stress. It helps athletes decrease recovery time. It is not as popular as regular exercise and good nutrition, but it is a highly recommended health habit.

deep breathing 3

Is Too Much Cardio Bad for Your…. Heart?

jogging

Although most people do not get enough exercise, new research states there may be a group that gets too much. Namely, long distance athletes. This seems counter-intuitive. How could doing something that is good for you be bad for you? Yet we’ve all heard the adage “too much of a good thing.” In regards to long lasting (i.e.: one hour or more) endurance training, evidence is emerging to show the negative impact of ultra-endurance training on the heart muscle and body.

Perhaps the most stunning example was a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2011. Researchers examined a group of older men who had completed at least 100 marathons in their lifetime. Those who had trained the most had scar tissue build up in the heart muscle. Suggesting that the heart had been pushed too far, too often. **One thing to keep in mind is that it is still not known for sure if a build up of scar tissue in the heart outweighs the other benefits of ultra-endurance. Time will tell. This article is simply food for thought.

Training as an endurance athlete may very well be “too much of a good thing.” Occasional long-lasting cardio workouts are fine, but the grueling training involved in triathlons, marathons and other ultra-endurance events might be over doing it.

Other negative effects of over-training your endurance capacity is a decrease in immune function, insomnia and build up of scar tissue throughout the body.

So What Can I Do That is Safe?dumbbell

Short duration, high intensity workouts are emerging as the preferred — and healthier — method of achieving optimal fitness. Resistance training, sprints and other high intensity exercises allow individuals the ability to change their metabolism and fitness levels with no apparent side effects. Cross fit-type workouts – if performed with good technique to protect the body – are an example of exercise that lasts relatively short durations (typically around 20 minutes or less) but are high intensity and can radically transform physiques for the better.

Rest assured, there are many options for you if too much intensity is not feasible for you.

If you are a long distance runner, swimmer or cyclist, you may want to vary your training to avoid the pitfalls that may await you if you over do the time in training. 

Combining Crossfit with the Paleo Diet – is this a good idea?

paleo 5In the world of fitness, people are constantly trying to push the envelope and get faster, stronger, leaner and simply reach for superhuman status. In the 1980’s people were content with aerobics and few dumbbell exercises. Not so in today’s world. The hot new trend is the hyper-intense exercise style known as Crossfit

Crossfit is a system in which, several times a week, proponents perform high intensity exercises, back to back. Explosive gymnastic moves, olympic weight lifting, sprinting and other body weight exercises are utilized to cause significant fatigue in a short amount of time. Crossfit routines change every time you show up to the gym in order to avoid stagnation and to maximize your body’s strength and endurance increases.

A typical routine may include jumping on and off a 3 foot high box 20 or more times then throwing a heavy medicine ball high up against a wall for several reps only to have 15 chin ups waiting for you. Then, without resting, you start from the beginning and don’t stop until you’ve either run out of time (which is usually set at 15-20 minutes or less) or you’ve achieved the total number of rounds prescribed by the gym that day.

Heavy weightlifting exercises such as squats, deadlifts and olympic (overhead) lifts are utilized as well. The uniqueness of Crossfit is that it demands heavy muscular efforts that are usually done with a lot of rest between exercises. Yet Crossfit takes away the rest time and keeps the body performing as though the exercises were low demand, high endurance tasks (such as running 5 km in 20-30 minutes). This forces the body to “find a way” to perform these very difficult demands. And proponents of Crossfit love the results. Because all of the body segments are utilized, Crossfitters are well developed and tend to avoid disproportions as is common in typical bodybuilding gyms. paleo 6Further, because of the high demand of Crossfit, proponents tend to have a good muscle mass and little body fat. In a sense, this resembles sports such as wrestling and water polo where high explosiveness is performed over and over again for long durations and utilizes all body segments in an ever changing series of fluid movements.

Some warn that performing complex heavy weight lifting movements such as squats when you are fatigued will cause an individual to risk disc herniations or other injuries. When you are too tired to lift properly but you are willing to do anything to get the weight up, this is when people get sloppy and then injured. Another concern is that Crossfit causes so much break down of muscle tissue that the kidneys can actually get clogged by protein. This is called rhabdomyolysis and has occurred enough times in Crossfit proponents that the organization officially warns people of the symptoms of onset and even created a character known as Uncle Rhabdo.

I personally am not against Crossfit if the individual keeps their technique from getting dangerously sloppy and if they keep their Crossfit activity to 3 or less times weekly. Some proponents attend Crossfit gyms up to 6 times per week. Unless they vary their intensity, they will almost certainly either injure themselves or overtrain.

paleo 1PALEO DIET AND CROSSFIT
Interestingly, a recent trend has been to combine Crossfit with the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is a fad movement that seeks to recreate the typical diet of a caveman living in the Paleolithic Era (ending about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agricultural society).

Roaming hunters of this period ate a lot of meat — as much as they could find — as well as wild berries and plants. Because we had not become primarily farmers we did not have access to large amounts of fruits and vegetables or legumes. Legumes are specific plant or plant products such as beans, peanuts, lentils and peas. By removing most fruits, vegetables and all legumes, the Paleo Diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake.

paleo 4

Wild berries were the extent of most “cavemen’s” fruit intake.

When an individual has too few carbs in their system, they have to burn fat instead of blood sugar for fuel. Ketosis is the process by which the body breaks fat molecules down to smaller units of fat as well as the simple sugar glycerol. As a result, these shorter fatty acid chains and simple sugars can cross the blood-brain barrier and keep your noggin’ fueled. One of the by-products of ketosis, however, is the production of ketones. Ketones are hard on both the liver and the kidneys.This is the biggest question mark hanging over the ketogenic diets such as Paleo. What are the long term effects of ketosis on the liver and kidneys? We don’t really know.

For a Crossfit proponent to go on a Paleo Diet does present some additional problems. First, the high-intensity nature of Crossfit alone will deplete a normal person’s blood sugar stores. Further, it has been shown that when compared to long duration, low intensity exercise, high intensity, short duration exercises not only burn more calories during the exercise session but also increases the body’s metabolism for several hours after a workout. Thus creating an “afterburn” effect that keeps on burning fat and carbs for 3 or more hours longer than a high endurance, low intensity exercises would. Therefore the carbohydrate demands of a Crossfit individual are higher all around. If this individual is also on a carb-restricted diet the body will be in high ketosis which is a form of mild starvation.The long term benefits of being in starvation mode are questionable at best.

paleo 2Further, the muslce breakdown caused by excessive Crossfit is hard on the kidneys. As we saw above, so is the Paleo Diet. The big question for the Crossfitter who is considering the Paleo Diet is whether or not they want to gamble with their health 10 years down the road simply to maximize results in the gym. Paleo Diets are attractive to Crossfitters because they are certainly effective at cutting fat stores. That coveted “shredded” look can be easier to attain on a ketogenic diet. Some also believe they will be healthier overall by using a ketogenic diet.

As we saw above, ketosis produces a lot of Ketones, and these are excreted through urine and through the breath. So if you have that metallic taste in your mouth and your breath is rancid, you are most likely in a state of ketosis. You will want to purchase ketostix and self-administer a simple urine test to see if you are mildly, moderately or severely ketotic.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. As a culture most of us are definitely too sedentary. But we may have created a minority of people who are finally pushing the boundaries on the other side of the playing field. The jury is still out on Crossfit and the Paleo Diet’s long term effects. At this juncture, I simply advise moderation.

What About Sports?

tennis

photo by Petr Kratochvil (click image for more)

I work in an exercise rehabilitation clinic and prescribe hundreds of different types of exercises.

I believe in exercise.

volleyball

photo by Paul Cooper (click image for more)

Yet I am surprised at how few adults in our society continue to play their favourite sport once they hit their 30’s and beyond. Usually, once the demands of family and work set in, they turn to mechanical treadmill and dumbbell routines. Fitness has officially become a “must do” and not a “I wanna do!” This is highly unfortunate and in the long term promotes increasing sedentary lifestyles.

One simple alternative is to play a sport as part of your fitness approach. There is far less routine in an individual or team sport than in a repetitive gym routine. Further, sports tend to use the body in a safer and more natural manner than many exercise machines and heavy weight workouts do. And they almost inevitably work the core muscles much more than most people’s weight lifting or cardio routine.

Everyone who already plays a sport should add sport-specific exercises to improve their performance.

swimming

photo by Anna Langova (click image for more)

That’s what the pros do. Yet most people who are not professional athletes usually do not see playing sports as a legitimate means of getting or staying fit.

Having thought about this, I’ve concluded that people assume they can go “all out” in the gym, but unless they are professionals,

there are no “all out” avenues for them in their beloved sport. Thankfully, this is is false.

With a 5 minute phone call to your local rec centre or YMCA, you will be shocked at how much friendly competition is available for the average joe.

I feel that because competition is missing from many individuals’ fitness lifestyle so is the natural motivation to do better and better. If you are willing to compete at something, the psychological and physical rewards increase tremendously. And please don’t get me wrong. I know how life can get crazy busy. You don’t have to join a league that comes with fees and a tight practice schedule, etc, etc.

kung-fu-pose

photo by Peter Griffin (click image for more)

But you can join rec leagues that allow you to jump in and compete any time you are free.

My wife and I are raising and homeschooling 4 young children. I have my own practice and am involved at church. Yet 4 times per week my wife attends the YMCA and does a lot of TRX group classes. This group factor is an indirect but real form of competition. It is as much competition as she wants and so she thrives on it. It pushes her harder than solo workouts.

I have fallen in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I train under Adam Zugec at ZUMA. Whenever I show up I have the opportunity of getting friendly competition. The competitive element keeps my mind focused, gets me off my worries and I workout harder than I otherwise would without even noticing it! 

Whether it is swimming, racquet ball, tennis, hockey or a running group, the social and physical benefits of a group or competitive environment is available for the non-professional athletes. I highly recommend it.

 

HOW TO START — and finish — A YEAR LONG FITNESS REGIMEN

man-swimming-in-pool-871278587620eIzC

photo by Vera Kratochvil (click image to see more)

Most people feel like they are drowning when trying to maintain a long term fitness plan. This is completely unnecessary. Thankfully, by following one simple rule, anyone can successfully start AND FINISH a year long fitness regimen.

In this post we show you exactly what to do and what NOT to do in order to achieve your goal.

The really good news is that it is very simple and easy to follow, the bad news is, it won’t produce the overnight results you desire. It will take some time. BUT if you have a little patience you will get what you have wanted your whole life: a transformed body and 100% consistency in the gym.

Beginners and those who’ve traditionally found it very difficult to make a commitment to consistent training without constantly catching colds, burning out or running out of time and energy, have all done so for the exact same reason: THEY TRAIN TOO MUCH. 

Training puts a strain on your muscles, nervous system, immune system and psyche. ALL of these systems need to be allowed to adapt slowly if you are to begin and successfully continue a fitness regimen for years to come.all your systems

Come January of each new year, the gym population doubles with people on New Year’s resolutions. These poor souls strain themselves 5 days a week at maximum intensity to pay for their Christmas indulgence and for last year’s sedentary lifestyle.

photo by Vera Kratochvil (click here for more)

photo by Vera Kratochvil (click image for more)

Within 6 weeks these people are gone only to show up a month or two later to begin the on-again, off-again cycle which will eventually lead them to quit altogether.

Quite simply, these people force their bodies — which have been inactive for some time — to do something they absolutely cannot do. They are defeated before they even begin. Either their psychology gives up or their immune system or they get injured. And all their efforts are wasted because they have not transformed their bodies. You cannot make up for lost time by simply going “nuclear” on your gym intensity.

THE SOLUTION: THE EASY-DOES-IT PROGRAM

The easy-does-it program slowly increases your training frequency over a period of 8 and a half months. Yes, you read that right. 3 quarters of one calendar year. Along with good nutrition and proper hydration and sleep, it is the only way to allow all 4 systems to adapt to the permanent increase in physical activity without getting behind in recovery and therefore causing pain, fatigue, constant illness or mental burn out.

Here’s how to apply it (CLICK TO ENLARGE):

The key to success is PATIENCE!! This approach takes nearly 9 months to get you to the “PERMANENT CYCLE” listed at the bottom of the above figure. Throughout the entire program, make sure to be tuned into your body. If you feel you’re getting sick, take one or more days off (if not the whole week). The key is to respect your body and its already busy lifestyle and to slowly allow all your systems to adapt to a consistently more physically demanding lifestyle.

We strongly recommend you hire a trainer to show you routines appropriate for your desired intensity levels (i.e.: mild, moderate and severe). Once you reach the permanent frequency cycle, continue to adjust your intensity from mild, moderate and severe as your body will not be the same on any given week (or even day). Especially make sure that you still throw in plenty of mild workouts into the mix during the weeks in which you’re training 5 times. Never train at maximum intensity more than 3 times per week. Ever.

photo by George Hodan (click image for more)

photo by George Hodan (click image for more)

Further, mix up your training = inside the gym, outside the gym, swimming, cycling, running, power walking, therabands, machines, dumbbells, kettle bells, etc. The more variety the better.

This approach is modeled after the fact that a body responds to frequency NOT intensity. Otherwise put, if during the year you were to train at high intensity for 8 weeks, burn out, and then take 4 weeks off to recover (typical overtrain + don’t train cycle of burnouts), you’d get 35 weeks of intense training AND a full 17 weeks off. This may not seem horribly bad, but because the intensity was too high, your body would actually resist the workouts in hopes of preserving its vital functions and staying healthy. Much of the effort would be too much for the body and it would under-react to training by minimizing fat loss and muscle-gain.

loose jeans

photo by Petr Kratochvil (click image for more)

Plus, due to the multiple weeks off, the body reacts by “weathering the storm” of the 8 weeks of workouts. Which means that even with all that sweat n’ blood, the body refuses to really get toned up because the workouts are not consistent and followed by huge down time. And the body, above all else, listens for consistency not intensity. And when you take more than 2 full weeks off in a row, the body is undoing all the hard work of the 8 weeks of training. This is a very frustrating lose – lose scenario that keeps millions of people from permanently staying on a fitness cycle and get the result they so desperately want.

These 4 weeks on + 1 week off cycles allow your systems (i.e.: muscular, nervous, immune, psychological) to recover should one or more of them be getting behind.

Eat right, drink plenty of water, buy a new mattress (if you have to) and train your body in slowly increasing frequency and intensity. By next year you won’t recognize yourself in the mirror.