10 Things you need to know BEFORE hiring a Personal Trainer

A good friend of mine from decades gone by shot me an email from California a few weeks ago. A mutual friend from the same era was about to turn 50, is desperately overweight, and a group of his friends are chipping in on a Personal Trainer for him … Any recommendations?

As it turns out, all of the folks in the industry I did once know in the Bay Area were either no longer in the industry, or had moved. So, I really didn’t have a recommendation. But I had plenty of suggestions about how to get started, and quickly realized that finding the right trainer isn’t entirely straightforward. In fact, it was downright complicated, confusing, and ‘noisy.

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 some 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 regularly on trainer credentials, 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 for kinesiology and physiology 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 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.  I 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 some of 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. Wedging mutually acceptable training appointments into the 1st few weeks of training is an awkward, but sometimes necessary way to get started. Over time, however, 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 lose 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 because they 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.

  1. Find out who the boss is. Who do you turn to if your trainer crosses that personal/professional boundary? To whom is your potential trainer eventually accountable? What is the background of the guy/gal in charge? How long has he or she been in business? And what about 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!
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Increase Your Metabolism to Burn More Fat!

Metabolism: Convert Energy to Heat

It was on my cycling commute Monday when I got to thinking a bit about how the internal combustion engine in your car creates motion and heat not too much unlike the way your body creates motion and heat.

Your car’s engine combines fuel and oxygen to create thousands of tiny chemical reactions that run your car’s engine. The faster these (extremely quick) reactions (called explosions) occur, the faster your engine runs.

The primary fuel types are octane and, to a lesser degree, ethanol, both (carbon based) organic compounds. Byproducts of this chemical reaction are heat, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carbon particles.

Your body similarly uses (carbon based) organic matter as fuel for motion. Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins … all organic compounds… undergo chemical reactions with oxygen that contract muscle fibers. We even talk about it the same way: ” … doing some cardio to burn a few more calories.”

In this context, your body is little more than a heat producing machine!

A Calorie, is in fact the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water 1 degree centigrade. So, ‘burning calories’ is technically, literally, and figuratively accurate. But we also call it metabolism. At the chemical level metabolism is merely the production of heat through the conversion of energy sources into body motion. Our bodies are, therefore, heat producing machines!

The byproducts of metabolism is (like the internal combustion engine) heat, carbon dioxide, and other carbon particles.

How, and in what proportion these fuel sources are utilized is fully described in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. It seems that the website that had once hosted this document is broken, so just shoot me an email if you’d like a copy. Or, check out my Fat Burning Myth blog from a few months ago for a quick tutorial. The philosophy is quite simple: the larger your metabolic engine, the more fuel you require.

Quite simply put, if you have more body fat fuel than you’d like, making your metabolic engine a bit larger will help, quite literally, to burn off that fuel!

So, here are a few tips for boosting your metabolism, consuming more fat, and looking better than ever in your summer swim wear!

  1. Increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass includes bone, blood, and muscle tissue. Increasing your lean body mass allows you to consume more energy when you exercise, but, and more importantly, increased lean mass allows you to consume more energy when you are at rest. And we are typically at rest as much as 95% of the day, so having a larger, idling engine burns more fat. Lean body mass is living, “breathing”, calorie consuming tissue that continually requires fuel. And just as a large SUV V8 engine will consume a lot more fuel than a compact 4 cylinder engine, the larger your body’s fuel consuming engine, the more fuel you’ll consume.
  2. Increase your exercise frequency. As mentioned back in December, Exercise Quickies will boost your daily metabolism: two smaller workouts per day will consume more energy on the whole than a single, longer workout. Additionally, the recovery period following those workouts also requires elevated metabolism. Maybe you really should start walking the dog each morning!
  3. Just move more! Exercise yes, but also find ways to simply use your body more. While no longer available, the American Heart Association ran the Just Move campaign for years with this sole objective. Check out my Spread Office blog for ways to be more active in your sedentary office job. Bike to work instead of driving! Use the good old fashion hand masher tool to mash your potatoes instead of the mix master. Carry your groceries. Park in the most remote section of every parking lot you drive to. Etc. Here’s a good collection of other ways to turn your daily chores into more active events.
  4. Take advantage of our Get Fit Fast Fifteen Percent off May promotion! Or, give us a call for a free consultation.

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 GlucoseGalactose, 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 …

Conquering Complex Carbohydrates – Part 2 of Carbohydrates for Dummy’s

Part 2 of a 3 part series on conquering carbohydrates, today, we focus on Complex Carbohydrates: where they’ve fit into diets and dietary conversations.

Last week, we covered Carbohydrate conversational history, and Simple Carbohydrates: Saccharides / Sugar.

 

Disaccharides

Chaining two saccharides together creates a slightly more complex type of carbohydrate called a DIsaccharide.   Three of the most common disaccharides are Sucrose, Maltose, and Lactose, all formed with a different combination of monosaccharides:

Disaccharide      Monosaccharide + Monosaccharide

Sucrose =            Glucose + Fructose

Maltose =            Glucose + Glucose

Lactose =            Glucose + Galactose

Sucrose naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables and is highly concentrated in cane sugar and sugar beets.

It is also common table sugar.

NOTE: Some canned fruit and vegetable products will also ADD refined sugar (like high fructose corn syrup and common table sugar) to the processed food, to sweeten the flavor.  You need to be careful of the extra sugar and extra calories.

I also learned this week, courtesy of Breakfast Club Guest Speaker Steve Zeller of Waconia’s Parley Lake Winery that Winemakers sometimes add sucrose to highly acidic wines to improve palitability. 

Polysaccarides

Stringing 3 saccharides together creates, you guessed it, a trisaccharide, while 4 or more saccharides builds a polysaccharide.

And this is where things get really interesting … and controversial. 

Three of the most common polysaccharide carbohydrates are Starch, Glycogen, and Cellulose.

Starch is insoluble in water and must be digested by animals.  It is a glucose reserve for plants (excess plant glucose is converted to starch).  Rice, wheat, and corn are common sources of starch in the human diet.

Glycogen is a reserved form of glucose for animals (not too unlike how starch is a glucose reserve for plants).   It is manufactured by the liver and is stored in the liver and muscle tissues.  It must be converted back to glucose to be used as an energy source.

Cellulose is produced by and forms the primary structure of plants. While technically a polysaccharide carbohydrate like Starch and Glycogen, the cellulose molecular structure makes it indigestible by mammals.  It is therefore considered fiber, and not really an energy source.

Complex vs. Simple Carbs

If you’re observing the carbohydrate reduction battles, these complex carbohydrates are exactly the carbs that tend to be under the most scrutiny.

The easiest way to separate Simple Carbohydrates from Complex carbohydrates is to identify Starch.  Complex Carbohydrates will almost universally contain Starch.

Fruits and Vegetables do not; they consist primarily of water, cellulose (fiber), and fructose.

Complex carbohydrates are then primarily carbohydrates with a starch element.  These include most of the grains (wheat, oats, barley, rice, and corn), some roots (potatoes, yams, turnips), and some legumes (beans).   Most also have significant cellulose content making them high in fiber.

Low and No Carb Diets

While extremely low carb diets like Atkins eliminates nearly all carbohydrates, mono and disaccarides included, some diets, like South Beach allow for most monosaccarhide and disaccaride carbs, but banish the more complex ploysaccarides.

The big difference in these two approaches is that the carbohydrate threshold below which an Atkins style diet places your body in what’s called a state of ketosis whereby glycogen stores are depleted, requiring that energy comes entirely from the metabolism of fatty acids.

Most of the medical community considers this a highly risky and potentially life-threatening taxation on the liver.

Ketosis risks notwithstanding, another at least as significant problem with many low/no carb diets is micronutrient deprivation.  Despite the phenomenal products from many supplement providers, matching natural food vitamin and mineral content is extremely difficult.  Missing out on all of these in the absense of a saccharide smart diet is simply not a healthy, long term way to provide nutrients to your body.

Net Carbohydrates

  Net Carbohydrates are an interesting new term in the diet world whereby the diet du jour architects and food manufacturers have decided that the carbohydrate content defined by the USDA isn’t meaningful for the fibrous componentin a food product.

So, what they’ve done is created a new value: Net Carbs, defined as the total carbs in a product less the fibrous content.

In no small way, this is merely a ruse to position products in a more favorable light to carb conscious dieter.  

While the Net Carb idea is somewhat honorably used to identify the energy sources relevant to body fat storage (or elimination), disregarding the fibrous (often cellulose) component in this way sidesteps several other metabolic and digestive considerations.

For one, high fiber carbohydrate products digest more slowly, and in some cases much more slowly than a low fiber food.  This results in a slower, and more steadily produced stream of glucose in the blood stream … something highly significant to 25+ million Americans with diabetes.

Second, high fiber diets are healthy!  They reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, and help with weight control programs by providing ‘filler’ the body often identifies as food to reduce appetite. 

As a result, the Net Carbs numbers tend to do more clouding than clarifying.

In the end, your time would probably be better spent simply looking at and monitoring the sugar and fat content of a food than bothering with the net carb calculation.

In fact, as an isolated factor, you might actually choose a less healthy product on it’s net carb merits!

For instance, a serving size of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal has 27 grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 3 g are dietary fiber, while 2 g are Insoluble fiber.  Hence, the net grams of the product are:
27 – 3 – 2 = 22g.

On the flip side, a serving of General Mill’s Cocoa Puff’shas 23 total grams of carbohydrate.  Of that, 1 g. is dietary fiber for total net carbs of 22g as well.

Equivalent products then?  Not even close.  The oatmeal has than 1 g. of sugar while the Cocoa Puffs have a whopping 13 g of sugar!  Further, the serving of oatmeal includes 4 g of protein while the serving of cocoa puffs has just a meager 1 g of protein.

What’s more, the 5 g of dietary fiber in the oatmeal will give it a much lower glycemic index (tune in next week) than that low fiber General Mill’s product, something that will effect hormones in a far more influential way.

Though … from a net carb perspective … the products look equal.   

Unfortunately, a desperate public blindly following the net carb lemmings may make poor, and uninformed decisions.  Don’t let that be you!

Next Week: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load; Refined Grains; what to do? 

Conquering Carbohydrates Part 3: The Complex Carbohydrate Conundrum

A few weeks ago, we posted Carbohydrates For Dummy’s Part 1: Saccharides and Such. 

A week after that we posted Part 2 of the Conquering Carbohydrates story: an introduction to Complex Carbohydrates.

Then came a few distractions and the Annual Fair Foods Blog, but we’re back on track today  with the 3rd and final part of the Conquering Carbohydrates Conundrum.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

If sugar, starch, simple carbs, complex carbs, and ne t carbs weren’t enough to test your meddle, two other sometimes confusing carb-centric terms to contend with are Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL).

Glycemic Index simply ranks foods on how quickly they affect glucose levels in the blood stream.  Developed in Toronto in the 1980s to help doctors prescribe diets for diabetics, foods that quickly elevate blood sugar levels have a high glycemic index.  Foods that increase blood sugar slowly have lower glycemic indices.

In addition to Diabetics, Athletes also tend to be highly aware of blood glucose levels to both prepare for and recovery from intense exercise.   Regular exercisers can also benefit from an awareness of blood sugar levels, however, because the of the effect cortisol has on glucose metabolism when you are low on blood sugar.

You might think that you’re doing yourself a favor skipping lunch, when in fact, doing so triggers your body to generate more cortisol.

Cortisol … the “your under stress hormone” counteracts Insulin production and reduces the metabolism of glucose.  The result of this is disproportionately more fat storage in anticipation of famine!  Additionally, the increased Cortisol increases appetite so you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal!

It would be great if you could simply categorize carbohydrates into glycemic index groups that fit nicely within some saccharide category, but the truth is, it’s somewhat of a frustrating memorization exercise.

Take roots.  Carrots & yams (both simple carbohydrate foods) have relatively low GIs of 39 and 51, respectively, while potatoes have GIs as high as 85!   The difference here is that potatoes are very starchy.

So, starchy means high GI then?

Not quite. Plenty of other starchy carbs, like Oats, Bran, Rye and Barley are actually quite low in GIs scoring in the 20s and 30s.  Similarly,  wheat and most rices also score fairly low (50s), while brown rice pasta has an exceptional and soaring 91!

And then there’s fruit.  Unless I’ve missed something, no fruits are starchy.   They’re fibrous and watery, but not starchy.  But here’s the rub: some fruits have very low GIs, like grapefruit (25), plums (39), and apples (38); and some fruits have moderate GIs, like mangos (56), apricots (57), and raisins (64).  Why then, does watermelon have a sky high GI of 72?

It makes no sense, and in the end, you must simply memorize or carry GI tables with you to get it right!   Here’s one built for the sometimes-popular South Beach Diet.

Attempting to solve this mystery steps in Glycemic Load.

As it turns out, part of the reason why inconsistencies exist across the simple to complex carbs GI spectrum is related to quantity consumed.   For example, a single piece of hard candy (nearly all sucrose) will trigger a smaller glucose response than a bite of a banana.  But if you consume 2 cups of each, the candy outpaces the banana quite quickly!

What’s more, Net Carbs also have a role.  As mentioned above, the fiber content will affect digestion speed, which, in turn, effects blood sugar fluctuations.  So, in the late ‘90s,  the Glycemic Load became a more popular way to determine food effect on blood sugar, defined as the percentage of GI times Net Carbs:

Glycemic Load = Glycemic Index / 100 x Net Carbs

Got that?  Well, before you start looking for a smart phone app to calculate GL, have no worries, many nutritionists have simply done the math for you with tables they’ve built themselves.  In fact, one of my all time favorite nutrition sites, NutritionData.com doesn’t list GI at all, but instead lists an Estimated Glycemic Load number for most of it’s nutritional listings.  The values are estimated simply because complete data on GI and Net Carb values simply hasn’t yet been compiled for all foods.

What you also need to know about GI vs GL numbers is that a high GL number could be a low GI Number:

Within the heavily debated carbohydrate controversy, exists a separate embedded micro controversy around GI and GL.  As with carbohydrates, many experts propose low GI/GL diets within the weight reduction context, while others staunchly oppose it.  A 2008 German study, for instance, actually found that low GI/L diets actually correlated to higher bodyfat results.

Withstanding GL wizardry, one food category that emerges consistently high in the GI tables is highly refined grains, particularly those in baked goods.  French bread, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, rice cakes, and many breakfast cereals ALL SCORE very high on GI tables.

Refined Grains and Added Sugars

Refined grain products (cookies, cakes, cereals) also suffer from two other significant problems: added sugars and nutrient deficiency.

In fact, according to the  USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the single largest problem with many American diets is, indeed,  these refined grain products.

Not only do they trigger a short, spiky burst in glucose, but they are also reasonably ‘empty’ calories with very few micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  To make matters worse, they frequently include added sugars to make an already unhealthy food even more caloric.  Sometimes inclusive of saturated and/or hydrogenated fats as well, and well, these products are really quite evil to health and fitness professionals.

The Carbohydrate Conundrum: What to do?

With all of this going on, it’s no wonder the general public is confused about carbohydrates and their dietary relevance.  Here then is my professional recommendation on the topic.

First, if you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s orders, not mine.

For all the rest of us:

  1. The easiest way to defuse most of your concerns about carbohydrates is simply to exercise more!  Not only will you metabolize more calories in doing so, but other hormones involved with exercise and exercise recovery help keep cortisol and insulin balanced.
  2. Recognize that carbohydrates are, above all else, your body’s primary fuel source.   While it’s true that your body always metabolizes a blend of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source.  If your engine is just idling, back off on the fuel!
  3. Adjust your complex carbohydrate intake with your anticipated physical activity
    1. If you are sedentary, you need very complex few carbohydrates.  Most of your energy will come from stored energy sources (glycogen and body fat).   Eliminate most complex carbohydrates from your diet to avoid gaining body fat.
    2. If you are active, you need some complex carbohydrates.  Try to get most of your complex carbohydrates early in the day, typically before 2:00 PM.  Switch to mostly simple carbohydrates after that.
    3. If you are regularly exercising, or an athlete, you need a LOT more carbohydrates. Get most of your complex carbs early in the day, but do include moderate quantities later in the day.  Don’t hesitate to include higher amounts in your diet if you have a high intensity exercise event the following morning.
  4. Eat a wide variety of and large quantities of fruits and vegetables.  Follow the seasonally available produce and you’ll get plenty of variety.  Make sure you get at wide variety of color in your diet.   A lot of people miss out on the yellows: squash, yams, yellow peppers.
  5. Try to incorporate more legumes into your diet: green beans, black beans, pinto beans, white beans; etc.
  6. When choosing complex carbohydrates, focus on whole grains, and high fiber sources.  Steel cut oats, whole wheat, and wild rice are good examples.
  7. Always avoid or minimize highly refined grains, particularly those with added sugars.  MOST of the grocery store bakery fits into this category: cookies, cakes, pies (it’s the crust), french bread, muffins, and doughnuts.   What’s worse is that many of these will also include partially hydrogenated fats.
    1. Avoid or eliminate them if you are serious about your health.
    2. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in America and these fats are deadly

Respect the Gray Squirrel and be Healthier this Winter!

If you’re looking to stay healthier THIS WINTER, and wonder why your FLU SHOT DIDN’T WORK LAST WINTER, you might not want to look any further than the Eastern Gray Squirrel  for a role model!

Busy in fall gathering and building food caches for the winter months, humans who similarly scurry now for some sunlight now can in fact build sufficient stores to outlast a long, dark Minnesota winter!

For while much has been written about the significance of Vitamin D for good health, The New York Times recently stated that humans can store up A FULL YEAR’S SUPPLY  of Vitamin D with daily doses of just 5 to 10 minutes of direct sunlight during the summer months.  Summer’s gone now, that’s true, but it isn’t too late to roll up the sleeves and pant legs on sunnier fall days to build up your Vitamin D stores … especially if you’ve shunned the sun all summer long.

Exercise is, of course helpful in fighting off infections and preventing many diseases,  but your next best bet could be as simple as getting enough Vitamin D.   Especially in northern climates where exposure to the sun, our primary source of vitamin D, is limited during the Fall and Winter, increasing attention is now being given to vitamin D requirements. And vitamin D deficiencies.

In fact, some physicians contend that a major portion of winter ailments can be attributed to Vitamin D deficiencies, including heart disease, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, CrohnsDisease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Wow!

A Minneapolis client of ours has seen Vitamin D deficiencies in action 1st hand. Working through lower back pain for several months, she’d gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and had several MRIs and X Rays performed to help diagnose the source of her ailment. Nothing worked. Eventually, her physician suggested a diet loaded with Vitamin D, and her back pain went away!

The problem is, it’s really, really hard to compensate for the lack of sun.

Your body manufactures about 20,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D with just 20 minutes of sun.  To get that much vitamin D in your diet would require something like 40 glasses of milk per day! (3300 calories, even if it’s skim milk). The good news is that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so your body is capable of storing D in your body fat. You won’t need to consume the entire amount that you would otherwise manufacture, but if you can’t get some sunshine, some dietary intake becomes critical.

In fact, to be keep your levels of Vitamin D sufficient,  an occasional trip to a tanning bed is probably the surest route!  This, of course, carries the added risk of developing skin cancer, so many of us avoid those.

As a Result, Natural Foods, become your next best source of vitamin D, and here are some high quality choices:

Salmon, canned (3 ounces) 530 IU
Salmon, cooked (3.5 ounces) 240–360 IU
Tuna, canned (3 ounces) 200 IU
Soy milk, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Orange juice, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Milk, low-fat, fortified (8 ounces) 98 IU
Cereal, fortified (1 cup) 40–50 IU
Eggs (1 large) 20–26 IU
Swiss cheese (1 ounce) 12 IU

The problem is, even a diet with only these foods you could still be deficient in D!   So we’re not done yet. How much, exactly, you need daily is still under debate, but a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU is currently considered a safe upper limit. The medical community agrees that up to this much won’t create other problems, even if they can’t agree on what the required minimum should be.

So, even with a naturally rich vitamin D diet, some supplementation is recommended. The best way to take vitamin D supplements is with Calcium. The two nutrients work together to build strong bones and teeth.

Furthermore, it’s been shown that taking vitamin D with Calcium can actually reduce your fatty food cravings and help you lose weight!

So, with the Sun getting further and further away for the next 3 months, be sure to Squirrel away some natural sun D when possible this fall!

And the next time you wonder if the little grey guy is actually going to make it to the curb in time, remember … some sun now could keep you healthier this winter!

Dealing with Ailments and Injuries as we Age

Exercising regularly or not, the frequency with which we incur ailments and injuries increases as we age.

As we age:

  •  the body naturally looses mineral density in the bones (sometimes resulting in osteoporosis);
  •  the muscles themselves shrink (technically called atrophy); 
  •  the tendons and ligaments holding it all together become less pliable and weaken; and
  •  metabolism slows, increasing the time it takes for the body to mend.

It all starts somewhere in our early 30s increases into the 40s and then accelerates into the 50s and 60s.  Regular exercise is, of course the best way to stave off the process, but even regular exercisers experience ailments and injuries, sometimes even more so than sedentary adult simply because some of us still think and behave like we’re 20!

Injuries

If you’re exercising regularly it’s typical to pick up injuries large and small overdoing it in some way: that extra mile on a long run; that 6th day of training;  that extra hill on the bike ride;  that extra 20 pounds on the bar when squatting for the 1st time in a while.

Injuries come with acute pain.  You normally know exactly when the pain started and exactly what you were doing when it occurred: it’s tough to forget smacking your face into a forest tree!

Sedentary adults are most frequently injured simply navigating the course of life … hurting your back moving that piece of furniture or slipping on some ice.  Exercisers get injured in these ways too, but less so.  Stronger muscles, joints, and bones help the body tolerate impact better, and, of course improves overall coordination and balance.

Ailments

Ailments are technically injuries too, but are introduced slowly over time as a result of over use and insufficient recovery.   Athletes and aggressive exercisers ( anyone exercising 5 or more days per week) work with ailments on a regular basis, normally around joints.   Runners who only run frequently develop knee and ankle ailments.  Cyclists who only cycle often experience hip and knee trouble.

But ailments also, and perhaps more commonly occur within the daily grind for both exercisers and the sedentary:  carpal tunnel syndrome and strained shoulders are all too common modern-day office worker ailments.

They are incurred with the same problem: overuse of a body part without sufficient recovery.

Responding to Injuries

For minor injuries and ailments the 1st remedy is normally RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation on the effected area.  Depending on severity, this could be for an hour just once to several intermittent hours each day for a week.

If you are in severe pain, or if the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, or just want some piece of mind, see your doctor.  

Exercising with Ailments and Injuries

Exercising with an injury isn’t just possible, it’s actually quite common.     In fact, it’s often an opportunity to introduce beneficial cross training into the mix … swimming, for example, if you’re working through a calf injury.   Or simply limiting overhead and torsion exercises if you’re nursing a strained back.   Unless you’re in traction, a good fitness trainer will easily find something to do no matter what the injury!

The key to a quick and safe recovery is allowing the injury to completely heal before re-introducing the effected body part  into your exercise program.  

This may include some physical therapy, but almost always begins with the pain-free range of motion test: if you can move the limb or body part completely through its range of motion without pain, you’re probably ready to begin putting a load and stress on it.

Begin cautiously with low resistance, low volume and low intensity.  Increase these three elements (volume, resistance and intensity) one at a time waiting at least a day between any further increases.   Be sure to stretch, stretch, and  stretch some more, especially if it’s a joint issue.  You may develop some minor soreness and swelling in the process; use RICE along the way.   

This process of improving range of motion, incrementally increased load,  and incorporating RICE is, in fact rehabilitation.  It’s best overseen by a physician, but …

If you know your body well, or are working with a highly skilled fitness professional, it’s actually  straightforward enough to rehabilitate yourself through injuries.   You know how your body feels and reacts better than anyone else. 

But if you’re not working with a professional of any type, it’s best to go see your doctor.

Illness

While exercising with and recovering from ailments and injuries gets tricky, handling illness is comparatively simple.

We call it the neck test.

If your symptoms are in your neck and above, you pass and should be OK to exercise in some way.  

Depending on how you feel, it might be a good day for your long, slow cardio event, or other light activities.   Dial it down a bit if you need to, but DO exercise!   It will boost your immune system and increase your metabolism, getting you back to good health more quickly! 

But if your symptoms are in your chest, you fail, and should rest and/or see a physician.

 

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 and you lose 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.

With holiday parties and food in abundance, however, you might be tempted to skip this meal or that.  Those choices can produce very unexpected and unwanted results. 

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 new book How to Be Healthy 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 fibers is 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 essentially  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 have  30 pounds of body FAT to lose, …

… if your body needs energy sources beyond the immediately available carbohydrate sources, it does NOT convert your stored fat, it converts proteins!

Unfortunately, it gets even worse, for if those proteins are not 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, Powerbar, Gatoraide, 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 products during 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 my Health Coaching Promotions! 

 

Extra Holiday Calories Actually GOOD for Your Health?

Get your flavonoidsThey’re good for your heart!  Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for those.

Make sure you get enough Omega 3 fats in your diet; they’re good fats and can reduce cholesterol and ease the metabolism of bad fats.  Salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans are good sources of those.

Make sure you get enough dairy in your diet; protein, calcium, and Vitamin D are all needed for strong bones and will help avoid degenerative disease like osteoporosis. Cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk will cover you there.

Oh, and don’t forget about fiber, vitamin C, minerals, and … the list goes on and On and ON.

Has it occurred to anyone else that if we actually followed all of the nutritional guidance pumped into the media by food companies, supplement companies, our government,  and well-intentioned fitness professionals, that we’d all look like Santa?

The missing <ahem> ‘ingredient’, of course is exercise.

While reading a few things written by other Fitness Professionals around Holiday indulgences this morning, and the creative ways they’ve suggested to restrict calories and abstain from some of your favorite foods during the holidays (I’ve been guilty of making these suggestions too), it suddenly occurred to me … duh 

… it’s simply easier to exercise than it is to worry about all the extra calories!

Because what’s the point of even attending a party or preparing a special meal if you can’t fully enjoy it!  So, while there are lots of great reasons for exercising, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT OF EXERCISE could very well be that it simply allows us to eat more!  Most of us love to eat, and a lot of us exercise just so that we can eat more!

But without exercise, most of us would be obese within 6 months if we consumed all of the food needed for proper nutrition.

Or, you could pay thousands of dollars per year on organic supplements, though even the best manufactured nutrients fall far short on nutrient quality when compared to natural food sources.

It’s well documented that exercise alone:

  • Improves your heart health
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Fights anxiety
  • Fights depression
  • Increases your energy levels; and
  • Simply enriches your lifestyle.

HOWEVER, IS  IT POSSIBLE  THAT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION OF EXERCISE TO YOUR HEALTH IS THAT IT ALLOWS YOU TO EAT MORE, AND THEREFORE GET BETTER NUTRITION?

And then there’s Hydration. Water is the body’s primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the back (bottom) door. Further, proper hydration improves digestive efficiency, reduces blood pressure, and improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair.

We’ve all heard that we should drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know what, that’s a lot of water! It actually takes significant, conscious effort to consume that much water on a daily basis. But crank out a few hot cardio intervals, or knock down one of our HEAT programs, or blast through 35 sets in 45 minutes, and you’ll have 20 ounces through your body before you event think about food!

The primary vessel we drive, OUR BODIES frequently requires exercise induced thirst to get enough fluids in on a regular basis.

So, there you have it! Never mind that exercise improves your health and reduces the risk of acquiring all types of disease and illness. 

Exercise primarily gives us the privilege to eat and drink more and be healthier for it.

So, it’s  baah humbug to all the Fitness Pros out there with tips on avoiding calories this holiday season!  

I say go ahead and eat!

Just make sure you exercise plenty too!

Six Essential Holiday Survival Secrets

Happy Holidays!

One big event down, but LOTS more to survive!

The turkey and pies may have been last week’s hazards, but with office parties, holiday parties, Christmas, and the New Year, we’re just getting started with caloric catastrophes! 

Just remember, our goal for the holiday season is to simply not gain any weight.  Forget losing any. 

Net Zero from November 1st to January 1st! 

Nothing to lose, but let’s not gain anything either! 

Four Lifestyle Tips for making it happen:

        1. Stay active
        2. Exercise regularly
        3. Focus on FITNESS related goals, and
        4. Eat smartly

The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios revolutionized 4 industries in his lifetime by demanding the impossible.  

  • He and Steve Wozniak changed the world of computing when they launched the Macintosh.  
  • He put Disney on her knees with industry first, mind blowing animation films from Pixar.  
  • He changed the entire music industry with iTunes and iPod, and then, of course …
  • He changed the entire communications industry with the iPhone.

None of us are Steve Jobs, but we are all in control of two things:

Attitude and Effort.

You can do this! 

Think Positive.  THINK YOU CAN.  And Think Clean.

Regarding the Holiday blues, the Holiday stress, the Holiday food fest, and the rest, replace negative thoughts like …

  • There’s nothing I can do to stay healthy during the holidays.
  • That’s just the way I am during the holidays.
  • The holidays make me feel so stressed.
  • I can’t take the time to work out until after the holidays.
  • I Can’t…………………I Must……………….If Only

… With proactive thoughts such as:

  • I’ll find alternatives to overindulging this happy season.
  • I can choose a different approach this year.
  • I control my own feelings at all times and I choose to feel great!
  • I want to take the time necessary to make sure I stay healthy during the holidays.
  • I Choose……………….I Prefer……………I Will

The point is: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right either way.” — HENRY FORD

Here then are Six Essential Holiday Eating Secrets to help make it happen:

  1. Substitute low fat yogurt or low fat cottage cheese for sour cream in cooking and recipes
  2. Wear your tightest, most form-fitting pants to dinner parties and/or tie a string around your waist under your shirt that will not budge with the bulge. They’ll help keep you conscious of overeating.
  3. Have a healthy, protein rich snack before going to cocktail or dinner parties. Or a meal replacement shake. The high fat content appetizers won’t look so good of your not hungry.
  4. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house; just don’t buy them!
  5. Do not stop your regular exercise program.
  6. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, get one immediately!

 

Need some accountability on this?  Ask me about my Health Coaching Program