This one really drives me crazy. When it comes to considering which foods to eat or not eat, we should consider all foods on the planet in two ways. First – is the food good or bad for your body and secondly – what is the calorie value of the food?

First question – Is the food good for you? The amount of salt, saturated or trans fat, sugar ect. in any food has absolutely nothing to do with adding or reducing body fat. High amounts of these indicate that the food is not good for your system or that it is an unhealthy choice. In other words, consumption of these foods could lead to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and many other conditions.

Second question –What is the calorie value of any given food?

 This is the only consideration when it comes to adding or reducing body fat.  It is merely a matter of physics, or heat energy. Any human body, no matter what size or age requires a certain amount of calories or energy to be in balance. Let’s call this your ”maintenance calorie level.” If you eat more than this amount, you will store the number of calories over your maintenance calorie level as fat. If you eat less than your calorie maintenance level, your body will use its storage or body fat to get you back up to calorie maintenance level for the day.

 Here’s an example, Say that your ”caloric maintenance” level is 2000 calories/day.  If you eat 2000 cal today, you will not store any extra fat or burn any stored body fat. You will be in balance. If you eat 2100 cal today you will store 100 calories as body fat. When you accumulatte a total of 3500 extra calories you will have added 1 pound of fat. On the other hand, if you eat 1900 cal,today your body will be forced to use 100 calories of existing body fat and when it uses 3500 over time, you will have lost 1 pound of fat.

if you’re like most people, this is how you deal with nutrition labels.

Let’s say you’re in a grocery store and you are looking at the label on a can of peaches. Usually after about 15 seconds you just put the can back without getting the information you’re looking for. This is because, to the general public the standard nutrition label is confusing , plus the deluge of misinformation, relating to sugars, carbohydrates, good fats, bad fats, proteins and calories that we see in the media  just adds to the confusion. Hopefully this blog will make things more clear.

The first two lines on a standard label refer to serving size and servings per container. These are relatively easy to understand in most cases. It usually requires just a little bit of math.

The next line refers to calories. If you’re trying to reduce body fat these first three lines are all you need to be concerned with. Let me explain.

 We all know what the worst or most unhealthy foods are. These include anything processed or fried, greasy, made primarily of white processed flour and in general any desserts and any sugary foods or liquids.

If you are on a healthy diet that includes mostly whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, berries, beans and seeds and is low-sodium and contains adequate fiber you do not need to be concerned with everything below the “calories” line on the label.

This is because you are not consuming unhealthy choices and everything below the calories line (the 2 bottom sections) relates to whether the food item is a healthy choice or not.

I’m trying to provide a way that you can look at a label and quickly get the information you need to determine whether or not you should eat it and if so in what amount.

One less thing to worry about because now, if you’re primary concern is reducing body fat, you need not be concerned with anything below these first three lines. Losing or adding body fat is purely a function of calories in and calories out as I discussed in earlier blogs.

I have included a visual to the right that demonstrates the information in this blog. Again, if you’re primary concern is losing or controlling body fat and you are currently consuming a healthy diet, then the bottom two sections are not important as they are X’ed out. This, as I said earlier will make getting the information you need from a nutrition label much quicker and easier.

I have been waiting to address this question for a long time. You hear a lot about muscle confusion, particularly in TV ads for programs you can purchase on. You also see it in magazines and periodicals.

The theory is that your muscles become accustomed to any given workout and to keep progressing either in physical size or fitness you need to keep your muscles “confused” by changing the workout at regular interval.

Let’s answer this by starting out with a lesson in human physiology. When you begin a new routine of any kind, your body makes certain neuromuscular adjustments or adaptations. Your body does two things: it gets stronger by accommodating to the actual exercise movement or “groove”. You realize this when after two or three workouts you find the actual groove for the movement and  you can push a little bit more weight. This Relates to your body actually learning the  plane of motion. Secondly , your body adapts to heavier weight by increasing muscle size so the muscles can contract with greater force becoming stronger.

Here in lies the problem. The term muscle confusion is used as a reason that this or that program works. In reality, there’s really no truths to this.

 Let me explain. First, let’s look at what really improves your fitness level. Exercise intensity measured by heart rate and duration are the only two factors involved in improving internal or cardiovascular fitness. Simply changing what you do has almost nothing to do with it.

Now let’s look at muscular strength. In this case, if you measure muscular strength by any specific movement e.g bench press, the muscle confusion theory does not apply because when you change from a bench press to some other chest exercise, you lose the bodies focus on the exact bench press movement. For example; let’s say you do bench presses twice a week for four weeks increasing in strength each workout. Now you want to exercise this muscle confusion principal so you do cable crossovers and decline dumbbell presses for three weeks and then come back and try to measure your bench strength. You will inevitably find out that your strength level on the bench press is now less or at the very least, certainly not more.

The truth is, your body thrives on consistency in your workout for a time period of between three and six weeks depending on the type of work out you’re doing. When you plateau and you will, you need to change the workout and begin again at a lower work load and increasing over time

Herbal Supplements

 Are you familiar with the term snake oil salesman? In case you’re not,  snake oil salesman is a term used for someone who sells a product or elixir touted to cure or resolve anything that’s wrong with you.

In the 17 and 1800’s this was usually a guy who traveled in a wagon from town to town. When he arrived in your town, he would park his wagon and set up shop selling some sort of potion that would cure all your ills, make you healthier, or help you lose weight, live longer, etc. etc.

Fast forward to today. The majority of supplements you see advertised in the media sort of fit the same category. That’s not to say that all supplements are fakes or forgeries because some have real value when it comes to your health. However, when it comes to weight loss I would say that the majority of products you see advertised really don’t do the job.

Back in the 1990’s ephedra was isolated and sold as a weight loss product. It really worked well, but it came with some health concerns, more specifically heart and nervous system problems. When ephedra was eventually banned from the market, supplement companies scrambled to find other ingredients to stimulate metabolism and weight loss.

Today, most all supplements that claim to create weight loss contain some form of caffeine, nitrous oxide and or some other herb that will stimulate metabolism.

Stimulating metabolism is what this is all about. Let me explain. The average 165 pound male has a resting metabolism of about 1000 calories/day. This means that if he lies on his back, awake for 24 hours with no movement, he would burn about 1000 calories (imagine a car motor at idle speed). Now let’s add the extra calories he burns in his typical day. Every movement he makes creates heat and requires energy (revving up the engine and burning more gas/calories). The average additional calories from movement for a person his size is about 800 to 1000 more for a total of about 2000 calories/day.

The truth Is, if he adds a good herbal weight-loss supplement as directed, his 2000 cal /day total would be increased by about 400 calories to about 2400 (resting metabolism-1000 plus the added “movement “calories-1000 plus herbal addition-400). The increase of 400 cal is caused by two things. The herbal stimulants and caffeine raise the resting metabolism, plus, our subject becomes more energized thereby moving more during the day burning more “movement” calories. So now is total caloric need is 2400 calories/day rather than 2000.

You should know from my earlier blogs that consuming your maintenance calories per day creates neither weight gain nor weight loss. In this case, if his is caloric need is 2400/day per day he can eat 2400 calories/day rather than 2000 without adding body fat. On the other hand, if he continues to eat 2000 calories/day he will lose body fat at the rate of 400 calories/day, or about 1 pound of fat every eight days.

If you really want to increase fat loss you have several tools at your disposal. you can Increase your activity which will raise your caloric need, if you like add a fat burning supplement and thirdly, increasing muscle mass over the long term raises your resting metabolism. If our subject has and uses all three of these tools he could potentially have a daily caloric need of over 3000 calories/day. Then he would really have control of his body composition.

Arnold

This blog is the second part of the series on reps and sets for maximum muscular growth.

Let’s start with an example. Look at marathon runners. They are all extremely thin, almost to the point of looking anorexic. Do you think they want to look like this? The answer is no. Their physique is simply a result of the body’s response to type of training. Running great distances requires no upper body size or strength. As a matter of fact, any weight or thickness in the upper body is extra baggage that the body has to carry over these distances. It represents tissue that must be oxygenated and maintained by your internal physiology.

Running, at this level requires a lot of oxygen to course through the system and this upper body “baggage” is part of the system so upper body mass actually decreases the runner’s efficiency.

Now let’s look at bodybuilders. Building muscular size is an anaerobic activity as opposed to an aerobic activity like marathon running. Anaerobic activities do not require large amounts of oxygen coursing through the system.

This brings us to our comparison of repetitions. The marathon runner does thousands of repetitions (steps) in one set to carry him 26 miles. The reps are light and numerous.

On the other hand, bodybuilders do many less reps per set and get a completely different physiological response. The muscles grow in size to accommodate the heavier and less repetitive resistance.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. That is, the specific number of reps per set required to gain maximum size. We will examine the range of one rep to 15 reps. Doing one to five reps generally creates more densely packed harder muscle like you see in a typical power lifter. Doing 10 to 15 reps tends to create longer muscles like you would see in a “conditioned” athlete.

The ideal number of reps for maximum size is between six and eight. And believe it or not, there is a huge difference between 6 to 8 and 10 the 15 reps in the body’s response. The key is to train your muscles to accommodate to doing six to eight reps. For some reason we have this mindset of having to do 10 to 15 reps per set to get the best results.

If you are currently on a program doing 10 to 12 to 15 reps per set, simply try this. It will take two or three workouts to accustom your body to less reps when you have been doing more. However, by the fourth or fifth workout, you will begin to see and feel a difference. You will be able to use more weight and consequently gain more size.

Arnold

Let me preface my suggestions with a little bit of personal history. I started training with weights when I was 15 years old and I’m now 59 years old. That’s over 44 years of total time. At the peak of my career I placed fifth in my class at the Mr. America as well as sixth in the Mr. Universe competition.

I am by definition a hard gainer with much less genetic potential than most.  After the first 10-15 years of beating myself to death with fast-paced, high rep, high-intensity workouts I begin to learn what it really takes to gain the most size.

Before I go any further, I want you to know that I realize my suggestions may seem somewhat controversial, but I assure you that if you follow this pattern, you will not only succeed now, but you’ll also be laying the groundwork for continued  growth to some degree for many years.

I’m going to divide the following information into two separate blogs (rest between sets and reps per set).

 In this blog I will talk about the rest increments between sets.  As an example let’s take a typical four set exercise. Between your first and second set which are warm-ups the rest time should be between 1 and 2 minutes. Between your heavy sets the rest should be between 3 and 4 min. If you’re rest period between sets are shorter than this you will fatigue because you’re out of oxygen, not because the weight was too heavy. If you fatigue because you’re out of oxygen your body will respond by improving the efficiency of oxygen use, not improving strength and size. This is crucial.

Most of us have been brainwashed to think that we must work hard and fast to get results. That may be the case in some sports, but is not true in bodybuilding or strength training. In order to gain size you have to apply a resistance to the muscle that is not accustomed to while giving the muscle group as well as the system plenty of time to re-oxygenate.

The body’s physiological response to resistance training at the right reps (between six and 10) and rest increments is to create larger muscles. A good rule of thumb to follow this: rest 1 to 2 min. longer than you think you should.

If you don’t believe it just try it. Next time you workout add a minute or two to your rest periods between sets and see if you can handle more weight. We all know that if you can handle more weight you will get bigger and stronger.  

In my next blog I will cover number of reps per set that is ideal for creating size and or strength.

I Can’t Lose Weight. Why is That?

EATING FAST

In this blog I would like to explain a second and very important reason besides excess calorie intake that most of us can’t lose weight.

We live in a fast-paced society. From the moment that we are born and become aware we are sensually bombarded with a rapid fire barrage of information. We are stimulated continuously at a very quick pace. We live in an age where we are trained and conditioned to crave constant stimulation. We all know, for example that kids going through school are constantly on the move with activities, sports  and various other interests commanding most of their time.

At this point you might say, what’s this got to do with me being fat?

Let me explain. Somewhere along the way we developed processed and refined foods that when eaten provide a high impact of flavor. The sweeter or fattier a food item is the more you are stimulated when you put in your mouth. Since we’ve been trained to crave constant, repetitive and nonstop stimulation we have somehow translated this need from visual and psychological to taste cravings.

The key here is knowledge because knowledge is power. Once you realize that you may be eating simply for stimulation perhaps you can powerfully and purposefully slow down when it comes to eating.

Here are some tips to help you alter the situation. Take smaller bites, chew your food slowly and intentionally take longer to really enjoy your meal.

A growing number of studies confirm that just by eating slower, you’ll consume fewer calories, in fact, enough to lose 20 pounds a year without doing anything different or eating anything different. The reason is that it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’re full. If we eat fast, we can continue eating past the point where we’re full. If we eat slowly, we have time to realize we’re full, and stop on time. It’s hard to enjoy your food if it goes by too quickly.

Also,I think it’s fine to eat sinful foods, if you can, infrequently eat small amounts and eat them slowly. Think about it: you want to eat sinful foods (desserts, fried foods, pizza, etc.) because they taste good. But if you eat them fast, what’s the point? If you eat them slowly, you can get the same amount of great taste, but with less going into your stomach. That’s math that works for me.

And that argument aside, I think you are just happier by tasting great food and enjoying it fully, by eating slowly. Make your meals a gastronomic pleasure, not a thing you do rushed between stressful events.

Should I Follow a Vegetarian Diet?

Love a Veggie

There is a lot of controversy as to the health and validity of a vegetarian diet. Let me address this from a realistic and logical point of view.

In graduate school. I took a vegetarian course along with 13 other students. At the end of the course seven of the 13 students converted from omnivores to vegetarians. Why do you think they did this?

During the course of the study we were shown videos of inhumane treatment of animals by large farms and inundated with negative views of meat eating. While it is true that these animals are treated badly, the course was obviously intended to not only educate, but to convert students.

Let me make two points clear. Number one; we have four teeth naturally embedded in our jaws called canines. These are the pointed teeth slightly off center in four positions. You might call them the vampire teeth. Being pointed, these teeth are designed to tear meet. The teeth behind the canines are designed to grind food and the teeth in front being flat edged are designed to bite and separate.

 Number two; there is no vitamin B12 in any plant on this earth. Vitamin B12 is essential for our very existence. It is necessary in the formation of hemoglobin which transports oxygen throughout your system, plus it has other vital functions. If we were designed to be vegetarians, how would we get this necessary vitamin in our diets? The answer is, we would die because he wouldn’t get any vitamin B12.

In a totally natural environment without processed, fast, or engineered foods we would survive on what we could find in nature.

We are designed to eat seeds, nuts, berries, vegetables and fruits most of the time and occasionally, maybe every other day snare a rabbit and less frequently, maybe weekly procure a larger animal such as a deer and then consume meat on these occasions. Just think about the logic here and make up your own mind.

body fat

In this blog I’d like to explain how the body stores or burns body fat, I will use the truth and absolute science of calories to explain this.

The best way to do this is to use a typical person, as an example. Our example is a female that is 25 years old and weighs 140 pounds.

Based on the formula: pounds of body weight divided by 2.2 x .9 x 24, our subject would have a 10% above sedentary caloric maintenance need of about 1400 cal per day. For our purposes, let’s assume this is absolutely correct, not accounting for any extra daily activity level, cost of digestion, etc..

We as humans are designed to be able to store fat in the event of a season without food, a long cold winter, a famine, or the like. Based on my research, I think this is between 10 and 20 pounds of fat. It’s pretty obvious that most of us have much more than this.

Now, back to our subject. If she eats 1500 cal today (100 above her maintenance need) she will store 100 cal worth of fat. Conversely, if she 1300 cal today her body will take 100 cal from storage (her body’s fat stores). We know that it takes 3500 cal to constitute 1 pound of fat. Now just do the math. If our subject eats 1500 cal per day for 35 days, that’s 35×100 or 3500 excess calories over 35 days. She will gain 1 pound of fat in this time frame. If she eats 1300 per day for 35 days her body will use 1 pound of what is stored in her system. It really is that simple.

You may say, why doesn’t she just eat nothing for a few days and she will lose it much faster? This is true. However, if you eat greater than 1000 cal less than your caloric need each day you will begin to burn muscle for energy. This is because the body has a limited capacity to convert stored body fat to energy. It can only convert about 1000 cal per day to usable energy running at maximum efficiency. Also, the less you eat in volume, the less likely you are to get enough nutrition (vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients) in total and variety.

The only situations where this is not valid are when medications are involved that affect the amount of water your body contains (excess fluid or dehydration) or the subject has a diagnosed thyroid or metabolism problem. I will address these issues in another blog.

Can Cortisol Cause me to Store Extra Belly Fat?

"Stubborn" bellyfat

One of the latest products you see advertised on TV relates to Cortisol and belly fat. The commercial tells you that the hormone Cortisol, when released causes you to store fat around your belly.

The supposedly mechanism for this is as follows; when we get stressed our bodies release hormones to cause the sugar in our bloodstream to enter our cells rapidly so that we are able to move quickly as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism, that is we can fight with or run away from whatever is stressing us with a burst of energy. In today’s society we don’t generally respond to mental or physical stress by running away or fighting so we don’t use up this rush of blood sugar into our cells, therefore it is stored as body fat. Is this true? Absolutely not!

While it’s true that the hormone Cortisol is released during stress and is designed to cause the sugar in your blood stream to enter your cells quickly, this doesn’t increase your body fat.

Let’s go back to my blog about maintenance calorie levels. Say you’re an average male that weighs about 170 pounds. Your caloric maintenance level is approximately 2000 cal per day. This means that if you eat more than 2000 cal, you will add body fat, and if you eat less than 2000 cal you will lose body fat. Now let’s say that today you eat 2000 cal and that’s your total for the day. You haven’t gone over 2000 or under 2000 cal today. If you did not eat excess calories today, how could you possibly get fatter.

Even if you had a stressful moment and your hormones created these changes in your bloodstream you still couldn’t get fatter because you didn’t eat excess calories today.

This example represents a tactic that is typical in advertising. It sounds reasonable that if the sugar in your blood entered your cells and you did not use the energy in the fight or flight mechanism, then you would store this sugar as fat but it’s simply not true and not possible.

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