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Get A Good Night’s Sleep

sleeping in front of tv.jpegSharon and I made a quick trip to Santa Fe this last weekend to celebrate her father’s birthday. We stayed at the Inn and Spa at Loretto for two nights. It is our favorite place to stay when we go to Santa Fe, and on this trip we had a room on the fifth floor with a private balcony. It was lovely. We could not figure out how to set the thermostat the first night so the room was a bit cold when we went to bed, but it was still comfortable…and we slept well. The second night was a different story. Someone stayed in the room next to us, which was separated by a door. Our new neighbor had the TV on and we could hear it very clearly, but we thought nothing of it because we assumed that he or she would turn off the TV at a reasonable hour. I stayed up reading with some meditative music on in the background, for I planned on going to sleep when our neighbor turned off the TV. Ten O’clock came and went, but the TV was still on. Okay. I’ll stay up until eleven. No problem I thought. Well, eleven O’clock came and the TV was still on. I was getting concerned that the TV would be blaring all night. Sharon at that time told me that her in-laws would go to sleep with the TV on and keep it on all night and day. Sure enough. The TV stayed on all night and even into mid-morning. We asked the hotel clerk to see if he could get our neighbor to turn down the volume at around midnight, and he or she did, but even then it was still very distracting. The only way we could get some sleep was to put on our meditation music with the volume high enough to drown out the sounds. It worked, but we did not sleep as soundly as we usually do.

This made me curious. Since both Sharon and I cannot get a good night’s sleep with the TV on, why do people do it? Do they actually get a good night’s sleep? I had to find out.

Sleeping with the T.V. on is a surprisingly common habit. According to a national survey, nearly two thirds of Americans fall asleep with the TV on. Moreover, the group that commissioned the study says that people redefined their relationship with television, seeing the TV as more of a companion than a source of entertainment.

So…why do people go to sleep with the TV on? Jason Koebler blogged about this on Motherboard, and he says that there is a body of research finding that constant notifications in an increasingly connected world is making us more stressed and anxious, and leaving the TV on when we go to sleep keeps us distracted from our worries and anxieties long enough for us to fall asleep. I can understand this logic. Stress and anxiety are very common in the modern world, and I am sure that people would do anything for some solace from their worries. Watching re-runs of a favorite TV show or the nightly news can be mind numbing and bring about drowsiness.

I have no doubt that our interim neighbor fell asleep in front of the TV that night, and even though we did get some sleep, it was not as restful as we are used to. That got me wondering: can he and everybody else who make a habit of falling asleep with the TV on get a deep and restful sleep? Personally, I believe it to be a very difficult, if not impossible task.

Research backs up my suspicion. Dr. Guy Meadows of the Sleep School, a clinic in London, says that the dim light (often times the TV light is very bright!) is not healthy to sleep around. The light receptors at the back of the retina tells us it is time to wake up by preventing the release of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy. This will prevent someone from getting a deep, restful sleep.

When we sleep, the hippocampus is very active. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is responsible for spatial memory, and memory in general. It is also connected to other parts of the brain that are engaged in emotional thinking. There are many nerves firing in the hippocampus during sleep, and this seems to be a necessary action for a restful night’s sleep. If the hippocampus cannot do it’s processes, the person will struggle more with short term memory and depression.

This does not even take into account the noise from the TV. We were not exposed to the lights of the TV but we sure could hear it, and it did have an impact on our sleep. We simply could not fall asleep with the noise. Even though people fall asleep in front of the TV because it is the only way they can fall asleep, I am willing to bet that it is not a deep, restful sleep. I would venture to guess that most of these people have no idea what a restful night’s sleep even feels like.

If you make it a habit of falling asleep in front of the TV, I would encourage you to break that habit. I cannot imagine that you get a truly restful night’s sleep on a consistent basis.

It may be a very hard habit to break, and at first it may seem impossible to do, but here are a couple if ideas to help:

Do some light reading in bed with some meditative music in the back ground. A part of the problem of falling asleep is that the brain finally has a chance to process all that happened during the day. This is nothing to be afraid of nor avoid. Let the brain do what it needs to do, and a little light reading can help the brain process on a subconscious level for a bit. Believe me, after a few minutes of reading, the drowsiness will seep in just as good, if not better than with the TV on.

If you are still too anxious to slow down, it may be beneficial to have a note pad at the side of your bed for you to write down what’s going on. If you are having a lot of thoughts coursing through your mind, say your to do list for the next day or week, write them down. Prioritize them. Think it through a bit and make notes. Then try to read a little bit and let the drowsiness set in.

If you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep, get out of bed and find a comfortable chair to do some light reading. This will take your mind off of what’s making you anxious and you may feel drowsy again in a few minutes. If not, just keep reading and don’t worry about it. getting out of bed when you are anxious and have trouble sleeping will reprogram your mind into associating your bed with sleep and rest. I do this very often and it works. I do get sleepy after 15 to 20 minutes and I am ready to go to bed. If I do not feel sleepy, I just stay up and read for as long as I want to. I realize that sometimes I will be tired the next day, but I’m alright with it. I know I will get a good  night’s sleep the next night.

Turn off the TV. Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel better for it.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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Diabetes and Hystrength (sm)

diabetesBoth Sharon and I have a client with type 1 diabetes, and they both say that our workout program is very effective at regulating their blood sugar. As a matter of fact, one of them says that our exercise program is more effective than anything else she does. She swims and does cardio training, and they do help her regulate her blood sugar, but they do not come close to how long her blood sugar stays stable with our program. Additionally, when she reviews the data with her doctor, the doctor is so impressed with her results from our workouts that she insists my client keeps that up as part of her routine.

So what exactly is it that makes the Hystrength(sm) program so good at glucose metabolism? To answer that, we need to be on the same page about what the Hystrength(sm) exercise program entails. Then we can take a look at what the research says.

The Hystrength(sm) exercise program

A Hystrength(sm) exercise program has three components that I believe are invaluable to building a fit, shapely, and healthy body.

  • Core conditioning. This includes all of the exercises that work and develop the mid section, such as the rectus abdominus (the six pack look), the obliques and the deeper muscles of the core. This is very important for preventing lower back pain and good overall posture.
  • Functional training. These exercises are general whole body movements that we have our clients do with resistance that teach the body to work as coordinated unit. They are generally performed with a lighter weight/higher rep protocol. We also make our clients do these exercises with a faster tempo than the strength exercises. Functional exercises really get the heart rate up and makes the client train above the anaerobic threshold.
  • Strength training. Traditionally, strength training is performed by splitting up the body into different training days, and doing many sets for each body part. It is not uncommon to see someone doing upwards to 20 sets per body part this way and spending an awful lot of time in the gym. That is not our style. We believe that one set per body part can be just as efficacious as, say, five or ten sets per body part. It all has to do with having the appropriate resistance, cadence, and intensity of the set to bring about the desired result. Training this way makes a very big demand on all of the fibers of the muscle (fast twitch, intermediate twitch and slow twitch), and fatigues them in a thorough manner in a short amount of time. Moreover, we have our clients above the anaerobic threshold quite often during the workout with the strength training exercises (which does not happen with conventional strength training programs). Combined with the functional exercises, our clients are above the anaerobic threshold most of the workout.

Our approach is very similar to both High Intensity Training (HIT) that Arthur Jones and Dr. Ellington Darden made popular back in the 1980’s, and also in many respects similar to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that is gaining popularity today.

High Intensity Training is strength training where the trainee does a whole body routine using basic strength lifts such as leg presses, squats, dead-lifts, chins and so on in a slow and controlled manner with a heavy enough load to fatigue the working muscle within 8 to 12 reps. HIT also minimizes the rest in between sets so that the heart and lungs work very hard as well.

High Intensity Interval Training is a combination of brief, very intense cardio exercise followed by longer periods of rest. A common method is to use a stationary bike and pedal as hard as one can for sixty seconds at a hard grade and then back off to an easy level of pedaling for a couple of minutes, then do another bout of hard pedaling for sixty seconds, repeating this cycle for 10 minutes or so.

The common feature to both of these exercise programs is the fact that they both push the body above the anaerobic threshold and attempt to keep it there for a good amount of time. The difference between the two lies in the fact that High Intensity Training will work all of the muscle groups, whereas the High Intensity Interval Training group will only do that with the legs. It is my belief that training above the anaerobic threshold that both protocols employ, and the whole body exercises that High Intensity Training does in particular, have a strong response to glucose regulation.

The Research…and other interesting sources

The study Resistance Training in the Treatment of Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus conducted by J Ericksson et al. demonstrated that there was a significant improvement in the HbA1c, which is a way to measure the average blood sugars over a period of time. Furthermore, there is an inverse relationship with HbA1c and cross sectional muscle mass. In other words, the more muscle mass that the subjects developed, the lower the HbA1c (the lower, the better).

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Another study, Strength training improves muscle quality and insulin sensitivity in Hispanic older adults with type 2 diabetes also found that strength training improved both muscle quality and insulin sensitivity in older Hispanic adults.

As for the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training and diabetes, here is a study by Monique Francois and Jonathon Little,  Effectiveness and Safety of High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. They discovered that HIIT is effective in glucose control and overall cardiovascular health.

I found plenty of studies confirming these outcomes, so there is no question that both HIT and HIIT can be beneficial to glucose metabolism. However, intense strength training has better upside potential because intense muscular contractions will drain the glycogen stores of not only the slow twitch fibers (which cardio exercise does), but also the fast twitch fibers that hardly get used in daily activities. Depleting muscle glycogen stores make the muscle more sensitive to insulin which is great for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. The more sensitive the muscles are to insulin, the less the body has to produce to get the job done, and the easier it is for the type 1 diabetics to self administer the needed insulin.

Moreover, glucose uptake by the muscles happen after a hard strength training workout without the need for insulin (See the above link for more information). This, I believe is what makes HIT beneficial for our type 1 diabetics. It can help with steady glucose levels without needing so much insulin.

The final benefit I want to point out comes from the Poliquin Group (Charles Poliquin heads up this organization. He works in large part with elite athletes). Building lean tissue (muscle) increases overall demand for energy, and he says that for every 10% increase in muscle mass, there is an 11% decrease in insulin resistance. Exciting and important news indeed.

Conclusion

Living a  healthy and active lifestyle most certainly can mitigate the problems of both types of diabetes. I think all the health care practitioners are on board with that. Most people consider some form of cardio training as exercise, and really do not understand the benefits of both high intensity training (HIT) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) (yes, I believe that most doctors that treat people with diabetes are not aware of the benefits of high intensity training too). Both forms of exercise help improve insulin sensitivity. Both forms of exercise help control blood sugar. High Intensity Training, in particular, is especially beneficial because it will tax the glycogen stores of all of the muscles, and apparently in a way that does not trigger an insulin response. Moreover, the effects of an exercise bout with both HIT and HIIT last much longer than the benefits from a cardio workout. It is for these reasons that the Hystrength (sm) exercise program works as well as it does with our diabetic clients.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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The Said Principle and Sport Training

My son came home from college last week and reconnected with many of his high school friends. A favorite pastime for them was a friendly game of pick up basketball at the local rec center, and they put together a game and invited me to join them. It sounded like fun, so I accepted.

 Three minutes into the game, I wanted to do this:03-17-2013_150429(99)

I looked up at the clock knowing these guys wanted to play until the gym closed. I had to hang on for another hour and a half. Sh%&^&$#t! How am I going to make it that long? I made it, but I did not have the stamina I had the last time I played 11 years ago.

Does this mean that after all of these years of strength training in a high intensity fashion, I am not fit and in shape? Before I answer the question, consider two observations from Dr. McGruff in his book Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want:

  1. When Dr. McGruff lived in Ohio, he would do both cardio training and strength training on alternate days. In the winter he would run on a treadmill, but in the spring and summer he would run outdoors on the road. Even though he was consistent with his cardio training in the winter, he would always feel like he was going to die the first time he hit the actual road. Here he was, in great shape but he still could not run worth a damn his first day out.
  2. He gives another example of this same outcome from his air force days. They had a minimal fitness requirement test that the recruit had to meet every year, and in this case, the test consisted of an ergometer test performed on a bicycle to determine the max heart rate, which in theory would indicate the fitness level of the recruit. There were two people in his group who were avid marathon runners who assumed that they were in great aerobic shape, thus they did not bother to prepare for the test. At the same time, there was one other person who was overweight and led a sedentary life, but two weeks prior to the test, he would go to the gym every day and use the exact bicycle that was going to be used in the test. Furthermore, he would practice with the exact resistance for the exact amount of time the test would take. Guess who passed the test? Yep. The out of shape guy. Not only did he pass the test, he had the best score. And the two marathon runners? They didn’t even pass the test. Imagine that.

 

 

I think we can all agree that the guy who was overweight and sedentary was not fit like the two marathon runners, so why did he perform much better on the ergometer test? Because of the acronym known as the SAID principle. SAID stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. What this implies is that the body will respond…and adapt to the specific demands placed on it. This is surprisingly precise. Going back to Dr. McGruff, he explains that there is a specific motor skill of running on a treadmill that is very different from running on the road. There is a three-part component to running on a road: foot strike, push-off, then a recovery stroke, contrasting running on the treadmill where there is only a foot stroke and no push off nor recovery stroke because the ground is spinning. These two different movement patterns, even though they may appear to be similar, place different demands on the body, and as Dr. McGruff noticed (as did I), changing from one form of exercise to another feels like a real bear to do. One feels out of shape, even though that is not the case.

Going deeper still, we find that the cardiovascular system has an unexpected non response to the stimulus given. In another study that Dr. McGruff cites (pg.48), thirteen subjects trained on a stationary bike, but they would train only one leg. The other leg was not trained at all. This was carried out for four weeks, and when the researchers tested the trained leg after the study, they found an average increase in VO2 max of 23%, but in the untrained leg there was no improvement in VO2 max. This demonstrates that there is no central cardiovascular improvement, but a specific metabolic adaptation that happened at the muscular level.

This shows that there is a specific conditioning response to a given stimuli, and that there is very little carryover from one form of training to another. If you want to excel at playing tennis, for example, you may want to play tennis and do drills that improve your tennis skills, and forgo distance running that you may have thought would improve your endurance for tennis. Or if you want to do well at hiking fourteeners, you may opt out of mountain biking and simply concentrate on hiking.

If I were to play basketball again, I would do some training to better prepare myself for it beforehand. I would do some sprint and agility training in an effort to improve my anaerobic capacity….and spend a lot of time practicing my shot (god it was awful!). I would be much more capable of handling the intensity of the game.

But then again, I may be an old fart and I have to come to grips with that….

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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Comparing Grocery Carts

When you go grocery shopping, take a quick scan of what most people have in their shopping carts. You can tell at a glance if the person pushing the cart will have issues maintaining a healthy body fat percentage or not. I did this during my last visit to the grocery store, and I took some photos to share.

Let’s take a look at what people buy, shall we?

The Health Conscious Shopper
IMAG1163

I have no doubt that the gentleman pushing this cart thinks he is making healthy food choices. He has some fruit, whole grain bagels, and vegetables in the lower part of the cart. Additionally, he just put on the checkout belt a gallon of low-fat milk. He is eating “healthy” according the dietary recommendations of the American Dietetic Association. The American Dietetic Association switched the format from the food pyramid that they really pushed back in the 1980’s and 1990’s to what is now called the MyPlate. The MyPlate plan divides the food plate into four equal parts of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, and they add a finishing touch (I suppose) of a glass of dairy (low-fat, of course). Moreover, they recommend that the grain portion to be at least 50% whole grains. Personally, I don’t see why it is any different from the food pyramid back in the day. Both plans highly emphasize a very high carbohydrate intake with very low-fat, especially low saturated fats. The basic advice has not changed.

Moving on, you will notice upon close inspection that he also has frozen waffles and what looks like a bag of pure cane sugar crystals, and on the farther side of the cart it looks like a big bag of specialty baked bread.

Once again, I do believe this guy thinks he is making healthy food choices. I am afraid that he is not. First of all, it is very carbohydrate intense, and he has very few vegetables. There is also no good quality protein, and he has no fat at all! I will admit that maybe he is making a small food run and that he may have plenty of good protein items at home already. Even so, it would most likely be lean cuts of meat or chicken breasts, and he would quite likely have vegetable oils that he uses for cooking.

The high carbohydrate intake will tend to keep his insulin levels high, and the lack of both protein and good fats does not give his body the nutrition it needs for proper growth and repair. He is lean now, but it will be more of a struggle to stay in a healthy body fat range…and healthy overall as he gets older.

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The Traditional Shopper

IMAG1165This one was interesting. The couple that this cart belonged to was an older hispanic couple. Take a close look at what they have. You will see eggs, beef, pork, cheese, lots of vegetables and some fruit, and they finish it with salsa. No doubt they plan on making many traditional mexican dishes. Notice what they do not have: any processed foods such as potato chips, soft drinks, bottled juice, pasta and the like. They did buy tortillas, for that is what they put on the food belt while I was taking this photo.

Clearly the contents of this food cart had a mexican slant to it, but the food choices are similar to what was common before the high fat diet was considered unhealthy: meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, butter, and hardly any processed foods, if at all. In other words, whole, natural foods. A tip of the hat to this couple. I hope they keep eating this way.

The Modern Diet

IMAG1160This is pervasive, especially when I go shopping over the weekend. You can see that she has an abundance of soft drinks, chips, frozen waffles, and fruit juice. I believe that there is a bottle of salsa on top. She has no meats, vegetables, or healthy fats in her cart. The majority of the shoppers I see have similar food choices. They will have some meat, eggs, vegetables and the like, but the carts are loaded with the items pictured here.

Somebody who shops like this on a consistent basis will always struggle with maintaining a healthy body weight/ body fat percentage, even if he or she tries to manage portion sizes or daily calories (say, by trying to eat 1300 calories a day). There is so very little nutritional value in all of theses items that the person eating this way will always be hungry, and he or she will most likely feel lethargic. Indeed, a chronic diet of these food items can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.

Our Grocery Cart

IMAG1162Here is a typical grocery run for us. On the top shelf I have all of our vegetables, usually onions, bell peppers, garlic, spinach, kale, cucumbers, avocados and so forth. On the bottom shelf I have the meats, cheese, butter or coconut oil if I need to stock up (today I have avocado oil), various vinegars and other spices, and for our indulgence, I buy a couple of dark chocolate bars (at least 85% cacao). That’s about it. On this day the grocery store had a sale on chuck roast so I really stocked up. That is about one months worth of meat, so we are good to go for a while. You’ll notice that there are no breads, pasta, potato chips or any other such processed food items. This would last Sharon and I about a week or so, and the bill for all of theses items was just north of $100.00.

Conclusion

It seems that people in general believe that healthy eating is way too hard to do, or too expensive to follow. I disagree. First and foremost, we simply need to get back to eating more whole foods and stay away from the processed foods that have no nutritional value, like the older couple I showed earlier. It is no more expensive to choose whole foods over processed foods, nor is it too difficult to prepare healthy meals. Just keep it simple.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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Dietary Fats and Health

fats

Our regular readers know that we have been recommending a lower carbohydrate diet, more along the lines of the paleo diet that is more in vogue lately. We are not completely on board with the diet, for we would prefer meats with a higher concentration of fats (such as chuck roast and pork) and we believe eating dairy is fine as long as it is the high fat stuff like half and half or heavy whipping cream. Let me add a bit more clarity: I would say that our diet aligns more closely with the high fat/low carb paradigm with a heavy dose of veggies. There is no doubt that we are eating far more fat than what the mainstream nutritionists would recommend for good health.

After all, a high fat diet will clog the arteries and lead to heart disease, right?

Not necessarily. New research is showing that a high fat diet is not as devastating on our health as we thought. However, the types of fat do make a difference.

In this blog, we will delve into the different types of fat, and whether or not they should be a big part of our diet.

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Let’s begin:

Saturated fat. What makes fat saturated is the fact that all of the available carbon bonds are tied up with a hydrogen atom. This is the reason why saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Interestingly, and still little known about saturated fats is that this type of fat is very stable, and not prone to spoilage and oxidation. Moreover, saturated fats are heat-resistant and necessary for many bodily functions. For example, saturated fats create a surfactant that covers the lungs that keeps them lubricated and prevents them from drying out. Cell membranes consist of approximately 50% saturated fat and gives the cells the needed stiffness and integrity for proper functioning. One other point I feel is very important to make: The brain consists mainly of fat (most of it saturated) and cholesterol (imagine that), so a diet rich in saturated fats gives the brain the raw materials needed to stay healthy.

Additionally, research is showing no correlation with high saturated fat consumption and heart disease. The evidence is not there.

Polyunsaturated fat. To properly define what a polyunsaturated fat is, we need to be clear about what an unsaturated fat is. An unsaturated fat is a fat whose carbon chain can absorb more hydrogen atoms. Thus, polyunsaturated fat is a fat that has more than one double or triple valence bond per molecule. The many “open-ended” bonds creates a  promotive environment for oxidation, which in general is not good for the body. This suggests that polyunsaturated fats should be avoided, but it is not that simple. There are health benefits to some polyunsaturated fats, but not so much for others. This has to do with the difference between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. I will get into this in a moment.

Monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are fats that have one double bond in the fatty chain with all the remaining carbon atoms being single bonded.  Due to the fact that monounsaturated fats have one double bond, they are semi-solid at room temperature. Additionally, monounsaturated fats are actually quite stable (maybe not as stable as saturated fats, but pretty stable none the less). As a matter of fact, monounsaturated fats are highly resistant to heat damage. So go ahead and use that olive oil for sauteing.

Trans-unsaturated fat. The better known name for trans-unsaturated fats are trans-fats. Trans-fats are made in small amounts in nature…and are quite good for you. However, the better known version of trans-fats are the types of fat that are industrially made from vegetable oils. The vegetable oils go through a process of hydrogenation to make the oil more solid at room temperature (think margarine) and to be used for processed and packaged foods because they have a longer shelf life than vegetable oils, and they are far cheaper to use. Furthermore, trans fats are widely used by restaurants for frying. There is strong evidence suggesting that regular consumption of trans-fats increase the risk or heart disease.

The Omega’s. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated as I mentioned above, so they are more likely to oxidize than the saturated fats, but they are still important for our health. Researchers first learned about the value of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health back in the 1970’s when they observed that the Eskimos of Greenland had lower cholesterol levels than the Danish or other western groups. An examination of their diets showed that they ate a very high fat diet with hardly any vegetables at all. A large portion of the diet consisted of fat from fish, and they had no signs of heart disease. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids are known to:

  • Regulate blood clotting
  • Play an important role in cell membrane functioning
  • Prevent or improve inflammation
  •  Improve cholesterol levels
  • Lower triglycerides

We also need the Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet for good health too, but the ratio in our modern diet of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids are way out of proportion. The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid intake should be around 1:1, and some researchers say even a ratio of  4:1 can still be healthy, but the ratio is way off kilter. It averages anywhere from 20:1 to 50:1! High Omega-6 ratios promote systemic inflammation which scientists say is the cause of heart disease, diabetes, premature aging and cancer among others. The large prevalence of Omega-6’s come from vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soy, and canola. These oils became dominant in restaurant food preparation and packaged foods.

So where does that leave us? No doubt we do need fat in our diets for good health, and most certainly much more than we previously thought, but we still have to be selective. Since there are no healthy benefits to trans-fats in the diet, and especially since trans-fats have been shown to promote heart disease, we should not consume trans-fats at all. That takes out all of the packaged foods, and we must stay away from the fried foods at the restaurant. I am aware that restaurants are trying to change to healthier oils for frying, and some may have made the changes, but I still think it is prudent to just stay away from the fried foods, period.

Do not use any of the vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature for sauteing or frying at home, with the exception of olive oil or even avocado oil. Truth be told, it is nearly impossible to actually find a true Olive oil blend in the store. Most of them have a olive-oil, polyunsaturated oil blend. Because of this, Sharon and I no longer use olive oil. We simply switched to avocado oil for use on our salads.

Speaking of which, what we do use for sauteing is either coconut oil (saturated) or butter (saturated). We use beef tallow from time to time as well (also saturated).

It is of my opinion that we all should increase our intake of fats and at the same time decrease our intake of carbohydrates to a large degree. I would go so far as to suggest we should get roughly 60 to 70% of our calories from fat, cut total carbohydrate consumption down to 15 to 30%, and keep our protein intake about the same. Thus we should eat far more saturated fats, for it is not wise to increase trans-fats or our Omega-6 intake for that matter.

Saturated fats have been vilified too much for way too long. It is time we bring it back into our diets.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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Bad Leg Press Breaks Leg

It had to happen sooner or later. Someone got injured doing a leg press with a load that was way too heavy for him to use. Minor injuries do happen from lifting weights, but this one looked very serious. As near as I can tell, he snapped either his femur or tibia.

The video is no longer up. I bet he was not too happy that it went viral. In any event, I will explain what he did, and what should be done with proper technique.

It looks like he has approximately 1,200 lbs loaded on the machine, which is a lot but it is not unreasonable…if someone is strong enough to lift it with proper form. Clearly he is not.

To get stronger, one does need to lift progressively heavier weights. In truth, everybody has the capability of lifting more weight than they believe they could. Most of us do underestimate how strong we truly can be, and what happened to this guy will make many people apprehensive to train with the proper intensity they need for good results.

So how can you tell how much weight should he be using for maximum stimulation without causing injury?

First of all, he should be using a weight that he can do for a full range of motion without having to use his hands on his knees. Moreover, he should be using a load that he can lift with a smooth and controlled tempo for at least 5 to 6 reps before he reaches fatigue and/or failure.

The fact that he did a very short-range of motion (meaning he barely worked his quadriceps and most likely did not engage his glutes at all) on the first rep spoke volumes about the load simply being too much.

The second glaring issue was the need he had to keep his hands on his knees to do the lift. Trainees underestimate how much help the upper body gives the legs when they do this. This poor guy used his hands so much that his legs really could not lift the weights he had on the machine at all. It was very evident when he wanted to rack the weights after he was done with the set.

We do tell our clients…and all good fitness professionals do as well, to not lock out your knees on the leg press. It can lead to injury, and it looks like that happened in this video, but that is not the reason why his leg folded. His leg buckled because his hands were holding his knee in place, and if you watch the video closely, you can see that his leg buckled as soon as he let go. That is yet another sign that the load was waaay to heavy.

So how much weight should he use for the leg press? By looking at his physical development, I would say that he could safely handle a load in the 700 to 850 lb range, full range of motion with a controlled tempo for the appropriate rep range. That would still be an impressive amount of weight to lift…and he would get stronger without injury.

In contrast to his performance, below is a video of a leg press I did a few years ago. I did it with 1,020 lbs.

You will notice that I never put my hands on my knees…until the final rep to help myself through the fatigue. Furthermore, I did a full range of motion with a smooth and very controlled tempo, and yes, I never locked my knees during the whole set. I was thoroughly cooked at the end of the set, and I never got injured from doing a heavy leg press in my 30 plus years of lifting.

In summation, lifting heavy weights is necessary to get stronger for both men and women, but proper form, as evidenced from the first video, is very important to prevent injury. Using a load that can be done with no help and with a smooth and controlled tempo for a full range of motion for a minimum of 6 to 8 reps before fatigue is a time proven way to go.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman

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I Don’t Want to Get Big

“I don’t want to get big and bulky”

Sharon and I hear this all the time. When it comes to lifting weights, women are still afraid of getting too big.

I imagine they envision this:

woman bodybuilder

Yes. I’d be afraid of that too. However, it is impossible for a woman to get this big and muscular with a well designed strength training program. Here’s why.

Women naturally have lower testosterone levels than men do. Testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth (along side human growth hormone). Good thing, too, because testosterone also promotes body hair and it deepens the voice. That does not mean that women can’t build muscle. They can, but they are able to do it through other hormonal means. It has come to my attention that women secrete more human growth hormone than men, and women are equal to men in the amount of IGF-1 that they produce. IG-1 is a hormone similar to insulin in structure and it works in conjunction with human growth hormone to reproduce and regenerate cells.

Women have less cross-sectional muscle mass than men to begin with. This is the more valid point about the difference between men and women. According to an article titled The Natural Muscular Potential of Womenwomen can gain as much size…and sometimes more strength than men. The difference is the overall muscular size between men and women. Men simply have more size and strength to start with.

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Let me be very frank here. Even many men who want big muscles, and are willing to train very hard to achieve that end, will never build the big muscles that you see on the professional bodybuilding stage. I know this from first hand experience. I started lifting weights because I wanted to be a bodybuilder. I trained very hard. A few times I trained so hard that I got sick and I had to take a couple of weeks off from training (that was smart). Through all of that, I did gain muscle…quite a bit of muscle, but nothing compared to what a professional bodybuilder is able to do. My point is this: since most men cannot get that big and muscular look naturally even if they want it, it would be near impossible for women to get that look from intense strength training. The only reason they do is because they take muscle building drugs. Dianobol, insulin, IGF-1, and other such steroids in large dosages. Very dangerous amounts if you ask me.

But for women to have the toned, shapely looking body that they desire, they do have to train with a high level of intensity. Women have to train hard enough to work the fast twitch fibers because the fast twitch fibers are the ones that become more defined when they grow. The slow twitch fibers do not. Sadly, most women train only with enough intensity to work the slow twitch fibers. As an example, the typical workout women do with weights consist of three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for a given body part with a load that’s easy enough to accomplish this task without any real effort. This is common, and it never produces the results women are looking for.

It takes intensity of effort to work the fast twitch fibers. Whether one chooses to do one set or three sets on any given body part does not matter much. What matters is that by the end of the set…or series of sets, that last couple of repetitions are so hard from fatigue one could barely finish them. Shaky muscles, labored breathing, and a feeling of exhaustion are all good signs that the fast twitch fibers are recruited in a workout. This should be the goal to strive for with every workout.

Sharon is a great example of what a good and intense strength training program can do for the female form. Here is a photo:

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Sharon takes all of her sets to failure, and she uses weights as heavy as she can handle for 8 to 12 reps. Clearly, she is not big and bulky.

Women. Don’t be afraid of intense strength training. You will not get big and bulky. Instead you will get a leaner, shaplier body.

Regards,

Gregg Hoffman