Blood, Sweat and Tears… I’m Coming For You

As most of my readers know I’ve been using Intermittent Fasting for over 6 months to achieve my current levels of leanness. I enjoyed the IF’ing, it works wonders and I highly recommend it for certain individuals. I’ve decided to change my direction right for now.

I’ve been meaning to enter a powerlifting meet for a quite some time now, but stuff keeps on happening and I end up not competing. Well I’m here to tell you that I will be competing in the Winter Open in February of next year.

In case you don’t know what powerlifting is (most people don’t), I’ll quickly explain it for you. Powerlifting is composed of three lifts: the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift. You get three opportunities for each exercise. So all-in-all, you do 9 total sets of 1 rep, per set. Your total is the sum of the 3 highest numbers for each exercise. So if someone told you they had a 2000 pound total, that would mean they lifted a combined 2000 lbs on the bench, squat and deadlift.

My goals are lofty for the meet, but I think I will achieve them. I want a 350 pound bench, 500 pound squat and 650 pound deadlift. These are all achievable for me in the given time frame. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use gear or not. If I do, then I will be able to add a fair amount to my total. However, I may just leave it until my next meet. We’ll see.

I will also be gaining a few pounds back while I increase my strength. Although I love how lean I have gotten, I’ve come to conclusion that I’d rather be strong than be lean. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’m still going to attempt to stay as lean as possible as I bulk up, but I have no reservations about gaining a little bit of bodyfat back as I gain weight. If I were on a boatload of drugs perhaps I could do this easily, but drugs have never been a part of my game plan.

Anyways, that’s just a short update on what I’m doing these days. I’ll still be posting my usual awesome stuff on nutrition and training. There is so much excellent research out there right now. I swear, I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I’m on PubMed.

‘Accuracy’ Of Energy Content in Restaurant Food

An interesting new study just came out that discussed the accuracy of energy content in various restaurant foods. If you are on my newsletter list, you may have seen my opinion about the Fatabase. I believe more restaurants in BC should enter their foods’ information into this Fatabse. If you are completely confused on the ‘Fatabase’ then sign up for my newsletter and I can get you a back “issue.”

The issue at hand is how accurate restaurants are when they compute the caloric values for their items. The researchers also mentioned in the beginning of the study that 35% of the daily energy intake in the US is from restaurant food. The researchers in this study measured 269 food items and 242 unique foods from 42 restaurants in Indiana, Massachusetts, and Arkansas.

Of the 269 food items that were measured, 19% of these items contained 100 kcal or more than what the restaurants stated. A number of these foods were retested. The first test had an average of 289 kcal (186 to 392 kcal) than what was stated. The second test had an average of 285 kcal (154 to 361 kcal) than what was stated. Eek!

On top of all of this, food with lower stated energy content had higher real energy content. Foods with higher stated energy content contained lower measured energy content. Interesting.

The restaurants still got their stuff right 81% of the time. Is that good enough for you? If you were trying to lose weight and you ordered an item off the menu that was supposed to have only 500 kcal, but if measured would have 900 kcals, would you be happy? I would have to say no!

If there was a specific nutritional information database that these restaurants used to calculate their foods, than maybe they would have been more accurate. I do not think that these restaurants are trying to fool their customers into being fat by changing their numbers. They may have had some issues with forming their nutritional information in the first place.

Maybe if these rules were regulated to a governing agency they would have been more accurate. If restaurants had to be say 95% accurate, they might be forced to hire someone who may understand how to calculate the nutritional information for food items better than say, the manager.

Another interesting bit of information is how your portion sizes are manipulated when you eat out. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff covered this brilliantly here. For instance, if you are eating at a restaurant that needs to get rid of it’s food by the end of the day and you show up near closing time, you may get 50% or more food for the same price. There isn’t any way for you to know how much more you’re consuming unless you ask or they tell you. In reality, why would anyone complain about getting more for free? If you are trying to lose weight however, this little restaurant “trick” might leave you confused the next time you step on the scale.

The Romanian Deadlift

I thought I’d take a break from my usual awesome blogging on nutrition and talk a little bit about an exercise that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying lately. The exercise, is of course the Romanian deadlift (RDL). I’d like to go into a little detail on who can benefit from this exercise. Then I’ll cover some basics on how to perform the exercise properly. As easy as it seems, I rarely see people performing it properly.

I will first tell you that this exercise is not easy. It’s not always fun either, once you begin lifting some heavy ass weight! However, the benefits that you will get from them are well worth the sweat and tears.

If you are looking to add muscle to your hamstrings, glutes, and entire back this exercise will do that. If you are looking to add strength to your hamstrings, glutes and entire back, this exercise will do that. If you’re looking to improve athletic performance in pretty much any sport which requires hip extension (and let’s be honest, which REAL sport doesn’t require hip extension?) then this exercise will do that. If you are looking to solve world hunger, the obesity epidemic, and turn into Superman, the RDL will do that too!

All jokes aside, the RDL is only slightly inferior to the deadlift in terms of value. Since many people can’t deadlift, due to poor mobility, the RDL may be a great option for a large number of people who want to lift something heavy but can’t deadlift.

The RDL is also an excellent progression into deadlifting for a new trainee. I use it as part of my deadlifting progression for clients who do have the mobility to eventually deadlift.

The RDL is used extensively in many of programs of very strong people. It’s a great assistance exercise for both deadlifting and squatting. I was discussing how I used to a be a bit of a baby when trying to incorporate the RDL into my squat or deadlift days. I’d rationalize to myself that if I was already doing an exercise that hit my hamstrings, glutes and low back hard than there was no need to add the RDL to my assistance repertoire. Well I decided to stop being a pansy and did them right after deadlifts. They felt awesome.

A couple coaching cues you want to keep in mind when trying this lift out:
– Go light when you first start off, if you don’t know how to have a neutral spine then you will hurt yourself
– Don’t know what a neutral spine is? Find a coach who does or try and learn it on your own. Here is an excellent video on coaching neutral spine by Mike Robertson:
– Keep your spine neutral at all times!
– Getting bored of me talking about neutral spine yet? Too bad, it’s that important!
– Soft knees! You should bending slightly at the knee, this isn’t a stiff legged deadlifts. Keep in mind that this is a posterior chain dominant exercise, you aren’t trying to squat the weight up. Your lower legs should remain as vertical as possible.
– Push your ass back! In order to keep this posterior chain dominant, you will need to push your ass back as far as possible. Otherwise you will bend excessively at the knees. This will result in a very ugly RDL.
– Avoid over extending your neck. In other words, keep a neutral neck. Here is another great video on how to maintain a neutral neck while lifting:

– Keep your shoulders back. Don’t let them roll forward, this will most likely result in an increased kyphosis, which we most certainly do not want. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that your thoracic spine won’t flex at all if you are lifting weight, but make sure it isn’t excessive.

Do NOT do this!!!

– There really are many progressions to this lift. You may find it hard to keep your shins vertical. Hip hinging can be a great drill to teach yourself motor control. I wish I could find a video of Dr. Stuar McGill teaching the hip hinge, but this video does the job:
If there is any interest in hip hinging, leave a comment and I can try and get a video up of what I use with my clients.

I will leave you with one last video of myself setting a personal record (PR) on the RDL. These were hard. Feel free to mute it unless you want a good laugh at the commentary from my buddy.
As you can see, my neck is still over extended. This is something that I’ve been working on myself lately. I have to constantly remind myself to keep it neutral. An eight year old habit is pretty tough to break though!

Have a great weekend.


Eating At Night Makes You Fat… Right?

I remember first hearing about this about 10 years ago. I’d imagine the myth is older than this but what do I know, I’m young. Anyways, this myth was probably started from one main myth: if you eat when you aren’t active, you will gain more weight than if you ate before, during or immediately after exercise.

If you regularly read my blog you know I’m a firm believer in energy balance. There is yet to be any research that I’ve seen that refutes that our bodies are ‘slave’ to energy balance. Let’s take a look at some research.

You can lose fat if you eat a huge meal in the morning or a huge meal at night. This study had its subjects consume 70% of their calories either at breakfast or dinner while on a hypocaloric diet. Over a 6-week period the subjects lost 3.9kg (8.6lbs) on the large am feeding vs. 3.3kg (7.26lbs) on the large pm feeding. That’s a difference of 1.3 pounds over 12 weeks folks. Interestingly the PM group retained more lean mass.

Now, one could argue that the large breakfast and therefore small dinner group lost more weight than the large PM feeding group. That’s not the point I’m trying to make here though. Both of these groups lost fat! The PM eating group still lost weight, there wasn’t some sort of evil spell cast over them from lifting their forks to their mouths at night that made all their calories turn into fat.

Let’s put it this way. Let’s say Z is going to go on a diet. He decides to reduce his caloric intake and resistance train 3x per week. He can only train at night though. Since he knows that taking in a large amount of calories after training is going to help him build muscle he decides to have a large dinner after training. He’ll have 2 smaller meals in the daytime. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say his RMR is 2000. He eats 1750 calories, 250 calories below maintenance in order to achieve a negative energy balance.

Z takes in 800 calories at dinner and 950 calories split between the two early meals. He follows his diet plan and resistance training schedule to a T and loses weight even though he is eating a ton at night. This wouldn’t come as a surprise to me at all.

Let’s say he switched to training in the morning. He’d have a huge breakfast, and eat a little bit lighter for his last two meals. According to the study above, he’d lose maybe an extra pound or two, which really isn’t a very big deal if he’s trying to lose large amounts of weight. The only reason I could see how 1-2 pounds would make a difference is if he had only a few pounds to lose and wanted to retain as much lean mass as possible. According to the results of the study above however, the large PM feeding retained more lean mass than the AM feeding.

Now let’s examine another study with a 6 month duration. This study closely examined 78 obese police officers that consumed the majority of their carbohydrate intake during dinnertime vs. a control group. The nighttime group had greater weight loss, greater fat loss and a greater reduction in abdominal circumference than the control group.

The nighttime group also experienced a lower decrease in leptin than the control group. Since large decreases in leptin are not what we wants when trying to eat less, this is definitely a great benefit of eating at night. Hunger scores were lower and greater improvements in fasting glucose and average daily insulin concentrations were observed as well.

I think it’s fair to say that there really is no reason to fear eating at night. Saying that eating at night will make you fat is like saying if you fill your car up with gas at night, you will magically have more gas in the tank the next day. It just doesn’t work like that. If you eat carbs at night, you will have more glycogen stored in your body for use during the next day. If you have a negative energy balance this glycogen along with other energy substrates will be used as energy at a later time. Case closed!

The Effects of Fructose On A Hypocaloric Diet

Super Fattening Foods
An interesting new study was released at the end of May that compared the effects of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet. The researchers also examined how these two different diets affected weight loss and metabolic syndromes.

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of added sugars in the form of fructose on our weight and how it affects the following; blood pressure, lipid profile, serum glucose, insulin resistance, uric acid, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1. Quality of life scores were included as secondary outcomes.

One hundred two (78%) of the 131 participants were women, mean age was 38.8 ± 8.8 years, and the mean body mass index was 32.4 ± 4.5 kg/m(2). The low-fructose diet group was given <20g/d of fructose, the moderate group was given 50-70 g/d of fructose. The study had a duration of 6 weeks.

From the study: “Each intervention diet was associated with significant weight loss compared with baseline. Weight loss was higher in the moderate natural fructose group (4.19 ± 0.30 kg) than the low-fructose group (2.83 ± 0.29 kg) (P = .0016).” So as you can tell, the moderate group somehow lost more weight than the low group despite the fact that both groups were in a negative energy state and were taking in the same amount of kcals (although the kcal were set at 1500, 1800, and 2000 based on age, sex, height).

As much as I’d like to enjoy using this study as proof that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn’t the demon that everyone says it is, I can’t. The main reasons being that the moderate natural fructose diet was composed mainly of fruit and . It would’ve been nice if the researchers allowed processed foods containing fructose sweeteners as a part of the study. After all, it is usually the added sugars found in processed foods that are touted as being the fat devil, not necessarily fruit. Had they used these sugars and achieved the same results, it would have added more verification to how powerful a negative energy balance is. A fact, which seems be lost on a lot of these low-carb advocates.

Another problem with the study was the odd discrepancy in the amount of weight loss for each group. The moderate group lost 4.19 ± 0.30 kg and the low-fructose group 2.83 ± 0.29 kg. Since both of these groups were consuming similar calories, they should’ve lost the same amount of weight. I’m not going to tell you that a diet higher in fructose is going to be the next “big thing.” Although the authors of the study concluded: “Reduction of energy and added fructose intake may represent an important therapeutic target to reduce the frequency of obesity and diabetes.”

As I quoted above, the authors said a reduction in body weight and the addition of fructose may reduce the frequency of diabetes and obesity. Although the addition of fructose helped in this study, you can’t isolate that factor to claim that it will reduce the frequency of diabetes and obesity. It was the calorie restriction that caused the reduced bodyweight. Had the subjects consumed fructose, sucrose, or glucose, they still would’ve lost the same amount of weight as long as they were on a hypocaloric diet!

Even though the study didn’t use HFCS, I’d like to examine the differences in sugar composition of fruit vs. HFCS. If you look at the sugar composition of various fruits, you may notice the composition is somewhat similar to HFCS-42 or HFCS-55 (the numbers denote the percentage of fructose per gram of sweetener. So HFCS-42 is composed of 42% fructose, with the remainder of the sugars coming from glucose and other sugars).

Let’s examine the sugar composition of a common fruit; an apple. A 100-gram apple contains 13.8 total carbohydrates, 10.4 grams of total sugars, 5.9 grams of fructose, 2.4 grams of glucose, 2.1 grams of sucrose. To find the percent of fructose in an apple weighting 100 grams we simply divide 5.9/10.4 to get 57%. So the sugar composition of an apple would have roughly the same amount of fructose as HFCS-55, but the rest of the sugar composition would be a little different.

Let’s examine a few other things about this study that could have been improved. The average BMI of the subjects was 32.4 ± 4.5 kg/m(2). This puts most of the subjects into the obese group. Since this study seemed to be aimed at diabetics I suppose this makes sense. It would nice to have some research on populations with a lower BMI. The study had a duration of 6 weeks, which is quite short. 8-12 Weeks may have been a better choice.

As this study has shown, you can lose weight while consuming fructose. Fruits have numerous health benefits as well. They contain various vitamins and minerals; they generally have high nutrient density and reasonably low (depending on what fruit we’re talking about) calorie density; and they taste pretty damn good. However, if you are already in a hypercaloric state, the addition of fruit will add weight to your frame. If you were to replace the half-dozen donuts you eat every lunch with a banana and apple, you would lose weight provided that you are now in a hypocaloric state.

“Fat Burning Foods”

I see this quoted far too often in magazines, blogs, ads, everywhere. It really pisses me off. No food is going to transform your body from a fatty to a cover model. This is something that most people fail to understand due to all the ignorance displayed in the media.

If you signed up for my newsletter, you may have noticed, I didn’t title my report “The Top 10 Fat Burning Foods.” I did this for a reason. Yes, protein has a higher TEF (which is why you’ll find a lot of high-protein foods in my report). You can eat junk food and lose weight, you can eat junk food and maintain your weight, and you can eat junk food and gain weight. Obviously the latter is what is usually associated with junk food.

I wrote late last year about a Human Nutrition professor in the US who ate only junk food, with a whey shake and some veggies on a daily basis. Two-thirds of his calories came from junk food. Check the article out here. What happened to this guy in terms of weight loss you ask? He lost 27 pounds in three and a half months.

Does this mean that junk food is a fat burning food? It makes sense. I mean he ate 66% of his calories from junk food, so why wouldn’t twinkies, nutty bars and donuts be touted as fat burning foods? There is a simple answer to all this. He was in a caloric deficit.

He consumed only 1800 calories per day. So he lost weight. I’ve regularly consumed candy, cereal, chocolate, and I still manage to lose weight. The problem with most people (and I’m not saying this is the reason for obesity, it may be a contributing factor) is that they don’t count calories. If you count calories you could eat junk food just as this professor did and lose weight. It wouldn’t be a healthy way of losing weight, but you would lose weight nonetheless.

Now if someone ate 1200 of their calories from junk food and consumed 3000 calories per day, they would most likely gain weight. For instance if X had a resting metabolic rate of 2500, and ate 3000 calories per day, he would end up gaining a few pounds over the next few weeks and months. Yet he’s still consuming the same amount of junk food as the professor. What gives? Their total caloric intakes are drastically different!

What I’m getting at here is that you shouldn’t be asking “what foods can I eat to burn more fat.” You should be asking yourself “what foods can I remove from my diet to lower my caloric intake.” When you can answer that question, or get someone to help you answer that question, you will be able to lose weight.

We seem to live in a society, where people want the easy way out. When it comes to weight loss, subtraction is the only way to lose weight. Subtraction of certain foods are why the Atkins and Zone diet work. They limited peoples eating choices. Therefore they ate less because they weren’t provided with their usual variety. I’m not an advocate of either of those diets, but I am an advocate of fat loss. Subtraction is the way to go!

Hope everyone in Canada had a great Canada Day. If you’re in the US have a great 4th of July.