Home Posts tagged "Weight Loss" (Page 5)

High-Intensity Interval Training Wins Again

Here’s a random question for you: have you ever seen a fat soccer player competing at a high level? Nope. It just doesn’t happen; you can’t get far in this sport if you’re carrying excess baggage – and the demands of the sport get you lean in the first place. Now, here’s a follow-up question: have you ever seen a fat jogger? Absolutely! They’re all over the place; heck, there are probably more fat joggers than there are lean joggers! A recent study takes things a step further and shows that soccer is not only superior to jogging for fat loss (almost double the fat loss over the course of 12 weeks), but that it’s also superior for fitness gains and muscle mass increases – all while exercising at a lower perceived exertion because they were having more fun. Take-home lessons? 1. As Alwyn Cosgrove and Craig Ballantyne (and dozens of other bright fitness professionals) have stated over and over, high-intensity work (interval training and lifting) blow aerobic exercise out of the water for fat loss. 2. Pick an activity that is fun for you. Play ultimate Frisbee, flag football, or just go sprint (racing someone is great). Long, slow, steady-state cardio is about as exciting as watching paint dry. 3. Build muscle mass and you’ll get leaner faster. Eric Cressey http://www.cresseyperformance.com
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Mental Athletic Performance Testing

In my off-season manual, I allude to several performance tests that I feel best demonstrate potential for athletic excellence. As a tag along to this, I've noticed several non-physical behavioral "tests" that show me an athlete is psychologically ready to commit to success. These issues are especially common in our high school athletes. 1. On the diet front, we ask our athletes to bring us two-day nutrition logs (one training day and one non-training day) so that we can evaluate how they can improve their diets. The more dedicated athlete, the sooner we get that back (if at all). 2. Also on the diet front, aside from those who are lactose-intolerant, athletes who complain about the taste of cottage cheese just never seem to "get it." These same individuals are usually the ones who dislike every flavor of protein powder imaginable. 3. Motivated athletes realize that if they fall off the wagon by eating some junk food, the entire day isn't "lost." They get back on track and call it water under the bridge. Less motivated athletes tend to just consider an entire day a way and have another bag of Twizzlers and a two-liter bottle of Coke. 4. One's response to injury is also always a good indicator of how bad one "wants it." The best athletes want to train through the injury - even though we don't advise it, obviously. With these individuals, we're big on showing them what they CAN do rather than just reaffirming what they CAN'T do. The idea is to continuously challenge them with movements that either a) allow them to train around the injury and b) movements that will help to rehabilitate the injury and/or prevent it from occurring again. The softest of the bunch usually skip the session because they want a pity party. As much as a stereotype as it may seem, my experience with female athletes in particular has been that injuries tend to lead to complete abstinence from exercise in favor of partaking in slumber parties with Ben and Jerry. 5. Some exercises - deadlifts, squats, single-leg work - are flat-out challenging. I love it when guys show up to the gym absolutely ready to get after these movements. It drives me crazy when guys only get pumped up for bench day, and would jump at the chance to miss lower-body training sessions. The more you learn to love an exercise, the faster you'll improve with it. Eric Cressey www.CresseyPerformance.com
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Money Makes the World Go Round? Or “Un-Round?”

According to a recent article, in light of the doubling of the obesity rate in Australia over the past 20 years, the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) is encouraging the government to pay overweight Australians 170 dollars ($140 USD) to attend weight-loss programs. Yes, they’re actually considering paying people to lose body fat. Apparently, the prospects of looking and feeling great and living a long and healthy life just aren’t rewarding enough for some people. Here’s a wild idea… How about FINING people for being overweight? You see it all the time with offensive lineman in the NFL who come to camp overweight. I recall reading a while back that according to the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL in 2006, a team could fine an overweight player as much as $457 per extra pound per day. Even when guys are making millions, this adds up – especially when it’s hurting their playing time. It’s happened in the NBA, too. Human nature is such that people won’t always get motivated by money when you give them incentive to work on something. It’s the reason people don’t accept low-paying jobs (the reward doesn’t justify the effort, in their minds). However, separate someone from money that is already theirs, and they’ll get motivated FAST. Just as you don’t like to lose your wallet, offensive linemen don’t like to get fined or lose their starting jobs. Eric Cressey
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Studying for the Wrong Test

When I read this article about the FDA asking companies to consider using a system of symbols on packaging to denote whether foods were healthy or not, I immediately thought back to my trip last week to buy a new desk at IKEA. For those who don’t know, IKEA is a company of Swedish origin that just so happens to have a food court. That food court is world-renowned for – you guessed it – Swedish meatballs. And, given that the store is roughly the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, you can bet that my girlfriend and I were in there so long that we needed a nutritional intervention at the food court to avoid dying of starvation during what amounted to the Hundred Years War of furniture purchasing (for the record, we lost this war; the desk was sold out and I’m now typing this with my laptop on top of my bureau). Plus, I was anxious to show my girlfriend that I really know how to treat a lady to a fine meal (eat your heart out, ladies). But I digress… As we stood in line with two chicken caesar salads (dressing on the side), we (seemingly simultaneously) noticed the cafeteria tray of the woman in front of me. She was about 5-3, 200 pounds. I’d estimate that she had about 487 meatballs (or at least 15) on her plate, and it was tastefully arranged such that the add-on heap of macaroni and cheese offered such a delicate contrast of coloring that even Martha Stewart would have skipped a breath. Had Martha seen the accompanying chocolate and peanut butter torte, she might not have been able to get her breath back at all. It was 4,000 calories worth of trans-fatty grace. But it clearly wasn’t enough. Just in front of my fellow shopper was a stack of chocolate bars that caught her attention like a fart in church. She grabbed one of the bars, and glanced at the label (of course, so did I). It had 630 calories and 31 grams of fat. I couldn’t get a good view of the sugar content – as she had tossed it onto her tray before I could even read it. There was no hesitation at all. Chances are that she almost swallowed her hand minutes later in her attempt to eat it. What’s my point? Frankly, labels don’t mean much. Behavior modification goes a lot further than that. When you were ten, did you know to not drink the Draino because it had the little skull and crossbones on it, or did you know because it was hidden from plain view – and your mother had instilled in you early-on that drinking Draino wasn’t good for you? If we want to effect favorable societal changes in the way people eat, we need to spend more time educating kids and their parents about good food choices and – just as importantly – behavior modifications. Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition System has been wildly popular and successful. Why? Among other reasons, John focuses on behavior modification via his Seven Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Programs. As much as I dislike the programs, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have worked for many people simply because they’ve encouraged behavior modification before the fact. In other words, in both cases, you pick what you’re going to eat ahead of time – not when you’re reading a label at the grocery store. That’s when you’re behind the eight-ball already. Eric Cressey
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Maki Riddington: Why Nap?

The Eric Cressey Blog welcomes a guest entry by Maki Riddington: Even though we spend a third of our lives sleeping, scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep. In animal studies it has been shown that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. In humans, those who had been deprived of just one night’s sleep were shown to have a reduction in mental exertion. In real life situations, the consequences of being sleep-deprived are grave. Some speculation has linked sleep-deprivation to certain international disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion. Taking this into the gym can mean that the ability to concentrate and focus can become compromised which means less of an effort and intensity in the workout (9). Hopefully it’s not leg day. Athletes who suffer from sleep-deprivation have been shown to see a decrease in cardiovascular performance (10), that is, their time to exhaustion is quicker. Sleep-deprivation in studies has been shown to occur around 30-72 hours. For an athlete who has a full course-load, studies, mid terms, and trains, sleep-deprivation can accumulate very rapidly. Another study looked at cortisol and performance levels after staying up for an 8-hour period overnight. Performance declined and cortisol levels increased. For someone looking to pack on muscle and increase strength, this is bad news since the main focus is to minimize cortisol release since it is a catabolic hormone (11). From a fat loss perspective, sleep deprivation can impair fat loss through a decrease in levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and increases in the hunger hormone ghrelin. According to Dr. Van Cauter a professor of medicine at the university of Chicago, “One of the first consequences of sleeplessness is appetite dysregulation.” “Essentially, the accelerator for hunger [ghrelin] is pushed and the brake for satiety [leptin] is released.” “The leptin levels are screaming ‘More food! More food!’” What this means is that the hormone leptin is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, the body will crave calories (especially in the form of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. For someone trying to diet, good luck! Voluntarily sleeping less than 6 hours per night has been associated with an increased incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, according to a cohort analysis of the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (12) This may mean that a chronic lack of sleep can impair glucose tolerance, which can make body recomposition a difficult task. Most people have a hard enough time trying to regulate their carbohydrates and time them so that the body metabolizes them efficiently. So, if you’re getting the required 8 hours of sleep, are you ok? Well, if this sleep is broken up, then its value decreases as the sleep cycle is interrupted. Deep sleep appears to be connected with the release of growth hormones in young adults. Many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repairing bodily stress (muscle damage from strength training), uninterrupted deep sleep plays an important role in recovery and regeneration of the body. Finally, adequate sleep and a properly functioning immune system are closely related. Sleep-deprivation compromises the immune system by altering the blood levels of specialized immune cells and important proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers instruct other immune cells to go into action. As a result of being compromised, greater than normal chances of infections are likely to occur. And we all know that being sick can be a big setback both in and out of the gym. Maki Riddington
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Talking Shop: Nick Grantham

What are ten things our readers can do RIGHT NOW to become leaner, stronger, faster, and more muscular? 1. Set goals – SMART goals so that you know where the journey is going to take you and how you are going to get to your destination. 2. Keep a training diary – You need to track your progress. 3. Train consistently – Set a plan and stick to it. It’s all too easy to say, “Hey, I’ll train today.” If you don’t schedule a time to train, chances are you will get to the end of the day and you will have missed your session. 4. Recover well – You’ll understand why when you read the rest of the interview! 5. Concentrate on the 98% - I’ll explain this one later on. 6. Include conditioning work (prehab/remedial/injury prevention….call it what you like….my choice is conditioning) in your training session. Superset between the main lifts – that way the work gets done and you will be on the way to becoming “bulletproof.” 7. Replace steady-state running with high intensity intervals – Come on, do I really need to explain this one? Intervals will give you more bang for your buck than slow steady-state running. 8. Don’t get hung up on TVA recruitment – Isolating a muscle will not necessarily transfer to improved core strength during athletic movements. Train how you are going to perform; make sure you hit all of the major muscle groups (rectus abdominus, obliques, erector spinae, etc.). 9. Learn to handle your bodyweight – I’ve worked with elite gymnasts – these guys are super strong. I don’t really care what your bench is if you can’t even handle your own bodyweight with good form. Don’t neglect the basics. 10. Whole body hypertrophy programmes – I’m with Alwyn Cosgrove on this one. Why go for split routines when you can get a greater training effect from a whole body hypertrophy routine? Nick Grantham
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Don’t Be So Linear

Got to any gym, and you’ll see loads of people doing cardio at varying intensities, with different machines, listening to different music, and wearing different exercise sneakers. While they each appear unique, the reality is that they’re all stuck in linear movements that always have them moving forward. Take any of these people off their precious ellipticals, treadmills, and recumbent bikes, and you’ll find that they lack frontal and transverse plane stability and carry their weight anteriorly. The solution is pretty simple; get them moving in different ways! The first step is to include some single-leg work in all exercise programming. This does NOT include unilateral leg presses and Smith machine lunges; you should actually be doing some of the stabilization work! Second, make sure that you’re training movements that require full hip flexion (knees get above 90 degrees) and hip extension (glutes fire to complete hip extension). Sprinting meets these guidelines very easy, but cardio equipment that limits range of motion will always fall short. I’m not saying that they don’t have their place; I’m just saying that I’d rather have people outside doing sprints and multi-directional work instead. Third, and most importantly incorporate more backwards and lateral movement in your energy systems work. Here’s an example that I used with an online consulting client of mine recently: Dynamic Flexibility Warm-up The following should be performed in circuit fashion with the designated rest intervals from below incorporated between each drill. A1) High Knee Run: 20 yards A2) Butt Kicks: 20 yards A3) Backpedal: 20 yards A4) Carioca: 20 yards to the right A5) Carioca: 20 yards to the left A6) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the right A7) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the left A8) Backpedal: 20 yards A9) Scap Push-up: 15 reps A10) Sprint: 50 yards Week 1: 3 times through, Rest interval: 15s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 2: 3 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 3: 4 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 4: 2 times through, Rest interval: 5s between drills, two minutes between sets Eric Cressey Improved Posture is Not Only Good for your Health, but also good for your Performance.
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Weekend Warriors: The Off-Season

Q: Eric, I have a question about your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Knowing who wrote this manual, I know that it's going to be a great product! I realize that this would be geared more towards the high performance athlete, but could the "Weekend Warrior" realistically utilize this manual?
A: Good question - and I've actually received the same inquiry from a few people now. Here's my (admittedly-biased) take on things: If you've read stuff from Mike Robertson, Alwyn Cosgrove, Kelly Baggett, and me (among a few others), I hope one message you've taken away from the articles is that the ordinary weekend warrior would be a lot better off if he'd train more like an athlete. The strength work athletes do helps you move bigger weights and build more muscle while burning more calories to stay lean. The movement training keeps you functional and helps you with energy system work to keep your body composition in check. The mobility work keeps you healthy and functional so that you can stand up to all the challenges in your training programs without getting injured. This manual shows you how all those pieces fit together at different times of year, and it also provides a lot of "stuff you just ought to know" if you train. Another cool thing is that you'll actually start to watch sports on TV in a different light; you'll begin to pick up on the little things that make each athlete unique. And, if all that isn't enough, you've got 30 weeks of sample programming to keep things interesting! Again, great question! Eric Cressey
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The Bulk-Cut Fiasco

From reading your stuff and that of John Berardi, I’ve really begun to reconsider the traditional bodybuilding-influenced “bulk-cut” approach to improving body composition. With respect to getting people to below 10% body fat, Dr. Berardi wrote that “people usually OVERESTIMATE the difficulty and UNDERESTIMATE the duration,” and that it is possible as long as:

1) They're willing to work out in excess of 5hrs per week (sometimes up to 8 hours/week).

2) They're willing to commit to eating better with each meal. Not follow a fat loss or bulking diet. Simply, every time they sit down to eat, they do better.

3) They're willing to learn a new normal. We all have habits that are ‘normal’ and if you're 15, 20, 30% fat, your ‘normal’ = good for fat gain. A diet is abnormal. You'll always get back to 15%, 20%, 30% if you're always doing something abnormal. However if you re-learn a new normal, you can have a new body.

Judging from your writings, you seem to favor a similar approach. I was just wondering if you would care to elaborate on any of these things. I’ve really been thinking about how traditional bulking and cutting might very well be outdated, and would appreciate your thoughts.

Those are definitely some statements with which I agree wholeheartedly, and I think that the more people that check out JB’s Precision Nutrition products, the less often I’ll have to encounter questions like this! Once people start to adopt these ideals, I really think that we’ll see a paradigm shift in the world of training-nutrition interaction for body composition improvement.

I, too, get really sick and tired of the “bulk and cut” mentality to which so many people adhere. And, as a competitive athlete myself who has to maintain reasonably strict control over my body weight – yet has still seen consistent improvements in body composition over time – I feel that I have a solid frame of reference from which to speak. In fact, as I look to drop a few pounds prior to APF Senior Nationals (June 2), my overall training and nutrition strategies aren’t changing much at all.

With that said, I've got several problems with what has seemingly become the “traditionalist” approach:

1. People adopt programs, but never habits. Consistency is more important than you can possibly imagine, but when you're constantly shuffling back and forth between programs, you're never really "getting it." If you had the good habits in the first place, chances are that you wouldn’t have ever had to come to consider the extreme cutting or bulking, right?

2. Progress can be very tough to monitor in experienced individuals. Experienced natural lifters might be lucky to add five pounds of lean body mass a year. How realistic is it to really micromanage such subtle changes over a three-month period (assuming two bulks and two cuts per year)? Spread five new pounds out over an entire body and you'll see that it isn't readily apparent. Work with some guys who are 7-feet tall like I have and you’ll see that it’s even more hard to notice – especially when you see them on a daily basis.

3. Bulk/Cut is no way to live. Let's assume that a year consists of two bulks and two cuts. So, basically, you're spending one half of the year gorging yourself until you become a fat-ass, and the other half in misery until you get lean enough to feel crappier and look better. Toss in a few root canals, a colonoscopy, and a few Ben Affleck movies*, and you’ve got yourself a year to be forgotten. Yeehaw.

4. Think of the long-term consequences of the bulk/cut scheme. If you read the research on weight regain and body fat distributions in recovered anorexics, you’ll see that central adiposity is extremely common. Are severe cutting diets really that much different than clinical cases of anorexia? Taking someone’s thyroid out and stomping on it would actually be a quicker means to the same end.

5. Do we really want to adhere to guidelines that are predominantly geared toward professional bodybuilders who are so juiced to the gills that you can smell GH on their breath? They’ve got extensive anabolic arsenals in place to maintain muscles mass and optimize nutrient partitioning as they diet down, and thyroid medications to keep their metabolic rates up in spite of the reductions in calories. Indirectly, all these substances improve strength and stave off lethargy, making training sessions more productive in spite of caloric reductions. In the bulking scenarios, the nutrient partitioning effects are still in place, as these individuals are less likely to add body fat when eating a caloric surplus.

Now, put a natural lifter in the same scenario, and you’ll see right away that he’s immediately at a disadvantage. Drop calories too fast, and your endogenous testosterone and thyroid levels fall. You get tired and weak, and your body has to find energy wherever it can – even if it means breaking down muscle tissue.

I’m not trying to get on a soapbox here; I’m just trying to make people realize that they’re comparing apples and oranges. You need to do what’s right for you.

And what does that entail? Adopt admirable dietary, training, and lifestyle habits, and you’ll build a strong body that moves efficiently and just so happens to look good. Leave the quick-fix approaches for those with “assistance” and anyone silly enough to watch a fitness infomercial from beginning to end.

Eric Cressey
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series