Personal Training is Dead

I am ashamed to tell people what I do. And here’s why...

I once worked with a guy who tied a mini-band around a clients ankles and made him do Power Cleans while directing him to jump onto a box. Maybe he was into some kinky Franz Bosch training, but you cannot convince me this was relatively safe or even sound training. The bad part was this guy had a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from a great school. (◔_◔)

This guy had 4+ years of education about exercise physiology, strength training, biomechanics, etc., and the best thing he could come up with can basically be classified as circus training. Degrees and certifications aside, it seems ridiculous to me why people go to college to learn how to become Personal Trainers or Strength Coaches to begin with. The concept of learning from a professor, who isn’t in a gym or weight room producing results that inevitably you are going to want for your clients but instead reading out of a book is completely backwards. Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace education, but from reputable sources. For example, if you wanted to be the best carpenter in the world, would you rather go to carpentry school or apprentice with the top carpenters in the world? Given you had a choice to hire one or the other to craft the woodwork in your new house, who do you hire? My money would be on the guy who learned from the best people in the industry, not from a book or an online certification.

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When I was in college, the last week or so we were having a discussion about what we were grateful for and I remember one girl say she was “grateful that she wouldn’t have to read anymore.” The fuck?!? If aren’t reading like they are burning libraries down, then you don’t deserve to be in this industry. I don’t care what school you went to, you don’t know enough to stop learning. But let me be honest, after I got my Personal Training certification, I thought I was Einstein. I knew every-fucking-thing and was happy to hand out unsolicited advice to any and all gym goers. However, once the basic advice I learned stopped working and came across someone who knew the game better than me, I quickly begin to tumble down the Dunning-Kruger curve into a realization that I really know nothing. It is a necessary and humbling experience that all great coaches have had.

Perhaps that is why, no matter what gym you step into it seems like it is a revolving door for Personal Trainers. Every 6 months or so you have a whole new crew, using the same basic level of knowledge as the last. The ones that left, probably did so because they were facing challenges that Instagram didn’t prepare them for and thus had to further educated themselves. I think turnover is so high because knowledge is so low. Not everyone wants to put in extra work, however those that deliberately put in the time for continuing education and additional research make the best coaches. To be successful in this industry you have to have a desire to want to improve yourself everyday.

Another reason turnover is so high is that the pay is so low due to the highly competitive nature of the Personal Training/Gym business. Companies want to undercut the gym across the street so they slight the trainers pay so much that you need 40 clients to pay the bills which takes up all the time you have training, and leaves none for education. Yes, every certification has its requirements of continuing education but it’s all sponsored bullshit from the certifying body and besides, if you think that only completing the minimum amount of education to retain your cert is enough, you don’t deserve to be in this industry. Humblebrag, I did 64 hours of continuing education and read 57 books last year on everything from business, to sleep, strength training, anatomy, brain health, hormone imbalance, biomechanics, nutrition, to Alzheimer’s, all in hopes of expanding my base of knowledge on how to improve the health and performance of my clients.

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Unfortunately, companies do not value knowledgeable employees or good training, because they would have to pay them more, so again turnover is favorable. The devalue the profession by taking an obscene % of the training rate charged to the client. You are lucky to get half of what they charge the client for an hour of training. And some companies take as as much as 85% of the revenue coming from the sales of training, which is asinine. Once trainer’s build a client base and realize they can basically double their income by working for themselves, their out. Personally I think it behooves you — the corporation or the client — to pay more money so that I don’t have to run around all across the city to make money to eat. Instead, pay me what I’m worth, then I will have enough time on my hands to invest into learning more about how to help you optimally achieve your goal or, even better, how to improve myself as a coach. It makes more sense for me to charge $100 an hour and have 10 clients, with 30 hours to invest into education, than to charge $10 an hour and have 40 clients with no time to invest in education. Anyone who has studied the body substantially will tell you that there is a LOT going on in there (and no one is the same, just check out the book Biochemical Individuality). If you have 40 people, you can bet your ass that you will never be able to optimally impact the individual health or even handle a client base that high.

Speaking of not being stretched too thin, if you’re walking around with a cup of coffee or another stimulant drink in your hand during each session, what do you think that tells your client? Their workout bores you to sleep or that you aren’t fully prepared to give them your full attention. It gives off a terrible vibe. Maybe, if you went to sleep earlier or didn’t need to have 8 clients back-to-back to pay the bills, you wouldn’t need a stimulant and you’d have a free hand to actually write down the workout so that you can track the progress of your client, or better yet be awake enough to provide safe and sound training for your client.

Not too long ago, I was working out next to the Personal Training manager at a large gym chain who was “training” his client. He had this poor girl, who was obviously new to lifting, doing Split Squats at near maximal weight with poor technique. Needless to say it didn’t end well. She fell over and busted her ass and the trainer made it seem like it was her fault. Perhaps, if this guy wasn’t sitting on the nearest bench observing with a fucking Bang in his hand, he could have seen the faults in her execution and adjusted accordingly. The scary thing is this guy is a manager and suppose to set the example for the fleet of trainers he is in charge of.

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Here’s another thing, if you’re in charge of a Personal Training department, I would expect you to look like you workout. I don’t think that is asking too much. You don’t need to be jacked or ripped or flawless, just look like you practice what you preach. I say all that to say this… I once worked with a guy who was a Metabolic Specialist. He ran a national program that sought to improve the efficiency of people’s fat-burning through a “specialized” heart-rate training. He was obese. I feel that this is akin to taking advice from a overweight dietician. The program obviously had some flaws!

Now, I’m not perfect, but I feel that physical appearance should play a part in being the face of a company wide program about weight-loss. Powerlifting and Strongman aside, your physique should have some semblance of what your clients desire because after all the majority of Personal Training clients are simply looking to lose weight to look better naked. This just speaks to the fact that people really don’t know what they are doing, whether it be metabolic assessments, nutrition or even lifting, which leads me into my next gripe...

Last time I checked, no one cares how much you can Lat Pull, but that didn’t stop this one trainer from trying to impress a potential client by attempting to pull the whole weight stack. Obviously, it was too heavy, but fortunately for him he lifts like he’s having an epileptic fit. Even with him swinging, rocking, slamming and bouncing the weight, he only gets a few half-reps but does manage to make a complete fool of himself. I don’t understand how, as a trainer who is supposed to teach proper movement, this is acceptable. behavior.

It’s shit like that that has made me jaded. Terrible training is everywhere and people refuse to listen to common sense or learn simple biomechanics. Case in point; I had a trainer tell me that the best way to “isolate the hamstring” (like it’s one fucking muscle) is by doing an undulating single-leg half squat with a weight in the contralateral hand placed in the midline of the body. Last time, I checked, the Hamstrings either a primary knee flexor or assist in hip extension. Now you can argue for the Hamstrings being worked with the aforementioned movement, but by no means are they working hard as if you were to use an exercise that mirrors knee flexion or hip extension — a Leg Curl or an RDL, respectively. The funny part is, the trainer had the client holding onto the Leg Curl machine for balance while she was “isolating the hamstring” with this ridiculous movement.

Speaking of Hamstrings, I knew a trainer who had a 4-year degree in Kinesiology, along with multiple certifications on top of an internship who couldn’t tell me the muscles that make up the Hamstrings. I’m not an anatomy wiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that medially to laterally the muscles consist of Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris (Long head and Short head). And I know their actions. It is a major muscle group, so the lack of understanding is just baffling.

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To go further, if you aren’t well versed in the basic anatomy of a major muscle group, what makes you think you have any business helping people break up scar tissue or “release” a tight muscle? Because you bought a Hypervolt?!? Scar tissue probably wasn’t even on your radar before you saw the advertisement. Without a fundamental understanding of anatomy, using a tool such as a Hypervolt or a Theragun, is at best a shotgun approach to a more complicated problem. Your power to use this tool has successful educated you beyond your intellect. Your clients deserve a more informed approach and so does the industry.

Another thing plaguing the industry is professional athletes thinking they know how to train, when in fact they make the worst trainers. Due to their freakish genetics, pretty much anything they have been instructed to do in the weightroom, whether considered good or bad training, has worked for them. So when they retire from their sport or are forced out from injury, some of them revert to Personal Training because they are so “familiar” with the gym. I’ve worked with two NFL guys. One swore up and down that Speed Ladders were the key to his on-field success, which led me to write this: Ladder Drills DO NOT Increase Sport Performance. To my dismay, he refused to respond after I sent him the article. And as for the other guy, he had the bright idea to do Power Cleans… with chains on the bar. It wasn’t long before he realized why no one else was doing it when he smacked himself in the face. It may be surprising to hear but there are very few novel things in the world of strength training.

It’s not just the people within the industry, but the clients as well. The majority of people who hire Personal Trainers do not want to work hard. They just want to be babysat and talk. These are the worst clients because they not only get zero results but it’s your fault and their attitude toward training will drag you down with them. How can I, as a coach, improve my craft if all a client wants to do is sit and talk about the Bachelor? I got into this industry because I think the human body is fucking fascinating. I read and learn constantly so that I can get better at what I do. I am not a conversationalist, I am a coach. I haven’t watched TV in months, so I give zero shits about a reality show where you can vicariously live out your fantasies of being whisked away. You know what my fantasy is? Someone who wants to listen, work hard and get results. That is really the only way I can am able to get better, but maybe I’m selfish.

I’ve gone on far too long so I want to finish by saying that I no longer consider myself a Personal Trainer. That is not what I am because I am better. I have seen too much fuckery in this industry to allow myself to be associated with the halfass attempts, low paying jobs, lack of effort, disrespect and ignorance. I am henceforth known as a Health and Performance Coach. I am facilitator, not a motivator. I didn’t get into this industry to tell you you can do it, I got into this industry to show you how. I’m not a cheerleader, nor do I desire to be one. I am a coach. It’s simple; do the work, get results.

7 Counterintuitive Tips to get Healthy, Lean & Strong

1. CARDIO IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO BURN FAT

 
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Cardio is easy, that is why it is everyone’s go to. However, your body doesn’t care how easily you can jog away from something. Ease of use is not a priority for the body’s growth or energy expenditure. If you move easy, your body will take it easy and progress will be slow. The body is built through adaptation and stress applied from external sources, as such it prioritizes what it needs. If you jog, it sees no need to use energy to build muscle and thus your lack of effort and hyper caloric intake leads you to gain fat instead of burn fat. The body priorities what it needs. If you do easy workouts it will not grow and you will not lose weight. Instead, prioritize higher intensity bouts of cardio like sprint intervals (e.g., 10 seconds all out followed by 50 seconds recovery pace). Not only will you get better results and body composition, but you will do it in a fraction of the time. For even better results, combined your sprint intervals with moderately-heavy weight training sessions with only 30-60 seconds rest in between sets.

2.BLINDLY RESTRICTING CALORIES IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT

 
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The conventional advice given to those trying to lose weight is to simply limit calories. Initially, this will produce desirable weight-loss, however progress will quickly stall because during calorie restricted diet a significant percentage of the weight lost comes form muscle mass. Muscle is important to hold onto as it is metabolically expensive, requiring as much as 40% of your body’s resting metabolism. Blindly restricting all calories will only serve to hinder further weight-loss progress. To combat the negative effect of losing muscle mass, it is important to increase you caloric intake from protein to maintain a greater amount of muscle mass. To optimize weight-loss by preserving muscle mass just remember there is an inverse relationship between calories and protein, whereby decreasing calories will result in an increase need for protein. Aim for .08 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

For more information, check out the article: Eat Less & Move More is Bad Advice

3. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE GYM, BUT WHAT YOU CAN RECOVER FROM

 
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Working out comes with a host of negative consequences — higher blood pressure, muscular weakness due to muscle fiber breakdown, a compromised hormonal profile, fatigue, etc. It’s the recovery phase in between the workouts where your body adapts, heals and as a result allows you to become leaner and stronger. Prioritizing rest and recovery is a key to optimizing progress, regardless of your goal. Remember, it is not what you can do in the gym, but what you can recover from. One thing to keep in mind, is that the more fit you get the longer it takes to recover due to you being able to push yourself further and harder than before.

4. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU EAT, YOU ARE WHAT YOU CAN ABSORB

 
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Good thing you are not what you eat because if you’re like most people you’d be fast, cheap and easy!  Seriously though, the health of the gut determines what nutrients are absorbed and it is directly linked to the health of the total organism. It is often said that we are what we eat, but it is more accurate to say we are what we absorb. A strong gut barrier, diverse microbiome and sufficient levels of stomach acid is necessary to breakdown food, assimilate their nutrients and keep bad things from entering the body. When either of these things go awry, problems other than micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiencies can arise. For example, if the integrity of the gut is compromised it can lead to joint pain and inflammation throughout the body, a microbial imbalance can lead to mood disorders or cause intense cravings, and insufficient stomach acid production can lead to heartburn or unwanted bacteria entering our body. 

To help the processes of the gut heal:

      • Try an Elimination Diet. Remove suspect foods from your diet for a period of 2-3 weeks to see if symptoms subside.

      • Take a Digestive Enzyme with meals to improve the digestive fire and assist with the breakdown of food.

      • Supplement with L-Glutamine (20-30 grams, taken in 5-10 gram doses throughout the day) to mend the intestinal lining. 

      • Improve your microbiome with a Multi-Strain Probiotic.

For more on joint inflammation check out: Correlation between Food and Joint Pain

5. THE TWO BIGGEST STRESSORS IN LIFE COME FROM OUR MOUTH

 
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What comes out of your mouth is as important as what you decide to put in it. Choose your words as carefully as your food. Both can have negative consequences.

6. CHOOSE ORGANIC TO REDUCE YOUR TOXIC LOAD

 
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It is no secret that large agricultural companies spray their crops and add a host of chemicals so that they will be able to increase their product yield. What is less known is the damage a lifetime intake of pesticide laden food can have. In addition to possible endocrine disruption, nerve disorders, reproductive issues, and birth defects it can cause us to gain unsightly fat! This is largely due to the overall toxic load we are up against. If the toxic burden is too much for our body to get rid of or exposure becomes chronic our body simply stores toxins in fat cells to be dealt with later. An easy way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to utilize the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list when selecting produce. Each year the EWG selects the most sprayed foods and compile them for you. If you pick all organic versions of the following fruits and vegetables you can reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides by as much as 74%.

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Nectarines

  4. Apples

  5. Grapes

  6. Peaches

  7. Cherries

  8. Pears

  9. Tomatoes

  10. Celery

  11. Potatoes

  12. Bell Peppers

For more information check out: Will Eating Organic for 2 Weeks Make a Difference?

7. A NEGATIVE MINDSET CAN NEVER LEAD TO A POSITIVE LIFE

 
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The way we see the world shapes our personality which develops our personal reality. A personal reality cultivated by an unconscious process of negativity can never lead to a positive life because thinking the same negative thoughts lead to making the same choices. Making the same choices leads to practicing the same behaviors. Practicing the same behaviors lead to creating the same experiences. Creating the same experiences lead to producing the same emotions that lead to the same negative thoughts. Nothing can change unless you break the cycle. If you exist in the same negative mindset, think the same negative thoughts, experience the same negative emotions, how can you expect to positively change your life? As long as you view the world the same way, you are bound to create the same life. To truly change, you have to shift the way you view the world and believe you are destined for a better life. 


For more tips purchase the ebook

21 Tips to Become Healthier, Leaner & Stronger

 
21 Tips to Be Healthier, Leaner & Stronger EBOOK
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The default in nature is health, so why are you fat, sick and broken? Probably because you wear your constant stress, long hours in the office, sleep deprivation and ability to eat like a garbage disposal as a badge of honor! If this is you, you need this book! It contains 21 tips for you to improve your life for the better. Become healthier, leaner and stronger today!

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Take-a-ways from the past week

 
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1. Essential Amino Acid’s (EAA’s) are better than Branched Chain Amino Acid’s (BCAA’s).

When it comes to making gains you want the full amino acid profile because it has been found that loading up on Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine can have a negative effect on neurotransmitter balance effecting drive and recovery. BCAA’s lack essential amino acids like L-Tryptophan and L-Tyrosine (precursors to dopamine and serotonin) which can throw off neurotransmitter balance over time. Also, net protein utilization are profoundly affected by the limitations of the complete amino acid profile, therefore it is important to have all essential amino acids present to make optimal gains.

2. Essential Amino Acid’s (EAA’s) combined with a Carbohydrate source are best for making strength and hypertrophy gains.

A 2006 study called “Independent and Combined Effects of Liquid Carbohydrate/Essential Amino Acid Ingestion on Hormonal and Muscular Adaptations following Resistance Training in Untrained Men” showed surprising results in that Carbohydrates alone outperformed EAA’s in almost all categories including, Muscle Fiber (Type I, Type IIa and Type IIb) improvements; Post-Workout Glucose Uptake, Insulin response and favorable reduction in Cortisol response. Yet, when EAA’s were combined with Carbohydrates for intra-workout nutrition, the positive effects on all categories were greater than either EAA’s or Carbohydrates alone. The best results for Body Composition were also seen in the EAA/Carb group. Moral of the story, to optimize your workout use EAA’s and Carbohydrates together.

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3. The more carbohydrate sources you take in before/during/after your workout the better the absorption rate.

Your body can absorb 1g of carbohydrates from a single source from dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, cluster dextrine, etc. per minute. However, if you combine sources you can increase carbohydrate uptake into the muscle by a factor of 5. Products like PentaCarb are formulated for this specific purpose and as the name implies, it has five different carbohydrate sources.

 
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4. Improve insulin sensitivity for optimal hypertrophy.

The easiest way to recognize that you are not insulin sensitive is that you do not feel the “pump” when you are working out. The more insulin sensitive you are the better able you are to increase glucose and amino acid uptake into the muscle cells, thereby suppressing cortisol and reducing muscle breakdown. Plus, if you are insulin sensitive, when you eat carbohydrates the are better able to be used for fueling your muscles rather than storing them as fat.

5. Don’t have a bolus dose of Antioxidants around your workout.

This can turn off your insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount of hormetic stress placed on your mitochondrial which are both drivers of growth.

6. Fasting is beneficial, even for those seeking hypertrophy.

Due to the amount of calories one must consume to put on size, the gut can take quite a beating. Fasting allows the gastrointestinal tract to relax and have time to heal so that when the fast is over, nutrients can be better absorbed. A 24 hour fast once a week can offer improvements. Also, intermittent fasting for 3 days a week has the same benefits as intermittent fasting for 7 days a week.

7. Over 90% of athletes are deficient in Iodine.

This fundamental nutrient is often lost through sweat and can cause hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) deficiencies, migraines, insomnia or brain fog if not repleted through supplemental or dietary means.

8. When it comes to nutrition, the 80/20 Rule is Bullshit.

You have to take into account the inflammatory affects of food and the cumulative effect it can have on your body. A study recently produced a study that said 100% of people who consume gluten have intestinal inflammation within 30 minutes!

9. The first step towards success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first found yourself.

This is the basis of all change, and fundamental to my 7 Pillars of Health. Realizing that the environment that surrounds you makes you who you are; the people, the food, the job, the situation all have an effect, whether good or bad. To make a change, start by changing your environment.

10. The things that are done to you or for you are rarely as effective as the things you do for yourself.

Read that over a few times.

"Eat Less & Move More" is Bad Advice

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The conventional advice given to those who are tying to obtain a goal of weight-loss is to “eat less and move more.” This operates under the calories in, calories out model whereby you need to exercise off more calories than you have coming in. Sounds great in theory, but I am here to tell you that a calorie is not a calorie and exercise doesn’t really burn that many to begin with.

Eat less…

During a simple calorie restricted diet the weight lost is usually comprised of 2/3 fat and 1/3 muscle. So, if you lose 15 pounds, approximately 10 pounds would come from fat and the other 5 pounds from muscle. The loss of muscle is unfortunate and in a perfect world (e.g., prioritizing adequate amounts protein in the diet) would not be as significant, however if you are following the “eat less and move more” mantra this is pretty much to be expected. 

Take a look at this example: a 200 pound woman with 30% body fat (200 x 30% = 60 pounds of fat mass), after losing 15 pounds would weigh 185 pound with 50 pounds of fat mass. She lost 10 pounds of fat and her total body fat was reduce from 30% to 27%. 

While a total loss of 15 pounds is worth bragging about, as per the above example, the loss in muscle mass will cause a reduced metabolic rate, slowing down continued weight loss. In other words, because she burned off 5 pounds of muscle it will be harder to continue losing weight as easily as it would be if she hadn’t lost 5 pounds of muscle. Why? Muscle is an expensive tissue to maintain, it consumes nearly 40% of your body’s resting metabolism. To combat the negative effects of reduced muscle mass, while seeking a goal of body recomposition, it is important to increase total protein intake as to not hinder future progress,

Dietary protein requirements are largely affected by the amount of muscle mass you carry around  as well as your total calorie intake. There is an inverse relationship between calories and protein, whereby increasing calorie intake reduces dietary protein requirements, while reducing calorie intake increases dietary protein intake. Applying this to the above situation, our 200 pound woman would make better long-term progress from an increased total protein intake of say 150-180 grams: 180 grams of protein x 4kcal/g = 720 kilocalories from protein; 720 calories is 36% on a 2000 kilocalorie diet and is 48% on a 1500 kilocalorie diet (this is purely for illustrative purposes as I am not a proponent of counting calories). Thus, the absolute and relative amounts of protein in the diet are increased. By doing this, muscle mass is much more likely to be retained, improving long-term weight loss and body recomposition goals. This is clearly supported by clinical trails; high protein diets consistently result in more successful long-term diets…

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4213385/

Move more…

Exercise is definitely beneficial for optimal health and longevity as it increases overall fitness, improves cardiovascular health, promotes a positive well-being and if done properly can increase muscle mass which can pave the way for a long life full of vitality. However, one thing exercise does not do is cause weight-loss. When someone starts an exercise regimen without a specific dietary intervention, long-term weight loss fails to occur in the majority of people because the calorie deficit produced from exercising is offset by the increased hunger and subsequent food intake. In other words, energy intake will rise to meet the level of energy expenditure. Another way “eat less and move more” falls short of optimal advice.

This is not to say that exercise is worthless when it comes to weight-loss because exercise has the ability to do one thing that dietary intervention cannot: it builds muscle. Learning from the above mentioned example, it is our ability to maintain muscle that creates a beneficial atmosphere around weight-loss because muscle is metabolically active — the more we have, the greater amount of energy we must expend to keep it, even at rest.

For conventional purposes, exercise can be broken down into two categories; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic training revolves around extended periods of heavy breathing which makes the heart work and improves cardiovascular fitness, generally at the expense of precious muscle. Examples are running and cycling. Anaerobic training is performed at a much higher intensity than aerobic exercise, albeit much shorter bouts with plenty of rest in between which promotes muscle growth and increase strength. Examples are sprinting and weight lifting/strength training.

While both forms of exercise will increase energy expenditure, the amount of calories expended when not exercising is much greater than those spent when exercising. Time spent not exercising is roughly 45 times greater than time spent exercising (60 minutes at the gym vs. 23 hours not at the gym). Office work, sitting in traffic, grocery shopping, cooking, watching television, and sleeping are all lower intensity activities than any exercise; having a substantial amount of your body composition comprised of muscle will allow you to utilize your calories for the health of that expensive tissue and not have it stored as fat. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your exercise regimen accordingly.

Anaerobic training, specifically strength training increases skeletal muscle mass. This has a positive affect on our metabolic rate allowing us to use energy more efficiently (e.g., burn fat), in addition to improving overall strength, coordination and quality of life. Having stronger muscles makes all activities easier, and thus of lower intensity. And lower intensity favors fat burning as a primary fuel source. In other words, to optimize the effect of exercise on fat burning, get in the weight room.


A better way to think about getting in shape would be to “Eat and Train.” This seems to be a much more productive piece of advice as I have hopefully illustrated above. The idea of “eat less and move more” is aesthetic whereas the other is functional. The former may not have a clear goal, but the latter always does.

7 Pillars of Health: Improving Health in The modern environment

7 Pillars of Health: Improving Health in The modern environment

The default in nature is health, so why are we fat, sick and broken? It is because our environment has change, our bodies have not. We share 99.7% of the same genetics as our relatively disease free hunter-gatherer ancestors yet eat worse, move less, sleep worse, encounter more stress and toxins, and wonder what the cause is of chronic disease. It's really not that hard! Take control of your health with the 7 Pillars of Health.

lean and strong: Am I Doing it Wrong?

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Who doesn’t want to look lean and have the strength to back it up?

There is plenty of research to show that aerobic exercise, or cardio, produces negligible results when it comes to fat loss whereas anaerobic modes of exercise such as strength training and sprint interval training are exponentially better tools for optimizing body composition because they burn fat and build muscle. Yet it is still a common practice for people to go for a nice jog. Why is that? In order to avoid the continued confusion, the following four points clarify how to use different types of exercise to achieve the best results.

#1: Aerobic training can only help you lose fat if you are just starting to exercise or significantly overweight.

I must say that this isn’t the most effective type of exercise for fat loss but if you are just starting out, this something is better than nothing. However, the window of results for this is relatively short; you can expect to see composition changes for about six weeks, beyond that progress tapers rapidly.  

A recent study from Duke University took sedentary, out of shape, overweight people through a fairly intense (roughly 80% of max heart rate) aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week for 8 weeks and they lost a significant amount of weight. The total weight lost should be examined as sustained aerobic training is detrimental to strength and muscle gain (which helps burn fat). So yes, they lost weight, but how much of that weight was wasted muscle?

The key to getting results with aerobic training if you are a novice is to be consistent and monitor food intake to make sure you don’t compensate for the exercise by eating more. Additionally, adding a strength training program to your routine will help you keep off any fat you lose after those first six weeks.

#2: In the long run, aerobic training is useless for fat loss (pun intended).  

In the Duke study the aerobic group only lost an average of 3.5lbs of fat and they weren’t able to build any muscle to keep that fat away, which is where we begin to see the faultiness in this method. By decreasing their body weight and improving their “fitness” the aerobic group actually lowered metabolic rate (ie how fast we burn calories). They were “in shape” and thinner but no less frail and in turn decreased their resting energy expenditure. In order to maintain that fat loss, they would need to eat less, change their ratio of fats/carbs/proteins proportions accordingly or exercise longer and more intensely. No fun!

In a 2006 study of runners, it was found that only the runners who tripled their weekly mileage from 10 miles/week to 30 miles/week did not gain fat over the 9-year study. That’s a huge increase, in not only mileage but time spent training.

#3: Smart anaerobic training burn fat quicker, while building muscle so that you raise your metabolism

In a study of women that compared an anaerobic training program with an aerobic protocol, those that were in the anaerobic training program who lifted moderately heavy weights, lost nearly 10lbs of body fat, gained about 6lbs of muscle and had a dramatic increase in strength. The women who did the high rep, aerobic-style lifting program with the light weights had no change in body composition, and no increases in strength.

The benefit of building muscle is that your hard work lasts longer if you quit exercising. A study that tested what happens when subjects stopped exercising for a period of 3 months after doing a cardio/endurance or a resistance/strength training protocol found that the resistance training group maintained improvements in strength, muscle and cardiovascular fitness longer than the endurance training group.

The benefits of resistance training are even more pronounced in people who are in shape. In trained male athletes, a 6-week heavy load strength training program with multi-joint lifts (deadlift, squat, military press, chin-up and bench press) allowed them to lose 1% of body fat, while gaining 1.3% muscle mass for a dramatic improvement in body composition.

If we compare that to the Duke study: the aerobic group lost 1% of body fat but gained no muscle, resulting in less than favorable body composition change.

#4:  The bottom line is to lift weights and do anaerobic intervals to improve your physique.

It’s pretty simple really, focus only on an anaerobic style of training and give it all you’ve got. It will not only take you significantly less time to accomplish but the results are exponentially greater.

Resistance training paired with anaerobic intervals, or sprint training, appears to be the most effective way to not only look good naked but to develop your strength optimally. A popular 20-minute sprint cycling workout has been found to lead to between 3-5lbs of fat loss in the overweight, untrained men and women. This is the protocol that was used: 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest. Its very simple, but grueling. Try it!

More experience trainees will benefit from running sprints on a track. A Canadian study found that trained individuals who did six 30-second all-out sprints with 4 minutes rest lost an impressive 12.4% body fat after spending less than 45 minutes of actual work. Compared to an aerobic group only lost 5.8% body fat but they spent a total of 13.5 hours training:

Suggestions for developing the best resistance program include the following:

  • Multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, step-ups, chin-ups and chest presses in every training session.
  • Training with a higher volume – work up to more than 4 sets per exercise. Shoot for between 20 and 30 total reps per training session.
  • Train with a higher intensity – include some training in the 70-85% of your one rep max range.
  • Include short rest periods (30-60seconds) and count tempo for every lift so that you apply a specific amount of tension to the muscles. In general, opt for longer than (4-seconds) eccentric tempos and short or explosive concentric tempos.
  • Shoot for 3 to 4 hours of total training time per week , which includes resistance training and a few short sprint sessions.

Stop Icing Your Injuries

People have been perpetuating a myth over the last 50 years that claims ice is an effective treatment for acute soft tissue injuries (e.g.; sprains and strains) because it assists in recovery. The commonly accepted acronym R.I.C.E. – standing for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – has been applied erroneously by athletic trainers and soccer moms alike! If your goal after a soft tissue injury is to heal as fast as possible, using ice is not going to be your best strategy.

The widespread use of ice with the intent to heal soft tissue injuries has no scientific backing, no peer reviewed research. In fact, it has the exact opposite!

In a 2012 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine called Cooling an Acute Muscle Injury: can basic scientific theory translate into the clinical setting? it was stated: “ice is commonly used after acute muscle strains, but there are not clinical studies of its effectiveness.”

The Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study in February 2008 entitled: Is ice right? Does cryotherapy improve outcome for acute soft tissue injury? The research concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to suggest that cryotherapy [i.e. icing] improves clinical outcome in the management of soft tissue injuries.”

If those two didn’t solidify the argument in your mind, check out this last study entitled Topical Cooling (Icing) Delays Recovery from Eccentric Exercise Induced Muscle Damage from the May 2013 edition from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. It was found that “topical cooling [i.e. icing], a commonly used intervention appears to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise induced muscle damage.”

With such surmountable evidence against the case of icing post injury, one will wonder why the application of ice has been so pervasive over the last 50 years. My thought is that since it does numb the nerves around the injury, thereby decreasing the pain, this perpetuates the myth. However, as the research has stated above it dos not help with the recovery process and has been shown to effectively slow down the healing process as the cooling mechanism causes blood vessels to constrict. This constriction keeps the swelling and inflammation – the crux of the body’s healing response, brining more immune activity to a place of injury – from doing its job properly by slowing down the process and dragging out the painful swelling and inflammation.

So if icing is wrong, what can we do to properly treat acute soft tissue injuries? We will need a new acronym or MECHanism to address this situation properly…

Move. Elevate. Compress. Heat. (and never ice symptoms anymore)

Movement of the affected body part prevents the formation of adhesions and increases circulation which transport in nutrients and carries away metabolic waste. Moving allows the body to lay down new tissue along the lines of stress or normal ranges of motion. In contrast, the old suggestion of Rest causes tissue to be laid down in a disorganized pattern resulting in poor function and reducing ranges of motion. Whether your movement is an active or passive range of motion activity or manual manipulation of tissues it will stimulate the nerves that communicate pain inhibition to the brain. Think of the time when you fell and skinned your knee and your mother rubbed the area and it magically felt better, this is the idea behind movement. A TENS unit will also facility movement in an elevated position.

Elevate the injured area above the heart to increase the circulation of swelling and inflammation away from the injured area. Most likely you will be sitting while elevating the area but should still make an effort to move. An example would be if it is an ankle sprain, think about moving it up and down, side to side, and clockwise and counter-clockwise. If it is a groin or larger muscle strain, think about applying a TENS unit to stimulate movement of the tissues.

Compress with an ACE bandage to facilitate increased circulation. Pair movement with compression.

Heat augments the benefits of movement by causing the blood vessels to open up, or vasodilate, which increases the movement of swelling and inflammation away from damaged tissue and promotes the introduction of white blood cells and other healing mechanisms to the area.

Demystifying Cholesterol

Cholesterol, an animal sterol, is a waxy substance found in every cell in our body. Cholesterol is used as a base for the production of steroid hormones, bile salts, and vitamin D as well as maintaining cell membrane fluidity. Without cholesterol we would not be able to properly digest foods, our cell structure would not be able to withstand any changes in temperature, and a significant number of important hormones such as estrogen, and testosterone could not be produced.

Our cholesterol is produced in the liver, from the molecule acetyl-coenzyme-A, through a number of complicated reactions that I won’t bore you with. A key step is a conversion that is controlled by the enzyme HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA) reductase. This enzyme can block the production of cholesterol making it an important target for cholesterol lowering drugs called statins, but it also controls the production of many other molecules such as co-enzyme-q10. That’s why there are so many side effects of taking these drugs. Nearly 10-12% of patients on statin drugs will experience statin induced muscle pain. Other potential adverse reactions to statin drug use include elevated liver enzymes, lung disease, and in a small subset of patients can even increase risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

But back to cholesterol synthesis. The majority of cholesterol is synthesized, recycled, and degraded in the liver. So how does the water fearing cholesterol molecules that you eat get to the liver from the gut? And then how does it go from the liver to the cells if it cannot travel through the bloodstream alone?

Well, first cholesterol molecules are transported to the liver via the lymph in complexes called chylomicrons. When it gets to the liver it is repackaged and the cholesterol is “chaperoned” around the body by the lipoprotein complexes. There are a number of lipoprotein complexes, which are classified based on the ratio of proteins to fat and cholesterol. Think of these as cholesterol carriages, moving it all around the body. LDL takes the cholesterol to tissues and HDL brings cholesterol back to the liver when we have too much. Low density lipoproteins (LDL), very low density lipoproteins (vLDL) and chylomicrons all have very high fat and cholesterol content as compared with the protein rich high density lipoprotein (HDL). Once packaged into vLDL, the cholesterol enters circulation and some of the cholesterol is deposited to the tissues along with fatty acids. Once it drops the cholesterol off, the LDL complexes should be taken up by liver cells after attaching to the LDL receptor on their surface. Meanwhile, HDL scavenges blood vessels and tissues for free-form excess cholesterol. It then returns to the liver where cholesterol can be excreted through the bile or recycled.

Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Health

High cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, and trans fats are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Cholesterol can build up due to increased production, increased consumption, or decreased excretion. The cause of the build-up as well as the form of cholesterol in the plasma is important when determining risk and treatment.

Genetic disorders can affect the LDL receptors in the surface of liver cells causing an increased amount of LDL in circulation. High LDL levels in circulation lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular events irrespective of diet and lifestyle in these patients. However, genetic causes affect a small percent of the population diagnosed with high cholesterol. The majority of cases in North America can be linked to diet and lifestyle.

Increased consumption of cholesterol rich foods result in increased levels of LDL in circulation. Excess LDL-C can attach onto and infiltrate the walls of blood vessels. When the LDL infiltrates it will form a reactive oxidative species that will attract immune cells. From the complexes formed, more white blood cells will congregate and an inflammatory cascade will be initiated. As more and more cells are attracted to this middle layer of a blood vessel, the plaque will begin to disrupt blood flow and may eventually fully block the vessel, or a piece of the plaque can rupture and travel around the body. All of these scenarios can have very serious consequences.

The “arthrogenic triad” are lab findings that show an increased risk for the development of atherosclerosis (or hardening of arteries) this includes high serum LDL, low HDL and high triglycerides. Risks are increased with low fiber diets as this prevents the excretion of cholesterol. A somewhat inactive lifestyle can also increase the risk of the LDL adhering to the vessels.