Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
You recently mentioned that strength training and focusing on plyometrics, stretching, and mobility work are important as you age. Curious as to your opinion of P90X if implemented into a running program?
An interesting and timely question. Who is the cover boy of the forthcoming November issue of Competitor? Tony Horton!
Apparently you’re not the only runner who is curious about Horton’s workout craze. In the cover story written by Jeff Banowetz, Horton says, “I can’t tell you how many marathoners I know who stopped their training—and started using us.” The article also includes the story of a once-overweight triathlete who gave P90X a try and set a PR in his next 5K. If you snoop around on internet running forums you’ll find lots of sunny testimonials from runners who have benefited from P90X.
The reasons it’s helpful to runners are pretty clear. First of all, the program is high-volume—you’re working out an hour a day, on average. Second, most of the workouts are high heart-rate. Even the strength workouts are uptempo and allow little rest, so you’re getting a good cardiovascular boost even as you gain strength. And third, P90X addresses some key weaknesses that many runners have: namely, strength, flexibility, mobility, power, and anaerobic endurance. So even though the typical runner who tries P90X runs less for 90 days, he gains more than he loses.
There’s obviously more than one way a runner can incorporate P90X into his training, and the best way depends on individual considerations. One good way to use it is as an off-season cross-training program. Stop or curtail your running and switch your focus to P90X over the winter, then ramp up your running in the spring and retain two or three mini P90X-style workouts in your weekly regimen to maintain the well-rounded fitness you’ve earned.
Completing the full P90X program as designed is not the most efficient way to improve your running through cross-training. The program was not specifically designed for runners, after all. You’ll probably get the greatest possible boost in your running performance if you maintain a fairly high running volume and cherry pick parts of the P90X program to add to your routine. Research shows that a modest amount of strength and power training gives runners as much performance benefit as they can possibly get from these types of training (provided they also run a lot). Any additional time spent in the gym would be better spent running. P90X definitely prescribes more strength, power, and flexibility and mobility training, too, for that matter, than any runner needs.
Put another way, suppose you cloned yourself twice. One you continued running and avoiding cross-training. Another you quit running and switched to P90X. A third you cut back modestly on his running and made up the difference with an equal volume of strength, power, flexibility and mobility training pulled out of P90X. After 90 days, this third you would show the biggest improvement in a running performance test.
The thing I like most about P90X is that it makes people work really hard, and the marketing is very up-front about that. Most runners really don’t work very hard. They are willing to spend a lot of time training, but they resist the pain of high intensities. That’s too bad, because high-intensity exercise has magical effects on fitness that no amount of moderate-intensity running can replicate. I believe that the high-intensity element of P90X is probably the primary factor behind the performance benefits that many runners seem to get from it—an even more important factor than strength and power improvements. You don’t need to do P90X to get the benefits of high-intensity training, and every runner—whether he uses P90X in whole, in part, or not at all—should do some high-intensity running, but for those runners who are not on intimate terms with the scorched-esophagus feeling that comes at the end of a set of hard intervals on the track, P90X represents a good way to learn to love—or at least tolerate—that sort of training.
Friday, December 3, 2010
- Manage your time. Scheduling your workouts in advance, either with a printed workout calendar or online with WOWY Supergym®, is always a good idea. But it's especially important over the holidays, when just saying "I'll do it when I have time" can be a recipe for failure. Your free time is sure to get filled up with other activities, and it's easier than ever to forget about working out. On the other hand, if you schedule your workouts just like any appointments, you're much more likely to do them when the time comes. (Better still, invite some Workout Buddies to join you for extra motivation.)
If you absolutely can't find time on a particular day, mark it as a recovery period, and make sure you have a workout scheduled for the day afterward. It'll prevent you from losing the fitness gains you've built, and ensure that you keep your exercise habit intact.
- Keep up your energy. If your holiday period is marked by flurries of frantic activity followed by a worn-out feeling, you're not alone. But you can shorten those "dragging" periods with these healthy habits:
- Stick to your food plan. Loading up on high-carb holiday treats can cause blood sugar fluctuations that leave you feeling tired, while subsisting on rushed snacks or skipping meals entirely prevents you from getting the fuel you need. But regular, high-quality meals and snacks will keep you running at top speed, whether you're working out or fighting over the last Dora the Explorer doll in the toy store.
- Take time to relax. A meditation session, a round of yoga, or just a few minutes sitting with a hot drink or your favorite music will go a long way toward recharging your batteries.
- See the light. If your energy takes a nosedive in the wintertime, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, a mood-dampening condition caused by too little light exposure. See if you perk up after getting more rays (either by spending more time outside on sunny days, or by using a full-spectrum light box). If that doesn't help, see your doctor.
- No skipping. If you feel a little tired before a planned workout, don't take that as a signal to skip it. Chances are your energy levels will pick up once you start moving. And when you exercise regularly, you're much less likely to experience those lulls during the rest of the day.
- Travel right. This is a great time of year to take a vacation or visit family—but without advance planning, those trips can bring your fitness program to a screeching halt. Here's how to avoid that:
- Protect yourself on the plane. Since there's no guarantee that an airline will have healthy food on hand, pack a meal or snack in advance, and make sure you drink plenty of liquids. If you're worried about catching something on the flight, boost your disease-fighting ability with Herbal Immune Boost.
- Watch out when eating out. Travel often means a lot of restaurant meals, and that can derail your food plan in a hurry. Try to find restaurants that serve high-quality meals, or, if that's not possible, order the best of what is on the menu. (Even the IHOP® has some healthful, high-protein selections these days.) But if you eat in a chain restaurant, check out the nutrition ratings just to make sure you're not getting one of those 2,000-calorie salads.
- Organize healthy activities. When you go to a warm beach or on a ski vacation, this is a no-brainer. But if you're traveling to an unfamiliar city, you should find out in advance what you can do that requires a little movement. And if you're staying with family members who prefer life on the couch, suggest some outdoor games—or, if the weather isn't cooperative, healthy indoor activities. Even a post-meal walk will get everyone's blood pumping and prevent total lethargy from setting in.
- Take your workout with you. One of the many benefits of a DVD workout program is that it's portable. Decide which workouts you'll want to do during your trip, and pack those DVDs, along with a resistance band. If you don't have one, see if the place you're staying has basic gym equipment, or stick to exercises that don't require any.
- Take care of your health. Nothing can derail a workout program like getting sick. And you may be extra-vulnerable to illness at this time of year, when stress and bad weather collide with cold and flu season. But a few basic precautions can improve your odds:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your nose or mouth. (A recent study found that it doesn't matter how hot the water is, but for maximum benefit, you need to lather with soap for at least 20 seconds.)
- Avoid germs. If you work out in a gym, clean the equipment with antibacterial spray, or at least cover it with a towel. Warm, moist surfaces are an ideal place for germs to live and grow.
- Get plenty of sleep—less than 7 or 8 hours per night can compromise your immune system. (It can also slow your exercise recovery.) Try to save the late-night carousing for times when you can sleep late or take a nap the next day.
- Drink plenty of water. It's easy to forget when it's cold outside, but staying hydrated helps keep your immune system in top working order.
- Get a flu shot. Remember, there are different strains of the flu virus every year, so last year's shot won't keep you protected.
- Maintain your healthy eating habits, and get a complete supply of vitamins every day. (To make sure, supplement with ActiVit® Multivitamins or Shakeology®.)
"The 4-Hour Body is the result of an obsessive quest, spanning more than a decade, to hack the human body. It contains the collective wisdom of hundreds of elite athletes, dozens of MDs, and thousands of hours of jaw-dropping personal experimentation. From Olympic training centers to black-market laboratories, from Silicon Valley to South Africa.
For all things physical, what are the tiniest changes that produce the biggest results? Thousands of tests later, this book contains the answers for both men and women. From the gym to the bedroom, it's all here, and it all works."
5 Things to Cut Out of Your DietBy Tony Horton, creator of P90X
- Processed sugars. I'm talking about white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or pretty much any kind of sugar that came from a factory instead of a piece of fruit. Processed sugar negatively affects your metabolism, your insulin response, even your mood—and all for totally empty calories. Cutting sugar out of your diet means you're going to have to read some labels, because it is by far the most common food additive in the U.S.
- Alcohol. Calories that are as empty as sugar, and at 7 calories a gram, booze can really pack it on. Alcohol also dehydrates your body, which compromises muscle growth. Plus it slows your metabolism, so you burn fewer calories. In short, drinking gives you less muscle and more fat—you're just undoing everything you're trying to achieve with your workout.
- Caffeine. I know there are a lot of people out there who say caffeine can give your workout a little extra "oomph." Obviously, it can give you some extra energy to make you push harder, but the cost is that it increases cortisol levels in your body, which inhibits lean muscle growth. Plus, it can negatively affect your sleep patterns, and you're better off working out when you're rested than when you're juiced.
- Anything with a face. It used to be that you could find some decent lean meat sources, but in the last few decades, the hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals that have been used to process meat and fish make them pretty worthless as a source of protein. There are plenty of excellent vegetarian protein sources, like beans, tofu, and nuts, so you can eat clean while you get lean.
- Gluten. Gluten is a grain-derived protein found in lots of different foods, mostly wheat, rye, and barley products. The name comes from the Latin word for "glue." You don't need to eat glue. Even if you're not one of the millions who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, you'll be operating a much cleaner machine if you cut it out of your diet. There are plenty of other healthier gluten-free alternatives, like millet, amaranth, quinoa, and oats.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
It'd be nice to think that we've transcended the Diet Plate. Sadly, this isn't the case. Even today, there are dozens of foods we fool ourselves into thinking are healthful when, in truth, they do nothing but pad our hips and arteries. Here are nine of the worst offenders on your grocery store shelves.
- Yogurt. It starts out as good stuff. Fat aside, there's the calcium and protein you find in all milk products, along with probiotics, which make it easier to digest for those with lactose issues. The only problem is, straight yogurt can be pretty bitter, so manufacturers load the stuff with sugar to make it more palatable and masquerade those carbs as fruit. Have a look at most flavored yogurt, and you'll find the second ingredient to be sugar or high fructose corn syrup. One container of Yoplait® Original Strawberry is 170 calories with 5 grams of protein and 33 grams of carbohydrates, 27 of which are sugar. Oddly enough, these are the exact same nutrition facts for Yoplait's other, less healthy-sounding flavors, including Key Lime Pie and White Chocolate Raspberry. Solution: Buy plain yogurt and flavor it yourself. You'd be amazed at how far a handful of raspberries or a tablespoon of honey will go to cut the bitter taste. And while you're at it, choose the low-fat or fat-free stuff. You'll still get all the nutritional benefits.
- Wheat Bread. If you're reading this, you probably know enough about nutrition to understand that whole-grain wheat is better for you than refined wheat. By keeping the bran and germ, you maintain the naturally occurring nutrients and fiber. But for some reason, manufacturers constantly come up with new chicanery to lead you back to the refined stuff. One of their latest tricks is to refer to refined flour as "wheat flour" because, obviously, it's made of wheat. But just because it's wheat-based doesn't mean it's not refined. The distracted shopper can mistake this label for "whole wheat flour" and throw it in his cart. Another loaf of cruddy, refined, fiberless bread has a new home.
Solution: Slow down when you read the label. That word "whole" is an important one.
- Chicken. Just because you made the switch from red meat doesn't mean you're in the clear. If you opt for dark meat—the wings, thighs, and legs—you're losing protein and gaining fat. Three ounces of raw chicken breast, meat only, is 93 calories, 19.5 grams of protein, and 1.2 grams of fat. Three ounces of dark meat, meat only, is 105 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 3.6 grams of fat. It doesn't seem like much, but it adds up. Solution: Go for the breast, and while you're at it, ditch the skin. It's nothing but fat.
- Frozen or canned fruit. Any food swimming in juice or "light syrup" isn't going to work in your favor on the scale. Furthermore, most canned fruit is peeled, meaning you're being robbed of a valuable source of fiber. Frozen fruit is a little trickier. While freezing preserves the fruit itself, adding sugar during the freezing process preserves color and taste; so many store-bought frozen fruits add it in.
Solution: Read that ingredients list! You want it to say fruit, water—and that's it.
- Canned veggies. "What?" you declare. "There's light syrup in canned string beans, too?" No, actually, they add salt to preserve this produce. A half-cup serving of canned string beans has approximately 300 to 400 milligrams of sodium. Solution: Many companies offer "no salt added" options. If you can't find one to your liking, go frozen instead—no salt (or light syrup).
- Peanut butter. Squish up peanuts, maybe add a little salt. How hard is it to make that taste good? Apparently, it's so incredibly difficult that many companies feel compelled to add sugar or high fructose corn syrup into the mix. Why? I do not know. Some manufacturers, such as Skippy®, are up front enough to admit this and call their product "Peanut Butter Spread," but many others still refer to their sugary concoction as good old "peanut butter."
Solution: Read the label. (There's a theme emerging here.) Considering real peanut butter has one ingredient, two ingredients max, it shouldn't be too hard to figure it out.
- Juice. The range in the nutritional value of store-bought juices is massive. On one end, you have "fruit drinks" with just a modicum of actual juice in them. On the other end, you have fresh-squeezed, 100% preservative-free juice such as Odwalla® and Naked Juice®. But no matter which one you choose, it's important to remember that it's never going to be as healthy as whole fruit. And if you're trying to lose weight, it's a flat-out bad idea. First off, it's been stripped of fiber, so you absorb it faster, which makes it more likely to induce blood-sugar spikes. Secondly, you consume it faster and it's less filling, so you're more likely to drink more. Solution: If you must buy it, go fresh squeezed, but you're usually better off just skipping it entirely.
- Canned soup. As is also the case with canned veggies, you're entering a sodium minefield. Half a cup of Campbell's® Chicken Noodle Soup has 890 milligrams of sodium. That's 37 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)*—and who eats half a cup? Solution: Read those labels carefully. Most companies make low-sodium versions.
- Fat-free salad dressing: Dressing, by definition, is supposed to be fatty, thus highly caloric. You use a little bit of it and in doing so, you get a healthy hit of the fats you need for a nutritionally balanced diet. Unfortunately, people prefer to buy fat-free versions so that they can drown their greens yet avoid excess fat. Nothing's for free. All this stuff does is replace the fat with carbs and salt, so you've basically gone from pouring a little healthy, unsaturated fat on your salad to dumping on a pile of sugar. For example, Wish-Bone® Fat Free Chunky Blue Cheese is 7 grams of pure carbs and 270 milligrams of sodium for 2 tablespoons, which you'll never stop at anyway. Also, given that there's no fat or protein in this particular dressing, one can only imagine what makes it "chunky."
Solution: Make your own salad dressing. One part vinegar and one part olive oil with a blob of Dijon mustard makes an awesome vinaigrette. And here's another trick: Make your salad in a sealable container, add a tiny bit of dressing, and shake it up. It'll coat so much more than tossing will.
And finally, make that salad with romaine or spinach or some other nutrient-rich leafy green. As far as we're concerned, nutrient-poor iceberg lettuce should have gone the way of the South Dakota Diet Plate.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
A phenomenal article by a very smart guy! Beachbody’s own Steve Edwards on what the do’s and dont’s are when it comes to supplements.
4 Supplements to Watch Out For
This month, four of the major weight loss supplement manufacturers were fined 25 million dollars because science does not support their statements about the supplements. We’ve been warning our customers about false claims for years and, basically, these are just the tip of the BS iceberg. Let’s take a look at the major offenders and what to look for when evaluating a supplement.
It’s important to keep yourself informed because these supplements will still be on the market. The Federal Trade Commission, who handed down the verdict, has only stated that the manufacturers need to change the product claims, not the products. And, well, since the FTC cited that a placebo had outperformed one of the offenders, it will be interesting to see what the manufacturers come up with. If we don’t buy the supplements, then, of course, they won’t be on the market, but these folks can be very clever.
Let’s use Bob as an example. He’s that guy on TV who’s thrilled over his "male enhancement." However, when analyzing the product he’s used, we see that it’s little more than what’s normally sold as a mild stimulant. Yet Bob seems to be insinuating far greater lifestyle enhancements than a cup o’ joe will ever provide. This little exaggeration has allowed his marketing team to spend 181 million advertising dollars since 2003, according to Nielson Monitor-Plus, so we may assume that Bob’s become a wealthy man. Last year, however, 112 charges of fraud, money laundering, and mislabeling of product were brought against six executives at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, marketer of Enzyte, Bob’s key to newfound self-esteem. In spite of this, the company took out a full-page ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer on September 5th that read, in part, "The future of Berkeley looks bright as we hope to work through our setbacks and continue providing great brands to the world . . ."
So let’s take a look at those recently fined and learn how to protect ourselves.
- CortiSlim. These marketers were fined 12 million bucks and I’m using them first because I had a personal run-in with ‘em at the Natural Products show a few years back. A guy essentially accosted me in the aisles, handing me a pamphlet of information that informed me of dangers of chronic inflammation and how this product would reduce it, leading to massive weight loss. Being familiar with the product, since we get plenty of questions on the Message Boards, I fired a few stats at him about studies involving CortiSlim’s ingredients. The guy looks at my identifying badge, turns away from me like a dog being submissive, and looks for someone else to engage. I throw one more tidbit his way and he refuses to even acknowledge me with a glance, keeping his eyes averted even though we were a foot apart. I didn’t find this to be a particularly strong endorsement of faith in their products.
- Xenadrine EFX. The two companies that market this will pay between 8 and 12.8 million dollars. Xenadrine has been in the industry spotlight for a long time, at least since a popular fitness model, and one of their "success stories," was caught trying to gain weight for her "before" picture after she had shot her "after." In this case, the studies they provided showed that their product did nothing that it claimed. In fact, in one of the studies they provided, the group taking a placebo actually lost more weight than those using the product.
- One-A-Day WeightSmart. The Bayer Corporation will pay 3.2 million dollars for claiming that their multivitamin can increase your metabolism.
- TRIMSPA. They will pony up 1.5 million dollars for their unsubstantiated claims. There was no word on whether Anna Nicole Smith would have to pay the money herself.
While we’re getting smarter—since sales of weight loss supplements have dropped half a billion in the last three years—we’re still being duped regularly. I was recently talking shop with a graphic designer whose job is to Photoshop "before" and "after" pics for an unnamed supplement that you’ve heard of. I’m not telling which, because she didn’t inform me on the record and also because I’m going to tell you how to not buy useless supplements anyway. If you read below, I assure you that you’ll never buy the unmentioned or any other highly hyped placebo.
- Rule 1: Never buy a supplement that promises body transformation without lifestyle transformation.
No supplement can offset your lifestyle. If you eat poorly and don’t exercise, you will not look good. Supplements can’t build muscle and they can’t make you lose fat. All they can do is assist with this process. Some initiative must come from you.
- Rule 2: Read the fine print.
Many of these companies write "legal" with fine print saying something along the lines of, "Will work if you follow a healthy lifestyle" or something similar that gets them off the hook when studies show their supp isn’t as advertised. Generally, if you lived the healthy lifestyle they’re describing, you wouldn’t need the supplement anyway. I analyzed a carb-blocker supplement that had a tiny insert, with, like, size-4 font, that was an exercise program and low-carb diet that you needed to follow to get the claimed results. The obvious question then was, "Why do I need a carb-blocker if I don’t eat carbs?" And, of course, the answer is that you don’t.
- Rule 3: Read the ingredients.
Most of these use the same ingredients and these will be listed on their Web site. They have to by law. They may try and hide them—they almost always do—but click around and you’ll find them. If you don’t, then you’re dealing with a company that’s completely under the radar and you should not trust them. If you do, then do a quick Internet search on the ingredients or ask us on the Message Boards. There are many watchdog agencies that test everything. Bogus supplements are pretty easy to identify.
- Rule 4: Use common sense about how the supplement actually works.
Hoodia, the main ingredient of TRIMSPA is one of my favorites. The TRIMSPA Web site tells you that you need it because African tribesmen would use the stuff on long hunts to keep thin and alert, as if anyone walking through the savanna hunting large dangerous animals with a spear needs any help in this department. Most of us would be so wide-eyed we’d be burning a thousand calories an hour with fear alone. Sure, those guys were probably fit. But before you go looking for some dietary secret, you might want to consider the fact that they were hunting large animals, on foot, using spears! Don’t you think that there might be another reason for those ripped bodies?
Another good example is the study that used displaced cultures in an attempt to show how something from their prior diet was the key to their former state of health. They never mention the fact that, using one common example, these people used to live on an island where they ate fruits, veggies, and fish and exercised daily to gather these things, and now they’re poverty-stricken factory workers who smoke, drink, and eat junk food in a polluted city. You don’t need to be a scientist to see that somebody besides those factory workers is blowing smoke.
Supplements are nothing more than a piece of the puzzle of creating a healthy lifestyle. Used correctly, they can aid with diet and exercise and greatly enhance results and performance. But they are not magical cures. They’re just targeted nutritional products, like a dense food, which is why they’re called nutritional supplements and not drugs.