Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fat Loss Pill With Leptin- A New Reality?

Do a Google search on "leptin fat loss pill" and you'll get a mix of hit's from goofy unproven fads to research projects showing some promise of fat loss in a pill that contains leptin.

This Science Centric article reveals researchers in Montreal may be close to making a "gimmick free" fat loss pill.  I've heard this before.  So far no fat loss pills have been made that produce better results than what lifestyle changes bring.

Leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full; it signals the brain when you have had enough to eat.  The more overweight we become the more leptin circulates in our blood.  Fat cells produce leptin.. more fat in fat cells and increased number of fat cells make more leptin.

Wait a minute.. if leptin makes you feel full, and more leptin is produced when we're overweight, shouldn't more leptin make you fell less hungry, and wouldn't you lose weight from eating less?

Normally it would.  But when we become really overweight high leptin levels become chronic and we develop a resistance to it; we become desensitized to the signal that makes us feel full.  Additionally another hormone, ghrelin- a hormone that makes us feel hungry, is released in larger amounts when we eat too much and become overweight.

The combination of being leptin resistant plus lower leptin levels means a person would feel even more hungry as they lose weight.  As though losing weight wasn't challenging enough we have a built in ironic weight loss hormonal road block.

OK, if all this hormone-hunger business is true, then how do we explain all those people who get passed this and lose weight successfully without pills? That's the million dollar question and I'm so glad you asked it.

In combination with dietary changes that include eating fewer calories than are expended plus eating high nutrient density foods and exercising regularly, those who are successful with long term weight loss have learned to understand their own thoughts and feelings where eating is concerned.

So the key to weight loss is a touchy-feely couch session?

The couch might make you feel more comfortable, but for sure some of that touchy-feely emotional self recognition stuff is a key component equally as important as the actual calorie deficit and exercise.

When we find ourselves eating for seemingly no reason, or eating when happy, tired, sad, excited, frustrated, or eating when watch TV, read, go to a movie, go to a social gathering...

See the pattern here?  Our eating choices can easily become automated choices based on our emotional state or situational environment. Why do you feel obligated to eat everything on your plate?  If the food you need for sustenance covers half the plate, what is the point in finishing the other half?

Could it be we have become socialized and habitualized to "clean our plate"?  That's what the research shows.  What feelings would you have if you only ate half the food on your plate?  Would you feel that you hadn't done your duty?  Guilty? What comments do you think others would make?  Do you think people might say, "hey great choice on not overeating."  Or, "You're not going to finish that?  Don't you like it?  Are you feeling OK?"

But wait there's more..  Did you know that if you have extra food on the table in serving bowls, and use larger plates, you're likely to serve yourself more without being cognizant of it?  Simply having food in our line of sight stimulates appetite.

The way we overcome the challenge of feeling hungry when we're not really hungry but rather a hormone mix up is sending the wrong signals, or when we engage in mindless eating (definitely click on that link- you'll learn about some reasons why eat too much without knowing it)..

.. is to review why we are making the choices we make.  Before we bite into that whatever, ask, "why am I eating this?  Do I need this food?  Do I want this because I'm craving the flavour, or because I am actually hungry?

Am I doing emotional eating, habitual eating, or do I really need the calories in front of my face?

Did I just serve myself 500 extra calories because I have a large plate, or because I actually need more calories?

When we look at the whole picture it becomes clear that something like a fat loss pill, even if our researchers can find a way to make the leptin pill work on a hormonal level, it won't change the size of plates we have in our cupboard, the socialization of overeating at holiday dinners, hidden calories in  salads that look healthy but have an extra 500 calories in fatty dressings, and our life long emotional rationalization of eating habits.

Hey this is getting complicated!  You think?  Maybe this is why there is a 95% failure rate when trying lose weight and keep it off?

There is no single variable that will help a person lose weight permanently.

The big four variables are:

1) Eating fewer calories than we burn off- calories in/ calories out

2) How we associate reward value and emotional state with eating and other healthy living choices

3) Regular exercise

4) Comprehending our eating environmental triggers: family dinners, bigger plates, being offered more food, all make us more likely to overeat.

Do those four things successfully and you will lose weight and keep it off.  Any caveats?  Yes.  You can't just do those four things for a couple weeks or a few months.  It's a permanent change in habits and values.

Keep the old values and you'll always be battling the desire to return to the old habits and the weight will come back faster than you lost it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interval Training: Super short workouts- better results

Interval Training Can Cut Exercise Hours Sharply -ABC News Story

Everyone is talking about the latest research on this apparently new way to exercise:  Short bursts of intensive exercise lasting mere seconds or minutes interspersed with short rest periods.  Some are selling the idea that since exercise sucks anyway and no one has time for it, might as well make it suck a little bit more by making it even harder but get it over with sooner.

I'm all for saving time, but not at the expense of making exercise out to be a villain.  Do we really want to promote the idea; the less exercise the better?  How about we get into the idea that exercise can be a lifesaver, can make you smarter, stronger, faster.. Those are good things aren't they?

Regular exercise is a good thing.  Something to like, not to shove aside or marginalise at the first opportunity.  Intervals can definitely nock a lot of time off common steady state plodding along cardio though..

All in all your workout, though quite intense, is completed in as little as 4 minutes, but you get the same results, or better than what you would get from traditional exercise that takes hours.

Is it true?

Well, yes and no.  The no part is; people are not getting fantastically fit with 4 minutes of exercise a day- that is an extreme exaggeration. There may be 4 minutes of intense intervals within a workout that has a warm up and cool down, but the workout is not merely 4 minutes in length.  The no part is; people are not becoming star athlete's within a few months of training, it still takes years to build athleticism, but athletes who know how to use modern training are getting better results with as little as one half the volume of training that has been done traditionally.

And no, you can't survive on intense intervals alone.  There are exercises to correct poor posture, to correct strength imbalances, to build your base.  What about going for a hike up a mountain or in your favorite park?  Does this need to be converted to interval training?  Golf?  Lawn bowling?

Interval training should be part of our regular exercise, but we still want to enjoy our fitness through outdoor activities, sports, or just taking the dog for a walk.

Yes interval training, which has been used for at least 2000 years*, has been proven through traditional trial and error as well as modern research to be the most effective means of developing peak performance.

But what about a sedentary person or someone who hasn’t done all preparation work of trained athletes.. can you benefit from intervals if you’re not a highly conditioned athlete?

Yes, so long as your intervals are matched to your current level of conditioning.  So the blow your brains out, sweat dripping, heart pounding, muscles burning, face grimacing intensity is NOT what is being researched when cardiac patients are doing mild intervals under a doctors supervision, and no one in their right mind is recommending intensive intervals for the unprepared.

The message is you don't need to be on the Olympic team to benefit from intervals- simply match the intervals to your current ability.

No qualified coach is going to push an unconditioned person to max intensity because that person is likely to get injured or at least overworked.

We don’t actually need much intensity to cause our bodies to improve from exercise, but we do need maximal intensity if we want maximal performance.

So what do athlete's do?  Intervals for sure.  All intervals all the time?  Not the smart ones.  Intervals are part of any athletes program and should be part of everyones exercise plan, and the intensity of the intervals need to be matched to current fitness level.

Don’t get too excited about claims of 5, 10, 20, 50% improvements from intervals as these same improvements occur without intervals.  That means the same results without feeling like your lungs are about to burst from your chest, and you wont feel like you were hit by a bus afterwards.  It will take you longer to get results though.  So if you can't get passed the idea of working to the extreme, there is no need to worry; you will get great results from easy to moderate exercise.  Just remember to gradually increase your pace or lift a heavier weight as you get more fit. The results you won’t replicate with easy to moderate exercise is high performance gains- you must train hard to achieve high performance, and you must be physically prepared to train hard otherwise injury and overtraining will result.

What do I do?

Only a small percentage of my total exercise time is spent doing intense intervals.  But when I do go hard I go very, very hard, and when needed absolute 100% all out. I spend more time warming up and cooling down than I do in the actual interval part of the workout.  I don't do many long endurance workouts anymore even though I compete in an endurance sport.  Intervals have provided so much benefit that I don't need as many or as lengthy endurance workouts, yet I can still compete in an 8 hour endurance mountain bike event, significantly longer than a standard marathon.

I personally love interval training. No workout satisfies me more than than the ones where I give it my all.  That being said, I also love the feeling I get when get to the top of a mountain faster than ever before- but that hill climb might take the better part of an hour or more of mostly steady pace- no intervals.

I like finishing 100 kilometre rides in record time- no intervals there either. But the intervlas I do in training make me faster for those longer efforts.  The intervals are a tool to improve your performance elsewhere.

In the past I have made the rookie mistake of letting the satisfaction of hard training get to my head and pushed my body too hard too often.  Eventually I developed pains that would not go away and kept me from training hard.  My performance although accelerated quickly by hard training started to be unpredictable.. good days.. bad days.. more colds.. poor sleep quality.  I had pushed my body into overtraining.  Fortunately I was able to wise up and take the advice of my sports medicine doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, and chiropractor: Back off the intensity!

Too much interval training is dumb.  The right amount of interval training at the right time is smart.

I had to learn how to appreciate base conditioning and easy days.  Ultimately my own performance and that of athletes I train is far better when exercise intensity is appropriate for the level of conditioning of the person, and has the right amount of easy recovery days when needed.

I teach my athletes how to train hard for the purpose of increasing performance rather than going hard just to go hard.

Go easy to start, add intensity as you get more fit, then hammer hard in measured doses to get high performance benefits.

Interval training can be done when you’re not an athlete, and I say should be done by everyone who has the ability to do so without risk to health or limb..  But there are no miracles here and you still need physical activity daily to maximize health.

*Intervals 2000 years ago?  No way!

I really do roll my eyes back every time I hear someone mention interval training in the context of being "new".  A fellow named Philostratus wrote in a book called "Gymnasticus" (about 230 BC) about how ancient Greek athletes trained.  He wrote of a system called "Tetra" or "Tetrad": a systematic weekly training plan that included short intense intervals, but also recovery days, moderate days, and maximal days without shorter intervals.

Modern research shows us how intervals stimulate our bodies to respond so we understand intervals better now, but intervals are not new...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dark Chocolate: Tastes great; reduces chance of dying from stroke?

Could chocolate lower the risk of stroke? - CTV News

Chocolate and Valentines Day are synonymis.  But most of the chocolates available are simply chocolate flavored fat without much else going for them.

Dark chocolate seems to be the exception as this variant is packed full of antioxidants that are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that may have positive health effects.

I love dark chocolate.  I make my own dark chocolate muffins (low cal healthy of course) and frequently buy dark chocolate bars.  I've recently switched to brands that are "Fair Trade" and organic.

I don't eat too much at one time as chocolate, as we all know, is packed full of fat.  Those big bars (100g) are about 550 calories with 40g of fat.  That's only a few grams off the total fat intake thats needed for a whole day (40 to 60g), and 25 to 30% of most peoples total caloric needs for a day.

If you did down a whole chocolate bar in one day you would have to cut out a meals worth of food or add another hour of moderate exercise to balance your calories in/ out for the day.

If you're downing the smallar sized bar (50g), that's still 225 calories, or about half a meals worth of energy, and near half the fat intake for the day.

Two study's (follow link above for more info) have shown that one 50 g serving of dark chocolate per week decreased deaths from stroke by 22 to 46%, but a third study showed no relation.

There are other studies that show positive health affects from consuming dark chocolate so the academic trend appears to be leaning towards approving dark chocolate as a possible health promoting food.

The researchers for these recent studies did emphasize that eating too much chocolate will lead to fat gain, which brings with it all the known heart disease risks.

Look for 65 to 75% cocoa content for the deep flavors and the proposed antioxidant benefits, with about 70 to 72% being the most popular sweat spot for dark chocolate flavor that doesn't get bitter.  True dark chocolate lovers will go for 80 to 85% cocoa in small quantities, but for most this takes an acquired taste.

Dark chocolate has been shown to be an appetite suppressant for many so if you eat only a few squares, enough to get that satisfying mmmm, chooocoolaaate feeling, you're less likely to overeat later in the day.

You may have heard of two processess for making chocolate; dutch and non-dutch.  The non-dutch is much higher in antioxidants, but also very difficult to find.  No worries though as the antioxidant content is so high in cocoa that there is still a very high dose in the more popular dutch processed dark chocolates.

If you can't cap it at a few squares, it will go straight to your butt, then your heart.

The real take home here is that there are plenty of other foods that are great tasting and high in antioxidants that don't carry the burden of pumping fat into your veins.

Blueberries, black and red grapes, strawberries, and pretty much any dark berries all taste great and are high in antioxidants.  What's the highest antioxidant food we know of?

Super exotic Acai berries?  Goji berries?  Nope.

Oregano.  One tablespoon of oregano has about the same antioxidant delivery as one red delicious apple or one serving of blueberries.

One tablespoon of oregano is about 17 calories.  Organo tastes good, but not dark chocolate good.

There's no denying the numbers though.. oregano is definitely the smart choice for high dose - low calorie antioxidant delivery.

Yes, antioxidants from dark chocolate are great, but if you boast to your friends that you're getting your antioxidants from dark chocolate, it isn't much to boast about because oregano is a better source, so is just about any other high antioxidant food.

Dark chocolate in moderation is the way to go