Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fitness Trends 2011 2012

American College of Sports Medicine survey predicts fitness trends for 2012 (1)

1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM.

2. Strength training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete physical activity program for all physical activity levels and genders.

3. Fitness programs for older adults.
 As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.

4. Exercise and weight loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.

5. Children and obesity. With childhood obesity growing at an alarming rate, health and fitness professionals see the epidemic as an opportunity to create programs tailored to overweight and obese children. Solving the problem of childhood obesity will have an impact on the health care industry today and for years to come.

6. Personal training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that students are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.

7. Core training. Distinct from strength training, core training specifically emphasizes conditioning of the middle-body muscles, including the pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen – all of which provide needed support for the spine.

8. Group personal training.
 In challenging economic times, many personal trainers are offering group training options. Training two or three people at once makes economic sense for both the trainer and the clients.

9. Zumba and other dance workouts. A workout that requires energy and enthusiasm, Zumba combines Latin rhythms with interval-type exercise and resistance training.

10. Functional fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.

Although producing educated and experienced fitness pro's is the top fitness industry trend it's still very much buyer beware.  Take a look at this video posted on the American Counsel on Exercise website..

The ACE article say's, "If a trainer demonstrates a technically challenging exercise that you don’t feel comfortable attempting your next exercise, run (not walk) away from that trainer in order to avoid an unnecessary (and completely preventable) injury,"

The article was also careful to point out that "this is not an indictment against Crossfit". I agree. In general the Crossfit program places special emphasis on good technique, but as I have seen over and over, it does't matter what kind of certification a trainer has, I've seen all levels of trainers make these critical errors.

The number one red flag that signals you should run, not walk, away from a trainer?  No assessments or measurements.  If a trainer doesn't do a valid fitness test or movement assessment (used to find common posture and biomechanical problems) it means they have no evidence from which to build a personal recommendation for you from.  You are likely to receive a cookie cutter program from trainers that don't do assessments.

In my opinion the number one fitness/ healthy living trend that needs to occur is changing how we think and feel about healthy choices.  Why?  How many times have you or someone you know looked forward to their "cheat day" more than they look forward to making healthy choices?

Thats the self sabotage we inflict on ourselves and is the number one reason for failure to lose weight and get fit.  We simply don't value the healthy choices as much as we do the unhealthy choices.

If you're in love with unhealthy choices you'll always feel drawn to those choices and the healthy choices will forever be relegated to being perceived as restrictions that prevent access to the supposedly more rewarding unhealthy choices.

In general I don't like most group exercise classes, the bigger they are the worse they are because individual attention becomes non-existent. Also group fitness classes place pressure on everyone to perform whether your tired or not. Group classes can work, but look for smaller groups with no more than 6-10 people per instructor. 

Here is my list of what you must do to get and stay healthy:

Overall it's the psychological work that precipitates everything else. Free your mind and the rest will follow.  Get your head and your heart into loving healthy living instead of viewing it as restrictive.

The top four things that you have control over that make your body healthy are:

Exercise:  Strength train 1 to 2X per week. Cardio 2 to 3X per week, some activity daily

Nutrition:  Pass on processed foods, fill 1/2 plate with veggies, be mindful of what you eat.. "is eating this really going to help me; or hurt me?"

Quality sleep:  Get to bed early and same time every night.  Avoid late nights.

Stress management 

The first three also pull double duty and serve to aid stress management. In addition though cognitively processing why we get angry, why we fret and worry, as well as what makes up happy and content is very important.  Most of us simply habitually react to situations instead of being mindful of our thoughts and emotions.  Being mindful helps us realize we can choose not get so uptight about things, and be less judgemental of others and ourselves, helping us reduce our stress and even avoid stress altogether. 

If you can get the right amount of these four you'll discover how liberating and rewarding it feels to be stronger with more energy, have fewer colds, have less body fat, and not feel like weight gain, being tired, and being stressed are a ball and chain.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eat Less To Get a Six Pack

The elusive six pack.  There is an endless number of super six pack programs at your disposal. Entire books are created with the sole purpose of teaching you the super secrets, known only to the author until you buy the book.

What about incredibly challenging gut burning core workouts with everything from planks to throwing medicine balls at your mid section?  These hardcore workouts are important for athletic performance, but are overkill if the main goal is solid posture, good strength, and a lean six pack.  Besides, hard core training usually causes overtraining injuries when jumped into too quickly, typically with high hopes and promises of fast gains in exchange for a torturous workout.  If you need this level of performance it's best to work up to it over a long period; athletic development takes months and years, not days and weeks.

Then there's the secret foods to eat that make abdominal fat disappear in which failing to eat these foods is proposed to be the true reason for failing to achieve a beach worthy state of being ripped.  Nope, those are phoney claims.

There are only two primary variables that relate to revealing a six pack; how much food you eat, and increasing the size of the rectus abdominis muscles through resistance training.

Actually the second variable, training, isn't as critical as you might think to merely expose the outline of this muscle group.  Certainly larger abdominal muscles stick out more and for sure make a difference in the wow factor, but anyone who is really lean will show abdominal muscles.

The main thing that stands between you and your hidden six pack is extra abdominal fat.  To simplify the complex layers of tissue let's look at the three main layers; muscles on the bottom, subcutaneous adipose tissue (fat) is next, with the outer skin (epidermis) on the outside, forming a kind of fat sandwich if you will.

Those seeking the ultimate ripped showing, usually bodybuilders preparing for contest, will tell you about sodium, water, and carb intake manipulations to get that paper-thin skin over muscle look, but that group will also tell you that particular state is only sustainable for a short period.. don't worry about this approach as it's impractical for achieving or maintaining a healthy sustainable six pack.

Really the main variable is food intake.  Can't get rid of that layer that's covering your six pack?  Eat less.

There is no secret.  Goofy fad diets need not be considered, simply employ a safe caloric deficit (around a 500 calorie deficit per day or most days) and every week you will lose fat.  Of course keep up with healthy exercise and keep eating fresh whole foods and balanced nutrition, but eat less to lose fat.

There's no rush.  Despite our ability to convince ourselves that we must lose fat or get ripped abs by a certain date, there really is no rhyme or logical reason to do so, and such goals are often set so unrealistically that most will give up when they fail to achieve unrealistic goals, or worse, turn to crazy supplements and even more crazy quick fix promises..

To maintain your ripped abs, continue with a healthy diet where you don't overeat.  This is very difficult for most to achieve as most of us typically associate reward with overeating, and we typically make every excuse in the book to overeat whenever possible.

If you can get passed weekend binge eating and the huge environmental and social influences to overeat, you can successfully achieve and maintain the ripped abs look, and you don't need a weird diet to do so.

The real secret to the six pack?  Not much of a secret, eat less to lose fat; maintain a healthy caloric balance to maintain it.

Final notes; your abs will look like your abs, not someone else's.  There are of course genetic variances between us all that make our superficial surface appearance unique to each of us so don't get hung up on trying make your abs look exactly like someone else's.  The width of the tendon material between those six pack blocks varies between people as does the exact shape of each segment of muscle; you can't change this.

Avoid getting too worked up about the exact way you look.  It's too easy for us emotional humans to develop self esteem and self image issues by placing too much emphasis on such things.  Having said that, here is a narcissistic self photo (age 45)..  My ab routine?  Only once per week, and limited sets.  I go harder when I feel good and do less when I feel off.  Simple floor crunches, standing cable crunches, axe choppers, and cable crunches are my staples.  Bridges occasionally, but bridges (also called "plank") only drive your abs to about 45% of peak contractile force which is fair for a base or a beginners program, but bridges, despite all the hype, are not appropriate for advanced core strength and power.

If I didn't love riding my mountain bike so much I would love to be a gym rat and get big, but the trails call me more than the gym does.. Find what makes you feel good, and stick with it. Oh.. and watch the calories!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fat Filibuster

Filibuster: a delay/ diversionary tactic.. keep talking but don't really say anything, and of course, avoid addressing the real issue.

For windbag politicians the filibuster seems to be part of their genetic code, but are we guilty of the same technique to avoid addressing our obesogenic culture?

Filibuster: Boy am I busy!  Time is not my own, I simply don't have time to eat healthy.. between work, the kids, keeping up the house and everything else I do, I just don't have time to think about eating a stupid salad, I have to eat, and go.  Besides, you have to live sometimes and I'm not going to live my life eating dried grass and nuts!

So.. eating a donut takes less time than eating a banana or an apple?

Eating a banana is such a huge cerebral challenge that it slows brain function?  Is that why there is no time to think about healthy eating?  Monkeys don't seem to have trouble deciding to eat banana's.. are we not as smart as monkeys?

Ordering an appetizer, main plate, and dessert takes less time than ordering less food?

Eating all that food in one sitting, typically over 1500 calories, takes less time than eating 400-700 calories?

Eating healthy is factually reduced to eating dried grass?  That's not an extreme and phoney claim meant to portray healthy choices as unpalatable in order to justify eating fat-bombs?

Even when faced with obvious truth we'll spiral down into denial and spew out an essays worth of diatribe in order to justify our unhealthy habits that cause weight gain, leave us feeling tired and out of energy much of the time, and causes us to have more frequent colds, sick days, and ill-health in general.

Every defence from "right to choose", to "it's my genetics, hormones, big bones", is regurgitated over and over again each time espoused as novel and defensible reasoning.  Really though it's all a diversion from having a real conversation about eating too much and how to overcome overeating.

I know this topic has a tendency to be viewed as an us and them confrontation, with the unhealthy on one side and the healthier on the other, both somehow perceived as having righteous indignation towards each other, but really that perception is simply another contrived diversion away from the real issue.

Most have a terribly difficult time talking straight about overeating and lack of exercise. Equally there are a great many people who exercise too much causing harm to themselves, who also follow weird fad diets with cult like tenacity, and they have just as much trouble talking about how they harm themselves with their actions.

The common thread here is that it's part of human behaviour to go into denial about bad decisions we make, and part of facilitating that denial is talking up a storm of diversionary irrelevant anecdotes.

When I used to eat 10 oz steaks (it's now closer to 3 oz), and sit on the couch bad-mouthing those crazy runners, I'd light up a smoke and berate the do-gooders who's healthy choices seemed to insult my personal autonomy and think defensively, "those people think they're better than me, who the hell are they to judge me?"

Into the filibuster I'd go.. but objectively what is the endpoint?

For me now the endpoint is this.. I haven't had a cold in years, I'm closing in on age 50 and I feel great, I'm strong, I'm not overweight and I rarely feel tired.

When I was a smoker I had smokers cough.. I couldn't enjoy the release of laughter without coughing.. is that fun?  I hated feeling tied to the chain of addiction.  Was that exercising my personal autonomy? I would feel lethargic and have indigestion after eating too much.. is that really enjoying a meal?

Am I wrong to believe that I'm better off now compared to what my health status would have been after overeating, inactivity, and smoking for the past 30 years?  Is it worth working so hard to defend unhealthy choices?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Canadians: Out of Shape and in Denial

A new report from the Heart And Stroke Foundation, aptly named Denial, say's that while most Canadians understand the risks of living an unhealthy lifestyle, many are in denial about how much they are doing make healthy living something they do every day.

31% of Canadians self-reported being physically inactive in leisure time, but in reality 48% of us are making a lasting impression in the couch.

39% report eating less than the recommended 5 or more servings of fruit and veggies daily, but the survey says 54% of us are shunning the good stuff.

18% of adults say they're obese, survey say's.. 24%.

The number one reason why people claim for not making choices?  No time.

Of course that's pure denial, and we hate hearing that we're in denial.

But that's what denial is all about: avoiding the truth.

After I quit smoking, exercised more, and ate more healthy, life got better.  I wasn't tired as often.  I had more energy during the day.

Studies show that our cognition improves with regular exercise, better sleep, and better nutrition.  I don't know if I'm any smarter, many might argue otherwise, but it seems like a worthy benefit of living healthy.

I have a love/ hate thing with Heart and Stoke.  They do a lot to get the message out, but most of the time their message is doom and gloom mixed with academic boredom that would kill the even the most well-read bookworm.

Take their new adds for example.. Make Death Wait. 

The short video's have a somber soundtrack and a super boring Mr. Death narrator telling us all how he loves us and that he's going to get us..  Yawn.

How about a video showing how enjoyable it is to live healthy?  What?  Put a positive spin on living healthy?  Thats crazy!

I guess I'll have to do the heaving lifting..

Imagine not feeling tired every morning, or for that matter every morning, afternoon and evening.

Imagine feeling like you have the energy to take on the day and more.  No, this isn't rose coloured fitness enthusiast glasses.. it's a physical reality.

Making healthy choices changes your body making every cell work better, brain cells, muscle cells, vital organs.. it all works better when we live healthy, and it's tangible.  You can feel it.

The biggest challenge is re-setting our sense of reward.  It's unlikely anyone is going to be successful switching to a healthy lifestyle if they hang on to old love affairs with overeating and inactivity.

Some things to think about..

Healthy eating is not restrictive, unhealthy eating is.

Exercise does not interfere with life's priorities, it enables them.

How many people, when diagnosed with heart disease, say, "yeah!  Right on!  I knew this would happen by eating all that crap and sitting on my butt all day! Woohoo!  I win!"

That's the disconnect. Can't deny that eating crap food tastes good at the moment.  But eating healthy food also tastes at the moment.  One makes you feel great and live longer, the other makes you overweight, tired, and die earlier.

I don't know, sounds like feeling great most of the time might be worth it.

Studies show that healthy living can reduce the number of colds we get each year by 40%, reduce the duration of the colds we do get by 40%, and reduce the severity of cold symptoms also by 40%.

That's all about having less time feeling bad and more time feeling good.  Is that worth something?

I think it is.  I haven't had a cold in years.  Colds are miserable.  I don't miss them.

What are some things that you'd like to miss?

Feeling tired?  Sleep apnea? Being sore, weak, and out of energy?  Getting sick often?  Having high blood pressure?  The battle of the bulge?

The absence of these things leaves you feeling great; and whats wrong with that?

You can't be a two-timer.  You'll need to cut ties with that old dysfunctional relationship with living unhealthy, and make a commitment to the new lover, healthy living.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Internet Nutrition


Your tax dollars at work.. eaTracker was developed with money from the BC Ministry of Health and is brought to all us surfers by Dieticians of Canada.  The new version is far easier to search and find foods to enter, previously a punishingly tedious process.

Also improved is the food database.  The previous versions didn't have popular health foods like chia seeds and quinoa, this one has it all.

Here's a screen shot of the nutrient breakdown of one my favorite quick meals:

100 grams of quinoa
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 Cup vanilla yogurt
15 almonds (not roasted or salted)
1 Grapefruit

I usually put 1/2 a cup of blueberries in there too.  If you're wondering, I eat the grapefruit separately, it's not added to the yogurt mix, but all the other ingredients are.  The grapefruit is a great vitamin C source.  Quinoa is high in iron, but it's non-heme iron (plant sourced iron) and non-heme iron is not absorbed very well. Vitamin C helps all iron absorption, be it heme iron (animal sourced) or non-heme.

The old saying "there's a method to my madness" almost applies here in that I've purposefully added a vitamin C source to this meal so my body can use the iron in the quinoa (noted for its high iron content).  I say almost because there's nothing "mad" about purposeful healthy eating.  It's all good; good tasting, good for you, as well as being smart and practical.  Can't beat that combo!

The site will help you figure out how many calories you need in a day, meeting your daily nutrient requirements, and teaching you what you are really putting in mouth.

To get a quick and very detailed breakdown of any single food  NutritionData is my favorite.

Screen shot from NutritionData:

If you're wonder what chia seeds are, yes, they are the same seeds used in the infamous Chiapet.

They're also one of the best sources of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, have a complete protein profile, and are high in calcium.

A note on those Omega-3's from chia seeds.. plant sourced Omega-3's are high in ALA, but lack DHA and EPA, which are abundant in sources like salmon, or fish oil pills.  We need more research but for now the push is on to get more of the population consuming DHA and EPA Omega-3's more so than ALA.

Interesting info on Omega-3 from Wikipedia

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Building Muscle Does Not Cause More Fat Loss

One of the biggest myths in the fitness business over the last 10 years or so is the promise that extra muscle gained from training with weights will result in extra calories burned while exercising, and also while at rest, which in turn will cause more fat loss, especially when sitting around doing nothing.. supposedly that extra muscle mass will burn through your fat stores causing fat loss.

Some of the claims say that a pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day so if you gain just 5 pounds of muscle you could be burning an extra 250 calories per 24 hours, which is just over half a pound of fat loss per week just by sitting around doing nothing.  Those numbers are outrageous, and of course not true.  Muscle can burn a lot of calories when exercising, but over a 24 hour period a pound of muscle will use approximately 6 to 8 calories.

It's true; more muscle equals more calories burned, which also means more calories are required to make those muscles work, and to prevent atrophy of that mass.

When calculating our daily caloric needs our body mass plus our daily physical activity are used to figure out how much we need to eat.

If we have two people of the same height and daily exercise levels, one weighing 150 lb. and the other weighing 170 lb., with the greater weight being muscle, the 170 lb. person will need more calories to sustain their current level of muscle.

While this is clearly understood for some odd reason the more muscle = more fat loss myth perpetuates.

The reason I suspect is because we are pretty gullible when it comes to any promise of fantastical weight loss or weight management.

So the more muscle you have the more you have eat to feed the machine.  Calories in and calories out is what determines fat loss or gain.  If a well muscled person overeats, they will gain fat, no more and no less fat than had they overate by the same amount but having less muscle mass.

Build muscle for fitness, physical performance, and health; watch what you eat to control body fat.  Yes, calories burned during a weight training session contributes to the total calories you burn during the day and will help with caloric balance, but overeat on that day you weight train and your body will store the extra calories as fat just like it would on a day you didn't exercise.

Building more muscle is great for our health.  Generally as we age we are less active and we lose lean muscle mass.  There is a degree of loss of muscle mass that is age related that we can't really do anything about, but studies show that even seniors who take up a safe and progressive weight training program can increase lean muscle mass, so exercise really can offset to a very large degree, muscle loss due to aging.

Live Healthy: Seniors Can Gain Muscle Mass And Strength

Loss of muscle mass contributes to unstable joints, loss of balance, and of course loss of functional strength.

Stronger and larger muscles adds stability to our joints and makes daily movement and general physical tasks easier.  If you're into sports you can increase your performance with stronger muscles, and quite often with larger muscles as well.

Building and maintaining muscle mass is good for us, but extra muscle does not magically result in extra fat loss.  You can have lots of muscle and still be overweight.  Easy to do, just eat more food than you need and the extra calories go to fat stores, no matter how much muscle you have.  Ever heard of an overweight linebacker?  Of course.  In fact overweight football players are becoming a great concern.  It's becoming more common for overweight football players to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other health issues that come with being overweight.   These athletes have huge muscles, yet many are overweight and clinically obese.  Extra muscle does not make automatically make these athletes immune to gaining excess fat, and it won't work for anyone else either.

Heavy NFL players twice as likely to die before 50 - NFL - ESPN

Weight Loss Involves Will Power

News stories in the last couple weeks have delivered a crushing blow to those struggling with weight loss:

You can't win, will power is useless because hormonal changes that come with overeating and weight gain perpetuate a state of hunger which actually gets worse when you lose weight.

Don't dispare the study was a goofy one.  That might be a bit harsh.. better to say that this single study does not tell the whole story, but rather a story that is specific to the conditions of the study (1), which was going on a 500 calorie per day starvation diet.

After 10 weeks of starving on a diet that is totally unrealistic and would never be recommended by any health professional, weight loss occurred (of course, you're starving).  What also occurred is the hormones that regulate hunger changed; hormones that stimulate hunger increased, and those that suppress appetite decreased.

The most interesting study finding was that one year after the initial weight loss the shift in hormonal balance remained out of balance, causing the study participants to feel hungry and also needing more calories to feel satisfied from eating.

The real conclusion hear is not that weight loss is impossible but rather that if you try drastic measures like crash dieting and extremely low calorie diets you will cause significant changes in hormone levels that govern appetite which will strongly influence regaining the weight you lost.

Permanent weight loss is possible, but only about 5 to 10% of people are successful.  How is this done?

Change your love affair with overeating.  It's important to learn the caloric value of foods so you can know how to meet your daily needs, and in light of these discoveries of hormonal imbalances driving appetite, it's important to be able to self talk and cognitively process your sense of hunger, "I get that I feel hungry, but do I feel hungry because of a true caloric need, or is this the hunger caused by hormonal imbalance?"

If you've had enough calories and still feel hungry the hunger will be from hormonal imbalance.  Initially you will use your will power to resist eating when this happens.  Over time you will adapt to eating less, but unless our ingrained sense of gratification from overeating is also addressed we'll forever be trapped in a dysfunctional love affair with food.

With the self talk try something like, "I'm going to feel so good about myself by eating healthy.. this is the right thing to do."  Repetition is the key.  Just like practicing musical scales on a instrument, learning to type, or learning anything for that matter, the brain needs to experience repetition so it can adapt.. lot's of repetition.

Expect relapses and expect a long term process.  Want to lose weight quick and keep it off forever?  Most likely not going to work for you so don't bother trying.  Want to earn a living by winning the lottery?  Quick weight loss is just as unrealistic.

If you look at how much we admire overeating, and how much we long for it every day, it's easy to see why eating healthy can be so challenging.. almost nobody does it, and almost nobody supports it.

Despite these real challenges, successful weight loss is possible, it can be done, and it feels really good.

Healthy eating is far more satisfying than overeating, teach your brain to automate that association and you'll feel a natural desire to eat healthy, instead of overeating, and that is truly liberating.

1) Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss — NEJM

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vitamin Supplements Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer

Click here for a Reuters article on the subject.

Might be a bit of an overreaction.  Reading the article it doesn't appear as though a strong causal link between vitamin E pills and prostate cancer has been confirmed.

My take from this study is that, in combination with other studies showing little to no benefit from daily use of multivitamins that we should at least question whether or not there is any significant value to daily use vitamins an minerals in pill form, especially when compared to the benefits of eating healthy.

 There is good data showing that Canadians should consider taking a vitamin D pill from October through May.  A doctor may prescribe vitamin or mineral supplementation where needed, but overall, my favorite vitamin source is the produce section.

Eat Veggies, Change your Genes

Lot's of news stories covering new research showing that those who have a genetic predisposition to heart disease can reduce their risk of heart disease to equal that of those who don't have the gene.

A gene called 9p21 can make those who carry it more susceptible to heart disease.  Eating as little as two servings of fruit and veggies a day appears to be enough to reduce the ill-health effects of this gene to essentially nullify it's significance.

More research is needed to understand why this works, or why 9p21 can cause health problems, but the bottom line is, you guessed it; eat your fruit and veggies.

Do you have the gene?  An article in WebMD quotes the study author saying 50% of the population carries one copy of the gene, while 20% carry two copies.

Raw fruits and veggies seemed to work better.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Healthy Thanksgiving

Do you look forward to holiday dinners but at the same time have misgivings about the overeating aftermath?

One of the most common strategies to allow for overeating at holiday meals is skipping breakfast or lunch (or both) to allow for a major chow down later on.

Why do it though?  You know you're going to feel crappy about it afterwards.  It takes some doing, but the long term success strategy is to adapt to being satisfied with eating less, or to be more accurate, eating what we need.

at 2000-3000 calories for the average thanksgiving dinner, we're way over the mark.  One plate of piled on turkey, potatoes, gravy, etc is around 1200 -1500 calories, about double what we need for a meal.

Enjoy the meal and the company of friends and family, that's what it's all about.

Include physical activity before and after the T-Day meal.  A side effect of consuming a high fat high calorie meal is "endothelial dysfunction", your arteries stiffen up for about 4 hours or so.  This is thought to be, along with a spike in fats in your blood, part of the cause of the heart attack on plate, where a person has a heart attack shortly after a large meal.

The artery stiffening happens with everyone, even thin, fit, healthy people.  The post meal heart attack risk only occurs in persons in a high risk category, those with existing heart and or cardiovascular disease. 

Still, why eat so much that is causes arteries to stiffen?  Seems a little counter productive.

The best way to avoid this is not to eat the amount of food that causes this response, which is about 1000 calories of a high fat, high sodium meal.

If you do imbibe gargantuan proportions, exercise after the meal (like walking) has been shown to reduce the artery stiffening effect.

Including some kind of family physical activity with holiday meals is a great tradition that can help keep families healthy.  After all the healthier we are the better chance we have of being around to enjoy more family dinners.

I used to pack down two or three plates of food at holiday meals.  Can't do it anymore.  I got tired of the bloated feeling and the regrets of eating too much.  

I'm really looking forward to having thanksgiving dinner with the family; enjoying their company and catching up on things will be great, and so will the meal.  Not overdoing it allows us to enjoy the meal and company without the overeating aftermath so the entire experience is a good one.

Enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving meal, and we can be thankful for our health.

Some healthy eating tips for Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Be happy with one plate of food, or two small plates, the second with more veggies rather than a replay of the first.

  • Having all the food out in the centre of the table stimulates us to keep eating.  Keep the turkey and big bowl of potatoes on a table/ counter away from the place you eat.

  • Take the skin off the turkey you eat and limit the total amount of the poultry serving to about 1/4 of the plate or less.

  • Home made cranberry sauce can be about half the calories per cup than gravy, but sugar laden commercially prepared cranberry sauce can have 3-4 times the calories as gravy.  The remedy?  Use enough gravy and cranberry sauce to provide flavour, but avoid making lake out of it.

  • Make healthy veggie based dishes.  Google pumpkin recipes and other healthy veg dishes, make these the centre piece.  We need more veggies than we do meat or poultry so make a family tradition of a great tasting veggie plate to accompany the old stand by turkey.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Freshman 15

Some new university students turn to food to cope with the stress of the new environment, and some of these students develop eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

All universities will have student counselling services that can either refer for proper treatment or have the staff to address help students struggling with eating disorders. 

Not all overeating is considered disordered eating, but all chronic or periodic overeating leads to weight gain.  Sometimes referred to as the "freshman 15",  most students (up to 77%) will overeat in their freshman year and gain between 4 and 15 pounds of body fat, with a weight gain of near 4 pounds being more prevalent. 

Strategies to ovoid the freshman weight gains are the usual.. eat less, stay active, and be mindful of what and when you eat.

I found an interesting study that included blood pressure measurements of first year division one football players in the US.  23.5% had high blood pressure, 54% were prehypertensive, and only 22.4% were considered having normal blood pressure.  Although very muscular and strong, many football players are also clinically obese or overweight with serious health conditions like high blood pressure starting at a very young age.

In my personal observation, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, it's common practice for male athletes to boast about how much they can eat, often using how much one can eat as a display of manly superiority.  I get the socialization of overeating and machismo.. used to do it myself.  I grew tired of battling the annual fat gain, fat loss cycle though and stopped overeating.

I still get cajoled by my peers from time to time for eating healthy, but I'm closing in fast on age 50 and it's more obvious to me now that if I'm going to age well I've got to keep up with taking care of myself.

I didn't think this way when I was in my teens and early 20's, those were the years where nutrition and healthy living advice was overbearing pressure from tee totalling killjoys.  In retrospect though it was never enjoyable to realize I had put on 10-15 pounds of fat from pigging out and that I had to stop it from becoming 20+ pounds.

The trouble with developing overeating habits is that the longer you do it the harder it is to stop, and with population statistics still trending towards increasing obesity amongst the young and previously young, it would appear that the idea of socially celebrating nearly everything we do with overeating is winning out over the message to eat and live healthy.

Staying at a healthy weight has eliminated that stress I used to feel when I overrate my way to weight gain one or two or three chocolate fudge brownies at a time, throwing in a few 2000 - 3000 calorie big plate restaurant meals for good measure.  I have to admit, I feel far more rewarded now eating healthy. Instead of seeming all doom and gloom with the perceived message of needing to stop enjoying food to be healthy I want to pass this along..

It feels better to eat healthy.  No weight gain, better energy, food tastes great.  Never feels like you've got that dark cloud over you, "I'm going to regret I ate this later".

Performance and blood pressure character... [J Strength Cond Res. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Caffeine Rich Energy Drinks: Regulation?

I read a few media stories today about how Health Canada is reviewing expert recommendations to possibly label so-called energy drinks like Red Bull and Rock Star as "stimulant drug containing".  The recommendations go a lot further than a label though, suggesting that energy drinks become the purview of pharmacies only.

Might not be a bad business model for pharmacies, these drinks are very popular.  Of course you would have to install beverage coolers in all pharmacies, maybe freezers too.  Why freezers?  Because coffee flavored ice-cream has about the same amount of caffeine as Red Bull (Red Bull 80mg, coffee flavored ice-cream 70mg).

What about extra large coffee's available at Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and 7-11 that have over 200mg of caffeine?  Would all coffee shops require a "watchful pharmacist" to make sure caffeinated beverages are dispensed the way Health Canada says they should?

There is a growing social trend, especially amongst the younger crowds, to down energy drinks to get a buzz, overcome tiredness, increase athletic performance, and most contentiously, to enhance or negate the effects of alcohol.

Health minister Leona Aglukkaq hasn't said whether she will follow the advice of the panel.  Making Red Bull only available at pharmacies is way over the top. Too nanny-state for me. 

Personally I don't have any love for these energy drinks or any positive health or performance claims associated with them.  I think it's a stretch to suggest these drinks provide energy or significant increases in cognition or sports performance.  You'll get more results from a good night's sleep and regular exercise.  Caffeine can't replace or reverse the effects of sleep deprivation, but can temporarily make you feel like it does.

Caffeine and booze:  Caffeine does not make you drive better when drunk:

Energy drink did nothing for sprint performance in woman

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Second hand smoke causes hearing loss?

Secondhand Smoke Associated with Hearing Loss in Teens – TIME Healthland

Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 exposed to second hand smoke had greater high and low frequency hearing loss.

Click on the link above for the lowdown.

I am so glad I quit smoking 25 years ago.  For those of you who still smoke; seriously, quitting is the best thing you can do for you and those around you.

When I was a smoker and people would try to get me to quit I used to feel pressured or nagged and would go light up a smoke in protest.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Smoking was the most illogical and stupid thing I've done.  I tried and failed a few times before I quit for good so don't worry about not succeeding the first time, just keep at it.

There is nothing good about smoking, nothing neutral either.  Smoking really is all bad all the time, even in tiny amounts.  Getting rid of the smoking ball and chain is a great relief and makes you finally start feeling healthy.

If nobody smoked we'd all be better off.

Eat fat get less sad

Fatty 'Comfort' Foods May Alter Brain's Response to Sadness - US News and World Report

Study subject fed fat directly to their stomachs via a tube experienced less sadness than those fed a saline solution.

So yeah, there's something to the comfort food theory. Use causation though, the researchers suggest that the more overeat fat to get the feel good response the more fat we have to consume to make the comfort feeling occur.

Same as usual; overeating not good!

Banana's disappearing?

The Beginning of the End for Bananas? | The Scientist

A fungal pathogen is wiping out the worlds banana crops.  Should we worry?

This has happened before.  A different variety of banana was mostly wiped out by the same fungus years ago and we had the same dire warnings that the pleasure of eating tasty bananas would only be a memory.

Didn't happen.

The researchers are saying, "yeah, but this time it's for real".  Might be, but for now we can still buy bananas, and before the banana dooms day prediction of no banana's by 2015, the problem may be averted by growing a new strain of bananas, eradicating the fungus, or the prediction simply not coming true.

Do you really need 8 cups of water every day?

Advice to drink 8 cups of water a day 'nonsense': doc - CTV News

After reading the article from the link above, one might be confused as to how know if they're getting enough water intake.

Here are a few simple tips for hydration during exercise:

Weigh yourself before and after exercise.  If you weigh more than when you started you drank more water than you needed.

If you weight more than half a kilogram less than when you started you didn't quite drink enough.  If you weigh 1-2 kg less then you're definitely dehydrated and need to consume more fluids during exercise.

If your urine stream is always dark yellow then you're consistently not consuming enough fluids.  If you have to pee several times per day and your urine stream is constantly fairly clear to lightly yellow, you're most likely reasonably well hydrated.

The problem with the 8 cups a day recommendation is that depending on physical activity, temperature and  your physical stature, 8 cups may not be enough water.  8 Cups of water every day would rarely be too much water so don't worry about consuming too much if you do the 8.

Hyponatremia a serious condition that occurs when you drink way too much water, serious enough to potentially cause death, doesn't happen unless you pound back lot's of fluids; 2 or more litres over 20-30 minutes, or enough to cause a weigh gain of 2+ kg in body weight from fluids consumed.  It's a good idea to be wary of not chugging back water excessively on hot days, rather, be thoughtful about getting enough, not too much, not too little.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vitamin D + Calcium = Reduced Skin Cancer Risk

A recent study (1) is getting a lot of attention.  Any time significant risk of the big C is reduced, people want to know about it.

The headlines say that vitamin D and calcium supplements reduce risk of skin cancer in woman.  Researchers were  not able to discover why this occurs, only that this association was observed, but only under specific circumstances.

Woman who previously had nonmelanoma skin cancer expressed an approximate 57% percent decrease risk in developing melanoma when taking vitamin D and Calcium supplements.  Woman with no previous skin cancer showed no reduced risk of melanoma when taking vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

It was not certain whether it was vitamin D alone, the vitamin D + calcium combination, or calcium alone that caused the reduced risk.

The researchers said results should be interpreted with caution and that further investigation is warranted.

Another study looking at woman in Northern Italy found a week inverse association with malignant melanoma and vitamin D intake from diet. (2)

For information on melanoma and nonmelanoma skin Cancer, go to Canadian Cancer Society

(1) Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplementation and the Ris... [J Clin Oncol. 2011] - PubMed result

(2) Inverse association between dietary vitamin d and ... [Nutr Cancer. 2011] - PubMed result

Friday, July 1, 2011

Are You A Desaturator?

A study I was involved in (1) has shown that Exercise Induced Arterial Hypoxemia (EIAH) occurs in a greater percentage of highly trained persons than previously believed (60% compared to 50%), and also seems to occur in those who are less fit, but to a lesser degree.

While it isn't exactly clear what causes EIAH, a mild to severe decrease in the oxygen content of blood when exercising at or near maximal intensity, discovering the cause of EIAH is important as not understanding this limitation reveals our incomplete understanding the physiology cardiorespiratory function.

Our study won't have any immediate impact on thinking about how we should exercise but it does add to the growing knowledge base needed to understand EIAH.

Study subjects were pushed to their limits either on a stationary bike, treadmill, or both.  We looked at blood lactate levels, lung volume and air flow pre-post exercise, and arterial blood oxygen levels.  We were able to demonstrate that air flow restriction did not influence EIAH.

Our study was the largest of it's kind to date with 82 subjects. Go to the link below to read about what we did.


Overcoming and Preventing Common Running Injuries

Justine Routhier of CJOB gave me call to talk about this article from on avoiding common running injuries.

I like fitsugar but it can sometimes be a little light in terms of referencing where they get their info from, and a little short on content.

The fitsugar article does a decent job of describing common running injuries but left out the most recent most significant understanding of what drives most lower extremity injuries and mechanical dysfunctions in runners, that being hip muscle strength and firing pattern imbalances.  Go here for an article I posted recently on this.

Two of the best exercises for improving running form, biomechanics, and reducing risk of injury are the side lying leg raise (hip abduction), and the glute bridge.

Your best step to preventing overuse injuries is taking the time required to build a healthy tolerance to running.  It isn't true that constantly dealing with aches and pains is part of regular running, but listening in on most post run discussions in any given running group and sore shins, knees, hips, feet, and back will be all too common.

The time required to become a healthy injury free runner differs somewhat between people so make sure you take the time you need which is often longer than what others claim, and longer that what we think it should take.

Indeed it usually takes 6 to 8 months of carefully progressive exercise to overcome repetitive strain injury in runners.

The most common mistakes I see in rehab and prehab (exercises to prevent common injuries) is going too hard too soon.

I'll often have athletes calling me complaining of sore hip muscles from doing the "rehab" hip exercises.  They always reveal that they decided to 50 to 100% more repetitions and exercises sessions than I recommended thinking that more is better.

In talking to physiotherapists, other coaches, massage therapists, and sport medicine docs about this, there seems to be pretty good agreement; those doing injury recovery and prevention programs either go well beyond the recommended volume and intensity of exercise, will not complete the full program, or will not do enough.  D'oh!  Very few follow the advice to the letter, and so very few have the benefit of experiencing injury free running.

It really is worth it to be patient and take the time to do it right.  Add injury prevention exercises as part of your regular routine, don't run when tired or sore, and cut your run short when aches and pains increase.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Study Celebrates International Moron Day

"Eat less, exercise more".  Harumph.  That doesn't work.  I know it doesn't work because we've been carpet bombed by that advice for decades and we're still seeing obesity stats climb. There must be elusive factors that cause weight gain.  I thought I addressed this in my previous post, but a study from Harvard published in the New England Journal of Medicine (1) shows that I'm wrong.

The study involving over 120,000 U.S. men and woman followed over 20 years has made statistical correlations with weight gain/ weigh loss and specific foods and activities.

Every four years data on the study subjects was collected. On average subjects gained 3.35 lbs over each four year study period.

Here are some of the findings

An hour of TV watching = .31 pound weight gain.  Next time I watch TV I'm going to sit on a scale.  Won't it be cool to watch my .31 pound weight gain live?  I'll do this while watching The Biggest Loser.

The strongest weight gain was associated with eating potato chips; a 1.69 lb weight gain.  OMG!  Say it ain't so.

If you ate veggies you would lose 0.22 lbs.  Exercise caused a 1.76 lb decrease in weight.  Wow, that is totally new.  Life changer.

The media response to the study (google it);  "Eat less, exercise more" is overly simplistic advice, because this study shows very discrete correlations with specific foods associated with weight loss or gain.

Yesterday was Bike to Work Day here in Winnipeg.  I like it when groups claim days to promote their cause.  Seems to be a reasonably effective way to garner attention for your cause.

Appropriately this study was released on international moron day, which appears to have been extended due to popularity.  The worlds most foremost morons get their day in the sun to demonstrate their proclivity for obtuse self contradiction.

Eating less and exercising more doesn't work, but avoiding eating bags of potato chips, sitting on your butt watching TV for hours, while also including regular exercise and consumption of veggies will cause weight loss, according to this study.

Stepping on the gas pedal with your foot does not make your car go, but depressing the gas pedal with your foot will.  See how impressively sophisticated that differentiation is?  It's like I just heard a crowd of people sigh in unison,  "Huuuuu???.. AAAAhhhh!"  Or maybe it was a, "waaa?..  D'oh!"

Only alumni from Alpha Moron Kappa have the capacity to educate the rest of us unwashed heathens.

I'm a little worked up over this.  Maybe I should tone it down a little.  After all how does being facetious help? Sometimes I feel like my head is going to implode when I hear this kind of drivel regarding healthy living.  The targeted axiom here, "eat less, exercise more" is just that, an axiom.  It's a broad generalization meant to capture the gist of how weight loss works.  "Calories in, calories out" is another.

Nobody intended these one-liners to embody the entire complexity of how to exercise and what specific foods are more or less healthy, so attacking these helpful reminders for their lack of specificity makes no sense. Further, trying to establish that eating less and exercising more are not significant parts of successful weight loss is, well, moronic.

The term "don't drink and drive" isn't meant to teach someone how to steer and brake to avoid collisions, or any specifics of how to drive or how not to get drunk, it's a one-liner that conveys a succinct message that's easy to drive home.  That's why we make axioms. Easy to get a simple and logical message across.  It's not an owners manual.

Let's heed the Harvard researchers advice:  "Eat less and exercise more" doesn't work, but "eating less and exercising more" does work.

(1) Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men — NEJM

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anyone Can Lose Fat

Is it difficult to walk passed that popular dessert mecca that serves decadent death by chocolate?  Can we exercise enough inner determination to cull our passion for imbibing 12 ounces of succulent satisfaction at the local steak house? 

How about grandma telling us, "There are starving people in China, eat! Eat!"  Can't stifle grandma.  Or maybe we can, maybe grandma needs a challenge; "Gramma, how does me overeating help starving people in China?  And why do you have to make enough food for twenty people when we're only serving five? Do you think that might have something to do with our weight issues?"  Grannies extra servings go straight to our hearts.

You're running your finger down the menu at the local 5 star sit down and 90% of the meal choices are over 1000 calories, and every one of those calories has a telepathic connection to your salivary glands that are starting to make you drool and quiver for the mouth orgy you're about to go down on.

Are you really going to trade that for a dry, limp stick of celery?

Allow me to introduce you to the excuse many us know as well as that old high school best friend who even though there may be a continent of real-estate between you, each time you get together it's like old times, like you've never been apart.

"Healthy food is like cardboard" That's the excuse.  Feeling comfortable now?  Your friend is back.  It's ok not to choose healthy food.  I understand you want to feel rewarded, and that's what you deserve.  No.. no, settle down, I'm not going to feed you salad, I'm your friend

I'm going to feed you your favorite meal and you're going sit back with your waist almost uncomfortably tight, which is  easily resolved by a flick of the finger undoing the belt.. ahhh.. ease into the soft warm leather chair, talk about old times, laugh about the time you did that silly thing..

Nice hey?  That's how comfortable we are with overeating.

Conversely we perceive healthy eating as a steel bench at a bus stop in the rain.  And the bus is late. And you're wearing linen. 

But what if that's all wrong?  What if living healthy provides a feeling of energy and freedom previously unknown? 

Well, it does.  Don't let the nay-sayers divert you from your desire to lose weight and get healthy. 

Obesity is not about genetics. That excuse is denial based "my overeating is not to blame" escapism that appeals to those who can't face the reality that they chronically overeat, or at least have yet to come to realize that they can succeed at permeant weight loss if only they permanently changed their lifestyle.

No person, no matter what their genetics, will become overweight if they do not overeat.

Every person, no matter their cultural or genetic make up, or physical activity, will gain fat if they eat too much.

Human genetics are not changing every year resulting in greater weight gain annually around the world.

What is happening is people are eating more and are less physically active.  This results in more calories consumed than expended, which equals fat gain.

It really is this simple.

The complicated part is how we become entrained to overeat through socialization, habits, and the overall ubiquitous celebration of overeating. 

Research has shown that overeating, a lack of sleep, and eating high concentrations of fat, sugar, and salt trigger hormonal responses that cause us to feel more hungry than usual and to require more food to feel satiated.  This adds significant challenge to changing eating habits as one will feel hungry but wont actually be physically hungry, as in requiring more energy from food.  The person will only perceive hunger prompted by altered hunger stimulating hormone levels.

Part of the answer is to learn how hunger works.  Part of the answer is self discipline. 

The answer is not about finding a drug or a new diet.  The desire to "discover" the solution to fat loss is quite possibly a desperately naive avoidance of personal responsibility, or at worst a Machiavellian scheme to empty wallets. 

Why do most weight loss attempts fail in the long term? Is it because most people are genetically non-responsive to healthy living (diet and exercise)?  No.  It's because those who fail do not change their physical habits or emotional connection to food.  It's because those who fail ultimately return to their previous overeating habits.

Losing weight is possible.  You don't have to go ballistic to do it either. 

Eat less.  Exercise more.  Change your emotional connection to food so you're in love with healthy food instead of crap food.  Maybe show a little love for yourself, for your health. Expect to make plenty of mistakes.  Don't put a time limit on it, just keep at it.

It's not your genetics that keep you overweight, it's your overeating.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Recreational Trails Path To Health

Jogging, walking, cycling, and my favorite, mountainbiking.

It's great to get out of the city and hit wilderness trails for recreation and fitness. These trails are for the most part built by volunteers and clubs.

IMBA, Internation Mountain Bicycling Association, is arguably the leader in North America for building sustainable multiuse trails.

Today I'm attending a trail building class put on by IMBA and hosted by the Crow Wing Trail Association.

More info on Crow Wing Trail can be found here

For IMBA go to

I enjoy using trails but often I'll find sections of trails washed out, rutted out, or just plain unsafe trail conditions.

I want to do something to help keep up the trails I use, but I want to make sure it's done in a sustainable, safe way.

I'm also interested in helping to make multi use trails that reduce conflict between trails users.

This all ties into my desire to live a healthy lifestyle. Given the choice I would rather run or ride for fun and fitness in a wilderness trail.

If you're a regular trail user and are interested in helping with local trail upkeep, IMBA will put you in contact with local trail crews.

If you're into using trails, but not into working on them, be mindful of how a trail is used. Riding in the mud can be fun, but can rapidly erode the trail bed. Over years this part of trail becomes unusable.. for anyone.

I think IMBA does a great job of setting reasonable standards for building trails. I strongly recommend that before anyone builds or maintains a trail, get info from IMBA.

The trail building course covers how to build the correct gradient and trail bed to shed water (reducing water erosion), making the trail "flow" (fun to walk, run, ride without abrupt unsafe transitions.

I'll post photos of the course later today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rongjia Tao "Professor Magneto" Reduces Blood Thickness With Magnatism

Remember that scene in X-Men where Magneto uses his powers to suck out all the iron from the blood of his prison guard allowing Magneto to make a tiny mass of iron used to break out of jail?

Not a sci-fan?  Or maybe you are and you're remembering how cool that scene was.

Professor and chair of physics at Temple University, Rongjia Tao, has figured out how to use the power of magnetic fields, like the Marvel Comics Magneto character.  Well, not exactly like Magneto.  Instead of using mutant abilities Tao uses science and engineering to create magnetic fields that are used to decrease the viscosity of oil in engines and pipelines.

Tao, using this technology, has been able to reduce a persons blood viscosity by 20-30 percent by subjecting subjects to a magnetic field having the same intensity as an MRI, for about one minute.

More research is needed to make everything work right, but the hope is this technology can be used for heart disease therapy.

The magnetic field polarizes red blood cells causing them to organize into short chains that flow down the centre of blood vessels, reducing the friction against the walls.

Tao is the "good" Magneto, of course.

Using Magnets to Help Prevent Heart Attacks - ScienceNewsline

Smoking keeps you thin? A tired old lie

I read with interest as well as much disdain, an article (1) on how people might be able to quit smoking without gaining weight.

The old urban myth is that smoking keeps you thin, and if you quit smoking you're sure to gain weight.

The article, published on Science sites a new study (2) that reveals a new understanding of how nicotine behaves as an appetite suppressant. Nothing against Science Daily, it's one of the most used bookmarks I have.. love the site.  Usually I defend how research drags us through the minutia of how things are presumed to work because without knowledge of facts we're doomed believe things like 'the sun orbits the earth', or 'smoking keeps you thin'.

Today though I can't help but feel akin to my friends who contend that academics don't live in the real world.

So science proves that nicotine suppresses appetite.  Must be true then; smoking keeps you thin.  Regular readers will know that I'm all about the "evidence".  Don't make things up based on myth, traditionalism, and prejudging.. show me the evidence.

Ok.  So if smoking keeps you thin how do we explain overweight smokers?

And if quitting smoking causes weight gain; how do we explain those who do not gain weight despite quitting smoking?

The answer?  The seemingly elusive matrix of variables that causes clandestine weight gain.. whaa?  I gained weight?  How did that happen?

Ahh, I know how I gained fat, I don't smoke!  Eureka! World wide obesity epidemic solved!

Yes there it is folks, science shows us the way.  The percentage of the population that smokes has decreased since the 60's.  The WHO (not the band) says that smoking among Americans has shrunk by nearly half from the 60's to the 90's, with 23% of the population smoking in 1997 (3).

 Health Canada says that the percentage of the population that smokes has fallen from around 40% in 1985 to around 21% in 2003, with 30% of those aged 20-24 as the largest smoking group.

At the same time obesity has been increasing.  According to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey 23.% of Canadians aged 18 or older were obese (4).

Well sign me up as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee (I wouldn't presume to win, but surly I should be nominated for solving the obesity "mystery").

Fewer people are smoking and more people are overweight; and the trends match each other inversely.

I'm content.

Or am I?

Damn my curiosity.  If I weren't so curious maybe I wouldn't have tried smoking and eventually tried to quit.  Wait.. something just clicked in my brain.  I think my neuron just fired..

I didn't lose weight when I started smoking, nor did I gain weight when I quit smoking. Time for more research.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 tells us combining smoking and obesity kills us better than either of those alone (5).

Must be junk science.  Since smoking keeps you thin, how did these researchers find overweight people who smoke?

Maybe the world repository of facts; Google, can help.  "Overweight smoker" gave me this little You Tube gem of an overweight child in Indonesia with a two pack a day smoking habit.

Must be a hoax.  Remember; smoking keeps you thin.

My tongue is getting sore and I think my cheek is developing a permanent bulge. Overeating causes weight gain, not the absence of smoking.  There are many overweight people who smoke.  There are many who are not overweight who do not and have never smoked.

The way to not gain weight when quitting smoking is to not eat too much.

The health benefits of quitting smoking are huge and it feels great to rid of the ball and chain.  It takes some mindfulness and contemplation of healthy food choices, but for sure the fear of weight gain ought not to keep smokers from quitting.

Don't let a belief in an urban myth keep you from becoming a healthier non-smoker; ditch the darts and eat healthy, you'll love yourself for it.

(1) Discovery may pave way to quitting smoking without gaining weight

(2) Nicotine Decreases Food Intake Through Activation of POMC Neurons

(3) WHO Western Pacific Region - Fact sheets - Smoking Statistics

(4) Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight

(5) The combined relations of adiposity and smoking on mortality

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Losing more than 15 percent of body weight significantly boosts vitamin D levels in overweight women

Losing more than 15 percent of body weight significantly boosts vitamin D levels in overweight women

Race Your Race, Not Your Warm Up

A new study (1) getting lot's of media exposure has demonstrated that traditional long warm up periods (45 to 90 minutes with several hard sprints) used by sprinters and short duration event athletes are too fatiguing and rob athletes of their best performance.

Instead a shorter gradual 15 minute warm up with one sprint at the end increased performance by about 6%.

Don't scoff at 6%, that can provide a personal best or podium finish.  Also, think of saving all that wasted time!  15 minutes of warm up compared to 90 minutes makes it much easier to manage pre-competition preparation.

(1) Less is More: Standard Warm-up Causes Fatigue and Less Warm-up Permits Greater Cycling Power Output

Strengthen Hips To Reduce Knee Pain

There are a few basic hip exercise that I prescribe to nearly everyone I train whether they are high performance athletes or first timers.  One of the first steps I take when starting with someone is an assessment of core, hip, and ankle stability and strength, and most people score low on most tests.  Indeed when I first learned of these tests over 15 years ago, I scored low on them myself.

Poor hip strength is linked to knee pain (2), and a variety of hip strengthening and movement corrective exercises will reduce or eliminate common knee pain and greatly improve athletic performance in foot speed, moving sideways, and producing power.

The trouble is some of these exercises are perceived as being tedious and unusual compared to standard strength training exercises, while the final stage of advanced exercises are hard to do both strength-wise and in terms of maintaining focus on retaining good form.  I've seen these factors result in many either dismissing the corrective exercises as too weird, taking too long to get results, or conversely many will do the rehab exercises at far too high of an intensity to be useful; overworking the person instead of gradually progressing them forward.

Within a couple months of hip and core strengthening mechanics can be corrected (3, 4) and knee pain can be greatly reduced, especially in woman, whose greater thigh bone angle and generally wider hips make them more susceptible to knee pain.

An Indiana University press release on June 3 (1), 2011 explains how stronger hips from a 2X per week (30 to 35 minutes) hip strengthening program improved running mechanics and lessened knee pain.  Click on the link below for more details.

Recently a 50 year old male athlete I've been working with won his age group in a short distance duathlon, the second duathlon he has ever entered. Paul Seier ran recreationally a few years ago but back, hip, and knee pain made the experience a literal pain in the butt.

Paul is also a competitive mountain biker, winning gold in the Manitoba Provincial Championships (2010) for his category (sport 40+ mens).

Part of what makes Paul's story compelling is that he's a regular guy with a family, runs a business with his wife, and has only so much time to exercise.  Also important to know about Paul, he previously suffered from chronic low back pain, reoccurring spasms in hip muscles, and knee pain.  All of these have been resolved through massage therapy (thanks Bryan!) and a long term progressive exercise program that incorporated the exercises referenced in the research article links below.

By following what research recommends to both reverse and prevent typical overuse injuries and pain due to poor mechanics and muscle weakness, Paul was able to enter duathlon races without any pain or suffering.  Paul reports that he can't believe how good he feels when he runs now; no pain, lot's of power, and no soreness afterwards.

It's true, your running can be pain free.  Do what Paul did, start with the basics, very gradually increase running (Paul started with only a few minutes of running once per week, and now runs on average 1 or 2 times per week, and rides his bike 1 or 2 times per week, and does basic hip strengthening exercises once per week).

A little goes a long way so long as you do it right and overcome two of the most difficult obstacles for increasing performance: the urge to exercise too hard too often, and the urge to follow traditional no-science based injury prone high-voulme, high-intensity exercise programs with no base conditioning.

Paul Seier- right, Cris LaBossiere- left

(1) ACSM: Stronger Hips Improved Running Mechanics, Lessened Knee Pain - ScienceNewsline

(2) Eccentric Hip Muscle Function in Females With and Without Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

(3) A Proximal Strengthening Program Improves Pain, Function, and Biomechanics in Women With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

(4) The effect of real-time gait retraining on hip kinematics, pain and function in subjects with patellofemoral pain syndrome -- Noehren et al. -- British Journal of Sports Medicine