Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reduce Muscle Mass Loss With Aging

You need to reduce muscle mass loss with aging. After all, it's a scary statistic. You potentially could lose over several pounds of muscle per decade after age 30 and more if you diet.

With that muscle loss probably comes a lower metabolism, and an increased risk of falls and injury, not to mention a dramatic decline in your beach body.

But this can be avoided.

According to a study in the journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, adding strength training to a low-calorie diet plan can help men and women reduce muscle loss.

The subjects in this 6-month study included 30 obese men and women (average age of 70).

Exercise Attenuates the Weight-Loss-Induced Reduction in Muscle Mass in Frail Obese Older Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40(7):1213-1219, July 2008.

They were put in two groups. One group followed a low calorie diet and the other group followed the diet and added progressively more difficult resistance training.

The results were shocking. Both groups lost over 14.9 pounds of fat, however the exercise group lost only 4 pounds of fat free mass (this includes muscle) while the diet group lost 7.7 pounds of fat free mass.

Although the exercise group did lose some muscle, the subjects in that group still increased strength by 17-43%, an essential defense against deadly falls.

You are never too old to lose fat and take up resistance training to help you avoid muscle loss.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training
Men's Health Fitness Expert

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Abs Exercise Study Reveals...

A new research study showed that doing abs exercises "faster" (aka explosively) lead to more work done by the ab muscles.

Here's what you need to know about this study, and why this info is both good and bad.

First of all, there are two ways to increase the amount of muscle used in any movement.

One is to increase the resistance, and the second is to increase the velocity. Both require more muscle fibers to produce force, and more importantly, recruit your fast twitch muscles.

However, while this is an interesting report about the abs, we have to be careful not to take it to extremes.

First, explosive movements cause more muscle damage, and that means more muscle soreness.

Second, you can't talk about the abs without talking about the low-back and spine. Your low-back and abs want endurance for health and safety, but we want maximum abdominal recruitment for six pack abs.

So here's the best way to keep everyone happy...

a) do only one explosive ab movement per workout

b) do at least one ab endurance exercise per workout

Explosive Abs Exercises

-> Medicine ball slams
-> Sledgehammer swings
-> Kettlebell swings
-> sandbag swings
-> band pulldowns

A Medicine ball slam is just like an angry soccer throw in. Hold the ball at waist height, step forward with one leg while raising the ball overhead (stretching your abs),as you plant your foot, reverse your arm direction and contract your abs and drive the medicine ball into the ground. Pick the ball up and repeat for 6 reps.

After you've done your explosive ab exercise, you can do something like a plank, side plank, or plank with your arms on the ball for your abdominal endurance exercise.

That will help you work more of your abs while supporting your "core" muscles - plus you don't have to suffer the dishonor of crunches.

Use abs exercises properly,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Abs Exercises

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boost Metabolism with Supplements

You can't boost your metabolism with supplements. Or at least not enough to cause weight loss. This is hope in a bottle, but this hope doesn't stand a chance. It doesn't work.

One misconception is that caffeine boosts your metabolism, but I’ve also heard that fish oil, protein, CLA, and green tea will do it, too. As with the fat burning zone, this myth comes from a distortion of science.

Green tea, for example, was shown to increase the daily energy expenditure of young men by eighty calories per day. Now, that’s great news for the people who make supplements because they can put that claim on their label, but what that doesn’t take into account is that people’s bodies adapt to a stimulus.

If there is any benefit to taking a particular supplement, by the end of the week, your body has adjusted to the chemical and no longer reacts to it. And that’s why, as a recent study showed, that taking Green Tea supplements for 12 weeks did not cause any fat loss. Most supplements seem to be nothing more than glorified caffeine pills.

Let’s think of this another way. Say for example that green tea extract actually did help you burn an additional eighty calories per day. It is agreed upon by most trainers that one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Even if the supplement worked as intended, then it would take nearly a month and half to lose one pound!

Unfortunately, you’ll find big promises from supplements in every magazine, and it is very difficult to avoid the allure of the quick fixes that supplements present. Supplements make you think, “Why work out when you can take a pill?”

And as long as there are people who aren’t willing to work for their results, there will always be a product claiming to work miracles.

Unlike these “miracle” supplements, research repeatedly shows that both strength training and interval training can help boost your metabolism and burn fat.

In one study, women did a strength training session with eight repetitions per exercise and had a significant increase in their post-exercise metabolism. This is just another example of how short burst training will burn more calories and more fat. These are proven results that no diet pill can compete with.

Boost your metabolism with hard work, not the easy way out,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Metabolism Boosting Workout

Avoid Ab Crunches & Situp Exercises

Here is more info on why you should avoid ab crunches and sit-up exercises.

One other reason I avoid traditional ab exercises like crunches is because the worst thing you can possibly do for your low-back is to get up first thing in the morning and start doing sit-ups and crunches. When you sleep, fluid accumulates into your intervertebral discs making them larger than normal, and the ab flexion motion in sit-ups and crunches can compress these discs and by doing so, you greatly increase the chances of herniating a disc.

I learned this information from Dr. Stuart McGill, an expert in lower back health and performance. He sees a lot of disc herniations from spinal flexion that occurs when you round your lower back. You want to avoid rounding your lower back in all exercises, but that is the exact motion that occurs in crunches and sit-ups.

So skip those exercises.

The first thing for beginners to do to start improving their abdominal endurance and lower back health is to use exercises like the plank and side plank. Those aren’t very exciting exercises, but they’re critical in helping you avoid lower back trouble.

The plank exercise is done when you’re supporting your body weight on your elbows and feet. Your body is in a straight line hovering above the ground, and you maintain that position, breathing normally and bracing your abs. You are going to hold that position, eventually working up to holding it for a full two minutes. Once you can do that, you’ve built excellent abdominal endurance that will protect your lower back.

For back health and performance, abdominal muscle endurance is more important than the ability to do hundreds and hundreds of crunches. Even with the total body ab exercises, I want you to focus on keeping your abs braced—and when I say “braced,” I mean as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach.

Dr. McGill also recommends you totally avoid any type of machine crunch found in most gyms; they just add to the dangers of spinal flexion and increase the chance for injury. Advanced bodybuilders have to weigh the risks and benefits of building ab muscle and putting themselves through movements that aren’t necessarily the safest for the lower back. But that’s up to them, and the results they’re after aren’t really the same as Turbulence Training.

More importantly, everyone basically has “abs,” so the most important factor in being able to see your six-pack is to lose the belly fat that covers them up. You don’t need to risk your lower back health doing hundreds of crunches and sit-ups to get a six-pack.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yes, it's true. These two standard ab exercises can actually be murder on your low back. (But I have 3 solutions below...)

Why are they bad?

Because they involve spinal flexion (rounding your lower back to allow you to bend forward at the waist). But according to research, that's the exact mechanism that causes a herniated disc in your lower back.

After all, most people "throw their back out" bending over to pick something off the ground - during spinal flexion.

So it makes sense to limit the amount of traditional sit-ups and crunches in your program.

Plus, you can't spot reduce the fat from one area, so you are better off spending that exercise time on a better total body exercise or intervals. If you want to flatten your abs, you need to lose body fat.

So to improve your abs, use the 3 following techniques:

1) Take half the time you were spending on abs, and spend that time on intervals instead.

2) Spend the rest of your ab training time doing total body ab exercises and total body workouts including exercises that work your abs such as...

- DB Renegade Rows

- Spiderman Pushups and Decline Spiderman Pushups

- Pullups with Knee-ups

- Spiderman Pullups

3) Keep your abs braced in all exercises so that you work your abs in every movement that you do.

Train hard but safe,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Old to Gain Muscle?

You are never too old to get stronger and gain muscle.

And that is essential as you get older, because lack of strength is the number one reason for falls.

But the latest research shows that you can still gain strength and muscle at any age, even if you are, "no spring chicken" anymore. Danish scientists studied 36 patients between the ages of 60-86 years old after having a single hip replacement surgery.

Reference: J Appl Physiol 105: 180-186, 2008.

One group of subjects did three resistance training workouts per week for 12 weeks after surgery and increased muscle strength by over 29% at both fast and slow speeds of movement.

Plus, they increased the size of their slow and fast muscle fibers (which make up your muscles) by 17% and 37%, respectively.

As I mentioned before, getting stronger, especially at faster speeds of movement, is essential to help you avoid slipping and falling. In addition, the subjects were able to boost their stair walking power by 35%, and researchers found this was related to the increase in their fast muscle fibers.

In order to work your fast muscle fibers, you need to do challenging strength training workouts. Using light weights that you can do for 20-30 reps will not boost your fast-twitch muscle fiber strength or your power.

The researchers also found that traditional rehabilitation methods had no functional or strength benefits.

So no matter what your age, make plans to meet with a personal trainer who knows how to get you stronger using basic, life-applicable exercises such as as step-ups, squats, rows, and pushups.

Avoid any trainer who wants you to train with light weights for "toning" as that will have no long-term benefit on your health and performance.

Helping you cut through the fat loss clutter to get more results in less time,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click Here for the Truth About Fat Loss

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lose Your Gut with Interval Training

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, and as anyone can see just by walking down Main Street, USA, Americans need to lose their gut.

Americans are getting fatter each year (as is everyone around the world, for that matter - apparently Australia, long the poster child for the active lifestyle is now the fattest country in the world). Between 1994 and 2004, the average American waist size increased from 96 cm to 100.4 cm in men, and from 89 cm to 94 cm in women.

The rate of stomach fat obesity also increased, from 29.5% to 42.4% among men and from 47.0% to 61.3% among women. Over 50% of Americans have a signficant amount of stomach fat they need to lose in order to improve their health.

Basically, America has to lose its gut.

Fortunately, our friends in Australia have found interval training to be the solution to stomach fat.

According to Professor Steve Boucher, an Australian expert on Interval Training, "high intensity intermittent exercise may result in greater fat loss in the abdomen". That means that unlike doing hundreds of crunches, interval training can work to burn belly fat over everything else.

(Hopefully the Australians start listening to one of their own as well!)

This is incredible news for all men and women who want to achieve a lean midsection or even 6-pack abs. While most men and women spend all their time on abdominal exercises, the latest research clearly shows we should be doing interval training, not slow cardio or endless crunches.

Intervals are the best way to lose stomach fat.
  • If you are new to interval training, you should start conservatively.
  • Begin by doing 1 minute rounds of interval training at a slightly harder than normal exercise pace.
  • Then spend 1 minute at a slow pace as a recovery interval.
  • Do up to 6 intervals per workout, going between the hard exercise and easy exercise portions for a total of 12 minutes.
  • Always include a 4- minute warmup and 4-minute cooldown to complete your 20 minute interval training session.
  • As your fitness improves, you can increase your interval intensity.
Perform this type of workout 3 times per week after your resistance training workout and you will lose stomach fat, burn off your belly, and sculpt your body to develop a lean mid-section and toned arms.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Lose Stomach Fat

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Diet Wars: The Truth About Diets

A new low-carb vs. low-fat diet has come out, and the Dr. Atkins camp is claiming victory, although the low-fat camp of Dr. Dean Ornish is crying foul.

According to the NY Times...

"In a tightly controlled dieting experiment, obese people lost an average of just 6 to 10 pounds over two years.

The study, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, was supposed to determine which of three types of diets works best. Instead, the results highlight the difficulty of weight loss and the fact that most diets do not work well.

The researchers followed 322 dieters, 277 men and 45 women. The dieters were assigned to follow one of three types of diets — a diet with about 30 percent fat, based on American Heart Association guidelines; a Mediterranean diet; and a low-carbohydrate diet based on the Atkins diet plan. The study was partly financed by the Atkins Research Foundation."

So what's the real deal according to the Diet Debunker?

Does it prove that low-carb diets are better? Or is Dr. Ornish right that something was rotten in the state of science?

Here's what this diet study shows...

The results sucked. You're telling me 322 people went on a TWO YEAR DIET and all they lost was 6-10 pounds?

That's pathetic.

Thus, the headline of the article, "Long-Term Diet Study Suggests Success Is Hard to Come By".

So therefore, all the "diets don't work" people can stand up and cheer because they have more support.


The dirty truth about diets - the politically incorrect truth that no one wants to admit because it takes away all excuses for a lack of personal responsibility - is that DIETS DO WORK.

And if diets do work, what does that leave us with?

The fact that DIETERS don't work.

I bet that almost every subject in that study lied about how compliant they were with the diet.


We all think we eat better than we do.

And that's why you have 322 people dieting for two years, and all they can achieve is an average of 8 pounds of weight loss.

It's not the diets that aren't working.
So if you are having trouble sticking to your nutrition, or if you are confused about low-carb vs. low-fat, just take a deep breath and follow my 5 simple rules...

1) Find out how much you are eating now. Use
2) If you are not losing weight, eat less.
3) Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and good protein sources. Don't eat junk from a bag or a box.
4) Give yourself one treat meal per week to look forward to - not a treat day, just a treat meal.
5) Plan ahead. Prepare your meals (spend 1-2 hours on the weekend getting your meals and meal plan ready for the week). Identify obstacles and come up with solutions to avoid them.
That is it. Very simple. Most people do pretty well on 1-3 and even 5, but mess up on number 4.
I often hear how well someone did all day long, but then while making dinner they snack on upwards of 500 calories of their kid's treats, or other processed carbohydrates they have lying around the house.
The little things can add up to big time problems.
So take a good long look at everything you eat. And all of this can be avoided if you follow rule #5.
Combine my five simple nutrition rules with three short workouts per week of resistance training and interval training, and you have a very manageable fat loss plan that can fit any busy lifestyle.
You don't have to be a doctor to figure out how to eat for fat loss.

Helping you cut through the fat loss clutter to get more results in less time,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click Here for the Truth About Fat Loss

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fruit Makes You Fat?

Apparently I'm one of the few fitness experts who believes that you can eat as much fruit as you want and you won't get fat. Everyone else believes that fruit either makes you fat or stops you from losing weight.

I'll let you think about it and decide for yourself, but I've worked with thousands of people online and offline and I've never worked with one single person who has ever had a fat problem because of the fruit they ate.

I don't care what anyone else says about eating fruit and gaining fat, my answer doesn't change.
As you can see from my photo, I'm not having a fat problem with 6-10 servings of fruit per day.

If you are an average person who needs to lose fat, you can eat fruit. 10 servings a day if you want.

If you want to be a bodybuilder on-stage, I'll admit, I have no idea how much fruit you can eat. But as for the other 99.999% of the world, you can eat all the cherries you want, that ain't causing you to gain weight.

Now some folks don't like the fact that I'm disagreeing with other fitness experts. In fact, most of my readers want every fitness expert to agree with every other fitness expert.

But why would we?

I challenge anyone to show me any industry in the world where everyone agrees. Why should fitness be any different?

No one can agree on...

The best way to invest money

The best religion

The best interpretation of bible verses

The best political party - or even the best candidate in each party

The best real estate strategy

The best wedding dress style

The best American Idol contestant

The best shirt to wear with your new pants

There is no agreement on any of these. Everyone has their own personal bias. And even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose.

The reason why people think fruit makes you fat is because stupid bodybuilding magazines have said this for so long...The same magazines that said you need to do cardio on an empty stomach at 5:30am to lose fat. So it's up to you if you want to trust them.

I'm choosing to disagree.

Fruit does not make you fat.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

After Dinner Aerobic Cardio Fights Fat

I'm not a huge fan of traditional aerobic cardio workouts for fat loss, but they can have an immediate health benefit for anyone who makes the mistake of indulging in too much food.

For example, sometimes even professionals like myself tend to eat one more burger than we need, as I did on a holiday up at the Lake last week. But I knew, as this research study showed, that performing aerobic exercise after a high fat meal can help alleviate the damage. So after the BBQ, my puppy dog and I went for a brisk walk.

According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, after-dinner cardio can limit the increase in triglycerides after a high fat meal.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 1, 30-37, July 2008
Postprandial triglyceride responses to aerobic exercise and extended-release niacin1,2,3
Eric P Plaisance1, Michael L Mestek1, A Jack Mahurin1, J Kyle Taylor1, Jose Moncada-Jimenez1 and Peter W Grandjean1

In this study, fifteen subjects underwent several experiments, each time eating a meal containing 100 grams of fat (you'd have to eat 11 hot dogs to get that much fat, which although that sounds like a difficult task, this year's 4th of July Nathan's hot-dog eating contest winner stuffed down 59!).

In the study where subjects performed aerobic exercise after the high fat meal, the doctors found that triglyercides were lowered by 32% compared to the same meal without post-meal exercise.

So if you make a dietary mistake, do yourself a favor and get a move on. It will not only burn a few calories, but it will help with cardiovascular damage control. And next time, grill some chicken breasts instead!

Helping you cut through the fat loss clutter to get more results in less time,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click Here for the Truth About Fat Loss