Monday, September 22, 2008

Why Exercise Causes Muscle Soreness

My sedentary, overweight buddy just emailed me and said he was going to the gym for the first time in 18 months. I quickly emailed him back and told him to take it easy in the workout, because he was certain to be sore in the next couple of days.

As anyone who has started an exercise program knows, doing a new activity leads to muscle soreness in the days that follow. But why is that? And why does it take so long for this to happen?

Researchers asked the same questions, and published their findings in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy. Sixteen sedentary young men did an advanced resistance training workout, doing three sets of seven exercises at 80% of their one repetition maximum.

Reference: J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1991;13(6):316-21.Related Articles, Links The Effect of One Session of Muscle Soreness-Inducing Weight Lifting Exercise on WBC Count, Serum Creatine Kinase, and Plasma Volume. Franklin ME, Currier D, Franklin RC.

This is not the type of workout I'd give a beginner, because it would lead to extreme muscle soreness. But that was the point of the study, and I'm sure the subjects knew what they were getting into.

This workout significantly increased White Blood Cell counts (a marker of inflammation), as well as an enzyme called Creatine Kinase (which is a marker of muscle damage). Subjects also experienced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, that's the tenderness and soreness we all experience in the days following a new workout. Surprisingly, soreness often peaks 24-48 hours after the workout (in fact, I'm writing this on a Monday night and the soreness from my Sunday morning leg workout has just reached its highest level).

Researchers believe the inflammation from a new workout causes swelling around the muscle fibers, and therefore leads to soreness and tenderness.

The best treatment is prevention. Just don't do too much when you are getting back into workouts! Start each new program by doing only one set of each exercise for the first two sessions. Choose a weight that you can do 15 times, but do only 10-12 repetitions. Don't go to failure - the point where you can't complete a repetition with good form - in any exercise in your first workout on a new routine.

Train safe,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Friday, September 19, 2008

Food Photos Flash Diet to Lose Weight

If you want to lose weight, it could be as simple as taking pictures of your food. Researchers are calling the "Flash Diet" the perfect way to cut calories for weight loss.

After all, nutrition bloggers have a strange habit of taking pictures of their meals and post them on their websites and calling it "food porn". But recent research has found this might have a benefit.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the "New Scientist" journal, suggests that the "Flash Diet", keeping a photographic record of everything subjects ate, helped research subjects lose weight.

This looks like another form of accountability and another reason to try and avoid the guilt of cheating. By taking photographs of their meals, the subjects were more likely to stick to their diet. Subjects that didn't take the photos, but used food diaries, were not as successful.

The researchers also suggested that having the photographic evidence of each meal helped with calorie counting.

I've long believed that food diaries and using sites like are helpful for men and women who want to lose weight. This should prevent overeating and mindless snacking before dinner. But it looks like the Flash Diet, actually taking photos of the food, is even MORE helpful.

If you combine this with social support and accountability using a social networking site like Twitter - where you post your meals and photos - you'll take a huge step to controlling your overeating if that is a problem in your life.

Some subjects were motivated by the guilt of having "evidence" about bad choices, while others were motivated to improve their diet once they realized that green vegetables - and therefore color - were missing from their food photos. Interesting stuff.

Researchers suggest a downfall of food diaries is that they are often completed hours after the meal is eaten and therefore details are a bit "foggy". But the photos are immediate and lasting evidence of the real meal. So taking photos of your food will help you be more accurate and accountable.

All you need to do is snap a quick shot with your phone camera and you'll get the benefits. For even more results, post the photos to your blog, and post your meals and a link to the photo on a micro-blogging site such as Twitter. You'll get support from others all over the world to stay on track.

Follow me on Twitter here: =>

Helping you lose weight with every method available,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Drinking Water Causes Weight Loss?

File this one under "hard to believe". But still, researchers from California believe they have found a simple, free way to lose weight.

The researchers found 173 premenopausal overweight women (aged 25-50 years) who reported drinking less than one liter of water per day. These women were then instructed to increase water consumption, and were studied for 1 year.

Stookey, JD, et al. Drinking Water Is Associated With Weight Loss in Overweight Dieting Women Independent of Diet and Activity. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Sep 11.

Remarkably, the researchers found that increasing water intake over the year was associated with a significant increase in both weight loss and fat loss.The results suggest that the simple act of drinking more water - if you currently don't drink one liter per day - may promote weight loss in overweight dieting women.

The researchers believe that drinking water may promote weight loss by lowering total energy intake and/or altering metabolism.

So while it is hard to believe that weight loss could be so simple, the results of this study explain why so many personal trainers and nutritionists insist that their weight loss clients immediately begin drinking more water.

If you are notorious for drinking next to no water each day, aim to add 3 cups of water per day. Drink one cup immediately upon waking, another cup as soon as you get to work, and then a third cup in the afternoon, just before you leave work. That's an easy way to add a lot of water to your diet and it might even give your fat loss a boost.

Add Green Tea to increase your healthy fluid intake as well,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Growth Hormone - Exercise Fountain of Youth

Growth hormone is known as the "fountain of youth" in the anti-aging community because it helps build muscle and burn body fat, but recent research shows that being overweight means you'll have lower growth hormone levels.

Fortunately, exercise is a proven way to boost growth hormones levels. However, most overweight individuals can't do the 30 minutes of continuous exercise recommended for boosting growth hormone levels.

So researchers from the University of Virginia wanted to see if they could boost growth hormone levels by splitting the workouts up into 3 sessions of 10 minutes spread out over the course of the day. The researchers tested both obese and non-obese subjects, and had them do 30-minutes of continuous exercise or 3 sessions of 10 minutes of exercise at the same intenstiy.

Effects of Continuous vs Intermittent Exercise, Obesity, and Gender on Growth Hormone Secretion. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Sep 9.

The results showed that both groups were able to achieve similar growth hormone levels, and the researchers believe that the "split workout" will work just as well for boosting growth hormone.

The results are great for not only obese subjects who can't handle 30 minutes of exercise at a time, but also for busy men and women who will have a better chance of doing 3 short exercise sessions rather than one long session.

For maximum body transformation results, I recommend one 10-minute session of strength training, interval training, and bodyweight exercises. This will help you build muscle, burn fat, and improve your mobility.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fruits & Vegetables Diet for Fat Loss

I'm not a "low-carb guy" by any means, but I have found something that works wonders for fat loss. And it does involve cutting back on whole-grains.

Back in December, I substituted more fruits and vegetables for any whole-grains in my diet, and I was as lean as I've been in years with this approach. So if you're trying to lose fat and look better than ever this summer, try this approach.

Here are some easy changes to make.

a) Instead of having toast for breakfast, have an apple.

b) Usually have a side of rice at lunch? Have 1 cup of broccoli.

c) Typically have a bowl of cereal at night? Have an orange and an ounce of pecans (or walnuts or almonds), instead.

A recent study agrees with this approach. Subjects on a low-fat diet that ate more fruits and vegetables lost more fat than another group on only the low-fat diet.

After 1-year, the low-fat, fruits and vegetables group (LF-FV) lost more weight than another group of woman on the low-fat (LF) diet only.


The LF-FV group reported being less hungry, thanks to being able to eat more food than the LF group.

So you'll eat fewer calories if you are filling up on fruits and vegetables, 5while keeping un-necessary fat out of the diet.

And isn't the end of summer a great time to implement this program? With watermelon, berries, apples, and peaches all in great abundance, you can satisfy your sweet tooth naturally, while burning fat with your workouts.

here's the reference: Amer. J. Clin. Nutr. 85: 1465-1477, 2007.)

So forget about fruit making you fat (so far today I've had 5 bananas, 3 apples, 2 apricots, and a 1/2 cup of strawberries...and I'm still under 10% body fat).

Click here for more nutrition help

Go out and get your 6 pack abs while eating well,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Monday, September 8, 2008

Exercise & Diet Fountains of Youth

Who wants to live forever? Or at least as long as possible?

Life extension is one of the most popular research topics in the world right now, and researchers at The Institute on Aging, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, recently investigated the theory that calorie restriction would help extend the human lifespan.

Rejuvenation Res. 2008 Aug;11(4):793-9.Related Articles, Links Long-term effects of caloric restriction or exercise on DNA and RNA oxidation levels in white blood cells and urine in humans. Hofer T, Fontana L, Anton SD, Weiss EP, Villareal D, Malayappan B, Leeuwenburgh C.

You might have heard about calorie restriction in the news. Many animal research studies have found that if you cut calories from an animal's diet, they can live longer lifespans. This works for mice, monkeys, and even household pets.

But does it work for humans?

In this study, human subjects either decreased their dietary intake by 20% less than needed to maintain weight, or they increased energy expenditure by 20% through exercise. The subjects needed a lot of discipline, because this study went on for over 1 year.

The researchers found that both diet and exercise helped reduce oxidative damage to the subject's DNA. This was expected to have a positive effect on lifespan.

So you might not have to starve yourself to live longer. Both diet and exercise had the same benefiical improvements on the aging process. Of course, the best thing to do for both life extension and weight control is to combine diet and exercise for a double whammy. Not only will you lose 10 pounds, but you could also lose 10 years from your appearance.

Helping you age slower,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Muscle Breakdown & Atrophy Without Exercise

We're always looking at what we can do to exercise our muscles, but there's something very important we should not overlook regarding what we should NOT do to our muscles so that we don't have muscle breakdown and atrophy.

Swedish and American scientists teamed up on this research study to find out just how bad complete bed rest is for our muscles. In the study, they subjected eight men to a 3-day period of lower-limb suspension (for one leg only).

J Appl Physiol 105: 902-906, 2008. Skeletal muscle proteolysis in response to short-term unloading in humans Per A. Tesch,1,5 Ferdinand von Walden,1 Thomas Gustafsson,2 Richard M. Linnehan,4 and Todd A. Trappe3

They tracked how quickly the muscle started to breakdown. Surprisingly, the scientists saw significant increases in muscle loss in only 3 days of complete inactivity. In fact, the researchers identified this time period as being the most rapid time of muscle loss.

That's bad news for anyone who breaks a limb, is laid up for several days, or for those folks who just decide they don't want to be active anymore. For those folks who get injured or sick, consult with your doctor on how you can limit muscle loss.

If you are healthy, don't let days go by without exercising. You'll lose muscle fast, and you'll have to work twice as hard to get it back. The great thing about resistance training is that it is not only the best way to build strength and muscle, but you can also get great results in as little as 10-15 minutes, three times per week.

For example, if you chose one pushing exercise and one pulling exercise, such as pushups and dumbbell rows, and alternate between them for 3 sets, you can get that done in 5-7 minutes. Resistance training is fast, fun and effective for helping you keep valuable muscle tissue.

Stay strong,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Higher Protein Diets Help Weight Loss

While most newspapers focus on low-carb vs. low-fat diet articles, they tend to miss the point about high-protein diets. It's well known in the fitness industry that higher protein intakes help with fat loss, with one of the reasons being protein helps control appetite.

In fact, most bodybuilding nutritionists simply recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight as being effective for building muscle and burning fat in normal weight men and women. But for overweight individuals, they should use the amount in the following study that helped men and women lose more weight.

Recently, a study from the Nutrition Journal tested the effects of two different protein intakes on weight loss in 100 obese men and women. Some subjects received 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, while the other group received 0.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.

Nutr J. 2008 Aug 27;7(1):23. A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass. Treyzon L, Chen S, Hong K, Yan E, Carpenter CL, Thames G, Bowerman S, Wang HJ, Elashoff R, Li Z.

At the end of 12 weeks, both groups lost approximately 8-9 pounds of weight, but the high protein group lost more fat (3.6 pounds vs. 1.32 pounds).

If you want to lose fat, a little extra protein will go a long way. However, it's really easy to get 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass without using a lot of protein supplements. Each protein supplement generally provides 20g of protein.

A cup of milk or yogurt provides 10g of protein. A chicken breast provides 20-40g, depending on the serving size. You even get protein from nuts (a few grams per ounce). So use to input your food intake, and you'll find out how much protein you are getting each day and from specific foods. Then you can determine whether or not you need protein supplements.

Eat food first,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dieting Lowers Metabolism

Bodybuilders have long known that if you eat too little for too long, you can actually decrease your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn at rest).

Now, scientists are catching up to what our muscle-building friends have known in the real world for a long time. Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisana studied long term dieting in 48 normal-weight subjects.

Obesity 15:2964-2973 (2007) Effect of Calorie Restriction on Resting Metabolic Rate and Spontaneous Physical Activity

One group of subjects reduced their calories below normal by 25% for 6 months. A second group reduced their calories by 12.5% and exercised to burn another 12.5% of calorie intake each day. A third group consumed only 890 calories per day until they lost 15% of their body weight, and the fourth group served as a control group.

Researchers found that resting metabolic rate decreased in subjects on the 25% calorie restriction group after only 3 months. Likewise, this decrease in metabolism was also found in the 890 calorie per day and the exercise + diet groups, but not until after 6 months.

In addition, researchers also found that the calorie restriction subjects decreased the amount of physical activity they did each day.

Therefore, when you diet too hard, too much, and too long, your body starts to conserve energy by reducing your metabolism and by decreasing the amount of activity you do.

To avoid lowering your metabolism...

1) Don't cut your calories by such a big number. Instead of cutting by 25%, cut only by 10%.

2) Permit yourself a reward meal each week where you eat your favorite foods and a normal number of calories for the day.

3) Take a few days off dieting every 8-10 weeks, where you go back to eating a normal number of calories each day.

These three simple changes should help you lose weight while avoiding a reduced metabolism. Of course, you should also follow an exercise program to keep up your activity levels.

Eat right to lose weight,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Monday, September 1, 2008

Eat Nuts for Weight Loss

I'm a huge fan of eating raw nuts for health and weight loss, but each time I recommend them, I'm confronted with folks asking me, "Won't all the calories and fat in nuts make me gain weight?"

The answer will surprise you. After all, in a past issue of ETR I shared the research study that found replacing carbohydrate with nuts lead to increased weight loss.

Recently, scientists from Purdue University did a thorough review of all the research studies that looked at nut intake and weight loss.

J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. Mattes RD, Kris-Etherton PM, Foster GD.

Not only did they find nuts were a rich source of nutrients and cardiovascular health protection, but they found a surprising inverse association between nut intake and Body Mass Index. Other studies showed increasing nut intake did not cause weight gain.

Most studies explained this as being due to the appetite suppressing effect of nuts. After all, they contain a lot of fiber. Nuts might also have poor bioaccessibility, meaning that not all of the calories in nuts are absorbed.

So nuts are fine if you want to lose weight. Some studies even showed it was easier to stick to a diet when nuts were included. I highly recommend nuts to everyone on my fat loss programs, and it is just one of the reasons my clients get such great results.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

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