Sunday, October 19, 2008

Social Support for Cardiovascular Health

Friends don't let friends have heart attacks. In past articles, I've preached about the importance of having social support for weight loss, meaning if you want to lose weight, you need to hang around and stay in contact with other folks who have the same goals as you.

Now researchers from the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California, including the venerable Dr. Dean Ornish, have completed a study showing that social support groups also help heart health.


Psychol Health Med. 2008 Aug;13(4):423-37. Links Social support group attendance is related to blood pressure, health behaviours, and quality of life in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project.Schulz U, Pischke CR, Weidner G, Daubenmier J, Elliot-Eller M, Scherwitz L, Bullinger M, Ornish D. Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Sausalito, USA.

The researchers studied 440 women with coronary artery disease for one year. Subjects participating in social support groups achieved significant improvements in blood pressure and health behaviors.

The researchers concluded that not only does being in the presence of a social support group help you reduce your blood pressure, but it also leads to healthier behaviors which increase your overall health.

If you are currently trying to change your health all by yourself, consider getting social support in these three ways.

First, find a nutrition buddy at work who also wants to eat better. Spend your lunches with them, rather than the "pizza gang".

Second, get a workout partner or personal trainer to keep you motivated and committed to exercise.

And third, spend time online or offline with a social support group to share experiences and solutions to the daily trials and tribulations we all have trying to stay healthy in this high-calorie world.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fruits and Vegetables Prevent Cancer

The other day one of my clients asked me why I eat so many fruits and vegetables, and why I tell him to do the same. After all, he didn't have a lot of fat to lose. But I told him it wasn't all about fat loss, of course, its also about fruits and vegetables preventing cancer.

Research from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California studied the food records of over 193,000 men and women and found that an incerase in fruits and vegetables intake specifically helped to reduce the incidence of colon cancer in men.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 3, 730-737, September 2008

Surprisingly, there was no connection between fruits and vegetables and cancer risk. There aren't many guys out there eating too many fruits and vegetables. So I encourage you to increase your intake for your health's sake. Here's how I've increased my fruits and vegetable intake.

First, I've started eating raw broccoli and peppers alongside my morning omelet.

Second, I have fruit for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks (blueberries, apples, bananas, and even watermelon).

Third, I've added spinach to my lunches, by taking a can of Amy's Organic Chili, heating it, and pouring it over the spinach leaves.

And finally, my dinner revolves around a piece of chicken or steak surrounded by asparagus, broccoli, and avocado.

Eat 'em,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click here for a proven fat loss diet

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eat Stop Eat on TV

My colleague and Nutrition Help expert Brad Pilon was on a morning show in NYC yesterday, talking about his revolutionary anti-diet weight loss program called Eat-Stop-Eat.

You can check out his short clip, including two FREAKED OUT diet experts who disagree with him, here:

Video #1) Brad stays calm while diet girls go crazy

Video #2) Backstage the diet girls nearly attack him!

The first time Brad told me about this diet plan, I thought he was crazy (same as the success story guy Chad says on in the first video clip).

But Brad has a really great, common sense approach to nutrition, and you can read more about de-stressing your diet here:


If hate the thought of setting an alarm to tell you to eat every 2.5 hours, you'll love Brad's stuff,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Monday, October 13, 2008

Metabolism Slowdown Causes Weight Re-gain

I have some bad news for you. According to scientists from New York's Presbyterian Medical Center at Columbia University, folks who succeed in losing weight tend to suffer from a lower than expected metabolic rate. This means that if you lose weight, you will burn fewer calories each day than someone of the same weight who was never overweight. This metabolism slowdown will probably cause weight re-gain.

Seems unfair, doesn't it?

In the study, subjects who lost 10% of their bodyweight and kept it off for up to one year were studied, along with a group that just recently lost 10% of their bodyweight, and a control group.
All subjects were studied for 24 hours straight, to determine how many calories they burned.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):906-12.Related Articles, Links Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight. Rosenbaum M, Hirsch J, Gallagher DA, Leibel RL.

Results showed that both weight loss groups burned fewer calories in the 24 hours than the control group, even though subjects were matched for weight and gender.

This decrease in expected calorie burning is just one of the many reasons you will find it easier to regain weight after you lose weight.

So what can you do?

You must do everything you can to boost your metabolim. I highly recommend to all of my clients that they use interval training or high-intensity cardio rather than low-intensity cardio, and that they also engage in high-intensity resistance training three times per week. By performing high-intensity exercise, you will put up the greatest fight against your handicapped metabolism.

Fight the fat with metabolism boosting workouts,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click here to boost your metabolism

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Cardio Weight Loss Lie

Cardio works for fat long as it is high-intensity cardio. Check out this recent study...
Researchers at the University of Virginia assigned 27 obese women (average age 51 years) to one of three groups...

1) No exercise training/control

2) 5 days per week of Low-intensity exercise (LIE) - gotta love that acronym...truly represents the "slow cardio lie"

3) 3 days per week of high-intensity cardio exercise (HIC) plus 2 days per week of LIE

The high-intensity cardio was done above the Lactate Threshold.

Training at your Lactate Threshold is a painful experience, because that is the intensity level where lactic acid will start to accumulate in your blood. It means you are producing more lactate in your muscles than you can get rid of (it usually travels from your muscles to your liver or back into your muscles to be broken down even more).

Other exercise experts might use the phrase Anaerobic Threshold or Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation to describe your lactic threshold.

An experienced exerciser can train at this level for about 30 minutes. But again, it is uncomfortable. Actually, that's not even the right's downright brutal. This is often about 80% of your VO2max or even 85% if you are well trained.

In this weight loss study, the subjects didn't exercise for time, but instead they exercised in every session (both LIE and HIC) just long enough to burn 400 no group burned more calories than the other over the entire program. It's just that the HIC did so faster in 3 of the workouts each week.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Oct 8. Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition. Irving BA, Davis CK, Brock DW, Weltman JY, Swift D, Barrett EJ, Gaesser GA, Weltman A.

And the results showed...

High-intensity cardio kicked the LIE's butt.

Actually, it also showed that LIE didn't do anything. The subjects in the Low-Intensity Exercise group did not lose fat. Boooo to low-intensity cardio.

On the other hand, the HIC (high-intensity cardio) group lost a significant amount of abdominal fat.

Once again, research shows that...

a) Exercising harder results in more fat loss in less time

b) Hard exercise burns belly fat

c) Low-intensity cardio doesn't do much for fat loss

You probably know I'm a big fan of interval training for fat loss, but once in a while I also throw in "high-intensity cardio" (its used every week in the Turbulence Training 6-Month Bodyweight Manual and it's used in the Bodyweight Cardio program).

You'll probably see it used more often in my programs, given these results. So if you are interested, you can add HIC to your program by doing it once per week in place of interval training.

But there is ONE burn 400 calories you will need to exercise for a long time, at least 30 minutes - if you are fit...and longer if you are unfit. But if you are into it, go for it, just remember to self-monitor your body for any symptoms of overuse injuries, and as always, TRAIN SAFE.

I'll give the last word to the researchers who state, "The present data indicate that body composition changes are affected by the intensity of exercise training with HIC more effectively for reducing total abdominal fat and subcutaneous abdominal fat in obese women."

Train hard,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Pick the Right Weight for Exercise

Going to the gym is intimidating enough, but not knowing how to pick the right weight to use for an exercise can make a novice's trip to the gym even more uncomfortable. If you grab too light of a weight, you'll feel you wasted your time, while too heavy of a weight can lead to injury.

But it is very important to grab the right weight. In a 12-week long study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that subjects gained the most strength when using a weight that corresponded to 70% of their 1 repetition maximum (meaning 70 % of the heaviest weight they could lift in the exercise).

J Appl Physiol. 2008. Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity. Holm L, Reitelseder S, Pedersen TG, Doessing S, Petersen SG, Flyvbjerg A, Andersen JL, Aagaard P, Kjaer M.

But it's not safe or efficient to test your maximum strength in every exercise, and then pick 70% of that.

Instead, here's what you need to do. In most cases, 70% of the heaviest weight you could lift corresponds to 10-12 repetitions. So you want to use a weight that allows you to do no fewer than 10 reps, and no more than 12 reps per set.

For example, if you can do seated rows with 50 pounds for 20 reps, you should try using 70 pounds for 10 reps instead.

Unfortunately, the only way to identify your 10-12 repetition range weight is by trial and error.

Start conservative and pick a very easy weight. Do six repetitions. If that is really easy, increase the weight by 10% and try again. Do this until you find a weight that is a challenge for 10-12 reps. It should take you about 3 minutes to find the right weight for each exercise in your program.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click here to get started on the world's best weight loss program

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Best Ab Exercise for Obliques

When most people think six pack abs, the best exercise for obliques, and losing belly fat, they think about long boring cardio workouts and hundreds of crunches. Fortunately, that isn't what it takes to get a beach body belly and sexy oblique muscles.

In fact, there are many exercises better and safer than crunches. After all, crunches involve spinal flexion (rounding forward), and research shows spinal flexion can lead to herniated discs.

This information has lead me to a long and exhaustive search for safe and effective ab training.

Last week I stumbled onto a new study supporting my "ab crunch ban" and my preference for exercises such as the Side Plank. In this study, researchers examined six common ab exercises performed by 120 subjects to see how hard the muscles were working.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Oct;38(10):596-605.Related Articles Changes in deep abdominal muscle thickness during common trunk-strengthening exercises using ultrasound imaging.

When compared to other common ab exercises, the Side Plank and the classic Abdominal Crunch exercises both resulted in the greatest change in muscle thickness for the Transverse Abdominis and Internal Oblique muscles, meaning they were contracting the muscle more than the other exercises.

However, because the Side Plank does not involve spinal flexion and because it builds abdominal endurance (previously found to be associated with less low back pain), the Side Plank exercise wins this head to head battle hands down and is the best exercise for oblique muscles.

If you are looking for a new move to add to your total body fat burning workout, do a 15 second Side Plank hold per side if you are a beginner. For advanced core strength, hold for 45 seconds per side.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click Here for the Bodyweight Exercise Ab Workout