Coffee and A Nice Walk

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[Hugh Jackman, getting jacked on a cup of joe]

I drink coffee. I love coffee. And I love a good walk.

The most powerful yet legal fat-burning cocktail I’ve ever experienced is:

  1. Day-fasting
  2. A cup of coffee (I prefer Americano — espresso and hot water)
  3. A nice long walk.

Of course, you can do a high-intensity workout like CrossFit or some form of high-intensity interval training in place of the nice long walk. And I sometimes do. But there’s just something inherently good (physically and mentally) about a nice long walk.

In any case, about this cocktail:

Intermittent fasting releases catecholamines that are lipotrophic (fat breakdown), facilitating fat metabolism. And coffee enhances fat metabolism during physical activity (but not so much during inactivity). 

Whether my goal is to burn fat or not, I enjoy walking because it’s inherently a human function, and because it is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation has been associated with poor joint health, accelerated aging, insulin resistance, leptin resistance at the hypothalamus level, and of course heart disease.

While chronic high-intensity exercise may increase inflammation, a nice long walk has been shown to decrease it. 

Of course, we burn more calories (better to help weight loss or prevent weight gain) when we exercise more intensely, but if frequency and intensity outpace recovery, then we’re not doing any favor to our underlying health and may even inhibit fat loss. A walk is easy on the body, while still burning decent calories.

And taken with coffee, much of the energy for walking comes from metabolized fat. Good for looking good.

Skip a meal. Drink some coffee. Take a walk. And look good. 🙂

[Picture from the Sartorialist.]

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Are You Ready for Summer?

Some great warm-weather scenes over at the Sartorialist!

It’s almost time for summer fun in North America. Move more, eat less. Let’s enjoy life!

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The Myth of Sports-Specific Exercises

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Fitness professionals like to complicate things more than necessary. Take sports conditioning, for example.

They talk specialized programming, the various qualities of strength, training cycles, and countless other variables. They’re valid factors, but they’re mostly based on studies done in a vacuum and under limited conditions.

I believe that these factors are mostly irrelevant for the average person desiring to excel in recreational sports.  

Fitness professionals sell the concept of specialized conditioning (exercise to enhance a particular sport) to their clients. (Really it’s a way to sell a service.)

This specialized conditioning program, however, is virtually useless for the average person, unless he/she has reached at least 95% to 100% of maximum potential in that sport — in other words, elite or professional level.

Only at this level can specialized conditioning give a slight edge. But until then, train hard in the sport itself. Enhance your performance with skill practice, intense drills, and game participation… not specialized exercises in the gym.

8-Olympic-gold-medalist Michael Phelps was forbidden by his coach to go near a gym until he maximizes his development as a swimmer. Only after maximum development as a swimmer could a specialized conditioning program give him an extra edge.

There are many other examples of elite athletes not using a specialized conditioning program, yet excel at their sports. 

If you’re like me and have a real job, friends, family, and a life, but you also want to participate in recreational sports (even at a serious level), then just make your body fit, strong, and sport-ready. A general — but good — exercise program will more than suffice.

Don’t waste time and effort on a specialized conditioning program that does little for your recreational sport endeavors. Just be fit, strong, and healthy.

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Getting Lean is Simple

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Getting cut is not about exercise as much as it is about diet — specifically eating better and eating less. It’s that simple.

Look around in the gym. People bust their asses year after year, but not all of them are lean and cut. Sometimes it’s genetics, but often it’s because of how they eat. It’s that simple.

There could be many reasons for not being lean, but a guaranteed way of obliterating definition and muscular tone is eating too much crappy food. It’s that simple.

Eat more fresh vegetables and more fresh fruits in place of food that’s been processed, packaged, or boxed. And, be like the French and other nations that don’t suffer an obesity crisis, and stop snacking. It’s that simple.

Anyone who tells you that overweight is more complicated than that — like it’s a result of metabolic dysfunction, energy regulatory impairment, thyroid problems, etc. — is trying to confuse you or trying to make themselves appear more knowledgeable.

They might be correct, but it’s often nothing that can’t be resolved by eating better and eating less. It’s that simple.

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Nice Arms and Ripped Abs

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There’s something cool about simplicity. Take the guy in this picture from the Sartorialist blog.

The simplicity of a plain white t-shirt and a pair of khakis can make a sonorous statement.

I’ve decided this same simplicity is the platform for this blog.

Believe me, the topic on which this blog is based — looking physically good — was not born out of simplicity. It is a long road.

Let Me Gloat

Years ago, I started out wanting nice arms and ripped abs.

Eventually I earned a degree in exercise science. Then for the next 2 decades I earned a living in the fitness industry — through which time I’ve successfully worked with hundreds of private clients in the area of weight loss, muscle building, physique competitions, amateur and professional sports, and general health.

I also have trained for numerous personal goals — fat loss, competitive sports, bodybuilding competitions, powerlifting meets, and Olympic-style weightlifting meets.

And I’ve subscribed to a shit-load of scientific journals (most of which, I’ll admit, have put me into a coma). I still read many. I’ve also read countless blogs, but recently I’ve reduced them to just a couple dozens that I enjoy. It was time I simplify.

Full Circle

Formal education took my career into the area of athletic performance. But in the end, I’ve always known that most people I work with fundamentally enjoy a lean, well-defined body.

These days I’m back to being all about building this much coveted body — you know, nice arms and ripped abs. 

A Topic I know Well

With my rich, professional experience, I believe I know how to build a great-looking body.

But I am reminded of a pretty cool tale:

A man trying to fix his broken boiler has failed at the task for many months. Eventually he gives up and calls in an expert. An engineer arrives and gives one gentle tap on the side of the broiler, and the damn thing roars to life. The engineer gives the man a bill and the man argues that his bill should be smaller, on the account that the engineer took only a moment for a simple tap. The engineer patiently explains that the man is not paying for the time it took to tap the broiler, but for the years of experience involved in knowing that all you need is a gentle tap.

Getting a lean, well-defined body requires the same gentle tap. Contrary to what the magazines, books, and internet would tell us, getting a hot body should not be so complicated.

As long as you put in the work, the process should be as simple as a gentle tap. 

And Style?

Well, I love clothes, especially those with statement and panache. Worn with attitude they enhance the look of their owners. Perhaps fashion takes the obsession out of body, and put the joy into possessing a nice one. It’s very well for this reason that i love clothes.

So, this being my blog, you’ll find lots of posts about trendy clothes, too — especially if they’re on great bodies.

Just as earning a head-turning body should not be so confusing, fashion should neither be so complicated. If it looks good, or merely different from the mundane, then I’ll share it on this blog.

Simple enough.

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K.I.S.S. My Muscle

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In the last 20 years of being in the exercise industry, this is what I learned about building muscle:

  • You must make the muscle stronger
  • You must make the muscle fatigued

Strength: You need to make the muscle stronger with high-tension work (using 1 to 5 reps), because this inflicts microtrauma to the cells. This damage calls in inflammatory cells (macrophage and neutrophils) which are believed to provide growth-promoting factors, thus triggering sarcolemmic hypertrophy, or increased muscle size due to added cellular structures.

Fatigue: You must induce intense metabolic fatigue in the muscle with higher repetitions (6 to 12 reps, or more). This fatiguing work causes a cellular influx of blood, nutrients, and growth factors. This is believed to produce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, or increased muscle size due to added cellular fluid.

Muscle strength. Muscle fatigue.

Anything Else is Useless Complication

A complicated exercise program has its place; it should be reserved for those who have reached 98% of their muscular growth or competitive sports potential.

For the Elitists with Strange Bulges (and Linebackers)

People who may benefit from a complicated exercise program are typically elite athletes of various sports, including bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic-style weightlifting… and those using or abusing steroids for aesthetic reasons, like those deriving psychological satisfaction from the achievement of grotesque muscular bulk.

When an individual is hovering right under his muscular growth potential, the intelligent manipulation of exercise programming becomes more important just to achieve a slight improvement — which at this level may be the difference between first and second place. An exercise program, in this circumstance, can and should be complex.

For the Rest of Us Immortals with Hot Bodies

OK… for the rest of us average folks who just want a nice, lean physique with decent muscle to look good in (or out of) cool clothes, a simple exercise program will be more than sufficient for appreciable muscular growth — so long as we progressively make our muscles stronger, and induce metabolic fatigue in them.

So if you’re not into building the huge, gigantic body of a meathead, then keep your training simple. This way you won’t have to live in the gym and can still enjoy the many facets of life.
[Just use this, and periodically use bigger ones.]

There’s Something for Everyone, but For Many the Choices Are Obvious

Gentlemen, below, your pick for a Sushi date? Or, ladies, which body would you rather rock?

Do you prefer a “fighter look” like this elite competitor?

Or like these “average people” who happen to be great actors?

Believe me, it does not matter what kind of workout you do, just as long as you work hard and incorporate the two basic principles — increase muscular strength, and induce muscular fatigue. The clients I work with have all experienced this personally, and I’ve seen it first-hand and second-hand.

Keep it simple…

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Get Leaner with Chop Sticks?

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I was eating dinner tonight and had a thought: what if we could lose fat by eating with chop sticks?

The literature shows that if we eat slowly, we tend to eat less. By pacing our meal, our stomach has a chance tell the brain that we’re satiated before we can shovel too much food in. And we already know that when we eat less, we’re more successful at losing weight.

Although fat loss and being lean are the result of many biological, habitual, and social factors, perhaps those of the Far-East have an advantage that the typical Westerners do not: they eat with chop sticks.

[A lean and beautiful young lady eats with chopsticks. Photo of Nicole, borrowed from the NicoleKiss blog]

Not A New Idea (as always)

So I googled “weight loss” and “chopsticks,” and evidently I wasn’t the first to be poked in the eye by the chopstick idea. The ideas are all the same — you lose weight if you use chopsticks.

While the concept sounds reasonable, most of the information seems to oversimplify the concept. I think we can still eat a lot even with chopsticks. We still have to actively slow down, and chopsticks give us that advantage.

Eat Less, but Taste Your Food

The beauty of eating is that we get to taste the food. By eating with forks and spoons, however, we tend to shovel too much food into the mouth at once and thus miss the opportunity to truly taste individual components of our food, like the interplay of spices on the meat or the herbs infused into the sauteed vegetables. The mouth merely mashes everything into an amalgamation of mush. And we call this eating.

With chopsticks, we tend to pick up one or, at most, two items on the plate at a time. This allows us to taste just one or two things at a time, in small quantity with each bite.

No overwhelming of the taste bud, no gluttony.

Make a Point to Taste Your Food 

In addition to putting less into each bite, we must make it a point to taste it. Because even with the use of chopsticks, we can still shovel pieces after pieces of food into our mouth without really tasting any one item. And we’re back to where we were with the spoon and fork.

Use Chopsticks, Enjoy Your Food

So, use chopsticks. If you don’t know how to use them (my wife learned only recently), learn to use them. Then make a habit of tasting your food. Don’t rush. Enjoy.

This way we tend to not overstuff our stomach before the signal of satiation reaches the brain. It’s one of the ways to get lean.

But another cool thing about chopsticks is that they can be an instrument of art, or they’re just straight-up a hip and urban thing. Everyone should own a pair — for home or for on-the-go.

[Bruce Lee, getting ready for some ass-whooping with his own pair of… chopsticks?]

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