Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Pancake Ever!...OK Maybe Not Ever But It Sure Is Good ;)

Paleo Pancakes
Ingredients    2-3 eggs
    1 banana
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp cinnamon
    sea salt to taste

Instructions    Pre-heat skillet with butter or coconut oil.
    In a bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon and beat.
    On a plate, mash the banana thoroughly.
    Combine banana in bowl with eggs and mix together.   
    Once cooked, serve with almond butter or maple syrup on top if desired.

Can be made as an omelete instead if you like. This is my preference.



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Friday, January 10, 2014

Six Incredibly Simple Nutrition Rules To Be Lean and Muscular For Life

The year 2013 was marked by new heights of nutrition insanity. You’re not alone if you found yourself more confused than ever about what to eat in light of the obscure nutrition recommendations from the government and outrageous claims from food marketers.

What’s the solution to all this nutrition madness?

You need an individualized nutrition approach that speaks to your energy needs and genetics, but that is based on science. This article will give you six nutrition rules for a sane and simple way of eating.

Before we get to the rules, let’s look a bit closer at why good nutrition has become such a demanding endeavor. In fact, nutrition never has been especially simple.

We often get nostalgic, thinking that nutrition was easier in another era. For example, a lot of people are turning to the Paleo diet for leanness and health as seen with the fact that it was the most searched nutrition term on Google in 2013.

With present-day understanding of how our genes are affected by diet and a “paleo-template,” here are six nutrition rules to be lean and muscular life.

#1: Understand Why High-Protein Diets Promote Leanness
Do you have to eat a high-protein diet to lose fat?

There are other fat-reducing methods, but high-protein, lower carb whole food diets consistently work well for the majority of people who try them. You should be familiar with the four primary reasons higher protein diets improve body composition:

•    If your goal is fat loss, preserving lean muscle mass should be a primary focus of nutrition because it is critical for maintaining your metabolism. If you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories daily, which is a main contributor to rebound weight gain on the typical calorie-restricted diet.

For example, a recent study that compared the effect of three different protein intakes (the RDA of 0.8 g/kg, double the RDA of 1.6 g/kg, and triple the RDA of 2.4 g/kg for protein) as part of a calorie-restricted diet illustrates this.

All groups lost about the same amount of weight. The double the RDA dose of 1.6 g/kg of protein effectively protected lean muscle mass. The higher triple RDA dose of 2.4 kg didn’t have any additive effect, whereas the RDA dose of 0.8 kg led to muscle loss over the 3 week study.

•    It costs the body more calories to process protein than carbs or fat, which is referred to as thermogenesis. Quality is paramount here: A study showed that when subjects ate animal protein (meat) they had 17 percent higher increase in resting energy expenditure than a group who ate vegetable protein (beans and plant sources).

•    Protein is filling. When people eat a greater percentage of their diet from protein, they feel more satisfied and eat fewer calories overall. A review of the issue found that for every 1 percent increase in protein intake, people naturally decrease calorie intake by between 32 and 51 calories daily.

•    High-quality protein helps manage blood sugar and insulin, decreasing cravings for sugar.

The easiest way to lose fat is to eat a fairly high-protein diet. The ratios of protein, carbs, and fat are variable and based on all those unique traits that make you different from your peers: genetics, current body composition, fitness, goals, stress level, preferences, and so on.

Take Away: Increasing your protein intake is the best place to start if your goal is leanness because it protects muscle muss, increases energy use, and is sustainable because it reduces hunger.

#2: Focus On Protein Quality For Fat Loss: Get 10 Grams of EAAs Per Meal
High-quality protein is defined as a protein source that provides at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) at every meal. The EAAs must be present in the body for muscle tissue repair to occur, and they can’t be stored in the body, which is the reason you need a steady supply of these building blocks.

Research shows that eating the 10-gram-threshold of EAAs per meal is associated with having less body fat and more muscle mass in people of all ages. For example, over the course of a 5-year study, individuals who had higher quality protein intake had the greatest reductions in waist circumference.

In another study, scientists found that those who ate the EAA “threshold” of 10 grams per meal in a 24-hour period had significantly less visceral belly fat.

In another approach, a German study identified metabolic markers that were associated with body fat percentage and found that the higher the serum level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the less body fat subjects had. BCAAs include three of the most important EAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

The association between higher BCAA levels and less body fat was consistent for both men and women and was independent of exercise participation. BCAA levels were also associated with greater lean muscle mass.

Eating high-quality protein is so effective at optimizing body composition because providing a consistent stream of 10 grams of EAAs will maximally stimulates protein synthesis to keep you body repairing tissue and building muscle.

Of interest, researchers believe that overweight, sedentary people have dysfunctional BCAA metabolism and an inability to stimulate fat burning. They experience a “derangement in muscle metabolism that favor the development of obesity and metabolic diseases.”

This is one reason that, although we often say “fat loss starts in the kitchen,” exercise is absolutely essential to achieve it because it optimizes metabolism for protein synthesis and the burning of fat for energy.

Take Away: For leanness, plan your diet so that you achieve the threshold 10 grams of EAAs per meal. Eggs, fish, beef, milk (preferably unpasteurized), and whey protein are the highest EAA containing foods.

#3: Enhance Fat Metabolism With Balanced Macros & Whole Food
In order to lose fat or simply maintain your body composition, your body must be capable of metabolizing the dietary fat you eat and the fat you’ve got stored.

First, you need your body to effectively metabolize the fat you eat so that it can be used to make hormones, optimize brain health, and absorb essential vitamins. Something as simple as a stressed out liver or chronically poor sleep will impede metabolism of dietary fat.

Second, your body must be “metabolically flexible” so that it is able to readily mobilize and burn stored body fat as well as glucose (carbs). A failure in metabolic flexibility leads to fat gain and insulin resistance.

How do you ensure healthy metabolism of the fat you eat and the ability to burn the fat you’ve got stored?

Two methods of improving fat metabolism are exercise and replacing carb intake with fat. When you reduce the percentage of your calories that come from carbs, you decrease insulin and shift the body to burn fat rather than blood sugar. However, obese people don’t respond to this strategy as effectively as lean people.

In one study, 12 lean and 10 obese men were given a high-fat diet (70 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 15 percent carb) for three days. The lean subjects increased the amount of fat their bodies burned for energy, whereas the obese subjects did not. Researchers think that over the longer term, obese people would respond to the shift in macronutrients, but the process is uncomfortable because energy levels are compromised.

Using exercise to teach the body to burn fat is more effective for obese people. In the study just mentioned, the same two groups of men went through a washout period, then did 10 days of aerobic exercise (1 hour a day at 70 percent of maximal). This time, both the lean and obese subjects increased fat burning, indicating that exercise is a catalyst for the overweight to become more metabolically flexible.

A contributing factor to optimal fat metabolism is the amino acid carnitine. Carnitine is a potent fat burner because it is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body.

In the German study mentioned in #1, along with BCAAs, subjects with higher free carnitine levels had significantly less body fat. The researchers interpret this link between carnitine and lower body fat to be evidence that people with more muscle mass will have an enhanced ability to burn fat.

Take Away: If you’re overweight, you must exercise because this is the most effective tool you have to improve their body’s ability to burn fat for energy. Eat a higher fat, lower carb diet with high-quality protein to supply carnitine and EAAs.

#4: Don’t Get Confused By Protein Backlash
In a high-carb culture, protein backlash is understandable. Nutrition, medical professionals and the media incorrectly warn us that a high-protein diet will tax kidney function, cause kidney stones, and leech bones of calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

In fact, protein intake up to 2 g/kg/bodyweight a day is completely safe for healthy kidneys and appears to improve bone health. A study of competitive athletes concluded that daily protein intake, as high 2.8 g/kg won’t damage the kidneys in healthy athletes. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that the one group that should not eat a high-protein diet is those who have clinical kidney dysfunction or who are on dialysis.

Meanwhile, a large-scale analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 31 studies found a small but significant benefit from greater protein intake on bone strength at several skeletal sites including the lumbar spine in every category of the population, from children to elderly men and women.

In addition to observational evidence that higher dietary protein benefits bone strength, we know that bone building requires a steady pool of amino acids in the body and over 50 percent of bone is made of protein. Eating more protein increases levels of insulin-like growth factor-I, which is a major regulator of bone building.

So you fully understand how it works, higher protein diets do tend to increase acid formation in the body, which leads to a loss of calcium (this is calcium that’s already been absorbed). However, calcium absorption during digestion is increased with diets higher in animal protein, which may offset that loss.

In addition, there’s a wealth of evidence that other factors such as lean mass percentage and muscle strength are more important for bone health than the calcium issue.

For example, sports scientists are well aware that the most effective way to strengthen bone is with activities that load the spine with heavy weights such as all those weight lifting exercises we do in class :). Weight-bearing exercises that produce a large ground reaction force such as jumping also build bone.

Take Away: Don’t get confused by the misinformation about protein intake in a high-carb culture. Higher protein diets are safe for healthy people and they convey benefits for bone strength, muscle maintenance, and fat loss.

#5: Improve Gut Health to Optimize Protein’s Benefits For Muscularity
Do you remember the media storm that reported that carnitine and red meat were associated with heart disease? Although these reports completely missed the boat, there are some dangers to a high-protein intake that have to do with gut health.

Gut bacteria will live off of what you eat. People who eat more animal protein tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume less fiber, though this tendency may not be typical in people who follow a Paleo-type diet. Low-fiber, higher animal protein diets have been found to increase inflammatory gut bacteria.

For example, a recent study from Tufts University of young (ages 18-35), normal-weight healthy people found that those who had more lean muscle mass had higher levels of biomarkers of inflammatory gut metabolism. These markers are considered metabolic toxins that have been linked with adverse health conditions, including gastric cancer, obesity, and type II diabetes.

The Tufts researchers suggest that although a high dietary protein intake is important for the optimization of muscle mass, an overconsumption of dietary protein that leads to the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria is dangerous.

A possible solution is to support the growth of beneficial anti-inflammatory gut bacteria with a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and something called resistant starch, which is found in foods such as bananas, oats, peas, maize, and potatoes. According to Mark Sisson, one of the easiest ways to improve gut flora is to consume raw unmodified potato starch.

This approach is supported by what we know about present day hunger-gatherers such as the Kitavan Islanders in Oceania who eat an ancestral diet that is high in resistant starch and other fibers that stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut. The Kitavans eat no Western foods (grains, flour, sugar, oil) and are lean and virtually free of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Take Away: Don’t let a blind spot such as lack of fiber in your higher protein diet compromise health. Support gut health with a variety of vegetables, fruit, probiotic foods, and resistant starches.

#6: Balance High-Quality Protein With Fruits and Veggies
You won’t be surprised to learn that the Tufts University study also found that higher metabolic markers of BCAAs were associated with greater lean mass and insulin sensitivity. However, the news was not consistently positive for subjects who had better body compositions.

There was strong evidence that subjects with more lean mass had more oxidative stress and inflammation. Scientists were concerned with this association and suggest that people who eat diets rich in protein should increase fruits and vegetables because they are well documented to increase blood antioxidant capacity and reduce inflammation.

A related benefit of phytonutrient-rich foods is that they support mitochondrial health, which is suppressed on a high-protein diet. You may recall from elementary biology that mitochondria turn energy from food into ATP to provide energy for cells to fuel activity. The byproduct of this process is free radicals, which bounce around, damaging everything in sight, and accelerating aging.

The best way to avoid free radical production is to not eat. No joke! This is the reason calorie restriction and fasting are beneficial for longevity since they improve mitochondrial health and prevent aging.

A more practical method is to get your carbs from plants, and eat the rest of your energy from high-quality protein and beneficial fats. The nutrients in plants eliminate free radicals that cause inflammation. Favoring fat at the expense of carbs provides a “cleaner” burning energy source, generating fewer free radicals than carbs.

Or better yet add Protandim to your daily supplements and allow your own natural antioxidants to flourish. One study showed that Protandim increases glutithian and super oxide dismutase by 40% in 30 days (these are two of our own natural antioxidants are body's produce).  Watch this ABC News investigative report on Protandim:

Also, if you have any additional questions on Protandim check out this video by Dr. Alice Reed, an internal medicine doctor:

Take Away: Get your carbs from protective phytonutrient-rich foods such as blueberries, grapes, kiwi, tart cherries, raspberries, blackberries, leafy greens, peppers, pomegranates, and some starches. Avocado, olives, coconut oil, whey protein are other antioxidant-rich foods to include as you go high in fat and protein. Add 1 tablet of Protandim per day (to get it feel free to contact Tyron at (604) 626-2342 or email


Adapted from an article written by Charles Poliquin at

PS. To try out our CrossFit program in North Vancouver for a free intro session visit 


Battaglia, G., et al Effect of Exercise Training on Metabolic Flexibility in Response to a High-Fat Diet in Obese Individuals. American Journal of Physiology. 2012. 303(12), E1440-1445.

Pasiakos, S., et al. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 2013. 9, 3837-3844.

Paoli, A., et al. High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training Influences Resting Energy Expenditure and Respiratory Ratio in Non-Dieting Individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2012. 10(1), 237.

Tipton, K., Wolfe, R. Protein and Amino Acids For Athletes. Journal of Sports Science. 2004. 22(1), 65-79/.

Storlien, L., et al. Metabolic Flexibility: Adipose tissue–liver–muscle interactions leading to insulin resistance. Proceedings for the Nutrition Society. 2004. 63(2), 363-368.

Spreadbury, I., et al. Comparison with Ancestral Diets Suggests Dense Acellular Carbohydrates Promote Inflammatory Microbiota, and May Be The Primary Dietary Cause of Leptin Resistance and Obesity. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2012.5, 175-189.

Johnston, K., et al. Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity in metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Medicine. 2010. 27(4), 391-397.

Carstens, M., et al. Fasting substrate oxidation in relation to habitual dietary fat intake and insulin resistance in non-diabetic women: a case for metabolic flexibility? Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013. 10 (8).

Sisson, Mark. Dear Mark: Resistant Starch, Zinc Deficiency, and Something New. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.

Calvez, J., Poupin, N., et al. Protein Intake, Calcium Balance and Health Consequences. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 66, 281-295.

Martin, W., Armstrong, L., et al. Dietary Protein Intake and Renal Function. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2005. 2(25).

Friedman, A., Ogden, L., et al. Comparative Effects of Low-Carbohydrate High-Protein Versus Low-Fat Diets on the Kidney. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. July 2012. 7.

Kerstetter, Jane. Dietary Protein and Bone: A New Approach to an Old Question. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009. 90, 1451-1452.

Darling, A., Millward, J., et al. Dietary Protein and Bone Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1009. 90, 1674-1692.

Lustgarten, M., et al. Serum Predictors of Percent Lean Mass in Young Adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. Published Ahead of Print.

Jourdan, C., et al. Body Fat Free Mass is Associated with the Serum Metabolite Profile in a Population-Based Study. PLoS One. 2012. 7, e40009.

Robertson, M., et al. Insulin-sensitizing effects on muscle and adipose tissue after dietary fiber intake in men and women with metabolic syndrome. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Loennek, J., Wilson, J., et al. Quality of Protein Intake is Inversely Related with Abdominal Fat. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(5).

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why Women Should Not Be Afraid of Gaining Muscle - Part 2

Despite the images of strong, lean women that are everywhere from popular culture to politics to athletics, there is an alarmingly large number of women who are afraid to gain muscle. Every trainer has heard the question from female clients of all ages: Will this give me big muscles? Or, the statement, I build muscle really easily and don’t want to get bulky. Can you just help me get toned?

Instead of using this article to argue that strong is attractive and that women should embrace strength and muscle, the point is that women need to train smart. Women need to identify their health and body composition goals and train in order to meet those goals.

If you missed part 1 of this topic, I mentioned that according to world renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin that in thirty-four years of being a strength coach, for every kilo of lean tissue his female clients gained, there was an equal loss of weight in body fat. With these body composition changes, not only will every woman feel more empowered, but her body will look fantastic!

If losing body fat is anywhere on your list of goals, then gaining muscle must be a priority. Otherwise, the only weapons you have against body fat are an extremely clean diet and interval training. If you choose that route,  it will be necessary to cut back on energy intake to offset the drop in metabolism that comes with aging. Even so, low muscle mass is linked to accelerated aging and a variety of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, greater risk of breaking a bone, having poor posture, getting regular colds, having a low mood, or being depressed. This list goes on, and I provide more details below with Ten More Reasons Women Should Not Be Afraid of Gaining Muscle.

Body Composition and Hormone Response to Training
First, let’s address a few of the misconceptions regarding training, muscles, and women. Lets review the key factor in changing body composition: hormone response to training. It’s physiologically impossible for women to gain muscle in the same way as a man because women don’t have enough testosterone unless they ingest it on purpose.

If men train hard and lift heavy loads, they will experience a large boost in testosterone post-workout. This doesn’t happen to women. Women have 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men, and studies have failed to demonstrate any significant change in testosterone response in women from training.

The good thing about resistance training for females of all ages is that if you train hard, you will elevate the hormone Growth Hormone (GH), which burns fat in the body.  GH will also help you build muscle, but it has a much greater effect on fat burning.

What a lot of women don’t realize is that if they resistance train, they will build a little bit of muscle, get stronger, and most gratifying, lose the fat that covers up the muscles they have. This will make them look strong and fit—and those muscles are great ammunition against the fat gain that happens with age.

Muscle Won’t Turn to Fat
Resistance training will not “turn fat into muscle,” nor will muscle that has been built turn into fat. If you train intelligently hard, fat will be lost and muscle will be gained. You will increase your metabolism and with proper nutrition, you will keep that fat off. If you quit training, muscle will be lost, and fat will probably be gained depending on your energy intake.

Also, a pound of muscle doesn’t “weigh less” than a pound of fat. They both weigh a pound, but if you have 10 pounds of muscle you will look a lot leaner than if that same 10 pounds was all fat.

How to Get Stronger
The only way to get stronger is to progressively increase the amount of weight you lift. It is possible to build muscle with moderate loads, but the definition of moderate is not 5 pounds. Rather, a standard fat loss training program would use anywhere between 60 and 85 percent loads (that refers to a weight that is 60 to 85 percent of the maximal amount you can lift for 1 rep for a given exercise). Where a lot of women go wrong is that they take “moderate” to mean “light” and then they drop that weight in half. Loads of 10 or 20 percent are a waste of time. They won’t help you be able to pick a child up off the floor or put a heavy box up on a shelf overhead.

In fact, high rep, light load training won’t do anything for you, except it may lead you to lose the small amount of muscle you already have! High rep, light load training is a variation of aerobic exercise and it may raise cortisol. One study found that embarking on a light load aerobic-style resistance program led to the loss of 5 pounds of muscle and a reduction in resting metabolic rate of 3 percent over a 10 year period!. You’ll be left with less muscle and possibly more fat—sounds like a Fat Trap to me!

The belief that high repetition, light load training will help women develop muscle tone is a misconception. The scientific definition of muscle “tone” has nothing to do with the popular definition, which seems to be the level of visibility of muscles. To achieve better muscle tone by the popular definition, all you need to do is lose fat, and high rep, light load training will not help you do this.

The better solution is to a “periodized” program focused on body composition such as the German Body Comp program by Charles Poliquin or our CrossFit programming at MBCF, which will progressively allow you to reach your goals.

Ten More Reasons Women Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Gaining Muscle

1.    You’ll Have Less Body Fat
Muscle mass is the best defense against getting fat. For example, one study compared a 12-week periodized resistance training protocol using loads ranging from 60 to 80 percent of maximal with a muscular endurance protocol using light loads with 15 to 30 reps on body composition in women. The women that did the periodized program lost nearly 5 kg of body fat, gained about 3 kg of muscle, and had dramatic increases in strength. The women who did the high rep, light load muscular endurance program lost NO fat and gained no muscle. They didn’t get stronger either!

It’s okay to start getting strong at a young age. Studies show that girls from age 7 on up can develop equal strength as boys of the same age. Plus, in young girls, having a stronger handgrip, and more lower and upper body strength are all associated with better body composition, lower BMI, and greater functional ability as measured by vertical jump. By developing strength at a young age, you’ll set yourself or your kids up for a lean and strong future!

2.    You’ll Look Better in Clothes…and Without Them
Strong, developed muscles can give women curves—glutes and abs with muscle development are much more aesthetically pleasing to the male eye—and you’ll look better in clothes. Perhaps more important than conforming to the male gaze is research that suggests that building strength by training is an effective way for women to take control of their body image.

Once you have a tool to help you get the body you desire, you’ll feel empowered. I guarantee that achieving personal records and squatting or deadlifting more than you weigh will make you feel and look awesome.

3.    You’ll Have a Healthier Baby and A Leaner Pregnancy
A recent study found that pregnant women who participated in an aquatic resistance training program for 6 months until the start of the third trimester had healthier babies than a control group. The offspring had better insulin sensitivity over the first year, and less chance of being big or small at birth (both markers of poorer health and risk of disease development).

The women in the training group gained significantly less weight and had much better glucose tolerance throughout the study. There were no cases of gestational diabetes in the training group, whereas half of the women in the control group developed gestational diabetes.

4.    You’ll Have Less Disease Risk: Cancer, Diabetes, etc.
As mentioned in part 1, the more muscle and bone you have, the greater the acid buffering power your body has, which correlates with a better immune system and higher levels of the endogenous antioxidant, glutathione. Lower glutathione is a primary predictor of fatal disease risk, especially cancer.

A new study has linked lower handgrip strength, which is correlated with low muscle mass in women, with poor health and a much greater risk of developing a number of chronic diseases. In women, stroke, poor posture  (kyphosis), history of a fall, hyperthyroidism, and anemia were associated with a weak handgrip.

5.    You’ll Have Better Posture
If you lift smart, you will develop structural balance, which basically means your muscles will be coordinated to help you move well and have better posture.  A strong lower back and core will help you stand up tall, keep your abdomen tight, and avoid back pain. A stronger upper back will give you the ability to roll your shoulders back by retracting your shoulder blades.

More strength will help you develop better body awareness so that you keep you head in line with your spine (not sticking forward), and your movement patterns will be smoother. You’ll look and feel more confident, and people will have more respect for you!

6.    You’ll Have Better Balance and Flexibility
A study of untrained women who participated in a 10-week resistance training program showed that they improved their balance by doubling the amount of time they could stand on one foot with outstretched arms from 43 seconds to 85 seconds. These women increased lower body strength by 32 percent and gained an average of 20 kilos on their leg press 1RM. The also decreased body fat by 2.2 percent!

Better flexibility isn’t a given because it depends on a variety of factors including whether you stretch or get body work on a regular basis. But, studies do indicate that women who perform better on tests of lower body strength have better flexibility. Naturally, a more active lifestyle will help you maintain flexibility and avoid immobilizing injuries, such as injury to the rotator cuff, hip, or knee.

7.    You’ll Have A Better Mental Outlook
The 10-week study of women mentioned in #6 also found positive changes in the participants’ mental outlook from strength training. These women demonstrated greater physical confidence, much fewer mood disturbances and feelings of depression, and they had less fatigue by the end of the study.

8.    You’ll Have a Stronger Immune System
Lifting weights improves gene activity and enhances the body’s natural antioxidant system so that it is ready to launch an assault when exposed to viruses. Research shows that people who do moderate to vigorous training get sick much less often than those who are inactive—one study found a 43 percent lower incidence of getting a cold during the winter months.

9.    You’ll Age Better
Greater muscle mass percentage in older women is strongly associated with better mobility, faster gait speed, lower body weight, and lower fat mass. Gaining muscle now will help you stay leaner, maintain stronger bones, and avoid pain as you age.

10.    You’ll Live Longer
At least six studies have shown that women who have more muscle mass will live longer. Being stronger means you’ll have better mobility and muscle power as you get older, which is another primary indicator of longevity.

A related bonus is that by getting strong, lean, and muscular at a young age, you’ll avoid what is being called sarcopenic-obesity, or being fat and having low muscle mass when you are old. Although it’s unclear whether older people gain fat first or lose muscle first, these two physiological actions go hand in hand. Once you start losing muscle, you are just about guaranteed to get fat if you don’t take action by lifting some iron!


Adapted from an article written by Charles Poliquin at  


Cheung, C., Nguyen, U., et al. Association of Handgrip Strength with Chronic Diseases and Multimorbidity. Age. 2012. Published ahead of Print.

Van Geel, T., Geusens, P., et al. Measures of Bioavailable Serum Testosterone and Estradiol and their Relationships with Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength and Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women. European Journal of Endocrinology. 2009. 160, 681-687.

Scafoglieri, A., Porovyn, S., et al. Direct Relationship of Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference with Body Tissue Distribution in Elderly Persons. The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging. 2011. 15(10), 924-931.

FitzGerald, S., Barlow, C., et al. Muscular Fitness and all-Cause Mortality. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2004. 1, 7-18.

Westcott, W., Winett, R., et al. Prescribing Physical Activity: Applying the ACSM Protocols for Exercise Type, Intensity, and Duration across Three Training Frequencies. Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2009. 37(2), 51-58.

Patil, R., Uusi-Rasi, K., et al. Sarcopenia and Osteopenia Among 70-80-year-old Home-Dwelling Finnish Women. Osteoporosis International. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Annesi, J., Gann, S., et al. Preliminary Evaluation of a 10-Week Resistance and Cardiovascular Exercise Protocol on Physiological and Psychological Measures for a sample of Older Women. Perceptual Motor Skills. 2004. 98(1), 163-170.

Milliken, L., Faigenbaum, A., et al. Correlates of Upper and Lower Body Muscular Strength in Children. Journal of Strength and conditioning Research. 2008. 22(4), 1339-1346.

Andreoli, A., Celi, M., et al. Lon-Term Effect of Exercise on Bone Mineral Density and body Composition in Post-Menopausal Ex-Elite Athletes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 66(1), 69-74.

Beavers, K., Lyles, M., et al. Is Lost Lean Mass from Intentional Weight Loss Recovered during Weight Regain in Postmenopausal Women? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. 94(3), 767-774.

Cussler, E., Lohman, T., et al. Weight Lifted in Strength Training Predicts Bone Change in Postmenopausal Women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2003. 35(1), 10-17.

Consitt, L., Copeland, J., et al. Endogenous Anabolic Hormone Responses to Endurance Versus Resistance Exercise and training in Women. Sports Medicine. 2002. 32(1), 1-22.

Chen, B., Shih, T., et al. Thigh Muscle Volume Predicted by Anthropometric Measurements and Correlated with Physical Function in the Older Adults. Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging. 2011. 15(6), 433-438.

Enea, C., Boisseau, N., et al. Circulating Androgens in Women: Exercise-Induced Changes. Sports Medicine. 2011. 41(1), 1-15.
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

For All the Ladies Out There: Want To Look More Feminine? Gain Muscle!

The whole point of weight training is to get some muscle...isn't it?! It would be like saying you are scared of getting too flexible when you start doing yoga! Ridiculous right?

The goal of lifting weights is to sculpt the body. It's the muscles that give shape to the body; the only shape fat gives is round!  Therefore, the muscles need to grow in order to get that shape that is so esthetically pleasing.

There are some women who gain muscle more easily than others, just like there are women who are more flexible than others. It's a genetic thing; but no woman will look like a female bodybuilder from simply doing weight training, even if she is genetically prone to being muscular. Female bodybuilders work extremely hard, spend hours a week training, and typically supplement with nutrients that help them build that muscle.

Would you rather be skinny fat and flabby or more lean and muscular? The skinny fat women are the ones who look good in size 2 jeans, but horrible in a bikini. The typical lean, muscular woman will fit in a size 6 or 8 because it is the only size her quads will fit into, but she will have to get the waist taken in. To whoever invented stretchy jeans, all the women who train said, "THANK YOU!!!"

The point I am trying to make is that even if you do gain muscle, it is not a bad thing. Muscle always looks better than fat. Plus, women with more muscle tend to live longer, be healthier, have stronger bones, and less risk of disease.

Muscle and Genetics
Your genetics will dictate how much muscle you will gain under certain conditions. Here's how it works: Everyone has a gene that controls a substance called myostatin in the body. When myostatin is low, we develop more muscle, but when it is high, we develop very little muscle even if we lift weights.

This means that lifting weights is not going to significantly change your body type. Yes, you'll get stronger and build some muscle, but whatever body type you have naturally will stay. You will just get rid of the flab that covers up your muscles.

For example, look at all the different body types at the Olympics. Most Olympians train with weights in addition to training for their sport. They all train hard and heavy and a lot.  They all have muscle but none of the female athletes have too much muscle so that they start to look like men.

The Muscle/Fat Relationship 

Remember this: You must first build more muscle in order to burn more fat. When you first start training, your intramuscular fat - that's fat that is stored in muscle - will get pushed out of the muscle, which may, for a short period of time, make it seem like you have actually gained fat! Stay the course, and you will eventually start burning off the fat. Your muscles will also get harder, or, as many women like to say, "more toned."

Well, guess what? To be more toned, you must have more muscle, and you must train them hard, and train them heavy! A trained muscle at rest has more tone, that is, it retains its shape more than an untrained muscle.

Let's visualize this: When you sit down, the more untrained you are, the more your leg muscles will spread out. On the other hand, a well-trained leg will not spread out. Rather, it will retain its shape and tone.

Now the other problem I would like to deal with is the misconception that if you lift heavy weights, you will get bigger. That is definitely not true. Typically, you will do fewer reps with heavy weights, which will work strength not hypertrophy, or muscle building.

So, if you can press 30 pounds, but you choose to do only 20 pounds for fear of getting bigger, then you just wasted your time. You're not overloading your muscles and they won't grow or get stronger.

You must train to failure! Those are the only sets worth doing!  In my experience, this is the number one reason many women don't get results from weight training...they consistently undertrain. Think of all the poor guys out there who train 5 to 6 times per week, who eat 400 grams of protein per day and still struggle to put on a measly 5 to 10 pounds of muscle. To all the women out there, no need to worry!

Yes, your muscles may get a teeny bit bigger, but overall, you will get smaller, feel stronger, and look better in, or out, of clothes!



Adapted from an article written by Alexandra Bernardin at 

PS. To try out our CrossFit program in North Vancouver for a free intro session visit

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Women Should Not Run...Long Distances

I know this is probably going to step on some toes but lets dive right into it as its for your good :)

Lets take for instance our friend Jill who runs on the treadmill—day after day, year after year—like she's on a mission. Her body seems to get softer with every mile, and the softer she gets, the more she runs. For her, I feel sympathy, because the world has convinced her that running is the way to stay “slim and toned.”

There’s a Jill in every gym. Spotting them is easy. They’re the women who run for an hour or more every day on the treadmill, setting new distance and/or time goals every week and month. Maybe they’re just interested in their treadmill workouts, maybe they’re training for their fifth fund-raising marathon, or maybe they’re even competing against runners in Finland via some Nike device. Years of running like this has exposed the results, which I’m not going to sugarcoat:

She’s still fat. Actually, she’s gotten fatter.

I’ve tried to rescue her from the clutches of cardio in the past, but my efforts didn’t work until a month ago, when she called to tell me that a blood test had confirmed her doctor’s suspicion: She had hypothyroidism, meaning her body no longer made enough thyroid hormone.

Her metabolism had slowed to a snail’s pace, and the fat was accumulating. This was her body rebelling. When Jill asked for my advice, I told her to do two things: To schedule a second test for two weeks later, and to stop all running until then.

Running with Everything in You

I’m not here to pick on women or make fun of them. There are men out there who do the same thing, thinking cardio will wipe away the effects of their regular weekend beer binges. It’s more of a problem with women, though, and I’m targeting them for three very good reasons:

1.  They’re often intensely recruited for fund-raisers like Team-In-Training, lured by the promises of slim, trim bodies and good health resulting from the months of cardio training leading to marathons—in addition to doing something for charity.

2.  Some physique coaches prescribe 20-plus hours per week of pre-contest cardio for women, which essentially amounts to a part-time job.

3.  Steady-state activities like this devastate the female metabolism. This happens with men, too, but in different ways.

One of the things that the fitness industry is doing wrong is over-prescribing cardio. I’m not talking about walking here, nor am I referring to appropriate HIIT cardio. This is about running, cycling, stair-climbing, or elliptical cardio done for hours at or above 65 percent of your max heart rate. The anaerobic threshold factors into this, but I’m painting gym cardio in very broad strokes here so everyone will understand what I mean.

Science Wants You to Stop Running

Studies—both clinical and observational—make a compelling case that too much cardio can impair the production of the thyroid hormone T3, its effectiveness and metabolism[1-11], particularly when accompanied by caloric restriction, an all too common practice. This is why many first or second-time figure and bikini competitors explode in weight when they return to their normal diets, and it’s why the Jills of the world can run for hours every week with negative results.
T3 is the body’s preeminent regulator of metabolism, by the way it throttles the efficiency of cells[12-19]. It also acts in various ways to increase heat production[20-21]. As I pointed out in previous articles, this is one reason why using static equations to perform calories-in, calories-out weight loss calculations doesn’t work.

When T3 levels are normal, the body burns enough energy to stay warm, and muscles function at moderate efficiency. When there’s too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), the body goes into a state where weight gain is almost impossible. Too little T3 (hypothyroidism), and the body accumulates body fat with ease, almost regardless of physical activity level. Women inadvertently put themselves into a hypothyroid condition when they perform so much steady-state cardio.

In the quest to lose body fat, T3 levels can offer both success and miserable failure because of the way it influences other fat-regulating hormones[22-31]. Women additionally get all the other negative effects of this, which I’ll cover below. Don’t be surprised here. This is a simple, sensible adaptation of a body that’s equipped to bear the full brunt of reproduction.

We Were Not Designed For This

Think about it this way: Your body is a responsive, adaptive machine that has evolved for survival. If you’re running on a regular basis, your body senses this excessive energy expenditure, and adjusts to compensate. Remember, no matter which way we hope the body works, its endgame is always survival. If you waste energy running, your body will react by slowing your metabolism to conserve energy. Decreasing energy output is biologically savvy for your body. Your body wants to survive longer while you do what it views as a stressful, useless activity. Decreasing T3 production increases efficiency and adjusts your metabolism to preserve energy immediately.

Nothing exemplifies this increasing efficiency better than the way the body starts burning fuel. Training consistently at 65 percent or more of your max heart rate adapts your body to save as much body fat as possible. After regular training, fat cells stop releasing fat the way they once did during moderate-intensity activities[32-33]. Energy from body fat stores also decreases by 30 percent[34-35]. To this end, your body sets into motion a series of reactions that make it difficult for muscle to burn fat at all[36-41]. Instead of burning body fat, your body takes extraordinary measures to retain it.

Still believe cardio is the fast track to fat loss?

That’s not all. You can still lose muscle mass. Too much steady-state cardio actually triggers the loss of muscle[42-45]. This seems to be a twofold mechanism, with heightened and sustained cortisol levels triggering muscle loss[46-56], which upregulates myostatin, a potent destroyer of muscle tissue[57]. Say goodbye to bone density, too, because it declines with that decreasing muscle mass and strength[58-64].

And long term health? Out the window, as well. Your percentage of muscle mass is an independent indicator of health[65]. You’ll lose muscle, lose bone, and lose health. Awesome, right?

When sewn together, these phenomena coordinate a symphony of fat gain for most female competitors after figure contests. After a month—or three—of 20-plus hours of cardio per week, fat burning hits astonishing lows, and fat cells await an onslaught of calories to store[66-72]. The worst thing imaginable in this state would be to eat whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. The combination of elevated insulin and cortisol would make you fat, and it would also create new fat cells so you could become even fatter[73-80].

Seriously, Lets Cut Out the Long Distance Cardio

I won’t name names, but I’ve seen amazing displays of gluttony from some small, trim women. Entire pizzas disappear, leaving only the flotsam of toppings that fell during the feeding frenzy. Appetizers, meals, cocktails and desserts—4000 calories worth—vanish at the Cheesecake Factory. There are no leftovers, and there are no crumbs. Some women catch this in time and stop the devastation, but others quickly swell, realizing that this supposed off-season look has become their every-season look.

And guess what they do to fix it? Double sessions of cardio.

The right way to train

This “cardio craze” is a form of insanity. There are better ways to lose fat, and there are better ways to look good. Your beach body is not at the end of a marathon, and you won’t find it on a treadmill. In fact, it’s quite the opposite if you’re using steady-state cardio to get there. The show may be over, and the finish line crossed, but the damage to your metabolism has just begun.

Don’t want to stop running? It's OK. Just keep in mind though that the fat won’t come off your hips, thighs, etc. following that approach. You’re keeping it there.

And as for Jill, my friend whose dilemma sparked this article? She took my suggestion and cut out the cardio. Two weeks later, her T3 count was normal ;).

DH Kiefer
After graduating magna cum laude in three years with degrees in mathematics and physics, then becoming a Ph.D. candidate in physics at the University of Florida in just one year, Kiefer knows the value of academic research. These credentials, however, aren’t some fitness industry gimmick designed to hook you in. Kiefer’s been researching, testing, and verifying what hard science proves as fact for over two decades. And as his clients and readers of The Carb Nite Solution and Carb Back-Loading will attest, his results are the absolute best in the business.


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Friday, April 12, 2013

Girl Power: Why Lifting Heavier Can Be a Life Changer

I want to give you real, relatable rationale as to why women should be training big movements with relatively heavy weights.

Reason 1: It's Empowering.
There is nothing that can compare to deadlifting 200-pounds, bench pressing your bodyweight, or reaching any other strength goal you set for yourself. Not only will you feel stronger in the gym, you'll be stronger in every other aspect of your life. It may be hard to imagine how a heavy squat can translate over to a happier relationship or better performance at work, but I've seen it happen time and time again. There is something transformative about being able to do something that seemed impossible a few short weeks before. And once you realize achieving those milestones is possible, everything else in life seems possible. And I guarantee you that belief is much more appealing to women than having to train with pink dumbbells in the "Women's Only" section of their gym because they're afraid of getting stared at on the main floor.

Reason 2: It Will Improve Body Composition.
Katlyn was probably the best female lifter (and maybe the best lifter, period) I have ever had the pleasure of training. She was also the sweetest person you could ever meet. She would bop into the gym, a huge smile on her face, and ask me about my weekend. But when it was time to lift, she would get pretty darn intense. One second she'd be asking me if I'd seen such-and-such a movie, and the next second, she'd step up to the bar and totally transform. But once the barbell hit the ground she would go back to being all sunshine and rainbows. It was something to watch.

In our time together Katlyn worked up to a 296-pound deadlift and set a PR of 23 pull-ups. When she would bang out reps, jaws would drop to the floor - not only because she had the strength to move that type of weight, but because she had the toned, lean look female clients were sweating their butts off on the treadmill trying to attain.

The fact Katlyn took her strength training seriously and also had the best body composition of any female client I have trained is not a coincidence. In fact, I would say there is a direct correlation between the number of pounds my clients can squat, pull, and press, and what they look like in a strapless dress. And since so many female clients are training to improve body composition, I always like to mention that.

Reason 3: It's Not the Same Old, Same Old
It stands to reason that if you do the same thing over and over (and over) again, you will probably get very, very good at that thing. And that's great if you want to become a chess master or play the clarinet. When it comes to fitness, repeating the same exercise protocols ad nauseam also leads to getting very efficient at those programs. Unfortunately, exercise efficiency is the enemy of adaptation and body composition improvements. To put it simply, if you get very comfortable with your workout routine, you are not challenging your body to produce change. There is a famous saying that the definition of the term "crazy" is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So if you've been banging out 20 reps of incline press with 7-pound dumbbells for the past six months, chances are your body's not responding to that anymore.

Plus, lifting heavy and challenging yourself every time you step in the gym will get you excited (and maybe even a little nervous) for your training sessions. And, truthfully, when was the last time you were really psyched to work out?

Reason 4: You'll Be Part of a Community.
When anyone in our gym goes for a personal best lift (meaning they are trying to lift a weight that is greater than they've ever lifted before) something amazing happens. Rather spontaneously, a group will form around that person, trying to psych her up for the lift. Words of encouragement will be shouted. Cheers will be heard. It's as if everyone in the gym is part of the effort. And whether she hits the deadlift or locks out the bench press is almost irrelevant. She will be applauded for the effort and congratulated for the attempt. Discussions will occur as to what she did right, or how to nail it next time. Maybe someone grabbed a quick video on their iPhone so she can now relive and celebrate her success. Interestingly enough, when I've gone to other gyms, I've seen this same type of camaraderie.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You probably don't want all eyes on you when working out. You might prefer to anonymously sweat out your 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer while reading about the latest escapades of your favorite reality television stars. But I cannot encourage you enough to break out of your fortress of solitude and become part of your gym's community. Having people root for you and celebrate with you when you've achieved something you've never done before, something that may have not even seemed possible a few short weeks before, is not only awesome, it's addictive.

Reason 5: You Can Use It.
Whether you want to pick your nieces up off the floor or carry a couple of bottles of apple juice home from the store, getting stronger will help you in more ways than you realize throughout your day. Obviously women hold big positions of power in today's society, and yet on my morning commute I see women who can't generate enough power to hoist their computer bags up to their shoulders.

Last time I checked, no one really had to go to train at the gym to pick up a small stack of paper, yet if that's the amount of weight you are training with, that's about all you'll be able to do.

Reason 6: It's Healthy.
The loss of bone density, specifically in post-menopausal women, is a growing concern in the population. By lifting heavier loads you can reduce this risk and make it less likely that you'll crack in half when you reach your "golden years." Also, the ability to generate power and strength (and this is true for men and women) are the fitness qualities that decline most rapidly when we age. This is why we see more 55-year-olds competing in the marathon and not at a local power lifting meet. So think of adding serious strength training now - kind of like you think of your 401K. Even if you don't plan on using it for the next 20 years, you'll be glad it's there down the road.

So break out of your comfort zone and discover the true benefits of lifting heavier weight and you'll see body transforms. And, I promise, you won't end up looking anything like me :)

This guest post was written by Dan Trink, CSCS and Director of Personal Training Operations at Peak Performance in NYC. To learn more about Dan, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or at his website


PS. On a side note, we have a Pre-Warm-up Board installed at the gym so we encourage all members to arrive 10-15 minutes early to go through the key pre-warm-up items listed on it. Here's what it is:

CrossFit Pre-Warm-up
Foam Roll Tight Spots: Quads, Hip Flexors, Glutes, Calves, Lats, etc.
10 Shoulder Pass-through
60 sec Couch Stretch with 10 Mobilizations
25 Squats
3 min Skip, Run or Row
25 KB Swings
10 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
Work On Weaknesses

PPS. Just a friendly reminder about our 10 Burpee Penalty at the gym for those that don't know. For each piece of equipment you leave out, there's a 10 burpee penalty next time you come to the gym :)  It's all in good fun. We just want to prevent our coaches from having to clean up after everyone. You all rock! Thanks for being the greatest group to coach!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

How to Counter The Many Negatives of Aerobic Training

Aerobic training has many negative health effects, and being as more than 45,000 people ran the 2011 New York City Marathon, this topic is more important than ever. Aerobic training stresses the adrenals, chronically raises cortisol, may lower testosterone, may hinder reproduction, can shrink reproductive organs, causes oxidative stress, and results in persistent inflammation. It lowers peak power output, makes you slower, and leads to a catabolic state in the body if you perform it regularly without any resistance training.

Research scientists and athletic coaches have begun to express concern about the negative health effects of aerobic training, particularly for aerobic endurance athletes who put themselves under high daily physiological stress for prolonged periods. In fact, they’ve started to look for strategies to minimize the many negatives of aerobic training, and luckily there are some things that work! Adding strength training to an aerobic program, practicing martial arts, and supplementing with specific antioxidants and nutrients can actually do wonders to counteract the negatives of aerobic exercise.
Of course, it would be easier to just stop the aerobic exercise and substitute it with strength and anaerobic system training for better results and fewer negative health effects. But, since doctors and health professionals continue to recommend aerobic exercise, and even Apolo Ohno has taken up endurance running and competed in the New York City Marathon, this trend towards aerobic exercise doesn’t seem to be diminishing. And there are still some common misconceptions about aerobic exercise about why aerobic training is bad.

In this article, I will address the confusing aspects of the negatives of aerobic training, and provide some simple things aerobic endurance trainees can do to minimize the negative health effects and improve performance. Coaches and trainers who work with elite aerobic athletes should take note because these are research-proven ways to better performance and wellness for your athletes.

Short Review of the Bad News About Aerobic Training
Long-term aerobic training, both at an elite level and at a recreational intensity, has been shown to lead to chronic inflammation and elevated cortisol. Chronic inflammation is bad because it results in premature aging of tissues and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. For the recreational population that may perform anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes of aerobic training a few days a week, aerobic training typically leads to elevated cortisol, lower androgen hormones, increased inflammation, and does little to help with fat or weight loss. “The effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible,” writes researcher Stephen H. Boutcher in his article “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss.” ?

Aerobic training doesn’t help with fat loss because it creates a hormonal environment that degrades muscle, spikes cortisol, and even though you’re burning calories, the deficit is rarely enough to offset the catabolic hormonal environment. Plus, if you’re doing aerobic training on exercise machines, you may suffer from lower insulin sensitivity from exposure to “dirty electricity” or the electromagnetic frequency bands that are generated by cardio machines and other forms of electrical power.

The situation is slightly different for elite or long distance aerobic endurance athletes. Research shows they suffer from an even greater catabolic hormonal state with significantly high cortisol levels from the intense physiological stress of training. They also have lower testosterone and androgens. High cortisol and exposure to inflammatory biomarkers has researchers and coaches concerned about the residual health effects for endurance athletes and they have started to look for ways to counter the negatives.

Body Fat and Elite Aerobic Athletes
Elite aerobic athletes do tend to have lower body fat compared to the rest of the population, but research shows that anaerobic athletes such as sprinters have even lower body fat than long distance runners. This is because they have more muscle, which helps burn fat, and because they do sprints that also burn fat. Also, studies show endurance athletes who perform strength training as part of the program have lower body fat than those who don’t. 

Benefits of Aerobic Training for Sedentary People
There are some benefits of aerobic exercise for sedentary people and specific populations, but there are also negatives that can be avoided if you just choose a different mode of exercise—strength and anaerobic system training. The key here is that it is better to do aerobic training than to do absolutely nothing and be sedentary. So, if you only have two options, of being sedentary and not moving, or doing 30 minutes of aerobic training, by all means, do the aerobic training. But, you’ll get better results if you do strength training instead, or in addition to the aerobic training.

To review, the bad news about aerobic training is that it doesn’t help the everyday person lose fat; it elevates cortisol, lowers androgens, degrades muscle, lowers power, and increases inflammation if done for a prolonged period. Now for the good news!

Take Antioxidants to Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Get as many antioxidants in your diet as possible to fight inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces free radicals in response to the oxygen-rich environment created by increased respiration that goes with aerobic training. The free radicals need to be neutralized; otherwise, they damage cells and cause premature aging, which leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been termed “the silent killer” and is caused by a lot of “unhealthy” behaviors, such as having a diet high in trans fats or gluten, and being sedentary. People are often surprised to hear that a “healthy” behavior such as aerobic exercise can cause chronic inflammation, but it does.

Research performed on rats has shown that the negative effects of intense aerobic training can be mitigated by taking antioxidants, specifically vitamin E, selenium, and zinc. A study in the journal Free Radical Research found that vitamin E has a protective effect against oxidative stress in rats that performed intense aerobic swimming. In contrast, the control group rats that did not receive the vitamin E supplement had decreased size of the reproductive organs (testes and accessory sex organs), lower testosterone and related androgen markers, and inflammation and dysfunction of the reproductive organs. Researchers suggest that vitamin E elevates scavenger enzyme activity and gets rid of free radicals, effectively detoxifying the reproductive system of oxidative chemicals.

Take note that the rats performed intense amounts of aerobic swimming—three hours a day, five days a week for four weeks, which is in line with what someone might perform running-wise to prepare for a marathon. And, elite aerobic athletes do this quantity of exercise regularly for many years.

A second study using zinc and selenium for the antioxidants supports these findings. The same intense aerobic exercise protocol was used and the rats who received no supplement had the same harmful effects on their reproductive systems, and they were also found to be significantly less fertile due to the low testosterone and fewer fertile sperm. Their cortisol was also very high. Researchers suggest the antioxidants had a strong stimulatory effect on production of sperm and the androgen hormones, supporting fertility. Zinc and selenium also fought the free radical attack, effectively lowering the inflammatory response.

A 2001 Sports Medicine review of antioxidant use to counter oxidative stress from aerobic training supports the use of antioxidants, of which vitamin E is most commonly tested and most effective. Antioxidant mixtures of beta carotene and the vitamins C and E also appear to be protective. Results from human studies haven’t been as conclusive as those performed on rats because with animal studies the experiment can be more closely controlled and the animals are forced to complete very intense long duration  aerobic exercise, whereas with humans there are more unknown factors. Also, diet, genetic disposition, and exercise history can result in a significant variation in the inflammatory effects of aerobic exercise.

For aerobic athletes, the potential for protection from antioxidant supplementation is “tremendous” and “consumption of a diet rich in different antioxidants is a prudent course of action,” conclude researchers from the 2001 Sports Medicine review. In addition to the nutrients already mentioned, it is possible magnesium, probiotics, gotu kola, and vitamin D will also help counter oxidative stress from training. Eating fruits high in antioxidants, such as berries, particularly raspberries, strawberries, and tart cherries is recommended because they have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in athletes.

Perform Strength Training
Everybody should perform strength training. Naturally, the type and protocol of the training will vary according to goals, age, and health complications, but everyone will benefit from exercises that improve strength, especially endurance athletes and aerobic devotees. Researchers have suggested that because strength training lowers chronic inflammation and provides protection against oxidative stress, it is an ideal solution for coaches and athletes who are concerned about free radical-mediated damage from exercise. This means that simply adding strength training to an aerobic exercise program may counter many of the negatives of aerobics

One recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the inflammatory response of two resistance training protocols after six weeks. Both a hypertrophy and strength protocol were effective at reducing oxidative stress and lowering inflammatory biomarkers over pre-training levels. Researchers found that both protocols resulted in lower inflammation, and they suggest that endurance athletes perform resistance training rather than supplement with antioxidants to decrease oxidative stress.

Aerobic Athletes Will Lose Body Fat & Improve Performance by Strength Training
Another new study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports shows how adding a strength protocol into aerobic training programs will improve performance and lead to a better body composition for elite aerobic athletes. The study didn’t directly test for oxidative stress or cortisol but it measured body fat, muscle cross sectional area, and short- and long-term endurance capacity in two groups of elite aerobic cyclists: an aerobic-only group that just performed their normal training and an aerobic/strength group that performed normal training with a strength program for 16 weeks.

Researchers found that the aerobic/strength group decreased body fat significantly by an average of two percent from 12 to 10 percent, while body fat remained unchanged in the aerobic-only group.

Other significant improvements in the aerobics/strength group that weren’t seen in the aerobics-only group were increased quadriceps strengths by 12 percent, better performance in a 45-minute time trial, and slightly better performance in a 5-minute time trial. There were no negative effects of strength training for the aerobic/strength group, such as increased body weight or hypertrophy—both common concerns because elite aerobic athletes mistakenly believe that gaining strength will make them slower.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides potent evidence for never doing aerobic training without also performing strength training. The article is a review of all previously published evidence on the effects of combining aerobic and strength training. The study found that adding strength training to aerobic programs increased performance, strength, and power.

In contrast, the main negative was that aerobic training alone compromised power output. It’s especially critical that athletes in sports such as basketball, football, tennis, ice hockey, and volleyball be able to produce peak power, meaning they should never do aerobic training. Rather, interval sprints are ideal for conditioning and will produce less oxidative stress and a better hormonal response. Sprints have been shown to raise growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1, and produce a favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio.

Obviously, if you plan to run 26 miles in a marathon, sprint training alone will not be effective. Instead, add strength training to your regular aerobic training and you’ll have a better hormonal response, and less body fat, according to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research review mentioned above. Aerobic athletes who added strength training to their programs lost body fat, while aerobic training alone did not lead to fat loss.

Practice Judo or Martial Arts
Start practicing judo or a similar martial art to increase antioxidant capacity and decrease oxidative stress. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that practicing judo can increase resting antioxidant levels that counteract the oxidative stress produced during strenuous exercise.  Researchers compared the effects of a mixed exercise protocol that included an all-out sprint Wingate test followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at 60 percent of maximal aerobic power in judokas and sedentary subjects.

Both groups had similarly elevated free radical levels after the exercise test, but the judokas had much greater total antioxidant status at all time points before and after the test than the sedentary group. The judokas’ elevated antioxidant levels indicate a protective effect against the oxidative stress of aerobic exercise. This is the same positive health effect that strength training provides for aerobic trainees, and it’s likely that yoga or other martial arts, such as tae kwon do, will also elevate antioxidants to counteract the many negatives of aerobic training. Such practices may also lower cortisol if they have a calming effect on the body

Take Creatine to Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Take creatine to lower inflammatory biomarkers and oxidative stress from aerobic training. There are all kinds of benefits from supplementing with creatine because it is the first energy source called on by the body—it’s been shown to increase work capacity and power, elevate protein synthesis after strength training, improve skill execution when tired, and lower oxidative stress from aerobic training.

Recent research shows creatine can inhibit oxidative stress markers following acute aerobic exercise in rats. A study in Amino Acids found that giving creatine to rats that performed moderate aerobic exercise raised antioxidant levels in the blood, which resulted in lower oxidative stress and less lipid peroxidation than a control group that got no creatine. A second study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested different inflammatory biomarkers and found similarly protective effects from creatine supplementation after aerobic exercise. In both cases, researchers think that creatine increased antioxidant capacity that was able to scavenge the free radicals.

Although these studies showed creatine to be effective to counter the inflammatory response of acute training, it is applicable to the longer term negative effects of aerobic training as well. Evidence into the role of creatine on chronic inflammation without aerobic training supports this. One study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that adding creatine to the diet of rats resulted in greater blood antioxidant content and lower inflammatory biomarkers than a control group that did not consume additional creatine.

Supplement With Omega-3s to Reduce Inflammation
Omega-3s are a well accepted supplement to fight inflammation from many sources, and they have been shown to significantly lower oxidative stress markers from aerobic endurance exercise. There are at least 40 studies in the last two years supporting the protective effect of omega-3s on oxidative stress. In fact, the New York City Marathon organizers should give all runners a bottle of omega-3s to combat the damage they are doing to their bodies by running 26 miles.

A 2009 study in Lipids in Health and Disease measured the effect of omega-3 supplementation on inflammatory biomarkers in men with a history of performing aerobic training. Researchers note that the oxidative stress caused by training can overwhelm the body’s available antioxidant defenses and damage tissues—especially reproductive organs. The subjects in this study were males who exercised at least three days a week for 30 minutes. They were given a total of 4000 mg of omega-3s daily for six weeks, while continuing to perform their regular aerobic exercise.

The group that took the omega-3s had lower resting levels of inflammation after six weeks than a control group that did not supplement. Researchers suggest the protective effects of the omega-3s may have been greater if participants had regularly done more intense aerobic training—in this study their training wasn’t monitored, it just had to be three days a week for thirty minutes.

[A product that I use that provides high quality omega-3 fats is IsaOmega Supreme by Isagenix. I take 2 capules per day that come in their Ageless Essentials with Product B packs (you can also get IsaOmega seperately on its own). For more info on Ageless Essentials with Product B click here and for info on IsaOmega Supreme click here].

Top Five Ways To Protect Yourself From the Negatives of Aerobic Training
1)    Do strength and anaerobic training instead.
2)    Do strength training in addition to your aerobic training.
3)    Get lots of antioxidants: vitamin E, selenium, zinc, red raspberries, tart cherries, etc.
4)    Take creatine.
5)    Take omega-3s.

PS. Come join us at The Maker's Body CrossFit for a free class tryout by visiting

Charles Poliquin is one of the most accomplished strength coaches in the world. He has designed workouts for Olympic medalists in 17 different sports, world record holders in 10 different sports, and professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and UK Premier League. He has lectured or consulted for a variety of high-profile organizations such as the US Secret Service, Walt Disney Corporation and the World Swimming Congress. More info visit his website at

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