Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Skinny on Fats: Benefits of Coconut Oil

Guest blog by Michael Fuhrman, D.C.

Coconut oil may be one of the most misunderstood of the more readily available dietary fats/oils.
As it is predominantly over 90% saturated fat, consumers assume it is bad for you and look for other seemingly less offensive alternatives.

The distinguishing feature between coconut oil and other forms of saturated fats and triglycerides is the much shorter length of the fatty acid. Coconut oil is actually a medium chain triglyceride (MCT), 6 to 12 carbon lengths long, as opposed to long chain triglycerides which are over 12 carbon lengths long and is the principal form of fat found in western diets. This smaller chain length makes it much easier for the body to absorb, digest and process as its breakdown requires less energy and less enzymatic action than what is usually needed for the longer chain triglycerides. Once broken down into medium chain fatty acids and absorbed in the body, they are then delivered to the liver where they are used as a primary source of energy. This leads to an increase in metabolism, ultimately resulting in an improvement in blood lipid profiles. Indeed, in eastern Asian cultures where coconut oil is a significant source of fat, rates of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease are lower than their western counterparts.

Wide array of clinical uses

Clinically and therapeutically, coconut oil appears to possess a variety of useful properties that may make it, when used appropriately, a no-brainer as a food item to be consumed on a daily basis for many people.

As part of a weight loss protocol, coconut oil has been shown to help improve anthropomorphic profiles in overweight and obese men and women.

Researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s sufferers have pathological brain glucose metabolism possibly due to glucose transporter dysfunction and insulin resistance.

Alzheimer’s patients, therefore, find that their brain’s ability to use glucose (the brain’s preferred form of fuel) is impaired. Fortunately, the brain can use ketone bodies, which are by-products of fatty acid metabolism, as an alternative fuel source. MCTs are an excellent source of ketone bodies and it is this property that those with Alzheimer’s find beneficial, as they experience improvements in cognition and memory.

Coconut oil is chock full of antioxidative compounds which helps protect it from oxidation and degradation. This quality was evaluated in an interesting study which looked at the antioxidative properties of various oils and their effects on rodent testes. The rodents who were fed coconut oil had higher levels of testicular antioxidants, thus suggesting a protective role in reproductive health. Of particular significance, the coconut oil-fed rats also showed increased levels of testosterone as well. Furthermore, components of coconut oil contain fatty acids such as lauric and myristic acids which also act as 5α-reductase inhibitors, which help block testosterone from metabolizing to the more potent and possibly proliferative dihydrotestosterone.

Who would have thought that coconut oil could have a positive effect on osteoporosis? Supplementation of the oil in mouse models of osteoporosis demonstrated a significant improvement in bone density, volume, and bone microarchitecture, structure and trabecular number as well.

Finally, lauric acid is a powerful antimicrobial and antifungal compound and has been shown to be active against a variety of candida strains, including albicans.  It has also, as well as medium chain triglycerides in general, shown activity against oral pathogens and skin pathogens that are associated with acne development.

Coconut oil, with its medium chain triglycerides and plethora of therapeutic benefits, may make it a sensible choice use in a variety of clinical applications.

Tyron here, check out some of the comments we've been receiving about our gym.

This one is from a lady new to our gym who's currently in our Foundations program. She says, "The Maker's Body CrossFit: for sure you will love it..very motivating, invigorating and fun! I love our coach and owner Tyron not only good looking fella, well verse on what his coaching and very supportive. "No pain no gain" it's true but once you have it you don't wanna slip it away. Everybody can do it...not too late for every one to have a healthy physique and brain...I highly recommend this gym. For all fitness level... You won't regret it!"

Received this recently from one of our members, "Ya it's great, I enjoy being back! Definitely a fun atmosphere. I tried crossfit somewhere else, and was not even close to how much fun Maker's Body is, and the classes are instructed way better with you guys "

I have a great team of coaches and staff that help me immensely run an awesome program for our amazing members!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About Creatine

Everything You Need To Know About Creatine
Written by Calvin Sun

Creatine is easily one of the most popular supplements in the fitness industry. It’s been around for over 20 years and has become one of the most studied supplements in exercise science. However, there seems to be a fair amount of misinformation and mystery that still surrounds the supplement. Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions about the function of creatine, it’s safety and efficacy, as well as proper dosages for athletes. The purpose of today’s article is to answer some of these common questions and provide you with enough information to decide whether or not creatine should be part of your supplement regimen.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is an organic compound that is produced from three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.

Creatine serves as an essential part of the ATP-CP energy system, also known as the phosphagen system. This system is responsible for powering short duration, high-intensity movements such as weightlifting, sprinting, and jumping. Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) is broken down to release energy resulting in adenosine di-phosphate (ADP). At the cellular level, creatine is used to regenerate ADP into ATP resulting in delayed fatigue and improved exercise performance [2,3,4].

Why Should I Take It?

Creatine is produced by your body in small amounts [1,2]. It is also found in some animal-based protein sources such as red meat. The amount produced by your body and obtainable through food is quite low, which is why supplementation can be effective. Some research suggests that vegetarian and vegan athletes can greatly benefit from creatine supplementation because of dietary deficiencies [1].

Numerous studies have found that creatine supplementation results in improved body composition, increased strength, and faster sprint performance [2,3,4]. As a result, creatine tends to be popular with football players, bodybuilders, strength athletes, as well as track and field athletes. Creatine has also been found to attenuate core temperature and heart rate in trained endurance athletes [5].

Does Creatine Cause Muscle Cramps?

One of the common myths surrounding creatine is the idea that it increases risk of muscle cramps or injuries. Multiple studies have found that this is not true [10, 11]. In fact, a study on Division I football players found that creatine may actually reduce cramping and injuries [12]. Other research has also found that creatine can be useful for reducing muscle cramps in medical applications [13]

Is Creatine Bad For Your Kidneys?

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys. This is likely due to confusion between creatine and creatinine, a metabolic byproduct. Multiple studies have found that creatine is perfectly safe with no negative changes in renal biomarkers, such as blood urea nitrogen and glomerular filtration rate [7,8]. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that creatine had no negative impact on markers of kidney function [9]. Long-term studies on athletes have also found that creatine does not cause any harm to the liver or kidneys [14,15].

Is Creatine A Steroid?

While creatine is capable of improving athletic performance, it is not a performance-enhancing drug or anabolic steroid.

Is Creatine Recommended For Female Athletes?

Creatine has been found to have positive effects in both male and female athletes. Deciding whether or not you should take creatine has less to do with your gender and more to do with your goals. If you are trying to improve your strength, power, and body composition, creatine is certainly worth considering.

Which Form of Creatine Is The Best (Monohydrate, Ethyl Ester, HCL, etc.)?

Creatine monohydrate still appears to be the best for results. It also happens to be the least expensive version as well. Some research has found that some of the fancy, buffered forms of creatine actually don’t result in any increase of creatine content in muscle tissue [6].

How Do I Take Creatine?

Most research suggests 3-5 grams a day, though some studies uses doses as high as 20 grams a day with positive results. Research has also found that taking creatine post-workout appears to produce better results [16]. Some experts suggest a “loading phase” of 20 grams a day for 5-10 days and then reducing the dosage to 5 grams daily. My advice would be to add 5 grams of creatine monohydrate to your post-workout drinks without the loading phase.

Is There A Brand You Recommend?

I like Optimum Nutrition’s Unflavored Creatine. It mixes well and doesn’t cause any GI distress. Also, it’s very affordable at 15 cents per 5 gram serving. Click here to purchase from Amazon.

Based on current research and my own experience as a coach, creatine is a safe and effective supplement for athletes. If your goals involve increasing strength, improving body composition, or sprinting faster, creatine is certainly worth considering. It also has the added benefits of reducing muscle cramps and attenuating core temperature which can be especially beneficial for CrossFit athletes.

Still have a question about creatine? Feel free to post it here on the blog or on our Facebook page. I’ll either answer your question directly or in a future post.

Article from

1. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G, Candow DG, Mahoney D, Tarnopolsky M. Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Nov;35(11):1946-55.

2. Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Grindstaff P, Plisk S, Reinardy J, Cantler E, Almada AL. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 1998, 30(1):73-82.

3. Becque MD, Lochmann JD, Melrose DR. Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Mar;32(3):654-8.

4. Souza-Junior et al. Strength and hypertrophy responses to constant

and decreasing rest intervals in trained men using creatine supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

2011, 8:17.

5. Beis, Lukas Y., et al. The effects of creatine and glycerol hyperhydration on running economy in well trained endurance runners. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 8.1 (2011): 24.

6. Jagim A R, et al. A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:43.

7. Groeneveld GJ, et al. Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. 2005 May;26(4):307-13.

8. Gualano B, Ferreira DC, Sapienza MT, Seguro AC, Lancha AH Jr. Effect of short-term high-dose creatine supplementation on measured GFR in a young man with a single kidney. Am J Kidney Dis. 2010 Mar;55(3):e7-9. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2009.10.053. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

9. Gualano B, Ugrinowitsch C, Novaes RB, Artioli GG, Shimizu MH, Seguro AC, Harris RC, Lancha AH Jr. Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 May;103(1):33-40. doi: 10.1007/s00421-007-0669-3. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

10. Greenwood, Michael, et al. Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury. Molecular and cellular biochemistry 244.1-2 (2003): 83-88.

11. Dalbo, Vincent James, et al. Putting the myth of creatine supplementation leading to muscle cramps and dehydration to rest. British journal of sports medicine (2008).

12. Greenwood, Michael, et al. Cramping and injury incidence in collegiate football players are reduced by creatine supplementation. Journal of athletic training 38.3 (2003): 216.

13. Chang, Chiz‐Tzung, et al. Creatine monohydrate treatment alleviates muscle cramps associated with haemodialysis. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation 17.11 (2002): 1978-1981.

14. Poortmans JR, Francaux M. Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Aug;31(8):1108-10.

15. Mayhew DL, Mayhew JL, Ware JS. Effects of long-term creatine supplementation on liver and kidney functions in American college football players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002 Dec;12(4):453-60.

16. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013,10:36.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The 8 Supplements I Highly Recommend

I hope you are having a great day. Proper nutrition and supplementation is vital in my mind so I've detailed below my top 8 supplements I recommend.

But before that I just wanted to remind you about our Christmas Party that's coming happening on Saturday Nov. 22, 2014 at 6pm at the gym. All members and their guests are welcome. I have created a Facebook invite for it so please RSVP through that or email me back letting me know you are coming. I've copy the link below. The cost is $10 per person (kids 10 years old and under come free). No need to bring anything other than your beautiful self as the event is being catered by Michelle Kirk and her catering company, MK caterin. Friends and family are more than welcome to join you as well. Please do not wear your workout gear. It'll be nice to see everyone dressed up and looking sharp. No need to worry as there will be no WOD scheduled ;)

Christmas Party Event link:

1) Krill Oil/Omega-3s
Years ago, the ratio of pro-inflammatory (bad) Omega 6 to anti-inflammatory (good and healthful) Omega 3 was close to 1:1 in one's diet. Unfortunately, most of us with a SAD (Standard American Diet) get way too much Omega 6 and way too little Omega 3, and that unhealthy ratio tends to keep many of us in a constant state of systemic inflammation. Since Omega 3 oils are found in fewer and fewer modern foods (fish being one of the few, but fresh fish also being impractical to eat regularly due to heavy-metal content) the single easiest way to overcome this serious deficit and rebalance your Omegas is to take highly purified Omega 3 supplements, preferably krill oil.

Click this link and check out the infographic that compares fish oil vs. krill oil.

Benefits include: boosts heart health, a powerful antioxidant, a strong anti-inflammatory, boots immune system, improves joint lubrication, encourages a healthy liver, eases PMS symptoms, maintains healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, improves brain health and much more.

Suggested Use: Take 1000-2000 mg per day.

2) Multivitamin
The way I look at a multivitamin is it fills in the holes in your diet where you are missing things. It's like an insurance policy, it has your back just in case something happens, i.e. your diet sucks. Look for one that is whole foods based.

Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule per day (depending on brand)

3) Vitamin D3
Research suggests that up to 85% of people could be deficient in vitamin D without knowing it...leaving them with less-than-optimal health. Because current scientific research suggests that all cells and tissues in your body have vitamin D receptors - and further concludes that every cell and tissue needs vitamin D for its well-being. Not only that, but vitamin D is responsible for the regulation of over 2,000 genes in your body!

Suggested Use: Take 4-5000 IU per day.

4) Magnesium Bisglycinate
Magnesium bisglycinate is an essential mineral needed for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. This mineral is required for the formation of healthy bones and teeth, protein and fatty acid formation, activating B vitamins, supporting muscle activity, nerve transmission, relaxing blood vessels, clotting blood, temperature regulation and ensuring intestinal mobility also called bowel movements. Magnesium bisglycinate is the only magnesium shown to cross the blood brain barrier which makes it an excellent choice for aiding those with depression and/or anxiety, or migraine headaches.

Suggested Use: Take 350-500 mg per day.

5) Vitamin K2
Benefits include: helps move calcium into the proper areas in the body, such as your bones and teeth and removes calcium from areas where it shouldn't be, such as your arteries and soft tissues. It's essential to take when taking vitamin D3.

Suggested Use: Take 120-240 mcg per day.

6) Protandim
Protandim, the Nrf2 Synergizer, has been shown to reduce Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances or TBARS value, by an average of 40% in 30 days. TBARS are used to measure free radical activity and oxidative lipid peroxidation, which measures cell damage caused by free radicals. When Nrf2 is activated, it induces the body's natural antioxidant defenses to help repel free radicals a million times better than vitamin C. In fact our own natural antioxidants that our bodies produce neutralize free radicals at a ratio of 1 million to 1 antioxidant every second whereas other antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E for instance do so at a ratio of 1 to 1.

Check out this video to learn more:

Suggested Use: 1 tablet per day.
Available from us directly or at

7) Post Workout Shake
After every workout I recommend taking a shake of whey protein powder and a fast acting carb that's low in fructose such as apricots, figs, kiwis, pineapples, rice cakes, white rice, maple syrup to help build muscle, reglycogenate (replenish glycogen stores) and recover. You may also want to add BCAAs and glutamine to enhance muscle recovery and protein synthesis.

The reason for taking a post workout shake is your muscles are starving for nutrition and your body is in a catabolic state (tissue breakdown state) so you want to get it into an anabolic state (tissue building state) as fast as you can and with the right post workout shake, you can do this.

Suggested Use: Consume within one hour after your workout.
The protein powder I use is available at

8) Probiotics
Probiotics are living, direct-fed microbials that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. They work by colonizing the intestinal tract and crowding out disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and yeasts. Several trillion bacteria live symbiotically in our gut today albeit not all are good and depending on which of the two is winning the flora war, your health will be determined.

Being stressed, getting sick, taking antibiotics, eating certain processed foods all support the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast forms while choking out the healthy flora. Many people whose diets include daily doses of yogurt or acidophilus are able to maintain healthy gut flora, but these sources aren’t always reliable (pasteurizing and added sugars can reduce their effectiveness), and not everyone can tolerate dairy that well. For that reason, I think it’s wise to take probiotic supplements on occasion. Not necessarily every day, since once these “seeds” have been planted in a healthy gut, they tend to multiply and flourish easily on their own. I’d certainly take extra probiotics under times of great stress or when you’ve been sick or are taking (or have just taken) a course of antibiotics.

Dramatic changes can be seen in people suffering from Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, Candida, asthma, and other allergies when probiotics are taken.

I hope these tips helped :)


Reference for #1 and 8:
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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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