Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ten Reasons Why Runners Should Include Weight Training

If you like to run and have been struggling to increase your mile pace or need a boost in short sprint speed for the final kick, strength training is the answer. Athletes in endurance sports such as swimming, cycling, rowing, or skiing cross-country will also benefit from strength training.

The right strength training program will also help you lose fat—lightness is always a benefit for runners—and prevent injury. It will also improve your endurance and can help prevent injuries. Strength training also provides protective health benefits such as better insulin sensitivity and higher antioxidant status, making it essential for all runners.

If you’re already strength training and not seeing results, it may be because you’re not doing the right kind of training—that is, there may be something wrong with your protocol such that you’re not triggering adaptations. Luckily, the research tells us what you need to do whether you run 5Ks, marathons, triathlons, or just run for fun.

Take note of a few things before we get into the ten greatest benefits of strength training:

If you’re running to lose weight, strength training is a must. You’ll see results much faster. Strength training will boost your metabolism and improve your insulin health and blood sugar levels in addition to supporting hormone response for fat burning.

Don’t be scared by the idea of heavy lifting. If you are an elite runner and you do not want to increase body weight by gaining lean mass, don’t worry. You won’t gain muscle mass from lifting. The science behind this is revealed in #4.

Recreational runners probably won’t increase body weight from training either, assuming you do a decent volume of running. With the right weight lifting program, you will lose fat. If you want to gain muscle mass, and “get big,” endurance running is probably not a good choice.

Older individuals benefit just as much as young runners from strength training. Lifting weights has been shown to lessen the gap between young and old in terms of strength and speed endurance.

This article is for runners but will apply to most endurance athletes. In some cases I present research using athletes from sports other than running such as rowers and cyclists. These are general conclusions that can be drawn from these studies and applied to most endurance sports because they are based on physiology.

Top Ten Reasons Runners Should Strength Train

1)    Get Faster
Strength training will make you faster. Whether you are a short distance runner (800 meters to a mile) or a longer distance runner (mile on up), you’ll find your pace increasing when you start strength training. Strength training will increase leg strength and improve your body’s efficiency to use energy and oxygen.

Increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently is a primary goal of endurance training, and it is measured by VO 2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake. Simply, if you can decrease the amount of oxygen needed to run at a certain speed, you’ll be able to sustain a fast pace for a longer time and likely be able to run faster overall.

A study that tested the effect of a maximal lower body strength training program on elite runners found that they improved running economy by 5 percent. Even more impressive, they increased the amount of time they could run at their maximal aerobic speed by 21.3 percent. The weight training group also did regular endurance running during the eight week training program, and researchers compared their gains in running speed and work capacity with a control group that only performed regular endurance training. The control group showed no improvements indicating that for elite endurance athletes, strength training may be the magic component to allow them to improve.

Similar studies of elite cyclists show similar performance results. In a study using Danish national team cyclists, half of the team performed a strength training program and half the team served as a control group. The maximal strength program resulted in improved performance in both a 5-minute sprint trial and a 45-minute endurance trial. The strength training group went 5 percent further in the short 5-minute time trial and 8 percent further in the 45-minute trial.

Researchers suggest increased coordination, neural drive, and strength gains all play a role in making these endurance athletes faster since none of there’s no evidence of hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle size or body weight.

Take away: Strength training will improve your pace and make you faster overall. A maximal (heavy) strength program for the lower body will produce best results.

2)    Have A Better Final Kick
A heavy lower body strength training program will make you faster because you’ll be able to generate more force when you kick off the ground. Combined with better running economy and the ability to use energy more efficiently, you’ll have a better final kick.

One reason strength training will increase your speed is that you’ll increase your proportion of type IIA muscle fibers that fatigue slowly and are able to produce speed and power. The type II fibers are the “fast-twitch” fibers and sprinters have a large concentration of them because their training triggers the development of these fibers.

Muscle fiber research is still emerging but we know that the type I and II fibers are on a continuum that include at least seven different “types,” of which type I fibers are the most aerobic and least powerful. Type IIX are the most powerful and most quickly exhausted. The interesting thing is that with training, you can shift the proportion of these fibers based on the type of training you are doing. Combining endurance exercise with strength training provides the best stimulus for the muscles and yields the most impressive results for speed and endurance.

In the study of Danish national team cyclists, researchers found that the athletes who strength trained increased the proportion of type IIA muscle fibers in the quadriceps from 26 to 35 percent and decreased type IIX fibers from 5 to 0.6 percent, a favorable shift for endurance performance.

There’s limited research into muscle fiber shifts in recreational athletes, but studies suggest that strength training will produce more favorable fiber types for speed endurance in non-elite runners as well.  There is some evidence of a small increase in muscle size, particularly type II fibers in recreational runners, but this occurs with a decrease in body fat and has not produced a substantial increase in overall body mass.

Take away: Strength training will increase your speed. You’ll have a better final kick with more fast, fatigue-resistant muscle fibers.

3)    Decrease Body Fat
Strength training will help you lose fat. The bulk of energy that is burned in the body comes from your resting metabolic rate, which is a function of the proportion of lean muscle to body fat. Body fat slows that metabolic rate and produces various substances that make you fatter, including aromatase (turns testosterone into estrogen) and adipokines (slow metabolism). Muscle and lean tissue improve metabolism instead of hurting it, meaning to be a better runner (and have a better looking body), you want more muscle and less fat.

Experienced and elite runners will know that it is hard to lose fat unless you do large amounts of high-intensity training. People often point out that elite runners are “thin” and have a low body fat percentage. This is true, and they tend to do a very large volume of running at a high intensity. For those of you who are interested in getting lean without increasing your distance or intensity, strength training can help.

For instance, in the study of Danish national team cyclists, the strength training group decreased body fat by nearly two percent and had no change in body mass after the 16-week training program. The group that only did their regular endurance training decreased body fat by 0.5 percent. Other studies have elicited more dramatic results.

A study of collegiate female soccer and volleyball players found that an intense circuit training strength program produced a decrease in body fat of an average of 5.7 percent, which is substantial for a group of elite athletes. This study was interesting because it based the intensity on heart rate rather than the amount of weight lifted. Participants in the high intensity group maintained heart rate at an average of 151 beats per minute by performing vigorous intervals in between sets. The weight lifted was 50 percent of maximal, and participants performed an average of ten repetitions per exercise. This protocol also produced increases in strength. Speed, running economy, and endurance were not tested.

Take away: Strength training will burn fat and decrease your body fat percentage making you lighter and faster.

4)    Have Better Body Composition
Strength training will enhance your overall body composition. Research shows that if you program properly, you don’t have to gain muscle mass. It’s possible to develop a protocol to get you in shape for endurance exercise and gain muscle with the right nutrition and supplementation, but that is another article for another day.

A common concern for competitive endurance athletes is gaining body mass with strength training. Even lean muscle gains have been a concern because elevated muscle mass is thought to be detrimental for optimal endurance sports where muscle forces are generated to support the body mass against gravity. This issue could be debated since gaining strength and muscle mass in the legs will certainly make you faster if your training protocol is for relative strength. But, for simplicity, I will assume that you are doing a large volume of endurance training, which means that the most you can hope to get out of your strength training program is increased speed and endurance with decreased body fat.

It’s well established that endurance exercise creates a catabolic environment that degrades muscle and bone and shifts the proportion of muscle fibers to type I. Strength training will counter this muscle degrading process and result in strength gains but the anabolic environment will be blunted. In a review of the effect of maximal strength training in elite endurance athletes, researchers Aagaard and Andersen write that “concurrent training can diminish the muscle hypertrophy that normal occurs with strength training,” but increases in performance and strength are still observed.

This is due to the increased proportion of type IIA muscle fibers, but also to an increase in different gene signaling pathways involved in muscle growth and loss, which appear to cancel each other out. Despite no growth in the cross sectional area of muscle, concurrent strength and endurance training increases the ratio of capillaries to muscle fiber area, which improves oxygen delivery and free fatty acid uptake. Greater free fatty acid uptake results in a reduced rate of glycogen breakdown, meaning that endurance athletes are using energy more efficiently, which improves performance.

Take away: Strength training is safe for athletes who don’t want to gain muscle mass. The catabolic/anabolic processes “cancel” each other out. Strength training increase fiber type proportion, neuromuscular function, and fuel utilization for better performance.

5)    Prevent Injury
Strength training will help you get rid of nagging injuries or chronic pain and help prevent future injuries. It will also help you correct structural imbalances that increase injury risk and lead to improper motor patterns. For example, the non-dominant side of the body is often weaker, which will throw your stride off, as will problems with your feet such plantar fasciitis or bunions.

Equally, muscle imbalances within each limb can cause problems for runners. For instance, the vastus medialis obliquus is a common weak link in the quad, and weak calves are thought to contribute to shin pain. Include both unilateral and bilateral leg exercises to avoid imbalances and prevent injury. Single-side training has also been shown to improve sprinters’ speed, and endurance athletes can benefit too

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed how single-leg “pitcher” squat, also called rear-foot elevated squats or bulgarian split squats, produced significant strength gains that rival those made from regular back squats. Including a training cycle of “pitcher” squats placed extra stabilization demands on the neuromuscular system since the athletes’ weight distribution was biased to one side of the body.

Additionally, forward lunges and step-ups are excellent lower body exercises that will help equalize strength and power between the legs and are excellent for runners. Take note that strength training can also decrease chronic pain and minimize aches and joint discomfort from continually pounding the pavement. Heavy strength training triggers protein synthesis in the connective tissues and will also increase bone strength.

Take away: Strength training improves structural balance and can help prevent injury and chronic pain. Feel better when you run!

6)    Strengthen Your Core With Traditional Lifts
Strength training with traditional lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and chin-ups will increase your core strength. Better core strength will help you avoid back pain and make you faster. Research shows that multi-joint movements are best to train the core musculature and improve the transfer of power from the arms to the legs.

One group of researchers recently found that core strength for running is best trained with squats and Olympic lifts, but if you don’t perform the snatch and clean and jerk; squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, and push-ups will strengthen your core.  Additionally, if the lower back, gluteals, or hamstrings are weak or imbalanced, glute-ham raises and back extensions are ideal.

Take away: The best way to build core strength for runners is to perform traditional lifts.

7)    Increase Antioxidant Levels and Decrease Oxidative Stress
Endurance training has been shown to produce a high level of oxidative stress that can lead to chronic inflammation. Strength training will counter both acute oxidative stress, and help you avoid the long-term debilitating impact of this stress.

Scientists and athletic coaches have become concerned about the negative health effects of endurance training because of the daily physical stress that it causes. The inflammatory response to intense endurance training is well documented and some coaches and athletes have attempted to counteract it by taking antioxidants. This is a good strategy since we are inundated by free radicals from our environment and poor dietary choices, but throw strength training into the mix, and you will be much better off.

A moderate to heavy strength training program has been shown to increase antioxidant status and counter oxidative stress. In #4 we looked at how strength training can counter the muscle degrading effect of endurance training, and it can minimize the inflammatory response of intense, repeated physical stress. The stress hormone cortisol is the culprit and it damages cells and tissue in the body and accelerates aging. Strength training will offset this, making you healthier, stronger, and faster.

Take away: Strength training protects runners from the repeated damage of oxidative stress by raising antioxidant levels.

8)    Better Reproductive Health
There is evidence that reproductive health suffers for both men and women from endurance training. Strength training is one strategy to prevent this. A recent study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that intense endurance exercise provokes low testosterone and diminished sex hormone levels in men, which translates into poor reproductive health and low fertility. Previous studies have found similar impaired fertility in women who perform endurance exercise, a common symptom of which is dysmenorrhea or impaired menstrual cycles.

Strength training can help because it will improve hormone levels and counter the oxidative stress from cortisol and related catabolic hormones that cause inflammation and damage to the reproductive organs. Researchers suggest there is a happy medium to reproductive health such that individuals who like to run can improve their endocrine profiles and support fertility and health with strength training. On the flip side, a sedentary lifestyle will also impair fertility, and poor health.

Take away: Strength training will improve reproductive health and fertility in men and women who run.

9)    Better Insulin Health
Insulin health refers to how sensitive your cell receptors are to the hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas in response to glucose in the blood stream. Glucose comes from carbohydrates, a large portion of many runners’ diet, making the maintenance of insulin health a high priority for runners.

You want to improve your insulin sensitivity because doing so will support a faster metabolism and better energy levels. Insulin health is a component of performance because it is involved with helping your body process energy along with speeding recovery from intense endurance training by aiding in the replenishment of glycogen stores.

If your cells are insulin resistant, you will have a slower metabolism, have poor performance, and be at risk of developing diabetes. You will also have greater amounts of oxidative stress, which damages cells, cause inflammation and accelerates aging. As mentioned in #8, oxidative stress is already a problem for runners and endurance athletes, meaning you don’t want to exacerbate the problem by causing more with high levels of insulin.

Strength training is a well known strategy for diabetes prevention and for improving insulin. A recent study in the journal Nature showed how during exercise—any time you perform muscle contractions—the body produces a hormone called irisin that will improve insulin health. With strength training, you intensely and repeatedly contract the muscles producing extreme force, thereby producing even more irisin, which in turn greatly promotes insulin sensitivity.

Take away: Strength training improves insulin health and helps you recover from running by aiding in replenishment of energy stores.

10)    Best Results With Heavy Lifts and Varied Tempo
Perform a strength training program that includes heavy lower body lifts for best results. Runners often make the mistake of performing resistance training programs that are geared toward increasing muscular endurance instead of strength. This will not make you faster.

Naturally, if you are new to strength training, you will need to develop base levels of strength, and a muscular endurance program may be appropriate. It’s necessary to achieve basic strength and flexibility in the hips and ankles so that you can properly do squats and deadlifts with good technique.

Once you’ve got the basics down, you will get the most out of your strength workouts by lifting heavy—above 80 percent of the maximal amount you can lift. The only research studies that haven’t produced gains in running pace and speed are those that used too light of a load or were for too short of a time period—less than eight weeks.

To get the most out of your strength program, perform multi-joint, ground-based lifts such as squats and deadlifts. Step-ups and lunges are also essential. Although, a more advanced technique, lifting with a varied or slow tempo will also provide benefits to runners. Tempo training, or the variation of the amount of time spent on the up and down phase of a lift, is a great way to provide a new and different stimulus to the muscles. If you feel you’ve hit a plateau or want to try something new, consider varying your tempo—it will challenge your weaknesses and make you faster and stronger.

Take away: Runners new to lifting should develop base levels of strength and flexibility. Then, it’s time to lift heavy and vary tempo to turn weaknesses into strengths.

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

Aagaard, P., Andersen J., et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Capacity and Muscle Fiber Composition in Young Top-Level Cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Vaamonde, D., Silva-Grigoletto, M., et al. Physically Active Men Show Better Semen Parameters and Hormone Values than Sedentary Men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Skoluda, N., Dettenborn, L., et al. Elevated Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Endurance Athletes. Psychoneuroendocrinology. September 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Sunde, A., Storen, O., et al. Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of strength and Conditioning Research.2010. 24(8), 2157-2165.

Phillips, S., Das, E., et al. Resistance and Aerobic Exercise Protects Against Acute Endothelial Impairment Induced by a Single Exposure to Hypertension During Exertion. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011. 110(4), 1013-1020.

Storen, O., Helgerud, J., et al. Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2008. 8(6), 1087-1095.

Davis, W., Wood, D., et al. Concurrent Training Enhances Athletes’ Strength, Muscle Endurance, and Other Measures. Journal of strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(5), 1487-1495.

Deus, A., Oliveira, C., et al. Metabolic and Cardiac Autonomic Effects of High-Intensity Resistance Training Protocol in Wistar Rats. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. November 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Bostrom, P., Wu, J., et al. A PGC1-Dependent Myokine that Drives Brown-Fat-Like Development of White Fat and Thermogenesis. Nature. January 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Reynolds, Gretchen. Exercise Hormone May Fight Obesity and Diabetes. The New York Times. 11 January 2012.

Shinkle, J., Nesser, T., et al. Effect of Core Strength on the Measure of Power in the Extremities. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. January 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Okada, T., Huxel. K., Nesser, T. Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. January 2011. 25(1), 252-261.

Wilson, J., Marin, P., et al. Concurrent Training: A Meta Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. October 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Baker, Daniel. The Effects of an In-Season of Concurrent training on the Maintenance of Maximal strength and Power in Professional and College-Aged Rugby League Football Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2001. 15(2), 172-177.

Bell, G., Syrotuik, D., et al. Effect of Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training on Skeletal Muscle Properties and Hormone Concentrations. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2000. 81, 418-427.

Aagaard, P., Andersen, J., et al. Effects of Strength Training on endurance Capacity in Top-Level Endurance Athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010. 20(Suppl 2), 39-47.

Sharrock, C., Cropper, J., Mostad, J., Johnson, M., Malone, T. A Pilot Study of Core Stability and Athletic Performance: Is There a Relationship? International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. June 2011. 6(2), 63-74.

Jones, M., Ambegoankar, J., et al. Effects of Unilateral and Bilateral Lower-Body Heavy Resistance Exercise on Muscle Activity and Testosterone Response. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Cakir-Atabek, H., Demir, S., Pinarbassili, R., Bunduz, N. Effects of Different Resistance Training Intensity on Indices of Oxidative Stress. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2010. 24(9), 2491-2498.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Strength Train To Live Longer - North Vancouver Boot Camp

Perform a strength training program to live longer and lower your risk of disease. Numerous studies have linked physical activity levels with less risk of developing a serious disease. A new study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that intense physical activity such as strength training can help us live longer because it has protective effects on body.

The study was a meta-analysis of all previous studies on the connection between physical activity and mortality rates as classified by cause of death and age at death. The analysis included more than 1.3 million individuals and identified a very strong relationship between performing regular intense vigorous exercise for a duration greater than 150 minutes a week and longevity.

The study came to a clear finding on longevity, intensity, and frequency of exercise. People live longer if they train hard four or five days a week. They appear to live longest and be healthiest if they train for at least 300 minutes a week at an intense level.

The study classified physical activity in multiple ways. For example, researchers looked at death rates in relation to how much “daily living and occupational activity” people did and found a very small health benefit from activities people did in their jobs or around the house such as gardening or cleaning. The benefit of performing daily living physical activity was greatest for women, but showed no benefit for men. Scientists don’t hypothesize why women benefited from cleaning the house and gardening, but it may be due to a lack of data on men who performed this sort of physical activity.

Moderate physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week resulted in a lower mortality risk of 10 percent over not exercising at all, while intense exercise produced a 22 percent drop in death rate. When people exercised hard for the longest time (300 minutes a week) they lived the healthiest longest lives and had a 39 percent lower risk of morality than those who did not exercise.

The takeaway from this study is that more exercise at a higher intensity is better. Be aware that “intense” or “vigorous” exercise as classified by this study as greater than 6 METs (some of the studies classified it as much higher but 6 METs was the cutoff), which is not a level that most serious strength trainees or athletes would consider very intense. For best results, perform a periodized strength training program that speaks to your goals and helps your body adapt. Training more than four days a week for at least 50 minutes is a good goal to shoot for that will provide longevity benefits.

Strength training is preferred over steady-state aerobic training (very important) because it will build muscle, may strengthen bones and connective tissue, and fights inflammation that is linked to greater disease risk. Everyone should strength train (side note: I even got my mom into it :) and in only a short time she already notices she's stronger and her left hip doesn't bother her...maybe she'll be at boot camp one day ;), but performing exercise you enjoy and will continue to do is the priority. If you prefer vigorous walking, running, cycling, swimming, or some other physical activity, do that, and you’ll live longer.

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

Samitz, G., Egger, M., et al. Domains of Physical Activity and All-Cause Mortality: Systematic Review and Dose—Response Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.  International Journal of Epidemiology. 2011. 40, 1382-1390.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lose Weight This Fall: Top Five Supplementation Tips For Optimal Body Composition

Lose fat fast by supplementing with nutrients that will help your body be a fat burning machine. Best body composition results will come if you strength train, are active on a regular basis, and round out smart eating with key supplementation. Although the supplements covered in this article will help anyone and everyone with body composition, you really need to focus fat loss around a training program and clean eating as well.

This article is the last part in a three part series of fat loss tips. Just as I mentioned in the previous articles, it’s very difficult to out-train a poor diet, and it’s impossible to out-supplement a poor diet if you don’t train.

There is no magic pill that will melt fat from your body without causing serious damage to health, but you will definitely have better fat loss results by supplementing with key nutrients. Yes, there are all kinds of unique nutrients that you may want to cycle into a well-planned diet and strength training program to cut fat, but those are not the point of this article either. This article will give you my top five supplement strategies for optimal body composition and fat loss.

The Run Down on Supplementation for Fat Loss
The point of supplementation is to help you avoid deficiencies that may arise from even the best, well planned diet. Supplementation to support fat loss is based on the desire to assist the body in the following physiological mechanisms:
1)    Help the body use the fat stores you have for fuel
2)    Increase insulin sensitivity and glucose health
3)    Elevate protein synthesis
4)    Detoxify and remove toxins
5)    Support optimal hormone levels for fat loss

Tip #1: Take Omega-3 Fish Oil
If you only take one supplement, it should probably be omega-3 fish oil unless the majority of your dietary fat intake is from omega-3 fats. Yes, you must supplement with fat to lose fat! There’s evidence that omega-3s are anabolic and will build muscle too.

Omega-3 fats are so important because all the cells in the body are made up of a double layer of fats, and the fat that makes up those layers dictates how well your metabolism will work. If the cell layers are made up of healthy omega-3 fats, they will be more sensitive to insulin. This allows the cell receptors to bind more easily, which improves energy use and fat burning. If your cells are made up of unhealthy fat, they will not bind with insulin easily, which leads to fat gain and elevated cortisol—the stress hormone.

Studies show that supplementing with omega-3s significantly increases lean mass, while decreasing body fat at the same time. Omega-3 fish oil improves the body’s testosterone-to-cortisol ratio by lowering cortisol and it turns on the fat burning genes, while turning off the lipogenic or fat storing genes. For example, one of the reasons people lose muscle mass and have poorer brain function as they age is that the gene signaling pathways that tell the body to start protein synthesis or make connections in the brain no longer “turn on” unless certain nutrients are present. Two of the most important nutrients are omega-3 fats and high-quality protein.

Research studies into omega-3 intake are few but there is evidence that even a small dose of 1.8 grams of fish oil a day for three months can increase fat burning by 22 percent, which suggests that long-term fat loss would be significant. Other studies have shown 2  to 4 kg drops in body fat from taking 3 grams a day of fish oil for three months, which although not huge, would certainly be more dramatic if paired with exercise and a careful diet.

I typically recommend taking 1 to 1.5 grams of omega-3s per percent of body fat for quick weight loss. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you would take at least 20 grams of  omega-3s a day. If you want to take a conservative approach, start with 1 to 2 grams and gradually increase. Let it be said, that I have seen the most dramatic fat loss with larger doses.

(A product that I use 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.)

Tip #2: Take a Probiotic
Take a probiotic to lose fat fast. Probiotics aid digestion and support gastrointestinal health so that the body detoxifies better. A probiotic will help you lose fat, have more energy and feel better. Probiotics are the tiny bacteria that naturally occur in the gut, but they can be easily overwhelmed by unhealthy bacteria like E. coli, chemical pollution such as heavy metals, oxidative stress, or high cortisol.

It’s very difficult to lose weight if you don’t have a healthy gut for two interrelated reasons. First, more than half of the neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to cells and hormone receptors throughout the body are made in the gastrointestinal lining. If you have unhealthy bacteria in the gut, it will negatively influence the production of neurotransmitters, leading to poor cognitive function, low mood, and low motivation. Lack of motivation and poor energy will leave you with a lack of drive to exercise and eat well. Low mood and depression can also frustrate your fat loss goals.

The second reason gut health is essential is that it will improve digestion and help you feel better. You will feel more energetic because your neurotransmitters will be firing at optimal levels, and your metabolism will be supported so that nutrients get absorbed and used by the body in an effective manner.

Probiotics are very effective at aiding the body to detoxify because increasing the amount of good microflora in your gut will significantly increase glutathione, which is the number one internal antioxidant in the body. When you have more glutathione you will be healthier, leaner, and much more resistant to chronic disease.

(A product that I personally use is HMF Forte and HMF Intensive by Genestra brand. Forte provides 10 billion colony forming units per capsule and Intensive provides 25 billion. If someone has gut issues I would recommend 2-4 weeks on Intensive, taking 2 capsules per day and then transition to Forte, taking 1-2 capsules per day indefinitely.)

Tip #3: Take BCAAs and Whey Protein
Boost protein intake throughout the day by taking branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and whey protein. Research shows that eating a large dose of high-quality protein multiple times throughout the day is associated with lower body fat percentage. For example, a recent study found that people who reached a high-quality protein “threshold” that was defined as at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) more often during the day, had less visceral belly fat and less total fat.

High-quality protein is necessary because you get more bang for your calorie buck by eating this kind of protein since it contains more EAAs per gram of protein. Greater EAA and protein intake helps maximally stimulate protein synthesis, raise metabolic rate, and make the cells more sensitive to insulin.

For the fastest, healthiest fat loss, it’s best to approach protein intake from a number of angles. First, you should eat high-quality (grass-fed) animal protein at meals because this will provide omega-3 fats and other nutrients like carnitine, creatine, and carnosine that support body composition and performance. Second, supplement with a protein such as whey after training and if your protein is lacking at meals. Third, take BCAAs during and after training to boost total amino acid intake and lose fat. Research shows that in a large study of 4429 people, those with higher BCAAs in their diets were leaner and had much less chance of being overweight than those with lower BCAA intake.

(The whey protein that I use is IsaPro by Isagenix. I will either take it plain with water or add a scoop of it to my IsaLean meal replacement to increase the protein content.  For more info on IsaPro click here. For info on Brached-Chain Amino Acids click here.)

Tip #4 Get Enough of the Big Three: Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin D
Get enough zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D—these nutrients are extremely important for fat loss and metabolism. If you are low in any one of these three, which you probably are unless you make an effort to supplement with them, your fat loss attempts will be blunted.

Adequate vitamin D in the body will increase fat burning directly, but it also suppresses the production of enzymes that cause the body to store fat. There’s evidence that higher vitamin D suppresses hunger and increases insulin sensitivity, leading people to eat less. Magnesium also makes the cell receptors more sensitive to insulin, and this mineral has been shown to be inversely linked to body fat—higher magnesium means you’ll be leaner. But the real benefit of raising your magnesium levels is on physical performance, sleep, and cardiovascular health.

Magnesium calms the nervous system and helps regulate heart function, which is why raising magnesium will help you sleep better. Research shows that raising daily magnesium intake to 500 mg can lead to less anxiety in subjects who suffer from insomnia, thereby allowing them to sleep better. An added benefit of less anxiety and better rest is less of the stress hormone cortisol, which hinders fat loss when elevated.

Zinc also plays a primary role in insulin health by improving the production of enzymes that protect the cells, and it helps detoxify inflammatory biomarkers that get in the way of metabolic function. Low zinc can cause numerous other health problems including poor brain function, cancer, and heart disease.

To ensure you get enough of the Big Three, it’s best to supplement with each nutrient separately for the following reasons:
•    Most people need to take 2,000 to 5,000 IUs of vitamin D a day to ensure their levels are above 30 ng/ml, which is a minimal healthy level. Some people will benefit more from a higher dose taken twice weekly. For best results, get your level tested and supplement accordingly.
•    It’s best to take a blend of different magnesium forms such as magnesium bound with fumarate, glycinate, taurate, and ororate. These forms are better metabolized and more effective in the body than cheaper forms such as magnesium oxide.
•    Depending on how low your zinc level is, you may be able to rely on a multi-vitamin for it, but those with abysmally low levels should supplement with zinc for a few months, and then get their levels tested because this is a nutrient that can build up to toxic levels.

Tip #5: Support Detoxification with B Vitamins and Methylated Folate
Support detoxification and fat burning by ensuring you have adequate B vitamins. Although there are a bunch of fat-burning nutrients I could recommend for the last tip—carnitine, taurine, alpha lipoic acid, green tea, coffee, fenugreek—none of those will be as beneficial if you don’t get enough B vitamins.

B vitamins are necessary to detoxify environmental toxins and excess hormones such as estrogen. People who eat a high protein-diet or take extra BCAAs increase their demand for B vitamins, which takes away from the pool needed for detox and may inhibit weight loss. Vitamin B6 is necessary for proper protein metabolism, the use of muscle glycogen for energy (critical for athletes), and the detoxification of hormones such as cortisol.

Additionally, a majority of the population is genetically predisposed to be unable to process folic acid or B9 effectively. If you have this genetic variation, you will need a methylated form of folic acid that can bypass the problem. Low B9 can lead to poor detoxification and high levels of homocysteine, which put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.

B6, B12, and B9 also promote the removal of estrogen down a pathway that is less likely to cause cancer. Effective removal of estrogen will help with fat loss because higher estrogen levels correlate with higher body fat. Plus, the enzyme aromatase, which turns testosterone to estrogen in the body, is higher if you have more body fat.

Once you have the B vitamins covered, research shows that other nutrients such as green tea, magnesium, and alpha lipoic acid are that much more effective for fat loss because the building blocks for detox are in place. Start with a B complex that includes a methylated B9 for best results.

Charles Poliquin

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

Information in brackets added by myself, Tyron.

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

Qin, L., Xun, P., Bujnowski, D., Daviglus, M., Van Horn, L., Stamler, J., He, K. Higher Branched-Chain amino Acid Intake is Associated with a Lower Prevalence of Being Overweight or Obese in Middle-Aged East Asian and Western Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 141(2), 249-254.

Soares, M., Murhadi, L., et al. Mechanistic Roles of Calcium and Vitamin D in the Regulation of Body Weight. Obesity Review. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Prasad, Ananda. Zinc Deficiency. British Medical Journal. 2003. 326, 409-410.

Ortega, R., Rodriguez, E., et al. Poor Zinc Status is Associated with Increased Risk of Insulin Resistance in Spanish Children. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012. 107, 398-404.

Nielsen, F.H. Magnesium, Inflammation, and Obesity in Chronic Disease. Nutrition Review. 2010. 68(6), 333-340.

Andreasen, A., Larsen, N., et al. Effects of Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM on Insulin Sensitivity and the Systemic Inflammatory Response in Human Subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. December 2010. 104(12), 1831-1838.

Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., et al. Regulation of Abdominal Adiposity by Probiotics (Lactobacillus Gasseri SBT2055) in Adults with Obese Tendencies in a Randomized Controlled Trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. 64, 636-643.

Noreen, E., Sass, M., Crowe, M., Pabon, V., Branauer, J., Averill, L. Effects of Supplemental Fish Oil on Resting Metabolic Rate, Body Composition, and Salivary Cortisol in Healthy Adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010. 7(31).

Smith, G., Atherton, P., Reeds, D., Mohammed, B., Rankin, D., Rennie, M., Mittendorfer, B. Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Increases the Rate of Muscle Protein Synthesis in Older Adults: a Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. 93(2), 402-412.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Women (and Men) Should Strength Train

You Won't Get Bulky. 
Remember: your bodyweight depends on the amount of calories you eat & expend. Strength training will make you gain muscle & lose fat. But you'll stay at the same bodyweight unless you start eating more.

Women have lower testosterone levels than men, roughly 10 times less than men. Muscle mass & strength depend on your testosterone levels. The only way women can get as muscular as man is by using steroids or pro-hormones. Men generally do produce enough natural testosterone (the ultimate muscle-building hormone) to get big, and most of us still have trouble building a significant amount of muscle. Just imagine how difficult it is to bulk up for a woman.

Check out this woman bodybuilder:

Brenda Smith’s killer leg workout: The closest she gets to a real movement is the lunge, but even her squats are assisted. She’s obviously not interested in learning actual athletic movements or developing real strength; she only cares about stoking that PUMP coursing through her veins.

Look at the bodybuilders’ bodies, their workouts, and their focus. Notice anything? They’re solely focusing on individual muscles to the detriment of the whole. There’s no catlike athleticism, nothing that indicates actual functional strength. Leg extension machines don’t exist in nature.

By doing strength training you will NOT look like this, do not worry:

Strength Training Benefits for Women. 
  • Less Fat. More muscles results in decreased body fat at the same bodyweight.
  • Balanced Physique. Many women are skinny in the upper body & bulky in their legs. Strength training will balance your physique.
  • Increased Bone Density. Lifting weights prevents osteoporosis.
  • Blood Circulation. Helps combat cellulites on thighs & glutes.
  • More strength. Pregnancy, holding baby, householdery,... gets easier.
  • Fun. Women really like sports, especially when they have fun while getting results.
  • Physical Activity. Whether it is strength training or something else: you need physical activity to stay "sane".
How Women Should Train. 
Same as men. Same exercises. Same sets & reps. Same programs. If your goal is toning up & losing fat, strength is your tool.

Focus on getting stronger on the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press & Pull-up such as we're doing in our classes.

Women's Results. 
The difference in testosterone levels will influence the results you'll achieve as a woman. In general:
  • Increased muscle mass. But less than a man.
  • Decreased body fat. 16% for women is the same as 10% for men.
  • Increased strength. But again less than a man.
In terms of physique, look at these women. They're athletic, in shape & not bulky. Their secret is simple: training hard, consistently & eating healthy.

10 Benefits Women Can Gain from Training with Functional Movements at High Intensity, i.e. Strength Training are:
  1. You Will Be Physically Stronger.
    Increasing your strength will make you far less dependent upon others for assistance in daily living. Chores will be easier, lifting kids, groceries and laundry will no longer push you to the max. If your maximum strength is increased, daily tasks and routine exercise will be far less likely to cause injury. Research studies conclude that even moderate weight training can increase a woman’s strength by 30 to 50 percent. Research also shows that women can develop their strength at the same rate as men.
  2. You Will Lose Body Fat.
    Studies found that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. As your lean muscle increases so does your resting metabolism, and you burn more calories all day long. Generally speaking, for each pound of muscle you gain, you burn 35 to 50 more calories each day. That can really add up.
  3. You Will Gain Strength Without Bulk.
    Researchers also found that unlike men, women typically don’t gain size from strength training, because compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy. You will, however, develop muscle tone and definition. This is a bonus.
  4. You Decrease Your Risk Of Osteoporosis.
    Research has found that weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modeling) by 13 percent in six months. This, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, can be a women’s best defense against osteoporosis.
  5. You Will Improve Your Athletic Performance.
    Over and over research concludes that strength training improves athletic ability in all but the very elite athletes. Golfers can significantly increase their driving power. Cyclists are able to continue for longer periods of time with less fatigue. Skiers improve technique and reduce injury. Whatever sport you play, strength training has been shown to improve overall performance as well as decrease the risk of injury.
  6. You Will Reduce Your Risk Of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis.
    Strength training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for the joints and helps prevent injury. A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.
  7. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease.
    Weight training can improve cardiovascular health in several ways, including lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. When cardiovascular exercise is added (like in Boot Camp!), these benefits are maximized.
  8. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes.In addition, weight training may improve the way the body processes sugar, which may reduce the risk of diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.
  9. It Is Never Too Late To Benefit.
    Women in their 70s and 80s have built up significant strength through weight training and studies show that strength improvements are possible at any age. Note, however, that a strength training professional should always supervise older participants.
  10. You Will Improve Your Attitude And Fight Depression.
    A Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling did. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program, all important factors in fighting depression.

PS. Check out our program at and receive $50 off your first month.

Mark's Daily Apple:

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