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Since my piece aka rant on the biggest loser got such an overwhelmingly positive response, I decided that it wouldn't be fair just to a Monday morning quarterback.
So, instead of just criticizing I will offer my completely useless .02 as to how to tackle bad eating/lifestyle habits.


What we are seeing in America is a strange paradox: more and more healthy or diet foods are coming onto the market, yet the nations waist line keeps expanding. WTF?
One explanation is the dieters paradox, which describes a condition whereby the dieters simply focuses on details over what really matters aka calories.
Case in point: the low fat foods of the 80s. People are much more inclined to overeat a "fat free" food since they perceive it as healthy. Gummy bears are fat free....hmmm gummy bears.
So that is lesson number one; calories matter, matter much more than whatever exotic diet scheme you might have deiced to follow.
And yet, most people have a pretty good idea as to what they should do and they still fail. Why?
One reason is that people are horrible at estimating how many calories they ate. Quick poll: what did you have for lunch two days ago?
See. So on overage, people underestimating the calories they consume by 50%, while they overestimating the calories burned by 50%. Therefore, failure to lose weight is pre-programmed.
Solution: the dreaded food log. But since it is 2013, we can use one of the many good apps out there.
But even then, most dieters struggle with losing weight despite having the knowledge and the the tools. Why? It comes down to behavioral issues.
Humans are complicated animals, we do not like change. However, dieting often includes a complete lifestyle change which can be overwhelming, therefore I recommend to break it down into stages.
Phase 1
Eliminate one bad habit a week. Example : replace french fries with baked fries.
Week two: replace candy bars with quest bars. After six weeks, you should have a decent base to start a workout program. Ideally, you are only eating single ingredient foods by then.
Phase 2:
Start working out with 2x30 minutes per week, a simple full body workout will do the trick. After 4 weeks, you might bump it up to three times per week. You might have noticed that I put the eating part before working out, the reason being that most people try to out-exercise a poor diet. Impossible.
Phase 3:
Check your environment. This might be the toughest part, but if your inner circle isn't supportive of your weight loss endeavor, do they really have your best interest at hand? Changes might be needed.
So to conclude, it is important to understand that while weight loss is mainly calories in vs calories out, psychological factors  do play a critical role as well. if you happen to fall off the wagon ( as we all do), do not beat yourself up. Nobody can time travel yet, )maybe the North Koreans but I am not sure about that), so there is no point in self flagellation about past meals. Simply go back to your diet, you will be just fine.
Till next time
Maik





 
 
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Doing what I do, a lot of people ask me about what I think about the above TV show.
The last time this occurred was during my lecture at NYU. I usually then go on a 45 minute rant, which leaves people intimidated and confused. So, after some calming breathing exercises, I will try to break down my take on TBL in a somewhat more organized manner.
The premise of TBL sounds great, after all we shall help clinically obese people making a positive life change. Fantastic, let's take a look as to what really occurs.
A bunch of inactive and overweight contestants are carted off to a remote location, where they are subject to a rigorous diet and exercise program in order to win 250k $ . After several weeks hundreds of pounds are lost, people are ecstatic and have found eternal happiness. So what is not to like?
To be bold: TBL is a scam. There, I said it.
Problem 1: The trainers on TBL are less than qualified to oversee a training program (when in doubt, just watch Jilian Micheals kettle bell videos). Anna Kournikowa might be fun to look at , but she has zero background as a coach or nutritionist.
A weight loss program (involving humans, mind you) should not be misused as a career relaunch for C-list celebrities.

Problem 2: The environment is artificial, the contestants work out 4 hours a day while being on a very restrictive diet. It is essentially a POW camp. How is that sustainable once they are back in their day jobs?

Problem 3: Almost all of the contestants gain the weight back, since they lost it in an unsustainable way. In short: the time frame is too short to lose that much weight. Therefore, the metabolism gets destroyed (thyroid shut down) due to overdieting, mostly muscle is lost, all this setting the stage for a monster rebound.
We shall do the math on this one: Very often, constants lose up to 15 lbs a week. If we were to assume that all of this is all body fat, the contestant would need to rack up a caloric deficit of 60 000 calories per week or 8 700 calories per day. Now, assuming that the basic metabolic rate of most people is around 1500-2000 calories, one can conclude that there is no way to burn that many calories.
The answer: It was mainly muscle mass that was lost. Sad.

Problem 4: The show is dehumanizing. Obese people have often suffered a traumatic experience earlier in their lives and should receive the following:
1. proper therapy or counseling to find out what is triggering their food addiction.
2. coaching by people who actually do this for a living (maybe even have a certification!) and care for their clients, not just for a pay check and internet fame.
3. medical supervision by qualified individuals, who administer  blood work  in order to determine hormonal imbalances and treat those if needed.
They should NOT be paraded around like circus animals.

Problem 5: TBL makes fitness looks like a chore, like something unattainable where you have to commit 4 or more hours a day of training and only get to eat salad. Seeing this turns people off from working out, thereby laying the ground work for further unhappiness.
In order to be successful in achieving fitness, one has to take a more holistic approach and not just simply focus on pounds of lard lost.
Fitness is a beautiful and rewarding life style, and should not be milked for ratings. If you want to do a TV show on fitness, how about a myth busting show that is actually informative?
Rant end.
Maik




 
 
 
 
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With the Superbowl upon us, the media feels that we need to be entertained at all costs, even if that means to do absolutely no research anymore.
Case in point: the so-called deer antler spray scandal, supposedly involving Ray Lewis and other well-known athletes.
What is the scoop? According to several news outlets, these athletes used deer antler spray (yes, you heard that right) in order to obtain a dose of igf-1 and therefore perform better. Another PED story in professional sports, so it must be true, right?
After all it was on TV and has Homer Simpson said :TV never lies"
Let's take a closer look at all this. First off, what is igf-1 or insulin like growth factor? In short, it is a very powerful peptide hormone, consisting of a long string of amino acids.
In rats, the substance has shown to increase muscle mass (even cause hyperplasia i e the creation of new muscle cells) and to decrease adipose tissue or body fat.
But before you go out and start chewing on some random deer in order to get huge and ripped like our bushy-tailed friend in the picture, consider this: most humans do not have any rats in their family tree (what you think of your cousin has no bearing here for the moment). So what works in animals doesn't have to work for humans.
Furthermore, IGF-1 is  a very fragile substance that can not be dropped or shaken without losing its potency. It also needs to stay stored in the fridge. I highly doubt that the makers of deer antler spray follow these guidelines.
Lastly, and most importantly, IGF-1 only works via intramuscular injection, so a spray or topical cream are just a waste of money.
ESPN and others could have found all this out within a click of the mouse, but I guess the story was to tempting.
There you have it, another myth busted.
Go Ravens
Maik

 
 
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Today's post deals with the acai berry, over the last months we have seen a huge influx of acai berry shakes, powders, pills diets etc. The berry apparently does everything from burning fat (fat is oxidized not burned, by the way), better your mental state, fix the federal deficit, and build a high speed train from NYC to DC.

So the question is, what's the deal really? First of, a technicality: It's not a berry but a fruit which comes from the acai palm. The tree grows from Belize to Brazil, mainly in swamps and flood lands, the indios use it as a high calories snack (hint, hint) on hunting expeditions. High calories snack?!!! But its a super fat burner and my friend lost 85 lbs on it!!

Well, here are the numbers: 100 grams of dried acai powder delivers 533.9 calories (same a chocolate bar), 52 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, and 32 grams of fat, mostly monounsaturated. So it's certainly NOT a low calorie item and there are no proven fat-burning properties of the fruit. It simply can not work that eating a fruit would allow for massive losses in body fat. Most of the acai diets are really cleanses, so the weight loss is mostly water.

What about anti-oxidants? Not looking much better; while the acai fruit does contain anti-oxidants, the numbers are lower than blueberry juice , concord grapes or red wine. Not a bad product, but not worth the hype.

This brings me to my final point: people have been conditioned to believe that by magically adding or taking away a nutrient or macro nutrient group from their diet, they will achieve drastic results. This will NOT work; the laws of physics will always prevail. Calories matter...If you could fill your macros at McDonalds, you would get the physique you wanted (granted, it's hard).

Don't fall for these gimmicks, save your money for chicken, steak, rice, and the gym.
Maik

 

Let it begin!

08/07/2010

 
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So it is decided, Davis will try his hand at competing on Spetember 18th in NYC. The Dominican Abdominator will enter the Mr.Fitness contest as well as the Novice Bodybuilding show for the middleweights. He has been training very hard and diligently for 10 months, during that time he put on about 20 lbs of muscle. Now the time has come to cut back and enjoy cardboard chicken with lettuce.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Maik

 
 
When it comes to diet foods, I consider two things essential:
1. do they cover your nutritional needs?
2. how filling are they are?

During a diet, it is critical to consume foods that will curb your hunger for an extended period of time.

Here are my most effective diet foods:

1. Chicken breast: a lean protein that can be prepared in a variety of ways and it is easy to eat in office or on the go. An alternate would be tilapia.
2. Flank steak: red meat is often being shunned during a diet but it has its benefits. Iron, zinc, and creatine will enable you to make it through your workouts with greater intensity, further leading to greater fat loss. The fats in red meat are also critical since they are building blocks for hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, that play a crucial role in maintaining a high metabolic rate.
3. Eggs: I highly recommend eating eggs during a diet. They are a complete protein with many vitamins (D, E) and stearic acid. If your calorie count doesn't allow for many whole eggs, mix them with egg whites in a 1:2 ratio. In general, all proteins are a great hunger-suppressant so it is advisable to consume them during a diet at every meal.
4. Oats: a very filling complex carb, that is easy to prepare and even be kept at the office (just add water)
5. Brown rice: a good alternative to oatmeal. It complements most meats and will keep insulin levels stable. By doing so, the dieter will not experience any hunger pangs.
6. Nuts: it is critical to take in the right fats such as mono- and polyunsaturated. Nuts are a great and an easy way to achieve this. They also provide a certain amount of protein, which makes them an interesting choice for vegetarians. As for calorie content, granted it is high, but there is a loss of about 30% in the calories in nuts which can not be fully explained. The best available explanation is that their thermic expense is rather high during digestion.
7. Avocado: another source of good fats and a good addition to salads, omelets, etc.
8. Broccoli/lettuce/spinach/califlower: I label those free foods; due to their low caloric content, they can be consumed in unlimited quantities and they provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Plus, most of them are alkaline and will balance out the typical western diet which is more acidic.
9. Asparagus: hardly any calories, very filling and a mild diuretic. The initial water loss can be very motivating for people to stay on the diet since they already lost a couple pounds.
10: Grapefruit (whole fruit, not juice): there is some evidence that grapefruit itself is promoting fat loss but the evidence is questionable. However, grapefruits contain nargenin, which is a substance that blocks the metabolization of caffeine in the liver. Caffeine has fat burning properties which is why it is the main ingredient in many commercial fat burners. If consumed with grapefruit, one extends the active life of these products by 2-3 hours which over time sums up to greater fat loss.

In summary, the best diet is one you can stick to. If you can not stand chicken, find another lean protein. And yes, calories matter most, as there are no magic foods.
So keep cooking and training!
Maik