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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 31

Written on February 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

Courtesy of Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to make your nutrition strength and conditioning programs a bit more awesome.

1. Try some back extension isometric holds on the glute-ham raise.

2. Invest in a PVC dowel for your training.

Too often people break the bank to buy flashy gym equipment in their efforts to get results. Even more disappointing is the mass amounts of money gym owners spend on this equipment to lure people in. If you have visited CP before, then you probably noticed that we do just fine without a ton of flashy equipment. The truth is that you can meet all your goals with very little equipment. The missing ingredient is often YOU; the accessories don’t need to be fancy. For example, a PVC dowel will run you less than a few bucks!

So what can you do with this sucker? Take a look at this video where I will break down a sequence movements in less than three minutes that will have tremendous benefits to your health and fitness. In addition to these drills, a PVC dowel is something everyone should have at their disposal when teaching newcomers basic barbell lifts. It is a much better option (due to its weight) than starting off with an unloaded bar.

3. Consider breaking the mold when setting up intervals for fat loss.

If you ask most people how to set up rest to work intervals in a fat loss geared program, a common answer would be as follows: Beginners will need a ratio where they work less than they rest, and more advanced trainees will need the opposite. In many cases, this may be true. Surely people with longer training histories will be better conditioned. I want to challenge the norm in this scenario.

Often times, I try to see where I can pull principals from the more “Strength and Conditioning” side of the spectrum and apply them to the general population. You see, I am in a unique spot where I wear two hats: both programming for many athletes and for adult boot camp classes. There is a saying in the S&C community that goes: “It’s much easier to get someone who is fast in shape, than it is to make someone who is in shape, fast.” Without getting into too much detail, here is how we can use this concept to alter our interval set up.

Many times the general fitness trainee will not understand or have the ability to push himself. Furthermore, he won’t be capable of very high outputs. Therefore, setting up an interval scheme where the work interval is 1/3 or more of the rest interval will be less productive in my experience than something closer to even or less. Yes, you can make the argument that we would be training completely different energy systems, but I can assure you that following an inverted approach to the norm will get you better results. So how would this break down?

Beginners: Work equal or more than they rest: this way they move more, work harder, and build work capacity. Their outputs are generally low and they need a base of “conditioning.” Moving more will be more productive for fat loss at this time.

Advanced: Work less than they rest: at this point they’re capable of higher outputs and you will get better efforts each work interval when you allow them to recover. Fostering better quality work intervals will be more productive for fat loss at this time.

Intermediate: A combination of both: switch the intervals from a more “advanced” set up to a more “beginner” template during the same training session. Additionally, place an emphasis on coaching them to work harder in short work interval scenarios.

Obviously this doesn’t pan out for every population, and can’t be viewed as a rule of thumb, by any means. For those of you running group classes, or wondering how to set up your own training, this approach will work very well.

4. Try these two great eccentric-less “pulling” conditioning options.

In past posts, I have talked about the benefits of using exercise choices that are eccentric-less. They are especially useful on “off” days where you may be performing supplemental conditioning work. Unfortunately, many of the staple exercise choices (e.g., med ball throws and sled pushes) would be considered “pushes.” Here are two ways I incorporate pulling variations into my conditioning workouts while minimizing eccentric stress.

5. Use coconut butter as a binder when making low carb protein bars.

If you have attempted to make non-bake protein bars, then I know you have struggled with two big problems. One, the binders for which they call – honey, agave nectar, etc. -  for are high in carbohydrates. Two, they don’t bind well! Often, they lose their shape and mostly fall apart.

Recently, I stumbled upon a great solution. Here’s the short story. I start every day off with a short fast. When I break the fast, I tend to begin the day with a healthy fat, fish oil, greens powder, and vitamin D. For the longest time, my fat of choice was coconut oil. Lately, I have been using coconut butter instead. It tastes better, and I like the consistency. In the morning, I will warm up the jar, mix the butter and separated oil back together and place two TBSP in a tiny tupperware container. By the time I go to eat it, the butter has fully hardened, and I can pop it out of the tupperware and eat it like a piece of white chocolate (which is also awesome!). This led me to try the following and it works great!

a. Place 3TBSP of coconut butter (warm and liquified) into a “mini bread” or protein bar sized dish (you can make one from tin foil if needed).
b. Mix in a little bit of protein powder and some finely chopped nuts.
c. Place in fridge until hardened
d. Unwrap, and EAT!

It’s seriously that easy. You can add things like oats, berries, cocoa nibs, etc. The coconut butter binder works perfectly as long as you keep the bars in a cool dry place.

On a related note, if you’re looking for additional protein bar recipes, I’d strongly recommend you check out Anabolic Cooking by Dave Ruel; he has several that are fantastic.

 

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 28

Written on January 11, 2013 at 8:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of tips to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs on track.  Greg Robins took a break this week, so I’m stepping up my game and covering this installment.

1. If you always squat, try a month without squatting.

There’s an old saying in the strength and conditioning field that “the best program is the one you’re not on.” In other words, everything works, but nothing works forever.  Squats have come under a fair amount of scrutiny over the past few years as diagnoses of femoracetabular impingement have gone sky-high and we’ve encountered more and more people in the general population who simply don’t move well enough to squat in good form.  So, it makes sense to not shove a round peg in a square hole; at the very least, try to remove them from your strength training programs for a month here and there.

In these instances, I like to start the training session with an axially-loaded single leg exercise for 3-6 reps/side.  If you’re not good in single-leg stance, start on the higher side with a lighter weight. If you’re a long-time single-leg believer, though, you can really load these up:

After that, you can move on to deadlifts, barbell supine bridges/hip thrusts, or any of a number of other exercises.  The point to take away from this is that eliminated loaded squatting variations for a month here and there won’t set you back.

2. Work on the squat pattern, not just the squat.

A lot of folks struggle to squat deep because they lack the ability to posteriorly shift their center of mass sufficiently.  This is particularly common in athletes with big anterior pelvic tilts and an exaggerated lordotic curve.

If you give these athletes a counterbalance out in front of their body, though, their squat patterns “clean up” very quickly.  As such, in combination with other mobility/stability drills, I like to include drills to work on the actual squat technique both during their warm-ups and as one of the last exercises in a day’s strength training program.  Goblet squats and TRX overhead squats are two of my favorites:

3. Make muffins healthier.

My favorite meal is breakfast, and I know I’m not alone on this!  Unfortunately, once you get outside some of the traditional eggs and fruit choices, things can get unhealthy very quickly.  That’s one reason why I’m a fan of Dave Ruel’s recipe for the much healthier high protein banana and peanut butter muffins from Anabolic Cooking.  Dave has kindly agreed to let me share the recipe with you here:

Ingredients (for three muffins)
• ¾ cup oatmeal
• ¼ cup oat bran
• 1 tbsp whole wheat flour
• 6 egg whites
• ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp stevia
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
• 1 big banana
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp banana extract

Directions
1. In a blender, mix all the ingredients (except for the banana). Blend until the mix gets thick.
2. Cut the banana in thin slices or cubes. Add the banana to the mix and stir (with a spoon or a spatula)
3. Pour the mix in a muffin cooking pan, and cook at 350°F. Until cooked (about 30 minutes).

Nutrition Facts (per muffin)
Calories: 190
Protein: 17g
Carbs: 18g
Fat: 4.5g

Quick tip: you can cook a big batch and freeze the muffins, then just microwave them when needed down the road.

Anabolic Cooking is on sale for $40 off until tonight (Friday) at midnight, so I’d encourage you to check it out and enjoy the other 200+ healthy recipes Dave includes.  My wife and I cook from this e-book all the time.

4. Dominate the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill before you overhead press.

Whether your shoulders are perfectly structurally sound or not, overhead pressing can be a stressful activity for the shoulder girdle.  To that end, you want to make sure that you’re moving well before you move overhead under load.  I like to use the back-to-wall shoulder flexion “test” as a means of determining whether someone is ready to overhead press or snatch (vertical pulling is a bit different).  Set up with your back against the wall, and your heels four inches away from the wall.  Make sure your lower back is flat against the wall, and make a double chin while keeping the back of your head against the wall.  Then, go through shoulder flexion.

If you can’t get your hands to touch the wall overhead without bending the elbows, going into forward head posture, arching the back, or moving the feet away from the wall, you fail.  Also, pain during the test is a “fail,” too.  Folks will fail for all different reasons – but a big chunk of the population does fail.  Fortunately, a bit of cueing and some corrective drills – and just practicing the test – will go a long way in improving this movement quality.  Hold off on the snatches and military presses in the meantime, though.

5. Drink with a straw to get better about water intake.

I always give my wife, Anna, a hard time about how little water she drinks.  She’ll get busy at work and will simply forget to have a sip of water for 5-6 hours.  Other times, though, she just doesn’t want to drink cold water – because it’s winter in New England and she is always trying to get warm!  One quick and easy solution to the later problem is to simply drink with a straw, as water won’t contact your teeth, which are obviously very cold-sensitive.  My mother gave Anna a water bottle with a straw for Christmas, and she’s been much better about water consumption ever since.  Try it for yourself.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/8/13

Written on January 8, 2013 at 2:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

A Day at Cressey Performance – My old friend Mike Irr visited Cressey Performance a few weeks ago, and wrote up his experience after the trip.  Mike has an outstanding perspective, having been a strength and conditioning coach for two separate NBA teams before heading back to school to get his doctorate of physical therapy.

Stretching Doesn’t Work – While I think the title is very misleading on how Dean Somerset actually thinks (he’s too bright a guy to be this black and white on something), this is a great write-up on improving mobility via non-traditional means.

Anabolic Cooking – This is one of my all-time favorite resources, as my wife and I cook from recipes in this e-book all the time.  The author, Dave Ruel, has put it on sale at $40 off this week, so it warranted a mention in this week’s post.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 22

Written on October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s collection of strategies you can apply to your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs; it’s a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.

1. Clean up your overhead pressing and pulling with these exercises and cues.

Overhead pressing isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good exercise choice. In fact, vertical pressing and pulling is an important part to any balanced approach. For those of us who have lived most of our lives below the shoulders, it may play an integral part to an unbalanced approach, aiming to bring overall balance back.

Overhead pressing and pulling may become problematic when people allow themselves to move into a heavily extended posture as they perform the exercise. In some cases, the factors contributing to this may warrant the elimination of overhead work until certain mobility and stability deficits are improved upon.

For many it’s simply a question of cueing, and re-learning what “right” feels like. Try some of these exercises.

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion – engage anterior core, activate glutes, make a double chin, and don’t allow the lower back to arch (keep it flat against the wall).  Exhale fully in the top position.  Those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation will want to to get shrugged up a bit at the top, whereas those with a big upper trap substitution pattern will want to leave this cue out and focus on a bit more posterior tilting of the scapula during upward rotation.

Half-Kneeling 1-arm Landmine Press – The half-kneeling posture makes it harder to substitute lumbar extension for overhead activity, and the pressing angle serves as a nice progression to eventually getting overhead. The cues are largely the same as with the back-to-wall shoulder flexion, including the cue for those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation to get shrugged up a bit at the top.

Half-Kneeling 1-arm Lat Pulldown – You’ll generally do better with traction (pulls ball away from the socket) than approximation (forces ball back in to socket) exercises early on with overhead activity.  The cues are, again, much the same.  Notice, however, that Greg is attentive to not extending the humerus past neutral, which would create an anterior scapular tilt and cause the head of the humerus to glide forward.


 

2. Use the eccentric portion of a lift as an indicator.

We are stronger eccentrically than we are concentrically. In other words, we can lower higher weights in control than we can actually lift. For some, the difference between what they can load eccentrically, as compared to concentrically, is minimal. For others, the gap is quite large. Many refer to this difference as the “Strength Deficit.” Essentially the strength deficit is indicative of the difference between our maximal strength potential (absolute strength) and our actualized maximal strength.

With that in mind, keep a watchful eye on athletes (and yourself) during the lowering phase. Their ability (or inability) to show control in this portion is a valuable way to assess the appropriateness of the weight and exercise. I realize other factors could contribute to form breakdown on the way down or up, but in general, if you see athletes unable to lower a weight under control, it’s probably not going to look any better going up. Furthermore, if the athlete shows great control going down, but struggles on the way up, you know there is a recruitment breakdown and they are unable to realize their potential strength at this point. When you see that, address it as soon as possible! Lower the weight to where the concentric portion looks good and gradually progress the load.

Lastly, apply this concept to jumps as well. Consider teaching athletes (especially youth athletes) how to absorb and store force before sending them right into releasing it. Reversing the usual order of events, and teaching landing mechanics before jumping mechanics can effectively do this.

3. Vary soft tissue techniques for better recovery.

Many people don’t realize that the body will adapt to restorative strategies in a similar fashion to how it adapts to training. Vary how you approach your soft tissue work, by using different sized objects, changing directions between passes and modifying the sequencing.

Additionally, seek out trained professionals who can administer a number of different approaches.

4. Try meat muffins.

Meatloaf (the food, not the musician) makes everything better.  If I could eat it for every meal, I’d be a happy man. 

As with eating muffins, the absolute tastiest part is the top – but in a traditional meatloaf cooking container, the amount of “top shelf loaf” is minimized.  The solution to this, of course, is to cook your meatloaf in a muffin baking sheet.

Also, if you’re looking for a healthy meatloaf recipe, check out this great turkey meatloaf one from Dave Ruel (makes six servings):

Ingredients
• 2 lbs ground turkey
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 diced onion
• 1 tsp garlic (optional)
• 1⁄3 cup dried tomatoes
• 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
• 1 whole egg
• 1⁄2 cup parsley
• 1⁄4 cup low fat parmesan
• 1⁄4 cup skim milk
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tsp oregano

Directions
1. Cook the onion with olive oil separately
2. Mix everything together in a big bowl, add the cooked onions
3. Put the mix in a big baking pan
4. Bake at 375-400°F for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 393 calories, 46g protein, 14g carbohydrate, and 17g fat

This recipe is one of 200 awesome ones in Dave’s product, Anabolic Cooking; I’d highly recommend you check it out, as my wife and I cook from it all the time.

5. Be realistic when you write programs if you know you’ll have time constraints.

Most of us have very busy lives, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly cut into our gym time.  One of the biggest mistakes we see when folks write their own strength and conditioning programs is that they choose advanced exercises that may take a lot of time to set-up.  Take, for instance, a reverse band bench press.  In addition to requiring a lot of set-up time, it requires that you find a spotter and load/unload more plates than you’d normally use.  The same would go for a board press variation; you need a spotter, someone to hold the boards, and more weight than you’d use on a regular bench press. 

Sometimes, if you’re strapped for time you’re better off just picking an exercise on which you can fly solo, like a dumbbell bench press or push press.  You’re increasing your likelihood of adherence and, in turn, success if you know you can get in more quality work in less time.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 15

Written on August 20, 2012 at 5:14 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of random tips to make you a little more awesome with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, with contributions from Greg Robins.

1. Outsource your cooking innovation.

One of the reasons folks “cheat” on their diets is that they don’t do a good job of incorporating variety in their healthy food choices.  Unless you are one of the 1% of the population who has outstanding willpower, eating the same thing over and over again is a recipe for feeling deprived – and that can only lead to some less-than-quality time with Ben and Jerry.

If you’re someone who isn’t all that creative in the kitchen, consider allocating some funds to a cookbook that features healthy recipes.  One of my favorites, Anabolic Cooking, is actually on sale for 52% off ($40 off) this week only. 

2. Make roasted chicken breast with spinach and walnut stuffing.

Speaking of the cookbook; here’s a great recipe from it.

Ingredients:

- 4 large fresh chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (average 8oz per breast)
– 4 cups fresh spinach
– 2 tbsp of garlic
– 1/4 cup walnuts crushed
– Salt
– Fresh ground black pepper
– Olive oil (not extra virgin)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butterfly chicken breasts (cut along side and lay out flat leaving attached at one end like a book) and lay out flat on cutting board. You can pound it slightly to flatten a bit if you want.
2. Rub both sides with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Lightly wilt spinach in non-stick pan, or if using frozen just thaw.
4. Spread roasted garlic paste onto one half on inside of chicken breasts.
5. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.
6. Place spinach on top of walnuts.
7. Fold top over and place on a rack fitted inside a sheet pan or roasting pan.
8. Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes on 400. Then reduce heat to 325 and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until inside stuffing reaches 145 degrees.
9. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information (four servings)

Calories: 407
Protein: 55g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 19g

*A special thanks goes out to Anabolic Cooking author Dave Ruel for allowing me to reprint this recipe.

3. Consider using concentric-only exercises for “off-day” training.

The most stressful, and therefore demanding part of an exercise is actually the eccentric, or lowering phase. This is where the majority of muscle damage occurs, and the part that will elicit the most muscular soreness. If you’re like me, you enjoy doing some kind of physical activity on a daily basis. Some people scoff at the idea of never taking a rest, but in reality, moving is good for you, and it can be done daily. If done incorrectly, it can interfere with recovery and lead to overtraining. If done correctly, it can keep you focused and actually speed up your recovery.

While there are multiple ways to go about off day exercise correctly, one option is to use mostly eccentric-free exercise choices. As examples, think of sled pushing, dragging, and towing. Additionally you can attach handles or a suspension trainer to your sled and do rows, presses, and pull-throughs. Another option is medicine ball exercises, which can be organized into complexes and circuits, or KB and sledgehammer swings, which all have minimal eccentric stress. These modalities will get blood flow to the appropriate areas and give you a training effect that won’t leave you sore, or stimulated to an extent that mandates serious recovery time.

4. Keep track of more than your one-rep max.

The ultimate rookie mistake in strength training is going for a one-rep max too often. You rarely need to train at the 100% intensity in order to get stronger. The issue is that most people only have that number as a benchmark in their minds. Therefore, the only way they know to measure progress is to constantly test that number over. This has two major flaws.

First, they train at that intensity too often, and all too often miss repetitions, essentially training above 100%. This teaches their body to miss reps, and leaves them neurally fried and unable to perform. Second, they get impatient with their training because they don’t realize new personal records throughout the training cycle. The consequence is that their impatience leads to unscheduled, and too frequent, attempts at new one-rep personal records, bringing us back to point number one. “What gets measured, gets managed,”so make a point of keeping track of repetition maxes. Testing your 3- and 5-rep maxes, for example, are also perfectly good ways to measure progress. Actually, they are better numbers to monitor as training those intensities is more repeatable.

5. Make your home a “safe house.”

No, I am not talking about replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors, although that is certainly important. What I am referring to has to do with nutrition. Your home should be a place where you are unable to make poor nutritional choices. Discipline is a function of decision making, or making choices. Many people relate great discipline to an ability to say “yes” or “no” in response to a question – even if it comes from one’s own mind (“Should I devour that box of donuts?”).

The truth is most of us might not be disciplined enough to make great choices at the drop of a hat, but you can be disciplined enough to prepare yourself for those moments that test you. Instead of keeping unhealthy foods in your house, have the discipline to throw away excess desserts after a party, and not keep certain foods in your fridge or cabinets. You can set yourself up for success, or you can tempt yourself by continually trying to prove you have the incredible discipline to only eat these foods in moderation. You will find that when you limit the consumption of more “relaxed” foods to “outside venues,” you will be eating them with other people, and therefore are more likely to eat less of them, enjoy them more, and have them less often; these are all good things! 

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The Truth About Meal Frequency: Is Intermittent Fasting for You?

Written on March 26, 2012 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest nutrition blog comes from former Cressey Performance intern Tyler Simmons.

“It’s best to eat 5 – 7 times a day.”

“Eating every three hours fuels your metabolism.”

“If you skip meals, your body goes into ‘starvation mode,’ you gain fat, and burn muscle for energy.”

Chances are that you’ve probably heard something like the above statements if you’ve read anything about diet or exercise in the last ten years. Many of you (myself included) probably spent a lot of time preparing and eating meals, in the hopes of optimizing fat loss and better muscle gain.

What does the data really show about spacing out your meals? When I started researching the topic of meal frequency in 2010, I assumed there was ample scientific evidence to back up these nearly unanimous claims that smaller, more frequent meals were better than larger, less frequent meals. Boy, was I disappointed.

To my surprise, the scientific literature had some different things to say. My research focused on how changing meal frequency impacts two different things: 1) Metabolic Rate and 2) Weight Loss. What I found was compelling evidence that reduced meal frequency, sometimes known as Intermittent Fasting (IF), could actually help me, so I started an experiment.

In the summer of 2010 I was living in Alaska doing construction and labor, as well as doing off-season training for Track and Field (sprinting, jumping, and lifting). For years I had focused on eating every 2-3 hours, but based on my new findings, I decided to limit all omy food intake to an 8-hour window, leaving 16 hours of the day as my fasting portion.

Despite doing fasted, hard labor all day, then lifting, sprinting, and playing basketball, I managed to set records on all my lifts at the end of the summer. Not only was I stronger than ever, but I got leaner too.

Here’s pictures from before and after, about 2 months apart:

Getting lean wasn’t even my main goal; the idea that I could be free from eating every three hours without suffering negative side effects was extremely liberating. No longer was I controlled by arbitrary meal times and tupperware meals in a lunch box. During this summer, I developed the ability to go long periods of time (18-24 hours) without food, and not get tired, cranky, our mentally slow down.

So why didn’t I catabolize my muscles, drop my metabolic rate, and end up looking like skinny-fat Richard Simmons (no relation)?

The Science

The idea that eating several smaller meals is better came from a few pieces of information. The first was because of an association between greater meal frequency and reduced body weight in a couple of epidemiological studies, although this only shows a correlation, not causation. Breakfast eaters are more likely to engage in other health activities, such as exercise, which explains the relationship. In the most comprehensive review of relevant studies, the authors state that any epidemiological evidence for increased meal-frequency is extremely weak and “almost certainly represents an artefact” (1).

The second piece is related to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which is the amount of energy needed to digest and process the food you eat. Fortunately, this is dependent on total quantity of food, not on how it’s spaced, making the distinction irrelevant.

So, now we can see that the supposed benefits from increased meal frequency do not hold up to closer inspection, but why would we want to purposefully wait longer in between meals?

Originally, researchers thought Caloric Restriction (CR) was the bee’s knees. Preliminary research showed that CR slows aging, reduces oxidative damage, and reduces insulin and levels. All good, right? Unfortunately, these benefits come with some nasty trade-offs, including reduced metabolic rate, low energy levels, constant hunger, and low libido, pretty much what you would expect from chronically restricting food intake. These were not happy animals.

Recent research has shown that Intermittent Fasting or reduced meal frequency can convey many of the benefits of CR while avoiding the negative side effects. Some of these benefits include:

  • Favorable changes to blood lipids
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased markers of inflammation
  • Reduction in oxidative stress
  • Increased Growth Hormone release
  • Greater thermogenesis/elevated metabolic rate
  • Improved fat burning
  • Improved appetite control

Some of these effects may be secondary to the reduction of calories due to improved appetite control, or they may be primary effects of IF, the research is not conclusive on this yet.

One of the most interesting findings was that contrary to conventional wisdom, reduced meal frequency actually causes an increase in thermogenesis (metabolic rate), which is mediated through the increase of catecholamines (stress hormones), such as adrenaline and norepinephrine (1,2). Yep, you read that right: instead of slowing your metabolism down, it speeds it up. Catecholamines also help with the liberation of fatty acids from fat cells, making them available to be burned as energy.

That’s the “why” and the “how” for some of the effects of IF. Whatever the mechanism for it, IF seems to be effective for at least some people, myself included. But before you rush off to go start fasting 16 hours a day, here are some tips and caveats.

Important Considerations

Many people ask me if IF is good or bad, but as with most things, it depends. IF is not appropriate in certain situations. It can be good or bad, depending on who you are (your current health status/lifestyle) and what your goals are. IF is a stressor on the body; one of the primary effects is an increase in stress hormones. If you’re lacking sleep, eating low quality foods, stressed out about your job, and excessively exercising then don’t start an IF protocol. It will backfire and you will end up fat and tired!

Only experiment with an IF program if you are getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night, eating a high quality diet, appropriately recovering from exercise, and don’t have too many mental/emotional stressors.

As far as what goals this works for, common sense applies here. IF is generally best for people who are already moderately lean and are trying to get leaner. If you’re trying to put on 30 pounds of mass, don’t start IF. If you’re an athlete with a very heavy training load, don’t try IF.

For those of you who fit the criteria of goals and health status, I suggest experimenting with the 8-hour fed/16-hour fasted periods. Eat quality foods to satiation in your eating window, especially focusing on the post-training period.

Keep in mind that IF is not for everyone, but it can be a powerful tool at certain times.  Most importantly, even if IF isn’t for you, remember that you shouldn’t stress out if you miss a meal occasionally!

Additional Note/Addendum

Many readers have noted that this is similar to what Martin Berkhan does in his LeanGeans protocol. Martin Berkhan was certainly influential in the thought process behind this, and I don’t mean to take anything away from him. To be clear, LeanGains is much more complex than a 16:8 fasting:eating period. LeanGains involves calculating calorie intake, fluctuating calorie intake +20% on training day/ -20% on off days, macronutrient cycling (high carb/low carb), supplementing with BCAA’s, etc. I didn’t use any of these techniques during my ten week experiment, I just ate to satiety during an 8-hour window. Martin is a great resource for people that want to learn more, especially on the body composition side of things. His website is leangains.com.

About the Author

Tyler Simmons is the owner and head Nutrition/Strength & Conditioning Coach at Evolutionary Health Systems. He has his bachelors in Kinesiology with a focus in Exercise Science and Exercise Nutrition from Humboldt State University. A former collegiate athlete, Tyler specializes in designing training and nutrition programs for athletes of all levels, as well as general population. Learn more at EvolutionaryHealthSystems.com.

Related Posts

Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government
Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don’t Have to Gag to Eat Healthy

References

1. Bellisle, F., & McDevitt, R. (1997). Meal frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 77, 57-70.

2. Mansell, P., & Fellows, I. (1990). Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. The American Journal of Physiology, 258, 87-93.

3. Staten, M., Matthews, D., & Cryer, P. (1987). Physiological increments in epinephrine stimulate metabolic rate in humans. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, 253, 322-330.

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Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don’t Have to Gag to Eat Healthy

Written on January 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm, by Eric Cressey

One of the coolest parts of my job is that I get a lot of free stuff sent my way to review.  My staff and I go through everything that crosses my desk, but to be very candid, the overwhelming majority of it just isn’t impressive…at all.  As such, it can also be one of the most frustrating parts of my job.

Fortunately, though, there are exceptions to this trend; I also get some outstanding stuff sent my way, and that’s the stuff that I share in this blog for the benefit of my readers.  One such example was Metabolic Cooking from Dave Ruel.  This is a healthy cookbook that absolutely blew me (and my wife, Anna, the ultimate judge) away.  If you’re interested, you can read my review of it here.  While this blog was posted almost a year ago, I still get emails from people thanking me for recommending it.  And, Anna and I utilize these recipes all the time.

More specific to today’s post, though, is that Dave just put it’s “sister product,” Anabolic Cooking, on sale for $40 off (more than half off) for this week only.

This e-book has over 200 recipes from a variety of categories: breakfast, chicken/poultry, beef/pork, seafood, salads/soups/sides, snacks/bars, and desserts.  It comes in an easy-to-navigate format, and all the recipes utilize ingredients that you can buy conveniently at any grocery store. And, of course, because it’s all about creating health food options, the nutrition information is presented for each recipe.

What excites me above all else, though, is it has a meatloaf recipe!

 

With Dave’s permission, I’ve reprinted the healthy meatloaf recipe below. I’ve already made it dozens of times, and it’s fantastic.

Dave’s Famous Turkey Meatloaf

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients
• 2 lbs ground turkey
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 diced onion
• 1 tsp garlic (optional)
• 1⁄3 cup dried tomatoes
• 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
• 1 whole egg
• 1⁄2 cup parsley
• 1⁄4 cup low fat parmesan
• 1⁄4 cup skim milk
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tsp oregano

Directions

1. Cook the onion with olive oil separately
2. Mix everything together in a big bowl, add the cooked onions
3. Put the mix in a big baking pan
4. Bake at 375-400°F for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
393 Calories
46g Protein
14g Carbohydrate
17g Fat

For 200 healthy recipes along these lines, I’d encourage you to check out Anabolic Cooking while it’s on sale at this great price.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll use it a ton.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Get Strong, and Laugh a Little – Installment 2

Written on March 2, 2011 at 7:48 am, by Eric Cressey

Time to learn and laugh – and hopefully lose fat and gain muscle in the process.

1. Here’s a great study that shows that scapular dyskinesis in swimmers is magnified as training duration increases.  I think that we all assume that you either have a scapular dyskinesis or you don’t – but the truth is that you may not have it at rest, but it can kick in with activity as you fatigue.  This is often why pitchers’ mechanics change (e.g., elbow drops) as they get tired later in an outing.

It’s a perfect example of how managing a pitcher – building up throwing volumes, charting pitch counts, and preparing the body – is much more important in terms of long term health than simply teaching pitching mechanics.  A pitcher might have great mechanics in a 15-30 pitch bullpen, but that can change dramatically if he is asked to extend his pitch count.

2. I woke up this morning to an email from two CP pro guys, Matt Kramer (Red Sox) and Chad Rodgers (Braves), and it included this video thank you/tribute from the off-season.  Not a bad supplemental skill set for a couple of guys who throw 95mph!

3. My wife and I have been doing more and more cooking from Dave Ruel’s Anabolic Cooking.  He’s got a ton of great (and healthy) recipes in this cookbook that have been a nice change of pace for us, as we seemed to have gotten in a rut when things got busy and we just kept preparing what was quick, easy, and familiar.  I’ll write up a thorough review of the product sometime soon, but for now, you can find out more information HERE.

4. On Monday, my wife and I returned from four days in Iceland.  It was an awesome trip; people there are so hospitable and we were treated fantastically.  I could go on and on about our experiences there, but a travel guide could tell you much more than I ever could – so I’ll just make an interesting observation…

On average, Icelandic folks live two years longer than those in the U.S.  This is in a country that a) gets far less vitamin D due to minimal sunlight and b) has very few resources when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables because almost the entire country is lava fields.  What do they have that we don’t? Portion control at meal time.

Speaking of meal time, I ate whale blubber, rotten shark, and ram’s testicle.  Not surprisingly, none of them were very good.

5. I saw this advertisement with Mick Jagger on it in a clothing store at a Reykjavik mall and just had to snap a picture.  Apparently, Jagger has 20-inch biceps in Iceland.

This was definitely one of the better Photoshop jobs that I’ve seen.  They really made it believable.  The only thing missing from the picture is the purple unicorn that Mick rode to the show.

6. My buddy John Romaniello was on Good Morning America the other day.  I was hoping he’d talk about the time that we ate moose meat sloppy joes together, but instead he talked about fat loss.  I think the sloppy joe story would have come out better, but his appearance still went pretty well.  Check him out.

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