Ask me your fitness questions

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tvenuto
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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:02 pm

Skidoosh wrote:Really good stuff. I'm 43 and am able to be pretty active in running during the summer but I find myself gaining weight during winter. I don't have gym access or much room for exercise other than dumbells. I am loosing muscle and gaining fat. I need a very simple bodyweight workout that may include pull ups and dumbells to lean out and help my sanity too! Thanks
Pull-ups are awesome, do those as often as you can. Try this though:

Burpee

If you can average 1 burpee every 3 seconds you can do 100 burpees in 5min. Start out by doing a set of 10 in 30sec, and rest as long as you need to between sets so you can still do 10 in 30sec. Work up to 5 sets of that. Then, start to time the rest between, maybe 2min at first, then 90s, then 1min. After that, start doing sets of 15 in 45sec and follow the same process. Then 20 in 1min and so on, until you're doing more than 100 burpees in a session (split into sets, like 5 sets of 25 each performed in 1:15). After you can maintain in relatively long sets, it's time to give 100 burpees a shot.

I'm not sure if we'll be able to describe you as sane if you're able to complete 100 burpees in 5min, but we definitely won't be able to describe you as fat.

Edit: And don't let the straightforward nature of my post fool you, this is very hard to do! However don't judge success on whether or not you hit the 100 in 5min, judge success on whether or not you exit winter fitter than you entered. It's about the process!
Last edited by tvenuto on Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Surfingringo » Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:45 pm

Tvenuto, your explanations are superbly written and your use of analogies as a way of putting things into laymans terms is awesome. Man, you should write a book. Not kidding even a little bit.

Edit: I'm about to find out how many burpees I can do in 5 minutes....

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:28 pm

I really appreciate you saying that, and I'm glad people seem to be finding these helpful. It's been fun for me to challenge myself to think outside of my day to day experiences and answer these unexpected questions. Let me say you never know material as well as you can until you've tried to teach it to someone. Trying to explain things succinctly has a way of forcing you to refine your thoughts on a subject, and in a way teaching is its own form of learning. These have been good questions too, and I've had fun answering them.

You WILL be cursing me, but I've found the "external tormenter" to be quite valuable in the fitness realm. You're not doing this to yourself, that crazy internet guy is making you do it.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Donut » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:16 pm

tvenuto wrote:
Donut wrote:Is your rotator cuff a muscle?
It's a whole complex of muscles. Rotator cuff.

Image
I'm an active weight lifter. I was working in with a couple guys in my gym... they were doing standing dumbell curls. I'm kind of strict to the point where I will try to do almost everything a more difficult way. So, I was rotating the dumbell in at the top trying to squeeze as much as I can.

The one guy, who happens to be the most built guy in the gym, says, "Look at that rotator cuff!"


I looked up info and got similar to what you're showing, but it's not like I could spot if someone had a built rotator cuff or not.
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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Surfingringo » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:50 pm

Well, the first minute went well...filled with 25 well executed burpees! It slowed right down after that and ground to a hault before hitting fifty. :-(. They start getting difficult fast don't they?? Haha

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:54 pm

Donut wrote:The one guy, who happens to be the most built guy in the gym, says, "Look at that rotator cuff!"
It has been my experience, at your standard gym, you hear and see some pretty silly things. #broscience

Now you can say: "Ah thanks bro, I've been really wailing on my supraspinatus." I am NOT responsible for the resulting conversation.

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Last edited by tvenuto on Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:55 pm

Surfingringo wrote:Well, the first minute went well...filled with 25 well executed burpees! It slowed right down after that and ground to a hault before hitting fifty. :-(. They start getting difficult fast don't they?? Haha
You're darn right they do. A very good first effort regardless!

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Surfingringo » Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:14 pm

tvenuto wrote:
Surfingringo wrote:Well, the first minute went well...filled with 25 well executed burpees! It slowed right down after that and ground to a hault before hitting fifty. :-(. They start getting difficult fast don't they?? Haha
You're darn right they do. A very good first effort regardless!
Mmm...I'm pretty sure I can knock out 100 in 5 minutes if I trained up for a few weeks. Just not sure I care enough. Now if someone were to imply that I'm too old and that 100 is not realistic...Bah, who am I kidding?! I'll report back in when its done. :rolleyes:

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:08 pm

Enkidude wrote:I have a few questions.

#1. What are your thoughts on artificial sweeteners/zero calorie sweeteners?
Good question! I view them as maybe slightly better than the alternative, but in general these things are to be avoided. If you're used to swilling 2 liters of soda per day, switching to diet might be a step in the right direction, but if you stop there, I don't really think you've improved all that much.

First, I hope I've impressed upon everyone that how healthy you are, and whether or not you gain or lose weight is far more than purely the # of calories you eat versus burn. Carbs, in general, stimulate the release of insulin which is a storage hormone. It comes as a surprise to many that your body does not want to have sugar in the blood over a certain level, and it gets it out of your blood one way or another. It either: stores it in your muscles which have depleted their stores due to physical activity, stores it in your liver (for later distribution around the body), or stores it as fat. Once again, all of this is incredibly oversimplified but we're staying in the realm of the practical.

***Now I don't want people to fear carbs and insulin as evil. They are not. To survive you must store energy sometimes and release it at other times. However it's the sad fact that due to our Modern American Diets, many people are in the storage state almost constantly.***

The reason I went into all of that, is that your tongue is not there purely for your enjoyment (take that however you like)! It has a job to do, and part of that is detecting carbohydrates in food, and communicating to your body what the necessary response is going to be. Kind of like stealing signs as a batter. You eat some carbs, your tongue senses this in advance, and your pancreas queues up the correct amount of insulin even before these things hit your gut (intestines, where things are actually absorbed). Your blood sugar stays even and all is well. But then you drink some diet soda, and the system gets confused, you release insulin but there's not any carbs to store (study 1, study 2, study 3). Blood sugar drops, and you may actually start to crave carbs (or at least more sweet taste). After a while, your body says, "screw it" and may not release any insulin in response to a sweet taste. But this time, you actually did eat carbs, and your blood sugar spikes because a little insulin wasn't waiting to usher it to the right places. Now the body goes into crisis mode, and throws out a buttload of insulin, which stores the sugar but then your blood sugar is too low, and you crave carbs once again. In short, the use of artificial sweeteners has the potential to wreck the way your body deals with maintaining blood chemistry levels.

So, if you drink a little diet soda with a meal you're probably minimizing these effects and you won't die. However, if you walk around with one of those beer helmets drinking diet soda constantly, I would say you're playing with your endocrine system in a detrimental way. Also, I would ask: what's the need for that extremely sweet taste constantly? I mean, for you, not in general. I'd examine that if I felt a constant need to sub artificial sweeteners for sugar.

As an interesting aside, your body has really prioritized the proper control of insulin. This study looked at how we view food (visually) in the presence or absence of insulin. In healthy subjects insulin changed how the subjects responded to mere pictures of food. In the obese subjects, it did not, indicating that obese people have somehow broken a link between how we view food and our current hormonal state (or that the absence of this link was a contributing factor to their obesity).
Enkidude wrote:#2. What are your thoughts on Thermogenics?
Ask gringo if he felt like he needed some thermogenics after 50 burpees. Probably more like an ice bucket! I'm only somewhat being sarcastic. In general, I have no idea what this stuff does. I mean, I know it's intended to stimulate your metabolism for the purposes of fat loss, but beyond that I don't know how exactly it's doing that or if it's actually effective. I know ephedra was popular in this role for a while and now you can't buy it, and that's saying something in America! Again see above note about how many calories you burn not being the panacea of fitness.

Some subs for thermogenics (not claiming these are any less likely to make you have a heart attack):
1. Work up to a 1 rep max squat. Take 50% of this and do 20 squats without racking the bar (tell Jesus I said hello). Next week, add 10# and do it again. Repeat as long as your courage holds.
2. Using a weight that's relatively difficult for 8, do 8 squats/lunges/deadlifts, drop the bar and run at a full sprint for 200m. Rest 3-5min, and repeat for 3-5 sets. These were invented by a gold medal Russian thrower named Sergey Litvinov, he used to do it with 8 front squats at 405#, and run 400m in 1:15. He was under 200lb btw.
4. Find a concept 2 rowing machine, warm up thoroughly (make sure you can row properly), and row 500m as fast as you possibly can.
3. Set a clock to beep every minute, in the first minute, do 1 burpee, in the second minute, do 2 burpees, continuing in this fashion until you're unable to do the prescribed number of burpees within the minute. This works with a variety of exercises, preferably full body ones.
Enkidude wrote: #3. Do you think body weight exercises (and a healthy diet) are sufficient for building lean muscle and weight loss?

Thank you for your time and generosity. I've really enjoyed this thread so far!
I've let this go for a while, but just a general note that all muscle is lean. The only thing that's not lean is fat. Organs, bone, tendons, muscle: all lean tissue. I know "lean muscle" just a saying, but it sort of implies the risk of accidentally building fatty muscle. On a related note, there are no "bulky" muscles versus "long lean" muscles. As long as you go through the full range of motion, the muscle will stay as long as the bones/insertions that support it, and if you don't go through the full range of motion, the thing that limits your flexibility won't be the muscle "belly" itself (the part that does the work).

Anyway, the short answer is: yes. The long answer is: it depends. Also, weight loss taken to its extreme end point is death, so again, I think we're more accurately talking about improving body composition: gain muscle+lose fat. If you are 6' 225, and can't do a pull-up, these things are probably sufficient to make you gain muscle and lose fat all at the same time. However, the more muscle you gain, and the less fat you have on you in general, the harder your body is going to resist building "engine" while scrapping "fuel tank" (remember fat as fuel tank concept from previous post). At some point you may have to choose: be bigger and stronger, or smaller and leaner, but this is true about any form of exercise. I'm just trying to impress that current state is a big factor.

Secondly, you're really going to have to take care to make your workout program progressive to continue driving adaptation (improvements/change). If you're using barbell movements this is easy: do same movement, add reps, sets, or weight. Clearly we can't choose the load with bodyweight movements, so you're going to have to find some other way to make the load/challenge progressive. Obviously, people in the olympics do the iron cross, and they probably didn't walk in the first day knowing how to do that, so someone has worked on sound progressions for many gymnastics movements. I must admit that my gymnastics coaching is not stellar, it's not my background and my ability is low (relative to my other athletic ability). However, the good ole internet has resources! Gymnastics bodies is one I know of, but I really haven't looked much into their program. What I do know is that they claim exactly what you ask: that you can get ripped using bodyweight movements. Another good resource that I do use is Gymnastics WOD (Workout Of the Day), he posts a daily workout, but the real gem here is his progression videos, where he takes you from easy->hard on a lot of different gymnastic movements.

You're quite welcome! It's probably hard to believe, but I'm having as much if not more fun answering these questions as you are asking them. Keep em coming folks.
Last edited by tvenuto on Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:12 pm

Surfingringo wrote:Mmm...I'm pretty sure I can knock out 100 in 5 minutes if I trained up for a few weeks. Just not sure I care enough. Now if someone were to imply that I'm too old and that 100 is not realistic...Bah, who am I kidding?! I'll report back in when its done. :rolleyes:
This thread went to a good place.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Donut » Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:21 pm

I've been in the gym long enough to see and hear some really weird things. Even from the guys who know what they're talking about, they'll say something stupid. Even me, half the things you might ask me about... I won't know all the proper terms or I will have things that don't concern me.

You know, a while back, my Endocrinologist suggested that insulin was anabolic and could be used to replace steroids. (I'm not sure how accurate that is.)
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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:07 pm

Donut wrote:You know, a while back, my Endocrinologist suggested that insulin was anabolic and could be used to replace steroids. (I'm not sure how accurate that is.)
Absolutely, and it's used by bodybuilders for that purpose. Remember that catabolic just means breaking down for energy, and anabolic just means using energy to build, which is precisely what insulin does: tell your cells to store. When all I cared about was absolute strength, I was eating a silly amount of food. Like a my-friends-and-family-are-considering-having-a-food-intervention-on-me amount of food. Like you-open-up-your-takeout-lunch-order-and-find-4-forks amount of food, because I ALWAYS wanted to be anabolic. I was letting my own internal insulin do the work, though.

Insulin is part of the reason that "geared" (read: using exogenous hormone supplementation) bodybuilders can grow so massive and yet still be incredibly lean. They get to giggy with their hormones to circumvent the "this size engine needs this size fuel tank" rule that a normal human endocrine system imposes on us. Because they aren't eating very many carbs, but still need their bodies to uptake energy to build muscle, they have to actually inject the insulin that their body isn't releasing. This, of course, has consequences, one being that they gain visceral (intra-organ) fat, which is one of the reasons they look like they have a "gut" of abs.

*It's worth noting here that carbs are not the only thing that causes insulin release, they're just the most common thing. Many things can be insulinogenic (stimulating insulin release), even protein. In fact, one of the most popular "post workout" proteins is insulinogenic: whey protein (study). This is useful post workout because you want your body to rapidly replace and increase the muscle and tissue that was damaged in the workout, and one of the reasons that whey has a well deserved reputation for aiding recovery. But, you'd be correct in assuming that drinking a ton of whey protein and not working out could actually make you gain fat, even though you've replaced carbs with protein. This is analogous to drinking gatorade at halftime versus drinking it at your desk. Timing and context are everything.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby DRKBC » Fri Jan 16, 2015 6:52 pm

Thanks Tvenuto!

I started to put that to work yesterday. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I also used some of Pavel Tsatsouline tips yesterday on grip, and tensioning your abs and glutes to power out your last few reps and was impressed with the difference.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:01 pm

DRKBC wrote:Thanks Tvenuto!

I started to put that to work yesterday. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I also used some of Pavel Tsatsouline tips yesterday on grip, and tensioning your abs and glutes to power out your last few reps and was impressed with the difference.
Awesome, glad I could be of service. Pavel is legit, he's got some very useful info in his books/writings. He should have written 3 or 4 books instead of 75, but I guess I can't hate on a guy for making a buck.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Officer Gigglez » Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:25 pm

"I would say that people often confuse fitness with "weight loss.'" ****, I cannot hammer this home enough. Same goes for weight and Health. Skinny isn't necessarily healthy.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:59 pm

Officer Gigglez wrote:"I would say that people often confuse fitness with "weight loss.'" ****, I cannot hammer this home enough. Same goes for weight and Health. Skinny isn't necessarily healthy.
Absolutely, and I think we're seeing a bit of a resurgence of this kind of thinking. Women lifting weights again, "strong is the new skinny" shirts, and so on. Obviously, fashion and hollywood aren't going anywhere, but I think perceptions are shifting.

Although there is a ton of marketing hype, misinformation, and keyboard warriors out there right now, I actually think this is a really exciting time for fitness. We're starting to look at things in new ways, we have a lot of scientific/diagnostic tools available to us, and we have the rapid transfer of information and ideas via the internet. You do still have to know where to look, though. It's a bit like the knife industry, actually. There are companies out there who take advantage of customer ignorance, marketing hype, hyperbolic claims etc, and there are companies like Spyderco trying new things, really evaluating performance, and doing things the right way, not just the most profitable/marketable way. Which is the reason why many of us are here.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Donut » Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:50 am

All this experimentation seems exciting.

What do you think of all this Crossfit stuff? Some of the stuff on TV looks like people are TRYING to hurt themselves.


I still see a lot of girls that look like they think starvation = fit.
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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:20 pm

Donut wrote:All this experimentation seems exciting.

What do you think of all this Crossfit stuff?
Edit: I added some background on the relationship between CrossFit Inc and its affiliated facilities since this is not a standard model and many people may not know how it works.

Ha was waiting for this to come up. For full disclosure, I must tell you that I own a gym that is an affiliated CrossFit facility, and as such, am certified in CrossFit. The difficulty in talking about CrossFit in abstract terms is that there is no clear definition of what CrossFit (the program) is. "Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity" does not prescribe a body of movements or any standards or methods.

When you say "CrossFit" you could be referring to 3 separate things:
1. CrossFit Inc. The actual company, who affiliates refer to as "HQ." It is HQ that affiliates license the name "CrossFit" from, and it is HQ that decides the events of, and leading up to, the CrossFit Games (tm), which is what you see on TV, as well as other CrossFit branded competitions.
2. A CrossFit affiliated gym. These are gyms who's owner has been certified in CF methods (not difficult or expensive), and licenses the CF name (also not difficult or expensive). Affiliates are not a franchise, so beyond licensing the name, they decide everything that goes on in their gym, and it may or may not be like any other CF affiliated gym.
3. A person who may or may not be associated with CrossFit Inc, or a CrossFit facility, who is just doing their interpretation of CF, or is doing something that other people interpret as CF (what you most often see on youtube).

Because of all of this, what one person thinks and does in relation to "CrossFit" is may be completely different from someone else. It's also very likely that an outside observer has an incomplete picture of what CrossFit means. As I mentioned above, the barriers to entry of owning a CrossFit facility are very low, in comparison with most other fitness facilities. On the one hand, this is good, because it allows more people to actually consider coaching people and changing lives as a profession, as it did for me. On the other, the lack of controls allows anyone to go to a weekend seminar and plop down a facility with all sorts of hyperbolic claims and no actual knowledge or experience. As such, the quality in facilities and the coaching you find there varies widely.

Any coach needs to respect the simple fact that people come to them to be bossed around. People will do what we say, so we have to be careful what we tell people, as they've placed their health in our hands, even if they don't fully realize it. So, yes, there are irresponsible CrossFit coaches out there, but there are many phenomenal ones as well. CrossFit has a particular aesthetic, but I would say that any training program that takes your current state into account, has a clear picture of the goals of the training, and has training programmed commensurate with those goals is just plain responsible training, CrossFit branded or no. Some CF facilities have responsible training, some don't. Some non-CF facilities have responsible training, some don't. CrossFit Inc is not really a training program at all, they put out workouts on their website, and they program the CrossFit games, but the former is really just a teaser to get people to try things on their own, and the latter is just a single competition.

To bring it to a knife metaphor, S30V in one knife blade will have largely the same ingredients as any other S30V knife blade, and without a microscope, they'll look the same at arms length. However, the way the blade is heat treated decides how those ingredients interact to manifest certain desirable properties. One knifemaker might not heat treat at all, either to save money or because they don't know any better; they just thought S30V was awesome no matter what you did with it. Others may heat treat improperly for the tasks the knife was designed for because someone told them that was the way you do it, and they don't have the knowledge to evaluate that. Others may heat treat randomly and get lucky every once in a while. And yet others may be constantly searching for the appropriate heat treat method for as many situations as they're presented, always re-testing and never deciding that what they've done in the past is "good enough" (what spyderco calls CQI). Stamping S30V (or CrossFit) on a knife blade doesn't make it good or bad.

Although you didn't mention this I feel the need to point out that youtube videos probably aren't the best source of information. I have seen numerous "CrossFit fail montage" videos where the people depicted were not even doing CrossFit (like not even debatably). Most were merely homemade equipment failures. If you make a pull-up bar out of a closet rod dowel duct taped to the underside of your deck, it might break and you might fall on your ***, this isn't CrossFit's fault. Just search "bench press fail" and see how many youtube videos pop up. Does this make the bench press a bad exercise to do? I'm sure there is a video of a kid kicking a soccer ball off of a wall and it coming back and hitting him in the jewels, do people ask Ronaldo to explain this video in interviews?

I hope you don't take this response as defensive, I'm happy to discuss any particular questions that anyone might have about CrossFit and its good and bad aspects. A mentor of mine says: "everything has pluses, minuses, and unknowns" and CrossFit is no different in that regard. I just really feel like a general question such as you asked is difficult to answer for the reasons listed. Also, aspects of CrossFit tend to be somewhat polarizing, so I felt like heading off some standard criticisms might be a good idea, although it made this whole post rather long-winded (there's even a semi-colon!).
Donut wrote:Some of the stuff on TV looks like people are TRYING to hurt themselves.
What you see on TV are professional athletes competing for thousands of dollars in prize money and potentially millions in endorsements in the CrossFit Games. I would submit that you could say the same exact thing about any NFL game, and that is an accepted fact of that sport to the level that a player putting their body at hazard for the good of the team is universally praised. Just like you wouldn't walk out onto an NFL playing field without the proper preparation and screening (being good enough to do it in the first place), no one walks out onto the CrossFit Games field without those at this point either. What would injure or kill you on the NFL/CrossFit field does not injure or kill the athletes prepared for it. Where I guess people get confused is that CrossFit is supposed to be about "fitness." However, fitness for a particular task has nothing to do with general health, and CrossFit, the sport, is no different than other sports in this regard. I actually don't need to go as extreme as the NFL, I'm sure the injury statistics of something like high school soccer would shock you.

I don't mean to say that irresponsible coaches don't inappropriately emulate what they see from the Professional Sport CrossFit with their clients who have no interest or ability in competitive CrossFit. I'm sure some do. However, what you see from the Professional Sport CrossFit is certainly different than what goes on in my facility, where the programming is designed around the goals of and abilities of my clients. However, just like car racing technology eventually trickles down to consumer use, I believe that what's going on at high levels in athletics can definitely teach us things about your average joe. And this is partially what I meant about being an exciting time. Due to CrossFit, pushing the limits of the human body is being explored in new "modes." Instead of just how fast a human can run various distance, or jump either high or far, or lift once, we're now looking at things from a lot of different angles, which is sure to generate some insights, but more importantly, many more questions we never thought to ask.
Donut wrote:I still see a lot of girls that look like they think starvation = fit.
Yes, I would agree. As I said in a previous post: "hollywood and fashion aren't going anywhere." When some girls come into our gym, I have to ask them: "you do know that no workout program will make you taller, right?" Some girls are actually still reluctant to concede this point. The clothing industry isn't helping either. Even though a girl is happy with the way her body looks, her weight, her general feeling of high energy, her increased athletic performance, AND her mood, the fact that her favorite jeans don't fit properly anymore might really bother her. For guys it's usually pretty easy, waist+inseam. Girls have a lot more attachment/reinforcement in the realm of aesthetics, so it's no wonder it's more difficult to realign their perception in general.

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby Enkidude » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:45 am

Thanks Tvenuto!

I was using Sweet & Low in my coffee each morning to try and avoid using "real" sugar to lower my calorie count each day. On occasion I would use those new zero calorie sweeteners that you put in water to add some flavor. They use sucralose to make it sweet. After reading your response to my question about artificial sweeteners I have stopped using that stuff in my water(I didn't use it often anyway) and started using real sugar in my coffee.

A little background. Last year I lost 35lbs by changing my diet (I was doing the paleo diet) and exercising regularly. I ran and did body weight exercises. I noticed a huge improvement in many facets of my life over the course of about 5 months. I'm 5'10'' and weight 175lbs now. Once i reached that weight, it seems like i just couldn't lose any more weight though I can tell I'm still holding on to 5-10lbs in my midsection. Is the weight around my midsection visceral body fat? I'm under the impression that having fat around your organs is the worst place you can have fat, but its also the hardest to get rid of. Any suggestions?

Thank you for your time!!

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Re: Ask me your fitness questions

Postby tvenuto » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:20 pm

Enkidude wrote:Thanks Tvenuto!

I was using Sweet & Low in my coffee each morning to try and avoid using "real" sugar to lower my calorie count each day. On occasion I would use those new zero calorie sweeteners that you put in water to add some flavor. They use sucralose to make it sweet. After reading your response to my question about artificial sweeteners I have stopped using that stuff in my water(I didn't use it often anyway) and started using real sugar in my coffee.
You're welcome. I think dropping those "water flavor-ifiers" was a good move. Again, it's really about figuring out why you feel the need to taste sweet constantly. Learn to love plain ole H2O! We'll discuss the coffee and Calories in a minute.
Enkidude wrote:A little background. Last year I lost 35lbs by changing my diet (I was doing the paleo diet) and exercising regularly. I ran and did body weight exercises. I noticed a huge improvement in many facets of my life over the course of about 5 months. I'm 5'10'' and weight 175lbs now. Once i reached that weight, it seems like i just couldn't lose any more weight though I can tell I'm still holding on to 5-10lbs in my midsection.
Nice work having the motivation to make a significant life change. In a previous post I mentioned the interplay between the stressors we put our body through and the resulting homeostasis our body reaches. Something about your exercise/diet/lifestyle is telling your body that it needs to hold onto that gas tank. Also remember that the midsection (center of gravity) is the best place to carry weight for a moving organism, and this is generally the last place to lose it, so "belly fat" may or may not be indicative of any specific dysfunction.

Let deal with exercise first: Given that you've been using running and bodyweight exercises, I think it's important that you add some resistance training into the regimen. Now, as I also posted previously, this can be done with bodyweight exercises, but it's going to take more of an intricate progression to make things progressively more challenging in the rep ranges we want to operate in (5-15, broadly). I can once again recommend Poloquin's German Body Composition book for weight training, and you'll have to find some gymnastics resources if you want to go that route (Gymnastics WOD, and Gymnastics Bodies were mentioned previously).

Now let's talk about diet and lifestyle. First, I highlighted "coffee each morning" and "calorie count" above. It's clear for you that a coffee each and every day is a bit of a ritual. It's likely been this way for a while, or you would have just stopped adding sugar instead of bothering to replace it with artificial sweetener. Don't like coffee that isn't sweet? Then stop drinking it. Oh...you can't wake up without it? Hmmm..... What I'm getting at here is maybe you aren't getting enough sleep, or good quality sleep. Either of these issues will cause you to hold onto fat, and often around the midsection. It's a complicated system, but it has to do with the same mechanisms that keep you holding onto fat when doing large amounts of fat burning activity: your body wants reserve for what it perceives as stressful times. So go to bed! Try to wake up without an alarm, sleeping in the darkest possible room, and don't look at any sort of computer/phone screen for an hour prior to sleep. For more on this check out: Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. Again there's a ton of stuff we could get into on sleep quality, but I just wanted to point out that this may be a factor.

Also, you mentioned counting calories. I'm not sure if this was just an intuitive idea of how many calories you were in-taking, or if you actually do count calories. Either way, I want to introduce a concept: while you were losing weight, you were "eating" those fat calories. That's right, while you were losing weight, assuming your diet is identical right now, you were actually eating more than you are now. Crazy, I know. Also, those calories were fat calories, so your macro-nutrient ratio was different than it is now. Macro-nutrients are: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins which make up the caloric content of your food. At this point, I would be more concerned with your macro-nutrient ratios than the amount of calories you're eating. If you get a program like My Fitness Pal you can log your food for a week and look up your macro-nutrient ratio. (I know this thing advertizes itself as a "calorie counter" but we can't let their misunderstanding of what's important stop us from using an otherwise useful tool.) A good general recommendation is 40%/30%/30% fat/protein/carb, and I'd bet a significant sum that you'll find you're light on fat in favor of carbs. See what playing with your ratios does for you, and make sure you are eating enough, remember those fat stores you were feasting on previously are no longer available.
Enkidude wrote:Is the weight around my midsection visceral body fat? I'm under the impression that having fat around your organs is the worst place you can have fat, but its also the hardest to get rid of. Any suggestions?
If you can pinch the fat you're talking about, then no, it's not visceral fat. I linked a picture below that quickly shows the difference between visceral and subcutaneous fat. The "belly fat" or "love handles" most people refer to are under your skin (sub-cutaneous). If you have a huge "beer gut," but can't really pinch much fat around your belly, that would be more of an indication of visceral fat (see bottom pic). It would take quite a bit of weight gain, or some really disordered lifestyle/diet factors to gain a significant amount of visceral fat. Again, I'm no doctor, and I can't see from here, but it's unlikely that you gained a significant amount of visceral fat at a peak weight of 210 at 5'10". Your impression is correct, though, it has been postulated that visceral fat is associated with a host of other issues (study).

As for my recommendation, see above. It's probably going to take some combination of exercise, diet, and lifestyle to get you to your "ideal" body composition, and you might just need to gain a few pounds of muscle along the way. However, you're talking about the last 2.5-5%, so remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of the work is in the last 20% of the outcome.

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