There Is A Reason You Can’t Lose Weight

When a medical doctor sits across from an overweight person they are frequently dismayed by their patient’s blood work, their triglycerides, their fasting glucose numbers, their elevated insulin, the doctor doesn’t understand why, despite repeated conversations, their patients is coming back year after year, only heavier. When I sit across from an overweight person, what dismays me more is that a smart, capable, determined person has been tricked into thinking less of themselves—by their own brain.

Source: http://independentfemme.com

I’m a doctor of brain and cognitive science. More than that I’m a formerly obese person. And nothing makes me madder than the myth that people are overweight because they’re lazy, or lack willpower.  When I was overweight I wanted desperately to get thin. And I can honestly say that the only thing I worked harder at was getting my PhD. Trying to control my eating took an enormous amount of my energy and resources. I threw myself into each new diet attempt, convinced that THIS time it was going to work.  I wish I’d known then what I know now: that only 1% of people actively trying to lose weight hit their goal and maintain it. 1%.  Would you start college if you only had a 1% chance of finishing? And yet millions of Americans are making just such a proposition over and over and over again, year after year, and no one thinks it’s weird.  Well, I thought it was weird. So after I got thin I turned all my academic attention to figuring out what I had done this last time that was different than anything I had ever tried before. The difference was: brain science.

The fact is that a brain hijacked by a diet high in sugar and flour blocks weight loss. It does this in three ways.

First, sugar and flour raise baseline insulin levels far past what our bodies were designed to handle. The elevated insulin not only sets us up for diabetes, but it turns out its blocking the brain from recognizing a critical hormone: leptin. Leptin is the hormone that signals to the brain that you are full and need to get moving. Without it we sit on the couch and eat and never feel full.

Second, after eating the average American amount of sugar for just three weeks, 22 teaspoons, the brain’s pleasure receptors do something called “down-regulating.” Essentially, to cope with the excessive stimulation, the brain takes some of its receptors offline. Meaning, to feel the same amount of pleasure next time, you’ll need to eat more sugar. The brain responds by turning off more receptors. And soon you have exactly the same cycle that the brain moves through to cope with drugs or alcohol. In fact the brains of obese people are frequently more down-regulated than the brains of those addicted to cocaine.  So they aren’t eating to feel good, they’re eating to try to feel normal.

Source: @Alamy stock photo

Third, willpower isn’t a dimension of your personality, something some people are born with and others simply lack. Willpower is a cognitive function and we all have about the same amount, fifteen minutes, give or take. And every day activities, like focusing at work, and keeping your patience in carpool, all deplete it. Meaning any successful diet MUST expect that your willpower will fail AT LEAST once a day and work anyway.

For the last two years I’ve been working with people around the world, helping them lose weight, but, more importantly, helping them keep it off for life. And the best part, beyond hearing that they’re off their statins and their cholesterol drugs, is hearing how their self-perception has healed.  Because when your brain overrides your best intentions time and time again you start to believe the worst about yourself. But it’s not true. Once the brain heals making those choices you want to be making becomes effortless. And your intentions and actions come into alignment.

From there you can do anything.

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester and an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neuroscience of sustainable weight loss and helping people live Happy, Thin, and Free.

How Runners Can improve Lower Leg Muscle Fitness Using the Foam Rolling Technique

Mostly suitable for runners, there is a popular exercise technique called foam rolling, which is also referred to as self-myofascial release training. It mostly involves exercise that improves the structural integrity of some of their leg muscles using a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. Even though popularly known as the foam roller for runners, the self-myofascial release tool is also used by athletes, therapists, and coaches as part of an everyday routine exercise. The technique itself involves applying pressure and massaging various parts of the fascial system, including the lower leg muscles to get rid of any stiffness and inflammation. Most professional runners do the exercise for 5-10 minutes before and after running, every 3-4 times weekly. During the exercise, the muscles are relieved of tightness and stiffness. Simply put, foam rolling is a highly important exercise technique for runners and athletes who want to improve their fitness levels, especially when it comes to lower leg muscle fitness.

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Source: http://selfcarer.com

Benefits of Foam Rollers for Runners 

The most important benefit of foam rolling for runners is that it promotes fitness levels of some of their most important muscles involved in the sport. For starters, foam rolling is known to relieve and release tightness and muscular tension from lower leg muscles and the surrounding fascia. This tightness and tension are believed to originate from repetitive physical activities such as running, resistance training, and other kinds of repetitive sports or training activities. Foam rollers are also effective in improving muscular flexibility and fascial muscle range of movement, especially when combined with dynamic stretching. The technique can also help decrease the risk of muscular injury. As pressure is applied to some specific points of the lower leg muscles, runners can benefit from the rolling exercise as it helps in quick muscle recovery and improves muscle function. This technique can help runners maintain healthy, elastic, and highly functional muscles to keep them competition-ready.

Primary Lower Leg Muscles Top Target When Foam Rolling 

When using the foam roller there are various points that runners should target in order to improve lower leg muscle fitness. Some of these fascial muscle points include the tibialis anterior, the calves, the thighs, and the gluteus muscles.

1. Tibialis Anterior

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com

The outermost part of the front of the lower leg, which originates from the shinbone is scientifically known as the Tibialis Anterior. The main function of the tibialis anterior is to pull the toes up as the ankle is flexed, during motion activities such as running or walking. In other words, the tibialis anterior muscles stabilize the ankle. To work out the tibialis anterior using the foam roller, one should start at some point near the knee downwards and do the respective reps.

2. The Calf Muscles 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

The back part of the lower leg is referred to as the calf, which is composed of two major muscle groups. These include the Soleus and the gastrocnemius calf muscle.

• Soleus Calf Muscle: This is the bigger flat muscle found in the middle of the calf, which takes care of flexing movements from the ankle joint.
• Gastrocnemius Calf Muscles: These are found slightly on the side of the calf and a responsible for effectuating forceful movements such as jumping.

To exercise the soleus calf using a foam roller, a straight motion is required. However, a slightly inclined motion is needed when exercising the gastrocnemius calf muscle using a foam roller.

3. Vastus Medialis 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

Extending to the knee, at the inner part of your front thigh, there exists a muscle known as the Vastus Medialis, which is one among the most important lower leg muscles for runners. In order to work out this muscle using a foam roller, a movement similar to a plank is required. You can also rotate the thigh gradually until you feel some pressure on the said muscle.
The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

4. Vastus Lateralis

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

5. Gluteus Muscles 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

These are also known as the glutes, comprising of the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus located in the thigh. The Gluteus are also among the most hard-working leg muscles when running or walking, even though they are barely noticed most of the times. Some people regard them as not part of the lower leg muscles. For athletes, however, these muscles also need some working out with the foam roller. To work out the glutes, you need to assume a position nearly similar to that used when working out the vastus lateralis, though your body will be required to assume a more inclined position in this case.

Emily is founder of BodyShape101.com, a blog where she and her associates talk about exercise, fitness, and yoga. Their aim is to help people like you to achieve perfect body. BodyShape101 is concentrated on exercise & fitness tips, and making the most out of it. She is also a mother of one and she tries to find balance between her passion and her biggest joy in life.

Examining the Link Between Diabetes, Autoimmunity and Heart Disease for American Heart Month

As medical science advances, we are learning more about the links between different individual diseases. In recognition of American Heart Month in February, I’d like to draw attention to some largely unknown facts about heart disease and its indirect link to autoimmune disease. In spite of pharmaceutical and technological medical advances, heart disease has continued to rank as the leading cause of death in the United States for several decades. Although we associate high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking as some of the most common factors leading to cardiovascular complications, there are actually hundreds of varying risk factors that can lead to heart disease, including an entirely different disease: diabetes.

Let’s first look at a brief but noteworthy chronological history of diabetes and its classification as an immune-mediated disease:

  • The term diabete was first recorded in an English medical text written around 1425.
  • It wasn’t until over 300 years later, in 1776, that it was confirmed diabetes was an issue of an excess amount of a certain kind of sugar (in the urine).
  • Just over 100 years later, in 1889, the role of the pancreas in diabetes was discovered.
  • Shortly after, in 1910, it was found that diabetes resulted from a lack of insulin.
  • In 1922, the first person received an insulin injection for the treatment of diabetes.
  • Types 1 and 2 diabetes were differentiated in 1936.
  • Autoimmunity was discovered in the 1950s.
  • Not until the mid 1970s was it recognized that diabetes can have an autoimmune basis.

Medical research has linked several diseases as being immune-mediated years after the original discovery of such diseases. Although this discovery was made almost 40 years ago, many people are still unaware that all types of diabetes can have an autoimmune component.

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http://diabetesweightresources.pbworks.com

Now let’s look at how diabetes is linked to heart disease. Caused by a hardening of the arteries or a blocking of the blood vessels that go to your heart, people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than those without (American Diabetes Association). In fact, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke, also classified as cardiovascular disease. Perhaps even more alarming is the threat that diabetes can cause nerve damage, sometimes making heart attacks painless or silent.

Autoimmune diabetes is caused when the body’s immune system begins attacking the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. When insulin levels are down, the amount of glucose in the blood increases over time. High blood glucose levels can damage nerves and lead to increased deposits of fatty materials on the insides of the blood vessels. Complications such as poor blood flow, decreased oxygen in the blood stream, and the clogging and hardening of blood vessels can ultimately lead to two types of cardiovascular disease: coronary artery disease, responsible for heart attacks or failure, and cerebral vascular disease, leading to strokes.

And there you have it – a three-way link between Diabetes, Autoimmune Disease and Heart Disease. So, are there preventative measures that diabetics can take to prevent heart attacks and control autoimmune reactivity? Prevention of heart attacks for diabetics is parallel to that of non-diabetics, but with one very important additional measure – monitoring and regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical lab that specializes in functional immunology and autoimmunity, offers the “Array 6” – Diabetes Autoimmune Reactivity Screen. Array 6 assists in the early detection of autoimmune processes of Type 1 Diabetes, impaired blood sugar metabolism and Metabolic Syndrome, and also monitors the effectiveness of related treatment protocols.

As is always the case, it is recommended to schedule regular visits with your medical practitioner and specialists. Proper administration of medications can be vital to prevention of heart disease. In addition to insulin injections for diabetics, there are medications to aid in regulating blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, which could all be vital to prevention of heart disease.

Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.

What’s More Important: Diet or How Much You Exercise?

You have probably wondered at some point in your life, is diet more important than exercise or does exercise trump diet. I think the question that you first need to ask yourself is: “What is your main outcome or goal?” If your answer is strictly weight loss, both diet and exercise are important but the focus placed on diet is slightly higher. If you’re looking to just maintain a healthy lifestyle then you need to consistently monitor and focus on both. Remember, you can’t manage something if you don’t measure it. Finally, if you’re someone who has lost a significant amount of weight and your goal is to maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life then both diet and exercise are your best friends.

One of the best research-based organizations that looks at these types of questions and more is the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The NWCR is the brain-child of Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University Medical School and James Hill, PhD, from the University of Colorado. The NWCR “provides information about the strategies used by successful weight loss maintainers to achieve and maintain long-term weight loss.” The NWCR is currently tracking over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and, most importantly, have kept it off for long periods of time.

NWCR members have lost an average of 72.6 pounds and maintained the loss for more than 5 years. “To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (≈1 h/day/walking), eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.”

What should help clear up this debate is the fact that only 1 percent of the huge NWCR database (>10,000 subjects) have been successful at keeping their weight off with exercise alone. About 10 percent of the subjects have been successful with weight-loss maintenance by focusing on diet alone. More than 89 percent of the subjects have been successful because of BOTH diet and exercise modifications.

Your best bet is to spend quality time at the gym a few times a week and remember to challenge yourself when you’re moving through your paces. Stay active throughout the week and especially during the weekends. Focus on eating clean, healthy foods, avoiding highly processed foods while watching the added sugar in everything you eat. Finally, know that diet and exercise are your best choices to help get you there and once you’ve reached your goals, will help keep you there!

References

Wing RR, Hill JO. Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr 2001;21:323–41.

Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 82(1): 222S-225S.

Martial Arts and Strength Training – is there Common Ground?

Bodybuilders want to pump their muscles, while martial artists need speed, stability, and flexibility. Professional trainers from both worlds say that they have a hard time convincing the other to embark in their program, due to martial artists’ bad experiences with prior strength training. Bodybuilders really don’t know how learning fight moves can benefit their training goals.

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Source: http://quicktoptens.com

However, there is a common ground for martial arts and strength training, because strength as well as flexibility, mobility, stability, and speed are beneficial to all aspects of fitness. Bodybuilders who can achieve full range of motion are more likely to avoid injury, and will be able to execute their exercises with more efficiency and power. On the other hand, a weak body can’t sustain high-level martial arts practice for long. This doesn’t mean that one should follow a standard martial arts/bodybuilding program, but simply take what one needs from both.

What Kind of Strength Do Martial Artist Need?

Weight training is aimed towards an anaerobic metabolism, with emphasis on joint, bone, and muscle strength. Martial artists shouldn’t follow a standard bodybuilding program, because they need functional strength to improve their martial arts performance. A full bodybuilding program can make your martial arts techniques worse, because it leads to a decrease in activation of motor units. It can only provide a minimal boost in speed-strength (the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the biggest possible impulse in the shortest amount of time).

Martial artists always try to use their bodies in the most efficient way, so they need to pick strength training exercises that challenge the whole body as a unit. However, when it comes to physical training, it’s about optimizing one’s performance for any activity, and it’s more than just lifting heavy weights.

Strength Training and Lack of Mobility and Flexibility

Lack of mobility in bodybuilders usually manifests itself in large compound movements. Take squats for example – weight lifters often lack mobility in their hips and ankles, at the bottom of the squat, which forces their knees and toes outward and forward to create enough space for their hips to drop down, while shifting weight onto the toes at the same time. There’s a plethora of problems caused by this lack of mobility, because the body tries to compensate for the lack of strength due to the poorly leveraged squat position. Mobility is your body’s ability to move without restriction.

Flexibility, on the other hand, is the range of motion in a system of joints and the length of muscle(s) that crosses the joints involved. Range of motion (ROM) is the direction and distance the joint can move, and flexibility directly correlates with mobility and ROM, while indirectly with coordination, balance, and strength. If bodybuilders perform only strength exercises and don’t supplement their training routine with flexibility and mobility exercises, their ROM gets decreased.

Martial arts include exercises for improving flexibility and mobility, because the nature of the sport requires it, and weight lifters can benefit from it by “becoming a fighter” at least on one day per week. I was never a martial arts enthusiast, but when I was visiting a friend, he dragged me to a martial arts training in Sydney and when I got to try it for myself and realized all of its potential, I started incorporating that type of training into my own routines.

How to Practice Both and Achieve Maximum Effects

There are 3 specific planes of motion that divide the human body into right and left, top and bottom, and front and back halves – transverse (rotational movements), frontal (side to side movements), and sagittal (forward and backward movements). Why do you need to know this? For example, stability in the frontal plane is important in activities in which we try to create power forwards. When performing the stepping punch, hips often fall out because of weak hip abductors. This requires strength training exercises for strengthening this particular body part. The body thinks in terms of movement patterns, and doesn’t care about muscle groups, so you should base your training program on functional movements and perform core demanding exercises.

Suitable strength exercises for creating your own training program are:

Knee dominant – front squat, split squat, back squat, reverse lunge;
Hip dominant – deadlift, hip thrust, leg curl on a Swiss ball, stiff legged deadlift;
Horizontal pulling – dumbbell row, seated row, barbell row, face pull;
Vertical pulling – lat pull-down, pull-up/chin-up, reverse pull-up/chin-up;
Horizontal pushing – bench press, dumbbell incline bench press, weighted or regular pushup;
Vertical pushing – standing military press, half-kneeling overhead press, push press;
Anti-lateral/Anti-rotation – Russian twist, side plank, pallof press, full contact twist;
Anti-extension – body saw, ab wheel rollout, plank (with variations).

In order to become stronger, more flexible, and faster, both mentally and physically, you need a good strength training plan. The feeling of getting stronger can truly be a lifesaver in challenging martial arts, while improved functional strength, flexibility and mobility can reduce the risk of various injuries.

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.

The One-Minute Workout

Researcher Martin Gibala, PhD, who along with Izumi Tabata, PhD, et al., have helped bring high-intensity interval training back to the forefront of training for both athlete and novice alike. I have had the pleasure of reading all of Dr. Gibala’s papers on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), so when I saw that his book, The One-Minute Workout, was going to be published this year (Avery Publishers, 2017, 263 pages), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. The first half of the book he goes into the importance and research history (his and other researchers) of interval-based training. The second half of the book has the actual HIIT workout protocols and “hits” on nutrition as well. As expected it was a great read. One of the training workouts featured in the book (pages 146-148), called the 10-20-30 protocol, is excellent, I have tried it myself and have previously written about it, see here.

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Source: Amazon.com

This particular protocol was published from 2012 research out of the University of Copenhagen and then written about, multiple times, by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times Well Blog.

The original research was completed on 16 male/female runners who ran 2-4x/week. Eight of the runners kept running as usual (covering about 17 miles in those 2-4 training sessions). The other group of eight runners reduced their training volume by 54 percent and worked out using the 10-20-30 sprint protocol. After a warm-up, the group ran for a minute that included an easy run for 30-seconds, followed by a faster run for 20-seconds and finally a sprint for 10-seconds. They completed this 1-minute run for 3 to 4 intervals with rest between each interval run. Both groups trained for seven weeks. Among other things, the sprint group experienced a 4 percent increase in their VO2 max. The sprint interval group also saw significant changes in performance despite cutting their volume by more than 50 percent.

Try adding this type of interval training into your training program if you’re a runner or maybe if you’re looking to get back into running like I was. After a period of time away from running, I started doing interval training indoors on a treadmill over the course of a month. My goal was to develop a good base with just 10-15 minutes of total running time/session during that first month (total workout time: 20-30 minute training sessions, every other day). As my aerobic capacity improved, I got more into the 10-20-30 jog to sprint protocol during the following month (as my body got use to the stress of running).  As the research demonstrated, and I too experienced, the protocol worked beyond expectation, experiencing great results with less time spent working out.

5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

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Source: Sara Siskind

With the cold winter months here, we find ourselves spending more of our time indoors and hibernating from the harsh weather. This is the time of year people are more susceptible to colds and the flu.  One reason is that viruses tend to live longer in cold air. Also, being indoors leaves us closer in proximity to others where germs can spread more easily from person to person. Since part of our wellbeing depends on how we treat ourselves, now is the time to fuel our bodies with immune boosting vitamins and minerals found in a whole food diet.  Prevention is key! Sara Siskind, Certified Nutritional Health Counselor and founder of Hands on Healthy has come up with 5 of her favorite immune boosting foods has come up with 5 of her favorite immune boosting foods you can add into your diet to help you feel your best all winter long no matter if you’re trapped indoors, traveling, or just in your day-to-day activities. 

1. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals. Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Choose cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These fruits and veggies are not only loaded with essential vitamins and phytonutrients, but they are also rich in antioxidants which give your immune system a boot and help build up your digestive track.

2.     Add in pistachios as a heart healthy, protein rich snack. Pistachios are also rich in antioxidants and the heart healthy fats to help your body absorb vitamin E.  Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 which also helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells your body needs. Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites are an easy way to eat pistachios on the go or simply adding to your lunch bag.

3.    Look for omega 3 fatty acids and selenium which are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  These foods help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.

4.     Make yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack. Yogurt contains probiotics; “healthy bacteria” that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease-causing germs.  Yogurt is also filled with protein that keeps your body energized and strong.

5.     Spice up your food with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.  These spices are especially known to contain antioxidants that help to protect your cells and keep inflammation in the body down.  I add turmeric to soups, eggs, rice, and poultry. Fresh grated ginger brings warmth to any beverage. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and easily added to anything you bake.

Certified Nutritional Health Counselor, Sara Siskind is the founder of Hands On Healthy, cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York. Sara has dedicated her career to educating clients on how food and lifestyle choices affect health, and how to make the right choices to look and feel your best each day. Sara translates unnamed-1the complexity of integrated nutrition into usable tools with easy-to-cook recipes that appeal to the entire family. Sara counsels privately to offer highly customized health and nutrition plans for her clients. She also works with parents on shopping and cooking smarter to create healthier homes. In addition, she teaches beginner to gourmet cooking classes with her signature “toss it in” approach. In addition, Sara regularly works with corporations and non-profit organizations to lead workshops and lectures on healthy eating.

Website: www.sarasiskind.com

Interview with Author, Coach & Runner Jason Karp, PhD

Here is a recent Q&A session that I had the pleasure of having with author, coach and runner, Jason Karp, PhD regarding his upcoming book, Run Your Fat Off. I have also read Jason’s previous work, The Inner Runner, which was excellent.

1) Why is running the best method to lose weight?

Because running burns more calories than any other exercise, it is weight-bearing, and it demands a great need for energy production. It is also a very sustainable strategy because running becomes a part of a person’s life. It is not a short-term fix, like so many other diet programs.

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Source: Jason Karp, PhD

2) What inspired you to write the book?

A couple of things: 1) I know how powerful running is as a calorie burner and long-term weight loss strategy and 2) I got sick and tired of all of the diet/weight loss propaganda by people who have little understanding of what they’re talking about. Most weight loss books are short-term fixes to a long-term problem and don’t tell people the truth about sustained weight loss.

3) What’s the secret to weight loss?

You have to read the book to find out, but to give you a hint, it is about calories consumed vs. calories burned more than any other factor, and the directing of the calories consumed into energy storage for future workouts rather than fat storage. The trick is learning how to become the director of your own calorie movie, telling those calories where to go and what to do.

4) Which is better for weight loss – long, slow cardio or short fast interval workouts?

It depends. It’s all about the calories, so it’s really a matter of math. 2 hours of long, slow running may burn more calories than 20 minutes of high-intensity running. You would have to calculate the total number of calories burned during the workout, which you can do by knowing a few numbers. I go through all the calculations in the book to answer the question.

5) But don’t high-intensity workouts cause you to burn more calories after the workout is over?

This is a big misunderstanding in the fitness industry. Although it is true that the longer and/or harder the workout, the more calories we burn afterward while our body recovers (because recovery is an aerobic, energy-using process), the number of extra calories burned is highly over-exaggerated by people in the fitness industry. It is the number of calories burned during the workout that matter more. The book discusses this myth, as well as many others.

You can purchase, Run Your Fat Off, (Reader’s Digest, 2017) by Jason Karp, PhD on Amazon.

What Affect Does Diet and BMI Have on Physical Fitness?

Introduction

Recent studies have shown that the physical fitness of an individual can be a promising indicator in measuring health and risk for outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and skeletal health. (1) The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends children and adolescents between the ages of 5-17 should get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Regular physical activity is associated with many health benefits in children and can improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, as well as bone health (4). It is noteworthy to promote regular physical activity because research shows that cardiorespiratory fitness levels are significantly associated with total body fat and abdominal adipose tissue. (1) Lower levels of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness are associated with CVD risk factors. (1) And improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness have positive effects on things like depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and academic performance. (1)

Findings from a cross-sectional study done in South Carolina found that children who are obese generally spend less time in moderate and vigorous physical activity than non-obese children. (2) It also found that the energy density of a child or adolescent’s diet is directly associated with fat intake, and both energy dense high-fat diets are associated with obesity. (2) In past studies it has been suggested that reducing dietary ED by combining increased fruit and vegetable intake, as well as decreasing total fat intake, was seen to control hunger and be an effective strategy for weight loss. (3)

High-fat diets can easily turn into unhealthy diets that lead to high risk of CVD and insulin resistance, and high-fat diets generally have high energy densities. (5) According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children and adolescents is obese and obesity affects 12.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2-19 years old. There is a 75% predicted increase in obesity by 2018. Children who are overweight and obese are more likely to become overweight and obese as adults. (CDC) Studies have shown that for every hour of exercise a day, risk for obesity is decreased by 10%. (2) The measure of physical fitness in children and adolescents can display health as well as predict future health outcomes as an adult. (7)

The purpose of this study was to evaluate if diet and BMI of children affected physical fitness levels by using data from the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. Energy density and total fat in the diet, as well as the BMI of the participants, were the variables used to assess performance on three important physical fitness categories, measured by the outcomes of four different physical fitness tests. The objective was to determine if BMI, energy density, and fat intake was significantly associated with physical fitness levels, and what this could mean as an outcome.

Methods

Data Source & Inclusion Criteria

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a cross-sectional survey that assesses the health and nutritional status of children and adults in the US. This experiment used the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey (NNYFS). The NNYS is a one-year, cross-sectional survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2012. For the purpose of analysis, this was the main source of physical fitness data. It had the purpose of gathering nationally representative data that represented physical activity and fitness levels, as well as provided an evaluation of health and fitness of children and adolescents ages 3-15. Data was collected through fitness tests and interviews. The nutritional component of data in the NHANES comes from What We Eat In America (WWEIA), gathered through dietary recall from each of the participants.

This analysis included a study sample of all children and adolescents between the ages of 3-15, who participated in the 2012 NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. However, many children between >6 years met the exclusion criteria and did not participate the physical fitness tests used in this study to evaluate fitness levels. This resulted in a final n of 1,224 participants between the ages of 6-15.

Outcome Measures

The outcome measures in this study included three categories of physical fitness. Physical fitness was evaluated through fitness tests as part of the NNYS. Participants 6-15 years old participated in fitness tests (summer 2012), which evaluated the health of each age group. The NNYFS contains examination data that evaluates body measures, cardiorespiratory endurance, cardiovascular fitness, lower body muscle strength, muscle strength, and gross motor development. For this analysis, physical fitness was measured using the following categories: cardiorespiratory endurance, core muscle strength, and upper body muscle strength.

Cardiorespiratory endurance was measured by examining fitness test results of heart rate at the end of the test (bpm) and maximal endurance time (in seconds). Core muscle strength was determined by the number of seconds plank position was held (in seconds). Upper body strength was evaluated by the number of correctly completed pull-ups the participant could do. Each exercise was assessed in regards to BMI, energy density, and total fat.

Demographic Characteristics and Potential Confounding Variables

In order to assess if physical fitness was affected, variables of BMI, energy density (kcal), and total fat (gm) were used. The NHANES gathered data of total nutrient intakes from dietary interviews given by well-trained professionals. The dietary intake data can be used to estimate the types and amounts of food (as well as beverages) consumed throughout the past 24-hours. In the NHANES, body mass index (BMI) was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (rounded to one decimal place). In order to analyze BMI as a categorical variable (BMI Category), sex-specific BMI quartiles were created from body mass index data and cutoff criteria from the CDC’s sex-specific 2000 BMI-for-age growth charts. BMI category provided four quartiles: 1) Underweight, 2) Normal weight, 3) Overweight, and 4) Obese.

Energy density and total fat were variables used to measure diet of children and adolescents. Dietary intake for energy density and total fat was measured using 24-hour recalls. To account for confounding factors, which occur when the outcome is influenced by a third factor, data from the NHANES regarding age, gender, race and income were used as covariates and all models run were adjusted according to this. What was looked at was whether energy, total fat, and BMI were significantly (inversely) associated with a decrease in physical fitness of children and adolescents.

Statistical Measures Used

Data from the NHANES was analyzed using SAS University Edition (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). To examine if there was a significant association of physical fitness levels with BMI and energy density / total fat intake, the PROC REG procedure was used. PROC REG procedure was used to analyze significance, if any, in upper body muscle strength (pull-ups), core muscle strength (plank), and cardiorespiratory endurance (heart rate, maximal endurance time). These models were adjusted for age in years at exam, race, and gender, and significance was determined with a value of p<0.05. BMI Category was analyzed using the GLM procedure to predict an outcome based on a categorical variable. Graphical data shown below is the performance outcomes based on the data from results of the GLM procedure of BMI category and the specific physical fitness exercises.

Results

The data obtained from this study indicates that there was a significant inverse relationship observed between diet / BMI and various aspects of physical fitness of children and adolescents. There was a significant negative association of energy density in pull-ups (p=0.0458) and heart rate at the end of test (p=0.0195). Total fat intake had a significant inverse affect on heart rate (p=0.0404).

BMI was the most significant factor in affecting physical fitness. Children who are overweight/obese have less upper body strength than non-obese children. The mean number of pull-ups was approximately 5. Children who are obese completed on average almost 4 less pull-ups than children who are of normal weight (see figure 1).

Figure 1.

julia-paper
Source: Julia Wood

Children who are overweight/obese exhibit lower levels of cardiorespiratory endurance than normal weight children. Maximal endurance time was measured in seconds and measures the amount of time the actual exercise test takes (does not include warm up or recovery). The mean maximal endurance time was 650 seconds. Children who were overweight/obese were not able to perform the exercise test as long as those of normal weight. Overweight children lasted about 632 seconds, while obese children only lasted about 551 seconds, compared to normal weight children who could last approximately 632 seconds.

Children with a higher BMI have a lower level of cardiorespiratory endurance. The mean heart rate at the end of the test was 220 beats per minute (bpm). A non-obese child of normal weight had a heart rate of 249 bpm, while an overweight child had a heart rate of 208 bpm and an obese child had a heart rate of 209 bpm.

Children with a higher BMI display lower levels of core muscle strength. The plank is an exercise that assesses muscular endurance and core strength around the trunk and pelvis (NNYFS). Children with a normal weight had a greater ability to hold the plank position. Almost 35 seconds longer than obese children and almost 15 seconds longer than children who are overweight (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.

coremuscle
Source: Julia Wood

Strengths and Limitations

 In light of the results from this analysis, it is important to note the strengths as well as limitations. Strengths of using the NNYFS include the fact that it is a cross-sectional study that represents physical fitness levels and health of US children and adolescents as a whole. This means that the results can be applied to the entire population of US children and adolescents. Results show that there is a prevalence of low physical fitness levels in children and adolescents who have high BMI and an increased intake of high-fat/energy dense diets. From this analysis, the simple promotion of increased physical activity as well has healthy diets can be put out into the public in hopes of slowing the obesity epidemic and better health in children.

There are some weaknesses to this research. Diet factors of energy density and total fat were used in this study. Data was acquired for these two factors by dietary recall, so there is a possibility of recall bias. Also, the NHANES National Youth Fitness survey is of a cross-sectional survey design, so although analysis can point out prevalence stemming from results, it cannot determine causality. This study also uses two physical fitness tests that somewhat depend on weight/body mass. Pull-ups as well as plank exercises may be subject to influence based on body weight, which could skew results.

Conclusion

Our findings from this study indicate that a child or adolescent’s BMI and diet affect his or her performance on physical fitness tests. Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese (85th-95th percentile or >95th percentile) are seen to have lower levels of cardiorespiratory endurance, upper body muscular strength, and core muscle strength. High BMI was seen to negatively affect physical fitness the most and was more significant than any other factor (p<.001).

There is a significant inverse association between energy dense / high-fat diets and various aspects of cardiorespiratory endurance and upper body strength. Physical fitness is a marker of health and can predict health as an adult. Regular physical activity of at least 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents promotes health and fitness and may help to prevent obesity. Strategies promoting healthy eating may also slow the obesity epidemic.

References

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  2. Ebbeling, C. B., Pawlak, D. B., & Ludwig, D. S. (2002). Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. The lancet, 360(9331), 473-482.
  3. Ello-Martin, J. A., Roe, L. S., Ledikwe, J. H., Beach, A. M., & Rolls, B. J. (2007). Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(6), 1465-1477.
  4. Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 7(1), 1.
  5. Guldstrand, M. C., & Simberg, C. L. (2007). High-fat diets: healthy or unhealthy?. Clinical Science, 113(10), 397-399.
  6. Schrauwen, P., & Westerterp, K. R. (2000). The role of high-fat diets and physical activity in the regulation of body weight. British Journal of Nutrition, 84(04), 417-427.
  7. Harper, M. G. (2006). Childhood obesity: strategies for prevention. Family & community health, 29(4), 288-298.

Julia Wood is a senior at Fairfield University in Connecticut where she is preparing to graduate in May 2017 with a degree in Biology and minor in Health Studies. Julia was a 4-year member of the Fairfield women’s D1 cross-country team.