Selasa, 31 Maret 2015

Why Some People Can Drink Alcohol Without Getting Fat

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Alcohol has been implicated as a factor that may hurt your efforts to lose body fat. Whether alcohol is "fattening" has been a very controversial subject because technically speaking, alcohol is NOT stored as fat; it is oxidized ahead of other fuels.

Whether moderate drinking is healthy has also been a subject of controversy. Many studies show that cardiovascular health benefits are associated with moderate beer or wine drinking (which has been of particular interest lately with reservatrol in the news so much), while other studies show improved insulin sensitivity. Some experts however, say that alcohol has no place in a fitness lifestyle.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity adds new findings to our knowledge about alcohol, insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. Analysis of the results as compared to other studies also gives us some insights into why some people seem to drink and get fat while others seem to drink and get thin!

The truth about the beer belly phenomenon
This new study, by Ulf Riserus and Erik Inglesson, was based on the Swedish Uppsala Longitudinal cohort. The researchers found that alcohol intake in older men did not improve insulin sensitivity, which contradicted their own hypothesis and numerous previous studies.

They also said there was a very "robust" association between alcohol intake, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. They pointed out that a high alcohol intake, especially hard liquor, was closely associated with abdominal body fat, not just overall body mass.

Abdominal fat accumulation is not just a cosmetic problem, it can be a serious health risk. Abdominal fat, also known as "android" or "central" obesity, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, glucose intolerance and elevated insulin levels.

Many other studies have also found a link between alcohol intake and abdominal fat, but this too has been controversial. A study that was widely publicized by the BBC in 2003 dismissed the concept of the “beer belly.”
Nevertheless, it looks like there’s some scientific support to it after all (or at least a “liquor belly” according to this newer study).

Hormones may be strongly involved because high alcohol intake has been shown to decrease blood testosterone in men, and also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to visceral fat accumulation.
Why is there so much controversy? Why the discrepancy in research findings about alcohol’s influence on obesity, abdominal fat, and insulin sensitivity?

Well, here’s the real story of why some people don’t get fat when they drink:
A lot of the confusion is because epidemiological research cannot show cause and effect relationships and mistakes can easily be made when drawing associations based on limited data.
With the nature of these longitudinal studies, you have to look at the lifestyle and nature of drinkers in general (or in this study, hard liquor drinkers). Also, the Swedish study focused on older men, so age may have been a factor. You may be more likely to deposit alcohol right on your belly as you get older.

When you hear that alcohol increases belly fat, you also have to look at what else is going on in the life of the drinker, particularly what the rest of a person’s diet looks like, and how alcohol intake affects appetite and eating habits.

Research says that alcohol can mess up your body’s perception of hunger, satiety and fullness. If drinking stimulates additional eating, or adds additional calories that aren’t compensated for and which lead to positive energy balance, then you get fat. You may also get fat in the belly, no thanks to what booze does to hormones.

Another thing that confounds the reports on whether alcohol contributes to weight gain is the fact that the game changes in heavy drinkers. We know that alcohol contains 7.1 calories per gram and these calories always count as part of the energy balance equation… or do they? With chronic excessive alcohol consumption, it's possible that not all of these calories are available for energy. Due to changes in liver function and something called the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS), alcoholism may be a real case of where some calories don’t count. Many alcoholics also skip meals and eat less with increasing alcohol consumption.

Alcohol metabolizing pathways notwithstanding, even if binge drinkers, daily drinkers or heavy drinkers consume most of their calories from alcohol, if they eat very little, and remain in a calorie deficit, they will not get fat. Compound this with the hormonal effects and you witness the skinny, but under-nourished, unhealthy and atrophied alcoholic (the person you'd think would be most likely to have a beer belly).

It's the calories that count
The bottom line is, the idea that alcohol just automatically turns into fat or gives you a beer belly is mistaken. It’s true that alcohol suppresses fat oxidation, but mainly, alcohol adds calories into your diet, messes with your hormones and can stimulate appetite, leading to even more calories consumed. That’s where the fat gain comes from.

If you drink in moderation, if you’re aware of the calories in the alcohol, if you're aware of the calories from additional food intake consumed during or after drinking, and if you compensate for all of the above accordingly, you won’t get fat.

Now, with that said, you might be wondering: “You mean I can drink and still lose fat? I just need to keep in a calorie deficit?”
Yes, that's exactly what I mean. But before you rush off to the pub for a cold one, hold that thought for a minute while you consider this first: The empty alcohol calories displace the nutrient dense calories!

When you’re on a fat loss program you have a fairly small “calorie budget”, so you need to give some careful thought to how those calories should be “spent.” For example, if a female is on a 1500 calorie per day diet, does she really want to "spend" 500 of those calories – one third of her intake - for a few alcoholic drinks, and leave only 1000 for health-promoting food, fiber and lean muscle building protein?
I realize some people may answer “yes” to that question, but then again, if some people spent their money as frivolously as they spent their calories, they would be in deep trouble!

To summarize this into some practical, take-home advice, here are 7 of my personal tips for alcohol consumption in the fitness lifestyle:
(1) Don’t drink on a fat loss program. Although you could certainly drink and “get away with it” if you diligently maintained your calorie deficit as noted above, it certainly does not help your fat loss cause or your nutritional status.

(2) Drink in moderation during maintenance. For lifelong weight maintenance and a healthy lifestyle, if you drink, do so in moderation and only occasionally, such as on weekends or when you go out to dine in restaurants. Binge drinking and getting drunk has no place in a fitness lifestyle (not to mention hangovers aren’t very conducive to good workouts).

(3) Don't drink daily. Moderate drinking, including daily drinking, has been associated with cardiovascular health benefits. However, I don’t recommend daily drinking because behaviors repeated daily become habits. Behaviors repeated multiple times daily become strong habits. Habitual drinking may lead to heavier drinking or full-blown addictions and can be hard to stop if you ever need to cut back.

(4) Count the calories. If you decide to have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or two (or whatever moderation is for you), be sure to account for the alcohol in your daily calorie budget.

(5) Watch your appetite. Don’t let the “munchies” get control of you during or after you drink (Note to chicken wing and nacho-eating men: The correlation to alcohol and body fat is higher in men in almost all the studies. One possible explanation is that men tend to drink and eat, while women may tend to drink instead of eating).

(6) Watch the fatty foods. When drinking, watch the fatty foods in particular. A study by Angelo Tremblay back in 1995 suggested that alcohol and a high fat diet are a combination that favors overfeeding.

(7) Enjoy without guilt. If you choose to drink (moderately and sensibly), then don’t feel guilty about it or beat yourself up afterwards, just enjoy the darn stuff, will you!
To see a complete fat burning system that takes you by the hand, step by step and shows you what to eat, what to drink (and what not drink), how to exercise and how to stay motivated, visit: www-burnthefat-com

(1) Alcohol Intake, Insulin Resistance, and abdominal obesity in elderly men. Riserus U, Ingelsson E., Obesity. 15(7): 1766-1773. 2007

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a certified personal trainer (CPT). Tom is the author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using methods of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: www-burnthefat-com

3500 Calories To Lose A Pound - Is This Formula All Wrong?

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Most fitness conscious people have heard that there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so if you create a deficit of 3500 calories in a week, you lose a pound of weight. If you create a deficit of 7000 calories in a week, you lose two pounds, and so on. Right? Well, not so fast…

Dr. Kevin Hall, an investigator at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda has done some interesting research about the mechanisms regulating human body weight. He recently published a new paper in the International Journal of Obesity that throws a wrench in works of the “3500 calories to lose a pound” idea.

Some of the equations in his paper made my head hurt, but despite the complex math he used to come to his conclusions, his article clearly prompts the question, "3500 calories to lose a pound of WHAT?" His paper also contained a lot of simple and practical tips you can use to properly balance your caloric intake with output, fine tune your calorie deficit and help you retain more muscle when you diet.

Below, I’ve distilled some of the information into a simple bullet-point summary that any non-scientist can understand. Then I wrap up with my interpretation of how you can apply this data in your own fat loss program:

Calculating the calories required to lose a pound and fine-tuning your caloric deficit
  • 3500 calories to lose a pound has always been the rule of thumb. However, this 3500 calories figure goes back to research which assumed that all the weight lost would be adipose tissue (which would be ideal, of course).
  • But as we all know (unfortunately), lean body mass is lost along with body fat, which would indicate that the 3500 calorie figure could be an oversimplification.
  • The amount of lean body mass lost is based on initial body fat level and size of the calorie deficit
  • Lean people tend to lose more lean body mass and retain more fat.
  • Fat people tend to lose more body fat and retain more lean tissue (revealing why obese people can tolerate aggressive low calorie diets better than already lean people)
  • Very aggressive low calorie diets tend to erode lean body mass to a greater degree than more conservative diets.
  • whether the weight loss is lean or fat gives you the real answer of what is the required energy deficit per unit of weight loss
  • The metabolizable energy in fat is different than the metabolizable energy in muscle tissue. A pound of muscle is not 3500 calories. A pound of muscle yields about 600 calories.
  • If you lose lean body mass, then you lose more weight than if you lose fat.
  • If you create a 3500 calorie deficit in one week and you lose 100% body fat, you will lose one pound.
  • But if you create a 3500 calorie weekly deficit and as a result of that deficit, lose 100% muscle, you would lose almost 6 pounds of body weight! (of course, if you manage to lose 100% muscle, you will be forced to wear the Dieter’s Dunce cap)
  • If you have a high initial body fat percentage, then you are going to lose more fat relative to lean, so you may need a larger deficit to lose the same amount of weight as compared to a lean person
  • Creating a calorie deficit once at the beginning of a diet and maintaining that same caloric intake for the duration of the diet and after major weight loss fails to account for how your body decreases energy expenditure with reduced body weight
  • Weight loss typically slows down over time for a prescribed constant diet (the “plateau”). This is either due to the decreased metabolism mentioned above, or a relaxing of the diet compliance, or both (most people just can’t hack aggressive calorie reductions for long)
  • Progressive resistance training and or high protein diets can modify the proportion of weight lost from body fat versus lean tissue (which is why weight training and sufficient protein while on calorie restricted diets are absolute musts!)
So, based on this info, should you throw out the old calorie formulas?
secret fat loss method
Well, not necessarily. You can still use the standard calorie formulas to figure out how much you should eat, and you can use a 500-1000 calorie per day deficit (below maintenance) as a generic guideline to figure where to set your calories to lose one or two pounds per week respectively (at least that works “on paper” anyway).

Even better however, you could use this info to fine tune your caloric deficit using a percentage method and also base your deficit on your starting body fat level, to get a much more personalized and effective approach:
15-20% below maintenance calories = conservative deficit
20-25% below maintenance calories = moderate deficit
25-30% below maintenance calories = aggressive deficit
31-40% below maintenance calories = very aggressive deficit (risky)
50%+ below maintenance calories = semi starvation/starvation (potentially dangerous and unhealthy)

(Note: According to exercise physiologists Katch & Mcardle, the average female between the ages of 23 and 50 has a maintenance level of about 2000-2100 calories per day and the average male about 2700-2900 calories per day)

Usually, we would suggest starting with a conservative deficit of around 15-20% below maintenance. Based on this research, however, we see that there can be a big difference between lean and overweight people in how many calories they can or should cut.
If you have very high body fat to begin with, the typical rule of thumb on calorie deficits may underestimate the deficit required to lose a pound. It may also be too conservative, and you can probably use a more aggressive deficit safely without as much worry about muscle loss or metabolic slowdown.

If you are extremely lean, like a bodybuilder trying to get ready for competition, you would want to be very cautious about using aggressive calorie deficits. You’d be better off keeping the deficit conservative and starting your diet/cutting phase earlier to allow for a slow, but safe rate of fat loss, with maximum retention of muscle tissue.

The bottom line is that it’s not quite so simple as 3,500 calories being the deficit to lose a pound. Like lots of other things in nutrition that vary from person to person, the ideal amount of calories to cut “depends”…

Note: The Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle program not only has an entire chapter dedicated to helping you calculate your exact calorie needs, it was designed very specifically to keep a fairly conservative approach to caloric deficits and to maximize the amount of lean tissue you retain and minimize the amount of metabolic adaptation that occurs when you’re dieting. The approach may be more conservative, and the fat loss may be slower, but it has a better long term track record… You can either lose weight fast, sacrifice muscle and gain the fat back like 95% of people do, or lose fat slow and keep it off forever like the 5% of the people who know the secrets. The choice is yours. For more information, visit: www-burnthefat-com

Forbes GB. Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Ann NY Acad Sci. 904: 359-365. 2000
Hall, KD., What is the required energy deficit per unit of weight loss? Int J Obesity. 2007 Epub ahead of print.
McArdle WD. Exercise physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human performance. 4td ed. Williams & Wilkins. 1996.
Wishnofsky M. Caloric equivalents of gained or lost weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 6: 542-546.

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a certified personal trainer (CPT). Tom is the author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using methods of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: www-burnthefat-com

How To Repair A Damaged Metabolism

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

repair metabolism
If you've caused metabolic damage as a result of following starvation diets or losing weight too rapidly in the past, it can be extremely difficult to achieve any further fat loss at all. The good news is, metabolic damage can be repaired. All it takes is the right combination of metabolism stimulating exercise and metabolism stimulating nutrition (NOT just a diet), all done consistently over time.
The big irony is that most of the diet programs that claim to help you get rid of excess weight, only end up making it harder for you in the long run because they use harsh metabolism-decreasing diets and not enough exercise (almost never any weight training).

It may take a little longer if you have really messed things up with severe starvation dieting in the past, especially if you've lost a lot of lean body mass, but it is never hopeless. Anyone can increase their metabolism.

Most people get an almost immediate boost in metabolic rate when they start the Burn The Fat program. However, the results are not going to be "overnight." Give it a little time...
Within 3 weeks your metabolism will already be more efficient. Within 6-8 weeks, it's burning hot. Give me 12 weeks of consistent diligent effort, sticking with all the metabolism boosting strategies I teach, and your metabolism really will become like a turbo charged engine, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that.

What’s most important for upping your metabolism is CONSISTENCY in applying the Burn The Fat nutrition and training principles every single day.
That includes:
  • Meal frequency: eat 5-6 small meals per day
  • Meal timing: eat approximately every 3 hours, with a substantial breakfast and a substantial post workout meal.
  • Sufficient Caloric Intake: maintain a small calorie deficit and avoid starvation-level diets (suggested safe levels for fat loss: 2100-2500 calories per day for men, 1400-1800 calories per day for women; adjust as needed)
  • Food choices: Select natural, unprocessed foods with high thermic effect (lean proteins like chicken, turkey, egg whites and fish are highly thermic, as are all green vegetables, salad vegetables and other fibrous carbs)
  • Cardio training: Push up the intensity a bit if you really want to get a metabolic boost. Walking and low intensity cardio is fine, but higher intensity is more metabolism-stimulating
  • Weight training: The basic exercises that include the largest muscle groups or even call into play the entire body as a unit (squats, front squats, split squats, deadlifts, stiff legged deadlifts, overhead presses, all kinds of rows and core-activation exercises) will have a much greater metabolism stimulating effect than isolation exercises (concentration curls, calf raises, etc)
The weight training is extremely important in cases of "metabolic damage" because this is the stimulus to keep the muscle you have and begin rebuilding new muscle tissue, which is the engine that drives your metabolism.
The men don't usually have a problem with the weight training, but I still hear women say they don't want to lift weights as part of their fat loss programs. Well, people who wont lift weights can expect a very, very long metabolism "repair process" if they achieve it at all.

Consistency is the key.
Nothing will undermine the "re-building" of your metabolism like inconsistency. If you stop and start, or skip meals and workouts often, you will not even get off the ground.
After your metabolism is back up where it should be, it takes continued "stoking" of the metabolic furnace to keep it there. Once you get your metabolic engine running, you've got to keep feeding it fuel or the fire will die down.
Picture an old fashioned wood burning stove...
Imagine you're in a cabin up in the mountains in the winter. It's cold in there and you want to keep the cabin warm. Can you achieve this by feeding the fire once or twice per day? Nope. Not enough fuel to burn, so not much heat is generated.

What if you just toss an entire pile of wood in the stove all at once? Will that work? Nope. Lots of fuel, but can't all be used at once... it just smothers the fire and the excess just sits there.
How about if you throw some tissue paper or crumpled newspaper in the stove, will that work? Nope - too quickly burning.
You have to keep putting small amounts of wood (the right type of fuel) on the fire at regular intervals or the fire burns out.
It's also difficult to get the fire lit again. In the case of metabolism, it's like going through that initial few weeks of overcoming inertia all over again.

Your goal is to get your metabolism burning hot and keep it burning and this cannot be achieved by missing meals, missing workouts or with sporadic, infrequent training.
I have only seen a handful of cases where all these things were done properly and there was still a longer "repair" process.

For example, one case was former ballet dancer. At 5' 5", she was previously 110 lbs and had increased to about 145 or so. She didn’t want to reach her previous 110, but find a happy medium of about 125 lbs.
I figured with 20 lbs to cut, this would be a simple and predictable process, but she had a challenging time (and I didn't know why at first).

I later found out that she had been anorexic and bulimic for many years. This had caused a lot of damage, and although she did reach her goal, it took about twice as long as we had anticipated.
The good news is, even in this extreme case, the same nutrition and training principles worked! It just took a little longer. And by the way her program included some serious training with free weights and she ate a lot more (clean) food than she had ever eaten before. No "starvation!"
That’s the power of burning the fat and feeding the muscles... Trying to starve the fat with crash diets is what causes the metabolic damage in the first place!

If you’re interested in the healthy, sensible way to take off the fat, while keeping all your muscle and actually increasing your metabolism in the process, then my Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle program can teach you how. No gimmicks or false promises. Just the truth - you have to work at it and you have to be patient. www-burnthefat-com

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to burn fat without drugs or supplements using the little-known secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and turbo-charge your metabolism by visiting: www-burnthefat-com.

Senin, 30 Maret 2015

Cortisol, Stress And Body Fat: Straight Answers To The Top 20 Questions About The Stress


By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

body fat
It seems that every time science uncovers some type of association between body fat and anything, opportunistic entrepreneurs are waiting in the shadows to create a product and a marketing campaign around it. They ride the wave into the multi millions, until the buzz dies down or until the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sues and slaps a padlock on their warehouse doors. Then, it’s on to the “next big thing in weight loss,” because they know there will always be a gullible crowd eagerly waiting for the next quick fix. The most recent example is when researchers discovered a correlation between cortisol and abdominal body fat. Cortisol was then blamed as the latest culprit in the obesity problem, and cortisol-suppressing pills were touted as the “miracle solution.”

Big Claims, Little Proof
After a web search on the subject of cortisol, here are some of the claims you may find:
  • Stress makes you fat
  • Cortisol is what makes you fat
  • Cortisol reducing supplements control stress
  • Cortisol reducing supplements reduce belly fat
  • Cortisol reducing supplements get rid of “stress fat”
  • Cortisol reducing supplements balance hormone levels that cause stress
  • Cortisol reducing supplements increase muscle growth
  • Cortisol supplements suppress appetite
  • Cortisol supplements speed up metabolism
The advertising claims include just enough scientific fact to make even the savviest consumers say, “That makes sense, I think I’ll try that.” They also hit home emotionally by focusing on common hot buttons such as stress (who isn’t at least a little stressed in this day and age?) Brilliant marketing. Convincing. Unfortunately, most of the claims being made are completely false, with only a tiny thread of truth woven in.
Cortisol is a very important hormone that you must understand if you want to get maximum results from your training and nutrition programs, but if you don’t educate yourself, you may become one of the millions of victims to fall for this latest fad. The answers to the frequently asked questions in this article will arm you with the science-based facts, while helping you steer clear of the hype-based scams.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands. It falls into a category of hormones known as “glucocorticoids”, referring to their ability to increase blood glucose levels. Cortisol is the primary glucocorticoid.

Why does your body produce cortisol?
Cortisol is a stress hormone. Your body produces cortisol in response to stress, physical, mental or emotional. This can include extremely low calorie diets, intense training, high volume training, lack of quality sleep as well as common daily stresses such as job pressures, fights with your spouse or being caught in a traffic jam. Trauma, injury and surgery are also major stressors to the body (Note: much of the research done on cortisol and stress has been done on recovering patients, and such findings may not carry over to healthy, athletic populations).

What does cortisol do?
Cortisol is part of the fight or flight response. Faced with a “life or death” situation, cortisol increases the flow of glucose (as well as protein and fat) out of your tissues and into the bloodstream in order to increase energy and physical readiness to handle the stressful situation or threat.

How do you know whether your cortisol levels are high?
You can get your cortisol levels tested if you choose to. The most common method of testing is a blood test (blood cortisol levels). Saliva and 24 hour urine tests are also available.

What is a normal level of cortisol?
Cortisol levels are higher in adults than children and levels fluctuate throughout each 24 hour period, so tests must account for the time of day. Cortisol concentrations are highest in the early morning around 6 – 8 a.m. and they are also elevated after exercise (a normal part of your body’s response to exercise). The lowest levels are usually around midnight. According to the Medline Encyclopedia, normal levels of cortisol in the bloodstream at 8:00 a.m. are 6-23 mcg/dl.

Should you get your cortisol levels tested?
For serious competitive athletes, it may be worth the time, expense and inconvenience to have cortisol tests done on a regular basis. Some strength and conditioning coaches insist on it. For the average trainee, as long as you are aware of the factors that produce excessive cortisol and take steps to keep it in the normal, healthy range, then testing is probably not necessary.

eliminate your body fat
Is cortisol related to abdominal obesity?
Yes. There is a link between high cortisol levels and storage of body fat, particularly “visceral” abdominal body fat (also known as intra-abdominal fat). Visceral fat is stored deeper in the abdominal cavity and around the internal organs, whereas “regular” fat is stored below the skin (known as subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat is particularly unhealthy because it is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.

Does Cortisol Make you fat?
No, cortisol is not “the thing” that makes you fat. In fact, one of the effects of cortisol is to increase the breakdown of stored adipose tissue into glycerol and fatty acids where it can enter the bloodstream and then be used as energy. High levels of cortisol are merely one contributing factor to storage of abdominal fat, not the primary cause. An excess of calories from too much food and not enough exercise is what makes you fat.

If cortisol is related to abdominal obesity, then will taking a cortisol suppressing pill get rid of abdominal (belly) fat?
No. Just because there is an association between high cortisol levels and abdominal body fat doesn’t mean that a taking a cortisol-suppressing pill will remove abdominal body fat. The studies which showed a relationship between cortisol and body fat did not test whether suppressing cortisol removes fat that is already deposited on your body.

Does stress make you fat?
No. If it did, then everyone who is stressed would be gaining fat. Many people lose weight while under stress. In some studies, test subjects with the highest cortisol (and stress) levels lost the most weight. Stress, by itself, does not increase body fat. However, if stress stimulates appetite and leads to overeating, then the excess calories from “stress eating” can make you fatter.

Is cortisol is bad for you?
Cortisol is not “bad for you,” it is a hormone that is essential for life as part of our natural stress response. There are many hormones in our bodies, which in the proper amounts, maintain good health, but in excess or in deficiency, have negative effects or even contribute to health problems or diseases. Cortisol is no different. For example, Cushing’s syndrome is a disease of high cortisol levels, while Addison’s is a disease of low cortisol levels. You want to maintain a healthy, normal level of cortisol, not suppress your cortisol to nothing or allow it to remain elevated.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels may have a variety of negative effects. Cortisol is catabolic and elevated cortisol levels can cause the loss of muscle tissue by facilitating the process of converting lean tissue into glucose. An excess of cortisol can also lead to a decrease in insulin sensitivity, increased insulin resistance, reduced kidney function, hypertension, suppressed immune function, reduced growth hormone levels, and reduced connective tissue strength. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can also decrease strength and performance in athletes.

Can suppressing cortisol improve your muscle growth and strength?
High cortisol levels can increase muscle protein breakdown and inhibit protein synthesis (building up muscle proteins), so a chronically elevated cortisol level is clearly counterproductive to building muscle. Bringing elevated cortisol levels back to normal may improve recovery, strength, hypertrophy and performance. However, there is no scientific evidence that reducing your cortisol levels below normal will have any effect on increasing strength or muscle growth.

Should you take a cortisol-suppressing supplement to help you lose weight?
In my opinion, no, absolutely not. Cortisol suppressing supplements are not a valid solution for losing weight. The FTC has filed lawsuits against the makers of Cortislim and Cortistress, charging them with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products can cause weight loss. Lydia Parnes, acting director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection says, “The defendant’s claims fly in the face of reality. No pill can replace a healthy program of diet and exercise.” Reducing excessively high cortisol levels through supplement use may prove beneficial in some ways for hard training athletes. However, pills do not make you lose fat. Body fat is lost by creating a caloric deficit through exercise and nutrition.

Should you take a cortisol-suppressing supplement to help control your stress levels?
There are quite a few supplements, mostly herbs, which are reputed to have “calming,” “relaxing,” “tranquilizing,” “stress-relieving” or “anti-anxiety” effects. These include Magnolia bark, kava kava, valerian, L-theanine and too many others to mention. However, very few studies exist which have directly tested the effects of these herbs on cortisol levels. Although some people may find value in these types of products, the ideal solution is to reduce the stress or change your perception of the stress to lessen its physical effects. Treating symptoms does not remove causes. It can be dangerous to “band-aid” the effects of stress while the stress remains in place.

What should you do if you have a lot of stress in your life?
It makes sense to take steps to reduce stress in your life and lessen the impact of stressors that cannot be avoided. Trying to avoid stress completely is not possible, nor is it desirable. Stress is an important part of life because you can’t achieve positive adaptations and growth without stress to trigger them. It’s continuous stress that you want to avoid. It’s okay to expose yourself to stress, provided there is a sufficient period of rest afterwards so you can fully recover.
One of the best ways to keep cortisol in the normal range is to reduce stress and allow time for recovery and renewal. There are effective and natural means of reducing stress that don’t cost a penny, including getting out in nature, deep breathing, enhancing sleep quality, relaxation exercises, meditation and visualization-guided imagery. It's important to develop a calm mind and sense of tranquility.

What’s in those cortisol pills anyway?
The ingredients can vary in type and quantity from one brand to the next. Some ingredients are included in the formulations to have a relaxing or stress reducing effect, some are included to reduce cortisol levels, while others are aimed at insulin and blood sugar stabilization. Cortislim, for example, contains Magnolia bark, beta sitosoterol, theanine, green tea extract, bitter orange peel extract (source of synephrine), banaba leaf extract, vanadium, vitamin C, calcium and Chromium.
Other ingredients that are often used in the various product formulations include Epidemium, phytosterols, tyrosine, Branched chain amino acids, ginseng, ashwaganda, astragalus, kava kava, St. John’s wort, Melatonin, SAM-e, Valerian, Gingko Biloba, Phosphatidyl Serine (PS), Acetyl L-carnitine and Glutamine. Reviewing all of these is beyond the scope of this article.

If you decide to take a cortisol suppressing supplement what should you look for?
Before you even think about supplements (or drugs), keep in mind that unnatural suppression of cortisol may not be wise or necessary, especially if you haven’t used all the natural cortisol and stress management strategies at your disposal first. Once your nutrition, training and recovery bases are covered, there is some solid research showing that certain supplements may be beneficial, especially for athletes engaged in extremely hard training.

Carbohydrate consumed with lean protein immediately after training has a cortisol suppressing effect. High glycemic index (GI) carbs in particular, cause an insulin spike, which not only helps restore muscle glycogen, stimulates protein synthesis and kick starts the recovery process, it also helps lower the exercise-induced rise in cortisol. The research supporting this practice is substantial. (This should serve as a warning to people on low carb diets that are so strict that they don’t even allow small amounts of carbs after workouts). Rather than solid food, many athletes prefer a liquid “meal” using a commercial post workout drink containing whey protein and maltodextrin plus dextrose or glucose (fast acting protein and high GI carbs) because the rapid absorption time may speed recovery.

Vitamin C, known mainly for cold or flu protection and antioxidant properties, may decrease cortisol levels. A study by Marsit, et al showed a reduction in cortisol levels in elite weightlifters taking 1000 mg. of vitamin C per day. Other studies have reported similar findings.

Phosphatidyl serine (PS) is a phospholipid, which appears to have cortisol suppressing properties. Studies by Fahey and Monteleone have shown that daily doses of 800 mg can reduce cortisol. These studies did not conclude that PS would help you lose weight or gain more muscle.
Glutamine is an amino acid, which in some studies, has been shown to decrease cortisol and prevent a decrease in protein synthesis. Many strength athletes swear by glutamine for improved recovery, but the research is still not conclusive about efficacy or dosages for athletes or bodybuilders. Much of the research on Glutamine was performed on patients recovering from surgery, burns or traumas (severe stresses to the body).

Acetyl-L Carnitine (ALC) has been studied in Alzheimers patients as a method of improving cognitive function. One study showed that long term use of Acetyl L Carnitine lowered cortisol in the Alzheimers patients. Research on rats and mice has shown that ALC increases luteinizing hormone, which may in turn elevate testosterone. Whether these findings carry over to healthy athletes has yet to be proven, but some coaches and athletes believe that ALC lowers cortisol and elevates testosterone.

It’s important to note that the research on some of these substances is often conflicting and inconclusive. It's also important to note that many of the cortisol suppressing supplements which are marketed to athletes or to people seeking weight loss do not contain doses anywhere near the amounts that were used in the research. (Yet another way that supplement companies deceive consumers).

How can you lower your cortisol levels naturally?
You can lower cortisol naturally. In fact, if you are overtrained, unnatural cortisol suppression may be nothing more than a “band aid,” and continued overtraining can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which could take months to remedy. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a rest or decrease your training volume and intensity rather than artificially attempt to suppress cortisol. Symptoms of overtraining include elevated resting pulse, sleep disturbances, fatigue, decreased strength and decreased performance.
  • Avoid very low calorie diets, especially for prolonged periods of time. Low calorie dieting is a major stress to the body. Low calorie diets increase cortisol while decreasing testosterone.
  • Use stress reduction techniques (stress, anger, anxiety, and fear can raise cortisol)
  • Avoid continuous stress. Stress is an important part of growth. It’s when you remain under constant stress without periods of recovery that you begin breaking down.
  • Avoid overtraining by keeping workouts intense, but brief (cortisol rises sharply after 45-60 min of strength training)
  • Avoid overtraining by matching your intensity, volume and duration to your recovery ability. Decrease your training frequency, and or take a layoff if necessary.
  • Suppress cortisol and maximize recovery after workouts with proper nutrition: Consume a carb-protein meal or drink immediately after your workout.
  • Get plenty of quality sleep (sleep deprivation, as a stressor, can raise cortisol).
  • Avoid or minimize use of stimulants; caffeine, ephedrine, synephrine, etc.
  • Limit alcohol (large doses of alcohol elevate cortisol).
  • Stay well hydrated (at least one study has suggested that dehydration may raise cortisol).
How do you spot a weight loss pill scam?
The cortisol pill is just one in a long string of bogus weight loss products, and it won’t be the last! Why? Because weight loss supplements are big business! Eight or nine figure fortunes have been made from the sales of a single product, which was later proven to be a total farce.
How do you protect yourself? Do your homework! Don’t take anything unless you know exactly what’s in the product, why it’s in the product and how much is in the product. Review the scientific research. Don’t buy a weight loss product just because a radio personality says it works! Don’t jump on the phone with your credit card in hand after watching a thirty-minute infomercial! In this day and age, you have to be smarter than that!

Excessive cortisol is not good. But cortisol is not inherently bad; it’s a vitally important hormone and part of your body’s natural stress response. Cortisol does not make you fat. Stress does not make you fat. Stress may lead to increased appetite… Increased appetite may lead to eating too much… Eating too much makes you gain fat. Make sense?
Cortisol suppressing agents may have some practical uses. But rather than thinking of cortisol supplements as a weight loss miracle (which they most surely are not), get yourself on a solid exercise and nutrition program and seek natural ways to enhance recovery and reduce stress. By doing this first, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you’re losing fat and gaining muscle and there isn’t a need to take supplements at all.
For more information on how to lose body fat safely, permanently and naturally without supplements or pills, check out the e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle at www-burnthefat-com

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2. Bjorntorp, P., Body fat distribution, insulin resistance, and metabolic diseases. Nutrition, 1997, 13: 795-803
3. Bjorntorp, P., Do stress reactions cause abdominal obesity and comorbidities? Obesity Reviews, 2001, 2: 73-86
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10. Fahey, et al., Hormonal Effects of Phosphatidylserine (PS) during two weeks of intense weight training (Orlando, Fl : ACSM Conference, 1998)
11. Fry, et al., “Resistance exercise overtraining and overreaching. Neuroendocrine responses,” Sports Med, 1997, 23 (2): 106-129.
12. Futterman, A.D., et al., Immunological and physiological changes associated with induced positive and negative mood, Phychosomatic medicine, 1994, 56(6): 499-511
13. Griffin J, Ojeda S. Textbook of endocrine physiology, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
14. Hickson, et al., “Glutamine prevents down regulation of myosin heavy chain synthesis and muscle atrophy from glucocorticoids,” Am J Physiol, 1995, 268: E730-E734.
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17. Krsmanovic, L.Z., et al., Actions of Acetyl L canitine on the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal system in female rats. Journal of Steroid Biochemical Molecular Biology, 1992. 43(4): 351-358
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About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to burn fat without drugs or supplements using the little-known secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and turbo-charge your metabolism by visiting: www-burnthefat-com.

Minggu, 29 Maret 2015

Nutrition Or Training - Which Is More Important?

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Legendary bodybuilding trainer Vince, "The Iron Guru" Gironda was famous for saying, "Bodybuilding is 80% nutrition!" But is this really true or is it just another fitness and bodybuilding myth passed down like gospel without ever being questioned? Which is really more important, nutrition or training? This IS an interesting question and I believe there is a definite answer:

The first thing I would say is that you cannot separate nutrition and training. The two work together synergistically. Regardless of your goals - gaining muscle, losing fat, athletic conditioning, whatever -you will get less than-optimal or even non-existent results without paying attention paid to both.
In fact, I like to look at gaining muscle or losing fat in three parts - weight training, cardio training and nutrition - with each part like a leg of a three legged stool. pull ANY one of the legs off the stool, and guess what happens?

In reality, it's impossible to put a specific percentage on which is more important - how could we possibly know such a number to the digit?
Nutrition and training are both important, but at certain stages of your training progress, I do believe placing more attention on one component over the other can create larger improvements. Let me explain:

If you're a beginner and you don't posses nutritional knowledge, then mastering nutrition is far more important than training and should become your number one priority. I say this because improving a poor diet can create rapid, quantum leaps in fat loss and muscle building progress.
For example, if you've been skipping meals and only eating 2 times per day, jumping your meal frequency up to 5 or 6 smaller meals a day will transform your physique very rapidly.

proven fat loss method
If you're still eating lots of processed fats and refined sugars, cutting them out and replacing them with good fats like the omega threes found in fish and unrefined foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will make an enormous and noticeable difference in your physique very quickly.
If your diet is low in protein, simply adding a complete protein food like chicken breast, fish or egg whites at each meal will muscle you up fast.

No matter how hard you train or what type of training routine you're on, it's all in vain if you don't provide yourself with the right nutritional support.
In beginners (or in advanced trainees who are still eating poorly), these changes in diet are more likely to result in great improvements than a change in training.

The muscular and nervous systems of a beginner are unaccustomed to exercise. Therefore, just about any training program can cause muscle growth and strength development to occur because it's all a "shock" to the untrained body.
You can almost always find ways to tweak your nutrition to higher and higher levels, but once you’ve mastered all the nutritional basics, then further improvements in your diet don't have as great of an impact as those initial important changes...

Eating more than six meals will have minimal effect. Eating more protein ad infinitum won't help. Once you're eating low fat, going to zero fat won't help more - it will probably hurt. If you're eating a wide variety of foods and taking a good multi vitamin/mineral, then more supplements probably wont help much either. If you're already eating natural complex carbs and lean proteins every three hours, there's not too much more you can do other than continue to be consistent day after day...
At this point, as an intermediate or advanced trainee who has the nutrition in place, changes in your training become much more important, relatively speaking. Your training must become downright scientific.

Except for the changes that need to be made between an "off season" muscle growth diet and a "precontest" cutting diet, the diet won't and can't change much - it will remain fairly constant.
But you can continue to pump up the intensity of your training and improve the efficiency of your workouts almost without limit. In fact, the more advanced you become, the more crucial training progression and variation becomes because the well-trained body adapts so quickly.
According to powerlifter Dave Tate, an advanced lifter may adapt to a routine within 1-2 weeks. That's why elite lifters rotate exercises constantly and use as many as 300 different variations on exercises.

Strength coach Ian King says that unless you're a beginner, you'll adapt to any training routine within 3-4 weeks. Coach Charles Poliquin says that you'll adapt within 5-6 workouts.
So, to answer the question, while nutrition is ALWAYS critically important, it's more important to emphasize for the beginner (or the person whose diet is still a "mess"), while training is more important for the advanced person... (in my opinion).

It's not that nutrition ever ceases to be important, the point is, further improvements in nutrition won't have as much impact once you already have all the fundamentals in place.
Once you've mastered nutrition, then it's all about keeping that nutrition consistent and progressively increasing the efficiency and intensity of your workouts, and mastering the art of planned workout variation, which is also known as "periodization."
The bottom line: There's a saying among strength coaches and personal trainers...
"You can't out-train a lousy diet!"

If your nutrition program is your weakest area, either because you're just starting out or you simply don't have the nutritional knowledge you know you need to get results, then be sure to take a look at the Burn The Fat program at: www-burnthefat-com

About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, an NSCA-certified personal trainer (CPT), certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS), and author of the #1 best-selling e-book, "Burn theFat, Feed The Muscle.” Tom has written hundreds of articles and been featured in IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise, as well as on dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's Fat Loss program, visit: www-burnthefat-com

Jumat, 27 Maret 2015

How To Lose 20 Pounds Really, Really Fast

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Back “in the day” when I was a full time personal trainer and I met with weight loss clients in person at my New Jersey Health Club, the first thing I would always ask during the initial consultation was:
"Tell me what you want... and I'll show you how to get it."
Typical reply from client:
"I want to lose 20 pounds fast."

My reply:
"Are you SURE that's what you want? ...If I can show you how to lose 20 pounds REALLY fast, will that make you happy?"
They nodded their head affirmatively as their eyes lit up in anticipation of the rapid weight loss secrets I was about to reveal...
Their face went white when - with a totally straight face – I pulled out a hacksaw and started walking towards them.... menacingly.
Not sure whether to laugh or run in sheer terror, they said,
"What the heck are you doing?"
"You said you wanted to lose 20 pounds fast. This is the easiest, surest, most effective way I know to take 20 pounds off you FAST! In fact, I figure that right leg of yours might even weigh 25 pounds!"
I kept walking closer and started to get into sawing position, wielding my fast, effective and guaranteed weight loss tool...
"Bear with me because this IS quick, but sometimes it takes a few minutes for me to cut through the bone."
By this time, my client (and I) are either completely cracking up, I have seriously scared the living you know what out of them, or they just think I'm a complete lunatic... (depends on whether I was able to keep a straight face or not)

Finally, the light bulb goes on, and my client would see where I was going with this:
"Okay, smart alec," I get it... I don't want to lose WEIGHT, I want to lose FAT."
Sometimes I would be having so much fun, I would just keep on playin'...
"But why not? This is easy, fast and guaranteed - just what everyone wants these days... it's even better than taking a pill! Come on... let me hack it off! You'll be my next testimonial: 'I lost 20 pounds in 5 minutes!' Imagine what that will do for my business!"
"Very funny. I told you, I get it! I want to lose FAT, not muscles and bones. I need my leg!”
Naturally, of course, I don't always have to pull out my trusty blade. Every once in a while... about as often as a total solar eclipse... a client answers my question like this:

"What do I want? Tom, I want to lose 20 pounds of body fat in the next 12 weeks. I want to do it slowly, safely and healthfully and then keep it off permanently. I want all the fat around my hips and thighs completely gone and I want a firm flat stomach. I want muscle all over my body while still looking feminine. I'd like to see myself at about 16% body fat and maintain all my muscle or gain a few pounds of lean mass if I can, especially in my arms. This is important to me because I want to set a good example for my kids, I want to be healthy and live to at least 90 and I want my husband to look at me and say, "I love your body," and I want to be able to *honestly* say back to him, "me too!"

It is on these rare occasions that I know there is still intelligent life on this planet.
If you could answer the question, "What do you want" with the lucidity, clarity and specificity that this woman did, I don't think you would ever have any difficulty reaching your health and fitness goals... or any other goal in your life, for that matter.
Her answer was what you call a very "well-formed" goal, backed up with lots of emotional motivation-inducing "reasons why."
"I want to lose weight" is a poorly-formed goal.
"Weight" is not the same as "fat." Weight includes muscle, bone, internal organs as well as lots and lots of water.

If you only learn ONE thing from all my newsletters, articles and books, PLEASE learn this:
FAT LOSS is what you want, not weight loss.
If your body were 100% rock-solid muscle, with absolutely nothing that jiggled (unless it was supposed to), would you care how much you weighed?
I bet you wouldn't! And if that’s true, then…

By measuring your body fat, you take the guesswork out of your health and fitness plan and you get an accurate picture of what's really happening in your body as a result of your diet and exercise program.

Instead of worrying about whether you are losing muscle, or wondering if you are losing fat, you can measure it and KNOW for sure. (I always get a good chuckle when someone tells me they're worried about losing muscle when they don't even measure how much muscle they have!)
Instead of being confused by all the "opinions" from weight loss and exercise "experts" who are all telling you something different, you can MEASURE your body composition and based on the results, you can KNOW for sure whether your program is working.

A very wise man once said,
"A single measurement is worth a thousand opinions."
So, how do you measure body fat?
Thanks to technology, there are some methods today that are so accurate, they can tell you whether your left pinky has more fat than your right pinky! Unfortunately, many of them are either too expensive or they are inaccessible, being found only in hospitals or research facilities
If you want to learn a LOT about various body fat testing methods, chapter 3 of my e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (www-burnthefat-com) goes into great detail about the pros and cons of all the various fat testing methods. Instead of re-hashing it all here, let me give you three quick and easy, practical suggestions:

Suggestion 1: Have a trainer or fitness professional measure you if this service is available at your local health club. Sometimes, there's a charge - usually $15 - $25, although some clubs offer the service for free to all their members.

Suggestion 2: Purchase an Accu-measure skinfold caliper. Do a google or yahoo search to find a reseller.
The Accu-measure was designed to allow you to measure your own body fat in the privacy of your own home (you don't need someone else to measure you)
Some people wonder if this is really accurate. Truth is, it's not quite as accurate as a multi site skinfold test from an experienced tester, but what's most important is not the "accuracy" per se, but the reliability and consistency of your measurements so you can track your progress. Skinfold calipers in general are not accurate or inaccurate, it's the person doing the test that is accurate or inaccurate.

Suggestion 3: If you have a spouse, roommate, or friend who can measure your body fat, you can purchase a Slim Guide body fat caliper (or just about any brand of caliper) from Creative Health Products:

The Slimguide is the best inexpensive caliper available (about $20), but it wasn't designed for you to measure your own body fat like the Accu Measure. You'll need someone to measure you with this caliper. Other models of body fat calipers (if you want to splurge), range from $150 to $450. (At our health clubs, I use the electronic "SKYNDEX" caliper with the 4-site "Durnin formula.")
The calipers come with instructions, or you can use these formulas, which I have used and found to be very accurate:

4 Site formula for men (abdomen, suprailiac, thigh, tricep)
% fat = .29288(sum of 4 skinfolds) - 0.0005(sum of four skinfolds squared) + 0.15845(age) - 5.76377
4-Site Formula for women (abdomen, suprailiac, thigh, tricep)
% Fat = (.29669)(sum of 4 skinfolds) - (.00043)(Sum of four skinfolds squared) + .02963(age) + 1.4072
[Source: Jackson A S, Pollock, M (1985) Practical assessment of body composition. Physician Sport Med. 13: 76-90.]
Body fat percentages vary based on age and gender, but 20-25% body fat is average for women (15-19% is ideal), while 15-20% is average for men (10-14% is ideal). I have detailed charts for body fat charts in my e-book if you're interested.

Once you know your body fat percentage, then weigh yourself and record your weight and body fat on a progress chart such as the one found in my Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle Program (a fat loss program, not a weight loss program). This chart is how you will track your progress and "keep score."
You can calculate your lean body mass (muscle and other fat free tissue) very easily just by crunching some numbers:

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you have 10% body fat then you have 20 pounds of fat (10% of 200 = 20). That means you have a lean body mass (LBM) of 180 pounds.
Now we're talking! With this data, you can get a really clear picture of how your exercise and nutrition program are affecting your physique.

Losing weight is very easy. Losing fat - and keeping it off without losing muscle - is a much bigger challenge. If you simply wanted to lose weight, we could just chop off your leg.
Or, (slightly less painful), I could show you how to drop 10 - 15 pounds over the weekend just by dehydrating yourself and using natural herbal diuretics. Wrestlers do it all the time to make a weight class. But what good would that do if it’s almost all water and you’re just going to gain it all back within days?

You don't have to "throw away your scale" like many "experts" tell you to. By all means, keep using the scale, the tape measure and even photographs and the mirror - the more feedback the better - but body fat is where it's at.

By the way, I recently bought a chain saw and a shiny new axe from Home Depot, and I've been practicing my "American Psycho" and Jack Nicholson, "The Shining" impersonations... so if you want to come to my office any time soon for personal consultation, you'd better have the right answer to my question, "What do you want?"
For more information about a nutrition and training program that focuses exclusively on FAT LOSS, not WEIGHT LOSS, visit: www-burnthefat-com

About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, an NSCA-certified personal trainer (CPT), certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS), and author of the #1 best-selling e-book, "Burn theFat, Feed The Muscle.” Tom has written hundreds of articles and been featured in IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise, as well as on dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's Fat Loss program, visit: www-burnthefat-com