This blog article is in response to The Science Is In: Exercise Won't Help You Lose Much Weight.
Basically, this article can be summed by it’s own summary which states:
“Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don't expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.”
Now, this article raises two huge questions:
1. If you are trying to lose weight, should you even bother exercising?
2. If so, what kind of exercise should you do?
I’m going to go through all of the article’s main points to answer the questions of whether you should exercise at all and what kind of exercise should you do (if at all)?
The first main point of this article is that exercise may not help you lose weight because…
"Exercise accounts for such a small portion of your daily calorie burn."
The article states which is true that 10-30 percent all our calories burned come from fidgeting, holding our posture, standing, walking, and finally, your exercise.
So, we’re going to be a little generous and let’s say 5-15 percent of your calories burned come just from exercise. The problem is 5-15 percent of calories burned isn’t going to be enough to help you lose all of the weight you probably want to lose.
Now, if you could burn 20-30 percent, that would be really powerful, and there is a way we can do this. That way is called cutting calories through dieting. So, it’s much more simple to cut calories to help us burn fat, than it is to exercise those calories off.
The article presents a good case for showing us the limitations of exercise in burning calories.
Main Point #2: We naturally eat more when we’re exercising without noticing we’re eating more.
Check this study out: These people were in this research study for one year. They were overweight men and women. They averaged 55 minutes on the treadmill 6 days out of 7 days of the week.
How much weight do you think they lost? I think a reasonable guess would be at least 10 pounds, but potentially 20 to 30 pounds. They actually lost an average of 3.5 pounds. When we divide that into 12 months, they lost an average of 0.3 pounds per month. An hour a day of exercise is a lot of work to do to lose less than half a pound per month.
It does bring us back to the point that cutting calories through dieting is still the most powerful way to drop weight.
Main Point #3: Our metabolisms slow down the more weight we lose.
While this point isn’t actually mentioned in the article, it is mentioned in the corollary article that this article comes from which is titled: Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies.
Have you ever dieted down, and lost a lost of weight the first week, then over the next couple of weeks and even months, weight loss slows down and eventually plateaus? Part of that is very likely your metabolism slowing down.
So, for instance, if you started out with a 300-500 calorie deficit, you’ll surely lose weight from that. But it is possible for your metabolism to slow down by a couple hundred calories, and then at that point, you no longer have a significant deficit to lose much if any weight. This is why it gets even harder to lose weight to the end because your metabolism is fighting you.
In conclusion: this is a good article and highlights the most important ways that you can actually lose weight which is by cutting calories through dieting. It challenges a lot of the perceptions that exercise is critical to lose weight.
But, if you read the article, you’d come away with the impression that you wouldn’t really need to exercise to lose weight, and you’d be correct. I mean, the corollary article which this article stems from is called: Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies.
However, there is a quote in both articles which is interesting. I want to see if you can spot the dilemma in this quote.
"If a hypothetical 200-pound man added 60 minutes of medium-intensity running four days per week while keeping his calorie intake the same, and he did this for 30 days, he'd lose five pounds."
Did you see the problem with this sentence? The authors acknowledge that if you keep the calorie intake the same (which means we’re not changing the diet at all), and, if you actually exercise, you will lose weight.
But aren’t they trying to say the opposite of that?
Let me tell you what the authors are assuming.
Main point number 2 states: We naturally eat more when we’re exercising without noticing we’re eating more.
My question to you is, how could you overcome this?
The way we can actually know if we are eating more is by recording our food intake and being extremely scrupulous with the amount we consume. In other words, you need to be very accurate with counting calories. You should consider using a food scale and recording your intake.
If you do this, you can unlock the full potential of exercise-induced weight loss which is exactly what the article implies with the quote above.
My original question was: If you’re going to try to lose weight, should you even bother exercising?
Contrary to the original article’s title which is: Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight, Explained with 60+ Studies, you absolutely should exercise to lose weight. The reason why is that when you are very carefully controlling your calories, even they acknowledge that if you’re not changing your diet and you exercise, you will lose weight. We’re not finished though.
The third main point was “Our metabolisms slow down the more weight we lose.”
One way that we can counteract this is to do resistance training and to lose weight slowly. Doing that might completely prevent metabolic slow down, and at the very least it should help mitigate metabolic slow down.
Not only that, people who resistance train lose substantially more fat, keep or build more muscle, and have higher bone mineral density, compared to people who are only dieting.
The first main point of the article was that exercise accounts for such a small portion of your daily calorie burn.
The way to counteract this is to do cardiovascular exercise, but it can’t just be any cardiovascular exercise. It should be significant enough to induce a reasonable calorie deficit, generally in the range of 400 to 700 calories, depending on your body weight. I recommend using a heart rate monitor which incorporates your weight to give you the highest accuracy possible.
The two big takeaways are:
1. You need to closely monitor and accurately record how many calories you consume.
2.You need to accurately estimate how many calories you burn with exercise. The research is clear: people notoriously overestimate how many calories they burn, and they underestimate how much calories they consume. Don’t fall into these traps!
In fact, we know from the research that the more overweight you are, the more you’ll underreport how much food you actually consume.
There’s an ingenious method used in the research called doubly labeled water which swaps out the standard oxygen and hydrogen atoms in water or H20 with oxygen and hydrogen isotopes, that after all is said and done gives you a very precise measurement of how many calories you burn, and thus how many calories you need to consume to maintain your weight.
What all those studies have found is that the more overweight you are, the more you’ll underreport how many calories you actually consume.
In one of the landmark studies in 1986, the lean subjects were found to be extremely accurate with how many calories they reported, but the obese subjects reported on average of 835 calories lower than what they were actually getting in. (2)
The article claims that the studies it examined showed that exercise didn't really help people lose much more weight when people were dieting or only exercising. However, all of the subjects in their studies were overweight or obese when beginning their weight loss efforts (for those studies which weight loss was significant). This made it more likely that many of their participants underestimated how many calories they consumed.
It's very possible these same overweight or obese individuals overate when exercising (but ultimately were at enough of a deficit to still lose weight). Because metabolic slowdown was even less of a factor for exercisers, this could have been a significant contributor why individuals didn't lose as much weight as expected when exercising.
We are designed to move and exercise. It’s fun to compete, play games, and to get a six-pack. You can't do this without exercise. You get the best natural high after exercise and which combats depression, lowers blood pressure, lowers LDL cholesterol, makes you smarter, improves your memory, and makes you look, feel, and be way more awesome. In other words, you’re crazy for giving up your exercise to help you lose weight.
1. McTiernan A, Sorensen B, Irwin ML, Morgan A, Yasui Y, Rudolph RE, Surawicz C, Lampe JW, Lampe PD, Ayub K, Potter JD. Exercise effect on weight and body fat in men and women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jun;15(6):1496-512. PubMed PMID: 17557987.
2. Prentice AM, Black AE, Coward WA, Davies HL, Goldberg GR, Murgatroyd PR, Ashford J, Sawyer M, Whitehead RG. High levels of energy expenditure in obese women. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1986 Apr 12;292(6526):983-7. PubMed PMID: 3083978; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1339917.
Do you really need a protein powder to increase your muscle mass and strength?
The research is very clear (from 32 different studies): if you happen to strength train at all; you'll gain significantly more muscle mass and strength if you take a protein powder. (1)
You might be wondering, what kind of protein powder should you take? Whey protein, casein protein, veggie protein, or beef protein powder?
Unless you're a vegan or vegetarian, (in which case you should definitely consider a veggie protein), I highly recommend a whey protein for everyone else for two reasons.
Reason 1: It's cheap!
Whey protein is by far the cheapest protein powder out of all protein powder. It can even be money-saving compared to expensive protein sources like fish, steak, and wild-caught sources of protein.
Reason 2: It ramps up muscle building big-time!
Whey protein increases protein synthesis probably more than any other protein.
I'll be honest with you, I don't like promoting certain brands of supplements. However, my clients sometimes ask me, "What brand do you recommend?"
My official recommendation right now comes from consumerlab.com which is a great resource and independently tests for claimed ingredients and contaminants in supplements. Their top picks for supplements always have three qualifications:
1. It's the most economical or cheapest.
2. It has what it say it has.
3. It doesn't have heavy metals like lead or cadmium.
Their top pick is: EAS 100% Whey Protein
I definitely like the chocolate flavor, but I do not like the vanilla flavor. Most people I know like the chocolate too.
I have to level with you. Most protein powders do contain the claimed ingredients and do not have contaminants. This begs the question, "what should you look for in a basic protein powder? "
Fat: It should have 3 grams or less of fat.
Carbohydrates: It should have 5 grams or less of carbohydrates.
Protein: It should have 18 grams or more of protein in a serving.
(Please note this only applies to non-veggie protein powders.)
Remember that really cool research I mentioned above which showed that muscle mass and strength is significantly increased if you take a protein powder? Do you want to know the real reason why those individuals in those studies gained more strength and muscle mass?
They simply got in more protein. That's why you should ask yourself, "Do I really need a protein powder?" Let's answer that. The guidelines I'll give are the litmus test to see if a protein powder will actually help you out.
If you're maintaining your weight, or gaining weight, and you're getting in less than 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight, you could benefit by using a protein powder. (2) Let's break that last sentence down.
Take your bodyweight (i.e. 200 pounds). Multiply it by 0.9. 200 x 0.9 = 180. If I'm getting in less than 180 grams of protein per day, I can use a protein powder.
If you're getting in 180 grams of protein per day or more, you don't need a protein powder (unless you want to save your jaw muscles a lot of work by chewing on so much damn protein).
By the way, getting in this much protein and a lot more is completely safe. (3) Unless you have kidney disease, don't worry about it.
However, let's assume that I'm getting in 140 grams of protein from my regular food sources which includes chicken, beef, cottage cheese, etc. I could then take 40 grams of a protein powder which would help me reach 180 grams (since 140 plus 40 equals 180) which is my ceiling for how much protein is useful to my body.
But, what if I'm dieting or dropping weight?
This is a little different, but basically the same. You should get in 1 gram per pound of body weight. (4) If I weight 200 pounds, that's how many grams of protein I can use, 200 grams. If you weight 150 pounds, get in 150 grams of protein per day.
If you're dieting and not even close to 1 gram per pound of body weight, you'll definitely benefit by taking a protein supplement. Remember that it's usually much more appealing to lose fat mass since it occupies more space than the equivalent weight of muscle mass. The more protein you take, the most muscle mass you will hold onto.
Does it matter when you take your protein powder?
Nope. We used to believe that timing was everything, but research is not showing us that it comes down to how much total protein in a day which is the real key. (5)
Before I sign off, I have a real pet peeve that I want to share with you. I see a lot of people mixing in milk, soy milk, guacamole, peanut butter, almond butter, seeds, nuts, and whatever other high-calorie stuff (even if it's healthy) into their protein powder. This is okay if you're 130 pounds and skinny as I was growing up.
However, mixing in all this stuff makes the pure protein powder a meal replacement. If you're not replacing this as your breakfast or lunch, don't add in the extra stuff. If you're trying to lose weight, ditch the extraneous ingredients, and use water.
A protein powder can benefit most people. Protein powders are economical and help you build more muscle or preserve it and help you lose more fat. It'll also help you gain more strength. If you do take a protein powder, I highly recommend using minimal ingredients.
1. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2015 Jan;45(1):111-31. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 25169440.
2. Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, La Bounty P, Roberts M, Burke D, Landis J, Lopez H, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Sep 26;4:8. PubMed PMID: 17908291; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2117006.
3. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of high vs. normal/low protein diets on renal function in subjects without chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 May 22;9(5):e97656. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097656. eCollection 2014. Review. PubMed PMID: 24852037; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4031217.
4. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204. Review. PubMed PMID: 22150425.
5. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Dec 3;10(1):53. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-53. PubMed PMID: 24299050; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3879660.
It's cold up in this neck of the woods. The Vikings are doing awesome may make it to the Superbowl getting some home field advantage this year. But like any seasoned Vikes fans, I will not get my hopes up too high and will try to remain cautiously optimistic. This is how I want you to think about your eating going into the holiday season.
The holidays are upon us. The two most dreaded for dieters are typically: Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I know some of you blow it on Halloween, Valentine's days, and others, so this article will still help you out.)
For some of you, it's going to completely derail your nutritional plan.
This is why I made this post to give you some assistance.
Tip #1: Have a nutritional plan in place BEFORE the holidays.
I don't really care what your nutritional plan is. It could be counting calories, Weight Watchers, or Precision Nutrition. However, you need to have something in place because if you get to the Holidays and don't have a plan, you won't make it. You don't even need to read the rest of this article if you don't have some structure you follow.
Take the 2004 USA Men's Basketball Team. They had unquestionably the top talent in the world. But, they hand't played together much, didn't have great strategy, and took home a bronze. A bronze is awesome, but seriously, with that talent? Sometimes, the world will surprise you if you aren't prepared, so be prepared!
Tip #2: Get full.
I want you to get filled up on the good stuff which includes water, protein, vegetables, and fruits. Anything that's remotely healthy, I want you to start eating this. If you let yourself get hungry, your finished. There are often too many snacks and crappy foods that it'll be nearly impossible to contain yourself if you get hungry.
My family can eat anywhere from 2 to 6pm. This is a huge window to get hungry in, and if I do, I'm going to begin to indulge on crap I don't really want. Stay stocked up on the good stuff!
Tip #3: Get in a workout.
If you can get in any kind of physical activity before the big meal (even like a long walk), you're going to be confident going into the holiday meal or meals.
Since you will have already built up some success for the day, you'll be less likely to say yes to crap foods when offered. And yes, you will be offered and have to say no. If that's too much for some of you to handle, you have boundary issues.
Tip #4: Don't stick around the crappy foods.
Watch out for the kitchen and the dining room table. You never know when a cookie will suddenly land in your mouth, taste so damn good, and then you are pretty much forced to eat it.
If you stick around areas where you can see crappy food for too long, this is what you're doing to yourself. Watch out and make sure where you're sitting or standing, there's no crappy food visible.
Tip #5: Get a teammate for support.
Whether it's a spouse, friend, family member, or whoever, you need to get some support. Maybe just as importantly, you need to give some support. You are a lot less likely to blow it if you can support someone else.
Most people really underestimate getting support too. Typically, if you fail, you will have realized you had no support, and potentially no real plan other than, "I'll say no to everything" which might not be realistic.
Tip #6: Don't sit too close to your drink or snack plate.
Being around family can be stressful. To combat this stress, people eat and drink. If we always have a plate or drink near us, we often eat and drink a lot more than we normally would.
This is why you need to sit at a distance that really makes you reach or get up to eat or drink. You'll think twice, and realize how much you are eating and drinking.
Tip #7: Get accountable.
I don't care whether you text out, tweet out, send a Facebook message, or whatever, but it's good to stay accountable. Express what you are going to have and what you won't have. Afterward, report back on it. Sending out the initial message and knowing you will report back will definitely give you a lot of support.
Those are my top seven tips to not gain weight over the holidays. I've failed during all the major holidays, so I know what it's like to blow it. Feel free to post your own tips below. Have some great holidays!
I got a question last week from a Youtube viewer asking:
Why can't more advanced individuals do both [meaning gain muscle and lose fat] at the same time?
My answer was: You need to try to do both.
For example. If you’re gaining muscle mass, you should definitely try to lose fat, or keep fat gain at a minimum. How can you do that?
Do you know how much muscle mass a trained individual can put on per week? For a 200 pound individual, this person can maximally put on 0.25 pounds to 0.5 pounds of muscle mass per week (coming from Alan Aragon who is a solid bodybuilding researcher). This assumes that you are resistance training and you are getting in a lot of protein.
Let’s assume you’re on a bulking phase and you are gaining 5 pounds of bodyweight per month. How much of this weight will be put on as muscle and fat? Since we know we can gain 0.25 pounds to 0.5 pounds of muscle mass per week, we can gain anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds of muscle per month. The rest of the weight will be increased water weight, other metabolites and nutrients, and fat mass.
If you put on 10 pounds of body weight, do you know much much muscle you'll gain? Between 1-2 pounds. Most of the rest of that weight will be fat mass, so I think you're getting my point.
This means you need to gain weight slowly in order to put on the muscle mass, but minimize the fat gain. My typical recommendation is then to gain 2-4 pounds of body weight (for the average 200 pound male) per month. This will maximize muscle gain, but keep fat gain at a minimum and maybe even allow you to lose some fat. As I said before, this assumes you have a smart resistance training program in effect and your nutrition is dialed in.
How else can you gain muscle with minimal fat gain?
Cardio burns a ton of calories for the timeframe you do it in compared to strength training. (The afterburn effect of strength training is highly overrated.) Some individuals recommend doing more lifting sessions, but in my experience, this will lead you into overtraining much faster than if you simply have 2-3 sessions of cardio per week.
(If you are a female, newbie, or a super-lightweight, you probably can lift more frequently and get away with it. But, if you push very heavy weights, more frequent training will burn you out.)
Doing cardio in a lower to moderate heart rate zone (110BPM to 135BPM) burns a lot of fat and ideally will keep the fat gain you inevitably get at bay. These types of sessions (typically done for 20-30 minutes) will also allow you to recover faster than if you didn’t do them.
If you have not been used to doing any kind of aerobic work, you absolutely need to do these aerobic sessions. If you don’t, you’ll likely have poor work capacity, have less energy, and won’t recover from your workouts optimally.
Unless your nutrition is 99% solid and you get in all of your training and cardio sessions, you'll likely gain a little bit of fat mass even if you gain weight slowly. Don't worry!
Let's assume that over a 4 month period, you gain 5 pounds of muscle and gain 3 pounds of fat. First off, that's pretty damn good because you gained weight slowly, and you put on some substantial muscle mass. Second, you only put on three pounds of fat which will be a lot easier to lose than if you had put on 15 pounds of fat.
Assume you're tired of gaining weight, so you decide to cut. You need to increase your protein intake to make sure that your muscle mass is not lost. You still need to strength train and do cardio. Much like we did with gaining muscle, you need to lose weight slowly.
If you lose 2-4 pounds per month, you'll be in a prime position to drop fat and keep your muscle mass (and maybe even build some muscle mass). You can even decide to go through multiple cycles of cutting or bulking as long as each cycle is moderate. Later, we'll go through transitioning from bulking to cutting, but for now, you know the basics.
Weight gain and weight loss should be done slowly. As long as you are consistent with your strength training and cardio sessions and have overall good nutrition, you'll make solid progress.
I usually don’t look forward to my required bi-ennual first aid class, but this year was different. I had a really engaging instructor named Elizabeth who had some computer problems, so basically had to do the whole presentation off the fly with make-shift mannequins and improvised demonstrations.
I’m glad the video didn’t work, otherwise, I don’t think I would have written this.
First Aid methods seem to always be changing every time I take the class, so I thought I would update you on what the latest research shows will help you save lives.
CPR has extraordinarily been dumbed down (and for good reason)
Cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be life-saving. (The whole goal of CPR is to circulate the blood to your tissues, namely brain, so you don’t get massive brain damage or die from lack of oxygen.) CPR is incredibly simple.
If I had to sum up the whole class, it would be this:
1. Assess the scene (so as to make sure you don’t get electrocuted going into the puddle of water where the downed person is)
2. Assess the downed person and give a moderate shake (as they simply might have fallen asleep from exhaustion like pulling three shifts in a row.)
3. Task someone around you with calling 911 and have someone get an AED. An AED (or automated external defibrillator) essentially shocks the body to help establish normal heart rhythm. If you have access to one and someone is in cardiac arrest, you should use it.
If you find someone is unresponsive and they are not breathing, you need to do CPR. Don't worry about giving them mouth to mouth. Unless you have a face shield, it's generally not recommended (or unless it's a loved one.)
Check out your favorite British tough-guy Vinnie Jones explaining how to do CPR:
Here are some other interesting fun facts about dealing with nosebleeds, cuts, burns, and frostbite.
·AED device increases chances of living by 2-3 times.
·Cut? Assuming a band aid won't do, apply guaze to soak up the blood, apply a wrap, and make sure bleeding stops. If it doesn't, go to the ER. If it's obviously a deep gash, you need a tourniquet. You can leave it on without interruption for 6-8 hours. Do not take the tourniquet off until you get professional medical help.
·Are you on fire (and not on NBA 2k18)? Stop, drop, and roll still works.
·Treating a burn? Apply cool water, but not cold water.
·"A person in good physical condition can perform CPR for maybe 10 minutes." This is why I asked Elizabeth, the instructor, “why can’t we use our legs and feet for CPR work?” She said placement could be a problem and regulating the depth of chest compressions could also be problematic.
·Be assertive in a life or death situation! If you don’t, a lot of people won’t do anything, run away, or gawk.
·Removing ticks are simple. Pinch the skin around the tick while pulling upward and hold this until the Tick let's go. Don’t burn the Tick if it's attached. They can vomit their contents into your body which can lead to infections.
·Frostbite. Soak in warm water, not hot water. Go to the ER.
·Ingest some weird berries or did your toddler get into the cleaning cabinet? Poison Control Center or the National Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222).
You should know the basics of what to do in dangerous situations without having to think. You need to react. If you have a chance to take a first aid class, I highly recommend it. Often, they're free or pretty cheap. If you ever hike, camp, or have kids, it's definitely worth it.
I’ve had a ton of clients who have suffered from migraine’s. For the most part, I see those migraine’s get better using the strategies below. But, I’ve never seen a migraine sufferer not have at least one of these characteristics:
Forward head posture. I won’t get into the deep science, but suffice to say that every half inch your head is forward, the greater the stress is on the cervical spine. (1) Forward head posture is associated with greater tension-type headaches (which will usually contribute to a migraine).
Trigger points. Most of us have trigger points in our neck. In my experience, most who suffer from migraine’s have major trigger points in the neck area. This is backed up by a lot of studies which shows that individuals who have tension-based headaches will have worse trigger points than the rest of us. (2)
Non-neutral shoulder position. There is some evidence to support that higher tension in the upper traps (and potentially other muscles) is a contributor to tension-based headaches. (3) In my experience, this is reflected with elevated or depressed shoulders.
Flexed torso posture in daily life. You could have perfect neutral head posture, but if you are leaned over, you are over-stressing your neck big-time.
Now that I’ve harped on all my migraine-suffering clients, let’s get to what works. I’m surprised that more docs don't refer out to physical therapists for migraine’s, because the research shows physical methods work just as well as medications (if not better in some cases). I'd argue the physical means will at least have a chance to prevent future headaches. (4)
1. Get out of forward head posture by using the stick test. If you're reading this, you very likely have some degree of forward head posture. Here's how to really tell.
Place a broom stick on your back where the stick touches your butt, mid-back, and see if it touches your head. If it touches your head and you're not trying to touch your head to the stick, congratulations, you don't have a forward head posture. if you have to bring your head back at all, you have forward head posture.
Here's an overall good tutorial on neck position.
If this feels like you are constantly trying to avoid someone punching you in the face, that’s good. It should feel like that at first.
Over time, it will get easier, but you need to be really conscious of this. You may also need to work on extending or straightening your thoracic spine if you are rounded too much. Some clients just hate me when I am constantly putting the stick on their back and showing them their head is forward. If you’re overweight or obese, the stick may not be appropriate for you, but the back edge of your ear should bisect the middle of your shoulder.
2. Get a massage. My business partner, Matt Williamson is a master at identifying a ton of muscular, joint-based, and whole body patterns that tie into stuff like headaches. Before any training session, I’ll typically have clients roll with a softball on their necks against the wall. Often times, this will allow clients to stretch the neck muscles without them being aggravated.
3. Get your shoulders neutral. If you have depressed shoulders, you need to get them elevated, and this could mean doing shrugs. If you have elevated shoulders, you may need to focus on doing scapula depression work which is effectively, a reverse-shrug. Both ways relieve tension on the muscles, but you have to know which position you are in first. If you’re not sure, send me a pic, and ask.
4. When sitting, sit vertically. This sounds easy, but it is not. Realistically, you’ll likely need to move some cushions around to make it actually comfortable, potentially have your computer or book higher, and possibly reposition your legs. If you can’t be vertical or near vertical, you should have some head support.
I recommend patience with these evidence-based strategies. You likely won’t notice an immediate improvement, but overtime, you hopefully will see some major improvement with your headaches.
1. Cailliet R. Soft Tissue Pain and Disability. Philadelphia: FA Davis Co.,1977
2. Abboud J, Marchand AA, Sorra K, Descarreaux M. Musculoskeletal physical outcome measures in individuals with tension-type headache: a scoping review. Cephalalgia. 2013 Dec;33(16):1319-36. doi: 10.1177/0333102413492913. Epub 2013 Jun 26. Review. PubMed PMID: 23804285.
3. Bendtsen L, Ashina S, Moore A, Steiner TJ. Muscles and their role in episodic tension-type headache: implications for treatment.Eur J Pain. 2016 Feb;20(2):166-75. doi: 10.1002/ejp.748. Epub 2015 Jul 6. Review. PubMed PMID: 26147739.
4. Biondi DM. Physical treatments for headache: a structured review. Headache. 2005 Jun;45(6):738-46. Review. PubMed PMID: 15953306.
Here’s some quirky facts about alcohol which you might not all be aware of (and in honor of my business partner's wedding dance party tonight):
1. Even if you don’t get a hangover from alcohol, alcohol increases the effects of the sympathetic nervous system which means your fight or flight system is more activated. For those who are super-busy or have high stress, alcohol doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for you. If you’re on vacation and chilling, go for it. (1)
2. The rest and relaxation part of your nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes deactivated with alcohol. Is this why binge drinkers tend to experience more anxiety, impulsiveness, and “sensation seeking”? (2)
3. Hangovers happen with alcohol due to many factors including the type of alcohol you ingest, hydration status, sleep status, genetic factors, blood sugar levels, and inflammation pathways. However, by eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and not drinking too much, you probably won’t get much of a hangover unless you really overdo it. (3,4,5,6,7,8)
4. Intoxication is accurate word for any alcohol use. Alcohol is by the way a toxin.
5. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. However, it’s thermic effect of feeding (or how much energy is required to digest alcohol) is ridiculously high. It’s even higher than protein which basically means your body needs to use a significant amount of energy to digest alcohol. However, it doesn’t mean you can drink a 12 pack and not gain weight because…
6. Beer guts are real. (9)
7. The amount of research on weight loss and alcohol is remarkably thin. However, alcohol appears to not affect hunger significantly. But, alcohol also doesn’t really give much feelings of being full. This makes it easy to drink more calories and can make it harder to lose weight. If you are trying to lose weight, I recommend seriously no more than one to two drinks per week.
8. Moderate alcohol intake improves heart health. However, the cancer risk of organs above the waistline goes up if you consume any amount of alcohol on a regular basis. Take your family history into consideration. (10)
9. Alcohol disrupts sleep, but can still help us get to sleep faster. If you drink alcohol to get to sleep, you need to try other alternatives. (6)
I hate to break it to you, but most American adults should not be regularly drinking alcohol because we’re simply too busy and get don’t get consistent adequate sleep. Remember, alcohol increases your sympathetic nervous system which is contraindicated for many of us (including me).
However, if you’re retired, get great sleep, don’t have a major history of cancer in your family, and aren’t super busy, drink away… in moderation. If you go on vacation, and can truly relax, I think drinking is fine. Since cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in America, moderate drinking will help protect your heart.
Most American adults should in my opinion simply smoke a lot more weed. I’m totally kidding. Most people need to stop looking for an external fix like alcohol or weed, and really focus on the basics like sleep, eating healthier, self-care practices, and connecting with friends, family, and community. It’s not sexy, it’s challenging at times, but it gives by far the most bang for the buck in terms of health. In other words, get your priorities straight.
1. Grassi GM, Somers VK, Renk WS, Abboud FM, Mark AL. Effects of alcohol intake on blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity in normotensive humans: a preliminary report. J Hypertens Suppl. 1989 Dec;7(6):S20-1. PubMed PMID: 2632716.
2. Adan A, Forero DA, Navarro JF. Personality Traits Related to Binge Drinking: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2017;8:134. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00134.
3. Kruisselbrink LD, Martin KL, Megeney M, Fowles JR, Murphy RJ. Physical and psychomotor functioning of females the morning after consuming low to moderate quantities of beer. J Stud Alcohol. 2006 May;67(3):416-20. PubMed PMID: 16608151.
4. Bendtsen P, Jones AW, Helander A. Urinary excretion of methanol and 5-hydroxytryptophol as biochemical markers of recent drinking in the hangover state. Alcohol Alcohol. 1998 Jul-Aug;33(4):431-8. PubMed PMID: 9719404.
5. RUBINI ME, KLEEMAN CR, LAMDIN E. Studies on alcohol diuresis. I. The effect of ethyl alcohol ingestion on water, electrolyte and acid-base metabolism. J Clin Invest. 1955 Mar;34(3):439-47. PubMed PMID: 14354014; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC438648.
6. Verster JC. The alcohol hangover--a puzzling phenomenon. Alcohol Alcohol. 2008 Mar-Apr;43(2):124-6. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agm163. Epub 2008 Jan 8. Review. PubMed PMID: 18182417.
7. Swift R, Davidson D. Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):54-60. Review. PubMed PMID: 15706734.
8. Kaivola S, Parantainen J, Osterman T, Timonen H. Hangover headache and prostaglandins: prophylactic treatment with tolfenamic acid. Cephalalgia. 1983 Mar;3(1):31-6. PubMed PMID: 6342813.
9. Michael Jensen, MD, professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.Mayo Clinic web site.
Bobak, M., European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003; vol 57: pp 1250-1253. 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“I don’t recommend you weigh yourself every day, otherwise, you’ll go crazy.”
This is what I used to tell my clients.
My biggest concern was that clients would get discouraged because they didn’t see their weight go down right away. I would instead recommend that they weigh themselves every two weeks.
Here’s the problem. Weighing yourself everyday works pretty damn well. At least, this is what some cool studies tell us.
First, if you have lost weight already, daily weighing can help you keep it off. (1)
Second, daily weighing can help you lose weight (2)
Second, if you are not trying to gain weight (and maybe even maintaining your weight), weighing yourself daily can also help you. By simply being conscious of what you weigh on a daily basis, you are less likely to simply gain weight.
Unless you are prone to high anxiety, weighing yourself may not be appropriate for you. Otherwise, daily weighing will likely increase your awareness of how your nutrition and exercise affects your weight. Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?
1. 168. Butryn ML, Phelan S, Hill JO, Wing RR. Consistent self-monitoring of weight: a key component of successful weight loss maintenance. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2007;15:3091. [PubMed]
2. 169. Gokee-LaRose J, Gorin AA, Wing RR. Behavioral self-regulation for weight loss in young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2009;6:10. [PubMed]
True or False? Rapid weight loss will help you lose more weight in the long term.
Rapid weight loss has been villainized – and rightfully so. Who really has the time to do a biggest-loser like challenge and keep the weight off?
We know from some of the Biggest Loser participants themselves that they all tend to put back on some pounds, or even more pounds than they lost.
Does this mean losing weight slowly is better? No.
The research is clear. If you lose a significant amount of weight in the beginning, you tend to do better. Don’t fire your trainer yet though, there does seem to be a “sweet” spot in terms of how much you should lose.
In a an interesting study of over 1,300 adults, it was found that those who lose 10% of their weight within a year showed a 59% chance of keeping it off. 10% was the sweet spot for this study.
Let’s assume you weighed in at 220 pounds. 10% of this would be losing 22 pounds within a year. To a fitness coach like myself, this isn’t a huge amount to lose within a year.
The interesting thing about this study was that the individuals who lost a little more weight (like 15% or more) had a higher chance of gaining that weight back. If they lost even more weight (in the area of 20% or more), they had the highest chance of gaining it back.
This points towards a sweet spot for weight loss which you should strive for within one year's time.
Several studies show that those with the fastest weight loss tended to keep that weight off longer. (1,2,3,4)
However, all of these studies show that weight loss which was done faster and generally within 10% to 15% of initial body weight, stood the best chance of stay off.
This is pretty critical for goal setting. If you have an initial weight loss goal, here is a template I created for recommended weight loss within a year's time.
Unfortunately, what these studies show is a lot of people regain significant amounts of weight back. Around 30-50% of individuals who lost some weight will gain the weight back. But, at least, half will keep the weight off.
We've established that between roughly 5% and 15% is a reasonable weight loss goal within a year's time. If you're above or below that?
What happens if you can’t lose 5% of your weight? First, make sure your sleep and stress are manageable. Next, I advise you consult with a professional like myself or a local dietician. The strange thing is that even if you lose 2-4% of your body weight, you are more likely to regain that weight back on compared to if you lose more.
What happens if you lose over 15% of your weight? If you do, you’ll be a lot more likely to keep it off by following some sort of program. A lot of the studies above included weight loss programs that participants followed which allowed them to keep their weight off. The less structure you have, the more likely you are to put your old weight back on.
I’m a huge fan of the Precision Nutrition coaching program which is for one year and amazingly powerful at individuals staying accountable, getting helpful motivation, and learning.
The bias for a lot of us is to assume that if you lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time, you’ll be more likely to gain it back. This is true… but only to an extent. The ideal range weight loss range within a year appears to be between 5% and 15% . If you can stick within this range, and follow at least some program, you’ll stand the highest chance to keep that weight off for good.
1. Toubro S, Astrup A. Randomised comparison of diets for maintaining obese subjects' weight after major weight loss: ad lib, low fat, high carbohydrate diet v fixed energy intake. BMJ. 1997;314:29. [PubMed]
2. McGuire MT, Wing RR, Hill JO. The prevalence of weight loss maintenance among American adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999;23:1314. [PubMed]
3. Bliddal H, Leeds AR, Stigsgaard L, Astrup A, Christensen R. Weight loss as treatment for knee osteoarthritis symptoms in obese patients: 1-year results from a randomised controlled trial. Ann Rheum Dis. 2011;70:1798. [PubMed]
4. Nackers LM, Ross KM, Perri MG. The association between rate of initial weight loss and long-term success in obesity treatment: does slow and steady win the race? Int J Behav Med. 2010;17:161. [PubMed]
A weight loss plateau sucks, pure and simple. You need to ask yourself a few questions if you experience a weight loss plateau.
How fast did I lose weight? If you lost more than 1-2 pounds per week, you may have lost weight too fast.
Everyone has a body weight set point which is the weight which your body settles at if you eat normally. Let's assume your body weight set point is 240 pounds. Now, assume you are eating at the level of a 180 pound person.
If you lose weight too fast, your body weight set point will still be closer to 240 pounds, than 180 pounds. However, the slower you lose the weight (like that of 1-2 pounds every 1-2 weeks), the more you will feel comfortable because you have given time for your body weight set point to adapt.
The bottom line is: Don't lose weight too fast!
How are my stress levels? If you have high stress levels, this will likely affect you eat, how hungry you get, how full you get, how much you exercise you get to do or have motivation for, etc. It also can affect cortisol which has been associated with weight gain.
Regardless, if your stress levels are high, breaking through a weight loss plateau will likely add more stress to your life. This is why for some clients, I tell them to actively maintain their weight or be satisfied with maintenance. No one wants to hear this, but this is the truth, and will help your clients understand that if they really want to make long-lasting changes, they are eventually going to have to do something about their stress levels.
How much sleep am I getting? How much sleep did you get last night, and make a mental note of that. How much sleep did you get the night before and make a mental note of that. If you scored 8 hours or above, you can move on. If not, you need to examine how much sleep you're getting. (And if you think you can thrive on 7 hours while losing weight, you aren't.)
Sleep absolutely affects hunger levels, and can sabotage the best diets in the world. It's associated with weight gain and eating too much.
How is my nutrition? I've known some clients that can go on commercial diets where the diet company provides all the protein bars, protein powders, and snacks. This always leads to rapid weight loss, but eventually fizzles over time.
Without getting in a majority of whole foods, losing all the weight you want to lose will be difficult, if not impossible. Anybody can do the "cabbage soup" diet and lose their first 15 or 20 pounds rapidly. Continuing to lose all your weight, then keeping it off, takes serious work.
Learning to swim is easy. Learning to compete, heck even against good grade school swimmers is challenging. You'll need a coach, lots of practice, learning from your mistakes, etc. to get better. This is what long-term weight loss is unfortunately like for many people. They need help outside themselves. They just don't fully realize that yet.
If you say "yes" to all of the following questions, you may not need to focus on your nutrition.
1. Are you getting in at least 5 total servings of pure fruits and vegetables a day?
2. Are you getting a pure protein source at every meal (like cottage cheese, eggs, beef, seafood, protein powder, etc., and no nuts or seeds count)
3. Are you getting in less than 5 alcoholic drinks per week?
4. Do you eat out at restaurants (including fast food, food trucks, etc) 3 or less times per week?
Even if you answered yes, you will at some point need to improve your nutrition.
What is the best way to avoid a weight loss plateau? It's pretty simple, but not easy.
If it's impossible for you to do any of these, you should consider maintaining your current weight for awhile, until you can focus on your weakest links. If you cannot focus on your weakest links right now, don't worry. At some point, you'll likely be able to work on them (unless you insist on being a masochist for the rest of your life).
A weight loss plateau is not the end of the world. By taking a look at a few key factors, you can determine if you should stay at your current weight, or if you can break through your plateau.