Monday, July 25, 2011

Healthy Foods You Should Know About: Savanna Orchards

Back in March of this year, I attended the 2011 Arnold Sports Festival and Expo in Columbus, OH (for the third time).  If you know me, you know that I LOVE going to the Arnold.  It’s always great to be surrounded by others that talk, live, and breathe a healthy, fit lifestyle.  At the expo, I met Ms. Kelly Gundrum, who was promoting a healthy snack company called Savanna Orchards.  I thought, “Savanna Orchards??  What in the world is that about?”  I’ll be honest, I was initially intrigued by the free snacks (don’t judge me, you do the same thing lol).  But to my pleasant surprise, those free samples truly introduced me to a great product. 

Coinicidentally, it was during this time that I began exploring the Paleo diet and lifestyle.  So when Kelly began discussing how Savanna Orchards provides healthy snacking options in support of Paleo dieting, I was very interested.  As someone who likes to include an occasional snack with his meal, I was convinced that Savanna Orchards could fit the bill.    And in all honesty, these snacks taste great!  My personal favorite is Moxie Crunch.

It includes cranberries, blueberries, cherries, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and the best part...grass-fed beef jerky!  

They each come separately, with a larger bag included to mix them together.  This gives you the option of mixing them together or not.  I usually include this with my post-workout meal.  And here are the nutritional facts:

This is only one of MANY snacks that are available at Savanna Orchards.  This one is just my personal favorite.  So check out the Savanna Orchards web site and see if there's anything you might like.

And as a thank you from Savanna Orchards, they've offered a 10% discount for orders between July 29th - July 31st.  Simply use the coupon code Crossfit10, and get instant savings on your order.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nate Robinson Deserves More Respect: Nasty Nate HIIT


Go to 7:20 of this video...I know all the basketball fans remember this...Nate Robinson in the 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, attempting the infamous "between the legs" dunk over and over....and over again.  Eight times to be exact!  Many of you probably got a nice little chuckle at Nate's expense as he kept missing the dunk.  If you are in that camp, you need to pay this man some respect!!

Do you have any idea how tiring that had to be?  To basically jog/run/sprint half court, then jump as high as you can?  Then, repeat it in a very short interval?  Let me tell you, IT IS TIRING AS HELL!!  

How do I know?  Well, I integrated a version of this into my high-intensity interval training.  Here are the details of the Nasty Nate Slam Dunk HIIT workout (it's pretty simple, yet effective):

1.  Start at one end of a basketball court (or half court)
2.  Sprint toward the basket and jump as high as you can.  If you can already dunk, try to touch the highest point of the backboard.  If you can't dunk, act like you are attempting to dunk.
3.  Once you land sprint back to your starting position.
4.  Rest for 20-30 seconds and repeat until failure.

I promise, it will not take long for you to be gassed!! 

And once you pick yourself up off of the floor, be sure to hit @nate_robinson up on Twitter and apologize LOL! 


Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fasted Cardio for Fat Loss....Does It Work?

I.  Introduction
II.  Background
III. Evidence for Fasted Cardio Increasing Fat Loss
IV. Opposing Arguments
V.  Differences in Fat Utilization Between Men and Women
VI. Dr. O's Thoughts
VII. Bibliography
I.  Introduction 

The debate about fasted cardio is truly a lightning rod.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, fasted (or morning) cardio is a low-moderate intensity cardio session before breakfast.  The belief is that by doing cardio before breakfast, you can burn more body fat for energy due to depleted glycogen stores from your fast (a.k.a. 6-8 hours of sleep) and increase your metabolic rate for the day.  However, there are some in the fitness community that don’t believe in this strategy.  In their opinion, it doesn’t matter if you use fat or carbohydrates for energy.  As long as you burn more calories than you consume in a day, you will lose fat.  Furthermore, other strategies, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are more effective methods for fat loss.  Also, doing this exercise in a glycogen-depleted state can result in loss of muscle.  It’s an interesting argument that has been ongoing for several decades.  And there’s evidence on both sides of the fence.  Does it work?  Is it a myth?  Let’s discuss both sides.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive summary or review, but you’ll get the main idea. 
II.  Background 

The conversion of fat stores into energy is also referred to as lipid or fatty acid metabolism.  So how does this work exactly?  Well, let’s focus on our situation: fasted cardio.  When you wake up in the morning, your glycogen stores are low (especially if you stopped eating carbs around 7-9p the previous night).  When your available glycogen is low and energy is needed, enzymes such as hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) or adipose triglyceride lipase are activated to convert triglycerides (stored in adipose tissue or within muscles) into free fatty acids (FFAs), which become available in plasma. This process is known as lipolysis.  Through oxidation, these FFAs can then be broken down and used for energy.  With that background knowledge, let’s take a look at some studies investigating how the body uses fat as an energy source in a fasted state.
III.  Evidence for Fasted Exercise Increasing Fat Loss 

In a study by Horowitz et al. (1997), six healthy men cycled for 60 min at a constant low/moderate intensity (45% VO2max) after an overnight fast or 1 hr after ingesting 0.8g/kg of glucose or fructose.  After 20-30 min of exercise, both fat lipolysis and fat oxidation were higher in the fasted group than in the glucose or fructose group).  This trend continued after 50-60 min of exercise. There was also a higher quantity of FFAs available in the blood in the fasted stated throughout the exercise.  Statistical analysis comparing fat oxidation within each group also showed significantly greater fat oxidation following an overnight fast.  But are these FFAs really coming from adipose tissue (preferred) or within muscles? 

A study conducted by Punyadeera et al. (2005) may shed some light on this.  Ten active male subjects participated in two trials.  In each trial, the subjects cycled for 2 hours at 50% VO2max following an overnight fast.  However, in one trial, subjects were orally administered with 500 mg Acipimox, a drug that prevents the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue.  Acipimox was administered in two doses: 1) 90 min before exercise initiation and 2) 75 min into the exercise.  Blood FFAs and fat oxidation were also measured throughout the cycling period. Within 5 minutes of exercise initiation, the concentration of available FFAs was significantly lower in the Acipimox group.  This decrease was also coupled with a decline in fat oxidation. 

These studies suggest that conducting low/moderate intensity exercise in a fasted stated (i.e. – carbohydrate-depleted) results in greater adipose tissue-derived lipolysis and great fat oxidation. 
IV.  Opposing Arguments 

One thing to remember is that most people who conduct fasted cardio in the morning will have another workout later that day.  To that point, studies have shown that repeating a 60 minute exercise at 50% VO2max after 1 hour of recovery results in increased plasma FFA and epinephrine levels after the second workout [1].  Most people probably wouldn’t have another workout so soon after the initial one, but this study does show a potential alternative reason for the perceived benefit of fasted cardio over time.

Another opposing argument is that it is better to maximize fat oxidation after the exercise, rather than spending endless hours burning fat during exercise with steady, low-moderate intensity exercise…and that can be done through high-intensity interval training. 

An alternative study showed that the intake of carbohydrate-rich meals before and after a high-intensity, exhaustive workout maximized the use of fat for energy after the workout, while the carbohydrates were being used to restore glycogen [2].  Eight male endurance athletes ate a carbohydrate rich, high-GI meal about 2 hours before completing a 90 min exhaustive cycling exercise.  The exercise protocol included cycling at 75 % VO2max for 20 min, followed by alternating 2 min bouts of 90 % and 50 % of VO2max for 4–5 intervals, then decreasing intensity to 80 % and 50 % VO2max 2 min bouts for another 4–5 intervals, and finishing with 2 min 70 % and 50 % VO2max  bouts until exhaustion”. Following exercise, subjects ate 3 meals at 1, 4, and 7 hours post-exercise.   Each meal provided 65–70 % of energy from carbs, 20 % from fat, and 10–15 % from protein, with an average glycemic index (GI) of 60–65.

Results showed that in the first 7 hrs post-exercise, muscle glycogen and fat oxidation increased, while intramuscular triglyceride (IMTG) levels remained constant.  This means that for at least 7 hours after exercise, there was an increase in fat oxidation from plasma FFAs and an increase in glycogen storage within muscles.  Even with the high intake of mid-high GI carbs before and after workout, fat was still being burned.  So where are these plasma FFAs coming from?  They aren’t coming from within muscle because IMTG levels remained constant.  So, one can assume that adipose tissue lipolysis is contributing to available FFAs.  

But…hold on!  These were MALE athletes.  Does the same response occur in women? 

Maybe so!  A study by Trapp et al. (2008) compared 2 15-week exercise protocols in women: 1) HIIT – 5 minute warm up, 8 s of all-out pedaling at a set resistance, followed by 12 s of slow pedaling at 20-30 rpm (60 intervals or until failure), 5 minute cool down and 2) Steady-state – 5 min warm-up, pedaling at 60% VO2max (up to 40 minutes or until failure), 5 min cool down.  HIIT resulted in greater loss of total body fat, insulin and leptin concentrations.  More specifically, women from the HIIT group lost more abdominal fat and lower body fat (trunk and legs), while gaining lean lower body mass.  Women in the steady state group actually gained fat on their lower body. 
V.  Difference in Fat Utilization Between Men and Women 

Let's dig into this difference between men and women a little bit.  As you might expect, men and women utilize fat differently both during and after exercise.  A study by Henderson et al. (2007) investigated the difference in post-recovery lipolysis and oxidation.  On back to back days, men and women conducted exercise for 90 min at 45% VO2max and for 60 min at 65% VO2max.  For both sexes, FFA availability increased during exercise at both intensities (more at 45% than 65%).  However, FFA availability remained elevated 3 hours post-workout in men, but not womenTotal lipid oxidation was elevated in both men and women 3 hours post-workout on day 1. However, oxidation levels were higher in men.  Also, oxidation levels in men remained elevated on day 2, while levels in women did not.  This difference in fat utilization between men and women may be a reason why strategies like fasted cardio and HIIT may still be beneficial.
VI.  Dr. O's Thoughts 

I can honestly say that doing cardio before breakfast has DEFINITELY increased my metabolism throughout the day.  But is that because of my fasted state, or just because I’m doing cardio early in the day?  Could I still feel that increased metabolism after eating a small meal?  I don’t know, I haven’t tried.  But it’s possible.  And sometimes, if I feel good in the morning, I’ll do HIIT.  So, there’s another contributing factor. 

What about my increased loss of fat from fasted cardio?? Is it because of my fasted state? Or is it because of the addition of a second workout in the evening, which could include resistance training, HIIT, and/or low intensity cardio?  I can’t say.  Now you see why it is so difficult to get a "yes" or "no" answer.

I’d have to place fasting cardio in the “Everybody’s body is different” category.  For those who can drop fat easily, fasting cardio might not be necessary.  But for others that struggle to burn fat in those stubborn areas, fasting cardio may be beneficial.  Also, with the differences in fat utilization in women, it may be more beneficial for the ladies.  And by integrating HIIT, both men and women can maximize fat loss by shocking the body with these strategies.  Plus, there are MANY other factors that play a role in lipolysis and fat oxidation (BMI, inflammation throughout the body, cortisol, insulin, leptin, catecholamine production, growth hormone, just to name a few).

So if you have the time in the morning, give it a try!  I'd still recommend doing HIIT as well!  I've just found fasted cardio to be a nice way to keep the fat coming off while recovering from HIIT.   Have fun!

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

VII.  Bibliography 

1.   Stich, V., et al., Adipose tissue lipolysis is increased during a repeated bout of aerobic exercise. J Appl Physiol, 2000. 88: p. 1277-1283.

2.   Kimber, N.E., et al., Skeletal muscle fat and carbohydrate metabolism during recovery from glycogen-depleting exercise in humans. J Physiol, 2003. 548: p. 919-927.

3.   Henderson, G.C., et al., Lipolysis and fatty acid metabolism in men and women during the postexercise recovery periood. J Physiol, 2007. 584(3).

4.   Horowitz, J.F., et al., Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 1997. 273: p. E768-E775.

5.   Punyadeera, C., et al., The effects of exercise and adipose tissue lipolysis on plasma adiponectin concentration and adiponectin receptor expression in human skeletal muscle. Eur J Endo, 2005. 152: p. 427-436.

6.   Trapp, E.G., et al., The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Int J Obesity, 2008. 32: p. 684-691.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"I Love Being In Shape" Shirts, AVAILABLE NOW!

Check out the new "I <3 Being In Shape" Shirts, available only here at!  Available in both Men's and Women's versions!

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-Men's V-neck shirt
-Fall/Winter Line

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Blast Through Plateaus with Eccentric Exercises!

I.   Two Types of Muscle Contraction: Concentric and Eccentric
II.  How to Use Eccentric Contractions to Break Through Plateaus
III. Bibliography
I.   Two Types of Muscle Contraction: Concentric and Eccentric

In any type of resistance exercise, there are two phases of muscle contraction.  Concentric contractions are what we’re all familiar with and concentrate on the most.  This is where muscles shorten when generating force.  A common example is the upward phase of a bicep curl, where the bicep shortens, causing the arm to bend at the elbow, from close to your legs to your shoulders.  Other examples are the upward phase of a bench/shoulder/leg press or the downward phase of a tricep pushdown.

The second, and often ignored, phase of muscle contraction is the eccentric contraction, which is the opposite of a concentric contraction.  Rather than causing a shortening and pulling of a joint, eccentric contractions decelerate the joint as the muscle elongates.  Common examples include the downward phase of a bicep curl, bench/shoulder/leg press, or the upward phase of a tricep pushdown.  Not surprisingly, strength training studies have shown that utilizing both concentric and eccentric contractions can increase muscular strength more than concentric contractions alone (Colliander and Tesch, 1990).  So what are some good ways to utilize eccentric contractions to blast through those plateaus?

II.  How to Use Eccentric Contractions to Break Through Plateaus

1.  Simply stop ignoring the eccentric phase of your exercises! - Remember this: 1 rep = 1 full concentric contraction + 1 full eccentric contraction.   If you are doing bicep curls, don’t just let the weight drop to your legs after completing the concentric phase.  Slowly bring the weight down, decelerate the opening of the elbow with the bicep muscles you may have been neglecting.  Do this for EVERY rep, on EVERY exercise, and you’ll feel the difference!

2.  Utilize negatives (requires a spotter) – If you’re doing 3-4 sets of an exercise, negatives can be implemented during your last set (or last two sets).  First, complete your full set of reps as you normally would.  Negatives begin after your last concentric contraction.  They consist of very slow, unassisted eccentric contractions (i.e. - lowering of a bench press or bicep curl bar), followed by an assisted concentric contraction.  By this time, your muscles will not be able to complete concentric contractions without assistance.  Luckily, your eccentric muscles can still take more of a beating.  Conduct these negatives until failure.

If you don’t have a spotter, you can still implement negatives for certain muscle groups.  For example, if you’re bench pressing, you can drop to a push-up position, do your negatives, and pick yourself back up into a push-up position.  Or, if you’re doing pull-ups, you can jump up into the top of the concentric phase of the pull-up, then slowly drop back down.

By utilizing these tools, you will definitely see gains in your strength and muscle size! 

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

III.  Bibliography

1.    Colliander, E.B. and P.A. Tesch, Effects of eccentric and concentric muscle actions in resistance training. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 1990. 140(1): p. 31-39.