Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How Much Cadio Should I Do?

I just read an article in a fitness magazine that was titled "How to walk away the pounds".

While this particular article had good intentions, I don't think cardio (especially walking) is an effective tool for weight loss. Consider this, if you are of average weight, you would have to walk 5 miles to burn an extra 500 calories a day. Even at a fairly fast pace, it would take you about an hour to walk 5 miles. That's a lot of work just to burn 500 calories.

If you kept your calorie intake exactly the same over the course of the week, and managed to walk for an extra hour a day at a fairly fast pace, you may be able to burn of an extra pound of fat per week.

This is assuming that the amount of calories you eat over the course of a week is EXACTLY equal to the amount you need to stay at your current weight. If you were overeating even slightly during this week, then the extra walking would have even less of an effect.

7 hours of exercise for a maximum of 1 pound of fat loss is not a very efficient use of anyone's time! And, while walking 7 days a week may be possible now, think about what it might feel like during the winter months!

This is why I believe that eating for weight loss is much more effective than trying to 'sweat off' the pounds.

With the proper nutrition plan reducing the amount of calories you eat by 500 calories can be almost effortless.

I have found that the very best, most efficient way to lose weight is to combine a solid weight loss nutrition program with a resistance training program. The nutrition program helps you lose weight by creating a caloric deficit and the resistance training preserves your muscle mass and metabolic rate.

Once you have these two "pillars" in place then you can sprinkle in a little bit of extra walking, but think of this as more of a recovery exercise that helps you clear your mind and de-stress (with a bonus of being able to help burn some calories), rather than counting on it to really make 'you shed the pounds.'


PS- Typical cardio machines like treadmills have been found to over-estimate the amount of calories they burn by 15-20%, so be careful when estimating how effective these machines are at tracking your calorie burning efforts.

Is fasting for weight loss effective?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Fasting and Muscle Endurance

Alright, I finished Craig Ballatyne's 500 Workout.

I don't think that guy likes fact, I think he's trying to kill me!

The workout was super intense. I promised Craig I wouldn't give away the entire workout as its available to his members at, however I can tell you this - I don't think I have ever done that many reps in a workout out before, especially of body weight rows (talk about fried rear-delts!)

I managed to get into the gym around 2:30, exactly 24 hours into my fast. I warmed up for about 4 minutes then got right into the workout.

24 minutes and 44 seconds later, I was sweating, my heart was pounding out my chest, my arms were ridiculously pumped, and..I was done.

The lessons learnt for me were:

1) Craig has designed a wicked workout

2) You can accomplish some very good feats of muscular endurace after what was essentially a one day fast.

I tip my hat to the guys in the NFL who are fasting right now!


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Fasting and Athletic Performance

Last night I decided to take a little break from working and watch some television. I flipped to the sports highlight channel and was able to watch the highlights from a couple of this weekend's football games.

Boy was I glad I did!

The announcers were discussing college football and in particular the Washington State Cougars. Apparently, one of their players on the Cougars fasts for religious purposes, and during this particular game, he was right in the middle of a fairly lengthy month of fasting (He does not eat or drink during the daylight hours).

Now this player wasn't fasting for weight loss, and his one day fasts are not a full 24 hours, like the fasts I use for Eat Stop Eat, however they are 15 hours, and they are ever day for a month, and they include no liquids at all, so they are definitely very intense! So this athlete was able to play a very high level sport that involves very explosive and intense periods of activity, that can go on for hours, without any food or drink!

Even more interesting is that his older brother plays in the NFL, so he would be fasting during NFL games - talk about intense.

I often weight train and play sports during my fasts, however after hearing about these two brothers I have decided to do something a little more intense during today's fast.

I have begged and pleaded with Craig Ballantyne from to give me an advanced copy of his new "500 workout".

I'm going to do the workout at some point today...hopefully around 1 pm, which would put me about 22 hours into a fast.

I promised Craig I wouldn't give away the exact details about his workout, however I will post about how hard it was and my experiences doing this sort of extreme exercise while fasted.


Learn more about the benefits of using one day fasts for weight loss

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Reading Nutrition Research

A quick post today on some of the "tools of the trade" you need to properly read research.

It seems every time I visit an Internet message board someone is quoting research papers to help support their argument about why supplement X builds muscle, or how food Y can cut fat.

As a reader, you should be very, very skeptical when you see this sort of thing, because as many academics are fond of saying, "there are studies, and then there are studies".

Confused? I'll try to help with a quick example.

Every now and then major research journals put out special "supplementary" issues that contain a bunch of research studies that are all on a similar topic. The entire supplement may contain research on soy, or growth hormone, or may be entirely on the topic of fat loss.

While this makes for easy reading (all your research is in one place), it introduces a heightened level of potential bias (a better chance that the outcome of the research was skewed towards a beneficial finding).

You see, According to Dr. Marion Nestle (author of Food Politics) these supplementary issues (or supplements) are expensive to produce and are often paid for in part by corporate sponsors with interest in that particular area of research.

For example, if I had millions of dollars to spare, I might sponsor a supplement on the topic of fasting for weight loss, in the hopes that the research within this supplement might increase the sales of my book Eat Stop Eat.

To make matters even more confusing, if I had millions, I might have also paid for the actual research that was conducted, thus paying for the research and the journal it is published in!

Marion Nestle points out that when this occurs "nutrition journal supplements also tend to highlight the benefits of particular foods or diets in which the sponsors have some interest."

In other words, if I sponsored a supplement on fasting, I increase the chances that the research in that journal would find a positive, beneficial result.

Because research journals are expensive to produce, they can take as much as tens of millions of dollars in the form of drug and food company advertising and sponsorship to help subsidize their cost for publication.

Unfortunately this can add a certain level of conflict of interest to the research in question.

Here's a tip- when research comes from a supplement it has the letter "s" next to its page numbers. This can be considered a signal to readers that the articles may not have undergone the same type of rigorous peer review as is customary in regular journal issues.

When reviewing research on a particular topic, it is important to make sure that you review the research from a number of different journals and different authors. This will help reduce the chance that their was any conflict of interest biasing the results of the research.

And never, ever take the conclusions of 1 paper as fact.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

FTC Slams Weight Loss Book!

As the author of a book that promotes fasting for weight loss, I was a little concerned when I read that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has charged Kevin Trudeau with misrepresenting the contents of his book, 'The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About'.

According to FTC, Trudeau claims that his weight loss plan is not only easy to carry out, but also can be done at home - allowing consumers to eat what they want.

I can tell you that when I first read this statement it really worried me. I also claim that Eat Stop Eat is easy to carry out, and that it can be done at home..or at a restaurant...(honestly, I really don't understand that last comment, what diet program can you NOT do at home?)

However, luckily, this is where the similarities end.

According to, the contents of Trudeau's book, "reveal a complex and grueling plan requiring a severe diet, daily injections of a prescription drug, and lifelong dietary restrictions. FTC also claims consumers cannot easily purchase the drug in question."

Daily Injections of a prescription drug?? Now I see why the FTC were more than a little miffed at Mr. Trudeau!

The FTC have long maintained their position that you cannot find weight loss in miracle pills or fad diets, and I wholeheartedly agree with them.

In my opinion, the best method for weight loss is slow and steady progress using a diet that is sustainable, flexible and effective combined with some form of regular physical activity.

It really should not be anymore complicated than that.

My advice for weight loss is to find a diet that works for you, find a form of exercise you enjoy, commit to a healthy, rewarding lifestyle where you do not stress over what you eat, and do not feel guilty for eating the foods you like. If you can find these components and add them to your life, you will lose weight.


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Monday, September 10, 2007

Why are Fruits and Vegetables so Important?

Ever wonder why health experts always recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables? Well, I can't speak for everyone, but my reason is simple: I recommend fruits and vegetables because it is impossible to get fat from eating them!
In fact, I think when it comes to fruits and vegetables, You just can't eat too much of them.

Here is an example to illustrate my point. A typical bacon double cheeseburger contains around 700 Kcals. Well, to get that same amount of calories from only eating fruits and vegetables you would have to eat:
  • 1 cup of strawberries
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 cup of sliced pear
  • 1 cup of sliced cucumber
  • 1 cup of chopped peppers
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 whole sweet onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 third cup of sliced almonds (thrown in to add some protein and fat)
It takes over 9 cups of Food just to equal the same amount of calories in a bacon double cheeseburger! To give you an idea of what all this food would look like take a look at this picture:

(one of these foods does not belong!)

In case you are wondering what that would look like put together into a meal, check out this picture:

(A salad for four, with a massive fruit dessert, or one bacon double cheeseburger, hold the fries)

Now, lets say that you need to eat about 3,500 calories to start putting on fat. If you were to try and eat this amount of calories from only fruits and veggies, you would need to eat that fruit salad (which could easily serve two people) and that veggie salad (which served four people at my house) FIVE times per day! Trust me, I had a hard enough time trying to get through one serving by myself, doing five in a day is next to impossible!

And this is the miracle of fruits and vegetables, they taste great and they take up a lot of space.

Here is where it gets really fun...If you make a point to eat lots of fruits and vegetables you can also eat things like a bacon double cheeseburger. Take a look at the picture of the salads and burger again. The total calorie content in that picture is around 1,400 Calories. A number low enough that just about any one would LOSE weight eating this amount of calories! In fact, you could easily throw in a good breakfast and still be eating around 1,700 calories, and be very, very full.

In fact, I did just that. With one exception. I added 150 Calories in the form of icecream to the Fruit bowl.

(Looks great, but even this was a massive amount of food to eat)

So for the day, I had two hard boiled eggs for breakfast, a massive salad for lunch (which took a lot of effort to finish), a bacon double cheeseburger for dinner and a very large bowl of fruit and ice-cream for dessert, and still managed to eat under 2,000 Calories AND I was absolutely stuffed by the end of the day.

Bottom line is if you concentrate on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, you can have treats like icecream and burgers.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Monday, September 03, 2007

How Much Protein Do We Really Need To Eat?

Protein could be one of the most popular and controversial topics in all of nutrition. It's become the golden child of muscle building and fat loss. Wanna build big muscles? Eat your protein. Wanna lose fat and look like a fitness model? Eat your protein. After all, everyone knows you need to eat a minimum of 30 grams of protein every two to three hours.

Back in my earlier years, I drank my protein shakes and ate my protein bars. I would constantly keep my protein intake up around 250 grams per day. Why? Because I thought it scientifically PROVEN that more protein equaled more muscle.

But now I'm not so sure.

Let's take a look at one of the research studies that the super-high protein advocates always use to 'prove' that eating protein after a workout makes you build muscle.

If you were in this study, this is how your day would have gone...

You would show up at a research lab around 10 PM, and you would go to sleep (no eating). The researchers would wake you up around 6 AM and start poking and probing you (again no eating). After a bunch of weighing and measurements, you would start working out around 9 still haven't eaten yet.

This would be one of the toughest workouts you have ever done. Most likely you would do 10 sets of 8 reps on the leg press machine, followed by 8 sets of 8 reps on the leg extension machine. All of your reps would be done at 80% of your one rep max. Like I said, one brutal workout. It's about 10am now, still haven't eaten.

After your workout you would be given a drink that contains 3 to 6 grams of essential amino acids (the same amount of amino acids found in a glass of milk).

After that, the researchers would take measurements for the next 4 hours and measure your rate of 'protein synthesis'.

This is pretty much the standard protocol for these types of studies.

And guess what they found? An increase in protein synthesis over those four hours.
So what does this prove? It proves that if you haven't eaten since 10 PM the night before, do a brutal workout at 9 AM the next morning, and drink a glass of milk, you will increase your protein synthesis for four hours!

So much for needing 30 grams of protein, and so much for needing protein every couple hours.
You know what else? The only reason I say protein synthesis increases for 4 hours is because after 4 hours the researchers stopped measuring. Who knows how long you would have stayed in a muscle building state. Some researchers have estimated that a single workout can put you into 'muscle building mode' for as long as 48 hours after your workout!

Even more interesting is that researchers have found similar results when they made people drink the amino acids before their workout, and even when they made them wait and drink the amino acids a couple hours after their workout!

Here's another example, for you to consider.

In a research trial conducted on people who were over 50 years old and had chronic renal insufficiency (real bad kidneys) researchers explored the idea that resistance training could counteract the low protein diets that these people had to be on because of their medical condition.

On average these subject were eating under 0.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight. To put that into perspective, a 180 pound man would be eating about 50 grams of protein per day! For 12 weeks!

So what the researchers were thinking was 'since these people were on such low protein diets, for extended periods of time, muscle loss is definitely a risk. However, maybe if we made them weight train, we could prevent this from happening'.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

At the end of the study, the subject working out 3 times per week maintained there body weight, while the group that was not lifting weights lost about 7 pounds.

The group lifting weights also saw increases in muscle strength and muscle size. While the group not weight training lost some muscle and a little bit of strength.

This study is a great example of people actually gaining muscle size on a low protein diet as a result of resistance training.

Now, I realize the study was done on people who were over 50, and had a medical condition, but regardless, they gained muscle size.

This research shows that you can build a significant amount of muscle with relatively low protein intakes (the amount you get from your food in the average north american diet) as long as you are lifting weights.

Protein has a role in every one's nutrition plan, and it is an essential nutrient that is important for building and repairing muscles. From my understanding of the research I think it makes sense to try and consume a small amount of protein somewhere around the time you workout. I just don't think we need to be paying good money for tubs and tubs of the stuff, if the amount we get in our diets will serve our purposes just fine.

Scientists have not yet been able to determine if large amounts of protein have any extra effect on muscle gain. The massive amounts of protein that bodybuilders eat might work, but no scientists have been able to prove it so far.

Bottom line: if your goal is muscle building you most likely do not necessarily need to eat any extra protein. You can if you like, however I cannot find a good scientific reason to so far.


One last note - Very little research is done on people who are on anabolic steroids. I cannot discount the idea that, in these individuals, extreme amounts of protein may help the muscle building process due to the fact that this process is enhanced by the use of steroids.

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