Category Archives: fitness

Interview with Ross Enamait about Achieving a High Standard of Fitness

Allow me to introduce you to Ross Enamait, who is a coach to professional fighters and has been a hardcore athlete for most of his life. I’ve admired Ross for a number of reasons, but I think one of his finest qualities is his old school nature combined with a talent for innovation.
Ross Enamait

Ross Enamait – Founder of RossTraining.com
Not too long ago, I decided I wanted to get to know him a little better. So, I sent off a list of interview questions to see what he’s all about. I’ve followed Ross on and off over the years, but honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What I did know is that whatever it amounted to, it’d be good. Ross is one of those guys who has been around the block a few times. He knows his craft better than most athletes and fitness trainees ever will because he’s been training and coaching with extraordinary success for a long time.
It comes as no surprise that this is one of the best interviews I’ve ever featured here on Physical Living. If you want to get a glimpse into the reality behind what it takes to achieve a high standard of fitness, you will enjoy this interview. Ross pulls no punches. He’s got nothing up his sleeve. And if you follow his advice, you too can achieve a high standard of fitness.
And if you get just one key insight from this interview, then it’ll have been worth it. And I’d be willing to wager that you’ll a lot more than that.
Let’s dive right in.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself including your background in athletics and fitness and also what you do today?
I’ve been involved in athletics my entire life. I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t somehow involved in a competitive sport. I started as a young child and continued through college and beyond. I did however suffer several hand fractures as a boxer so I eventually transitioned to coaching. I now train professional fighters. I’ve done so for many years and have what I consider to be the best job in the world.
OK, I’ve seen you use barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, kegs, weighted vests, ab wheels, jump ropes, resistance bands, and practically every other type of home gym equipment you can think of – and then some. But what’s the deal – no shake weight?
The shake weight symbolizes everything that is wrong with the fitness industry today. It’s a product that is more gimmicky than anything I’ve ever seen. Yet despite the countless parodies and jokes, I read that the shake weight brought in more than 40 million dollars in revenue in less than a year. Such a financial success shows that the consumer is both misinformed and desperate to improve.
Makers of products like these are only concerned with their bottom line. The goal isn’t to improve people’s lives, but rather to see how much revenue can be generated in a short period of time.
The take home lesson from the shake weight is simple. Consumers must do their homework. Be a skeptic and don’t be so impulsive. If what is being advertised sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instant gratification doesn’t exist in the world of health and fitness. If you wish to improve, patience, diligence, and consistency are more important than anything.
What are some of your favorite training tools and why?
I can’t pinpoint a single tool as I have worked with so many different things over the years. I have used free weights, odd objects, bodyweight exercise, medicine balls, large tires, sledgehammers, resistance bands, and weighted vests, just to name a few. I also have loads of homemade contraptions that I’ve put together over the years. Each tool is potentially valuable depending on what you are trying to develop. To label a tool or group of tools as personal favorites wouldn’t be accurate for me. My own preferences vary from time to time depending on the goals that I’m working to achieve.
You and I both know that you can’t buy fitness. That said, for someone who’s interested in outfitting a home gym with limited funds and/or limited space, what do you think would be the best overall investment(s)?
I’m not a fan of generalizations so I can’t make a universal recommendation regarding which tools an individual should purchase for a home gym. An individual could do quite well with nothing but his own bodyweight. Perhaps then a pull-up bar is one worthwhile suggestion.
Ross EnamaitThere are also plenty of inexpensive options that an individual could add to spice up his home-based training. One example that I recently posted to my Youtube channel shows how a simple pair of furniture sliders can provide a full body workout.
Clearly, the sliders are just one of many options but they’re a prime example of how you can do well with little or nothing in terms of equipment.
In summary, I’d first consider the goals and needs of the individual. For example, a competitive boxer would probably want his own heavy bag. A powerlifter would prefer a barbell. The tools that make sense for the individual depend on what he is trying to develop. For the non-competitive crowd, I would start with a simple set-up. Don’t be fooled to believe that you need an elaborate home gym to progress. You can start with little or nothing and eventually acquire additional tools over time. You’ll also see that there are plenty of homemade options that require little or no craftsmanship. A homemade sandbag is a prime example. Such a tool is easy to construct and can provide a tremendous full body workout.
What is one piece of equipment that most people don’t have or use, but you think would be a great addition for many people?
As with the previous question, it is difficult to pinpoint a single piece of equipment. Using myself as an example, I have put together many homemade tools that have been quite valuable. I couldn’t say that one ranks above all others however. The value of a particular tool will vary depending on the needs of the individual.
One of the problems with the industry today is that generalizations are often pushed towards specific populations. It is important to remember that training is an individualized process. No two people are the same. We are all unique in terms of goals, past experiences, strengths and weaknesses, interests, and more. There isn’t a single tool or style that should be applied to the masses. There are even times when I have athletes who compete in the same sport doing entirely different things in the gym. The fact that two athletes compete in the same sport doesn’t mean they have the same needs. A trainer must evaluate each athlete individually. Cater the training based on the uniqueness of the individual, as opposed to telling everyone to blindly follow the same road.
Note From John: Here are some more budget training ideas from one of Ross’s videos.
You have a knack for creating do-it-yourself solutions when a training tool either isn’t meeting your needs or you don’t want to pay almost $200 for what amounts to a couple of straps and handles (I won’t mention names!). What are the benefits of building your own equipment and what are some of the more popular/useful options out there that someone could consider? If you’ve got some tutorials, please include some links, too.
There are two potentially key benefits to constructing your own equipment. First would be building a piece of equipment that doesn’t have a commercial counterpart. And second would be to build a tool at a fraction of the cost of the commercial option. I can provide an example for each.
In early 2011, I built a hamstring training tool that I hadn’t seen previously. The design that I built in 2011 was actually a modification to a previous idea that I built in 2010. In each case, I started with a general idea and searched for commercial options. When I saw that none were available, I took matters into my own hands and constructed it myself. The inexpensive tool that came as a result of my brainstorming has proved to be one of my favorite hamstring exercises. You can see a video demonstration of the tool at the 5:15 mark within the following video:
As for the second potentially useful reason for building equipment, there are significant cost savings in many cases. For example, consider the high price of many commercial sandbags. I have used homemade sandbags for 15+ years now. They work just as well at a fraction of the cost. I’ve also built several rugged suspension trainers for approximately $20 each. They too work as well as any commercial option.
It is also worth noting that homemade equipment can actually be stronger than some of the commercial options. My homemade dip belt is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen on the market. I built it for a fraction of the cost. The chain used for my belt is much stronger and thicker than anything you will find at the sporting goods store.
Building something doesn’t mean you are somehow doing yourself a disservice. In many cases, you may actually be creating a stronger and safer tool.
As for tutorials, my Youtube channel is filled with homemade equipment ideas. You will find several within:
Note from John: I’ve been a subscriber for years, and you should be, too!
What is the value of bodyweight training, and how do you think this method fits into the overall picture when it comes to fitness training and strength and conditioning? Is it merely a good supplement to equipment-based exercise, or can it be used as a stand alone training modality?
The possibilities for bodyweight training are endless. There are loads of athletes who have thrived on nothing but bodyweight exercise.
Ross EnamaitIt is worth noting though that different people have different interpretations of what constitutes bodyweight training. Some consider bodyweight exercise to mean exercise that is devoid of any equipment. Personally, I’m not too concerned about precise definitions. If a simple piece of equipment can enhance a bodyweight movement, I’m all for it.  For example, I will often add a weighted vest to a traditional bodyweight exercise. I will also use bodyweight-based tools such as a suspension trainer, an ab wheel, a pull-up bar, furniture sliders, and so on.
With such an approach, numerous progressions and variations become available to you. There is always a way to take a common exercise and make it more difficult. There is always a challenging progression or variation that you can work towards achieving.
One of the classic downfalls to bodyweight training comes from those individuals who aren’t knowledgeable on the subject. Many people think of bodyweight exercise as nothing more than squats, pushups, and pull-ups. Their interpretation of a bodyweight progression is to perform more reps. And while performing higher reps can be useful at times, there are many other ways to progress with bodyweight exercise.
In summary, bodyweight exercise itself isn’t limited, but in many cases knowledge in regards to the modality is often what limits this style of training. With some creativity, you can take bodyweight exercise to levels that many individuals will only dream of achieving.
What are some of the unique advantages and challenges that come with bodyweight training and what are some of your go-to exercises?
The greatest advantage is that you are your own gym. You can train almost anywhere. In the time it takes to drive to a gym, it would be possible to achieve a quality bodyweight routine at home with little or no equipment. Such convenience can be extremely useful to the busy, working adult.
I also enjoy the creativity that comes along with bodyweight exercise. Unlike free weights where you just add more weight, bodyweight exercise often requires a more creative approach to making an exercise more difficult. I welcome and enjoy the unique challenge that comes as a result.
As for go to exercises, I’ve always enjoyed handstand pushups. I’m also a big fan of the pull-up bar and dip bar. I often add significant loads to each. From a conditioning standpoint, burpees are certainly a favorite. I also enjoy running steep hills, which could certainly be viewed as a bodyweight exercise.
Ross EnamaitNo doubt because of your boxing background, you’re a big fan of the jump rope. What are some of the things that most people don’t know about jump rope training, but should? Also, what are some things you can do with a jump rope that people in the non-boxing world wouldn’t necessarily know about? Do they fill a certain need when it comes to training goals that most other tools just can’t?
The jump rope is obviously a useful conditioning tool. What makes it unique however is that while you are conditioning yourself, you are also targeting additional objectives. Few tools offer so many simultaneous advantages. As you are conditioning yourself, you are also improving qualities such as footwork, coordination, rhythm, and mental focus. Each turn of the rope requires concentration and coordination. You are thinking and reacting constantly throughout the session. This becomes particularly true as you quickly switch between different turning styles and patterns.
In addition to the obvious physical benefits, the rope is also fun to use. There are always new and difficult turning styles that you can progress towards. Ropes are also inexpensive and make for an ideal indoor conditioning tool. You can use it year round regardless of the weather.
Note From John: Here’s some footage of Ross training with the jump rope, including some training progressions.
And what about sandbags – why is this such a prominent training tool in your collection, and what advantages does this have over other training tools?
Sandbags are valuable for many reasons. First, they are inexpensive and easy to use. Perhaps more importantly though, sandbags can be used to improve several objectives. Whether your goals are strength, power, endurance, or a combination of each, there is a sandbag option available to you.
As for application, sandbags can be used to replicate many lifts, but also allow for exercises that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with conventional tools. Carrying, shouldering, and loading a heavy sandbag are a few examples. Not only are you contending with the awkward nature of the bag, you are working with a movement that can’t be performed with a dumbbell or barbell.
The strength developed through heavy sandbag training is particularly useful for anyone involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, rugby, or MMA. This unique type of strength that comes from sandbags isn’t easy to describe to someone who hasn’t trained with them before. Those who put their hands on a heavy sandbag for the first time are usually in for a rude awakening.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see new and experienced trainees making in their fitness program?
Two of the most common problems that I see are paralysis by analysis and program jumping. With the first, individuals drive themselves crazy by analyzing every detail of training. As a result, they don’t get anything done. At times, it can be useful to think less and do more. No one starts with a perfect plan. Training is like many things in life. You learn by doing.
Program jumping is another common problem where individuals hop from one program to the next. These people don’t exhibit the patience that is necessary to bring about true, meaningful results. They become impatient after a few weeks and quickly move on to a new flavor of the month.
It is important to realize that results take time. You don’t need a fancy or elaborate plan to improve. The fundamentals work well if you work with them consistently. It is not an overnight process though. Real results require a significant investment in time. There are no shortcuts to the top. If you are not patient with your development, do not expect to achieve anything significant.
How would you get a beginner or intermediate trainee who has been struggling to take it to the next level on the right path towards improvement? What steps would you suggest?
If an individual is struggling to improve, he needs to evaluate his own commitment. I don’t sugarcoat anything. Getting stronger or better conditioned isn’t a complex process. Gains will come if you work hard in the gym and live a clean lifestyle outside of it.
Most people who have trained for a significant amount of time without improvements aren’t working as hard as they think. Not everyone has the same interpretation of what constitutes hard work. If an individual isn’t willing to put in the work, I won’t waste my time with them.
At some point, we must all ask ourselves how bad we want to improve. How much are we willing to sacrifice to reach the next level? This type of question isn’t answered in one day. You must be willing to answer the question day after day through action. Verbal statements don’t mean anything to me. You need to show me that you are willing to work.
Those who reach the top didn’t fall there. They climbed up the ladder one arduous step at a time. It is a long and strenuous journey. Whoever said it would be easy was lying.
I’ve seen footage of you doing triple-clap pushups and full-extension ab wheel rollouts while wearing 3 weight vests, among many other impressing feats of strength and athleticism. Firstly, is there anything you can’t do? And in all seriousness, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work towards a high standard of fitness and achieve extraordinary success?
Ross EnamaitFirst, thank you for the kind words. As for what I can or can’t do, it is important to realize that I have been training consistently for over 20 years now. When you see me or anyone else perform a challenging exercise, you only see the end result. Years of diligent training often came before the execution of a particular lift or movement. Things don’t necessarily come easy for me, but I do work extremely hard. I approach training with the mindset that if I set out to accomplish a challenging goal or feat, it is only a matter of time until I get it done.
I’m not a big fan of being realistic. I’d rather be a bit crazy in terms of what I think I can accomplish. Life is a lot more fun to live when you stop listening to the critics who want you to fail just like they did. I love being told that I can’t do something. It only makes me work harder to accomplish what others didn’t think was possible.
In summary, those who wish to succeed need to believe in themselves and display a ridiculous work ethic. When in doubt, outwork everyone else. Such an approach may sound a bit crude, but it has always worked well for me.
If you could sum of the major tenets of your training philosophy, what would they be?
The primary principle that defines my style is to focus on the uniqueness of the individual. What makes sense for one athlete may not make sense for another. Respect and accept each person as a unique individual. Don’t try to force generic principles down the throats of each person you train. Get to know the athletes. Find out what makes them tick. Find out where they are trying to go. Find out what has been holding them back. Address their specific needs and view their case as a unique problem that requires a unique solution.
I do know that one of the theme’s of your training philosophy is consistent, hard work, and you tend to lean more towards the hardcore type of coaches out there (no offense to cardio kickboxing instructors). Apart from sound program design and intelligent training, what are some of the other things you do to make sure you can perform at your peak – active recovery, specific nutrition strategies, rest and recovery, etc.?
I don’t do anything too fancy to foster recovery. Proper planning is more important than any recovery strategy. For example, if you try to hit a new PR with your deadlift every day of the week, it isn’t going to matter how much sleep you receive at night. You aren’t going to recover properly from day to day. Knowing what you can and should handle is as important as anything. You need to be in tune with your body. Push it when it makes sense to push it, and know when to back off.
It is also worth noting that work capacity builds over the years. What I can handle today is much more than what I could handle ten years ago. My ability to handle more work isn’t based on what I eat or how I sleep. It’s a matter of consistent work that accumulates over the years.
Personally, I probably sleep less than most. I run a business and have two young kids. Does any parent to young children sleep 8 hours a night? I haven’t met one. I sleep when I can, eat as a clean as possible, and push myself in the gym. Sure there are days when I may be a bit tired, but that doesn’t mean I pack my bags and go home. I put in the work day after day, no matter how I feel.
I know what I want to achieve so I make the sacrifices that are necessary. Nothing worth having is easy to acquire. It is supposed to be hard.
Do you follow and recommend a specific nutritional approach, or do your recommendations vary from person to person? Regardless, what are some of the typical nutrition strategies that you employ for fueling better health and peak performance?
I do not follow any specific dietary plans. My nutritional beliefs are that of common sense. I’m not a fan of micro-managing the process of eating. I eat when I’m hungry and I don’t count calories or nutrient ratios. As for selections, I eat real food while steering clear of the man-made, processed junk that fills most supermarket shelves. The bulk of what I eat once flew, grew, swam, or walked. As for beverages, I drink loads of water and enjoy fresh raw milk.
It is also worth noting that I don’t beat myself up if I eat something such as a bowl of ice cream. Yes, I eat healthy for the most part, but I don’t live a life of deprivation. Life is already too short. It is okay to go out and enjoy yourself from time to time. I can always make up for it in the gym.
You often post inspirational stories to your blog, which is one of my favorite aspects of your site because I think it helps us get connected to the deeper reasons why we train and strive to improve ourselves. What drives you to excel on a daily basis, and what have you found is the key to your success in this area?
I am extremely passionate about my work and the betterment of my athletes. It is my passion that drives me. If you really want something, you figure out a way to get it done. I’m hungry to improve and I stay hungry. The last thing I want is to look back at my life and wish I had done more. Too many people live life as if there was a rewind button that will let them try again.
In addition, as a father, I want to be a positive role model to my children. I don’t want to be the guy who just tells his kids how to live. I prefer to lead by example. Actions are more powerful than words. How can I expect my kids to live a particular way if I’m not willing to do so myself?
Does your motivation come from within, or from others, or a combination of both? Something else?
I’m not a fan of motivational tricks. Passion is much more powerful. Too many people make the mistake of searching externally for motivation. True motivation comes from within. It starts with passion. Once you are passionate about achieving something, the motivation to pursue your passions will already be present. How could I not be motivated to achieve something that I am so passionate about?
Is there one particular inspirational story that really resonates with you, and just gets you every timethat you could share?
No, I can’t say that there is a single favorite. I don’t post inspirational stories with hopes that they will be compared to each other. What I do instead is post stories from people who have overcome every imaginable type of adversity. Whether it is old age, a disability, an injury, etc., I want to show people that there is always someone else who is worse off than you. And not only are they worse off, they continue to move forward regardless of the unfortunate hand that they’ve been dealt.
In summary, the true value of the inspirational section isn’t in a single story, but rather the diversity of the entire collection.
Where is the best place my readers can find more information about you and your work?
I update my blog regularly at http://rosstraining.com and I have several tutorials posted to my Youtube channel at http://youtube.com/rossenamait
Thank you again for the interview and best of luck with your own training.
No, thank you Ross for leading from the front and providing my readers with such an outstanding interview. This was truly a pleasure and I’m sure it’ll reach a lot of people.
Speaking of which, if YOU enjoyed this interview, then get on over there and subscribe to both Ross’s blog and his Youtube channel. But before you go, please share this interview if you think others may be interested in achieving a high standard of fitness.
Ok, OK! Just ONE more training video…
If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and tweeps:
CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

Intermittent fasting and high intensity fitness boost HGH

by Dr. David Jockers 

(NaturalNews) The human body was designed very efficiently for times of scarcity and stress. Food scarcity was a common reality and the body has developed specific pathways to be very efficient in times of fasting. In times of stress, for survival purposes we adapted a fight or flight mode that forces us to work our bodies at a very high-intensity for a relatively short period of time. The combination of intermittent fasting and high intensity exercise promotes hormones that improve tissue healing and metabolic processes.

Our long-ago ancestors had to struggle daily for adequate food sources. They most often grazed on wild berries, herbs, raw nuts and seeds as they foraged through the woods during the day. At night, they would relax with the latest kill eating most-often a high protein, high fat meal. This sort of diet was dependent upon the success of their hunting endeavors. Fasting was a regular way of life for our ancestors. This is evident with the positive adaptations the body goes through during the fasting periods.

Fasting allows our body to go into a catabolic (tissue breakdown) period without promoting inflammatory conditions. This enables the bodily resources to eliminate older, damaged cells and replace them with stronger cellular components.

High intensity movement is a way of life

High intensity exercise was a necessity of life for our ancestors as they chased down and killed animals for food. Many cultures battled with other cultures regularly. The fight or flight lifestyle was quite evident and it was almost always at 90-100% of maximal intensity. Anything less than this could quite often lead to death or starvation.

This way of life led to a lean and incredibly strong body. Most men had body fat under 10% while women typically ranged between 10-20%. They were also able to produce incredible muscular forces to overcome obstacles with their battle-trained bodies.

To have high-quality of life in the 21st century, we must understand and work in harmony with our bodies’ primitive past. Intermittent fasting and high-intensity, short durational exercise are genetic requirements that help our bodies thrive, adapt and evolve with better survival characteristics. This includes a strong fit muscular system, a titanium immune system and an efficient digestive tract.

Fasting and fitness boost human growth hormone

Intermittent fasting for periods ranging from 12-24 hours along with high intensity exercise has a positive effect on boosting human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is a very important protein-based hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland. HGH enhances the cellular repair processes that allow us to age with grace. HGH regulates metabolism to burn fat, build muscle, and slow down the negative effects of stress.

Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that men who had fasted for 24 hours had a 2000% increase in circulating HGH. Women who were tested had a 1300% increase in HGH.

A 2009 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that lactic acid accumulation helps to trigger HGH. Lactic acid is only produced in response to intense anaerobic training. Aerobic training is not intense enough to produce the kind of lactate triggering of HGH.

Low-intensity, long duration aerobic training is catabolic in nature. This means that it produces lots of free radicals without promoting significant amounts of repair peptides, enzymes and hormones. The net effect is a wearing down of bodily resources.

High-intensity training also produces free radicals but it triggers an abundance of repair peptides, enzymes and hormones to be released. The net effect of this is healthy tissue repair and favorable effects on body composition and anti-aging qualities.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837645

http://www.naturalnews.com/033957_muscle_growth_proteins.html
Godfrey RJ, Whyte GP, Buckley J, Quinlivan R. The role of lactate in the exercise-induced human growth hormone response: evidence from McArdle disease. Br J Sports Med, 2009 Jul:43(7):521-5

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18184755?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/imc-sfr033111.php

http://www.naturalnews.com/029298_aging_industry.html

About the author:
Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Ga. He is a Maximized Living doctor. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition & exercise, & structural corrective chiropractic care. For more information go to www.drjockers.com To find a Maximized Living doctor near you go to www.maximizedliving.com Dr. Jockers is also available for long distance phone consultations to help you beat disease and reach your health goals 

Train Like a Man 5: The Real Paleo Exercise

Real Paleo Exericise

Whenever I hear that little nugget of cheese-ball inspiration, I want to throw up, because it’s usually said by some sloth that never reached his goals and he’s just trying to make sure you stay in no rush to reach yours.
I don’t know when exactly sprinting through life and achieving one goal after the next became a bad thing, but have no fear, I’ll address humanity’s aversion to sprinting throughout this article.
Our solar system hurtles around the galaxy at 450,000 mph, so our time here on this rock we call Earth (which is circling the sun at 70,000 miles an hour), in comparison to eternity is less than a blink of an eye.
The way I see it, life is an all-out sprint – and we should attack it that way.
So then what’s with the distance approach to cardio? I hear people say all the time that they entered a 10k or a marathon to get “in shape.” Is that so? I’m tempted to have these folks stand in front of a full-length mirror and ask them what shape were they looking for exactly?
If it’s extra slender, pencil-necked, and endomorphic, then I’ll condone the distance work. If they say, however, that the shape they seek is lean, muscular, and mesomorphic, then they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, if I have one more distance-junkie proudly brag about the doctor visits, MRIs, or therapy they’re using to recover from their jogging or ultra-marathon, I’ll be forced to buy a big bat and carry it with me.
You’re proud of being injured, huh? So if I smack you in the knees with the bat and produce an injury, are you still proud? Or then are you just a masochist? Maybe such drastic measures are what it takes for you to realize that pain doesn’t equal productivity, and that you’ve been chasing the wrong dog – and way too slowly at that.

Enjoyment Versus Results

Real Paleo Exericise
I understand that (unfortunately) many of us need something to drive us and get us moving besides the ultimate fact that training will help you live longer. And I understand that some people may simply enjoy distance jogging and/or be genetically suited for this style of training. I’m not here to argue either of those things.
The purpose of this article is to argue in favor of the benefits of sprinting. And interestingly enough, whether you like jogging or are naturally skinny or slow, you can still benefit from this all-powerful training medium.
Don’t think we need this argument? Then explain why most people stop sprinting by high school. Explain why most parents tell their children to stop running and slow down.
Plain and simple, besides the Olympic 100-meter final, sprinting gets much less love than distance work. Whether it’s the marketing of jogging gear, the social aspect of distance events, or the fact that “No Pain, No Gain” is imbedded into the average training psyche, you’re sure to see more people walking and jogging at your local track than to see them sprinting short portions of it, resting, and repeating.
In a world slowly being taken over and dominated by brightly colored equipment tools and fancy programming, we’ve forgotten to use the most important piece of equipment we were given, our body. And we’ve definitely forgotten to use it the way it was designed – to sprint.

Why Do We Run Marathons?

Real Paleo Exericise
In Train Like a Man Part 4, I suggested that if Baron Pierre de Coubertin loved American folklore instead of Greek tragedy, perhaps we’d have millions of people lining up to test themselves in the 100 meter instead of 26 miles.
If our hero was a steel drivin’ sprinter, rather than a solitary noncombatant whose chosen pursuit literally ran him – and millions of poor souls centuries later to follow – into the ground, just perhaps the world and its view of fitness would be different.
In all the emails I’ve ever received, I don’t think I’ve ever received anything from a recreational athlete telling me they’re entering a 100-meter dash.
Why? Because it’s not okay to suck in a sprint.
If you jog – especially if you enter a marathon – it’s okay to be mediocre. By contrast, it’s decidedly not okay to suck at sprinting.
Show up to an actual race and take thirty seconds to run 100 meters and you’re absolutely exposed for the world to see. Suck at sprinting in the wild, and you’re somebody’s dinner.
Suck at the marathon, on the other hand, and they’ll hand you a juice box and a medal, even if you come in last.

The Paleo Idea

Real Paleo Exericise
Add speed and power to any movement and the body changes. Look at a sprinting athlete versus a distance athlete. Large, developed muscles are the norm on just about any athlete involved in sprinting.
So why does this happen? You could cite the activation of the larger fast twitch fibers in sprinting or how cutting weight and losing muscle improves distance performance, but what about the “why” behind how sprinters look leaner and more muscular from seemingly much less work?
I have an interesting theory using the popular Paleo concept.
No one thinks twice about applying the Paleo concept to eating, but what about its application to movement? In terms of body development, sprinting is the ultimate Paleo exercise – and perhaps many of the problems we face today as a society are because this movement is no longer used during most peoples’ daily routine.
(Granted, like all Paleo arguments, this is mere speculation. Were we meat eaters or vegetarians? Were we distance runners or sprinters? Until we invent a time machine, we’ll just continue to enjoy the brainstorming and debate, but it’s still interesting to speculate.)

The TFW Lock-And-Key Mechanism of Sprinting

Real Paleo Exericise
When I address groups of people, I ask them if they think ingesting 1000 calories of junk food has the same effect on the body as ingesting 1000 calories of fruits and vegetables.
Without fail, according to the Paleo dogma, every attendee answers the same way – they believe that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. So in terms of energy intake, most people agree that due to the way the human body was designed and has evolved, there are particular foods that can act as keys and unlock specific pathways to either promote health (muscle gain, fat loss, etc.), or allow detrimental effects (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) when those proper pathways aren’t accessed.
Well if we can all agree on energy intake, I’m confused why people rarely discuss caloric output in the same manner? If there’s an optimal input mechanism of calories to achieve optimal health, what about an optimal output mechanism?
If muscle growth, fat loss, and health are what you’re after, I argue that sprinting may be the key that no one’s using – because those thousand calories you’re burning when you jog aren’t nearly the same as when you burn them off at a sprint. Not even close.
That’s because when you jog, you’re not using your body the way it’s designed to be used. That’s what sprinting is for. I mean, why have an Achilles tendon if we’re supposed to run on our heels? Why have huge glutes if we’re supposed to simply jog monotonously and see how long we can last?
Is the reason we have big traps because we’re supposed to act as perpetual motion machines for the better part of five hours at a time? And why the hell are our quads so big if we’re just supposed to pound them with muscle-eating eccentrics from jogging? It makes no sense to me, and it shouldn’t make any to you, either.

Sprinting: The Real Measure Of Fitness

Real Paleo Exericise
Distance jogging makes your lifts go down. Your muscle mass decreases and you have to accept it. On the other hand, sprinting mandates that you get your numbers higher to complement it.
To lower your marathon time, you need to get out and log miles, cut weight (including muscle), and get ready for pain. To lower your time in the 100-meter sprint you need to get strong, pack on muscle, lose fat, and get in some explosive, technical workouts.
So if you want to run faster, you have to do a few things:

  • You have to increase your relative body strength, so you have to get stronger for the amount you weigh. You can accomplish this by adding muscle or losing fat, or both.
  • You have to improve your sprint technique. This will be done through technical work, which will improve coordination. Here you may recognize specific areas in which to improve strength while developing muscular endurance specific to sprinting. And this is where my next article will focus.

So, to review, sprint training involves improvements in speed, strength, diet, endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Sounds a whole lot like fitness to me. To top it off, sprinting will also help any marathon runner. Too bad the opposite isn’t true.
But before you fans of distance running fire off your emails defending your chosen sport, I’m not saying that elite distance athletes aren’t impressive in terms of time Ð I’m saying they’re usually not impressive in terms of physique.
A guy that can run an under 5-minute mile pace for 26 miles is impressive in ability, no doubt, but he’s probably not concerned with having bigger arms or legs, or is even reading T Nation for that matter.
My Train Like a Man articles are for guys concerned about building mass, getting strong, and being able to clean clocks. And if I have to scrap, I’ll choose to battle the jogger over the sprinter every time.
Now that I’ve made a case for sprinting, Train Like a Man 6 will cover one of the muscle groups that will benefit most from this exercise.

Laird Hamilton, Ultra-Fit at 40


40 is the new 30 at least on the playing field One evening last June, in a more publicized but less fraught equivalent of Hamilton’s ordeal, seven pitchers age 40 or older took the mound in major-league baseball games. In fact, 40-year-olds are playing a more prominent role in almost every professional sport, from ice hockey to ultimate fighting, not to mention the swollen ranks of masters athletes competing in all kinds of races and activities. It’s as though 21st-century professional athletes and weekend warriors are living out the Dorian Gray fantasy: Through a combination of scientific training, disciplined diet, and advanced sports medicine, they are overturning immutable laws of biology, and they are reversing, or at least fighting to a draw, the aging process. The new old pros are busy making 40 the new 30. The truth behind the headlines, while encouraging, is complicated. Overall, athletic performance clearly declines with age. At the same time, late-career athletic productivity is showing an unprecedented rise. To explain the apparent contradiction, let’s start with the bad news.

In 2005, Ray C. Fair, a Yale University economist, published a statistical analysis examining the age of peak performance among major-league baseball players. Fair determined that the age of peak production for hitters was 28, and that pitchers achieved optimal production at 27. Data from the National Football League and National Basketball Association tells a similar story. The Fair study further determined that, at age 40, a ballplayer’s average decline from peak performance stood at 9.8 percent when measured by on-base -percentage plus slugging percentage (or OPS), and 14.9 percent when measured by earned run average. In other sports, the decline is less dramatic: At 40, the average decline from peak for sprinters is 3 percent; distance runners, 4.1 percent; and swimmers, 2 percent.

While these numbers seem modest–if not actually encouraging–from a citizen athlete’s perspective, they are huge for elite performers. The average middle-distance runner who notched a 4:00 mile at his peak, for instance, slows to 4:12 at age 40. On the track, that translates to a gap of about 100 meters. “It’s irrefutable: Certain physical changes accompany advancing age,” says orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright, director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA) program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Power, flexibility, balance, and VO2 max all either level off or decline from peak levels.”

Various studies in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Sports MedicineJournal of Physiology. The researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Colorado at Boulder determined that athletes could still maintain peak endurance performance until age 35. This was followed by modest decreases until age 50, with more dramatic declines thereafter. Three factors contribute to this decline: lower lactate threshold, lower exercise economy, and lower VO2 max. Of these factors, VO2 max proved the most important.
have detailed the different aspects of this decline: Starting around age 30, maximum heart rate decreases six to 10 beats per minute per decade, thigh muscles start to lose density, intramuscular fat increases, and the number of type-2 fast-twitch muscle fibers decreases. Lung function and capacity, anabolic hormone levels, and the number and quality of neural pathways also show inexorable drops with advancing years. Among all the physiological changes connected with aging, none correlates more closely with athletic performance than the decline in VO2 max, which measures the body’s maximum cardiovascular performance. The latest data suggests that VO2 max decreases by approximately 10 percent per decade, starting at around 30, according to a groundbreaking study published this year in the
When the researchers tried to determine the precise physiological mechanisms by which VO2 max declined over the years, however, they came up with a surprising discovery: There didn’t seem to be any. “The decreases in performance and VO2 max in aging athletes are associated most closely with reductions in exercise training intensity,” the study concluded, “i.e., … reductions in energy, time, and motivation to train.” In other words, older athletes don’t perform as well as they used to partly because they don’t train as hard as they used to. They work out less, in turn, not because of bodily limitations, but because of psychological and societal factors. At this point, the contradictory knot starts to unravel: While age-related physical decline from peak performance stands as scientific fact, athletic extinction proves to be a layered story open to a host of culturally influenced interpretations and different endings. The good news begins.

“Of all the variables limiting performance in the older athlete, physiological changes aren’t enough by themselves to prevent him from staying near the top of his game,” says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois. “It’s not as if some light goes out in the body at 43, or at any other age. Athletes who remain competitive past the age of 40 do so because of a complex set of reasons, not because of the number of fast-twitch fibers.”

Dr. Wright, the PRIMA director, puts the matter plainly. “Whoever said performance depends on a predetermined chronological age?” If an athlete maintains consistent high-level training and avails himself to advances in nutrition and injury prevention, he can remain productive at the highest level. “In fact,” she says, “he might outperform younger players who lack his experience, savvy, and feel for the game.”

Indeed, factoring in intangibles such as wisdom, judgment, tactical acumen, and refined technique turns the argument around, especially for sports such as baseball, cycling, golf, running, swimming, and big-wave surfing, which rely so heavily on those qualities. If you make productivity–i.e., consistent high-quality performance–rather than peak performance the standard, the evidence weighs even more heavily in favor of the more mature athlete.

Consider major-league baseball. There were only six players age 40 or older on major-league rosters during the 1997 season. In 2007, there were 21 players who were 40 or older, according to Bill Carle, of the Society for American Baseball Research. While these older ballplayers aren’t putting up the same numbers as they did in their prime, they’re performing dramatically better than older players of the past. Prior to 1982, for example, batters 35 or older never hit more than a combined total of 232 home runs in a season. In the 2000s, –admittedly the steroid era–batters 35 or older have hit at least a combined 565 homers each season, with a high of 756 in 2004.

Finally, while the scientific studies attempt to calibrate rates of age-related physiological decline, they often fail to measure factors mitigating those declines among elite athletes: scientific training and nutrition; improved equipment and advances in injury prevention; vastly improved rehabilitation from injuries; the fact that, in contrast to athletes of earlier generations, contemporary jocks have been privy to the laws of optimal health for their entire careers; and, most important, the psychological sea change that athletes no longer buy into the myth of a certain arbitrary age signaling decline. Older athletes are no longer slowing down.

“The male athlete in his forties potentially occupies that beautiful place,” says Paul Chek, training advisor to Hamilton. “There’s a sweet spot for men between the ages of 40 and 45. If they’ve been smart and careful, their bodies are only just starting to decline. At the same time, they have finally gained some wisdom. If you can keep him healthy and motivated, then the 40-year-old is the most dangerous athlete you’ll come across.”

“I look at my career as following two lines on a graph,” says Hamilton. “One line shows my physical systems, stuff like VO2 max and fast-twitch muscle fibers, either flattening or very gradually declining. The other line shows the intangibles–maturity, experience, judgment, passion, perspective–steadily rising. The two lines cross at an interesting place, and I regard that place as my peak. It’s not a point, but a plateau. Your peak isn’t really a product of your body, but of your enthusiasm. I intend to live on that plateau for a long, long time.”

Extending your performance plateau On the morning after our interview at the cafe in Paia, Hamilton stands on a corner of Baldwin Beach Park, preparing to give me a lesson in stand-up board paddling. “It’s the best core workout,” he says. “It’s also good for balance and flexibility.”

About a decade ago, Hamilton had been fooling around with stand-up paddling, which is the traditional, native-Hawaiian style of surfing: Paddle out, flip around, catch a wave, and ride it in using the paddle for balance and steering. Hamilton added his own wrinkle: Paddle on flat water for a workout. A non-weight-bearing exercise, paddling sharpens the sense of balance, which erodes with age. It also simulates the motions of big-wave surfing and takes Hamilton out on the ocean. “I’m learning every moment that I spend on the water,” he says. “The tides, the winds, the slant of sunlight. Every detail works to my advantage on the next big wave.”

Hamilton lifts the 12-foot-long board out of the bed of his pickup. He has chosen an especially wide board for me, but I’m still nervous.

“Don’t worry,” says Hamilton. “If you can stand, you can do this.”

Of course it isn’t that simple, and I’m anxious. By Hamilton’s lights, that’s a good thing. Fear is a healthy, constructive emotion, he maintains. In fact, as part of a training regimen that’s Herculean in its intensity and encyclopedic in its breadth, Hamilton sets a goal of being frightened once a day.

“Even if Laird didn’t ride big waves, he’d be a legend because of his fitness,” says Chek. “I’ve been working out with some of the best athletes in the world for 20 years. No false modesty–Laird is the only guy I regard as an equal.” Chek has created fitness programs for a diverse clientele ranging from snowboarder Shaun White to the Chicago Bulls to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

A typical week during the summer–when the big waves subside and Hamilton and his family move to their second home in Malibu, California–is based around his workout staples: two hours of nonstop circuit training, with an emphasis on lunges, presses, squats, and powerlifts; three to 10 miles of stand-up paddling, usually performed with partners such as Chris Chelios, the 46-year-old NHL star, or Don Wildman, the 73-year-old founder of Bally Total Fitness, both passionate converts to paddling; hill climbing with 50 pounds strapped to a mountain bike; and running on the beach while harnessed to a 100-pound log. During the winter, which is big-wave season on Maui, Hamilton spends less time in the gym and more time on the water or on his bike.

Each exercise, including the exotic ones, is specifically tailored to the demands of big-wave surfing. Log pulling, for example, builds the explosive power that Hamilton relies on at the start of a big-wave ride. Stand-up paddling enhances his balance, and long bike climbs build endurance: important on days when 80-foot waves imprison you underwater. In between workouts, he remains in perpetual motion, working around the house, chopping wood, hauling, and cleaning.

“When you’re training, you eat better, sleep better, think better, and have better sex,” he says. “The challenge for me is not to overdo it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more systematic. I pay attention to cycles and seasons. You can’t play the Super Bowl every day.”

Now, at Baldwin Beach Park, Hamilton leads me to the water. “Basically, you just want to plant your feet wide on the middle of the board,” he says. “Remember to breathe and don’t be afraid to dig in with the paddle. The board is like a bicycle: It’s easier to keep your balance when you’re moving.”

Clutching the paddle, I crawl up on the board, stand, wobble, and fall off. I try again and again. Seldom-used muscles throughout my body fire as I struggle to maintain my balance. After a few minutes, Brett Lickle joins Hamilton on the beach. Finally, on perhaps attempt number 12, I’m able to stand on the board for 10 to 15 seconds. I even take a few shallow strokes with the paddle. Hamilton beams.

“Terrific!” he says. “You got the idea. Next time you try it, you’ll be good to go.” I wade into shore, pushing the board in front of me. Hamilton hops on it and with a few smooth strokes cuts over two five-foot swells, heading out to where the larger waves roam.

On the beach, Lickle reassures me. “You did fine,” he says. He falls silent for a moment, watching Hamilton paddle. The wound on Lickle’s left leg is on the mend but still shows as a jagged, livid scar. “I think I’ve finished my business with the big waves,” he says. “I’ll surf for the rest of my life, but I’m done with the 80-footers.”

Out on the water, Hamilton catches a 10-foot breaker, gliding into shore with slow, graceful loops, his body at one with the board and the wave, moving the paddle as if it were an extension of his hands.

“With Laird, of course, it’s different,” says Lickle. “He still hasn’t taken his best ride.”

40 is the new 30 at least on the playing field One evening last June, in a more publicized but less fraught equivalent of Hamilton’s ordeal, seven pitchers age 40 or older took the mound in major-league baseball games. In fact, 40-year-olds are playing a more prominent role in almost every professional sport, from ice hockey to ultimate fighting, not to mention the swollen ranks of masters athletes competing in all kinds of races and activities. It’s as though 21st-century professional athletes and weekend warriors are living out the Dorian Gray fantasy: Through a combination of scientific training, disciplined diet, and advanced sports medicine, they are overturning immutable laws of biology, and they are reversing, or at least fighting to a draw, the aging process. The new old pros are busy making 40 the new 30. The truth behind the headlines, while encouraging, is complicated. Overall, athletic performance clearly declines with age. At the same time, late-career athletic productivity is showing an unprecedented rise. To explain the apparent contradiction, let’s start with the bad news.

In 2005, Ray C. Fair, a Yale University economist, published a statistical analysis examining the age of peak performance among major-league baseball players. Fair determined that the age of peak production for hitters was 28, and that pitchers achieved optimal production at 27. Data from the National Football League and National Basketball Association tells a similar story. The Fair study further determined that, at age 40, a ballplayer’s average decline from peak performance stood at 9.8 percent when measured by on-base -percentage plus slugging percentage (or OPS), and 14.9 percent when measured by earned run average. In other sports, the decline is less dramatic: At 40, the average decline from peak for sprinters is 3 percent; distance runners, 4.1 percent; and swimmers, 2 percent.

While these numbers seem modest–if not actually encouraging–from a citizen athlete’s perspective, they are huge for elite performers. The average middle-distance runner who notched a 4:00 mile at his peak, for instance, slows to 4:12 at age 40. On the track, that translates to a gap of about 100 meters. “It’s irrefutable: Certain physical changes accompany advancing age,” says orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright, director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA) program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Power, flexibility, balance, and VO2 max all either level off or decline from peak levels.”

Various studies in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Sports MedicineJournal of Physiology. The researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Colorado at Boulder determined that athletes could still maintain peak endurance performance until age 35. This was followed by modest decreases until age 50, with more dramatic declines thereafter. Three factors contribute to this decline: lower lactate threshold, lower exercise economy, and lower VO2 max. Of these factors, VO2 max proved the most important.
have detailed the different aspects of this decline: Starting around age 30, maximum heart rate decreases six to 10 beats per minute per decade, thigh muscles start to lose density, intramuscular fat increases, and the number of type-2 fast-twitch muscle fibers decreases. Lung function and capacity, anabolic hormone levels, and the number and quality of neural pathways also show inexorable drops with advancing years. Among all the physiological changes connected with aging, none correlates more closely with athletic performance than the decline in VO2 max, which measures the body’s maximum cardiovascular performance. The latest data suggests that VO2 max decreases by approximately 10 percent per decade, starting at around 30, according to a groundbreaking study published this year in the
When the researchers tried to determine the precise physiological mechanisms by which VO2 max declined over the years, however, they came up with a surprising discovery: There didn’t seem to be any. “The decreases in performance and VO2 max in aging athletes are associated most closely with reductions in exercise training intensity,” the study concluded, “i.e., … reductions in energy, time, and motivation to train.” In other words, older athletes don’t perform as well as they used to partly because they don’t train as hard as they used to. They work out less, in turn, not because of bodily limitations, but because of psychological and societal factors. At this point, the contradictory knot starts to unravel: While age-related physical decline from peak performance stands as scientific fact, athletic extinction proves to be a layered story open to a host of culturally influenced interpretations and different endings. The good news begins.

“Of all the variables limiting performance in the older athlete, physiological changes aren’t enough by themselves to prevent him from staying near the top of his game,” says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois. “It’s not as if some light goes out in the body at 43, or at any other age. Athletes who remain competitive past the age of 40 do so because of a complex set of reasons, not because of the number of fast-twitch fibers.”

Dr. Wright, the PRIMA director, puts the matter plainly. “Whoever said performance depends on a predetermined chronological age?” If an athlete maintains consistent high-level training and avails himself to advances in nutrition and injury prevention, he can remain productive at the highest level. “In fact,” she says, “he might outperform younger players who lack his experience, savvy, and feel for the game.”

Indeed, factoring in intangibles such as wisdom, judgment, tactical acumen, and refined technique turns the argument around, especially for sports such as baseball, cycling, golf, running, swimming, and big-wave surfing, which rely so heavily on those qualities. If you make productivity–i.e., consistent high-quality performance–rather than peak performance the standard, the evidence weighs even more heavily in favor of the more mature athlete.

Consider major-league baseball. There were only six players age 40 or older on major-league rosters during the 1997 season. In 2007, there were 21 players who were 40 or older, according to Bill Carle, of the Society for American Baseball Research. While these older ballplayers aren’t putting up the same numbers as they did in their prime, they’re performing dramatically better than older players of the past. Prior to 1982, for example, batters 35 or older never hit more than a combined total of 232 home runs in a season. In the 2000s, –admittedly the steroid era–batters 35 or older have hit at least a combined 565 homers each season, with a high of 756 in 2004.

Finally, while the scientific studies attempt to calibrate rates of age-related physiological decline, they often fail to measure factors mitigating those declines among elite athletes: scientific training and nutrition; improved equipment and advances in injury prevention; vastly improved rehabilitation from injuries; the fact that, in contrast to athletes of earlier generations, contemporary jocks have been privy to the laws of optimal health for their entire careers; and, most important, the psychological sea change that athletes no longer buy into the myth of a certain arbitrary age signaling decline. Older athletes are no longer slowing down.

“The male athlete in his forties potentially occupies that beautiful place,” says Paul Chek, training advisor to Hamilton. “There’s a sweet spot for men between the ages of 40 and 45. If they’ve been smart and careful, their bodies are only just starting to decline. At the same time, they have finally gained some wisdom. If you can keep him healthy and motivated, then the 40-year-old is the most dangerous athlete you’ll come across.”

“I look at my career as following two lines on a graph,” says Hamilton. “One line shows my physical systems, stuff like VO2 max and fast-twitch muscle fibers, either flattening or very gradually declining. The other line shows the intangibles–maturity, experience, judgment, passion, perspective–steadily rising. The two lines cross at an interesting place, and I regard that place as my peak. It’s not a point, but a plateau. Your peak isn’t really a product of your body, but of your enthusiasm. I intend to live on that plateau for a long, long time.”

Extending your performance plateau On the morning after our interview at the cafe in Paia, Hamilton stands on a corner of Baldwin Beach Park, preparing to give me a lesson in stand-up board paddling. “It’s the best core workout,” he says. “It’s also good for balance and flexibility.”

About a decade ago, Hamilton had been fooling around with stand-up paddling, which is the traditional, native-Hawaiian style of surfing: Paddle out, flip around, catch a wave, and ride it in using the paddle for balance and steering. Hamilton added his own wrinkle: Paddle on flat water for a workout. A non-weight-bearing exercise, paddling sharpens the sense of balance, which erodes with age. It also simulates the motions of big-wave surfing and takes Hamilton out on the ocean. “I’m learning every moment that I spend on the water,” he says. “The tides, the winds, the slant of sunlight. Every detail works to my advantage on the next big wave.”

Hamilton lifts the 12-foot-long board out of the bed of his pickup. He has chosen an especially wide board for me, but I’m still nervous.

“Don’t worry,” says Hamilton. “If you can stand, you can do this.”

Of course it isn’t that simple, and I’m anxious. By Hamilton’s lights, that’s a good thing. Fear is a healthy, constructive emotion, he maintains. In fact, as part of a training regimen that’s Herculean in its intensity and encyclopedic in its breadth, Hamilton sets a goal of being frightened once a day.

“Even if Laird didn’t ride big waves, he’d be a legend because of his fitness,” says Chek. “I’ve been working out with some of the best athletes in the world for 20 years. No false modesty–Laird is the only guy I regard as an equal.” Chek has created fitness programs for a diverse clientele ranging from snowboarder Shaun White to the Chicago Bulls to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

A typical week during the summer–when the big waves subside and Hamilton and his family move to their second home in Malibu, California–is based around his workout staples: two hours of nonstop circuit training, with an emphasis on lunges, presses, squats, and powerlifts; three to 10 miles of stand-up paddling, usually performed with partners such as Chris Chelios, the 46-year-old NHL star, or Don Wildman, the 73-year-old founder of Bally Total Fitness, both passionate converts to paddling; hill climbing with 50 pounds strapped to a mountain bike; and running on the beach while harnessed to a 100-pound log. During the winter, which is big-wave season on Maui, Hamilton spends less time in the gym and more time on the water or on his bike.

Each exercise, including the exotic ones, is specifically tailored to the demands of big-wave surfing. Log pulling, for example, builds the explosive power that Hamilton relies on at the start of a big-wave ride. Stand-up paddling enhances his balance, and long bike climbs build endurance: important on days when 80-foot waves imprison you underwater. In between workouts, he remains in perpetual motion, working around the house, chopping wood, hauling, and cleaning.

“When you’re training, you eat better, sleep better, think better, and have better sex,” he says. “The challenge for me is not to overdo it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more systematic. I pay attention to cycles and seasons. You can’t play the Super Bowl every day.”

Now, at Baldwin Beach Park, Hamilton leads me to the water. “Basically, you just want to plant your feet wide on the middle of the board,” he says. “Remember to breathe and don’t be afraid to dig in with the paddle. The board is like a bicycle: It’s easier to keep your balance when you’re moving.”

Clutching the paddle, I crawl up on the board, stand, wobble, and fall off. I try again and again. Seldom-used muscles throughout my body fire as I struggle to maintain my balance. After a few minutes, Brett Lickle joins Hamilton on the beach. Finally, on perhaps attempt number 12, I’m able to stand on the board for 10 to 15 seconds. I even take a few shallow strokes with the paddle. Hamilton beams.

“Terrific!” he says. “You got the idea. Next time you try it, you’ll be good to go.” I wade into shore, pushing the board in front of me. Hamilton hops on it and with a few smooth strokes cuts over two five-foot swells, heading out to where the larger waves roam.

On the beach, Lickle reassures me. “You did fine,” he says. He falls silent for a moment, watching Hamilton paddle. The wound on Lickle’s left leg is on the mend but still shows as a jagged, livid scar. “I think I’ve finished my business with the big waves,” he says. “I’ll surf for the rest of my life, but I’m done with the 80-footers.”

Out on the water, Hamilton catches a 10-foot breaker, gliding into shore with slow, graceful loops, his body at one with the board and the wave, moving the paddle as if it were an extension of his hands.

“With Laird, of course, it’s different,” says Lickle. “He still hasn’t taken his best ride.”

Wikio

Older athletes are reluctant to take it easy even though their bodies have aged – The Washington Post

Older athletes are reluctant to take it easy even though their bodies have aged

By Rebecca Leet, Published: August 1

To a non-athlete, the list of my tennis injuries may signal that, at 62, retirement from the game would be a very good idea: rotator-cuff injury (2001); sprained wrist and back (2002); tennis elbow (2003); re-injured wrist (2004); hip sprain (2005); toe surgery, back sprain (2007); re-injured rotator cuff (2009); back spasms, rotator cuff again (2010); broken right toe, burst cyst behind right knee, right-hip arthritis, sprained back (2011).
But to a senior athlete, pain is such a constant that is often ignored. It takes a rapid-fire sequence of play-stopping injuries to illuminate what seems obvious to others: An aging body demands accommodation.
“How we age is 30 percent genetics and 70 percent under our direct control,” says orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright, author of “Fitness Over 40” and director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes, a University of Pittsburgh program aimed at helping older sports enthusiasts exercise effectively. “Baby boomers get that, and they want control — they’ve always wanted control. But sports medicine doctors haven’t caught on that these athletes want to hear how to keep playing — not why to stop playing.”
“The fact is,” she adds, “a 75-year-old athlete may still perform many times faster and be in better health than a sedentary 30- or 40-year-old.”
We senior athletes are a stubborn bunch — and there are more of us every day. The fastest-growing demographic for fitness club membership is people over age 55, according to the International Health & Racquet Sportsclub Association. In 2005, the number of 55-and-older members was 8 million; in 2009 it was 10.3 million. Aging athletes are competing at every level, from local 10-Ks and tournaments to elite competitions such as the Summer National Senior Games, where in June some 10,000 athletes from ages 50 to 101 participated in 18 events, including basketball, pole vaulting and triathlon. (The 101-year-old competed in shotput, javelin, discus and hammer throw.)
Some aging athletes come to competition later in life, such as Mary Lathram, a 96-year-old Falls Church woman who began swimming for fitness at 64, started competing at 65 and set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke at 92. Some are athletes who never stopped, such as 48-year-old marathon runner and orthopedic surgeon Ben Kittredge of Alexandria, who has kept running since college — eight miles a day, seven days a week. Many others are like me, former teen athletes who compete intermittently as adults. I led my tennis team at the University of Georgia from 1967 to 1971 and still qualify for teams at the highest local amateur level.
With age, however, comes an increased risk of injury, says orthopedic surgeon Thomas Martinelli, a former collegiate basketball player. “For instance, ankle sprains become less prevalent, while fractures become more likely with the same injury. Rotator-cuff tears increase in incidence over age 40 and are almost unheard of in the under-20 group.”
High expectations
Yet doctors are seeing more injured senior athletes with high expectations. “When I started practice 24 years ago, if a 60-year-old walked into my office I’d assume they were lost,” says George Branche III, an orthopedic surgeon with a sports medicine specialty in Arlington.
“The changes in medical technology since the 1980s have been huge and made things possible that were impossible before,” notes Branche, who specializes in knee and shoulder surgery. Yet many orthopedic surgeons resist repairing some joints on athletes over age 60, urging them to accept joint replacement or reduced activity.
Many athletes complain that some medical professionals still dispense outdated advice, such as total rest to heal an injury rather than continuing to condition other muscles that can safely be exercised. Sports medicine experts such as Marje Albohm, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, contend that continued exercise of healthy areas is a sound principle of conditioning. Part of the problem, says Vonda Wright, is that most research on what middle-aged and older people can do physically is based on relatively sedentary populations, which calls into question its relevance for actively athletic adults.
Branche understands the disconnect between senior athletes who want to be repaired and the reluctance of some doctors to perform certain surgeries on them. “On one hand, an older competitor must acknowledge that just because a fellow athlete was able to have surgery to repair an injury does not mean that he or she will be able to do so,” Branche says. “On the other hand, surgeons need to recognize that continuous improvements in medical technology and the greater fitness of some of today’s older athletes may mean they should consider surgery they might not have 15, 20 years ago.”
Of course, the best advice is to reduce the risk of injury in the first place. The key is being mindful — and respectful — of the changes that occur as one ages.
Getting to first base
A plethora of factors influence the maintenance of conditioning and the rate of decline — factors such as the ability to train intensely, skeleton size, body fat composition, joint mobility, strength, endurance and coordination. For example, age-related decline in strength can be partially offset by resistance training, so a softball player with strong legs and hips can still sprint fast enough to beat the throw to first base. However, if that player has poor joint mobility in the hips or knees, acceleration may diminish despite his or her strength, according to Martinelli.
Vigorous conditioning can mitigate declines in strength and aerobic capacity, according to Wright. Senior athletes can also lessen the chances of injury through such steps as cross-training and taking sufficient rest time between intense workouts.
Still, having expert knowledge and keeping yourself in shape doesn’t insure one against injury. Even Branche, 55, who does fitness training twice a week and plays tennis three times a week (often with men two decades younger) found himself sprawled on the court at the McLean Racquet Club last fall, victim of a burst quadriceps tendon. After surgery and six months of therapy, Branche, once a nationally competitive amateur tennis player, is back on the court. He fully expects to continue at least as long as his father did — well into his 70s.
“Tennis is in my blood,” he says. “Playing the sport gives me an extra good feeling of competition as opposed to having my exercise centered solely on fitness and conditioning. As I have gotten older, the fitness and conditioning aspect becomes more important in continuing to play tennis.”
Leet is an Arlington-based communications and management consultant who recently started the blog More Fit After 40.

Wikio

>Fitness Fact or Fiction?

>1. FACT/FICTON: Cardio burns more calories than strength training. 

Fiction. 

Contrary to long-held belief, strength training is—as new studies have shown—superior to steady-state cardio in caloric burn. In one University of Southern Maine study, participants blasted as many calories doing 30 minutes of weight training as they did running at a six-minute-per-mile pace for the same amount of time. Unless you’re Lolo Jones, strength is your best bet.

The other huge benefit of weight training? It boosts your metabolism after your workout—and builds muscle that will further increase your fat-burning potential in the long run. “If you do steady-state cardio, when you leave the gym, that’s it for your calorie burn,” says David Jack, general manager of Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. “But when you do strength work, you’ll continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours.”

Cardio vs. Strength training face-off. Which really burns more calories?

2. You can reduce cellulite through exercise. 

Fact.

Cottage-cheese thighs can affect even the fittest athletes, and though exercise can’t prevent cellulite, it can help reduce the appearance of those tell-tale dimples. Cellulite is fat, so calorie-blasting activities and the right nutrition can make your skin look smoother. Likewise, weight gain can make cellulite worse.

“Women lose about five pounds of muscle per decade, and they lose most of it where they don’t use their muscles: where they sit. When they lose that muscle in their hips and thighs, the overlying layer of fat doesn’t have much of a foundation, so it starts to get pockmarked,” explains Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author of No More Cellulite. “Strength training can play a major role to tone that muscle and get the firm foundation back.”

Westcott recommends moves that target your hips, quads, and hamstrings, but says not to ignore your other muscles. “Since all strength exercises boost your metabolic rate, they’ll decrease fat too,” he says.

3. Crunches are one of the best moves to target your abs. 

Fiction.

You probably know crunches are old-school, but you may not know hwy they’re not very effective. What’s their weakness? Most women initiate crunches with their hip flexors without engaging much of their core. This may get the surface muscles in your abs, but it ignores the ones underneath, which are also essential to a flat stomach.

Plus, crunches mimic the sitting posture we use for much of the day. “We don’t want to exacerbate this ‘hips flexed/shoulders hunched’ position,” Jack explains. “The point of training is to fix the gaps and do something different. Crunches repeat a similar movement pattern.

A better bet for flat abs? Focus on moves like the plank and side plan that work often-neglected areas of your core. And don’t forget your butt, too. Weak glutes push your stomach out and give you a belly even if you don’t have one. (Not fair, we know!)

4. Exercise immediately improves your ability to learn. 

Fact.

It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. In a study at the University of Muenster in Germany, participants who ran sprints learned new words 20 percent faster than those who did nothing. Other research has tied physical activity to improve attention and memory as well.

“Exercise is the best thing we can do to ready our brain to learn,” says John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “We know that the cells become more malleable and ready to make connections. And the learner is more focused, calm, and motivated—[she’s] ready to learn.”

Physical activity has one other major perk too: It increases production of the stem cells that develop new brain cells.

Ratey has found that both aerobic activities and strength training have benefits to the brain, but that more complicated forms of exercise—like tennis and soccer—provide the biggest boost. “You’re taxing more parts of the brain in those activities, which helps it grow,” he explains.

5 Ways to boost your brainpower.

5. The morning is the best time of the day to exercise. 

Fiction.

If you have your pick of any time of the day, the late afternoon would be your ideal workout window. Muscle strength and body temperature both peak somewhere between 4 and 6 p.m., allowing you to work out heard with less effort. And you’ve eaten breakfast and lunch, meaning you’ll have much more fuel in your tank.

“Also, your threshold for pain is at its highest in the afternoon and your mental clarity is still there,” says Jack. “Of all the different variables, the most are in place at that time of day.”

Studies have show that the body can adapt to peak performance at any time, though, so if you’d rather work out in the morning or evening, go for it. “The best time of day to train is the time that you’re able to actually do it. That’s most important,” notes Jack.

6. Running a marathon increases your risk of a heart attack. 

Fact.

A May 2009 study form Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital and the University of Manitoba confirmed what other studies had previously said: Marathons do cause short-term injury to the heart, but thankfully, they don’t seem to cause lasting damage. In this study, MRIs were used to show abnormalities in the hearts of runners in the Manitoba Marathon. They tracked 14 athletes, and all showed cardiac stress immediately after the race. After a week of rest, however, the runners’ hearts showed no long-term effects, and for most, heart function had returned to pre-marathon levels.

The key to staying safe? If you’re a newbie, talk to your doc beforehand, and make sure you train enough for the big event. A big stressor to the heart comes when runners attempt to do much more on marathon day than they’ve done in training. Also, remember that the overall risk is still very low: It’s estimated that there are only four to eight deaths per million marathon runners. 

7. Lift weights quickly to increase the burn. 

Fiction.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the opposite is actually true. When you blaze though each move, you often use momentum instead of your muscles, and you also increase your risk of injury. “If you go too fast, you’ll muscle through areas that are weak,” Jack says.

Do the same reps more slowly (try counting to three while you lift up, and another three while you lower) and you’ll get more burn for your buck.

Westcott has done two slow-lifting studies published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. In each, on group did 10 reps of each exercise that lasted seven seconds per rep, while the other group did five reps in 14 seconds. At the end of the study, the “slow” group averaged 5o percent stronger than the regular-paced group.

Unfortunately, lifting slow can be torturous, too. Wescott says that in his study, only tow of the 15o people wanted to continue training the slow way. “It was too hard; they just didn’t like it. So we use it as one of our tools in our toolbox, but not as our standard technique.”

8. Stretch before you run. 

Fact.

Stretching is a hot-button issue in running circles, and while “stretch before you run” used to be the conventional wisdom, new research has shifted this opinion. Recently, a review by epidemiologist Ian Shrier, M.D., of six stretching studies in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that none of the studies showed that stretching before exercise prevented injury.

Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached more than 250,000 runners and no longer recommends a pre-run stretch. “I used to be a huge advocate of stretching, but over the years, thousands of runners have described how they were injured by stretching.” He says what when his runners stopped stretching, the injuries almost always went away.

But this doesn’t mean that you should never stretch, or that it’s OK to skip a warmup before starting your run. Robert Maschi, a physical therapist at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery and author of RunMetrics, tells his clients to do five to 10 minutes of a slow jog before increasing speed to a normal training pace. After the run, he recommends static stretches held for 30 seconds to a minute. “[Do] a comfortable stretch that’s not overly aggressive,” he advises.

9. Skinny people are always healthier than overweight people. 

Fiction.

Take heart, our slow-metabolism sisters: They key to good health is not just your weight. “We judge each other by how we look,” says Jack. “That’s like driving by a beautiful house, but when you walk in, the place is a mess. We don’t know what our real health markers are.” Use measurements like resting heart rate,blood pressure, and cholesterol to monitor your health, not your six-pack or lack thereof.

Though belly fat in particular has been linked adverse health effects, some doctors believe it’s the invisible fat around your organs that could cause the most trouble. And this fat is prevalent in people who don’t exercise—whether they’re thin or chubby. Jimmy Bell, Ph.D., a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College, has used an MRI scan on nearly 1,000 people to locate where fat is on the body. Bell found that even among those with normal BMI scores (20 to 24.9), as many as 20 percent had excessive levels of internal fat.

Bell feels that physical activity is the key to reducing these inner fat stores, because many of the seemingly thin subjects stayed at a healthy weight through diet but didn’t work out. “There are no shortcuts. Exercise has to be a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he says.

Can heavy really be healthy?

In short: Overweight-but-active beats thin-but-inactive any day.

Wikio

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise

April 12, 2010

How exercise affects body weight is one of the more intriguing and vexing issues in physiology. Exercise burns calories, no one doubts that, and so it should, in theory, produce weight loss, a fact that has prompted countless people to undertake exercise programs to shed pounds. Without significantly changing their diets, few succeed. “Anecdotally, all of us have been cornered by people claiming to have spent hours each week walking, running, stair-stepping, etc., and are displeased with the results on the scale or in the mirror,” wrote Barry Braun, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in the American College of Sports Medicine’s February newsletter.
But a growing body of science suggests that exercise does have an important role in weight loss. That role, however, is different from what many people expect and probably wish. The newest science suggests that exercise alone will not make you thin, but it may determine whether you stay thin, if you can achieve that state. Until recently, the bodily mechanisms involved were mysterious. But scientists are slowly teasing out exercise’s impact on metabolism, appetite and body composition, though the consequences of exercise can vary. Women’s bodies, for instance, seem to react differently than men’s bodies to the metabolic effects of exercise. None of which is a reason to abandon exercise as a weight-loss tool. You just have to understand what exercise can and cannot do.
“In general, exercise by itself is pretty useless for weight loss,” says Eric Ravussin, a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and an expert on weight loss. It’s especially useless because people often end up consuming more calories when they exercise. The mathematics of weight loss is, in fact, quite simple, involving only subtraction. “Take in fewer calories than you burn, put yourself in negative energy balance, lose weight,” says Braun, who has been studying exercise and weight loss for years. The deficit in calories can result from cutting back your food intake or from increasing your energy output — the amount of exercise you complete — or both. When researchers affiliated with the Pennington center had volunteers reduce their energy balance for a study last year by either cutting their calorie intakes by 25 percent or increasing their daily exercise by 12.5 percent and cutting their calories by 12.5 percent, everyone involved lost weight. They all lost about the same amount of weight too — about a pound a week. But in the exercising group, the dose of exercise required was nearly an hour a day of moderate-intensity activity, what the federal government currently recommends for weight loss but “a lot more than what many people would be able or willing to do,” Ravussin says.
At the same time, as many people have found after starting a new exercise regimen, working out can have a significant effect on appetite. The mechanisms that control appetite and energy balance in the human body are elegantly calibrated. “The body aims for homeostasis,” Braun says. It likes to remain at whatever weight it’s used to. So even small changes in energy balance can produce rapid changes in certain hormones associated with appetite, particularly acylated ghrelin, which is known to increase the desire for food, as well as insulin and leptin, hormones that affect how the body burns fuel.
The effects of exercise on the appetite and energy systems, however, are by no means consistent. In one study presented last year at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine, when healthy young men ran for an hour and a half on a treadmill at a fairly high intensity, their blood concentrations of acylated ghrelin fell, and food held little appeal for the rest of that day. Exercise blunted their appetites. A study that Braun oversaw and that was published last year by The American Journal of Physiology had a slightly different outcome. In it, 18 overweight men and women walked on treadmills in multiple sessions while either eating enough that day to replace the calories burned during exercise or not. Afterward, the men displayed little or no changes in their energy-regulating hormones or their appetites, much as in the other study. But the women uniformly had increased blood concentrations of acylated ghrelin and decreased concentrations of insulin after the sessions in which they had eaten less than they had burned. Their bodies were directing them to replace the lost calories. In physiological terms, the results “are consistent with the paradigm that mechanisms to maintain body fat are more effective in women,” Braun and his colleagues wrote. In practical terms, the results are scientific proof that life is unfair. Female bodies, inspired almost certainly “by a biological need to maintain energy stores for reproduction,” Braun says, fight hard to hold on to every ounce of fat. Exercise for many women (and for some men) increases the desire to eat.
Thankfully there has lately been some more encouraging news about exercise and weight loss, including for women. In a study published late last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Harvard University looked at the weight-change histories of more than 34,000 participants in a women’s health study. The women began the study middle-aged (at an average of about 54 years) and were followed for 13 years. During that time, the women gained, on average, six pounds. Some packed on considerably more. But a small subset gained far less, coming close to maintaining the body size with which they started the study. Those were the women who reported exercising almost every day for an hour or so. The exercise involved was not strenuous. “It was the equivalent of brisk walking,” says I-Min Lee, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the lead author of the study. But it was consistently engaged in over the years. “It wasn’t something the women started and stopped,” Lee says. “It was something they’d been doing for years.” The women who exercised also tended to have lower body weights to start with. All began the study with a body-mass index below 25, the high end of normal weight. “We didn’t look at this, but it’s probably safe to speculate that it’s easier and more pleasant to exercise if you’re not already heavy,” Lee says.
On the other hand, if you can somehow pry off the pounds, exercise may be the most important element in keeping the weight off. “When you look at the results in the National Weight Control Registry,” Braun says, “you see over and over that exercise is one constant among people who’ve maintained their weight loss.” About 90 percent of the people in the registry who have shed pounds and kept them at bay worked out, a result also seen in recent studies. In one representative experiment from last year, 97 healthy, slightly overweight women were put on an 800-calorie diet until they lost an average of about 27 pounds each. Some of the women were then assigned to a walking program, some were put on a weight-training regimen and others were assigned no exercise; all returned to their old eating habits. Those who stuck with either of the exercise programs regained less weight than those who didn’t exercise and, even more striking, did not regain weight around their middles. The women who didn’t exercise regained their weight and preferentially packed on these new pounds around their abdomens. It’s well known that abdominal fat is particularly unhealthful, contributing significantly to metabolic disruptions and heart disease.
Scientists are “not really sure yet” just how and why exercise is so important in maintaining weight loss in people, Braun says. But in animal experiments, exercise seems to remodel the metabolic pathways that determine how the body stores and utilizes food. For a study published last summer, scientists at the University of Colorado at Denver fattened a group of male rats. The animals already had an inbred propensity to gain weight and, thanks to a high-fat diet laid out for them, they fulfilled that genetic destiny. After 16 weeks of eating as much as they wanted and lolling around in their cages, all were rotund. The scientists then switched them to a calorie-controlled, low-fat diet. The animals shed weight, dropping an average of about 14 percent of their corpulence.
Afterward the animals were put on a weight-maintenance diet. At the same time, half of them were required to run on a treadmill for about 30 minutes most days. The other half remained sedentary. For eight weeks, the rats were kept at their lower weights in order to establish a new base-line weight.
Then the fun began. For the final eight weeks of the experiment, the rats were allowed to relapse, to eat as much food as they wanted. The rats that had not been running on the treadmill fell upon the food eagerly. Most regained the weight they lost and then some.
But the exercising rats metabolized calories differently. They tended to burn fat immediately after their meals, while the sedentary rats’ bodies preferentially burnedcarbohydrates and sent the fat off to be stored in fat cells. The running rats’ bodies, meanwhile, also produced signals suggesting that they were satiated and didn’t need more kibble. Although the treadmill exercisers regained some weight, their relapses were not as extreme. Exercise “re-established the homeostatic steady state between intake and expenditure to defend a lower body weight,” the study authors concluded. Running had remade the rats’ bodies so that they ate less.
Streaming through much of the science and advice about exercise and weight loss is a certain Puritan streak, a sense that exercise, to be effective in keeping you slim, must be of almost medicinal dosage — an hour a day, every day; plenty of brisk walking; frequent long runs on the treadmill. But the very latest science about exercise and weight loss has a gentler tone and a more achievable goal. “Emerging evidence suggests that unlike bouts of moderate-vigorous activity, low-intensity ambulation, standing, etc., may contribute to daily energy expenditure without triggering the caloric compensation effect,” Braun wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine newsletter.
In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”
Gretchen Reynolds writes the Phys Ed column for the magazine. She is writing a book about the frontiers of fitness.

Wikio

9 Ingredients to avoid in processed foods

If you know me at all, you know that I’m an advocate for whole, unprocessed foods.  However, many of us inevitably turn to packaged or processed foods when we are short on time.  Maybe we grab a frozen dinner or pizza for a quick dinner for our family.  Maybe we grab a quick nutrition bar to satiate our hunger until we can sit down for a real meal.  Or maybe, we just don’t like to cook.  Whether we like it or not, packaged and processed food has become a huge part of our food industry and, as a result, a part of many of our diets.

Although there are some brands that I hugely advocate for, there are many more that border on outright unhealthy and “scary.”  Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want in your diet. It is always preferable to choose products that have only a handful of ingredients, all of which should be recognizable.  One test to know whether an ingredient is healthy is to ask yourself whether your grandmother would recognize it.  If not, there is a good chance the ingredient is less natural food and more man-made chemical.  Another good test is whether or not you can easily pronounce the ingredient.  If you feel like you need a science degree to pronounce it properly, chances are the ingredient is worth avoiding.
If you do have to resort to a processed food for a snack or dinner (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain the ingredients listed in the following chart.  Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these ingredients are some of the most highly processed and least healthy of all:
Ingredient Why it is Used Why it is Bad
Artificial Colors
  • Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color.
  • Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.
Artificial Flavorings
  • Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors.
  • Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma
  • Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.
Artificial Sweeteners
(Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal®, NutraSweet®,  Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)
  • Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweetenersfound in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.
  • Can negatively impact metabolism
  • Some have been linked to cancer, dizziness hallucinations and headaches.
Benzoate Preservatives

(BHT, BHA, TBHQ)
  • Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid.
  • May result in hyperactivity, angiodema,  asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and  urticaria
  • Can affect estrogen balance and levels.
Brominated Vegetable Oil

(BVO)
  • Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks.
  • Increases triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
(HFCS)
  • Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar
  • Sustains freshness in baked goods
  • Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness.
  • May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat
  • Increases risk for Type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver.
MSG

(Monosodium Glutamate)
  • Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and other foods.
  • May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing.
Olestra
  • An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked.
  • Inhibits absorption of some nutrients
  • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence.
Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils
(Palm, Soybean and others)
  • Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.
  • Cheaper than most other oils.
  • Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk of heart disease.

Have you checked your ingredient lists recently? Do they contain any of the above? Have you tried cutting some of these ingredients out?

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