Why "Diet" Foods Aren't Actually That Great for You

You spot 'diet' this and 'diet' that on tons of nutritional labels as you are in the grocery store walking down some of your favorite aisle's. Are they worth you picking up and or should you just look right past them? Yes, and No.

Many people who I am very close with ask for nutritional advice. Not because I claim to be some guru, or expert. But I try to be as honest as possible with what science and human physiology says while being sensitive to the state they are in and the circumstances they are under.

Everyone's journey starts somewhere and being respectful of that is always a good thing. If you are consuming tons of sugar from various sources on a daily basis then maybe some of those 'diet' items in the grocery store might be a good change. Changing some of those very refined sugar items you are consuming to some lower calorie 'diet' items may result in you lowering your overall caloric intake to improve your lifestyle.

The untold truth about items in the grocery store that have 'diet' on the label is the artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are added to about 6,000 different beverages, snacks, and food products, making label reading an ever pressing necessity. Disturbingly, food industry groups are now trying to hide the presence of artificial sweeteners in certain foods.

One of the reasons why artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight relates to the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories.

When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain's reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.

However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn't contain any calories, your brain's pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste, but there's nothing to deactivate it, since the calories never arrive.

Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it's going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn't come, your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.

In recent years, we've learned that gut microbes play a significant role in human health. Certain gut microbes have been linked to obesity. As it turns out, artificial sweeteners disrupt your intestinal microflora, thereby raising your risk of obesity and diabetes.

As for safer sweetener options, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Now days reading food labels are becoming a necessity.

Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not. In the end, the research tells us that artificial sweeteners are nothing more than a pipe dream when it comes to aiding you in becoming healthier, because contrary to what the marketing campaigns claim, low or no calorie artificial sweeteners are more likely to help you pack on the pounds than shed them.

Just be careful as you choose what you consume. Also, be sensitive to those who may be trying to change there lifestyle. Sugar, and artificial sweeteners can be addicting and someone may need your empathy and support while they are going through their journey.

The Benefits of Exercising Even When You're Sick

Being sick absolutely sucks. It destroys plans and sidelines you due to the uncomfortable nature that seems to take over. But are you doing the best for your body by staying home in a personal quarantine? Colds are a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from work and school. Americans suffer from approximately 1 billion colds per year, or about two to four colds per year for all adults.


It should be obvious that the majority of colds occur in the winter months. This has to due with the lack of sunshine, and hence decreased levels of vitamin D. So if you have a cold there is a strong chance that your vitamin D levels are too low and it might be a good idea to get them checked before you undergo high levels of antibiotics. Some more contributing factors to you having a weakened immune system might be: 1) Over-eating on too much sugar. 2) Not getting enough rest or sleep. 3) Not using adequate strategies to address emotional stressors in your life.

Should you workout if you have a really bad cold and you are coughing, sneezing, and even find it hard for you to breath? That is the question I will attempt to answer for you by showing you what the research says.

Two little-known studies that were published a decade ago in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed results so much in favor of exercise for individuals with a common cold that the researchers themselves were surprised. The researchers found no difference in symptoms from those who exercised and those who rested. They also found no difference in recovery. Surprisingly, when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, they said they felt okay, and in some cases, they said they actually felt better. They concluded that not only is it safe to exercise when you have an upper respiratory tract infection, but it could actually make you feel better. Even if it doesn’t speed up your recovery.

One study that was performed back in 2006 showed that women who exercised regularly were found to have half the risk of colds of those who didn't workout. The ability of moderate exercise to ward off colds seemed to grow the longer it was used. The enhanced immunity was strongest in the final quarter of the year long exercise program. This would suggest that it is important to stick with exercise long term to get the full effects.

The patients in the exercising group were asked to exercise about 45 minutes a day at home and the gym for five days a week, but they were only able to reach the 30-minute mark per day, with brisk walking accounting for the bulk of their body work. This clearly shows that something is better than nothing.

Personally, I believe that if you have the energy to tolerate it, getting your body temperature up by sweating from exercise will help you kill some viruses. I strongly suggest that you listen to your body and maybe cut back the amount of time that you typically would exercise. Going too hard could also stress your immune system and prolong your illness if you overdue it. Think of this like many things I try to convey through my messages. Moderation and consistency is important.

4 Things You Should Know About Glutes

We see tons of photos with individuals highlighting their backsides on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat. I personally respect the obedience it takes into the training anyone dedicates themselves to in order to become a better version of self. But I have an issue with the lack of information provided by those of superior physical stature. When you are reading the content of "experts" or listening to the podcasts, YouTube videos, interviews with popular stars on how they achieved such a 'perfect' body make sure that you discern the difference of science and opinion. 9 times out of 10 they are giving you their opinion and personal insight on what they did and chalking it up to the holy grail of exercise. To give an example of this notion, do you remember the squat challenge. It makes me chuckle just thinking about all the trending pictures. I would show some examples but I would rather keep this blog free of content that has no scientific backing. Mind you, everything can't be explained by science. Their are many things related to health and fitness that have very little research or conflicting research. But human anatomy and physiology is still the same. Lets sum it up. The glutes produce hip extension and external rotation. They are primarily fast twitch, high force producing and very difficult to fatigue. To paint the picture of what this looks like think of a skating stride in hockey. The toe turns out so the flat of the blade can dig into the ice (external rotation and abduction - leg moves away from the body), and then the hip extends back into the ice to provide some forward movement (hip extension).

4 Glute Myths: 1) Squats and deadlifts aren't the best exercises for building bigger, stronger glutes. We see pictures of squats and lunges as the centerfold for being the 'booty builders' and while they are beneficial and make the glutes sore; they target the quads and erector spinae. Even box squatting, walking lunges and sumo deadlifts don't activate much glute in comparison to some other exercises. It's not that people don't know how to use their glutes or use proper form. The glutes just aren't maximally involved in squatting, lunging and deadlifting. Glutes are maximally contracted from bent-leg hyperextension exercises (examples: Hip Thrust, Reverse Hyperextensions)

2) Cardio burns fat in the glute - ham area. I see so many physique athletes slaving away for hours on the stair master, claiming that it sheds fat and etches in the details of the glute-ham tie in. Which by the way is not a muscle. The Stepmill can indeed hit the type I fibers and potentially aid in total muscle building efforts. However, this could also be accomplished via incline walking, cycling, the elliptical, or simply adding in some high-rep, low-load resistance training. I'm not saying that cardio (or the stair master) should be avoided; just know that it doesn't preferentially burn fat in the glutes or hamstrings.

3) There are special exercises to shape the glute - ham tie in.  There is no glute -  ham tie in muscle. The next time someone tells you this ask them, "What is that muscle called?" and listen to the crickets after that. Ha. The gluteus maximus is one muscle. The hamstrings have a supporting cast which are comprised of (biceps femoris long head, semitendinosus, semimembranosus and finally, the adductor magnus). There are plenty of exercises that do a great job of activating the glutes and hamtrings at the same time and there are also plenty of exercises that might make you feel sore in the lower region of your glutes (walking lunges, bulgarian squats). However, if you want to maximize the muscularity of the glutes and hamstrings, you'll need to perform a variety of exercises. No single exercise will optimally build both muscles.

4) Having nice glutes are genetic and can't be built. Glutes are a muscle believe it or not. Some people are genetically pre-disposed for certain body parts being more over powering than others. We could make a case for many things like athletic background, parental DNA and environment. But truth be told we all can strengthen this muscle. It just takes effort, time and some patience. The weapon of choice for glute development is the hip thrust exercise. Hip thrusts can be performed with a barbell, with bands, or one leg at a time. However, no exercise on its own will optimally develop any muscle. Another thing to note is if your body fat isn't low enough your glutes aren't going to look as good. Attaining low body fat levels is best achieved through a periodized combination of dieting, strength training, and cardiovascular training. So we can lose the excuses of, "I am stuck with a flat butt." "My parents had no butt so that's why I have no butt." "I'm too old now to have a butt." Last I checked the glutes are still a muscle which means we can break it down and repair for growth.

The glutes are sleeping giants. Dormant and underused with tons of potential. Go unlock yours.

Why long distance running isn't that great

I think we can all agree that when it comes to exercise, more is not always better. Granted, this warning does not apply to the vast majority of people reading this, as most people are not exercising nearly enough. But it's still important to understand that not only is it possible to over - exercise, but focusing on the wrong type of exercise to the exclusion of other important areas can actually do you more harm than good. A study performed in 2011 by the European Heart Journal looked at the heart function of 40 elite long term endurance athletes after four endurance races of varying lengths. By measuring cardiac enzymes and taking ultrasounds, the researchers were able to measure the acute effects of extreme exercise on the heart. They found that: ~ Right Ventricular function diminished after races. ~ Blood levels of cardiac enzymes (markers of heart injury) increased. ~ The longer the race, the greater the decrease in RV function. ~ 12% of the athletes had scar tissue in their heart muscle detected on MRI scans one week after the race. The authors of the study concluded that intense exercise causes dysfunction of the Right Ventricular, but not the Left Ventricular. Although short term recovery appears complete, chronic changes may remain in many of the most practiced athletes.

This study is a little scary huh? Right Ventricular damage is not good. Diseases that effect this portion of the heart tends to cause electrical instability that may increase the risk of sudden death. Although exercise reduces your cardiovascular risk by a factor of three, too much vigorous exercise, such as marathon running, actually increases your cardiac risk by seven, according to a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 in Montreal. This is a powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise, because as it turns out, excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive.

Exercise remains the most effective and safest means to prevent and treat heart disease. The overwhelming majority still exercise far too little. I believe the US suffers from sever exercise deficiency. This is only a note of awareness into one of the more popular means of exercise, "long distance running."

The real answer is to exercise correctly and appropriately, and making certain you have adequate and proper recovery. This can be just as important as exercise itself. Part of a healthy regimen is variety. I could go through a load of overwhelming evidence indicating that conventional cardio or long distance running is one of the worst forms of exercise there is. Here are a couple that confirm the health alarming effects of long distance running: ~ A 2006 study screened 60 non-elite participants of the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathons, using echocardiography and serum bio-markers. Just like the featured study above, it too found decreased right ventricular systolic function in the runners, caused by an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow. ~ In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology., researchers recruited a group of extremely fit older men. All of them were members of the 100 Marathon club, meaning athletes who had completed a minimum of 100 marathons. Half of these lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring as a result - specifically the men who had trained the longest and hardest. ~ Recently published in the journal Circulation, this animal study was designed to mimic the strenuous daily exercise load of serious marathoners over the course of 10 years. All the rats had normal, healthy hearts at the outset of the study, but by the end most of them had developed "diffuse scarring and some structural changes, similar to the changes seen in the human endurance athletes."

Research emerging over the past several years has given us a deeper understanding of what your body requires in terms of exercise, and many of our past notions have simply been incorrect. In the next post I will dive into what the research says about exercise based on our human physiology.

References. Seigel, A. (2001). Effect of marathon running on inflammatory and hemostatic markers. American Journal of Cardiology, 88(8), 918-920. Retrieved from Burns, A. (2011). Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction and structural remodelling in endurance athletes. European Heart Journal.