Health and Wellness

A calorie is a calorie, right?

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? Not even close! Perhaps inside test tubes in laboratories; but in the real world, a calorie is more like the American dollar— its value goes up and down with inflation and the economy. If inflation is high, a dollar doesn’t buy us much. Likewise, if your metabolism is running high, a few extra calories will be quickly used and therefore have less impact on your “bottom line”. If your metabolism is running low, even a few extra calories will pack on extra pounds.

I collect a food log before creating a client's program to see what kind of food consumption their metabolism can handle. The value and effect of a calorie can only be measured when contrasted with the speed of our metabolism at the time the calorie is ingested. And the speed of your metabolism is constantly adjusting to the environment created for it daily by your energy balance.

If we reduce calories, we trigger a metabolic response in our bodies that starts slowing our metabolism. We will then lose weight only until the metabolism has adapted to our new caloric intake. We call this point a 'plateau'.

It’s at these 'plateaus' that we are most vulnerable to taking extreme measures that can ruin our metabolisms. Often we resort to some nutritional "extreme" out of frustration to break this plateau. Understanding how our metabolism works and what a plateau actually is, helps us to determine how to handle them. Our bodies metabolism can significantly throttle back and slow down when it perceives a food shortage. This is a survival mechanic, and a very powerful one. When we hit these plateaus we have two options:

A - reduce calories or carbohydrates further

B - Increase food intake

These options may seem straight-forward but responding incorrectly to a plateau can cause big problems for our efforts to reduce body fat. If handled properly, a structured decrease in our food intake can result in temporarily staving off the plateau long enough to lose more weight. If handled incorrectly, or when food intake is already too low, it can trigger a survival mechanic that can wreck our metabolism and make it nearly impossible to lose more weight.

If we choose to increase our food intake we need to recognize that our new goal is to speed our metabolism and not necessarily to lose more weight at this point. If we increase our intake we may actually increase our body mass so making sure we are doing the proper exercise at this point will ensure that only lean mass is increased and not body fat. It’s a very fine line to walk between increasing our intake enough to speed our metabolism while not gaining any body fat. Often this can only be accomplished by a gradual increase in food intake spread out over a few weeks. If implemented properly it will reset our metabolic rate, and allow us to once again begin dieting with results.

When properly structured, a diet can be cycled in such a way to decrease weight and body fat, and if needed, be re purposed to temporarily reinvigorate our metabolic rate allowing us to hit the 'reset' on the body’s ability to drop weight.

This method has the advantage of resulting in dramatic shifts in body composition and actually 'reboots' the metabolism so that these results are sustainable.

This approach is far too dependent on individual evaluation to be presented as a mass diet.... which is why there are no manuscript diets that can yield results anywhere close to this.

An intelligent nutrition plan must be based first on the current food intake levels your body is used to; second, what activities and conditioning you’ll be engaging in; and third, what your specific body type is, and unique personal goals are.

When these elements are accounted for, and then food and exercise timing is factored in, the results can be quite impressive to even the most experienced fitness professional.

Overcoming adversity while dieting

I’ve been designing diets for my clients for a decade now and have worked with several thousand people. One of the things I’ve learned is that we are ALL human and have different struggles and weaknesses. With that being said there are a few common issues that most of my clients face, and a few proactive measures that can be taken that strongly correlate to success with a diet.

1.) Recognize that most often people break their diet not out of cravings but out of convenience. If there is nothing healthy and in harmony with your diet available you’ll have no choice but to “break” the diet. The solution is prepare your healthy food in advance. I actually require my clients to use an ice chest and ask them to show it to me regularly. Preparation is vastly more significant then will power when it comes to successful dieting.

2.) Don’t let a bad nutritional day turn into a bad weekend and bad week. If you fall off the wagon, don’t worry. Everyone does sooner or later. The ones who get back on track quickly make the most progress.

3.)Do no keep junk food in your house. Assuming you can resist it if you make your mind up to do so is flawed thinking for two reasons. First it’s flawed because eventually you’ll have an emotional or frustrating day and turn to the junk food... I know because this is exactly what I do. Second, even if you do resist the temptation, having to constantly deny yourself something every time you walk by the pantry will only lead to feelings of resentment for your new healthy life style. You don’t need that. Keep your home a safe haven of healthy options. If you cheat on the diet do it out of the house and don’t take it home.

4.) Understand the difference between selectively choosing to “break” your diet and uncontrollably choosing to break your diet. Deciding that you’re going out with your friends for dinner on Saturday and choosing in advance to allow yourself a little leeway is ok from time to time. Deciding to stick to your diet and then crumbling every time sweets in your path is not.

5.) Once again... use an ice chest and cook in bulk! Preparation equals success.

By Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET
- owner Whole Body Fitness

Good morning, nice to meet your metabolism!

 

There is so much misunderstanding regarding the metabolism we could write books on just this topic. Don't even get me started on how the diet industry often tries to cover up the truth of how our metabolism actually works. I'm often asked for a summation of the topic so while this is most definitely the abbreviated version - here it is... Meet your metabolism! It works like this:

The metabolism basically has 2 modes.

“Active Mode.”  - This is when it’s running at full power fueled by plentiful energy intake (calories and carbohydrates) when the body has not been dramatically deprived of the food it needs to sustain it’s mass. In other words, you’ve not been doing any sustained radical dieting that would push it into “Survival Mode.” If this describes you, then there’s good news! You have the upper hand metabolically and are in a strong position to start loosing weight!

**Note: Even if feel you have a genetically slow metabolism or are currently inactive, overweight, or out of shape, you still have the resource that matters most in the battle against excess weight. A metabolism that’s not in survival mode. With the proper science you can easily make some simple manipulations to your food combinations or meal timing and see some immediate results. 

“Survival Mode” - This is a normal stage of dieting that is often misunderstood. It’s a natural response to sustained dieting and can’t be avoided entirely. When you understand what’s going on when your metabolism enters “Survival Mode” and recognize it as a natural part of the weight loss cycle, it can be dealt with quickly and effectively. There are varying degrees to this mode. It can be the normal readjusting our metabolism goes through (often between 3-5 weeks after starting a new diet)  that can stop us from loosing weight for just a few days. Or it can be a complete plateauing of our weight loss progress that requires purposeful readjustment of our nutrition to circumvent the halted progress. 

It’s here in the “Survival Mode” that the battle for our bodies, and our health is fought.. Sadly it’s often misinformation on how our metabolism actually works that’s responsible for abandoned weight loss aspirations. Not to worry though, you CAN lose the weight, and you’ll be delighted how painless it is when properly approached. The key is learning how to minimize the amount of time you body spends in "survival mode" and maximize your time spent in "Active mode" where the real progress is made.

Using your metabolism to your advantage

With an intelligently designed nutrition plan you can gradually, and progressively lower your food / energy intake to stimulate weight loss. As you do this you MUST realize that the more you restrict your intake the greater your metabolism turns on that survival mechanic. Ultimately most people will reach a point where they can't or shouldn't drop their intake any lower otherwise they will plunge themselves destructively into "Survival Mode" with little prospects for maintaining their recent weight loss.

The trick is understanding how to ride that line of adjusting the diet at just the right pace to sustain progressive weight loss and then recognize the early signs of needing to start increasing your food intake in order to cheat your metabolism out of a long dry summer of "survival mode".  If you have to increase your intake to let your metabolism refresh, don't delay in doing so. Be prepared by planing to offer your body a proverbial piece offering... an alternative outlet for the extra calories - lean mass. If you're doing some form of resistance training then odds are the small increase will primarily go to building muscle. Be patient. This phase isn't about losing weight directly but rather about reestablishing a heathy metabolism that is in "Active Mode". After a short while you're metabolism will start running "hotter". You WILL feel this if you listen to your body. That's the signal that you're ready to start losing again. It's all in the timing. When and how much to adjust your diet is the key. As far as the "what" you should be eating, well you should already know that... Lean proteins, quality slow burning carbohydrates, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. As to the "details" of exactly how much of the right foods to eat, what ratio to eat them in, and when to change those ratio's and amounts. . . well, it's all about the details. For those who are diligent and pay attention to the details, your metabolism will work for you instead of against you! Ignore them or leave it all to chance and you'll see... the devil is in the details.  

By Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET
- owner Whole Body Fitnes

Is Late Night Eating Unhealthy?

Is unhealthy, and doing so will pack on pounds, no matter how healthy you eat. Other people believe that eating late is absolutely fine, as long as you stick to healthy foods and stay away from junk. Which is true?

Should you refrain from eating past a certain time, or does it matter how late you eat, so long as you eat healthy?

Does your metabolism really slow down after a certain time?

The answer to this debate depends mostly on what diet or mechanic you are using to lose weight. There are two basic mechanics that effect weight and body composition.

1. Calorie restriction

2. Macronutrient ratios (controlling the ratio of proteins, carbs, and fats) Low carbohydrate diets use this mechanic to force the body to burn more lipids for fuel.

Note: There are many other strategies aimed at controlling hormones, glycemic load, etc, that can be helpful. These additional strategies are often combined into a diet. The primary mechanic however remains the same.  Reduce calories or carbohydrates.

What happens to our metabolism at night?

When we sleep at night our bodies power down into a state of extremely low energy expenditure. At this point any left over fuel in the tank is more likely to be stored as body fat. Not all fuel is the same, however. Proteins, for example, are still used even while we sleep to repair tissue. If we have excess sugars at night time it's unlikely that we will be able to burn them off and therefore store some as unwanted body fat.

Pros & cons when deciding whether to include a food “cut off time” as part of your diet program:

Pro: In the short run it will seem as though you are losing more weight. This is mostly because your body will be in a “fasting” state for a longer period of time in a 24 hour cycle. You will wake with less intestinal bulk and feel mildly lighter and digestively “empty”.

Pro: If you are following a reduced carbohydrate program, it will ensure that you don’t unintentionally get carbohydrates late at night. Carbohydrates at night undermine the mechanic that triggers fat loss. This is especially the case when the diet is already built around that mechanic (low carbs).

Pro: Most Americans consume the bulk of their calories in the second half of the day. If your weight loss plan is built around calorie restriction, a cut off time for meals can help keep you within your targeted caloric intake.

Con: It’s a gimmick. No serious athletes should completely eliminate their intake at night. The same mechanic that causes us to lose more weight by going consecutive hours without food (fasting) causes us to plunge deeper into a catabolic state (feeding off our own muscles). This is counter-productive when trying to develop lean mass, recover from intense training, or improve athletic performance. 

Tip: There are three basic body types. Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph. Learn which one you are. Ectomorphs will be most negatively impacted by the above mentioned catabolic effects of fasting while Endomorphs will be the least effected.

Con: Many people are subject to blood sugar swings. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is more likely to effect someone aggressively dieting. Cutting off food too early in the day may impact you if you’re prone to low blood sugar.

Conclusion:

Based on the pros and cons it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s important to know your body type and understand the mechanics involved in the diet you’re following.

If you’re following a reduced carbohydrate diet, some people see benefits from allocating less carbs in the evening while still getting some proteins and fats.

When following a reduced calorie diet that doesn’t restrict carbohydrates you’ll still benefit by avoiding highly processed foods at night. It's a safe assumption that sugar before bed is undesirable for any diet.

I sincerely welcome any questions or comments,
Angelo Poli SET, SPN, CF

Why am I a circle?

It's true, people come in all different shapes and sizes, but in recent years more and more seem to come in the same general shape. A circle.

It seems our lifestyle in general (the age of technology and eating on the run) produces an easily identifiable bulbous and sagging look towards the center circle. How did this happen? I used to be rectangular, even triangular... but now I'm a circle.

There are two primary contributing factors to our increasingly spherical physiques.

The first reason is that when we spend additional time in the seated or slumped position, our head and shoulders tend to roll forward and down (toward our center) and our arms internally rotate (again toward our center). Not sure if this describes you? Well, do you spend much of your time working at a desk, relaxing on the couch, driving, being driven, watching movies, working on the computer, eating, visiting with friends at the coffee shop, texting, studying, reading, playing video games, talking on the phone...?   ...by the way, what are you doing right now? You wouldn't happen to be sitting, would you?

If any of these activities describe a large part of your life, you are.. well... pretty normal. Also your head is likely forward from your center of gravity (not in line with your ankles), and when you stand relaxed the back of your hands face forward instead of your thumbs.

Ok, now that you've stood up and checked yourself out in the mirror (yeah, I know), let me recommend a couple things you can do to help restore yourself from a circle to any number of improved geometrical shapes.

For every hour a day you spend in the seated or slumped position, I suggest performing 2 door-jam shrugs. That means if you spend 10 hours per day sitting (scary but add it up - driving to work, sitting at your desk, relaxing in front of the TV etc..) that means you would perform 20 door-jam shrugs per day!

The second reason is because when we gain fat, our bodies are designed to hold it more or less symmetrically near the center of our bodies. Thank goodness for that! Could you imagine if we had an extra 30 pounds in our left ankle? Our Hop-Scotch days would be over! Instead, our bodies store the extra weight neatly in our stomach, thighs, and hips, allowing us to move with remarkable dexterity on the dance floor despite the need for a Doctor's note prior to preforming most popular dance moves (you know what I'm talking about)...

There are a few nutritional strategies.... and yes -- I'm talking about diet -- or as some people commonly regard it, “the complete removal of life's enjoyment”. Regardless, if you're in the market for a diet, make sure you read this brief article based on years of dieting thousands of clients. There are some common elements that strongly correlate to success with dieting.

Click here to view the article "Overcoming Adversity While Dieting".

While as a nation we are becoming increasingly rotund, individually we can take some steps to prevent ourselves from becoming or remaining.. “a circle”.

Instead we can adopt a healthy lifestyle and get in the best "shape" of our life.

Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET

Science based exercise: The gym, where golfers go to die

Science based exercise: The gym, where golfers go to die...

It’s becoming more and more of a cliché around here. The more athletes I train, the more injuries I hear about that originated “in the gym” training for their sport. Why?

It’s the same reason for golfers as it is for any other sports participant; in reaching for athletic excellence they followed out dated advice.

Lets speak strictly “athletically” and leave technique, experience, and the ability to maintain mental focus under pressure (all abilities necessary to excel as a golfer) off the table for a moment.

What makes the ultimate physical athlete? What should the Zeus of golf look like and be able to perform?
Massive upper body strength? Gymnast like flexibility? No..

The elite golfer needs to achieve one thing. A body that functions as it was originally designed. All the joints, bones, and muscles in proper alignment working together as a functional unit. In this position an athlete’s body works together and has the greatest capacity for power, stability, balance and of most concern to the golfer, reliable and predictable movement. We call this “neutral anatomical alignment.” An athlete who achieves this has all the tools necessary to maximize their potential. While following the rules governing human movement and muscular balance we manage to develop a physique with greater strength, speed, and power.. Great! But BE CAUTIOUS, if achieving greater strength and power comes at the expense of violating the body’s innate blueprint for functionality, your athletic ability and possibly structural integrity will be compromised.

How so..?
For starters, Americans (and most industrialized nations) are already starting at a cultural disadvantage functionally speaking. Understanding this is absolutely vital to reaching your potential athletically. The human body has muscles responsible for postural integrity, fluid motion, and general maintenance of full range movement. Nearly all of us have crucial muscles and stabilizers that have atrophied (weakened) as well as over taxed hypertonic (shortened and tight) postural muscles trying to do the job of their weakened counter parts. This goes for both the couch potato and the muscle bound jock alike. There are many reasons for this in our society but a simple one that most people can relate to is as plain as the chairs we sit in. Our bodies are designed for motion. Only in movement are our bodies maintained and calibrated to our original functional blue print. But we are a nation of professional sitters. We sit to work, we sit to travel, we sit to recreate, we sit to eat, we sit to rest, and likely as you’re reading this... you’re sitting.


This culture forces our bodies to execute one of the programs it’s best designed for: adaption. Our bodies are constantly in a state of adaption to both internal and external stimulation. If we run regularly, our lungs and cardiovascular systems adapt to become more efficient. If we eat too much, our bodies store the extra fuel in areas that allow us to (usually) manage the extra weight until we are somewhat plump. Imagine if we were to store all our excess body fat in our ankles and wrists.. we would become prohibitively clumsy. No, our bodies adapt to withstand the demands placed upon it. Even our skin adapts to manage greater sun exposure.

Humans as a culture and generation are once again adapting to the demands of our life style and it’s not for the better.

Our culture forces adaptive responses in the major axis of the body (the pelvis) and extends to the common mis-alignments we see nearly everywhere, sagging forward rolled shoulders and head, rounded upper backs, turned out feet, to name a few. Don’t believe me... open you’re eyes. It’s an epidemic that’s particularly worrisome amongst our youth. It’s everywhere.

Do you suppose our bodies could be so mis-shaped and out of alignment without the muscles and joints being severely compromised? Of course not.

Now you the athlete are deciding which of the latest “improve your swing” exercises is going to help you drive 50 yards further down the fairway. Please listen. I work with some of the top athletes in the world across multiple sports and have been amazed at the endurance of faulty belief systems in nearly all sports. You are asking the wrong question!

What you need to be asking yourself is, how do I restore my body to it’s original functionality, before our “lifestyle” eroded it’s balance and alignment? If you can answer this question reasonably then you’re already ahead of most trainers in the gym. Now your time in the gym, stretching, and training will be well worth your investment. Anything else will likely contribute further to muscular imbalances, further compromise of your joints, reduced range of motion, and make you more susceptible to injury.

But there is good news for golfers and anyone wanting their bodies to “thrive”. While I always feel time and resources spent with experienced professionals trained to identify weaknesses in your body (not just the beach muscles) is a worthy investment, basic logic and a few simple principles can go a long way in allowing an athlete to make good choices about their conditioning on their own.

First take an honest look in the mirror. Stop sucking in your gut, don’t puff out your chest and quit zeroing in on the veins in your forearm. They will do nothing to hold your spine erect, head in the neutral position, or help you swing your clubs with precision and reliability. I want you to just relax. View your posture from the side. Even without a plumb line or advanced measuring instruments you will be able to see where your body is sagging, drooping, rolling, or rotating. Every bone in your body is being held in place by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Picture a circus tent withcables holding the giant poles in place. If some of the cables are tighter and shorter on one side and weaker on the other the pole and everything attached to it will lean and sag.

That’s what’s happening to your spine and subsequent bones and structure. No wonder our junior high aged sons are already walking duck footed and our high school aged daughters have forward rounded shoulders and a head that sinks down. We’ve conditioned our bodies to get used to weak and shortened muscles.

Now back to the mirror. If from the side our shoulders slump forward try this: Roll your shoulders further forward, feel what muscles are working to bring them forward, then return them back in line with our ankles (like a greek statue). Take a moment in this position (shoulders drawn back) and feel what muscles are working in order to hold them there. It’s easy to assess what muscles have become dominant in that game of tug of war.

If you’re like 95% of the clients I see on a daily basis it’s likely that your chest (anterior) muscles have won the war. The muscles in your upper back (posterior) have long since surrendered with flailing white flags and yielded possession of your shoulder girdle to the overpowering anterior nations. Precious landscape on your body has been conceded as terms of surrender to allow your body to continue functioning. Your head has migrated forward and south, your pelvis has traveled distant from it’s original position to bear the load and your feet have rotated apart to manage the new partitioning. In short, you’ve been conquered.

Lets apply some critical thinking at this point. If this describes to some degree what you see in the mirror, how logical would it be to further develop your anterior muscles (the already over powering force in your body)? Yet this is exactly what I see in 99.9% of athletic programs I critically evaluate. Please stop doing this. Your body is begging you.
What exercises should I focus on for improved athletic performance? The answer depends on how close you are to the initial goal of “neutral alignment”. If you are in good alignment then your body is prepared for any regime that is balanced and thoughtfully designed. If your body is still “out of phase” (mis-aligned) then you need to incorporate exercises that directly strengthen the weakened muscles in your body. Simultaneously it’s critical to avoid additional development of the muscle groups that are causing your body to drift further from it’s original blueprint. Next time you kneel down for that last set of .... ask yourself why? Will it strengthen a muscle group that will directly contribute to improved muscle balance throughout my body? Will it’s effect directly translate to improved performance in my sport? Will it overdevelop muscles that are already dominating within my musculature?

By considering our training’s impact on our body’s alignment (and therefore our functionality), we put ourselves in line for the best possible outcome.