Friday, December 28, 2007

5 Ways to Get Fit in 2008

One thing that I've enjoyed since starting my blog back in August is that I've met some really cool people, who also are interested in blogging about fitness and health. One person is Mark McManus, who usually drops by and leaves a comment or two. I like Mark's writing style and his approach, so I check out his blog weekly. Well, today I came across a post that I had to share with you guys because I couldn't agree more with all of the points he makes.

See for yourself and leave the brother a comment while you're at it:

5 Ways to Get Fit in 2008

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Stay tuned for more details on MLBF's 12 week "In Search of Sandow and the Classic Male Physique" Body Transformation coming in a couple of days!


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Bells Are Back . . .

As I alluded to in a previous post, one of my kettlebells was stolen from the fitness center in my apartment complex. OK, let me back up to the beginning. In May of this year, I moved from a four bedroom/two bathroom house to a two bedroom apartment. I had to sell all of my weightlifting equipment (i.e., power rack, dumbbells, benches, etc.) because I simply did not have the space. So, after reading one of Pavel's books, I became familiar with kettlebells and quickly ordered a set of 35lbers. I started using Mike Mahler's Kettlebell Solution for Fatloss and Mental Toughness DVD, especially the High Frequency Training (HFT) Double KB routine.

Following Mike's DVD, I was able to improve my technique and strength to the point that I needed to move from my 35lb KBs to a set of 54lbers. Since I live on the third floor, I decided to leave my KBs in the fitness center. Never in a million years did I expect someone to steal a 54lb. KB, but it happened! So, I was left with one 54lb KB since I gave my lighter KBs away. I decided that this would be a good time to take a break from KB training and try out bodyweight exercises wearing a weighted vest, and I'm glad that I did because now I'm going to combine both in my training.

Well, as the new year approaches, I'm happy to report that the Bells are back! No, the sorry bastard who stole my KB didn't have a change of heart and returned my shit. On the contrary, I picked up three new sets of KBs: 54s, 62s, and 70s. My previous set of 54s were from lifelineusa.com and are "obviously" really nice bells, but the shipping costs is a killer. So, now it seems that Apollo KBs has the right idea because they've opened a couple of distro centers in different parts of the country and reps are popping up everywhere. Here's a shot of my babies:


They have a smooth texture like Ader KBs, but the shape is pretty much identical to the lifeline bells. You need to use chalk with them for grip, but that's a small price to pay compared to not having to pay just as much for shipping as you do the damn KB. So, check craigslist.org to see if there is a distributor in your area.

As I was taking pictures of my new bells, I looked around and decided why not show you guys how much of a workout minimalist I am. OK, in addition to using my bells, I only use four other pieces of equipment. My weighted vest is at work, so I don't have a picture of it, but it's one that I picked up from Walmart for $45. Here are the other three:

Door Gym from newyorkbarbells.com


Ultimate Body Press & Cheap Walmart Ab Wheel

Fellas, you don't need a lot of equipment to get ripped: the closer I get to my goal the more I'm really starting to realize that. I'll give you more details in my next post, but I'm going to start a 12 week training cycle at the beginning of the year. And, I'm only going to use the KISS philosophy with only the equipment above. I'm really considering doing a video-blog; we'll see.

Anyway, 2008 is going to be the year that a reformed fat English professor is going to complete his transformation and inspire fat guys all over the world to not settle for simply losing weight or having a normal body fat %.

No, there are guys out there who have always wondered how does it feel to have a six-pack or a body of an athlete; you know who you are. Yeah, you're the guy who hears women talk about how fine or hot Brad Pitt is and wonders how does it feel to be lusted after. How does it feel for a woman to say, "Can I see your abs?". Well, even for someone who has bashfully lifted up his shirt since I have loose skin, let me tell you that it feels damn good! Listen, I don't care how much weight you have to lose; if you are the guy I'm talking about here, let me assure you of something: In every obese, overweight, or simply fat ass guy, there is a Mr. Low Body Fat waiting patiently to be unleashed . . . so, are you going to let him out?

Approximately 5 years after starting my weight loss journey, I realize now that I started off wanting to lose weight, but along the way I started to chase after what I like to call Sx3, which stands for Six pack, Shredded physique, and Strength!

Stay tuned and hold on . . .

Saturday, December 22, 2007

KISS Your Old Routines Good-bye (Addendum)

After yesterday's posting, I had one reader send me this question:

Could you suggest with your experience of how I can design my own KISS way of strength training?
Well, I'm glad that you asked because it allows me to spotlight another person whose training philosophy and methods are helping me on my journey to becoming very flexible. I encourage you to visit Paul Zaichik's Elastic Steel website for many free videos and articles. He has freakish flexibility, as you'll see from his site, but he is also a bodyweight culturists (i.e, folks who use their bodyweight as their main form of resistance in their training) who has many articles and videos on www.bodyweightculture.com.

As a matter of fact, to answer my reader's question, I've decided to post Paul's Home Workout video, which is in two parts. To do these workouts, you do not need to purchase any sort of weights or equipment. He explains, and performs, each one of the exercises. So, feel free to pause, stop, and back up the videos as needed!

Let me know what you think?




Friday, December 21, 2007

KISS Your Old Routines Good-bye

In all of my composition classes, I stress to my students to remember the KISS principle in their writings. Well, at least my take on this acronym because I tell them that KISS stands for Keep It Sweet & Simple since I really don't like calling people stupid.

It's funny because I've been teaching this for over 10 years and never really applied it to my own life until a couple of years ago. I started reading more about how it's better to learn fewer things well than many things half-assed, which I got from the strength and conditioning authors I've studied. I've tried complex split routines that you'll find in most bodybuilding magazines; however, they were so complex and had so many sets to perform that I would simply give up on them especially since my main goal was weight loss and not becoming part of the sport of bodybuilding.

I think back to the days of being the largest guy in the gym trying to look like the personal trainers who worked there. I would work my ass off just to continue looking like a walrus. What really discouraged me was that I always wanted to be able to do unassisted dips, but I couldn't press my own bodyweight. Man, my buddy would have to spot me, and I felt sorry for him because I was giving him a workout by just trying to help me. Our workouts would mainly consist of high reps of isolation exercises. Basically, we did the staples that you'll see most guys doing in the average 24 Hour Fitness or LA Fitness: bench press, preacher curls, seated military press, etc.

Well, I've now been training long enough to have worked out with machines, free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, and bodyweight. What I've found is that using free weights causes you to fully understand how your body needs to operate as one unit. I've found that using machines, especially those that focus on isolation movements, tend to cause you to not focus on how our muscles are all connected and work together. To get the best workout, you need to focus on exercises that cause you to use more than one muscle group at a time. This will not only give you more of a calorie burn, but it will also put you well on your way to being able to control your own bodyweight, which should be one of your ultimate goals.

I use to be one of those guys that was easily impressed with how much some dude could bench press, but not anymore because I'm not into competitive bench pressing. Also, my ultimate goal is to be able to master some of the most challenging bodyweight exercises out there. For instance, I definitely respect guys that can bench upwards of 400lbs, but to see Steve Cotter do a pistol squat holding two 88lb kettlebells with perfect form is unreal. Don't believe me, check out this youtube video.




Look, if you still have a lot of body fat, why not use that extra weight to your advantage? You don't need to buy one piece of equipment because that's going to be your fat stores role for the next month and a half. Even if you have weights, I suggest that you periodically take a break and use bodyweight exercises to break up the routine or even be cycled in to your current routine. The mistake most people think is that bodyweight exercises are inferior to weighted exercises. Well, for the guys reading my blog, this does not apply to you. We'll let the athletes, martial artists, gymnasts, strength trainers, and bodybuilders continue to debate that one. For purposes of weight loss and getting lean, you can start with bodyweight exercises only!

Yes, when you do lat pull-downs, you are working your lats, but it's a totally different sensation when you are pulling/holding your own bodyweight on a chin-up bar or doing a bodyweight row. There is a difference and it is one that you need to experiment with to fully appreciate. The same goes for overhead pressing movements. If you are doing seated dumbbell military presses, try doing them standing up. You don't have to worry about hurting your lower back if you lock out your knees by pulling your knee caps up, squeezing your glutes, and tensing your abs as if you're bracing for a blow in the gut. These muscles will help you to be tight enough to form a natural corset protecting your lower back. Also, why sit on your ass when you can use it to help save your lower back?

For more about bodyweight routines or getting strong and ripped without using weights, you should check out the following author's sites:

  • Power by Pavel (check for the Naked Warrior book)
  • Ross Training (He just came out with a new DVD and training manual. This guy is incredible!)
  • Mike Mahler (Mike is not only one of the strongest vegans you'll meet, he also has various articles on his site about bodyweight training.)
  • Steve Cotter (This guys is just unreal. His Encylopedia of Kettlebell exercises 1&2 are hands down two of the top KB videos out on the market. Also, he has a series on bodyweight exercises that is just as good.)
  • Steve Maxwell (Steve's new website is under construction, but you can pick up his new Pullup DVD here.)
  • John Peterson (one of the major modern day promoters of isometrics and be sure to visit his transfometrics site too)
  • Bodyweight Culture (I think the name speaks for itself. Great website!)
  • Bodyweight Basics (Another great site for bodyweight exercises)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do You Really Have A Slow Metabolism?

I think one of the biggest myths about weight loss is that overweight/obese folks have a slow metabolism. Hell, I use to claim this one all the time back in the day. It simply made sense to me. The majority of my family is overweight, so I just accepted the fact that I was genetically coded to be fat and cursed with a tortoise-like metabolism. Much like the whale in the comic strip, I just didn't fully understand why I couldn't lose weight.

Fellas, I know that you have read books, articles, and even other blog posts about how to speed up your slow metabolism for weight loss, blah, blah, blah. There's so much confusion out there simply because most big boys simply take somebody else's word for how to lose weight. Many of us simply want to be told what to eat and how to exercise without any active role on our part. Well, it's time to ditch the "easy" way of thinking and passively sitting by while your girth increases.

Well, today is the day that you are going to eliminate one of the most repeated weight loss myths from your bag-o-weight loss tricks. First, metabolism is a word that is thrown around as if most people really understand what it is. Wikipedia, one of my favorite sites, defines metabolism as the set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. You can read the rest of the definition and sub-categories here, but for purposes on this post, the first two sentences will be more than enough.

So, another way of looking at your body's metabolism is that it is the sum total of all of the daily activities that your body carries out on all levels (e.g., cellular, etc.). Usually when one talks about revving up your metabolism, they focus mainly on affecting one part of the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) equation. It's important that you understand what makes up your TDEE because it will make it abundantly clear that the notion of fat guys having a slow metabolism is a big fat lie!

OK, here's the equation: TDEE = Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) + Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) + Voluntary Physical Activity (PAL). OK, your RMR is determined by your age, gender, height, and current weight. This accounts for 75% of your total TDEE and is comprised of all the bodily processes that need to be fueled; this, of course, includes fueling ALL organs such as the brain, kidney, lungs, liver, heart and kidneys to name a few. Also included in RMR are the energy it takes to power you skeletal muscles. Next, it does require energy for the body to process the food that we eat; however, TEF only accounts for 6-10% of your TDEE, so it's not really that significant of a factor. Please remember this the next time you hear someone telling you that you burn a lot of calories digesting your food; it's simply not true.

So, we have roughly 80 - 85% of your TDEE that you have no direct control over. What you can control is the 15-20% that's generated by your PAL, which is usually broken down into structured physical activity, such as following a workout routine, and unstructured physical activity, such as taking the steps instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the front door of the mall.

Alright, enough with the scientific mumbo-jumbo, let's start making sense out of all this. OK, the man in the street believes that he is overweight because he has a slow metabolism. The logic usually goes like this: fat folks must have a slow metabolism because of the extra weight, lack of exercise, and overeating. Oh, and not to mention that many thin people (who have a "fast" metabolism) can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. Well, I hate to break this news to you guys, but it is impossible for a thin person to have a faster, or should I say higher TDEE. It's really simple; your body requires more energy to move around a larger body, but that's only half the story.

Remember that your RMR represents all of the bodily processes that happens on a daily basis, except the little energy required to digest your food (i.e., TEF). The organs I named above represent 60-80% of your total RMR! This means that while skeletal muscles represent 30-50% of total bodyweight, they only represent 20-25% of your RMR. Organs, especially the brain, require many more calories per gram of weight than muscles.

You still with me fellas? Cool.

Now, let's think about what we've gone over to see if fat folks do actually have a slow metabolism. When you gain weight, you don't just gain fat. You also gain lean body mass (i.e., bones, tissues, organs, etc.). The body is all about adaptation. As you gain weight, your body also creates more muscle tissue to help move the heavier body around. The heart and most of the other organs also grow, which only makes sense. Do you really think that the heart in a 180lb. man is the same size as one in a 350lb. man? Of course not; that's like putting a 4 cylinder engine in a Ford Excursion. Organs have to increase in size to accommodate carrying out their processes for the new heavier body. This is why larger bodies require more calories, and, therefore, a faster metabolism.

Well, what affects RMR? I'm glad you asked:

  • the number of calories consumed a day
  • changes in bodyweight (especially body fat %)
  • when daily calories drop below 1200, big drops in RMR occurs
  • ECA Stack (ephedera, caffiene, aspirin)
So guys, if you can't see your feet while standing or you use your navel to line up the toilet when you take a leak, trust me on this one: you don't have a slow metabolism and are not condemned to live the rest of your life being as big as a whale.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Daily Diet

Thank you to those of you who participated in my last poll. Well, I'm afraid that, like my workout routine, my diet is very simple. I mainly consume fresh cuts of meat, eggs, fresh green veggies, canned tuna (occasionally), nuts, and seeds. I eat shredded cheeses since I am, like most folks, lactose intolerant. I consume between 60 - 100 grams of carbs a day, and they mainly come from the veggies and nuts that I eat.

I don't eat grass fed meats or organic veggies. I shop at the local market and understand the arguments. I plan on growing my veggies hydroponically as soon as the new LED grow lights are available. I'll harvest my white button and portabella mushrooms in another week or so. I guess I'm really a gardener at heart.

I'm going to look into buying more grass fed beef; nevertheless, you can achieve serious results eating foods from the your local market that may not be the best or most healthiest of choices. I try to get my blood work done every six months, and I just received a thumbs up from my doctor's office the other day.

As far as supplements go, I take fish oil, CoQ10, a simple multi-vitamin/mineral, and an all natural energy supplement that Dr. Ellis sells, XCellR8. I would say that I drink 90% of my liquid intake is water, and I occasionally drink a diet soda (Coke Zero ain't too bad). Lately, I've found myself drinking low-carb Rockstar energy drinks to give me an extra boost, especially on my 45 minute commute each way to and from work!

One thing I do want to point out is that I have had adverse results from following a ketogenic diet, 20g or less of carbs per day, and working out 4-6 days a week using mainly resistance training. I found that my muscles were flat and that my limbs felt really heavy. Not only did I feel over-trained, but I was pretty lethargic as well. Now that I consume post-workout carbs and keep my carb intake at a level that keeps me out of ketosis, I find that I feel much more energetic and for the first time I think I understand what they mean by your muscles feeling full or having their glycogen stores replenished.

Nevertheless, the most important part of my daily diet is that I count my calories because you must create a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight, regardless of diet composition. So, even thought I follow a low-carb/paleo style diet, I do so because it keeps me full and helps me to retain more of my lean mass than following a low-fat or so-called balanced diet.

Well there you have it. No mysterious herbs or secret food combinations. Just basic calorie counting coupled with a diet that focuses on eating whole and fresh foods at least 80% of the time. Feel free to write me if you have any further questions about my diet or weight loss: kujifikiria@gmail.com

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mr. Low Body Fat Goes Green!

Well, it seems that everyone is goin' green nowadays, so why shouldn't I? Actually, this has been something that I've been researching for over two years now before I made the leap. One thing that my readers will eventually learn about me is that I have an eclectic approach to life in general, and I'm interested in a too many things to begin to name. And, the picture on the left is just another subject that piqued my curiosity.

Yes, I'm filling my 84 Mercedes 300 Turbodiesel with Mazola 100% Corn Oil. You should've seen my neighbor's face when I took this picture.

What most people don't know is that when Dr. Rudolph Diesel patented his engine in 1892, it was made to run off of peanut oil. So, I guess it's safe to assume that saving the planet or using renewable sources of energy is not that new of an idea after all. For more information about Dr. Diesel and his engine, check out this Howstuffworks article.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my "hooptie" converted to run off of used or waste vegetable oil (which has been heavily filtered), biodiesel, regular diesel, straight (or new) vegetable oil, or any mixture of the four. Out here in California, many people are starting to convert their diesel cars, especially the 300 series MBZ from 1978 - 1985. These cars are perfect candidates for "veggie conversion", as it's affectionately called, because of the 5 cylinder engine that has the fuel injected directly into the engine block. To get my car to run off of veggie oil, my good friends, Gonzalo and Rodolfo, at Star European Inc. installed a Lovecraft biodiesel conversion kit.

How it works is not that difficult to understand. Unlike biodiesel, which can be used in any diesel engine without a conversion kit, used and new vegetable oils' viscocity is too thick. To solve this problem, they installed new glow plugs (diesel engines don't use spark plugs--see article above), a new heating element (to heat the vegetable oil before it's injected into the engine), and a heavy duty filter (pictured on the right).

So far, I have run soybean and corn oil in my car with no loss in horsepower or performance. Actually, the engine runs more quiet with veggie oil than it does using diesel! Also, the days of black and smelly smoke coming out of the tailpipe are over. They've been replaced by the faint scent of burned popcorn or whatever was cooked in the used oil.

Although diesel engines, unlike gasoline engines, don't contribute to global warming through greenhouse effects, they do, when using regular diesel, contribute to acid rain and smog. Now that I've converted to veggie oil, I can proudly drive around knowing that my car causes no more pollution than the fryers in fast food restaurants; also, I don't need to rely on foreign oil. More importantly, for a cheap bastard like yours truly, I can get used veggie oil delivered to my home for $2.38/gallon--that's more than a dollar and some change less than what regular diesel is going for these days. If I feel like being very adventourous, I can go and collect used veggie oil from restaurants and filter it myself, which means that I would be paying $0.00/gallon. So, not only am I doing my part to help the environment, but I'm saving a lot of money too.


Like her owner, she only gets better (and stronger) with age!

Monday, November 26, 2007

First Batch of Pictures . . .


As promised, I just got the first batch of pictures from Wendy. I've uploaded them to an album which you can access here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/mrlowbodyfat

Thanks for your patience guys . . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Please Stop Either/Or Holiday Eating

I seriously considered posting this on Thanksgiving, but I figured the last thing you guys were going to do is read my blog. Hell, I know I wouldn't! OK, that being said, let me address an important weight loss issue that comes up around this time of the year; however, it serves as a great opportunity for you to start practicing portion control.

Yes, it's that time of the year when you probably attend more parties and dinners than you do for any other time of the year. This is also the time when many guys usually react by either just shrugging off the thought of losing weight and pig out until the next New Year's resolution which is right around the corner or they are in sheer terror of the thought of so many opportunities when the fat guy is given a free pass, and even encouraged in many cases, to eat till his gut's capacity has been reached. I'm very familiar with both because I've been each guy and will give you the pros and cons of each one.


President of the Al Bundy for President Club

What guy (uh, fat guy) in his right mind doesn't like being stretched out on the couch scratching his belly with one hand and a remote in the other? Oh, and there is the mandatory drink, usually a beer or something sweet, at our feet and snack food at arm's length. Flashes of my couch potato hero, Al Bundy, come to mind and that's probably why I silently declared myself the president of his upcoming, yet undisclosed, run for the White House. Well, during this time of the year, especially in 2002, this is what I did because I had made up my mind that 2003 was going to be the year that I stopped being part of the 300lb, my boobs are larger than my wife's club anymore. So, I basically did an Al Roker for the last two months of the year and here's the pros and cons of doing this fellas:

Pros:
You are in absolute gluttony heaven because you are eating the best prepared and made food you'll get all year long. Hey, two days ago you got a nice taste of exactly what I'm talking about. As you went house hopping, especially for dessert, everyone's specialty dish tasted just that much better, right? Of course it did because these cooks knew that their house wasn't the only house you were going to. So, they put that extra special touch or, as my mom would say, put their foot all up in the dish. And I'm sure that you, as the fat guy, was expected to eat a nice size plate no matter whose house you went to or how much you politely tried to refuse. Well, taking this approach is great because you don't have to feel guilty about eating more than you know you should eat! As a result, you make a lot of cooks out there very happy and your wife loves you too because you will be eating leftovers for a couple of weeks. If you decide to go this route, have a clear conscious, regret nothing, and tell them to pass the sweet potatoes.

Cons:
Rapid weight gain is the main bummer about this approach. Not only are you consuming way more calories than your maintenance level, but you're also not moving around that much. We have more parties and excuses not to work or move around during this time of the year, which makes sense because it is a festive time of the year. However, eating more calories + moving less = weight gain. So, you'll start noticing that simple tasks, such as walking, become a bit more difficult and you get winded a lot faster. If you have knee joint problems, then the extra weight ain't going to help them, and they're going to let you know. This may not be too much of a problem depending on what you do for a living because all those extra calories cause you to become pretty lethargic and not really want to do anything that involves moving around. My wife at the time was pretty pissed at me during this time of the year because, unfortunately, I didn't have energy or desire to do a lot of things. Also, be ready to buy larger clothes if you don't already have them handy because this was the time when I believe that I was close to wearing a size 50 pants. Lastly, it makes starting your journey that much more difficult because you've been pigging out for close to two months and then you expect yourself to stop on a dime and be ready and willing to be on a new diet (usually reduced calories) and exercise (usually tons of cardio) routine. Yeah right! Very few guys have the willpower to maintain this change, so they hold out for as long as they can and then eat, feel guilty, and resemble this guy:


Mr. Atlas Bearing the Weight of Weight Loss

I can hear Willy Nelson's voice in my head singing his version of "You're Always On My Mind" when I think about this guy because knowing that you need to lose weight is the first thought you have in the morning and the last one you have before bed, just don't tell your wife this for obvious reasons! You, like Mr. Al Bundy above, have tried and failed at different attempts to lose weight; but, unlike Al, you can't just let loose and eat as much as you want during this time of the year. You know that you need to lose this weight and stuffing yourself is not the answer, but it's so tempting because all of your favorite dishes are right there for you. This is the dilemma I was faced with in 2001 after I started to regain weight after I had stopped taking doctor prescribed weight loss pills. I felt that I couldn't stop myself from eating more, and I would feel absolutely terrible and guilty about this. I've come to learn that, for me, guilt is a useless emotion that doesn't truly help you reach your weight loss goals. I just wished I had known this back then.

Pros
I know this is going to sound like I'm contradicting myself here by mentioning guilt as a pro when I just said it was a useless emotion--just hear me out here fellas. What's useless about feeling guilty is the stress and anxiety that usually comes with it. Being aware that your behavior is working contrary to your weight loss goals is a good thing; it's just our reaction to it. So, since you are aware that you shouldn't be eating like a damn cow, is a step in the right direction, and that's what you need to focus on. Just don't beat yourself up when you eat to the point that you need to unbutton your pants like you did the other day.

Cons
The stress and anxiety from being guilty causes you to binge, especially when you are in the midst of food and feel bad about what you've eaten already. You know that feeling and voice in the back of your mind reminding you that you shouldn't be eating this or that. Also, since there is more than enough research showing a direct link between stress and heart disease, I think that the cons of this approach is actually compounded. You eat just as much or maybe a little less than Mr. Bundy above, but you still consume more than you need and all of Al's other cons apply to you too.

OK, now consider this . . .

Whether you pig out with or without guilt is really not that important when you consider that the end result--weight gain--is still the same and not the desired result. So, what should you do? Deny yourself all the treats and goodies that are calling your name? Buy one of those fat burner pills you see on TV to help you "melt" away the fat? No, I want you to try three simple techniques that I continue to find very useful:

  • Stop either/or thinking when it comes to eating. I teach my Basic Composition students that even though we live in a country whose political machine falls in this category, when one is making a logical argument s/he should avoid this mistake. Once I started applying this to my eating habits, I found that I became less emotional about eating and more conscious about how much I was eating. So, there's no need to be either Mr. Al or Mr. Atlas because these are just two of many options for you to explore and imitate.

  • Drink plenty of water, especially before a party or dinner. You need to be drinking as much water as you can anyway, so why not drink a couple of cups to help fill your belly a bit before you are presented with a buffet of food. Drinking more water will also help you to watch those deadly liquid calories in sodas, juices, and other sweet juices. It's not just the sugar/carbs but the calories that we seem to overlook, especially during the holidays.

  • Save room for dessert. While you are fixing your plate, keep in mind that you want to save room for dessert and if you get that full beyond belief feeling before dessert, then no dessert for you! Make this promise to yourself and stick with it because you'll enjoy the dessert more because you don't feel like a stuffed pig. Also, be conscious of your portion sizes. If you plan on starting your weight loss journey in 2008, then now is a perfect time for you to be conscious about how many helpings and plates you're eating. I'm not asking you to count calories, as much as I am asking you to be an active eater and not passively shovel food in your mouth. Don't deny yourself, just limit the amount. This approach allows you to eat what you want without guilt, but you are learning to see how much food you're eating.
I hope these tips work for you as they have for me.

On another note, thanks to all those who participated in the poll. I will be posting about my daily diet next. And, I'm still waiting to hear back from the photographer. As soon as I get the pics, I'll post them. You have no idea how anxious I am to see them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My First Photo Shoot (Part I)


First, I want to apologize for posting so late, but Wendy, my photographer and owner of Wendybird Fotos, and I couldn't meet last weekend as we had hoped. So, we rescheduled for this past Saturday and had a blast! I didn't want to post without having some sort of new picture for folks to see.

OK fellas, I have to be honest here because I didn't quite know what to expect since this was my first time at a photo shoot actually taking my shirt off. Hell, the last time I consciously and willing took a picture with my shirt off was probably when I was 16.

So, the shoot starts with Wendy suggesting that we move my empty fish tank so that she could take the pictures against a plain white wall. By doing this, she is able to manipulate the background; however, and I want to be clear about this, besides the lighting effects and the coloring (e.g., sepia), my body has not been touched up or tampered with at all. In light of the whole Kimkins fiasco, I don't want anyone to think that I'm putting up photoshop'd images of myself. Don't worry, when you see my trademark saggy skin and stretch marks on my belly in the other shots, you'll know she didn't do a thing. LOL!

Alright, back to the shoot. Well, I start with a tank top and sweats on. I'm so nervous and really didn't know what to do. So, Wendy told me to do whatever and to act as if she wasn't there. OK, so I shadow boxed a little, jogged in place a bit--I told you I didn't know what to do--and then it hit me: go grab my kettlebell (KB). It still pains me to type kettlebell without an "s" because at one time I had a pair of 54lb KBs, but one was stolen from the fitness center in my complex. This is a long story that I plan on blogging about in another post. So, now I'm left with only one which I decided to workout with in front of the camera. After a couple of one-arm clean and presses and KB rows, I felt warmed up and ready to take off my shirt . . .

(to be continued)

* * *

The picture above was taken when I was either doing a windmill or a bent press--I don't remember. Nevertheless, it really doesn't matter which one I was doing, all I know is that I was focused on keeping my eye on the KB at all times! This is the first and only picture that Wendy has forwarded to me from the shoot, so I had to get it up as soon as I could. In the second part of this post, I'll talk more about how the rest of the shoot went and how Wendy handled my request to take a couple of pics of me in my bikinis!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

MLBF News Flash: New Pictures Coming Soon ...

The first time that I did Nike Hill with my ex and her youngest daughter, Katherine, I remember that she told me the wrestlers at her high school would pump themselves up by saying, "Get some . . . get some!!!" in an almost snarling grunt. So, when we were making it up the last hill before reaching to the top, we kept telling each other to "Get some" the closer we got to the top.

Well, this phrase has stuck with me, and I use it to get me through my all aspects of my training. Fellaz, I've been working my ass off these last six weeks just to see how much I could continue to lean out by following a high frequency training (HFT) full body routine using only body weight exercises, and I'll have more answers for you next week as this is week six.

Also, on this coming Saturday, I have an appointment to have my first professionally shot pictures taken. I'm pretty excited, a bit nervous, but mainly excited about sharing with you my progress so far.

I've been so focused on working out that I haven't even been posting on my favorite weight loss forums. If you're looking for places with different views on low-carb eating and working out, then you may consider checking out the following forums:

beyondlowcarb.net
forum.lowcarber.org
lowcarbdiscussion.com
auslowcarb.com

OK, without giving anything away too much about how I'm progressing, I'll leave you with this little tidbit--I just bought a new pair of jeans with a 34 inch waist! Yeah baby, Get some!!

Talk to you next week and please be sure to answer the poll question to give me an idea of what you'd like for me to post about next ...

Plateau Does Not Equal Failure

OK, so you've been losing weight at a pretty steady clip and then, all of a sudden, you stop seeing the numbers on the scale go down. Panic starts to set in, your palms get sweaty, and all of your failed weight loss attempts of the past start flashing before your eyes. Sound familiar fellaz? I'm sure it does because anyone who has tried to lose weight has experienced a stall. Hell, I know that I have on many occasions.

As I've already discussed in my post on the Atkins Diet, I went through pretty much a one year plateau after losing 50lbs. It was a frustrating, yet rewarding, experience for me in many ways. I don't suggest that people follow my take a whole year to figure out you need to change something attitude; however, I now realize that while I was definitely not pleased with the pitiful weight loss numbers on the scale, I wasn't regaining my lost weight either. For the first time on my journey, I felt as though I really did have a little control over my bodyweight. Yes, one can argue that I really didn't lose any weight that year since our bodyweight can fluctuate up to five pounds on a daily basis, but that's taking the glass is half empty approach.

An alternative view, and just as valid, is that I was able to control my weight for an entire year by exercising and eating low-carb. Also, we have to remember that the scale is just one tool that we use to see how we are progressing on our weight loss journey. Keep in mind that you also have a tape measure, a full length mirror, and your clothes to see if you are still losing inches. If you are weight training, then you can expect to go through a period of possible gains on the scale because of your muscle growth. Those new to weight training or seasoned vets returning after a lay off will see the most initial growth in strength and size.

Next, you have to figure out how you can burn more daily calories. Don't always look to slashing more calories first. Guys, this is the wrong approach and one that leads to yo-yo dieting and weight loss. It's really simple: look for more ways to burn not cut calories. Stop parking so close to the front door of the mall. Get off the escalator and get out of the elevator and take the stairs. And, don't even think about getting on those moving sidewalks in the airport! Do these activities burn hundreds of calories? Nope, not even close, but they burn calories nonetheless and that's the point. To break through a plateau, try and figure out how you can holistically burn more calories first through a structured exercise routine (think weight resistance before cardio) and spontaneous activities like those I've mentioned.

Now, if you know that you are eating more calories than your maintenance level, then you need to do what I've said above and eat the number of calories that you've already calculated that you should be eating. Hey, don't beat yourself up and get down on yourself because I'll let you in on a little secret. The more you concentrate on eating whole, unprocessed foods, the easier it is to clean up your diet. It takes time, and it's not easy. But, man is it ever rewarding!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For Guys Who Need To Lose 100lbs

You know, it's pretty funny. I never thought that I would be writing a post for guys who need to travel the same road that I have. When I started my weight loss journey back in 2003, I didn't do it with the thought of losing more than 100lbs. There's no way I could have continued through the many setbacks and mis-steps I have experienced if I started off saying to myself that I'm going to set out to lose 100lbs. Setting realistic and attainable goals really worked for me even when I was experiencing a plateau.

This lead me to think about the countless number of guys out there who are standing in my former wide width shoes. (Hey, you gotta love New Balance and the many wide widths they come in.) So, I decided to pass on a couple of pointers that are targeted specifically towards all my Big Dawgs, which are those guys who need to shed 100 or more lbs. In true MLBF style, I've decided to give you some bullet points that I feel are crucial to you achieving your goal(s):

  • Set small and reachable goals
    This may seem obvious, but it's really not, especially when you have a lot of weight to lose. What most non-obese (including those considered overweight) don't understand is the feeling of being trapped in a morbidly fat body. This stifling feeling is something that you have to experience to fully appreciate what I'm talking about. Since we feel trapped, the only thing we really care about is losing the damn weight, and, unfortunately, many of us could care less how we do it. This desperation is one of the reasons the weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Yes, I know that you have a lot of weight to lose and, if you could, you'd like to snap your fingers and have that gut disappear, right? Of course you would. Hell, I had many tearful nights sitting at my computer wishing that I could simply chop off all of the mounds of flesh (and fat) that rested in my lap.

    Listen fellas, snap out of it, OK? There is no magic pill, operation, or even diet that will cause you to lose weight as fast as you would like to, so forget about it. Make up in your mind that you want to average losing no more than 1-2 lbs a week and remember that it's not all about the journey, but what you learn while you're on it.


  • Stop Dieting and Make a Life-style Change
    If you are serious about losing the weight and keeping it off, then you are going to have to be serious about the life-style change that you are going to have to make. Most folks go on a diet and think that once they reach their goal weight, then they can go back and eat whatever they want. Man, how foolish this type of thinking is. This is the mentality that must die! There's one important thing that I want you to etch into your weight loss psyche: Once you start to lose weight, you will never be able to eat the same amount of food that you did prior to losing weight. If you do, you will regain the lost weight. That's right, I want you to have a hard look at the amount of food you need to consume to stay at your current size. Take a mental picture and kiss it goodbye because to lose weight and keep it off, you'll never be able to consume that amount again. Oh, and a true life-style change is one that happens over time (i.e., months, years) and not something that you can master in a couple of weeks.


  • Stop Living in the Past
    Yes, yes, I know that you use to play football in high school or college, and you were the man on the basketball courts back in the day. I'm sure that you also had a nice bod at that time too. Well, those days are gone my friend, so let 'em go. Stop looking at your current self with nostalgic thoughts of how you use to be able to do a hundred reps of (fill in the exercise here) before you let yourself go, yadda-yadda-yadda. Bredren, please let it go. You'll never reclaim the years of your youth, no matter how badly you reminisce about them. Hey, I was just as guilty as many of you. I would often tell people how I could actually dunk a basketball (on the shorter, outdoor courts) back when I was a freshman in college, and then go on to tell them about how active and athletic I was (was being the key word here). There's no need to live in the past guys when you can create a healthier and stronger you NOW!

    Man, I would love to meet my former self now. That 18 year-old punk couldn't hang with me in any activity you name. I can do more pushups, pullups, dips, lift heavier weights, run faster, farther, etc. now than I could when I was just starting college. Basically, I would kick my young ass. Guys, get to the point where you feel, as I do, that not only is youth wasted on the young but it's grossly overrated . . .


  • Only Compete Against Yourself
    OK, I know that we men are usually competitive creatures by nature; however, you need to redirect and focus your competitive spirit towards yourself. If you workout in a gym, don't gaze in amazement at the guy who looks like he's going to be on the next cover of Men's Health (one of my goals). There's no need to put anyone on a pedestal or make yourself feel as though you are less than they are because you have so much weight to lose. Hey, you had absolutely nothing to do with that guy getting buff, just as he had nothing with you becoming obese. So, why even compare or even try to compete with him. He's not your opponent--your soon to be former fat self is.
    You are striving to be the best (fill in your name here) there can be, and only one person can determine that: you!

  • Don't Drink From the Goblet of Haterade
    My friends get a kick out me talking about drinking from the Goblet of Haterade. OK, for those of you not keeping up with the current Urban American slang of the day, let me explain what I mean by this. First, when someone is extremely envious of another person, you can say that s/he is "hating" (i.e., jealous) on the other person. And, Haterade is simply a play on combining the words "hate" with the sports drink "Gatorade". OK, I think you get the picture now.

    Just as you don't compete with anyone else, don't envy or "hate" on them either. This is a trap that most fat guys get caught in. Being jealous of someone because they've lost weight or are losing more weight than you is simply juvenile. Instead of hatin' on someone, use that energy to be motivated by them instead. Download their pictures and use them for motivation and not an invitation to sip from the goblet. Right now, I'm using D'Angelo's music video Untitled as pure motivation to get lean!

  • Stop Worrying About Loose Skin
    Yes, you are going to have loose skin, especially if you've been obese for some time. Start explaining this to yourself now, so that when it becomes more noticeable, you won't completely freak out. However, the good news is that your skin is a living organ that sheds and rebuilds itself. So, how much your skin comes back after weight loss depends on your diet composition, age, how long you've been obese, and your genes. It's also important to keep your skin hydrated by using lotion or body creme after bathing. I've found that drinking lots of water does wonders for your skin too. Finally, realize that your skin is very thin and what most people call loose skin is actually loose skin that still has fat under it. To get an idea of how thin your skin is, pinch the back of your hand. I'm currently battling with the last bit of fat on my belly, and I can tell you that it's not an easy task. Now, I can fully understand why people get tummy tucks or lipo after losing a lot of weight since you have to fight against your bodies metabolic adaptations to your new, and improved, active life-style change.

  • It Ain't Easy
    Losing weight is not an easy task; the failure rate of people to maintain the lost weight in this country proves this point. However, it is not an impossible task and it does not take the strength of Hercules either. The problem with many of us is that we get caught up in the all or nothing mentality. Either we are 100% on a diet or we are 100% a failure and decide to go back to our unhealthy ways of eating. Guys, stop swinging from one end of the pole to the next. What you are embarking upon is a life-style change that you will continue to refine for as long as you live! If you are serious about losing and keeping the weight off this time, then you need to realize that this is a process that you will have to not only be an active participant, but you will need to take the leading role. Yes, you are going to have to take charge of your health and be willing to admit that either you don't understand how to lose weight, which my last bullet addresses, or you understand the theory side and are having problems putting it into practice. Either way, the road to weight loss is full of ups and downs, which is no different from the life you're living right now. So, keep telling yourself that you can handle it.

  • Feed Your Brain to Lose the Weight
    I love having this phrase as the signature for my email and forum posts. Oh, I have to give credit to my brother Elgin for coining this catchy phrase that pretty much embodies the message that I'm trying to bring to my readers. If you don't have a good and working understanding of how the body loses and gains weight and how diet composition is factored into the equation, then you are bound to following someone else's plan. And, following someone else's plan is like trying to live someone else's life. You need to become the authority of your body and health. Stop sitting on the sideline of your life as a passive observer, simply giving the reigns of your health over to your doctors. As I've said before, there's more than enough information on the internet and in the books that I've suggested on my blog for you to make very intelligent decisions about your health, diet, and exercise. Look, your brain is a large muscle and learning new information, in addition to meditating, is a great mental workout.
While on my journey, I've come across very inspiring websites. However, I think that you'll find the two following weight loss stories and pictures very inspiring. Be sure to drop them a line:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nike Hill: A Hidden Cardio Treasure!

For the last month or so, all I've been doing is raving about Nike Hill and how it's done wonders for my conditioning, especially cardio. Well, I think that it's time that I reveal this hidden cardio treasure to my readers. Fellas, I can't begin to tell you how challenging and mentally trying hiking up this hill is, so I've decided to take you on a hike with me. But, before we go on our walk, I think you need a little more information about my latest workout gem.

During the Cold War, the US military built many Nike Missile installations to protect key cities as a last line of defense against air attacks. These now decommissioned missile launch sites surround LA, as shown on this map. I just think that it's really ironic that one of these sites would later become part of my college.

I've heard about this infamous hill since I've been working here because many of my students would tell me about the killer hike they had to do for the final exam in their walking class. I had one student tell me that many of his classmates couldn't make it to the top of this 2.5 mile zig-zagging road that continued to climb until you reach the very top.

A little more than a month ago, I was reminded about Nike Hill from a co-worker, and I set out to conquer this hill. My first experience with Nike Hill was brutal. I had no idea the types of inclines I was going to be dealing with, so I had my 20lb weighted vest strapped on for the ride. Little did I know that I would barely make it to the top. The next day, I was completely wiped out, but couldn't wait until I was ready to try and climb the hill again.

Since then, I've dropped the weighted vest (for now) and hike up the hill and jog down. Each trip I take up the hill, the stronger I can feel my legs getting; however, to reach the very top is still a heart-pounding event and one that I look forward to every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday!

I keep trying to explain to folks how steep these hills are, but it's hard to imagine unless you've walked the trail. So, I thought that I would do the next best thing: present a slide show. I hope that the captions and pictures are enough to give you an idea of the kick ass workout I get hiking this trail four days a week.

Hey, if you pay close attention to the shots right before I get to the top, you just might hear me grunting as I slowly jog up the last hill. ;)




Click on the image to be taken to a full-size slideshow.


View Larger Map

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Weight Loss Tips Interview is LIVE!

Hey, I just received an email from Lizza at Weight Loss Tips, and my online interview is now live. Feel free to check it out when you get the chance.

Also, I just joined an awesome forum for those following a LC WOE (way of eating) and are serious about working out and sculpting their physique: www.beyondlowcarb.net.

Friday, October 12, 2007

MLBF in the News

Hey fellas,

I thought I would write a quick post about a few new places that have highlighted my weight loss transformation. I've already blogged about my story being featured at shapefit.com; now, pictures of me have been posted to CNN's Fitnation website (click on #5 for my pictures), and they are planning on interviewing me for a feature piece at the beginning of the year. The only problem I have with the CNN piece is that they used an old after photo of me because my current one doesn't show my face. While I understand why they did this, the picture that they did use shows me at least 30 lbs heavier than I am now! But, that's cool because I'm going to be taking professional photos next month, so no more taking pictures of myself in the mirror for me.

Also, my school newspaper was kind enough to interview me about my weight loss story. You can check out the story and a current picture of me here. I know that I look pretty thin in this picture, but don't worry because there is a beast of a body being developed underneath the XL polo shirt I'm wearing!

And, finally, I was contacted by the good folks at Weight Loss Tips to do an online interview. I've responded to their questions, and I'm just waiting for my story to be posted. Once it's up, I'll let you guys know.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bringing the Low-Carb Community Closer: Good Calories, Bad Calories

Wednesday before last, I left work early because I wasn't feeling very well. On the way home, I remembered that Gary Taubes's new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories (GCBC), had come out the day before. Well, fortunately for me, I live less than five minutes away from a Borders bookstore, so I was able to shuttle in and out with my book in less than 10 minutes. It was good to see Taubes's book on the "New Arrivals" table in the middle of the store as you walk in.

When I woke up the next morning, I had already read the first section of his 400+ page work; however, I wasn't feeling any better. So, I decided that I should stay home and in the bed for the day. Since I don't have a TV in my bedroom, I figured that I should continue to plow through his book, which I gladly did.

Now, before I go into my review of GCBC, I have to warn any potential readers that this is not, I repeat, is not a diet book. You won't find any low-carb recipes or any personal stories about how the author has lost weight following a low-carb (LC) way of eating (WOE). Also, if you are not familiar with reading works that examines dietary theories and medical research, then you may be intimidated with the vocabulary and the argument that is being presented. However, this is not to say that you have to have a degree in biochemistry to understand what the author is discussing; nevertheless, you do need a background in how the various macronutrients (i.e., protien, fat, carbs) are metabolized or used by the body. For more of a layman's discussion of these processes, I suggest that you read Dr. Gregory Ellis's Ultimate Diet Secrets (lite) and Protein Power by Drs. Eades; Dr. Eades also has a great blog that you may want to check out also for more background information that will help you understand Taubes's arguments better.

OK, now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let's jump in shall we?

Since I've had more than a week to digest what I've read and to contemplate this review, I have to admit that my initial thoughts about the book has changed. At first, I thought that this would be the book that would finally cause a lot of low-fat dieters to start questioning their dietary protocol. I saw this book causing an uproar to the so-called "healthy diet" that is being promoted today; however, I don't feel that way anymore. As a matter of fact, I now believe that this book was written more for the LC community than anyone else.

GCBC, I believe, can serve as a book that can bring the LC community closer because it settles a lot of the debates within the LC community, which I'll discuss in a bit. By addressing and settling, IMO, these differences, it gives the community the ability to move forward and continue to spread the message that there is another viable dietary approach available to people who want to not only lose body fat (not body weight) but live a healthy life too.

Taubes has presented us with a 60 page bibliography, as well as 40 pages worth of chapters' notes for further research on the hypotheses he presents in his work. While many of the arguments he makes in GCBC I have read in other works by other authors, such as Ellis, Colpo, Uffe, Kendricks, etc., I appreciate the repository feel that this work has. Whether you are a lay person, medical student, nutritionists, or scientists, Taubes presents his arguments in such a way that will appeal to all. However, I will admit that it is far from an easy read, especially if you are knew to the science behind why LC eating is our optimal and, as some have argued, ancestral diet.

If you want the 11 critical conclusions of GCBC, then click here and read the review at randomhouse.com, as I will only be discussing three points in my review that I feel gives the LC community an opportunity to come closer together as a cohesive community.

So, without further ado, here are the points that I've pulled from this text that I believe we in the LC community can capitalize on to fortify our ranks.

Point #1: The energy balance equation is not refuted by eating LC, especially when you look at the 2nd law of thermodynamics from a different perspective. In the LC community there has always been a heated debate about the role of calories in weight loss. Those who follow certain LC authors that advocate calories don't count have always butted heads with those who believe that this violates the law of energy conservation. Those who read my blog know exactly where I stand on this issue; however, I have to credit Taubes with causing me to view this debate from a different perspective. He argues that eating too many calories and having a sedentary life-style is not the cause of obesity, but they are side effects caused by our bodies not properly metabolizing fat as a result of high insulin levels in the blood. What I appreciate about this approach is that even though it places the cause of obesity on our metabolism running at less than optimal levels, it shows that once we switch to a LC eating style, more than any sort of metabolic advantage, there is what I've termed a metabolic restorative process that happens that reverses the metabolic imbalance that eating a high-carb diet causes. And, this restorative process causes one to lose body fat, have increased energy, and eat less. Taubes's argues that while one is in this restorative process, the body uses fat as fuel, especially stored fat, and the pathway to making fat from carbs is greatly reduced since the fat-storage hormone insulin is kept at normal levels. In turn, the body's active tissues (i.e., muscles, organs, etc.) are constantly nourished.

Point #2: GCBC serves as a primer for us to understand how, from a cellular level, why and how the low-carb eating works. If you weren't thrilled about being in your biology classes in high school, then this information is going to be a bit tedious and dry; however, get over it! Here you are presented with a clear cut explanation of the hormonal and enzymatic functions as it relates to how the body gains and loses weight. The only other author that I know of that has discussed low-carb WOE from this perspective is Dr. Ellis in Ultimate Diet Secrets; nevertheless, this is information is vital in explaining exactly why a low-carb WOE is the most healthy and nutrient packed known to humans. Citing examples from studies done by low-carb authors is not enough evidence for our cause. Even though folks like Dr. Ornish do this all the time, we must not fall in this same over-zealous trap. It has been well established in the scientific community of the ill effects of consuming sugar and carbs, as they relate to chronic diseases, for some time now. Now that GCBC brings to life many of these forgotten studies, it's the LC community's responsibility to never let these works be forgotten or easily dismissed. And the only way to make sure that this never happens again is for us to read, re-read, and digest the vast amount of information that's presented in Taubes's book.

Point #3: The Carbohydrate Hypothesis for chronic diseases is finally laid out for the world to see. Those of us following a LC lifestyle usually has an idea of the ills consuming too many carbs causes, but these are usually from the various books, websites, and forum posts that we've read. Very few of us have access to the studies and other research that points to a causation for many of these so-called diseases of civilization. What's important about GCBC is that Taubes readily explains the different hypotheses that fully implicate sugar and high insulin levels as being the culprit for not only obesity, but also diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc. And, to top it off, he gives you the sources to do the research for yourself. No one has to take Taubes's word for any hypothesis he posits in his book because it's fully referenced. As a result, it gives us in the LC community the ability to learn and memorize these hypotheses. Yes, we need to learn them because the onus is on us to break down these complex hypotheses into more manageable parts for the joe and joann dieter to understand. While I think a discussion of glucagon and how it interacts with insulin is fascinating, I know that most people don't. I can't accept that they are damned because they aren't into scientific jargon like I am, so we have to take the information learned in GCBC and figure out ways to present the LC case in easy to understand terms. At lowcarb discussion forum, they are going to start a chapter by chapter thread for GCBC, and I encourage all LC forums to start a similar thread. To promote a WOE, we must first fully understand it.

There will be disagreements with approaches and I know that the metabolic advantage debates won't die out right away; however, I strongly believe that GCBC can serve as a catalyst to bring the LC community much closer than it currently is. I hope I'm right and this time next year, I'll be blogging about the many LC programs that are geared towards teaching children how healthy it actually is to eat LC.

Friday, September 28, 2007

GaryTaubes's New Book!

Guys, I'm sorry that I'm posting so late, but I picked up a copy of Gary Taubes's new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and I wasn't able to put it down. I'm going to do a full review of the book next week, but I just wanted to say that this book deserves to be mentioned along side of Dr. Gregory Ellis's two books Ultimate Diet Serets, Net Carb Scam and Anthony Colpo's The Great Cholesterol Con. While I take issue with some of his points, only two which I'll discuss in my full review next week, this book is a must read for low-carbers and those really interested in what's all the fuss about carbohydrates being bad for you.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Eating Low-Carb Primer for the Average Joe

OK, so let's say it all together:

If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume, and if you want to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. Calories count in weight management and don't let anyone fool you into thinking any differently.
Now that I've made my point about calories, I think it's time that I give you guys a primer on why you not only have to workout like real men, to steal a line from Pavel, but you need to also eat like one!

I'm setting the bar pretty high for this post fellas because I've challenged myself to give you a useful overview of why you should be eating low-carb (LC) and which approach to explore all in one post. They'll be no part two to this post, so I hope to make every word count.

Since there a tons of blogs, websites, and books geared towards LC eating, I'm going to focus on what I've discovered to be the basics that one needs to understand as to why eating this way will help you achieve your weight loss goal of reducing your body fat % better than eating a low-fat or, so-called, balance diet. I believe that the following bullets with detailed explanations after each one will help me achieve my one post goal with this topic. Well, let's see:
  • Don't fear saturated fat or cholesterol

    I've decided to start out with the most controversial point of all when it comes to eating LC. Now, before you dismiss me as another crack, ask yourself: "Who told you that eating fat was bad for you?" Also, if you're my age (36) or older, you remember a time when this nation was not so fat-phobic. Guys, the notion that saturated fat and cholesterol will "clog" your arteries and lead you to a life of colon cancer, or any other form that's the flavor of the month, has all been based on faulty and questionable research. We can attribute our fears of saturated fats and cholesterol to the works of one researcher from Minnesota, Dr. Ancel Keys. His "Seven Countries Study" is the foundation of today's diet-heart theory, which is also called the lipid hypothesis.

    If you are currently trying to lower your cholesterol or are trimming fat from your steak, then you need to thank this guy and his extremely biased study for it. You see, Dr. Keys's study shows that out of the seven countries he compared in his study (i.e, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, and USA), those that ate less saturated fat and had lower overall cholesterol levels had less incidences of CHD (coronary heart disease). The only problem with his hypothesis is that he cherry-picked the countries that he compared to fit his already pre-conceived notions about saturated fat and cholesterol. There was data available from 22 countries at the time of his study, and he, lo and behold, chose the countries that supported his hypothesis. Well, as Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, has pointed out, if Keys had used data from Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Sweden he would have received the opposite results, which is the more saturated fat one eats and the higher their cholesterol levels, the less incidences of CHD will occur!

    But, what about all the studies that have come out since then that shows a relationship between saturated fat, high cholesterol, cancer, and CHD?

    I'd thought you'd never ask. It's pretty simple. All of these studies, despite not showing that our fat-phobic and cholesterol fearing eating habits have actually reduced incidences of CHD one iota, are done with people consuming a high saturated fat and high carbohydrate diet. The news media conveniently leaves this fact out and reports that it's saturated fat that will cause you to keel over from a heart attack; however, carbs, the darling of today's PC based nutrition, are never mentioned because we've been told that our body prefers to burn carbs for energy, which is a good lead-in to my next bullet.

  • Our bodies can use fat or glucose as sources of energy, and it prefers to burn fat

    This explained one burning question I've always had about our bodies. OK, I believed that we need to eat complex carbs to provide our bodies with the energy it needed to perform its daily duties. Well, this is what I read in all of my muscle mags and the various commercials and news reports backed this up, but I never fully understood why our bodies didn't simply store its reserve energy as carbs instead of fat. Hey, I'm an English professor, so if it wasn't about how to properly use a semi-colon, I didn't think too much of it. Well, this changed when I read that our bodies' stored energy is not only fat, but it's actually saturated fat! Yes, the belly that you usually rub after a good meal is full of saturated animal fat that is similar in composition to the same fat that they tell you to trim off your meat. When you eat LC, you cause your body to pull from its stored energy reserves (read: fat) to perform all of its required tasks, and for parts of the body that can't use ketones for energy, the body can actually create the glucose it needs through a process called glucogenesis.
  • Understand the role of insulin and glucagon

    Many LC books talk about the role of insulin as if that's the only hormone you need to know about to control your weight. Well, you need to also familiarize yourself with insulin's dance partner hormone: glucagon. These two work together because when one's body has an abundant amount of one hormone, the other isn't produced as much. This reciprocal relationship can be seen in the following example. Let's assume that you are what folks in the LC community call fat adapted, which simply means that you have followed a LC way of eating for more than 3-4 months and have kept your total daily carb intake to 100g or less.

    In this scenerio, you will have an ample amount of glucagon flowing in your system telling your pancreas to continue to produce ketones that your body will use for energy. Once you eat a high carb meal that sends your blood sugar level above a certain point (i.e., 36 microunits per mililiter for you science nerds), your insulin levels will rise to clear your blood of the excess glucose that's not used immediately for energy. If not, your blood will be like syrup and, as you can imagine, that ain't a good thing. So, as your insulin levels rise, your glucagon levels begin to taper off because your body is switching from using its fat stores for energy to using the glucose in your blood. Once it has used the glucose in your blood for energy, anything left over is stored in the muscles as glycogen and the rest is sent to your fat stores, which is a scenario that anyone trying to lose weight doesn't want.
  • Know what ketosis and ketones really means

    Ketosis is when your body is actively using its fat stores (i.e., its stored energy) as its primary source of fuel. The lower your carb intake the more in ketosis you are in. Most folks define a ketogenic diet as one that is less than 25g of carbs a day; however, don't think that the lower your carbs are the more weight you will lose. This is the Atkins's hype that has everyone counting their carbs instead of calories. I don't care if you are on a zero carb diet, if you eat more calories than your body burns all those extra fat and protein calories will be stored away as fat. And no, dietary fat or fat that you eat doesn't automatically go to fat on your body. It's chemically broken down first, just as carbs and protien are.

    Do not buy any keto stixs, please! Guys, once you are fat adapted (again, give yourself 3-4 months of eating no more than 100g of carbs), your body will be using ketones to power your metabolic engine. So, there will be no need for them to spill over into your urine. When you are in the process of switching fuels for your body (from glucose to fat), yes you will be able to piss on keto stixs and see a change in color, but this is because your body hasn't built up the necessary hormones and enzymes to properly use all the newly formed ketones floating around in your blood. Again, we have to thank Dr. Atkins for having folks urinating on keto stixs wondering if they are in ketosis or not.


  • Follow your nutritional roots

    The Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution occurred approximately 10,000 years ago, and this is when we as a species moved from a hunter-gatherer type of lifestyle to a more sedentary, farming oriented one. It is during this time that we domesticated our animals and introduced new foods into our bodies, such as cereal grains, legumes, and dairy. Up until this short time, we existed mainly eating fresh meats, veggies, roots, seeds, nuts and berries. It has been argued that our natural diet, and the one more in tune with our body's physiology, is a LC, paleolithic style diet.

    While this was an exciting time for us socially and politically as a species, it has wrecked havoc on our overall health and view of what a healthy diet should consist of. Hey, if for 99.8% of the time that we've been on this planet, we've done without eating cereal grains and legumes, then why is it so important to eat them now? Oh, and I'll let you in on a little nutritional secret. Cereal grains (e.g., pasta, bread, rice, etc.), whole grain or not, contain absolutely NO vitamins, minerals, macro- or micronutrients that can't be obtained from another non-cereal grain source. As Colpo mentions in his The Great Cholesterol Con, cereal grains are "nutritional weaklings" when compared to the other foods that have been a staple of our diet since we evolved on this planet.

  • Finally, read Ellis and Colpo's books

    I know that this sounds like a shameless plug for my favorite authors, and it is. However, let me be upfront and say that I am not an affiliate for either author or with amazon.com. If you decide to buy their books, I don't get one red cent from the transaction. Yes, I know the authors and have communicated with them through email, but that's it. I'm not a paid spokesman for them or anything like that.

    I've read many diet and workout books over the years, and I find myself coming back to these two authors; that's why I'm so high on them and their works. People often ask me what did I do to lose the weight and how have I become so educated on the topic. Well, it's because I read and re-read these authors' works, especially Ellis's UDS, many, many times. As a matter of fact, all of my bullet points are taken from their respective works, and for a much more in-depth discussion of what I have presented here, pick up a copy of Ultimate Diet Secrets and The Great Cholesterol Con from amazon.

    Feel free to buy one of the many other books on LC eating out there, as I have done, but I'm sure that they'll collect dust on your shelf as mine have. Or they can make for a great snack for an overactive and mischievous English Bulldog pup--my copy of Charles Hunt's Diet Evolution will never be the same . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why Calories Count

The first Law of Thermodynamics states that "energy cannot be created or destroyed; rather, the amount of energy lost in a steady state process cannot be greater than the amount of energy gained" (wikipedia.org). With regards to nutrition, this law is the foundation of the calories in vs. calories out philosophy of weight management. Before I go any further guys, let me be clear about something; we are not dealing with a theory but a foundational law of science that "[a]t present, it is unquestioned"(wikipedia.org). There are those that disagree with it, but that in no way invalidates it, and also note that there are very few nutritional scientists who don't subscribe to this law.

To take a quote from Dr. Ellis's Ultimate Diet Secrets, he states:

By the 1960’s the outcome of 100 years of research into the validity of the calorie theory had given the First Law of Thermodynamics a universal finality, much like that of the sunrise and sunset. (407, emphasis added)
Anthony Colpo in the first chapter of his Fat Loss Bible states, "Anyone who tells you cutting calories does not produce weight loss is utterly ignorant of scientific reality"(1).

OK, why am I starting the post off like a freshman college essay? Well, I don't think that the layman fully understands the importance of why calories count and how there is no serious debate among nutritional scientists about this. Part of the reason is that you are bombarded everyday with diet plans on TV that tell you that there is no need to count calories, and then they proceed to do it for you.

I laugh every time a Jenny Craig commercial comes on. They proudly proclaim that you don't need to count calories, but in the fine print they tell you that there program is a "calorie restricted" one. Another one that just flies in the face of the "calories don't count" crowd is weight loss surgery (WLS). These folks have gone to the extreme to not consume as many calories as they once did, and guess what? They lose weight! And, lots of it because of their very sparse caloric intake. If you know anyone who has had WLS, please ask them do calories count.

Now, before my brethren and sistren from the LC community start sending me emails or posting comments about the review studies done in 2003 (Feinman) and 2006 (Krieger) showing that people on LC diets lose more weight eating more calories than dieters on other plans, please understand that these were not metabolic ward studies, which is when the participants are confined to a hospital ward or research institute and are basically treated like a lab rat. In these experiments, their food is measured and their activities are monitored; there is no way that they can mis-report how many calories they've consumed. On the other hand, there are those studies, like the ones I mentioned above, that are done with "free-living" participants, who are either assigned a diet or given food to take home with them. They go about their daily lives and are expected to honestly report their food intakes. It's no wonder that with these "free-living" style studies, you see a difference with LC dieters, but under strict metabolic ward studies, you don't. And, that's because the Law of Thermodynamics is irrefutable.

Burn this into your conscious fellas and don't be suckered in to thinking that there's some sort of metabolic advantage to eating any type of food or following any particular diet. There's no free lunch my friends. What your doctor tells you at your yearly physical, "Eat less and move more", is actually true, but it's only half of the story.

What s/he forgets to tell you is that there are formulas for you to calculate approximately how many calories your body needs on a daily basis to stay at your current weight. Forget about the usual, cookie cutter recommendation that men on a diet need to consume 1500 calories to lose weight lunacy most dietitians prescribe! What if at your current weight, you need 3000 calories to feed your metabolic engine? Do you really think that you can deprive your body of 1500 calories daily and not feel the disastrous effect?

Here's what I want you to do. First, if you don't know what your body fat % is, then use this online calculator to determine your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This calculator uses the Mifflin formula, which has shown to be more reliable than the older Harris-Benedict formula that most online calorie calculators use. However, if you do know your body fat %, you will want to use the Katch-McArdle formula which you can find here.

Now, before you think about slashing your caloric intake, do me a favor and move your ass more first! Guys, get up off the couch and start with something as simple as walking for 20 minutes, 5-6 days a week. If you are too large to walk right now and it hurts your knees, no problem. Use an exercise bike or find a pool and walk in the pool for 20 minutes. If you keep your caloric intake at the maintenance level that you've calculated and walk 5-6 days a week, I guarantee (in my best cajun voice) that you will lose weight because you're burning more calories than you are consuming. However, don't expect great amounts of weight to pour off of you because you're not burning a lot of calories.

After you have established a walking routine and dropped a few pounds and want to increase your weight loss, then it's time to go back, reformulate your caloric needs and cut no more than 300 calories from your maintenance level and up your walking routine to 30 minutes. (Keep in mind that this is a suggestion for someone who has been sedentary for a while and is just getting started with trying to lose weight)

Finally, one thing that most guys don't know is that as you lose weight, you will need to make adjustments to your caloric intake. As you get smaller, your metabolic engine will require less energy. So, it is vitally important that you periodically go back and reformulate how many calories you need for your size/weight. This is the missing key for a lot of fellas that want to lose weight. You are your own weight loss experiment and must adjust your calories accordingly.

I've written it once and will continue to tell you that losing weight and keeping it off is not as easy as the weight loss industry makes it out to be. If it was, then why are two-thirds of the nation fat? While it's not impossible, as my weight loss story shows, it will require work on your part, and counting calories is one of the most basic and fundamental rules in losing weight.

So, if you thought that counting calories was only for women on Weight Watchers, get over it. Start a food journal, write down everything you put into your mouth, and go to this site to determine how many calories are in the food you've eaten.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pete: The Real Biggest Loser Counts Calories!

Guys, file this post under Mr. Low Body Fat's rant section, but I just finished watching The Biggest Loser's "Did They Keep It Off?" Special I recorded yesterday and had to point something out. I've been a fan of the show since the first season because I love how it shows how the body can be transformed through exercise and diet; however, I don't endorse any of their weight loss products or the idea that weight should be lost so quickly. Also, their focus on overall body weight loss instead of body fat loss needs to be changed.

Nevertheless, I had to say something about what Pete and his wife said. Those of you who caught the show may have overlooked it, but his wife talked about the energy balance equation, which is calories in vs calories out, that most folks nowadays are in denial about. Notice, he was the only contestant to remove his shirt to show a nice set of abs for someone who has lost well over 100lbs! And how did he do it? He counts his calories and exercises his butt off!!!!

There is no free lunch fellas. If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, realize that you will have to count your calories and exercise. Stop listening to people that tell you differently, and if they do, ask them to pull up their shirt and show you their abs, like Pete did. After watching him, I can't wait to wake up tomorrow at 5am to get my workout in before going to work!