Saturday, December 28, 2013

Setting a NEW Standard

Setting a goal can be a powerful process. 

But, there are times where it can be a rather deflating process, particularly when we fall short of the goal. 

I see a lot of people setting goals, and getting 65, 75, or 80% of the way toward that goal, and then feeling bad about the 35, 25, or 20% missed.

Kind of crazy when you think about it, huh?  Someone got 80% FURTHER along in a particular area important to them, but they didn't actually reach the outcome, and then they feel badly about it. 

This happened to me too. 

I set a goal to run a marathon to celebrate my 40th birthday, but ended up getting sidetracked with an injury just weeks before the big event. 

I didn't reach the goal.  I felt bad, like I had failed. 

Goals sometimes can do that.  When ALL of the emphasis is on achieving the outcome.

But then, I realized that I had started something NEW and very beneficial in my life.  For 8 months I was running 4 days per week.  The weeks before the injury I'd completed a 21 mile run, and then a 22 mile run.

What I've learned in my "failure" to achieve goals is a much more empowering approach, and that is the notion of raising my standards.  I raised my standards back in 2008 to run 4-days per week.  Each week I'd add just a tiny bit more.  Each week I'd get just a little bit better.  This became a  new standard for me, and that wasn't dependent on whether I reached my goal or not.  It's a standard I still hold today. 

Goals are important, for sure.  But in the end, it's REALLY about the standards we hold for ourselves.

What new standard would YOU like to create (or reinforce) in 2014?

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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2 New Habits for 2014 ...

What are 2 Habits You Want in 2014?

Not 10 new things, but 1 or 2 habits that will make a meaningful and lasting impact on your life?

For example, last year (2013) for me it was eating fat loss foods for 90% of my diet (a distinction from healthy foods).  What a major difference that one simple habit has made on my energy, performance, and fat loss goals over the past 12 months!

With that now as an ingrained habit, this year I'm going after the habit of getting an extra hour of sleep every night.  Yes, every night!

This is a huge one for me.  Because I love to be awake early in the morning, it's my time to be productive while the world is still asleep.  And I love to stay awake at night to hang out with my family. 

But there is NO QUESTION that I operate far more productively when I'm sufficiently rested.  So I've worked out a few tweaks in my daily routine where I can now get an extra 60 minutes of sleep every single day.  If I look tired in 2014, I want you to call me on it, okay?!  :))

What are 1 or 2 habits you'd like to break, or create this year?

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Knowing your Buffer and Trigger Foods ...

One of the core principles that is critical, when it comes to fat loss, we are all different.

While we share overlapping metabolic similarities, we each have our unique metabolic expression, psychological sensitivities, and personal preferences.  

It's because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness and fat loss.

Our goal is to help you understand your individual uniqueness with food, and uncover your own eating system that delivers sustained fat loss, along with balanced energy, reduced hunger, and absent cravings.

Finding your metabolic balance is like solving a mystery in a sense. It is like unlocking your own metabolic formula. Once you do, it changes things and frees you from weight loss frustration.

On Saturday during a nutrition workshop, I promised to share the importance of understanding your "trigger foods" and "buffer foods".

Both are important concepts to learn in deciphering the metabolic fat loss formula unique to each of us. 

Trigger foods are foods that trigger hunger, cravings or energy fluctuations ... which in turn leads to compensatory eating and/or simply slowed fat loss. Examples include things like dairy and gluten, which can interrupt metabolism in people sensitive to those foods. 

Other examples include sugar, sugar free products, sometimes nuts and nut butters, and alcohol. These foods may trigger compensatory eating reactions that lead to eating too much food and/or the wrong types of food later.  No one craves a spinach salad, for example, after a night of consuming alcohol.  Thus, the reason Denny's is open 24 hours.  :)

Trigger foods also can simply have more or less of a fat storing effect in certain people. For example, zero calorie sweeteners, in SOME people can cause an insatiable hunger and cravings.  Some, however, have no effect and may even benefit from these foods. Understanding these reactions are key to each of us, individually.

Buffer foods are foods that can be used periodically through the day or week to help stave off compensatory reactions. Unlike trigger foods, they have the ability to balance the metabolism and work for us, rather than against it.

Buffer foods are far more broad and can simply be something that is psychologically pleasing (having 2 squares of dark chocolate in the afternoon to avoid craving candy or pizza later, as an example). Buffer foods keep you sane and buffer the effects of hunger, cravings, or energy fluctuations. Knowing your buffer foods is a great tool in managing your nutrition.

Examples of buffer foods might be flavored sparkling water, nut butters, salt, chocolate/cocoa, sugar free products, nuts/seeds, high fat foods (i.e. avocado/sour cream), cheese, salty fatty meats (bacon, hot dogs, etc.). As you can see, these foods help control things and when used appropriately, buffer against the need/urge to eat too much or the wrong things later.

My buffer foods include Baked Scoops, chocolate chips, a mozzarella cheese stick or two, and baked pretzel crisps.  These a NOT foods high in water, fiber or protein content, but for me they can act as a buffer when I'm really hungry, yet I have a while before I can eat a better meal … of if I'm simply craving something (usually psychologically). 

Buffer foods can often be small amounts of something that in larger amounts might cause an issue. In some instances a food may be a trigger food for one person and a buffer food for another (i.e nut butters or no-cal sweeteners). In the case of no cal sweeteners, these sweeteners can act as a trigger food in some and the mechanism is thought to come from the cephalic phase insulin response. This is a mechanism by which the sweet taste acts neurologically through the tongue to induce an insulin secretion by the pancreas. This is done as the body expects to see sugar in the blood stream, but when it does not come, the blood sugar can be lowered pushing the blood sugar to a level that may cause the brain to increase hunger and cravings.  Rob Williams and I discussed the trigger aspect of zero calorie drinks on this video:

This mechanism is likely not an issue for some, but certainly is for others. For those who do not have this reaction, sugar free products may act as a buffer food by giving them the taste of sweet they crave without a strong hunger drive or craving response later. So again, in this case one size does not fit all and one person's trigger food can act as another person's buffer food. This is an important consideration and part of each individual's detective work to find their unique metabolic fat loss formula.

Lots of info again today.  Have patience with yourself in digesting it all, over time things will fall into place for you!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Carbohydrate Tipping Point, Part 2

Keep in mind, this is something that takes time to digest, and put into play in YOUR body.

We're going to continue to offer distinctions and help you understand how to use food to send signals for fat burning to your body.  This is totally different for everyone. The smart use of carbohydrates is one of the most important concepts in fat loss and changing your body. Smart manipulation of hormones allows for two of the most critical aspects of fat loss: the right amount of calories and balanced insulin.

One of the most common mistakes made by fat loss seekers is the "lower is better" mantra. This is especially true of carbohydrates.  Keep in mind that cutting carbs or calories too low can cause a slowed metabolic rate, insatiable hunger, uncontrollable cravings, unbalanced energy, lack of energy for workouts, changes in mood, and perhaps most importantly, a loss of lean muscle tissue.  It is no wonder that diet focused programs rely so heavily on willpower.  Avoid the trap of assuming lower is better, but rather to find the tipping point (the amount of carbohydrates or calories that is low enough to initiate fat loss, but high enough to maintain energy, reduce cravings, and blunt hunger).  The "carb tipping point" is individual, needs to be adjustable, and when used correctly is a reliable and reproducible way to help you find your ideal fat loss formula (which we will get to soon).

Please remember, we are all uniquely different and require a unique blend of macronutrients.  What works for your best friend will NOT be what works for you.  It's one of the reasons diets books don't work.  A 22 year old athlete that trains with the team 3 hours per day can (and should) destroy calories.  She has LESS of a need to focus on a regimine of fibrous carbs, and has a lot of leeway for the simple sugars, and starchy carbs, compared to a 36 year old working mother of 3. 

Even two 36 year old working mother's of 3 will vary GREATLY on their tipping points.

Here is how you can begin finding your tipping point:

1). Pay close attention to your body's hormonal feedback mechanisms.  These include hunger, energy level, and cravings as I've mention in previous emails, but also include mood, motivation, digestion, focus and sleep. The proper response should be no hunger between major meals, no cravings, and increased energy. You should also feel motivated and focused without anxiety and depression. Gas and bloating should not be present and sleep should normalize. Don't make the mistake of assuming these symptoms are not related to food intake. Getting your carb tipping point correct will balance metabolic function. When it's off, your body will let you know. Use these symptoms to monitor the mix of energy (food and exercise) you put in your body.  Remember carbs don't work alone. Your protein, fiber and fat intake will need to be regulated as well.

2) If hunger, energy and cravings are stable you can be assured you have things balanced, but you will need to monitor fat loss using a RELIABLE body fat tool (no, the bathroom scale doesn't measure fat loss).  If all the biofeedback sensations are stable AND you are losing fat, you found your tipping point.  All you need to do now is stay there. Do not be tempted to cut carbs further.  Doing so will sacrifice your energy and make your fat loss results unsustainable. If you want to speed results, proceed slowly and immediately increase carbs back again if your energy falters.

3) If the biofeedback sensations are not stable or they are stable but you are not losing fat, you have not found the tipping point. You will need to alter your plan in one of two ways:

FIRST– If sensations are not balanced, increase the amount of fiber, protein and water you take in. This is important. More times than not the issue has nothing to do with carbs, but is a protein issue. Wait a few days. If still having issues raise the protein content and fiber content one more time. If this still is not effective, increase the starch content of your meals by 5 to 10g (one bite is ~5g of carbs, as mentioned in yesterday's email) at a time until you find the issues resolve.  This is a trial and error phase where you will need to alter your intake of the major macronutrients to find your unique fat loss formula. This takes time and patience for some, and involves manipulating protein, fiber, starch and fat intake. This can take some work, but once you find it you have a system of body change that will never fail you even when your metabolism changes as you age.

SECOND – If all hormonal sensations are stable and you are not losing fat, then begin to decrease the amount of starch at each meal by 5 to 10g. Also, begin to look at your fat and sodium intake. Adjust fat, carb, and sodium intake downwards every few days until the fat begins to come off your body.  As you do this you should be ramping up protein and vegetable intake. Often, this is the stage where you will appreciate the difference between healthy food and fat loss food. If managing carbs/starch and fat are not helping the desired results, then look at fruit and dairy next. These are two important sources of suagr/starch that can keep some from the results they want.  Finding your carb tipping point may mean you need to cut these foods back as well, at least temporarily.

Today's email, along with yesterday's will get you started on this process.  It's really all about building on all of your success to this point, and refining your approach.   Paying attention to your body's hormonal feedback mechanisms, and measuring your fat loss.  You really need to measure fat loss monthly, so make sure you get scheduled for your eval this weekend.  With the Holiday Fitness Challenge, times are filling up, and we will expand availability into next week as well. 

Keep up the AMAZING work and effort!!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Carbohydrate Tipping Point, Part I

The Carbohydrate Tipping Point is the amount of starch/sugar a person can eat to supply energy for exercise AND activities of daily living, but not over produce insulin, so that the body engages in so that the body can burn fat effectively. 

Finding this spot is important, and has three primary parameters: amount of carb, type of carb, and timing of carbs.

Amount of Carb
For fat loss, each person needs to find the appropriate amount of carbs that will deliver sustained energy, but not slow fat loss … and it’s unique to each of us.  
In this discussion, think in terms of bites since in today’s fast paced society people often eat on the go and don’t carry around scales to measure food.  We also don’t have access to meals labeled with clearly marked grams of carbs.  So using bites allows a quick and adjustable means to manipulate the amount of carbs we consume.  
So a single bite will be approximately the size of a tablespoon and equal to roughly 5g of carbohydrates.  For those new to adjusting your eating with a goal of losing body fat, I recomment no more than 10 bites of carbs eaten exclusively at each of the major meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). This can then be adjusted up or down based on your fat loss results … AS WELL AS your responses to hunger, cravings, and energy.  This is an individual process that needs to be approached with the mindset of a detective.
Type of Carb
The type of carbohydrate corresponds with the amount of carbohydrate. The more favorable carbs are consumed in greater amounts of bites and those bites can also be a bit larger. The more detrimental carbs to fat loss are consumed in fewer bites and should be smaller. As an example, if you are eating white rice, have 3 small bites, but if you are eating brown rice eat 5 bigger bites. The types of carbs have much to do with how fast the carbohydrate will raise blood sugar (glycemic index and glycemic load) and the allergy producing potential of the carbohydrate.
The carbs with the highest fiber relative to sugar/starch are basically eaten in unlimited amounts (for most people).  These include non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits (berries, apple, pear). But the starchy carbohydrates and sweet carbohydrates have to be managed tightly. These include white grains, whole grains, beans, and other carbs. This is often a point of confusion for people as they have heard that the  “healthiest carbs” are whole grains and beans because of their high fiber. These carbs ARE high fiber, but they are much higher in starch/sugar and therefore are not as beneficial as the fibrous carbs and fruit.  This is an essential insight for body fat reduction and to the carbohydrate tipping point. 
White grains have nothing but starch/sugar with little fiber. Whole grains and beans have more fiber and less starch, but they are still over 70% starch. They may be healthy, but they are not the best for fat loss. Vegetables and fruits in some cases actually have less fiber than whole grains and beans, but they have far less starch/sugar and also much higher water content. This means they have a low glycemic load and make for great fat loss foods.  If you take nothing else about carbohydrates from this, you should know that the only truly free carbs are non-starchy vegetables and low sweet fruits (even fruits can be an issue for some). All others carbs should be consumed as bites.
Another consideration for carb type is the allergy producing potential of carbs.  When I use the term allergy, I’m really talking about food sensitivities and not a true allergy. All grains and beans are best to be avoided in the fat loss lifestyle due to their concentration of gluten, lectins, and saponins, which can create negative consequences for the immune system and fat loss in some people.  Also keep in mind that most of the time these sensitivities can be minimized and eventually eliminated through long term healthy lifestyle (the same way people no longer need medication after some time following a well-designed exercise program, and modifying their diet). 
Timing of Carb
The timing of carbs involves using carbs to control your hunger rhythms and energy needs. A high carb meal induces an insulin response which has been shown to adjust the leptin rhythm determining how hungry we feel from one day to the next. For some, having carbs at each meal is still too much to allow fat loss. In this case it is helpful to reduce carbs further and focus all of the carb intake at specific times. Eating all your carbs at breakfast can help allay hunger at night. Eating all your carbs at night can help allay hunger in the morning. A carb load at night also helps sleep by dampening the stress hormone response many insomniacs experience at night. This leads to faster times falling asleep and less waking at night.
Another great time to include a higher carb load is post workout. Because exercise makes us uniquely carb sensitive, carbs taken post workout will be distributed to liver and muscle glycogen stores first and aid muscle building before they are stored away as fat. This means higher loads of carbs as well as higher glycemic index carbs can be better tolerated at this point if desired.  However, this still has to be monitored, and viewed in context. There is a fine line between maximizing glycogen storage for performance compared to controlling carb amounts for fat loss. I’ll share a bit more on this tomorrow.
For now, if you’ve been exercising and eating healthy foods for some time and still have a few more pounds to go, start to think about your carbs in terms of bites. Develop an understanding of the types of carbs available, and what is BEST for your goals.  And then consume the types of carbs using the timing suggestions above. 
The key in all of this working is your direct feedback you get.  How’s your energy?  Your Hunger?  And your cravings?  All these should stay in check.  This is feedback you receive constantly throughout the day.
Then every 4 weeks, monitor your results.  Are you on track for your goals? 
Brian Calkins NSCA-CPT, ACE
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The 10 New Rules Of A Fat Loss Diet (Part 2)

Let's continue with the second half of the 10 NEW Rules of a Fat Loss Diet, sharing rules 6-10.   

These 5 will be shorter, and easier to digest.  :) 

But also remember, we're giving you the big picture right now.   We will be breaking these down over the next few weeks, and they will soon be second nature to you. 

As we continue …

Rule 6: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good

This is a really important rule. The crazy notion that we have to eat organic kale and wild Alaskan salmon from Whole Foods to burn fat is just, well, CRAZY!  The truth is fat loss can happen anywhere. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. There are plenty of conveniently packaged protein bars and shakes that may not be ideal, but serve as functional foods that can quickly decrease cravings, stabilize energy, and blunt hunger (see Rule 7). While real food is always best, use these as needed when you're in a pinch.  Just don't rely on them 24/7.

Rule 7: Learn the HEC Label Rule

Packaged foods are very difficult to decipher these days.  Will they throw your HEC out of check and make you store fat?  If you subtract the fiber and protein from the total carbohydrates on a label, the total should equal ten or less. The lower the number the better. In addition, the fat content should be less than 10. If not, this food will not be effective at helping you manage your fat loss goals. This is the art of fat loss eating at its best and a down and dirty quick trick that works fantastically.

Rule 8: Stop being a dieter and start being a detective

Be a detective not a dieter: To discover your fat loss formula, you need to know how to read the signals of your body and adjust your approach.  Hunger, energy, and cravings give you a reliable source of biofeedback. Correct these sensations first and then you are in a position to see lasting change. Resist the temptation to look for off the shelf "plans". There is no one way, there is only your way for YOUR body.  Work to create a program following these guidelines, but based on YOUR uniqueness.  Over the coming weeks we'll help you discover your own fat loss formula!

Rule 9: Know your buffer and trigger foods.

One of the key understandings in this lifestyle is  "trigger foods" and "buffer foods".  Both are important concepts to learn in deciphering the metabolic fat loss formula unique to every individual. Trigger foods are foods that trigger hunger, cravings, or energy fluctuations leading to compensatory eating and/or simply a slow down in fat loss. Buffer foods are foods that can be used periodically through the day or week to help stave off compensatory reactions. Unlike trigger foods, buffer foods have the ability to balance the metabolism and work for a person rather than against them. Buffer foods are far more broad and can simply be something that is psychologically pleasing (for example, having 2 squares of dark chocolate in the afternoon to avoid craving candy or pizza later).

Rule 10: What you do, or don't do, impacts what you eat, or don't eat

Exercise impacts hunger and cravings. Certain forms of exercise make you more hungry while others have less of an effect. Sleep and stress too. They don't contain calories and you can't eat them, but they dramatically impact HEC and fat loss or gain. Living the fat loss lifestyle means being acutely aware of how your actions are impacting your eating.  For example, a twenty something male athlete trying to gain muscle can eat a few doughnuts post-workout and may be just fine. A 55 year old post-menopausal female likely needs to do things differently.  Continue to understand and refine how your lifestyle intersects with your unique metabolic needs, psychology, and personal preferences.

Rule 11: The Bonus Rule: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

There really is only one rule we believe truly works: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! These rules are guidelines, not laws. Their intention is to guide you. They come from both clinical and practical experience working with thousands of people from all walks of life - young, old, obese, fit, and elite athletes.  But at the end of the day, the best rules for fat loss are the ones you create for yourself, through an understanding of your unique metabolic expression, psychological sensitivities, and personal preferences.

That's it for now ...

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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The 10 New Rules Of A Fat Loss Diet, Part I

We've been discussing how fat loss eating is different from a weight loss approach to food.   Weight loss places a sole focus on calories.  Fat loss focuses on calories too, but puts more focus on hormones.  Fat loss is about eating in a way that controls the natural compensatory nature of your metabolism.  Metabolic sensations such as hunger, cravings, and energy are dramatically influenced by hormones.  Balance hormones and these sensations too will stabilize, resulting in less food intake without much conscious effort.

There are two criteria required to turn indiscriminate weight loss into focused fat loss. They are a caloric deficit and balanced hormones.

On a fat loss diet you eat fat loss foods. No, these foods don't have any magical fat burning properties, but they do balance hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC) and at the same time increase fat loss. These foods tend to be rich in protein, fiber, and water. They are nutritionally dense, and calorically sparse.  As an example, after running on Saturday, I had the following shake, which epitomizes fat loss foods:  2 cups of water, 4 cups of spinach, 1 cup of blackberries, 1 cup of raspberries, 1.5 scoops of Beverly vanilla UMP (protein powder).  Total calories: 328. Packed with water, fiber and protein … and even after a long run, and subsequent big calorie deficit, this kept my hunger in check for almost 4 hours.  And that's the key to losing unwanted body fat.

Rule 1: Keep Your HEC in Check

The idea is to eat in a way that controls hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC).  These sensations are both biochemical and behavioral and therefore are impacted by more than just food. However, food has a powerful influence over HEC. It is the quality of the food rather than quantity that determines control of HEC. A doughnut and a chicken breast have the same number of calories – 250 each. Which one is going to fill you up quicker, keep you satiated longer, reduce cravings, and give you more stable energy? Which one is more likely to result in cravings for more sweet or fatty stuff in the hours after you consume it?  Foods that have high water, fiber, and protein content are the best foods to control HEC.

Rule 2: Spend equal time eating as not eating (New!)

Your hormonal biochemistry works best in rhythms. It requires time to build and time to burn. It needs times of increased energy and times of rest and recovery.  When you eat, your hormones are optimized to build and store. When you don't eat, those same hormones are optimized to burn. In order to burn fat, we have to honor this natural rhythm. The easiest way to do this is simply break the day into two time frames:  12 hours of eating and 12 hours of fasting.  This is easily accomplished with little impact on hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC) because most of the 12 hours without food come while you are sleeping. 

Rule 3: Find your carbohydrate tipping point (New!)

Insulin is a fat storing and fat locking hormone which means when it is around, excess calories will be stored as fat, and fat can't be used as a source of energy. What many will not tell you is insulin is also a muscle building hormone and a hunger suppressing hormone. If it is too low you can't build a lean physique and will stay hungry all the time. The major trigger for insulin release is starchy foods and sugar like bread, pasta, potatoes, cookies, crackers, rice, etc. The trick is to use starchy foods to your advantage by finding the amount your body needs to keep your energy high, make sure you maintain your muscle and balance HEC, but not so high you slow down fat loss.  This is called your carbohydrate tipping point, and you can find it by adjusting the type, timing, and amount of starchy carbohydrate to fit your unique metabolism.  More info and clarity on this in the very near future. 

Rule 4: Eat fat, but not unlimited amounts

The idea that fatty foods are not stored as fat is untrue, but it is also a ridiculous notion that eating fat automatically makes someone fat.  Like starchy foods, we each have our unique tolerance to fatty foods.  Fat has several unique hormonal effects, like it helps control hunger through the release of hunger hormones.  Yet, of course fat carries a hefty dose of calories.  At the same time, very low fat diets decrease other important hormones and may therefore slow fat loss and delay lean muscle gain. The best approach is to eat your fat, but don't overdo it especially when it comes along with starch (see rule 5). 

The key is the TYPE of fat. It's not just the umbrella term "fat" but it needs to be broken down further than that.

  • Trans fat
  • Monounsaturated fat (MUFA)
  • Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA)
  • Saturated fat (SFA)

First, manmade trans fat is horrible for you -- that's the type found in many baked goods, margarine, shortening, etc. It's in products that have "partially hydrogenated" or "fully hydrogenated" oils in them. Leave those foods on the shelf; they're similar to drinking cement.  Just like cement, over time it will harden -- well ultimately too much trans fat will cause plaque buildup. It may increase belly fat and raises bad cholesterol in your body. All around bad stuff.

MUFA is like that found in olive and canola oils, nuts, avocados, and egg yolks. These are great for us in small quantities. When you get the oil changed in your car, you can imagine the old oil being thick and sludgy...well MUFAs are like the fresh, clean oil that goes in your car (or body). The key is not to ADD these to your diet, but rather REPLACE saturated and trans fats fats in your current diet with MUFA.

PUFA are great for you too -- well, some of them. These are the omega 3 fats (fish oil) you hear so much about.  Eat more fish.  At least 2x/week. Some nuts, like almonds and walnuts, are also high in omega-3 fats so eat those too ... ~ 1 handful each day (unless you're allergic). Aside from the "general" health benefits, those who eat 1 oz per day (a small handful) weigh less according to some very good research. Like the MUFAs, replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats with these.

Saturated fat -- eating some of this is fine, but just keep it to a minimum. If a fat is solid at room temperature, like butter and animal fat, it's primarily made up of saturated fats. These increase your risk for heart disease if you eat too much over time.

Rule 5: Eat the combination of fat and sugar sparingly (New!)

Starch and sugar provide the major impact on insulin production. Fat alone has little influence on insulin. But fat and sugar/starch combined together? Watch out! When combined, they create a fat storing atomic bomb of hormonal activity.

First, this combination seems to disrupt the ability of the metabolism to self-regulate its metabolic thermostat. This combination also is the most likely to generate the perfect recipe for fat gain: caloric excess in the context of hormonal fat storing signals. This combination both increases fat storing hormones and the release of insulin.  With this rule, there is no need to take it to the extreme. This combination is most detrimental when refined starchy foods are also combined with high fat and you are in a caloric excess.  So, we're not talking about the combinations of an apple and peanut butter, oats and nuts, or other high fiber foods with fat.  What we are talking about are bread and butter, pastries, ice cream, and the like.  These foods (fat and sugar in combination) have little negative influence in the context of a low calorie diet.

Granted, these first five of 10 New Fat Loss rules are a lot to digest.  No worries, we will continue to break them down, and they will become very clear conceptually, and easy for you to follow.  In fact, the new ABC recipe guide will follow all 10 rules.   For simplicity sake, all you have to do is pick and choose your favorite meals from the guide!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Fat Loss Foods ...

Previously we reviewed the Calorie Weight Loss approach with the emerging Hormonal Fat Loss approach. 

The calories in/calories out focus is one that's been touted for years, but has demonstrated a very low sustainable success rate (5%), and tends to be accompanied by insatiable hunger, cravings, and poor energy levels. 

Hormonal Fat Loss, on the other hand, focuses on keeping your HEC (hunger, energy and cravings) in check to allow for a much more manageable process, which is the key to sustainability. 

Today we'll take a look at the food side of the equation when it comes to keeping your HEC in check.  Later in the week we'll review the exercise protocols that supports optimal HEC balance.

Keep in mind, as more or better information emerges, we're eager to share it with you.  Although what we share today may differ slightly than what we said back in 2007, attribute that to having new distinctions.  You will find more similarities in what we've shared over the years, rather than contradictions.  Our goal is to continually give you the best information available to support you in reaching your health and fitness goals. 

As well, remember that you will never hear us tell you that you can NEVER eat the item you tossed into the garbage bag last Wednesday.  Sure, a minority of people are successful in eliminating completely an item that temps them in the middle of the night.  But most people are highly successful focusing on EATING the best possible foods 90% of the time, and then having 10% flex time for eating what you want/desire.  On Saturday, for example, I enjoyed BBQ shrimp pizza at Crave, and then beer at the Reds game as my 10% last week.  A big contributor to sustainability includes enjoying life too!

Okay, so sustainable body fat reduction involves two things; low calories in the context of hormonal balance.  The hormonal balance focus should be the priority of the two, because when it's balanced, calorie intake normally takes care of itself.  

In other words, eat more of the right things more often and you will have less hunger, reduced cravings, and stable energy levels, leading to an automatic reduction in food intake.  Doing it the other way, by taking a calorie first approach, and you will likely increase your hunger, elevate your cravings, suffer from energy lows, and a slowed metabolic rate.

And let's clarify an important distinction - healthy foods are not the same as fat loss foods.  They certainly can be, but healthy does not equal fat loss.

On the other hand, fat loss foods are almost always healthy foods.

What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating has to do with vitamin amounts, mineral concentrations, essential fat content, fiber, and phytonutrient levels. There are plenty of foods that have great nutrient profiles that are not necessarily going to help most people lose body fat. These include whole grains, nuts/seeds, avocados, olives, and high fat dairy foods to name a few.  We still recommend these foods because they CERTAINLY are healthy options.  But the key with these foods for body fat reduction is controlling portions.  And that really is the primary challenge – not the quality, but rather controlling the portion sizes of these healthy foods.  It's not easy to stop once you start in on a jar/bag of nuts, for example, particularly for those that have metabolisms that make it difficult to feel satisfied from meals. Again, the issue is the quantity (not the quality), because these surely are healthy foods.   

From a body fat reduction perspective, a better approach is to eat your fill, and you can do just that when you zero in on fat loss foods.

What is fat loss eating?

Fat loss foods have three things that set them apart; high volume of water, high amount of fiber, and/or elevated protein content. Water, fiber, and protein are all very filling.  This is the reason many people can sit down and eat five or six cups of cereal and still feel hungry (cereal has no water, a high starch to fiber ratio and almost non-existent protein). Try eating 5 cups of broccoli or 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you're even able to finish either of those, you certainly aren't going to be hungry afterward.

To illustrate, let's calculate the calories. For the sake of trying to be fair, let's choose the best cereal out there (or at least the one that many people consume because it's "healthy"), Kashi Go Lean. 5 servings (5 cups) = 950 calories. 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6oz each) = 936 calories. 5 cups of broccoli = 273 calories. You could eat 5 chicken breast AND 5 cups of broccoli and still have only eaten just over 200 calories more than 5 cups of Kashi. Even going through this exercise makes me cringe, because 5 chicken breast and 5 cups of broccoli would be nearly impossible to consume. 

The reality is, you can take any lean protein source and pair it with as many non-starchy vegetables as you can eat.  You can also throw in as much whole fruit as you want (berries, apples, pears, and citrus).  You will end up with more food than you can eat, less calories, less insulin, and more nutrients than most any low fat, whole grain diet ever created.

Fat loss eating means eating more of the right things more often. The right things = lean protein, vegetables, and fruit.  Fat loss foods are both healthy AND help with body composition, while "healthy foods" may not help with either one.

Here's a list of 10 GREAT Fat Loss Foods, based on the same criteria above. High water, high fiber, and higher protein along with power packed nutrition including vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and healthy plant chemicals.

Eat from this list of food 90% of the time, and my bet is your body's appearance and its health will improve dramatically.

Fat Loss Foods 10 Best

  1. Salmon - High protein, good essential fats, and low mercury content.
  2. Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) - A potent source of antioxidants.
  3. Bison- All the best elements of chicken and red meat rolled into one. It is low fat like chicken, and loaded with nutrition like beef.  More nutrition info:
  4. Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc) - low amounts of starch compared to fiber and phytonutrients that help estrogen metabolism.
  5. Eggs - The yolks are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and the whites are the perfect protein. If your doctor still thinks eggs raise cholesterol in everyone and that cholesterol causes heart disease, please give him or her a recent nutrition book.
  6. Greens (spinach, chard, kale, dandelions, etc) - Almost negative calorie with power packed nutrition.
  7. Water veggies (celery, cucumbers, etc) - Eat a dump-truck full of this stuff and you probably still won't break 1,000 calories.
  8. Apples - Great for a sweet tooth, loaded with water and soluble fiber and plenty of nutrition.
  9. Boneless skinless chicken breast - low fat, satiating, and lots of ways to prepare it.
  10. Cocoa powder - Virtually zero calories, high fiber, and loaded with bioactive compounds that raise energy, blunt hunger, and reduce cravings. Add 1 tablespoon to a mug, pour hot water on top while stirring and you have the world's best diet aid. It also lowers blood pressure, has the same blood thinning effect as aspirin, balances blood sugar, and more.

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. | 4700 Smith Road Suite C, Cincinnati, OH 45212 | 513-407-4665, x-105 |


Impact Hormones Have on Fat Loss (HEC)

One of the most exciting things about fitness is getting to explore the latest in exercise science and physiology.  

We know so much more today, than even a couple of years ago.  Things are evolving so quickly, and distinctions are being learned almost daily.   More and more clarity comes with a relentless pursuit of knowledge, and that inspires me! 

Today we'll begin to contrast the LONG HELD approach to weight loss (calories in versus calories out) and Hormonal Fat Loss. 

Caloric Weight Loss:

Calorie focused weight loss has been what we (fitness and nutritional experts) have preached for decades.  And although based on science, this approach does have flaws.

Yes, we absolutely WILL lose weight if we eat like a bird and run for miles and miles.  But that approach doesn't change the SHAPE of a body, it just makes for a smaller version of that shape.   So if someone is a pear shape, they will simply become a smaller pear shape.  And very often, a softer version too (loss of muscle means loss of tone).

The weight loss and calories burned may or may not be fat.   We touched on this Wednesday in talking about the Harvard study. 

Following the "eat less, exercise more model" also has a side effect: weight gain rebound. There is a reason the term "yo-yo diet" is so well known.

We now know that losing muscle during standard dieting (calorie deficit, regardless how we get to the deficit) makes it far more likely we will not only regain the weight lost, but we end up putting on more body fat than when the diet was started.  This fact, combined with the insatiable hunger, relentless cravings, and inconsistent energy produced by this approach, almost guarantees a return to a larger size.

Research tells us the long term success rate of this approach is less than 5%. Research also tells us that 66% of individuals who take this approach end up putting on MORE body fat than when they started, within 2 years after their diet.

Here's a critical distinction the weight loss world seems to miss: a plan that works well in the short term but is impossible to maintain in the long-run, is not a plan that works.

The caloric weight loss game, by itself, is not a smart, sustainable lifestyle approach to a permanent body change.

Hormonal Fat Loss:

The fat loss way is a hormone centered approach. It is not ONLY about calories, it also pays particular attention to hormones. I know not everyone is a biochemist, and that the idea of "hormonal fat loss" versus "caloric weight loss" is a novel concept right now.  You'll be hearing more about this approach as the media begins to catch wind of it.   So, my goal is to make it make sense for you over the coming week.

Forget all the complex science. You don't need it to tell you if your hormones are balanced for body fat reduction.  All you need is to know your HEC (pronounced heck). When you're in a fat burning state, your HEC will be in check!

What do I mean by HEC?  HEC stands for hunger, energy and cravings, and when your hormonal metabolism is balanced these three biofeedback tools will also be balanced. When the metabolism is functioning optimally, hunger will be reduced, energy will be balanced, and cravings will be nearly absent.

By putting an emphasis on the hormonal impacts of diet, exercise, and lifestyle, you have the ability to regulate calories naturally without as much effort.  Research now shows that you can't just indiscriminately eat less and move more. This sends your HEC out of balance and will eventually result in compensatory eating, low motivation for exercise, cravings, and yo-yo weight regain.

The right approach for fat loss is to exercise smarter (like you did today) and eat intelligently in a way that maintains muscle and focuses on fat loss exclusively. This approach takes great care to balance hormones so that hunger is lessened, energy is raised, cravings are reduced, and fat is lost.

With the fat loss approach, you keep your lean muscle, your metabolic rate stays elevated, AND you don't have to fight a constant battle against willpower because HEC is balanced. When HEC is balanced and you are losing fat, you know you have found a lifestyle you can live forever.

Up next, we'll explore the types of foods, and review the specific protocols of exercise that will keep your HEC balanced, and in check!  The best part is, you can ENJOY life while developing the health, fitness and body that you love – and that's really to key to sustainability!

Thank you for all the fantastic work this week!  Have a FUN & RELAXING weekend, Brian.

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Big Plans for 2014? This might help ...

Big Plans for 2014?

5 Strategies for New Year Planning

To make the next 12 months MORE HEALTHY, MORE FIT, and MORE PRODUCTIVE than the last 12 months, these 5 strategies are for you.

Truly, there's no better gift you can give YOURSELF than a healthy, energetic body.

Because living life with vitality, mental acuity ... and emotional balance is your foundation to accomplishing all the things important to you. 

1. List the three most important objectives (or goals) for your health & fitness over the next year.  These should be "big picture" accomplishments that will organically inspire you to reach for more in 2014.  These could be outcome based objectives, like "I'm going to lose 30 pounds in 2014" or process based objectives, such as "I'm going to exercise 5-days per week in 2014 to feel & perform at my best".  Think Big & create 3 meaningful goals that inspire you!

2. For each objective listed above, identify your responsibility in achieving the objective. WHAT will you do? HOW will you do it? WHEN will you do it?  Sketch out your plan.  Don't worry about having it 100% complete or perfect, a simple draft will do. 

3. Don't think of the year as a whole.  Break your goals down to monthly objectives, and schedule regular reviews on your calendar to check in, measure your progress thus far, and adjust the plan, as needed.  So, if a half or full marathon is one of your big goals this year, each month you want to track your longest distance, pace, and weekly miles relative to your running event, as an example.  The key to goals isn't that we achieve them EXACTLY as we initially planned.  But rather the idea is to put a target on the wall and move toward something that inspires us.  Inspiration creates action!

4. Breathe. Relax. You got this!  Any time you're creating an inflection point in your life, it can be scary. You're letting go of the old - letting go of what no longer works or what no longer serves you well.  And you're embracing the new - the untried, the uncomfortable, perhaps even what seems risky. But the biggest risks of all are stagnation, complacency, and lack of inspiration/enthusiasm.  Remember - a bend in the road is never fatal... unless you fail to turn.  Be okay with setbacks, failures, and not doing things perfectly.  The key to getting where you want is to fail, fail and fail, and try, try, try.  People that master anything get really comfortable with messing up, then getting back up for another go. 

 5. Don't go it alone. Remember, lone wolves starve to death. Think of accountability partners, exercise buddies, advocates & supporters, allies, and likeminded people who can help you leapfrog over challenges and obstacles.  We all need supportive friends who've "got our back" and can pick us up when we need it most. 

Spend some time between now and January 1, Brian, and think about where you want to go, how you want to look, feel and perform in 2014, and how that foundation will help you achieve the MOST important things in YOUR life over the next 12 months!  

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. | 4700 Smith Road Suite C, Cincinnati, OH 45212 | 513-407-4665, x-105 |

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Recipe FIGHTS Food Cravings ...

Our goal is to challenge your muscles, elevate your heart rate, and have you leaving your workout feeling good, and ready to tackle the day with a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of energy.   

And one of the absolute BEST ways to keep your energy strong throughout the day is to feed your body with lots of fruits and veggies.

Add to that the fact that these plant-based foods keep hunger at bay, AND help offset food cravings, it's a powerful combination in developing a lean, healthy, highly functioning body.

Our body is really smart, and it sends us signals all day long.

After 60 seconds of sprinting, the signal is loud and clear – "it's time to slow down or rest!"

Toward the end of a long, focused, productive day – "it's time to sleep!"

And hunger is one of the constant signals that the body sends.  It is your own body saying "it's time to eat!" 

But the real message, is that our body is looking for specific nutrients.  When we eat food low in nutrients (processed/junky foods), the hunger signal is triggered again MUCH sooner than need be as the body is hoping we'll provide nutrient packed foods.

One thing we hear frequently is that people know a lot of this stuff, but sometimes have a hard time putting it into practice.

A good way to think about adding fruits and vegetables to your diet is that you are "building your fruits and veggies muscle."  Just build the muscle over time.  Every meal is an opportunity for a fruits and veggie "workout".  Every trip to the grocery store is a chance to plan your fruits/veggie "workout".  

And this is a "workout" you get to eat and ENJOY!

So, today start where you are.  Try out the Red, White and Blue Parfait delicious healthy treat (video below).  And build the muscle.  Overtime, you will be pleasantly surprised with all the benefits that come from consuming this powerhouse of food.

This recipe is AMAZING, in that it tastes fantastic, plus it's made up of berries and protein, two fat loss essentials. 

Berries are loaded with the antioxidant anthocyanin, which has been shown to alter the activity of genes found in human fat cells, making it more difficult to put on weight. Blueberries, specifically, have been shown to diminish stubborn belly fat.

And as a NICE bonus, the powerful antioxidants in berries prevent free radical damage in your body, which slows down the aging process to help you live longer and stronger years!

Here's the recipe:

Let us know what you think!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. | 4700 Smith Road Suite C, Cincinnati, OH 45212 | 513-407-4665, x-105 |