Exercise and Burning Calories

Fat Loss and Calorie Burn from Exercise?

“Burn more calories” is the default advice from fitness professionals if you ask them about how to achieve fat loss.

The how and what typically includes “exercise and eating right”.

True, exercise/training/working out will cause you to burn (more) calories.

But you burn calories by simply being alive too.

So how come, after years of hard training, you’re somehow gaining weight again?

Know the biggest single consumer of calories in your body?

Hint: It’s not your muscles…

It’s your big, beautiful, brain.

It consumes about 20% of the energy produced in your body every day.

Exercise does help burn more calories

Most people lose weight when they start working out!

It’s true.

Another thing that’s true about that period of their life..?

Exercise is probably not the only thing they changed.

People rarely decide to “get in shape” and simply start exercising, without also “going on a diet”, paying close attention to what and how they eat.

The diet chosen doesn’t actually matter.

Sure, calorie burn from exercise does help, a smidge.

Before you start protesting…

That device/app you have on your wrist, the treadmill, or on your pocket/phone is not an accurate measure of your metabolic rate (calorie burn).

According to the article, the rated measurement tools are off by +/- 10 to 20 or more percent.

That, in turn, assumes the formula used to calculate the calorie burn is accurate.

It’s not.

It represents an average.

That average can be off by as much as another 20+ percent.

Feel enlightened and depressed yet?

Back to how much more energy you burn during exercise.

Calories burned during exercise

Frankly, the number of calories burned during exercise is normally pretty small.

When I used to guesstimate my calorie burn I found that

Actually, if you “carb load” before/after your class, we can pretty much guarantee that whatever extra you burned during got replenished in full (plus a bit more).

On the other hand, that minimal increase in the daily calorie burn from that new shiny exercise class is not what brings the number down on your scale.

Oh, and that “afterburn” (EPOC) thing they talk about in fitness circles…

It doesn’t last for 24-48 hours (oops!) and the amount of extra calories burned as the result of EPOC isn’t all that significant either. (PS: I’m guilty of touting “Afterburn” as a benefit of weight lifting, sorry!)

That typically comes from the fact that most of us are suddenly also paying attention to what we put into our pie-hole.

And that our body starts shedding some water.

Mostly due to the sudden increase in available water.

All that fruit and vegetables, plus lean protein, equals a more consistent supply of water from the food.

Plus, depending on the specific changes, there could also be an improved inflammation response.

Less inflammation means less water retained by the body.

Then the number on the scale starts dropping.

(Paying close attention to the number isn’t all that good for your overall health either, but let’s talk about that some other day!)

The conclusion?

It’s quite simple, really.

Fat loss hinges on your nutrition.

There is no such thing as out-training poor nutrition choices.

What makes for a good nutrition choice?

My favorite “quote” in this area has always been:

Don’t eat foods that have ingredients. Eat foods that are ingredients.

I.e. Eat vegetables, lean meats, fruits and whole grains.

Then, because training does help you look good naked, hit the gym and complete your HIIT training for today.

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Keep it Simple

Today's tip: Keep It Simple
Notice: This Friday we will be conducting a fitness test during your workout.

After writing a daily 300+ word reminder every single weekday for over 3.5 years, we’re going to keep it simple today…

Just a simple piece of advice:

Whatever you choose to do for your purposeful movement – aka training – today; Simplicity is the name of the game

Whether you decide to do the HIIT routine we designed for you – available on the VPT Dashboard – or something else:

Well done for getting out there and doing it, once again!

We’ll be back tomorrow, with something more substantial.

Notice: This Friday we will be conducting a fitness test during your workout.

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Breakfast: The most important meal?

Notice: This Friday we will be conducting a fitness test during your workout.

Did your mom ever tell you that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?

Turns out, it’s possible she was misinformed…

Skipping breakfast

If you’re wanting to lose weight, there’s new data about having breakfast.

[…] the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit.

“Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” – British Medical Journal on Nov 28, 2018

The purpose of this study was to review randomized controlled trials focusing on the effect of eating breakfast on weight and energy intake. The researchers used results from studies published between 1990 and Jan 2018.

All of the studies focused on adults from high income countries.

In those countries, is body weight/energy intake affected positively by having breakfast?

In truth, there is only a small difference in weight (loss) for participants who skipped breakfast during the periods of the studies.

The bad

As is the case with a lot of studies, the headlines in the news will focus on how having breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day.

As a matter of fact, if you want to lose weight, having breakfast is a bad idea.

Few journalists will spend the time to actually read more than first sentence in the conclusion from the study (I’ve included it):

This study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit.

British Medical Journal on Nov 28, 2018

The truth?

If you look at what the difference in weight is, it should cause you to be a little skeptical of what you read. (There’s about a 1 lbs difference…)

The study highlights how there is some risk when it comes to the consistency of the trial results they reviewed.

How consistent was the follow-up of the target study test subjects?

Was the quality of the target studies they used to come to this conclusion good enough?

To skip or not to skip Breakfast?

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

In truth and for practical application, this study conclusion does very little to confirm either way.

If you want to lose weight, will it hurt your chances to eat breakfast every day?

Probably not if you’re eating slow, to 80% full.

Make those meals with a balanced amount of protein, vegetables, whole grain and healthy fats and “Bob’s yer uncle!”

For a lot of studies with small research populations, the real conclusion is that more study is needed.

This study is no exception, so until we know for sure;

If what you were doing, before this study saw the light of day, works for you then keep doing it.

If it doesn’t…

Try to find something useful to change instead.

You can, best, find it by experimenting on your own.

Get a baseline of your your own objective weekly measurements; weight, height, circumferences, etc.

Continue measuring your progress a couple of weeks. If nothing changed, try a different action.

Maybe that means trying to go without breakfast.

Or adding breakfast if you haven’t been eating it.

Pick something that will have a direct impact on your life (and waistline).

Something to ponder while you’re training today…

Notice: This Friday we will be conducting a fitness test during your workout.

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Are you an epileptic child?

Ketogenic Diet - epSos.de [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

The Ketogenic Diet (aka “Keto”). If you do a google search, you’ll have access to more than 95 million articles about this “wonder diet”.

You probably know somebody who has tried, or are currently on keto.

It’s the heir-apparent to Paleo and Atkins.

Solidly in the “No Carb” category of fad diets that has been taking turns conquering the world for the past 10-15 years.

Oh, you thought keto was new?

It’s not. It’s from the 1920s.

Its purpose?

To reduce hard-to-control seizures for children/people with severe epilepsy.

The results of the ketogenic diet have kept epileptic children out of surgery, and helped reduce their medication needs, for years.

But it at that point, it had nothing to do with weight loss or weight management, at all.

Keto, a long term solution to body composition?

It’s not.

Sorry to disappoint.

In a ranking of the best diets overall, by a panel of health experts (published in US News), the Keto Diet didn’t even rank in the top 10.

Nor in the top 20.

It came in as the 38th best diet overall…

As a Weight Loss diet, the Keto Diet came in at number 12.

To be fair, it did come in at #2 as the “Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet”.

The problem with “fast weight loss”?

In 95% of the cases, fast weight loss leads to “fast weight gain”, once the diet is completed.

Not a good weight loss or body composition solution.

A good solution to getting the body composition you want is a diet you can live on for the rest of your life.

Not a n-week wonder.

Want to know what the best diet actually is?

The Mediterranean Diet.

Another good one is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

What they both have in common?

They aren’t all that restrictive. They can be maintained for a very long time. Like for the rest of your life…

Unlike Keto, which is ridiculously restrictive.

Fun fact about Keto

Other than the brain, the biggest consumers of energy in your body are…

Your muscles.

One of the big risks of the keto diet?

Loss of muscle mass.

Then, when you go off the diet (and start gaining weight again), that weight typically comes back as fat.

Not as muscle.

Instead of getting lean and having the hours spent in the gym preparing your body to stay that way, Keto has helped you do the opposite;

Increase the amount of fat stored on your body.

After all, if gaining weight after a few months of suffering through annoying food restrictions, increasing your probability of getting heart disease, having bad breath, and peeing on a stick was your goal;

Success! Yay Keto!

If not…

Maybe consider a different approach?

Something to think about while you’re training today? Cheers!

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Yamakasi Challenge

drop sets and negatives

Yamakasi is from the Lingala language.

Strong spirit, strong body, strong person

What “Yamakasi” signifies in the Lingala language (Central African Dialect)

It’s also the name a group of 9 young men from the suburbs of Paris, France.

This group of extended family and their friends started playing together using tests of strength and agility.

Over time they developed a system of specific exercises and techniques.

The purpose of the system is to help us grow stronger and push beyond our physical and mental limits.

The Yamakasi originally used these self-developed techniques to prepare for effective movement through an urban landscape.

The training methods and systems they evolved became commonly known as Parkour, Freerunning and/or Art Du Deplacement (ADD).

Your mind is your limiting factor

If you think about it for a second, you probably realize how true this is?

Just spend 30 minute observing in a gym. I’m sure it will be obvious how most struggle with physically pushing ourselves.

The truth is that your body can do quite a bit more than you think it can.

When training with the original Yamakasi members, they often remind you that your mind is the real limiting factor.

To train their abilities, they would issue each other physical challenges.

To complete the challenges the entire group had to work together.

The purpose of these challenges was to help the practitioners realize this simple truth;

  • You will face a physical or mental obstacle that you may not quite understand how to overcome.
  • Through cooperation, encouragement and common effort, the challenge will teach you that your body and mind are much more capable than you thought.

Strength + Endurance + Mental Fortitude = Fun Movement

I’m currently coaching a strength and conditioning class at a local Parkour gym.

For the past 3-4 weeks, we’ve been doing fairly standard strength and conditioning drills.

To keep things interesting, the workouts include typical Parkour movements with a twist (or weight).

In order to break the monotony of squatting and lifting stuff, we are doing a Yamakasi Challenge today.

Designing the workout for tomorrow has been a challenge all of its own;

  • It has to be complete in 20 minutes
  • It has to be difficult enough to seem near impossible
  • The movement must be individual
  • It takes a team to complete the challenge
  • It must be possible to help and encourage each other
  • Anybody should be able to do the movements
  • Just like in life, there has to be a consequence if we fail to complete the challenge

Can you think of something in your workout arsenal to fit the bill? (I can…)

Something to ponder as you hit the gym today for some training…

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Sunshine is Good For You

Direct Sunshine = Good

I’ve been told to protect myself from direct sunshine for as long as I can remember.

Too much sunshine on my pale skin was a shortcut to skin cancer.

Then, the other day, I read an article about how wrong that advice actually was for my health.

The article referred to a few different pieces of research that surprised me. It should make us question the current American Academy of Dermatology guidance on sun exposure.

They strongly recommend against spending time in sunlight without applying high SPF sunscreen.

The benefits of sunlight

Most of us know that the sun on our skin helps our body produce vitamin D.

The vitamin D produced by your body has been shown to help stave off cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggest we get our Vitamin D from supplements instead.

There’s only one problem with the supplement approach…

In clinical trials, Vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly.

Vitamin D from supplements have yet to prove any of the same benefits.

Regular exposure to sunlight is important for your circadian rhythm (governs sleep cycles, etc).

Sun exposure helps the body release endorphins, serotonin and nitric oxide into your blood stream.

This combination of goodness reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

Want to reduce your risk for heart disease?

Nitric oxide released by the sun exposure has a positive effect on blood pressure.

Sunshine also reduces inflammation and dampens the autoimmune responses.

Then, as you maybe experienced, it also improves virtually every mental condition.

Sun exposure and cancer

It’s true that unprotected exposure to the sun increases the probability of certain skin cancers.

However, you may be surprised by the mortality rate for skin cancer in the US.

26 per 100 000 develop melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer, each year.

However, fewer than 3 per 100 000 people die from skin cancer in the US each year.

Split the research by racial heritage and you find that people with natural pigmentation have significantly reduced melanoma and skin cancer rates in general.

For heart disease deaths in the US, the number is 209.1 per 100 000 for males and 130.4 per 100 000 for women.

Basically, for every death as the result of skin cancer, a hundred die from cardiovascular disease.

That said, there is a relationship between sun exposure and melanoma that cannot be ignored.

Mostly though it seems people who avoid the sun are more at risk than those who don’t.

In a study by Pelle Lindquist of 30 000 women in Sweden over 20 years they found that sun worshippers had lower rates of blood clots and diabetes.

Although they had higher rates of melanoma, they also were eight times less likely to die from it.

The research also shows a correlation between sun exposure and reduced risk of dying from heart disease.

Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy

Pelle Lindquist – Author of “Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort”

Get enough sunlight

For the skin to produce vitamin D along with the other benefits, the sunlight exposure must be on unprotected skin.

The article recommends enjoying the sunlight without sunscreen on days where the UV index is 3 or lower.

An UV index below 3 is typically the case throughout the winter in North America (but do make sure by checking your preferred weather app first!).

The article also recommends spending some time outside without protection on days with an UV index above 3 (but more way more limited!).

The baseline recommendation is to avoid getting a sunburn.

The UK, Australian and New Zealand health authorities all operate with similar recommendations to the ones described in the outsideonline.com article (above).

A Steady Pace of Life

Setting your own pace

Keep It Steady

How can you find and maintain a steady pace of life?

Is this what mediation is about? Finding a pace that works for you and working to maintain it.

I believe the best way to find this pace is to go inward, with mediation. 

Listening to your heartbeat, the sounds around you, and your breath.

What is it that keeps you moving?

Hurry Up And Get Annoyed

Lately I have been approaching life like an interval session.

From fast and furious to quiet and slow, then fast and furious again…

Funny thing is, just like when you do training with intervals, as you get past 3 to 4 sets, that earlier “fast and furious” starts to catch up with you.

It gets harder and harder to keep it up.

I find myself thinking resentful thoughts and planning my escape.

When I got up this morning with little to no desire to get working, I faced that I was doing this to myself.

The work is not bad and the people are nice.

Just like any job there are moments of uncertainty. 

How to approach a problem. Who to ask a question.

Figure It Out

Figuring out a steady pace that will get you the results you want from work and life is a challenge.

One that takes a little experimentation, and redirection now and then.

As life changes and you adapt, can you make adjustments that bring you back to your center?

Does the change alter the course forever?

If you look at a “choose you own adventure” book, one change makes a big difference.

Keep it steady, and get in a training session today. Cheers!!

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Freeze Fat Away – The new solution!

Freeze Fat Away (BS!) - Dreamy Pixel [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but the new “loose fat fast” fad are Cold Vests.

Basically, you put on the “cool fat burner vest” or the “cool gut buster” freeze fat way.

By simply wearing the vest or wait band, they claim your metabolic rate can increase by 300%.

But wait, that’s not all!

Pick a miracle cure sales person from TV

They also promise that you’ll expend an additional 500 kcal per day by wearing this miracle.

Now, if the promises hold true, over a week you’ll burn enough extra calories to drop an extra 1 pound per week(!)

This sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Just put on a fat burner vest, endure some cool and freeze fat away!

Freeze fat away, is it real?

If you’ve lived for a while, you’re probably just cynical enough to question the validity of the “freeze fat away” promise.

Maybe you’d even take the time to look at the website for the company and read about their “Brown Fat Cooling Vest”.

Like all good marketing pitches, they spin a good yarn.

But, in all fairness…

Just because the numbers seem big doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Is there any science to back it up?

Actually, there is.

Probably not in the way the maker of the products hoped for though…

The Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse was commissioned by the American Council for Exercise (ACE) to perform a scientific review of the claims.

Unfortunately, the study provided a clear conclusion:

Neither of the cooling implements will increase your metabolic burn by 300%.

They won’t increase your calorie burn by 500kcal per day either.

The real effect of the cool fat burner?

The commissioned study was designed to decide whether wearing the Cool Fat Burner vest and/or the Cool Gut Buster abdomen cover would significantly increase the calorie expenditure when compared with resting metabolic rates.

The study consisted of 20 volunteers between 19 and 25 years of age. All of the participants had a BMI greater than 25. I.e. they were overweight or obese.

The participants had their metabolism measured during two states;

  • Resting – Not wearing the vest or abdomen cover, they sat still for 30 minutes.
  • Low-intensity fat burn – Wearing both products, they sat still for 30 minutes.
  • High-intensity fat burn – Wearing both products, sitting still for 30 minutes while drinking ice cold water at the start and the half-way point of the 30 minutes.

The good news

First, let’s cover the good news!

Both the low and high intensity testing phases resulted in a percentage wise significantly greater calorie burn.

The low intensity testing phase had an increase of 14% as compared to the resting phase.

The high intensity phase had an increase of 27% as compared to the resting phase.

Not 300%, but still fairly impressive, right?

Burn 27% more calories by sitting still for 30 minutes, drinking some ice water and wearing a cold vest plus abdominal cover.

Sounds like something we should consider spending money on, yes..?

(What comes next is the kind of stuff that causes people to lose faith in science…)

What do the numbers translate to?

As a fat loss/weight loss strategy, freezing fat away is a pretty sh*tty one.

Though the percentage numbers look pretty good, the absolute kcal numbers are abysmal.

When you account for the fact that the numbers had to be extrapolated to wearing the products for twice the time of the actual tests?

Well, then it gets even worse!

The “high intensity fat burn” phase resulted in an additional burn of 23.4 kcal for the test hour.

For the “low intensity fat burn” phase, the number is a whopping 12 kcal for the hour.

In practical terms?

(FWIW, the following statement completely ignores how fat loss really works. It’s merely for illustration!)

Based on the results from the study, in order to lose 1 extra pound of fat?

We’d need to wear the fairly expensive vest and abdomen cover for an hour per day, while drinking 16 oz of ice water every 15 minutes during that hour, for 149.5 days.

If calorie burn is your goal, you’d be far better off just going for a lazy stroll!

And if you spend an hour doing VPT training, with some extra intensity, today you’ll possibly burn more than 10x the number of kcal.

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New Work

Thinking about new work...

When you’re thinking about changing your career and start trying to find new work, things tend to get stressful.

Managing Stress

I used to think I was pretty good at managing stress.

In some ways, I am.

And in some ways, the past year has proven that I was quite wrong.

Thankfully, stress comes in many forms and I can handle most of them well.

Family related stress is a piece of cake to manage (I have a wonderful helper).

Emotional stress is pretty easy to resolve (same thing applies about the helper).

Workload related stress; No sweat!

The type of stress that really gets to me seems to be uncertainty about “the means to my lifestyle”.

I’m not saying I can’t handle “living on the edge”, financially (We can).

It’s just that “living on the edge” elevates my subconscious priorities to a level that far exceeds any other priority I think I may have…

Health, fitness, relationships, workload and pretty much everything other than making sure my “means to a lifestyle” is intact, it becomes irrelevant.

For the past 6 months, I’ve been playing with how to fix this.

The obvious choice would be to find a new job.

I realized something about finding a new job

For me, that’s likely to be with a company where the American version of “work/life balance” is considered a curse-word.

I want a “regular job” that I think I will enjoy. (For me, that means returning to the Tech Industry, probably in Product Management).

I really enjoy solving business problems and if I find something that I enjoy, it won’t feel like work.

The past 6 or so years has helped me define what work/life balance actually translates to (for me).

I believe it’s highly individualized and depends on things like;

  • What you grew up with;
  • How you view life in general;
  • What you think of as important;
  • Etc.

For me, I need to work for someone who understands the value of “freedom with responsibility”.

Trust, but verify…

US President R. Reagan (paraphrased)

Micromanagement and I are a lot like oil and water.

We simply will not mix for long.

A new job means finding a management team who wtll trus the people they hire.

I prefer the “you’re an adult and you applied for this job, so we presume you’re actually here to get your work done” attitude.

It’s an approach I’ve used successfully whenever I’ve managed teams.

There’s also research to back up that employees who feel trusted tend to perform a whole lot better.

Not only are they more productive, they also speak up when things are starting to go sideways.

Most companies, whether they realize it or not, benefit from that.

(Just ask Facebook, Google or any other company that have been in the spotlight recently…)

Finding a place that matches my values will significantly reduce my stress levels.

A workplace where health and fitness is a core value and not something they offer lip service to because it lowers their health insurance premiums.

To me, that’s what work/life balance is truly about.

A company that matches your core values, across the board. One that is as supportive of you and your goals as they are of their own.

Something to think about as you train today, perhaps? Cheers!

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