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Friday, August 29, 2014

Don’t Expect any Miracles: The Hyperbolic Allure of Weight Loss Supplements

There is no magic pill
I could hear the noise down the hall and dread overcame me. As she walked into my office, she plopped down a giant tote bag and I heard what I jokingly call the death rattle: A massive supplement stock which, no doubt, she wanted me to go through during our initial consultation.

Hyperbolic promises underlie the weight-loss supplement industry. You know the claims: Swallow these capsules and lose 10 pounds in three days. Gain massive muscle with this nutrient cocktail.

And we buy those claims with their often-useless products.

I’m not judging. I’ve done it too. Even intelligent people and healthcare professionals occasionally fall sway to some Dr. Oz

Saturday, August 23, 2014

12 Strategies to Accelerate Fat Loss

Do it right to do it fast
“I know you’re going to say do it slow and steady,” my client began, certain I would dismiss her inquiry about dumping 15 pounds quickly for an upcoming high school reunion.

Guess again. Newer studies validate what I’ve found for years: Done correctly, you can get rid excess fat quickly. 

I say fat, not weight, because you want to shed fat while building muscle. Theoretically, that could make you weigh more. You need a scale that measures lean mass (muscle) and fat to know how and what you’re losing.

Rapid fat loss gets a bad rep because many people do it stupidly. They go on semi-starvation diets or nonsensical cleanses. They spend fortunes on some crazy new supplement that a certain celebrity swore helped her lose 10 pounds in three days. They spend hours on the elliptical machine reading their favorite weekly gossip magazine thinking they’re melting away those pounds.

We can all agree: Those are not healthy ways to lose weight quickly. You’ll probably shed a few pounds doing these things – notice I said pounds and weight, not necessarily fat – but your metabolism quickly comes to a halt as it adjusts. High stress levels and adrenal burnout are among the many problems over-exercising and under-eating can create.

You’ll also become miserable. To “reward” yourself for your herculean efforts, you’ll head to your nearest dessert place and gobble down 3,000 calories of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat.

So we agree: If you’re committed to burning fat quickly, you’ll do it intelligently. Deprivation, misery, and alternately starving with binging have no place here.

At the same time, don’t kid yourself it will be easy. As I often tell clients, you’ve got to do the work to get the results. If fast fat loss were that easy, we could all be 10 pounds lighter next week, and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I said commit earlier. Do it. Don’t oscillate. (Yes, the drill sergeant in me is coming out here.) Write down your goals, read them every morning, and know that while I can’t monitor you 24/7, I will be keeping a virtual eye on you the whole time! You’ve got to be serious about this or it won’t work. You’ll dismiss me as another expert who failed you, and I’m not having that. 

Okay, here we go.

1.      Write down everything. My first rule for accelerated fat loss has nothing to do with food and everything about success. One study found people who wrote everything down lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. Your body is becoming a science experiment here. You’re learning what works and what doesn’t, and the best way to do that involves tracking every bite you eat.

2.     3 meals a day, no snacks. Constantly grazing becomes a surefire way to keep insulin levels cranked up, locking your fat-cell doors. Substantial, healthy meals (more on what constitutes that in a minute) should keep you full for at least four and preferably up to six hours. If you’re hungry three hours after lunch, you didn’t do lunch correctly. Look at your food journal and figure out what you did wrong. Have a glass of water and perhaps a fiber supplement to curb your appetite.

3.     Drink lots of water and green tea. Preferably drink half your body weight in water ounces. Experts debate whether green tea could count towards that water quota. I say just drink it period and stop worrying. Don’t drink so much liquid you dilute your nutrients and limit liquids during meals, when too much could dilute stomach enzymes that break down protein.

4.     Poop a lot. Gradually increasing your fiber intake to 50 grams (don’t do this all at once), magnesium/ vitamin C powder before bedtime, and fiber-rich foods like avocado and legumes can all keep things moving down there. If you’re not pooping at least once daily, try more hardcore remedies like herbal laxatives (sparingly) or liquid magnesium citrate found at your drugstore.

5.     Sleep a lot. My friend JJ Virgin wrote a blog detailing seven fat-regulating hormones that become out of whack with too little sleep. I could write a whole blog about sleep. Wait, I already did… Aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.

6.     Get clean, lean protein at every meal. Aim for 20 – 25 grams at every meal. Wild fish, grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and pasture-raised eggs are top high-quality protein sources. Vegans and vegetarians will focus on foods like legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu (sparingly), quinoa, and plant-based protein powders. A scoop or two of whey post-workout can also provide optimal protein.

7.     Work in a little healthy fat. This isn’t the time to show the world that good fats won’t make you fat by eating a steak drowning in butter or dousing your salad in half a cup of olive oil. If you want a ketogenic diet, you’ve come to the wrong place.

8.     Focus on the right carbs. Leafy and cruciferous veggies become your best friends during fast fat loss. Asparagus in particular can have a helpful diuretic effect. This is not a low-carb diet, so focus on smart carbs in small amounts like legumes and quinoa. If you feel dizzy, light headed, disoriented, unusually lethargic, nauseous, or irritable, you probably went too low carb. Experiment with small amounts of starchy carbs pre-workout like gluten-free brown rice. Post-workout, pair that whey protein with sweet potatoes or another starchy high-glucose carb. Find your carb threshold, but don't become terrified of this important macronutrient.

9.     Drink coffee before or during (but not after) your workout. Do you need another reason to get your Starbucks fix? Coffee’s thermogenic benefits will improve your workout and speed metabolism. After a workout, caffeine can keep cortisol jacked up, so switch to decaf green tea.

10.  Supplement smartly. A high-quality multi, fish oil, and a probiotic should be among your supplement staples anyway. Beyond that, Thorne’s Amino Acid Complex is my magic bullet for fast fat loss. Take it in the morning, 20 minutes before your workout, and last thing before bed. 

      You’ll find numerous supplements promising fast fat loss.  Approach them with suspicious caution and know most fat loss benefits come from diet and exercise.

11.   Control stress levels. Chronic stress can seriously stall fat loss. Create a serenity plan. Walking for 60-90 minutes at a moderately slow pace, take an Epsom salts bath, play with your dog or kids, get a massage, meditation, and do yoga. 

12.  Measure and track. Don’t become a slave to the scales. Weigh yourself twice a week and use a tape measure once a week. A pair of favorite jeans becomes the easiest way for many clients to know they’re losing.

Bonus points: Fat cells hoard toxins. When you release fat, you also release toxins. One way to dump them is via sweat. If a trip to the desert in August is out of your budget, consider sweating at the gym (most have steam rooms) and use a far infrared sauna.
“How Long Before I See Results?”
My client asked me and you’re probably wondering yourself.
You’ll drop mostly water weight your first week, so that will account for serious loss. (I’ve had clients lose up to 10 pounds that first week!) Once you stabilize, you’ll lose about half a pound (or more) each day you stick with this plan. We’ll talk about plateau busters and how to maintain lasting fat loss in future blogs. 
What About Exercise?
I didn’t discuss exercise here because I want you to primarily focus on diet. But of course, you should exercise.
Short, intense exercise guarantees you’ll burn more calories at rest after your workout. Ideally you’ll combine high-intensity resistance training with short, intense cardio bursts. Work your whole body each workout three or four times per week unless you’re staying sore. If that’s the case, drop your intensity for a few days.
Lift as heavy as possible, as fast as possible, with strict form, keeping your heart rate up the whole time. You’ll know when you need to stop and rest during the workout.
What Would You Add Here?
Nearly everyone I’ve met has a secret strategy to burn fat safely and quickly. Spill it! Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page.
You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2014 Jinifit, Inc.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Take Off that Halo: Why the Anti-Soy Brigade Drive me Nuts

Is there no joy in soy?
“Why are you recommending soy-based products when you told me before to stop eating tofu pad Thai?” my client asked – okay, more like demanded, sure she’d caught me in the heels of an egregious contradiction. She smugly pointed to a supplement label that said in fine print: “Contains ingredients derived from soy (phytosomes)."

Especially for vegans and vegetarians adverse to whey and too stuck in their narrow-minded agenda to try other plant-based proteins, soy reigns supreme. I watch fitness folks scarf down soy-based protein bars, powders, and disgusting-looking soy Frankenfoods, all the while believing they’re being healthy.

Then I get the opposite spectrum like this uber-paranoid client. I explained to her phytosomes are a type of phospholipid or fat that help your body better absorb nutrients in this product. Even the most soy-sensitive individuals can tolerate phytosomes because soy protein - not fat – creates most allergies and sensitivities.

My reasoning fell on deaf ears. My client remained convinced soy was

Friday, August 8, 2014

Skinny to Strong Starts on Your Plate: 7 Strategies to Gain Smartly

Being skinny is no fun either
“I went the Dunkin Donuts route, but I didn’t get the results I wanted,” my client joked as he filled out the paperwork before our first training session.

I know what you’re thinking: Donuts and fat loss don’t go together. My client, a 26-year-old PhD student, proved an anomaly to my typical twenty-something who landed his first job and accumulated 15 extra pounds through stress and sitting all day.

Nope, this guy had struggled his whole life to gain weight. He was the scrawny – dare I say wimpy – kid you might have picked on in elementary school, and he appeared determined to change his physique.

Problem was, he had gone about it entirely wrong – living off pizza, beer, and Dunkin Donuts for a few months – and had quite the spare tire to show for it.

Now, before you reply, “Jeez, I wish I had his problem,” let me tell you why

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Beginner’s Guide to Working Insulin to Your Advantage

Not abdominally gifted? No problem.
“Why are you recommending a drink that will make me fat?” my client asked out of nowhere. During our proceeding session, she wondered what post-workout fuel I suggested.

“I love a professional-quality whey paired with a healthy carb source,” I replied, noting the protein brand I use.

After that session, my client took the “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing” cliché to its extreme and did a PubMed search about whey. She found one study that argued whey could raise insulin as much as white bread.  

“Everyone knows insulin is your fat-storing hormone and that you always want to keep it low,”