Monthly Archives: November 2014

Obese Women Are Different Than Men

Over and over, we’re given options to lose weight this way and that, and they spread them across the board. There are those who blame women’s habits for women having a harder time losing weight than men, but it’s more than that. For one thing, testosterone is a natural fat burner that women just don’t have as much of.

Women actually gain weight for different reasons than men, and it’s not just the basic hormones. Obese women, according to a study in the journal Cell Biology, have a specific, food related learning deficit as they call it that is not observed in obese men or people of healthy weight. This may explain why they gain so much weight.

Researchers looked at this by presenting men and women with different colored squares and then pictures of rewards (food or money). They were then asked to predict the likelihood of a reward after a certain color or pattern. It was only obese women who struggled to accurately predict when a food picture would come, but they easily predicted the money suggesting a different learning curve when it comes to food.

Co-author Ifat Levy PhD, neuroscientist at Yale University says, I must admit that we did not expect a gender difference. She explains that it might be that obese people have additional cognitive loads when it comes to food. Levy continues, Women are generally more concerned about being obese or their appearance, and therefore this load may be heavier for women.

Of course, they will need to conduct more studies to determine if the learning deficit is actually the cause or the other way around. Levy posits, It could be that obese individuals – or at least obese women – fail to flexibly adjust their valuation of food. For example, when we are hungry, food is perceived as highly rewarding. But when we are full, the food is less rewarding and can even be aversive. It is possible that some obese individuals fail to recognize the change in their internal environment, and thus keep regarding the food as highly rewarding even when it should not be.

Levy hopes for her research to help move the field of obesity research along and break into more of the actual causes to find better treatments.


The Benefits Of Being A Part Time Vegan

Low carb and low fat have dominated the diet scene, especially when it comes to weight loss. There has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of being vegetarian or vegan, but there have been just as many who claim that you can’t possibly get things like protein from anything but meat, because of course we don’t eat tofu, beans, nuts, or other non-meat based protein sources. This said, the more people talk about GMO and other issues, the more people are turning to a more natural diet plan, which could be at least partially vegan, which may not be such a bad thing.

If you’ve ever tried a vegan diet, most of us aren’t disciplined enough to do it all the time. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from it. New York Times columnist Mark Bittman suggests that by being a part time vegan, you could largely eliminate the GMOs and antibiotics in your food, lower your carbon footprint, eat healthier, and substantially cut back on sugar.

Eat fruits and veggies with every meal, and drop the meat in 1-2 of your meals, and you’re doing great.

There are some who are recommending a vegan diet until 6PM for both weight loss and good health. Bittman in particular has become a significant proponent of the diet approach finding, We should all be eating more plants and you don’t have to give up anything to do that. I probably eat 60% less meat than I used to. I almost never cook meat at home, and at dinner I’m usually either vegetarian or I eat fish.

The Best Lunge For A Firmer Butt

Simply changing the angle of your torso can help you activate different areas of your lower body, according to Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University International and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss. So you’re telling me we’ve worked only limited parts of our bodies with exercise, and a simple change of the angle of your torso could change all that?

A traditional lunge in particular involves an upright torso, and it puts the majority of your weight on the front of your thighs, or your quads. Most people’s quads are already pretty strong though. So why are we putting all the work there instead of evening out other muscles?

So what do you do? Tumminello suggests, For an all-around lower-body exercise, I recommend hinging at the hips to angle the torso forward about 45 degrees. By shifting your center of gravity, you end up working your glutes and the back of your thighs more effectively. Tumminello also mentions that it puts less stress on your knees.

You can move around the world, step back instead of forward, or even do lunges to the side for better results. It’s all about simply mixing it up and giving your body angles and approaches it may not be as used to.

Why Your Ab Workouts Aren’t Working

It seems obvious. If you want a toned tummy, you need to do a ton of sit ups, right? That’s what you see on the late night infomercials with all of the different ab machines and videos. Gym goers seem to be apt to use all sorts of ab machines as well, just adding to the seeming evidence that all those exercises and machines are the way to a flat tummy. But don’t assume so fast.

It’s not necessarily what you think.

Science is not as simple as you may imagine. Unfortunately, as science has shown, you can’t pick and choose your body parts so easily. Targeted fat loss and spot reduction is a myth.

A 2007 study from the University of Connecticut had participants use a single-arm strength training program. They didn’t lose fat from one arm. They lost fat in general. In short, you can work one area, but your body will decide how to lose the fat. Likewise, a study at Los Lagos University in Osorno, Chile found that those who completed single leg exercises reduced fat, but it wasn’t necessarily in that one leg.

As JC Deen, creator of JCD fitness puts it, Yes, exercise can burn fat. Trouble is, the body is not selective about where this fat, or fuel, comes from. The pattern in which fat leave your wondrous bodily temple is all up to Mother Nature. Our genetics are making the actual fat loss decisions for us.

This doesn’t mean that ab exercises are necessarily bad. You will be working that muscle. However, if you put your focus on full body exercises that also work your core, you are more likely to exert more energy to burn more calories, and therefore you get greater results than you would with a few crunches.

Workout Supplements That Actually Work

Walk around a health food store, and you will see a plethora of workout supplements that claim to do the impossible, or at least to help you to up your workout results. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of hot air being blown around, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is. But your gym and health food store make millions off your beliefs if you believe a product works.

Now tame your expectations. There is no miracle supplement, but the good news is that there are some that do promote results. There are some that can help you to build more muscle and work out more effectively or be less sore after workouts. It’s the small stuff that counts.

  1. Creatine Monohydrate

    Bodybuilders have been taking all sorts of creatine for years. But if you haven’t heard, many have also suffered the creatine bloat. It works with water to protect and enhance your muscles, aiding your recovery, and not just for serious bodybuilders. For weekend warriors, or according to a recent study, elderly people who want to be in better shape, it could work wonders. An analysis of 10 studies on older adults found that those following a strength training program gained 3 extra pounds of muscle over 3 months when they were using creatine.

    Creatine helps with short bursts of energy, and ultimately, you lift heavier weights, do more reps, and therefore get better results. It won’t do everything for you. But it helps you to complete the work that you need to build more muscle.

  2. Betaine

    Betaine is typically found in whole grains and spinach. Men who took this supplement as part of a 6 week program were able to gain more muscle and reduce body fat percentage. The placebo group in a 2013 study didn’t see any differences. Betaine increases protein synthesis, and this builds muscle after difficult workouts. As you can see here, exercise is still required.

  3. Fish Oil

    Fish oil has been touted for its heart health and cholesterol balancing benefits, and it may also have some real muscle and fitness building benefits to boot. A study in the American Journal Clinical of Nutrition found that overweight subjects taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement lost more than the placebo group. As Roussell describes it, When that research first came out, people talked a lot about fish oil being a weight loss supplement, but that’s not quite what’s going on. The exercise regimens in the study were heart-rate based, so the subjects had to hit certain heart rate targets during their sessions. The fish oil artificially lowered their heart rate, so they needed to work harder to hit their targets – and thus burned more calories and lost more weight.

    Definitely not the fitness supplement or weight loss supplement most think of. However, if you think about it, anything that inspires you to work harder is going to inspire you to burn more calories. The heart health benefits are just icing on the cake when you think about it that way.

  4. Quercetin

    Quercetin comes with incredibly powerful antioxidant benefits, fighting inflammation and harmful free radicals. It can also aid in healthy oxygen delivery to your muscles, which could lengthen your workouts. This means more calorie burning and better results. An analysis of 11 studies in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that it had a small, but measurable impact on exercise performance.

  5. Whey Protein

    Of course, there are other protein supplements, and I don’t discourage plant based supplements for protein. However, the large majority of the research has focused on whey protein. A lot of this could be applied to protein supplements with the right amounts of protein in general. This said, protein feeds the muscles and reduces soreness while also rebuilding muscle. Not bad, and yes, protein is an essential nutrient your body needs.

    When it comes to the comparison though, some researchers do believe that whey protein is superior. Seltzer explains, Whey protein is more rapidly absorbed by the body compared to other forms of protein, and it creates more of an insulin response. Insulin is an anabolic (muscle building) hormone. Exercise inherently breaks muscle down. But whey protein will help reverse that and allow for faster recovery. Regardless of what kind of protein you choose, make sure it has higher amounts of protein, and be careful of those that have high doses of carbs.

  6. Caffeine

    It seems like the thing that gets you up and going in the morning, and especially if you’re running a morning workout, guess what’s a great motivator. That said, it’s not just for those of us who are not morning people. Seltzer says, When taken before exercise, we know that caffeine helps improve performance and power output, decreases symptoms of fatigue, helps you work longer and stronger, and acts as a mental focusing agent.

    The difference between getting up and going for your workout at any time of day and not going is huge. However, at any time, if you need that extra boost, caffeine can get you moving. This of course assumes that you don’t have heart problems or other medical issues that would cause more problems for you when taking caffeine.

Do You Need A Sports Bra For Exercise?

You spend extra money just to buy an extra sports bra that is specially made to help you exercise. In one of his videos, Shaun T talks about one participant never wearing a sports bra before, and granted, they are made of material that matches your sports wear. They don’t often have the underwire that your regular bra does, and they definitely keep the girls under control. But do you really need a sports bra? It’s still extra money, why can’t you just exercise sans bra?

Not wearing a sports bra is actually relatively common, especially for women who have smaller breasts. Some believe that a simple built in shelf bra is more than enough, and I will say that in some cases, no bra would be more comfortable. But obviously, we continue, and according to some research, that may actually be healthier.

Susan Nethero, founder of the bra emporium Intimacy says, A huge number of women are experiencing some breast injury from tissue moving up and down or in and out during exercise.

Unfortunately, a lack of the proper breast support, even for smaller chested women, can lead to back pain, tissue damage, stretch marks and sagging, and permanent damage to the connective tissue over time. All of this sounds pretty serious.

To avoid this kind of exercise related injury in women, one of the best things to do is to wear a sports bra. Yes, they can be extremely constrictive, but they hold things together, especially during high intensity workouts. The right support is essential. If you want, you can look for a bra with separate cups and a certain size (say 36B) as opposed to the one boob approach.

You don’t realize the kind of impact a sports bra can have until it may be too late and the damage would already be done.

Is Vegetarianism Really The More Compassionate Way?

Thanks science, for confirming that plants have feelings too. Okay, maybe not feelings so much, but according to the University of Missouri researchers Heidi Apel and Rex Cocroft, plants can sense themselves being eaten. Some may even try to defend themselves.

Of course, it’s hard to say whether or not this is like the dread an animal might experience when it is caught and/or dying. But the researchers did take the time to test this out, placing caterpillars on thale cress. This is a plant that is similar to mustard, cabbage, and kale. They then used lasers and a small mirror to mimic the type of vibrations a plant might feel when caterpillars are eating. They then put real caterpillars on, and they measured increased levels of mustard oils. Mustard oils have been used by a number of different species of herbivorous insects. This was increased compared to non-lasered plants.

Scientists saw this as the plant reacting to a threat and acting to protect itself. Granted, a plant is never going to be kicking and screaming, but in a way, I find this to be a little bit questionable, and the health benefits of more fruits and vegetables remain unchallenged.

Even with this research though, the researchers know that this doesn’t mean that the plant in your window feels the same way your dog or cat does when hurt. Plants lack a central nervous system, but they do believe that there is more self awareness among plants than previously thought.