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World’s Best Diet Part 9–Fasting

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Fasting

Claims: There are a ton of different approaches to fasting.  The most common are ADF (alternate day fasting) and IF (intermittent fasting).  ADF simply means that one day you eat nothing, followed by a day of standard eating.  IF is a restricted eating format where you don’t eat for a given period of time (16 hours being the most popular) followed by a feeding window where you eat regularly (8 hours in the 16 hour example above).  Every person fasts when they sleep by default, the various fasting protocols simply extend this fast one way or the other.  Purported benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, improved heart health, weight loss, better brain function, and some eve claim better performance.

Reality:  There is nothing magical about fasting.  When calories are controlled for fasting protocols seem to offer many of the health benefits that other diets show (improved heart health, improved insulin sensitivity, weight loss, etc.).  One unique potential benefit is that of life extension.  Several animal studies have shown this to be the case, but more research is needed.

Pros:No off limit foods.  Even without tracking food directly many people will eat less food by reducing the window of time in which they eat food.  This is probably one of the simplest plans to follow in concept.  If you can tell the time you can follow this plan.

Cons: No emphasis on food quality, or protein intake.  May not get enough vitamins and minerals in if you aren’t sure to emphasize getting a large amount of whole and unprocessed foods since you aren’t eating on a daily basis.  May be harder to maintain muscle mass (though research hasn’t shown this yet).  Could lead to binge eating behaviors during the feeding window in some individuals.  If this is you, this plan is not right for you.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 8–The Mediterranean Diet

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Mediterranean

 

Claims: This diet emphasizes plant based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.  You are encouraged to use oils instead of butter, spices/herbs instead of salt, limiting red meat to 2x/month, and moderate to low red wine consumption.  The claims are that you will see reduced mortality rates, lower many cancer risks, and improved heart health.

Reality: This is another sensible eating plan that has been around for a long time.  Emphasizing whole foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts,  and beans should be a no brainer.  There is a body of literature (albeit correlative in nature) that shows majority of health markers improve on this style of eating plan.

Pros: Fiber rich diet focusing on veggies, fruits, grains, olive oil, nuts/seeds, and legumes.  Encourages the social aspect of eating, and doesn’t directly forbid any food.

Cons: de-emphasizes lean protein consumption  by recommending fish/poultry only be eaten 2x/week, and read meat less than 2x/month.  Following this approach could lead to inadequate protein intakes.  No emphasis on food quantities, which may lead to some people over eating these “healthy” foods.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 7–Paleo

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Paleo

Claims: This approach purports to mimic the way of eating during the paleolithic era.  Also known as the caveman diet, the claim is that with the agricultural revolution over the last 2000 years, our diets have outpaced our evolution.  Proponents claim that that many of our health ills today are due to the fact that we have rapidly introduced too many new foods to the homosapien diet such as grains.  The benefits claimed range from reduced disease, weight loss, more/better muscle, improved performance, no need to track intake, and pretty much everything else under the sun.

Reality: Like everything else that over promises, this meal plan falls short.  Though there is nothing inherently bad or wrong with this diet plan, there is also nothing magical.  The whole premise of the meal plan according to Christina Warinner, who is an expert on ancient diets, is false as seen in this Ted Talk.

Pros: Increases protein intake in many individuals, encourages fruit and vegetable intake.  Often time leads to weight loss due to the fact that it eliminates many foods and thus calories from the diet.

 Cons: Needlessly eliminates grains, dairy, and many starches from one’s diet. This can lead to compliance issues long term and may lead to some nutrient deficiencies.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 6–Vegetarian/Vegan

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Vegetarian/Vegan

Claims: These diets claim to be healthier because they eliminate animal products as a food source.  Claims are vast and include: reducing cancer risk, improved bone health, lower mortality rates, protecting against chronic disease, etc.  Vegetarian diets are those which do not include flesh/meat of animals (though some do include fish) but will typically do include dairy and eggs.  Vegans on the other hand do not consume any products that come from animals (in some cases even excluding honey).

Reality: All of the claims from Vegans and Vegetarians on superiority for health come from correlative studies which do not control for confounding variables.  They simply take a survey and use correlations to draw conclusions.  Correlative research cannot draw conclusions, it can only direct us toward areas that need further study.  Of the 6 studies to ever look at health outcomes among vegetarians and vegans, 3 showed reduced mortality for meat eaters, while 3 showed reduced mortality for non-meat eaters.  The 3 studies that showed advantage to vegetarians all compared religiously motivated groups to general population (who tend not to be overly concerned about their health).

Pros: Tends to encourage the consumption of more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Cons: Often leads to inadequate amounts of protein being consumed.  Anytime entire food groups are removed, there is an increased risk of deficiencies.  In this case, the following nutrients may be compromised: B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Iodine.  Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it tends to fill you up more than fats or carbohydrates.  If protein levels drop, as is often the case in these diets, the chances of over consuming calories rises.  Low muscle mass levels are a risk due to inadequate protein intake.  In my experience, I have only met 2 (out of around 30) vegetarians over the last 20 years who were not either overweight and/or under muscled.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 5–The South Beach Diet

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

The South Beach Diet

Claims: The South Beach Diet says that its balance of good carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats makes it a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich diet that you can follow for a lifetime of healthy eating.  It focuses on eliminating “bad” carbs that are high on the glycemic index scale (meaning these foods increase blood sugar quickly when eaten in isolation).  The diet also encourages the consumption of monounsaturated fats, limiting “unhealthy” fats, and consuming whole grains and other fiber rich foods.  The diet is set up in 3 phases.  Phase 1 eliminates virtually all carbohydrates and is claimed to help eliminate cravings. Phase 2 re-introduces “healthy” carbs and is the weight loss phase.  Phase 3 is the maintenance phase where you continue to use what you learned to do in the first two phases, but other foods can also be eaten in moderation.

Reality: This is another sensible meal plan which allows for eating a balance of lean protein, whole grains, and variety of fat sources.  The only fault with this program is the emphasis on low glycemic carbohydrates.  The Glycemic Index is based on what foods do in isolation.  If other foods are eaten in conjunction with these items, the blood sugar response can be greatly altered.  On top of that, even if a food does rapidly increase blood sugar, it doesn’t inherently make it a poor food choice, and weight loss can still be achieved with these foods assuming portions are monitored.

Pros: Encourages lean protein consumption, fiber rich foods, whole grains, and variety of fat sources.

Cons: Creates an undue fear of certain types of carbohydrates and doesn’t directly advise on portion sizes.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

In the April 2018 issue, Mike O’Hara discusses the benefits of the farmer’s walk exercise. Jeff Tirrell tells you how to reduce injury to your ligaments and tendons, and tips are given for getting back out into the garden.

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World’s Best Diet Part 4–IIFYM

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

 

Claims: The IIFYM diet approach shares many characteristics with Zone and Weight Watchers.  It has its roots from the bodbuilding.com forums back in the 2004-2008 time.  At this time, many forum posters would routinely ask if it was ok to eat a given food while dieting and trying to decrease body fat.  There was a notion (and still is) that certain foods are totally off limits and ignorance of the role of energy balance and protein intake on success.  IIFYM can be different for everyone, but the basic premise is the same.  You have a certain target for total calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat that you need to hit to be successful with your weight loss goals.  As long as those numbers are hit, then the food quality and micronutrients don’t matter.

Reality: If you hit a given caloric intake target below your maintenance intake needs for long enough, you will absolutely lose weight, regardless of food quality.  If you  hit a certain protein intake this will ensure that you are less likely to lose muscle mass in the process.  Carbohydrate and fat intakes will be dictated by food preference and performance goals.  There have been countless case studies proving that calorie intake is king ( Twinkie Diet , McDonald’s Diet , 100 Day Ice cream Diet ).

Pros: Allows lots of dietary flexibility.  Gives protein minimums.  Encourages accurate tracking of foods and quantity.

Cons: Potentially ignores food quality and micronutrient intake.  Many people have taken this approach as a pass to eat low nutrient foods as long as they are hitting their targets.  Can leave people feeling trapped if they can’t accurately measure or track a food at a social event or restaurant.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 3–Weight Watchers

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

Weight Watchers

Claims: Weight Watchers markets itself as being flexible and livable.  They assign food points based on their “Smart Points System”.  They encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and discourage the consumption of sugar and unhealthy fats with this points system.  They even list 200 different foods as being “zero points foods”.  They encourage tracking of food and claim to be successful at helping people achieve long term sustainable weight loss.

Reality: Tracking your food intake in any way is usually helpful when it comes to weight loss–if done accurately.   The points system is really just a complicated marketing scheme similar to simply tracking calories, which anyone can do on their own for free.  There are no zero foods in existence that have no caloric impact, so the notion of “zero points” foods is ludicrous.  Any food eaten in excess can and will slow weight loss and/or lead to weight gain.  Every person I’ve ever met who was a lifelong Weight Watchers client had success with the program, but was 40+ pounds overweight..

Pros: Allows for dietary flexibility which should improve long term adherence.  Requires tracking of food and portion sizes.  If you opt into monthly meetings, there is an accountability factor built into it.

Cons: No minimum requirement given for protein intake.  Allows certain foods to be eaten with no limit.  Not a good long term success rate (think Oprah’s weight swings).

 

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

World’s Best Diet Part 2–The Zone Diet

If you google the word diet, you will come up with over 200,000 results.  Every week, month, year, and decade a new study or article comes out claiming certain foods are killing us, or that some other food or nutritional approach will lead us to the promised land.  Unfortunately, articles are written to create traffic, so scientific research is often misreported or spun to sell magazines or generate website traffic.  The truth is, there are many ways to skin a cat.  All of the evidence on nutrition (in regards to weight loss) points to two undeniable truths.  First, that dietary adherence is king.  It doesn’t matter how perfect or evidence based a nutrition plan is, if you can’t follow it, it doesn’t matter.  Before starting any eating plan, you must ask yourself how easy it will be to maintain long term.  Second, you must achieve an energy deficit to lose weight (eat less energy than you expend each day).  Though “calories in, calories out” may be slightly over simplified, it is still the underlying rule to any weight loss success.   For any weight loss plan to work, you must consistently follow the pla, and you must be in a caloric deficit.  This series will highlight the nine most popular current nutrition approaches, and the pros and cons of each.

The Zone Diet

Claims: The Zone diet was built around the idea of keeping your macronutrients in a specific ratio.  The prescription is 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein.  There aren’t as many robust claims with the zone diet that you find with many other trendy diets out there.

Reality: The Zone diet is a sensible diet approach.  Most Americans tend to overeat carbohydrates, and sometimes fat, and under eat protein.  This approach increases protein intake and typically reduces carbohydrate and overall calorie intake.  If calories are reduced, then this diet will work.  The simple act of giving people macronutrients  forces them to track their food intake, which in and of itself often reduces intake.  We typically recommend carbohydrate intakes of 35-60%, fat intake of 15-30%, and protein intake of 20-35%.  As you can see the Zone approach fits this nicely.

Pros: Doesn’t take any food off the table entirely.  Allows flexibility with food choices.  Tends to increase protein intake in most people.  Creates awareness of food intake and requires monitoring intake.

Cons: Doesn’t directly require attention to overall caloric intake.  Ignores micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals) and food quality isn’t necessarily monitored.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

Training For Less Fat, More Muscle

How To Induce A Growth Hormone Response

Human growth hormone (hGH) has been a newsmaker because of athletes’ illicit use of synthetic versions of this hormone to help them perform better on the baseball diamond, football field, or bicycle race.  Bodybuilders inject synthetic hGH to help sink bodyfat levels to single digits, all the while maintaining optimal muscle mass. The last ten years of exercise science has shown what type of fitness activities induce the greatest natural growth hormone response.  Specific exercise and recovery activities have a positive effect on our body’s daily hGH production.

Human growth hormone (hGH) is secreted in a pulsatile fashion throughout the day.  A number of physiological stimuli can initiate hGH release, the most powerful of which are sleep and exercise.  Human growth hormone has many varied roles throughout your life.  For adult athletes and fitness clients, hGH helps increase fat metabolism–you get leaner, enhance muscle recovery from challenging exercise or injury, you stay stronger, and produce a healthier body composition as you age.

Resistance Training

Resistance training produces a significant exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) that can last for 24 to 36 hours.  The response is greatest with full body training sessions that involve multi joint lifts and carries.  EIGR is not limited to traditional barbell or dumbbell training, but is also produced with the performance of bodyweight resistance training.  The post training hGH response gets better as the trainees became more proficient (gets stronger) with strength training.

Anaerobic Exercise

The exact mechanism that causes EIGR with anaerobic exercise is not known, but it appears to be related to higher lactic acid levels in the blood.  The activities that produce the greatest EIGR are high intensity exercise intervals lasting at least 30 seconds.  The researchers’ current recommendations for optimal EIGR are six to eight 30 second intervals of high intensity activity.  Bicycle sprints have been the most commonly used exercise modality in research studies, but other activities can be used as long as your joints and muscles can tolerate the stress.  Treadmill, stairclimber, rower, as well as track sprints and hill runs are good interval training choices.

Sleep

Human growth hormone is released in response to our natural circadian rhythms.  If your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, the cyclical release of hGH is blunted.  Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important for optimal hGH production.  Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before retiring to sleep.   Falling asleep and waking at consistent times creates more consistent hGH blood levels.  Just a few nights of interrupted or decreased sleep duration have been shown to reduce fat metabolism, slow muscle recovery, reduce insulin sensitivity, and decrease hGH levels.

Natural HGH Production Activity

Inducing optimal human growth hormone production is easy:  Get adequate and consistent sleep.  Every week, perform two or three high intensity interval style training sessions for six to eight sets of 30 seconds duration.  Two or three times a week perform a full body strength training program made up of full body multi joint exercises.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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