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Sunday
Mar282010

How do I get lean? Part 2 - Zero Carb Diet

From the Atkins craze, to the Ketogenic craze, lots of people have found immediate success with "zero carb" diets.  Now in reality, it's close to impossible to consume ZERO carbs since many foods have trace carbs in them, but for the sake of this post I'll speak in real generalities.

It is definitely possible to get leaner and lose body fat with a Zero Carb diet.  The problem is that this sort of eating approach is only meant for the short-term (ie - prepping for a photo shoot or bodybuilding/figure competition, last-minute beach vacation prep, etc).  This sort of eating approach is not meant for long-term success without VERY close monitoring and periodic-to-frequent refeeding of surplus carbs and calories.

 

Now that I've gotten the disclaimer out of the way, back to the original task.  A zero carb diet is fairly easy to implement (the challenge is sticking to it).  You basically center your meals around protein (think anywhere from 1.5-2x body weight per day) and green vegetables.  That's basically it (besides your standard multi-vitamin and probably some fish oil caps during the day).

I've both studied and tested this philosophy myself several times and actually noticed it during a recent UFC Primetime episode to hype the St. Pierre-Hardy fight.  The week before the fight, cameras followed Georges St. Pierre into a Montreal restaurant where his nutritionist was preparing one of his meals.

 His chef, Jennifer Nickel explains: "I do this for Georges Monday through Friday, three meals a day.  We've done two fights so far with him, and we will cook for his weight cut in exactly this style - absolutely no carbs, or sugar, or dairy so...it gets a lot more strict.  The only fat in this meal is the olive oil."

St. Pierre sat down to a pretty good looking meal of grilled tuna, sauteed asparagus, and mixed diced vegetables with what looked like citrus flavoring.  Clearly the zero carb plan is working for GSP, both aesthetically and athletically, since he went on to beat Dan Hardy by unanimous decision on Saturday night. 

Everybody doesn't have a professional chef to make their zero carb meals (I know I sure don't), but compliance is still possible.  Fitness model Jamin Thompson recently underwent a zero carb phase for about 3-4 days to prep for a photo shoot.  He kept those of us interested in such things updated on Twitter:

@jaminthompson: Day 2 of "no carb"...not bad so far, just had ground turkey, steamed cabbage, green beans, & flax...now off 2 train legs. LETS GO!

 You can see how well the results worked out for him here.

There are plenty of resources available online about temporary zero carb diets.  Lyle McDonald is another well-studied resource, having written a book on to topic.  I actually tried his "Rapid Fat Loss" diet which is also termed a "Protein Sparing Modified Fast".  I made a few mistakes with this diet, not realizing two key points:

1 - It is very easy to over-train.

I didn't realize that recovery can be slowed by zero carb dieting, so it's important to reduce cardio and/or allow for rest days from resistance training.  MMA Nutritionist PR Cole made a great point on Twitter:

@FueltheFighter metabolic rate is slower if there is a cal deficit-that can mean suboptimal recovery rate/potential for compromised immune fxn

2 - It is important to "re-feed" within 4-5 days, if not sooner

At some point, the body will need carbs again, at least in my experience.  That doesn't necessarily mean a gorge-fest on pancakes and bagels, the refeed can still be clean complex carbs like oatmeal, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.  The amount of carbs and length of the refeed can be complex, and there are numerous sources and strategies available with a Google search.  But in general terms, refeeding with a substantial amount of carbs (preferably stretched over a day's worth of meals) is important after such a severe restriction.

I'll be traveling to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four this week, so my hope is to stick to a zero carb diet while I am there.  There will be lots of hotel, restaurant, and hospitality party food available, so my goal is to take down as much chicken, steak, shrimp, and vegetables as are available.  I can't guarantee I won't slip up "accidentally", but at least there's a goal and plan in-mind.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday
Mar132010

Staying Fit While You Travel

Rare is the occupation that doesn't take you on the road at least once in a while.  I actually don't travel very often (three times per year or less) however one multiple day road trip can seriously derail your training and your diet if you aren't pro-active. 

For example last year while in Detroit at the NCAA Final Four, I didn't break a sweat the entire five days.  I also became very familiar with the Wendy's a block from our hotel, along with the hospitality food available at the various cocktail functions.  Needless to say, this was NOT the way to handle a road trip.

I was out of town for work last weekend and tried to be much more pro-active with regards to my meals.  I brought several cans of tuna (along with my can opener), a few protein shakes, a jar of natural peanut butter, and a box of multi-grain cereal from Kashi.  Great nutritional meals are focused around a lean protein (the tuna), and some combination of a complex carb (Kashi cereal), and a healthy fat source (peanut butter).  I've also become so starchy carb-sensitive that even one peice of white bread will basically knock me out for an hour.  When I had access to hospitality suite food, I had two hamburger patties, both with a slice of cheese and ditched the bun.  Maybe not the ideal meal, but when you're on the go and eating time is at a premium, sometimes it's all about minimizing the damage (ie - starchy carbs, breads, potatoes, and sugars).

We all have to do the best we can with foods we like when traveling, and obviously luggage space and travel method play a big role.  Here's a blog post by figure competitor Barbara Mencer about her efforts to bring foods on a travel trip to avoid completely wrecking her nutrition while away from home.

I also learned from a few Twitter friends who were traveling to Columbus, OH for the Arnold Sports Festival about freezing chicken breasts and veggies to bring along to the hotel.  Like Barbara Mencer, I learned first hand how expensive it can be relying on a hotel for too many of your meals. 

I did not get to work out last weekend, mostly due to the strenuous schedule that was kept during the actual work portions of the weekend.  Off-time was precious and had to be spent recouperating for the next day.  Most hotels will have a fitness room of SOME kind, obviously some hotels will feature better equipment than others.  I've reviewed body weight workouts previously, which can be done anywhere (even out in the parking lot if you can find a solitary space). 

I had no idea about using the actual hotel room as a make-shift workout facility.  Greg Plitt (basically one of the top 3 or 4 fitness models in the business) has a great video on his members website about using your hotel room as a gym when on the road.  Here's a preview:

As I have hopefully outlined above, there is no legitimate reason to make the same lazy mistakes I made a year ago in Detroit.  With a little preparation and creativity, there is no reason to let a brief road trip derail your fitness goals.

Saturday
Mar132010

Fitness Spotlight: Jamin Thompson

Jamin Thompson wears many titles.  Fitness model, fat loss expert and consultant, and motivational speaker are just a few.  He was a ATP world-ranked tennis player growning up and played collegiately at both Miami (Hurricanes) and Clemson, and now resides in Malibu.  His website is a gateway into a few of his fat loss courses and various peices of literature, but there's also an informative blog and e-newsletter with tips and key learnings on nutrition and training as well.  His e-book "The 6-Pack Secret" is a best-seller online. 

I've actually learned quite a bit from his e-newsletters and have passed information onto a few friends who are badly in-search of such things.  He's pretty active on Twitter also - which is where he advised me to combine salmon and eggs at breakfast some time (he was right, they go well together).

Those who know me are aware how much I stress the importance of diet, not only for fat loss and the pursuit of the elusive "six-pack", but for overall health.  I was impressed to see that Jamin Thompson stresses many of the same points of emphasis as well.  In-fact he rarely does any pure "cardio", which will shock some, but it further emphasizes the point that your nutrition makes up far more ground in body composition than hours spent on the treadmill.

His diet is very similar to mine (though his abs are obviously much better...) and is made up of lots of lean proteins (chicken, tilapia, tuna, salmon), vegetables, and strictly complex carbs like brown rice. 

I'm always big on learning from people whose bodies and fitness are worth emulating.  Jamin Thompson is one of those people, and I think his e-newsletters and resources will be helpful to most out there trying to win the fat loss battle. 

 

Sunday
Jan242010

Nike vs Under Armour

After group fitness class one day, someone asked me if I had a contract with Under Armour.  Much of my workout gear is from Under Armour, so I assume this is what sparked the question.  My answer was "No, unfortunately" since I am no where close to a fitness model or famous enough to get paid for wearing a specific brand of athletic apparel.  The question sparked a longer conversation between us that eventually landed on the debate of "are you a Nike person or an Under Armour person?"  I thought I would follow up that debate with some informal analysis here.

 

 

 As most know, Nike became famous for being a basketball brand thanks in large part to Air Jordan, and continued today thanks to LeBron and Kobe.  Not many are aware though that Nike originated as a running shoe brand, which is part of the reason they are still prevalent in the track & field market.

  Under Armour basically originated the "dry fit"-style football undershirt, but has clearly branched out into so much more these days thanks to the launch of their running shoe line, and continued branch out into nearly all forms of athletic apparel.

Nike holds a solid presence in football, featured by their Pro Combat line.  I was actually a Nike-guy my entire football life, I never wore anything other than Nike cleats, and that is despite playing for a school with a two-year contract with Reebok until I was a junior.

Under Armour has not yet penetrated the football cleat market as deeply as Nike, but their apparel is closing fast.  They have also been smart to go after the youth/high-school market with their name-sponsored high school football All-American game being one example.  Nike has attempted to counter this with their SPARQ training brand.  

Moving strictly to observations (and admittedly this sample size is limited to what I see at my gym each day or runners I notice while driving down the street) it seems as though Nike is somewhat more popular in the female demographic as it relates to runners.  I've been told their running/fitness apparel is "cute" by lots of women, whereas the options are somewhat more limited for men.  Both genders have great shoe options, however as it relates to apparel, Nike seems to put more of its efforts behind the basketball market (another comparison would be how Adidas directs most of its apparel towards the soccer market).

 While I played football (and high school basketball) in nothing but Nikes, I'm strictly an Under Armour shoe person for running and workouts.  Saucony is an outlier since I do have a couple pairs of their running shoes, but I don't want to stray from the main two focuses of this debate.  When Under Armour launched their running shoe line in January of 2009, I picked up a pair and was blown away with how good they were.  It seems as though the general public consensus is that they are solid shoes, which goes to show that as important as fashion may be, quality always wins when it comes to athletic footwear.

I should also say that I had the chance to meet and workout with Team USA Women's Soccer Olympian (and Under Armour endorser) Heather Mitts recently, who told me Under Armour running shoes were "by far" the best shoe she has ever worn for serious runners and athletes.  I was already wearing UA shoes at the time, so I don't think she was trying to "sell" me. 

I'm not sure what degree of market-share UA may have claimed from Nike since they dove into the footwear and overall athletic apparel battle.  You'd probably have to check with people like CNBC's Darren Rovell (Twitter: @darrenrovell1) or Brian Gainor of www.PartnershipActivation.com (Twitter: @briangainor). 

My .02 cents: Nike is still the king of sports apparel and footwear since Under Armour truly only goes head-to-head in football, lacrosse, softball, and a few other olympic sports contested on the high school level.  Nike largely runs unopposed in basketball, golf, track & field, and a few others.

With that said, it is a testament to Under Armour's tremendous products, sharp marketing, and well-thought-out business plan that they have been able to make up so much ground in a relatively small amount of time.

*Hopefully this is the first installment of these, I welcome comments and feedback on your own Nike/UA product experiences.

Thursday
Jan142010

Fitness Spotlight: Rachel Elizabeth Murray

Rachel Elizabeth Murray is a certified personal trainer who has also been featured in numerous modeling projects as well. 

There are numerous ways to follow her fitness projects currently.

www.ifitpersonaltraining.com is her personal training site.

 

You can get fitness tips from Rachel herself here.

She is also currently training clients out in the Seattle area who are blogging their weight loss progress online, frequent updates are posted on Twitter.

I see so many women every morning slaving away on the treadmills and ellipticals, thinking they are inching towards the body and fitness they've always hoped for.  Examples like Rachel Elizabeth Murray show that overall fitness (which includes resistance training AND a clean diet) is the only true way to get the results you are after.

Here's a sample video of her iFit Tips, and you won't see her barely moving on some elliptical while reading a magazine, but getting after it with serious exercises like ring pullups and even hitting the heavy bag.  Her first words?

"Ladies, do not be afraid to lift heavy weights..."

 

 

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