Saturday, November 28, 2009

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Secret Training Tip #879 - The BEST Way I've Found To Do Incline Barbell Bench Press
By Nick Nilsson

The upper chest is a MUST to work if you want complete chest development... and the incline barbell press is a key exercise. I'll show you my favorite technique for getting maximum results from this exercise!

Male or female, training the upper chest is extremely important for overall balance in the upper body. Critical, in fact! And the Incline Barbell Bench is one of the primary exercises for working the upper chest.

But if you're like me, you may have a hard time getting results from this exercise...maybe all you get are tired triceps and sore shoulders, in fact!

If so, I've got the solution for you. It's a very simple adjustment to the setup that you use for the incline barbell press and a simple adjustment in how you perform the exercise.

One of the biggest problems I've encountered with this exercise, in myself at least, is the tendency for the chest and rib cage to flatten out during the exercise, which takes the tension off the pecs and puts it on the shoulders and triceps instead.

In order for the pecs to get a good contraction, the shoulder blades need to be tight in together behind your back with the shoulders back and chest/rib cage expanded.

With each rep of the "normal" incline barbell bench press, when you're at the top of the movement (especially when you unrack the bar), the full extension of your arms very quickly causes your shoulder blades to come forward and your rib cage to flatten out, taking the emphasis off the pecs and putting it on the shoulders (at the bottom) and triceps (at the top).

So basically, just by unracking the bar, you're immediately putting your body in a poor biomechanical position to perform the exercise with emphasis on the upper chest.

Granted, in a lot of people, they will still get a decent amount of stimulation on the upper pecs, even in this situation...these are the people with more favorable anatomical levers, i.e. they'll feel it in the chest no matter how they're arms and shoulder blades line up.

But for many (me included), performing the incline barbell press in this position simply doesn't work.

So how do you fix it?

It's not hard to do! Instead of performing the incline barbell press in the bench designed for it, we'll set up in the power rack using an adjustable incline bench.

Set the bench to about 30 to 45 degrees - you can experiment with what incline feels best to you - and set it inside the rack. Now here's the part that's going to take some trial and error...set the side safety rails of the rack to where you think the BOTTOM position of the incline press will be on you.

The first time you do the exercise, set the empty bar on the rack, just over top of the bench face then slide yourself underneath the bar to gauge the position.

Because the REAL key with this exercise (for those of us with unfavorable biomechanics) is to start from the BOTTOM and do SINGLE reps, resetting your body position each and every time you are about to press the bar up.

When I started doing incline presses with this technique, I was VERY surprised at how much better it felt and how it actually WORKED the upper chest. I had pretty much given up on the exercise as completely useless for me for quite a few years!

So back to our setup...with just the empty bar on the rails (and it should be a bit forward of where you're laying on the bench...you can roll it back into position), grip the bar with a slightly narrower grip than you'd use for flat barbell bench.

The bar should be just slightly above your chest while resting on the rails at this point. We want a good range of motion but we also are going to be setting the bar down on the rails after each rep in order to reset the shoulder blades and rib cage, so we still want the bar to finish ABOVE the chest.

If the rail height isn't quite right, adjust as needed then check again with just the bar. Once you've got the height right, load up the bar with a moderate weight...something you know you can do...then get back under the bar again. The bar should be a bit forward again when you lay on the bench...roll it back into position just over your upper chest.

Now here's the next trick...grip the bar and pull your torso just slightly UP off the bench like you're doing a pull-up row. When your torso is up off the bench, pinch your shoulder blades together behind your back (just like with a row!), puff and expand your rib cage up to meet the bar, then set your torso back down on the bench.

Notice how your shoulders are back, and your chest feels thicker? THIS is the correct position to perform the incline bench press...it's also the position that you LOSE almost as soon as you pass the halfway point of the incline press!

Now, with a powerful movement (and striving to keep your shoulders down and back), press the bar off the rails and all the way up in a straight vertical line - there is no backwards arc in the incline bench like there is in the flat bench. It should be straight up and down.

Press it all the way up. You'll notice how as you come to the top, you've probably lost that shoulder position and expanded rib cage. No worries! Lower the bar slowly back down and set it on the safety rails.

Now, RESET your torso, doing exactly what you did on the first rep! Pull your torso up off the bench, get your shoulder blades back, expand your rib cage then set yourself back down on the bench. Do your second rep the same as you did your first...power it up off the rails straight up then lower under control back down to the safety rails.

As for rep range, I find this technique lends itself better to lower reps...5 to 7 reps per set...because of the time it takes to reset yourself between each rep.

At the end of the set, when the bar is back down on the rails, just roll it forward on the rails so you have enough room to slide yourself out from under the bar.

CONCLUSION:

This technique is a very effective one for ANY trainer, but especially if you're not particularly biomechanically suited to the exercise. In order to really feel it where you're supposed to, you MUST reset yourself into the best position for your body to perform the exercise...the position that is immediately broken with a conventional unracking of the bar at the top.

Here's what this setup and execution will do for you:

1. Set your body into the best biomechanical position to perform the exercise on each and every rep, ensuring you're working the actual target muscles.

2. Gives you short breaks in between each rep, which helps you stay stronger during set, which will allow you to perform more reps with a given weight.

3. Allows you to perform the exercise by yourself, with no spotter, in complete safety.

4. Builds excellent pressing strength out of the bottom because each rep starts from the bottom off a dead stop, with no elastic tension in the muscles.

Give this version a try next time you work chest! You'll notice an immediate difference in strength and tension in the pecs.

For pictures and video of this exercise in action, click the following link:

http://hop.clickbank.net/?soyman/betteru&l=1148

------------------

Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of the online personal training company BetterU, Inc. He has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been inventing new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding eBooks including "Muscle Explosion', "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of" all available at http://fitness-ebooks.rxsportz.com. He can be contacted at betteru@fitstep.com.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Damage Control For Holiday Eating "Accidents" (Part 2)

By Tom Venuto
www.BurnTheFat.com 

It's lunchtime, and you're trying to decide what to make today. Normally, you would have your regular chicken salad with mixed nuts, but today is different. You're going to a party in the evening, and even though you're not quite sure what to expect, you know there will be a ton of food in an atmosphere of very little restraint. You decide that it's probably best to eat a lighter lunch than usual, to prepare for the evening calorie-surge. 

This is commonly known as “banking calories” which is analagous to saving calories like money because you’re going to consume more later.

I usually do not recommend this. Here’s why:

If you skip meals earlier in the day to “prepare” (bank calories) for a big feast at night, you are thinking only in terms of calories, but skipping meals is also depriving yourself of protein (amino acids), carbohydrates, essential fats, vitamins, minerals and other valuable nutrients that come from healthy food, as well as the small frequent meals which help control your appetite, stabilize your blood sugar and provide a steady flow of amino acids to your muscles. Skipping breakfast is especially detrimental.

Not only that, but eating less early in the day in anticipation of overeating later in the day is much more likely to increase your appetite, causing you to binge or eat even MORE than you thought you would at night when the big meal does arrive.

In fact, eating healthy, high fiber and lean protein food, as usual, earlier in the day is likely to make you LESS hungry for the holiday party meal and you’ll be more likey to eat only a harmlessly small amount of “party” foods.

I dont like the concept of “banking calories” if it means skipping meals or if it’s used as justification for binge eating.

Even if it worked the way you wanted it to, the starving and bingeing pattern may cause more damage than an occasional oversize meal, even if only on a psychological level. Some dieticians might even argue that this kind of behavior borders on disordered eating.

A better approach is to stay on your regular menu of healthy foods and small meals through the entire day - business as usual - and then go ahead and enjoy yourself at your party by treating yourself to a SMALL amount of “BAD” food.

This is supported by the 2nd Corollary of the law of calorie balance:

“Small amounts of ANYTHING - even junk food- will probably not be stored as fat as long as you are in a calorie deficit where you are eating fewer calories than you burn.”

It should be a big relief for you to know that when you’re at a party, a banquet, dining out or eating at a relative’s house for a special occasion, you can eat whatever you want with little or no ill effect on body composition, as long as you respect the law of calorie balance ans as long as it is done infrequently.

However, you CANNOT starve and binge and expect not to reap negative consequences.

If you sincerely want to burn fat and be healthy, then you have to have the discipline to stick with your nutrition plan consistently and control your portion sizes.

Train hard and expect success,

Tom Venuto CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Fat Loss Coach
www.BurnTheFat.com 

To learn more about burning fat naturally in a healthy, sensible way, then be sure to take a look at Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models (e-book) which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: www.burnthefat.com

*FREE* download about to expire...

Are you interested in using your FAVORITE foods to LOSE fat over the holidays this year?

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Talk to you soon,

Arthur M.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Damage Control For Holiday Eating "Accidents" (Part 1)

By Tom Venuto
www.BurnTheFat.com

We've all been at the holiday get-togethers, and have quickly devoured something devilishly delicious with little thought. Some feel little shame for eating a cake or drinking half the bowl of punch, but others find themselves feeling guilty afterwards and can't help but think, "oops, I shouldn't have eaten that." I have to admit I do get a little chuckle out of the “accidental” part! Do you ever really “accidentally” eat anything? I think we are all responsible for everything we eat and how much we eat and until you consciously realize and accept this, and take the time to do some proactive meal planning, you will probably continue to have lots of “overeating accidents!”

After you overindulge, I definitely do NOT recommend skipping your next meal or skipping meals the next day to make up for it. I usually don’t even recommend cutting back either, although there may be exceptions where you could manipulate your meal size or macronutrient composition.

I generally recommend returning immediately to your “regularly scheduled meal programming,” because this continues to encourage the maintenance of positive habits such as eating 5-6 small meals every day.

I do suppose whether you cut back could depend on whether you’ve been on low calories a long time, how lean you were already, and on whether you were in a caloric deficit already. If you were in a calorie deficit for the day, then the extra calories might only bring you up to maintenance, not “over” your daily limit, which might not be as damaging as if you were in a calorie surplus.

If you were already very lean or had been dieting strictly for a long time (as in a bodybuilder coming off a competition), a large meal or entire high calorie day might not have any negative effect either. Your metabolism has a way of slowing down if you keep your calories too low 100% of the time.

With occasional (planned) higher calorie days, you’d be using the BURN THE FAT “zig-zag” or “cycling” principle, so eating more in this context can be a positive thing. (Note: You can learn more about this technique in the BURN THE FAT program at www.burnthefat.com). However, there’s a big difference between a planned “cheat meal” or a planned high carb, clean food “re-feed” day and a binge on junk food. Regardless of total 24 hour calorie intake for the day, you could still store body fat after heavy eating if it’s done at certain times and in a certain metabolic state.

Although I do prescribe calorie levels based on daily (24 hr) needs, I believe you should also pay attention to 3 hour “windows” when you’re thinking about adjusting your caloric intake. Calories and macronutrients (protein/aminos, carbs/sugar and fat) are partitioned into glycogen, muscle or fat tissue or burned immediately depending very much on present moment energy and recovery needs and on what’s going to happen over the next 3 hours or so as the food enters your system.

So, if you’re going to be plopping down on the couch to watch football games for the rest of the day and night after that big holiday meal, beware - you might just want to cut back on that next meal a little, especially starches and sugars.

Bottom line: It’s okay to eat small amounts of your favorite junk foods once in a while as planned “free meals,” and it’s a good idea to eat more in general from time to time to keep your metabolism humming along. However, your best bet if you’re really serious about fat loss is to avoid huge meals and avoid bingeing in the first place. ALWAYS practice portion control - even on holidays.

If you ever do slip, don’t beat yourself up, just get right back on the wagon with your next meal and remember, the past is behind you and today is a new day.

Your friend and coach,
Tom Venuto, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
www.BurnTheFat.com

P.S. If you’re interested in burning fat naturally in a healthy, sensible way, then be sure to take a look at Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle - it’s the best place to start your journey: www.BurnTheFat.com

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models (e-book) which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: www.BurnTheFat.com

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cheat Your Way Through the Holidays? (YES!)

Over the past few weeks I’m sure you’ve been hearing a ton about my good friend and diet “guru” Joel Marion’s re-release of the Cheat Your Way Thin program for the holidays, and how you can actually LOSE weight this holiday season by strategically enjoying all your favorite holiday foods.

Well, the wait is over! The CYWT Holiday Edition is now ready to go – on sale TODAY (at less than half price via this exclusive invitation), November 24th, 2009!

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WARNING: The less than half price sale will be live through Thursday, but you’re going to want to make sure you grab your copy *today*, and for two reasons.

For anyone who orders today (Tuesday), and today only, you’re going to get not one, but TWO special bonuses that no one else will get:

1. Bonus #1: A 90-minute Q&A coaching call with Joel AND fat loss expert Vince DelMonte. Vince just used Joel’s exact program to drop down to an all time low 5% body fat for his upcoming photo shoot in the Dominican (while eating WHATEVER he wanted every 5th day), and both he and Joel will be hosting a 90-minute Q&A call exclusive to those who order today, and today ONLY.

2. Bonus #2: A 20-page PDF of a recent (never published) interview that author Tom Venuto conducted with Joel, *grilling* him with his toughest questions, causing Joel to dig deeper into the science behind the Cheat Your Way Thin program than he ever has before, revealing a slew of new, powerful, never-before-seen information. It’s called “The Leptin Chronicles” and if you’re serious about dropping body fat FAST this holiday season, you’re going to want to get access to this interview by acting today.

http://bit.ly/6eGFjm <== Get Both Bonuses (Today ONLY)

Now, in case you’ve missed out on the ridiculous buzz that literally everyone all over the internet has been talking about for the past two weeks, Joel’s program, based on 6 years of his own research, SHOWS you exactly how you can use your favorite foods to “trick” your body into losing fat faster.

And that’s NO joke. Just click on the “research” tab at the site and you’ll see that there’s enough medical research to back up this program 100 times over (actually, it’s 308 studies worth).

==> http://bit.ly/6eGFjm

And if that’s not enough to convince you to act today, he’s also including a KILLER bonus for the holidays (and this is *really* cool):

The Strategic Holiday Cheat Calendar – With this calendar, Joel has mapped out every single day of the next 6 weeks (from Thanksgiving through the first week of January) with each and every holiday reserved as a Cheat Day. And then he shows you exactly how to structure the rest of the program around each holiday cheat to maximize fat loss more than you ever could by "dieting" or depriving yourself.

Essentially, it’s a complete blueprint for you to lose up to 21 lbs of blubber this holiday season (while everyone else GAINS those same pounds) without ever missing out on a single holiday meal, party, or dessert!

Oh, and did I mention that the program starts with your first BIG Cheat Day – Thanksgiving!

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If you’re ready to cheat your way through the holidays this year while being AHEAD of the game (with the easiest, most effective, and fun method possible) come Jan 1st, then you need to get over to the site and reserve your copy of the full Cheat Your Way Thin system (and the holiday bonuses) today.

Remember, both fast action bonuses are for individuals who invest in the system today ONLY.

Don’t miss out (and please, DON’T get stuck paying full price):

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Here’s to easily losing weight this holiday season!

Your friend,

Arthur M.

P.S. Why are you still reading this?! Go now!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

3 Secrets of Your Fat Burning Holiday Plan

If you want to do the impossible and LOSE fat over the holidays, then this is going to be the most important fat burning tips article you ever read.

Losing fat and keeping the weight off over the holidays is easier than you think. And I'm going to show you exactly what you need to do to lose fat while enjoying yourself at big meals and parties over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

There's just 3 simple steps you need to follow.

1) You need to plan out your reward meals in advance. Remember, it is a big psychological boost to your fat loss program if you can still enjoy your favorite foods while transforming your body.

So here's what you need to do. Simply grab a calendar and mark off the days when you have a big meal planned. Don't forget, you get at least one meal per week when you can have whatever you want.

That means you can mark off Thanksgiving Thursday, and then your work holiday party, then your family Christmas dinners, and any other event you have planned. Once per week you get to reward yourself for doing such a great job with your program. So enjoy!

2) The second thing you need to do is plan out your fat burning exercises sessions in advance, so you know exactly what you need to do in order to free up more time for holiday parties, shopping, and merry-making.

Remember, you don't have to do long, slow, boring cardio if you want to lose stomach fat. In fact, you have to do just the opposite. You need to cut your workout time, cut the time you spend at the gym, and just say NO to cardio and crunches. Both are a waste of your time - and that's my Christmas gift to you - never having to do those silly exercises ever again.

Switch to the simple, bodyweight and home fat burning exercises in the Turbulence Training system. You'll love how you can burn fat in the comfort of your own home in just a few short minutes each week.

3) Stay strong with social support. Now more than ever is the time of year when you need to spend time with your social support group. Make sure you are still checking in on the Turbulence Training member's forum to get help and support on sticking to your fat burning plan over the holidays. You'll get help from others all over the world to lose fat while everyone else at work gains weight.

So that's all you have to do...just follow that simple 3-step plan of reward meals, planning, and social support, and you'll lose fat over the holidays.

With today's special offer, you can try out the Turbulence Training Fat Loss System for only $4.95 for the next 21 days.

Click this link to try out Turbulence Training today:

=> http://bit.ly/8ASh80

To your fat burning success over the holidays,

Arthur M.

PS - Don't forget...

The Turbulence Training System has a 60-day guarantee. If you aren't 100% satisfied, just let Craig Ballantyne know and you'll get every penny back.

=> http://bit.ly/8ASh80

20 Vegan Holiday Recipes

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, a lot of vegetarians are getting a little anxious, because they don't know what to eat over these holidays.

Fortunately, I just received an email from vegetarian recipe expert, Kardena Pauza, and here's what she has planned:

"For Thanksgiving, we are going to be at my good friend's house so we will bring some dishes over to contribute to the dinner.

The dishes I am going to make are in the new Vegan holiday recipe book that I just prepared for you.

So on Thursday, I'll be "cooking" up a storm, preparing...

1. Cauliflower mashed potatoes and vegan gravy
2. Healthy Vegan green bean casserole
3. Raw chocolate truffles - my specialty!    
4. Fresh, homemade cranberry sauce

And my vegan friends will surprise me with their awesome holiday dishes. I cant wait to have pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes! Two of my favorites!

If you want to try those out, plus 16 more of the best holiday Vegan recipes to help you eat healthy and veggie over the holidays, then I have great news for you.

You'll even discover a substitute for Thanksgiving Turkey, Beef Wellington, and more yummy chocolate desserts."

And to celebrate Thanks-Veganing (and November's World Vegan Month), Kardena is including her 20 Vegan Holiday Recipes book along with a $30 discount on the Easy Veggie Meal Plans System.

But hurry...the $30 off Easy Veggie Meal Plans celebration discount is only available until American Thanksgiving Thursday, November 26th at 11:59pm. As soon as "Black Friday" morning comes, the bonus is removed and the price goes back up.

Click here for the veggie holiday recipes bonus & $30 off holiday sale:

=> http://bit.ly/8tqp1e

I look forward to hearing about your success with the Easy Veggie Meal Plans program today!

Happy Thanksgiving (and Happy Vegan Month to EVERYONE in the world),

Arthur M.

PS - Be a FAST ACTION taker and start celebrating vegetarian eating and Thanks-Veganing by improving your health, boosting your energy, clearing your complexion, and dramatically transforming your body with these special holiday recipes and the Easy Veggie Meal Plans today!

=> http://bit.ly/8tqp1e

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tom Venuto's Holiday Fitness Challenge to You

By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Every year as Thanksgiving gets closer, you’ve probably seen the depressing reports: “Most people gain between 5 and 10 pounds of body fat in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” I’m not sure if this worries you or not, but a lot of people are terrified about getting fatter in the next two months. They anticipate the workouts falling by the wayside and the holiday food calling out to them irresistibly, defeating even the strongest willpower. There’s good news and bad news about this.

Good news: According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average amount gained is much more modest - just over a pound.

Bad news: A study by the National Institutes of Health found that this seasonal weight gain - even just a pound - is the kind of weight gain that most people don’t lose when the holidays are over; it simply adds to the “weight creep” that “sneaks up” on you as you get older.

People often wonder how it’s possible to wake up one morning at age 40 or 45 and “suddenly” they’re 30 pounds fatter - or more - than they were in college. Mystery solved.

Of course, some people really do pack it on over the holidays, but whether its a pound or ten pounds, did you ever ask yourself why does holiday weight gain happen at all?

In previous years, I’ve asked my readers and here are some common answers I was given:

Holiday Excuse Survey Says…

“I’m too busy over the holidays to work out as often as usual.”

“I’m more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there, so I eat more.”

“I have at least three parties to attend and then there’s Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s impossible to stay on a diet”

“No one can tell me not to enjoy myself over the holidays so I’m just going to eat whatever I want.”

These answers all have a few things in common:

“Either/Or” Thinking and “Reverse Goal Setting” Exposed

First, they assume that you can EITHER get in better shape OR enjoy yourself, but not both. Stated in reverse: You can either deprive yourself of holiday enjoyments or gain weight, but it has to be one or the other. The truth is, “either/or thinking” is neurotic thinking and a great killer of fitness programs.

Second, these are all excuses or rationalizations. “I’m too busy” for example, is always an excuse, because I have never known someone who was too busy to make time for his her highest life priorities. We all have the same amount of time - 24 hours a day – the real problem is, most people don’t make exercise and healthy eating a priority. And remember, words mean little. Actions reveal a person’s true priorities.

Third, none of these are the real reasons most people gain weight over the holidays to begin with. The real reason is because an intention was never set for the opposite: To get in better shape over the holidays.

Most people set a “goal” to get in worse shape over the holidays. It’s not consciously set, of course, as few people would intentionally set out to get fatter. They simply do it by default. In their minds, they accept that it must be just about impossible to stay in shape with everything going on over the holiday season, so why bother?

Rationing Lies For Holiday Failure

Once the decision has been made, then the rationalizing continues:

“Why should I deprive myself?”
“Family is more important”
“Worrying about diet and exercise during the holidays is neurotic”
“I don’t care if I gain a few pounds, I’m going to enjoy myself anyway”
“It’s only these two or three weeks that I let myself go wild”
“I’ll start the first week in January and lose the weight then.”

As a result of this “negative goal-setting,” they expect to work out less, eat more and gain a few pounds, and they don’t seem to even consider alternatives.

But what would happen if you…

SET A GOAL TO GET IN BETTER shape over the holidays?

What would happen if you decided that it was not an all or nothing proposition and that you could enjoy the holidays and all it has to offer and get in better shape at the same time?

And what if you decided that your health and your body were the highest priorities in your life, because you realized that can’t enjoy anything else in life, including family or holidays, if you don’t have your health?

Here’s what would happen: You’d get in better shape!

I’m not all that different from you just because I’m a bodybuilder and fitness professional. I have many of the same problems, concerns and struggles as you do. Although today I always get in better shape between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, that’s a result of a conscious choice, a close examination of my old belief systems and a lot of action. For me, it all started about eight years ago.

For most of my adult life, I wasn’t much of a traveler and I didn’t enjoy flying or staying in hotels. For one thing, I had so many business commitments in the East Coast health club business, that I seldom left town for long, as I had to “tend to the stores.” But I also had a belief that if I traveled, my workouts and nutrition would suffer. After all, “it would be hard to stick with my usual bodybuilding diet, and I wouldn’t have access to my usual gyms”, I told myself. For these reasons, I never did much travel..

Then I was forced to take some trips for business reasons. Predictably enough, my nutrition and workouts suffered while I was spending time in airplanes and in hotels. With my experience having confirmed my beliefs, I re-affirmed to myself, “See, travelling is nothing but a pain. You just can’t stay on a diet and training program when you’re out of town.”

After several more trips, I noticed that something very negative happened: I surrendered. I had resigned myself to “not bother” while I was on the road. I let my expectations create my reality.

But I didn’t let it go on for long. As soon as I became aware of what was happening, I decided that I wouldn’t tolerate it, so I challenged myself and my previous limiting beliefs. I asked myself, “Why the heck not? Why let myself backslide? Why even settle for maintaining? Why not challenge myself to improve while I’m traveling?” The answer was: There was no good reason, there were only excuses.

From that day forward, I set a challenge for myself…

To come back from every trip or vacation in better shape than when I left.

Of course there were exceptions, as when I went on a vacation for total R & R. But I never let travel get in my way again. I prepared food that I would eat on the planes so airline food was never an excuse… I usually chose hotels that had kitchens, so I could cook my own food. I went food shopping immediately after check-in. I wrote my training schedule and scouted gyms in advance… And I actually found myself training harder than usual.

No matter where I was training - it could even be some “dungeon” of a gym in the middle of nowhere - it didn’t matter because my mind was focused on improving and looking better when I came home than when I left. I had a goal to motivate me!

What do you think happened? It’s not hard to guess: I always came home in better shape than when I left.

Since then, my “travel challenge” has become somewhat of a ritual in my life. When I’m away from my “home-base” it becomes a “fitness road trip.” I search the Internet or yellow pages or ask locals to help me find the most hard-core gym nearby wherever I will be staying (Gold’s Gym works for me!) When I get there, I train every bit as hard as if I had a competition just weeks away. I look forward to it now. In fact, this is what led me to my “holiday fitness challenge” idea.

Like many people, I travel over the holidays, so I’m automatically in “travel challenge” mode at thanksgiving, Christmastime and New Year’s. But with the additional temptations and busyness that the holidays bring on top of the usual travel stresses, I saw fit to declare a new challenge: “The Holiday Challenge.” The difference was that for my “holiday challenge,” I pledged to not only to return home in better shape than when I left, but to enjoy the holidays to the fullest at the same time.

can you eat this

People who think I deprive myself to look the way I do would be shocked: I eat like a KING over the holidays including Pumpkin (or apple) Pie at Thanksgiving and OF COURSE my mom’s famous red and green Jell-O Christmas cake. Then on New Year’s I’m usually toasting champagne and having a blast with friends or family….

The difference is, I don’t eat like that very often.

Every other meal stays right on schedule and I work out hard and consistently over the holidays; I don’t let everything fall apart just because ‘tis the season.’

The idea that you can EITHER enjoy the holidays OR stay in shape - but not both - is wrong, it’s damaging and it’s limiting.

Life is not an either or proposition; it’s a matter of balance.

Success does not mean going to extremes. Success can be a simple matter of re-examining your beliefs, rearranging your priorities, setting goals, changing the questions you ask yourself and re-evaluating your expectations.

Your expectations will become your reality. What are you expecting? Are you expecting success? Are you expecting to be in better shape after holiday parties, celebrations, banquets, dinners, and desserts? If not, then why not? What’s preventing you from enjoying all of the above and still getting in better shape? Do you have a limiting belief which dictates that it’s one or the other? Could it be that you never set a goal, intention or expectation to do it? Could it be that you’re rationalizing or making excuses? If so, then I challenge you to change it this year.

As of this writing, there are less than two months until the end of the year. Why not see how much you can improve your physique over the holidays, without depriving yourself of any holiday enjoyments or festivities? Just step up your expectations. Step up your standards. Step up your nutrition. Step up your training. Step up your action. Step up and accept the “Burn The Fat holiday fitness challenge and see what happens!

That’s right… The First Annual Burn The Fat Holiday Fitness challenge contest is open from Wednesday November 18th to Wednesday November 25th.

Over the course of a “50-Day Burn” which spans all three major holidays - Thanksgiving (US), Christmas and New Year's - you'll have the motivation, the accountability and structured program to end the year strong, start the new year on the foot and possibly get in the best shape of your life.

Even better, you'll be able to eat delicious Holiday Food and enjoy yourself to the fullest at the same time because this is a lifestyle program which allows your favorite foods in moderation and balance.

And the best part of all: I'm sending the winners of the contest to Negril Jamaica to show off their new bodies on the beach in 2010!

Taking the Burn The Fat Challenge is simple. You can enter the contest two ways:

(1) Purchase the Burn The Fat e-book from http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com or

(2) Join the Burn The Fat Inner Circle fitness support community ("contest central") at http://bit.ly/Yl1Bf.

You'll be automatically enrolled with either purchase.

Or, if you want ALL the contest details and the FULL list of prizes, visit the contest page at: http://bit.ly/1qjpJS

Train hard and expect success!

-Tom Venuto,
Author of
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
Founder/CEO, Burn The Fat Inner Circle

About the author:

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, certified personal trainer and freelance fitness writer. Tom is the author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Huge Buzz Over Burn The Fat Holiday Challenge

A few days ago, fat loss author/expert Tom Venuto issued a bold challenge to hundreds of thousands of people...

Basically, he "called them out," (but in a motivating sort of way, that is).

Tom was making an announcement about a new type of fitness transformation challenge contest that will run - get this - through ALL the holidays:

Thankgiving (US), Christmas and New Years.

He actually suggested that now is the BEST time to transform your body and that procrastinating until New Year's is a pointless waste of time. If you wanted a better body, why wait, right?

He also said that he thinks its downright "neurotic" to believe that you can't get leaner AND enjoy holiday food at the same time.

According to Tom, that is a catastrophic form of "EITHER / OR THINKING" which leads many people to procrastination or self-sabotage.

You can read more of Tom's "call to action" here:

http://bit.ly/4qnFFz

To say there was a "response" would be an understatement... Tom's blog had something like 500 comments on it when he first issued this challenge and he hasn't even opened the contest registration yet.

He also hasn't released the prize package list yet, but rumor has it, he is sending the overall winners somewhere tropical... a warm place to show off a hot new body in the
dead of winter! Nice.

But if it wasn't the prizes, what created all the buzz, then?

Well, Tom simply asked two questions in his challenge announcement:

(1) "Are you concerned about dealing with holiday food and drink temptations that might lead you to become one of the "holiday fat gain" statistics?"

(2) "If so.... DO YOU ACCEPT MY CHALLENGE TO GET IN BETTER SHAPE OVER THE HOLIDAYS?"

hundreds upon hundreds of people raised their hands and said, "YES, I accept the challenge!"

It became clear that what people need more than "another diet program" is MOTIVATION....  INSPIRATION... and a REASON WHY to get up, move, and change the things
that need improving.

By providing a goal (a contest), a source of motivation (prizes and recognition), accountability (A forum with THOUSANDS of like-minded fitness enthusiasts to help you along) and expert advice (a place with coaching and education resources), THAT combination was the trigger that had so many people say YES to this challenge.

Maybe, if you too say "YES, I accept your challenge," a fitness competition during the holidays could be an event that not only keeps you from gaining fat from the season's indulgences, but could inspire and motivate you to achieve your best shape of the year, or even the best shape of your life.

I can tell you this: I've heard it myself from a lot of people; it's reward enough to get through the "holidaze" in better shape than you began them; winning would just be the icing on the cake.

I agree. And I believe you CAN do it NOW - DURING the holidays - while enjoying the food and festivities (with balance and moderation), and you will NOT be one of the  procrastinators who say, "I'll start after New Year's day."

Tom's Burn The Fat Inner Circle Will be "CONTEST CENTRAL"

===>  http://bit.ly/Yl1Bf

He just opened up a new challenge forum where ALL contestants and members will converge to post their before/after results, post their journals and all support each other towards an incredible "50-DAY-BURN!"

If you want to be a part of online fitness history and become a contestant in the first-ever 50 Day Burn The Fat Holiday Challenge, you will be instantly eligible for the contest and get access to the challenge forum when you join the inner circle:

===>  http://bit.ly/Yl1Bf

Another way to get started: Read (or Re-Read) Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle.

If you don't have this ebook yet, this is the classic manual that many people call the "bible of fat loss" - it's a virtual roadmap for how to eat, train and get motivated to win a transformation contest or, simply get yourself in the best shape of your life

Get Burn The Fat =====>  http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com

Anyone who already owns Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is automatically eligible to enter the contest, with no other purchase required.

Registration for the contest will open at the Burn The Fat Inner Circle on Thursday, November 19th. There may be some restrictions and the contest is void where prohibited
by state or country law.

More details are coming soon.

you can read Tom's Holiday Fitness Challenge call to arms, and get on the notification list about the contest prizes, rules and instructions by visiting this page:

http://bit.ly/4qnFFz

To your best body transformation, while enjoying the Food and festivities of the holidays at the same time!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Perfect Kettlebell Training Diet

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Kettlebell Training is a highly optimized way of burning fat fast, but without a proper nutritional diet, all the training in the world will do you no good.  So, what is the perfect diet to compliment Kettlebell Training you ask?

The honest truth is that there is no real “diet” that you should follow to get lean using kettlebell workouts.

Remember, the whole purpose of the TT Kettlebell Revolution is to help you simplify your lifestyle, and that includes your workouts and your nutrition.  It isn’t about measuring protein portions or referring to the glycemic index every time you think about eating. 

With that in mind, I recommend following an "un-diet", meaning eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

But, wait a minute!  That doesn’t mean loading up on pizza, fries, cake & beer all the live-long day.  (Although you should be able to enjoy these foods on occasion).

Eating “whatever you want” and still staying lean and in great shape means that 1) you need to have a good relationship with food and 2) you have to have a healthy consciousness towards food.

Let’s try to break down both of them…

Having a good relationship with food:

Over the summers when I was young, I used to work at a gym where one guy would consistently buy a case of tuna each week and store it in his locker. He wouldn’t touch rice (brown or white), pasta, apples (most fruits in fact) or any type of oil or fat.  Any time he would break down and have an apple or a piece of fruit, he would be enraged and upset with himself, feeling guilty that his will power had failed him.

This guy was in what he called a “cutting” phase. And he was clearly miserable.

Well, that same winter I quit the gym training job and the day I left, this same guy walked into the gym, about 20lbs heavier, with 3 bags of McDonalds and would devour Big Mac after Big Mac in the hopes of getting bigger (fatter).  The "cutting" phase was now apparently replaced with the “bulking” phase.

It was pretty evident this guy’s relationship with food was out of whack. And his systems were getting all messed up from “cutting” and “bulking” every 3 months.

Any time you eat clean and then decide to reward yourself with a piece of cake, and then feel guilty that you had the cake and went on to have the pie, cookies and ice cream … I’d say it was time to examine your relationship with food.

Having a healthy consciousness towards food:

This one is a little different, but equally important.

Let’s say we had 2 individuals - Peter and Joe - plan out their perfect day.

Peter's perfect day involves sleeping in until one, skipping breakfast and sitting around all day watching TV.  Later on, Peter invites some of his friends over to watch the game while they eat pizza & wings and drink some beers until they pass out on the couch until the next morning.

Joe's perfect day on the other hand involves getting up at 6 and meditating for an hour.  Then he enjoys a breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit and yogurt.  After that he takes his kids to school and then heads down to the ocean with his wife for their surfing lesson.  He and his wife then eat a lunch of fresh grilled fish and a salad by the beach. They head over to the gym to workout together and then they pick-up the kids and spend the rest of the night together as a family enjoying dinner and an evening walk.

Who’s got the healthier consciousness towards food and life?

Each of them mapped out their perfect day. The only difference is that Joe's consciousness of health (and food) is a lot healthier than Peter's.

So when I say that I eat “whatever I want”, it needs to be stressed that, more often than not, I don’t want the greasy, fried and battered stuff. It certainly wasn’t always like that. But now, being a little older, (arguably) a little wiser and knowing that there is always someone watching every decision I make (ie. my 4 girls), my consciousness of health has developed over the years.

Nowadays, I'm not craving McDonald's or wings, but instead, good, fresh food.

Mind you, I will enjoy some Buffalo chicken wings while watching a game or two (no beer or pizza though). And I loved it - the company, the experience – and most importantly, I didn’t feel guilty afterward.

So going back to the original question, “what diet should you eat when you’re on the TT KB Revolution“?

My answer, after you’ve examined your relationship with food and your consciousness towards health/food is…

Eat REAL FOOD.
Eat when you’re hungry.
Stop eating when you’re satisfied - not full, not “stuffed” - when you’re satisfied.
Train with intensity 3 times per week.
And Be Conscious and Enjoy the process.

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit http://turbulencetraining.rxsportz.com

Thursday, November 12, 2009

4 Kettlebell Training Rules To 6-Pack Abs

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
http://turbulencetraining.rxsportz.com

For years fitness “experts” have been preaching the merits of endless crunches and sit ups in pursuit of great abs.

Combine that with the latest low fat diet and the tedious, slow boring cardio and - voila! Instant 6-Pack Abs.

Over time, however, evidence is showing that this just simply isn't the most effective way to shed belly fat.  Unfortunately, the notion of crunches and sit ups has been in-grained into our brains as being the "tried and true" way.

So when I get regularly asked how to lose fat and get six-pack-abs, my answer more often than not, tends to be met with a look of confusion…

1. Perform full-body exercises.

2. Train your abs the way they were meant to be trained (by forcing them to stabilize your torso, not move it or rotate it).

3. Use some form of interval training instead of long boring cardio.

And the most important rule of all…

4. Eat real, clean food focusing on fruits & vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats limiting grains and refined carbs to a minimum.

That about sums it up in a nutshell and it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

If you're training with kettlebells, then getting that six-pack is easy if you follow the rules above.

And one of the best exercises to get that 6-pack is the Turkish Get-Up or TGU.

Simply put, TGUs involve you laying on the ground holding a KB vertical with one arm and then performing a series of movements to get you standing upright.

Sounds simple enough, but rest assured, if you use a heavy enough kettlebell and use proper technique, it’s as hard an exercise as they come.  And it will challenge you like no other KB exercise out there.

It's also important to remember that one of the main reasons we train with kettlebells is to simplify our lives and to give us an alternative to going to the gym. The time saved is precious time that can be spent doing more meaningful and impactful things - like spending time with our families & friends.

But it's not so much what we do in the gym that gives us 6-pack abs and low % body fat, but instead what we do for the other 23.5 hours in the day.

Are we getting enough sleep?

Are we able to handle our stress levels?  (Stress will always be part of our lives. So, the real key is finding a way to properly handle it)

Are we eating whole, natural foods?

Don’t get me wrong, exercise plays a critical role in getting lean.  After all, it’s still just a matter or calories in vs. calories out – of eat less and move more.

But if you’re using KB exercises and training at least 3 times per week, then, from an exercise standpoint, you’re on the right track!

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit http://turbulencetraining.rxsportz.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

5 Best Lower Body Kettlebell Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

In this workout you will learn the 5 most powerful lower body kettlebell exercises you can do to gain muscle and burn fat.  But, perhaps more importantly, is with these exercises you will begin to realize the flexibility kettlebell workouts offer in terms of convenience and lifestyle.

The first exercise is the Double Kettlebell Front Squat. So, start out by holding the KBs at shoulder height, push your hips back (don't bend at the knees first), break parallel, squatting as low as you can while keeping your abs braced. Then drive back up.

The next exercise is called the Tactical Lunge, or a regular lunge with a twist. First, lunge backward and as you are lunging take the KB underneath your front thigh and switch hands. Alternate sides. Be sure to keep your torso upright throughout.

The next lower body KB exercise is the Pistol Squat. So, place the KB at chest height and balance on one leg with your other leg out in front. Next, squat down as low as you can go, and drive back up. Do all reps for one side and then switch.

The 1-Leg Rear Deadlift is another great exercise to do using kettlebells. The previous exercises work the front of the thighs, whereas this will focus a lot on your hamstrings. So, hold the KB with both hands in front of you, balance on one leg and push your hips back. Now, to come back up, you will squeeze your glutes and hamstrings for a powerful contraction.

The last exercise is the Turkish Get-up. And although this is a great ab exercise, in fact it, like all the other exercises mentioned here, is an excellent total body exercise.

So, from a laying down position, hold the KB overhead with arm extended (do not let your elbow bend) and bend the leg on the same side as the arm holding the KB. Next, you want to lift your torso up and get into the lunge position and drive up. Now, to return back to your lying down position, drop your opposite knee to the ground, then your opposite hand, followed by bringing your leg through to the front and then drop your torso down and slowly lower back down to the ground, all while maintaining that pushed out position with the arm.

These are some incredibly effective exercises for your lower body that can be done in only a small space with just one or two kettlebells.  Simple, fast, and supremely powerful.

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit http://turbulencetraining.rxsportz.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

3 Kettelbell Exercises To Test The Waters

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

There seems to be a certain reservation among “regular” gym goers when it comes to trying Kettlebell Training.

I say this because when I train with my clients at the gym and have them do work with kettlebells, there always seems to be 3 or 4 wandering eyes peering over at what we are doing.

It's pretty humorous because some will resort to stealth-like ninja techniques to perform the “wandering-eye-walk-by” whereby they pretend to be on their way to the water fountain and just casually stroll by 4 or 5 times to try and catch some instruction.

But honestly, 4 drinks in between your sets of ab/adductor machine?

Truth be told, Kettlebell Training is gaining momentum and it’s good to see that people are actually taking an interest in a simpler alternative to “traditional” weight training.

So with that being said, let me see if I can ease you into Kettlebell Training.

Here are 3 exercises you can start doing today, just by “subbing-in” a kettlebell for a dumbbell…

1. Substitute KB Military Press for any type of Overhead Pressing with a Dumbbell

Pick up a kettlebell and bring in it in close to your body ensuring that 1) your WRIST STAYS IN NEUTRAL (never flexing or extending) and 2) it is resting in the nook of your arm between your bicep and forearm (take a look at the picture of me above left in the header).

Brace your abs hard, pretending that someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Keeping your wrist straight, squeeze the handle of the KB as tight as you can and take a breath in, creating and even tenser brace in your abdomen.

Now press the kettlebell overhead moving your arm from a neutral GRIP (palm facing towards your midline) to a pronated GRIP (palm facing away) as you lock your elbow out over your head.

The important thing here is to LOCK OUT.  I know in some body building circles they tell you to keep a slight bend in your elbow, even in the overhead position, to “keep tension on the muscle”.  That’s not the case here.  This isn’t body building.

You are going to LOCK OUT and make sure that 1) Your shoulder is depressed.  That is, it’s not up by your ears, it’s down and back 2) Your bicep is almost touching your ear and 3) The kettlebell, while in the overhead lock-out position is in line if not BEHIND your head.

Slowly lower the KB back to the starting position following the same pronated to neutral curve you used when you pressed it over head.

2. Try a Modified Renegade Row in place of a standard 1-Arm Bent-Over Row

Unlike a standard DB Row, where you rest a knee on the bench, the Modified Renegade Row will force you to really use your abs to keep your low back stable.

Place a kettlebell on the floor on the left side and then place both hands on the edge of a bench (or chair).  With your hands on the bench/chair, set yourself up so that you’re in  a “push-up” position with your feet slightly wider that hip-width apart.

Reach down and grab the KB with your left hand.  Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes and row the kettlebell into your body towards your hip.  Remember when you row to squeeze your shoulder blades together prior to bending your elbow.

As you row, you’ll notice that your body will want to twist and rotate because of the uneven distribution of weight.  You must prevent this from happening.  By bracing your abs and squeezing your glutes, you will work your abs like they’ve never been worked before!

Slowly lower the weight, again not allowing yourself to rotate and repeat for the required reps.

3. Replace regular squats with a 1-Arm KB Front Squat

Just as the Military Press above, pick up a kettlebell and bring in it in close to your body ensuring that 1) your WRIST STAYS IN NEUTRAL (never flexing or extending) and 2) it is resting in the nook of your arm between your bicep and forearm (take a look at the picture of me above left in the header).

Brace your abs hard, pretending that someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Keeping your wrist straight, squeeze the handle of the KB as tight as you can and take a breath in, creating and even tenser brace in your abdomen.

Now, keeping the bell close, push your hips back and bend your knees.  You’ll notice that as you descend, because of the uneven distribution of weight, your body will want to twist or even bend sideways.  Just like the Modified Renegade Row above, you want to resist this and brace your abs hard.

Descend into the squat by pushing your knees out allowing your hips to go below parallel and keeping your spine straight.

Push your feet into the floor (keeping your heels on the ground the entire time) and drive your body up to the standing position.

So there are 3 exercises you can try out today, using only 1 KB, to help familiarize yourself with Kettlebell Training

In addition to the benefit of only needing one piece of equipment for the above exercises, the uneven distribution of weight during KB Training allows you to use your abs like no other exercises can. They force you to stabilize your spine and to try to stay straight forcing your abs to work the way they were meant to be worked - as stabilizers of your torso and spine and not as “prime movers”.

And because of this, you'll find that people who train with KBs tend to have bullet-proof abdominals, while eliminating low back pain and gaining usable strength that will help you in everyday life.

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit http://turbulencetraining.rxsportz.com

Monday, November 09, 2009

Orthorexia and the New Rules of Clean Eating (Part 2)

By Tom Venuto

In part one, I described the growing obsession many people have with eating only the purest, healthiest foods, aka “clean eating.” You’d think that nothing but good would come from that, but some experts today dislike the concept of clean foods because it implies a dichotomy where other foods, by default, are “dirty” or forbidden - as in, you can never, ever eat them again (imagine life without chocolate, or pizza… or beer! you guys). Some physicians and psychologists even believe that if taken to an extreme, a fixation on healthy food qualifies as a new eating disorder called orthorexia.

Personally, I have no issues with the phrase “clean eating.” Even if you choose to eat clean nearly 100% of the time, I don’t see how that qualifies as a psychological disorder of any kind (I reckon people who eat at McDonalds every day are the ones who need a shrink).

However, I also think you would agree that any behavior - washing your hands, cleaning your house, or even exercise or eating health food - can become obsessive-compulsive and dysfunctional if it takes over your life or is taken to an extreme. In the case of diet and exercise, it could also lead to or overlap with anorexia.

It’s debatable whether orthorexia is a distinct eating disorder, but I’m not against using the word to help classify a specific type of obsessive-compulsive behavior. I think it’s real.

The truth is that many people are quite “enthusiastic” in defending – or preaching about - their dietary beliefs: no meat, no grains, no dairy, only organic, only raw, only what God made, and on and on the rigid all-or-nothing rules go.

What people choose to eat is often so sacred to them, it makes for tricky business when you’re a nutrition educator. Sometimes I don’t feel like telling anyone what to eat, but simply setting a personal example and showing people how I do it, like, “Hey guys, here is how natural bodybuilders eat to get so ripped and muscular. It may not suit you, but it works for us. Take it or leave it.”

On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that there’s got to be a way to better help the countless individuals who haven’t yet formulated their own philosophies, and who find nutrition overwhelmingly confusing. For many people, even a simple walk down the aisles of a grocery store, and trying to decipher the food labels and nutrition claims is enough to trigger an anxiety attack.

That’s where I hope this is useful. I can’t draw the line for you, or tell you what to eat, but I can suggest a list of “new rules” for clean eating which simplifies nutrition and clears up confusion, while giving you more freedom, balance, life enjoyment and better results at the same time.

New Rule #1: Define what clean eating means to you

Obviously, clean eating is not a scientific term. Most people define clean eating as avoiding processed foods, chemicals and artificial ingredients and choosing natural foods, the way they came out of the ground or as close to their natural form as possible. If that works for you, then use it. However, the possible definitions are endless. I’ve seen forum arguments about whether protein powder is “clean.” Arguments are a waste of time. Ultimately, what clean eating means is up to you to define. Whether your beliefs and values have you restrict or expand on the general definition, define it you must, keeping in mind that your definition may be different than other’s.

New Rule #2: Always obey the law of energy balance

There’s one widely held belief about food that hurts people and perpetuates the obesity problem because it’s simply not true. It’s the idea that calories don’t matter for weight loss, as long as you eat certain foods or avoid certain foods. Some people think that if you eat only clean foods, you’re guaranteed to lose weight and stay lean. The truth is that eating too much of anything gets stored as fat. Yes, you can become obese eating 100% clean, natural foods. There’s more to good nutrition than calories in versus calories out, but the energy balance equation is always there.

New Rule #3: Remember that “foods” are not fattening, “excess calories” are

There’s a widespread fear today that certain foods will automatically turn into fat. Carbohydrates – particularly refined carbohydrates and sugars - are still high on the hit list of feared foods, and so are fatty foods, owing to their high caloric density (9 calories per gram). Foods that contain fat and sugar (think donuts) are considered the most fattening of all. But what if you ate only one small donut and stayed in a calorie deficit for the day – would you still say that donut was fattening?

If you want to say certain foods are fattening, you certainly can, but what you really mean is that some foods are calorie dense, highly palatable, not very satiating and eating them might even stimulate your appetite for more (betcha can’t eat just one!). Therefore, they’re likely to cause you to eat more calories than you need. Conversely, “non-fattening” foods have no magical properties, they’re simply low in caloric density, highly filling and non-appetite stimulating.

New Rule #4: Understand the health-bodyfat paradox

Two of the biggest reasons people choose to eat clean are health and weight loss. Health and body composition are intertwined, but dietary rules for health and weight loss are not one in the same. Weight gains or losses are dictated primarily by calorie quantity. Health is dictated primarily by calorie quality. That’s the paradox: You can lose weight on a 100% junk food diet, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be healthy. You can get healthier on an all natural clean food diet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t gain weight… and if you gain too much weight, then you start getting unhealthy. To be healthy and lean requires the right combination of calorie quantity and quality, not one or the other.

New Rule #5: Forbidden foods are forbidden.

Think of you on a diet like a pressure cooker on a burner. The longer you keep that pot on the heat, the more the steam builds up inside. If there’s no outlet or release valve, eventually the pressure builds up so much that even if it’s made of steel and the lid is bolted down, she’s gonna blow, sooner or later. But if you let off a little steam by occasionally having that slice of pizza or whatever is your favorite food, that relieves the pressure.

Alas, you never even felt the urge to binge… because you already had your pizza and the urge was satisfied. Since the “cheat meal” was planned and you obeyed the law of calorie balance, you stayed in control and it had little or no effect on your fat loss results. Ironically, you overcome your cravings by giving in to them, with two caveats: not too often and not too much.

New Rule #6: Set your own compliance rule

Many health and nutrition professionals suggest a 90% compliance rule because if you choose clean foods 90% of the time, it’s easy to control your calories, you consume enough nutrients for good health, and what you eat the other 10% of the time doesn’t seem to matter much. Suppose you eat 3 meals and 2 snacks every day, a total of 35 feedings per week. 90% compliance would mean following your clean eating plan for about 31 or 32 of those weekly feedings. The other 3 or 4 times per week, you eat whatever you want (as long as you obey rule #2 and keep the calories in check)

You’ll need to decide for yourself where to set your own rule. A 90% compliance rule is a popular, albeit arbitrary number – a best guess at how much “clean eating” will give you optimal health. Some folks stay lean and healthy with 80%. Others say they don’t even desire junk food and they eat 99% clean, indulging perhaps only once or twice a month.

One thing is for certain – the majority of your calories should come from natural nutrient-dense foods – not only for good health, but also because what you eat most of the time becomes your habitual pattern. Habit patterns are tough to break and what you do every day over the long term is what really counts the most.

New Rule #7: Have “free” meals, not “cheat” meals

Cheating presupposes that you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. That’s why you feel guilty when you cheat. Guilt can be one of the biggest diet destroyers. Consider referring to these meals that are off your regular plan as “free meals” instead of “cheat meals.” If having free meals is part of your plan right from the start, then you’re not cheating are you? So don’t call it that. What can you eat for your free meals? Anything you want. Otherwise, it wouldn’t truly be a free meal, would it?

People sometimes tell me that my bodybuilding diet and lifestyle are “too strict.” I find that amusing because I love eating clean 95-99% of the time and I consider it easy. I had a butter-drizzled steak, a glass of wine, and chocolate sin cake for dessert to celebrate my last birthday. I had a couple slices of pizza just four weeks before my last competition (and still stepped on stage at 4.5% body fat). Oh, and I’m really looking forward to my mom’s pumpkin pie and Christmas cake too. Why? How? Because as strict as my lifestyle might appear to some people, I’ve learned how to enjoy free meals and I will eat ANYTHING I want - with no guilt. Meanwhile, my critics are often people with rules that NEVER allow those foods to ever cross their lips.

New Rule #8: For successful weight control, focus on compliance to a calorie deficit, not just compliance to a food list

Dietary compliance doesn’t just mean eating the right foods, it means eating the right amount of food. You might be doing a terrific job at eating only the foods “authorized” by your nutrition program, but if you eat too many “clean” foods, you will still get fat. On the fat loss side of health-bodyfat paradox, the quantity of food is the pivotal factor, not the quality of food. If fat loss is your goal and you’re stubbornly determined to be 100% strict about your nutrition, then be 100% strict about maintaining your calorie deficit.

Lesson #9: Avoid all or none attitudes and dichotomous thinking

If you make a mistake, it doesn’t ruin an entire 12 week program, a whole week and not even an entire day. What ruins a program is thinking that you must either be on or off your diet and allowing one meal off your program to completely derail you. All or nothing thinking is the great killer of diet programs.

Even if they don’t believe that one meal will set them back physically, many “clean eaters” feel like a single cheat is a moral failure. They are terrified to eat any processed foods because they look at foods as good or bad rather than looking at the degree of processing or the frequency of consuming them.

Rest assured, a single meal of ANYTHING, if the calories don’t exceed your energy needs, will have virtually no impact on your condition. It’s not what you do occasionally, it’s what you do most of the time, day after day, that determines your long term results.

New Rule #10: Focus more on results, less on methods

I’m not sure whether it’s sad or laughable that most people get so married to their methods that they stop paying attention to results. Overweight people often praise their diet program and the guru that created it, even though they’ve plateaud and haven’t lost any weight in months, or the weight they lost has begun to creep back on. Health food fanatics keep eating the same, even when they’re sick and weak and not getting any stronger or healthier.

Why would someone continue doing more of the same even when it’s not working? One word: habit! Beliefs and behavior patterns are so ingrained at the unconscious level, you repeat the same behaviors every day virtually on automatic pilot. Defending existing beliefs and doing it the way you’ve always done it is a lot easier than changing.

In the final analysis, results are what counts: weight, body composition, lean muscle, performance, strength, blood pressure, blood lipids, and everything else you want to improve. Are they improving or not? If not, perhaps it’s time for a change.

Concluding words of wisdom

We need rules. Trying to eat “intuitively” or just “wing it” from the start is a recipe for failure. Ironically, intuitive eating does not come intuitively. Whether you use my Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle program or a different program that suits your lifestyle better, you must have a plan.

After following your plan for a while, your constructive new behaviors eventually turn over to unconscious control (a process commonly known as developing habits). But you’ll never reach that hallowed place of “unconscious competence” unless you start with planning, structure, discipline and rules.

Creating nutritional rules does NOT create more rule breakers. Only unrealistic or unnecessary rules create rule breakers. That’s why these new rules of clean eating are based on a neat combination of structure and flexibility. If you have too much flexibility and not enough structure, you no longer have a plan. If you have too much structure and not enough flexibility, you have a plan you can’t stick with.

To quickly sum it all up: Relax your diet a bit! But not too much!

Tom Venuto, author of:
Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models (e-book) which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Orthorexia and the New Rules of Clean Eating (Part 1)

By Tom Venuto

Clean eating has no official definition, but it’s usually described as avoiding processed foods, chemicals, preservatives and artificial ingredients. Instead, clean eaters choose natural foods, the way they came out of the ground or as close to their natural form as possible. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, 100% whole grains, egg whites, fish, and chicken breast are clean eating staples. Clean eating appears to be a desirable, sensible, even noble goal. Eating clean is what we should all strive to do to achieve optimum health and body composition isn’t it? Arguably the answer is mostly yes, but more and more people today are asking, “is it possible to take clean eating too far?”

Physician Steven Bratman thinks so. In 1997, Bratman was the first to put a name to an obsession with healthy eating, calling it orthorexia nervosa. In his book, Health Food Junkies, Bratman said that whether they are trying to lose weight or not, orthorexics are preoccupied with eating healthy food and avoiding anything artificial or “toxic.”

Orthorexics are not only fanatical about eating the purest, healthiest, most nutritious (aka “clean”) foods available, says Bratman, they often feel a sense of righteousness in doing so.

Whether orthorexia should be officially classified as an eating disorder is controversial. The term appears in pub med indexed scientific journals, but it’s not listed in the DSM-IV as are anorexia and bulimia. Opponents wonder, “Since when did choosing a lifestyle that eliminates junk food become a disease?”

Media coverage and internet discussions about orthorexia have increased in the past year. Websites such as the Mayo Clinic, the Huffington Post and the UK-based Guardian added their editorials into the mix in recent months, alongside dozens of individual bloggers.

In most cases, mainstream media discussions of orthorexia have focused on far extremes of health food practices such as raw foodism, detox dieting or 100% pure organic eating, where some folks would rather starve to death than eat a cooked or pesticide-exposed vegetable.

But closer to my home, what about the bodybuilding, fitness, figure and physique crowd? Should we be included in this discussion?

In their quest for adding muscle mass and burning fat, many fitness and physique enthusiasts become obsessed with eating only the “cleanest” foods possible. Like the natural health enthusiasts, physique athletes usually avoid all processed foods and put entire food groups on the “forbidden” list. Oddly, that sometimes includes rules such as “you must cut out fruit on precontest diets” because “fruit is high in sugar” or “fructose turns to fat”.

According to Bratman’s criteria, one could argue that almost every competitive bodybuilder or physique athlete is automatically orthorexic, and they might add obsessive-compulsive and neurotic for good measure.

As you can imagine, I have mixed feelings about that (being a bodybuilder).

If I choose to set a rule for myself that I’ll limit my junk food to only 10% of my meals, does that make me orthorexic or is that a prudent health decision?

If I plan my menus on a spreadsheet, am I a macronutrient micromanager or am I detail-oriented?

If I make my meals in advance for the day ahead, does that mean I’m obsessive compulsive, or am I prepared?

If I make one of my high protein vanilla apple cinnamon oatmeal pancakes (one of my favorite portable clean food recipes) and take it with me on a flight because I don’t want to eat airline food, am I neurotic? Or am I perhaps, the smartest guy on the plane?

Some folks are probably shaking their heads and saying, “you bodybuilders are definitely OCD.” I prefer to call it dedicated, thank you, but perhaps we are obsessive, at least a wee bit before competitions. But aren’t all competitive athletes, to some degree, at the upper levels of most sports?

Athletes of all kinds – not just bodybuilders - take their nutrition and training regimens far beyond what the “average Joe” or “average soccer mom” would require to stay healthy and fit.

What if you don’t want to be average – what if you want to be world class? What then? Is putting hours of practice a day into developing a skill or discipline an obsessive-compulsive disorder too?

Okay, now that I’ve defended the strict lifestyle habits of the muscle-head brother and sisterhood, let me address the flipside: being too strict.

Where does the average health and bodyweight-concerned fitness enthusiast draw the line? How clean should you eat? Do you need lots of structure and planning in your eating habits, or as Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher said, does making too many rules only create more rule-breakers?

Debates have started flaring up over these questions and as inconceivable as it seems, there has actually been somewhat of a backlash against “clean eating.” Why would THAT possibly happen? Eating “clean” is eating healthy, right? Eating clean is a good thing, right?

Well, almost everyone agrees that it’s ok to have a “cheat meal” occasionally, but some experts - after watching how many people are becoming neurotic about food - are now clamoring to point out that it’s not necessary to be so strict.

The diet pendulum has apparently swung from:

“Eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods you enjoy.”

To:

“You MUST eat clean!”

To:

“Go ahead and eat as much junk as you want, as long as you watch your calories and get your essential nutrients like protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.”

Talk about confusion! Now we’ve got people who gain great pride and a sense of dedication and accomplishment for taking up a healthy, clean-eating lifestyle and we’ve got people who thumb their nose at clean eating and say, “Chill out bro! Live a little!”

The current debate about how clean you should eat (or how much you should “cheat”) reminds me of the recent arguments over training methods such as steady state versus HIIT cardio. Whatever the debate of the day, most people seem to have a really difficult time acknowledging that there’s a middle ground.

Most dieters, when they don’t like a certain philosophy, reject it entirely and flip to its polar opposite. Most dieters are dichotomous thinkers, always viewing their endeavors as all or nothing. Most dieters are also joiners, plugging into one of the various diet tribes and gaining their sense of identity by belonging. In some cases, I think these tribes are more like cults, as people follow guru-like leaders who pass down health and nutrition commandments that are followed with religious conviction. Seriously, the parallels of diet groups to religious groups can be downright scary sometimes.

Whether the goal is to optimize health, to build muscle or to burn fat, there’s little doubt that many individuals with all kinds of different motivations sometimes take their dietary restrictions to extremes. Obviously, an overly restrictive diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies and can adversely affect health, energy and performance.

In some cases, I can also see how swinging to any extreme, even a “healthy obsession” with pure food could lead to distorted views and behaviors that border on eating disorders. If you don’t believe it’s a real clinical psychological problem, then at the very least, you might agree that nutritional extremes could mean restricting social activities, creating inconvenience or making lifestyle sacrifices that are just not necessary.

I believe there’s a middle ground - a place where we can balance health and physique with a lifestyle and food plan we love and enjoy. Even more important, I believe that your middle ground may not be the same as mine. We all must find our own balance.

I believe that going back to BALANCE, but this time with a better definition of what balance means, is the approach of the future.

I also believe that some new rules would help us find that balance.

If you'd like to learn the rules that bodybuilders and fitness models follow to "eat clean" and stay lean, then visit http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com.

Tom Venuto, author of:
Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models (e-book) which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world's best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: http://burnthefat.rxsportz.com