Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG)

Aug 16 2015 |

So Many Supplements: But Which Ones Work?

Jul 8 2015 |

I was just looking at a supplement lineup that included a list of names like Shred This, Ripp That, and Lean Out. Not very descriptive, really. There were so many listed with names all sounding similar, that I was inclined to just skip it. If that’s how I felt (and I know what most ingredients are, what they do, etc), I can imagine the non-expert regular Jane or Joe looking at all that and either closing their browser, or ordering a couple things based on the name alone. Problem is that most people don’t know which ingredient does what, or how much effect the product will give them.

In any case, there are no magic pills that are going to transform your body. I’m guessing that those products are preying on people’s desire to take a shortcut and be able to eat however they normally eat, do a little cardio or work out a little, and get a sleek physique. That’s not going to happen. You’ve got to feed your body the right stuff to support lean tissue, build more lean tissue than you currently have, and get it metabolically active! Do you know how to do that? You also have to quit eating the stuff that’s causing you to hold bodyfat or store more bodyfat.

Take caffeine for workout energy. It is quite healthy, actually, for your brain and body, in moderate dosages. Eat quality protein, and enough of it. Work out right. That means get strong. Eat lots of nutrient dense, whole foods, and little that is processed. Eat that way, and your sugar cravings will mostly subside, and you’ll see more results than you will with any other method.

There’s no getting around it. If you want to look healthy, you have to GET healthy. If you want to look fit, you have to GET fit. Figuring out a way to make it a routine that you can live with makes it a lifestyle… a creates a healthy, fit you!

You find the supplements I recommend EVERYone take at 5 Phase Fitness Nutrition!

Artificial Sweetener : Is Splenda (Sucralose) OK or Not?

Mar 22 2015 |


Is Splenda (Sucralose) OK or NOT?

NOT! – Splenda (Sucralose) is a chemically manipulated sugar molecule that isn’t absorbed by our bodies like sugar, but affects us in many negative ways.  And unfortunately the manufacturers are trying to get FDA approval to include it in foods, drinks, and other products without including it on the product label!

My Opinion:  Don’t touch the stuff.  It’s too easy to eliminate this, amongst all of the other toxins/poisons that we breathe, drink, and can’t easily (or practically) avoid.

The following details excerpted from James Bowen, M.D., A physician, biochemist, and survivor of aspartame poisoning who warns about yet another synthetic sweetener, Sucralose.

“By this process chlorocarbons such as sucralose deliver chlorine directly into our cells through normal metabolization. This makes them effective insecticides and preservatives. Preservatives must kill anything alive to prevent bacterial decomposition.”

Dr. Bowen believes ingested chlorocarbon damage continues with the formation of other toxins: “Any chlorocarbons not directly excreted from the body intact can cause immense damage to the processes of human metabolism and, eventually, our internal organs. The liver is a detoxification organ which deals with ingested poisons. Chlorocarbons damage the hepatocytes, the liver’s metabolic cells, and destroy them.

In test animals Splenda produced swollen livers, as do all chlorocarbon poisons, and also calcified the kidneys of test animals in toxicity studies. The brain and nervous system are highly subject to metabolic toxicities and solvency damages by these chemicals. Their high solvency attacks the human nervous system and many other body systems including genetics and the immune function. Thus, chlorocarbon poisoning can cause cancer, birth defects, and immune system destruction. These are well known effects of Dioxin and PCBs which are known deadly chlorocarbons.”

Dr. Bowen continues: “Just like aspartame, which achieved marketplace approval by the Food and Drug Administration when animal studies clearly demonstrated its toxicity, sucralose also failed in clinical trials with animals. Aspartame created brain tumors in rats. Sucralose has been found to shrink thymus glands (the biological seat of immunity) and produce liver inflammation in rats and mice.

You can read more of what Dr. Bowen says about Sucralose at

And more about Sucralose and Aspartame at

Supplements and Guidelines for Better Health and Fitness

Nov 3 2014 |

You can read and listen to the videos about probiotics here…

In general, look to avoid MSG, (“natural flavor”, and all of the other forms of MSG), artificial everything, but especially sweeteners, sucralose (an artificial sweetener, but they don’t have to call it that), and trans fats.

Vitamin Shoppe has the following that I recommend that you start taking:

Whey Protein – (not an absolute must, but easy and convenient way to bump up protein intake, which you might not be able to eat enough of, otherwise)  Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey: Natural Vanilla Flavor (this has no artificial sweeteners, nor sucralose)

Glutamine – You can get VitaShoppe’s cheapest brand, or order from or other via a search.  A 2.2lb canister (1 Kilogram) costing around $35 is a decent deal.  I have found it as cheap as $20/KG and bought a bunch of it to stock up.  You will benefit from taking about 5/10 grams (for Leslie/John dosages) immediately before AND after your workout, or take one or two times each day on non-workout days also.

Greens Formula – You can order these from me at the link below, or find an OK version at Vita Shoppe.  You’ll like mine better, and they’re as good or better than anything available.  I would recommend buying a case of 12, but I’ll leave that up to you… no hard sell.  Everyone who’s ever gotten them from me continues to order them, and say that none others compare.  In any case, I recommend at least Leslie = 1/John = 2 scoops a day for both of you.  And more for optimal health. FYI… I take 4 or 5 scoops every single day, and Susan takes 2 scoops/day.  This is something that I can not emphasize the importance of, and benefit of, enough.

Costco has the following:

Coconut Oil – this is great as supplemental fat, has MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides, which the brain can burn in the absence of fructose), and has all kinds of anti-bacterial, anti-virus, anti-fungal properties, and more.  You can/should use it on your skin as well.

BioAstin – has astaxanthin, which has a load of great properties, including being a natural sunscreen (from the inside-out).  I recommend using it for sun protection and nothing else, unless you’re going to be exposed for hours and have no other means of protection.  That should be few and far between.  I also recommend that you get real sun exposure to the point that you keep a nice tan.  No burning, if possible, but nice and brown. 🙂 or has the following:

Probiotics – you will benefit from taking these every day.  You can read about my experience and dosages, and experiment yourself.  Roughly 20Billion organisms per capsule is a convenient dosage.  I have taken as much as 100Billion worth every couple of hours when feeling like a sore throat was beginning, and it has always been gone by the next day or two.  You can take some with high carb meals to help digestion be more complete.  The idea is to keep your Good to Bad bacteria ratio POSITIVE in your GI Tract.  Sugar (or carbs that convert to glucose, fructose, etc) feeds BAD bacteria, so taking probiotics with higher carb meals counters that effect.

Ubiquinol – for the brain.  Something it needs (more usable form of Co-Q10, especially for people over 40) to function right. will no doubt have some good info about it and everything else that you care to read about.  He overdoes it a bit with too much info, but he offers a wealth of info and research summaries and sources.

Fish Oils with high DHA – smart to include, even if you take coconut oil and flax oil, hemp oil, etc that have a good amount of Omega-3s.  Fish Oil is utilized by the body so well.

This is something I can order for you from MetaGenics, and the quality is top-notch.  FYI, my doc friend says the Krill oil tends to oxidize, so he recommends MetaGenics.  Vitamin Shoppe will have some in the refrigerated section.

Weight-lifting: the ultimate exercise form

May 22 2012 |

lifting weights, if done the right way, is the ultimate way to spend the least amount of time and effort, to get the most results. Any other form of exercise could be a personal preference, but for the best return on investment of time & effort, there is no equal to resistance training!

The bottom line is that equating activities to calories is stupid. Figuring out how much you can get away with is counter productive. You need to know the most important, impactful facts and figures.

So you need to know that putting crap into your body is going to come ta price. You can get away with it sometimes, but generally, you should adopt a way of life and eating that gives the body what it needs… EVERYTHING that it needs! But nothing else. Most of the time. When your body is chiseled, detoxified, clean, pure (as practical), and overall healthy, vibrant, strong (functionally is most important), and capable of day to day action, plus maybe a little more (ok, for some of us, we want to be A LOT more capable of action! Superhero, anyone?), then you’ll probably LOOK great, feel great, and BE strong, healthy, and able to kick @$$!

Supplements to take

Mar 21 2012 |

The 5 supplements that everyone should take for overall health and anti-aging are listed below. It’s just my opinion, so do a little research on your own and see if you agree.

Probiotics – boosts immune function and intestinal health… through the roof!

Glutamine – an amino acid that enhances immune function

Green formula – powdered superfood formula with the anti-oxidant power of 20+ servings of fruits & vegetables in each scoop!

Omega 3 Fats – fish oils or flax seed oil

Detox Formula – optimal cleansing nutrition of the body, providing gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, and inflammatory condition support.

Master Your Own Physical Self

Mar 21 2012 |

If you’re ready to become the master of your own physical self, you should start to learn about the following:

Health – Become fit, and you’ll become healthier. Eat to become more fit, and you’ll become healthier as well. It’ll change the way you look, feel, function, and how well you age!

Fitness – If you don’t know your own body yet, what are you waiting for? Start slow, start basic, be consistent. I would suggest using resistance training to learn and understand how each muscle group works. Understanding the sensations you feel will allow you to understand your body, how it moves, how it functions. You’ll be athletic, if not a good athlete. And you’ll be the master of your own body! Once you’ve done that, the rest is much easier.

The all around athlete will be fit in all 4 categories out of necessity, and they’ll be lean as well. Lean means more flexible, quicker, more agile, and more efficient cardiovascularly.

Resistance training – generally speaking, this means weightlifting or workout machines.

Core training – stability ball training, floor work, balance training, Pilates, yoga, etc.

Stretching – yoga, Pilates, stability ball work, other conventional stretching.

Cardiovascular training – running, biking, jump rope, boxing, kickboxing, etc, or various gym cardio machines.


Nutrition – What you eat matters. The effects are on the inside, and sooner or later they show up on the outside, and as real health problems.

The best foods:

Protein – eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beef

Carbohydrates – yams or sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables.  If you’re going to eat a grain, whole raw oats are better than the rest.

Fats – from fish, almonds, cashews, avocado, egg yolks, and coconut oil


My Lumbar Disc Disease – Cured!

Aug 2 2010 |

spineFirst off, I would call it a condition.  The American Medical Association calls it degenerative lumbar disc disease, but that’s another blog post.  My first back injury was a result of doing light warm-up leg presses in the gym.  I knew it immediately, after going a little too deep with a repetition.  There was pain and reduced range of motion.  The doctor gave me ibuprofen and told me to rest it.  I’ve re-injured the area a few other times over the ensuing 20 years, all of them while lifting weights (heavy straight legged deadlifts once, light front squats another time).  So I eliminated regular squats, leg presses, and straight legged dead lifts, as well as dead lifts for years, doing other exercises to compensate.

Over the years, chiropractic adjustments helped heal the area after injury and keep my back feeling good the rest of the time.  I had recurring sciatic nerve impingement at various times over 10 years, and prevented it from affecting me by stretching my hamstrings and glutes, along with chiropractic adjustments.  If I didn’t stretch for more than a few days in a row, I would start to feel slight impingement of the nerve and that insidious dull ache that would get worse with each passing day.  It was a constant reminder of the physical vulnerability and the wrong movement could cause another relapse.  One time, a sneeze in the shower caused pressure on that nerve and a jolt of massive pain (I was instructed that bending my knees before sneezing will prevent that!), followed by a week of chiro adjustments, being extremely careful, and not being able to work out!  All that changed just six months ago.

A chiropractor who happens to work out at my gym told me about a device he invented called Spinal Stretch.  The device sounded interesting, so I visited his office, where he took an x-ray of my lower lumbar (free of charge… wow, nice guy!), and explained the x-ray (nothing new to me, that the L5-S1 joint shows a smaller than usual disc space, which is why the nerve gets impinged upon so easily).  He also showed me literature that was pretty convincing – that sufficient spinal decompression can relieve disc compression issues, and even regenerate disc tissue.  He then had me try his traction device after demonstrating it himself.  I wanted to give it a try, so I paid him for the Spinal Stretch, and began to use it at home.

During that first week of use, Dr. Starr explained to me, at the gym, that the way I was stretching (each and every day, religiously) was compressing the fluid and nutrients from my spinal discs, and exacerbating my condition.  I knew with certainty that those stretches were the only thing that had prevented my sciatic nerve from acting up over the last 10 years, but with reservation, I told David that I would refrain from doing them for a couple weeks… as long as I didn’t feel my sciatic nerve start to complain.

So I used his Spinal Stretch nearly every day for the first few months.  No pain.  No issues!  Due to a hectic schedule (and being symptom free, of course), I’ve only used it about 5 times over the last few months.  And still – no pain, no issues!  I would have used it more if my back started acting up, but it just hasn’t.  That fact is a good one, but I do plan to use it consistently over the next few months and then to take another x-ray to see if my L5-S1 disc space looks like it has regenerated.  And if I had to use it every day, that would be OK too, but even better if I don’t have to!

So anyone who has a low back problem should give traction a try.  But now I’ll explain the evidence in the literature that was so convincing to me.

The Science Behind Spinal Decompression

First off, there’s ample evidence that people have deterioration of the spinal structures, specifically, degeneration of the spinal lumbar discs, beginning in their second and third decades of life, and it worsens with age.  Causes are genetic inheritance, age, inadequate hydration and nutrition to the discs, and loading (compression) history.  That’s the case for athletes and non-athletes.

One thing that got research going strong in this area was the observation that astronauts in weightlessness gained up to two and a half inches in height during space flight, which decreased to zero after being on earth for 24 hours.  What they realized was that the uncompressed spine in weightlessness was a result of the discs absorbing fluid (along with the all-important nutrients carried by that fluid).  And that the spine in earth’s gravity is compressed quite a bit, comparatively.  In fact, some astronauts complained of back pain in weightlessness, and they realized that it was due to the discs being extra full of fluid (think balloon that expands a little too much).  They invented a compression suit to remedy the problem, and didn’t have the problem again.

Compression and decompression (they call it compression/distraction in the literature) pushes fluid out and diffuses fluid back into the discs, respectively.  The key to healthy discs is to keep loading to a minimum, in general, and to decompress the spine on a regular basis, which results in fluid and nutrients diffusing into the discs.  Simply laying down minimizes loading, but spinal compression (loading) is still present due to normal muscular tension.

The figure below shows spinal loading for various positions.  Laying down face up, laying on your side, standing, bending at various angles, and sitting at various angles.


Note that the spine is more loaded when sitting than standing.

There are numerous ways to decompress the spine, but some of them seem silly.  There is inversion (hanging from your feet), which results in blood pooling in the brain and eyes (potentially dangerous).  There are various traction apparatuses that are big and bulky, used for experiment, mostly, and would probably be impractical for home use.  There is floating in water.  Water exercise is good due to the body being unloaded, but it’s not the end-all be-all for fitness or spinal decompression.  And then there is the Spinal Stretch.  It weighs four pounds, fits in a small carrying bag that fits in a suitcase, and provides plenty of decompression force.  I used it for three months, 30 minutes half the time, 20 minutes the other half, and read a book while I was laying there.

To come full circle, I have to tell you about the experiments with rabbits, mice, and rats.  Various experiments and follow-ups for verification, control groups, etc… good, solid research protocol was followed.  Loading of the spines were done over 28 days that resulted in moderate disc degeneration, followed by 28 days of decompression (distraction).  They took measurements by removing the rabbit spines in one experiment, and measuring disc spacing and dead cell number before/after;  another rabbit study measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as gene and protein expression levels.

The conclusion?  That distraction results in disc rehydration, and that tissue recovery occurs on a biological, cellular, and a biomechanical level.

The study with mice and rats was done similarly, with the conclusion that mice and rat discs are a good mechanical model for the human disc.  The correlations between lumbar spine properties and animal body weight was evidence that quadruped animal lumbar spines are a good model for bipedal human spines.  Now that’s pretty interesting!

Bottom line?  Too many people have low back issues that can be corrected without surgery.  If you don’t have low back issues, you can prevent them by taking care of yourself, but decompression with a traction device is a simple, effective thing that you can do in a few minutes at home a few times a week.  I thought I was going to have to live with my issue forever, and maybe eventually have surgery.  Now I’d bet that I won’t need surgery, and that my one previously bad disc is probably going to be healthy for a long, long time.

Update on February 24, 2013

Over the past two and a half years, I’ve used my traction device (Spinal Stretch) a couple dozen times, a few days here, a few days there, with much time in between without it at all.  The times I’ve used it is when I feel like my low back is a little “out of whack”, and using it once, twice, or three times in as many days puts me back to normal.  Normal in my case is very strong, and doing free barbell squats again, straight legged deadlifts (with dumbbells only so far, with at most a 60 lb pair), and deadlifts, too!

Get Rid Of Acne… For Good!

Jul 11 2010 |

I was looking for my Clear Skin book to give to a friend, but I couldn’t find the damn thing. I searched for it on Amazon, Googled it… lots of alternatives, but not THAT book. So, I used my recollection of it, and typed out a long email. I decided to include it here, because one thing is for sure. Acne affects almost all of us at one time or another. And the treatment method laid out in that book was straightforward, simple, and gave amazing results!

Search for yourselves, but if you’re looking to get to the bottom line quickly, just read the following.

I think that this is definitively the best way of getting rid of acne and it’s remnants. Over-the-counter products, no “drugs”. I don’t think they work any better, anyway.

In my experience, I used a sulfur/salicylic acid combination cream that worked great for me. You can find it over-the-counter… either sulfur, salicylic acid, or benzoyl-peroxide based (or a combination) cream. You apply it morning and night. The key is to dry the skin and let it flake. Drying/Peeling agents are what does that. Apply it and let your skin dry out. Obviously, you apply it to the affected areas and don’t need it elsewhere. You can go hard core or slowly, using an oil-free lotion to keep the skin from looking too weird as it peels, but I went hard core, used lotion to keep it from looking like a lepur, and in about a month had it reversing direction.

It can really be dry, it can make your skin flaky, and make you think something may be wrong. But it’s supposed to be that way. Again, that’s going at it hard core. Obviously, if you immediately have a reaction to it, then you might be allergic to whatever you’re using. So once you’ve been using it for a few days or more, your skin dries out, begins to flake, you know it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

The thing that the book explains is that if you keep using the stuff, your skin (hair follicles, actually) will eventually (about a month) be in a constant state of peeling from beneath the skin. But you won’t be visibly flaking at that point. You scale back on the amount you use, but you still apply it morning and night. So you’ll have cleaned-out follicles instead of clogged follicles, and the problem won’t occur again as long as you keep it that way. As for the left-over skin condition from the problem up to now, I was amazed at the before/after photos… what appeared to be scarring due to acne, was cleared up completely. So there is more than just hope. I would say follow the protocol, and it will be cleared up… almost miraculously.

Note: the book described a lot about your hair follicles, bacteria clogging them up, different types of side-effects (pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, implosions, etc), and some science behind it all. But the treatment for all of those conditions was all the same.

The End-All Be-All for Fitness

Jun 17 2010 |

Real or hype?

You’ve seen the commercials and infomercials.  Countless of them touting this and that apparatus as the best, easiest, most effective, FUN, efficient, and all around greatest thing in the world!  Just minutes a day and you’ll be in the best shape of your life.  Need I make a list?  It will be outdated by tomorrow.

Following suit are the super-duper workouts that guarantee even greater results in the least amount of time.  Follow their plan for just 90 days, and you’ll amaze yourself and your family and friends.  Go ahead, take the challenge!

And finally, the fitness models who promote the equipment and workouts in commercials and infomercials, and even a Yoga instructor and franchise owner of a Yoga training system who promotes her system on DVDs, all have the same thing in common.  They’re misrepresenting the truth.  And that’s being nice about it.  The truth is, they get in shape one way, and they tell you they get in shape another way.  They’re trying to sell you the end-all be-all, but the way they stay fit is something entirely different.  Why?  Because the end-all be-all equipment and workout systems aren’t really end-all be-all.  Nor are they very good, at all!

The Yoga franchiser is someone I know.  And someone I’ve watched work out with a personal trainer, doing a weight training routine, for years.  And when it’s time to get in tip top shape just prior to shooting a new Yoga DVD, she hits the gym hard, working out with that personal trainer, with weights.  Not heavy weights, but a weightlifting routine that targets all the major muscle groups, just like a bodybuilder works out, with specific modifications based on a different goal.

Same holds true for the fitness models you see demonstrating the end-all be-all exercise equipment that will end up as a clothes rack or storage shelf in your house after 2 weeks.  They get in shape working out with weights, using progressive resistance, barbells, dumbbells, and heavy duty equipment designed for thousands to use every week.  And then they get paid to make it look like the equipment they’re demonstrating is effective.  You see the motion, the movement, their muscles contracting, and “wow, that looks like it really does the trick”!

But someone who is in shape, lean, and fit, and who understands how their body and muscles work, can make it look like swinging a golf club is a good workout.  They can make it look like pressing the air is a good workout.  Because they can contract their muscles in the desired way, using specific movements, it will look impressive.  And anything they’re doing at the time will look impressive.  That’s how a bag of marshmallows could look like the ultimate workout gear!

Bottom line:

Don’t buy the hype!  There’s no silver bullet for weight loss, improving your health, or fitness.  If you can’t look at a piece of exercise equipment that’s touted as the end-all be-all and tell if it really is or not, then you don’t know enough about your body and how it works, and you should start with learning the basics of exercise first.  Exercise physiology is the term, and a basic understanding of it will expedite your progress towards being healthy, fit, and knowing how to be both.

Training Strategy – It Helps To Have A Plan

Jun 15 2010 |

How many of you have seen guys in the gym who seem to be wasting their time, huffing and puffing, and never seeming to make progress?  It’s not always the guys trying to lose weight, either.  I’ve seen guys in great shape, but a little too skinny, who’re trying to gain more size who can’t even put on an ounce… in a year.  So what’s my point?  There’s more to it than that

Attaining “body beautiful” status is as much about what you do OUTSIDE the gym as what you do INSIDE the gym… and all it takes is a little thought in coming up with an overall strategy that’s best for YOU.  Here’s what I mean.

Most of what you see and read about working  out is just that… the process of working out.  But look into the training strategy of any of the great bodybuilders, and you’ll find that sleep, rest, eating, and training schedule had as much to do with their progress as anything else.  It’s all tied together, and if you can spend a little time coming up with the best strategy for YOU, you’ll see better results.

Before we get going, I want to emphasize that your strategy is to get RESULTS… so setting priorities is a must.  For those who don’t have much time to think about it, let alone do your workouts, then your strategy is to do SOME exercise!  Doing something is better than nothing, and 30 minutes, three times a week, is sufficient for progress and better health.  And then you can build on that strategy as you go.  A successful strategy can become more successful, but at least you’re moving forward, so don’t worry about taking small steps.  They’re better than NO steps!

Don’t be one of those guys who figures that if you can’t duplicate Mr. Olympia’s workout, eating, and sleeping routines, that it’s just not worth it.  You’ll look back in ten years (or less) and wish you’d done SOMEthing.  Don’t make excuses!  Just decide what you want and then make it happen… because you CAN.

The best TIME to work out is whenever you have the chance.  The important thing is that you fit it into your schedule sometime, because working out at 3am is better than nothing… assuming you don’t lose any sleep as a result.

Most guys go to the gym after work, which means 5 or 6 O’clock for most of you.  Physiologically, research shows some differences with regard to time of day, but there are a lot of factors that come into play.  So, if you’ve got freedom to work out whenever you want, you should work out when you’ve got the most energy during the day.  I’ve read studies that show mid-morning to be best for most people, but it’s an individual thing.

When I was in college, working out was as much a priority as academics, and I experimented by working out at all different times.  I found that no matter what, I had the most energy, focus, and strength at around 8pm .  I figured out that it had to do with the fact that my body had been “loosened up” from the day’s activities, and that my energy stores were good because I’d already eaten 4 meals to that point.

When I tried to work out at 8am , 10am , noon , or in the afternoon, I felt better as the day wore on.  The mornings were the worst for me.  I felt sluggish, and lacked energy.

But now it’s quite the opposite.  I prefer working out sometime between 10am and early afternoon.  I think it has more to do with mental energy though.  If I’ve been working (my work is low-stress, and mostly done from my home office), and I work out late in the day, I find that it takes more time to get my mind clear for the workout.  So I wake up around 8-10am , have breakfast, and make a few phone calls or whatever, and then I head to the gym.

It may be different for you, but again, the best thing is to figure out when you’re going to get your best workout.  Try a few different times if you can, and go with what works best for you.

Once you’re getting to the gym on a consistent basis, the question is, how much working out is optimal?  How many days per week and how long for each workout?  Again, it’s an individual thing.  Most of us will need at least three workouts each week, but probably more like four or five.  If your priority is to lose weight, then more workouts are usually better, especially when you’re talking cardio.  But if you’re trying to gain muscle, and your workouts are very intense, then you’ll need more rest.

Your workouts should be about an hour in duration… give or take.  Mine have been taking 2 hours on ultra intense days, or when I do legs.  If I’m training during a lighter phase I’ll keep the pace faster, lighter, and do a few more sets, but the workout goes quicker because I don’t need as much rest between heavy sets.

It’s smart to get in touch with your body, and learn when it needs rest by how you feel, or how your muscles feel.  If I have two ultra intense workouts, one day after the next, I take a day off.  If I don’t, my next workout is going to suffer, and I’m not allowing my body to heal.  If you’re sore, or feel a lack of energy, take a day off.  A little tightness or soreness is fine, but experiment a little, and you’ll find that more rest between workouts is usually better than less if you’re unsure.

If you’re not sure, train two days in a row, and then take a day off, and every week or so take two days off in a row.  Fit your workout into an hour for starters, and adjust it from there based on your needs, and progress.  If you feel great and want to string together 3 workouts in a row, then do it.  If you have to work out 4 days before a rest day due to travel or whatever, then do it, but get back to your routine after that.

Equally important in creating your physique strategy is eating, and scheduling your meals.  Normally, whether you’re trying to gain or lose, 5 smaller meals are better than 2 or 3 larger ones, but you have to do what you can.  Protein bars can be a great thing if you can’t find time to eat, by the way.

On training days, it’s best to eat a light meal an hour before your workout… and if you work out after a large meal, just wait a little longer.  The key is to not feel sluggish in the gym due to a bunch of food in your stomach.  So again, go by how you feel.  In college, I could eat a huge meal and work out immediately afterward.  It just depends on you.  Listen to your body, and make adjustments.

And now, EQUALLY as important, if not MOST important in creating your physique strategy, and LIFE strategy, is SLEEP.  I heard on a news program last night about more data that shows we Americans are becoming more sleep deprived as time goes by.  Studies have shown that waking up to an alarm clock is not as “healthful” as waking up naturally.  Eight hours of sleep shouldn’t be considered a luxury, or wasting time, or non-productive.  It’s the way the body is geared.  It needs time to heal, and for the mind to do its processing.  Your health depends on it.

Parenthetically, a poll was taken asking some top CEO’s about their sleep time, and most of them said that they slept at least 8 hours… and felt it was important to their success.

As for workouts, if you go to the gym feeling like shit because you haven’t had enough sleep, you may as well not be there… so go home!  Basically, get enough sleep as a rule, and if you only get six hours of sleep once in a while, as a departure from the norm, your workout will go fine.  Make it a habit, and you’ll be one of those guys huffing and puffing and never making any progress.

And that goes with the rest of the strategy items.  Eating, sleeping, training time, and frequency… they all make an impact on your progress… as much an impact as the actual workout.  Every month or so, sit down by yourself, or with a workout partner, and talk about what you’re doing… strategy-wise, covering all the areas I’ve just covered.  Use it as an excuse to go have a drink and hang out without any other agenda.  You’ll like your results.

Chest Exercise – The Bench Press

Jun 10 2010 |

This post is a timely one, because it was today that I gave some unsolicited advice to 3 young lifters (could have been in High School) who were doing flat bench press, or trying.    I was doing my workout, and noticed them at a nearby bench.  I don’t give unsolicited advice often, but once in awhile I can just tell when someone isn’t sure about what to do, and either is hoping someone will help them out, or they’d at least be accepting of help if someone gave it.

I didn’t know if that was these 3 guys, but I couldn’t continue to see them gripping the bar in the position they were.  Just wrong.  Way wrong, unless they were intending to do this exercise to get a very specific result.  I waited until the one lifting finished his set, and took a few steps over and said,

“Hey guys, are you trying to work your chest and get stronger in the bench press?  (all 3 nodded yes)   Well, if you’ll grip the bar wider, so that when your upper arms are parallel to the floor, your forearms are at about 90 degrees to your upper arms, that will give you the most leverage.  Otherwise, you’re wasting energy and strength, and not working your chest as much.”

They seemed to appreciate the advice, said they did, and were polite, anyway.  And they adjusted their grip and continued bench pressing.  I didn’t wait to watch, I just went to do another set of Back Rows.  After my set, I look over… Ooops!  I need to tell them something else.  Again, only after the one on the bench was finished with his set.

This time I started off saying, “I know unsolicited advice isn’t always wanted, but I’ve got a tip for you.  If you don’t like it, don’t use it.”  They were ready for it.

“This is the key to the bench press, getting stronger, and building your chest.  When you bring the bar down to your chest, do it under control, and pause… for a full second, but you’ll count fast, so pause for 2 seconds at first, and then press the weight up from a dead stop.  Keep tension at the bottom, but lightly rest the bar on your chest, each rep, for a full second.  You may feel weaker at first and have to decrease the weight to do it that way, but in two weeks?  Your strength will shoot up, and keep going from there, much faster than any other way.”

One of them then asked me if I was familiar with training with bands on the barbell, a method of increasing resistance as the bar is pressed up and the band stretches.  He said that he had used that method with someone before, so we chatted about the technique briefly.  They thank me, and again, I leave to do my next set of Rows.

As I walk a few steps to a Lat Pulldown machine for my last exercise, I glance over to check on their progress.  What I noticed when I glanced over was that I was going to have to give them one last bit of information.  So after my set, I approach them for the last time.

“OK, the last thing I’m going to say (smiling) – you need to find the angle that feels the most comfortable and strongest for your arms, across your chest, elbow to elbow.  If they’re straight across, you’ll probably feel the most tension, but you may feel some discomfort in your shoulders, so you may naturally drop them down at a slight angle.  That’s important.  You don’t want shoulder impingement.  So feel for good tension, but so that it feels “right”, not “wrong”.   That’s it guys, see you later.”

The bench press is the king of chest exercises, and whether you’re doing flat bench barbell or dumbbells, or incline bench barbell or dumbbells, the principles to your technique should be the same.  Grip the bar at a width that makes the angle between your forearm and upper arm 90 degrees when the bottom of your upper arm is parallel to the floor (when the bar is a few inches or so from your chest, your arms become parallel to the floor).  That’s just to establish your proper grip so the work you do benefits you fully.

The other positioning principle is for tension through the chest.  The more your arms are in a straight line, elbow to elbow, across your chest, from side to side, the more tension you’ll feel.  But the chest happens to be activated more when your elbows are tucked under a bit.  Find what feels comfortable, but where you have a good bit of tension, like a rubber band stretching, and seek that maximum tension across the chest.  You’ll feel the variation in tension if you move your arm positioning during a set.

And The Pause method is just a tip, but the most significant thing I can tell you about getting strong!   It’s the most effective way to gain strength in the bench press, it was taught to me when I was 18 and a novice.  He knew what he was talking about.  I felt like a weakling taking substantial weight off the bar in order to pause correctly, but it only took 2 weeks until I was back to my previous weight.  And my strength did continue to increase way past that.  Rock solid, real strength.  Try it!

Practical Anti-Aging Tips

Jul 25 2008 |

Besides our genes, which account for roughly 1/3rd of our aging destiny, the the other most important factors are eating right and exercising, which you can read about in other articles in the aging section.

In addition, here are some practical tips that researchers have determined will help you live not just a longer life, but a happier, more healthful, active life!

1. Love someone, or be in love with life and everyone
2. Don’t “retire” to boredom at any age.  Work, or personal interests keeps you young!
3. Companions are good for you, even if the 4-legged variety
4. Have sex.  Doing so satisfies a bunch of these things by itself!
5. Decide to age gracefully, or remain youthful!
6. Decide to live your life.  Live!
7. Remain social
8. Never stop learning
9. Be calm.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Practice it, or just choose it!

But these can all be summed up with just 3 general categories:

1.  Connections with others – people or pets, social relationships, and sex!
2.  Use it or lose it – Keep your brain & body active.  Learn, do, live!
3.  Attitude – decide to remain youthful and enjoy life, and that the rest doesn’t matter.  Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Getting in Touch… With Yourself!

Jul 15 2008 |

bicep_curlMore to the point is getting in touch with your body, it’s function, and what it is supposed to feel like when moving it’s parts. Many out-of-shape people can’t relate. They don’t have complete sensory experience because their bodies aren’t capable of it. Before you can ride a bike, you’re unable to “feel” what it’s like to ride a bike. Even if you’ve got someone helping you stay up on two wheels (or four, in the case of training wheels), your body isn’t doing it with ease. Instead, you’re struggling, twisting, contorting much of your body, trying to balance, your face muscles and neck possibly even straining due to effort, fear, concentration, or all three.

Body awareness. If you don’t have any, you can develop it. When you do you’ll feel things you’ve never felt before. You’ll be aware of the muscles in your butt contracting as you walk. That was one of the most exhilarating things to me in graduate school as I walked thru campus and realized something new about my body. And that was just the beginning.

It feels good to stretch, reach, twist, expand, squeeze, push, pull, throw. As long as your body is moving the way it’s supposed to. With efficiency. Fluidity. Economy of motion and effort. If you’re not in tune with your body, if you’re not athletic, you can still develop your body-awareness skills. You’ll have to learn what to do and how to do it. And focus on the feel. Once you learn, like riding a bike, your body will never let you forget.

Learning the basic function of the muscles by using them in basic ways allows you the most basic body function skill. Athleticism. You won’t have to work very hard doing anything you want to do with your body that requires physical effort. You can just do it. Live it. You can participate without thinking about it. Whether it’s climbing over rocks or swimming, walking, jogging, playing (with your kids), throwing, lifting, carrying, or riding – you’ll be able to do it, you will have used your muscles in a similar way before.

The way you become the master over your own physical self, the way you become “athletic”, is by using weight training, or resistance training. Resistance training means any movement that allows you to move your body or a part of your body through a normal functional range of motion while experiencing some resistance to that motion. Free weights are great, and workout machines are as well, being engineered to fit the body and allow motion in a way that may not be possible with free weights that use only gravity to provide the resistance.

The absolute key to it all is doing it correctly. Enough emphasis can’t be placed on learning the proper way to perform the exercises. Doing so will dramatically enhance your progress, regardless of your goal.

When my brother and I first started workout out, we would perform bench presses by bouncing the bar off our chests to reverse directions as we began to push the weight up. An experienced-looking bodybuilder walked over to us once and suggested that we try using lighter weights and pausing on our chest before we pushed the weight up. He said that we’d feel weaker at first and might not like using lighter weight, but that in two weeks we’d be lifting more than the heaviest weight we were lifting using our previous technique. He was right. I’ve paid close attention to proper form ever since.

In addition, performing exercises in a manner that allows for the fastest strength increases also happens to be the safest method. And you’ll more fully understand what the exercise is supposed to make the muscle feel like. “Feel” is a key term here.

Concentration on proper form while learning an exercise will allow you to focus on the physical sensation you should feel, similar to learning a golf or tennis racquet swing.

But using proper mechanics for the motion is essential to understanding the sensation. When you understand the sensation, you’ll be able to duplicate it faster when you change something about your workout, making a new workout effective right away. Besides making your workouts more effective, understanding muscular sensations will enable you to go to any gym, sit down on a foreign-looking piece of equipment and do two repetitions of the exercise to determine whether it was designed and constructed properly.

And understanding the sensations will allow you to understand your body, how it moves, how it functions. You’ll be athletic, if not a good athlete. And you’ll be the master of your own body!

For those of you interested, the scientific field is biochemistry, and the term that has to do with muscular sensation and establishing the proper “feel” is neuromuscular control.  Also Neuromuscular pathways,  and Bioelectrical pathways.

Cancer – Natural Cures and Prevention

Jun 22 2008 |

Swift and dramatic changes at the genetic level. That’s right, you read it correctly. And it’s backed up by bonafide research!

How do you make these swift and dramatic changes? By eating right and exercising. Again, yes, you read correctly.

I’ve known about it for years. Natural medicine is the name, and it’s been around for a long time.

So this little study was done with men who had low-risk prostate cancer, and they used “natural” methods instead of what they’ve called “conventional” medical treatment such as surgery and radiation or hormone therapy. Which natural methods? Eating lots of vegetables, fruit, and other nutrient rich foods, taking a few supplements, limiting fats, and exercising a little, along with some meditation and stress management.

“After three months, the men had changes in activity in about 500 genes — including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off.

The activity of disease-preventing genes increased while a number of disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Bottom line? You want to prevent cancer and other disease? Eat right and exercise! Live your life, not somebody else’s. Take care of yourself. You only live once, so choose, and choose so you’re happy with it all when you’re done.

You can read the entire original story here.

Gut Check – Probiotics & Immune Health

Apr 24 2008 |

I have felt great lately (nothing really new), and have been cycling my carbohydrate intake, remaining lean by restricting carbs for 3.5 days and then doing a moderate carb load for about 1.5 days, training super heavy the day after the carb load, and reaping the most anabolic benefit possible from it. Then I go back to low carbs, starting the process over.

You need to know that I also had taken antibiotics for a nasty bronchial infection about 2 months ago, and after my 2nd course of antiB’s, I started taking extra probiotics to replace what had been killed. I didn’t realize that my intestinal flora was so out of whack, but taking the probiotics kept me healthy and feeling good, training hard, and living life like I had no worries. Until…

I hadn’t realized, but I had decreased the amount of probiotics I was taking, sometimes taking very little or none in a day, and maybe a small amount another day.  And when my probiotic lull coincided with my first really BIG carb load day, I started feeling a sore throat.

It took me until the next day, when I was getting sick, to figure out the probiotic/carb load connection.  My probiotic intake had decreased, but my immune response didn’t suffer as long as my carb intake was low enough.  When I overloaded on carbs – bam!  My intestinal flora went nuts… bad and ugly! And I started to get sick.

I immediately started taking much more probiotics, and I started feeling better the next morning.  I hypothesized that what was the beginning of a nasty cold was thwarted by the probiotics balancing things out quickly. A day later and I feel still better, with my soar throat entirely gone, and just a little stuffiness remaining.

Saturday – afternoon carb load begins, scratchy throat noticed Sat night
Sunday – carb loading continues, along with continued cold symptoms: soar throat, runny nose, stuffy sinuses. I began taking probiotics on Sunday evening.
Monday – soar throat has diminished some, symptoms haven’t gotten worse
Tuesday – feeling better, thinking that the probiotics are doing the trick, but won’t claim victory yet
Wed – soar throat is gone, all is well except for a little stuffiness. I decided to write this last night while laying in bed.

This experience has driven home the importance of probiotics and intestinal health. So much of immunity is affected by gut health. I’ve known this, but haven’t been reminded of it in such an extreme way before.

Today I ordered products to help kill whatever candida, bad bacteria, or yeast in my gut, and I will continue to take loads of probiotics until things are balanced again.

A quick search just yielded a couple great sources of research on probiotics and immune health…

U.S. Probiotics

Univ of Michigan Health System


Update on Feb 24, 2013

After much personal experimentation with dosage, frequency, and carbohydrate intake, as well as other variables… I haven’t been sick in roughly 5 years.  I think that probiotic intake is the easiest and quickest way to affect your immune system health (all other things being equal, and assuming relatively “normal” health).  Take a high dosage (anywhere from 30 Billion organisms to 50 to 100 Billion, it just depends on you, and you’ll find out by personal experimentation – the worst that happens if you take too many is that you get a little diarrhea) of probiotics every couple hours over the course of a day or two or three.  Your probiotic dosing can be likened to your foot on the gas pedal in your sports car… take more and it revs up your immune system, keeping your “good” to “bad” bacteria ratio balanced in your favor.

Update on May 17, 2014

Make it 6 plus years without a full-blown cold, flu, or anything else now.  I’ll post again at the 10 year mark! 😉

A TED Talks video.  Finally, probiotics are not NEW news, but this is getting GOOD now!

The gut flora: You and your 100 trillion friends:

Slowing Down the Clock

Mar 22 2008 |

I’ve had people calling me a liar when I’ve told them my age for a long time. It was amongst a Hollywood crowd on my 41st birthday, and when told it was my birthday, a particular someone wouldn’t believe me when I told him I was 41, and he kept asking for my real age. So the next person who had heard of my birthday and asked my age got the answer, “31″. He didn’t bat an eye. In fact, he said, “That’s right, I’m 34, I’m not too old, I still look good. You’re 31, you’re not too old, and you still look good. Hell yeah!” Ever since, I’ve stuck with the minus ten answer when asked by someone who didn’t know me.

Until recently ;-)

Last week I was asked in an email about factors that would affect biological age, and here’s what I came up with:

A myriad of factors affect aging. Exercise itself does. Always getting enough sleep helps. What we eat (always eating enough fiber, protein, good fats, and watching the junk you eat), how well we digest what we eat, how well we eliminate waste… all huge factors. Always drinking water, water, water, and not drinking sodas. Fruits, vegetables, and whatever supplements needed to round it all out make a difference also (like probiotics, enzymes, vitamins/minerals, glutamine, antioxidant formulas, etc).

Drugs, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, stress, a job you hate, “hate” of any kind, chronic worrying or anger… all are aging foes.

Instead, you’ll age slower if you’re always attentive to your health, your happiness, state of mind and well-being, “being” happy and satisfied with whatever your present path and not worrying too much about what others think you should be doing.

Now what are you waiting for? Hurry up and stop aging!


Mar 19 2008 |

You’ve heard the term “Use it or lose it”? We’ve had a hunch that people who exercise fair better with regard to health and aging. But now this is scientific proof! And probably just the tip of the telomere, so to speak. ;-)

Telomeres, pronounced TEE-low-meres, are DNA caps that protect genes at the tips of chromosomes – all 23 pairs that reside in the nucleus of each of our trillions of cells. They are sort of like the tips that keep your shoelaces from unraveling.
A little more about telomeres:
In most normal human cells telomeres get slightly shorter with every cell division. The shortening telomeres act like a ‘molecular clock’ that eventually prevents cells from dividing any further. Telomere shortening not only contributes to aging, but also prevents normal cells from becoming cancerous. The majority of human tumor cells overcome telomere shortening by activating the telomerase enzyme that adds more DNA to the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase is not detected in most normal cells. This raises the exciting possibility that drugs that inhibit telomerase will be a very specific and non-toxic treatment for cancer.

Workouts, Health, Fitness, Nutrition

Mar 13 2008 |

chanhassen-fitness-and-chanhassen-nutritionFitness isn’t a fad any longer. When I first began my fitness journey, I was being told that I was wasting my time on a fad.  If you want a workout, my father would say half-teasing, I’ve got some work for you!

Dad was talking about ranch-related activities, and though wholesome and sweat-producing, they’re not quite the same. My brother and I explained this to him on a few occasions. I knew that what I was doing in the weight room was changing my body, and that I liked it for a number of reasons, so it didn’t matter if it would prove to be a fad or not. Time would tell, but it made no difference to me at that time.

Today most people believe that the effects of exercise are real and beneficial. Not everyone has benefited but we all probably know someone who has. Scientific studies, commercialism, and others who’ve shared my experience have turned the fad into something lasting. And slowly, I suspect, our culture as a whole will shed the quick-fix mentality to weight loss and physical ailments and instead, embrace exercise, nutrition, and their positive effects as fundamental to living.

Taking it a step further, I think that society’s view about health, prevention and traditional medical treatment will shift, with exercise and proper nutrition being a part of a more effective holistic health approach.

Parenthetically, although free enterprise is at the root of this country’s greatness, commercialism has sometimes inhibited progress, with healthcare being one prime example. But getting back to the subject:

A question that enters my mind now and then is,  How can so many people be so uninformed about nutrition and exercise?

The fitness boom led to real research, real results, and significant benefits, but I meet people all the time who ask about things that I always thought were common knowledge. I suppose that’s the reason for so many health and fitness-related magazine.

While there are many ways to exercise, the best method is to find an activity that you enjoy and find effective. Some form of pure cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training is recommended for becoming healthy and fit.

Whether you exercise by jogging and doing calisthenics in the park, or go to a fitness center to work out on a treadmill and weight-lifting equipment, the benefits can be the same.

The first important step in starting an exercise program is, quite simply, to do something. You don’t have to go to a fitness facility, but it’s probably the best way to begin. The environment found there makes you focus your attention on exercise, plus the equipment is of better quality. Chances are that a fitness center will provide better and faster results, though finding one that you’re comfortable with may be essential to your progress.

If you want to work out at home, its best to set aside a time when you won’t answer the phone or allow other distractions. Also, it makes sense to obtain sufficient equipment to provide for an effective workout. If you’re going to spend the time, energy and money, you may as well make it effective.

Sad to say, there is some home equipment on the market that makes exercising with it almost worse than doing nothing. Due to improper design or construction, working out on some equipment can be awkward, and the person may get the impression that exercise is too hard or unpleasant. Oftentimes this results in that person swearing off all exercise in the future.

Generally, good health and fitness will result from basic exercise and good nutrition. If you want to go beyond generally good health and fitness, then an important thing to remember is that different people will require different workouts, depending on body type, physical condition, metabolic rate, and fitness goal.

While I personally don’t have to do much of the typical aerobic exercise to stay lean as long as I eat a certain way, others may require mostly aerobic exercise. And a more athletic body type may build muscle easily, while others have to work out intensely to get the same muscular build.

As a personal fitness trainer, I’ve coached many men and women from a beginning to an advanced fitness level. Though they had various body types, goals, and so on, I’ve found that the most successful strategy is to give them a basic workout that doesn’t frustrate them or seem too difficult.

After the basics are mastered, the next step in the progression is begun. I happen to think that it is one of the best approaches to getting beginners in shape. It works because it gives them a very simple, basic progression to follow, and they advance when they’re comfortable.

Enough emphasis can’t be placed on learning the proper way to perform the exercises. Doing so will dramatically enhance your progress, regardless of your goal.

When my brother and I first started workout out, we performed bench presses by bouncing the bar off our chests to reverse directions as we began to push the weight up. One day during bench presses, a big, experienced-looking bodybuilder came over to us and suggested that we try using lighter weights and pausing on our chest before we pushed the weight up. He said that we’d feel weaker at first and might not like using lighter weight, but that in two weeks we’d be lifting more than the heaviest weight we were lifting using our previous technique. He was right. I’ve paid close attention to proper form ever since.

In addition, performing exercises in a manner that allows for the fastest strength increases also happens to be the safest method. And you’ll more fully understand what the exercise is supposed to make the muscle feel like. “Feel” is a key term here.

Concentration on proper form while learning an exercise will allow you to focus on the physical sensation you should feel, similar to learning a golf or tennis racquet swing.

But using proper mechanics for the motion is essential to understanding the sensation. When you understand the sensation, you’ll be able to duplicate it faster when you change something about your workout, making a new workout effective right away.

Besides making your workouts more effective, understanding muscular sensations will enable you to go to any gym, sit down on a foreign-looking piece of equipment and do two repetitions of the exercise to determine whether it was designed and constructed properly.

As I mentioned earlier, home equipment usually isn’t the best due to improper design or construction, or both. Most people who buy home exercise equipment are exercise novices, and don’t know what their muscles should be feeling, so they assume that what they’re feeling is proper. It’s usually not. And therein lies the problem with beginners and home equipment.