By Daniel Gwartney, MD
If you have ever gotten stuck on an icy road, you know the frustration of hearing your tires spin while you get nowhere. Sometimes dieting feels like that – usually during your waking hours. Nearly everyone who wishes to lose weight has the desire and willpower to follow a diet and exercise program. Every January, gyms are filled with a lemming-like trail of new members who spend three weeks with a renewed vision of adding muscle and losing fat, only to disappear the remainder of the year. It isn’t laziness that accounts for the drop-off in most cases, rather it’s frustration over the lack of results.
It is only natural to seek out the best tools for achieving an improved physique that includes fat loss. One important aspect of weight loss is following the best diet. The low-fat versus low-carb argument has been waged for years; the latter is not bodybuilder friendly. Protein is an essential component of the diet; not only is it vital to health and function, it also aids in weight management through appetite suppression, promoting satiety and maintaining lean mass.1,2 However, is there a best protein source?
It is generally accepted that hydrolyzed whey protein, due to its rapid absorption and high branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content, is the optimal anabolic (muscle building) protein.3 However, does that equate to it being the best protein in your diet for weight loss/fat loss? A growing research base suggests not.
Certainly, whey, casein and other proteins (e.g., egg, beef, pork, chicken, soy) can be part of a weight-loss diet. However, researchers have found (in rat studies) that the different proteins may include fractions that might support weight loss. These fractions, called bioactive peptides, are small proteins formed when the larger proteins are digested. Very little of these peptides actually get through the intestinal barrier to circulate through the bloodstream intact, so they have not been a focus of study in human nutrition. However, if the findings of a study published in the journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental apply to human nutrition, then a highly relevant topic has been ignored.4
Heart-Healthy Protein Source
Researchers at Laval University (Quebec, Canada) had previously reported that rats fed cod protein were protected from developing type 2 diabetes as a consequence of eating a high-fat/high-sugar diet; no influence on bodyweight was involved.5 There was a reduction in C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation that is associated with insulin resistance – the first step toward type 2 diabetes. Many other studies have shown that diets emphasizing fish as a significant protein source are heart healthy and protect against insulin resistance. However, the prevailing belief is that it is the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil (DHA and EPA) that provide these health effects, not bioactive peptides in fish protein.6 To further investigate the potential benefits to be obtained from fish protein, separate from those arising from fish oil, the researchers provided groups of rats separate diets consisting of several different fish protein – each group received a different type of fish protein (bonito, herring, mackerel or salmon) of an equal number of calories. In addition to the fish protein, the rat food consisted of a high-fat, high-sugar (sucrose) formulation, the kind of diet that induced obesity, insulin resistance and promoted inflammation. The control diet was based upon casein, a type of milk protein. The fish protein was de-fatted so that there was no EPA or DHA (omega-3 fish oil).
With the absence of the omega-3 fish oils, it was somewhat surprising to note that all of the tested fish proteins reduced the inflammatory markers TNF-alpha and IL-6.4 High levels of these markers are associated with the metabolic syndrome. As the proteins were all de-fatted, these results suggest that some common peptide fraction has anti-inflammatory properties.
Given the common anti-inflammatory effect noted above, it was further surprising that all fish proteins did not react the same, providing the same result (or lack thereof), in reducing weight gain, visceral adipose (inner-belly fat) and improving insulin sensitivity. Of the four fish proteins tested in this study, only salmon protein resulted in less weight gain on the high-fat/high-sugar diet. After sacrificing the rats, it was discovered that the weight difference was due to less visceral fat; subcutaneous (under the skin) fat and brown fat (a specialized fat that creates heat from fat burning) were not different between the various groups. Liver weight was the same for all groups; no differences were seen in fasting glucose (blood sugar), insulin or triglycerides (fats in the blood).
An interesting test was performed, looking at the macrophages – white blood cells in the blood that release the early signaling inflammatory chemicals – and how they responded to a chemical challenge. The macrophages all acted as they normally would in the casein (milk protein) group, as well as all the fish protein groups EXCEPT the salmon protein group. Obesity is often referred to in academic journals as a chronic inflammatory state.7 Lowering macrophage activity in the visceral fat depot, and thus inflammation, may represent one of the mechanisms by which salmon protein results in healthier effects. Prior research has shown that the amino acid taurine, which is present in fish protein in high concentration, suppresses TNF-alpha and IL-6 in macrophages.8 However, these specific changes were not present in this study.
As the earlier study reported by this group, using cod protein, showed a decrease in insulin resistance, and as the salmon group had lower inflammatory markers and less visceral fat, the researchers were surprised to see that the salmon group did not have improvements as measured by an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Doctors give patients an OGTT to determine whether they have the early stages of diabetes. It consists of drinking a super-sugary drink, then measuring how long the blood sugar, as well as insulin, is elevated. The OGTT is not a sensitive test, so the researchers utilized a more intensive test called the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp technique. This technique administers a steady amount of insulin that is higher than normal, and then the amount of sugar that needs to be delivered to maintain a normal blood sugar is measured. If the excess insulin can only dispose of a small amount of extra sugar, then that subject is not very insulin sensitive. If extra insulin results in a strong signal to the cells, and a greater amount of sugar is necessary to maintain a normal sugar, then that subject is very insulin sensitive.
Salmon: Greater Insulin Sensitivity
Given the direction of this conversation, it should not surprise anyone to read that the salmon protein resulted in greater insulin sensitivity than the other proteins.4 Though this was not seen in the OGTT, the clamp technique revealed that the body was more able to drive sugar into active cells. Another possibility is that the liver was more sensitive to the first-phase signaling of insulin, which shuts down gluconeogenesis – the production of sugar from ketones by the liver.
One last observation is extremely interesting, if such things interest you: the presence of a specific bioactive peptide in the salmon protein called salmon calcitonin. Calcitonin is a small protein (32 amino acids in length) hormone that is produced by numerous species, including humans. Human calcitonin is produced within specialized cells located in the thyroid, and serves to regulate ionized calcium concentration in the blood. It reduces the blood calcium level by reducing the absorption of calcium from the intestines, inhibiting calcium release from bones, and reducing the amount of calcium that is recovered by the kidneys from the urine. It is possible that by increasing the amount of calcium that remains in the intestines, calcitonin’s action might reduce the amount of fatty acids that are absorbed from food (and thus fat calories).
Salmon calcitonin is 40 times as strong as human calcitonin.4 It has been reported in earlier studies that calcitonin prevents the activation of macrophages, similar to what was seen in the rats fed salmon protein.9 This supports the theory that salmon calcitonin may be one of the active protein fractions responsible for the decreased inflammation noted in this study.
Calcitonin is structurally similar to another hormone called amylin, and can bind to and activate the amylin receptor. Amylin is involved in regulating bodyweight by increasing energy expenditure (the number of calories burned in a given amount of time). Salmon calcitonin has been shown to have the same effect when given as a specific treatment in animal studies. This adds another possible explanation as to why the rats fed salmon protein did not gain as much weight on the same diet. The other fish species used in this study have slight chemical differences in their respective calcitonin structures, and it has not been determined whether or not they can interact with the amylin receptor, possibly explaining the failure of those fish proteins to affect weight gain. Also, the blood levels of salmon calcitonin achieved through the diet may not be sufficient to have an effect on energy expenditure. Unfortunately, this was not measured in the study.
OK, another win for fat rats. Does this apply to humans? It is difficult to say. The salmon protein was pre-processed to make it suitable for rat pellets, and de-fatted. It was the sole protein source in the diet, which would not be economically feasible for many. The benefits of other protein sources would also be sacrificed.1 Also, rats were fed a terrible diet, and the salmon protein reduced the metabolic damage, but did not reduce subcutaneous fat. Would a “clean” diet see any benefit from salmon protein? Further, it remains to be seen whether the consumption of a reasonable amount of salmon by a human can raise salmon calcitonin sufficient to increase calorie burning. The human gut does not allow larger molecules to pass readily into the bloodstream. Would re-introducing the omega-3 fats improve or interfere with the fat loss? An earlier study suggests it would improve it. For those who want to build muscle, it is important to keep in mind that fish protein is relatively low in branched-chain amino acids. This raises questions of whether other protein sources would block the effects seen in diets where protein is exclusively sourced from salmon. People may experience mercury toxicity from fish-rich diets.
It is interesting, and there are certainly health benefits to eating more omega-3 rich fish. With the limited downside, when eaten in moderation, it appears that fish protein can aid in promoting health, insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation and visceral fat. The best fish to consume appears to be salmon. Great news for rats, possibly good for humans, but bad news for the salmon.
1. Anderson GH, Luhovyy B, et al. Milk proteins in the regulation of body weight, satiety, food intake and glycemia. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program, 2011;67:147-59.
2. Frestedt JL, Zenk JL, et al. A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutr Metab (Lond), 2008 Mar 27;5:8.
3. Tang JE, Moore DR, et al. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol, 2009 Sep;107(3):987-92.
4. Pilon G, Ruzzin J, et al. Differential effects of various fish proteins in altering body weight, adiposity, inflammatory status, and insulin sensitivity in high-fat-fed rats. Metabolism, 2011 Aug;60(8):1122-30.
5. Lavigne C, Tremblay F, et al. Prevention of skeletal muscle insulin resistance by dietary cod protein in high fat-fed rats. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2001 Jul;281(1):E62-71.
6. Tai CC, Ding ST. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids regulate lipid metabolism through several inflammation mediators: mechanisms and implications for obesity prevention. J Nutr Biochem, 2010 May;21(5):357-63.
7. Rocha VZ, Folco EJ. Inflammatory concepts of obesity. Int J Inflam, 2011;2011:529061.
8. Schuller-Levis GB, Park E. Taurine: new implications for an old amino acid. FEMS Microbiol Lett, 2003 Sep 26;226(2):195-202.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
A Low-Impact Resistance Band Workout for Your Upper Body
When it comes to workout tools, resistance bands are often under-appreciated. These stretchy, looped devices offer a ton of benefits—including effective, low-impact strengthening—but in many gyms they take a backseat to heftier equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.
But not today. We've got a 25-minute Sweat with SELF workout that gives resistance band exercises the spotlight they deserve. The routine—created and led by Taylor and Justin Norris, cofounders of the LIT Method—features nine resistance band exercises that will seriously engage your muscles and get your heart pumping without straining your joints. You can easily do this workout at home and scale it up or down to match your fitness level.
Yet another perk of this workout: It emphasizes your upper body—particularly the back, shoulders, and arms. Strengthening these key areas can help anyone improve their posture, as SELF previously reported.
Ready to try this sweaty program? First, make sure it's safe for you. If you're injured or have joint pain, check in with a professional to determine whether a routine like this is a good idea.
Once you're given the OK for this workout, grab a mat, water bottle, and resistance band. (If you're new to resistance bands or to working out in general, start with a light resistance band. As you progress, you can amp up the intensity with a heavier resistance band.) Check out the video below. Or, keep scrolling to get detailed resistance band exercise directions and GIFs of each move.
Start with the dynamic warm-up. Do each exercise for 60 seconds with no rest between movements. When you're done, rest for 30 seconds.
Next, move on to the circuits. There are 3 circuits with 3 moves each, and all moves use the resistance band unless otherwise noted. Do each move for 60 seconds with little to no rest. (It's okay to take 5 to 10 seconds between each move to transition to the next.) At the end of the circuit, rest for 30 seconds. Do each circuit 2 times before moving to the next circuit.
- Bodyweight Upright Row x 60 seconds
- Jab x 60 seconds
- Side Stretch x 60 seconds
- Squat to Biceps Curl x 60 seconds
- Squat to Row x 60 seconds
- Standing Crunch x 60 seconds
Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit once more.
- Bent-Over Row x 60 seconds
- Biceps Curl x 60 seconds
- Triceps Kickback x 60 seconds
Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit once more.
- Seated Row x 60 seconds
- Seated Biceps Curl x 60 seconds
- Seated Static Hold x 60 seconds
Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit once more.
Fitness / Workouts
Looking for Female Personal Trainers
Get the Basics…
Some women may feel embarrassed working out with a male trainer. Men may feel intimidated by male trainers. Both and male and female trainers deliver quality workouts.
Most people want to slim down and live a healthier lifestyle. And while some reach their fitness goals alone, others need the help of a qualified personal trainer. When it comes time to make a final decision, you may wonder if it’s better to work with a male or female trainer.
Relationship with Your Personal Trainer
In life, you have many different types of relationships. You have a certain bond with your doctor, masseuse, and even your hairstylist. When you decide to work with a personal trainer, they also become a vital piece of equipment in your healthy lifestyle toolbox. And as such, you want a trainer who can guide you in the right direction. But what qualifications do they need? Does gender really matter?
What type of credentials does he or she possess? Are you looking for a trainer who specializes in weight training, or someone who can help you train for a marathon? Regardless of gender, the more versatile the trainer, the more creative they are when designing a personalized workout plan.
Do you need someone who is serious and militant-like with their training style, or do you want a trainer who is more compassionate? Your needs in the gym all play a role when deciding whether a male or female trainer is best for you.
– Training Method
While women have a better understanding of what it takes to get their pre-baby body back, they also know how difficult it is to build muscle mass while slimming down. If you’re a man, hiring a female trainer doesn’t mean you will have to forego your personal fitness goals. She’ll establish the training method that’s right for you.
A Female’s Perspective
For some women, going to the gym is a daunting task, particularly after they have children. Many women are embarrassed by their shape, which means it’s even more difficult to feel comfortable exercising in front of other people. Hiring a female trainer may make things easier since they can relate to what you are feeling.
With a female trainer, your comfort level may be higher, which will increase your motivation and help you get the most out of your workouts.
Furthermore, certain exercises may feel awkward when you perform them with a male, so doing the same exercise with a female may make you feel more relaxed. Females aren’t built the same as males, so you can’t expect the same exercises to produce identical results. And while there are a lot of experienced male trainers who help women whip their bodies into shape, you might not feel confident enough to take that chance.
Since a female trainer probably uses similar training methods when she works out, she won’t second-guess what she is doing when she trains another female. But it’s important to note that male trainers are equally as competent as the female counterparts.
A Male’s Perspective
Have you ever gone to the gym only to look around and compare yourself to everyone else because you thought they looked better than you? Although you may think that having a woman help you get fit is not manly, it is a lot better than feeling inadequate because you aren’t as ripped as your male trainer.
Yes, females are just as ripped as males, but there is just something about the male psyche that makes it easier to work out with women than the thought of being taunted by another man. And while you may feel the need to impress a female trainer, the initial novelty wears off pretty quickly so you can focus on reaching your fitness goals, as opposed to flexing your muscles.
If you’re having doubts, you can always schedule a trial lesson or two and see if you feel comfortable with a female trainer. While this isn’t the right decision for everyone, many people who do this find that they are happy with the choice they made.
Choosing a Personal Trainer
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle mass, the last thing you need is to feel uncomfortable with your trainer. When choosing a trainer, gender really shouldn’t come into play.
A qualified trainer is someone who has worked with all types of clients and has the education and experience to help you reach your fitness goals.
The process of hiring a personal trainer needs to be done with care. Regardless of whether you hire a female or male trainer, make sure that they have the proper qualifications, credentials, and experience.
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What are the benefits of having a personal trainer?
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Working out with a personal trainer delivers better results than when clients work out on their own. Personal trainers also help keep injury risks low. Personal trainers provide knowledge and insights clients find valuable.
Seeing a business card or other advertisement for a personal trainer may lead you to think about booking sessions. Personal trainers commonly offer fair session rates and flexible scheduling, which makes would-be clients more likely to sign up. Even when a trainer presents a truly solid deal on sessions, you may remain on the fence about actually booking hourly sessions.
The easiest way to sway your decision toward an affirmative decision about hiring a trainer involves little more than looking at the many positive benefits to hiring one.
The benefits are vast. A personal trainer does more than assisting with a workout. An effective trainer plays a major role in ensuring the client gets more of what he/she expects.
The Chances of Seeing Results Increase
People seeking out a personal trainer want to see results. They probably spent a lot of time working out already and discover results can be elusive without the right training approach.
Some wonder why they train consistently and can’t seem to develop the physique they want. A clear reason usually exists. The combination of the wrong diet and an improper or inefficient workout program undermine results. A skilled personal trainer can help a client get on the right track and see both short-term and long-term results.
An Original and Appropriate Program Design
Choosing particular exercises, even extra-beneficial ones, cannot be done at random. Exercises must be chosen with a proper program design in mind. Program design follows establishing some basic stats about a client’s current level of fitness and strength.
The trainer also listens to the client’s stated goals. When you convey your needs — fat loss, strength building, and more — a personal trainer can work to craft an appropriate program to meet those goals. Following the detailed program should lead to results.
Arriving at Faster Results
Overnight results are not possible. Training programs claiming to deliver overnight results generally aren’t good ones. The best approach to losing weight and building muscle entails taking part in a complete changeover to a healthier lifestyle. Once put on the right path, results become evident a lot quicker. Since a personal trainer possesses a great deal of knowledge about getting people on the best path possible, he/she could craft a good program that leads to faster, better results.
Engaging in Safer Workouts
Proper instruction that teaches basic form, at a bare minimum, helps cut down on injuries. Simply placing the bar in an improper position during a squat can lead someone to stumble, causing a major injury. Other things to beware of include:
Lifting too heavy an amount of weight Prematurely performing intermediate and advanced workouts Working out unsupervised Exercising too long and too frequently Not warming up properly beforehand
Small errors are not so small when they set up potentially big mishaps. Even missing one element of proper form could be more than enough to suffer a serious injury when performing a deadlift. A skilled trainer keeps safety in mind and won’t lead clients down a risky, unhelpful path.
Personal Trainers Inspire and Motivate
Personal trainers show the value of living a fitter and healthier life. They show there is more to working out than just gaining physical benefits. Sticking with a trainer for many months leads to a better understanding of a fit lifestyle. Revelations such as how working out helps with self-esteem and disease prevention become clear.
Personal trainers, themselves, are people who stuck with working out for years and years. They, too, go through periods where they don’t want to work out too hard and feel a little less than motivated. So, they know how to perk people back up to feel motivated to work hard in the gym.
Personal Trainers Make Things Fun
Working out can be intense, but this doesn’t mean sessions feel like a grind. Trainers know when to shake up a workout. Maybe the time is right to move away from free weights and try out kettlebells or plyometric exercises. Trainers understand clients need to be psychologically motivated to succeed. Boredom can ruin a mental outlook on exercising. Trainers keep things upbeat and moving, which replaces boredom with fun.
Personal Trainers are a Source of Knowledge
Knowledge sets the path to eating right, working out effectively, and improving conditioning. Reading books and watching online videos positively helps the cause of boosting knowledge, but nothing replaces having access to an experienced expert.
Personal trainers can answer direct, personalized questions about many areas of fitness.
The knowledge base of a personal trainer serves another important purpose. A trainer can steer you away from bad fitness advice. Fad diets and odd workout plans abound. A trainer knows which ones possess value and which should be avoided.
Looking for a Trainer
Personal trainers can only be effective after you hire one. Start looking around for a top personal trainer in your area. Many advertise on online classified ads. Others leave business cards at the front desk of local gyms. And you can always ask people in the gym if they know of a good trainer. Start looking right away! Once you start working out with a pro, all the previously mentioned benefits and more become accessible.
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