Diets are terrible for weight loss.  If you want to gain 5 more pounds, just start the latest trendy weight loss diet.  Here is how it works….

You put yourself on a new diet, and lose weight.  If you were not on a professionally established strength training program, some of the weight you lost was muscle, and this is a bad thing.  Because you cannot live with the weight loss diet forever, a number of weeks later you quit.  When you quit, you eat all the things that you were depriving yourself of. This calorie surplus gets processed into body fat, and you return to the weight you previously were, or maybe even 5 pounds heavier.  The problem is that muscle you lost when improperly dieting.  If you lost 5 pounds of muscle during the diet, and weigh 5 pounds more after you quit the diet, you now are 10 pounds fatter than before.

trainer posing in bodybuilding contestYou cannot live with a diet, because a diet is not a lifestyle.  A diet is temporary.  I used a diet to get to 3% body fat and win the Mr. Ohio competition.  This was a very strict 16-week diet.  And yes, even though I was on an ass-kicking strength training program, I still lost muscle as well.  But that was the price I paid to get even leaner, which enabled every muscle to be seen through my paper-thin skin at the time.  But this diet was not sustainable, and I quit it.  It was a temporary diet, as all diets are.

If you want to control your weight, you need to change your day to day habits.  Your day to day habits can also be referred to as a lifestyle.  A bodybuilding diet is not a lifestyle, and therefore, I did not look like that for long.  But my overall lifestyle is healthy, and that is why I look better than most at my age.  Sensible Fitness can help you achieve a healthy lifestyle with professional accountability and guidance.  But stay away from a diet!  They are the worst for weight loss.

If you are thirsty, it is too late, as you are already dehydrated!

As the weather warms up and we become more active with outdoor activities, the concerns of dehydration get well-needed attention.  While most people rely on thirst as an indicator for the intake of fluids, it has been proven not to be an accurate indicator.

By the time you are thirsty, it is too late, your body has already experienced significant fluid loss.  Medical studies have shown that thirst is not well correlated to fluid status, which in my opinion is a design flaw in us humans. Throw in the mix a little sweat on the hot, humid summer days in Cincinnati, and it is easy to find yourself in a fluid deficit and in need of a hydrating stimulus package.

Fluid intake is huge for those trying to lose weight and a local hospital-based weight loss program recommends 80 oz. per day.  Patients of this program feel like they are swimming when they drink this much water, but it pales in comparison to the guidelines of other medically based resources.  According to the Institute of Medicine, it is recommended to have a daily water intake of 125oz. for men and 91oz. for women, this can increase to 336 oz. if activities with high sweat loss are performed, such as a personal training session.

Dehydration caused by failing to replace fluids during activities also slows the body’s ability to dissipate heat, which can lead to a strain on the heart and possibly heat stroke.  It is recommended to replace fluids at the rate for which they are lost.  This can be accomplished by simply weighing yourself before and after your activity and replace the weight lost with the same amount of water.  One quart of water weighs about two pounds.

As we age thirst becomes an even poorer indicator of fluid status so adequate water intake is especially important for the mature adult.  We can survive losses of up to 40% of our body weight in fat, carbohydrate, and protein, but a water loss of 9% to 12% of body weight can be fatal.

One way is to monitor your fluid status is to look at the color of your urine first thing in the morning.  If it is more the color of apple juice than that of lemonade, you may be dehydrated.  Now you know why your pee is so dark after a night of boozing it up!

Of course, there are many fluids to hydrate with but since your body is 60% water, I personally believe plain water is king.  Working with the overweight population a great deal, I often hear “I hate water!”  If you are one of these people, I am worried about your future in the weight control department.  Diet sodas have been linked to weight GAIN, and if you need a flavorful burst every time you are thirsty, it is going to be tough to control the calories.

Ah, the nasty orange peel looking skin condition that women of all shapes and sizes try to rid themselves of.  It is never a welcome addition to a person’s appearance and creams, potions, and lotions are readily marketed as a cure.  Let’s look at the facts and fiction of cottage cheese skin syndrome.

The facts.  Cellulite is real, and it usually finds a home in the pelvic/buttocks region, along with the lower limbs of women.  The few men who suffer the condition are usually lacking a few hormones that make men, well, men.  It is said to affect 80-90% of all women to some degree and evidence suggests the structural differences in fat architecture between the sexes account for its appearance.cellulite on legs

The facts, continued:  Although cellulite is a benign condition, women often take drastic and often invasive measures to rid themselves of it, all for the sake of vanity.  The easy-way-out treatments for cellulite range from massage, to laser treatments, to medically questionable potions and lotions, to invasive injections and liposuction.  The health risks and other dangers of cellulite certainly come from efforts to lose it and not the condition itself.

Now the fiction.  Many of the products on the market have greatly improved and are now offering impressive results.  The lotions now available have been reengineered and because of their osmotic-based molecular structure, they now penetrate the skin deeply and break down the collagen fibers that cause the orange peel appearance.  Previously, a prescription would have been required for a product like this, but the FDA has now eliminated this requirement.

The fiction, continued:  Like the advances seen in lotions, the same holds true with most other treatments.  Medical and scientific progress has opened the doors to many other options, which is great news for many.  Massage, injections, lasers, and of course liposuction, are all now considered very effective, incredibly easy, and more importantly, instant relief from cellulite.

Back to the facts:  While a high body fat composition will certainly worsen the appearance of cellulite, even women with normal or low body fat levels might experience it, but to a much lesser degree.  Also, lowering your stress level may help as stress releases hormones that have been thought to worsen the condition.

To a large degree, it is human nature, to look for an easy cure to cellulite, but they simply do not exist.  According to the most recent medical research I could find, there is nothing that is more than mildly or temporarily effective at very best.  It looks like your best bet is to stick with a healthy lifestyle and keep body fat in control.

Exercise and sexual performance in women is usually addressed by a journalist with quotes from a doctor or therapist.  Seriously, what does a journalist know?  I am writing this from the perspective of a Physical Therapy professional with additional credentials in pelvic floor musculature.  Whether it is sexual performance or athletic performance, it all comes down to muscles and movement.  As a 17-time bodybuilding champion, I know muscles, and as a professional in Physical Therapy, I know movement.

man and woman sex graphic

Regardless of what you are doing, if you are moving, it is because of muscle contractions and this is certainly true during sex. Muscles that are active during sex not only need strength, but also endurance unless you are left disappointingly done in 2 minutes. While the muscles of the pelvic floor, often trained with Kegel exercises, can enhance sex for both men and women, these muscles do not contribute to movement during sex.

Sexual positions and the muscles involved

There is no reason to feel frustrated if you feel that your performance is not at its best.  This can be improved upon with the proper program. The primary muscles a woman should focus on for sexual performance are those within the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, which are the muscles surrounding the pelvis.  These are all core muscles, but the emphasis should be placed on the more active musculature, and some are more active than others.  Secondary muscles would include the extremities and the less active core musculature.

The muscles responsible for movement during sex, or the “prime movers”, are different depending on the position you are in.  If you are in the missionary position, different muscles will be engaged than if you are in the “doggie-style” position.  Many sexual positions require a woman to have strength and control of the muscles responsible for pelvic tilting to align the vagina and also for pelvic rocking or what some call the “humping motion” or “twerking”.  This motion also can give great stimulation to the clitoris.

woman frustrated about sex

symbols for man and woman

The prime movers for the pelvic motion are the mainly the muscles of the low abs and low back that cause anterior and posterior tilting (rocking) of the pelvis.  For many women, these muscles are not only very weak but also are not well connected to the brain, meaning that they do not have proprioception or good conscious control of the muscles. Training these muscles will not only give you strength and endurance but also open the connection between the brain and body, to give you smooth and coordinated motion during sex.

The upper abs are the prime mover for a crunching or sit-up motion, but it is the lower abs that tilt the pelvis, and it is these that are more important during sex. As a professional, I have developed specific protocols for targeting these muscles.  In order to target the low abs, you have to place the body in a such a way as to challenge the position of your pelvis, forcing the low abs and low back to engage in maximal contractions.

Gain control of your pelvis

The starting point for a sexual performance fitness program is mastering anterior and posterior pelvic tilts.  The posterior pelvic tilt is probably most easily understood in the missionary position, where this motion helps tilt the vagina to an angle in which a woman can easily and enjoyably accept her partner.  To experience this, lie on your back with your knees bent.  Now without lifting your butt, flatten your low back to the ground.  As you do this, your pelvis tilts backward a bit and brings your vagina forward and up.

doggie style sexual position

Once you have mastered the anterior and posterior tilt, the sexual performance in women is greatly increased.  While it is easiest to learn this movement while lying on your back, it can be transitioned into being performed on your hands and knees.  During sex, this is sometimes called the “doggie position”.  The movement of anterior and posterior tilting of the pelvis is often used in yoga and is called the cat-cow pose.  When your back is raised like a cat, this would be an anterior pelvic tilt and not an easy access position for a man entering you.  But with the cow position, you have a posterior pelvic tilt and is lines everything up real nice.

cat-cow-pose

From the woman’s perspective, when you are on top of the man, mastering of the pelvic tilting greatly enhances sexual performance and stimulation to the clitoris. Often being in great control from this position, repeated pelvic tilting (some call grinding) can be demanding on the strength and endurance of the muscles required for this movement.

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Benefits other than sexual performance

The beauty of exercising the muscles responsible for sexual performance in women is that they have carry over into your appearance as well.  I have mentioned the posterior pelvic tilt a number of times and the low abs are responsible for this.  Located from the belly-button down, your lower abdominals are where a lot of women have a “pooch”.  Training the low abs will not only enhance sex for you and your partner but also help tone and flatten this stubborn area.

The anterior pelvic tilt movement is given to you by your low back muscles.  There should be a balance of strength and endurance between your low back and low abs.  It is this balances that gives you enhanced sexual performance in the bedroom, but this also carries over outside the bedroom in preventing low back injuries.

While I recommend focus of your sexual performance program being on the muscles surrounding and controlling your pelvis, I would also suggest attention being given to your legs and arms.  While this does not come into play a great deal with the missionary position, when in the doggie-style or woman-on-top position, a tremendous amount of strength and endurance is needed in the extremities.

Exercise protocol

I recommend a great deal of attention being given to strengthening the lower abs.  This muscle group stabilizes the spine and thus has great carryover for a healthy back.  You need to be careful that you are performing the exercises with perfect form, as it is easy to compensate and use other muscles.  You can challenge your pelvic tilt using simply bodyweight, or with external sources of resistance like rubber bands or cable machines.  The same can be said for the low back, which also can be targeted from different angles.

Because your low abs and low back are postural muscles, meaning they help keep us upright all day, they can be exercised with higher repetitions to enhance this endurance.  Using an undulating program will give you some workouts where the repetitions are lower but the resistance is higher, which focuses more on strength.

For optimal sexual performance in women, I recommend doing a larger variety of exercises that challenge the muscles from different angles.  This also helps prevent the muscles from becoming accustomed to the exercises, which often leads to fitness plateaus.  This is called muscle confusion in the fitness industry.  If each exercise is a tool in your toolbox, the greater number of tools, the better.

Along these lines, as mentioned before, I recommend mixing up the repetitions a bit to focus more on strength at times, and endurance at others.  If you want a day more focused on strength, I would recommend 12-15 repetitions on some exercises, while if focusing on endurance 20+ repetitions is acceptable.  Of course, this does not apply to all exercises, especially as your fitness level increases and 12-15 repetitions does nothing to challenge you.  In this case, you need to step up the repetitions, or do a more challenging version of the exercise.

back fat bulging at bra

Women know exactly what we are talking about here.  Back fat is that stuff that bubbles up over your bra around the back of your shoulder and armpit.  Back fat and how to get rid of it is a concern often raised by women.  It requires a two-part attack, of toning the muscle and also leaning out the area so muscle contours can be seen instead of soft and mushy fat.

Our muscles are what give our body a desirable shape.  Once we know the muscle that is responsible for giving a particular part of your body it’s shape, we can target this muscle to give it firmness, or increased tone. Then we look for ways to decrease the fat that covers this muscle, so its sculpted shape gives you the lines that are desirable.

What muscles need toned to improve back fat?

While there are a number of muscles that make up the appearance of a toned back, the largest back muscle is called the Latissimus Dorsi or “Lats”. It is a fan-shaped muscle that starts in your low back and then ends up just below your shoulder joint on your arm. It is an important muscle for the appearance of woman from behind, as it gives our body a “V” shape, with contoured width at shoulders and narrowness at the waist.  When this muscle is toned, it gives the appearance of a smaller waist.

The Latissimus Dorsi, or “Lats”, are responsible for motions of the arms such as pull-ups, or rowing. It is a very strong muscle and one of the many muscles that make up the “core”. Because this muscle is one of the stronger upper body muscles, many women do not adequately challenge this muscle. If you using small 3-8 pound hand-weights to tone your Lats, you are not stimulating this muscle enough. Even the weakest of women can usually perform a rowing motion with 12+ pound dumbbells, and you must challenge a muscle if you want results. Keep the small dumbbells for your shoulders, which is a small muscle group, but get the heavier ones out for the Lats if you want to rid yourself of lower back fat.

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Exercises for back fat area.

back fat exercise
Rowing types of motion will target the area of back fat.

You cannot write an article on how to get rid of back fat, or a back fat workout, without mentioning the Rhomboids.  These are muscles that lie between your shoulder blades, and when contracted, squeeze the shoulder blades together.  This is great for posture too!  If your mother ever told you to stand up straight and pull your shoulders back, these are the muscles that gave you that motion.  For that reason, rowing movements would be included in the list of back fat exercises.

The most important part.

Lean out!  As you are putting a bunch of effort into toning your back, you will not get rid of bra bubbles without leaning out.  That means losing the fat that is covering the muscle.  The stuff that bubbles over the bra, and the stuff you can pinch is fat.  It is as simple as that.  I probably do not need to tell you the importance of healthy eating habits along with an active lifestyle.  There simply are no shortcuts here.  You cannot be hitting the wine and chocolate multiple times per week and expect the bra bubbles to disappear.  Sorry.  The truth hurts, but in all my years as a personal trainer, I have always pledged to maintain honesty.

Sitting, or being sedentary, is now being labeled the “new smoking” by health professionals.

Replacing 30 minutes of sitting with physical activity can result in a 17% lower risk of early death.  If this activity is vigorous, it ramps up to a 35% lower risk.  That is huge.  It does not necessarily have to be all performed at one time.  If you have a 5-minute break at work, go up and down the stairs a few times, or take a brisk walk.

In fact, Dr. David Kirlin, our awesome resident oncologist personal training client, just shared a separate study about physical activity and cancer. Physical activity can lower your risk of multiple cancers, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. David Kirlin
Dr. David

Here are some of the numbers for various cancers:

Colon, 8-14% less risk in men.

Breast, 6-10% lower risk.

Endometrial, 10-18% less risk.

Kidney, 11-17% less.

Myeloma, 14-19% lower risk.

Liver, 18-27% lower risk.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, 11-18% less risk in women.

overweight person pinching fat around waist

Many people question if the Keto diet or Mediterranean diet is best for weight loss. Maybe a better question is which is best for you, as everyone has differing likes, dislikes, dedication to cooking, free time for meal planning, etc.  Let us give you a quick overview so that you can determine the best choice for your weight loss diet.

The Keto diet.  The Ketogenic diet is a born-again Adkin’s diet from the early 2000s.  This high fat, low carb diet dates back to the 1950s but was popularized in 2003 when Dr. Adkin’s wrote a book.  With this diet your carbs are restricted to around 50 grams per day, which is what the brain needs to survive.  When your body is not getting carbs, it is forced to use fat for energy, a state called ketosis.

The upside is that you will lose a considerable amount of fat fairly quickly.  For the knuckleheads, this is all they need to hear and will not read the rest of this article.  The downside is that because this diet is unrealistic for most people to sustain for a long period of time, people will quit and gain back all the weight plus more.  If you are using the Keto diet and not strength training to promote healthy muscle mass, you will actually diet away some of your muscle.  This means when the weight comes back, you will actually be fatter than when you started.

You have to ask yourself if this is realistic for you.  Can you live your life without eating a slice of birthday cake at a celebration?  No chocolate, no wine, no beer, no pizza, no chips….the list is very long.  It is not realistic for most.  Another consideration is the health implications of a high fat diet, and on that pretty much eliminates the foods that contain nutrients for your health, like those seen in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

The Mediterranean diet.  There really is no distinctly classified Mediterranean diet for weight loss, but it derives from countries along the Mediterranean Sea and the traditional foods that are a part of their lifestyle.  Keep in mind that people in these countries also embrace being physically active.

This diet has a strong foundation of fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.  While it is acceptable to enjoy red meat on occasion, most of your protein will come from fish, legumes, eggs, and some poultry.  Fat is an important component of your nutrition and your fat will come from healthy sources such as olive oil and fatty fish.  Dairy is not eliminated, but is limited.  Low fat yogurts (plain or Greek) are acceptable, as well as small amounts of cheese.

overweight man

This diet can be healthy and a great way to achieve weight loss.  The foundation of this diet is solid, healthy foods, and ones that need to be cooked.  Cooking your own food from scratch is one of the best habits you can have if you want life long weight control.  The Mediterranean diet does not overly restrict, but rather says to “limit” or use in “moderation”.  This is great advice.  And it includes red wine!

Conclusion.  You will lose weight faster on the Keto diet, but you are a fool to believe that this is a good way to jump start your weight loss.  “I will start with this to lose weight fast and then switch to a healthy lifestyle”.  Uh…no you won’t.  And you will just be fatter in the end.  I recommend the Mediterranean diet because it revolves around a sustainable lifestyle.  If you want permanent weight loss, you do not need a “diet”, you need a lifestyle change.  People just don’t want to hear the truth.  They want a magic diet, and they will try the latest diet book of the month, lose weight, then fall back into their poor lifestyle and gain it all back.  Take the time to evaluate what is best for you personally and let this guide you to the right choice between the Keto diet or Mediterranean diet for weight loss.

arm fat aka arm flab

We have all been guilty of it at one point or another. Doing a few extra arms exercises to help get rid of arm flab. Although your gut feeling may tell you that blasting the arms with exercise will burn the arm fat, reality is that this theory is far from the truth. Spot reduction is a huge myth that is alive a well!

The fat that accumulates on the arms, or any other part of the body, is stored energy and to get rid of it you must burn the stored energy. While strengthening exercises can add significant muscle tone, the amount of calories this type of exercise expends is very limited. You can perform endless arm exercises and never see the muscle tone you are gaining, unless you lower your calorie intake or burn the fat that blankets your arms.

Research has been done with tennis players who get much more exercise with one arm than another and when the amount of body fat is measured in each arm, they are equal. When your body burns fat for energy, it grabs it from throughout your body but you will notice the most reduction where you store it the most, which for many is the midsection. You must create a deficit of 3500 calories through exercise, diet, or more easily a combination of the two, in order to burn one pound of fat.

It’s really a catch-22 that applies to every part of your body. If you have firm muscles that are covered by a layer of fat, you will have a soft and sloppy appearance. But at the same holds true if you fail to exercise, because exercise is what gives muscles a firm appearance. You must eat clean and exercise to have a lean and tone look. Sorry, no way around it!

Depending on your fitness goals, targeting any muscle 2-3 times per week with strength training of proper intensity (this means tough workouts!) will offer considerable improvements in strength, shape, and firmness. Hitting the arms with a variety of different exercises it best. This variety sculpts the muscle from many different angles, which enhances its appearance greatly!

To see our Google post on this, click here.

Sensible Fitness on Local 12 News

Recently the local news station invited Sensible Fitness down to not only spotlight the incredible success of Susan Ernst (client), but also to show the viewers some exercises for your butt and gut.

The footage of the exercises start at the 14:00 mark!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE NEWS FOOTAGE!

To see our Google post, click here.

We all know that sugary, fizzy drinks are full of calories – with the equivalent of about seven teaspoons of sugar in a standard can of cola.

But is it only the sugar in the drink that swells our waists, or could it also be the bubbles?

In a recent study done last year at Birzeit University in the Palestinian territories, researchers took a group of male rats and gave them either a fizzy sugary drink, a flat sugary drink or tap water to consume.

They found that the rats who regularly drank the gassy sugary drink put on more weight at a much faster rate than rats given either flat sugary liquids or tap water.

When they took blood samples, they found that the rats drinking fizz had much higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which could explain the weight gain.

What researchers found was that ghrelin levels were about 50% higher when people had a fizzy drink.

So the fizzy sugary drink makes you a lot hungrier an hour later than drinking the same drink, but flat.

This increase in ghrelin wasn’t only seen after drinking sugary fizzy drinks; there was also a slight effect when researchers compared the impact of still with carbonated water.

They also wanted to see what effect drinking carbonated fizz had on how much food the volunteers consumed later in the day. And that, in some ways, was even more revealing.

Leading researcher said: “If you group together the carbonated drinks and the non-carbonated drinks, they ate on average 120 calories more after they had had a carbonated drink than they ate after they had a non-carbonated drink, and that’s a really significant finding.”

So, on top of the 140 calories in the fizzy drink, it seems they ate another 120 calories later in the day as a direct result of the extra ghrelin that was produced by having had a drink with fizz in it.

For the full article link, click here. 

Want to be skinny?  Adopt these 7 traits of a skinny person.

Below is the foundation of being skinny.  To be skinny, you have to behave like a skinny person.

1.  Skinny people drink water.

The majority of your body is made up of water.  Your body craves it.  Often I get a client who is considerably overweight and they say “I hate water, I can’t drink it”.  The response that I keep to myself is “I know, and it shows.”  If you cannot choke down plain water, try flavoring it with lemon or other non-calorie choices.  When I worked at a hospital-based weight loss center, we preached 80 ounces a day.

2.  You eat breakfast each and every day.

When you wake in the morning, it is after your body has been in a fasting state for many hours.  Breakfast is important, even if you are not hungry.  Our dietitian quotes a study with individuals that had lost 100+ pounds and kept it off and the first common denominator was that they ate breakfast.  If you want to be skinny, eat breakfast to start your day.

3.  You use a cutting board and chef’s knife several times a week.

Say what?  Why is this a trait of a skinny person?  If you are using and knife and cutting board, you are cooking.  You will never be thin if your meals are being handed to you through your car window, delivered in a pizza box, or served to you in a restaurant.  You must cook.  It is as simple as that.

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4.  No boxes or prepackaged plastic wrappers in your grocery cart.

I can look in a person’s grocery cart and tell you if their lifestyle is healthy or not.  A skinny person does not eat a ton of processed foods.  If your cart is full of boxes and plastic wrappers, you will never be thin.  Why?  Because this is processed foods.  Processed foods have things added to make them taste better.  Things like salt, sugar, or fat!  Go back to #3 above, and cook your meals from scratch.

Lisa is skinny now
Lisa is skinny after changing her way of living.

5.  Your workouts are uncomfortable.

We have all seen the fat person at the gym who is barely doing anything, but go home thinking that they “worked out.”  Bologna!  Exercise is only exercise if it is out of your comfort zone.  If you are fairly comfortable, it is called activity.  If you want to look skinny (above average), you have to exercise above average.

6.  A skinny person is active outside of the gym.

Going to the gym 3 hours a week is less than 2% of the time in a week.  In addition to exercising, people who are thin are active.  Go bowling, take dance lessons, golf, gardening….whatever…just keep moving.

7.  You read food labels.

If you are reading a food label, that often means you are eating processed food.  Does broccoli have a food label?  I understand that there are times you will be buying something with a food label.  Read it and see what is in it.  If the first ingredient in your peanut butter is sugar, try another one.  Sugar, salt, and fat are hidden in foods.  It is okay to eat any of those, but only when you are doing it on purpose.  Don’t be fooled by hidden crap in food.

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In conclusion.

I used the attention getting phrase of “7 traits of skinny people”, because if I wrote the 7 traits of a healthy person, you probably would have passed it by.  Sad but true. But most of people want to be skinny, sometimes at the expense of being healthy.  This is why the industry for pills, potions, lotions, and surgeries is a multi-billion dollar one.

I cannot stress enough that skinny does not mean healthy, as there are many thin people who are a train wreck when it comes to health.  I call these people skinny fat.  They are thin but have zero muscle, which makes them “skinny fat”.  Many people strive to be thin but at the expense of their health, by trying crazy, trendy “fixes” that will just leave you fatter in the end.  If you simply live healthy, your body’s appearance of “skinny” will happen naturally.  By forcing thinness with unhealthy acts will only give you temporary success and you will bounce back fatter and more unhealthy than before.

Women Fear Them: Cankles!

Most women know what “cankles” are.  It is when your calves are larger and blend right into your ankle with little or no separation.  A condition not desired by women.

In my many years of training literally thousands of women, I believe I have only had one that actually wanted to train her calves, so your concern is a valid one for women.  Most women do not want their calves to turn into cows!  So let me give you the low-down on “cankles.”

Your calves are made up to two muscles, and both have a very high endurance capacity, as we are using them with every step we take.  Your calf is responsible for raising your heel off of the ground, a motion called plantarflexion, and this happens with every step walking, running, and stair climbing.  If you are on your feet, your calf never stops working, as even when you are standing stationary, your calf is helping to hold you up.

Gaining size, or hypertrophy, in muscles that have a high endurance capacity is often very difficult.  I busted my calves for years to get them as big as possible, in my quest to become Mr. Ohio. Because it was painful, I quite training them after winning the title and I only lost 1/4 inch in size.  I put in a lot of work for only 1/4 inch!  Unless, you genetically have large calves, it can take a very dedicated effort to gain size in them.

Often times, a muscle’s size can be somewhat of an illusion.  As you lose weight and start to lean out, your muscle will show more definition and this can give them the illusion of being bigger.  As you start to look leaner, your calf muscles can actually look bigger as they become more defined.

And we cannot forget the women out there that were simply born with larger calves.  Because this is probably a genetic trait, it can be difficult to reverse the spell of big calves.  The best remedy is to lean out if you carry fat in your lower body.  If you naturally have large calf muscles, I would suggest very high repetitions with your strength training or participate in endurance activities to actually break the muscle down.  This is why marathoners or other endurance athletes can look very lean and lanky, as they sometimes sacrifice muscle with their endurance events.

My best advice is to figure out what genetic disposition you have and how your body responds to training and act accordingly.  If you are holding fat there, lean out.  If you naturally have big calf muscles or gain muscle very easily, participate in endurance type activities or if you are strength training, do very high repetitions with very light weight.

As far as all of the other muscles of the legs, you should be able to train them normally without hitting your calves enough to cause a gain in muscle mass, as you must be performing an exercise in which you rise up on your toes to direct target your calves. This means you can continue to blast the muscles above the knees to sport the sexy lean legs!

Children Pumping Iron. Cause for pain or gain?

Question:
My husband wants my 10-year old son to start lifting weights to get some meat on his bones, but I have heard lifting weights can stunt a child’s growth. Is it safe for a 10-year old boy to lift weights?

Answer:
Well it sounds like you both may be a little misinformed. Your husband certainly has the “old school” mentality, and your concerns are legitimate but you might have the full story. Safe and effective weight training has been documented with children as young as 6 years of age.

First let’s address the age of your son in relation to your husband’s statement. I am going out on a limb and guessing that your 10-year old has not reached puberty yet, as that would be early for a boy. With that in mind, your son does not have enough of the muscle building hormone, testosterone, to add muscle mass. If your son has not reached puberty, he can weight train like Arnold Schwarzenegger and gain very little if any “meat on his bones”. It is not until the testosterone starts flowing in males that they are able to add muscle worth mentioning.

Now let’s address your concern of affecting your child’s growth. I believe that you may be referring to an old-school misconception that weight training can hurt a child’s growth plate in their bones, thus impairing the full development of the bone. While there is some truth in your concern, I label it a misconception because when statistics are reviewed the chances of your child hurting their growth plates playing soccer, gymnastics, or other sports is drastically higher than weight training.

While growth plate injuries have been recorded with weight training they are rare and almost always, linked to a poorly established program or one that is not supervised. All too often kids are in a weight room and mimicking what they see the other kids doing or what the coach, who has a beer belly, no knowledge of exercise science, and has not touched a weight since high school in 1947, tells them to do. This leads to kids lifting weight that is too heavy and doing so with improper form, which are two ingredients for injury by placing too much stress on the body. Also with lack of supervision, a weight room invites horseplay during lifting which also leads to these injuries.

A properly established and supervised weight-training program will help both boys and girls in a number of ways. A few of the documented benefits include increased strength, speed, and agility along with improved coordination and self-esteem. Weight training will certainly increase your child’s sport performance considerably while decreasing their exposure to injury. Newsweek magazine actually came to Cincinnati and spotlighted this very topic, and the article can be seen at sensiblefitness.com if you are interested.

Another thing I would like to point out is that if your child learns proper lifting form at age 10, they will go through life with proper lifting mechanics which will not only decrease mom’s concerns of growth-plate injuries but also satisfy dad’s desire to add muscle mass as the proper lifting technique will both be safe and provide the maximal results.

Cellulite: The Fact and the Fiction

Ah, the nasty orange peel looking skin condition that women of all shapes and sizes try to rid themselves of.  It is never a welcome addition to a person’s appearance and creams, potions, and lotions are readily marketed as a cure.  Let’s look at the facts and fiction of cottage cheese skin syndrome.

The facts.  Cellulite is real, and it usually finds a home in the pelvic/buttocks region, along with the lower limbs of women.  The few men who suffer the condition are usually lacking a few hormones that make men, well, men.  It is said to affect 80-90% of all women to some degree and evidence suggests the structural differences in fat architecture between the sexes account for its appearance.

The facts, continued:  Although cellulite is a benign condition, women often take drastic and often invasive measures to rid themselves of it, all for the sake of vanity.  The easy-way-out treatments for cellulite range from massage, to laser treatments, to medically questionable potions and lotions, to invasive injections and liposuction.  The health risks and other dangers of cellulite certainly come from efforts to lose it and not the condition itself.

Now the fiction.  Many of the products on the market have greatly improved and are now offering impressive results.  The lotions now available have been reengineered and because of their osmotic-based molecular structure, they now penetrate the skin deeply and break down the collagen fibers that cause the orange peel appearance.  Previously, a prescription would have been required for a product like this, but the FDA has now eliminated this requirement.

The fiction, continued:  Like the advances seen in lotions, the same holds true with most other treatments.  Medical and scientific progress has opened the doors to many other options, which is great news for many.  Massage, injections, lasers, and of course liposuction, are all now considered very effective, incredibly easy, and more importantly, instant relief from cellulite.  Stop salivating long enough to remember, we are still in the fiction section of the article!

Back to the facts:  While a high body fat composition will certainly worsen the appearance of cellulite, even women with normal or low body fat levels might experience it, but to a much lesser degree.  Also, lowering your stress level may help as stress releases hormones that have been thought to worsen the condition.

To a large degree it is human nature, or maybe lazy human nature, to look for an easy cure to cellulite, but they simply do not exist.  According to the most recent medical research I could find, there is nothing that is more than mildly or temporarily effective at very best.  It looks like your best bet is to stick with a healthy lifestyle and keep body fat in control.

Am I Burning Fat Or Carbs When I Exercise?

The source of your body’s fuel is largely determined by the intensity of your exercise.  Many people are not performing their cardiovascular exercise at the proper intensity, especially if their goal is weight loss.  There are a couple of key considerations in determining the proper intensity of cardio for yourself, one being the primary goal of your cardio, and the other being the proper determination of your target heart rate during exercise.

First let’s address the goal of your cardio.  Many people want to lose weight when they perform cardio and with that in mind, the higher your intensity, the more calories that you will burn.  Also, if your cardio is to optimize the health of your cardiovascular system, the higher intensities will also prove more beneficial.  If you are trying to attain weight loss, and have many hours to spend doing it, the lower intensity exercise will work.

At higher intensities (>75% of maximal heart rate), you will burn a combination of fat and carbohydrates and your overall calorie expenditure is much greater than at lower intensities.  At lower intensity (<65% of maximal heart rate), the overall percentage of fat burned compared to total caloric expenditure is higher but the overall calories burned are much lower.

To understand this better, think of a hybrid car that uses a combination of power from batteries and gasoline.  At a higher speed, the car uses much more gasoline (carbs) in addition to battery power (fat), and the overall miles driven is much greater.  At a lower speed, most of the power used is from the batteries (fat) but the total miles driven are far less.  If you want to lose weight, I feel you should be more concerned about the total miles driven (total calories burned), unless you have considerable time on your hands to exercise at a lower intensity.

Now we have to determine your proper heart rate.  Most charts posted on treadmills and walls of gyms use a formula that underestimates the proper intensity by a great deal.  This formula is 220, less your age, times your intensity percentage and looks like this:  220 – 42 (age) X 70% = 125.  In this example, your heart rate should be 125 beats per minute during exercise, which is entirely too low.

The more accurate formula to determine your target heart rate uses your resting heart rate to determine your target heart rate during exercise.  The average resting heart rate for an adult is 72 beats per minute (to find your resting heart rate, take your pulse for one minute before you get out of bed) and I will use that in the following example.  The more accurate formula is 220, less your age, less your resting heart rate, multiplied by your intensity percentage, plus your resting heart rate.  Here is what is looks like:  220 – 42 (age) – 72 (resting heart rate) X 70% + 72 (resting heart rate) = 146 beats per minute.  As you can see, the heart rate was underestimated by 20 beats per minute with the more commonly used formula.

To summarize, first use the proper formula to determine your target heart rate and then remember the more intense your cardio, the more calories you will burn.

Why does a tiny waist have sex appeal?

Many medical studies show that men find sex appeal with women who are not overweight, have a tiny waist, and larger hips.  This was thought to be because it was an indication of health and fertility.  But there is plenty of evidence that a small waist on a woman does not affect fertility.  So the question still stands…why are men attracted to skinny waists, and does this have an impact on intelligence?

A tiny waist reflects a maturing woman, who has not given birth yet.  This means she has many years of potential childbearing years ahead of her. Understanding this is a lesson in human evolution.  Females who have the lowest waist-to-hip ratio, body mass index (a measure of obesity), waist/thigh ratios are those in the age group of 15-19.  After this, these measures start to creep up.

Sophia Loren in bathing suit
Sophia Loren was not skinny, but she was sexy!

Do you have to be skinny?

No.  A low waist-to-hip ratio does not necessarily mean a woman is not slightly overweight.  Many of the classic beauties of all time, like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren where not considered skinny around the hips but they did have a thin waist.  Especially by today’s standards.  It is all about the size of your waist in proportion to the size of your hips.

What about intelligence?

There is actually some convincing evidence that women with a small waist have higher intelligence scores.  And believe it or not, their children too.  The journal Evolution and Human Behavior published this.  This does not mean that these women were skinny, as some could be considered “heavier”.  It all boils down to the difference between your waist and your hips.

ashanti has small waist
Ashanti has a thin waist and larger hips.

Different body shapes
Apple, triangle, pear, and square.

Is a thin waist a sign of health?

Certainly a thicker waist, especially as it approaches obesity, is linked with many health problems.  The area around your waist has many of your vital internal organs, and if you have fat surrounding these organs, the probability of many diseases increase.  So if your body shape is an apple, you have increased risks, in comparison to a pear shaped body.

There is also substantial research that shows as your waist expands, your brain get smaller. This is especially true in middle and old age.  Obesity has already been linked to possible increased risks of Alzheimer’s.  Both Ageing Research Reviews and American Academy of Neurology have stated that a rising Body Mass Index and Waist-to-Hip ratio in directly correlated to lower brain volume.  What they do not know is if obesity leads to lower brain volume, or if lower brain volume leads to obesity.  This is an important question to answer.

A human brain

In summary…

A thin waist has been proven to be an indicator of good health.  This is simply because so many vital organs are found in this area of the body, and storing fat there dramatically increases your risk of health problems. A thin waist is also shown to be a significant factor in attractiveness and intelligence, according to multiple studies, often regardless of weight.

You simply can’t pack your heart, lungs, liver, etc. in a blanket of fat and expect to go through life with the threat of heart disease, diabetes, or other nasty fat related diseases.

It is optimal to have a waist significantly smaller than your hips.  As the waist grows as big or bigger than the hips, like those that have an “apple” or “muffin” shape, the health risks grow as well.  Some experts prefer using a waist-to-hip ratio in determining obesity, over the widely accepted body mass index.  You can find charts on body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios by simply Googling them.

Although they were not considered petite women by any stretch of the imagination, sexy symbols Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren both were women with a small waist in comparison to their hips.

The Journal of Biological Psychology, stated “Hip size indicates pelvic size and the amount of additional fat storage that can be used as a source of energy. Waist size conveys information such as current reproductive status or health status … in westernized societies with no risk of seasonal lack of food, the waist, conveying information about fertility and health status, will be more important than hip size for assessing a female’s attractiveness.”

If health and sex appeal is not enough, you now know that a small waist in comparison to the hips, has also had direct links with higher intelligence.  Interestingly, both women with small waists and their children, scored significantly higher on intelligence tests.  These women were not necessarily skinny, but had a waist 60-70% of the size of their hips.  Again, weight is not a factor.

Whether your motivation is to be healthier, smarter, or to be more attractive, it looks like keeping an eye on the size of your waist might just be in order.  A tiny waist never goes out of style.

woman pinching fat on knees

Fat knees and their causes and cures often end up in a sales pitch for surgeries or other money making enterprises. We are not selling you anything.  Inner knee fat, fat kneecaps, or simply an overall large knee is concerning for many, but luckily much can be done to improve this. In this article we will address the healthy alternatives that will help you look your best.

Anatomy of fat knees

The knee joint is made where your thigh bone articulates with your shin bone. Your thigh bone, or femur, is the largest bone in your body, so that by itself means the knee joint is one of your largest joints in your body. When you take what is already a large joint and surround it with soft tissue like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and adipose (fat), this joint’s appearance grows, sometimes to the point where they are labeled “fat knees”.

Your knee also has actual fat pads that serve as a cushion or a friction reducer for various components of the knee joint. These are sometimes visible, like little pillows just below your kneecap. Considering all the above points, the knee has a number of legitimate reasons why it can appear large.

Genetics and fat knees

When looking for a solution to fat knees it is important to identify the cause. Sometimes this can be genetic. Do the women in your extended family have inner knee fat? Look at your mom, grandmother, sisters, and aunts. If they have a similar build, then there could be a genetic component.

When I mention “similar build” it can be one of two things, or even both. You could genetically store more body fat in your lower body and this will certainly affect the appearance of the knees. Increased body fat around the knee is covered later in the article. On the other hand, if body fat is not necessarily the main contributor, you could have genetically large knee joints. In this case toning and shaping the muscle surrounding the knee is your best plan of attack. The muscles above the knee, when shapely and toned will change the lines of your overall leg, making the knee look smaller.

kneecaps that are fat

back fat on woman

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Lack of muscle tone around knees

With your knee being one the largest joints in your body, it only makes sense that some of the largest muscle groups are connected to it. Your quadriceps (thigh muscles) is the largest muscle group of your body and attaches directly to your patella, resulting in an appearance of fat kneecaps. When any muscle lacks tone, it becomes atrophied (shrinks) and has a soft appearance, or even saggy. If the muscles around your knee are atrophied, soft, and saggy, then your knee joint will look disproportionately large.

If you lack muscle tone, a basic strength training program that emphasizes toning would be the best place to start to improve your knees appearance. As you gain tone in these muscles your program can be changed to exercises that focus more on shaping and sculpting.

Body fat

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that if you are carrying excess body fat, that you certainly could have fat knees as a result. There are also people who are not necessarily overweight, but they store fat in the lower body.

If overall obesity is present, the best thing you can do to improve the appearance of your knees is to change your lifestyle. Strength training exercises that tone, shape, and sculpt will improve muscle tone, but these improvements will not be seen when blanketed with excess fat. The leaner you become, the shape of the knee will be revealed and you can reassess the direction of your efforts to attain the appearance you are striving for.

If you are not obese, but simply store fat in your lower body the plan is also to become leaner. Remember when you burn fat, you will burn it throughout your body. Doing extra leg exercises to burn fat in the legs is not going to work. Think of a tennis player for example, who’s right arm may get a lot more exercise than the left arm. Does one arm appear fat and the other skinny? No. The dedicated efforts you put forth through exercise, nutrition, and overall lifestyle improvement will result in a reduction in body fat. And where you store fat the most will be where most of the fat will also be lost. Couple this with a solid leg shaping and toning program, and you will see great results.

 inner knee fat on woman

Body image and fat knees

I have had countless women, both who are overweight and rail thin, declare that they have fat knees. But because of this, I have to mention the topic of body image. If you have a poor self-image of your body, there could be a distortion that is amplifying your feelings.

I certainly do not want to discredit anyone’s feelings, as they are real.  But I also must first ask you to take an honest look at yourself.  I have seen people who are clinically obese, that claim they are “not really that fat”, and I have seen people with incredibly flat stomachs considering liposuction.  We often see things in the mirror that others do not see.

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Our society often strives for the unrealistic perfection we see in magazines that have been run through hours of Photoshop, and this pertains to knees. We need to realize and accept that we are all shaped differently. Knees come in all shapes and sizes and the way your body stores fat around them is also unique. This is called beauty and not imperfection.

Conclusion

I have given some rock-solid guidance for the improvement of fat knees. When you put together a plan for addressing your knee’s appearance, remember that there are many orthopedic issues that can develop if you are doing exercises for fat knees improperly. The one thing that is worse than big knees is big knees that are in pain! Be smart and get professional guidance with exercises. Other changes you may make to improve your lifestyle, and thus the appearance of your knees, will be rewarded with feelings of vitality, improved sleep, and a boost in overall confidence and self-esteem that is priceless.

Person pinch the fat around their waist

Testing Your Body Fatness

This article is for the everyday person, interested in how to test body fat, or what some people may call your “body fatness”.  There are many forms of body fat tests, with a number of them being very costly and requiring equipment operated by a professional.  This article will not cover the highly specialized body fat testing equipment, but rather spotlight the types of fatness tests that can be done by individuals in their home or at the gym.  The high-dollar specialized equipment is not always the most accurate body fat test.

Types Of Body Fat Tests

Body Mass Index or BMI.

You may have heard of the Body Mass Index, which is what your doctor or insurance company may use to determine your fatness.   This takes into account how much you weigh in relation to your height.  If you are of average stature, this could be a decent tool to monitor your progress.

The problem with the Body Mass Index is that it does not take into account how much muscle you have.  If you have a considerable amount of muscle tone, this test could say you are fat.  Individuals who participate in strength training can often test significantly overweight or even obese.  This is because the scale only tells you your weight, and not what you are made of, so if you weigh more because of the muscle tone that you carry, this test will say you are fat.

Because the medical community and insurance companies need a fatness test for the masses, and not special populations, the Body Mass Index is often used.

Bioelectrical Impedance

For its ease of use, bioelectrical impedance has become a popular method of testing body fat.  It is common to see a hand-held version of this device, and also something that looks like a bathroom scale.  Much of the popularity of this form of body fat testing comes from the fact that the average person can do it in the comfort of their home, without needing professional help.

hand held body fat test

Standing body fat test

This device uses and electrical current through the body to determine your fatness.  You do not feel the electrical current at all.  The problem with this form of body fat testing is water.  Most of your body is made up of water, and it is also something that can vary a great deal.  Medications, alcohol, coffee, tea, soda pop, medications, and menstruation are only a few things that can affect the amount of water in your body, and thus totally mess up the results of this body fat test.

To ensure the accuracy of the form of body fat testing, it is recommended that you test yourself first thing in the morning, after you have gone to the bathroom.  This is probably the time of day that you are closest to the same equilibrium from day to day.

Bioelectrical impedance can be used for general tracking of your fatness, but not for a “true blue” accurate number, meaning that there is a margin of error that can be considerable if your water is fluctuating.  It also has been shown to be inaccurate with people that have a muscular build.

Skinfold calipers

This form of body fatness testing is often called the “body fat pinch test”.  And for good reason because different parts of your body are pinched while measuring the thickness of your skin and underlying body fat.  This does require a knowledgeable person to administer this body fatness test, as one of the biggest margins of error comes from an inexperienced tester.

This test is slightly more invasive that a body mass index or a bioelectrical impedance test, in the sense that the tester may pinch anywhere from 2-10 different places on your body.  While these are nowhere near your private parts, some people are not comfortable with someone pinching the fat around their mid-section or other places on the body where you may store fat the most.

When performed by an experienced professional, the test results of a skinfold body fat test can be fairly accurate.  There is always a margin of error, but overall the test has consistency.  If being tested by someone without experience, the margin of error rises.

Another thing to consider with this form of testing is the mathematical equations used to determine your body’s fatness.  After measuring all the “pinches”, these numbers are all put into an equation to give you a final answer.  There are equations for many different populations of people.  For instance, there are equations for lean male black athletes, and different equations for the average middle-aged woman.  If you are only tracking progress and do not need your exact body fat percentage, you can simply use the same equation for all your testing and this will do a great job monitoring progress.

man measuring waist

Circumference measurements

Circumference measurements do not measure body fatness at all.  But many people like to see how many “inches they have lost”, and thus keep records.  To take the most accurate measurement, the tester should measure from the exact same spot in order to repeat the test accurately in the future.  For instance, if you are measuring the arm, the measurement needs to be taken the same distance from the elbow each time.  Because of the highly variable contours between individuals, if you do not measure from the exact same spot each time, you will have grossly inaccurate results.  This is especially true around the hips and waist, where measuring an inch higher or lower than before can give totally different numbers.  Circumference measurements is one of the more inaccurate ways to track body changes.  Going by how your clothes fit is better but this does not give you a number of inches lost that many are desiring.

Body fat testing results

Once you have determined your body fat percentage, what do you do with that information?

Obviously, this number can help determine your state of health.  A high body fat percentage is linked to a number of life-threatening medical conditions.  It also is linked to exacerbating other conditions that can ultimately lead to death.  Covid-19 is a perfect example, but there are countless others.

Your body fat percentage also tells you how much of your body is made up of lean muscle mass.  Lean muscle mass is everything in your body that is not fat.  So your lean muscle mass includes, muscle, hair, internal organs, bones, fingernails, etc..  It also includes water, and as we have mentioned before, water can fluctuate with people a great deal.

If you are adding strength training to your lifestyle, it is cool to see your lean muscle mass (muscle tone) increase, as your body fat decreases.  A body fatness test will tell you what changes your body is going through, even if it is not the most accurate body fat test.  It will give you a baseline and show the direction you are heading.  It is common for people to lose very little weight, or even gain weight with strength training, while at the same time losing inches from the reduction in body fatness.

Body fatness tests provides great information for the person that wants to have it.  It should never be done for someone who is reluctant or self-conscious about their weight.  For this person, it can be very intimidating or even humiliating.  This can lead into unhealthy eating habits and also negative body image, which is the breeding ground for an eating disorder.

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