The A to Z Weight Loss Study: The Battle of the Diets

This is a great video on a 12-month randomized study that was done at Stanford University by Christopher Gardner, PhD, Abby King, PhD and colleagues on some of the popular diet books that out there. If you have tried (or are thinking about trying) either the Atkins, Zone or Dean Ornish Diet at some point I would highly recommend watching the video and reading the white paper seen in JAMA. The amount of weight loss during the study was a modest 2% to 5% from baseline. Those subjects who followed the Atkins diet did have more weight loss than the other three groups. For the complete results published in the JAMA paper click here.


The A to Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Study. JAMA, 297(9): 969-977, 2007.

10 Reasons Why You Should Do More Strength Training and Cardio

300px-Diagram_of_the_human_heart_(cropped)_svgI have been looking back on some of my recent strength training sessions as well as the interval training I have been doing on the cardio side. We have a tendency, with exercise, to judge if it’s working by what the bathroom scale currently reads. But that should not be the case; weight loss does not always depict the full story. With each bout of exercise, we are improving various physiological and psychological aspects of our body that are not visible to the naked eye. For example:

Strength Training:

  • Building muscle mass can increase metabolism by 15% – so if you’re looking to rev up that slow metabolism and become or stay functional as you age – you need to be strength training at least a few times each week.
  • Prevents Sarcopenia – which is the loss of muscle mass as you age – you can lose up to 10% or more of your muscle per decade after age 50.
  • Plays a role in disease prevention – like type 2 diabetes for example.
  • Improves the way your body moves resulting in better balance and less falls as you age (you can reduce your risk for falling by 40%).
  • Preserves the loss of muscle during weight loss (Donnelly et al., 2003)
  • Will offset bone loss as you age – women can expect to lose 1% of their bone mass after age 35 (and this increases following menopause) – see Strong Women, Strong Bones

Cardiovascular Exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise will improve your mood by decreasing stress and anxiety levels – read The Inner Runner by Jason Karp, Phd and Exercise for Mood and Anxiety by Michael Otto, Phd and Jasper Smits, PhD
  • Regular cardio exercise like jogging, hiking, jump roping etc will “load” your bones in your lower extremity and make them stronger.
  • Makes your heart stronger, lowers your resting heart rate and enables your body to deliver oxygen more efficiently to your working muscles.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine states that higher levels of cardiovascular fitness are associated with approximately a 50% reduction in disease risk.


Donnelly, J.E., Jakicic, J.M., Pronk, N., Smith, B.K., Kirk, E.P., Jacobsen, D.J., Washburn, R. “Is Resistance Training Effective for Weight Management?” Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine. 2003; 1(1): 21-29.

The Importance of Improving Mobility as You Age

We tend to focus on what we like to do, rather than what’s necessary. Meaning, if we like to strength train or do cardio, we seem to gravitate towards that option. I have always remembered a quote from the former Director of Conditioning of the Chicago White Sox, Vern Gambetta – who stated something to the effect of “it’s easy to do what you like but harder to do what is necessary.” With that said, the majority of people do not focus on the big picture of wellness especially as they age. They continue to lift and do cardio (which is important) but we need to address other areas that are vital to ensure optimal health and wellness.

Life is about movement; all life is based on some form of movement. Just about everyone who walks into a health club or training facility across the country has some type of movement deficiency as a result of age, old injury, muscle imbalance, years of playing sports, etc. In order for movement to occur efficiently (i.e. no wasted energy) various movement patterns need to be executed correctly through their full range of motion.

Let me ask you:
How do you feel when you “pull” or “push” something? How does your body feel when you perform a hip hinge (i.e. think Romanian Deadlift) or squat? How do you feel when you perform an exercise off one-leg? Can you perform a body weight squat movement and work to the bottom of the movement (i.e. bring hips lower than your knees, like your in the baseball catcher position) without pain or instability? As we age, we start to see and have more dysfunction when it comes to the way we move.

The goal here is one word. Mobility.

We need to increase mobility in just about every part of our body, primarily, in our ankles, hips, upper backs and shoulders. We need to make sure we are working on some form of mobility each day even if it’s only five minutes a day. Mobility can be defined as working a muscle or group of muscles through their full range of motion in the absence of pain. Please view the video below. It’s a 4-step mobility progression for the mid-back (thoracic spine) that I put together for you. This is something that I do myself on a regular basis. This is one of the tightest areas in adults (especially for men). Improving mobility in your mid/upper back will not only help your golf and tennis games, it will help in the area of strength training and other activities of daily living known as ADL’s. Start today by performing 5 repetitions of each movement and progressing eventually to 15 repetitions over time. Try doing this routine every other day – your body will love you for it.

Originally published on The Stronger Blog.

The Ultimate Stationary Bike Workout: Short, Intense and it Gets Results!

When we are given a choice to ride a bike – we typically go outdoors to get it done – but if you get stuck due to time constraints, weather etc. – your good intentions may travel South and never materialize. You now have another option to fall back on and it can even be done indoors. I have been doing some riding indoors myself and gave this new training protocol a try. The first thing I can tell you is it definitely packs a powerful punch. When were riding outside, it’s easy to ride for an hour or more at a comfortable pace but when you’re training inside, if you’re like me, you want an intense workout in minimal time that gets results and when it’s backed by science it’s even better. Research was published recently (in PLoS ONE, an online scientific journal) that showed there is a workout that can do just that.

In the research that I mention, a group of men were placed in one of three groups: a control group, a SIT (sprint interval training) group and a traditional cardio group. The SIT group consisted of a short warm-up on a bike followed by 20-seconds of intense, all-out work with a two-minute slow “recovery” ride. This was then repeated for two more rounds. In the end test subjects performed 1-minute of all out work and 6-minutes of easy riding to recover. It was all said and done in 10-minutes including warm-up. The 20-second bouts of work, however, were carried out at a high intensity (500 watts on a bike) and if you have not had the pleasure of riding at that intensity before it will surely elevate your heart rate – let’s just say you probably won’t be carrying on a conversation with anyone.

Researchers, led by Martin Gibala, PhD, (on Twitter @gibalam) from McMaster University in Canada had the groups of men work out three times a week for 12-weeks and the training results were significant. Let the results speak for themselves: VO2 peak increased compared to pre-training by about 12% after 6-weeks in both groups. VO2 peak increased further after 12-weeks compared to 6-weeks, resulting in a 19% overall increase versus pre-training. In addition, insulin sensitivity and other indices of cardio-metabolic health also improved. The results of the study are important learning for all especially if you happen to be diabetic or for those that are pre-diabetic (the majority of whom have no idea that they are).

In summary, Gibala et al. research reported:  “that a SIT protocol involving 3-minutes of intense intermittent exercise per week, within a total time commitment of 30-minutes, is as effective as 150-minutes per week of moderate-intensity continuous training for increasing insulin sensitivity, cardiorespiratory fitness and skeletal muscle mitochondrial content in previously inactive men.”

We know that the majority of people do not like to exercise and that “lack of time” is the answer most often given when asked why not? So if something is added to a daily routine, that is short, intense, and gets results in minimal time, it may be just what the doctor ordered and eventually turn into something that becomes habitual. With that said, let’s be realistic for a moment – the research is not trying to say that you should start exercising for only a minute a day but what it is trying to get across is that it’s important to shake up your current workout routine. Adding in some brief bouts of sprint interval training during the week – at high intensity (i.e. – cannot carry on a conversation) will have positive results across all fronts. The group of men in the SIT group ended up working out for a total of only 30-minutes a week (3 days x 10-minute/sessions) compared to the cardio group who perform 150-minutes a week (3 days x 50-minute/sessions).

Here is what the training protocol looks like and remember to substitute an intensity that works for you. One of the key takeaways is that more of something is not always the answer – it’s about the quality of the work that you’re doing.

Stationary bike protocol:

3:00 warm-up (easy @50 watts)

20-second sprint @500 watts

2:00 easy pedaling at 50 watts

20-second sprint @500 watts

2:00 easy pedaling at 50 watts

20-second sprint @500 watts

2:00 easy pedaling at 50 watts

Total time: 10:00

Maintain about 70-80 rpm – novice

and 100-125 rpm – experienced rider



Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ (2016). Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154075

Cross Training: Why It’s a Good Idea to Change Things Up

Just being active should be good enough to maintain and build your fitness level—right? Actually, your muscles want a little something more from you to become their best and strongest. What they want is confusion—muscle confusion, that is.

Muscle confusion is simply doing different things with different muscle groups to create challenges and therefore newfound levels and areas of strength. It helps you from becoming stagnant in your fitness, and is often referred to as cross training. Cross training might be exercise types, or it might be varied options within a certain time period.

What cross training does, though, is pretty remarkable. It builds your strength, of course, but can also lead you away from getting bored, and then abandoning, a workout program.

There are lots of cross training, muscle confusion options. This graphic provides a good place to start. Infographic source: (


It’s Not All In Your Head, But…

Image credit:

The latest scientific research has led to a better understanding of just how much our experience of pain is affected by non-physical factors. A complex network of nerves in the body, referred to as the ‘pain neuromatrix’ is involved in transmitting and processing pain signals. Areas of the brain that process emotion and stress are also involved in our perception of pain. If you are under emotional stress or are depressed, for instance, this can impact negatively on your interpretation of pain, turning a small amount of pain into a significantly painful episode.

This complicated mix of ingredients explains why soldiers in battle have been known to feel an initial sting but then fight on for hours before realizing that they’ve been shot. You’ve probably heard stories of footballers who have severely sprained an ankle or broken a bone during a crucial game and gone on to play out the whole game – but immediately afterwards been unable to walk.

The brain in survival situations is able to suppress or inhibit painful signals from the body. In contrast, people with only minor strains in their backs but who have fearful personalities, high anxiety and low pain thresholds, can in stressful situations feel severe pain which is vastly out of proportion to the level of underlying damage.

In recovering from sports injuries, the particular individual’s ‘pain profile’ can make a big difference to their speed of recovery and return to sport. If you understand how ‘pain is in the brain’, you and your therapist can manipulate the situation to get you up and moving as quickly as safety permits, even if you are still feeling back pain during rehabilitation.

By gradually, gently returning to normal levels of activity, despite feeling continued pain or discomfort in your back, you can in effect trick your brain and nerves (neuromatrix) into thinking there is nothing wrong. Over time, as you move normally, your body readjusts to normal signals travelling from your back to your brain, desensitizing the neuromatrix in a gradual winding down and re-setting of the system back to normal.

This is why it is not a good idea to stay in bed for weeks while your back pain symptoms last. It is better to get up and get moving – studies have shown bed-rest to be no better a way to manage back pain than getting active again.

—Excerpted from Beating Back Pain by Mark Alexander – founder, inventor and Managing Director of BakPhysio Pty Ltd.

Future Wearables Will Focus On Specialized Health Assistance


With the continual development in technologies, more powerful high-tech gadgets are replacing devices that were once deemed ‘revolutionary’. Smartphones and tablets that changed consumer’s lifestyles are now being replaced by more portable technologies in the form of wearable devices.

Smartwatches and smart headsets have been around on the market for quite a while now. Samsung and Sony have revolutionized the game by releasing their own version of standalone smartwatches that can run on thier own SIM cards and perform similar functions to smartphones.

However, wearables don’t just look exhibited modern aesthetics and allow people to relax by playing games or reading content. The next wave of technologies will be focusing on assisting people with specialized health needs. Read on below to find out how the next batch of wearable devices will provide in-depth health assistance to humans.

Smart contact lens for Diabetics

Known for its high-tech solutions, Google isn’t only working on building a standalone VR headset for consumers, it’s also in the developmental stages of producing a health solution that can aid the growing number of patients with diabetes worldwide. In partnership with pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the search giant is now in the process of creating the first smart contact lens that can non-invasively monitor blood sugar levels of patients through their tears. Aside from assisting diabetics, the smart contact lens is also designed to correct user’s vision.

Google has not given any details yet on the release of the smart lens, as they want to make this technology ‘flawless’ by the time they release it to the public. Co-founder Larry Page said they are trying to avoid releasing it too early so they ensure all bases are covered with the innovation.

Wearable for calf pain

It promises a “100% Drug Free” pain relief for chronic calf pain. The Quell is a revolutionary device that aids people with constant body pain by sending signals to the brain to stimulate and relax nerve endings, particularly in the calf area, which is prone to aches due to walking, jogging, and standing for long periods. The company claimed, “67% of Quell users reported a reduction in their use of pain medication.”

By reducing muscle pain, the device also promises to improve user’s sleeping patterns as well as muscular pain.

Smart band for Epilepsy

While some fitness wearables can only track basic health parameters, other smartwatches such as the Apple Watch are more advanced as it can mimic some of its paired handsets functionalities. So far, the iPhone 6s is the best smartphone to pair with the Apple Watch as O2 said it comes pre-built with the iOS 9 and all the latest functionalities users need to accurately monitor their health. But, new waves of smartwatches are now able to carry out the same functionalities. So, what’s next for the smart band?

The next batch of fitness band will no longer focus on mimicking the features of smartphones, as a revolutionary wearable wants to set a standard in making the technology a “real” health assisting device. Empatica, a human data analytics firm in Italy, came up with a smart band that can assist patients with chronic epileptic attacks. A crowdfunded project, the Embrace band is similar to the standard smartwatch appearance, minus the touchscreen display. This life-saving device alerts the patient’s family members or the health professional overseeing them through an app or another paired wearable when an attack happens. It comes with a mobile app that helps the patient’s family track feedback, sleep patterns and their stress levels.

High-tech patch to relieve fever

TempTraq is a device that was aimed for working parents, and helps them monitor the wellbeing of their children by placing the patch on the patient and providing them real-time temperature readings on their mobile devices. More than just a digital thermometer, this offers plenty of benefits such as better sleep, 24-hour monitoring and an option to track multiple sick patients.

Akron Children’s Hospital, which is among the Best Children’s Hospital in the US, offered its support to this technology and are now leveraging the benefits of this wearable in monitoring young patients.

A high-tech solution to improving posture

Technology has become one of the main culprits for bad posture, such as the ‘Text Neck’ that commonly affects the younger generation due to their excessive usage of smartphone. The technology offers a solution for this problem through the invention of Upright. This high-tech device can improve a user’s posture by training them to eliminate positions that develop back problems.

The device needs to be worn on the user’s back for 15 minutes to an hour, targeting the spinal cord. It alerts people through a vibration when they slouch to keep their back straight. Based on their official page, it is an “effective training, which strengthens your core muscles and builds muscle memory.”

JBTechy has been following the latest trends in mTech, mLearning and mHealth. She is particularly fascinated with the development of health-focused technologies that can assist patients in developing countries and those in remote places that don’t get medical assistance. She is now dedicating most of her posts towards promoting mHealth so organizations and businesses can better build solutions to aid those people in developing countries. Watch out for her blog soon!

Enough with the Statement that Exercise Does not Help with Weight Loss

A few times a year we see some news publication or media outlet come out with a bold statement that aerobic exercise in one form or another is useless when it comes to weight loss. First off, even if you never lost weight with regular exercise, the (many) positive outcomes associated with regular exercise, still far out way not exercising at all and yes, even if weight loss never occurs.

Photo credit:

A recent issue of TIME (July, 2016) looked at the “new” reasons to exercise which I like because it takes the focus off weight loss. In the article, author, Alexandra Sifferlin, shows the research and hits on the following point:

  • Exercise improves memory.
  • Exercise increases energy – a study out of the University of Georgia, saw “a 166% increase in self-reported energy in men who exercised on bikes for 20 minutes.”
  • Exercise may keep depression at bay.
  • Exercise can curb food cravings.
  • Exercise can reduce the risk of serious cancers – data from the National Cancer Institute showed individuals who are more active than their sedentary counterparts had a “20% lower risk of certain serious cancers.”
  • Exercise has mind-body benefits.

Let’s face it, many of us know that we can run a few miles a day for weeks and even months at a time and sometimes by the end, lose minimal or no weight at all. We may think all the hard work and time commitment was a big waste of our time.  If you start thinking out of the box and focus on the additional benefits of exercise rather than a primary outcome all the time (i.e. weight loss) you’ll be better off in the long run.

Professor Herman Pontzer of City University of New York (CUNY), stated: “Exercise is really important for your health. That’s the first thing I mention to anyone asking about the implications of … exercise. There is tons of evidence that exercise is important for keeping our bodies and minds healthy, and this work does nothing to change that message. What our work adds is that we also need to focus on diet, particularly when it comes to managing our weight and preventing or reversing unhealthy weight gain.”

Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England has stated: “Being physically active is good for your physical and mental health and also helps to maintain a healthy weight. However, the evidence shows the most effective way of losing weight is to reduce calorie intake through a healthy balanced diet.”

Oh and by the way researcher Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University and her colleagues at the National Weight Control Registry have followed a large group of subjects (>10,000) who have lost a significant amount of weight, and more importantly, have kept it off for many years. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5.5 years. One of their secrets is exercising (walking) for an hour a day!


Exercise alone won’t cause weight loss, study shows, The Guardian, January 2016.

The new reasons to exercise, Alexandra Sifferlin, Time Magazine, July, 2016.

What’s Wrong with the Fitness Industry?

There are few industries hotter than the fitness machinery that is grinding away at the very pillars of our self-esteem. A new diet, a new workout program, a new technique, a new, improved, tested and the only one you’ll ever need supplement invades the market every day, probably even every hour. Information (of a highly questionable nature) has never been so widely available. Fitness gurus and polished medical experts have made it to your prime-time TV screen, and are hypnotizing you with their white veneers and silver tongues.

And it’s never been easier for the sly foot soldiers of marketing to invade your dreams – because all you want is to be beautiful, fit, shredded, ripped, don’t you? You hide away that ounce of fat on your belly like the most unsightly scar, and you munch away at your favorite chocolate in total secrecy, like a man committing mortal sin.

While this mass-hypnosis is underway, few are those who have noticed the ultimately appalling fact about this moneymaker we are all a part of – while claiming to have your best interest and longevity at heart, the bulk of the pretty people trying to stick you their product and program does not see you as an individual looking for a better life, only as a small, round, pink animal, filled with jiggling coins. (Pardon my language, but the truth is the truth is a difficult thing to swallow, and this was my best attempt to direct your attention my way.)

Eat nothing to gain nothing

Over the course of a few years, we have successfully been taught that our daily calorie intake is the most important number in our life, and that carbs are the devil. There are countless crash diets out there, just waiting for you to take the bait, which promise to lose you those however many pounds in however many days. (I’m pretty sure it will turn into hours quite soon)

I have to admit, they can deliver – these diet don’t care about the weight you will gain back,or the misery you will feel. They will get you your money’s worth – and will try to kill you in the process.

You are told to eat meat, dairy and eggs in insane amounts – never questioning the harm these products might be causing your overall health. Alternately, you are told to eat the craziest fruits and veggies on the market – slamming a pretty penny out of your pocket each time.

No one is trying to sell you what you already know about the way you should be eating. One word – moderation.


Shortcuts and Swindles to Success

Just like your choice of trendy diet, your choice of workout is also blurred with a heap of celebs trying to sell you their tried and tested routines. There are people out there who do their best to make you believe you need to have this that and the other to look your best, while at the same time doing their best to hide the fact that there is only one, and there will ever be only one thing you need to get, stay or whatever in shape. Your mind is the most powerful supplement you could ever get your hands on.

Marketing is now the cornerstone of wellness – if you can sell it, it works. And the first objective in selling anything is convincing people they need it, can’t live without it. Which is why you are told you need to look a certain way.

The point of getting fit has been lost somewhere along the dark path we are treading – being shredded does not make you better at any particular sport on endeavor. There are plenty of gold medalists who do not have abs you can see through their shirts. Being “fat” does not mean you are weak, and being ripped does also in no way imply you can run faster than the “fat” guy. On the contrary, being too ripped can cause quite a bit of harm.

Dark clouds and silver linings

While I stand by every single bitter word you have just read, the reality of things is not all bad. There are still trainers out there who will put your health first, and who will not promise to have you chiseled and red carpet ready in six weeks. I know the stars can do it, but looking like that is their nine-to-five. While you may be stuck at a desk, with nothing to eat but greasy takeout, an A-lister has a dozen assistants at their beck and call, whose job is, in turn, to keep the star shining, and ultimately, profitable. The way you look is not a multi-million dollar effort.

However, if you are lucky enough, you will find a trainer who will set you up with a realistic plan. Who will coach you for free if need be, just because he feels you can go that one more extra step. Who will be your coach, your safety net, your drill sergeant and the angel on your left shoulder, if need be.

Among all the other rubbish, you will also find a bunch of products that will enhance your performance, and not in the overly advertised way. There are still gyms out there which are not designer commercials. Which smell of chalk and iron in the morning, and where sparring partners and spotters are not a myth. There are tracks which will welcome your honest to God running shoes every night, and will not comment on the state of your hair or the bowl of ice-cream you snuck in at lunch. Which will only be glad to keep you company.

The truth is a lot is wrong with the fitness industry – as is with the world. And however pathetic it may sound, another truth is that change begins with a choice and a deliberate step, and our line of business is no exception.

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.