السبت، 15 أكتوبر، 2011

The See-Food, Reach-Food Diet


You've heard of the "See-Food" diet haven't you? No, that's not the diet where you load up on fish, lobster, crab and mussels. The See-Food Diet is the one that so many of us crack jokes about – it's the diet where you eat everything in sight! But don't laugh too hard. Scientists at Cornell University and other research institutions have proven that you actually WILL eat more food if you see food more. In fact, if you can see it and it's within arm's reach, you could eat yourself obese within a few years and not even know what hit you because the eating happens unconsciously.

It should be common sense that when you're constantly surrounded by food, you tend to eat more.

But one thing that hasn't been clear until recently was how seeing food (visibility) and having it within reach (proximity) could influence unconscious eating (and how it influences what I call "eating amnesia").

Developmental psychologists tell us that the more effort or time you invest in a unique activity, the more likely you'll be to remember it.

In other words, if you have to go out of your way to get food, you'll remember eating it. If the food is right there within arms reach, you'll munch away and more easily forget it.

For years, Dr. Brian Wansink of the Food and Brand Laboratory at Cornell University has been conducting fascinating experiments to find out what really makes you eat more food than you need.

Some of his previous studies revealed that taste, palatability, mood, stress, social context, role models (parental influence), visual cues, visibility and convenience can all influence how much you eat (Eating behavior is environmentally and psychologically influenced – appetite is not just biological).

To explore the influence of food proximity and visibility on eating behavior, Wansink set up an experiment using 40 female staff members from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain. The subjects were not told it was a weight loss or calorie-related study. They were told that they would be given a free candy dish filled with chocolates (candy "kisses") and they'd be contacted and surveyed about their candy preferences. They were also told not to share the candies, take them home or move the dish.

Participants were divided into four groups:

1) Proximate and visible (can see and reach)
2) Proximate and non-visible (can reach but not see)
3) Less proximate and visible (can see but can't reach)
4) Less proximate and non visible (can't see, and can't reach)

 

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During each day of the four week study, 30 chocolates were placed in 20 clear containers and 20 opaque containers and delivered to the 40 subjects. The containers were replenished every afternoon. They were kept in the same location for 4 straight business days and then rotated on the following week. Researchers kept a daily record of the number of chocolates eaten from each container and comparisons were made from the data collected.

At the end of each week, each subject was given a questionnaire which asked them how much they thought they had eaten over the entire week and asked them about their perceptions regarding the chocolates (such as "it was difficult to stop eating them," "I thought of eating the chocolates often," etc).

When the results were tabulated, here's what Dr. Wansink and his research team discovered:

The visibility and proximity of the candy dish also influenced the subject's perceptions. Regardless of whether participants could actually see the chocolates, if the candies were sitting on the desk (as opposed to being a mere 2 meters away), they were rated as more attention-attracting and difficult to resist. Candies in the clear containers were also rated as more difficult to resist and more attention attracting.

Most interesting of all, this study confirmed that when food is close by and visible, you'll not only eat more, you'll also be likely to forget that you ate them and therefore, underestimate how much you've eaten (I like to call that "eating amnesia.")

Is a few extra candies a day really a big deal?

If it becomes habitual it sure is! Over a year, the difference between the candy dish placement would mean 125 calories per day which adds up to 12 extra pounds of body fat over a year.

When given the advice to keep junk food out of the house and office, I often hear complaints that it's "impossible" to do because the rest of the family would have a fit, or simply not allow it. As for the office, one of the biggest excuses I've heard for diet failure is that the temptations are always there and it's out of your control to change. Invariably someone else brings doughnuts or candy to the office.

Now you know what to do to reduce temptation and successfully stick with your program more effectively:

If you can't keep it out of your office or house, keep it out of sight and out of arm's reach. That alone is enough to reduce consumption.

At home, if your significant other or family is not willing to remove all offending foods from the premises, then get their agreement that their food is not to remain in plain sight - it goes in the back of a refrigerator drawer and not on the shelf at eye level, or if non-perishable, it goes inside a cupboard that is exclusively the domain of the other person.

At work, tell your office pals to keep the candy, doughnuts and other temptations off your desk, at a distance and out of sight. If they put any unhealthy snacks on your desk, promptly remove them!

Environmental cues can trigger you to eat impulsively. If you can see it and reach it, you'll eat more of it, and you'll forget how much you ate. So get the junk out of your home and office now and if you can't, then get it out of your sight. If you can't do that, get it out of arms reach.

Better yet, setup an "environment for success" with a lifestyle program like my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle system.

 

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Rest, Sleep, And Burn More Fat Fast

In order to reap the benefits from the intense exercise I recommend to my Fat Burning Furnace students, you must get adequate rest.  I can't stress this fact enough.  In fact, rest is just as important, if not more important that the actual exercise. 

During the high intensity resistance exercise that my students perform, the muscles experience tiny injuries or tears.  The body's response is to adapt and repair, getting stronger and larger muscles, which of course leads to burning more fat and a leaner body.

But this growth and repair process won't take place if the body is not allowed the time to do its job.  Too often, people rush back into the gym, as many have been inundated with the "more is better" axiom when it comes to exercise.  But if we don't get out of the body's way and let it do its magic, we will experience poor results.  We won't burn fat like we want to, and we will just end up demotivated or possibly give up our efforts altogether.

If you don't get enough rest or sleep, you'll have a very difficult time building the fat-burning muscle that will transform your body.  And you'll also have a tough time burning fat off too!  That's why we can't work out too long or too often when using a sufficient intensity level.  When giving the body an intense stimulus, such as proper weight training, you can't keep hammering it into the ground. 

If you did this, you'd quickly over train your muscles and negate your body's ability to recover from exercise.   Your immune system could become so worn down in fact, that you might even get sick…this happened to me a few times in the past when I wasn't paying attention to getting adequate rest and sleep. 

And this repair and recover process doesn't happen overnight, it usually takes 2 days or more, So make sure to keep between 1-3 days of rest between your properly conducted resistance training workouts, or you will be short-circuiting your chances of success to burn fat and build lean, strong, muscle.

Now that we know how important rest is to burning fat and building muscle, we also must understand the most important component of rest…otherwise know as sleep.  Sleep is the ultimate recovery tool, and not only for recovery from exercise.  It's a recovery tool from any stress you take in throughout the day. 

Whether it's from family pressures, work issues, or finances, etc., increased stress can be dissolved by adequate sleep.  And don't think you can burn fat maximally when you're over-stressed by other things in your life.  A high stress level can shut down the effectiveness of your ability to burn fat, among other things. 

So make sure to get adequate sleep.  What's ideal?  I would recommend no less than seven or more than nine hours.  In fact, seven and half hours per night might be the perfect amount! 

Research has shown that we sleep in cycles of 90 minutes or so.  It has been suggested that if we wake up too far before or after one of these 90 minute cycles, you will probably feel groggy for a good part of the day. So try the 5 90 minutes sleep cycles, or 7 and a half hours…you'll most likely wake up feeling well-rested and energized, and your fat burning furnace will show it's appreciation, allowing you to burn more fat faster.


Rob Poulos is a celebrated fitness author, fat loss expert, and the founder and CEO of Zero to Hero Fitness.  Rob created the world's most efficient method for fast and permanent fat loss with his "Fat Burning Furnace" system to help those looking to put an end to restrictive fad diets, long boring cardio workouts, and the need for super-human willpower for good.


If you're thinking about using the Fat Burning Furnace system yourself, but still have a few questions, make sure you visit the
Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Also, it may help to read about the success stories of others like you to see how people in similar situations have changed their bodies and their lives with the techniques in FBF.

But you may become anxious to get started on your new body right now, so you can also click the button below to get started right now.  Remember, you have a full 60 days to decide if it's right for you.  If not, just email me and we'll issue you a full refund and I'll thank you for trying it out...it's that simple!
  

 

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The Real Way to Stop Eating Fast Food


"How could you eat that junk? It's so bad for you!" (nag, nag). "Don't you know those fries will give you a heart attack?" (nag, nag). "You have to stop eating all that fast food, it's going to make you fat!" (nag nag). "You have to eat more healthy food like fruits and vegetables - they're good for you!" (nag, nag). Your friends nag you, your family nags you, your doctor nags you, the health newsletters, websites and magazines - they all nag you, and of course, your personal trainer nags the heck out of you, to stop eating all those BAD FAST FOODS. But does all that nagging you and bad-mouthing the fast food industry really help anyone stop?

It doesn't look that way. The fast food industry is thriving, even in the bad economy. The Chicago Tribune recently said that McDonalds is "recession proof."

As one of only two companies to turn a major profit over the last year (the other being Wal Mart), McDonald's is laughing its way to the bank. In fact, McDonalds plans to open 1,000 new stores this year.

I was driving down Route 95 a few weeks ago and pulled over to use the rest room at Mcdonalds on a Saturday morning (there's a McDonalds conveniently located immediately off almost every exit up and down the full length of Interstate 95).

The parking lot was full, it was standing-room only inside and the lines snaked around into the seating area! You'd think Brad and Angelina were there signing autographs or something. Nope. Just a regular weekend at breakfast-time.

I was shopping in Wal Mart the same week and I almost passed out when I saw (smelled, actually) a McDonalds… INSIDE THE WAL- MART! Also, with lines.

Yep. It looks like your friends and family's nagging you to stop eating fast food, and all the messages of the health and fitness industry to get people eating more "health food" are not working!

So what does work?

The results of a new survey from the behavior and psychology section of the journal, OBESITY (Feb 2009) provide some answers:

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public health surveyed 530 adults about their attitudes towards fast foods.

They found that people already know fast food is unhealthy. (like, no kidding!)

The primary reasons they eat it anyway are because of the perceived convenience and a dislike for cooking! (I'd add another: they think fast food is always cheaper than healthy food).

 

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So, said the authors of this research paper, nagging people to eat more healthy food and warning them that "fast food is going to make us fat and kill us" is not the best approach.

What's the right approach?

Focus on teaching people how to make healthy eating fast, convenient and easy, because those are the reasons people are choosing fast food in the first place.

So what's holding us back from implementing or taking this advice?

Well, I think that most people can't get over the ideas that they "just cant cook" or that cooking is "too time consuming" or that healthy food "tastes like dirt" (as if McDonalds is gourmet food!)

That said, I'm not going to nag you, scold you or try to scare you out of eating fast food. I'm not going to lecture you about health food (not today, anyway). Nor am I going to bad-mouth the fast food restaurants.

I'm going to lead the new charge by showing you just how easy and convenient it is to eat healthy and nutritious food and make it delicous.

Here's a few meal ideas (for starters) to prove my point.

3-MINUTE APPLE CINNAMON OATMEAL

* natural oatmeal (like Quaker old fashioned rolled oats)
* natural (unsweetened) applesauce
* cinnamon
* for protein, serve with scrambled eggs or egg whites on side or stir 1-2 scoops of vanilla protein powder into the oats

I eat this almost every morning. It's faster, easier and cheaper than going to the donut place or getting sausage, cheese, bacon breakfast muffins at the fast food joint! (you don't have to wait in line, either!)

10-MINUTE LAZY PERSON'S CHINESE STIR FRY

* Brown rice (I like basmati)
* frozen oriental vegetables
* chicken breast, grilled (try foreman grill)
* bragg's "liquid aminos" (or light/lo-sodium soy sauce)

This takes 30 minutes, however, if you get a rice cooker and make a giant batch, you can have your rice on standby for instant eats and this will take less than 10 minutes.

It doesn't get much easier than that. (I like those chinese veggies that come with the little mini-corn-on-the-cobs… reminds me of that Tom Hanks Movie, BIG)

2-MINUTE BLACK BEANS AND SPICY SALSA

* black beans (15 oz can)
* Medium or hot salsa
* 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic or chopped garlic to taste
* salt and pepper to taste

This one takes you all of 2 minutes to make. No cooking required! And it's good! It's vegetarian as listed above, but if you're a high-protein muscle-head like me, just add chicken breast or lean ground turkey.

Best part: this is all inexpensive food! Oats, rice, beans… doesn't get much cheaper than that - buy your healthy staples in bulk and the cost per serving is probably less than mickey D's! (yes, even the "Value" meals)

Every one of these recipes is compatible with my Burn The Fat program

This means that my way of eating makes you more muscular and leaner… so you can look hot wearing very little clothes this summer… and be healthier… and save money too.

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The diet pendulum has apparently swung from:

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

To:

"You MUST eat clean!"

To:

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

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

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

Most dieters, when they don't like a certain philosophy, reject it entirely and flip to its polar opposite. Most dieters are dichotomous thinkers, always viewing their endeavors as all or nothing. Most dieters are also joiners, plugging into one of the various diet tribes and gaining their sense of identity by belonging.

In some cases, I think these tribes are more like cults, as people follow guru-like leaders who pass down health and nutrition commandments that are followed with religious conviction. Seriously, the parallels of diet groups to religious groups can be downright scary sometimes.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

New Rule #4: Understand the health-bodyfat paradox

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

New Rule #5: Forbidden foods are forbidden.

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

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

New Rule #6: Set your own compliance rule

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

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

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

New Rule #7: Have "free" meals, not "cheat" meals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding words of wisdom

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

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

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

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

 

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Nutrition Label Lies & Loopholes: Serving Size Sleight of Hand


For years, concerned consumers and watchdog organizations have been screaming that the U.S. labeling laws are full of loopholes and in need of serious revision. After years of talk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says they're planning to so something about it. But will it be enough?

There are many food labeling issues we could complain about, but one of the biggest problems (due to its direct relationship to the obesity crisis) is serving sizes.

I'm not just talking about supersizing. What's worse is that the actual calories are being disguised with serving size sleight of hand.

Let me show you some examples:

Tostitos touch of lime. Calories per serving: 150. Not too bad for tortilla chips, eh? Not so fast. Check that serving size: 1 ounce. That's a whopping 6 chips. There are 10 servings per container. That's 1500 calories in the bag.

Most guys could knock off half that bag for a cool 750 calories. Ok, suppose you have some restraint and you only eat a third of the bag (20 chips). You still get 500 calories. But who stops at 6 chips?

Vitamin Water. While I could rant about how sugar water is being marketed as health food, I'll stick with the serving size sleight for now.

The label says there are 50 calories per serving. Wow, only 50 calories! Plus they add all those vitamins. Must be good for you and perfect for dieters, right? Think again. Look at the serving size and servings per container: 8 oz per serving and 2.5 servings per container.

Excuse me, but is there ANY reason for making it 2.5 servings other than to disguise the actual calorie content?

When you see that the entire bottle is 20 ounces, you realize that it contains 125 calories, not 50. Although 20 ounces is a large bottle, I don't know many guys who wouldn't chug that whole thing.

Sobe Lifewater? Same trick in their 20 oz bottles.

Healthy Choice soup, country vegetable. They make these in convenient little microwavable containers with a plastic lid. Just heat and eat.

It says 90 calories and 480 mg of sodium per serving. Wow, less than a hundred calories. Wait a minute though. Turn the container around and you see the serving size is 1 cup and the servings per container says "about 2."

Huh? It looks pretty obvious to me that this microwave-ready container was designed for one person to eat in one sitting, so why not just put 180 calories per container on the label (and 960 mg of sodium). I guess 90 calories and 480 mg sodium sounds… well… like a healthier choice!

 

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Ben and Jerrys chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.

This infamously delicious ice cream with its own facebook fan page has 270 calories per serving.

We all know ice cream is loaded with calories and should only be an occasional treat, but 270 calories per serving, that's not too terrible is it?

Look a little closer at the label. The serving size is ½ a cup. Who eats a half a cup of ice cream? In fact, who hasn't polished off a whole pint by themselves? (the "comment confessional" is below if you'd like to answer that)

According to Ben and Jerry, there are 4 servings in that one pint container. 270 calories times 4 servings = 1080 calories! That's about half a days worth of calories for an average female.

I could go on and on - crackers, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, pasta, boxed cereals (who eats ¾ cup of cereal), etc. But I think you get the point.

What's the solution to this mess? News reports in the last week say that the FDA may be cracking down. Count me among those who are pleased to hear this news. One of their ideas is to post nutritional information, including the calories, on the FRONT of the food labels.

The problem is, this move by itself could actually make matters worse. Suppose Tostitos started posting "150 calories per serving" right on the front of the bag. Most people would assume the chips were low in calories. Putting calorie info on the front of the label would help only if it clearly stated the amount of calories in the entire package or in a normal human-sized serving!

Ah, but the FDA says they're on top of that too. They also want to standardize or re-define serving sizes. Sounds great, but there are critics who say that consumers would take it as approval to eat larger servings so the strategy would backfire.

Suppose for example, the government decides that no one eats ½ a cup of Ben and Jerry's so they make the new serving size 1 cup, or half the pint-sized container. Now by law the label says 540 calories per serving instead of 270. Is that like getting official permission to eat twice as much?

I'm not against the FDA's latest initiative, but what we really need is some honesty in labeling.

Food manufacturers should not be allowed to manipulate serving sizes in a way that would trick you into thinking there are fewer calories than there really are in a quantity that you're likely to eat.

It would be nice to have calories for the entire package listed on the label at a glance. A new rating scale for caloric density would be cool too, if it could be easily interpreted. It would also be nice to have serving sizes chosen for quantities that are most likely to be commonly eaten. But standardization of serving sizes for all types of foods is difficult.

My friends from Europe tell me that food labels over there are listed in 100g portions, making comparisons easy. But when you consider how much each individual's daily calorie needs can vary (easily 3-fold or more when you run the gamut from totally sedentary to elite athlete, not to mention male and female differences), standardization that applies to everyone may not be possible.

I think the recent laws such as requiring calories on restaurant menus are a positive move that will influence some people's behavior. But no label changes by themselves will solve the obesity crisis. A real solution is going to have to include personal responsibility, nutrition education, self-discipline, hard work and lifestyle change.

Changes in the labeling laws won't influence everybody because the people most likely to care about what labels say are those who have already made a commitment to change their lifestyles (and they're least likely to eat processed and packaged foods - that have labels - in the first place). Actually, for those who care, all the info you need is already on the labels, you just have to do a little math and watch out for sneaky label tricks.

There's one true solution to this portion distortion and label lies problem: Become CALORIE AWARE. Of course that includes educated label reading, but it goes much further. In my Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle system, here is how I define "calorie counting:"

1. Get a good calorie counter book, chart or electronic device/software and get to know the calorie counts of all the staple foods you eat on a daily basis. Look up the calorie values for foods you eat occasionally.

2. Always have a daily meal plan – on paper – with calories printed for each food, each meal and the day. Use that menu as a daily goal and target.

3. Educate yourself about average caloric needs for men and women and learn how to estimate your own calorie needs as closely as you can based on your activity, weight, body composition, height, gender and age.

4. Get a good kitchen food scale and use it.

Keep counting calories and doing nutrition by the numbers until you are unconsciously competent and eating the right quantities to easily maintain your ideal weight becomes second nature.

Obviously, saying that calories are all there is to nutrition is like saying that putting is all there is to golf. Calorie quality and quantity are both important. However, it's a mistake to ignore the calorie quantity side of the game. Serving sizes matter and even healthy foods get stored as fat if you eat too much..

You can play "blindfolded archery" by guessing your calories and food portions if you want to. Hey, you might get lucky and guess right. Personally, I wouldn't recommend depending on luck - or the government - for something as important as your body and your health. I would recommend the personal responsibility, nutrition education, self-discipline, hard work and lifestyle change…

 

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Night Time Eating And Fat Loss


"Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper." This maxim can be attributed to nutrition writer Adelle Davis, and since her passing in 1974, the advice to eat less at night to help with fat loss has lived on and continued to circulate in many different incarnations. This includes suggestions such as:

"Don't eat a lot before bedtime"
"Don't eat midnight snacks"
"Don't eat anything after 7pm"
"Don't eat any carbs at night"
"Don't eat any carbs after 3 pm"
and so on…

I too believe that eating lightly at night is usually very solid advice for people seeking increased fat loss, especially for people who are inactive at night. However, some fitness experts today, when they hear "eat less at night," start screaming, "Diet Voodoo!"…

Opinions on this subject are definitely mixed. Many highly respected experts strongly recommend eating less at night to improve fat loss, while others suggest that it's only "calories in vs calories out" over 24 hours that matters.

The critics say that it's ridiculous to cut off food intake at a certain hour or to presume that "carbs turn to fat" at night as if there were some kind of nocturnal carbohydrate gremlins waiting to shuttle calories into fat cells when the moon is full. They suggest that if you eat less in the morning and eat more at night, it all "balances itself out at the end of the day."

Of course, food does not turn to fat just because it's eaten after a certain "cutoff hour" and carbs do not necessarily turn to fat at night either (although there are hypotheses about low evening insulin sensitivity having some significance). What we do know for certain is that the law of energy balance is with us at all hours of the day - and that bears some deeper consideration when you realize that we expend the least energy when we are sleeping and many people spend the entire evening watching TV.

I had the privilege of interviewing sports nutritionist and dietician Dan Benardot, PhD, and he gave us a very interesting perspective on this.

Dr. Benardot said that thinking in terms of 24 hour energy balance may be a seriously flawed and outdated concept. He says that the old model of energy balance looks at calories in versus calories out in 24 hour units. However, what really happens is that your body allocates energy minute by minute and hour by hour as your body's needs dictate, not at some specified 24 hour end point.

I first heard this concept suggested by Dr. Fred Hatfield about 15 years ago. Hatfield explained how and why you should be thinking ahead to the next three hours and adjusting your energy intake accordingly.

Although it's not really a new idea, Dr. Benardot has recently taken this concept to a much higher level of refinement and he calls the new paradigm, "Within Day Energy Balance."

The Within Day Energy balance approach not only backs up the practice of eating small meals approximately every three hours, AND the practice of "nutrient timing" (which is why post workout nutrition is such a popular topic today, and rightly so)… it also suggests that we should adjust our energy intake according to our activity.

Let's make the assumption most people come home from work, then plop on the couch in front of the TV all night. Let's also assume that the majority of people go to bed late in the evening, usually around 10 pm, 11 pm or midnight. Therefore, nightime is the period during which the least energy is being expended.

If this is true, then it's logical to suggest that one should not eat huge amounts of calories at night, especially right before bed because that would provide excess fuel at a time when it is not needed. The result is increased likelihood of fat storage.

From the within day energy balance perspective, the advice to eat less at night makes complete sense. Of course it also suggests that if you train at night, then you should eat more at night to support that activity beforehand and to support recovery afterwards.

 

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Those stuck on a 24 hour model of energy expenditure would say timing of energy intake doesn't matter as long as the total calories for the day are in a deficit. But who ever decided that the body operates on a 24-hour "DAY"?

Try this test (or not!): Eat a 2500 calorie per day diet, with nothing for breakfast, nothing before or after your morning workout, 500 calories for lunch, 750 calories for dinner and 1250 calories before bedtime.

Now compare that to the SAME 2500 calorie diet with 6 small meals of approximately 420 calories per meal and then tweak those meal sizes a bit so that you eat a little more before and after your workout and a little less later at night.

Both are 2500 calories per day. According to "24 hour energy balance" thinking, both diets will produce the same results in performance, health and body composition. But will they?

Does your body really do a calculation at midnight and add up the day's totals like a business man when he closes out the register at night? It's a lot more logical that energy is stored in real time and energy is burned in real time, rather than accounted for at the end of each 24 hour period.

24 hour energy balance is just one way to academically sort calories so you can understand it and count it in convenient units of time. This has its uses, as in calculating a daily calorie intake level for menu planning purposes.

Ok, but enough about calories, what about the individual macronutrients? Some people don't simply suggest eating fewer calories at night, they suggest you take your calorie cut specifically from CARBS rather than from all macronutrients evenly across the board. Is there anything to it?

Well, there's more than one theory. The most commonly quoted theory has to do with insulin.

The late bodybuilding guru Dan Duchaine was once asked by a competitor,

"I want to get cut up for an upcoming contest. Should I eat at night? I heard I shouldn't eat carbs after six pm."

Duchaine answered:

"It's true that insulin sensitivity is lowest at night. Let's discuss what is happening in your body that makes it dislike carbs at night. Cortisol, a catabolic hormone, is highest at night. When cortisol is elevated, your muscle cell insulin sensitivity is lowered…"

More recently, David Barr wrote a tip on "lower carbs at night" for T-Muscle Magazine. He said:

"Even when bulking, you don't want to start scarfing down Pop Tarts before you go to bed. Our muscle insulin sensitivity decreases as the day wears on, meaning that we're more likely to generate a large insulin response from ingesting carbs. Stated differently, we're more predisposed to adding fat mass by eating carbs at night because our body doesn't handle the hormone insulin as well as it does earlier in the day."

Mind you, Barr is a not a "voodoo" guy; he is a respected scientist who also happens to be well known as a "dogma destroyer" and "myth buster"… and Duchaine, although he had a shady past and some run-ins with the law, was nevertheless highly respected by nearly all in the bodybuilding world for his ahead-of-his-time nutrition wisdom.

As a result of advice like this, word got out in the bodybuilding and fitness community that you should eat fewer carbs at night. Real world results and the "test of time" have suggested that this is an effective strategy. I also don't know a single nutrition or training expert who doesn't agree that insulin management and improvement of insulin sensitivity aren't effective approaches in the management of body fat.

However, it's only fair to point out that not all scientists agree that cutting carbs at night will have any real world impact on fat loss, outside of any additional calorie deficit created by it. Dr. Benardot, for example, doesn't think there's much to it. He says that exercisers and athletes in particular, usually have excellent glycemic control, so the ratio of macronutrients should not be as much of an issue as the total energy balance in relation to energy needs at a particular time and the meal frequency (eating every 3 hours).

Regardless of which side of the "carbs at night" debate you lean towards, if you consider the within day energy balance principle, it makes perfect sense not to eat large, calorie-dense meals late at night before bedtime.

Keep in mind of course, that cutting back on your calories and/or carbs at night makes the most sense in the context of a fat loss program, especially if fat loss has been slow. It's quite possible that I might give the exact opposite advice to the skinny "ectomorph" who is having a hard time gaining muscular body weight.

Also consider that this doesn't necessarily mean eating nothing at night; it may simply mean eating smaller meals or emphasizing lean protein and green veggies (or a small protein shake) at night.

Many programs suggest a specific time when you should eat your last meal of the day. However, I'd suggest avoiding an absolute cut off time, such as "no food or no carbs after 6 pm, etc," because people go to bed at different times, and maintenance of steady blood sugar and an optimal hormonal balance even at night are also important goals.

A more personalized suggestion is to cut off food intake 3 hours before bedtime, if practical and possible. For example, if you eat dinner at 6 pm, but don't go to bed until 12 midnight, then a small 9 pm meal or a snack makes sense, but keep it light, preferably lean protein, and dont raid the refrigerator at 11:55!

An important rule to remember in all cases, is that whatever is working, keep doing more of it. If you eat your largest meal before bed and lose fat anyway, I would never tell you to change that. Results are what counts. On the other hand, if you're stuck at a fat loss plateau, this is a technique I'd suggest you give a try.

Night time eating is likely to remain a subject of debate - especially the part about whether carbs should be targeted for removal in evening meals.

However, perhaps even those who are skeptical can consider, that if cutting out carbs at night is effective for fat loss, it may be for the simple reason that it forces you to eat less automatically.

In other words, setting a rule to eat fewer calories or to eat fewer carbs at night may be a very effective way to keep your daily calories in check and to match intake to activity, whereas people who are allowed to eat ad libitum at night when they're home, glued to the couch and watching TV, etc., may tend to overeat when food is readily available, but the energy is not needed in large amounts.

 

 

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Is Your Fat Burning Exercise Routine Keeping You Fat And Unhealthy?

The majority of exercisers today still rely on long duration moderate paced aerobic exercise as their primary routine to burn fat fast.  But recent studies have shown that this is a big, I mean big mistake.  In fact, you could say that the whole aerobics explosion of a few decades past was one of the biggest mistakes in the health and fitness industry.  Why?

There are several reasons, but I'll focus on the two main issues here.  When you exercise at a moderate pace for extended periods of time (as in the typically recommended percent of your target heart rate), your body is burning fat during the exercise.  While this may sound good, it's actually bad news. 

This sends a signal to your body to keep a certain amount of stored fat available for your next workout.  You're essentially telling it that it needs fat available to burn, 'because you'll be doing this exercise again.  So while we may be burning some calories during this exercise, after the exercise is over, our body begins storing up some fat for the next workout.  Obviously not what we're looking for in terms of maximum ability to burn fat fast.

The other big concern with moderately paced aerobic exercise performed several times per week is that it trains your body (heart, lungs, muscles, etc.) to become efficient.  Again, this may sound good, but what is actually happening is bad for long term health.  You are working only within your existing aerobic limits, without improving your aerobic capacity. 

This is important because your aerobic capacity is what determines how your body responds in times of physical, emotional, and mental stress.  If you reduce your capacity for work, as you do in this type of exercise, you're reducing your long term health, no to mention a poor chance of burning fat.

The good news is, you can reverse these effects by instead focusing your workouts on high intensity resistance training, with workouts that last 15-20 minutes on average, and can only be performed 2-3 times per week. 

These workouts will burn carbohydrates instead of fat during the workout, and will cause your body to use its fat stores to replenish the burned carbs over the next 24 hours, after the workout is done!  This type of work will also increase your reserve capacity and thus your ability to handle all types of stress, leading to lasting health and fitness...and 24/7 fat burning.  Nice!

But the exercise must be performed correctly to be effective, and that means using sufficient intensity, and keeping your rest periods between exercises and sets down to 60 seconds or less.  

The students of my Fat Burning Furnace method know this, and are reaping the benefits.  When you think about how little time you have to spend compared to the typically recommended methods to get these fat burning and health creating results, it's almost magical.


Rob Poulos is a celebrated fitness author, fat loss expert, and the founder and CEO of Zero to Hero Fitness.  Rob created the world's most efficient method for fast and permanent fat loss with his "Fat Burning Furnace" system to help those looking to put an end to restrictive fad diets, long boring cardio workouts, and the need for super-human willpower for good.


If you're thinking about using the Fat Burning Furnace system yourself, but still have a few questions, make sure you visit the
Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Also, it may help to read about the success stories of others like you to see how people in similar situations have changed their bodies and their lives with the techniques in FBF.

But you may become anxious to get started on your new body right now, so you can also click the button below to get started right now.  Remember, you have a full 60 days to decide if it's right for you.  If not, just email me and we'll issue you a full refund and I'll thank you for trying it out...it's that simple!
  

 

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Irvingia Gabonensis Supplement Craze: In-Credible Weight Loss from an African Tree?


Irvingia gabonensis is the latest weight loss supplement to hit the marketplace, saturate the internet with advertisements, ignite forum discussions and flood my email inbox with questions. In the weight loss marketplace, this may gain the dubious distinction of becoming the next hoodia or acai berry (scam), but I'll just present the facts, make my case and then let you judge for yourself.

Irvingia gabonensis comes from a West African tree commonly known as the wild mango or bush mango. The trees bear edible fruits, and they're especially known for their nuts which go by many different names including ogbono, etima, odika or dika nuts. Like other nuts and seeds, Irvingia gabonensis is high in fat (50%), and oil can be extracted from them. Irvingia gabonensis is also comprised of 26.4% carbohydrate, 7.5% protein, 2.3% ash and 14% fiber. Dietary fibers are often recommended to aid with weight loss programs as well as for their health benefits.

The first Irvingia Gabonensis weight loss study: 2005

Due to its customary use in African cuisine and reputation as a health food, a research group based in Cameroon (Western Africa) set up a randomized double blind study in 2005 to see if Irvingia gabonensis could help with weight loss. 40 obese subjects, age 19 to 52, were divided into placebo and experimental groups. The experimental group received 1.05 grams of Irvingia seed extract 3 times a day (total 3.15 grams) for 30 days.

Subjects were examined weekly and tested for body weight, body fat and hip/waist circumferences. Blood pressure was measured and blood samples were also collected after an overnight fast and tested for total cholesterol, triacylglycerol, HDL-cholesterol and glucose. The subjects were interviewed about their physical activity and food intake during the trial and were instructed to follow a low fat diet of 1800 calories per day and keep a food record for seven days.

At the end of the 30 day trial, the Irvingia group had lost an average of 5.26 kilos (11.5 lbs) and the placebo group had lost only 1.32 kilos (2.9 lbs). The group receiving Irvingia also experienced a decrease in systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol increased.

This was the first study that suggested a weight loss benefit from Irvingia gabonensis. Why did the Irvingia group lose more weight? It's not clear, but in studies of free-living subjects, increased weight loss often means that the experimental group ate less, not necessarily from a direct action on metabolism, hormones or physiology.

In-credible weight loss research

In March of 2008, the same research group (Oben and Ngondi) published the results of their second study about Irvingia and weight loss. This time, Irvingia was combined with Cissus quadrangularis, a succulent vine native to West Africa and Southeast Asia. 72 subjects were divided into three groups, placebo, Cissus extract only (150 mg 2X/day) and Cissus-Irvingia combination (250 mg combined Cissus-Irvingia 2X/day).

All the same tests and measurements were taken as in the 2005 study. After 10 weeks, improvements were seen in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and fasting blood glucose. The placebo group lost 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs), the cissus group lost 8.82 kg (19.4 lbs) and the Cissus-Irvingia group lost 11.86 kg (26.1 lbs).

Attributing 26 pounds lost in 10 weeks solely to a fiber supplement is highly unlikely if not impossible, so the researchers (Oben and Ngondi) figured there was something else going on. They proposed that PPAR gamma, leptin, adiponectin or glycerol-3 phosphate dehydrogenase could all be potential mechanisms through which Irvingia gabonensis might affect body weight in overweight humans.

They set up another 10 week randomized double blind placebo-controlled study to investigate these possibilities. 120 subjects were divided into two groups; a placebo group and an Irvingia gabonensis group, which received 150 mg of Irvingia gabonensis extract twice a day.

 

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Again, total and LDL cholesterol levels fell more in the Irvingia group than the placebo group (27% vs 4.8%). In the Irvingia gabonensis group, body fat decreased by 6.3% versus 1.9% in the placebo group. Weight decreased by 12.8 kg (28.1) pounds in the Irvingia gabonensis group vs 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs) in the placebo group. Favorable changes were also seen in Leptin (anti starvation hormone that signals brain & body about fat stores), adiponectin (protein secreted from fat cells; higher levels improve insulin sensitivity), C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation and cardiac risk) and fasting glucose.

To the lay person, this 28-pound weight loss (12.8 kilos) looks incredible. To someone familiar with research methods and weight loss research, these results look IN-credible, meaning NOT credible. To the informed and discriminating, results like these do not send you running to the health food store, they raise red flags, prompt more questions and demand more and better-controlled research.

What "controlled research" means

The subjects were advised not to alter their diet or activity, but that doesn't mean they didn't alter it anyways. These were free-living subjects, free to eat whatever they wanted and the only way the researchers knew how much the subjects ate or how active they were was from self-reported food and activity records. That's another way of saying the study was NOT controlled.

A true tightly-controlled weight loss study means that the subjects stay in a hospital or research center metabolic ward where all their food is prepared and delivered to them, which is the ONLY way to guarantee we actually know how much they ate.  It also means that activity and exercise levels are monitored. Alas, none of these controls were used in this study and we have no way of knowing the true caloric intake or caloric expenditure of these subjects.

Explaining the anomaly

If these results are questionable, then how do we explain them? I mean, we're not saying the researchers are frauds, we're only suggesting that there were some anomalous findings which were parlayed into the latest supplement craze and a thriving business.

The main problem is that self-reporting of food intake is highly inaccurate and makes long term weight loss research very difficult to do. It's even possible that some subjects may have experienced a sort of "12 week fitness contest" type of effect, whereupon enrolling in the study, they wanted to impress anyone who saw the results. Therefore, they increased their exercise or activity in spite of instructions otherwise. Perhaps some of the subjects got sick and lost lean body mass. Maybe some were bloated and water retentive and simply dropped a lot of water weight. The explanations are endless.

But the story doesn't end here. There's another twist! It turns out that one person has done ALL the research to date and the same person owns the product rights.

Am I being overly skeptical?

Sure, I'm skeptical of weight loss supplements. That's because I'm intimately familiar with their sordid history and I read the research. In case anyone thinks I'm just trying to pick part this particular research only because I'm a diet pill party pooper and supplement skeptic, then think about the magnitude of the claim for a moment and decide for yourself:

The Dubious claim: "28 pounds of fat loss in 10 weeks with NO CHANGE IN DIET OR EXERCISE."

Let's do some math, shall we? 28 pounds of fat loss in 10 weeks = 98,000 calories, or 9,800 calories per week, or 1400 calories per day. So, the researchers and makers of this supplement are claiming that this product will raise metabolic rate by 1400 calories per day.

Is it a more reasonable assumption that an over-the-counter plant extract from an African tree caused astronomical increase in metabolism that probably no prescription drug comes close to, or that the research is flawed?

Consumers in the weight loss marketplace have such short memories. Doesn't anyone remember that last African wonder pill, hoodia? What happened to that one? And why another? How many of these products are already buried in the supplement graveyard? Haven't we learned our lessons from the past?

Irvingia Gabonensis: The bottom line

With an objective look at the evidence, we can probably conclude that Irvingia is a good source of fiber. Fiber can provide numerous health benefits and play a role in body fat control, but there are cheaper ways to get fiber than expensive African supplements, (starting with your food!) A 30-day supply of Irvingia (60 softgels at 150 mg each) currently retails for $42 to $72.

Future research might show that Irvingia Gabonensis and or an Irvingia and Cissus combination may provide significant health benefits. Existing research already suggests health benefits including cholesterol improvements, glycemic control, antibacterial actions and antioxidant properties. It's possible that some of the proposed anti-obesity benefits may also be confirmed. But at this time, the evidence is too thin to recommend Irvingia Gabonensis for weight loss beyond what you could get from any fiber product.

 

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