Why your BRAIN quits on Low-calorie Diets

IMG_9383From Jeff Volek PhD and Dr Stephen Phinney MD’s book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, we read,

“The brain is the spoiled child of the organ family. It can burn glucose or ketones (or a combination of the two) and it can’t burn fat. This is interesting because the brain itself contains a lot of fatty acids in all its membranes and myelin (although little or none as triglycerides), and the many types of brain cells all contain mitochondria that should be capable of oxidizing fatty acids. Another surprise about the brain is how much energy it consumes each day (600 kcal) despite weighing just 3 pounds. This is more than 10-times the average energy use per pound of the rest of the body, which explains why the brain has such a large blood supply (to provide fuel and oxygen and also to keep it cool).

The other important fact about the brain’s fuel supply is that it contains no reserve supply of glycogen, and because it can’t burn fat, it is absolutely dependent upon a minute-by-minute blood supply containing both fuel and oxygen to meet its needs. This

Defying the Fear of Your First Gym Experience

Take a deep breath!

There is a principle at force that causes fearfulness. It says that as you think in your heart, so are you. Thus if you think going to the gym for the first time is scary, it will be. But the real question is “Why are you really scared?”


Let’s be real. In my experience the real reason you are scared is “because of what ‘you think’ other people will think of you.” It’s because you don’t feel worthy of the blessings of health and because of that fear you don’t believe you are worthy of love, connection and belonging. You think people will think you’re out of shape and heaven forbids they think you’re fat.

Here’s the truth. You gotta understand that gyms are for fat people wanting to get thin. At the gym there are a lot of people there that also had to go for the first time. Everyone will be so happy you are there because it will relive the courage they had to exercise for the first time they went!

Then if you encounter some idiot who is into them self and they say something mean to you, its because they don’t feel good about them self! Have a judgement thrown at you is always a reflection of the person that said it.

Ok? Now if you really believe what I’ve said and overcome your fear, let’s talk about some practical steps to get you there!

Steps to make your first gym visit a happy experience

  1. IMG_7957
    People at the front desk are always friendly and want to help

    Ask others for their recommendation of a good gym.

  2. Schedule a time to go. Write it in a calendar. There will be less chance you brush it off if you’ve scheduled it.
  3. Stop at the front desk and ask for help for your first visit. Most gyms will gladly show you around the entire facility. Most also have fitness professionals that will help you for free for 1 or more visits. Use this!
  4. IMG_7960
    The elliptical machine

    If you don’t have a professional to help you then do an easy routine. I recommend doing some time on an elliptical machine. It’s easy on the joints and will allow you to get your heart rate at a good first visit rate. The rate I recommend is to subtract your age from 180. As an example, if you’re 54 years old then your heart rate on the elliptical machine would not exceed 126 (180-54). Stay on it at least 30 minutes for your first visit.

  5. Go home and have a quality protein meal within 30 minutes of ending your exercise.
  6. Be happy!


In time all these machines will be your close friends!
When you compare yourself with seasoned fitness people you are stealing your joy. Keep in mind everyone who is there had to go for the first time. They are on a different chapter of their book. You’re on chapter one! 

If you haven’t been to the gym or worked out in a long time and you start with the elliptical you can expect to feel great afterwards without to much soreness. That will motivate you to go again! You feel great for several reasons:

  • You started!!!!!!
  • You feel good about yourself!!!!!
  • Your brain received much needed oxygen!!!!!
  • Your lymphatic system was stimulated an your body removed harmful waste!!!!


We are so proud of you!!!

High five!!!

Oh yea. Remember that principle I discussed about thinking? So as you think you’re a bad ass healthy fitness geek in your heart, so are you! It works for positive results just like it does when you’re scared!!!

Peaking Past 50 with these 3 exercise variables

spin bikeHave you felt the signs of aging and lost much of your performance? Want to stave off the loss of muscle and lung capacity but would like to still do some fun athletic events? Climbing stairs painful and you can’t catch your breath? If you reached the grand age of 50 or more you’ve experienced a loss of muscle and lung capacity and gained extra pounds around your waist. If so you are not alone.

Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.


Let’s explore what’s probably happening as you age (or if you’re young what you might expect). Then let’s see what can be done using three exercise variables that anyone can do; from athlete, weekend warrior or someone who just wants to keep fit and active.

Aging Facts (face the truth)

  • Skin loses its elasticity and becomes drier as oil glands slow their production.
  • Fingernails grow more slowly.
  • Hair thins, and there’s more gray hair as pigment cells are reduced.
  • Compression of joints, including spinal discs, causes a loss of height. By age 80, the loss of 2 inches is common.
  • Somewhere around age 55, high-frequency sounds start becoming harder to hear.
  • By age 50, most people need reading glasses as the eyes’ lenses become less flexible, impairing the ability to focus on anything close up.
  • Changes occur in the menstrual cycle before it ceases.
  • Sleep time typically becomes shorter, and the quality of sleep decreases. Waking often during the night is common.
  • Bone minerals are lost, resulting in more fragility.
  • The basic metabolic rate slows down, often resulting in weight gain— mostly fat

(List from Joe Friel;  Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life)

Aging Athletes (its the same for non-athletes too)

The symptoms of aging that concern athletes and non-athletes include:

  • Aerobic capacity (VO2max) declines.
  • Maximal heart rate is reduced.
  • The volume of blood pumped with each heartbeat decreases.
  • Muscle fibers are lost, resulting in decreased muscle mass and less strength.
  • Aerobic enzymes in the muscles become less effective and abundant.
  • Blood volume is reduced.

(List from Joe Friel;  Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life)

What Can You Do to Slow Down Aging

Obviously volumes are written about the science of aging. I know because I’ve read a ton about it. I finished my first Ironman triathlon at age 50. Thankfully I’ve completed a total of 15 but the last 4 were not pretty, walking the complete marathon. Currently at age 59 I want to continue racing for a long time. In 2014 I suffered a substantial decline in my performance even though I trained longer than at any time in my career. That year marked the first year of a series of injuries that put the brakes on me in 2015 with the surgery of a torn meniscus and then a major bike crash ending in another surgery.

I’ll be writing more blogs on what to do to overcome your rapid decline in aging and if you’re an athlete, how to increase performance or at least maintain competitiveness in the future years.

This is post is dedicated to understanding three exercises that are a must for anyone with the desire to improve their health past age 50. My decline in my race performances were because I quit doing these because they always lead to injury. Now I understand why.

Science confirms that as you age your aerobic capacity (VO2max) declines. What’s that and why is it important for you to slow down its’ decline? Aerobic capacity is simple. You deal with it as you exert any harder effort. It’s the amount (volume)  of oxygen that your body can carry to a working muscle over a given amount of time. You see the decline and explanation with this example. Ever see a young person bound up stairs and not hardly be breathing hard at the top and someone older had to labor up them slowly and have to stop and catch their breath at the top? A younger person simply can supply more oxygen to the working muscle.

You can guess why anyone who is aging would want to increase their aerobic capacity. It will allow for better body function and produce more output of activity with less effort because you’ll be able to supply more oxygen to the working muscle.

The aerobic capacity decline is influenced by the other five symptoms of aging athletes and non-athletes.

The 3 Exercise Types to Improve Aerobic Capacity

Anyone, athletes and non-athletes, would benefit from improving their aerobic capacity. You may be a mom who doesn’t work out but would like to get rid of some excess fat and be more active. If you’re a serious athlete you want to improve your VO2Max (aerobic capacity) so you can race faster.

There are many research studies that confirm that as athletes (or non-athletes) age they quit doing as much high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and lose aerobic capacity. Yet in other studies of older high competitive athletes they continued to perform HIIT as a regular part of their training and maintained their higher VO2Max.


The most accurate way to determine your VO2Max is going to a lab and having a test done. A simple way to estimate your VO2Max is by the following formula:

15 x (Max Heart Rate / Morning Resting Heart Rate) = VO2Max

For me: my most recent maximum heart rate running was 170. My lowest resting heart rate is 55. Therefore my VO2Max is 15 x (170 / 55) = 46.3.

You can see I have the aerobic capacity of 30-39 year old non-athletes, effectively making me 20 years younger than an average person. The test is a way to determine if you are actually improving with your fitness program.

1. What is a HIIT workout for an athlete?

hiitAccording to Joe Friel, “When you perform intervals, the absolute intensity, the duration of the repetitions, the number of repetitions, and the duration of recovery between intervals must be only slightly more challenging than your estimated current capacity for physical stress.”

If you’ve not done these in a while you have to take a cautious approach as you begin this type of training. They are stressful and can cause injury. It’s best to start with no more than 3 intervals of 3 minutes each going hard as described in the subsequent paragraph. The rest period in between intervals is no shorter than 90 seconds (1/2 the interval length) and not longer than 3 minutes (the length of the interval) to receive the maximum benefit.

They need to be done after a sufficient warm up period of not less than 15 minutes but better after 30 minutes. At the conclusion of the workout it’s wise to have a good cool down and stretch period.

Then depending on your fitness level you may need a week or longer recovery period before doing them again.

If you’re a runner then you’d run hard slightly less than at a pace that you could only sustain for 5 minutes. Never start out to hard and have to ease up at the end. It’s better to be able to go slightly harder at the end. You do the interval in your sport. For me as a triathlete I do them in each discipline; swimming, biking and running.

What is HIIT for a non-athlete?

It would be the same personal intensity, i.e., an effort slightly less than what you could maintain for 5 minutes. Yet for you, especially if you’re just starting out after a long layoff but feel your personal fitness would allow you to go this hard, the length of the interval might only be 30 sec to 1 minute instead of the 3 minutes mentioned above. Your recovery time would be the same amount of time as the interval. Only do three to start. As you begin to gain aerobic fitness you’ll be able to increase the duration of the interval with less recovery in between. In time you’d be able to increase the number of intervals.

Like with athletes, rest and recovery in between these kind of sessions is a must.

A typical HIIT for a non-athlete my be a step aerobic class, body pump or strenuous water weights in a pool. Anything that would elevate your heart rate to those levels mentioned.

2. Lactate Threshold Exercise

Okay I know these terms may be foreign to a non-athlete but it really describes the exercise well. Lactate is what the body burns during exercise. The harder the exercise the more it burns. It is mixed with oxygen to provide the muscle energy to contract and do it’s job. At a certain point though, the toxic waste by product of the lactate that was used as fuel is so great the body can’t remove it and you get a burning and stinging muscle. Ouch! The pain is because the lactate is acidic. Lungs hurt too. That is your lactate threshold. It’s easy to determine because of how you feel although testing in a lab is more accurate. For most non-athletes that simply is not needed.

Lactate threshold exercise is the intensity at about 95% of your threshold pace; that which you’d begin to feel a burning sensation in your muscles and lungs. The intervals here are way shorter. In fact, even if you are an athlete you may only want to go 5 minutes cumulative at this intensity. It may be 10 x 30 sec intervals with a full 30 sec rest in between or perhaps 5 x 1 minute intervals with a full minute in between.

Once again caution is warranted. Only attempt these if you feel fit enough to go this hard. If you feel any stress or unusual pain, stop immediately and seek help.  Also, recovery is a must to overcome the tremendous stress your body is under.

What these do is increase your body’s tolerance to lactate and these will also improve aerobic capacity.

3. Weight Training

“Ugggg” you might have sighed if you’re a non-athlete. As you age you simply lose muscle mass. When this happens over time that leads to less hormone capacity and function and that leads to a loss of metabolism and fat gain, mostly around the mid-section.

Weight training needs to be done under the watchful eye of a professional if you’ve never done it before.

There are three types of weight training. First you lift in sets (2 or 3) with reps between 8-15 with less weight. The second kind is lifting in sets (2) with reps between 4-6 with more weight.

Weight training needs rest and recovery in between sessions. That is where the muscle is repaired and in grows. Many people need weight training to keep what muscle mass they have. The more lean muscle you have the more fat you burn because of improve metabolism and hormone function.

A third type of weight training is called functional strength training. It’s usually done with no weight or very little weight other than your body mass. It’s like sit ups and push ups. Or even one legged routines. Pilates and Yoga fall under this category.

Big Big Caution

Long_legs injury
Injuries are a real risk with HIIT. Caution is warranted but the risk is worth it.

I’ve not gone into any detail about the risks associated with HIIT  or weight training. The risks are primarily with the greater chance of injury. If you’ve had a history of heart problems, these three, while beneficial, needs to be under the care of a medical or exercise professional.

The reason many aging athletes and non-athletes stop these activities is due to many factors; too hard, not enough time and even a belief that it is not needed. But the fact remains, they are needed to stay youthful, to increase and maintain aerobic capacity, lean muscle and reduced fat. I believe, looking back now, because I quit doing these as much as I needed and stuck with low intensity and high volume, I became injured running hard intervals. I quit doing any weight training because it was boring. My aerobic capacity I can see now from my training logs has been in decline.

I highly recommend you seek the advice of an exercise professional, coach or your doctor before doing any of these three types.



How to Retire Your Foam Roller! RIP knots!

Do you hate to roll out those tight and painful knots and would do anything to get rid of them pain free? Does your massage therapist spend all their time in a limited area full of very painful knots? IT band or quads so painful you can’t even use a roller of them?

Yes to any of those questions then this blog is for you. Until I discovered a better method, rolling out my painful knots was a daily occurrence while training for an Ironman.

My Injury Story

I had all my major injuries in 2014 that just about ended my Ironman career. They started way before 2014 though. Many injuries, like my torn meniscus, occur at a fixed point in time however are really accumulated over time. That’s what happened to me. Having surgery on January 17, 2015 to repair my knee was a wake up call. I had to make major changes if I was going to continue to compete in Ironman triathlon.

I had lots of knots in my legs almost since the beginning of my Ironman journey in 2006. Like most athletes I just accepted it as “normal.” After all, I’d grown up with the “No pain, no gain” philosophy. There is nothing normal about a painful knot in one of your muscles. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is not right.

What are knots?

Our body is really amazing. It will work perfectly without injury and knots. A knot is really an accumulation of injury caused by excess stress. While the knots, the inflamed and tight muscle, may allow you to still function, at some point if you don’t address the cause of the stress you’ll sustain a major injury like I had to my knee.

An overused and/or stressed muscle usually causes knots. In my case and maybe yours, the knot in my right adductor that was the cause of my torn meniscus was caused because that muscle was being over recruited because my weak left glut and hip flexor. When I ran really hard preparing for Ironman Boulder Colorado in July 2014 the stress was like the straw that broke the camel’s back and I tore my meniscus.


Knots are caused by these primary reasons:

  1. An overused muscle caused by an imbalance of a weaker muscle,
  2. A muscle that was stressed under a high intensity and/or long workout without proper rest to allow it to recover,
  3. Poor nutrition, and
  4. Lack of proper rest, recovery or sleep.

The Better Way

I discovered from my mentor, Dr. Phillip Maffetone, DC, that the key to optimal performance is to have optimal health. You noticed I did not say fitness is a key. Like me in the past, many athletes are fit but do not have optimal health. Obtaining optimal health has to include the removal of stress on the body.

The four primary causes of painful tight knots listed above are all forms of stress. You have to remove the stress and your knot will go away.

Imbalanced Muscle Stress

A skilled sports injury practitioner like Dr. Robert Braden, DC, who’s in my corner, can diagnose and prescribe a training plan to overcome any imbalance you have. In my case the reason my adductor was being over recruited in my right leg was because my left glut and hip flexor were really weak. After my surgery I went to work in the rehabilitation of my core including a focus on strengthening my left side weakness.

The Right Training Intensity

Dr. Maffetone, DC has trained many endurance athletes to remove excess stress by slowing down with less intensity to ultimately go faster in a race. He recommends the use of a heart rate monitor as a biofeedback unit to make sure your intensity level as you work out is correct for you. He developed the 180-Formula (click here for the method).

In 2014 my training intensity was frankly to hard by about 12%. As a result I was not only tired and sore all the time, I had severe knots in all areas of my legs. When I discovered and began to use Dr. Maffetone’s heart rate method and slowed down, all my problems vanished. Not only did I feel way better and have a lot more energy, my knots went away and I actually improved my speed.

The heart rate method is not just for endurance athletes. It will work for many others as well. It will work great for spin class or a cardio routine. The heart rate method will keep you in an aerobic state and teach your body to burn fat as your body’s primary fuel source. Going harder, i.e., anaerobic, your body uses sugar as fuel and you run the risk of not recovering sufficiently and like me, become tired and sore all the time with knots.

The Right Nutrition

I don’t have enough time to go into all the detail of proper nutrition here. I will mention a few deficiencies I’ve observed in those I help. First, most people do not get enough good fat in their diet. Dr. Maffetone says, “These fats, when properly balanced, help one recover from a workout and racing, repair injuries by correcting inflammation, control pain, and perform many other critical tasks.” The low fat diet is a big fat lie!

Another deficiency is the lack of Vitamin D. According to Dr. Maffetone we need 4,000 units daily and the best form comes from being in the sun. When I started to acquire the needed units my sleep improved substantially!

The final deficiency I’ve observed in others is the lack of water-soluble minerals, botanicals and herbs in a diet. These nutrients are best obtained naturally from plants that are raw, like fruits and vegetables.

The Proper Rest

Americans simply do not sleep enough. And the sleep they do get is after midnight. Your body needs rest and if you’re working out and active, you have to insure you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. To enhance your sleep experiences go to bed by 9pm and utilize your body’s production of melatonin for more deep sleep. Light is a killer of good sleep. Turn off the lights, including your bright smart phone, and sleep in the dark.

After a hard workout you need to let your muscles recover. The recover time varies with your health level, age and the length and intensity of the workout. Proper nutrition and rest are the best keys to adequate recovery.

My Results a.k.a. The Retirement of My Foam Roller

I started in earnest in March this year to follow Dr. Maffetone’s methods as described in his book, “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing.” I recommend the book for anyone who wants to gain better health and fitness. While the book addressed endurance athletes, there is a lot of great information for anyone wanting to gain better health and fitness.

Using all the methods in his book; training intensity, heart rate, better nutrition, improved muscle function and balance, and proper and enough rest, 95% of my knots are gone.

I was fortunate to race the Ironman World Championship on October 10, 2015. I was able to live and train in Kona, Hawaii, the race site, for two months prior to the race. I had hired a massage therapist friend to give me three massages while I was in Kona. One of them was the week after my most extensive training and another was two days after the race when I’m the most sore and stiff. She was amazed that I had very little muscle tension and hardly any really tight knots. The few that I had she was able to easily work out without much pain.

I’m hopeful this was helpful and you can also retire your foam roller. If you’d like a free brief consultation with me please send me an email to triumphanthealth@cox.net and we’ll set up a time to talk.



Turbo-Charge Fat Burning | Use This Surprisingly Simple Device

hiitBurning the right calories can slim you down. Do you burn a lot of calories during a hard workout and still can’t get rid of your excess body fat? How can you burn the right calories during exercise; fat calories? Have you restricted your calories and still can’t lose the “stubborn” or “sticky” weight?

Burning the right calories can slim you down

My mentor, Dr. Phil Maffetone, DC, says, “We call devices that measure heart rate “heart-rate monitors,” but you could also call them “fat-burning monitors” since monitoring your pulse rate during exercise is the best way to promote fat-burning both during and after your workout.”

In my experience most moms that use heart-rate monitors do so incorrectly — to push themselves even harder, which can actually cause fat storage. Many moms are also focused only on a “calories-in, calories-out” weight loss approach, which has proven ineffective as reflected in the high rates of people who are overweight, or as Dr. Maffetone calls, “over fat.”

Social engineers that are in the business of selling you stuff to lose weight get you to focus on the wrong problem: what the scale says. Most people really don’t want to lose weight — they want to reduce body fat because too much makes us bigger and less healthy.

Not long ago you could tell by looking at a women’s slim build that she exercised regularly. That’s all changed. We are now in the midst of an over fat epidemic that once only affected sedentary people. Now those who regularly work out are over fat. The result has been increased fat in the bodies of runners, walkers, swimmers and those spending untold hours in the gym or working outdoors. The problem has become so common that some call it normal.

It’s not.

According to Dr. Maffetone, “This story is common. Despite burning a lot of calories during a hard workout, many still can’t get rid of their excess body fat. While too much stored fat takes up more space, increasing waist and other clothing sizes, it also adds weight. In addition, increased body fat, especially around the belly, is associated with chronic inflammation. This may be an early manifestation of various diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, not to mention tendinitis, fasciitis, and other “itis” injuries. Burning off excess body fat goes beyond being slim — it’s a priority for optimal health and improved fitness, even helping competitive athletes get faster.”

The Calorie Game

The problem faced by millions of women who burn a bunch of exercise calories but still have too much body fat is simple: they are burning the wrong calories. You don’t want to just burn calories, you really want to burn fat calories.

How do you do that? You have to train the metabolism to burn more fat and less sugar all day and night.

As I’ve learned from Dr. Maffetone, “The human body has duel fuel sources — we burn both fat and sugar (glucose) for energy. The big question is how much of each do we use? This depends on each individual’s metabolism. Some people burn high amounts of fat, rely less on sugar, and are slim. Today, more people have impaired fat-burning, resulting in lower energy and higher body fat.”

Most people, and sadly most fitness professionals, think that harder, high-heart-rate workouts lead to a metabolism that burns more fat calories. Wrong!!! The “no pain, no gain” approach burns more sugar and less fat calories. The goal is to to train your metabolism to burn more fat 24 hours a day.

What Stops Fat-Burning

Your fat-burning metabolism is influenced by three key lifestyle factors — exercise, food and stress.

Truth 1: Lower-intensity exercise can improve metabolism to burn more fat, increase energy and reduce fat storage.

spin bikeTruth 2: High-intensity exercise, however, can reduce fat-burning if done to frequently without adequate rest in between.

Truth 3: A heart-rate monitor can help you find the optimal training intensity as discussed below.

Truth 4: Refined carbohydrates, including sugar, impair fat-burning.

Truth 5: Healthy fats, found in avocados, eggs, butter, coconut and olive oils, and meats, can promote fat-burning.

Truth 6: If you really want to burn off more body fat, eliminating sugar and other refined carbohydrates and eating healthy fats is important.

Eliminate Stress

Excess stress can also impair fat-burning. High-intensity training is stressful as well as other forms of stress, such as chemical (diet) and mental (and emotional) can reduce fat-burning too. Managing stress levels, including your exercise program, is another key to fat-burning.

Just by reducing their workout intensity and dietary stress, most people can be burning more body fat in just a few hours.

How Fat-Burning (Heart Rate) Monitors Help

According to Dr. Maffetone, “A heart-rate monitor is a basic biofeedback device. With correct use, it can help regulate physical stress during workouts to maintain an intensity that encourages more fat-burning. This can improve metabolism during the workout and for the next 24 hours or more, even during sleep.

A heart monitor informs you when your workout intensity gets too high so you can slow down. You can monitor walking, running, cycling, group workouts or any exercise (except for strength training, which is usually high-intensity).”

pictureI’ve followed Dr. Maffetone’s heart rate formula for over 9 years with great results in fat burning and improved health. What heart rate is best for you? It varies with the individual’s level of both health and fitness. The 180-Formula (click here for a detailed description) can help determine your best fat-burning level. Dr. Maffetone developed this formula using scientific data to calculate the actual percentages of fat-burning during various intensity levels of exercise.

According to Dr. Maffetone, “A heart monitor can also help evaluate whether you are indeed on the right track. Why wait weeks or months only to find body fat has not changed much? A simple test can tell us. As we burn more body fat, aerobic muscle function improves and you will be able to walk, run, bike or otherwise go faster at the same heart rate. This is especially important for competitive athletes [or working moms]. I call this developing Maximum Aerobic Function, or MAF. The MAF Test helps take the guesswork out of training [and a busy mom’s exercise].”

The MAF test is easy. You do a sustained exercise that can be measured at your aerobic heart rate such as running, rowing or cycling. You do the test about once a month. Let’s use running as an example. You run 3 to 5 miles on a treadmill at your aerobic heart rate and measure how long it takes. Over time as your body begins to burn more fat and gains added health it will take you less time to run that same distance. On the other hand, if it takes you longer to run, that is a sign your body is under more stress and you’re not burning fat as efficiently.

If your body fat is too high, stop counting workout calories, slow down and burn fat, and use a heart monitor to ensure your success.