Sunday, July 25, 2021

How Much Rest Time Should You Take Between Resistance Training Sets?


One of the most common questions about weight training aka resistance training is how long should you rest between each exercise set.     If you take a look at the relevant research concerning this topic there are some good answers.

For a long time, researchers believed that shorter rest periods were better for increasing muscle size which was thought to occur because of increased levels of metabolic stress by not allowing complete recovery.    However, research done in 2015 shows that using longer rest periods actually results in better results for both increased muscle size and increased muscle strength.     It is thought that this occurs because longer rest periods allow a higher training volume (more repetitions of each exercise).

 Another aspect to consider is whether most of your workout uses compound exercises (compound exercises use multi-joint exercises using more muscle mass such as a chest press vs a pec dec or pull-up vs an Lat Pullover).      In a 2012 study researchers found that with shorter rest periods workout volume decreased for both single-joint and multi-joint compound exercises.       However, the decrease in volume in workouts with short rest periods tended to be significantly greater with multi-joint compound exercises vs single-joint exercise (29% reduction in volume with multi-joint as compared to 15% with single- joint exercise). So for strength routines focused on compound, multi-joint movements increased rest time is probably a good idea.

Another study which looked at the effects of rest interval length on training volume discovered another important item:    reduction in training volume occurs mainly between 1 and 2-minute rest periods.    The percentage difference between 2 and 3-minute rest periods is much smaller, except when doing 5 or more sets of an exercise.     So, for people doing 3 – 4 sets per exercise, 2 minutes is a good rest interval, but if doing 5 or more sets you should probably extend the rest interval to 3 minutes.

Another important piece of information is that recreational lifters who self-determine rest periods tend to rest just under 2 minutes between sets meaning that for most lifters doing 3 to 4 sets of several exercises whose goal is increased muscle size and strength you probably do not need to time your rest intervals and can go just go by feel.

 Timing rest intervals becomes more important for advanced resistance training such as Power Lifting and Bodybuilding, but for most of us we can just go by how we feel!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Facts on Safe Sun Exposure and Vitamin D - Part 2


Optimizing Vitamin D through Safe Sun Exposure

By following sensible sun exposure rules, including making sure you do not get burned, you can maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of skin damage that could lead to skin cancer. Overexposure, not completely avoiding the sun, is the real issue for increasing your risk for skin cancer.  At the same time, optimizing vitamin D through regular sun exposure can decrease your risk of many forms of cancers that are far more common than Melanoma which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

 So how much sun exposure is enough?

 The answer depends on your skin type, time of year, time of day, and where you are located!  The closer you are to the equator the less time you need in the sun because the sun is stronger and more UVB rays hit your skin (UVB is the key to Vitamin D).     Depending on your location time of year can be very important.   For example in the Northeastern US you cannot get enough sunlight exposure during winter to max sufficient amounts of Vitamin D for optimal health (one of the reasons tend to get sick more in the winter).  Time of day is also important.  Ideally mid-day sun provides the highest level of UVB light BUT you also need much less sun exposure and it is much easier to burn! 

 As mentioned above your skin type is also important!  There are technically 5 skin types as it relates to sun exposure times: Type I - White; very fair; red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles Type II – White; fair; red or blond hair; blue, hazel, or green eyes Type III – Cream white; fair; with any eye or hair color; very common Type IV – Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin Type V – Dark Brown; mid-eastern skin types Type VI – Black

 If you are skin type 1 to III, you will produce vitamin d more quickly than if you have skin type IV to VI.      A simple rule is to obtain half the sun exposure it takes your skin to turn pink (NOT BURN).     This will tend to optimize benefits without risks.   The more skin you can expose the better!   Once you have been in the sun this long you should cover up – actually covering up is ideal versus using sunscreen.    So wearing hat shirt and pants made out of a light but UV blocking material is ideal if you are going to be outside longer than half the time it would take for your skin to turn pink.

 According to the national Institutes of Health, between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure to your unprotected face, arms, legs or back between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. two to three times every week is enough for your body to produce all of the D3 it needs. So for extremely fair people during peak summer or live close to the equator just 5 minutes of mid-day sun is all it takes, but for a person with dark skin who lives farther from the equator it is probably more like 30 minutes.    Now the key is NOT to burn so start with less time and gradually increase it!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Facts on Safe Sun Exposure and Vitamin D - Part 1


If you are confused about whether exposure to the sun is good or bad or somewhere in the middle – you are not alone!   There is a ton of conflicting advice and information being given on Sun Exposure.   On the one side we are being told to completely avoid all sun exposure and wear heavy duty sunscreens at all time, and on the other being told that sun exposure is vital and good for us.   

 As always, the real answer is somewhere in the middle, and it is critical to evaluate the validity of information you receive based on the source and if they have a commercial stake in the information they give you.  

 For example, it is not at all surprising that sunscreen manufacturers are pro sun screen and push the concept that everyone should wear it all the time to insure they do not get skin cancer, but we know they have a vested commercial interest so should use some judgment evaluating information from these sources.    And yes there is information suggesting that many sunscreens contain chemicals that can be harmful to your health.   It is important to use sunscreens that do not contain toxic ingredients and do block both UVA and UVB rays. For a great guide check out this article by Dr. Mercola:

 The fact is that this issue is not so simple as “authorities” would have you believe.  For example, in this research article (Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden Cohort) that studied all-cause mortality in 29,518 Swedish Woman the conclusion was that avoiding the sun can actually be as dangerous as smoking when it comes to cancer risk and overall mortality risks. Woman who avoided the sun had a much shorter life expectancy than those who got the most sun.   This really challenges the conventional wisdom on sun exposure.   It is also important to state that it is all about dose and your personal genetics meaning that the amount of sun you are exposed to and your personal genetics are very relevant here!

 Improving Vitamin D Status is a Key Benefit of Proper Sun Exposure

 Sun exposure increases the body’s production of Vitamin D and does so in a way that is quantitatively and qualitatively different and superior to supplemental Vitamin D.    When the body produces Vitamin D from sun exposure it simply will never produce too much Vitamin D and this is not the case with supplementation.    In addition, there are other benefits to safe sun exposure in addition to Vitamin D production.   Proper sun exposure can and does help treat several skin conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and scleroderma.   In addition, sun exposure protects against and suppresses the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, helps relieve fibromyalgia pain, helps treat seasonal affective disorder, enhances mood and energy by stimulating the release of endorphins, and helps synchronize biorhythms and melatonin production.

 The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have reported an association between vitamin D and overall mortality risk from all causes, including cancer.   However, supplementation studies have been all over the map in terms of showing a positive relationship between boosting Vitamin D status and incidence or mitigation of disease.    Since we know for sure that the human body was designed with the specific capability of producing Vitamin D from sun exposure and we know that Vitamin D levels are crucial for optimizing health it seems quite likely that production of Vitamin D through sun exposure is the ideal if it can be done safely.

There is a lot of positive research on Vitamin D and cancer prevention and treatment, heart disease prevention and treatment, etc. showing that optimizing Vitamin D is a good prevention strategy.

 Vitamin D affects almost every cell in your body, which is one of the reason’s it affects so many different disease states.

Vitamin D from Sun Exposure and Health

There have been many studies done on average vitamin D levels and the vast majority of them have found that at least half of the U.S. population has inadequate levels.

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin – rather it is a steroid hormone that your body is designed to create through sun exposure, not from your diet. While some foods do contain vitamin D it is nearly impossible to get all the vitamin D you need from dietary sources alone.

The U.S. Surgeon General American Academy of Dermatology recommend complete and total sun avoidance in order to prevent skin cancer, and there is no question that overexposure to sun can and does cause skin cancer at some level.    However, sun avoidance has been shown to increase your risk of death from all causes substantially so this recommendation does not make the most sense.

 Stay tuned for Part 2 Next week and learn how to optimize safe sun exposure based on your skin type, where you live and time of year!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Can Dancing Improve Mental Function?


The short answer is YES!  It is common knowledge that aerobic exercise and resistance training can both help prevent decline in mental function as we age – but there is something particularly potent about dance exercise.

A recent study at Colorado State University looked at 174 people in their 60’s and 70’s and divided them into four groups who met three times a week for six months.   

One group did brisk walking.

Another group walked and took a dietary supplement.

A third group did stretching and balance exercise.

The fourth group learned new dances in hour long group dance sessions.

Researchers did scans to examine all participants brain pre and post study.   They found that people who did brisk walking slowed down the breakdown of the white matter in their brains.

But only one group significantly improved the amount of white matter in the fornix of their brains – the dancers.    White matter is found in the deeper tissues of the brain and contains nerve fibers coated with a myelin sheath (like insulation covering wires)

The fornix of the brain is located in an area of the brain called the limbic system and is involved in cognition, memory, emotion and sexual responses.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Perfect Supplement for Anxiety, Sleep, and Stress!


What if someone told you there was an inexpensive nutrition supplement proven to be completely safe that has solid research proving that it can:

Immediately and dramatically reduce anxiety with zero sedation or side effects.

Improves mental focus and concentration.

Quickly reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

Reduces Beta Brain Waves associated with anxiety and fear.

Increases Alpha Brain Waves associated with relaxation and meditation.

Proven to offset stress induced Immune Suppression.

Improves Sleep:

Decreases time to fall asleep.

Decreases night-time awakenings.

Increases the amount of Deep, Restorative Sleep.

Improves Memory and Mental Capacity.

Sound too good to be true?   It’s NOT!

How Does Pharmagaba Work?

Pharmagaba is a unique, patented form of GABA that crosses the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB for short).     GABA is a neurotransmitter that that balances out the excitatory neurotransmitters like Norepinephrine aka noradrenalin.

Although GABA supplements have been around for a while regular GABA supplements are completely ineffective because they do not cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB).   The BBB is exactly what it sounds like – a chemical gateway designed to protect the brain from toxins and infections.

Unlike regular GABA supplements Pharmagaba crosses the BBB!   This allows it to quickly change your mental state from a sympathetic dominant state to a parasympathetic state.      A sympathetic dominant state means you are stressed out and anxious and feeling on edge whereas a parasympathetic dominant state is when you are relaxed and calm.

To learn more about Pharmagaba watch this short but highly informative video going through all the benefits and research:

The best supplement on the market is Pharmagaba from Natural Factors.    It is offered in chewables or capsules.   For maximum effects buy the Pharma GABA 250mg version which can be purchased through Amazon or Iherb online.  Do NOT confuse GABA with Pharmagaba – you will only experience benefits if you use the patented Pharmagaba form.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Everything You Wanted to Know About Protein for Muscle Building - Part 2


If you have not read Part 1 check it out first!

Amino Acids 101

All proteins are made up of amino acids. Your body can produce some amino acids, but others – called essential amino acids – must be consumed.     If your body lacks any of the essential amino acids you cannot create muscle proteins.     

Studies have been done to determine the optimal mix of amino acids to generate the highest level of protein utilization.     

Several companies offer essential amino acid powders using the optimal mix of amino acids including Perfect Amino, Optimal Amino, Fortagen, Kion Amino Acids, and Master Amino Pattern and all of them use identical formulations based on an expired patent.      

Optimal Amino, Fortagen, and Kion Aminos are all manufactured in compliance with pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices and are high quality products that are easy to find on the internet.   Optimal Amino offers the best value and lowest price per serving of all these options.

Can you gain muscle while losing fat?

Yes!   However, it takes discipline and a real focus on diet to do this!    One of the keys is obtaining optimal amounts of protein while not taking in too many calories.  

This is where supplemental use of Essential Amino Acids can help because you can get the equivalent of 100 grams of meat, fish, or chicken in just 20 grams of essential aminos at a fraction of the calories!   They are also quick and easy to digest.

How Often Do You Need to Consume Protein to Optimize Muscle Mass?

Practically speaking if you consume all your protein as whole food it is challenging for most to consume optimal amounts of protein each day without spreading it over several meals – even if you eat the highest quality protein sources such as Eggs, Meat, Chicken and Fish!

Is it true that you can only absorb and use a fixed maximum amount of protein in one meal?

The short answer is no!    Even though many fitness and medical professionals believe this to be true.  The research comparing people who consume all their protein in a short meal window each day versus those who spread it out is pretty consistent - it does not matter if you eat fewer meals with more protein per meal.

The take home message is to consume enough high-quality protein each day.   For most people eating anywhere from 3 – 6 meals a day is easiest to maintain when consuming optimal amounts of protein for muscle building.

As surprising as this may sound consider that humans have been on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years, and everyone alive today is a product of evolution of our forebears.    For almost all the time humans have existed we did NOT ration our protein intake throughout the day – our ancestors ate as much as they could when they had it!   The ability to absorb and use proteins in large meals is therefore built into us.

What is true is that your body adjusts to any specific dietary pattern over time by changing the levels of enzymes that breakdown, transport and use specific macronutrients including fat, protein, and carbohydrate.  In addition your body adjusts to meal timing as well.  Whenever you change your dietary pattern significantly it takes time for the body to adjust so keep this in mind and shift slowly to minimize discomfort!

Isn’t High Protein Bad for You?

There are persistent myths surrounding protein intake and kidney damage and bone loss which never seem to die despite mounds of research proving they are myths!

Unless you have kidney disease these fears are completely misplaced!    In addition, many studies have shown that increased protein intake in aging adults helps INCREASE bone density!

For more information on the science of amino acids checkout:

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Protein Intake for Muscle Building - Part 1


Everyone knows that protein intake is required to maintain or build muscle mass and lean tissue.  The tricky part is:

How Much Protein?

What Type/s of Protein?

How Often?


Read on to find out the answers to these questions!

How Much Protein is Required to Optimize Muscle Gain?

It is important to understand that your body cycles between building muscle and breaking it down – anabolic and catabolic phases.       The key to increasing muscle mass is to build more muscle mass then you breakdown.

A big part of preventing loss of muscle or building muscle is consuming enough protein each day.  The optimal amount is affected by:

Age - you need more protein per pound of bodyweight as you age because you absorb and deliver less protein to your cells as you age.

Your Size – the larger you are the more protein you need to consume.

Your activity level – the higher your activity level the more protein you need to consume because of increased protein breakdown (catabolism).

Protein Digestion/Absorption/Utilization – all proteins are not equal when it comes to maintaining and building lean mass and muscle.    Some are much more effective per gram consumed than other forms.     

While recommendations on daily protein intake vary – there IS a relationship between increased protein intake and muscle gain.

The scientific consensus is pretty consistent that a good figure to shoot for to maximize muscle gain is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight – ideally of a highly bioavailable protein that has a high rate of utilization (see below).

Consuming more than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is NOT likely to assist with muscle gain and just adds calories that can make you get fatter!

What are the Best Types of Protein to Consume to Maximize Muscle Gain?

As mentioned previously the quality of a protein source matters a lot and varies quite considerably depending on protein source consumed.

Plant protein sources are the least efficient while Egg Protein and Meat, Fish and Chicken Proteins are the most efficient protein sources for muscle gain.   They have a much higher level of protein utilization meaning a much higher percentage of the protein you eat from these sources gets used to build lean tissue and muscle so you do not have to eat nearly as much to optimize muscle gains and prevent muscle loss.

As the chart above shows a significant portion of protein consumed is converted to sugar or fat based on the source so there is a wide range of protein utilization which is the key measure of quality.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 next week!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Your Walking Speed Predicts Your Longevity!


That’s right – walking speed and gait has been referred to as the sixth vital sign.   Research has shown that decreases in walking speed have been directly linked to changes in quality of life, reduced independence, isolation, and cognitive decline.

Why Does Walking Speed Slow Down?

1.     Balance – can be measured in your ability to stand on one foot.

2.     Mobility – range of motion

3.     Tissue flexibility – ability of connective tissue to move

Balance Exercise

To maintain or improve balance work on single leg balance exercise.   To keep safe start by standing next to a firm counter that you can reach out to hold if you feel like you may fall.     Progress to being to hold a single leg balance on each leg without holding on for at least a minute. 

If this gets easy you can try closing your eyes – but be careful and be near a counter again or other solid object you can hover your hands over in the event you feel you may fall.   If you master this exercise you have really trained your balance systems well!

Ideally do this exercise in bare feet – shoes reduce ground feel which is critical to learning to balance.   

Mobility Exercise

Key area to focus on are the ankle as we tend to lose mobility here and this directly prevents proper walking and balance!    To train this you can incorporate foot/ankle circles during your one leg stance – try to draw a large circle with your toes on the foot that is held in the air.    Go 10 – 20 times in one directly and then repeat in the other direction and do both ankles!

Elevate the front of the ball of your foot against a vertical surface of a step or wall and then lean the whole body forward slightly keeping your heel on the ground.    You should feel a nice stretch in the calf and Achilles Tendon – hold for 30 seconds and do not push into pain.    Repeat with knee of stretching leg bent and repeat on both sides.

Tissue Flexibility

Doing foam roller exercises for foot and calf to help maintain tissue flexibility.     Vibrating foam rollers like the Therabody Wave Roller work best.    Here is a quick video showing how to foam roll your calves: .     Here is a great video on how to use a bar or golf or lacrosse ball on the bottom of your feet:

The other fantastic way to improve tissue mobility is the using the Theragun Massage Gun on your feet and calves – see here:  and WOW does this feel great!

Last but not least, it is very important to maintain good hydration by drinking plenty of water – your connective tissue is mostly made up of water so drink up!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Using the 21/90 Principle for Maximum Results


If you have ever struggled with maintaining weight loss or other goals - you need to understand the 21/90 Principle.    The 21/90 Principle states that it takes 21 days of committed daily action to change a habit and 90 days of committed daily action to create a lifestyle.

They key is daily committed action – that means EVERY day!    Commitment and consistency matter a lot.    You have to commit to an everyday plan for at least 21 days and preferably 90 days.   

This is an ideal way to start an exercise and nutrition program.   You commit to do some form of exercise every single day for a minimum of 20 minutes everyday come hell or high water.   This can be as simple as taking a 20-minute walk everyday (even if it is raining – have an indoor plan like treadmill walking or be prepared to wear a raincoat!)

On the nutrition front commit to one or more simple changes such as no fast food and no sodas or sugared beverages.    Less is more when you stick to it.

Write down your commitment and plan and share it with friends and family – you are much more likely to succeed in making a lifestyle change by taking these simple steps.