Sunday, July 28, 2019

How Many Repetitions Should You Do for Each Resistance Training Set?

Many hours are spent in heated debate on this topic, but the truth is that the number of reps per set and number of sets per workout are secondary measures.       A close review of the scientific research shows that the weight of evidence does NOT support the idea that different numbers of repetitions have differential effects on muscular strength and endurance.       Furthermore, a review on this subject concluded that “all these studies strongly suggest that within a reasonable range of repetitions, approximately 3 to 20, there does not appear to be a specific number of repetitions that will elicit more favorable gains in muscular strength, power or hypertrophy.”

What does matter then?   It is ALL about reaching momentary muscular failure (meaning that you cannot complete another repetition of an exercise in good form.     If you do not reach muscular failure or come very close the reps and sets will not produce results.     Perfect form is part of this equation because perfect form means keeping tension in the targeted muscle/s throughout the entire repetition and not using momentum.     For example, allowing the weights being lifted to settle on the top of the weight stack means you are unloading the muscle – NOT what we want to do!     Throwing weight using momentum is another way you can deload the muscle.   The key is performing smooth, steady repetitions throughout the range of motion for an exercise with no deloading until you reach momentary muscular failure.   

For beginners one set to failure between 8 – 15 repetitions is plenty for each muscle group.   Over the longer haul repetitive sets because necessary to make progress – but never sacrifice reaching muscular failure and perfect form to do extra sets!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

How Eating Sugar at Breakfast Sabotages Weight Loss Efforts

Many people notice that eating breakfast makes them hungrier throughout the day, and this is probably NOT their imagination!   In this case the culprit is likely what they eat.  Specifically, refined carbohydrates, including sugar, can drive hunger particularly if they are consumed with little fat or protein.

A recent study tested this hypothesis with 16 healthy young women between the ages of 18 and 30 who had a stable body weight for the last 3 months.  Anyone with diabetes or on medications that affect appetite was excluded along with people who were allergic to any part of the meals given as part of the study.

Participants fasted for a minimum of 8 hours prior to the study.  In the morning participants came to the laboratory and were given a standardized test meal consisting of passion fruit juice, one cup of coffee, French bread and 5 grams of margarine.   The two drinks had no sugar added and the participants were instructed to sweeten to their preferred taste.

The sugar container given to the participants was weighed both before and after its use by each person to know the amount of sugar each person added to their drinks.   After completing the entire meal participants did not eat or drink anything (except water) until lunchtime.

Lunch was served 3 hours after breakfast and consisted of pasta with tomato sauce, and participants were instructed to eat until they felt satisfied. 

Study Results

The participants were divided into two groups based on the amount of sugar they elected to add to their breakfast.   The high sugar group added about 25 grams of sugar to breakfast while the low sugar group only added 14 grams of sugar. 
Both groups were evaluated for their perception of hunger and satiety.     The high sugar group had significantly higher levels of hunger during the three hours after breakfast AND consumed significantly more pasta at lunch!

Take Home Message

Avoid high sugar breakfasts such as standard breakfast cereal, fruit juices (eat fruit don’t drink it!) and consume 15 – 20 grams of protein and a small amount of fat.   Also try to add higher fiber carb choices like berries instead of banana, adding spinach to an omelet, etc.      Examples include an omelet with spinach with berries or a shake with protein, greens, and small amount of MCT oil for fat.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Resistance Training Reduces Heart Fat

A recent study at Copenhagen University Hospital recruited 32 people who were obese and did not exercise.  Participants did either 12 weeks of weight training or cardiovascular exercise – which was cardio on an exercise bike – or no change in activity.

The resistance exercise training in this study was designed as a 45-minute interval type, medium load, high-repetition, time-based training.  Participants performed three to five sets of 10 exercises and the sessions were supervised. 

Each person had an MRI scan taken of their heart before and after the study to look at two types of heart tissue - epicardial fat and pericardial fat.

Epicardial adipose tissue is thought to protect the heart by metabolizing fat and therefore preventing buildup of plaque. 

Less is known about the effect of pericardial fat mass on heart function. But the researchers said it is 'exclusively associated with cardiovascular risk factors, coronary calcification, and incident of coronary heart disease'. 

Study Results

Both forms of exercise resulted in the reduction of epicardial adipose tissue when compared to no exercise - cardio by 32 per cent and weight training by 24 per cent.

But only weight training had an impact on pericardial adipose tissue, which was reduced by 31 per cent compared to no exercise.

Both forms of fat are recognized as causes of heart disease.

The researchers concluded that 'Overall, our results suggest that resistance training may be superior to endurance training as resistance training reduced pericardial adipose tissue and improved fitness and strength, while endurance training only improved fitness’. 

'Nevertheless, both exercise modalities were associated with reduced epicardial adipose tissue, suggesting that people with specific training preferences or requirements can benefit from both training modalities.'

The resistance training program intervention alone was effective in reducing both fat depots of the heart. 

A healthy diet can also reduce epicardial fat by 32 per cent, according to a 2012 study.

Therefore, a combination of exercise and dietary restriction would have the greatest effect on heart fat, the authors said.   

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Does Vitamin E Really Cause Cancer?

One of the latest sensational headlines proclaimed that supplemental Vitamin E causes cancer, but to put it mildly this headline is very misleading.

How and When Vitamin E Can Accelerate Cancer Growth

A recent study showed that, in abnormal cells, vitamin E and NAC (n-acteyl-cysteine, another antioxidant) can dampen the p53 DNA damage response, meaning the tumor suppressor gene (p53) does not get activated because there is little oxidation/nitration to stimulte the response. 
It is important to understand that reducing DNA damage in normal healthy cells is a good thing since DNA damage is a cancer initiator. However, cancer cells may use supplemental antioxidants to their advantage because it allows them to continue to override these important checkpoints thereby promoting the survival of these abnormal cells. 

Giving Mice with Cancer 5 to 50 Times The RDA in Vitamin E

​​​​​​​The ability of supplemental antioxidants to promote the survival of cancer cells in mice was demonstrated recently.  Researchers fed mice with lung cancer between 5 and 50 times the RDA of an isolated form of vitamin E and it accelerated the cancer growth. They showed the mechanism of this tumor acceleration was that p53 was not getting activated due to the quenching of reactive oxygen species by the vitamin E. As a consequence, that important tumor suppressor checkpoint did not get activated and cancer cell death was not initiated.

At the same time let’s keep in mind that the same dose of Vitamin E and N-acetyl-cysteine given to normal mice without cancer, did not initiate cancer. In fact, it did the opposite. It reduced DNA damage, a well-known initiator of cancer. This is a perfect demonstration of how the effects of supplemental vitamins are context-dependent and generalizations should not be made.

Vitamin E can prevent DNA damage, which is a good thing if you do not already have cancer since DNA damage is a well-known cancer initiator. However, if you already have cancer DNA damage can activate any functional tumor suppressor genes, which can kill the cancer cell.

This may also serve another lesson: more is not always better.

Endogenous Antioxidants:  Even Our Bodies Produce Them

As per a previous blog post our bodies produce their own endogenous antioxidants ( , and these antioxidants are much more powerful than dietary antioxidants like Vitamin E.

Exogenous Antioxidants aka Dietary Antioxidants

These antioxidants come from foods and supplements.  Vitamin E is one of the many dietary antioxidants and is critical for optimal health. Vitamin E comes from plants, and there are at least 8 different forms (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), which are present as either tocopherols or tocotrienols.

There are two major forms of vitamin E in the body:

Alpha Tocopherol - found in the largest quantity in the body, and the most potent at stopping reactive oxygen species.

Gamma Tocopherol - second most abundant, and important for inhibiting reactive nitration oxidants. Gamma Tocopherol also inhibits cyclooxygeanse activity (otherwise known as COX), which generates inflammatory chemicals.

Although both alpha and gamma tocopherol prevent the oxidation of lipids (fats), DNA, and proteins -- ONLY gamma tocopherol prevents damaging reactive nitrogen oxidants and affects the COX pathway that creates inflammatory chemicals. 

Moreover, taking high doses (such as 400 IU a day) of alpha tocopherol in isolation actively depletes levels of gamma tocopherol. Because alpha tocopherol is the most abundant in tissues and in plasma, it happens to be the major form that is found in supplements... usually to the exclusion of all else within the Vitamin E family.

The take home message is that if you choose to supplement Vitamin E always take a form with mixed tocopherols including plenty of Gamma Tocopherol.

Selenium and Vitamin E taken Together

A study showed that the men supplementing with the 400 IU/day of alpha-tocopherol alone had an 18% increased risk of prostate cancer; however, this risk was ameliorated when the participants were co-administered the same dose (400 IU) of the alpha-tocopherol along with 200 micrograms of selenium.  The most recent follow-up found that only the men with the lowest selenium levels at baseline were at risk for increased prostate cancer after alpha-tocopherol supplementation [4].
Selenium is required for the function of about 25 different proteins including glutathione peroxidase (one of the big three endogenous antioxidants produced in your body that requires selenium). One of these proteins (selenoprotein P) which require selenium is an enzyme that detoxifies reactive nitrogen oxidants. 

Since protection against reactive nitrogen oxidants is one of the specific functions of gamma tocopherol this might be the mechanism by which selenium can protect against prostate cancer in men that supplemented with a high dose of alpha tocopherol (which depleted their gamma tocopherol).

Studies have also found that higher vitamin E levels are associated with a lower risk for prostate cancer. In a case-controlled study looking at serum levels of alpha, gamma, and selenium and the prostate, it was found that those with the highest levels of serum gamma tocopherol was associated with a five-fold decrease in prostate cancer. 


Both reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species are being produced inside your cells every single day.  These damaging byproducts of normal metabolism and immune activation wreak havoc on your DNA, proteins, and cell membranes, which lead to diseases of aging such as cancer and neurodegeneration. 

Having the appropriate amount and combination of antioxidants can prevent this damage from occurring in normal cells. However, taking mega doses of vitamin E in the presence of cancer may have negative consequences because it prevents the reactive oxygen species from activating tumor suppressor genes that kill cancer cells.

Selenium and Vitamin E

Selenium has been shown to be protective against cancer, and while alpha tocopherol is important, if you're both deficient in selenium AND depleting your gamma tocopherol levels then the additional inflammation may be just enough to tip you over the edge into a diseased state. 

According to NHANES survey, 60% of the US population does not meet the requirement of minimum levels of alpha tocopherol, which is 22.4 IU/day. 

This is compared to about 6% of the population that does not meet the requirement for selenium. The RDA for selenium is 55 micrograms/day. There are about 25 different proteins that require selenium and this RDA is based on the amount needed to maintain maximal activity of glutathione peroxidase. 

Other data indicates that 55 micrograms per day may not be enough to maintain maximal activity of some other selenium-dependent enzymes. Most people in the US are not meeting their requirements for vitamin E and should probably try to increase their consumption of foods that contain all forms of vitamin E like almonds, pecans, wheat germ, and avocados.

If you do choose to supplement Vitamin E use a supplement that contains all forms of tocopherols including plenty of gamma tocopherol.  Also consider taking an optimal dose (200 micrograms per day) of a preferred form of selenium like the Selenoexcell (if taking a multiple vitamin count the micrograms of selenium contained there – you do not need more than 200 micrograms).     If you want to avoid supplementation Brazil nuts are VERY high in bioavailable selenium – just one to two per day is all you need! 

Click here: to watch a great, short video on the crucial difference between antioxidant supplementation in healthy cells vs cancer cells!