Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Experimintation is the KEY to Success!

Not only do I beleive strongly in this statement and am living proof of it, but my clients and readers agree.

Here is two separate emails I received today one from a woman in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program for Women. The other is a young male client and protegue of mine.

Two very different styles of getting the same message across - EXPERIMENTATION IS KEY TO SUCCESS! Do not give up and enjoy the journey along the way. Enjoy!

Is Krista the coolest or what?


Just wanted to comment on last week's teleseminar assignment. I listened and relistened to the interview probably about 10 times. I didn't know who Krista was and have to be honest.... for some reason, i thought she was a man (past pro or semi-pro canadian football player... I obviously got her mixed up with someone else).

anyway... listening to her, I googled her... and saw some of her photos... then i went to her blog. I started scrolling down and saw her beginning photos (before a competition last year or earlier this spring (can't remember) then I kept reading and scrolling... to see how great she was looking. I didn't make it through all of the ba-zillion threads in the blog... but something that struck me was her comment about experimenting with high calories, or low calories... while she is getting cut for her next competition. I have never thought of food intake as a "big experiment". granted she is light years ahead of me in her nutrition and self discipline to keep to it... but the whole experimenting has kind of sort of come up here... where if something is not working, you have to make a small change to get it to start working again.

I've suffered from insanity for so long... (doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.) .. I have never looked at the experiment aspect. If something went wrong or quit working, I'd get frustrated and quit. Aslom I think "experimenting" also tends to imply the whole discussion about food not being inherently good or bad... ...

anyway... I really enjoyed the teleseminar. Thanks for the assignment.

Balancing Your Yin and Yang
The secret to improved health, body composition, and strength, Part I
by Kyle SOMMER - Biosignature Level I

Almonds increase cortisol.


Yep, it’s true. Given the right conditions, eating almonds can increase your cortisol and make you fat. Unfortunately, the same can be said about any food known to man. The good thing is that a food’s effect on your physique is conditional; it depends on your current state of balance with regards to Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang – The Balance of all Things

The concepts of Yin and Yang come from ancient Chinese philosophy. Most of us should be at least relatively familiar with the terms. They represent the cosmic forces of the universe; yang represents more active, light, sun, and other qualities that could be thought of as “on,” while yin represents darkness, recovery, night time, and other similar ideas. So, for the spirit of this article, I want you to think of Yang as active, breaking down, and using up; for Yin, think of restoring, resting, and building.

Even though this is something you may not have even considered, you are currently engaged predominantly in one state or the other. If you are sipping a Starbucks at the office and reading this article to get your mind off of stress because you’re so behind in your work, then you are in a very Yang state. If you’re reading this after a big post-workout meal full of healthy carbs and a glass of red wine, you’re very Yin.

Your current state, or, as it pinpoints directly, is what I like to call your “relative” state of yin or yang. This is the state that can fluctuate on a day to day basis. Let me give you an example. If you currently follow the Anabolic Diet and today is a low-carb day with a Back and Chest workout scheduled, this day is quite Yang in its nature. It is focused predominantly on burning fats and causing damage to your body with little in the way of recovery. If we compared it to your carb-up day on the weekend, well, that is an entirely different story. You pretty much eat carbs all day and restore yourself and rest from the week of workouts – quite Yin indeed. If you look at an individual day in itself, mornings also tend to be Yang and nights Yin. Think about this, because you wake up in the morning and need energy (Yang), but at night you want to restore that energy for the next day (Yin).

In addition the relative state of Yin or Yang you are in, there is also an “absolute” state. This refers to the long-term balance of your life, and it is much more difficult to discern at first thought. An example I will give is the typical person who eats a diet very high in refined carbohydrates, is overweight, and is very sedentary. This person is out of balance towards the Yin state. They spend too much time building and restoring, but not enough using and acting. This conclusion seems obvious.

The Determinants of Yin and Yang

There are many things in life that can place you at different points on the Yin/Yang scale, both relatively and absolutely. The point of this article to help articulate some of those things, so you can determine where you lie on the continuum, and make adjustments to make yourself closer to balance.

Food’s Effect

As most of you know, food is probably the biggest tool we have in terms of changing our physique. There is a lot of discussion about macronutrient levels, calories, carbs, fats, and proteins, that any newbie trying to figure something out for himself might get information overload. The truth is that nutrition must be individualized – while this may seem easier said than done, I encourage you to look at it from a Yin and Yang perspective.

Your Somatotype and You

Everyone has heard the terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph; in general, we tend to think of them as having different nutritional requirements. Most of the time, it’s the fact that ectomorphs need to eat more carbohydrates, and endomorphs need to eat more fats and proteins, while mesomorphs lie somewhere in the middle. But why is this?

Without getting into arguments of genotype and agricultural history, I want to view this discussion in terms of Yin and Yang.

Consider your ectomorphic friend, Scrawny Sammy. He is thin, lean, and ripped, but has relatively no muscle mass. He always seems wired with too much energy, and eats crap food but can’t seem to put on a pound. I would argue that, by default, ectomorphic individuals are predisposed to states of Yang. Their dominant hormones seem to be adrenaline and cortisol. So, to balance this individual, he needs that high intake of carbohydrates, otherwise adrenaline and cortisol will be oversecreted. We know that insulin counteracts these hormones. Since Sammy’s body produces so much adrenaline and cortisol, any muscle he gains from training is destroyed by the release of these hormones. What can he do? Well, he must increase his intake of carbohydrates to increase insulin to counteract this problem – and he must eat enough of them to bring his body back into balance. As I will describe later, in most cases carbohydrates are a Yin food – recall the typical fat person example for a quick preview.

Turn next to the typical fat person. As I said before, he spends too much time in a Yin state. Most of the time, endomorphs or individuals of this nature are insulin dominant – relatively the opposite of Sammy’s example above. This person needs more Yang in their life – more activity, more protein and fat meals (to be explained later), and less carbohydrates to bring the Yin and Yang back into balance. We already know what happens if we increase the Yin in a person who has too much of it to begin with – insulin gets out of control and is released in far too large of quantities, causing the individual to gain fat at an alarming rate.


Everyone needs protein, of course. Protein stimulates both insulin and glucagon (insulin’s antagonist) secretion to some extent, but in general, it increases glucagon more, so I will argue here that protein provides a slightly Yang load. With that said, some proteins are more Yin than others, such as those high in the amino acids tryptophan and glycine as these can have inhibitory effects on the brain. Meat, in general, raises dopamine levels and boosts mood.


Everyone needs fats, too, particular essential fatty acids, like those found in fish oils. These fats don’t really have a yin or yang load – they are neutral, and we all require them to be healthy. Monounsaturated fats don’t seem to really have a load either, like those found in olive or macadamia nut oils. Saturated fats, such as animal fats and coconut oil, seem to be pro-inflammatory, and as such might be considered Yang. Nuts and eggs can raise acetylcholine levels for brain focus and heightened awareness, so they seem slightly Yang as well.


In most cases, carbohydrates are Yin foods. In almost all cases, they stimulate the release of insulin, which as we know is the building/storage hormone. Carbohydrate consumption increases serotonin release in the brain, helping one to feel more relaxed and at ease. Carbohydrates eaten at the right time contribute to glycogen re-synthesis in muscle tissue and enhanced recovery. Simple sugars, when consumed at the wrong time, will cause fluctuations in both hormones, so they can represent Yin or Yang depending on when and how they are consumed.

It has been written that there is no physiological need for carbohydrate – and technically, this is true. However, functionally, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. For someone like Scrawny Sammy, carbohydrates are damn near essential – without them, cortisol takes over, breaking down his tissues, costing him valuable sleep, and making him nervous and irritable. All of these things will consequently lead to drastically decreased health and quality of life because the Yang got out of control.

So what about those mesomorphs? Well, when we think of those guys, we generally think great genetics – they can eat like crap (relative to other genotypes) and still gain a lot of muscle and stay healthy. But, we know that with proper eating, ectomorphs and endomorphs can also achieve admirable physiques. I argue that mesomorphs are very centered in Yin and Yang by nature – so when they eat a mixed diet as is typical, they stay pretty well balanced – thus allowing their body to thrive and the gains to come quickly and the fat to stay off.

What about dieting?

When you want to get very very lean, it is almost always true that you will need to restrict yourself in some way. Usually, there is a drastic calorie cut, followed by a cut in macronutrients, usually carbohydrates or fat – the trend these days is carbohydrates. If you have been following the article thus far, you should recognize this as a very Yang state. You are correct, but don’t people get ripped doing this? What about that Yin/Yang balance I talked about earlier?

Well, depending on who you ask, there is almost ALWAYS a reefed implemented into these plans. A day of higher carbs, calories, whatever; it could be one day, two days, a week returning to baseline - it doesn’t really matter. While the act of dieting is very Yang on a relative (day to day) basis, adding in a reefed period while dieting can help keep you Yin on an absolute basis, helping your body to stay balanced and continue burning the fat. Authors often have conflicting opinions about what physiological mechanisms drive this – “it boosts the metabolism,” or “increases leptin sensitivity.” Too complicated – just do what works!

It will always take trial and error to find your break point – that is what is great about the sport of bodybuilding in and of itself. You are a constant experiment and you might have to try it several times to get it right. As my mentor Krista Schaus says, “The journey is important and paves the way to your goal,” and “Your body provides you with endless learning opportunities.”

In the next part of this article, I’ll show you some Yin and Yang meal combinations, and go over which activities and supplements are distinctly Yin and Yang, and how you can use them to help you reach your goals.

Kyle, I am really proud of this insight. It means you are quite into this journey and seizing those learning opporutities!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Progress - 3 weeks out...

1 week ago (for comparison)

Today Front Double Bicep

Today Ab and Thigh

Stronger Online

Through experimenting with lower calories this week, I have been rewarded with a tighter physique.

My weight has not changed much, but my lean mass is up 1% and my body fat is down 1%. My abs are looking better than they have likely all year but still some tightening required i the glutes / thighs. However 3 weeks leave me plenty of time to take care of that.

I would really like to look into a new suit, but not sure if time permits for this contest. For November for sure.

I am intersted in seeing where my weight ends up for this contest. I am about 3 lbs above where I have been in past contest preps at this level of conditioning. I suspect I will lose another few pounds off my glutes/thighs over the next 3 weeks, but I may just come in leaner and more conditioned but a few pounds higher. We'll see... you just never know until the day of the show.

One thing I know I have to do is drink more water. I have only been getting 3-5 L daily when I need to be getting 5-7.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

What’s Causing the Obesity Epidemic?

There are a number of theories for why so many people are overweight, but when you start to have entire populations tipping the scales toward obesity, it does suggest that something is fundamentally wrong.

Among the theories that are, in my opinion, most plausible are the following:

1. The modern-day diet: It encourages eating big portions of high-fructose corn syrup, refined grains, processed foods and artificial sweeteners, a perfect recipe for weight gain.

2. Sedentary lifestyles: Generations ago people had no choice but to exercise; they did it for their very livelihoods or at least to get from one place to another. Today, many people sit behind a desk for most of the day, then get in their cars to drive home. Leisure time involves more sitting, either in front of the TV, computer or video game system.

3. Stress and negative emotions: It is very easy to get caught up in using food as a security blanket, a distraction from boredom, or a way to cope with stress -- and once you get used to using food to feel better, it’s hard to break the routine.

4. Exposure to environmental pollutants: Exposure to low levels of pesticides, dyes, flavorings, perfumes, plastics, resins, and solvents may make you put on weight.

5. The make-up of bacteria in your gut: This is related to your diet, but if you eat a lot of sugar and grains, it can negatively influence the bacteria in your gut and contribute to obesity.

6. Lack of sleep: This disrupts vital hormones and proteins in your body, which may also increase your risk of obesity.

I don’t believe that “bad” genes play a major role. Not only has science busted this myth, showing that good nutrition during childhood can cancel out genetic predispositions to obesity, but I’m also a firm proponent of epigenetic medicine and believe our emotions and thoughts have enormous influence over the expression of our genetic code.

Exercise: THE Most Important Factor for Optimal Health and Longevity

Study after study confirms that physical exercise is absolutely the key for disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity. So, it’s not surprising to see that this latest study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, also found that fitness is a far better indicator of overall health and longevity than body mass index (BMI).

In conclusion the study reads:

In this study population, fitness was a significant mortality predictor in older adults, independent of overall or abdominal adiposity. Clinicians should consider the importance of preserving functional capacity by recommending regular physical activity for older individuals, normal-weight and overweight alike.

One of the main benefits of exercise is that it normalizes your insulin and leptin levels, with the secondary benefits of weight loss and normalization of blood sugars. These factors in turn cascade outward, creating a ripple effect of positive health benefits.

For more information about getting started, staying motivated, and reaping maximum results, please review the Exercise Guidelines included in my nutritional plan.

Achieving Your Optimal Weight

Making up your mind to lose weight is half the battle. From there, it’s just a matter of changing your lifestyle in the following ways:

1. Tailor your diet to your nutritional type. These are the foods that are right for your biochemistry, and these are the foods that will push your body toward its ideal weight. (By the way, these foods may be high in fat, high in carbs, heavy on protein or heavy on veggies, it all depends on YOU).

2. View exercise as a drug. When you’re trying to lose weight, a casual walk here and there is not going to cut it. Many studies find that exercising for one hour, five days a week is actually needed, and I tend to agree with that. There is also strong compelling evidence that strength training and high-intensity anaerobic interval training may be especially effective for weight loss.

3. Let go of your emotional blocks. Tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are your friend and ally when it comes to losing weight. For some, emotional eating is more complex, and an experienced EFT practitioner may be able to help unravel some of your deeper emotional issues.

If you’re already at a healthy weight, and want to stay that way, cutting out 100 calories per day, either by diet or exercise, is enough to prevent weight gain in most people.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fitter Yet Fatter... the missing link is nutrition

John M Berardi - When Exercise Doesn't Work - in the Precision Nutrition Newsletters forum of Precision Nutrition.

This thread is located at:

Here's a great study presented by Gary Homan looking at a similar issue.* Homann, G. P., & Hoard, R. (2003, November). Fitter but fatter: Institutional diets counteract the benefits of exercise. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, San Francisco, CA. *

A 4-6 month wellness program for adjudicated teenage girls provided an opportunity to examine the effects of diet and exercise on fitness. Fitness levels of 56 girls (ages 14-17) were assessed monthly. Assessment measures included: a step test and timed mile for cardiovascular fitness; height, weight, body mass index (BMI), skinfolds (for % body fat), waist and hips circumference for body composition; shuttle run for agility; standing jump, sit-ups and bench press test for muscular strength and endurance; and sit-and-reach and straddle tests for flexibility. The program included two hours of daily exercise including varied activities like hiking, running, circuit training, step aerobics and basketball. Diet was designed to follow the Food Guide Pyramid (USDA) and adhere to institutional guidelines.

Between intake and final assessment (Med=133 days), significant improvements were attained in all measures of cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, agility, and flexibility. Median body composition measures worsened, however. Weight (+6 pounds), waist (+0.5 inches), hips (+0.75 inches), BMI (+1.0), and percent body fat (+0.6%) all increased.

Despite two hours of daily physical activity, body composition worsened. Diet is clearly implicated as the detrimental factor. This study demonstrates that following the Food Pyramid does not necessarily lead to healthy diet, and that the benefits of exercise can be undermined by a suboptimal diet. Exercise needs to be combined with improvements in diet to produce the desired improvements in fitness. Suggestions for modifications to the Food Pyramid and nutritional guidelines are discussed.

You may recall, Gary was the individual who we did the research with looking at the appropriate amount of exercise volume required to feel happy with your body and the use of social support in changing your bodies.

Here's that original research:

Looking for a Hot Date?

Krista Answers Your Questions:

Krista - "This may sound like a silly question... but why dates" (from Precision Nutrition - Krista's Team Blog)

Dates are real food sources of simple carbohydrates and thus, great for post workout or pre-workout for the carb tolerant or those aiming to do a very high intensity or long duration workout.

It is a rich source of minerals and A and B vitamins. It is also high in fibre. Fresh dates are a bit lower in sugar and calories than dried dates but much more expensive and harder to find.

I was fortunate to have found fresh dates at Zehrs about 20 minutes from where I live both in the bulk section (along with dried) and in a large container (a bit fresher).

I use fresh dates as I am approaching my contest as a carb source on higher carb days or post workout. I use dried dates as part of my carb up the days before or day of my bodybuilding contests.

I often recommend dates as energy food for endurance and other athletes. They are particularly great for young athletes or those avoiding too many supplements. They are a good source of magnesium (and again carbs), so my youth hockey players and martial arts or boxers often use them during and after training.

They are also high in non-heme iron from plant sources so it is wise to eat them with meat (that contains heme iron) and a source of Vitamin C which enhances absorption of iron. So dates, lean beef or bison and pineapple as a first meal post workout... perfect!

Avoid dates dried with sulphites as they can affect your mineral balance negatively and some people are sensitive to them.

For more info: