Sunday, April 26, 2015

The 5 Biggest Mass-Gaining Nutrition Mistakes

Quality muscle gains can be undercut by an off-course meal plan. Here are the five worst nutrition blunders you can make — and how to correct them.

When you’re trying to add quality muscle mass, you have to make sure your entire muscle-building regimen is catered to achieve that goal. The main areas to consider include your nutrition plan, training program, supplement plan and recovery protocol. As you’ve already learned from the training element of this superfeature, “5 Biggest Offseason Mass-Building Training Mistakes,” you need to emphasize heavy, compound movements when you’re trying to maximize muscle gains. [Melissa – We may need to tweak the wording here once we have the title for the complementary article. JH] Even if your training is impeccable, however, you may not be supporting your hard work in the gym with the smartest nutrition strategies for your body. In fact, many committed bodybuilders set themselves up for failure by making nutritional blunders.

A common explanation is that some guys are so gym-focused that they forget to take care of business when they aren’t lifting. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t grow if you’re going off-track during the other 23-or-so hours of the day. To help you get back on track, we’ve identified the five biggest nutrition mistakes bodybuilders make when trying to add quality mass — and we’ll show you what you can do to correct each error.

MISTAKE #1: Inadequate Workout Meals

The meals you consume in the window beginning approximately an hour before your workouts and then within the range of 30 minutes to two hours after your training sessions are the most critical meals each day for maximizing growth. It’s crucial that you understand the appropriate food choices to make during these pre- and post-workout time frames to take full advantage of your hard work in the gym.

Negative Effects: When you don’t give your body the specific nutrients that are necessary before your workouts, you might have less energy when you train, particularly near the end of your sessions. If you aren’t taking in appropriate foods after workouts, then you won’t be providing your muscles with all the raw materials needed for maximal growth. In addition, you won’t recover as quickly or efficiently, and you won’t be able to train as effectively in subsequent workouts because you haven’t reloaded your muscle glycogen stores.

Solution: About an hour before you work out, eat a whole-food meal that consists of equal parts protein and moderately fast-digesting carbs, such as white bread or bagels that contain little to no fat or fiber (as both slow digestion). Or, if you prefer, take in a protein shake with fast-digesting carbs (sugar) shortly before you train. Either way, the glucose from the carbs will provide you with an energy boost during your training session, and the protein will get aminos circulating in your system to help facilitate muscle building after you finish training.

No later than 30 minutes after you finish your workout, you should consume a similar meal — whey protein and dextrose are ideal. At this time, you can take in more sugar than protein. Strive for about ¼ gram per pound of bodyweight from protein and somewhere between ¼–½ gram of sugar per pound. For example, a 200-pound bodybuilder should get in about 50 grams of protein and 50–100 grams of sugar. The specific amount of sugar will depend on your individual daily caloric needs. A whey shake with 50 grams of sugar will contain about 400 calories, and one with 100 grams of sugar will contain about 600 calories. Keep in mind that hardgainers typically need more total calories than guys who tend to add bodyfat easily.

Shortly after you consume your post-workout shake (about an hour or so later), eat a whole-food meal that consists of protein, slow-digesting or starchy carbohydrates (brown rice/yams or pasta/rice, respectively) and fats (from meat or healthy forms such as oils and avocado).

MISTAKE #2: Inconsistency in Your Nutrition Program

If you do a great job of following your nutrition program some days but fall off the wagon on weekends or on days when you aren’t training, you’re significantly undercutting the benefits of all the hard nutrition (and gym) work you’re doing on your best days. We’re not saying you need to consume the same foods every day, but you do need to have a nutrition strategy for each day that falls in line to help you achieve your overall goals.

Negative Effects: At best, you won’t make progress with your physique as quickly or as effectively when your nutrition program is erratic. At worst, if your meal plan is very inconsistent, you may actually take a few steps back, as your body may not maintain what you already have. In other words, you could be losing muscle mass, adding excess bodyfat or both.

Solution: Make sure you hit your target zones for calories and macronutrients every day of the week. You won’t get any results if you undereat on some days and overeat on others, simply trying to “balance” out your program by going to the opposite extreme to make up for what you did the day before. To help keep your intake consistent, drink protein or weight-gainer shakes at other times of the day such as between meals to keep your caloric intake in the appropriate zone. You can also take in somewhat higher caloric “junk” meals once a week or so — just make certain they don’t catapult you way above the amount of calories you need for ideal growth per day or per meal (keep in mind that no single meal of your 6–7 meals per day should contain more than one-third of your daily caloric intake).

MISTAKE #3: Overeating

Think about it — what type of mass are you trying to add? Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in America, and even those in MuscleMag world aren’t immune to it. If you want to add quality muscle mass, you have to consume more calories than you need for bodyweight maintenance, but at the same time, if you eat beyond a certain threshold, you’ll just be adding excess bodyfat. It also matters — tremendously — what types of calories you choose to consume. Another factor that’s crucial is how many meals you take in each day, and how many calories you eat at each of those meals.

Negative Effects: Don’t just eat lots of food for the sake of getting bigger. The logic behind mass-gaining nutrition isn’t that simple. If you eat too much food each day, or you stuff yourself with too much at individual meals, ultimately you’re going to gain unwanted bodyfat. Your body can use only so many calories at a time, so any excess may end up getting converted and stored as fat.

Solution: Establish your caloric-intake baseline for maintenance — generally this number is somewhere around 3,000–4,000 calories a day for a 200-pound bodybuilder. Now, add about 25% more calories to that when you’re in a mass-building phase, taking in 3,750–5,000 calories a day in this example (or the amount that’s right for you, depending on your weight and whether you consume fewer/more calories for maintenance). In addition, split these calories fairly evenly over 6–7 meals per day. Again, no single meal should have more than one-third of your daily intake because when you take in huge amounts of calories in one sitting, they’re much more likely to find their way into bodyfat storage than they are to be used as energy or to fuel the muscle-building process.

MISTAKE #4: Not Eating Enough

While it may seem contradictory, this mistake and Mistake #3 are indeed two separate problems for different bodybuilders. Some guys eat too much while others eat too little overall. Most people don’t commit both (if you do, however, you’re also an offender of Mistake #2), and, of course, human nature dictates that hardgainers tend toward undereating. If this sounds familiar, you’re actually making a nutritional mistake in the area of your greatest challenge.

Negative Effects: This dietary mistake compounds the genetic predisposition that you’re fighting against. Many hardgainers try to make up for their nutritional shortcomings by training harder at the gym. But, guess what? Doing so only burns more calories, tearing down muscle tissue without the nutritional support necessary to recover and build muscle mass. The end result is an increased difficulty to add and sustain quality mass.

Solution: Regardless of your body type, you should schedule enough recovery time and rest days in your weekly training split to encourage mass gaining. Then, you need to put a big emphasis on taking in the appropriate amount of calories and macronutrients your body needs to grow. If you tend to undereat, try concentrating on liquid calories when your appetite isn’t large enough to comfortably consume all the whole-food calories you need to add mass. Take advantage of pre-bedtime to get in a quality meal that’s high in protein and dietary fats (avoid carbs at this time of day, as they’re more likely to be stored as bodyfat — even if you’re a hardgainer). Also be conscious of the other mistakes noted in this article, such as taking in too many calories at one meal.

MISTAKE #5: Overemphasizing Protein at the Expense of Other Beneficial Calories

What? Is MuscleMag seriously telling you to eat less protein? Of course not. What we’re saying is you need quality calories that come from a broad spectrum of different foods and macronutrients. By no means do you need to cut your protein; instead, what we’re saying is there’s a limit to how much protein your body can use to fuel your muscles for optimal growth during a mass-building phase. While protein is the key macronutrient for muscular development, many bodybuilders focus too heavily on this fact and end up neglecting the other crucial macronutrients needed for growth.

Negative Effects: When you overemphasize protein at the expense of other nutrients, you’re providing a skewed ratio of materials that your body can’t use maximally to carry out all the processes associated with mass gaining and growth. Your body needs not only protein, but also the drivers of growth (carbs and dietary fats) that are necessary to put these aminos to use. Essentially, when you prioritize protein too much over carbs and fats, what you’re doing is akin to buying twice as many materials as you need to build a house, and then forgetting to hire someone to construct it. There are different schools of thought on how much protein is too much, but the general recommendation is to consume no more than 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. Taking in more than that amount may undercut your appetite for other necessary macros. The excess protein will eventually be converted to fuel, but that’s an inefficient and expensive way to provide your body with the energy it needs.

Solution: Consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily during the offseason when you’re trying to add serious muscle mass. Understand that consuming protein beyond 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight becomes an inefficient way of supplying your body with fuel. When you’re in a mass-building phase, strive to get in only up to about 30% of your daily calories from protein. This means a 200-pound bodybuilder who consumes 4,000 calories a day for growth should consume up to 300 grams of protein (300 grams x 4 calories per gram = 1,200 calories, and 1,200/4,000 = 30%). Of course, that same bodybuilder who needs 5,000 calories a day for growth can still consume 300 calories per day from protein (1,200/5,000 = 24%).

By Steven Stiefel - musclemag

Steven Stiefel is a health, nutrition and exercise writer who lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in numerous national magazines. He’s the author of Weights on the Ball Workbook and Fit in 15.

This Aerobics Alternative Will Help Take You Out of the Fat Lane

What if I told you how to lose all your unwanted body fat in just two short weeks with little or no effort?

Well, dream on, buddy. It ain't gonna happen. Losing body fat takes work. There are no shortcuts or magic pills (yet). But I will let you in on an effective way to lose bodyfat without turning into some automaton that sits on a stationary bicycle for hours on end daydreaming about the things it would rather be doing.

Granted, most of us are not competitive bodybuilders who have to diet for competitions. For some people, this is powerful ammunition to stay in a perpetual "growth phase" 52 weeks a year (i.e., eating lots and lots to hopefully divert some of those nutrients into muscle mass). For others, it's just an excuse to turn into a lard butt.

Try this simple test to determine whether or not you're carrying too much body fat. Take off your shirt in the gym. If a group of people suddenly stop what they're doing, fall to the floor, and begin frantically churning out ab crunches, it's a pretty safe bet you're approaching the tubby stage. Wearing long-sleeve baggy shirts and sweat pants to the gym during a 100 F heat spell is another indication you've spent too long in the bulking phase.

Here's what I'm proposing: commit eight measly weeks of your bodybuilding life to shedding excess fat and see if you don't look and feel a ton better. If you don't like the idea of doing aerobics, I understand your reluctance. I have good news for you. I've discovered a "better way" to burn off that unwanted bodyfat. And it takes only 4 to 15 minutes a day! If you think it's something you can deal with, then try sticking with it, and I bet you'll be wearing tank tops to the gym in no time. After all, the leaner you get, the bigger you look. Before long, people will be accusing you of all kinds of pharmaceutical indiscretions. ("I just know that sum' beech is on somethin'!")

Besides, shedding the excess fat to expose your muscularity is a great way to gauge your progress, sharpen your eating habits, and best of all, stimulate you psychologically so your workouts will improve, and you'll experience a burst in muscle growth!

No Mo Slow-Go Cardio!

I know, I know, you already spend enough time in the gym. Your friends and family, prone to exaggeration, already think you have a little cot in the back of the gym with all your Inspiration photos tacked on the wall. Nonetheless, I'm going to ask you to add aerobic exercise to your workout schedule. Don't worry, though, I'm well aware the prospect of spending an ass-numbing hour on the exercise bicycle is not a pleasant one. Most bodybuilders, myself included, are an action-oriented breed. We can't stand to wait in lines, think FedEx is too damn slow, and have a hell of a time sitting down long enough to write an article.

Our need for high levels of stimulation make the prospect of low-intensity aerobic training almost intolerable. Truth be told, I can force myself to sit on an exercise bike for an hour, but I'd really rather shave my head with a cheese grater! Slow-go cardio training is worse than watching golf on television. I want action. I want a physical challenge! I'm a man, not some fluff-ball, pee-in-the-cedar-chips hamster mindlessly spinning a wheel in a cage.

If you're like most "aerobicizers," you probably haven't noticed too much of a difference. And the prospect of spending even less time is probably puzzling you. After all, we've all got some of that "more-is-better" attitude. Listen, too much aerobics burns muscle! Take a look at the vast majority of women who take aerobics classes after work: do they ever transform their physiques? Rarely.

What we need is a different approach to aerobics—something that keeps us interested, takes only a fraction of the time, and melts off fat more efficiently than low-intensity endurance training. Well, I've got just the program. It's called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It's an aerobic training program I specifically designed for bodybuilders. The premise is simple: rather than waste time exercising at a slow pace, hoping the fat melts off before you die of boredom, you alternate intervals of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise with periods of near-maximum effort. (As I mentioned earlier, each session takes no longer than 15 minutes, tops.)

Scientific Studies Show HIIT Works

For years, we've been told low-intensity aerobic exercise is the best method for ridding the body of excess fat. I'm here to tell you that's not the case. You knew deep down, anyhow, that busting your butt burned off more fat than an exercise that allowed you to read at the same time, didn't you? Well, research shows our instincts were right.2,5

The reason this low-effort theory of aerobic exercise came about is a study showed low-intensity exercise burns a greater percentage of calories from fat as opposed to carbs;1 however, when high-intensity exercise is practiced, the research showed the percentage of fuel from carbs is increased, while the amount of fat utilized is greater than or equal to that burned during low-intensity exercise.4

In research, HIIT has been shown to burn adipose tissue more effectively than low-intensity exercise—up to 50% more efficiently!3 In other words, HIIT speeds up your metabolism and keeps it revved up for some time after your workout. The bottom line is HIIT training burns a greater number of total calories than low-intensity training, and more calories burned equals more fat lost. What I'm suggesting is you forget about the "calories burned" readout on the stairstepper or Lifecycle; if you practice HIIT training, the majority of calories burned will come after your workout!

Another reason low-intensity training became popular is the average, where's-my-remote-control American has no tolerance for high-intensity training. But, of course, if you're a weight trainer, high intensity is a part of life.

Add HIIT to Your Schedule!

One of the great things about HIIT training is it can be applied to all sorts of activities—in or out of the gym. Personally, I like running stairs or sprinting, but it can also be done on a stationary bicycle, a stairstepper, or any activity where you can alternate periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity.

The following outline is a general routine for boosting fat loss, one that's worked well for me. Of course, you'll have to develop at your own pace according to your level of cardiovascular fitness. If you follow the program properly, three or four HIIT sessions a week should produce significant fat-burning effects. To prevent overtraining, try to incorporate the program on your weight training "off days." Your HIIT program will likely be most effective if performed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but if you can't do it in the a.m., do it at noon, night, whenever!

Let's assume you're going to apply HIIT training to running sprints or stairs, like I do. I work in intervals. For instance, I'll jog for a set amount of time, sprint for a set amount of time, followed by more jogging, more sprinting, and so on, until I've trained for a certain amount of time. (These intervals are outlined in Tables 1 and 2.) 

Every other workout, you'll add another minute to your HIIT session. For instance, your first two HIIT sessions during week one will each take only four minutes. On the third workout of week 1, you'll add another 30-second sprint followed by a 30-second jog. Every other workout thereafter, you'll add another minute's worth of HIIT training until finally, by the end of week 8, you'll be doing a 15-minute HIIT session.

Of course, depending on your age, level of fitness, and how badly you want it, you'll periodically have to replace one of the jogging or sprint intervals with a brisk walk. After the 30- or 60-second "break," your heart rate will hopefully come back down off the ceiling, and you'll be ready to resume your sprint and jog intervals.

Let's say I'm just beginning. I'll put on my sweats and Nikes and grab my stopwatch and head out to the track. Table 1 indicates I'm supposed to begin with one 4-minute cycle. This cycle is listed in Table 2.

There. That's it. Only four minutes! That's all for the day! After doing this same program twice the first week, I'll add another 60 seconds to my HIIT training, just as indicated in Table 1. Every third HIIT workout is a little more intense, requiring that I add an additional 30-second sprint and an additional 30-second jog. No matter, by this time, my heart and lungs are starting to handle it.

As the weeks go by, I'll gradually add more and more minutes to my HIIT training, until finally, at the end of week 8, I'll be doing 15 minutes nonstop. By that time, the lines between my abs will be so deep I'll have to periodically clean the lint out with a Q-tip. (So that's where I dropped my car keys!)

The important thing to remember is sprinting is a very intense exercise. If you haven't tried to sprint for 30 seconds since you were a kid, you're in for a shock. Don't take off like you're doing a 40-yard dash. A groundskeeper will likely bury you on the spot where you collapse. Thirty seconds of sprinting should get you close to halfway around a quarter-mile track. Although you should ultimately strive to push yourself to run at 90% of your maximum, pace yourself as necessary in the beginning.

However, if you are not a well-conditioned athlete/bodybuilder, by all means, check with your doctor before starting a program like this.

HIIT the Bike or Stairstepper

High-intensity interval training can easily be applied to riding the stationary bicycle or stairstepper with only slight modifications. As the "sprint phases" tend to be a little less strenuous on the bicycle and stairstepper because of the limitations of the equipment, you'll want to jack up the intensity. In other words, don't use level one or two on either machine; instead, try to do at least level five. Start with a 4-minute "ride" during week 1, alternating between 30 seconds at 50% maximum-level effort and 30 seconds of 90% effort.

Each week, add a couple of minutes to the total amount of time you spend on the bike or stairstepper as detailed in Table 1, using your judgment to determine if and when to jack up the intensity level higher than five.

Don't HIIT the Dessert Tray!

This is a great program, but obviously, it's not going to work if you don't pay equal attention to your food intake. I'm not advocating any 1,000-calorie-a-day diet because that's the kind of thing guaranteed to eat up muscle mass faster than one of those strains of flesh-eating bacteria. Instead, reduce your calories only by about 300 to 500 below maintenance levels, and don't go overboard on fats or carbs. (FYI, "maintenance intake" for me is about 2,600 calories a day. So when I'm cutting up, I eat about 2,300 calories a day. I'm 5'9" tall, weigh 195 to 200 lbs, and my bodyfat was at 5.5% after my last HIIT cycle, which I felt was pretty good.) By the way, to maximize the fat-burning effects of HIIT, don't eat for about one hour after your workout. Then have a balanced protein- and carb-containing meal or supplement shake.


Of course, if you're content to do it the old-fashioned way and spend the better part of the day getting intimate with a bike seat and the rest of the day spreading baby powder on your chafed thighs, go ahead. Somehow, the idea of sitting on a bike and going nowhere is a little weird to me. It's like going into the garage and getting behind the wheel and pretending you're going for a Sunday drive. I'll take a high-intensity run on the track or up some stairs any day. But if I have to get on a bike or stairstepper, let me get it over quickly, so I can get back to my computer and work or go home and enjoy a little R&R.

After you've completed an eight-week HIIT cycle, give it a rest; take a couple of weeks off from doing aerobics. Then start a new cycle if you want to get even more cut. I think you'll be quite pleased with the fat-burning effects of this exercise technique.

Tables 1 and 2

References Cited

1 S.M. Phillips, "Effect of Training Duration on Substrate Turnover and Oxidation During Exercise," J. Appl. Physiol. 81.5 (1996) : 2182-2191.

2 B.B. Rasmussen, et al., "Effect of Exercise Intensity on Skeletal Muscle Malonyl-CoA and Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase," J. Appl. Physiol. 83.4 (1997) : 1104-1109.

3 J. Smith and L. McNaughton, "The Effects of Intensity of Exercise and Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and Energy Expenditure in Moderately Trained Men and Women," Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 67 (1993) : 420-425.

4 A. Tremblay, et al., "Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism," Metabolism 43 (1994) : 814-818.

5 D. Vavvas, et al., "Contraction-Induced Changes in Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase and 5'-AMP-Activated Kinase in Skeletal Muscle," J. Biol. Chem. 272.20 (1997) : 13255-13261.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Scientific Approach to Abs Training

If we all want hard-looking abdominals, why are they so rare? I'm convincedthe answer is not that people are lazy in the gym, but rather that they don't have the information they need to effectively stimulate their abs...

Mike O'Hearn
For anyone interested in a muscular-looking and fit body, having a nicely structured and well-defined midsection is critical. The abdominal muscles really are special in the way they must be trained; ab training is unique because ab structure is unique. What do you need to know to get awesome abs? Keep reading. Here's a look at training abs from a scientific point of view.

Along for the Ride

You might not like to hear this, but I've got to tell you anyway: If the problem with your abs is that they're covered by a layer of fat, the best ab training in the world won't help at all. You see, everyone has the same basic abdominal muscle structure. (Of course, some people have stronger and more fit abs than others.) Effective ab training will help you strengthen these muscles and provide functional stability to your midsection, but it sure as heck won't bring out your abs. If "hidden abs" is what you're up against, you can crunch until the cows come home. The fat will simply go along for the ride and you'll never see the fruits of your labor.

However, there are two things you can do: (a) begin a good meal plan and reduce your overall bodyfat; and (b) train your abs with intelligence, intensity and efficiency. Now that that's out of the way, let's peel away the fat and take a good look at the abs.

Ab Structure & Genetics

What I'm really referring to (what we see with the naked eye) are the rectus abdominus and the external obliques. The rectus abdominus is the large abdominal muscle in the front of the torso. It is actually one muscle that is divided by four strips of connective tissue called tendinous incriptions.

These strips are believed to be protective devices that keep us from rupturing the entire length of the rectus abdominus. Also, running down the middle of the rectus abdominus, dividing it into right and left halves, is the linea alba.

These divisions determine the genetic shape of your rectus abdominus. I am often asked if you can alter your basic ab shape. I believe the answer is no--not without training anyway. Hey, some people have clear-cut blocks, others have sections that appear a bit staggered. Some have thick, protruding abs, while others are a little more flat. Thank your parents for yours, and make the best of what you've got!

Giving the waist a tapered, sleek look are the external obliques, which have fibers running diagonally down toward your groin. You work this muscle as you rotate inward on a crunch. Again, not much can be done to alter the genetic shape of these muscles.

As Dr. Berl Michel, sports chiropractor in North Palm Beach, FL, puts it, "There's nothing you can do about your abdominal shape. You've got what you've got; it's as simple as that!"

Not to fret; if your abdominal shape isn't quite what you'd like, all is not lost. Remember, few people really make the most of their ab development potential in the first place. There is much to be gained.

Lady doing crunches

Also, you can strengthen, "tone," and slightly hypertrophy (add size to) these muscles. Not only does this aid in lifting and injury prevention, but when you do lose the fat over your abs, you'll expose a finely-toned midsection that is sure to attract attention.

As in most aspects of physique development, whether you've got perfect or not-so-perfect genetic shape, the key to making the most of your potential lies in effective training. Now, there are so many misconceptions about ab training that it's a good idea to define the proper biomechanics and scientific aspects of ab training by what they aren't! Here are some things to avoid:

Common Mistakes in Ab Training

Since you now have a better concept of the abdominal muscles, let's talk about some of the pitfalls you might encounter when working for that washboard stomach. Here are a few things you should know:

Hip Flexor Involvement. Probably the biggest problem you'll face when trying to train the abs is the unwanted involvement of the hip flexors. When activated, these muscles pull the pelvis and spine forward as they attempt to flex the hip; they decrease the angle (perform flexion) at that joint.

The hip flexors, anatomically and collectively termed the iliopsoas, are made up of the psoas major, psoas minor and the iliacus. Also, the rectus femoris, one of our quadriceps muscles, somewhat flexes the hip. (This is why you're a little stronger when you lean back on leg extensions.) These muscles can take over during abdominal training to such an extent that your abs are hardly working at all!

This can happen far too early during an ab exercise in people who have weak abdominal muscles relative to their hip flexors. If their hip flexors take over, they can forget about ab stimulation and fatigue. Sure, they're getting a workout--and they sure as heck feel it--but their hip flexors are doing the work! In other words, if the hip flexors are too strong for the abs, the ab muscles won't get much of a chance to assist when the hip flexors move the trunk toward the legs (essentially what the abs want to do also)!

Making this problem worse is the fact that hip flexor and abdominal movements look like the same thing. So it's important to be able to determine your relative abdominal strength in this position.

Check 'em Out. Here's a quick test you can do to check the strength of your abs compared to your hip flexors: Lie on your back with your legs down and your hands at the sides of your lower back. You'll notice a slight arch in your lower back: you'll probably be able to slide your hands under your lumbar area.

Now bring your legs overhead so that your hip angle is about 90 degrees; keep your knees straight. Here, your lower back will come in contact with the surface you're on and you won't be able to slide your hands under your lower back anymore. In this position, your hip flexors are in a poor position to be forceful and your abs are ready to be contracted.

Tighten your abs and feel your lower back on the surface. Now, very slowly, lower your legs while consciously trying to squeeze your abdominal muscles and keep your lower back down the whole way. With your hands at the sides of your lower back, you'll be able to feel when your lower back begins to arch up. At that point, stop the movement. (On average, most people can get to somewhere around 45 degrees or so.)

This little test can tell us how strong your abs are compared to your hip flexors and can give us a good working knowledge of how much you may be using your hip flexors in abdominal work.
The point where you can no longer keep your lower back down on the surface is where your hip flexors begin to kick in and pull your pelvis forward. In general, the earlier this happens in this movement (relative to the 45-degree midpoint), the weaker your abs are compared to your hip flexors. No matter where you ended up on this test, you should know how to control hip flexor involvement in abdominal training.

Contracted Antagonist. Think of your biceps and triceps, or your hamstrings and quadriceps. As you know, these are antagonistic muscle groups: the actions of one directly oppose the other. By the same token, the abdominals and lower back can be viewed as antagonists as well. After all, in order to contract or shorten one, the other usually must be lengthened.

Now you can see why when the lower back is in an arched position (a shortening of the lower back muscles), whether it's due to hip flexor involvement or any other reason, it's virtually impossible to adequately work the abs. They're forced into a lengthened position. (In fact, abdominal hernias are not all that uncommon when the lower back is violently arched.)

For example, many exercise classes still use low leg raises to "work the abs." In this position, the hip flexors are working hard, the pelvis is tilted forward, the lower back is off the floor, and the abdominals--by and large--are in a lengthened position. You tell me, can the abs contract and be strengthened in this position? The answer is no!

(However, it really is a great workout for the hip flexors!) You "feel" the abs in this exercise because they are doing some isometric work well in hip movement--they work in spinal movement. And, when this spinal movement stops, the abdominal contraction does as well.

The point is this: If you want to train abs, then just train abs, not hip flexors. In order to minimize hip flexor involvement, be careful to only create movement at the spine. When you start moving at the hip--like you do when performing regular sit-ups and leg raises--the abs are no longer primary movers and won't do much work. Read on.

Hip, Knee and Ankle Position. Since the abs are only worked well in spinal flexion, you have to be careful what you do in other areas. In particular, hip, knee, and ankle positions can create problems, when trying to train abs.

As always, keep in mind that you're trying to minimize hip involvement. How can you use joint positions to limit the unwanted use of other muscles? Here's how: If you bend your hips and knees to about a 90-degree angle, you're then better able to train your abs since the hip flexors can't contract with much force here. With you back down, your hips and knees bent, and your head slightly tilted forward, your hip flexors relax and you are in a perfect position to flex the spine.

And what about your ankles? Well, a big mistake here would be to tuck your ankles in under a stabilizing bar. This creates an anchoring effect, and your hip flexors kick in immediately.

This often happens in people who want to increase the relative intensity of their abdominal work. They do what seems right to do--they raise the angle of a slant board.

But to stay on the board they've got to anchor their feet, which brings in the hip flexors early in the movement!

Also, on a standard "sit-up board," the hips and knees are often not bent enough in this position to adequately relax the iliopsoas in the first place. Again, what results can certainly be a good workout, but not for the abs!

The Biomechanics of Ab Training

With all those common ab training mistakes, you're probably wondering how anyone can get an effective ab workout. Well, you know that rectus femoris is just one muscle, and it contracts as one muscle. You also know that the rectus abdominus contracts and shortens during spinal flexion--that is, when the spine rolls forward (chest rolling to hips, or vice versa).

Of course, in order to flex the spine, you've got to round out the lower back (lengthen it). Again, just like in the test above, the abs can only work hard when the lower back is rounded or flattened (against the floor).

Therefore, you should concentrate on keeping the lower back down, slowly rolling it down, and slowly rolling the spine forward from the chest to hips as if you are stacking one vertebra on top of another. No, you can't go very far: the human spine does not flex forward much (unless you're in an extended position to start with). But that's all the rectus abdominus really does!

Here's how you can see the spinal flexion for yourself. Do this, all the while looking at where movement is occurring:

Lie on the floor, contract your abs, flatten out your lower back and do a "crunch," concentrating on stacking one vertebra on top of another. Stop at the top of the movement (not very far).

What you've just done is forward spinal flexion, the only movement that truly trains the abs. You rolled one vertebra on top of the other to get you to the top of a crunch; you flexed your spine. Now, from there, finish a regular sit-up and stop at the top. Where did movement occur to get you there? At the hip. That's hip flexion, and the abs really have nothing to do with it.

So this spinal flexion "crunch" is the only real way to work the abs? Yep, but hold on. That crunch can also be in the form of reverse pelvis tilts, hanging crunches, and so on--as long as the movement is occurring at the spine, nowhere else.

If you find standard crunches are too demanding at first, start with your hands at your sides. You can even do a full "sit-up" and then lower yourself slowly from a crunch position (sort of like an ab "negative").

A great way to increase the relative intensity of your abdominal training would simply be to cross your arms over your chest and hold a small plate in tight to your torso. Remember, abdominal muscles, like other muscles, need change in intensity to stimulate growth now and then. Don't shy away from exercises like kneeling cable crunches, just be sure not to rotate the spine against heavy resistanceÐthat's how you get hurt!

How To Tell What You're Working. Even with this knowledge under your belt, it can still be difficult to tell what you're training during ab work. Nationally-renowned Gainesville, FL, sports physical therapist Steve Forbush, M.S., P.T., gives us this advice: "When doing ab training, if the first point of fatigue is in the lumbar area--around the kidneys--then the iliopsoas is being worked too much." At this point, you should re-evaluate your position and your movement.

Other Ab Training Tips 
  1. Many people like to hold their hands behind their head when doing crunches. Unfortunately, when they begin to strain there is a tendency to yank at the head to get a bit more force. This puts extraordinary stress on the cervical vertebrae, and can be dangerous. If you can't get used to putting your hands across your chest or straight out to the sides, at least keep them near your ears (being careful not to put your head forward), or cross them in front of your chin by grabbing the back of the opposite shoulder!
  2. Never hold your breath during ab training. This increases the rigidity of the spine you are trying to flex! Instead, slowly breathe out through pursed lips on the way up, and inhale slowly on the way down.
  3. I honestly see no good reason to stretch the abdominal muscles. This puts the lower spine in a dangerous position, and the abs get stretched often enough throughout the day.
  4. Most people understand how to activate the external obliques. Remember to slowly and easily rotate during the "crunch" to train these "waist" muscles.
So, by avoiding some of the more common ab training mistakes (like hip flexor involvement), and understanding how the abs work (spinal flexion in short movements), you'll be sure to get the most from your abdominal work, and be well on your way to those impressive looking, firm, washboard abs.

Abs &Lower Back Pain

Well-functioning abdominal muscles are an asset to anyone working hard in the gym. They help support the spine and, when contracted during a light workout, reduce the load on the lower back up to 40 percent! Also, the lower back itself is helpful in resistance training, and lifters need that slight curvature of the lumbar spine during exercises like squats and overhead lifts.
Then why do so many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike have lower back pain? Although many reasons are possible, a great number of lifters experience this pain because of a strength imbalance between these two antagonists, and/or excessive lordosis. In the latter, the curvature of the lower spine is excessive, and the person appears to have a "sway-back."
If the abdominals are not well-conditioned, the lower spine is subjected to higher-than-normal pressures in an awkward position. This often results in the bulging of intervertebral discs, and the subsequent pressure on nerve roots or a ligament, causing pain. Along the same lines, a strength imbalance between the abdominals and the lower back can lead to a different kind of pain. As in the case of pregnancy or a "pot belly," the abs become stretched, and in many cases are just too weak for the back. An exaggerated arching of the lower back can occur, putting the back at risk of injury and pain. Individuals in this position often wind up in the doctor's office because of a dull, aching pain.

"With people like this," says physical therapist Steve Forbush, "they are in continual lordosis, and their back remains tight all day. They're in pain because their abs are too weak and their back never gets a break!"

Forbush says that often a wrong diagnosis of weak erectors (deep lower back muscles) is made. "Therapists who subscribe to this notion believe that back pain may stem from 'trunk' weakness. More likely, what is happening is that the person develops a weakness after the body inhibits work in that area because it's getting a pain response there."
In short, if you're having lower back pain, see a physician to identify the cause. And, don't be surprised if your doctor recommends abdominal exercises! But remember:

The key to staying out of the doctor's office is to have both a strong abdominal group and a strong lumbar group.
"We're after a good, dynamic ratio between the two. For many, the answer to back pain is in learning. Learning how to contract the abs and lower back at the same time.

This will lead to global trunk mobility, flexibility, and strength," says Forbush.

Lower Ab Training

An area of ab training that causes much confusion is the attempt to train the "lower abs." This often leads to a whole lot of people doing some pretty strange exercises in order to tighten up their lower belly (a concern many women have). Here are a few things to keep in mind:

First, don't forget that the rectus abdominus is just one muscle and it contracts as one muscle, so it'll be tricky trying to get just one part of it to do the work. I will note, however, that it may be possible to put more stress on one section of it (depending on the direction of muscle fibers).

Secondly, the "lower ab section," the part of the rectus abdominus that lies under the naval, poses a few training problems.
  1. The rectus abdominus tapers down a great deal under the naval. In this area, it is a small (compared to the "upper" part), smooth sheath that is not made up of thick, muscular tissue. In other words, there's just not much there to contract.
  2. Since contraction of the abs depends upon forward spinal flexion, we can see another reason why this part of the rectus abdominus is so hard to train. We have no problem flexing the spine in our upper regions, but it is very difficult to flex the spine in the lower abdominal area. This is because: (a) the pelvic girdle is in the way; and (b) the flexible lumbar vertebrae end at about the top of the hip bone, and we're now trying to move the relatively inflexible sacrum. This creates a fight for prime movers status between the hip flexors and the lower abs, one the lower abs tend to lose. "It can be very tough to work the lower abs, since the iliopsoas is so much stronger than the lower abdominals, and they fight for the pelvic tilt," says Forbush.
  3. Women seem to be especially prone to lower abdominal weakness, even if they have never had a child. "After years of monthly swelling in the lower abdominal area, the muscles in this region become flaccid. It's a natural inhibitory response by the body," Forbush explains. Does all this mean that training the lower abs is helpless? No. Since your spine can flex (though only a small amount) when you roll your hips up toward you, it's possible to get the lower ab region to do more work than usual when performing an exercise like reverse crunches (a.k.a. reverse curl)--as if you are curling your buttocks up toward your torso. This can be done while hanging as well as lying on your back (with your legs well above you).
    "I really believe that the lower abs work a bit differently than the upper abs. And, the umbilicus seems to be the dividing line. With the legs out of the picture, and by bringing the pubic bone to the umbilicus, you're better able to activate the lower abs," Forbush claims.

AB-Solutely Bogus

Ready to forget about the crunches and go for the "ab machine" you see on late-night cable? It sure sounds good on the infomercial, doesn't it? Hold on! William Whiting, professor at the University of California, Northridge, found no overall physiological advantage to these machines--such as the AB Roller Plus, the ABSculptor, and AbWorks. Whiting measured the electrical activity of three abdominal muscle groups, with and without the ab contraptions. The muscles weren't any more active with the machines.

Point is, if you want great abs, you should adopt a smart diet, and use a spinal flexion movement with variety in consistent workouts. And stay away from the hype of hucksters! 

From: MD 

Brown Fat May Be The Key To Fat Loss

Just as scientists and the public were inaccurate in regarding all dietary fat as “fat,” so, too have they been in regarding the different forms of body fat as “fat.” When scientists, dietitians and clinicians looked past their entrenched bias, they discovered that some forms of dietary fat are more readily burned versus being stored, specific fatty acids act as hormone precursors and still others offer health benefits that remain to be fully.

In the recent score of years (a score is 20, as used in the famous opening of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago…”), scientists have discovered that various depots (anatomical locations) of fat have different functions; also, they have different effects on a person’s metabolism and health. The layperson (everyday people; non-scientists) generally focuses on subcutaneous fat, the fat depot that lies just under the skin and can be grabbed by the“Special K pinch.” Subcutaneous fat is actually composed of two layers, deep and superficial.3 Superficial subcutaneous fat (the fat that is just below the skin) is typical of what people and scientists long considered fat to be; a storage “warehouse” for fat to be used as energy if food availability is limited. People who eat too much add to the superficial layer of fat quickly, while those who are calorie deficient lose from this fat compartment. This explains the quick change in appearance with weight loss over bony areas. Lean people, or those who have recently lost a considerable amount of weight, show the ridges of bone or muscle definition in athletes due to a rapid loss of superficial fat. 

However, superficial fat also serves a cosmetic function, as it smoothes the contours, particularly in the traditional feminine body. Plastic surgeons are careful not to intrude severely into the superficial layer as it leads to ripples, trenches and noticeable defects.

If there is a long-term imbalance in diet and activity leading to fat gain, fat also deposits in other fat depots, including the deep subcutaneous fat layer. The deep subcutaneous fat layer is not just a “warehouse” that shuttles calories (as fat, or more correctly fatty acids) into and out of the bloodstream. 

Deep fat appears to serve several functions. Deep and superficial fat provide a protective buffer against changes in the environment, easing the impact of minor collisions against doorframes and countertops. Deep fat is also vital in maintaining body temperature, acting as an insulating “blanket” against heat loss and warming/cooling blood that returns from the skin’s surface that may be significantly colder/hotter than the internal body temperature. However, deep subcutaneous fat also behaves like an organ, releasing hormone-like molecules called lipokines that affect the level of whole-body inflammation, insulin resistance, etc. The relationship between deep subcutaneous fat and insulin resistance (and other disorders) is significant in men, less so in women.4

Within the abdomen, there is another, often ignored, fat depot called visceral fat. Visceral fat has been the recent focus of medical research, as it has been shown to be a particularly strong predictor of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, Metabolic Syndrome and other health problems.5 As previously described in deep subcutaneous fat, visceral fat releases potent lipokines that directly affect the liver, as well as influencing whole-body inflammation.

These fat depots play a considerable role in regulating energy balance, weight maintenance and health. Clinicians and researchers are feverishly trying to uncover drug treatments that target these separate depots and positively influence health and weight status. Given the plight of America due to the obesity/overweight epidemic and society’s obsession with image, the terms visceral and subcutaneous fat have become household words.

Yet, there is another fat that has not been mentioned (yet) on the evening news or “pimped” on late-night infomercials. 

This fat is wildly different from the other fat types mentioned, and for good reason. This bizarrely mysterious fat is called “brown fat.”

The term “brown fat” differentiates this form from the more familiar “white fat” that comprises subcutaneous and visceral fat. Brown fat was long considered to be a non-issue in human physiology, as it is only present in significant amounts in newborns.6 Brown fat holds more relevance in the animal world, as it is a vital, life-sustaining tissue in hibernating mammals. The term mammal is a categorical designation describing life forms that share several characteristics, including: body hair, live birth, milk-producing glands to feed young and maintaining a constant body temperature. A mammal’s body temperature is primarily generated through the action of muscle, which is typically the most active tissue in the body. When the environment cools considerably, mammals will increase muscle contraction, either voluntarily or by shivering.7 

Muscle contraction is fairly inefficient metabolically, with approximately half (50 percent) of energy lost as heat, rather than being used as mechanical energy (i.e., contracting the muscle; lifting a weight).8 Maintaining, or raising, body temperature is a demanding task. This is one of the reasons people lose weight during a febrile (feverish) illness. The constant shivering necessary to raise the body temperature (fever) increases metabolic demand, and thus calorie burning, considerably.

Nature provides several examples of conditions in which a mammal may need to generate heat when the muscles are not active. The most relevant is the state of hibernation. 

Hibernating animals, such as bats and several types of rodents, enter a type of “deep sleep” that lasts for months. 

Bears are not considered “true hibernators” as they maintain a near-normal body temperature and are quick to arouse, much to the chagrin of researchers who were sneaking up on the sleeping grizzlies. In an immobile, comatose-like state, there is very little muscle activity and body temperature drops; in some cases to near-freezing. However, the animals, particularly bears, who only experience a drop of 12ºF or so, do keep body temperature above the frigid ambient conditions through the actions of a specialized tissue called “brown fat.”

Brown fat looks like fat in that it is a tissue filled with globules of stored fat in the fed state, but the resemblance ends there. As the name suggests, brown fat is darker due to a high degree of vascularity (blood vessels) and being packed with mitochondria. Mitochondria are the organelles (specialized parts) of the cell that generate most of the energy (ATP) for cell function. However, brown fat is programmed to direct its mitochondria to generate heat rather than produce ATP, through a process called “uncoupling.”9 Uncoupling is a process that is similar to holding the clutch down in a manual transmission car. When the clutch is pressed (disengaged), the transmission is “uncoupled” from the engine, and the power is not transferred to the wheels. Hence, when the clutch is pressed, the engine turns and does not create movement. If the engine runs, the energy produced is lost as heat. If the gas pedal is pressed, the engine turns faster but no movement occurs as long as the clutch is disengaged; instead the rate of energy (gasoline) consumed is increased and additional heat is lost.

The mitochondria in brown fat are like engines with the clutch disengaged. Normally, the body temperature is maintained through activity and the brown fat is metabolically quiet. However, during hibernation, brown fat plays a much greater role in maintaining body temperature, so the mitochondria become more active, much like an engine running at a high rpm with the clutch disengaged. 

They burn more energy (not gas but calories), which is lost as heat. This heat is transferred to the rest of the body through the bloodstream (remember, brown fat is highly vascular).

This review in mammalian physiology would seem to be of little value in humans, as there is very little brown fat in adults, the primary audience suffering from dysfunctional weight management. This is not to say that there is not any, it is just very limited. In adults, what brown fat exists lies in fairly small and specific areas, including: cervical, supraclavicular, paravertebral, mediastinal, para-aortic and suprarenal regions. These regions lie along the path of major blood vessels, which is logical as the adult-remnant of brown fat likely exists to maintain core body temperature in the event of prolonged immobility or cold environmental exposure. As healthy adults are capable of generating a considerable amount of muscular activity, there is little need for an energy-demanding tissue whose primary (maybe only?) purpose is to generate heat; particularly in the age of climate-controlled housing.

Surprising Origins Of Brown Fat

Recently, the origin and lineage of brown fat was determined, delivering surprising revelations to the scientific community. When first described in 1551 by the Swiss naturalist Konrad Gessner, brown fat was referred to as being “neither fat nor flesh,” meaning it did not appear to be fat or muscle.10 Under the microscope, brown fat contains globules of fat, but is also densely packed with mitochondria. It does not contract and does not appear to secrete any identifiable hormone(s). It was reasonable to pigeon-hole brown fat as a type of adipose (fat cell), as it did not appear to have a function in humans.

However, with the advances in gene mapping, cell biology and markers of differentiation (cells maturing from stem cells to fully functional cells), it became possible to trace brown fat back to its early precursors. The discovery was shocking. Dr. Patrick Seale of Harvard Medical School and a team of colleagues reported in the journal Nature that brown fat is derived from a precursor cell in the skeletal muscle line.11 In other words, brown fat is a close relative to muscle, and only distantly related to white fat.

The specifics of this study truly are amazing. Unfortunately, to fully appreciate the methods used and the results that lead to this newsworthy conclusion requires a familiarity with cell differentiation markers. However, a brief description, relying upon the popularity of the television series “CSI,” should offer some idea of why researchers are excited.

Every human begins from a single cell, a sperm-fertilized ovum (egg cell) that combines traits from the biologic father and mother. As the fetus grows, the cells begin to “specialize” into specific tissue in order to form the “parts” that make a human. Cells become different in order to become blood cells, liver tissue, brain matter, muscle, heart, kidneys, etc. 

Even in adults, a “pool” of early, undifferentiated cells remains to replace cells lost to age or injury.

These early cells are the cave men in the evolution of cells. 

The earliest forms are called stem cells, and represent embryo-like cells that can become a number of different types of cells. As the stem cells evolve, they become more developed and commit to becoming one specific type of cell. 

At an early point, white fat cells and skeletal muscle share a common precursor cell. In the presence of androgens and other factors, these common precursor cells commit to becoming either white fat or muscle.12 Think of this common precursor as a cellular “missing link.” In muscle, this “missing link” cellular cave man evolves (differentiates) into a Neanderthal-like myoblast (early muscle cell) that then evolves into the mature muscle cell (modern man).

What Seale and his colleagues discovered was that brown fat expressed proteins that were found only in the muscle cell line, not the white fat line.11 It was the cellular equivalent to realizing that gorillas were showing up to Thanksgiving dinner because they were no longer distant cousins to mankind, but first cousins to us all. Tracing brown fat backward, Seale showed the point where brown fat and muscle diverge. Certain signals that determine whether this common brown fat-skeletal muscle precursor commits to brown fat or muscle were also define.11,13

Aside from the academic interest these findings inspired, the therapeutic promise of increasing brown fat levels in humans has not gone unnoticed. Remember, adult humans have little brown fat, as heat-generating needs are met by skeletal muscle, the “first cousin” to brown fat. All a person needs to do to generate heat (and waste calories) is move around, exercise or even shiver.

Unfortunately, being able to be active does not mean people necessarily are, particularly if their occupation is not labor-based. In the pursuit of effortless solutions to the American obesity crisis, researchers are looking at brown fat as a possible target for weight management.

On the face of things, this seems reasonable. After all, if a signal could be generated by a pill that would induce a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in daily energy expenditure, it could be the metabolic equivalent of “exercise in a pill.” Yet, there are problems with this approach. First, there is little brown fat in adults, the primary population suffering from overweight and obesity-related consequences. So directly stimulating brown fat as it exists is fairly futile due to the limited effect.6 The “promise” of brown fat lies in increasing the total amount of brown fat to a significant amount of the total body mass and then stimulating it to increase daily energy expenditure (the number of calories burned during the day). However, there are three serious drawbacks to this proposal that have not been fully considered.

The Skinny On Brown Fat

Brown fat arises from the same precursors as skeletal muscle. In order to increase brown fat, the signals for cellular differentiation have to be switched from pro-muscle to pro-brown fat. By favoring the commitment to brown fat, the precursor pool for skeletal muscle is depleted and the body is impaired relative to responding to exercise or muscle injury. 

In a society where frailty and inactivity have contributed to the obesity problem, this is a drawback that needs to be strongly considered. There are potential ways of doing this, prompting the precursor cells to become brown fat, including an identified transcriptional regulator called PRDM16, as well as PPAR-gamma activators, olive oil and garlic.14-16

The “waste” product for brown fat when it is burning calories is heat. The body can only tolerate a limited range of body temperature before catabolism, fatigue and tissue damage occurs. In extreme cases, the brain can “cook” and a person can die from hyperthermia (excessively high body temperature). People, particularly infants, can suffer from high fevers reaching over 105ºF. If this temperature persists, brain damage and death can occur in hours to days. Even a persistent lesser fever can cause problems with cognition (thinking) and organ function, including dehydration from pronounced sweating. Certain people are particularly sensitive to certain anaesthetics and enter into a state known as malignant hyperthermia when being put under for surgery.17 This is a medical emergency and is treated very aggressively when it happens. The uncoupling drug DNP (2,4 dinitrophenol), used by many weight trainers to reduce body fat, has been implicated in at least two deaths.18

Even if brown fat could be “metered” to produce only a set amount of heat, it is stimulated by beta-adrenergic stimulants— drugs like adrenalin. This class of drug was used for decades, as skeletal muscles respond to the same drugs by increasing heat production and cellular activity, the so-called “thermogenic” weight loss drugs and supplements. Unless beta-adrenergic drugs specific to brown fat are developed, the potential for adverse cardiovascular effects or mood disturbances are just as relevant as they were with ephedrine-products and clenbuterol.19

It is amazing that brown fat acts much like muscle, despite being a cell that stores fat (temporarily). It makes sense in terms of evolution/development and survival that a heat-producing tissue would be needed during periods of prolonged immobility or hibernation. When one thinks about the shared functions of skeletal muscle and brown fat in regards to maintaining a steady temperature, the revelation that they are closely related tissues becomes logically apparent. For centuries, brown fat was considered a fat, proving once again appearances can be deceiving.

One possible use for brown fat generation/stimulation therapy could be in treating comatose patients or those who have suffered a stroke with resulting paralysis. Yet, for the athlete, even the healthy non-athlete, manipulating brown fat and the shared brown fat/muscle precursors to boost calorie burning and reduce body fat may have unintended negative consequences. For now, chalk this discovery to the (very) interesting, but likely of little practical value for active adults category. In fact, the same benefit could likely be achieved by reclining in a cool bath until the water gets cold enough to induce shivering.20 I used the technique to drop body fat in preparation for competition but the practice holds risk for those with heart conditions, so it should not be attempted without checking with one’s personal physician.

1.     Leaf A. Historical overview of n-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr, 2008 Jun;87(6):1978S-80S.

2.     Kien CL, Bunn JY, et al. Increasing dietary palmitic acid decreases fat oxidation and daily energy expenditure. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005 Aug;82(2):320-6.

3.     Walker GE, Verti B, et al. Deep subcutaneous adipose tissue: a distinct abdominal adipose depot. Obesity, (Silver Spring) 2007 Aug;15(8):1933-43.

4.     Miyazaki Y, Glass L, et al. Abdominal fat distribution and peripheral and hepatic insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2002 Dec;283(6):E1135-43.

5.     Fox CS, Massaro JM, et al. Circulation, 2007 Jul 3;116(1):39-48.

6.     Asakura H. Fetal and neonatal thermoregulation. J Nippon Med Sch, 2004 Dec;71(6):360-70.

7.     Rintamaki H. Human responses to cold. Alaska Med, 2007;49(2 Suppl):29-31.

8.     Henchoz Y, Malatesta D, et al. Effects of the transition time between muscle-tendon stretch and shortening on mechanical efficiency. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2006 Apr;96(6):665-71.

9.     Watanabe M, Yamamoto T, et al. Cold-induced changes in gene expression in brown adipose tissue: implications for the activation of thermogenesis. Biol Pharm Bull, 2008 May;31(5):775-84.

10.  Cannon B, Nedergaard J. Neither fat nor flesh. Nature, 2008 Aug 21;454:947-8.

11.  Seale P, Bjork B, et al. PRDM16 controls a brown fat/skeletal muscle switch. Nature, 2008 Aug 21;454(7207):961-7.

12.  Singh R, Artaza JN, et al. Androgens stimulate myogenic differentiation and inhibit adipogenesis in C3H 10T1/2 pluripotent cells through an androgen receptor-mediated pathway. Endocrinology, 2003 Nov;144(11):5081-8.

13.  Seale P, Kajimura S, et al. Transcriptional control of brown fat determination by PRDM16. Cell Metab, 2007 Jul;6(1):38-54.

14.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat-related deaths--United States, 1999-2003. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2006 Jul 28;55(29):796-8.

15.  Oi-Kano Y, Kawada T, et al. Extra virgin olive oil increases uncoupling protein 1 content in brown adipose tissue and enhances noradrenaline and adrenaline secretion in rats. J Nutr Biochem, 2007 Oct;18(10):685-92.

16.  Oi Y, Kawada T, et al. Allyl-containing sulfides in garlic increase uncoupling protein content in brown adipose tissue and noradrenaline and adrenaline secretion in rats. J Nutr, 1999 Feb;129(2):336-42.

17.  Rosenberg H, Davis M, et al. Malignant hyperthermia. Orphanet J Rare Dis, 2007 Apr 24;2:21.

18.  Miranda EJ, McIntyre IM, et al. Two deaths attributed to the use of 2,4-dinitrophenol. J Anal Toxicol, 2006 Apr;30(3):219-22.

19.  Chan TY. Food-borne clenbuterol may have potential for cardiovascular effects with chronic exposure (commentary). J Toxicol Clin Toxicol, 2001;39(4):345-8.

20.  Pretorius T, Cahill F, et al. Shivering heat production and core cooling during head-in and head-out immersion in 17 degrees C water. Aviat Space Environ Med, 2008 May;79(5):495-9.