Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

November 2019

Intermittent Fasting, by Matthew Romans

Much recent attention has been given to the concept of intermittent fasting, even by the traditional media. Jillian Michaels, the fitness personality and former host of The Biggest Loser, recently discussed intermittent fasting in a video post. While some of her points were inaccurate, her overall favorable opinions about it were correct. Fasting may sound radical compared to conventional nutritional advice, but it is not a new idea. Fasting has been a part of many civilizations and religions (to one degree or another) for thousands of years. Intermittent fasting has likely become popular because people are finally more aware of the flaws of the USDA food pyramid and the traditional Western diet. Let's take a closer look.

The current era of food abundance is a relatively recent phenomenon in the overall history of human civilization. The rise of the big food companies and the corresponding change in nutritional content didn't come about until the 1960s. As recently as World War II, starvation was still a very real possibility in many parts of the world, particularly due to war rationing. Food scarcity has been a reality throughout history and we have evolved to adapt to and thrive on that scarcity. Evidence shows that our paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors were not as consistently active as we once thought, and they certainly didn't eat small, carbohydrate-rich meals every three hours. Their eating schedules were often erratic, and they may have gone for days at a time without eating before consuming a very large meal. Simply put, they fasted out of necessity!

What is intermittent fasting? It's not a diet, but rather, a schedule or plan of eating. In simple terms, it involves condensing your feeding window, which is the time between your first and last meals of the day. There are many ways to structure your eating and fasting periods. In order for your body to get into ketosis (which is where the body shifts to fat as its primary fuel source), you need to fast for at least twelve hours. If you are just experimenting with fasting and consume a traditional Western diet, twelve hours will be a challenge, but it's a good place to start. One popular method is to restrict your meals to an eight hour window, and fast for sixteen hours. This is congruent with pushing back your first meal of the day a little later than a traditional breakfast hour, and also eating your dinner a little earlier than a traditional dinner hour. As their bodies adapt, many people find it is easier to fast for longer periods and have shorter feeding windows. Some may only eat one or two meals per day.

Intermittent fasting, especially for longer periods, is much easier to do if you consume a diet rich in whole, single-ingredient foods, with a greater portion of your total calories in the form of healthy saturated fats. Good sources of fat include meat, eggs, nuts, coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting? As I mentioned, fasting promotes ketosis, which allows your body to use fat as its primary fuel source. This is extremely effective if fat loss is a goal, particularly in conjunction with a slight reduction in caloric intake. Fasting also increases your body's levels of human growth hormone (HGH) and stimulates cellular repair. Regular fasting promotes autophagy, which according to Priya Khorana, PhD, "is the body's way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells." This can be very important as a way of fighting off certain forms of cancer. Other benefits of regular fasting include changes to the function of genes related to longevity, and protection against disease and systemic inflammation, which is a major trigger in developing the "diseases of modern civilization." Fasting can also improve sleep by strengthening our circadian clocks, which regulate our waking and resting hours. Not eating too late in the day and minimizing exposure to artificial light after sundown stimulates the body's release of melatonin, which helps to facilitate sleep. Finally, regular fasting improves insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to allow nutrients from food to get into the cells. Eating too frequently results in spikes to your blood sugar, requires a greater insulin response from your pancreas, and increases your risk of insulin resistance and Type II Diabetes. Eating less sugar and processed foods in conjunction with regular fasting will regulate your blood sugar and energy levels and help to maintain your insulin sensitivity. If you are eating the right foods and in the right amount, you should not feel hungry every two or three hours.

How does this relate to your workouts here at Total Results? I have experimented on myself, and have gathered anecdotal evidence from clients, and I have seen mixed results when it comes to exercising in a fasted state. I find that I perform best if I have eaten a few hours prior to my workout, but other people have done very well exercising in a fasted state. Working out in a fasted state may hamper workout performance to some degree, but the benefits include improving insulin sensitivity (on top of the benefits of fasting alone) by flushing glycogen from the muscle cells, hence allowing any circulating sugars to then populate the muscles. This means less sugars in the bloodstream that the body has to produce insulin to deal with. My advice is to experiment a little and find what works for you.

Like many people, I was a skeptic until I decided to give fasting a try. Now, I can't imagine eating another way. As I said, intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a lifestyle and a schedule. It is simple, effective, relatively easy to do, costs no money, and has far more evidence to support it than the traditional Western diet. The benefits are numerous, and all it requires is a little planning and the right mindset. Get in touch with your inner hunter-gatherer today!

Posted November 27, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Recovery Factors in Exercise, by Matthew Romans

It is not uncommon for us as exercise instructors to encounter new clients that are accustomed to participating in various forms of physical activity in addition to weight training. More often than not, we get a surprised response when we tell them that we recommend against performing other types of rigorous activity (for exercise purposes) in conjunction with your Total Results workouts. The primary reason we advise against other types of activity is that we want our clients to maximize their recovery between workouts in order to optimize their results.

First of all, we must understand the primary objective of a Total Results workout. The primary objective is to inroad (fatigue) the musculature deeply enough to stimulate a growth response. In other words, we are trying to give the body a good reason to create a positive change. Total Results will satisfy all of your physiological requirements and help to improve your strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, as well as play a role in fat loss. No other form of activity can come close to stimulating positive change the way that this workout can, so from a physiological perspective, other forms of activity are largely a waste of time.

Next, let's take a closer look at what happens during a Total Results workout and during the 3 to 7 day recovery period between workouts. As I mentioned before, during the workout we are inroading, or weakening, the strength levels of the muscular structures to trigger a growth response. On the cellular level, this inroad creates micro-tears in the skeletal muscle, and at the same time it depletes the glycogen stores in the muscles as well as in the liver (glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate and is the primary source of fuel during intense exercise). During the recovery period between workouts, the body goes about the process of repairing those micro-tears, as well as replenishing the glycogen stores. Remember, we are not trying to recover and get back to the status quo; we want to improve upon our previous levels of strength and conditioning. If one tries to exercise before they are properly recovered, they increase their risk of stagnation of progress, overtraining, and compromising their immune system, which leaves them more susceptible to illness.

Additional activity (jogging, biking, elliptical machines, etc.) only serves to consume precious recovery resources at best (thus interfering with the quality of the proper exercise stimulus), and at worst, could result in injury. Remember, all these other forms of activity are high-force in nature, and excessive force is the primary cause of injury. When discussing this topic with clients, I often talk about the Exercise vs. Recreation argument. There are many different forms of recreation; some are more physical in nature than others. If one pursues a physical form of activity (such as golf, tennis, or squash) simply because they enjoy it, that's fine with me. As long as they don't think they are going to derive some additional physical benefit from it, and assume the risk of pursuing such an activity, then they are doing it for the right reason. Just remember that NOTHING can come close to stimulating positive change the way that a Total Results workout can.

There are also some factors that we as instructors can manipulate to help maximize your recovery and results. The first is the frequency of your workouts. Normally we start novice clients training twice per week, with at least three to four days between workouts. As a client progresses to the intermediate or advanced stage, we may find that it's best to reduce their training frequency. At that point we have them train once every seven days. This allows them to get proper recovery and continue to make improvements.

Another factor we can control is the volume of exercise they perform. This refers to the number of exercises one performs in a workout. Normally, clients perform five to seven exercises in an exercise routine. There needs to be an inverse relationship between intensity and volume, therefore the more intensely one trains, the fewer exercises they should perform. If volume is too high, intensity (as well as the quality of the stimulus) and recovery suffer.

The last factor we can manipulate is intensity. As you know, we want to reach the point of momentary muscular failure on every exercise, and then perform a thorough inroad for five to ten seconds after that. Rarely have we had to moderate the level of intensity with which a client trains for recovery purposes, but it has happened. If a person has an exceptionally fragile recovery system, we would stop the client just short of momentary muscular failure, or take them to failure but not perform a thorough inroad. Again, this is very rare.

Finally, how do you maximize your recovery between workouts and optimize your results? First, you should drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is key, and since your body is made up of over 70% water, this is very important. Second, you should eat a post-workout meal (1-2 hours after) with plenty of protein and good carbohydrates. This will help get the ball rolling in terms of tissue repair as well as replenishing your glycogen stores. Next, you should get plenty of sleep. I know that between job and family, this can be a challenge, but it is during sleep that the body does much of its compensation. Finally, you need to manage stress. Again, I know this can be a challenge, but if you can manage stress you will be in a better frame of mind to give a great effort during your workout. Many of our clients actually use their workouts as a stress-reliever, and then feel better when they walk out of the studio.

We want you to achieve your goals and get the best possible results, as well as remain injury-free. Hopefully this article has given you some guidance on how to maximize your recovery. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know!

Posted November 19, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Customizing Your Workout by Matthew Romans

The Total Results exercise philosophy is based on the classical sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as concepts of motor learning and biomechanics) and involves brief, infrequent, and high intensity weight training workouts that use a slow and deliberate speed of movement. While we have a sound and consistent foundation in place (and have followed it for nearly twenty years), it's important to understand that ours is not a cookie cutter approach. Two clients' workouts may be similar in how they are structured, but we see each client as a unique individual, and we tailor our instructional approach, selection and sequence of exercises to help each client achieve optimal success. I like to think of this as customizing your workout.

If you have paid attention to the mainstream fitness industry over the years, trends and fads come and go. Most other exercise protocols and philosophies are pragmatic; they will incorporate whatever seems good at the time, whether it's "functional" training, balance training, or any other notion with or without a scientific basis. We don't operate that way. Everything that we do has to be consistent with our exercise protocol that was refined over many years, and we are very serious about staying true to our roots.

There are plenty of ways that we can customize your workout. After a client completes an initial consultation, we select the exercises that make up a beginner or generic workout. This usually consists of the exercises that are the most important and easiest to learn, and usually include (among others) the Leg Press, Chest Press, and Lumbar Extension. These are the exercises that a large portion of our client population can handle without too much joint irritation.

-We usually stick with a sequence of exercises for the lower body before the upper body; however, in situations involving exercise-induced headache or nausea we may need to reverse that order to work around the potential problem.

-Dynamic movements are preferred most of the time, but we can also use Timed Static Contractions, and in some cases, Negative-Only protocol in order to best meet the needs of the individual and work around a joint issue or injury.

-Substituting one machine for another might be required. A shoulder problem might make the MedX Overhead Press machine a better option than the one made by Super Slow Systems, and the MedX Row might be better for someone with elbow issues than having them use the Super Slow Systems Compound Row. In some cases, neither option is the best fit, and they may need to do a modified Pullover to avoid the elbow joint entirely.

-To alter the range of motion on exercises like the Chest Press and Leg Curl, we can "gap" the weight stack, or move the movement arm a notch or two forward before putting in the selector pin. Our equipment is easy to adjust, and we can accommodate people with varying heights and limb lengths. We can also provide elevation pads, hand cushion and grip-assisting hooks to make you more comfortable.

One of the characteristics of a good exercise instructor is the ability to adapt, sometimes on the fly, to whatever a client needs. This holds true for how we instruct each client. One of the things that makes exercise instruction such an interesting and rewarding profession is that each client is unique and has his or her own personality and temperament. Some clients may need more teaching and prompting than others, and some will require very little instruction at all during each exercise. As a general rule, an instructor should say as little as possible so as not to pose a distraction during the workout, but we will give whatever coaching is needed to help you get the safest and most effective exercise stimulus that you can.

Exercise volume and frequency (dosage) also needs to be customized so that the client can achieve safe and long-lasting progress without the risk of illness or injury due to overuse. While we could make more money if our workouts were longer and more frequent, it's our duty to do what is in the best interest of the client. Sometimes this means reducing one's training frequency and volume of exercise; many of our longer-tenured clients exercise once per week.

As you can see, ours is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We can customize your workout experience to work around nearly any injury, condition, or joint issue, and we can do so while staying true to the exercise philosophy that is most congruent with the classic sciences. Regardless of your age, personality, experience level, or health history, we can find the proper blueprint to deliver the best results in the least amount of time. Come see what makes us different from the rest of the industry.

Start today!

Posted November 15, 2019 by Matthew Romans

The Power to Change, By Matthew Romans

Dr. Martin Seligman is a psychologist and author, and is one of the most respected people in his field. I recently read his book "What You Can Change, and What You Can't," and he discusses various aspects of one's life that can be changed and those that are fixed, particularly as it pertains to psychological topics like addiction, phobias, depression, anger, and many others. While there is a section in the book that discusses the pros and cons of dieting (he's not particularly optimistic about its success rate), he doesn't really discuss exercise, per se. While I got a lot out of the book, this is not a book review. Instead, the book's title and content led me to think about how this can relate to exercise, and it made me consider how much power we have to create positive physical and mental change through regular Total Results weight training.

We know that there are certain physical traits that are fixed. What can't you change?

VO2 Max. This is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during intense exercise. It is usually measured by a machine called a Breckman cart that attaches a hose to your mouth to measure your oxygen uptake during a treadmill run. It is largely predetermined by birth and cannot really be changed. The good news is that VO2 Max testing isn't a valid test of anything, and is not really important anyway (despite what most exercise physiologists will tell you).

Limb length. This is also genetically predetermined. While longer limbs create certain leverage advantages for certain activities or sports, it's not something you have control over. It's no accident that taller people gravitate toward sports like basketball and volleyball, largely due to selection bias (meaning they are drawn to be good at sports in which they are physically suited).

Tendon insertion point and muscle belly length. Tendons connect muscles to bones, and they also stabilize joints. While tendons do not have the same elastic properties as muscles, tendons can stretch a little to help facilitate muscular contraction. The muscle belly is the part of the muscle between its tendon attachments that contracts and produces force, thus enabling movement. The longer the muscle belly, the shorter the tendon attachment, and the greater force producing capacity the muscle has. This is something that Mother Nature decided for you, and that you have no control over.

Family medical history. Again, this is genetically predetermined. As the saying goes, you can't pick your parents (or grandparents, for that matter). But while you can't pick your genes, it's important to realize that not everyone with a family history of a certain disease ends up getting the disease simply because they are predisposed to it. Your lifestyle (which includes, diet, sleep, stress management, etc.) is something that you absolutely have control over.

Now that we have seen what we (largely) cannot change, what are some things that we have the power to change? This is where we can really take control and start living our best life, and it will take a lot less time than you think.

Attitude. This shapes your life philosophy and helps you to determine your course of action. Having a positive mindset means that you believe that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to invest the effort in doing so. Without it, nothing exceptional can be accomplished. As the saying goes, attitude is everything.

Knowledge. This ties in with one's attitude. Education should be lifelong, no matter what your interest or occupation. Always strive to learn. While I have said this before, at Total Results, we see ourselves as both learners and educators. We strive to keep learning and searching for a way to be better instructors, and we pass along what we have learned to you. As a Total Results client, having the mindset of being a learner will help pave the road to success.

Strength, metabolic, and cardiovascular conditioning. Skeletal muscle is one of the most plastic tissues in the entire body, meaning that it has a great capacity for positive change. The skeletal muscles are the only type of muscle tissue in the body that is voluntary; smooth and cardiac muscle, while very important, are involuntary. The skeletal muscles are the engines of the body; they enable movement and have the most impact on our body shape. High intensity Total Results weight training is the most effective way to increase your strength, which will also result in improved metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning.

Mood. Regular strength training has been shown to elevate mood and improve depression. Increased strength, ease of everyday tasks, and improved body image can and usually does lead to greater self-confidence.

Health care and insurance costs. While I don't see the the insurance and medical industries getting less expensive anytime soon, there are things you can do to lower your monthly and yearly health expenses. Regular Total Results exercise helps to protect against injury, lowers blood pressure, increases cardiac output, improves insulin sensitivity, and aids in combating the "diseases of modern civilization." The stronger and healthier you are, the less your insurance and health care costs, and this will help you to stay out of the system.

You have the power to change. While certain physical attributes that you have are fixed, others can be significantly improved. Total Results can be a major catalyst in creating a stronger and better you, and it takes less than one hour per week. While you may not have been given the genetic advantages to be an elite athlete, you can maximize your own genetic blueprint with Total Results. Take your first step today.

Posted November 05, 2019 by Matthew Romans