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February 2023

"Eat Stop Eat" - A Book Review

Author Brad Pilon holds a graduate degree in Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, and he performed research at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Prior to writing the book "Eat Stop Eat", Pilon worked for six years in the supplement industry before leaving due to disillusionment with the field. The author's feelings about so-called weight loss products and the mindset involved with selling them can be summed up as follows: "I started to think that the weight loss industry was full of nothing but confusing and constantly recycled misinformation." Pilon started writing "Eat Stop Eat" upon his departure from the supplement industry. The first edition was printed in 2007, and the expanded edition was released in 2017.

"Eat Stop Eat" focuses on the concept of intermittent fasting, which is where one typically condenses their feeding window (the time between their first and last meals of the day) to anywhere from 4-10 hours per day, in order to allow the body to get into a fasted state. Among other health benefits that will be covered shortly, intermittent fasting allows the body to more effectively use fat as a fuel source. Many of the principles discussed in "Eat Stop Eat" are similar to the information given in "The Complete Guide to Fasting" by Dr. Jason Fung, a book I reviewed a few months ago. One difference between the two books is that Pilon makes it quite clear that he is not a doctor, and as such, he is adamant that these principles be followed only by healthy adults. He also recommends fasting for no longer than 24 hours at a time, one or two times per week, as he believes that fasting more frequently or for longer periods of time yields diminishing returns and complicates one's lifestyle. Dr. Fung, on the other hand, does advocate longer fasting periods and regularly supervises patients dealing with chronic disease. Regardless of whatever small differences of opinion the two authors may have, I believe both books can be a valuable part of your professional or personal library.

Intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits, some of which were covered in my previous book review. I'll mention just a few others here. One benefit that I was unaware of is increased uncoupling protein-3 mRNA. According to the author, "Uncoupling protein-3 mRNA is a very important protein found in our muscles that is associated with fat burning. When fat burning increases, so does the amount of uncoupling protein-3 mRNA in our muscles." This can increase fivefold as little as 15 hours into a fast. Another positive benefit to be derived from fasting is an increase in Epinephrine and Norepinephrine levels. These are the fight-or-flight hormones that are released in times of stress, particularly during exercise or when food is scarce. As Pilon notes, "Fasting increases the amounts of both of these hormones in your blood. This is your body's way of maintaining your blood sugar levels and increasing your fuel supply by helping to release fatty acids from your fat stores." Finally, regular fasting helps to decrease inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. Two main causes of inflammation are excess body fat and overeating; adopting the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle helps to reduce both.

Fasting works very well with exercise, particularly intense exercise like Total Results weight training. One of the common misconceptions that has been perpetuated over the years is that fasting can cause one to lose muscle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Building muscle requires significant effort and resources from the body, and it will not just jettison muscle for no good reason. Pilon cites an English study from 1987 that examined the impact of fasting on exercise performance. As the author says, "In plain English, they found that a 3 day fast had no negative effects on how strongly your muscles can contract, your ability to do short-term high intensity exercises, or your ability to exercise at moderate intensity for a long duration." I have personally found a greater metabolic effect when performing my workouts in a fasted state as compared to a normal fed state. I especially like Pilon's emphasis on the importance of consistent weight training. He says, "You have to be involved in some sort of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights (his emphasis). Now, to be clear, you do not have to weight train at the exact same time you are fasting, but resistance training must be occurring at some point for your muscle mass to be preserved in the face of a caloric deficit." There is a chapter in the book titled "Designing Your Own Workout Program"; if you are a regular Total Results client you already have that covered and can skim over it, but I do respect his acknowledgement of the need to weight train in order to maintain body shape.

Women have much to gain from incorporating fasting into their lifestyle; in some cases they can benefit even more than men. Pilon mentions the differences between women and men in terms of muscle mass, but also from a metabolic and physiological standpoint. During prolonged periods of low-calorie intake, men can see a significant decrease in testosterone production. On the other hand, women have lower levels of testosterone than men in any case, but these levels remain largely unchanged during these same prolonged periods. The good news for women, as the author points out, is that, "Women release more of their body fat into their blood than men do during fasting", and he goes on to say that, "Women also have more fat-burning enzymes than men, and thus an increased capacity to burn their body fat as a fuel." This is significant, because although women necessarily carry a higher percentage of body fat than men, they also do have some physiological advantages over men and can use them to great effect by fasting regularly.

As you can probably guess, I am a big fan of this book. This is written for the layperson, not the professional, so the concepts are simple to understand without being dumbed down or insulting to the reader. It is researched well, which is no surprise considering the author's research background, and you can look up the references and verify them for yourself. There are only a few typos, which is better than other self-published books that I have read. The Frequently Asked Questions section in the expanded edition is extremely helpful, as it reinforces some concepts discussed in the original text and answers some questions that aid in providing further clarification. Finally, I really enjoy Pilon's writing style. A little humor helps to liven up some topics that may not thrill the average reader. As someone who grew up reading muscle magazines and is obsessed with weight training and physical conditioning, I found the author's point of view very relatable.

There is one thing to consider about eating, fasting, and how our minds have become conditioned to think about food. The author notes, "Most likely, what we call hunger is really a learned reaction to a combination of metabolic, social, and environmental cues to eat. Remember how I mentioned that the food industry spends 10 billion U.S. dollars per year advertising food? Well, it turns out this advertising is very effective." The Eat Stop Eat philosophy in particular, and intermittent fasting in general, is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and can be adjusted as needed to ensure short-term and long-term success. Stop stressing about food! I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and adopt these principles as soon as possible.

Posted February 23, 2023 by Matthew Romans

Fused Versus Independent Movement Arms

Exercise equipment is typically engineered to either have fused or independent movement arms. Just to clarify, the movement arm is what the exercise subject pushes or pulls in order to perform each exercise, as most movements fall into one of those two categories. With independent movement arms, both limbs are operating separately lifting and lowering the resistance provided by the weight stack. A fused movement arm allows both limbs to work together to move the resistance and perform the muscular function targeted in the exercise. Both fused and independent movement arm-based machines can be used effectively in a comprehensive strength training program, provided there is properly regulated frequency, intensity, and volume, and that sleep and nutritional requirements are met.

There are many inherent problems with using independent movement arms. Even in exercise subjects who are not injured, there is often a strength discrepancy between one's dominant and non-dominant limbs, and this can complicate matters. In addition, from a motor learning standpoint it is far more difficult to control two movement arms than it is to control one, which usually means there will be a significant loss of focus on the targeted musculature. This will also result in a lack of trunk and/or neck stability, which makes it extremely difficult to achieve a meaningful muscular inroad. Accompanying these challenges is the danger of unilateral loading of the pelvis and spine. This happens when an exercise subject works only one side of the body at a time and should be avoided whenever possible, particularly when entering or exiting a piece of equipment. Safety must be priority number one. Dumbbells are another example of independent movement arms, and I try to avoid using them whenever possible. Inevitably, most clients have a difficult time controlling them safely and navigating proper speed and turnaround technique, but I do occasionally use them for the Bicep Curl exercise if elbow or wrist problems prevent the use of a barbell.

Most of the commercially available equipment brands manufacture machines with independent movement arms, even Nautilus and Hammer Strength, whom I hold in higher esteem than most. Many years ago at a commercial gym where I worked, I used a Hammer Strength Leg Press that had independent movement arms, and I could not understand why I lifted significantly less weight on that machine than on a similar machine that had a fused movement arm. This was well before I knew anything about motor learning. The movement I produced was choppy and awkward, and I had to think far more about controlling the movement arms when I should have been focused on fatiguing my glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. A few years later when I worked at Fairfax Racquet Club, there was a MedX Pulldown machine that had independent movement arms. It was a great piece of equipment that had articulating handles, but it was difficult to focus on getting a proper inroad when pulling two different movement arms. I solved this problem by placing a straight bar attachment across the handles, thus rendering it a fused movement arm.

There is a hierarchy of learning difficulty in exercise that Ken Hutchins discusses in the book "Super Slow: The Ultimate Exercise Protocol." Independent movements fall into the more difficult to learn category, along with blind movements (where movement takes place behind you), alternating movements (such as doing a Bicep Curl one arm at a time), and simple movements (rotating around a single joint). Exercises like Hip Abduction and Adduction (which we perform at Total Results, but only as a Timed Static Contraction) may seem like independent movements when utilizing a machine since they involve the legs moving away and together, but are in fact contracting against a fused movement arm. Safe and productive exercise should be an intellectual endeavor, but should not be overly complicated by having to move one limb at a time or two limbs in different directions at the same time. There are only two exercises that I can think of that must be performed unilaterally. One is Torso Rotation (MedX manufactures an excellent machine), but I believe it is a largely unnecessary exercise for most people. The other is External Rotation for the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. To my knowledge, the only way this can be done is unilaterally, and we perform it as a Timed Static Contraction.

All of the machines at Total Results have fused movement arms. Our exercise protocol is already challenging enough without needlessly complicating things by using independent movement arms. An exercise like the Leg Press already has a bit of inherent danger to it, in that most people have one leg slightly shorter than the other. The shorter leg can lock first, twist the pelvis, and injure the lower back, so it is very important for the instructor to properly set the machine's end point in order to avoid this scenario. When rehabilitating clients following surgery, we occasionally perform unilateral movements in the very earliest stages, but most of our clients have gotten strong enough prior to surgery that this is not necessary. Whatever discrepancy there is in strength between the affected and non-affected limbs will usually even out over time as both limbs get stronger by pushing or pulling against a fused movement arm. In addition to all of that, using a fused movement arm is simply more efficient for achieving a proper exercise stimulus in minimum time without consuming too many recovery resources along the way. It takes far less time to train both sides of the body at once.

Don't be fooled by typical fitness industry misinformation and terms like "muscle confusion" or the need to "shock the body" in order to produce results. If all you have at your disposal is dumbbells or machines with independent movement arms, do your best to move slowly and carefully, but it will be much more difficult from a motor learning perspective. People have gotten stronger in this fashion, but there is a better way. This is why the machines at Total Results are so valuable in enhancing safety as well as the overall exercise stimulus. Experience the difference today.

Posted February 09, 2023 by Matthew Romans