Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

January 2024

Three Pillars of Health: Weight Training, Intermittent Fasting, and Nutrition

Total Results is not simply an instructional exercise facility. Yes, exercise is critically important, and in order to achieve a top notch workout experience you need a clinically-controlled environment with proper temperature controls, specially engineered equipment, and a knowledgeable instructor to regulate safety and push you to the requisite level of effort. I see myself as a teacher, and that goes well beyond what happens during the 20 minutes of your workout. In my estimation, there are three pillars of health that will optimize your results. Those pillars are intermittent fasting, proper nutrition, and high-intensity weight training. I discuss these three concepts with clients on a regular basis.

Intermittent fasting involves waiting at least 12 hours between your last meal of one day and your first meal of the next day. That description is a bit simplistic, but it's not really that complicated to understand once you dive in a little deeper. Most recommendations call for fasting between 14 and 18 hours per day, but other sources have suggested fasting for 24 hours a couple of times per week. A 16 hour fast and 8 hour feeding window (time between your first and last meal of the day) is what I generally stick to, and it's not as difficult to follow as you might think. The benefits of fasting include hormone regulation, blood sugar control (avoiding spikes and crashes), lowering blood pressure, fat loss, reducing systemic inflammation, maintaining insulin sensitivity, and enhancing your body's ability to use body fat as a primary fuel source. There are a lot of different ways you can practice intermittent fasting; through experimentation you can find the strategy that best fits your lifestyle. It's a bit of a challenge at first, but after a few days or a week you find it's not that difficult, especially since you should be asleep through a large portion of the fasting period. If you eat a proper diet, fasting comes much easier, which smoothly brings me to the next pillar of health.

Nutrition is the means of giving your body the raw materials it needs to not only achieve and maintain homeostasis, but also make physical improvements. If you don't put the right fuel into your car, it won't go anywhere. You need all three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat, although carbohydrates are the least important to consume. This is because the body can create glucose out of other substances through a process called gluconeogenesis. There are essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids, but no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. This is why ketogenic diets are quite successful. I'm not suggesting that you need to get on a ketogenic diet (although I wouldn't discourage you if you did), but I do recommend a single-ingredient, whole foods approach. Limit sugars and processed foods, and if you see ingredients on food packaging that you cannot pronounce, you don't need them. Try to get your carbohydrates largely through fruits and vegetables, but minimize the fruits with high glycemic indexes (like bananas). You need protein that comes from quality sources: chicken, fish, beef, eggs. Eat plenty of good saturated fat; this will come from the aforementioned protein sources, but also through butter, nuts, and some other dairy like full-fat yogurt. If there were a fourth pillar of health I would include supplementation with vitamins and minerals, but it makes sense to include that here. At minimum, take a vitamin D supplement, but also consider fish oil, magnesium, vitamin C, and zinc. These will help fill in any nutritional gaps you may have, and also enhance your immune system.

Weight training is the X factor. Total Results exercise is essential for building and maintaining lean muscle, improving bone mineral density, strengthening connective tissue, improving metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning, increasing your resistance to injury, and helping you to maintain your functional independence. That is a lot to accomplish in one or two 20-minute sessions per week! Our exercise protocol can also help with things you probably haven't even considered, like contributing to better sleep, stress management, and improved focus. Your skeletal muscle is the only type of muscle tissue over which you have volitional control, and it is the single most important contributing factor to your overall body shape and appearance. No other form of physical activity can do more for your body or your mind than strength training, and the Total Results exercise protocol is the safest of them all. Five to seven exercises encompassing the entire body, performed once or twice per week in proper form and with great effort, is all that you need. It's certainly not easy, but it is simple.

All three pillars of health must be practiced in order to optimize results. As I have said before, exercise is not a panacea. It is an extremely important component, but only one cog in the wheel. If you weight train without intermittent fasting or proper nutrition, you will get stronger but may carry excess body fat, have blood sugar fluctuations, unregulated hormone levels, and be deficient in several key vitamins and nutrients. Although intermittent fasting can make up for some holes in your diet, without weight training you won't speed up your metabolism, combat sarcopenia, or reverse osteoporosis. On top of that, consuming a traditional western diet with lots of sugars and processed foods will make it virtually impossible to get into ketosis or fast comfortably. Proper nutrition will not yield maximum results without the other two pillars.

You must incorporate all three health pillars in order to optimize not only your physical improvements, but your overall health. Combining all three is not as difficult as it seems, but it does require a true desire to change and a willingness to be honest with yourself in order to make lifestyle changes. If you create good habits that are simple, they will be easier to follow. Making an appointment at Total Results will not only instill a sense of accountability, it will help you get into a sustainable routine. Schedule a consultation and start practicing the three pillars of health today!

Posted January 26, 2024 by Matthew Romans

Progress - Don't Get Mired in Minutiae

Some of our clients are very attentive to detail and numbers-oriented when it comes to tracking their workout progress. They are very interested to know how much weight they use on a given exercise, what their time under load was, and how it compares to previous workouts. Other clients care very little about those things. These trainees often just want to come in, perform their workout, schedule their next session, and go home. There is certainly nothing wrong with either mindset, and part of what makes my work so stimulating is that each client brings something different to the table. I do believe it is important to periodically talk with clients about their progress and offer different strategies to help them achieve optimum results, and for those clients that are interested I send them a link to their workout spreadsheet so that they can keep up to date on their progress. Knowledge of results is definitely important, but I think you can drive yourself crazy if you focus too much on minutiae.

I certainly respect detail-oriented people, for I am one of them. However, over the years I have learned that although small things matter, it is important (and probably healthier) to see the big picture. This is certainly true when it comes to common goals that people often come to Total Results to achieve: strength gains and fat loss. An appropriate pace for losing fat is one to two pounds per week; this way we ensure that we hold onto muscle and all the other important tissues while just losing fat. Nonetheless, we must realize that fat loss is not going to be completely linear; it will likely look like a line graph that rises and falls at times. This is because we are human beings who are not perfect, and it is unrealistic to think that life won't occasionally get in the way of maintaining the right habits. A healthier approach is to take a long view and look at the trend rather than obsess daily. This is why I don't recommend weighing yourself every day or after every meal - your fat loss goal can very easily turn into an unhealthy obsession! Look at where you are on a given day and compare it to where you were when your journey began. Chances are great that you have made significant progress worth celebrating.

The same view holds true for increasing your strength. When novice clients start at Total Results, they usually increase their poundages quickly over the first few weeks. This is due to a couple of factors. One is the learning effect; clients are learning new movement patterns and acquiring skill, and your central nervous system adapts to the new demands. The second reason is that beginning poundages are typically conservative, in order to optimize proper form, speed of movement, and turnaround technique. Once you reach muscular failure consistently on all the exercises, the law of diminishing returns enters the equation. You will not continue to add weight or increase time under load (TUL) on every exercise for every workout; it doesn't work that way. Yes, we will continue to increase the load by a couple of pounds or improve TUL every few sessions or so, but do not get discouraged when it doesn't happen every time. That is in no way a reflection of your workout performance. I also recommend not putting an emphasis on achieving an arbitrary TUL; some people seem to think that two minutes is a magical number. It isn't. The real objective of exercise is thorough inroad, and if that happens in 1:40 rather than two minutes, so be it. If you do the right things between workouts (proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, supplementation, managing stress) and give your best effort during each session, you will succeed.

While looking at your workout spreadsheet and weighing in are very specific measurements of progress, there are also general ways to get a feel for how you are doing. Taking both the general and specific viewpoints together paints a clear picture of your progress. How do you feel? On the whole, are your energy levels higher and more stabilized than before you started working out? Minimizing processed foods, sugars, and eating a whole-food, nutrient-rich diet will level out your blood sugar and regulate hormone secretion, making it much easier to avoid spikes and crashes. How do your clothes fit you now compared to when you started? If they are looser, that indicates that you have lost inches (and body fat) while gaining muscle. On the whole, are you less susceptible to minor colds and other infections? Do you have fewer aches and pains, are you more participatory in life, and are you still functionally independent? Increasing your strength makes you more injury-resistant, less reliant on mobility devices, and more energetic, which will enable you to perform tasks with less effort. These are qualitative measures of progress. Small victories add up to big results over time.

Bill Walsh, the Hall of Fame football coach and three-time Super Bowl winner, often said that the score takes care of itself. This meant that if his teams executed correctly and did the things they needed to do instead of worrying about the other team, the outcome would be in the San Francisco 49ers' favor. Another of Walsh's maxims was, "Concentrate on what will produce results, the process rather than the prize." To that end, I would add that you are better off obsessing about proper form rather than the result of each exercise. Great form leads to an exceptional stimulus, which is what the body needs to make physical improvements. Remember that learning is a continuous process, and mastery takes a lifetime. Treat each workout as an opportunity to achieve something meaningful, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Posted January 11, 2024 by Matthew Romans