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Eat. Move. Live.

24 Mar

Read time: 90 seconds

Exercise makes us fitter, stronger, healthier, happier, and it helps prevent a host of diseases.

Nutrition can make us healthier, but it can also make us sick. Eat poorly and exercise becomes critical to preventing diseases that poor nutrition might cause. Eat well, however, and exercise is ultimately for fun.

And, no matter how you cut it:

exercise + good nutrition = look better naked

Many of you exercise and eat a proper diet. Kudos. It shows in many ways, even with your clothes on.

But I personally know many people who exercise to offset a tendency toward poor nutrition. This works to a point. But, as the saying goes: You can’t out-exercise a crappy diet.

Of course, enjoying some less-nutritious food doesn’t make the entire diet crappy. I certainly enjoy the homemade carrot cupcakes (and I mean loaded with carrots and love) someone made for my birthday, and I ate them with half a bottle of Viognier. (Well, OK, the entire bottle.)

My diet, though, is definitely not crappy. I understand balance, and my food intake tips the dietary scale toward nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse foods that are wholesome and real. I tend to bypass processed foods (unless it’s hand-made with love).

The point, we do better if we know more about our food — where it comes from, how it’s made. We benefit in knowing what it does to the body. We don’t need to assign grams, calories, blocks, macronutrients, micronutrients to food as much as we need to know what food is wholesome and what is processed. Then just choose more of the former and less the latter… but enjoy the latter to the utmost once in a while, maybe with a good bottle of wine.

In the end, workout all you want, but it’s only a fraction of the picture. Nutrition is the major (often neglected) part. 

March is National Nutrition Month. In this newsletter, I hope you’ll enjoy nutrition articles by FIT trainers… maybe with a glass of good wine.


Johnny Nguyen

March 24, 2010

From Lead Paint in your Toys to Organic Food on your Table

9 Mar

Organic from China to the local Whole Foods.

Final destination: your table.

Read the label carefully.

Quick Thoughts

4 Mar

Read time: 20 seconds

Those who ask “What?” are in the long term rarely successful. Those who ask “What’s the reason?” are in the long term more  successful.

Those who say “just tell me what to do” never own their diet or exercise. Those who say “tell me the reason why I do this” are empowered to make healthful decisions for the rest of their lives.

Which one are you?

Getting Bigger Arms

15 Jan

Read time: 1 minute

People often advise doing  just big and heavy lifts like pull-ups if you want bigger biceps, and heavy dips if you want bigger triceps. Many even recommend heavy lifts like back squats. They say to forget about direct (isolated) work, like biceps curls and triceps press-downs.

This advice is based on the anabolic hormonal responses triggered by big lifts — specifically that of endogenous testosterone.

While hormones do contribute to muscular hypertrophy, they alone don’t trigger maximum peripheral growth.

During lifting, muscular recruitment patterns can differ significantly from person to person. For example, EMG studies show that two people performing the same exercise may activate muscles to very differing degrees, or may recruit different muscle groups entirely.

Perhaps the advice to use just the big lifts comes from people who are able to activate a larger percentage of arm muscles during pull-ups or dips. This is certainly not the case in all people.

If you’re after the aesthetics of muscular arms, you should probably include direct arm-work. This is because muscle growth relies more on just hormones; it depends also (if not more so) on direct mechanical stress.

As an example, several years ago my friend broke his arm, but continued doing big lifts like back squats, one-arm pull-ups (assisted), and dips (also assisted). He also continued doing direct arm-work with his healthy arm, while his other was mostly rested in a sling.

After 8 weeks of this, you could see that his rested arm was significantly atrophied. His good arm retained equal muscle mass, if not slightly bigger. And this atrophy was while still doing the big lifts.

So, the big lifts are great, but for many people seeking more muscular arms, direct arm work should be included.

I’m all for functional strength training, but who wouldn’t want great-looking muscular arms?

Food as Fuel (or Fueling Obesity)

29 Dec

Read time: 2 minutes

Over the years I’ve heard the word food being replaced by the word fuel. Coaches say it. Personal trainers say it. Weight loss experts say it. “Did you get enough sleep? Did you get enough fuel?” It’s not so much a matter of changing semantics but of changing mentality.

And the mentality that food should be viewed only as fuel for the body is what’s probably wrong with the American diet today. Seeing food as fuel encourages a feeding habit removed of joy, appreciation and celebration, turning it into a mindless act. It teaches us to eat on the clock, rather than on the true needs of the body.

The problem is that our body doesn’t have just a single fuel gage to tell us when our tank is empty, but many physical and emotional gauges that trick us into thinking that we need more fuel. For so long we’ve been fueling ourselves by social or dietary rules that we’ve forgotten what physical hunger actually feels like.

So we’re pressured into eating the so-called “most important meal of the day.” We panic about forgetting that light snack between breakfast and lunch. We consider ourselves reckless when we skip lunch. And, darn it, we kill all of our effort in the gym if we don’t fuel up within half an hour after the workout.

At work we stock the desk with nuts and jerky, in the car we stuff the glove compartment with protein bars, and in the fridge we line the shelf with fudge-flavored yogurt. Just in case, we say, worried that a temporary hunger pang is the end of our metabolism.

So: Fuel, fuel, fuel!

What kind of ethics do we express when we eat food without joy or appreciation when others must starve? How do our bodies compare to those of the French and Spaniards, who sit down to celebrate the flavors of each meal? What if we actually seek to identify all the flavors of each bite on our plate, instead of shoveling it down mindlessly like the way we pump fuel into our cars? Would our careful and deliberate enjoyment of food allow us a higher quality of food intake, without going overboard on low-quality food with an amalgamation of disassociated flavors?

I believe that sitting down (with family and friends) to a meal is the best thing that we as a nation can do, socially, mentally, gustatorily, and physically. While eating, we ought to focus on the immense flavors of duck confit with fresh tangerine marmalade. We ought to search for the subtle sea salt hidden behind the delicate sweetness of caramelized sea scallops, and share the flavor with a glass of Bordeaux Blanc and see what dances on the taste buds. Or even venture with all our senses into the deep intricacies of a Chicago Deep Dish.

The reality is that many of us don’t have the time to sit down to a slow meal, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that we think we still must eat simply because it’s mealtime. So we fuel up mindlessly, even when the body has plenty in reserve (glycogen stores, fat stores, protein stores, etc.). We end up throwing calories into the body, but with lost opportunity to experience the joy that should accompany food.

Perhaps it’s time for us to let go of the fear and guilt of missing a meal, and allow ourselves the opportunity to learn how to eat less frequently. Maybe we should go longer between meals without letting the myth of “a slowed metabolism” interfere. It’s time to raise the importance of each meal, and place a greater focus on quality over quantity.

Perhaps it’s time to remove the fuel out of food, and put the food back into food, and really, truly enjoy eating again.

French Diet

29 Nov

Comparison between the American diet and the French diet, from Wikipedia under The French Paradox:

French diet comparisons

In his book, The Fat Fallacy, Dr. Will Clower suggests the French paradox may be narrowed down to a few key factors, namely:

  • Good fats versus bad fats — French people get up to 80% of their fat intake from dairy and vegetable sources, including whole milk, cheeses, and whole milk yogurt.
  • Higher quantities of fish (three times a week).
  • Smaller portions, eaten more slowly and divided among courses that let the body begin to digest food already consumed before more food is added.
  • Lower sugar intake — American low-fat and no-fat foods often contain high concentrations of sugar. French diets avoid these products preferring full-fat versions without added sugar.
  • Low incidence of snacks between meals.
  • Avoidance of common American food items, such as soda, deep-fried foods, snack foods, and especially pre-prepared foods which can typically make up a large percentage of the foods found in American grocery stores.

Clower tends to play down the common beliefs that wine consumption and smoking are greatly responsible for the French paradox. The French diet tends to cause Americans to lose weight while visiting even if they are not wine drinkers. While a higher percentage of French people smoke, this is not greatly higher than the U.S. (35% in France vs. 25% in U.S.) and is unlikely to account for the weight difference between countries.

Mirreille Guiliano, author of the #1 bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat, agrees that the weight differences are not due to French smoking habits. She points out that the smoking rates for women in France and the US are virtually identical. Guiliano explains the key factors to the French woman’s ability to stay slim as:

  • Smaller portion sizes
  • Savoring food to increase the feeling of satisfaction, choosing a small amount of high quality food rather than larger amounts of low quality food
  • Eating 3 meals a day and not snacking
  • Taking in plenty of liquid such as water, herbal tea, and soup
  • Sitting down and eating mindfully (no multitasking and eating while standing up, watching TV, or reading)
  • Emphasizing freshness, variety, balance, and, above all, pleasure
  • What’s interesting is how closely this relates to the diet I personally believe in, which includes abolishing the concept of frequent small meals (grazing), eating more natural foods with natural fat contents, avoiding sugar and manufactured low-fat fares and pre-made food packages, eating fresh foods, and small but a wide variety of quality foods, rather than large and unvaried amounts of low-quality foods (such as pasta, breads and cereals).

    FIT Announcements – November

    18 Nov


    • November is Family Literacy month and we are donating new & used books to three different places.
    • Please bring in as many CHILDREN’s books as possible!
    • K-3 books are going to Landels School in Mountain View.
    • 4-8 books are going to Ballico School in Ballico, CA (central valley).
    • Teen and adult books are going to shelter in San Francisco or Central Valley.


    • The goal is to encourage conscious eating, create support system within our FIT Community and encourage healthy habits through the holiday season.
    • Karen’s weekly tips can be found in the Stall Street Journal (soon!).

    HOLIDAY WISH DRIVE – Benefits the ARC of San Francisco – ENDS 12/09/09
    A facility that aids in bettering the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities. There are wish cards placed near the front desk on our garland.  Each person’s profile/info is tacked up in the community bulletin board so that you can learn more about those receiving gifts.

    PLEASE TAKE A WISH and fulfill it.  When you bring a new gift, have it unwrapped and with the tag that you took so that we know how to label it.  FIT Buddies will be doing gift wrapping in the second week of December.



    Benefits Bernal Heights Shelter. New toys for those that might not have a holiday season otherwise.

    CONTACT PERSON: (for more details, deadlines, etc)

    On Counting Calories

    14 Nov

    Read time: 2 minutes

    The energy balance equation, based on the Law of Energy Conservation, is utter nonsense when applied to a dynamic, open system like the human body.

    How is it that whole population can follow such advice as counting calories without further inquiry into whether this is even a natural practice? Did grandma do it? Did our ancestors do it? Did all hominids in the past several thousand years do it? Do lean, healthy, disease-free cultures do it? And how is it that we count calories yet still struggle immensely with weight loss?

    We are told to eat less and exercise more to create a negative energy balance, and to lower our cholesterol. And if that doesn’t work, then staple our stomach, or get on drugs for the rest of our lives, to control our weight and to lower our cholesterol. How is it that a critical mass occur in our nation to feed the profits of Big Pharma and their lobbyists, without an equal proportion of challenge?

    And how long can we run on a treadmill and pump iron to cause a “negative energy balance,” when even a healthy meal that night can turn the whole mathematical effort upside-down? And much to everyone’s dismay, the human body is smart enough that, when billions of its tiny cells become starved with this negative energy balance, it will trigger the evolutionary-based hormonal signaling to the brain that it is time to eat and nothing will stop the act — not tricks, not will-power, not medical intervention.

    Then we’re screwed. “Fell off the wagon again,” we say with self-defeat.

    Perhaps it’s time to abandon a mathematical equation that studies (extending back to last century) have repeatedly demonstrated to be “a diet method of long-term failure,” and to likely do more harm than good.

    But then what?

    Well, to start, remove the stuff that our bodies weren’t designed to metabolize — grain-based carbohydrates and refined sugar. As I’ve written elsewhere, and as many far more intelligent authors and scientists have written about, grain-based carbohydrates and sugar cause insulin resistance that leads to the divergence of calories into fat cells, and immobilization once there. Even on a reduced-calorie diet, if processed carbohydrates and sugar are still present, the body still suffers from the same scenario… except now it’s starving even more.

    The fact is that grain-based carbohydrates affect different people differently, and some people have a greater propensity than others to become sick and/or overweight when consuming them. But, no matter how our body responds to grain-based carbohydrates, it just makes sense to eliminate the stuff entirely, or at least minimize it; grains contain higher amounts of anti-nutrients, even after cooking and heating, and we’re all healthier with their removal or reduction from the diet. (There is absolutely no nutrient that grains can provide that you can’t get far more of from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.)

    Let’s stop the non-sense calorie counting, and start enjoying real, natural food, and live free of numbers!

    Motor Amnesia: Getting Down

    29 Oct

    My three-year-old niece has the physical skills that a lot of adults don’t. She knows how to get down. That is, she can drop to the ground, roll over, and then spring to her feet with the same effort that most adults take for a mere breath. I mean, she doesn’t just get down, she drops down kamikaze-style, making the grownups around her cringe as though she just shattered herself.

    She doesn’t hurt herself, of course, just simply entertaining herself. 1 CRAWLING MANThis basic activity — fundamental patterns of play — is something many adults have forgotten how to do. We all probably know adults who’d have difficulty easing themselves onto the ground without looking like awkward land mammals, much less rolling and then springing back onto their feet.

    I see adults spending hours in health clubs doing specialized exercises on fancy equipment (and that’s good), but most probably still can’t get on the ground comfortably, should they need to. Heaven forbid, but: what if there’s a fire in the building and you must get down and crawl? What if some lunatic opens fire in a shopping center parking lot? What if you just want to play with your 3-year-old niece?

    If you’ve been regularly intimate with the ground through exercise, play, or work, then I hope you keep it up (it’s a skill worth having for the rest of your life, if not for emergency then for fundamental fitness). But if you haven’t been getting on the ground and getting up regularly, then I encourage you to start now. Here are basic instructions to get going:

    PHASE ONE Just find a spot on the floor of your living room (with carpet or rug, of course, but try not to use a soft mat, if you can). Just get down on the ground on all four, and then maneuver back up. Keep your knees aligned with your feet as best as you can (don’t let your knees twist from side to side). Other than knee alignment, use whatever means you want in order to stand all the way back up, and don’t worry about your overall technique — after all, your body is not dumb, so don’t let the fitness gurus and personal trainers tell you that you must demonstrate perfectbiomechanics for something as fundamental as getting up from the ground. When you’re comfortable with getting down and getting up, then you can repeat this action for repetitions — it doesn’t matter how many, just do as many as  you can. You’ll be limited by either muscular endurance, or by cardio-respiratory endurance, or both.

    PHASE TWO Now, when you’re on the ground, stretch out on your stomach. Then use your arms to push back up onto all four limbs, and then stand up like before. Again, when comfortable with the movement, repeat this for reps.

    PHASE THREE Next, inoculate your body to the ground further by rolling onto your back, then roll again onto your stomach, and then get up. Roll all the way to one direction for one full rep back onto your feet, then to the other for the next. Repeat this for reps, alternating the direction that you roll.

    Now, this may sound pretty easy for those who are fit and athletic, but I know there are a good number of us out there who don’t think in terms of getting on the ground as a part of our daily routine, and therefor this fundamental movement can be challenging, and a decent exercise. In fact, even for those who are fit and athletic, give this a try for high-speedrepetitions: do 20 (or even 30) in as little time as you can. You will find that this elevates heart rate and works your muscles in ways you’re not used to.

    1 crawl

    FIT, Highest Fundraising Team in NorCal Region for FGB IV

    14 Oct

    1 fgb4

    Thank you to all of you who participated and donated to our Fight Gone Bad IV event benefitting Prostate Cancer Research and the Wounded Warrior Project.

    Below is the congratulatory message from Scott Zagarino and team at the Sportsgrant Foundation. The congratulation extends to all of you!

    Congratulations! CrossFIT Los Altos was the highest fundraising team in the FGB IV NorCal region in the 26> division!  Your team has won the honor of hosting the NorCal REGIONAL CHAMPION Traveling Trophy until Fight Gone Bad in 2010.  Your team name and year you won will be engraved for posterity on the award! SWEET!

    Once you receive the Traveling Trophy, be prepared to take good care of it!  It will go to FGB’s NorCal Regional Champion year after year, so we’re trusting you to keep it clean and displayed in a safe place.

    Next year, we’ll send you a box with pre-paid shipping so you can return it to us and we can award it to FGB 2010’s NorCal Regional Champion.

    The Traveling Trophy will be delivered in 7-8 weeks to the address supplied during registration.  Please let us know if you would like us to ship to a different address.

    On behalf of Athletes for a Cure, the Wounded Warrior Project, the men and their families fighting prostate cancer and our country’s injured servicemen and women, we thank you for your dedication and support of Fight Gone Bad IV.  We are truly honored to be among your company.


    Scott Zagarino, Greta Rose Zagarino, Bobbi Settje, Julie Wilson
    Sportsgrants Foundation