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The REAL SECRETS To Losing Weight & Feeling Great (Without Counting Calories)

Which Diet Is The Best For Losing Weight & Feeling Great?

VEGAN? KETO? PALEO? WHICH DIET IS THE BEST?🤔🤔🤔

I’m sure at some point you’ve heard that at least one of the above will get you sexy, cure your nearsightedness and all while making you feel like a million bucks.

Oh, and you can also eat as much as you want on that diet and still lose weight…

So which one is really the best?

According to research: none of them. Or, all of them. It depends on how you want to look at it. Some research gives a slight edge to vegan, other research gives a slight edge to keto. Even more research shows they’re all about the same. It depends on which markers of health you want to look at.

I’m going to lay it all out for you: the five secrets you need to know if you want to finally lose weight and feel great.  They’re organized, starting with the most fundamental at the base (every house is built on a good foundation), and working up to less important in the image below, which I like to call the “hierarchy of nutrition”.

Here’s the rub:  none of these “secrets” are actually secrets.  They’re not sexy, and you’ve probably heard all or most of them before.

When it comes to getting (or staying) lean, strong and healthy, one “ring” rules them all:

ENERGY BALANCE

When you look at the research as a whole, the message seems to be pretty clear; at the end of the day, calories are king.  However you want to manage them, as long as you’re eating at a deficit (eating less energy, or calories, than you’re burning) you’ll lose weight.

This is good news because it means you can eat whichever menu appeals to YOU most, without all the hand wringing and guilt about whether or not you’re eating carbs or animal products.

A calorie is not exactly a calorie; 100 calories of broccoli is not the same as 100 calories of sugar or steak, and age, hormonal status, and activity level will all affect how food impacts you, but as long as you’re focusing on WHOLE FOODS, you’re pretty much good to go. 

A recent study showed that when people eat highly processed foods, they ate more of them each day, even when those foods were “healthy” options like yogurt or granola. Just cutting out processed foods from your diet will go a long way towards getting you back into energy balance for general health and wellness without counting calories.

If your goals are a little more ambitious, like single digit body fat, then calorie counting is going to become more of a thing, but for regular people who just want to maintain healthy body weight, practice eating whole foods, slowly and mindfully and try to stop when you feel 80% full.

MACRONUTRIENTS

Once you’ve gotten the hang of getting into energy balance, or into a deficit if weight loss is your goal, then you can look at getting your macros on point.

Start with meeting your protein goals first. 

Multiple peer reviewed studies have shown that focusing on getting at least ~1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight leads to better body compositions. (i.e. more muscle, less fat).

How do you know how much 1.6g per kilo looks like? Start by using your hands: for most women eating one serving of lean protein about the size and thickness of your palm at each meal will get you in the ballpark. For men, double it (two palms). This is just a place to start. If you’re very active, or very muscular, you may need more. Very few should ever eat less.

After you’ve met your protein goal, you can look at carbs and fats. Neither one is evil, but TOO MUCH of BOTH in your system at the same time can be a problem. (Go back to energy balance, if you’re in a deficit, it’s probably not an issue, but if you’re eating at maintenance or a little above, things can start getting ugly.)

Fat is like diesel, while carbohydrate (glucose specifically) is like gasoline. The body is flexible and can run on either, but you don’t want a bunch of both types of fuel floating around in your blood together.

The body will burn glucose FIRST, so while you’re busy using up all your blood sugar, the fat (triglycerides) starts accumulating in places we don’t want.

This, by and large, is the biggest problem with processed foods; they tend to be very high in calories (energy) from both fats AND refined carbohydrates at the same time, which makes them super tasty, which makes us eat too much…

This is why, regardless of whether you prefer high carb or low carb, vegan, etc. you should focus on eating a whole food diet. Whole foods tend to generally be pretty balanced unless you’re adding a whole bunch of butter to your rice, or vice versa. 

MICRONUTRIENTS

For fat loss alone, micronutrients are less of an issue. Several research studies have shown that you can lose weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure eating nothing but junk food as long as you’re in a calorie deficit (the so called 7-11 diet), but (and this is a very BIG Kardashian butt),  long term it’s not a good strategy for health and wellness.

Everything (including fat loss) just works better when you’re eating a diet high in micronutrients like omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.  

Once again, as long as you’re focusing on whole foods first, vegetables in particular, you should be good to go.  For long term maintenance of the body, we need to get our micros in to build new cells properly and stay in good health. #focusonwholefoods

SUPPLEMENTS

Although it’s technically optional, once your humming along nicely with regular meal prep of whole foods, pretty much everyone can benefit from SOME supplementation to optimize our nutrition. 

A few words of caution here: 

  • supplements are not substitutes
  • and do your homework! 

The supplement industry is not currently regulated by the FDA (both good and bad), so many supplements are “dirty” and may be contaminated with either anabolic or banned substances, or toxic metals like lead, and have little to none of the actual ingredients you want.

With that being said, even a good whole foods diet can have some blind spots (we’re all prone to eating the same foods over and over again or avoiding foods we don’t like). 

The modern food system has interrupted our ancestral eating patterns and many genetic polymorphisms exist that interfere with how we deal with micronutrients, and even the very best vegan diet will be deficient in compounds that can ONLY be found in animal products. 

I will deal with a more detailed supplement strategy in a future post, but pretty much everyone can benefit from supplementing with vitamin D3, B12, and omega-3s for a good start. #supplementsarenotsubstitutes

MEAL TIMING

While everyone can benefit from some period of daily fasting for at least 12 hours, if you still had coffee and a danish for breakfast, a fast food burger with fries for lunch, and a pint of ice cream after dinner, you don’t need to worry about making sure you get that protein shake after your workout. Go back and focus on the base of the pyramid.  

Get your energy balance right, and take care of your macros and micros by eating a whole food diet, and supplement where needed.

Once you’ve mastered the skills of preparing nutrient dense, whole foods every day, you can start looking at meal timing to take your health and body composition a little further towards an ambitious goal.

Some research shows that eating most of your calories early in the day seems to be better for us, or targeting most of your carbohydrate intake for the day around your workout times can help edge you closer to elite levels of leanness or performance.  Most people will never need to worry about this, unless your sleep is disrupted, in which case shifting to early eating might help to improve your sleep. 

Many coaches might place meal timing ahead of supplementation, but in my opinion, the average person is going to get a lot more mileage out of a good fish oil/vitamin D3, or B vitamin supplement than they will time restricted eating (although many people find TRE a great option to get into energy balance without counting calories).  Additionally, I find it hard to meet my protein goal if I’m reducing my eating window too much.

So that’s it, that’s everything you need to know about eating to lose weight and stay healthy. To summarize

  • Calories are king.  Eat slowly and stop when 80% full. You’ll eat less without counting calories.
  • Prioritize protein.  You’ll thank me.
  • Focus on whole foods to help eat less without counting calories and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.
  • Supplement wisely, but not in lieu of real food.
  • Fast for at least 12 hours per day if possible and eat the bulk of your food early in the day. Avoid eating too close to bedtime.

Yes, these “secrets” are all pretty simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.

If you need help eating better, improving your health, and getting the body you really want, consider joining our coaching program and get the support, guidance, and accountability you need.

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Who Should (& Shouldn’t) Watch ‘Fasting’ on Amazon Video…

Screenshot-2018-03-29-at-10.54.21-PM

I recently watched the documentary “Fasting”, available on Amazon Video (free if you’re a Prime member).

In their recent debate on the Joe Rogan podcast, virtually one of the only things guests Chris Kresser and Joel Khan, MD agreed on was the benefit of fasting to the overall health and wellness of nearly everyone on the planet.

If you haven’t been following the news regarding fasting in recent years, here’s just a few of the health benefits you might see:[1]

  • better blood sugar / insulin sensitivity
  • reduced blood pressure
  • reduced cholesterol
  • less body fat
  • improved cognitive performance
  • possibly lower rates of all cancers
  • reversal of diabetes

There’s been additional research that shows the power of fasting extends to improving outcomes from chemotherapy if you’re undergoing treatment for cancer. It appears that a 72 hour fast in advance of treatment, strengthens healthy cells, yet pushes cancer cells closer to cell death.[2]


Thrive Market

Much of the benefit of fasting appears to revolve exactly around this increase in apoptosis and autophogy (cell death, and breakdown / recycling of junk or damaged proteins in the body).

In a fat loss / weight management application, I find that fasting two days a week is the easiest, most sustainable way to create a caloric deficit for the week.

Coming from a martial arts background, I also find immense spiritual benefit from fasting. Similar to the Japanese practices of shugyo, which involve meditation, time in nature, cold water immersion, fasting, other hardships to discipline the mind and purify the body.

This was one of the big stumbling points in the film for me. Instead of talking to members of various faiths, and their practice of fasting, the film focuses solely on the Mormon church, and two of their representatives. Fine if you’re Mormon, but maybe not so much for everyone else who don’t identify with the Mormon faith.

The film brings together some of today’s most vocal research scientists and health care providers like Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Satchin Panda and Valter Longo.

As much as I am a proponent of regular fasting, I have to say that overall I was disappointed with this piece. It was high on production value, and low on substance.

With the exception of the well known doctors mentioned previously, in the end, you never really know whether or not anyone on screen is a paid actor, which, in my opinion greatly reduced the impact of their testimonies. Is this person for real, or is this a paid testimony?

If you’re completely unfamiliar with the practice of fasting, and some of it’s benefits, then this could be a good entryway for you, but if you’re already familiar with fasting at all, this film would largely be a waste of time, unless you’re looking for something to tickle your confirmation bias.


I think overall, the piece does the most disservice to those at risk, or with a history of, eating disorders.

Fasting, at it’s heart is simply a practice of restriction and control; the hallmarks of anorexia and bulimia.

Although they did have a lone dissenting opinion, they instead follow two individuals who claim that the practice of fasting has instead, helped them overcome their eating disorders.

The cycle of “binge and restrict” is also common among overweight individuals accustomed to yo-yo dieting and those who tend to stress eat, etc. (often referred to as “disordered eating”), and these people would be far better served by first developing a more healthy relationship with food and eating, before any kind regular fasting. Like most ardent proponents of any method though, the messengers are over zealous in their delivery of the message.

If you’re interested in something more substantial, I’d recommend you instead spend the time watching the interviews Dr. Rhonda Patrick has done with all three of the previously mentioned doctors, on her podcast Found My Fitness.

Inner Strength Gym IS Complete coaching for MIND & BODY
● Nutrition ● Mindfulness ● Martial Arts ●
Staying strong over 40. Check out our coaching programs for men, or women and find your inner power!

Classes held in Tempe, AZ and workshops worldwide.

References

  1. Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan
    Author links open overlay panelValter D.Longo12SatchidanandaPanda3
    Show more
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001
  2. Safety and feasibility of fasting in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy
    Tanya B. Dorff, Susan Groshen, Agustin Garcia, Manali Shah, Denice Tsao-Wei, Huyen Pham, Chia-Wei Cheng, Sebastian Brandhorst, Pinchas Cohen, Min Wei, Valter LongoEmail author and David I. QuinnEmail author
    BMC Cancer201616:360
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-016-2370-6
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The Epigenome, Qigong & The Fountain of Youth

Qigong Image - Classes held in Tempe, AZ

Qigong Image - Classes held in Tempe, AZ
Most Chinese martial arts, like the one I train and teach (I Liq Chuan) include some kind of qigong 氣功 practice.

The word qi (pronounced chee), is made up of two parts: the character for rice, and steam. The idea being the intrinsic energy that is in the breath (and food). Gong, in this case, means exercises, so qigong means something like “breathing exercises” (although movements that coordinate with the breath are also usually included).

For centuries, the old masters practiced various qigong methods to strengthen their bodies, improve their health and extend their lives.

Today, scientists are using technology to understand how these ancient practices work; the epigenome!

The epigenome is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells. That means that we’re not (entirely) victims of our DNA, doomed to whatever fate they have in store for us. Outside factors, like diet and lifestyle, can have a massive impact on how the switch gets flipped in certain genes.

Think of the genome (DNA) like a car, and the epigenome like the driver.  Both work together. You can’t change what kind of car you inherit from your parents, but you can steer the car in different directions, or whether or not it even gets started and taken out of the driveway to begin with.

So, back to qigong; a 2005 study by Li et. al. showed that regular practice can turn on genes that fight inflammation and help us stay young!

Remember that scientists are linking systemic inflammation to cardio vascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, so it really does look like practicing things like meditation and qigong and tai chi, have very real, observable effects on our health and well-being.

Although the study was small (N:12), it’s a very exciting start to providing real, scientific evidence of the benefits of qigong, tai chi and other mind body interventions in human health.

There are five different major types of white blood cells. Neutriphils being the most plentiful, on average making up half to two thirds of your white blood cells, lead the assault in the body’s immune system response.

The study showed that practicing qigong can increase the lifespan of these cells, while pro-inflammatory neutraphils died earlier through increased apoptosis (basically cell death and recycling). Researchers currently suspect that when damaged cells don’t die off in a timely manner, they may play a role in the formation of cancer. So while it’s too early to tell for sure, that means that practicing qigong, tai chi, or other mind body interventions can possibly help prevent cancer from ever getting started to begin with!

Qigong is also a great tool for managing stress which is a key factor in helping to maintain a healthy weight, recovering from exercise and performing your best; which is why it’s a key factor in our coaching program here at Inner Strength Gym.

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How To Get Started With Walking Meditation [VIDEO]

Here is a quick tutorial video I put together on walking meditation for a fellow Precision Nutrition coach who was having trouble getting started with a mindfulness of the body kind of practice. If you have trouble hearing the audio, make sure you click the gear icon and select the captions!

A post shared by Ashe Higgs (@luoyegongfu) on

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Nutrition Tip – Make A Super Shake

It can be tough to eat all high quality meals, all the time, especially when you’re in a hurry.  One solution is to make yourself what Precision Nutrition coaches like myself like to call “Super Shakes”.

The Super Shake is packed with good stuff like high-quality protein, fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and more.

You generally want to build your shake with the following guidelines in mind:

  1. One to two “thumbs” worth of fat
  2. protein source (like silky tofu or powered protein)
  3. greens, or powder greens supplement
  4. frozen berries or fruit for some carbs / micronutrients
  5. water to make it a drinkable consistency.
  6. optional “topper” like yogurt

This is my recipe:

My favorite ingredients for a high quality, nutritious and time saving meal replacement! Great for losing weight and building muscle!
My favorite ingredients for a high quality, nutritious and time saving meal replacement!

1) I like the Fage brand geek yogurt. I go for the fat free version because of my gall bladder (I need to try to keep my fat low because gall bladder disease runs in my family 😥)

2) again, I have to keep my fat portion lower, so I go for just 1 “thumb” of fat here. Walnuts & macadamia nuts are great choices for fat. Another great product I found recently was Nutzo at Costco (you can buy it on Amazon as well but it’s more expensive). It’s a mix of higher end nuts and flax and chia, so it’s really high in omega-3s. I originally tried it out as a substitute for peanut butter because I can’t digest peanuts anymore (damn you gall bladder!). Avocado would also be a good choice to add fat and fiber to your super shake.

3) frozen mixed berries. Whatever you like. Frozen berries are way more cost effective than fresh and you don’t have to worry about the mold! Costco to the rescue again!

4) greens, or powdered greens supplement. One I REALLY like is “earth grown nutrients” by Onnit. One of the few greens supplements I’ve tried where you really notice an immediate lift in your sense of wellness.

5) vanilla protein powder. My brand is True Nutrition. Super high quality, very affordable. I use the micellar casein for the slow digesting quality with a boost of enzymes, essential amino acids and collegen. (You can customize your own blend, use the code luoyegongfu at checkout to save 5%)

6) water to mix. I’m currently making good use of Rudy’s gift of Sedona, Arizona spring water!
(Note: if you live here in the Tempe, AZ area you can order to Sedona Spring water direct from one of my students.  Contact me here if you’re interested.)

Hopefully this helped give you some ideas for making the best meal replacement shake for men and women! If you’re looking to lose fat and get in shape in 2018, but don’t have a lot of time to cook, get a head start and learn how to make your own, wholesome, nutritious meal replacement shake and stick to your weight loss goals for the new year! Getting the right mix of micro and macro nutrients can help you lose weight and build muscle. You need to get the right nutrients in your body to help you recover from exercise, but finding the time to prepare and eat multiple healthy, whole food meals every day can be tough. These super shakes will help you meet your fitness goals and save you time!