the science of weight loss
If your health and fitness goal includes weight loss, you have probably heard, read or watched a lot of different opinions on what is the best way to achieve it. You have probably also struggled with knowing what information is reliable versus what is not. In order to see what the scientific community had to say on the topic I read some research reviews to determine what was the most effective way of losing weight.
The simplest answer is to create a caloric deficit by eating less. The most effective way of achieving this end is to eat a diet higher in protein. For a long time you have probably heard that high protein diets (think Paleo and Atkins) are effective for weight loss, and they are. Changing your diet around to include higher protein seems to be the most effective way to lose weight, but maintain muscle. You can also opt for meal replacement shakes to get your protein and vitamins in, but in a calorie restricted way. The last trick is to go to bed hungry if your goal is weight loss. A quick word of caution on low carb diets: initially restricting them can lead to weight loss, but long term restriction can lead to sensitivity and weight rebounding. After an initial decrease add some more complex carbs in (rice, sweet potatoe, bread, etc), but focus it in the morning and after a hard workout.
For a while the recommendation has been to focus on diet and do cardiovascular exercise in order to lose weight. While steady state exercise has its place, it is not the most effective way to lose weight. Once you start moving and get used to a routine, weight training is the most important for weight loss. And, not just any weight training, but heavier lifting with lower reps seems to build muscle and decrease fat mass. Doing whole body exercises 3 times a week for 2-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions is the scientific recommendation if the goal is weight reduction. Ironically, this is the same recommendation if the goal is strength development, as well. For the non-endurance athletes, choosing endurance exercises that incorporate circuit training or interval training is also effective to achieve weight reduction. Just make sure that you are working at a high intensity, the best results in the studies were obtained when exercise was performed this way.
If diet is effective alone and exercise is effective alone, then what about the combination of diet and exercise on weight reduction. This in fact, is the most effective way to reduce weight. By adopting a calorie restricted diet and increasing your strength or interval training exercise you will have the optimal scientific plan for weight reduction. For people that have achieved 10% weight loss and have managed to sustain that reduction, it was discovered that they ate a diet fewer in calories than other groups who could not sustain weight loss and that the diet was higher in protein and lower in fat. They also moved more throughout the day than their counterparts. Using a fitness app to track your calories and steps is an easy to see how active you are. Simply increasing the number of steps and stairs throughout the day will have a positive effect on your goal.
In order to lose weight and maintain that loss it is important to adopt a lifestyle that supports that goal.
American Dietetic Association. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Weight Management. Journal of the American Dietetic Association; February 2009 (109): 2
Clark, J. (2015). Diet, exercise or diet with exercise: comparing the effectiveness of treatment options for weight loss and changes in fitness for adults (18-65) who are overfat, or obese; systematic review and meta analysis. Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders (14): 31
Turocy, et. al. (2011). National Athletic Trainer’s Association Position Statement: Safe weight loss and maintenance practices in sport and exercise. Journal Athletic Training (46): 3
Wilson, P. (2016). Physical activity and dietary determinants of weight loss success in the general US population. American Journal of Public Health (106): 2
leadership in athletics
When I was doing my graduate degree in Sport Management, I wrote a paper for a Policy class that looked at what was effective leadership. I have been fascinated with organizational/team effectiveness and what sets the great ones apart from the mediocre ones. When I finished the class, I expanded on the paper and turned it into a white paper that examines the role of effective leadership on strategy. The research regarding leadership and the relationships surrounding them are intriguing. Even after reading the amount of studies that I did, I feel I only scratched the surface of the topic. Below is the white paper that looks at leadership in many forms and in many different circumstances.
injury prevention programs
if you are involved with youth sports and have seen many injuries being suffered by the participants, you should know that it doesn't have to be that way. We have had several studies examine the effectiveness of implementing an alternative warm up specifically geared to decrease injuries, and they have been successful. Now, a study out of Canada also points out that decreasing injury risk in sport saves money for the health care system, too.
Depending on the injury that an athlete suffers, the financial, physical and mental cost can add up quickly. In the event that an injury requires a surgical repair, the costs can skyrocket and the athlete may not return to participation. This lack of participation can have profound health effects if they suffer early joint pain, arthritis and inactivity that leads to chronic illness or obesity. Obviously, this is a worst case scenario and the majority of injuries are relatively minor and easily treatable. Still, the possibility does exist for long term impairment. This is especially true for ACL injuries, medial elbow injuries in baseball players and shoulder labral tears.
So, if there is a chance that some of these injuries an be decreased, we should take it. The good news is that while preventing all injuries is not possible, there are steps that can be taken to decrease certain ones. We know some of the global and more specific risk factors for suffering an injury. When athletes increase the intensity of their activity too quickly they are more likely to get injured. Having already sustained an injury makes you more likely to suffer a recurrent injury. Prior to puberty, boys and girls demonstrate similar movement patterns that changes after puberty. Part of this divergence may be contributing to the increase in injuries suffered by female athletes after this time. We also know that females are more likely to suffer ACL injuries and that following a specific exercise program can decrease that risk. Many studies have been conducted with soccer teams to determine the effectiveness of these programs. But, there is nothing specific about the exercises that make it special for soccer. The exercises are more global neuromuscular movements that if performed properly can improve movement quality, strength and performance metrics while decreasing the risk of injury.
Many programs are readily available for implementation, or there are community resources that are able to help. Finding and working with a qualified athletic trainer, physical therapist, strength coach, personal trainer or coach who understands the sport, common injuries and conditioning is a great place to start. They are able to find the research studies and programs available, demonstrate and instruct teams in how to perform the drills and be available to assess ongoing progress. Taking the time to learn a few specific movement based exercises and drills can improve movement quality and strength and lead to better, more conditioned athletes that are able to stay healthy throughout the year. With the ever increasing cost of health care and percentage of people with obesity, we need to do everything we can to keep people healthy and active from an early age. Incorporating injury prevention programs into a practice is a simple way to have a large impact.
I recently did the third talk in a series discussing the importance of strength training for women. Once again, this is a broad topic and there are many individual variables and needs that need to be addressed when putting a program together, but below is a general overview of the considerations.
There are no differences in muscle adaptation and function between men and women. The thought that women and men need to do different exercises is not accurate. Depending on the goal for exercise, the programs may be very similar. Since women produce less testosterone than men they do not gain as much muscle mass, but some women get bigger than others, just like some men get bigger than others. If you feel you are getting ‘too bulky’ limit the number of sets and do not work to muscular failure.
A larger percentage of women than men are also hypermobile, or very flexibile. This means that their joints have increased movement. While there are benefits to this in terms of flexibility, there are potential detriments like loss of stability and some hyperactive muscles overworking to provide that stability. Doing some strengthening exercises to help the muscles surrounding joints get stronger will naturally improve their stability. Improving the global muscle strength allows those hyperactive muscles to relax which can alleviate pain and tension.
Determining the exercises, set and repetition range is based on individual goals. For strength gains: perform repetitions between 6 and 15. For endurance: perform 15+. For Power: perform 1-5 at a high speed or with a max load. For weight loss: alternate lifting days with interval cardio days or circuit training. Intervals and circuits build muscle due to the intensity of the exercise and raise the metabolism throughout the day. Doing 45 min on a machine is less optimal than doing a total body lift, intervals or circuit training for weight loss or body composition. These long, slow cardio days are good for recovery after hard exercise, heart health and training for endurance events.
Strength training and weight bearing exercise slows the loss of bone with age. Peak bone mass is achieved in the 20’s and gets lower afterwards. Strength training improves posture, strength and bone density (but cannot restore what is lost (to a large degree). Strength training also improves posture and core strength which decreases the humped back look some people develop as they age. Strength and balance training can also reduce the risk of falls.
Women are a greater risk for sustaining certain injuries with activity (think ACL). Performing exercises that train the body how to move appropriately helps to decrease this risk. Strength training alone does not reduce risk, but getting stronger while using proper form can. If you are on a sports team and know the common injuries related to that sport, you can put an exercise plan in place to address that risk.
Sample whole body strength day done 2-3x/wk for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions
Stability ball curl
Sample interval workout done 2x/wk
5 min warm up. All out sprint for 30 seconds with 60 second recovery for 5 sets. 5 min cool down. Can be done using bodyweight exercises, sprints or cardio machines.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*