Friday, December 30, 2005

Stay Away From Heightmax!

As a professional strength and conditioning coach I am extremely wary of 99.99% of all dietary supplements that are on the market, and with good reason since most of claims attached to these panaceas are NOT backed up by real scientific proof of efficacy. As the head strength coach of a high school I am extremely sensitive to any of these products that are marketed towards kids.

A new “product” named Heightmax – the makers of which claim can help your child grow – represents a new low in the nutritional supplement industry.

I became aware of this supplement thanks to a satellite radio commercial, and visited their website to see how the marketers of this product would back up their claims.

As a reminder – or a heads up to anyone not already aware of this – makers and marketers of dietary supplements are NOT held to the same standards as the drug companies are. Dietary supplement makers DO NOT have to submit their products to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, and as a matter of fact all supplement advertisements contain a disclaimer that basically says the FDA has not evaluated the claims associated with the particular product advertised.

Here are a few problems with the Heightmax website:
1) There is no list of ingredients telling you just what this company wants you to give to your child. The most were told is that there are two Heightmax formulas, one is a “multi-vitamin and herbal supplement” and one is “an amino acid and mineral supplement.” Other than this, there are no details as to the formula.
2) There are no details with regards to the scientific studies that allegedly prove that this stuff works. We’re told that clinical studies have been done that indicate growth increases, but there are no details with regards to number of people in the study or any other hint as to the protocols used during these studies.
3) The first testimonial on the testimonial page is from the research scientist who is the developer of the Heightmax supplement and part owner of the company. Other testimonials are from a mother of three teenage children, a 17 year old and three 20-somethings.

I’m surprised that not only can a supplement be offered without any indication as to what the specific ingredients are, but that in turn people would buy such as supplement. When you consider that people would be giving this mystery supplement to their kids, this situation is even more surprising.

With regards to the lack of available details about the clinical studies that allegedly prove that Heightmax works, without knowing the specific protocols of how these studies were conducted, there is no way for a consumer to properly evaluate this – or any – supplement. As a matter of fact, consumers should be very wary of any supplement that offers innocuous statements in place of facts and details with regards to ingredients and “scientific” or “clinical” studies.

Anecdotal evidence is nice, but never can take the place of science. And the anecdotal evidence – put forth in the form of testimonials – on the Heightmax website is hardly impressive anyway. A mother of three teenagers says that her kids have all grown faster since taking the supplement. So what. This statement is meaningless, as there’s no standard way that kids grow so there’s no way that anyone can know that a kid is somehow growing “faster.”

A 17 year old has grown an inch in 3 months? Is this somehow news? As someone who has been working with kids for over 20 years, my anecdotal evidence is that I have seen kids grow TWICE as much over a three-month period, all without taking some mystery supplement.

And as a 20-something, I grew over an inch and went from just under 5’ 11’ to just over 6’ 0” without taking any supplements whatsoever.

The message is that you should always be suspicious when a supplement marketer or manufacturer doesn’t provide the necessary details with respect to the ingredients and "science" of their product. And when your kids are involved this suspicion should become the signal to stay away.

In my professional opinion, stay away from Heightmax

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Don't Waste Your Money On Diet Books.

Has anyone checked out the top-selling diet books lately? A quick look at’s top diet books illustrates just how horribly confused the general public has become, and what many “experts” are willing to do to make a buck.

Buzzwords and gimmicktry rule the day…”The Three Hour Diet,” “The Abs Diet,” “Fast and Healthy Weight Loss,” and “Lose The Fat, The Wrinkles and The Years,” are the words and phrases contained in the books on Amazon’s top-selling “Diet and Weight Loss “ home page. Depressing.

I am going to appeal to your common sense and your pocket book, and give you for free all that you need to know about what, and how, you should eat. Don’t think in the short term like “three hours” or “six-days” but in long terms like “everyday” and “always.”

The “calories in/calories out” formula is the secret to weight loss and maintenance. This formula means that if you want to lose weight you must take in fewer calories than you use. That’s it.

The food, when you eat it, or the combinations of foods that you eat during the day doesn’t matter. If you need 2000 calories a day to maintain your weight but you eat 1900 calories of in a day you will lose weight. And if you eat 2100 calories a day, you will gain weight.

This is how simple “dieting” should be.

To figure out how many calories you should eat in a day, apply an 18-calorie per pound of body weight formula to give you your daily intake. So a 150-pound person should get about 2700 calories per day. If you are an athlete or lead an extremely active lifestyle, you can add 100-200 calories per day to your total.

Approximately 60% of your total calories should come from carbohydrates, 20% of your total calories from protein and 20% of your total calories from fats. Stay away from refined sugar, fatty proteins and saturated fats. Stay away from fast food and processed food. A great rule is to avoid foods that come in wrappers and foil bags.

People who have good eating habits are successful in their quest to lose or maintain weight.

The best habit to develop is to eat three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner - seven days per week, for a total of 21 meals during the week.

Eat your breakfast within the first hour after you get out of bed. Have a snack during the mid-morning hours. Eat lunch a couple of hours after your snack. Have a snack during the mid-afternoon “lull” hours. Eat your dinner a couple of hours after your mid-afternoon snack.

There really are no valid reasons for not eating a good breakfast and lunch every day. Sure people have their reasons, but they aren’t valid reasons. Eat a good breakfast everyday and give yourself one splurge lunch per week.

When it comes to dinner I suggest that you eat five good dinners per week and leave the other two dinners for splurging. You deserve two dinners of your choice as a reward for being good all week.

Following this plan gives you 18 good meals out of your weekly total of 21 meals – that’s an 85% “good eating” score. In your daily life, if you’re right 85% of the time that’s pretty darn good. The longer you stick with this program the harder it is to eat poorly, since your body is going to be overwhelmed by good stuff and won’t tolerate the bad stuff. I promise.

And if you’re honest with yourself you know what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” The guidelines for you to balance your meals are provided above – 60/20/20 – as are the caloric guidelines.

Get in the habit of having some healthy “all-purpose” foods handy - like Clif Bars, Luna Bars, fruits and a variety of nuts – to use as snacks.

By the way, people who think fruits should be avoided are crazy!

Having someone tell you what and when to eat just provides a built in excuse for failure. Writing out a contract with yourself, or trying to figure out why you eat is a waste of time. If you can’t learn to have portion control and if you don’t know that fast food is bad there isn’t a diet in the world that will work for you.

This isn’t too earth shattering, is it? How silly is it that people spend their hard earned money on books that makes the simple act of eating properly so complicated?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kettlebell + Hard Work = The Best Workout Possible.

Warning! Russian Kettlebells are not for the uninitiated or those of weak minds and bodies. Russian Kettlebells are hardcore, hardwork training tools that will help to reshape your physique and rev up your metabolism.

A kettlebell is a cast iron weights that looks like a cannon ball with a handle. Known as a “girya,” kettlebells have been a traditional Russian tool for extreme all-around fitness since the beginning of the 1700’s.

In this century, Russian Master of Sport Pavel Tsatsouline has been the number one proponent of bringing this old school method of training back to the masses. Another great read is Pavel’s “purposely primitive” approach to strength training as detailed in his book “Power to the People: Russian Strength Secrets for Every American.”

Back to the kettlebells. The giryas come in all sizes big and small, starting with a 4kg (9 lb/.25 poods) cutie and going all the way up to a 40kg (88 lb/2.5 poods) behemoth.

Despite the abject failure of the United States Government to force the metric system down our throats during the 1970’s, everyone is pretty familiar with the measure of weight known as the “kilogram.” The “pood,” however, is a less-familiar unit of weight that relates to about 16 kgs/35 lbs per pood. This one pood girya is a good starting point for those men and women who have a serious base in strength and power training.

The benefits of kettlebell trainings are many. Training according to Pavel’s diktat can help push you to higher levels of all-around fitness and make you more capable; ramp up your metabolism without the bother of the time-wasting pursuits of diet and aerobics; increase endurance; and develop a killer combination of strength-with-flexibility. All this, plus train your body in a functional manner with the most portable heavy-duty equipment available.

My staff has been working with the 12 kg (26 lb/.75 poods) and the 16 kg (35lb/1 pood) kettlebells since August of 2004 and love them. The giryas offer a great change of pace and break up the monotony of a regular training regime. We have also sprung some kettlebell work on our unsuspecting clients, and they have given us a ton of positive feedback regarding the kettlebell sessions and their aftermath.

With kettlebell training you can do everything from swing the girya with two hands up over your head to performing hang cleans and snatches. You can squat with them, military press them, throw them and any thing else that you can think of. There’s no limit to what you can do with a girya. However, you must have an open mind and a commitment to hard work to get the most out of this style of training.

And if you are a golfer, I guarantee that if used properly, training with a kettlebell will add more distance to your drives than any other method of training.

Despite the assertion in the kettlebell advertising that people can just jump right in to this kind of training, I do not feel that the kettlebell techniques can be learned in one or two sessions, and/or that intense training can begin during the first or second week. Unless of course a person wants to experience an injury, that is.

So here’s what we recommend, especially for beginners.

Purchase a 2 lb Power Grip Ball ( and the 12 kg kettlebell along with Pavel’s instructional DVD/VHS “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge.

The Power Grip Ball - at 2 pounds or so – is a key purchase as it will allow you to perform the lifts demonstrated on Pavel’s DVD with a high degree of safety. And you will also be able to practice inside. Think about it, do you want to be swinging a 26-pound ball around your house or gym? When you drop the girya, and you will drop it when you are first learning how to swing, you want to make sure that you don’t break or kill anything or anyone.

From a production standpoint the instructional DVD is very bare bones, but then the atmosphere matches the very no-nonsense tone of this style of training. Pavel’s dead-panned, instructions are almost funny but this style doesn’t get in the way of the serious business of learning the kettlebell movements.

Pavel’s approach is a welcome relief from the usual hyperventilating that seems to accompany the selling of anything fitness related.

Just keep it simple and limit your purchase to one girya and the DVD/VHS.

Let me know how your kettlebell experience is!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Guru?!? You Don't Need No Steeking Guru!

A “guru” can be described as a spiritual leader or teacher, a sage, a counselor, an expert, an authority or a leading light. Common to most definitions of the word is the concept that a “guru” is an expert and a resource for info in their respective field. There’s no definition that mentions people following a guru’s words lockstep.

The fitness biz has always provided fertile grounds for growing and cultivating gurus and guru-ees. Today there are more fitness gurus than you can shake a power bar at.

Some gurus are self-appointed, and others are anointed as gurus by adoring and appreciative followers. We guess you can paraphrase and say that “some people are gurus, and others have guru-ness thrust upon them.”

Personal trainers - god that title has become a negative - have taken the place of the bartenders and hairdressers as confidants for a lot of people. “Tom the Trainer” now gets all the good personal dish in between sets at the gym. We hear everything. Women tell us how old they are, how much they weigh and what they don’t like about their bodies. Men aren’t as secretive about their vital stats, but they have as many frailties and weaknesses regarding their bodies as women.

And for entrusting “us” with so much personal knowledge, too many of “us” repay too many of “you” for this display of honesty and trust by trying to sell you every gimmick and diet book and supplement nonsense imaginable. That’s the thanks you get.

The fortune seekers that dominate the world of health and fitness have violated the spirit of the guru – in the classic sense – and have turned this noble pursuit into a money grab.

I want to go on the record here – I'm not, don’t want to be, and never will be a guru in the modern sense. Be wary of today’s gurus, be afraid of gurus, and stay away from anyone who has the goal of being a guru. If a friend has a guru and wants you to get “guru-ed,” run away at top speed. If you have a guru, de-guru yourself ASAFP. Get it?

You don’t need “us” to be your guru. And I have two words for clients who want me to be their guru, “Get out.”

The late Beatle John Lennon, in response to the massive amount of adulation he received, said something to the effect of, “I’m not your parents.” Personal trainers need to have this kind of attitude. Trainers should stop trying to create mind-numbed minions who eat every morsel and perform every rep and pop every supplement pill in a controlled, scripted manner.

Now maybe this makes me a bad businessman, but I feel that my job is to train you in an effective and efficient way, and to inform you and answer your questions so that you can better understand your body. I don’t want to sell you any gimmick or elixir. To tell someone, “this is the way,” is just plain wrong. And to misrepresent the facts regarding nutrition and exercise, intentionally or unintentionally, is unforgivable.

Your body is your temple. So you should learn to take care of it, because at the end of the day – and your life – you’re the only one that really matters.

Want to incur my wrath? Tell me about your guru.

Stop Getting Screwed by Health and Fitness Experts!

This blog will attempt to correct so much of the crap that has been put out there by so-called "fitness experts." This crap - in the form of gimmicktry and fraud - has resulted in people getting screwed out of a lot of their hard-earned money. Celebrity diet books and exercise programs, ridiculous equipment and ineffective supplements have cost too many people way too much money, time and effort.

What I want to do is to try to straighten out those who wish to be helped. I'm not here to try to convince the recidivist lay-about to try and change their ways. I'm not here to give you the easy answer. I'll give you a SIMPLE answer, but there is a difference between SIMPLE and EASY when it comes to taking care of yourself.

And by the way, over the years women are the victims of most of the health and fitness fraud that has been spit out into the media. I hope I can help to counter this constant flow of nonsense.

Over time I'll post stuff that I have written on a wide range of subjects from diet programs to exercise regimens, from supplementation to nutrition. But in the meantime, if there are any questions feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer as quickly as possible.

And also, since I'm such a huge sports fan, from time to time you will have to suffer through my bouts of sports analysis!