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Friday, February 25, 2011

False Claims

In the fitness, diet and beauty industries, false claims are everywhere. Creams that get rid of cellulite or wrinkles, supplements that help you burn fat and exercise gizmos that can transform your physique from Homer Simpson's to Hercules'.

In most cases, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. For most of us, looking good and keeping fit and healthy takes some work. You can't smoke, drink, eat Cheetos, and lie around all day and expect to look and feel like a pro athlete.

Weeks ago I reviewed Gillian Michael's new DVD: Six Week Six Pack. It is a great video. Very challenging core exercises and some high intensity interval training. It is fun and a nice change from the pilates I was doing beforehand.

Now, I did not start doing all this extra core training a few months ago to get six pack abs, I did it on the recommendation of my physiotherapist who thought it was key in helping to rehab my pelvic misalignment, which was supposed to help fix the pain in my hamstring. Nevertheless, I decided to do an experiment and see if this workout can really deliver what it promises.

Michaels vaguely mentions that you should work out 5 times a week (she doesn't specify what type of exercise or for how long, etc.) and eat a healthy diet. She also recommends doing the level 1 workout for the first 3 weeks and the level 2 workout for the next 3. I eat pretty healthy, I workout every day and I did level 1 and 2 together (the whole 60 minutes) once a week. Another day I have been teaching a core training class at Goodlife and trying to incorporate some of her exercises. Unfortunately, I was restricted by the ability level of the participants which is, lets just say, not advanced.

So, do I have a six pack????

Hardly.





As you can see, I don't even have a 2 pack. And I am still, as Adam likes to tease, completely "tubular". I have no hour glass shape to me.

So why didn't it work? The reality is, six pack abs are very difficult to achieve for most people. You need either good genetics and/or an extreme lifestyle. Although exercise is critical to good health - being skinny is no excuse to avoid it - weight control is more dependent on diet. Why? Because while it can take 5 minutes to inhale 500 calories, it can take over an hour of intense exercise to burn them off. So you can do all the core work you want, and even all the cardio you want, but if you are eating too many calories, you will likely have too much body fat to show your strong stomach muscles off.

Take, for example, the diet of female fitness models like those on the cover of Oxygen Magazine.



The typical diet of a fitness model is as follows:
Meal 1: 4 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 1/2 cup oatmeal (cooked), a piece of fruit
Meal 2: 4–5 oz lean meat, 1/2 cup brown rice (cooked), 1 cup veggies
Meal 3: Protein shake with 1 tbsp glutamine (postworkout)
Meal 4: Same as meal 2 (no brown rice)
Meal 5: 5 oz tilapia, 2 cups salad, 1 cup veggies, 3 oz sweet potato
Meal 6: 4 egg whites, 1 cup veggies.

Now I don't know about you, but personally I would last on a diet this restrictive for about 3 days before I would lose my mind. Just thinking about it makes me depressed.

So you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

So should you bother buying the DVD? If you want a stronger core, absolutely! Although core strength is not helping my rehab much, it is key for rehab of many injuries. It also improves your athletic performance - I have noticed I can push harder in my cardio and lift heavier with weights. Core strength improves your posture, decreases your chance of injury, improves your stability and balance and can help maintain mobility as you age. Just don't expect that doing this DVD alone will transform your body.

While exercise may not have as dramatic an effect on your appearance as diet, more and more research is finding that it makes a significant difference to your health, risk of chronic illness and life expectancy. So no matter what your weight status, fitness is important. Think about it, just being thin may be fine...until you fall and break your hip when you're 60!