Good Idea, Wrong Approach

The lack of education about how our bodies work is astounding, but not surprising. However, after reading the articles today on how some experts are suggesting that equivalent exercise time should be added to food labels, my eyebrows are beginning to rise with suspicion.

Their idea is simple and noble. Put a number (say, 20 minutes) and a picture of an activity (let’s go jogging!) on the label of a food item. This easy to decipher image will tell the person that if they eat that food, it will take 20 minutes of jogging to get rid of the calories. In theory it sounds great. People can stay in shape by simply figuring out time required to burn off calories after eating different foods. In practice, I’m quite frankly confused how the proposal has made it this far since there are several scientifically crippling problems with it. I’ve listed a few below in no particular order.

Why can't someone ever say that they get 70.4 mpgm (miles per gallon of margaritas)?

Why can’t someone ever say that they get 70.4 mpgm (miles per gallon of margaritas)?

The Digestion Process. An example of this process and how it relates to exercise is to write down the serial number from a twenty dollar bill, and then deposit this bill at your bank. A few hours later, go back to the bank and withdraw twenty dollars. I guarantee that you are not getting the same bill back. Despite people who say things like “Candy bars go straight to my thighs so I’m going to go get on the Stairmaster”, your body doesn’t work that way either. You are not withdrawing the same calories you just deposited, even if it is the same total amount.

It takes at least 6 hours for food to be processed by the stomach and begin to move to the small intestine. The total digestion process can take up to 72 hours depending on the type of food, size of the meal and other variables. So it’s safe to say that eating a cookie and jumping on a treadmill is not going to eliminate the cookie from your body. In fact, it probably won’t even be fully processed into chyme yet. Not many people are going to save labels from 3 days ago to see what they ate when planning their trips to the gym. This alone eliminates a major reason to have the labels in the first place.

Food Mixing. The labels tend to suggest that you can pick foods to “work off”. Not only is this impossible, it does not make any sense if one considers digestion. I personally know people who will not eat certain foods if they touch certain other foods on their plates. Meanwhile, all those foods mix together in their stomach (I always wonder if they know this or just put it out of their minds). If you eat a 1000 calorie dinner and then have a 300 calorie dessert, you cannot selectively exercise off the dessert only. Given the fact that whatever you eat becomes mixed up with whatever else you’ve eaten, the plan for labels only works if a person eats one food item at a time. This is not very likely nor is it practical for most people.

Calories Are Energy. The idea that avoiding calories is how one stays in shape has created its own set of problems in our society. As a trainer, I’m constantly explaining to people that calories are not evil. If we don’t consume calories, we die. It’s as simple as that. To operate our body’s systems, we need a certain number of calories per day. And if you didn’t know, calories really don’t have anything directly to do with food. They’re simply a measure of the energy contained within food. I can easily measure food energy in joules, watts or even BTUs and nothing about the food itself would change.

Some of my clients have had problems with fatigue and getting run down easily. Once they took my advice and ate more food, those issues magically disappeared. But it shows how deep the fear of calories runs in some of us. They’d opted to be exhausted with the sniffles than eat an extra 500 calories per day. Calories are consumed to be utilized in keeping the body healthy, not burned off in fear. How is an exercise requirement label going to help eliminate that confusion? If anything, I predict it will cause even more anti-calorie rhetoric.

Weight Is A Useless Measure. Weight means nothing, unless you tell me what you’re weighing. Take a 6’6 300lb man at 15% body fat, a 5’7 120lb woman at 39% body fat and a 4’9 90lb kid at 21% body fat. Each of these people are going to look very different from each other and have varied dietary requirements. The reason is that a pound of muscle and a pound of fat have radically different densities and energy demands. The loss of 5 lbs of muscle will look very different than the loss of 5 lbs of fat.

Obesity and weight control have been mentioned as a reason for moving ahead with the labels. Nowhere was body fat mentioned at all. Body fat is the far more accurate indicator of certain conditions and diseases, not weight. Simply weighing 270 lbs does not automatically make a person obese, the same way weighing 110 lbs does not automatically mean one is in good health. A person who cuts calories and loses 10 pounds of muscle is actually worse off as their body fat percentage has gone up rather than down! Knowing what you’re weighing is the most important factor as it pertains to general fitness and appearance. I hope the labels address this as it would be a much needed departure from the weight-obsessed mindset in existence today.

Where’s The Resistance? I’m sure the labels are not in their finished state, but I did not see anything which indicated that resistance training could be used as a method of utilizing calories. Muscle consumes calories and muscle that is stimulated during a workout continues to consume those calories even after you stop exercising. With cardio, you effectively stop burning when you stop moving (not counting EPOC). To me, the lack of resistance training as a method of utilizing calories seems to indicate that people who actually exercise on a regular basis and those that study the human body in depth were not consulted (or their suggestions were unfortunately disregarded).

Didn't we go over that earlier?

Didn’t we go over that earlier?

Since I loathe when people complain without offering solutions, I have a few that may help the creators of this labeling system. I’ll list them below:

Caloric Density. Showing caloric density, which is the number of calories per unit of weight, is a much better indicator of how filling a food will be. This can help those who both need to increase their calorie count (runners, physically active people, etc) and those who need to limit it (mobility limited individuals, sedentary workers, etc)

Nutritional Density. The amount of nutrients per unit of weight. This is important as it shows how healthy a food is.

Useful Calorie Ratio. The ratio of useful to “empty” calories contained within the food. Junk foods have far more empty than useful calories while healthier foods are at the other end of the spectrum.

While those are only three solutions, I could probably think of a few more over the next few days. And I’m sure that others out there may have other suggestions. I’d like to make it clear that the current nutritional labels are a complete mess and not the easiest to understand for many. Anything to simplify and clarify would be a welcome improvement. However, it should not be done without consideration for the actual factors that affect our bodies. Overall, anything we can do to help educate people about how their bodies work is more important than telling them to workout more or eat less. We are all different and that solutions that attempt to help based on a fictional ideal will never work well in the real world.

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Inspiration Or Information

Go through your phone right now. Look at your Instagram and Pinterest accounts. How many fitness related images are on there? Now tell me how many have actual information, form or technique advice on them?

Looking at a photo of someone who is in shape may motivate you to exercise. I won’t lie, when I first started exercising in high school, it was bodybuilders and pro wrestlers who’s bodies I wanted to emulate. Today, that same mentality is shared by millions who frequent social media sites scouring for inspirational pictures (I still refuse to use the word meme…my mouth doesn’t look right when I say it). At least I think that’s the intent, even though that’s the result we’re currently seeing.

Fast forwarding to today, the problem is not so much the inspiration, but the lack of information. I have seen an explosive increase in fitness enthusiasts over the last 13 years but the level of knowledge has (anecdotally and observationally) remained somewhat flat. Why is it that with so much interest in fitness there are still people who don’t know the basics? Why do I still see people rounding their backs on deadlifts? Why do I still have people telling me they have to stop eating because they feel fat? Why do I still see pulldowns performed with the bar a full 12 inches away from the chest? Are you telling me that all these thousands of photos haven’t helped people exercise any better? Dammit!

When I was looking at Serge Nubret, Dorian Yates, Triple H, and The Rock, I spent even more time looking at their workouts, their nutritional habits, proper lifting form and basic biology. In other words I had to learn what to do before I started doing it. It took a long time to get some things right and even today I am constantly fine-tuning, experimenting and documenting what works for me and my clients. Inspiration doesn’t give you that. At most it is the key that opens the door of possibilities.

At the risk of going too deep into psychology, a feeling is a trigger to get you to do something. When you look at an athlete or bikini model and feel good because you want to look the same way, great! Nothing wrong with that. However if you don’t take a few minutes and educate yourself on how they ended up looking that way, you’re going to waste your time at the gym. I think a few too many people assume that points are awarded just for going to the gym. Nah nah nah, it doesn’t work that way. Useful effort has to be exerted in order to exact the results you want.

What should you do? Don’t get rid of all your inspirphotos (see I made up a new word). Just search for more solid information on how to exercise properly and what movements are best suited for your goals. Modify workouts to fit your life, your abilities and skill level. Remember to be patient. A photograph is a snapshot in time that doesn’t show all the effort and hours that it took for a particular person to get to where they are at currently. It may take you the same time, more time or less time, but don’t expect it in two weeks.

Feelings (trigger) + knowledge (aiming) = results (target).

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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Education Vs Knowledge


But can you apply what you learned?

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The Takeaway Points:

  • Education’s value is determined by other people.
  • Knowledge’s value is determined by you.
  • Repeating something doesn’t mean you understand that something.
  • Facts go much better with application.
  • You don’t have to possess degrees, certifications and blue ribbons to have an opinion.
  • Your opinion will carry more weight if it is informed and researched.
  • Read often, verify and research even more often.
  • Following advice blindly means you’ll never see for yourself.
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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Training Vs Entertainment


Okay, maybe he found a way to combine fun with training.


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The Takeaway Points:

  • If you want fun, amusement parks are probably a better bet than the gym.
  • If you want results, gyms are probably a better bet than an amusement park.
  • Sometimes trainers need to remember that there are a lot of people who dislike exercise.
  • Fun is used when marketing workout programs to “keep you from getting bored”…as if you’d get bored with measurable changes every week.
  • Sometimes exercise is not enjoyable, but it works.
  • Avoid doing donuts in a parking lot when you have a trip to make.
  • Set small goals to keep your mind focused on why you’re sweating in the first place.
  • It’s up to you to figure out what you want.
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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Heat


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The Takeaway Points:

  • It’s summer, therefore it’s going to be hot…damn hot in select areas.
  • Animals adapt to weather and we’d do well to emulate them.
  • Nature does not care about your schedule, your routine, your goals, or your desires…Nature has no problem hurting you.
  • You aren’t Special Forces or a pro athlete (I don’t think any of them even know about this site) so don’t hold yourself to their standards of all-weather performance.
  • Insurance doesn’t cover stupidity (that’s why they hire claims adjusters).
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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Dealing With No-Shows


The waiting shouldn’t be the hardest part.

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The Takeaway Points:

  • This Whenevercast is intended for trainers (especially those new to the industry).
  • Always know the value of your time.
  • Always defend the value of your time.
  • Just because being a trainer can be an enjoyable occupation does not mean that you tolerate consistent inconsideratness (that’s a word now).
  • Explain yourself with grace and restraint.
  • Chances are they may not have even known the ramifications of their actions on your business.
  • If they persist, de-list.


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Liftlazy Whenevercast: You Can’t Burn It Off

not really

With due respect to whoever created this meme, we’d all be dead if the body operated in this manner. You can’t pick and choose what you burn off.

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The Takeaway Points:

  • Chris is trying to limit the length of his rants without much success.
  • Calories are necessary, or we’d all die.
  • You can’t pick and choose which calories you burn off once the food gets in your system.
  • Theoretically, you can burn all calories in your body…this is known as starvation and usually results in a visit from Sally Struthers and/or death.
  • Fat is simply how the body stores energy, much the same as a battery stores electricity.
  • Doing a hard workout 3 hrs after eating a slice of cake is not going to have the effect you want.


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Liftlazy Whenevercast: 347 Reasons Why Context Matters

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The Takeaway Points:

  • A “tip” only helps if you know what the hell is going on in the first place.
  • Slideshow lists are cute but often lack substance that you need to fully understand the subject matter.
  • Everything has a purpose and a place…sometimes neither one of those apply to you.
  • There are no rules, only suggestions of varying importance.
  • I will never tell you how to live your life, but I will make well-researched suggestions based on what you want out of life.
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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Are You Experienced

Franco didn't wake up one day with the ability to deadlift this. It took years of EXPERIENCE.

Franco didn’t wake up one day with the ability to deadlift this. It took years of EXPERIENCE.







Even professionals with experience run the risk of getting injured with certain activities.

Even professionals with EXPERIENCE run the risk of getting injured with certain activities.


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The Takeaway Points:

  • The more experience you have, the better your abilities and performance.
  • The only way to get experience is to do the thing that you want/need to do.
  • The best people in any sport, industry or art needed years of experience to get to where they are today.
  • What you see is a single movie frame from their life, not the entire film.
  • If you try to compare yourself to them, you’re going to be very disappointed.
  • A trainer in your corner is like adding years of experience instantly.
  • Terminator 2 is not a good movie to use as a reference with regards to this topic (although it did give me a chance to do my Arnold voice).
  • I totally got the title for this Whenevercast from the Jimi Hendrix album of the same name.
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Liftlazy Whenevercast: Highway Food


Hey, where are you guys going to eat?


Can we stop here?


Or I could hang out with the Fonz.











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The Takeaway Points:

  • Long trips don’t have to equal crappy food.
  • There are several alternatives to drive-thru fast food.
  • Your comfort depends on what type of foods you eat while driving.
  • If you’re really picky, bring your own food from home.
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