Friday, December 21, 2012

[Guest Article] Interview with Dr. Brian Wansink by Michael Volkin

Eat With Your Stomach, Not Your Brain – An Interview with Dr. Brian Wansink

I was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Brian Wansink, lead author to over 100 academic articles and books, including his best-seller Mindless Eating. Dr. Wansink spent a lifetime studying the reason for the decisions people make when they eat.  Whether you are someone who is interested in losing weight, or even a nutrition expert, you will find this interview interesting and eye-opening.

Sergeant Volkin: Your book mindless eating has opened many people’s eyes into what food they put in their mouth. Which of our senses provides the biggest biased on what foods we choose to eat?

Dr. Wansink: Well, all of our senses affect the way we eat but our eyes affect our eating decisions the most.  In one study involving chicken wings, a group of students were invited to an all-you-can-eat Buffalo Wing feast. The students were free to serve themselves from an open buffet of chicken wings and were able to go back for more during the game. There were bowls at each table to hold the wing bones. During the course of the game, waitresses collected the bowls and replaced them with empty bowls - but only at half of the tables. At the other tables, the bowls containing the finished wings were not picked up.  After the game, me and my team weighed the discarded bones from each table. The students who didn't have the leftover bones as a reminder of how much they had already eaten, ate more - an average of seven wings per person; versus five wings per person of the other group. Although a 2 wing difference (at 100 calories each) doesn’t sound like much; that translates to 200 additional calories per day which equals a weight gain of 20 pounds per year.

Sergeant Volkin: One of your findings suggests that nationality plays a role in our food psychology. For example, the French know they are done with their food when they feel full. When asking Chicago residents, your results show they are done when their plate is empty. Do you think this mindset is the reason for the obesity epidemic in America?

Dr. Wansink: There are many reasons for the obesity epidemic but that reason is only a very small part.  In my opinion, the greater contribution to the obesity epidemic in this country is the affordability and availability of food.

Sergeant Volkin: Let’s talk about children. Obviously marketing has got very sophisticated over the years and it is harder than ever to get kids to eat their fruit and vegetables. You did a study and found that by adding fruit to the end of a lunch line, it increases fruit sales 70%. Same with vegetables, you can increase sales 25% just by giving vegetables catchy names. So let’s use the example of a typical mom with a couple of children. This mom is cooking her children dinner, what can she do in her home to get her kids more excited about fruits and vegetables?

Dr. Wansink: It is estimated that 70% of all fruits and vegetables consumed in the home are consumed during dinner. However, only 23% of dinner meals served in the home have a vegetable or fruit option. So always be sure to serve a vegetables or fruit at dinner.  Another tip you can do to increase your child’s consumption of fruit and vegetables it to have a bowl of fruit or a vegetable tray within 2 feet of where your child will walk in the house.  This will give your child easy access to healthy finger food.

Sergeant Volkin: You’ve made the difficult transition of taking your research and applying it practically to school lunch rooms throughout the country. Can you tell me a bit about the initiatives you are undertaking and where my readers can go for more information?

Dr. Wansink: is my main website but is an initiative I have with schools across the country. In my new book that will be released in April called Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, I will introduce groundbreaking solutions for designing our most common spaces like schools, restaurants, grocery stores, home kitchens and more.

Sergeant Volkin: You have found that we all consume more food from big packages, whatever the product is. Is it safe to say you do not have a Costco or BJ’s Wholesale membership card? 

Dr. Wansink: I have actually been a member of a wholesale club for years. Just because you buy in bulk doesn’t mean you need to eat in bulk. Let’s say you buy a big bag of pretzels at one of these warehouse stores. I suggest portioning out the pretzels in baggies.  This method has proven to effectively reduce the amount of food you consume. Now let’s suppose you buy a bag of chips at one of these warehouse stores but the chips are already in individual bags.  My suggestion is to just take a few bags and put them in your pantry, then take the rest and store them in a place where you don’t normally store food (e.g. your garage or basement).  This method reduces the chance of you grabbing more bags than you want for a quick snack.

Sergeant Volkin: In a recent interview with the calorie lab you stated “Most of us don’t overeat because we’re hungry. We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.” For someone who hasn’t read your books or your dozens of articles and studies, what one tip can you give them as a takeaway to this interview that will help them instantly make smarter eating decisions?

Dr. Wansink: My tip is people need to be aware of mindless eating, not mindful eating.  There are many ways people make mistakes eating, from party binging to mindless snacking.  Be conscious of the way you eat then come up with one easy thing you can do to remedy that mistake.  Much of the time the correct action is just being conscious that you are making the mistake.

Sergeant Volkin: Dr. Wansink thank you so much for your time today and congratulations on the success of your books. I am looking forward to the release of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

Dr. Wansink: Thank you for your time and your service Sergeant Volkin

This interview was conducted by Sergeant Michael Volkin, best-selling author of military basic training books and inventor of Strength Stack 52, a unique way to transform bodyweight exercises into fun and competitive workouts.

[Guest Article] Moneyball Madness by Carl Valle

Moneyball Madness 
by Carl Valle

“IMA, Inertial Movement Analysis, will triple the amount of basketball relevant data... that kind of tool is going to make a real difference.”
-Catapult Sports

Data is now the new currency for medical and performance staff, and the real question is - are we really doing what we think we are?  As the social media landscape paints a distorted view of reality, the hard truth is where are we now before we ask where are we going. Like any honest reflection, it's better to look back years before Moneyball and ask if we are being truthful with what we are doing now first before adding more responsibility of training and medical data. Every week a new online article or interview of a sports team creates a facade of utopian training environments and medical staff that are brighter than Dr. Gregory House. If we are to truly evolve, the most important starting process is creating transparency with what is happening at this moment. Before we can start claiming to create proprietary metrics and innovative algorithms, are we doing a good job with the basics? With pop culture clamoring for kindle or iPad versions of the Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, we should likely be reading how the muscular system signals adaptation before thinking outside the box and being cute.  Global warming and predicting who the next president is going to be is brain candy for professionals, but we must master the core concepts of what we are responsible for directly before expanding to other fields for radical solutions.

Dr. House

I would argue the real problem with data is not the data itself, it's who is filtering the information and retelling the story of what is happening. It's far more interesting to talk about the left ventricle and hypertrophy with "cardiac" output rather than share the pains of soccer players having an allergy to iron and avoid the weight room.  Even if one was increasing thickness of the heart, how much is going to really change with a professional athlete that is 30 years old? Now that the GPS craze is a pandemic in the US with every team lined up to get a catapult system, how many of the teams are doing the basics well, such as making sure full range pull-ups are enforced, running through the line during conditioning runs, and doing warm-ups with a purpose? Of course all of us are not having problems with athletes eating poorly and not stretching with gusto, it's just the other teams that are not doing it right.

When the basics become boring, training must be reinvented or bastardized with new equipment and rather boarderline methods. Professional teams are buying 30,000  dollar force plates but for what reason? Half the time most teams are on the road and barely any of them are training besides foam rolling and clamshells exercises to activate glutes that sleepy . Speaking of shells, the professional has become a  shell game or gypsy ploy of equipment and methodologies to hide from the inconvenient truth with working with athletes. Sometimes they act human and don't do things we want them to do. Athletes are not race horses. Everyone is afraid of being the fall guy for injuries, teams are training like senior citizen "Sliver Sneakers" programs to avoid getting hurt. Yet most the injuries at the pro level are from being out of shape and weak from forgetting what got them there. Ironically several professional teams claim to have force plates to "crack the code" with movement patterns but injuries are not decreasing. The display of power by large purchases comes with the demands of keeping athletes healthy and performing, and looking at the physioroom updates online , hamstrings still get pulled.  No matter if the team is using  individualized thresholds with IBM smarter planet software or teams cracking the gode with special ratios of acceleration and deceleration during practice, people are still tearing ACLs.

Put the "Big Rocks" first - back to the basics

Much of the innovation is crippled now because every start-up company  wants the minimum viable product (MVP) to pitch funding to investors, not sell an actual product to teams looking for real tools and solutions. With coaches wanting to appear like they are doing something or ahead of the curve, they just "thin slice" a brief pilot study to create an illusion of evidence based approaches. Add in some nice data visualization practices and now everyone is getting subjective ratings, sleep data, and recovery profiles with their team. Of course this is only one week out of the year, as everything looses it's luster and the next big thing comes along.The real question is how much daily data teams are really getting that is meaningful. Random practices that are prepared for only tactical purposes collect heart rate data then summarize players with "technicolor dream coat " palettes with magical zones. The problem is that interventions should be good leg training, but somehow mutate to  TRX rows and breathing exercises versus finding more collaborative ways to work with team coaches so something is left to train the lower body. The only vocal complaints about products are the small minority  of people who train or collect data for extended time periods but are party poppers because they share the limits with the real world. With the next biomarker being tweeted by the gurus, the problem repeats with glorious failure, especially when players have season ending injuries making us wonder how the movement screen or core stability DVD is working.

Solving the problem with ornamental data is going to be hard and require widely adopted standards and a lot of transparency. What are people really doing objectively and is it working? Data can be exchanged for the word evidence, as numbers are not the only way to share what is going on. Video a practice session and the gut wrenching reality of so much being missed during the session is a reminder how much we need to do and can do as performance specialists. An overzealous team coach acting like a tyrant is the elephant in the room, as it forces strength coaches to play therapist, the the therapists play ER doctor. Yet nobody talks about it in a way that sounds like change will happen because job security is number one and this is understandable. Of course does it matter if an athlete's HRV is on a cartoony stoplight dashboard when the true problem is the athlete was out at the local night club during the playoffs?  Does it matter that the Apollo AMS system warned like a mayan prophet about the doom that could occur playing too many games a week when David Stern fines a team for resting players? Restgate!!!? Of course the short sided decision to sanction the Spurs was an example of doing the right thing doesn't fit the mindset of those that run the asylum of professional sports. What if the stars got hurt playing the Miami Heat?,  how would that help the next few games with tickets and TV ratings with Duncan and Parker out for 6-8 weeks?

If you want to kill the snake, make sure to cut the head first...

The first step is getting back to fundamentals and reading timeless texts on sport science and training theory. Reading about strength and conditioning or sports medicine? Too easy! Show me the next book on how the world is flat and everyone is an outlier.  It seems what is en vogue is reading a pop culture book that have very little to do what the core needs of coaching or medical demands of sport. The further away it is from our field, the more intelligent the blogger is to see the connections! Reading outside the box material does prevent inbreeding and I suggest it, but ironically everyone is reading the same book trying to appear creative or innovative but the act only exacerbates the issue of free thinking.  Many professionals are doing the same things because everyone is in the same ponzi scheme because of the all mighty dollar. Internet stardom is seductive and empowering, but being honest is not the best path to popularity. Classic works such as the Mechanics of Athletics from Dyson is 10 American dollars and have passed the test of time, but the new ebook on Quadratic Neuro Block Training is 49.99 (with bonuses for a limited time ) are pushed by every  website because of affiliate code back room deals all timed perfectly like a west coast offense.

Trendy vs. evergreen sources of info... 

The second step should be the first, admitting that a problem exists. I am guilty of the above and have had a hard time getting out of the intellectual brain candy and get back to the less exciting demands of doing attendance and setting up equipment before the athletes arrive, versus reading about parasympathetic balance and magic of fascia or manual therapy. It's hard to make sure athletes bring water bottles to practice or do exercises with passion versus letting things slide and hope one wins the talent lottery with next year's recruiting class or draft. It's not popular to do correct technique when the athlete doesn't care and have that  risky talk about the importance of training when nobody wants to be the bad guy. Most hope for a trade or final retirement of a diva because the athlete is producing and we all want to be popular with the athletes. While none of this is data management or analytics, any data coming from a bad culture or poor training environment is tainted and artificially cleaned up without the context of what is happening. It's not honest. It's convenient to list verticals because athletes are talented, but emotionally unsettling to know only 1 of 5 guys can squat to parallel with a decent load so we focus on the convenient and cherry picked positives.

The third step is likely to be boring and not enlightening , but the average coach is blinded by the obvious because of the glare of the glamorous. Getting player weight and body fat is tedious and not exciting, but after several high profile firings of team strength coaches we still have a problem there. The basics are not transparent. Attendance is a start, and basic fitness and power tests can measure simple adaptations or decay of abilities over time. No need for consulting the firms in the UK for the latest Athlete Management System when the data is similar to farming. Nobody stares at the pumpkin patch right after they water it, nor should people have that same approach to hypertrophy and other adaptations with training and rehabilitation. On the other hand many don't record anything of importance and use white boards like a cross fit WOD (workout of the day) yet claim random 8.8% gains in strength during NSCA conference powerpoint presentations?  I choose 5-8 key performance indicators before drilling down to more granular data points if needed.  Now the rise of big data from all the sensors and mobile devices is creating another fallacy that more is better and it's going to reveal the secrets of training.  With all of the sport sensors and video cameras collecting terabytes of data, it looks like we must hire experts in data warehousing to handle the "mounds of data" one is collecting during the season. I am wondering if we will see record boards of how much data we have next to the 400 pound bench club plaques.  Yet the problem Stephen Few has alluded to is not that we have too much data, it's the ability to distinguish what is the signal and noise.  With the New York Knicks having an extensive budget, internet pundits are collectively right with asking is this "Manhattan Lab" working with publicly reported injuries like three season ending knee injuries.  I don't follow the NBA closely enough to know the answer, but every claim of success should be reviewed with a fine toothed comb as it's always told by a biased voice. Even the best coaches are handcuffed to bad situations and can't fix problems that a good parent deals with on a daily basis.

The final step is having a elegant approach to data collecting and intervention strategies. I have the 4 S rule with sports data. Simple, Speed, Sexy,  and Sticky are the four basic needs that teams have with data. Simple is perhaps the hardest as most needs are complex, but adding complexity can spell doom. To stay simple without being too crude is very difficult as well, because convenience of simple sometimes will distill things too much and loose out on the precious baby in the bathwater. Speed is vital, as time is the only commodity we can't reproduce. With a finite and tight schedule, wasting time with extensive set-ups and cumbersome hardware and software. Speed means essential, not just velocity. Sexy sounds like unnecessary, but engaging athletes requires great style and design to sell the program. Athletes are not always fascinated with training or even naturally hardworking, so creative approaches of doing smart hard work is the core of what we do. Lousy User interfaces, bra like GPS shirts, dated wired technologies all create poor sex appeal to equipment as well as poor compliance. Collecting data from an athlete is very unnerving as nobody wants to be probed by aliens, never mind coaches, sport scientists, or medical professionals. It's always good to share what data you collected and come back to the athlete to have them involved. Collecting HRV is repetitive and boring, so education may not be enough to keep athletes inspired to be compliant and consistently getting morning wake data.  Getting cortisol from saliva is an experience that nobody wants to repeat unless it's a game changing process or very convincing to the athlete. Having them shove a large cotton tube in their mouth repeatedly is like eating saltine crackers in the desert, something I have experienced first hand and I am happy I am using smart shirts. Remember what it's like to be the athlete or end user. Finally sticky is sort of a combination of of the first three needs of collecting and analyzing data. Is it sustainable over time? The current dashboard or AMS system may be great to a neophyte, but the experienced coach knows that they need other less common demands like a solid API to passively collect data. What about the ability to have offline data when cellular coverage or wifi is unavailable or poor? It's amazing how teams worry about "military grade" security when iPads have no pin codes or when athletes are tweeting X-Rays after games! What are the real challenges? Hackers finding out FMS scores or reducing our dependance to pain killers?

The needs of technology today is to reduce unnecessary use of equipment and get to the heart of the matter. Working with people. Technology can be a simple as a good notebook and pen, or as advanced as a full wireless weight room with iPads and Gymaware units. It doesn't matter so long as the culture respects the process and buys into the program. Every year the same challenges of eating right and getting good sleep, showing up on time, and focusing on doing the tried and true is the biggest impact to getting athletes better.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Article: The Power of Mini Workouts

The Power of Mini Workouts
Written by Sergeant Michael Volkin (aka: The Volkinator)

A typical workout for an average person consists of about 30 minutes to 1 hour of lifting weights.  If exercises are performed incorrectly, the load on the muscles and stress on the joints of these repeated movements causes both short and long term damage to your body.  Most people continue to work out despite a known injury, aching back, or sore muscles because of the improved appearance of their physique as a result of the working out. However, over time, the improved appearance becomes harder to maintain and a “plateau” eventually occurs. A workout plateau is when someone continues to exercise and sees diminishing returns on the improvement of their physique.

Recently, several scientific studies* have been conducted which analyzes the optimal duration and intensity for a proper workout.  Some experts claim high intensity and fast workouts are the most beneficial, others claim slow meticulous movements with heavy loads is the easiest way to maintain a great physique and optimal health.

Mini workouts have proven to be extremely effective to both the health of the individual and improvement of the physique, yet often if the most underutilized form of working out. Three to five workouts a day varying in duration from 10-15 minutes provides a boost in the metabolic rate of an individual throughout the entire day.  Therefore, mini workouts are more effective at burning calories throughout the day rather than working out all in one block.  For proper nutrition, an individual will eat 3 meals a day; the same theory should be applied to working out.

A majority of fitness products largely overlook the scientific studies showing the effectiveness of a mini workout because people usually workout in one block hour.  This principle has been adopted not because of optimal health of the individual, but rather convenience.  Only a small percentage of people for very specific reasons (i.e. competitive bodybuilders) will show consistent gains working out in 1 hour blocks. 

The Test

Typically, I work out at the gym during my lunch hour with three other coworkers.  The three of us decided to give the concept of mini-workouts a try for 2 full months. Before we started, we recorded our weight, body fat percentage and body measurements. We purchased a fitness product called Strength Stack 52, which concept centers around bodyweight mini-workouts.  Instead of doing one 45 minute workout during our lunch hour, we met 15 minutes before and after work and 15 minutes during our lunch hour to complete mini workouts.  The three of us were still exercising 45 minutes per day and to keep the results as pure as possible, we did not change our eating habits or lift any weights. 

The Result

Each of us saw positive results at the end of the two months performing strictly bodyweight exercises in intervals of 15 minutes 3 times per day.  The three of us averaged 11 lbs. of weight loss with the highest of us losing 18 lbs. Keep in mind, that weight loss occurred with no change in our diet from already active people.  Each of us also experienced muscle gain, reducing our body fat percentage an average of 2.2%.  We all agree, the biggest benefit was our mental stamina and attitude. We all feel better throughout the day and our 2 o’clock “is the workday over yet?” feeling has gone away. 

Whether our success is a result of breaking a plateau or the result of the effectiveness of mini-workouts can’t be determined in just 2 months.  However, the reason doesn't matter.  The results speak for themselves and the mini workouts were fun.  Instead of looking forward to one large workout in a day, we looked forward to 3 intense and fun workouts in a day. 

Other benefits we experienced as a result of the mini-workouts included:
-Less muscle soreness
-less joint pain
-increased cardiovascular stamina
-more mental stamina and intensity per workout
-more calories burned per day


Although we experienced positive results testing the mini-workouts we all miss throwing a few dumbbells around. We have developed a hybrid program where we now do a mini-workout in the morning and start our lunch hour workout with a mini-workout.  After our second mini-workout (during the lunch hour) we perform a weight training program.

Experiencing the mini-workouts was an eye opening experience for us.  We all subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy and we now know that no part of that old adage is true. You can in fact gain muscle and lose weight performing small, fun and challenging workouts three times a day.  

This article was authored by Sergeant Michael Volkin, best-selling author and inventor of Strength Stack 52 bodyweight fitness cards.

*Literature Cited- Supporting studies/articles:

Journal of Applied Physiology: Long Duration or Short Burst Exercising – Deciding Which Is Best for Health and Fat Loss

Journal of Endurance: Should Athletes employ interventions to raise anabolic hormones (page 6, 2nd paragraph) challenging yourself is the only way to improve your fitness and increase energy levels, strength, stamina, endurance and athletic performance

IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Get fit, faster, with short-burst training

Little JP, et al. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. March 15, 2010 The Journal of Physiology, 588, 1011-1022.

The Journal of Physiology -A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms.

Anderssen SA, and Stromme SB. “Physical activity and health – recommendations.” Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. (2001) 121(71)2037–41. Print.

Dahl-Petersen I, and Eriksen L. “Physical exercise and type 2 diabetes: Is 3 x 10 minutes a day better than 30 minutes?” Ugeskr Laeger. (2009): 171(11):878-80. Print.

Jakicic JM, and Wing RR. “Prescribing exercise in multiple short bouts versus one continuous bout: effects on adherence, cardiorespiratory fitness, and weight loss in overweight women.” International Journal of 

Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. (1995): 19(12):893-901. Print.

Chmidt, W. Daniel, PhD, and Craig J. Biwer, MS.  “Effects of Long versus Short Bout Exercise on Fitness and Weight Loss in Overweight Females.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20.5 (2001): 494-501. Print.

Talanian JL, et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. J Appl Physiol 102: 1439-1447, 2007.

Trapp G, Chisholm DJ, Boutcher SH. Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 293: R2370R2375, 2007.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

F.A.Q. on Team Workouts design and some „news“

I have received couple of emails asking me about percentages on assistance lifts based on core lifts (i.e. split squat 1RM is around 50% of back squat 1RM). I decided to post the answer on my blog instead of responding to each email separately (and you will soon read why).

The answer is: I have used Dan Baker table as a starting point. You can find this table HERE.

If you are interested in calculating 1RMs from reps to (technical) failure, you can refer to another Dan Baker table HERE. Or, if you have access to LPT like GymAware, you can use load-velocity relationship to estimate 1RMs by checking my small experiment HERE.  

Dan Baker tables are really useful and I refer to them pretty often. I tend to have within my reach all the time, along with Joe Kenn’s The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook which I use to implement percent based programs (with some modification). Another great resource in that regard is, you guess it correctly, by Dan Baker:

Baker, D. “Cycle-length variants in periodized strength/power training.”  Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(4)10-17. 2007.

One note – although I love percent based programs because the way they influence behavior of the players (or me, when I train) by reducing the wiggle roomthat same wiggle room might be sometimes needed due individual differences (someone’s 1RM in split squat might be 50% of his 1RM back squat, but someone might have 45-65%, depending on built, experience with split squatting, overall strength levels, etc). Anyway, they (tables by Baker and percent based programs by Kenn) provide a great starting point. And it is always better to under-estimate than to over-estimate, especially when it comes to assistance lifts.

I've discussed some of the ways to blend percent based programs with auto-regulatory programs HERE.

Also, I have been asked about a good book recommendation when it comes to learning Excel. This one I found a MUST read:

 Now some (unrelated) news….

I decided to switch to Mac.  I am getting Mac Book Pro 13’’ Retina pretty soon and I am leaving my HP Pavilion DV-7 that served me so well since 2009 to my mom.

So I decided to re-install Windows so she can have “clean” comp. I tried Windows 8 for couple of hours – and damn – I am lucky for switching to Mac. It is totally weird and un-intuitive system.  So I removed it and re-installed Windows 7.

In the process of backing things up and re-installing key software packages I managed to format my external hard drive with ALL the back-ups (luckily I had work related documents on DropBox), pictures, college stuff, writings, books, movies, music  – EVERYTHING. Yet, I somehow managed to recover most if not all by using un-format tools. It took me 3 days though. 

That’s one of the reason I haven’t been responding to emails. My Outlook is now up and running. I will probably stay a little *quiet* during December while I am moving to Mac for the first time, along with having a year break. The pre-season starts on 15th January 2013 and I will try to get some Sun since Stockholm is already pretty dark.

 I will definitely give my best to avoid reading or writing anything related to training to give my head a break. If you have some fiction novel recommendations please be free to post it. In the mean time I plan checking book by Jules Evans on philosophy for life.

I wish you all great Holidays and learn on my mistakes – always have DOUBLE back-ups.