Be Aware of Fake Medical Journal Websites

I follow a lot of health, fitness, and weight loss pages across social media pages. It is always frustrating to see articles promising impossible weight loss results for an impossibly small amount of work, but the most frustrating thing I find is fake medical journals.

It goes something like this. You are on a social media site and you see a sponsored or shared post about how someone found the secret to losing weight. You click the article and it takes you to a website that appears to be a medical academic journal of some sort, complete with other articles, databases, and a web address to tie it all together. The author of the post will likely discuss an ivy league researcher or a medical doctor that found the secret to weight loss and how cheap and easy it actually is! You will then read all about some supplement and the article will conclude with a way to purchase the product.

On the surface, it looks great. But, in reality, it is nothing short of a scam. There are a few quick ways to determine if the health journal or health news website you are reading is a fake:

  1. It is trying to sell you something other than a book or subscription to the journal. Real health journals or health news sites will not try to sell you anything except more information.
  2. The author of the article does not match the author who shared the content. People often make social media accounts impersonating a researcher and pretend their article just posted. If the name of the person in the social media account does not match the author on the website, it is probably not real.
  3. Every additional web page takes you to an order form. Before you buy something from a website, see what else they published. Click other tabs on their website and see if they are publishing real content or if the entire website is a single page.
  4. The URL has multiple web addresses. What I mean by this is the website’s URL might be something like ‘medicaljournal.org-clickly.com.’ If you see something like this, the second URL is the real website you are on. In this example, you are visiting clickly.com and not medicaljournal.org.
  5. It’s too good to be true. On average, healthy weight loss is no more than a sustained 2 pounds per week. Anything more than that should be under the supervision of your doctor and often comes from prescribed medications to supplement your nutrition and exercise plan, or surgery.

Next time you follow a link to a website that looks like a medical journal or a health news website, take a few extra seconds to scan the website for any red flags, it may be a fake. If you are thinking about purchasing anything to aid with weight loss, talk to your doctor beforehand. Some herbal supplements can react with medications you may be currently taking, making it essential for your doctor to clear you to take it.

Advertisements

Who Should Take Supplements?

A common question I receive is “should I take this supplement?” A lot of people want to believe that supplements alone will allow them to achieve their fitness and health goals. My full opinion of supplements can be found in the supplements chapter of 2 Weeks to Health First Edition which is available for free here. But in summary, no supplement can fix an ongoing pattern of poor nutrition and exercise choices.

Taking supplements will not make up for a diet that lacks in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and plenty of water. Also, no protein or creatine supplements will create muscle on their own without completing the adequate exercise. While supplements certainly have their place, I recommend to most of my clients to lay off the supplements and focus on getting their nutrition from real foods. However, there are times when people need to supplement in order to stay healthy.

Who for sure needs vitamin and mineral supplements? A pregnant or breastfeeding woman, a woman able to become pregnant, someone on a restrictive diet (vegetarian, vegan, cultural), someone with limited milk and sunlight exposure, someone with a diagnosed health condition that affects the body such as anemia, elderly adults, and someone who is unable or unwilling to consume a healthy diet (food intolerances or allergies). If you fall into one or multiple of these categories, talk to your doctor or dietitian about which supplements you may want to take. I do not recommend you take any supplements without first consulting a medical professional. For conditions such as these, neither myself nor any other personal trainer is qualified to prescribe these types of supplements for these conditions so it is important to see a doctor.

What is the worst that can happen if you take supplements without a doctor’s approval? Many prescription drugs as well as supplements are plant-based and may react with one another. It is not uncommon for someone to experience side effects after mixing certain supplements and medications. Always ensure your doctor is informed about what you are taking and they give you their approval. And if you aren’t required to take supplements from your doctor, focus on getting your nutrition from real food and use the money you saved from not purchasing expensive supplements on a gym membership.

 

Does Vitamin C Cure the Common Cold?

Last time you had a cold, the chances are at some point you heard about the benefits of vitamin C and why you should take it to shorten a cold, but is this true? Can vitamin C really shorten a cold? To try to answer this question, let’s look at the science behind vitamin C.

Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin that is not produced by your body, meaning you have to consume it through food and drinks. Vitamin C is required for your body to produce collagen, carnitine, catecholamines, and is an antioxidant. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue, carnitine is required to transport fatty acids to the mitochondria, the cell’s energy source, and catecholamines are neurotransmitters that mediate a variety of your central nervous system functions. As an antioxidant vitamin C prevents reactive chemicals that contain oxygen from damaging other cells in your body. This may help prevent certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Overall, vitamin C is important for your body to function efficiently. But going back to the initial question, how does it affect our immune systems? Vitamin C may improve the absorption of iron by up to 3 fold. Iron serves as an innate immune mechanism, meaning it protects your body from pathogens for short term periods. It will kill the pathogen but it will not give you immunity to the pathogen. So more vitamin C mean more iron, and more iron means more dead pathogens, but does this really result in a shorter cold?

A Cochrane Review in 2007 tested this theory with a sample of humans and had some interesting results. They discovered for the general population, taking vitamin C does not reduce your chances of getting a cold, unless you submit your body to extreme conditions such as marathon running or extremely cold environments. For the soldiers, skiers, and runners out there, taking a vitamin C supplement can reduce your chance of acquiring a cold by as much as 50%. For the average person, you reduce your chance by only 8%. The kicker is if you wait until you get a cold to start taking vitamin C, it will not help. If vitamin C was taken after the onset of the cold it did not shorten the cold’s duration or severity of symptoms.

If you are not submitting your body to extreme environments, and that 8% reduced chance of getting a cold sounds appealing, then supplement your current diet with about 400-500 mg of vitamin C per day. Also, if you believe you are not consuming at least 300 mg of vitamin C from your normal diet then you may at risk for scurvy, so add a supplement to your diet. Some common foods that are good sources of vitamin C are red pepper, green pepper, oranges, broccoli, strawberries, kiwis, and grapefruit. If you eat enough fruits and veggies, then you shouldn’t need to supplement vitamin C. However, the toxicity of vitamin C is so low that even high doses will leave you unharmed.

In summary, if you consistently get enough vitamin C, you may be able to reduce your chances of getting a cold. If you start taking vitamin C after you get a cold, it will not reduce the duration or the severity of the cold.

References:

A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise Volume 1

Entering the health and fitness world can be an overwhelming process because of the incredible amounts of information that is presented to beginners. One minute you hear about crazy mass building protein shakes, and the next you are hearing about falsified nutrition plans that get insane results in two days. All this information makes it difficult to get a basic grasp of the essential information that is necessary to creating your own sustainable, healthy lifestyle. It is my goal as a personal trainer to change this trend, and empower and educate normal, everyday people to have the knowledge necessary to revolutionize their own lives.

Exercise Science Basics

Exercise has many guiding principles, but none more important than the Principle of Overload. This principle is extremely simple, but the very foundation that all training programs are based upon. The Principle of Overload states that in order to experience physiological adaptations, you are going to have to place a physical stress on your body that it is not accustomed to. This stress comes from performing workouts that include weight, tension, or an increase in muscle energy demands. In addition, it comes from other things such as frequency, duration, and intensity. These things will be discussed later on.

Another important principle is the Principle of Specificity (also known as the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands principle). This is another important foundation that describes the body’s ability to adapt to whatever demands you place on it. In other words, a workout program should reflect the desired outcome. For example, if you want to get good at running, your workout program is going to have to include running, if you want to get a stronger chest, your workout program has to include chest exercises, so on and so forth.

The fitness industry is incredibly superficial and predicated over aesthetics. Because of this, it would only be fair to discuss the term Muscular Hypertrophy. Muscular Hypertrophy in very simple terms is the increase in the size of a muscle as a result of some kind of resistance training (weightlifting). The weightlifting needs to be specific and these specifics will be discussed shortly. In general, people who want to increase muscle mass and increase the appearance of size participate in this kind of training.

Muscular Hypertrophy has a brother and its name is Muscular Endurance. Muscular Endurance is a muscle’s ability to produce and maintain a force for an extended period of time. Much like Hypertrophy, training for endurance also creates muscular adaptations, but instead of an increase in muscle size, it generally leads to a toned muscular appearance. How to train for endurance will be discussed below.

Workout Basics

Now that we discussed general exercise theory at a basic level, we can dive into topics that are important for the creation of workouts. In addition to introducing these topics, I will also discuss how to manipulate them in order to gain muscle size (hypertrophy) or muscle tone (endurance).

A Repetition is probably the simplest term in the entire workout industry. It is the completion of an exercise one time (i.e doing one push-up).  In order to gain muscle tone and improve endurance, one must perform 12-20 repetitions of an exercise. In order to increase muscle size and train for hypertrophy, perform 6-12 repetitions of an exercise. Body weight exercises are an exception, and should always be conducted until failure.

A Set is another simple term, and it is just a group of repetitions. To increase muscle tone, perform 1-3 sets of an exercise. To increase muscle size perform 3-5 sets of an exercise.

Failure is the point in which you have done so many repetitions of an exercise that you physically cannot do anymore. This is the point you want to reach for each and every set, so one must ensure that they are using the appropriate weight in order to reach this point for the kind of training they wish to participate in. For example, if you want to train for hypertrophy, and you are doing 6 repetitions in your training, you need to use a weight that is heavy enough so that when you reach that sixth repetition, you cannot do a seventh.

A One Repetition Maximum is an important measure to let you choose the appropriate weight so that you can reach failure. It is exactly what it sounds like, the maximum amount of weight you can (with good form) perform one repetition of an exercise with. This goes hand and hand with Intensity, which is a measure of a level of effort that is generally represented as a percentage to your One-Repetition Maximum. Gaining Muscle size requires training in the 75%-85% of one rep max, and gaining muscle tone requires training in the 50%-70% range.

Rest Interval is a measure of the time you rest between each set. For tone, rest between 0 and 90 seconds. For size, take rests between 0 and 60 seconds.  

Training Volume is the amount of total sets of exercises you do in a single workout. For weight training, begin by shooting for 16 total sets of exercises, and then try to move up to 24 total sets of exercises.  For example, if you are working out your arms (shoulders, biceps, triceps) try to do 5 sets of each muscle group for 15 total (beginners), or 8 sets of each for 24 sets total (advanced).

An often overlooked but extremely crucial aspect of creating a workout is having an appropriate warm-up and cool-down. Performing both of these exposes your body to a vast array of physiological benefits, such as a decreased risk of injury, proper muscle activation to ensure maximum performance when it counts, and an increase in psychological preparation. A warm-up lasts generally 5-10 minutes and precedes any of the actual workout. A good split for warming up is to start with a quick 3-5 minute cardio warm-up (running, jump rope, etc.), and then stretch the muscles that your body will be tackling in the workout for the remainder of the time. The Cool-Down more than likely will mirror the Warm-Up, with a 3-5 minute cardio cool down, and stretch for the remainder of the time.

You now have the necessary knowledge to understand what causes your body to change, and how to manipulate the basic components of a workout to get your body to change in the way most people want it! Check out volume two, where we tie all this knowledge together, and address Program Design and Nutrition basics!