Monday, August 30, 2010

Supplement Spotlight: CLA

One of the most common questions I get is "Do any of these things 'really' work"?? As we know, the 'diet' market is over-flooded with products making outrageous claims (less in Canada, where labelling is regulated), and offering 'hope in a bottle'. The truth is- most of these products CAN help AS LONG AS YOUR DIET AND EXERCISE is on track! Otherwise, they are just that- pills in a bottle. They are meant to aid, or augment your results- not produce them, or do the work for you.

I am going to start doing a "Top Ten" format for the common misconceptions about diet/lifestyle, that I see most people making. As for now, I would like to talk about certain products that have been scientifically and thoroughly studied to work; aid and enhance your hard work, provide antioxidant protection, and have no harmful side-effects.

Today I am specifically going to 'Spotlight' one of my favorites: CLA or Conjugated Linoleic Acid. I truly consider this to be a lifestyle/maintenance enhancing product, that offers a variety of benefits depending on the amount taken.

Again, I would like to stress that CLA is meant to be a COMPANION to, and not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise routine. Specifically, for fat-loss, CLA has been notably studied along side of Green Tea Extract with a high EGCG content.

So what is CLA:
CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is part of an Omega 6 fatty acid, naturally found in meat (beef, lamb, chicken and pork), and some dairy products, that is integral for our health.  CLA cannot be manufactured by the human body, and therefore must be obtained from outside sources. Furthermore, to obtain the fat-loss benefits, CLA must be taken at a higher amount that one can obtain from food alone.

Scientifically and structurally, CLA is a term used to describe a set of 28 individual "positional and geometric" isomers of Linoleic Acid (LA). It is a slightly altered form of the LA (Linoleic Acid), that is formed when reactions change on or both of the double bonds so that they are no longer separated by two single bonds (hence 'Conjugated').


You'll notice that I wrote "Fat-loss", not weight loss. That is because CLA mobilizes stored fat to be used for energy (sparing muscle tissue), and is INCHES not WEIGHT. CLA has long been studied for it's fat-burning properties:
  • CLA prevents your fat cells from storing more fat (prevents accumulation), thus reducing body fat.
  • CLA acts on Fat-storing enzymes ('keys' like insulin), and therefore keeps the doors to your fat cells "locked".
  • Due to keeping the doors "locked" and preventing fat from entering and being store, CLA causes the fat cells to become smaller. In other words, it keeps your fat cells from expanding.
  • CLA also supports lean muscle mass (6-9 grams). We all know that muscle is more metabolically active than fat, thus increasing your lean muscle mass, you will ultimately burn more fat.
  • Makes you use your stored fat as a source of energy.
Health Benefits

In addition to being a great aid to enhancing fat-loss, CLA has been studied as a great health-benefiting supplement as well. Since it still is technically PART of the Omega 6 fatty acid chain, it offers all the same 'hair, skin, and nail' benefits one would normally derive from an Omega 6.
Additionally, CLA has been studied for its anti-cancer or cancer-fighting properties (Breast, Colon, and Prostate, specifically), and also has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system.
CLA may help with: High Blood Pressure, Atherosclerosis, low levels of LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or the bad cholesterol); enhance immune function, and due to its impact on insulin sensitivity, it can reduce cravings, improve your insulin sensitivity, and improve your blood sugar profile.

What To Look For
Now that you know a bit about the functions of CLA, you are probably wondering which product to pick. Well, this is one area that you want to be picky and read the label! As I previously mentioned, CLA is PART of the Linoleic Acid Omega 6 chain. That being said, only certain 'isomers' have been shown to exhibit these fat-burning benefits. Specifically, CLA isomers TRANS-10, CIS 12, which resulted in a significant reduction in fatty acid synthase activity, lipid synthesis, and fatty acid synthase mRNA expression. CLA isomers CIS-9, TRANS-11 and TRANS 10, CIS-12, increased fat oxidation during sleep, and reduced the amount of protein being burned for energy. This is great news for anyone looking to maintain, or enhance their lean muscle mass, while decreasing body fat.

So what does this all mean? There are 2 patented forms of CLA that will supply the above mentioned CIS/TRANS profile: Tonalin, and Clarinol. These forms ensure that the proper purity and standardization exists,  while maintaining high concentrations of these metabolically active isomers: cis-9, trans-11, and trans-10, cis-12.

CLA has been studied for fat loss at 3.4-3.6 grams/day. Any less, and you are just obtaining the anti-cancer, and health benefits (which is still great!). It has been proven to increase insulin sensitivity, and lean muscle mass at 6-9grams a day. Aim for a supplement that has 1000mg of either TONALIN or Clarinol CLA per capsule, and take 4/day (make sure the label lists it as at least 80% active isomers). I find that taking it with food enhances absorbency. It doesn't matter when you take them (I suggest staggering them with breakfast/dinner or lunch), as long as you remember to take them. I will teach you something I tell all my clients (it's cheesy, but it works): THE 3 C'S OF CLA: Consistency, Constancy and Continuality. CLA needs to super-saturate your fat-cells - not just saturate them, to break them up. It takes about a month (usually 2 weeks) to start working, and build up in proper amounts- therefore you have to be cognisant of taking it daily. It is meant to be a companion to a GREEN TEA EXTRACT, which speeds up the fat-burning and thermogenesis.

Before a photo-shoot or competition, many people start taking this 6 months out to help them lean out, and preserve muscle mass. We refer to is as a 'leaner' or a 'shredder' in the industry, as it works on the fat between the skin and the muscle (allowing muscle definition to be clear), or as a non-stimulant fat burner. Remember, CLA is NOT A QUICK FIX, and being a natural fatty acid, it does take awhile to start working.

I recommend measuring your waist before you start taking it. Google: CLA and GREEN TEA EXTRACT, or CLA and FAT LOSS, and you will see a host of scientific studies.

I want to stress again, that CLA is not to be used as a 'be all end all', a 'crutch' or a quick fix. I often recommend it, but only adjacent to a proper lifestyle. I have seen great results with it when used correctly, and I like that it is a natural fatty acid that offers numerous heart-protective and health benefits. I find that it works best for sustainable fat loss.

On an unrelated topic, I am including this link to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition about Protein Quality:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Muscle Challenge Program

A lot of 'Muscle Loving' has been going around the blog world. It's nice to see a shift in emphasis on BUILDING YOURSELF UP, rather than starving, restricting and shrinking yourself down. While Body-Building often takes food obsession and dieting to the extreme, when stripped down to it's basics, it's just that: Body / Building. Building the body up. I like to think of weight lifting as 'building myself up'- this gives it a positive connotation, versus an unhealthy obsession to achieve some sort of body ideal. It also makes me feel empowered (as in I am the one who is building myself up: doing the work, reaping the rewards), and strong.
In honor of this lovely lady, I decided to post a weight lifting/training program, aimed to push your limits, and set new highs. This can be adapted by everyone- whether you lift 5lbs or 50lbs, the aim is to top your personal best, and gain strength and muscle mass.

Train to complete failure on every set.
These are all broken into identical set/reps equations: 5 sets of 5 reps, followed by 3 Sets of 20 Reps, with the exception of Alternating Dumbbell Curls, which you push to do 3 sets of 21 reps.
                                                             Sets        Reps          Sets        Reps
Back and Biceps
1. Bent-over Barbell Rows                        5               5              3             20
2. Lat Pulldowns                                       5               5              3             20
3.One arm dumbbell curls                          5              5               3            20
4.Standing Barbell curls                             5              5               3            20
5.Alternating Dumbbell curls                      5              5               3            21

Chest and Abs                                         Sets     Reps            Sets          Reps
1. Flat Bench Press                                     5            5               3                  20
2. Incline Dumbbell Press
3. Pec Deck/ Cable Converter
4. Weighted Incline Sit Ups
5.Weighted Ball Crunch
All exercised repeated as # 1 (5,5,3,20)

Legs and Calves                                   Sets            Reps         Sets              Reps
1. Barbell Squats                                       5               5                 3                   20
2.Stiff-Legged Deadlifts        
3.Dumbbell (weighted)l Lunges
4.Standing Calf Raises
5.Seated Calf Raises
All exercises repeated in the 5,5,3,20 set/reps split as listed on #1

Shoulders and Triceps                          Sets           Reps         Sets             Reps
1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press           5               5                 3                 20
2. Lateral Dumbbell Raises
3.Dumbbell Shrugs
3.Close Gripped Bench Press
5. Skull Crushers

 It may not seem like a lot, but remember TO FAILURE. EVERY SET. Also, challenge yourself to increase your weight every week or 2 weeks. Keep tearing up those muscle fibers, and remember to properly recover with rapid acting Whey Protein Isolate within 40min- the sooner the better. Recovery is where your muscles are made! Take advantage, incorporate Nutrient Timing, and optimize your workouts; MAXIMIZE YOUR RESULTS. Remember to keep proper form!

For my inspiration, click on ALICA MARIE'S OFFICIAL SITE! LOVE HER!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010



I was playing around with some recipe ideas after a client mentioned her love of Lemon Cheese Cake. I always ask customers and clients to give me their all time favorite desserts (regardless of Calories etc). I normally make "Protein Cheese Cake" for myself using Protein Powders, and used to make it daily (with a lot less ingredients). I wanted something that a non protein-powder loving or owning lady would like. Hence the Lemon Zest Cheese Cake.

There are many alternative versions I will be posting later (using protein powder etc) but for now I wanted to make one without relying on buying additional supplements:


1/2 cup skim milk
1 Cup scalding milk (enough to melt gelatin)
2 Envelopes Knox Gelatin or Sugar Free Lemon Jello powder
1-2 tb lemon zest (according to taste)
1 Tb lemon juice
1 cup splenda (or sweetener alternative like Stevia, Sweet and Low etc)
4 Egg Whites
1/4 Tsp Salt
3 Cups Cottage Cheese (I used dry curd, low sodium). You can use 1% or Fat free as well, but then reduce the scalded milk to 1/2 cup.
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract or another flavor/ extract (mango, orange etc)

For Crust:
60 grams (2oz) of oatmeal or
fiber one, shredded wheat, wheatabix,
or wheat bran mixed in.
or GG Scandinavian Bran Crisp Bread

Add 1 cup of milk to a sauce pan and heat until scalding. You need this HOT to dissolve the gelatin.
In a separate bowl, beat/blend/whip the cottage cheese until it is smooth.

In a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the skim milk (cold) and let it dissolve-6 minutes approx. Add the HOT milk, and blend until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, 3/4 of the sweetener, vanilla and half the egg whites. Stir cottage cheese into the above mixture. At this point I would let it chill until it sets a bit.

Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until peaks form, and then add remaining sweetener, and keep beating until "meringue-like' and stiff with visible peaks. Fold in the Gelatin Mixture into the Egg Whites.

Add crust to a pan (I used a mixture of oats/wheat bran/wheatabix/Scandinavian Bran Crispbread or Sprinkles (primarily GG Scandinavian Bran Sprinkles), and pour the Cheese cake on it. You can add some more lemon zest on top, or add more 'crust' on top. You can refrigerate or flash freeze it for a bit, but the bottom may get soggy.You can also add some 4Fiber or Fibersmart, add some egg whites and Walden Farms Chocolate Dip (to bake the crust).
I love adding Walden Farm's calorie free Peanut Butter Spread to my crusts! It really shines in this area. I have also added peanut flour. I will post these later.

Variations and recommendations:

-You can use a pudding mix (Jello Sugar Free Lemon Pudding) or vanilla etc.
-Silken Light Tofu works well!

-Adding Poppy Seeds makes it SO FREAKING AMAZING!
- I highly recommend adding some sugar free jam or fruit to it (not acidic, as it won't set). I used blueberry and strawberry! You can add Walden Farms' jams, syrups, or chocolate dips to it!
- You can use GREEK YOGURT instead of the cottage cheese.
-Almond milk works, but lowers the protein content.
- Try adding Rosemary! See my post on Herb Pairings HERE

I have made Maple Walnut, Peanut Butter, Strawberry, Banana, Chocolate, Caramel, Marshmallow, Cookie Dough, cookies and cream etc. HAVE FUN.

Crust Alternatives:
Of course, you can crush Ginger snaps, Graham crackers, or any cookie of your liking. Experiment with CEREAL such as Fiber One, Nature's Path Pumpkin Granola Flax, Mesa Sunrise, Flax Plus, Spelt/Kamut Flakes, Chocolate Cheerio's, Kay's Protein Cereal, Hi-Lo Cereal, Wheat Berries, Uncle Sam'sBran Buds, Dixie Diner's Nutlettes, Dixie Diner's Carb Controlled Granola,  Dixie Diner's Smaps Cereal etc.
You can also add egg whites to the base and bake it for 'crunch', or useMillet, Quinoa, Wheat, Peanut Flour, Almond Flour, psyllium. I love usingFiber Smart or 4Fiber! You can mix a TB into the crust batter, into the filling, or on it's own with some egg whites. I will post the recipes with protein powder at a later date!
You can also use Sugar Free Cookies, a sugar free pre-made graham cracker crust, sugar free Graham Crackers, Lemon or Vanilla Wafers etc!