All posts by Rich Dafter

Full time, Diamond Team Beachbody Coach. Spring 2009 Top Coach. Proud work at home Dad! Lifelong runner.

How to Gain Mass With P90X

Here’s a great article from Steve Edwards at Team Beachbody that I just had to share:

Guys have a thing for mass. It’s hard to explain, really, but boys seem to grow up wanting nothing more than to be big. Guys want speedboats and trucks, and they want to look like The Hulk, regardless of what their wives may think of green skin. If this sounds like you, here’s the article you’ve been looking for: customizing P90X for mass.


Even if mass is your only goal, make sure to read the subsequent articles in the series on customizing the X. The principles discussed in subsequent articles will be put to use here. To look like The Hulk, you don’t need to douse yourself in Gamma radiation, but you do need to consider science as we know it. The articles that have appeared in our last few issues all led up to the question: what is mass? (See the Related Articles section below for the last few issues on customizing the X.)

What is mass?
Because many of our Success Stories, not to mention Tony, aren’t exactly skinny, we must begin by defining mass—most of you are looking for more. Mass simply means size. As part of the word massive, we assume it means above average in size. It doesn’t, but that’s beside the point. A program targeting mass is concerned with one thing: muscle growth (from here on in referred to as hypertrophy), and a lot of it.

In a training cycle for mass, we should target hypertrophy even at the expense of other fitness goals. P90X is not a system designed for mass. It’s designed for overall fitness, which means that ultimate gains in targeted areas, like speed, strength, flexibility, and muscle growth, are compromised to provide a program that improves all of your body’s physical energy systems during one 90-day effort. We feel as though this is the preferred training system because it addresses the big picture. But if your picture is quite literally being bigger, then you’ll need to read on.

You’ve read about the capacity for improvement throughout this series, so here’s where I tell you to do a round of P90X as it’s designed before embarking on a mass-specific program. It’s healthier, sure, but it’s more than that. Training all of your body’s energy systems until they’re running efficiently increases your body’s ability to do, well, anything. Part of anything includes looking like Lou Ferrigno. Once you’ve done a round of the X and aced your fit test, the foundation has been laid. You’re ready to start gettin’ big.

Tony loves the word specificity. He often uses it when referring to exercise movements, but we’re going to use it to refer to the equipment you’ll need. With mass as your goal, you’d better acquire specific resistance equipment. The simplest form is weights; however, mass can also be created by using other forms of tension, like resistance bands. The bottom line is that if mass is your goal, you’ll need to have more weight available than you’ve been using. Body weight and plyometric movements can be used effectively for strength training, but strength and hypertrophy are not synonymous. To make hypertrophic gains, you’re going to need to find ways to make your body fail at a given number of repetitions. You’ll want an array of weights and bands, and some extra devices like ankle and wrist weights, or a weight vest, to add resistance to all the movements you’re doing.

The difference between size and strength
As we touched on last time, hypertrophy training simply increases the size of the muscle. Strength training increases the efficiency of the muscle. Large muscles have a greater capacity for strength. Absolute strength is the ability of the muscle to use all of its muscle cells for movement. People in sports dependent on strength-to-weight ratios target high muscular efficiency in their training, whereas those in sheer size-dependent sports will focus more on hypertrophy. Most sports are somewhat dependent on both size and strength, which are ideally improved during different cycles of training.

The periodizational concepts that have been discussed in prior issues need to be explained here before a mass schedule is created. Remember that a standard schedule would look similar to this:

Foundation phase (Power 90 or what you did pre-X) + block 1 + transition/recovery + block 2 + transition/recovery + block 3 + recovery = peak (final fit test)The difference here is that we’re going to structure an entire training cycle based only on hypertrophy. This means we won’t be setting up a peak phase. Over a long period of time, you would want to teach your muscles how to function more efficiently. We’ll get to this at the end.

For now, we’ll just say that there is still a periodizational approach to consider. You will still adapt, gain, and plateau over time, so we’ll need a structure to keep this happening. But the structure will be dependent simply on rep schemes (the number of repetitions that you target to bring you to failure) and progressive overload. The blocks of our 90-day schedule will each target a different number of repetitions, which you’ll want to aim for to induce failure. But because we’re not changing the schedule much, and thus creating less Muscle Confusion, we won’t need such frequent recovery phases.

Progressive overload
Hypertrophy is all about creating progressive overload. To create muscle growth, you must keep stimulating the muscles during each workout. This requires that you add weight as necessary to create failure at the desired number of reps.

The more we can focus on hypertrophy, the more muscle we’ll gain. Since we only have so much energy to expend, this means we should spend less time working on other areas. This is where you’ll see the biggest differences from the traditional P90X schedules. When you’re not training for hypertrophy, your entire focus should be on preparing your body to create more hypertrophy. Therefore, the P90X mass schedule will have a lot of active recovery and flexibility work and very little intense cardio. This means we’ll spend more time recovering during each training block and taking fewer periods focused solely on recovery.

Putting it all together
Before we get to the schedule, here are some general things to consider. The first is pacing. Instead of following the kids in the videos, target your rep scheme (and push pause when necessary). Do each set to failure (if you can add enough resistance; if not, get as close as you can), and don’t exceed your targeted number of reps. Do not, however, use the pause button simply to increase the time between exercises.

A good way to choose the resistance for each movement is to use enough so that you can only do the lower number of your targeted rep scheme. Once you can do the higher number, it’s time to increase the resistance. Do your repetitions slowly and with control. Speed is for power, not size. Focus on perfect form and only add weight when you can do each rep with great form.

When you’re done, you’re done. You don’t need to finish an entire workout if you’re struggling. Once you lose the ability to move the weight or do the move in strict form, stop the workout. Any further training would only create more breakdown than you could recover from and increase your risk of injury.

Your diet
You won’t be burning as many calories as you would during the classic schedule of the X. If you eat the same amount, you may gain more mass, but you’ll also gain more body fat. This might or might not be acceptable, so pay attention and adjust your diet as necessary. If you want mass, then you need to eat enough for your body to put on weight. I will write more about this diet scenario in the future.


Block 1, phase 1 (Weeks 1 through 3)
Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
Day 3: Legs & Back
Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus (from P90X Plus)
Day 5: Back & Biceps
Day 6: Yoga X
Day 7: Off
Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 10 to 12)


Block 1, phase 2 (Weeks 4 through 6)
Day 1: Chest & Back
Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
Day 3: Shoulders & Arms
Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
Day 5: Legs & Back
Day 6: Yoga X
Day 7: Off
Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 8 to 10)

Recovery Block (Week 7)
Day 1: X Stretch
Day 2: Yoga X
Day 3: Core Synergistics
Day 4: Kenpo X
Day 5: Yoga X
Day 6: X Stretch
Day 7: Off


Block 2, phase 1 (Weeks 8 and 9)
Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
Day 3: Legs & Back
Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
Day 5: Back & Biceps
Day 6: Yoga X
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Chest & Back
Day 9: Cardio X, Ab Riper X
Day 10: Shoulders & Arms
Day 11: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
Day 12: Legs & Back
Day 13: Yoga X
Day 14: Off
Targeted number of reps: 6 to 10

Block 2, phase 2 (Weeks 10 and 11)
Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9
Targeted number of reps: 4 to 8

Block 2, phase 3 (Week 12)
Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9
Targeted number of reps: 4 to 6

Final note: This is an entire cycle of training based only on hypertrophy. To have an athletically efficient physique, you should do other training cycles that target different goals. Even if your only goal is hypertrophy, training these other systems properly will improve your body’s physical systems and increase your capacity for muscle growth, as well as the speed at which you can add or shed muscle and fat. So while you can tweak and reuse this basic structure over and over, it will also benefit you to get back to basics and do P90X classic from time to time.

Can You Be Overweight and Healthy?

 By Denis Faye – From the Team Beachbody Newsletter

Woman Stretching

The Short Answer:

There are always anomalies, but generally, the answer is no. The laundry list of ailments that accompany excess body fat grows every day: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and on and on.

Mind you, I’m not talking about a few extra pounds. You can be healthy as a horse without a six-pack or that little gap skinny women have between their thighs when they wear boy shorts. If you eat a nutritious, varied diet and exercise regularly, you may not be as thin as the bikini model who lives across the street, but you’re fine. Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes—except maybe XXXL.

The Long Answer:

Before considering the science, consider the common sense. Being overweight or obese means you’re lugging extra pounds around. If it’s just a matter of five or six lbs. over your ideal weight, then it’s not that big of a deal. It’s kind of like spending all your time with a backpack filled with textbooks. But once you go beyond that, you’re putting a lot of strain on your body. Imagine carrying around a 50-lb. dumbbell all day, every day. It’s almost as though you’re forcing your body into a perpetual state of overtraining. That extra weight puts pressure on your joints, which can lead to arthritis. It also puts extra pressure on your cardiovascular system, which can lead to heart complications.

Then, there’s the question of diet. Overweight people tend to eat too many calories—and those calories are often heavy on the refined carbs and “bad” fats. Both of these substances can cause a buildup of plaque on arteries. Refined carbs can also cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.

There are also the other illnesses that, according to the National Institute of Health, are statistically higher in heavier people, including colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers, sleep apnea, and gallstones.

The “fit and fat” debate hit the spotlight last January when a meta-review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) came out claiming that overweight people lived longer than skinny people. Advocates of the overweight lifestyle, or “fatvocates,” took to the streets singing the praises of the study.

Much of the media glossed over the fact that the JAMA study made a distinction between “obese” and “overweight.” Overweight people with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29 were the ones who supposedly lived longer. “Grade 1” obese people with a BMI between 30 and 34 fared the same as normal-weight people. People with a BMI of 35 or more had the highest risk of death of anyone.

Unfortunately (for overweight people), the review turned out to be flawed and spent the rest of 2013 being roundly criticized. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported on a number of flaws in their newsletter Nutrition Action. The study didn’t account for smokers, who tend to be thinner. It didn’t account for people with cancer, dementia, or emphysema; all who tend to lose weight. It also didn’t account for age, and people tend to lose weight before they die of old age–related illnesses. So people can become thin—too thin—when they’re sick or dying, but that doesn’t mean being thin was the cause of death. Not accounting for this threw off the numbers.

Next, the Canadians jumped into the fray, releasing their own meta-review that accounted for people with metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, dodgy cholesterol, and excess abdominal fat. These put you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. They found that metabolically unhealthy people were at risk regardless of weight. However, when they looked at people without metabolic issues, they found that obese ones had a higher risk of death.

Healthy overweight and healthy normal-sized people had the same level of risk. However, overweight people had slightly higher metabolic markers (for instance, slightly higher blood pressure) and this indicated a greater chance of complications down the road.

And, of course, there are other studies such as the National Cancer Institute’s research in The New England Journal of Medicine, which crunched its own numbers and discovered that, among nonsmokers, normal-weight people had a much better chance of living when compared to even mildly overweight people.

To sum all this up, if you’re obese, you should really do something about it because multiple studies have confirmed that you’re more susceptible to the shopping list of sicknesses listed above. But if you’re just a little overweight, you may or may not be in trouble; it depends on who you want to believe.

But as much as I’m a crusader for wellness-inspired weight loss, one flaw with all these studies is that they’re based on BMI, which is a faulty measurement. Given it’s a simple height/weight ratio, most bodybuilders—not to mention athletes in other sports requiring serious muscle—would be considered obese.

Or take me. I’m 5′ 11″, 160 pounds. My BMI is 23, which puts me right in the middle of “normal.” However, I also have about 9% body fat, which is considerably below “normal.” According to the American Council on Exercise, 14–17% is a “fitness” level and 18–24% is “normal.” If I’d added that amount of fat to my frame, my BMI would classify me as overweight, maybe even obese.

So you need to take all this science with a grain of salt.

If your BMI is 30+, your waistline is on or near to 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches (for men), and you don’t know a barbell from a kettlebell, then you’re probably obese and headed for trouble. Otherwise, use your common sense as a guide.

Does your blood work come back sparkling? Do you eat a diet that’s primarily veggies and fruits, followed by whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats? Do you eat little or no added sugar, processed food, and fried food? Do you work out or get some serious exercise at least 4 times a week? Do you feel good in your body? If you can answer “yes” to these things, you’re probably at a good weight—and if you’re not, you’ll get there soon enough.

Why Do You Gain Weight When You Start Working Out?

Years ago, I had a great link to an article explaining why you gain weight when you start working out and then it became harder and harder to find out.

Voila!  I found another article by Denis Faye (he wrote the original years ago) in the Team Beachbody blog and this one gives an even better explanation for what can be a vexing problem – gaining weight when you are working on losing weight….


The Short Answer

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that this doesn’t happen to everyone, so this isn’t a preemptive excuse not to exercise! However, if you do happen to gain a few pounds when starting a new program, odds are that it’s not fat, but rather temporary water weight due to inflammation. Give it some time and it will pass.

That said, it might be a few other things, all of them fixable, so let’s run through the list and see if we can find a match.

The Long Answer

The most likely reason your scale crept up is inflammation. When you work out, it causes little tears in your muscle fibers. This is called microtrauma and it’s why you feel sore after a workout. On the upside, your body heals these little tears, making the fibers tougher than they originally were. That’s how you become stronger and fitter. It’s part of a process called adaptation.

To make these repairs, your body uses its standard healing process, including the inflammation phase—something that’s become a dirty word in our modern world. When you incur injury, including microtrauma, your body releases various substances generally known as inflammatory mediators that swarm the area and perform triage, bringing in healing white blood cells and opening up blood vessels to flush out debris and toxins. There’s so much going on that the area swells up, or inflames.

The fluid required for inflammatory response obviously weighs something—and that might show up on the scale. When inflammation is allowed to occur in a healthy way, it’s temporary.

Of course, keeping your diet healthy and allowing for adequate rest and recovery will help speed the body to less inflammatory phases of healing, but the main key is to keep calm and carry on. If you’re new to fitness—or perhaps just new to a particular kind of fitness—there’s going to be a lot of adaptation going on and therefore a noticeable level of inflammation. It should subside in a couple weeks.

Another less-likely reason you’re gaining weight is that you’re building muscle faster than you’re shedding fat. The general consensus in the fitness community is that the most weight someone new to fitness will gain in muscle is about 2 pounds a month, but that’s not a hard-and-fast number.

On more than one occasion, I’ve assisted women who are frustrated because they felt their new exercise regime was making their thighs fat. Indeed, their legs were getting bigger, but only because increased muscle under adipose tissue was pushing out the fat and making it appear to increase. Again, the trick here is patience. Once that fat burns off—which it does if you keep at it—thick legs will give way to a toned, sexy pair of gams.

But what if something actually is going wrong?

There are a couple situations in which you might actually be putting on fat. The first one would be that you’re not following a proper diet. Yes, exercise burns calories, but it also increases release of ghrelin, a hormone that promotes hunger. So if you’re not paying attention, you’ll probably eat more.

Even if you are eating at a deficit, poor food choices can cause all kinds of issues, usually centered on hormonal imbalances that cause your body to hold onto fat. Every one of Beachbody’s programs comes with some sort of nutrition guide that should alleviate this issue. Don’t be afraid to read the white book that came with your DVDs.

Finally, there’s the issue of excess stress. Exercise is a good thing, but it also puts your body under stress. By itself, that’s great. It’s part of that adaptation I mentioned earlier. If done right with the proper nutritional support, rest, and recovery, it toughens you up, fortifying your body against further stress.

However, when you just pile exercise on top of a bunch of other stress—or if you work out beyond your limits—balance will be lost. Exercise will contribute to your total stress load, becoming part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.

So if you work twelve hours a day, drink more than two standard alcoholic drinks a night on a regular basis, smoke, sleep less than 7–8 hours a night, eat a junk-filled Standard American Diet or an overly restricted low-calorie diet, and attempt one of our graduate programs when you’re 100 pounds overweight with a history of knee issues, exercise will tax your body just like all the bad habits on that list. In terms of weight gain, this can manifest in a few ways. First, that inflammation we discussed earlier won’t have the chance to give way to later phases of healing. When this happens, it can become chronic and systemic. Second, you’ll promote the release of the stress hormone cortisol that, in turn, can promote fat accumulation—particularly around the abdomen.

I’m not telling you not to exercise. Just the opposite, in fact. However, fitness is a holistic issue. If your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or get healthier, you might want to take a closer look at your sleep, dietary, and other lifestyle habits. Sparta wasn’t built in a day. If you’re looking for 300-esque abs, it’s going to take a little time (or some expensive CGI), so start with a program you can do and that will keep you motivated instead of burning you out.

Don’t give up. Give your unexpected added pounds a couple of weeks to work themselves out. If they don’t, step back and see if there’s any other aspect of your life that needs fine-tuning.

How Should You Count Foods for P90X, X2, or X3?

I am always looking for answers to your questions and I found a good answer on P90X nutrition from two experts, Steve Edwards and Denis Faye.  This post appears in the Team Beachbody blog, so I am sharing it and the video where Steve and Denis provide some answers.

“In a recent chat, experts Steve Edwards and Denis Faye explained how to count your foods for the P90X series portion plans. Should you count each food once, or if it falls into more than one category should you count it multiple times? Push play for the answer.”

PS – If the video does not start at the right time for you, please set it to 57:06.


10 Reasons Women Need to Lift Weights

I just had to post this from the Team Beachbody blog because it is such a great article.  So many women stay away from strength training but it is so essential to health and fitness and maintaining weight.  I hope that you enjoy it and get value out of it because it’s your body and your health that are at stake.


Many women believe that the only way to lose weight is to do cardiovascular (aerobic exercise). So they jog or take aerobics classes five times a week. Eventually, though, they notice that while their bodies are a little smaller, there are still a lot of flabby and jiggly bits. Sound familiar? Aerobic exercise is important for good health, but it’s only half of the equation. Keep reading for the other half.

For optimal fitness, longevity, and a lean body, weight training is essential. If you avoid pumping iron because you’re afraid of getting “bulky,” then you’re missing out on one of the best fat-burning methods around.

When you’re weight training, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how many inches you’re losing. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. Besides, what’s more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your skinny jeans?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to lift weights, here are 10 reasons you should reconsider.

1. Burn more fat. Researchers at Tufts University found that when overweight women lifted heavy weights twice a week, they lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. The control group, women who dieted but didn’t lift weights, lost only 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle. When you do an intense weight-training program such as ChaLEAN Extreme, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward. During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.

2. Change your body shape. You may think your genes determine how you look. That’s not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the “middle-age spread.” Just look at the amazing body transformations of the women who’ve completed P90X. Dropping only 3 percent of your body fat could translate into a total loss of 3 inches off your hips and thighs. And no, you won’t bulk up—women don’t have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep your diet clean and create a calorie deficit, you’ll burn fat.

3. Boost your metabolism. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As women age, they lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of the weight loss may be muscle loss. Weight training while dieting can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more calories you’ll burn all day long.

4. Get stronger and more confident. Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

5. Build strong bones. It’s been well documented that women need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass, and to prevent osteoporosis. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do bones when they’re made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for women as they age.

6. Fight depression. You’ve probably heard that cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help alleviate depression, and weight lifting has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training. Many women find that regular strength training, in conjunction with psychological treatment, helps lessen their depression symptoms substantially.

7. Improve sports fitness. You don’t have to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it’s bicycling with the family, swimming, golfing, or skiing…whatever sport you enjoy.

8. Reduce injuries and arthritis. Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. A study conducted at the University of Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, found that mildly disabled participants who lifted weights for 12 weeks increased the frequency and intensity at which they could work, with less pain and increased range of movement.

9. Get heart healthy. More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people don’t realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who do 30 minutes of weight lifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t lift weights.

10. Defend against diabetes. In addition to keeping your ticker strong, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) by as much as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood, which can reduce complications from diabetes or even help prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Invest in Your Health in July and Save Money


I’ve been on this “finish strong” theme all day so I might as well share it here, too.  Even though the last three days have been challenging and I’ve been getting by on too little sleep, two well timed naps of about 20:00 seemed to do the trick.  I actually found an article on my site entitled, “Recognizing and Dealing With Fatigue” that addressed the value of the nap:

 “It is important to remember that the human body requires 7 – 10 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When we don’t have enough time, the first place we typically cut back is sleep time.

If  you are getting up early to exercise, or staying up late, it is important to adjust your sleep time accordingly. If continuous sleep is not possible, a 20- to 40-minute nap during the day may help.”

Click here for the full article if you want to read it and get some help if you are dealing with fatigue.

Speaking of finishing strong, let’s finish the month strong and save some money in July investing in your health. As just a reminder, there are six Challenge Packs that are on sale now and they all have great Beachbody programs and all include the most nutrient dense shake ever created – that has a 30 day bottom of the bag guarantee. Those Challenge Packs are:

PiYo – – Save $70.00.
3 Day Refresh – – Save $70
21 Day Fix (Spanish) – – Save $70.00
Brazil Butt Lift – – Save $50
Body Beast Shakeology – – Save $50.00
Body Beast Bodybuilding – – Save $50.00

My mission is to get you healthier and fitter and if I can save you some money doing it, that’s even better!

Bulletproof Coffee?

Clearly my sleep deprivation is carrying over into a second day and this is a make up post on a subject (well, at least coffee) that is on my mind.  To compound matters and derail my hope of getting some sleep back last night, I got an email from my daughter saying, “Emily (our Jack Russell Terrier) is Dead”.  I won’t go into it, but I stayed awake thinking how distraught Grace must be and how was I going to console her and how was I going to replace Emily and it turned out that Emily was just dead tired.  A nine year old doesn’t think of implications of words I guess..

So seeing an article about “bulletproof coffee”, I thought it would be just what I needed – thinking that it meant really strong.  But there is way more to the story and I will let Denis Faye tell it as he is so good at doing:

Should You Be Drinking Bulletproof Coffee?

By Denis Faye – from the Team Beachbody Newsletter

Cup of Coffee

Wellness hipsters across the country have taken to “bulletproofing” their mornings by swapping out a balanced breakfast for coffee topped off with grass-fed butter and coconut oil in hopes that the resulting cup o’ greasy joe will spur weight loss and productivity.

While the notions behind the practice are interesting and the idea of drinking buttered coffee sounds downright decadent, ultimately, it’s an albatross of an idea that should best go the way of the dodo. In other words, it’s for the birds.

In 1996, I spent three weeks in Nepal reporting on a doctor who was traveling to remote villages to perform cataract surgeries. As much as the experience was life changing, it was also hot, dirty, and exhausting. Being a vegetarian at the time, I lived largely on bread and lentils during the trip—at a fraction of my typical caloric intake. I slept 5–6 hours a night, usually on an Eisenhower-era mattress in a wooden shack resembling a termite-riddled sauna.

The Nepalese were magnificent, gracious people who insisted on sharing a cup of chai with us wherever we went. The tea was strong stuff, heavy on the milk and sugared to the point of being crunchy. As not to insult my hosts, I drank 10–15 cups a day. Between the sleep deprivation, exercise, and the lack of other calories, those little cracked cups of sweet, creamy caffeinated goodness were the only thing that kept me standing—a true miracle beverage.

So as a nutrition consultant, do I recommend you start filling your hot beverages with refined sugar because, for one brief moment of hard living in an exotic country, it gave me a boost? Um, no.

Yet, this appears to be the foundation of bulletproofing.

The Science of Bulletproofing

Creator Dave Asprey based the recipe (which, for the record, he feels is best done with his brand of coffee and his brand of coconut or palm-derived oil) on an aha moment while climbing in Tibet. As he tells it, he was at 18,000 feet elevation in minus 10°F weather when he sought refuge in a guesthouse where they fed him hot, yak butter tea—which “literally rejuvenated” him.

Asprey was freezing cold and clearly exerting himself. They offered him something hot, caffeinated, and highly caloric. Of course this would make him feel better. The fact that it was yak butter is irrelevant. Warm Yoo-hoo with a dollop of Crisco would have done the same thing. As Steve Edwards, Beachbody® VP of Fitness & Nutrition and experienced mountain man, points out, “Mountaineers switch to super high-fat diets at altitude for a number of reasons but, primarily, because the body is fighting for survival (it’s technically dying) and calories per gram of food is paramount.”

Beyond the ancient wisdom angle, the benefits of bulletproofing coffee are supposedly based on “science”; specifically, the growing belief in holistic circles that saturated fat isn’t a heart stopper, but rather a superfood. There’s some merit to these claims, but it’s complicated.

Butter vs. Cream

Different fats (including different forms of saturated fats) have chemical chains of varying lengths. When you look at the research, it appears that perhaps the long-chain saturated fats are the harmful ones, while the medium-chain saturated fats, or medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), that you find in coconut oil and palm oil, may have some benefits. A review in the Journal of Nutrition found that replacing other fats in the diet with MCTs may promote weight loss and satiety. The only problem is that dairy, even the grass-fed kind, consists mainly of long-chain fatty acids, so to truly bulletproof your coffee, you’d be better off adding just coconut oil.

However, Asprey’s Excellent Mountain Adventure took place in Tibet, not Tahiti, so he needed to work the butter angle instead of focusing on tropical fruits. Perhaps he did that a bit too well, since many trend followers skip the MCT and just add the butter, making the practice pointless.

Another problem with using butter instead of milk or cream is that the latter have more vitamins, minerals, and protein than the former. Asprey claims that butter is better than cream because it doesn’t contain “damaging denatured casein protein.” Denaturing protein means to break it down. Your body does this naturally in order to access the amino acids, but pasteurization (heat) also denatures the protein in dairy. Some holistic practitioners argue that denatured milk protein is hard for the body to digest and that it binds with calcium, which then can’t be absorbed. Unfortunately, Asprey’s solution to avoid denatured protein by focusing on the fat is flawed, considering that with pasteurized butter (which does contain some protein by the way) you still encounter many other pasteurization-related dairy issues, including the destruction of calcium-absorbing enzymes.

Furthermore, unless you’re a raw foods person, you eat denatured protein constantly, since protein sources tend to be cooked. The 3–4 grams of denatured protein in a little milk or cream just don’t matter, considering vitamins and minerals take a nosedive when dairy is turned into butter. By volume, butter has a third the calcium of cream and less than a fifth the calcium of whole milk. B and D vitamins also plummet. About the only vitamin that doesn’t suffer is vitamin A. Because it’s fat based, it increases in concentration—but vitamin A deficiency isn’t an issue in the Western world.

In other words, if you want to put some cow juice in your coffee, you’re much better off with milk or cream since they’re more vitamin and mineral dense.

Should You Bulletproof Your Coffee?

Bulletproofing your coffee is also supposed to keep you extra satisfied. This may be true, but if you follow the recipe of two tablespoons of butter plus two tablespoons of the MCT supplement or coconut oil, you’re also eating 500 calories of fat. That’s the caloric equivalent of six and a half eggs or three cups of full-fat yogurt and a handful of berries—which would be equally filling and vastly more nutritious.

In other words, it’s not a miracle. It’s just a truckload of slow-digesting calories.

I have no problem with Asprey’s brand of coffee or his MCT supplements. I’m a strong supporter of quality coffee and Beachbody incorporates coconut oil into our 21 Day Fix® nutrition plan. But, bulletproofing your coffee as a practice is all about the appeal of a shortcut. Who wants to hear that balanced, nutritious foods, exercise, and willpower are the keys to good health and weight loss? We want to hear that there’s not only a magic trick out there, but a highly decadent magic trick. It’s like learning that a weekend in Vegas cures hemorrhoids or watching HBO will give you six-pack abs. The only thing that could make butter coffee sound dreamier is if it had to be sipped through a bacon straw.

And dreamy is always more appealing than realistic.

The Sleep Factor

Yesterday was a rough day and therefore no post.  I stayed up late working and then for some reason, couldn’t sleep.  I felt like I was awake for most of the night, but probably not – more like just not enough sleep and for no particular reason.

The Team Beachbody Newsletters are a dependable source of information, so I searched for “sleep deprivation” and found the reason that I was feeling negative and just not my usual upbeat self.  Here’s that reason:

“Researchers found that when you’re sleep deprived your prefrontal cortex—the portion of your brain responsible for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions—is also sluggish.”

This nugget is in an article about your metabolism and weight gain, which I don’t have a problem with, but I think that I will post the article in its entirety because I do know that this is a universal problem as we age.  Here it is for you to use and glean information from:

How to Boost Your Metabolism

By Zack Zeigler

Which do you want first—the good news or the bad news? The bad news? You got it, glass-is-half-empty exerciser. Here it is: There is no magical way to speed up your metabolism. So all the mystical pills and potions that promise to ignite a lasting metabolic torch in your body won’t pay off as advertised.

Woman about to bite a Chili Pepper

“Some people will say this food or that food speeds metabolism, or ‘I saw this pill on Dr. Oz!’ but that just won’t happen,” says Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM, author of The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great. “But it’s hard to quantify what speeds up metabolism when it comes to food because you’re not eating that food by itself.”

And while there are foods that have been shown to provide a metabolic jolt—like capsaicin in chili peppers and fiber-rich foods like brown rice and oatmeal—they only supply a small change and don’t greatly impact weight loss individually.

Another common cop-out is to blame aging, as if your inability to pop and lock on the dance floor somehow correlates to your body’s inability to efficiently burn calories.

“When you talk about metabolism slowing down as you age you’re also talking about bone density, lean muscle mass, and voluntary activity slowing down,” Dr. Stoler explains. “Those things change over time and with age. So it’s not just ‘I’m old!’ and there’s no accountability.” Mr. P90X®, Tony Horton, is 55-years-old, so think about that the next time you use that excuse. If you’re feeling creaky, the more you move, the better you’ll feel.

Remember when we said there was good news? Here it is: There are things you can do to increase your metabolism. And the even, uh, gooder news—the things that can help you boost your metabolism aren’t all that difficult to implement into your daily routine.

Use Resistance Training

Woman Working Out with WeightsA long-distance run burns plenty of calories and can give you an edge on Sir Bitey when that inevitable zombie apocalypse occurs and it’s time to flee for your life. But, you’ll want to add resistance training to your workout, too.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Translation Medicine found that, compared to a traditional resistance training workout, using high-intensity interval resistance training (this is when you train with heavy weights for a short duration of time) increased their resting metabolic rate in the 24 hours following the workout.1

“People who only do cardio are training their muscles for endurance and burning calories, but they’re not building muscle mass,” Dr. Stoler says. “In terms of increasing your resting metabolic rate, you need more resistance, weight-bearing exercise.”

Muscle burns more calories than fat, so putting on more muscle equates to a higher resting metabolic rate.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to become an Olympic power lifter. Many cardio-based workouts, including INSANITY® or anything plyometric, contain a resistance aspect to them. Still, it’s a good idea to get some good old-fashioned weight work into your program every now and then.

Eat, Eat, Eat

Fasting is the wrong way to go about jump-starting your metabolism. In fact, leaving your tank on empty for too many hours has an adverse effect since your body needs food to operate. According to Dr. Stoler, eating small, healthy meals more often revs up your metabolism by keeping your digestive system working.

“Having a healthy diet when you’re eating more often keeps the furnace going without letting your energy levels deplete,” she says. “It’s like your furnace; it’s better to run it at a steady rate instead of turning it off and then coming home and cranking it up.”

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

The later you stay up, the worse your diet gets. No, we’re not stalking you; a two-week sleep study from the University of Pennsylvania found that night owls tended to feast on fattier foods, with men gaining more weight than women, and black people gaining more weight than white people.2 (Wait, when did science become so discriminatory?)

A smaller 2011 study revealed why sleep and weight gain might be connected. Researchers found that when you’re sleep deprived your prefrontal cortex—the portion of your brain responsible for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions—is also sluggish. This impedes your willpower to resist fatty foods, which makes the gelatinous blob of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that’s disguised as dessert look far more appetizing than it would have had you hit the sack at a decent hour.

Drink More

Man Drinking Water after a RunWater, you lushes! Not only can dehydration trick you into thinking you’re hungry and decrease your mental and physical abilities, studies have found that drinking as little as 16 ounces of water led to an increase in energy expenditure. You should be downing more water than that. How much, exactly? We’re so glad you asked. Take your bodyweight and divide it in half, and then add the word “ounces” to the answer. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d aim for 75 ounces of agua per day.


  1. High Intensity Interval Resistance Training influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratios in non-dieting individuals
  2. Sleep Deprived People May Crave High Calorie Foods

5 PiYo Moves to Tighten and Tone Your Buns

The first rule of investing is diversify, diversify, diversify and that’s what I’ve decided to do with this blog.  I love P90X and have been doing it for much of the past almost 7 1/2 years.  But most people like change and change is good.  That’s why I changed the narrow focus of this blog, just like I changed the narrow focus of my website 15 years ago.  At that time, it was all running.  Now it is all fitness and health and how to be fit.

Here’s a great article about PiYo and considering that the PiYo Challenge Pack is only on sale for another 3 days, it is appropriate to let you see what PiYo is all about.

From the Team Beachbody Newsletter – “5 PiYo Moves to Tighten and Tone Your Buns” by Rebecca Swammer