What The Heck Are Toning Pants?

I’m not the most fashion conscious woman in the world, in fact sometimes I think I may be the least, but when a reader sent me a question about TONING pants, I had to investigate. Could the claims be possible, she asked.

What exactly was the claim?

“Achieving amazing in half the time”

That’s the promise Fila USATM is using to sell its Toning Resistance Tight Capri. They cost $50. They have compression toning panels that, it is claimed, “streamline the figure,” while purportedly increasing the efficiency of a wearer’s workout. They are made of polyester and Lycra-fabric and they claim a “50% increase in muscle workouts” and “41% more support.” And a press release from Fila states that the capris are “designed to increase muscle exercise, which improves the efficiency as well as recovery of an existing workout.”

The underlying premise would be that if in fact the capris did increase muscle activation, then there would be a corresponding increase in the caloric expenditure of the wearer and an improvement in her muscle tone. I’ve taken a look at some of the studies done by exercise science researchers and here’s what I found.

The Bottom Line

Although the research showed a slight increase in calorie burn while wearing Fila’s toning capris, in a real-world scenario that boost would be negligible.

“Calorie-wise, it’s like burning off the equivalent of half a single Peanut M&M,” says one of the researchers, John Porcari, Ph.D. “You would be better off walking an extra 50 yards than wearing these capris to achieve that benefit.”

In response to the claims of a 50-percent increase in muscle workouts, the researchers reported that the Fila capris didn’t deliver there, either.

Subjects were also asked to write down what they felt while wearing the toning capris compared to the athletic shorts, and several stated that they felt increased compression and resistance around the hip joint, which made it more difficult to walk.

“These pants have toning panels, which provide resistance, except your butt muscles and quads and hamstrings are so strong that putting a little bit of elastic in there doesn’t add much resistance,” Porcari says. “In order to provide enough resistance to be beneficial, the pants would have to be so restrictive that you wouldn’t be able to easily move. To achieve a 50-percent increase in muscle activation, you’d have to be wearing something akin to a straight jacket.”

As for “achieving amazing in half the time,” researchers point to the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That said, for some women the look and fit of these capris may deliver psychological benefits that can’t be quantified.

“I would say that these toning capris are similar to other compression pants that you can buy,” says researcher Alexa Kleingartner, M.S. “I wouldn’t recommend buying them to make a difference in the effectiveness of your workout, but the extra compression and tightness may give you a butt lift and a better shape. That factor is definitely there, so if you think you look better, you may be more willing to work out. And that’s always a good thing.”

Personally, I’d rather see you use your $50 to buy yourself a pedometer for $20, and a month’s worth of swim passes at your local pool!

Protein And Exercise

How much protein do you need after exercise? You may already know this answer, but I want to make sure!

I’m all for getting a little more protein in your diet, but enough is enough. Some of the protein shakes you can buy have 40 or 50 grams.

Do you really need that much protein after you exercise? Nope.

Resistance training causes muscle breakdown, and to repair those muscles over the course of a few days, you need amino acids from protein.

But for quite a few years now research has proven that we only need to consume a moderate amount of protein after exercise to begin the rebuilding process and keep the fat loss process humming along.

Just to give you an example of how this is researched, in one study scientists put six young men through an intense leg workout on five separate occasions. After the workout, they received 0, 5, 10, 20, or 40 grams of whole egg protein. The 20-gram protein dose caused maximum muscle protein synthesis. More important, when the subjects consumed any more than 20 grams, their bodies simply used the excess protein for energy (just as the body uses carbohydrates and fat), and part of the amino acids got excreted in their urine.

In other words, when you consume excessive amounts of protein, whatever you don’t need literally gets flushed away. Eating more protein than you need does NOT force your muscles to repair and rebuild faster.

Look at it this way. Imagine that your muscles are a factory, and the amino acids delivered to your muscles are parts. Inside the factory, little workers are building more muscle. But the factory has a limited rate of production.

It doesn’t matter how many extra parts get delivered. Those little muscle-factory workers can only work so hard and so fast. So those excess parts just sit there and eventually get removed by the factory’s clean-up crew and turned into waste. (If the factory is paying a pretty penny for those parts, it’s a waste of money too.)

So for your post workout meal you could consume a 20-gram protein shake or simply eat a regular meal that contains 20 grams of protein. If you’re in fat loss mode, makes sure that meal doesn’t have too much sugar!

I hope this helped remind you of what you already knew or brought some new useful information your way!

Will Running Help You Lose Weight?

As a health and fitness professional I field a lot of questions that revolve around the “what’s the BEST” topic. Everyone wants to know the BEST, but it’s an awkward question to answer and maybe even the wrong question to be asking. The best for what? The best for whom? And for each best recommendation that you might hear about or read about in the media, even if it’s wrong for you, there might be some truth in it.

So you may be exercising and eating all wrong, for YOU and your goals.

And the fitness field sure does lead to some interesting ideas posing as “the truth”.

For instance, here’s a sample taken from questions I receive:

  1. Is running several miles per day the key to getting fit?
  2. Is doing a ton of long, slow distance (LSD) running absolutely necessary?
  3. Is lifting the heaviest weights you possibly can the best way to get really strong and fit?
  4. Will eating five or six times per day crank up my metabolism?
  5. Will training one part of my body today and another part tomorrow prevent over-training?
  6. Is working out only 2-3 times per week the fastest way to make progress?

While there are pieces of truth in all these questions, there are also pieces of untruths. Let’s take one of these, the one about running and metabolism, which is one of the most frequent questions I get. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people tell me they are training for a marathon, or even a half marathon, and yet they aren’t losing any weight.

For example, long, slow cardio may make you feel good, but if you want to “STEP UP” your metabolism, you’re far better off doing a very hard, very vigorous workout that calls upon all your physical and mental reserves. You’re better off with a short workout that will never get easy, no matter how often you do it.

Consider the sprinter. Her body is lean, muscular, and powerful. But it is rare to find a long-distance cardio person who is well muscled. They may be lean, but there’s no power. Not only that, after a period of time they may end up suffering from hip, knee, ankle, and lower-back pain, particularly if their technique isn’t good.

Why? All the pounding on the joints takes a tremendous toll on the body.

And as I suggested, it depends on YOU and your goals. Running a lot of miles isn’t the best approach if your goal is fat loss or a change in body composition.

Try these 5 approaches instead:

  1. Begin doing vigorous bodyweight exercises that force you to lose control of your breathing. If you aren’t getting out of breath when you train, your system is NOT being forced to adapt and change. The harder you are breathing, the more shock to the system. The more “shock” there is, the greater the shake-up in your metabolism.
  2. Instead of running or bicycling several miles per day for cardio exercise, train like a cheetah. No I didn’t say train eating Cheetos, I said train like a cheetah! Run as hard as you can, at full blast, for as long as you can. Run with all your might. When finished, you’ll be gasping for oxygen. And this gasping is what turns on the fat-burning furnace within. Make sure you’re in appropriate shape before you tackle this one.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen in your system. The more oxygen in your system, the faster your metabolism. Don’t just get your deep breathing from vigorous exercise. Get if from the act of deep breathing itself, done all day long.
  4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich, water-content foods while avoiding starchy foods most of the time.
  5. Change the mental picture you have of yourself. As you see yourself in your mind’s eye, so you become.

While #4 and #5 aren’t about exercising per se, coupled with the first three suggestions, they’ll surely help you make progress.

So always remember, it’s about you and your goals and what exercise and diet plans will help you reach them in the safest, most efficient ways possible.

Antioxidants: Don’t Leave This One Out!

We hear the message about antioxidant supplementation and how good they are for us. Yet there’s still a controversy as to whether they have benefits or have harmful effects.

Yet research supports that one kind of antioxidant is GREAT for us. It’s called regular, moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise. Combine that with a diet high in natural antioxidants and you have a winning combo.

Food choices such as fruits, particularly berries, vegetables (like beans and artichokes), nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), and spices (cloves, cinnamon, oregano) are high in natural antioxidants.

So stay committed to your exercise programs and be creative in your antioxidant food choices and enjoy abundant long-term health!

Don’t Feel Like Working Out?

Here’s a silly question for you.

Have you ever gotten started on a workout program and then all of a sudden stopped?

I said it was a silly question. Who hasn’t gone through that stopping and starting.

Trust me, it happens to the best of us. Yes, even me.

So the question is: How do you get yourself started again when, quite honestly, you just don’t feel like it?

Don’t we have enough stuff to do in one day without throwing in one more time consuming task on our “to do” list?

Complaining only goes so far, so let’s figure out a good solution!

I was having a conversation with a good friend who just recently got himself back to the gym. After just the first 2 days of getting back into his old routine of going to the gym after each work day he said:

“I forgot how great I used to feel after a workout. All that time I spent dreading going back into the gym was really just a waste. Once I got in there, it was no big deal. Why did I waste all that time?”

I couldn’t agree more. I know this isn’t going to sound like revolutionary advice, but when you fall off the wagon, you just need to get back on! That’s it.

Just walk back into the gym one time, break a sweat, feel the burn, check out your own muscles in the mirror, whatever it takes. Chances are you will be right back on track. Yes, that fast. Whether or not your exercise is done in the gym or somewhere else, the same principles apply.

Or you could just start with something simple. Anything goes. A walk. Some pushups. Bench press your dog food bag. Yes, anything. The goal here is to get yourself back to the point where you’re feeling the wonderful effects of exercise and you actually don’t want to miss your workout.

Imagine that. So get back on your routines and you’ll be feeling like my friend felt…….I promise!

Do You Start Your Day With Stretching?

What you do in the first few minutes of your day sets the tone for the rest of it. That’s why it is important to begin your day with thoughts of happiness, success, great health, and prosperity.

One way to help set yourself on this course is to always have a daily goal, especially a daily fitness goal. And if you achieve that goal first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is going to be great.

A worthy daily fitness-related goal is to start your day with some stretching.

Have you ever seen Animal Planet?

Someone was telling me about watching one of their specials on wild cats. She saw every cat from lions to tigers to cheetahs to leopards to mountain lions and a lynx.

She watched how wild, as well as domesticated, cats stretch. They stretch backwards hundreds of times per day. And they do it as soon as they wake up.

I’ve noticed my dog does this as well.

I think we all should do likewise. Stretching can not only increase your strength and flexibility, it will ENERGIZE you for hours.

So move your body the way it wants to be moved. Stretch like a cat and you’ll know why cats stretch the way they do.

Take Your Exercise Routine Outdoors!

Here’s a simple and fun exercise routine that you can take outdoors.

Here’s the routine:

Do each exercise one after the other in a circuit. Modify the routine and the weights to your current level of fitness. Take no more than 60 seconds of rest between exercises.

  1. Walk, jog or run for 3 minutes
  2. Walking lunges – 20 reps total (10 each leg)
  3. Pushups – 10 reps
  4. Step ups – use your body weight or hold on to two dumbbells – 10 reps each leg. Step up and down on to a high bench.
  5. Squat with Overhead Shoulder Press – 15 reps – (Hold on to two dumbbells. Squat down and then press the weights overhead as you come up from the squat)
  6. Tricep Pushups – 10 reps

Take a 1-2 minute breather, drink some water and then repeat the circuit for a total of 3-4 times.

I find that the trick to keeping my workouts consistent is to always keep them fresh and interesting. Don’t get into a rut of doing the same thing all the time, especially when you can take your workouts outdoors.

How’s Your Posture? Or Would You Rather Not Answer That Question?

Here’s another question I get quite often: “Why am I not seeing results in my posture/performance/whatever?” Does my training program really work?

The answer? IT DEPENDS!

In all honesty, without seeing your particular training program, it’s hard to say whether that’s the problem. With in-person clients it’s pretty easy to discover issues as we work with their programming, or nutrition or training. If they aren’t getting results, most of the time it’s due to things they are doing OUTSIDE of the gym or work-out time versus what they’re doing during their training time.

For instance, imagine the typical computer programmer who comes to see me. Their hips are constantly in flexion, and their upper back and shoulders are slouched over. Even if I gave this person the absolute most perfect program and they executed it to perfection, they may not get results.


In general it’s due to the law of repetitive motion. Particularly when it comes to posture. I’m a stickler for healthy posture. Sometimes when I see someone slouched over, I just want to walk over to them and put them in proper alignment. They can’t possibly be breathing deeply.

As a strength coach, yoga teacher, and running coach I’ll bring your attention to your posture when we’re together and we’ll review your programs making sure that your quad dominant and hip dominant movements are balanced, and that your horizontal pulls match your horizontal presses. HOWEVER, it’s what you do the other hours of the day that matter, and they matter A LOT.

We too often forget to account for what we do all day everyday! That’s where the idea of repetitive motion comes in.

This is one of the many reasons I’m such a huge advocate for more soft-tissue and flexibility/mobility work. No program can overcome poor postures that you assume throughout the day.

Think about it for a second, do you really expect 3 hours in the gym every week to counteract the fact that you sit at a desk or in your car for 40, 50 or even 60 hours every week?

No way!

According to the research, adaptive shortening of muscles can occur in as little as 20 minutes; that means if you’re sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day, your hips are adapting to that position by getting shorter! This epitomizes the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

If you are really serious about getting yourself healthy, mobile and resilient, you absolutely must take into account the positions you’re in throughout the day and try to optimize them.

If you sit at a desk, get your hips in extension by performing lunge stretches. Or better yet, get a stand-up desk and cue yourself to tighten up your stomach and glutes while standing. Those of you who have been reading my articles for some time might recall that three years ago I gave up sitting at a desk while working!

If you drive all day long, set a timer on your phone to go off every 15 minutes that will cue you to sit-up straight and move around a bit. Fidgeting is not always a bad thing!

In essence, everything we do influences our posture and our performance. The question becomes is what you’re doing right now positively or negatively affecting it?

Make the conscious decision throughout the day to optimize your posture and alignment. Doing so will not only help you outside of the gym, but it will improve your performance in the gym as well.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Remember the song “Let The Sunshine In” from the musical Hair? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today. No NOT Hair…..SUNSHINE and its benefits.

When our eyes don’t take in enough sunlight, we can experience a serious mood change. Sometimes you’ll notice you start sleeping too much, or that you go through energy slumps. You might start to crave sweets and starchy foods.

Studies link those symptoms to low levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Not only do we need sunlight in our eyes to produce those neurotransmitters, we need sunlight on our skin to produce vitamin D.

We’ve long known that vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining strong bones. But a big surprise in recent years has been that vitamin D also plays a critical role in insulin regulation, making it important for the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. It’s also important for the regulation of your immune system, with studies linking low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune condition.

Depending on where you live, it’s hard to get enough sunlight during the winter months. And in summer, many people avoid exposure to direct sunlight because they’re concerned about skin cancer. In addition, drugs used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion, and ulcers can deplete the body’s stores of vitamin D.

What this means is that you have a good chance of developing a deficiency of this critical vitamin.

It’s easy to restore the vitamin D your body needs. You can get it by spending a few minutes in the sun each day. You can also get it from food sources, especially eggs, fatty fish, and fish liver oils. And if you don’t like fish, there are supplements.

I’ve long been a proponent of having your vitamin D levels checked the next time you get a blood test.

If you decide to take supplements, avoid the old form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best form to use. Experts are now recommending that we get at least 1,000 IUs per day.

So enjoy letting the sunshine in and keep up your levels of vitamin D.

Are Looks A Marker Of Health?

The other day I was thinking about how looks can be deceiving. For instance, Lance Armstrong, and Jim Fixx (who wrote The Complete Book of Running), looked like two of the healthiest men on the planet. Armstrong beat testicular cancer, but came within an inch of his life. And Fixx died of a heart attack after taking a short jog.

So even if you look healthy and feel like a million bucks, you still need to know your levels of inflammatory markers. These you get from blood tests.

But in the meantime, it’s important you ALSO create a low-inflammatory lifestyle. Here’s how you do that.

A low inflammatory lifestyle would include a low-inflammatory nutrition and training plan, along with plenty of stress-free time.

Many of these blog posts help you with those first two. The third one, de-stressing, is mostly up to you. You may want to spend 30 minutes a day doing yoga, walking, meditating, praying, or whatever calms your mind and body.

Living a healthy life requires you to manage your insulin levels keeping them low, and using low-inflammatory nutrition and a smart exercise plan. So remember to use:

  1. Short workouts that are intense, effective, and enjoyable. Use both weights and cardio.
  2. Longer “soft” workouts (like brisk walking) that help de-stress the body and burn more body fat.
  3. A low-glycemic, high-protein diet packed with plenty of fruits and vegetables.