Newsletter Volume 1, Number 7

January 12, 2006

From my Diary

  • Strength Training: For the last four weeks I have been describing how my workouts follow an 8-week cycle, based on Bryan Haycock's HST program, (Hypertrophic Specific Training).

    This week I started the first week of the 5's (5 repetitions). Working out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for two weeks gives a mini-cycle with six sessions. This mini-cycle appears on my workout sheet as 5RM, "5-repetition maximum". In theory, the last of each set of 5 repetitions reaches the limit of my strength. Since there are only 5 repetitions to a set, endurance is not an issue.

    To illustrate, if I can lift 22 pounds (10 kg) 5 times, but not 6 times, then my 5-repetition maximum (5RM) would be 22 pounds. In practice, only on the sixth and last day will the last repetition of each set reach the maximum load for five repetitions.

    The 5RM is about 20% greater than the 10RM. This means that the loads on the last day of the 5RM will be 20% greater than the loads on the last day of the 10RM.

    For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST) Part 1: Strength Versus Endurance.

    The 5RM mini-cycle is the most challenging of the three mini-cycles. Absolute concentration is essential to avoid injury. For example: After 10 months training, the first day of the dumbbell press starts with two 33-pound (15 kg) dumbbells, by the sixth day progressing to two 42-pound (19 kg) dumbbells. (You lie on your back on a bench holding the dumbbells at chest level and close to the ribs, then you raise the dumbbells vertically.)

    The gym has no 19-kilogram dumbbells, so I will finish with 17.5 kg (38.5-pound) dumbbells and aim for 7 repetitions, which my table shows is equivalent to a 5RM of 41 pounds, a load is close enough to what is in my program. That is close enough to the target, considering that I am not certain that I can lift a 38.5-pound dumbbell even 5 times!

    It's critical to pay 100% attention to what is happening as you lift these heavy weights. As soon as the weight starts to wobble on the way up or down—STOP. Wobbling weights indicate loss of control, even if you can complete the repetition. I don't know if and when loss of control will begin with weights like these. So I must pay attention. If loss of control threatens to occur on Friday of this week, then on the Monday following, I will not increase the weight even though that's what my program says. I will repeat with the same load as before until I no longer feel loss of control is imminent. To be absolutely certain, I will lift for six repetitions before proceeding rather than the scheduled five repetitions.

    The aim of these exercises is "micro-trauma" not "macro-trauma". Microscopic damage to muscle tissue causes the muscle to adapt to heavier loads. As loads become a little heavier over time, we might not even notice the micro-trauma, but it's there. (That seems to me to be the moral of the Fable of Milo and the Bull Calf.) Sometimes micro-trauma is noticed as muscle soreness. Today, my right shoulder is a little sore from yesterday's workout. If this soreness goes away in a day or so, I will continue. However, if there is still soreness by Monday morning, I will skip this exercise and not proceed until the soreness goes away. The reason is that prolonged soreness might indicate "macro-trauma"—inflamed or torn ligaments and tendons.

    With the heavier loads of the 5RM mini-cycle, I do one warm-up set of five repetitions before doing two working sets. The warm-up set uses a load about 70% of the full load. I also rest a full minute between sets.

    For reasons that Bryan Haycock explains, we need the heavier weights as well as the light and medium weights. With a few simple precautions, we need not fear these heavier weights. When I am feeling very uncertain, I ask a member of the gym staff or a friendly gym regular to "spot" me. The "spotter" stands ready to help lower the weight if you lose control.

  • Aerobic Exercises: We get three health benefits from aerobic training, a direct benefit to the heart muscle, an indirect benefit to all arteries from the weight loss induced by aerobics, and the strengthening of bones from weight-bearing activity. Fitness gurus often warn trainees about the dangers of losing muscle mass. A recent study measured the effect of weight loss on two groups of women: walking only and walking with resistance training (weight training). The study confirms the role of protein in preserving muscle mass among women on a weight-loss program. The results of this study also apply to men.

  • Abdominal Exercises: For most people, developing the abs is an exercise in faith, because the muscles remain invisible under a layer fat until the body fat percentage falls to below about 15%, some say even lower. Fifteen minutes per day is not too much time to invest in something that requires so much patience and faith. With 15 minutes per day, you can do three or four abs exercise getting the repetitions up to at least 50 per exercise. Avoid doing full situps. They stress the lower back and exercise the wrong muscles.

  • Damage Control: The special treats during the holidays did put on some of the fat lost since the last fat-loss campaign. The odd thing is that the fat regained came straight off within a week. Possibly this has something to do with timing. Perhaps, because I returned immediately to my normal food intake and workout program, the body did not have time to reset its fat regulator to a higher level—homeostasis remained set at the lower fat level. I wonder if this may be why people who weigh themselves every day are more successful at maintaining weight loss—immediate feedback allows quick adjustment.

Tips of the Week

  • Vitamin D and Cancer: To reduce the risk from several cancers, take a vitamin D supplement and get a little sun. Care in exposure to the sun is necessary to avoid skin cancer, but avoiding the sun altogether could raise the risk of developing other cancers.

    Studies have confirmed that vitamin D protects against several types of cancer, but the role of vitamin D in colorectal cancer has been controversial. Grant and Garland reviewed studies of vitamin D and colorectal cancer. Studies of the effects of dietary vitamin D have been inconclusive because the body synthesizes the vitamin in the skin when exposed to the sun. They concluded, "There is strong evidence from several different lines of investigation supporting the hypothesis that vitamin D may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Further study is required to elucidate the mechanisms and develop guidelines for optimal vitamin D sources and serum levels of vitamin D metabolites." Pubmed abstract.

  • Nutrition and Cancer: Many studies have shown that nutrition plays an important role in reducing risk of cancer. I found a review article covering several different types of cancer and republish the abstract below.

    Cancer and Nutrition: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet

    Michael S Donaldson
    Director of Research, Hallelujah Acres Foundation, USA
    Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:19 (doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-19)
    The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:


    It has been estimated that 30–40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone.

    Obesity, nutrient sparse foods such as concentrated sugars and refined flour products that contribute to impaired glucose metabolism (which leads to diabetes), low fiber intake, consumption of red meat, and imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats all contribute to excess cancer risk.

    Intake of flax seed, especially its lignan fraction, and abundant portions of fruits and vegetables will lower cancer risk.

    Allium [onion, garlic] and cruciferous vegetables [cabbage family] are especially beneficial, with broccoli sprouts being the densest source of sulforophane.

    Protective elements in a cancer prevention diet include selenium, folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, chlorophyll, and antioxidants such as the carotenoids (a-carotene, ß-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin). Ascorbic acid has limited benefits orally, but could be very beneficial intravenously.

    Supplementary use of oral digestive enzymes and probiotics also has merit as anticancer dietary measures.

    When a diet is compiled according to the guidelines here it is likely that there would be at least a 60–70 percent decrease in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, and even a 40–50 percent decrease in lung cancer, along with similar reductions in cancers at other sites. Such a diet would be conducive to preventing cancer and would favor recovery from cancer as well.


  • Christian Finn is Britain's foremost internet fitness trainer. He holds a masters degree with distinction in exercise science and has lectured extensively in the United Kingdom on fitness training, weight loss and the effective use of nutritional supplements. As certified personal trainer, he has spent more than ten years working training private clients, including exercise professionals and has appeared on BBC TV. His articles have appeared in several UK and US magazines. Christian' web site, Facts About Fitness, has now been online for five years, remaining completely independent from supplement companies and proprietary training and diet systems. The site is funded by private subscribers to the Members-Only Area and sales of books featured in the newsletter. Christian's newsletters are informative and free of promotional gimmicks. I never miss an issue.


  • Restructure Your Body: This week I added a new section to the website: Restructure Your Body. I asked the question: What causes us to put on weight as we age? The answer is not obvious, but is revealed by an analysis of work carried out by Harris and Benedict over 85 years ago. In 1919, Harris and Benedict developed formulas that are still used to calculate base metabolic rate (BMR). Knowing a person's sex, height, weight, age and level of physical activity, we can calculate how many calories they need each day. The formulas are not perfect. For example, the method over-estimates calories needed by people who are very obese, with BMI over 35. Nevertheless, the formulas work well enough as a general guide.

    The Harris-Benedict formulas are empirical, that is they describe the population measured by Harris and Benedict, but do not tell us what process generated the observations. I tested a simple hypothesis: No increase in food intake is needed to produce an overweight population. The decline in metabolic rate with age is enough to cause most adults to become fat. I have not shown the mathematical model, but will send a copy to anyone who is interested. The results from the model suggest the hypothesis is correct: As most people age, they become fat, not because they eat more, but because they eat the same amount as when they were young and burned more energy. Restructure Your Body.

    There are two new articles. The first, Basic program to lose fat without dieting, presents a simple approach based on walking, but points out that what you eat may be as important as how much you eat.

    The second article concerns everyone who is making an effort to lose fat: When you lose fat, will you lose muscle and bone too? The article presents evidence that protein has a protective effect in any fat loss program and gives some indication of how much protein is needed.

Coming Soon

  • I spent so much time on the Harris-Benedict model that I missed my deadline for a special report concerning the successful use of gene therapy for heart disease based on the famous "Milano gene". This therapy may someday displace major heart surgery and even procedures like stenting. Look for it next week.

Bye until next week...
Fred Colbourne It's never too late!