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Raspberry Ketones: The Latest “No Evidence” Product From the Supplement Industry

Over the past few months, I have been hearing almost constant radio commercials for raspberry ketone weight-loss/fat-burning supplements, with the tag line that they are the miracle fat-burning supplement recommended by Dr. Oz. Can you say, “Scam alert?”

The raspberry ketone scam follows the same tired script that has been used by supplement hucksters for years. Claim there’s research, pump the research, use jargon, take scientific data and use it out of context, get a celebrity endorsement, use a phony “expert” to recommend the supplement, and then saturate the airways and the web with advertisements.

Do a Google search on “raspberry ketone research” and you will find bupkis. The entire raspberry ketone bunko con is based on two studies that used male mice as subjects. There have not been any human studies involving raspberry ketones, so who cares what happened with mice. Mice are vermin that eat crap.

Maybe Dr. Oz and his minions can pimp, “The Mice Diet” – or would it be the “Mouse Diet?” – that would help people lose weight. I can hear it now, “Mice eat crap and dead bugs and never gain weight no matter how much crap and dead bugs they eat! The Mice Diet; the new miracle diet and you will never have to worry about being fat again!”

These supplement hucksters prey on people who are insecure about their weight and people who are too lazy to exercise and make some modifications to their diet. People who are looking for shortcuts are suckers for this garbage. Folks who don’t want to sweat and make an effort want to believe that the rest of us are wrong, that they don’t need to diet and exercise, and that a tiny pill is going to do all the work for them. This is all nonsense.

There is no nice way to say it and there is no need to wallow in the morass and decipher the mice studies and analyze the chemical make-up of raspberry ketones. The development and sale of raspberry ketones are based on nothing more than rabid speculation and the desire to sell products.

Stay away from raspberry ketone supplements as there is ZERO valid evidence that they can do anything for you.

"Playing Up;" The Scourge of Youth Sports

Over the past decade the practice of “playing up” – letting the younger, bigger and “better” kids play an age group above their level – has become quite popular with youth team sports. “Playing up,” is an ineffective way to develop talent and, in the long run, can be more detrimental than beneficial.

Aside from the youth coaches who promote this philosophy, there is little support at the higher levels of the coaching community, and from the governing boards of various sports, for allowing younger kids to play up. This philosophy has come about principally because there is a misunderstanding/lack of understanding with regard to the stages of development for young athletes.

The root cause of this problem is that too often coaches mistake physical maturity for talent. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a coach over-assess a youth athlete’s ability based solely on their size. Also, while a kid may be the best player at his level, this usually does not mean that they are ready to compete at a level above.

Basing assessments on physical size/maturity ignores the mental/psychological component of a youth sport athlete’s make-up. The physical and mental development of young kids are on different tracks and different timetables, and it is incorrect to assume that because a 7th grader is as big and/or fast as some of the older kids that they will be able to deal with the mental aspects of the higher level of play.

There are exceptions to this rule, but these cases are very few and very far between.

From year to year, there are huge differences between kids at the same level. The big kid one year can be the averaged sized kid the next and vice versa. There is no inherent relationship whatsoever between size and ability level, so the kid who doesn’t grow much from one season to the next can still improve their skill level while the kid who sprouts up doesn’t by definition get better just because he’s bigger. Kids need to be evaluated objectively as individuals.

There is a huge social component to youth sports and the value of playing on a team with friends and peers cannot be overstated in the development of a youth sports athlete. Young athletes need to have the chance to compete, and even to dominate, at their level before any consideration is given to having them “play up.” This is another reason kids need to be objectively evaluated, and the coach of the team that wants the younger player should not be the decision maker in this process.

Parents need to keep a level head and not be swayed by the pressure and prestige that can come from having their kid play with the older team. Ultimately, this decision needs to be made by parents, not the coaches and certainly not the players.

The Government Doesn't Need to Force Feed Kids School Lunch

The Lake County school system in Florida is considering installing cameras on their cafeteria trash cans in order to study what foods their students are throwing away. The school system says last year these kids tossed $75,000 worth of vegetables into the trash. The federal government requires by law that students take a healthy lunchtime meal, and that everyone knows vegetables are healthy.

The problem is that the kids don’t want them. At least not at school. This story serves as a geeat illustration for just how much is wrong with the Nanny State that has been created by elected officials at the local, state and federal levels.

While the school system says they will not look to identify the students tossing their veggies, who believes that? Also, where does the federal government get off telling us what to eat and what to feed to our kids? This legislative dictat violates just about every basic right we have as citizens of the United States. And really, do we want to be told how to eat by the same bureaucracy that hasn’t been able to figure out how to profitably deliver mail despite having had a three century monopoly?

It is laughable that the federal government, that does nothing better than what can be done by the private sector, thinks they can force feed our children vegetables or any other food. And rather than common sense prevailing, we get school board members who are willing double down on the stupidity and throw more money away on a fruitless (pun intended) “study.”

These government forays into behavior modification have a perfect track record, a track record of failure that dates back to Prohibition. After all, nobody smokes cigarettes or takes drugs anymore. And illegal gambling has been eliminated. And over the past two decades with the awareness regarding obesity, obesity rates have increased and the overall activity level of people around the world has decreased.

The lesson to be learned by this school lunch debacle should be obvious to all, and despite the efforts of the ever expanding Nanny State, kids don’t respond well to being force fed.

Athletes Need to Stop Jogging on the Boardwalk

I just got back from vacation down at the beautiful New Jersey Shore. No, not the Jersey Shore you see on MTV, but the real New Jersey Shore. The only thing worse than the seeing Snookie in person was the presence of what I call “Painful Joggers” wearing team sport apparel from colleges and high schools for a wide variety of sports.

Attention all team sport athletes! Stop jogging, stop slogging, stop trudging along the two-mile boardwalks and beachfronts all across this country, and all around the world. Jogging does not help an athlete regardless of the sport that they play. If you are a lacrosse player tell me if there is ever a time during a game or practice when you look like or feel like what you look or feel like when you jog. The same goes for basketball players, wrestlers, soccer players, and the rest.

Now I am shining the light on the athletes here, but I know ultimately there are coaches to blame for this situation. Coaches need to understand that jogging/distance running is to be avoided, and need to stop prescribing this form of exercise. I ask the coaches to think about what their players look like when they are playing their sport – when they are being athletic – versus what they look like running slowly, incomplete range of motion step after incomplete range of motion step, lap after lap, minute after minute.

When you think of it this way, it’s athleticism versus anti-athleticism. Clearly. There are dozens and dozens and hundreds and hundreds of people who can jog. Hell, everyone can jog. But there are only a relative select few people who can dribble the length of the court, beat a defense and score a lay-up; perfectly place a corner kick in front of the goal so it can be headed or kicked for a score; sprint down the field at top speed and catch a pass all while dealing with the threat of getting a shot to the chops; stick their head into the nasty, grunting, sweating organism known as a Rugby Scrum.

Coaches, don’t make athletes be less than they are and ask them to jog. Jogging looks nothing like anything any athlete does at any time. So don’t do it and coaches have to ask athletes to stop doing it.

Holiday Eating Tips – The 4th of July

It’s the Fourth of July and right about now is the time you start to see these annoying Holiday/Barbeque healthy eating tips. You know the drill; avoid chips and dip, diet soda and lite beer, don’t eat buns with your hot dogs and hamburgers, avoid pasta and potato salads especially those made with real mayonnaise. Screw that!

The holidays, any holiday, is a friggin’ terrible time to start a diet or practice the food avoidance philosophy. Don’t try to prove anything to yourself, or to anyone, by making this ill-fated and counter-productive effort to avoid the foods that you love. The holidays involve parties that feature foods that we enjoy, and should eat on during these occasions.

The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, Pasech, birthdays and anniversaries are all times to have fun and eat the foods you love. Have a drink, eat some cake, kill some cookies, eat a double cheese burger off the grill. Whatever.

If you have been eating this stuff all year round, then depriving yourself on the days everyone else is eating them, you aren’t accomplishing anything. Use the Fourth of July, or any of these other holidays, as a way to mark the end of an era. On the fifth of July, or the Friday after Thanksgiving or the 26th of December, make the changes you feel you need to make. But not on the day when everyone else is enjoying themselves.

Stop demonizing foods.

And if you practice moderation, use the holiday barbeque as a way to let go and take a break from your routine. One day is not going to have a detrimental effect. Don’t fall prey to the so-called diet/health gurus who want to make people feel badly about eating the foods they enjoy.

Okay, I gotta go. The sausage is ready to come off the grill. Happy Fourth of July!

Should You Drink 5-Hour Energy?

Energy drinks are one of the most, if not the most, popular products in the beverage business these days. And anyone who has watched TV or listened to the radio over the past few years has heard about 5-Hour Energy. But the question I have been asked is, “Does it work?”

The short answer is, “Caffeine is a major ingredient, so of course it works.” But is this really the case and is 5-hour Energy, beneficial, better for you and more enjoyable than a cup of fresh coffee? My first response to anything that is a product of the hype machine is skepticism but sometimes I give in a little bit and try the product in question.

IMHO, 5-Hour Energy tastes god-awful and I will never, ever use it again. So I do not care if its benefits as pimped by the advertisements are legit. I ain’t letting that swill touch my lips ever again. If you are so inclined, there are plenty of pleasurable and good tasting delivery systems for caffeine, and so when I am so inclined I will seek out these product.

The good folks over at ScienceBasedMedicine.com have done a great job deconstructing 5-Hour Energy, and since nobody does it better than the SBM crew it makes no sense for me to recreate the wheel. So head on over and read for yourself.

There are a lot of ingredients in 5-Hour Energy besides caffeine, and you should know what they are and why this product has been formulated in this way. For my tastes, I stick with an occasional cup of afternoon Joe – or iced Joe in the summer – and stay away from awful tasting 5-Hour Energy.

An Exercise For the Scrapheap: Reverse Grip Bench Press

One of the great, stupid, steroid-influenced exercises of all-time is the reverse grip bench press. The exercise had been popular for years among powerlifting types, but was co-opted by body builders and thus became part of the classic, steroid-influenced “Chest Day,” workouts. I hadn’t seen this exercise performed much over the past 15 or so shears, until just the past few weeks. My guess is that one of the men’s fitness magazines recently decided to regurgitate this classic time waster.

Back in the 1990s a bench press specialist named Anthony Clark made a name for himself by becoming the first man to reverse bench press 700-pounds, and eventually hit the 735-pound mark. I saw him bench 800-pounds at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio in 1997. By the way, these benching feats were performed wearing bench shirts that add at least 100-pounds to the lifters non-shirt max. Steroids and other drugs can add at least 100-pounds. At the Arnold show the lifters were using a new kind of shirt that was made of some kind of denim blend and were so tight that several of the lifters could not get the bar – loaded with 700-pounds – to their chest! But I digress…

Anthony Clark died in 2005, at the age of 39, of a heart attack and kidney failure.

But back to the stupidity of the reverse grip bench; it’s stupid, it doesn’t make you stronger and doesn’t develop your chest any better. If you use steroids, everything makes you stronger and just about every exercise develops everything.

So for you guys loading 85-pounds (!) on the bar for your “reverse benches,” stop wasting your time and stop putting undue stress on your shoulders and elbows. If you must bench press, do the regular bench press. The reverse bench press has no point, doesn’t improve anything, and should be thrown on the scrapheap of exercises.

Why You Should Get Outside and Exercise

The weather is nice, so get outside and do some exercise. If you live someplace where the weather can be awful during the winter, this is even more of a reason to enjoy the great outdoors now that it’s summer.

Cardiovascular exercise is best done on Terra Firma, not on Movens Apparatus (that’s Latin). And your outdoor exercise sessions do not have to be limited to traditional cardio. You can do calisthenics, circuit training, strength training and every other kind of workout outside. Grab a couple of pairs of dumbbells or a barbell and some weight plates and go into your backyard.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t go on vacation to the beach only to go find a gym where you will pay for the opportunity to workout inside. However, if you are someplace where there is an outside gym, go for it. I have been two places – Jamaica and California – where there were open air gyms, and it was awesome.

Are you interested in adding some spice to your regular walking routine? Invest in a weight vest and take a walk around the neighborhood. A weight vest is a great investment and can be used when doing every exercise imaginable, from simple to complex.

If you really have to do machine-based cardiovascular exercise indoors save it for a rainy day, literally. I recognize that some people need and enjoy their cardio for both mental and physical reasons, but try to minimize the machine stuff and find an outdoor activity that you enjoy.

Now, it’s been a while since I recommended swimming, so here it is. I recommend swimming. Highly. It’s summer. When you go to your pool this summer get in the lap section and try swimming a few laps. There is no better exercise than swimming outside on a nice day.

Swimming will do all the things for you that you want from exercise, but it is hard work. That’s why it’s good for you. You can’t read or lean on rails or cheat in any way when you swim. You can’t chat with a buddy or flirt with a cute gym member or waste time in any way when your head is in the water and you are trying to stay afloat and moving.

Get out and get some fresh air. And exercise.

The NFL's Headache Problem

Can we all agree that it is no longer a secret and/or that it isn’t possible for the NFL to hide from its players that there are specific risk factors for head injuries, including concussions? And let’s not include in this discussion the argument that the players from 25+ years have a gripe with the league. Let’s talk about the here and the now.

Simply put, current players who are concerned for their long- and short-term health should quit playing NFL football right now. And guys who say they wouldn’t/won’t let their kids play football, but keep on playing themselves are being foolish. The situation their kids are in has nothing to do with the situations that led to these pros playing football.

As of this moment – and to be honest, as of several thousand moments ago – every guy who straps on a helmet at every level knows the dangers inherent in playing football. Any player or parent who has a concern for the possibility of injury should quit football right now and keep their kids out of the sport.

Any point after the start of this season – let’s call it July, 2012 – everybody loses the right to bitch about getting hurt playing football. Is that so harsh? With all of the coverage of the concussions in football issue, why should anybody be able to complain from this point on about getting hurt playing football? We aren’t talking about young boys and grown men suffering head injuries doing activities that are required in order to earn a living. So what’s the big deal?

Mommy and Daddy are being told 24/7 that football is dangerous and that their sons can get hurt playing. Every youth league and high school program has taken steps to inform all participants and parents and guardians about the dangers of the game. So from now on it should be a matter of, “Buyer Beware.”

Who feels sorry for the person who suffers burns on their hand as a result of touching a stove that they were told would melt their skin like styrofoam if they were dumb enough to touch it?

If a guy doesn’t want to risk his health in exchange for being paid stupid money to play football, he is free to go out and try to find a job and make ends meet on $65,000 per year. He may be entitled to make $5 million for playing football, but isn’t entitled to make $5 million per year doing just anything. His choice.

If a kid doesn’t want to risk his ass playing big-time college football, and as a result has to borrow money or go to the local community college like so many people have in order to get a higher education, they are free to do so.

Crab fishermen, as seen on the show, “The Deadliest Catch,” choose to risk their lives for the chance to make $50k in about 2 months. Otherwise most of those guys would struggle to make minimum wage. Why is this any different for football players?

Do you hear NASCAR drivers or Indy Car drivers bitching about potentially getting immolated or crippled or dead as a result of risking their lives driving a race car? Where is the pro athlete, “Torn ACL/Arthritis Lobby?” Since these conditions are almost a certainty for pro athletes, where’s the hue and cry for the athletes who might limp and be in pain post-career.

Do you want to argue that the NFL should totally pay for all health issues of their players, current and retired? Go right ahead, and I will agree with you.

However, given the current state and if the league refuses to do so, all of its “at-risk” employees are quite free to hang up their cleats and walk away from the game. People know the risks, and anyone who goes forward and plays from this point on – at all levels – needs to deal with it.

Barefoot Running and the Sneaker Company Scam

When it comes to fitness nonsense I am easily annoyed. The latest thing to steam my onion is this whole barefoot running thing and how the sneaker companies are shamelessly trying to profit from it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for profit, but the sneaker makers are really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

For years we have been told by the sneaker companies that it is all about the shoes. Now the shoe companies are trying to tell us that barefoot running is great and that they have shoes for us that will make the barefoot running experience better. Wait, what?

And isn’t the term “barefoot running shoes” – or any phrase with “barefoot” and “shoes” in it – an oxymoron, a bad oxymoron at that? So after being sold on paying upwards of $100 for a pair of running shoes, the sneaker companies have switched gears and now want us to pay $100 for a pair of shoes that delivers the same benefits of running barefoot. Wow.

I am not saying that barefoot running is bad for you. Far from it. There is evidence that walking and running barefoot is beneficial. And there have been some rebels over the years that have bucked the “It’s the shoes” trend and stayed minimalist with the footwear, and others who have continued to carry the barefoot running torch.

I don’t think it would be so bad if a new shoe manufacturer brought a barefoot shoe to the market. I just have a problem with the same companies that have been selling us big cushions with laces on them now selling us this barefoot shoe, while continuing to sell the other shoes, as well.