by Ben Greenfield
I read a lot of books – an average of 3-5 per week. So during 2012, I finished dozens and dozens of books, picked through the fitness books that were good (and the ones that were a waste of time) and recorded a live video in which I revealed my top fitness and nutrition book recommendations for 2012.
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In this episode, I’m going to delve in and reveal for you one helpful quick and dirty tip from the best 7 fitness books I read in 2012 – tips that you can implement right away. So let’s get started. And if you have other books you’d like to see added to this list, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.
From managing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, to helping you burn fat faster, there are numerous benefits to carbohydrate restriction. This book delves into how to control your blood sugar without eating too many carbohydrates, turning your body into a fat burning machine during exercise and life – and doing it all without “hitting a wall” or running out of energy.
Best Tip: One interesting anecdote is the uncomfortable truth about endurance exercise, energy expenditure and weight loss, in which it was revealed that 4 separate research studies found significant reductions in metabolic rate (300-600 calories per day) when overweight subjects performed more than an hour of long, slow endurance exercise per day. In other words – chronic cardio isn’t the best way to lose weight. Instead you should combine high intensity intervals and weight training if you want to shed fat and get fit faster.
While this may not seem like a fitness book, it turns out that when you sit inside your office all day bombarded by cell phones, computers and electrical equipment, you can feel more run-down and be less likely to exercise by the end of the day – and this book shows you how electrical pollution works and why your body can feel like it’s been hit by a truck by the end of a day at the office!
Best Tip: One take-away tip from this book that I’ve personally implemented is to avoid exercising (or sleeping, eating, etc.) with my phone on or near my body. If I do need to take my phone on a bike ride, on a run, or to the gym, I keep it off or on airplane mode. If you’re exposed to potentially harmful electrical radiation all day at work, why maintain that exposure while you’re exercising or sleeping?
Tim Noakes highlights the danger of the serious problem of overhydration in sports, and how we’ve been falsely led to believe that we actually need to “drink liberally during exercise” or “replace our electrolytes.” In reality, we need far less water and electrolytes than is typically recommended during physical activity, even in long, hot events.
Best Tip: One important takeaway from this book is the concept of trusting your natural urges to drink when you are thirsty. Rather than mindlessly guzzling cups and bottles full of water while exercising, instead simply take small 3-6 ounce sips of water when you get thirsty. This type of natural fueling has been shown to result in a hydration level that is adequate to reduce risk of heat stroke while also reducing risk of hyponatremia (water intoxication).
While a book about being grateful may sound like a psychology or self-help manual, this book has actually helped me quite a bit with my levels of stress and happiness – both of which can significantly affect motivation to exercise.
Best Tip: The simple act of showing your gratitude can make you a more psychologically healthy person. Rather than being stressed out and crashing on the couch at the end of the day, a practical place to begin is to simply end each day by thinking of one thing that you were grateful for – whether it was a nice phone call from a friend, a tasty meal, or a fantastic workout – and to dwell on your gratefulness for just a few moments. You’ll find your mood changes and your stress decreases. This simple practice has certainly made a positive, stress-reducing difference in my life!
Mark Sisson’s book teaches you how artificial light, digital stimulation, traffic jams, long lines, interruptions, distractions, and other aspects of modern life can keep us in an unhealthy stressed-out state – and he also talks about how exercise is a way to “return to our roots” and mitigate some of these negative stressors.
Best Tip: One practical tip from this book is to rediscover the pleasure of being in contact with the earth and nature by experimenting with going barefoot or using minimalist footwear – and learning correct posture and biomechanics to support this change. I’ve personally been avoiding modern “built-up” shoes for the past 2 years, and it has made a profound difference in my knee, hip, and low back health. If you’re concerned about getting injured with this switch, a great place to start is my episode on How to Get Stronger Feet. Also, check out my episode The 411 on Barefoot Running for an easy guide on getting started.
Swimming (and water exercise in general) is a fantastic, low-impact, high-calorie burning activity that can benefit any fitness enthusiasts – not just the Michael Phelps wannabes or triathletes – and of all the swimming instruction books that I’ve read, Swim Smooth is the best introduction for beginner swimmers and an improvement manual for intermediate to advanced swimmers.
Best Tip: In a similar manner to my book on body typing, Swim Smooth shows you the different body types for swimming – and each type has a specific swim stroke that is most helpful. The book walks you through figuring out if your body type kicks too much, tries to “muscle the water,” glides for too long, and more! I learned that my body type tends to hold the breath while swimming, when I should actually be slowly exhaling under the water to relax and put my body into a proper state of buoyancy. You’ll pick up many more tips like that in this book.
This exercise manual is based on high intensity interval training, and was originally intended for MMA fighters and martial artists – two populations who need extreme endurance, stamina, strength, and explosiveness.
Best Tip: Warrior Cardio is not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re already fit and want to quickly strengthen and improve your body, you’ll definitely find challenging exercises and workouts within the pages of this book. For example, I’m currently 9 weeks into the 12 week program, and my workout yesterday consisted of 10x30 second treadmill sprints at a 10% incline and 10 miles per hour, with overhead presses, push-ups, and rows after each sprint! In the book, this is called a “Hurricane Workout.” By the way, this concept of doing a hard cardio effort followed by weight training is not just for advanced athletes – it can get fast results for novice exercisers too, although 10 miles per hour on the treadmill may be a bit high for beginners.
Even though it would have been a bit tacky to include it on this list, if you just want one book that will give you the tools to create the best results for your unique shape, then you should definitely grab a copy of my book, Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body, at GetFitGuy.com. It has tons of tips, tricks, and advice on how to stop wasting time at the gym and instead, work out based on your specific body type and create the best possible you!
If you have more questions about my top 7 tips from the best fitness books of 2012 (or have your own to add), post them in the comments section or join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!