FitITproNews: When caffeine isn’t enough

In this week’s newsletter

Three-minute wakeup. Slow down and concentrate on the muscle movement. The Quakers were on to something! Exercise progression. Calorie math gone wrong. Vision is more than just “seeing fine”.

Enjoy this week’s issue of FitITproNews and feel free to send us feedback on any of the topics we’ve covered — we love hearing from our readers!

Mitch Tulloch, Senior Editor


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Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness professional or nutritionist so take any suggestions made here “as is” with a grain of salt and a heaping supply of your own judgment. Please read our full disclaimer at the bottom of this newsletter.


Send us your feedback!

Got feedback about anything in this issue of FitITproNews? Email us at [email protected] today!


Three-minute wakeup (Mitch Tulloch)

Mitch Tulloch is the Senior Editor of FitITproNews and a recovering fat IT pro who lost 50 lbs in midlife and is now on his way to becoming a fit IT pro. Mitch is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies who has authored or been Series Editor of numerous books/ebooks from Microsoft Press. Mitch is also the Senior Editor of WServerNews and writes frequently for TechGenix.

I’ve been a regular morning user of pre-workout stimulants for almost ten years now. During this time I’ve tried a bunch of different formulas but my favorite is Essential Amino Energy from Optimum Nutrition. Typical usage for me is to drink two half litre glasses of water when I wake up with each glass having one scoop of this pre-workout formula. Usually this gets me sufficiently awake to go downstairs to my gym and start working out. During my workout I take a long a shaker bottle with another half litre of water with two scoops of the product to keep me ramped up during my workout session. Then later in the morning after I start work I may fuel myself with an espresso or two from my Nespresso machine.

But while caffeine has been one of my mainstays for years, there have been times when I’ve taken a break from all caffeine sources and muddled along until my brain starts working properly. I’ve gone without caffeine for as long as four months at a time and have generally felt more “myself” during those periods. Caffeine is a mind-altering drug, no doubt about it.

Still, I love my morning energy drink. And my afternoon espresso.

But the other day when I went down for a workout after downing four scoops of pre-workout formula, I still felt in a fog. I should probably warm up a bit before lifting weights, I thought to myself, so I climbed on my exercise bike and started pedaling away. And then a strange thing happened.

After about a minute of peddling I began to feel less foggy and more awake. I kept on pedaling for another two minutes, and when my brief warmup was over I felt fully awake and ready to hit the iron!

What probably happened is that continuously exercising my legs for a couple of minutes caused my heart rate to climb from its sleepy low 70s morning level to around 120 beats per minute. This seems to somehow send signals to my brain that release hormones that raise my alertness and drive the effects of sleep from my body.

Why doesn’t caffeine do the same? It’s a well-known fact that caffeine can significantly boost blood pressure, but its effect on heart rate is more minimal. But alertness (lack of sleepiness) seems, for me at least, to be more closely associated with my heart rate than my blood pressure.

Anyways, this little discovery I made a few weeks ago has changed my thinking a bit about the value of pre-workout formulas. I realized that I probably drink them more because I like the taste (and dislike drinking plain unflavored water) than for the effect they have on my nervous system.

So now when I go down and exercise I make it a point of spending at least three minutes on my bike vigorously exercising my legs before I execute my planned workout routine for the day. Three minutes seems to be enough for me to get my brain fully awake most days. Results may vary for other people.

Anyways, try it out sometime and let me know what you think by emailing me at [email protected]

Have a safe workout today!



Slow down and concentrate on the muscle movement (Robin Camp)

Robin Camp works as tech support for an Orthodontic Practice Management Software company called New Horizons Software ( As a professional photographer on the side, Robin does fashion, glamour weddings and more in his spare time ( You can also now find him working out on Instagram at

Recently after reading up on one of my favorite bodybuilders, Kai Greene, I decided to try out one of his pieces of advice, dropping the weight until you could do the exercise precisely enough that you could actually feel the muscle groups that you are trying to target.

This has been benefiting me a lot in my shoulder exercise’s, ice hockey, a couple hard hits from various linebackers playing football and years of power-lifting have definitely left me with some shoulder impingement that I had not really acknowledged.

By dropping the weight and really focusing on the movement itself and being aware of the muscles more than the big weights I have been able to slightly vary my form to target the muscles more precisely.

The weight is just a tool. Do you focus on the hammer or the nail? You better focus on the thing you’re trying to hit. –Kai Green 

For example in standard side shoulder raises with dumbbells, my shoulders were not getting sore, my traps and neck were. By altering my stance and grip, raising my arms pointed very slightly forward instead of directly up and down by my side I suddenly could feel the exercise hitting my middle deltoids.

I had a similar epiphany with face pulls trying to hit my rear deltoids I constantly felt like they were hitting my lats and not my shoulders. By playing around, I discovered that if I concentrating on pulling my shoulders back throughout the entire motion, I could hit the rear deltoids much more without activating my lats.

Try this especially if you feel like any of your exercises are not hitting the targeted muscles, lower your resistance and or weight, focus on the movement altering your stance, grip and form until you feel the desired muscle. It’s been quite an eye opener for this gym rat!

Stay safe everyone and don’t forget to focus on your mental health too! I would highly suggest the book, The Compound Effect, a self-help book emphasizing how much progress we can all make by just devoting a little bit of time and effort every day, 365 days a year. Whether it’s to learn a new language, get fit or whatever your goal is, it really hit home with me making me realize that not everything had to be ALL out, just consistent and forward moving.

The mind is everything. If you don’t believe you can do something then you can’t. If you believe that your upbringing was substandard and therefore you have to walk around as a refugee from that crisis situation for the rest of your life, forever bearing the burden of that experience then that will be YOUR life. –Kai Green

See here for more quotes by bodybuilder Kai Green.


The Quakers were on to something! (Kris Lall)

Kris Lall works as a product manager in the tech industry for an enterprise software manufacturer. As a youngster, Kris was consumed with soccer before technology came along. Now he’s consumed with both. You can find him on Twitter at the not-too-surprising handle @krisoccer.

A couple of years ago, I began eating oatmeal when my employer made it available as a breakfast option. Those of us working in tech are so busy that we can appreciate how easy and quick oatmeal is to prepare. I wasn’t necessarily consuming oatmeal for any sort of health benefit, other than a quick something to get me through demanding mornings till lunch time.

Recently, a few of my colleagues were discussing some health benefits they discovered after making oatmeal a part of their diet, including lowering their bad (LDL) cholesterol. I had recently completed a physical with my doctor and decided to compare my cholesterol levels between a past physical and a more recent one.

Sure enough, my pre-oatmeal physical results showed a higher LDL cholesterol count/reading in 2014 at 133 than my more recent one at 102. Interesting. Had switching to oatmeal assisted in lowering my bad cholesterol? I’m skeptical, but also cautiously optimistic.

I did some research and discovered that oatmeal has many known health benefits, including vitamins, minerals, gluten-free, heart healthy, and so on. And sure enough (according to experts), oatmeal contains soluble fiber that is believed to reduce bad cholesterol.

Even better, oatmeal can be used as a delivery mechanism for other healthy foods, like fruits and nuts, which every grocery store now stocks in convenient containers and in various combinations. My favorites are those with blueberries, strawberries, almonds, and peanuts.

Oatmeal can be a healthy addition to your morning regimen.

Like a lot of foods we consume, it’s tempting to add sweeteners, as who can resist the calling of brown sugar? Of course it’s better to take it easy on the sugar, as even brown sugar is basically white sugar with molasses added. And while molasses contains additional nutrients compared to white sugar, it’s still sugar.

Oatmeal comes in a few different varieties, based mainly on how much processing the oats go through. Listed here from least to most processing: oat groats, oat bran, steel-cut (Irish), Scottish oats, rolled/old-fashioned, quick (instant).

Due to their fiber content, oats also have a tradition of being good for digestive health. Working from home during the pandemic, I’ve also learned that you can use a rice cooker for a higher quality oatmeal experience compared to instant.

Even if you don’t eat breakfast, an occasional dalliance with oatmeal is looking to be one of the healthier morning or any time of day options.



Exercise progression (Kris Kane)

Kris Kane is a North Yorkshire based personal trainer, martial arts instructor and general fitness enthusiast. You can find him on Instagram at @koachedbykris and also view him professionally on LinkedIn at

Hope everyone is still staying safe and well, another month has gone by and hopefully now we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel!

Last month I talked about the importance of trying to stay active during lockdown and get some workouts in when you can. Not being able to get to a gym has also forced us to be more creative than only using bodyweight when training at home.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve experimented with different equipment to add load to exercises to make them more challenging and still be able to progressively overload the muscle.

I appreciate everyone has different equipment available but here some examples of what could be used for progressions when you are comfortable with bodyweight:

  • Resistance bands
  • Bands with handles
  • Weighted backpack
  • Filled water bottles
  • Sandbag
  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells

Or you can even combine some of the above! I have shown an example below using a squat to give you an idea of how this can be applied.

Most body weight exercises can be made more challenging you just have to be creative with the resources you have available!

If you are at a loss as to where to start with your home training, I have a free home workout guide with 8 different workouts for you to have a go at. Just drop me an e-mail at [email protected] or via my Facebook page where I will be posting more tips on training, nutrition and mindset:

As always, good luck with your training and let me know if you have any questions.

Stay safe!



Calorie math gone wrong (Lana Khazari)

Lana Khazari is a Technical Support Analyst for the Corporation of City of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She is also a Precision Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and a Yoga 200-RYT Instructor. You can find her online at

If you google “how to lose weight” there are a myriad of programs, tools, and web resources for you to look through. Most will at some point lead you to some calorie math. Something like, if you weigh x, and want to lose x amount of pounds, in x weeks, then you need to eat x calories.

You at one point will encounter, or may already know about the “3500 calories = 1 pound of fat” rule. In other words, 1 pound of fat is stored in the body as 3500 calories.

Suggested options to remove 3500 calories from your life will either be of the EAT LESS variety, the MOVE MORE variety, or the two-pronged approach of EAT LESS, MOVE MORE.

To work the math and lose weight, you could potentially:

  1. EAT LESS: Eat 500 calories less a day to burn 1 pound in 7 days
  2. MOVE MORE: Burn 500 calories more a day to burn 1 pound in 7 days
  3. EAT LESS, MOVE MORE: Eat 250 calories less, and burn 250 calories a day (or some other combination) to burn 1 pound in 7 days

What’s nice about math equations is getting a consistent answer. However, the math above is oversimplified. For example, say you have an average sedentary woman of average height and weighing 150 lbs eat 500 fewer calories a day. This results in a loss of 1 pound per week, and 52 pounds in a year. After 1 year, she would weigh 98 lbs. After 3 years, she wouldn’t exist. Similarly, if you had that same woman take up running to burn up those 500 calories, she would weigh the same 98 pounds after 1 year. She would get the same result, regardless of the method. That’s just not how biology works. And we just don’t see people disappearing into nothingness after hard dieting or marathon training. Weight loss is NOT a linear or mathematical process.

There are still many debates on “calories-in vs. calories-out”. Many will swear that counting calories is the only real way to lose weight. The only thing we can say scientifically and with certainty is the following:

  • To gain weight, take in more energy than you burn
  • To lose weight, take in less energy than you burn

The “calories in vs. calories out”-only camp, believe you are either eating too much, moving too little, or both. To correct, you need to eat less, move more. The opposite camp, believe that you can not rely on “calories in vs. calories out” and that you must consider hormone imbalances, other conditions like PCOS, and maybe even consider “metabolic damage”. Without going to extremes, there are truths in both camps and misconceptions too.

We need to be less short-sighted and look at the Energy Balance Equation differently. Eat less, move more is a good place to start. However, the equation should also include our physiological complexities and any external factors that could affect “calories in” and “calories out”.

Other factors for “calories in”:

  1. Appetite – As you lose weight, hunger hormones increase in intensity making you hungrier and wanting to eat more.
  2. Food consumed – How your food is consumed and assimilated in the body can depend on your sleep, the food quality, energy density, food availability, palatability, culture, etc.
  3. Calories absorbed – We don’t absorb all the calories from food and absorption rates are different on the type. For example, we absorb more calories from peanut butter than raw peanuts. It takes more work for the body to absorb nutrients from the whole nut.
  4. Psychology – What you eat and when you eat can be affected by your mindset, sleep quality, stress levels, and more.

Other factors for “calories out”:

  1. Energy burned at rest – Depends on body size, age, genetics, health, dieting history, etc.
  2. Energy burned through exercise – Depends on ability, intensity, frequency, duration, type, hormone status, and sleep quality.
  3. Energy burned by non-exercise activity (NEAT) – Depends on genes, hormones, energy, health status, occupation, stress, etc.
  4. Energy burned by metabolizing food – Depends on macronutrient levels and how processed the food is.

When people hit a weight loss plateau they immediately think something is wrong. If you solely rely on simple math you can get stuck and fail to realize how the body compensates and adapts. When you lose weight by eating less, you also need fewer calories to sustain that new weight. The metabolism slows down and hunger and appetite increase. If you are very restrictive with calories and food, the hunger and appetite may become unbearable to the point where you binge.

All the above influencing factors make the energy balance equation more complex. Some strategies that may help are:

  • EATING LESS vs EATING BETTER. Think about throwing out the packed meals and shakes and eating whole foods (eat like our ancestors!). The metabolism responds best to whole unprocessed foods. This is also a sustainable way to lose and keep weight off as you will take in fewer calories.
  • PRIORITIZING SLEEP will help to regulate hormones, improve recovery, mood, and increase metabolic output.
  • REDUCE STRESS AND BUILD RESILIENCE through meditation, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature. Food intake usually increases when stress levels are high. Many people “let loose” on the weekends after a stressful week at work. Also, people fail to recognize that exercise is a stressor. Swapping out high-intensity exercise for low-intensity exercise may help to reduce overall systemic stress.

In conclusion, we need to look beyond burning and eating less calories. To make healthier choices and create healthy habits the other factors need to be considered. Be willing to experiment with these and be flexible with your thinking to find a strategy that works for you. If you are just looking at the numbers, or some external source to help with the desired outcome, the method will more often than not be unsustainable.


Vision is more than just “seeing fine” (Sarah Trammell)

Sarah Trammell is an application analyst at a university in Georgia. She became interested in health and fitness issues when she began making diet and lifestyle changes to lose weight back in 2007 and learned even more when trying to track down what to do about other health issues beginning in 2011 with not much input from doctors. You may follow her blog at

You frequently feel dizzy when looking at a computer display, especially when scrolling through documents. At times you get intensely sleepy. You also at times feel nauseous or have stomach cramps. When walking, you feel unbalanced, like your body is listing to one side. Did you realize these and other symptoms could be tied to your vision? You may be suffering from vision issues even though you believe you see just fine.

I thought my vision was great. I’d go to the eye doctor once a year and would be able to read the 20/20 lines on the chart every time. I would go a few years without much, if any, change to my prescription. When I began having issues with dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, intense daytime sleepiness, and feeling unbalanced, the last thing I suspected was my vision. I’d been to an ENT doctor who did specialized testing but found nothing wrong. A neurologist believed I was suffering the effects of migraines. I had no reason to disagree. After all, I’d dealt with headaches on and off for years. I did bring up my symptoms with my eye doctor, but he didn’t find anything wrong from the testing he did. I was taking antidepressants, which seemed to help but were only treating the symptoms. I had also made a lot of other changes, such as getting rid of my second monitor, sitting as far back from my monitor as I could manage, and scrolling through documents with the page up and down buttons, which also helped some. I just wasn’t sure what was really wrong.

One day, I was having an eyestrain headache, so I decided to do an internet search to see if it could somehow be linked to dizziness. That’s when I came across information about binocular vision dysfunction and vertical heterophoria. I took an online questionnaire and continued reading. I wondered if I’d finally found the underlying cause of my symptoms. My suspicions were confirmed when I tried looking at scrolling on a computer screen with one eye closed. I could do it without feeling any symptoms, especially when my left eye was covered. I made an appointment with a different eye doctor for an assessment, and it took multiple visits to arrive at the proper diagnosis (vertical heterophoria plus exophoria). I’ve also gone through multiple sets of glasses. Not only did I need prism, but I also needed a stronger prescription for my farsightedness. For some reason, this was not something that this eye doctor and my regular eye doctor picked up in their testing. I tested at +1.75, but I found that I do much better with +2.25. I discovered this by finding the strongest pair of reading glasses I could tolerate in the store, which was +2.00. Later, I ended up trying a pair of +2.25 readers that I found online which worked even better. Also, the initial prism correction ended up not working after a period of time. My symptoms returned after a few weeks. I’m currently wearing a pair of +2.25 glasses with 1.5 base up prism in the right eye and 1.0 base down prism in the left. I’m hoping this second set of glasses will end up working, although I’ve read about others having to make several adjustments before arriving at the proper amount of correction.

Where I’ve noticed the most difference is not in my vision but in how I feel. How I actually see still appears to be the same. However, increasing the strength of the prescription for my farsightedness made a huge difference in how I feel. My daytime sleepiness improved greatly. I felt more clear-headed and felt like I had more energy. The prism in the new glasses seems to be improving my other symptoms, but I’m still adjusting to it.

If you are having unexplained symptoms that you want to see are connected to your vision…

  1. Take this binocular vision dysfunction assessment to see if you may be dealing with this condition.
  2. Do a self test, like the one I described above or the one here.
  3. Talk to your eye doctor who may be able to do specialized testing for whatever visual issues you feel you may have. If you suspect vertical heterophoria or binocular vision dysfunction, make sure to request that you be checked for prism correction.
  4. If your prescription allows, you may be able to experiment with reading glasses to see if you need a stronger prescription in spite of the results of your eye doctor’s testing. If you need to look online, the site has a great selection of reading glasses in a variety of strengths. You can even get photochromic lenses. Discuss any changes you find with your eye doctor.
  5. If you’re already wearing prism glasses and are having problems, speak to your eye doctor about any issues you may be having. You may need to have your prescription changed, or you could be dealing with another condition.

Hopefully if you’re having issues tied to your vision, you will be able to work with your eye doctor to figure out how to resolve them. It’s very important that we IT professionals properly address any issues with our vision!


Send us your feedback!

Got feedback about anything in this issue of FitITproNews? Email us at [email protected] today!


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