Form & Function with Dr. Greuner
2018 will be many things, but we hope in addition to your other plans and goals, that focusing on your health will be at the top of the list! We took some time to talk to NYC Surgical Associate's head doctor and Co-Founder, Dr Greuner. He is an extremely exclusive and prestigious award-winning cardiovascular surgeon who is one of the most talented in his field. He is also a social media influencer for health and fitness. We wanted to find out about how he found his calling to be a doctor, his passion for fitness (if you haven't checked his Instagram, check it out) and how we can have positive heart health.
ATHLEISURE MAG: How did you come to be a cardiovascular surgeon?
DR. GREUNER: Believe it or not, by accident. I was a NCAA athlete in college, and an economics and human performance major. My plan was to open a chain of objectively measured analytics for top tier athletes upon graduation, and this was a childhood dream of mine. I took medical classes to develop my knowledge of human anatomy and physiology for this reason in school, and became so enamored discovering how the human body functions. It’s beautiful, and completely logical. I could speak for hours on this, and I read about it more to this day for personal enjoyment, much the same way an art aficionado looks at beautiful pieces.
As my understanding grew, so did my desire to learn more, and soon, I had basically filled my requirements for medical school, solely via personal interest. My father and mother were in the middle of a divorce at the time I finished college, and I moved closer to my father to help him through this difficult time, as we had always been very close. I applied to medical school at that time where he was living, and was accepted. I finished, but never planned on practicing, until my surgery rotation, which fascinated me. I applied to
surgical residency and I was accepted. During my surgery residency, I rotated through cardiac surgery, and it was love at first sight. The rhythm, the physiology, the technical prowess, and the nerves of steel required hypnotized me, and I knew there was nothing else I would rather do.
To this day, everyone asks me why I am so happy heading to work in the morning. The truth is, I theoretically found the love of my life by accident…..
AM: How can we maintain positive heart health?
DR. G: There are so many answers to this question, but in short, regular cardio and a diet rich in essential fatty acids and low in foods that promote oxidative stress are the two main keys.
For the function of your heart, or “cardiovascular fitness,” you should maintain at least 3 sessions of active cardio where your heart rate is above 120 bpm, for at least 20 minutes per week to maintain your level of cardiovascular fitness. Less than that, and you will consistently deteriorate with time in terms of your cardiac function. More than that, and you will consistently improve.
The next category is maintaining pristine condition of your heart, to allow it to function effectively. Anything that causes tissue damage is called “oxidative stress”. I’m sure you have all heard of anti oxidants. These are the chemicals that act to buffer these oxidative stress. Think of it as a balance, like a mathematical equation. If you go into a negative number, because of oxidative stress, you must take in antioxidants to get back to a neutral state, and “balance it out” so to speak.
Oxidative stress can come from any source, such as chemicals in processed food, chemical injury such as smoking or pollution, and even extra strenuous workouts. It’s all about consistency, and awareness to keep you in the positive direction to avoid tissue damage.
AM: It's clear that you are also into health and fitness, why is this important and what are the benefits?
DR. G: Yes, fitness is a huge part of my life, and for a variety of reasons
1. its one of my main coping mechanisms.
I definitely have a very stressful job surgically speaking, and I also have a significant administrative role in a very large private practice, which let me tell you, comes with some unwanted stress. Given that role, I need some release mechanisms that don’t involve unhealthy habits, and working out is one of my go to methods, particularly cycling, running, and martial arts, all of which require an intense amount of focus and “zoning out” so to speak. I reach a sort of meditative state for lack of a better word, that allows me a tranquil period and a mental cleansing for other things that may be weighing on my mind at the time. Well, at least until the next hurdle…..
2. It preserves my form and function.
Lets face it. Whether we are 18 or 60, we are all aging daily, and aging takes its toll on the body. And none of that is making us more fit. In fact, it gets harder to maintain levels of fitness as we age for a variety of reasons. You can either accept that, or fight the trend by working harder to be better. I choose the latter. In fact, my lap times running, and some of my muscle functionality is better than where it was in my twenties as a result of me training so intensely these days, a fact that I’m extremely proud of. Now if only my back injuries would respond the same way…..
AM: Nutrition is key. How can we stay
healthy during the holiday while splurging during this time of year?
DR. G: I’m a HUGE fan of cheat days. Both because I love to eat probably more than anyone I know, and also because there are definite benefits to them, if your diet is on track the rest of the time. In general, I’m sure you have heard of muscle confusion workouts. The basic premise behind this, is that if you do the same workout for a prolonged period of time, eventually, your muscles become accustomed to it, and you will no longer push them to the point where they need to become stronger, as they simply become more efficient. How do you avoid this and enjoy improved function with every workout? By switching it up and keeping your muscles and body “confused” and not knowing what to expect.
It’s the same with your diet. If you keep to a strict, low calorie diet for a prolonged period of time, your body is programmed to preserve the status quo by nature, and it will simply become more efficient and lower your metabolism in order to burn calories in an efficient way. In short, you will basically become a human Pruis metabolically speaking, which trust me, is NOT what you want. You want to be that big V8 that burns calories at a rapid rate. How do you do this? By implementing a cheat day once a week, where you consume a tremendous amount of calories, and make your body feel like endless calories will be available much like the credit market was in the 1990s. Then, just when your body is adapting, which takes a few days, you pull the carpet from underneath it, and drop it back into a low calorie state while it still thinks that endless energy is available. Just when it’s starting to sense that it needs to be more “financially responsible” from a calories standpoint, your throw a curveball again and bring in fat, carbs, and everything that it wants. Keep doing this, and your body will have to keep guessing, and you will always burn fat at a faster rate and keep it lean. Plus, you get to eat cake and fries….
AM: What are 3 workouts that guys should do to get great abs and calves?
DR. G: You should always think of gaining muscle mass as a separate category than acquiring muscle definition. A muscular, ripped physique is the Holy Grail for most men, and there are many reasons most of us are not walking around looking like Greek gods. It’s very difficult to achieve both. To gain muscle mass, we have to stress our muscles, beyond what they are used to stimulate them to grow. Most of the gym theories on heavy weights with low weight vs light weights and high reps are false. The endpoint needs to be complete and total muscle fatigue so that your body is uncomfortable and is stimulated to adapt to be able to deal with the new level of performance you demand from it. It doesn’t really matter how you achieve that level of stimulation, as long as you achieve it. If you are trying to attain a different level of functionality, meaning strength vs endurance, the type of training you do definitely matters.
This being the case, I always pick the easiest way to look the best. And for me, that is doing heavy weights with low reps, as it’s the quickest, most efficient way to stimulate growth. My ab routine typically consists of hanging leg raises with leg weights, ab pulldowns with heavy weight (150+lbs) and weighted, slant bench sit ups with a 40-50lb medicine ball. When it comes time to train for an event, I switch to more reps to improve my function. For calves I use weighted donkey presses, and weighted calf raises.
In order to allow your muscles to grow, you must also give them the fuel and rest they need, much like a growing child, which is why it’s difficult to stay ripped and build muscle. Girls have it
To show off that hard-earned muscle, you must be in a calorie deficit, to make your body lose the fat and expose that hard-earned mass. Without a low body fat, you will never look good, regardless of the amount of muscle you build.
You may ask, “When I drop my calories, won't I lose muscle?” which is a legitimate concern. The short answer is, yes you will. But you can minimize muscle loss by manipulating your diet, as well as supplements promoting testosterone, and supplying branched chain amino acids, which are key to my routine. BCAAs basically fool your body into believing it has broken down muscle already, so it shifts to breaking down fat instead when you are in a caloric deficit, and are one of the keys to preserving muscle mass when dieting hard for fat loss.
AM: What are your energy foods that you enjoy eating that you can take with you when you have a hectic day and can't get out like you would like?
DR. G: I typically bring some lean, but very satisfying meat cuts to work with me, which promote satiety, but at the same time, allow me to not over indulge in calories. Turkey, lean beef, and chicken are my go to choices.
The key to any diet that promotes a lean, muscular physique is to avoid high blood sugar levels, which stimulate insulin release. Insulin is the main hormone involved in fat gain, so you want to minimize its presence in your blood.
The best way to do this is to avoid high sugar foods. So if you’re going to snack, use high protein snacks like beef jerky, or complex carbs, like high fiber or oat bars with low sugar content. As soon as you cause a sugar spike, you basically put yourself behind the 8 ball in terms of your physique. Yes, it's THAT
AM: As a stylist, I'm prepping a number of my clients for their red carpet moments during Awards Season what are food must-haves and workouts that you would suggest they incorporate into their routine?
DR. G: In general, I look at workouts and diet as trying to achieve two different goals. How you look is 80 percent a function of your diet, and how you perform is mostly dependent on your workouts. The only exception to this, is trying to attain a very high level of muscle in which case you absolutely must work out consistently to stimulate muscle growth.
That being the case, diet is the key to looking great. You could work out all day long, but if you eat badly, you will look terrible. If you barely workout, but your diet is clean, you will look much better than you think, which is often overlooked. Often I hear “I work out, I can eat whatever I want today.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you think about it, in a hugely strenuous workout for an hour, the average person would burn maybe 1000 calories, or one larger slice of cheesecake. Do the math on that. Fat loss is a simple mathematical equation. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight. The easiest way to do that, unless you want to work out 6 hours a day, is to keep your diet clean.