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How to "reduce cholesterol"

by Mark Lamendola

Having "high cholesterol" is not, in itself a problem. It is a symptom of one or more problems that threaten you.

Caution: If you are on cholesterol medication, don't just chuck it because you are following the advice in this article. Have your physician monitor both what you're doing and how your cholesterol numbers are responding. Also understand that following this article means making permanent change, not getting a quick fix and then going back to your old ways.

The first problem with cholesterol is that of focusing on the cholesterol numbers. Don't focus on the cholesterol numbers:

  • Don't assume you are healthy if your cholesterol numbers are within "normal range."

  • Don't assume you are unhealthy if your cholesterol numbers are not within "normal range."

  • Use the "normal range" as a reference, not an absolute. This is the approach your physician is likely also taking. Your physician is looking at many factors.

  • Don't argue with your physician about your cholesterol, and don't refuse a prescription. Make the necessary changes to bring your cholesterol down, relying on the medicine as a temporary fix that buys you time. Cholesterol medication is not a cure (high cholesterol is a sign of disease, it is not itself a disease).

Cholesterol is a generic name for a family of compounds. You can get lost studying all the ins and outs of this topic, so this short article will focus on the practical information you need to know to be "heart healthy." Don't worry about whether you have too high of the "bad cholesterol" or too little of the "good cholesterol." Your focus should be on the lifestyle choices that your cholesterol reflects, not on the cholesterol itself.

You can control your cholesterol problems, even if you are genetically inclined to have lousy cholesterol readings. Certain factors do affect your cholesterol levels. Some of them are not the factors most people traditionally consider. Others are shrouded in myth. We will cover the following factors:

  • Cortisol

  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Testosterone



Why does that marathoner have off-the-scale cholesterol? Because his over-exercise causes his body's hormones to go way out of whack. The kind of damage done by long hours of pounding the pavement not only affect cholesterol, but do soft tissue damage that leads to cancer and other illnesses. In any case, over-exercise causes cortisol to rise and cortisol has a negative effect on your cholesterol profile.

Excess stress raises cortisol, whether that stress is emotional or physical. So, take time to chill out, and don't sweat the petty stuff. Exercise per the guidelines below.



There is no one magic diet that works for everyone. Nor is there a single diet that works best for one individual over a long time. Pay attention to your genetics, and to your ethnic group's traditional foods. If you are African American, that does not mean overcooked vegetables or pork rinds. Such garbage came on the nutritional scene only recently and is not African cuisine. Ditto for "Italian" cuisine that's loaded with sugar and other garbage.

One myth holds that egg yolks are bad for you. This is not true. There is no evidence that eating cholesterol gives you a bad cholesterol profile. Cholesterol simply cannot survive the digestive process. Some men eat bull testicles to raise their own testosterone levels, but guess what? The digestive process prevents that. Ditto for cholesterol. Total fat affects your cholesterol levels.

So, keep fat to about 25% of your caloric intake and you should be OK. That doesn't mean exactly 25%, so don't fixate on that number. You may want to discuss things with a dietician and adjust your fat intake based on your other lifestyle parameters. Revisit this periodically.

Here's the unvarnished truth about egg yolks. The lecithin in the yolks of free-range eggs is so high that eating them actually reduces your low-density cholesterol (the bad kind) and raises the high density cholesterol (which the body uses to encapsulate the bad stuff and send it to the liver for disposal). Free-range hens have a different diet than do factory hens, and they have a much lower stress level.

Remember, cholesterol isn't your only worry when it comes to eating fat. Make sure to eat unsaturated fats and avoid saturated fats as much as possible. Eating small amounts of meat will give you all the saturated fat you can handle--adding butter and other garbage to your diet will exceed your body's limits for handling saturated fat.

Good sources of unsaturated fats are walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and any oils that are liquid at room temperature (don't go overboard). Did you know that the peanuts offered on airlines are LESS fattening than the fat-free pretzels? It's true. Stay away from fat-free foods--they make your insulin levels do a yo-yo, and that makes your cholesterol profile go out of whack.

Beans have all kinds of benefits, and taste great. Black beans, pinto beans, garbanzos--these are dietary staples in my home. Beans on salads, beans and rice (completed protein), beans with stir fry, beans in a bowl, bean soup, and beans with a veggie mix are all nutritious, delicious ways to eat beans. High in fiber, loaded with nutrients, and light on calories, beans negate several cholesterol factors. Be careful about canned beans. Kidney beans, for example, are usually canned in sugar water.

If the food thing isn't your thing, don't fret. You do not have to be a food expert to eat right.



You need to build muscle and burn fat. Live the lean lifestyle, and you will be way ahead in the cholesterol game.

Building muscle burns fat, so lifting weights is a very good activity. If you are not familiar with weights, hire a personal trainer for month or so. If you can't afford that, let me know and I'll suggest other things. If you do buy weights, I recommend an Olympic weight set. It's safer to use than the cheap plastic sets, and you can do more with it. If you don't have much space or money, then a cheap plastic set will do just fine. I had such a set for over 20 years before selling it to someone else.

The two keys to beneficial exercise are consistency and change. You must treat exercise time as an appointment. Always keep it. And don't do the same exercises all the time. Change it up every few weeks, or even sooner. A third element is intensity. If you get the first two, however, you can leave intensity for the serious athletes and bodybuilders. Find physical activities and enjoy them.

To avoid exercising, listen to your body. I train hard with free weights 4 or 5 days a week. I have three groupings of body parts I work on a rotating basis (chest/tri, back/bi, shoulders). I do squats twice a month. Allow a muscle group to rest 72 hours before hitting it hard again. Your workout shouldn't take more than 30 to 45 minutes. Ditto for running.



This hormone, which both men and women need, is antagonistic to cortisol. You raise your testosterone in these ways:

  • Doing weight-bearing exercise

  • Eating the right fats

  • Avoiding stress

  • Getting the right basic nutrition


Now, go forth and conquer your cholesterol.

Note: If you are under treatment for cholesterol, share this article with your doctor and ask for further advice on lifestyle choices you can make. Work with your doctor to get you off cholesterol medication (if you're on it) once those lifestyle choices begin having an effect. Learn about your medical condition and what to do, and use this information to help your doctor determine the correct protocol. Always keep your doctor informed of what measures you are taking. Be upfront and honest with your doctor, whose job it is to help you. Make it your job to help your doctor do that.


See also: Cholesterol Vs. Beans



Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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