Despite our currently volatile political climate, the title of this week’s post is not about the ugly mess in D.C., but rather about the continuing tendency to single out carbs and calories by those seeking to lose body fat. This past weekend my nephew mentioned that his entire office was going to stop eating carbs and wanted him to join in. He cited all my reasons why that is an ill-advised way to permanently lower body fat levels, but they ignored him/me.
A few days later my niece was ordering a salad and I advised her to add protein onto it (for her fitness goals) and she lamented that doing so heavily increased the calories. Once again, the top two faux pas “dieters” make is to eliminate carbs and calories!
Therefore, today I want to once again strongly advise you all to stop seeing carbs or calories as the enemy and start seeing nutrition as one tool (vs. obstacle) in your quest for a healthy lifestyle that facilitates proper and permanent fat loss.
Carbs are necessary! They are essential to providing the energy required to get through your day, least of which is to get you through a killer workout (another necessary element of fat loss). Carbs come in two primary forms – “healthy” (aka complex carbs) and “crap” (aka simple carbs) – and this is where the confusion sets in for most people. By lumping all carbs together and then avoiding them, you are not only reducing your primary energy source, but you are also robbing your body’s “muscle-rebuilding” of nutrients required to burn the fat while building up lean muscle tissue.
Any overly-processed snack foods (chips, crackers, cookies, etc.), breads and pastas are “crap” carbs. But things like vegetables, nuts, whole grains (including certain breads and crackers), and fruits are “healthy” carbs. You’ll need them to successfully lower body fat levels, and because you’re not restricting something from your system, there will be no “bounce back” (regaining of body fat) once you stop the restriction (dieting).
As for calories, once again, the reason counting calories became a societal focus back in the 80’s was because Americans on the whole were over-eating, and over-indulging in a lot of “crap” foods. While counting calories is a great way to make one aware of how much they’re consuming, the down side is that the focus is on a number and NOT on WHAT they’re putting into their body.
If you simply pay more attention to the quality of foods ingested, and the consistency of intake (how much and how often you eat), you do not need to count calories. Unless you’re eating high-fat, high-sugar, and/or overly-processed foods, a moderately balanced daily nutrition intake, with a regular quantity of effective exercise is all that’s required to ultimately shift your body from over-fat to healthy.
So stop pointing fingers and blaming passive nutrition for your fat gain, and start exercising regularly and eating healthy balanced nutrition (with allowances for the less healthy foods that you enjoy) and you will change your body for the better and not have to anguish over the micro-management of your food.
Here we are again, the first month of a new year. Are you once again making resolutions or commitments to get into better shape? If so, what can you do to make the goals stick this time? Perhaps the first step is to change the goal.
Most of us who set a goal and fail to achieve it in an allotted period of time usually start a new year with the same goal in mind. However, if we do not change our approach to the goal, we will likely see the same results (or lack thereof). But often even you change your approach you still don’t achieve full success and that may be because the goal just doesn’t fit who you are or how you live. Don’t give up on your end goal, but perhaps you need to make a new plan that has a more immediate goal that will lead you ultimately to your end goal.
To make 2017 be the year that you finally achieve your fitness goals you must first assess if you have goals that are achievable. If you are under a lot of stress, have limited free time, and/or limited funds – unless it’s life threatening, 95% of you will not lose fat, tone your muscles, or improve your strength and endurance – period. The reason is that you simply can’t successfully fit consistent and effective workouts into your hectic life as well as meal and snack planning, smart shopping and time intensive food prep and cooking. So rather than lament that your life is too stuck in a hectic hamster wheel and give up on your fitness goals by March, how about if you change the goal to be to get off the hamster wheel?
Did you know that stress and lack of sleep is the number one inhibitor to fat loss? I have a client who eats clean and healthy 4-6 times a day, and works out effectively 3-4 times a week and still cannot reduce her body fat (in fact she’s seen some increase). The clear and only reason behind this is that she has a very demanding and stressful job and home life, feels emotionally “stressed out” daily and averages about 5 hours of sleep per night. I see a lot of you nodding your heads in empathy right now.
When I talk with a new life coaching client and tell them that their first and primary goal is to find a way to reduce their stress by changing or altering their job, reorganizing household chores, rules, and assignments, and carving out (and maintaining) time for themselves, they usually start hyperventilating. But the longer we talk and outline step by step plans to get them from point A to Z the calmer they become and ultimately they get energized by the plan. Then it’s just a matter of holding them accountable, while maintaining fluidity to change the plans as the needs arise, and soon not only do they see a positive change to their bodies, they feel a radical and beneficial change to their entire lives.
With all this said, I assign all of you who have a goal yet achieved (and often failed at on an annual basis) to look at the bigger picture and perhaps pick a new goal – one that will ultimately get you to your old goal – but one that is more important and more achievable at this time and place in your life. As always, I’m here to advise as a personal trainer and life strategies coach if you wish to work with me.
Now go make 2017 different!
If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that I despise the word and concept of DIET as it means a temporary change in nutrition to achieve a single (and misplaced) goal. Along with my aversion to the word diet and dieting in general, is the commonly associated word CHEAT.
I often hear people say I cheated and ate something bad. The problem with using the word “cheat” (and bad) is that it implies a negative behavior and sets your brain up to rebel against your goal and therefore leads one to failure. Since no one can deprive themselves of the things they enjoy eating indefinitely (nor should they), diets always fail because the aftermath of a temporary nutritional change is to regain the lost weight/fat as the subject usually resumes eating they way they had before the diet.
So today I offer this advice to those of you who still insist on dieting – do not say that you’ve cheated or been bad when you eat or drink something not “allowed” on your diet. Food is not your spouse, you’re not married to it, lying to it, on trial, or in school – the only areas where the word cheating applies. You will be far more successful in your fat loss goals if you just acknowledge that you want to eat something that gives you pleasure and consume it, albeit ideally in a small quantity. Then resume your diet and get on with it.
The other area of “cheating” that I want to address is that of your workouts. This time of year newly motivated fat-loss seeking customers flock to gyms or sign up with personal trainers to institute new workout plans in conjunction with their new diets. Although I never hear a client state I cheated on my workout and skipped a day, the altering of their fitness plan does occur on as regular basis as the diet-cheating, just without the self-inflicted negative chastising of calling it cheating.
If you are committed to following a workout and meal plan to lose fat, then even if you’ve chosen to do so for a short and temporary period of time – don’t cheat. Workout out to the limits of your strength and endurance, and keep your nutrition focused. Again, if you veer off the diet for a meal/day, or skip a day/week of workouts, just get back on track without any negative shaming of yourself.
Ultimately you will only succeed at permanent fat loss if you change your approach to nutrition on a long-term basis, while still keeping the less “lean and healthy” foods to a smaller and more moderate level (quantity). Eat 6 times a day and drink lots of water. Simultaneously prioritize and schedule high intensity workouts (both cardio and weights) 3 times a week at a minimum. Remember to change up your workouts (increase intensity and/or time spent) at least every 6 weeks so you do not plateau. Also remember that if you start building more muscle mass you might actually need to eat more — but eat smart!
This is the only sure-fire way to reduce your body fat for good! So don’t cheat – just make a health plan and remind yourself that it’s okay if the plan changes or your get off track briefly. It’s all about the long haul.
Very often when faced with that dreaded moment where you must choose what to eat that will be quick, tasty and healthy, we make assumptions that we know which option is better (i.e., more nutritionally healthy), and that assumption is usually based upon limited knowledge.
For instance, the other day I was pressed for time for lunch (but as always wasn’t going to skip a meal or suffer inferior (fast) nutrition), so I hit my freezer and had two choices: a Trader Joe’s Chicken & Bean Burrito or an Amy’s Organic Mushroom Risotto. My brain riffled through my solid base of nutritional understandings and told me that the burrito was the way to go because it would have more protein, less carbs, and probably be lower in fat and calories as well. After all, Risotto is pasta-ish and rice-ish both of which are high in carbs and sugars, right?
Well then the trainer in me took pause, and decided to read the labels and compare the stats. To my shock I found out that I was not only wrong in my assumption, but really way off on my perceptions. Here’s what I found:
THE RISOTTO: THE BURRITO:
240 calories 400 calories
8 grms fat 12 grms fat
590 sodium 950 sodium
35 grms carbs 51 grms carbs
2 grms sugars 1 grm sugars
7 grms protein 20 grms protein
While clearly I was correct that the burrito had more protein (almost 3x as much), but it also had almost double the carbs and sodium, and 4 grams more fat! Who knew? To help you grasp this further, lets compare a typical Subway sandwich to one of McDonald’s supposedly “healthier” sandwich options than their typical Big Mac:
SUBWAY 6″ COLD-CUT McDONALD’S GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWHICH
350 calories 350 calories
12 grms fat 9 grms fat
1030 sodium 820 sodium
46 grms carbs 42 grms carbs
13 grms sugars 8 grms sugars
7 grms protein 28 grms protein
While I vehemently oppose ever spending a dime in a McDonald’s, when push comes to shove, I have to admit while I (and many of you I suspect) would assume that a deli-style “cold-cut” sandwich from Subway would always out-health anything from McDonald’s, clearly the facts prove otherwise. In case you missed it, Subway’s sandwich while having the same calories, had far less protein, and more fat, carbs, sugars and sodium.
So the next time you make an assumption about what you’re about to eat, stop and get the real facts and then decide. Your body and fitness goals will thank you for it!
Three years ago I published the following article concerning the daily mantra of many of you — “why can’t I lose weight?” Despite all my efforts, as well as an increase in National awareness and marketing about how to maintain a healthy body composition, I still hear this lament on a daily basis from prospective clients. So I decided it was time to reiterate my answer.
The eternal question why can’t I lose weight is uttered hundreds of times a day – at least in my profession I hear it from almost every prospective new client. The answer is simple – you’re not doing what you need to do to achieve your goals. The power lies within you. So the real question is what’s wrong with your execution?
Successful weight loss (which is really successful fat loss) is achieved with the following 3-steps:
1. Set an achievable goal for your body type and lifestyle.
2. Create and FOLLOW a nutrition plan that provides enough calories, protein and yes, even carbohydrates and fats to allow for burning of fat and building of lean muscle;
3. Exercise regularly – or more accurately – burn more calories on a daily basis than you consume!
That’s it. If you follow those three steps you WILL succeed. Now you may be saying I do, I am, I have – but I guarantee, if you are still not losing weight (fat) you’re missing one or more nuances to one or more of these steps.
1. GOALS: if you are over 40, in a sedentary job, have lots of stress, have injured body parts (back, legs, shoulders) or weakened joints – any or all of these issues – you MUST take those issues into consideration when setting your goals. With any of these issues you are likely to burn calories at a slower rate than others (age, lifestyle), if you are under stress you may in fact gain weight, and all of these issues greatly impact your ability to successfully follow step No. 2.
2. NUTRITION PLAN: First off, you’ll never succeed if you follow a diet – which implies a temporary change in how you eat (one in which you will cease when you’ve reached your goals). Second, you need to cater your meal plans to your schedule, taste preferences, and budget. Trying to eat what worked for one person who has a different set of criteria is a sure fire way to not succeed.
3. EXERCISE: You’ll note I really addressed this issue as calorie burn. Whether high-impact or low, 10 minutes or 45, resistance training or group classes, your success at embracing and maintaining a consistent exercise (calorie burn) regiment hinges upon you enjoying what you’re doing. If you hate the gym, but love to hike – make it so. If you prefer DVD’s at home rather than working with a personal trainer then do that. The key to remember is BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU CONSUME.
That being said, please heed this important note: eating less calories is NOT the answer. The more you burn calories – especially in a proactive way such as resistance training (the fastest way to lose fat) – the more you’ll actually need to eat. You’ll still be at a deficit, but beware of eating too little calories. Your body will hoard what you do eat and you’ll not see a change!
Last word: YOU MUST DO THE WORK!
SHAMELESS PLUG: I would be remise in this page of advice if I did not take advantage of a place to make a shameless plug for my services. I have a website where you can purchase specifically customized workout routines and meal plans that will take into consideration all of the issues I’ve detailed herein and if followed will help you achieve your goals!
The most valuable tool in your fitness arsenal is motivation. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to see and feel results. The fastest way to see and feel results is through resistance training (weight lifting). I’ve already discussed in my blog that women need to lift weights more often and heavier than most do – that you won’t look like a muscle-bound German swim team member, and that you’ll burn more fat calories than cardio. So the beneficial reasons are clearly well stated and proven – now you just might need a little more help getting and staying motivated to keep pushing and pulling those heavy weights.
Therefore, my advice today is to work your strengths. Everyone, every body type, has one or two muscle groups that are their strongest muscles and/or the ones they like to work the best. For me it’s my biceps and triceps. For you it might be your quads (thigh muscles), pecs (chest), or deltoids (shoulders). Regardless of which muscles they are, playing to your strengths will deliver quick results which in turn garner huge increases in your motivation to work harder.
Despite having long thin arm muscles, I am unusually strong in my biceps and triceps and can lift way more than others my size. Therefore, my ego gets a huge boost which drives me to lift more, and I see quick growth (tone and definition) in my arms which makes me very driven to see more results.
Back when my best friend and I were workout partners, she, who is five inches shorter than me, had huge arms (shorter muscles get larger quicker), but couldn’t curl as much as I. Conversely her chest was her strongest muscle group, and she could bench press twice as much as I could. Consequently she loved chest and back days, while I preferred arm days. But together we kept each other motivated. (Hint: there’s another tip if you missed it … workout out with a spouse or friend and keep each other accountable and motivated.)
I guarantee each of you have one workout day or one body part is that is your favorite and that you can willingly (and enthusiastically) push yourself to do more with. I challenge you to do so, while not forgetting to push a little harder on your other muscle groups until all your workouts are challenging and enjoyable.
Now go lift!
As we hit the midway mark of the summer I, like many of you, am readying to take a long vacation with my family. I am likewise concerned, as you may be, about how to get my workouts done while on vacation. While I am always full of well-intentioned commitments to exercise while on holiday, it may surprise you to know that I too experience a significant drop in my motivation to exercise while enjoying my time off.
So what can we do to maintain our fitness goals while on vacation? My first suggestion is to be okay with not working out. That’s right, I said it’s okay to skip a week. In fact I frame my workouts (my own and for my clients) in 6-week intervals with a mandatory week off before a new routine starts. This allows for complete recovery and rest and readies the muscles for new abuses. I thus, try to time my vacations with that week off, or shift things around to allow for it.
However, it is worth noting that a large percentage of people find they do not gain more body fat while on vacation as they are moving more than they do during a usual work week. Between swimming, walking, hiking, or even dodging through crowds at theme parks, you will likely burn more calories than you do during your average sedentary job. Now of course there’s the extra high-caloric intake that also comes along with vacations – more cocktails, sweets, and fried or exotic foods are common – but again if you’re moving more than usual, you might at least break even.
Depending upon your destination, try to schedule at least one thing per week that is physically different than your norm: i.e., a snorkel trip, a day-long hike or river raft trip, a walking exploration of pyramids or volcanos, or just a family game of beach volleyball. One “excursion” like this can utilize muscles in a way your body isn’t accustomed too, and the caloric burn of that will benefit you greatly.
Another suggestion is for you to reserve 30-minutes every day for focused movement or exercise. If you’re walking/hiking more than usual, take a half hour before bed to stretch your muscles (improvise some yoga or pull up something on YouTube). If your vacation days are more sedentary (just sitting by the pool), then commit to a 30-minute visit to a gym or a class (offered at many resorts or on cruise ships), follow along with a YouTube exercise video on your phone, tablet or laptop, or bring your own resistance bands and attack your muscles in the comfort of your hotel room.
My last piece of advice I can share with my fellow vacationers is this: RELAX. Life for most of us is hectic and stressful and relaxation is a huge component in your body’s ability to stop holding onto excess body fat as well as maintaining a good immune system. So let your brain unwind, don’t eat complete crap, and if possible throw in a few workouts and your vacation will be successful and your fitness goals don’t have to suffer any setbacks.
Now go enjoy that holiday/vacation!
Successful fat loss goals are achieved 70% in the kitchen, 20% by how well and often you move your body, and 10% from your mental state. Today I want to focus on the kitchen end of things.
Food prep is where so many well-intentioned fat loss seekers (people who want to “lose weight”) drop the ball. For you to succeed at your fitness goals excuses like I have no time to cook or I didn’t know what to eat and was hungry so I just grabbed something must be removed from your lexicon!
Now I’m not going to give you a meal plan to follow (although [shameless plug here] you can order a customized meal plan from my website www.workouts247.com and I’m not going to reiterate what I’ve stated numerous times herein about eating 6 small meals/snacks a day, and avoiding overly processed, sugary and salty foods. What I am going to address is food prep because that is the most time intensive aspect of nutrition and the area that usually intimidates people the most.
As you embark on the journey to change your nutrition there are four (4) important steps you need to understand. The first step is to have a meal plan in place complete with recipes or “meal concepts” for each day of the week. The second step is to prepare a comprehensive list and then shop for the requisite ingredients. The third step (which I am focusing on today) is to prepare as much of the food in advance so that step four – the eating at regular intervals step – can be easily achieved.
I always advise my clients to set aside one day for grocery shopping (which, if your list is in hand, should only take one hour at most), and a chunk of time for the food prep (can be the same day as shopping or a day or two later).
Food prep can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending upon how many meals and/or snacks you are preparing. The essential key here is to lock in the time required as a firm appointment you keep with yourself. Using cookbooks, Pinterest pins, or just your imagination, you can create several recipes ahead of time that will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Meals needed for the later in your week can still be made ahead of time and frozen until needed.
The most important aspect to all of your food prep is to enjoy the process (do not see it as drudgery). As you become more comfortable with the planning and preparation process, you can expand your variety and pretty soon you’ll enjoy entire weeks of healthy, lean, flavorful meals and the “I have no time” excuse will be a thing of the past. Also, cooking together as a couple or family is a great way to spend quality time (without any electronics in front of your faces).
Here are a few timesaving tricks to follow, and of course, if you desire more specific advice, direction or a meal plan, contact me directly:
Veggies can be cleaned and sliced and placed in a ziplock bag or food storage container for use later in the week.
Pre-cooked snacks (like my quinoa, black bean, and spinach egg muffins for example), fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, and dried meats (like turkey jerky) can all be individually wrapped in bags or containers that you can “grab ‘n go.”
Breakfast items can be made the night before and simply reheated in the morning when there is less time to cook (i.e., breakfast burrito, overnight oats, etc.).
Crockpot (slow cooker) meals are a great way to easily create enough food to serve several lunches or dinners, and the prep work can be done the night before, then plunk everything into the pot, set it and forget it until you get home for dinner.
Always have a few fast-but-healthy items on hand (fridge, freezer, pantry) such as turkey burgers, salad veggies, cans of tuna or salmon as all of these can be turned into quick meals.
More time intensive items like brown rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta can be pre-cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to four days. Then on any given night simply oven-roast or sauté your pre-sliced veggies and protein, sprinkle them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and any of your favorite herbs and spices, then toss them all in one large pan and roast or sauté until done. Add in the already prepared side (rice, quinoa, etc.) and you’ve a dish that can serve for two family-sized meals (with correct quantity planning).
There’s long been a debate in the fitness industry as to whether rapid fire or slow paced workouts are better. As a Personal Trainer I know that both styles have pros and cons in their affect on our bodies, and in fact I employ both styles with my clients and my own workouts. There’s a time and place to perform high intensity, light weight, heart-rate racing routines and the same for heavy weight, slow, low muscle fatiguing routines, and a lot depends upon your body type and goals.
But despite having already written herein about the benefits of HIIT-high intensity interval training (see Sometimes Less Is More), and marketing my practice on 30-minute high-results routines, I still find many people unsatisfied with how long they have to spend exercising. They want to change their bodies for the better in as little time as possible. So the fads continue, whether gear or groundbreaking new approach — each one is designed to make workout quick and painless, and each one fails.
It started with 6-minute abs DVD’s and now there’s 2-minute workouts all over the internet (2-minute arms, 2 minute glutes, etc). At this rate I should create the 1-minute workout DVD’s and retire a year from now off the proceeds. Humor set aside, there’s only so much you can do to trim off time while speeding up the workout and still see results (and avoid injuries). The reality too is that whether you spend 2 minutes or 60 on your abs, unless healthy lean nutrition is involved and consistent workouts with proper techniques you will NOT have washboard abs.
But in the interest of exploring new levels of fitness, I offer you speed-minded peeps (or exercise hating folks) who want to fire off a super-fast workout and then get on with your life, an opportunity to try my new Fast Five Fitness Workout! Get the job done in only 5 minutes!
I have created four routines – the idea being that you would exercise four times a week, each one delivering slightly different assaults on your muscles and stamina. So here’s the first. If you need a detailed explanation of these exercises or more importantly if you want all four routines customized to your specific fitness levels and goals, then contact me. (My blog followers will receive a 10% discount.)
You’ll need a little walking room (enough to do a few lunges forward and back), a yoga or cushioned mat, and a pair of dumbbells ranging from 8-15 lbs. Keep the pace as fast as you can with NO rest until completion (should take ONLY 5 minutes depending upon your speed). Good luck!
- 20 jumping jacks
- 20 DB lunge walks with shoulder presses
- 20 jump squats
- 20 DB biceps curls combo’d with prone DB alternating arm rows
- 20 Running mans
- 20 Alternating Leg Up DB biceps “hammer” curls (10 on each leg)
- 20 Prones to Planks (10 right lead, 10 left lead)
- 20 v-sit side-to-side DB taps
The month of May is three days away and there’s something about that month every year that triggers people into frantic action to get into bathing suit shape. Perhaps it’s because Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer to so many of us, but sadly 30-days is not enough for most people to achieve their fitness goals. In fact, the biggest road block to fitness success is unrealistic goals. It took you more than 30-days to get out of shape, and the hard truth is that it takes twice as long to get that fat off or tone up unused muscles.
With that said, here’s a few tips that can help tremendously in improving your physical state and appearance in the next month:
Stop drinking sodas, smoothies, and even alcohol! This significantly lowers your sugars which will stop your body from conversion and storage into fat. (Don’t panic about the alcohol, we’re just talking about one month here!)
Reduce and/or watch your sodium (salt) intake. Salty snack foods, frozen, canned and overly processed foods are very high in sodium and this causes water retention and bloat.
Start the day with a large glass of water – this jump starts the metabolism and then keep water flowing throughout the day to flush out toxins, and simultaneously allow a slight feeling of being full which will keep you from over-eating.
Eat five to six small meals/snacks all day, being sure to stop once you’re in that evening sedentary mode (no noshing while watching TV).
DO NOT avoid carbs! DO avoid processed carbs!
Perform 30-minutes of medium-high intensity cardio 3-5 times a week, along with 30-minutes of total-body high intensity resistance training.
Honestly, if you make and follow these few changes to your nutrition and daily routines between now and Memorial Day, you will see a difference in your body. If you commit NOW to consistent hard work and sustain it past May 31st, you can be outrageously fit and swim suit gorgeous by mid-summer for sure.