Thinking of starting a weight loss program and are unsure of how to begin?
By now you've probably realized it took you years to get to the way you are currently, so you know it's going to take longer than a "30 day challenge" to change your physique. As well, you have to think long term. If you're really ready to change your body, you must change your life. There are several factors that are involved when making a transformation. Diet, lifestyle, environment, habits and a plethora of variables must be changed. Before getting started with a specific plan and taking the plunge, ask yourself the following questions to ensure you've got all your bases covered.
Does the program address long term caloric intake or is it a fast tracked approach to weight loss? The majority of fad diets focus on instant weight loss. While this might be exactly what you need for motivation, it might leave you stranded once you've completed the program. You're risking metabolic damage from the way the diet is structured and after the initial rapid weight loss, your body will eventually adapt to it and leave you high and dry since there may not be a solid outlet for you to progress into further fat loss. If the program doesn?t emphasize long term eating habits and changes, you may fall victim to the evils of 'yo-yo dieting'.
Are you maintaining an appropriate balance of macronutrients? Some fad diets focus on manipulating certain macros (think Atkins, South Beach, etc). While limiting any single macro can be advantageous, for a first time dieter, or those that need to lose more than 20lbs, you may fair better with a balanced diet, even when in a caloric deficit. Again, you must give yourself somewhere to go once the weight loss occurs. I've addressed this at length in the past, but you have to provide yourself room for error and room for improvement. If you started with every type of deficit approach from day 1, you'll have nowhere else to turn when your weight loss stagnates.
Similar to #2, does the diet promote eating whole foods that are nutritious? Lots of diets push certain caloric manipulation that extends from foods of all sorts. For example, juice diets, low carb diets, soup diets, 'negative calorie' foods, etc. These diets typically offer fast results, but are extremely hard (and unhealthy) to stick to. Once you complete the program, chances are great you'll gain the weight back. Additionally, you?ll want to focus on nutrient dense foods, not calorie dense.
Does the program focus on balanced exercise and nutrition, or does it work around specific supplements, creams, pills, or fancy equipment? I've yet to be involved with a fad diet based around a specific supplement or tool that created lasting fat loss. Some of the elements these programs are based on can be beneficial, but should never be used exclusively for weight loss. If the program directs you to use a cream or pill (especially while boasting that you don't have to eat a certain way or focus on manipulating calories), steer clear. These things are not healthy and not the most optimal way to promote fat loss.
Is exercise (aerobic or anaerobic) written into the program? Of course, caloric expenditure is key to promoting fat loss while preserving muscle mass. Though it is only one part of the equation, it's very important nonetheless. Simply put, more muscle equals a higher propensity to burning fat. The more muscle on your frame, the more efficient your metabolism is at burning calories. Again, in terms of optimal fat loss, you'll want to incorporate a way of burning calories by outside stressors on top of limiting calories by way of your diet.
Does the program fit your needs and lifestyle as it is currently? Granted, dieting is hard work, and typically difficult to stick with. But if the program takes you way out of your norm, you're less likely stick with it. You must be able to adapt your life to the plan and vice versa. Be realistic. So often, I see people motivated to start a program and begin with grandiose plans to change their entire life overnight and it ultimately leads to failure. Start small. Make initial changes that are attainable and easier to stick with so that you can continue your transformation.
Are you making these changes for the right reason? You must be able to identify the triggers or problem areas and stressors in life that got you to the point you're currently at. A transformation starts in the brain. Once you determine these triggers, you can fully understand how you've become what you have, and how to properly address each problem and begin to overcome them. Remember, sticking with a program is hard enough, so if you don't identify and tackle the issues upfront, it will be that much more difficult to overcome them in the future.
Do you have a support system in place? Some people have standing weekly plans for a date night or meeting friends at a bar. Are you willing and able to skip the drinking games and substitute splitting nachos and appetizers for something healthier that fits within the requirements of your plan? Those with positive support put in place by way of friends and family are held more accountable and therefore have a greater propensity to lose the weight and keep it off. Make sure you have this conversation with those close to you and ask for their help and support! Your family and those around you can adhere to the same food options you?ll need to make everything as convenient and easy as possible.
Did you employ a certified nutritionist or specialist or are you following a program you found on the internet? Obviously fad diets are widely popular for promoting instant results, but just because you lose the initial weight doesn't mean it's the most optimal or beneficial way of dieting. Remember what works for one person may not work for another.
Is surgery an option I should consider? Today bariatric surgery is at an all-time high. You must meet certain requirements to even be considered for weight loss surgery, but even then, although you physically meet the necessary requirements doesn't mean you?re mentally fit or ready to handle all that surgery entails. Many people mistakenly view it as a 'quick fix' or the end all-be all of weight loss. This just simply is not true. While weight loss surgery is a very valuable tool, it certainly comes with many ups and downs that one should be prepared for, most importantly understanding that the work still has to be done, the diet has to be adhered to, and the lifestyle has to change if you want lasting results.
Do You Want to be SKINNY, or FIT?
What's the BEST Advice for Losing Weight?
The most popular question I get on a daily basis is, ?What?s the BEST advice you can give me for losing weight?. The obvious answer is, ?Hire a coach/trainer who knows what they?re doing?. However, the most honest advice I can give someone is STOP and SLOW DOWN.
What can we do to lose weight? Well, there are lots of options:
1. Alter your diet-
Lower your overall food consumption, manipulate your macronutrients, your meal timing, your eating frequency, cut carbs, lower fat intake, increase water intake, increase protein intake, ETC, ETC, ETC.
Begin an exercise program that incorporates overall muscular development, split routines, full body routines, high volume, high intensity, high sets or reps, multiple body parts per day or per week, ETC, ETC, ETC.
Begin cardiovascular activity, ranging from high intensity interval training, early morning, post workout, before bed, steady state, all types of cardio, ranging from 10 minutes up to hours a day, walking, biking, running, ellipticals, crosstrainers, aerobic classes, ETC, ETC, ETC.
Begin using any one of several hundred dietary aids ranging from a simple multi-vitamin to complex blends of fat burners and thermogenics, ETC, ETC, ETC.
So why is my answer to SLOW DOWN or STOP altogether?
Because 90% of people who come to me have done EVERYTHING I just listed the very FIRST DAY of their new journey! I see it constantly. People eat less, exercise more, start pouring pills down their throat, and yes, they begin to see results! Simple logic, really. Something/Anything is better than Nothing. Immediately they think MORE is BETTER (obviously, considering they just pulled out every stop within the first hour of making the decision to lose weight).
So what happens in our bodies when we decide to go on a diet and go all out instead of slowly progressing into it? Well, a lot actually! And this is where you begin to create more harm than good inside. If you've followed anything I've talked about in terms of nutrition and exercise, you'd know that I preach homeostasis and the body's ability to adapt and overcome, or live with, the excess strains you've supplied it. This is our body's way of living efficiently (and staying alive, period).
Follow this: We have a 250lb man holding around roughly 40% body fat who decides enough is enough; he's ready to finally get healthy! We'll call him Timmy Fathead. So Timmy goes on all the famous dieting sites and starts reading up on all the new dieting trends and learns that controlling caloric intake creates fat loss, increasing caloric output (exercise) creates fat loss, supplementing with fat burners creates fat loss, and increasing water and decreasing soda and sweet tea intake increases fat loss. So after learning these four or five key components of weight loss, Timmy decides he wants to maximize his results and uses what he believes is common deductive reasoning: If doing ONE of these variables can increase fat loss, that must mean that doing ALL of these variables should create the MOST fat loss. Now while this may be somewhat true, there?s a time and place for each of these variables. The VERY FIRST WEEK (let alone the FIRST DAY) of Timmy?s weight loss program is NOT the time or the place to introduce every variable!
But Timmy won't be discouraged and when he starts his diet on Monday, he wakes up and begins his day with an hour of cardio. From there, he only eats a cool 1,500 total calories for the day, starving himself. But not to worry, Timmy is motivated and goes back to the gym for his second round which includes a full body exercise program where he will bust blood vessels in his eyeballs from lifting the most amount of weight he can for about an hour or so (and he was obviously listening to the Rocky soundtrack during this time). Now normally Timmy would be puking from all of this exertion, but no need to fear, he's pumped his body full of over the counter fat burners that GUARANTEE weight loss and energy! Boy, Timmy sure is feeling good about his choices!
(For the sake of this argument, we'll assume Timmy Fathead has the perseverance of a champion and somehow continues this insane attempt at weight loss for at least a month straight). He's now lost a few dozen pounds and even though he's starting to feel like garbage, he's seeing the scale move and that's a plus, so he keeps at it! Unfortunately, back on the first day when he started a month ago, he combined a very restricted caloric intake with 2+ hours of exercise per day, on top of 3 of the highest rated fat burning supplements currently on sale. His body responded great initially, but low and behold, his weight loss has stalled and now the unnecessary amount of changes he originally created is working against him. His body has just reached homeostasis and in an effort to stay alive as efficiently as possible, Timmy's body has now outsmarted him and has discovered a way to continue this high energy demand while living on the reduced calorie diet he began. This means that Timmy has a couple of options to further elicit fat loss. He can cut his calories even FURTHER to create a larger deficit. He can tack on MORE time in his daily cardio sessions. He can increase his intensity in his workouts. He can increase his supplement doses, or even add in additional fat loss supplements.
See the problem here? Timmy had great intentions, but by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his plan from day one, he left himself absolutely nowhere to go! He won't be able to lower his calories anymore without going into severe starvation mode, which could be potentially fatal. He can no longer add additional minutes to cardio because he's already exhausted as is, and his family already misses him since he spends more time at the gym than anywhere else. His coworkers are always wondering why he's constantly sweating from all of the thermogenics he's taking (lol) and with the way he's begun to have heart palpitations from all of the extra fat burners and stimulants he?s ingested, he thinks it's probably wise not to mess with that variable any more than he already has.
Finally, Timmy realizes he's made a mistake, but unfortunately, the damage is already done. He's wrecked his metabolism, his liver toxicity has increased, his family resents him for spending so much time and effort in the gym 24/7, and lastly, he's in a huge state of depression because he really, really thought THIS time was going to be the final effort that paid off! THIS time, it was going to work! THIS time, he would stick to it! Timmy's mind was 100% made up and ready to begin the strict lifestyle of losing fat. But unfortunately, he didn't diet optimally, and therefore, he's stuck and once again, Timmy Fathead is defeated.
So, if Timmy sounds like you, remember, STOP and SLOW DOWN!
It's a marathon, not a sprint! It didn?t take you just one month to become obese; it certainly will take longer than one month to become fit! You might have the best intentions and you might be mentally ready to do what it's going to take to get your life and your body back, but if you're truly ready, set your timeline and goals back further than whatever you've normally anticipated.
You MUST supply yourself with easy, steady drops and necessary changes within the diet the further you progress through it. If you start off too high, or don't leave enough room for change, you'll inevitably plateau and ruin your hard work! This will lead to disastrous effects and I would argue that if you're changing more than 10% of any one variable in your own program, FROM THE START, you're overtraining. (That means dropping more than 10% of caloric intake or adding more than a 10% ratio of time/distance/effort of caloric output per plateau after your initial assessment of what your starting point should be).
Remember, there's a thousand ways to get from A to B, so you must pick what is most optimal for YOU! Though not everyone is the same and different variables will be altered per person according to their own unique stats, EVERYONE'S starting point is the same! Once you find your initial starting plan, if you add all the tips and tricks all at once or too quickly, you are taking steps backwards!
Are All Calories Created Equally?
Do I really need to focus on macronutrients or can I just simply "cut calories" to lose weight?
I really don't feel like writing this, but after a few events that transpired over the past couple of days, I feel I should address this once and for all. I was inadvertently led into a battle with an internet keyboard warrior. You know the types. Zero science (and no, broscience doesn't count), zero common sense and no literature or anecdotal evidence to back any of their claims. Essentially, a ?troll?.
Well, said troll sparked a debate in which he claimed that, "Individual macronutrients do not matter. All that matters is a caloric deficit to lose weight. Calories in vs. calories out".
Now, in the grand scheme of things, I agreed, this is TRUE. If you are ONLY concerned with losing "WEIGHT", and not focused on improving your body fat or physical composition, a calorie deficit is the easiest way to obtain this goal.
Essentially, eating less than you burn=weight loss. Eating more than you burn=weight gain.
However, this debate started after he began hurling insults at me for attempting to help a person online who had posed a question regarding nutrition and plateaus. The troll actually went as far to say, "Your complex way is completely unnecessary. I bet you're one of those 'gotta eat certain macros at a certain time of day' people too. Disgusting that people like you f*** up how new people view nutrition and exercise.?
Of course, everyone can always find some reason to argue with someone else. Bullying, trolling and arguments online tend to happen more in the fitness world than anywhere else (outside of politics of course!) so I rarely, if ever, get caught up in it. 99% of the time it's just people having fun at the expense of others. However, in this certain group, I was ASKED to join and share my philosophies and experiences in prepping, weight loss, bodybuilding, etc. So when I was met with this hostility after providing some answers, it began to worry me. I have no issues with people disagreeing and trying to get a rise out of someone merely for laughs or because it's fun. However, there were several people that were privy to this, and it began to worry me that some of these innocent bystanders might actually start to BELIEVE what this troll was saying.
Do macronutrients really NOT matter? Is it really the simple method of just "eating less", regardless of what your diet consists of? Is everything I've ever read about the thermic effect of food or nutrient partitioning just another example of companies in the fitness industry scamming us out of our hard earned money? Are nutritional science programs and the countless studies published just another way for us to "believe the hype"?
So here's where I began to break it down?
Again, I agree that for overall weight loss, one must burn more calories per day than they ingest. This deficit can be reached by eating less, or exercising more. This will in turn create a net weight loss in subjects. However, is this the ONLY way to get results? Of course not! And here's where the debate began... Is this the MOST OPTIMAL way to reach a caloric deficit? NO!
I've repeated this thousands of times throughout my career and will continue to say it...If you want to lose "weight" as fast as possible, stop eating food, do as many exhaustive hours of cardio daily, certainly refrain from ever drinking a single ounce of liquid and wear a sauna suit every day. Before you know it, you'll be an emaciated bag of bones! Voila, you've just lost weight without counting a single calorie or paying any mind to one specific macronutrient!
Now, if you're ready to actually focus on losing FAT, continue to read on. (PS-my slight 'joke' above further fueled my reasoning for writing this article. The funny things I say are honestly not too far off from what the troll was claiming to be true in regards to nutrition and exercise! I can't imagine being a first time dieter and reading the types of things that were clearly wrong, much less DOING the things that are clearly wrong).
To understand that not all calories are created equal, we must first address what makes up a calorie and what they're used for. We know that foods contain macro and micronutrients. Macros being your protein, fats and carbohydrates. Micros being your vitamins and minerals. Each gram of protein and each gram of carbohydrate contain 4 calories. One gram of fat contains 9 grams of calories.
It would appear initially that the easiest way to lose weight would be to cut out fat altogether since it holds almost double the amount of calories on a gram by gram basis. However, we tried that. And if you recall an article I wrote previously where I cited a published study, Americans became MORE overweight as a nation following the 'low fat diet' fad where it was theorized that if we consumed less fat, or more 'low fat' options in our diets, we would lose fat. I won't go into detail as to why this was largely unsuccessful, but keep in mind, sugar has zero grams of fat, so under this theory, I can eat as many pounds of sugar as I can ingest every minute of the day and still be following a 'low fat diet'.
Another reason this craze fizzled out was because fat is actually a necessity of life! The body has to have protein and fat for survival, not carbs. And don't forget our need for the delivery of fat-soluble vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties associated with healthy fat sources. Carbohydrates are the only non-essential macronutrient. The body utilizes those as a fuel source only. I can talk for hours on this one single macronutrient, but for the purposes of this article, I will keep with the topic (for once!).
So, you can already see that all calories, just like all macros, are not created equally! To further illustrate my point, let's take a sample of two different foods. Let's say we have 500 calories of Reese's cups (my favorite!) and 500 calories of chicken breast. The Reese's cups contain 31g of fat, 55g of carbs and 10g of protein. The chicken breast has approximately 12g fat, 0g carbs and 75g protein. Now at this point, you should be scratching your head. You mean to tell me that if person A diets on chicken breast and person B diets on Reese's cups for a month straight the outcome will be the exact same?
Furthermore, based off that sample scenario, we can see that different foods have different types of satiety, or that 'full feeling' we get after eating, as well as volume! I can fit 500 calories of a Reese's cup in the palm of my hand, where 500 calories (or roughly 14oz) of chicken breast would fill up a Tupperware container. It's fairly obvious you would be far more satisfied and satiated after eating a whole mess of chicken and greens than you would a package of candy. (But hey, I get it. Candy is one of God's greatest creations!)
Again, food volume is also a consideration. When it comes to dieting, portion control remains at the top of the list of variables that people have to overcome. The more calorie dense the foods are, the less you are allowed to consume. This is why simply 'cutting calories' is not the most optimal form of dieting. And again, we're not arguing what the EASIEST way of dieting is; we're looking for getting the best return on our investment! For that reason, it's more than obvious that we should consume more nutrient dense foods. Notice I say nutrient dense, not calorie dense! Again, we're looking for the most optimal form of calories for body modification purposes.
Using a blanket statement of 'just cutting calories' will more than likely give you that 'skinny fat' appearance. Is the scale continuing to move backwards? Maybe. But is your body adjusting properly and toning, or just merely getting smaller? Losing 'weight' will mean you're a smaller version of yourself. Losing 'fat' means just that. You're losing the amount of excess adipose tissue you have while remaining in an acceptable anabolic range where you will continue to preserve, or even add muscle tissue.
Fad diets have a sophisticated way of using one facet of nutrition or weight loss to adapt an entire lifestyle around. For example, IIFYM, or "If It Fits Your Macros" became widely popular in the fitness industry based off of one concept in dieting. IIFYM, or Flexible Dieting, was marketed as the stress free ability to lose weight based on tracking what foods 'fit' your intended caloric allotment through the day. So if you're allowed 2,000 calories, it won't matter what foods you consume in a 24 hour period, so long as it is within the specific target range of calories. Well, hopefully the above information has already shown you that this is not the most optimal way to get results. And for the record, IIFYM was originally used for condiments (plain chicken breast would get pretty nasty day in and day out, so people would say, "hey, what if I spice it up with some barbeque sauce? It's not too bad, if I can cut out x,y,z it'll still fit within my macros). Hence, an entire diet was born.
Another fad diet based off of a specific concept was the "Negative Calorie Foods" diet that suggests eating the majority of your calories coming from foods that have a negative impact on calories by way of digestion. (I fell victim to the Negative Calorie Soup diet at one point in my weight loss attempts). Essentially, eating 5 calories from a piece of cold broccoli actually takes 7 calories to fully digest (chewing, swallowing, breaking it down and extracting nutrients, digesting and producing waste). So in the end, you've actually burned 2 calories instead of storing 5. This is dietary induced thermogenesis, known as the thermic effect of food, or "TEF".
TEF is one concept of dieting, but not the ONLY, and therefore, it cannot be used as the end all-be all of dieting. You must take ALL variables into account, not just one small facet. To tell someone they can focus on eating negative calorie foods and they'll turn into a fitness model is as misleading as telling them that joining a gym will make them the next Mr. Olympia. You cannot outwork a diet. But, to further illustrate my point here, protein takes far greater energy to metabolize than fat or carbs. So again, calories stemming from protein do not equal calories coming from fat or carbs, ergo, all calories are NOT equal!
Not to mention, protein=protein synthesis=muscle growth and repair=more muscle=less fat=higher resting caloric expenditure=weight loss.
Bottom line is this. I am not arguing the laws of thermodynamics. The argument is not 'can I lose weight by just simply cutting calories'. You can. It's science. It's not a question of IF you will lose the weight; it's HOW you will lose the weight. If you want to lose weight for the sake of moving numbers on a scale, then yes, you can certainly just eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you're eating less than you were, or at least eating under a specific number of calories. I even suggest this if you have more than 100lbs to lose. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
However, if you're dieting for the purposes of body modification or for creating a substantial transformation, you MUST realize that all calories are NOT created equal! Each macronutrient has a specific job in the body and affect us differently. Fat loss has to be the desired result, not weight loss.
To end the point, think of this. Ever hear of the phrase, 'empty calories'? Where do you think it came from!? Alcohol! And what benefit does alcohol provide us other than making a dinner party more fun? NOTHING! There are 7 calories per gram of alcohol (remember, only 4 in protein and carbs). So, if the idea that "all calories are equal" was true, this would mean that I could have two subjects consume 2,000 calories per day, one from all macros split appropriately, and one exclusively from vodka, and by the end of 30 days, they will both net the same amount of results. I dare say one will be well on their way to being fit and the other would have one foot in the grave!
So, the take away here is simple. If you're 100 or more pounds overweight, sure, don't focus on macros, just eat less and focus on calories in vs. calories out. However, if you're looking to optimally diet to obtain the best, healthy results, or if you're looking for prepping for a show or specific event in which you'd like to show up looking fit and in the best shape of your life, you BETTER start focusing on macronutrients!
The Efficacy of Eating Organic.
Are Processed Foods the Reason we are Obese? Am I a Food Addict?
I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the recent nutrition hype that has occurred in the past couple of years. Organic eating, Gluten free eating, Paleo, etc... All of these are healthy, natural ways of dieting and have proven to be beneficial to one's health and physique, but if we KNOW we should diet a certain way, why don't we? There are several factors and reasons as to why we stick to the typical American diet...ease and convenience, savings in cost and most importantly, taste.
Foods are being created and consumed faster than ever now. In one study I read, in 1960 the average hen could produce 160 eggs. By 2009, that number increased to 325 eggs. Over 23 MILLION chickens are killed each day in the US for consumption. We have developed certain systems and drugs to mass produce food with little regard to nutrients now just to keep up with the demands of our culture. Bigger, stronger, faster...everything has to be done right away. Remember when we relied on landlines and stamps and letters to communicate with each other!? There was no internet, there was no Skype, but I digress... Point being, in my opinion, consuming processed foods could be the most important factor of health and can be the lead cause of weight loss inability.
Think back when we were kids...there was never a mainstream mention or popularity of ?Organic? foods. Why? Because back then, we pretty much already ate organic! The mass production of foods came into fruition due to cheap and fast alternatives and additives such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial sweeteners, colors and the like. After foods have been processed, they lose the majority of their nutrients and natural flavors. So how do we combat that? Simple, load up on cheap flavoring to spice the bland foods up (as well as loads of preservatives to make it last longer). This leads to the main topic of this article...my theory that eating processed foods, even when labeled ?healthy?, are one of the leading causes as to why weight loss is so difficult, diets are hard to stick to and Americans in general are too unhealthy!
I came to terms early on with the notion that I am a food addict. Being addicted to food is quite possibly the worst thing to happen to people. Think of it this way... If a person suffers from alcoholism and decide to turn their lives around, the stress and willpower it takes are second to none. However, an alcoholic only has to avoid bars and beer/liquor/wine to stay on track. A food addict, however, cannot simply stay away from restaurants and just stop eating food altogether (without a certain and horrible death). Imagine if that alcoholic had to continue to work as a bartender everyday...
All addictions are the same. An outside source triggers your brain's emotional signaling that can increase and decrease its satisfaction sensors (like dopamine for example). Something triggers your reward system, giving you that sense of euphoria and overall good feeling for a certain period of time. Once that effect wears off, your body attempts to recover and then begins to want it again, causing cravings of the substance you offered it. Over time, this leads to addiction. Your body and mind begin to crave that feeling again and again, which leads to using or abusing that substance more and more. Food (especially processed) create this same addiction. Based on your body's need to stay in homeostasis (I clearly love this example), once something that produces a good feeling in your body is introduced and continued, your body will then adapt to it and your brain will tell you that you NEED this substance to continue living. (I think of how many drug addicts I've encountered in my job over the years and this example couldn't be more true. It's why people going through withdrawal become very sick, almost to the point of death. Their body has become so used to consuming something that they literally cannot live without it).
Eating processed foods 24/7 eventually lead to a reduced sensitivity in its effects (ie: taste and responsive feeling). What's worse, is that people typically wake up and start their day by feeding their addiction, regardless if they realize what they're doing. If your breakfast is a sweetened coffee and honey bun, or pop tarts, or essentially anything from a fast food joint, you are starting your day by immediately introducing that fast acting reward signaling response that spikes insulin, creates that satisfying feeling and furthering your addiction. Once that feeling wears off, your brain will tell you it needs more and more! This also creates that 'dumbing down' effect in regards to taste. If you've ever been on a diet, you realize after a couple of weeks of clean eating, things taste better! I can't tell you how amazing a plain sweet potato tastes after dieting on chicken and fish for months. I think of this the same way I regard training...Get the most out of the least. By not providing your body these ultra-sweetened processed foods, your taste buds literally change and your brain now tells you that what you're eating is very delicious. Obviously a honey bun, with its processed sugars and gooey icing is a million times sweeter than a plain sweet potato in comparison, but if your body isn't used to always consuming it, you will then get that same feeling from the potato (which is clearly more beneficial).
Your brain is obviously very complex and we are always learning new things about our bodies and how advanced we actually are. However, there is always one constant that is quite simple...Your body doesn't need ONE specific thing to create that euphoric feeling. The exact same 'feel good' signals your brain gives off can be triggered by foods the exact same way it can be triggered by exercise! It should seem obvious that exercise is the number one response to all adverse health effects, but the reason is two-fold. One, exercise obviously leads to better health and weight loss by burning more calories per day. But two, exercise proves to your brain that it can illicit the same positive response that processed foods gives it. This way, you get the same good feeling effects by also staying healthy and potentially losing fat at the same time!
So what do we do? For starters, try your best to avoid processed foods altogether. This admittedly takes work and determination because some of the foods may not seem so obvious. I remember hearing that a typical tomato has THIRTY ingredients now....T-H-I-R-T-Y. If I remember correctly, a tomato is comprised of....a tomato. I'm not saying you have to pay triple the amount for foods now by eating only things labeled as Organic, but making educated decisions on what you put in your body will clearly start you in the right direction. Second, exercise! Even a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood will yield positive results. No one will ever win the argument that they, ?don't have enough time? to exercise daily. You have time to update facebook and watch Friends reruns (ok, I'm explaining my current life now) but you don't have time to invest in staying around to see your grand kids grow up!? Rubbish! Make smarter decisions on what you eat, make an effort to exercise more each day (even if it's just parking further away from work or a store to get that extra minute of walking, or taking the stairs vs. the elevator) and your body will certainly respond!
Fitness Rant on Progressive Overload
Why must people think that progressive overload is the ONLY way to build or improve muscle?? I can't tell you how many people I've seen lately throwing around as much weight as possible without their physiques ever changing. There IS a cap...you will eventually hit a ceiling and be done. If this wasn't true, people should be benching thousands and thousands of pounds by now. So why aren't they? Number one, your joints and tendons can't handle that stress. Two, yes, you can train your muscles for certain lifts to stimulate growth (ie: runners have more type I, bodybuilders have more type II because of how they're influenced by training), but if you're ONLY dependent on one type or style of exercise, you will eventually plateau (or get injured).
Progressive Tension means A LOT more than just adding 5-10lbs per set until the exercise is over... Remember, your muscles don't know 5lbs from 50lbs. Weight is just a number. Your muscles know TENSION and RESISTANCE. If you are lifting with proper form, control, speed (on both concentric and eccentric portions, based on the exercise), YOU. WILL. GROW. It's simple, once you put all of the variables together. But sticking to just ONE type of thinking and assuming you'll get a difference in results is ridiculous. Stop throwing around as much weight as you can and then get upset when your physique never changes and you end up a big ball of injuries!
I'm not against overload training. In fact, I think it's essential for muscle growth (and especially for myofibrillar hypertrophy), but that's only ONE tool in the toolbox. I'm a big proponent of training in rep ranges and exercises that increase sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (after research and anecdotal evidence supported after my shoulder injury and the fact that I refused to stop training). My whole point is, there are many different ways to train a muscle, so why use only ONE method that will eventually lead to a plateau and likely injury after injury? If muscle growth is your ultimate goal, make sure to constantly keep your body guessing by switching rep ranges, sets, exercises, etc.
Breakfast and Why You Should Never Skip It!
When you sleep, your body goes into a catabolic state (muscle wasting) to keep yourself alive and functioning, since you're not providing your body with food or nutrients. Typically, you should be getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night, which means most people go around 10 hours without fuel! ...
You want to consume a meal immediately to break this catabolism and bring your body into an anabolic state (that is, using nutrients for fuel and stopping the breakdown/muscle wasting that is occurring in your body).
By reversing this process, you will help boost your metabolism by providing nutrients for your body to soak up and use. Additionally, you will begin to burn more calories throughout the day! The opposite is also true...by NOT providing nutrients over a long period of time, your body goes into a 'starvation mode', where it believes it will continue to be a long time before providing fuel for it again, thus leading to fat storage!
I consume a protein shake immediately upon waking every morning and depending on what my goals are at that time, it will either consist of a whey protein blend (Syntha-6) or I may add 1/2 cup oats to the shake for extra carbs.
***Extra Tip*** Before bed, I usually consume 1 cup of fat free cottage cheese (which has 0g fat, 12g carbs and 28g protein!) Cottage cheese is made up of Casein protein, which is the slowest digesting protein available. Because it is slow digesting, your body will take longer to break it down and use it, thus minimizing the catabolic window during sleep! If you can take in a form of casein protein before bed and a whey or isolate protein immediately upon waking, you will help keep your body in a fat burning, anabolic state!
Cheat meals were designed for relief from strenuous dieting. I think, if done properly, they absolutely have their place in nutrition plans. First off, no one is perfect. I don't know a single person, including Mr. Olympia's, who can eat clean 100% 24/7...we are all human! (Plus, if I couldn't enjoy my occasional glass of wine or cheesesteak, I'd rip my own ears off...)
I typically suggest a cheat meal be placed at the end of the week and in the middle of the day. What I've found, is if a person uses their first meal to cheat, they'll usually continue cheating and eat their way through the whole day. Eating a calorie/carb/fat laden huge meal before bed is clearly not ideal either. So, consume your delicious 'bad' meal towards the middle of the day for the best effectiveness! ***Additional tip, if you're also incorporating weight training, plan your high calorie meal before a big workout day, such as legs or back, as it will ultimately refill your glycogen stores and provide an excess of energy!**
Cheat meals offer several benefits. First and foremost, a mental break from dieting! Knowing if you can stick to your plan for a specific period of time before being able to go all out will give you something to look forward to. Plus, it makes you feel more human and should help keep you less stressed (and remember, stress=cortisol release=fat storage, a no-no!).
There are other added benefits to stuffing your face, in moderation, with hotdogs and hamburgers...specifically,
So, if you're dieting and need a well deserved break, plan a delicious meal surrounded by friends and family and ENJOY it!!!
Fitness and Dieting Myths
1. "If I stop working out, my muscle will turn to fat."...
Muscle tissue and Fat tissue are two totally separate things, and neither can turn into the other. It is true that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, as muscle burns more calories than fat, but your muscles cannot "turn into" fat if they're not used. If a muscle is not used, it will atrophy, and get smaller, but the muscle's functions still remain. So yes, if you stop working out, your muscles will get smaller and your metabolism will suffer, making you burn less calories throughout the day, which can lead to weight (FAT) gain. I see how it would be easy to simplify the two and say "muscles turn into fat", but that's just not so!
2. Females: "I don't want to lift weights because I'll get too bulky and look like a man."
This one is my favorite! First, women by nature are smaller than men and those that train will find they actually LOSE inches vs. gain. Muscle is very dense, and as such, it has less volume, so a pound of fat is exponentially larger in size than a pound of muscle. Since muscle takes up less room in the body, females that weight train find they lose fat (boosting metabolism) and continue to tighten up (remember, more muscle=higher caloric burning) while performing the same exercises men do. Additionally, the average female starting out can expect to put on MAYBE 10-15lbs of muscle with rigorous training in their first year. That seems like a lot, but remember, burning fat while gaining muscle means that that 10lbs might make a HUGE transformation on your physique without moving a single digit on the scale!
3. "If you want a ripped midsection, do a billion sit ups per day to get those chiseled abs!"
This is probably the biggest misconception in the gym. How many times have you seen the same guy, over and over, performing countless sets of situps and using all the fancy abdominal machines...and still has that big beer belly? It's simple. There's no such thing as spot reduction...doing situps and crunches and crazy upside-down-crossfit-crazy
When is the Best Time to Perform it and What Type of Cardio Burns the Most Fat???
(There are several varying answers for this, but here's my explanation based on science, literature and my own experiences)......
First off, just like saying, "you can't outrun a radio" in law enforcement, you can't outwork your diet! As I've mentioned before, I can probably list off (at least by face) 100 people I've seen in the gym for years who work probably just as hard as I do in the gym and never look any different. This is because their diet isn't on point. No amount of situps will take away your belly fat, no amount of squats will remove fat from your butt, and no amount of cardio will strip fat if you're putting it right back in you in the kitchen! So all that to say...
When is the best time to perform cardio?
I have two answers for this:
1. Immediately upon waking. A lot of people swear by Fasted Cardio. I am not one of those people. I want to break catabolism from sleeping ASAP. So, I down a protein shake (usually no added carbs, just protein when I'm cutting) when I wake up. Then, I hop on the treadmill and burn it out.
2. Immediately following a workout. Remember, I'm talking about OPTIMAL times for cardio. Doing hard cardio prior to a workout is useless. You want your glycogen reserves stored for anaerobic exercise, so that your muscles are primed and ready to take on the challenges you're going to give it. By doing this, your body uses glycogen (stored carbs) in your body for fuel. After you've exhausted this for energy, your body will switch to its fat burning mode, using ketones for fuel. This is when you want to perform your cardio! After an exhaustive workout, perform your 30 or so minutes of cardio to add an extra level of fat burning!
What type of cardio is best?
My answer....ANYTHING. Your body doesn't know 'what' you're doing, only the level of intensity it's performing at. Therefore, I don't care if you're walking, swimming or riding a bike. Performing at 70% of your maximum heart rate is performing at 70% of your maximum heart rate! ***Added tip: the equation 221-your age= your Max Heart Rate. Divide that number by 65-75% and that is the targeted fat burning range you should keep your heart rate at for at least 30 minutes.***
Additionally, even though I agree ANY type of cardio can get your heart rate up, there are certain types I will do over others. For example, when cutting for a show, sometimes I will opt to do cardio on the stairmill because I can squeeze my hamstrings/glutes on each ascent, flexing those muscles and activating them in hopes of attaining striated glutes and tightening up the glute/ham tie in. Of course, if my knees are bothering me or my ankles hurt from walking on my 1960's treadmill, I will opt for the bike...
BONUS: Steady State Cardio vs. High Intensity Interval Training
I do both... HIIT training is great for time constraints. It's difficult. It sucks. But it is VERY effective! It has also been proven to boost your metabolism and allows you to burn calories more efficiently for SEVERAL hours after you've finished. The best (hardest/most efficient) cardio I've performed is by way of Kettlebells. Kettlebell workouts not only burn fat but I tend to think it will (if not add) preserve muscles since it's a full body, hardcore session. HIIT Cardio consists of a smaller time period of an all out, hardcore exertion, followed by a longer period of a cool down. For example, sprint for 20 seconds, followed by a 40 second walk, then repeat. HIIT Cardio typically will only take 15-20 minutes to perform, even with a warm up and cool down!
Steady state cardio is also beneficial (typically in the morning upon waking). I do 45-60 minutes in the morning when cutting. Typically, it takes me about 15 minutes to get my heart rate to 70% of my max, and then I keep it there for 34-40 minutes for optimal fat burning.
Remember, your body adapts VERY quickly to the strains you put on it, therefore, if you perform a steady state cardio of say walking for 30 minutes, the very next time you do it, your body will have adapted to what it takes to do that, and since your body wants to stay in homeostasis (even keel) at all times, it will have 'learned' what you're doing to it and will adjust accordingly, making it easier on your cardiovascular system to perform it. (Anyone that has started a cardio/workout regimen has been [positively] affected by this. Remember doing one pushup, then evolving that into ten? Or walking up a flight of stairs almost killed you, and now you can run up them easily? We say that you're getting into better shape, or better cardiovascular shape, but all that has happened is that your body has adapted to it...)
The Glycemic Index and Carbohydrates:
What's the Differences in "Good" Carbs vs. "Bad" Carbs and Does it Really Matter?
This question somewhat reflects the popular IIFYM diet..."If It Fits Your Macros", which I personally think is the dumbest thing to come along since ingesting tapeworms to lose weight (yes, that's a real thing, look it up!) Under the IIFYM philosophy, you can eat anything you want, so long as it fits within your macronutrient requirements. Therefore, if I am allowed to have 2,000 calories per day, I can either use those calories to consume several meals of chicken breast, or blow it all on pop tarts and cake, so long as I don't go above the 2,000 calorie limit for the day. Yes, I agree in the "Calorie In vs. Calorie Out" notion, but again, I preach OPTIMAL dieting and exercise. So, to get the most benefit out of your nutrition, consider the following:
The Glycemic Index was created to map the differences in carbs when ingested. Carbs are directly related to blood sugar and insulin responses. Simply put, higher GI carbs are the good tasting, "bad for you" carbs, that are sweet and starchy (ie: sugar, syrups, bagels, white breads and donuts). The lower GI carbs are the healthier versions, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grains). But knowing a carbohydrate is only 4 calories per gram, does it really matter what TYPE of carb we eat if the calorie count is the same??
When you ingest carbs, you get an insulin response during digestion. When you eat high GI carbs, there is little fiber associated with them. This makes your body have to quickly assimilate the nutrients, which causes a spike in your blood sugar. Remember, (and it seems that I always reference this in my tips) but your body wants to stay in homeostasis, so any rapid changes are never 'great' for you. Therefore, your body realizes this sudden rush of carbs and spike in blood sugar, so it releases a bunch of insulin to help shuttle those nutrients around and get you back to normal. The problem is, insulin is not site specific nor nutrient specific. So, this sudden spike actually causes your body to STOP burning fat. The uptake of these simple sugars/carbs causes an equal, if not higher, reaction. It will take these nutrients and shuttle them to muscles (which is good) but it will also use them for fat storage (the fast production of high digesting carbs makes your body think it has a giant rush of nutrients coming in, making it think it should hold onto ALL of it because it wants to use everything you put in it. Kind of like getting a good deal at a store...if I need one roll of paper towels, but I have a coupon for five, of course I'll get five now and just save the other 4 for later when I need them. Same concept. If you give your body a ton of fast digesting nutrients all at once, it'll keep it all and store the excess as fat for later).
Now, on the other end, complex carbs are slower digesting because they're more 'whole' and have a higher fiber content. Since they are slower digesting, it causes the spike in blood sugar and insulin response much lower and gradual over time vs. all at once. By keeping these levels steady, your body can use these carbs as fuel, refilling your muscle glycogen and using them for energy over time vs. freaking out and having to gobble them all up and just place them wherever they'll go (muscle first, then fat storage).
Having said all that, is there ever a time where fast digesting carbs are OPTIMAL to ingest? YES! But only at one specific time...can you guess when? That's right...
IMMEDIATELY POST TRAINING... All the meatheads know to down their protein powders right after a workout because they have to drink it within their "anabolic window"...but this is also the best time to take in some fast digesting carbs!!
The problem before, was that your muscles weren't being used, so they were full of glycogen (simplified, carbs digested turn into glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscles, after a hard workout, your glycogen inside the muscles are depleted, leaving your muscles feigning for a carb source so it can replace the burned glycogen and provide energy for you again, think homeostasis!) So, if you ingest simple carbs when you're just sitting, your muscle has no need for it, so it gets stored as fat. However, if you've just undergone a grueling workout, your muscles are empty and screaming for them! So, there's no worry of spillover because you're providing it with something it needs!
So, what's the optimal way to consume carbs? Eat low GI, complex carbs throughout the day, and save the high GI carbs for your post workout meal, when your body can actually USE them instead of storing them! By doing this, you will give your body a low and steady insulin release that keeps your muscles filled, your fat burning and your energy levels consistent without crashes!
Why You're Not Losing Weight, Even if You're Opting for the Healthy Choice or Low Fat Meals
It may seem obvious at first glance why a frozen, processed meal is far inferior to a fresh, home cooked meal. But, take into account today's marketing coupled with people's lack of time and effort, and it's easy to see why people turn to frozen meals for e...ase and convenience. But if you're on a diet, or trying to lose weight, is consuming a packaged meal, even if they're marketed as a 'safe' option for dieting/weight loss/"points" systems, the most OPTIMAL choice for a meal???
Consider this... I previously covered the differences in simple vs complex carbs, but does anyone know WHY they're different? Processing! Originally, we hunted and scavenged for foods, learning to grow what occurs naturally in our environment. Over time, out of price, convenience and what I consider greed, Man figured out how to monumentally grow/raise foods exponentially cheaper than ever before. Through things like High Fructose Corn Syrup, genetic modifications, etc, we are able to mass produce millions upon millions of pounds of food in shorter amounts of time than ever before. However, some (if not all) of these foods are NOT what they appear to be.
Getting back to why nutrients vary among carbs...a complex carb, or slower digesting, 'healthier' carb, is packed full of nutrients. A simple carb has been processed by man and has been stripped of its nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber...essentially it takes a healthy food and turns it into crap. Similarly, the microwave also does this to our foods. We take a normally healthy food, chocked full of nutrients and zap out all the quality from it. Now imagine that same food, stripped of its nutrients and then doused with tons of different chemicals to preserve taste, flavor, longevity, weight, etc....You can already tell this isn't gonna be good!
But, there is *some* saving grace for these meals, in the way of cost (usually around a buck or two per meal), portion control, simplicity and time management....and that's about where I'll end the positives!
For one, SODIUM! Ever actually checked the nutritional labels on these things!? Horrific... The sodium content can EQUAL the amount you should be consuming in your entire DAY! Sodium levels are higher because they provide flavor enhancing properties, as well as preservative properties. So, if you know this "meal" needs to be made in 2014, to sit in a freezer during 2015, to be consumed in 2016, we better make sure that when it's taken from a freezer and nuked, it still tastes like the "chicken" we think we're eating!
I call sodium the silent killer...not so much literally (although we all know a sodium-rich diet can in fact lead to several health problems), but more so of a diet killer. You can have EVERYTHING on point and fail to track your sodium levels and end up holding water and looking bloated, all while dieting!
***Extra Tip*** Speaking of sodium content, next time you're at the store, check out the different packages of chicken breasts. This seemingly 'perfect' diet food should be an outstanding choice for ANY type of dieting, however, not all chicken breasts are the same (at least not after they're first derived). Lots of time, the sodium content on packages vary greatly. One reason (that I know for a fact Wal-Mart does even though I've never seen any 'proof') that sodium content is high is because all meats are sold by WEIGHT. So, instead of taking a 4oz breast straight from the chicken and selling it, companies have figured out that they can inject an additional 2-300mg of sodium into it, turning a 4oz chicken breast into a 7oz chicken breast, and you've almost doubled the price for the same amount of meat. Additionally, sodium content can be higher because of flavoring and texture...no one wants to eat a dried piece of chicken, so the more sodium, the more fresh and juicier tasting it'll be. Be vigilant about checking nutrition labels on EVERYTHING, even if you think one piece of chicken is the same as the other!
The second reason I don't agree with frozen meals as a healthy option is because the FDA has loose guidelines and regulations on nutrition labels, specifically on frozen meals! First, did you know that the FDA gives the prepared meal companies a TWENTY PERCENT MARGIN OF ERROR on nutritional labels!!?!?!? This means you could potentially be consuming 20% MORE calories that you think, or than you've allotted for! That right there can kill your diet.
Second, labels are usually very misleading. Serving Sizes and Package Sizes are two totally different things. If a label claims 1g fat per serving size, but the box has 5 servings, you're consuming five times what you thought you were. As well, the FDA doesn't enforce more strenuous testing on foods, therefore, the cap for being able to legally promote a food being "FAT FREE" is 0.5g per SERVING. So, if you have two servings of Fat Free food, you've just consumed 1g fat! (Same for Carb counts, which is why I get insanely picky about foods when carb cycling! You'd never know how detrimental artificial sweeteners can be on a carb deficit!)
My bottom line: Skip the frozen meals! If you're telling me you don't have enough time in your entire week to devote yourself and your family to a higher quality of life by eating better, stop reading this right now (and stop scrolling through your old high school friend's pictures!) and take that time to make your own frozen meals! You can mock up several different frozen meals based on ones that already exist, but you will KNOW what your ingredients are, have them weighed out and ready to go! You can spend the smaller part of a Sunday afternoon putting meals together for your whole family for the rest of the week! Saving time, money and your health!!!
Why is Water So Important and Do I Really Need to be Drinking a Gallon of it a Day!??
I get this question a lot, mostly because I'm rarely ever seen without a gallon jug in my hand. Be it at the gym, home or work, I always make sure I have enough water with me to stay adequately hydrated at all times. But, is 128oz or more of water everyday REALLY necessary?...
First off, your body is over 70% water to begin with, so it would stand to reason, if your body was created with so much of one substance, chances are, your body needs it!
Water is essential for life. I'm sure everyone has heard by now, that once you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated! Once this process starts, it becomes tragic on your body and can even result in death. I've been to several calls over the years of elderly people either losing consciousness, being too weak to move or even being mentally unstable, to the point where it would seem the person has dementia or the like. These calls typically resulted in a diagnosis of dehydration! Just simply not providing enough water for the person's body resulted in major problems!
From a diet standpoint, drinking more water throughout the day can actually result in weight loss. By providing your body with adequate amounts of water regularly, your body will realize it is getting enough of it and will use it up and not feel the need to store it. More water in=more water out! Typically, most people stay in a semi-dehydrated state 24/7, so initially you may notice some weight gain, but after about 48 hours, your body again will realize it is being supplied with a surplus and will no longer feel the need to store it, meaning more water will be excreted (urine, sweat, etc), think homeostasis again...
Water also helps transport nutrients and vitamins where your body needs them, as well as aiding in digestion. When you ingest carbs and protein, water is what transports them through the bloodstream, supplying your muscles with these much needed nutrients. Additionally, water keeps us healthy and regulated by also transporting what we don't need into waste and by ridding our bodies of toxins.
Vitamins are either considered Fat Soluble or Water Soluble. The differences in these are that fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fat cells of your body. Water soluble vitamins are transported through your intestines via water and absorbed there. When you're consuming higher amounts of water, it is essential you keep an eye on your vitamin intake, as you can be flushing these needed vitamins out of your body along with the toxins that need to be removed. To combat this, I always suggest taking vitamins regularly throughout the day. I never take ALL of my vitamins at once, even if I'm using those cool vitamin 'packs' that have several pills in them. This is especially important for those that have had weight loss surgery. The bioavailability of vitamins in a pill form are already only about 70% of what the label says (ie: If you're ingesting a pill that has "100% daily value vitamin C", by the time it is broken down, you're inevitably losing around 30% of it. For people like me who have had gastric bypass surgery, we know that our genetic makeup now makes the bioavailability of vitamins roughly HALF of that!) So to counteract that, take your vitamins in the morning and afternoon so that you are getting a steady release of what you need!
***Another Extra Tip***
Low on cash? You can take a Wal-Mart brand, Equate, One-A-Day vitamin, twice. These typically have 100% daily value of most essential vitamins per pill...so take two per day, spaced out, and between these and your regular meals, you should be getting your daily requirements in!
Since your muscles are comprised of water, those that are training hard and fail to get a "pump" are usually in a dehydrated state. I've literally stopped training if I couldn't get a pump, sat and drank a liter or so of water, and started back, and almost instantly got a pump. Not to mention water keeps your joints lubricated, so improper water balance leads to no pump AND more pain in the gym... lose/lose.
So why exactly one gallon? Well....I don't know. I can't tell you that 128 ounces of water will be more beneficial than 138 ounces. But I can unequivocally tell you that 128oz is better than anything less! We are constantly losing fluids every second, and losing massive amounts when we exercise and sweat! Staying properly hydrated is key to staying healthy!
Start slow and begin adding a glass or two per day until you work up to a gallon and see how you feel. It seems impossible, but think of it this way. If you're eating 6 small meals spaced evenly throughout the day and drink 10oz of water with each meal, and consume an additional 10oz within the 3 or so hours between meals, you've easily downed a gallon!
PROTEIN: What Exactly is it, Why Do I Need it and Why is it Important?
Everyone by now has heard protein being referred to as the "building blocks" of our bodies, but what does that even mean? I will try to break this down in its simplest forms and not try to explain things like protein being molecules made up of amino acids joined by peptide bonds...I've already... confused myself....
So....Protein is made up of 21 amino acids. Of these, there are 9 essential amino acids, meaning our body doesn't produce them, so it is essential we get them exclusively through our diets. Once protein is digested, our body goes to work breaking down these protein molecules, separating them into the amino acids and delivering them where they're needed. These aminos rejuvenate, restore, repair, and build tissues (muscle and otherwise) in the body.
So knowing this, we can assume, "ok, protein builds muscle and repairs tissues in our bodies", so eating any type of protein should be sufficient.
Unfortunately, there's a little more depth to it...
Proteins are considered Complete and Incomplete. Complete proteins contain ALL of the amino acids we require while Incomplete proteins do not. Therefore, a wide array of foods must be consumed to ensure we are properly getting all of our requirements. Additionally, your body cannot optimally repair itself if the correct aminos are not ingested. Think of it this way... using the 'building blocks' analogy:
Let's say you have enough wood, nails and windows to build 20 houses, but you only have 5 doors. This means that regardless of how many supplies you have to almost build 20 houses, you're only going to be able to complete 5 of them. Proteins in our bodies are the same... If you're only consuming incomplete proteins and your body needs an essential amino acid to repair a tissue (let's say Leucine, Isoleucine or Valine which are what BCAA's, Branch Chain Amino Acids, are made of), you won't be able to efficiently repair your tissues because you haven't provided the exact amino acid your body needs. Essentially, you're only as good as your least complete protein. This is bad news for us because that means one of two things will happen. 1, your body won't be able to take the necessary steps to ensure tissue repair (which is unlikely since your body wants to stay even keel) or 2, your body will have to get those aminos from other tissues within the body, which means breaking them down, which is catabolism! We NEVER want to be in a catabolic state (remember eating slower digesting proteins before bed to help fight catabolism during sleep!). So we need to do whatever we can to ensure proper protein synthesis and never make our bodies rely on themselves to repair muscular tissue!
BCAA's (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine) are mainly consumed and used for skeletal muscle repair, as opposed to the other aminos found in protein. Since these are essential amino acids (and even more 'essential' since they're the ones responsible for muscle repair), the uptake of these specific aminos are crucial for a healthy body. You can use a basic whey protein powder (or whole foods that contain complete proteins) to get these aminos, but in contrast, you would have to consume far more whole proteins to ensure proper amounts of BCAA's are ingested. (And remember, 1g protein=4 calories, so instead of relying on whole proteins for muscle repair, it becomes way more efficient to consume the specific BCAA's vs. whole protein when muscular repair is sought).
These free form amino acids are readily digested and sent to the muscles for repair and a spike in protein synthesis, HOWEVER, if you're already consuming a sufficient amount of protein in your body, supplementing with BCAA's are not necessary. Think of it as icing on the cake if you're undergoing strenuous, regular workouts (with way less calories, ha). I only use BCAA's during my workouts, and only when dieting. Otherwise, I know I am getting my whole protein requirements through my diet...
So how can we be sure we're getting enough of the protein we need?
Luckily, nature didn't intend on us having to second guess our food choices and made it simple: ALL animal sources of protein are Complete Proteins! If it walks, swims or flies, its meat is comprised of complete proteins. Other forms of protein are Incomplete, like plant and grain sources. There are still some out there that have an essential amino acid make up, but in comparison, you would have to eat copious amounts of it to total the amounts you could get with far less of an animal source. (Think of the protein count of chicken or steak vs. legumes or nuts).
***Fat Loss Tip***
I stated this in a previous tip, but protein is more thermogenic than carbs and fat, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it than it does with the others. Your body can burn up to 35% of the total calories ingested by way of digestion vs. 5-15% with the digestion of carbs and fat! Yet another reason more protein=higher fat burning capabilities!
It is regularly recommended one consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight if they're undergoing some type of exercise. Many people (myself included) consume more than this, but remember, when speaking in terms of calories, protein and carbs are interchangeable. So, if you're upping your protein count, make sure to offset your carb count (4 cals per gram each) so that you're not overconsuming calories!
What To Look For In A Personal Trainer/Nutritionist:
***CERTIFIED doesn't mean QUALIFIED***
I've been engaged in personal training off and on, as my schedule permits, for a very long time now (as a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist). Those of you who have been trained by me over the years are familiar with my philosophy... The main goal of a personal trainer is to guide and teach the client 100% in all aspects of training. Safety, proper technique, reasoning and understanding. The entire goal of a Personal Trainer should be to properly educate the client over a certain period of time, so that eventually, the use of a trainer is no longer needed. Then, the client has a sufficient knowledge and understanding of the exercises (not just utilization but an understanding of how/why each exercise taught is beneficial). Once this base is achieved, the client can then reach out to the trainer every now and again for 'check up' workout. These occur when the client has reached a plateau or needs to switch their routine up for any number of reasons. A good Trainer should switch to being a good Spotter if they've done their job correctly...
Sadly, Personal Trainers will hold back and only give about 80% of this knowledge to their clients. Why? Simple...if I only teach you just enough for you to get results, you'll continue to need me (or think you need me) indefinitely. Now I'm not knocking CPT's, remember, I am one (or was one at least). However, if any CPT's disagree with anything I'm saying, it's because they're guilty of doing this! I realize this is a service for which people get paid. Full time CPT's rely solely on clients for their income and maybe this is why I've never had that mindset (since I've never had to rely on training as my entire income).
Regardless, in my opinion, the first thing someone should look for in a trainer is HONESTY. It will go a long way. For one, no one wants a trainer who withholds pertinent info just to make a buck. On the flipside though, no one wants a trainer to take it easy on them so that they're $60 session becomes a gab fest. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a CPT "train" a client who has essentially paid them to talk for an hour...this isn't paying for a professional, it's paying for a friend. Figure out what your goals are...do you want to see results or have someone to talk to? The CPT doesn't care, they're taking your hard earned money either way!
Certifications are obviously going to be high on the list of things to look for. I go both ways with this though. My experience has shown that things on paper may look fantastic, but until they're practically applied, all they are, are words on paper. Anyone can pay money and take an online test and viola, they're now a Certified Personal Trainer...
CERTIFIED and QUALIFIED are two VERY different things. This may seem comical, but if a CPT cannot properly demonstrate how to do an exercise they're telling you to do....run away asap! (Seriously, that sounds funny, but I've personally seen it time and time again. I won't mention names or places, but if you've seen any of the trainers I've seen, you'll know exactly why I'm making this point). A person who is willing to go the extra mile and pay the outlandish prices that are currently set for a certification through a reputable training organization probably means they're taking it seriously. Still, be mindful of the person. Ask their background (training, education, experience) and ask for references! Trainers are only as good as the people referring them. Are their references in shape, or have they attained their goals through this person's help and guidance?
There are several more things I can mention to look out for when hiring a Personal Trainer, but I will leave it with this. Trainers are there for motivation, education and safety. A typical, one hour session should run around $60. That has always seemed like a gouge to me (and yes, that's what I charged per session on average). People pay for the service because they need it, otherwise, they wouldn't. Unfortunately though, there's no "money back guarantee". I can't guarantee your results when I work with you for one hour a day...it's on you to ensure you're protecting your investments. I know personally, I certainly can't throw away a dollar per minute in the gym just to turn around and slay a pizza buffet! So, maybe there's some validity to it all. Either way, be mindful of who it is you're engaging with and SHOP AROUND. Don't settle for the first person you see. In fact, I would take the info from the first trainer I spoke with and show it to the second trainer I've set up to interview. Find out why CPT #2 thinks he's better than CPT #1 (or why you would personally benefit from his style or methods of training vs. the first guy) and continue to research until you've found the best fit!
I realize this is a long winded tip (aren't they all) and it doesn't really offer anything other than basic, common sense advice, but honestly, this all stemmed from two separate incidents that occurred the past couple of days that left me speechless.
#1, I saw a "CERTIFIED" Personal Trainer who looks like he fits the description as much as I would fit the description of a house cat. He may have the knowledge, but in a business where you are your own business card, wouldn't you want to at least look the part or apply some of that knowledge in a practical sense?
And #2, I saw an equally out of shape "CERTIFIED" Personal Trainer attempt to make a 55+ year old woman who quite obviously had just joined a gym, try a 'burpee'. The lady fell to the ground and remained there. For someone with any remote common sense to take a person in this condition and make them attempt a pretty aggressive exercise makes my blood boil...it is quite possibly the dumbest (and unsafe!) thing I've ever seen. So again, I urge you all to be mindful of who it is you're seeking out and make sure they custom tailor a program specific to YOU and not to "THE CLIENT"!!!
Considering ALL Of The Factors That Help Determine Your Daily Caloric Requirements:
A More In Depth Look At Your Daily Totals
OK, So I've previously discussed dieting by determining calories based on macronutrients and how to go about figuring out your calorie requirements daily. However, here is a more in depth look into it...remember, there's no exact science ...to it. Everything is set to be a guide and it is up to you to tweak your plan to fit your needs. Here are some acronyms that are all related together to help further your nutrition knowledge:
Basal Metabolic Rate
As previously discussed, BMR is a calculation that figures out how many calories you require on a daily basis when doing NOTHING (base, basal...). The misconception is that people use their BMR to figure out how many calories they should be eating...unless you literally lay in bed 24/7 and rarely move, this will be an inaccurate total of the calories needed per day. (Note: because everything on paper is only a 'guide' until used in a practical sense, people 'can' get away with using BMR as a guide for caloric intake. However, we want...that's right...OPTIMAL and best usage from our diets, so let's look further into it)...
Thermal Effect of Feeding
I also touched on this a bit before. This is the rate at which your body burns calories by digesting foods. Remember, your TEF will be higher (more calories burned) when you ingest protein (and fiber!) vs other macros, up to 25% of the total calories. So, if you're eating a protein rich diet and your plan tells you to eat 2,500 calories per day, you could potentially be burning an extra 625 calories per day! (So already, we can see that your BMR is already slightly skewed since it didn't take into account the thermogenic effect nutrients and digestion have on your body!
THIS is the ultimate reason I think "IIFYM" diets are worthless... If person A and person B are to eat the same amount of calories (assuming everything is equal in terms of outside variables) and person A eats their total calories by way of cake and person B eats their total calories by way of protein and fiber dense foods (chicken/eggs/oats/
Exercise Associated Thermogenesis
Same rules apply...This is the thermogenic response your body has to planned exercise. Burning calories for fuel and energy to get you through your strenuous activity.
Non-Exercise Associated Thermogenesis
This is almost the same as EAT except this is the amount of calories expended on a daily basis to perform normal functions. This amount does NOT include your EAT amount, therefore, the number of calories associated with NEAT are only made up of non-planned movements (basically 'living'). Walking to the bathroom. Using the bathroom. Washing your hands. Walking to get the mail. All of this takes energy (CALORIES) to perform. This will vary day to day and is hard to track, simply because you typically don't have much control over what you do in a given day...on a busy day, I might find myself sprinting as hard as I can to tackle a suspect, maybe even engage in a physical altercation, etc...the next day, I might be off and decide to spend 10+ hours in bed doing nothing!
Total Daily Energy Expenditure
So, all of these things together will add up and give you your total amount of calories you burn throughout the day!
With so many variables and fluctuations, this is why I preach having a clean diet so that even when things get in the way (higher workloads vs lower workloads), you're guaranteed to be getting the proper nutrients to make sure you're performing optimally, regardless of what situations you may find yourself in. This is also why nutrient timing is key. If you're providing your body with the optimal amount of nutrients steadily, it won't matter if you're sitting for an hour, or finding yourself sprinting down Hammond Road after a suspect...your body will be primed, fueled and ready to tackle the day's events (no pun intended! ha)
There's no EXACT formula or equation to nail down the exact amount of calories you or I burn through each day...only estimations. Because there are too many variables in motion, use this as a reminder to stick to your nutrition goals, stick to your way of eating (I refuse to keep using the word "diet") and make sure you're performing OPTIMALLY daily. If you find yourself feeling too sluggish, losing weight too fast or too slow, you can track what you're doing throughout those specific days/weeks and adjust accordingly!
The Importance of Goal Setting and How to Stay Motivated:
When I was 15 years old, I cut a picture out of a bodybuilding magazine (it was Lee Priest) and I taped a picture of my head over his. That picture hung on my wall until the day I moved out of my parents' house. I looked at it everyday and used it as a motivation to remind me that one day, I wanted to look... just like him... Obviously, it was almost 10 years later before I finally began my actual transformation, but the image of that picture has stayed with me everyday. Everyone is individual, and what motivates some may not work for others. But the majority of those who have successfully reached their goals have used some of the following tips to stay motivated:
1. Setting Goals, big and small, long and short.
A lot of people only set ONE goal and try to reach it. I say, set SEVERAL goals at once! Be realistic with them. For example, I like to set short term, long term and overall goals at once. When undergoing my transformation, I would say A, Lose at least 2lbs this week. B, Lose at least 10lbs this month. C, Lose at least 100lbs total. D, Ultimately, compete in a bodybuilding competition. I like setting short goals with my long goals because it motivates me to continue on at each step, all the while working towards my ultimate goal.
Studies have shown people tend to stick to their goals better if they write them down. Keep an index card with you at all times that have your goals written on them. Take it out of your pocket and read it throughout the day...if you're tempted to eat something you shouldn't, tempted to skip the gym, or just have some time to yourself, in the elevator, taking a break, etc. Remind yourself what you're doing and why you're doing it. I personally used pictures for my motivation, and would keep certain bodybuilding pictures with me to remind me what my ultimate goal was.
2. Staying Motivated Through Support Groups
Thankfully with the invention of the internet, you can find support groups for literally any of life's obstacles. Everything is easier with help. By having a support group to lean on, you can rely on others to help push you and motivate you to continue working towards your goals. Everyone can hold each other accountable.
3. Tell Everyone
I found this to be the biggest help for me. Once you put something out there, especially on the internet for everyone to see, you're stuck! I made a point to tell everyone in 2009 that by 2012, I would step on stage as a bodybuilder. As the months progressed, I started to doubt myself and got realllly worried that I had blabbed to everyone of how sure I was that it would happen. But, I used that fear to motivate me and made sure I stuck to that goal no matter what! It was always easy to let myself down, I had been doing it for years with every failed diet attempt...but letting OTHER people down, like my family and close friends, served as my motivation to not fail!
4. Reward Yourself
Give yourself a reward or gift when you reach certain goals or milestones. My first goal after having WLS was to make it 2 weeks. No weight loss expectations, just simply make it to the 2 week mark without giving up. When I did, I took myself to the mall and walked into Hollister...somewhere I previously would've never stepped into since they wouldn't have ever had my size. I knew I hadn't lost enough to fit into anything, but I went in anyway and held my head high knowing that before long, I could buy anything I wanted there! (I ended up buying a hat that day since it was the only thing that would fit! haha).
5. Track Your Progress
I kept a detailed journal everyday initially. I wrote down my current weight and how I felt. I tracked my meals and my exercise for the day. Even now, I document everything I do for a prep, including meals, workouts and I take daily pictures so that I can go back and see my results and what I had done leading up to it to get there. You can track your workouts, macronutrients and all aspects of your day in a blog, a diet tracking site or in a plain old notebook like I do!
Ultimately, you have to decide what it is that motivates you. A picture of your kids or grandkids (that you want to be around for), a specific physique you want to attain or even a special event like a vacation or a marathon you're wanting to take part in. Staying motivated is very difficult and takes a lot of help and support. Tell your friends and family to hold you accountable! And just in case you're not ready to tell everyone, feel free to message me and we can stay in touch and make sure you're setting and reaching goals and staying motivated!!!
How to Reach Maximal Hypertrophy During Training:
Science backed by my no nonsense approach to bodybuilding, in layman?s terms and dumbed down so everyone (ok, so I) can understand it! I don?t have a doctorate or degree in exercise science, as much as I?d like to, so bear with me, as this can get very confusing the deeper you get?
Everyone knows lifting weights builds muscles. But, for the people like me...lazy and want instant progress (ha!), what is the BEST way to train for our specific goals? There are so many different training programs available, from FST-7, DC Training, HIT Training, Low Weight/High Reps, Circuits...how do you know which one is better than the other? Ultimately, that will depend on what you're wanting to get out of your workouts. However, for reaching hypertrophy, here are some tips that will lead you to getting the most from your workouts!
First, let's understand what exactly hypertrophy is....Hypertrophy is defined as, "an increase in muscle mass and cross-sectional area..." Basically, it is a fancy word for GROWTH!
To simplify how to gain muscle, one could argue that, just like the commercial says, you can "pick things up and put them down" and you will gain muscle. This is true, to an extent, but again, with me being lazy (ok, maybe not 'lazy', but wanting to get the most out of anything I do), I made sure to research WHAT I was doing and WHY...and here's what I found out. In exerting the same amount of effort continuously picking things up and putting them down, I realized there had to be a more efficient way to gain muscle. And that answer was found in specifically training for hypertrophy!
Your muscles are comprised of different fibers, known as Fast Twitch and Slow Twitch (Type I, II and IIa and I think there might be a 2X or something thrown in there...remember, I'm no doctor!). These fibers respond to different types of exercise. Very dumbed down, essentially the breakdown is:
Slow Twitch (Type I) are the 'endurance' fibers, recruited for long duration exercise at a lower stress rate (like long distance walking or marathons).
Fast Twitch (Type II) are the 'explode' fibers, recruited for the short duration, high energy bursts (like anaerobic activity such as weight lifting).
You already know from previous tips, your body adapts to the strains we put on it, and ultimately that affects your physique. Long distance runners and Olympic swimmers look nothing like bodybuilders. They all train with the same intensity, but the WAY they train differs greatly. As such, so do their physiques. So, how do we train OPTIMALLY to get the physique we want to achieve? We train for Hypertrophy!
First, let's determine which type of fiber you recruit more! To do this, take your one rep max on a lift (let's use bench press) and divide it by 0.8 to get 80% of your 1RM. Now, psych yourself up and start pressing away?
Here's what you?ll find:
If you find you can get 4-7 good reps at 80% of your one rep max before failing, you are predominately using Fast Twitch fibers. (explosive movement but not too much muscular endurance to continue).
If you can get around 10 reps, you have a good, 50/50 mix of Fast and Slow Twitch fibers. This is the optimal recruitment you want to ensure ALL fibers are affected in your workouts.
If you can get 12 or more, you're recruiting more Slow Twitch muscle fibers for exercise.
So, depending on where you lie in the spectrum, your muscles are either primed for strength/size or endurance. This is where your training will vary depending on your goals. Since I train for hypertrophy, or the 'pump' and am more interested in physique changing muscle vs. functional muscle, I train specifically for that. That doesn't mean you won't get 'strong', with muscle size comes strength, but there are other forms of strength training...remember, BODYBUILDING isn't WEIGHTLIFTING.
Different muscle groups will recruit different muscle fibers, so try this 80% 1RM with different exercises to see how you can optimally train each group! For example, your calves and abs can take substantially more of a demand because they're worked non-stop by being used to walk or keep you upright. Therefore, we can assume those are comprised more of Slow Twitch fibers.
So how do we train optimally to recruit all fibers and grow the muscle? If you find that your 1RM experiment shows a specific muscle group is predominately Slow Twitch fibers, it means the muscle will require higher volume, higher reps and less rest periods as the muscle is more primed for endurance and can last longer and recover quickly.
If you find your muscles are more Fast Twitch fibers, congrats, you will have an exponentially easier time gaining more muscle size vs. Slow Twitch. To properly train these fibers, you'll need lower reps with higher weight and longer rest periods.
I don't mean by saying using "higher weight" for FT fibers means that you can take it easy or use lower weights for ST fibers. Remember, you have to give your body/muscles a reason to adapt to change. Otherwise, you're just going through the motions without ever truly taxing your body. Progressive resistance training is the answer. Sure, you may need to use a higher rep range than normal to optimally target certain muscle groups, but that doesn't mean you can drop the weight substantially and just "go through the motions" to make it to rep number 15! You should always go as heavy as safely possible while making sure to get the specific number of repetitions you need. (ie: Don't curl 10lbs 12 times and feel nothing, but also don't grab the 50's if you can only get 3 good reps. Find the happy medium that taxes you enough to where the last rep is a screaming, all out make it or break it rep!)
So the basic answer for maximal hypertrophy seems to be within the 8-12 rep range per set. This ensures that all muscle fibers are being recruited for the exercise. And to back up my broscience with actual literature for you naysayers, the National Strength and Conditioning Association also agrees with this concept. They propose that shorter bouts of anaerobic training, 2-4 reps, are best for improving muscle power. Moderate training, 5-6 rep range, are best for building muscle strength. Longer bouts of anaerobic training, 8-12 reps, are best for increasing Muscle Hypertrophy.
So there you have it people! Play around with the 1RM experiment and find out which muscle groups you have that are Slow and Fast Twitch fibers and adjust your workouts accordingly! Otherwise, if you're working out in an attempt to change your physique (vs powerlifting or strength training), train in the 8-12 rep range each set of each exercise.
How To Avoid Fitness Injuries:
So often I see the newly motivated gym goer, decked out in their brand new workout gear and matching headbands and wrist wraps and cool new water bottle...all to approach a machine or free weight and begin a disastrous attempt at an exercise! If I had a penny for every time I've cringed in the gym watching someone attempting to lift... too much weight with horrible form, I wouldn't need to work again!
Writing an article explaining different lifting techniques certainly isn't ideal, but since I can't properly show each and every one of you good form, hopefully some of this will help with your ability in the gym!
1. Not Having a Set Plan
If you're just coming to the gym with no specific goals, you're more likely to become injured over time. By just walking from machine to machine, plopping down and beginning an exercise without direction, not only are you not getting an optimal workout, but you're more subject to injury. Additionally, those that don't follow a set plan typically tend to move towards what's easiest and neglects the more difficult body parts or exercises. Therefore, the person ends up doing some bicep curls, maybe some bench, and calls it a day. What have you REALLY done other than waste time and gas going to the gym!?
2. Not Hitting All Muscle Groups
Remember, each muscle has an antagonist that needs to be trained. Failure to do so will result in a muscular imbalance. For example, if you were to constantly train your quads and neglected your hamstrings, over time, there will be an imbalance. Because of this, you risk injury since you'll have a weaker muscle pulling against a stronger one. Knees, joints, etc can become taxed significantly more than necessary.
3. Lifting Too Heavy
This is probably the most common. Known as Ego Lifting, I think every red blooded male has been guilty of this at some point. The goal of using resistance training is to build muscle...but build that SPECIFIC muscle. If you're wanting bigger biceps and you load up so much weight that it takes you arching your entire back just to throw it up and hope gravity takes effect and swings it towards your chest for one rep....you're doing entirely too much weight. Additionally, you've just taken what was supposed to be an exercise to tax the biceps and turned it into a bicep/forearm/chest/front delt exercise. Instead of getting 100% results in the biceps, you've split it to 20% between different muscle groups. STEADY CONTROL should be utilized in every lift. Cheat Reps have their place in weightlifting, but that's a technique typically used under the guidance and help of a spotter. And this article doesn't apply to the seasoned lifters who incorporate cheat reps into their program.
4. Not Staying Properly Fueled
I harp on this a lot, but just like giving a nascar racecar crappy, unleaded gas...if you're not providing the right nutrients to fuel and recover from workouts, what good are they!? As well, staying properly hydrated is paramount when exercising and warding off cramps or strains. If you don't give your body the proper nutrients to grow and recover, you will be in a constant state of muscle wasting and attempting to further damage the muscle by way of a workout...lose/lose!
5. Not Switching Your Training Regimen Frequently Enough
Remember, your body adapts to the strains you put on it. The goal is to always keep your muscles guessing, therefore, they never get used to the exercises. By switching up exercises, weights or resistance and rep ranges, you can continue to tax your muscles and assure you won't get used to it. Failure to do so will result in your muscles getting used to the exercise, meaning you either get nothing from it, or worse, you try more and more and end up risking injury.
6. Father Time
Unfortunately, we're all getting older everyday. Injuries are almost a sure thing the older we get. Remember to lift smart. You can't do in your 50's what you did in your 20's. Even simply bending or moving a certain way can cause a strain. With every exercise movement, plant your feet securely to the ground and push from your heels. You will notice a vast improvement in all of your lifts if you start them from the ground up. Even lying on a bench, by planting your feet firmly on the ground and pushing from them, you can harness more power and assure that your back is properly seated in the bench, ensuring proper form and technique. Lift SMARTER, not HARDER!!!