The Best Signs Of Progress Don’t Include Your Weight!

Physical and mental signs of improvement that make the scale irrelevant!

I can get anyone to lose 5 pounds with one simple trick. I put them in a steam room for an hour and don’t allow them to drink anything! But of course, for most people, that’s not  the point of losing weight. This simple fact begs the question, if losing water weight isn’t the end goal, then does what the scale says even matter? Our weight fluctuates to a dramatic degree throughout the day based on all sorts of things. Are you hydrated?  Did you use the bathroom recently? Have you eaten yet? Are you sick? Are you stressed? Even your sleep can play a roll in weight fluctuation. That’s why I want to talk about the physical and mental signs of improvement that make the scale irrelevant! 
 
First Things First
For the most part, people want to see two things happen. They want to see themselves lose fat, and gain muscle. But there are so many more benefits to exercise than that. So I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to write down exactly what their goals are. Once you have a goal/goals in mind, you can start to take action and monitor the outcomes of your efforts. I don’t want to get too side-tracked here, so here are some easy steps to start taking action today.
Write down one outcome you want. Don’t over-think it. Just name the desired outcome you want most right now.
Write down some of the skills you think you’ll need to get that outcome. If you’re just starting out, focus on foundation skills. What are the basics that make everything else possible? (For instance, if you want to manage your time, you need to learn to use a calendar.)
Related to each skill, write down a behavior or two you can do today that’ll help build those skills. This can be really easy, like walking through the gym doors or even packing your gym bag for tomorrow morning.
Do the behavior today, and tomorrow, and so on. And, keep in mind, if you don’t follow through on a given day, don’t let it derail you. Each day is a clean slate.
 
By The Numbers
Some of the best physical markers of success are easy to see, while others take some time and equipment to measure. So for each marker, I will give you the scientific way to go about reaching it, and the DIY version.
Body Composition – This is perhaps the most revealing assessment (1). Your body composition is the ration of fat mass to lean mass (muscle, bone, water, etc.). There are loads of ways to measure this marker from the gold standard Bod Pod and X-rays, to skin fold measures, to the less accurate bio-electrical impermanence (BIA). For all intents and purposes, the BIA does a good enough job for most people and is a cheep option via a smart scale or hand held device. Seeing your body fat percentage go down and muscle mass go up is always a great feeling!
Waist Line – Using a hip to waist ratio is an easy way to self assess your overall health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/215214492). Seeing your waist line go down is an even easier way to see improvement because your clothes will begin to fit better! It’s hard not to take notice of improvement when you’re having to buy smaller pant sizes after all.
Labs – It will certainly make your doctor happy to see lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. These measurements can assess risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. For the most part, these need to be measured at your doctor’s office, but most pharmacies have free equipment for measuring blood pressure (3).
Heart Rate – This is a twofer because both your resting heart rate and working heart rate are important health markers. Watching your resting heart rate decrease over time means that you are becoming more cardio-vascularly fit (4). Having your heart rate stay stable while exercising means that your body is accustomed to doing work, which is a great sign! Testing this is simple. You can count how many times your heart beats in a minute by taking your pulse, or simply buy a heart rate monitor.
Better, Faster, Stronger – One of the most gratifying indicators of improvement is seeing your body change. You are able to see your muscles in the mirror and witness your strength increase. It always feels good to add an extra weight plate to your barbell!
State of Mind
Signs of progress also happen in the form of mental health. How you feel throughout the day and during a workout can be great indicators of improvement. So take mental note or keep a journal to document your improvement in these indicators of success.
Exercise Excitement – Okay, so not everyone enjoys exercising. In fact, most people loath going to the gym. But everyone can agree that we feel better after a workout. That’s why dreading going to the gym less and making exercise a part of your identity over time is a great indicator of improvement.
Energizer – While everyone has an off day here or there, having an off week or month can be downright frustrating. That’s why keeping note of your day-to-day energy & stress levels is an exhilarating way to experience positive changes from your efforts.
Zzzzzzz – Your sleep can be influenced by stress, aging, hormonal changes, being a new parent, getting too much light late at night, jet lag, and so on. But nutrition and exercise can play a role as well. A regular sleep schedule can be a great way to monitor your improvement as well as improve your performance at the gym and in life (5)!
Mood – Stability and improvement in your mood are also fun ways to mark your improvement. Feeling confident, clearer-headed, happier and more positive, motivated, and more open to trying new things can be subtle but very meaningful markers of improvement.
References
1. Gale, C. R., Martyn, C. N., Cooper, C., & Sayer, A. A. (2007;2006;). Grip strength, body composition, and mortality. International Journal of Epidemiology, 36(1), 228-235. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl224
2. Czernichow, S., Kengne, A. ‐., Stamatakis, E., Hamer, M., & Batty, G. D. (2011). Body mass index, waist circumference and waist–hip ratio: Which is the better discriminator of cardiovascular disease mortality risk? evidence from an individual‐participant meta‐analysis of 82 864 participants from nine cohort studies. Obesity Reviews, 12(9), 680-687. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00879.x
3. Nagaya, T., Yoshida, H., Takahashi, H., & Kawai, M. (2010). Resting heart rate and blood pressure, independent of each other, proportionally raise the risk for type-2 diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39(1), 215-222. doi:10.1093/ije/dyp229
4. Fox, K., Borer, J. S., Camm, A. J., Danchin, N., Ferrari, R., Lopez Sendon, J. L., . . . Heart Rate Working Group. (2007). Resting heart rate in cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 50(9), 823-830. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2007.04.079
5. JACKOWSKA, M., DOCKRAY, S., ENDRIGHI, R., HENDRICKX, H., & STEPTOE, A. (2012). Sleep problems and heart rate variability over the working day. Journal of Sleep Research, 21(4), 434-440. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.00996.x

Cutting Through Crap & Real Solutions For Nutrition, Health, & Life

The truth is that the health and fitness industry is so rife with crap because, well, we buy it. Let’s take a look at what can be done, how to educate yourself so you don’t waste money, and how simple it is to really be healthy and happy with your body.

What if I told you I had THE ONE SIMPLE TRICK to get you to lose weight and gain muscle fast? All it takes is… laser treatmentssuper shakes,eating for your body typeweight loss wraps, or some other bald faced lie. The truth is that the health and fitness industry is so rife with crap because, well, we buy it. We are all looking for the magic bullet to get us to where we want to be. Admittedly, most people, including myself, think it would be nice right? But in reality, you can’t alter your height, limb or torso length, and most other characteristics determined by your genetics. It’s not about trying to look like “her/him”;  it’s about being the best version of yourself. So let’s take a look at what can be done, how to educate yourself so you don’t waste money, and how simple it is to really be healthy and happy with your body.

Inline image 1

My Redundant Plea

I have written on several occasions about where to go for good advice/where bad info comes fromhow to spot bad swindlers/bad science, and why you need to think critically about your investment in your health and fitness goals. But, after another week of fielding questions about “which shake should I be drinking” and “how many carbs should I have”, I wanted to pick on a few more mind boggling BS claims. The powdered unicorn fart capsules known as shakeology, detox/cleanse, super supplements, and Gwyneth Paltrow continue to make people lose weight by making their wallets lighter. And it’s not just your local 20 something trainer caught up in a multilevel marketing scheme, it’s people who have credentials who are getting in on the action. Take “Dr.” Joseph Mercola seen below who continues to blur the lines between business and medicine.

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These folks, and those who claim that you have to sacrifice, suffer, and deprive yourself to build a better looking body and that eating well and working out has to become your entire life, suck. They may make claims that their workout program will make you a battle-ready warrior or superior specimen of the human race, and that their diet will make you bulletproof. They may speak in absolutes stating “women should always do A, B, and C”, or “women should never do X, Y, and Z.” They use words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” frequently when describing quick-fix fads and gimmicks. You may encounter entire groups that put down other people who don’t work out or eat the way they do. For the record, any group claiming to be better than others because of their health and fitness lifestyle has eaten too many of their own poop sandwiches. Speaking of poop sandwiches, just because someone had success with a particular diet or workout program doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. Anything promising to make your muscles “long and lean” or says you can look like someone else is, once again, a turdy bacon club sandwich. Diets that blame a macronutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrates) or food group (e.g., dairy) for hindering your fat loss efforts are, you guessed it, crap.CARBS WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!!!! Science (1). A low-fat diet isn’t a benefit because eating fat doesn’t cause disease. NOT eating it probably does, and we now know the body even needs some saturated fat to function optimally (2). Salt won’t kill you or drive up blood pressure if you’re generally healthy (3). And gluten… well what can be said other than food marketers have simply found another way to convince you that their bag or box of garbage is healthy (4).

Find the people who know their stuff, and learn from them. You can, again, check out my favorite “go to” resources here, but in short, Alan Aragon,Precision Nutrition, and Brad Schoenfeld will always be on my short list of trusted information sources.

 

Simple, Practical, Crap Free Advice

Now that we have bravely made it past the organic corn fill BM that is much of the fitness industry, let’s take a look at some info that will actually help.

-First up, short cuts don’t exist. Like many other aspects of life, if you truly want to achieve a goal, you must put in some effort.

-Strict diets are not sustainable long-term and exercise is not punishment. Your best bet is to eat real food with ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, and you’ll reap far greater results by consistently doing exercises you like (e.g. hiking, take a group fitness class, start learning martial arts, or anything that sounds fun to you) rather than haphazardly doing something deemed perfect. Find out what you like for both nutrition and exercise, and you will see results and be much happier in the long run. Isn’t that what it’s all about in the end anyways?

-Know that gimmicks prey on your insecurities (and even create new ones). You don’t have to be miserable or deprived. Stick to the basics: eat mostly real, minimally processed foods, and strength train 2-4 days per week, and get enough sleep. These should be done according to your preferences and time availability.

-If you make a mistake, or even fail completely, don’t beat yourself up. Practice some self-compassion and then move on and do something positive when possible.

 

I am going to talk about looking and feeling confident because if you want that shredded, 6 pack abs, glistening muscles, ripped look, you may want to think about what it takes to get there. First of all, it’s tough to get and stay lean enough to look like Khal Drogo. It takes dedication, knowledge, and a win of the genetics lottery. But from disease risk to brain function and physical performance, a healthy diet is vital for every aspect of life. So to feel confident enough to take off your shirt at a pool party or feel like you can take on the world (or a last minute 5k you get invited to), then you will want to look into these rational steps.

  1. Know that total calorie intake is key (5). If you put in more calories than you burn, you will store them as new muscle or body fat. If you consume fewer calories than you burn every day, you will lose weight (6).
  2. Know what macro nutrients are. Carbs4 calories per gram. All starchy foods like bread, pasta and potatoes. Also includes fruit, legumes, juice, sugar and some dairy products.

Protein 4 calories per gram. Main sources include meat and fish, dairy, eggs, legumes and vegetarian alternatives like tofu.

Fats 9 calories per gram. Main sources include nuts, seeds, oils, butter, cheese, oily fish and fatty meat.

  1. Know what whole foods are. Basing your diet on whole foods is an extremely effective but simple strategy to improve health and lose weight. They are the unprocessed foods containing only one ingredientthat should be eaten at least 80-90% of the time. So if the product looks like it was made in a factory, then it’s probably not a whole food.
  2. Know that no food is strictly off limits. However, overeating certain foods like processed low-fatproducts and refined carbscan increase disease risk and lead to weight gain (7).
  3. Know that by controlling your portions, you are more likely to avoid consuming too many calories. To avoid portion distortion, you can use smaller plates and take a smaller-than-average first serving, then wait 20 minutes before you return for more. You can also use the hand method.
  4. Know how to assess your calorie needs. You can use a calorie calculatorfree calorie/nutrienttrackers, or simply consider increasing protein intake. Protein shakes can be very helpful, but know that what type you buyis also based on your goals.
  5. Know that most people regain all the weight they lost soon after attempting a weight loss diet (8). To avoid being a statistic, follow the rule that if you can’t see yourself on this diet in one, two or three years, then it’s not right for you. Making a sustainable diet means that you can enjoy and stick with it for the long term. If you want unhealthy foods, save them for an occasional treat.

 

 

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References

  1. Kreitzman, S. N., Coxon, A. Y., & Szaz, K. F. (1992). Glycogen storage: Illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(1 Suppl), 292S.
  2. Skeaff, C. M., & Miller, J. (2009). Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: Summary of evidence from prospective cohort and randomised controlled trials. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 55(1-3), 173. doi:10.1159/000229002
  3. Cohen, H. W., Hailpern, S. M., Fang, J., & Alderman, M. H. (2006). Sodium intake and mortality in the NHANES II follow-up study. The American Journal of Medicine, 119(3), 275.e7-275.e14. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.10.042
  4. Reilly, NR. (2016) The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad. The Journal of Pediatrics. , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.04.014
  5. Swinburn, B. A., Sacks, G., Lo, S. K., Westerterp, K. R., Rush, E. C., Rosenbaum, M.. . Ravussin, E. (2009). Estimating the changes in energy flux that characterize the rise in obesity prevalence. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(6), 1723.
  6. Hall, K. D., Heymsfield, S. B., Kemnitz, J. W., Klein, S., Schoeller, D. A., & Speakman, J. R. (2012). Energy balance and its components: Implications for body weight regulation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(4), 989.
  7. Gross, L. S., Li, L., Ford, E. S., & Liu, S. (2004). Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the united states: An ecologic assessment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(5), 774.
  8. Dulloo, A. G., & Montani, J. ‐. (2015). Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: An overview. Obesity Reviews, 16(S1), 1-6. doi:10.1111/obr.12250

The Seven Habits of Healthy Weight Loss

Lets take a look at the big rocks and little rocks of fat mass loss!

Today I am taking a page out of Steven Covey’s book by talking about the big rocks and little rocks of fat mass loss. If you’re not familiar with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (which I highly suggest as a good read), a subject discussed is the concept of placing big rocks (important things) ahead of little rocks (less important things). So here is a list of the 7 big rocks you should do before you bother yourself with the minutia and gimmicks of fat loss.
BIG ROCKS
1. Caloric Deficit – Consuming less that you are burning is obvious, but often it’s forgotten as the MOST IMPORTANT part of fat loss. Who cares if your eating healthy if your eating way too much healthy food?!?! That’s why I prefer to do a 3 day dietary log with my clients to see what their eating and if it’s way too much. Even though many calorie calculators are off by as much as 25%, it’s a very good place to start to make sure your in the ball park. And if you’re wondering how many calories you should be eating, a good equation to go by is body weight in pounds x 12.
2. Eating whole, unprocessed nutritious foods – This one also abides by the KISS principle. Eating veggies, fruit, and high quality protein (as in not hot dogs), is a foundation principle. Now eating  like sh** here and there is fine. We all do it. And if you say you don’t then you’re a dirty rotten liar. But the key is to make it here and there and not a staple of your day to day life. A good place to start with this big rock is the produce section.
3. Protein and Essential Nutrients – The cool thing about protein is that it both builds muscle, and fills you up. So in my opinion the more the merrier. However, with an RDA set at .8g per kg per day, most people simply just don’t realize their not getting enough. A good rule of thumb here is eating 1g per pound of body weight. As for essential nutrients, if your not eating a balanced diet you may want turn to a small rock by considering a quality multivitamin supplement.
4. Consistency/adherence – The answer is no. I don’t feel like exercising everyday. But it’s become a habit of mine so now it’s just something that I feel like I need to do. To keep my self going I choose exercises that I can do, that are fun, and that are never the same as the week before. The same goes for diet. Choosing foods you’ll actually buy, prepare, and eat, consistently is key. But keep your self sane by setting an upper limit of 20% “junk” calories per day.This way you can actually enjoy life a little 🙂
5. Water – Not to beat a dead horse, but drinking plenty of water is important. Drinking .5oz per lbs. per day is a good place to start for this one
6. Avoid Losing Weight Too Fast – Yes there is such a thing, and it’s a bad thing. One to two Lbs. per week is a solid strategy.
7. Exercise – Well this is a no brainer. Build muscle by exercise, and lose fat by concentrating on diet. These two intermingle a lot, but again this is the general rule of thumb.
For more information check out this article!

Breaking Bad

Today we’re talking about breaking bad… habits.

Today we’re talking about breaking bad… habits. Because I am a huge KISS fan (keep it super simple), I really enjoyed reading the article published by My Fitness Pal. It talks about bad habits that can bugger up the works when it comes to your healthy lifestyle and nutrition. So lets take a look at the bad habits.
 
Bad Habit #1 Skipping the Grocery Store
We all know that eating out is almost always less healthy than making food for yourself. So make sure you have something to cook with by regularly going to the grocery store. If you like to save time, it is much easier to get in and out quickly if you go early in the day.
 
Bad Habit #2 Sleep Hygiene 
Want to get more done in your day, feel more energized, and able to take on the world? Well sleep should be one of your primary tools to do so. That cup of coffee wont do much if you’re regularly under sleeping. Practice some sleep hygiene and you will see a world of difference!
Bad Habit #3 Pantry Dropper
Dropping the ball on having your pantry stocked with good food is never a good thing. This poor habit plays into grocery shopping. Something is bound to happen to keep you from getting to the grocery store, so having a stocked pantry is a good way to not order junk food straight to your door. It can also pay off to freeze some fresh veggies and meats for the days you need to dig into your stash of quality food.
Bad Habit #4 Selecting Veggies
Eating old and out of season food can leave a bad taste in your mouth. So one solution is to make sure you’re buying fresh in season food that you will be getting at its ripest. Practicing this will make you happy to eat those vegetables and not dread it. Don’t know where to start? I recommend you check out our state farmers market that’s open year round. The vendors are always happy to educate and help you learn whats the best to eat this time of year.
Bad Habit #5 Kitchen Hygiene 
This is the bad habit I am most guilty of. This habit requires you to clean your kitchen frequently and thoroughly. However, I have to admit that doing the dishes quickly does result in less time/money wasted on ordering out food. Having a clean kitchen requires about 30m of work per day, but can save you hundreds (or more if bugs become a problem) of dollars per month overall.
Bad Habit #6 Over-exercising
Over exercising can cause anything from injuries to over eating at meal time. Keeping your exercise routine to a healthy work load can go a long way in keeping you sane and satisfied.
For more information on these topics, check out the link bellow. If you have any questions about what you can do to avoid these habits I’m always here to help!

Weekly Workout Structure

Ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers.

While there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there are more than 1,000 ways to get in shape. No matter what your fitness goal is, there are loads of variables to take into account when we talk about exercise. So today I wanted to talk about ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers. For me, the crux of today’s topic really stems from a trip that I will be taking this week which will interrupt my regular exercise routine. I was briefly panicked by the thought of how much clothing I will need, the quality of the hotel gym, and planning around what I normally do. Then a sudden calm came over me as I realized that… it really doesn’t matter! Here’s why.
The Basics
For me, I want to train to be lean and have some muscular definition. Think Brad Pitt in fight club. So my exercise routine is intense, but not the best for maximizing muscle gain. Here’s my regular exercise routine; Monday – full body strength training barbell based exercises Tuesday– LISS training = running about 1 hour Wednesday – full body strength training dumbbell based exercises Thursday – HIIT I practice for the Grit class I teach as well as row/other high intensity stuff  Friday – full body strength training machine based exercises Saturday – Run club = 3 mile-ish run.
Does that mean your weeks worth of exercise should look like mine? NOPE! There are lots of reasons why not, but in short, I have worked up to this level of fitness and intensity. However, while you’re free to skin your fitness cat the way you like, all routines will in some way revolve around the FITT principle. FITT is an acronym standing for Frequency Intensity Time and Type. Each one of these components can be broken down into sub categories that would keep me at my computer for days. But instead of majoring in the minutia I will make sure go lay out the big rocks of each component.
Frequency is how often you perform the targeted health-related physical activity, and is by far the most crucial aspect of any workout routine. Consistency is king for all components of health. However, it is possible to over train so you need to find your own personal sweet spot. I will go over recommendations in detail in the “type” section, but what you need to know is that you should be doing some form of physical activity at least 5 days per week. 
Intensity is how hard you exercise during a physical activity period (measured in different ways, depending on the related health-related component). This component can not only make or break your chances of hitting your goals, but it can also make or break your body and mind. You need to record how intense your workouts are on some level. Whether it’s through writing down sets/reps/weight, heart rate, perceived excretion, mileage, or other forms of documentation. Because you can’t make adjustments without having some form of data on your own workouts.
 
Time is not only the length of the physical activity, but also the rest breaks. The former can be best described as time-under-tension (TUT)which refers to how long the muscle is under strain/resisting weight during each set (30s – 60s), duration of a stretch (30s > twice a week), or time spent doing aerobic activity (30m > per day). The latter is the amount of time recovering between set, between workouts, or between specific muscle groups. All of these factors can be manipulated for different goals but essentially if you want to get big and strong rest for 2-3m between sets. If you want to get lean, rest for only a few seconds.
 
Type or specificity, refers to the specific physical activity chosen to improve a component of health-related fitness. No matter what your goals are you should be training for strength (all muscle groups at least 2 x a week), aerobic fitness (2 hours and 30 minutes each week), and a form of balance and stability (daily). Throwing HIIT is a great idea because it will get you lean quickly and with shorter workout duration, but be careful. It’s easy to go overboard with HIIT and end up being “burned out” though over training or even hurting yourself.
Making Your Customized Exercise Program
To make your very own customized exercise program, you will need to start with a few basic self recognition tasks. Take a good look at your goals and ask yourself if what you need to work on. You may need to start with learning proper technique, asking your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for strenuous exercise, or maybe recognizing that you’re not working intensely enough. This step is best done with a fitness professional to guide you. However, if you feel you’re ready for some strength training (which most people don’t do even though they need it), here is a simple template to follow.
Because there are thousands of exercises to choose from, differentiating set and rep ranges, tempo selection, and dozens of other variable to choose from, I will just keep it simple. You want to focus on general body movements and place them in a sensible order to avoid injury and ensure progress. So here are the motions you want to consider and a few examples:
Upper Body Push – Barbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Dumbbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Single Arm/Alternating Press • Floor Press (Barbell or Dumbbells) • Pushup 
Upper Body Pull – Pullups/Chinups (weighted, bodyweight or assisted) • Lat Pulldown • Bent Over/Pendlay Row • Single-Arm Row (dumbbell or cable) • Chest-supported Row Note – I would advise choosing one vertical and one horizontal pull for the sake of evenly hitting all of your back muscles
Lower Body Push (Knees Bend) – Back/Front Squat • Safety/Cambered/Speciality Bar Squat (if your gym has these) • Box Squat • Paused Squat • Split Squat (Front or Rear Foot Elevated) • Walking Lunges • Leg Press/Hack Squat 
Lower Body Pull (Hips Extend) – Conventional and Sumo Deadlifts • Hip Thrust/Glute Bridge Variations • Single-Leg Deadlift/Romanian Deadlift • Two-Legged Romanian Deadlift • Reverse Lunge • Kettlebell Swing • Back Extension • Glute Ham Raise/Nordic Curls 
Beach Muscles – Upper Back Isolation (face pulls, pull-aparts, rear delt flys, YTWs) • Bicep/Tricep Isolation • Calf Isolation • Core/Abdominal Work
There are a few ways to structure your workout program based on how many times you plan on going to the gym. The most important part here is planning enough rest between each gym session. So if you plan to exercise on Monday Wednesday Friday like me, you can be confident there there is adequate recovery time in there. But if you’re going to strength train 4 days per week, well it will take some wise exercise choices. For the examples below, scattering in beach muscle exercises at your discretion is recommend to be done at the end of each workout. Leaving the gym with a good pump always feels awesome.
2-Day/Week
Upper Body Day  Push/Pull
Lower Body Day  Bend/Extend
or
Upper/Lower Day 1  Push/Extend
Upper/Lower Day 2  Pull/Bend
4-Day/Week
Lower Body Day 1  Extend
Upper Body Day 1  Push
Lower Body Day 2  Bend
Upper Body Day 2  Pull
Using a simple template to track your workouts is a great way to go. Simply write up your plan for the month, take it to the gym, and you’re on the way to muscle city. See below for an easy to use program design. You can use the exercise example seen above, but I encourage you to explore the gym and learn new exercises to love!

Day 1

Exercise

Sets

reps

weight

Lower Body Push Variation 1

4

4-6

Pull Variation 1

4

4-6

Lower Body Pull Variation 2

3

8-12

Press Variation 2

3

8-12

Beach Movment

3

8-12

Day 2

Exercise

Sets

reps

weight

Lower Body Pull Variation 1

4

4-6

Press Variation 1

4

4-6

Lower Body Push Variation 2

3

8-12

Pull Variation 2

3

8-12

Beach Movement

3

8-12

Summary
While there are a million different ways to go about exercise, there are also a million different excuses. Even if you’re busy, there will always time to exercise and improve your health. When you’re stressed it’s hard to breathe and your joints can feel stiff as a board, but there are ways to feel better and loosen up. If you feel the effects of jet lag and don’t feel like working out, there are ways around it. And even if you know you will struggle to find ways to complete your regular routine while on the road… well the occasional rest can do you right while you figure new ways to skin a cat 🙂

Losing Weight = Loose Wallet?

A few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!

Today I wanted to talk about losing weight on a budget. Because cutting a few Lb’s shouldn’t mean you need to cut a few goodies off of your wish list. So here are a few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!
Harness Your Inner Boy Scout
Be Prepared is a Boy Scout motto that I will never forget. It just so happens to be the first tip! Planning and prepping your meals ahead of time means you wont have to spend extra money by stopping for fast food (costly on the wallet and calorie budget), stopping for groceries while hungry (worst idea ever), or saying “screw it!” and just eating whatever junk you have laying around the house (unless you’re in college, a bowl of cereal for diner is not acceptable). There are dozens of ways to meal prep. To get started check out herehere, and here.
Frugality Does Not = Cheapskate
Buying groceries on a budget does not mean you need to buy the cheapest foods. In fact, paying a little more to buy potatoes instead of potato chips will save you money in the long run! When we spend a little bit more in the produce section, we receive the gift of nutrients(vitamins and minerals) in return. And what happens when we feed ourselves nutrient dense foods? We reduce our cravings for junk, we feel fuller longer, and we consume fewer overall calories! Check out some of these recipes for holiday foods that taste as great as their nutritional value.
Don’t Become a Potato Because You Can’t Be a Ninja
We spend our entire lives getting to the fitness level we are at right now. So don’t become a couch potato because you don’t look the way you want to right now! Gymtimidation is a real thing… for everyone. At some point we have all seen someone at the gym and said to ourselves “I wish I looked/performed like them.” The key is to use this potential barrier as motivation, and NOT letting it weigh you down to potato town. This means you can’t set unrealistic goals and lack patience, lack social support, lose your motivation/desire, or focus too much on the end goal.
Losing weight on a budget is like anything else. To look and feel a little bit better you need to plan/budget/exercise a little bit better. Take the cost of getting lean in stride, and you will do just fine.

Our Intellectual Hubris

How challenging our assumptions can change our mindset, save us money, and make us healthy!

Today I wanted to tackle a tough subject. Challenging our thoughts and beliefs, specifically when it comes to health and wellness trends. This is a tough subject because it requires us to admit we are wrong, and sometimes our ego’s just can’t handle it. However, it’s an essential requirement for us to grow as people. So lets take a look at how challenging our assumptions can change our mindset, save us money, and make us healthy!
Know That You Don’t Know
Science is constantly evolving and informing us of new and exciting things. Because what we think we know today will inevitably be challenged tomorrow by some new research. The key to keeping up is to not get dug in on any “one true method” of doing things. This can be tough because our mind hates uncertainty, and randomness and needs to make connections even when there are none because it has a need for order and control. So when you get all of your information from one source, there comes an asymmetry of input (what you believe versus what you choose not to) that creates ‘gaps’ in your knowledge. Your brain automatically fills these gaps based on your prior learning andBOOM you get suckered into a cult. So lets take a moment to “snap out of it.”
Step 1 Take Responsibility – When you start taking responsibility for your own goals (learning, health, fitness, etc.) you also give yourself the power to make changes. We consume the outputs of scientific inquiry like we consume everything else: through a filter of emotion, bias and personal connection. So as long as it’s somebody else’s fault, (i.e. “Dr. Oz said so, so it must be true”) you’re going to keep making excuses to justify why you’re doing, or not doing, things.
Step 2 Call Yourself Out – You need to call yourself out and make sure that what you’re saying/doing isn’t just some nonsensical story you’ve crafted to avoid the hard things in life. There is no magic bullet. Fat burning pills won’t make you skinny. What you learn today probably won’t be true even a year from now. This means you need to recognize your biases, as seen in the picture below, to be able to make a move in the right direction.
Step 3 Be Authentically You – Not being afraid to be you, the real you. Not some manufactured ‘me-too’ edition of somebody else, so you can fit into some arbitrary clique you’ve been told you should be a part of. Don’t assume that doing what everyone else is doing is going to make you look, feel, or be like them. Doing what the bull (e.g. a body builder) does, won’t change the fact that you’re a llama (e.g. a runner).
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When to Build, When to Burn
We determine the importance of information quickly and subconsciously, rather than through a conscious process of deliberative and slow reasoning. So it’s inevitable. You’re going to realize that because a snap decision was made years ago, a person, book, method, or way of doing things is no longer the golden nugget you once thought it was. For instance, we used to KNOW that eggs, fat spreads, potatoes, dairy, and raw nuts were bad for you. However, we now realize that all foods fit into a healthy diet, and perhaps more importantly, enthusiastic consumption of one particular “superfood” can be worse than consuming a so called “food villain!” What I’m getting at is that we all need to take a look at what bridges need to be burned and to start building new ones to the right places as more information comes to light.
The question now becomes “how do I separate the wheat from the chafe?” This is a toughy because you have people out there like David Wolfe, the Food Babe, and Dr. Mercola who spew nonsense but appear to be legit. The keys to their success are that they look “good,” they communicate well and are charismatic, they’re marketing machines, they seem knowledgeable, and they seem experienced. But being scientific and fact driven are not high on their priority lists. Here is how to recognize their pseudoscience garbage:
Translate their message into ordinary language, thereby assuring that what the claim asserts is a logical concept, rather than just a collection of jargon.
In doing this, you will know whether you have been taught an idea or you have only taught a definition.
Practical Application
The goal of this post is to get you to challenge your current belief system, and know how to look for good information. Because knowing what science is will truly benefit us all. What we know today is a reflection of what we have learned and experienced in the past. The problem here is that our memories suck! We all have a distorted and constructed memory of a distorted and constructed perception, both of which are subservient to whatever narrative our brain is operating under. Our malleable memories, combined with confirmation bias, are a key factor in the Dunning-Kruger effect, the inability to perceive one’s own incompetence in a given area.
So here are key takeaways to attaining competence.
 – Challenge what you know, because not even the practice of washing your hands isn’t immune from scrutiny. So if you’re going to read junk like The Grain Brain that’s completely fine. Just be sure to challenge that view by reading The Gluten Lie.
 – Don’t just read the words, understand the meaning behind them. This means that just because something is labeled as “organic” don’t automatically assume that it’s better, or even good, for you. Translate the message (in this case “organic is better”) into ordinary language to fully appreciate the value.
 – Ditch the dogma. I hate the term “clean eating.” It’s an over-hyped theory, an absolutely meaningless term, and can actually be detrimental. It’s a term used in many dogmatic diets and is used by many knuckle head guru’s.
 – Be reasonable, don’t retaliate. People squabble over the silliest of things. So instead of digging into your position, be reasonable and take a firm look at the opposing argument. Yes, reasons can be given as to why insulin will cause obesity, but research shows there’s far more to it than that, and that it’s simply not true. Sure slow and steady weight loss has been shown to be very effective for keeping off weight, but rapid weight loss can also work under the right circumstances. Don’t agree? Find out why these statements might be right before you go saying they are wrong.
 – Don’t just go along with the herd. Our actions are largely influenced by those around us. So do your best to break away from the herd to take a closer look at what’s going on. Because starving yourself won’t help you get skinny, weight loss “hacks” aren’t always helpful, and thatexpensive grass fed beef everyone is raving about isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Cultivating Mass

The WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise.

Today I want to talk about the WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, play sports, prevent/recover from injury, or even sport a bikini this summer, gaining muscle mass is critical.
 
Why
Building muscle is critical, especially as we age. Building, and maintaining, muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult as the dreaded sarcopenia starts to set in. So starting the muscle building process as soon as possible will do several great things now and for your future self. It will keep us looking and feeling young, increase our confidence, boost our sports performance, ramp up our metabolic rate (although not significantly), and promote bone health. This last point of bone health is particularly important for women as they are more susceptible to poor bone health with age. It’s crucially important for females to lift heavy weights and knock this “toning” crap out. Trust me, you won’t get “too bulky” or “manly” if you lift heavy. So before you move on to the next part I want you to do three things that I hope will get you inspired. Write down all the things you wish you could do, if you were fitter. Write the obstacles that are keeping you from getting there. Write down how you’re going to get around those obstacles.
 
How
The first thing you need to do is just start lifting things that are uncomfortably heavy. It doesn’t even have to be at the gym. Just start taking in groceries instead of having your husband do it (cough, my wife, cough), moving furniture, or even doing some body weight squats at home. 
The second thing you need to do is make a plan of attack. This is a crucial step for several reasons. Making and sticking to a set schedule will ensure you don’t suffer an over use injury. It also ensures you know what your weaknesses are. If you don’t know proper technique well maybe getting some professional help is in order. If you realize that you exercise schedule is missing a muscle group well then you can now make a place for it. More on this step later.
The third thing you will want to do is look at your exercise selection. This is where it gets tricky. Your exercises need to suite your goals, your fitness level, your skills/abilities, and should be enjoyable. In general, I recommend using compound movements and super sets for a quick efficient workout. For beginners this means you may want to start with partial movements (i.e. half squat/wall squat) to master technique. And of course if you’re looking to shake things up there’s always wild and crazy exercises out there to try.
< 18 years: 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body weight
19-40 years: 0.8-1.1 grams per pound of body weight
41-65 years: 1.1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight
> 65 years: 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
 
Dos and Don’ts 
Here is my final list of some things to maximize your exercise efforts, and some things that are not so wise.
DO
Focus on progressively increasing our performance on a handful of movements, and actually track your performance. Consistency is literally the king of gains.
Base your training on big compound movements. For each lift, figure out which muscle is holding you back and add isolation or assistance work for these weak points.
Change the specific exercises/make slight variations often. Do this by either varying grip, stance, bar type, or the conditions you’re performing the lift in (tempo, pauses in the movement, using chains, etc.).
Aim to train muscle groups 2 to 4 times per week.
Just get into the gym. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go, just get it done.
DON’T
Bro split your routine (i.e. only training muscle groups once per week).
Put an unnecessary time-cap on your workout.
Train every muscle the same/train every muscle directly.  Not all muscles respond best to the same type of stimulation.
Do more than four intense sessions per week.
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The Tangled Web Of Weight Gain

It seems like there is a new diet fad, fitness guru with a crack pot scheme, or nonsense nutrition plan for weight loss that comes out every week. The majority of people because they are restrictive, often scientifically unfounded, and/or don’t address individual needs.

This week I wanted to bring some perspective to the nationwide weight gain crisis. With nearly 1/3 of Americans being classified as obese, and less than 3% able to maintain essential healthy habits, there are fingers of blame being pointed in many directions. So what’s really to blame? HA!!! Trick question! There’s a web of causation with dozens of tangled and intertwined reasons for weight gain. The picture below shows just what I’m talking about. Because I don’t want to write a book today, I’m not going to break down each of the 15 categories and their factors. Instead, I’m going to elucidate a few of them that I believe are under appreciated.
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Increased Intake
I’ll start with the category that’s the most obvious, and yet least properly addressed. It seems like there is a new diet fad, fitness guru with a crack pot scheme, or nonsense nutrition plan for weight loss that comes out every week. As a side note, one of my personal heroes of the industry, Alan Aragon, wrote a magnificent piece on this issue last week. Getting back on point, these plans simply don’t work for the majority of people because they are restrictive, often scientifically unfounded, and/or don’t address individual needs. There are just too many things to take into account for a “one size fits all” diet plan to address. For instance, depending on how well you picked your parents (your genetics), the amount of a chemical in your mouth called amylase will play a huge roll in your body’s ability to process carbohydrates! We also need to consider things like age, gender, mental/physical diseases, social norms/demands, economic status, and even advertising. Here is a list of other factors that contribute to overeating, and what you can do about them.
1. You’re not eating often enough – Don’t let your tummy be empty for too long. Eat something every 3 or 4 hours.
2. You’re not getting the right balance of nutrients – Aim to eat more fiber, protein, and a little healthy fat to stay satisfied.
3. You’re eating too many simple carbs and sugars – Knock it off with the white bread, pasta, bagels, and pastries!!!
4. You’re dehydrated and confusing thirst for hunger – Drink more water to eat less.
5. You’re stressed – Stress = Cortisol = hunger. Try yoga/meditation or some of these practices
6. You’re not paying attention to what you’re eating – When shoveling it in, you essentially forget you already ate. So, eat mindfully.
7. You’re not getting enough sleep – Sleep = hormonal control = appetite control. 
8. You have an underlying medical condition – Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, depression, and anxiety (along with some medications) can mess with appetite. 
 
Decreased Expenditure
We know that it’s not as simple as calories in calories out, but if you’re not doing anything to bump up the number of calories going out then that’s certainly an issue. The good news is that exercise is not the best way to lose weight. The bad news is that exercise is an absolute MUST DO. And we have all encountered those days where exercise seems like an impossible task. But as another one of my favorite fitness authors James Fell puts it “Don’t view an hour’s worth of exercise as something where you need to find the motivation to make it through that entire hour. In most cases, you only need the motivation for those first five minutes.”
When it comes to weight loss, the most important thing to do is to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t make  excuses to get out of doing what you need to do to get/be better. Take a step back and be honest with yourself about what you say you’re doing, and what you’re actually doing to achieve greatness. If you’re aimlessly going about your health goals, or need to figure out great goals, here’s what I want you to do NOW before you read on the last section.
1. Turn “outcome goals” into “behavior goals” – Outcome goals are how we want things to be at the end of the process. Behavior goals focus on the things we have control over, and represent your commitment to practice a set of actions or tasks every day as consistently and regularly as possible. Here’s how to break goals into skills; skills into practices.
2. Turn “avoid goals” into “approach goals” – Saying “don’t” or “stop” in the goal setting phase means you’re telling yourself to stop doing something which almost guarantees you’ll keep doing it. Approach goals are about adding and enjoying “good stuff”, and pulling yourself toward something desirable (and quietly pull you away from something you’re trying to avoid).
3.Turn “performance goals” into “mastery goals” – With performance goals means you’re looking for external validation which can be incredibly demotivating if they don’t work out. Mastery goals emphasize the process of getting a little bit better each day, the joy of learning, and feeling good about your own personal progression.
 
What To Do Next
The crux of all of this is creating positive behavior changes. When it comes to nutrition, try using this check list to make a sweeping change of your home and re check it a month later to make sure you’re adhering to your positive changes. When it comes to exercise, no matter how you feel, get your fanny to the gym and if you’re not full of energy after the first 5 minutes then reconsider your exercise strategy. If in a month from now you’re not making the progress you want you may need to think about 3 keys to mental toughness.
1. “Complete or kill” – If something is important to you, complete it. If not, kill it.
2. If you commit to nothing, you’re distracted by everything – Do you make time for your goals above all else? Do you organize your day around accomplishing them? If you commit to nothing, then you’ll find that it’s easy to be distracted by everything.
3. It doesn’t matter how long your goal will take—just get started – Don’t let the length of your goals prevent you from starting on them.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
—H. Jackson Brown
 
As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this week’s subject. If you have any questions or tips related to the post, or suggestions for future topics, feel free to contact me any time. As always, I’m here to help. So if you need answers to your exercise program, nutrition plan, or wellness issues, please don’t hesitate to ask!

 

Being Brutal Is Better

Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, the idea behind this post translates to not only health and fitness, but to life goals in general.

This week I wanted to talk about a few tenets of weight losing weight and keeping it off. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, the idea behind this post translates to not only health and fitness, but to life goals in general. The majority of this post comes from a fantastic article by James Fell who writes great stuff at bodyforwife.com and other news outlets.
The Struggle
People struggle to lose weight for many reasons. To counter that, the weight loss industry seems to have as many methods to lose weight as there are calories on the McDonalds menu. But when it comes down to it, burning more calories than you consume = you, weighing less. But as James puts it “Saying “eat less, move more” to an overweight person is like saying “spend less, earn more” to someone living in crushing poverty.” It’s just not easy for someone to completely change their habits. And with many diet programs being unsustainable, many people turn to dietary tracking. Personally, I don’t track my foods or exercise. That’s because it’s tedious, not super accurate (for calories in or out), and I simply don’t have time to do it on a day to day basis. And generally, the majority of people underestimate their food intake by as much as 50%.
The Reality
I, by no means, am saying not to track your calories. Tracking calories works. But to do it right you need to be brutally honest with it. This means you need to take everything that you consume into account. Not only that, but you need to make sure you are putting in the right quantities. Leaving off a handful of nuts because you think it’s a “healthy snack” or simply eyeballing a scoop of mashed potatoes, means you’re not tracking. It means you’re plugging in information to feel good about yourself and say “hey I only ate 1,200 calories today! Yay for me!” If you’re not tracking your food correctly then you might as well not do it at all.
The Solution
Being brutally honest with yourself is key. And honestly, almost everyone is bad at food and exercise tracking. And until you get really good at the skill of calorie counting, the result generally is nothing more than self-deception. Instead, I suggest creating and practicing healthy habits while you develop your tracking skills. Doing things like cooking for yourselfwalking whenever you get a chancediscovering new NEAT exercisesknowing when to ask for helpactually getting organized and planning (heaven forbid), and building a support network are all great foundations for success.
Being brutally honest with yourself means not holding back when looking at your life choices. I know for me, this message will improve the way I reflect and improve as a person. For more info on why we suck at calorie counting and why being brutally honest is the best way to go, check out the main article here.