Increase Your Metabolism to Burn More Fat!

Metabolism: Convert Energy to Heat

It was on my cycling commute Monday when I got to thinking a bit about how the internal combustion engine in your car creates motion and heat not too much unlike the way your body creates motion and heat.

Your car’s engine combines fuel and oxygen to create thousands of tiny chemical reactions that run your car’s engine. The faster these (extremely quick) reactions (called explosions) occur, the faster your engine runs.

The primary fuel types are octane and, to a lesser degree, ethanol, both (carbon based) organic compounds. Byproducts of this chemical reaction are heat, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carbon particles.

Your body similarly uses (carbon based) organic matter as fuel for motion. Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins … all organic compounds… undergo chemical reactions with oxygen that contract muscle fibers. We even talk about it the same way: ” … doing some cardio to burn a few more calories.”

In this context, your body is little more than a heat producing machine!

A Calorie, is in fact the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water 1 degree centigrade. So, ‘burning calories’ is technically, literally, and figuratively accurate. But we also call it metabolism. At the chemical level metabolism is merely the production of heat through the conversion of energy sources into body motion. Our bodies are, therefore, heat producing machines!

The byproducts of metabolism is (like the internal combustion engine) heat, carbon dioxide, and other carbon particles.

How, and in what proportion these fuel sources are utilized is fully described in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. It seems that the website that had once hosted this document is broken, so just shoot me an email if you’d like a copy. Or, check out my Fat Burning Myth blog from a few months ago for a quick tutorial. The philosophy is quite simple: the larger your metabolic engine, the more fuel you require.

Quite simply put, if you have more body fat fuel than you’d like, making your metabolic engine a bit larger will help, quite literally, to burn off that fuel!

So, here are a few tips for boosting your metabolism, consuming more fat, and looking better than ever in your summer swim wear!

  1. Increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass includes bone, blood, and muscle tissue. Increasing your lean body mass allows you to consume more energy when you exercise, but, and more importantly, increased lean mass allows you to consume more energy when you are at rest. And we are typically at rest as much as 95% of the day, so having a larger, idling engine burns more fat. Lean body mass is living, “breathing”, calorie consuming tissue that continually requires fuel. And just as a large SUV V8 engine will consume a lot more fuel than a compact 4 cylinder engine, the larger your body’s fuel consuming engine, the more fuel you’ll consume.
  2. Increase your exercise frequency. As mentioned back in December, Exercise Quickies will boost your daily metabolism: two smaller workouts per day will consume more energy on the whole than a single, longer workout. Additionally, the recovery period following those workouts also requires elevated metabolism. Maybe you really should start walking the dog each morning!
  3. Just move more! Exercise yes, but also find ways to simply use your body more. While no longer available, the American Heart Association ran the Just Move campaign for years with this sole objective. Check out my Spread Office blog for ways to be more active in your sedentary office job. Bike to work instead of driving! Use the good old fashion hand masher tool to mash your potatoes instead of the mix master. Carry your groceries. Park in the most remote section of every parking lot you drive to. Etc. Here’s a good collection of other ways to turn your daily chores into more active events.
  4. Take advantage of our Get Fit Fast Fifteen Percent off May promotion! Or, give us a call for a free consultation.
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Conquering Carbohydrates Part 3: The Complex Carbohydrate Conundrum

A few weeks ago, we posted Carbohydrates For Dummy’s Part 1: Saccharides and Such. 

A week after that we posted Part 2 of the Conquering Carbohydrates story: an introduction to Complex Carbohydrates.

Then came a few distractions and the Annual Fair Foods Blog, but we’re back on track today  with the 3rd and final part of the Conquering Carbohydrates Conundrum.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

If sugar, starch, simple carbs, complex carbs, and ne t carbs weren’t enough to test your meddle, two other sometimes confusing carb-centric terms to contend with are Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL).

Glycemic Index simply ranks foods on how quickly they affect glucose levels in the blood stream.  Developed in Toronto in the 1980s to help doctors prescribe diets for diabetics, foods that quickly elevate blood sugar levels have a high glycemic index.  Foods that increase blood sugar slowly have lower glycemic indices.

In addition to Diabetics, Athletes also tend to be highly aware of blood glucose levels to both prepare for and recovery from intense exercise.   Regular exercisers can also benefit from an awareness of blood sugar levels, however, because the of the effect cortisol has on glucose metabolism when you are low on blood sugar.

You might think that you’re doing yourself a favor skipping lunch, when in fact, doing so triggers your body to generate more cortisol.

Cortisol … the “your under stress hormone” counteracts Insulin production and reduces the metabolism of glucose.  The result of this is disproportionately more fat storage in anticipation of famine!  Additionally, the increased Cortisol increases appetite so you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal!

It would be great if you could simply categorize carbohydrates into glycemic index groups that fit nicely within some saccharide category, but the truth is, it’s somewhat of a frustrating memorization exercise.

Take roots.  Carrots & yams (both simple carbohydrate foods) have relatively low GIs of 39 and 51, respectively, while potatoes have GIs as high as 85!   The difference here is that potatoes are very starchy.

So, starchy means high GI then?

Not quite. Plenty of other starchy carbs, like Oats, Bran, Rye and Barley are actually quite low in GIs scoring in the 20s and 30s.  Similarly,  wheat and most rices also score fairly low (50s), while brown rice pasta has an exceptional and soaring 91!

And then there’s fruit.  Unless I’ve missed something, no fruits are starchy.   They’re fibrous and watery, but not starchy.  But here’s the rub: some fruits have very low GIs, like grapefruit (25), plums (39), and apples (38); and some fruits have moderate GIs, like mangos (56), apricots (57), and raisins (64).  Why then, does watermelon have a sky high GI of 72?

It makes no sense, and in the end, you must simply memorize or carry GI tables with you to get it right!   Here’s one built for the sometimes-popular South Beach Diet.

Attempting to solve this mystery steps in Glycemic Load.

As it turns out, part of the reason why inconsistencies exist across the simple to complex carbs GI spectrum is related to quantity consumed.   For example, a single piece of hard candy (nearly all sucrose) will trigger a smaller glucose response than a bite of a banana.  But if you consume 2 cups of each, the candy outpaces the banana quite quickly!

What’s more, Net Carbs also have a role.  As mentioned above, the fiber content will affect digestion speed, which, in turn, effects blood sugar fluctuations.  So, in the late ‘90s,  the Glycemic Load became a more popular way to determine food effect on blood sugar, defined as the percentage of GI times Net Carbs:

Glycemic Load = Glycemic Index / 100 x Net Carbs

Got that?  Well, before you start looking for a smart phone app to calculate GL, have no worries, many nutritionists have simply done the math for you with tables they’ve built themselves.  In fact, one of my all time favorite nutrition sites, NutritionData.com doesn’t list GI at all, but instead lists an Estimated Glycemic Load number for most of it’s nutritional listings.  The values are estimated simply because complete data on GI and Net Carb values simply hasn’t yet been compiled for all foods.

What you also need to know about GI vs GL numbers is that a high GL number could be a low GI Number:

Within the heavily debated carbohydrate controversy, exists a separate embedded micro controversy around GI and GL.  As with carbohydrates, many experts propose low GI/GL diets within the weight reduction context, while others staunchly oppose it.  A 2008 German study, for instance, actually found that low GI/L diets actually correlated to higher bodyfat results.

Withstanding GL wizardry, one food category that emerges consistently high in the GI tables is highly refined grains, particularly those in baked goods.  French bread, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, rice cakes, and many breakfast cereals ALL SCORE very high on GI tables.

Refined Grains and Added Sugars

Refined grain products (cookies, cakes, cereals) also suffer from two other significant problems: added sugars and nutrient deficiency.

In fact, according to the  USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the single largest problem with many American diets is, indeed,  these refined grain products.

Not only do they trigger a short, spiky burst in glucose, but they are also reasonably ‘empty’ calories with very few micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  To make matters worse, they frequently include added sugars to make an already unhealthy food even more caloric.  Sometimes inclusive of saturated and/or hydrogenated fats as well, and well, these products are really quite evil to health and fitness professionals.

The Carbohydrate Conundrum: What to do?

With all of this going on, it’s no wonder the general public is confused about carbohydrates and their dietary relevance.  Here then is my professional recommendation on the topic.

First, if you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s orders, not mine.

For all the rest of us:

  1. The easiest way to defuse most of your concerns about carbohydrates is simply to exercise more!  Not only will you metabolize more calories in doing so, but other hormones involved with exercise and exercise recovery help keep cortisol and insulin balanced.
  2. Recognize that carbohydrates are, above all else, your body’s primary fuel source.   While it’s true that your body always metabolizes a blend of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source.  If your engine is just idling, back off on the fuel!
  3. Adjust your complex carbohydrate intake with your anticipated physical activity
    1. If you are sedentary, you need very complex few carbohydrates.  Most of your energy will come from stored energy sources (glycogen and body fat).   Eliminate most complex carbohydrates from your diet to avoid gaining body fat.
    2. If you are active, you need some complex carbohydrates.  Try to get most of your complex carbohydrates early in the day, typically before 2:00 PM.  Switch to mostly simple carbohydrates after that.
    3. If you are regularly exercising, or an athlete, you need a LOT more carbohydrates. Get most of your complex carbs early in the day, but do include moderate quantities later in the day.  Don’t hesitate to include higher amounts in your diet if you have a high intensity exercise event the following morning.
  4. Eat a wide variety of and large quantities of fruits and vegetables.  Follow the seasonally available produce and you’ll get plenty of variety.  Make sure you get at wide variety of color in your diet.   A lot of people miss out on the yellows: squash, yams, yellow peppers.
  5. Try to incorporate more legumes into your diet: green beans, black beans, pinto beans, white beans; etc.
  6. When choosing complex carbohydrates, focus on whole grains, and high fiber sources.  Steel cut oats, whole wheat, and wild rice are good examples.
  7. Always avoid or minimize highly refined grains, particularly those with added sugars.  MOST of the grocery store bakery fits into this category: cookies, cakes, pies (it’s the crust), french bread, muffins, and doughnuts.   What’s worse is that many of these will also include partially hydrogenated fats.
    1. Avoid or eliminate them if you are serious about your health.
    2. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in America and these fats are deadly

Respect the Gray Squirrel and be Healthier this Winter!

If you’re looking to stay healthier THIS WINTER, and wonder why your FLU SHOT DIDN’T WORK LAST WINTER, you might not want to look any further than the Eastern Gray Squirrel  for a role model!

Busy in fall gathering and building food caches for the winter months, humans who similarly scurry now for some sunlight now can in fact build sufficient stores to outlast a long, dark Minnesota winter!

For while much has been written about the significance of Vitamin D for good health, The New York Times recently stated that humans can store up A FULL YEAR’S SUPPLY  of Vitamin D with daily doses of just 5 to 10 minutes of direct sunlight during the summer months.  Summer’s gone now, that’s true, but it isn’t too late to roll up the sleeves and pant legs on sunnier fall days to build up your Vitamin D stores … especially if you’ve shunned the sun all summer long.

Exercise is, of course helpful in fighting off infections and preventing many diseases,  but your next best bet could be as simple as getting enough Vitamin D.   Especially in northern climates where exposure to the sun, our primary source of vitamin D, is limited during the Fall and Winter, increasing attention is now being given to vitamin D requirements. And vitamin D deficiencies.

In fact, some physicians contend that a major portion of winter ailments can be attributed to Vitamin D deficiencies, including heart disease, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, CrohnsDisease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Wow!

A Minneapolis client of ours has seen Vitamin D deficiencies in action 1st hand. Working through lower back pain for several months, she’d gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and had several MRIs and X Rays performed to help diagnose the source of her ailment. Nothing worked. Eventually, her physician suggested a diet loaded with Vitamin D, and her back pain went away!

The problem is, it’s really, really hard to compensate for the lack of sun.

Your body manufactures about 20,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D with just 20 minutes of sun.  To get that much vitamin D in your diet would require something like 40 glasses of milk per day! (3300 calories, even if it’s skim milk). The good news is that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so your body is capable of storing D in your body fat. You won’t need to consume the entire amount that you would otherwise manufacture, but if you can’t get some sunshine, some dietary intake becomes critical.

In fact, to be keep your levels of Vitamin D sufficient,  an occasional trip to a tanning bed is probably the surest route!  This, of course, carries the added risk of developing skin cancer, so many of us avoid those.

As a Result, Natural Foods, become your next best source of vitamin D, and here are some high quality choices:

Salmon, canned (3 ounces) 530 IU
Salmon, cooked (3.5 ounces) 240–360 IU
Tuna, canned (3 ounces) 200 IU
Soy milk, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Orange juice, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Milk, low-fat, fortified (8 ounces) 98 IU
Cereal, fortified (1 cup) 40–50 IU
Eggs (1 large) 20–26 IU
Swiss cheese (1 ounce) 12 IU

The problem is, even a diet with only these foods you could still be deficient in D!   So we’re not done yet. How much, exactly, you need daily is still under debate, but a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU is currently considered a safe upper limit. The medical community agrees that up to this much won’t create other problems, even if they can’t agree on what the required minimum should be.

So, even with a naturally rich vitamin D diet, some supplementation is recommended. The best way to take vitamin D supplements is with Calcium. The two nutrients work together to build strong bones and teeth.

Furthermore, it’s been shown that taking vitamin D with Calcium can actually reduce your fatty food cravings and help you lose weight!

So, with the Sun getting further and further away for the next 3 months, be sure to Squirrel away some natural sun D when possible this fall!

And the next time you wonder if the little grey guy is actually going to make it to the curb in time, remember … some sun now could keep you healthier this winter!

Dealing with Ailments and Injuries as we Age

Exercising regularly or not, the frequency with which we incur ailments and injuries increases as we age.

As we age:

  •  the body naturally looses mineral density in the bones (sometimes resulting in osteoporosis);
  •  the muscles themselves shrink (technically called atrophy); 
  •  the tendons and ligaments holding it all together become less pliable and weaken; and
  •  metabolism slows, increasing the time it takes for the body to mend.

It all starts somewhere in our early 30s increases into the 40s and then accelerates into the 50s and 60s.  Regular exercise is, of course the best way to stave off the process, but even regular exercisers experience ailments and injuries, sometimes even more so than sedentary adult simply because some of us still think and behave like we’re 20!

Injuries

If you’re exercising regularly it’s typical to pick up injuries large and small overdoing it in some way: that extra mile on a long run; that 6th day of training;  that extra hill on the bike ride;  that extra 20 pounds on the bar when squatting for the 1st time in a while.

Injuries come with acute pain.  You normally know exactly when the pain started and exactly what you were doing when it occurred: it’s tough to forget smacking your face into a forest tree!

Sedentary adults are most frequently injured simply navigating the course of life … hurting your back moving that piece of furniture or slipping on some ice.  Exercisers get injured in these ways too, but less so.  Stronger muscles, joints, and bones help the body tolerate impact better, and, of course improves overall coordination and balance.

Ailments

Ailments are technically injuries too, but are introduced slowly over time as a result of over use and insufficient recovery.   Athletes and aggressive exercisers ( anyone exercising 5 or more days per week) work with ailments on a regular basis, normally around joints.   Runners who only run frequently develop knee and ankle ailments.  Cyclists who only cycle often experience hip and knee trouble.

But ailments also, and perhaps more commonly occur within the daily grind for both exercisers and the sedentary:  carpal tunnel syndrome and strained shoulders are all too common modern-day office worker ailments.

They are incurred with the same problem: overuse of a body part without sufficient recovery.

Responding to Injuries

For minor injuries and ailments the 1st remedy is normally RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation on the effected area.  Depending on severity, this could be for an hour just once to several intermittent hours each day for a week.

If you are in severe pain, or if the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, or just want some piece of mind, see your doctor.  

Exercising with Ailments and Injuries

Exercising with an injury isn’t just possible, it’s actually quite common.     In fact, it’s often an opportunity to introduce beneficial cross training into the mix … swimming, for example, if you’re working through a calf injury.   Or simply limiting overhead and torsion exercises if you’re nursing a strained back.   Unless you’re in traction, a good fitness trainer will easily find something to do no matter what the injury!

The key to a quick and safe recovery is allowing the injury to completely heal before re-introducing the effected body part  into your exercise program.  

This may include some physical therapy, but almost always begins with the pain-free range of motion test: if you can move the limb or body part completely through its range of motion without pain, you’re probably ready to begin putting a load and stress on it.

Begin cautiously with low resistance, low volume and low intensity.  Increase these three elements (volume, resistance and intensity) one at a time waiting at least a day between any further increases.   Be sure to stretch, stretch, and  stretch some more, especially if it’s a joint issue.  You may develop some minor soreness and swelling in the process; use RICE along the way.   

This process of improving range of motion, incrementally increased load,  and incorporating RICE is, in fact rehabilitation.  It’s best overseen by a physician, but …

If you know your body well, or are working with a highly skilled fitness professional, it’s actually  straightforward enough to rehabilitate yourself through injuries.   You know how your body feels and reacts better than anyone else. 

But if you’re not working with a professional of any type, it’s best to go see your doctor.

Illness

While exercising with and recovering from ailments and injuries gets tricky, handling illness is comparatively simple.

We call it the neck test.

If your symptoms are in your neck and above, you pass and should be OK to exercise in some way.  

Depending on how you feel, it might be a good day for your long, slow cardio event, or other light activities.   Dial it down a bit if you need to, but DO exercise!   It will boost your immune system and increase your metabolism, getting you back to good health more quickly! 

But if your symptoms are in your chest, you fail, and should rest and/or see a physician.

 

Eating Too Little Contributes to Weight Gain!

That’s right, eating too little at the wrong times can actually have a negative effect on your weight loss efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day weight loss is still a very basic calorie calculation: weight lost = calories out – calories in. 

Consume more than you burn and you gain weight.

Burn more than you consume and you lose weight.  Simple math.

However, eating too little at critical times of the day, like breakfast or prior to exercise can actually have a negative effect on your ability to loose fat.

With holiday parties and food in abundance, however, you might be tempted to skip this meal or that.  Those choices can produce very unexpected and unwanted results. 

Skipping breakfast, for instance can create a hormone imbalance that triggers the body to go into”starvation mode,” and consequently triggers the body to store more fat than it otherwise would by reducing your metabolism.  Not good.

Further, as the day progresses, this hormonal imbalance unnaturally increases appetite to the point where you’re far more likely to overeat for your next couple of meals according to the Journal of American Nutrition. ‘

That’s even worse.

Eating too little prior to exercise is another frequently made mistake.

Whether you’re heading to the club to lose body fat, add muscle tone, or just feel good about yourself, it is critical that you have a small pre-workout meal.

And here’s why.

Energy for exercise always comes from a blend of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. But fat sources only work at very low intensity levels, and carbohydrates are quickly utilized and must be constantly replenished.

So, while you might hope that your body will always use fat as an energy source during exercise, stored fat is metabolized ONLY when you are either sedentary or exercising at a very, very low level of intensity.  

You will, indeed, burn more calories when you exercise at more rigorous levels, but you’ll burn no more fat.   Check out my new book How to Be Healthy for LOTS more detail on this.

Most exercise is aerobic in nature.

The energy source that will help you work harder to burn more calories, and work more efficiently to recruit additional muscle fibers is carbohydrates.  Unlike fat, which is stored as fat, carbohydrates are stored in the blood stream, muscle tissues, and organs as glycogen and glucose (and, technically ATP at the cellular level, but we’ll ignore that for now).

These immediately available “sugars” are your primary energy source for exercise… at least until they’re gone, which can be in as little as 20 minutes, depending on your metabolism and the nature of your exercise. Once the supply is spent (metabolized to exercise), your body needs to replace those spent sources with new sources .. .your pre-workout meal.

So, when you’re consuming your pre workout meal, you’re essentially  filling your gas tank for the second half of your workout! 

If you get it right, you’re in good shape for high energy levels and higher levels of intensity during the second half of your workout.  If you get it wrong, you’ll ”hit a wall”, struggle with even moderate intensities, and ask your body to metabolize less efficient sources for energy, like proteins.  That’s right, even if you have  30 pounds of body FAT to lose, …

… if your body needs energy sources beyond the immediately available carbohydrate sources, it does NOT convert your stored fat, it converts proteins!

Unfortunately, it gets even worse, for if those proteins are not in your bloodstream (from a consumed meal), your body converts stored proteins …your muscle tissue … through a process called catabolism.

And if you are catabolising you will almost certainly gain fat because maintaining lean body mass is a key factor in loosing body fat!

So, (ahem), here’s the skinny on your pre-workout meal.

You don’t need to have much, but be sure that you have a few hundred (200 to 400, depending on your body weight) balanced calories between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise. This window will vary from person to person (and your hydration levels and prior daily food intake), but 30 to 60 minutes ahead of your workout is a good place to start.

A well balanced snack should consist of approximately 25% protein, 65% carbohydrate and 10% fat. One half of a peanut butter sandwich and half a banana handle this perfectly.  Or a yogurt and a few crackers.

This pre-workout requirement is also well recognized, and aggressively marketed by the nutritional supplements industry (Cliff, Powerbar, Gatoraide, etc.).  Products from these suppliers also nicely handles the requirement.  However, just be sure that you consume the product far enough ahead of exercise for benefit: it takes most digestive systems 30 to 40 minutes to move food to the bloodstream. Consuming these products during exercise is almost always too late for any benefit for exercise shorter than 90 minutes.

 

Looking for more healthy tips on eating right and proper nutrition?Ask me about my Health Coaching Promotions! 

 

Extra Holiday Calories Actually GOOD for Your Health?

Get your flavonoidsThey’re good for your heart!  Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for those.

Make sure you get enough Omega 3 fats in your diet; they’re good fats and can reduce cholesterol and ease the metabolism of bad fats.  Salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans are good sources of those.

Make sure you get enough dairy in your diet; protein, calcium, and Vitamin D are all needed for strong bones and will help avoid degenerative disease like osteoporosis. Cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk will cover you there.

Oh, and don’t forget about fiber, vitamin C, minerals, and … the list goes on and On and ON.

Has it occurred to anyone else that if we actually followed all of the nutritional guidance pumped into the media by food companies, supplement companies, our government,  and well-intentioned fitness professionals, that we’d all look like Santa?

The missing <ahem> ‘ingredient’, of course is exercise.

While reading a few things written by other Fitness Professionals around Holiday indulgences this morning, and the creative ways they’ve suggested to restrict calories and abstain from some of your favorite foods during the holidays (I’ve been guilty of making these suggestions too), it suddenly occurred to me … duh 

… it’s simply easier to exercise than it is to worry about all the extra calories!

Because what’s the point of even attending a party or preparing a special meal if you can’t fully enjoy it!  So, while there are lots of great reasons for exercising, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT OF EXERCISE could very well be that it simply allows us to eat more!  Most of us love to eat, and a lot of us exercise just so that we can eat more!

But without exercise, most of us would be obese within 6 months if we consumed all of the food needed for proper nutrition.

Or, you could pay thousands of dollars per year on organic supplements, though even the best manufactured nutrients fall far short on nutrient quality when compared to natural food sources.

It’s well documented that exercise alone:

  • Improves your heart health
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Fights anxiety
  • Fights depression
  • Increases your energy levels; and
  • Simply enriches your lifestyle.

HOWEVER, IS  IT POSSIBLE  THAT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION OF EXERCISE TO YOUR HEALTH IS THAT IT ALLOWS YOU TO EAT MORE, AND THEREFORE GET BETTER NUTRITION?

And then there’s Hydration. Water is the body’s primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the back (bottom) door. Further, proper hydration improves digestive efficiency, reduces blood pressure, and improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair.

We’ve all heard that we should drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know what, that’s a lot of water! It actually takes significant, conscious effort to consume that much water on a daily basis. But crank out a few hot cardio intervals, or knock down one of our HEAT programs, or blast through 35 sets in 45 minutes, and you’ll have 20 ounces through your body before you event think about food!

The primary vessel we drive, OUR BODIES frequently requires exercise induced thirst to get enough fluids in on a regular basis.

So, there you have it! Never mind that exercise improves your health and reduces the risk of acquiring all types of disease and illness. 

Exercise primarily gives us the privilege to eat and drink more and be healthier for it.

So, it’s  baah humbug to all the Fitness Pros out there with tips on avoiding calories this holiday season!  

I say go ahead and eat!

Just make sure you exercise plenty too!

Six Essential Holiday Survival Secrets

Happy Holidays!

One big event down, but LOTS more to survive!

The turkey and pies may have been last week’s hazards, but with office parties, holiday parties, Christmas, and the New Year, we’re just getting started with caloric catastrophes! 

Just remember, our goal for the holiday season is to simply not gain any weight.  Forget losing any. 

Net Zero from November 1st to January 1st! 

Nothing to lose, but let’s not gain anything either! 

Four Lifestyle Tips for making it happen:

        1. Stay active
        2. Exercise regularly
        3. Focus on FITNESS related goals, and
        4. Eat smartly

The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios revolutionized 4 industries in his lifetime by demanding the impossible.  

  • He and Steve Wozniak changed the world of computing when they launched the Macintosh.  
  • He put Disney on her knees with industry first, mind blowing animation films from Pixar.  
  • He changed the entire music industry with iTunes and iPod, and then, of course …
  • He changed the entire communications industry with the iPhone.

None of us are Steve Jobs, but we are all in control of two things:

Attitude and Effort.

You can do this! 

Think Positive.  THINK YOU CAN.  And Think Clean.

Regarding the Holiday blues, the Holiday stress, the Holiday food fest, and the rest, replace negative thoughts like …

  • There’s nothing I can do to stay healthy during the holidays.
  • That’s just the way I am during the holidays.
  • The holidays make me feel so stressed.
  • I can’t take the time to work out until after the holidays.
  • I Can’t…………………I Must……………….If Only

… With proactive thoughts such as:

  • I’ll find alternatives to overindulging this happy season.
  • I can choose a different approach this year.
  • I control my own feelings at all times and I choose to feel great!
  • I want to take the time necessary to make sure I stay healthy during the holidays.
  • I Choose……………….I Prefer……………I Will

The point is: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right either way.” — HENRY FORD

Here then are Six Essential Holiday Eating Secrets to help make it happen:

  1. Substitute low fat yogurt or low fat cottage cheese for sour cream in cooking and recipes
  2. Wear your tightest, most form-fitting pants to dinner parties and/or tie a string around your waist under your shirt that will not budge with the bulge. They’ll help keep you conscious of overeating.
  3. Have a healthy, protein rich snack before going to cocktail or dinner parties. Or a meal replacement shake. The high fat content appetizers won’t look so good of your not hungry.
  4. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house; just don’t buy them!
  5. Do not stop your regular exercise program.
  6. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, get one immediately!

 

Need some accountability on this?  Ask me about my Health Coaching Program

Beating the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be an especially depressing time for a lot of folks.

Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends all contribute the ‘Holiday Blues.’ 

Factor in overeating, alcohol, travel, and normal sleep pattern disruption, and the formula gets worse yet!

The good news is that there are plenty of remedies, and (I know you’ll be shocked to hear that) Nutrition and Exercise play a huge part!

As mentioned  few weeks ago in my 5 training tips for making it through the holiday season, one of the most effective ways to both fight the holiday blues AND get a head start on your New Year’s fitness resolutions is to start an exercise program now!

Experts from Mayo ClinicWebMD, and others all recommend exercise as a critical part of fighting the holiday blues.

Making time for exercise, especially with extra holiday activities underway, is generally the hardest part!

Here then, are my Favorite Four Tips for getting it done:

1. Exercise quickies. While 3 or 4 resistance training workouts AND 2 or 3 cardio workouts per week are optimal for good health and weight control, planning on more frequent, shorter workouts can help get you fit it in.

2. Train with a partner, or hire a trainer to hold you accountable. Showing up is more than 90% of your grade in exercise, and you’re much, much more likely to show up if some one’s counting on you to be there!

3. Abandon all of your weight loss, and fitness – related goals for the month of December. You’ll have plenty of time next year to work on those. Instead, merely establish attendance goals: “I will exercise 3 or 4 days per week not matter what!”  Circle completed days on your wall calendar to help track your commitment.

4. Exercise in the morning. Not only will you avoid allowing other agenda items to trump your exercise appointment, but you’ll have extra energy for the entire day!

Bonus Tip 5 – Work with an Expert! 

Spice up your Day with a Quickie!

There’s nothing like a quickie to get your morning started right!  Or pick you up in the afternoon!

Or punctuate your day in the evening!

Exercise Quickies, that is.

You see, December is one of the toughest months of the year for Fitness Professionals. As if busy lives, work schedules, and family affairs weren’t enough, extra travel, holiday parties, out-of-town guests, and office gatherings all add to the daily grind

Making time to exercise is always a challenge, but this added pressure can be a nightmare for trainers trying to keep their clients on track!

Of course, in the blinder-ed world of a Fitness Professional (because no matter what the question is, exercise is almost always one of the best answers), we’d argue that if you’re life gets so stressful that you don’t have time to exercise, you really can’t afford to NOT exercise. Indeed, exercise is the ultimate anti-anxiety medicine.

So, before you blow off your workout in lieu of yet another gluttonous holiday party, consider rolling through December distractions with Frequent Exercise Quickies!

Here’s how it works.

Rather than spending your normal 75 to 90 minutes working out 3 or 4 days per week this month, plan instead for training 4 or 5 days per week (one extra day) for just 40 to 50 minutes (less time per workout).

Normally, we coach clients (and you should plan) for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes warming up before your workout and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular work following your session.  Along with your 45 minute training  session, this gives you a standard 75 to 90 minute workout.   Normally.   And while that doesn’t seem like a huge time commitment to us (after all, isn’t your health, sleep, and appearance worth it?), it can certainly seem intimidating when there’s cooking to be done, the in-laws are inbound, and you have an unfinished gift shopping list.

A 45 minute workout, on the other hand, is short, sweet, and mentally conquerable.
Indeed, just showing up is the hardest part!

Heck, it’s not even a workout … more of a workoutling ... a workout too small, cute, and incomplete to be a real workout. Get in, get it done, and be on your way.  The key, of course, is that if you reduce you cardio and resistance workout volumes, you’ll really, really need that additional exercise quickie per week!  Quickies are only acceptable if you get more of them into your week!

Training for 45 minutes 4 times per week (200 total minutes) instead of 75 minutes 3 times per week (225 total minutes) also has other advantages.

For one, you raise your metabolism one extra day per week. Not only do you burn calories while exercising, but you’ll burn additional calories recovering from the exercise after your workout. And this extra day of recovery effort more than covers for the reduced total volume (25 minutes).

Additionally, the 4th workoutling per week gives you one more boost of energy to make it through stressful days, and another shot of endorphins to make the holiday stress more tolerable.

Keep these things in mind for effective exercise quickies:

  1. It’s just 40 minutes, so plan for being seriously committed for the entire workout; it goes fast!
  2. Rest no more than 1 minute between sets
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. Perform mostly compound exercises that incorporate a lot of major muscle groups
  5. Wear your headphones, and don’t make eye contact with anyone else in the gym (no time to get pulled away into a conversations)
  6. Look ahead, and plan your next exercise before you’re finished with your current one
  7. Have an alternate exercise in mind with alternate equipment to keep you moving should your equipment get taken before you get there (and good training for the January gym jams)
  8. Go relatively light with high repetitions (20+) on the 1st set of any exercise (the abbreviated warmup will increase the risk of injury, so you’ll need to warmup in-line)
  9. Plan for no fewer than 10-12 repetitions on any exercise (again, making the workout more aerobic in nature to compensate for reduced cardio)

Need Help in planning for a Quickie?  Give me a Call!

93.8% will Quit Fitness Resolutions By February!

Once Again … Happy New Year Everyone!

And in true January style,  health and fitness improvements are one of the top resolutions year in and year out!

Why is it then,  that (according to a Johns Hopkins University study) fully 93.8% will abandon their goals by the end of the month?

 

What is going on here!?!

 93.8 Quit their Resolution by February!? 

Lots of reasons exist, to be sure, but here’s my short list:

 

 1. Actual lack of commitment is a big one.

People considering our programs sometimes fail to enroll because they simply don’t have the time to exercise.   Listen, nobody happens to have time for anything.  You make time for things, exercise and health included.   Further, if you’re really that busy, you really can’t afford not to exercise!  Check last week’s blog on commitment

 

2. Accountability is another good one.

It’s easy to skip the trip to the gym when you’ve had a long day and would prefer to simply grab a burger and veg out with the remote control.  After all, no one will know if you made it in for your workout or not.   Listen up again, as my 3rd grade teacher frequently said, SHOWING UP is 80% of your grade in life.  

And simply arriving at the club is almost always the hardest part. But if nobody’s missing you there, nobody’s expecting you, nobody’s riding your tail if you miss, well then, it’s just too easy to just drive home.

 

Having someone hold you accountable is the true secret to success in fitness! 

Sure, you need to know a bit about waving the weights around, and heart rate zones, but holding you accountable is key and the hardest part. 

 

3. Absence of a legitimate plan is also in the list.

It’s often said that goals without plans are simply dreams.  Any road will do if you don’t know exactly where you’re going.  Exercise and Fitness plans have a couple of different levels.  On the most basic level, you must have a plan for attendance.

That’s it.  Simply how, when, and where will you train?  Here’s how. 

 

Your exercise appointment goes onto your calendar in black in and simply doesn’t move.  

Your health and vitality are too important.   Planning exercise, periodizing your workout cycles, tiptoeing the fine line between over training and intensity are important too, but less important than the immutable appointment.

Libraries of documentation exist on how to exercise, and thousands of fitness professionals exist to demonstrate, prescribe,  and observe exercise.   Get professional help if you are new to exercise.

Aspire 8 happens to be the Fitness Together programming model these days, but any programming model/plan is better than none at all!

 

 

 4. But my favorite in a list that could go on and on is the absence of measurable progress.  

Indeed, one of the most critical errors people make in January is to monitor their progress with the bathroom scale. While that might be right for some people at some point, it’s flat-out wrong for most people starting a fitness program in January.

 

Here’s why. Exercising forces the body to adapt.

 In fact, the less fit you are the more dramatic the adaptions.

  • Your body creates new and more efficient neurological pathways.
  • You add mineral content to your bones increasing its density.
  • Blood volume increases.
  • And yes, you both increase the size of, and add muscle fibers to your frame.
All of this blood, nerve tissue, bone, and muscle is lean body mass.  And adding lean body mass is a healthy way to make you stronger, live longer, and is one of the keys to weight loss!

Each ounce of additional lean body mass is living, ‘breathing’, calorie-consuming tissue. Increased strength not only allows you to move more weight and burn more calories when you workout, but the additional lean body mass will also burn more calories when you’re at rest.

 

You can think of muscle tissue as your primary fat ‘burning’ facility.  The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn!

The trouble is, all this lean body mass also adds to your overall body weight! So while all of that exercise is burning calories and reduces your body fat, that same exercise is offsetting the fat loss with an increase in lean mass! So the scale doesn’t move. Or doesn’t move much,which frustrates a lot of folks and is tops on the list for why 93.8% of everyone who starts January with good fitness intent, drop the goal by February.

 

Work with a pro to measure, monitor, and motivate you to make this year different from last year!