Archive for category Fitness Tips

Meal Timing Questions

Is it better for me to eat before or after I workout?

In my opinion, it really depends on what time you’re working out. For early workouts right after you wake up in the morning and your blood sugar is at its lowest, I feel that you are better off at least having something small to fuel yourself for the workout. That way you can workout harder and get more out of it. A small glass of juice, coconut water, or a piece of fruit should work for people that have a hard time eating early in the morning. In this case you should make sure to eat both protein and carbs within the 45 minutes immediately following your workout to help aid in recovery.

Assuming that you have eaten some carbs during the day, an evening workout doesn’t necessarily require a pre-workout meal. This is because your body will store sugar in the form of glycogen in your liver. That glycogen can be converted back into glucose for quick energy usage. Again, I do suggest trying to get your next meal in within 45 minutes of that workout.

If you do choose to eat before your workout, make sure to give yourself about 1 1/2 hours before you start to exercise so that you don’t get nauseous.

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FAQ

I was sent some interview questions by a publisher that was interested in having me featured in a book they are making. Or so they said 🙂  Anyways, I thought that I would share my answers since the questions are pretty common:

Is it true that some exercises produce results faster than others?  Is so, which exercises provide the best and worst “returns on investment”? Yes. This usually depends on what the person’s goals are.  For example, a lot of “core” or stability exercises are great for overall strength and can help a person avoid back problems. Some people though, will do these exercises to develop their rectus abdominus (six pack muscles), when in fact they would probably be better off doing simple crunches and laying off the potato chips! One of the biggest mistakes I see most people make in exercise selection is actually during cardio. People spend so much time on the treadmill and elliptical just wishing their body fat away, when they could be burning far more calories and fat by adding resistance training or higher intensity, shorter duration cardio. My advice would be to at least talk to a professional about your goals and what you are currently doing to achieve them. Again, the problem isn’t the exercise; it’s WHY you are doing the exercise!

How should someone determine how many grams of protein and carbs they should be eating each day? There are many factors that need to be considered here. Age, sex, body type, lifestyle, goal… There are too many cookie-cutter approaches to diet and exercise nowadays. These diets aren’t necessarily bad, but two people’s bodies can react different to the same stimulus. Here is some diet advice that my clients have found helpful. Regardless of the diet plan that you are following, or how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you are eating, there are two things that you MUST do to be successful.

1.) Log your food. You’ve heard it before, but it is crucial. People that write down what they eat are always more successful at body composition goals than people who don’t. It is even easier now with all of the calorie counting apps that people can use on their smart phones, so there are no excuses.
2.) STAY CONSISTENT! If you are all over the place with your diet and it is not working for you, what do you change? You won’t even know where to start! If you have been consistent and have been logging you food, it is very easy to look and what you are doing, change one thing, and see how your body reacts. Remember, people are different, so their diets shouldn’t all be exactly the same.
Is it a good idea for someone to workout if they have a cold? If they don’t have a hard time breathing, I say go for it. I would lay off of the cardio though, and wouldn’t recommend pushing it too hard in the gym. Also, if you have a fever or are contagious, stay out of the gym!!!

Is it better to perform cardio before or after lifting weights or should cardio be done on a completely different day? Go do 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of resistance training after. Then, on another day, do the exact opposite. You will probably notice that you had more energy on the latter day. Both cardio and resistance training cause your body to burn through sugar that you have stored in your body. The difference is that your body NEEDS that sugar for resistance training. The sugar (glycogen) improves your strength, and because your brain is sensitive to blood sugar, it helps you to focus (which is important when you are holding a dumbbell over your head!). Do your cardio after. You don’t need to focus as much, nor do you need extra strength. You are working your cardiovascular system. That’s it.

Is it better to exercise every part of the body on the same day, or it better to focus on different muscle groups on different days?   This is another one that differs a lot depending on the goal. If a person wants to grow their biceps for example, they need to overload their biceps with multiple sets of different exercises. They will probably pick one other muscle to workout on the same day. They won’t have the energy, or the time to work every major muscle in their body this way. However, if your goal is more functional, or you don’t want to bulk up, you are better off doing more compound movements and total body exercises. Most women people fit into this latter category.
If someone doesn’t have the time to spend hours cooking healthy meals, how can they still eat healthy? My first advice here is to cook in bulk. Preparing meals for the next couple of days will save you time, save you stress, and make it easier to stick to any diet. If you are a person who travels a lot and cannot do this, there is some good news: eating healthy is getting easier every day! As different health trends catch on, more restaurants (even fast food) are offering healthier choices. Be careful though! Some things passed off as healthy aren’t what they seem. Try keeping apples and nuts with you so that you can snack regularly on healthy foods. This will help stop you from over eating later. Also, when you do go out to eat:

  1. Have a plan. Check the menu online first to see what the healthiest choices are.
  2. drink a big glass of water before you order your food
  3. eat your veggies first
  4. get your dressing on the side
  5. ask the waiter to NOT bring the bread basket
  6. look for the words “steamed” and “grilled”

What should a personal trainer take into consideration when working with each individual client?  Personal training should be personal! Even if 2 people have the same goal, they have different abilities, injuries, allergies, motivational factors, likes/dislikes, and they should have a program designed around THEM. Sometimes trainers forget that in order to get their client to change, they must change their approach. Some people need a drill sergeant, some need a cheerleader, and some need a therapist. Let’s say that a trainer charges $60 per 1hr session. That is $1 per minute. If the trainer isn’t giving their client value every minute that they are together, then that client should be shopping for another trainer!

If someone isn’t sore after a workout, does that mean they didn’t workout hard enough? If your goal requires that you gain muscle, then you’d better be sore after most of your workouts. Otherwise, if the soreness is hit and miss, that’s okay! You weren’t sitting on the couch or taking a nap; you were doing something good for yourself. Just because you don’t feel sore the next day doesn’t mean that you didn’t benefit from the workout.

The new fad seems to be “buying organic”.  Is there any validity to eating organic food over non-organic food?  What are the benefits and/or things to be aware of? This is where goals change. Whether or not your food is organic won’t effect your body fat. People eat organic when they are trying to avoid pesticides and harsh preservatives. I think that there is a lot to be said for eating organic. It means that you care. It means that you are trying to do something better. Unfortunately, it is often far more expensive to buy organic foods. One general rule is that if you are going to peel it, it doesn’t need to be organic. Some foods are more affected by pesticides and herbicides than others. My wife and I have a list on our fridge entitled “The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen”. It lists which foods should be bought organic and which ones don’t need to be. A quick Google search and you should be able to find something similar.

Should people wait until they’re not sore from their previous workout to start working out again? If your legs are really sore from your workout, it may not be a great idea to do another leg workout, but using your legs during the workout or doing some cardio may help push the lactic acid from your legs and help them recover quicker. What i would do is a light warm up first. If the muscle group you wanted to work is still sore after a warm up, pick a new muscle group to work that day.

If someone reaches their fitness goals, should they still continue to work with a personal trainer? It depends on why they started with that trainer. I have had clients come in long after they hit their goals for one simple reason. If they didn’t have an appointment with me, they would stop working out. Even if this isn’t the case, I think it is a good idea to at least “check in” with your trainer to make sure you are improving, or to get some new ideas. Not everyone NEEDS a personal trainer, but EVERYONE can benefit from having one.

When people first start exercising, why do they sometimes gain weight initially? Multiple factors here again. I see this more with women. The initial weight gain can be from hormones changing, water retention, or muscle gain. Your body is going through all kinds of things when it is subjected to a workout program for the first time. Or maybe all the exercise is just making you hungrier! It sounds funny, but I know people who gain weight when they exercise more because of that reason exactly! Again, this is why I stress the importance of consistency with your diet. If you know how many calories, carbs, protein, and fat you are putting into your body then the initial weight gain shouldn’t scare you. It is the people that have no idea what they are putting into their body that should be scared. It could be the hunger that is getting to them!

If someone has a heart condition, can they still workout? After clearance from their doctor; yes. This person should get into it slowly, and put more of an emphasis on their cardiovascular training initially.

If someone has a job where they don’t move around a lot, what can they do to increase their activity during the day, when they’re not working out? Stand up as often as possible, or even use a stability ball for a chair. That will at least stop you from resting against the back of the chair, which is horrible for your posture. Set reminders on your computer that pop up every 30 minutes to an hour that remind you to stand and stretch out a little. When you do walk around, go ahead and take the escalator down, but always try to walk up the stairs. Park you car a little further away, and if you are in a structure park on the top and force yourself to walk up the stairs to your car. It really is about a mindset here. Some people just want to reach their goals more than others. When you put the extra effort in to little things like this it goes a long way.

Is it safe for pregnant women to workout? Absolutely! There are certain precautions a woman must take into consideration when working out, though mostly in the later half of the pregnancy (like laying on their back). Nowadays women see their doctor so often during their pregnancy that if there were any cause for concern in terms of working out, their doctor can tell them what needs to be avoided (if anything).

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CALORIES ARE NOT ENERGY!!!

Wait, what? I thought that a Calorie was a measure of energy. Am I wrong?

Well, not exactly. First off, the correct terminology to use here would be kilocalorie, or kcal. 1 kcal is defined as being enough energy to raise 1ml of H2O by 1 degree Celsius. That means that when a calorie is being used it produces HEAT.  Does your food continue to get hotter and hotter as it sits there? No. This is because the energy is STORED in your food. The Calories that are in your food are not energy; they are POTENTIAL ENERGY. So when you exercise, your body starts to “burn” this potential energy. Heat is produced as a waste product, and your body temperature goes up.  Pretty simple, right? Are you wondering why am I explaining the difference between energy and potential energy?

Mindset.

People are always concerned about whether or not they have consumed enough energy to perform a task. The reality is though, your body is going to find this energy one way or another. Your body has energy stored in a couple different forms, the largest being fat. In the simplest of terms: if your body does not receive enough potential energy from food to survive, it will then pull energy from your fat storage. This is something that I have to explain over and over again to clients; even those who are pregnant or nursing (and have excess body fat). Here is how the conversation goes:

“My doctor says that I need to eat an extra 200-300 Calories per day because I am nursing”

“How many Calories per day are you currently eating?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tracked it”

“…then what are you going to add 300 Calories to?”

This dialogue always makes me laugh a little bit, because we Americans are always concerned about not getting enough energy from food, when the reality is that we don’t have a starvation problem here in America. In fact, MORE THAN HALF OF US ARE OVERWEIGHT! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US?! We need to start looking at food as POTENTIAL ENERGY, because that is a healthier and smarter way to look at it. When you are looking at something you are considering consuming you should ask yourself, “am I realistically going to use all of this energy?” This might help you make better choices.

All that being said, it is important to give your body enough fuel to maintain the muscle mass that you have. Otherwise you will begin to lose your muscle (because your body needed more potential energy) and your metabolism will begin to slow down… But how do you know how many calories your body needs per day? That is a question that is easier to answer if you have had an accurate Body Fat % measurement done recently. Either way, there are websites that you can use to get a good estimate of how much energy (kilocalories) your body uses, both at rest and with exercise. Once you know that you will have a better idea of how much POTENTIAL ENERGY to consume each day.

Here is a great calorie calculator: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm  (click on “Advanced Options” to enter your body fat %)

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The Dreaded “Plateau”

I get a lot of questions surrounding this topic. What is a plateau? How do I avoid plateaus? I hit a plateau; how do I get through it?

Put simply, a plateau is a speed bump in your progress that feels like a dead-end. Whether you are trying to build muscle or lose fat, this can be very frustrating. In my opinion, “plateau” is also a word that is WAY overused! People think that they hit plateaus all the time, but this is not necessarily the case. Just because the number on the scale isn’t moving, doesn’t mean that you hit a plateau (are not getting results).

That brings me to the first problem: over-diagnosis. I don’t know about you, but my weight fluctuates by multiple pounds every day. If I consume too much salt or don’t drink enough water to flush out extra salt, my weight goes up. Women: you know what this is like. Every 4 weeks you have a few days where the last thing you want to see is a scale! Right?! People, this is normal! So why weigh yourself every day if your weight can fluctuate so easily? Doing this is just asking for disappointment. Keep the weigh-ins to 1x per week, MAXIMUM! Also, weigh yourself in the morning before breakfast, ideally after a bowel movement. Also very important- don’t weigh yourself after a “not normal” day (heavy drinking, ate way more than normal, didn’t eat enough, ran a marathon, etc…) Doing this is just asking for an inaccurate reading on the scale that can result in several outcomes:

  1. Weigh in lighter than you are, which means you will not show favorable results the following week.
  2. Weigh in heavier than you are, which means you will ask your husband if you look fat, then get mad at ANY answer that he comes up with

Method of measurement:

Is the scale the only thing you are doing to check your progress? This is very common and is a HUGE mistake! Results should never be measured by only one form measurement. Circumference measurements as well as monthly picture can be a great way to check progress. Most people now know that muscle weighs more than fat, right? The idea of being happy that you lost or gained a certain amount of weight doesn’t make much sense if you are not sure that you are gaining muscle, or losing fat.

Plateau as a Scapegoat:

Do you measure and log your daily food intake? Are you consistent day in and day out with your workouts? Are you pushing yourself as hard as you used to with your workouts? Are you still refraining from alcohol when you hang out with friends? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you have not hit a plateau, YOU ARE JUST SLACKING!!! Be honest with yourself. Plateaus are not common and can usually be explained. If something is missing from your program, replace it. If you are not as dedicated to a part of your program, get back on it!

How to get through a plateau:

Ok, so you hit a plateau. You are having a hard time losing more fat: this is why it is so important to log your food. It is easy to go back through your notes to see what can be changed. Check to see what, if anything, has changed. If you notice that something is in your diet that wasn’t there before, get rid of it and see what happens. You can also start eliminating one type of food at a time until you notice a change in how you are feeling and notice that the fat has started coming off again. This will occasionally happen with dairy, as well as wheat gluten, even soy!

You are having a hard time gaining muscle: when is the last time you switched up your rep ranges, weights used, tempo, rest periods? Are you only doing isolation exercises or are you incorporating compound movements? Are you measuring and logging your food? If not, how do you know you are getting enough fuel to your muscles to allow them to grow? Are you getting enough sleep? Enough rest days?

Here is the bottom line: the possibility of hitting a plateau means that you are trying to achieve a goal. Hitting fitness goals can be tough, especially if it is a big goal. Be honest with yourself. If you know that you are not doing everything that you can, ask yourself why. Maybe it is time to re-commit to your program. Maintenance is easy, and you have that to look forward to. For now, though, show yourself what you are capable of. Prove to yourself what you know is possible. Be consistent. Be disciplined. Hit your goal because you know you deserve it.

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To Be or Not to Be Gluten Free?

Ok, so there is no way you can go to the store nowadays and NOT see “Gluten Free” labels all over the place. So many people have jumped on the bandwagon to gluten free baking, gluten free this, gluten free that… What’s funny to me is how many of those people don’t even know what gluten is or why they “shouldn’t eat the stuff.”

So just what is gluten?

Gluten, or wheat gluten, is a protein  that is found in wheat. Doesn’t sound so evil, right? So why all the fuss? MARKETING.

There are people who unfortunately have Coeliac Disease and should not consume wheat, rye, or barley. These foods will cause inflammation in the small intestine which causes discomfort, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and malabsorption of various nutrients. This is only experienced by about 1/2 of 1% of the population. That being said, I am glad that there are companies out there who make gluten free foods for those folks who would normally be limited on what they could eat. Here is where I have to laugh a little:

Gluten Free juice. Gluten Free ice cream. Gluten Free yogurt. OF COURSE THEY ARE GLUTEN FREE- THEY ARE NOT WHEAT PRODUCTS!!! Manufacturers have started labeling everything Gluten Free, because since most people don’t know what it means, they are now afraid to eat gluten. Some people have even been brainwashed to believing that wheat gluten causes weight gain, when in fact people with Coeliac disease will often lose weight when they eat wheat because of the malabsorption issues related to the disease. Most people that lose weight by going “gluten free” stop eating things like bread, pasta, pizza, and beer. Is it the gluten that was making them fat, or was it the excess carbohydrates multiple times per day? I’m gonna go with the carbs on this one…

Bottom line is:

If you are sensitive to wheat gluten, don’t eat it. If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat  dairy. If you don’t have either of these issues, don’t waste your time searching for gluten free foods and fake cheeses. Don’t get scared and buy into marketing ploys so easily. Like I have said before, Google is an amazing tool; educate yourself.

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Supplements, When to Use, and the People Who Sell Them…

This should probably have been split between several posts, although I am sure that I will revisit some of this content.

What is a supplement? According to www.Thefreedictionary.com, a supplement is “Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.” Please notice that nothing was ever mentioned about necessity, because supplements are only to be used when something is missing, or as an aid.

Let’s first talk about the most commonly asked about supp… Protein Powders. There are several different types, and again, I will go into more detail on a future blog. In a nutshell, protein powders are predominantly whey-based, although there are many different forms. They are usually marketed towards men, promising to “build muscle fast, and to get you ripped.” Some are marketed to women, usually called something like “Her Protein”, and promising to help you shed fat and speed up your metabolism. Here is the interesting part…

They are the same thing!

The only difference about most of these proteins is the label. When it comes to protein powders, they should generally be used when you can’t easily get protein from a whole food source, when you are having a hard time digesting or consuming your recommended amount of protein, or immediately after a workout for recovery. The truth is that your body would much rather get its protein from a natural, whole food source. Things like chicken, fish, yogurt, eggs, etc, contain all the protein that you need. When it comes to picking a protein out, try a few until you find one that you like. I recommend going the natural route, and trying to minimize artificial flavors and sweeteners, which is why I recommend MRM brand protein. I will go into the different types of protein powders and their uses in a future post.

Fat Burners are another hot topic. Fat burners promise to work in several different ways. They will often suppress your appetite using stimulants while increasing your body temperature (thermodynamics). Almost every time a new fat burning product gets put on the shelf, it is only a matter of time before it gets pulled right back off. Bottom line: they are generally unsafe and should be avoided. Also, taking pills alone will never get the extra weight off. No matter what you take or how much you exercise, if you are consuming more calories than you are burning, you will never reach your goal. My advice: your body loves to burn fat. Let it. Educate yourself about what you are eating. Buy a food scale. Increase the amount of resistance exercise that you do, and turn your body into a 100% natural fat-burning machine!

Have you been approached by a friend yet, telling you that they have been taking this “revolutionary, doctor-approved” supplement that has helped them lose weight? If you haven’t, it is only a matter of time, my friend… Let me break this down really quick:

  1. They lost weight because they are making better decisions and replacing high calorie meals with low calorie shakes.
  2. There are SEVERAL of these companies promising to be the only one of its kind. Are they all lying???
  3. They are excited for you to try it because it will make them money. And if you decide to sell it, they make even more. Did you know that with most of these companies you are forced to have the products auto-shipped MONTHLY to your house? That’s a pretty serious commitment for a shake or a vitamin…
  4. Most of these products are crap. Not all, but why not just get your supplements at a reputable health food store for a fraction of the price?
  5. The people selling them are often not educated outside of the sales rallies that they attend to learn more about the same company’s products. Ask them a question that  is not answered on the brochure and watch them refer you to their sales director. All this for a protein shake? No. All this for a sale.

If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Do your own research before putting any foreign substance into your body. Don’t take my word for it, and especially don’t take a salesman’s word for it. Remember, supplements are just that- supplements. All goals can be achieved without them. (unless we are talking about steroids) If you feel like you have reached a plateau with your fitness goals, please shoot me an email and I will see if I can get you pointed in the right direction.

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Bananas are Overrated

Everybody knows that bananas are the best source of potassium, right? Not so fast… Although they ARE a great source of potassium, that doesn’t mean that they are the BEST source… Please keep in mind that the point of this entry is not to get you to stop eating bananas. I just want to get you thinking about some of the information that is fed to us on a daily basis. For example, when people think Vitamin C they think oranges, but did you know that 1 yellow Bell Pepper has almost 4 times the amount of vitamin c as an orange? Yeah, I know. That’s the same reaction I had! 🙂 Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, bananas…

Bananas come in different sizes, so it is hard to say how much potassium, or any other macro or micro nutrient is in “one banana.” The easiest way for us to compare multiple items fairly is to measure out the same amount of each. So, for this conversation we will use 1 cup.

1 cup of mashed banana yields 200 calories, 51gcarbs, 28g sugar, 6g fiber, 2g protein. This amount would contain 806mg potassium. That is a lot of potassium, but that is also a lot of sugar! Quick tip: if you are trying to lose weight, don’t suck down 28g sugar in one sitting! Next item…

1 cup of white beans yields 254 calories, 46g carbs, 19g fiber, 0g sugar, 16g protein, 829mg potassium. This is a much more balanced food and is a lot more nutrient-rich than banana. Next item…

1 cup sweet potato w/ skin yields 180 calories, 41g carbs, 7g fiber, 13g sugar, 4g protein, and 950mg Potassium. Less calories AND carbs than the first two, and contains… get this… 38,433IU Vitamin A! That’s almost 800% daily value! This is also a very strong anti-inflammatory food and is one of my favorites.

So what would I recommend when you are looking to add some potassium in your diet? Hint- not bananas, since you get the same amount of potassium in 1 serving of potato chips as you do in one banana! Drum roll please!…………………………..

Bok Choy! (Chinese Cabbage)

1 cup of boiled (shredded) Bok Choi has only 20 calories, 3g carbs, 1g sugar, 2g fiber, and 3g protein. Its loaded with 630mg potassium! Who knew! They also contain high amounts of vitamin A, Folate, and vitamin K. Bok Choy is one of my favorite veggies. There are plenty of ways to prepare it, and it is delicious just steamed!

Do you have a favorite way of preparing Bok Choy? Message me so I can share!

Quick note: I am expressing personal opinions here. Please contact your doctor before changing your diet. People taking certain heart medications must be careful about the amount of potassium they consume.

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