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Benefits of Online Training

Why Online Training?

 

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I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “Why on earth would I pay someone for personal training when I can’t even meet them in person?”.  Honestly, it’s a good question. While it is a different experience than in-person training, there are huge benefits to online training, most of which you won’t get even with in-person training.

The first and major benefit is the cost difference. When you train in a gym or private facility, you aren’t just paying for the cost of the service. You’re paying for rent, electricity, insurance, a cut for the owner, and more. This easily amounts to a $75-$125 per hour cost for training, depending on the area you live in. (As a general rule, a good trainer won’t cost less than this, although there are obviously exceptions.) For one workout a week, that’s $300-$500 each month! Some trainers won’t even give out workouts to do on your own because they are afraid of losing clients, so if you want to see results you’ll have to pay for multiple sessions each week. Those costs add up quickly, and you could find yourself paying upwards of $1,000 a month for an effective program.

The second benefit is ease of scheduling. The busiest time for a trainer is early morning, evenings. and weekends. For anyone working a 9-5, that makes it a little difficult to find open slots with a good trainer, and it’s infinitely more difficult if you have a family or young children that need your time. In addition to scheduling issues, having a strict appointment can be a source of stress, and if you hit a little extra traffic on the way to the gym, you could be losing 5-10 minutes of valuable time instead of getting there early to warm up.

A third benefit of online training is stronger accountability and support. Because the trainer is no longer slammed with back to back to back training sessions, there is more time available to offer support to the clients. An online accountability group can also help to create an atmosphere of cohesiveness and support among clients, which is definitely not something that your typical personal training experience will provide. In addition, at least with the way that my program is set up, every client has access to a free app with a calendar on it that has personalized workouts laid out, so there is never a question about what should be done. This allows clients to have the most accountability, giving them the greatest chance for success in reaching their health and fitness goals.

Possibly the biggest perk of online training is that distance is no longer a barrier. Driving forty-five minutes to meet with a trainer for an hour kind of bites the big one, especially if your regular gym is only a few minutes away. (Several of my clients actually did this.) Want your friends and family to get the benefits of working with your favorite trainer, but they live halfway across the country? Not an issue anymore. Does a two mile trip to the gym turn into a road rage filled half hour drive during rush hour? Isn’t a factor with online training.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the perks of online training, but these are some of the most notable benefits. If you’ve been struggling to make progress in your health and fitness goals, or you don’t even know where to start, fill out our contact form and learn how we can help you.

Training Strategies

Training Through Back Pain

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It’s estimated that about 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at one point or another. It costs the US economy around $100 billion dollars a year, between lost wages, reduced productivity, and health care costs. That’s a pretty staggering amount. More importantly, to you at least, If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, you know how your quality of life just sucks. If you’re serious about training, and have had bouts of back pain, you know how quickly it can derail your progress.

The first time I had back pain I was about fifteen years old. That’s ridiculous, yet not uncommon. I was pretty serious about martial arts, had just started working out, and the combination of sitting all day in school and then trying to be a jacked ninja was not a good one. Fortunately, it went away on its own after a short time, and I got on with life. The next time I had back issues I was 18. I crushed my back during squats that were too heavy, and herniated a disc in my lumbar spine. Immediately, my hamstring flexibility went to crap, and a very short time later I developed sciatica. At one point, it was so bad that even casually walking would cause a pull all the way up my leg to my butt. I was able to avoid surgery, but it took years to heal. Visits to both a pain clinic and a chiropractor yielded very few results. I still tried to work out for a while after it happened, but they were never the same. I ended up losing about 30 pounds (most of which was muscle) and got seriously weak. Once I got back into working out about three years ago, I was pretty much rebuilding my strength levels from ground zero. I made steady progress for a while, cautiously getting stronger. Eventually, during some deadlifts, I got out of position and felt something pop in my back. My back was sore for a while after, but nothing too devastating. I modified my workouts a little bit and then once it was feeling better I was back at my regular training. The last time my back flared up again, it wasn’t training related at all. Literally, I woke up one day and had sciatica that I just couldn’t shake. It had followed a couple weeks when I had too much going on to make it to the gym, and I had to do several months of physical therapy in order to get back in shape to lift heavy again. Through all of these episodes, I’ve learned some pretty important lessons.

Just because an exercise works when you’re pain free, it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice during a flare up. I was hitting barbell deadlifts hard, but when my back or sciatica was acting up, it was a crappy choice. At this point, trap bar and kettlebell deadlifts were my go to hip hinge patterns. The same goes with bent over rows. Since I couldn’t get into deadlift position, there was no way I was going to get into and hold that position while rowing a heavy barbell. The pain free option for me was chest supported dumbbell and barbell rows. The takeaway should be this; no exercise is mandatory. If you need to swap exercises out to get through a painful period in your training, don’t worry about it. Do what you can to maintain your strength but don’t worry about dropping the intensity a wee bit.

You can still do some barbell lifts, but you’ll be better off doing the tough ones more towards the end of your workouts. For me, there was no way on earth I was going to stop squatting, but squats were bugging my already irritated back. The solution was to hit my legs hard with single leg work first, and finish up with squats. I couldn’t use the same weight as I would have if I had started with it, but at the end of the workout I could still go at them as hard as I could and get a great training effect. In addition to backing off on the weight, it’s even more important to make sure your technique is dialed in.

Proper core work will make all the difference in how quickly you recover. Note the use of the word proper. If your idea of core work is 500 crunches followed by Russian twists to “smoke those obliques, bro,” then you need to reevaluate your training. Core stability is going to be your best bet, combined with glute work. This means planks and variations, pallof presses or cable anti-rotations, side planks, loaded carries, glute bridges, bear crawls. De-emphasize the exercises that require movement, and prioritize the exercises that require anti-movement. This will go a long way to making your feel better, and more quickly. As you feel better you can start to throw in some appropriate core exercises involving trunk movement, but keep the volume a little lower to start.

Mobility in the proper areas will help with stability in the corresponding areas. The joint by joint approach popularized by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook states that mobile joints stack on top of stable joints, and vice versa. For instance, your ankles should be mobile while your knees should be stable. This moves up the kinetic chain and when you get to the back, we see that the lumbar spine needs to be stable, while the thoracic spine needs to be mobile. There are two things to note here. One, the lumbar spine requires stability, and so it shouldn’t be stretched. Sure, there are a lot of lower back stretches that may feel good in the moment, but in the long run they will do more harm than good. Two, your upper back should have a decent amount of mobility. If your mid and upper back aren’t able to rotate, flex, and extend the way they should, they will place more burden of movement on the lower back, increasing the likelihood of pain or injury. Often, loosening the upper back will do more good than trying to stretch the lower back. Another thing to pay attention to is that if you have an issue surrounding one joint, it can cause dysfunction in a completely separate and seemingly unrelated area of the body.

If you’re having back pain, there’s no reason to stop training, you just have to do it a little more intelligently. Don’t let your ego control your actions, don’t do exercises that cause pain just to do them, don’t be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate your program, and you’ll be back in fighting shape in no time. If you don’t do any exercise, you’re likely to suffer from the pain for longer, so even if all you can do is get out and walk a little, it will be worth it.

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Let us know here.

Training Strategies

How to Crush Your Fitness Goals

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There’s not much that’s more frustrating than busting your butt in the gym and the kitchen, and not seeing the progress that you are looking for. In my article, 6 Reasons Your Diet and Exercise Routine Aren’t Working, we talk about why that might be the case. This article will show you how to avoid that trap in the first place, and make the best use of your time.

Training

Some people do better with strictly planned workouts for the next week, month, or even year. I’m one of these people. I like to know what exercises I’m going to do, what weight selection I’m going to use, and how many reps I’m going to do at that weight before even starting my workout. Other people prefer to do workout challenges, or make things up on the fly depending on what they’re in the mood for. Neither way is wrong, but the important thing is to have a base workout you can do to measure your progress. If your goal is strength, it’s a pretty easy one to measure. Did your key lifts go up? If yes, then you’re making progress. If not, then it’s time to look at revamping your workouts for better results. If your goal is improved conditioning or endurance, then you should be timing the workout as a whole, plus your rest times to make sure you’re able to get through quicker while maintaining your strength. I suggest testing your base workout every three to six months so that you’re not doing non-productive workouts for too long. If strength is your goal, you can get away with testing every six months, but if conditioning or endurance is more your game, I’d look at three month intervals for your test.

 

Another aspect of making sure your training progresses is actually knowing what you’re training for. As the saying goes, “You can’t chase two rabbits.” Are you training for strength? If so then you need to be keeping the majority of your reps in the 1-5 range with the weight in the 80-100% of your one rep maximum. This has been proven optimal for gaining strength. Just remember, the longer you train in the upper thresholds of what you’re capable of, the bigger the chances are that your training will wear you down. If your goal is increased muscle mass, you should be looking more towards the 6-12 rep range with your weight in the 50-80%. There are obviously exceptions to this rule and there are more advanced protocols to help you build muscle, but as a general rule, this is what you’re looking at. Anything over the 15 rep range is normally used for endurance, but again, this is a generality. Now, if you’re training for fat loss, the common misconception is that you should do higher reps, and turn your weight training sessions into cardio. This actually isn’t a great idea, and here’s why. The majority of your fat loss is going to come from your dietary choices. As you restrict your calories and lose weight, your body will happily gobble up all that hard-earned muscle. You have to give your body a reason to hold onto that muscle, and that reason should be because you’re lifting heavy weights. Heavy lifting will force your body to hold onto all the muscle it can, so it doesn’t get crushed under a heavy set of squats. This will help keep your metabolism higher as your weight decreases.

Nutrition

Nutrition is make or break for your progress, no matter what your goal is. Whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle, I recommend starting by finding out what your approximated caloric needs are with this handy dandy calculator and then adjusting. If you’re fairly sedentary, and looking to lose weight, try dropping your calories by 250 and getting in 250 calories worth of extra activity (running, lifting, chasing a toddler, etc…) to make up the daily 500 calorie deficit needed to lose one pound of fat per week. There are times to take a more aggressive stance than this, but if you’re just starting out, that is how you should start. If you start off by cutting 1000 calories a day or more and doing marathon workouts, you might initially lose more, but you’re going to be likely to stall out sooner, and then where do you make further adjustments to make progress? Likewise, if you’re trying to gain weight, try adding in 250 calories a day, split between protein and carbohydrates in order to gain muscle. If you follow this for a while and then hit the plateau, you can make further adjustments, but giving yourself room to do so is what will keep you progressing farthest.

Rest

Again, whether you’re looking to lose fat or build a statue worthy physique, you need to be sleeping.  Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to become obese than people who sleep 6-9 hours each night. Don’t try to go overboard on sleep, either, as sleeping more than 9 hours each night can cause similar obesity issues. Get a solid 7-8 hours each night and enjoy the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Now, if you tend to have trouble going to sleep at night, my suggestion is to cut all activities needing a screen at 1-2 hours before bedtime. You can also try meditation to calm down before bed. I will tell you from experience, getting riled up on Facebook and yelling at people who disagree with your political, dietary, or religious preferences is not a great way to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at sleep and the benefits, or the problems with sleep deprivation, take a look at this article about sleep.

Consistency

It can take years to build the body that you have an image of in your head. Realistically, it might not even be long term attainable, based on your genetics. You might be able to get damn close, but you have to realize that perfection is best left to the photoshoppers and magazine editors. I don’t say this to discourage you. I want you to work as hard as you can, and be strong and healthy, but be aware that what you have in your mind as the ideal body might only be a possibility in edited photos. With that disclaimer, the most amazing transformations generally take a bare minimum of 6 months for fat loss transformations, and those looking to slap on 20-30 pounds of muscle without taking steroids are probably looking at 2-3 years to make those gains. If you don’t see the results you want in 30 days, that doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t working, it means that you need to be patient and keep plugging away day after day, week after week, and month after month. You might even be looking at year after year. Don’t get discouraged, and make sure that you are making progress, but don’t expect to get to the end result quickly. Enjoy the journey.

Putting it all together

Despite wanting to achieve different goals, the workouts for most people should be relatively similar. Three to five resistance training sessions each week, 2-3 high intensity cardio sessions (HIIT, complexes, sprints), and 5-7 low intensity sessions (walks, leisurely bike ride) should make up most of your training schedule. If you’re looking to gain weight, you need to eat above your calorie requirements. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat below your calorie requirements. Make sure you’re getting ample rest, and plug away each week. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Let us know here.

Training Strategies

Should You Be Doing the Olympic Lifts?

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With the boom of Crossfit, Olympic lifting has never been more popular. This is great, because the O lifts are fun, technical, challenging, and a great way to build power and athleticism. This is also terrible because the people who are now doing these lifts are very likely sedentary for 160 hours a week that they aren’t training, and have mobility or stability issues that can make the O lifts a very dangerous choice of exercise. Without getting too technical, this will help you find out if using these lifts in your training routines is worth the risk.

The Olympic lifts consist of the snatch and the clean and jerk. There are a ton of different variations of these that can be utilized, but that will be left to another article. Maybe the next one. Anyway, we’re going to discuss some of the bare minimum prerequisites that are necessary to ensure that you’re able to do these lifts safely and effectively, but before we get to that, I’d like to ask the question, “Who needs to be doing the Olympic lifts?” When I say ‘needs,’ I mean that literally. Who is unable to use a different exercise in place of the snatch and clean and jerk to develop explosive power? Realistically, there are two groups of people; Olympic weightlifters (duh) and Crossfit competitors. While there are definitely athletes in other sports that can benefit from the explosive hip drive, there are a plethora (I love that word) of other exercises that can develop it with far less technical mastery.

So, we’ve established who has to be doing the O lifts. Now let’s discuss what you need to be able to do in order to learn and practice the lifts. You should be proficient at overhead barbell pressing with both a close and wide grip. (If you can’t pass a shoulder flexion test you shouldn’t even be doing barbell presses.) You should be able to deadlift with a close and wide grip with a flat back and do it pain free. You should also be able to do pain free kettlebell swings with at least 50% of your bodyweight as well. For the snatch, you need to be able to do a full overhead squat and be able to pause in the bottom position. For cleans, you need to be able to do a full range front squat with your hands in the front rack position. If you struggle with any of these exercises, the first things you need to do is make sure you can do them with pristine form. There are too many people attempting to do the O lifts without making sure they can do the fundamental movements that comprise them. Get strong and mobile in these positions and then worry about doing the full lifts later. Well, unless you want to jack up your shoulders, back, elbows, knees, wrists, or ankles.

The last thing you need in order to do the O lifts is an actual weightlifting coach. While it’s possible to learn how to do them without being taught in person, you are much more likely to hurt yourself if you don’t hire a qualified professional to teach you. I’ve seen many personal trainers attempt to teach their clients how to do these lifts, and it is very rarely a pretty site. I can actually count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen do the O lifts with good form, let alone good form and decent weight. The results you will get from a good weightlifting coach will be well worth the investment.

By now you should realize that the O lifts should be approached with a certain amount of respect. They are probably the two exercises that are most likely to cause an injury, and if you don’t take the prerequisites seriously and get trained on how to do them correctly, they will very quickly derail your workouts. That being said, if you’re able to do everything I mentioned above, have the time and money to hire an actual weightlifting coach, need the Olympic lifts for your particular sport, and the benefits of doing them outweigh the risks, then you should be using them in your training.

 

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Let us know here.

Training Strategies

The Fitness Industry Has Failed Women

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I believe wholeheartedly that this industry that I love has unequivocally failed half of the population. Why is this, you ask? Well, let me tell you. For years, the fitness industry for women has been revolving around two things, weight loss and toning. I guess it’s more of a reflection on our society that the fitness industry has focused on these two things and decided these are the only goals that women should be allowed to have. Fortunately, it’s been slowly getting better, thanks to the hard and relentless work of a few who are actually invested in the health and strength of women everywhere. (This is my shout out to Girls Gone Strong, and the amazing work of all those talented ladies. You inspire me to be a better coach and person in general.)

Let’s talk a little bit about how everyone has decided that weight loss should be the primary goal for women. Take a look in the grocery store, and every women’s magazine has tips on how to lose 10, 20, or 30 pounds. It’s almost always in “Just 30 Days,” to boot. The scale, which has long been the ultimate measure of fitness for women, does not tell the whole story. There are thousands of women out there who are stronger, leaner, healthier, and more badass than they were just six months ago, but the scale has hardly moved, or maybe it’s even gone up. You have to look at other measurements than the scale in order to get the full breadth of progress that you’re making. If you do nothing but cardio, and lots of it, you will very likely lose weight, as long as you’re eating appropriately. However, you will almost certainly lose a decent amount of muscle as well. The scale will reflect big changes, but your base metabolism will actually be slower, and you will be weaker. Doesn’t sound great, does it? (You better be saying no.) If you get leaner with strength training, proper types and amounts of cardio, and well-balanced nutrition, you might actually weigh more because of muscle gain, but you will certainly feel, look, and perform better.

Have I told you how much weight loss being the ultimate goal for women pisses me off? Women, you don’t have to make yourself less than you are. You are capable of amazing strength and power, capable of withstanding immense pain, and capable of shouldering more burdens than you should already. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FIT ANYONE’S IDEAL IMAGE OF WHO YOU SHOULD BE OR WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK LIKE.  You don’t have to make yourself smaller. You don’t have to take up less space. You don’t have to be trim and petite. What you do have to do is recognize your potential for awesomeness, and if anyone tries to devalue you based on your size, you have my full blessing to kick them in the genitals*. Now, obviously I want you to be healthy. If your weight is causing health concerns then yes, I encourage you to work on getting to a physically healthier place, but do it for the right reasons. If you want to lose weight because that will make YOU happy, then have at it. Do it for yourself and not for anyone else, and definitely not for this size-obsessed culture.

Now that I’m done ranting about weight loss, let’s vent on toning for a bit. It is one of the most common goals for women but the whole idea of toning is kind of abstract. Yes, I know what you want to achieve when you tell me this. No, I don’t think less of you because this is your goal. But let’s get a few things straight. Muscles don’t tone or lengthen. They get bigger, smaller, or stay the same size. Generally, if you tell me you want to tone, what I hear is I want more muscle definition. This is going to happen by doing two things. One, you want to make the muscles bigger. Don’t worry, you’re not going to turn into a bodybuilder. Women tend to put on muscle at a much slower rate than men do, and the muscle they do put on is normally of a much higher quality (less fluff, more strength). Two, you want to get a little leaner so you can see some separation in the muscles. These two qualities will produce the toned look that for some reason everyone wants. It’s not a bad goal, and the goal itself isn’t what annoys me. What annoys me is the way that everyone’s told to achieve it. This is the point where I’m going to tell you that if you’re capable of throwing the pink dumbbells halfway across the gym, using them in an exercise is worthless. Utterly and completely worthless. Doing 500 curls with a 2 pound weight isn’t going to do squat for you. It’s not building muscle, it’s not burning fat, and it sure as hell isn’t toning your arms. Instead of doing useless curls and tricep kickbacks with a laughable weight, get strong. Get to the point where you can knock out pullups and dips and you’ll probably be pretty damn toned. I know most women don’t want to get bulky, but some of the sleekest women out there are some of the strongest. Getting strong won’t make you bulky. It will, however, spike your levels of awesome. I don’t know about you, but I think badass women should be the rule, not the exception.

Alright, I’m taking a break from ranting for a minute. Shifting gears, let’s talk about the ways that the industry is improving. Groups like Girls Gone Strong are smashing boundaries and helping women get past the mentality that they need to make themselves less in order to be important. As much as people love to bash on Crossfit, (and personally I’m not a big fan of their methodologies) they are producing very strong women who are more concerned about pushing the limits of what they can physically accomplish than just weight loss and toning. More and more trainers are realizing the importance of empowering women over putting them into a little weight loss and toning box. Things are starting to look up in the industry after far too long of being one size fits all.

What is the point of this whole post? It’s all leading to this; my goal is to form a legion of strong, ass-kicking, take no prisoners, badass women who recognize that they are worth more than they ever thought, and how much body fat they carry has NOTHING to do with it. The only question I have is, are you in? Let me know if you want to find out what you’re capable of. I’ll bet it’s more than you thought.

 

 

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Let us know here.

 

 

*My blessing to genital kick someone is not a valid defense in court.

Nutrition and Fat Loss

Low Fat VS Low Carb for Fat Loss

Depending on what decade you’re in, the nutrition advice for health and fat loss has varied wildly. First the advice was, “Fat makes you fat and clogs your arteries and if you have butter on your toast or enjoy a nice steak YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!!!” Then things swung to the opposite end of the spectrum, and it was, “Carbs make you fat and give you heart disease and diabetes and if you eat an apple or Heaven forbid, a potato, THEN YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!!” Hopefully at this point you realize that neither one is actually true, but if you want an objective look at things, keep reading.

Like I’ve mentioned before in this blog post the only way any diet actually works is by creating a calorie deficit. For some reason, diet fanatics have decided that the only way to better health is by completely eliminating one of the macronutrients. This is a bit dogmatic, as you will generally eliminate lots of healthy foods by refusing to consume an entire food group. However, for the sake of argument, let’s look at low carb and low fat diets, and who might benefit from them. I’m not going to discuss low protein diets, because higher protein during fat loss stages will help you keep as much muscle as possible*.

First let’s look at the low fat diet. It’s understandable that the misconception of fat making you fat came about. I mean, if you don’t know any better, wouldn’t it make sense that eating fat would then translate to more body fat? That means you could just cut out or significantly lower the amount of fat in your diet, and you’ll get lean in no time. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Now, if you do want to go low fat, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you’re eating low fat, you’ll need to eat higher carbs in order to meet your energy demands. That said, you don’t want to completely eliminate fats because they play an important role in manufacturing hormones, forming cell membranes, brain, and nervous systems, help absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, and provide two essential fatty acids that the body isn’t able to form on its own. Because of these roles, fats should still make up at least 20% of your dietary intake, even on a low fat diet. If you’re going with a low fat diet, you should be active, not only with strength training, but also cardio and non-exercise activity. With a low fat diet, you want to make sure that you’re consuming carbs from a variety of sources, especially vegetables, fruit, potatoes (all varieties), wild rice, quinoa, and other grains. You don’t have to eat wheat if you don’t want to, but you don’t need to avoid it unless you actually have celiac disease. That said, because of the massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides that get sprayed on these types of crops, I suggest going organic for grains.

Next, we’ll take a peek at the low carb diet. This came about as a bit of a rebound from the low fat diet, since the low fat craze actually ended up boosting the obesity epidemic, not stopping or even slowing it. Again, it’s easy to see where the thought process came from. Carbs boost your blood sugar, which causes an insulin response, and insulin can make you fat. Cut the carbs, lose the insulin response, lose the fat, right? Yet, it’s still not the way our bodies work. A lot of people get into low carb diets because they see pretty immediate results. Without carbs, your muscles will lose glycogen within a couple days of working out, and since each gram of glycogen gone will also take several grams of water, you’ll notice several pounds off the scale in a matter of days. That confidence boost can help people stick with it for a longer period, at which point they’ll get results from being in a calorie deficit. The bigger problem with carb restrictive diets is what happens after the diet ends. Our bodies get so used to running without carbs that they actually forget how to process them. That leads to serious weight rebound once carbs are consumed again, and the cycle of weight loss and gain starts all over. Another issue with low carb is that people tend to go overboard with what they restrict, and end up cutting out fruit and vegetables. They might lose weight, but their health suffers too. There are some perks to the low carb diet. They tend to work better for sedentary people. You can manipulate when you take in carbs to get the most benefit out of them (centered around your workouts). More protein and fat heavy meals are more filling, and they can keep you full for longer. As long as you’re continuing to eat non-starchy vegetables it shouldn’t have a negative impact on your health.

All said and done, both diets can be effective for weight loss, but which one works for you best is going to be a matter of not only individual preference, but individual nutrition requirements. For instance, if you have gallbladder problems, you don’t want to exacerbate them by eating fatty foods on a low carb diet. If you have insulin resistance, you likely want to keep your carbs on the lower side by focusing on protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Just remember, no matter what you choose to go with, the most effective diet is the one that you can stick with for the long term.

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to drop us a line here

 

*If you’re dealing with kidney disease or a doctor has told you that you need to be on a low protein diet, this would be the exception to that rule.

Training Strategies

How to Train When You’re Dealing With Stress

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Even under the best of circumstances, you’re going to undergo periods of time when you’re dealing with stress. That’s life. There’s no avoiding it. Weddings, funerals, job changes, moving, children, and countless other instances are going to stress you out to some degree. While some stressors might not cause you to notice a big difference, others might make you want to pull out your hair. It’s important to realize that while some of these stressors might come and go, if you don’t adjust your training during these times, you might end up doing more harm than good.

We’ve all heard about how much damage stress can do. It leads to heart attacks, strokes, stomach ulcers, digestive troubles, and other issues. However, not all stress is bad. When we train hard, we are putting our body through stress. We recover from the stress we undergo and we get stronger, bigger, or leaner. This is the basic principle of exercising. It’s how we get our bodies to adapt. Eventually, we either get used to the stressors we impose on our body, or the stressors get to the point where we are unable to recover, and we have to change up our routine to avoid getting rundown. If we have a lot of other stressors in our lives, the demands imposed by exercise are going to take a toll a whole lot quicker.

Stress can be broken down into two categories, acute, and chronic. Acute stress would be if you got into a fender bender on the way into work. Chronic stress would be if you’re stuck in a job where your boss constantly berates you, but you need the job to pay your bills.  Both suck, but one is over and done with relatively quickly, while the other is the one that can really cause some damage if left unchecked. Ideally, you’d be able to just leave, but that isn’t really an option in every case. These times of stress are often the ones that make you want to work out the most, since the physical exertion can make you feel better mentally, but you need to train intelligently in order to get the most out of it.

Here are a few ways to train hard during periods of chronic stress:

  1. Back off your one rep max a bit. When you train closer to your one rep max, your CNS takes a beating. Doing that continually under the best of circumstances will wear you out quickly, but doing it under times of chronic stress is a great way to get yourself injured. This is one of the reasons I love the 531 program. The intensity is kept relatively low, and there are regular deloads in order to mitigate any cumulative stress on your body. You can still make impressive gains with this submaximal loading, and you don’t get beaten up the same way that high intensity training will do.
  2. Keep training sessions relatively short. Not counting the warmup and cooldown, I like to make sure training sessions are kept to an hour or even a little less. Cortisol can quickly build up after this time frame, and the last thing you want when you’re trying to make gains is a flood of this stress hormone. You’re already getting more cortisol than you want when you’re stressing about life, you don’t need to add anything to it.
  3. Spend a good chunk of time doing things that relax you. Take a long walk every day. Pet a dog, preferably a nice one. Spend time with your significant other. Have sex. Go have some fun. Life will steamroll you if you don’t step away from the stressors and have some damn fun. Trust me on this one.
  4. meditateLearn to meditate. Some people will prefer to do this while seated or laying down. Some will prefer to listen to music and some will prefer as much silence as possible. If the idea of just being still and focusing on breathing doesn’t appeal to you, then take up yoga or Tai Chi. Personally, I prefer Tai Chi. If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot. I always feel amazing after 10-15 minutes of Tai Chi practice. It also makes a fantastic cooldown as it promotes healing and helps blunt the effects of cortisol.

If your life is stressful, train accordingly. Balance hard training with rejuvenating activities, and keep your volume and intensity in check. Try to de-stress as much as possible, but use relaxation techniques when you can’t change your circumstances. Above all else, pay attention to what your body is telling you, and be prepared to take your fitness to the next level.

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to drop us a line here.

 

Nutrition and Fat Loss

Six Reasons Your Diet and Exercise Routine Aren’t Working

Scale and Measuring TapeYou’ve been doing everything right. Eating less, moving more, working out, and that scale still won’t budge. It’s all too common, and frustrating as hell. Why bother going through all that work if it’s not leading to any changes? Give this a read before you throw in the proverbial (also literal) towel and see if you’re making any of the mistakes listed below.

 

1: You’re eating more than you think you are. It’s really easy to take in far more calories than you think you are if you’re not incredibly familiar with serving sizes. A measured tablespoon of peanut butter has approximately 95 calories. A big ole spoonful of the peanuty goodness can have 3-4 times that amount. I think one of the biggest culprits can actually be salad dressings. I’ve yet to meet someone who actually measures out the amount of dressing that they put on.*  Without being careful on this end, that healthy 500 calorie grilled chicken salad turns into an 800 calorie meal laden with fat and sometimes sugar depending on the dressing. It is very easy to consume far more calories than you’re accounting for if you don’t pay attention to these serving sizes. If you need a handy guide for measuring on the go, check out this Precision Nutrition infographic. Otherwise, weigh and measure. The results will be worth the pain in the ass.

2: You’re not eating enough. This is actually more common than you think. It’s generally more likely to happen with people who are only trying to lose 5-10 pounds, but it can also be the culprit for people who have a lot of weight to lose. The formula for weight loss is pretty simple. Calories consumed < Calories burned. The problem with this is that calories burned is not always as simple as we would like. Hormones, activity, resting metabolic rate and a thousand other hard to quantify factors can all change how calories are burned. Long boring explanation made short, if you don’t fuel the metabolism with enough food to keep it burning brightly, the flame goes out, metabolism slows down, and instead of burning calories, the body starts reserving everything. This is the most common cause of people rebounding on diets. Once your metabolism slows its harder and harder to lose weight and keep it off. I like to have people start conservatively with calorie reductions. If you can lose weight while keeping calories relatively high, you’ll be less likely to lose muscle and can keep your metabolism higher as you diet down.

3: You’re not getting enough nutrients: This one kind of goes along with the previous point. A lot of people will slash calories without taking into account the actual nutrient content of the food they’re eating. If your idea of diet food is a buffet of Smart Choice frozen meals, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re hitting your calories goals. You should be eating a wide selection of plenty of vegetables, and even then I still recommend a quality multivitamin, a powdered greens or superfoods supplement, and an Omega-3 supplement to fill any nutritional gaps. The micronutrients are used in so many different bodily functions, a lot of which are related to metabolism. If your nutrient intake is low, your metabolism is slow. This should go without saying, but DRINK YOUR WATER! If you are dehydrated, your workouts are subpar, you are probably feeling hungry when you’re actually thirsty, and your body has a difficult time breaking down and burning fat. Don’t argue here. Just drink your water.

 4: You’re not sleeping enough. A single night of bad sleep can reduce your metabolic rate by 5-20%. That may not seem like much, but the effects quickly add up. Let’s look at numbers real quick. If your body is burning 2000 calories a day, and you’re in a 500 calorie deficit, you would expect to be losing a pound a week. Now, if you’re chronically sleep deprived, your metabolic rate could be dropped by 20%, which puts you down to a maintenance level of 1600 calories. This could take you five times longer to lose that same pound. Not only will it take much longer to see the results you want, you’re more likely to be cranky, and no one wants to deal with you if you’re a jerk. Just saying. Make sure you are getting a bare MINIMUM of six hours a night, and preferably between 7-9 depending on your individual needs.

5: You’re too stressed. I cannot stress this point enough. Even if your nutrition is on par, you’re getting adequate sleep, and you’re working out consistently, progress will be damn near impossible if you cannot get your stress under control. The body reacts to physical and mental or emotional stress in very similar manners. As cortisol gets released in the body from any of these stress scenarios, muscle gets broken down and fat accumulates, especially in the belly. Figure out your stress sources and do your absolute best to crush them, so you can go back to crushing your fitness goals.

6: You haven’t given it enough time. Consistency is key whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or just get stronger. If you’ve only been sticking to your diet and exercise plan for a couple weeks and you haven’t seen results, it’s time to work something else: patience. It didn’t take you a couple weeks to get into your current condition, it won’t take a couple weeks to get out of it. If you do manage to get super fast results, you’re less likely to actually make them stick since you haven’t established the habits that are going to make your changes permanent. It may take 3-4 weeks for your body to even adjust to the changes you’re making and start losing the weight. If you’re not seeing any changes after a month, it’s time to make an adjustment in one of the key areas previously mentioned.

Don’t get too down on yourself if you’ve been working hard and not seeing results. Acknowledge that there are probably holes in your strategy that need to be addressed, address them, and start getting the results you’ve been working for.

 

*Obviously these people exist. I’m actually one of them. OCD is nothing to laugh at.

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to drop us a line here.

 

 

Nutrition and Fat Loss

Eat the Foods You Love, Lose the Fat You Hate

TacoI don’t know too many people who actually enjoy dieting. The word itself just conjures up images of limp, steamed broccoli and dry, baked chicken.  I can’t tell you how many times I almost died while choking on flavorless chicken that my body insisted on trying to reject mid-swallow. Dieting is dangerous. However, I don’t know too many people who aren’t interested in losing at least a few pounds of fat. There are a few tricks that you can use to enjoy the foods you love while still improving your body composition and gaining confidence.

The only way any diet (I really hate that word) works is by establishing a calorie deficit, or burning more calories than you consume. Paleo, Mediterranean, clean eating, vegetarian/vegan, it doesn’t matter for fat loss. You have to burn more than you consume. The problem with eating the tasty stuff is that it’s generally loaded with fats or sugars. You know, the stuff that actually makes it worth eating. Most people are well aware that a bowl of strawberries has significantly fewer calories than a bowl of strawberry ice cream, yet for dessert, most people are going to pick that ice cream. So knowing this, what can we do about it?

The first and easiest thing to do is just eat a smaller portion. Use a small glass instead of a heaping bowl. Use a teaspoon to eat it instead of a serving spoon. Actually take your time and enjoy it instead of shoveling it into your mouth as fast as you can. Eat it stress free, knowing that instead of getting a 600-700 calorie bomb that’s going to make you feel sick the next day from sugar overload you’re going to enjoy a 100-200 calorie treat that will satisfy your taste buds while not leaving your gut wrecked. This method works best for people who already have a pretty decent handle on their food intake and are already eating 80-90% clean, with plenty of protein and vegetables. This also works well with people who have some self control. If a small cup of ice cream inevitably turns into six small cups of ice cream, this might not be the best strategy for you.

The second strategy to try is more of a carb cycling approach. This method works better for people who are doing three to four fairly intense strength training sessions a week. Higher carbs are necessary for recovery, so on these workout days you can get away with a slightly looser food intake than on a non-training day. You want some pizza? Go for it. You want a burger? Chomp down. Again, there are some things you want to keep in mind. You have to be extra careful on non-training days to keep protein intake high while keeping carbs a bit lower. You still want to be getting some activity in on these days to help with energy expenditure. When feasting on pizza and burgers its really easy to overdo it. A couple slices of cheese pizza won’t derail your progress. A large meat lovers pizza will. A quarter or even a half pound burger is fine, especially when home made. A quadruple stack burger with extra large fries and a milkshake? Significantly harder to come back from. Remember, your day to day calorie fluctuations aren’t a progress killer, but if you can’t maintain that calorie deficit over the weeks or months, you won’t see progress.

A third way to go is intermittent fasting. It involves going for longer than normal spans of not eating in order to shorten the window in which food can be consumed. So instead of eating breakfast upon waking, you might not eat until noon, and then eat two to three meals between noon and 7 or 8pm. The thought process here is that it’s easier to stay in a calorie deficit while eating larger meals by simply reducing the time slot in which you allow yourself to eat. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in more information, feel free to check out Precision Nutrition’s article on intermittent fasting.

The last thing to try if none of these strategies sounds appealing is the old fake it method. Try a lower carb higher protein “ice cream” instead of the pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Make your own cauliflower crust pizza with low fat cheese instead of hitting up Pizza Hut for a stuffed crust pizza. Trying out new, healthy recipes that can be consistently used in place of the higher calorie meals might help satisfy those cravings while making you feel less constricted by your diet. I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite method. I will take the real thing over a knock off any day, but I’m also happy to put in the physical work to lessen the impact on my waistline. (It’s actually half the entire reason I work out.) However, for those who can’t handle cheat meals without going off the rails, this is probably the best option.

A few notes before I wrap up. Any diet can help you lose fat, as long as 80-90 percent of the food that you’re putting into your body is healthy. Lean protein and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet while healthy fats and complex carbohydrates compose a smaller amount. The actual ratio of fats to carbs isn’t set in stone, as different people are going to process both of these nutrients differently. The “good stuff” should be viewed as treats, and preferably accompany an intense workout. Eat well, train hard, and enjoy the results.

 

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to drop us a line here.