Banish the belly fat

Belly Fat
Battle of the Bulge

Everyone’s looking to get rid of that embarrassing belly fat.  While there’s still no magic bullet, there are a few things you can focus on to banish the bulge in your midsection.

Of course, as you’d expect from an exercise professional, I’m going to tell you to move more and eat less. I’m going to tell you that if you’re like most exercisers, you’re probably not moving at a high enough intensity to elicit any response from your body.  Search this website and you’ll find many articles to help you overcome those problems.

But, today’s post is going to give you six more nutrition-based tips to shrink that expanding spare tire around your waist:

1. It’s not just about the carbs – Everyone vilifies carbs when carbs alone aren’t the enemy.  Carbohydrate is our body’s primary source of energy.  The wrong carbs, sugar specifically, can be the enemy though.  Processed sugar is in most commercially available foods and contributes little to nothing nutritionally.  Sure, sugar makes things taste good, but that comes at a cost of increased blood glucose levels and fat storage.  Read the label on everything to find out what’s really going in your body.  A few of the biggest culprits: soda, fancy coffee drinks, cereal, and milk.

2. Alcohol – Here’s another one that adds no nutritional value.  At six calories per gram ingested, it adds up pretty quickly too. Combine that with thye fact that as we consume alcohol, we pay less attention to what we’re eating.  Where there’s beer, there are wings and pizza.  Have you ever heard of anyone making better choices when they’re impaired?

3. Fruit juice – This one could have easily fit into the first bullet point but I thought it had value in spinning it off on it’s own.  I like fruit. I’ve got nothing against it.  In fact, if God put it on this green Earth, it’s probably pretty good for you as far as I’m concerned.  However, most fruit juice is laden with added sugars.

4. Artificial sweetener – Many of these fake sweetening agents have been shown to increase appetite, causing you to overeat later.

5. Excessive whole grain consumption – Eating an excess of whole grains is also linked to increased insulin production and fat storage along with inflammation of the gut.

6. Frozen yogurt – This one’s a bit more specific, but worth mentioning as more fro-yo stores are popping up around the nation.  Yogurt is good stuff. Frozen yogurt bears little resemblance to actual yogurt and carries little of it’s benefits.  Instead, it brings with it high amounts of added sugars.  It’s a sugary treat disguised as a healthy alternative.

I’ve seen the “eat this not that” argument spun many different ways.  Everyone has their favorite foods to hate on, but in the end it usually comes down to nutritional value.

  • Does the food that you’re eating offer nutritional value or is it empty calories with no value?
  • Are you trying to justify it’s value on some convoluted premise? For example, carrot cake is NOT a vegetable no matter how you look at it.
  • Is it going to help build your body?
  • Is it going to help fuel you for the activity that you’re about to perform?

Remember when they just called it water?

Is it really worth it?
Is it really worth it?

Remember the old days when water was just water?  Today grocery stores dedicate space on their aisle signs just for a newfangled type of water called “fitness water”. They don’t even dedicate sign space for staples like salad dressing, so this stuff must be really important.

Fitness water? Seriously? What is Fitness Water and should you be drinking it?

Fitness water is, theoretically, supercharged water.  The idea is to take regular water, fuse it with vitamins and antioxidants, and voila, you get fitness water.  A bigger, better, faster, stronger version of good old water.  Sounds like something that makes sense.  Let’s dig a little deeper.

The primary ingredient in fitness water is, surprisingly, water.  In addition, the some of these products contains things like added flavoring, citric acid, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, sucralose, vitamn C, vitamin E, vitamin B3, calcium disodium EDTA, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, acesulfame potassium, and vitamin B12.

There’s nothing really bad in most of these ingredients, although personally I’d prefer to stay away from the artificial sweetener sucralose.  I’m no chemist, but I’d be willing to bet that the amount of actual vitamins in these fitness water products is likely just a trace.  You’re probably already taking a quality multivitamin (you are, aren’t you?) which means you’re getting significantly more of most, if not all, of these vitamins making the trace amounts irrelevant.  Do you really need the other stuff just to get a trace amount of the good stuff? 

Here’s the kicker.

While most have little to no calories, some products have a significant amount of sugar which means you’re now drinking something with a nutritional profile more closely related to soda than actual water.  Hey wait…I thought this was supposed to be good for me? Hmmm.

As a society, we already drink nearly 25% of our daily calories.  Personally, I don’t really want anything else that’s going to contribute to that total.  I suppose if you choose the product carefully and this is the only thing that’s going to keep you from downing another soda, go for it.  

For me, I’m sticking with good old ice cold water and saving those extra dollars to improve the quality of the food I eat. 

What’s your take on this stuff?

The failure of fast fat loss

A new diet pill was approved for sale by the FDA this week. Most people who are looking for a quick solution to this never ending problem are undoubtedly celebrating, believing that their prayers have finally been answered. So, will they get what they’re looking for?

The (de) evolution of Man
The (de) evolution of Man

Most quick fix weight loss plans, medically supported or otherwise, often end in failure. In fact, the person frequently ends up in an even worse situation and gains more weight. The reason is because the bad things that caused you to pack on the pounds in the first place are still there. Those reasons don’t disappear when you take that little pill.

Here’s how it works. You take a pill or drink a shake that tastes like wallpaper paste and wait for the fat to fall off. Sure, they work. You lose weight immediately in fact. Unfortunately, most of  that weight loss comes from your wallet.

The real reason you became larger can’t be reversed with a pill.  You got bigger by eating too much of the wrong stuff, not moving enough or moving the wrong way, sleeping too little, and just not paying attention. All those reasons are still there. The pill or shake or goofy cabbage soup diet…none of those teach you how to eat properly, how much you need to eat, how to exercise properly to reach your goals, all the things that will help you get to your goals and stay there for years to come.

Most people also have unrealistic expectations of weight loss drugs. Despite the manufacturers published research findings which indicate an average weight loss of 5.8% over one year, they expect to be the exception to the rule and get a better result. That means a 220 pound person will still weigh 207 pounds a year later.

That’s an epic failure if you ask me.

13 pounds. That’s just over 1 pound per month. You could do the same thing by just burning an extra 16 calories per day.

Do this right now.

1. Stand up from your computer.
2. Walk around your house for three minutes.
3. Come back to the computer

Go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait right here.

OK, congratulations, you just burned more than 16 calories. Save your money on the pills and potions. Spend that money on a fitness center membership and professional help from a trainer (shameless plug) who can help you identify your goals, help guide you through a meaningful exercise program, and provide advice on how to make better nutrition choices.

We’ve become so determined to find the easy way to get something done that we forget it’s all about the basics.  We’ve devolved.   Get up and away from the computer.  Put down the cell phone.  Shut off the TV.  Go outside and experience life.  Go for a walk.  Just don’t walk to the drug store to buy that new pill.

25 diet free ways to lose weight and feel better

Eat your Veggies
Eat your Veggies

Today’s post focuses on what is likely the most important part of any weight loss program.

Nutrition. 

No, I’m not going to give you a diet to follow.  If you’re trying to follow a very specific and restrictive diet plan from a book, website, etc., you’re likely setting yourself up to fail.  All those commercial diets want to make nutrition really complicated and most people don’t want to do complicated stuff.  In reality it comes down to the basics.

There are lots of experts out there who want you to believe that certain macronutrients alone are the root of all evil when in reality we need a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats.  The argument that carbs make you fat is like blaming spoons for making you fat.  Too much of any food will make you fat.

Fad diets are everywhere and miracle weight loss solutions are in every grocery store checkout line.  We don’t put the weight on in 3 days, we’re not going to take it off in three days.  Fat burning pills? Really? Studies have shown that many of them actually burn fat, but at a rate that would cause you to lose an extra 3-4 pounds per year.  Trust me, the tips below will have you shedding more than that and you’ll still have the money in your wallet.

Instead, I’m going to give you 25 simple ideas that you can implement right away and get immediate results. So, read on:

  1. Eat from smaller plates or bowls. The bigger the plate, the more you’ll eat.
  2. Eat more frequently and in smaller amounts. The longer you wait, the hungrier you become and the more you eat at each sitting.
  3. Increase your veggie variety to decrease boredom.  More variety means you’ll eat that food type more often.
  4. Double the veggies at a restaurant instead of the potato or rice. It’s hard to get enough veggies, it’s easy to eat too much starch.
  5. Exercise during commercials. I know, it’s not nutrition related, but it’s easy to implement. The average American watches 2.7 hours of TV daily (I know, you’re different, you don’t watch TV…I hear that all the time). There’s an average of 20 minutes of commercials each hour.  Exercise during the commercials and you’ll get 45 minutes done!
  6. Try a veggie burger. They’re pretty tasty!
  7. Use spinach in your salad.  Popeye was ripped.
  8. Drink a large glass of water before each meal. It’ll help fill you up before the meal and you’ll eat less.
  9. Serve from the stove, not from the table. You’ll be less likely to go back for seconds
  10. Eat slower. Take your time and enjoy the meal. You’ll be less likely to go back for seconds when you take your time as well.
  11. Chew your food better. It aids digestion.
  12. Check the serving size. Check the serving size. Check the serving size.
  13. Make and take your lunch to work. You’ll make better food choices, you’ll eat less, and you’ll save a ton of money.
  14. Eat a real breakfast. A pop tart doesn’t count. Neither does the donut and/or cup of coffee.
  15. Use olive oil when cooking.
  16. Pack up half your meal at a restaurant before you begin eating. Restaurant portions are way too large, some of them can even account for a full day’s worth of calories or more!
  17. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the aisles. The good stuff is on the outside edges of the store. The processed stuff is in the aisles.
  18. Get salad dressing on the side and apply it yourself. You’ll monitor your intake much better.
  19. Fill half your plate with veggies. That leaves less room for the stuff that doesn’t help you get to your goals.
  20. Eliminate soda, sports drinks, and fancy coffee. We get 22% of our calories through drinks.
  21. Pay attention to sugar on the label. Low sugar is better.
  22. Eliminate white foods. White bread, white potatoes, etc.
  23. Keep track of everything you eat. If you don’t measure it, you’ll never know where you stand. On average, we underestimate the amount of calories we eat by 30% and overestimate the amount of calories we burn by 20%
  24. Have fruit as a snack instead of processed sugars
  25. Shop with a list. You’ll make better choices and again, you’ll save money.
  26. Get the kid size ice cream. Not the small, the kids size.

OK, so it’s 26 ideas. Consider the last one a bonus. Who doesn’t like ice cream?

 Put a few of these in place at a time. When you’ve mastered those, add a few more.  Let me know how these work for you!

5 reasons that explain why you do it more often

The other day I overheard someone talking about frequency of workouts and it got me thinking.   Do people who come to the gym more frequently get better results?  It’s not that intensity, exercise programming, duration, or any of that stuff isn’t important, but this question just relates to frequency.

While I don’t have any formal evidence to back up the theory and I haven’t found a study that correlates the two, I think there’s truth to the idea.

Although this may seem obvious to many, I’m not sure I had given frequency alone much thought. I started thinking about my clients, their frequency visiting the fitness center either working with me or on their own, and their adherence to better nutrition and their results and I believe there’s a correlation.

What's your mindset?
What's your mindset?

While there are a fair number of people that believe they can crank away for an hour on the elliptical machine and that somehow will cancel out the fast food burger or hot fudge sundae they’ll eat on the way home. I believe that there are as many or more people who stick to their guns and eat better because they don’t want to cancel out the benefits of their workout.

Without hard evidence to back it up, I’d guess at the following possible reasons:

1. The obvious reason would suggest that those who are at the gym more often are just naturally more interested in their health. They’ve built exercise into their lifestyle and better eating goes hand in hand.

2. They have a clear and attainable goal in mind and a solid plan to reach that goal. This is one that a lot of people miss. People often have fuzzy goals, unrealistic goals that set them up for failure, or no plan to really reach their goal and they go about their exercise haphazardly.

3. They follow better programming, incorporating high and low intensity cardio work, strength training with free weights, relying less on machines, using bodyweight exercises, experimenting with different equipment, taking appropriate recovery days, and working on mobility. Frequency has required them to try new things and be more creative to stay interested in exercise.

4. Frequency at the fitntess center has raised their awareness of their movement throughout the day. They’re more conscious about staying active rather than sitting in a chair all day.  In addition  to their time at the fitness center, they’ve started thinking about how they can do something standing that might normally be done sitting.

5. They think more about their nutrition and take steps to eat better rather than undo their progress. Frequency of exercise has spilled over to the kitchen and they’ve started fueling their bodies better with quality proteins, veggies, and healthy fats.

So, if you’re focused on weight loss as a primary goal, go to the fitness center more frequently. Sure, you could do 3 sixty minute workouts per week. But, you just might get better overall results with 6 thirty minute workouts.

Try it out and let me know what happens.