How to Progress at Lifting Weights (Yes, You Need to do This)

Why does someone need to progress at lifting weights? Can’t I just “mix it up” and confuse my muscles every single day with something completely different?

Sure, but it will take longer to improve specific, foundational movements that are imperative to building muscle.

But why does that matter?

Because muscle is great, and it keeps us young, strong, healthy, mobile, sexy, happy, and much more. I won’t go into details of why having muscle goes far beyond vanity, but it does.

Now back to progression.

Why progress?

This goes beyond standard progression of more reps more weight.(more on that soon).

Like anything else, lifting weights is a skill that must be learned, and improved upon to get the most effect from it. If you only do a squatting exercise once a month, how do you expect to ever get better at it? Like Bambi on ice, your legs will not develop the proper neuron firing patterns to actually LEARN the proper squat.

There is a big difference in just popping your butt towards the ground, and actually doing a squat.

Same goes with any lift. How many people actually feel LAT PULLDOWNS in their LATS? Or a chest press variation in their chest (pecs)?

This takes time, and learning, and concentration on improving motor patterns and getting the correct muscles to contract/stretch/squeeze/flex/etc. This is how results happen, and how you get the most out of lifting weights.

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So how does one go about progressing? 

Basic progressive overload is the backbone of muscular growth. From wikipedia:

Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows:

  • Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
  • Intensity is the percent value of maximal functional capacity, or expressed as percent repetition maximum.

This means more reps, or more weight – and you are progressing.

This idea works GREAT for people who are new to lifting (0-1 year of consistent training), and works with most exercises.

One of the simplest ways to progress is increase reps until about you can get 20, then decrease reps and increase weight and repeat.

This would look like:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 10 at 50 pounds
  • Week 2: 3 sets of 12 at 50 pounds
  • Week 3: 3 sets of 15 at 50 pounds
  • Week 4: 3 sets of 20 at 50 pounds
  • Week 5: 3 sets of 10 at 60 pounds

Now this is very basic, and isn’t always this linear. But its a principle.

***Also, some exercises are hard to increase weights on time after time – example lateral raises – and thats okay, try focussing on the other progression techniques at the end of the article***

This brings up another point: TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS! 

How would one know that they are progressing if you are always guessing at what weights you used last time, and how many reps you did?

Now what happens when you can’t do anymore weight, or you stop being able to increase reps? 

If you fall into the general fitness population (anyone who isn’t competing in bodybuilding or strongman/woman competitions) thats okay!

Now is when you can change things up, try a different variation, and see how it changes you.

Some other ways to progress besides adding weight include:

  • Varied tempos (slow eccentrics or lowering portions of lifts are brutal)
  • Varied grips (wide grip, neutral grip, front squat, back squat, rack position holds, overhead holds, etc.)
  • Varied implements or handles on cable machines (dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, neutral handles, rope attachments, v-bar handles, etc.)
  • Timed sets – instead of doing 3 sets of 10 reps, try 3 sets of 30 seconds at a challenging weight – this is a good one.
  • Improving your form! There is always room for improvement and working the muscles through a solid range of motion with a good contraction of the working muscle.

These are just a few ideas, but give them a try if progress has stalled – then try whatever lift you were stalled on and see what happens.

Just remember, lifting weights is a skill that must be worked on constantly to actually see improvements – track, and progress wisely.

 

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When It Comes To Workouts, Stop Chasing a Feeling

 

I, and many others in the industry have said it before, ANYONE can make you super sweaty and feel like puking during a workout.

It’s really not hard.

Run 50 sprints, do 100 burpees then jump up and down on a box 50 times (PLEASE DONT ACTUALLY DO THIS) – and you will probably want to die…


Does that mean it was a good workout? Far from it.

That type of training and mentality needs to change.

Chasing an arbitrary “calorie burn” on your heart rate monitor is really just marketing BS. “Burn 1000 calories a workout!” sells much more than “feel great, get stronger, and lean up over the next 6 months to a year”.

First, the “calories burn” of a workout is really just a function of you age, gender, and heart rate during a workout – as created by whatever HR monitor you use. It can be a good indication of effort put into a workout, but still, it’s not the tell tail proof needed of calling a workout good or bad.

This type of justification was popularized by certain TV shows that did lots of unhealthy things to get people to lose weight super fast…and we all know where most of those people are now…

What is your goal? Want to get stronger? Then monitor your weights used over time and see if you get stronger. Here’s a “secret” – if you are getting stronger, you are likely creating more muscle and muscle burns calories when you are just sitting around better than fat does…so do that.

Want to lose inches? Take measurements and track your food. If you lose inches and maintain muscle – chances are you are doing things right. (No clue where to start? Send me a message!)

Instead of chasing the feeling of being completely exhausted and weak after a workout, chase the results over time.

This may be hard for some to swallow, but if you have only been chasing a feeling or a calorie burn and haven’t seen the results you are after – maybe you need to change it up?

While diet plays a HUGE role in any type of compositional change – your workouts also matter. Train for strength and mange your diet accordingly is really the best way to go about things.

I have been seeing some amazing results with a lot of my female clients especially who have “bought in” to the idea of strength training, and frankly – training more like bodybuilders – for muscular hypertrophy. They aren’t getting bulky, or manly looking as many will still tell you – but are getting strong and tight in all the right places, and losing body fat at a great rate.

Here’s the caveat, they leave the gym feeling GOOD. Not crawling out like a puddle of a person, and sometimes they hardly break a sweat (there is always some by the end, but not the dripping, puddle forming, holy crap I might puke kind of sweat)

While this may sound like I am ain’t bootcamp or high intensity training – it is not quite that simple.

I have nothing wrong with these types of workouts, and still offer them to many – BUT this has to be done appropriately and accordingly.

If all you do is plyometrics, jumping, running, and explosive work – your body can become worn down, joints brutalized, and central nervous system fatigued out. Especially if you are on an extreme caloric deficit.

You have to take some time to STRENGTHEN your muscles, joints and connective tissues to withstand that kind of beating if that is what you are into.

This brings me to my next point – when you are supposed to be lifting weights for strength – do just that. Strength training is for strength, cardio is for cardio – keep it that way (most of the time)

Don’t rush through a set of squats or bench presses because you “have to keep your heart rate up” – those are meant to create strength and essentially cause a little micro trauma to the muscles. Thats how we get stronger. Focus on the INTENT of the exercise and FEEL the muscles working. Slow down the tempo, feel each rep, and squeeze the hell out of the muscle that is being worked. Here is an example for hamstring curls:

Yes things like dumbbell complexes, and kettlebell work is a little of both, and thats fine. But you will get so much more out of a lift when you FOCUS on the intent within the muscle, rather than trying to fly through your reps.

While this got a little ranty, the one thing I want everyone to take from it is this:

Rather than chasing a feeling; chase a result. Have a plan, know what you are going to do when you set foot into the gym, do it right.

Lift your weights with intent, go fast when you are supposed to sprint, and control what you are supposed to control.

 

 

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How To Survive The Perils of Thanksgiving Without Completely Blowing Your Health and Destroying Your Body

 

How about that for a title?

Now that I got your attention, forget that title immediately.

Truth is, one day – in this case being Thanksgiving – should not be looked at as a peril, or a day that will completely ruin your hard work and everything you have done up to that point.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a happy day, spent with family and or friends, where we come together and ENJOY our favorite holiday foods.

It should not be a day where we demonize food, or feel like we need to EARN food, or work off food. Don’t get me started on those posts about “It takes X amount of burpees to burn off a piece of pumpkin pie” – stop it. Enjoy the damn pie.

On the flip side, if you have been working at creating consistency and positive, healthy eating habits, it should also not be seen as a day to completely forgot about everything you have been working on and just pig out to the point of feeling sick or so bloated that you look like a tick ready to pop.

We need to get away from this “all or nothing” mentality.

Thanksgiving can easily be enjoyed without stressing about our diet, or the scale.

Here are some simple things to keep in mind when it comes to ENJOYING Thanksgiving responsibly.

1) It is ONE day. Enjoy that ONE day.

Where people tend to get into trouble is when they start celebrating the feast at the start of the week because “who cares, I will be pigging out on Thursday, so why not just start now?”

Or allowing the feasting to continue past Friday (because leftovers happen) and the rest of the weekend.

This is the mindset that can easily snowball back into old habits that you have worked hard to break. Leading up to Thursday, you should continue your week as you normally would. Eat responsibly, eat when physically hungry, get your workouts in, and maintain a slight caloric deficit (assuming your current goal is fatloss). Simple – IF you have been working on these habits up until now.

Give yourself the day, but nothing extra before or after. It is ONE day out of 365.

2) Enjoy Your Favorite Foods -responsibly 

I use this with my clients all the time. Do you enjoy (insert favorite holiday food here)? Then eat one serving/slice/portion/scoop/etc – not the entire thing. Yes, it can even be a super rich, sugary, fatty dessert. One piece will not destroy your life and send you into eternal damnation into the depths of dietary Hell.

Food does not not carry morals, nor does eating a certain food make YOU a bad person. It is food – that is all.

Thou Shall Not allow guilt to be felt on Thanksgiving Day!

Enjoy it, clean up your dishes like your mother taught you, and move on back to your regularly scheduled life.

3) Plan Accordingly the Day Of

If you are like me you KNOW that you will go a little crazy with the food choices at the feast. These are probably foods you don’t regularly eat, so why not?

This being said, if you normally eat an early Thanksgiving dinner, then maybe have a lighter breakfast, or pass on lunch – knowing all too well that you will definitely get those calories in later.

Even if you have the best of intentions and you do over eat, oh well. It’s OKAY!

Side note: I know I said you don’t need to feel like you need to earn your food, however if you want to make the most of it, hit a nice heavy weight training session the morning of the feast – I’m thinking 10×10 squats are on my pre-feast plan 🙂

The bigger picture is that you get right back on track to your nutrition and training starting Friday morning – even if you are raging at some awesome Black Friday deals (that can easily count as a workout I’m sure)

When you create a long term healthy relationship with food, it will be so easy to get right back on track you won’t even know that you missed it for a day.

The moral of the story here is short and sweet – enjoy the holiday, enjoy your family, enjoy the foods, and get right back to it Friday morning and through the rest of the weekend -and all will be good – I promise!

 

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Year After Year…Why Do We Still Use This Excuse?

 

“Well, it’s almost Halloween, and that means bring on the Holiday weight gain!”

Especially in colder climates like Wisconsin, it is almost an expected occurrence that we must give up our efforts and give in to the weight gain blunders of the holiday and cold season.

Come January 1, we then seek out the latest a greatest cleanse, diet, and sweatiest workout program to “jumpstart” the “New Year to a New You!”

Sound familiar? I can’t fault the gyms for offering this – it’s a no brainer business move.

However, it shouldn’t be a no-brainer personal move.

Why do we essentially abandon our goals, throw in the towel, and give in to the white walkers of winters fat gain? Winter IS coming, but the fat doesn’t have to come with.

The “Winter/Holiday Season” is roughly from Halloween to New Years (60ish days) – or if you want to count all of winter, it is anywhere between 60 and 120+ days.

Within that first window of winter holidays, there are really only 3-4 holidays that are celebrated (depending on religion) – thus leaving 56ish non holiday days.

So why use those 3-4 days of celebration to justify a full 2 months of possible gluttony? That would be 6% of the days…6% should not lead to fat gain.

We can go even further into the “end of Winter” (somewhere around March/April if you live where I live) and this would be even more ridiculous. Lets say 150 days of “winter” (I hope not), within those days are 4-5 holidays, and maybe a birthday (hint hint). That is 6/150 days or 4% of the days for celebration/holiday excuses.

I would be very impressed if someone were to gain 10+ pounds because of 4-6% of their choices…

Bottom line is: the justification of Holidays/Winter being a time to a typical weight gain is poor at best. 

So what can we do to prevent this?

1) Winter and the Holidays come EVERY YEAR. Have a plan! 

“I usually run outside in the summer, but not in the winter.” Is one of the poorest excuses I have heard. This happens every single year, and you haven’t figured it out?

Have a plan for how you can match your physical activity from summer into fall and into winter.

This may be harder for some of my recreational/competitive golfers who walk 18 holes 2+ times per week. Even then, you MUST come up with a way to match your activity – extra walking on sunny days, just bundle up.

Most gyms offer big time discounts on memberships around this time of year because they know people will sign up. You can sign up, and establish a plan to take the place of whatever you do outside in the summer. It doesn’t have to be exactly what you do outside, but you will want to do something.

A less popular option would be to just eat less to counter act less activity, but I don’t think most people would be a fan of that – especially if you already have thing dialed in, or are working on some new habits.

2) Be Aware Around Holidays

With a little extra time and planning, you can play “damage control” around your holidays.

Yes, the habit based coach in me would say, “just listen to your hunger and fullness, eat slowly, and beware of your portions”

The REALIST in me says, “Eff that, it’s Thanksgiving!”

However, by simply being aware of upcoming holidays and food choices, you CAN minimize the damage done. Maybe the week leading up to a holiday you cut out one snack from your day. This could be enough to create an extra 1000+ calorie deficit come said holiday.

Now this shouldn’t be a free pass to go crazy, but it may give you some more peace of mind at that meal.

The one principle you should really focus on is your fullness. Think about it. Do you really feel good after stuffing your face with so much food that you have to loosen your belt, or change into sweat pants, and then just want to pass out from a food coma? 

Here is an idea: you can still enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods, but just take ONE less bite of each than you want to. You may find that you are still satisfied, but not bursting at the seams. Now you are able to enjoy the rest of the day with family, maybe go for a walk, play some games, etc.

3) Just Stop With Excuses

The more and more we say and think certain excuses out loud or in our heads, the more and more we start to believe them.

It is just a day, just a month, just a season – why do we let it have so much power over our health and goals?

One of my favorite sayings is – “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have the time’ – try saying ‘it’s not a priority of mine’ – and see how that feels”

If you have serious goals, why let the holiday season stop you?

Write out your goals, manage around the holidays, and come up with a game plan for every single week. It’s not as hard as people think.

Stop giving winter so much power and credit. Only you control what you do daily, what you put in your mouth, and what you choose to do with free time.

Make this holiday season your best one yet. If your goals are fat loss, prove the norm wrong – lose weight over winter – I promise it’s no different from any other season.

 

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Add Tons of Flavor, and NO Calories With These Seasoning Combos

Plain chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and brown rice…aka “The Bodybuilder Diet”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be this boring and bland. Food is supposed to be enjoyable, pleasurable, and believe it or not, it’s easier to eat when it tastes good.

The following blends of herbs, spices, and other flavor boosters will give your chicken, beef, fish, or veggies a kick that will make them much more palatable.

There are two ways I recommend using these blends; as a large marinade/dry rub or on a “per meal basis”. You can either cook up a ton of chicken using these flavorings, or do what I prefer – make a ton of plain chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper, then add the flavors when you reheat the chicken for the given meal.

If you decide to add the flavors to the individual meats/veggies at the meal, you will obviously cut down on the portions to your liking. To do this, I like making different dry blends and storing them in labeled Tupperware containers, so all it takes is one little spoonful every time you want that flavor. You will then add a squirt or two of any of the liquid flavorings to the pan you are using to reheat your meat in.

Lets get to the flavors.

The Basics

Minced Garlic

Garlic adds a ton of awesome flavor to anything. I personally use it in a ton of dishes, and it works with any cuisine. You can buy jars of minced garlic at the grocery store. Simply add a teaspoon to your roasted veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper and they become 100x better.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper can also be added to anything to give it a little kick. If you are looking for something quick, just do some cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt and you instantly get a little more spice in your life. Awesome on eggs.

Lemon Juice and Lemon Zesthttps://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjq1MXXo4zPAhVL02MKHfUpCskQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefreshloaf.com%2Fnode%2F45079%2Fbest-lemon-zest&bvm=bv.132479545,d.dmo&psig=AFQjCNF6GAsGr97ocvAQ2IoZGWyZ3vYowg&ust=1473853874812125

Lemon juice and zest adds a little bit of sour to your meats. Combine with black pepper and you have a nice lemon pepper blend that goes well with chicken or white fish. For zest, you can just use a small cheese grater to get some of the lemon rind to add more intense lemon flavor.

Killer Combos (4 servings per)

 Southwest Blend

 Combine 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl, stirring well.

 Chinese Marinade*

Combine 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, ½ teaspoon onion powder, pinch red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, pinch sugar.

*If making for just one dish, add this at the end of cooking/reheating, so the garlic doesn’t burn in the pan.

Thai Flavor*

 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of diced cilantro, 1 tsp. Thai chili oil (this can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)

This chili oil is my #1 favorite thing to add to cottage cheese as well, just a 1/4 tsp changes the entire game!

*If making for just one dish, add this at the end of cooking/reheating, so the garlic doesn’t burn in the pan.

 

Italian Blend

 Dry blend: 1 tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon thyme,

For cooking, add: 2 Tablespoons red cooking wine, 1 tablespoon olive oil, diced cherry tomatoes. Cook down into a very light red sauce. 

I use this combo often when making vegetables to add to a pasta dish, or if trying to limit carbs, go with a spaghetti squash.

Indian Blend

 1 Tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 Tablespoon garlic, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder

Mexican Blend

1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 2 teaspoons paprika, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Use this blend with ground turkey or 93/7 beef for some amazing, lower fat tacos.

Give these a try, and stop eating boring, bland food!

The Best Smoothies I’ve Ever Had (#3 Is Too Good To Be “Healthy”)

 

In a perfect world, we would all get 100% of our protein from grass fed, free range, pure organic, GMO free, happy as a clam animals. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a perfect world.

Still, I always prefer that my clients get as close to 100% of their daily protein goal from real food products. However, if you are working on meeting the gold standard of .8-1gram of protein per pound (1 gram per pound of Lean Body Mass will suffice for heavier individuals looking to lose more fat), sometimes the only way to meet that goal is with a supplement.

This is fine, as long as it is still treated as such – a supplement to a otherwise balanced, whole food diet.

Example: I weigh 205 lbs, I am at 12% bodyfat according to THIS SCALE, therefore, my goal protein intake is 180-205 grams per day.

A 205 pound man that was 30% bodyfat, and looking to lose weight should be reaching closer to a goal of 145-165 grams per day, but getting more would not be a problem IF accounting for these calories through adjustments to carb and fat intake…thats for another article though.

So, what are my go to shakes for hitting my protein numbers?

1) The Old Standby – Muscle Pharm Combat Powder, Cookies and Cream + Water

This is the most basic, yet quick post workout shake that I will do. Simply throw 8 oz. of water in a blender bottle like this one, and a scoop of cookies and cream and you are set!

140 Calories, 25 grams protein, 1.5 grams fat, 5 grams carb

2) The Orange Creamsicle aka The Kashey Creamsicle – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Dreamsicle + Orange Gatorade Powder

Stole this one from the guys down in Vero Beach at Relentless Performance. The very smart Dr. Trevor Kashey has worked with numerous Olympic Athletes, powerlifters, and very successful fat loss clients. The point of this shake is either for recovery purposes post workout, or you can also sip on it during your intense weight training sessions to better facilitate the recovery process. It tastes damn delicious…

@xjamathonx @relentlesseats @elalexander giving that sweet intra nectar a try! Thanks for the idea! #McShredded

A post shared by MG Fitlife – Mike Gorski (@mgfitlife) on

1 scoop of the Iso Whey + 1 scoop of Orange Gatorade Powder + 24 oz. water. (This is what I do, not what everyone should do. You need to figure your nutrition goals before slamming a sugar filled drink during your workouts!)

190 calories, 25 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 22 grams carb

3) The Peanut Butter Cup Perfection – Muscle Pharm Combat Powder Advanced Time Release Protein, Chocolate Peanut Butter + PB2 + FairLife 2% Milk

This is my go to if I feel like a sweet and filling treat, but still need to hit higher protein numbers without adding a bunch of extra carbs and fat. The PB2 powder adds more peanut butter flavor, without the added fat and sugars, and the Fairlife Milk is higher protein, and contains the Lactase enzyme so I don’t explode from drinking it 😉

*Bonus – if you have some extra carbs to spare, throw a banana in the blender as well, you won’t regret it*

1 scoop protein + 1 Tbsp. PB2 + 8 oz. Fairlife 2%

272 calories, 40 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 14 grams carb (+~90 cals and 26 carb with banana)

4) Orange Banana Cream – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Dreamsicle + 1 Banana + 8 oz. Fairlife 2% Milk + 3 ice cubes

Had this one the other day after a 15 mile bike ride. It was really good, and so simple to make. Obviously you could sub in any other fruit, just make sure you are always tracking, as it is easy to get carried away with the blender.

1 scoop protein + 1 banana (100g) + 8 oz. Fairlife 2%

317 calories, 39 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 33 grams of carbs

5) The “I Don’t Have Time For A Real Meal” Shake – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Birthday Cake + 1 huge handful of spinach + 1 TBSP of Peanut Butter + 1 fruit (1 banana or 1 cup of some type of berries) + 8 oz. Fairlife 2% Milk

This would be your last ditch effort at getting in a meal, when you have absolutely no time to actually make something. You won’t taste the spinach, so you might as well throw it in to get your veggies. You get your fats from peanut butter and the milk, carbs from the fruit, and obviously protein from the powder and milk.

1 scoop protein + 1 banana (100g) + 2 cups spinach (raw) + 1 TBSP Peanut Butter + 8 oz. Fairlife Milk

426 calories, 44 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 38 grams carbs.

These aren’t the only smoothie recipes out there, nor are they necessarily right for you. This is why it is still important to figure out your daily goals, meet them as close as possible on a regular basis, and track the results – then adjust from there.

Play around with them, and let me know if you come up with any other killer recipes.

 

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10 Weeks Until Summer: Week 10 – Now What?

 

Summer is officially here.

Did you make a change to get ready? Or are you stuck where you started?

Either way, you should evaluate your last 10 weeks, see what went well, and what you can work on. Always be assessing, instead of guilting or mindlessly celebrating.

Did you get in better shape? Conquer a new habit? Figure out how you got there and keep running with it. Just like brushing your teeth was once a chore, new habits may not seem automated quite yet.

Did you not end up where you wanted to be? Don’t beat yourself up, but rather evaluate what you did, and what you can work on.

The last thing you need to is add guilt and stress to a new habit you are working on.

Just like eating one carrot doesn’t make you a healthy person, eating once piece of pie doesn’t make you a terrible, fat, worthless, person – it makes you human.

Keep working on habits, keep refocussing on your goals, and keep working. Nothing happens overnight, in 6 weeks, or even in 12 weeks – the things that stick happen over years of hard work, learning, and self discovery.

In a nutshell, here is what you should focus on so create a sustainable, healthy, life:

  1. Figure out your WHY, and always remind yourself.
  2. Set goals, and break them down into smaller goals.
  3. Get enough protein per day (.8-1gram/pound) – fill the rest in with mostly veggies and fruits.
  4. Don’t think that you need to eat plain, boring food – play with flavors
  5. Stay hydrated more then you think, dont go nuts on the weekend, and track progress
  6. Figure out short cuts to save time on calorie counting – memorize portions, listen to your body.
  7. Recover quickly from weekend/holiday benders – get right back to normal ASAP
  8. Plateaus happen, learn how to get over them – or see if its actually a fat loss plateau.
  9. Realize that you can still make healthy choices, even at fast food joints, cookouts, etc – ONLY YOU are in charge of what you choose to eat.

 

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Make the Most Out of the Least Healthy Options

 

Starting off, I know this post might ruffle some feathers because I still will be talking about eating processed and fast food. By no way do I think any of these foods are the best choice to be eating; however, we have ALL had that day where all our plans go bad and we end up eating at places we might not normally eat. This post is about how to minimize the damage while still eating at different “junk food” locations.

Think of it as a Eat This, Not That kind of post. No one is forcing you against your will to go to McDonald’s, but if you happen to end up there, how can you make the smartest choice?

What if your kids REALLY REALLY want to go to Dairy Queen for ice cream, and you just HAVE to get something? Yes, the best option would be to politely say, no thank you, but I personally haven’t figured out how to do that yet when it comes to ice cream.

For the purpose of this post, we will be following Person A, and Person B, and we will see where they end up at the end of the day. Calories are listed, along with amounts of carbs, protein and fat (in grams).

So you decide to start your day at Starbucks. Ready to buy a triple vente mochalattefrappa vanilla coffee? Think again.

 

A) Vente Salted Carmel Mocha = 473 calories – 74 carbs, 18 fat, 14 protein

B) Grande Skinny Salted Carmel Latte = 130 calories – 19 carbs, 0 fat, 12 protein

***Don’t drink your calories. You came to the coffee shop for a quick kick of energy in the form of caffeine, not for your early morning dessert. Make the smart choice, leave out the added sugar and heavy cream, and get your caffeine fix without the added calories***

Next on our day of fun comes breakfast! Let’s stop at Denny’s, ‘Mericas Diner! Ok lots of choices here, but they have this “Fit Fare” menu… must be healthy. I’ll take the Banana Pecan Pancake Breakfast, right off the Fit Fare Menu!

Wedding at Denny’s? #Merica!

A) Fit Fare Banana Pecan Pancake Breakfast = 750 calories, 131 carbs, 14 fat, 29 protein

B) Fit Fare Loaded Veggie Omelet w/ Fruit Cup Side option = 420 calories, 51 carbs, 13 fat, 29 protein

***Just because something is labelled healthy or fit, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice still. When it comes to breakfast, break the norm. The traditional American breakfast is SO carb heavy that one can easily meet their carb goals for the entire day if they aren’t careful. Cereal, toast, pancakes, muffins, bagels, waffles = ALL CARBS! Your first choice should be a protein source (eggs in this case). Starting the day with protein will set you up for success. If there is an option to add on a side, always pick the fruit or vegetable option. This should be an automatic response.***

It’s the lunch hour and you are crammed into your co-workers van. “Hey guys, mind if we stop at McDonalds?” He says as he takes a gulp from his 36 oz. Super America Mt. Dew from yesterday’s lunch break…

A) Double Cheeseburger, Large Fry, and a Medium Coke = 1140 calories, 153 carbs, 47 fat, 31 protein

B) Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Kids Fry, and a Water = 460 calories, 56 carbs, 11 fat, 34 protein

***Yes, I realize you could be even healthier and get a salad instead of fries. Or if you are  trying to get more protein in the day, another grilled chicken sandwich might be a better option. The point I am trying to make here is damage control. If you just NEED to eat some McDonalds fries, the kids portion is more than enough. A large fry is over 500 calories alone, while the kids option is only 110 calories. BY making this simple swap alone you are saving 400 calories from your daily intake, and still getting a little bit of those salty fries.

Also, same thing as at Starbucks, don’t drink your calories! A medium fountain soda is right around 200 calories. Combine this with a dessert before breakfast from the coffee shop and you have drunk over 600 liquid calories for the day! These calories are of ZERO benefit to you and your body. I can’t stress this enough.***

It is now 3pm at work, you are crashing, you think you are hungry (but its really just boredom or stress?) Time for a healthy snack! Kashi granola bars sound healthy.

A) Kashi Granola Bar – 130 calories, 21 carbs, 4 fat, 6 protein

B) Nothing OR Chocolate Milk Whey Protein Shake made in water = 130 calories, 5 carbs, 2 fat, 25 protein

Maybe a little overkill…

***Equal calories here, different macronutrients. By having some protein for a snack, you will be more satiated (full) versus eating a quick carb source. This should tie you over until dinner. Also, maybe you aren’t hungry. Take a second to reflect on what is going on in your day. Are you stressed out? Are you just bored at your desk? Food won’t fix that. Go for a little walk to the drinking fountain, fill up your water bottle, and take some deep breaths. ***

You are driving home from work and your spouse calls. “Hey honey, we have so much going on tonight, I am going to pick up Pizza Hut for dinner. What do you want?” Sigh…

A) Two pieces of hand tossed, large, pepperoni and sausage pizza = 660 calories, 98 carbs, 26 fat, 30 protein

B) Two pieces of thin crust, large, pepperoni = 560 calories, 56 carbs, 28 fat, 24 protein

***This is a tough one here. Even by switching to thin crust and only one fatty meat, you only save 100 calories. You could get a veggie pizza option here, but would the kids eat that? If so, then do that. However, if you have to get one pizza for you and one for the kids, there will likely be leftovers – and we don’t want leftovers sitting around for later. Another option here could be to politely recommend to your spouse/person offering to pick up pizza, to grab a pre-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, along with some type of veggie. Saves time, and a ton of calories!***

Just when you thought your diet day from hell was over, juniors tee-ball team is hitting up DQ for Blizzards! You know that ice cream is not on the plan, but you just can’t say no…

A) Small DQ Reese’s Blizzard – 580 calories, 74 carbs, 21 fat, 13 protein

B) Kids Vanilla Cone – 170 calories, 27 carbs, 0 fat, 4 protein

***Another option here is get nothing, enjoy company and your kids, and maybe steal a bite from someones treat. Especially if you are person A in this case, you have had more than your fair share of food for the day. Also notice that Blizzard is a SMALL! 580 calories in a SMALL! Holy smokes!!***

The day is over. That was crazy. Now I will be the first one to say that neither one of these people had the best day when it comes to food choices. But lets take a look at the daily totals:

A) 3733 calories, 551 carbs, 130 fat, 123 protein (269 grams of sugar)

B) 1873 calories, 214 carbs, 54 fat, 128 protein (76 grams of sugar)

Person B ate at all the same places as Person A, but had almost 2000 fewer calories, 340 less grams of carbs, less than half the fat, and a little more protein!

The power of choice can be huge, especially when it comes to making decisions about what you will eat at some of the less healthy locations out there. It can be done.

Remember, we all fall off the wagon sometimes, it’s not your whole life, it’s only one day. You haven’t thrown everything away…

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10 Weeks Until Summer: Week 8 Workout

 

No equipment? No problem and NO EXCUSES!

Try this circuit on a nice day outside. All you need is 50-100 yards of straight away grass or asphalt to run on.

  1. Bodyweight Squats x 20
  2. Push Ups x As Many GOOD reps as possible
  3. Mt. Climbers x 20/leg
  4. Non-Alternating Reverse Lunges x 15/leg
  5. Plank Shoulder Taps x 20 Taps
  6. Run 100 yards

Repeat for 5 rounds. Enjoy!

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10 Weeks Until Summer: Week 8 – When You Hit A Plateau…

 

It happens, results slow or stop. But why? What can we do?

First, plateaus are very normal. In today’s world, we want fast, linear results. Unfortunately, these results are rarely sustainable, and when they are accomplished, they are often obtained with unrealistic means and methods.

Every time you diet down, and gain back up, it makes it harder to lose weight in the future. This is because losing weight quickly stresses your body, and the faster you lose, the more stress and rebound potential. 

Now this is a sort of chicken vs. the egg scenario because, is it the fact that someone loses a ton of weight fast, or is it because of the means that are usually required to lose weight fast that set you up for failure?

The ways people usually lose weight fast include:

  • Very low calorie diets/low carb diets
  • Tons of cardio

Why are these bad ideas?

One, low carb essentially is just low calories because you are cutting out a huge chunk of calories. But also, you are losing water weight because your glycogen stores get drained, you end up looking flat, but hey, you’re lighter!

The following picture is an example of this: the image on the left (green) represents a lighter weight, through high cardio and super low carb – while the image on the right (same girl) was with more lifting, smart balance of carbs, and her body weight was HEAVIER.

Which would most ladies prefer?

Tons of cardio isn’t the worst thing, but when you neglect weight training and just do cardio and “toning” weight exercises, you are not stimulating your muscles for growth and strength. (Ladies, you won’t get huge – I PROMISE) 

Without training your muscles heavy, you may not end up getting the “look” that you desire. Also, weight training and having strong muscles helps keep your metabolism up, which makes fat loss and maintenance easier in the long run.

So what about my plateau? How do I get out of it?

First, give it time. Sometimes we will hit some long plateaus, but don’t give up!

What you can do in the meantime:

Check On Your Recovery

Are you sleeping enough? Are you allowing your body to recover? Sometimes a little recovery is all we need. Major changes happen overnight when we sleep – and if you aren’t getting enough, your body may be holding back.

Follow Measurements

Maybe it’s a weight loss plateau, but not a fat loss plateau (this is the best!) I’ve said it before, the scale is overrated. 

Measure your areas that you normally carry more fat. Measure to the nearest centimeter. Monitor these areas once per week, and watch for changes.

Re-Check Your Nutrition

If you have lost a big amount of weight, you may need to adjust your calories from where you first started. I recommend adjusting your calories if you hit a plateau for more than 3 weeks, and for about every 10-15 pounds you lose.

Also, get back on track. Sometimes we slowly start to let more calories sneak into our diets. This is normal, but I always go back to tracking for a few days every month – just to keep myself honest and make sure I’m not letting extra stuff creep in.

Progress – Not Confusion

Are you working out with purpose? Or just going through the motions. I recommend that every single person is tracking their workouts. Muscle confusion is overrated and proven to not work (out muscles don’t have brains, and cannot be confused).

Progress in the gym means progress to your body. This is a great way to help motivate you during fat loss plateaus as well. Take your focus off the scale weight, and focus on hitting a new PR in the deadlift, or running a quarter mile faster.

Stronger and faster are two pretty nice improvements that don’t involve the scale 🙂

Give your plateaus time, but while stuck, make sure you are checking on a few of the things previously mentioned and monitor them.

Chicken Fajitas – makes 6 Fajitas – 2 fajitas per serving

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 medium green pepper, julienned
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 6 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed

Directions

  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice and seasonings; add the chicken. Seal and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  2. In a large skillet, saute peppers and onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm.
  3. Discard marinade. Either in the same skillet, or ON THE GRILL, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through.
  4. Spoon filling down the center of tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Yield: 6 servings.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 7.25.11 AM

 

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