You may be exercising for a while but not seeing the results you were expecting. Here is why:
To burn 1 kg of body fat, you must burn 9000 kcal (this is the equivalent of 30 hours on a treadmill!)
A high intensity workout such as a spin class burns on average 500 kcal/hour. How many of those sessions do you perform in a week? Two or three? Let’s say you are burning about 1500 kcal/week. This means that to lose 500 g of fat in a week, you still need to cut 3000 kcal. This cut should come from your diet.
In order to lose weight, we must create a negative energy balance (burn more calories than we consume). So, if you want to see faster results you MUST adjust your caloric intake.
Energy Intake < Energy Output → Negative Energy Balance
Don’t know where to start?
A conservative approach to weight-loss is to modestly reduce your daily caloric intake by 250 kcal to 500 kcal, while increasing the energy expenditure by 250 kcal to 500 kcal per day (through exercise). These steps will create a modest energy deficit with which the body can easily deal with. Following this guideline may lead to a weight-loss of one to two pounds per week without putting too much stress in your body.
Keep in mind that exercise will determine the quality of your weight loss. After all, you want to lose just fat not muscle or water. A regular exercise routine will also enable you to maintain your fat loss for longer.
Sadly, though, a lot of women get addicted to that number on the scale. They see it not just as measure of their weight but as a measure of their success, their value, and their worth.
When that number doesn’t say what they want, they know without a doubt they’re going to have a bad day.
Here are a few signs that you have a scale addiction:
- You weigh yourself multiple times a day. This activity is a big waste of time and gives you no indication of your true weight, since it fluctuates multiple times per day based on what you eat and drink and when you go to the bathroom.
- You let the number you see upset you greatly. Stop getting so upset! The number doesn’t really tell you much since weight looks different on different people.
Remember, the scale can’t really tell you much at all. It is just one measure of your success, and other indicators, like skin fold (body fat percentage), girth measurements, progress pictures, are much more reliable.
The trick, though, is not to be obsessed with any kind of number or measurement, but, instead, just to focus on being as strong and healthy as possible. In the end, that’s all that matters.
You don’t need to measure/weight your food in order to control your calories. Calorie counting is not only troublesome but also inaccurate so there is no point in doing it anyway. However, you can take control of your caloric intake by adopting these 12 fool-proof strategies:
- Clean your pantry – Some foods are supposed to be eaten in MODERATION, meaning once or twice a month. If you keep those foods at home, chances are you are going to eat them more often than you should. So get a garbage back and throw away (or give it to someone you don’t like) any following items: Sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts, Processed meats and sausages, Ice cream, lollies and chocolate, Meat pies and pastries, Crisps, chips, and other salty snacks, Margarine, Soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sports drinks, Alcoholic drinks.
- Home cook most of your meals – Restaurant foods are usually rich in fat, sugar and salt, tending to be extremely palatable and easy to over eat. Keep in mind that your meals should be tasty, but not so tasty you can’t stop eating! Also, the portions are usually larger than you would normally eat at home.
- Surround your close environment with healthy foods – If all you see around you are fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats, you will be more likely to eat them. Those foods are packed with nutrients and fibre and low in calories (when compared to processed foods).
- Eat slowly and without distractions – Did you know that it takes at least 20 minutes for the fullness reflex kick in? So if you eat too fast, you will be more likely to overeat. Pay attention to your fullness level and stop eating when 80% full. Eliminate any distractions, meaning no phone, work or TV during your meals.
- Don’t skip meals – You will get overly hungry and be more likely to overeat on the next meal.
- Pay attention to your portion sizes – A serving of grain is about the size of one cupped hand (a restaurant portion size of pasta/noodles usually have about 4 servings!).
- Don’t turn to food for psychological comfort – Find other ways to cope with stress, boredom, and anxiety.
- Eat only when hungry. Before grabbing a muffin, ask yourself “Am I really hungry? Could I have an apple instead?”. If the answer is no, you are not hungry, you just feel like eating.
- Plan your cheat meal – This is important to avoid going overboard. Choose what you are going to have in advance. Eat slowly and enjoy it. And remember, it is a cheat meal NOT a cheat day.
- Focus on your breakfast – When you start your day with the right foot, you set the mood for the rest of the day. Eat a high protein breakfast to avoid overeating throughout the day. Protein keeps you full for longer.
- Avoid high carb meal late in the day. Keep in mind that excess carbohydrates are converted into fat and deposited into your waistline. At night is even worse because most of us are not very active which means there is no time to burn the extra calories.
- Don’t drink your calories. It doesn’t matter if it is orange juice or coke, liquid calories are readily absorbed and spikes the blood sugar levels. A big no-no for calorie control.
A squat is a total body exercise that requires the engagement of several major muscle groups. A squat is basically the movement of sitting on and lifting from an imaginary chair. It is a two-part movement:
1. Lower the body by bending the hips and knees until the thighs are somewhat parallel to the floor.
2. Follow by straightening the hips and knees to come back up.
The “true” work is done on the second half of the movement because you are moving against gravity. However, because there isn’t a real chair behind you, your core muscles come into play holding your body still so you won’t collapse on the floor.
Most major leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes) are primarily involved in squatting, and depending on how you position your body, other groups can be engaged as well (e.g., a ballet squat engaging inner thigh muscles). This exercise also calls for a number of trunk, hip and lower leg muscles which work as stabilizers.
Tips for Proper Form
- Good posture is essential to your safety. Always check yourself in the mirror to be sure you are doing it right.
- Keep feet planted on the floor at all times – do not raise the heels. Body weight should be evenly distributed throughout your feet.
- Keep back straight and chest open. Avoid rounding or arching your back – maintain neutral spine.
- Knees should be parallel to each other – do not allow them to collapse inward.
- During the movement, flex hips and knees at the same rate.
- Keep knees aligned over the ankles – you should be able to see your toes when sitting.
- Inhale when you go down; exhale on your way up.
Variations play an important role in progression because they can engage different muscle groups and recruit more muscle fibers. However, it is imperative that you choose the adequate one for you, respecting your body’s needs and limitations. Always start with the easiest variation to get used to the movement. Master it before moving on to a more challenging option.
Progression and Challenge
If you are new to exercise, start with a plain body-weight squat. You can even place a chair behind you and practice the movement without actually sitting on the chair. Another good option for beginners is the ball squat. Do one or two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, twice a week – no load. Check yourself in the mirror to adjust your posture. It is normal to feel awkward on the first attempts, but you will see improvement as your body learns the movement. Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, you can add more challenge:
- Load – Using weights or elastic bands to increase resistance. Ex.: back squats, dumbbell squats.
- Positioning – Changing the position of legs and feet will work different parts of the muscles. Ex.: sumo squat, plié squat.
- Split squat – Placing one leg in front of you and kneeling is a squat variation. Split squats are challenging because they require more balance. You can perform them by kneeling and coming back up in place (split squat); by stepping forward, kneeling and going back to the initial position (forward lunge), or by lunging and walking.
- Static – Holding your body in a squat position is a great way to add challenge to your workout routine. Hold the squat position for 30 seconds on your last repetition and feel the burn. Ex.: yoga squat, chair pose.
- Balance – Challenge your body by performing single-leg squats or Bosu squats. Your body will need to recruit more muscles to keep your balance.
- Rotation – Adding a twist to your squats (as in a cross-body chop) engages the oblique muscles, making it an even more complete exercise.
The human body has the amazing ability to adapt when facing a challenge. Strength training explores this property by placing the skeletal muscles under controlled stress (resistance) in order to improve muscular strength and/or endurance. When a muscle or muscle group is overloaded, each muscle fiber sends a message to our central manager, the brain, asking for help. The brain acts by recruiting more muscle fibers, contributing to most of the strength gains during the first weeks of training. But with continued practice, the muscle fibers also increase in size, which will enable you to gradually lift heavier loads. That’s the so-called muscle hypertrophy so praised by bodybuilders.
Hey, calm down! You are not going to get bulky. Even though some women are able to increase muscle mass significantly (as you can see on bodybuilding contests), that is not the rule for most of us, so there is no need to be afraid of the weight room. The magnitude of changes is closely related to the type and intensity of training, testosterone levels and genetic factors.
Then why do men bulk up with weight training and we don’t? Well, the main reason is that on average, men have more muscle mass than women to start with. Women are generally shorter than men, usually lighter in total body weight, and have less fat free mass (muscle and bones) and more body fat. A male body, on the other hand, has a greater percentage of fat-free mass, meaning more muscle per body weight, especially on the upper body. They have more muscle fibers that can be stimulated and enlarged, and also have higher levels of testosterone, an anabolic-steroid hormone that supports muscle growth. In simple words, men are better equipped for muscle growth than women.
Despite these apparent disadvantages, any woman is capable of improving muscle strength and stamina with proper training, and these gains are not necessarily accompanied by large increases in muscle bulk. As you lose body fat, your newly built muscles will become more evident, thus giving you the “toned” appearance about which you always dreamed.
Strength training (also called weight training or resistance training) is a fundamental part of a balanced exercise program. The main goal is to build muscle mass, which will translate into gains in strength, endurance and power. It contributes to the preservation of lean body mass which is one of the key components to keeping our metabolism in check.
It also strengthens bones and joints, making you less prone to injuries. Actually, resistance training and other weight bearing exercises are critical for the maintenance of bone mass and density, which is especially important for us women because of the increased risk of developing osteoporosis as we age.
Types of Resistance Training
Before you start, you have to know what is out there for you. There is an enormous range of possibilities when it comes to resistance training. For instance, you can use your own body weight as you do while performing push-ups, or you can use equipment such as free weights, elastic bands and medicine balls. If you work out in a health club, you have access to an array of machines. But to make your exercise session effective and safe, you’d better know what you are doing.
Here are a few types of training available:
- Isometric – Isometric training is a static exercise, meaning you just hold a position for a few seconds. It is very common in Pilates and yoga, and it is a great way to introduce more challenge to an exercise. For example, you can hold a plank after you complete a set of push-ups or hold a boat pose after doing abdominal curl-ups.
- Concentric-eccentric – These exercises usually consist of two phases: a lifting phase, in which the primary muscles involved in the movement work against resistance, and a lowering phase, where antagonist muscles come into play to control the descent. A few options are:
- Free weights – Barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, or one’s body weight are used in this type of training. When using free weights, you have freedom of movement, making the range of motion usually greater than when exercising with machines. Your exercise options are endless. However, it is imperative to keep proper form at all times, because you don’t have a machine to keep your body aligned.
- Machines – Machines are great for two reasons: they are easier for beginners and safer for heavy lifters. Most machines guide the movement, so you have less to worry about while performing an exercise. However, the range of motion is limited by the equipment, meaning you’ll only be able to go as far as the machine allows you. Yet, there is a type of machine that is somewhat similar to free weights, the cable machine. Cable machines are very versatile, allowing you to perform a great array of exercises on the same equipment. But as with free weights, you are on your own when it comes to keep good form and proper body alignment. If you have easy access to them, go ahead and incorporate a few machine exercises to your routine. But if you work out at home, don’t worry about it; you have plenty of training options using other devices.
- Elastic bands – Bands have become popular among women, because they are easy to work with, and are way less scary than free weights. Possibilities are vast when it comes to exercise selection, and you can work out virtually anywhere. If you travel a lot, this is your tool; they weigh virtually nothing and are easy to fit in a suitcase. My only concern is choosing the right band for your needs; it should provide enough resistance to work with (if it is too light you won’t get any improvements). While performing a band exercise, control the movement during all phases; never let the band pull you back.
- Plyometrics – Plyometrics are more advanced exercises which involve jumping and throwing. They are usually used by athletes to improve muscle force and power, but they’ve hit the average gym environment lately, especially on boot camp classes. If you are new to exercise, avoid this type of training altogether to prevent injury.
How Much is Enough?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that everyone incorporate resistance training to their exercise program in order to obtain muscular fitness. The guidelines to achieve general muscular fitness are: perform eight to 12 exercises involving each major muscle group, two to three times a week, with at least 48 hours of rest between training sessions.
However, if you are no beginner and choose to exercise more often, say four days a week, you can take advantage of a split routine. You can literally divide your workout routine into upper-body and lower-body days. For example, perform only lower-body exercises on Tuesdays and Fridays, then do upper-body exercises on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This system is good if you are looking for more muscle development, and it has the big advantage of time-efficiency. (It takes less time per session than a whole-body routine.)
I think it is common sense that one should aim for a balanced routine that addresses all major muscle groups. But do you know which muscles I am talking about? For better understanding, I divide the body into seven regions; Chest, back, shoulders, arms (biceps and triceps), abdominals (rectus abdominis and obliques), thighs and glutes (quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thighs, outer thighs and gluteus), and calves.
This is, of course, just a rough anatomic sketch. But have in mind that your exercise routine should involve all of these seven regions in order to be balanced. The good news is that most exercises are multi-joint (squats, push-ups), meaning that a single exercise can work several muscle groups at once. Compound exercises are also a great alternative, because they combine two movements to form a more complete and complex exercise (lunge and biceps curl). Of course, there are many single-joint exercises (biceps curls, calf raises), but because of time constraints (you surely don’t want to spend two hours working out), their use should be limited when planning a whole-body routine.
The exercise order is also important. When putting a routine together, start with more demanding exercises such as compound and multi-joint, and progress to simple ones, such as single-joint exercises. Compound and multi-joint exercises require more energy, so they are better performed when you are still fresh and rested. Use single-joint exercises to address muscles that were not involved previously in any exercise in order to round out your program.
Training volume is determined by the number of sets and repetitions of each exercise you selected. A repetition is a complete cycle of an exercise movement (the two phases, lowering and lifting). Let’s say a squat repetition is lowering the body and coming back to standing. A set is a group of repetitions.
A good way to start is to perform one to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise. As you get stronger, you can add more sets if you’d like, however, keep repetition range between eight and 15 for maximal strength and mass gains.
According to ACSM’s guidelines, eight to 12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10 to 15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age, older adults and beginners, and 15 to 20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. Sets should be kept between two and four in order to improve strength and power in adults.
One thing to have in mind is to get results, you have to somewhat challenge your body. I said CHALLENGE. Meaning that if the resistance you are using is too light, you are not giving enough stimuli for your muscles to grow. That said, it is imperative that you learn how to choose your optimal load.
The weight (or resistance, if you are working with bands) selected has to be somewhat hard to lift, but not so hard that you can’t complete a set. If you are selecting weights for the first time, I recommend that you start with the lowest weight available to learn the movement. Do a full set of 12 repetitions. How did that feel? Was it so easy that you think you could do more than 12 repetitions? If so, increase the load and try again. The goal is to find a weight (or a band) that challenges but does not overwhelm you, meaning you’ll be able to complete 12 reps, but not more than that.
However, the ACSM recommends that older adults and sedentary people starting to exercise keep light, or even very light, intensity to prevent injuries.
As your body gets used to the load, you should progressively increase it, in order to keep getting results. However, when you achieve your fitness goals, you can migrate to a maintenance program with a fixed training volume and load. The only thing you shouldn’t do is to stop training, because results will be reversed in as few as two weeks of inactivity.
Physiological adaptations are highly specific to the type of training, so it is important that you know what you want to achieve before planning your program. If your goal is to gain muscle mass, you should aim for eight to 12 repetitions; if you are training for strength gains, you can use heavier weights (careful with that) with fewer repetitions (around six); but if you are looking for muscle endurance, light weights and more repetitions (between 12 to 20) is the way to go. Just be sure to choose the appropriate load for each type of training (see progressive overload).
However, if all you want is general fitness, cross training is a great alternative for you. Cross training is a mix and match of different training modes and intensities. In this type of training, several different fitness components are addressed at once, resulting in a more balanced program.
Rest and Recovery
An often neglected training component is recovery time. Did you know that changes in your body occur while you rest, not during training? That’s right. It is quite common to get excited when starting an exercise program, and sometimes this excitement leads to overtraining. When you do too much too soon, you don’t give your body enough time to recover properly, which will lead to intense muscle soreness, general fatigue and increased risk of injuries.
Generally, a period of 48 hours between training sessions is required to induce positive adaptations, so resist the temptation of exercising every day.
 Skeletal muscles are one of the structures responsible for our mobility but also contribute to the maintenance of body alignment and posture, provide protection and produce body heat. These structures are highly plastic and can be changed due to activity or inactivity.
 Metabolism is commonly known as the breakdown of food in order to obtain energy. Everyone needs a minimum amount of energy just to stay alive. This, also called basal metabolic rate, is affected by several factors as lean body mass, height, weight, gender, and body temperature, among others. Increasing muscle mass is an effective way to give your basal metabolism a boost, meaning you’ll be burning more calories at rest.
 Concentric-eccentric refers to the type of muscle contraction. During a concentric contraction, the muscle fibers are shortened, while during an eccentric contraction, muscle fibers are elongated. In a concentric-eccentric exercise both types of muscle contraction are present in different phases of the movement.
Protein shake, protein bars, protein pancakes. Everywhere I look, I find a new protein-based product. And the fitness industry seems to be obsessed with it. Have you noticed how many articles just like this one you can find on google?
Anyway, I agree that protein is a very important macronutrient. Without protein, we can’t function. It is present in every single cell of our bodies (except for fat cells, cause fat cells are formed by…well, fat). They are the building blocks of bones, muscles, skin, blood… Bla, bla, bla. You know all that already.
Let’s get to the point. I believe that you can have enough protein from food sources as long as:
- You know which foods contain protein
- You eat protein with every meal
- You understand your portion size
That’s why I created the following guide;)
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, we should get most of our nutrients from our diet. Whole, nutrient-dense foods (rich in nutrients with few calories) should be preferred over processed foods, which are usually energy-dense (lots of calories per weight) and nutrient-poor.
Food sources are divided into six major groups:
Grains are cereals such as rice, wheat, rye, corn, barley and oats. A whole grain is composed of endosperm, germ, and bran, and is a good source of carbohydrates (sugar, starches and fiber), vitamins and minerals. However, when a grain is refined, the germ and the bran are removed to improve texture and taste, and several nutrients (such as fiber, iron and B vitamins) are lost in the process. Brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, and whole-wheat flour are examples of whole grains, while white flour, white rice, and degermed cornmeal are examples of refined. Even though many refined grain products are enriched with vitamins and minerals, the consumption of whole grains is vital because they provide dietary fiber.
Vegetables are edible plant parts such as leaves, stems, and roots. They are great sources of carbohydrates (starches and fiber), vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Vegetables usually offer many nutrients with just a few calories. They may be consumed raw, cooked, canned, frozen, dried or in juice form. However, for most vegetables, gentle cooking methods are advised in order to preserve vitamin content.
There are many types of vegetables available: dark green such as broccoli, kale and spinach; red and orange such as carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers; and starchy, such as potatoes, corn and green peas. Some vegetables don’t fall into any of the previous categories – onions, artichokes, cauliflower and zucchini are a few examples. There are also beans and peas such as black beans, lentils, chickpeas and soy beans. These are unique vegetables, because they are also an excellent source of protein.
Fruits are also an edible part of plants; they differ from vegetables in that they are usually sweet. Fruits provide carbohydrates (sugar and fiber), vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, and have high water content. They are considered nutrient-dense foods, because they usually offer several nutrients with just a few calories. They may be consumed fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, dry or juiced. Apples, bananas, berries, oranges and peaches are just a few examples.
The dairy group consists of fluid milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt. Milk is a great source of carbohydrates (sugar), protein, vitamins (such as vitamin D), and minerals (such as calcium). However, whole milk and its products also contain saturated fat. Actually, some milk products (such as butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese) are almost 100% fat! To avoid overconsumption of saturated fat, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that you choose fat-free or low-fat varieties.
This group contains a variety of animal and plant foods that are great sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Animal sources are meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood; these foods also contain saturated fat and cholesterol. Because of that, the consumption of lean cuts of meat is recommended. Beans, nuts, and seeds are plant sources of protein, but they also provide carbohydrates (starches and fiber) and unsaturated fats. Even though nuts are high-fat, energy-dense foods, they are considered heart-healthy foods, because their unsaturated fatty acids may have a positive effect on blood cholesterol.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, and even though they provide essential nutrients, they are required only in small amounts in the diet. Oils may be obtained from plant or animal sources. Canola oil, olives and olive oil, avocados, and nuts are examples of plant sources, while fatty fishes such as salmon and tuna are animal sources.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect food. In order to get all the nutrients our body needs, it is imperative that we consume a variety of foods from all food groups. Moderation is also warranted in order to maintain the energy equation balance. Remember that consuming more calories than you are able to expend will result in weight gain. So pay attention to serving sizes of foods, and avoid consuming oversized portions.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) also offers some tips for improving eating habits:
- Make small changes over time.
- Try new foods in order to introduce variety to your diet.
- Balance energy intake with physical activity.
- Don’t eliminate your favorite foods; practice moderation instead.
The USDA recently replaced the food pyramid (my pyramid) for a plate icon (choose my plate) in order to make the nutritional guidelines easier to understand. Below, you will find a sample of the recommendations for moderately active adult women. Complete information can be found at www.chosemyplate.com.
 The sweet taste of fruits is attributed to their high content of sugar (fructose).
My weight-loss clients often ask me if they can have fruit as part of their plan.
Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. It also has tons of fibre which helps slowing down the digestive process and the release of sugar in the blood stream. In addition, its sweet taste may curb your cravings for desserts. So, yes, you can have fruit as part of your weight-loss plan.
However, while fruit is not going to make you fat, certain varieties may have more calories and hold more carbohydrates than others. When making a meal plan for weigh-loss, it is important to limit the amount of carbohydrates consumed. For example, a 60kg (132 lbs) female may be allowed to consume between 100 and 115 grams of carbohydrates per day. If you consider all grains, starchy vegetables, dairy products, and fruits to be included in a healthy diet, 100g is definitely not much.
Therefore, I created a little “fruit heat map” to help you choose which fruits fit in your plan.
New whole body circuit using only one piece of equipment: dumbbells.
- Perform as many reps as possible in 30 seconds of each exercise.
- Rest no more than 30 seconds between exercises.
- Repeat circuit three times
As a personal trainer and a nutrition coach, people often come to me for advice. They want to know what to kind of supplements to use, how to use them, and what brands are the best. Recently, I have decided to try different protein powders in order to give a better recommendation to my clients.
The one I chose Today, was Power Plant Protein from Prana. As the name states, it is a plant-based supplement made from pea, sprouted and fermented brown rice, and sacha inchi* protein. This product is also fortified with digestive enzymes, probiotics, and amino acids.
One serving contains about 155 cal, 30 grams of protein, and only 2.7 grams of sugar (low carb as well with 7.5 grams of total carbs) which is adequate for most people trying to build or maintain muscle mass.
For this review I picked coconut milk as my flavour but there are many more (including safe choices like vanilla and chocolate and more bold ones such as banana and cream or himalayan salted caramel). I mixed one scoop of the powder (40g) with 500 ml of water as a post-workout shake.Here are my notes:
- Texture – I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy thick texture of the shake. My previous experiences with vegetarian proteins were fairly disappointing (the ones I’ve tried before were very thin and bland).
- Smell – This protein powder has a really nice but subtle coconut scent.
- Taste – It was just ok (remember, taste is personal), but I wasn’t expecting a flavour explosion anyway. It didn’t have an artificial aftertaste, neither it was overly sweet. .
- Mouth feel – As any other vegetarian protein I’ve tried so far, it has a slight grainy texture that it is quite hard to ignore. On a positive note though, it did have little pieces of coconut which reminded me of eating a Bounty.
Overall I would say this is a good product. It was by far one of the best vegetarian protein powder I have tried. So if you are lactose intolerant and can’t/won’t have whey protein, give this one a go;)