The Holiday Effect – Part 3

Oh Diet. Isn’t it everybody’s nemesis? How good it would be if we could eat whatever we want, whenever we feel like and not have severe consequences on our waistline.

I came back from my two-week vacation four kilos heavier. Now that I’m back home, I had to do something about it. Besides exercising 6 times per week (read the previous article for more info), I had to get my eating habits back on track.

You’ve probably heard several times that diet is responsible for about 80% of weight-loss (especially if you intend to preserve lean mass in the process). Unfortunately, exercise alone cannot make a significant dent on the energy balance equation in order to lead to considerable fat loss. Therefore, dietary adjustments are adamant.

However, we don’t want to simply skip meals or starve ourselves. That would generate a metabolic disaster since the body would perceive it as a threat and kick into conservation mode, slowing down your precious weight-loss.

Having that in mind, I designed my nutrition plan based on eliminating processed foods, limiting restaurant foods and take-outs, and focusing on eating plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts and healthy oils, and lean protein sources. Simple enough.

The idea was to fill up the plate with fibre-rich vegetables in order to make me feel satiated. But I wasn’t limiting myself to salads because I knew that wouldn’t work for long. Instead I found recipes that replaced refined carbs with veggies and whole grains.

Another change was to include lean protein in every meal. Keep in mind that protein intake is very important during a weight-loss process because it is used to build and repair muscle. Also, the digestion of protein takes longer and requires more energy which keeps you feeling full for longer and increases your basal metabolic rate (meaning that you burn more calories in the process). Breakfast was the biggest challenge I faced because it’s not as if I could have a full serving of chicken breast at 6 am. Nonetheless, I found ways of sneaking protein everywhere I could.

To improve adherence, and not rely solely on willpower, I looked for recipes that appealed to my taste buds. It is much easier to stick to a diet if you look forward to have your meals. I created a folder with my favourite recipes so I could easily plan a weekly menu.

Preparation is another big step to success. My daily schedule is hectic: I wake up too early (4:30am at times) and arrive home late night (8:30 or 9 pm). If I didn’t have a plan chances were, I would eat whatever I could get my hands at or rely on take-outs. You see, restaurant foods are designed to be yummy (so you become a frequent customer). For that, meals contain way more salt, sugar and fat that you would consume if you were to prepare something similar at home. Mind you, I don’t have anything against enjoying a nice family dinner out. I just believe that it should be left for special occasions.

So, I planned the weekly menu based on recipes I intended to prepare, made a grocery list and went shopping. And no, I didn’t spend my whole Sunday meal prepping. My preparation is usually minimal. It consists of washing and cutting fruits and veggies, maybe preparing a batch of breakfast options and organizing the fridge. That’s it. Every night, I prepare enough food for dinner and next day’s lunch. I take to work my breakfast, lunch and any snacks I may have. The only thing I buy is my daily cup of coffee.

Here is this week’s menu plan. Next time, I’ll be posting some of the recipes. If there is anyone in particular you would like me to post, just write on the comments. Until next time😊

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Breakfast

Ricotta and spinach egg muffin

Berry and chia pudding

Ricotta and spinach egg muffin

Berry and chia pudding

Ricotta and spinach egg muffin

Berry and chia pudding

Ricotta and tomato omelette

Mixed berries with yogurt and seeds

Ricotta and tomato omelette

Mixed berries with yogurt and seeds

Post workout

Protein powder

banana

Protein powder

banana

Protein powder

banana

Protein powder

banana

Protein powder

banana

Lunch

4 salmon sashimi

4 salmon nigiri

(store bought)

Zucchini spaghetti with grilled salmon Carrot and orange salad w/ smoked paprika chicken tenderloin Sweet potato mash with spinach salad and veal/pork patties Crab Nicoise salad
Dinner Zucchini spaghetti with grilled salmon Carrot and orange salad w/ smoked paprika chicken tenderloins Sweet potato mash with spinach salad and veal/pork patties Crab Nicoise salad Broccoli and snow peas with hummus and roast chicken

The Holiday Effect – Part 2

So, this was the first week of my get-back-into-shape program. My plan was to exercise six days per week, stick to a clean diet, drink more water, take my vitamins…

Exercise was never a problem for me. Since I’m a trainer and work at a gym, I have no excuse for not working out. I designed a program focusing on gaining lean muscle while maximizing the fat burn. It was inspired on Jim Stoppani’s “Shortcut to Shred” program. It consisted on heavy to moderate load weight training with bouts of cardio exercise in between sets. Since I was going to train six days per week, the program was split into two phases: the first three days contained heavy compound exercises and the following three were composed of moderate load isolation exercises. All the sets were to be taken to temporary muscle failure and the last set was a drop set (progressively reducing the load to include a few more reps in the set).

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Chest

Triceps

Glutes

Horizontal pull

Biceps

Abs

Legs

Shoulders

Chest

Triceps

Glutes

Vertical pull

Biceps

Abs

Legs

Shoulders

Active Recovery

Table 1: Program split.

But maybe I was too ambitious on my return. The idea was to perform a 30-second bout of cardio (high knees, start jumps) after every set. However, that didn’t last long. After the first round, I was exhausted and wasn’t being able to perform the exercises with proper form (I was shaky and my stabilization was poor). Therefore, for safety reasons, I was forced to stop.

I never felt so weak. I had to reduce the load several times in order to complete a set. The good news was that taking a set to failure was not a problem. Mind you that I have a training partner, therefore we can take sets to muscle failure safely. For the first time, I felt drained during my workout session and couldn’t wait to get it over. The first day back was the worst. Besides feeling physically exhausted, I also felt frustrated. Nonetheless life goes on.

The next few days, I was so sore I could barely move. My chest and triceps were on fire, my legs were wobbly and you couldn’t touch my lats without me screaming. But I am stubborn and decided to stick to my plan. I did complete the workout plan for the whole week. Yes, I had to cut the cardio acceleration exercises and reduce the load. Besides that, I was on course.

In the following post, I will talk about my diet plan (struggles and all), healthy substitutions you can make to stay on track, and macronutrient balance for fat loss. I will even throw in a few recipes. Stay tuned.

Want a sneak peak of my exercise program? Click here to download.

The Holiday Effect

I just came back from a two-week vacation. Like many people out there, I used the excuse of being on holidays to overeat and under exercise. During those short two weeks, I managed to ignore completely all the health principles I teach and normally follow. I guess that just makes me a human being.

Besides being away from my regular daily routine, I found myself being ridiculously sedentary. Cold weather and lack of a plan contributed to me spending endless hours on the couch in front of the TV. I didn’t even walk much (we drove everywhere we needed to go, mostly restaurants). The result of that impressive lack of physical activity was that I felt sluggish and tired all the time, even though I wasn’t doing much.  

If that wasn’t bad enough, my diet was a complete wreck. Imagine eating no green vegetables for 15 days. My meals consisted of mainly refined carbohydrates (think bread, pasta, pastry, cake, cookies) and fatty protein sources (cold cuts of meat, sausages, juicy steaks, fried chicken). Dessert was a given. I had too much salt, fat and sugar, and not enough nutrients or fibre. I was consuming soda and sugary drinks (which I don’t even like!) just for the sake of having something other than water.

During the whole time, I was eating just for fun because I can’t say I was actually hungry. And I managed to ignore any sign of fullness. You see, many of the restaurants we visited were “all you can eat” which means that in order to be “worthy” I needed to eat a lot, even if I felt completely stuffed after.

You know what is the saddest thing of all? I was completely aware of what I was doing. I just didn’t care. I kept telling myself that I was on holidays so I had the “right” of acting that way. Did this ever happen to you?

Unfortunately, the effect that those sloppy days had on my body were devastating. On the first couple of days, I got sick. A bad cold. I blamed the long flight and lack of sleep but I know that not drinking enough water or getting proper nutrition wasn’t helping my cause. Because I was constantly dehydrated (not enough water, vegetables and fruits), my skin was dry and blotchy. My face became covered in breakouts. My poor eating got me constantly bloated and constipated. I felt worn-out and lethargic. But the reality only sank in when I weighed myself at a drugstore scale. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Four kilos in 15 days.

Now I’m back on track. Since arriving home, I have cleaned up my diet (no more indulgences for a while), loaded my plate with veggies and fruits, reintroduced whole grains, included lean protein sources in every meal, been drinking plenty of water (and water only). I’m also back to the gym (to work and workout). My plan is to exercise 6 days per week. I will be posting my exercise program, diet plan, and progress. Let’s see how long it’s going to take to shed those unwanted kilos.

3 Steps to Success

You probably heard this one before. All you need to do to lose weight is exercise more and eat less. But if it is that simple, why so many people fail miserably?

While the energy equation makes total sense on paper, it is an oversimplification of the process. The truth is that as human beings, we are complex organisms. And each one of us has unique characteristics. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach cannot possibly work for everyone.

Now, while you will have to discover what works for  you, there is a common denominator in the equation: CONSISTENCY. Doesn’t matter what you do, if you don’t stick to it long enough, chances are you won’t see results.

What’s the secret? Motivation? Willpower?

Motivation is the excitement you feel when you begin a new project. It can definitely help you get started. However, it tends to fade away as time passes and you need to constantly remind yourself why you chose to go through this path.

Ah willpower! Willpower is great but it is a limited resource. When you force yourself to do something you don’t want to, you are using your willpower. The problem is that it won’t last forever.

So how can you make it work?

First of all, you need a plan of action. A plan of action is a step by step guide, a fool-proof system that is easy to follow. When you are writing your plan, break down your big goal into small manageable steps. Focus on behaviours (things you can do on regular basis) that when performed over a period of time will lead you to your ultimate goal. If you don’t know how to do this, look for professional help. An experienced trainer or coach can guide through this process.

The second step is accountability. The goal here is to make sure you are taking the small steps you devised on your plan. You can use your trainer or coach to make yourself accountable. Or find a friend with a similar goal and keep track of each others progress. Another idea is to use your social media as a diary  and post your plan and daily progress. If you prefer something more discreet, create an accountability sheet and stick to your fridge door or bathroom mirror. Fill it out everyday to keep track of your progress.

Need a sample? Download it here.

The final step is support. Surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through. This way you can talk about your frustrations, celebrate your successes, and find solutions to problems.

Keep in mind that results come from performing simple things over a period of time. If you trust the process and work on staying on track, you will see that the work you put in will pay off.

Do You Have a Scale Addiction?

Ah, the scale. As a woman seeking to lose weight, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

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.

Client Before and After – Anne

Who said it’s hard to lose weight and build muscle after 40s? Meet Anne, 49 yo, mother of three. In only 3 months, Anne lost 3kg, dropped her body fat from 22.5% to 20.7% and reduced 2cm on her waistline. But not without work. She trains 5 times per week and maintain a healthy diet.

Here’s what she has to say:

Professional exercise programming with challenging and fun workouts coupled with a well thought out nutritional plan all created and supervised by Carla have definitely given me these awesome results. Never have I felt so body confident, strong and full of energy. Carla’s encouragement and support has been life changing for me and I highly recommend her services to anyone looking to get real results from their training.”

Life Rewards Action

It’s that time of the year again. New Years always inspire big promises. “This year I will lose weight”; ” This year I’ll be fit”. Unfortunately, only a few people will act on their goals and succeed. Where do you want to be in 2017? Among the ones who abandon their goals because life got too busy or among the ones who stick to their dreams and make them happen? Be aware that the choice is yours. You are the only one who can decide to change.

The good news is that you don’t need to have a perfect plan. All you need is a first step. Think of a small habit you could easily adopt in your life. The easier the better. You will be more likely to stick to it if you can see yourself doing it. It may be something like drinking 2 liters of water per day or going for a walk two times per week after dinner. Resist the urge of trying to do too much. If so, you will soon feel overwhelmed and give up.

In the end, it all comes to repeating that behaviour over and over until it becomes automatic. The secret of building a habit is taking the choice of the equation. You shouldn’t ask yourself if you are in the mood for it. You just do it. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t wake up and say “Do I feel like brushing my teeth this morning?”, you just do it.

Once you’ve mastered that small step, take the next one. And then, a next one. You get the idea.

Now, if you feel you need help devising an initial plan ask for professional help. Find a trainer or coach who can design your initial plan. make sure that you feel comfortable with it before agreeing with it. Otherwise, 2017 will be just like any other year before – full of promises but poor on achievements.

Client Success Story

before-after_vivian“As many others, Vivian came to me for help with weight loss. She wanted to get in shape for her wedding which was only a couple of months away. I told her that it was an ambitious goal but it could be achieved if she put enough effort into it. Together we set a realistic plan of action which included exercising most days of the week plus a major dietary adjustment. In order to keep her accountable, we had weekly check ups during which we’d not only taken measurements but also talked about her progress and struggles. Vivian took all my advice to heart and had the most amazing results: she lost 10 kg in two months, just in time for her big day.”

 

Challenge Workout: Chest and Triceps Supersets

Are you bored with your regular workouts and looking for a challenge? Then give this one a try.

The workout:

  1. First superset – Cable chest press for 12 reps (choose a load heavy enough to allow you to perform 12 reps (and 12 only) + alternating ball push ups for as many as possible (go to fatigue, only stop when you can’t perform any more reps). No rest between the two exercises and minimum rest between sets (up to 2 minutes). Perform 5 sets.
  2. Second superset – Bar dips for as many reps as possible (you may use an assisted dip machine or bands if you can’t perform body weight ones) + cable push down for 15 to 20 reps.
  3. Third superset – Overhead triceps extension with dumbbell for 12 reps + TRX hugs (adjust the intensity level by stepping closer to/away from the anchor point) for 20 reps.

Client Success Story – Honey

beforeafterHoney was telling me she had been getting lots of compliments lately. Everywhere she went people would comment on how great she looked. Also, she was impressed with her gains in strength and stamina. Her energy levels were high and she never felt so confident in her life.

That’s so great to hear. As a trainer it is always a pleasure to work with dedicated clients. I always tell people that the results you get are proportional to the efforts you put into your training. However, body transformation should be seen as a lifestyle change. Long term success comes from small consistent changes that can be sustained for a lifetime. Congrats Honey!