Cheat Meals Are Our Friends!

I know (and you know too) that diet is incredibly important — not only for fitness goals, but also for overall health.  However, anyone who knows me knows that I do not believe in permanently depriving myself of the foods that I really enjoy.  Instead, I enjoy my less than healthy favorite foods in scheduled moderation.

My absolute favorite foods are hamburgers, fried chicken, steak, and French fries.  And I eat them all!  Sometimes.  I have come up with a “Cheat Meal Schedule” for enjoying my favorite foods.  My Cheat Meal Schedule is what works for me and keeps me on track.  A variation of my Cheat Meal Schedule may be better for you.  The point is to have a Cheat Meal Schedule so that your cheat meals are planned and so that you are in full control of the foods going into your body.

My Cheat Meal Schedule

I break down my daily food intake into 3 proper meals a day, 7 days a week for a total of 21 meals.  This does not include the healthy snacks and additional lean protein throughout the day.  I am very strict and committed to healthy eating for 18 of my 21 meals per week.  I allow myself to eat a “forbidden” food during three meals a week.  If I eat the hamburger and fries together in the same meal, that counts as 2 cheat meals.  If I have a hamburger with a side salad, I can still have fries at another meal during the week.

This schedule works well with my workouts, fitness and health goals.  It also keeps me sane and allows me to enjoy foods that I truly love without feeling guilty.

Find a schedule that works best for you and your health and fitness goals.  The point is that you do not have to completely give up the tasty foods that you enjoy!  You just have to find the right balance!  And remember, a cheat meal is only a cheat meal if you are faithful to your diet the rest of the week.  Too many cheat meals and it no longer becomes a cheat meal.  At some point, it’s just a bad diet.

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Healthy Grilling!

We hope you had a great Memorial Day Weekend!  Welcome to the unofficial start of summer and barbecuing season!  While the food coming off of the grill tastes as good as it smells, be careful not to reverse the hard work that you put into getting into summer shape! Here are a few tips to help you navigate the summer eating scene without having to add a few notches to your belt.

Eat More Fish and Chicken:  Fish and chicken provide excellent sources of protein and serve as heart healthy alternatives to traditional red meat options.  Try salmon or trout, which are both packed with heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. When grilling chicken, stick to breast meat instead of legs and thighs as chicken breasts provide the best bang for the buck in terms of grams of protein versus grams of fat and calories.

Get Fruity: Grilled fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and provide a delicious, low calorie alternative to traditional cook-out side dishes.  Kebabs are a great way of incorporating fruits and veggies into your grilling menu.

Avoid White Flour:  Instead of traditional white or potato bread options, eat high-fiber breads and buns such as whole wheat, whole grain, and buckwheat.  Or, you can enjoy tasty grilled fruits, veggies, and protein options without the bun!

A Different Type of Burger:  Turkey burgers offer a lean substitute to traditional beef burgers.  Bison burgers offer another lean, tasty, and hearty alternative.  Bison burgers are high in protein and very low in fat and cholesterol.  Additionally, bison meat contains very high levels of CLA, which works as a fat-blocker and anti-carcinogen.

Follow these tips during the barbecuing season and enjoy a guilt-free menu all summer long.  Have fun out there!

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Eat Like A Champion

Most people understand that working out is essential to building muscle and shedding fat. So with the unofficial start of summer just around the corner, there are more people jogging outside, boot camp classes are revving up, and the gyms are getting just a little bit more crowded. However, working out is only part of the battle and many people are winning in the gym, only to lose at their dining room table.

Your diet is just as, and arguably more important to how your body looks as your workouts. However, dramatic diet changes, such as cutting hundred of calories a day, can slow your metabolism and make losing weight feel impossible. Over-ambitious diet expectations can lead to big weight fluctuations and mental burnout. Instead of swinging for the fences your first time at the plate, focus on smaller steps that are easier to stick with and won’t slow your metabolism down to a crawl.  Follow these tips to shed those pounds and reveal the muscles that you have been working so hard to build all winter!

Eat More Protein: While I do not believe in completely eliminating foods that you enjoy, high-calorie, nutrient sparse foods like bread and chips should be limited to 10% of your daily caloric intake. Focus on increasing your daily protein intake. Depending on your level of activity, you should aim for 0.5-0.75 grams of protein per pound of your target body weight per day. This will maximize satiety, boost muscle growth, and elevate your metabolic rate.

Get Fruity: Increasing your daily fruit intake can help shed fat. Fruit provides your muscles with carbohydrates to fuel intense training. Fruits also full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to promote health.

Eat Before You Shop: Studies have shown that people who grocery shop on empty stomachs tend to load their carts with more high-calorie options. Grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar prior to visiting the supermarket to help stay on track!

Accuracy Is Key: Most people think that they eat healthier than they actually do. Meal tracking is a good way to truly hold yourself accountable of what is going into your body. Each day, write down everything that you eat and/or drink. At the end of the week, go back and give yourself an honest assessment of how well you stuck to your plan.

Leave Some Breathing Room: Picture your appetite on a scale of 0-100 with 0 being starving and 100 being absolutely stuffed. Your meals should leave you between 50-75. Eating before you are starving and stopping when you are satisfied, instead of stuffed, will help avoid overeating and the consumption of excess calories.

Follow these tips at the table and you will be well on your way to showing off those rock hard abs that you worked so tirelessly to achieve. Let’s go!

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Spring Into Action!

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Spring Into Action!

Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and slowly but surely the temperature is rising.  Spring is here!  Soon we’ll have no choice but to reveal the damage done by a winter full of comfort food and lazy afternoons cuddling on the couch.  But don’t fret! With 8 weeks to go until Memorial Day, I have a few exercise suggestions to add to your current training program that will help you become the fittest version of yourself in time to hit the beach!

  • Sprinting:  Take your running and fitness game to the next level!  Sprint workouts are super effective — sprinting provides a full body workout and can be done in a gym, park, track, or your front yard.  Sprinting obliterates fat by increasing your metabolic rate and leaving your body in calorie burning mode long after your workout is complete.  Sprinting also provides great strength and body firming results for your butt, quads, core, and hips.
  • Try this:
    • Perform 10 sets of 100 meter sprints
  • Plyometrics:  Plyometric exercises, commonly referred to as “jump training”, are an awesome way to shed stubborn fat while increasing your strength, balance, agility and power.  These exercises require you to exert maximum force in a rapid or explosive manner over a short period of time.  Because the moves are quick and explosive, you will exert a lot more energy and in turn, burn more calories than you would in a typical strength-training session.
  • Try this:
    • Perform 10 sets of 15 jump squats
  • Swimming:  Swimming is an awesome way to build strength, endurance, and flexibility all while cutting the pounds necessary to make you summertime fine in no time!  Swimming will tone your muscles while keeping your heart rate up without the high impact on your body that sprinting and plyometric movements provide.  Swimming is perfect for anyone who needs a break from or cannot perform the more explosive movements mentioned above.
  • Try this:
    • Swim as many laps as you can in 30 minutes.  Push yourself, but take breaks when necessary.

The 3 exercise types listed above are all staples of my own springtime workout regimen.  I typically use one of these 3 exercise types as the workout focus for a particular day.  That way, I incorporate all 3 exercise types at least once each week.  They are highly effective and a nice change of pace from your traditional strength and endurance workouts. So give them a try and let’s get ready for the heat!

Lift Like A Woman!

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Lift Like A Woman!

Walk into most commercial gyms and you will likely see the same thing: most of the women are in the cardio area, while the men fight for open bench space in the weight lifting area.  The main excuse that woman provide for not lifting weights is that they fear getting “too bulky” and instead want to focus their training on “toning” and “shedding fat.”  While cardio is certainly a necessary part of any training regime, weight lifting is often times the fastest and most effective method for reaching your fitness goals.  Weight training, combined with cardio, will not only help create the shapely, toned body that so many females crave, but will also provide priceless health benefits.  Below are some of the many benefits of weight training:

  • More Effective and Efficient Fat Burning:  One of the biggest benefits of weight training is your body’s ability to burn fat and calories, both during and after your workout.  Weight training causes your body to use more oxygen, thereby increasing your metabolic rate by requiring your body to expend additional calories.  The more lean muscle mass that your body has, the better your body becomes at using calories more effectively.  Further, while cardio burns both fat and muscle, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat.
  • Healthy Heart: Weight training helps combat the risk of heart disease.  Studies show that those who engage in weight training 2 to 3 times a week are less likely to have elevated blood pressure or glucose levels, dangerous belly fat, or high triglycerides.
  • Fight Stress: Exercise in general is a great way to manage stress. Studies show that people who regularly weight train tend to manage stress better and experience fewer adverse reactions to stressful situations than those who do not.
  • More Energy During the Day, Better Sleep at Night:  Weight training promotes an uptick in energy expenditure for several hours following workouts.  Further, weight training promotes better sleep quality by helping you get to sleep faster and into a deeper sleep state.
  • Healthier Bones: With the passing of each year, our risk of bone density and muscle loss increases.  Postmenopausal women are at an even greater risk for osteoporosis.  Weight training promotes healthy bones, helps your body fight against the loss of bone mass and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

Resistance training provides numerous benefits and often times provides the quickest and most efficient path to reaching your fitness destination.  So don’t let the men have all of the fun and reap all of the rewards!  Add weight training to your workout routine and jump start your journey to a stronger, healthier, more confident you!

Train Together, Stay Together!

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Train Together, Stay Together!

Working out can create a lonely, isolated feeling.  And many couples complain about not spending enough time together.  So why not kill two birds with one stone? February, the month of love, is the perfect time to take your training to the next level with your significant other!

Working out with your significant other can do wonders, not only for your physique, but also for your relationship!  Studies show couples who routinely work out together report becoming closer emotionally and feeling more satisfied with their relationships. Also, the added energy and improved body image often leads to a greater sense of physical intimacy between couples.

Other couple workout benefits include:

Encouragement and Support:  Because you are tackling this tough task together, having the motivation, encouragement, and support of your significant other can not only increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts, but also make you more likely to stick to your routine.

A New Common Interest:  Working out together can become an activity that you both really look forward to.  And you can never have too many things in common with your significant other!

Reduced Stress:  Stress can wreak havoc on any relationship.  Heightened stress reduces both physical and emotional intimacy.  However, working out regularly, improves our ability to handle the stress present in our daily lives.  Reduced stress improves moods and can lead to a happier and healthier relationship.

So whether its a group fitness class, weekend run, or strength training, try incorporating fitness activities into your relationship.  And watch the two of you grow closer, happier, and healthier together!

Sticking to your New Year’s Resolution!

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Sticking to your New Year’s Resolution!

Get in better shape!  Lose weight!  Eat less, workout more!  Be more active! Do any of these resolutions sound familiar?  The start of a new year brings an opportunity to make changes for the better.  A chance to clear the slate, start anew, kick bad habits, and pick up a few good ones.  How exciting! Right?

Yet, we often lose the eagerness, dedication, and excitement for our resolutions before accomplishing our goals.  Well not you, not this year!  Here are a few tips that will help you stick to your new year’s resolutions:

  • Keep It Simple: Don’t commit to too many resolutions.   Instead of attempting to stick to a laundry list of resolutions, really take ownership of 1 to 3 changes and focus all of your energy accomplishing those goals.  Focusing on a small number of changes will increase your likelihood of success.
  • Tell A Friend: It is much easier to slack off on a goal that nobody knows about but you.  However, it is much more difficult to deviate from your plan when you have those close to you checking in and holding you accountable!  Make your resolution(s) a joint activity with a friend.  Schedule check-in times and hold each other accountable.
  • Be Specific:  The more specific the resolution, the more likely you are to stick to it.  Goals such as “lose weight” and “go to the gym more” are too generic.  Instead, replace those goals with more specific resolutions such as: “lose 15 pounds by April 1st” or “go to the gym at least 4 times a week.”
  • Bounce Back:  This is probably the most important tip.  We all have plans and goals that we deviate away from periodically.  Nobody is perfect!  The trick is not letting a minor setback turn into the end of the resolution.  When you fall off the wagon, dust yourself off, pick yourself up, and hop right back on!

Follow these tips and make 2016 the year that you stick to your new year’s resolutions!  Happy New Year and Good Luck!