The 3 Most Overlooked Reasons You Are Still Fat

It’s that dreaded day of the week when getting out of bed seems more painful than usual (no, it’s not Monday morning). You strip down to your birthday suit, take a deep breath, and creep each individual toe onto the platform until your entire bodyweight presses firmly down on the scale.   Your weekly weight check should be a time for jubilation. After all, you eek up those cardio hours every week and knock off a few hundred calories from your diet on most days—except the weekends, of course. But the scale numbers don’t budge, and you sit in angst this afternoon because they actually went up instead of down.

While it’s important to note that when it comes to fat loss nothing takes the place of a well-followed nutritional plan and hard work in the gym, there are those times when exercise and diet don’t seem to be quite enough.  If you ever hit this plateau, it’s time to look at a few common factors that can bring your fat loss efforts to a screeching halt.

 YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

Whether it’s due to long work days, worries that keep you up all hours of the night, or from the inability to shut down the computer, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function optimally.  I’ve seen figures that say the average person gets somewhere around 5-7 hours a night.  If you fall into this category, then there is a really good chance that you are trying to operate on less sleep than your body needs, which can be detrimental when it comes to fat loss.

Sleep provides the body an opportunity to repair itself and recover from any damage done during exercise, a stressful workday, or any of the other factors in life that tend to wear you down.  It also provides the body with rest, which is critical for peak physical performance.  Have you ever gone to the gym after a short night’s rest?  If so, chances are your performance was not all that great and you left feeling like you didn’t get all you could have out of your session.

On the other hand, when you’re well rested, you can lift more weight for more reps and run faster than when you’re exhausted.  The bottom line is that when you perform better, you burn more calories.

To top it all off, poor sleep habits have been linked to obesity, diabetes and hypertension. (Knutson, 2012).

YOU’RE DEHYDRATED

Not drinking enough water can have a dramatic effect on the body and how well it functions.  When I look at the benefits of staying well hydrated as well as the negative effects of dehydration, I see three ways it can slow down your fat loss efforts.

First, some common symptoms of dehydration are poor concentration, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness, and tiredness.  If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, let alone more than one, you’re going to be much less likely to get in the gym to train.  Even if you do train your efforts will be minimized, again resulting in a less than stellar calorie and fat burning training session.

Second, the body’s signal for thirst can often be mistaken for hunger.  Imagine your body is craving water and what you’re thinking is, “I’m hungry!”  Instead of giving the body what it needs, some zero calorie hydration, you wind up giving it more calories than it needs simply because you misunderstood your body’s signals.  You‘re thinking you must need some more food, due to the “hunger” you’re feeling, but in actuality, you’re taking steps backwards with your fat loss efforts.

Third, even slight dehydration has been shown to drop the body’s metabolism.  This simply that means that your body will burn fewer calories the more dehydrated you become.  A slower metabolism is not something you want when trying to shed unwanted pounds.

YOU’RE TOO STRESSED

We tend to lead stressful lives.  Whether it’s a job with a demanding and under-appreciative boss, trying to make ends meet financially or simply juggling getting kids to soccer, practice, piano lessons and making dinner; stress tends to be a common theme in people’s lives.

Much like dehydration, being stressed can cause muscle aches and fatigue, and also increase the chances of getting sick for longer periods of time.  Again, none of these are conducive to crushing it in the gym.

Beyond not feeling well, chronic stress has some significant hormonal impacts within the body that impede fat loss. 

Stress causes a “fight or flight” response within the body which releases the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol sets a chain of events in to action that raises the body’s blood sugar creating quickly accessible energy.  This is a good thing when you need to flight or flee.

The problem is that when you are continually stressed, your cortisol levels stay elevated which keeps your blood sugar elevated as well.  Over time this causes fat storage as well as insulin resistance.  If your body does not respond well to insulin, you will have a much harder time getting rid of and keeping off unwanted body fat (Mercurio, 2012).

OK, NOW WHAT?

Now that you understand how lack of sleep, dehydration, and stress can negatively impact your fat loss efforts, what do you do about it?

Management of these will be totally different depending on your individual situation, needs and lifestyle habits.   However, here are some simple tips for each:

For better sleep:

-Have a bedtime and a wake time.  Stick to a sleep schedule.

-Turn off electronics an hour before your bedtime.

-Reduce any light in your bedroom.  Make it as dark as possible.

-Have a bedtime routine.

To stay hydrated:

-Simply drink more water.

-Carry a water bottle with you at all times and constantly sip from it.

-Shoot for a minimum of 90 ounces a day.

To de-stress your life:

-Schedule your day.  Knowing what you’re doing and when alleviates the feeling of a chaotic day.

-Meditate.

-Minimize interactions with negative people.

-Create a budget.  Stick to it.

It’s worth repeating that getting more sleep, drinking more water, and reducing your stress levels can’t take the place of proper nutrition and a well designed training program.  However, if those are in place and your fat loss efforts have still reached a plateau, taking an honest look at these three areas and taking the appropriate steps to make the necessary changes could be just what you need to release the fat loss breaks and move into a leaner, healthier you.

REFERENCES

Knutson KL. Does inadequate sleep play a role in vulnerability to obesity? 2012, Jan 24. Am J Hum Biol. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22219. [Epub ahead of print]

Mercurio V, Carlomagno G, Fazio V, Fazio S. Insulin resistance: Is it time for primary intervention? 2012, Jan 26. World J Cardiol. 4(1):1-7.

 

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3 Things I Want You To Stop Doing…Like, Right Now.

I’ve said before that working in a gym has a ton of perks.  I work in a relaxed environment where just about everyone I interact with is happy to be.  I get to develop relationships and friendships with a huge variety of people.  I get to wear the equivalent of pajamas to work everyday.

Oh, and there’s so much room for activities!

The drawback of course is that I see a lot of things that make my eyes bleed and force me to bite my tongue to keep from screaming “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE STOP DOING THAT!!!!!”

(At this point in the blog, one might think I’m slightly exaggerating….I’m not.)

Here are three things that I see on a regular basis that I’m begging you to please stop doing.

PUSH UPS ON YOUR KNEES

This point should be geared more towards women, because seriously if you’re a dude doing push ups on your knees…well, you need to turn in your man card.  Like, now.

It’s not uncommon to see females doing push ups whilst on their knees (or “girl push ups”…a term I abhor FYI).  I get the logic behind them. Doing reps of legitimate push ups requires a decent amount of upper body and abdominal strength, something beginner female trainees can often lack.

By dropping to your knees you shorten the lever arm making the exercise easier.  In some ways it makes sense.

However, what most people don’t realize is that by reducing the lever arm, you lose a lot of the benefits a push up has to offer. One of the biggest being simply gaining enough core stability to maintain the proper push up position.  When you drop to your knees, the level of stability needed is greatly reduced and sets you up to never be able to do a legitimate push up.

Instead of doing push ups from your knees, modify the push up by raising your upper body while keeping your feet on the ground:

Doing so lessens the percentage of your body weight you will be working with, but keeps the movement identical to an actual push up.  As you get stronger, reduce the height of your torso, eventually working your way to a legitimate push up.

ANYTHING ON A BOSU BALL

BOSU Balls came onto the scene in 1999 and were soon found in nearly every gym in the country.  Touted as a way to increase ones balance as well as stability strength, personal trainers soon had clients performing nearly every exercise imaginable on them, from curls to squats.  And apparently some trainers even prescribed reps of “Hey baby, wanna see my awesome BOSU Ball moves?  I know they’re awesome ‘cuz my mom tells me.  Every morning.  ‘Cuz I still live with her.”

Case in point

Unfortunately, when put to the test, BOSU Balls (as well as other unstable surface training) don’t hold up.  Several studies have shown that while muscle activation remains similar whether on a BOSU Ball or on the ground, the force production (or amount of load you are able to handle) greatly reduces.  In other words you do less work with no increase in muscle activation.  Or in other-other-words, you’re wasting your time.

Some studies have shown that training on unstable surfaces can have some benefit when trying to rehabilitate something like a severely sprained ankle.  So if that’s what your goal, great. Go for it.  However, if you simply want to increase your awesome points and look good naked, ditch the BOSU, save yourself $30 and spare yourself from looking like an idiot in the gym.

EATING DIET FOOD

This one may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but one I feel is important.  It’s not uncommon for people to stock their freezers  with Lean Cuisines and their pantries with cases of  Slim Fast when trying to lose weight.  To a degree, I get it. I mean diet food companies do a great job of convincing the public that their products are the end all and be all to losing weight.

Don’t get me wrong, people have, can and will continue to lose weight using these products.  I’m not saying that they can’t work.  However, the idea that they are necessary, or even a good option is one that I whole-heartedly disagree with.

These products are full of preservatives, additives and are highly processed.  In short, they are a far cry from where they started in nature.  You are better off piling your plate with foods like lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  These are the original diet foods and will do more for you than a pre-packaged, manufactured meal ever will.

So there you go, three things that you are better off avoiding in your quest for a lean and mean body.  If you have others that drive you crazy, feel free to drop them in the comments!

Hi, Remember Me?

To those of you who have been faithful followers of this blog for that last few years, I owe you a huge apology.  I dropped out of sight for the last two and a half months and have given zero explanation for my absence.

I know…I suck.

To be succinct life went BOOM and I’ve had to let some things slide for a bit.   One of those things happened to be this blog.   Anyway, in some yet-to-be-determined way I’m back.   My hope is to at least get back to regular weekly posts.  I’ve been working on some things for you all that I think you will enjoy.  Maybe after you see them and we have a few cuddles we can be friends again. *crosses fingers*

While I don’t have much to say aside from my explanation for my absence, I do have a small announcement for those readers that are local.

I’m going to be running a four week long, two day a week bootcamp here at Fit For Life in Ontario.  The camp will be Thursday and Saturday morning (starting Sept. 27th) at 7:00 and will run $89.    The camp size will be limited to 10 people so if you’re interested drop me a note on my contact page and I will get your name on the list.  Spots will fill up fast, so be sure and reserve a spot now so you don’t miss out!

I’ll be back soon with some funky fresh content!

A Lil’ Bit O’ Me and Some Tough Love

Two quick things this morning.

First, Tuesday morning I was on a local radio station.  You can check out the program hereJust scroll back to Tuesday and click on “Treasure Valley Live”.  My portion starts at 29:22 and is roughly a half hour long.  We talk about nutrition, fat loss, supplements and even get prank called, so yeah…it’s definitely worth a listen.

Second, yesterday morning I witnessed/heard something that really made me sad/frustrated/irritated.  A member of the gym I train out of strolled in only to find that “her” treadmill was out of order.  She instantly (and loudly) started complaining about this.  After trying to make the treadmill “go” for the ninth time, she loudly exclaimed “I should have just stayed home!”

The road to a lean strong body is going to be filled with setbacks, frustrations, and flat out failures.  If you don’t have enough drive to adapt, get back up, endure or simply ask how to operate a treadmill that you are unfamiliar with, you have two options:

1. Accept that your body will never look different, you will never feel any better and that you probably blame all of your problems on anything and everything around you (including inanimate objects) and take zero responsibility for anything.  Oh, and you will spend each year getting fatter and more unhappy with yourself.

2. Pull your head out and realize that no person, thing, situation or circumstance dictates how hard you work or what you put into your body.  Your success is solely in your hands. 

You either want it or you don’t.

Something’s Coming

I know I’ve been a little hit and miss as of late, but I promise I haven’t forgot about you.  I’m not going to say much right now, but I’m working on something for you.  Something that is taking quite a bit of time and energy, so please forgive me not being around as much lately and in the coming few weeks.  But I promise, I think it will be worth the wait.

Let’s just say this, I’m working on a HUGE post that is going to be chalk full of info for you to overhaul your body in just four weeks.  How’s that for a teaser?

In the meantime, in case you missed it, I have put out several posts recently that are full of all kinds of movements to increase your sexiness 12% simply be reading them.  Be sure and check them out here, here, here and here.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.  And I’ll be sure to bring the awesome with me.

Burn Body Fat with Combination Movements

When it comes to how I program session for my clients, it’s clear that a majority of the movements I program are basic, compound movements (deadlifts, squats, pull ups, rows, lunges, bench press, overhead press, etc.) and the endless variations of these movements.  I’m a believer that the basics should be a huge part of anyone’s programs, as you can never get TOO good at them.

However, over the years, I’ve come up with, or come across, several movements that either blend a few of these basic movements together, or are based on a basic movement but have some other stuff thrown in with them that are fun, challenging and a nice change of pace.  I call these movements “combination movements”…cuz…well…they’re combinations of movements.  Clever huh?

What I’ve found is that while these movements aren’t the most effective for building muscle, they are great for improving coordination, getting the heart rate up and burning a ton of calories, which helps get that stubborn fat off of your midsection.

Most often, not always, I use these movements as part of a finisher.  After all a clients strength work is done, I may use the following (or others) as part of a finishing complex.  The reps and set combinations are endless, however I will make a note for where I typically set rep parameters for each.  Use this as a guideline, not as something set in stone.

In no particular order, here are 5 of my favorites fat burning, combination movements:

Renegade Row W/ Push Up:

Typical rep parameters: 6-8 per side

Goblet Reverse Lunge W/ Push Press:

Typical rep parameters: 6-8 per side

Inverted Row W/ Glute Bridge:

Typical rep parameters: 8-12

Side Plank W/ Cable Row:

Typical rep parameters: 6-12 per side

Cross Body Mountain Climbers W/ Squat Thrust and KB High Pull:

Typical rep parameters: 5-10 (I think any more than that is just cruel)

Give these a shot and let me know which you loved (or hated) the most!

Love what you just read? Share it on Facebook.  It’s what all the cool kids do.

My Amazing Weekend

Last week I had the incredible opportunity of getting to fly to Kansas City (Missouri, not that Kansas-y one) to attend The Fitness Summit.  In short, The Fitness Summit was a weekend of awesome, buttered with some learning and slow roasted in holy-crap-John-“Roman”-Romaniello-is-sharing-my-french-fries.  (Cue schoolgirl squeal).  In hindsight, I should have ordered a shake…with two straws.

Roman and I sharing a moment.

To be more specific, I got to spend the weekend listening to presentations from the top minds in the field, hanging out with said presenters as well as other big-time fitness peeps, and meet a ton of other fitness professionals and enthusiasts.  All in all, I made some great connections and friendships.

Aside from total nutritional debauchery (Kansas City BBQ, a hamburger stuffed with onions and prime rib and Gouda and bacon smothered cheese fries, just for starters) last weekend was something I definitely needed.  I was finding myself in a bit of rut both professionally and personally with training, and was looking forward to getting a much needed jolt of enthusiasm and creativity from being immersed in training talk as well as being around some of the smartest and most successful trainers in the world.

While I learned a great deal this weekend, there are a few moments that hit me like a ton of bricks and brought about either a fresh perspective or served as a slap upside the head.

Here they are in no particular order:

IF YOU WANT IT (REALLY WANT IT), YOU’LL DO IT

In a late night discussion with Roman, we were discussing how he has risen to such a great level of success, especially as a writer.  It’s no mystery that I love to write (hence the blog and the articles), and would love to make a living doing both training and writing for magazines, websites, etc.  In short, Roman told me that if I want to write, then write…a lot.  Stay up late and write.  Give up anything else I do that wastes time and write.  If you want something bad enough, you’ll do it.  I realized that while I would love to be able to help pay the bills with my writing, I’m doing very little of it.  And, if I really want to be considered a legitimate writer, I’ll write a lot more than I currently am.

INTEGRITY IS KING

I got to spend several hours with Bret Contreras.  I was a fan of his before this weekend, but after getting to hang out with him for a while, I have to say, this guy is legit.  A champion for “the best” in everything, Bret pours over research, does his own EMG tests and is a master critical thinker, simply out of an effort to discover the best exercises, training modalities and approaches for every possible goal in the gym.  What stood out the most to me about him was that he wasn’t dogmatic in what he believed.  He doesn’t try to prove what he believes through research, rather he looks at what science has shown and makes determinations from there.  Beyond that, he holds to those beliefs loosely and is willing to be proven wrong and adapt accordingly.  He is honestly in a pursuit of scientific truth and is willing to abandon what he has championed if he is proven wrong.  If only we were all so interested in seeking truth and not in projecting our own personal biases.

Like I said, Bret is legit and full of humility and integrity.

IF IT WORKS, IT WORKS

Nick Tumminello is probably one of the most unique trainers I’ve ever come across.  He doesn’t prescribe to one certain modality or pigeonhole himself.  He takes bits and pieces from everything and has created his own massive arsenal of training approaches that would be near impossible to replicate.  The thing I loved most about Nick was his confidence in what he has experienced.  In short, over a plate of BBQ and coleslaw, Nick told me something along the lines of, “I don’t put too much stock in science.  I keep up on it because it’s important to know if there are more effective ways to train people, but at the same time if something works in the gym, I don’t need a study to prove it to me.”  Or in other words, if it works, it works.

BE GENEROUS

I was incredibly excited to get to meet several of the people who were both presenting and attending the seminar.  I was hoping to have the opportunity to be able to say hi briefly and let them know that they’ve made a huge impact on me, both personally and professionally.  While that alone was awesome, I was overwhelmed by the humility and generosity all of them exhibited.  These are busy people who have built incredible names and reputations for themselves.  These guys know they’re big deals.  People pay them money just to hear them drop some knowledge.  However, they all took time to sit down to dinner with the attendees, ride with us in the vans from the hotel, hang out till 4am in the lobby, walk to get lunch with us, and on and on.

And as big of a fan as I was before last weekend, due to their generosity, I’m even more of a believer.  It’s amazing what simply being generous with your time can do.

Like I said, this past weekend was incredible.  And I will definitely be attending next year.  Who knows, give it 5 or so years, and maybe I’ll be presenting. 😉