Calories For Fat Loss, Gym For Strength

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I, for sooo long, was convinced that since I worked out 4-5 times a week I was allowed to eat just about whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. And that is true, I was free to eat whatever I wanted, but I never was quite as lean as I’d like to be. Quite frankly, I felt justified in my overeating because I was “very” active.

I consider myself to be fairly well educated, yet I had a faulty belief system despite the level of knowledge I had acquired. This faulty belief system mixed with a little bit of denial and the inability to be objective about my appearance was the reason that I not too long ago… was over 200lbs (and I’m not talking jacked, but doughy and quite honestly overweight).

I, as a fitness professional, even make mistakes and am in a constant state of learning when it comes to developing the body I want. Hopefully I can shorten the learning curve to reaching your goal whatever that may be. So sit back and get ready to have your mind blown (ok prolly not, but let’s pretend this is new amazing information you’ve never heard before).

When it comes to fitness most of us walk into the gym or start a workout program because we aren’t happy with the person looking back at us in the mirror. Ultimately, we want to lose a bit of body fat and maybe get some bigger biceps to turn a few heads in the process.

While the gym is a great place to start, I for the longest time placed my trust in the gym and weightlifting to help me achieve the body of my dreams and failed miserably. Ok maybe I didn’t fail miserably; I got fairly strong in the process, but mostly ignored the largest key to success in developing the body you want. Nutrition, and more to the point… total calories.

It’s so simple, it’s almost laughable. If you can get into a calorie deficit and still be able to have a chocolate chip cookie, or some frozen custard every once in a while (life isn’t worth living without a bit of frozen custard every once in a while in my opinion) you’ll lose body fat.

So one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is divorce the mindset that hitting the gym will get you ultra lean, because the gym without a supportive nutrition program won’t do it. Nutrition is really where it’s at when it comes to fat and weight loss.

Don’t misunderstand me the gym is awesome it makes us look great, feel better, hell even deadlift a mack truck if that’s what your into, but a poor nutrition plan will quickly sabotage the most intelligently designed program.

But Ian what about going gluten free, avoiding high fructose corn sugar, and eating like a friggin caveman! Doesn’t that get us the body we want?” you say. To that I say horseshit! None of that matters until you control for calories. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have those conversations, but they are secondary if your goal is to lose body fat.

There may be a bit more to the story than just calories but quite frankly it’s minutia until you have regularly been in a calorie deficit (and by regularly I mean consistently over the entire week not Monday through Friday with a 5000 calorie binge on Saturday and Sunday). If you think you are in a calorie deficit and you haven’t lost body fat and the way you look in the mirror has not changed, I challenge you to be brutally honest with yourself and reassess your nutrition.

If your appearance has not changed, nor has the scale, then almost certainly you are eating too many calories. Take a second and track how many calories you eat. Use myfitnesspal.com, lose it, or the other 5000 apps out there that have a great database of foods to track with.

Yes that means you will have to measure your food with a measuring spoon or measuring cups, and maybe invest a few dollars in a scale to measure some portions of dead animal flesh. It does take a bit of time and it may be a little annoying but you’ll have to ask yourself is it more annoying to not reach the goals you have for yourself?  

Priority, Consistency, and Forever

RRRThe title of today’s post, Priority, Consistency, and Forever, is a bit of a word soup or maybe more like a word appetizer.  They are 3 of the most important factors in meeting your fitness/health goals.  In fact, those 3 words could probably be applied to just about anything that you want to set goals around like getting wicked strong, learning how to grow a sweet beard, or taking over the world in Risk (yes the old school board game!).  But they are three words that I find are important, and understanding the context of them is just as crucial.  So grab a protein shake and get ready to figure out how to apply them to your situation.

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and your mother’s uncle’s brother has done it.  What is that?  Set a goal or decided to get in shape and failed miserably at it.  You joined a gym, started some sort of exercise program, or a nutrition program only to bail 3 weeks in because life got in the way.  The next time you start a program again, how can you make sure you succeed, or at least maybe continue into week 4 or 5.  Make it a priority that’s how!

I find that most of the people I work with that struggle getting in a regular groove of exercise whether it be zumba, powerlifting, or prancercise is because they don’t make it a priority.  Making exercise a priority is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  You need to be selfish with the time you schedule for exercise and make sure little to nothing will prevent you from doing it.  Schedule it in your iphone, on your outlook calendar, heck tattoo it on your forehead, whatever works to remind yourself that exercise  is one of the keys to losing fat, getting in great shape, and living life to its fullest.

The typical I don’t have time is a cop out.  Mark Young, a well respected fit pro, posted something on facebook a while back that said, “When I find myself saying I don’t have time for something I will instead say I’m not making that a priority”.  I’ve started doing this a bit myself and it really starts to change your mindset.  Try this little exercise when you find yourself blaming a lack of time for not executing your goal.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so make sure you prioritize the goals you want to accomplish.  If you really truly think you don’t have enough time, keep a log of everything you do during the day and the time it takes, chances are you can find even 15 minutes to execute your goal.  A 15 minute workout or 15 minutes spent organizing your meal plan is better than nothing, don’t fall victim to the all or nothing mindset.  While a 15 minute workout may not help you make significant progress in your goals it will help you keep the habit, which is just as valuable.

 consistent

Consistency is the second piece of the puzzle when it comes to reaching your particular goals.  If you can’t consistently execute your plan more than likely you will not get the results you want.  The old 80/20 rule applies here, because if you execute your plan about 80% of the time you will likely find success, as long as your idea of success is realistic.  Consistency means executing your plan even when you don’t want to, but at the same time being able to enjoy life and not miss out on social functions or activities because of overly restrictive programs.  It’s about finding balance in your exercise and nutrition programming and life so all of those pieces can peacefully coexist.

Be patient with the process.  If you nail the right behaviors (nutrition and exercise) consistently, the outcome (fat loss or looking jacked on the beach) will come in time, but probably not as quickly as you’d like.  More than likely it will take longer than you want so be ready for that.

At the end of the day the behavioral changes we’ve made, adjustments in nutrition, the exercise program, need to be viewed through a lens of can I do this forever?  We have to be willing to apply and maintain these changes forever, otherwise when we return to old behaviors the fat starts to accumulate and our hard work quickly disappears.  This is part of the reason why we need to make sure our programs have balance and are sustainable in the long term, ultimately forever.

Flash in the pan quick fixes fail every time.  You don’t know anybody who has been on the cabbage soup diet for freaking life right?  The forever piece is also a reason I’m not a huge fan of programs like weight watchers, medifast, p90x, and the like, most of these programs are ones we won’t adhere to forever.  They teach us to follow a program, not necessarily educate us on how to make changes forever.  There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those programs and we’ve all seen the drastic results they can produce.  They absolutely can produce results and they may have other nuances that are good or bad, but you need to continue doing everything they provide, forever, or the old you will come back.

Priority, consistency, and forever, stay focused on these and you’ll be one step closer to your reaching your goals.:)

Sleep The Often Overlooked Variable In Fitness

3I’m not sure about you, but I know if I don’t sleep well I absolutely hate life the next day.  Not only does not sleeping well make life suck, it really messes with our ability to reach our fitness goals of losing fat, increasing strength, or being able to wrestle a bear (seriously who am I to judge what your goals are).  All joking aside, sleep is crucial to a number of processes that really set the stage and keep the body performing at 100%, so making sure we get enough of it is one of the first and most important steps.

Where do you start though and how much is enough?  You really ought to ask yourself a few questions in order to get an idea of whether or not you even need to change your sleep habits.

How much sleep do I average now?

Do I sleep uninterrupted or do I wake up multiple times a night?

Do I feel rested within 30 minutes of waking?

While I’d love to sit here and say each and every one of us should get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, realistically life gets in the way much of the time and we aren’t able to do that.  However, I think shooting for 8 is a reasonable goal, with 7 being sort of a good minimum for optimal function.  If we plan to get 8 and succeed most days that’s a win in my book, but if you’re getting 5 or 6 you are leaving results on the table.  Finding ways to get an extra hour or two of sleep each night can make a world of difference in the way we feel and our ability to work hard in the gym and in life.

Sleep is also a time when our body is able to build up and repair the tissue we breakdown from our workouts, store and categorize our memories, and sort of reset our hormones.  It might mean opting to not watch the baseball game into extra innings or your favorite TV show, but setting a bedtime and sticking to it is one way ensure you start to get enough sleep.  Our bodies are pretty amazing and having a set bedtime each night our body will start to recognize this and signal the chemicals to prepare us for a sleep on par with Rip Van Winkle’s.

TV or other electronics shouldn’t be the last thing we are staring at before bed anyway.  Ipads, tablets, and the like can stimulate our brains and make it tougher for us to fall asleep, especially if we use them too close to bedtime anyway.  So spend your time reading, preferably something not too stimulating, or implement another type of wind-down routine that doesn’t involve TV or electronics before your head hits the pillow.  And trying to make your house dark is a good idea too.  Turn off any unnecessary lights or install a few dimmer switches so the lights aren’t on full blast.

We also want to make sure the hours we spend sleeping are at least restful if anything else, so focusing on sleep quality is as important as sleep quantity.  Kids seem to be damn near nocturnal when we are getting our best sleep, and the trash truck inevitably wakes me up like the most faithful of alarms (Tuesdays at about 5am!).  Distractions be damned, I usually sleep through the night and you should be able to as well, and if you aren’t that could be a sign of a larger problem.  If you can’t seem to sleep through the night regularly you might consider a sleep study in order to find the cause of your concern, or at least a discussion with your primary care doctor might be helpful.  There are also a bevy of medications that may have adverse effects on your sleep, again a discussion with your doc may find one that doesn’t have that effect.

As a last point, if you usually feel rested and refreshed within 30 minutes of waking up then you are probably getting enough sleep.  We all inevitably feel groggy and tired when the alarm first goes off, but after you’ve hit the snooze 37 times and finally dragged yourself out of bed, within 30 minutes you really should feel pretty good and awake even without caffeine.  If that’s not the case and you still feel like the walking dead, it might be an indication you aren’t getting enough sleep.