How to Spot Fitness Scams!

There are countless ads bombarding us with the latest product, workout regimen, or supplement that’s going to solve all our problems and give us a body all will envy or desire.

How can you tell when they’re full of it?

Is this offer realistic? Meaning, does it make sense to you that the product or service can deliver as promised? “So I just take this pill and that’s it?”

“I wear this metal-infused ornament and that’s all I have to do?”

It’s tempting to want to believe that getting a great body only requires one simple action, but it’s just not true. It’s never been true. It will never be true. You don’t have to do a million things to get in great shape, but you will definitely have to do more than one.

 Is the price reasonable for what is being offered? “I can look like the people in the ads for just 3 easy payments of $29.99?!” There isn’t a direct market where you can exchange x-dollars for y-body (yet). But I don’t want to see you throw your money at someone who’s only giving you empty promises in return. You can spend as little or as much as you want for your fitness. Whether that’s value or not is something only you can decide.

 Are the people in the ads super heroes? The vast majority of us will never look like super heroes. Frankly, most of us won’t really want to. I’m not knocking the models/actors in the ads. They work very hard to achieve that look. Do you really want every rippling muscle and throbbing vein visible on your body? If you do, that’s great. Understand it will take a ton of focus, dedication, and time.

Most of us want to look better, feel better, and be healthier.

Does the time frame make sense? It’s a staple of marketing to lead you to believe that “yes, you too, can look like this in only 30 days”. Maybe it’s 21 days or 90, you get the point. If you look closely, you’ll note there’s always a disclaimer along the lines “results not typical”. Basically, you can be a millionaire if you play the lottery and win like these people in this ad; it’s possible but you probably won’t win. Further, it’s one thing to get into amazing shape for one day or one week, but can you sustain the results over time. Quick fixes don’t last.

Essentially, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. It’s a lot easier to feed into your hopes and vanity than it is to tell you the fundamentals of health and fitness. They’re extremely good at crafting the message to play to your emotions. The fundamentals are rarely sexy. Chances are, you already have a pretty good idea what the answer is. If you eat mostly whole foods and include at least some daily activity in your life, you’re setting yourself up for long-term results.

 

 

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The Upside of a Fitness Plateau

You’ve been making gains and then all of a sudden they stop and you’re stuck. What happens now?

 You made a decision to get in better shape. You began a mission to shed some flab and build some muscle. Sure, you’ve started this path other times but this time it’s different.

 You diligently stuck to your plan. Your workouts and nutrition were on point and you hit them consistently.

 It took a little while but then you started seeing results. Your sweat and discipline were paying off.

 Your clothes are getting a little looser. You notice some more definition in your arms. The scale is moving in the right direction. You spend just a little more time in front of your bathroom mirror. Even people around you compliment your transformation.

 And then the progress just stops.

 What you’ve been doing isn’t working any more. Everything was going so well and now, for weeks, nothing’s changing. You’re stuck. You must work harder right? Less food! Longer training! That has to be the answer, right?

 No, not quite. First, take a deep breath. Relax. It’s not time to run yourself into the ground by adding hours more at the gym and dropping your food intake by half.

 Plateauing is normal. It’s part of the process of transforming your body.

In fact, it’s kind of a good thing. Seriously. Don’t roll your eyes.

 Reaching a plateau is a sign you’ve already made some progress. It means your body has reached a new normal state that’s an improvement over your old normal state when you started. Sure, it’s not where you want to be. That’s okay, you’re not done.

 Ask yourself this about this new plateau:

Do you feel better than when you started?

Are you happier with your appearance now than before?

Can you do more things?

Are you stronger, faster, fitter, more flexible?

Are daily tasks easier?

Do you sleep better?

Has your confidence improved?

  Even though we all want progress to be linear and straightforward, it’s not. It’s a jagged graph with some periods where you’ll feel you’re just running in place.

 A plateau gives you the chance to reflect and adjust. Often you may be in one for a few weeks and you’ll have a breakthrough if you just keep doing what you’ve been doing. I wish I understood exactly how that works. Sometimes it just takes a little more time sticking with your plan to start seeing results again.

 Maybe it’s like driving on one of those straight roads out West. There’s a giant mountain ahead of you and hour after hour it doesn’t seem to get any closer, until suddenly you’re there.

 If you need to adjust, just tweak things a little. What you’ve been doing was working for a reason. Making a 90-degree change is more drastic than needed. Pick one thing and change it just a little. When you change several things, you may see some improvement, but you’ll have no idea why. Take one thing, tweak it maybe 5-10% and when it works, you’ll know there’s a high probability that’s the reason.

A few tweaks that can help: Try to manage your stress. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Drink more water. Focus on your form in the gym. When you’re lifting weights, change up your reps and sets.

 I won’t lie and tell you plateaus are awesome. They can definitely be frustrating. They’re also a sign you’ve reset yourself in a better place and there are more gains to come. Stick with it!

Fitness Q&A

 

 Instead of the posts I usually do, this one’s going to be a little different. I’m going to answer a few questions I’ve been getting from clients and friends. Here goes!

What’s the best way to get lean for summer?

 If you’re looking to drop a few pounds for summer you’re going to have to eat a bit less. I know “a bit” is a little vague. In order to lose weight you must consume fewer calories than you burn.  Try to reduce your calories by 10-20%. It doesn’t seem like a lot, and that’s intentional. Cutting your food intake by 40% or more may get you some fast weight loss initially but there are serious drawbacks. You’re going to be miserable if you drastically drop your intake suddenly. After the initial weight loss, your progress will slow. You keep cutting your calories by 40% and soon you’ll be at or below the minimum your body requires just to function.

  A more modest deficit of 10-20% gets the scale moving in the right direction without making you miserable and leaves you some room to gradually increase the deficit if and when it becomes necessary.

  You can track your calories if you want. I’d recommend that for most people. But you don’t have to. It takes some discipline to stick with it, but consistency is imperative to achieve your desired results.

  In order to get really beach ready, include 2-3 strength training sessions per week. They don’t have to be excessive. Strength training cues your body to hold onto muscle despite your reduced food intake.

What’s your daily diet like and how does it affect your training?

 I must confess, I’m not a foodie. I like food but not the way a lot of you do. I know I’m missing out on all the joy that delicious food brings. I like to have a few go-to meals and basically eat them most of the time.

 I eat chicken or beef pretty much every day. I include plenty of vegetables daily as well, usually carrots, spinach, or broccoli. I don’t need a ton of variety but when I do get sick of having one thing, I’ll switch things up. I spend a couple hours on Sundays preparing most of my meals for the upcoming week. It’s more convenient for me than cooking daily.

 I don’t eat before I work out. You might feel your workouts suffer if you don’t have something before you train. That’s cool. As long as your total daily food supports your training, it’s not all that important when you eat.

  My diet is very consistent but it’s not perfect. You don’t have to eat totally clean in order to be healthy and make progress in the gym. I include room for things like burgers, whiskey, and ice cream on occasion. My goal isn’t to be single-digit body fat, super shredded. I can enjoy stuff like that in moderation without it affecting my training.

What’s a good pre-workout meal? What’s a good post-workout meal?

  If you’re going to eat before you hit the gym, that’s cool. Simple carbs like a piece of fruit can give you a little energy boost without making you feel sluggish. A heavier meal will take longer to digest. You don’t want your body focused on digestion when it’s time to workout.

  After a workout, you can refuel with some protein and carbs. Maybe you’ve heard about an “anabolic window” post-workout? Basically the idea is that your body is primed to use nutrients for muscle repair and growth right after a workout. There is some truth to it, but it’s largely overstated. The most important thing is that you hit your protein and calories targets by the end of the day.

Does it really matter how long you rest between sets?

 The short answer is yes. If you don’t rest long enough, your ability to do subsequent sets will be less. But you don’t want to rest so long that you cool down, either. Most of the time 1-2 minutes between sets is enough to recover. But if your workout is more strength-based, meaning you’re doing reps in the 1-5 range, you might need a little longer to recover, 3-5 minutes.

 If you feel recovered after 3 minutes, there’s no reason to take 5 minutes. Go ahead and hit that next set. If you’re new to training this may seem like eternity, but as the amount you’re lifting increases those few minutes will start to feel like seconds.

Thanks for the questions, keep ‘em coming!

Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about fitness can fit on an index card.

Everything you need to know about health and fitness can fit on an index card. Seriously. There’s an endless amount of stuff you could learn. A few of us happily dive down that rabbit hole. Most are just as happy with the bullet points, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

So here goes:

  1. For body composition (i.e., what you look like) the amount of food you eat is the main thing.
  2. For health (i.e., how you feel), the quality of the food is most important.
  3. Be consistent with your training. Base it around activities you enjoy most of the time. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to stick with it. Your consistency will drive your results.
  4. Focus on proper form and getting stronger at the compound lifts (such as squats, pull-ups, and bench press).
  5. 45-60 minutes per weight training session is plenty.
  6. Doing something is better than doing nothing. If you don’t have time for a full workout, do what you can.
  7. Sleep is vital. Prioritize it and you’ll improve your life in every way.
  8. Dietary supplements aren’t magic. They can’t make up for a terrible diet.
  9. Drink plenty of water. How much? More.
  10. Train hard, but not stupid. Listen to your body.

Obviously this isn’t everything there is to know on the subject but if you did nothing beyond this list, you’ll get great results. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to do more. There’s always going to be a “brand new” diet plan and workout regimen making outrageous promises. That’s marketing. No knock on it, they’re simply trying to get you to buy their product. Any good program is going to incorporate the tenets listed above.

Keep them in mind and go have a great workout!

The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making By Quitting Cold Turkey

Quitting cold turkey is good for some people, but not most

The Five Biggest Mistakes You Make When Quitting Cold Turkey

  1. You’re lying to yourself.
  2. You underestimate the difficulty.
  3. You don’t have a plan
  4. Lack of understanding
  5. You’re thinking short term

 So you’ve decided to quit eating sugars or carbs or fats or meat (or whatever) today, right now, and forever!

 You won’t be beholden to that weakness for another instant!

 Congratulations! ….And maybe you just played yourself.

Quitting cold turkey is good for some people. But in most cases, it’s probably not even necessary.

I mean this in a limited sense. If you’re quitting committing homicides, cold turkey is definitely the way to go.

But here are 5 huge mistakes people make when they quit cold turkey:

 1) You’re lying to yourself. Sure, you say you’re never going to have another soda again. You may even get rid of the cans in your refrigerator right now. But deep down, deeeep dooown, you know you’ll be back on that stuff soon. Have you tried to cut soda out of your diet before, only to end up like our friend here, every time?

Beavis 2 For your mission to have any chance, you must be honest with yourself.

2) You’re underestimating the difficulty. You’re giving up ice cream and cookies for dessert but what about the other people in your house? If your spouse and kids are still going to be enjoying your biggest temptation, that’s going to be really hard on you. You can ask or demand that they quit too but is that fair? What if they refuse? You have to be realistic about how hard it’s going to be.

 3) You don’t have a plan. You’ve been eating fast food every weekday for years and you want to stop. The people at Wendy’s know your order by heart. At this point it’s a deeply ingrained habit. Every day at lunch time you will feel that tugging at you “it’s burger and fries o’clock.” What do you do when your work friends invite you? When you sense that familiar aroma wafting through the office? If you don’t have a plan on how to deal with temptation, you will fail.

 4) Lack of understanding. Is there someone close to you doing the Keto diet and seeing great results? Maybe it’s a cleanse? Or going vegan? Perhaps it’s some other trendy thing? Different tactics will work for different people. You have to have some understanding of what those tactics are and why they’re likely to be successful for you (or not). Hate bacon or eggs? Keto is going to be a round peg in your square hole. Whatever dietary changes you make have to be in line with your situation.

 5) You’re too focused on the short term. Okay so you’re avoiding all sugars besides fruit. Good for you. What happens when it’s your kid’s birthday and grandma hands you a slice of cake? Lots of people see great temporary results from stuff like cutting out all carbs. But in order for the changes to last, it has to be sustainable over the long run.

nocake

 Now, this isn’t meant to say that quitting cold turkey never works. That’d be a lie. Just that it sets things up in a way where it’s really easy to fail. It’s binary. You quit soda and slip up and have a soda 3 months from now, it’s easy to feel like you failed.

I wouldn’t personally see it that way but that’s how binary thinking works. Good and evil, failure and success.

In most instances a more nuanced approach works better. Rather than say “no” and “never”, you reduce the things you want to consume less. Replace them with healthier options. When you decide “I’m never having that ever again”, it makes it all the more tempting. We’ve all experienced some form of wanting what you can’t have, right?

 Instead of going from a 2-liter of soda a day to zero, try having only 1 liter of it and increasing your water to match.

Rather than dictating your family can never have cookies and ice cream, you can turn it into a few cookies and a scoop of ice cream on Friday nights. The whole family can enjoy it and you still are eating less.

You don’t have to quit “bad” habits cold turkey. You can if you want to. A more moderate plan will mean longer term adherence for most people. You don’t have to cut everything you enjoy completely out. Enjoying things in moderation allows you the benefits of better health and fitness without the cost of feeling deprived, like you’re missing out.

 

Enjoy It!

     Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate or how you do it, I hope it’s a happy occasion for you.

     This time of year it’s really nice to enjoy time with loved ones. Hopefully you have some time off, too.

     If you’re anxious about counting calories or getting in all your workouts, relax. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy.

     You can everything you want to eat, just not all of it. When you’re eating meals with family and friends, feel free to have some of everything you want. Don’t worry about tracking calories or macros.

     Instead on focus on having a good time with the people you’re with.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re having a great one!

Finicky Eater?

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I was never able to put on any weight. I was a really skinny kid. So skinny, I barely cast a shadow.

Being a finic- I mean, selective eater doesn’t mean you can’t make great gains. Just as there’s no one food you have to avoid in order to lose weight, there is no food you absolutely have to eat in order to help you put on muscle.

I know this is probably contrary to some things you’ve heard. Maybe you’ve read about the GOMAD approach. If you haven’t, that’s drinking a Gallon Of Milk A Day. Some people actually do this. I think it’s excessive, but if that’s what you want to do, go for it.

There’s no arguing that milk is the one substance specifically evolved to grow little baby mammals into larger ones.

(I’m not going to get into the merits or morality of humans drinking other mammals’ milk. I will say, I’m totally against depriving baby almonds from their moms’ milk though).

IMG_2748As long as I can remember, I have hated milk. The taste, texture, smell, everything. I must have been stubborn about it ‘cause I don’t recall my parents ever trying to force me to drink it. I must have gotten enough calcium and vitamin D ‘cause not only have I never broken a bone (knocks on wood), I am still alive. I made it all the way to adulthood!

This isn’t to knock milk specifically. If you love it, good. I solemnly swear to never take yours.

I was born lucky enough to develop a finicky appetite with other foods too. I’ll spare you the list (you’re welcome). It wasn’t like I grew up only on junk food or anything like that. There’s a bunch of healthy foods I like.

The truth is, if you’re a finicky eater, that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life as a malnourished stick figure.

What it does mean is if you’re looking to put on lean mass, you’re going to have to do a couple things. You’re going to have to eat a whole lot of the few things you do like. And you’re going to have to keep trying new foods, even if you’re pretty sure you’re going to hate it. Once in awhile you should even retry something you hated just to see if your tastes have changed.

IMG_2749

It never made sense to me why anyone would force someone to eat something they clearly hate. Any nutrition you miss from not eating something you dislike can likely be made up by eating something else you do like. So don’t think that you should replace your most-despised vegetable with Pop-Tarts. Being a picky eater doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat mostly healthy. Any calories you’d miss from one food can always be replaced by eating something you prefer.

 

Making sure you eat proper nutrition will help keep you healthy. But it’s the calories that are going to help you add size. Simply put, in order to put on size you need to eat more calories than you burn consistently over time. The fancy term for this is eating at a “calorie surplus”.

The best way to make sure those excess calories are used to fuel muscle growth rather than fat is to do strength training. You want to lift weights a few times per week. Focus on getting stronger at compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press and pull-ups while eating at a slight calorie surplus.

Be patient, this will take time. Especially if you’re finicky.

 Thanks for reading. I hope this helps!

 

 

P.S. No. I’m not trying milk again. Last time I tried was when I was in college and I’m good. Same for liver and brussels sprouts.