You asked: Cardio versus strength training for fat loss

I am not sure if you have heard, but you do not need to run to be thin. But cardio, more accurately aerobic exercise, is often promoted as THE BEST STRATEGY for weight loss. Aerobic exercises are touted as:

  • Burning more calories in a shorter period of time.
  • Cheap, all you need is a pair of shoes and ground to walk all.
  • Supposedly higher fat burning.
  • And more.

The truth is that long duration, aerobic activities are not the most effective, efficient strategies for fat loss.

I could tell you all the benefits of strength training. But you can Google that and come up with some pretty respectable answers. What I want to tell you are a few reasons  WHY strength training is better than aerobic exercise for fat loss and weight maintenance.

EPOC

After exercise , the body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate than before the exercise began. This sustained oxygen consumption is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Because of this, the body continues to expend energy after exercise and therefore burn calories. Research shows that EPOC is greater after resistance training than it is after aerobic exercises – likely as a result of greater intensity and disruption to the body’s homeostasis.

While you may burn more calories during 30 minutes of aerobic training than you will with 30 minutes of strength training (not always the case!), you will burn more calories in the hours following strength training than you will in the hours following aerobic training because of EPOC.

MORAL: Strength training ultimately burns more calories than aerobic training.

Muscle burns calories – fat does not

I know you have heard it, “Muscle burns more calories than fat.” I hate this phrase – because it implies that fat would burn some amount of calories. It does not!

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this post.

Want to see results from only working out 3-5 hours a week? It’s possible! I have done it and so have many of my clients.

Like what you read? I’ve moved my blog! Please visit me at Better By Becca for more content.

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Response: Mediterranean Diet not for weight loss

I read a blog post yesterday about the Mediterranean Diet. The post (specific author unknown to me and brought to me by my Facebook newsfeed) proposes that the Mediterranean Diet is not conducive to weight loss and declares that it is only good for improving heart health. This is an incredibly superficial understanding of nutrition and naive perspective. I would even go so far as to say that posting such information is professional negligence or malpractice.

I strongly believe that you should get your nutrition advice from a qualified nutrition professional. I AM NOT ONE. I feel like I have been writing more about nutrition than exercise or mental strategies lately – I only intend to make you think critically and then get the answers you need. And when I read posts like this and hear a story of a nutritionist telling a friend that a vegetable is not a carbohydrate (yes, true story), I become infuriated. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. As if individuals are not confused enough! This world is infiltrated with hogwash and I intend to do my small part to call attention to it.

Mediterranean Diet = weight loss?

Yes, a Mediterranean Diet will yield weight loss. The poorly misguided post ‘cites’ research (that focused on heart risks, bias much?) that claimed a Mediterranean diet improved heart health but did not result in weight loss. I put cites in quotes because the author claims that the New England Journal of Medicine conducted the research – really? A journal did research? More like researchers were published in the journal. But hey, it’s close and shows that the author does not understand how to accurately read and present research.

Moving on. Yes, the Mediterranean Diet is best known for its coronary benefits. Along with dietary guidelines, the diet emphasizes plenty of exercise. So, while weight loss may not have been significant in the study, fat loss probably was significant and not measured. Numerous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet shows improved weight loss over other weight loss strategies (Mohamed, El-Swefy, Rashed, & Abd El-Latif, 2010; Razquin, Martínez, Martínez-González, Salas-Salvadó, Estruch, & Marti, 2010; Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006).

NOTE: Without proper citation by the author, I was unable to locate the so-called research among the thousands of articles published in the NEJM. Therefore, my argument is anecdotal but based on years of personal research and education.

Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

Beyond heart benefits, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to increase fat loss (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006). It is also known to prevent and ‘cure’ diabetes (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006; Walker, O’Dea, Gomez, Girgis, & Colagiuri, 2010), decrease mental decline, reduce insulin resistance, and reduce metabolic disorders (which have a high comorbidity with overweight/obesity).

And I refer you to a nutrition professional for additional information.

Basic nutrition

This brings me back to the fact that very few weight loss “professionals” have an understanding of the basic nutrition principles and processes. It is appalling to me that any weight loss company would publish such hogwash. Seriously. A Mediterranean Diet not a weight loss diet? HOGWASH! I will over simplify this: A diet of fruits, veggies, lean meats, and healthy fats won’t yield weight loss? But a diet of Fig Newtons and graham crackers with pudding is a better solution (per the post’s publisher)?

I think it’s time to come back to the basics. I read textbooks for my information – but I realize this is too dense and time consuming for most individuals. I am beginning to put together a resource list of videos and websites to help my friends and readers increase personal understanding of nutrition!

The bottomline

I am not promoting a Mediterranean Diet. Nor am I discouraging it. I believe that the guidelines are reasonable and will work for some and will be difficult for others – as like any other change. It is not significantly different from a a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-glycemic index diet, or a Paleo diet. The most critical commonality? Eating more REAL food and less processed and packaged junk.

Further, this absurdity highlights the importance of weight loss versus fat loss. Body composition will often improve with no change in weight – with proper lifestyle improvements.

Lastly, please be a critical consumer. It is sad that I read this post on a page that I believed I could trust (at least to a certain degree). I now know otherwise.

References

Mediterranean-Style Diet Counters Metabolic Syndrome. (2011). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter29(6), 6.

Mohamed, H. E., El-Swefy, S. E., Rashed, L. A., & Abd El-Latif, S. K. (2010). Obesity and neurodegeneration: effect of a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Nutritional Neuroscience13(5), 205-212.

Razquin, C. C., Martínez, J. A., Martínez-González, M. A., Salas-Salvadó, J. J., Estruch, R. R., & Marti, A. A. (2010). A 3-year Mediterranean-style dietary intervention may modulate the association between adiponectin gene variants and body weight change. European Journal Of Nutrition49(5), 311-319.

Serra-Majem, L., Roman, B., & Estruch, R. (2006). Scientific Evidence of Interventions Using the Mediterranean Diet: A Systematic Review. Nutrition Reviews64(2), S27-S47.

Walker, K. Z., O’Dea, K. K., Gomez, M. M., Girgis, S. S., & Colagiuri, R. R. (2010). Diet and exercise in the prevention of diabetes. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics23(4), 344-352.

A day in the life of my nutrition

Individuals are constantly asking me: how do you do it? How do you stay motivated? How do you stay so thin (I am not thin, by the way)? How do you find the time? My response, I do not know, but I sure know it is not easy. Like many of you, I used to work in an office and I sat ALL DAY. My coworkers loved donuts and McDonald’s. Saying no the first time was the hardest. The second and third, still hard. Twentieth time, yes still hard. That is why it is important to have set goals and to stay focused on achieving those goals.

 A typical day

For one reason or another, people think I do not eat. Not true. Then I must eat nothing but salads! Not true. People also think that I don’t sleep. True. Let me give you a taste of my preferred weekday:

4:30 am Alarm goes off. Hit the snooze.
4:39 Alarm goes off. Get up. Start drinking protein shake.
5:30 Workout—Mon, Wed, & Fri strength, Tues & Thur cardio
6:30 Finish protein shake
7:30 Breakfast—4-6 egg whites and 1 cup oatmeal with 2 tablespoons walnuts and ¼ cup berries (and/or half a banana).
8:00 Coffee—black
10:30 Snack—plain Greek yogurt and homemade granola.
1:00 pm Lunch—Chicken breast and veggies. LOTS of veggies.
1:30 Coffee—black
4:00 Snack—Small apple and 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter.
4:30 Train/Teach fitness classes
7:30 Dinner—chicken, fish, or shrimp and steamed veggies (sometimes couscous or quinua)
8:00 Homemade trail mix, almonds & grapes, or natural ice cream

NOTE: I am weening off all protein supplements, therefore my morning shake will be swapped out with something to be determined. I also incorporate a GI rotation into my week, but I want to keep this simple. Just know, this is not conclusive. I hope to share more specifics in future posts.

My nutritional guidelines 

A frequent meal: eggs, ham, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms with a little cheese.

A frequent meal: eggs, ham, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms with a little cheese.

There are a few guidelines that I live by. I know I am a bit extreme, but here you go:

  1. Don’t drink calories. Only water and dirty water (aka coffee).
  2. Eat protein and veggies at every meal.
  3. Don’t eat anything that has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
  4. Stick to foods with 5 ingredients or less.
  5. No condiments. Load a sandwich with veggies and you won’t miss the mayo!
  6. No fried foods.
  7. Avoid any food that has a commercial.
  8. Eat when I am hungry.
  9. 90%+ of my food is refrigerated or frozen.
  10. NEVER consume alcohol the day before a workout.

Do not get me wrong, I indulge here and there. But, I generally stick to the guidelines. See number 10? I workout 6 days a week, so my alcohol consumption is quite limited. But remember that alcohol is poison to the body – and alcohol is a sugar that is very slowly metabolized. Alcohol intake significantly diminishes the quality of my workout.

I also generally avoid gluten.

It is never easy

Clients have asked if I have always been like this. First, I have to ask them what this means. Fit? No. Disciplined? No. I am from Wisconsin – I used to drink like the best of them. My favorite consumables are beer, cheese, and bratwursts. While it never gets easier (neither the workouts nor the food), I have become better at it. And so can you!

It helps that I do not like bread, potatoes, and corn. Corn is the the most worthless vegetable – avoid it. The limited nutritional value is not worth the consumption.

The bottomline

1. Eat REAL FOOD. The best way to do this is to shop the perimeter of the store.

2. You need to find what works for you. Every human body has its own dietary needs (unfortunately). But the chances are if it is called a diet it will not work. Fat free, reduced fat, no trans fat, zero calories, low carb – all gimmicks.

Read my previous posts on how many calories you should eat and meal & snack creation made easy for more information.

Should I eat before I workout?

This seems to be a hot topic. Apparently, there is some new research claiming that working out on an empty stomach with increase fat burning. One of the most important things I can every tell you is that anything “NEW” in health and fitness is a bunch of bulls%&t. The human body has not changed for thousands – yes THOUSANDS – of years. We already know what works – sometimes we just do not want to hear it.

NOTE: For my more educated and scientific-minded readers, please do not be offended by my oversimplifications.

Exercise nutrition

I am going to keep this as simple as I can – for it is incredibly complex. Our body uses each of the macronutrients we consume – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins – in slightly different ways. But it uses each of them and the body legitimately needs each of them. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy – and what provides the most effective immediate energy. Your body needs that energy to partake in physical activity. When that immediate energy is not available, your body must look internally. The fastest source of energy is within muscle – the muscle itself and the intramuscular fat (yes, there is some fat in your ‘muscles’). Does that sound good?

Did you think that your body would immediately go to the fat? WRONG. In fact, the processes required for converting fat into useful energy are actually quite time consuming and require that you sustain activity for a significant amount of time (e.g., more often your aerobic activities).

When to eat

You should eat something within 1 1/2 hours and 45 minutes prior to your workout – a 45 minute window (McArdle, Katch, & Katch, 2005; McArdle, Katch, & Katch, 2010). If you have not eaten, you risk cannibalizing muscle. That sounds good, does it not?

It is equally as important to eat immediately following your workout to refuel your system. Assuming you have worked at an appropriate intensity, your heart rate will be elevated for some time and your metabolism will be roaring – you need to feed this sufficiently.

DO NOT workout for more than 1 hour without refueling (Louks, 2004; Louks 2007). You risk ‘hitting the wall’ and this is the best approximation of we reach glycogen depletion – you need glucose to effectively continue working and drawing from internal energy sources (e.g., fat). Further, I would note that unless you are training to be endurance athlete, there is not benefit to working out for more than approximately 1 hour, anyway!

What if – – – 

–you are not able to eat during the 45 minute window? For instance, what if you are a 5:00am gym rat – are you going to wake up extra early to eat? It is unlikely. I am stealing the term ‘shooter’ from my mentor – a concoction of 1 scoop of protein powder, half a bottle of water, and half a bottle of 100% juice. Drink this on your way to your workout and drink throughout until it is gone (and then continue with water).

What to eat

This is debatable – dependent upon specifics of your workout and your personal nutritional needs. I would highly encourage you to consult with a registered dietitian to build the best plan for you. Specifically, seek out an RD with sports nutrition education. I will simply say – eat REAL FOOD. This is the best fuel you can provide for your body – before, during, or after workout. Carbohydrates and proteins are typically a safe choice.

The bottomline

It is important to eat before your workouts – you will be stronger and have significantly more energy at your disposal. And working out without adequate full puts you at risk of doing more harm than good – cannibalizing muscle, diminishing returns, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and all that fun stuff!

References

Loucks, A. B. (2004). Energy balance and body composition in sports and exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 1-14.

Loucks, A. B. (2007). Low Energy Availability in the Marathon and Other Endurance Sports. Sports Medicine, 37(4/5), 347-352.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2005). Sports & Exercise Nutrition (2nd Ed.). Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2010). Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance (7th Ed.). Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.

Response: Food Lovers Fat Loss System

I am devoted to being honest. I understand that we need a simple, practical, and effective method for weight loss and improved health. What we do not need is to be deceived, and the Food Lovers Fat Loss System does just that. If you have money to throw away, instead of paying your six easy installments of $19.99 to Provida Life Sciences, you can make a check out to me. You will get the same results. I take that back, if you follow the advice that I provide throughout my posts you will achieve better results.

What can I say about the Food Lovers Fat Loss System? There is a nice commercial on Pandora radio. The website lacks substance but it is pretty, with bright colors and individuals eating huge brownies and pizza. “Eat the same foods you eat now! Eat what everyone else is eating!” Best of all, those individuals look happy. Would not you be happy eating pizza and brownies, believing that you are losing fat?

The positives

This appears to be similar to a glycemic index diet, the program teaches you about nutritional timing – eating slow and fast carbs and proteins. Such a nutrition plan is effective and simple – just not easy.

The website boasts a nice picture of a well-balanced meal, consisting of real foods – steak, potato, and vegetables. So clearly, they understand what it means to eat healthfully and fuel your body for life.

The website disclaimer: These results are not typical, but they are achievable, depending on your level of commitment. Food Lovers Fat Loss System is based on a healthy eating and exercise program, which are essential for healthy weight loss. Please consult your physician before beginning Food Lovers Fat Loss System, or any other weight loss program. This is similar to all other program disclaimers. I list this as a positive because this is the only information on the website that talks about exercise as a component of weight loss.

The negatives

First and foremost, it is a gimmick. Even your basic nutrition course will teach you that you cannot burn fat by eating food. You need to be active to burn fat. You need to move. While information is limited on the website, I wonder what the program promotes for physical activity.

With that said, any program that claims weight loss or fat loss with solely dietary changes – which is overwhelmingly the claim made here – is lying. It is that simple. While the disclaimer endorses exercise, I do not see this promoted as an equally important component. We (the experts) know that you must combine changes to both dietary consumption and physical activity levels. As I have discussed, both components are critical in order to sustain long-term change in body composition (e.g., fat loss, muscle building, etc.). A sound fat loss program will provide a plan for your full lifestyle change.

Promoting blood sugar maintenance with the brownie picture. This is misleading. Even if this HUGE brownie is a black bean brownie, there is no way any individual can consume that and not elevate her blood sugar. FURTHER, why do the images with individuals show them eating junk food (what we supposedly ‘want’ to eat) but the plates of meals provide healthy, real food? These images send mixed messages – you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

For six easy payments of $19.99, you receive 9 books, one day-by-day CD series, and a DVD. Are you going to make the time to review all that information before you make your change? In order to be successful, you really should. Are you overwhelmed yet?

The bottomline

This is ridiculous. The website gives you so few details or information about the program – should not that be worrisome? Dr. Wortham endorses the program – well I lost respect for Dr. Wortham.  They sell the program on the sole notion of “Eating all the foods you want to eat.” Not on science nor evidence. Not on merit. The company is feeding on your pain and desperation. Do NOT throw your money away.

On another note, I have brownies when I want brownies. I think that I ate one brownie per day last week. With ice cream. And lost weight. How did I do it? First, I have my metabolism ROARING as a result of my workouts and training system and my nutritional timing is almost meticulous. But more importantly, I do not do it all the time – the human body can handle just about anything in moderation.

How frequently should you workout?

How frequently should I workout? Can I work the same muscles two days in a row? Can I do the same exercises every day or should I mix it up? These are some common questioned I hear on any given day. The answers are: it depends on your fitness goals. This post is an appendage to the overtraining post, giving you more details to help you plan and succeed.

Do you partake in the same workouts week in and week out? Are you making progress towards your goals? Doing the same thing over and over might work for someone looking to maintain a current condition, but if you want to change – your workouts must change! Doing the same group fitness class over and over puts you at significant risk of overuse injuries. You will plateau more frequently – leading to frustration, burnout, and eventually a desire to give up.

If your goal is to build muscle (hypertrophy), training utilizing a typical linear model – or what is commonly referred to as bodybuilding splits – may be best. However, if you want to increase strength, undulating periodized training will help you achieve optimal results. Let me explain the science to you.

The research

Rhea, Ball, Phillips, and Burkett (2002) examined the effectiveness of the undulating periodization model (DUP) as compared with the linear model (LP). The goal of periodized programs is to ‘optimize overload’ by using planned variations, in this case eliciting strength and body mass improvements. Periodization can manipulate the:

  • number of sets, repetitions, or exercises performed;
  • amount of rest;
  • type of contractions performed; or
  • training frequency.

LP programs gradually increase intensity while decreasing training volume over weeks and months.

DUP programs make these same variations on a weekly or daily basis.

The results

The DUP group showed significantly greater strength increases from pre- to mid-testing. There was no significant difference in strength increases from mid- to post-testing. This led the researchers to discuss limitations of overtraining. In the last 3 weeks, LP participants reported extended muscle soreness and fatigue, when the DUP group did not.

There were no significant differences in body composition across groups. This led the researchers to propose that the greater strength increases in the DUP group were not due to body composition or hypertrophic changes; but rather, were related to greater adaptations of the neuromuscular system.

The results support use of DUP for maximizing strength over LP. DUP programs can be used for anyone looking to make strength increases, especially anyone who has been training for an extended period of time. Further, DUP programs may help avoid plateau effects.

The bottomline

What does this mean for you? First, there are no ‘cookie cutter’ workouts that will help you safely, effectively, and efficaciously achieve your fitness goals. Your standard group fitness workouts will only take you so far along your journey before you need something more. The lack of variety and program design with limit fitness and strength improvements significantly. If you are going to put in the time, do you not want to get the results? I will gladly customize a workout program for you and teach you along the way!

The average person certainly does not need to train like a bodybuilder (i.e., LP). Nor does an LP design optimize fat/weight loss. Following a properly designed DUP program will help you avoid overtraining, burnout, and plateaus – which ultimately lead to greater results, improved self-efficacy, and more!

Reference

Rhea, M. R., Ball, S. D., Phillips, W. T., and Burkett, L. N. (2002). A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2), 250–255.

Weight loss – Doing it yourself?

I love learning and I LOVE research. I read scientific journals and textbooks for fun! Lo and behold, research confirms the need for professional help to reach fitness goals. One study looked at the effects of training with supervision/instruction (i.e., a “qualified” trainer) versus “advice”. There were two groups of participants:

  • Group one met a trainer twice a week for 4 months (as a group).
  • Group two received basic advice to increase physical activity and access to a fully equipped gym (any exercise they did was unsupervised).

The group with supervision lost almost 10 pounds more over the 4-month period: Total fat loss of 13.4 pounds in the supervised group, and only 3.7 pounds in the unsupervised, advice-only group.

The bottomline…

It is pretty clear: If you are SERIOUS about getting rapid and lasting results then you NEED to hire an educated and experienced fitness professional. You need someone who will provide you with the knowledge, motivation, and confidence you need in order to attain your goals, change your body, and transform your life. And most importantly, they will ensure that you are exercising in a safe and effective manner.

I suggest not wasting your time and money trying to do it yourself with books, DVDs, and whatever your Facebook friends happened to be talking about today – unless of course that friend is me! Ha! Invest in yourself and invest wisely. If you are not sure how I feel, read about personal trainers and registered dietitians.

Today’s questions:

Are you doing it yourself?

Are you getting the desired results?

If not, what are you waiting for…?

Reference

Nicolaï SP, Kruidenier LM, Leffers P, Hardeman R, Hidding A, Teijink JA. Supervised exercise versus non-supervised exercise for reducing weight in obese adults. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Mar; 49(1):85-90.

How many calories should I eat?

Nutrition has been a hot topic with clients and friends this last week. Nutrition is complex – leading to confusion – leading to feelings of being overwhelmed. I am going to take this opportunity to educate! My posts will appear in workable chunks – but this does not equate easy!

You do the workouts and you put in the work. You think you are eating all the right foods but you are not achieving your goals. It’s probably time to dissect your nutrition plan. Maybe you are eating too much of a good thing (peanut butter?). Maybe you are restricting yourself too much and not eating enough, or too often, or not often enough.

NOTE: the following nutrition plan is specifically for rapid fat loss. This is NOT intended for athletic training or for a sustainable lifestyle change. Following fat loss, it will be critical to adjust your required caloric intake accordingly and transition into a maintenance plan.

Step 1 – Determine your calorie range

The first step to fine tuning your nutrition plan is to figure out your maintenance calorie range (a number close to what you would need to keep weight and fat at a specific set point).  This number will be approximately 13-15 calories per pound of body weight. People with slower metabolisms should use the lower number (CAUTION: DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS YOU). If you are looking to lose weight, it’s important to stay within a 20% calorie deficit from your maintenance number or you increase the possibility of putting your body into a starvation mode.  On the opposite end, if you stray above a 20% calorie excess, weight gain could occur.

Example: 170 lb female with a slow metabolism

Bodyweight x (13-15) = maintenance calories

170 lb x 13 = 2210 maintenance calories

Decrease by 20% to start fat loss

2210 x 0.8 = 1768 calories

Step 2 – Your macronutrient needs

Once you have calculated the number of calories needed for fat loss, you need to calculate macronutrient numbers. For the first four weeks of the nutrition plan calories should be allocated as follows: 50% carbohydrates (CHO), 30% protein, and 20% fat.  Based upon your metabolic type and desired fat loss, you may decide that you need a little less CHO and more protein and/or fat. The preferred way of determining effectiveness of the nutrition plan is to monitor body composition and circumference measurements.

Since protein will initially make up 30% of your total calories you will multiply the calorie level you have figured out by .30 to get the amount of protein in your diet. One gram of protein = 4 calories. You will also want to do this with your CHO which are also 4 calories a gram and fat which is 9 calories a gram. By the way alcohol is 7 calories per gram. Divide these products by 5 or 6 meals.

Note: If you calculate your calories as specified and your amount of protein is less than 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight, then you will want to change your macronutrient percentages, increasing the amount of protein. You don’t want to go below the recommended 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight while on a fat loss plan.

Example: 170 pound female starting at 1768 calories

Protein = 1768 x .30 = 530.4 Kcal/4= 132.6 g protein (27 g/meal)

CHO = 1768 x .50 = 884 kcal/4 = 221 g of CHO (44g/meal)

Fat = 1768 x .20 = 353.6 kcal/9 = 39.3 g of fat (8g/meal)

Since the protein is 133 g/day, you will need to adjust the amount of protein because it is less than 0.8 g/lb of bodyweight. The suggested amount of protein should be 136 g (0.8 x 170 = 136). Simply pull the 3 grams from the CHO.

Example: 1768 kcal protein adjustment

Protein – 31% = 136 g/5 = 27 g/meal

CHO – 49% = 217 g/5 = 43 g/meal

Fat – 20% = 39.3 g/5 = 8 g/meal

Need some help with the math, contact me and I’ll plug your information into my handy dandy calculator I made in Excel. Not sure what is a protein, CHO, or fat? Don’t guess. I will gladly help you determine what is what.

The bottomline…

I am happy to help you determine your caloric needs – but I highly recommend you do your own calculations. It is empowering. It is enlightening. And most importantly, it increases your understanding! Take some time to understand this information and let me know if I can help you along the way.

Lastly, before you take my or any nutrition advice I recommend you read, Nutrition advice: Where do you go? As I have mentioned, fitness professionals have some nutrition training, but not enough to provide individualized nutrition assessments and counseling.  I have gone above and beyond to educate myself and I want to share this knowledge with you. However, personalized advice MUST come from an RD.

MYTH – If you are skinny, you are healthy

You know your friend, the one who is skinny as a twig, but lives on candy, chips, and ice cream? And to add fuel to that envious fire burning inside you, she does not exercise – unless of course carrying laundry down the stairs counts as exercise to you, but it does not in my book.

Now ask yourself, do you consider her healthy?

I have news for you: Simply being thin is not akin to being healthy. There is such a thing as being skinny-fat. Being skinny-fat is about much more than physical appearance. In fact, your dress size has absolutely nothing on the much bigger issue – YOUR HEALTH. In many cases, the skinnier you get, the more you’re actually at risk for health problems! Low body weight could mean someone has low lean muscle mass.  And low muscle mass and high body fat percentage has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer.

We live in a culture obsessed with weight, but there is a difference between being thin and being healthy. That difference lies in body composition.

What is body composition?

Most medical offices and health insurance companies use Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure body composition – because it is easy. Unfortunately, easy and accurate are not the same. According to BMI, most of my colleagues and I are classified as overweight to morbidly obese. So what does that have to say about health and fitness professionals? BMI does not account for lean mass!

Body composition is a measure of lean and fatty tissues. A healthy body composition is determined by the percentage of body fat versus lean muscle mass. Ideally, you want your body fat percentage low and lean muscle mass percentage high. An altered body composition arises when the percentage of body fat is too high. The ACSM recommends adult men to have between 10-22% body fat, while women should have between 20-32% body fat.

Being overweight is often used synonymously with an altered body composition; however, excess body weight is not a definitive assessment for altered body composition. Just as thin is not synonymous with fit and healthy. Extreme athletes or weight lifters can have a body weight that is considered outside of a healthy reference range (BMI), but their body compositions may be optimal due to the high amount of lean muscle. Muscle actually weighs more than fat. That’s easy to forget sometimes! This is one reason stepping on the scale can be so frustrating and why it’s important to get measurements taken every four weeks.

The best advice I can give: Judge your progress by how your clothes fit and feel, not by the number on the scale. This is how I typically do it and I tend to avoid the scale.

How can you improve your body composition?

Certain weight loss programs can actually be harmful and counterproductive to improving body composition. In some cases, weight loss programs result in excessive loss of muscle along with fat. Why? Because our energy reserves are in our muscles. An example of such a program is The Biggest Loser.

When we deprive our bodies of energy (e.g., restrictive dieting), we force our bodies to dive into those energy reserves.  It’s far more important to focus on FAT LOSS. Studies have found that the most successful way to slow the aging process is to maintain a healthy muscle mass along with eating a balanced, low-calorie diet. And unfortunately, maintaining muscle mass as we age is difficult because we naturally lose muscle—unless we work to keep it.

  1. Losing weight does not mean you have a healthy heart. On the other hand, getting fit and eating a healthy diet can dramatically improve heart health.
  2. Losing weight alone does not lower your cholesterol, but regular exercise and healthy eating will.
  3. Simply losing weight is not going to lower your risk of contracting certain types of cancers, but regular exercise and mindful eating can.
  4. Losing weight cannot prevent osteoporosis, boost your immune system, lead to healthier pregnancies and childbirth, improve your physical performance, or prevent the loss of muscle. However, by adopting a regular exercise routine and a healthy eating plan, you can!

So what does this mean? Losing weight is not the important part of getting healthy. The important things to consider are healthy eating, regular exercise, and generally taking care of yourself! Skinny-fat or fat-fat your #1 priority should be to adopt a healthy lifestyle and get fit for life!