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.

Lean body – getting the results you want

I have been transparent about my battles with negative self-perceptions and body-image. These negative thought patterns go in spurts. I started writing this post late at night – unable to sleep and staring into the dark – wondering what it would be like to be ripped, hard, and lean. How would life be different?

What did I come up with? It would be different in no significant nor substantive way!

Media’s role

But wow. Facebook likes to think it knows what we will “like.” For me, it always recommends systems, supplements, and proteins that promise a lean body. I am active in many health and fitness social media networks and groups – so I get it. But they got me all wrong – and they are pushing the wrong buttons.

Triggered thoughts

I began to think, what if I just try it for a bit and see what is different. Will I have that ripped appearance that I want so badly but won’t starve myself to obtain? Will I remain the same? Will I bloat up?

How I would LOVE a lean body like the one advertised in the image. But at what cost?

I know what it takes

For someone with my genetics, it takes more to achieve the extremely lean look than it does for others. I have mentioned before, during times at my most lean, I felt sickly and exhausted. I couldn’t function! Would it be different if I filled my body with chemicals and manufactured ‘energy’?

The bottomline

And my mind goes on and on – all because of the hundreds of hard, lean bodies I see advertised on Facebook and other social media sites each day. I would delete my social media accounts, but it is a way for me to educate the community and cultivate new relationships and clients.

What messages do these ads send us? Don’t we have enough to deal with?

Follow me on Facebook: Better by Becca – where I rarely – if ever – post lean body pictures. There are plenty of other ways to motivate, inspire, and empower women.

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My love affair with peanut butter

I have a problem. I LOVE peanut butter.

The fact is, I am a recovering peanut butter addict.

Many fitness experts promote peanut butter. You can buy shirts that say, “will run for peanut butter.” And while peanut butter is good for you, there is the chance of having too much of a good thing! I often play this game with individuals when I ask “if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, and you didn’t need to worry about it having a negative impact on your weight or health, what would it be?” My answer is peanut butter. Hands down. Without hesitation.

Too much of a good thing?
It started with snacks – mostly an apple and peanut butter. Then celery with peanut butter. And carrots with peanut butter. The occasional ice cream with peanut butter. Or brownies with peanut butter. A pear and peanut butter. Sugar snap peas and peanut butter.

Then meals. A sandwich followed by carrots with peanut butter. An urgent breakfast – a banana with peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter protein shakes. Chocolate peanut butter cottage cheese. Peanut butter on waffles and pancakes. Peanut butter on a turkey sandwich.

I am pretty sure peanut butter can be paired with anything.

As of a few weeks ago, I was eating peanut butter 2-3 times a day!!! Too much of a good thing.

My body said whoa
My body and digestive tract had been hollering at me for a while – I will spare you the details. I ignored them. I loved peanut butter. All forms – fake and natural, those with sugar, those with eggs, and those with nothing but peanuts. It tastes good! It satiates me and fills me up! And it is good for you!!

Win-win-win.

Elimination diet
In the nutrition world they refer to my recent change as an elimination diet: I gave up peanut butter as of August 12. And my body is thanking me. I did accidentally eat peanut butter while on a recent vacation to Chicago – it didn’t occur to me until I was half way through my sandwich.

I had a strong suspicion that peanut butter was the culprit to my discomfort. And it seems I was right. By eliminating it, I have been feeling 10x better

The bottomline
Regardless of what the food item is, it is not healthy to eat it all the time. This can lead to intolerances and sensitivities. (I seem to be prone to this as I had this occur with shrimp a few years back).

Is there anything that you eat too much of? Be mindful of what your body may be telling you about it!

Is body awareness important for fitness results?

Last decade’s trends of yoga, tai chi, and pilates heavily emphasize mind-body awareness. Some could argue it is about the mind communicating directly with the physical body.

Body awareness: Body awareness involves an attentional focus on and awareness of internal body sensations. Body awareness, as we define it here, is the subjective, phenomenological aspect of proprioception and interoception that enters conscious awareness, and is modifiable by mental processes including attention, interpretation, appraisal, beliefs, memories, conditioning, attitudes and affect. (Mehling, et. al, 2011).

I argue that body awareness – particularly as described as proprioception – is essential for all human movement. In fact, we KNOW that it is – watch The Man Who Lost His Body. Therefore, it is not a process specific to these specific schools of exercise.

Mirrors or no mirrors

I am opening a small training and coaching studio. I had no idea how stressful little decisions could become – wall colors, window treatments, signage, decorating, and on! I just want to train and empower individuals! One of the most difficult decisions for me has been deciding if I want mirrors or not. I have decided – no mirrors.

One of the most unique aspects of my training style is training body awareness (proprioception) and teaching individuals how to FEEL what proper positions and movements feel like.

Why do I do this?

If you need a mirror to find your proper posture, in daily living you will need a mirror to be reminded to find that proper posture. I want you to know what it FEELS like and know when you are NOT in proper position and need to re-position.

But why?

Proper posture and positioning can increase your daily caloric expenditure up to 30%. Yes, THIRTY percent. When you are in proper position you move better, feel better, and experience fewer aches and pains. As a result, LIFE is better!

A real-life story

I began my fitness career in facilities with mirrors – watching my form and technique. It never occurred to me to connect to my body and to be aware of what movements felt like. I was young. I had yet to suffer from injuries. And I just wanted to move. In time, I had to deal with my share of injuries (knees and back).

I trained without mirrors from 2009-2012. My movement improved. I became stronger. I became more aware. I did not suffer any serious injuries. My own awareness and fitness improved and I taught my clients the same.

I have been training with mirrors for the last 6 months or so – and I am experiencing more aches and pains. I am about to go back to no-mirror training and we will see if this improves.

The bottomline

Knowing what feels good or bad, right or wrong, is critical to an improved quality of life. There is a time and place for mirrors, but they are far from necessary – and who really wants to watch themselves in the mirror anyways????

When it hurts to wear clothes

Pain is a major contributor to a perceived decreased quality of life. It is a reason not to workout or exercise – not to squat, not to run, not to lift weights, not to jump, etc. Nearly 100% of individuals that I talk to experience some kind of pain on a consistent basis. I wish I could write about a miracle to make the pain go away. I cannot. But the pain can be minimized and managed. I manage pain daily – through diet and exercise. One of my reoccurring pain experiences:

Sometimes it hurts to wear clothes.

It is difficult to explain. It is an incredibly superficial pain. Clothes hurt. Gently brushing my skin hurts. DO NOT touch me. There is no deep pain associated with this. The pain is regional – only occurring in my right leg, from my hip down. Sometimes it goes all the way down to my knee. Other times it only goes down halfway. Sometimes it is in the front through my quadriceps and other times down through the hamstrings. And I have determined no rhyme or reason for flare ups – while I know there must be a trigger and I am working to define this.

The cause

I have a partial nerve impingement. Given some of my previous diagnoses, I knew it was an inevitable occurrence.

The treatment

Resting is always a good idea.

Avoiding extended periods of sitting eases the uncomfortableness.

Dynamic stretching, hip mobility exercises, and nerve flossing can help to reduce the inflammation.

After years of medications, I avoid them like the plague. Not to mention, I have tried them and they do not work.

The bottomline

Stopped

I will not be stopped. I do not complain about or wallow in my pain – and I do not write this for pity. Friends and acquaintances often tell me – you need to workout less or that my exercise is making it worse. Sitting around makes it worse! I need to stay moving in a safe manner.

I am not immortal – despite what some think.

I simply WILL NOT be stopped.

How about you?

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Debunking fitness myths

Each day we all talk to people that share stories and it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. I cannot tell you how much time I spend educating friends and clients on the myths we are confronted with. Many myths about fitness have been proven to be wrong.

I am sure you have heard these statements before:

  • Doing crunches or working on an ab machine will get rid of belly fat
  • Machines provide a safer way to exercise
  • Women that participate in resistance training with weights will bulk up and look like a man
  • No pain, no gain

These are all fitness myths. Each of the above statements has been disproven by scientific evidence.

Crunches

First, simply doing crunches or ab exercises over and over will not alone get rid of belly fat. Doing these exercises will help strengthen these muscles, but they will not show as they get stronger unless you decrease your body fat above the abdominals. You cannot pick and choose where to burn fat. You need to decrease your overall body fat percentage to bring your abs to the surface.

Machines

Next, machines must provide a safer way to exercise. This is not always true. Unless the machine is set up for you to use properly, you may be putting yourself in a bad position creating muscular deficiencies. Working strictly on machines also removes the functional aspect of fitness.

Women & weights

Third, if you’re a woman and you exercise like the man next to you, then you will look like them. This is not the case. Women have 20-30% less testosterone then men. The only way you could bulk up as much as him is lifting far more weights than the average woman and having some sort of chemical imbalance. Don’t be afraid of weights. Resistance training will help you lose weight quicker, and keep it off for a long period of time.

No pain, no gain

Last, we hear this saying more than just in relation to fitness: If you’re not feeling pain, then you will not see any gains. This is far from the truth. There should be some soreness a day or two after exercise due to the muscles repairing themselves. This is a soreness or tightness, it is not a pain. Having pain during exercise could promote lifelong harm to your body. If you feel pain during an exercise, one or two things may be happening. You may have a pre-existing injury, or you are exercising out of proper position. If you feel pain, re-adjust to a proper position and see if it comes back. If the pain stays, go and see a medical professional to fix the problem before it is too late.

The bottomline

Often times it is difficult to decipher facts versus myths. Before believing what you hear, research it to find a good scientific answer. It may be true, but often times in fitness, these myths provide people answers as to why you should not exercise or do certain things – many offer invalid justifications.

And, never hesitate to ask me about what you hear on the street – I will gladly find you the truth.

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The scale is evil

I advise most of my clients to avoid the scale. The scale RARELY elicits happy feelings. Excitement? Joy? When is the last time you have associated either of these feelings with what you see on the scale?

More often than not the scales leads to thoughts and feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, depression, etc. So why do we continue to use the scale as a measurement?

Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with the scale – we are drawn to is, as one of the few measurements we know. And it sure is the easiest and most accessible – isn’t it?

The problems with weight

There are numerous problems with weight. It fluctuates. Your body is 70%+ water – so dehydration is a significant factor. What did you eat or not eat yesterday. How did you sleep. What time of day is it. Females, where are you in your cycle. What are the weather conditions. There are countless factors that influence weight – and cause us unnecessary frustration.

The the scientific and physical reasons aside, weighing yourself and having weight goals is psychologically defeating. This is why I emphasize the importance of having weight independent goals on your journey (also known as life).

Real-life story

I try not to weigh myself, because I know that it elicits negative thoughts that lead to negative self-talk.

I weighed myself today. I have been feeling pretty good, but I knew that my pants were getting tight. Since eliminating long runs from my training plan (I do not have any more races coming up), I have not integrated heavy leg days back into my routine. This is the primary cause for my shift. Dietary habits – of course – are a huge factor, although overall my eating has been pretty good.

But where is my mind?

Why didn’t I add leg days?

Why did I eat that ice cream when I wasn’t hungry?

Why don’t I run more? Which becomes, I should have kept my running up.

Getting on the scale is a mental, emotional, and psychological disaster. We are anxious prior to doing it. We are, more often than not, upset or frustrated afterwards. My general rule is to avoid those activities that trigger or elicit negative thoughts and feelings. This means, the scale must go!

Take an afternoon

– and work on yourself. You can follow my guidelines for goal setting. But use the following to give serious thought and consideration to your weight goals:

Please answer the following questions with your desired weight in mind.

  1. Origins of your desired weight: 
    1. Why do you want to be this specific weight?
    2. Is there anything particularly special about this weight?
  2. Other weight goals in the past:
    1. Have you had other weight goals in the past?
    2. Why were they different from your present goal?
  3. Achievability of your desired weight:
    1. When were you last at your desired weight?
    2. How hard do you think it would be to stay at this weight?
  4. Importance of reaching your desired weight:
    1. How important to you is reaching your desired weight?
    2. If it is important, why is it important?
  5. Consequences of reaching your desired weight:
    1. How would your life differ if you reached your desired weight?
    2. What could you do that you cannot do now?

Or, if you have previously been this weight, how was your life different when you were at this weight?

When answering the two parts of question 5 consider the following eight aspects of daily life:

Attractiveness (to yourself and others) Clothes size and choice
Leisure activites (e.g., sports) Health and fitness
Work Social life
Self-esteem and self-confidence Personal relationships

6. Consequences of not reaching your desired weight:

  1. How would you feel if you did not reach your desired weight?
  2. What effect would it have on your daily life?

Adapted from Cooper, Fairburn, and Hawker (2003) 

The bottomline

After completing this exercise, you may find that your weight goals are unfounded, inappropriate, or unrealistic. You may find that they are adequate. If your goal is to be the same weight as your 20-year-old self, that may or may not be a good weight at this point in your life. These questions should help you to think critically and make the best goals for YOU.

Lastly, support your journey by settings goals that focus on health, energy, and happiness.

When is the last time the scale left you thinking and feeling positively —? Or even neutral?

What supplements do you use?

I have been thinking more about supplements. I get asked ALL the time – “What supplements do you use?”

The bare minimum. I carry more muscle than your average woman, as a result I suspect individuals assume I take something – whether it be natural or synthetic. I do not use creatine. I rarely use protein powder. I do not use energy boosters, pre-workouts, nor post-workouts. My first and foremost source is FOOD!

However, I do use FOUR supplements on a consistent basis:

  1. Multi-Vitamin
  2. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
  3. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
  4. Iron

Multi-Vitamin

The Western diet does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that the body requires to be fully functioning. I personally use Prograde Women’s VGF 25+ Multi-Vitamin. You can try the Men’s or Women’s VGF FreeIf you are not currently taking a multi-vitamin, I strongly encourage you to do so. Unfortunately, regardless of how healthy you eat, it is nearly impossible to get enough of everything your body needs for optimal functioning!

Essential Fatty Acids

The most common example of an EFA supplement is Fish Oil. The benefits of EFAs are abundant. Taking an EFA supplement can reduce your risk for heart disease, reduce inflammation, improve brain functioning, and more. I use Prograde EFA – I have tried all the products under the sun and I continually return to Prograde.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

BCAAs are designed to help you maintain the muscle you work hard to build. Naturally occurring in pork, fish, some dairy, etc., it is difficult to consume amounts adequate for our bodily and mental needs.

Iron

I take an additional iron supplement under the advisement of my physician. I have a tendency to be iron deficient and borderline anemic. It is not abnormal for a female to require an iron supplement, particularly during menstruation when iron is lost.

I am not a sales representative

I have been getting so many questions – Herbalife, Body by Vi, Advocare. Save your money! A good multi-vitamin and a fatty acid are all the average person needs. I have been approached by numerous individuals regarding Advocare – about both using the products and selling them. While I know many who use them, that is not my idea of a healthy lifestyle. I will summarize my reasons.

First, a product sold in a pyramid scheme screams red flag. If everyone in that pyramid is making a profit, then the quality of the product must be poor.

Second, I know many individuals who have replaced coffee with Spark. While I applaud them, I prefer to remain with my all natural sources for energy – coffee, fruits, vegetables, and FOOD. Plus, the ‘sugar-free’ Sparks contain a minimum of 2 sugar ingredients — something to think about.

The bottomline

Yes, you can order your Prograde products through me. And I live by the products – give them a shot and you will know why. But I will not give you this big long explanation of what they will do for you – because NOTHING can replace REAL FOOD and REAL WORK.

A supplement is just that – a supplement. A supplement to healthy lifestyle. If a product claims to allow you to continue to eat junk (ah-hem, Sensa?) – it is a gimmick. It will not work. Further, your body often does not know what to do with the chemicals and synthetics in many supplements – so it removes it through waste.

Listen. Slow down. Rest.

My body has been telling me to slow down and rest. But my mind is fighting it – NO! I have difficulty with doing nothing – both physically and mentally. As my favorite surgeon noted, I am a “Go go go girl.” (Not to be confused with a go go girl.)

My back hurts.

My hip hurts.

My hands hurts, with small blisters beneath my calluses.

My foot hurts.

My knee has been popping (not a good sign).

There is a pinching pain between my shoulder blades.

My head hurts, pulling from my shoulder blades.

And yet, my mind does not want to slow down. I share this, not to complain, or to whine, or for sympathy. But to show that I understand and that I too fall into the trap. The trap of habitual exercise and not wanting to stop – for fear that you will not start again.

Slowing down and resting is something that I have actually gotten better at these last few years. Each of my injuries forced me to slow down – each of them designed for the function of forcing me to slow down (there is a reason for everything, isn’t there?). I have since become more in-tune with my body. I listen to it. While I am pretty good at slowing down or cutting back,  I am not so good at resting completely. I go a little bit stir crazy on rest days (although I force myself to take at least 1 rest day a week).

Avoid overtraining

Some individuals may suspect I am overtraining. I am not overtraining – simply managing a chronic, mysterious condition (narrowed down to being autoimmune). Most of my pain has nothing to do with my workouts. However, minor aches and pains can be good indicators to slow down and avoid overtraining. Has your body been sore for too many days in a row? Rest. Are you getting adequate sleep but still fatigued? Rest.

Avoid Injury

If your body is fatigued or you are experiencing some pain, there is a good chance that you will workout, compensate with other areas, and incur more pain or injury. Another injury does not appeal to me – I do not think it is worth the risk.

The bottomline

Listen to your body. Slow down when it needs it. Rest when it needs it. When it doubt, if you have been working out hard, rest.

Rest —

Challenge: Strengthen your ‘no’ muscle

Many of us have difficulty saying no. I for one, have GREAT difficulty saying no.

We have difficulty setting relational boundaries – unable to say no to friends and often overcommiting ourselves or doing things we do not want to do..

We have difficulty maintaining work boundaries – unable to say no to our boss’s every request, working long hours and bringing work home.

We have difficulty with food boundaries – unable to say no to food that seem to stare us in the face daily or not knowing when to stop.

Read on to learn how I strengthened my no muscle.

Long-term potentiation

As with anything, saying no can become easier with practice. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It is like a muscle, use it and it will become stronger. There is an abundant amount of research out there supporting the notion. We call it willpower. Scientists call it long-term potentiation (LTP).

When you practice saying no, you can strengthen the nerve cell connections in the brain – when the connections are strengthened they are potentiated (Amen, 2010). Practicing over time strengthens these circuits and builds what we know as willpower. LTP occurs whenever these circuits are strengthened and practiced and the associated behaviors become almost automatic (Amen, 2010).

My ‘crazy’ experiment

I tested the LTP theory years ago. I had always felt like I had no willpower – prone to binge drinking and eating. I had begun working with a trainer and saw the weight loss benefits. Wanting to see what results I could truly obtain, I quickly modified my diet – strictly following the guidelines that I provide in my meal and snack creation post. At the time, I was having difficulty with giving up my beloved Snickers candy bars. Having read about LTP and that it is possible to increase willpower. I thought I would test it out.

I took a “Fun Size” Snickers bar to work and placed in in front of my computer monitor. At the time, I worked in publishing and sat in front of the computer for 8-10 hours a day. My goal: I will not eat the Snickers today. I sat there all day with the Snickers in front of me. I practiced saying no. Some might argue this was desensitization (it may have been). I wanted to, but I did not eat it!

I set the same goal for the next day.

And the next.

I would tell myself, I did not eat it yesterday and I do not need to eat it today.

This went on for months. More than a year. Eventually the Snickers bar was so old that it wasn’t appealing (although I am sure it has an absurd shelf life) and I threw it away. I had built willpower and the ability to say no.

It was not easy

This brief summary omits the days of stressful deadlines, when I almost ate that bar. I didn’t mention the emotional days, when I wanted the candy bar, but said no. It doesn’t mention my colleagues – who all thought I was crazy – who were nay-sayers and bullied me to eat it.

The challenge

What do you need to say no to?

For me, it was Snickers. At other times, it has been saying no to clients who want to train with me during periods that I am generally unavailable. There was also a time when I needed to learn to say no to alcohol.

I challenge you to think about what you need to say no to. Starting today, you will practice. It starts with 1 day. Then 1 day becomes 2. And if I can do it — so can you.

So tell us, to what are you going to practice saying NO?

References

Amen, D. G. (2010). Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Three Rivers Press: New York.