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.

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Want a flat belly? Do more squats

Requests seem to come to me in cycles. One person mentioned wanting to do more abs and earn a flatter, thinner midsection and now everyone is mentioning this to me. My latest automatic response is that we should do more squats.

Many have said, “I think I should do more abs, don’t you?”

No. I don’t.

Reason 1: Ab exercises burn very few calories.

In order to burn fat and lose weight – whether it be in your belly, thighs, or butt – you need to burn calories. Traditional ab exercises burn very few calories in essence because they focus on small muscles. If anything, if you only focus on abs, your midsection may grow – because you DO build muscle.

Reason 2: Core conditioning is built into every workout.

At least it is built into every one of my workouts (I cannot say the same of all workouts and trainers out there). If you have every worked with me, you have heard me talk about this. I build core training and conditioning into the workout – more efficient and functional.

Why squats?

Squats are one of the biggest calorie burners – at least for the general exerciser. Squats require your large leg and butt muscles to work – making them a huge calorie burner. And you need to burn calories to burn fat! And because you cannot spot reduce for weight loss, you want to burn more calories to reduce the girth of your midsection.

Truth be told: Abs are made in the kitchen

You may have heard this, and it is true. Abs are made in the kitchen – even moreso for women. A large portion of midsection weight can be attributed to what you put in your mouth. While another portion of this is related to hormones (a woman in a particular time of fertility will have more fat, protecting the womb as a safe home for a fetus), eating what I refer to as CRAP will find itself attached to your midsection (as well as other areas).

Carbonated drinks
Refined grains and sugars
Artificial flavors
Processed foods

The bottomline

Doing more ab exercises will not lead to a flatter belly. I know, this is not necessarily intuitive, but trust me! Have I ever led you wrong?

Eat well and burn more calories – through strength training and effective aerobic exercise.

Doing all the right things and not getting the results you desire? Let’s chat and fine-tune your plan.

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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!

There will be haters

This is one of the most challenging aspects of adopting and retaining a healthy lifestyle: Nay-sayers. Sabotogers. Haters. Insulters. The filterless.

Remember: This is your journey and no one else’s. No one knows what you know about you, has been through what you have, or has to do what you do. We are each our own. haters

More often than not, those who are negative are in the midst of their own struggle – and the negativity towards you actually has absolutely nothing to do with you!

Shouldn’t we want others to succeed?

Yes, we should. But we have cultivated an egocentric and selfish society. Women – particularly – often want to ‘one-up’ each other. Many individuals have the need to be better than those around them – and anything that threatens this perception elicits default behaviors – or defense mechanisms. Yes, putting others down can be and IS a defense mechanism.

Some of your friends and family will want you to continue to overeat, eat poorly, or skip exercise – because then they will feel better about there own unhealthy behaviors. There is comfort in numbers!

Other individuals simply do not understand. Some have been blessed with genetics that do not allow them to put on an extra 20 pounds. Some have always lived active, healthy lives and continue to do so without hiccups. DO NOT let their lack of understanding tear you down. Their comments can make you feel like your concerns are insignificant – ignore them. And know, that more than likely these particular individuals mean no harm – they just do not know any different.

Remove negative, increase positive

It can be difficult, but sometimes you must cut the negative out of your life. At times, this may mean separating yourself from family members or long-time friends. It might mean quitting a job. It may mean moving. Sounds like it could get financially stressful! I would be lying if I said that it will not be. But what is best for you in the long term? And how does this compare to the expense of treating depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc? Surround yourself with the individuals who will be supportive and positive and your journey will be much more pleasurable!

In other situations, you must ignore the negative. This takes practice – and is incredibly difficult. For example, I have had many sabotagers trying to coherce me into eating foods that were unhealthy. I learned to ignore them. I learned to walk away. Practice saying: Thanks, but no thanks.

Above all, the most important positive voice is your own! Your positive voice can be the best defense against the nay-sayers and sabotagers. When you hear negativity or criticism, you immediately know different with thoughts such as, “I am strong.” “I am on the right track.” “I am taking care of my heart, body, and mind.”

The bottomline

I do not have anything impressive or extraordinary to share on the topic. I just know, that I face negativity from those around me on a daily basis – and I know that you do too!

I know that sometimes the negativity is my misperception of things said – or not said. Knowing this, I can disregard the ‘negative’ and move on.

And yes, YOUR positivity is 10x stronger and more powerful than the negativity of others.

How do YOU manage haters, nay-sayers, or sabotagers?

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Breakfast – MY favorite meal of the day

You need to start your day right by boosting your metabolism with a solid breakfast. Typical breakfasts are carb-laden and protein deficient. I am guilty of this, as I LOVE pancakes! To help you out with that I’ve got a gift for you from me and my buddies over at Prograde Nutrition. It’s a delicious Protein Pancakes recipe. 

Thanks to the protein in the recipe your blood sugar won’t go crazy like it can just by eating a huge stack of pancakes with sugary syrup. Nope, this recipe will fill you up, nourish your body, and give your metabolism just the boost it needs.

Go get the Protein Pancakes recipe!

Be sure to let me know how you like it.

PS – Seriously, have a nutritious breakfast and your body will thank you for it ALL DAY!

http://betterbybecca.getprograde.com/prograde-pancake-recipe.html

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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The power of size 11 jeans

I only own one pair of non-athletic shorts.

No, this is not me!

I wear a lot of skirts and dresses. They are more comfortable and I enjoy the femininity – to offset the masculinity of my athletic build.

There is another reason that I only have one pair of shorts: They are size 11.

I refuse to buy more double digit sized articles of clothing.

It is just a number

I know, many woman would be thrilled to fit into a size 11 pant. But one look at me – I do NOT look like a size 11. Some would say I am a skinny-minny (inaccurate) but most have guessed me to be a size 6.

I wish I was a size 6 – – –

As a society, we have assigned a value to these numbers.  They signify beauty. They signify worth. Or the opposite – unattractiveness and unworthiness.

Again, just a number

There is more to this story. I have dresses in my closet – ranging from size 4 to size 12. It depends on the designer. It depends on whether it is “junior’s” or “woman’s”. It depends on whether it is sleeved or sleeveless.

I have workout clothes – ranging from sizes small to large. The same factors exist.

The bottomline

I know this. I know that clothing sizes – particularly for women – are arbitrary and just numbers. But they still get to me – just as they get to most women.

Having to try on the double digit shorts keeps me from shopping for them – let alone purchasing them.

But all-in-all, I love my body and I would not want for it to be smaller – and fit into size 6 shorts. But somewhere along the line, society brainwashed that number into my head – – – Even above, I wrote that I do not look like a size 11. What DOES size 11 look like? Again with the brainwashing!

The truth is, it does not matter. Based on the fact that I have such varying sizes, I assume other women do, too. So, numbers shnumbers, I am done with them and I am taking the power back!

P.S. I am not going to buy another pair of shorts. They just are not comfortable and that is all that matters!

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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?