Friday, November 15, 2013

How Soon Will You See Changes?

So you've started a new workout program and set goals and taken before measurements.  You have your meal plan put together and did all your shopping.  You have committed yourself to seeing it through.  So, it becomes discouraging a couple weeks in, when you take your progress measurements, and you don't think they measure up.  So what should you expect?  When should you see results?  Check out this article from on this interesting subject... :)

When Will You See Results? Plus, Answers to More of Your Top Fitness Questions

By Steve Edwards

I've been asked a lot of questions over the course of my career, on topics as broad as a "before" picture on The Biggest Loser®. These vary from the most rudimentary, "Why should I work out?" to highly scientific, "What's the best knee angle to activate my gluteus medius during a heel slide?" Without further ado, here are the top 10 fitness questions of all time (cue drum roll):

Couple Weight Lifting, another Couple Showing off  Weight Loss

  1. I've got a slight injury. Should I do my scheduled workout anyway?
    If you can do your workout without stressing the injury (in other words, so that it doesn't hurt), then yes. However, that is very rarely the case. The vast majority of injuries, especially those we don't see a doctor for, are soft tissue, which means you have a problem in a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Since most workouts utilize the body as a single unit, the answer is probably no.

    Training on an injury, at best, does not allow it to heal. More than likely, it makes an injury worse. In both instances, you've got a scenario where your hard work is likely going to all be for nothing. So, why would you roll those dice?

    Pain is your guide for soft tissue injuries. Basically, as long as you can train pain-free you've got a green light. As soon as an injury starts to hurt, even in the slightest, further engagement will likely make the situation worse. If you don't know the difference between good pain (muscle soreness/cardiovascular toil) and bad pain (injury), please consult your doctor. It will make your fitness journey so much easier.
Woman Doing a Yoga Pose
  1. Why should I do yoga?
    This used to be higher on the list but people are starting to get the message: yoga is incredibly good for you. There's a good reason it's been around for thousands of years. Yoga trains all of the muscles in the body to work in harmony. This does not just include voluntary muscles (prime mover and stabilizer) but involuntary muscles (smooth and cardiac) as well, resulting in a workout that's more like a full-body tonic than a sweat or pump fest. A regular yoga practice almost ensures that you'll age gracefully.
  1. Why do I need to stretch?
    This one is a little more controversial than yoga, which is mainly because stretching has a lot of variations and some seem to offer little benefit. In a holistic sense, however, stretching has similar benefits of yoga if you're following some type of exercise program. Most exercise causes the muscles to contract over and over. After exercise, stretching elongates muscle fibers, essentially resetting the muscle so that it's supple and ready for further bouts of contraction. This is not disputed. The only controversy about stretching is how much you need to stay healthy, which becomes a sub-category as diverse as how to best exercise or eat. The bottom line, and all you need to know at this stage, is that some stretching after exercise will help you recover faster and lessen the likelihood of getting injured.
  1. Do I need to warm up and cool down?
    Cooling down is mainly covered in number 8, as stretching out your contracted muscle fibers is a part of it. There are a few more factors, like helping your body slow its heart rate and circulatory processes to thwart blood pooling, but most of this is accomplished without trying, as long as, say, you don't finish repeated 100-meter sprints by sitting at a desk for hours. Luckily your desk and the track aren't next to each other, forcing a cooldown. With that in mind, you might not want to skip to cooldown of P90X2® PAP because your desk might, in fact, be next to your living room.

    As far as warming up, it gets your blood circulating and increases the viscosity of other bodily fluids (known as thixotropy), all of which works as a defense system against injury as your workout hits its intensity stride.

    Warming up and cooling down, while not absolutely essential, are simply smart things to do.
Man about to work out
  1. How do I put on mass?
    This question used to be a blip on our radar. Over the years, Beachbody® has created so many fit bodies that individual sculpting has become a very popular subject. I guess once you're thin and fit the obvious evolution is to look like Hercules. It's harder than it sounds.

    Losing weight seems hard but it's technically quite easy. If you change your habits and become healthy, weight will naturally fall off because living in gravity is easier if you're smaller. Being large is the opposite. Not only do you have to train like an Olympian, but you also need to eat like a lumberjack.

    When you break down muscle tissue—the goal of any bodybuilder—you need to eat to repair it. The catch-22 is that your body, in anticipation, raises its metabolism in order to repair the damage and keep you at an efficient weight for fighting gravity. Being big takes extra effort because you've got to outeat your body's natural response. You need to train hard, eat a ton, and most of all stay consistent when your body start to rebel. For more on this subject, read The Book of Beast .
  1. How often do I need to work out?
    I've gotten a lot of iterations of this question, including this one: "At what point can you stop working out? You can't tell me that Tony Horton and Steve Edwards still need to work out in order to look like that!"

    How often we need to work out depends on how hard and how long we work out, as well as what our goals are. These are huge variables since, obviously, if you want to win the Tour de France® you're going to need more exercise than if you just want to participate in the company softball game without getting injured. The only rule is that, aside from what the questioner above believes, we need to exercise in order to keep our bodies healthy and running well.

    There is no set time. There is no set volume or intensity everyone must follow. Diet matters too. The better you eat, the less you need to exercise in order to stay thin. A person who is not overweight and eats well can probably do as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day, including just being mobile, to stay healthy. However, more and more scientific evidence shows that some amount of high-intensity exercise keeps us healthy and offsets aging. I would say, for optimal health, people should get at least 15 minutes of intense daily exercise in addition to plenty of easy day-to-day tasks like walking, chores, etc.
  1. Man spotting for weight-lifting womanHow do I know how much weight to lift?
    Failure is your friend. If you go through an entire workout and never fail on a set, then you're not using enough weight. Conversely you also don't want to fail on every set. This requires some explanation.

    We use repetitions as an easy way to execute what's called "time under tension." Monitoring time under tension is how we gauge how a workout trains your body. The number of repetitions you do should be gauged by the point at which you fail. Few repetitions (using heavier weights) train strength. Many repetitions train endurance. In between lies the sweet spot for what most of us are targeting, muscle growth (known as hypertrophy). Muscle growth, as you'll see later, is the key for both getting smaller and bigger because it increases your metabolism and burns calories.

    There are many reasons to target different repetitions but most of Beachbody's programs target hypertrophy or endurance, which is why the people in the cast are usually doing between 8 and 20 repetitions of an exercise. Here's how to lift the "right" amount of weight.

    Once you can do, say, 20 repetitions of an exercise (or whatever is the peak of your target range) with a given weight, add more weight so that you can only do 8 to 10 (or the bottom of your target range) before you fail. Once you reach the top of your target range again, it's time to add more. This is called progressive overload and it is the key to getting great results out of your exercise program.
  1. How often do I need to train my abs to get a six-pack?
    This is a two-part answer. The first is that your six-pack has very little to do with how much you train your abs. A visual six pack come from having a low body fat percentage and the best way to do that is to train your entire body, not just your abs—in fact, it's nearly impossible to get a six-pack only training your abs. This is why we create full body exercise programs, even if "abs" is a part of the title.

    The second is that you don't need to, nor should you, train your ab muscles every day. The muscles in your core have a higher percentage of red or slow twitch muscle fibers, meaning you can train them more often than many areas of your body, but they still respond best by having high-intensity training days followed by rest days. There is no good reason to do ab work more than 3 or 4 times per week.
  1. Is weight training or cardio better for weight loss?
    Both are great. If I could only choose one it would be circuit weight training (which also trains your cardiovascular system), but thankfully we don't have to choose one. The best training programs address every system of your body. Not just by lifting weights and doing "cardio," but by systematically using resistance and cardio workouts to train the various sub areas under those two modalities (power, endurance, hypertrophy, aerobic efficiency, anaerobic threshold, and so forth). The more systems of the body you train simultaneously, the easier it is to force adaptations and, thus, body composition changes.
  1. When will I begin to see results?
    Person Icing up the footWhile there is no accurate timetable to seeing results you can generally feel results happening on day one. Are you sore? Results are coming. Are you hungry? Ditto. As your body adapts to exercise, you are making internal changes, meaning results are on the way. Your body will resist the change. That's because its natural defense (law of homeostasis) is to protect the state it's in, even if that state is unhealthy. Its response to this is to fight it with hormonal releases. How well it adapts varies with every single individual, which is why we are constantly advising people not to look at their scale all the time and, instead, trust measurements and pictures. Some people start seeing results in a few days. Others may take many weeks. And none of that matters because the healthy lifestyle will always win in the end. If you keep at it, train hard, and eat well, your body will—absolutely, as it has no choice—change over time. Stay consistent for long enough and you'll look like a Greek statue. It's a physiological law.
Related Articles
"Phys Ed Follies: 9 Fitness Activities That Feel More Like Play"
"How ASYLUM Can Spike Your Fitness"
"Mr. Big Stuff: A Q&A with Body Beast's Sagi Kalev"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Do You Crave?

It never ever fails.  You start your new nutrition program, vowing to be "good."  Two days into it, you have a craving that is so powerful you don't think you have the will power to control it.  It goes on for days until finally you snap, and instead of having one little chocolate kiss, you have an entire bag in one sitting.  Then begins the guilt trip you put yourself through.  Some of you will then go spend extra hours on the tread mill and starve yourself for a couple of days to make up for your "transgression" and other will break down and just binge on very unhealthy foods in excess... Neither of these are healthy for us PHYSICALLY or EMOTIONALLY.  

So what to do about cravings?  We all are going to have them... how we handle them is what is going to determine our success.

Check out this article from about CRAVINGS:

Ask the Expert: When Should I Listen to My Cravings?

By Denis Faye

Cravings can be intense—and often they go way beyond minor hankering. Surely, it can't just be that you want chocolate. There must be some reason that you need chocolate. Come on, please! Just a taste.
Dark Chocolate

Unfortunately, you probably don't. In most cases, cravings aren't a physiological function telling you what you need. In fact, it's much more like that that they're a dysfunction.
You might be aware of an infographic floating around the Interwebs featuring foods that people typically crave, along with micronutrients that (supposedly) trigger those cravings. If you desire bread, toast, or pasta, the graphic suggests you need more nitrogen in your diet. Salty foods mean you need chloride, chocolate suggests a need for magnesium, etc. You may notice a complete lack of references at the bottom of this chart. That's probably because there's no science backing up these claims—whatsoever. While the craving might stem from something more obvious—sugar, for example—it's highly unlikely that your yen for chocolate means you need more magnesium in your diet.

Why Do I Crave Chocolate and Other Foods That Aren't Good For Me?

Cravings are far more complex than this cause-and-effect chart suggests. While a subtle nutrient need may be partly to blame, cravings arise for several reasons—and tend to include a tangled web of psychology, hormones, and other physiological issues.
Let's go back to the chocolate/magnesium connection. By the time chocolate gets to the milked-down form most Americans consume, there's not much magnesium left. One ounce of milk chocolate contains just 4% of the recommended daily value for magnesium. Dark chocolate has 16%.
CandyWhy would the body seek out a food for a specific nutrient when that food has very little of that nutrient? Wouldn't it make more sense that your body would crave foods richer in magnesium, such as nuts, leafy greens, or beans? Your chocolate cravings probably exist for more insidious reasons. Some research shows similarities between chocolate cravings and alcohol addiction, in that both alcohol and cacao contain similar neuroactive alkaloids (chemicals that tweak your melon).1 In other words, research suggests that chocolate is addictive.
Another reason you could be craving that brownie is because of your emotional history with it. It's one of the great American comfort foods. We're brought up identifying chocolate with birthdays, Halloween, post-soccer game ice cream outings, and all those magic moments when you were a good little boy or girl who deserved a reward. If you can't see how that would etch a positive association neural pathway deep into your gray matter, we need to get Dr. Freud on the horn, stat.
Furthermore, unless you like chewing on cacao nibs (and some people do!), the chocolate you consume is filled with sugar—and sugar cranks up the "feel good" hormone serotonin (among other chemicals) levels in your brain, giving you a feeling of mild euphoria. When it's gone, you want more.2 Combine this sugar hit with the emotional issues and you've got one powerful craving.
I'm not ruling out the possibility of a causal relationship between cravings and micronutrients—but the key word here is possibility. For instance, when I first began road cycling seriously, I found myself with an irresistible craving for potato chips. It was only when I started adding sea salt to my recovery drink that those cravings passed. Similarly, pregnant women often crave foods that are high in nutrients they need. For example, she might crave cheeseburgers—an obvious source of calcium and iron.
If you're convinced that your particular craving stems from a micronutrient deficiency, there's an easy way to test this: supplement the vitamin or mineral you have in mind. Getting back to chocolate, if you buy into the magnesium thing, try supplementing Beachbody® Core Cal-Mag™. Another angle would be to embrace the psychology aspect of cravings and instead grab a bag of Chocolate Shakeology®, so that you can indulge yourself, but in a healthy way. (Not to beat a dead horse, but a serving of Shakeology contains 20% of the recommended daily value of magnesium.)

So I Shouldn't Trust My Cravings?

Maybe sometimes. With all this talk of micronutrients, we've overlooked another possible root cause for your craving—a macronutrient deficiency. You could be craving certain foods—or certain food types—because your balance of carbs, protein, and fat is off. While it's a stretch to assume your body desires a food because it contains trace amounts of a certain mineral, the causal link between foods and macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) is obvious. Eat a piece of carb-heavy cake and you're going to spike your blood sugar.
AvocadoIf you think this may be the case, feed the craving with healthy food. If you're craving sweet things, increase your fruit and veggie intake. If you crave greasy foods, increase your raw nut or avocado (good fats) intake. If you find yourself craving meat and cheese, increase your lean protein intake with chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes. If you do this and it doesn't work, odds are that your cravings are more psychologically based.
If you're deliberately eating at a calorie deficit, this method can be a problem. Ultimately, you're not getting enough of any macronutrient. In these situations, it might be useful to adjust the balance of carbs/protein/fat in your diet. So, for example, if you're in the middle of phase one of P90X® and you're jonesin' for sweet stuff, try switching to phase two, which features a carb increase.
Cravings suck. And when you're trying to lose weight, they suck even more, as calorie deficits tend to increase cravings.3 In our most frustrated, give-me-the-donut-before-I-kill-someone moments, we'd all like a simple solution. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. Finding your way around cravings requires a little patience and experimentation. It's just a matter of finding a healthy substitute, a little willpower—or some combination thereof.