Monday, December 29, 2014

Weight Loss: The New Year's Resolution Edition

The new year is upon us, and just like every year, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight.  This comes as no surprise since almost 70% of Americans are overweight and around 35% are considered obese.  Along with decreased fitness and self esteem being overweight/obese is also associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.  With all the negative aspects of being overweight/obese it would be in one's best interest to figure out the best way to shed some weight in the coming year.  That is what this post is going to focus on.  I will present a priority list of what you should focus on if your goal is to lose weight and get healthier in 2015.  If you only make a few changes than focus on the things at the top of the list first, but for best results I would focus on the complete list.  So here it is:

1. Diet
This is the number one thing that you should focus on if you want to lose weight, change your body shape, and get healthier.  You can exercise all you want but if your diet is crap then you will look and feel like crap.  Seeing as the typical American diet is comprised of fast food, restaurant meals, packaged and boxed foods, and a plethora of additives and ingredients, you may have your work cut out for you if you are planning on a diet overhaul.  I am not saying it is going to be easy but it is necessary.  There are many diets to choose from and many have the potential to work.  The key is finding the right diet for YOU.  If you can't stick with it for the longterm then it is not right for you.  In general I would stick to a diet that focuses on lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and low fat dairy. One diet that I personally like is the Abs Diet.  Although it does sound very gimmicky it is simply based on eating a variety of quality foods that pack a lot of nutrients with relatively low calories.

2. Strength Training
Strength training is number two on the list.  Other than diet nothing has the power to change the way your body looks as much as strength training.  Strength training makes your body look strong and healthy.  It gives you curves and muscles in the right places, allows you to feel confident in your appearance, and boosts your self esteem.  Strength training also increases your metabolism by replacing fat with muscle, increases your ability to perform physical tasks, and can also provide you with a heart healthy cardiovascular benefit.  One book that I highly recommend for someone new to strength training is The New Rules of Lifting.  It is packed with useful advice and quality programming, and it is much cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

3. Physical activity
This is an area that people often overlook but it can have a huge impact on health and weight loss.  You should focus on increasing your overall physical activity throughout the day.  Take the stairs every time and avoid the elevator, park further away in the parking lot, bike to work, take walks on your lunch break, do 10 squats every hour on the hour, go on weekend hikes, do jumping jacks during commercials, carry groceries instead of using the cart, etc. The possibilities are literally endless.  JUST MOVE MORE!  It takes very little extra time to perform these activities and it will create a huge caloric expenditure when spread out over a typical 16 hour day that can accelerate weight loss.

4. Cardio
Notice how this is number four on the list.  Typically it is number one for most people trying to lose weight and that is why many people fail.  Doing cardio exercise does help the weight loss process but it should be further down the list.  Think about it; you could jog on the treadmill for 45 minutes and maybe burn 300-400 calories or you could adjust your diet to create a caloric deficit of the same amount.  The former could take an hour out of your day while the latter takes zero time out of you day.  Strength training also trumps cardio because it builds muscle, increases metabolism, and burns calories.  Traditional cardio exercise primarily just burns calories.  And remember when I said strength training can provide a cardio affect?   Well it doesn't work both ways.  You cannot increase strength with cardio exercise, but you can increase cardiovascular endurance (although minimal) with strength training.  So it is great to include cardio in your weight loss program but if you are limited on time then don't make it your priority.

5. Sleep
This is the last one on the list but could be considered most important of all in some aspects.  You might not be building muscle or scorching calories while you sleep (although you do burn a large amount while sleeping) but the amount and quality of your sleep can have a huge impact on your day.  If you feel tired and lethargic then you are less likely to exercise.  But if you are well rested and energetic than you are more likely to charge through the day with calorie burning enthusiasm. Also, when you get adequate sleep your whole body tends to run more efficiently.  A good goal to shoot for is at least 7 hours of sleep each night with 8 hours being optimal.

And that completes the priority list for weight loss.  To recap you should focus on the following items in the order listed if your goal is to lose weight:

1. Get control of your diet
2. Start strength Training
3. Increase your overall physical activity
4. Include cardio exercise in your workouts
5. Get good quality sleep

As I mentioned before if you are only going to focus on one or two things than make them items that are higher on the list.  If you can take care of all the items mentioned then you should have no problems meeting your weight loss goals for 2015.  I hope that this New Year brings you plenty of health and happiness.

  ,Amerson Fitness

Monday, December 15, 2014

Secrets to a Six Pack

A six pack is a coveted attribute for most men.  It is a symbol of health, virility, and masculinity.  It is also a key body part that many women find most attractive in a male.  And whether they want to admit it or not, it is one of the major body parts that men find most appealing as well. It is also considered attractive to the general masses.  Need a little evidence? What is one key physical feature that most hollywood leading men have in common?

A muscular and toned six pack.  These actors go through months of training prior to movie roles in order to get the body that is going to make them look the most appealing on screen, and a big part of that is visible abdominal muscles.  There are books, diets, magazine articles, and exercise programs that focus solely on the acquisition of a toned and defined midsection so it must be a desired goal for many men.  So with today's post I would like to let you in on the secrets to getting that elusive six pack.  And here they are:

(Drum roll)

Consistency and Discipline.

(crickets chirping)

Not what you were expecting?  Were you hoping to hear about some new supplement, a targeted ab routine, or even a natural superfood? Sorry to burst your bubble but the key to getting a nice six pack, or really any other physical attribute, is making the appropriate behavior changes and lifestyle choices.  So lets look at these two characteristics a little closer.

In order to get the body you want you have to be very consistent with your exercise and diet.   You can't just get in a workout session here and there or eat clean some of the days of the week.  You have to make exercise part of your lifestyle and incorporate it into your routine on a daily basis.  As I have eluded to before that doesn't mean that you have to go to the gym everyday of your life.  Your body responds to stimulus and has no idea whether that stimulus is being applied at the gym, in your living room, or in a park.  You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to where and how you workout.  You just have to make sure you do it often and with adequate intensity.  Consistency is even more important when it comes to diet.  You have to make the right food choices most meals of the day and most days of the week.  That doesn't mean that you can't have pizza and burgers here and there. But consistently choosing the right foods, and avoiding the wrong foods, will do wonders for  your health and fitness goals.  I feel that I should mention, however, that it only helps to be consistent using a healthy diet.  If you are consistently eating a crappy diet then you can kiss that physique goodbye.  There are many great diets out there to choose from but the best one is the diet that you can stick to and also allows you to reach your goals.  It might take a little effort on your part to research and try different diets but when you find the one that fits it is well worth it. 

This is the other piece of the puzzle.  You have to be very disciplined with your diet order to get the body you want.  You have to be able to say no to those donuts at work.  You have limit yourself to one beer at dinner, not five.  At a barbecue you have to choose the grilled chicken over the hotdogs.  You have to be disciplined every week when you plan out what you are going to eat over the next seven days.  You have get up early every morning so that you have enough time to make a healthy and nutritious breakfast.  You have to plan and pack a lunch to bring with you so that you don't end up eating out for lunch.  You have to occasionally decline that invitation to go out because you know it will just lead to over-eating and drinking.  It is not always fun but you have to make the hard choices that are going to help you reach your goals.

Now with those things being said I would advise against making your primary goal the attainment of visible abs.  Nobody wants to be the scrawny guy with abs.

Instead, focus on getting your entire body stronger with multi-joint compound strength movements and dial in on a clean diet.  If you stay on top of those two things with consistency and discipline then the abs with come.

To end this post I would like to state that having six pack abs is not the end-all be-all of fitness.  There are people who are extremely fit but don't necessarily have a six pack, and conversely, there are people with visible abs who lead extremely unhealthy lives (I'm thinking the entire cast of Jersey Shore).  So while this post highlights how you can get a six pack don't think of it as a necessity.  Just focus on being happy and healthy.

  ,Amerson Fitness