Thursday, November 15, 2012

Surviving Thanksgiving Day

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week already!  This day can be one of the worst when it comes to sabotaging your weight loss plans, even though it’s technically just one meal.  The average American eats thousands, yes thousands, of calories on this day.  I have a few ideas to help you successfully survive the day and not veer too far off track.

First, plan ahead.  I categorize this meal as my “free meal” of the week, so I eat healthy the rest of the week.  Stick to your workout regimen those days before as much as possible.  The morning of, eat a good breakfast, this will help you later in the day.

Planning your attitude is just as important.  Instead of approaching the day as overindulgence, see it as an opportunity to enjoy a meal you wouldn’t normally have with important people in your life.  Think moderation throughout the day, not restricting yourself to the point of deprivation, but not stuffing yourself silly either.  Savor each bite, this will keep your pace reasonable.

Next let’s look at the actual meal.  The tricky part can be the goodies out before the meal.  Be selective about what you munch on, looking at vegetables versus crackers when it comes to the dips.  Instead of dipping right out of the serving dish, put a small amount on your plate and then add the veggies.  When you sit down to dinner, mentally divide your plate in half.  On one half, fill it with vegetables and fruit such as salads (sorry, no potatoes on this side).  Split the other half into two sections, one for meat and the other for starches like potatoes and stuffing.  This will help you enjoy everything in, you guessed it, moderation.  When dessert is served, pick your favorite or the one of your favorites you have the least and enjoy.

After the meal, the best thing you can do for your metabolism is not sit and watch football.  Very tempting I know (and I love football), but take 30 minutes or so and be moderately active.  Go for a walk, play football with the kids, engage the family in a game of some sort.  I’m not saying go for a run, but keep moving to begin the calorie burning process.

As the rest of the weekend goes by, quietly slip back into your normal weekend routine, eat smart and stay active.  Take advantage of the Black Friday deals, shopping really does burn calories if you keep moving.

Remember, moderation is the key on this day and most days. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Water and Weight Loss

Yep, I’m dedicating an entry just to water.  We know we need to consume it, and most of us don’t get enough.  Water is critical to your body and can be a huge help when it comes to weight loss.

As you may know, water is the main component of our bodies; it accounts for about 60% of body weight.  When you are consuming enough water (we’ll address that question in a minute), your metabolic function, body temperature regulation, blood volume and liver functions all operate at an ideal level.  A note about your liver: when it works, it encourages the body to use fat for energy.  Basically, water is the system that makes the other systems go.

On the flip side, dehydration can cause trouble for the body.  Physiologically, it can decrease blood volume, increase core temperate and heart rate and increase the use of muscle glycogen.  It also can cause sodium and water retention, decrease performance and increased the rate of perceived exertion.

You can see how water intake is critical to weight loss.  It helps the body flush itself and function more efficiently.  Think about how hot it was this summer.  You probably noticed when you didn’t drink enough water – feeling sluggish, basic exercise seems harder and maybe even feeling bloated.

Now, how much water is the right amount to consume?  This question has varying answers.  Thirst is actually not the single indicator you need to drink more water.  The answer I use with my clients is to start with dividing your body weight in half.  That’s the number of ounces of water you need per day.  If you exercise or are in a hot climate, increase that 15-20%.  The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 20-40 ounces of water for every hour of exercise.  This is a good guideline to follow if you don’t like figuring out the percentage.

Another benefit of drinking water: it fills you up.  Hunger can be mistaken for thirst.  When you think you are hungry, drink 8-10 ounces of water and wait 30 minutes.  If you are still hungry, have a snack.  This also works well before eating out at restaurants or at events.  I have a water bottle with me just about everywhere, just in case.

Keep drinking that water!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eating Energy for Weight Loss: Proteins

We’ve all heard it, protein is important in our diet.  In addition to carbohydrates and fats, they provide energy to help our bodies function.

Proteins are used to build and repair body tissues and structures, as well as involvement in hormone and enzyme synthesis.  Proteins are comprised of amino acids linked together.  The sequence of the amino acids determines the protein’s function.  The body can make some of these amino acids; those are called nonessential amino acids, meaning they are not required from the diet.  Essential amino acids are not synthesized by the body and therefore required from the diet.  

You can find protein in several foods.  Meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and supplements all provide protein in some fashion.  When a single food provides all eight essential amino acids, it is considered to be a complete protein.  Many meats are considered complete proteins. 

Now, how much of your diet should consist of proteins? The answer, of course, is “it depends.”  Your individual goals will guide your protein intake.  Since this blog is about weight loss, we’ll focus on that.  Consuming protein is important during weight loss so your body has a supply of energy to use without breaking down muscle (which helps to burn fat).  The guideline for the general population is 0.8 g/kg of body weight, or about 15-30% of your caloric intake.  Protein has the same number of calories per gram (four) as carbohydrates, but has a tendency to be more filling than carbs.

A word about protein supplements: they can be helpful.  For weight loss, they can be used to supplement foods when foods aren’t available.  Those looking for weight loss can use them to occasionally replace food proteins.  There’s also the convenience factor.  When consumed after exercise, protein can enhance recovery by delivering amino acids to the blood to begin repair work on damaged muscle tissue.  Cost is an important consideration as well.

Keep in mind that too much protein, or creating an excess in your body, can have negative consequences.  The kidneys get overworked, dehydration is a strong possibility, and it has even been linked to heart disease.
Consuming protein is important for your body to function, and can help you with your weight loss agenda.  Keep a good balance of all the energy sources, and see the results on the scale.

See you at the gym!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eating Energy for Weight Loss: Fats

Believe it or not, your body does need you to consume fats.  The distinction you should make as a consumer is which kind and how much. 

Fats, also known as lipids, are important in the body.  At the cellular level, they are involved with cellular membrane function and structure and regulation of nutrients in the cells.  They surround and protect internal organs, keeping them in place.  Your brain also uses fat for fuel.  They insulate the body from external temperature changes, as well as signal when you are full after eating.

There are three categories of lipids we consume in our diet: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Fats are linked to cholesterol levels, which can be good or bad depending upon the type of fat at issue.

As I’m sure you have heard the two unsaturated fats are considered to be “good fats.”  In case you were wondering the difference between mono and poly-unsaturated fats have to do with the chemical composition of the fatty acid: mono has one carbon bond while poly has two or more.  They help to boost your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and may also help with heart disease and blood pressure.  Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive and canola oils as well as nuts and avocados.  These are naturally cholesterol free, since they are plant based, making them a winner all the way around.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the fantastic sources of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish such as salmon.  They are also considered “essential” fatty acids, as the body does not produce them naturally and must be provided by the diet.

Saturated fatty acids are another story.  They are an increased risk for heart disease and tend to raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.  It’s found in meat, egg yolks and butter.  It is generally recommended to keep these to a minimum.

A word about trans-fatty acids: avoid them.  They are typically found in processed foods.  Trans-fatty acids are the result of hydrogenation (adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids), increasing the shelf life of the food (think preservatives).  They have the same negative effects as saturated fats.

Integrating the appropriate fatty acids into your diet will help your body function like a smooth machine.

See you at the gym!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eating Energy for Weight Loss: Carbohydrates

OK, we should all know it by now: your diet is the key to your weight loss.  Along with exercising, it is a tried and true way to achieve these types of goals.  Carbohydrates are kind of a big deal, even though they sometimes get a bad rap.  They do wonders for your body, and finding the right carbohydrates and steering away from the not so good ones will help you go in the right direction.

Your body needs energy to work, anything from performing daily functions like pumping blood, digesting food, moving around to meeting the demands you place on it during exercise.  The role carbs play in this production include providing nutrition that protein and fats cannot, keeping you feeling full, maintaining cellular fluid balance and spare protein breakdown for building muscle.  Carbs are the first nutrient the body uses for energy, and prefers to use it as much as it can.  They point fat and protein into use in the body, and even help to burn excess fat away.

So what makes a “good” carb?  Many have weighed in on this subject, and I’ll do the same.  Keep in mind that these points are for the general population, any special circumstances should be discussed with your medical provider or a registered dietitian.  A “good” carb should be complex in nature, or should have more than one benefit.  Whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables provide fiber as well, so those are on the good list for sure.  Yep, that’s right, vegetables are good sources of carbs.  As with all foods, the less processed foods tend to be better. Whole grain brown rice trumps white bread, and fresh apples beat canned fruit.

What about not-so-good “carbs?”  Processed foods like those I just mentioned are better than, say, a piece of cake, but still consider the value of what you’re eating.  I like to tell my clients that junk in equals junk out.  You will notice a difference in your energy levels if you have oatmeal with fruit for breakfast versus a blueberry muffin.  The muffin will be processed by the body quickly (think sugar rush) and if you haven’t used that energy, it will store it as fat just in case you don’t eat ever again.  Then you’ll be hungry again soon, adding insult to injury.

A quick word about high fructose corn syrup: it’s bad. And it’s everywhere.  Not only is it in sodas, but you can also find it in some yogurts (yes, yogurts), condiments like ketchup, store bought bread and some snacks.  The problem is that the body doesn’t recognize it as sugar, so it doesn’t release insulin to process it.  It just hangs out and basically gets turned to, you guessed it, fat.

Moral of this story is that carbohydrates are necessary and good for your body, so eat them, especially in the form of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.  Get that weight loss engine started!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Losing Weight and Staying FITT

Recently, I was chatting with someone about my personal training business, and they asked me how I came up with the name FITT Fitness Personal Training.  “Did you misspell fit on your business cards?”  The answer is nope, it actually stands for something:  the F.I.T.T. principle.  Most people who exercise regularly use this principle, but they may not be aware of it.  These are the components that consist of how a workout comes together and how each workout varies from one to the next.  Here’s what each letter stands for:

F: Frequency.  How often do you work out?  Is it every day, some days, rarely?

I: Intensity.  How hard are you working out?  This might (and should) vary from workout to workout.  For example, doing cardio intervals on the stairmill would be different than, say, a casual bike ride on the Highline Canal.  This can also be applied to weight lifting – are you lifting your max weight with a small number of reps, or a challenging weight for 10-15 reps.

T: Time.  How long do you exercise?  Is it a consistent amount of time, or does it change based on your goals for that particular workout?

T: Type.  What all does your workout consist of?  Some people do a blend of cardio and weight lifting.  Some take a Zumba or boot camp class.  Others will run the track at a local school.  There are many different types of exercise.

Now, how does this apply to weight loss?  Variety is the key for each component.  Performing the same workout over and over again and the body will eventually adapt to it, and you will cease to see the same results you did when you started.  Even altering one of the above principles will change your routine enough to see a change.  I challenge you to examine your workouts and see how they might be altered, based on one of these principles, to see increased results.  It works, I promise!

Stay cool, and see you at the gym!