We've all been there; working hard in the gym, crushing the diet and still looking at the same numbers on the scale. Even after reading through all the fitness magazines, blogsites, websites, etc., so no resolve. No one has provided you with the magic solution. You're frustrated and desperate to try anything.
I've been there. Struggling to eat enough while still trying to get "toned". I've read enough nutrition articles to qualify for the board of dietician exam, and still I struggled with my physique, numbers on the scale and performance in the gym. So how did I turn that around? I stopped lying to myself. I admitted I was not eating healthy or clean. I was not pushing myself as hard as I could during workouts, nor was I focusing my energy on the right workouts. Most of all, I was not sleeping enough.
So what does that mean for you? Take an honest look at your logs, if you don't log your food and exercise, then start. Do the logs match what you know to be correct? Probably not, right? Did you log the alcohol you've drank during the week/weekend? The food those drinks caused you to eat, after lowering your willpower?
The truth is - most of us already know what we need to do to get results. You've read enough articles by now to know enough, I'm not going to provide you with any information you didn't already read or hear. The hard part is to be honest with yourself. End the vicious cycle of lying to yourself and making poor choices.
1. You aren't logging your food and exercise.
Logs are essential to personal growth. How do you know which variable (food, exercise, sleep, supplement, etc) actually caused change, if you don't log? How do you know what pre-workout meal was best for reaching that personal record? I recommend logging in myfitnesspal.com. This site and app, logs; food, supplements and exercise. The site lacks a sleep log, but you can track in your daily notes. Try logging for one week, then make changes.
2. Your macro-nutrients are off.
Macro-nutrients?!? Proteins, carbs and fats are the macro-nutrients found in the foods you eat.
Most of the body and it's major organs are made up of protein, so you can see this macro-nutrient is of top importance when you exercise. Protein is found is animal products, nuts, seeds, dairy and some plant products.
Carbohydrates (or carbs) are in everything. Some say carbs are the devil and others say carbs are the most important macro. The truth is - carbs aren't a one size fits all macro. Some of us are more sensitive to carbs than others. Carbs also come in many different packagaes; fruit, vegetables, beer, bread, pasta, pastries, sugar, dressings, etc. Try this experiment - go two weeks without bread, pasta, pastries, donuts, protein bars, added sugar, anything processed in a factory. See how you feel. I bet you'll feel 100% more vibrant. Your workouts will be and feel so much better.
Fats, oh fats. There is a distinct difference in the macro-nutrient and the extra layer you've been grabbing at for months. FAT, the macro-nutrient, is GOOD for you. Fat lines our organs and joints, fat also fuels the brain and helps send electrical signals all over our body. There are three different types of fats, or fatty acids; monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. Mono and poly unsaturated fats are the good kinds of fat. They contain what you know as OMEGA 3, which is essential to bodily functions. In fact, research has shown that OMEGA 3 has been associated with decrease in LDL and an increase in HDL, along with a lower risk for heart disease (1). Sources of these OMEGA 3 are; fish, flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, and walnuts.
So how should you arrange your macronutrients? Well that really depends on you. If you're sensitive to carbs, then you should limit starchy and dense carbs (potatoes, oats, quinoa, etc) to a post-workout meal. The carbs on which you should focus are vegetables and fruit. Keep munching all day.
Low carb macro profile:
PROTEIN = 40% daily calories (1 g of protein = 4 calories)
FATS = 35% daily calories (1 g of fat = 9 calories)
CARBS = 25% daily calories (1 g of carb = 4 calories)
Try to play around with the breakdown according to how you feel. If you feel great and you've only consumed 20% carbs, then maybe that breakdown is ideal for YOUR body.
3. You aren't sleeping enough.
Lack of sleep wrecks havoc on the mind and body. Several studies suggest inadequate sleep leads to physiological stress and inflammation. Along with stress, the body starts to become unable to recover from daily workouts. The body starts to slump into a state of over-training, which halts progress by the release of cortisol into the blood stream. While cortisol is good in moderation ( like most things), when in overabundance, the body begins to store fat everywhere. Another way lack of sleep will seek revenge, is by means of hunger. The body will tell your mind that you are STARVING, the stomach will start to hurt and you'll think that you need to eat more to feed that energy cycle.
Start getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Turn off and unplug 30 minutes before bedtime. Starting a nightly routine will help.
4. Your workouts are inefficient.
Take a look around the gym, how many people take time to Instagram every set they do? Probably 60%, if not more. Too much rest between sets, depending on the type of lift, leads to inefficiency. The metabolism never gets a jolt.
1. Put down those color-wrapped dumbbells, they aren't doing you any favors.
2. Add 5-10 lbs to each main lift every week or two.
3. Try barbell/dumbbell/kettlebell circuits. Add super-sets to your workout, pair a squat with a lunge, chest fly with a bench press.
*Are you intrigued by the 3 statements above? Follow this 8 week program I wrote, with help from a licensed dietitian, to help people like you achieve their fitness goals. Click here to download your copy.
5. Your doing too much cardio.
Which came first, the cardio or the weights?
Have you ever seen that fire conditions alert? You ever notice the alerts only come around on dry, windy days? Well, think of that wind as cardio. The fire burns because of the amount of wood available to burn, the wind only ever helps that wood burn faster. In terms of the body, the wood is muscle you build from lifting weights. Wouldn't it make sense to provide your fire with enough wood to create a bonfire? Well pick up those weights and lift.
Too much cardio is also linked to the release of cortisol, which stated above is not good for the belly fat and muffin top. Sorry to break the news to you. The body also gets used to the amount of cardio you do, so eventually that hour of elliptical translates to maybe 10 minutes of calories (not that much). So that's just a big waste of your time, taking you back to reason # 4.
Focus, instead, on short bout of intense cardio. Maybe 1 minute of all out intensity followed by 2 minutes of recovery, repeat for a couple rounds.
Do cardio AFTER a workout. Cardio BEFORE a workout will deplete the muscles of energy stores, ultimately (for the sake of the metaphor above) reducing that wood to twigs, decreasing that bonfire to a mere candle (2).
2. http://journals.lww.com/acsmhealthfitness/Fulltext/2014/01000/Which_Comes_Fi rst__Resistance_Before_Aerobic.5.aspx
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