The one thing all active people have in common is, training (physical work that improves physical performance). People work on running to get better for their race, athletes practice agility/conditioning to get better at their sport, and people workout in the gym to increase their general fitness. There’s no denying that training makes you better at what you do or want to accomplish…but the method/intensities you choose can either severally help or hinder your progress. So when it comes to training as a whole, here’s the methods I consider “smart” training and the methods I consider not-so-smart training…
Let’s clarify a couple things first…not one single method works for all people, just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Also, this is what works for me, people I’ve worked with, and is popular with other coaches/trainers in various industries.
Before I get into the methods, I feel everybody should be aware/understand “Rate of Perceived Exertion” (RPE). In simple terms, this is the effort/intensity you are using for your training sessions. This effort can and should vary depending on multiple things...RPE is important to understand because it plays a huge role in how you should train to get the most out of what you are trying to accomplish. RPE is also a gauge for over-training or under-training…which is very common in all types of people regardless of their activity, sport, or training style. Most people think of RPE on a scale of 1-10…1 being nothing but standing/sitting around, 10 being the max physical effort you can give. You could also think of it as a percentage from 0-100% effort.
Ok, now that we understand RPE better, let’s talk about what I mean by “smart.” When I use the term “smart” I’m simple stating the ability to continue to train year-round “injury-free while still making progress.” The top reason most people lose motivation or plateau throughout the year is due to over-training. Over-training is when the body is continuously pushed beyond its limits or at high intensities without recovery/rest. At this point you start to fatigue quicker, ache more, lose muscle, dread workouts, and even regress in ability. So how do you avoid over-training and be “smart” about your workouts?
The “smart” method. While most people assume the harder you push, the better you get…that may not be the case. Going “all-out” on every workout could lead to a lack of productivity. The body does love to be physically tested, but not all the time. It’s simply not meant to be at max effort every single day. This puts too much physical stress on the body and can lead to all the affects of over-training listed above. “So what am I suppose to do?” The most efficient athletes and best fighters, runners, or gym rats consistently use an RPE of 7-8 as their go-to training intensity. Let me explain a little more…
The reason most people wisely use a 7-8 RPE is because it allows them to still get the intensity of a great workout while still avoiding “redlining” the body. They can get in the “zone” with their workout and feel good, without feeling like they want to faint, puke, or die. Despite the popularity of those famous three terms, you should rarely get there…unless in competition or on a peak week (testing week). RPE of 9-10 should only be something used for occasional testing of PRs or upcoming competitions…even then, your RPE should peak a couple weeks before performance days (to allow for sufficient recovery). An RPE of 4-6 is used for recovery days. These days should be a low intensity cycle, uphill walk, yoga, roll and stretch, etc. So if your actual “workouts” are one of those activates, you may be a candidate for under-training, and increasing your intensity will help your performance.
So the moral of the story is to try to always work at 70-80% of your max effort. I know this is easier said than done, but the more in-tune you become with your body, the easier it gets. In simpler terms, if you always feel like you are going to faint, puke, or die after every or most workouts, your intensity is just too much. Try scaling it back slightly and see how much better your body feels, how much more “enjoyable” your workouts are, and (I promise you) how much more you will improve at certain exercises, skills, or times. On the flip side…If you feel like you barely sweat, muscles aren’t ever sore, or heart rate is never elevated, try increasing your intensity. Being able to have varying RPEs is a huge advantage to your training and something most people don’t take into consideration (Ex. Crossfit).
Every recipe for success can be mixed with a few different ingredients, but there’s one in particular that you just can’t leave out…if you want to have any chance of succeeding at all. Some people say success is just a matter of luck, some say it’s just hard work, and others will tell you that it’s just given or passed down from generations. Although this may be partially true, none of these alone can keep somebody on top of his or her game for the long run.
Personal Responsibility. This is what will give you the keys to control everything in your life and eventually lead you to be successful in everything that you do. The hardest thing for most people to do is understand that taking responsibility is ultimately what will set you free. For most people it’s easy to blame something or someone else (even subconsciously), because then they really don’t have to own up to what the main cause of failure or what the problem was or is…ME! Taking personal responsibility and command of everything you do, with consistency, will set you up to be at a level of excellence you have never experienced before. It’s what will allow you to persevere even when things out of your control happen. It’s what will make you stronger when tempting or bad situations present themselves. It’s what will set you apart from everyone else who allows those excuses to run their life. Does this always mean you actually ARE responsible for everything, no…but you’ll always be prepared.
Like most things, this will take time and patience to get better at. It will take consistency and discomfort at times. It will mean you’re going to have to tell friends “no”…family “I can’t”…and make the choice to do what needs to be done rather than what you “really want” to do.
In the fitness world, this is what truly separates those who really live the lifestyle every day and look like they do, from those who try and act like they do, and look like they don’t. They eat the foods they need to, even when nobody is looking. They make a choice to stay in (most of the time), even when friends/family are going out. They hit the gym on weekends, they hit the gym on holidays or vacation. They study what it takes to improve and actually implement it into their lives. They learn and don’t just follow. They ask questions, because knowledge is power. They correct mistakes and make adjustments so they don’t happen again. And they do all these things out of habit, because they have accepted that the only way to change things and make themselves better is to take personal responsibility for everything they do and care about at the same time.
No, I’m not trying to be a motivational speaker, although I do enjoy listening to certain people speak. No, I’m not perfect either…but I have learned to and been accepting personal responsibility for many more things in my life and it has changed me for the better in so many ways. To most, this will sound like such an overwhelming task, they’ll just brush it off…but if you want to be successful, and you’re tired of starting over or not going anywhere, here’s what you can change starting tomorrow…
These are a few things I heard over my time studying people who have had success and maintained it throughout their life. I hope this helped a few get on track, and maybe even light a fire under some others. I truly believe that your thoughts dictate your actions and without the right mindset or focus, it’s hard to achieve goals or be as successful as you want to be…in anything.
So you’ve been working out for some time now, and the results have started to slow down or you feel like it’s just not as effective as it was in the beginning…don’t worry, you’re not a special case. Results usually come faster when something is new or different…but it doesn’t always HAVE to be a complete overhaul to get things moving again. Some simple changes in your current pre-workout routine, mental approach, and post-workout choices could give you a huge boost and kick-start your results once again going forward.
For most people, “pre-workout” is about throwing some random caffeinated powder in a shaker and putting on some inspiring music while driving to the gym…well, that’s not bad, but there’s a little more to the story if you want to take yourself to the next level. Tomorrow’s gym session really starts the night before. What that means is that if you want to get the most out of yourself and your workout, you need to plan, starting with what you’re eating for dinner the night before (especially if you are an early morning workout person). This is usually the time people eat “junk” and it can severally effect how you perform and respond in the morning. Also, you need to plan your bedtime. Even if you don’t fall asleep exactly on the minute, you should be in bed relaxing your body/mind (aim for 8 hours/night). There’s nothing better for recovery and performance than consistent sleep. As you wake in the morning you should start to think about nutrition AGAIN…what time am I working out, what time will I eat before/after, what am I eating before/after (based on the workout)??? You should also start thinking about how your body feels…do I have any nagging injuries, do I need extra warm-up on something, do I need to be early to prep my mind and focus??? If you are always someone who just shows up to the gym at the last second (or on a whim) and goes straight into it, you will always be reactive instead of proactive. Proactive people usually have better results with anything in life! Bottom line, start taking responsibility for your approach to workout as well as the workout itself.
More mental focus in the Gym.
Most people think they are physically present, and that’s good enough. It’s a start, but for a lot of people that’s like showing up to an important meeting and falling asleep…it does you no good, you HAVE TO engage. You have to block out other things in your life, you have to resist talking to people you know (not altogether, but most of the time), you need to focus on the task at hand…as well as executing it to the best of your ability. You have to almost be a perfectionist in the gym, in terms of thinking/trying, not always in performance. You need to understand the whys, hows, and reasons for certain things (if you don’t know, ask!). You need to know if the focus is on strength, heart-rate, or just plain old doing something the correct way (if you don’t do it correct now). Turn your gym A.D.D. into a positive adjustment and become engaged and immersed in what you’re there for.
MAKE time for recovery.
9/10 People will leave the gym every single day without any cool-down or recovery exercises. They grab their keys and phone and bolt out the door. I know life is busy, but I’m pretty sure that everyone can find an extra 10 mins…at least a few times per week (and no, sitting in a circle with 4 friends half-ass doing a hamstring stretch doesn't count). I’m not saying you need to sign-up for unlimited Yoga sessions, I’m not saying you even need a full 30-60 min class, I’m simply saying that with 10-15 mins (3x a week) you can make a huge difference in how your body feels and performs on a daily basis. This can be as simple as focusing on just one certain muscle per day, it could be a lower body focus one day and an upper body the next, it could be a 10 mins on the foam roller, or 10 minutes of mobility stretching. I promise you that if you take the time to do this, you will move better, feel better, recover better, and enjoy workouts with less agony/suffering from injury or soreness. You will also gain strength and improved functionality, which in turn produces better results. If you aren’t sure what to do, look it up on Youtube, read a credible article, or ASK the person who runs your gym/program.
Nothing is worse than dreading a workout because of feeling tired, unmotivated, injured, sore, or a combination of. Find or make the time to consider at least one of (if not all three) these techniques, I promise it will be worth your efforts.
First off, everybody has his or her own definition of “flexible,” so I’m basing this off my own definition. No, I’m not a gymnast, a ballerina, or made of play-doh. I’m a typical active adult in my 30’s who can touch his toes, squat below parallel, and reach my arms straight over my head…I know, none of these are jaw-dropping, but you’d be surprised at how many people my age and older can’t come close to any of these…or at least without pain.
Let’s get back to my definition of flexibility real quick. My definition of flexibility is simple, it’s “being able to move through regular planes of motion without pain or restriction.” So what are “regular” planes of motion? To me, it’s movements we do every day…we squat/sit down and we lift things up (sometimes over our head) as the two most common movements. So you could see how not being able do these well, or pain-free, might be an issue.
As we age, our body adapts to the movements we do most often. So for the Average Joe, that’s sitting (with bad posture) and bending (with our back and not our knees). These two poor movements contribute to the two most common issues adults face, tight hips/hamstrings, and tight shoulders/upper back. Those same people incorporate those bad habits into exercise, it then becomes ten-fold.
So what’s the correction…?
Your typical “static” stretch barely scratches the surface when it comes to correcting or preventing these issues. Static stretching is holding a stretch for an extended period of time (ex: 10-30 seconds), then releasing. Think of static stretching (aka your muscle) as a brand-new rubber band out of the package…if you hold that band stretched out for 30 seconds, then let it go, it goes right back to the same tight band you just took out of the package. Now if you do that one, two, or three times a week, you may make some progress over time, but not much. This is how most people stretch thinking they are helping their flexibility. Now take that same rubber band and continuously stretch and release it (close to it’s max stretch) 100 times every day (without holding)…I bet you see a different in the elasticity much quicker than holding it stretched for 30 seconds, 1-3 times week.
So what am I saying? I’m simply stating that range of motion (aka flexibility) comes from moving in full ranges of motion with proper mechanics over and over, as much as you can…. specifically when exercising (especially with resistance added).
Doing this is a simple nervous system response that tells the body “it’s okay” to allow (you) to do that movement without injury or restriction. When you restrict yourself (intentionally or unintentionally), that’s when the body deems it unsafe if you every try to work past that range of motion. This is exactly why it’s important to use proper mechanics and work a “full” range of motion with every exercise, every workout session. I’m talking about squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull ups, push ups, dips, overhead pressing, everything! When you incorporate bad mechanics with already restricted areas, that’s an instant recipe for injuries. Working full ranges with good mechanics is like continuously stretching the rubber band 100 of times a day (aka your workout). This is what truly allows the body to move freely and without pain. It will take time and patience (and probably a lot less weight/resistance in the gym than your ego can handle) but eventually you will start to move better, feel better, and maybe even touch your toes or squat without feeling like your going to detach a muscle.
Moral of the Story: STOP static stretching and start focusing on form and improved range of motion with your exercises.
Diets can be confusing, there’s no doubt that you could search the Internet for 10 minutes and find several articles that contradict one another. One talks about high fat, another talks about low carb, another claims an “all liquid” diet, Paleo is king, vegan is the new athlete diet, intermittent fasting, don’t fast at all…While some of this can be true, you don’t have to completely take a side, because there are a few things that will work without fully committing to anything listed above.
So I’m here to tell you about things that hold true (at least in my experience) no matter what type of dieting you’re doing…
A Semi-Fast is necessary.
What do I mean by semi-fast? The body requires recovery in order to repair itself. This repair process is how you “build” muscle and “burn” fat. Believe it or not, you aren’t actually doing as much in the gym as you think you are when it comes to building muscle and burning fat., this is where you break the body down so that it MUST repair itself. The repair process takes place during the time when your body isn’t doing work…or eating food. The body needs to be in a rested and fasted state in order to do it’s best work when it comes to recovery. This is why you should get at least 7-8+ hours of sleep and NOT eat food/drink liquids about 2-3 before bed. When you add the “fasted” time before bed mixed with the time you’re asleep, the body has now had ample time to repair and rebuild itself (10-12 hours). If you eat close to bedtime and/or only sleep 5-6 hours, you didn’t get the full benefits of recovery, therefore your results will always seem mediocre. This Semi-fast (10-12 hours) is the easiest method to lose body fat and maintain/build muscle without doing much but watching the clock and being consistent.
Nutrient Timing IS important.
What is nutrient timing? This refers to the time of day you should eat certain macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats). Since Carbs are our main source of fuel for activity, it’s in your best interest to place them either in the morning and or pre/post workout. This helps your body utilize them more efficiently (when most active) instead of storing them when the body is less active (and they aren’t being used). Since fats are mainly used for hormone production first and fuel second, it’s in your best interest to use them in the evening or when your body is less active. When we rest and sleep, there are several hormone processes that occur. Having fats in the last meal of the day can help boost your hormone production for an even better response to your body composition. Lastly, Protein should be used equally throughout the day. There is no good or bad time for protein. You should aim to build eat meal around a protein source…the timing of the day will determine what predominately goes with that protein, carbs or fats.
Protein is the X-Factor.
Over 75% of my clients aren’t meeting basic protein needs, despite the fact that they thought they were. What are basic protein needs? .7 x your current body weight is the minimum, and up to 1.2 x your current body weight is acceptable. Most people should aim to get .8-.9 x BW to meet their needs. Protein is essential for anyone looking to change his or her body composition. It’s also essential for anyone looking to feel satiated (full) throughout the day, which in return can help with snacking and cravings. If there is one thing to track in your diet, start with making sure you’re getting the right amount of protein.
Certain Supplements are beneficial while others are a waste of time.
Supplements are tricky. Marketing is really good these days so it’s hard to tell what to look for and use and what is just a waste of time and money. I’ll keep this brief for the sake of making this section too lengthy. Here what I suggest you keep in your pantry…A Protein Powder is a MUST. It’s a quick and easy way to meet your protein needs without powering down a ton of animal meat all day. Look for a “Whey Isolate” powder and test a few flavors until you find one you like. Don’t get caught up in anything else for now. Omega-3 (Krill Oil) is necessary to balance your body’s Omegas and help reduce inflammation (gut, joint, and muscles). The American food industry is dominated by Omega-6s and 80% of Americans are deficient in Omega 3s. A normal ratio for the body is 2:1 or 3:1 for Omega 6 to 3s…Most of us are sitting at 18-20:1 Omega 6s to 3s. Do you see why most of us have severe inflammation and gut problems? Vitamin D3 is one of the most highly deficient vitamins in people today. It can boost hormones and help with recovery (bone and muscle strength), definitely something you don’t want to be deficient in if you are an active person. B12 is another mineral that helps you absorb all of the food you consume and covert it to usable energy. Why waste money on a pre-workout when you can just use the foods you eat every day as your energy boost? Lastly, Magnesium is a crucial for a lot of processes in the body, but mainly hormone production. Hormones determine EVERYTHING when it comes to fat-loss and muscle gain, so you need to keep them productive as long as you can! Plus, Mag will help you sleep like a baby for added recovery benefits. Anything I didn’t mention here isn’t really “needed.” If you have a balanced diet and take the supplements listed above, you are sure to see some substantial changes in your body in only a few weeks.
People Who Lose the Weight and Get Fit Have These Core Beliefs
I'm sure you have heard people say, "Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off is the hard part."
Well, I disagree with this statement. I think losing weight is hard, but keeping it off is even harder!
Permanent weight loss requires a lot of change. And for most, change is difficult. You have to change what and how much you eat. You have to change your activity and exercise habits. You might have to change your sleeping habits, daily schedule and shopping habits. That's a lot of change!
However, the most important changes you can make aren't about what you do, but rather how you think. If you don't change your mindset, there's an awfully good chance you won't change your body—and certainly not for the long term.
People who have reached weight-loss goals and kept off the pounds often experience mindset shifts. They think differently than they did before. Here are some common attitudes and beliefs that show up time and time again when talking with successful "losers." If you were to interview them, this is what you would hear.
1. I believe that I can do it. I am responsible for—and in control of—my destiny, and I am fully committed to getting there. I have a clear vision of how I want to live my life: healthy, vibrant, fit and active. I strongly believe in the possibility and the permanence of that vision, and I am confident that I am capable of achieving it. Exercise and eating healthy aren't things I do when it's convenient; they are what I have decided to do no matter what. I recognize my results are dependent on my own actions—not other people's or outside circumstances.
2. I am proactive rather than reactive. I think in advance about how I will eat and exercise during for upcoming day. If I know I need to go to the gym straight from work, I make sure my gym bag is packed and in my car. When I'm going to have a hectic day at work, I pack a healthy lunch from home. I look at restaurant menus online before getting there so I know the best choices beforehand, and that's what I order. I take time at the beginning of each week to plan my meals, figure out when I can get to the grocery store and schedule my exercise. And I always have a Plan B so I can stay on track in case something unexpected happens.
3. I am disciplined. Despite not always wanting to do what needs to be done, I do it anyway. There are plenty of times I don't feel like working out, or taking the time to prepare my meals. Whether it's exercise, skipping dessert, or cooking a healthy dinner rather than calling in for take-out, I do it. My mind is always focused on my vision. It's not about how I feel right now. It's about what I want for my future self.
4. I share my goals and plans. My friends and family are aware that taking good care of myself and keeping the weight off is a core value of mine. I stand up for myself without apology. Sometimes I'll miss happy hour with the gang to go to the gym, or request that we change the restaurant choice because I won't go to a buffet—I am not embarrassed or sorry for speaking up. I also know I don't need to go it alone. When I am feeling vulnerable, I ask for help.
5. I am resilient. When I stumble or fall down, I pick myself up and creatively figure out how to move on. Life throws curveballs all the time, but they aren't reasons to throw my healthy habits away. I know that soothing myself with food or TV won't solve my problems. I deal with the reality of the situation and creatively work toward overcoming adversity.
6. I have self-compassion. I'm only human and there are times when things don't go as well as I'd like. I just do the best I can. When I slip up, I look at it as one individual episode, not a pattern that will lead to disaster. A "lapse" does not mean collapse. I just get right back on track. I do not beat myself up if a few pounds creep back on. The scale does not define who I am. It doesn't make me good or bad. It only tells me whether or not I am on track to reach my goals. If I am not, I recalculate.
Sustained weight loss requires a new mindset. In order to be successful, you must resist looking in the mirror and still seeing the old you. Permanent success requires you to think and act like a fit and lean person even before you reach your goal. If it initially feels awkward, remember the old adage, "Fake it 'til you make it." The more you behave and think like a successful dieter, the sooner you will be one. Being healthy and fit will become part of your identity. It's time to leave the old one behind.
A question I often get is "do you have to be strong to build muscle?" The simple answer is "no" and here's why...
There's not many that will argue against the fact that a curvy, lean, muscular body is a desired appearance as a result of physical activity. In fact, this is the number one goal of most people who begin and adhere to any fitness program out there. Building muscle doesn't just happen during any sort of physical activity, there is an actual method to the process...and this is where most people fall short or get confused.
There are 2 directions I see most people go when trying to get lean and put on good muscle, they go the extreme "cardio" route or they go the "lift super heavy" route. While these aren't bad tools to use on your way to reaching your goals, neither should be your primary method for achieving that "toned" look (if that's what your after).
Cardio can help shed fat. Fat is usually what is hiding our muscle. So eliminating cardio all together isn't a good decision. Cardio has it's place, but instead of steady state cardio (all the time), incorporate a method that is slightly more effective...I refer to it as "conditioning" or "metabolic conditioning" Metabolic Conditioning typically will use a type(s) of resistance as part of it's protocol. For example, swing a heavy kettlebell for as many reps as possible in 3-5 minutes. Use battle ropes for 30s work/rest intervals. Using some sort of resistance to increase your heart rate will help preserve muscle as well as burn fat in the recovery stages. Typically when using a resistance for "conditioning" you will use something lighter than normal (considering the intensity). So, as you can see, you do not have to be very "strong" in this instance to improve your body composition.
*Conditioning is best done as a "finisher" to a typical resistance training workout, adding it in during the last 10 minutes or so.
Lifting "maximal" or close to maximal loads (super heavy) can and will get you stronger, so if that's your goal, then by all means push those heavy weights. It also comes with a high risk, high reward tag attached. Lifting close to your "max" is great for increasing the neural functions of your body. It teaches us how to control and handle objects/loads that we normally wouldn't handle very well in everyday circumstances...but it also can be the cause of severe injury, which is why it's high risk/reward. As a result of lifting so close to our max loads, very few reps are done overall, the body can only handle so much of this maximal effort before breakdown. Since your total volume (overall reps) are much lower, your muscles don't receive the stimulus they need to "grow", only the stimulus they need to get "stronger"...resulting in much more strength than muscle size (which won't really change the way you look physically).
A better option is to work on sets involving mid-range reps/weights that you can fully control and puts the muscle under tension for longer periods of time. So a normal set of "strength" would be 5x5, and a normal set of "hypertrophy" (mid-range reps/weight) would be 3-4 sets x (8-12 reps). This allows you to control your tempo and isolate the targeted area much more effectively than you would with 5x5 or 8x3. This is not to say you can't get "stronger" with hypertrophy sets, as you can always slightly progress in the weights you use, as long as you reach the necessary rep range with your controlled tempo. Putting an isolated and controlled focus on the targeted muscle helps that muscle to grow, and growing a muscle gives it better shape, and better shape gives you a body that appears lean and "toned." So the main idea is to not lift "heavy" but lift with focus and with a weight that isolates/challenges the targeted muscle. This is most effectively done by doing at least 3-4 different exercises for the same muscle, with set/rep ranges of 3-4 sets and 8-12 reps.
- Stready-State Cardio will burn fat, but also muscle...if your goal is to have lean muscle and look "toned", this is not the method you want to use exclusively.
- Use "Conditioning" instead. Using some sort of resistance to increase your heart rate will help preserve muscle as well as burn fat (mostly in the recovery stages).
- Lifting "super heavy" exclusively will help get you stronger, but very rarely help build a lean, toned body. It's more a neural improvement than a muscle one.
- Hypertrophy is the best method to build muscle and look lean. Sets of 3-4 in the range of 8-12+ reps. Always control the tempo of the weight and make sure you can isolate the targeted muscle.
I get these questions all of the time. What am I supposed to be taking? What supplements do I need? What do you take? If you are going to start anywhere with your supplements, I’d say… start with adding these in to your routine -------> BCAA’s
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)- These serve as the building blocks of muscle protein. Muscle is made up of protein, which is individual amino acids added together (in the easiest, shortest explanation I can give you).
BCAAs are especially helpful for maintaining muscle while on a calorie-deficit diet. If you are a strict calorie-deficit diet, your body is going to naturally, after using up the fuel it had, turn to your muscles and start using all of those hard earned muscles in the gym. Don't waste all of your time building your muscles and body you want just to waste them all away with a poorly fueled body.
Do yourself a favor and take your BCAA’s.
Here’s what we use….
When Do you take it and how much?
Dose: The optimal dose of BCAAs is around 5 - 10 grams. This blend has 5 grams in 2 scoops because it also has an energy blend with green tea extract, so YES, this one has caffeine in it so can also be used as a pre-workout.
You can take this 20 mins before your workout and also use this as a post workout refuel of the muscles and energy.
If you are not one for the caffeine, then I would suggest this BCAA:
The struggle is real when it comes to carbs…but also real confusing. You can read a million different articles telling you, High Carb, Low Carb, Carb Cycle, etc. While these methods may work for some, they won’t work for everyone…but there is a method I figured out that will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to dealing with carbs…you just have to follow a few simple rules:
One of two things happens when you consume carbs…they either go to the muscle and are stored as energy for future use, or they are broken down and stored as fat. Which one happens depends on a few things. How well does your body “use” carbs and when are you consuming these carbs.
How well your body uses carbs is referred to as “insulin sensitivity” When we consume carbs, the hormone Insulin is the gatekeeper and decides where those carbs go (muscle or fat). If your gatekeeper is working properly, your body will send those carbs to the muscle and use them as your primary fuel for workouts, therefore burning them as energy and replenishing them when finished. (This is best-case scenario) If your Insulin isn’t working properly, your gatekeeper will not know how to send them to the muscle and as a result, they get sent to fat storage. What determines if your gatekeeper is doing his job? The types of carbs you consume, when you consume them on a day-to-day basis and the type/intensity of your training.
Strength training is an anaerobic exercise that requires the use of carbs for muscle energy and performance. So, carbs stored in your muscle will be the first ones used when you perform a strength training type workout. If your muscle stores are already full and you continue to consume carbs throughout the day, they will not need them, therefore they will be sent to fat storage. In order to keep them full at the right times, you treat them like “putting gas in your car.” You aren’t going to refill your car after every little drive you take, only when you take a road trip or the gaslight comes on.
In simple terms, the best time to eat your carbs is when you actually need to… 60-90 minutes before a strength (or high intensity) workout…and/or 60-90 after a strength workout. This is the optimal time for your body to use those carbs properly, efficiently, and refuel for the next workout. You do not “need” them outside this window (general population) and by doing so, you run the risk of increasing belly/body fat.
First off, you all know what you can/should cut out of your diet today. I’m not going to talk about that stuff. If you can’t/don’t cut that stuff out, stop reading because this article will do nothing for you. Carbs are generally broken down to “simple” and “complex”…the difference being how fast your body can use the energy from each type. Simple, your body can breakdown to fuel almost instantly. This is good for intra and post-workout fuel (during and after workout). Complex, your body takes a longer process to break down, therefore the fuel is gradually used up. This is best pre-workout (before workout). The list acceptable for both types is short and easy to follow…
These don’t make the cut:
Cut the sugars, eat real fuel, and watch how your body feels and changes (for the better).
We talked about it above…if you think you are over-consuming or not very efficient at using your carbs, hit the reset button on your body. In other words, eliminate all carbs except your “pre-workout” ones. For those of you counting macros, you should consume about 50g during this meal, and minimal to none the rest of the day. By doing so it allows your body to slowly respond to the small amount of carbs you are giving it (as well as fuel your workout for that day). As they body gets better at using those carbs, it will be more efficient in the future when you increase your total carb count. This also means you need to fuel your body in other ways…and that is by increasing the amount of protein and fats you consume. These will become your primary fuel for all other daily tasks besides workout. This reset should take about 4 weeks on average, some faster and others may take a little longer. Again if you’re counting macros…increase your carb total by about 20-30g per week or as you feel necessary.
Your diet is fairly clean, you exercise consistently...yet, you still feel like your stomach is sticking out all the time. I don't want to jump to conclusion, because truth be told there are several reasons why someone may be experiencing a constant bloated feeling...but in my experience there are a few things you might be able to try to instantly reduce your bloated tummy.
That bloated feeling could be something simple or it could be more complicated. Bloated-ness, like I said, can happen for many reasons...some of the more serious reasons could be hormonal imbalances or food allergies. I would highly recommend getting these two things tested first to make sure they are within normal ranges or that you are clear of allergies. If you tested "normal" for both of these, here are a few secrets that may help you feel and look a little leaner in the belly.
(Again, these are not completely scientifically proven...but they are backed by some studies and from my experience have helped me look and feel better)
1. EAT Sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is one of, if not THE, best probiotic you can consume. Bad gut bacteria is a major cause of stomach bloating. Sauerkraut neutralizes these bad bacteria and allows for better digestion. Better digestion allows for your body to absorb more nutrients, resulting in less build-up in your belly and a leaner, better feeling stomach. Make sure you choose a Sauerkraut that has live cultures and is refrigerated...eating warm, canned Sauerkraut will not give you the same benefits. EAT WITH SAUSAGE OR CARNE ASADA, PREFERABLY AT DINNER TIME OR AS YOUR LAST MEAL BEFORE BED.
2. Chose your Oils carefully.
Oils are a major contributor to gut inflammation. Some of the worst being oils derived from vegetables. Always be aware of the type of oil you are consuming or cooking with. Cooking with certain oils also can have a negative effect, as the heat changes the structure of the oil...causing it to become more harmful to your gut. Your safest oils to consume at room temperature are OLIVE OIL and AVOCADO OIL. Your safest oils to cook with are PALM OIL or COCONUT OIL. Don't worry about the high fat content (unless you are smothering your pan or food with it). Your belly will begin to thank you for making this simple change!
3. DRINK more Water
I know I know, you hear this all the time...this is no secret! What most people hear, and what most people do, are two completely different things...Do this: divide your body weight by 10...and try drinking 1 cup of water (8oz) x that number. Me: 200lb / 10 = 20...20 x 8oz = 160oz/day. (that's 1.25 gallons per day for me) Flushing your body with water is a great way to eliminate waste that may be contributing to your belly bulge.
4. DRINK lemon water first thing in the morning.
Before you do anything in the morning, wake up and chug a cold glass of lemon water. Lemons are a natural body cleanser and have been proven to clear the digestive tract.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar before bed.
Vinegar is also a great natural cleanser. Again, it's obvious your guy needs cleaning, do it a favor. One shot in your favorite shot glass before bed is all you need.
There you have it, my personal secrets to improving digestion and gut inflammation. Of course, this goes with saying...I'm assuming you have tried to eliminate obvious junk foods from your diet and exercise regularly before implementing these tips into your daily routine.