Cheat Meals. Letting Go. Can I Do It and Still Make Progress?

As a trainer I am constantly asked if “letting go on the weekends” is ok.  Well, this depends on your definition of “letting go”.  One “cheat” meal or even two “cheat” meals in an entire weekend isn’t going to derail your fat loss/muscle gain.   Drinking with the purpose of getting drunk and eating shitty ass food whenever you want as if your stomach is a black a hole will.

What is your definition of a cheat meal?

Having a meal that is not tracked and enjoyed to satisfaction without guilt is not cheating. Eating a meal(s) to the point where you need to unbutton your jeans is just unnecessary.  I personally hate using the words “cheat meal” because it makes it seem like you are doing something wrong and shameful.  I refuse to allow something like a big chocolate chip cookie make me feel like I am guilty of something.  When did we allow food to make us feel bad about ourselves? Do you hear how stupid that sounds??  There is nothing shameful in enjoying food and not worrying about what it may or may not do to your body.   Food is not the devil so let’s not be dramatic over the word “cheat”.

Let’s go back to your goals.  

Are you serious about changing your physique and why? If answering that question fires up burning motivation then why do you want to spend an entire weekend eating like shit and being lazy? What purpose does that serve? Get your shit together and prioritize people!  Stop giving food so much power that you allow it to take over what is important to you.   Food is food and it will always be there.  You will always have access to sweets, take-out and alcohol so stop acting like this is an all-you-can-eat-because-the-world-is-coming-to-an-end buffet.

Please, please, please, I beg of you, please don’t be that person that tries to justify your binge weekend with all the working out you did. Good Lord, that is NOT how this works!

 

First of all, your workouts should just be part of your “being alive” routine not used as a way to negate you calories. But because I know you (yes, you!) pray that your binge weekend can be made up we’re going to put this into perspective.

Below is a list of yummy-shitty foods and how long you would have to do burpees for to burn it off.  Why burpees? Because they suck, they’re hard, they burn a lot of calories and everyone hates them.

  • Slice of pepperoni pizza (298 calories): 30 minutes of burpees
  • Cheeseburger (423 calories): 42 minutes and 20 seconds of burpees
  • Medium-sized McDonald’s french fries (380 calories): 38 minutes of burpees
  • Grilled cheese (580 calories): 58 minutes of burpees
  • Homemade chocolate chip cookie (89 calories): 9 minutes of burpees
  • Red velvet cupcake (496 calories): 50 minutes of burpees
  • Half a cup of vanilla ice cream (230 calories): 23 minutes of burpees
  • Half a bar of dark chocolate (300 calories): 30 minutes of burpees
  • 5-ounce glass of red wine (115 calories): 11 minutes and 30 seconds of burpees
  • 12-ounce bottle of beer (150 calories): 15 minutes of burpees
  • 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola (143 calories): 14 minutes and 20 seconds of burpees

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying to do 23 minutes of burpees to make up for a half a cup of vanilla ice cream.  Let’s be honest, most people here aren’t trying to whip out a half of cup and fill it to the brim with ice cream if they are “letting go”.   I am not saying the food listed above is bad or should be avoided because life would suck that way.  But in terms of “cheat days” we’re not talking about having one grilled cheese; we’re talking about having the grilled cheese, with 10 homemade cookies, 7 bottles of bear and a late night run to McDonald’s.

So…you tell me? Is a cheat day good or bad for your progress?

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How Much Protein Do I Need?

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This is a common question that I get asked almost everyday.  Protein intake varies depending on the individual and a plethora of other factors such as age, activity level, type of activity, and how much lean mass you have.  Individuals with higher activity levels or who engage in intense, heavy lifting and/or high volume endurance training or who have a high amount of lean mass obviously need to eat more protein.  All individuals need to intake a minimum amount of protein for normal bodily needs and functions.

A general rule of thumb is to intake protein based on body weight.  The majority of textbooks and research that I have come across state that individuals need anywhere from .37-.50 grams/lb of body weight.  Since I am a 130 lbs (129.9 lbs to be exact) I need to intake anywhere from 48-65g of protein per day just to maintain normal health and function.  This method is not exact at all, however, due to the fact that it does not take into consideration activity level or lean body mass.

Why is it important to consider lean body mass?

A more specific method of calculating how much protein you need is using your lean body mass.  Lean body mass is defined as all the tissue in your body other than fat (bones, muscles, water, organs).  Lean body mass requires more protein because, unlike fat mass, it is metabolically active.  To calculate this you need to have your body fat measured either through bio-electrical impedance or skin folds calipers.  Once you know your body fat you can calculate how much lean tissue you have.  I am 130 lbs and 15.4% body fat.  This means that of the 130 lbs that I currently weigh I am storing 20.02lbs of fat and the other 109.98 lbs are lean mass.  This is the number you will use to calculate your protein needs based off activity level.

Why is activity level important?

During activity and exercise we stress the skeletal muscle of our body.  In fact we actually damage the tissue by causing small micro-tears in the contractile proteins.  Skeletal muscle is comprised mostly of protein and we need dietary protein to repair and rebuild existing skeletal muscle or even build new muscle mass if this is part of your goal.  Use the amount of lean tissue you have to calculate protein requirements:

Sedentary – multiple lean body mass by .5

Light activity (e.g. walking) – multiply by .6

Moderate (30 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week) – .7

Active (1 hour per day 5 days per week) – .8

Very Active (10 hours of vigorous activity per week – .9

Athlete – multiply by 1.0

Since I have 109.98 lbs of lean body mass and I am considered to be Very Active during a normal week of exercise and daily activity I need to be eating roughly 99g of protein per day.  This is more than double the minimum 48g of protein recommended prior to considering lean body mass and activity.  So you can see why it is extremely important to take these additional factors into consideration to ensure that you are getting adequate protein. Lack of protein can leave your body unable to repair and recover from exercise.  Rather than constantly being consumed with counting grams of protein, focus on adding protein to every meal and snack.  In taking even a small amount of protein will help to reach the levels you need for your body on a daily basis.

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How I Stopped Being Self-Conscious In The Gym

The other day my sister sent me a text asking how I got over being self-conscious in the gym.  My immediate response was, “I don’t know.  I just made myself do it…”

But how??

Fitness was not always a part of my life.  Working out was a chore or a punishment depending on the day and my version of a work out was going for a run.  I didn’t know anything about weights and even had escape plans up my sleeve to save myself from embarrassment of “figuring” out equipment.   Now the gym is my first home and I wouldn’t know what I would do without it.

So how did I get this to this point?

 

I had a goal, a vision, and a purpose.  The day I stepped in the gym (I mean really stepped in a gym) was the day I decided to compete in my first bikini competition. I had little knowledge in the gym, but I wanted to get into the best shape of my life and show it off in a competition wearing the smallest bikini known to man.  Placing in the competition was always a bonus, but I was there to prove to myself that I could do this. I researched different “competition coaches” and hired someone online.  Even though they gave me a plan they didn’t show me how to actually do anything in the gym.  This plan was no better than googling a random workout.  They did hold me accountable, but I was still on my own to figure it out.  Despite how intimidating it was I determined enough to step in that gym and do the work even if I looked like a jackass.   As motivated as I was, I was still afraid of using certain machines or doing certain exercises, because I knew I was “weak” and thought I would look stupid.  I avoided these exercises for quite some time until I finally decided to make myself do it.

Fitness Girl

I came up with a plan.  Every week I picked an exercise that I had been too intimidated to try and made a promise to myself that I would get it done by the end of the week/session.   Sometimes I failed on that promise and sometimes I succeeded, but I never stopped trying.  I was consistent in my efforts and building up the courage until I finally did it all.

 

I used visualization.  Some days were harder than others and it required more mental strength to get through it.  I’m inspired by the visuals I can create in my own my mind.   There would be days I sat in the parking lot seeing myself lift or at my goal physique on stage with the lights on me.  I could physically feel the emotions of accomplishing these goals and what my life will be like when I checked this goal off my list.  It was a high that I used to help step through those doors and try something new.  Visualization is still a strong tool for me, but I’ve been able to utilize self-talk to get me through hard workouts as well.  Try both to figure out what works well for you.

 

I dressed like a bad assin my own head.   I’m not a fashionista nor do I have any right telling anyone what looks good and what doesn’t.  I started off trying to find things to hide my body or sweat stains because avoiding all forms of embarrassment was key and wardrobe played a role in fading into the background. But as I grew more confident in the gym I began to expand my outfits outside of black and baggy.  It may sound silly, but when you feel like a bad ass in your gym gear then you will work out like a bad ass.

 

At the end of the day there is no magic trick to get over being self-conscious in the gym.  At some point you need to stand up to your fears and make yourself do it.  If you need to start off small then do that.  If you can rip it off  like a band-aid and go balls to the walls then more power to ya’ sista!   Regardless of the size steps you take you have to be ready and willing to make the commitment to change and step outside your comfort zone.

 

The best piece of advice someone has ever given me was ‘do it scared.’   And no matter if you’re scared, just go ahead and do it anyway because you might as well do it scared, so it will get done and you will feel so much better if you step out of your comfort zone. – Sherri Shepard

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The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oils and omega-3s are all the rage these days. They are one of the most common supplements out there. Many people take them because they have heard that there are many health benefits but few people truly know what those benefits are or how to take fish oils effectively. So to make your life easier here is a breakdown on what to take and why to take it.

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Fish oils come from fatty or oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. It is the tissue of the fatty fish that contains the Omega-3 fatty acid. The two key ingredients in the Omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Fish do not actually produce EPA. They obtain it from the algae they eat. EPA is more beneficial for adults while DHA is more important for children and youngsters.

What are the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids?

There are many health benefits to Omega-3 fatty acids. Although studies have been mixed there is a general trend towards improvements in HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides, reduced risk for prostate cancer, decreased symptoms of post-natal (postpartum) depression, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, improved memory and other mental health benefits including help with behavioral problems such as ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are also referred to as a natural anti-inflammatory. They can be credited with helping to ease joint pain and cope with soreness from intense or strenuous workouts. These benefits are more antidote and vary from person to person.

How much is enough?

To ensure you are taking enough you should aim for at least 2000mg/day of combined EPA and DHA. You want your fish oil supplement to be slightly higher in EPA than DHA due to it being more beneficial to adults. This usually means taking more than one capsule per day. You need to be taking four capsules daily (two in the morning and two in evening).

The Excuse List:

I eat plenty of fish in my diet. I should be good, right?

Wrong. The majority of fatty or oily fish are farm raised these days. The amount and type of Omega-3 fatty acids in wild fish is dependent on the algae in the fish’s diet. Farm raised fish are fed an unnatural diet of plants, grains, and fish meal which can leave them deficient in fatty acids. Farm raised fish are usually crammed into small living quarters where disease can easily spread requiring fish farms to rely heavily on antibiotics.

What about fish burps?

True, some fish oils can leave you with nasty tasting and smelling fish burps for several hours after taking them. Some brands have made an effort to combat this by combining a small amount of peppermint oil (or other minty oil). Plus, good quality fish oil generally won’t make you burp.

What is a good brand/type of fish oil to take?

When it comes to fish oils there are hundreds on the market today. Keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry. Many manufacturers attempting to make a quick buck off this health trend offer sub-par products that can be lacking the active ingredients you are looking for. Many studies have been done showing that the majority of brands on the market do not contain the levels of EPA and DHA they claim on the package labeling. To protect yourself and ensure you are getting the benefits you should take a high quality product that is made by a reputable company. Researching each individual product can be exhausting and time consuming. Rather than researching each product you should research the company making the product. If you find that a company is reputable then you can generally trust all the products that they make. I personally turn to companies such as Thorne and Douglas Labs for all my supplements. These are both companies that offer “pharmaceutical grade” supplements.

Be prepared to invest in your health.

Taking a higher quality supplement will no doubt be more expensive than taking a lesser product. But you will be getting just that: a lesser product. Do not give in to the temptation to save a buck because you will actually be wasting money in the long run by taking something that doesn’t actually benefit you. Spend your money where it counts and invest in your health.

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First-Time Protein Fluff

I wish I could say that I was a woman that knows her way around the kitchen, but no…I can’t.  I have a lot of creative strengths but that creativity stops the second I walk on that tiled floor and open up the fridge, therefore I rely on cookbooks to get me “Wife Ready” as I like to say.  One of my favorite books that I recently purchased is “The Ultimate Protein Pow(D)er Cookbook“. It has almost everything you can think of and more with protein powder as an ingredient and it’s absolutely amazing!

When I say everything I mean: pancakes, waffles, cereals, breads, bagels, muffins, burgers, wraps, pizzas, quiches, soups, bars, chocolates, brownies, cookies, blondies, donuts, cakes…the list goes on!  My favorite simple protein sweet is the “First-Time Protein Fluff”.  It takes about 10 minutes to make and satisfies that late night sweet tooth.

 

proteinfluff

 

 

Ingredients

1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder

2 cups of frozen berries (I used mixed berries)

1/4 cup of milk (I used cashew milk)

 

 

 

 

Directions

  • Blend everything together with or a blender or food processor until it is smooth.
  • Then use an electric hand mixer or whisk by hand (which I would never suggest) until the color starts to get lighter and the fluff gathers air and turns into protein fluff!
  • Shove your mouth with protein fluff deliciousness.

Enjoy!

 

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Aerial Yoga Review

On your fitness journey you will be inspired to try new forms of exercise.  Some of these experiences will be awesome.  You will find new avenues to explore your fitness and develop your strength.  And then there will be times where you literally think “wtf am I doing?”  This was me with Aerial yoga.

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To be fair, I have nothing against Aerial yoga for other people.  There are many benefits to Aerialyoga similar to other forms of yoga such as flexibility and core strength. Aerial yoga also provides the added benefits of inversion, which helps with spinal decompression.  Hanging upside down will also stimulate your vestibular system (the part of your inner ear that helps with balance).  This can be a great way to alleviate back or neck pain, improve flexibility, get some deep stretching and recovery from more challenging workouts, and improve balance and inner ear function.

On the other hand, it might just make you nauseous for several hours afterward.  This was the case with me.  The hanging upside was extremely uncomfortable to me due to the intense head rush.  I am not a huge fan of traditional forms of yoga to begin with (that’s right I said it) so I didn’t really get a kick out of being sick to my stomach in addition to doing yoga.  This doesn’t mean that yoga or Aerial yoga is bad for you or you should be insulted if you are a fan of any of these forms of exercise.  If you think that you could benefit from any of the positive outcomes I mentioned earlier, then by all means, knock yourself out and get your upside down yogi on.  I will be keeping my feet on the floor from now on.


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