Functional Fitness: Core

If you’re tuned into the fitness world then you might find that focusing on core workouts has become more “in vogue” than your typical sit-ups ab routine. By hitting multiple muscle groups including your Rectus Abdominis (most people think “six-pack”), Internal Obliques (side abs), and Transverse Abdominis (deep core muscle that wraps around your abdominal aea) you will not only be working toward a leaner mid section (don’t forget nutrition!) but also working on muscle groups that will help your every day life or exercising “functional fitness”. You will be more prepared for the random occurrences where people risk injury (picking up heavy objects, trying to catch something falling, etc.). Here is a core workout by trainer Tony Horton that gives a great example of this. Try it out, it’s only ten minutes!

Establishing a Routine: Consistency

Consistency is key. We all have heard those three words countless times but it’s a phrase that must not be overlooked. I personally believe that we live in a society that overvalues quick fixes and is reactionary instead of proactive. We go on diets because we are overweight instead of living a healthy lifestyle routinely. We start exercising only to stop because something else is more important. I was guilty of this for a long time. I would hit my P90X hard during the summer when I had more time. Then, as I got busy, I would start missing workouts every now and then until October/November when I would just stop completely and wait for summer to come around again. I changed that and have had my workout routine/nutrition dialed in for the last 2.5 years and feel better than I ever have. Here are some elements of what I do:

  1. Workout 5-6 times per week for 30-60 minutes. That’s it. I get it done before school because that’s what works best for me and I move on with my day. I don’t let myself skip and I stay with on track with a schedule
  2. I track my progress with a calendar that I print out and cross off the days I complete. This gives me a visual aid to keep me locked in.
  3. Weight, Body Fat, and Nutrition are tracked precisely so I can make adjustments to my diet as needed for my goals.
  4. I track the “fun” foods. And yes, I still have cake. I just am concerned about being precise and fitting the bonus foods (in moderation) into my calorie and macro-nutrient goals. This way I don’t have “cheat meals” that break the consistency and aren’t tracked.
  5. Make the above a high priority and it will slowly become habit. This didn’t happen all at once for me but now it’s a part of who I am.

If you are frustrated with your fitness level, ask yourself if you are being consistent. If not, I challenge you to make the commitment to turn that around. Take small steps to make the change, don’t get discouraged if you fall, and make being consistent your new goal!

The Eat Out Fix

Here are my tips on making eating out work while tracking your calories. The best part is that you CAN STILL EAT OUT but you need to make good choices and plan ahead. Ultimately the more you can food prep at home the better it will be for you (and your budget). That said, here are four ideas to work in when you find yourself eating out.

1. Find restaurants that are already entered into MyFitnessPal or have nutrition information online. There are more than you think! You can also use online calculators and add them as foods in MyFitnessPal. I have a “go-to” for a lot of places that I know fits my macros well no matter what (higher protein, lower fat etc.) My current favorites are (in no particular order): Panera, Noodles and Company, Protein Bar, Seasons 52, Chipotle, Egg Harbor, Jimmy Johns, Subway, Potbelly’s, and Roti

My Order: Burrito bowl, brown rice, black beans, 1/2 chicken 1/2 steak, lettuce, pico de gallo, fajita veggies, and half the side of quac!

2. If you can’t find it online or in MFP then use the guesstimate tactic. You will start to learn what food actually ways or looks like as a portion amount from measuring at home. When you eat out you can apply that. I can usually look at a piece of grilled chicken and gage roughly how many ounces it is. It might not be perfect but it’s better than nothing. You need to set yourself up for success with this tactic though. Try to order so that you can control the ingredients. Examples include:

– asking for dressing on the side, eyeing it once you see it and then adding it
– asking if the meat is grilled in oil or not
– hold certain ingredients or sides that aren’t necessarily bad but you know would blow up your calories if you had all of it

3. Plan around the eat out. Maybe everything on the menu is more than you would normally eat for dinner. Enter what you think you might have at the BEGINNING of the day and then eat around it to fit your macros. This ensures there are no “surprises” because you’re already accounting for it.

4. Don’t get caught up in the perfection. If you are tracking your food and doing the best you every day. An eat out here and there that’s guessed isn’t going to hurt your long term goals. Just don’t make it a habit and do your best to track it no matter what!

The whole point of flexible dieting (IIFYM tracking) is to promote a healthy but SUSTAINABLE diet that doesn’t have your metabolism in a yo-yo and doesn’t create a negative relationship with food. You can still enjoy life just learning to do it in moderation and with better choices!

The “Shake”…on Protein

I have gotten a lot of questions about protein shakes, when you should use them, how much protein is enough protein, and what type/brands to buy. This is a very expansive topic as there is a considerable amount of research out there on the effects protein has on diet, muscle hypertrophy, and fitness in general. Here are my five quick thoughts regarding protein, and in particular, protein shakes:

1. I feel the best use of a protein shake is as a means for getting your protein amount in the range of 1g of protein per pound of body weight, assuming you are also getting exercise 5-6 times per week. If you do the quick math, this is a significany amount of protein for most people. Personally, it is about 25% of my diet whereas someone eating a lower amount of calories might be closer to 40-50%. Regardless, it’s a lot of protein and a shake is a great way to fill the gaps in your diet.

2. Timing – you want to have some source of protein immediately after your workout. Shakes are good because they give you that protein source as well as BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which have positive effects on muscle growth. If you can, also have some type of simple carb after your workout as well. This will give you energy to re-fuel from. You can also have them throughout the day to fill diet gaps (see above) as well as before bed (micellar casein is especially good for this as it is a slow digesting protein).

3. Look for a protein that is high in protein and low in fat/carbs. Depending on the brand and fillers, you fill find variances on this. Also, try not to spend more than $60/5lbs of protein powder. Costco and Musclefeast.com are great sources for reasonable but quality protein.

4. Consider using whey powder to supplement a drink you already like. Protein powders work well with water but milk sources, fruit (blended together), and Shakeology are great additions to protein powder.

5. Lastly, I almost don’t consider protein powders (whey isolate, hydrolyzed whey, micellar casein, etc.) as supplements. To me they are another food source on my way to hitting my macro-nutrient goals. A protein shake won’t have the same effect that beta-alanine or creatine will have and is really just am excellent source of pure protein.

I will be writing more posts on protein in the future, but hopefully this helps address some of the basics!