Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year, A New Perspective

Majority of us have (at least once) set up a nice New Years' resolution for ourselves. When I started thinking about the term "resolution," I felt as though it conjured up the idea of quitting something, doing something less, or doing something more. This year, instead of giving yourself a resolution, give yourself a "goal" or a "challenge." Doing something as simple as changing the word used to describe your effort may set you up for more success from the get go!

One of the more popular resolutions is to get in better physical shape. Some people are able to accomplish this, but the majority usually fizzle out come March. A big factor for this is the mindset. When you vaguely "resolve" to get in better shape, you are not reaching for something specific. Instead, "challenge" yourself to run a 5K in 2013. Or maybe you want to lose weight; put a number on it. Not that a specific number on the scale is important, but it gives you something to stay accountable for. Maybe in 2013 you will have a goal to learn how to play a specific sport, or start playing a sport you haven't in years. Or perhaps you will "challenge" yourself to decrease your body fat 'x' percent.

When you set a specific target to reach in this new year, you have something to continually remind yourself of achieving. When the year is half over and you find your motivation fading, remind yourself- only 5 more pounds to my goal weight. Only 1 more mile to 5k. Only 2 percent more body fat to go. You truly can achieve the physical goals you set for yourself this year. Your body can do it, just always remember that your mind is the driving force! I wish everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.

I hope you reach your destination, but your journey is what really counts! Until next time... L.D.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How To Calculate Calories For Easy Tracking

If you have made the decision to start tracking your calories, I commend you. It is not an easy task to do, day in and day out. But if you are having trouble seeing the positive changes on the scale you desire, calorie tracking may be your answer. In my last post, I touched on the idea that some people need to track calories in order to keep a consistent regimen without any variables. If you feel that this speaks to you, then follow along as I show you how to accurately calculate we go!

When tracking calories, you need to be concerned with the 3 major macro nutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Proteins are the "building blocks" of muscle. They are also utilized in our hair, skin, nails, and our organs. A protein molecule is made up of amino acids, some of which are essential (we have to get them through our food), and others that are non-essential (can be made through processes in the body).

Protein contains 4 calories per gram. This is very important to know for several reasons; If we are trying to get at least 1 gram (daily) of protein per pound of body weight for example, we need to know how many calories (what percentage of our total daily caloric intake) will come from protein. Let me simplify it slightly- if you weigh 150lbs, 1 gram per pound of body weight would put you at 150 grams of protein daily. Since protein contains 4 calories per gram, we now know that 600 of your total daily calories will be coming from protein (150 grams x 4 calories per gram). If you are eating 1800 calories per day, then you now know that exactly 1/3 of your daily calories are from protein. As a side bar, I recommend never going below 30% of daily calories in protein. Protein is what our muscles are made of, and protein is what are muscles need for repair, regrowth, and additional growth (if desired).

Carbohydrates also contain 4 calories per gram, so the calculations will look the same as for protein. What differentiates carbs from protein primarily, is that carbs are our bodies' main source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are lower on the glycemic index, and provide sustained, even amounts of energy in the form of fuel. Simple carbohydrates are higher on the glycemic index, and while they will provide energy faster than complex carbs, the energy will not last as long. It is important to note also, that simple carbs will spike blood sugar levels higher and can cause problems for people with slower metabolisms such as unwanted weight (fat) gain, and diabetes. So the ratio of complex to simple carbs needed is really dependent on each individual.

Fat is where the calories can really pile on. This is because fat contains 9 calories per gram, or just over double the amount of protein/carbs, gram for gram. The next time you see a food product labeled "sugar free," or "low sugar," check the fat contents. A sugar free item could still have 20 grams of fat, which would give you 180 calories right there, for example. Certain fats are good for us though, and can really be used to our advantage. For example, someone who is having a hard time reaching there caloric needs (under eating) can add a couple tablespoons of healthy olive oil to a salad and get a boost of over 200 calories just from the oil. Animal and animal by-product fat is saturated, and is the kind we want to limit. Too much saturated fat can cause an unhealthy build up of fat in the body, and of course can cause weight gain (and not the good kind!).

So here is your homework- next time you are at the store, pick up a product that you frequently buy, and look at the nutrition label. See if you can figure out the percentage of calories coming from the 3 macro nutrients I just discussed. Once you are able to "do the math," I am confident you will have a much easier time tracking your calories. OK, OK, of course you can use the latest calorie tracker app on your smart phone. Yes, it will do the work for you, but knowledge is power. So I encourage you to learn how to "do the math" on your own!

I hope you reach your destination, but your journey is what really counts! Until next time... L.D.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Calorie Here, A Calorie There...

 I firmly believe you should not have to live and die by every single calorie you consume. The ultimate goal should be to eventually have a pretty good idea of what you are eating; the number of calories you are consuming, and the percentages of each macro nutrient (carbs, protein, fat).

 With that being said, if you are having a hard time reaching your fitness goals, you may need to reassess your calorie tracking (or implement it if you are not doing so). Many may see it as "obsessive" to count calories daily, but for a large number of people, it is a necessity, at least in the short run.

The main reason calorie tracking is important, is that all too often we have a bite of something here or there, and we do not account for it. The problem with this, is at the end of the day, several small snacks or bites that have not been accounted for can have you under or overestimating your calories by the hundreds. As this happens on a daily basis, by the end of a week, thousands of calories may not have been accounted for.

We all know about the huge importance of consistency. Consistency in our exercise regime, in our sleep patterns, and most importantly, in our nutrition. One of the biggest road blocks to reaching our goals are variables in these routines.

For example, if you plan on trying a 1,400 calorie a day diet for weight loss, it needs to be 1,400 calories every day (or as close to it as possible). This is the only way to know if the calorie range you have given yourself is going to be effective, or if you need to modify it. You can't expect to know if 1,400 calories is working for you if one day you eat 1,000 calories, the next day you eat 2,000 calories, the next day you eat 1,100 calories, and so on... You see the point I am trying to make. This may seem like common knowledge, but it speaks mainly to those small frequent snacks you are not accounting for.

If you stick to a set number of calories every day for a few weeks (and are diligent about it), you will be able to better assess if it is the right range for you, or you need to make some adjustments.

My next post will be sort of a "part 2" to this post, where I talk about how to count and track calories. So stay tuned in, you will want to take notes!

I hope you reach your destination, but your journey is what really counts! Until next time... L.D.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blasting through Plateaus

I have seen and heard it time and time again. You embarked on the journey towards a better you; through dedicated fitness and nutrition. The months pass by, and the weight melts off. You are stronger, fitter, leaner, more muscular, and in overall better shape. You are feeling great. Then it start to stall. You are doing everything you have always done, but for some reason, you hit a plateau.

Before you freak out, relax and take a step back; this is very common, and it happens to most of us. We can't understand why our efforts are not providing the same positive results we were accustomed to seeing. This is the critical point where we need to mix it up.

Our bodies are amazing machines that have the ability to adapt to change very quickly. You may read this and think: "I am working very hard, doing everything I can." I am not questioning the work. But it is time to start questioning the approach.

My four approaches to success are strength training, cardio, nutrition, and sleep. You may be including all of these elements in your arsenal, but if your results have leveled off, it is time to mix it up. You need to provide a shock to your body, so it has something new to adapt to (which should bring positive change).

Strength Training

If you have been doing solely resistance machines, it is time to add free weight work into the mix. If you have been lifting light weight for high reps, it is time to add heavier weight that challenges you in the 8-15 rep range. If you have been doing straight sets, it is time to throw circuit training and high intensity interval training into the mix.


If you have been cruising along on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, it is time to step it up. Ramp up the incline on treadmill/elliptical and push yourself for intervals i.e. 1-2 minutes of high intensity, followed by a few minutes at your usual grade/pace. Hit the stair climber. Start doing conditioning exercises such as mountain climbers, jump squats, side shuffles, squat thrusts, etc. If the average gym fare doesn't excite you, get out and walk, run, or bike!! You will be able to push longer without the monotony of gym cardio equipment.


The body's metabolism adapts to the same eating patterns just as your muscles adapt to the same fitness routine. Mix it up. Eat a variety of meals throughout the week, or at least change your diet week to week.


Often neglected and undervalued, sleep is a vital part of the equation for success. Your mind and body recover the most during rest. They will also recover faster with consistently good sleep patterns. I recommend 7-8 hours a night.

I hope you reach your destination, but your journey is what really counts! Until next time... L.D.