Weight Management

Timing food and drink to benefit your workouts

The timing of meals and drinks can make a big difference to your workout. Making smart choices can mean more energy and strength, and can help you avoid dehydration, indigestion and sluggish energy.

You’re the expert when it comes to knowing how you feel after big meals or going several hours without food—so take that knowledge to the gym. If you feel sluggish after eating a large meal, make sure you time your workout for three or four hours later; this can help prevent digestive troubles, cramping and slow reaction time.

However, you may find that not eating a snack before a workout brings similar results—feeling tired, slow to react or weak. Low blood sugar levels can produce these effects, so for most people it feels better to either eat a snack right before and during a workout or eat a smaller meal two to three hours before you work out.

Some general points to keep in mind are:

-Have breakfast- it’s important to fuel your body in the morning because most of the energy you got from the food you ate the night before is probably gone. Have a healthy meal but if you’re working out within an hour of finishing your breakfast, make it a small meal. If you’d prefer to eat breakfast after working out, grab a sports drink or something that will get your blood sugar up like a piece of fruit.

-Eat something after your workout- have a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein to help your muscles recover. Carbohydrates are stored primarily in your muscles and liver as glycogen, which is needed for energy; diets containing at least 50 percent of calories from carbs will help your body store glycogen. Protein is key for muscle repair and growth.

-Stay hydrated- in addition to helping replace lost fluid, drinking water is important to your body because it helps your blood remove waste from cells and carry nutrients to them. Also, your body doesn’t just lose fluid, your body also loses electrolytes during exercise, so you’ll want to make sure you are getting enough electrolytes in your diet and drink water to help get them moving through your system before, during and after your workout. You may want to take in a sports drink that has electrolytes if you are exercising for more than an hour.

Remember to listen to your body—if any of the tips above don’t agree with your system, skip them and do what feels the best for you.

How To Choose A Fitness Club

So you’ve decided you’d like to join a gym. That’s great! But wherever you turn, there are billboards, ads on buses, and commercials on the radio and tv for fitness clubs, all advertising low prices and guaranteed results. So how do you choose the best gym for you? Selecting the right gym will take a little bit of time and research, but will be worth the effort in the long run.

The first thing to take into consideration is a fitness club’s location. You’re much more likely to be consistent with your exercise routine if your gym is convenient for you to get to. If you prefer to work out right after work, you may prefer to look for a gym that’s close to your job. If you work out on weekends, you may want to look for a fitness club that’s closer to your home. If you travel frequently, consider looking into a gym that has locations in places that you visit frequently.

You’ll also want to make sure that you choose a gym that has hours of operation that fit with your workout schedule. If you enjoy working out early in the morning or late at night, a gym that’s open from 9-5 isn’t for you. If you like to work out on weekends, inquire whether they close early on the weekends.

Identify what you need in a gym. Do you just want to run on the treadmill and use weight-lifting machines? These are basic machines found at almost every gym. If you enjoy group fitness classes, inquire about the gym’s classes. Do they offer classes you are interested in, at times that are convenient for you? Also take into consideration any amenities you want in a gym. Some fitness centers offer anything from hair dryers and towel service to pools, saunas, and spa services.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, request a tour of any gym you are seriously considering. Are the facilities clean? Is the equipment well maintained, or are there several machines that are out of order? Do you feel comfortable with the general atmosphere?

While you tour the gym, be observant of the staff. They will be there to answer any questions you have about equipment and your fitness routine. Are there a sufficient number of staff members available? Are they friendly and helpful? Staff should also be trained in first aid and CPR, and be certified with a reputable organization. Don’t be shy to ask about the staff’s certifications. After all, you are trusting them with your most valuable commodity, your body.

Finally, take advantage of any free trials. A gym may look perfect on paper, but the best way to find the right gym for you is to get in there and try it out.

How To Stay Motivated

How many times have you been gung ho about starting a new workout program, only to lose motivation and quit after you start getting bored with your routine or don’t see fast results? Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges to sticking with a workout routine. Below are some helpful tips to keep you motivated and on track towards achieving your fitness goals.

Set clear, realistic goals. Start with short-term goals, such as jogging for 20 minutes three times a week, or taking a walk during your lunch hour. The key is to make your goals realistic and achievable for you. Unrealistic goals can sabotage your efforts, leaving you feeling discouraged and unmotivated to continue if you don’t achieve them. Once you begin achieving your short-term goals, start setting long-term goals, such as dropping 10% of your body weight, or completing a 10k run.

Keep a journal. Track your progress by logging your goals, details of each workout, and how you feel after each workout. A visual reminder of how much effort you’ve put in and how far you’ve come towards reaching your goals will encourage you to stay on track.

Reward yourself. Be proud of your accomplishments, and reward yourself when you achieve one of your long-term goals. Your reward can be something fitness related such as a new exercise outfit or sneakers, or just something fun, like a new book or cd.

Make it fun. Select activities you enjoy when working out. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep at it. It’s that simple.

Add variety. Going through the same workout routine can get boring and tedious very quickly. Spice up your fitness regimen by alternating different activities. Also try switching up your workout environment — if you usually use the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym, try running or biking outside when the weather is nice.

Buddy up. Working out with a partner or group can be a great source of encouragement and motivation. A little friendly competition can also help you push yourself harder. The social interaction will make exercising less tedious, and make the time go by faster. And you’re more likely to show up to your workout if you know someone else is expecting you.

Shout it from the rooftops. Tell all your family and friends that you’ve started an exercise program, and tell them what your goals are. It will give you a sense of accountability as people ask you how your workout regimen is going.

Remind yourself how great you feel after a workout. In addition to the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from sticking with your fitness plan, remember that you are also improving your health. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood!

Just show up. They say that 80% of success is just showing up. Even if you’re tired, sore, or just not in the mood to exercise, showing up and doing even a little bit of exercise is better than doing nothing.

Always remember that before you begin any diet or exercise program you should consult your physician.

How to Work Out When You’re Traveling

If you travel a lot, you may be having trouble keeping up your work out routine. But if you plan ahead, going out of town doesn’t have to mean putting exercise on the back burner.

Most hotels have fitness facilities on site, so call ahead and find out if that’s the case where you plan to stay. If there’s nothing on site, do a search on line to see if there are gyms nearby or ask the hotel’s concierge for a recommendation.

If you don’t have time to make it to a gym, pack a jump-rope or exercise DVD so that you can squeeze in some exercise in your hotel room before bed or right when you get up. Any other equipment that is small and light that you can pack is also a good idea.

There’s nothing like a good old fashioned push-up when you’re really strapped for time and a place to work out. Crunches, jumping jacks, lunges and squats are all great options too.

If you’ve got jet lag or are generally exhausted from traveling, going for a brisk walk can get your endorphins going and your heart rate up. It may even give you energy for a more strenuous work out later in the day.

And whenever possible, try to exercise at the time of day you normally do when you’re at home. It may help jet lag and fatigue and will probably help you get back to your routine once you get home.

How Women Build Muscle

There has long been a common misconception that women who engage in strength training will develop bulky muscles. However, thanks to ever-growing research reporting the benefits of working out with weights, women have begun incorporating resistance training into their workouts.

How our body responds to exercise and how we build muscle has less to with gender than it does our genetic makeup. Our DNA makeup determines what kind of muscle fibers we have and how they are distributed, our ratio of testosterone to estrogen, where we store body fat, and our body type. Body type plays a significant role in how you build muscle, and knowing how your body type responds to strength training can help you tailor your workout to maximize benefits.

Women generally fit into one of three body classifications, or are a combination of body types. Ectomorphs have slim, linear bodies, whereas endomorphs have rounded bodies and a tendency to have excess body fat, and mesomorphs have a more muscular build. Mesomorphs generally tend to build muscle mass faster from strength training than ectomorphs and endomorphs. In fact, ectomorphs are less likely to build muscle mass, but will gain strength from working with weights. Endomorphs generally need to decrease their body fat to notice a difference in shape or size resulting from strength training.

To gain strength, work with heavier weights and do fewer reps. If your goal is to tone, use lighter weights and increase the number of reps. And here’s an encouraging tidbit: According to the American Council on Exercise, most women will experience a 20-40% increase in muscle strength after several months of resistance training. So don’t be afraid to add some weights to your workout!

Pump up your workout with the right playlist

Science is confirming what a lot of us have known for a long time—that listening to specific kinds of music can make your workout more intense and effective.

Studies have shown that the right music before and during a workout can increase your performance by around 20 percent. It’s not a question of listening to a certain genre of music; the key is the speed of the music. Fast tempos are great for high intensity exercises, while stretching and other types of warming up and cooling down are benefitted by slower tempos. Medium tempos are usually good for weight training.

As you begin working out, listen to tracks that you enjoy and make you feel pepped up. It can prolong your performance, regulate movement and distract you from fatigue and muscle soreness. You can also calm nerves before an event by listening to soothing music.

You’re the expert when it comes to putting together a playlist. Since taste in music is so subjective, making a personal playlist is the best way to stay inspired since you know what songs carry inspiring, energizing or relaxing memories.

Squeeze In A Mini-Workout

I’m tired. I don’t have time. I can’t afford a gym membership.
How often have we all given these excuses as reasons for not exercising, promising to start doing better tomorrow?

Exercise isn’t just about losing weight or toning up. Engaging in daily physical activity can have significant health benefits, such as, helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and it can also help significantly improve your quality of life!

And you don’t have to take large chunks out of your day to fit in exercise, or invest in expensive pieces of workout equipment. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, research shows that doing three 10-minute spurts of moderate-intensity exercise throughout the day is as effective as working out for 30 minutes straight. So make your health a priority, and schedule time throughout your day to fit in a few mini-workouts. Here are a few ideas to help you fit exercise into your daily schedule:

  • Get moving in the morning. Wake up a little earlier than usual and take a brisk walk around your neighborhood. It will leave you feeling alert and energized to face the day ahead.
  • Ditch the car. Go green and get fit in the process by leaving the car at home, and running errands on foot or on your bike. Carrying groceries home from the supermarket can give you an aerobic and strength training workout all in one!
  • Get active on your lunch hour. Get some co-workers together and start a lunchtime exercise routine. Try jogging around the block (or parking lot), or up and down stairs if you work in a high-rise building. If your workplace has a break room, you can use the room to get some squats and lunges in, or to do some yoga, which can also help to re-energize you and avoid that mid-afternoon slump.
  • Make your chores work for you. Pick up the pace to get your heart pumping as you wash your floors, scrub your bathroom, or rake your yard. Not only will you get dreaded chores out of the way, but you’ll also burn extra calories in the process!
  • Make fitness a family affair. Take your family to the park for a bike ride, a game of basketball, or a calorie-blasting game of handball. During the summer months, take a family trip to the local lake or pool for a refreshing swim.

Fun Family Fitness

Statistics show that the number of people who are overweight is on the rise in America, both in children and adults. According to the American Heart Association, 9 million children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight, and a staggering 142 million adults age 20 and older are overweight.1,2

With schedules that are often jam-packed juggling work, family engagements, household duties and social commitments, it can be hard to find time to get in a good workout. Engaging in physical activity as a family is a great way to share some quality family time while also keeping everyone in the family healthy and fit. It’s also an opportunity for you to forget about the stresses of daily life and unleash your inner child. So choose an activity you all enjoy, and get moving!

Here are some fun ideas to help get you started:

  • Turn up the tunes and bust a move with a family dance off. Dancing not only releases mood-enhancing endorphins, but is also a great form of exercise. Teach your kids some moves from when you were growing up — Cabbage Patch anyone? Each family member can create their own dance routine to teach to the rest of the family, or hold a contest for the best routine!
  • Turn household chores into a contest. Who doesn’t enjoy a little friendly competition? Have some fun and take care of mundane household chores in one shot with a household Olympics competition. Who can vacuum a room the fastest? Who can rake the most leaves in 2 minutes?
  • Go for a walk together. To keep things interesting, let a different family member choose your path for each walk. Take the opportunity to explore your surroundings, discover various forms of plant life, or just take the time to chat and catch up on each other’s day.
  • Play a game of tag. When was the last time you ran until you were out of breath, just for fun? Relive this classic game from your childhood, and enjoy the simple pleasure of running without focusing on how far you’ve run or how many calories you’ve burned.
  • Take up a sport. Sports are a great way to stay in shape, and the options are virtually limitless. Shoot around the basketball court at the park, go for a swim at the local pool, play a match of tennis, go ice skating, or invite some friends to the park and play a game of softball.
  • Coach your child’s sports team. Not only will you have a chance to bond with your child and teach them important life lessons about teamwork and good sportsmanship, but you’ll also get a good workout running after a group of kids.
  • Join a class together. Many community centers, YMCA locations and local organizations offer classes that are open to multiple age groups, from yoga to martial arts. So pick an activity you’ll all enjoy and learn together!
  • References:
    1NHANES [2003-2004], NCHS; JAMA 2006;295:1549-55.
    2NHANES [2001-2004], NCHS. Health, United States, 2006.

Fat Burning vs. Cardio: What’s Better for Weight Loss?

Exercise machines such as treadmills and elliptical machines can be a great way to get a powerful workout in a short amount of time, and offer numerous preset workout modes that allow you to add variety to your exercise routine. However, there’s often a lot of confusion as to which workout mode — fat burning, or cardio — is the most effective approach to take when trying to lose weight.

Fat burning mode would seem like the logical choice, based on the fact that the body actually burns a higher percentage of fat (compared to carbohydrates) at lower levels of exertion. This is because fat is more dense than carbohydrates, and therefore more oxygen is required to burn fat than to burn carbohydrates. When working out in fat burning mode, you are working out at a pace that allows lots of oxygen to be delivered to the muscles.

In cardio mode, you are working out at a higher intensity with less oxygen being delivered to muscles. Therefore, you are burning a lower percentage of fat when in this mode. However, if weight loss is your goal, the fact is that you will burn more calories and more total fat overall by working in the higher intensity cardio mode. When it comes shedding those pounds, it’s the amount of calories burned, not the percentage of body fat burned, that counts.

Additionally, cardio workouts also help to strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, as well as lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.

Always remember that before you begin any diet or exercise program you should consult your physician.

Famous Fitness Myths Debunked

With all the fitness information that’s available, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed, and sometimes it can be hard to determine the truth from the myths. From tips we’ve heard through friends, at the gym, or even read in articles, there are many misconceptions and half-truths about exercise that continue to spread. We’ve addressed the most common fitness myths here:

Myth: Doing ab exercises will get rid of my belly fat.
Fact: You can do crunches until you are blue in the face, and chances are you still won’t have those 6-pack abs. While ab exercises build abdominal strength and muscle, you’ll need to decrease your body fat in order to see those fab abs. The best way to do that is through a combination of cardio and strength training.

Myth: No pain, no gain.
Fact: This is potentially the most dangerous fitness myth out there. While a little soreness and that burn you feel after you’ve worked your muscles to fatigue is normal, feeling pain during your workout is your body’s way of telling you to stop. Trying to work through such pain can result in serious injury.

Myth: Women will build bulky muscles from weight lifting.
Fact: The ability to bulk up has more to do with genetics than gender. Most women do not have enough of the hormone testosterone that is necessary to develop muscle bulk. Strength training is an important component of any well-rounded fitness regimen, and can help to strength and muscle tone, decrease fat and improve bone density.

Myth: You can target one area of the body for spot fat reduction.
Fact: Studies show that it is impossible to lose body fat from a specific body area by targeting that region in your exercise. Fat loss occurs throughout the entire body, and the way to achieve this is through a combination of cardio and strength training, and a sensible diet.

Myth: The more you sweat, the more calories you’re burning.
Fact: How much you sweat isn’t an indication of how much you are exerting yourself during a workout, but rather an indication of your body’s ability to maintain it’s normal temperature.

Myth: If I don’t have enough time to dedicate to a workout, I shouldn’t bother.
Fact: The American Council on Exercise recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity a day to maintain overall health. People who are trying to lose weight are recommended to get at least 60 minutes a day. However, you don’t have to get your workout done in one shot, you can break that up into 20- or 30-minute segments. And even if you aren’t able to fit a full workout into your day, ANY activity you do is better than none.