Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Basic Diet Guidelines

So when I first meet a new client one of the most important things that I stress is diet, diet, and diet! The responses I get though range from people who already know somewhat about proper dieting to people who know absolutely nothing. So let’s go over some of the basic diet guidelines that I like my clients to follow…

First, you want to be eating 4 to 6 smaller meals a day; and each meal should be spread out no more than 2-3 hours apart from another. This way you’re always giving your body a constant, but steady flow of energy and will also keep your metabolism going so you keep burning calories.

Second, Eat breakfast, and eat it right when you wake up! It’s crucial that you eat breakfast’ as you all have heard it really is the most important meal of the day. Reason being is because your body has gone without food from anywhere from 8-12 hours while you slept; during this time your body has been eating away at anything it can and it will start digging into your muscle proteins if you don’t get something in your belly when you wake up. You want to eat as soon as you wake up, and you want to eat a meal, a real meal, not just a banana or a yogurt.

Three, have some source of protein with every meal; lean protein! Ex. Chicken, tilapia, turkey, etc. salmon is okay too because although it’s fatty it’s healthy fat.

Four, fruits are okay but veggies are a lot better of a choice. Reason being, less calories, same benefits as fruits, no sugar, keep you feeling full. So if you’re going to have fruit, have no more than 2 servings a day preferably with breakfast, and after a workout. See the blog on fruits to get more info on this.

Five, drink at least 3 liters of water a day! Staying hydrated and drinking water especially while dieting and exercising is important as it cleanses the body of toxins and actually increases fat oxidation.

BONUS, these are not things you necessarily have to follow, but they will definitely help you in reaching your weight loss goals... Try to keep carbohydrate intake to a minimum to none after anywhere from 2-5pm.

Things to stay away from…

Many of these things you should already know, but if not here you go!

Stay away from fast food, even if it’s a salad or oatmeal, you wouldn’t believe the calorie content in those things

Stay away from flavored drinks (juice, sodas, sweet teas, etc.) they’re just empty calories; meaning they have calories but you don’t get full from them, so you can actually put on weight from drinking juice! Stick with water!

Stay away from processed foods and frozen foods, candies, boxed foods like crackers or cookies; they simply just aren’t good for you! Your food should be fresh, even your veggies!

Friday, April 26, 2013

How Much Protein Should You Be Getting Each Day?

There is a lot of skepticism on this subject; a lot of people believe that we as humans don’t need more than ~46 grams of protein daily for an adult female, and ~56 grams daily for an adult male. That’s only about 180-220 calories per day coming from protein sources; that’s nothing in my opinion! If you were to look at a nutritional label on just about any food or drink product you’ll see something that says “percent values based on a 2,000 calorie diet”. So if that were the case and you were eating 2,000 cals a day and following the recommended daily intake of protein that’s only a measly  10% of your calories coming from protein! Where are the other 90% calories coming from, carbs and fats of course; which is not necessarily bad but I feel like you’ll have a lot harder time trying to lose or drop weight and look good with a low protein, high carb, moderate fat diet.

I personally try and get in as much protein as I can; I’ve always followed what a lot of fitness professionals, and bodybuilders do, both male and female alike; they like to take in anywhere from 1, 1.5, 2, grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day! So for example a person weighs 100lbs they should be eating at the least 100 grams of protein and at the most 200 grams per day; and just a quick reminder 1 gram of protein has 4 calories. So if you took in 200 grams of protein, that’s 800 calories you consumed; and this is where things get a little tricky especially if you’re trying to diet down and get leaner. When dieting the average person would need to be eating anywhere from 1000-2000 calories a day, and 800 calories worth of just pure protein takes up a big chunk of that. Due to this it’s crucial that most of the protein comes from lean protein sources… Egg whites, chicken, ground turkey, fish, and protein powder! The reason behind this that if you’re trying to get in adequate protein but you’re getting it all from hamburgers, or penne alfredo with chicken for example, then you’re taking in a lot of other macro nutrients like carbs and fats. Carbs have 4 calories per gram, and fat has a whopping 9 calories per gram; so by eating this way you can easily eat more calories than you were supposed to. You can’t just eat straight meat though, so what do you eat for your remaining calories? Vegetables and healthy fats!

So before I get too much off the main topic you want to be taking in between 1-2 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight per day! Now if you’re already eating healthy and include some source of protein in every meal as is, then you don’t really have to worry, as you’re already doing the right thing! Also here’s a great link to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) where you can read up a little bit more on protein!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: ISOPURE Zero Carb Protein Drink

Isopure from the company Nature’s Best, is one of the most unique protein drinks on the market today. It’s one of a very few, if not the only drink to offer 35-40grams of whey protein isolate (best quality of protein) with absolutely zero carbs or fat! Another thing that makes it different than other protein drinks on the market is that it is so pure that it is completely clear and see through, whereas other drinks resemble milk or chocolate milk. They do this by using their complete Ion Exchange technology which creates pure whey protein isolate with zero carbs; the process also removes other impurities leaving Isopure carb, fat, and lactose free! Also, due to the microfiltration process it also does not cause gas or bloating which other whey proteins have been known to cause in some people.

As for the taste, some flavors are definitely better than others in my opinion, and it does take a little to get used to. After I swallow down a gulp I find that it leaves my mouth feeling dry and thirsty rather than refreshing, which could suck for someone who wanted something to quench their thirst after a hard workout. There is a little bit of a funny after taste with each drink, but again it’s not a big deal and you’ll get used to it! My favorite flavor is actually coconut, which I really don’t like in true form, but as for the drink it’s really good with minimal weird aftertaste.

Now there are all kinds of protein drinks on the market today; all of them with different and similar purposes and nutrients. Some have carbs, fats, and vitamins and minerals which for example could be treated as a meal replacement drink. Isopure Zero Carb on the other hand is just pure whey protein isolate, which is great for lots of things, but not necessarily for a meal replacement. Instead I love to use Isopure to help supplement my daily protein intake. Let’s say for example if I have a meal that has low to no protein in it, then what I’ll do is drink either ½ or the full bottle of Isopure with it to get in my protein. This way I don’t have to worry about taking in too much additional carbs or fats because it’s pure protein! Just be careful that when you go to grab a bottle you get one that’s marked, Zero Carb, and not one that’s marked MASS as they look identical, but the mass one has a bunch of carbs and more so for the people trying to put on, well, mass!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Powerful Snack: Sprouted Grain Toast with Peanut Butter, Blueberries, and Honey

A lot of my clients ask me for tips and advice on what they should eat for healthy snacks or for things they can include into a bigger meal, and this is one of them! Loaded with fiber, plant protein, slow carbs, and with just the right amount of honey and sugar for flavor and a quick boost of energy this snack packs a punch! It’s quick, easy to make, and it tastes good!

All the ingredients you’ll need are already in the title, sprouted or whole grain bread, organic peanut butter; I recommend getting it from either Fairway or Wholefoods, using the machine that grinds the peanuts down right in front of you. You’ll also need some blueberries, preferably organic, and honey; there are all kinds of honey pretty much any one will do. I used a special kind of honey known as Manuka honey, which is supposed to have natural healing properties and prevent illness; it cost 32 dollars, yikes!

ALSO Great with Blackberries,
Raw Shredded Coconut and Honey Drizzle!
This snack can keep you satisfied for hours!
The procedure is very simple too, simply put a slice or two of bread in the toaster, when they’re done spread on your pb, dribble some blueberries on top, and drizzle a little honey over it all; key point a little honey. Also before you drizzle the honey on, you can split the berries with a knife and kind of spread them on the toast, it’s up to you.

Now on the subject of sprouted grains vs. whole grain bread, I’ve been researching it all morning and basically when it comes down to it sprouted grain bread is the best, but whole grain bread is really not too far behind at all, and it is a lot cheaper. Just make sure if you do get whole grain bread that it really is whole grain, don’t get tricked by clever marketing; it’s it real you should see “100% whole grains” within the first few ingredients.

You can have a couple pieces when you need a quick, healthy snack between meals, or you can have it at breakfast as kind of like a dessert for example. I just really recommend that you have a little animal protein with it, for example: egg whites, protein shake, Greek yogurt, and so on… Enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013

If you’re going to eat beef, make sure it is grass fed beef here’s why!

Before I explain why grass fed beef is way better for you let me just talk about a couple of types of fats… We have omega 3’s, which I know you have all heard of, and we also have omega 6’s; basically they’re both polyunsaturated and considered to be essential fatty acids, EFA’s, because we have to get them from food, our body’s cannot produce them from other fats.

Omega 3’s are considered to be anti-inflammatory, while omega 6’s are inflammatory, meaning that when consumed in too high a number omega 6’s can cause all kinds of terrible diseases like: Coronary artery disease, hypertension, cancer, arthritis and so on. That’s why keeping the ratio between the two fatty acids low and close together is very important. The only thing is today that so many foods have obscene rations, for example grain or corn fed cows can have a ratio of as high as 20:1 omega 6’s to omega 3’s. Just to put in in perspective scientific studies show that a ratio as small as 4:1 omega 6 to omega 3 is enough to cause health problems. Organic grass fed beef can be anywhere as low as 3:1 to 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, not bad at all…

So how do you know if the beef you’re getting is grass fed or grain fed? Generally most of the time ordinary grocery stores aren’t going to carry grass fed beef, and keep in mind just because it says “organic” does not mean it’s grass fed! Places like Wholefoods, Fairway, and even Costco has grass fed beef; don’t get me wrong not all of their beef is grass fed you do have to look for it, or ask someone to help you. When I was at Costco the other day looking at ground beef I came across their Kirkland Organic ground beef, but it didn’t say grass fed, I had to look on the website and discovered that it was.

So some of you still might be scratching your heads as to why grass fed is so much better than grain fed. Think of it this way… Cows weren’t meant to eat grains or corn, they were meant to eat grass! They’re fed corn and grains because it’s cheaper to do so, but also so much more unhealthy for them, and remember you are what you eat! Also just to point out I mentioned earlier that omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory, meaning they help treat against all of the above disease I mentioned; so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to supplement with some additional fish oil and omega 3’s daily as we tend to not get enough in our diet. If you have to have your beloved red meat, especially with summer time around the corner and all bbqing going on try going grass fed instead.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sweet Potatos and Yams... Quick, Easy, Healthy, Delicious, and Filling!

Here's another healthy item you can add to your diet, the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes which are closely related to and are pretty much the same things as Yams can look scary and gross if you've never tried them but they're actually not bad at all! Whole Foods actually says that sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest vegetables we can eat! There are a ton of benefits to reap from them as well; they're loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, Iron, Potassium, B vitamins, and a lot of fiber to keep you full! They're also very low on the glycemic index, so you won't have a fast spike in your blood sugar levels; or in other words they're digested and broken down slower than other foods like fruit, which allows for a gradually and continual disbursement of energy. This in turn makes you feel fuller, satisfied and energized longer.
Now some diet regimens, like the Paleo diet for example, tell you to stay away from yams and sweet potatoes. One of the main reasons for this is because of the high amount of carbohydrate found in sweet potatoes; but as long as you don't pair them together with other food sources with carbs, and instead eat them with lean foods like chicken then they're perfectly okay to eat.

I myself usually have a sweet potato or a yam twice a day, one at breakfast with some eggs, and one at lunch with chicken or steak. They're super easy and convenient to make in the microwave, just poke some holes in it with a fork, wrap it in a paper towel and cook each side for 3-6 minutes depending on how big it is. Take it out, unwrap it and cut it down the middle and there you go! If you don't like the way it tastes just plain, you can put a tiny bit of butter, not more than a teaspoon and a small amount of maple syrup (not more than a teaspoon either). I'll just say though that a lot of the time I can't even finish a full one sometimes because they're so filling, so keep that in mind when picking yours out! Check your grocery store to see if they have the ones that are already wrapped all you have to do is microwave them, and they're cheap, 1-2$ a potato.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hungry? Snack on This Between Meals: Almonds

Did you know that eating just as little as 24 almonds is enough to suppress your appetite and keep you feeling satisfied between meals? 

It’s important to eat unsalted and uncooked raw almonds, not roasted or slated. Almonds are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and due to the vitamin E a lot of people swear on their acne-healing benefits. Almonds are also good when dieting because they’re considered a healthy fat, and many make the mistake that when dieting you have to cut out all the fat. This is very unwise, the body still needs fat and Almonds are an excellent source of healthy fat! 
Raw, Unsalted Almonds
Are Best.

Studies actually  show that people who supplemented  and ate healthy fats while dieting like omega 3 fish oils, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, and almonds (to name a few), as a part of their everyday diet burned and lost more fat and kept more muscle than others who did not! 

So go try some, if you have a Costco membership you buy huge 2-3lb bags of raw almonds and other various nuts.  Costco is a great place to buy fresh, raw, unsalted almonds and outstanding prices!  

SMART Tip: I tell my clients to pre-bag 24 almonds into some snack size zip-locs, and keep them handy in their car, handbag, desk, briefcase or locker... this way if hunger or cravings hit you grab the almonds and not a doughnut!   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is Insomnia Making You Fat? Get To Sleep With Lemon Balm.

I have read studies before about how insomnia or sleep deprivation can hinder weight loss efforts.
I know this is true for me because when I am exhausted... I crave crap. I will go to the diner and order a Cheeseburger or I will salivate for a salty pizza. Items that I don't usually crave seem to get stuck in a lusty loop of desire in my head whenever I am sleep deprived.
The Tincture Tastes
Mild in Water...
Light Lemon Flavor

Insomnia has been my cruel mistress for a while, and it recently became exacerbated after using prescription Phentermine for three months (I did lose 25 lbs, but my phentermine experience is a whole new blog).

Like millions of others, I recently saw the Dr. OZ show about all natural cures for ailments and he mentioned lemon balm. Lemon balm is used to help control anxiety, but it also has a natural and mild sedative effect.  It is also supposed to help improve overall sleep quality so that you awake having had a good level of sleep.

I had heard about lemon balm before, and a friend of mine described it as, "All natural Xanex".  So after the show I picked some up a tincture of it at Whole Foods.  I have been putting 30 -40 drops in a 16 ounce bottle of water I keep next to my bed.  This way, when I wake up at 3:00 am  (always my witching hours for insomnia), I chug a few swallows and get lulled back to sleep pretty quick. Could it be a placebo effect? Maybe, but I totally don't care because I am thrilled to be sleeping so soundly!  I have also taken it before bed and find myself dead asleep about 1 hour later.

There is also a lemon balm tea, but I found it completely ineffective.  I highly recommend lemon balm tincture for some good zzzzzzz's.

Use your legs for maximum weight loss results!

One of the biggest factors to losing weight, most of which we want to be from fat mass, is to be in caloric deficit; or in other words use more energy than you consume. Think of it like this… Your car is completely out of gas, and all you have is enough money for 1 more gallon; also let’s just say your car gets 5 miles per gallon. So you put the gallon of gas in it and you drive more than 5 miles your car is going to run out of gas and stop working. Our bodies on the other hand, when they run out of energy or ‘gas’ it starts to break itself down for energy; mostly body-fat as long as your training and your diet especially are on track!

One way to get the most bang for your buck, meaning to burn the most calories in this situation, is to start incorporating a lot of leg work into your routines; and I’m not just talking about treadmill, elliptical, and bike etc. I’m talking about squats, lunges, steppers, box jumps and so on! So as you may of noticed that I love using automobile analogies here’s another one; you have to think of your legs as if they were Hummers (big trucks typically used in the Army), and all of the other parts on the body as like a Toyota Prius. What’s the difference? Well like the Hummer your legs are huge, they’re the biggest muscle group in the body, and so just like the hummer as well they take up a lot energy when used. Now if we were to use your arms or abs, they’re a lot smaller and they don’t take up as much energy or calories to use, they’re energy efficient you could say, just like the Prius. So please tell me why I see so many overweight people at the gym always using ab machines and always training arms instead of legs which would give them results almost twice as fast.

Here’s a couple of things you can do to start yourself on the right path if you’re new to the gym… Overhead bodyweight squats, lunges, and box step ups just for starters; eventually as you progress you can start throwing in additional movements to burn more calories and work on other areas of the body at the same time. Examples would be, Squat to dumbbell shoulder press, lunge with medicine ball twist, lunge with bicep curl, and box step up to balance to dumbbell shoulder press and so on. Just be sure that you’re doing your squats and lunges correctly, as it is VERY common that many do them the wrong way. The rule of thumb is always keep your back straight, neutral, stick your hips back, and as you go down you do NOT want your knees to go over your toes. Also you want to try and keep most of the weight shifted over your heels as this ensures that you’re using your glutes and hammys not just your quads, as most are who do squats the wrong way. So please don’t be afraid to ask a trainer at your gym for help on this!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Craving the Crunch and Taste of Potato Chips

I love potato chips, but they’re horrible to have around when you’re trying to diet. Usually treated as just a snack food, it becomes very easy to eat half if not the whole bag. They’re not filling at all, and they’re so addictive that you can’t stop eating them no matter how many times you tell yourself “this is the last chip!”

Potato chips tend to be loaded with both a lot of fat and carbs as well, a deadly combination when trying to stay lean. I understand though that dieting can be hard sometimes, and no matter how dedicated and determined you are to drop the weight sometimes you gotta have your fix of junk food every once in a while! So the other day when I was at the store, I was really craving some sea salt and vinegar potato chips but I wasn’t going to get any until I came across these, Kettle Brand Bakes Potato Chips. 1 serving is 20 chips, and 120 calories; there’s only 3 grams of fat per serving and minimal sodium as well, and they’re good! I couldn’t even tell the difference between them and regular fried potato chips; the only thing is that you have to make sure all you’re going to have is 20 chips, max! If you start going over that then you’re really going to be taking in an unnecessary amount of carbs for the minimal amount of fullness you’ll feel. So they’re good to have alongside some chicken or fish just to get that crunch!

Also take a look at the ingredients list, there are only 7 things that go into these chips, all of them pretty natural except for Maltodextrin. So this goes to show that although these chips aren’t exactly healthy for you, they’re not necessarily too bad for you either; don’t get it twisted though, have them in moderation especially if you’re dieting!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Best Times to Eat Fruit

It's a pretty common misconception that eating a lot of fruit is healthy and will help you to get lean and skinny. Although fruit is good for you is it really the best thing for losing weight, not really! Obviously in certain scenarios fruit is a way better alternative if you had to choose between a banana and a snickers bar, or an apple and pizza. The reasoning behind why fruit isn't the best option for losing weight is because most fruits have a lot of sugar in them, and sugar means a lot of simple or fast digesting carbs; meaning you're going to be feeling hungry pretty soon after having a serving of fruit. A way better alternative to fruits is veggies, veggies provide all of the same health benefits and nutrients as fruit with little to no sugar and or calories; certain veggies also have a lot of fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer.

But, I'm not telling you to cut out fruits completely, they're still good and can hold purpose in your diet! The best times to have fruit if you're going to eat it are right when you wake up and have breakfast, as well as immediately post-workout. These are both times when the body has low blood sugar and is looking for energy, and there's nothing better to fit the bill then some good quality fruit! For example it would be good to throw in an apple into your breakfast, and have a banana and some berries right after working out. Not only is it good for you but you will really feel better right away! Just don't forget to get your protein in with every meal, whether it be from a shake or meat. Just be sure though that if you are going to have fruit with a protein shake that the protein powder you're using doesn't have a lot of carbs already in it. So again just to review, keep fruit to a minimum, no more than 2-3 servings every day, generally upon waking at breakfast and post-workout with protein.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Should be Drinking Water and Plenty of It!

I tell all of my clients that they need to drink at least 3 liters of water every day; it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re a guy, if you’re a girl, or how much you weigh… you need to be drinking a minimum of 3 liters of water every day! Not only is water great for the body and you only need it to survive, but if you’re drinking enough it actually increases fat oxidation in the body! One way to tell that you’re taking in enough water is when you’re working out you shouldn't feel thirsty, or feel the need to go get a drink; no matter how hard you’re working out. If you do get thirsty when you’re working out then it is too late and believe it or not you’re actually dehydrated! Being dehydrated actually slows fat oxidation, or in other words the burning away of fat for fuel for the body. It also makes you feel crappy, and drastically effects your performance levels.

If you drink any flavored beverages as well like sodas, juices, sweet teas, etc. they are loaded with sugar and empty calories; meaning that you’ll drink them but you’re not going to feel full even though there are calories in them. So if you could just cut out all flavored drinks and replace them with water you’re already cutting out hundreds of thousands of calories which can help you lose up to anywhere around 10lbs a year alone!

A lot of you may think that it’s way too hard to drink all that water in a day, it’s not! Just divide your day up into thirds. 9am-1pm drink 1 liter, 1pm-4pm drink one liter, and 4pm-8pm drink one liter. As a rule of thumb as well, it’s better to get your water in the day before you actually exercise rather than the day of. Reason being is so that the body can flush out its system of any toxins and it takes time to get hydrated.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weighing Yourself; Don’t Be Afraid of the Scale

One mistake many people make when they’re trying to lose or gain weight for that matter is to weigh themselves every day. For many starting out a new diet or exercise regimen they don’t step on the scale but once every 2-3 weeks. So when they do finally get on the scale and realize to their dismay that their weight has barely changed, if at all they get discouraged, or they get aggravated and impatient. Now the discouraged person is likely to give up or quit soon without the proper help, and the aggravated or impatient person is likely to go into overkill mode and drastically cut out calories and exercise twice as hard; both are bad situations. The first situation is bad because obviously as a trainer I don’t want anyone giving up on their fitness goals, and the second situation is bad because that person is likely to start dropping too much weight too fast. This in turn would lead to the burning off of muscle for energy and use by the body while it held onto the fat; especially in all the problem areas like the stomach, love handle region, butt, and legs.

Remember though in any situation you don’t want to lose more than 1-2lbs a week. Doing this ensures that the body is burning off primarily fat; anymore additional weight lost over 2lbs in a week has a great probability of being muscle. So what should you do so that you don’t run into his problem yourself? Go and buy a scale, they’re cheap, and weigh yourself every morning upon waking. Don’t drink anything don’t eat anything until you weigh yourself; if you have to go to the bathroom beforehand that’s fine. Now, you log and track your weight every morning on a piece of paper or whiteboard, and every 7 days you take the average and write it down with a big circle around it! You will see that on a day-to-day basis that your weight fluctuates; meaning one morning you could be 200lbs, the next day 197lbs, and the next day 202lbs. This does not mean that you lost 3lbs of actual body mass, or that you gained 5lbs of mass either; what it means is that one day you could’ve been holding more water and food in your intestinal tract, or you could’ve been sweating the night before and believe it or not you could’ve lost 2lbs of water through perspiration, yuck!

So keeping track of your average every 7 days you should be seeing which direction your heading in by week 3, and be able to make the proper adjustments to your diet and or exercise routine to better increase your weight loss, or weight gain. Also keep in mind people who are trying to lose weight and get lean, just because the number on the scale isn’t going down, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not losing fat! You could be building lean muscle mass and burning the fat right off, muscle is a lot more dense then fatty tissue, so you could be skinnier but weigh close to the same. Which brings on the topic of another great and crucial tool that can help you, a body fat measurer or caliper, which will be able to tell you if you’re losing fat even though the number on the weight scale isn’t moving too much, but I’ll talk about that next time.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Building Stability for Your Abs Before Building Strength

Summer is right around the corner and here on Long Island its getting pretty hot outside, so sure
Are Your ABS Ready
For Summer 2013?
enough for the past week here at Xsport it has been swamped with people all trying to get their beach bodies ready. Out of all the machines being used the most popular ones that everyone uses are the ab machines. I see so many people, young, old, overweight, and skinny all what looks to be like crunching away for their lives on these machines trying to get their abs to come through. What many people don’t realize is that there is no such thing as spot fat reduction, meaning that the body can’t just burn fat off in one area, it burns fat throughout the entire body. So keep crunching away all you want, there is always going to be slab of fat covering your abs that crunches and ab machines alone won’t fix!

Another thing that people totally skip over is the stability aspect of exercise. Sure ab machines work your abs, but it doesn't mean you have core stability. For example 9 times out of 10 when I ask someone who’s using an ab machine if they can do a 60 second plank they can’t, most barely even make 30 seconds. Planks and other isometric exercises, like an isometric leg raise are great for the abs and core because they build stability. Why the heck is stability so damn important you ask? Think of it this way, would you build your dream home on a crappy, soggy, foundation with no stability? No, so then why are you trying to build your abs on crap foundation! I like to go by the rule that if you can do 3 sets of 60 second planks, and 3 sets of 60 second isometric leg raises with 45 seconds of rest between each set, then you have enough core stability to use or do whatever other ab machines and exercises you want!

Stability doesn't just apply to planks and leg raises though, there are also a lot of people out there I see who do super heavy lat pull-downs with horrible form and yet they can’t even do 2 consecutive pull-ups. Same goes for people bench-pressing or using chest press machines and yet they can’t do 10 consecutive push-ups  The problem is they need to build more core stability; just because you can’t do a regular push-up or pull-up doesn't mean the exercise is out the question, all you have to do is regress it. Try push ups from the knees, push-ups on an incline; and for pull-ups you can use a TRX and do rows allowing yourself to get lower and lower towards the ground where you’ll be pulling more of your weight just like a pull-up! You should always have your calisthenics down before you move onto heavy resistance training.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Product Review: Amino Energy by Optimum Nutrition

Xsport's very own "The Situation" in the
 background, Ross

Amino Energy is a simple yet effective energy and amino acid supplement which you can mix in water, hence the name Amino Energy! It can be used as a mellow pre-workout, an intra-workout, or even just taken throughout the day when you need a lasting energy boost without a crash. It has plenty of BCAA’s and other free form Aminos which can be crucial in the prevention of muscle catabolism by the body; especially during times when you’ve had minimal calories, or you are dieting! There’s only 10 calories, and about 100mg of Caffeine extracted from green tea and green coffee sources. This allows for the caffeine delivery to be dispersed slower rather than to be delivered right away making you feel cranked out then crash soon after like other pre-workout blends do. Instead you’ll be feeling alert, energized, and focused longer; also just to put the caffeine dose in Amino Energy into perspective the average cup of coffee has about 80mg of caffeine.

So it’s basically a Kool-Aid like powder you throw in some water and it mixes very easily. You can chug it down right away or sip it throughout the day. A lot of the time I’ll buy a gallon of water and just throw 2-3 scoops in there and drink it throughout the day, sometimes if I need a real kick then I’ll mix it in a small water bottle and gulp it down. As for the taste it can be really strong, but good!
 It’s relatively cheap if you go to the right places or order it online; at Xsport here in Garden City you can buy it for $17, but I know GNC has it for around $50, rip-off!
So if you’re new to supplements, especially pre-workouts I’d definitely recommend you try Amino Energy and see how you like it… 

Here’s the website so you can get a better look:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are You Warming Up Before You Start Your Workout? – You Should Be!

Before you begin a workout you should be warming up. If you don’t know what that is, it’s exactly what it says, you’re warming yourself up, preparing yourself mentally and physically for the workout and it can really have a positive effect on your workout. Typically a warm-up should be no less than 5 minutes, no longer than 15 minutes and the intensity of it should be low. The goal is just to get your heart rate going a little faster, get your blood flowing, to increase your muscle extensibility or flexibility, and to loosen up any tight muscles you may have.

A warm-up can range from walking to a light jog on the treadmill for 10 minutes, riding a stationary bike; it can even mimic your resistance training regimen just with lighter loads (weights). There are really no limitations on what it could consist of other than that you don’t tax or tire yourself out before your main workout; you can perspire a little bit, but you shouldn't be gasping for air or fatiguing yourself, again it’s called a warm-up for a reason.

Think of it as starting up a car in freezing conditions, you’re supposed to drive the car nimbly for the first 10 minutes or so, so that it can properly warm up and perform at optimal levels; otherwise your engine, brakes, tires, and other components of the car could take some damage and not perform at 100% over time. Starting a workout cold (not warmed up) could cause an injury, especially if you’re a serious athlete or weightlifter; you’re at more risk to pull a muscle, sprain/strain ligaments and tendons, and you may not be able to lift as much weight during a session, and or become fatigued sooner.

In my opinion the best thing to do before a workout is what’s called a “Dynamic Warm-up”, and it’s basically a method in warming up that uses different exercises and techniques to hit all parts of the body, and utilize all planes of motion rather than just walking/jogging on a treadmill. It gets your rate going, your blood flowing, and loosens up any tight muscles you may have; as well they’re fun, they have variety, and you can adjust them to be a little more specific to your workout. Dynamic Warm Ups can range from complex to pretty simple, but either way they get the job done. Here’s a great example of a Dynamic Warm Up routine by Nick Tumminello, a top expert and trainer on all things strength, conditioning, fitness, power, and so on; he’s also the creator and founder of Performance University, check him out!

So now you have sort of an idea of what Dynamic Warm Up is and you can create your own, change it up whenever you want and so on, the important thing is that you’re properly warming up. If you’re just starting out with exercise and perhaps all you want to do for starters in jogging on the treadmill just be sure to do a brisk walk for about ten minutes first to get your legs loosened up and warm. You’ll be a lot better in the long run for it, and you’re less likely to develop any muscle imbalances which could lead to injuries down the road. Stay tuned for what to do after a workout, the cool down!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

BluePrint Cleanse: Kale Juice - Get Ready to Rumble

6 POUNDS of Veggies in this one bottle!
I picked this up at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago... for no other reason than I had heard celebrities 'love this stuff' and I was curious about it. Though not quite sure why, I fell in love with the Kale juice (pictured). It's like my BODY liked it more than my taste buds and I could not stop drinking it!  I felt great for the rest of the day; refreshed and full of energy... I thought it had to be the BluePrint Cleanse juice!  I could not wait to go back to Whole Foods later that week to get another!  Later the next day I started to notice the powerful effects of this kale  juice... there was a definite "cleansing" going on that had me running to the ladies room... a lot!

Later that week I returned to Whole Foods for more only to find the shelves bare. The young man in the juice isle said they absolutely can not keep the Kale juice on the shelves, they sell out pallets of it in just a few days! Pallets of $9 juice in days?  Gosh that is impressive!! I immediately panicked; I don't want to be left out of the Kale movement frenzy, and ordered a case for almost $100 and picked it up the next day when they received delivery.

So for the last 2 weeks I have started my mornings with the BluePrint Kale Juice. It gives me such a great burst of energy I have actually stopped drinking my k-cup coffee, and enjoy my kale, apple, ginger (etc) drink instead!

So what I wanted to share with people is that I love this drink for many reasons.

1) Get regular. It is quite effective in purging (for lack of a better word) built up "stuff" in your body.  This does a better job then Senna tea for me!  But be aware - the first few days I visited the bathroom 7-8 times each day. Now it's only 4-5 a day.

2) Clean, beautiful energy. I can't describe they way I feel... but no other drink or juice has ever made me feel so darn good. I even drink it at dinner sometimes in place of wine.

100% Juice
3) It's RAW. I have no time to eat Raw, but I believe in it's principles. This juice is 100% natural, has never been heated nor flash pasteurized.  This bottle has SIX POUNDS of veggies that came from organic produce. Yum.

4) My friends has been asking me, "what are you doing different - your skin is GLOWING." I told them all about Blue Print - and now they are all drinking this magical juice too!

Just to clarify,  I am not doing a full cleanse... I am just adding one bottle a day to my normal diet which varies from day to day. Even though I still eat bad some days (hamburger, pizza, cheese, egg salad), I feel that there are positive benefits from drinking this beverage.  Though I know my low carb friends would faint at the 24g carb and 25g sugar count on this juice offensive - too bad for them.

BluePrint Cleanse juices are available at select Whole Foods and on their website for home delivery: http://blueprintcleanse.com/

The Ultimate Fat-Burning, Butt-busting, Belly Toning Secret!

Are you looking to lose pounds of body fat, lose inches off your belly and waist, and get a nice, sexy, beach-ready body? Here’s the secret…. There is no secret!

The #1 absolute key to losing weight and looking great simply put is hard work! You may be working hard and busting your ass in the gym, but that is only part of the equation, the major part of the solution is DIET, DIET, and DIET. The only thing that you need to know to lose weight is that you must expend more calories than you consume. Your body needs calories or in other words, energy from food, just to function and perform at optimal levels; these functions include but are not limited to, heart function, brain function, digestive function and more, even breathing requires calories. The average human body needs anywhere from 1500-2000 calories a day just for maintenance, and it gets this energy from either food or stored energy in the body.  This stored energy can come in the form of fat, glycogen, muscle proteins, or a mixture of all three.
When losing weight the proper way to go about it is to target and reduce mainly body fat, this way you’ll look good, feel good, and be healthier. Though if you eat too little, starve yourself, and/or workout too hard you can actually keep your body from burning mainly fat and instead it will target muscle proteins and glycogen; you’ll still be losing weight but mainly skeletal muscle and you could end up looking what’s called “skinny-fat”.

The proper and safe way to go about losing the weight is to aim for a loss of 1-2 pounds each week (a little more if you’re on the obese side of things, and a little less if you’re already fairly lean). A pound of fat consists of approximately 3500 calories, so in order to lose one pound of fat a week you’d need to be in a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day for 7 days, make sense? 500Calories x 7Days = 3500Calories, so if you’d want to drop 2 pounds every week you’d need to be in a calorie deficit of 1000 calories per day to add up to 7000 calories (and no more) or 2 pounds of that lovely fat by the end of the week. This is the best approach to attacking weight/fat-loss for average to overweight individuals; it’s safe, effective, you’ll be able to function at almost 100%, and you’ll lose little to no muscle at all if you follow this route. If you get impatient, if you go too hard into diet mode, if you spend excessive time in the gym killing yourself doing cardio, you’re not going to get 100% of the results you want, you’ll feel like crap, you’ll drop a lot of strength and muscle, you’ll most likely plateau at some point and stop dropping the pounds and possibly even reverse weight loss.

In the next articles to come I’ll continue to go more in depth about these details, certain diets, why they work/don’t, and for a lot of you ladies out there I’ll talk about why it’s important to have and spare muscle because you’ll actually burn more calories with it!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Feeling Run Down? Feel a Cold Coming On? Try This.

Need a quick boost of vitamin C? Get a lime/lemon or
two, cut into halves or quarters and squeeze as
much juice as you can into a shot glass
With an alarming number of clients coming in sick the past couple of weeks I thought I’d drop a little history lesson on you; as well as a little trick you can do to that may prevent you from getting sick when you’re feeling run down and tired. Maybe you've heard of the term “limey” before, it originated sometime in the early 19th century and referred to British Sailors in the Royal Navy. Back then with the horrible living conditions, sickness, filth, poor diet, and an array of other things accompanied with sailing, one condition that many sailors got was Scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency.

 During long journeys beyond the time that fruits and vegetables could be stored they had to rely on foods lacking many important nutrients such as grains, and dried meats. The Royal Navy soon made lemon and lime juice apart of a sailor’s daily ration because they had good amounts of vitamin C which helped prevent Scurvy among other things. Eventually it was found out that lime juice, with its 29mg of vitamin C (35% daily value) wasn't as effective as lemon juice, with its 53mg (64% daily value) for preventing Scurvy, but the name “limey” stuck.

Vitamin C plays an important role in the human body including but not limited to protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. It can even shorten the lengths of colds and limit their severity.

The name limey has since lost its connection with military sailors, but if you’re feeling adventurous, spontaneous, and you need a quick boost of vitamin C, here’s what you do… Simply get a lime/lemon or two, cut into halves or quarters and squeeze as much juice as you can into a shot glass and pound that baby down matey!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quick, Easy, and Solid Meals: Oatmeal with a Scoop of Whey Protein

My Dad used to do this ever since I could remember, so years later when I got into the gym I followed his footsteps. I’m surprised to find though that many people have never heard of this idea; many times when I eat this I get so many responses from people along the lines of, yuck, gross, ew, that’s disgusting, why would you do that, and so on, but the real question is why wouldn't you?

Oatmeal is a great meal for anyone whether you’re dieting, trying to lose weight, trying to put on lean mass, or if you just need an overall quick healthy meal; it’s loaded with slow digesting carbs and fiber to keep you full and fueled longer. The only problem with oatmeal is that it is pretty bland, but no matter what your fitness goals are one thing you’ll learn sooner or later is that you have to make some sacrifices when it comes to food in terms of flavor. You won’t always feel miserable about it, sooner or later you’ll enjoy eating healthy, it’ll taste good to you, and you’ll look forward to eating oatmeal believe it or not! One thing you can do though if you can’t stand plain oatmeal is to throw a scoop of whey protein in it. Whey protein will dissolve well in the oatmeal and add it will also add a good amount of some quality protein to the primarily carb dense food to help balance out the macros. I use 100% Gold Standard Whey from Optimum Nutrition, they’re great company, and the product has won many awards for the best whey. I've tried chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry-which is the best tasting one by far in oatmeal.

I put about 1.5-2 cups of Quaker Oats in a bowl and put a lot of water in it, about half an inch above the oatmeal and throw it in the microwave for around 55-65 seconds. The oats will still be pretty raw at this time, so if that’s not too your liking you can microwave them a little longer, just make sure there’s enough water for the protein powder to dissolve in. After the microwave throw in a scoop of whey or your favorite protein powder, stir it in, and enjoy!

Also Quaker now makes “Quick 1-minute” oats, which are the same thing as regular old oats they’re just cut up a little more making it easier to eat, which I like a lot. Just be sure though in either one you choose that you take the time to chew each spoonful really well to get those digestive enzymes going; it gets very easy just to chew each bite a few times and gulp it down especially when you want to hurry up and get the bowl down.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Formula for Power

This formula can be used by anyone looking to improve their strength and power, from a serious weightlifter, to an athlete, to just an occasional gym goer or someone in between. Basically the formula for power, and many of you may already know, is… POWER = FORCE x VELOCITY or P=FxV.

Force referring to the load, or weight being moved and velocity being the speed at which it is moved. Here’s the part that I like, increase either one, force or velocity, and you in turn will have more power! An example, if you were trying to get more power into your bench press, to move more weight, you’d have to work both on the force and velocity aspects separately. For force you would load the bar with 85%-100% of your 1RM (one rep max) and try it push it as hard and fast as possible for 1-5 reps; in actuality you wouldn’t be moving the weight fast at all, but your muscles would be in a constant and maximum state of recruitment and excitivety, and you would be working very hard to move the load. For the velocity or speed aspect of power what you’d want to do is the same or similar exercise this time with only 50%-70% of your 1RM move it both concentrically and eccentrically (up and down basically) as fast as you can control for 3-5 reps. 

I didn’t know about this little formula for such big results in the gym until I read my NASM CPT 4 book. Ever since though, I’ve applied it and made it the foundation of my training for the next 6 weeks and have seen great results; I’m definitely getting stronger. I go by a 5 set, 5 rep scheme for each exercise, and usually hit 3-4 different exercises for a body part(s) and they’re all compound movements. I prefer to work in one specific area, either work on force production or work on building velocity I don’t interchange them too much in a session. I definitely recommend anyone with some experience in the gym under their belt to give this a try, it may be something different and you and your body will benefit from it! Let me know if you have any questions and how it goes!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Low Carb Diets

Low carb diets have always been the way to go for people looking to go on those crash diets to lose weight and fast, but do they work? The Answer is yes and no… The reason for this is because yes you’ll lose weight and fast, but it’s not going to be the weight you want to lose. You see when you eat foods dense in carbohydrates your body holds more water, approximately 3 grams of water for every 1 carbohydrate gram. So once you go on a low to no carbohydrate diet your body’s glycogen stores (the form in which carbohydrates are digested and stored as) will deplete pretty fast depending on how low you go; and along with that goes all the water that was being held leading to rapid weight loss, rapid water weight loss that is.

So if you were 180lbs. at 25% body fat, and you start eating a low carb diet and within two weeks you lose an incredible 15lbs. and weigh in at 165lbs. chances are that 90% of the weight lost was from water. Another reason why people like low carb diets is because the body’s preferred choice of fuel is from carbohydrates, so cut back on the main source of fuel then the body is going to have to move onto something else for energy and the belief is that it starts to target body fat. What a lot of people don’t realize though is that your muscle proteins are just as much of a target for fuel as your fat is, so the weight you lose beyond just water could be just as much muscle proteins as body fat. So to combat excessive muscle loss during low to no carb dieting is to always get adequate protein through food and supplementation spread out through 4-6 meals per day and especially after exercising.  That is only half of it, what many people don’t know is that carbs are in fact muscle sparing! So if you’re considering going low carb if you’re going to eat any carbs make it before and immediately after exercise; generally you’d want to eat slow digesting carbs before a workout (oats, yams, black beans, etc.) and immediately after a workout eat fast digesting carbs or foods that have a lot of sugar like fruits, juice etc. Doing this should allow for minimal muscle loss while dieting and exercising  no matter what method of dieting you decide to do.

Remember though, more importantly though, it doesn’t matter what method of dieting you do, it won’t work unless you’re in a calorie deficit, ideally no more than 500-1000 calories (less than maintenance) a day which adds up to 1-2 pounds of weight lost a week. If you have any questions feel free to email me.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Static Stretching - When You Should Do It, and When You Should Not!

Maybe you’re familiar with stretching but you've just never heard the term Static stretching, basically there are three major types of stretching – Static stretching, active-isolated stretching, and
dynamic stretching. Static stretching is generally the most used and is basically when you hold a single, stationary, and isolated stretch for at least 30 seconds; for example a bent-over, straight leg hamstring stretch. What many people don’t know that there is right time to static stretch and a wrong time as well. There have been a lot of studies that show that static stretching, especially that of the legs, before exercise can actually decrease your force output; or simply put your lifts will be lower. The right time to static stretch is immediately after exercise to loosen and relieve the tension of the muscles you just put through work.

The only time when static stretching is in fact recommended before exercise is when you’re working on corrective exercise techniques to fix muscle imbalances, overactive muscles, and altered force-couple relationships; if you’ve done any of the NASM certs like the CPT or CES you’ll know what I’m talking about. Basically though lets say you or your client has a horrible squat form, which 9 times out of 10 most first timers do. During the eccentric movement of the squat they lean forward excessively, they have lower-crossed syndrome (excessive hyper extension of the lower back), and they almost always have all of their weight on their toes rather than their heels causing the knees to go over and way passed the toes putting a lot of dangerous tension onto the knees.
 One of the prescriptions to try and fix this problem is to lengthen or stretch out the overactive or tight muscles causing the poor form and we do this through SMR or foam rolling and static stretching of the overactive muscle. So one of the reasons which cause a client to lean forward too much during a squat as well as be on their toes are due to tight hip flexors (groin area), and tight quadriceps (muscle group in the front of the thighs). So before exercise you’d static stretch these areas specifically to weaken so to speak the tight muscles allowing for the under-active muscles to get stimulation and grow stronger; in the case of a squat we’d stretch out the quads in hopes that we could get the hamstrings (muscle group behind the thigh) and glutes (butt muscles) to be stimulated and grow stronger and thus fixing the postural distortion and poor squat form.
When giving my new clients the overhead squat assessment and I see that they have some of these poor movement patterns and poor form, one of the things I have them do is to stretch out each quad 2 times for 30 seconds each and then try the squat assessment again, and almost always does their form improve drastically if not almost 100%. I too began to static stretch my quads before my leg days in the gym once I realized I didn't have the best of form, my knees would hover over and go beyond my toes at some points. I kid you not within two weeks my squat went up 50lbs, from 200 to 250lbs for 6 reps.

So for a brief summary hold off on the static stretching until after a workout session, unless you find that you have poor form with certain movements which can eventually lead to injury. If you don’t know what to look for ask a reputable trainer at your gym to give you a squat assessment, and ask him or her to tell you about any imbalances, distortions and poor form you might have and what you should do. I’ll go into other forms of stretching and foam rolling in another entry, until then if you’re struggling with your squat try static stretching out your quads and see if that helps!