Tag Archives: abs

Sifting Through the Fitness Bull#@*%

I’ve been a fitness professional for over 25 years. During that time, I think I’ve seen and heard it all before. But then, something else will come down the line leaving me scratching my head. What I’m talking about is all the lies and deceit that fitness marketing pushes on you, the consumer. Allow me to explain.

The Great Ab Deceit

Abs, short for abdominals, continue to be one of the top reasons someone will start to workout or continue to workout. It’s assumed that if one trains their abdominals hard  and excessively, they will attain the coveted 6 pack. That will never happen. All of the ab programs, DVDs, classes, etc. are nothing more than a pipe dream that will never see the light of day. But they’re sold and presented in such a way that the buyer thinks that this time will be different. This time it will work. Again, that’s a big no. First of all, being able to see the abdominals divided into 6 separate parts has so much more to do with diet than any exercise. Period. Second, it’s a conscientious, consistent, and difficult dietary journey that many people don’t even possess the genetics to make happen. It should never be one’s ultimate goal, just something that potentially, and I mean potentially can occur. And the marketers will continue to lead you otherwise.

The Great Cardio Myth

Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is great exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Cardiovascular exercise works the cardiovascular system, plain and simple. But where that ends is when people are led to believe that it’s the only way to lose unwanted pounds. You see it in the gyms and health clubs where 2/3 of the equipment in there is cardiovascular exercise equipment. In January, they are occupied to the fullest, complete with sign up lists in some places. Again, cardio is good and yes it does burn calories, but no where near the amount that most of those machines are programmed to report. Why do they do that? To keep you engaged and working towards a misguided number. It’s easy to use numbers as a guide, but in the end they rarely correlate with effort..

The High Intensity Faux Pas

If cardio is not effective enough, then higher intensity, HITT for short, must be the way. Not necessarily. HITT is a great side car to an already strong exercise base. Meaning it’s not a great place for a beginner to start. Exercise is a stress and if you are not adapted to the stress of exercise to begin with, HITT can severely hurt you. These HITT programs are sold and marketed as the next best thing and what you’ve been missing. They are good when applied appropriately, not thrown at you as the best way to exercise.

The Spot “Toning”, Spot “Reduction” Fallacy

Toys and gadgets are sold on the promise of delivering quick results to a certain location on the body. Good news: you can spot “target “ a specific muscle or body part. However, that doesn’t mean miraculously the fat layer on top of said muscle disappears. That’s the result of a systemic loss in body fat. When someone says they want to tone, what they’re really saying is that they want the muscle to show and that won’t happen without fat loss occurring systemically. Consequently, you can not work a specific area exclusively and hope to decrease the body fat that is present. It all takes place as an overall effect, not a specific one.

The Nutritional Fiction

I am a fitness professional, not a dietitian, but I would be remiss to not discuss nutrition. The topic of nutrition is probably the biggest source of deceit when it come to exercise success because they are closely associated. Without getting into the semantics of carbs and protein and fats (the macronutrients), I can 100% assure that there are no cleanses, magical foods, detoxes, or super supplements that will answer or correct a poor or even so-so eating pattern. You will continue to be duped and reeled in because that is how the machine works. Sell, sell, sell, and sell more.

The True State of Fitness

It’s all of the outside distractions that take away from something that’s inherently very basic. It’s an annual battle that continues and unfortunately will continue leading more and more into a state of confusion and craving the next best thing. The message has never changed – you need to exercise in whatever form you enjoy. You just need to do it. You need to be mindful of not only what you eat but how much you eat. If it’s off, it’s easy to blame it on something out of your control. The thing is, you always have control. You just need to find what works best for you, not others. Nothing, and I mean nothing will ever replace hard work done honestly and consistently. If you’re capable of those two things, you can never be disappointed.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Abs Are Made In The Kitchen, Not The Gym

With the unofficial kick off to summer just weeks away, the frantic scramble begins for the beach body and the coveted six pack abs. Let me save everyone a lot of aggravation. You can work your abs as hard as you want; do all the senseless cardio you want; train like an unchained beast. But if you are lazy and unstructured with your eating, it won’t matter. Not only can you not out train a poor diet, lean, structured abs are not built in the gym; they are built in the kitchen.

I Love to Eat

It’s no secret. I love to eat. My love of food goes all the way back to my childhood years.  Growing up in an Italian family, food was everywhere (and still is) and if you didn’t eat they thought something was wrong with you.  I was never forced to eat anything I didn’t like if I at least tried it and I was allowed to be a kid, with the occasional Tastykake or trip to the fast food joint as a treat. Dinner was a family event that we all sat down to and breakfast and lunch were normal parts of the day. I feel sorry for today’s generation because I’m not convinced that that happens very often if at all.  Meals are rushed and ordered through drive–thru windows. The enjoyment of dining is lost in big chain restaurants where the food and service are mediocre at best. And snack food is handed out like a fifth food group. But my expertise is not in how to improve the family dynamic.  Rather, it’s on how you can improve your own health and develop the physique you want by simply improving the one small room of the house with no fitness equipment – the kitchen.

Home Improvement 101

Despite the erratic eating and scheduling conflicts of the modern Amercian home, most of the time spent home is in the kitchen.  But allow me to also say that I’m not talking new countertops, flooring or lighting. I’m talking about creating an environment where good intentions meet reality. That begins with a well stocked kitchen.

Stock Appropriately

A well stocked kitchen begins with a well planned grocery store trip.  If it’s not part of a healthy, balanced diet, it shouldn’t even have a chance to make it through the front door. A kitchen stocked with the makings for healthy meals and snacks will keep you on track, even when late-night cravings strike. If it’s not there, the inconvenience of having to go out to get it should override the want over the need.  It’s time to clean house

Dump this:

  • If it has the words high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the ingredients, lose it. Common offenders – snack foods, sodas, baked goods, frozen meals, breakfast bars, condiments. HFCS is a manufacturer’s dream (it’s cheaper) but a metabolic nightmare.
  • Frozen dinners/lunches. If you can honestly identify all of the ingredients listed on the box, kudos, but God speed to you. Replace with home-made portioned meals. Spend some time on the weekends to cook up healthy meals, and then freeze them in portioned containers. Then throughout the week you simply need to reheat and enjoy.
  • Fruit-flavored yogurt. I hate to break this to you, but that small individually packaged yogurt is going to do more harm to your waistline than you think. More than 50% of the calories in fruit-flavored yogurt come from sugar. Replace with plain low-fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, or low-fat cottage cheese and even chop up some of your own favorite fresh fruit and stir it in.
  • Frozen breakfast food. French toast, waffles and pancakes are popular items in the freezer aisle. Don’t fall for the pretty photos and tasty-sounding names. These items are highly processed and contain loads of unnecessary sugar. Replace with: Sprouted Whole Grain Bread and Muffins. It is just as easy to throw a slice of sprouted, whole grain bread into the toaster as it is a frozen waffle. Spread it with some natural peanut butter and pair it with a piece of fruit. Now that’s a much healthier breakfast.
  • Canned soups.  The amount of sodium in a can of soup is staggering, considering that most will eat a whole can whereas the serving size is generally only half the can. The recommended amount of sodium is 2,000 mg or less per day. Same goes for frozen dinners which are loaded with it.
  • Packaged crackers, snacks, cookies, etc. This should be a pretty obvious one, but third only to cigarettes and soft drinks as the most bought items at the supermarket, the health of our nation drops with each crunch.
  • Artificial fats and sweeteners.  I suppose the logic here was that if the original is bad, than a synthetic one must be better for you. Keep the butter (salt free) if you must; ditch the Equal, Sweet and Low, etc.

Stock up:

  • Fresh and/or frozen vegetables. The produce drawer in your fridge should be overflowing with colorful nutrient-rich veggies. In fact, your fridge should hold more veggies than the drawer can hold. Veggies are filled with fiber, vitamins and nutrients and are a vital part of a healthy well-rounded diet. And frozen vegetables are frozen at the point of harvest. Same nutritional profile as fresh vegetables and eating ANY vegetables trumps eating NO vegetables
  • Fresh and/or frozen fruits. The same goes here as with vegetables.
  • Lean meats. Skinless chicken breast, lean ground turkey, white fish – are just a few of the numerous choices when it comes to lean meats.
  • Miscellaneous snacks and such. Raw nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, etc. Not every snack or “treat” needs to come in a colorful bag or be dyed with chemicals to look pretty and appetizing. And a lot of great flavor can be achieved from using fresh, natural herbs and spices without adding tons of salt and calories

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Eat great, you’re going to look and feel great. Eat so-so, you’re going to look and feel so-so. Eat poorly…you get the picture. There is always going to be room for the things you love but shouldn’t eat frequently. Moderation is healthy and permissible; just don’t get caught in justifying what you think you should be allowed versus what you really need to second guess. Before buying into another desperate fad exercise plan or gimmick, I encourage you to raid your kitchen every couple of months as a way of keeping yourself on track. The exercise will and should be the easy part.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Nutrition Secrets For Great Abs

Fat-Loss-Tips-for-Ripped-AbsNow that I have your attention, I am going to tell you the nutrition secrets for optimal health and/or fat loss.  You see, having the ability to see your abs is more a function of proper nutrition regardless of what you may have believed or been told.  As I shared with you in a previous post, working out harder or doing all the cardio in the world is not going to erase poor eating habits, even if in your mind you think you’re not doing too bad. And you can bet that all of the abdominal exercises you can possibly muster will NEVER give you six pack abs.  So the title for this blog should really be “Nutrition Secrets for Optimal Health”, but I figured that wouldn’t draw the same attention.

  1. Eat about 15-20% below your calorie maintenance level. If you use a more aggressive calorie deficit of 25-30%, then do not keep calories too low for too long; increase calories to maintenance or maintenance +10-15% 1-2 days per week.
  2. Spread your calories into 5-6 smaller meals instead of 2-3 big ones. Be very conscious of portion size. And yes you can eat too much of a good thing.
  3. Eat a source of complete, high quality lean protein with each meal (egg whites, lean meat, fish, protein powder, etc) as much as possible. Same holds true if you’re a vegetarian; just seek out non-animal based proteins; nuts, beans, soy, etc.  Protein not only helps to rebuild lean tissue, but also provides satiety and helps to regulate blood sugar.
  4. Choose natural, complex carbs such as vegetables, oatmeal, yams, beans, brown rice and whole grains and avoid refined, simple carbs that contain white flour or white sugar
  5. Keep total fats, but particularly saturated fats low. Aim for 30% but no more of your total calories from fat.  A little bit of “good fat” like flax oil, fish fat, nuts & seeds, etc is better than a no fat diet. Fat doesn’t make you fat and essential fatty acids actually assist the fat burning process.
  6. Drink plenty of water and cut out/limit calorie drinks.  Be very careful of “fitness” or “healthy” labeled beverages.  There is only one calorie free healthy drink – plain, crystal clear water.

Sounds simple enough, I know. But you have to give it time, it has to be a lifestyle, and you can not succumb to the notion that it doesn’t work for you.  What you think and what you do will translate into what you become.  Train Hard.  Eat Smart. Be Well.

The AB-solute Truth

imagesIt is generally not my job to tell people what they want to hear.  After all, if they’re seeking to accomplish a goal, more times than not, it involves taking them out of their comfort zone, and not just physically.  And who wants to be told what to do and what not to do when they would be much more content doing what they comfortably enjoy?  My favorite such tidings of bad joy to deliver to people is the never ending saga of obtaining flat, ripped abs.

Buyer Beware

It never ceases to amaze me the things infomercial marketers will tell you to buy their latest ab contraption. This product is “backed by a university study”; results are guaranteed or your money back; in just minutes a day, you’ll have washboard abs.  Blah! Blah! Blah! To boot, they’ll even feature a model to show you how he/she obtained their physique by using their product.  Unfortunately, while I find these ads and lies comical, someone somewhere is making millions off a sucker that is born every second.

The Truth

OK.  Here’s where I tell the things most don’t want to hear. There isn’t one, not one, abdominal exercise that will remove fat from your belly and replace it with a studded six pack.  The really bad news:  there NEVER will be. It’s not how it works. Just because you feel a “burn” in your abdominal area does NOT mean you are melting fat off your belly.  Oh no, it’s much more complex than that.  I use to laugh at the 30 minute ab classes and the resulting low back, neck strain complaints that came from the participants.  “But my abs are sore” they would say.  Sounds like a good time.

The Solution

Here I go again.  It’s hard work and there’s simply no short cuts.  The good news is that a lot of research is emerging that proves what I’ve taught and felt all along.  Cardio is not the answer, you must incorporate high intensity resistance training, and you better believe it requires a clean, nutritious eating plan – not a diet. Wasting time doing senseless, redundant, non-functional, ab exercises will yield you nothing more than a lot of frustration.  And save your money on those hilarious infomercials; you’ll need money for real food and new clothes.