Try This Amazing Home Workout Today! A Simple Way to Get (or Stay) in Shape.

Sometimes life gets busy, and you can’t drive to the gym, workout for an hour, and drive back home. For some people, this is the hardest part of training – not the exercise itself, but merely going to the gym.

I completely understand. It’s normal to want to stay in the comfort of your home. However, this is not an excuse not to train at all!

There are many different workouts you can do at home and still achieve your desired result – a leaner physique, more curves, or just a healthier lifestyle.

Today, I will share with you one of my favorite workouts you can do at home (or pretty much everywhere else). You don’t need any equipment to perform it, only to put in the work.

If you have any injuries, illnesses or pains, talk to your doctor before you start using this workout.

If you don’t have any of that, you’re free to try it out.

Let’s get right into the workout.

Beginner: Do this circuit 1 time – 11 min and 30 sec

Intermediate: Do this circuit 2 times – 23 min

Advanced: Do this circuit 3 times – 34 min and 30 sec

Note: To perform intervals download an app like Interval Time which tracks your time and set up the number of intervals you will need (including the rest periods). If you find this easy, feel free to adjust the workout according to your fitness level.

Let’s challenge ourselves.

Warm-up Jumping Jacks – 60 sec

How To:

  1. Start by standing with your legs straight and your arms to your sides.  
  2. Jump up and spread your feet beyond hip-width apart while bringing your arms above your head, almost touching.  
  3. Jump again, lower your arms and bring your legs together. Return to your starting position.

Push-ups – 30 sec

How To:

  1. When you’re down to the ground, set your hands at a distance slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Your body should be in a straight line – from the top of your head down to your heels. Your butt shouldn’t be sticking way up in the air.
  3. Your head should be slightly ahead of you, not straight down.
  4. Steady lower yourself until your elbows are at 90 degrees or smaller. Pause when your chest touches the floor and explode back to your starting position.
  5. Just move your chest and lower back together, as one unit and do as many reps as you can.

Dips – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Use a single chair and sit on its edge.
  2. With both palms on the seat of the chair behind you, extend your legs in front of the chair.
  3. Suspend your body by your hands, then dip in front of the chair (with your feet still on the floor.

Triceps Push-ups – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Lie on the floor face down and place your hands closer than shoulder-width apart for a close hand position.
  2. Lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor as you inhale.
  3. Using your triceps, bring yourself back at your starting position and squeeze your chest. Perform the movement, and at the same time, breathe out.

Superman – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Lie face down with your arms and legs extended out straight. Your palms and the tops of your feet should be face downward.
  2. Lift your arms and legs off the floor. Make sure you stay straight while keeping your core in place. Think of yourself as Superman as he stretches out as he flies.
  3. Hold this position for 30 sec and return to your starting position.

Squats – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes turned slightly outward. Brace your abs to engage your core.
  2. Inhale and initiate the movement by hinging at the hips first, then bend your knees to lower into a squat position until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor, your heels begin to lift off the floor, or your torso starts to round or flex forward.
  3. Exhale and press with your legs down, returning to your starting position.

1 min rest

Bulgarian Split Squat – 30 sec per leg

How To:

  1. Use your couch, chair or any other contraption in which you can rest your foot on – it needs to be above knee height.
  2. Get into a forward lunge position with your torso upright, core braced, and hips square to your body, with your back foot elevated on the couch. Your leading leg should be half a meter or so in front of the sofa. The closer you are to the couch, the more emphasis you will put on your quads. However, keep in mind that if you’re too close, you might experience knee pain.
  3. Lower yourself until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot. Don’t let your front knee travel beyond your toes.
  4. Drive up through your front heel back to the starting position, keeping your movements measured.

Glute Bridge – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Start by lying flat on the floor with your legs extended and your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees, so your feet are flat on the floor, about a hip-width apart. Your spine should be resting on the floor in a neutral position.
  3. Lift your hips to the ceiling as you continue to engage your core and flex your glutes to raise your hips. Pause for a second or two, keeping your neutral back position and return to your starting position.

Crunches – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Lie with your back on the floor and bend your knees, so your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Cross your arms in front of your chest or your fingertips behind of your neck or head. Whatever feels comfortable for you.
  3. Lift your shoulder blades with a slow, controlled motion. Inhale, then exhale as you engage your abs and raise your torso. Once your shoulders are raised, hold your position for a second or two.
  4. Lower yourself back to your starting position with slowed controlled motion.

Plank – 30 sec

How To:

  1. Lie face down with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
  2. Clasp your hands in front of your face, so your forearms make an inverted “V”.
  3. Rise on your toes, so only your forearms and toes touch the floor. Your body should hover a few inches off the floor in a straight line from shoulders to feet.
  4. Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your buttocks. Look at the floor to keep your head in a neutral position and breathe normally.
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds and lower yourself slowly back on the floor.

1 min rest

Push-ups – 30 sec

Triceps Push-ups – 30 sec

Squats – 30 sec

Superman – 30 sec

Crunches – 30 sec

Finisher – Wall Sit – 60 sec

How To:

  1. Your back should be flat against the wall.
  2. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart and then about 2ft out from the wall.
  3. Slide your back down the wall, bending your legs until they’re in a 90-degree angle. Your knees should be directly above your ankles.
  4. HOLD your position for as long as you can, while contracting your abs.

Conclusion

I created this workout as a simple way to eliminate all excuses and to show you that you can train hard even at home!

I hope you try this training, as I guarantee you can get a lot out of it – a feeling you might not even be able to achieve in the gym!

You can do it from three to six days a week, depending on your current fitness level.

Train hard and let’s become our best selves in 2019.

Talk to you soon,

Ally

The Importance of Sleep

Life as a professional bodybuilder can be hard. We are constantly looking out for new effective ways to gain muscle – the latest supplement, different workout routine, a new diet. All these things are very important but the key lies in our sleep patterns.

No training program, diet, or supplement can compensate for insufficient rest. Growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis occurs during sleep. These are two of the major benefits of sleep the other two are energy consumption reduction and brain cell restoration.

Throughout this blog post, I will explain the benefits of sleep and what to do to optimize it to support your muscle recovery and growth.

Sleep Controls Your Diet

The common suggestion about losing weight is “eat less and move more”. But it’s not that simple, or even true. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it’s impossible because you have no energy. And there is a good reason for that. Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting sleep.

Or even worst, you don’t realize sleep is the key to your dream physique. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived. Considering that the statistic for obesity is almost identical, it’s easy to see that there is a connection between these two.

The lack of sleep – less than seven hours of sleep per night – can reduce and even undo the benefits of dieting, according to the new science. A research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that people on sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55% reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts. 

Poor Sleep Changes Your Fat Cells

How did you feel the last time you woke up after a bad night of sleep? Exhausted, dazed or even a little grumpy. It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way – your fat cells do too. Your body suffers from “metabolic grogginess” when its sleep deprived. The term was created by University of Chicago researches who analyzed what happened after just four days of poor sleep – commonly happens during a busy week. One late night at work leads to two late nights at home and the next thing you know, you’re in sleep debt.

But how bad could it be? It’s just four nights, right?

Wrong!

Within four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes disrupted. The University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity drops by more than 30%.

Here’s the reason why this is bad. When your insulin is working well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your bloodstream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually, this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such like your liver. This is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.

Lack of Rest Makes You Crave Food

There are a lot of people that will tell you hunger is related to willpower and learning to control your stomach, but that it’s simply not true. Hunger is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is the hormone which is produced by your fat cells. The less leptin you produce, the more hungry you gonna get. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also slowing down your metabolism and increasing the amount of fat you store. You simply need to control leptin and ghrelin to lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that impossible.

A published research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reveals that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain which increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.

The scientists discovered exactly how sleep loss makes it impossible to lose weight. Your cortisol levels rise, when you don’t sleep enough. This is the stress hormone frequently associated with fat gain. Cortisol also activates reward centers in your brain which make you want food. At the same time, the loss of sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol makes you hungry all the time – even if you just ate a big meal.

And it gets worse.

A study published in Nature Communications found out that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making.

It turns out, sleep deprivation is little like being drunk. You don’t have the required mental clarity to make good complex decisions, especially with the foods you eat. That’s why sleep deprivation destroys all diets – it makes you crave high-calorie foods. Normally you might be able to fight off the desire, but because brain is weakened due to sleep deprivation, you have trouble fighting the urge and sustaining your diet.

And if all that wasn’t enough, research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that sleep deprivation makes you select greater portion sizes, increasing the likelihood of weight gain.

The bottom line: Lack of sleep means you’re always hungry, reaching for bigger portions, and desiring every type of food that is bad for you – and the worst is that you can escape it.

Sleep Sabotages Gym Time

The disastrous impact spreads beyond your diet and into your workouts. Having some muscle on your body is important, no matter what fitness goals you have. Muscle helps you burn fat and stay young but lack of sleep is the enemy of muscle. Scientists from Brazil found out that sleep debt decreases protein synthesis (your body’s ability to grow), causes muscle loss, and can lead to a higher incidence of injuries.

Lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise by slowing down the production of growth hormone – your natural source of anti-aging and fat burning that also facilitates recovery.

If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy exercise, optimizing your sleep should be your number 1 priority. It will boost your recovery and give you more energy so you can push through a challenging workout. If you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels more challenging, especially your workouts.

The Better Health Secret: Prioritize Sleep

We already know how important sleep is for our overall health. It effects our decision making, fat loss, energy levels, etc.

So how can we make sure we get the desired sleep on a consistent basis?

I have stumbled upon a very useful and easy to apply formula you can use right now to maximize your sleeping hours.

It’s called 10-3-2-1-0 formula.

This system helps you get in bed on time, improve your quality of sleep and wake up the next morning well rested and ready to crush your day.

10 hours before bed – No more caffeine.

Usually, this is the amount of time required for your body to clear the caffeine from the bloodstream and eliminate its stimulatory effects.

3 hours before bed – No more food or alcohol.

Avoid eating big meals and drinking alcohol three hours before sleep. This will help you prevent heartburn and interrupted sleep. You might feel that alcohol make you sleepy, but actually it impairs your natural sleep cycle and interrupts valuable deep sleep.

2 hours before bed – No more work.

To sleep better you need to be relaxed, so stop all work-related activities two hours before bed. No phone calls, emails, reports, etc.

1 hour before bed – No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs, and computers).

One hour before bed turn off all electronics. The blue light emitted from the screens makes it difficult to fall asleep. In the final hour of the day enjoy reading a real book, talking to your family, meditating, taking a bath, etc. but do not use your IPhone or tablet, unless you want to stare at the ceiling for another hour.

0 – The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning

The last thing you should avoid comes first thing in the morning. If you wake up to the sound of an alarm, you will be tempted to hit the snooze button.

Don’t.

Not only will slow you down, but going back to sleep for a few minutes makes you more tired than if you had started your day immediately.

There is a simple solution to help you overcome the temptation of the snooze button. You place your alarm across the room. That makes you get up and walk a few steps before you can turn it off. By then, you’re more awake and it’s just easier to continue with your day than going back to bed.

There you have it. Now you know how important is sleep not only for our fitness goals, but for our overall health. You know what sleep deprivation leads to and how to avoid it. Use the 10-3-2-1-0 formula so you get a quality sleep consistency and get the desired physique.

I believe in you. Let’s go out and crush it.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Steroids for Contest Prep (Part II)

In the last part, we took a look at all the benefits and positives that might come from a contest prep cycle.

We know one thing for sure now – the results from using them are clear and they can really help you take your body to new heights.

Which is awesome if you want to be a better fitness competitor, but these vivid benefits are the reason that not a lot of people come into the peculiar world of steroids with their eyes wide open.

I want to show you both sides of the story. And you should know it – it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro, someone who wants to do their first show, or just someone who works out and stays fit.

Having all the information means you’ll know better when making the right choice for yourself – and that’s what I want to help you with.

In this second part, we’re going to take a look at all the bad (and sometimes scary) things that come from using such hormones to give yourself a performance advantage.

The Side Effects of Steroids for Women

As with every steroid, side effects will occur.

Let’s start it off with Clenbuterol (or Clen) – the powerful thermogenic that turns your body into a calorie burning machine. We have to keep in mind that its side effects are different than say, the more androgenic alternatives like Anavar and Winstrol.

Many women prefer it because it has no androgenic side effects. It won’t make your voice deeper or give you unpredictable mood swings, but it being classified as a stimulant alone should give you an idea.

Even though it will boost your metabolism, suppress your hunger, and help you maintain muscle, it can produce its own harmful effects related to its energizing nature.

To name a few…

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Increased muscle cramps
  • Trouble sleeping

Muscle cramping and hydration problems related to Clen usage can often be alleviated by supplementing with taurine and potassium. They happen because Clenbuterol acts as a beta-adrenergic agonist and depletes them both from your body.

Some of the side effects of Clen can lead to serious complications, not to mention long-term exposure will damage your heart.

These complications are the reason it’s illegal in most parts of the world (including the United States).

Keep in mind, Clen is considered a female-friendly steroid.

Then there’s drugs like Anavar, Winstrol, and Primobolan – they’re regarded and well tolerated among the fitness community for helping with fat loss and lean muscle gains, but they’re classified as androgenic.

If you’re ever planning on taking anabolic steroids, you need to understand what you’re doing with your body. Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetically created derivatives of the male hormone testosterone.

Women using steroid stacks are inserting testosterone into themselves in order to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and gain that extra edge in competition.

By using such drugs a woman runs the risk of developing certain male characteristics (more on that below).

This is more widely known as virilization.

You should also be advised to not go anywhere near anabolic steroids during pregnancy, as the right hormone levels are crucial in developing a healthy fetus.

Looking at the list of most widely used female steroids, we know that three of them stand out the most.

  • Clebuterol
  • Anavar
  • Winstrol

With Anavar being the top androgenic pick for women, let’s take it as the prime example for the side effects such a steroid could have.

Keep in mind Anavar has an androgenic rating of around 20 – whereas testosterone is listed at 100. It’s among the more women friendly steroids, but its side effects are still horrible and sometimes irreversible.

That’s why only the women who use it responsibly and in proper dosage can enjoy its full benefits.

But at the end of the day – it’s still an anabolic steroid.

Some of the side-effects of Anavar (and similar steroids that are androgenic) include:

  • Hormonal imbalance
    With that comes acne breakouts, water retention, bloating, oily skin, unhealthy cholesterol levels, you name it.
  • Menstrual Abnormalities and Infertility
    In women’s bodies, testosterone is stored in the ovaries and other tissues in the reproductive system. Drugs that are based off testosterone, along with triggering hormonal shifts in women, will bring you menstrual abnormalities. You can experience more or fewer periods in erratic patterns that can even lead to a condition called amenhorrea that indicates infertility.
  • Masculine Effects
    Since these steroids are androgenic, they alter your body’s natural testosterone levels. Due to these properties, women can experience symptoms similar to those of a man going through puberty – like a deepening of the voice, increase in body hair growth, and developing a more masculine physique over time. Your chest can reduce in size, and just like the lowering of the vocal chords, this effect may be permanent.
  • Emotional Effects
    Playing with your hormone levels takes mood swings to a whole new level! Women have reported depression, anxiousness, hostility, aggression, and even a false sense of invincibility. Not to mention researches show that using steroids can lead to dependency, which wouldn’t be useful (to say the least) in a state of heightened emotional response. According to studies, over 75% of women who have taken anabolic steroids have experienced at least one negative psychological effect.

Which Steroids Are The Safest?

To answer that question, you should know that all anabolic steroids exhibit androgenic effects to a degree. How matter how ‘mild’ a particular steroid claims to be, the potential for virilization exists with every single on.

That being said, we can see that hormones that are best suited for your anabolic cycle are those that have a really low androgenic rating – or those that the fitness community ranks as ‘mild’.

The only way you can go wrong is if you go for a steroid that exhibits high androgenic strength – like anadrol, dianabol, or testosterone itself.

Aside from the competitive female bodybuilders that utilize these drugs, there are also two more types of women that do.

  • 1. The fitness/bikini competitors that want to get in shape for a show.
  • 2. Those who go to the gym but want to get in shape quicker.

They each have a different mindset and approach when it comes to taking these substance and different goals that they want to achieve. The lengths they’re willing to go in order to achieve those goals are different – and so are the sacrifices that they’re making.

If a competitor believes that this drug will help them achieve this goal, it’s their individual decision and responsibility – and in the bodybuilding scene it’s often “everything goes”. The women who go the extra mile do achieve their personal goal.

It’s clear that physique competitors or women training to stay fit desire a more feminine, sexy look, and would back off immediately at the first sight of symptoms of verilization. They keep their doses low and cycles short, and they also achieve their personal goal.

Both sides of the story are completely understandable from each person’s point of view.

It’s up to the individual to decide for themselves how they’re going to use this tool – but no matter who you are, you have to know using this tool is no walk in the park.

To conclude…

Anabolic steroids can be a powerful tool, or a really bad experience. You have to make sure you know where you’re going when you’re starting. You have to set clear goals and have clear expectations based on where you’re at right now. Steroids can have a nasty and irreversible effect on you if you’re blindly going in to the world of contest prep. One thing I can say from experience, is that it never hurts to have someone guide you through your process – from start to finish. You have to make sure that someone is understanding and supportive of your goals. Only by using these anabolic steroids responsibly and in moderation will you see a positive effect in the long-run – one that will leave you with a positive experience for the rest of your life and show you what your body is capable of.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Hormones for Contest Prep (Part I)

Have you ever wondered what a female steroid cycle looks like?

Let me grab your hand, and for a few minutes, welcome you into the peculiar, mysterious world of female bodybuilding.

Even though hormone usage is spreading mostly among physique competitors and avid gym-goers, few women are guided by professionals who prioritize their health and well-being.

Today, I’m going to talk about contest prep, steroids, and the benefits you get that will give you a competitive advantage.

And as I said above, steroid usage is not limited to female bodybuilding. The popularity of these drugs is increasing because of their classifications as “female friendly”, and the results and benefits are nothing but clear. Many women want to easily lean out, gain definition, and sculpt their figure. Even though this is achievable just through a great regimen and a balanced diet, many people use them to gain that extra edge on top of those two things.

I want to give you the full picture in this article, that’s why I’m splitting this article into two.

In the second part of this article, I’ll talk about the negative (and sometimes scary) side effects of steroids.

But right now, let’s dive deep into the positives and benefits of hormones, and what we can learn about them that will make sure we have a great experience using them.

Before we start, we need to know four things.

These four things separate a woman’s cycle from a man’s cycle.

Our bodies function differently – first of all, testosterone is not necessary for a woman’s cycle. It’s not physiologically required for our survival, so we only need small amounts of it, whereas for men, it’s in the foundation of their masculinity, and it’s usually the first steroid they go for.

Second, you should avoid anabolic stacks – a stacking of different steroids means compounding the androgenic effects leading to sometimes irreversible side-effects.

Third, there is no post-cycle therapy (PCT) needed for female steroid users. The purpose of PCT is to bring the body back to its normal and natural levels of endogenous Testosterone production and HPTA function.

And fourth, your cycle length must be kept short (around 4 weeks) if you want to avoid the risk of said side effects.

With that being said, we can now dive into the good stuff!

The Benefits of Hormones in Contest Prep (and there sure are a few.)

In the vast landscape of new fitness companies that produce new alternatives for every product, three names are usually in the foundation of their chemical build-up.

The top picks for women’s steroids are Clenbuterol, Anavar, and Winstrol.

Starting off with Clenbuterol, it’s a little different than most other steroids because it’s labelled a stimulant.

It essentially raises your body temperature and turns your body into a calorie-burning factory!

Here are the main two big benefits of Clen;

  • Helps you burn fat like crazy
    Clenbuterol will help you reduce fat more than other similar fat burners (like ephedrine) The reason for this is Clen is thermogenic – meaning it increases your metabolic energy and speeds up your heart rate. That causes an increase in metabolic activity and body temperature, which in turn sheds the fat off your body. Athletes often use illegally use Clenbuterol as a fat-loss drug during cutting cycles. Women also respond better than men to this hormone and will burn more fat and calories than them.
  • Helps you build and keep muscle
    This hormone speeds up your recovering process. It causes rapid rehabilitation of your muscle cells and induces muscle growth by increasing protein synthesis. Studies suggest that the effect of Clen is muscle-specific and benefits fast-twitch muscles more than their counterpart. Studies have proven an increase in power output, hypertrophy, and a decrease in fat mass in those cycling Clen.

Even though Clen seems like a powerful tool, we can’t forget it’s still illegal in most parts of the world (including the United States), and its nature as a stimulant comes with its own harmful effects that we’ll learn more about in Part II.

Next is the drug classified as “the women’s steroid” – Anavar.

One thing you should know is that Anavar was created in the 60s with the goal of keeping a patient’s muscle if they were suffering from a wasting disease.

Since then, it has come a long way and is one of the most well-regarded steroids in the fitness community when it comes to preserving muscle, dieting hard, and getting lean as.

Here are some of the benefits of Anavar that make it such a desirable choice:

  • Preserves Muscle
    Anavar is famous for its ability to help you maintain muscle while being on a caloric deficit. The biggest problem people have when dieting is losing their lean muscle too, and Anavar enables you to solve that problem. As you lower and lower your calorie intake, the hormone will protect your body and make sure that you don’t lose your muscle along with the fat.
  • Better Recovery
    Preserving your muscle is crucial for post work out recovery. If you use Anavar, you will be able to recover faster.
  • Burns Fat Faster
    This might be a little misleading. No steroid can technically burn fat, but Anavar gives you the impression of fat-burning. The reason for that is that it doesn’t aromatase estrogen so your gains are dry and it may help speed up your thyroid due to reducing globulin. It helps your body use the fat for energy, more efficiently. There are many studies which show it’s also great for shifting stubborn fat around the abdominals.
  • Increase Lean Muscle Mass
    you cannot say the same for men that use Anavar – they mainly use it for cutting down. However, taking Avanar provides great benefits for women like hardening and increasing the lean muscle mass, and an increase in strength output.

Anavar, just like Winstrol, is a mild but effective steroid that is sure to give you a performance advantage on and off stage. The problem here lies in their side effects caused by their androgenic properties. More on that in Part II.

Winstrol

Now, a lot of people in the fitness community might think Winstrol and Anavar are two pretty identical steroids, science proves that NOT to be the case.

Winstrol, especially in a female cycle, is known for adding more lean muscle mass than Anavar.

And Winstrol is also known for being hard on your joints, whereas Anavar is a tolerated better as a steroid.

Both of them are really powerful tools for cutting on a prep, and it’s up to the individual to decide which one to use based on their few (but notable) differences.

Here are the top 3 benefits of Winstrol in my opinion;

  • Gives you a leaner look
    Winstrol helps you appear more muscular without the added bulking of your muscle, so it’s perfect for athletes approaching a competition. It enhances the growth of your muscles and helps you develop more strength and endurance while working out.
  • Does not lead to water retention
    Unlike other anabolic steroids, Winstrol does not lead to water retention. Retaining water is not a good look on stage, and it can sabotage your lean and sexy look. Winstrol helps you dry out, and it’s the perfect addition to an excellent leaning diet.
  • Enhances endurance
    Winstrol helps your body regenerate red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to different parts of your body – including your muscles. An increase in your red blood cells leads to better endurance during workouts. It also speeds up your recovery, so you can train long and hard and experience less fatigue.

So, we now see the prominent and powerful effects of anabolic steroids for women – and you might think the results are worth the sacrifices.

However, before you jump on a cycle, read Part II of this article to get both sides of the story.

I believe that it doesn’t matter if you’re competing in women’s bodybuilding, women’s physique, bikini, or you’re just a regular gym-goer who wants to see what their body is capable of – in the right doses, these hormones can do wonders for your body. It’s the women that have the proper help and use them responsibly that end up having a positive experience.

So if you want to learn more about the adverse side effects of these drugs…

On to Part II

What To Eat (And What To Avoid) In Order To Maintain a Clean and Healthy Gut?

Why Is Gut Health So Important?

Your gut is composed of a host of microbes which affect your body and brain in a variety of ways – from the way you store fat and how you balance levels of glucose in your blood to how you respond to hormones.

A bad mix of gut bacteria and you’ll be in a world of hurt – it can lead to obesity and other health issues later in life.

Researchers have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters which regulate your mood including chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

Scientists have also discovered that a nervous system in your gut (as they called it the “second brain”) is connected to your actual brain. It has an impact on specific diseases and your mental health.

In other words, the health and well-being of both your body and brain depend on your gut health.

How Does Your Diet Help (Or Hurt) Your Gut?

What you eat and drink determines whether or not you will maintain your microbiome at its healthiest level.

The internal environment of your gut is created by the foods you choose to eat.

I have good news for you – it doesn’t matter what you have eaten until now. As far as your microbes are concerned, even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable, because your body can create new bacteria in as little as 24 hours – just by changing your eating habits.

What you eat determines your gut health. Moreover, researches tell us that the good gut bacteria gets stronger when fed colorful, plant-based foods.

A study in the journal “The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society” published in 2014 found that vegetables, grains, and beans create a positive gut environment. However, meat, junk food, dairy, and eggs form a bad one.

The Two Compounds of the Healthy Gut

Probiotics and prebiotics – you have probably heard these two terms as they are becoming more widely known in the fitness community, and outside of it.

Probiotics are the good gut bacteria, and prebiotics is their food.

You can give them to your body by making the right food choices.

You can find probiotics in fermented foods, as well as in some food supplements. Also, the prebiotics you can find in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The most central prebiotic of all is fiber.

Why Is Fiber So Critical To Gut Health?

While most fitness people tend to get up in arms about their protein consumption, there’s another nutrient which is more worrisome as far as the risk of deficiency – fiber.

97% of Americans get at least the recommended amount of protein of protein, but only about 3% of all Americans get the recommended 40 grams of fiber they need per day. Also, remember, fiber is the most crucial ingredient for maintaining great gut health.

Fiber feeds the good bugs we’ve been talking about, so it’s vital to eat fiber-rich foods regularly.

The bacteria in our gut extract the fiber’s energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which improve immune function, decrease inflammation, and protect against obesity.

There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber balances blood glucose levels and LDL cholesterol. You can easily find it in oatmeal, legumes, and some fruits and veggies.

On the other hand, the insoluble fiber has more of a cleansing effect on your digestive environment. You can find it in whole grains, kidney beans, and in fruits and veggies, too.

Foods That Do More Harm Than Good

The first thing you should do to heal your gut is to remove all foods which make you feel sick and zapped of energy.

Be warned: Many of these foods sometimes hide in the ingredients used in prepackaged products. Make sure you read the label and stick with whole, unprocessed foods, whenever it’s possible.

Now let’s take a look at the foods which hurt your overall gut health:

  • Dairy
    Despite the common belief, milk isn’t necessarily good for your body. For a ton of people, the two proteins in milk (casein and whey) are hard to digest and can cause problems. People who lack sufficient quantity of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose in milk can experience symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea as gut bacteria ferment this sugar instead.
  • Gluten
    Unfortunately, for many people, gluten poses a real problem. Researches have found that up to 30% of all Americans are sensitive to gluten – and most of them have no idea! Science shows going on a gluten-free diet lowers inflammation and insulin resistance while helping people lose weight.
  • Soy
    Over 90% of the soy mass-produced in the USA is genetically modified (GMO). Studies show Glyphosate (an active ingredient in soy products) lead to dysbiosis and then leaky gut. It also blocks the production of essential amino acids – phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan, which are needed by the body.
  • Corn
    Same as soy, over 90% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. Corn sensitivity could result in all sorts of reactions, similar to those from gluten and other food allergens. The most common are eczema and hives.
  • Eggs
    Many people develop sensitivity to egg yolk, egg white, or both. The problem comes from the simple fact that most commercial eggs come from hens fed an unnatural diet of soy and corn. Eating these eggs means that you are consuming these anti-nutrients indirectly. If you still want to eat eggs, look for organic ones from cage-free hens fed natural chickens.
  • Lectins and phytates
    You can find these anti-nutrients in all gluten-containing grains. You can also find them in beans and some vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and corn. Lectins make it hard for your body to digest larger food particles. On the other hand, phytates interfere with the absorption of essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, copper.
  • Nightshades
    Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers, sweet and hot peppers all are part of the nightshade family. They produce alkaloids, which can be toxic to humans in large amounts. Common nightshades don’t have enough of them to be deadly, yet some people are sensitive to even tiny amounts. For these people even cooking the nightshades can create problems. Nightshades can be much trouble for people who suffer from arthritic conditions or autoimmune disorders.
  • Sugar
    Any form of sugar, including refined carbohydrates, high-fructose corn syrup, monk fruit, and coconut sugar, poses a risk to your gut. Sugar creates chaos in your stomach, as it feeds the bad bugs, creates dysbiosis and leads to yeast overgrowth. Most people are not aware of the liquid sugar in the sweeteners and alcoholic beverages. If you want to be healthy long-term, you have to keep your sugar intake in moderation.

Foods That Make Your Gut Healthy!

Probiotics make your GI system function in top shape. The healthy microbiome may help the body to reduce inflammation, a risk factor involved in different illnesses from colds, cancer to heart disease and cognitive decline. The bacteria can also help the body burn body fat and reduce insulin resistance. So to stay slim and healthy, start adding more probiotic foods to your diet.

Let’s begin with these:

  • Yogurt
    The most famous probiotic food. Whether you love Greek or regular, high or low fat, look for the phrase “live active cultures” on the label. You should aim for fewer than 15 grams of sugar per serving, remember the sweet stuff feeds the bad bugs in your gut.
  • Miso paste
    You can choose varieties of miso paste (white, yellow, red, brown). It’s a great way to add some good flavor, protein, fiber and vitamin K into your diet. Miso is also very high in sodium. One teaspoon has 21% of the daily recommended limit and 32% of the daily limit for those with high blood pressure.
  • Pickles
    Not all pickles contain good bacteria. Look with those made with brine rather than vinegar. It should have the phrase “live cultures” on the label. Just remember that pickles are salty. One dill offers more than 10% of your sodium needs in a day.
  • Kombucha tea
    The tea gets its natural carbonation for a bacteria and yeast which ferment the drink and creates the probiotics. It’s another excellent way to introduce live, active bacteria into your lifestyle. Before you buy always read the label to see what you’re getting. Some are made with fruit juice for flavor. It’s better to purchase kombucha from the store because the homebrewed one has been linked to nausea and even toxicity. Also due to the fermentation process, kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol, so it’s best to drink one bottle a day.
  • Chocolate
    Many brands have pumped up desserts by adding probiotics. May sound crazy, but it’s science backed. There is one study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology which found that the probiotics added to chocolate colonize the gut with healthy bacteria.

To conclude, maintaining a healthy gut environment is one of the most overlooked steps when it comes to creating a diet that supports your fitness and lifestyle goals.

Always strive to get enough fiber, feed the good bugs, and you’ll have no problem keeping your gut happy, which in turn will enhance your mood and keep you healthier than ever

4 Steps for Creating Performance-based Goals for your Offseason

Setting goals is a critical step when it comes down to structuring your training – before or after a contest. Without well-established goals, you can go back and forth between fitness programs and exercises all you want but there won’t be any results. After a competition, a lot of the competitors go on a binge for days. Although treating yourself after a long and tiring contest prep is normal and it’s something that I encourage people to do, gorging on unhealthy food weeks after the competition is not the way to go.

The next thing that comes in mind is what kind of goals you should set after the contest – appearance based or performance based. This is a subject of some debate in the fitness industry, but when it comes to structuring a training program, appearance-based goals are way more effective.

Some fitness professionals argue that you should learn to appreciate your body and ditch the focus you are putting in on your physical appearance. While there is some truth in that, too many people tie their self-worth to their appearance and that leads to unhealthy obsessions. But I am not here to tell you how should you feel and what you should want.

I’m here to get you the result you want!

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better, as long as that desire doesn’t stress you out and becomes more of a burden than something positive. In my opinion, performance-based goals are better than appearance-based goals. They may have a lot of similarities. For a lot of people, improving appearance means increasing muscle and decreasing body fat. Improving performance often means increased strength and aerobic capacity. But performance-based goals are better in my opinion simply because what gets measured gets managed. It’s way easier to track your progress and find out where more work needs to be done!

In this article, I’ll explain the 4 steps you should follow to set performance-based goals for your offseason, so you stay on top of your game and come back better and stronger for your next competition!

Step 1 – Getting Judges’ Feedback

The first step in building a productive off-season routine starts before your show day ends. It begins with getting tangible feedback from the judges. I know how it goes – you probably won’t want to stick around after the show ends. Everyone is extremely exhausted on the day of the competition and you have wait after all the awards are given just to spend 5 minutes to talk to a judge.

But it’s all worth it. I sometimes wait too long to receive feedback and sometimes I don’t even get any and I can tell you that all the feedback I’ve ever received helped me grow and develop towards becoming a better competitor for the next time. The key is to talk to as many judges as you can after the show and ask them what you can improve upon. Hear their feedback and you will get a better understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are – from an actual judge!

And don’t let ego get in your way – sometimes you might hear things you won’t like and that’s completely okay.

Step 2 – Setting Performance Goals

The first thing you need to do is to be realistic about your goals. Think what you are capable of achieving in the given amount of time. Focus on goals that target skill achievement and make them specific and measurable. One of my first performance goals was to be able to do an unbroken set of 15 pull-ups without any assistance (and good form). That might seem easy for some of you, but I can tell you that It’s not something I achieved overnight.

I started off with very few repetitions and worked my way up to reach my first set of 15. After a few months of hard work – pounding, drenched in sweat, keeping the good form, I obliterated my goal.

Use the feedback from the judges and know which muscles you want to target and find out which exercises work best to activate and grow those muscles so you continue to build strength and look amazing!

Don’t get too dramatic when you hit a plateau. Just take a moment to re-evaluate. Is this goal optimal and achievable for you? You can always revise. Your goals don’t have to be like mine – to be tied to specific sets and reps. Maybe your focus should be on a better form or heavier resistance.

Anything achievement-based works.

Once you’ve done the things above, make a timeline and set mini-goals for yourself. Plan out your year in advance so you can develop a strategy that supports your goals. If you have a 6-month off-season, you can divide your training into 6-8 week periods. Review and reassess at the end of each period, so you can make the necessary changes and adjustments to your plan.

Think: What Are Your Goals?

  • Lose Fat
  • Build Muscle
  • Improve Energy
  • Or something else…

My last off-season, for instance, my focus was on improving my back and more specifically – the taper look. I prioritized back by training it on day one, adding some new and more effective exercises, changed my reps slightly, and added an extra workout later in the week. After 6 weeks, I reviewed my training and progress and made the necessary changes to keep improving.

Tracking your total volume is absolutely critical when it comes down to your program’s effectiveness. Keep tabs on the total number of sets you do for each body part. For smaller body parts, the volume shouldn’t be anything more than 8-10 sets per week. Normal volume for the larger body parts should be between 12 and 15 sets, while a higher volume would be 18-22 sets.

Which brings us to step 4…

Step 4 – Track Everything

It may seem annoying and time-consuming but if you want to get the best out of your training, you have to put it the extra time to maximize it. Journaling is one of the best ways to track your progress. There are a ton of apps you can use to journal and track every single workout. Also, there are a lot of options for tracking your food and nutrition.

It’s something that takes me about 15 minutes each morning to plan out my meals, supplements and schedule them around my training and daily activities. These journals become invaluable down the road. Looking back on them, you have the opportunity to see where you can improve and adjust so you keep progressing.

Conclusion

It may seem like a lot of work to develop a plan for what is supposed to be your off-season (“your downtime”).

I will be honest with you – it’s quite the work.

But just like the contest prep itself, there are very few who can sustain and endure the rigors of an extreme diet and demanding training to step on a stage in near-perfect condition. If you want to stand out the next time you’re in a line-up with 30+ fit and beautiful women, you have to take the extra time to create your off-season plan to maximize your results. Start your preparation now, no matter how much there is to the show day.

In every highly competitive sport, but especially in this one, the attention to detail set apart the amateurs from the professionals. With competitive bodybuilding and fitness, it’s all about what you do when you are at home and in the gym that determines how you will look like on the stage. Put in the time to create and maximize your prep now and remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Key Points:

  • Setting Goals is the first step in creating your off-season plan.
  • Performance-based goals are better than appearance-based because they are trackable and measurable.
  • The last day of the competition is where you off-season start.
  • What gets measured gets managed.
  • If you want to look like a pro you have to prepare like a pro – put in the time for your preparation and you will look better than you ever did on the stage.

Reverse Dieting From Competition

You have just completed between 3 or 4 months of long hard prep. During it, all your attention and focus were pointed to was how your body was looking, changing, and feeling. The day of the show comes and you show what you have worked so hard for, and are so proud of. The day after, you get to eat a lot – let’s say you have earned it. The next week starts and you start wondering “What’s next?”

If you’re a competitor like me, you know the post-show aspect isn’t all that talked about at all. It’s somewhat difficult to get good advice on how to approach a reverse diet. Even if you have competition coach it can be a feat, simply because they usually stop putting focus into you because their job has been done. They prepared you and got you to stage looking the best you have ever looked, so they’ve done what they came for. However, you might not feel the same way. That’s why today we’re taking a look at the best ways to approach reverse dieting from a competition – so you can get the information you need from a coach that doesn’t leave their clients post-show!

What exactly is reverse dieting?

Reverse dieting is exactly what it sounds like: a diet turned upside-down. You speed up your metabolism by gradually adding calories back into your diet and reducing cardio. This is the opposite of normal dieting where you cut down your calories and bump up the cardio.

It may sound very simple, but there is more to it than “eat more, run less”. If you want to look the best way possible and not gain a lot of body fat, you must make an actionable plan and stick to it. This means giving your body the needed time to adjust by making small, deliberate changes, rather than hitting the buffet on a daily basis and cutting out your cardio overnight.

When people decide that they want to maximize their results and looks, they go on a diet. But is everyone ready for that step?

For those of you who have repeatedly failed to diet, doing it once again is unlikely to bring you the desired results even the opposite – it will do more harm than good.

When you stay on a calorie deficit for too long, your body suffers a lot. Most notably, it reduces the calories you burn throughout the day, often priming your body for surprisingly rapid weight gain.

This is process is known as “metabolic adaptation” and can really throw a wrench in your way to weight-loss goals. When your body continuously fights to stop the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, staying on that deficit can become very tricky. You can only drop so many calories and increase your exercise so far before you get burned out.

Luckily, for everyone who is in the same situation, there is a solution. It’s possible to “re-start” your metabolism and lower what’s known as your “body-fat set point” – the level of body fat your body finds easiest to maintain through a process known as “reverse dieting”.

To understand the science behind it, you need to understand what happens in your body during metabolic adaptation.

Metabolic Adaptations From Dieting

We all know it – our bodies are smart! Don’t try to trick them, because they will trick you. Whether you restrict calories or lose weight drastically, your body senses the energy gap and in a desperate attempt to erase it and stop the fat loss, several body systems work together to slow your metabolism by:

  • Your body consuming less energy.
  • Your heart beating slower as sympathetic nervous system activity declines.
  • Hormones that influence metabolism and appetite such as thyroid hormone, testosterone, leptin, and ghrelin being affected.
  • You burn less energy during non-exercise activities, such as fidgeting, walking around the house, working, and doing chores.
  • You need fewer calories to absorb and digest food because you’re eating less.
  • Your muscle becomes more efficient, requiring less fuel for a given amount of work.

These changes ultimately get your body to burn fewer calories, both at rest and working out. Fortunately, the metabolic adaptation is not a one-way street. As you can slow down your metabolism, you can also speed it up!

Many of the changes that occur during calorie restriction can work in the opposite way when you start eating more calories to make your metabolism faster.

But don’t go on a pizza or chocolate binge and expect your metabolism to speed up overnight. It requires time!

Researchers at Laval University in Quebec did a research in which they overfed 24 people by adding 1000 calories to their menus for 84 days. At first, almost all of the extra calories turned into fat or helped for building lean mass. But by the end of the study, as each subject’s metabolism adapted, the number of calories burned increased rather than them being used to create a new tissue.

The lesson here is that your metabolism will eventually speed up to dispose of some of the extra calories you absorb. But if you increase them drastically before your metabolism catches up, you’ll gain a ton of weight.

The major benefits of reverse dieting are:

  • You get to eat more, not as soon as you might want, instead of with small, gradual increases monitored by a specialist in that field.
  • Your diet will be more flexible – you can add and consume tastier things to your meal plan.
  • You’ll have more energy fueling your workouts as well as improving your mental function and mood.
  • You will lose the fear that if you change anything to your diet, the gains will stop and you will start gaining fat. This is why many people stay on the same food intake and workout plan after reaching their weight goals. They don’t want to lose that hard-won weight loss. Reverse dieting not only gives you a mental break but also shows you the best of both worlds: you can relax while eating more without gaining fat.
  • You will see progress in the gym. The increased calories along with the correct type of training will lead to new lean tissue growth. If you hire the right type of coach, he will be able to set your workouts so you will see improvements in areas in which judges have said that you need improvement during the bulking season.
  • Lifting heavy and doing less cardio most likely will lead to getting your body out of the energy preservation mode and building more muscle in the process.

Conclusion

As fitness competitions become increasingly more and more popular the number of people who go through post-show anxiety will increase.

As a coach and an athlete, I feel that the post-show period in some cases is more difficult to work on than the actual competition prep! Unfortunately, there are a lot of coaches who stop looking after their athletes after the competition.

I feel that contest prep should be done in a way that is healthy, enabling you to feel amazing before, during and after a show. With that priority in mind, my goal as a coach is to help competitors maintain new and improved body compositions so they can be comfortable in their skin for the rest of their lives.

Keep in mind, that reverse dieting is just a tool I use to support my athletes in the improvement season and for competitors who do multiple shows a year.

I wrote this blog post simply because I care about the competitors and their long-term health! Take it from me, experiencing rapid weight gain is not fun! The work doesn’t stop with the end of the competition, even the contrary, it has just begun. The real award after a show is staying in a healthy shape.

If this sounds like something you may be experiencing, you can book a free consultation call so we can make sure you eat and train properly to support your goals.

The Champion Mindset – Developing a Winner Mentality through Sports Psychology

In any sport, it’s often the athletes that go the extra mile that end up taking 1st place. The gap in physical ability and skill level between first and last place can be next to none. So, why does one athlete win – and the other lose?

What separates the top 1% of athletes from the rest – like Ronda Rousey was in UFC, or Serena Williams in Tennis, is the mind game they bring into their sport, their positioning as a champion and the habits they incorporate into their psyche that train not only their body, but their mind.

The key to high performance, success, winning, and the difference between 1st and 2nd place is this:

Putting the hours in your mental gym just as much as you’re focusing on strength, speed, or endurance.

Sports psychology is that mental gym. Helping you improve your focus, confidence and teaching you mental strategies you can use to gain the extra edge.

Opt-out of either one of those areas, and you put yourself at a disadvantage.

Athletes seeking high performance and winning records do whatever is necessary to reach their highest potential.

Today, we’ll take a look at the 3 psychological traits you need to develop to build your champion mindset via sports psychology, so you too can gain the mental edge and put yourself in the top 1% of competitors in your field, or your sport.

Self-belief

Self-belief is probably the most important part of this process. At the end of the day, you can be gifted, you can be in great shape, but if your mind is working against you, you won’t realize that physical potential.

Step 1 is to become conscious of your own thought process. We go through life thinking – we take in information and our mind processes it. It’s just what the mind does. You’re either aware of these thoughts, or you’re not. Your mind is thinking either way, all the time.

For example, if I’m going into a competition and I have the belief that “I’m not as good as everyone else” I’ll probably carry that belief with me all the time. This thought gives your mind a sense of not being good enough, or not being adequate. This one thought is going to branch off into others like “I need to perform at my top to even do well”, or “I need to prepare really well to even have a chance against the others”.

Does that feel like a good place to come from?

These ways of thinking will lead to ways of acting.

I know you’ve heard people say “It’s all about the mindset” or “It’s all in your head”, but we’re bringing the science into it.

Using sports psychology to develop a championship mindset has everything to do with thought patterns and belief systems. You develop those through time, but there are people who have been lucky enough to grow up with them and take them into their fields or sport.

We all know that person who always consistently wins. And what do we think about them? “Well, they win because they want to, right? They just want it more…”

When in fact, that’s not true. The reality here is that people who consistently succeed at a high level think about winning much less than others. They simply believe they’re going to do well.

It’s sort of paradoxical. If you know you’re going to win the game, why even think about it, right?

There’s just no uncertainty there. Whereas in someone who thinks about winning all the time, they’re basically telling themselves they need to do well. And if they need to do well, that means they’re not doing well now.

Do you follow me so far? Let’s wrap this brain-twister up.

The bottom line is, developing self-belief starts when you recognize your thought patterns and belief systems. Then you can start changing them, and start acting in a way that transforms your behavior, your habits, and finally, your lifestyle – creating an unbreakable wall of self-belief you can bring into any competition!

Focus

Your focus isn’t just one of the most powerful tools in sports psychology. It is, simply put, where you attention is.

Whatever sport you compete in, be it bodybuilding or table tennis, your focus is everything.

Everything.

Imagine you’re in the middle of practice, or even in the middle of a competition. Does your mind wander somewhere else? Do you find it difficult to stay in the current moment, always either worried about the future, or anxious about the past?

If the answer is YES…

Your performance is taking a hit because you’re not 100% centered on the task at hand.

Let’s take a look at the most powerful sports psychology tips you can use to get your focus where it needs to be (on you).

  • Know what you need to focus on.
    It’s a fact – the clearer you are about what you want to focus on, the easier it is to “attend” your mind to it. Just the fact that you have it in your mind will make the neurons in your brain build that connection stronger and make you more focused and attentive.
  • Focus only on what you can control.
    You have control over yourself and your own actions and attitudes — nothing more. Keep your focus here – on you. Focusing on things in the past or future, things you have no control over, or things that don’t involve your actions, is setting you up for a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Being focused is about attending your mind to what you’re currently doing. About always being present. Being here. Now.
  • Create an anchor.
    Anchors can be anything – a physical object, a thought or an idea, or simply doing an action like clenching your fist. Connect them to the present moment consistently, and every time you see, hear, or do the anchor you picked, your focus will come back to the present. It’s a really simple way to be attentive and check if you’re in a situation.
  • Use mental imagery.
    Practice seeing yourself perform exactly as you want to perform. Focusing exactly as you want to focus. The more you train your mind to pay attention on the right things, the more your body will respond. Visualize yourself going up on that stage, hearing the crowd, seeing the lights, and being fully present while doing it. Sit back and imagine going through every workout, every exercise, every rep of every set. Imagine even the sweat, the sounds of the weights dropping on the floor, the smell of your protein shake. Every little bit helps build the connections in your brain stronger.

One thing you have to realize is that focus, just like self-belief, is like muscle. You train that muscle and it gets stronger with time. You stop paying attention to it – and it starts lacking.

If someone asked me which muscle I train the hardest, it would be those two. They make all the difference when you’re in the gym, or up on that stage.

Now that we know how to train these mind muscles, let’s look at how we can keep our mental body healthy. We do that exactly the way we keep our physical body healthy – with resting!

Relaxation

Relaxation is defined as a psychological “strategy” used by athletes (or people in general) to help reduce stress-related emotions like anger, anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration. Physical symptoms like physical tension, increased heart rate and high blood pressure are also something that can be managed through putting yourself in a relaxed state. During high-pressure situations like an intense workout where you’re pushing yourself to the edge, it can be difficult maintaining a relaxed mind.

Let’s take a look at my two favorite relaxation strategies you can use to put your mind at ease and still improve your athletic performance!

Number one, breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises shouldn’t even be called an exercise. Just the fact that you breathe correctly will increase the levels of oxygen in your blood, improving your mood and reducing the tension in your body.

The process of breathing properly involves diaphragmatic breathing, the abdomen, and the chest. Specifically, when breathing in deeply, you should concentrate on your lungs by first pushing the diaphragm down and the abdomen outward then by expanding the chest and raising the chest and shoulders.

To do this in a controlled manner, so that it is of benefit during a competitive performance, athletes can be encouraged to be rhythmic in their breathing by inhaling, holding, and exhaling to a count of a predetermined number. In addition, exhalation in the right moment could help reduce muscular tension during key movements, such as putting the weight down or striking a tennis ball.

And my second favorite… mindfulness meditation.

The practice of mindfulness originated thousands of years ago and is known to improve and strengthen your focus, aside from a ton of physical benefits!

It can be defined as a state of awareness you achieve through purposely paying attention to the present and ongoing experiences of you and those around you – in a relaxed environment.

Some documented benefits of mindfulness meditation include reduced reporting of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

These exact self-belief crushing behaviors are what mindfulness meditation is good for. If you find it difficult to start developing a positive thought loop and a champion’s mindset, it’s probably because you haven’t been meditating enough. Even though meditation is a loose concept thrown around a lot nowadays, let’s not forget it’s the number one way to keep in touch with your psyche.

Meditation is a way to listen to what your subconscious has to say to you, and talk back to it.

Sitting back in a relaxed state and meditating while keeping your focus is the best way to attend to your mind’s need to rest.

It will make you more present, more positive, and give you an unshakable belief in yourself, if you do it long enough (and people have been, for thousands of years).

To conclude, we can summarize by saying that developing a champion’s mindset through sports psychology involves creating thought loops of self-belief, keeping your focus where it should be, and relaxing your mind and body in order to keep yourself motivated and not burn-out.

These are the things that I have found most useful not only when going into competition, but just applying to everyday life. And that’s also a huge part of what has made me WBFF World Champion two years in a row. Even after moments of self-doubt, uncertainty and stress – keeping my mind just as healthy as my body is what gave me the edge.

Remember – developing a champion’s mindset, one that will be rooted in intense self-belief and positivity… that takes time.

It’s like a muscle that you will build with time, and it’s not going to be easy.

Remember your first day at the gym? Did you feel 100% comfortable?

The answer is probably no…

And that’s okay!!

As long as you put in the time and effort to strengthen your mindset muscle, I can guarantee you can achieve anything you want, be it in sports competitions, or in daily life.

And that’s what I want for you!

You Might Be…But Healthy Eating and your Fitness Doesn’t Take a Holiday!

Life happens. We aren’t expected to sit on our hands while we improve our health and fitness or indeed prep for stage. In fact, here at Ally’s Angels and Alphas we actually encourage you to do QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

Yes, no sitting on your hands quite literally – keep moving, lifting, training etc.

But also keep LIVING. And that means getting out of the house. For a day, week… whatever.

Travelling and seeing the world is an important part of life. And for many its actually a part of their job. But unfortunately, so many see this as an opportunity to “indulge” and “let their hair down”, going crazy at the buffet morning noon and night, and showing the barman it truly is possible to down 7 cosmopolitans during Happy Hour (gotta make the most of that discount, right!?)

Travelling doesn’t have to mean putting a hold on your results and success. It does mean being a bit smarter, planning ahead and hanging on to that self-control.

Here are some top tips for travelling

  • Book accommodation with a kitchenette. Being able to cook your own meals inside your room not only means you will save money on eating out, but you will be able to control WHAT you eat and HOW MUCH.
  • Know your itinerary. Plan ahead. Will you be out for the day? Will there be healthy options available to you where you are going?
  • A simple one but often neglected. Especially if you are travelling somewhere hot. Dehydration puts a strain on our bodies on a cellular level, meaning whatever goals we are aiming for can be slowed down because our bodies are simply trying to function normally. Always carry water!!!
  • Find a gym. Before you go, know where your nearest gym is. Hotels often have ‘fitness centres’ with basic equipment. If this doesn’t suffice, find a nearby gym (within walking distance for extra steps) with casual visits.
  • Even better, bring the gym with you. Resistance bands are so versatile, light weight and easy to pack. There is so much you can do with bands and you can use them literally anywhere.
  • Invest in a cooler bag! And not a dorky one guys, there are SO many styles available now including leather handbags for the ladies and stylish backpacks for the guys.
  • Pack snacks! There are many non-perishable options available for you to whack in you bag. Protein powder, tuna and rice, fruit, nuts…

The key thing to remember is just because YOU take a holiday doesn’t mean your GOALS need to as well.

Always be working for what you have set out to achieve. Use every day and every opportunity to better yourself.

Don’t get to the end of your trip and have regret.

Get to the end of your trip and know you not only enjoyed yourself, but haven’t hindered your results by over indulging.

Building Your Fitness Brand- 3 Steps to a Successful Personal Brand

The internet has given a lot of fitness lovers the opportunity to start their own fitness brand.

I feel that phrases like ‘personal branding’ and ‘marketing’ are thrown around so much nowadays, nobody can really understand what they mean. They’re always backed-up by “researched” mumbo-jumbo that speaks to you about broad concepts instead of what will help YOU improve YOUR business.

Today, let’s take the process of developing such a business and break it down to the actionable steps you should take if you want to develop your personal brand in the fitness industry!

1. What is a Personal Brand and How To Create One

For starters, we need to know the difference between branding and marketing.

Marketing is getting the word out for what you do. If you’re a fitness coach, that includes being on social media, running ads, funnels, getting people to visit your website, all of that.

Branding is all about the experience people get when they work with you. It’s a lot more emotional than rational and has to do with everything from the way you work with (and who you work with) to the way you present yourself online – your name, your logos and colors, your voice, your copywriting, even the comments you leave under other people’s comments.

Think about that – is the presentation and copywriting in your website too serious? Or too sweet-sounding?

There’s hardcore, pushing people to the edge coaches, there’s the laid-back, fitness lifestyle type coach, then the wellness coach, the diet coach…

You need to find a niche of people you can help with your knowledge and expertise. One of the biggest mistakes that I see a lot of personal brands making is trying to appeal to everyone.

We all work with different people who have different interests, so “developing your brand voice” means finding out who you want to be online and focusing on that target market.

You do that by:

  1. Making sure your website copy, your social media content, your talks, interviews and marketing materials all have the same style, vibe and energy. This builds trust within people and increases the exposure you get by making you more easily recognized online.
  2. Making sure you always have a clear next goal in mind and making them bigger over time.

Now that we know what branding is, let’s take a look at how to actually get the word out for your business, make sales, impact the lives of people, and become a voice recognized in such a crowded market!

How To Get Exposure for Yourself and Your Brand

Now that we know what our brand voice is and who we’re trying to help, it’s time we reach out to these people and give them value!

Always remember – you have to be congruent in all of these channels. Branding and marketing must go hand in hand like a lock and key. If one of them is missing, you risk coming across as either unprofessional or uninteresting.

Before you start getting more exposure you need to figure out one thing – where your audience is spending their time. For the fitness niche, there’s already a few great places you can go and build a solid foundation!

Here are a few ideas for channels where you can reach people online and engage potential clients for your fitness brand!

  • Engaging people on social media – commenting, liking, following and messaging on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Running Facebook and Google ads – to a landing page for a product (free or paid).
  • Doing webinars, live trainings, even Instagram Live – just giving out free content or promoting courses on a webinar.
  • Ranking higher on Google with SEO – absolutely crucial!
  • Local events and networking – you can meet people to collaborate with.
  • E-mail Marketing and collecting leads – the best way to communicate to your audience via text.
  • Creating a blog or podcast – giving out free content to your audience.
  • LinkedIn – setting up auto- responders and engaging people there.

These are only things that you can do yourself!

Keep in mind, one of the best ways to promote yourself online is to collaborate with other people in the fitness industry. If the branding is right and the energy matches between you, amazing things happen.

Doing guest posts on their social media and blogs, being a guest on their podcast, being in their YouTube videos, even on their Instagram stories. Even reaching out to an influencer is not a bad idea.

Another thing crucial to your success is to gather testimonials from the people you’ve helped. They will really help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, know what the people are thinking, and show people that you’re truly all about giving value!

What matters is getting the word out to as many as possible, right? So think about which of these channels you’re not using and start implementing them into your marketing strategy.

So, when you’re doing things the right way and people are seeing you, engaging with you, and approving of what you’re doing – how do you turn these views into profit for your business?

How do positively impact the lives of the most people while making the most sales and building your brand?

Let’s learn how!

3. Growing Your Brand and Making Profit

For someone who has been in the fitness industry for quite a long time, I can honestly say…

Every fitness industry personality is endorsing something nowadays.

And that’s a good thing!

Whether you decide to create your own product – be it a supplement, an E-book, a course, a clothing brand – or you decide to endorse others for a piece of the pie, selling products is the most obvious way to generate profit, so it goes first on our list.

Brands will have no problem paying you for representing their vision online. Mutual promotion between brands and ambassadors is a win-win way to hook your audience up with products you love using at great discounts – and get paid for it.

Chances are you’re already promoting products to your friends and community – you’re just not getting paid to do it!

But if you decide to create your own product, and you truly create it from start to finish and put a piece of yourself in it – people will love it and you will have success.

And always make sure to have a product you’re giving out for free! By doing that, the people whose ideologies your brand voice matches will become loyal followers you can keep giving to again, and again, and again.

If training and living healthy is a lifestyle for you, chances are you know a few things that can be beneficial to others.

And if you love working with people one on one and want to make a positive impact on their life – you can consider coaching as your go-to way to profit online.

Honestly, coaching others has changed my life as well.

I see so many positive, motivated and goal-driven people that it inspires me to work hard and be at my best self all the time. Watching someone’s life change in front of me and seeing them deal with their insecurities and giving them the confidence to take on the world has made me a completely different person.

And even though fitness coaching has become a huge industry, there’s still a spot for everyone who wants to do something unique and give value!

Bottom line is, the more people you help and the more people you reach, the more opportunities you’ll be open to.

If fitness is your lifestyle and you want to share that with the world – don’t hesitate and start a fitness brand!

It’s a great way to get paid for doing what you love, helping people achieve their goals and doing it while building a sustainable business. Nowadays, that can seem like a feat, but the opportunity is here, for you, now!

Now that you know the proper way to do develop a brand voice, get exposure and grow your brand, there’s just one thing you need to know…

Whether you’re going to promote brands, sell courses, or do online coaching, there’s a ton of people who love fitness, need help, and want to hear what you have to say.

Marketing is important so you can get the word out for yourself and speak to the world. But make sure your personal branding is on point – it is exactly what people will be hearing when you speak.

Occlusion Training

Ever wonder if it’s possible to build muscle mass by lifting less weight? And if there was, would it be something you might want to try? If the answer is yes then strap yourself in for an effective technique known as occlusion training.

Occlusion training is the act of causing a blockage of blood to the muscle groups being exercised with the use of cuffs, bands, or wraps. The term “occlusion” has a literal definition of “a closure or blockage.” If you want to do more reading on this topic – it is also referred to as blood flow restriction training.

The main benefit of occlusion training is that it allows the body to respond to low level intensity exercise – best used for fat loss – in the same way it does to moderate intensity exercise best used for muscle gain.

This means you can get the same muscle building benefits while lifting lighter weight as you would by lifting heavier weight. The reason this is important for you is that allows us to develop your legs and glutes without putting excessive strain on the knees.

Studies have shown that for muscle growth during conventional training, you need to use heavy weights (over 65% of your 1RM). However, occlusion training with lighter weights (20 -50% of 1RM) has shown to achieve muscle & strength gains comparable to conventional training with heavier weights (around 80% 1RM).

How to do it?

You will need to purchase some blood flow restriction bands – you can find these anywhere online for not very expensive usually around $20 or so (we have found the best place to buy them from is here).  

Once they arrive you will tighten these around the entry area of where the relevant muscle would be getting blood flow.

So, for your quads/hamstrings which is going to be our main target of use for these, you tighten the bands right at the top of your leg near your groin where blood would be getting pumped through your main leg arteries.

You don’t want the bands so tight that you are in pain, but you want to be able to feel the tightness and that blood is not entering your leg as it usually would be. You will perform the whole amount of sets with the bands on the leg and only loosen at the end of all the sets being completed.

The burn should get compressively worse as you work through your sets and you will feel your muscles get a ridiculously good pump!

How To Choose The Right Fitness Coach -The five factors that make or break your personal trainer

Congratulations!

If you’re reading this, that means you’re curious about taking the next step in your fitness journey and hiring a professional to help you educate yourself, learn more about your body, and reach your fitness and wellness goals.

A personal trainer is like that teacher that you always enjoyed listening to.

Not only will they keep you motivated and hold you accountable, but they’ll also help you get the most out of your workouts, prevent injuries, and most importantly stay consistent with your training and nutrition.

However, there is a huge difference between investing to improve yourself and throwing money out the window.

In the personal fitness coach market, not everyone has your best intention in mind.

The industry is full of people who claim to be experts, but in reality, just want to make a dollar off you.

So if you want to truly get the results you’re looking for…

You have to be very careful when picking who trains you. Doing some initial research will help you make a better choice, and will pay off huge in the long-term.

You have to know what you want and do some legwork to determine which type of trainer best suits your interests and goals.

Here are the five most important factors when choosing your personal trainer!

1. Knowing What You Want

There’s a huge variety of “experts” out there! The one who is going to keep you at your best and help you achieve your goal is the one who can actually help you identify that goal.

Do you want to go on stage and compete at a bodybuilding show, or you just want to lose a few pounds?

Maybe you want a personal trainer for a completely different reason – running a marathon, preparing for a competition, or heck, you can even hire a coach to help you become a coach.

Determining what you want is the first, most important step to doing your research on who the right coach is for you.

2. Comfort

Your trainer will see you in moments in which you’re pushing yourself and letting your vulnerability show.

He or she will initially know more about how your body works that you will. Your past experiences in the sport, your regime, and your goals are all things you have to be comfortable expressing with that person, and finding a person that’s trustworthy and that you can be comfortable with is essential to your journey.

Are you someone who needs a lot of praise and encouragement?

Or do you need someone with a “louder” approach, who will push you to your limits?

Spend some time around a trainer. Learn more about them, and how they work. In order to find someone whose approach will match your needs, you need to make sure that’s a person who you’re comfortable with. Your choice must be well-thought out, so you don’t end up regretting the decision.

3. Philosophy

Your personal coach’s philosophy can make or break you.

How they think, what their philosophy and goals are, and how they work are the things that will make you choose them over their competitors after that initial research.

What methods do they use to develop their programs?

How many people have they shown results to?

To these people have the same goal you have?

There are all questions you need to ask yourself.

Take all these things into consideration when you’re choosing a trainer. If a coach doesn’t listen to your personal preferences and simply does “what he knows works best”, that coach is not the right choice for you.

A good trainer will listen and take into consideration your goals and wishes and tailor his approach, creating a workout program and meal plan you can be consistent with. There is no point in which you should be doing and eating things you don’t like. It won’t lead to consistent results, and you will end up at the same place you have started.

4. Experience

Practice leads to perfection. Your coach should be someone who has tested their methods time and time again, shown results to a lot of people, and have proven that they’re the best at what they do.

Don’t get me wrong.

There is nothing wrong with new upcoming certified trainers, but you can never be sure if they’ll have the right approach for you.

Choosing someone with experience is always the better option. An experienced trainer works with many different people. He/she has seen what works best in specific situations, and has the communication experience to allow you to feel comfortable and motivated.

In the world of fitness and nutrition, this is crucial.

A trainer-trainee relationship is a special one. Sometimes it’s not about what you do and eat, but rather what you say. And the only coaches who know what to say to get you going and inspired are those who have done it on a consistent basis.

5. Reputation

Helping you achieve your personal goals is the best proof a personal trainer needs. Their goal is to help you – and a successful trainer will often share testimonials and success stories from people they’ve worked with.

When you do your research, take a look at them and see if anyone they’ve worked with has had the same goals and similar lifestyles as well as body composition.

Certifications, degrees, success stories, and a lot of years of training are all indicators of a coach’s reputation.

If they’ve consistently delivered results to people and are known to be an expert in the field, you can’t go wrong with them.

To conclude…

These are the things that, in my years in fitness, I’ve seen to be the most important dimensions of a personal fitness coach.

But of course, if you’re thinking about hiring a trainer to help you lose a few pounds, your mindset is going to be different than a person who is hiring a trainer to help them prepare for a competition.

Even if this isn’t your first time, trusting the right person with your body and goals requires a little more work than previously thought.

But believe me, it’s all for the right reasons.

Bottom line is, your coach must be someone you look forward to meeting, and training with.

Write these five factors down, and I guarantee you, your next experience with a personal trainer will be the best one you’ve had.

Until next time,

Ally

Making Prep Enjoyable

Prep is hard.

Prep is painful.

Tiredness.

Hunger.

Cardio again… yuck.

And if I ever see another plate of chicken and broccoli, so help me God….

Prepping for a competition can be ALL these things, and so much more.

But the truth is, dieting and training (regardless of whether you are stepping on a state or not) can be as enjoyable as you chose to make it.

Just like anything in life, it’s whatever we make of it.

So let’s break it down.

Diet

So you receive your meal plan, and it looks boring. Or does it? How you prepare your food falls on YOU. You can take what is in front of you as a hard and fast plan, OR you can choose to get creative.

Play with texture:

  • Chop
  • Grate
  • Slice

Experiment with cooking methods:

  • Bake
  • Roast
  • Fry
  • Steam
  • Grill

Add Herbs and spices

Opt for FRESH, these are negligible and unless you are told otherwise by your Coach for a specific reason, you can go CRAZY here.

As coaches, we always program our clients based on their preferences, but it falls on you to take it to that next level and keep it interesting.

Training

Motivation can be limited in prep. The closer we get to stage, some find this decrease. Having spent upwards of 20 weeks preparing for a stage, the last month in particular can seem to drag. This is where true mindfulness and focus is essential.

Take a few moments before you train to reset, focus and be present.

Consider how far you have come with the training you have been doing.

Consider how far you can actually GO with the training you are about to do.

Grab a training buddy – reach out to your team and hit the gym together. You can keep each other motivated and sweating like an absolutely pig.

Cardio

Really deserves it’s own heading, wouldn’t you agree. The old “cardi-NO” gets a fair flogging. Cardio plays a very important role in our comp prep tool belt, in particular the last 4 weeks before stage. Injecting bursts of cardio into our clients programs allows us to keep calories and nutrients high, whilst reducing that last bit of body fat. The key here is to find a form of cardio that INTERESTS and stimulates you. Think outside the box – and gym. Swimming, bike riding, an outdoor class… don’t bore yourself on a treadmill if that indeed doesn’t interest you.

Mindset

The most important slice in the comp prep pie. Without a healthy, positive, growing mindset, the above components will simply not work. Sure, train your body, but also TRAIN YOUR BRAIN for a success.

Balanced Hormones and Hormonal Imbalance – Part 2

In the last post, we talked about hormones and hormonal imbalance (symptoms, causes, and so on).

Today, we’ll discuss all of the natural ways to balance your hormones (and treatment options for hormonal imbalance, if the natural methods don’t work for you.)

I believe this topic is less talked about in the fitness community yet so, so relevant in today’s society, and I feel like it will be beneficial to those not familiar with how their hormones impact their body, mood, and lifestyle.

Let’s jump right into it.

Here are the seven best practical tips you can use to balance your hormone levels naturally…

1. Swapping Carbs for Healthy Fats

Eating many foods which are high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is essential to keep your hormones in balance. Your body needs various types of fats, including saturated fat and cholesterol, to create hormones. These are not only essential fats that are the fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they also keep inflammation levels low, promote weight loss and boost your metabolism. Healthy fats have the opposite effect of refined carbohydrates, which can mess with your hormonal balance and lead to inflammation.

Excellent sources of anti-inflammatory healthy fats are:

  • Coconut oil: coconut oil has plenty of uses, for example, it has natural anti-bacterial and fat-burning effects.
  • Avocado: this fruit improves the health of your heart, lowers inflammation, controls your appetite and contributes to your daily intake of fiber and nutrients such as potassium.

Salmon – this is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which lowers inflammation and helps with cognitive functions. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the communication of cells in the brain and are a significant component of brain-cell membranes. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against hippocampal neuronal loss and reduce inflammatory responses.

2. Using Adaptogen Herbs

These herbs are a unique class of healing plants which promote hormonal balance and protect your body from a wide variety of diseases, including those caused by and related to chronic stress. In addition to all of that, studies show that various adaptogens – such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, Rhodiola and holy basil can improve many things such as thyroid function, lower cholesterol levels, reduce anxiety and depression, stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels!

3. Addressing Emotional Imbalances…

Your emotions and your hormones share a connection, and you can’t deny that they influence one another. If you address your emotional imbalances due to external factors and make some lifestyle changes, you can prevent health conditions associated with hormonal imbalances.

Negative emotions such as chronic fear and stress can cause discomfort in your reproductive organs, kidneys and adrenals, affecting your cortisol levels. This can lead to severe conditions like PCOS and infertility. Other emotions such as frustration, impatience, and hatred can lead to problems in your liver, which can cause an estrogen imbalance. Feelings which are the result of stress such as worry and anxiety can cause issues with your insulin levels and can then affect several hormones.

A significant role in balancing your hormones naturally plays addressing your emotions and dealing with them. You can do this by taking time for yourself, trying new and exciting things, and engaging in personal reflection. Practicing meditation, spending time outdoors and more exercise can be extremely beneficial.

Because your hormones and emotions share a connection, working to balance the one will impact the other. So if you’re feeling any negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, please understand that this is also affecting your hormonal balance and can lead to worse performance in the gym (not to mention serious health issues). It would be best to make working on your emotions part of your daily routine – exercising our emotional muscles too! Something simple as 10 minutes of guided meditation a day is an excellent place to start.

4. Using Natural Oils

If you want to balance your hormones naturally, it’s essential to clean your body of toxins by avoiding conventional body care products made with potentially-harmful chemicals including DEA, parabens, propylene glycol and so on. Better alternatives to these products are natural ones made with ingredients like essential oils, coconut oil, shea butter and castor oil.

5. Supplement to Fill Nutritional Voids

Supplements should never replace a good nutrition plan, but if you have one in place and still can’t reach hormonal balance, supplementing is not something you should take off the table.

The best supplements to support your hormones are:

  • Vitamin D: This vitamin acts almost like a hormone inside the body, and it’s essential to keeping your inflammation levels low. That’s the reason why people who live in dark areas often suffer from seasonal depression and other health issues. Pure old sunshine is one of the best ways to increase vitamin D levels. Another problem is that vitamin D is not equally distributed in your body because not all parts of your body are equally exposed to the sunlight (unless you’re going out naked all the time.) The best way to make sure your body gets its much-needed vitamin D consistently is to supplement. If you live in a dark area or can’t go out in the sun, you should take 2000-5000 IU of vitamin D3, daily.
  • Bone Broth: Taking bone broth or protein powder made from it is especially beneficial to your health because it contains healing compounds like collagen, glycine, glutamine, which boost your overall health. Also, bone broth soothes the digestive system and supplies the body with nutrients which can be easily absorbed.
  • Probiotics: They’re healthy bacteria which improve your production and regulation of critical hormones such as insulin, ghrelin and leptin. Probiotics can help repair your gut lining, which can balance your hormones. Undigested food particles, such as gluten, for example, can leak through your gut into your bloodstream, and cause inflammation which impacts the whole body – especially glands like the thyroid which are very susceptible to heightened inflammation. Commonly, people with leaky gut have a deficiency of probiotics in their stomach.

6. Beware of Medications and Birth Control

Are you on any form of medication?

And if you are, are you aware of their side effects?

Some over-the-counter medicines can affect and disrupt your hormones, causing fatigue, appetite changes, low libido, sadness and even in some cases, depression. Some of the medications which can mess your hormonal balance include stimulants, statins, corticosteroids, dopamine agonist and so on. Before you start using any drug, it would be best if you first talk to your doctor and find natural alternatives whenever possible.

Birth control pills are another dangerous medication which messes with your hormonal levels. This pill raises estrogen to such dangerous levels and can lead to many complications. If your doctor does not prescribe it, I suggest you stop using it immediately, especially when there are many other safer options for preventing pregnancy.

Researches show some of the long-term risks of taking them such as increased risk of breast cancer, increased blood pressure, mood changes, and the list goes on and on and on.

7. Getting More Sleep

If you don’t get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, you aren’t helping your body. Lack of sleep can be one of the worst habits that contribute to a hormone imbalance. Your hormones work on a schedule – for example, cortisol (the stress hormone), is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late can never truly get a break from their flight/fight stress response.

The three contributors to high cortisol levels are lack of sleep, long-term use of corticosteroid, and chronic stress. Shared reports state that stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone, and prolactin.

Sleep keeps stress hormones balances, builds energy, and allows the body to recover properly. Constant stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity and work performance, and higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression. If you want to maximize your hormone function, try to get to bed by 10-11 p.m. and stick with a regular sleep-wake-cycle as much as possible.

The Benefits of Balanced Hormones

The benefits of balanced hormones are closely related to the lifestyle change you make to achieve that balance.

Remember – your body’s hormones are really powerful substances. They have an impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Knowing this, we can clearly see why we should strive to balance them.

Once your body’s hormones are balanced, your body is at peace.

At the gym, at work, or at home – these benefits will be there to make you a better feeling person, and a better performing athlete.

First of all, energy! Once your hormones are back to appropriate levels, your body starts working more productively! The more you move, the more energy you have. In the gym, that translates to more endurance, better performance, and higher motivation!

Second of all, better sleep… Only when your hormones are balanced will you fall asleep easy and have a restful sleep. If you’ve ever tossed or turned in your sleep or experienced night sweats, those are two common signs of imbalance that will keep your body away from a peaceful sleep.

And not to mention improved mood! Balancing your hormone levels is known to reduce mood swings, improve your focus, and replace an irritable mood with a happy one. It’s like your body’s way of saying “thank you”.

So we can see… our hormones affect a huge part of our life – be it our performance in the gym, or our performance at work, or both, if you’re a fitness competitor.

From fewer mood swings to more vigor during workouts, we know the right balance of hormones is guaranteed to give us an extra edge in the gym.

To wrap up, we can say that our hormones affect our lifestyle as much our lifestyle affects our hormones!

If you’re working on your body, eating the right things, and treating your body well – your body will return the favor to you by improving your mood and performance.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, stuffing junk food all the time, and not exercising or living actively, your body will lower your motivation, ruin your mood, and take you to a plateau in both fitness and life.

I hope that today you learned the importance of balancing your hormones and learning about this extra dimension of your body will make strive to only give your body the best from now on.

Your body will thank you for it!

Balanced Hormones and Hormonal Imbalance – Part 1

This is a topic that desperately needs discussion!

I feel like there isn’t enough information about hormones and hormonal balance in the fitness community, even though they’re truly vital for your success at the gym.

We’ll discuss hormones and hormonal imbalance in a two-part series. Today, I will talk about hormonal imbalance – symptoms, causes, and effects, and in the next post I will share with you how can you treat it and all the benefits you’ll get from balanced, healthy hormone levels.

So let’s get right into it.

Before we start talking about hormone balances and imbalances, we have to know what hormones are in the first place.

Hormones are chemical messengers which are produced by glands in the endocrine system. These messengers control most of your major body functions, from your basic needs like hunger and thirst to complex systems like reproduction, and even mood and emotions. Understanding major hormones and their function will help us take control of our health.

Hormone imbalance can affect a wide range of body functions like:

  • Metabolism and Appetite
  • Heart Rate
  • Sleep Cycles
  • Reproductive Cycles and Sexual Function
  • General Growth and Development
  • Mood and Stress Levels
  • Body Temperature

Both women and men can be affected by imbalances in insulin, testosterone, growth hormones, Adrenaline and so on. While women are more likely to experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, men are more prone to experience imbalances in their testosterone levels.

Hormonal Imbalance in Women and Men

  • Hormonal Imbalance in Women
    Women experience several courses of hormonal change in our lifetimes, primarily during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
    Women stand at a higher risk of developing different types of hormonal imbalance disorders than men because we have different endocrine organs and cycles.
  • Hormonal Imbalance in Men
    Men also experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime. Natural causes of hormonal imbalance in men are puberty and ageing.
    The symptoms of hormonal imbalance differ depending on which glands and hormones are affected.

How do you know if you have hormonal imbalance?

Here are the most common reported symptoms, regardless of gender:

Fatigue

Everyone feels tired at some point. It would be best if you recovered with adequate rest, hydration and a healthy diet. If these things are in place, but you still feel exhausted or can’t seem to get back to your best, you should consider having a comprehensive evaluation of your hormone levels. Adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are widespread in our fast-paced society, a lot more than you may think.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a huge issue in the 21st Century, but its root cause might be surprising. Neuroendocrinology is the science of the intimate relationship between neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of the brain) and hormones. The extreme stress we take on daily leads to adrenal stimulation and has become an epidemic. The feeling you may perceive as anxiety is a result of cortisol and norepinephrine, which are produced and released by the adrenal glands.

Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight

Many people struggle with their weight and in particular weight fluctuation. No matter how hard they train or starve themselves, nothing seems to work for them. It’s because of their efforts. Your body is in flight or fight mode because of your hard work and under eating. It interprets these things as stress. When your body is stressed, it produces more cortisol. This hormone signals to your body to hang on to your fat because it’s a great storage form of energy.

Trouble Sleeping or Insomnia

There are many reasons why you or someone you know might start having difficulties sleeping. However, if it’s something which persists, it’s likely to be related to hormonal imbalance. Melatonin, which is known as the sleep chemical, is a hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain. Like any other hormone, melatonin is intimately related to and affected by other hormones. They have the so-called domino effect – if one moves, that impacts all the others, and they have to adjust accordingly. If you’re not sleeping well, it would be a good idea to have a professional determine why. Conversely, if your sleep is imbalanced for other reasons, high-quality rest is necessary to bring things back into balance.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The gut has more neurotransmitters than the brain – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people commonly experience gut symptoms related to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Hormones influence many things in your body, from gut function to microbiome of the gut to the bacterial system in your intestines. Hormonal imbalances lead to imbalances in our bacterial colonies influencing their function. They can be a result of gastrointestinal imbalances and vice versa.

Skin and Hair Problems

The quality and vitality of our skin and hair are directly related to our hormones. For example, thyroid abnormalities may dry your hair or skin, or cause a thinning of the hair, hair loss or brittle nails.

PMS and Low Sex Drive

Men and women are subject to irregularities related to their sex hormones. Also, they both have relatively proportional levels of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. Women who experience menstrual inconsistencies (unpredictable, too long, too short and so on) are more clearly demonstrating some abnormality in the quality, quantity, or function of their sex hormones. Women have a more precise gauge of hormone balance, but both sexes can experience sexual dysfunction or issues with their libido (sexual desire) due to the complex intricacies and interactions of these powerful substances.

Causes of Hormonal Imbalance

Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance or fluctuation at different points of their lives. However, hormonal imbalance can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning correctly. They are specialized cells which produce, store, and release hormones into the blood. There are several endocrine glands located in different areas in your body which control different organs, including:

  • Adrenal Glands
  • Pineal Gland  
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Hypothalamus Gland
  • Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands
  • Pancreatic Islets

Many medical conditions are known to impact some, or several, of the endocrine glands. Some lifestyle habits and environmental factors may also play a role in hormonal imbalances.

The two most common causes of hormonal imbalances:

Stress

Hormonal balance is closely related to our lifestyle – the food we eat, the exercise we get, our weight, the stress levels we put up with, and the toxins we absorb. These factors impact our body’s overall hormonal landscape. If stress becomes chronic in our lives, cortisol floods the system and total hormone production lags. Chronic stress leads to the body stealing from its supplies of available progesterone, to make more cortisol, which depletes this hormone for estrogen dominance. Recurring stress tears up our bones, melts our muscles, robs us of our strength and energy, lowers our libido, and overwhelms our immunities, putting us at serious risk for chronic illness and autoimmune diseases.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin is the hormone which regulates blood sugar (glucose) levels in your body. The food we eat breaks down into glucose and insulin’s job is to simply transport that glucose into the cells which turn it into energy for our body. When your body is flooded with more sugar than it can handle, insulin resistance arises and goes hand-in-hand with rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Eating refined foods and sugars won’t give you more energy, even the contrary – they are stored in the body as fat. Increased body fat increases estrogen levels, and this leads to estrogen dominance, which causes an increased risk of breast cancer and type II diabetes. Insulin is a growth factor, and as we eat more and more refined carbohydrates and sweets, it rises and increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) which cancer cells can feed off!

To conclude Part I…

If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s obvious now – hormones and hormonal imbalance are things we have to take seriously. Especially in this fast-paced, stressful everyday life, we need to take extra precautions so we can make sure our body stays healthy, balanced, and content.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, know that you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible since not doing anything about it can lead to a variety of problems.

So go check your hormonal levels and come back for Part II of this article in which I’ll discuss how to treat hormonal imbalance and all the amazing benefits you get for taking care of this extra “dimension” of your body!

Stay tuned!

Talk to you soon,

Ally

The Complete Guide to Foam Rolling

Hey Angels and Alphas!

You’ve probably heard a lot about foam rolling from fitness experts, athletes, coaches, therapists, chiropractors, rehabilitators, and to be honest, from pretty much everyone nowadays.

It’s true – foam rolling has gone mainstream. But I’m happy it did.

Once, it was just a self-massage technique used only by top athletes and health practitioners.

Today, most people who step inside a gym have tried it at least once, and it’s one of the most popular forms of self-manual therapy. Without a doubt, there’s a reason for that.

Foam rollers are now available in most commercial gyms, and these nearly-magical cylinders come in all sizes, designs, and firmness levels.

The reason for the increasing popularity of foam rolling is this: it’s simple, and it works!

What exactly is foam rolling, and how does it work?

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release.

The fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that wraps around and connects our muscles. It essentially helps individual muscle groups act and cooperate as one integrated unit.

If your fascia is healthy, it’s soft and flexible, and it smoothly glides over your muscles, allowing them to move freely.

But if your fascia isn’t healthy, it’s stiff, rigid, and inflexible. It diminishes movement and motion and feels crammed up around your muscles. This can happen for a variety of reasons – sitting at a desk all day (or just being generally inactive), disease, physical trauma, inflammation, injuries, and so on.

This is where your foam roller comes in to save the day.

The foam roller is a cylinder made of foam or flexible plastic materials. It’s mostly a device used for massaging. As I mentioned above, it comes in a variety of sizes and textures with different firmness/softness levels.

You use your foam roller by laying on it in different positions, allowing the weight of your body to put pressure on your focus muscle group (which we’ll talk about later). You can foam roll for your quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, hips, you get the idea. This “rolling over” causes a release of built-up tension in the fascia around the target muscles, leading to the soothing of tightness and soreness.

To put it short – foam rolling is the act of using a foam roller to “self-massage” and release tension from areas of your body that are stiff, inflexible, and sore (often referred to as muscle knots). Experts believe this occurs because the foam roller allows the fascia to stretch and increases the blood flow to the muscles, alleviating these tissue adhesions. This is one of the keys to the healthy fascia!

Why Should You Add Foam Rolling To Your Workout Routine?

Foam rolling has found its place in discussions about flexibility, performance, recovery, and injury prevention.

Let’s look at each of these individually, so we get a clear picture of all the benefits of foam rolling!

  1. Boosting your performance and flexibility.

That’s because getting rid of these soft tissue adhesions helps you move more naturally. And let’s not forget, removing all of the lactic acid built up in your body allows you to really improve your posture. By improving your posture along your joint range of motion, your muscles will, of course, function better during exercise.

Because foam rolling has a lot to do with releasing the tension from your “muscle knots”, it helps you reestablish your proper patterns of movements. Since stretching can’t help with that to the full extent, foam rollers are the next best thing.

Several studies also conclude that foam rolling helps you with both your short-term and your long-term flexibility. In the short term, your flexibility improves for a whopping 10 minutes (yes, a little underwhelming). However, to reap all the long-term flexibility benefits of foam rolling, all you have to do is to make a habit of it and do a little bit every day. (Set length doesn’t matter in the long-run).

  1. Speeding up your recovery.

While you’re working out, your body produces lactic acid. If it isn’t removed and relieved, it sits in your muscles, creating what you’d call DOMS (delayed-onset-muscle-soreness). It’s that lactic acid that makes you feel in pain the day after a big workout.

By foam rolling after an intense workout, you improve the circulation of blood to your muscles, basically “flushing out” lactic acid and allowing your muscles to repair more quickly and without pain!

  1. Preventing injuries.

If you experience a lot of pain while you work out, or even if you’re just going to the gym every day and not getting enough rest, chances are you’re at risk of injury.

If you’ve felt this pain and done nothing about it, you might have too much stress accumulated in that muscle group and you should definitely make an effort to release it.

With foam rolling, you can ease your overworked muscles and relieve the long-term accumulated pressure that might be the underlining cause of your workout pain.

With it, you’re essentially balancing out the tension in your body, minimizing your risk of injury.

A quick note about upper spinal mobility;

Your upper spine can tremendously benefit from foam rolling!

I’ve met a lot of people who experience chronic tension in their neck, shoulders, and back. This is the type of pressure that leads to pain and bad posture. Foam rolling works wonders for your upper spinal mobility and loosens up the tissues.

For some of you out there, it might be the miracle remedy for your back pain/neck stiffness. Keeping that in mind, I always suggest going to smaller messaging devices (even a tennis ball works) when you’re targeting your neck.

When Should You Foam Roll?

Now, I want to quickly go over the before / after workout foam rolling discussion.

The overall objective of foam rolling is to break down the excessive stiffness that impedes your muscle and joint movements.

For that exact reason, it’s illogical that you would foam roll before a strength training workout. If you’re an athlete who trains at a high intensity using resistance training (like powerlifters and bodybuilders), you’re essentially using your muscle fibers along with all the tightness in them to generate force.

If your quads are all loose and wobbly, you’re most likely not going to be hitting a new PR today.

Breaking down the muscle tissue when you need it to perform makes no sense.

Instead, save foam rolling for after your workout. This way, you can focus on the major muscles groups you worked out (along with any problematic areas), stimulate the blood flow toward those areas, and aid the entire recovery process.

However, some experts out there do claim that relaxing tense muscles is best done before a workout because it stimulates blood flow to the muscles.

I’ll just let you make your own decision based on what I just told you.

How Do We Foam Roll The Right Way?

Down below, I have listed the most popular foam rolling positions. Every position has a specific target area from which you’re alleviating tension.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few general foam rolling tips before we start;

  • To foam roll the right way, you apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle group using your bodyweight.
  • It’s better to be too soft than too hard.
  • You should roll slowly.
  • If there’s an area that’s too tight (and hurts when you roll over it), pause for 15 seconds, relax as much as possible, and try again. You’ll slowly start to feel the muscle releasing.
  • If that area is still too painful, switch up your position and apply pressure to the surrounding regions to gradually loosen up the entire body section.
  • Do not roll over joints, bones, or your stomach.

Okay, we got the main concepts out of the way, so now let’s see how to perform a correct foam roll for each major body position!

To keep it simple, I like to divide muscle groups into three parts – bottom, middle, and top.

In your foam rolling routine, make sure you do at least one roll for each of the three.

  1. The Upper Back Position (Thoracic Spine);

First, let your back rest against the floor. Have the foam roller positioned underneath your two shoulder blades. From this position, bend your knees, so your feet stand flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head, and start rolling back and forth.

When rolling, engage your core muscles and slowly raise your hips off the floor. Here, the foam roller should be moving up and down between the top of your shoulder blades and the middle of your back. Keep in mind to ONLY go as low as the middle back, and keep your neck at a neutral position at all times.

  1. The Middle/Lower Back Position (The Latissimus Dorsi);

Lie down on the floor on your left side. With your left arm extended, place your foam roller directly under your left armpit. If you do it right, the cylinder should be perpendicular to your body. Then, bend your right arm and place your right hand on the floor for balance.

When rolling, roll up and down, so the foam roller moves from your armpit to a point slightly above your waist.

When you’re finished, repeat on the right side.

  1. The Lat Position;

Lie down on your right side. Right arm pointed up and away from your body. Place the foam roller under your armpit, just under your side.

When rolling, start with your legs bent and push your body up and down the roller to hit the lat muscle accurately.

You can place your arms on the ground or keep them elevated, just make sure the majority of your weight is on the foam roller. The movement of the foam roller here is from the lower part of your lat back to your armpit.

  1. The Pectoral Position;

Lie flat on the floor with your tummy facing down and your arms on your sides. Slide your roller under your left arm, plant your right hand firmly on the ground at a 90-degree angle, and push yourself so that your body goes up and over the roller.

When rolling, use your right arm for leverage and support, and roll your body back and forth so that your foam roller is moving from the outer parts of your chest into the center of the chest in a diagonal manner. Switch sides and repeat.

  1. The Shoulder/Rotator Cuff Position;

Lie down on your left side. Hold your left arm up above your head. Slide the foam roller under your armpit. Keep your left leg straight and extended, and your right leg bent for balance.

When rolling, rotate your body from your side to your back. Here, you’re not trying to apply too much pressure, you’re just trying to turn as much as you comfortably can.

  1. The Biceps & Triceps Position;

Lie down on your left side and bend your legs. Hold out your left arm and set your foam roller so that it’s directly under the middle of your upper arm. Then, place your right hand on the floor in front of your torso and use it for support.

When rolling, use your legs to roll back and forth so that your foam roller is moving from your armpit area up to your elbow. Use both your legs and the arm you use to support yourself with to shift the pressure on and off.

For biceps, keep your biceps resting on the foam roller. For triceps, rotate your arm so that your palm faces the ceiling and the foam roller is rolling only on your triceps.

  1. The Quadriceps Position;

Lie face-down on the ground with the roller positioned under your thighs. Bend your elbows and place your forearms flat on the floor (to support your weight).

When rolling, engage your core muscles and keep them drawn in. Use your arms to just slightly push your body forward and back.

The movement of the foam roller here is from your pelvic floor to a point just above your knees.

  1. The Glutes Position;

Sit on top of the foam roller. (Place it under your “sitting bones”). Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, and plant the right foot firmly on the ground. Lean back so that your hands are supporting a little bit of your weight.

When rolling, angle your body in different directions so that you move your glutes up and down across the foam roller.

Do each side for up to a minute, and apply more pressure when you feel a trigger point or area of pain.

  1. The IT (Iliotibial) Band Position;

Start off by laying on your left side. Your body should be fully extended, and your foam roller placed under the outer side of your left leg. (Below the hip bone).

Use your left forearm as the base for your body, and bring your right leg up, placing it in front of your left leg. With your left leg still fully extended, lift your left foot off the floor so that your body has to balance on its side (on top of the roller).

When rolling, roll up and down your leg from the top of your hip to the bottom of your knee.

  1. The Hamstring Position;

Sit with your legs extended in front of you, the foam roller placed under your thigh, and your hands supporting you on the floor behind you. (You should be a little bit off the ground).

When rolling, use your arms to initiate a pushing motion and slowly roll back and forth. The movement of the foam roller here is from your knee to the bottom of your glutes.

  1. The Calves Position;

Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath your calves. Once again, put your hands behind you for support.

When rolling, slowly roll forward and back and move the foam roller from your knees to your ankles. You can even cross one leg over the other to put more pressure on it and do them one at a time.

  1. The Hip Flexors Position;

Start in the prone position, resting on your hands and feet with your tummy facing the ground. Put the foam roller beneath your quads, while your elbows are positioned just above your shoulders. Sort of like when you see people jump with a parachute, but with your hands in legs around shoulder-width apart.

When rolling, simply shift your weight forward, bring your shoulders in front of your hands, and the foam roller will move from your quads to your hip flexors. Be careful and don’t roll onto your knees.

*For smaller trigger points such as your neck, skip the foam roller and grab a smaller massaging device.

To Conclude!

Roll, roll, roll with it!

There is a reason foam rolling has become so popular, and hopefully, you now understand why.

It’s not only a must in nowadays physical therapy and rehabilitation, but it’s also a powerful way to relax your mental state, prevent injuries, and speed up your post-workout recovery.

With this post, I hopefully cleared up everything there is to clear up about foam rolling!

I only have one last tip, for those of you who have suffered injuries or physical trauma and are looking at foam rolling as a possible solution;

No matter how powerful and effective foam rolling is, you should first ask your doctor or physical therapist on how you should approach it.

Intermittent Fasting – The What, The Why, The How

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

Does the word “fasting” make you nervous?

By now you’ve all probably heard of Intermittent Fasting.

Intermittent fasting isn’t really something new – it’s been around for thousands (yes, thousands) of years, and it’s a super important part of a lot of cultural and religious traditions all around the world.

But with so many magazines, ads, and fitness personalities talking about it, it might just seem like one of the endless fads of the health and diet world.

By picking on one of my last articles about the importance of the healthy breakfast, I want to spend some time talking about the benefits of this method. After all, it’s what all our ancestors were doing in those times when food delivery, microwaves, and grocery stores didn’t exist.

So, let’s get it started.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet – it’s a dieting pattern. It essentially creates a cycle between periods of eating food and periods of abstaining from it.

It doesn’t involve any restricting foods, low-calorie meals, or anything like that.

It’s all about timing – you’re merely condensing your eating hours into a short window of your day.

As I mentioned above, it’s an ancient practice – but its benefits to the body have only recently been found, researched, and documented.

Speaking of benefits…

Why Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?

First and foremost, intermittent fasting is easy!

Forget about all these fad diets that involve expensive foods, waste your time, and are borderline complex or inconvenient.

Fasting is something everyone can do.

If you’re the type of person who stays away from counting calories and planning meals, this is for you.

When you’re fasting, you’re not heavily restricting your caloric intake.

You’re just choosing a smaller window of time in which to consume them.

Second, digestion.

Contrary to popular belief, our digestive systems weren’t meant to be “turned on” at all times. When you let your digestive system rest through a fast, your body will thank you by removing the built-up toxins in it, easing inflammation, and initiating autophagy.

Autophagy is a cellular cleansing process that essentially recycles the damage components in your body’s cells. During a fast, you’ll also experience increases in growth hormone (which helps you burn fat and preserve muscle), adrenaline, and norepinephrine.

Due to this (and other processes in a fasted state), you can experience fat loss, more energy, reduced stress, improved cognitive function, and event prevent disease!

So even though listing all the benefits of IF in a blog post is a stretch of the imagination, here are the top backed-by-science benefits that you can expect to see!

1. Fat Loss

In a fasted state, your body becomes adapted to oxidizing fat and turning it into energy.

Because you’re shrinking the window of time in which you eat, your insulin levels are lower, allowing your fat cells (also known as adipocytes) to release fatty acids.

Lowering your levels of glucose and glycogen makes your body use these fatty acids to generate energy rather than store them in fat cells.

Helping you use up fat instead of storing it, and burning what you already have stored.

Consistency is also a big factor that plays a plus for Intermittent Fasting.

Studies have shown that people tend to regain the weight they lose after a diet, even if that takes years. This is because most diets make long-term consistency nearly impossible.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is easy to sustain and produces a lot of bodily responses that work together to promote weight loss, slimming down, and an overall healthy lifestyle.

2. Better Physical Fitness

There are a lot of roles that IF plays in helping your body, and this is one of them.

It trains your mind and digestive system to get used to eating a day’s worth of food in a small part of your day.

This promotes a healthy, proportional calorie intake. It helps your body get rid of habitual mealtimes and impulsive binge eating.

When it’s done right, it helps hasten your metabolism and create metabolic flexibility – helping your body run like a machine that uses fats for energy, and does it effectively.

It also helps with endurance, too!

A lot of athletes build and maintain endurance by running, HIIT, and other forms of cardio exercise. In fitness, one of the most common value measures of endurance is done through VO2 max. VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use (per minute, per kilogram of body weight) during intense exercise.

The more oxygen your body can use, the better your endurance and performance! Elite athletes have twice the VO2 capacity of someone who has never stepped on a treadmill.

In a study done by the National Institute of Health (NSI), scientists tested VO2 max levels in both a fasted, and a well-fed group. This was done one hour after breakfast. Both groups started at VO2 levels of around 3.5 liters per minute – which is a reasonable average for untrained people.

The study concluded that, after the participants went through an endurance cycle ergometer training, the fasted group had increased their VO2 max capacity by 10%, whereas the other group only saw a 2.5% increase.

3. Therapeutic and Cognitive Benefits

Above everything, I believe the power of fasting lies in improving your willpower. By exercising your self-control muscle and consciously choosing not to eat, you take control of your mind and train it just like you would train your body in an intense gym session!

It teaches you to control your eating pattern, and not let it control you.

A recent study found that women who practiced IF had an elevated sense of achievement, reward, and control. And we can understand why!

Willpower directly influences your sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, and you can train it by exercising self-control.

This has also shown a positive impact in managing diabetes, healing rheumatoid arthritis, and in some places, it’s considered as effective as drugs when it comes to reducing seizures and seizure-related brain damage.

But that’s all physiological, and physical.

Through nearly all religions, fasting also remains a spiritual way of cleansing the body related to promoting self-love and well-being.

This might somehow relate to its proven cognitive effect!

As I said above, fasting initiates autophagy in your body – also helping your brain cells recover and recycle faster, and function optimally.

It also increases a protein in the brain called BDFN – or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This is a protein that interacts with the parts of your brain that relate to better learning and improved memory!

A study done by the Journal of Neuroscience concluded that intermittent fasting helps protect your brain cells, and stimulates the growth of new ones.

So IF has physical, physiological, spiritual, and cognitive effects?!

Let’s learn how to do it the right way…

How To Approach Intermittent Fasting

Researchers conclude that the metabolic changes (the positive ones) associated with fasting start at the 9-hour mark, and the benefits compound the longer you go.

For best results, 16 hours seems to be the sweet spot. However, it varies between 16 for men and 12 for women.

This also includes sleep, so 12 hours is easily doable!

You can easily pick a fasting window that’s convenient for you, and stick to it.

There are numerous approaches to IF, so choose one that best suits your needs and possibilities!

  1. 12-hour fast – If you’re new to fasting, this is the one you should go with. It can help you ease into intermittent fasting, and as I said, a 12-hour window between dinner and breakfast (for example, finishing dinner by 8 pm, and having breakfast by 8 am) is absolutely attainable, considering you’re going to sleep through most of it and still experience all the health benefits!
  2. 14/10 cycling – Similar to the 12 hour fast, but this approach involves extending that period of fasting to 14 hours. It’s a more difficult transition but provides profound results. The 14/10 cycling is best fit for women, so, for men, the next step should be 16/8.
  3. The fast day plan – This plan involves choosing a day in which you consume between 20 and 25% of your regular caloric intake, and alternate with a feed day in which you eat whenever you want. This plan is not recommended for beginners, as those calorie-restricted days are a challenge, and the feed days can end up resulting in big junk food sessions.
  4. The 5:2 plan – Similar to the last plan, this one allows you to eat normally on 5 days of the week, and limiting yourself to 500-750 calories on the other two days.

As you can see, the plans get increasingly tricky. That’s why if you’re someone who wants to try out intermittent fasting, the newbie approach is always the best one.

To Recap…

Don’t look toward intermittent fasting as the next diet fad. It’s not something that everyone needs to do.

It’s been around for thousands of years and serves as a physical, spiritual, and physiological way to cleanse the body and promote overall health and well-being.

Along with regular training and proper diet, it’s one of the many lifestyle choices you can make that will improve your health, your mind, and your body.

It provides power benefits such as;

  • Weight loss
  • Insulin resistance
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved brain health and function 

So if you’re someone who is not interesting in fasting at this point, you’re welcome to skip.

But for those of you who are curious to see what all the fuss is about…

The 12-hour fasting plan could be the first step in a life-changing journey.

10 Signs that You’ve Got an Awesome Personal Trainer!

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Today, we’re here to talk a little bit more about the personal training industry, and how you can be sure that your current personal trainer is the right choice for you.

Now, I’ve already done a post explaining how to find the right fitness coach based on your goals.

That had mostly to do with you – how your mission, philosophy, and comfort level relate to those of your fitness coach.

But today, I want to talk about the five biggest signs that your fitness trainer is indeed the perfect fit for you!

If you’ve had a trainer before, or you have one now, you either enjoy the experience as a whole, or you don’t. Right now, you’re going to learn valuable insights straight from the psyche of professional trainers that has more to do with how they perform instead of how they brand themselves.

Their goals, their philosophy, and their approach to you and fitness as a whole – these things will not only define them as a trainer, but they’ll define your results in the long-run.

Without further ado, here are the five biggest signs that your trainer is the real deal.

Number one… They’ve got a plan!

You’re either going to a trainer because you’re completely new to the gym, or because you’re too advanced and need another professional to help you take your abilities to the next level.

Regardless if you’re the first or the second, the right trainer will already have a plan for you.

During your first talk or training session, they’ll most likely ask you about your goals and abilities. Then, they’ll channel all of their personal trainer magic into creating an actionable, useful, and practical plan to help you achieve those goals.

But they won’t just have a plan for the gym! A great trainer will let you know what to do even on the days when you’re not in the gym.

Not only that, but they won’t just cover training. Professional trainers know that merely working out won’t get you to your goals. That’s why they’ll most likely create a meal plan (or at least a set of nutrition tips) for you to follow on the regular.

Number two… They won’t push you. They’ll help you push yourself.

One of the most famous trainer archetypes is the loud, screaming, all-out trainer that pushes you to your limits and doesn’t let you give up.

In reality, that’s just not practical. Trust me; you don’t want a “no pain, no gain” type of trainer, especially if you’re a complete beginner.

If your trainer is indeed awesome, they’ll know that the secret to getting a trainee to do something isn’t by telling them to do it.

What they do is they set an example for you, and then raise you to that standard by motivating you, reminding you of your goals, and never allowing you to give up on yourself.

Number three… they’ll keep you safe!

A great trainer will never allow you (let alone encourage you) to do something that’s out of your capabilities.

Once they get a feel for how your body works and progresses, they’re going to give you just the right level of challenge when it comes to working out.

If you feel like your trainer isn’t fully listening to you, or that they’re always on their phone, acting like training you is a chore… that’s a sign that they’re not fully paying attention to your safety.  

A great trainer will keep you safe by standing behind you every set of the day, every step of the way.

Number four… they’re going to educate you.

A real personal trainer won’t try to make your progress dependent on them.

They’ll constantly be trying to learn new things about you, and by applying their knowledge and experience, they’ll return that knowledge to you. They’ll always be teaching you things about yourself that you didn’t even know.

If your coach keeps recommending you classes, activities, courses, even sends you fun blog posts…

If they’re teaching you how to become your best self and do everything by yourself…

This is a clear sign that your trainer cares about you and your progress.

Number five… They’re going to give you homework.

As I said earlier, a real trainer knows progress doesn’t happen only in the gym.

A coach who wants to see you succeed will give you a LOT of things to work on at home!

If your trainer isn’t giving you any work outside of your training sessions, they don’t know what they’re doing.

In your hour-long sessions, you should be doing way more than just training. By the end of a workout, you should be so full of information, and you just can’t wait to get home, do your homework, and in turn, learn more about yourself and your body.

Number six… They’re going to put a lot of emphasis on nutrition.

If you’re working with someone on achieving your fitness goals, and they don’t know squat about food, you’re done for!

Is your trainer constantly going on and on about training sessions, but only giving you a vague idea of what you need to be eating and doing outside the gym… this could mean that they’re only trying to get the most hours out of you, and they’re not entirely dedicated to seeing you grow.

Great trainers recognize the need for a flawless diet when chasing your goal, and unless you plan on doing cardio every day, they’ll surely let you know.

You should be spending most of your time working out actually talking about nutrition. Your trainer should provide you with at least a basic, realistic meal plan, as well as an approach to your overall diet. And if they can’t do that, they’re going to reach out to someone who can, like a nutritionist.

Number seven… they’re focused on rest and slow progression.

After you complete your first few training sessions, you’ll notice a tendency.

If your trainer is awesome, he/she will always ask how you’re recovering, how your days look, and how much rest you’re getting lately. Recovery is a vital component of reaching your fitness goal, and a great trainer knows that.

Every time you see each other, they’ll be adding to their assessment of you. This assessment will help them determine how your body functions, how much rest you need, and how much effort you need to be committing daily in order to progress at your desired pace.

Naturally, they’ll be pushing you to your healthy limits, and all those efforts are going to stress your body. A great trainer will emphasize your rest days, not limit them so that they can get more hours in with you.

Number eight… They manage, structure, and track everything.

Is your trainer tracking your results more than you are?

Great coaches understand the meaning of “everyone is different.” They know all of the various ways people respond to different stimulus, and they use that when they track your progress.

If they’re always walking around with a pen and paper around, you know that trainer is doing a good job. Just by the fact that they realize your individuality, they already help you a ton! Most coaches just use the same formulated approach for everyone they work with.

And while that’s not a crime by any means, a coach who cares about your results will be writing down every little detail of your journey so they can help you get to your goal faster.

If they’re using the same approach as they do for everyone else, it’s not really “personal” training, is it?

A good training mentor will be customizing, planning, and evaluating every next step of your journey, essentially allowing you to min-max your results and learn an incredible amount of information about yourself.

If your trainer is indeed awesome, they’re going to be always commending you for your efforts, measuring your progress, keeping track of your strength and endurance, and while you’re working out, they’ll be busy either helping you or taking notes.

Number nine… their client list is full of happy, fit people.

Don’t get me wrong – I know a lot of trainers who were incredible as soon as they started coaching people. I slightly touched on this topic in my “How to Choose the Right Fitness Coach” post, but it was more related to the question of reputation rather than experience.

Great trainers are naturally extremely confident at what they do. They have a list of dozens, hundreds, some even thousands, of clients that they have helped achieve real results.

Want to put your trainer to the test? Ask them who their proudest transformation is. Ask them to show you a client they’ve worked with that had the same goals as you and achieved tremendous results by working with them. This way, you can be almost certain that your trainer is the real deal.

And the tenth, final, and most important sign… They’re bringing you results!

Quite frankly, some of you might say that this is the only sign that matters.

And while I do agree to some extent, I believe that we can’t just put up with someone who we don’t enjoy being around just because they bring us results.

Hiring a personal trainer is an experience. Not a transaction. This is a person you are going to have to listen to, learn from, and grow with.

If you start working out with a trainer, give them two weeks to prove that they genuinely care about your progress.

Use the things you’ve learned in this blog post to spot the difference between a good and a great trainer.

A good trainer will help you get results…

But an awesome trainer will help you achieve those results while making the entire experience simple, pleasurable, and most importantly, educational!

Cardio or Strength Training – Which Goes First?

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

Imagine this…

You get to the gym after a long day, ready to walk in and have the workout of your life.

But the moment you step foot in the door, you realize the place is chock-full of people!

You see one treadmill that’s free, and just enough weights floating around for you to start your workout with strength training.

Which one would you choose?

As a matter of fact, which one do you most often choose?

Researchers have been asking this question for a while now, hoping to get a definitive result on what works best – starting your workout with cardio, or starting it with weights. The lack of concrete conclusions split experts’ opinion on the issue and leave a lot of people following a specific method without thinking about their specific goal and end-result.

The majority of fitness aficionados will tell you to do cardio after strength training because starting with cardio means depleting your body of the necessary energy sources it needs for a productive session with the weights.

This points to the view that doing strength training first will deplete the stores of carbohydrates in your muscles and improve the rate at which you burn fat during cardio.

What this mainstream advice doesn’t talk about is the fact that people in the gym have different goals attached to their routine – be it getting faster, losing weight, getting a leaner physique, improving strength, etc.

We know how vital physiology is, and the way you sequence your workout plays a great deal to determine what result you’re going to get.

You should always structure your exercise routine around your priorities!

To give you an idea of what to do then, I’ve created a little guide that will help you determine what the right order of working out is, tailored to your fitness goal.

If you want to lose weight; strength training first!

We recently talked about resistance training as a method of losing weight, and the facts still stand. Weightlifting builds muscle, and the more metabolic tissue you have, the more calories your body burns (even when it’s resting.)

Research done by the Western State Colorado University took a look at the optimal order of exercises in a workout. After a month of training in different exercise orders, the researchers found that lifting weights produced a higher heart rate among participants. Naturally, this means burning more calories!

In another study, ten weeks of strength training lead to a 7% increase in resting metabolic rate. Since this is the rate at which your body burns calories while at rest, it makes sense that this would help burn more fat – and it did, reducing fat in participants by around four pounds on average.

This increase in metabolic lean muscle mass helps burn fat way more effectively.

By doing cardio after weights in this scenario, you’ll be helping your body torch calories minute-by-minute, and for hours after you’re done at the gym!

If you want to get stronger; strength training first!

You might be going ‘duh,’ but let’s elaborate!

The science behind it is curious. Both lifting heavy weights and sprinting intense intervals involve explosive bursts of high effort. No matter where you’re at in your fitness journey, your muscles can only tolerate a certain amount of anaerobic training until you reach fatigue.

If you’ve exhausted all of your muscles’ energy resources while doing cardio, chances are you won’t have enough energy to perform these explosive short bursts when you finally reach the squat rack.

Take a look at this study – it concluded that exercisers who performed cardio before weight training performed worse than the opposite – up to 20% fewer repetitions and weight on strength exercises.

If you want to look lean and athletic; separate days!

That’s right. For those of you who want to be rocking great abs or looking amazing on the bikini competition stage, separate days is the way to go.

While your goal is being both athletic and lean, you can’t be going half and half on every exercise.

Split your focus between your individual workouts, giving one day to strength training, and one day to aerobic exercise.

By splitting your regime, you allow yourself to give your 101% in the gym every day without sacrificing your cardio or your weightlifting efforts.

And by pushing yourself through a heavy workout one day, then doing interval cardio on the second, you give your body more time to recover, allowing it to reach peak performance every day.

But in the rare occasion where you don’t have a choice but to mix and match, do weights first, then cardio.

If you want to run faster or prepare for a marathon; cardio first!

If you’re preparing for a marathon, love to cycle long distances, or just want to focus on endurance, do cardio first. Studies show that people who did cardio after weightlifting had a heart rate of 12 beats per minute higher than the people who worked the same exercises at the same intensity level but did cardio first.

Essentially making the workout seem harder than it is!

In this study, sports scientists from the James Cook University in Australia even reported that strength training first might reduce the performance of athletes who train for endurance, up to a couple of days after the workout!

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study that came to the brilliant conclusion that people should order their workouts with their fitness goal in mind (how shocking) – among all participants, the muscle that they worked out first saw the most benefit. So if you cycle or run often, always do cardio first if your goal is to excel in speed and endurance.

If you want to improve fitness and be healthier; either way works!

If you’re training to be healthy and mobile, all you need to be doing is finding ways to make your training sustainable. Do exercises you like doing, and if you feel like you need to do an exercise you don’t particularly adore, do it first and move on to the parts of your workout you enjoy doing.

The best exercise is always the one that you’ll enjoy doing.

In a recent study, researchers found that performing neuromuscular and flexibility exercises when you start your workout doesn’t really improve your agility or balance.

Sure, it does make sense constantly push your flexibility limits, but the study concluded that it’s not 100% necessary.

There’s a lot of freedom in your regime when your goal isn’t solely focused on lifting the heaviest weights or losing the most weight. When you’re balanced in your exercise – having a few cardio and strength sessions every week – the order in which you do things won’t make a dramatic difference on your result.

So if you’d rather hit the weights before you go to yoga class, you’re entirely welcome to do so.

So where does that leave us

Out there, there are a ton of different people setting a ton of different goals.

I know people who have been going to the gym for years and are only now beginning to see their abs and cuts. If you’re good at going to the bench press and pumping out a few hundred pounds, that’s awesome. But if you love strength training and you’re going all-out every day, chances are you aren’t going to have the necessary energy for a great cardio session.

On the other hand, I’ve seen people who get on the treadmill as soon as they step in the gym, and don’t step off until they fall off. These are the same people who want to tone up their arms and gain some size, but are often neglecting strength training as a whole because of the fear of “getting big.”

The bottom line is, you won’t wake up one morning with hulk-sized arms, just like you won’t wake up one day with abs of steel.

Create a balance in your exercise order that aims to fulfill your goal.

You’re the only person who can give you advice, but what I can do is set all the information in front of you so you can make the right decision for yourself!

So stop listening to the mainstream, pick a goal, and structure your regime around it…

You’ll be shocked at the results that you’ll start cultivating.

The Science of Willpower and Motivation

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Let me ask you something – how come some days you can get up in the morning, make coffee, have breakfast, workout, and do it all in perfect succession, boosting yourself up ready to take on the day…

… While other days you can get up and instantly feel like “well, I’m going for another 8 hours”.

What’s the fundamental drive that gets us up in the morning and makes us head straight toward our goals? Is it motivation, willpower, or just habit and routine? And why is it not there sometimes?

Today, I hope to answer all these questions.

Together, we’re taking a deep dive into the topic of motivation and willpower, so by the end, we can better grasp these concepts and learn how to develop them to achieve what we want – from a big salary to a perfect physique.  

Let’s get right into it.

First of all, what is motivation?

A lot of people look at motivation as a resource. You either have it, or you don’t. Sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it goes away.

But science doesn’t look at it that way. Science looks at motivation as a response to certain stimuli. That response isn’t always the same, and it always triggers different parts of our brains so it can “motivate” us into productivity.

I believe you’re much better off learning more about what motivates you specifically – rather than endlessly searching for motivation in videos, gurus, and IG quotes.

In the brain, motivation is directly related to dopamine – a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells. When it’s released, it travels to an area of the brain that mediates reward behavior. (it’s called the nucleus accumbens).

When that dopamine reaches it, it sends feedback to the brain on whether to feel good or bad about what just happened or is about to happen.

Everyone has different responses to stimuli that make them feel good or bad.

For the purpose of getting motivated, you should only be concerned with what you get motivated by specifically.

Psychology defines a lot of classifications of motivation, but today, I want to take a look at four specific “types” of motivation.

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

As I mentioned, there are too many types of motivation defined by psychology for us to look at today. But a common way that motivations get classified is with the extrinsic and intrinsic marks.

Extrinsic motivations are those that come from the outside – such as money and social recognition.

Intrinsic motivations are those that come from within the individual – like the gratifying feeling you get every time you solve a puzzle or increase your 1RM.

Fitness sort of falls into both of these categories.

This is also reflected in the duality of motivation in gym-goers.

Some people look at fitness as a specific body goal desired to gain social recognition. Others look at it as a lifestyle venture with no end in sight.

Before you start “building” your motivation, you have to realize where it comes from. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with being motivated by extrinsic values – if that’s your thing, own it.

Fear of Loss vs Desire to Gain Motivation

At the very core of our being, our primal instinct is to survive.

Our brain is continually scanning every new thing in our environment, trying to figure out if it’s a threat or not. Everything we perceive as a threat instantly receives all our attention, like something that’s hot to the touch or that time the weight felt a little too impossible at first (but you managed to get it up).

Every time your brain perceives a threat, it’s primary instinct is to respond to that stimulus.

In the first few years of your life, your brain has set a clear tendency toward either moving forward to acquire a gain or spend its energy avoiding and reducing pain.

If you relate this back to habit psychology, it’s no wonder that habits get created so easily in humans. Once we initially invest our time and energy into something, it makes much more sense for us to just keep investing more rather than “lose” that time and energy we spent for nothing.

Everything relates to this primal instinct we have to eliminate the pain or problem points we face in our lives. At a primal level, the desire for gain is not that well expressed. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably because we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of years just running from predators rather than choosing what career path to take in the 21st century. But that primal instinct is so deeply ingrained in us, that it drives every choice and decision we make.

When most of your initial needs are met, there’s not a lot of emotional motivation to gain more than you have. If you want to achieve a specific goal, you make a rational and logical decision on that goal, and then you apply these two emotional triggers to essentially “program” your brain for success in that specific area.

When you balance rational decision-making with the conscious application of your own personal emotional motivation factors, that’s when the magic starts to happen.

This sounds complicated, but I assure you it’s not. Just to give an example, let’s say you want to drop a few pounds and today you make the decision to start working out.

Nobody makes that commitment solely on logic. There are, again, intrinsic and extrinsic factors that come into play – you might want to fit in old clothes, be more confident at the beach, or just look and feel more athletic. Regardless of what the emotional trigger is, there’s always something behind the logical, “I want to lose X pounds.”

If you learn to apply your emotional triggers to your logical decisions, you’ll always have motivation. Always.

Isn’t that willpower? What’s the difference between motivation and willpower?

You might’ve heard people say, “willpower is more important than motivation,” and that’s true to some extent. But willpower functions more like a resource than motivation does.

Let’s define the two terms first.

Motivation is having the desire to take action. Willpower is the act of taking action regardless of whether or not you have the motivation to do so.

Willpower means forcing yourself to do a specific action. But not in a bad way. Ultimately, you can be full of motivation and the desire to achieve a particular goal, yet if you lack the willpower, it’s improbable that you’re going to succeed.

To get things done, you need a combination of motivation and willpower. But to receive more willpower, you need to continue re-igniting your motivation. We know willpower is a limited resource – here’s a great article published in the Association for Psychological Science that takes a look at ego depletion. Ego depletion happens when you “use up” your willpower on one task, causing you to perform worse on subsequent ones.

If we look at willpower as a resource, we can quickly start to see patterns in our own behavior that let us generate it at will. Essentially, by training our motivation and continuously fueling our desire, we can access more and more willpower.

Check out this article published in the New York Times – they found out that judges tend to experience something known as “decision fatigue.” In a couple of “decision-making sessions,” judges initially made rulings that favored the prisoners’ interests. As time went on, decision fatigue kicked in, and judges started ruling in favor of their own interests.

Knowing that willpower is a finite resource lets us shift our perspective. How do we “generate” more? And isn’t that sort of contradictory, considering that if something was motivating us enough, we would be taking action anyway?

Well, no! No matter how motivated you are, you still have to learn how to sustain your motivation and access more of your willpower.

It’s only in the right balance of these two things where you’ll find real consistency, mastery, and results.

It’s the only way things truly get done. Right now, I’m about to share my 7 keys to getting things done – each of them is here to either help you grow your motivation or tap into more of your willpower!

The 7 Keys to Getting Things Done in the Gym (and outside of it)

  • Examine yourself.

You should always be pondering yourself and asking yourself questions about your goals. Through doing this continuously or using meditation, you can motivate yourself by merely using visualization and reflection techniques.

Remind yourself of why you’re chasing your goal, and why you get out of bed in the morning. Remind yourself of that time you almost gave up – but you didn’t. Or that time you were too afraid to even start. By doing this, you’ll continuously be re-igniting your desire and motivation and making the goal in front of you clearer and clearer every time.

  • Set a clear goal.

When you can clearly see yourself at the place you’re at, you need to make the conscious decision that this is what you’re going to set out to achieve.

Your goals will change with time, and they’ll grow bigger the more of them you achieve. Regardless of how much desire you actually have, nothing begins until you set that goal – this is the first step to solidifying your willpower and making the conscious decision to dedicate it to that specific goal/activity.

Once you set that goal, your next step is to break it down into smaller milestones that can allow you to track your progress toward that goal until it’s fulfillment.

* Many people draw an enormous amount of motivation from the belief that the goal they’re chasing is aimed at the greater good. Unfortunately, this is true even if what they’re doing is actually harmful.

That why you see so many successful fitness experts who spread useful information that helps people achieve results, yet on the other hand, some extremely popular fitness personalities are spreading info that is harming people’s perception (not to mention their bodies).

  • Track (and reward) your progress.

Personal growth is one of the biggest emotional triggers that motivate people to take action.

Do you notice how the people who are taking the time to measure and manage everything are the ones that truly achieve exceptional progress in the long-run?

Even though human beings aren’t numbers, you can receive an enormous amount of knowledge about yourself by tracking even the smallest aspects of your personal growth. Chasing your goal may have many milestones, each of which can be a beacon of willpower and motivation if you decide to use it as such.

Essentially, by rewarding yourself and your emotional triggers when you achieve one of these milestones, you’re programming your brain to chase the stimulus from the next one. It’s sort of ingenious, a rather simple way to program yourself to achieve anything you want.

From now on, when you see improvements, call yourself out on them. At times, when you see your form is slipping or you’re getting burned out, embrace that but don’t let it last.

  • Make learning a priority.

Another huge motivator relating to personal growth is learning.

In fitness, even if you’re happy with the results of your current routine, you should always be learning and trying to find new ways to improve it.

If you’re always looking for new things to learn, you’ll be getting closer and closer to mastery with every step. Learning and practice go hand in hand toward achieving any goal, and one shouldn’t be prioritized over the other.

  • Practice every day.

This relates to what we said earlier about habit forming.

If you start doing something every day, pretty soon there are going to be days where you just can’t go without it. It’s universal – you can build a habit from going to the gym, smoking, eating healthy, eating poorly, pretty much everything.

We, humans, are pattern-oriented creatures, and our brain usually has no problem expending energy to maintain an already established pattern in our life.

  • Develop solid routines.

From the second you wake up, you’re bombarded with potential choices. You can stay in bed for five more minutes, head directly for the coffee machine, or grab your bag and be headed for the gym before the sheet falls back on the bed.

If you create a series of small routines throughout the day and make a habit out of all of them, pretty soon, you’ll be practicing and learning about your craft without requiring much motivation, to begin with.

It will sort of just spring out of you as if your brain will just prioritize these things over others. That’s why a newcomer feels anxiety when going to the gym – this is an unestablished, delicate pattern for them right now. While someone who has been going to the gym religiously 6 days a week will find an extra rest day somewhat unnerving and unsettling. It’s all about patterns and learning how to develop them and break them.

This is true with every activity in life, and everyone knows this, but the moment you consciously decide what routines to create for yourself is when you really start to benefit from all of this.

But no matter how many routines you have and how good they are, most of the days you’ll still go to bed tired. That’s okay. Just make sure you’re really spending your time prioritizing the things that deserve your attention the most.

  • Eliminate unnecessary commitments.

And finally, end the self-sabotage!

Do you know those times when you say “yes” to doing something, knowing very well that you don’t have the time or energy for it?

This needs to stop. These are activities that are draining your willpower. They are taking the energy that you could be aiming at your goal, and if this becomes a habit, it’s a nasty one to get out of.

Eliminating unnecessary commitments is one of the most challenging parts of managing your motivation and your willpower, but it’s perhaps the last and most crucial one.

 

Mastering Progressive Overload

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Without a doubt, one of the most (if not the most) important concept in all of fitness is progressive overload.

Let’s be honest. Some people go to the gym day after day, week after week, and do the exact same routine every single time. They generally don’t last a long time in the gym, since they quickly get stuck on that beginner stage and don’t make any real progress.

Without any changes in weight, sets, repetitions, frequency, tempo, effort, among other things, you cannot expect your body to change. By training, you’re adapting your body to a particular stimulus. In this case, lifting weights, or building endurance.

Therefore, the most counterproductive thing you can do is keep yourself at one level. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting results is the biggest no-no in the fitness world.

If you’re really looking to improve your health and your physique, and you’re not familiar with the concept of progressive overload, you’re missing out.

Learning how to challenge yourself is essential to your long-term progress. And you’re going to learn that the first time you hit a real plateau. You’re going to learn that if you want your body to improve, you have to make it improve.

But how do you do that? When do you increase the intensity? How do you know it’s time to put more weight on the bar? How much do you put on every time? Is there a linear path you should follow?

All these questions arise from a brief look at progressive overload.

And it’s those questions that we’re going to do our best to answer today!

First of all, what is progressive overload all about?

Progressive overload is a concept that involves you to train with a continuous increase in effort in order to regularly meet the body’s requirements to grow.

In science-y terms, it’s all about creating more and more demand on the musculoskeletal system with different purposes: muscle size, muscle strength, muscle endurance, etc. It’s all about consistently working as hard as you have to in order to push yourself forward.

In fitness, most people believe that progressive overload is all about increasing weight. And even though that’s part of it, it’s totally missing the real picture. Progressive overload is a universal concept, not just one that applies to fitness. You use it to improve your endurance in high-intensity cardio, your strength in the major lifts, and your explosiveness on sport-specific functional movements. It applies to any skill and task you perform, with its core elements being consistency, patience, and guaranteed results.

It just so happens to be the foundation of every successful training regime ever.

Of course, when you increase that demand over time, you also have to sustain that demand if you stop using that skill or task. Otherwise, just like a muscle, it shrinks and loses its strength. But it retains its “memory” of the patterns it has learned. That will help you get back into it more quickly.

There is a pre-requisite to progressive overload. No matter how you plan on increasing your workout intensity, one thing is for sure – you have to maintain perfect form in the weight room and outside of it. If you don’t, you’re risking much more than a bad training habit. Proper form is the pre-requisite of all training, and it’s crucial when it comes to progressive overload. Simply because if you’re going to be doing it over and over, you need to make sure it’s actually good for you.

Three Keys to Success in Progressive Overload

Once you’re acquainted with the pre-requisites of progressive overload, you need to set some guidelines for how you’re going to approach your training.

  • First, remember that if you’re just now stepping into the gym, you’re going to see quick results. Progress comes easy, and this can last up to a year! This is a period of habit-forming for you, so do your best to set only healthy habits *cough* good form.
  • Second, make sure that you have a clear goal for each metric you’re trying to improve. You have to be patient, and remember that the path to progress is never linear. There are ups and downs, but you will get there. Always adjust yourself to your results and don’t keep your workout linear and repetitive.
  • Third, know that progress comes through small changes. The way to see quicker progress is to focus on one specific metric at a time. Don’t make substantial changes, as they will overwhelm you and most likely won’t last. If you’re changing your program entirely, approach it with an open mind and as more of a continuance than a change.

How does Progressive Overload Work?

Imagine the first time you stepped in the gym.

You probably grabbed a small dumbbell and started doing curls or got on the treadmill/exercise bike immediately.

The first time you really gave it your best, you realized that there are a set of metrics that you’re now associated with in terms of how you performed.

Example: You performed a set of bicep curls for 10 reps with 10 lbs. The first time you introduced an overload, you probably got really sore the next day. You do that a couple of days later, and you hit your 8 reps just a little easier. You keep doing that, and after three or four weeks, you can throw around that weight for 15-20 reps!

But if you stay at the stage, you’re not going to see much of an improvement. This weight isn’t going to provide the right amount of stimulus to engage muscle fatigue.

By increasing the intensity of your workout, you can achieve that much-desired muscle growth.

There are a couple of ways you can increase the intensity of your exercise.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the six most significant ones.

How to Trigger Progressive Overload

Let’s look at the six most significant ways for you to trigger progressive overload in the body and bring that extra challenge your workout needs.

Every trigger is essentially a metric that’s being worked on. You should only focus on one or two of these at a time if you want to be productive. Working on more results in confusion and makes it harder for you to know if you’re really progressing on each individual dimension.

If you work toward improving these metrics in your workouts, you’re going to achieve your goal quickly and without much resistance.

Let’s look at the six of them individually.

First, repetition count

As we said earlier, the first instinct of someone trying to improve their fitness is to increase the amount of weight they’re putting on a bar. Alternatively, you can decide to do more repetitions.

This will help you reach that “burn” point faster and develop a little extra metabolic fatigue. Plus, some exercises are meant for a little heavier weights – like the squat.

And other exercises, for example, the lateral raise, are just made for high rep counts and should be trained that way.

Second, resistance.

As a surprise to no one, resistance is a great way to increase the energy demand you put on your muscles.

People in the fitness community have discussed it for a very long time, and haven’t made a definitive conclusion on whether it’s better to increase resistance or reps.

That’s because increasing resistance is mostly for those whose goal is to get stronger and bigger. And increasing repetitions is for those who are looking for functional endurance. The two are, of course, inversely proportional.

Third, training volume.

Training volume is one of the more important metrics, yet one of those that people are least familiar with.

Multiply your sets X your reps X your resistance – you have your training volume.

In the fitness community, training volume is often a metric for how many sets you do a week (of a particular body part).

But technically, by increasing any of the three, you’re increasing your training volume.

You’re increasing the demand for energy on your muscle tissues, and you’re challenging yourself a little more. Regardless if you add an extra few reps at the end of an exercise, an additional set on top of your workout, or the weight you put on the bar, you’re giving the body something to adapt to.

Fourth, decrease your rest periods.

A great way to increase overload – it allows you to train your explosiveness and do more training in less time.

If you usually rest for a minute between sets, try cutting that in 2/3 for the last exercise of a muscle group. It will spike up the intensity of your workout and keep it there until your very last rep.

Fifth, increase your tempo.

Tempo is one of your best friends when it comes to boosting workout intensity.

By progressively focusing on improving the tempo of your workout and making it faster, you’re creating a new way for your body to adapt to training. Increasing your running speed or your lifting explosiveness helps you improve your endurance and generate more muscle fatigue. Not to mention, it does wonders for your cardiovascular health.

Putting it All Together

Regardless of what method you choose to focus on, what’s important is that you continuously increase the demand for your energy your body needs.

As your body adapts to the new stimulus and you start hitting plateaus, you’re going to need to use more and more of these to keep up with your body’s demands for growth. More weight on the bar simply doesn’t cut it, but now, you have the solution.

Keep in mind that everyone has different goals, so adjust your goals to the metrics you need to improve!

Power and hypertrophy are important for bodybuilders, low rest periods and explosiveness are important for endurance athletes, and so on.

Use the right technique, with the right metric, add progressive overload to the equation, and you’re going to achieve your goal – guaranteed.

How to Craft an Empowering Morning Ritual

Hey Angels and Alphas,

What’s your morning ritual? Whether you realize it or not, you have a morning ritual. There are things you do consistently every morning that either build your momentum up or down for the rest of the day.

Imagine two people. The first has a mindful, motivating, and empowering morning ritual that helps them get their day started with energy and enthusiasm. The other person has no real structure in their morning and doesn’t really create the momentum they need to have energy throughout the day.

If you know nothing else about them, which one is more likely to succeed at their goal? Which is more likely to even have a goal?

It’s no secret to anyone – starting your day off right can put you in the state of mind you need to achieve your goal. The majority of the world’s high achievers have structured morning rituals that are designed to help them improve their energy, productivity, and mental focus.

That being said, how can *you* design your own morning ritual? A morning ritual that gives you specifically what you need to start your day off in the right state.

That’s exactly the question we’re going to answer today. Let’s take a look at the seven elements of morning rituals that are consistent throughout all effective and empowering morning rituals.

#1 – Goal Setting

You wake up. You open your eyes. You take a breath. What’s the first thing you usually do?

Do you check the time, quickly browse social media, and go back to bed?

Do you get up, take a shower, and head to work?

Or do you focus your thoughts on the things you have to do to get momentum for the day?

One element is so consistent throughout morning routines that is might as well be a requirement. It’s setting goals! The first and most important part of your day should be all about setting milestones you can achieve that day.

Once you verbalize and visualize the things you have to do, getting on the path to actually doing them feels a million times easier.

Some people go as far as to list out their goals the night before, and if you’re one of them, all the better. As soon as you wake up, you can look at your list and instantly bring yourself to the headspace you need to check things off the list.

If you’re someone who needs more discipline and has trouble getting things done, make this a part of your morning ritual.

#2 – Meditation

Meditation is another element that’s widely adopted in morning rituals.

In the Western sense, meditation essentially means sitting down and thinking about something. It’s more along the lines of pondering and deep thought about a particular topic.

In the Eastern sense, meditation involves awareness of the breath, observation of the thoughts, and a quieting of the mind.

That being said, meditation can also be used as prayer, self-reflection, or gratitude.

If you’re someone who has a lot of things on your mind and you need a natural way of relieving stress, meditation is a must in your morning ritual. It will help you enhance your self-awareness, improve your concentration, and clear your mind so you can focus throughout the day.

#3 – Reading

A lot of people from coaches to business owners include reading in their morning ritual.

High-achieving people understand that they need to consistently learn new ideas and information to get ahead.

However, this goes beyond just reading for twenty minutes every day. Reading without purpose is… well, pointless.

You have to read things that either bring actionable value to your life or things that you just enjoy reading. Studies show that reading for twenty minutes a day reduces stress by up to sixty percent!

If you’re someone who can spare twenty minutes every morning for a dozen pages of an informative book, it definitely won’t hurt to learn something new.

However, if you have to get to work as early as you can, you can save learning for a later part of the day.

#4 – Exercise

We’ve talked about early morning exercise many times, and the overwhelming evidence is that it’s fantastic. It helps you burn more fat and leaves you with more energy throughout the day.

However, in the case of morning rituals, you might find it inconvenient fitting an hour-long workout into your morning routine. If it’s in your morning ritual, it’s likely the last thing you do.

As great as morning exercise is, for some people, it’s just painfully difficult.

That’s why if you’re someone who hates working out in the mornings, but you want to add some activity to your mornings, you should try yoga, some home exercises, or just a basic stretching routine.

Nevertheless, five to ten minutes of physical activity in the mornings will help you clear your head and get you on the right track for the day.

#5 – Journaling

Oh, journaling!

We’ve talked about it a lot lately, and with good reason. Not only does it provide the mental benefits of focus and free expression, but it helps you manage, schedule, and track things throughout your day.

A lot of people like journaling first thing in the morning, be it in a dream journal or in a day planner.

Journaling is widely accepted as an overwhelmingly positive practice, but doing it consistently in the mornings gives you the added benefit of planning out your day and setting a checklist of goals to achieve.

If you’re someone who needs more structure in their days and has trouble remembering ideas, add ten minutes of journaling to your mornings and they’ll change your life – that’s a promise.

#6 – Visualization

One of the most common yet most undocumented elements of a successful morning ritual is called visualization.

There are many schools of thought behind visualization, but the majority of public perception believes that visualization brings actual benefits to people’s lives.

Although it’s basically a method of meditation, spending time visualizing how to accomplish your goals, handle obstacles, and overcome difficulties is something that has its own unique value.

By taking five to ten minutes of your morning to visualize how you’re achieving your goals for the day, you’re going to get a boost of motivation and you’ll put yourself on the track to making the right choices and decisions that day.

If you’re someone who has trouble getting motivated in the mornings, visualization is what you need to break through those chains and get yourself revved up.

#7 – Affirmations

Positive affirmations usually involve repeating phrases and messages that, in a way, send instructions to your physiology. These instructions help you direct your own thoughts and decisions, and including them in your morning ritual is a surefire way to set yourself up for success.

The messages you send yourself should be based on empowering positive habits, attitudes, and beliefs that move you closer and closer to achieving your potential.

Practicing positive affirmations is especially beneficial in the mornings, after meditating, when your mind is clear and open to receiving them. They’ll help you strengthen, energize, and focus yourself on what’s important.

If you’re someone who needs more direction and esteem, add five to ten minutes of positive affirmations to your morning ritual.

Putting it all together…

These seven elements of morning rituals will serve as the perfect foundation for creating your morning ritual. Use these elements to craft yourself a morning ritual based on your strengths and weaknesses.

You now know how to empower yourself and keep yourself focused and inspired throughout the day. You only need thirty minutes to an hour every morning to gain incredible momentum that will help you win the day, every day.

Once you get yourself into a comfortable routine, you’ll find how easy it is to be consistent with it. Every time you wake up, you’ll naturally gravitate to accomplishment.

Remember – the ultimate key to any empowering morning ritual is to build win upon win upon win! It’s momentum you’re looking for.

For example, when you quickly stretch for ten minutes, meditate for ten minutes, read for ten minutes, have breakfast, shower, and you’ll be basically unstoppable – you’ve already completed five tasks, and it’s not even 9 AM yet!

That’s what I want for you, and the best way to do it is by creating your custom morning ritual and staying consistent with it.

Making this choice means setting yourself on a path achievement, and that’s the path I want you to be on!

Indoor Vs. Outdoor – The Pros & Cons Training Environments

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You know that when it comes to training, there are a gazillion routes you can take. A lot of people in the fitness community often advocate that training outside is better than training inside a gym, and they do have their reasons for it.

However, as with anything, there are two sides to every coin. Today, we’re here to explore both sides.

We’re going to talk about the pros and cons of training outside, and the pros and cons of training in a gym as relating to each other.

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll know that *both* these training environments have their own benefits that you can use to your advantage (and you should.)

But ultimately, what it comes down to is that neither is objectively better. It all depends on what matters more to you, how you workout, and which one outweighs the other in your subjective view.

Let’s start off with gym training.

The pros and cons of training in the gym

Now, you know me. I always strive for balance, and I believe both gym training and outdoor training are essential in order to reach training progress and an overall healthy lifestyle. That being said, the gym has some pros and cons that differentiate it from training outdoors, so let’s take a look at them one by one.

Pro #1 – Facilities

In the gym, you’ll find a lot of those facilities that just aren’t present outdoors. If you ever need a rest area, restroom, changing room, shower, sauna, and so on, you have all of that available in a lot of (if not most) gyms.

You can easily slip in your workout clothes, do your routine, shower, dress up, and leave the gym clean with your workout done.

Pro #2 – Equipment Variety

Probably the most obvious plus of the gym is that most of them have more equipment than you’ll ever need to have a productive workout. You might need a bench press, squat rack, dumbbells, bars, even a smith machine.

They are all there to help you do precise exercises and target specific parts of your body, whereas your options for doing this in the outdoors are limited.

If you have a particular routine you’ve created for yourself, the gym is the best place to do it.

Pro #3 – Weight Variety

I decided to point this out separately from equipment variety because it really is *that* important.

When you’re progressing, especially in any type of strength training, you want to be able to accurately track the weight you’re lifting. You need all the little plates and dumbbells available to you – from the 20kg down to the 1kg plates.

This is absolutely crucial for those who desire to improve their strength training, as it will give them a clear idea of how much they’re lifting and progressing through time. This is extremely difficult to do outside.

Pro #4 – Fitness Group Classes

The gym, just like the outside, is a place where everyone can exercise.

Nevertheless, because of all the pros we’ve established so far, gyms have become a place where groups get together and train, and coaches go to practice with their trainees.

This means you can jump in a group class or find a trainer nearby and not only socialize but make your workouts a hundred times more productive.

Con #1 – Self-consciousness

Have you ever heard the term “gymtimidation?” Yes, it’s a real thing. A lot of people spend the first few months of their training at home before they even go to the gym. And that’s okay!

They do it because they feel self-conscious. They do it because they think the lifetime gym-goers will judge them.

What you have to realize is that, regardless of where you work out, people *will* see you. There’s nothing wrong about that. Being seen is a completely irrational fear among gym newcomers, and even though it’s completely unwarranted, that’s a topic for another time.

Con #2 – Costs

Most gyms nowadays offer “premium” plans for those who want to get the most out of their training. Some of them even bind you with a contract!

Gyms can be pricey sometimes, especially the good ones, and if that’s not a commitment you want to make, you’ll be better off training outdoors.

Con #3 – Transportation

Going from and to the gym can sometimes be a pain.

If you’re living in a crowded place, you have to pay a bajillion dollars for gas only to spend an hour fighting traffic and dealing with bad weather only to *get* to the gym.

Not to mention, I’ve heard a lot of people use it as an excuse not to go!

The pros and cons of outdoor exercise

Now that we know how training in the gym is better (or worse) than training outdoors, let’s get the other side of the story. We’ll break down the pros and cons of outdoor exercise, once again, starting with its advantages.

Pro #1 – Environment Variety

Yes, maybe not in machines and weights, but the outdoors provide incredible variety when it comes to training. This is precisely because the environment itself is so varied.

There comes a feeling of ambiance when you’re just jogging around, and you see all the different parks, houses, buildings, and the nature around you. This makes the entire experience more alive and just makes you want to be more active.

This will keep you engaged and motivate you to push yourself more. Also, if you do your jogging around the same route every day, you’ll start creating milestones for yourself as you pass specific landmarks.

This is also a way to track your progress, and these psychological aspects of outdoor training shouldn’t be ignored.

Pro #2 – Elevated Mood

This sense of being outside, being active, and tuning yourself into your environment have been researched and proven to elevate mood. The air, the sun, and the feeling of being out in the open promote the production of dopamine, improving your mood and motivating you to feel more active.

It’s a natural sense of reinvigoration that you get just by being outside, and as long as the weather is perfect, you can lose yourself in your training really easily and have the *best* work out experience of your life.

Pro #3 – Socialization

Meeting friends for a training session feels much more casual and fun when you’re training outdoors.

Sometimes, the gym can make social exchanges seem awkward, but running into a friend outside or joining them for some jogging or a park workout makes for a really revitalizing bonding experience. 

Con #1 – The Weather!

This is by far the biggest problem you’ll run into when training outdoors. You can’t control it! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve decided to work out outdoors and it started to rain.

Without any consideration of your fitness schedule, the rain can ruin your training session and, even worse, give you the sniffles.

Not to mention, the other extreme. Working out in hot summer days can be potentially dangerous. You know how dry heat sometimes causes you to become dehydrated without you even realizing it.

Con #2 – The Public

When you’re working out outdoors, you’re in a public space.

It’s pretty much the same as if you were in the gym, but most likely, there are going to be even more people around. (Unless you jog in some park that’s secluded.)

This doesn’t really help with the idea of “gymtimidation.”

You can still feel like people are judging you, even more so when you’re outside. Once again, these fears are entirely unwarranted, but they *are* there.

Con #3 – No facilities

It’s a fact – gyms were created to create convenience. For that same reason, if you need to use the restroom while you’re out working out, you’ve run into a problem. Same as when you need a shower, or when you want to enjoy a few mirror selfies after your workout.

Depending on where you are, you might not have immediate access to the things you need to have a productive workout.

Even though this seems like a small con, it turns into a *big* disadvantage when you’re actually experiencing these facilities not being available.

To conclude…

What it really boils down to is do you want to have the (1) reinvigorating experience of outdoor workouts, or (2) do you want to have the convenience that gyms bring.

In my opinion, you need a balance of both.

Often, gym-goers get so caught up with making progress that they forget fitness is about living a healthy lifestyle. And other times, those who only focus on working out outdoors forget that you need access to a more structured organization of equipment to make real progress.

Both these training methods have their ups and downs, and that’s exactly why we should be trying both of them. Only this way can we find out what we really like doing, and of course, make that a part of a sustainable training lifestyle that brings us progress and enjoyment.

 

Everything You Need to Know About the “Mind-Muscle Connection”

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Nowadays, everyone in the fitness community is talking about the mind-muscle connection.

From a historical perspective, many legendary bodybuilders and strength athletes praise the implementation of a “mind-muscle connection” in their training.

By mind-muscle connection, they mean focusing their attention on the muscle that they’re working out during any given set.

Even though this seems like it would be really hard to investigate in research, the reported effects of the mind-muscle connection have baffled scientists for decades.

Today, we’re going to look into this phenomenon and find out how it relates to better fitness performance and greater hypertrophy.

Let’s get right into it!

How do we define the “mind-muscle connection”?

We can say that our mind-muscle connection is the transference of our attentional focus onto the activity we’re performing.

To this day, two major types of attentional focus have been identified – internal and external.

The external relates to focusing your attention on parts of the environment.

The internal involves thinking about the body, such as the contraction of the working muscle or the movement of a shoulder blade around a shoulder joint.

What researchers have found is that when you employ an external focus of attention, during a physical movement, you can achieve higher maximum force production, better performance on endurance tests, and more reps in tests of muscle endurance. (Source 1, Source 2)

Not only that, but using an external focus of attention has also been related to higher gains in motor learning over extended training periods.

What about internal focus?

Well, in contrast, researchers have found that using an internal focus of attention leads to improved muscle activation. Another research that examined the mind-muscle connection of individuals during traditional strength training with light loads also backed this fact.

Moreover, an internal focus of attention leads to greater gains in muscle size over the long-term.

Researchers usually explain this finding in relation to the better muscle activation achieved by internal focus points.

Why does the internal focus of attention enhance muscle activation?

When you’re strength training, muscle activation is affected predominantly by motor unit recruitment. (Although it can also be influenced by motor unit firing frequency, among other factors.)

When muscle activation is higher, this means that a higher amount of motor units has been recruited to lift the weight or carry out the exercise.

When your central nervous system identifies that the existing levels of force production are not enough to carry out this task, additional motor units are recruited.

We already know that an external focus of attention grants us better performance in athletic movements. That being said, it’s unlikely that an internal focus of attention will help us do that because more motor units are recruited when an increase in movement speed is present.

Consequently, when you’re not fatigued, an internal focus point leads to increased motor unit recruitment. This is due to the need to produce a larger agonist muscle force at the same speed of movement.

Nobody really knows exactly why there’s a need to produce greater agonist muscle force when you’re using an internal focus of attention.

However, there are three possible explanations for the increased agonist muscle force.

  • 1. Altered synergist muscle force.
  • 2. The activation of agonist muscle regions that are not usually present in this movement.
  • 3. An increased antagonist muscle force.

An increase in antagonist muscle force always requires the agonist muscle to produce more power. Changes in the synergist muscle force will also need the agonist muscle to exert more force. In both these cases, this happens in order to achieve the same joint torque.

Activating muscle regions that are not usually activated to perform a specific movement seems very inefficient. They don’t contribute to force production in any real way.

This might seem *super* complicated, but I promise it’s not.

Ultimately, since it’s probably not possible to change the amount of synchronized motor units required for an exercise, the increased agonist muscle activation happens because of one of these three factors.

How does the mind-muscle connection enhance muscle growth?

So far, we know that an internal focus of attention increases muscle activation. We understand that this is likely to lead to increased agonist muscle force in a given exercise.

But how does this translate to more muscle growth?

There are a couple of explanations here, based on the variety of mechanisms by which muscle activation is increased with that internal focus point.

First, regional muscle activation.

After your strength training, muscle growth does not occur evenly in all parts of the muscle. There are (at least) two reasons for this.

Firstly, it happens because muscle fibers increase in either length or diameter.

Secondly, it happens when a functional region of the muscle is activated in order to perform a specific movement. This requires force production at specific muscle lengths.

When we perform movements with an external focus point, we only produce muscle force in regions that are structured to contribute to that movement.

However, when we perform a movement with an internal focus point, we produce more force in the regions that do not particularly contribute to that movement.

This means better total muscle activation. It means higher overall muscle activation without the need to really increase the external force applied to the muscle.

Second, increased antagonist muscle activation.

During jumping, throwing, or other athletic movements, antagonist muscle activation is usually greater with an internal focus of attention.

However, hypertrophy can only occur when the muscle fibers of high-threshold motor units experience high levels of mechanical loading.

This means that it doesn’t really matter why these muscle fibers produce force. It could be as a response to an external load, or to antagonist muscle activation. The same rules apply.

(This is the same reason why we can produce high levels of muscle activation by merely flexing our muscle.)

Ultimately, this means that the differences in the level of antagonist muscle activation (between an internal and external focus point) are not responsible for the greater hypertrophy that occurs when you’re using an internal focus point.

Which leaves us with number three…

Third, altered synergist muscle activation.

It shouldn’t really matter whether the high-threshold motor units produce greater force in response to altered synergist activation when compared to antagonist muscle activation.

This is why training with machines and free weights generally involves the same amount of agonist muscle activation and causes similar amounts of muscle growth (given that the exercise is similar.)

Even though unstable conditions require more contribution from synergist muscles (in order to stabilize the joint), the resulting hypertrophy is not that different.

What does all of this really mean for the trainee?

In practice, using the internal focus of attention may be helpful for the lifters who are training for hypertrophy.

If you’re stepping into the gym for the first time, an internal focus of attention will be helpful during certain exercises. It will help you make sure that the exercise is correctly targeting your desired muscle group.

What researchers *do* know is that, when they asked people to focus on a specific muscle group when training it, this resulted in greater activation of those muscle groups.

If you’re an intermediate/advanced lifter, the internal focus of attention might be problematic to your progressive overload. Unlike beginners, advanced lifters cannot increase the number of reps or weight they perform on an exercise from one workout to the next. Using this internal focus of attention will likely mean that fewer reps will be performed on each set.

For the advanced lifters among you, you can even go as far as attempting to *stop* the internal focus of attention toward the end of a set in order to reach a higher number of performed reps. Even though it’s tempting, don’t do this. It will only lead you to think that you’re achieving progressive overload, when in reality, you’re not.

If you’ve been in the gym for a couple of years, and you’re able to employ the exact same focus of attention on every rep of every set, an internal focus of attention will help you. However, this is highly unlikely to be achieved, as it takes an enormous amount of time and patience to master.

To conclude…

Your mind-muscle connection is defined as an internal focus of attention. This means directing your attention to the muscle you’re training on every exercise.

This internal focus of attention will likely increase the amount of force you can put out due to either (1) increased antagonist muscle force, (2) altered synergist muscle forces, or (3) the activation of additional regions of the agonist muscle that you’re usually not utilizing in that exercise.

However, it’s likely that only the third option contributes to greater hypertrophy.

If you’re a beginner lifter or someone training for hypertrophy, try to utilize the mind-muscle connection as much as possible. Other than that, learn about it and forget about it, as it will only distract you and add another variable that you need to constantly micromanage.

How Do Drop Sets, Supersets, and other Advanced Techniques Affect Hypertrophy?

Hey Angels & Alphas,

Have you ever done a drop set? A superset? Any other similar advanced lifting technique? 

Well, pretty much every bodybuilder ever has made use of these lifting variations. 

What’s interesting is that we don’t have a lot (if any) research that proves the effectiveness of these techniques. 

What we can do, though, is to make a few predictions on their effectiveness (or lack thereof) based on our understanding of hypertrophy and how it works!

That’s precisely what we’re going to talk about today – the effectiveness of these advanced lifting techniques and their relationship with how our muscles work, adapt, and grow.

Let’s begin by giving these techniques a clear definition.

What are the “advanced” lifting techniques?

Advanced lifting techniques include drop sets, antagonist supersets, back off sets, rest-pause sets, spotter sets, stretching between sets, and other general techniques that bodybuilders use to achieve more hypertrophy and higher “burn-outs.” 

These techniques are not advanced in the sense that beginners can’t use them. They’re advanced in the sense that they’re often used by professionals to handle plateaus and introduce new stimuli wherever necessary.

Let’s start off with everybody’s favorite advanced technique – drop sets.

Drop Sets

Unlike most advanced techniques in lifting, drop sets are actually quite well-researched.

This method involves doing multiple back-to-back sets to failure without taking any rest between them. 

And to do this, you naturally decrease the weight on the bar for each consecutive set.

Even though research has been done, it’s somewhat conflicting. You have half the studies indicating that additional drop sets provide no benefit beyond the first extra set. Moreover, you have the other half of the studies showing that drop sets that involve up to 3 sets produce just as much hypertrophy as 3 usual sets to failure.

In addition, it seems that a drop set workout that involves a total of 3 sets to failure (with two decreases in weight from the first) produces the same amount of hypertrophy as 3 sets to failure with the same weight.

The key here I believe is something called a stimulating rep. A stimulating rep is one that actually produces hypertrophy. Since drop sets are usually performed with moderate loads, each set should involve a number of stimulating reps regardless of how much weight you’ve decided to put on the bar. 

However, traditional drop sets involve performing multiple sets immediately after one another with little rest, and we know that longer rests are a *must* if you’re looking to work on hypertrophy. (Because of the rates of muscle protein synthesis). 

Short rest periods reduce hypertrophy. They either allow lifters to do subsequent sets before fatigue in the nervous system has evaporated or trigger greater nervous system fatigue by higher aerobic demand. 

These are both factors produced by drop sets, so they should technically be even worse than conventional sets in terms of hypertrophy.

Nevertheless, it looks as if drop sets allow the same number of stimulating reps to be done in a shorter amount of time. For bodybuilders who struggle to fit their training volume in their workouts, this might be rather beneficial. 

Spotted Repetitions

Forced repetitions are those in which someone (a spotter) is providing you support so you can perform additional reps after reaching muscle fatigue. 

Essentially, they’re mostly identical to drop sets even if you don’t realize this. The difference here is that the spotter reduces the external resistance the weight produces by providing an extra upward force. 

Right now, there is minimal research on whether or not forced repetitions actually work in terms of building muscle size. The little research that *is* done is aimed toward strength gains. 

That being said, based on the identical nature of drop sets and forced repetitions, it only seems natural that they would have similar effects. 

The main negative here is the inability to calculate the magnitude of force being exerted during these “spotted’ reps. 

This practically makes tracking progressive overload impossible.

Antagonist Supersets

Antagonist supersets are, in short, performing back-to-back sets of two exercises for opposing muscle groups. A good example here is the quad/hamstring superset. Same as the biceps/triceps superset. 

There are a couple of variations to this, but the most common one involves performing these alternating sets with short rest periods. Sometimes, they’re even done immediately one after another, and they’re followed by a long rest period. 

This approach is highly favored due to its ability to help you squeeze in more workout volume in a shorter amount of time. 

But until this day, no long-term studies have compared the effects of this type of workout with a more usual sequence of exercises. 

So technically, it seems that antagonist supersets allow the same number of stimulating reps to be done in a short amount of time without much hindrance on the part of the antagonist muscle group. 

For bodybuilders, this again is rather advantageous if they’re trying to fit in more volume in a short workout.

Back-Off Sets

Back-off sets are all about performing additional sets with a lighter weight immediately after a heavier set.

But because heavy loads are used in the main part of the workout, strength athletes tend to gravitate to this approach while bodybuilders ignore it for the most part.

That being said, research is on the bodybuilder’s side! Current research here points to the fact that back-off sets do benefit hypertrophy because they increase the amount of stimulating reps you can do in your workout.

However, these beneficial effects are only present when the main sets are performed with heavy weights. If you only concentrate on moderate loads, the effect will not be beneficial at all.

Rest-pause Training

Rest-pause sets are also one of everyone’s favorite plateau-breakers. 

This type of training involves one main set followed by additional sets with *very* short rests. However, here, the weight is not altered.  

The results on this one are promising! However, it’s still limited. 

Rest-pause training allows lifters to perform *more* stimulating reps. Along with the added benefit that during the later stages of your workout, every rep becomes a stimulating rep.

That being said, it still has a downside. You have to *really* carefully adjust your sets if you want to *not* spend countless hours in the gym. That’s because, after your first set, every rest-pause set will involve less than five reps, which means you need quite a lot of additional sets to reach your desired volume.

This also means you’ll be training to failure again and again, which naturally delays recovery.

What about stretching between sets?

Stretching between sets is regarded as an advanced technique in bodybuilding even though discussions on it have been quite conflicting.

That’s because what we call “mechanical loading” can be applied to muscles with either:

  • Force generation.
  • Or passive stretches.

Whichever form you choose, it will cause hypertrophy. This has been studied thoroughly, and it is shown to be the case in not only people but animals, as well! 

The thing here is that when muscle fibers are subject to both of these types of loading, this leads to more anabolic signaling. This, in turn, suggests that two types of mechanical loading are being produced at the same time and that they’re *additive*. Although this is true, it’s not really as effective as people claim it to be. The effects on loading by stretching are much, much smaller than the effects of force production. 

If you, however, stretch the agonist (prime mover) muscle between sets while you’re going about your workout, this will decrease the number of reps you can perform. This is obvious since stretching is fatiguing the muscle without producing a lot of hypertrophy-building stimulus. 

But stretching the antagonist muscle actually seems to increase the number of reps you can do, probably because the opposing force is lower during the next set with the prime mover. However, no evidence suggests that this enhances hypertrophy.

The Takeaways…

What we learned today is that drop sets, rest-pause training, back off sets, forced reps, and antagonist supersets are ways that you can increase the number of stimulating reps you do. (Without increasing the time you spend in a gym.)

Every technique has its own pros and cons that we tried to best address. But ultimately, they are a way to increase training volume without triggering the problems that come with lower rest periods. Back off sets involve a somewhat bigger time investment, but they are really only useful when training with loads approaching your 1RM. 

Each of these methods will add a new dimension of complexity to your workout.

But in reality, this only makes progressive overload more difficult to track. And when it comes to some of these techniques like spotted reps, they almost seem impossible to monitor. Variations of the drop set and superset are somewhat easier when it comes to tracking the number of stimulating reps you do, as long as you always keep your rest periods the same. 

But this comes down to having a deeper understanding of how progressive overload is affected by pre-exhaustion and the fatigue produced by single-joint exercises.

And when we’re talking about stretching between sets, you’re really better of taking that time for resting. It’s not fundamentally beneficial to your strength gains.

To conclude, we can say that the bodybuilding methods we’ve discussed today *will* help you perform more stimulating reps in a shorter period of time. However, this comes at an expense to the inability to track progressive overload.

Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Quality

Hey Angels and Alphas,

It’s a fact – sleep is vital. Although many people are still trying to figure out exactly why we sleep, we are yet to find a definitive answer to that question.

But do you know what question we do have an answer to?

It’s, “How can I get a better night’s sleep?”

And this is precisely the question we’ll be looking at today – sleep quality, how it affects you, and how you can drastically improve your sleep quality and technically sleep more in less time.

First of all, how do we define sleep quality?

For one, we know how it looks when someone has had a good night’s sleep. Sleeping directly affects our physical and mental health, and falling short of it can mean taking a nasty toll.

Lower daytime energy, productivity, focus, memory, and emotional balance, all of these come as a result of poor sleep quality.

And don’t confuse quality with quantity, especially when it comes to sleep. You can be getting a full 8-9 hours every night and still struggle from all of these traits of poor quality sleep.

Many of us toss and turn in bed at night, wondering why our body just won’t go to sleep. Sometimes, sleeping well feels like a goal you can’t achieve, even though you’re wide awake at 2 a.m., and you’re trying your best to give your body some rest.

But I’m here to tell you that you have immense control over your sleep quality. More than you currently realize. More often than not, how well you sleep at night will determine how you feel during the day – so getting poor quality sleep means that, somewhere in your daytime routine, you’re doing something wrong.

These lifestyle habits that you carry out throughout the day are what’s keeping you up at night. It’s easy to notice adverse effects on your own mood, creativity, energy, vitality, weight, even your immune system – when you’re not getting good quality sleep.

That’s why I’ve compiled this checklist of five sleep quality go-to’s. Anytime you’re having difficulty getting quality sleep, refer to this list, and you’ll be back to good sleep habits.

Sleep Quality Tip #1 – It’s all in the light. 

Have you heard of melatonin? Of course, you have. It’s a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure. It helps you regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

When it’s dark, the brain starts secreting melatonin. The darker it is, the sleepier you tend to become. While during the day, when not as much melatonin is being released, you’re more aware, conscious, and alert.

However, most people nowadays have that totally flipped around. Our “modern” way of living has us shifting our circadian rhythm and altering the body’s production of melatonin.

Here are some tips you can use to make sure you’re properly managing light, and you’re supporting your body’s natural melatonin cycle.

  • When you get up, immediately expose yourself to bright sunlight. Have coffee on the terrace, eat breakfast by the window, whatever. Just get sunlight hitting your face as soon as possible every morning.
  • Try to spend more time in direct daylight. If you can take your work outside (or at least your work break), do so. Exercise outside at least once a week.
  • When you’re at home or at work, let as much natural light come in through the windows as possible. In other words, keep the curtains and blinds open.
  • One hour before bedtime, avoid all bright screens. The blue light emitted by our phones, tablets, and TVs is highly disruptive. If you can’t avoid it, at least keep the brightness down and use light-altering software to avoid blue light.
  • When it comes to videos and TV, keep it relaxed. A lot of the videos we watch at night tend to be stimulating, and this doesn’t help our natural circadian rhythm.
  • When it’s time to go to sleep, make sure your room is pitch dark. You might also want to cover up electronic devices that emit light. Sleep masks are also an awesome addition here.

Sleep Quality Tip #2 – Your Natural Sleep-Wake Cycle 

There’s absolutely no better strategy for sleeping better. You have to get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and keep a regular sleep-wake schedule.

If you do this for even a week, you’re going to see a profound difference in our energy levels, and you’re going to feel more refreshed every day. You can even start getting away with less sleep.

Here are some mini-tips that will allow you to get a better understanding of your natural sleep-wake cycle.

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. This helps your body optimize the quality of your sleep for the amount of sleep you’re going to get. It’s like hacking your internal clock. Choose a bedtime where you usually feel tired and start going to sleep at that time every night. Then keep track of exactly when you wake up each morning.
  • Don’t overdo the nap. Yes, naps are awesome. They help you make up for lost sleep and give you an energy boost that feels like it can last you centuries. But don’t be fooled, as napping can make things worse for your internal clock. Limit them to not more than 30 minutes a day.
  • Some people get drowsy after dinner. To make sure you’re keeping your body’s natural cycle, do something stimulating after dinner if you’re one of those people. Don’t you hate it when you accidentally go to sleep in the afternoon, and then can’t fall asleep at night?

Sleep Quality Tip #3 – Watch your Nutrition 

Especially in the hours before bedtime, what you eat can make or break your sleep cycle.

Here’s what you must absolutely know in order to make sure your nutrition is helping your sleep cycle instead of ruining it.

  • No caffeine! To oversimplify the way coffee works in your body, just imagine this hypothetical scenario: coffee molecules and sleep molecules are fighting for who gets to overpower your brain. If you drink a cup of coffee at around 4 p.m., coffee molecules are still floating around in your brain at midnight. Even if you fall asleep, your sleep quality will be horrendous!
  • Avoid heavy meals and too many liquids before bedtime. Too much of either can cause bloating and stomach trouble while you’re sleeping. This is especially crucial when it comes to sugar and refined carbs. If you eat them late, they’ll give you an energy burst that will keep you out of the restorative stages of deep sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals and too many liquids before bedtime. Too much of either can cause bloating and stomach trouble while you’re sleeping. This is especially crucial when it comes to sugar and refined carbs. If you eat them late, they’ll give you an energy burst that will keep you out of the restorative stages of deep sleep.

Sleep Quality Tip #4 – Daily Exercise

People who exercise every day report sleeping better at night (not to mention feeling less sleepy during the day).

But this doesn’t have to mean super intense exercise. Even walking for 10 minutes can help improve your sleep quality. But as a rule of thumb, the more rigorous the workout, the bigger the sleep benefits.

The only thing you have to keep in mind here is when you exercise.

Because exercise tends to speed up the metabolism and raise body temperature, some experts have pointed out that this is adverse to your sleep quality.

Try to finish your hard workouts at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed, so your body has time to get in a relaxed state. Yoga, meditation, or gentle stretching can help with that also.

Will Sleeping Better Improve Workout Performance?

In short, yes.

The better your rest, the better your physical and mental capacity and productivity will be. The gym is no exception to this. Good sleep habits have been proven to help with motivation, focus, muscle recovery, and a gazillion other factors that all relate to your gym progress.

Here’s a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. It found a correlation between the quality of sleep and the likeliness to follow through with an exercise routine.

They concluded that getting enough sleep will not only give you the strength you need to maximize your workout; it will also make you more driven, focused, and motivated to give your very best.

And let’s be honest – not getting enough quality sleep makes exercise feel harder and tedious. But here’s a fun fact – sleep deprivation does not affect your cardiovascular or respiratory responses to exercise, nor does it affect your performance capabilities. It will, however, make it easier for you to fatigue yourself and lose your drive.

It’s not technically tougher. It only feels tougher.

To conclude, we can say that getting enough sleep most likely won’t turn you into a bodybuilder on its own. Getting an extra hour of sleep won’t make you smarter or stronger.

But not getting that extra hour when you really need it can, quite frankly, ruin your day.

Follow the sleep quality tips I’ve shared with you, and you’re guaranteed to improve the quality of rest you’re getting. Do this first, and you’ll have the mental and physical preparedness to face any daytime challenge in front of you. I promise.

How Long Does It Actually Take to Lose Weight?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you’re on a weight loss journey right now, you’re probably used to having more questions than answers. Whether you want to lose weight for that one special occasion, for summer, or to improve your health, weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals, and we should all make an effort to learn more about how it works and why we should do it.

And this means that, if we want to set realistic expectations and achieve the desired outcome, we have to know what healthy weight loss rates look like for us.

That’s why today, we’re going to talk about the different factors that come in play when we’re setting weight loss goals, and how we can get a genuinely healthy result instead of chasing fast weight loss. Let’s get right into it.

First of all, how does weight loss *actually* happen?

In order to achieve any weight loss goal you set, one thing is guaranteed – weight loss will only occur when the amount of calories you consume is consistently lower than the amount of calories you burn every day.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, weight gain happens precisely when you’re consistently taking in more calories than you’re burning.

Every food and every beverage you eat or drink counts toward your total daily intake.

However, burning calories is a little more complicated. Burning calories, also known as calorie or energy expenditure, is composed of the three following factors:

  • TEA – Your thermic effect of activity. These are the numbers of calories you burn while you’re exercising. TEA also accounts for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, meaning the calories you burn for your daily activities such as walking to the office or running to the store.
  • TEF – Thermic effect of food. This accounts for the calories that the body burns just from digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing the food you eat.
  • RMR – Your resting metabolic rate. This number includes the calories your body needs to go on about its daily bodily functions. Breathing, pumping blood, etc. 

If the number of calories you take in is precisely or almost the same as the number of calories you burn, this means you’ll maintain your current body weight.

And if you want to lose weight, your number one goal should be to create a negative calorie balance, meaning you consume fewer calories than you burn, or just partake in more activity so you can burn more calories.

This is what weight loss is. Anything else that further expands on this topic will stem from this original fact. Don’t make weight loss more complicated than it needs to be – weight loss happens when you’re burning more calories than you take in, and you do this consistently every day until you reach your target weight range.

That being said, there are many factors that affect *your* individual weight loss efforts, and some of them are out of your control.

Factor #1 – Your age.

As we get older, one of the things that tend to happen is that we experience a few changes in our body composition – primarily fat mass increasing, and muscle mass decreasing.

This, along with other facts such as our declining calorie needs (of most of our body’s systems), contributes to having a lower resting metabolic rate.

Adults over the age of seventy could even have a resting metabolic rate up to 25 percent lower than those of younger adults. As we age, this decrease in RMR can make weight loss a tad bit more difficult.

Factor #2 – Your gender.

As you know, your fat-to-muscle ratio directly impacts your ability to lose weight

And because women typically have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio than men, women have, on average, a 7 percent lower RMR than men of the same height. This means women burn fewer calories at rest, therefore men tend to lose weight more quickly than women if they’re following the same exact diet.

Factor #3 – Your current weight.

The body mass and composition you have when you start losing weight also affect how quickly you can expect to lose weight. Weight loss does get more complex here since we have to understand that absolute weight loss can be different than relative weight loss in different individuals.

That’s why the National Institute of Health has a Bodyweight Planner that can even guide you on how much you can lose based on your current age, gender, weight, and so on.

Factor #4 – Your sleep patterns.

Sleep is probably the most overlooked factor in weight loss, but it’s SO important. Chronic sleep loss absolutely demolishes your chances to lose weight, and the speed at which you can lose it.

Studies have shown even one single night of sleep deprivation will increase your desire for high-calorie foods such as cakes, chips, cookies, and more.

And there are many more…

There are also other factors that play a role in your weight loss efforts, such as your genes and family history, medical conditions, medications you’re taking, the diets you’ve done, and more.

But the fact is, weight loss does boil down to consuming less calories than you burn in the majority of the time. That’s why considering all these different factors, and the weight loss result we want to achieve, we can get a pretty clear picture of how fast we can expect to achieve that result.

So what does safe, healthy weight loss look like for us?

It’s no secret to anyone – most people hope for fast, rapid weight loss. But the reason they rarely succeed is that nobody should want or aim to lose too much weight too quickly.

Fast weight loss can lead to complications such as dehydration, malnutrition, gallstones, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, muscle loss, headaches, and more! That’s quite the list!

Though weight loss could occur more quickly at the very start of a weight loss program, experts recommend that healthy weight loss should be somewhere in the range of 1-3 pounds (or 0.45 kg to 1.35kg) per week, or in other words, about 1 percent of your current body weight.

And considering that weight loss is not a linear, but rather an up-and-down kind of process, some weeks you may lose more, and some weeks you might lose less.

That’s why it’s important that you don’t get discouraged at the first sight of slowing down. If you want to keep your spirits up and make more efficient progress, experts recommend keeping a food diary to track your calories, weight, and progress. Using these types of self-monitoring techniques will dramatically increase your chances of achieving that desired weight goal.

To wrap up…

We can summarize that even though there are many factors to weight loss, weight loss will occur when you eat fewer calories than you’re burning. The different factors such as age, weight, starting weight, and sleep, can only stop you from losing weight when you don’t realize their significance to the process.

Aiming to keep yourself accountable and track your progress, while staying within the healthy weight loss range of 1-3 pounds (or 0.45 kg to 1.35kg) per week, is the safest and most sustainable way to reach your goal and get the body you desire.

 

How to Reach the Fat-Burning Zone during Exercise

Hey Angels and Alphas,

With the current pandemic sweeping the world right now, many people are worried that they’re not getting the adequate amount of calorie-burning in their regimen. With gyms closed everywhere, our options remain working out at home, or outside whenever possible. For this reason, this might be a great time to learn something new about how our bodies actually burn calories and what type of exercise gets us into the “fat-burning zone.”

A common misconception you might hear is that the harder you work out, the more fat you burn. That’s not necessarily the case. The truth is, fat burning happens at a lower intensity than most people realize.

This means that even if you’re doing your best to sweat it all out at the gym, you might actually be losing an opportunity to lose fat. That’s why we need to find our personal sweet spot where our bodies begin to burn fat during a workout.

But how do we find out what our heart rate is during a workout?

Due to advances in wearable technology, and the fact that pretty much every treadmill in every gym has the ability to track your heart rate (although it just as well may not give you a really precise answer), finding your heart rate during training sessions has become easier.

Your smartwatch or treadmill monitor can give you a rough estimate of your heart rate as you work out, and some people have even gone as far as wearing chest straps.

Okay, so we know where to find that information, but what do we do with it?

Generally, your heart rate boosts as your workout gets more intense. That’s why measuring your heart rate is actually a pretty good gauge of your workout intensity. But in some cases, it might not be that reliable. For example, if you haven’t recovered properly, your heart rate might be higher than usual. And if you’re working in a hot gym on a summer day, your heart rate will generally be higher than if you were to work out in a cold environment.

So how do we find that fat-burning sweet spot?

To calculate the perfect heart rate increment for burning fat, we must first find your maximum heart rate.

And though there are many ways in which you can measure that through technology, a golden rule for measuring your max heart rate is this simple formula: 

Your Max Heart Rate = 220 – your age multiplied by 0.66

The Chinese Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that this is the most precise way to calculate your max heart rate without the use of any technology.

For example, if you’re 25-30, your estimated maximum heart rate is approx. 200.

And once you know that, you can start calculating individual heart rate zones. They will be your guide as to how intense your workouts should be.

Your fat-burning zone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should be about 65-75% of your max heart rate for moderate activity while maximizing fat burning. So for our example, that would be somewhere around 130-150 beats per minute.

Fun fact: Most weightlifting workouts stay in this range as well. And so do moderate-intensity endurance workouts.

What if we go above that rate?

When you decide to give a workout your all and go into high-intensity ranges, that’s usually around 75-90 % of your max heart rate. The problem here is that sometimes it’s difficult to track heart rate accurately, and the difference between a workout of 160 bpm and one of 170 bpm is massive.

Keep in mind that some of the technology you’re using may include different heart zones, but we’re sticking to what the experts at the CDC agree on.

On that same topic…

A Finnish scientist actually discovered a better and more accurate way to use your heart rate during exercise.

Have you ever heard of the heart rate reserve? It was created by Finnish scientist Martti Karvonen, and it’s regarded as one of the most accurate ways to determine exercise intensity based on heart rate.

Here’s what you do.

You lie down and relax for a few minutes, put on a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and measure your heart rate. If you don’t have any of that, you can measure your pulse the old fashioned way. This is known as your resting heart rate.

Next, after you’ve determined your resting heart rate, you take your max heart rate, and you subtract your resting heart rate.

For example, if you’re 25-30, and we assume that you have a resting heart rate of 60, then your “heart rate reserve” will be 160. (200-60)

Finally, you take that number, and you multiply it by one of the following:

  • Less than 30% for very light exercise
  • 30–39% for light exercise
  • 40–59% for moderate exercise
  • 60–89% for vigorous exercise
  • 90% or above for full intensity

With this formula, you’ll be able to find your target heart rate during a workout and get a clear vision of what intensity level should be focusing on.

For example, your heart rate reserve is 140. If you want to do vigorous exercise, multiply that number by .6 and by .89, and you’ll get a range of 84-124.

Then, add your resting heart rate to both sides of that number (in this case 60), and you’ll receive the most accurate range for high-intensity exercise – 144-184.

While this might look a little complicated, it’s by far the most accurate way we have of finding your target heart rate (without you know, all the fancy lab equipment.)

Once you know that target heart zone, use it to adjust your workouts. Use your smartwatch or chest strap to change intensities as you move forward.

Use the lower and upper end of that spectrum and implement them into your interval training. Increase intensity until you reach 184, then drop down to 144 and give yourself a break. Stay in this range, and you’ll learn what high-intensity training is all about.

Choosing a workout…

When it comes to reaching your fat-burning zone, the approach will be different for every workout. Runners, for example, need to do intervals of running faster. Gym-lovers might need to ramp up their intensity with a drill or superset.

The possibilities are endless, but know this – following these heart rate zones and using them in your workouts is one of the best ways to ensure safe, healthy, and productive training.

The Importance of Exercise in Disease Prevention, Health, and Well-being

Hey Angels and Alphas,

It’s a fact – regular physical activity can do wonders for your health. Everyone knows that staying active is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy.

It’s not surprising that regular exercise is becoming a go-to for many people looking to manage weight, reduce stress, enhance sleep quality, slow the aging process, strengthen the immune system, and more!

But how exactly does this happen? And what role does exercise play in the prevention of certain diseases? How can we make sure your training regimen is beneficial to the health problems we might be having?

Today, we’re going to talk about all of this (and more.) Let’s break down the benefits of physical exercise on the different aspects of your health – from mood, to immunity, to disease. This way, you’ll gain a clear picture of what you should be doing (and what you shouldn’t) in order to maintain your physical health and well-being. Let’s get started.

First things first, exercise is a natural mood lifter.

Regular physical activity relieves stress, anxiety, and anger. Remember that “feel good” sensation you get after having a productive workout? Doesn’t it feel like a happy pill with no side effects?

Most people only notice this after they’ve been training for a while, and once they start getting those dopamine and serotonin releases during and after each workout, training becomes a regular part of their life.

After all, there’s nothing like going to the gym, having a productive workout, and walking out of there feeling like you’ve done your body a huge favor.

Exercise keeps you physically fit and strong.

Without regular physical activity, your body slowly starts losing strength, stamina, and its ability to work optimally. Not only does exercising increase muscle strength and physical ability, but it also enables you to function more productively in your day-to-day activities.

Naturally, everyone knows that physical exercise improves our mood and keeps us physically able.

Being more active has been proven to help you:

  • Boost levels of good cholesterol
  • Improve blood flow
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Manage weight
  • Prevent bone loss
  • Live longer
  • Boost energy levels
  • Manage stress and tension
  • Enhance sleep
  • Improve body image and self-confidence

All of these, when added up, will definitely result in less medical expenses, interventions, and medications, and there’s nobody that can argue that.

But what about immunity? How does exercise help us prevent, or even deal with, disease?

Exercise strengthens the immune system, allowing it to work more productively.

You might be asking – how do activities that wear us out give us an immunity boost?

While we don’t have the time to go into the full scope of exercise immunology (which is actually a wholly new area of study,) we can do our best to take some practical takeaways.

Experts conclude that exercise increases the production of new neurons in your hippocampus, known as the memory part of the brain. It also enhances the production of glial cells, the most commonly-found cell type in your central nervous system.

These cells then help your body protect and support the proper function of neurons. When we’re exposed to physical training, our respiratory rate and depth of breathing increases, which allows more oxygen to be absorbed into the blood (and more carbon dioxide to be removed.) This helps your body flush out bacteria that cause colds and flus out of the lungs and airways. It also allows for better circulation, creating a much-needed change in white blood cells and antibodies (your body’s immune system.)

According to researchers from the University of North Carolina, people who performed five or more days of exercise every week experienced almost 50 percent fewer days with symptoms of URTI – upper respiratory tract illness. And when they did catch a cold, their symptoms were 30 percent less severe! That’s huge! (Source)

Exercise is widely accepted as therapeutic and preventative medicine for a variety of cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.

Exercise has been regarded as preventative medicine that reduces the risk of a massive variety of diseases, including cardiovascular, metabolic, and chronic diseases. Most of which, however, are related to sedentary and unhealthy living.

In term, the overwhelming benefits of physical exercise have been shown to significantly reduce the severity of diseases that would usually accompany an unhealthy lifestyle. Exercise has a therapeutic benefit on a plethora of conditions such as hypertension and insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, type-2 diabetes, obesity (and think just how many health problems arise from this alone), endothelial dysfunction, and more.

Regular training has also been shown to improve vital clinical markers in certain cardiovascular and metabolic dysfunctions. Overall, this makes it pretty clear that exercise can be used as a therapeutic or even preventative medicine to alleviate most, if not all, lifestyle diseases.

What type of exercise should we do?

The types of exercise most commonly researched in disease prevention are aerobic exercises such as walking and jogging, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and resistance training.

Some studies show that either form of exercise results in a reduction of body mass index in overweight and obese adults. Other studies have pointed to the fact that moderate endurance training and interval sprinting have a positive effect on heart rate variability (HRV). Both HIIT and aerobic training have been used to create improvements in HRV in pretty much everyone – young overweight individuals, diabetes patients, and adults. Not only that, but they’ve shown the improvements in immune system function we talked about earlier.

One study even showed that 12 consecutive weeks of HIIT have shown to improve cardiovascular function, physical fitness, maximal oxygen capacity, and body composition.

Basically, what this says is what you already knew – all exercise is good exercise.

To conclude…

In our day to day lives, we can tackle a lot of challenges that ultimately lead to illness and disease. The flu, viruses, even sitting at your desk too much, can all increase our risk of diseases. Lucky for us, exercise helps us tackle all of them.

Exercise is a powerful stimulus that can prevent and reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular dysfunction, metabolic dysfunction, and even common diseases like the flu. Therefore, exercise is indeed the best medicine. It’s a medicine that improves our quality of life and makes us unconditionally healthier.

Every type of exercise is beneficial to your health. HIIT, in particular, is recommended to people with time constraints, and when HIIT is combined when resistance training, it yields an overwhelming amount of health benefits.

Therefore, we should all focus on incorporating regular exercise into our daily lives. Our bodies will thank us for it.

WBFF PRO-AM show in Australia

One of our most successful weekends in our history of preparing athletes for this incredible @wbff_official brand.

This weekend saw the inaugural WBFF PROAM show in Australia and the Santa Monica show in Los Angeles for our amateurs.

Overall this weekend we saw 6 of our athletes achieve PRO STATUS – taking out their categories in STACKED lineups of like-minded athletes chasing that elusive WBFF pro card. Many of these athletes were first timers in the WBFF and competing in general so their showings were extremely exceptional.

We also had 2 wins in the Pro categories which saw them win the championship title status and take over $7000 in prize money. To say we are proud of coaches is an incredible understatement and I am so happy with us not only backing up the team of the year title, but exceeding even our own lofty goals. You are are champions. Full results below.

Placings

  • Abbie – 1st place Fitness Diva Short + Pro status. Top 5 bikini
  • Amber – 1st place fitness diva medium + pro status.
  • Sarah Dalton – 1st place fitness 35+ & pro status
  • Sarah Dalton – 4th place diva fitness model short
  • Sarah Wachjo – 6th place diva fitness
  • Donna – 6th place fitness 35+
  • Kelly Daymond – 9th place fitness 35+
  • Kane – 8th place fitness tall
  • Hannah – 10th place fitness tall
  • Ashleigh – top 10 bikini medium
  • Gavin – 8th fitness model
  • Kelly Flanagan – top 10 bikini tall
  • Sarah Wachjo – top 10 fitness model
  • Shanon Hanrahan – 3rd place fitness model
  • Stephanie Wassens – top 10 bikini model
  • Suzanna M – top 10 bikini model
  • Tayah Pickervance – top 10 bikini model
  • Tiana – 3rd place bikini model

Pro titles

  • Fresh – 1st place Pro Fitness model
  • Daniel – 1st place Pro Muscle model
  • Kayla – 3rd place pro bikini model
  • Milla – 2nd place bikini pro diva

Amazing pro debuts by

  • Frida
  • Maya
  • Suzanna P

Amazing amateur debuts for

  • Alisa Motorina
  • Alicia bloom
  • Anna Kroehn
  • Hilla Sukar
  • Ibanez Taylor
  • Jackie Perry
  • Krisna Morris
  • Lina Revelo
  • Matilda Murray
  • Trish Speesa
  • Ruby Mcmullen
  • Sandra Angela
  • Vanessa McFall
  • Victoria Carter
  • Shannon Mulders

Santa Monica

  • Taryn – 1st place bikini + pro
  • Lexie – 1st place bikini + pro
  • Cindy – 1st place fitness + pro

Nutrition as the key to your body composition goals

With Summer almost over, the holidays are just around the corner!

With the thought of how near the New Year is, you might be tempted to hold off on your body composition goals until January when you can get a fresh start and shake off the holiday weight!

But really, why wait for January? You can start making small changes to your routine TODAY that will really help toward achieving your goals, reducing your body fat percentage, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The earlier you tackle your body composition goals and start working on your workouts and diet, the sooner you can make it a part of your life and do it habitually – so you do not have to think about it at all!

The first step to setting goals is to have a clear picture of where you are right now, where you want to be, and how to get there. Once you’ve considered the bigger picture, you can narrow it down to what habits need to be built, and what habits need to be let go!

Today, we’ll take a look at the essential things you need to keep in mind when you’re trying to build a lifestyle that will get you to your goal – and keep you there.

1. Creating a balanced diet

A good foundation for your nutrition plan is figuring out how many calories you need to be taking in. This is based on what you put in your body and how much you exercise (or how much you move daily).

In order to achieve your goal, you need to establish a healthy and achievable level of protein, carbs, and fats, and stick to it! Your body needs all these things in order to function properly – especially if working out is part of your lifestyle!

There are thousands of calculators online that will help you figure out what your calorie intake should be. Once you know how much you should be taking in, you can easily adjust your diet in order to match your level of exercise.

That way you can create a trackable, sustainable system for you to follow that will get you to where you want to be in no time!

The next step is understanding your metabolism.

You know these people who can eat everything they want – and stay skinny?!

You might even be one of them, and let me tell you, it’s HARD for them to gain weight (and some of them really want to).

Think of your metabolism like a fire. When you put quality fuel in there, like a log (i.e. wholesome foods like high-quality protein, slow carbohydrates, and healthy fats), the fire burns for a longer period of time. When you don’t fuel the fire enough, or you fuel it with paper or twigs (like refined carbohydrates and sugary foods), it dies down.

Understanding your metabolism is super important when trying to reach your body composition goals – but it’s not as easy as it seems.

Sometimes it can be obvious what you need to do, and sometimes you might need some help from an expert.

Speaking to a doctor or registered dietitian can help you tailor your balanced diet to your personal health and medical history. They may be able to provide you with additional guidance or recommendations to improve or maintain your current health. Your doctor is most likely aware of your health and medical conditions and may be able to give you general recommendations for certain foods or a diet pattern that can help you achieve not only a balanced diet, but one that may improve your overall health. They may also be able to refer you to a local dietitian for additional help.

After you have checked in with your doctor and you have a nutrition plan going, it’s time to go shopping! A well-stocked pantry can be a great tool for maintaining a balanced diet.

Stock up on shelf-stable foods for quick and easy balanced meals: canned beans, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, 100% whole grains (like quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta or brown rice) and nut butter, frozen items like frozen vegetables (without sauces or seasonings), frozen fruit, frozen pre-cooked grains (like brown rice or quinoa), low-calorie frozen dinners (for busy nights) and frozen proteins (fish or chicken).

And always keep a supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy (like low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and lean proteins (chicken, fish, pork or lean beef).

Now, here is where we have to briefly mention supplements.

If you’re always busy with work, juggling 10 things at once and you don’t always have the time to cook a delicious meal – that’s where supplements come in!

They’re one of the best ways to make your diet sustainable and easy to follow on a busy schedule. But I don’t believe everyone needs them. A lot of people (especially men) rely on them in order to see results! I suggest using them only after you’ve been following a solid workout and diet plan for a while.

Only the people who are serious about their goals but can’t manage a balanced diet should be the ones using supplements.

So now that we know the elements of a balanced diet, let’s talk about how we can turn it to habit – and that habit into a lifestyle!

2. Turning your diet into a part of your lifestyle!  

Here’s something my first coach ever told me – if you want to change your life, start with your environment.

If you want to make this sustainable, you can’t do it without a little change.

Let’s start with your refrigerator. You have to throw away all the sugary stuff from in it – chocolates, fruit juice, barbeque sauce, ketchup, etc.

The best way to avoid binging unhealthy foods is simply by surrounding yourself with MORE delicious and healthy options!

If you ever feel that you want to eat something sweet – go for an apple. It will suppress the cravings and it’s always on point with your diet.

Also, keep the 80/20 rule in your mind.

It simply states that if you follow your diet for 80% of the time, you’re good!

Remember, this is about building a lifestyle and making it sustainable.

I believe a lot of people end their fitness journey because they try to force themselves to do something they don’t want to do.

In order to make your goal long-term, get to it, and stay on it after you’ve achieved it, you have to reason with yourself. You can’t just tell yourself what to eat and what not to, and expect your body to follow.

Your body will want everything you try to suppress.

And suppressing it for long will just lower your energy and get you on a downward spiral of being unmotivated and unhappy.

That’s not what I want for you!

I want you to have a balanced, flexible diet.

Flexible dieting is the best way to keep yourself motivated and still push forward toward your goal!

Many alternative diets (keto, low-fat, vegetarian) are very prescriptive, with very rigid rules and little compatibility with people’s tastes and preferences.

There are some rules of course, but as the name suggests, flexible dieting is nowhere near as stern as other diets tend to be. A flexible diet opens up people’s choices as there is little emphasis on making people only eat certain types of food (although eating a variety of foods and vegetables is encouraged).

The diet is essentially based on establishing a daily calorie target (the most important factor in weight control) and slightly looser target ranges for Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats – allowing you to treat yourself and enjoy the foods you love!

Everything we’ve discussed so far will help you set your body composition goals.

Remember, no one knows you better than you!

You can always benefit from working with a fitness and nutrition coach, but you are the best person to set goals for yourself.  

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you’re willing to do (and let go of), what improvements you’d like to see, and how far you’re willing to go with it.

But the first step to doing this… is actually pretty simple and easy to take.

You need to know where you’re currently at and what you’re going to do – and that means getting your body composition tested and deciding that you’re going to create a nutrition plan that you will follow until you get to your destination.

That way you can set goals for yourself that will make your entire fitness and nutrition journey motivating, successful, and most importantly, enjoyable!

Building Your Fitness Brand – 3 Steps to a Successful Personal Brand

The internet has given a lot of fitness lovers the opportunity to start their own fitness brand.

I feel that phrases like ‘personal branding’ and ‘marketing’ are thrown around so much nowadays, nobody can really understand what they mean. They’re always backed-up by “researched” mumbo-jumbo that speaks to you about broad concepts instead of what will help YOU improve YOUR business.

Today, let’s take the process of developing such a business and break it down to the actionable steps you should take if you want to develop your personal brand in the fitness industry!

1. What is a Personal Brand and How To Create One

For starters, we need to know the difference between branding and marketing.

Marketing is getting the word out for what you do. If you’re a fitness coach, that includes being on social media, running ads, funnels, getting people to visit your website, all of that.

Branding is all about the experience people get when they work with you. It’s a lot more emotional than rational and has to do with everything from the way you work with (and who you work with) to the way you present yourself online – your name, your logos and colors, your voice, your copywriting, even the comments you leave under other people’s comments.

Think about that – is the presentation and copywriting in your website too serious? Or too sweet-sounding?

There’s hardcore, pushing people to the edge coaches, there’s the laid-back, fitness lifestyle type coach, then the wellness coach, the diet coach…

You need to find a niche of people you can help with your knowledge and expertise. One of the biggest mistakes that I see a lot of personal brands making is trying to appeal to everyone.

We all work with different people who have different interests, so “developing your brand voice” means finding out who you want to be online and focusing on that target market.

You do that by:

  1. Making sure your website copy, your social media content, your talks, interviews and marketing materials all have the same style, vibe and energy. This builds trust within people and increases the exposure you get by making you more easily recognized online.
  2. Making sure you always have a clear next goal in mind and making them bigger over time.

Now that we know what branding is, let’s take a look at how to actually get the word out for your business, make sales, impact the lives of people, and become a voice recognized in such a crowded market!

2. How To Get Exposure for Yourself and Your Brand

Now that we know what our brand voice is and who we’re trying to help, it’s time we reach out to these people and give them value!
Always remember – you have to be congruent in all of these channels. Branding and marketing must go hand in hand like a lock and key. If one of them is missing, you risk coming across as either unprofessional or uninteresting.

Before you start getting more exposure you need to figure out one thing – where your audience is spending their time. For the fitness niche, there’s already a few great places you can go and build a solid foundation!

Here are a few ideas for channels where you can reach people online and engage potential clients for your fitness brand!

  • Engaging people on social media – commenting, liking, following and messaging on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Running Facebook and Google ads – to a landing page for a product (free or paid).
  • Doing webinars, live trainings, even Instagram Live – just giving out free content or promoting courses on a webinar.
  • Ranking higher on Google with SEO – absolutely crucial!
  • Local events and networking – you can meet people to collaborate with.
  • E-mail Marketing and collecting leads – the best way to communicate to your audience via text.
  • Creating a blog or podcast – giving out free content to your audience.
  • LinkedIn – setting up auto-responders and engaging people there.

These are only things that you can do yourself!

Keep in mind, one of the best ways to promote yourself online is to collaborate with other people in the fitness industry. If the branding is right and the energy matches between you, amazing things happen.

Doing guest posts on their social media and blogs, being a guest on their podcast, being in their YouTube videos, even on their Instagram stories. Even reaching out to an influencer is not a bad idea.

Another thing crucial to your success is to gather testimonials from the people you’ve helped. They will really help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, know what the people are thinking, and show people that you’re truly all about giving value!

What matters is getting the word out to as many as possible, right? So think about which of these channels you’re not using and start implementing them into your marketing strategy.

So, when you’re doing things the right way and people are seeing you, engaging with you, and approving of what you’re doing – how do you turn these views into profit for your business?

How do positively impact the lives of the most people while making the most sales and building your brand?

Let’s learn how!

3. Growing Your Brand and Making Profit

For someone who has been in the fitness industry for quite a long time, I can honestly say…

Every fitness industry personality is endorsing something nowadays.

And that’s a good thing!

Whether you decide to create your own product – be it a supplement, an E-book, a course, a clothing brand – or you decide to endorse others for a piece of the pie, selling products is the most obvious way to generate profit, so it goes first on our list.

Brands will have no problem paying you for representing their vision online. Mutual promotion between brands and ambassadors is a win-win way to hook your audience up with products you love using at great discounts – and get paid for it.

Chances are you’re already promoting products to your friends and community – you’re just not getting paid to do it!

But if you decide to create your own product, and you truly create it from start to finish and put a piece of yourself in it – people will love it and you will have success.

And always make sure to have a product you’re giving out for free! By doing that, the people whose ideologies your brand voice matches will become loyal followers you can keep giving to again, and again, and again.

If training and living healthy is a lifestyle for you, chances are you know a few things that can be beneficial to others.

And if you love working with people one on one and want to make a positive impact on their life – you can consider coaching as your go-to way to profit online.

Honestly, coaching others has changed my life as well.

I see so many positive, motivated and goal-driven people that it inspires me to work hard and be at my best self all the time. Watching someone’s life change in front of me and seeing them deal with their insecurities and giving them the confidence to take on the world has made me a completely different person.

And even though fitness coaching has become a huge industry, there’s still a spot for everyone who wants to do something unique and give value!

Bottom line is, the more people you help and the more people you reach, the more opportunities you’ll be open to.

If fitness is your lifestyle and you want to share that with the world – don’t hesitate and start a fitness brand!

It’s a great way to get paid for doing what you love, helping people achieve their goals and doing it while building a sustainable business. Nowadays, that can seem like a feat, but the opportunity is here, for you, now!

Now that you know the proper way to do develop a brand voice, get exposure and grow your brand, there’s just one thing you need to know…

Whether you’re going to promote brands, sell courses, or do online coaching, there’s a ton of people who love fitness, need help, and want to hear what you have to say.

Marketing is important so you can get the word out for yourself and speak to the world. But make sure your personal branding is on point – it is exactly what people will be hearing when you speak.

The Competitive Edge Podcast – Fitness Uncensored!

“The Competitive Edge – Fitness Uncensored” kicks off our series of Podcasts that seek to be a wealth of information from active competitors perspectives on the fitness industry.

From general topics of dieting all the way through to stage posing and everything in between, make sure you tune in for real time tips, tricks, advice and discussions from these 3 Australian WBFF Pro competitors. Alicia Gowans (current WBFF 35+ Fitness World Champion), Jared Hustler (Male Muscle Model WBFF Pro) & Keegan Thornhill (Male Muscle Model WBFF Pro).

This promises to be a no filter view on all things fitness, positives, negatives and all the BS that comes with it. Get the real story, uncensored!

Join our Facebook Group to stay up to date with our podcasts and discussions!

Click Here

Find our episodes here!

Click Here

On the road to Worlds: The importance of good supplements

Good supplements, like those offered by Bulk Nutrients, can mean the difference between finding that extra 1% and reaching your full potential, and being left wondering if you could have done more. And trust me, over the past 6 months while I have battled injury throughout my busiest competition prep to date, Bulk Nutrient supplements have been my saving grace!

This year has seen me persevere to overcome some pretty significant injuries, illnesses and personal challenges – so safe to say just getting to a position where I can be competitive at WBFF Worlds is a HUGE achievement! With thanks to consistent nutrition, effective lifting, a positive kick-ar*e attitude and my fav supplements supplied by Bulk Nutrients, this year I am bring to stage the best me to date! Consider yourselves all warned!

But seriously, in order to be competitive against some of the most gorgeous and talented people in fitness, who are equally as dedicated and committed to achieving their goals, I rely on the competitive edge offered by Bulk Nutrient supplements. My fave Bulk Nutrients products are Whey Protein Isolate or Thermowhey (Choc flavoured of course!), added with Bulk’sBCAAs, Leucine and Green Fusion has given me the boost I have needed to power through my workouts, recover faster and maintain a healthy mind and body. This year you’ll also find in my go to bag of Bulk Nutrient supplements,Diindolylmethane (DIM) and R Alpha Lipoic Acid (RALA), which have been great for aiding energy production, glucose disposal and estrogen metabolism.

We all know how seriously I take my nutrition, training and comp prep. Being able to push myself beyond my limits, challenge my own perceptions and drive hard toward my goals is what sets me apart. When you combine this with good nutrition, solid training, and the great range of supplements offer by Bulk Nutrients – well then you have a winning combination!

My Road Back to the Stage

Over the past couple of years my journey took a significant detour.

From winning my pro-card to finishing top 10 at World’s, being blown off course by injury and personal adversity to now targeting a return at the end of the year, the learning & growth has been painful. With my goals sternly set for a return to the WBFF Stage at the Atlantic City Pro-Am in December, the next 12 weeks will be blogged, documented & broadcasted through this site & through my social media channels. It doesn’t promise to be sunshine, rainbows & smiles but I can say it probably will have a lot of that. What it will also have though is a very real insight into the rehab, training, challenges (both specific to me & fitness competitors in general) as I lead up to stage. This blog will cover off on everything from nutrition, body maintenance, rolling, active release work, activation, training techniques & programs, cooking, fun things I do socially but also help with the overarching prep goal & more. If you are interested in following this journey with me, read the little preface below as the starting point of this new adventure.

There are no coincidences in life. None. I strongly believe this to be true & the more I rehab, heal & start to recreate my physique/conditioning the more I am seeing my broken back as a blessing. It has actually changed my structure quite significantly my waist has become smaller, my back has actually gained a greater V taper & my core has never felt this strong forced to work 100% on my bio-mechanics has meant that my actual shape has been transformed over my healing period & TBH I’m feeling so much happier with my new look. Although I am excited to regain some lost size on my delts & continue to build some leg/glute thickness over the coming year, I am simply quite content…. Content with life, with my evolving aesthetic, with how much strength I’ve gained via my challenges, with who I am as a person, with how it’s enhanced my technical coaching skills & most importantly with how much stronger my body is feeling mind, body & spirit have gained invaluable lessons during my period of trials & tribulations. All of which have expanded for the best #mevsme #buildingabetterme #evolution #aesthetic

Alicia wins the LA PRO show and takes home another crown!

It was another successful showing for coach Alicia Gowans at the WBFF Pro Show held at the Beverley Wiltshire Hotel last weekend.

She took home another crown and now adds another title to her cabinet!

She finished 1st in the Pro Diva Fitness over 35s as well as second in the overall Pro Fitness Category too. What an amazing achievement from our coach.

Coach Alicia Wins Atlantic City Pro Show

Alicia has successfully completed her comeback show by winning the PRO FITNESS DIVISION at the WBFF Pro-Am show in Atlantic City.

Such a great achievement! Get yourself a coach that walks the walk and genuinely cares about your results!

Some other notable results were Giorgia Piscina WBFF Bikini Pro winning her division also! Posing client Jared Hustler winning his pro status and Tahlia Christou finishing second in her division! Bikini Pro Tash Mackenzie also looked amazing as did Mel in her transformation division!

Hectic Schedule & Intermittent Fasting

Adapt to what life throws your way and believe in yourself!

There has been A LOT of talk in recent years about the benefits of intermittent fasting. For body builders used to eating at set intervals, the thought of going for a prolonged period of time without food can seem daunting! Trust me, unless I’m dialing down for stage, I NEED and LOVE all my food. But recently, my usually in control schedule, has exploded into a colourful array of chaos.

Running multiple businesses and juggling home life, sees my schedule challenging at the best of times, but coming back from a major injury has seen my lifestyle change even more so. I love experimenting with new methodologies and finding new ways to work within my limitations. I am always researching and trying different things. So my current crazy schedule and lifestyle presented the perfect opportunity for me to try Intermittent Fasting.

There are loads of options out there for intermittent fasting. I’ve opted for the 16/8 protocol. 16 hours fasting, with an 8 hour meal window. I’ve also dropped my calories slightly due to a reduction in exercise capacity and cut my meals back from six to four, with a lower fat and carbohydrate split.

Why intermittent fasting?

Aside from Intermittent Fasting fitting nicely into my current lifestyle and schedule, I am attracted to the major health benefits that research suggests can be gained from intermittent fasting. These include:

improved metabolic efficiency and increase insulin sensitivity levels;

reduction in oxidative stress and greater mitochondrial energy efficiency; and

Increased cellular capacity to resist stress, disease and aging.

For me, I’ve found intermittent fasting has allowed me to reduce my overall body fat, maintain muscle mass and continue to make progress toward achieving my training goals, while maintaining an incredibly busy lifestyle. I’m taking baby steps but everyone of them is in the right direction – forward!

Importance of good supplementation

While I am finding intermittent fasting is allowing me to continue to achieve results, my supplement regime during this period has also been incredibly important, and must really form part of any intermittent fasting protocol whether its 5:2, 16/8 or eat-stop-eat.

I’ve found using Green Fusion in the morning gives me that vitamin boost and reduces acidity, and combining it with an amino acid like Leucine helps to prevent muscle catabolization.

Training fasted can also be a challenge when fasting and using Pump FX has given me the boost I need to get through my morning workouts. I’ve been getting great results with Pump FX particularly when combined with ZMA to aid recovery and increase sleep quality.

The wrap

Whether you achieve results or not is up to you. We’re all presented with situations in life that don’t allow for us to maintain our usual routine. Some will use this as an excuse, but I choose to find ways to continually plan for my results. For the time being intermittent fasting combined with the right supplements has been a great way for me to continue to achieve results while working through challenging times without giving up on my dreams. Anything is achievable if you are willing to work hard for it, adapt to what life throws your way and believe in yourself!

Conditioning is only half the battle

Conditioning is only half the battle if you’re going to be hitting the stage!

Don’t forget the importance of nailing your stage appearance but also your presence! Posing is one of the biggest criteria!

This is a little snippet from THE WBFF seminar workshop that we ran at Oasis Health Club Mount Gravatt last weekend. Bikini Pro Tasha Mackenzie & Fitness Pro Alicia Gowans Wbff Pro gave the girls a little run through of an example walk. Excuse the choppy footage, we were taking some still photos from the video at the same time to help develop the best poses for all our girls taking to the stage in October.

Beauty, Fitness & Fashion

Alicia is a guest writer for one of the newest online magazines called Human Performance, check out her article below.

For many Australians, maintaining a fit, healthy and active lifestyle is often impeded by everyday life and seen as a chore. For World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF) Diva Pro Alicia Gowans, it’s a way of life.

Alicia is the Australian WBFF team captain, owner of Oasis Health Club, the founder and Head Coach of Ally’s Angels and Alphas and is fast becoming Australia’s most renowned fitness models. Her passion for fitness as a fully-qualified fitness specialist, with qualifications in personal training and sports nutrition, has complemented her corporate background and a Business Bachelors Degree as well as ongoing Bachelor of Exercise and Movement Science/Bachelor of Behavioral Science studies.

We had the pleasure of speaking to the down-to earth fitness fanatic, coach and elite athlete to get an idea of her meticulous preparation and routine with just under four months until her next competition. Her first and foremost point about preparation, the next one will be completely different to the last.

“No two comp preps are ever the same. Each prep is always different because each year your body changes and you need to take a different approach.” 15 weeks out from her next competition, Alicia says this period should encompass a strong focus on heavy lifting and building lean mass, combining heavy lifts with volume-based sessions.

However, Alicia’s current preparation has been hindered following a re-injuring of an injury sustained at her last World Beauty Fitness and Fashion(WBFF) World’s competition. However, you don’t reach the elite levels that the mother of two has by succumbing to injury. Injury is not a simple excuse to relax, but an opportunity to spice up the training routine and try something different. “So instead of lifting heavy I have been focusing more on volume based training utilising the occlusion or blood flow restriction training method to amplify the intensity of my sessions.” “Occlusion training is great way to still achieve significant gains in size and strength while only lifting 20-40% of your One-repetition maximum (1RM). “My favourite exercise at the moment is actually the primers that I conduct prior to every session.

“These exercises help me to ensure my engagement, biomechanics and technique are all on point even before I touch a weight. And when you really tune into your body you can feel every muscle and fibre turning on. It is really amazing to feel and a great way to connect with your body.” She has also complimented her current routine with Pilates, foam rolling, plenty of stretches, and training in high-altitude conditions. Extensive research suggests a strong correlation between high-altitude training and fat reduction. “The higher altitude forces the body to utilise more of the anabolic energy system keeping metabolism elevated for a longer period post training.”

Without an injury impairment, Alicia says there is no set-way to optimising results. A common misconception is that there is a designated workout or technique that will optimise the construction of lean muscle, fat reduction and generally optimise fitness and body image.

However, preparation is a rapidly-changing, delicate science that requires frequent adaptations. It’s all about listening to what your body desires throughout the preparation and adjusting the training accordingly. “Preparing your body for stage, and coming in on point and on time is a science! There is a lot that goes into it and it is never the same. You have to really know your body and be able to adapt to its changing needs.”

“My training is always focused on my goals, so no two training phases are ever the same. Because body building requires symmetry, shape, size and leanness it is important for me to assess my physique at regular intervals and adapt my training as I progress. “ “For me in the months leading into competition I am generally training 6 days a week, for around an hour each day. Training is predominately lifting based with minimal cardio, focusing on lean mass growth and the enhancement of my development zones from the previous competition.”

Alicia prefers the use of non-linear programming over standard progression, a technique used in foundational training, due its limitations. She states that elite athletes, or goal-driven individuals who compete at multiple competitions throughout a year can achieve far greater success adopting a non-linear program. “It’s largely because the adaptations developed in preceding phases do not get carried over into sequential phases. For instance by the time you have reached the later power phase in the progression sequence, the adaptation developed during the hypertrophy phase will have been lost.

“Depending on the training phase I will generally work my non-linear progression programs in weeklong micro-cycles that will include rep ranges and loads targeted at hypertrophy, strength and power. “For example a simple 6 day undulating program for me may focus on 2 days each of strength, power and hypertrophy, with day 7 rest or active recovery.

An undulating program simply refers to altering the repetitions in a single day’s work out, almost in a wave formation. The theory behind the process again is based upon optimising the output for an athlete’s input. Whilst you only get out what you put in, undulation is a technique that assists in maximising results. “Using a daily undulating program can often result in a further maximisation of gains, as the body is placed and continually varying stressors for growth.”

“An example is focusing initially on priming lifts which are low weight and high reps, before moving onto a heavy compound lift for high sets, low rep sand then combining this with more of a volume super-set sequence of four – five sets of 12 – 15 reps. As the preparation progresses, the importance of cardio and aerobic capacity comes into play. “As I get closer to stage, the focus of training shifts to greater volume with a steady increase in cardio, along with one or two metabolic conditioning sessions.”

And the last fortnight before a competition incorporates higher intensity, increased cardio and things really kick-off! “The last 10 days prior to a competition is what body builders describe as ‘peak week’. This is where there is a greater increase in physical output in order to deplete the body of glucose stores and continue body fat reduction, in preparation for carb loading the evening prior to stage.” “Peak week is the most exciting period in comp prep because every day you wake up and your body has changed in some way. It is like Christmas morning EVERY morning as you find new cuts or new definition that wasn’t there the day before!”

Training and optimising performance and preparation, particularly at an elite level, is never as basic as simply working out. A key ingredient to optimising performance and output is an athlete’s diet. Again however, it’s not simply about living on a diet of vegetables and protein, there is an incredible science behind an athlete’s food consumption. As an elite athlete, everything must be done by the book. “One of the biggest mistakes I see aspiring body builders making all the time is not fuelling their bodies correctly to achieve their goals. This often means either eating too little or too much, or equally as important, not eating to the right macro-nutrient splits.”

“As any elite athlete will tell you, nutrition is intricately linked to performance. You can’t expect to eat poorly while achieving optimum results. This is more important in body building than most other sports,given the package you bring to stage is the determining factor in your success. “ For bodybuilding, the diet, likewise with training methods, varies vastly depending on where the athlete sits in their competition cycle. For example, off-season training, which is built around muscle growth and development, would generally see Alicia consume between 3000-4000 calories per day.

“A standard day would normally consist of fats and protein in the morning, carbs and protein around training, and either a high fat/high protein evening meal, or something more carb based depending on my training schedule. “The challenge is always to come in on point at the right time, without losing too much muscle mass during the cutting phase.” “It is important to have as long a prep as possible so as to keep calories high for the longest possible period to avoid damaging your body or wasting muscle.

“For me coming into stage I never drop below 2000 calories, choosing a longer period to dial in, rather than a more aggressive and calorie restrictive approach. “Competition nutrition, or ‘prep’, is of course very different to off-season nutrition.” And yes, don’t worry, even the best of the best manage to sneak in a little treat every now and then. “I try to incorporate a cheat meal every so often, but I never schedule these choosing instead to listen to my body and what it needs.

However, it’s a fine line to walk when searching for a clean treat. “My idea of a cheat meal is different to most people! I particularly love Cajun crusted salmon with chilli beans, or lemon chicken with homemade sweet potato wedges and asparagus…YUM! I will always go for a clean option rather than something ‘dirty’. For any budding bodybuilders who have been inspired by Alicia’s incredible rise to the pinnacle of her sport, or her lifestyle in her eyes, the mother of two says suggests seeking professional help to filter the incredible catalogue of information is the best approach.

“Perhaps the most challenging thing when you are an aspiring body builder is that with the amount of information available out there, it can be difficult to discern what is useful knowledge, and what is just junk. This can lead to misconceptions and loads of mistakes when you are starting out.” “I always suggest any one aspiring to compete in body building or just looking to build a toned physique seek out a coach that can provide good quality guidance, especially in the initial stages of development.”

“A good coach can make the world of difference and help you lay the correct nutritional foundations and understanding. Most coaches, like myself, will guide you through both nutrition and training and this can be invaluable when you are first starting out.” “The saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is very true in body building, so having someone to step you through the process can be a very rewarding experience.”

Our Affiliates